Monday, December 22, 2008

Confidential to the Only Other Person I Know Who Can Fully Appreciate (or not) What A Diabolical SOB Ralph Vaughn Williams Really Was.

Yeah, you were all clever and disabled Comments on your post, so you force me to write here instead.

Your post, and that picture, made me smile more than I have words to express -- in many ways and for many reasons.

I wish you many, many more Happy Birthdays together.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rumors of my demise...

Hey, I'm not dead. (Ha! I am reminded that every time my daughter falls down or otherwise makes a loud calamitous noise where I cannot see her, she immediately yells "I'm Okay!". The child has a future in comedy, for certain.)

No; it's just the end of a grant cycle, the end of my fiscal year, and the end of the semester, all at once. And I had two weeks of business travel. And I hear there's a holiday coming up.

I have stuff to write about. Good stuff. Important stuff. And someday soon, I will write it all.

Today is not that day, however.

Lovin's to all three of you.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Welcome to Total Drama Island!

Ever feel like you're stuck in a really, really bad drama series?

Like, one in which the main characters are embroiled in a web of intrigue and vile character assassination over project review processes? In which, literally, dozens of highly emotional emails are exchanged in a single 24-hour period, over how to format a compliance document? In which supporting characters are reduced to tears over generating a purchase order for mailing tubes?

How about the one where the phone ominously rings and the other end of the conversation features an eight-year old in complete hysterics over a lost mitten? Or the one where the main character is greeted at 5:45 am by the discovery that her 125-pound dog has suffered a cataclysmic bout of intestinal distress overnight?

I had a 2-hour commute to work this morning, in a white-out snow storm. It was the most peaceful two hours of consciousness I have spent this week.

I think tonight will feature a hot bath and a glass of wine.

Monday, November 17, 2008


Yeah, we took the cat in. The vet pronounced him clear of dread diseases, we flea-dipped him and he has been wormed, vaccinated and otherwise violated by the feline medical establishment. Little mutton-head purred through the whole thing.

Come to think of it, the little mutton-head purrs constantly. It's rather unnerving, to tell the truth.

He also eats. Constantly.

When we got the Russian Blue, we named him "Hoover" because he used to suck up anything that hit the floor. In Hoover's late middle-age, his appetite has abated somewhat. However, he's still the one who will, literally, toss his food bowl across the laundry room floor to signal his displeasure at its emptiness and who will climb on top of the freezer to push the big bag of cat food onto the floor and thereby garner the admiration of his fellow kitty friends.

But Hoover doesn't hold a candle to this cat. This one will muscle all the other cats out of the laundry room and will guard the door with tooth and claw, until he eats every morsel in all four bowls. He tried to crawl into the refrigerator to get at the leftover lasagna. He licks the spoon rest on the stove. While I'm cooking. He will eat until his little kitty belly sticks out on both sides.

And then, this morning, I came downstairs to find him, face in the kitchen sink. He had an empty soup can wedged in the drain, and was dipping his front paw in to get at the suet and bacon grease I had poured into it after yesterday's cooking spree.

He paused as I entered the room, paw midway between the can and his mouth.

I regarded him with a mixture of pity and disgust, "Dude, you're sick. You need help. I mean, just look at you!"

He said nothing, but jumped out of the sink and under the table, leaving little bacon-scented splots of grease on my kitchen floor.

S entered the room. I held up the remains of the soup can grease catcher. "I'm starting to understand why they dumped him."

"I say we name this one Shop-Vac," he said, laughing.

K's face appeared around S's waist. "Nope. Kirby." she said, "We'll name him Kirby."

Welcome Kirby. I hope you don't eat us out of house and home!

Thursday, November 13, 2008


I was reminded today of one of my favorite proverbs about wisdom. I believe it's Persian in origin, although it's attributed to everyone from Conficius to Bruce Lee.

I can think of many highly-prominent figures today who fall into each of these categories. Come to think of it, I know a lot of people who aren't prominent who fall in to these categories.

I hope we all have the wisdom to Follow, Awaken, Teach and Shun those we should.

He who knows not, and knows not that he knows not, is a fool. Shun him.

He who knows not, and knows that he knows not is simple. Teach him.

He who knows, and knows not that he knows, is asleep. Wake him.

He who knows, and knows that he knows is wise. Follow him.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


I am allergic to cats.

Nevertheless, I have three of them.

Two are long-time friends. Mudge is a 16-year old calico, a tiny cat who takes crap from exactly no one, be they human, feline or canine. Hoover is a 12-year old Russian Blue, who loved me with mindless least until my daughter started reaching a size and temperament that reminded him of me. Now he's just as likely to run to her.

Gigi is a stray who found his way to our house after husband and daughter discovered him under the car at K's swimming lessons last summer. 18 months old, 14 pounds...he's strong like bull, smart like tractor.

We also have three dogs. You met the goobers last May, when they arrived here after being abandoned by their prior owners. There's also Angus, A/K/A The Moron, a 7-year-old Kerry Blue Terrier who believes he's solely responsible for our continued safety.

In short, I live in a menagerie. I didn't plan this. It just happened.

So tonight, as we're cleaning up from dinner, Mr. Bean hears a plaintive meow from the back porch. We start counting noses; all our cats are de-clawed, so we don't let them out. He opens the door and in walks a grey male kitten, perhaps 6 months old. He immediately rubs on everything in the house; Mr. Bean, Me, K. He hasn't eaten in a few days, and puts down a week's ration of food in 10 minutes. He then jumps into K's lap, purrs his little kitty brains out and curls up.

He's wonderful. Seems to get along with the other cats. Not terribly afraid of the dogs. We live in a cul-de-sac; chances are that he was dumped here. He clearly has no clue whatsoever how to live on his own. And he's just adorable.

So I find myself wondering, at what point is my quality of life suffiently decreased by the critters I bring into my house to enhance my quality of life, that I should start cutting back? I can only sneeze so much.

And who the hell is going to clean that extra litter box?

Monday, November 03, 2008


You have a really important job to do tomorrow. Get out there and vote. Don't be dissuaded by long lines or crabby, overworked poll workers. This is the most important thing you can do to improve your life.

I don't even care who you vote for. (OK, I do care, but if you are smart enough to find your way here, you're probably smart enough to know what's best for the country). Just vote.

OK, truth? Here's what I'll say about who to vote for: Vote for the people who will lead us forward out of this current mess. Vote for the people who will enrich your local city councils, your school boards, and your local judiciary. Who will look after the best interests of your schools, your needy citizens, and your public safety infrastructure. Vote for people who are smarter than you, who are more educated than you, and who speak better than you do. Vote for people who can pronounce "nuclear".

(And if you live in Ohio, it's YES on 5, and NO on 6. Seriously. Don't screw this up for the rest of us.)

Good luck!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Managing "Up"

Is there any tactful way to tell your boss that, if he's spending more time on the seating chart for a meeting than he is on the agenda, there's probably a big ol' red flag in there someplace?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Confidential to Edna's Daughter

I hope you understand that when I push you -- when I insist that you stick up for yourself, that you do the difficult things and the uncomfortable things -- it's not because I have a "control" issue, or a need to be right. It's because I worry about you every day. It's because I want you to be as happy and safe as you can possibly be. It's because those are the very things you would -- and should -- expect me to do if our roles were reversed.

It's because I love you.

I hope you know that.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Things that suck

I wrecked my pretty little blue truck the other day. Yes, yes; I'm fine. More importantly, the other guy is fine. All things considered, I was very lucky that the aftermath was more inconvenience than anything.

But my festive blue mini SUV? The one that gets 30 MPG? The one over which I was suffering all that guilt and angst less than a year ago? It's boo-boo'd. Its little nose is all dented in. Makes me sad.

Then, this morning, I had to preside over Annie's job termination. It sure as hell wasn't something I wanted to do. It was unavoidable, however, as many things have come to light in the last two months that have fundamentally changed the landscape for that organization. All through the conversation, she kept looking at me, as though I could somehow wave a wand and make this all better. I couldn't.

But again, the fact that we all were there, at that table, being forced to do that deed, underscored for me that I just hadn't done enough to forestall or avoid the situation. That I hadn't seen it coming soon enough. That I had failed, despite best intent and effort.

I am bothered by this dichotomy of feeling like a failure at a time when others perceive me as being a success. I have been working too much, trying to multi-task too often, forcing myself to be "on" too much of the time. I think it was about a year ago that I stated the need to slow down; I haven't been too successful at that. Much to the contrary, in fact. I often feel as though I'm drowning in a sea of tasks and deadlines. Things fall off my plate. I am over-committed, yet I am having a hard time saying 'no', and I am usually criticised for those few instances when I do say no.

There hasn't been a single family member -- husband, daughter, mother, dad and step-mom, in-laws -- (or close friend, for that matter), who hasn't expressed to me, in one way or another, that I am not reliable for them lately. They don't see me as having the time to be fully present for them.

And yet, I don't know how to escape from this. I have to support my family for another two years; that's my reality. And the others who come to me for help really need my help. "I don't know who else to turn to for this." I hear it all the time.

I want to know how some people maintain this kind of schedule and still manage to keep their centers. If any of you know, clue me in, OK?

