Sunday, December 04, 2011

God Always Trusts Trojan

“Of course I know how to use a condom, Dad!  They taught us in health class last year!"

“Really?  And how did you practice this important skill?”

“We used a banana.”

“Great.  Show me.”

“Yeah, Dad.  Like I just carry condoms with me everywhere I go.”

“Yeah, well maybe you should!”

This is not an unusual conversation in my household.  My daughter, Daisy Mae, recently turned 17.  She looks older than her years and is, in a mother’s strictly unbiased opinion, a beautiful girl.  She has a tendency to attract boys a couple years older than she is, which means that Mr. Bean and I have our work cut out for us, if we intend to get through the next three years without becoming grandparents.

Daisy was preparing to go out with her then-boyfriend, Devon, a 19-year-old who seemed intent on living his entire summer at the beach.

“OK, well, look.  Mom and I have to run out for dog food.  We’ll be back around 6:00.  What time is Loverboy showing up?”

“I don’t even know for sure if we’re going out tonight,” Daisy scowled as she looked at her phone, “he just said he’s stuck helping his mom at the market.”

Mr. and I headed out to get dog food, followed by a stop at Chipotle for a quick bite to eat.  Chipotle was a popular spot that night, as we had about a ten-minute wait in line.

As we neared the front of the line, I looked down on the floor and was surprised to see that someone had dropped a wrapped condom.  

I nudged Mr. Bean, “Wow, Honey, look!  God had left us a condom!  Do you think it’s a sign?”

He looked to where I pointed and snickered.  “It appears that God wants us to quiz our smart-mouthed kid about her birth control.”

“And Lo, there did appear before them a,” I reached down and picked up the condom, “a Lime-green Trojan Twisted Pleasure, with a reservoir tip, and extra lubrication.  And the people took up the condom and declared it good.”  I slipped in and out of a bad Charleton Heston voice, giggling like a 12-year-old.

The woman in front of me looked over her right shoulder.  “OK, I just want to go on record saying that did NOT fall out of my purse, OK?”

“Duly noted.”  Mr Bean and I were laughing hysterically at this point.

When we arrived home, Mr. immediately summoned our daughter.  

“Oh, Daisy Mae!  Come here, sweetheart!  God has brought unto us an opportunity to prove your condom-sheathing skills.  Quick; grab a banana and come here!”

Daisy set down the Wii controller and leveled her very best “Really?” gaze at us.  “Seriously?  You two went out and bought condoms, just so I could prove to you that I know how to put one on?  You’re kidding, right?”

“Oh, no,” I said, “God sent us this condom.  He delivered it to us at the Chipotle by the mall, so that we could bring it to you!  It’s God’s condom.  It's a magic condom for all we know.  You can’t dis it.”  

“Oh for gawd’s sake.  What the hell is this?  A Twisted Pleasure condom?  Jeez!  It’s fluorescent green.  OK, that’s so wrong.  Gimme that banana...”

She tore open the wrapper, grabbed the condom by the reservoir tip….and shook it vigorously until it flapped about like a limp wind sock.  She looked at the banana.  She looked at the condom.  “Shit.  I did that wrong.  Oh, whatever!”  She started to drop it, but then looked at it again and started to laugh.  “Man, that would make, like, the best water balloon EVER.”

The condom, as is happened, was capable of holding an entire pint of water, with room to spare.  Daisy spent about 45 minutes playing with her new water balloon on the back porch until it finally burst.  

“OK, I will NEVER, EVER believe any guy who tells me that the condom is too small for him to wear.  That thing would have fit a horse!”   

Lesson 121.  Completed.

The next afternoon, I dropped Daisy off at the beach, where she was meeting Devon.  “Hey; have fun, Baby.  Behave yourself.”

She looked back at me as she got out of the car.  “Yeah, it looks like I won’t have a choice about that, as clearly, I don’t know how to put on a condom!”  She winked.

I love you, Daisy Mae.

Friday, December 02, 2011

You Can't Run Away on Bath Day.

Any of you who have ever been to my house know that I have the biggest, hairiest dog in the universe.  His name is Max.  He’s a Scottish Deerhound.  He stands 34” high at the shoulder.  He can reach all but the middle five inches of my kitchen counters without any of his four legs leaving the ground.  Despite his advanced age (he’s 90 years old, in dog years), he can still rear up on his hind legs and take things off the top of my fridge.  I have witnessed this.  He’s huge.

In addition to being physically tall, Max is heavy.  And covered, head to toe, in a double coat of five-inch long wiry hair.  Imagine having to conduct all of your daily requirements while wearing a Sasquatch suit; now you know what Max goes through.  I love him.  But he can get pretty fragrant sometimes. Oh, and he’s arguably the most neurotic dog in the universe.

In the summer time, we can put him in cross-ties and use a bucket of soapy water and the garden hose to get him clean.  Once the weather gets cold, this is no longer an option.  None of the local groomers have dog wash stations that can safely accommodate a canine the size of Mike Tyson with the temperament of Woody Allen.  He’s too heavy to lift in and out of the bathtub and besides, it’s too slippery in there for him.  

