Friday, November 08, 2002

This is a cross-section of my morning.

I'm standing at the counter grinding coffee, the grinder is buzzing loudly, oldest daughter is standing next to me saying, "Mom! Mom! Mom!" repeatedly over the grinding. Youngest daughter is pulling something heavy down off the shelves. Husband is saying something to me from the other room that I really wish I had been able to hear.

And it occurred to me that if a single person were plucked out of his or her quiet morning routine and dumped into the middle of my life, I imagine he or she would have much the same reaction as a cat suddenly meeting a vacuum cleaner. Claws out, ears back, scurry for cover under the nearest piece of furniture.

But when you ease into it day by day, and you balance it against being surrounded by the people you love, the noise is kind of comforting. Like the sound of life - breathing, heart beating, muscles working. It's the sound of being alive.

Thursday, October 17, 2002

For some reason, Loobylu is making me jealous. It's not that I want another baby just yet, but reading about all the newborn things reminds me in a weird sort of way that my newborn is nearly a year old. It's a strange, conflicted feeling. I remember being so miserable when the baby was tiny because I could never figure out why she was crying, and we couldn't quite get the hang of nursing right away. It was so much worry. But now that's all gone. There's a new kind of worry and wonderment.

As I was leaving her at daycare this morning, she grinned her little gap-toothed grin and tossed me a half-wave. Everything about her still astounds me.

What does it mean to have a baby who's turning one? You find yourself reminiscing about where you were one year ago and how things have changed. You look at toys she plays with now that would have confounded her just a few months ago. Instead of gazing at your tiny newborn just marveling at the fact that she exists, you marvel at the skills she's perfecting and the speed with which she's learning.

She's leaving the special, protected state of babyhood and finding that she much prefers a new physical challenge (such as the hall staircase) to being secured in a soft, fuzzy blanket. She'll take a sippy cup on the go over a bottle in mom's arms.

But to watch her realize that she's a separate person with ideas of her own, that's something. Once she struggled for ten minutes to fit a block through a hole, and then suddenly discovered – "Oh, if I turn it this way…" and she laughed out loud with joy at the accomplishment. The other night, I put a few pieces of chicken on her tray, which she immediately stuffed into her mouth. "Is that good?" I asked. Her little head bobbed up and down in a nod.

In true mom form, I'm quite certain that no other babies are as beautiful and talented as my own. You'll just have to humor me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

Okay, I'm going to have to buy a space heater for my office. The fact that it's a constant 62 degrees in here is killing me. Maybe it's fine for the bulky men in suits, but I'm wearing two sweaters just to break even, and trying to type with cold, numb fingers is deterimental to my word processing. I wonder if studies have been done on the correlation between unreasonably low thermostat settings and the number of typos per document.

That's all I have to say about that. I'm also considering giving up blogging. It's depressing when all I have to talk about is how cold I am. I hate people like that, and I have no desire to be one of them. There are many more interesting blogs than mine out there. Go out and see for yourself. Go on! Shoo. I promise not to be witty and clever while you're gone.

Monday, August 19, 2002

Near the entrance to our building is a sad little table and chair reserved for job applicants. When some poor soul comes in, hat in hand, seeking employment, he's sent over to the table to fill out an application. Then everyone else, those lucky folks who have jobs in this economy, can walk by and peer over his shoulder, wondering at the turn of affairs that landed him here in such a sorry state.

This morning, the job applicant was particularly heartbreaking. Stocky, middle-aged, balding. Not attractive, but respectable-looking. Married (gold ring on his finger). He reminded me of my dad.

If his resume were an ad for a used car, it might have read: "Clean, dependable transportation. Good gas mileage. Some wear on body & interior, otherwise in good shape. Best offer."

Because my dad has had a comb-over for as long as I can remember, I have a sort of familiar affection for other men who do. I get defensive when people make fun of them and wonder why he doesn't just shave his head. My dad would joke about how little hair he had as if it didn't matter to him, and then painstakingly arrange those few hairs as if he were bargaining for just a little more time with each one of them.

And so it seemed to be with this man. He had a certain look of earnestness as he penciled in the addresses of former employers. The lines around his eyes reminded me of the periods when my dad was out of work and spent long, tedious hours scouring the want-ads, visiting potential employers only to return home tired and defeated. I wanted to go with my dad on those visits, to stand next to him holding onto his hand and enthusiastically explain to the bosses how wonderful my dad was, how hard he worked to care for us, and how smart, how dedicated, how kind he was.

I wondered if this man had kids at home who would have gladly stood beside him at the lonely applicant table, met my curious gaze defiantly and announced, "This is my dad. Anyone should be glad to hire him."

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Thanks to all who voted in the poll, the business has a name! We are now...

Disenchanted Princess Cards & Gifts

Look for items soon in a trendy retail store near you!

Here ends the shameless self-promotion. At least until the website is up and running. Giggle.

Friday, August 09, 2002

My friend Fluid and I are starting a business! We'll be making edgy, unique, artistic greeting cards for edgy, unique, artistic people.

Because edgy, unique, artistic things make the world go 'round.

Help us name it, and I promise you'll instantly feel more in touch with your inner artist!

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Cars and sex. Apparently there's more similarity between the two that I had thought.

For example, did you know that your local car dealer is looking for more than just a one night stand? It's true. This morning on the radio, I heard Mike Schmidt of Mike Schmidt Toyota tell me, "At Mike Schmidt Toyota, you're not just a number or a sale. We want to establish a relationship with you."

How flattering, I thought. But that's mighty presumptuous of you, Mike Schmidt. After all, we haven't even had dinner yet.

And maybe I'm not ready for a relationship with my car dealer at this stage of my life. There's something to be said for the quick and easy transaction, the no-strings-attached, no-questions-asked purchase. I know that someday I'll want that stability of one car dealer in my life, but for now I just want to see what's out there. Have fun shopping around. Experience what other car dealerships have to offer.

Forgive my lack of subtlety, Mike Schmidt. But at this point, it's not you I want. It's your Toyota.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

On my morning route to daycare with the kids, I always pass a certain old man who walks up the subdivision hills like clockwork. I shouldn't say "walk." He strides. His pace is better than any walker I've seen. And the best part is, he waves at every passing car. His whole arm shoots up in the air and he grins a mile wide, never breaking his relentless stride.

His other arm is attached to a leash, on the end of which a beautiful golden retriever keeps pace with him up those hills, pink tongue lolling out of its mouth, eyes bright and enthusiastic.

The first time he waved to me, I was caught off guard. People don't wave to strangers. I ignored him. I thought he was a nut. The next day, I gave in and smiled at him. Then I started smiling and lifting two fingers from my steering wheel. Before I knew it, I was grinning and waving wildly at the man as if he were an old friend I hadn't seen in twenty years.

He went on smiling and waving through the seasons, every single morning, whether it was 100 degrees or the roads were frozen over with ice. He and his dog made their trek no matter what.

Until one day when he simply wasn't there.

It took me a few days to notice. Then suddenly I realized I hadn't seen him for a week or longer. Maybe he had walked earlier. Or later. But it didn't make sense that he would change the routine that he'd kept for over 2 years. I assumed the worst, and I hoped that this physically active, friendly little old man wasn't stooped over in a nursing home from a stroke or heart attack where no one would smile and wave to him in the mornings.

About six months later, I finally saw him again, back on his usual route, keeping his vigorous pace, waving at the passing cars.

I saw why he must have been gone.

His beautiful dog was no longer with him.

Thursday, August 01, 2002

To the left is the Squeaky Weasel, official mascot of The Squeaky Weasel Gets the Grease.

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Today I'm chatting with Squeaky. That's right, the very weasel of website fame and influence. He's a little brown and whiskery fellow, and when I figure out how to upload a photo, he'll be making a regular appearance on this page. (He's already up at if you're anxious to put a face to the name.) For now, he's agreed to an off-camera interview so you can get to know him as intimately as I do.

Interviewer: So, you're a weasel then?
Squeaky Weasel: That's right.

I: Is this something you'd always wanted to be, or did the decision come to you later in life?
SW: Well, I never felt like I had much choice in the matter. Ever since I was a pup I've been around weasels. My father was one, and well, my mother was too for a while, until she had us kids. Then I think she kind of gave it up and became something of a stoat. But me, I've had a lot of positive weasel influences and you might say that pushed me in a certain direction. I certainly don't have any regrets.

I: Squeaky isn't your given name, is it?
SW: (Laughs) Now, how did that get out? Actually, you're right. My real name is Mustela Frenata, which I believe is Latin for "long-tailed weasel." Only my mother calls me that. Squeaky is a nickname I picked up with some of the boys from Long Island, and I felt like it suited me.