Because I'm sucking at this.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


Oliver Stone's new movie, W, comes out tomorrow.

I haven't seen it, and I probably won't. Just don't have time.

However, I have to question the motivation and propriety of releasing a potentially disrespectful biopic about a sitting president, two weeks before an election.

I think it's a very poor commentary on American society. I have no love for our current president, but I think this is in unnecessarily poor taste.

I don't know: maybe I'm old-fashioned. I think you can criticize the actions of your politicians while they're in power, but I think delving into their personal histories in such a public way (and if Oliver Stone's history is any indication, it won't be a game of soft-ball), should wait until they've left office.

There. I've said my piece and counted three.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Know Thyself

I'm nosey.

There. I said it.

It's not that I feel entitled to know what's going on in everyone else's life, and it's not that I'm intent on doing anything with the information once I have it.

But I just wanna know what my family and friends are up to, you know? If someone is having a fight, it kills me when I don't know why. If someone is sad, I can't stand it when they say 'I don't wanna talk about it". You wanna send me up the wall? Stand in my office with a big, shit-eatin' grin on your face and when I ask, say, "Nah, just in a good mood. Must be the sunshine."

Sure; I put up a brave face. "Oh, hey, you know, it's cool; I don't want to pry. Not my business. I'm here if you wanna talk." But inside, I'm yelling, "AAAAACK! WHY WON'T YOU TELL ME???"

Maybe it's "Mother Hen" syndrome. I really need to know that the people I love are OK. Or maybe it's a lack of character. Maybe it's some deep-seated paranoia that suggests that if they won't tell me, it must be because I'm the butt of some joke or so emotionally incompetent that I cannot be opened up to.

Or maybe there's some spinach in my teeth. Do I have spinach in my teeth?

I don't know.

But I want to.

C'mon. Spill! ;)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


My mother is driving me insane.


Monday, October 06, 2008

No Nose Nanette

I'm embarking on week three of a sinus infection, which in this case means that, in addition to having a headache 24/7, I have virtually no sense of smell.

On one hand, this is somewhat advantageous, as previously stinky stuff is not a problem for me. Rotten milk in my daughter's thermos from last Friday? No probs. I'll clean it out. Cat boxes? Ditto. I now believe, in addition, that everyone in the world has excellent digestive health.

On the other hand, sometimes those noxious odors are nature's little warning bells. Apparently, I hung up an entire load of soured laundry yesterday. And Friday, I didn't find out -- until I started drinking it -- that the milk had expired. Additionally, sometimes I assume that something should be stinky when it is not, and as a result, I am using air fresheners to an excess. Like French Whorehouse excess.

I planned to make festively-scented bath products for Christmas presents this year. This isn't going so well. I find that, unless I am using a pre-determined recipe for a scent (i.e. One I've Done Before), I have no idea what's going together and what isn't. Some scents come through OK (Rose, for example, for some unknown reason) while others are all but hidden. As a result, by the time I can smell the scent I'm adding to the soap, I have managed to transform my entire living space into the previously-described European House of Ill-Repute. Unbeknownst to me, I apparently gassed my husband's hooded jacket with enough lavender oil that he was drawing stares at his 'guys night out' Saturday. My family has asked me to take a haitus from Christmas crafts until my olfactory receptors have resumed normal operation.

Food? Not so much exciting. Pretty much everything is "meh" flavored. Unless it's sweet or salty, I'm not going to know it's there. Umami? Please. Total non-starter.

The only saving grace is that, hopefully, I can finally lose some weight. I'll keep y'all posted.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The moments that change our lives

“I’m sorry; what did you say?”

I looked at Heidi, who sat in the passenger seat of my car, her brows raised and her head turned slightly to the side. I hated that expression on her face. It made her look like the Church Lady from the old SNL skits.

I was irritated. We were on our way to the grocery store to pick up the other half of the ingredients for the dinner we had sitting on the stove back at my house, I had just spent an hour fighting with my friend Joyce over animal testing of pharmaceuticals, and I couldn’t fathom what esoteric bit of sanctimony Heidi was now trying to lay on me.

“What’s it worth to you to be right? What are you willing to sacrifice in order to win this?”

I regarded her with an expression of disbelief.

“So you think I’m wrong about this?”

She shook her head, “I didn’t say that. For the record, I think you’re probably right, although on matters like this, perception shapes reality as much as anything else. What I asked you was what you were willing to sacrifice in order to win this.”

“Sacrifice? I’m not sure I follow.”

“Well, you and Joyce have been having this fight for the better part of a week. She makes her points; you make yours. But the tenor of this argument is getting progressively nastier, on both sides, as this week as worn on, and the rest of us are getting a little tired of listening to it. You have logic and a body of scientific evidence on your side; she has a passionate belief in her sense of right and wrong on hers.

It’s possible that you can overwhelm her with argument until she gives in, but what does that gain you? Self-assurance, perhaps, but does it make you definitively “right”? And in the meantime, you two are breaking down a ten-year friendship over, what? A snippet of ideology? Like I said: you can win, but are you willing to sacrifice your friendship to do it? Because that’s what it will probably cost you.”

She paused. “On the other hand, you can agree to disagree, and honor each other’s feelings. You don’t get the satisfaction of “winning”, but you don’t lose -- either the argument or your friendship.”

In retrospect, that conversation changed both my outlook on life and my career. I started to focus on seeing both sides of an argument more. I started focusing on fighting “fair”. My marriage was stronger. I found I was happier and I slept better. I found that several intractable negotiations at work suddenly got a lot easier to manage.

Most of what I do now is teaching people how to communicate with each other better, to negotiate for a long-term relationship, and to focus on what they share, rather than what divides them. It’s enormously satisfying.

I’ve known a lot of smart people in my life, but Heidi may have been the wisest.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

In praise of my rubber boots

Today was my honey's birthday. Happy birthday, sweetheart! This is the 21st time we've celebrated S's birthday together. It was a great day.

After dinner, I asked S if he liked his presents OK. He said he did

As I was getting the dogs ready for their evening walk, he asked me, "What's the best present I ever gave you?"

Now, you must know that S LOVES to buy presents. He excels at it. I have jewelry. I have music boxes. I have electronics. They're all really lovely.

I thought about it for a second. "My boots."

"You're a very strange woman. You know that, right?" He was smiling.

Six years ago, S bought me a pair of Cabela's rubber boots, with Thinsulate liners. They are supposed to come up to my upper calf, but it's a pain the neck to pull them up that high -- most likely because I have the calves of a middle linebacker -- so I fold them down to mid-calf height. I can slide my feet in and out of them in a fraction of a second. I will tell you that they look utterly ridiculous on my feet.

I love them.

Don't get me wrong. it's not that I don't appreciate all the really lovely luxuries he's given me over the years. I mean, who doesn't love emeralds?

But I wear these boots outside, at least once, every day. Year round. And at least once a week, as I'm hosing something oogey off of them, I silently thank S for my empowering footwear.

Because my rubber boots make me fearless.

I can walk across fallen branches without injury. I wade through mud and things nastier. The morning dew that would soak my Keds just beads off my rubber boots. I stride with confidence through poison ivy, stinging nettle, thistles -- you name it.

I can wear them, without socks, in the coldest snow. And even in the deepest snow, when I roll them up to full height.

My neighbors have witnessed them as they adorn my feet under my jeans, sweat pants, dresses, shorts, and even my pajamas.

I can help anyone do anything outdoors, as long as I have my rubber boots on. I am even empowered to drive the tractor.

They make me a better person.

So if you see me tromping around the yard in my work clothes, or walking the dogs at midnight in a pair of pink Scottie Dog jammies, you can bet on one thing: I'll be wearing my goofy rubber boots underneath.

And I'll be powerful in them.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The problem with rational thinking...

So I've been thinking, which is always a dangerous thing:

They (the ubiquitous "they", of course) are talking about building offshore oil rigs, about a rate roughly equal to the number of rigs built between 1979 and 1983. During that time, a total of nearly 300 MODUs were put into service. 230 jackup rigs were delivered at an average cost of $35 million each. 48 semisubs were delivered at an average cost of $84 million. 8 drillships were also delivered at a cost of $72 million each. That's about $12 billion in investment in rigs that started pumping at capacity about 6 years after they were started.

To equal that output now will cost about $35 billion in construction costs, plus operating costs once the rigs are operational. If we start January 23, 2009, we will be able to start re-couping our investment around the end of 2014 and they will be fully operational by the end of 2016.

If we have all of these rigs working at capacity, they will have the potential to offset about 2.3% of our dependence on foreign oil. Which is not an insignificant amount. But there are the environmental risks, as many have discussed. And things like hurricanes will continue to get in the way. And eventually the oil will run out.

So we're talking about investing (at a minimum, because the figures I pulled up were from 2006) $35 billion and six years before this off-shore drilling plan can start to alleviate the price at the pump.

And I guess I'm wondering what we might get if we invested that same $35 billion in alternative energy companies and gave the developers the same six years? If we could offset that same 2.3% with a renewable/clean energy source, wouldn't that be worth it?

Am I doing this math wrong?

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I overheard a conversation today, wherein someone described me as, "quite a few years older than you probably think she is."

I'm not sure if I should feel flattered or offended.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In which I quit being politic-y for a bit.