That leaves us with the shower stall in the laundry room/mud room.  Which is large enough for him to stand in, if he doesn’t move too much.  With the door closed, there’s scarcely enough room for me to get in there with him, and in order not to make a bigger mess of things than necessary, I am forced to join the dog au naturel for bath time.

This was how we began last Wednesday Bath Time Adventure.  The soaping up and scrubbing part went well enough; he stood patiently while I wetted all his fur, lathered and scrubbed all his various dignified and undignified doggy parts.  It was when we got to rinsing and brushing that things began to come apart.  Deerhound fur is a curious substance.  It clings to deerhound skin in a very tenuous manner, dislodging itself under with even the scarcest effort.  As I began to brush out Max’s fur, large clumps of it came off of Max, attaching itself to the shower tile walls, the floor…and to me.  Within minutes, I was disturbingly festooned with large expanses of thick, dark fur clods, until I began to wonder if this was what felt like to be Sean Connery’s back.  

I encountered a few mats that needed cutting out, and realized I had forgotten the scissors on the kitchen table.  I released Max’s head and he reacted as any self-respecting dog would:   He shook from head to tail, releasing a shower of extra fur that covered all my remaining exposed skin in a deerhound patina.  By now, I was well and thoroughly short of patience.  “It’s a good thing I love you, you hairy, stinky beast.”

My husband and daughter were out running some errands, so I was alone in the house and couldn’t yell for the scissors.  I looked at Max.  “I’m going to get the scissors.  Be a good boy.  Don't.  Move.”  Shutting the shower door, I emerged out into the kitchen:  nude, sopping wet, covered in hunks of dog fur, half of my hair sticking straight up from where Max had rubbed shampoo into it, and wearing a murderous expression.  I can only imagine I resembled Helena Bonham Carter half-morphed between Belatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter and Ari from Planet of the Apes.

It was then that I discovered my family had arrived home some time while I was washing the dog.

My daughter let out a horrified scream.  “Jeeezus, Mom!”  She fled the room.

My husband unsuccessfully hid his desire to burst out laughing.  “Um…snicker…well…snerk…So…how’s the bath going?”  He covered his mouth and snorted; his eyes started to water.  “You, um, wear the hot-n-hairy look well.”  He was now laughing openly.  

From the other room I could hear my daughter yelling, “Gawd!  I’m going to need brain bleach now!”

My voice came out as a strangled growl.  “Just give me the f*cking scissors.”

By now, Max had dislodged the shower door from its track and was sliding around the laundry room floor, where he upended the cat box and coated his recently-clean legs in used cat litter.

I returned to the shower, re-washed and re-brushed Max's legs, finished drying and grooming his fur and released him, now joyous and bouncing, back into the house.  I got myself cleaned up and collected all of the dog fur.  I intend to card and spin it; by winter’s end I should have knitted two schnauzers and a wire-haired dachshund.  My husband and daughter can wash them.

I hope there’s no more mud until summer.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dear Bug

Dear Bug,

We've managed, somehow, to make it though another year without you here to help guide the sun and make it a little brighter.  Hard to believe.

A lot has changed.  Daddy is about to graduate and start his PhD program; I think he's finally realized that his moving on is about honoring you, not forgetting you.  Daisy Mae is working hard at being a Sophomore, and busy with her friends and studies and getting ready to move on to her associates program.  I'm just...well, I just keep on keepin' on.  It's normal life, and yet there is always the knowledge that something enormous is missing.  Nothing is the same, and yet everything continues on.   

We had a regular Thanksgiving dinner this year.  It was nice, but I think we all missed you a lot.  I was pretty sad after everyone went home.  And on Friday, I spent some time in prayer and thought, really focusing on your life and what it meant to me.  I think your daddy and I are going to set aside the day after Thanksgiving for you, rather than whatever day the calendar says.  That way, it's always your day, and it's never a work day or Thanksgiving.  Hope you are OK with that.

It's been a long time since I wrote to you here.  I think for a long time, I spent so much time here focused on missing you that once that wasn't the focus of all my attention, writing about other things seemed trite.  Maybe a little bit dishonest.  I know you want us to move on and be happy. And while we all have started to do that, it just seems strange to write about it.  I need to do it, though.  So much has happened.  So many changes.

I miss you.  I miss your sweet smile, your goofy laugh, the way you filled a room with all your noise and presence.  I miss holding your hand in the car.  I miss our bedtime conversations.  I miss listening to you sing songs in the bathroom (I'm singin' to the poop!). I miss listening to you do the Soba chant (So-ba!  So-ba!  So-ba!) I even miss hearing about the countless adventures of all your imaginary friends.  I look at your pictures, and I find myself surprised, always, that there are no new ones.  I still sometimes gasp with the realization that you are gone, that you are not coming back.  I know you are close by all the time, but I wish I could have more of you than the ephemeral brushes of your spirit against mine.  I want more.  I want my baby back.

And yet, I am still so grateful for the mark you left on my life.  Without you, I would never have learned how to love this deeply, this fiercely.  I would never have learned to take the time to see the good in every person I meet.  I would never have learned to see the good in myself.  I would never have learned to love, in equal measure, the good and the bad, the triumphs and setbacks in life.  To, as my friend Cathy says, appreciate the beautiful catastrophe that is life.  To know, absolutely, that there is something beyond the mortal coil.

