A very incomplete and haphazard look back...

1.  I made my first hard cheese!  Sort of.  Well, I did make it, but it didn't quite turn out how I'd hoped.  It was a farmhouse cheddar, made with the brilliant press my brilliant husband made.  I fretted and fussed about whether it was aging properly, if the temperature was right, if the humidity was controlled, what about adding a damp sponge, what are those spots, are they mold, should I worry, but cheese is just mold after all... and then it turned out, and it was actually edible!  But a tad odd, flavor-wise, maybe over-aged.  So we were going to cook with it, get creative, but then we didn't, and it sat in the fridge, and then it did get moldy.  After all that misplaced bother, I ruined the cheese at the easiest part and my glory went with it.  Stuck to soft cheeses after that, but there's always next year.

2.  We chased ducks.  Frequently.  With great enthusiasm.

3.  More fun with fermentation... inspired by Sandor Katz, I harvested wild yeast for an Ethiopian honey-wine, and made a control mead as a comparison.  It was very exciting when the bubbles started appearing in the vapor-lock, and I was so good about taking daily notes, being scientific about it - until I wasn't.  They are still sitting in my cupboard, far too many months later.  I have no idea what lives in those bottles now.  They don't look or smell scary, but somehow I don't think they're just getting better with age.  If I ever brave it, I'll post my results.

4.  We chased sheep, too.  And had wagon rides.

5.  Took students on a field trip up to Portland.  We ate from food trucks and felt very urban.

6.  I did lots of yoga, and felt good about myself.  Then I did much less yoga and felt less good.  Cause, or correlation?  Now I'm getting back into it, spurred on by my two-year-old who loves to do downward dog and happy baby, and has invented ocean pose (standing with feet wide, chest forward, arms back, goofy smile).

7.  Two weeks in Europe, cha-cha-cha.  A remote Alpine village and the Eternal City.  With family, food, and fun.  What's not to love?

8.  Summertime:  the park, the hands-on science museum, biking with the trailer, playing in the fountains, hiking at the lake, eating ice cream.  Oh, and rafting!  And a toddler campout, whoo-hoo!  And we borrowed a friend's campervan - oh, the memories.  It was lovely.  Next summer:  back to backpacking.

9.  We picked fourteen pounds of blueberries!  Still making smoothies with them.

10.  Outrage at the world alive and kickin' with a little help from Jon Stewart.   Can't tell you how often I find myself saying, "we saw this guy on the Daily Show..."  I do also catch NPR occasionally and read the Sunday NY Times.  (I share a subscription with 3 neighbors, so there's actually incentive to get up early to get the sections I want first.  That would be the Review and Styles.  And then I get the magazine after everyone else because I like to do the crossword, but they tend to stack up, adding to the general clutter in our house.  It's a good system, overall, though we've never managed to sit together, drinking coffee and discussing what we read.  Someday.)

11.  Learned to play the ukelele.  My debut performance, a duet with my man at our neighborhood open mic:  "In Spite of Ourselves" by John Prine and Iris DeMent.

12.  Back to school for everyone.  Rapped about US history (I'll post that soon) and challenged my students to an Iron Chef contest.  Reaffirmed how good The Outsiders is to read with kids.

13.  Was an Emerald Citizen for Halloween, as part of an Oz group.  My little one was the Lion, and his buddies were the rest of the crew.  We had some princess and witch mamas, too.  It's the kind of thing I swore I'd never do, but I love the parade and it's no fun if you're not in costume, and it was pretty sweet, actually.  Still won't dress up my dog, though.  With the occasional antler exception.

14.  Drumming!  Mostly taiko.

15.  Kicking ass at Celebrity, which is always super-fun, and not actually about the score.  For some reason Jesus shows up in every game - maybe we should read something deeper in that?

Happy New Year!


Stolen Moments

(there's gotta be a million things with that title...kinda makes me want to track them down)

I'm supposed to be somewhere else, doing something else.  Nobody knows I'm here.  Nobody knows what I'm not doing.  It's a rare quiet moment to myself, a moment that feels not-quite-naughty, and oh-so-nice.  I'm enjoying the silence, and the ability to focus on one thing or let my mind wander, as I please, without the constant peripheral scan that is toddlerhood filling the space.  It's just me filling the space, or not filling it.  I know that later I'll regret not having used this time more productively, but right now, this is worth it.  I so rarely get to be irresponsible anymore.

It's delicious.



Just over two years ago, my boy came into the world and everything changed. The biggest surprise is how much fun we're having, how entertaining this toddler is. And the part that was expected but is no less powerful because of it is how profoundly I love him, and how something in my soul has shifted to embrace this new role.

I've read a lot about other people's experiences - some heartwarming, some heartbreaking, some that bring on the giggles, some that make you tear your hair out. In one way or another, they're all cliches, no matter how well-written, but they're all also very true. I don't know that I have any new words to add to this, so here are a few of my kid's instead (and you'll get a feel for what tickles us pink, not to mention our generation, as we train our own personal Teddy Ruxpin - it's a great feedback cycle, because he likes to make us laugh, which then makes him laugh, and on and on):

"Stop! Hammertime!"
"Ice ice baby"
"A palpable hit"
"Need more marmite please"
"Hello salaam konnichiwa-wa"
"Baila baila"
"Zola come!"
(responding to "Who you gonna call?") "Ghostbusters"

And of course all the usual daily conversation and quoting and chattering to himself. The way he is growing his language is just fascinating. Life is a play-by-play, with lots of repetition from him and demanded from us, and it amazes me how he puts together new sentences and draws connections across contexts and even time. He absorbs the books we read and the songs we sing and counts pretty well and is starting on the abc's. I'm beginning to understand what's behind Rosetta Stone, though I've never actually tried their system.

