Monday, January 30, 2012

Vocab with T: Jimmy Jangled

When T and I were first getting to know one another, she asked me if I liked to make up words.  In fact, I do, and I offered up a few words of my own invention; words I use to describe my view of the world.  As it turns out, I am a mere rookie at this game.  T is a master of the genre.  And there's no reason I should be the only beneficiary of her language largesse.  So I proudly offer up a new monthly feature for the blog: Vocabulary with T.  These words won't appear on your SAT test, but they should.

January's word is actually a phrase: jimmy-jangled.  Near as I can tell, jimmy-jangled is both a verb and an adjective….context matters in the use of jimmy-jangled.  If something has been fixed or repaired slightly out of skew from the ordinary, it's been jimmy-jangled.  This can be good (it's fixed-ish and it seems to be working) or this can be bad (it's fixed-ish, and that ain't gonna last or is otherwise inconvenient).  Either way, it's been jimmy-jangled.  One can also engage in jimmy-jangling, thus making it a verb.  For example, my trash can lid has been attached to my trash can and that act was jimmy jangling.   The trash can itself has now been jimmy jangled.  Really, jimmy jangling is both a useful skill and an effective description.  That's a word that can go the distance.  Unless I miss my mark, it's been jimmy-jangled.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Oh, Elvis

My gym makes protein and health shakes and each month there is a new shake-of-the-month.  This month, that's the Elvis shake.

Would that be the 1950s Elvis, sleek, smooth, and at the height of his fame?
 Maybe it's the soft, drug-addled Elvis of the late 1960s and early 1970s?
 I'm assuming it's not the stoned, heart-attack-on-the-crapper Elvis of 1977.
I've not had the shake --- and I won't --- until I find out which Elvis will appear as a consequence.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Peter Pan

As he approaches the ripe old age of 12, JT is a bundle of contradictions.  I suppose that this is the story of adolescence.  He's strong and tough, capable of carrying heavy things right up the stairs and eager to demonstrate that strength.  But he's sometimes surprised to discover that he is no longer a little peanut, as when he bangs his head climbing in the car.  He can't quite imagine that he really is that tall.  He's not entirely abandoned the pleasures of being a little boy; but when he flops into my lap I feel every ounce of his 5' 2" size.  When I tuck him into bed each night, that's not a little boy under the quilt.
As he has for years, he still enjoys playing outside.  His Playmobil guys remain familiar friends.  But he navigates the world of iPads and iPods like an expert.  Story and picture books have been replaced by Harry Potter and Sports Illustrated.  He listens to the news with an alert ear for injustice and he watches 60 Minutes.  More than occasionally he demonstrates a maturity in his assessments of the world that startles me with its insight and makes me proud of the young man he's becoming.

For Christmas,  JT received an alarm clock.  He's been thrilled with it, setting it to awaken him each morning, and generally treating it as evidence that he's on his way to adulthood, a process he welcomes.  Today, in the ultimate act of adolescence, he got braces on his teeth.  This too has delighted him as a rite of passage.  When those braces come off, he'll be 14 years old; preparing to enroll in the 9th grade.
 In these moments, I am struck by how incredibly fast the days and weeks are flying by.  Can it really be that it's been twelve years since I anticipated the arrival of a seven pound bundle who changed everything? 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Newt Bashing

In the last few days, the mainstream GOP has basically gone on the offensive in opposition to Newt Gingrich, detailing the many ways he isn't qualified to lead anything, let alone the nation.  Today, 1996 Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole got in on the fun.

To quote Newt's '90s nemesis Bill Clinton, I don't have a dog in this hunt.  I'm an Obama supporter, after all.  I should find the Newt-bashing a kind of cheap entertainment. But I don't.  Instead, I find myself wondering where all these people were in 1994, when Newt unleashed his Contract with America invective on the nation.  I wonder where they were when Newt went after the Clintons with his ridiculous accusations.  Where were they in the last few years, when the mainstream media started treating Gingrich as a legitimate GOP-idea man?   The answer: None of them stood up to Newt and his nonsense.  None of them opposed his spiteful brand of politics.  When it worked for them, why they were all for it.

Now they are reaping what they've sown.  I hope that the nation doesn't suffer a similar fate.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Embracing Age

I have very dark hair and a few years back, when grey hairs started to arrive, I added highlights.  For the most part, I didn't look back.  Every once in a while, faced with the rather daunting cost of professional highlighting, I would pause and ask myself if all this nonsense was worth it.  Then I would spend the money and highlight away.

