Morning Crack-up

on 30 September 2009

I found this picture on msnbc and it was so awesome I had to post it.

It totally redefines co-sleeping.

Original from the Chicago Tribune.

These Hands

These hands used to be pale white. The skin almost transparent, the fingers thin and short with large bony knuckles, the nails short but smooth. I was never one for flashy nail polish, but I do so love my rings, one for each hand. These hands are scarred with the long thin swipes from cats' play. These hands were once smooth with only a single callous on the middle finger of the right hand.

These hands are different now.

These hands are still small and white. The nails are still short and smooth. The rings have been consigned to my jewelry box. The scars remain and have been added too--the white slice across the end of the pinky finger of my right hand, a collection of knicks on the knuckle of my thumb. The callous have expanded, from the middle finger of the right hand to other knuckles and the palm. The skin is no longer smooth but roughened and chapped. The skin around my nails peels.

They're far from lovely. They no longer resemble the smooth and soft hands of an academic. Now they speak of diapers washed, a drippy nose wiped, back rubs, loaves kneaded, meals prepared, cats claws clipped, toys retreived from under the stove, dishes washed, letters written, load upon load of laundry folded. They're not pretty, but they're busy. Working to care, comfort, support and nurture in their own small ways.

We've been getting ready for this trip to New York. I have to go and socialize with women who spend their disposable income on salons and spa treatments. Women who are put together and polished. Women who have manicured and sparkling hands. I will be expected to shake hands with them at some point. And I find myself feeling inexplicably nervous about this and rather defensive about my sad, chappy hands.

When I moved to Athens from Seattle, I kept getting lost--I've mentioned this before I think. And I was mortified that I couldn't seem to accomplish a simple thing, like getting to a given activity without needing HELP. I had to resist the urge to tell people that I am a smart girl! I graduated with HONORS! I speak 3 languages! I drove across the country BY MYSELF. I am NOT an idiot.

I feel the same sort of reaction when I think about having to shake hands and fraternize (or sororitize) with these other women. I want to look at them and say, "My hands do important work. They aren't what they used to be, but then, neither am I. There are many ways to be beautiful, one of them is to be polished and manicured and bejewled. And the other is to quietly do your work and raise a child to be kind, compassionate, funny. To make Home the place where people actually want to Live. To love others through the work of your hands, even when that means that they grow plain and rough and chappy."

Potty Tales

on 29 September 2009

I generally try to keep the blog poop-free. But I have such a story for you, full of drama and humor and wailing-child, and the poop is really just sort of a setting.

The month of September has breezed right by us. I have no idea where the time has gone, but gone it has. I know in the first half of the month the Boy had a stomach bug because those diapers will haunt me for quite some time. It was a good 10 days of nastiness, and the last 4 days he didn't eat much at all. He's doing much better, eating us out of house and home again, and the diapers...well, it's starting to seem that they might not return to normal.

See, after the stomach bug, the poop pendulum swung to the other extreme. (Please don't make me be more graphic than that.) And it involved the Boy on all fours, pushing until he was red in the face and screaming. I would pick him up, take him in to the toilet, take off his diaper and sit him on the toilet--thinking that the shift in positions might help. He would hold on to me--we don't want him falling in--and things themselves out.

Needless to say, he's back on his high fiber diet.

The situation has been back to normal for over a week now, but it seems that the Boy is now used to pooping on the toilet and does NOT want to poop in his diaper any more. He feels it coming, looks at me, starts a-screamin' and it's off to the toilet we go. I think we need to invest in a Boy sized toilet and sooner rather than later.

It started me thinking about the eccentricities of kids and how there are things that only the Mothers get. I'm trying to compile a working list of them for my Mom, for her reference, while I'm off gallivanting in New York. It's actually quite hard to do, to me, he's just my kid. But to other people, these quirks are outside of the norm for toddler behavior and should probably be noted. My other reason for doing it, is that it provides a great opportunity to note the thrilling tales of the day to day experience of mothering this awesome Boy.

(He's sitting next to me looking ever so studiously at a book of Baby Animals. Turning each page individually and then turning back to compare. He cracks me up.)

Late Night Lovliness

on 28 September 2009

It's been an expensive Summer.

Chris and I are not extravagant people. We like to be financially responsible. We're savers and only occasional spenders. We research purchases. We seldom buy clothes and Chris shaves his head while I get my hair cut once a year.

That said, it's been an expensive Summer. We moved and moving costs money. We bought a new car. I've lost some weight necessitating the purchase of some new clothes. Chris had to buy suits for work. And now we've got this trip to New York and another trip right behind it and then on to the Holidays!

Needless to say we're feeling slightly nauseous.

Why do I mention this? Because late Thursday night, after working a 14 hour day, Chris came in to Bed Sweet Bed where I lay, unsuccessfully trying to fall asleep, and sat down next to me and said, "Do I want to spend $300 on my lovely wife?" And I said, "ON WHAT?!?" And he smiled slightly and said, "A really crappy seat to the U2 concert in Raleigh on October 3rd. You'll be in town to visit and I know you love them and have been dying to see them again."

It was so sweet it took me a minute.

I said no, of course. Of all the things we could spend $300 on, me going to a concert by myself is not one of them. Even if it is U2. My most favoritest band in all the world. And I hear the show is AMAZING. But no.

But this gesture is so typical of Chris. We live our quiet, routine lives and then, one quiet sleepless evening he creeps up on me and BAM! Grand GESTURE! As if the nightly back rubs and the weekend early morning shifts so that I can sleep in aren't enough. As if the 14 hour days are not enough. As if Arabella and New York were not enough.

I'm a lucky girl. Just thought you'd want to know.


on 25 September 2009

No, not a plan for Fun Friday...I still have no idea what to do, it's all sort of getting swept up in other PLANS.

Chris has been asked to attend a conference in New York, New York the second week in October. I was also invited, but the Boy was NOT invited. Chris has never been to New York, and I haven't been there for a number of years. So the parents were asked, my Mom has accepted the challenge of spoiling the Boy ROTTEN for 3 days so that his parents can go and spend 3 days in New York and NOT have to pay for the hotel or one of the plane tickets. BARGIN!