Sweet Bug, thank you.  Thank you again for the beauty that was, and remains, your presence in my life.  You will always stay in my heart. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Corn Tortillas!!!

Tap, tap, tap…is this thing on?

So it’s been awhile since I’ve been here.  And there’s a reason for that.  Because most of the major happenings in my life over the last several months have had to do with work, and as we know, blogging about things that happen at work is an almost sure ticket to blogging as a full-time job.  So I’ve elected instead to not blog.  But we’re now in week 22 of Stuff We Can’t Talk About On The Internet, and I’m tired of not blogging anymore, so I’m going to try something a little different.  

We’re going to indulge in a Food Post.

Really, all of this is my girlfriend Christy’s fault.  Last week, she posted a blog entry on my Facebook page about a woman who was making flour tortillas.  Christy thought this woman was all perky and funny and said, “I want you to blog about cooking.  You haven’t blogged about cooking since your potato salad recipe.  By the way, a very charismatic gay friend of mine made ten pounds of your potato salad for Independence Day this year because of your blog.  Ten Pounds.  That’s power, I tell you.  So tell me a story about cooking.”

So here’s the problem:  I really am not fond of flour tortillas.  They are cellophane-wrapped bits of dubious foodstuff that invariably become gummy and unappetizing in one’s mouth and every time I eat them, a little blob of white goo gets stuck in a crevice between my right incisor and the adjoining tooth.  That, plus, Christy is one of the many members of my circle of friends who has recently discovered (or decided) they are gluten intolerant.  I call them my Gluten Heads.  And flour=gluten.

Corn tortillas, on the other hand, are delightful bits of food-wrapping goodness.  Delicate in consistency, slightly sweet, small enough to cause one not to super-size the fillings, they are to flatbread what truffles are to mushrooms.

So I set out to find a good corn tortilla recipe.  I thought this might be a challenge.  Given that one rarely finds corn tortillas in the grocery store, and that even Mexican restaurants often do not feature them, I have lived under the impression that preparation of a good corn tortilla was complicated, and therefore restricted to the expertise of the Mexican Grandma-types who can be found in the windows of Old-Town San Diego eateries.  I have often equated the preparation of corn tortillas to be akin to Cuban Cigars that are “Rolled on the Thighs of Island Women”, as the stalls in Key West would have you believe.

Lo and Behold, the morning after I embark on this journey to find The Perfect Corn Tortilla Recipe, this month’s Fine Cooking arrives on my doorstep.  The feature this month involved Corn Tortillas, and the festooning thereof.  Quelle chance!  I eagerly ripped into the magazine, focusing on the recipe as though I had uncovered the secret to the perfect Krabby Pattie.  I zeroed in on the ingredient list to learn that the ingredients were:

Masa Harina (that’s corn flour, to the rest of us)

Now if you’re like me, you will stop at this point and look at the back of your computer to see if there are some words that may inadvertently have slipped off the screen and slid behind your desk.  I assure you, they have not.

Being trained in the sciences, I have been forced over the years to take a statistics class or two.  Because of this, I am able to make the following calculation.  Corn has an 87.94% chance of encountering both water and salt without any human intervention whatsoever.  With this in mind, let’s revisit the ingredient list: 

1)      Corn
2)      Stuff that exists in Corn’s natural habitat

In other words, Corn.  That’s it.  Just…corn.  Seriously?  How could I pass this up?

Challenge #1 is finding good quality Masa Harina.  I live in the epicenter of rural whiteness in north-central Ohio.  So I drove toward Lorain, which has the largest Puerto Rican population outside of Puerto Rico.  They also have some of the most bitchin’ foodstuffs in the universe.  The go-to brand for Masa Harina is Maseca

This is the stuff.

I set the iPod to play a little Rodrigo y Gabriella, and headed for the kitchen.  Following the recipe on the bag (the Fine Cooking recipe called for, like, eight pounds of masa and a truckload of water.  I wanted to make about a dozen tortillas), mix 2 cups of masa with a half teaspoon of salt and 1 ¼  cups of warm water.  Use your hand to knead it together for a minute or two.  You want to make sure it holds together but not let it get too wet.  

Here’s a good test of the water content:  Roll about two tablespoons of the mixture into a ball (it’ll be about 1 ½ inches in diameter).  Now flatten it slightly.  If it forms deep crevices in around the edges, it’s too dry.  If it feels wet to the touch, it’s too wet.  Think Play-Doh.

This batch should make about 16 dough balls.  Cover the dough balls with a damp towel until you’re ready for them

Now, the masa bag and the magazine both recommend using a tortilla press for this next part.  I have a very well-appointed kitchen but do not have a tortilla press.  I do, however, have a really big heavy cast iron skillet.
This frying pan weighs about 192 pounds.

Place a dough ball between two pieces of plastic wrap and flatten with your tortilla press.  Or if you’re me, whap it really hard with the skillet.  I sent cats flying to the four corners of the globe with this one!

 Alas, the result was a bit too small and too thick for my taste, so I fell back to my trusty old rolling pin for the finish.  The results were somewhat less than perfectly round, but still quite serviceable.