Two years ago, summer arrived and I fell behind on the highlighting.  As I was dragging my feet to make the hair color appointment, I caught a glimpse of my hair in the rear view mirror and realized that it really wasn't the dark color that it had always been.  The highlights had turned my hair much lighter; I was no longer a dark brunette.  But I prefer the darker color.  In that moment, I reversed course and let the highlights grow out.  Secretly, I hoped that I'd have a nice grey streak worthy of Cruella DeVille.  Instead, I managed the natural color of a women in her mid-40s…dark brown with streaks of grey. 

It's been an experiment in aging honestly.  It turns out that isn't so easy.  In a nation of women who fight aging, a woman who has decided to be comfortable in her own skin seems to be a discomfiting notion.   My hair stylist advises that I should cover it up; she sees it as part of routine maintenance (you change the oil in your car, she reasons, and you also cover your grey hairs).  A few folks have issued some sly asides.  Though I've had the occasional pause, for the most part, I was committed to aging honestly

Then, last week, as we were watching presidential candidates on the telly, JT noted the color of Mitt Romney's hair, commenting that he had no idea Mr. Romney was so old.  Interested, I asked how old JT thought Romney was.  "I don't know," the boy said.  "But look at all that grey hair.  He must be old!"

I'm the last person to defend Mitt Romney, and 11 year old boys should hardly be the judge of much.  But I was interested to note just how negatively JT reacted to grey hair.  In that moment, I decided that aging honestly wasn't just about me being comfortable with myself.  It is about teaching my son that there's a beauty in truthful aging that no bottle of hair color can ever hope to better.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


The release of Mitt Romney's tax returns and the consequent discussions of how much tax he pays on his millions has me thinking fondly of Huey Long and his Share the Wealth campaign.

Romney would no doubt accuse Senator Long of "envy" and "class warfare." And for his part, Long wouldn't bother to deny it, which is why I still have a soft spot for his populist proposals.

I've got no similar soft spot for Romney's nonsense…every time he opens his audio-animatronic mouth I am reminded why I am not a Republican.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Primarily Nuts

One of the things I find tiresome about presidential primaries is the degree to which the early voting states smugly assert their qualifications to be the first arbiters of who is qualified to govern the rest of us.  I'm alternately bemused and annoyed at the degree to which these states order us to trust their judgment; the not-so-subtle subtext being that they know better than us, residents of inferior states, who should run the government.  This year's GOP primary has brought us special evidence of the peculiarity of this arrangement.

First up was Iowa, a state asserting it's midwestern heartland qualifications.  I could go on and on about how ridiculous this claim is, but I shall confine myself to a few criticisms.   First up, your state is losing population to the rest of the nation.  If the Hawkeye state is so damned awesome, why are your people fleeing?  Second, the butter cow.  I could endorse a cow carved with butter if you then served up the butter cow with some fresh-baked bread.  But you save the butter and carve next year's cow from the same rancid butter year-after-year, Iowa.  If that's not a metaphor for something tarnished about your state, I don't know what is.  Finally, I offer up the evidence that you can't even count your own ballots.  Sorry, Iowa, but I just can't trust your (cornfed) judgment.

Maybe there is hope to be found in New Hampshire?  I will freely admit that I've never been to the Granite State and I don't know any native New Hampshirites.  But New Hampshire's primary claim to presidential power is that they've always gone first and that they are moderates.  Claiming shotgun on the primary process is not a qualification, New Hampshire.  It's an annoyance.  As for your so-called moderation, those "live free or die" license plates imply a rather immoderate solution, don't you think?

On the other hand, at least New Hampshire isn't the nullifying crazytown also known as South Carolina, a state once characterized as "too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum."  That idea was first offered up by South Carolinian James Petigru more than 150 years ago but remains just as accurate today. As if that wasn't enough, may I point out that South Carolina's  GOP voters just endorsed the candidacy of an ethically-challenged, megalomaniac presidential candidate named Newt?  Seriously, WTF, South Carolina? 

On the other hand, at least the Palmetto State isn't Florida, a state whose voters recently elected a felonious governor.  Sure, the weather is nice.  But other than that and the orange juice, you bring nothing to the table, Florida.  In 2000, your ridiculousness landed us 8 years of George W. Bush in the White House, which should have caused the rest of us to kick you out of the union or take away your voting rights.  Or both.  Florida, your state is where crazy goes to retire.  The last thing I want from you is advice on whom we should elect president. 