And so we're planning the trip. Making lists of what we would like to see and what we MUST see. Making lists of places or foods that we want to eat, people we want to meet, and things we want to do. We're putting together clothes that aren't stained by the Boy and whatever it is that children seem to accumulate on their hands. (Seriously, why are children ALWAYS sticky? Even when you don't give them anything sweet or sugary or sticky in anyway!)

And while we're both excited for the trip, I'm also more than a little freaked out. We've never left the Boy overnight before. I know he'll be fine, my Mom will spoil him rotten, but...but...but...Mah Baaaay-beeee!

But...but...but...My Husband.

We're not great at the regular date night thing. We usually do dinner and relax together, but it's usually after the Boy is in bed (of course, he goes to bed at 6 so it's still fairly early). And since we're not great at the regular date night (OUT) thing, we are set on doing weekends away periodically. New York will be the first. (I guess Asheville was the first, but the Boy came with us then, so I'm not sure if it counts...)

So far our plans consists of eating bagels every day. Chris wants to go to Katz's deli and to Chinatown. I want to see the Met. We would love to see Ellis Island, but there's no time. We only have 3 days, and really, Chris only has 3 half days since he has to attend the conference as well. We'll probably try to see part of the Natural History museum, the EXTREME Mammals sounds very cool. I'm working on a list of smaller, more specialized things I'd like to do while Chris is at the conference--Ukrainian Folk Art museum, anyone? There will be business dinners and who knows what else--I can only assume I shall be expected to behave appropriately.

I'm so flustered trying to cobble together 3 days of clothes and dresses that would be appropriate and contemplating a hair cut (it's been a YEAR...well, almost a YEAR) and I may even SPLURGE and get that long awaited pedicure. Chris is all in favor of the spoiling since I have to walk onto a metal TUBE of DEATH in order to get to New York and I have to FLY ALONE. Can you smell the panic in the air?

The Star of the Sea

on 24 September 2009

So, I found out earlier this year that Joseph O'Connor wrote a book related to one of the characters from his excellent novel Star of the Sea. I read Star of the Sea back in 2005 or 2006 and was blown away, so naturally I picked up Redemption Falls. I started it, but I couldn't remember the character who's spin-off this novel was. So last night, I picked up Star of the Sea to refresh my memory before re-tackling Redemption Falls, and this is what I found:

"The stare of the m[an] intimates many things, but one thing mainly, which he sometimes forgets. That every image committed to paper contains the ghost of the author who fashioned it. Outside the frame, beyond the border, is often the space where the subject is standing. A shifting, elusive presence, certainly, but a palpable one for its camouflages. He is the pictures he paints. But they also contain the untold histories, as every man who ever hated contained the blood of his innumerable fathers. Every woman. Every man."

  • Joseph O'Conner

Weekend in Burnstopia

on 23 September 2009

Only in Burnstopia would we consider the Shrimp and Grits Festival (also known as the Chris Death Fest) as weekend entertainment!

And guess what! We brought the CAMERA!!! It's like we're real grown-ups or something!

So, just so you know, we went as an exercise in irony (I'm a vegetarian, Chris is wildly allergic to anything that turns pink when you cook it--among other things) but also to get out and about in the community, get some local flavah.

Here's what we learned!

  1. The Shrimp and Grits festival celebrates Georgia wild caught shrimp.
  2. It's still really HOT down here.
  3. 20,000 PEOPLE will visit during the festival. TWENTY THOUSAND!!
Enough talk--on to the pictures!

We parked a few miles away from the venue, and there were shuttles that transferred people from parking to the event sight, but we had the Boy and the BIG stroller so we opted to walk instead of ride. I counted it as my workout for the day and I'm pretty sure I sweated off about 5 pounds. The bike path we followed wound through a golf course...

I am married to a lovely man. He is smart and funny and he's doing really well in his job. The man can NOT pass a golf course and NOT pick up stray golf balls. I am NOT kidding when I tell you that he has a LARGE shoe box FULL of golf balls. It's a compulsion with this man. I've seen it.

Southeast coastal Georgia agrees! This IS the cutest Boy!
We win! We get to keep him!

Behold, the Founders of the Feast.

There's a big amateur cooking contest. I am befuddled, how many ways can you cook shrimp and grits? Alas, if left to Burnstopia, we shall never know.

Will someone please revive me? I have just melted from the charm and loveliness of my family.

All in all, it was a fun day. We all got too much sun, too many people, but it ended at home with ice cream and cool baths. I was surprised how many kids were there. It's been one of those odd differences between Here and There (being Durham)--there aren't that many kids down here. Lots of old people though.

The Hazards of Facebook

on 22 September 2009

Some of you may know this about me, some of you may not, but you shall all know now.

Are you curious?

I have an intense love-HATE relationship with Facebook. Emphasis on the HATE.

There. I said it. I feel ever so much better now.

What? You want to know why? Ok.

There are some people out there who have a huge pool of friends. They're social butterflies and they want to keep up with all of those lovely flowers they've flitted in and amongst throughout their life.

I am not one of these people.

I am a woman of few real friends. Some of them lasting, some of them not so much. Many of them intense while they lasted, some of them still intense with a good outlook for lifelong friendship. But I'm not a collector. I don't keep up with people just because we used to be friends once upon a time, or worse, just because we grew up together.

The danger of Facebook is that it gives people the option of pseudo-keeping up with you, even when in reality they never really knew you and don't want to put in any real effort to keep in touch with you.

And WORSE, you succumb, you enlist in the Friend brigade, and then, THEN, you come to KNOW stuff about these people. About what their lives are like NOW. About stuff they've gone through while you were so busy going through your own stuff that you didn't tell them about because you're not really REAL friends anyway.

That was remarkably clear, wasn't it?

Ok. Let me try again.

When I was in school there were girls that I grew up with. They were beautiful and sweet and fun and popular and everyone, EVERYONE loved them. To their light, I was the shadow, the black cloud, the cynic, the pessimist, the glass-half-empty girl, whatever you prefer. And there were certain things that I knew about myself. I knew that would go to college. I knew that I would leave the small town and live somewhere BIG and BUSY. Somewhere where I could be anonymous. I didn't know what I wanted to do or be. I didn't know what my life held in store for me. But I knew those few things.