The part you can't tell from reading this is the adorably hilarious way he says things, pronounced not quite right, and possibly not even intelligible if you don't hang out with him a lot. (This would be one of those cliches - every baby talks cute and funny, right? - that we marvel at despite their triteness. Just because it's not new in the world doesn't mean it's not new in our world. And better, cuter, funnier than all the other babies.) I've never managed to capture it well (where are you when I need you, phonics?!) and I'd rather not do it wrong, but I hope I remember it. I may have to try for some audio recordings. It's almost more about the emphasis and pacing than the sounds, actually.

And he still uses sign language all the time, which I love and hope we continue. And all sorts of other things are happening - climbing, riding, painting, swinging, picking tomatoes, throwing balls, being naked, eating, chasing the dog, counting, singing, hugging, napping, waking up, seeing friends, playing outside, doing puzzles, fun running....it's kind of an awesome life.

I don't know where I'm going with this - I just wanted to mark the occasion in some way. It's a big freaking deal (my language monitor has kicked into overdrive; it used to just be on at school and off at home, but hearing my toddler shout "HOLY CRAP" forced me to pay a little more attention to what comes out of my mouth) (though I do snicker when the sailor talk sneaks out) (and now I've even lost track of where this sentence was going...). The days of afternoon whiskey tastings and lazy mornings sleeping in are on hold for a while. But the snuggles and dancing and hanging out are pretty awesome.

He tries to climb back in to my belly sometimes, and it just ain't gonna happen. He's out for good, so watch out, world!


30DSC-3: A Song That Makes You Happy

(yes, hello, here I am again, the time, she flies, the blog, she lays fallow...)

A song that makes me happy? There's lots of those. I even made a mix once upon a time called "The Happymaking Mix," but I'm not sure I can remember what's on it. I may be able to find it somewhere, but I may not - in an episode that did not make me happy, my car was broken into and things were stolen, mixtapes among them.

This was years ago, when I was on my way to Boston from Denver via New Orleans. I was visiting a friend and parking was an issue - I found a place where I could legally (and for free, except not really, in the end) leave my car for a few days. I checked on it regularly and made merry, listening to live jazz and planning alternate life paths: a job building floats at Mardi Gras world and living a short ferry ride across the Ol' Miss in a sleepy, beautiful historic district....I still wish I had stayed, sometimes.

But then I checked on my car and found the window broken! The horror! See, everything I owned at this point was in my car. My whole material life. A nice yellow chair (which we still have and love) and several bags of clothes and miscellany. I lost my favorite hiking pack which traveled across Europe and a handful of mountains with me, a Gregory pack which they no longer made. Every time I take the new one out, I lament this loss. I lost all the clothes inside of that pack, nothing I can specifically remember except that now and again I wonder why I can't find a certain hat or shirt and then realize they were in that bag. And a case full of tapes, mostly mixtapes, completely irreplaceable. None of that stuff was worth much except to me - ain't that always the way?

I called it in, with low expectations of the N.O. P.D., who lived up to their name. Insult to injury? I got a parking ticket (in a different spot, one with a broken digital meter that didn't display how much time remained) the morning I left town. You can imagine how I took that - in pieces, with swearing and stomping calmed only by a last beignet from the Cafe du Monde. Oh, but they weren't done with me - they tracked me down, in a new state that didn't match my driver's license or car info (still registered in CO). I wrote them back, explaining the whole thing, down to the broken meter, very politely. They sent a new bill, doubled. I wrote again, less politely. They sent a new bill, doubled again, with threats of a collection agency. I swore a whole bunch more and wrote them a damn check.

And I still love New Orleans, and long for the life I might have had, though I've never been back.

Um. So. A song that makes me happy? Let's go with "Life Is Beautiful" by Keb Mo, because I heard it at the end of a movie last night and it moved me in a way no song has done for a long time. Possibly because most of what I listen to these days is aimed at the under-2 crowd. To be fair, many of those are songs that make me happy. How can you not be happy about tap-dancing rhinoceri?

But I'll stick with the Keb Mo for my answer. Let's go dancing on the juke-joint floor...


30DSC-2: Least Favorite Song

Another ridiculous one. But easier, I suppose, than the favorite. I'll just go with the first response that popped into my head: anything by Alanis Morissette. So whiny and irritating, at least that's my memory of it, since I haven't actually listened to anything by her since "Ironic" was on the radio all the time.

When I was in high school and college and actually paying attention to music, I was kind of a snob about it. I was quick to dismiss bands as bad (all the fruit ones - Blind Melon, Lemonhead, the Cranberries - oh how I mocked my hallmate for her Smashing Pumpkins habit) or embrace unlikely ones as great (Skinny Puppy, anyone?), especially if it might move me up a notch in certain eyes. I've become much more generous in my old age, thinking less about the image and more about my own enjoyment. So there's really nothing on my iPod that embarrasses me, not even the Little Mermaid soundtrack ("everything's better down where it's wetter, take it from me!").

I'm almost tempted to go give Alanis a listen now, but I just can't shake the memory of how annoyed I would get. Nothing personal, but I'm not sure even my new forgiving ears could take it - ironic, eh?


30DSC-1: Your Favorite Song

Well, that's just a ridiculous question. Last time I looked at our music library, iTunes showed that we have something like 24 days worth of music, if played nonstop (it's on our other computer, or I'd check the exact numbers). 576 hours. 34, 560 minutes. That's more than 10,000 songs. Ten thousand! And that's just the music we actually own. How could I possibly have one favorite song, for all my moods, for all times of day, for my stuck-on-a-desert-island mishap?

I have a thing against repetition, too, so even the songs I love become otherwise if I listen to them too much. The radio (how quaint!) has ruined many a song for me this way. (This is potentially a problem with a small child who is all about repetition, but that's neither here nor there.)

