Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Pen Envy

I have a confession: I am a fool for good pens. I love it, love it, love it when ink flows silkily from a well-crafted writing implement. Sometimes, when I have a new pen in my hand, I make up things to write so that I can enjoy my sprawling scrawl on a blank sheet of paper. This could explain my penchant for crafting fiction. It could also explain my carpal tunnel syndrome.

Anyway, I was conducting a meeting the other day and I was distracted by this:

Oh, baby. Uni-ball has slicked up my favorite product in their catalog. And it comes in many pretty colors. I looked down at my own boring stick pen and decided I was going to need to make an office supply run. One Staples trip later, and I am the proud owner of a full-on rainbow of Uni-ball pens. Green, orange, red, pink, purple, blue, black, and blue/black. They are all mine!

Hey, it's the little thrills that keep life interesting, right? RIGHT?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yep. Livable.

Today I made a lunch run for the border. No, I really did! The closest Taco Bell i s just over the Prince George's/Montgomery County line. My part of Laurel is at the nexus of Howard, Anne Arundel, Prince George's and Montgomery Counties. Anyway, on my way back into Prince George's, I saw a sign with this message:

"Welcome to Prince George's County, a livable community."

That's it? Just livable? No qualifier, like extremely livable? Or exceptionally livable? Heck, I'd even take very. I mean, isn't "livable" the very least a community should be? Way to set the bar high, Prince George's. I mean, we wouldn't want to oversell the county or anything.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

No Words

Yesterday was not a good day on a national level, and on a personal level. Everyone knows about the national tragedy -- 33 Virginia Tech students (maybe staff?) were gunned down in a dorm and classroom on campus. That number could rise since there are another 12 people in the hospital with gunshot wounds. The enormity of this is almost unfathomable. Almost. Having worked on a college campus, I can uncomfortably fathom it.

College campuses are a unique network of trust and assumption of best intentions. Because of the concentration of young adults who are just starting to realize their vulnerability and their personal responsibilities, that's the only way it can function. On a more grown-up level, it's kind of like baby-proofing your house. College administrators try to protect campus residents from potential trouble spots as best they can, but you can't have 100% protection from every possibility.

Check the crime blotter in any college newspapers -- you'll see instances of laptops or iPods having been stolen (because the owner left them unattended in a public place), CDs and cash disappearing (because the dorm resident left her door unlocked), and warnings about leaving dorm doors propped open (because a roommate forgot her keys). So it's all too easy to picture one person taking advantage of the collective peaceable mindset of a campus and wreaking havoc. Today, instead of imagining it, all I have to do is turn on CNN.

So, what's the personal tragedy? The mother of a six-year-old girl in my children's daycare passed away yesterday morning. She'd been diagnosed with ovarian cancer last Fall which had spread to her liver. After chemo and surgery, she was in remission until a few weeks ago. When she couldn't keep any food down, she went to the doctor, thinking it was some kind of stomach flu. To be on the safe side, they did some ultrasounds, and found a mass on her liver that caused it to swell, and it was swollen to the extent that it was pushing up against her stomach and intestines. The doctors said there really wasn't anything they could do, and that she had anywhere from two weeks to two months to live. And ten days later, she's passed.

My heart just breaks for her family. And I can't help but think about my family, and how they would weather my untimely demise. I don't dwell on it. I pretty much banish the thought instantly. We've taken care of all of the "what if" paperwork -- living wills, regular wills, durable power of attorney -- but it's not like there's a plan for what to do emotionally. I don't think there can be, outside of knowing that the one left behind should hie him/herself to therapy. And perhaps hire a cleaning service.

Sorry. My defense is to joke when things are intense.

The fact that these two things transpired on the same day...well, I can't help but think that this little girl and her father will always, always, always be hyper conscious of the date of their loss. Whenever April 16 cycles back around in the future, the nation will remind us that it's the anniversary of the deadliest shooting spree in American history. I don't for a hot second believe that this family will ever fully recover from their loss, but healing is going to be harder when a national tragedy trumps your personal one.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I Think I Might Be Due Some Royalties

I can't be totally sure, but I think stole my high school yearbook picture for their online advertising:

I'll let you guess which one I think is me. Sheesh, I need to go home and yank out the Odyssey to see what's up. Oof, I'll have to wade through all of those K.I.T. messages...

