Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Sound Of The Words We've Both Fallen Under

I know, I know, look out, it's a blogging spree. A big part of the reason I hadn't posted in so long was that I was afraid, even in edited (ha!) print, that I would somehow ruin the surprise of my surprise trip to Minnesota. Then I was in Minnesota, and too busy eating venison sausage to post. But lots of stuff got crammed up into my brain during that time, so step aside while I continue to clear it out ...

So, after Uncle Buckbuck picked me up from the airport in the midst of Christmas Blizzard '08 and we completed our discussion of the Results-Oriented Workplace model currently in use at the Best Buy corporate headquarters (which we pass on the way from the airport to the ancestral estate), Mr. Baby started to make something resembling a fussy noise for the first time in our eight hours of travel (seriously; I wanted to buy him the entire wire bin of rubber balls at Target for being so good). To appease him, I turned on the radio and immediately dialed up my old friend 97.1, better known locally as Cities 97.

The rest of the ride was spent in conversational silence as I absorbed the radio station. Every song that came on gave me that "Ooh! I love this song!" chill, and I felt a nostalgic ache for those airwaves. Despite my iPod and glovebox full of CDs, I tend to be a radio listener. And although I love WEVL and my morning dose of Drake and Zeke, there isn't a Memphis station that compares to Cities 97 as far as matching my own musical tastes so closely. Where else am I going to hear Del Amitri, Landon Pigg and Corrine Bailey Rae in the course of 15 minutes?

Which got me to thinking ... is Cities 97 that great or did they somehow get their hooks into me in adolescence and form me into the alt-folkie I am today? I was listening to the station while I was wrapping Christmas presents and a new song caught my attention. When I went online to look it up, I saw the info for the 20th anniversary Cities Sampler, and realized, yes, they did this to me. I found 97.1 in high school, so when other 15-year-olds were listening to Dead Milkmen and Violent Femmes, I was getting my BoDeans on.

As anyone forced to listen to music at my house already knows, the Cities Sampler is an annual compilation released by the station. It includes rare, live, and generally acoustic versions of songs from the past year (or so). In the early days, the tracks were pulled from all over the country, but as the station has gained prominence (and, sigh, been Clear Channeled), most of the recordings are from their own in-studio performances and include everyone from obscure local bands to huge national acts (and some who've gone from the former to the latter). All of the money raised by the CD's sales go to local charities, and because of the licensing agreements they form to avoid paying all the profits back in royalties, only a limited number of the albums are released, and once they're gone, they're gone.

I own nine of the samplers, but they've gotten tougher and tougher to acquire and my parents don't always make it to Target on release day to get a copy. I'd been thinking of trying to grab one while I was up north, but apparently all 35,000 copies of this year's volume sold out in an hour. And although it's a little show-offy in its number of big mainstream adult-contemporaries (Matchbox 20? Seriously?), it also has Paolo and Ingrid and Lowen & Navarro's half-Spanish version of "We Belong" that always makes me tear up (and that I currently only have in cassette form). So if any of you Twin Citians happen to have gotten an extra copy, even if it, er, looks like a recordable CD and contains no artwork, I promise I'll donate $20 to Target House if you send it to me. Or $25 if you take off Jason Mraz first.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Give Me The Food

Wonderful Things I Ate In Minnesota That Are Native, Or At Least Not Readily Available In Memphis:
1. Nut Goodies
2. Bruegger's Bagels
3. Old Dutch Puffcorn (caramel corn-ized)
4. Byerly's Wild Rice soup
5. Frankie's pizza

Wonderful Things I Missed Eating By Not Leaving The House More Often:
1. Eddington's soup and breadsticks
2. Caribou Coffee's chai
3. Grand Ole Creamery waffle cone
4. Leeann Chin's cream cheese puffs
5. Rhubarb wine (not sure of its wonderfulness, but really wanting to try it)

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's A Marshmallow World

So ... where were we?

I was quite far away, actually. After a surprisingly successful December store/yard sale, Mr. Baby and I bundled up and headed north to surprise Cha Cha and Pops for their 40th anniversary. This involved various lies and nefarious deeds, most of them performed by my allegedly legit big sister, culminating in the cancellation of their romantic hotel weekend in downtown Minneapolis in exchange for a completely unexpected party with two dozen friends and family and a week with their littlest grandbabies. It seemed like a fair trade, at least until Pops had to come out of diaper-changing retirement during my last-minute, pre-Christmas mall run.

It was a very nice visit to the homeland. And also very cold. Very, very cold. Mr. Baby and I spent an extra two hours at the Memphis airport waiting for our plane to de-ice and emerge from the tundra, and landed amid a dark, snowy, gusty, bitterly cold landscape that looked like something out of a sci-fi movie. Fortunately, I really had no reason to leave the cozy, well-insulated ancestral estate (except for the aforementioned visit to Ridgedale and an unabashedly dorky yet very sweet reunion with my former church youth group peeps), so the windchill of -30 degrees was really just a useful tool for showing up my southern friends, huddled against the barely-below-freezing temps in their drafty bungalows.

After a week ensconced indoors with two toddlers, however, the origin of the term "cabin fever" was clearly evident. Those babies wanted to run around, and the grown-ups wanted to set them loose, but there just wasn't anywhere for a wee California girl and a tiny Tennessee boy to be free. So the second and third generations packed back up and headed to our warmer homes for another year. Or, for some of us, at least until the job and housing markets align (note to Auntie K: look into a house with a heated dog/child run).

Friday, December 05, 2008

Old Friends 4 Sale

Well, the time has come:

The Final, FINAL Mothersville Sale
Saturday, Dec. 13

This yard-sale-style clearance will feature all of the remaining inventory (including maternity and lots of nursing bras) as well as store fixtures, furniture, equipment, etc.

Anyone interested in purchasing any of these items in a lot should please contact me in advance of the sale. Everything you might need to open a small retail business is available: clothing racks, wall grids, cash register, credit card processor, and even a giant box of thermal receipt paper.

And of course, if there is still someone out there considering the option of taking the Mothersville torch and carrying it forward, this is your very last chance to scoop up the whole business in one convenient, PODS-sized package.

Spread the word!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Over The River And Thru The Wood

Since leaving the home of my family of birth, my Thanksgiving tradition has been to eschew tradition. Knowing that they are still up there, enjoying family and food and the warm, unforced comfort that only occurs among people who share genes, has made it impossible for me to consider attempts at A Traditional Thanksgiving to be anything but pointless and, frankly, too painful.

This year, already challenging in its own ways, I decided to leave the house altogether and take the children for Thanksgiving dim sum. Miss M loves few things more than steamed dumplings, and I felt confident that if Mr. Baby didn't enjoy his meal, he'd at least entertain anyone else in the vicinity with his cuteness. (I know that's what every parent taking their child out in public thinks, but seriously, have you seen my boy?)

To be on the safe side, though, I planned to go during a non-rush, which translated into a 3:30 dinner. Miss M asked if we were having lunch. When I said, "No, you had an egg sandwich for lunch, this is dinner," she replied, "Then why is it light out?" Not only light, but desolate. We walked into the restaurant and the only other people eating were the staff, gathered around a large circular table and clearly not expecting to have to interrupt their meal.

Our waitress - the only waitress we've ever had there - was a little less polite than usual. She rolled out the dim sum cart, and after I'd picked a few things, talked me into ordering an entree as well. But then she brought out more little plates of goodness and I immediately regretted the additional order.

Chinese pop music was blaring over the CNN feed of the terrorist attacks in India. Mr. Baby was transfixed by both. I managed to get Miss M to eat two scallop dumplings, a shrimp dumpling and one bite of a pork dumpling before she completely lost interest in the whole adventure. Mr. Baby ate about half a pork dumpling before trying to stage dive out of the high chair. The entree still hadn't arrived. I was already stuffed and trying to keep Mr. Baby from erasing the specials off the white board by the front door. I tried in vain to get Miss M to eat the bacon-wrapped shrimp or fried shrimp balls, both of which were salty, fatty goodness that any kid would have liked.

When my noodle plate finally arrived (hey, look, more shrimp!), I'd lost control of both kids. They were wandering the restaurant (still empty of other patrons) while I tried to force a few more bites of food into my mouth. I gave up on it pretty quickly, asking the waitress for a to-go box for food I never intend to eat again as well as the remaining dim sum. I had my debit card poised for action and we were all in our coats and standing table-side when she returned with my receipt. When we got back in the car, I checked the clock. Our Thanksgiving feast had been $40 and 42 minutes long.

Feeling that my Thanksgrinchiness needed to be cranked down a notch, I turned left instead of right and took the kids downtown for a sunset walk by the river. Getting M out of the house definitely improved both of our moods, and Mr. Baby was a tranquil companion despite the full diaper I mistakenly attributed to parking too close to a city garbage can. Tom Lee Park was busier than I've seen it outside of MusicFest, with families of all sizes, configurations and nationalities taking a post-dinner constitutional by the Mississippi. I would have walked all the way to Mud Island if the daylight and M's legs weren't both giving out. Hell, I would have walked to Louisiana.