But not answering at all is a copout, so here is my right-now answer to this question, with signs posted about the right to change my mind as often as I want.

[...tick...tock....tick...tock... This is harder than I thought, coming up with one song I'm willing to claim as my favorite. Even just a favorite. I'm back to "this is ridiculous," but still want to choose something... tick...tock...]

Ok: "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor. Of all the songs that ran through my head just now, this is the one that I cannot listen to without singing along, without turning up the volume, without getting up and dancing/acting out. Many other songs are better in many ways - I wouldn't actually want to listen to this right now - and I know I didn't even think of many songs that would live up to the label of favorite, but it'll do.

And hey, maybe the underlying empowerment message would get me through the dark days under that lone palm tree.


30 Day Song Challenge!

Today was the last day of school for me, and I may have to get on the annual obligatory blasting of Alice Cooper (after the baby wakes up, that is), although I don't quite feel that same sense of release this year.

I made a mix cd for the kids in my class, and I was tempted to put "School's Out" on there, but gave in to my better, more adult self (or perhaps simply to the fear that a few of the parents wouldn't take kindly to it). It was really nice to spend a couple hours just listening to music, my music, not baby music (even the good stuff gets old). To pay attention to it as more than just background, to sink into the memories and stories that go along with each song. So I thought I'd use the Facebook song challenge as an opportunity to do more of that. It'll take me more than 30 days, and I hear the kid waking up now, so I won't even start, but here's the list so I can get back to it as I have time:

day 01 - your favorite song
day 02 - your least favorite song
day 03 - a song that makes you happy
day 04 - a song that makes you sad
day 05 - a song that reminds you of someone
day 06 - a song that reminds you of somewhere
day 07 - a song that reminds you of a certain event
day 08 - a song that you know all the words to
day 09 - a song that you can dance to
day 10 - a song that makes you fall asleep
day 11 - a song from your favorite band
day 12 - a song from a band you hate
day 13 - a song that is a guilty pleasure
day 14 - a song that no one would expect you to love
day 15 - a song that describes you
day 16 - a song that you used to love but now hate
day 17 - a song that you hear often on the radio
day 18 - a song that you wish you heard on the radio
day 19 - a song from your favorite album
day 20 - a song that you listen to when you’re angry
day 21 - a song that you listen to when you’re happy
day 22 - a song that you listen to when you’re sad
day 23 - a song that you want to play at your wedding
day 24 - a song that you want to play at your funeral
day 25 - a song that makes you laugh
day 26 - a song that you can play on an instrument
day 27 - a song that you wish you could play
day 28 - a song that makes you feel guilty
day 29 - a song from your childhood
day 30 - your favorite song at this time last year


18 Months

Hey baby – you had your half-birthday last week, on May 4. A year-and-a-half old.. Not sure why this date seems like more of a milestone than 17 or 19 months, but it does, and here we are. I think I’ve finally gotten beyond feeling surprised that we have a baby, and now it’s just life.
Though you’re not really a baby anymore. You’re a full-blown toddler, a real boy, with a pretty awesome personality and a lot to say. Toddler isn’t even the right word, because it doesn’t show how fast you bounce when you zoom around (zoomtoddle?), or the shock on your face when you trip over your own feet and go splat, or the joy you find in being alive.
I look at pictures from the early days, and I’ve already forgotten what that’s like. So I want to try and capture a little bit of you who are now, even though I know I can’t get it all down. In theory I prefer living life to recording it, but I already regret not taking more pictures and (yipes) videos. So here’s something of a snapshot of this moment:
You are all about doing it for yourself these days, as you get stronger and taller and smarter every minute. You can reach those buttons on the washing machine now, and climb up onto the chairs, and you want to choose the shirt you wear. Or not wear, more often choosing to be as naked as possible.
Your latest obsession is with the car keys. You’ll stand at the car for 20 or 30 minutes, trying to get them into the lock on the door, pushing away my hand if I try to help guide the right key in. When you get a key stuck in far enough that it stays, you let out this wicked cackle, a burst of “ha!” as you stamp your feet and wave your arms. It’s hilarious, until we have to take the keys away, and then you let out an ungodly wail.
You’re learning new signs and words all the time. You say mama and dada and pop and ba (ball or bus). Dog, of course, your first real word and still a favorite. Ka is your car/go/keys word, almost always said together with the sign for keys, which you learned after seeing it only a couple times. Nyummy-nyummy is food, and you slurp for water, putting your hands to your mouth for both.
You’re a good eater, more interested in having what we’re having or drinking out of our glass than anything special for you. And you have strong opinions about what you want, and sometimes we can’t tell, and then we’re all frustrated. When in doubt, peanut butter seems to do the trick. Or tofu. Sometimes all you want to do is give your snacks to the dog. You know how to tell her to sit and lie down, and she’s always gentle taking treats from you.
Other signs: ball/more (fingerbabble makes it hard to tell, sometimes, but usually we can figure it out with context or by asking you), banana, dog, bird/duck/frog, gorilla (also an old fave). Flowers – you’re so cute: you’ll squat down to smell them, and pull us with you as you make the sign. Bath, cow, water, book. (some top hits these days include Mr. Brown Can Moo, Doggies, Goodnight Gorilla, One Little Duck, Go Dog Go, various baby sign books). I’m sure I’m leaving things out – oh, milk! - can’t forget that one. A sort of universal arm wave with various noises can mean airplane, elephant, truck, butterfly. Please and thank you charm everyone.
When we go to the Science Works garden, sometimes you run gleefully down the paths, but more often, you just stand at the gate, opening, closing. As you let people through and they say “thank you,” you'll sign it, and they always think you’re blowing them a kiss. At home, you’ll stand in the window, so excited to be able to get up on the ledge. You watch for bees and cats and wave to the neighbors when they walk by. It’s adorable.
You are super energetic and active when you’re awake, and you sleep well at night and at nap (except when your big teeth are coming in). You love to play with balls, kicking, tossing, watching us shoot hoops, sitting on the couch and throwing them for us to chase. Sound effects make you happy. As does dancing to music. Although you still ask for “Cows” sometimes, you’re more into the Barnyard Dance and especially the Tickle song. Snuffling like a pig always gets you giggling.
You love the bath – splish splash! Water in general: puddle jumping, throwing rocks into the lake, smacking at the tetherball base after it rains (dibble dibble dopp…). Pouring water from one cup into another, experimenting with amount and speed. Climbing! You can make it up the ladder on the play structure now. Slides are sometimes fun. You love to be outside, or out running errands. You’ve just started showing interest in the sandbox, and are figuring out that you don’t really want to eat the sand.
You are so observant, learning so quickly from watching us, watching older kids, trying things out yourself. You’re getting more social, too, with other babies, almost all a little or a lot older, so you have a lot to observe. You use tools well, turning over tupperware to step on, or grabbing my finger to push a button, or reaching for something under the couch with a long wooden spoon.
Bodies are fascinating for you, and you'll point out all the bits emphatically - head, ear, toes, teeth, belly button, nose. Tongues sticking out make you laugh, from the first time you noticed it in the Global Babies book to when the dog pants to anytime at all, and you'll stick yours out too to show how fun it is.
You like to be helpful, bringing us our shoes when we ask, and putting things back where they belong. Sweeping and vacuuming. Mopping up when you spill (or when Zola drools). You recognize us in pictures, and kiss yourself in the mirror. It’s amazing how much of what we say you understand, and how well you can communicate back.
There are so many smiles, giggles, snorts, grunts. Shrieks of joy and loud yawps as you talk back to the ducks and frogs. It’s a fabulous soundtrack to our days. And when we hug, and you say “Bobo” (from the book), it’s the best thing ever.
It takes a lot of energy to keep up with you, and it can be hard to get things done. But when we’re in the moment, we really have a good time. And it’s true: the days are long but the years are short, so we’re trying to be in the moment as much as possible. Turns out having a kid is really fun – at least when you’re the kid.
I’ve been writing this in bits and pieces, as I do so many things these days, and every time I come back to it I think of more (penguins!). It’s impossible to get it all down, and it's not as poetic as it might be, but it's better than nothing, so I’m going to stop here and let it be enough.
You are smart and strong and beautiful and funny and adventurous. May the fourth be with you, little man (yes, that’s a Star Wars reference). We love you, forever.