I find that this overly bright little corner of Georgia reminds me forcefully of those disgruntled high school days. I find myself remembering more. Thinking about them more. Mulling over things I should have said or done differently than I did. Not wanting to go back ( just NO.), just wanting the experience itself to have been other than what it was.

And yet.

I am who I am. And I have the life that I have because of the path that I have walked. And who's to say that if I had done things differently back then, I wouldn't have a different life now? And I rather like my life now, so I regret it not at all.

I've been thinking of this girl I grew up with. Beautiful and sweet and popular. Genuinely sweet, everyone's favorite, really. She got married right out of high school. I was such a smarty pants I had her pegged for early marriage, lots of kids, the happy ever so traditional path. But life seldom works out the way we think. Because of the hateful Facebook I know that she had problems in her marriage, never had those kids, divorced and hasn't remarried.

I look around at my wonderful husband, how he loves to be home with us. I have this amazing kid--I wish they could bottle his smile, we'd have a new and sustainable form of energy. I have really lovely friends, who are real friends and stick with me even when I'm not beautiful or sweet or funny. And I can't help but wonder...what did I ever do to deserve such a life? Why me and not her? What was so different about our paths that led us to such completely different places?

These are the games that Facebook plays with my head on a fairly regular basis. Don't get me wrong, I love keeping up with people, I love to read status updates, and Whimsy's open debates with the Chip are routinely hilarious. But some days I sign off, I close my laptop and look around. I feel this overwhelming swell of bittersweetness. I never thought that this would be my life. And I know that my "friends" probably think the same thing, but for different reasons.

We Need a PLAN

on 21 September 2009

Well, I screwed up Fun Friday reeeeaaaal good.

And the lesson learned was: Fun Fridays NEED a PLAN. If you do not plan them, you will TANK them and your child will end up in a screaming fit that if it were put to words would simply repeat the words FAIL, Mama, FAAAAAIIIIIL!

So the week just sort of breezed me by, it waved hello on its way past, but it breezed me by nonetheless. I spent the majority of Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday getting the apartment put back together, grocery shopping, cooking and getting the Boy back on his schedule. (The visit was totally worth it.) So that by the time that Friday got here, there was no plan. I had no ideas. It was Fun Friday and I had nothing.

But the day started off promising enough! We had scrambled eggs with salsa and cheese! And leftover cinnamon rolls from the freezer! It was lovely! We played and sang and danced and then the Boy went down for a morning nap and all went south. Further south than we currently are.

I got myself ready for the day whilst he slept and sent Chris a text message to see if there was anything he needed me to do because we had no PLAN. And he reminded me that I really needed to get the tag for Arabella (my lovely car) taken care of and we hadn't done that yet and we were OUT of TIME. So once the Boy woke up we popped over to the dealership to see what was going on with that.

The dealership had some paperwork for me to take down to the County Court Annex to acquire said tag. The woman gave me directions, they were not good directions, nor were they accurate directions, but they were directions and I followed them.

(It is important to note that we live on the north end of town and the County Court Annex is downtown and downtown is very much SOUTH of where we live.)

After driving around the block 5 times, I figured out which building it was (no sign, no labels, and teeny tiny building numbers), I parked, I unloaded the Boy and we schlepped inside to wait in a line.

Oh, the variety of the cast of characters at the County Court Annex! The old woman telling anyone and everyone who would listen about how she PAID her insurance, but they made a MISTAKE and CANCELED her insurance and revoked her vehicle licensing and HOW was she supposed to get her vehicle licensed when her INSURANCE screwed up! There was the decidedly overweight couple who were moving in October and wondering if they could change their address NOW. There was the grouchy old man in line behind me who, in spite of the Boy's charm, scowled at him the entire time.

We got up to the counter and I handed over the information given and they said, "$20." And I said, " you take plastic?" smiling hopefully. "No. Cash or local check ONLY." "Ok. I guess we'll be back."

There is no branch of our bank in this area. So, back in the car, back up the road, back to the north side of town and to TARGET. I figured, I needed to go to Target anyway, I was going to go LAST so that we would be closest to home and could then just breeze home and get the Boy down for a nap. But that was not to be.

I picked up the few items that I needed, checked out, got the $20 and got BACK in the car. And we headed BACK to the County Court Annex. 30 minutes later, the Boy is on the VERGE, and I am back at the counter. I deal with a very brusque man, I get our license plate, the tag, and grab the Boy and head back to the car. I load up the Boy and hurryhurryhurry back home. At this point I am praying that we have not missed the napping window.

We get home, I change Senor Fussy's diaper, I warm up a bottle for him, which he refuses. I put him down for a nap, he sleeps for...are you ready for it? 30 MINUTES. He wakes up SCREAMING, and THAT is the moment when I realized that while we have a license plate, I missed the napping window. After an hour of screaming, I also realized that I had TANKED Fun Friday.

Back to Blah

on 18 September 2009

Here we are again.

Back to blah.
Back to routine.
Back to normal.
Back to schedule.
Back to boring.
Back to books.
Back to plain meals.
Back to puttering.
Back to quiet.
Back to chores.
Back to laundry.
Back to dishes.
Back to cuddles.
Back to chatter.
Back to back rubs.
Back to tickles.
Back to giggles.
Back to life.

Angel of Grief

on 17 September 2009

In response to a comment by Erin P.

The statue in the right hand corner is known as the Angel of Grief. I found the image in a random google image search, but you can find out about the monument here.

I love it particularly because it reminds me of a passage from the History of Love by Nichole Krauss, which is a truly excellent novel that everyone should read if they get a chance, and then they should reread it because it is that good.

Here is the passage:

"HOW ANGELS SLEEP: they don't dream. For this reason, they have one less thing to talk about. In a backward way, when they wake up they feel as if there is something they are forgetting to tell each other. There is a disagreement among the angels as to whether this is a result of something vestigial, or whether it is the result of the empathy they feel for the Living, so powerful it sometimes makes them weep."

The Judgment of Anna K.

I'm rereading Anna Karenina for the third time.

If someone had told me 3 years ago that I would end up LIKING Anna Karenina I would have laughed in their face. I read it as a graduate student, and then again for my oral exams, and now is the first time that I'm reading it for pleasure.

I think it was writing the whole story of how Chris and I got together, it made me feel all nostalgic and I pulled it down and started reading it.