I: What's a typical day like in the life of a weasel?
SW: I can't speak for every weasel, because I do have my quirks. But me, I'm definitely a night person. I'll sleep most of the day in my burrow, then stalk and kill a small mouse or a bird. I come in to the office at least once a day to check my email and follow up on phone calls. Other than that, you know, I keep to myself. I hang out. Occasionally mate.

I: Is there someone special?
SW: I have a few females who are very special to me, but I still haven't met that special weasel. The girls I meet are mainly raccoons, marmosets. One of my closest friends is a squirrel named Bushie. We go way back. But we both know it could never work between us because we want different things out of life. Her whole world is trees. Now, I like to climb a tree occasionally, but I also swim, dig, and kill things. She doesn't want any part of that.

I: I'm sensing some sadness there, am I right?
SW: I suppose so. (Pause.) There's a part of me that wonders what life would be like with Bushie. She's a real family squirrel, real nurturing. She's going to be a great mom someday. That's something I haven't thought much about yet for myself.

I: That was going to be my next question. Where do you see yourself in five years?
SW: I try not to think about that. My great-grandfather lived to be 11, but toward the end he didn't have much quality of life. Most weasels in my family give it up around age 6. I think I'll retire to a quiet lumber pile outside of a subdivision in a few years.

I: Squeaky, thank you so much for meeting with us this morning.
SW: It's been my pleasure!

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

With apologies to husband for using his blog as a springboard for free associative thought...

it occurs to me that once you've been burned on making a reservation, the next reservation you make will be made with reservation.

You might further assume that the act of "making a reservation" is not referring to the act of actually placing the desired item on reserve, of picking up the phone and reserving that item for your exclusive use, so much as it is about creating in your own mind a reservation, a concern that the item you desire might not be available at the specific time you are requesting.

In fact, one might say that in phoning to request a reservation at all, you are tipping off those karmic forces that work to thwart you, and you might have been better off keeping quiet about the whole thing, showing up at the place at an unspecified time, and crossing your fingers for availability.

Absolute secrecy is required. All parties involved should be kept informed on a strict need-to-know basis.

Friday, July 26, 2002

It's a gloomy and overcast day outside, and as such it is the perfect day for a brilliant compilation of Radiohead that a certain person was good enough to compile for me. There's an art form to burning a CD, and it's an art that I'm not ashamed to admit I have never mastered. My husband is one who, if you mentioned a passing interest in a certain band or genre of music, would create an epic audiatory experience such that you begin to feel as if you not only grew up with each of the band members, you'd also like very much to bear their children.

My husband is a musical missionary. He seeks out the nonbelievers and takes them under his wing, i.e. those who think Brian Wilson wrote nothing of interest beyond Help Me Rhonda, or who feel that Elvis Costello's music is boring. These people become his projects, his converts, and I am among them. He taught me that music can therapy, spirituality, escapism, expression, and personal connection.

Sometimes it's hard to see the line between the man and his passions. Then again, I don't think there is a line. You are what you love.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Sales meeting: A time of unspeakable psychological horrors.

Sales meeting is a gathering of marketing managers and sales representatives to unveil new titles, discuss strategy, and outline objectives. In the weeks leading up to the sales meeting, marketing comes to advertising with requests for nine hundred brochures, eighty flyers, and six thousand little one-page "product guides" to use in their presentations to the sales force.

Sales meeting projects are like gnats. Small, unassuming, and easy to handle -- until they all come at you at once, swarming and biting and crawling into the corners of your eyes until you are finally driven mad, pleading for death upon your knees.

In years past, I've always taken a certain amount of pride in being able to produce whatever marketing needed, because they seemed so desperate. "For the love of Christ!" they'd plead, "Please! Can I get this in time for the sales meeting? We NEED this for the sales meeting!"

And so I imagined my brochure in a spotlight at the front of an auditorium, glowing with impeccable writing, being held aloft by a marketing manager for all the eager reps to see. "The textbook itself is not as well written as this brochure!" he'd cry, the end of his sentence drowned out by thunderous applause and cheers.

Last year, sales meeting was held in town, so the creatives were able to attend. I brought along an extra pen in case I was asked to autograph any of the brochures I'd written, and I kept my sunglasses with me in case I was mobbed by admiring reps and needed to make a quick, anonymous exit.

So I picked up my name tag at the front desk of the hotel, Hi, my name is... Squeaky Weasel, Copywriter, and proudly fastened it to my sweater. As I turned around, I nearly bumped into a tall, skinny, designer-suit-wearing girl who nudged past me and announced her name to the front desk clerk, who handed her a name tag. As she was pinning it, she glance up at me and smiled broadly. "Isn't this fun! I don't think I saw you at the bar last night. I'm Shana, west-central region. What's--" At that moment, her eye fell on my tag and her entire demeanor seemed to step up onto an invisible pedestal so she could conveniently look down her nose at me. Her smile turned to plastic. "Oh, you're with marketing?" she patronized, and then turned on her heel and Prada-ed off toward the meeting rooms.

I soon learned that it was even worse that she'd assumed. In the sales meeting pecking order, I was even lower than marketing. I was advertising, barely worthy of more acknowledgement than the hardening edges of the cheddar cheese cubes on the veggie platters in the lobby.

But the final blow came during the strategy sessions, where I'd been told my brochures would illustrate all the features of the new textbooks. I took my place in one of the chairs lining the wall (my "place" -- out of the way) in a room where marketing and sales gathered around a long conference room table. The marketing manager flipped through some notebooks, talked about numbers, then finally -- finally -- I saw her reach into a binder and withdraw what I recognized as my beautifully written brochure. She tossed it down on the table in front of her and continued to talk. No one so much as glanced at it. No one opened it, no one read it, no one used it. It laid forgotten on the table until the end of the meeting, when the marketing manager said, "Okay, that's it! I have a brochure you can look at if anyone's interested. Otherwise... thanks, people!" The brochure was summarily tucked back into her binder and everyone crowded out toward the exits.

Later, I caught up with my fellow creatives, all huddled in a tight circle in one of the hallways passing around copies of each other's work and trading kudos. "I got copies from marketing of everything we did!" said my boss, as if that made our presence there worthwhile. She handed me one of mine. "This one was a real hit!"

By "hit" I assumed she meant that no one had actually thrown hardened cheddar cheese cubes at it. I took it and held it up in front of me, trying to see whether it looked more impressive in a hotel setting than it had in my office the day before. I imagined a spotlight on it, applause, congratulatory pats and handshakes. It was still just a brochure. I opened it and read through the familiar copy.

Good copy should be invisible. Its job is to create a picture in the reader's head without the reader even being aware of the words that put it there. If that's the case, my invisible brochures do their job, and I just have to slip on my sunglasses every now and then to the roar of imagined applause.

Wednesday, May 29, 2002

I am taking some time off from blogging until such time as "work day" no longer means 12 hours of mindless, pointless, grueling, thankless writing for the publisher's catalog. Although my boss did come into my office this morning and present me with a plastic tiara that made me feel like Becky Queen of Carpet on a somewhat less grand scale.

But don't worry! The archives aren't going anywhere.

And I fixed my email link. For those of you who may have been traumatized by a 404 upon clicking it in the past. Fear no more, my little friends. Fear no more.

Monday, May 27, 2002

I think I'm on hiatus. To return when the workload stabilizes. Ugh.

Friday, May 24, 2002

An email landed in my in-box. Subject line: Dress Code

My jeans looked up at me in alarm. My tennis shoes started to whimper. I told everyone to calm down, this happens every year. It's the summer crack-down on our rampant abuse of the term "business casual."

Our company has a strange relationship with image. We run the spectrum from tailored suits, to sweat pants, to those like me who get dressed in the dark by feeling around in a drawer and praying to god that there are clean clothes in there that fit. Jeans and a t-shirt are "business casual" to me because, well, I'm casual and I work at a business.

I understand that they have to at least make an attempt. If they didn't send a reminder every now and then that maybe tube tops aren't appropriate office attire, someone would wear them. And it wouldn't be the cute, skinny girls with big booyas wearing them, either. It would be the 300-pound, cellulite-riddled woman whose arms you never wanted to see outside of a tapioca pudding cup.

But that doesn't mean I want to give up my half-assed corporate stylings. I don't have to! The good folks in the fashion industry have provided us with a ready arsenal of terms to be used in our defense.

"You," I reassured my grey tank top, "are what we call a sleeveless shell." The tank sighed with relief.

"Don't worry, shoes," I told them. "You're nothing as crass as tennis shoes. You are leather-enhanced athletic footwear."

