Sunday, November 30, 2008

I Am a Toilet Hero!

And so we have come nearly full-circle here in NaBloPoSloland, from a post about poop and pee early on, to high-minded political outrage and analysis, to seasonal grouching, to linguistic pedantry, and now, on the final day of November, we're back to the poop.

If you are very squeamish, you should probably just stop here.

I think I have mentioned our mono-toilet (uni-toilet?) state. That one toilet became clogged this morning. It was flushed, and the flushing was counterproductive to the point of almost--but not quite--overflowing and breaching the carefully-tended divide that we maintain in our culture between The Toilet and Everything Else Except Possibly a Baby's Diaper. It was perilously close, but it didn't quite go there.

Plunging was not productive, and just made everything more disgusting.

I waited. It drained, but slowly.

I flushed again. Oh--mistake.

So, I turned to the Internet, and found this handy link, which included a very helpful video. What I especially like about the video is that the voiceover has a British accent and at the end, after the person in the video has successfully unclogged the toilet (with appropriate discouraged and disgusted facial expressions), the voiceover voice says, in a brisk and cheerful and yet matter-of-fact manner, "Well done. You've been very brave."

Somehow this gave me the courage to go on, and I gathered the recommended supplies: rubber gloves, newspapers, bucket, and wire hanger, and ventured once more into the breach.

Where I proceeded to try everything recommended in the video, in rapid succession. At first, none of it worked, and I was about to send the Renaissance Woman out to Home Depot for a toilet snake.

But then! I tried letting it drain down again, and plunging again, and I thought I heard signs of progress in the pipes. So I dumped in a big bucket of cold water, and it flushed! And I dumped in another bucket, and it flushed again!

And then I washed and disinfected everything, including my hands, and went out to the kitchen and announced the toilet fixed. Which was good, because by then everyone else had to use it.

The End!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

In Which I Nit-Pick

Everyone has their own personal word-usage pet peeves (well, don't they?) (and probably someone's is people using "their" as a singular. Sorry, it's common gender-neutral usage now; I'm claiming it.) (and probably someone else's peeve is overuse of parentheses, for which I have no defense.)

Ahem. Where was I?

Right. Herewith, some word-usage things that drive me bananas. I mean no offense to you if you are a perpetrator of any of these; it is your perfect right, just as it is mine to use the word "parent" as a verb even though to many people that particular usage is, lo, as to the sound of fingernails upon a chalkboard. As are these to me:

1. Unique. According to, the first two definitions of "Unique" are "existing as the only one or as the sole example; single; solitary" and "having no like or equal; unparalleled; incomparable". Got that? Incomparable. That means: You cannot qualify the word "unique." Something cannot be "more unique" than something else," or "sort of unique," or even "really unique." Either something is unique, like New York City, or it is not, like the legions of Harry Potter knockoffs crowding the children's fiction shelves of a library near you.

2. Nonplussed. Again, "filled with bewilderment"; the adjectival form of the verb "nonplus," which means "To put at a loss as to what to think, say, or do; bewilder. " Basically, if you are nonplussed you are taken aback, thrown, knocked for a loop, etc. Which is the opposite of how I've often heard/read it employed. I think that "non" at the beginning throws people off, and they think it means something similar to "nonchalant." But no, no, no: If I say, say, "When he broke the news to her, she was nonplussed" it means "She had ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA he was gay/a Republican/a Vulcan, and was totally freaked out, even though she was trying gamely to be polite," not "She'd known for ages and wondered why he even bothered to make a big deal out of it."

3. Gift, or Gifted. These are, respectively, a noun meaning "a present someone gives you" and an adjective meaning "what your brilliant child, who reads at a college level and can do long division in her head, is". THEY ARE NOT VERBS. There is no good reason for them to be verbs. There is a perfectly good verb that means the same thing that people mean who are going around saying "My great-uncle gifted me with this lovely and yet gigantic urn, but it doesn't fit in my living room so I am going to gift it to my little cousin", and that verb is the verb TO GIVE. As in "My great-uncle gave me this strangely hideous urn." Or "I am going to give it to my very goth little cousin, who might appreciate it better," or, if you must employ the passive voice, "I was given this weird vase by some relative who thinks I like anything black; want to help me smash it up for mosaic pieces?"

I will make an exception for the term "re-gift," on the highly scientific grounds that "re-give" just doesn't sound right.

4. Disagree with. I didn't notice this one much until I became obsessed with the controversy over same-sex marriage in the wake of this year's election. I read a lot, a lot, a lot of blogs and comments and websites and articles, and then I remembered why I am not usually more political: because it makes me tired and cranky and angry and upset to read the opinions of people who seem to me to be so manifestly wrong, and not just wrong about anything but about me and people like me (in one major aspect, anyway). I know if I were a better person, a more political person, I would reach out to and engage with these people and either try to convince them of my rightness, or, even better, to find common ground with them, and thus work to make the world a better place, but I am not a better person and after a while I just stopped reading all those sites.

But not before I had noted one very disturbing trend, and that was the tendency of many participants in various debates to start their comments with the phrase "I disagree with gay/same-sex marriage, and..." or even "I disagree with gay/same-sex marriage, but..." This phrase just seemed wrong to me. Not ethically or morally wrong, but wrong in relation to the English language.

I mean, you can disagree with another person ("I disagree with the previous commenter, who wants to destroy traditional marriage") and you can disagree with an idea or philosophy ("I disagree with the notion that church and state should be separate entities") but two people marrying each other is an action, and marriage is a state of being, and you can't disagree with an action or a state or with any non-personified being, for that matter. It would be like me saying "I disagree with exercise," or "I disagree with Mount Vesuvius" which are both meaningless statements. However, I could say "Exercise disagrees with me," or "Volcanic eruptions disagree with me" which are both proper word usage and factually true, although they employ a tertiary meaning of the word "disagree".

Or, if I were to mean what I think most of those commenters mean, I could say "I disapprove of exercise/volcanic eruptions." However, my disapproval is not going to stop other people from going to gyms, or volcanoes from erupting. Nor should it. And I look forward to the day when other people's disapproval of (not disagreement with) same-sex marriage similarly matters not a whit to me and mine.

And in that, I believe I am not unique.

Now you have been given all the English-language curmudgeonliness, and all the political commentary, that I have in me to rant.

I hope it didn't nonplus you.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Proof of actual illness: forgot to title this post the first time around

Bad news: Sick.

Good news: Not THAT sick, no fever, but sick enough that I have a headache and occasional chills and my eyes hurt and the muscles between my nose and mouth hurt (what's up with that? I've never noticed that before) and the thought of trying to do anything or solve any problems makes me want to weep.

Bad news: Had to CALL IN. I HATE calling in. Why is it that I always feel like I'm lying when I call in sick, even when I actually AM sick?

Good news: Get to stay HOME and lie in bed and nap and drink tea, which is just exactly all I feel like doing.

Bad news: If I'm not better by 4:00 or so, I will have to CALL IN for tomorrow, too. To a different supervisor, who is not as sympathetic and makes people call their own subs, even sick.

Good news: Benefits! So, sick pay!

Dilemma: Is the sick pay worth the guilt? I think so. Will sleep on it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Love Thursday: Say Cheese Edition

Family photo sessions can be stressful for kids. There's something about being coaxed to smile on command, about the pressure of being recorded for posterity, about the focused attention that you have no control over, that can make a kid really crabby and embarrassed and unhappy.

I speak from experience; one of my earliest memories is of an extended-family photo session that took place in my family's apartment when I was about three years old. The vague memory I have of crying and feeling miserable and guilty and out of control is corroborated by the photo itself, which features over a dozen gamely smiling parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, plus my oblivious and photogenic then-baby brother, and me, the outlier, pouting in the edge of the frame in my fancy dress.

The Mermaid Girl, alas, is of a similar opinion. And it's just her misfortune to live in an era of ubiquitous digital cameras, and to have not only two (or three, or four, depending on how you're counting) adoring parents, but also more than the usual complement of grandparents and other grownup relatives, all of whom want to snap photos of her, or look at photos of her, or both.

As a result, she spends a lot of her life ducking and scowling as cameras are pointed at her. Mostly--o irony of ironies--pointed by me, the former photo-hating child.

When my mom offered to hire a professional photographer during the time when she and my brother and his family were all visiting here last month, I had mixed feelings: I thought it would be nice to have a picture of all of us together, but I didn't think MG would be happy about it.

And, indeed, she was not: the photo session was supposed to take place in the park, but it was pouring rain on the appointed day and so we had to relocate to our hastily-cleaned living room. The session time was 2:00-4:00 PM, so MG came home from school that day to a house full of people in mid-photo-shoot, including her happy and photogenic little cousin, who was having a swell time and chatting up a storm with the photographer. MG was hungry and tired and wanted to unwind, but we didn't have time for that. The photographer was only there for another 45 minutes, and she had to go pose right away: first by herself, then with us.

Of course, she'd been prepared ahead of time and knew this was going to happen. And of course, we knew the timing and circumstances weren't ideal. But it was the only way we could make the session work at all, so we'd just scheduled it when we could and hoped for the best.