The Funniest Comment I've Heard about the Whole Don Imus Thing

Before I share the funniest comment referenced in this here blog entry's title, I wanted to share my humble opinion on Don Imus' firing: it's not a free speech issue. Free speech means that you can say what you want and you can't be arrested for it (well, besides yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater when there is, in fact, no fire). Free speech does not mean that a radio conglomerate is required to leave a dummy on the air if doing so costs them millions of dollars in advertising revenue. It ain't personal, it's business.

So what's the brouhaha about? Methinks it's that there's a raging case of double (or triple, or quadruple) standards. We've got folks cherry-picking their outrage at racist, sexist, and other -ist remarks. We've been hearing lots of "What about hip-hop? And the radio stations that play it? They denigrate in their lyrics. So why don't we protest them and get them fired?" Essentially, some white folks are feeling like there's a zero-tolerance policy for their verbal missteps, but there's no parity in punishment when members of other races do the same thing.

To which I say: Nuh-uh. In February, 2005, Todd Lynn and Rick Delgado were fired from Hot 97. According to this article, Delgado was fired for his part in writing, producing, and airing "The Tsunami Song," and Lynn was let go for making "offensive, racially insensitive comments while on the air." This is a more apt comparison to Imus' case than the creation and broadcast of hip-hop.

Now, having gotten that out of the way...

I was in a 7-11 on Friday night as the Hubby and our kiddoes wended our way to New Jersey for a visit with a college pal. There was a fella, mid-forties by the look of him, railing against rap music and the hypocrisy of the self-appointed leaders of the black community for not tackling the harsh language ensconced within insta-hits like Mims' "This Is Why I'm Hot." It was clearly a regurgitation of whatever he'd seen on CNN that day.

Anyway, his argument was running out of steam whilst I waited to pay for my cuppa joe. He trailed off with one last slam at the hip hop community, stating, "I mean, have you even heard some of the things they say on Richard Simmons' Def Jam?"

I pricked my ears. I arched an eyebrow. I thought, "Wait, that sounds wrong. OH. He meant Russell Simmons' Def Jam." And I was very glad that Grumpy left the store, because I started giggling, and I did so all the way to the car. Can you imagine what Richard Simmons' Def Jam would look like? Maybe a little something like this:

Man, I wish that I had PhotoShop so that I could make the picture that's in my mind's eye. Oh well. I think this conveys the point.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Working vs. Stay-at-Home

Oh dear. The Mommy Wars are flaring up again. Articles like this have sparked books like this. Maybe it's my Democratic soul, but every woman needs to come to her own conclusions about how to combine (or not combine) work and children. It's not a decision based solely on finances, emotional fulfillment, obligation, independence, ambition, etc. It's a rich and complicated tapestry of all of these things, and then some. So can we please just say every woman, every parent, needs to make this choice for herself, and that we will respect that choice, whatever it might be? Sheesh.

Ya just gotta do what makes the most sense for your family, and only you know what that is. And these articles and books that prescribe the choice? I think they undergird the insecurities of the authors, and assume that mothers that make a different choice would see their point if they just thought about it a little more. Yeah, that's right, 'cause my decision was capricious.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Jane Says

On my way into work this morning, the local alterna-rock station (which is actually old fogey alterna-rock since they specialize in the Smiths, the Cure, the Pixies, etc.) was playing "Jane Says" by Jane's Addiction, which always makes me sigh a little. Not because I'm in love with the song, though I do like it a whole lot. It's just got a lot of sentimental value.

The first time I heard the song, I was in my high school photography lab. It was my senior year, and that was the year when I started making decisions based on who I wanted to be and not whom I wanted to please. Which is why I was in the photography lab in the first place -- in my original plan, my senior year was packed with academic courses. But then I arrived at senior year and realized that I really wanted to plug art classes into all of my elective spots. So, out went AP Biology and Calculus, and in came Fine Art II and Photography.