But, alas, our unexpectedly holidayish moment had to end. We closed the evening at home, with popcorn, Charlie Brown, and Miss M informing me that, due to my refusal to get her a third helping of yogurt-covered pretzels, she wasn't so thankful for me after all.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Have To Catch An Early Train

It was such a wonderful plan.

When Mr. Baby woke up and required nursing ten seconds after I turned off the back-up alarm, I lay in bed thinking how good it would be to just stay there. Not even just the usual good of avoiding the return to the Monday schedule, but of actual physical benefit to all of us. Mr. Baby and I both got a second attack of the dreaded stomach bug over the weekend, and Miss M spent the last few nights perfecting a throaty, barking cough that can be heard from across the house. And so I thought it would be reasonable and even useful for us to take a day to rest, to build up our strength rather than exhausting all our resources before 7am. The rain was thrumming hard against the window. The idea of putting on heels and walking two children through the downpour made my chest hurt almost as much as my stomach. We could just stay there. We could sleep in, eat a leisurely breakfast, and see what fresh hell Rachael Ray was wearing. But just as I was mentally making the phone calls to my office, Mr. Baby's daycare, Miss M's school and aftercare, I had a rare moment of maternal responsibility. A nagging thought made me get out of bed and search for Miss M's school calendar. I knew that they were celebrating their fundraising successes this week, but I didn't know when. So I sneaked away from Mr. Baby and went to check the homework folder that I'd ignored all weekend. And there, right in front, was a little quarter-page note:

"Miss M can be out of uniform on Monday, Nov. 24 for her class's Mega Party!"


Not just a party day, but a non-uniform day. All of my tidy sick-day justifications melted away. None of us were in top form, but there wasn't anything wrong that was worse than making her miss a big, fun, special day.

So I got up. I showered, I made lunches, I spent 20 minutes trying to get Miss M to pick something both coordinating and season-appropriate to wear (and saying many thankful prayers for the city school's uniform policy).

And of course, when I tried to get Miss M all psyched up for the big day, she just looked at me like I was crazy. She seemed to know nothing about a party and clearly thought I was misinformed about the whole concept. She didn't even buy the note-in-the-folder story. So obviously, I could have just kept her home and let her enjoy a restful day with Spongebob and Drake Bell and she never would have known the difference. But instead, she went to school, Mr. Baby went to daycare, and I went to work with my soggy heels and crampy stomach.

I was there approximately one hour when the phone rang. Mama KT was calling to let me know what Mr. Baby was running a fever over 101 and had exploded all over himself. I needed to come get him on the double. So I fired off a "good morning and goodbye" instant message to my boss and reversed my commute. When I got to Mr. Baby, he was passed out on the couch in borrowed jammies, looking about as puny as could be. Mama KT made it pretty clear that she didn't expect to see him until after Thanksgiving, so it looks like my solace in saving one vacation day to use over the holidays has turned into the full sacrifice of two days.

So let this be a lesson to you, kids. The next time you feel like you shouldn't get out of bed on a Monday morning, just stay there. The universe will conspire against you until you give in.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Your Feet Are Going to Be On The Ground

Fair warning, this is a purely obligatory catch-up post. I really have nothing on my mind that is dying for cyber-expression, but I hate seeing the blog languish for more than a week, so here we go.

I had a sudden realization in the last week that Miss M has seemed more in control of herself. A phase that seemed to emerge, ironically, after a ten-day fit of inexplicable itching that caused her to dig bloody divots out of her skin. But ever since then, she has seemed more aware of her moods, her behavior, and the general movement of her limbs. Not always, of course. No need to start checking her closet for pods just yet. But she has been better able to express herself and her feelings, and I think that's going a long way toward easing the between-pre-school-and-big-school conflicts she's been working through.

Mr. Baby is, very happily, a little man on the move. He is so thrilled to be walking that sometimes the mere act of standing up and taking a step makes him grin. His whole demeanor is more relaxed and content, and he is so much more independent than just a week ago. During the daytime, anyway. Our attempts to nightwean have been stymied by what appears to be another round of teething - he still has four more baby teeth due, and I think they're planning to come for Christmas. He's gotten pretty consistent about lying down to sleep without nursing, but when he wakes up hurting and screaming at 3am, a mama can only be so tough.

We've reached another one of those mini-milestones, as well: tear-free daycare drop-offs. I've never had a doubt that Mr. Baby was happy at Mama KT's (see pic in previous post), but his pathetic wails when I left him there always sent me off to work with a knot in my stomach. But in the last week, those dramatic displays have all but disappeared, and it's so nice to be able to have the last image I see of him be his calm smile and backwards wave, rather than his angry, tear-streaked face.

That wave is generally accompanied by a "bah-bah," which is just one of the numerous words he has very recently added to his vocabulary. He has always been a mimic, and now that he understands the word-as-label concept, he is delighted to be repeating the correct names of things. Recent additions to his repertoire (previously consisting only of hi, cat, mama, and shoes) include daddy, sister, socks, nurse, banana, apple, juice, eat, oatmeal, thank you, and variations on numerous first names.

And there's the update. What, you expected a nice pithy wrap-up on a guilt-induced post?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sleep All Day

How is it he can sleep like this during the day, but when I so much as request that he spend his nights not directly on top of my throat, he cries like I have stabbed his soul with a hot, rusty poker?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Walking On Sunshine

Just four days before my mentally imposed deadline to begin serious worry, Mr. Baby pulled himself up to standing and walked across the room. Just like that. Just like we suspected he could all this time. I knew he'd been practicing at daycare, and he's slipped in a couple surreptitious steps over the last week or two, but this was the first time I saw him just get up and walk away. Seeing him from that distance, on his own two feet, was a huge relief and a minor heartbreak. I know people say to be wary of mobility, but in this case, I'm just so happy that he has independent movement again. He was such a content baby when he was crawling and able to go where he wanted to go. But then once he started walking with assistance, he was so completely over crawling that his only acceptable form of locomotion involved an adult's pinky finger and bent lower back. And lately, only my pinky would do.

And so yes, mostly relief as I saw that fuzzy little head from the back, those tiny feet making assured contact, that gravity-focusing belly correcting his balance. But of course, I also felt the pangs of panic and sentimentality that strike at every milestone, the sudden awareness that this time is gone and the next will be sweeping past even more quickly. I was so elated to see him upright, but also had the desire to scoop him up in my arms and tell him, "Okay, but you're still my baby."

We celebrated this newfound skill and independence by continuing this week's other goal: night-weaning. It felt like a cruel reward, really. "Nice job, kid, now you're on your own!" And he accepted it with all the grace of, well, a petulant toddler. I consider myself patient and able to withstand discomfort for a longer than average amount of time, but even I was about to cave in to his three-hour marathon of full force screams. The only thing that prevented my collapse was the constant reminder that a couple nights of crying (safely in my arms, with all other comforts attempted) is worth the reprieve from weeks on end of sleepless nurse-a-thon nights. So I withstood the hollering, and the writhing, and the sippy cups thrown at my head, and finally, begrudgingly, he fell asleep. And stayed that way until dawn, when he nursed, got up, and walked into his next big day.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What's The Rush, Let's Take The One

Things That Annoy Or Depress Me On The Way To Work
1. The little girl who is always still walking to school 5 minutes after the bell has rung
2. Sudden and unpredictable 15-car back-ups at a stop sign that has no traffic 85% of the time
3. Street names that are repetitive (Wild Oaks, Winter Oaks, River Oaks), fake British (Redfearn), pompous (Even Mist), or just illogical (Lake Tide)
4. Old men waiting for the bus in the rain
5. Kemp Conrad

Things That Make Me Happy On The Way To Work
1. 112-year-old men jogging
2. Drake and Zeke talking to or about writers
3. Being ahead of schedule
4. Tracks 2, 6, 9 and 13
5. The increasing proximity to hot tea and Gmail

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Money Changes Everything

This isn't generally a political blog, but I just have to say one thing. Barack Obama is going to be the next president of the United States, and here's how I know.

My drive to work takes me through the very well-heeled suburbs of Memphis, where the rich folks with no silly idealistic notions about giving back to the city have ensconced themselves behind ornamental wrought iron. It's an area that, during the last two elections, has demonstrated nothing but support for our current administration. But this year? This year, there's something new out here. It is small but not at all silent. It is the Obama/Biden yard sign, and it is everywhere.

Sure, there are still McCain signs around, but not nearly as many as I'd expect in what's usually a conservative stronghold. I'm not saying Obama will win Tennessee, but the signs point to a shift that I think is nationwide. The fact that there are any Obama signs at all shows that the people you'd think would be okay with the status quo, the people who should be least affected by the literal and figurative climate changes, have had enough. And when the rich people want change, change is going to happen.

Of course, there are also numerous signs supporting John Willingham's ambiguous run for unnamed office, so it may be that the rich people have just gone crazy.

Postscript: I am informed that the area where I work is technically in the city and not the suburbs, but I think that's hooey. Maybe the ZIP code officially belongs to Memphis, but when you're 12 miles from downtown, you aren't In The City anymore. My parents live 12 miles from downtown Minneapolis, and you have to pass through three distinct suburbs to get there. Ridiculously sprawling city boundaries do not an urban area make.