So as much fun as I’m having with the Sarah Palin Name Generator today (thanks BHD!), I’m returning to our regularly scheduled programming, which is to say that I’m back to kvetching about my life. I’m sure you all are thrilled.

My bug is turning 8 tomorrow! Happy Birthday, Bug! We had a party for her Saturday, with all her little friends. It was a spa party. They had pedicures and facials, and we made bath fizzies and bath oils and soaps. It was epic. Now I want to have one for ME! :-)

We had the remnants of Hurricane Ike come rolling through here the other night. It was pretty intense. I really, really love big, dangerous storms. I don't know why. S and K were huddled in the hallway; I was out on the porch, watching it blow. Ripped out the neighbor's tree while I watched. It was cool.

Other than that, I am writing five grants, all due between October 15th and October 31st, and I am getting a cold. Meh. For serious...I'm giving really, really serious thought to seeing if I can make a living doing a combination of writing, teaching and making soaps and bath fizzies. Because right now, my need for sleep and contemplation are out-weighing my need to save the world. Screw the world. I need a nap.


Today’s vexing question, courtesy of my collection of email subject lines: Are you crepuscular?

Turns out I am. Who knew?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Nine and Eleven. And Sixes and Sevens.

A good friend of mine sent me an op-ed by Roger Cohen in this morning's New York Times. I found it brilliant and cutting, but once again, the phrase, "If you're not appalled yet, you haven't been paying attention." came to mind.

This country has been raped and plundered by an administration that is beholden to the financial elite, big oil, and a sense of entitlement that boggles the mind. I want to say it's unprecedented in American history, but my husband the history major is quick to point out that it's been done before -- we just didn't have CNN covering it any of the previous times.

In reading this Op-ed, however, and pronouncing it "Brilliant!", I find myself wondering if I'm suffering from hypocrisy.

Yes, in case you're wondering, this entry is about to enter the Scope Creep Zone. We'll see if I can bring it back. ;)

Someone who shall remain nameless sent me a link to an op-ed by Jon Voight that was published in the July 28th Washington Times. She pronounced it insightful and reflective of her own fears. I wrote back to her that I thought it would be better titled "OMG! There's N*ggers in the Woodpile!" and I suggested she was too smart and too good-hearted to spend her time listening to the language of bigotry and hate. I pronounced the piece to be nothing more than mean-spirited, white-fear pandering and I told her I was offended that she thought I might be interested in seeing it. I told her never to send me anything of this sort again, or I might be forced to lose respect for her.

It probably wasn't me at my diplomatic best.

And today, I find myself wanting to send her the Cohen Op-Ed, which makes me wonder if I'm a hypocrite.

And yet, I'm not sure.

The nature of the dialog from the two faces of our nation is wrought with subtle but important differences.

Cohen looks back on actions and opines on their worth and their consequences. Voight postulates on a potential future and plays to the emotions of those who look to be emotional. Cohen asserts that the current administration is damned by its action and deliberate inaction, Voight asserts that our nation is damned by an unnamed evil that will be wrought from association and conjecture.

I find this reflective of the dialog that is taking place all over the nation. On one hand, we have the look back at the last seven years of this administration: the patterns of behavior that have emerged, our shared shame at the loss of standing our country has suffered, our economic hardship that seems not to affect those who make our policies, our loss of sons and daughters for a cause we can no longer easily define. And we look to the a team that has stated they support the actions that have brought us here. The condemnation, in this case, is related to the actions and the words spoken by the candidates that seek to lead this country.

On the other hand, we have a look at a candidate that is characterized as "different", "other", "untested", "inexperienced" other words, an "unknown". The language we hear speaks to a potential future that might be different from our past, and that future is cast as undesirable, evil, subversive. There is little, if any, reference to specific words and actions. I think these words are meant to convey one thought, and one thought only: "If these people are allowed to rise to power, they may disrupt the status quo. Those who have been in power might lose power. Those who have been on the sidelines until now may help shape the agenda from now on. You should be afraid of this. This is dangerous. We must protect our power (our empire?) at all costs."

I find myself wondering why we, as a nation, tolerate this double standard of linguistics and logic. I wonder if our nation has been willfully blinded into believing that the two arguments are equivalent. They're not.

What has this to do with the seventh anniversary of 9/11? I was in the kitchen of a friend in Heidelberg, shortly after the attacks. He turned to me and said, "Do you think your nation will learn the important lesson to be had here?"

I think the answer to that question will be revealed in the choices we make in November. Will we choose the language and philosophy of change, tolerance and unity that reflects an administration that promises to open up seats at the table for people who have been too long on the sidelines, or maintain the language of divisiveness and imperialism that reflects a future still beholden to those elite few who have always been at the table.

I know my choice. And I hope you make yours with both your heart and your head, and not based on either blind devotion or blind fear. We have too much at stake.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wow. Who'da Thought.

I just realized that I'm a 43-year-old hockey mom who is quick with a snide comment and experienced at selling big-ticket items on EBay.

I can administer a $45 million budget and I know how to build consensus among adults who act like children.

If I can just get my kid knocked up and learn to field-dress a moose, I will be qualified to run for Vice President!

God Bless America.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Damned with Faint Praise

Grandma K passed away Saturday. It was peaceful and she died without pain, and with family nearby. May we all go like that. We've been busy with arrangements here. S and his parents are on their way to Grandma's native Florida to see to her burial.

That leaves me and the Bug together for the week.

Tonight, I was defrosting a pound of hamburger for dinner, when K suggested Walking Tacos. Having never heard of such a thing, I offered conjecture that perhaps a Walking Taco was what happened when too many cucarachas made off with a standard taco.

Not so.

A walking taco is made with taco meat, served in a snack-size bag of Doritos and topped with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and salsa.

I was skeptical of this meal plan, but I always go on a guilt trip when one of us is out of town, so I agreed to it.

I cooked up hamburger taco meat for K, chicken for me. We opened our bags of Doritos, spooned in the various toppings, then squeezed the bags to crush up the chips. This concoction is eaten out of the bag. i found it somewhat repulsive. Perhaps not the nacho cheese Doritos next time.

K was delighted, however. In fact, she looked at me, smiled and said, "Wow, Mom! This is as good as the lunch we get in the school cafeteria!"

I've reached culinary rock-bottom.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

So Proud

First, thank you for your good wishes yesterday. Update: my father-in-law came through surgery with flying colors. Around 4:00 this afternoon, he asked me to go get him a cheeseburger. :) Grandma is hanging on; I still don't expect this to be a long journey for her -- she's not able to eat -- but I'm hopeful that it's a peaceful one. We got my MIL to go and get a haircut and a short massage this afternoon.

I'm not sure if any of you not in the Eastern Time zone had an opportunity to watch the roll call vote for the Democratic nomination. The excitment of witnessing each of the states cast their votes for their nominee was electrifying. But watching the state representatives defer to each other, and finally, seeing Hillary Clinton call to suspend the rules of the convention and nominate Barack Obama by acclamation may have been the most powerful moment I've ever experienced in American politics. I don't care if it *was* staged. It was remarkable.

I also have to say that, despite the fact that our "historic moment" is about breaking the race barrier in the race for the presidency, I think this convention has been a story about women. Between Hillary Clinton's truly powerful orations last night and tonight, watching a woman preside over the convention in the person of Nancy Pelosi, and seeing the sheer number of women standing on that convention floor, representing their states, it's clear that this convention is just as much about women truly coming into their own in the determination of our leadership in this country.

It makes me proud and hopeful.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

If you can spare a hope and prayer tonight...

My intention this week was to write an account of my week off last week. I won't say "vacation" per se, as we didn't really go anywhere. But it was great to not be working. I took the girls down to the Columbus Zoo, which is really a remarkable place. Their lorikeet exhibit isn't appreciably different from the one in Cleveland, but as you can see, the lorikeets are a good deal more aggressive there.

It was a lot of fun.

Seriously. I was going to wax poetic about the joy of sleeping 8 hours a night and going to the pool, just because. Alas, that's not in the cards for tonight. Mopey McMoperson's Blog of Doom appears to be alive and well.

Tomorrow, my father-in-law will be having heart surgery to correct several issues. It's not a tremendously high-risk procedure, but it's heart surgery and it has us all worried.

Then, this morning, my mother-in-law called. Her mother, my husband's grandmother, moved in with them a couple months ago, as her health was failing. She improved dramatically for the first month or so. But in the last two weeks, she's been fussy: moody, inclined not to eat, a bit verbally abusive toward my mother-in-law. We've been a bit worried about dementia.

It wasn't her mind. It was her heart. When the doctor tested it this morning, it was pumping at less than 15% of what is should be. Her liver was shutting down. Her kidneys were failing. Her digestive system is not functioning. The doctor sent her directly to hospice.

My heart is breaking for my mother-in-law. This woman has been giving and giving of herself for the last several years; taking care of my father-in-law, taking care of her mother, helping out with K when we need it. She doesn't complain. She doesn't nag. And now she's facing losing her mother before the week is out, at the same time as she is facing carrying her husband through a tough rehab, while hoping and praying that he makes it to that point.