The Not-Quite-Cruelest Month

(although with this icy weather after being taunted by a few spring sunshines, and with being icky-sick for a few days, it sort of feels that way...)

Did you know that April is Poetry month? I meant to post a poem a day. Oops. Here's one by e.e. cummings:

o sweet spontaneous

O sweet spontaneous
earth how often have

fingers of
prurient philosophers pinched

,has the naughty thumb
of science prodded

beauty how
often have religions taken
thee upon their scraggy knees
squeezing and

buffeting thee that thou mightest conceive
to the incomparable
couch of death thy

thou answerest

them only with




Having a kid continues to be a delightful surprise (I'm still surprised we have one and I'm delighted, and surprised to be so delighted, and am constantly surprised by what comes next).

But as he gets older, I'm realizing that it's time to reclaim some of myself. I basically surrendered to life being all about the baby for the first year, and (mostly) embraced the opportunity I had to slow down and pay attention and enjoy it. I know it won't ever happen again and I want to hold on to the experience. And: when I went back to teaching three mornings a week, that fed another part of me and made me happier all around, even with the complications it created (it's truly impossible to read student papers with a toddler intent on mischief squealing and crashing around).

It's spring break, and I've overused my line about the only wet tshirts in my life these days being when the little man is naked and pees on me. It's not like I ever even did the whole crazy girls gone wild tequila parties, but something in me is longing for that. Sunshine, loud music, and a total lack of responsibility - that sounds great. Drunken groping frat boys, hangovers, loss of self-respect? Not so much. And yet, being home with the kidlet this week has me dreaming of Daytona. There's a bit of sadness about what I've let go by making the choices I've made, but more than that, it's an awakening that I need to put on my oxygen mask. I need to stake out some experiences that are just about me.

I don't want to become someone defined only by my child. I don't want every conversation to be about poop and naps and teething. I am thrilled to be a mama. I actually (surprise!) love spending hours reading books about monkeys and dancing to songs about cows and chasing him around and generally being silly. But that's just a part of me, and it will still be there when I am at a drum class or writing poetry or hanging out at the bar.

Even mama bears got to get their groove on.


I sat in a circle of women last night, women I see every day, but in a different way. Mostly there is small talk, and community business, and sharing tasks like cooking meals, and catching up on life in snippets between the distraction of children.

Monthly, we sit together with intention. We hold a sacred space for all who are there and those who are not. We don't all make it that often. I don't always feel like going when the time comes. But the circle is always powerful and always worth it.

This is something new for me these past few years. Talk about "sacred space" and "letting the universe guide you" still makes me squirm a little inside. But that's not the important part. The magic lies in taking the time to be together more deeply than everyday interactions allow. Something stronger is created when we speak from the heart and when we truly listen to each other, whether or not there is a speaking stick.

There were candles, there was wine, there was laughter and sadness. But most of all, there was connection, opening, support, love. This is how we change the world.


26, 27, 28... Sigh

Well. I didn't quite make it. (posting every day in February, that is) 'Tis only too representative of many things I attempt. I suppose one lesson to take from this is one I've learned many times but still don't manage to do, obviously: make things easy for myself. If I have a routine built in, if it doesn't take extra effort and can become a habit, it will happen. If there's a place to put stuff every time, I'll put it there instead of piling it up on the kitchen counter. Etc., etc. Clearly late at night was not the time for this, and I don't know what is, but I'll keep trying to figure it out. Not daily. But sometimes.