Anyway, a group of us were hanging out in the lab after school, dodging and burning some of our prints when "Jane Says" came on the radio. A sophomore, Tina, danced around because she loved the song. One of the other kids, Ben, laughed in a conspiratorial way (he had a tragically huge unrequited crush on her, and knew that she was enamored of the group). Tina had a dyed black bob and a nose ring before they were de riguer for art students. Ben had a slicked back ponytail and specialized in trench coats and combat boots. I was wearing a pastel pink and blue sweater and white jeans*.

We all got along well enough, but I sighed because in that moment I recognized that to be me, I had to accept that I wasn't going to be able to conform to the "art student" look, which likely meant that my art wasn't going to be taken seriously by the other kids in my classes. 'Cause you know, how can you produce interesting stuff if you aren't riddled with anxieties, insecurities, and loneliness? And wear a lot of black?

But guess who got an Honorable Mention in the student photography competition that year in the Towsontown Spring Festival, eh?

*I wouldn't wear that outfit now if you paid me.

Monday, April 09, 2007

What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

Since 1986, my parents have hosted Sunday supper at their house. That was the year that we moved and left the two eldest boys behind in the house in the city. Since they were 24 and 23 at the time and had packed social calendars, my parents wanted to ensure that we'd see them more than once a year. How do you attract the company of twenty somethings? With food, of course. And thus the weekly tradition was born.

Twenty years later, my parents are slowing down a little, and would like to move from a weekly tradition to an every-other-weekly tradition. The grandchildren are getting older and starting to have their own myriad obligations, so this will make life a little easier for everyone. With two sticky exceptions: birthdays and holidays. My mother wants to accommodate these days, which means that we don't have a neat and clean alternating week schedule. Nope, it's turned into a two weeks on, one week off, one week on, two weeks off madness.

To lock it down for everyone, I wanted to kibbutz with my mother and a calendar and a list of birthdays to hash this thing out. Mom would slap the calendar on her wall, and I'd e-mail the dates to everyone. The linchpin in all of this is the calendar. I really wanted a wall calendar, not just printouts from a computer calendar program or day planner pages. The printouts would get lost (remind me to tell you about the cyclones of disappearance that plagued my childhood), and Mom wouldn't reference the dayplanner. Hence the need for a wall calendar. Since Hubby was going to Target to pick up some miscellaneous household supplies on Friday, I added a wall calendar to his list. Seems simple enough, right?

Well, here's the conversation that we had on his way home from the store:

"Did you buy a calendar?"

"No," Hubby said. "I looked all over the place, but all I could find were girlie calendars."

"What's the problem with that?" I said, rolling my eyes. "My Mom won't care. And it's not like she'll know that you purchased the calendar." Sheesh, I thought, I didn't realize Hubby was this concerned about his masculinity.

"Really?" Hubby sounded doubtful that my Mom would care about the pictures of the calendar. I, on the other hand, know that she's never put intense thought into color coordinating window treatments with, say, the walls. I decided to emphasize this point.

"Yeah, really. Mom won't care if it's got flowers and puppies and kittens and fairies all over it. I just want something where I can write events and circle dates and then tack it up over her desk, so it doesn't matter what it looks like."

"Oooooooohhhhhhh," says Hubby. "I didn't mean that kind of girlie. I meant Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model kind of girlie."

I pause.

"Yeah, I think you're right. She wouldn't care for that kind of calendar."

"I know! I couldn't understand why you thought she'd be okay with that. And I couldn't figure out where she would hang it."

And then we collapsed in a fit of giggles, tears streaming from our eyes. Well, mine anyway. I couldn't see Hubby, but I'm pretty sure he was in the same state.

I'm still on the hunt for that calendar, though. I'm thinking I should be able to get a good deal. Tonight, I'm off to Office Depot.