It's true that I live in New Jersey, a state that is the butt of any number of jokes.  Not to mention Governor Jersey Shore Christie.  But I'm not asking for the Garden State to vote first.  I'm merely noting that the system we currently employ is ridiculously stupid.   The time has come for organized regional primaries.  Let's get a plan, America.  If not, we deserve the nonsense that is coming our way.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Real Life Conversations with JT: Judgmental Adolescent edition

The backstory: JT and I joined a bunch of Upper School Ceramics students at their annual kiln trip.  I'm useless when it comes to Ceramics, so I spent Saturday grading midterm exams and cooking boatloads of food for the hungry teenagers.  JT played in the snow and otherwise observed the kids. When I finished grading essays, I was ready to celebrate.  And that's where the trouble started.

Mama:  I've fished grading essays.  Woot, woo!  I'm going to celebrate by playing some music.  What should I play?

JT (dubious):  Okay, but don't embarrass yourself.

Mama:  Ouch.

JT:  I'm just saying'

I opted for some Clapton.  It remains unclear whether or not I embarrassed myself.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Gym Rant

My gym has acquired 8 new elliptical machines, a treasure trove of workout riches that delights me beyond reason.  What doesn't delight me beyond reason is all the New Year's Resolution gym-goers, who sometimes hog the good machines and who otherwise can't seem to manage anything without ample instruction.  I'd like to say that I support you in your New Year's Resolution, newbie-at-the-gym, and in principle, I do.  In practice, I want you to get the hell out of my way.

Case in point: Wednesday, when I had already begun running on one of the shiny new elliptical machines, the woman on the machine next to me kept trying to make eye contact.  I ignored her for some time, though it was a challenge, thanks to the way she wiped down the machine with the antibacterial wipe.  I've never seen someone so thorough with the job…..was she going to climb on it for a workout or did she plan to French-kiss the machine?  It was unclear.  Anyway, there I am, a good 5 minutes into my workout, concentrating on the task at hand and avoiding even a glance in her direction, complete with magazine on the reading rack and headphones in my ears, when Antibacterial Sue actually touched me to ask for help.

Touching a stranger at the gym?  In New Jersey? Lady, you could have been shot.

I smiled a thin little smile and kept running,  while encouraging her to talk with the scary personal trainer who roams the area frightening gym clients.   The Terrifying Trainer has a Cuban accent and Stalinist attitude and wears so much makeup and hair highlights that she's succeeded in becoming a gross caricature of a human being.  She looks like a stern clown in gym shoes.  Like everyone else at the gym, I'm afraid of her.

Antibacterial Sue was not up to the challenge of asking Terrifying Trainer for help, choosing me instead.  So I relented and showed the newbie how to program the machine for a happy little workout.  I was nice, warning her to go easy until she got used to the machine.  Then I returned to my sweaty workout and my mean little little thoughts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The War Against Girls

The next time someone tells me that it's okay to say "you guys" when you are speaking of a group that includes girls....the next time that someone complains when I use the word "frosh" when speaking of 9th graders....or suggests that they don't understand what I mean when I use the phrase "under-class members" when I am speaking of what was traditionally called "under classmen"...or suggests in some other subtle way that I'm just being overly sensitive when I talk about gender inclusion,  I am going to direct them to go and watch "It's a Girl" or read about it here.

There are 200 million missing little girls in this world, victims of infanticide driven by a patriarchal worldview.

And that is not okay.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Not Like Us

I didn't have much to say about the Iowa Caucus and had less to say about last week's primary in New Hampshire. Quite frankly, these contests weren't really contests.  I'm wondering if South Carolina, scheduled for this Saturday, will offer up much in terms of an actual contest.  Which is to say I remain convinced that Mitt Romney, who has been running for president for the last 6 years, will this time score his party's nomination. 

Of course, Romney's likely nomination does not really reflect a great deal of actual enthusiasm among his fellow Republicans.  In fact, I've found it rather surprisingly how very little Republicans of all stripes don't like Romney.  It could be his alleged flip-flop status (and the examples here are legion), it may be his tenure as the head of a Bain Capital, a company that made money off of people's misery.  But I suspect that it's his naked ambition that damages his chances. Romney wants to be president so badly that his obvious longing for the post gets in the way of his humanity.  People are creeped out. 

We want exceptional leaders to serve as our president, but we also want someone to whom we can relate; someone who makes us proud of who we are and who we can be.  Romney is not that person.   With Huntsman's withdrawal, he's gotten one step closer to the nomination.  But Mitt Romney is as far away as ever from being able to relate well with middle America.  And that doesn't bode well.

2/18 update: If Romney releases his tax records and he really does only pay at the 15% rate, he will have made my point for me.  Thanks, pal!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Real Life Observations of JT

"When you find cat hair in your mouth, it's best to not ask why."