"And you," I said to my well-worn, comfortable blue denim jeans, "certainly don't have holes. Those are wear-imprinted fashion accents. The frayed hems are what's known as distressed edging. And denim? Bah! You consist of blue multi-toned, micro-woven cotton fabric."

My clothing sat up a little straighter, trying on their new, expensive identities, and I clicked the offending email right into the trash.

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Hmm, seems that my bout with food poisoning must have actually been the work of a virus, the downside of this being that my husband is now in the clutches of the black death. And yet the kids have escaped unharmed, so far. I hope their immunities hold out. The older one will probably get it just so that her drama will have an outlet. It's tough keeping so much drama potential pent up for so long. It gets to the point where every sneeze deserves its own stage and spotlight.

"MOM!" Gasp! Cough! SNEEZE! "Ahhhhhhhhh! Mom! I need a kleeeeeeenex!!!! Mom, HELP!" Collapse on carpet, reaching out pathetically toward the box of kleenex on the table, a mere four feet from her outstretched fingertips.

The child has allergies, which means this scene is repeated throughout the afternoon a minimum of six times. Apparently at school she's able to simply get up and sneeze into a tissue all on her own, without the Academy's eyes upon her.

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

I'm going to keep my proverbial mouth shut today because A) I'm too busy, and B) you should be reading this post instead from Mr. O'Brien about our wee daughter. It's far better than anything that could come out of my proverbial mouth. Trust me!

Monday, May 20, 2002

Today's fun and random exciting news: I have food poisoning!

Consequently, I have sworn off meat forever. Also all solid food. And possibly liquids as well, unless they can think of a way to get back on my good side. I'm currently discussing this with an icy glass of Gatorade that my husband fetched for me (such a good man), questioning whether its claims to replace electrolytes are worth risking another three hours in the little girls' room.

My kidneys hurt. Blinking red lights and dials show our hydration level perilously low.

Regardless, if I were the Pollyanna type (which I'm not, but I might be similar to a Polyanna -- more than one anna...) I would see this not as an affliction but an opportunity. With nothing but antimatter in my system, my traditional Monday Diet starts fresh! And I can consider myself weaned from coffee, soda, chocolate, sushi, and... dear lord, not all at once! What are you thinking?

Ah hell, typing hurts my brittle, ill fingers.

Friday, May 17, 2002

It is approximately 3:30 on a Friday afternoon and time has stopped. I have stopped. It is all unbearably still. Fortunately, I still have the ability to type with my mind.

Thursday, May 16, 2002


I was blog-hopping, and I happened to land on someone's intensely personal and painful stuff. I won't even link to it, because as soon as I was done reading I felt wrong for having read it at all. Even though it was a public blog, with a public link inviting traffic in.

I admire the person for writing so openly. It makes my own blog seem extremely trivial and superficial. And even if I ever touched on anything deeper, it would only be so that I could shrug and laugh, in the casual, between-us sort of self-admonishing way that people confess bits and pieces of themselve to friends after a few too many drinks.

It's a mystery to me how some people are able to talk about troubling things as easily as if they were discussing politics or a sale on rutabega at the local market. Maybe I'm not wired that way. To me, everything uncomfortable is off limits. It's packaged up and tucked into neat, hermetically sealed boxes that can be easily stacked and organized in an out-of-the-way corner.

(That sound you just heard was the Pandora metaphor being nipped in the bud.)

It frustrates my husband, and of course I understand why. If I tell him that a box contains "shoes," he wants to know what kind of shoes -- Red ones? Heels? Army boots? Little white, size-one baby sneakers with velcro straps?

Shoes. Just shoes.

That's all I have to say about that.
I'll stand up right here in front of all the world and admit it. I'm a sushi junkie.

It's funny, but as I wrote that I was reminded of a really poorly drawn "Say No to Drugs" comic book attempt that was handed out to my 2nd-grade Catholic school class of sheltered 8-year-olds. We leafed through it at recess trying to figure out the big words like mariuana (some girl's name, probably the bleary red-eyed girl who kept talking about a "hit." Hitting was bad, we knew that. We guessed she was the bully.) and heroin (the hero, also a girl).

But my drug of choice these days is sushi. I started experimenting with it a few months ago and now I can't get the sushi monkey off my back. There's a supermarket down the street that deals, and they make it cheap, plentiful, fresh, and tasty.

I think about it all the time. Even after I've just scored and I'm dipping the last piece into a bit of wasabi, I'm already planning the next run.

For a while, I toyed with the idea of making my own sushi. It can't be that hard. Others have done it. But is that a bit too much like setting up a meth lab in my basement? Will the next step in the downward spiral involve renting a trailer to hold all the equipment and the austere, finely laquered Japanese-style serving dishes? Will the government start tracking my movements due to unusually large purchases of eel and salmon?

It's a sickness.

It's about to get worse, too. There are plans to open a new sushi bar just minutes from work.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

I wonder just how common cross-dressing is in this part of the country. I don't want to out anyone, but there's a woman working here who I'm convinced has got to be a man.

She has man elbows. She has man ankles. She has man hands and a manish gait. And I heard her cough; she coughs like a man.

Just how common is it, really? If Jerry Springer were a cross-section of the population, none of us would be wearing gender-appropriate clothing. But in the day-to-day interactions with people in your community, how often do we say hello to our dear, sweet neighbor Mrs. Williams and her daughter Jacqueline, who was born Joseph Michael?

It makes me thankful that my own gender is rightly aligned with my sense of girl-ness. One less thing to worry about. And I think daughter #1 is pretty well-established as a boy-chasing, dress-wearing female. We'll have to wait and see with daughter #2. I think she may invent her own gender. At least 85% monkey.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

House Husband: A Female's Fantasy

I have several problems with this article. One being the fact that CNN thought it was newsworthy to write a bit about a man who does housework. That's insulting. It's insulting to the men who do participate in family life and think nothing of washing a floor when it's dirty. And it's insulting to women of every generation past who have been washing floors thanklessly, whom CNN would never think to call "God's gift to men: a house wife."

I also think it's kind of sad that this man is scrubbing the kitchen floor on his hands and knees every night, as if he's looking so hard for a sense of achievement that he thinks he might find some gummed into the corners of the grotty kitchen tile. And that he's hanging with the lawyer's wives at cocktail parties because the successful men snub him.

On the other hand, playground moms do have that kind of "what are you doing here" attitude toward playground dads, which husband has been seeing a lot of these days. They are the ones who want to keep that pecking order in place, those don't-need-to-work wives of high-powered men.

I think these are the same women who might spend an evening on their knees scrubbing the floor and never get a word of thanks for it. Maybe she abandoned whatever it was she wanted to be when she grew up. As she's grinding away at a particularly stubborn spot, she mentally congratulates herself for being this dedicated and talented at what she does, building herself up with the idea that her husband, successful lawyer/doctor/whatever that he may be, certainly couldn't get a floor this clean. A man certainly would find some way to botch the job. A man could never clean so well, shop so well, dress the children so well, clip coupons so well.

Maybe the sight of a man at the store with a happy, well-dressed child at his side, competently rifling through a stack of coupons, threatens to poke holes in her carefully constructed delusion. If this man can do my job, maybe my husband could too. Maybe I am worthless.

Even more sad than the cold glares of playground moms is the little girl's attitude in the article: "I like having a Dad at home; it's almost like having another Mom."

Another mom? Is that the best a dad can aspire to be?

Monday, May 13, 2002

Work has turned me feral. If one more person asks for a "rush job" I'm going to bite them.
Not that I'm prone to procrastinating or anything, but... ah hell. I'll write about that later.

I think it's lunch time. I think I'm hungry, but I'm reluctant to commit one way or another.

On the one hand, it's noon and the Noontime Lunch Clique has already left for whatever exotic destination they've decided on this time. I wouldn't know, as I am not One of Them.

On the other hand, I left home without lunch today so I have to come up with some way to go and get food if I want it. So much trouble... I mean, just because everyone is eating lunch around me, does that mean I actually want lunch, or is it just peer pressure?

Mmmm. McDonalds....


The main problem with deciding whether or not to eat lunch is much more complex than the simple question of whether or not one is hungry. It's a gamble, a game of trying to judge -- based on all variables and known information -- whether this current disinterest in food will hold out until dinner, or whether a blood sugar crash at 3:30 will send one streaking in a panic toward the nearest McDonalds drive-thru. Or a vending machine.

At that point it's no longer "lunch" anymore. It's not quite dinner. It doesn't count. It doesn't count as a meal, as food, as calories, as nutrition, as anything. It's non-food. Twilight sustenance, crammed into one's mouth at a weird in-between time while no one else is looking (or at least one hopes not) that lacks all forethought and enjoyment.

