Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Both Lucy and Tiger have a great fondness for running water. They watch the rain fall outside from the window in the living room and they vie for the best seat in the house when the shower is running. Lucy is more fascinated and just a little more brave and tonight it caught up with her. Curiosity didn't kill the cat, but it sure got her sopping wet.
After I tucked JT into bed, I ran a bath for myself. While the tub was filling, I went downstairs for a cup of tea. I returned to the bubble-filled tub, now being supervised by the kittens and JT, the former having determined that there was a danger of overflow. And in that moment when all four of us were in the bathroom, curious Lucy missed her step and fell head first into the tub. Within seconds, she shot back out, now sopping wet and with her dignity rather firmly askew. She flew out of the bathroom, shaking her tail with embarrassment. JT caught up with her and we dried her off as best as we could. Photo evidence was obtained and JT went back to bed, rather thrilled with the whole event.
He will have a terrific story to tell at school tomorrow.
Monday, January 29, 2007
But what I really want is to crawl in bed with someone who loves me best. Maybe cuddle and talk about our day, our dreams, the boy that we are raising.
I feel like that's in the distant past now. And I ask myself if it ever really existed. And I plead with the universe to take these memories, these longings and just put them somewhere. Anywhere, really. Just get them out of my reach.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
When I was a little girl and would go to stay with my grandmother, we would play cards. And as we played, we would talk and I would hear the stories of her life, stories that we still talk about in my family. She wore an old-fashioned 1930s-era engagement and wedding ring that I always loved and admired. The rings had been separate once, though she had fused them together at some point. Sometimes, she would let me wear the ring as we played cards and drank Coke from fancy glasses. I always felt so grown-up on those days.
My grandmother died nearly seven years ago and her rings belong to me now. Just as we shared a middle name, we now share the rings. When they came my way I had the rings separated so that I could wear them with other rings I then owned. I wear one or both of her rings often these days, as a talisman of good luck and as a remembrance of her. I think of them as holding the essence of my grandmother ---- her politics (oh how she would have loved the Democratic victory last November); her love for a good political debate (the main reason I debate my father about the death penalty is to remember her passion for that issue); the happiness she received from a good book (a trait she passed my way).
When my mother last visited me, she remarked that my hands looked like my grandmother's. I have small hands and the rings always fit me perfectly and until my mother said that to me I never even thought about it. But it makes perfect sense to me now.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
Plus, it's really unbelievable that young men who move so slowly through the halls of school can move up and down the basketball court so quickly. I needed to see that in person.
Friday, January 26, 2007
The system is to leave the television remote by the television, so that it's easy to find when the time comes to watch morning cartoons.
I stand corrected.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
When I walked into class today, something smelled. It was a meatball sub. When I commented that it stank, the student held the sub my way and asked if I wanted a bite.
By then, of course, the entire class is consumed by a discussion of meatball subs, prompting me to say that in 39 years I've never eaten one. Meatball subs are a Jersey thing and this leads to much shock and horror on their part. They demand a class trip for the eating of meatball subs. They want to go eat at the grease trucks at a local university.
Because nothing says yummy like grease trucks, another Jersey thing. Grease trucks are movable food vendors located in public places. There is an assortment near my school and it's a popular place for the Seniors to eat their lunch.
Legend has it that if you can eat three grease truck sandwiches in 30 minutes, they will name the sandwich after you. So now they are talking about their favorite sandwiches ---- featuring fried mozzarella sticks and all manner of heart clutching ingredients. And I hear one student describe his favorite sandwich by saying, "there's bar-b-que sauce and that's all you need to know" which makes me laugh out loud.
And then gears abruptly change and now we're talking about political socialization. But my tummy is rumbling and a little bar-b-que sauce is sounding pretty good about now.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
It's just me and Alberto Gonzales sitting home watching the speech. I've got my jammies on. What about Al? Is he wearing his favorite sweats? Has he popped some popcorn? Gotten out the ice cream? I assume he's sober because jeez, they left him home in case disaster struck.
Decision time is upon me: which channel to watch? I like Bob Schieffer of CBS but I cannot stand listening to Katie Couric. Sure, she's America's sweetheart, but she's not so bright. And for as much money as she makes, you'd think she could get a better cut and color job. CBS is out.