I always feel sorry for Anna. I know that many of you will disagree, but hear me out. I've always felt that Tolstoy could not bear to have a female character who was more interesting than he was and so he killed her off. The woman is living in a marriage that is essentially on paper only. Her husband is cold, ambitious and cruel--he knows what will hurt her the most and that's what he does to her. And she is one of those people who NEEDS to be loved, she needs affection the way the earth needs rain, thus her marriage to Karenin is a long, slow death for her.

In this way, her relationship with Vronsky becomes a profound survivor instinct.

All of this I can understand. I don't think that it makes it "right" but I do think the situation justifies some of her choices. I don't think the adultery plot makes the novel the tragedy that it is. And while Anna is the one who actively commits adultery, I think that Karenin is every bit as guilty as she is, though of different crimes.

The tragedy is that she leaves her son with those cold and cruel people. That she lets him believe her to be dead. That she chooses to give her love to Vronsky rather than to her child who needs it much more than Vronsky ever could. That is the unforgivable choice. And yes, she eventually comes back, she seeks him out, she proves to him that she's not dead after all--but her choices being what they are she can never go back, she can never be a part of his life with any degree of constancy.

Her love for her son is made so plain and so poignantly clear at the beginning that it's absolutely painful to read her confliction and then, ultimately, her decision to leave. And the pain that she has in leaving him becomes a such a distinct part of her that it's as if Tolstoy is describing her white skin or her hands with the rings on them, there is also the pain of having left Seryozha.

I think part of what makes Anna Karenina such a marvelous book is that Tolstoy is writing something that we all think about. Not adultery and child abandonment, but rather the idea of a cross-roads in our lives. That point where the path that we've been on diverges and no matter which path you take, you will always be able to clearly see the path you did NOT take, and the pain that comes from knowing perfectly well all that you have sacrificed to have what you currently have. It's the curse of the Grass is Alwasy Greener...except that in her case, I think it probably was.

"Something screwey going on..."

on 16 September 2009

You know, there's nothing quite like tracking people down to GIVE them money.

Chris and I are Pay-our-Bills kind of people. But what no one tells you is that when you have a baby, the bills don't usually come in one nice little envelope. They come in a smattering of envelopes.

In the three or four months after the Boy was born, we received bills from the hospital, from the Fellow who did my c-section and the Boy's circumcision, from the pediatrics who examined him, but NOT from the anesthesiologist.

Now, I just assumed that it was because the guy screwed up and he KNEW he screwed up and so he was just dodging my WRATH. Apparently, I'm at least partly RIGHT.

I called them the other day because I got tired of waiting for them to send us a bill. I thought, I'll just call them, they can give me the balance over the phone and we can send that check off and know that we're square with the world.


Yeah. What I have left out of that equation is that 1) this is anesthesiology and 2) this is a beloved STATE institution. So...basically, nothing is simple and nothing, NOTHING will be quick.

Some of you maybe be wondering why I am so determined to track these people down and pay this bill. Well, I'm glad you asked. See, I had heard all of these horror stories of patients never actually receiving a BILL, but instead receiving notices from a collection agency. And in my mind, there is nothing so horrific as a collection agency calling you and shaming you in to paying money you were going to pay anyway.

So, I hit them with the preemptive strike. I called THEM. I spoke with a lovely woman named Rose who located my records. She chatted amiably until my records pulled up and then it was all, "hmmm. ahhhh. uh. hmmmm." And I explained to her the circumstances, half joking that maybe since that first epidural failed, I'd get the second one free (I know how medicine works, I don't actually expect to get a FREE epidural). She didn't chuckle--and I thought that was pretty funny. But alas, no.

Instead she said, "Um. I'm going to have to send this on up to my manager to take a look at. And they'll contact you." I explained that we had moved since then and that I wanted to make sure that we actually received a BILL and the opportunity to pay said bill and she said, "Well, I will make a note on your file, but you really don't need to worry about this now."

And then it got EVEN weirder. She started to mumble under her breath, and while I couldn't catch all of it, I did catch, "They haven't even billed INSURANCE yet." Which seems a bit strange given that the procedure took place OVER A YEAR AGO. As in, our insurance is DIFFERENT now!

Good grief.

And the really weird thing is this: while I am still annoyed at the first anesthesiologist (note to all aenesthesiologists: when confronted with a red-headed patient, do not mock her for having red hair and being somewhat more sensitive to pain and somewhat more resistent to pain medications. Just do your damn job and shut the hell up. You aren't funny. And mocking a patient who is in labor and in PAIN is not funny. It doesn't matter how many hours you've been on the job, I don't care. You signed up for this. Do your job and shut up about it), I really LOVED my second aenesthesiologist. She was kind and patient and gentle and did a marvelous job with the epidural as well as with me. When they finally decided for the c-section, Chris couldn't stay with me, but SHE did. And she talked to me about silly, inconsequential things, and she told me about how fantastic the Boy was going to be and how great her own kids were and she stayed with me the WHOLE time. She rubbed my arms and hands and talked to me the whole time, she did the silly breathing with me because once they tilt that table it's the only way you CAN breathe (what with 8 and a half pounds of baby sitting on your diaphragm). And while I would really appreciate it if they didn't charge me for that first horrible epidural, I'd really like Kathleen the Lovely Aenesthesiologist to get paid.

Anna Karenina...Again

on 15 September 2009

God had given them the day and the strength, and both the day and the strength had been devoted to labor which had brought its own reward. For whom they had labored and what the fruits of their labor would be was an extraneous and unimportant affair.

  • Leo Tolstoy

Fun Friday: the Grandparents Edition

on 14 September 2009

Oh, Hi.

My parents have been here.

Which means that I'm so full of yummy food that I can barely get up, and the Boy is so spoiled he's just going to toddle around in circles whining for his Grandma and Grandpa to come back and make him the center of the universe.

In all seriousness, we had a great time!

We went to the outlets and bought some cute clothes for the Boy. We hung out and talked and watch the Boy toddle all over the place. We laughed at him A LOT.

We drove around St. Simon's Island.

And we also drove out to see a 900 year old tree!

My mom read some books with my Boy.