I know that I should be praying for the health of my father-in-law and S's grandmother. But my thoughts and prayers aren't going to make a difference for them. Grandma is going to pass. She's finally going to join her husband. And my father-in-law is going to come through this based on his own physical strength and fortitude.

My heart is focused on their caregiver. I want to wrap her in my arms and help hold her up. I don't know if she'll let me do that. But I can pray for her strength. And I can reassure her that she's doing a great job. Because she is.

If you have a good thought to spare, think about my mother-in-law, Irene, and send her a bit of strength. She could use it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yeah, so I kinda suck at this whole blog thing sometimes

Sorry I haven't posted in a long time. I'm sure all three of you have moved on by now. ;)

It's not that I don't have anything to say; quite to the contrary. It's just that lately I'm having trouble figuring out which of my somethings I should be saying and even more trouble trying to find time to articulate what I want to say.

So for now, let's just catch up...

First, a few updates:

1) Annie is much better. Turns out she had a mineral deficiency that was causing her to have seizures; the bleeding they found in her brain last time was from hitting the ground so hard. She's busy planning her daughter's wedding.

2) I am worried we might still lose control of the school. There's been some mis-management that I just don't think we can overcome without a merger partner. It's bumming me out, but we're gonna keep on keepin' on.

3) The event that the CEO tried to chew my hind end about went off beautifully. Like, people cried because it was so beautiful. So there! Nyah-nyahnny-boo-boo Dr. #2 Pencil.

Good stuff:

I got a chance, weekend before last, to attend one of the happiest weddings I've seen in a long time. Congratulations to AliThinks and AllanThinks! I also got to see some wonderful friends that I don't see anywhere near often enough. I wish I could have had a week there, instead of the two quick days I spent down there. I also got to see my best friend, Suzanne, who was my date for this event and put up with attending someone else's family reunion for the weekend. Thanks, Suz. I love you!

On Monday, I start this semester teaching a class that's been on my list of "classes I must teach some day" for a long time. Can. Not. Wait.

I'm off work this week. It's Fair Week here. I love Fair Week. I'll post some pictures later this week. Nothing else too big on the agenda. We put a new garage door on today, which was long overdue. While it wasn't any fun, it was satisfying.

Not so good stuff:

My girlfriend, Eva, got in a pretty serious car accident yesterday. Rolled her car over. Thank goodness, she wasn't hurt beyond being pretty banged up. And thank goodness the kids weren't in the car. But man, what a hassle for her and what a scare for her and for all of us!

I mention this, in part, because on Saturday, I was at Eva's house making draft projects to hand out as Christmas presents. Eva asked me about whether or not she should divorce her husband. They have two young kids. It's been a very rough couple years over there. (Case in point: he sees her accident yesterday as an enormous inconvenience to his plans for this week...)

"Let me tell you something," I told her. "When you divorce a man while you have young kids, he doesn't leave your life. You don't get to walk away clean. You don't get rid of his debts. He's still there. His baggage is still around. The only difference is that he doesn't love you anymore. It's not worth it, if you think you can work to make it not horrible until they're older."

I stopped, because I realized then that I could offer this advice so easily because there were times in my own marriage when I'd done this math. Thankfully, I'm not in that place now. But it saddened me. I always pictured marriage as a long-term partnership, and I'd just characterized it as something to be endured until she could get out.

Eh, back to another good thing. Won't dwell on the badness...

I'm on the couch right now, nestled between a snoring almost-eight-year-old and a snoring dog. It's very peaceful here and I'm very thankful for the good things in my life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Stuff that makes my day

There is nothing like walking into a meeting for a job you thought you were volunteering to do, and finding out that you're being paid to do it -- and handsomely at that.

I am still trying to get used to the idea that people are interested in what I know -- and even willing to compensate me for sharing that knowledge.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Thought for today



Thursday, July 17, 2008


Pain is a curious thing. It softens us, makes us less likely to resist receiving input from the world around us. Ask anyone who is suddenly freed from acute or chronic pain and they will tell you that they emerge with sharpened senses: Colors are brighter, smells are sweeter, food has a more intense taste. We are at once more perceptive and more malleable.

Emerging from a period of intense stress can have the same effect, but it extends as well to our perception and reaction to our environment and those who share it.

I am on the roof of the hospital over at University; the buildings on this campus are more accessible than on my own and this perch affords me a view that extends perhaps 10 miles in all directions. I am always amazed at the beauty that exists in the structure and architecture of this city, which has been the object of so many criticisms and so much ridicule over the years. Seeing it from a height allows me to ignore minor flaws: I can appreciate the aesthetics of the interplay between granite and sandstone without seeing that the storefronts of the buildings are vacant; the construction fences and barrels look like carnival banners when I am not inconvenienced by the traffic they block.

Being up here also lets me see out to the lake, some four miles north of here. The wind is blowing in from the north, carrying the smell of water to me. The August algae blooms, which will give the air and water here a distinctly “organic” smell later in the summer, haven’t started yet: the clean breeze today speaks of renewal. Coupled with a new appreciation of the beauty I cannot see when I am feeling strong, the total effect relaxes me, makes me breathe a little deeper, slows my pace and reminds me that there are priorities in this world that are bigger than my own.

Not everything from last week has resolved yet, but I am speaking less, walking more, and making my decisions more slowly and deliberately this week. It is a good thing.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The Third Circle: Wednesday

The cab pulled up to the curb and the four of us got out. It had been a productive day and the banter on the way to the airport had been lively and good-natured. After nearly 18 months working together on the program, I knew the histories and favorite jokes of the three uniformed men who, each in turned, kissed my cheek goodbye.

Jeff turned to Phil. “Man, I’m not used to seeing those stars on your shoulders yet.”

Bob laughed. “Yeah, you have to refer to him as General Shit-for-Brains now.”

Phil blushed and chuckled. “I can always count on you jokers to keep me in my place, can’t I?” Jeff, Bob and Phil had been together in the active reserves for at least 10 years, as nearly as I could tell. Between the three of them, they had logged nearly 80 years in the military. Phil had been promoted to General for less than a month, and he still didn’t look like he felt quite comfortable in his epaulets.

A silence descended between the three of them. Then, Bob and Jeff took a step back, stood at attention, looked Phil in the eye and offered a crisp, respectful salute. “We’re proud of you, Sir.”

Phil humbly saluted each of them in turn. “Colonel; Colonel”

Jeff and Bob each picked up their bags and headed down the concourse. Phil placed his hand on my shoulder and gave me a wink. “See you in Tampa next month, right?”

“You bet. Be safe going home, Phil.”


The line at the ticket counter looked to be at least a half hour. I was suddenly very grateful that, when I arrived at the airport this morning at five-OMFG-nine this morning, I had checked in for the return flight. I grabbed my briefcase and sneaked into a suddenly short line in security.

I found myself staring, motionless, down the C concourse. Fatigue descended on me like a stifling August fog, and for a moment I could not remember where I was supposed to go. A mass of humanity made its way past me on both sides: hurried, purposeful, focused, glancing only for the briefest of split seconds at the barefooted, middle-aged woman who stood at the security checkpoint, holding a pair of peep-toe pumps.

I slowly made my way down the concourse, vaguely aware of the colors and sounds and smells of the shops as I walked past. Lavender, paper, cheap fabric. Spotting a Mexican place up ahead, I briefly considered a quick bite and a drink before I got on the plane.

My phone rang; as I went to answer it I noticed the blinking voicemail symbol in the corner. How had I missed a call?

S was nearly crying on the other end. “ I got in an accident. K and I are OK. Everyone is OK, but I think I totaled the other car.” He went on to recount the details; I didn’t hear them. They were OK. Right. They're Ok.

“You both are OK? You’re sure? The other guy is OK, too? That’s all that matters. We can replace cars. We have insurance. This is why we have insurance, Love. Don’t worry. It’s going to be OK. Looks like God made you buy that scooter for a reason, eh? You’re sure K is all right? Does she want to talk?”

S had to hang up; the insurance guy was on the other line. I turned around and headed back into the Mexican place. That Margarita suddenly looked a lot more appetizing.

Checking my messages, I heard Annie tell me that my attempt to transfer her to my hospital had been successful, and one dear friend was going to take over the care of another.

For the first time this week, I felt like things might be OK for Annie.

An Irish couple sat down at the next table. Their accent carried over the din of a hundred conversations, like an unlikely flute in the midst of Manhattan traffic. The phone rang again. It was Karen. “Beth, where are you? I’m having a crisis.”

“I’m in New Jersey.”


“You’re telling me.”

“No; I mean, I needed you to come out and have a glass of wine with me.”

“If you can wait a minute, I’ll drink a margarita while I listen to you. What’s up?”

“I’m just so depressed. I really thought Greg was going to propose this weekend. What’s wrong with me? Why isn’t he asking?”

I stopped short. “Wait a minute. I thought you told Greg, in no uncertain terms, that you wouldn’t marry him if he asked you. Remember?

“Well, I did. But I thought he would still want to marry me. I want him to want to marry me, you know? I just think he's being stubborn, not asking me to marry him.”

I paused for a long moment. “Hang on a minute, hon.”

Setting down the phone, I picked up the margarita that had arrived in front of me, and drained it in two long draughts.

Clearing my throat, I picked up the phone again. “You are a sad, sad bucket of fries. I gotta catch a plane.”