I will not go into detail about how that worked out. Suffice it to say, none of us--including MG--were very happy with our kid by the end of the photo shoot.

Just before my mom left a few weeks later, the photographer sent her an email with a link to the photo proof page. I was afraid to look at them, sure that MG's crabbiness and our frustration would be evident in each shot, and that we'd have nothing usable at all to send to the many friends and relations who'd be waiting for pictures.

And then I looked at the page, and was astonished.

Somehow, in the midst of that far-from-ideal afternoon, the photographer had managed to take several shots of our child that managed to actually make it appear that she was having a good time, and even caught one (only one) of the three of us where RW and I don't look like we want to strangle her. There were also happy, friendly photos of my brother and me together, and of my brother's family, including their gorgeous daughter, and a few of all seven of us, miraculously all smiling at the same time.

It was as if the photographer had strained this messy, sometimes-squabbling, sometimes-grouchy imperfect group of people through her lens and found the family we are at our best: happy, convivial, relaxed--ourselves, our real selves, our real family, but better.

I'm sure that many dozens of shots were discarded in the midst of those few good ones. But the good ones were there. It's good to remember that.

Even MG liked them when she saw them. My favorite, though, which is also my mom's favorite, is one that the Mermaid Girl hated on sight. So, relatives, please forgive us if we don't send it out-- you'll be getting one of the happy ones, which is also what we'll have on our mantelpiece. But just as I love that she could catch our best selves in the midst of that rainy afternoon, I love what this photographer could see in a sulky, angry kid who was looking her straight in the eye and refusing to smile.

Because I love this kid, too, as well as the cheerful, compliant one.

Happy Love Thursday. And may those of you who are spending this weekend with family be able to find beauty in the ordinary happy moments and maybe even in the unsmiling ones, too.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

How I Know It's Time to Go to Bed

I just misread "Google" in my tab header as "Giggle."

All right, then. Closing the laptop. Closssssiiinggg....

Fishy Newsflash

This morning, one of the tetras was gone. Not in the castle, not behind the filter, not in any of the shells. No splashes outside the tank.

The other tetra isn't saying anything, but is suspiciously pale.

The Mermaid Girl is upset. So am I, to tell the truth. RW is going to call the fish store when they open at 10 so we can try to at least figure out what happened.

Update: Still no sign of the missing fish, even after a thorough cleaning of the tank. RW even called the Tetra HelpLine, but they had no suggestions. The fish store says it must be in there, but it's looking more and more like the other fish ate it, however unlikely--and creepy--that seems.

On the plus side, MG seems totally over it and is just thrilled that she won a little bobblehead cat at school. I, on the other hand, am still shuddering at the thought of little fishie being eaten, skeleton and all, by the other little fishie. Blrgh.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Circus Update, With Thanks

Someone asked me the other day how long the Mermaid Girl has been doing circus and I added it up and realized it's been almost four years, so that would be nearly half her life. She probably doesn't remember a time before circus class, but I do, and I remember the feeling of, oh! this is the right thing for her! when she started. She'd always been limber and athletic, from a baby, and it was evident early on that she'd be happiest if she did something with all that physicality, and she liked ballet and gymnastics okay, but not especially much, and plus with both of them there's the long-term worry about body image.

But circus, for her, has been very close to juuust right: the right mix of discipline and fun, of performance and athleticism, of things she's good at and things that are a challenge for her. One of the nice aspects of my schedule this year has been that I've been able to take her to her circus class every week. It's three hours long, so I usually spend some of the time on errands, but I often stay around for the first hour or so and I've gotten to see her do just about all the stations at some point.

I've seen her climb high up the rope, as she's been able to do for years now, but then let herself down hand-under-hand with a flingy showy flourish of each arm that was new and very showmanlike, and I've seen her wrap herself up in a complicated pattern on the tissu, and then let herself down so that she flips and flops like a Chinese yo-yo and lands safely on the mat. I've seen her bend herself into an upside-down U shape to form the corner of a pyramid, with other kids leaning on her, and I've seen her work on an act on the triple trapeze with a girl in her group, the two of them swinging and hanging from their knees and pulling themselves up in unison. I've seen her do tumbles and flips and get praised for them, and have realized in a flash that the jumping and flipping she does on the couch and on our bed isn't just goofing off, but real practice, that she's practicing actual moves and techniques towards a goal, and that her coaches can see it pay off.

And I've seen her struggle, too. Some kids come to class on their own unicycles, their parents holding the door for them as they wheel themselves in, but unicycling isn't MG's thing; given the choice, she'd be happy to drop that part of class. But because it's part of the core program, she doggedly works on it every week, and is starting to get to the point where she doesn't have to hug a wall or railing every second. Juggling is hard for her too, but she had a breakthrough last week, and I was there to see it happen: she was tossing three scarves, and suddenly got the hang of the rhythm she needed to use to keep them all in the air, one after another, and she kept them going for six juggles in a row. Her juggling coach, a big gruff guy who's the boss of the whole class and one of the head coaches of the school, and who she was scared of until recently, got really excited about it, and at the end of class, when all the small groups gather on the mat together for one last wrap-up, he announced her accomplishment and everyone applauded.

That wrap-up at the end of each class is one of my favorite things about circus. One of the coaches always thanks the students for their hard work, and then asks them to stop and think for a minute and remember to be thankful: for their families, and for this wonderful space that they have to work in.

She's an exceptional teacher, that coach; she's known MG since the circus camp she did back when we first moved, the summer before last, and a couple of days ago the Renaissance Woman e-mailed her to ask about leotard suppliers. She wrote back with the information and with some unexpected, complimentary, thoughtful observations of the Mermaid Girl: her sense of purpose, her intellect, and her kindness to other students. That meant a lot to us.

Anyway, I'm not celebrating Thanksgiving this week, but every week when the coach does that ritual at the end of class, I'm thankful, too: that the Mermaid Girl has this class, and that she has these teachers who appreciate and push and know her.

Monday, November 24, 2008

How Green Was My Hair

What I learned yesterday:

1. You should always read the directions on the black henna package, because sometimes the directions say things like "Do Not Use on Gray Hair." [nb: I have a lot of gray hair.]

2. If you put on black henna first, and it turns all your gray hair green, you can fix it by doing the whole thing again but with red henna, which will neutralize the green and turn it all something close to the lovely shiny auburn you were imagining. Actually, the relevant websites suggest doing something very much like this ad-hoc experimental solution for gray hair, only with the red henna first and the black henna as a 2nd step.

3. But if you try to use ONLY red henna, it will turn your gray hair bright, clown-like orange. [n.b.: actually I learned this part a couple of years ago. Hence the attempt at black henna.]

4. If you go in to work with hair that is partly regular brown, partly shiny auburn, and partly bright orange, only a few people will notice, or at least only a few people will say anything. [But I bet more people would've noticed if I'd had green hair!]

I just wish I'd taken a picture of the green part. It was kind of amazingly green. Maybe next time!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Working along Maslow's Hierarchy from the Bottom Up

Thanks, all, for the most excellent winter jacket suggestions. I looked at MEC, but the coat I want they only have in Violet, and despite Rachel's excellent point I'd like to get something that will allow me to blend more unobtrusively into the urban undergrowth. I think I'm going to go with this, in brown.

Since we're on the subject of basic human needs, though, I have another question, this one about Food.

I love food. No, I REALLY love food. I'm not a foodie, exactly, or a food snob--more of a gourmand in the Calvin Trillin mold. The food of my childhood and adolescence was decent and edible but not particularly notable one way or another, and I don't remember any particular importance or attitudes about food being imparted to me as a kid. I've always eaten pretty much exactly what I like, and I like just about everything, except lima beans. (Not really germane to where I'm going with this, but possibly of interest: with no eating restrictions or dieting or attention paid to food at all except for taste and basic nutritional issues, my weight was just about normal and very stable from childhood until I hit my thirties, at which point I started putting on a couple of pounds a year. Now, at 42, I'm somewhere between 10 and 25 pounds overweight, and probably should do something about it at some point, if only exercising more, but it's not my top priority and hasn't affected my eating habits.)

Anyway, the point is that I am a true omnivore. Though I learned to cook out of the vegetarian Moosewood Cookbook, and in my crunchy granola youth was often mistaken for a vegetarian, I have never been a vegetarian of any kind. I don't keep kosher, not even a little (though for a while I tried not to serve treyf at the actual Shabbat dinner table). I have no food allergies or sensitivies that I know of, and I'm not squeamish.

The Renaissance Woman, on the other hand, does have food restrictions: she's allergic to red fruit, including cherries, as well as several kinds of nuts. She used to be a vegetarian, and though she now eats chicken, she can no longer metabolize red meat or pork. Also, there are several foods, including rice, lentils, and other grainy things, that she simply doesn't like.

Then we have the Mermaid Girl. Back when she was a baby, this child would eat anything, including duck and couscous, but those days are long gone and she has become a classic Picky Eater. She does like vegetables, but for several years the list of proteins that she would eat was about six items long, with three of them being various forms of cheese (string, grilled, and macaroni-and-). Also, like RW (and very much unlike me), she often doesn't notice when she's hungry, and rather than asking for food will deny that she wants to eat at all, all the while becoming crankier and crankier until we insist that she put a piece of cheese (or whatever) into her mouth, at which point more often than not she snaps out of it and wolfs down whatever's in front of her.