And happy day after Read Across America day! Courtesy of the NEA, in celebration of the world welcoming El Doctor Seuss and his magical words and pictures. Oh, the places we'll go.



A dozen books I've read recently:

To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely
Devil May Care, Sebastian Faulks (as Ian Fleming)
Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, David Sedaris
The Important Book, Margaret Wise Brown
Talk to the Hand, Lynne Truss
The Edge of the World, Kevin Anderson
The Hippopotamus Song: A Love Story, Michael Flanders
The Big Bang Symphony: A novel of Antarctica, Lucy Jane Bledsoe
Sword of God, Chris Kuzneski
Wild Ducks Flying Backwards, Tom Robbins
Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins



When you have to whip up a quick'n'easy dessert to please the masses, here's what to do:

Six-Minute Chocolate Cake, aka Chocolate Depression Cake (the era, not the feeling, b/c no butter or eggs) and Dump Cake (b/c you just dump it all in). There are many versions; this recipe is from a friend of a friend I stayed with on a road trip many years ago.

  • 1 2/3 C sugar
  • 3 C flour
  • 6 T cocoa powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2/3 C oil
  • 2 T white vinegar
  • 2 C water

Preheat oven to 350. Combine dry ingredients and get rid of lumps. Add the rest. (you can theoretically do all this in the pan you bake in, but it usually doesn't work as well for me) Pour into a 9x13 pan and bake 30 - 40 minutes. Frost if desired, but you're on your own for that. Enjoy!



I spent all day thinking it was the 22nd. Now I feel like I missed a day. I also kept switching to rooms with clocks set differently, so I kept gaining or losing a few minutes. Like I'm in a time machine that skips, or needs a good kick in the tires.

Gotta play around with the paradoxes a bit. The whole killing-your-grandpa thing. Back to the Future. Einstein's Dreams. Chrononauts. Alternate and parallel histories.

* * * *

Not connected at all: I hear that some girls in college don't eat so they can drink at parties without worrying about the calories. WTF?! I disapprove. Gonna start showing up and shoving Twinkies down their throats before they do their keg stands, something to absorb the alcohol at least a tiny bit.

* * * *

Also unconnected: now that I need people to watch my boy sometimes, I realize how genius the Babysitters Club was. Kristy, you did have a great idea! We had a near-emergency (not life-threatening, just afternoon-plan-threatening) situation yesterday with a sick sitter. Luckily the kids these days all have their cellular devices on hand, and we got a replacement at the last minute. I wonder if I have any of those books floating around. Such happy memories.

* * * *

But wait! What if we could send a babysitter back in time?! We could have the Sisterhood of the Time-Traveling Sitters! I sense a miniseries in the making. And get to work, quantum physicists!



What does society owe junkies? What responsibility does it have for creating them? What does humanity demand of us in response? Where does compassion fit in? Personal responsibility? Politics and the media? Friends and family? Ethics and justice and the law? How can a socialist libertarian balance out all the opposing voices?

(yes, we watched The Wire; yes, I'm tired; yes, I have to finish my homework before bed; yes, this kind of stuff keeps me up at night; no, I don't have the answers)



It's proving to be rather difficult to do this every day. I haven't been able to stick to my photo-a-day thing either. But when I do, I like that moment to think about what's going on that day, and I like looking back on them. When I first tried it a few years ago, I actually kept it up for several months. Of course, I ended up with a lot of pictures of my dog: it was my default, if the end of the day rolled around and I hadn't snapped a pic yet. I'm not sure what my default is for this - poems, recipes, babble. Which brings us to....

Happy President's Day! Wherein we celebrate the Gregorian-shifted birthday of our first president, about whom we believe many incorrect things. It seems like these holidays that are intended to be meaningful, an opportunity for us to remember something important (MLK Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, etc.), they shouldn't be days off; instead, there should be some kind of mandatory ceremony. I don't really think we should do that, I just know that the meaning behind these days has become: Yay! No school! Huzzah! There will be much rejoicing, and very little recognition of why we're all sleeping in or out skiing or whatever.

Wooden teeth for all!



1985. That's not a very long time ago. I was in elementary school, at least vaguely aware of the world around me, although this particular need would not arise for another decade or so. Today in history - February 20, 1985: Ireland legalized the sale of contraceptives.

That kind of shocks me. Maybe it should shock me that it happened at all, what with the Pope in charge. It continues to amaze me how strong a hold religion has on people. Here, too - playing no small part in the current attempts to strip us of rights we take for granted in the civilized, modern, developed, freedom-loving, democratic superpower we live in.

Maybe I'm out of touch with "real America," whatever the hell that is. But I know that if you ever talk to a woman who has been raped or sexually assaulted or abused or needed an abortion or can't afford to send her kids to preschool or stay home with them or is old (and I guarantee you know one, even if you don't think you do), you'll realize how absolutely fucked-up all this is. This list is from MoveOn. It makes me crazy. I'm pretty sure if Jesus was around, he'd be walking a different walk. Right to life? Please.

Top 10 Shocking Attacks from the GOP War on Women

1) Republicans not only want to reduce women's access to abortion care, they're actually trying to redefine rape. After a major backlash, they promised to stop. But they haven't.

2) A state legislator in Georgia wants to change the legal term for victims of rape, stalking, and domestic violence to "accuser." But victims of other less gendered crimes, like burglary, would remain "victims."

3) In South Dakota, Republicans proposed a bill that could make it legal to murder a doctor who provides abortion care. (Yep, for real.)

4) Republicans want to cut nearly a billion dollars of food and other aid to low-income pregnant women, mothers, babies, and kids.