I used my pancake griddle for the cooking.  You can also use a good heavy frying pan.  No need to grease; they don’t stick.  I set mine for about 325-350.  That’s solidly medium-high for those of you on the stovetop.

Remove the plastic wrap and slap the tortilla down on the cooking surface.  The slapping thing ensures that no bubbles form under the tortilla.  I cooked mine for about a minute to a minute-and-a-half per side.  It’s done when it starts to dry out a little and maybe gets a bit brown.  

That’s it.  Cover them up with a damp towel until you are done with the rest of the tortillas, or until you develop tendonitis in your wrist from wielding that big heavy frying pan and all that tortilla-slapping.  

Daisy Mae proclaimed them too sweet and grabbed one of the flour bombs out of the fridge.  What do kids know anyway?  I thought they were delicious, and they seemed to have the right balance of flexibility and strength.  I’ll make them again. Especially now that I know how stupid easy they are.

Corn.  Who knew?

Whew!  That was, like, three entries in one, now wasn’t it?

Next time, we’ll explore white shrimp pizza with sun dried tomatoes and artichoke hearts.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Death of a Laptop: A Tech Support Tale in Haiku

One of the mixed blessings of keeping a public blog is that, while you can share your thoughts and activities with the world, your thoughts and activities are shared, well, with the world.  Which is fine, except when the main focus of your thoughts and activities is stuff going on at work.  And your colleagues know where you live.  Then it's best to keep your mouth shut.  Hence my recent silence.  Hopefully, we can resume our normal programming soon.  Because seriously: I love what I do and I like to share positive stuff when it happens. 

In the meantime, my trusty laptop decided to be not so trusty yesterday, which is to say that I re-booted it at 11:15 yesterday morning because it was being "tweaky" and it puked all over my desk and refused to work for the rest of the day.

Two things to remember about me:  1) I'm a geek; and 2) I'm a geek.

Being a geek, I engaged my tech support in the geekiest way possible, which is to say that I emailed my favorite tech support guy with the following support ticket explanation, and the ensuing conversation over the last 27 hours.  In Haiku.

All that which functioned
Now abides, silent, dark
config.sys?  Vanished

A screen, blue as sky
Returns again and again
I search for answers

Access to email
So long taken for granted
Now?  Prayers are needed

Diagnostics fail
No match for this new problem
Behold!  A doorstop!

Flaunting policy
My Carbonite back-up is
worth its weight in gold

Leaving town Tuesday?
Off to great adventures, but
your laptop won't be.

So I'm off to see if I can beg an extra machine off a friend for the next two weeks, scrub it, re-load all my files, and see if I can get it working from the road.    Awesome.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's that pesky magnet in your butt, actually.

I have another confession to make.  Yeah; I have a lot of confessions.  I'm like that.

Apparently, I am possessed of a strong and perhaps singular ability to attract graduate students that crash and burn half-way through their programs.  Of the seven I've had in the last four years, three of them have just fallen apart at the seams, and either dropped out and returned to the lab, flaked out and returned to Eastern Europe, or vanished without a trace.

I just got two new ones about three months ago.  Lost another one already.  I called it the minute she walked in the door.

The kids who do well in programs like this (our program combines a fairly rigorous science curriculum and an even more rigorous business curriculum) are kids who have had to struggle in their science programs to date.  The reason is simple:  They're not scientists.  They went into science because they were good at it and their parents wanted them to become doctors.  They struggle in science because their minds are wired for something much less specialized, much more risky, and altogether more...integrated...than lab work.  More Entrepreneurial.

Entrepreneurs are, at their core, absolutely comfortable with failure.  If you don't fail at least twice for every success you have as an entrepreneur, you haven't pushed yourself hard enough.  If we're training entrepreneurs, we need to get them used to not having all the answers, to living with uncertainty and with the idea that even your mentor can't predict with certainty if your answer will actually be the right one.

The kids who have struggled with science -- with the rigidity, the memorization, the rules, the laws, the concept that there are potentially immutable constants -- they fight against rules.  They are comfortable with failure.  They embrace risk.  And frankly, because they have learned to fight with absolutes and "right" and "wrong" they have, by definition, learned to fall on their faces without breaking their noses...or at least they've learned to make a crooked nose look attractive.  

Some of the kids who walk through this door have never failed at anything in their lives.  Further, because Science (!) has "rules" and "laws" associated with it, it's fairly easy to spot when you're just plain wrong about something, at least at the Undergrad level.  All these rules and laws get turned on their heads in graduate school, but the science programs sort of ease you into that whole concept.  Not so with an entrepreneurship program.  There is a mindset that says, "I'm good a science...brilliant, really.  In fact, I'm just really, really frickin' smart overall.  And these business types are morons, you know?  So if I can just study the rules and theory of business, I can take all these smarts and go off and follow the formula and make a ton of money."  Which turns out all to be complete bullshit, if you're dealing with human elements like caprice and greed.  This rocks. their. world.

Which still doesn't explain why the over-achiever types all end up working for me.  Perhaps because at that age, I got the same headache-inducing wake-up slap.  And while I stumbled and fell, I also learned to get up and dust off and move on to better things.

