Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I just had a challenging experience at the local County Health Services so I'm posting one more Dog Halloween picture. Trying to find my happy place.

Our pediatrician told us last week that the county is offering free H1N1 flu shots to high risk groups, including anyone under 25. She advised us to go right away because of Violet's asthma. Apparently, her office is only getting a small number of the shots at a time. She said the perception of the big corporations pushing vaccines on the public is wrong as there are only a few profit-challenged companies left, and they can't seem to keep up with demand. The phrase she used was "fragile infrastructure."

So I was very motivated to get this errand done today in an overscheduled Halloween week. Violet and I grabbed Daisy from school and when we got to the county building, we went downstairs to get a number and wait. I didn't realize it was going to be a two and a half hour wait. There were dozens of kids but mine were the loudest, naughtiest and most entertaining/annoying, depending on your point of view. It's one way to meet people. Daisy counseled me toward the end of our wait, "Do you have new friends? Do you know their names? How will you find them again? Will you be friends with the girls? I suppose a boy would be OK . . ." She enunciated her words very slowly and loudly. I pleaded with her in a low tone to stop talking.

Of course, nothing can stop her endless stream-of-consciousness conversation, so I sat her down next to a nice-looking dad who was with his baby daughter and walked Violet down the hallway away from them. I could see but not hear Daisy for just a few minutes. I knew the dad would be polite, which was evident by his continuous nod.


The wait finally ended and I took the girls upstairs to one of the little rooms with a nurse standing by. Daisy was petrified, which made her little sister brave. Violet volunteered to go first, and the nurse explained how I should restrain her. I was so focused on keeping Violet still and looking away from the shot that I forgot about getting Daisy to look away. She let out a tremendous wail when she saw the needle go into her little sister's arm then went crazy. I had to grab her before she got out of the room and hold her down as she kicked and punched everything in sight while screaming at the top of her lungs. When I had her pinned down, she trembled in terror. Clinching her muscles made it hurt more when the shot went in, and she screamed like she had just taken a bullet.

We're supposed to go back and do it all again in a month.

picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44603071@N00/4039247773/

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dog Halloween

I occasionally entertain myself by putting my dog Sadie in costumes. I have the courage to admit this now because I know I'm not alone. Before I had children, I bought a really nice tutu at Toys R Us and cut a hole in it for the tail. I put it on Sadie and she desperately tried to shake it off at first, but after a few treats, she jumped upright into the air like a little ballerina.

There's a nearby affluent town that hosts dog trick-or-treating the Friday before Halloween. The first time I went, I thought . . . I have found my people. Dogs in elaborate costumes are paraded up and down a street where shops hand out dog treats, much to my children's disappointment.

Last year, the dog trick-and-treating event didn't have the same pizazz as in past years. (I won't insult your intelligence by calling it another victim of the economy. It probably isn't an activity that most people would endorse when there are real problems out there.) The treats weren't as fancy, it wasn't as crowded, and the costumes were mostly the store-bought variety instead of stunning one-of-a-kind creations. But it was still a worthy event . . . it's Sadie's big night. She knows what to expect when I wrestle her down to put her costume on . . . her ears perk up and she gets a puppy-like spring in her step. The dog treats flow, and we come home with a stockpile that lasts for months. Good times.

Because I've somehow lost my pictures of Dog Halloweens of the Past, I will instead treat you to a collection of photos I call Random Dogs in Costumes. The first one is a preview of Sadie, Halloween 2009. Enjoy.


picture 3: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccun934/1809343393/
picture 4: http://www.flickr.com/photos/foxtongue/79706932/
picture 5: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mccun934/2990721424/in/set-72157608550616169/

I Know I Have a Problem So Shut Up


Friday, October 23, 2009

Bad Habits

I love six years old. Daisy endlessly provides entertaining conversations. She found me cleaning the kitchen tonight and suggested that maybe it would be a good idea for her to stop biting her nails. I agreed although I seem to be biting mine more than ever lately. I asked her what we could do to make that happen for her and she suggested wrapping her fingers in tape.

I asked her if someone had said something about her nailbiting.

"Yeah, one of the really mean boys in my class said 'Ha Ha, your nails don't grow. They're little.' They always say gross stuff that people do and all the boys laugh."

What do you mean?