Leaving a $20 on the table, I turned off my phone and headed down the concourse.

Before I continue...

I am fascinated that, if you Google "Newark Airport Dante Inferno Hell", it returns about 200 pages of results.

I actually said to someone today, "If I have my choice, I'd rather be the evil stepmother from Snow White, than Satan. It would suck to be Satan."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Second Circle: Tuesday

“Doctor? I’m sorry; did you hear what Mrs. Smith just said?”

I regarded the Neurology resident who had just ordered Percocet for Annie. I had just spent 2 hours with a group of 1st year Orthopaedic residents, trying to convince them of the importance of tracking outcomes for orthobiologic implants, and my head hurt. “She said that Percocet is ineffective on her pain. Codeine-based pain relievers don’t work for her. She needs a Morphine base, like Vicodin. She also just told you she’s been throwing up all day. She needs an injectible.”

He looked up from his chart, “Are you a nurse?”

“No, but I play one on TV.”

He looked back down, “Well, let’s see how this works out.”

“Doctor, I hope you understand that our next stop is the ombudsman office for a pain management consult.” I gave him the look – the one I normally give my daughter when what I want to convey is, “Go ahead. Push me just a little farther.”

“Doctor, Mrs. Smith is a cancer survivor and has been in this facility before for this same issue. She knows all the floor nurses here by name. Give her a little credit for knowing what will work with her body and what won’t.”

For a few moments, we sized each other up. It appears that my best “I’m ten years your senior and not a woman to be trifled with” look finally prevailed. He spoke over his shoulder to the nurse, “Fine; give her 2 of Valium, IV,” and walked away.

I smiled. “Thank you.”

I’d only been in Annie’s room for about 10 minutes, on my way back from class. She’d just been released from Neurology ICU and looked significantly better than she had 12 hours earlier. A quick assessment of the room told me Rick hadn’t been by to drop off her overnight bag or her cell phone charger.

“You need me to run by your house?”

She looked up for a second. “Sarah will stop by later on today. Don’t worry.” I was skeptical, but decided to drop it for now.

My pager went off.

The Boss wants you in his office at 2:00. BTOIYA.

My assistant, Carolyn, had included the abbreviation for “Be There or It’s Your Ass.” We both are fans of Allison Pearson.

I knew that Dr. M, my direct boss, was out of the office. I responded.

Bruce Springsteen is in town?

Her reply came swiftly. God, no! THE Boss. Don’t be an idiot!


For the last six years, I had carefully worked to ensure that the hospital CEO had no idea who I was. A man whose first public act, upon assuming the mantle of Chief Among Hospital Dictators, was to paint every single wall in all nineteen buildings white, he had replaced the rich collection of 17th century Asian pottery in his office with a large glass bowl, filled with perfectly sharpened #2 pencils. He also was known for firing nurses and other personnel on the spot for wardrobe infractions. His was a gaze I carefully avoided fixing on me.

However, the day before, I had contacted his administrator. We were planning a short public reception for an important visitor, and on the advice of our government relations group, I had requested he say a few words to open the ceremony.

BTOIYA. This did not bode well.

“I gotta go, Sis. Call me if you need anything.” I kissed Annie quickly on the head and started back to my own campus.

As soon as I left the hospital building, my cell phone went off.

You have 4 new voicemails

Bean, it’s me. My dad fell and it sounds like he’s punched a big hole in his arm. I just called 911. Call me!

Bean, I need you to call me. Dad fell. He’s cut his arm to the bone. We’re going to meet the ambulance at the hospital.

Beth, it’s Carolyn. S is trying to get hold of you. Sounds like your father in law fell and hurt himself.
It was accompanied by a text message with her cell phone number and the message 911.

Beth, its Julie. What the Eff is going on with Dr. C’s office? He just torpedoed the entire reception on the 25th! Said it was a total waste of time! Call me!

I looked at my watch. It was 1:45.



Mr. H, the Senior VP of External Affairs, was waiting for me outside the CEO’s office.

“Sir? Can you tell me what’s happening?” My relationship with Mr. H is an odd one. A distinguished man in his mid-50’s, he insists that people call him by his nickname, “Pudge”. I have always found myself unable to address anyone over the age of twelve by a nickname like “Pudge”. Besides, the man wears suits that cost more than my monthly mortgage payment on a 5-bedroom house. I call him “Sir.” He regards it as a charming affectation of mine and I’m happy to leave it at that.

“It’s 1:58. I was hoping we’d have a few minutes to brief before we went in. Didn’t your assistant find you?”

“I was in a clinical care area, Sir. Long story. Just got the message a few minutes ago.”

“Never mind. Just don’t say anything.”

“You can count on it, Sir.”


I had to hand it to Pudge. They don’t call him The Master for nothing. Turns out there was a breach of etiquette in the approach of the Boss – apparently, depending on the type of thing being requested, it needs to come through one of the VP’s or it gets crushed like a Styrofoam cup. The conversation was left with “Go ahead with your little event, but keep it spare.” Spare. Got it.

I called my husband.

“Where the hell have you been? We’ve been trying to reach you for two hours! Don’t you ever check messages?!”

“Long story. How’s your dad?”

“Well it’s a good thing he wasn’t having a heart attack or anything. I think he’s OK. Sliced the hell out of his arm, but they’re gonna stitch him up and release him. I swear, Bean, it’s getting harder and harder to rely on you for things.”

Arriving home and entering the house, I slipped in a huge puddle of urine, soaking the suit I’d planned to wear on Wednesday’s business trip.

The message light was flashing on the home phone.

Hey, hon? The dogs need walked when you get home.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Week in hell

Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please. For those of you awaiting flight 825 to Cleveland, we have been informed by Air Traffic Control that our aircraft has just departed Cleveland. We are projecting its arrival here at approximately 7:34 local time. We have some weather working its way east, so we have not yet been informed of our projected departure time westbound.

It is 6:50 pm. My flight was due to depart approximately 15 minutes ago. The monitors had initially projected our departure for 15 minutes from now, which resulted in my having to literally guzzle down the quin-schnozzle-strength margarita that arrived 20 minutes late to my table at the overcrowded Mexican restaurant I left 4 minutes ago, and which is now rapidly souring in my stomach. And the air conditioning is not functioning in this concourse.

In L’Inferno, Dante takes us on a tour of the nine circles of hell.

Circle Four is located in Newark Airport.

How I arrived here is a rather interesting story.


The First Circle: Monday

Annie and I slowly made our way out of the Board Room, where we had just narrowly avoided a hostile takeover bid, launched by the facility that holds the lease to the daycare center we have jointly run since 2002.

Fighting back a combination of giddiness and nausea, we discussed the possibility of moving the center into the new high school being built across the street. After three years, we might finally have the opportunity to integrate the curriculum to include GED and parenting classes to serve the 40% of our families headed by high school drop-outs.

I hugged Annie. “You did good today, Sister.”

She pulled back and looked me in the eye, “Only because we’re a team.”

I turned to leave the building. Five seconds later, I heard the sound of books hitting the lobby floor and turned just in time to see Annie come down, hard, on the hip she broke last February. Her head followed quickly, so quickly that it was clear to me she was unconscious well before she hit the floor.

Eyes fixed on the ceiling, her body twisted with the seizure. I turned her so she wouldn’t choke on her tongue. “Annie? Annie, stay with me honey. You’re OK. Stay with me.” I screamed to the reception desk, “Call 911!”

After 30 seconds that felt like 30 minutes, Annie’s storming brain finally released her body. I held her as she stared at me, wordless, still unable to control her movements. Tears slowly welled in her eyes. Her right side lay limp; her left side tremored slightly. It was then that I realized she’d been slurring her words a bit as we said goodbye.

I kissed Annie’s head and dialed Annie's cell phone.

“Sarah? It’s Beth. I work with your mom at the center. Baby, I need you to call your dad right away. I think your mom's just had another stroke.”


The CAT scan showed two minor bleeds in Annie’s occipital lobe. I had recited the litany of her medical history to no fewer than six people in the last 2 hours. “She has Lupus. You need to be careful, because it makes her veins fragile. No, you can’t stick her in the left arm; she’s a breast cancer survivor and they took her lymph nodes. Yes, she broke the hip on Valentine’s Day. Yes; she’s had minor hemorrhagic stroke before. The last one resolved last August. No; I don’t know if she’s on anti-seizure medication. No; I’m just a friend.” In the meantime, I had held Annie’s hand through the unbearable pain of a broken hip and nine more seizures. After each seizure, she had said the same thing. “Please. Please don’t leave me.”

“I won’t leave you,” I promised her.

“How will we save the school now, Beth? How can we do it? How can this be happening?” Annie started to cry again.

“We’ll figure something out. Don’t worry now. We’ll make it work. Please don’t cry. It’ll bring another seizure. Don’t worry. Just get better.”

The nurse touched my shoulder, “The LifeFlight will be here in about 15 minutes to take her over to University.”

Annie’s gaze shifted to her husband, Rick, who had arrived an hour earlier, and who since then had offered little in the way of information and nothing in the way of comfort to his terrified wife. Annie started to cry. “You’ll come and see me there this time, won’t you? I get so lonely and scared there. Please, Rick. Please come and see me at the hospital.”