I know there are various schools of thought about how much to insist on kids trying unfamiliar or un-favorite foods; since with MG, food soon became an issue of control as well as one of taste preference, and since she's an only child and we don't have to cater to anyone else, we've generally opted for the path of least resistance, and pretty much have let her eat whatever she wanted as long as she gets some protein and a vegetable in there at dinner. I'd leave out some plain tofu or chicken or fish if I was making something with a sauce, and she'd either eat it or mix herself some peanut butter and jelly in a bowl.

This worked reasonably well until last spring, when MG suddenly announced that she was now a vegetarian, and that she did not believe in eating either animals or fish.

This cut down considerably on the short list of protein sources, but we didn't object; first, because vegetarianism has always seemed like an admirable principle to me, and second, because what would be the point? If we told her she wasn't allowed to be a vegetarian, she would just refuse chicken and fish (the only dead-animal food at our house) anyway, and what could we do? She'd just eat cheddar cheese and peanut butter, the way she always does.

In the ensuing months, though, some complicating factors have emerged. For one thing, MG's definition of vegetarianism is somewhat flexible; turns out that it includes meat hot dogs bought at the beach or the mall, (even if vegetarian hot dogs--which she doesn't like--are available), fake crab, and shrimp in any form. But if we offer her any other kind of meat or fish, she will look sad and pained and principled and say, "I'm sorry, but I can't. Don't you remember?" When we ask her about the apparent contradiction, she'll explain either that this is just an exception, or that "it's different. I really like [shrimp, or hot dogs, or whatever]."

So, this inconsistency leads us to be not quite so respectful of her principled stand as we might otherwise be. What I can't figure out is what kind of line to take on this. Do we forbid her to eat shrimp or hot dogs, even though we eat them ourselves? Do we refuse to continue recognizing her as a vegetarian by offering alternatives to our meat meals? Or do we just, as one person suggested, honor that she's attempting to act on principle at all, however imperfectly?

I welcome any suggestions from vegetarians, meat-eaters, picky eaters, and parents of any of the above, as well as people who are none of the above but just have an opinion, as long as you state it kindly.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Time-Sensitive Question

I can't find my winter jacket. It was a good jacket, sturdy and warm and hooded and waterproof, if not exactly fashion-forward; a couple of years ago the zipper pull fell off, so I replaced it with a paper clip, and also the coat itself is a sort of early-'90's shade of turquoise which I have since come to regard as unfortunate.

But. It was MY jacket. It was, as I said, a good jacket. Every spring I washed it and put it away, and every fall I took it back out. And now it is nowhere to be found. Probably I left it in the closet of one of the numerous libraries where I work, and then forgot about it.

So. If I don't find it soon, I need to buy a new jacket.

This isn't really, in itself, a problem. We are not rolling in cash but we have enough for me to buy a jacket. I bought this jacket in 1995, and it's had a good run. Really it is okay to get another jacket.

The problem is that what I really want is the EXACT SAME jacket, only in black. But,

a) I'm not sure where to get the exact same jacket, other than in Fred Meyer's in 1995,
b) RW already has a very similar black jacket, and we already have very similar hoodies and very similar jeans and interchangeable socks and identical (except for the size) shoes, and I just do not want to have another important-frequently-worn item of clothing that is so similar to hers, for emotional as well as practical reasons--it would be a pain to get to work and find I'd taken her jacket instead of mine, especially given my propensity for leaving my cell phone in my jacket pocket. Plus, most of my winter clothes are black, which means that I can never find the item I want in a pile, which is where my clothes are frequently to be found.

SO, I ask you, gentle readers:

--What is a good color for a jacket, these days?
--Is there a particular kind you recommend?
--If so, where can I find it?

I thank you in advance for your timely suggestions. Last year it snowed in the first week of December.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Greetings from the Exact Middle of my Work Week

Here is the schedule for my main job:

Thursday 1-9
Friday 1-9
Saturday 9-5
Monday 9-5

This has advantages and disadvantages. It's nice to have time off in the middle of the week to go to doctor's appointments and hassle electricians. And sometimes, since the Mermaid Girl's school is so close, she even comes home for lunch. The Renaissance Woman has a funky schedule too, so occasionally we all three sit down to a hot lunch together. It's very cozy and European.

On the other hand, I am only now, six months in, starting to get over the urge to growl and bite my co-workers' heads off when they wish me a cheery "have a great weekend!" as they head out the door at 5:00 on Fridays. Friday night to Saturday morning is the nastiest transition: two shifts that no one else wants, with a bare twelve hours (minus commuting time) in between. Because RW also has a funky schedule and works nights, more often than not we don't get to eat dinner together. And unless I take almost half a week's work time off, we never get to go away for the weekend.

And the two days I supposedly have off midweek, Tuesday and Wednesday, never really feel like days off, because I have freelance work I should be doing, and MG has to be gotten up for school anyway, and RW often works at home and the house is pervaded with anxious and getting-things-done energy. And then, just as I'm getting into the groove of things, Thursday comes around again and klonks me on the forehead and I'm back on the reference desk.

So. This may be Friday night to all of you, but it's something like around Tuesday night to me. And because I am filled up with my Friday-night-to-Saturday-morning grumpiness with not much room for creativity, I give you instead this joke that MG just tried to tell us as part of her bedtime stalling technique:

MG: What goes, ha, ha, ha, clunk?

RW: You!

MG: No! A man laughing his head off!

Happy Tuesday! Or Friday, whichever!

p.s. I promise that soon, in the near future, there will be posts about MG's circus class. And vegetarianism. And maybe even health insurance. But not tonight because I think my head is about to fall off.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In Which I am Dissed by Tropical Fish

For the Mermaid Girl's birthday, the Renaissance Woman bought her a pair of fish. Black-skirted tetras, to be specific. About the size of goldfish, but slightly more exciting-looking. And they've sat on her desk ever since, in their small pink terrarium, swimming around in circles around their little pink castle, and occasionally hiding behind the heater.

They're pretty low-maintenance, as pets go. Every couple of weeks MG and RW scoop out half the water and clean the tank, and twice a day MG feeds them, flipping open the little trapdoor at the top of their tank and carefully sprinkling in just a few flakes of the green flaky fish stuff. They've learned that the trapdoor flipping means food's coming, so they always dart right up when she opens it and suck up the food and then swim around excitedly.

But here's the thing: every once in a while, MG asks if I'll feed the fish for her. And when I feed them, they never jump right up. Even when I make a big deal out of flipping open the little door, and even when I crumple up the flakes especially enticingly, they just swim around lazily, sort of like, "meh, well, whatever, I might grab a bite later..."and then maybe after a few seconds they'll drift up and take a nip or two of food, just to be polite, I guess.

So my question is: can it possibly be that they can tell the difference between me and MG, and that they like her better? I mean, aren't we all just big blurs to them? And, if they like her better...WHY??

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Return of the Spawn of the Revenge of Bah Humbug!

Ah, 'tis the season, once again. Carollers caroling, lights twinkling, sleighbells ringing. Me grousing. Gah.

I know, I know, for the last three years I've been through various permutations of this one. And this year I was really, truly going to give it a rest. And I may yet, in real life. The Mermaid Girl is old enough that I'm not so worried about her fragile little identity (hah! like her identity could ever have been called fragile in any way, even when she was an infant! But you know what I mean), and me being upset about it seems to distress her way more than whatever Christmas-related outreach prompts the upset in the first place, and her teacher's so low-key that I wasn't too worked up about a big Santastravaganza in the classroom this year.

Actually, I brought up the whole December Dilemma at the parent meeting at the beginning of the year, and the teacher was like, Meh, I don't do too much fuss about any of the holidays, they get enough of that crap everywhere else and we have a lot of work to do. So, hey, fine, works for me!

And as for the Christmas Music Everywhere Already and things like the Holiday Party at Work Being Called Just a Christmas Party, No Bones About It-- meh. Again, hard to get worked up. I had really decided to just go with the flow this time around, not get all pissed off, it drives MG and the Renaissance Woman nuts when I do, anyway.

My only dilemma as of this morning--I was going to post about it, actually--was whether it's worth it to put together some kind of song and dance about Chanukah for MG's class. As she and her classmates get older-- she's in a Grade 3/Grade 4 split this year--it feels less relevant, and harder to put together something interesting and age-appropriate. I asked MG what she thought, and she said, kind of wearily, "Well, you can if you want to." So, I don't know.

But! Then MG had to go and get herself accepted into the Special Choir at the very last cutoff before it was too late (apparently she was absent during the first announcement of the choir, back in October or so, so she never signed up till now). Oh boy! The Special Choir is going to do Special Songs at the Christmas (I know, I know) Show! And they're going to sing at the mall! And she really, really wanted to do it! And so RW wrote a note begging the music and dance teacher to let her in late, and the teacher did, and now MG is part of the choir, and her first rehearsal was today, and she brought home the song sheets so she can practice lots and make up for starting late.