"Like when this one girl was picking her nose . . . she was picking her nose . . . she was talking about picking her nose . . . and the boys all said 'gross!' and pointed and laughed at her."

Have they seen you pick your nose?

"No, I don't pick my nose anymore. I stopped. I don't even remember what my nose tastes like."

I saw you pick your nose yesterday.

"I stopped yesterday."

picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/chitrasudar/2558214472/

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy *Birth* Day




Happy *Birth* Day



NYC Pics

I didn't take very many pictures in New York but these are my favorite without loved ones. The scenery made me wonder if geometry-oriented people (geometric people? geometrists?) really love it or hate it there, depending on how their minds work. It made my non-spatially intelligent mind think of Tron. Don't ask.

I think my brother may have given me a strange look when I took this one . . . like do you even know what you are taking a picture of? And I really wasn't sure but dang, that's a nice blue sky.

Can you see that tiny little thing, smaller than a toothpick, out in the distance? That's the Statue of Liberty or as my dad says The Lady. I had no idea she was so tiny. I thought she would kind of hover menacingly over the city.

This is in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn. People live here and there's a nice grocery store on the bottom, or so I was told.

This is in the Meatpacking District, I think. I like how the row of cars looks like you could almost reach down and push it into a straight line (I was up pretty late last night).

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Scariest Traveling Experience Ever

The little bit of turbulence on the flight back home last night made me think of my mom. When my family lived overseas in the late 70s and early 80s, we put in some serious flying time. We were usually split up . . . my youngest brother is the most familiar with my mom's terror in the air because he was most often sitting next to her.

My mom would always try to be brave for us, but I don't ever remember being scared because of the plane. If the flight got turbulent, she would turn pale and her eyes would become big and intense, like she just saw something very wrong. She would order some liquor and hold onto one of us with a vice-like grip, murmuring something like, "Sweet Baby Jesus, white light the plane. Keep my family safe." She would really say it out loud, which wasn't very comforting.

Back then, I didn't know about the permanent effects of pregnancy hormones and the formidable challenge known as traveling with kids. Now, I can totally sympathize with her fear and composure, especially when I think about our scariest traveling experience ever. It happened on a trip back to Saudi Arabia with just my mom and brothers. My dad had gone ahead of us. My mom was in her early 30s and our ages were something like 10, 8 and 3.

We flew from California to maybe New York then headed toward Europe. It was night and we were dug in for a long flight - I think us kids were probably asleep - when the flight attendants started acting like something was wrong, and someone went to inspect the cargo hold with a flashlight. I think I remember my mom telling it that way. An announcement was made that we would be making an emergency landing in . . . Newfoundland? Somewhere cold and remote in Eastern Canada. Maybe our plane was on fire. I'm really not sure about the details. I do know there was some urgency in us getting away from the plane.

I think I can imagine how scared my mom was to be the only adult with three kids. When we landed, we deplaned quickly but not on that cool inflatable slide that you're supposed to have in real emergencies. I do remember some adults pushing past us as we ran alongside my mom who was wearing heels and holding my youngest brother (this may be my overactive imagination but I seem to remember her wearing a plaid wrap-around skirt and camel wedges). It was freaking cold. We were coming from California and heading toward the Middle East in August, so we didn't have jackets or even long sleeves.

The airport was tiny and overwhelmed by a flood of passengers. There were emergency vehicles surrounding the large plane, which didn't explode like it should if you had ever watched a James Bond movie. Somehow, the situation was dealt with and at that point, the plane needed to be repaired or replaced, which wasn't going to happen until the next day. The town wasn't big enough to provide boarding to all the passengers so some of us had to stay behind and sleep on the plane. My clearest memory is of a flight attendant ripping off an airplane curtain and handing it to a passenger because there were no more blankets. We shoved the armrests upward and laid across the seats, huddling under thin blankets. My mom arranged us all around her. At some point during the night, a man who apparently wasn't comfortable or warm enough, moved me and took my blanket. My mom woke up to a random guy sleeping where she left her daughter, finding me in a different aisle.

So probably she didn't start saying the Baby Jesus thing until after that time.


Ancient History

I’m on a bumpy flight back from New York. I’ve been half thinking about what the topic of the next post will be while watching Hell’s Kitchen, Real Housewives of Atlanta and Flipping Out. It’s time to return to my own reality after a very nice break, and I think four nonstop hours is my limit of fake-reality TV for one day. I’m trying to think of a topic related to my trip but haven’t figured it out yet.