5) In Congress, Republicans have proposed a bill that would let hospitals allow a woman to die rather than perform an abortion necessary to save her life.

6) Maryland Republicans ended all county money for a low-income kids' preschool program. Why? No need, they said. Women should really be home with the kids, not out working.

7) And at the federal level, Republicans want to cut that same program, Head Start, by $1 billion. That means over 200,000 kids could lose their spots in preschool.

8) Two-thirds of the elderly poor are women, and Republicans are taking aim at them too. A spending bill would cut funding for employment services, meals, and housing for senior citizens.

9) Congress voted yesterday on a Republican amendment to cut all federal funding from Planned Parenthood health centers, one of the most trusted providers of basic health care and family planning in our country.

10) And if that wasn't enough, Republicans are pushing to eliminate all funds for the only federal family planning program. (For humans. But Republican Dan Burton has a bill to provide contraception for wild horses. You can't make this stuff up).



Experimenting in the kitchen again. Glance at one recipe, compare with another, change everything anyway, and hope for the best. Tonight, it's with carrot-apple-raisin bread, in the oven as we speak, so I'll update with results. At least it's not dinner for 25 people, which is often the case. I almost never try out a recipe first if it's something new, I just go with it and figure we can always order pizza if it's really terrible. Hasn't happened yet (though the pseudo-Greek watermelon pie was not a hit with everyone - it was compared to stale jello and also fresh tuna steak sushi...not what you go for in a dessert; good thing there was a backup honey-walnut cake!) I'm not very good at following recipes exactly or carefully, and usually it comes out pretty good. But I wish I understood all the chemistry of it better, without having to understand the chemistry of it. Like if a recipe calls for 2 eggs but I only have one, what will that do to the final product? Does it really matter if I weigh my flour or sift it? Oops - I forgot to add the [fill-in-blank] but we didn't even notice. What would have been different if I'd thrown it it?

Anyway, there are also vegetables roasting that need a stir, so I'll sign out for now and hopefully we'll eat well.



Here's another Wire-inspired ramble (we just can't stop watching it!). It's really depressing to think of all the neighborhoods where kids can't play safely, families don't feel comfortable in their own homes, the elderly aren't respected, and gunshots are a regular part of the soundscape. I know that human life has been cheap for most of history, and in many places today, but it's so far from my reality that it's hard to accept. There's always a cost to someone, a mother, a brother, a child, a friend. And it's so senseless. Not only are the kids not playing safely, they're playing at being gangsters, or they actually are in the gangs. Depressing isn't even the right way to say it, it's worse than that, but it's also such a huge problem that I don't know where to begin. I hate that our society glorifies violence. I know it's not new (hello, gladiators; hello, public lynchings) but I'd like to think we're evolving towards something more positive.



88 years ago yesterday, Howard Carter opened Tutankhamen's tomb, setting off a spike in Egyptology, legends, and debates about the appropriateness of scavenging the dead. Also: fodder for one of my (in)famous history raps at school. It's better with the beat, but not much.

Tut was a boy king, a 4th grader in charge

He was only nine but he was livin’ large

His tomb was found in the 20’s by an Englishman

It came with a curse that killed Lord Carnarvon

The first royal tomb that was left un-robbed

Full of clues about his life and even his job

As a kid he played and hunted though he walked with a cane

He married his sister and he changed his name

He strapped on a beard and partied with the gods

His advisor did the work, according to the odds

Ten years later: a murder mystery

Tutankhamen died young without a chance to live free

3000 years ago but the gold still shines

On his burial mask: what lies behind those eyes?

King Tut!



Double the pleasure, two in one day, oh whatever will I say?


That's my new favorite word, although I haven't had many opportunities to use it. It sounds like something a pirate would say, doesn't it? Avast and scuppernong, me hearties! Off to the scuppernong with you, mate! Arrgh, it be the foul scuppernongs rolling in! I could do this for a while. It makes me giggle. Alas, the actual meaning of the word is not so delightsome. It's a kind of grape, probably well known in the wine world and much snacked-on by Scout and Jem in To Kill A Mockingbird.

I almost wish I hadn't looked it up.


Teething baby. Sick papa. Tired mama. And so, a lovely poem from John O'Donohue:

A Blessing For One Who Is Exhausted

When the rhythm of the heart becomes hectic,
Time takes on the strain until it breaks;
Then all the unattended stress falls in
On the mind like an endless, increasing weight,

The light in the mind becomes dim.
Things you could take in your stride before
Now become laborsome events of will.

Weariness invades your spirit.
Gravity begins falling inside you,
Dragging down every bone.

The tide you never valued has gone out.
And you are marooned on unsure ground.
Something within you has closed down;
And you cannot push yourself back to life.

You have been forced to enter empty time.
The desire that drove you has relinquished.
There is nothing else to do now but rest
And patiently learn to receive the self
You have forsaken for the race of days.

At first your thinking will darken
And sadness take over like listless weather.
The flow of unwept tears will frighten you.

You have traveled too fast over false ground;
Now your soul has come to take you back.

Take refuge in your senses, open up
To all the small miracles you rushed through.

Become inclined to watch the way of rain
When it falls slow and free.

Imitate the habit of twilight,
Taking time to open the well of color
That fostered the brightness of day.

Draw alongside the silence of stone
Until its calmness can claim you.
Be excessively gentle with yourself.

Stay clear of those vexed in spirit.
Learn to linger around someone of ease
Who feels they have all the time in the world.

Gradually, you will return to yourself,
Having learned a new respect for your heart
And the joy that dwells far within slow time.