Monday, October 20, 2008


I can remember the first time I walked into Mothersville and was greeted warmly and ebulliently by the sling-wearing mama behind the counter. In the 5+ years since then, I've had the privilege of getting to know that amazing woman and counting her among my best friends. And so in honor of her birthday, I present:
36 Things I've Learned About Kristy

1. Her atheism does not preclude superstitious gestures at railroad crossings, yellow lights, and lamp posts.
2. She does not wear gold jewelry, ever.
3. She can eat the spiciest foods, but crusty bread is her mouth's kryptonite.
4. She is probably planning something very ambitious right now.
5. Any bristlings toward authority and structure are trumped by the passion she has for her work and her students.
6. If her kids could be safely and happily transplanted for a week, she would be on an outbound international flight within the hour.
7. She is averse to nicknames.
8. She would kick ass at any cooking-based reality program that requires quickly coordinating and preparing a meal for a small army of people.
9. She does not suffer fools gladly, and flakes even less so.
10. She has yenta'd a lasting marriage between the "Simply ..." line of juices and vodka.
11. She is not afraid of confrontation and can disagree without holding a grudge.
12. She is not afraid of anything that can't kill her or her loved ones.
13. She knows way more about Days of Our Lives than you'd expect.
14. Her tendency to think in complete, correct, witty sentences allows her to write her column in about 14 minutes.
15. Her only outward signs of drunkenness are conversational repetition and throwing up.
16. She offers advice humbly, even when she knows something up, down and sideways.
17. She loves giving unexpected gifts.
18. She gains no joy from the suspense of keeping something a surprise.
19. She considers ice cream an acceptable dinner, but sandwiches not.
20. She doesn't like the stereo cranked up.
21. She is quick to apologize.
22. She loves her some Oxford comma.
23. She is highly squeamish about the gastrointestinal functions of humans over age ten.
24. She doesn't want to hear about how that thing causes cancer.
25. She can name nearly every plant, tree or flower she sees.
26. She remembers almost everything.
27. She really, really does not want another dog. Ever. Really.
28. Given the option, her shoes will be off.
29. She can be as deeply absorbed in young adult pop fiction as medieval literature, and vice versa.
30. She protects herself from the evening news and other sources of unnecessary negativity.
31. Her smile can fill an entire room, and the absence of it can suck all the air out.
32. She actually likes break-out groups and will happily volunteer to speak for the team.
33. She finds baking to be too constrictive.
34. Her dedication to her family is immeasurable and unwavering.
35. She is highly skeptical of compliments about her appearance.
36. She is stunning.

Happy Birthday!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Hail To Purple, Hail To White

My ten-year college reunion weekend begins today. And, as is probably apparent by now, I’m not there.

When I first started getting notices about the reunion, I immediately tossed them aside, thinking “I won’t know anyone, no one will know me, it’s too far to travel for an awkward evening out.” But as the date has approached, I’ve found myself surprisingly nostalgic about Northwestern and wishing, just a little, that I could go back to pay a visit.

The Arch. Duh.I wouldn’t call my college years “typical.” I was a teenage convert to Mormonism, so my religious practice created a wall between me and the normal university experience, be it Big Ten or Top Ten (of which NU was, ahem, both). Although living in a dorm where other residents were observing Ramadan and Passover, it didn’t feel quite as oppressive or bizarre as one might assume. I missed out on some things I think I would have enjoyed, but I also had a good excuse to avoid things that would’ve just annoyed me, too. Regrets, I have a few … but I don’t have a criminal record, so I guess it’s a wash. In all, I really enjoyed the educational experience, I have fond memories of my work experience, and I’ve just accepted the fact that four years is too short a time for me to forge a lasting social experience.

I’ve always thought about reunions being a chance to reconnect with people, which is mostly why I wasn’t originally very interested in attending mine. I’m sure I had a lot of great classmates, but I didn’t take the opportunity to know very many of them. The few names that do spring to mind when I think about my years at Northwestern are mostly people that I worked with or went to church with, and most of them weren’t in my actual graduating class anyway. And the ones that were - well, that's what Facebook is for, right?

But as I’ve been bombarded by e-mails and glossy brochures about the reunion, I’ve also realized that there’s a reason that reunions and homecoming are always linked. That school was my home for four years, a home I entered, essentially alone, at 17-years-old. I was lucky to have my sister on the other side of campus my first year, but she was the only family within 400 miles. Other than the seven members of my high school class who also ventured to Evanston, the remaining 7000 or so faces were unfamiliar.

My first apartment got all its pests through here.Within months, however, the campus and town were as known to me as anywhere I’d ever lived. Living on foot brought every detail closer, and I knew the streets and shortcuts better than the city I’d just left with a year-old driver’s license. It’s a beautiful campus and was, at the time, a quiet, charming, lakeshore town (an inexplicable hunger for condos and chain stores has apparently hit the town planners in recent years). Even in the times that I didn’t feel completely at ease with my place in the student body, I felt comfortable in my surroundings.

During every change of season, I think about how it felt to walk to class – in the crisp, riotously-colored fall with the smell of drying leaves thick as smoke; in the frigid, lake-blown winter when trying to move faster only increased the burn in your ears and the likelihood of falling on the ever-icy sidewalk between south campus and Tech; in the soft, spongy spring with crocuses trying desperately to push through the slushy mud.

University Hall, home of the English DepartmentI wouldn’t say the 21-year-old who fought to stay awake during Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s commencement address was a fully formed adult, but I did grow up at Northwestern. I learned how to navigate public transportation, order Mongolian barbecue, and manage a staff of highly unpredictable music majors. I worked very, very hard and earned a degree that has opened doors to me ever since. As a writer, having Northwestern on my resume has attracted attention I wouldn’t have otherwise received. I didn’t have the rowdy, reckless, best-years-of-my-life kind of college experience people usually celebrate at their reunions, but it was a good time, a meaningful time, and a time I will never forget.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

No Sleep Til Brooklyn

Hey, Mr. Baby? I ran across this Wikipedia entry I thought you might be interested in. I'd read it to you, but a week of stocking your all-night milk buffet has rendered me unable to move my eyes in a steady fashion, let alone comprehend the finer points of Internet medical research.

Sleep Deprivation
Generally, lack of sleep may result in:
* aching muscles
* blurred vision
* clinical depression
* colorblindness
* daytime drowsiness and naps, excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
* loss of apetite
* decreased mental activity and concentration
* depersonalization/derealization
* weakened immune system
* dizziness
* dark circles under the eyes
* fainting
* general confusion
* hallucinations (visual and auditory)
* hand tremors
* headache
* hyperactivity
* hypertension
* impatience
* irritability
* lucid dreaming (once sleep resumes)
* memory lapses or loss
* nausea
* nystagmus (rapid involuntary rhythmic eye movement)
* psychosis-like symptoms
* sleep paralysis (while awake)
* pallor
* constipation
* slowed reaction time
* slurred and/or nonsensical speech
* sore throat
* stuffy nose
* weight loss or gain
* severe yawning
* delirium
* symptoms similar to alcoholic intoxication

Thursday, October 09, 2008

I'm Taking What They're Giving

Facebook status messages that would appear on my profile if I stayed logged in throughout my workday (instead of just at lunch. And breaks. Don’t you judge me!):

SAM has been up for three hours but is just now starting her day.

SAM is waiting patiently for the Earl Grey to make her functional.

SAM is observing the Cubicle Law that says you only say “bless you” to sneezing people in the same aisle.

SAM is plotting a way to make friends with the Recruiting team because they always seem to be having a good time and frequently disparage Sarah Palin.

SAM is going to Lisa’s Lunchbox. (Der.)

SAM is pleased to discover that “Ice Breakers Pomegranate Lemon-Aid Mints” contain no actual mint.

SAM is frustrated that the only items recycled by her office are soda can pull tabs.

SAM is probably not impressing anyone by sitting with her foot under her, but it’s the only way to make a rolling desk chair agree with the after-effects of two back labors.

SAM is on her 3:30 tiny vanilla crème cookie break.

SAM is attempting to ignore her neighbor’s 3:35 Afrin-spray break.

SAM is putting her tattoo-covering cardigan on before meeting with upper management.

SAM is very, very sleepy.

SAM feels guilty about leaving at 4:45 to get her baby, even though she gets here before everyone else.

SAM can't remember where she parked. Again.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

On Guard

My morning commute takes me to or near five schools, and I can’t help but observe the various forms in which crossing guards appear. And now so can you. Lucky!

The City K-8: Miss M’s school has two guards working the busy intersection during rush hour. I think of them as Good Cop and Crazy Cop. Crazy Cop is the first person we encounter in the mornings and I can hear her whistle thweeting from three blocks away, along with her distinctive Macy Gray voice. She chats up everyone at the corner, whether they understand her random observations or not. Her partner, Good Cop, is less social, but has a friendly, calm presence and always goes out of her way to help me and Mr. Baby across the street even when there aren’t any schoolkids going our way. These two must have one of the toughest guard gigs in the city, but they handle it smoothly, even when dealing with the idiots who try to dump their kids out of their minivans in the middle of Memphis morning traffic.

The City Junior High: I guess older kids don’t need as much direction, or this school just has the laziest crossing guard ever. She sits in her car until a sufficient number of kids has gathered, and then she sloooowly pulls her Stop sign out of the trunk and saunters into the intersection. Most of the kids are already across by the time she’s in place.