And the aforementioned Boy is so spoiled that he's going to be INTOLERABLE this week. But it was totally worth it. He adores his Grandma and Grandpa and the adoration is entirely mutual. At one point I took him from his Grandma to sit him in his chair to eat dinner and he CRIED. He's never cried when leaving someone else for Me before and believe me--it HURT. So I shall cease and desist mocking Chris for sulking when the Boy won't leave me to go to him.

And now, it's back to the normal, the routine, the ol' grindstone.

This Time it's Personal

on 11 September 2009

There's that hilarious line from Steel Magnolias where Daryl Hannah's character, Anelle, says to Dolly Parton's character, Truvy, that her "personal tragedy will not interfere with [her] ability to do good hair." It's a funny moment, but it's funny because there's truth in that.

This is the time of year when I indulge my funk. I drift to the bottom of the navy blueness of it all and rest on the bottom for a couple of days. Then I scrape myself up and kick back to the surface.

A couple of weeks ago I was listening to NPR and they were talking about the 4th anniversary of Katrina and one of their guests was talking about how most of the city has been rebuilt, how there are few physical reminders but that if you looked into the eyes of your waiter or waitress you would see the scars that remain.

It started me thinking about how everyone has one. Their own pet tragedy or trauma, some violence that was done to them physically or spiritually that we hold close...that resides in our minds...that we sink under once a year and allow ourselves to hurt all over again.

Remember back to when I was talking a lot about that book Broken for You? She weaves this metaphor of pique assiette throughout as representative of the human condition. How we are all of us broken and pieced back together again and again and again. This time of year rolls around, or the end of August, beginning of September, June 6th or December 7th, or maybe it's a private grief that creeps in year after year, and we all begin to touch those rough edges of our broken bits. To test out the mortar, to make sure that we are in fact, put back together.

What I fret over is this...when it's all said and done. When we scrape ourselves off the bottom and kick to the surface again. When we've tested that mortar and found ourselves sound. Do we look in the mirror? Do we recognize the pieces of what we once were in the whole version of what we have become? Do we find beauty in that reflection? Or only the grief, only the loss, only the what-once-was-ness of it all?

So, I guess, now you know what I'll be doing today. I'll be looking in the mirror of the collective memory of this day. I'll be trying to recognize which pieces are me and which belong to other people. I'll be looking for the beauty that has come...after all.

Anna Karenina

on 10 September 2009

"I am not talking about you, not about you at all. You are perfection. Yes, yes, you are all perfection; but how can I help it if I am bad? It would not have happened if I were not bad. So let me be what I am, but not pretend...Let them live as they like, and I will live as I like. I cannot be different...And it's all not the thing, not the thing!"

"But what is not the thing?" said Varenka, quite perplexed.

"It's all not the thing. I can't live except by my own heart, but you live by principles. I have loved you quite simply, but you, I expect, only in order to save me, to teach me."

  • Leo Tolstoy

Le Premier Video

on 09 September 2009


Remember how I said that the Boy is and also is NOT walking?


I think he's maybe decided that walking may be an efficient mode of transportation.

We're doomed. But in the best ways.

DANGER: Crazy up ahead

First, I would like to invite the ENTIRE INTERNET to wish my mom a very happy birthday! Happy Birthday, Mom!


Do you ever have those moments where you stop and think to yourself--"huh. I am actually pretty content. Right here, in this moment, I like my life."? And then in the very next moment you think of something absolutely pants-on-head INSANE?

Like, "Gee. I am actually pretty content. Right here, in this moment, I like my life."

... ... ... ... ...

"Maybe we should have another baby!"

And then sirens start to go off inside your head because CLEARLY you are INSANE. Some where, some how between perfectly content and this moment right here, you have lost whatever remnant of sanity you had left and have leapt gleefully right off the edge.

There are some people who are not making this particular brand of insanity any easier. I am talking to YOU.

Fortunately it takes two people to make a baby and at least one of us is relatively sane. For the moment. The long weekend and the Boy working his voodoo magic, may have made a dent in that sanity, but nothing that Chris isn't strong enough to overcome.

And for the brave and stalwart few who don't feel that this is the least bit insane, let me tell you this: I am on your side. I love my boy with a love that I think, if it all fell to him, would smother him entirely. It's best we have another sweet and delicious baby and spread that love around a bit in the hopes of making it through the other side all intact and alive.

It's Chris you all have to convince.

The Tale of how Chris and M met

on 08 September 2009

So, this is a shout out to Parking at Home who requested this story and also just had the most delicious baby boy. Pop over there and tell her how adorable he is!

I thought it would be fun to do a bit of He said-She said with this story since Chris and I see the same events very differently. Now, some of you were there (ahem, Sarah, Sarah, Ginny and Krista) so feel free to chime in, in the comments. (I know that Sarah B. would like you all to know that she called this one from the beginning! She helped me move in to my apartment in Athens and after helping me unload she found Chris and told him that she had just met the woman who would be his wife. Way to go, Sarah! Also, thank you! I am continually amazed at her intuition--she shouldn't be doubted. Ever. And I'm serious.)

Now, the short story is that we met through church. It's not a very interesting story for two very odd people, but there it is. Let's see if the details will make it a bit more compelling. Before we begin, you should know that when I left Seattle, my parents were only half-joking when they said I was one failed relationship short of 32 cats.

She Said: It was hot. HOT HOT HOT. 80 degrees at 7am HOT. And I am not a hot-weather girl, as you all know. And as such, I had no hot-weather clothes. Jeans, t-shirts, long sleeved t-shirts, some awesome oxford shirts with lovely all cotton sweater vests, and jackets and coats and scarves and dansko clogs and soft cushy socks and I'm getting carried away with myself. My point is that, moving from Seattle, all of my cute clothes were for Fall or WINTER. NOT for summer. NOT for hot-weather. So, just know ahead of time that I was already NOT very cute. My hair was even curlier than it had been in Seattle (it would slowly inflate as the day progressed until it was like a giant red life-preserver around my wee little face), and the sour look on my face didn't help at all. It took me about 2 weeks of classes to really understand how little this program was going to help me academically. (I had gone to a VERY good school for undergrad and UGA is just NOT a very good school academically--at least not for my program.)