So, hey! Fine! Jingle Bells, whatever! Deck the Halls! You're a Mean One, Mr, Grinch, swell!

But...and probably you saw this coming...what's with "Silent Night"? With the second verse, and everything, about how Christ Our Savior is Born? And "Away in a Manger"?!?


I know MG will HATE it if I make a fuss, or even if I talk about it with her. She hates to be different, she would hate to not sing the songs. And it doesn't seem like the height of tact or consideration to ask special permission for our kid to join the choir late and then turn around and object to the set list the next day. And I get that this choir is an optional activity, not a required part of the school curriculum But I hate, hate, hate that they're singing unabashedly religious hymns as part of a school program.

Also, it's stupid. MG might be the only Jewish kid at the school, but she's far from the only non-Christian.

I'm even ambivalent about blogging this. In the past, when I've complained to friends and even some family about Christmas celebrations at MG's school, I've encountered blank looks of incomprehension and also well-meaning but often patronizing explanations on why I really shouldn't be upset about it, from surprising quarters.

I mean, I guess people really, really, really love their Christmas, and it Upsets them when someone questions any aspect of it. Okay. Fine. What the fuck ever.

It just makes me tired. I don't even want to talk about it with anyone, and I really don't want to argue about it with anyone or pull it together to explain myself.

So I am going to let her sing the fricking songs, and I am not going to make a big deal out of it, and I am not going to complain to the music teacher or the principal or even to RW. I've complained here, and that's it. I'm done. The end.

On the bright side:

Blog fodder!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Oh, my, look at the time! the Mermaid Girl's in the bathtub so will make this quick.

1. Thank you all for the music advice! Now I have lots of non-wrist-slitty artists to check out. Also my brother sent me an MP3 file that was very cheery.

2. I helped set up the book fair at MG's school this afternoon. In my past life as a school librarian, I spent so many years FREAKING THE FRICK OUT right around this time as the book fair took over the library. Now that that chapter of my life is over, I can reveal that I always hated the book fair, and I'm wondering now if a lot of that wasn't because it always happened in NOVEMBER. (Hmm... and March. So, maybe it wasn't seasonal after all.) Anyway it was lovely to just be a parent helper and spread out the tablecloths and arrange the displays and things, and then go HOME.

3. Actually, after the book fair setup I stood outside in the lovely sunshine with the fallen leaves all around me while MG played on the school playground and everyone else chatted. I never do have much to say to the other parents/grandparents, but I didn't mind. It was just so restful and idyllic.

4. I had this strange feeling about it, though, and kept wondering why it felt like it had been so long since I'd picked MG up at school. Then I remembered: It has been a long time! It's been over a month! Because while my mom was here, she did pickup almost every day, while I worked or napped or blogged or freaked out over my to-do lists or whatever else I did. Thanks, Mom!

5. MG got 23 out of 23 on her geography test. So I guess all that singing was not in vain.

OK now off to scrape my prune of a girl out of the tub.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Teh Gloom

I managed to stave it off for a couple of weeks what with the election and then with getting riled up about Prop. 8, but it will be held back no longer:

The November Gloom has arrived.

I felt it descend upon me this afternoon while I was on the reference desk, and it was all I could do not to lie down in a fetal position right then and there in front of the online catalog terminals.

"Music!" I thought. "I need music!" So I went to pull CD holds.

And I saw: Cat Power, the Be Good Tanyas, the Smiths, the Cowboy Junkies.

I revised my thought: "I need music that will not make me want to slit my wrists!"

I looked up "Laura Love" in the catalog: Nothing. I looked up "Dar Williams" in the catalog: Nothing except a guest spot on a Dan Zanes CD, and a couple of children's novels that she wrote, one of which I read a few years ago and by which I was, alas, disappointed. She's better at songs, I think.

There is no real conclusion to this post. Except that the archives reveal that I was hit with a similar gloom about this time last year, which reminds me that my friend Jody made me a set of three painstakingly-compiled CDs at arout that time, which might do the trick if I can find them.

Also, that this morning, before Teh Gloom hit, the song that was running through my head was "Something to Sing About," courtesy of the Mermaid Girl and the Canadian Geography test that she was last-minute cramming for this morning. I don't know how she did on the test, but she sure has memorized the heck out of that song.

All together now!

"From the Vancouver island to the [clap!] Alberta highland
Cross the prairies, the lakes, to Ontario's towers
From the sound of Mount Royal's chimes,
Up to the Maritimes,
Something to sing about,
This land of ours."

Oh! there's a parody on YouTube! It should give you a rough idea of the tune, too. Though MG sings it a bit faster, with more verve.

Actually, that parody was pretty cheering on its own.

All right, then! Carry on!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Random Bullets of Sunday Puttering

*I've been reading all the updates and posts and photo streams from all over I can find about yesterday's protests and wishing I'd been there, but being glad that there's so much information available. The last political action or movement that I remember feeling anything like so energized about was the anti-WTO protest back in 1999, and the Internet was much less developed back then.

*Also I find myself feeling much more relaxed about all the brouhaha and infighting since I thought of that analogy to the women's suffrage movement. I guess nothing makes an old English major happy like an analogy.

*The Renaissance Woman has been putting up hooks and coat racks all over the place, so our house is no longer dotted with random piles of clothes. It's looking better.

*Did you know that the Heimleich Maneuver is no longer called the Heimleich Maneuver? According to our CPR/First Aid instructor yesterday, Mr. Heimleich wanted money for it, so now it's called the J-Thrust.

*The First Aid guy was a fireman, and he was full of offhand sarcastic quips and stories. He also made fun of the library's First Aid kit. And he encouraged us to make fun of our (absent) boss, and swore a lot in a genial way, which always goes over well.

*After the class, I was helping one of my co-workers with her Facebook page, and noticed that she'd put in her status update that she was taking a First Aid class and it wasn't bad and "the instructor is a fireman!" I guess he was pretty easy on the eyes.

*He also made us practice everything over and over, on each other and on those weird limbless rubber dolls. I think I finally basically know what to do if someone should keel over in front of me. I had a similar class every two years at my old job but never really felt like I would know how to handle it in real life.

*The possibility of someone keeling over in front of me feels much less remote ever since a few months ago, when a guy had a heart attack at a small library branch where RW was the Librarian in Charge for the evening.

*She called 911, and found a patron who knew CPR, and the guy lived.

*But she said the ten minutes while she was waiting for the ambulance were the longest ten minutes of her life.

*The Mermaid Girl made chocolate chip pancakes this morning, mostly on her own, with only logistical and moral support and the smallest bit of just-to-make-sure stirring from me.

*It did take about an hour and a half, because she kept getting distracted by various things, at which point I'd go off and work on the computer, but it was her thing and she took charge of it and she did a good job.

*She even remembered to substitute protein powder for some of the flour, and did the math for that so it worked out.

*And the pancakes were yummy, too.

*MG has a test tomorrow, on all the provinces and territories and Great Lakes of Canada. She knows them all, which is more than I can say.

*She is growing up in a different time and circumstance from how I did, all right.

*Me, to my brother on the phone today: "Whenever I feel low, or sloggy, you know, November is so depressing and dark up here, I just think about Barack Obama, and I feel better. It's like...he's like the Bunny Planet of Presidents."

Saturday, November 15, 2008

After Reading Way Too Many Political Blogs

...which I am too lazy and short on time to link to here and now, though I might do so later:

The more I think about it, the more I think that same-sex marriage has more in common with the U.S. women's suffrage movement than with the Black Civil Rights movement.

Like women's suffrage, it seeks to remedy not a whole set of discriminatory laws and conditions, but one very specific law that, though it affects an entire class of people, doesn't affect everyone in that class equally. There are many queers who have absolutely no interest in getting married, and don't need to. Same-sex marriage won't help them at all, and might in fact make things harder for them in some ways by covering them with the blanket imperative to marry that has been standard for so long in the heterosexual world (hey, I read "Cathy"!). And the right to vote was in no way a panacaea for sexism, and didn't do much immediate good for the women who were mainly worried about, say, poverty, or an abusive spouse, or lack of decent legal birth control options.

Like women's suffrage, same-sex marriage is an issue that can be--and was, and is--hijacked for racist purposes (one argument for women's suffrage was that giving the vote to the flower of lily-white womanhood was going to cancel out the dangerous and scary votes of newly-enfranchised black men). Like women's suffrage, it's a progressive cause that can benefit or make more viable other decidedly non-progressive (Prohibition, anyone? Or, how about health care benefits that are tied to employment and/or marriage to someone with benefits?) causes.

Like women's suffrage, it can be easily attacked from the left, for being too bourgeois and having leaders who appear to be coming from relative privilege (remember the "Sister Suffragette" scene in Mary Poppins?), and, at the same time, attacked from the right for being too radical and subverting the way God wants things to be and the way things have always been. Like women's suffrage, it is occasioning dire predictions about how society as we know it will never be the same if it succeeds and will, in fact, go to hell in a handbasket.

And like women's suffrage, despite all the messiness, despite all of the imperfections encompassed within the proposed changes, despite its incompleteness and its inadequacies to address so many other injustices, it is the right thing to do.