I'm over to NBC. I like Brian Williams but I cannot stand Tim Russert. He's forgotten that he's a journalist here to tell us what's happening, not what to think about what's happening. So unless Williams is going to tape Russert's mouth shut, I can't stay here.
Off to ABC. Still showing America's Funniest Home Videos. Does anyone really watch that show anymore?
CNN it is, though I have a long-standing objection to watching The Situation Room because, well, it's called The Situation Room. And the fact that Wolf and Paula had a huge diagram of the House chamber where the big event happens, showing us where all the politicians will sit, bored us all. Sadly, I enjoyed the conversation about what Nancy Pelosi was wearing because, well, I'm shallow like that.
The members of the Supreme Court who drew the short straws have arrived, in their freshly ironed robes: Roberts, Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito.
And now the Cabinet.
Mike Johans is as big a dork as ever. And here's a trivia question: which member of the Senate is Elaine Chao, the Secretary of Labor, married to?
Very gratifying to hear all these men -- even the president -- refer to Nancy Pelosi's historical presence on the stage tonight. Good for women and damnit, good for little boys to see a woman in this position. Though my boy will have to watch on You Tube tomorrow morning. Madam Speaker sounds good.
Cheney looks so annoyed. Has he got some place better to be? Has he got a few L-Word episodes on tape that he wants to watch?
Just caught a glimpse of John Kerry. What I would give to hear his internal dialogue at this moment......"I lost to this moron? Unbelievable."
Any chance we will reduce our gasoline use by 20% via the method used by every other democracy? Rigourous MPG standards and an increase in the gas tax? Because it's hard for me to see how a bigger emergency petroleum reserve is going to do the trick.
I like her, But Hilary Clinton has a mullet. That's not very presidential.
Everyone opposes terrorism and no one thinks that crazed nation states should have nuclear weapons. Got it.
Could George W. Bush find Darfur or Burma on a map?
All over now. It was a fine speech and he clearly gets the need to reach out for some political compromise. But I don't think these folks will stand by his side for his Iraq plan.
It's the State of the Union tonight, the president's annual, Constitutionally-mandated address to the Congress discussing, you know, the state of the union. In honor of that, I thought it would be fun to serve up some Congressional trivia questions. Cookies (winner's choice) will be made for the person with the most correct answers.
Answers will be posted on Friday, January 26.
1. James Madison High School in Brooklyn has graduated three men currently serving in the U.S. Senate. Who are they? Hint: None of them are in the same political party.
2. Three states have only women representing them in the Senate. Name the states and the women.
3. Two sisters currently serve in Congress. They represent the same state. Name the state and the sisters.
4. There are ten declared 2008 presidential contenders sitting in the audience tonight who are current members of Congress. Who are they? Hint: Each party has 5.
Monday, January 22, 2007
So this morning finally found my boy at home for more than a few hours. We had a nice cuddle on the sofa. Boys of a certain age no longer want to sit in their mama's laps while their mama remembers the baby they once were so I no longer take those moments for granted. As I held him and smelled his soft hair I said, "I just love you so much."
And he said, "Yeah. Are you done yet? Because I need to poop."
And this is when the parenting fantasy bumps right against the parenting reality. And I laugh out loud.
Yeah, it's Monday and so I am officially late with my Sunday Scribblings entry. But I accept late homework for partial credit and, operating on that principle, I'm turning my post in late.
The prompt is fantasy.
Recently I read a New York Times magazine article by Peggy Orenstein, in which she reflected on the princessification of American girls. Basically, she was bemoaning this development and wondering if it was going to lead girls further away from the feminist girl-hood many women seek for their daughters.
I don't have a daughter, but I do have a son who likes to dress up in costumes. No princess costumes for him (though I wouldn't care) ---- he's all manly in his dress up things. We've got pirate costumes, an Indian costume, a cowboy costume, a Power Ranger costume, a gladiator costume and all the assorted weaponry therein. On the weekends JT has been known to spend the entire day in costume. I encourage this fantasy game because the world is sometimes a rough place and if you need to be a pirate to take it on, then I say go for it.
