Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On Hormones

Ooooh lordy! I am raging today!

It has not been pretty.

Did it sound pretty when I slammed the office door shut? Dunno. Don’t care.

How did it feel? Great.

Did I look pretty glaring at the parking lot smoker as I walked through his cloud o’cancer?

Doubtful. Don’t give a rat’s.

These unpredictable, uncontrollable emotions—the absolutely raw feelings of rage, complete impatience, and zero tolerance—they’re not normal for me.

My hormones, controlled by the miracle of chemistry, are at a very steady, predictable level. Every day, we take the magic pill, we keep our estrogen and progesterone right where we likes ’em, and everybody’s happy. It works for me, my doctor says I can go on like this until menopause, and if anyone ever tries to take them away, they are gambling with their lives. They shall rue the DAY they tried to take my little peachy pills away! They can’t HAVE them! I will fight to the DEATH for them, do you HEAR ME???

Ahem. Like I said, today we’re experiencing some wee surprise episodes of rage, where I can be flitting along like my normal saintly bitchy self, sprinkling delight dirt on all who walk in my sunshine shadow and then BAM, suddenly I’m tottering on the very delicate edge of a quite-high cliff, over which I can topple with just a puff of air directed at my back. With very ugly results at the bottom.

I’ve fallen off that bluff at least five times—so far—today. But, like Chumbawamba, I got up again (much to the chagrin of everyone in my path).

This, too, shall pass.

They call it PMS because Mad Cow Disease was already taken. ~Author Unknown

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Long-Targeted Goal—Achieved At Last!

I’m so pleased to announce that we’ve done it. Finally, it has happened, just yesterday, in fact—and we couldn’t be prouder or more excited. After many years of trying—and failing miserably (but thankfully not enough to dampen our enthusiasm for trying again), D. and I, together, achieved the unattainable, the unreachable, the heretofore seemingly impossible!

And not a moment too soon, let me tell you. Who knows how much longer we would have had the energy to keep trying? I shudder to think that yesterday’s successful event might not have come to fruition, due to our all but complete and utter exhaustion, not to mention our near-inability to face another round of bitter disappointment.

Oh, the reminders of our failure were everywhere. We saw it in the movies and on television. We read about it on the covers of women’s sex self—improvement magazines in the grocery store check-out line. We took the quizzes and analyzed our results. There was no apparent reason for our constant malfunction. We approached each attempt strategically, even practiced our technique, to time it correctly, to go slowly, to move carefully, and yet—our goal eluded us again and again. And oh! the self-pity! as we constantly heard of other couples’ success, listening glumly as they smugly described how effortlessly they attained that pinnacle of couplehood, about which we could only dream. Were they more worthy, more deserving, somehow better than we? What is wrong with us? we lamented.

But no more! The raw envy, constant disappointment, and bitter frustration we suffered for all those years are now locked in the past, behind the wall that threatened to contain us for the rest of our married life. At last, we are no longer defined by failure. We have done it.

Success! It is ours, and it tastes so sweet!

We made it in and out of Target for less than one hundred dollars. First time ever.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

My First Job

This morning, as on every other morning of my life, I opened the old wooden screen door and stepped out onto my front porch. Lying neatly, right at my feet, was my local Sunday newspaper. As if it had been placed there with love. I peeked over the railing and spotted my Seattle Times at the bottom of the steps, safe and perfect in its plastic sleeve. I sent a silent “thank you” to my delivery people, the faceless ones who so kindly meet my needs and those of my neighbors by not requiring me to walk out to the yard or (egads!) to the front sidewalk to fetch my papers.

You see, every morning, my hair looks like this:

and I believe that nobody other than D. and the other animals who live in my house should be subjected to that crowning glory.

This morning, as I sometimes do when I see how nicely my papers have been delivered, I thought back to my pre-teen years when I had that job—and how much less care I took to meet my customers’ needs. I was a substandard newspaper carrier.

I inherited my paper route from my older brothers. Each of them had done it, mornings or afternoons, and on Sundays each of us sold three different newspapers—our local paper, the New York Daily News, and the New York Times—in front of our church. For years, every Sunday for four Masses, from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., year round, one of us kids was out there schlepping hundreds of papers over to the church so we could sell them to the people who walked by our paper stand on their way home.

And every afternoon after school, I folded somewhere around a hundred papers and arranged them in my paper bag, which featured a hideous, attention-grabbing, neon orange strap, ensuring that I could not hide from the boys in my class who were playing hoops or baseball along my route. Then I either took off on foot or on my badass Sears Free Spirit 3-speed wonderbike and headed up the street to bring the news to the people.

