Monday, February 27, 2006

hey, all

I think I have to stop writing this for a while. A month or two, maybe.

The usual reasons: work, home, busy. I went away this weekend (and badger & friends catsat for the weekend! It was so cool to think of her knocking around here, getting to show off our books & stuff to her by proxy) and realized how unfocused I've become. I think I need to take a break from one of the many elements of my life, and blogging is it for now.

I might still comment, though. And you can reach me via e-mail at elswhere [watch the spelling-- there's no "e" in the middle, it's elswhere not elsewhere] at gmail dot com.

Ciao for now, all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Here Goes.

Okay, I should admit right off that I am a lousy fundraiser. I don't have my daughter's capacity for ruthlesness on the topic; I don't have the sales personality; I don't view asking for money as an exciting challenge. When other people fundraise online for compelling causes, generally I just give some money and keep quiet about it because I'm afraid I'll sound like a dork if I try to do anything else.

So I am just going to write about this, and make some links, and hope that the six or seven people who read this blog and haven't already read posts on the topic will read and maybe pass it on. Because this one hits home for me and I have to write about it for writing's sake, even if it doesn't add one dollar to Annika's coffers. Though I hope it will.

I started reading Moreena's blog, "Falling Down is Also a Gift," because so many people were linking to it last time her daughter Annika was sick. I kept reading because Moreena is a funny, graceful, incisive writer, who can make a seamless transition from a wrenching bit of news like "So I'm guessing that we'll probably be heading back for a transfusion at some point, even if [Annika] manages to avoid another acute bleed," to a classic mommyblogging anecdote like the tale, a few paragraphs down the same post, of her younger daughter Frankie's generous gift of an eensy crumb of cheddar cheese.

I kept reading because Annika, who was born with a liver disease requiring (so far) two transplants, not to mention lots of other emergency hospitalizations, has a spark and a spirit that reminds me of Mermaid Girl's every time I read Moreena's posts. (Check out this picture. And these, in which she has made creative use of hospital supplies in a way I'm sure MG would admire.) And I kept reading (I'm embarrassed to admit I'm this solipsistic, but it's true) because Annika is a mere two months younger than MG, and even kind of looks like her.

I kept reading. Annika's health got worse. Then a little better.

And then their health insurance ran out.

And they have good insurance--I mean, "good" insurance--; Moreena's husband is a tenured professor. But there is a million-dollar-per-year limit, and they've hit it already, and it looks like Annika will be needing another transplant in the next several months. They've looked at several different ways to deal with it, and because of one kind of meshugoss or another, there's pretty much no way around it except to buy supplemental insurance that has a per-month deductable of $2-3,000. That's up to three thousand dollars deductable per month. Plus other expenses.

(Autobiographical tangent, brief because I have no energy for a longer rant on the topic: we are almost definitely moving to Canada in the next few years; RW is a dual citizen. There are a number of reasons, but one big one is that health insurance in this country is such a scary crap shoot. This story is just another reminder that even if you have a steady job, even if you have insurance, even if you are frugal--surprise!--one big illness can wipe you out.)

So. With a great deal of reluctance--it doesn't sound like this is any more Moreena's thing than it is mine--they are fundraising. Annika has a direct donation page on the Children's Organ Transplant Association site. Moreena's Internet friends have set up a clearinghouse site for "Annika's Internet Insurance Policy" with links to the COTA page as well as more creative fundraising methods: raffles for some great stuff; online auctions; and a "Virtual Community Casserole Campaign," in which you donate the cost of whatever you might spend on a casserole for someone in your town (church, synagogue, book group, political group, workplace, childcare co-op...) if illness struck their family.

I know lots of people have scary financial stuff of their own to deal with. I know other people are fundraising and doing activism and volunteer work for highly worthy causes: curing diseases, or for folks who are in dire, dire circumstances.

I'm trying not to think about it as a zero-sum game. I'm trying to think about that corny story about the starfish and the kid walking along the beach throwing them back in the ocean, and how someone scoffed that she couldn't save all of them and she answered that she could save that one (toss) and that one (toss) and that one(toss). I've thrown in my little bit of money, and here I am, throwing in my bit of linkage.