I'm happy to take these kids on; to help them stand up and dust off.  Does the dean sense this and deliberately send these kids to me?  Do I drive them to the brink?  Maybe I'm boot camp.  But seriously, I just need some competent help that resists the urge to have a nervous breakdown when things go wrong.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Welcome to Mayberry!

OK, having recovered from last night's bout of self-loathing (ok, not really, but I'm putting on a braver face today), let's move on to something more upbeat.

My husband's aunt posted this from the local paper  It's the police blotter.

Lagrange and Grafton are the two communities next to mine.  But these could have come from my neighborhood.  Be forewarned...we do not look kindly at people who poke dead squirrels with a stick.

Personally, I'm interested in knowing who lives next to North Park and sits in their front window all day with binoculars.  Because you know that's what's happening...

LaGrange police

Thursday, March 17
7:27 p.m. — 100 block Keywood, unruly juveniles were slamming a man’s grill lid and knocking on the back glass door to his residence.
Friday, March 18
7:40 p.m. — Commerce Park, a couple juveniles were seen playing with an air soft gun in the woods. They were told to leave the property.
Saturday, March 19
1 a.m. — 300 block S. Center St., Convenient Food Mart, the doughnut delivery man reported that the box he leaves doughnuts in had several business cards, receipts and medication. An employee said the items belonged to her and must have fallen out of her pocket into the box.
3:15 p.m. — 190 block Railroad St., a woman called the police because her 10-year-old son was being unruly. According to the woman, all of her children were cleaning the house, but he was not listening to her. The officers were called back to the residence at 4:15 p.m. because the 10-year-old was then arguing with the other children.
10:53 p.m. — South Center Street, Adam McGregor, 20, Grafton, was charged with driving under suspension and illumination of rear registration.
Monday, March 21
5:15 p.m. — Commerce Drive, a purse was found outside. The lady, who resides in Medina County, said it was stolen in November 2010 while she was in Strongsville. The purse was returned to her.
Wednesday, March 23
2:49 a.m. — East Main and Railroad streets, Jason Murphy, 23, North Ridgeville, cited for failure to reinstate and illumination of rear registration.

Grafton police

Tuesday, March 15
10:28 a.m. — 1100 block State St., a woman advised that she could hear her neighbor in a nearby apartment yelling and screaming at her 5-year-old son. She reported that she always hears her yelling at him through her walls. An officer spoke with the mother who said her son would not go to school that day and that he was fine.
5:01 p.m. — 400 block Main St., a woman wanted to speak with an officer in reference to her ex-husband who may show up at her place of employment. She stated that she was in court with him earlier that day. There is no restraining order against him and she was afraid for her safety when she left work.
Wednesday, March 16
7 p.m. — North Park, a resident reportedly saw a juvenile at the park who had a stick and was poking smaller kids on the swings. The officer spoke with the boy, who promised to behave himself.
Friday, March 18
6:12 p.m. — North Park, a resident saw juveniles playing with a dead squirrel on a stick. The juveniles were advised to not play with dead squirrels on a stick.
Saturday, March 19
3:22 p.m. — North Park, a resident advised he saw a juvenile with a pocket knife at the park. The juvenile was advised to keep the pocket knife in his pocket.
9:02 p.m. — 1000 block Wellfleet, a vehicle was egged.
Sunday, March 20
8:30 a.m. — 1000 block Plymouth, vehicles and homes were egged.
Monday, March 21
6:59 p.m. — 700 block Main St., an officer saw people throwing items out the front door. They advised the officer that they were spring cleaning.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My own personal pound book.

My friend Alison forwarded a link on my Google Reader today.  It's about a woman who cannot see the beauty that she is and it's dedicated to all the rest of the women out there who cannot see their own beauty. I look at the picture this woman posted and I see an absolutely lovely woman with beautiful hair, a beautiful smile and a lovely, joyful daughter.  She can't see any of it.  I totally get it.  Her story speaks to me and my fragile self-esteem in a deafening way right now. 

There is a part of me who wants to upload my photo so I can get all these affirmations and ride all this positive wave with the rest of them.  But I won't.  I can't. 

Because right now, when I look in the mirror, I'm not liking what I see.  I see a woman who looks, literally, 10 years older than she did 18 months ago.  I have dark circles that won't go away.  I had a head full of curly, thick hair before Kes died; fully half of it is gone, to the point where I'm wondering if I need to try medication to make it come back.  I have crow's feet on my crow's feet.  I need to lose 40 pounds, and for the first time ever in my life, I have fat around my tummy.  I have enough grays that I actually NEED to color my hair now. People used to comment on my eyes; they have always been my best feature.  Anymore, there is no sparkle there.  I look in that mirror and I see a woman who looks exhausted, weary, haggard. 

And I don't like it.

I am angry at the universe.  I am angry that some insidious DNA mutation not only took the joy from my heart, but that it saw fit to leave the scars of that insult on my face for all to see.  

Maybe in time, things will look different.  Maybe, as my heart heals (IF my heart heals), the sparkle will come back. 

Maybe next week.  Maybe next month.  But not now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chapter 9: In which we learn to hold back.