My paper-tossing skills were not great. In fact, I really sucked at it. The shrubs, the porch roof, halfway up the stairs—yeah, those were my targets. But landing one on the porch at the actual front door? A rarity. Sometimes I’d get lucky and hit a screen door with a smack! But most times I just grabbed a paper out of the heavy canvas sack and lobbed it in the general direction of the porch. And kept right on going.

It wasn’t that my parents had not instilled the “if you’re going to do something, do it right” mantra in me. Apparently it didn’t take, at least not back then. Had my father witnessed my performance, he would have made me pick up every single misfired paper and walk it to the customer’s door, placing it between the screen door and front door. Then, he would have had me ring the doorbell, greet the customer when they answered, and apologize for the poor quality of my work.

I took great pride in the occasional toss that actually landed on the porch. As time went on, I became better at it. But for the most part? Toss and go. Walk up the block. Toss and go.

Now, my favorite customers received world-class service. I used to collect once a month from each subscriber, and some of the little old ladies on my route greeted me with homemade sweets each time. Their papers went behind their screen doors—every day. And the two older women who were confined to their wheelchairs? I walked into their living room and handed the paper to them. But the strong ones had to work a little harder to get theirs. Even if it meant grabbing a broom to retrieve it from the roof.

Today I understand how they must have felt. I understand how much they probably despised their papergirl. And why my tips were never that great.

But as a sixth grader who hated being outside in the cold and felt scared in the dark, I had one mission: get home to supper. Get rid of the papers and get back home to supper. Complete my route, hopefully unscathed by bad dogs, mean boys, vampires (these were my Stephen King days) or frostbite, and get back home to the warm kitchen where supper was on the table.

When I think back to that time in my life, I wonder if we were crazy, naive, or stupid. Who would allow a young girl to walk the streets after school, even in winter when it was very dark, to go to strangers’ homes to collect money once a month and then to carry this money around with her? Were things so vastly different then? Was this routine act that is now unthinkable really safe then? Or was I just very lucky?

What I thought then was that it was cool (apart from the hideous orange strap on my bag). I was our small city's first female paper carrier. I was so proud of that. I was earning my own money and learning how to fulfill an obligation every day. There were no sick days. There were no “Mom please drive me today” days. Oh, no. Mom had a bunch of kids to take care of and the aforementioned supper to get on the table. And Dad wasn't home from work yet.

I had nobody to rely on except me. Whether I wanted to do it or not, I had to. On days when I would have given anything to just hang out at my best friend’s house listening to music and talking about boys, I was still out there. Throwing papers. Into the bushes.

Perhaps that’s the real reason my aim was so poor.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

My Favorite Childhood Book: We Help Mommy

I'm child number eight, out of eleven kids. Born smack in the middle of six boys. By the time I was nine, the oldest kids, including all of my sisters, were out of the house, on their own, hundreds of miles away.

It was me, mom, and the boys (including dad). We all had to Help Mommy, or she would have collapsed under the volume of laundry she faced daily. Smelly boy laundry.

This was one of my very favorite books. How wildly traditional, repressed, and stereotypically un-feminist of me. But the book helped bring me along the road to equality, too. I remember thinking "Hmm, where are the boys when I need someone to hold the dustpan?" Gosh, I loved this book! I think I loved it because I loved my mommy. And because it inspired me to help my mommy (hey, now that I think about it, I smell a rat!). And because of the beautiful illustrations. I looked at that pudgy little blond girl and saw myself. And she was good.

I'm going online now. Must. Have. Warmandfuzzypieceofchildhood.

Thanks to Jean Cushman (author), Eloise Wilkin (Illustrator) and Cynthia Smoot (photo credit).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Reading, Not Writing: The Update

My Book Group met on Monday, sans moi. Worked late again, due to a huge project that has consumed our entire team and even required a Saturday work day for all of us. D. worked all day Sunday as well, while I took photos (see below) and avoided laundry. I did vacuum and put away serving pieces from New Year's Eve, right on schedule.

So, you're wondering how I'm doing with War and Peace The Brothers K? I'm presently up to page 161. Not bad, considering the story (subject matter: family relationships and BASEBALL) is moving along at a painfully slow pace. It's all about the backstory, and while I'm certain every scene, every character description, and every baseball game play-by-play commentary is there because it needs to be, the story is moving about as quickly as my 89-year-old neighbor's daily walk around the block. Slow and steady.