All right, I just realized that I've spent 42 minutes thinking about food, and I'm bordering on unhealthy obsessiveness. And so McDonalds it is! Possibly to be followed by a 3:30 streak toward the vending machine. I wouldn't want him to feel left out.

All neuroses contained herein may be blamed upon blood sugar instability.

Saturday, May 11, 2002

I am not the only one.

I don't know whether to feel validated or deflated. I think that instead of either I will feel... orchestrated! Or perhaps, misappropriated!

I hope my squeaky doppelganger doesn't think I lifted his identity. I've been "weasel" since I was 8. Squeaky came later. Like a teenage rite of passage for nicknames.

Maybe this is my opportunity to reinvent. Let's see...

Slinky Weasel
Sneezy Weasel
Smurfy Weasel
Shifty Weasel
Sleepy Weasel
Spooky Weasel
Soupy Weasel
Sticky Weasel
Smiley Weasel
Smarmy Weasel
Sneaky Weasel
Slippery Weasel
Shiny Weasel

I think I'm kidding, but let me know if you think of one that's really amusing.

And no, I'm not going to be known as "Sleazy Weasel". I know you were thinking it.

Friday, May 10, 2002

The pink coffee cup on my desk is huddled between two stacks of file folders, sighing deeply. It's been 48 hours.

I look up from my work and she avoids eye contact. "You want some Folgers latte?" I offer. I keep it on hand for emergencies.

She shrugs and shifts her weight, making an attempt at casual. "'S okay..." She tries to be brave. But I know it's getting rough, and we're not even through the worst of it yet. I can see her eyeing my travel mug with a kind of wild jealousy rearing just below her studiously calm demeanor, and I make a mental note to keep all paper clips and blades off my desk for the time being.

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Sweet Jesus... WE ARE OUT OF COFFEE.

I have just taken the last cup.

I had to. If I left it, someone else would have taken it. And I would have been forced to compensate through other addictive behavior patterns, such as pen-nibbling, or the Tourette's-like muttering of profanity paired with the Rain Man-like pacing and head smacking.

In the meantime, I'm going to Starbucks. Anyone want anything?
People get excited about strange things in the workplace. I was excited yesterday because I had managed to convince marketing to mail a non-traditional brochure. What this means to you: one more piece of pretty garbage in your mailbox. To me: three weeks of fun! There are all kinds of new problems to be solved. What will it say? What will it look like? What shape will it be? What color? What size?

And you're probably thinking, holy crap that sounds boring.

I know there are people who hate and despise what they do, and thank god I'm not one of them. At least I have a few strange things to get excited about, even if I'm the only one who's excited.

My husband has this look he gives me whenever I talk about things like new brochures. I'm sure he doesn't even know he's doing it, but it's a look that speaks for anyone who is ever forced -- out of politeness, courtesy, or lack of nearby exit -- to listen to someone else drone on about the very specific aspects of his or her job.

It's a slightly vacant, distracted, glassy look. It's a look that says, "I'm listening because I love you. If I didn't love you, I'd be doing something useful like downloading the theme song from 3-2-1 Contact."

Three! Two! One...

Monday, May 06, 2002

I wish I had time to blog, but sadly I don't. I'll leave you with two random scenes featuring people I'll never meet.

Shouting Man and Running Girl.
She had probably just learned how to run, and she ran ahead of her father with a laughing, staggering toddler run along the sidewalk of a busy street in her navy blue dress with white buttons. Her father, with a large, lazy dog on the end of a leash, suddenly seemed to realize that she had put more than a comfortable distance between him and her. He yelled out, "Stop!" but she laughed and staggered her way toward an intersection streaming with cars. "STOP!" he shouted, in a commanding father voice, but it was like trying to hold water in your fist and demand that it stay there. He broke into a frantic run with lumbering lazy dog on the leash behind him, and the little girl scampered straight out into the street without a moment's hesitation at the curb. He caught up with her on the other side of the street, scooped her up under his arm, ("He's going to spank her," I thought, in a detached sort of way.) and WHACK, he dispensed fear, frustration, annoyance, and helplessness in one swift motion.

Old Lady in My Lane.
She had no idea it wasn't a turn lane when she crossed the double yellow lines and turned her car into my car's path head-on. In the split second before I veered to avoid her, I saw that the car was driven by a tiny, white-haired woman who kept a crucifix suspended from her rear-view mirror above the dusty, cracked dashboard. Headed toward me, it would probably have been all right with her if the crash ended a long life of religion and dusty cars, sending her into a soul-first tumble upward toward heaven. With my tiny baby in the back seat and quite a bit more to lose, I leaned on the horn and swerved with a vengance. She looked at me coldly and indicated with her finger, I need to turn here, to go there. To her, my lane was the left-turn lane and I was the maniac driver.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

I wonder what it is with my 6-year-old and the current brand of toothpaste we're using - Colgate with Baking Soda & Peroxide Whitening(tm) Flouride Toothpaste, if you must know. There must be something innate in this particular tube that compells her to smear it on every available fixture, towel, and carpet swatch within a 20-foot radius of the bathroom. Either that, or she's blinded by its gleaming, tooth-whitening power.

Thursday, May 02, 2002

Since I've been comparing life to high school a lot lately...

Take the What High School
Stereotype Are You?
quiz, by Angel.

I am a sad, sad irony.

This was apparent to me last night as I was trying to work up the nerve to paint a color wheel, a homework assignment for watercolor class.

I love painting. I love the way the tip of a brush touches the paper, the way velvet color spreads over white. I love watching what I see in my mind's eye flow through the end of the brush and cover a blank space. It's almost as if it all happens on its own, and all the paint needs from me is that image of what it should form for the painting to form itself. And I only have to disengage my conscious mind long enough to let it happen.

It's when I have to think about what I'm doing that's the problem, and this is why the color wheel gives me such grief.

I'm red-green colorstupid.

I'm okay with reds and greens (they just tend to look a little brown). But blue and purple might as well be two shades of the same color. My 6-year-old thinks it's hilarious, but to me purple is nothing more than an annoying technicality. I call something blue and she corrects me, so I say, "Oh, all right, purple, then. What EVER!" I suspect that eventually someone's going to expose the "purple" myth – there really is no such thing, I've been right all along. You people are all just messing with my head.

And no matter what, my color wheel looks like a pile of poo.

Red, okay. Then we have a big, splotchy red-violet-purple-blue-violet-whatever section. Then blue. Okay. Blue is good! Then a mess of greenishness that was supposed to look like either blue-green or yellow-green, but who knows which one went where. But yellow! Now there's a color I can grasp. But then it gets all orange and mushy with some red mixed in for orange... or something. That's the point where I put down my brush and try to stare down the color wheel.

"Look, damn you," I said. "I don't like you, and you don't like me. So let's just finish with this sorry exercise in futility and move on. Agreed?"

And did you know that in this age of modern medicine, where they can suck fat cells out of your ass and re-implant them anywhere else you might like, this is the best they can do for me? Irony, I tell you.

Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Wow. I was so not invited to lunch just now. I actually feel like I've been snubbed!

And to think there are some people who leave that sort of behavior behind in high school where it belongs. Who knew that cliques could thrive in an office of seemingly mature people. I shouldn't be surprised. All it takes is one insecure person thrown into the mix who selectively draws in a few people as friends and makes that friendship feel exclusive.

When it first started, I didn't recognize it for what it was. People can have lunch with whomever they like, right? And I don't like to go out to lunch. I ain't social like that. Except with the few people whose company I really enjoy. So whatever. I figured this group going out to lunch every day was just naturally made up of people who all wanted to go out.

And then it started to get weird. The core group of 3 lunch-goers started occasionally inviting a fourth person along. A different fourth person every time. It was like a sorority pledge. I was even invited along at one point (I declined). And slowly, the core group grew to 4, then 5. They would meet in the hall outside my office and discuss where they would go and whether they should ask this person or that person.

Soon it didn't stop at lunch anymore. The clique would meet in the morning to walk down the hall to the vending machine together. Even when only one of them wanted anything. I went along on that 30-foot journey once, listening to them talk about pretentious, trendy things like wine, "casual dinner parties," and the "no-reason" gift someone's boyfriend had given her. Meanwhile, I was turning over in my head the possibilities of what I could make for dinner in less than 20 minutes, prepared while holding a marvelously plump and squirmy baby on my hip, that my 6-year-old would actually eat. I laughed when they laughed, made the right comments and asked the right questions, but it was like swimming with dolphins. Nice and pleasant on the surface, but neither really understands what the other is doing or why.