The City Parochial School: I very rarely see any children needing help to get through this fairly quiet corner, but when they do, they are greeted by Dorothy Dandridge in an orange vest. Maybe it’s the sun pouring directly into my eyes as I drive east, but there’s something strangely angelic about this guard. I never notice her entering the intersection until she’s in the middle of it. It’s like she floats.

The Suburban Boys School: The only male crossing guard I encounter is an energetic presence who actually deals more with vehicle traffic than pedestrians. His job seems mostly to be about making sure Escalades get in and out of the parking lot safely. To counter this anti-social assignment, perhaps, he smiles and waves and says good morning to drivers once he releases them from his forced stop.

The Suburban Elementary: This crossing guard is so listless and schlumpy and seemingly useless that it almost makes me want to hit her with my car just to see the expression – any expression – on her face. She never uses her whistle or gives cars any warning; she just ambles out into the street in a way that makes me think she could be leaving a trail of slime behind her, limply holds up her Stop sign for the shortest period possible, and then shuffles back to the sidewalk. There are no traffic lights in the area, so you’d think she’d put a little more effort into keeping speeding vehicles at bay, but I guess that would get in the way of her crippling apathy.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Behind Blue Eyes

Miss M has been making regular visits to Dr. Fred since she was just over two years old. We’d noticed that her left eye didn’t always seem in alignment with her right, and even though we could never get that phenomenon to recur in a doctor’s office, our family practitioner referred us to a pediatric ophthalmologist. Dr. Fred couldn’t get her eye to drift on cue, either, but he said one of the most logical and reassuring things a doctor can say: “You’re the mother, so you know better than anyone.” He had us come back in six months, and at that point, Miss M’s occasionally lazy eye was threatening to become downright slothful. The vision in that eye had weakened and the muscle control was dramatically worse (contrary to what you’d expect, strabismus is actually caused by a muscle pulling too tightly rather than the opposite). So at that point, we began a treatment plan that involved patching her good eye to strengthen her weaker one, with the routine ranging from two to eight hours a day. Things would be better for awhile, and then when we’d ease off the patching, they’d worsen again. After two years of this, including a month of having Miss M spend every waking hour with one eye covered only to have the dramatic improvement begin to regress six months later, we decided that the only permanent solution was surgery. It wasn’t easy to send a four-year-old under the knife, but knowing we’d ended our battles over The Patch made things a little easier.

That surgery was a year ago, and every follow-up visit since then has shown that it was a great success. So when Miss M had a regular check-up with Dr. Fred this week, I figured it would just be a routine visit. It was a total surprise, then, when the appointment ended with a prescription for glasses and … siiiiiiiiigh … four hours a day of patching. Turns out that left eye just hasn’t completely gotten with the program, and to keep it from returning to its old wandering ways, it needs to be both corrected (what the glasses are for) and strengthened (what the patch is for).

After determining that I wouldn’t let her get the thick, dark blue, cats-eye frames that made her look like a tiny Mad Men extra, Miss M lost all interest in the prospect of getting a new facial accessory. She hated everything she tried on, she hated me for putting them on her, and she hated that she had to have them in the first place. And that’s the treatment option that doesn’t involve adhering a giant Band-Aid to her eyelid. Oh, this is going to be fun.

I have to admit, though, that my feelings about having a glasses-wearing daughter are mixed. Part of me – the part that donned specs at age 9 – is crushed by the awareness that there is a social stigma involved. It’s an outward sign of physical weakness and a dividing line drawn between her and her peers. She’s already noticed that no one else in her class wears them, and whether or not 5-year-old understand why, there’s always an assumption that someone with problem eyes has other physical shortcomings. The kid in glasses – and especially the girl in glasses - never gets picked first for the kickball team. I feel that my adult self is still very largely informed by the image of myself that was created during my adolescence, and that image was shaped by the perception that I was quiet, studious and unathletic. By the time I got contacts in high school, it was too late. The mold was set.

On the other hand, as the mother of a preternaturally beautiful daughter, I have to admit that I’m a little relieved that there will be some small barrier between her gorgeousness and the world. It’s nice to think that she may be taken a little more seriously than if her saucer-sized, seafoam eyes were out there unshielded. Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses? Great! More time for homework! (Although the current slathering after Fey/Palin, depending on your leanings, seems to be close to dispelling that myth.)

Mostly, though, I just want her vision to be clear and strong, so if this is what it takes, so be it. How the world sees her isn’t nearly as important as how well she can see the world.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Step Two: There's So Much We Can Do

And did I mention how well he takes direction?

Last night, after a day spent hurling out a stomach virus, Mr. Baby got up on his dehydrated little legs and took his first independent steps. He actually looked like he'd done it before and sort of seemed embarrassed to have been caught looking so adept at it. And then he refused to do it again.

Another milestone passed at hyper-speed.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gimme Three Steps

You're adorable, Mr. Baby. No one's denying that. But next week? You turn fifteen months old. I don't want to, you know, pressure you or anything, but a lot of fifteen-month-olds can walk. Not all of them, of course. But, um ... a lot of them. A majority, I'd say. And the ones who can't tend to have mothers who can't help but wonder if there's some developmental abnormality causing their kid to be on the far side of the normal spectrum, even though that's what the spectrum is for.

I'm trying not to worry, let alone panic. I know you have some amazing physical skills that some pre-schoolers are still mastering. And I know that you inherited my cautiousness; I've never seen a baby so aware of his surroundings and the requirements to travel safely within them. If you put your foot out and don't touch something solid, you stay put. So, I just wanted to let you know, in case it hasn't been proven to you yet, that the ground isn't going anywhere. It's going to be right there every time you reach for it, at least until college. Which I can't promise will be true about my lower back.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The Way We Were

A while back, I posted about the sense of loss I felt about being so geographically distant from the places I grew up. My Memphis friends rarely see a week go by that they don’t run into an old teacher or fellow Girl Scout or the stoner-turned-Republican from high school. Being a creature of habit and a fan of familiarity, moving as often as I have in my life has been very disruptive in frequent short-term ways, but it’s also created a long-term chasm between my past and present.

And then I found the wormhole through that chasm: Facebook. I knew it was for me the minute I saw it. A social utility? There is not a tool I need more!

I quickly connected with all my local friends, and then plundered the rolls of my high school and college classes. At that point, my Facebook friend list looked pretty much like my current email address book. But then I got to wondering … what would happen if I entered the graduating classes of the schools I would have attended if the twists of my father’s career path hadn’t dragged us across the Midwest and back?

With just a little bit of fibbing, I slid into the virtual hallways of my Michigan non-alma-mater, the high school I’d have eventually reached if I’d stayed in the nascent freaky-gifted program I was in during our one year in the wilds of Plymouth, MI. Thanks to the fact that I still have that class’s attendance roll memorized, I was able to spot the few other survivors; they even had a reunion page running. I also located my former next-door neighbor, a close friend during that year who completely vanished from my radar after I made my first solo plane trip to visit her the summer after 4th grade.

And then I cranked the Way Back Machine all the way to my educational beginnings. I hypothetically joined the graduating class of our Pittsburgh school district, where I lived between the ages of 3-to-8-years-old. I scrolled through a few pages before seeing any familiar names and had almost given up when I stumbled across a former neighbor and frequent playmate. When she responded to my friend request (which included a note in case she didn’t recall the sturdy little blonde girl who moved out of the neighborhood in 1985), she said that whenever she busted out the Strawberry Shortcake dolls with her daughters, it reminded her of playing at my house. I’m still awaiting confirmation from someone who I’m 90% sure was one of my closest childhood friends, which would officially make her my first Facebook classmate ever: we went to pre-school together.

Unlike MySpace, all of the personal pages on Facebook are private by default, so you can’t see anyone’s current information (other than name, possibly location, and sometimes a tiny picture) unless you knock on their virtual door and ask them to let you in. I guess this is where the social part comes in, and it’s the part that’s the most stressful for me. I know exactly whose friendship I requested, and I have a mental list of the people who chose not to offer it. In that way, it’s a little more like high school (and junior high) than I’d like. But for the most part, people are welcoming and friendly and indulgent of my nostalgic basking. It’s not quite the same as running across your old Mathlete teammate at Target, but at least I don’t have to worry about how my hair looks.

Monday, September 15, 2008

One Moment In Time

After a full week of sleepless, nurse-a-thon nights, Mr. Baby finally had a calm evening, only waking up twice (that I remember) overnight and exhibiting a rare respect for my personal space. And instead of jolting awake at 6:30 and cry-crawling around the house while I try desperately to get the three of us ready in the morning, he slept until it was time to take Miss M to school. And then he gently and happily woke up, smiling and talking while I changed his diaper and put him in warmer clothes for the 57-degree walk to school. He was his usual content, drowsy self during our morning walk, but as I took him back out of the stroller and got ready to drop him into his carseat for the ride to Mama KT’s, I noticed something was different. His body had a weight and concentration. He wasn’t wiggling or trying to look around for the nearest small animal. He was melted into me, his arms around my neck, his autumn-cool cheek against mine.

He was hugging me.