Words to live by.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


In pursuit of custard cups for some of my nefarious cooking goals, I lured T to Pier One with me this past weekend.  And now I am pleased to present evidence that you can't take us anywhere.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Real Life Conversations at School: Things I Didn't Say edition

The backstory: My school has a rotating schedule and classes don't meet every day of the week.  So, though we have 7 possible periods in the schedule, only 5 meet each day.  Right before midterm exams (next week), we have two days in which all 7 periods meet.  Near as I can tell, no one looks forward to these days.

Me:  Don't forget that we meet both Thursday and Friday this week.

Student X:  I hate that schedule.  Every teacher will assign homework and we'll have more homework than ever.

The student who made that comment regularly opts out of submitting homework for my class and so here's what I wanted to say (but didn't…though it took all my powers of self control).

Me: You never turn in homework for my class anyway, so why does that matter?

Instead, I paused and then diplomatically noted that it will be a busy couple of days for all of us.  I am such a grown up.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Home Brew

Just before New Year's, I came across this recipe for homemade Irish cream.  Let's just say that my boot leggin' ancestors made me do it.
For the record, I'm not sure whether the giant Mason jar, scored from T's collection for my nefarious purposes, makes this look charming and retro or like some kind of demon has taken possession of my fridge.  Either way, I don't care.  Bottoms up!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

An Open Letter to Rick Santorum

JT has two moms.  He's always had two moms and though we've not been raising him as a couple since he was six, that doesn't change the essential fact that his is a non-traditional family.  Add in his mom's girlfriends and close family friends, and JT is a boy surrounded by lesbians.

He knows plenty of women who aren't gay, of course, and he treats the two moms element of his world as the perfectly normal fact of life that it is.  He knows that many families are different from his but that doesn't matter to him.  What matters to him is that he is a well-loved boy; one whose arrival in the world nearly 12 years ago was much-anticipated and much-sought.  With the exception of one incident when he was in the 4th grade, he's never encountered a moment where the value of his family has been in doubt.  Even then, he wasn't entirely sure that it was his family that had been insulted.  That's not how JT perceives the world.

Last Friday morning, JT and I were going about our usual getting-ready-for-school routine.  We stood in the hallway upstairs, listening to the news as he combed his unruly hair.  The story on NPR was about you, Mr. Santorum, an outgrowth of the massive amount of media attention you've enjoyed since your second place finish in the Iowa Caucus.  The story outlined a number of your political views and we heard your voice speaking about gays and their families.  And before I could turn off the radio, in one moment, Mr. Santorum, you condemned me, my family, and my 11 year old son.  There was a pause after your ridiculous invective and in that moment, JT looked at me and said, "Doesn't he know that I'm just a normal boy?"

Of course, you don't understand that.  It's one of the main reasons you are not the least bit qualified to serve in elective office.  I could endure your opposition to gay rights, your ridiculous belief that family breakdown has caused our current economic difficulties, even your opposition to a woman's right to birth control.  But I will not sit idly by while you condemn people's children; my child.

For the record, Mr. Santorum, my son likes baseball and Harry Potter.  He loves his grandparents and likes to talk to them on the phone.  He's a fan of college sports, and he likes ride his bike, draw pictures, and play outside.  He likes to play games on his iPad and listen to music on his iPod.   He's kind-hearted to animals.  He helps his mama around the house and his favorite food is pizza.  He's in the 6th grade and (mostly) he completes his schoolwork on time.  He plans to go to college and dreams of being a baseball player when he grows up.  He's just a normal boy.
He's the face of our nation's future and even though he's only 11 years old, I've got a lot more confidence in JT and his generation than I have in you.  Even so, I'll thank you to be careful about your words, sir.  My son is listening.  And he's just a boy.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Gift Idea

At a gas station near T's house, just before Christmas, I came across a blow up Santa, perched in his chair right next to a vending machine.
But it wasn't just any vending machine.  Look closer, Internet.  That's a machine dispensing bait...the Bait Vendor.  Awesome.  Next year, everyone on my holiday list gets bait.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Tangerine Tango

Seductive.  Sophisticated.  Dramatic.  I'm not speaking of myself (though your confusion is natural, Internet, don't feel bad).  No, I'm speaking of the 2012 Pantone color of the year. 

To the rest of us, this color could be best described as bright orange but Pantone doesn't make its money by providing honest descriptions.  These people have something to sell, after all.  So Tangerine Tango it is.