And still, it didn't really occur to me that a clique had formed, until today. Just outside my office, I heard the clique say, "Let's just see who wants to come along!" They rattled off the names of most of my co-workers and scattered to deliver invites. I stared at my computer screen, with my attention on the group in the hall, waiting for someone to suggest that maybe it might be rude to exclude just a few people when we all work so closely together... or at least to notice that I, in such close proximity, could obviously tell I was being overlooked.

But either they didn't notice or didn't care, and oddly enough, I'm far more amused than offended. Maybe high school wounds form tough scars, or maybe I know myself well enough to realize that I'd much rather play on the internet at my desk than feign interest in someone's relationship problems or planned trip to New York.

So there. You're blog bait now, bitches!

Monday, April 29, 2002

A few half-formed thoughts that would have been blogs if only I had the mental energy to form them.

1. No one ever dials the operator just to say hi. Well, at least I never have.

2. Swiss cheese, when purchased from the deli, is often squeaky. Does it share other qualities with the weasel?

3. The surest way to get people to leave you alone is to let them know you're raising money for a charity. For the past six weeks I've had a March of Dimes WalkAmerica poster on my door. I sent weekly emails to everyone in my department, letting them know that I anxiously awaited their donations. And the hall outside my office has never been quieter. WalkAmerica is over, but I may never take down that poster.

4. Instant pudding is nice. But the fishes can't swim in it. Which is good, because who'd want to eat something called a puddingfish? "What's fer dinner, Ma?" "Puddin'fish! And taters."

5. When I don't have music to listen to at work, my brain is too loud. So I have to wear headphones anyway or else the sound leaks out and everyone can hear what I'm thinking. And I'd spend all day explaining about things like puddingfish. Come to think of it, maybe it's not the March of Dimes poster that's keeping people away...

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The weasel S L O W L Y loses its twisted grip on reality. Details to follow...

And in other news, I've discovered a portal. No kidding, it's really cool.

I had my sketch book open last night around 10:30 pm, and for those of you who know me (or do you?), this is significant! Not only was I still awake at 10:30 pm, I had my sketch book open! And honest to god, I had a pencil in my hand.

What's significant about this is that art has been an immense source of guilt for me since college. There I was, sitting in the library at Lindenwood University with the brand-new semester course listing spread out on a table before me. The pungent smell of fresh electives hung lingering in the air. My first semester as a freshman was drawing to a close, and as I worked through lunch (two-thirds of a Snickers bar, carefully divided into eight equal pieces) scribbling down options for a class schedule, I realized that I was at a crossroads.

My major at that point was officially "undecided" because when I first met with my advisor, I told him, "I really like art. I'd like to major in art."

Then he asked what I wanted to be when I grew up. "A writer!" I said. He looked at me funny. And he wrote down "undecided."

This was the crossroads I found myself at in the library on that particular lunch hour at Lindenwood. Art... or English. And I wasn't about to allow myself the luxury of switching my major midway through. Because I was also


The Snickers bar and I were soon to become much better acquainted. And I needed a fast path to a good job, because I sure as heck wasn't going to send my kid to school on career day to boast that mommy worked as a cashier girl at the local Walgreens.

What did I want to be when I grew up? Well... not pregnant, single, and working my way through college for one thing. So much for that! Not on welfare either -- Okay! Still time to salvage something. Time to get serious. Of my two options, a major in English seemed much more serious and respectable. Art was fun. Fun wouldn't pay the rent.

After I closed the door on art, it kept scratching at it like a puppy begging to be let in out of the rain. The harder it tried to sneak back in, the tighter I'd wedge the door shut. After a few years, I barely knew it was there anymore. It gave up, I suppose, and crawled off to find its own dismal shelter elsewhere, whimpering and defeated. I still hear it whimper occasionally, and that's where the guilt comes from. I can't open a sketch book without being reminded of how I turned my back on something I loved.

At any rate, I'm taking a watercolor class with friends Angie and Carole, which is requiring me to use things like sketch books and pencils. So last night, even though I told myself nothing worthwhile would come of it, I opened the sketch book to a smooth, white, empty sheet of paper.

That's when I found the portal. But more about that later...

Monday, April 22, 2002

I had a meeting with Satan this morning. He laid out his strategic goals and plans for fiscal 2003. I took a look at his revised org chart for the Catholic church, taking into account the upward movement of a few integral players.

He keeps bringing up the prospect of taking me on as full-time permanent. He had put together a generous salary and benefits package, not altogether different from offers I've gotten in the past from his direct competitors -- God... Buddha... the Almighty Dollar... etc. Again I informed him that I stand firm in my desire to remain unaffiliated. I like the freedom that being an independent contractor gives me, having the flexibility to work good or evil on a per-project basis, depending on the circumstances.

Later this week I have a working lunch scheduled with the Christian God, and I suspect he's going to make the same basic proposal. And really, I don't know why they bother competing for the same business, seeing as how they're just different imprints of the same corporation. I've gone so far as suggesting a strategic alliance, but they both scoff at the idea, citing key differences in their mission statements.

Mission statements. As if a string of meaningless adverbs on a marble plaque outside your building's entrance could have any real impact on your corporate culture... Oh well, they keep paying for 'em, I'll keep writing 'em!

Friday, April 19, 2002

Sunday is husband's birthday. Click here to send witty e-cards!

I'm just kidding, of course. I know that if you were planning to send birthday wishes, you would certainly have done so without my suggestion.

Jeez, now you probably feel like I'm telling you what to do. You resent me. You resent Gary for even having a birthday. You hate the fact that maybe you were planning some kind of well-wishing, and now you feel like I've stolen all the impulsivity, creativity, and originality, and effectively sucked the wind right out of your sail.

I always ruin everything. Why can't I learn to keep my fool mouth shut? Just... never mind...

Happy birthday anyway, hon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

So what is the point of clothing sizes? The system is meaningless. The numbers are arbitrary. And I'm talking about women's pant sizes in particular, because from what I understand, a pair of men's pants can be purchased simply by knowing the raw circumference of a man's waist. How logical and man-like.

With women's pants, the size is not so much a measurement as it is a value system.

Take the self-worth test! It's easy and fun. First, reach behind you and find the little tag with the number on it. Okay? Now say the number out loud. Still with us? Did I lose anyone? Now, say the number really loud and imagine that you've just shouted your size to a skinny saleswoman across the crowded floor of a Lord & Taylor. If you still feel like eating anything for lunch other than iceberg lettuce and a packet of NutriSweet, congratulations! You passed.

I've heard there are actually women out there who buy clothes because they fit, regardless of the size. I think these might actually be mannequins come to life in some strange, magical midnight mall miracle! At any rate, I'm not one of them.

Suppose you want a pair of leather pants, for whatever reason. Pretend it's Halloween and you're going as a cow. Whatever.

If you're like most women in America, you wear a size 14. You head to one of the trendy little racks of pants in a trendy little store frequented by multicolored teenagers, and you look for a pair of size 14 pants.

You will browse the various racks and find nothing above a size 5. (Because the trendiest clothes come in odd sizes, just to rub your nose in the fact that if you are normally a size 8, there's no way you'll manage to squeeze into a 7. You'll have to go up a size to a 9. And down a notch on the self-worth scale.)

Do you start to get the feeling that a size 14 butt is not supposed to be wearing this particular style of trendy pants? These pants are just too cool to be caught dead on your sorry butt.

Even the leather. Which will be caught dead on just about anything else -- it has no choice.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Here's a phenomenon: veggie ham

Hold on. I like the stuff.

Ham ham is slimy and meat-ish. Veggie ham has that pleasant, smoky, salty ham flavor that you want from a sandwich... without the slime.

I discovered veggie ham when I found that I just couldn't face slimy meat in the morning. Bread: OK. Cheese: OK. Lettuce & tomato (optional): OK. The lunchmeat is where it always fell apart. No matter what brand, no matter what type. I'd invariably un-zip the tidy little zip-lock deli bag to find a sticky mass of slimy meat slices.

And I'm not really against meat, per se. Most of the time I could take it or leave it. I know there are people out there who follow it like a religion, and the idea of veggie anything is morally offensive. But even members of the middle ground, the true omnivores, those who can appreciate both a good steak and a steamed medley, seem to find "alternative protein" like my veggie ham really frightening.

Maybe because they sense that the ham is trying to fool them, and they don't like it. It's masquerading as something it's not.

This veggie ham's a player and they ain't tryin' to be played by it.

Hey look, I support anyone's decision to eat only straight-up food. I have my line drawn in the sand too, and line, thy name is broccoflower.

Monday, April 15, 2002

Oh, screw it. I'm not going to get any work done today.