I stood there in the street, the car door open, and hugged him back. I knew he’d cry when I put him down. I knew he’d cry when I dropped him off. I held his soft, sleepy body as long as I could, because I knew that moment of peace and comfort would be the best thing in my day.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I Want To Take You Out To The Fair

So instead of our usual backyard party, I decided to go all out and take Miss M and her two best buds, C and S, to the Delta Fair for her birthday. I thought this was a brilliant idea, especially since there was a free circus on-site. We'd get in for the nominal admission fee and have a relatively inexpensive day of fun and fair-time frolic. As it turns out, my math was a little off. But fortunately, so was theirs.

The Delta Fair, By The Numbers

Fee for that "plentiful, safe parking" they advertised on the radio: $5.00
Yards parking lot was from fair entrance: 600
Admission for one adult and three five-year-olds: $23
Extra change incorrectly returned: $1
Seats available inside circus tent: 0
Feet we sat from the Globe of Death: 2
Number of hoops The Amazing Pamela hula'd at once: 10
Number of minutes between The Amazing Pamela's hula hoop act and The Amazing Pamela's trapeze act: 1.5
Total number of performers involved in The Vazquez Circus, counting the emcee: 4
Percentage of animals in the Petting Zoo that were not goats: 7
Cost of three small cups of wheat chaff to feed Petting Zoo animals: $3
Seconds it took for C to be robbed of his entire cup of wheat chaff by an especially aggressive goat: 12
Midway ride tickets purchased: 20 for $20
Average price per kiddie ride: 3 tickets
Tickets spared by carnies wrongly assuming we had wristbands: 12
Tickets wasted because Miss M would not ride anything without her mom: 2
Cost of first small Sno Cone: $2
Price paid for first small Sno Cone: $0
Minutes I contemplated going back to pay for Sno Cone after I realized I hadn't been charged for it: 0
Cost of two bottled waters: $6
Degree burn suffered by brushing against white-hot turkey leg booth while purchasing bottled waters: 2nd
Times the children lost the pieces of paper with my cell phone number that I stuck into their socks: 5
Cell phone pictures I took of each child in case we got separated and Missing Child posters were required: 1
Cash remaining in my pocket when I realized I hadn't fed anyone anything other than water and sugared food coloring: $4
Seconds I considered letting C get something out of the vending machine instead of eating fair food: 17
Times S asked to play a midway game: 17
Cost of letting three coordination-impaired children sit down at a midway game: $9
Seconds until all three children lost said midway game: 15
Surprisingly reasonable price for a large order of decent nachos: $3
Food and/or beverage items I bought for children but consumed the majority of: 4
Yards we walked out of our way so I could get a fried Snickers before leaving: 60

Friday, September 05, 2008

You Are My Sunshine

My Miss M.

Five. Five! A kindergartener. A little girl. Not, in any way, a baby.

But it’s still hard for me to think about your birthday without remembering your actual day of birth, and the exhaustion and exhilaration of that long night’s journey into day. I remember the fear and the thrill, the confusion and the triumph, the pain and the delicious end of it. I remember reaching out to you, taking you out of your bed and pulling you into my own, where you slept in a warm flanneled bundle like you were still part of my own body.

When I see pictures from later in your first months, my memory is fuzzier. It’s harder to recall each stage of your growing up because you are, at any given moment, completely yourself at that exact time. You are so you. I admire and cherish your presence, the openness of your heart and the certainty of your perspective. Even when that certainty openly conflicts with reality or my own preferences, I respect that you are strong-minded and confident. I couldn’t ask for better qualities in a daughter, especially when they are joined with your sense of fairness and empathy. Senses that sometimes manifest in unpredictable ways these days, but that I know will be refined and strengthened as you grow.

Our bond can tense and slack several times within a day, or even within an hour, but I want you to know, today and every day, that I am always holding on to my end. Usually breathlessly, either from trying to keep up with you or just because I’m agog at your beauty and brains, but always tightly.

Happy birthday, my peanut, my dear heart, my best girl. I love you so much.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Welcome To A Special Place

Well, we made it. Week One of Mr. Baby's official first daycare experience is over, and we all survived intact. And in deep gratitude that we didn't get kicked out after I was 45 minutes late picking him up on his very first day. Of course that would be when the cataclysmic hurricane-leftover rains would flood the entire route between my office and midtown. Not "hm, maybe I should move into the higher lane" flooding, but "holy crap, another police cruiser blocking the road!" flooding. We were so very lucky that Mama KT - the trusted provider for many friends and neighbors - was able to take Mr. Baby in at the very last minute and already I felt like I'd blown her confidence. I know she wouldn't have held me to it, but I sent along a check for the center's dollar-a-minute late fee along with Mr. Baby's application, just because I needed to save some face and try to demonstrate that I wasn't That Mom.

Anyway, back to the baby. He had a great week, really. He only napped about half an hour the first day, but was taking 2+ hour naps by Day 2. (I've thus far resisted the urge to ask how in the heck she made that happen, since he tends to be on a 90-minute timer at home.) Every morning was a heart-breaking, ripped-from-my-arms nightmare scenario, but what with him being my second child (and fundamentally more adaptable than my first), I knew he'd be fine once the door was closed. Mama KT even said I was welcome to circle the block and come peek in the windows to be sure. I like a childcare provider who understands a mother's neuroses needs.

He starts back up again on Tuesday after a long weekend of feverish (in all senses) around-the-clock nursing, with four - count 'em, four - teeth cutting through his gums and two more puffily on the brink. I believe Mama KT's reports that he has a good time during the day, but it's hard when he saves up all his pain and frustration for me. I'm very glad he's happy there, because it makes me feel a little bit better about being so relieved to have a break from the eight different kinds of angry coming out of him lately. I miss my happy baby, but it's nice to know someone else is getting to hang out with him.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

It's A Rich Man's Game

Until I get time to post about the merciful solution to my childcare disaster, I present ...

Things I Want In My Cubicle: Part 1

Decals for the beige cabinets:

Pretty wall hook to compensate for not having a cube-closet anymore:

Twin Peaks-esque lighting:

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Up All Night

My poor baby.

After the childcare plan collapse, I’ve been scrambling to find someplace for Mr. Baby to go every day. And I mean both that I’ve been scrambling for daily coverage and that the scramble happens anew every single day. This week, it’s been rare for me to know before 3pm where he’s going to be the next day. Fortunately, the only store-related credit I have remaining is with my former playgroup regulars, and St. Laura of Velasco has very kindly and lovingly taken up way more than a reasonable amount of slack as I flail about desperately trying to find a long-term solution to our babysitting needs.

In the meantime, my pleasant, easy-going baby is starting to show signs of cooperation fatigue. Our usually seamless morning drop-offs have become dramatic and teary, especially when those drop-offs involve leaving him with a total stranger in a totally strange, though fully licensed, location. I’ve had to return to the days of eating cold dinners, since nothing but me picking him up will calm his meal-time fits of separation anxiety. And our nights have regressed, with him up and nursing frequently, refusing to fall asleep without touching some part of me, flopping his half-awake body toward me and resting his head on my stomach, using me as a source of physical comfort in a way unseen since his newborn weeks.

And yes, okay, I realize that four days of somewhat unpredictable but generally familiar care isn’t going to cause permanent damage and it probably doesn’t explain every recent change in his behavior (there are pretty solid hints that he’s got more teeth coming in, plus he’s about three hours away from walking), but my guilt and stress and fear over not having the childcare issue resolved feeds into my every perception about his well-being. I just won’t feel like he’s okay until I find a place for him to be okay.

In the meantime, Miss M is taking kindergarten by storm, marching into her classroom every morning with barely a glance back in my direction. We’re struggling a little in the off-hours, as the early mornings and time-restricted lunches catch up with her, but she’s doing great while she’s there and I don’t have to think about it every minute of the day, so that’s the best I could hope for right now.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

I'm So Far Out To Lunch

"So, how's the job going?"

Well, since you asked ...

The job is good. It's an adjustment to go from the autonomy of self-employment, but that adjustment is greatly eased by the check slipped into my top desk drawer every other week. My assignments are interesting and challenging and I get really useful and positive feedback on a regular basis, which can't always be said for either retail or motherhood. My team is very friendly and generous, and although we all seem to take an interest in each other's lives, we just haven't forged a personal connection - they noticed my tattoo, but not my new haircut. And the rest of the company is ... well, I can't really say. Not because it's bad, just because I don't really know anyone outside of the three other people in my department. Those other people seem nice, when they're talking to each other in the breakroom or having work-stalling conversations over the cube walls, but I tend to feel invisible when I'm moving in their midst. I know this is partly because a) I'm conversationally stunted and will never take the opportunity to jump into a discussion uninvited, even when the women down the row are saying that breastfeeding makes babies spoiled, and b) about 25% of our division has been hired in the last quarter and so there are a whole lot of newbies walking around. And then just to complicate social matters, my team was moved down a floor last week, so those people whose shoes I was just about to get brave enough to compliment are now an even more gaping distance away.

Some people would solve this issue by putting on a brave new-kid face and charging in, confident that their charms would win out. But I've been the new kid so many times that my instinct is to lay low and hope my greenness doesn't expose me to scorn or ridicule. And just like elementary school, the biggest struggle of the day is deciding where to eat. Since the idea of sitting alone and eating lunch in the breakroom turned my stomach, I did a quick Google Map search of the area and found a restaurant within walking distance from my office. "Restaurant" might be stretching it a bit, really, but tucked inside an office building in the Ridgeway Loop, with no outdoor signage or any indication that it's there (oh, I already loved its humility), is Lisa's Lunchbox.