My Book Group friend, Amy (the one who chose this monstrosity), stopped by today. "How was it?" I asked.

"Well, nobody read the book, except me, and I stayed up until 3 in the morning the night before to finish it." (Amy doesn't work right now and just returned from a month in Brazil, but I don't hate her or anything.)

A-ha. I'm not alone in my failure to live up to a commitment.

The difference between the other women in the group and my own twisted self is that they have long since moved on to their next read. I'm still nose first in The Brothers K every night. I have to finish it. I have to finish every book I start. Just have to.

Amy says it gets much better in the second half. "Can't put it down," she said.

I had no plans to do so.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Photos

On this rare sunny and relatively warm January day in the Pacific Northwest, the late afternoon (3-ish) sun looks lovely in and around my house.

Squirrel Nutcracker
Doesn't work worth a shit darn.
Nuts seen here will never be consumed, but D. had to have them.
We have a whole bagful.

Dreaming of Glory, Same Squirrel
One of these days, I am SO out of here!

Windowsill Rocks

Hiding the dust.

Kidney Stone


Winter Garden

I use the term garden liberally here.

Waiting For Spring

Honey, I know what you mean.

Winter Sky at Sunset

And it's only 3:30!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008


However you or I or the neighbors feel about her as a person, as a politician or as the wife of a politician, this is huge: a woman has won the New Hampshire primary. On the heels of a black man winning the Iowa primary!

Like many of you, I have been waiting my whole life to see a woman become the President of the United States. And it’s possible now. It’s not impossible. It’s possible. It is no longer just a far-off dream.

And you know what? Right now, I don’t want to think about whether she’s electable; about whether she’s the right woman at the wrong time, or the wrong woman at the right time.

Right now, I don’t want to dissect her appearance, her cleavage, her tears, or her cookie-baking ability.

Right now, I'm not worried about any of it.

Because right now, this woman voter, this child of the sixties, this girl who never dreamed of becoming president of anything besides The Arnot Park Neighborhood She-Woman Boy Haters Club is just beaming.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Reading, Not Writing

  • It was written by David James Duncan [not to be confused with all of the other David Duncans out there, like this one, who looks like a nice photographer guy, this one, who wore out the shredders at Arthur Anderson getting rid of Enron evidence., or this one, who was a prolific screenwriter (The Time Machine) and died in Everett, WA, just down the road a piece.]
  • It weighs 1.1 lbs (.4989 kilos for our metric friends).
  • It contains 656 pages of text. (No pictures! No illustrations!)
  • It has received 99 “5 star” ratings on
  • It is my book group book—and we’re meeting one week from tonight.
  • I only got it from the library yesterday.
  • In order to participate in the discussion, I must read 94 pages per day. Yikes.

    Who has time to write? (New Year's Resolution #4, is in danger, and it's only the 7th. (Note to self: I think book group has to go, as much as I enjoy it; I must write.)

    Next time it's my turn to choose our book, we're reading this:

    So easy! And so good!

    Dearest Reader: Have you read The Brothers K? Do you remember? (It was published waaaaaay back in 1992.) What did you think?

  • Saturday, January 5, 2008

    Bugs in the Food, Part II (Lunch Spoiler Alert)

    Oh, good Christ. This was in D.'s sandwich just now, dead from either the freezer, microwave or broiler. The poor thing didn't stand a chance of surviving that triple-whammy. Luckily, he found it before he ate it. After a "What the. . ." he put it in a tissue and brought it to me. My ohmygod ewwwww get that thing away from me!!!! reaction could not be described as kind, as I had resolved to be, but neither was it profoundly bitchy or sarcastic, so I gave myself a pass.

    I do not like this particularly crunchy-looking insect at all, particularly its pincer parts. What do they DO with those, anyway? Must go to Wikipedia and see.

    How did it get into a sandwich in our house? I'll tell you my theory: D.'s favorite bread in all the land is a seeded baguette made by a local bakery. It is perfect in every way, crusty outside, light inside and covered with poppy, sesame, and caraway seeds. Or are they fennel? No matter, they're spicy good. Now, you'll recall our bug-infested jumbo shells from Christmas weekend. Is it a mere coincidence that said local bakery sells their breads in that SAME grocery store? I daresay it is not, but a deliberate plan to keep me from shopping there ever again; indeed, to keep me from supporting a local (albeit huge corporate Republican type) company and to force me to continue my new love affair with Trader Joe's!