March 12, 2011

There is a little girl, around eight years old, sitting on her mother’s lap across from me at the Philadelphia gate at Reagan Airport.  She has shoulder-length brown hair.  She is wearing leggings with Hello Kitty on them, along with a belt that belongs on a child five years her senior.  She’s at that age where her body is starting to get away from her, and her arms and legs hang off her mother’s lap at awkward angles.  She doesn’t notice. She is comfortable. Her mother patiently arranges the girl’s limbs against her own, not wanting to move her, because she knows that the day when her daughter won’t want to share her lap is imminent.

The girl is playing a Nintendo DS.  Cookin’ Mama, which was one of Kiersten’s favorite games.  The sound of the game is tearing my heart out.  I keep hearing the music and the ridiculous Japanese approximation of English as she finishes each step in the recipe.  I close my eyes and I can almost feel Kiersten playing, snuggled in the next chair, her head resting on my shoulder. 

She sat like that the day she died, as we waited for Steve’s car to be finished at the Ford dealership.  She was curled up in the chair next to mine, her body resting easily against me.  I kissed the top of her head several times, inhaling the smell of her.  I can recall the smell of her hair now.  I couldn’t do that in the first several months.  I can also recall the exact feeling of the warmth of her body on my right shoulder as she leaned against me.  That memory isn’t as painful as it used to be.  It doesn’t make me want to scream and cry.  But it still hurts like hell, and my shoulder suddenly feels cold for the lack of her warmth.

Looking across at the little girl with the DS, I find I want to say something to her.  I want to tell her how much Kiersten loved her DS and how much she loved that game.  I want to tell her mother not to take for granted the casual ease of her daughter’s body against her own.  I want to tell her to give her daughter extra hugs and kisses every night.  To never let her forget for a single day to let her baby know how much she’s loved. 

I can’t do that, of course.  People become nervous when you approach them in airports and discuss their children.  It’s an instinctive mother reaction to shy away, to put your children behind you.  And starting the conversation means I have to finish it, which means I have to tell them a story about how all that casual ease can be taken away in a heartbeat.  It isn’t fair to the recipient.  But there’s a part of me that wants to tell the story anyway.  There’s a part of me that still, even now, wants to walk up to every parent I see and look them in their eyes and tell them that my baby, my heart and soul, is dead.  There's a part of me wants each of them to hurt for my loss. 

It’s selfish.  I know that. 

I know that, which is why I remain quiet and pull my jacket over my shoulder and listen and remember. 

Tuesday, March 08, 2011


Charlie Sheen, Age 47, is all over the news because he's a lesbian rock-star warlock from Mars celebrity drug addict. 
Andrew Wilfahrt, age 31, Brian Tabada  age 21, Rudolph Hizon age 22, Chauncy Mays age 25, Christopher Stark age 22, David Fahey Jr age 23, Kristopher Gould age 25, and Nicholas Alden age 25 are members of our armed services who gave their lives this week with little or no media mention outside of their home towns. 
May they rest in peace.
For each of their deaths, there are 10 more service members who lay wounded in military hospitals and who may never regain their quality of life.
 May we give them the support and attention they deserve.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Sin of Rationality

"Seriously; the rest of us don't know what to do with the rest of them."

My friend, Christy, is a centrist Republican.  She was referring to the far right political  fringe element, which she openly and unapologetically calls "tea-baggers". 

Christy believes the free market will generally take care of most of our economic issues; she believes there is nothing wrong with prayer in schools; she believes that abortion should be safe and legal but not necessarily free and easy.  She also believes the social safety net is not a bad thing, so long as it doesn't become a crutch, but that much of the work of that safety net can be accomplished by strong communities that take care of their own, not by the Federal Government with lots of intermediaries.   She thinks unions have their place in protecting the rights and wages of those who would otherwise be unfairly treated by their employers, but believes that there is a lot of corruption and waste at the highest levels of some of them.

In short, she thinks like about 70-80% of everyone in this country.

So why is it that the 20-30% minority of this nation, who represent the far right and far left fringes of our social and political beliefs, seem to be setting the agenda for the rest of us? 

A friend of mine, who makes his living promoting a lot of capitalist ideals, cautioned me to back-pedal the other day when I called him out for being a "lefty".  "I'm a closet lefty.  Closet.  Christ, you keep talking like that and they'll think I'm a goddamn bleeding heart like you."

"Yeah, C; the clue bus?  Leaving the station.  Dude, you have four advanced degrees, you serve on a board that takes care of under-privileged kids, and your mom is a lesbian.  Ain't no 'closet' about it."

Despite the fact that we were on a private phone call, he shushed me.  "How do I maintain my credibility with my co-workers if they know my politics?"

So what gives here?  We have Republicans who clearly feel a lack of comfort with the direction of their party.  We have fiscal conservatives who are afraid to reveal they are social liberals, because a small and extremely vocal minority tell them they must be "in for a penny, in for a pound."

What he heck ever happened to rationality?  Why is it sinful to be in the middle, to accept some of the wisdom of both sides and to reflect the needs, wants and aspirations of the vast majority among us? 

Have we lost our minds?