When I walked in the first day, Lauren at the counter took my name as well as my order. Which seemed like a fairly standard, Starbucksy thing to do, but then I noticed that she was greeting everyone who came in by name. I got a pre-boxed turkey and swiss special for five bucks (home-made chess bar and chips included) and took it back to my cubicle. The chess bar alone brought me back the next day, and when I got to the front of the line, Lauren said, "It's SAM, right?" Why, yes, it is.

The food is great (I'm deeply fond of the ham and swiss panini, which they serve with a side of ranch dressing for dippin'), but what really draws me back (multiple times a week) is the atmosphere. Not the brightly lit, styrofoam cup ambiance, but the actual tone of the place. I sit alone reading a book, but I don't ever feel like I'm by myself. I listen to the gossip behind the counter and follow the conversations with other customers. I hear Lisa talking about the challenges of small business ownership and I feel like part of the same club. These t-shirt-clad thirtysomething women (Lisa and Lauren are joined by Laura - oh, the alliteration alone delights my writing heart) seem more like my people than the other business casual corporate types sitting around me.

If you come out east to have lunch with me, know that I will suggest Lisa's. And if you're anywhere near Ridegway without me, seek it out yourself. And then go back again, because the trip's even more worthwhile when the minute you walk in, they say, "Hey, cute haircut!"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Starfish And Coffee

There was so much build-up to Miss M’s first day of school that the actual event was fairly … well, anti-climactic, really. After worrying all summer and barely being able to sleep the night before (good thing I was up when the alarm went off at 5:30, because some tiny prankster with an affection for buttons and surprisingly distant reach had turned the volume aaaaall the way down), rushing around that morning getting supplies in order and barking last-minute commands to brush teeth and hair, the point of all the fuss was almost completely lost. Not that it wasn’t exciting to see her all dressed in her uniform, her new Hello Kitty backpack bumping the back of her knees as she walked up to school, but once we got through the throng of children anxiously bustling toward their various destinations, the drop-off was pretty easy. I’m sure it helped that we’d just been at the school for an orientation and tour, and that she saw familiar faces (human and canine) on the way in, and that Miss M had met her teacher and was immediately greeted by name, and especially that Connor was in the very same class in the very same room on the very same day. I’m sure it also helped that she’s been in a happy school environment for the last two and a half years, so even though this was a big new step, the idea of being away from her folks all day isn’t a huge source of trauma.

When I asked her about her day, I fully expected a contrary response, but instead she reported that it was “very, very good.” She said that she colored and did tests (“I got three wrong but about a hundred right.”) and played outside and allegedly watched a movie, although I’m not sure about that part. She made some claim about no one wanting to play with her during recess, which crushed my heart under the weight of playground rejection memories, but since she has a tendency to fabricate instances of suffering and victimization, I’m not immediately concerning myself with that issue. Especially since I can’t imagine that Connor left her sight.

Since they stagger kindergarten entry, yesterday was her only day of school this week, which gives both of us a chance to recoup and prepare for the new shift in routine. And double-check that Mr. Baby hasn’t changed the clock radio levels again.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Feels Like Home To Me

So about the time most of my extended family was gearing up to attend the annual Corn Capital Days street dance, I was listening to rockabilly in a Memphis tattoo parlor, having a symbol of my ancestral homeland stabbed into my skin.

I walked into the shop ten minutes early for my appointment (again), and I saw that my new design was already sitting up on the counter. And it ... wasn't what I expected (again). But this time, I paused. JS could tell I was not sure about it, and he graciously offered to come in on his day off if I wasn't happy. But the more I looked at it, the happier I was. It wasn't exactly what I'd had in mind, but it was really, really pretty, even just as a sketch on tracing paper. It captured the rosemaling detail (that my initial choice of artist said was "untattooable") so perfectly, and although the star shape wasn't as prominent as I'd envisioned, he'd modified my original idea to allow as much space for the pretty stuff without causing the design to wrap all the way around my arm. And as he stood patiently waiting for me to reject him again, I said, "Let's do it."

I then sat in the front waiting for JS to prep his station and for the sorority girls to get out of the bathroom for two damn minutes already. I was still debating whether or not to enact my emergency anti-anxiety plan when JS stepped out and said he was all set. So before you could say half-a-Xanax, I was whisked off to the back of the shop, trying not to shake visibly while JS ran the disposable Gillette over my forearm.

He'd reduced the original design by 75%, but when he pressed the stencil onto me, it still covered nearly the entire visible diameter of my lower arm. I hadn't really grasped until that moment that the part of your arm that shows when your elbow is bent is not the same part that shows when it's relaxed at your side. But the placement looked good and the size was just right, so I gave the thumbs up and climbed up onto the table, which suddenly reminded me more of a lethal injection restraint than a massage table.

And then, reminding myself that I'd delivered two babies without any pain relief, I offered up my arm and immediately began the same breathing technique I used through my labors. JS fired up the needle and got right to it.

The first sensation was strongly reminiscent of getting blood drawn, especially since it was right over my strongest vein. I tried to let go of that thought, though, and associate the constant buzzing with an insect flying near me or, better yet, a hummingbird. This, combined with much-appreciated conversational distraction, helped to keep the pain and anxiety factors down. Really, the most disconcerting thing about the first hour of work was having my hand fall so thoroughly asleep that I wasn't even able to identify where my fingers were. Because, of course, I wasn't looking at my arm. Oh, no no no. I've always been in the habit of averting my eyes when there's a needle being stuck into me, and this didn't seem like the time to break it. So I just had faith that things were progressing well and didn't take a peek at how it looked until we took our first break.

At that point, just the outline was done, but it already looked pretty great. I was trying to visualize how the color would work - both what it would look like and how it would feel to fill in all that space. Part of the reason I'd picked JS to do the work was because I really liked his use of color in the portfolio samples I'd seen, so I was pretty much just relying on his instincts to bring out the Nordic feel. The plan was to go with dark, drab colors with brighter highlights, but beyond that, I just left it up to him.

We got back to work, and the minutes started moving a little bit more slowly. I wasn't in pain, per se, but the aggravation of the constant poking, repeated wiping, and incessant watchful glare of the heroin-shooting goat in the Stryper t-shirt (featured in the painting directly in my line of sight) started to get to me. I made it pretty smoothly through the first hour and a quarter, but the last fifteen minutes were not much fun at all. It started to sting, not just where the needle was jabbing but across the entire area. Every time JS wiped away ink and A&D ointment, it felt like a dry washcloth across sunburn. But in the grand scheme of physical discomfort, it was pretty low in both duration and geographical involvement. Just when I was starting to think I'd rather not do this much longer, it was over. I sat up and took a good, long look.

My goal, over the last year and a half of tattoo planning, was to end up with a design that was both meaningful and inspiring, something that reminded me of where I've come from and would be something I'd want to look at every day in the future. And now, finally, there it was.

It was beautiful. It was home.

I was absolutely amazed by it. Looking at it felt like glimpsing a part of my body in a mirror that I'd never been able to see before - surprisingly unfamiliar but still me. It was lovely in its own right, but it also referenced the original art and concept so perfectly. That sounds a little arrogant, considering it's attached to me, but I can't take the credit. JS did a fantastic job. And he seemed pretty proud of it himself, along with grateful for the change of pace from Celtic tramp stamps.

And so, without further ado ... l'etoile du nord.

Thanks, Team, for helping me through it. And sorry, Dad.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I've Done Everything For You


I was stymied, once again, in my Great Tattoo Quest by yet another tattooer with more talent than time management skills. I'm allegedly all set for Saturday, but the requests for pictures are already coming in, so I hope a few more shots of our beach cuteness will appease the masses ...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Taste Of Ink


Hear that?


I think it's getting closer.


It's ... it's almost on me!


Stay tuned ...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Back To Life, Back To Reality

Hey, here I am!

And just where have I been? Well, work, mostly. It seems that full-time corporate employment can really cut into your blogging (well, not for everyone). By the time I'm home and the kids are fed and bathed and bedded down for the night, I have about a 19-minute window before I collapse, and those 19 minutes are usually reserved for the news (aka Comedy Central between 10-11pm). Work is good and interesting and validating and I found a really good lunch place within walking distance of my office, but I'm still trying to figure out the whole balance thing. Mainly, how to balance the dozen boxes of Mothersville files and receipts and other stuff I didn't put into storage so that they don't collapse in an avalanche of thermal paper.

Of course, nearly two weeks of cubicle life can really drain a girl, so after 8.5 days of hard labor, I high-tailed it to the beach with the usual crew. Miss M and Mr. Baby had a fabulous time and I set a new personal record for amount of sand tolerated in my vicinity.

But now we're back, and the boxes are still here, and I've got 51.5 more days until I qualify for paid time off, so if anyone needs me, leave a message with Mr. Colbert.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hope This Very Special Day Brings You Lots Of Joy

It's been quite a year, Mr. Baby.