I think that children envision and prepare for their future via their imagination. The fantasies they weave make that happen. Quite naturally, six year olds work from a world that isn't governed by adult realities and so my son doesn't dress up like a stockbroker, he's a cowboy instead. And some people's daughters are princesses. But the goal here is to raise a creative and happy adult who isn't afraid to try new things and take on the world. Whether he's a teacher, a stockbroker, or a cowboy or whatever else he might choose, I want him to know that the door to new experiences is always open. And I think that a rich imagination, weaving fantasies, will ensure that he learns that lesson.
Saturday, January 20, 2007
For Christmas, my mom gave me two shiny new cookie sheets. Briefly, I considered tossing the old, darkened, ugly cookie sheets. But they can still be used and in a moment of brilliance I recognized that I could now bake 36 cookies at a time. So in 30 minutes, I can finish a batch of cookies.
I feel all virtuous and super-mama like as I look at the product of my labors.
Friday, January 19, 2007
I always doubted the wisdom of the Iraq war and I never bought the rationale that the Bush Administration offered: life, especially political life, is simply not that black and white. But I never doubted that Saddam Hussein was a bad guy. His government did maintain stability in an unstable region but he did so at great personal cost to certain segments of the Iraqi population, especially the Kurds. I will forever see in my mind photos of a Kurdish genocide ordered by Saddam in which small children are dead in their play, gassed to death by Saddam's regimes. When George W. Bush took office in 2000, the question of how to help the Iraqi people achieve independence and dignity was an issue of real merit. Considering the idea did not make the Bush Administration wrong.
It was the Bush Administration's proposed cure for the Iraqi disease that made them wrong. The political factors that allowed someone like Saddam Hussein to hold power in Iraq were complicated. The potential instability of Saddam's fall from power was eminently predictable. These problems were not going to go away in a blaze of expensive American weaponry. In principle, getting rid of Saddam Hussein may have been a good idea. He was a bad guy. But principles and reality are very different things. And in Iraq, when principle met practice in the form of an American invasion, real mistakes were made. I cannot cheer the American removal of Saddam because the consequences have been so wholly terrorizing to thousands more Iraqis. When we decided to occupy a sovereign state to remove their ruler, we took on the solemn duty of making things better for the people involved. We certainly shouldn't have made things worse. And despite the assurances of the Bush Administration, it is clear that we have failed on all fronts. Daily Iraqi life has not improved. The potential terror of Saddam's regime has been replaced by a regime characterized by instability, ethic cleansing, and civil war. This is not good.
Despite our good intentions, and I do believe we sincerely hoped to do well by the Iraqis, we made things worse for the Iraq and by extension the entire region. Now all of the Middle East and beyond suspects our motives and the cherished ideals for which we must stand: the defense of human rights, liberty, self-government and the right be to truly free. Though I often fear that Americans no longer understands the meaning of those ideals, they are meaningful and they do matter.
India is a democracy --- a system like our own, the kind of system we were so eager to bring to Iraq and are to eager to spread around the world. The Indian nation is filled with people who once respected America and Americans. Many probably still do. But as I listened to crowds of people cheering on a morality play that placed Saddam Hussein and George W. Bush in the same moral category, I realized the depths to which George W. Bush's foreign policy has brought the United States. And I am truly afraid for the nation of mankind.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
See that little box? The Mama put us in that box yesterday morning. Then she locked us in and took us for a ride in the car. We protested – loudly – but she ignored us. Finally, we got out of the box and some other lady gave us a shot. Then back in the box for another car ride. It was dreadful. We complained. One of us foamed at the mouth.
She brings the food and water and we think she must be the one who makes the blankets and flannel sheets clean and warm, but she crossed a line yesterday. The little one is loud and moves fast. He picks us up without warning. Sometimes he makes us wear clothes that belong to his stuffed monkey. But he never crams us in a box.
Someone must pay.
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Gradually, it stopped happening. Time passed. I took care of my son. I developed new routines. I took trips to new places and woke in unfamiliar settings. The cycle was broken.
It's been nearly eight months now but sometimes I have a dream about her. This morning I dreamt that I was sweeping the floor in the kitchen, waiting for her to come home. When she came in the door, I said, "hello" but I could tell that something was wrong. She hung up her coat and turned to look at me. In my dream, I knew that she was about to tell me that she was leaving.
I came awake at that moment and my first thought was, "oh, that was a dream." Meaning that it wasn't real. But then the stillness in the bed next to me reminded me that it wasn't a dream. One day she didn't come home. She has gone. It is real.
