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.