I came back to the office with the best of intentions, fresh from a four-day weekend and ready to tackle whatever nastiness lay waiting for me in my in-box. And what do I find here? Our building is having a "block party" so that we can all get to know one another and enjoy a plate full of warm, chewy crockpot pasta while standing around and loitering in the halls.

The best part of this event, I think, is the very loud reggae music that is being played just outside my office. And when I say "best," I'm sure you know the kind of "best" I'm referring to. Not at all the same "best" as when someone mentioned maybe turning down the music, and I shouted out my office door, "That's the best damn idea I've heard all day!"

I really hate to be the person who ruins it for everyone. I tried to jam to the reggae. I braided my hair. I put on my "Hello! My name is…" name tag. I picked up a styrofoam plate and filled it with a sampling of the requisite office party potluck spread: Krispy Kreme donuts, venison sausage, corn chips with chile con queso, bagels, brownies, etc.

I can't enjoy this. Even if I were the type of person who wanted to walk around introducing myself to people I'll never see again, I've got projects on my desk that were supposed to be out last Friday. They're giving me the evil eye. They glare at me accusingly every time I get up to snag another Krispy Kreme. They don't care if everyone else in the building considers this a management-sanctioned goof-off day. The way they're stacked in a haphazard pile in front of my keyboard seems to be their way of saying, "We're just going to be another day later tomorrow, and it's YOUR FAULT."

You see, the documents and I play a little game. It's called Get the F. off my Desk You Piece of Shite and Never Come Back. I win points by turning things out of my office as fast as possible. They score by finding their way back into my in-box with edits, corrections, and rewrites. I'm currently down by 6, for those of you keeping score at home. reggae…

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Husband was talking recently talking about the unnatural amount of naming that goes on in this household (click here and scroll down to "Parenting 101"). As I'm writing, Chewy Fly is grinning up at me with a wide, mocking smile on his chewy little face.

I was thinking about this as I was playing with Cally this morning, and I think I called her about eight different names, including Shmoopy Poodle.

Now, the parenting books assure me this is okay. And so is the annoying high-pitched baby-talk voice I inadvertantly default to around the baby. In fact, this is actually supposed to promote her language development. Breaking down words into fun, manageable sounds. I may look and sound like an idiot, but it's good for her. Cripes, the things we do for our kids. Next time you see some poor woman in the supermarket babbling on to her infant about what pretty colors are on the macaroni box, just take a moment to recognize the sacrifice she's making. This woman once cared enough about her personal appearance to attract a mate.

A few years ago, just as Kaitlyn's language skills were emerging and I was rediscovering my ability to use a normal tone of voice again, certain psychologists were suggesting that you shouldn't use baby talk at all. Maybe this actually hindered language development and prevented babies from hearing normal speech.

I'm glad that theory has been pretty much dismissed. I wonder if we have a few years' worth of kids who were brought up that way, two-year-olds who sit in their high-chairs banging spoons on trays and shouting, "My GOD, woman! Is dinner not ready YET? Is it too much to ask that I be fed when I'm hungry? And please, for the love of Pete, tell me that we're not having peas again. If I can't have diversity in my diet, I'm going to have to speak with the pediatrician next month about beginning a nutritional supplement."

Friday, April 12, 2002

There's nothing like taking a few vacation days to drive home how little time there actually is in any given day to get anything of value accomplished. If I really want to depress myself, I make a list.

Today I made two lists. One of things I should do this weekend, and one of things I want to do. I figured that since there's no way I'll get everything done, I'll just pick a few things from each list and round out the weekend a well-balanced, semi-fulfilled, sane human being with a semi-clean house.

I forgot to figure in the baby factor.

The baby factor is based on a complex mathematical formula designed to calculate the precise ratio of household tasks to the time required for each. Where T equals the task to be accomplished and X represents the age of the baby, this formula can be expressed as:


You can get a less precise estimate simply by assuming that for any given task on your list, you'll be able to devote approximately 8 minutes to it throughout the day. Broken down into 30-second intervals.

One task. On my "should do" list are things that I really should do. Things like laundry. Mop the floors. Clean the bathrooms. All worthwhile. Nothing frivolous here. My "want to do" list was supposed to be things that would be fun if I had the time. Kind of a wish list, like buy plants for container gardening. Scrapbook. Take the kids to the park.

Well, life is all about priorities. As more and more important should do things climbed onto the list, the fun things moved farther and farther out of the realm of possibility. And pretty soon I noticed that I was adding things that really weren't even fun to the "want to do" list. Since when is "revise budget" something I want to do? And gee, I'd sure like to be able to pack away the winter clothes and dig out the shorts!

If someone said to me, "Hey, I'm taking the kids for two hours so you can have some time to yourself," I'd say, "Great!" and blissfully proceed to reorganize the tupperware cupboard. My god, what have I become?

Thursday, April 11, 2002

I wonder if I’m what you would consider a morning person. After two good cups of coffee, I love everything. I’m not kidding. Right now, working on this third cup, I think I love the armrest on my desk chair. And it loves me back.

There was a “problem with theft” at work regarding the office coffee. They would order a few crates of these 16-oz foil-wrapped packets of grounds, stuff them all into a little drawer, and turn us loose on it. It wasn’t great coffee, but the caffeine content was acceptable. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying it so much that they would sneak into the vending room after hours and pocket a packet. Perhaps they would pack it in their jacket pocket, running quite a racket with no place to stock or stack it…

But now the rest of us all lack it.

They were so convinced of this “problem with theft” that they replaced our office coffee machine with a brew-by-the-pack office beverage solution (click to mock). Because this system considers a “cup” of coffee to be exactly 6 ounces, and my mug of choice holds exactly 12 ounces, I must brew two of these individual coffee packets into my individual cup before it qualifies as a cup of coffee.

It gets better! This office beverage solution also has an espresso setting, which brews, in my opinion, 2 ounces of what coffee is supposed to taste like. So a few of these espresso shots, a bit of water, and a honkin’ lot of creamer, and you’ve got yourself a very drinkable office beverage.

I’m sure I’m not the only one tweaking the system thusly. So I have to wonder what the coffee bills look like now, and perhaps building management is starting to look back fondly on the days when they were supporting one minor “problem with theft” instead of this newfound espresso habit rapidly adopted by obsessive types like me.

And now it’s too late to go back. They’d be admitting defeat. And they’d be forced to reckon with the fact that in all the recent weeks with our new beverage system, while all that leftover office coffee in its bright foil packaging has been lying useless in the drawer just beckoning to this unscrupulous coffee thief.. not a single packet has gone missing.

Monday, April 08, 2002

I like to believe I have superpowers. Specifically, the ability to make things happen just by thinking it. That's right... with my MIND.

All kids have this ability. It reaches its peak around age 5 or 6, when they discover that if they think about it hard enough, they can get mom to drop a steaming tuna noodle casserole on the kitchen linoleum, thereby necessitating a call to the local Pizza Hut.

It has its down side, of course. A few relatives have been killed. I heard that several kids recently claimed responsibility for the WTC attack. And Jimmy McCusker broke his arm in a fall from the monkey bars after he spat at Emily Stevens. (She felt so bad that she offered to eat the mushy apple his mom packed him for lunch.)

So yesterday, I spent most of the morning glaring out the window at a white sports car parked on my grass.

Technically it's not my grass. It belongs to all of us here at the apartment complex. It's there for everyone's enjoyment. All neighborhood children may frolic on it. All dogs may sniff it. All critters may crawl on it. Cars may not park on it.

Especially sports cars. Which, when parked on grass, imply that their owners possess certain qualities of excess, self-centeredness, and general jerkishness.

I glared at that damn car and wished for something bad to happen to it. I left it open-ended like that. Ground could swallow it up, monster truck could crush it, whatever.

Imagine my glee when I looked out the window hours later and saw that Officer Friendly had left a little present under sports car's windshield wiper! A ticket! I sliently gloated and cheered. I kept peeking out the window to try and catch the moment when Jerk-Person would come out to the car and discover just where this life of grass-parking had led. There would be much cursing, repenting, and gnashing of teeth.

I didn't have to wait long. The owner -- a woman -- came out of a nearby unit and started unloading clothes from the back seat. Didn't notice the ticket yet. Hee hee! I watched out the window like a scene from an Alfred Hitchcock movie. She came back, this time loading stuff into it. Still didn't notice it.

Then, she made her final trip out to the car. Carrying a baby in a carseat.

Oh no. No. You're supposed to be a self-centered jerk, deserving of a ticket. Don't be a mom with a baby. Don't tell me you parked on the grass because you had to carry a baby in from the car.