I had been involved in the LDS institute program in Seattle, in classes and in choir. So it was only natural for me to be involved in the program in Athens, in classes and in choir. The classes didn't last as long as they should have (I got a bit bogged down with some of my classes, which had the audacity to be held at ridiculous times (5-8pm Wednesday night anyone? Is there anyone who would willingly choose 3 hours of literary theory? or Shakespeare? Apparently, because I was not the only lunatic in class, but I digress), but I stayed in choir for a good long time. Partly, because it just made me SAD. The choir in the Seattle institute averages around 100 people. ONE HUNDRED. The choir in Athens averaged around 12. TWELVE. And it made me SAD. So I kept going to choir. But I have looked beyond the mark of this story...let me go back a bit.

I had been up to see my lovely Sister in Durham for Labor Day weekend. She listened to me gripe about how hot it was, about how easy my dumb classes were, about how frustrated I was, and she advised me to buckle down (no matter how easy the work might be) and to get some PLANTS. Plants. Because it's good to have something to take care of. Which I agree with. But the problem is, I kill plants. I can't keep plants alive to SAVE myself. But I'm pretty good with cats, so I translated the theory into reality and decided to just get another cat! (This is where Agnes comes to live with me, but I've already told that story.) I had picked her out but she was underweight so I couldn't bring her home right away. I remember I had gone out to the shelter that day to see if I could bring her home and I convinced them that she would gain weight at home more so than at the shelter and they let me take her home. So I had brought her home and set her up and then headed out to choir.

I was having a bit of a day, so I was in my favorite jeans, my favorite UW long-sleeved t-shirt (go HUSKIES!) and my chuck taylors. I was advertising my I-Hate-it-Here with glasses, no make-up and a generally sour attitude. I parked my behind in a metal folding chair next to my friend Loretta and we sat gabbing in the way that only single women over a certain age can gab.

Now before we proceed with the story, you should know a couple of things. 1) I have an excellent sense of direction. 2) I can read a map like it's a Dick and Jane book. And 3) that I HAD made an effort to attend some social functions. Not many, but a few. 4) in Athens, as in the majority of the South, the street names CHANGE names. Sometimes just once, sometimes several times. So that when you're driving you can never turn off of the road you are traveling on and yet, drive on 3-4 differently NAMED roads. It's MADNESS.

So, this was the middle of the week some time, I don't remember what day, but Ginny had had a birthday Karaoke party and there had been a back to school get together at the branch president's house. BOTH of which I missed because I was LOST. ME. LOST. Totally. Driving around for over an hour trying to find places only to NOT find places and returning home to my sad apartment to eat cheese and crackers with my CATS. (I was the epitome of the modern Spinster, y'all.)

Now the story begins.

Chris was in choir. I was in choir. Chris was sitting in my general vicinity but not rightnext to me. He had made some sort of saucy comment to Loretta and Loretta being Loretta, she just laughed, while ME, in my errant sauciness turned and made an equally sassy comment back to him. And he stopped. And I stopped. And he just sort of looked at me like he had never seen me before. And I looked at him like I had maybe met him once but couldn't place him. At this point he asked why I hadn't been at Ginny's karaoke night or the back to school function and I said that I had TRIED but gotten lost--I may have mumbled under my breath because then he looks at me and with a smarmy look on his face said, "Well. You don't go to ANYTHING, do you?" You have to understand how this sounded to ME, the girl who can read MAPS, the girl who drove across the country BY MYSELF, the girl with the great sense of direction, the girl who had TRIED and FAILED miserably to find my way to a couple of get togethers and then given up entirely.

He Said: I remember starting the semester in question with the attitude of "I'm tired of playing the boy/girl games and am giving up on women". I remember Sarah B. (W. at the time) telling me that she had just met my future wife (or at least a girl who would be perfect for me i.e. crazy, smart, beautiful, sassy, and not like anyone I had met before). I remember Chuck Taylors. I remember gorgeous curly red hair. I remember asking why she never went to anything. And I remember getting a very agitated response. I don't remember smarmy comments that set this relationship in motion.

And then choir continued.

The next Sunday at Church, I was sitting in the very back (as usual) and Chris came and sat down next to me. He was the clerk at the time, and I was...just me. I was fidgeting and he was working on membership records and he turned to me and said, "So. We should hang out some time." And I said, "Yeah, ok. You're the records clerk, you've got my number." And I left to go to class. (smooth, I know.) Anyway, he NEVER called.

He Said: I have no memory of this conversation. It sounds like something I would say though. I remember walking briskly (practically jogging) to the parking lot after church one Sunday in order to talk to this intriguing woman.

(Now I know that, that's just not Chris' style. He'd rather find you in person than make an awkward phone call--it's just how he is. Whereas, I would rather have the awkwardness over the phone where no one can see me blush and fidget and pace and then be cute in person.)

The next week at choir, my friend Loretta had brought me a smoothie because I had been under the weather (my allergies have soared to new heights upon moving back to the South, and at the time I had yet to rein them in), and Chris asked if I'd like to get a smoothie and hang out some time, so I said, sure...maybe we could try to find some stars and go star-gazing (in Washington the air is really clear and you can go star-gazing almost anywhere, summers in the South are muggier and the air just seems thicker, so it's harder to see the stars, especially in summer). We met up and ended up driving around since I had confessed to him my inability to find my way anywhere. We drove and we talked. Well, he talked mostly, because I don't talk about things until I'm asked...generally speaking.

We ended up walking around south campus and finding this great little park area that Chris liked to frequent and we just chatted...about life and family mostly. Then he took me back to my car and I went home.

He Said: I still don't know why M decided to go for that first outing. But I'm glad. I remember leaving an activity at the institute and driving around to go look at the stars. Which are perfectly visible when there aren't trees around or light pollution. I remember going to the Botanical gardens, parking, jumping the fence, getting a few feet into the main driveway before getting a guilty conscience and turning around. I talked a lot. M said little. I hoped that in my telling stories something would spark and she would tell a related story of her own. She didn't.

Now, here is where Sarah comes in to play.

Sarah and Layne (who, at the time, were NOT married with 3 gorgeous children) decided to host a movie night--now, I'm inclined to think it was really just Sarah who decided to host the movie night, but Layne being Layne went along with it. (Am I right?) Anyway, they decided to host a movie night and among other people they invited Moi and they invited Chris. And Chris decided to pick me up. So he did, and we went to Sarah's and we watched Knight's Tale, which I had seen before, and Chris got pretty close to holding my hand but I don't think he did, but in truth I can't really remember now.