Thankfully, the difficulty, intensity and pain you used to enter this world was not foreshadowing. There has been an ease and joy and familiarity to you since the very beginning. After we got through those first few days of constant, wary brow-furrowing at everything you encountered, anyway.

We've been through a lot since then, but you have remained the happiest, friendliest, baby-est baby I've ever seen. Even in your darkest mood, even in your greatest pain, you are rarely more than ten seconds from a smile. You've endured every change and transition with the same calm demeanor, which I try to tell myself is just a naturally unflappable temperament and not early signs of Nordic repression.

You are so open to the world it both buoys and breaks my heart. As your mother, I worry that your agreeable nature will someday lead you to be taken advantage of, but I also relish the fact that you may grow into a socially confident child and adult, which would be a pretty new phenomenon, genetically speaking. You already bring so much light to me and the people around you. I can feel the tension around me lift when I'm, say, standing in line at the grocery and the other customers catch your attention. Your eager smile and twinkling eyes seem to ensnare and soothe anyone within sight of you. Everyone who sees you thinks you're taken with them and that your delight is specifically directed, and I don't ever try to correct this impression. I don't want to diffuse the natural joy you bring to everyone you meet.

As a second child myself, I know I've already fallen behind in documenting your milestones and developmental highlights. But as the mother of two, I've also learned that the day you started crawling isn't as important as the memory of your tiny fingers unconsciously reaching for me in the middle of the night or the achingly soft dent on the back of your neck. Your first year has sped by so much more quickly than your sister's, and knowing this, I've clung more tightly to your babyhood rather than spending hours on end wishing it would please go faster.

Things are about to change in a very drastic way. We've spent every day of your life together up to this point, and now your days will be filled without me. I'm not sure I can accurately explain how painful that fact is to me, but "surgery without anesthesia" is the closest description I can muster. But I also know I'm lucky. Nearly every mother who comes into my store says how nice it must be to have my baby at work with me, and I know nothing can replace the time that we've been able to have together. I'm going to miss you madly, but it's some consolation knowing that's because of the bond we've formed over the last twelve months.

You're an amazing little man, Mr. Baby. You are strong and curious and quick to laugh. You are thoughtful and cautious and easily offended. You love to eat. You love to play outside. You love to eat what you find outside. You love nearly anyone, especially kids and babies. You don't like dogs and cats as much as you used to (sorry about letting you watch both the critters die). You haven't taken a step but you can climb all the way up a slide or rock wall or flight of stairs. You sleep on your belly with your butt in the air, the way Cha Cha says I used to do. Your sister absolutely thrills you. You say mama and dada and bye bye and, I think, car. Or cat. Or keys? You point and clap and mimic like a little blond monkey. You are, quite simply, delightful.

I wish I could promise to protect you from every struggle ahead, but that's not realistic. What I can promise is that you will have so much love surrounding you that that the falls will always be softened. I believe in you already, in the gifts you have to offer, and I can't wait to see them opened to the world.

Happy birthday, my baby boy. I love you so much.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Planet Earth In The Palm Of Your Hand

Being a natural introvert, my favorite thing about journalistic writing is the interesting people I get an excuse to meet and talk with. I was a little sad when my interview time with Sarah Terry was over because it was such a pleasure getting to know her. I hope y'all will feel the same if you read my story on Sarah's eco-conscious household. I also make regular stops by her blog to see what amazing craftiness she's up to lately.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Fathers, Be Good To Your Daughters

The phrase "Just wait until your father gets home!" was never uttered in my household while my sister and I were children. And although this was partly because my mom was the Chief Disciplinary Officer in our home, it was also because there was not a one of us who believed that my dad would ever handle a situation with anger or even the most vague threat of violence. I can't ever remember a day of my life, in childhood or beyond, that I have been afraid of how my father would react to a given circumstance. A little dread at possibly disappointing him, sure, but never fear that I could lose his love or even his patience.

Which is not to say that my dad is a pushover or a milquetoasty man. For reasons I never understood, his demeanor seemed to intimidate most of my young friends, and he still makes most babies and children a little bit wary. I suspect that's because he treats everyone the same, whether they're fifty or five. He is calm, reserved, patient and a bit smart-alecky, which plays pretty well with grown-ups but can be a little weird to kids who are used to everyone playing big and goofy with them. But that temperament was a perfect fit to mine as a girl, when I was easily overwhelmed by loud noises and overt emotions. That's his genetic legacy to me just as surely as the dome nose, anxiety-prone digestive system and love of Fats Domino.

I hear a lot of mothers comment on the difference they see in how their fathers act around their grandchildren in comparison to how they remember being treated growing up. But when I see my dad around my children and my niece, the most frequent sensation I feel is nostalgia. With these little ones, and especially his granddaughters, he is the same quietly strong, loving force that held up my sister's first two-wheeler and optimistically coached my dismal basketball team. They also get the same half-octave-deeper, half-step-slower Dad Voice if they flagrantly disobey. (My sister can expertly mimic the exact tone of his one stern word: "Girrrls.") And they can bask in the same knowledge that, whatever they do, he will treat them with kindness, fairness and respect. And I hope that, like his daughters, his granddaughters will carry that expectation through their lives, with him and every man they meet.

Happy Father's Day, Pops. I love you.

Pops and "Scooter"

Pops and "Wildcat"

Pops and "Jack"

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I Have Tried, In My Way, To Be Free

There has been a lot going on at SAM headquarters lately, and one of the biggest chunks of mental real estate has been occupied by my career options. As all nine of you know, I currently own and operate a small retail endeavor that has been striving to keep its head above water for the last five years now. When I took it on, a bit over three years ago, I had a lot of big ideas about what could be done to build on the mission and plans of its devoted founder. But as the years have gone on and life has brought its own variables into the mix, I've come up against some of the same challenges that moved Kristy to leave for the more stable, predictable and benefits-providing world of secure employment. In many ways, things look a lot like they did a year and a half ago when I first attempted to sell the place. There's so much I want to do with the store, so many things that I think could really help it succeed in both financial and community-oriented ways, but I still don't have the time, energy or resources to make those things happen.

And so, in the last month or two, I've been looking more seriously at job openings. In nearly five years of hunting, I've never had much luck finding anything in the Memphis area that could make any use at all of my specific skills (mainly: Googling and smartassery). But then, suddenly, I was practically swimming in them. And more useful yet, the resumes I was sending out were actually getting into the hands of real people. Real people who were calling and emailing me to set up interviews. I had more interviews in the last month than I did leading up to my college graduation (yet wore the same suits for all of them). And perhaps because I didn't have that desperate, earnest fervor of a near-graduate, they went a lot better. I was actually getting second interviews. I thought those were purely mythical!

Somewhere in the back of my head, I was aligning the fact that I had somewhat impulsively given 60-days notice to my store landlord with the sudden emergence of all these other job opportunities, but I hadn't consciously figured out how I was going to handle what happened next with the business. And as the weeks passed and the move-out date drew nearer, I was so embroiled in corporate psychological analysis and mock projects that I couldn't focus on how the store could be kept open. Plus, the self-doubting part of me always assumed the other opportunities would fall through and I'd have enough time to scramble together my next plan before my lease was up.

So imagine my surprise when, in the course of one week, I had two interviews (one a second) that both seemed very promising. And then, wedged in the middle of those, a call from a local ... let's say post-natal services provider who had heard the store may be closing and wanted to discuss the possibility of partnering to create a new type of resource center (keeping it a bit vague for now to protect her identity as well as her idea). And so that, combined with the increasingly serious discussions we've had about joining forces and realty with the midwives, made the possibility of an amazing new version of Mothersville seem very doable and very exciting.

So there I was, with two very strong, feasible job opportunities in front of me, as well as a brand-new and seemingly more profitable avenue for the store. There were intense pros and equally vivid cons with every situation. When I thought about taking one path over the others, I was continually pulled back by the alternatives. I can't remember ever being so torn about a decision. I couldn't sleep, I lost my appetite, my every waking thought was focused on determining the best choice for me and my family. It took up most of every conversation I had during that time, including my therapy session. My therapist said the answer would present itself. She's not usually one for platitudes, so I tried to believe her.

And then it happened. There wasn't a dramatic parting of clouds or a chorus of angels, but the fog of conflicting inner voices started to lift a little. As I envisioned every possible scenario, I kept coming back to the one that offered an opportunity to use my degree and strongest skills, and was willing to give me good money and benefits for it. Working in education was appealing, as was the flexibility of the schedule, but I knew it couldn't sustain me on its own. I'd have to count on a certain amount of freelance work, which is an oxymoronic situation. Sticking it out with the store felt good to my heart, but my head and gut said nuh-uh. My head even clarified a bit by saying, "You've done everything you can. You've run yourself ragged trying to make life easier for a lot of other moms. It's time to make your own life easier." (Always less profound, my gut just said, "Hey, does this look like an ulcer to you?")

I stayed up until nearly midnight on Sunday night working on the next phase of the education job's hiring process, just to be safe. And then the next morning, I got a call from the staffing manager at the company I'd been leaning toward.

And ... I let it go to voicemail.