I usually feel something like obsession when a new topic occurs to me. I could be in class, in the car or on the phone and there will be a steady stream of thoughts that I HAVE to scribble down on random scraps of paper in order to focus on anything else. But I’m not there right now. Maybe my four-day walking tour of the city healed my navel-gazing blog affliction. Maybe if I just got a little more exercise, my family wouldn’t have to worry about what I might be revealing next to anyone who cares to read it, and Bindy would stop pressuring me to write about her (when will it ever be enough?).

There is something annoying that’s come to mind a few times since yesterday. It involves ancient high school-ish history. I don’t know if I can write about it in any comprehensible way since there will be no details. The main idea is I did something I’m ashamed of when I was just out of high school. I guess you could say a few things.

At my high school reunion in July, an ex-schoolmate made a comment referencing an incident that could be described as my personal rock bottom, capping off a little bit of self-destructive behavior when I was a teenager. At the time, I batted the comment away like the unwelcome pest that it was. But yesterday, the comment came up in a conversation with my friend BT and I have to admit it really did get to me.

I thought I had already dealt with the issue. Shortly after the low point occurred, when I was 18 or 19, I asked my parents if I could see a counselor. I went for a few sessions before realizing that the counselor really couldn’t help me. It was something I had to deal with on my own. Step One was to stop the self-destructive behavior. I know, no duh. But to do so meant I had to break through the numbness that lead to the problem in the first place. I needed to take responsibility for what I did and understand why. What helped me the most was working with some of the girls at the alternative school who engaged in similar behavior. I could see so clearly what they were doing. I totally got it and forgave myself.

There is one group of ex-schoolmates who might remember me for a snapshot or two of something stupid I did as a teenager. But I wasn’t the only person involved. The person who made the comment at the reunion had some responsibility, even though I took most of the heat at the time. I have zero interest in how he views his own behavior or why he did it. His juvenile comment indicated he hasn’t yet humbled himself enough to take ownership. But there was one last piece that hadn’t occurred to me. The last thing I needed to do was this: I forgive him.


Thursday, October 8, 2009


Amy aka Daredevil is my guest blogger today. I was really excited when I saw that she came through but . . . I need to clarify a few things before I can let you read her lovely post. Amy is a bit of an exaggerator. She is the party. And for the record, I have never in my life said to anyone, "I want you to know me."


First thing’s first: What do I call myself? Guest writer? Blog visitor? The Daredevil (I hate that nickname by the way. This was given to me when I was dared to snort lines of chalk on my desk in high school or drink bong water in college– not things I want to be known for now that I am a responsible adult). How about just Amy? That name is common enough to still protect my privacy, like I have any left.

I met… wait, what do I call my friend? Blogging mama? Positive Energy conspirer? Mama Star? Again, none of these little nicknames do her justice. I’ll go with The Goddess for now. Let’s start again:

I have noticed through reading The Goddess’ posts that she rarely talks about herself. Sure, we know what she’s thinking, how much she loves her family, her struggles with various statewide bureaucracies, but who is she? I’m about to tell you.

I met The Goddess in college back in 1991. As pure luck would have it, I was plucked out of the drunken cesspool they called a freshman class to become a resident advisor. I oftentimes fantasize about the discussions of how I was chosen, “This chick is a walking STD waiting to happen. Let’s give her some responsibility and see if she pulls herself up by her bootstraps.”

The Goddess was one of my dorm residents. And if you didn’t know any better, you would have sworn she was the R.A, and I her resident. She was older than me; the typical dynamics didn’t fit. You’re supposed to look up to your R.A. Instead, I found myself staring at her in wonder when she passed, checking in on what parties she was going to so I could get 5 minutes with the cool crowd, the Goddess was the obvious ringleader. She was quiet but cool, never telling more than she should, sizing you up without you realizing it. Her presence alone flipped my status as R.A. on its head.

Being her friend, however, was more of a quest for me than being cool-R.A. chick. And so I pursued her. Not in the stalky-weird-girl-who won’t-leave-you-alone way, but the strategic-below-radar-screen way. I became friends with her friends, Bindy being one of the first. If Bindy accepted me, the Goddess was soon to follow, so I learned to hackysack (poorly) and beer pong (messily), and talk incessantly about those slutty chicks in Dorm 4. And within a year, the Goddess was my lifelong friend. And for those of you who know her, once you’re in, you’re in. There’s no getting out, not because you can’t, but because your life would be severely flawed without her as a staple.