It's not the only fight or maybe even the most important fight in the greater scheme of things. But it is the fight that is in front of American queers and their/our allies right now.

It won't do everything. It won't solve racism, institutionally or in the individual attitudes of way too many people, queer and straight. It won't do away with poverty and the evils of rampant capitalism. It won't even elimininate homophobia, for that matter.

That just means that after same-sex marriage is enshrined in law all over the United States, there will still be much, much more work to do.

And now I have to go finish cleaning the kitchen floor; the cat just snuck behind the stove again, got his claw caught on a metal edge, and peed all over the floor and himself in his panic.

And legally married or not, it is no fun to cook on a stove that smells like cat pee.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Day After Love Thursday

Fight the H8 in Your State

I resisted getting all political on my last post, mainly because I posted a link to it at the Love Thursday clearinghouse and it was my very first L. T. post and I didn't want to be a carpetbagger over there.

But now it is Mobilization Friday. So if you want people like me and RW to be able to express their/our love by getting married, and if the passage of Proposition 8 pissed you off or upset you or even unnerved you, and if you have an hour or two free tomorrow, please consider spending some time at one of these rallies. They're happening in all 50 states and many provinces of Canada and in lots of other countries as well.

There's one in downtown Vancouver, but I'll be in a first aid class for work, so I can't go. And, like Crunchy Granola, I'm not totally clear on exactly what the rallies outside of California (and maybe Utah) are aiming for. But it sure feels good to think of thousands and thousands and thousands of people all over the world, making our voices heard.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Love Thursday: 56 Reasons Why

With all the talk around the Internets about love and marriage, it seems appropriate, after lo these many years of reading Love Thursday posts at Woulda Coulda Shoulda and elsewhere, to write one of my own. I thought about saving this post for Valentine's Day or a birthday or anniversary, but today just seemed to call out for it.

Here are some reasons I love the Renaissance Woman and am grateful to be married to her:
  1. She's wicked smart.
  2. When you go to a show with her, she mutters under her breath about the sound cues.
  3. When you watch a period movie with her, she can (and does) point out all the out-of-period instruments being shown or played.
  4. She has really gorgeous hair.
  5. She can get more done than anyone else I know.
  6. Even when we lived in the States, she spelled words like colour and valour in the Canadian way, and also pronounced "project" "proe-ject".
  7. She makes book indexing sound hot.
  8. She's read children's books that I haven't read.
  9. She is always up for an adventure, especially if it involves a boat or a camper van.
  10. She is indefatigably optimistic when planning vacations and excursions and always thinks we can do about twice as much as it would ever occur to me to do. I probably never would've done or experienced half the things I have if she hadn't been enthusing and planning and nudging me along.
  11. She has a true appreciation of ice cream.
  12. She never uses electric lights on the Jul tree, only candles.
  13. She has introduced me to wonderful things like the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, tall ships, the Baltimore Consort's raunchy Renaissance songs, and scrambled eggs with cream cheese in them.
  14. Even though she'd never done library story times before we moved, she is now much in demand for her storytelling skills--she can even tell a felt board story/song while playing the guitar at the same time, a feat I've never heard tell of before.
  15. Weird and obscure reference questions make her really happy.
  16. Even when she was a kid, she never wanted to be "normal."
  17. She doesn't care how they do it in New York.
  18. She has a lovely singing voice.
  19. For her best college friend's wedding, she composed a song and wrote out the music on special paper.
  20. She composed a song for our wedding, too. A waltz.
  21. But she made sure that the first dance we danced that day was to an old Danish waltz, that made her extremely unsentimental grandmother cry.
  22. She encourages me to do things when I don't think I can do them.
  23. When she's procrastinating, she vacuums.
  24. She loves the Mermaid Girl with all her heart and soul.
  25. She is always learning, and I learn from watching her live in the world with her open and curious mind.
  26. She keeps her friends for a long time.
  27. She volunteers.
  28. She has an excellent sense of direction, except in New York City.
  29. She is a great bluffer.
  30. She replaced all the crappy doors in our old house with gorgeous old doors, mostly scavenged from various places like junkyards and hotels that were being torn down.
  31. She has the spirit of a freelancer, which means she's always coming up with ideas and figuring that one out of four or five will actually happen.
  32. And when it does happen, it can be amazing.
  33. Without being an ostentatiously political person, she can toss off an incisive political analysis of everything from office power dynamics to health care to the lesbian s3x wars of the 1980's.
  34. She's a little unclear on some aspects of American history, on account of growing up in Canada, but she can tell you all about the Pig War and the Plains of Abraham.
  35. And she can identify more British monarchs than anyone else in a room, even a room full of Canadian librarians.
  36. My favorite picture of her from our (first) wedding is actually from the wedding rehearsal: she has a fancy clip in her hair, and she's wearing a beautiful purple dress, and she's leaning intently over some meticulously drafted diagrams, one hand pointing to an exact spot on the paper, as she explains to all the gathered spouses of the Wedding Party exactly what they have to do in order to quickly and efficiently turn the room and set up the tables between the ceremony and the reception.
  37. She and the Mermaid Girl have the exact same pointy chin.
  38. Even when she is scared of things, like job interviews and dentists and the mess in the basement, she overcomes her fear and does them.
  39. She invents words, like "outcluded" (when you are left out of something) and "vulch" (that thing some people do when they watch the food on your plate and then ask if you're done with it so they can have it. Also can apply to following people in parking lots so you can have their spot).
  40. She loves diners, especially old-fashioned ones with all-day breakfast.
  41. And she loves surprises.
  42. She picks people up at the airport.
  43. When, very very early in our relationship, I woke her up in the middle of the night because I couldn't figure out how the state of Oregon could maintain its infrastructure and services if it didn't have a sales tax, she did not break up with me or clomp me on the head but instead muttered helpfully, "property tax," and went back to sleep.
  44. She understands the language of cats.
  45. And also the language of insurance forms.
  46. She appreciates talents in me that I didn't know were anything special, like the ability to assemble Ikea furniture.
  47. She likes to do something different for every birthday so that she'll be sure to remember it. Once she went up in a hot-air balloon. Another time she had a croquet party. Another time she made a bunch of her friends hike through the rain and mud to a hot spring she'd read about.
  48. She taught me how to henna my hair.
  49. She has a deep appreciation of a lot of things about Judaism, but she doesn't want to be Jewish herself, partly because she prefers disorganized religion to organized religion.
  50. She likes and appreciates my family.
  51. For fun, she organizes singing groups.
  52. She likes to take the Mermaid Girl on bike rides.
  53. She believes that many different times are happening all at once, right now.
  54. She knows how to install flooring, how to create sound effects for a storm or a subway, and how to construct a Boolean search to find anything that anyone in the whole universe might want to know.
  55. She was nerdy before nerdy was cool.
  56. She has beautiful eyes.
  57. She makes me laugh.
Happy Love Thursday, everyone.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Why We Keep Her Around

Quick note: while I was out last night happily eating barbecue (second time in two weeks!) the comment spammers returned, and so I have reinstituted the captchas. Sorry.

So, last night we were playing Carcassonne. This is a game that all three of us love, but MG said she didn't want to play this time, she'd just sit on the couch and knit. (My mom just taught her to knit and she's working on it but I think is finding it hard going, and neither RW nor I have the expertise to help her.)

Doesn't that sound cozy? Well. Not so much.

Because she proceeded to perch herself on the couch and KIBITZ in the most irritating way possible. I should move here. The Renaissance Woman should move there. I SHOULDN'T make that move because it was MEAN to RW. And in between she would start up conversations, mostly with RW, that were totally distracting me while I was trying to think about my move. It's not like I want total silence, but...isn't there something between total silence and a big conversation-fest while two of the three people in the room are playing a game of strategy?

Very soon she had slid off the couch altogether, and was just sitting on the floor next to us, watching. But not playing. And CLICKING with her mouth, into the silence while we contemplated our moves.

"Is this driving you crazy, Mommy?" (Cheerfully, amiably.)

I allowed as how it was, but that I'd been trying not to say anything about it until I just couldn't stand it any more.

"Well, tell me when you can't stand it any more, okay?"

I cracked and admitted I couldn't stand it any more.

"Okay!" the clicking stopped, but was replaced by tapping on the floor.


Then she volunteered to move our markers for us after each move. Which would've been fine, except that she'd pick up a marker and promptly forget what number it had been on, and how many points forward she was supposed to move it, so that it quickly became unclear who had how many points.

By then, she was getting pretty physically wild, her feet nudging at the game pieces so that we couldn't tell where our cities were supposed to be or whose markers were on which city.

Finally, I snapped at her, and she snapped at me, and RW snapped at both of us to COOL DOWN ALREADY.

After which MG flounced out of the room, announcing, "I'm LEAVING, Mommy. Are you HAPPY?!?"

Truth is, I was. Though it's also true that the game just wasn't as much fun without MG there. Or without the cheerful, interested, non-obnoxious version of MG who COULD have been there, and who was, sometimes, intermittently with the Button-Pushing Express.