She fastened the baby securely into the back seat. She walked around to the driver's side with a diaper bag. She sat in the car and checked to be sure she had everything packed. Started the car. Noticed the ticket.

Damn it. She's probably a single mom, too. That car was probably the only thing she got out of the divorce settlement from her deadbeat, abusive ex. She probably works two part time jobs and doesn't have health insurance or paid vacation. She probably parked on the grass because jerks with SUVs and their jerk friends with SUVs had taken all the available parking on this side of the street.

There was no cursing or gnashing of teeth. Just something in the quiet way she held the ticket and stared at it suggested that this $50 fine would mean leaky store-brand diapers for the baby instead of Huggies.

Damn it. Now I know how Emily Stevens felt...

Thursday, April 04, 2002

Oooh, the giddy phase of the illness! I have a cold. Yesterday I felt like death. Today, I feel, well, rather good! I think it is because my brain is deprived of oxygen! I am floating on a lovely cloud of cold germs. Six months ago I would have thought to myself, "Hmm! This must be anthrax!" but I would have thought it while grinning like a stoned moron, much as I am right now.

Perhaps I should not be at work…? Phah! Who takes a sick day for a cold? Certainly not the individual who gave this to me. I feel that it’s my duty to continue in the transmission and spread of this particular virus. It has a mission. I may not understand it, I may not approve of it, but I just follow orders.

You know what the real irony is? Today I’m working on a promotion for a book entitled Infection Control in the Community. I do love irony. Ha. Control this, soldier.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

Let me begin this account with its conclusion: Worst of all, we had no flaming cheese.

It all began when I came across a recipe for spanokopita. It seemed so simple. So I picked up some spinach and feta cheese intending to make it some night when I felt ambitious. Shortly thereafter, we found out that friend Todd was having a birthday, so why not invite him over for dinner—Greek style! Hoopah!

I learned several things from this experiment. First, never plan a menu around an untried recipe. Second, assume that everything will take three times longer than you ever imagined it could take. Third, when a 6-year-old insists that she doesn’t like spinach, believe her.

I suppose you could say that the spanokopita wasn’t exactly up to standard. But by the time I was through wrestling with the unruly ingredients, I really didn’t care anymore. Who knew phyllo dough would have such a mind of its own? "Brush butter between layers" my ass. So it was a little soggy. A little sogginess never hurt anyone. Except Kaitlyn, who valiantly took a good-sized bite, struggled with it, but just couldn’t quite get it down. So it came back up. That’s exactly when my husband gave up on it too, and while Kaitlyn ran from the table still gagging, he followed her and they shared a tearful bonding moment over "mom’s horrible spinach thing."

Todd kept insisting, "It’s not that bad!" Which is a great thing for someone to tell you about the dent in your car door, but kind of disheartening when it refers to food.

And, well, you know the rest.

But speaking of foods best forgotten…

I was handed an interesting memo at work. Apparently, someone had taken the time to compile a list of words that are spam "flags" for certain email programs like Outlook, which have so-called spam filters. These are seemingly innocent phrases like "satisfaction guaranteed," "nothing to lose," and of course advertising’s little golden word: "free."

Hmm. As a frequent recipient of spam, I have to question whether my email filter is trying very hard. Lazy sonofa...

As a sender of spam (oh, we don’t call it spam… it’s an email campaign), I almost feel like I’ve been handed a challenge. Can I possibly write an email that uses all 80+ spam flags? What havoc would such an email wreak with the filters?

By far, my favorite phrase on the list is this one: "This is not spam." I think I’ll start every email I write from now on by assuring the reader that it’s not spam. I might even start conversations that way. "Good morning, Bob! This is not spam. Did you hear about that awful pile-up on 44?..."

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

I can appreciate the primal relationship between human infant and caregivers. It’s a very simple equation: babies are cute so their parents won’t be tempted to put them out at night with the cat. Cuteness is a survival tactic.

It makes sense that sick babies are even more cute and pathetic. Little stuffy nosed mouth-breathers. They make cute noises and cuddle up to your chest and make you feel needed. You can’t help but be nurturing. Except when they keep you up all night.

And I’m not talking about the normal up-all-night where a baby wakes, eats, enjoys a sleepy diaper change, and then dozes back off – repeated every 3 hours or so. As the mother of a 4-month-old, that’s a perfect night’s rest. I’m talking about a night where the poor thing can’t breathe when she’s flat on her back, so she wakes and cries every 30 minutes. I think sleep deprivation experiments have been done on people under these same conditions, and the subjects soon went mad and tried to kill each other. But they were too tired, so they just swatted and cursed.

I went to bed a sane, loving, nurturing mother. By 3:30 a.m., I was none of these. I wanted to sleep. The only thing that saved Cally from being put out with the cat was her poor, pathetic, stuffy whimper. And the fact that when I stroked her cheek, she reached up and gripped my finger.

That’s really what it’s all about anyway. The baby can poop on fresh sheets, spit up on dry-clean-only shirts, and fidget all night long. When she grins and coos at me in the morning, I don’t mind any of it. Now I know why my mom always said to me, "It’s a good thing you’re cute…"

Friday, March 29, 2002

I passed a dead sock on the side of the road this morning.

By "dead," I mean soggy, dirty, and obviously run over several times, lying in a twisted, tragic lump and looking, at first glance, like a mutilated chipmunk.

I just have to ask this question. How the hell do so many socks and shoes inevitably end up on the highways and streets of our great country? Do people just not notice that their shoes are flying out the window? Do passengers stick their sock-clad feet up on the dash, kicking back for a long drive, when suddenly… whoooooooooosh! the wind snatches a sock right off their unsuspecting foot? Do kids roll down back seat windows and amuse themselves by jettisoning footwear?

As a kid, this really bothered me. I imagined some poor guy hopping around with only one tennis shoe.

A lady called into a radio show once and told a story about her mother, which she swore was true. The old woman used to take walks near a local highway. On one of her walks, she found a fairly nice red shoe. She picked it up and took it home with her. God knows why. Weeks later, she found another red shoe along the same stretch of road. It turned out to be a perfect match, and she sold the pair at a garage sale for five bucks.

Cute, right. Well, I think there’s a dark side. Imaging being that woman, finding a pair of shoes like that. Could you ever, ever pass a mangled shoe on the roadside again?

For the rest of her life, this poor old woman must have combed streets and overpasses, picked up moldy, rain-soaked shoes, hoarded them carefully in a closet or basement just waiting for the day when a mate would turn up.

I can only hope she and hopping guy eventually found each other and put an end to the madness.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

My six-year-old daughter leaned over to me at dinner and whispered that she needed to talk to me later, in private, without daddy... you know, about private girl things.

She wanted a bra.

I said something like, "Aren’t I supposed to get a few more years before you ask me that?" I offered the "undershirt" option. No deal, she wanted a bra. I played the reality card. "You have no boobies," I told her bluntly. She scrunched up her face into an indignant frown and lifted up her t-shirt to prove me wrong. Little ones, she pointed out. I shook my head sadly.

I don't think I handled it exactly the way the parenting books advise. When the heat is on in these situations, I choke. Me, who always promised myself I would be every bit the liberal, frank, open, you-can-talk-to-me-about-condoms mom. There it was, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, the pitch, and… steeeerike.

Clearly we're entering a new parenting dimension. One where all of the tricks, skills, and pat answers that worked just fine yesterday are suddenly thrown out the window. I should have seen this coming one afternoon when we were trying on clothes at the mall. I slipped on a pair of pants, and Kaitlyn said matter-of-factly, "You look sexy." I sputtered something about that's a grown-up word! Where did you hear that? as I tried to smoothly change the subject.

(I bought the pants.)

It all goes hand-in-hand with her favorite playground game: boy chasing. I asked her once if she's ever caught one, which she hasn't. Not yet. "What would you do with it if you did?" I asked.

She answered, "Give it to Claire."

Apparently this Claire knows something we don't.

I wonder what kind of weird boy-girl dynamics are starting to piece together in her first-grade world, and I wonder when boys will be more than playground bait and "boyfriend" will start to mean something more than an insult. I’d better start rehearsing those discussions now.

I know I could be brilliant with this stuff if only she'd stop catching me off guard. I was in the grocery store bathroom one day with Kaitlyn and the baby, changing a messy diaper, when suddenly Kaitlyn said, "What are tampons?" Uh…? I was immediately aware of the fact that there was another woman in the bathroom with us, inside one of the stalls. I didn’t have time to react. As if Kaitlyn sensed a connection, she asked the follow-up: "How does a baby get out of its mom’s belly?"