Anyway, the point of this bit of the story is that he drove me home and he wanted to see my apartment and I couldn't figure out why, because I had NO furniture (I mean NONE) and I'm not a cute decorator kind of girl, it's just books. Everywhere. And then the cats. But I try to keep the neurotic in check when I'm around other people so I said, sure. Come on up.

You have to imagine a plain, nondescript apartment on the second floor. An abysmal smelling stairwell. In this plain, nondescript apartment there are boxes of books, turned on their sides to allow access to the books within them. There is NO furniture, only a cat post. In my bedroom there is a small twin bed, a dresser and a nightstand. And at this point in the story, there were still 2 big duffel bags full of clothes open but not unpacked (I hadn't really decided to stay at this point).

Enter the apartment, I gave him an abbreviated tour, and we sat down on the floor and just started to chat. Agnes came over and checked him out--she headbutted him, she only ever does that with him. And we chatted and we chatted and we chatted. And that's all we did. We didn't hold hands. We didn't smooch (that came WEEKS later, Dad, don't worry). We just talked. And we ended up talking until dawn. He finally got up to leave and I gave him a hug and closed the door and I just knew.

I knew that this would either end very, very badly. Or it would never end at all.

He Said: The all night chat. That night was a fun night. Agnes did a great job of keeping my belly warm. She cuddled up on me and stayed there most of the night. Which is a good thing. Leike and I did not get along so very well. In the safety of her own apartment, M started to tell some stories. I still did most of the talking. She listened.

We started dating, but flew low under the radar. We didn't want to be the subject of gossip, so most people didn't even know we were dating until right before we got engaged. We spent the majority of our time together. I am a morning-ish person (my attention span is best from about 7am until 2pm after which it takes a nose-dive) but Chris is an afternoon kind of guy, so while all of my classes were in the morning, most of his were in the afternoon. I would head out to my classes, meet up with him on campus for lunch, we would head back to his apartment and I would settle down to homework while he would be getting ready to go to classes. I would either head back to campus with him to continue working in the library (that's how I came to be on the 7th floor of the library during a tornado) or else I would just hang out in his apartment and work on homework while he was in classes.

And that's what we did. That's how we dated. I think in all the time that we dated we went to one movie together (a midnight showing of Return of the King in ATLANTA--yeah, that was dumb). I can't actually remember if we ever went out to dinner...I remember making dinner for him one night. Mostly, it was lunches. On the easy-class days, we would have a nap after lunch. I think at one point he took me to a Georgia football game. I have no idea who we played, but I think it was a homecoming game because there were cheerleaders there in their 70s--in their ORIGINAL uniforms. It was a bit disturbing for one who didn't grow up in a football tradition.

He Said: That football game was great! M doesn't like large crowds, drunkards, or football but went to a location that had all of that at once. The lunches are some of my fondest memories of UGA. Indian lunch buffet and a nap afterwards.

To this day, though, if we're given time off, what we choose is lunch and a nap. It's the epitome of comfort and affection in Burnstopia.

Fun Friday: The Daddy Edition

on 07 September 2009

Aaaaaaaaaand, again I have no pictures. Sorry!

Chris' boss ordered him to take Friday off, and they compromised by Chris taking a half day off.

So, the Boy had a play date in the morning with a very cool girl and her hilarious 16 month old son Jack (he reminds me of Jack-Jack from the Incredibles, if you've ever seen that movie). We played and ate muffins and talked and laughed and danced some--it was really fun. I was expecting it to be a bit strange since I don't know the very cool girl well (having just moved here and all) but it was surprisingly easy. We chatted books, Jane Austen, movies, Masterpiece Theater, music and the boys. The Boys played and toddled and laughed and cracked us up. Great fun!

(I feel a little bad. She hadn't seen Becoming Jane and so I sent her home with it and she sent me an email to say: Dude! SO SAD!!! And now I feel bad that Ididn't warn her that the end is really SAD. And that I love a sad movie so if I recommend something, it's generally SAD.)


Chris came home from work while the Boy was crashed out and once he woke up we drove out to St. Simon's Island for amazing sushi for lunch.

(No. We did not feed our child sushi. We gave him fried tofu and some rice and he loved it. Thankyouforasking.)

After sushi we drove around the island a bit, went by the hospital to visit people, came home and played for a while before giving the Boy dinner and a bath and a book and crib sweet crib. My favorite part was how the Boy could NOT get enough of his daddy and how Chris was so happy to oblige him.

The fun continued on Saturday. We toyed with the idea of the sea turtle center on Jekyll island but in the end we just went to the pool to swim and hang out for a while, we had some lunch, we had naps, and then we drove out to Jessup, GA to go to this furniture store that Chris had heard good things about. It was huge! They had some really nice furniture. None of which was purchased by us. But it was fun to look and get an idea of what we like and don't like and what we're going to have to compromise on.

And the result of the long weekend? The Boy is so FAR off his schedule he can't even SEE it anymore. But we've had a ton of fun just getting to hang out together and watch the Boy and laugh at his antics. We thank the powers that be for lovely, long weekends!

Things are getting out of hand...

on 04 September 2009

This is...well, my night table. You can sort of see the lamp shade. See, I had some trouble picking a book after I finished rereading North and South. So I picked up the China Study but I haven't been able to settle in to it. And then I found a call for papers on the web and started reading for a writing project. But then I read an article in the last volume of Persuasions and it was so abysmally BAD that I quickly started researching another writing project as a response to that AWFUL article. But I haven't been able to settle in to either of them, so I started reading this book called Passion by a British writer, Jude Morgan. It's not as tawdry as it sounds, it's the story of three Romantic poets (Shelley, Byron and Keats) told from the perspective of the women in their lives. It's actually pretty interesting, but I got about half way and I was just tired. I wanted something that wouldn't require much of me. But then I felt lazy, so I started reading John Rosemond's book on the Terrible Twos, I'm trying to get a headstart. But at night I wanted something FUN to read, and I was missing Whimsy, so I picked up Sight Hound but every other page makes me CRY and I really needed to not be up all night crying, so I picked up this book called Afterbirth--it's a collection of comical essays about parenthood, but some of the essays are just NOT well written and then I got the Introvert Advantage in the mail and so I started that and it is a REVELATION.