And if you, reading this, want to throw in your bit, make a virtual casserole, buy a raffle ticket, donate directly to the COTA, please click on the links above. Or--heck, this is what real fundraisers do, right? They make it easy to click?--here they are again:

COTA Page for Annika Tiede

Annika's Internet Insurance Policy

Um. Thanks.

Monday, February 20, 2006

More on the kid front

We've been having a small kid honeymoon here at Chez Booland. Our girl seems to be turning the corner from the tantrum-prone end-of-toddlerhood evident in most four-year-olds (and *cough* some extremely volatile five-year-olds) to the beginning of the self-controlled Big-Kidness of six. It's...well, for lack of any more elegant turn of phrase, it's been REALLY NICE.

Case in point: every week for literally YEARS now, Mermaid Girl has had some kind of tantrum or meltdown on Friday night, often right as it's time to light Shabbat candles. Is it the accumulated stresses and strains of the week? Rebellion at the unaccustomed requirement that she be quiet and respectful for an adult-initiated ritual for two freakin' minutes? Or, at this point, is it just habit? (If Mommy says, "C'mon, MG, it's time to light the candles," it's the reminder to fall on the floor in a screaming fit! Cause, you know, that's so Shabbosdich*.)

Whatever. Since she's been about two, we've been able to count on the meltdown. As well as many, many other meltdowns, at many, many other transition points throughout the day and week.

But... not this past Friday. Even though it was the Hundredth Day at her school and she was worn out from the excitement of counting all day. (Man the things these kids get up to!) Even though I was at a conference so I couldn't meet her bus, and by pre-arrangement she spent most of the afternoon with our next-door-neighbor and her toddler, who is adorable but incognizant of the finer points of possession. Even though Grandpa was coming on the plane that night and she was going to get to stay up late and go to the airport to meet him.

I came to pick her up from the neighbor's, and she went without fussing, even though I could see she didn't want to. She asked if she could make a late valentine for the toddler neighbor, then ran back over gleefully to deliver it. Then she asked politely if she could watch television. When it was time to stop, she turned off the TV and came downstairs: no stalling, no whining.

She didn't try to interrupt when we did the candle blessing. She didn't peevishly remind us not to drink all the juice when we passed around the kiddush cup. She didn't put her hands all over the challah, nor brush our hands away from the spot where she wanted to be. She didn't scream at me because I wouldn't make her a grilled-cheese sandwich. She helped out. She made pleasant conversation.

When I broke the news that Grandpa's plane was going to be late, much later than her bedtime, her face clouded, but she kept herself from wailing long enough for me to explain that she could still come along if she got entirely ready for bed first and got up for shul the next morning with no crabbiness. Then she brightened right up and agreed readily. (And she really did get up with no problem the next day, too.) And then she went through all the bedtime routine stuff with almost no nagging or chivvying required.

While we were waiting for my dad to emerge from the Arrivals gate, hovering by the curb with all the other cars, she allowed that she was maybe feeling a little tired. Then she closed her eyes and went to sleep, and didn't wake up even when we got home and I rolled her into bed.

The next afternoon, I complimented her on keeping it together for the last few days, even at times when it hadn't been easy. I said I could see she'd been making a big effort to control herself. "I have," she agreed. "It's really hard." She didn't sound peevish about it, though; more quietly proud.

Of course, nothing lasts forever. Yesterday I was reading the paper when I heard a huge wail from MG's room, followed by Renaissance Woman's voice, followed by more wailing and stomping.

A couple minutes later, RW appeared.

"Well, I made MG cry," she announced, rolling her eyes.

"What'd you do?" I asked. This is more the usual run of things: we ask MG to do something or stop doing something, she bursts into tears with no ramp-up, and things go downhill from there.

"I offered her a cookie. It was the wrong kind."

Yup. Back to normal.

*Shabbosdich= Yiddish for "Shabbat-like." By implication: peaceful, loving, spiritually grounding, the embodiment of all the things Shabbat should ideally be. Not that toddlers care about that.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Another Hallmark Valentine's Day Moment

Me: I came home early and picked you up early because I'm not feeling so well. My tummy hurts. I'm going to lie down for a while; you work on your valentines.

MG: But I need you! I love you! I can't do my valentines without you!

Me: How about I lie on the couch while you work on them at the coffee table?

MG: Okay!