Why is it so much harder to start things and stick to them than it is to quit? What do they say, you have to do something 21 times (in a row, more or less) for it to become routine - but you only miss once and suddenly you're on that slippery slope downhill. I'm talking about my posting this month, but could just as easily be referring to exercise and eating better and cleaning the house and, and, and. (never seem to have this problem with cookies or computer games, though!) So. I will resist the temptation to make more excuses and just get back on the ol' horse and buggy. Call it a vegetable and move on.

Happy Valentine's Day!

I've had my ups and downs with this holiday. The usual "overly-commercial-who-needs-a-reason-to-express-love" bitching and moaning, balanced by the occasional affair with lace doilies and pink construction paper. And glitter, don't forget the glitter. These days it's mostly an opportunity to eat sweets and carefully manage the onset of the sugar high in preteens.

They totally dig the stories about Lupercalia, which the Christians supposedly horned in on, as they do: bring on the bloody goat hide slappings, and rejoice! Be fertile! But let's keep the candy and chocolates. Buffet-style traditions are the best; take what you like and leave the rest.





I'm not quite sure how to start this, or what exactly I'm trying to say. (the teacher in me is always paying attention to the meta-entry, thinking about hooks and sentence fluency and what I ask the kids to do - read like a writer, write like a reader - but the writer in me can't always get there, and I've decided it's more important right now to just write, giving myself permission to write badly - as evidenced by the last few entries - and not hold myself to the standards of articulateness I'd like to achieve, especially in this non-revised form of publishing) (ok, that was really an aside that matters only to me, but hey, that's what you get) (I'm too much in the habit of thinking aloud to model the process at school, now I can't keep it in) (and now I really don't know what I was going to say - it's like at the movies, when there are so many previews that I forget what I came to see. Not that I've been to the movies recently.)

Right. So. Anyway. Egypt! That's where I was going. Not actually, though I'd like to someday. Everything that's happening there (and Tunisia and other places) reinforces the notion that I live in a bubble. I see friends posting about it on Facebook, but my updates are about food or the baby. I read columns about it, but write about tv shows and fermenting things. Things like honey wine, not revolutions. Which get fomented, not fermented. Dinner table topics are about family vacations and yoga classes, not world politics. Of course that's not always true, but on the whole, it's far too easy to ignore what's happening, even when it's shaking the world.

I make a point of humanizing current events whenever possible at school, showing the kids that these are real people with real lives. Yet it doesn't seem to stick in my own life - and I'm an educated, upper-middle class white girl who spent half her childhood in Africa and Asia. It's no wonder the average American doesn't have a clue.

I've struggled with this for a while. -- oh crap -- I got interrupted and thought I'd get back to this today, but now it's too late, so I'll just leave the notes I left myself and try to revisit this later --

(generally know the headlines, but not the details. have opinions that come from reactions and the daily show, not carefully formed. helping those less fortunate. accident of birth. place and time. altruism/selfishness/guilt. difficulty of true empathy, really being able to imagine living that life. not always a bad thing - tribes in amazon as well as garbage pickers in philippines. desire to experience it, sometimes. travel changes perspective. to what end? meaning of life? waxing overly philosophical?)



... [tick tock] ...

I've been sitting here for at least ten minutes, wondering what to write, spacing out, not even thinking clearly enough to capture some random stream-of-consciousness crap to fill the space. But I'm tired of giving up on things I've set out to do, so I feel compelled to write at least this much. When my students start explaining why they haven't done their work I tell them I only want to hear the interesting excuses; I don't care about how you left your backpack in the car or how the printer isn't working. With that in mind: I can't do today's post (which btw was going to be very clever and/or profound, possibly even life-changing, certainly not just a list of things that come in tens or how to say ten in other languages or anything like that) because I'm still recovering from the tiger ambush we narrowly escaped earlier. (See? Even my "creative" excuses are lame right now. Bedtime. Sigh.) Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.



Gleanings from Wits and Wagers, a party game that lives up to its hype:

Amelia Earhart disappeared in 1937
Magellan began his circumnavigation in 1519
There are around 60 unprovoked shark attacks every year
(No numbers for provoked shark attacks)
NBA players make an obscene amount of money
The oldest woman on record was 122
The tallest woman was 8 feet, 1.75 inches
Americans each eat 150 pounds of potatoes in a year
FDR was president for a very long time
But only about half as long as Mandela was in jail
The U.S. hosted 6 Olympic games in the 20th century
Extras in Jaws were paid $64 to run screaming across the beach
And something about dwarf-tossing, although that may not have actually been in the game.

It's almost like a poem, don't you think?



In the desert

I saw a creature, naked, bestial,

Who, squatting upon the ground,

Held his heart in his hands,

And ate of it.

I said: "Is it good, friend?"

"It is bitter - bitter," he answered;

"But I like it

Because it is bitter,

And because it is my heart."

--Stephen Crane (1895)



Dreaming of palm trees and warm water, spicy food, real food, tastes completely unlike what's on the menu here, served from a sizzling pan in a cart on the side of the road, the side of the beach, gritty sand scratching the bottom of my feet, drinking from a coconut lopped open with a big knife, surf beckoning, crashing, flip flop, flip flop, hot, wet, elephants and monkeys, mangoes, oh the mangoes, juicy, sweet, wash it all off in the ocean, laugh, dance, swim, sweat, breathe.



Apparently I've fallen into the habit of writing these at night, when I am not so articulate nor witty nor long-winded. That could be good or bad, I suppose. At least it is a habit, if you can call six days worth of something a habit. Hey, if they could have a war that long, I can darn well develop a habit in that amount of time.

So: another snippet that may or may not get pursued in more depth. Just pretend Kristof or Gladwell is writing this and has done the appropriate research and fill in the missing insights and connections they would make.

We've been watching The Wire, after starting it somewhat reluctantly. A friend of ours has all the discs and it's been passed around the neighborhood with such rave reviews that I overcame my resistance to another police drama and I'm glad I did. It's a really good show (we're just starting season 3, so don't give anything away!), different from the rest - nice slow pacing, realistic perspectives, great writing, strong characters. None of which is what I want to talk about tonight.