I'm thinking that some of the exhaustion at the end of the day is looking at this PILE on the night table. I'm going to have to shelve some of them in order to focus and FINISH any one of them.

So what's on your night table?

The Skin of a Lion

on 03 September 2009

There was a wall in him that no one reached. Not even Clara, though she assumed it had deformed him. A tiny stone swallowed years back that had grown with him and which he carried around because he could not shed it. His motive for hiding it had probably extinguished itself years earlier...Patrick and his small unimportant stone. It had entered him at the wrong time in his life. Then it had been a flint of terror. He could have easily turned aside at the age of seven or twenty, and just spat it out and kept on walking, and forgotten it by the next street corner.

So we are built.

  • Michael Ondaatje

The Old and the New

on 02 September 2009

When Chris and I were first married we lived in this ooooooooold duplex. It was built in 1949. How do we know that? There was a stamp on the cement front porch proudly proclaiming the date.

It was quaint and small and charming in it's own way. Hard wood floors throughout, lots of windows making for gorgeous light. Of course, it only had 2 square feet of counter space, one kitchen drawer, a propensity for bugs of all kinds and completely unreliable plumbing. But it was cheap and it was home for two years so I look back on it with a degree of chagrined charm.

The other thing you should know about this apartment is that it was sufficiently old that the foundation had sunk or settled enough that the doors no longer fit the frames very well. There were noticeable gaps at the top and bottoms of the doors. It made it drafty in winter and when it rained, and rained HARD and the wind blew--it meant that it rained INSIDE.

Now, I just sort of assumed that this inside weather was due to age, one of the downsides of being an older property. But now I know how very wrong I was in this assumption.

We are in a BRAND NEW apartment, people. No one has lived here before. So new, we aren't even on Google Maps. And I am here to tell you that it is RAINING INSIDE MY APARTMENT.

I had opened the blinds this morning and smelled rain and thought, "Huh. Well, that's kind of odd. But it IS raining out so maybe that's all it is." I started laundry, I fed the Boy, I did my chores.

I went back to check out the swamp behind us and the carpet was wet and I thought, "What the CRAP?!?" So I pulled the blinds up and lo, there was water water everywhere.

Being the problem solver that I am, I attempt to ascertain from whence the water is coming. It is coming from the OUTSIDE. Um, duh. It's RAINING. But I look up the inside of the window and hey! What do you know! It's NOT sealed. It's NOT caulked. And now there's a gaping crack where the window meets the wall! Lovely!

You know, I thought moving in when the apartment wasn't clean was bad enough. Now I'm starting to wonder what else in our apartment that THEY JUST DIDN'T FINISH.

I've called. They're sending someone out, but of course, they can't do anything until it STOPS raining and at this point, we'll float away before it stops raining.

In the meantime, I'm doing laundry, I'm cleaning, I'm smooching the Boy, I'm playing and I'm TRYING to have a sense of humor about this.

Pray for us sinners...our sense of humor is almost gone.


Blog Babies, I have an announcement to make.

Are you ready?

Are you curious?

How about now?

For the record, I am officially, completely, NORMAL. I am not odd, eccentric, weird, bizarre, abnormal, crazy, or impaired in any way. I am completely normal...FOR AN INTROVERT.

My sister told me to get this book:

And lo, she has described me as a completely normal introvert living in a completely extroverted world.

I can't tell you how relieved I am!

And for those of you who can't get enough M--I'm sort of on the extreme end of introvertyness. Which explains a lot, really.

The interesting thing is, as I read it and as I think about it, and as I remember junior high and high school, I find myself a bit more at peace with it. I had a miserable adolescence, but seeing it now, understanding that at least some of the misery was due to my own introversion, I can stop beating myself up about freezing when called on, about inconsistent performance and one awkward situation right after another.

And when facing the up-coming dinner with Chris' boss and his wife (strangers! small talk! and FOOD! it's a recipe for M-disaster!), I have some tricks that I can do to prepare myself for it and to store up some mental energy. I am almost, almost (but not quite) looking forward to it.

Thank you, Sherry! You're the best!

A not so still life...

on 01 September 2009

So, as you all know, the Boy is a bit over a year. Still has no clue how to use a spoon. Mostly because his Mama FEARS the MESS. And so, anything remotely messy (yogurt, cottage cheese, pasta with sauce, oatmeal, smooshed up fruit or veg) I feed to him with a spoon whilst he amuses himself with crackers or other finger friendly foods.

I'm beginning to worry that my FEAR of the MESS will hinder his development. Child shall not live by finger foods alone. So I'm slowly attempting to let him use a spoon.

He's currently sitting in his chair, in the kitchen (with it's easily wipe-able linoleum floors) with a cup of yogurt and a spoon. He's already dumped half the container of yogurt onto his tray where he is wiping it up, one finger tip at a time, and licking the yogurt off of his finger tips. The spoon sits in the half a container of yogurt like some object he doesn't quite trust.

He's now dipping his fingers INTO the container of yogurt, still distrusting the spoon.

Oh Spoon! How could you betray me? How can I ever love you again? How can I ever TRUST you again? How will I ever let you into my mouth?

He's cracking me up. And he's COVERED in yogurt. But at least the floor is still clean.

The Boy and the walking...that wasn't

The Boy is 13...almost 14 months old. For those of you who speak rational English that means he's almost 2 months over a YEAR. People keep asking me...

Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?
Is he walking yet?

And I smile or chuckle and say, "He's close but not quite and I'm in no hurry." And that's the truth. I'm in no hurry to have him running laps around me. And yet. He's really HEAVY and it would be really nice if he could walk and hold my hand instead of me having to schlep him around.

As luck would have it, he has sort of maybe taken some independent steps. This past weekend when we were in Savannah, he took 2 or maybe 3 steps on his own before he realized that Chris and I are abject TRAITORS and we had removed the safety of our fingers from his vice grip.

He immediately went back to crawling.

When we would stand him up and ask him to walk between us, he would look at us, smile, stand there for a moment after we had let go and then promptly drop to all fours and crawl away.

He's clever, this one is.

Anyway, for anyone who is longing to ask either of us this question, the answer is...He's walking and then he's not walking and then he's walking and then he's not walking and if you ask me again, I'm going to chuck a sippy cup at your head.