Rick held her gaze for a moment. Then he turned and walked away.

Annie looked back to me and I fought back my own tears. ‘Hey, I’m teaching a class at University this month. I’ll stop in and see you after class each day, OK? I’ll even sneak you in a decent cup of coffee and some cheap romance novels.” I winked at her.


“You can’t get any closer than this, Ma’am.” The LifeFlight paramedic yelled into my ear and held out his arm, as we walked out onto the roof. I kissed Annie on the head. “Love you, Sister. Don’t hassle the nurses too much, OK? I’ll come see you tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” Annie mouthed to me in reply, as her hand slipped from mine.

The throbbing of the helicopter beat deeply within my chest as it lifted off the roof. I was grateful for it; it almost gave me an excuse for the pain that tore at my heart.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Email Rules, from Seth Godin, by way of Alison

I want to thank Alison at AliThinks for posting the link to this on her blog. I'm not normally one to build a blog entry about someone else's blog entry (it always feels like an excuse for not coming up wth my own material), but I have a few friends and relatives who insist on clogging up my email with messages that violate multiple rules and it's striking a nerve today.

(Don't worry; none of them read my least I don't think they do. But if you're reading this and in the last 60 days, you've emailed me religious foo-foo crap or passed along a right-wing hoax email about how Barack Obama is going to carry us all to hell in a handbasket because he didn't put his hand over his heart during the National Anthem...well then this is directed at YOU. Seriously.)

Seth Godin's 36 rules about email.

Read it. Live it.

In other news, it's looking to be another 90-something degree day here. Goins, but I'm already sick of the heat.

Actually, what I'm sick of is manufactured air. I feel a particular disdain for air conditioning, even while I find myself bound to it, because I live with other people and assorted creatures who are heat-intolerant. They do not believe their personal comfort should take second place to my hatred of the blowing cold air.

Me? I'll take a nice grass hut, thanks. And maybe another Maitai. Thanks, ducks.

Well, so long as I'm being random, I'm back at work after a three-day weekend as a single mom. Mr. Bean is off on his annual He-Man-Woman-Hater's Fishing Trip. Also known as "Mom's excuse to goof off with the kid for a few days." It was a great few days. OK, I didn't goof off the entire time. In fact, the Bug and her best friend spent pretty much every waking moment in the $20 kiddie pool I put up in the back yard and they largely ignored me. So I cleaned and re-painted the back porch yesterday and the three of us had dinner out there last night. It was productive and relaxing and peaceful. Yay!

Hope you all have a great week. I'm off to Philadelphia for a conference and hopefully a meet-up with a few friends from that place I used to hang out. (The reason I don't get to hang out there much anymore is the subject of an upcoming post. ) Hopefully, I'll have some fun stories to tell when I get back.

P.S.: This is my 100th post. I'm not sure if that's notable or not, but I'm noting it. ;)

Oh, and "bifurcated uvula"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Why I haven't had time to post in awhile

Some of you know that for years, I had a retired racing greyhound named Tango. He was my first dog, and I loved him dearly. He died in my arms, of respiratory failure, a little over six years ago. I still miss him.

Go ahead. Get a tissue. I'll wait.

Mr. Bean contends that a first dog is like a first boyfriend -- nobody else quite measures up to your first. I'm not so sure about the boyfriend thing, actually. My first boyfriend was Dan Duffy, who dated me in high school because he was trying to make my friend, Sandy, jealous. She had broken up with him. He was a pretty good kisser, actually, but it was still a really crappy reason to ask a gal out, you know?

Anyway, the fact is that Tango was the best, most wonderful dog in the world. I'd swear to it before a judge. I know this, because our next dog was a Kerry Blue Terrier, which I think we bought because Kerrys were the talk of Westminster for a few years in there. He's a total moron. And he barks pretty much all the time. So no; as sweet as he is, in his moronic way, he totally lacks the poetic soul and self-conscious gawkiness of my greyhound.

Where am I going with this? Well, here you go: When I had Tango, I encountered, at the local Highland Games, a Scottish Deerhound. Deerhounds are large, fuzzy greyhounds. Just as gawky. Just as quietly poetic. Just as gentle and sweet. I fell in love. I wanted one. Trouble is, there are only about 1000 Deerhounds in the whole freakin country. A puppy will run you about $3000. My chances of ever having one were pretty slim.

So about three years ago, unbeknownst to me, Mr. Bean signed us up for the National Scottish Deerhound Rescue.

And about two weeks ago, they called us. They had not one, but two deerhounds who had been orphaned as a result of a nasty divorce. They were raised together, very dependent on each other, and very traumatized by losing their family. They wanted to place them together. They were six years old -- almost geriatric by large dog standards.

Did we want them?

Of course we did.

So here are our newest "kids":

Meet Max. He'll be seven in September.

and Blue. She'll be six in a couple weeks. That's also the lower half of Mr. Bean. He's 6'4" tall and wears a 34" inseam. See how tall Blue is? She's the little one, by almost 40 pounds.

Together, they are 195 pounds of fuzzy love.

A few challenges: They'd never seen cats before. (I should learn to ask these questions). Cats are VERY interesting. Like, VERY. They might be tasty too, but Mom won't let us taste them.

They have seen deer before. They're even more interesting. And by a weird cosmic coincidence, a small herd of whitetail moved into our woods the day they moved in. Yes, 6 am walks are a VERY special time now.

Walking them is rather like driving a team of draft horses. Except draft horses don't head off in two different directions at once.

But on the positive side, the Moron Kerry is much more relaxed than he was before we got the bigger dogs. I actually like him better than before.

And they are big sweethearts. Even if they can clear the coffee table with their tails.

I'm a happy girl. It's like being in love all over again.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Garbage Can Rant

Yes; you read that correctly. Garbage cans.

“Why rant about garbage cans?” You may ask.

My good friend, Joyce, once gave me a very wise and useful piece of advice: Always be good to your garbage man. It doesn’t matter how rich and powerful you are; if the garbage man doesn’t show up for work and take your garbage away, you will be unhappy.

It is an irony that Joyce never extended this metaphor to being good to wait staff at restaurants. She was notorious for badgering servers, even for whistling to get attention. As a result, I went for a period of about 8 years once, when anytime I had dinner out with her, it was a sure thing that I would end up eating the wrong dinner order. Cold. We cook at home now. It works out better for everyone..

But I’m getting off topic here.

As I have mentioned previously, I live in the far outskirts of North Coast Metroland. We have no sidewalks, no streetlights. We have a septic tank, which is the subject of mild and intermittent floating anxiety for me, I will admit.

We also have a private company haul away trash. There is one. It’s Allied Waste Management. They are a ginormous company with landfills scattered hither and yon across the country. If you want your trash gone, you have to contract with these guys. They own the landfill, so you can’t show up with your own garbage. There is no alternative. They are a monopoly. Got the picture? They have the entire county by a sizeable handful of short hairs.

Earlier this week, a large blue trash receptacle on wheels arrived in my driveway. By “Large” I mean it’s about half-again as big as each of the two wheelie garbage cans we’ve been allowed to have until now. It’s also about twice as heavy as a standard garbage can, and it’s nearly 4 ft tall. So it’s big, but not big enough to give us as much volume as the two cans we’ve used to date at Camp Beanie

It and its compatriots were all just there, lined up at the end of every driveway in the neighborhood, when I got home from work. No accompanying documentation. They were just there, like silent sentinels, tall and heavy and shiny and blue.

I asked Mr. Bean: “When did it get here?”

He briefly looked up from his computer screen. “What?”

“The big honking garbage can? In the driveway?”

He looked down again. “I refuse to see the garbage can. There is nothing there.”


I called Allied Waste to inquired about the potentially imaginary garbage can.

“Yes; we are now requiring that all of your refuse be placed in the provided cans.”

“Ask?” I inquired. “I see no ask. There was no accompanying letter or even a sticker on the cans. And I don’t see anyone asking me anything. The blessed things just arrived, like locusts.”

“Ah, yes; well, we’re a little bit behind on getting the flyers out.”

“I see. So how did you determine that we were in need of these cans?”

“We have made a modification to our collection process, to better serve our customers and protect our employees from injury. The new cans can be lifted and dumped by our automated trucks now”

“Oh? You are protecting your employees from injury? Have paychecks become a source of injury now? “ I was, perhaps, allowing my sarcasm to bleed through a bit.


“You’re sure it wasn’t so you can decrease your workforce?”


“OK, how about my next question. How is my 85-year-old neighbor lady going to haul this behemoth of a can out to the street? Because it’s pretty heavy. Have you tried to wheel one of these around?”

“We have alternative solutions for those customers who need them.”

“Oh? Is that information in the flyer that is not accompanying the new cans? What alternative solution should I share with the neighbor lady? Better yet, what should I tell the next-door neighbor who has five kids and probably won’t be able to put all their garbage in this wonderful can?”

“Um…well, I’m not sure. They haven’t told us. Your refuse has to fit in the can.”

“So you don’t have an alternative solution?”

“Oh yes. We do.”

“But you can’t tell anyone.”

“Um…I’ll have to talk with my supervisor. Thank you for you comments ma’am.”

I called the county commissioner.