Memo to my subconscious: I get it. I understand. Please send the pain away.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Although they only number two and weigh less than 15 pounds between them, my kittens sound like a thundering herd as they fly through the hall and down the stairs at warp speed. Sometimes they jump on the ottoman in the living room and literally ride across the floor, using the momentum gained from running through the house to surf the living room. The first time I awakened in the middle of the night to hear the ottoman rolling, I lay still in my bed, trying to decide if it was a home invasion or a kitten party. I crept downstairs and turned on the light and there were Tiger and Lucy, curled up together on the chair and looking all innocent and guileless. But they'd left the ottoman pushed up against the wall.
I had discovered their secret nighttime fun.
Monday, January 15, 2007
JT received this scooter from our friends A & M for Christmas. He loved it instantly and wants to take it out for a spin on a daily basis. Come the weekend, if the weather is warm enough, we always take a ride to the park down the street. On Saturday it was warm (for a winter day) but there was some rain. I suggested that maybe we didn't have good scooter-riding weather. But JT was not to be diverted and in the early afternoon drizzle, we set off for a scooter ride.
I love the sight of him whizzing along. He's happy and he feels fast and strong and powerful. You can see it on his face. It's a beautiful thing to behold.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
It's one of those ideas that I think about a lot. But I still am not sure that I can define it and I'm not sure that's what I provide my students. It sounds good but what does it mean? What I want to give my students is a life long desire to learn, and the ability to discover the value-added parts of their education. I'm not sure that I know how to define it in precise terms, but I know it when I see it.
In the 10th grade, I had a Biology teacher who talked about 'surface area' and the fact that all creatures are on a biological quest to have more surface area. I've never forgotten that idea and it comes up again and again in the things that I study and teach: the historical drive to conquer other peoples and acquire their land is a quest for surface area. Manifest Destiny in the U.S. was all about surface area. Is there a better way to understand the long-running dispute between the Israelis and the Palestinians than as a dispute about surface area? Mr. Jarl was right.
Some of the college classes that I value the most were classes I took at UCLA because the topic sounded interesting, it fulfilled a general education requirement, the time was convenient, and (this last was most important), I could get in to the class. But those courses --- Intro to Moral Philosophy, Intro to Humanities, and Psycho-Biology are at the top of the list --- have enriched my life ever since. Not a week passes that I don't think about an idea I learned in those classes. If I could, I'd take the classes again (even Intro to Humanities which was so hard and where I was thrilled to earn a C+).
I've just finished reading Joan Didion's book The Year of Magical Thinking. It's an engaging study of the first year in her life after the death of her husband of 40 years. It's about her efforts to make sense of what's happened and to find a larger meaning from the experience. She seems to be searching for answers to questions that may have not the tidy answers we often seek. I can certainly relate to that struggle. One day in the first year after her husband's death she decides that she should re-read the play Alcestis. She notes that she hadn't read it since she was 16 or 17 years old and yet now, more than 40 years later, she comes back to that play for an answer she feels it will provide. As it turns out, Alcestis does not have the answer Didion was seeking. And yet it does provide an answer, albeit a different one.
This is the idea that I have in mind when I think about a value-added education: A play that you read when you are 17 provides answers when you are in your 60s; a concept that you learned when you were 14 is still richly meaningful when you are 39. I still lack a neat and tidy definition of a value-added education, but I know it when I see it.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Wednesday, January 10, 2007
"Ms. M," she said, "I found this in the hall and I recognized your handwriting. I think you'll want it."
Doing the right thing and being kind about it. I love my job.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
And she confirms it, "Yes, there is a red devel pitchfork at my house."
Okay, so I guess I am supposed to assume that it's from some sort of Halloween costume. Or whatever.
But frankly, now that I know she's actually the devil, this explains nearly everything.
Monday, January 08, 2007
So now I'm leaving work late and I'm juggling: is there time to make chicken noodle soup and biscuits for supper and get in my workout? I decide not and we hit Subway on the way home. JT eats his cookie before supper (some rules are made to be broken) and in those moments in the car, I realize everything else that needs to get done: I need to pick up the quilts from the wishy-washy and I should drop my sweater by the dry cleaner. Wishy-washy yes, dry cleaner no. I pull into the driveway in the dark and remember that today was trash and recycling day – lots of bins to be put away. I remember because that's my trash bin the wind has blown into the middle of the street.