    If only all my problems were this. . . well, tiny and insignifcant. But why focus on the big issues, when the wind is howling outside, our animals are safe and secure and at our feet inside, and all of our needs: shelter, water, companionship, books, tea, cute eyeglasses and plenty of (bug-filled) food are met? Life is good today in the House of Earwhig Earwig (thanks, Melanie!).

    Wednesday, January 2, 2008

    Oh God, Not MORE New Year’s Resolutions?!!? Yup.

    Monday night, we had a gathering of friends and family (will it EVER end??) at our house. It was lovely, my carpets are unscathed and nobody revealed any naked body parts, intentionally or not. At some point while I was still semi-coherent (the last guests left at about 2:30 am), we went around the table answering the venerable, quintessential New Year’s Eve question: “What are your New Year’s Resolutions?” One by one, we professed a goal or two. Until it was my cousin’s turn. His answer? “I never make resolutions.” His tone? And don’t ask me again next year. We moved on to the next guest.

    I’ve been thinking about this—probably too much—but hey, there’s nothing of terrible importance going on right now (as in, no meals to plan). I just don’t get this hard line that folks like my cousin have against New Year’s Resolutions.

    To me, the non-believers fall into one or more of three categories:

    1. They believe they need no improvement (and that right there is a fat clue);

    2. They know they won’t keep their resolutions, so they don’t bother to make them (have they given up on themselves?)

    3. They think it’s a silly clichéd tradition, like wearing funny hats and blowing through noisemakers at midnight (awesome!).

    Well yes, we all know that it’s cliché, that resolutions are as are easy to make as a bowl of cereal—and as hard to keep as a mammogram appointment. (Two bad similes in one sentence! How does she do it?) And how many of us remember—much less keep—our sincerely made resolutions by April when all we can think about are taxes, not diets or quitting smoking or going to the gym three times a week no matter what?

    I love how bloggers are writing about their resolutions, and I’ve decided to join in the fun. My list will be lurking out there in black and white forever. How convenient for beating myself up referring back to when I need reminding of what the hell it was I said I would do in the bask of a golden champagne-induced personal breakdown holiday glow.

    To me, there’s no harm in taking stock of myself, blowing through an entire box of Kleenex and bottle of good Syrah, then dealing realistically with my shortcomings (unlike my cousin, the rest of us have them), and vowing to do better.

    So here we go. Here’s what I need to improve, and I solemnly vow that I resolve to do so:

    1. Be more patient with my husband. As in, no rolling eyes when he asks if we have any butter. This is a tough one because it involves a DNA transplant. Might need help. I reserve the right to silently say, "Have you LOOKED in the refrigerator, by chance?????"

    2. Scoop the cats’ litter boxes every day. This will be an easy one: if I do it each morning after I feed them, it will only take a minute, max. Maybe it will cure the phantom pooper, too. I don’t know any cats who get scooped every day, but I’m sure they’re happier than mine, who deserve a cleaner environment in which to poo.

    3. Be kinder. I am not completely unkind, mind you, and I will never be one of those annoying public-sweet-closet-bitchy women. I keep it real. But at times, that realness lands on others with a thud, or worse—with a smack. It’s not what I say, it’s how I say it, they say. I’ve heard it enough to know I need to work on it.

    4. Write. I have two novels in the works. I need to get back to them.

    5. Get organized. Since we moved into this house in April, I have never felt completely unpacked. There are still two unfinished rooms where boxes are shoved into corners, the closets are jammed full of crap, and nothing hangs on the walls—because we haven’t painted them yet. My mind is not at rest, and every time I walk into those rooms I feel stressed. I will pick out the paint and get started. Hang the pictures and clean out the closets. Breathe easier.

    6. Attend Boot Camp faithfully. I have done better than I expected—I have survived two 8-week sessions of Boot Camp, and I’m stronger, my clothes fit better, and I love the class. I’m signing up for round 3 (I need the discipline of a class structure) and I vow to not miss any classes unless I’m sick or out of town. Three hours per week is no big deal. I just have to make myself get dressed and leave the house.

    7. Be this girl (come warmer weather, of course—I’m not going near the water now).

    8. And this girl.

    9. Get myself on one of these, purchased, rented, borrowed—whatever it takes. Because I had nearly forgotten the pure happiness I feel when I’m sailing. I don’t want to forget.

    10. Take good care of myself, however I define it, each day. Naps, massages, walks, bike rides. Be with people who are good for my soul. Simply put, do more of the stuff I want to do and less of the stuff I do not.

    Well, this ought to be enough to set me on the path to self-love, family harmony, and life balance. Who knew it could be SO EASY? Stay tuned.