I still wasn't quite ready. If you've read Slam (as 70% of you have, based on your GoodReads profiles), you may recall the part where Sam throws his mobile into the sea so as to wait just a little bit longer before finding out that his teen-age girlfriend is pregnant. Just to have one more day before his whole life changes. And that's what I needed to do. Although instead of throwing my cell phone into the ocean, I threw myself into a YMCA pool and spent the afternoon bobbing around with Mr. Baby. Enjoying the Monday off, enjoying the time with him, and making peace with the idea that our regular Mondays off were about to come to a close. We dried off, got dressed and I called the recruiter back. A voicemail/callback later, and I had an official job offer.

The feeling after I hung up was complicated. Excitement, fear, anxiety, pride. Overwhelmed by both the positive and negative aspects of the situation. I called my parents almost immediately, and hearing their enthusiastic response helped to tip the scales a little, just as long as I didn't watch Mr. Baby hyper-crawling around with a giant smile on his face and a thought bubble over his head saying, "Really? You're going to leave this all day?" But that's a weepy post for another time.

Point is, I made the decision. I have a job. I'm going back into the full-time, corporate work force. As, of all things, a professional writer. And I am, for the most part, very excited and optimistic about it. The to-do list that's now trailing away from my body and out the door behind me? Still a bit daunting. But the big, dark tunnel I've been stumbling my way through now has a fairly large circle of sunlight dead ahead. Shining, unexpectedly, from the east side of Poplar Ave.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I was just going to do a straight-forward Top 50, but a) that's a nearly impossible task in light of 30+ years of recording, and b) I can't resist an opportunity for at least a little exposition. And so, in honor of Mr. Nelson's 50th birthday, I present
Ten Top Fives About Prince Songs!

I. Five Partyingest Songs
5. Trust
4. D.M.S.R.
3. 1999
2. Housequake
1. Let's Go Crazy

II. Five Least Embarrassing Political and/or Spiritual Songs
5. Planet Earth
4. The Cross
3. 4 The Tears In Your Eyes
2. Pop Life
1. Sign O' The Times

III. Five Filthiest Songs (Darling Nikki barely makes the Top Ten, Mrs. Gore)
5. 319
4. Head
3. Sexy M.F.
2. Erotic City
1. Come

IV. Five Loveliest Songs
5. I Wish U Heaven
4. Still Would Stand All Time
3. Take Me With U
2. The Arms of Orion
1. Forever In My Life

V. Five Least Justifiably Popular Songs
5. Batdance
4. Diamonds and Pearls
3. The Most Beautiful Girl In The World
2. Cream ("Sh-boogie-bop?" Seriously?)
1. U Got The Look

VI. Five Saddest Songs
5. Condition Of The Heart
4. When U Were Mine
3. Purple Rain
2. Nothing Compares 2 U
1. Sometimes It Snows In April

VII. Five Kid-Friendliest Songs
5. Uh ...
4. Hm ...
3. Er ...
2. Um ...
1. Starfish and Coffee!

VIII. Five Sexiest Songs
5. When 2 R In Love
4. Superfunkycalifragisexy
3. Hot Thing
2. Anotherloverholenyohead
1. Adore

IX. Five Funniest Songs
5. Vicki Waiting (there's an entire joke!)
4. Glam Slam '91
3. Mr. Goodnight
2. Alphabet St.
1. Bob George

X. Five Songs I Cannot Control The Urge To Sing Along To, Down To Every Exclamatory Noise, Not Already Mentioned Above
5. Raspberry Beret
4. The 1 U Wanna C
3. Little Red Corvette
2. I Would Die 4 U/Baby I'm A Star (required to be played in succession)
1. I Could Never Take The Place Of Your Man

Happy birthday to a hometown hero and permanent musical companion. Every stage of my life has had Prince on the soundtrack.

The astute observer will notice that there are a number of albums not represented on this list. That's because those albums are either shamefully forgettable and/or were released during the post-Crystal Ball period when Prince and I were not on speaking terms. We worked it out, though.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

I Come Back To The Place You Are

More commute-time radio musings ...

As I was heading in to work this morning, I caught the second half of "In Your Eyes," which is universally accepted as one of the best pop songs, ever (I'm not going to have any arguments from the Peanut Gallery, do you hear me, people?). Which got me to thinking about my own favorite songs, ever. And just as I started compiling it in my head, KT Tunstall's "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" came on, and man, I love that song. Which made me realize that a list of my favorite songs, ever, would be really, really hard to create. I'd have to divide it by decade and sub-category and go all Rob Fleming about it to be truly accurate.

So I thought it might be easier to list my favorite albums ever; collections that were, back to front, completely pleasing to me. And I'd limit it to records I actually own or owned, just to narrow the field, because otherwise there'd be no hope of ever finishing this exercise. I mentally flipped through my parents' reel to reel tapes and our Columbia House vinyl selections, the cassette tapes I bought with my minimum wages in high school, and the CDs that first crossed my path in college and haven't released their hold on me yet, despite the onslaught of medium-less media. I made it to about 1983 (and the oft-ignored masterpiece of She's So Unusual) before my head started to hurt and I gave up on that idea, too.

But in all this musical contemplation, I began another, more focused list project that will take some time to complete. No more details on that right now, but look for it on, say, June 7th.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

High School She Was That Girl

So in a random fit of Googling, I decided to look up the girls I remembered from high school with some degree of intimidation - because they were cooler or richer or artsier or existentialistier or grown-upper than I was at 15. The dark-eyeliners and the danceliners. The people I was too barricaded in my preppy, churchy, college-bound world to get to know, and the people I simply didn't care to. And the exercise was fascinating - sometimes surprising, sometimes totally validating. I discovered that the mysterious, insular girl who took the edgy photos of the artsy kids for the senior yearbook is now doing marketing and design for big corporate clients. I saw that the smart, sporty girl I always felt meek and mousy around had become a 10k-running attorney. And I learned that the girl I considered, rightfully or not, to have the worst "reputation" in our high school (no link, sorry) is getting her PhD in one of the most respected English Literature programs in the country.

Whether these girls turned out the way I expected them to or not, it was an eye-opening exercise, because whoever they became, they looked a lot like the women I know and value in my life today. It made me wish I could go back in time and get their future email addresses, just so I could write them now and say, "Hey, glad to see you're doing well." Because I am. Whether they were girls I envied or feared, I'm happy to see that my adolescent intimidation foretold the qualities that are contributing to their successes today.

Okay, maybe except for the Trojets.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Hangin' Tough

So I was driving home from work last night thinking, "Where have all the Huey Lewises gone?"

By which I meant, where are the silly pop bands that everyone listens to and secretly enjoys? Where are the grown men willing to wear bright clothing and mug in front of a band doing choreographed dance moves? Why does every single group on the radio (or satellite, whatever), especially those that are male-dominated, take themselves so damn seriously? The closest we seem to get are angsty young men singing about obnoxiously quirky girls with twee, antiquated names, and I've had about enough of all that.

And then I turned on The Today Show this morning and there they were, five adult men in fedoras, open vests and loose ties, footwork flawlessly synched up despite the New York springtime rain pouring down around them. And just as I was heralding this decade's ability to produce the new News, I realized that this blast of bubblegum was actually blowing in from the 90s. Upon closer inspection, I discerned that those five thirty-something guys were very familiar. As familiar, in fact, as my adolescent bedroom wall.

Yes, it was New Kids On The Block. And yes, my (probably former) friends, even though there was no one around to witness it, I'm going to confess that I actually felt a little flush when I recognized each slightly more filled-in face. Because I was, once upon a time, one of Those Girls. Well, maybe not one of Those Girls - I didn't own a pin-covered porkpie or cover my Keds with I <3 NKOTB or anything - but I did enthusiastically attend more than two concerts and I'm pretty sure I remember using my Donnie Wahlberg t-shirt as a pillowcase. I forced my parents to sit through repeated playings of every cassette whenever we were in the car (including the Christmas album I won by calling into KDWB and listing the Top Nine at Nine in under nine seconds), and I even vaguely recall making arguments as to their artistic merit (although that may have been the songwriting genius of Jack Wagner's third album I was defending, come to think of it).

I can recognize it now, the obvious marketing ploy laser-sighted at my demographic. I can plainly see how their sexy-but-safe personas were directed straight at the girls of my age, the pre-daters who believed that teenage love might be romantic, still oblivious to the realities of curfews, groundings and minimum wage. I think these are now called "tweens," but back then, we were just hyper little girls.

Older and debateably wiser, I can see the strings behind this latest incarnation's pop puppetry. I know when I'm being pandered. The record execs know that those little girls have grown up and had little girls of their own, and now they're trying to suck us all in at once. In the crowd outside Rockefeller Plaza, there were two generations - Those Girls and Those Women - mouthing every lyric and holding up neon-posterboard signs. But I'm pretty confident that I'm still not one of Them, because instead of the flush of excitement I felt as a pre-teen, the flush I felt today was one of maternal concern. I wanted them to hit their notes, I wanted them not to fall on the slick stage, I wanted Jon to pinken up and not look so much like he was going to hurl due to his crippling stage-fright (which he described on Oprah a couple years back).

And I sort of, just a little, wanted to hop on iTunes and buy the new single. Because although it wasn't the most poignant or well crafted song I've ever heard, it was upbeat and fun and didn't once mention a girl named after a Biblical character or British monarch.