On the other hand: this morning, her hair was getting in the oatmeal again, so I volunteered to get her a barette. When she saw the green flowered plastic one, she said, "Oh! I thought it might look like this! Except I was expecting you would bring the blue one with the teddy bear playing a fiddle on the roof."

A teddy bear? On the roof? She had a barette with a teddy bear on a roof? There was once a cat with a fiddle, but a bear?

"Yes!" she nodded. "There was! A teddy bear on the roof."

And she burst into song, to something like the tune of "Knees Up Mother Brown": "Teddy bear on the roof! Teddy bear on the roof! Teddy bear, teddy bear, teddy bear, teddy bear, Teddy bear on the roof!"

And she sidled off to feed her fish and get dressed, a happy chorus of "Teddy bear on the roof!" wafting down the hall to us as she went.

It's a good thing she's entertaining, is all I can say.

On the other hand: if it's like this when she's eight, how on earth are we going to make it through adolescence?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Can't. Stop. Posting.

Protect real traditional marriage in California! Sign this petition! [as seen in the comments at Shannon Cate's Babble post.]

Srsly. Wouldn't it be swell if it got on the ballot? Ah, hypocricy, thy name is 8.
ETA: Oh. It's just an unofficial petition site, not, like, an actual petition that could work towards getting it on the ballot.
And someone in a comment below just complimenting me for being non-ranty, and now I just went and ranted. Ah, well. Sorry.

Also: people in the States, do you have the feeling that this is so? Because, that would be so, so, so great.

Aw, thanks!

I've been having a very merry time reading all the comments on my De-Lurking post. I had no idea so many people have been stopping by here, or that a bunch of you have been quietly following this blog for so long. It's a really nice feeling. Actually, it's such a nice feeling that I'm going to just keep comment verification off for a while, at least until the spammers come back.

Thanks for commenting, and (whether you comment or not) for reading.

Confidential to Amy: check yr Facebook ;-)

Confidential to Rachel: Yes, you are more popular than Andrew Sullivan. Cuter, too.

Monday, November 10, 2008

non-random bullets of reflection, mostly about my own bellybutton

*The swirling thoughts I have about the Proposition 8 aftermath in California are refusing to resolve themselves into a coherent train of thought, so I'm just going to go with ye olde Random Bullets. Even though this isn't really random.

*As you may have heard, there's lots of talk about the high proportion of African-American voters in California who voted to ban same-sex marriage, and what this means about the mainstream gay movement's failures in outreach, and the African-American community's (insofar as there is one monolithic "community", which--hello?-- there is not) attitudes about queers, and etc. etc. blah blah blah divide-and-conquer-the-oppressedcakes.

*Shannon at Peter's Cross Station has some very excellent things to say about this. So does Pam at Pam's House Blend. So: what they said.

*Especially Shannon's Point #1: "Race-baiting was a huge weapon in this campaign from the primaries to the general election. The media loves it and is looking to divide us into neat segments: the Blacks versus the Gays. Resist this." [emphases mine]

*I've also been thinking very, very hard about Shannon's point #4, in which she calls out the queer community for co-opting the language and imagery of the African-American Civil Rights struggle when talking/writing about the fight for same-sex marriage rights.

*My very very hard thinking is not unrelated to the fact that I wrote a rather impassioned and highflown post just after the election in which I quoted Martin Luther King about the arc of the moral universe, etc.

*And now, even though nobody said anything to me about it, I feel sort of embarrassed after reading Shannon's post.

*Also, conflicted.

*Because, on the one hand, political movements are inspired by and learn from and borrow from each other all the time:

*The abolitionist movement used the imagery of the (apocryphal) Hebrew Exodus from Egypt. The Civil Rights movement's tactics and language were inspired in part by Gandhi's activism in the cause of India's independence. The feminist and gay rights movements in the 1970's owed much of their strategy and imagery to the Berkeley Free Speech movement, the anti-Vietnam movement, and, yes, the Civil Rights movement.

*Also, MLK was just such an incredible speaker, people always want to quote him. Me, too.

*But on the other hand, Shannon's absolutely right. It's the worst kind of disrespect to grab up the example of one people's misfortune or struggle and use it to ennoble one's own cause or to make some vague point about the "universality" of suffering or evil or whatever. It's just yucky.

*For a literary example of this, cf. The Boy With the Striped Pyjamas.

*Or almost all children's fiction about Native Americans.

*Also cf. the way--Sarah Vowell did an excellent piece on this in This American Life and in Time Magazine a few years ago--every time you turn around, some rock star or mime is comparing him or herself to Rosa Parks. No one is the Rosa Parks of queer rights or dairy pricing or whatever. Rosa Parks was Rosa Parks. Period. It's creepy to claim that mantle when you didn't earn it.

*Because it's true that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere (MLK, again.)

*But not all injustice is the same, or looks the same, or has the same effects. Nonrecognition of same-sex marriage is not the same as Jim Crow. Jim Crow was not the same as Apartheid in South Africa. etc. They're all bad, but they're different.

*So it's a thin and blurry line, the line between legitimate inspiration and offensive co-optation.

*Truth is, if I'd known there was going to be the big kerfluffle there's been regarding race, I might not have put what I said quite the way I said it, at least not on a public blog.

*Instead, I might have quoted Harvey Milk, who said "Hope will never be silent."

*It doesn't have quite the same ring to it, though.

*Or even, simply, "Love always wins."

*Which is pretty inspiring to think about.

*Even though it's a quote from Tuesdays with Morrie, which is a perfectly nice book but doesn't quite have the same gravitas as a source.

*I guess someone in this struggle will just have to come up with something good.

*But it won't be me, tonight.

*Because now it is late and I must go to sleep.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Day 8: A Cautionary Tale

There are Big Things I've been turning over in my mind, fallout from the election and suchlike, and also war. Stuff that I haven't figured out myself yet, so you will probably soon be subjected to one or maybe more of those long tortured posts wherein the writer works out her ideas even as she is composing, so that it scatters all over the place and ends up contradicting itself three or four times.

But for now: nothing to do with politics, but a story I've been saving so here it is:

Some years ago, I went to visit some relatives who shall remain nameless. Suffice it to say that they were, and are, highly responsible and conscientious people.

I slept on a bed in the spare room which doubled as the TV room. At one point, the book I was reading fell down between the bed and the wall, and when I reached down to retrieve it, I also found a Blockbuster videocassette (this was before DVDs and Netflix) that looked like it had been lost down there for a while.

I presented it to my hosts, expecting them to be pleased. Imagine my surprise when, instead, I confronted a pair of ashen visages, fixated in horror on the video in my hands.

"We thought we'd brought that back," one of them finally stammered. "Months ago. The store said we hadn't, and wanted to charge us, so we gave them such a hard time. We argued, and insisted, and finally they backed off. And now..."

My host trailed off in silence, as we all stared at the video, erupting finally in a wave of bleak laughter suitable for the end of an O. Henry story.

As a librarian, I don't often have to deal with insistent patrons who don't think they should be charged for a lost item (that unhappy task falls to the circulation staff). But when I do--and sometimes they're right, and sometimes not--I always think of this story.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A Little Bit of Meta for the Weekend

When I started this blog I wanted to write regularly, and I wanted to make friends, and I did both those things. Of course, I noticed that other people were doing more than that: getting their name out there, doing professional networking, even making real money. I've actually done a very small tiny bit of that, under my real name [and if you don't know about my other sites and want to, email me & I'll send you the links], and a couple of years ago, in anticipation of moving and maybe having more writing time and less regular income, I put up a BlogHerAds link on this site (over to the left, there).

The ad's still there, and the BlogHerAds money, in the low two digits and mostly donated back out to whatever cause seems to need it, comes in a couple times a year. But this personal blog has never really hit the big time (partly due to my own lack of focused attention), and over the years it's become a quiet little backwater populated--as far as I can tell--by my friends and family and maybe a few serendipitous lurkers.

Actually I'm not entirely sure who reads, unless they tell me, because until last week I hadn't checked my statcounter for months.

Then, last Monday, a couple of major players linked to a post I wrote on this site, just as I was dusting off the keyboard to post every day in November for NoBloPoMo, and at a time when virtually everyone in the blogosphere was reading and surfing around online even more than usual. And in one day, more people viewed this site than in all of September and October added up together, maybe longer. The most readers I've ever had in one day, by a long ways.

I know because I couldn't resist checking my stats after the comments started coming in (and after I'd remembered my statcounter password). And while readership has dropped way off from the level of that one staggering day, some people have been coming back to check in, and new readers are still trickling in from the Daily Dish and Cosmic Variance.

So, this post is all by way of a very long-winded prologue to my own one-site De-Lurking Day request: Who are you, and where did you come from?

You can be anonymous if you want, and I've turned off comment verification captchas for today so as to minimize the hassle. But I'd love it if you'd comment and let me know.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Random Bullets of Other News

*I just ordered Olympics tickets for us for February 2010. All we want to see is figure skating, so I ordered three sets of figure skating tickets. Our request will go into a lottery of all the early-requesting Canadian residents, so we could end up with no tickets at all, or with tickets to three insanely high-profile figure-skating events, or something in between.