Friday, April 06, 2007

I'm Holdin' Out for a Hero

Between this and JT, a crooner whose current album is dubbed "FutureSex/LoveSounds," being tapped to host Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards this year, methinks today's teens and tweens are hurting for role models.

When You're Hot, You're Hot

We didn't end up doing our big weekly grocery shopping trip last weekend because Hubby was out of town, and the intricacies of shopping with a little boy and an infant perplex me. How do you get both of them into a cart safely? Do you hustle them across a parking lot? Or park, the car, run to grab a cart, and leave them buckled in the car by themselves for a minute? Does the Boy ride in the big part of the cart, potentially standing and dancing while I meander through the aisles? And then how do you get everything, children included, loaded into and out of the car? All in all, it seemed like a shopping excursion is rife with more safety concerns than I can handle, so we skipped it. I figured we had enough of the staples in the house to tide us over, 'cause I'm always prepared for a nuclear holocaust or some other such disaster.

I figured wrong. Yesterday, we ran out of fat-free half & half and organic sugar. I look at that sentence, I feel very granola yuppie. Anyhoo, whilst I love the antioxidants in my single cuppa joe, the bitterness can get to me, so I cut it with dairy and sweetness. Go ahead, you purists, judge me. Anyway, I came to the realization at 7:00 a.m. that my regular brew was kind of undrinkable. No problem, I thought, I'll swing through McDonald's to pick up some of their new Premium Roast Coffee since it's on the way to work. And I've gotta say, it isn't bad. But that's not the point of this post.

Take a look at their Premium Roast Coffee cups:

I hope you can see that. It reads, "CAUTION: Handle with Care: I'M HOT."

I have long* believed that our litigiousness is dumbing us down. By this I mean that we try to squeeze cash out of people for not warning us about things that should be obvious, like the fact that fresh coffee is hot. This leads some to believe that if they aren't blatantly warned about something, then it must not be dangerous, and thus they abdicate responsibility for using their own common sense.

Back to McDonald's...we all know that McDonald's lost the hot coffee lawsuit. In a total CYA move, they put warnings on their coffee cups to let the Gentle Coffee Drinkers of the world know that the coffee is not cold, not tepid, but HOT. These warnings have been there since the mid-1990's, so what's my problem?

It's this: why did they anthropomorphizing the cup with "I'm?" Could it be that they saw a loophole in the old, "CAUTION: Coffee is Hot" warning? Like someone could make the argument that they thought they were being warned that coffee is hot in general, but that they didn't think the warning applied to the contents of that particular cup? Sheesh, I hope not.

We're not even going to get into the painful, how are we doin? thing on the side. I have half a mind to call the 800 number printed alongside this question and say, "We'd be doing much better if you remembered the 'g' at the end of doing. Or at least included an ' to show that you know you've contracted the word."

Uh-oh. Maybe I should've gone for the fully caffeinated brew. Clearly decaf has made me cranky.

*Long = ten years.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Little Slice of Motherhood

Here are excerpts from conversations that took place this morning while I prepared the children and myself for the day (for clarity's sake, these started around 5:30 a.m.). I'll let you guess which of us said what:

"Hi [Boy]. It's still night time. Come on up and lay down on Daddy's spot."

"[Boy], [the Girl] is still asleep. Please don't take her pacifier."

"Mommy? Look! It's Anthony*!"
"Yes, I see. Lay down and please be quiet. It's still night time."
"Mommy? Anthony loves me!"
"He sure does. Now please be quiet. It's still night time."

"[Boy], [the Girl] is still asleep. Please stop touching her."

***At this point, I have arisen, and am in the bathroom brushing my teeth. The Girl is in her co-sleeper, and the Boy is playing with his Wiggles rag dolls whilst snuggled up in my still-warm comforter.***

"Mommy? [The Girl] is awake! Her eyes are open!"
"Gurgle, gurgle, squeal!"
"Really? That's great! She doesn't need her pacifier. Please don't try to put it in her mouth."