MG: I love you so much, my sweet mommy!

Me: Oh, thank you, sweetie. I love you, too.

MG *bouncing up and down and inadvertently jostling me in the stomach*: Oh, my mommy! You are so precious and so... fragile!

Me: Oof. yes, I am feeling a bit fragile.

MG: I want you to get better! I'll just go get something for you!

Me: Oh, hon, you're being so sweet. But the best way you can help me is to work on your valentines while I rest here so I don't have to nag you about them.

MG: You just lie there and rest! You don't have to do anything!

*Silence while I doze off*

Me *starting awake and noticing that the body leaning against me doesn't seem to be making any writing motions* : MG? Your valentines?

MG: I'm THINKING about it! I'm looking at the paper [with all her classmates' names on it]!

Me *with eyes still closed*: Just pick one...are you writing?

MG: I am! I'm writing! E...M...M... *trails off into nothingness as writing activity stops and body becomes suspiciously still again*

Me: MG?

MG: Okay! Okay! I'm done! How many more do I have?

Me *squinting at piece of paper*: Eight. Wait, no, nine. Here, I'll check Emma off for you. Who do you want to do next?

MG: Madison! No, Olivia!

Me: Okay, here, here's her name, go ahead.

*Silence while I doze off*

Me: MG? Are you writing?

MG: Oh, Mommy, my poor Mommy! I'll make dinner! You can just lie here and rest!


Repeat ad nauseum. Literally.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

M.G. Booland, Art Detective

Me *browsing through the Sunday Times*: Oh, gosh, The Scream is still missing!

MG: What's The Scream?

Me: It's a piece of art. Very famous. Want to see what it looks like?

MG *studying the photo in the newspaper*: Did somebody make a copy of it?

Me: Well, yes, lots of people have made lots of copies. But the first copy, the painting that the artist made, is gone. It was stolen, and no one knows where it is.

MG, urgently: We have to find it!

Me: Um,

MG: We have to be detectives.

Me: Great. What should we do?

MG: We have to do it at night, so no one can see us...and wear dark clothes..wear dark hats...wear dark socks...wear dark shoes...and bring a magnifying glass!

Me: Okay...where should we look?

MG: All over the town!

Me: Why all the dark clothes?

MG: We want to blend in. With the darkness. And I will wear a black wig. Because my hair is yellow.

Me: What will we do with the magnifying glass?

MG: Well--this is what we'll do. We'll study the burglar's footprints. If you see a footprint, you look closely, and see if it looks like a burglar's. And then if you find a whole bunch of them in a line, that means it might be leading to the painting!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Friday poetry blogging, one day late

A friend of mine put this on the back cover of a homemade Haggaddah [Passover service] we once put together, and it's stayed with me ever since. It reminds me right now of the blogosphere at its best, especially in the last few days.


by Josephine Miles

When you swim in the surf of Seal Rocks, and your family
Sits in the sand
Eating potato salad, and the undertow
Comes which takes you out away down
To loss of breath loss of play and the power of play
Holler, say
Help, help, help. Hello, they will say,
Come back here for some potato salad.

It is then that a seventeen-year-old cub
Cruising in a helicopter from Antigua,
A jackstraw expert speaking only Swedish
And remote from this area as a camel, says
Look down there, there is somebody drowning.

And it is you. You say, yes, yes, yes.
And he throws you a line.
This is what is called the brotherhood of man.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Once and future fundraiser

Last year sometime, MG learned about the importance of tzedakah (charity) in Hebrew school, right about the time she got concerned about the homeless people we see around Seattle. "You need shelter to live!" she kept saying.

We made a spectacularly dorky tzedakah box by enveloping a yogurt container in duct tape and decorating it with marker and stickers. MG drew a picture of a house and a couple of Jewish stars, I cut a hole in the lid with a matte knife, and at her direction I wrote "TZEDAKAH--MONEY FOR HOMELESS PEOPLE."

Since then, we've tried to remember to give her some money-- a quarter, or a dollar, or whatever's around--to stick in the tzedakah box every Friday night when we light candles. Whenever we forget, MG is apt to jump up in the middle of dinner and gasp "Oh! The tzedakah money!"