"Oh, I got one today too! I'm so screwed! I have a small business, and they won't give me a second can..."


Thursday morning, the garbage trucks showed up. All the new blue behemoths were lined up compliantly on the street – the next door neighbors had rigged it to contain an overflow. Apparently, in addition to not getting the flyers out on time, they didn’t get the new trucks out on time. The new cans were too big and heavy for the garbage crew guys to lift, so they had this one guy, with REALLY long arms, reaching into the cans, one at a time, and pulling the bags and associated jetsam out of the cans and putting it all in the truck. He fell into the can across the street.

I pointed this out to Mr. Bean.

“He has not yet learned to deny the can. When he denies the can, he will be able to lift it. I suggest that next week, we make a pot of coffee and bring out the lawn chairs."

I don’t know whether to write to the better business bureau or go watch The Matrix again.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!

Have you hugged a tree today?

So here in the Land of Bean, we have been experimenting with some twists on living green. Switched over to compact fluorescents. Installed a new insulated garage door. We’ve been recycling and composting for awhile, but I’ll admit that more out of necessity than a desire to be kind to the planet: here in the rural outskirts of North Coast Metroland, we pay by the can for garbage removal, and they don’t take yard waste.

But Mr. Bean, the Bug and I have been experimenting with eating within 100 miles of our home. I am finding this to be a bigger challenge than expected, not so much because we are lacking in locally-grown and produced food choices, but because it’s darned difficult sometimes to figure out where our food is actually produced!!

We’re lucky in some ways: The West Side Market has a fabulous selection of locally grown and produced meats and meat products, and if you are willing to regularly show up before 7:30 on Saturday mornings, unshowered (I find the unshowered part is essential; they won't talk to you if you've taken time to apply cosmetics), you can eventually build enough “cred” with the vendors that they will give you their “real” addresses and phone numbers so you can get really really fresh beef and chicken and lamb and other lovely delicacies. You can get locally baked breads and cakes, locally-made cheese and wine, and locally roasted coffee. (Before you say something, I know that they don’t grow coffee within 100 miles of my house. Look; I at least try to stick to shade grown and fair trade. I’m not giving up coffee. End of discussion.)

Produce is another matter. I like fresh vegetables. A lot. There is quite a bit I can grow under cold frame for much of the winter, but clearly not enough to keep us happy and healthy. So I try to compromise. I look for produce that is at least grown in the US or southern Canada (I’m amazed at the quality of the hothouse cucumbers and tomatoes that are coming out of Ontario). But it’s really tough to tell sometimes. Witness the following exchange I had on Saturday at the Market:

Me: Are these grapes from California?
Vendor: Yes
Me: OK; I’ll take that bunch there.

As he’s packing up the grapes, I notice the empty crates behind him that say “Product of Chile” on them.

Me: I thought you said these were California grapes?
Vendor: Yes
Me: But the box behind you says “Chile” on it.
Vendor: Yes
Me: So they’re not from California.
Vendor: Yes

Me: You don’t speak English, do you?
Vendor: Two Dollah

Alrighty then.

I think grapes will have to come off the list until the local vineyards ripen in August…

Monday, April 21, 2008

Guilty (sort-of) Pleasures

I turned forty-something+1 on Friday. It was a pretty good day, until I opened the gaily-wrapped package on the dining room table and saw this:

Then it was a freakin' AWEsome day.

I will admit to harboring a small and entirely innocent (I am, after all, a semi-respectable married woman) crush on Michael Ruhlman. I don't know whether to thank or curse Ali for introducing me to his blog.

Anyway, gentle readers, I will be away from the blogosphere for a bit...I will until then be badgering my dear husband to finish the design on the kitchen remodel and learning, once and for all, how to make a decent reduction sauce for red meat.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Revealing my true self

There are moments in your life when you can stand apart from yourself, and see yourself as you truly are.

These moments can be disconcerting, but they also can be moments of clarity and comfort, if we choose to accept them and learn from them.

Today, I had one of these moments.

We are preparing for a major news release around some work we've been doing, and there have been a tremendous number of tasks to complete: figures to research, FAQ's the write, "sound bites" to rehearse, choices about who goes in front of the camera and who does the print interviews. Today, I ghost-wrote an OpEd for my boss, coached another one of the docs, revamped the budgets and trashed and re-configured the basic design on one of our marketing pieces.

The doc I was coaching on sound bites started to laugh, "Next, you'll be doing my surgery for me!"

"Nope," I said, "I'm strictly behind the scenes. I handle the words and the numbers. You do the rock star thing."

Then it occurred to me: I'm Velma Dinkley.

You remember Velma -- from Scooby Doo? The brainy, somewhat overweight one who talked too much? The one who solved the mystery, but that bastid Fred always took credit? (What was up with that retarded ascot, BTW?) Yep, that's me. I'm the Velmster.

10 years ago, this revelation would have sent me running for a Vicodin and Vodka cocktail.

Now? I guess I'm OK with it. I rather like it, in fact. Velma had her place in the world. She even got to be a hottie in the live-action Scooby Doo movie.

Ok, OK, I'd still rather look like Sarah Michelle Gellar. But who wouldn't?

But for now, I guess I'm OK being Velma.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

See? This is what happens when you don't let people drink beer!

I gotta wonder what was going through the minds of the upper management at Prosper, Inc, when they found out they were being sued for waterboarding an employee during sales training.

What. The. Fuck?

The two quotes are priceless:

"We're not the mean waterboarding company that people think we are," ...said their General Counsel.

So we're...what? The Friendly Waterboarding Company? WTF? They pay this guy to be a lawyer???

"How many times did the CIA even do waterboarding? Three times?" added Dave Ellis, the company president.
"But look at the damage it did to America's reputation," Brunt pointed out. "And it's going to hurt our image."

Ya torture one freakin employee...dang, a little pair of thumb screws or somethin'... and suddently you're Vlad the Impaler or somethin', ya know?

I'm reminded of the SNL skit, with Faster, faster! Cody wants a pony!

Everything old is new again

Sorry I'm so quiet lately.

There is so much going on right now, in all aspects of my life, that I'm really struggling to make sense of it and struggling even more to find time to write about it.

So until those two things work themselves out, I will share an anecdote that illustrates how much my life has come full-circle.

I am now actually gaining new knowledge from my second-grader's reading assignments.

Last night, I learned that the first recognized dinosaur fossil was discovered in 1822. This surprised me greatly. For some reason, I thought that particular scientific timeline went back a good deal farther. (Edit: for the record, Plott was digging up bones in the 1600s, but ascribed them to 12'-tall people. Or man-eating Pliocene Clams)

Tomorrow, we're going to learn about the building of the Statue of Liberty. I can't wait. :)

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Jeepers, Creepers

The spring peepers are making a helluva racket tonight.

Bravo! I say. Let them sing! It's music to my ears.

When you live in this part of the country, you become accustomed to taking the weather in stride. Summer can be brutishly hot and humid. Winter is cold and wet...and about three months longer than it needs to be. That doesn't leave a lot of time for 'temperate'. So we learn here to ignore the weather. We dress in layers -- always -- because it seems you're always taking something off or putting something on. We have rubber boots and flip-flops next to the back door at the same time, as we'll often use both in a single day.

We're tough. We wear that weather-proof toughness like a badge around here.

But this year, the winter even started to "get to" the already weatherbeaten residents of the North Coast. I think it's because so much of our winter snow and ice this year arrived in March, when we're accustomed to being able to catch that very first scent of worms and the crocus make their first appearances. Between Valentine's Day and Easter, we measured our snowfall in feet, not inches. Or perhaps it's because Easter arrived so early this year and we so look forward to marking the holiday with that first daffodil rather than with shovels and rock salt.

The spring peepers started to sing last week, during a night marked by a light coating of ice on the birdbaths. I think they'd had it, too.

And tonight, with our mid-50's temperatures, they are performing one of their evening crescendos.

Today, the sun shone, the hyacinth started to bloom, the kids rode their bikes up and down neighborhood driveways. The smell of neighbors burning last Autumn's neglected leaves was accented by the smell of charcoal lighter. The worms made their appearances atop freshly turned soil.

The trout lilies have begun to peek through the moss and leaves in the woods behind the house. In another week, we'll have a delicate riot of yellow flowers standing in defiance against winter's last winds. Basketballs and sleds will continue to share front porch space for a few weeks, anticipating the arrival of the afternoon school bus. But I think we've safely turned the corner.

I think spring is finally, blessedly, arriving.

And not a moment too soon.

P.S. Eve went home on Saturday. Her mom is looking forward to spoiling her rotten all summer. :)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

On a more serious note...

Thanks again, to all of you who publicly and silently sent good thoughts and prayers for little Eve.

Late last night, they let her "wake up" from the induced coma where she's rested since Thursday. They were able to remove her ventilator and she's breathing on her own. She seems not to have any sign of infection.

I am cautiously optimistic that she's going to come through this without any major complications. I'll be fully satisfied when she eats again on her own, but things are looking much brighter here.

Can't wait to hold her again.

You have mail...

Hey! just wanted to let you know that each of you has a customized Happy Birthday message in your In Box, on the date of your last birthday, courtesy of GMail. Gawd I love technology!


Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hush, Little Baby

Tonight my heart is with the tiniest, most vulnerable little person I know.

Eve is three months old and tomorrow she will undergo open heart surgery to fix a defect that has wracked her tiny body since birth. She weighs barely eight pounds, she cannot breathe while laying down, and she had to be fed through a tube because she is too weak to eat on her own. If her surgery is successful tomorrow, however, she will grow up to be a perfectly healthy, normal child.

Tonight my heart is with her mother, who at 19 is facing a nightmare that is beyond the reckoning of even the most cynical and battle-hardened parents I know. She has risen to this challenge with uncommon grace, courage and clear-headedness. I am so proud of her I could burst.

Tonight my heart is with her surgeon, a man I have known for years. He has dedicated himself to giving life back to these incredibly tiny, hopelessly weak patients. He daily works miracles we couldn't conceive just a few years ago.

Tonight I'm asking you if you would spare a bit of your heart, your thoughts and prayers, to lend strength to baby Eve and the people who are going to work together to save her life tomorrow morning. They could use all the help they can get.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Random Thoughts

I made my first Angel Food Cake from scratch today. So much fun! But word to the wise -- invest in a real live Angel Food Cake Pan, with the removable bottom. Because the festive cut-out Bundt pan I used was a recipe for Trifle. Yummy, though.

I am so fracking sick of snow I could scream. For hours.

Can someone PLEASE tell me why people waste valuable life force on bitterness???

Tie-dyed Easter eggs rock the shizamm!!

Some day, I'd like to have a dinner party catered by Michael Ruhlman.

Got three more hits on "bifurcated uvula" today! I swear, I'm going to put out a general call for comments from lurkers who hit on that term, just to see if they're all med students or something... ;)

Have a blessed and most happy Easter, my friends.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

...and then there are days like this....

Santa Claus.

The Easter Bunny.

The Tooth Fairy.

I totally bought into the whole "share the mythology and fun with your kid" thing. We had a lot of fun with it. But now she's seven, and the kids on the bus today told her none of these beautiful icons existed. Made her cry. She's mad at them for taking away her gentle heroes and she's mad at me for introducing them to begin with.

I tried the "Santa and the Easter Bunny don't exist for Hannah Larsen because she doesn't believe in them" tack. Nothing doin'. I tried the "Santa and the Easter Bunny are the spirits of all that is good and beautiful about these holidays and they are the spirit of love".

She looked me straight in the eye and said "When I got presents from Santa, did they really come from you?" I answered, "What do you think?"

She paused.

"I think you're dodging".

Maybe I was wrong to take my double Virgo, rules maven Aspy kid and perpetrate a beautiful lie on her...

Well, I guess we'll get to have that talk about how much we love our imaginary friends, even when inside, we know they're imaginary. I was just hoping for another year of magic.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Why I love my seven-year-old

1) This evening, she composed an operetta for Go Dog, Go! and sang it to me before bed. I particularly enjoyed the soaring passage as the dogs ascended the tree at the end to join the dog party.

Will they work there?
Will they play there?
What is up there on top of that tree?
A dog party!
A big dog party!

And finally, the triumphant acceptance of the hat, after so many rejections.

I laughed. I cried. I wanted to engage a string section.

2) Her description, in detail and with appropriate dance moves, of three of her male classmates emerging from the bathroom break wearing their t-shirts cascading of the back of their heads (like hair) singing "I'm just a Barbie a Barbie world..."

3) Today, she insisted on showing me her diary. It's possible that, when she is 17, she will crucify me for betraying a confidence, but the January 19th entry reads:

Dear Diary,

I think I have a crush on Zachary. He knows more about Pokemon than ANYbody I know. He says I'm funny. He told me I have to figure out how to beat the seventh gym leader on my own, but then he came back at recess and told me how. I think that means he likes me.

A word to the wise, Bug: A man who enjoys your sense of humor and will help you achieve your goals is a keeper.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Conversations between my daughter and her best friend, while playing Nintendo DS -- Super Mario Brothers, I think.

7-year-old: Mary Ann! That was my mushroom! You took my mushroom! That's IT, Mary Ann! You are no longer my brother!

8-year-old: Louise, you are a sad, sad bucket of fries.


8-year-old: I like this level. The music is really peppy.

7-year-old: Yeah, it's too bad you have to die such a horrible way with such nice music.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Back to normal

I have a mountain of laundry on my family room floor and there is an empty pizza box on my kitchen counter.

My hobbling hubby must be home.

On entirely separate note: Do you think coconut is bad for cats? Because my daughter's numbskull tabby is wolfing down the bag of tropical trail mix on the table.

Oh, and my bifurcated uvula was especially happy today. I bought it a milkshake on the way home from work.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008


This is a shameful day, indeed, in American history.

Our government has failed to uphold our moral and ethical will by refusing to override President Bush's veto of the intelligence bill. A bill that was intended, in part, to extend to the CIA and other intelligence agencies the same rules we have placed on our military interrogators regarding the use of torture as an intelligence-gathering "tool". To be clear, there are only eight things these military interrogators are not allowed to do. Eight. It's like saying we can't form complete sentences without using George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words." These eight illegal interrogation techniques are, I understand, also slightly less effective than using Mr. Carlin's seven dirty words, when it comes to gathering good intelligence.

Please, sir, if you will allow me to retain my genitals, I would be happy to give you the names of several Al Qaeda operatives posing as shepherds outside of Baghdad.

I'm not even going to bother feeling outraged that Bush vetoed the bill to being with. I've given up on expecting anything morally right out of the man. He's clearly a megalomaniac who thinks that whatever he conceives is correct by definition.

I love this quote from the flavor-of-the-month White House Assistant Press Secretary:

"The bill would have eliminated the legal alternative procedures in place in the CIA program to question the world's most dangerous and violent terrorists."

Really. Waterboarding is legal? Who knew?

Well, hell -- how about breaking people's thumbs?

"Hey, pal, if you can't pay back the money you owe to Big Vinny, my friend Guido, here, might have to employ some legal alternative procedures to help you remember to do that later."

This was a strict party-line vote. The Republicans were so busy trying to punish the Democrats over the illegal (oops - legal alternative) wiretap legislation that they abandoned basic human rights and upheld the opinion of Herr Dunderhead.

So if I understand this correctly, waterboarding and other forms of torture are illegal if carried out by someone who may: a) Get caught on camera; b) Be stupid enough to develop a moral conscience and talk about it later; or c) Be on the social security roles at some point.

Buy hey! If you like to work in dark alleys and agree not to exist, officially, you can do whatever you want, with the full legal blessing of the US government. Yay for you!

I am sickened.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Yankin' the Google...and my amazing incompetence.

So Blogpatrol says the #1 search term that brings people to this blog is

wait. for. it.

"bifurcated uvula"

That cracks me up to no end. As a result, I shall endeavour to use the words "bifurcated uvula" at least once in every post from now on. I will own this search term forevermore

I have no life, as you can plainly see.

In other news: Oh, don't you wish you'd had a movie camera at my house today???

Why? you may ask. Because today, for an hour, I entertained my neighbors with my hilarious antics trying, for the first time, to drive a tractor and operate a front-end loader. Yep. Nothing thrills the crowds like dropping the bucket down too far, and lifting the drive train clear off the ground.

All this with a seven-year-old kibitzing, with helpful comments like, "Mom! You missed the snow with that run!"

See, my dear hubby decided to cap off Saturday night by trying to clear the 21+ inches of snow from the driveway. As he backed the tractor out into the driveway, and immediately after he pulled behind BOTH cars, the old John Deere stalled. Frozen fuel lines. Joy. He decided to pop the transmission into neutral and push it out of the way. Enter the layer of ice under the snow. His left leg slipped and his MCL decided to liberate itself from its insertion point.

Did I mention the cars were trapped by the tractor in the driveway?

Had to call 911 to take him to the hospital, where they put him in an immobilizer and gave him a set of crutches. He promptly left town for a 10-day internship at the State House.

So here I was, with 52 inches of snow blocking my driveway, courtesy of the county road crew. I swear, they imported snow from the next street over to get the mound that high. Spent two hours shoveling that out yesterday, so I could drive my car through the yard (yep, I'm now glad I bought that SUV!) and get to work today.

This afternoon, however, the temperature warmed up sufficiently to start the recalcitrant tractor.

Did I mention I've never driven a tractor before? In my life? Until today.

OK, it wasn't pretty. In fact, I was the very picture of Lucille-Ball-in-the-candy-factory incompetence. But I have 145 feet of clean driveway out there now.

I am woman. Hear me roar.

Oh, and "bifurcated uvula"

Saturday, March 08, 2008


Great mother of toast, there's a lotta snow here! I just walked outside with the yard stick. 26 inches, but I think there's some drifting there. (Edit: Just checked. The National Weather Services said we had 21 inches)

I just walked the dog. He can't get his little buddy out of the snow. Poor guy.

We had two days of ice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then it started snowing Friday afternoon and it hasn't stopped yet. We had a lot of plans this weekend. Instead, I washed walls. Yi-pee.

And I cooked. Chicken stew, French Bread, Steamed Asparagus. Meyer Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert. At least we're eating well.

Stay warm and dry wherever you are.