*Speaking of which: today, Friday November 7, is the last day for Canadian residents to get first crack at Olympics tickets. So order by midnight if you want 'em!

*Having written the above, I'm embarrassed to admit to being psyched about this at all, or to having ordered tickets, because so many of my fellow Vancouver-area-ites are--rightly--embittered and pissed off about all the money and resources being siphoned into Olympic preparations. But, well, I still remember watching Sarah Hughes skate for the gold back in 2002, and how amazing and what a high it was to see her, and it would be SO FRICKIN COOL to be there in person for something like that. So we're giving it a shot.

*A few weeks ago I interviewed for a job I really wanted. Tuesday morning I got the call telling me I was, as they kindly put it around here, "not the successful candidate." I was so wrapped up in the election that I basically forgot about it for a day or two, but now I've remembered and I'm bummed.

*Halloween! It happened, last week! the Mermaid Girl was--get this--Anne of Green Gables. I bought some spray-on-wash-out hair dye for her. Our bathtub is still pink from the washing out part.

*Her school librarian dressed as Babymouse. How cool is that??

*Once again, despite my fond hopes for this new location, we got virtually no trick-or-treaters.

*On the plus side: lots of leftover fun-size chocolate bars.

*Though we gave some of them to the tenants downstairs.

*The tenants continue to be amazingly sweet, endearing, and responsible, but I think they have discovered controlled substances.

*And girls.

*My mom took me out for barbecue last night, with cornbread and potato salad and beans and the works.


*She's been taking us out a lot, and cooking a lot. I'm not sure how we will feed ourselves when she leaves next week; I think I have forgotten where my stove is.

*And my dishwasher.

*She's been looking after the Mermaid Girl a lot, too. She's teaching her to knit.

*They knitted legwarmers for MG's Amurkan Girl dolls. And a skirt, and a hat.

*MG's friend Noella came over this morning before school, due to her parents' complex work schedule.

*MG had NO TROUBLE getting to school on time today.

*I wonder if we could have Noella come over every morning?

*When I called home on my break this evening, my mom reported that MG was deep in a book. And not a Rainbow Magic book, either; something by Roald Dahl.

*When I came home at 9:30, I found my child in bed, curled up with The BFG, which she had almost finished.

*She didn't object when I took it away, though.

*And she grinned sleepily when I promised she could read some more in the morning if she got ready for school early.

*The leaves are still falling.

*And it's dark much of the day and the rain is falling down in torrents.

*And I didn't get that job.

*But even aside from Recent World Events,

*(And not to bring down the evil eye or anything,)

*Things are...pretty okay.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Penn Station, or the Center of the Universe

I grew up within the orbit of New York City, and to me New York City was the center of the universe. I'd always assumed--without really thinking about it--that my own home city simply was the center of the universe, until something that happened when I was seventeen.

I'd spent three weeks at a summer program in rural Pennsylvania, and was making my own way home. I'd been dropped at the local train station and, dragging my duffel bag behind me, approached the ticket counter and asked for a one-way ticket to Penn Station, in The City.

"Which city did you want?" the ticket agent quite reasonably asked.

I boggled. I literally couldn't understand what he meant. Which city?

"The CITY," I repeated testily, thinking that maybe this guy was a bit slow. "Penn STATION."

"Right," he said, no doubt thinking the same about me. "Which. City?? Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh, or where?"

Now, I had heard of these cities. I'd even visited Philadelphia. But despite my purported giftedness, the idea that, to someone within driving distance of New York City, anyplace else could be referred to as THE city--and that those places might have their own Penn Stations--was something that had never occurred to me.

New York wasn't even on this guy's list, though.

I suddenly felt very, very young, and very stupid, and very provincial.

I covered my embarrassment with bluster and said--like the very stereotype of an obnoxious New Yorker, I'm sure--"New York City. Penn Station, in New York City."--and he sold me my ticket, and I went home.

But I didn't go home the same; for the very first time in my life I began to have a glimmer of understanding that not everyone did, in fact, look at the world from the same perch as me. Literature is supposed to give a person that understanding, and I certainly read enough, but sometimes there's nothing like a good in-person clomp on the head to really bring it home. That one encounter did a lot more to permanently open my worldview than the supposedly educational three weeks I'd just had at camp.

It's not a uniquely New York experience to assume, as a kid, that everyone lives and thinks the same way you do-- my dad likes to tell the story of my midwestern suburban cousins' visit to New York, during which one of them, seeing kids tossing a ball on the streets, asked, "Why don't they just play in their yards?"--but I think the sense that no place outside your own home is really real is heightened when you live in an all-encompassing, 800-pound gorilla of a place. Like New York City. Or the United States.

It's weird to be living outside my home country during a huge, historic event like this election. On the one hand, I'm truly understanding for the first time that the United States isn't just another country, that it really is--as my mom put it yesterday when we were taking about this--the other country, for so many people outside its borders. Because it's a world power in politics and culture, and because it's a nation of immigrants--citizens of every country (and this is particularly true in Canada) have friends and relatives there. Everyone has a stake in America, and what transpires there feels very personal to more people than I really got before we moved.

My cousin captured this in a couple of posts about her recent travels in France. And I felt it too, on Tuesday, when, after a morning spent glued to the Internets, I tore myself away for a doctor's appointment and, I thought, away from thoughts of the election for an hour or two. Only when I got in the van and turned on the radio, what should be playing on the CBC but a jumpin' song from a Quebequois band, whose chorus was a French translation of "Yes We Can" ("Si Nous Peux," I think). They followed up with an interview with a woman in Montreal, a recent Haitian immigrant who said she'd been calling all her relatives in the U.S. and reminding them to vote.

On Wednesday, at the end of a work-related phone chat, my boss said, "Now, please tell me you voted! You voted, right?" And the first excited phone call I got on Tuesday night just after the election was called wasn't from a friend in the States but from Uncle Skaterboy, calling from the West End of Vancouver.

On the other hand, in some ways the United States is just another country, really, and not everybody's daily life and emotional state hinges on what happens there. When the mom of one of MG's friends called on Tuesday to arrange a childcare exchange, she asked in a perfectly ordinary way how things were going, and seemed taken aback when I babbled something about being excited about the election. "Oh, right," she said, and I could almost hear her shrug as she said, "The States."

It reminded me of the shock I felt--still, even after that world-cracking experience at the train station--five or six years later in Seattle when I saw someone (the Renaissance Woman, as it happens) proudly displaying a button that read "We don't care how they do it in New York."

I remember, I bristled when I first read it. Then I thought: oh! right! I guess not everyone has to care. And maybe, yeah, it could be irritating for people from one particular place to think that their place is the only one that matters. After all, I'd just moved all the way across the country, in large part because I'd had enough of living in New York. Maybe it was even a Good Thing, that there were different places, and different things to care about.

And lo, I did learn, and became less provincial. Even so, I'm still happy and proud, even after all these years, to be from New York City.

And these past few days, I've been happy and proud to be from, and still be a citizen of, that other 800-pound gorilla, the United States of America.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Two Prayers

Last night, sitting between me and my mom in the darkened living room to watch Obama's speech to the nation and the world from Grant Park, MG was quiet. She was so, so zonked--it had been a long and exciting evening--but she didn't interrupt or ask zillions of questions about every unfamiliar word, as she sometimes does when she's tired. I think she understood what an important moment it was.

Though she did keep murmuring, "Imagine, if your dad was about to be president!" and, "They're going to get a puppy!"

Just before bedtime, inspired by a commenter on the political polling site, I said a Shehecheyanu with the Mermaid Girl for Obama's election. The Shehecheyanu is the prayer you say on the first day of a holiday, or for any new event. In our household, we've said it when MG lost a tooth, when she put her head underwater for the first time, when we had our first Shabbat in our new house. We said it when we moved up to Canada. We said it at our first wedding. Whenever something new and good and special happens, it's a Shehecheyanu Moment.

Its literal translation is "Blessed are You, Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe [the standard opener for a Hebrew blessing] who has given us life, sustained us, and brought us to this day."

Like so many other people, I'm heartsick about the passage of Proposition 8 in California. Andrew Sullivan wrote a post about it this morning that choked me up and bouyed me up at the same time. He uses a phrase, "the long arc of inclusion," that harkens back to a quote from Martin Luther King's speech to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967:

"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

I'd heard it cited often, but had to look it up this morning to get the exact phrasing right. I'd always thought it was "The arc of history is long." Close, but not exactly the same meaning.

From some lights, it seems true today, and something to celebrate with a world full of Shehecheyanus. Looking at California, I can only hope that the arc is still bending. Based on the proportion of young people opposed to restricting same-sex marriage, it seems to be so.

The arc of the moral universe bends towards justice. Like Anne Frank's quote about people being basically good at heart, I'm not even sure if that's true. But I can only hope so. It makes a good prayer, anyway, if one were a praying person: Please, Spirit of the Universe, if there is such a thing, or if not, then combined spirits of all of us together: Make the arc of history match that of the moral universe, and bend towards justice.