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Note to self:

Strom Thurmond and Strobe Talbott are NOT the same person!!

Colleague:  "I think we can get Strobe Talbott to deliver the keynote for this session"

Me:  "Strobe Talbott?  Didn't he die, like 10 years ago?  Something to do with can of Pepsi and pubic hair?"

Colleague:  "  That was Strom Thurmond.  Similar,; I take that back.  Not similar at all.  You deserve a head slap for that."

Sheesh.  I'm such a moroon sometimes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Welcome, Comrades!

Ok, I'll admit it:  Sometimes, I like to check my blog stats to see who has stopped by and whether there are any new faces out there.   (I've Googled myself a few times too, just to see what the world is saying about me behind my back.  Call it narcissism if you want, but I just like to know, OK?  Don't judge me.  Especially as you sit there picking your toes at your desk because you think no one is looking.  Because believe me, they are.)

So anyway, the last 48 hours has brought a flood of hits (like, 25 or so a day -- I'm not all that popular, so 25 is a flood) from a bunch of IP addresses across the Russian Federation.  And not all from the same city. 

So hey there!  If you're in Mother Russia, drop a comment so I know you're not all a bunch of crazy stalker-types, looking to steal my identity or anything, OK?




Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Act Now! Operators are standing by!

I got an email today that offered me a chance to become a Certified Strategic Negotiator!

They weren't making this offer to just anybody; oh no.  They were only making this offer to people they thought could pay the $595 a piece for the seven classes you have to take in order to be a Certified Strategic Negotiator!  Imagine how honored I felt.  I've never seen a CSN.  But I can be the first on my block to be one!

I asked myself several questions in follow up:

1)  Do I get to don a cape and a blue spandex top emblazoned with an "N" (for 'Negotiator Girl') when I'm done?  Do they make Spandex tops that don't reveal your muffin top?

2)  If I don't complete the coursework, do I just become a Non-Strategic Negotiator?  Or perhaps a Strategic Doormat?

3)  If I convert to Judaism, then take the coursework in Negotiating in the Arab World, am I then capable of crafting my own solution to the Middle East crisis, beat myself down on terms over occupation in the Gaza and then sign my own accord?

4)  What if I'd rather be a Tactical Negotiator?  Do I get my own set of hostile takeover term sheets and a rocket launcher?

 Clearly, I am going to have to take this exciting new offer under due consideration...

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

In response to BHD

I posted the following comment in response to a blog post by my dear friend, C, over at Blue Heron at Druid Labs.  

"Our ability to acknowledge, yet forgive, wrongdoing in others is inextricably linked to the ability to see hope and forgiveness in ourselves and by extension, to our ability to love and be loved -- in short, to our very humanity.  It doesn't mean that we have to become doormats.  It doesn't mean that we have to accept abuse and neglect when we recognize it.  It doesn't mean that we have to welcome the perpetrators of wrongdoing into our homes and our lives.    It means, simply, that we recognize the right and ability of each and every human on Earth to love and be loved.  The capacity each of us has to be better than we are."

Forgiveness and compassion allow us to rise from adversity and to accept the love of others in our lives.  It is absolutely essential to our survival as healthy humans.

My comment only addressed half of BHD's question, however.

In some respects, forgiveness and compassion are the easier part of the equation when it come to how we can both hold wrongdoers accountable and still treat them with compassion.  Those who would point to the story of the crucifixion of Christ as an example may be tempted to say that forgiveness and compassion trumps all -- that we are unfit to judge others and to mete out punishment, and that only the divine can judge the actions of humans.  We may similarly point to the Buddhist tradition to justify wimping out on holding others accountable.  If we hold ourselves the lowest, how can we judge?

If you examine the teaching of Christ and the Dalai Lama in more detail, however, neither instructs us to tolerate abuse and wrongdoing.  Christ called upon sinners to "Go forth, and SIN NO MORE".  The Dalai Lama says of the balance between compassion and accountability:

"It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act. There are two aspects to action. One is to overcome the distortions and afflictions of your own mind, that is, in terms of calming and eventually dispelling anger. This is action out of compassion. The other is more social, more public. When something needs to be done in the world to rectify the wrongs, if one is really concerned with benefiting others, one needs to be engaged, involved."

We have a system of social justice that punishes criminal activities.  But that system does not address the individual wrongs we perpetrate on each other and ourselves.  Part of loving each other, and part of loving ourselves is to acknowledge wrong actions, and to recognize and choose right actions.  To reject wrong action is not a lack of acceptance or forgiveness.  It is the ultimate act of love, and self-love, to insist upon right action and right thought.

I believe we can forgive, recognize the humanity and the ability to change in every living being, and still not expose ourselves to wrong action.  It is OK to say, "I forgive you.  I feel human love for you.  But I have not seen a change in your action, and I will not allow you to damage me further. Until you can demonstrate to me that you will 'sin no more', I cannot allow you in my life.  Be well."  Our challenge is to mean every. single. word.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

On Venturing Outside the Safety Zone.

"A ship in port is safe; but that is not what ships are built for. Sail out to sea and do new things"

-- Admiral Grace Hopper

RADM Grace Murray Hopper has always been an inspiring character for me, and a source of practical wisdom.  One of my FB friend posted the quote above on her status the other day and I was reminded of the lessons Admiral Hopper's life taught me in my earlier years.