JT is dispatched to fetch the trash bin and I carry our things inside. We eat supper and then I sit with JT while he does his homework. I take a call from my friend S and we try to figure out why the traffic is so bad. JT has brought home a new joke book and he can't wait to read it to me. A JT excited to read is not to be ignored, so I hold off on the workout and we laugh at the silly jokes. I run outside to haul in the rest of the recycling bins and take a moment to feed the kittens.
I persuade JT to let me work out in exchange for espresso chip ice cream. I start a load of laundry while I stretch. The eliptical trainer works its magic and for a few minutes my mind is blissfully empty. But the ipod lets me down: not enough songs without memories attached. 40 minutes later I load the dishwasher while the kettle makes water for a steaming pot of tea and JT reads me a few more jokes. Lunch bags are unpacked and made ready for the morning. I set up the coffee pot to magically deliver the dark elixir at 6:10 tomorrow morning.
We head upstairs for bath and bed time. While JT showers, I stretch some more and read a few pages of Mansfield Park. I check the weather and JT and I decide that it will be cool enough for corduroy pants tomorrow. Teeth are brushed and freshly washed hair is combed. Finally, my clean boy climbs into his warm flannel nest for a few pages of a story and a last cuddle. The kittens join us, soft and warm and purring with contentment between us.
And I realize that yes, it's hard and yes, I miss having another mommy in our house. I miss sharing all the small intimate moments that made up our family life. And damn it, I'd like some help with the chores. But I have a boy by my side every day. I can hear his soft steady breath as I lie in my bed at night. And though it sometimes feels as if I am scrambling all the time, he is happy and well-loved. And even those old silly jokes about why a chicken crossed the road are funny when read to you for the first time by your 6 year old son.
So I decide to quit worrying about what needs to get done and instead concentrate on what is getting done: I'm raising this boy with the help and support of my endlessly patient friends and family both here and far away. And I'm not alone. And I can do this.
I am doing this.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
The prompt over at Sunday Scribblings is kissing......hmmm.
Lately, JT has taken to strolling up to me and saying, "Can I have a kiss for dessert? Because your kiss is just the sweetest." Seriously, it's pretty cute. And it's a testament to his diplomatic skills, because nothing gets your bowl of ice cream to you more quickly than telling your mama that her kiss is as sweet as dessert.
That boy has charm to spare.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
The old saying is that the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that changes the world. As I watched Nancy Pelosi being elected the Speaker of the House on Tuesday, that phrase came to mind again and again. She was holding her infant grandchild and was surrounded by even more children. It was the perfect picture of why we need to elect more women to Congress.
In 1984, when I was 16 years old, I watched Geraldine Ferraro accept the Democratic nomination to be the Vice President. At the time, I never dreamed that I would be 39 years old before a woman became the Speaker of the House. With my own 6 year old son by my side, I watched Pelosi give her acceptance speech surrounded by her grandchildren, little boys and little girls who have learned early on that women can do anything.
Between women like Nancy Pelosi and children coming of age in a time of powerful independent women, I think that our prospects in the next twenty years are looking good. It would seem that the hand that rocks the cradle is changing the world.
Friday, January 05, 2007
A Prom to Forget
Bad First Dates
Roller Derby-Laser Tag
If Somebody Hurls, Everybody Had a Good Time
Infections, Rashes and Other Distasteful Skin Conditions
A Night Out with White Trash (Shakira's objections duly noted)
Pimps and Whores
Everything is Coming Out Flannel: Lesbian Prom '07
Thursday, January 04, 2007
Grandma and Grandpa headed back to California today but they left behind a very happy little boy with wonderful memories of beating Grandma at endless card games and showing Grandpa how fast he can ride his new scooter.
Plus, the Grandma cleaning tsunami left great joy in her wake.
Thanks for helping us to start a very happy new year Mom and Dad.
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
As Christmas day was winding down, JT and D spread out the blankets and watched some Superman cartoons from D's new DVD. The sight of JT, dressed head to toe as a Power Ranger, and lying on his new cowboy blanket, was just too good to resist.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
That $89 jacket that I had been visiting for the last few months? $23.98 today, with the magical shopping mom in tow.
So now I have some new clothes to go with my new life in the new year.
And they were all of them at low, low prices.