The thing it's brought up for me over and over is how completely messed up our prison system and the whole justice system is. It's not a new opinion, but it's been reawakened. It doesn't punish effectively, it's not enough of a deterrent, it doesn't rehabilitate, it doesn't make the streets any safer. (This would be a good place to insert some of that research a better writer would have done. About what percentage of our population is locked up, and the disproportionate numbers of young black men, and the extreme sentences for things that are barely a crime, and recidivism, and violence in jail, and so on.) It just fucks people up, and actually seems to make things worse in some ways.

And far too many people - including some of my middle-school students when I was in New Mexico - just expect and accept that they will end up there at some point. Like my friends and I expected to go to college. You do your time, then you move on, maybe even using new connections and new skills and new resentments to fire things up when you get out.

It really depresses me. Enough to take action on prison reform? I don't know. Enough to pile onto my guilt about not doing enough to change the world and help those less fortunate, all the while feeling like that's a sort of pretentious and superior claim anyway? Absolutely. And that's not even touching on the whole death penalty issue. Sure, in a perfect world, I can see how some criminals (say, Jeffrey Dahmer et al) deserve to die. But ours is far from a perfect world, and it's just not right. Let go of it, Texas.

Tomorrow: something cheerful! Maybe.



This one's just a quick note, on a topic I've thought about before and may delve into more deeply someday. We listened to part of an interview with Peggy Orenstein on West Coast Live this afternoon, about her new book, Cinderella Ate My Daughter. I gather it's about the Disney princess phenom and how it's bad news for girls and for our society. I'd like to read it. It got me thinking about the whole idea of branding and commercialism, and my relationship to it, especially now that I've got a kid. I can be pretty rabidly anti-brand - unless it's a brand I like, of course. I'd happily dress my baby in a Cookie Monster outfit, or in a Red Hot Chili Peppers shirt (but maybe not the Ramones, in this overly-hipstered era). Just like it is for everyone, it's shorthand for who I am, or at least who I want the world to think I am.



Happy day after yet another way to celebrate and mark the New Year. It's sort of convenient, really, all these chances to reflect and renew. Birthday, birth day (not the same), school year, seasons, calendar year, other people's calendar years....so thanks, Chinese, for yesterday! Bring on the hoppity hop - you don't stop - Year of the Rabbit! And another chance to make resolutions, since that didn't really happen on the ol' January One this year.

I go back and forth on how I feel about the whole idea, how high to make my expectations, how to create resolutions that aren't destined for failure but are still meaningful enough to bother with...you know how it goes. This year I think I'll keep it simple.

Make stuff
Do things
Go places



I like it, but is it art? The age-old debate - one of them, anyway, along with the meaning of life and what's for dinner - of whether or not something is worthy of the title. Art. Full of pretentious weight and a whisper of tweedy elbow patches struggling with black berets, highbrow and lowbrow and a fridge full of kindergarten scrawls. To garfunkel or not to garfunkel, that is the question.

I remember traveling to Florence and seeing Michelangelo's David: on a pedestal in a cupola, alone, lit by a sunbeam from above, much larger than I expected, and oh-so-beautiful. The detail in the hands bringing marble to life and inspiring all sorts of cliched reactions. But - there was a copy out in the piazza, where the original used to live, was meant to live, sculpted as a replacement when David himself was getting too weathered (or something like that, my memory's fuzzy and I haven't bothered checking out the story). Nothing special, really. A little dirty, and just one of a whole row of statues. But put them side by side, cleaned up, and I probably couldn't tell the difference. Or swap them, and the copy in the cupola would seem superior to the original outside.

Context is everything. We see what we expect, and react in ways we're taught. It's really hard to trust ourselves to have a true opinion because of all the baggage. And most art is (or was) meant to be seen in a living setting, a home or a church or the side of a building. Sterilizing it and hanging it in a room full of art changes things. (and hey, all those pristine white Greek temples? were really painted in bright colors) Especially when you're fighting for elbow room with hordes trotting by, video cameras at the ready, recording something they'll never actually watch at home, missing what's right in front of them, and getting right in front of you.

Even so, the chance to see all that is well worth it, and just got better, thanks to Google's Art Project. A video we'll actually watch. It just appeared, but I'm already taking it for granted, planning on using it with students, assuming I can find anything I want online. I like to look at familiar places, and to explore new ones.

It's hard to remember when we didn't have the world at our fingertips. Let's be sure to get the rest of ourselves out there and transform a virtual experience into reality.



Almost messed up and missed day two - and now it's bedtime and I'm halfway to incoherent with all kinds of things running through the mind. Not sure if I can muster up the juice to be pissed at Palin (we're always a few days late on the news, whether it's from Jon Stewart or the Sunday Times, which usually takes most of the week to get through) or to be fascinated by the idea of brain transplants, which came up in a class discussion today after reading "Flowers for Algernon." And though I'm tired I can hear the sounds of the A-Team in the next room and I'm tempted to stay up and watch, because how can you miss out on that? None of which is leading to a fruitful entry, so here's to writing for the sake of writing, and dreaming sweet dreams, and resisting the lure of Hannibal and Mr. T. Good night.


1 - Start With A Whimper

Well, more like a sigh. I decided at some point that I wanted to see what would happen if I posted every day, and chose February as the time to start. Total coincidence that it's the shortest month! Of course, having decided that, I kept it quiet because if nobody else knows about something it's easier to quit. But I met in circle today with the girls, and stated it out loud as my intention, so here we are. Nothing to say, really, but I had to send something out there into the great unknown. Here's hoping I tap into my inner Hamlet-monkey, or else this will be a month of wasted words words words...