Last year's color, Honeysuckle, was supposed to inspire us to get back to work.  Tangerine Tango will continue to crack the whip.  Pantone reports that it will "provide the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward."  I think that it might also be one of those post-workout shakes my gym is forever trying to sell.   In a more disturbing part of the press release, one sure to attract the suspicions of the GOP presidential contenders, I've learned that ,"...Tangerine Tango marries the vivaciousness and adrenaline rush of red with the friendliness and warmth of yellow, to form a high-visibility, magnetic hue that emanates heat and energy.”  I'm pretty confident that's not legal in all 50 states, Pantone. 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Real Life Conversations at School: Letter of the Law edition

The backstory:  My school has a dress code and, among other things, the students are not permitted to wear blue jeans.  Leggings are also prohibited.  But, as this recent conversation with a student demonstrates, not everyone agrees about what these words mean.

Me: You know that blue jeans aren't in dress code, right?

Student J: Yes.  These aren't blue jeans.  They're jeggings.

Me:  By which you mean blue jean leggings?  Leggings aren't allowed either.

Student J:  They aren't jeans and they aren't leggings.  They're jeggings.

Me:  You should go to law school.

This is a battle I'm doomed to lose.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Unsolicited Advice for Republican Primary Candidates Not Named Romney

If every one of you just skipped New Hampshire, then Romney's victory there, which looks like a sure bet in the light of current trends, would be hollow.  Instead you could all go to South Carolina, where the weather is much nicer.  The crazy among you (read: every single candidate save Huntsman) could then duke it out among the crazy faithful in the Palmetto state while Romney trudged through the snow and ice.  He'd win the Granite State, of course, but he was going to do so anyway.  As consolation, he'd be hampered in South Carolina (or be forced to spend his money there to be on the airwaves two weeks earlier).

Just a thought.

Update, for those of you who haven't heard about Rick Santorum's anal sex problem.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Obligatory Iowa Caucus Post

In case you just crawled out of your cave, the GOP Iowa Caucus is tonight.  This is the night when Iowans meet with their neighbors, swap jello salads, and cast a vote for the candidate who was the most successful panderer to their desire to feel important.

The media will assure you that it's likely to be a good night for Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul.  The remaining Republican candidates are unlikely to fare as well in the process.  I don't have much to add to this crowd-sourced wisdom except to note what seems to me to be the elephant in the room: no matter what happens tonight (and likely for every other primary election to follow in the days and months ahead), Mitt Romney is going to be the GOP nominee.

If Rick Santorum is crowned Iowa Prom King tonight (and he may very well be),  it will be his moment in the sun.  But he is unlikely to metastasize that victory into greater electoral success (see: Mike Huckabee in 2008).

So.  Mitt it is.  Blech.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Raccoon Girl

When I was a kid, my family often visited my grandparents up at a place called Foresta in Yosemite National Park.  One of the highlights of those visits were the local raccoons, whom we fed.  Yes, you read that correctly: we fed the wildlife.  I can remember sitting inside my Great Aunt Mary's cabin when the raccoons would arrive for their supper, kibbles of dog food that we placed out in tin pie pans for their dining pleasure.  If we were late with the vittles, the bandits would bang the pie pans and, on occasion, pull open the screen door, allowing it to slam shut as a reminder that they were ready to dine.  We'd watch them lick the dog kibble before eating their fill and then waddling away from the cabin's deck.

Though we'd now be kicked out of the World Wildlife Fund and locked up for this sort of nonsense, at the time we thought it was terribly charming.  And this happy childhood memory has left me with a soft spot for raccoons.  That's a good thing because when T saw me searching a basket looking for my jewelry she announced that I looked "like a raccoon pawing through a dumpster."  Lucky for her, I found that to be a compliment.  In all fairness, it was also accurate. 
For Christmas, she put an end to this disorganized nonsense, with the gift of a lovely jewelry box to hold my treasures.
Everything has a spot and I'll now be a great deal more organized as I sort through my jewelry options. 
It's true that I'll look less like a raccoon when I pick out some earrings.
But that's okay....I still have a closet or two to sort through. 

Sunday, January 01, 2012

January 1: Frontyard Flowerbed

For the last few years, I've started each month with a photo of something in my garden.  It's a welcome opportunity to mark the changing of the seasons and time.  Last year, I chose to write about my backyard clematis vine, though the venture was unsuccessful, largely because of a brief dry spell during which I dropped the ball and didn't get the plant enough water.  The clematis and I have worked out our issues and things should be better next year, but the vine still deserves a year off.  This year, I'm going to make a monthly photo of the flower bed on the northeast  side of my front years.  The bed features quite a few plants.  There is a rose of Sharon tree.
There are two azalea bushes and a juniper.
There is plenty of ivy and some hostas live there as well.  In addition, it's a bed where I slip in some daffodil and tulip bulbs each fall.
It was unseasonably warm today, so I planted the last of my spring bulbs, a fitting tribute to the first day of the new year.