By the time we emptied it out at Chanukah we had about $30, which we counted with due fanfare and sent to a local social services organization, earmarked for homeless services. (She was going to compose a letter to go with it, but the mechanics of writing it herself were too much for her and in the end we just sent a check and recycled the cash to dole out for future tzedakah contributions.)

This evening, some friends came over for Shabbat dinner: MG's best friend Jessie; Jessie's twinkly and dapper little brother Momo, who's almost 3; and their mom, Lara. The kids slipped away shortly after the blessings over the candles and wine, and were playing with trains as we grownups lingered over dinner, when MG did her trademark jump-and-gasp: "Oh! Mommy! Mama! We forgot something! The box!"

I suggested each kid put a quarter in the box, and gave MG three from our stash to distribute.

"Money!"Momo squealed, grabbing his quarter.

"No, Momo," MG instructed, "We're NOT going to KEEP it. Do you know why, Momo?"

He shook his head, bewildered but game.

"Because we're HELPING OTHER PEOPLE. We're helping them to LIVE. Do you know what will happpen if we don't help them to live?"

More emphatic head-shaking from Momo.

"They will DIE," MG said. "Do you want them to DIE?!"

"No!!" Momo cried out, aghast.

"Then PUT the MONEY in the TZEDAKAH BOX!"

Momo trotted obediently over with the big girls and dropped his quarter in the slot, as the grownups hold our napkins over our mouths in a heroic attempt not to crack up.

I figure she has a future in PiRG. Or else in kneecapping people.

In the meantime, I'm planning to ask her to consider cracking the yogurt container open for this project, which would indeed contribute to preserving the life of a spirited, funny and brave kid just about MG's age.

About which more on Monday, when it goes live.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Best Work-Related E-mail EVER

-----Original Message-----
From: [The Tech Guy]
Monday, February 06, 2006 9:24 AM
To: All Employees
Subject: spam

I have just fixed the spam filter here to dump any email that contains the word VIAGRA. If you are expecting an email about this product please tell me. This way I can make sure your email gets delivered to you.


Tech Guy

[This would really be best with no additional commentary, but I feel compelled to point out that my workplace is about 97% female.]

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Seahawks? What Seahawks?

Yeah, I know there's some big football game going on today (Even Renaissance Woman, a/k/a The Least Sports-Oriented Person in the Hemisphere, has been unable to maintain the total and utter football-related ignorance that is her preferred state).

But Phantom Scribbler, in yet another burst of brilliance, is hosting the kind of Super Bowl that gets me going: The Murrys v. Austins Super Bowl Smackdown! Go, all you Madeleine L'Engle fans, and root for your favorite!

You can take your pick of cheers below:

Murrays, Murrays, not half bad!
Save the world and find their dad!
Goooooo, Murrays!

Austins, Austins, they're the best!
Canon Tallis says they're blest!
Goooooo, Austins!

Friday, February 03, 2006

Friday poetry blogging

As started by jo(e) and seen all over. I'm jumping in just before Friday leaves us, here on the left coast. After riffling through a pile of books off my poetry shelf, rediscovering old favorites, this was the one that jumped out at me. Maybe because I've felt a trifle self-absorbed lately.

beware: do not read this poem
by Ishmael Reed

tonite, thriller was
abt an ol woman, so vain she
surrounded herself w/
many mirrors

it got so bad that finally she
locked herself indoors & her
whole life became the

one day the villagers broke
into her house, but she was too
swift for them . she disappeared
into a mirror
each tenant who bought the house
after that, lost a loved one to
the ol woman in the mirror:
first a little girl
then a young woman
then the young woman/s husband

the hunger of this poem is legendary
it has taken in many victims
back off from this poem
it has drawn in yr feet
back off from this poem
it has drawn in yr legs
back off from this poem
it is a greedy mirror
you are into this poem . from
the waist down
nobody can hear you can they?
this poem has had you up to here
this poem ain't got no manners
you cant call out frm this poem
relax now & go w/this poem
move & roll on to this poem
do not resist this poem
this poem has yr eyes
this poem has his head
this poem has his arms
this poem has his fingers
this poem has his fingertips

this poem is the reader & the
reader this poem

statistic: the us bureau of missing persons reports
that in 1968 over 100,000 people disappeared
leaving no solid clues
nor trace only
a space in the lives of their friends