***Now, I am squeezing the Girl into a new outfit that her Gram sent her. The Girl is two days shy of being five months old, and she comfortably fits into Carter's six-to-nine months sized clothes. Guess mother's milk is really enough for her right now, eh?***

"Mommy? I am GONE." (The Boy is standing in Hubby's closet. The ring of his pacifer is visible between the sleeves of some of Hubby's office shirts, as is his tummy, and his footie-pajama-clad legs.) "You can't find me!"
"Oh dear. What shall I do?"
"Gurgle, gurgle, squeal, coo!"
"Hmmm....maybe if I count to ten, [the Boy] will appear. [Girl], don't eat your sleeve. Here, gnaw on your pacifier."
"Mommy! I am GONE!"
"Oh, right! One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten!"
"Here I am!"
"Great! Now, it's your turn to get dressed. Come on over!"

***After hiding in three different spots -- behind the chair, in the shower stall, and under the blankets, I have managed to wrestle the Boy into his dinosaur shirt, army green pants, and his FAST sneakers that, as he says, are just like "Fa and Daddy's!"***

"Okay, buddy, it's time to go brush your teeth and wash your face."
"I need my wiggly friends!"
"They're on the bed, honey. Go ahead and get them." (This gives me a chance to load up his Sesame Street toothbrush with kiddie toothpaste. He returns clutching his dolls, which resemble a pompom of arms and legs.)
"Here, pal. Time to brush your teeth. No, [Boy], don't just eat the toothpaste. Okay, my turn!" Brush, brush, brush. "Open up! Say 'MONSTER.' Okay, great, time to wash your face."
"I need a drink of water!"
"Gurgle, gurgle, grunt, SQUEAL."
"Okay, here's a drink of water." (I glance worriedly at the Girl. History tells me I've got about ten minutes before she completely fills her diaper.)
"Done? Okay, let's wash your face." (Scrub, scrub, scrub.)
"Thanks, [Girl]." (I check myself to make sure I don't have any baby ectoplasm decorating my sweater. Phew, I'm clean. To keep it that way, I swipe at her gooey nose with the rag, then stand up to pitch it in the laundry.)
"Okay, [Boy] time to go downstairs!"
"Where are my friends?"
"You left them on the floor, pal. Pick them up and bring them downstairs with you."
"Oh, right."

***My trio hustles down the steps. I buckle the Girl into her carseat, pack up 16 ounces of Mommy's freshest for her meals, help the boy into his jacket, zip him up, and encourage him to put his Wiggles into a vinyl backpack so that they don't get wet in the drizzly mess awaiting us outside.***

"Here we go! We're using Mommy's brown car today. Grab your backpack."
"Coo, gurgle, gurgle."
"No, [Boy]. Please don't jump in the puddle."
"Mommy? The puddle is WET!"
"That's right, pal. Come this way." (I open the door for him.) "Climb on up and into your seat." (I pop the Girl into position and attach the seat belts in all the right spots, shut the door, and come around to the other side). "Okay, [Boy], sit down. Please stop playing with the safety harness. Thank you. Now we buckle, buckle, buckle. Okay, hands on knees!" (I shut the door, climb into my seat, and start the car.) "You can take your hands off your knees now. Here we go, we're on the way!"
"Yes, [Boy]?"
"I see trees!"
"So do I!"

***Five minutes later, we're at daycare, I've dropped off my friends, one of whom is dancing and one of whom is grumpily indicating she would like some breakfast.***

And that, my friends, is a typical weekday morning.

*Anthony = Anthony Wiggle rag doll.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


The Boy woke up approximately 87 times last night for no particular reason. That's not true, I guess. He's getting over a cold, but yesterday he didn't exhibit any symptoms, so I don't know what gives.

The Girl woke up approximately 87 times. She, too, is getting over a cold. Stuffy baby nose = difficulty nursing, which = smaller meals, which = more frequent meals. Joy.

Did these wakeful episodes coincide? Nope. They alternated. So I'm operating on approximately 87 seconds of sleep. Couple this with my having contracted a variant of the ebola virus two weeks ago, and you'll understand why my posting has taken a nosedive lately.

A propos of nothing, you could own KITT if you have the means.