I’ve answered that question before MANY times, especially in the months before Cally was born, but I think Kaitlyn likes to keep asking it because it makes me squirm. And I’ve never gotten the answer right. I should try to have answers to these questions handy, like all the good parenting books tell me I should, but it doesn't come out the way Liberal Mom intends. I get caught in the loop that begins with a flashback to my grinning baby daughter in diapers, leading into a terrifying flash-forward of my sixteen-year-old daughter in the back seat of a car with a boy. I’m perched on the edge of a cliff, and if I don’t say exactly the right thing, I will cause irreparable damage to this little girl’s budding self-awareness and sexual identity. The pressure makes me second-guess my modern, liberal answers, there’s no time to formulate a whole new, sensitive, respectful, insightful, down-to-earth approach with two little innocent eyes looking up at me expectantly. PRECIOUS SECONDS ARE TICKING! TICKING! SAY SOMETHING, YOU FOOL! And so all I can offer her is what every girl who has ever had a mother knows intimately well: shame. Here you go, kid, it’s all yours. Shame, secrecy, and embarrassment on a silver platter. For whatever reason, I revert to the same vague answers my mother spat at me, handed down from repressed generation to generation. Things like "Don’t worry about it" and "You’re too young to understand" and "I’ll fill you in when you’re older."

With the woman on the other side of the bathroom stall silently judging me, what came out was a strange mix of Liberal Mom and Mrs. Cleaver. "Tampons, they, well, when girls get older… to keep your underwear neat, and well, I’ll explain it later."

IDIOT! What the hell did I just say? Why can't I do this? Maybe I should practice in front of a mirror: Vaaaah…giiiii…naaaaaaaahh.

My blood pressure was escalating. Kaitlyn simply looked at me, waiting for clarification, and I could sense the poor lady in the stall freeze like a deer in the headlights and frantically try to figure out how to get from the stall to the exit without hearing another word of this unfortunate discussion.

I tried to pick up the pieces, intending to reassure Kaitlyn that there’s nothing shameful about biology, to perhaps throw in a little mother-daughter warmth and bonding in the "you can talk to me about anything" vein.

Kaitlyn knew she had me. She moved in for the kill. "What’s sex mean?"


Monday, March 25, 2002

I love the Oscars. At our house, watching the Oscars means a whole lot of pretending I know what I'm talking about.

Says my geek husband Gary to his geek friend Todd:
"Was it John Smith who was nominated for best supporting actor the same year that Julie Duncan won best actress for Unreachable? I remember Alexio Boudreas was up for best director…"

"No no, you’re thinking of Jim Smith, who was in Backwater Blues with Nancy Mulgahey. Which, coincidentally, was co-produced by Michael Joe Matthews – the father of the guy who wrote the screenplay for Under Cover, which Boudreas directed."

"Really? Under Cover was one of the three films ever turned down by Robin Oswald’s sister, Jane Oswald Lewis, who was in Blanco de Viso with Rich Taylor. You know, he played the old guy in Coumadin Creek with Marie Lancaster." Geek husband turns to me and says, "Were you with us when we saw that in the theater?"

At this point, I want to say, "No, that wasn’t me… that was the niece of Angela Gadsbury, Mickie Livwell, who also played Jane in Ghost Rider with Lance Criton and went on to marry the guy who wrote the score for Purple Sunrise in 1997 before co-staring with Tom Bigalla in Roses for September. She was the girl with the one eyebrow and the shoulder harness, remember?"

It’s not that I don’t like movies. I just don’t pay attention to anything beyond A) the story, and B) the execution. If you’ve explored both A and B, then you’ve reached the limit of my ability to discuss the film.

Gary and his geek friends are self-confessed movie geeks. In a way I envy that. I couldn’t know the amount of film minutia they know if I spent my entire life studying it.

Geek. \geek\ n [prob. fr. E dial geek, geck fool, fr. LG geck fr. MLG] : person who has vast and impressive knowledge of useless info that is important to few people outside of a particular geek genre (i.e. movie geek).

Note the important clarification in this definition: geek genre. There are many species of geek in our society, but the geek language is not universal. A movie geek and say, a math geek might empathize with each other on certain aspects of geekness, but they could never truly share the specifics of their own genre.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m not a geek, I’m just not a movie geek. I am a Lord of the Rings geek.

In my geek prime (age 11-16) I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy no less than 7 times consecutively. I knew every nuance of the middle earth cultures. I studied maps. I translated English characters into runes. Under my breath, I once called a teacher the Orc equivalent of a pig-sniffing demon wench.

It was a magical thing, seeing the Lord of the Rings translated to the big screen, sitting there in the theater – geek husband and geek wife – side by side, each immersed in his and her own geek world… we were almost able to connect on a transcendent geek level.

Friday, March 22, 2002

This is Day Two of spring. Why is it 30 degrees outside? I'm so sick of winter I basically want to step outside every morning and vomit.

I’m trying several techniques to hasten the warm weather. None of these has worked, by the way.

In the optimistic delusion that winter would take pity on my toes, I dug a pair of whiteish-looking, coldish-feeling sandals out of the back of my closet one morning. The weather did not turn warm. Actually, it rained. The very icy, stinging kind.

Imagining that the night was just too hot and sticky for pajamas, I went without. Subject abandoned the experiment at approximately 2:23 a.m. prompted by the obsessive thought that there was someone in the house. Not in the robbing/plundering/havok-wreaking/oh-crap-what’s-the-number-for-9-1-1 sense, just in the I-don’t-want-strangers-to-see-me-naked sense.

Several hours and several emptied glasses later, I found myself riding a mighty caffeine rush and urinating fiendishly.

Now I’m just resolved to waiting it out, but by no means patiently.

Thursday, March 21, 2002

I could be a computer programmer if I wanted to be. (See? I put a counter on my page!)

Except for things like, well, math and logic. There's a part of me who thinks she's good at math and logic, but most of the time she's busy getting her teeth kicked in by various other parts of me who feel the need to put the little wanna-be in her place. So right now she's huddled in a corner sucking her thumb and humming bits of tuneless songs whilst twirling a strand of hair between her fingers.

It's the little things that convince me I'll never get a grasp on computer science. Like, for example, my bookmarks have disappeared. I don't know how or why, they were just there one moment and gone the next. The really sad part is that I’m not even going to try to figure it out. I’m just going to re-bookmark all my pages and pretend it never happened until it happens again. I’m the person who thinks that when something’s wrong with your computer, restarting it will fix everything.

The magical data fairies will race through the machine while it’s rebooting, restoring lost files and rebuilding mutilated code! And then I squeeze my eyes real tight and clap my hands three times, and it’s all fixed.

The help desk here thinks I’m a real fruit. I recently put a sign up that says: Is that dust on my keyboard or are the fairies just happy to see me?

Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Here is a list of things I am not:

1. A "people person" type. People make me nervous and when I’m talking to someone I spend most of the conversation trying to figure out if I have something in my teeth.

2. A "cheerleader" type. I don’t generally get enthusiastic about things, and when I do I don’t assume that it’s my place to get other people on board. That makes me feel creepy.

It used to bother me that I was not these things. Because looking around at all the popular, smart, capable people, their degree of popularity was directly proportional to their level of spunk. Therefore, THIS was the RIGHT way to be, and damn, was I ever preoccupied with doing the right thing.

So that stuck, that there was something slightly wrong with me for not being a freaking cheerleader, and I’ve been compensating for it ever since.

All of this might explain, in some tightly woven psychoanalytical tapestry, what could possibly have possessed me to volunteer for ESPRIT… that is, "Employees Supporting Public Relations Identity and Tradition." That is, "Let’s plan an employee bingo night and see if any fools show up!"

It might lead us to understand how I came to be sitting at a small table in the cafeteria on my lunch break selling tickets to an event which I had no intention of ever attending myself.

It might begin to explain why I agreed to not only participate in March of Dimes WalkAmerica, but also to volunteer as "team captain." To wake up in a cold sweat every morning because I haven’t yet recruited our quota of walkers. To glance up periodically at the calendar in a panic and quickly calculate how many more days until I have to start groveling and begging people for donations.

No. It doesn’t explain a damn thing.

It’s been many years since the last time I heard my P.E. teacher say "everybody partner-up!" and send my stomach wrenching into a convulsive knot. One of the best perks of being a grown-up is the god-given right to extricate oneself from situations that make one uncomfortable. Smart little weasels learn what it is they don’t like to do and then avoid it like the plague.

And some of us are still pretending we’re cheerleaders.

Monday, March 18, 2002

Test blog! The weasel has arrived. Not just any weasel, but the representative weasel that slinks and scurries in the heart of all of us. The collective inner Everyweasel, if you will.