And bend it as soon as you, or we, can.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Eleven Election Memories

1. 1972: Taking a walk around the block shortly after we moved to New Jersey, when I was five or six. A kid from around the corner stood in my way on the sidewalk and demanded "Who are your parents voting for? We're voting for Nixon." I wasn't sure what to say; I was pretty sure we were voting for McGovern, but I didn't want to get into a big fight. (In retrospect, that kid's parents must have been among the very few Nixon voters in our suburb, which might have been better described as an annex of the Upper West Side, but with lawns.)

2. Maybe the same year, or if later, not much later; or maybe even earlier, before we left New York: my mom taking me to vote with her, in an elementary school gym. I remember the crowds of people; the repurposing, for an important grownup purpose, of a place that was normally for kids; the dark privacy of the voting booth, with its half-curtain that my mom let me pull shut, and the mysterious and very very cool levers.

3. Summer, 1980, In the back seat of the car, driving home from a family vacation with my dad, his girlfriend, and her kids (I think my brother was at camp), listening to Reagan accepting the Republican nomination on the car radio. "He's going to win," my dad's girlfriend declared, in the definitive way she said a lot of things, and me feeling like that couldn't be true, he couldn't win, because he was wrong; everyone I knew hated him, so how could he win?

4. 1984: My first election, by absentee ballot, from college. I filled out the ballot in the third floor common room: filled in the little oval for Mondale and Ferraro, slipped it in the envelope, and thought that it should feel more momentous somehow, not so prosaic.

5. 1988: I'd moved to Brooklyn, but my registration was still on the Upper West Side where I'd lived in my cousin's apartment for the summer right after graduation, so I took the subway up to vote. When I signed the voting rolls, I saw my cousin's name, listed just above mine though she was in Boston by then. Finally, I got to vote in the way I thought of as real: the lines, the booth, the curtain, the levers. If you wanted, you could pull one big lever at the top to vote the straight Democratic line, but I voted each position separately, just to hear that satisfying thunk.

6. 1990-1991 or so: Once again, I registered to vote right after moving (to Seattle, this time) and then moved to a different neighborhood shortly afterwards. It took me a year or two to change my registration, so in the meantime I went back to vote with the friend from whom I'd sublet when I first moved, and at whose address I'd registered. We usually made an evening of it; I'd go over to her house for dinner, and then we'd walk over to the local elementary school. I was disappointed that out on the West Coast there were no levers or curtained booths: just flimsy little structures like at the DMV, and paper ballots with ovals to fill in, like a standardized test.

Later, the friend and I fell in love and got married. So you could say, I guess, that those voting dinners were among the Renaissance Woman's and my first dates. Though we didn't think of it that way at the time.

7. 1992: Walking bach from the voting booth to my apartment, buzzing with it, all around me the excitement and buzz that maybe, finally, somebody good was going to win. Everybody: us young hipster types, scraggly old guys on the street, waiting and watching TV and listening to the radio and asking each other if we'd voted. My friend in San Francisco said there was partying in the street that night.

8. 1992, just after the election, going over to a friend's group house and seeing in the hallway a cut-out article from the New York Times: a checklist of Clinton's campaign promises, so readers at home could keep track of whether and how he fulfilled them during his presidency. I still think of that article, and wonder how it scored out in the end. I wasn't keeping track, by then.

9. 2000: I was taking Tuesday afternoons off that fall to cover at home while RW taught an indexing class. So I was home the afternoon of Election Day, just me and the baby Mermaid Girl, hanging out in the living room and listening to NPR. When they announced that Gore had taken Florida, I clapped her little hands together for her, chanting "Gore won Florida! Gore won Florida!" I felt like I could see it all laid out ahead of me: this baby's future, her early childhood, the start of her school years, all with a President who'd be looking out for her and for us and for the things we believe in. It sounds corny, but that's how I felt.

Well, we all know how that turned out.

10. 2004: After we dragged ourselves and four-year-old MG to a MoveOn meeting wherein our child was inadvertently introduced to the concept of American Girl dolls, RW somehow blinked at the wrong time and ended up a Precinct Leader, and we spent several days just before the election doorbelling our neighbors. Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, just the act of doing something made me feel a little better about the impending election: crunching through the autumn leaves, talking to people, getting out the vote. On the day itself, I tried to be optimistic, but in hindsight the main thing I remember is a pervasive feeling of gloom and despair. Like we'd done all we could, and that was something, but there was no way this could end well.

11. Today. When I woke MG up I couldn't resist a little plug: "This is a very important day!" I tweedled, while she groaned and pulled the covers back over her head. She dawdled, as usual, and then tried to convince me that she didn't have time to brush her teeth-- did I want her to be late?? Then she insisted that the tag on the back of her jeans was bothering her, and I had to cut it off right away, yes, while she was brushing. When--predictably-- the scissors poked her during that attempt, she burst into tears, her mouth full of toothpaste. "This is going to be a bad day," she sobbed. "I can just tell. Already."

It was all I could do not to yell, You take that back! But I just said, "You don't know that for sure," and handed her her backpack and shoved her out the door. Her mind isn't really on the election; it's here, on the here and now, her breakfast and the homework in her backpack and whether she has gym today. I wish I could take her to see me vote like some of my invisible friends are doing. I wish I could even take her to the Democrats Abroad party this evening, but it's at a pub and kids aren't allowed.

So we'll be here, tonight, me and my daughter and my mother (RW will be at work), watching the news feeds and listening to the radio, and waiting. And hoping MG's words this morning weren't prophetic, but rather a sop to the Evil Eye. And hoping she remembers today.

Monday, November 03, 2008

As I hastily shove the metaphorical dirty dishes into the dishwasher

I snuck onto my email from work and found that lo and behold I'd been linked to by Andrew Sullivan. So, welcome, Daily Dish readers! Hi! Come on in! Don't mind the mess! Or the kid clutching the weird pink beeping electro-pet and doing cartwheels in the corner!

ETA: Turns out the same post was also linked by Cosmic Variance. (thanks for the tip, Rachel!). So welcome also Cosmic Variance readers! I don't think there have ever been so many physicists and politicos over here, separately or combined. Here, have some leftover Halloween candy!

Also, if you've a mind to, it's not too late to donate to the efforts to defeat Proposition 8. It's really important. Thanks.

For Day 3: Poop! And pee! It's come to this so quickly!

I don't think I've even mentioned that my mom is in town. And she's been here for almost three weeks, and is staying another week and a half.

It has been GREAT. And one thing that's helped it be great-- for all of us--is that my mom has had her own place for the bulk of her visit. She's been housesitting for some friends of ours, the family of MG's new friend Anya, while they've been out of town. Anya only lives a few blocks away. So my mom has had privacy and autonomy, we've had privacy and autonomy, and she's still come over every day and gotten to spend time with us and help out with MG. It's been swell.

Now Anya's family is back, and so my mom's staying with us for the next ten days. So far it's working out fine; she is an excellent houseguest. But it's a little challenging for all four of us (five if you count the cat, and he DOES, I can tell by his baleful glare) to share the single bathroom. Especially since MG sort of considers it her own personal private reading room and has been known to hang out in there for up to an hour or so.

The other day someone (I will draw a veil over the exact identity) had to threaten to pee on MG's floor to get her to come out, and it reminded me of when I used to live in a funky old group home with one bathroom. There were only three of us living there, but one of us (not me, but the Roommate from Hell) had a sister and a 2-year-old nephew who came to visit for a couple of weeks. During that time it was very hard to get in to use the bathroom. One morning I woke up and I had to GO. Very, very badly. But I could not get in. Also, I had to run very soon for a bus so I could get to my library school class. But I had to go, very, very, very badly.

So I went outside and peed in the yard by the side of the house. I will never forget it. It was raining out, too.

In related news, MG has a little pink electronic pet game thing that she bought with a book order. Her "pet" is not an animal but a humanoid girl figure who hatched out of an egg. It is creeping us out a little that she has a girl for a pet, even one made out of pixels, but whatever. Sometimes she puts the pet to sleep, and then she doesn't have to deal with it, but when it/she is awake it/she will beep periodically and then MG has to push various buttons to take care of her pet's varied needs. Pet Girl has to be fed, and played with, and I don't know maybe she has to have her clothes picked out or something, but the main thing I know about Pet Girl is that every time she poops (which she does a fair bit) MG has to push some buttons and WASH HER POOP AWAY.

If you do not take care of the poop, Pet Girl's Health Level drops and eventually she dies. We know because this is what happened to the first Pet Girl, at the tender age of 23 (really only a couple of days. Pet Girls age more quickly than the rest of us). MG was heartbroken and has been much more conscientious this time around. I feel secretly guilty about it because Pet Girl's console was lying around the living room at the time and I did hear the plaintive beeps and ignored them, figuring that Pet Girl was MG's responsibility, wasn't she?

I mean, she was, wasn't she?? Right???

Gah. I still feel kind of bad about Pet Girl I.

Anyway, Pet Girl II has been with us for a few weeks now, and she is 93 years old. MG has been washing her poop away the whole time. I can't decide whether to be proud of her for nurturing Pet Girl II to such a venerable age or just squicked out by the whole deal.

See, now, aren't you glad I'm posting every day? Who knows what fascinating and uplifting topic I'll explore tomorrow!