Corny but true: I am who I am because of her. I listen. And I learned how to listen from the Goddess. Cut to circa 1993 on a couch in the Goddess’ apartment right off the beach. It was one of those rare moments when it was just the two of us. We were having a couple of beers. The TV was off, and we were just talking. As with any conversation with the Goddess, we were 14 layers deep into a conversation, with her asking the questions, and intently listening as the stream of consciousness came pouring out of my brain – I was on a roll and I wasn’t about to stop, because well, it was all about me.

And then it happened. She waited for me to inhale, to take that slight pause in my breath, and she seized an opportunity. She said something to the effect of, “Amy, it would be really good if you didn’t redirect everything I say back into a story about you. I want you to really know me, and to do that, you have to ask me questions and listen.” Her statement was smattered with genuine sweetness; she wasn’t trying to offend me, just politely placing a mirror up to a quirky social behavior of mine that, in retrospect probably annoyed not just the Goddess, but a lot of my new friends. I don’t remember being embarrassed by her comment. In fact, I felt privileged that she felt comfortable enough to be so honest. And truthfully, it was something of which I truly wasn’t aware.

I remember another incident when my judgment was clouded and probably shouldn’t have been involved in this particular situation. (Details omitted to protect the innocent). Instead of reading me the riot act, which was more than justified, the Goddess asked me a question, “How do you think it’s going to turn out for you if you continue down this path?” Different method, same effect. I immediately stopped being an idiot because of that particular conversation.

Her lessons, or gentle nudges as I refer to endearingly, are priceless to me. In fact, just a couple of months ago, I had a very “Goddess-like” conversation with my college bound step-daughter about her utter lack of listening skills. And yes, I put away my pointing finger and did it with kindness and love. Now talking with her late at night on the phone is well, pleasant. It has ceased to be parody of those cell phone commercials where the teenage daughter starts talking and she can’t shut up.

I have the Goddess to thank for all of it: for who I am, for who my step daughter is becoming, and for those priceless moments resulting from a friendship that will never end.

picture: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dryfish/3439698216/

Monday, October 5, 2009

Seeking Answers

Recently, I seem to go through my day asking question after unanswered question. I think I'm being clear in what I want to know but the answer, if there is one at all, isn't satisfactory and only results in further questions. I'm sure it has to do with being in a transitional stage and on the outskirts of everywhere I want to be. I'm in the wilderness, not only trying to figure out how to get to the city, but which city is right for me from a distance.

But snapping out of the random hippy analogy . . . the point is, I feel a tremendous amount of relief whenever I get an actual answer or even the promise of one soon. That's why it was good news when EDD finally got back to me via email this weekend about the lack of unemployment checks for two straight months. I have a phone interview this Saturday while I'm in New York so I'm organizing my documentation, getting my charts and graphs all ready for when I finally get a chance to talk to a real person. I don't feel worried about the outcome; I just look forward to knowing what it is.

Still haven't heard back from the only phone interview I've had in forever. I'm assuming the job was filled but surprised there was no response to my follow-up. Responding to emails of that nature is probably the old economy way of doing things. Still waiting for more information about my other local job lead.

I'll be spending the rest of the week teaching, job hunting, continuing to clean up eBay, planning Daisy's sixth birthday party on the 18th, packing and getting the family ready for my longest absence to date (I mean absence from the kids). They'll be fine but I'm a little concerned about my youngest. She's my biggest fan and usually attached to me like the little monkey that she is. The other day she leaned over and tried to take a bite out of my arm. I screamed because it was painful, which hurt her feelings. It's hard to explain but it wasn't aggressive so much as a sign of devotion.

This is the picture Daisy and I decided to go with for her birthday invitation. The theme is hello kitty - girl superheroes. We're having our first "big girls only" party with no siblings, parents optional. I will be thinking of how to incorporate the superhero theme into the games, decorations, favors, and movie. Needless to say, cost is an issue so if anyone has any creative ideas, let me know.

picture: http://www.supermantv.net/smallville/supergirl.htm