Born during an age where women were not expected to learn math and science, let alone use them, Grace Murray Hopper not only learned them, but bent them to her own will to help design the computer language that would later become COBOL, to attain the rank of Commodore (later renamed Rear Admiral) in the US Navy, and at the age of 79, to retire from the Navy to become a senior consultant to Digital Equipment Corporation.  She was a tireless educator, an engaging speaker and an inspiring leader among women.  She. Was. Awesome.

She is widely credited with discovering the first computer bug, a literal moth that had lodged itself in a Navy processor relay in 1947.  She's also credited with being the first to utter my second-favorite phrase:

"It is easier to ask forgiveness than to obtain permission." 

She pushed the envelope.  She challenged those around her to be more than they thought they could be.  She refused to be ordinary.  She lived her life with genuine passion.

She also, as nearly as I can tell, refused to compromise her non-negotiables. 

This last year, as you all know, has been a period of change and painful self-assessment for me.  The "rules", as I knew them, all have been squarely up-ended.  I am left with the reality that my life is NOT going to be what I expected.  That means, of course, that it's time to take a more active role in determining where it goes from here.  I got reminded of what it feels like to get burned last week.  But the thing about getting burned is that it means you have a fire under you.  And that may not be a bad thing.

I'm getting a chance to operate in a more strategic role -- my "Happy Place" -- at work. And my boss, having watched me all last week, is finally backing off and just letting me do it.  I forgot how good it feels to be doing what I'm naturally good at, instead of having to make myself good at whatever needs to be done at a given time. It's riskier -- screwing up at this could cost me my job, and I'll take others with me if I fail.  But it's a damn sight more satisfying than plodding along in the safer task-related world I've been living in for the last several years.

Time to cast off.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Boy, Did I Need To See THIS Today

Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability, from TED.  

To Mak, who had the wisdom to turn me (and others) onto this:  Thank you.  It's like you crawled inside my head and pulled out the very thing that's holding me back.  I respect you so much and I'm so grateful for the influence you have on me and all the others in our community.  You rock, girlie.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Chapter 8: In which Beanie begins to get her groove back, but only part-way

"Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in? So fair, yet so cold, like a morning of pale Spring still clinging to Winter's chill."


“'What do you fear, my lady?'   'A cage. To stay behind bars until use and old age accept them and all chance of valor has gone beyond recall or desire.'

-- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

I was accused last week of having been "domesticated".

The person who spoke these words quickly backtracked, citing only respect and regard for what I knew and what I had accomplished. 

"Still", he said, "you are not a follower.  Why aren't you leading these people?"

He does not know my history, nor of the heartbreak that has crippled my mind and my spirit this last year. He does not know that I'm normally leading these groups.  He just reported what he saw there and then.  I'd lost my edge.

Obviously, I saw more than a little truth in his words, as they are still on my mind now.

As if to prove him wrong, though, I spent the rest of last week in a whirlwind of meetings, with late night strategy sessions that included generous helpings of scotch, cognac and harmless flirtation, and resulted in at least three separate plans to take over the world.  I gave talks, told jokes in public, and found myself, more often than not, dragged to the back of the room during meetings, with one person or another whispering details into my ear about the motivations and machinations of the other players in the room.

In short, I was in my happy place.

This week, I am back to my real life, resplendent with personal and professional dramas, petty intrigues, heartbreaks, and administrivia.  Still, I sort of felt like last week let me start to get my groove back.

That is, until Monday afternoon, when the character from the beginning of this chapter called to tell me that he was likely going to work for my main competitor in this little game of professional Risk. 

The blood drained from my face.  I gulped.  I tried not to cry.  To put it bluntly, I felt like I'd been lured into getting naked in a public restroom, only to have my clothes stolen.  My voice instantly betrayed my feelings.  Many apologies and explanations followed:  he'd only found out that morning, he said, and this didn't change anything we'd discussed strategically, and of course he would keep anything confidential, strictly so. He pleaded that he had called me first, before his own loved ones, because he didn't want me to feel like I'd been played.

But it was too late.  I felt like I had been played. Worse, it was my own fault.  I know better than to show my hand too early, my spider sense had been tingling the whole week, and I ignored all that in a heady rush to be the first to have new information, to out-compete and out-perform someone who had challenged me.

I think he was/is sincere:  I don't think he meant any harm, and I'm looking forward to continuing a fun and challenging friendship.

But maybe I have lost my edge. Time will tell if my trust has been misplaced.  At the very least, I dodged a dangerous bullet.

I used to be a fairly astute business strategist.  In fact, if you look at my LinkedIn page, those are the first two words in my description:  "Business Strategist". Whether or not I am still that woman remains to be seen, as I'm getting ready to embark on what will likely be a 2-year project to define the next major portion of my career.  In the last eight years working in the non-profit sector, I haven't had as much chance to use that strategic edge as I used to.

I wonder if there is still enough of Eowyn in me to slay the monsters and protect what I've worked so hard to build.  Should be interesting.  Might be dangerous.  Hope that it's at least a little bit fun.