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A Suprising Turn in Events

An exchange occurred last night that has never happened before in seven years of marriage plus five of cohabitation. We had arrived home and were humming about, preparing dinner and putting things in order here and there. The kids were at the red table and, predictably, someone spilled their juice. Bobby honey goes for a dishcloth and discovers – da DUMMMM – the drawer of dishcloths is EMPTY.
He immediately begins to fret about overuse of dishtowels. How we started the day with at least a dozen in the drawer and by 5 p.m. – all gone. Waste is occurring, he declares. Do I need to put a LOCK on this drawer?
I begin to tense up. I have heard him complain of this before and worry I will explode at the pure ridiculousness. Do we want the kids to help clean up messes? We do? Then they need access to the towels. Yes, unlimited towels. Spills happen. So many spills happen with a house full of four kids taking every snack and every meal and sometimes finding ways to spill that doesn’t include food or beverage at all. Filth is everywhere and I have nothing but praise for he amount of cloths dirtied in a mission to abolish it.
But maybe I am predisposed to feel this way. I do not like to touch dishtowels unless they are clean and dry from the drawer. I will not go for the wet one draped apathetically over the sink ridge. What if it makes my hands smell all mildewy? What if it makes my hands all chapped from harsh soap residue? What if it has touched something truly horrific that I will never learn about but will carry under my nails for days? This may be why I allow the children hedonistic use of dishtowels.
So far we had not verbally clashed on this issue and I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to begin debating environmental factors (paper towels in landfill vs. water waste for unnecessary loads of laundry). I wanted to have dinner. So I said, without much hope, “Is this really an issue you want to take a stand on? Is it that big of a deal, really?” Then I wait, wondering if he will receive my inquiry like a pointed stick in the ribs.
He stops. Straightens. His eyes get a far away look. I know what he is thinking, actually. He is thinking of a guy he works with who has a kid having mysterious seizures. He told me about it earlier and I can see his heart squeezing at that moment.
And he says, “No. You’re right. It’s not a big deal.” Then I see, I SEE, him shake it off and turn to me with a smile. He asks me about my day.
Holy shit. It may not seem like much, but it really is a defining moment. Usually his pride or innate anger or just plain old weary momentum would push him toward at least a three-minute diatribe. He would stomp and storm and the mop the spill with jerky, exaggerated movements. But instead, he just chose to get over it. Shrugged it off. Realized that, in the scheme of things, it’s a miniscule problem for a household to have.
I think it’s a clue. I think he’s happier and more appreciative of life all the sudden. He hasn’t had a drink in, what, about eight months? And the job he’s had for ten weeks seems to be a perfect fit (at long last). We aren’t broke and we aren’t sick and…could it be true? Is my gloomy Bobby honey…happy? Like, not a burst of happiness, the long mellow kind. Contentment, maybe. Watershed.
As further proof, the next day we were driving around and he was saying my car needs an alignment. He goes on to say that I probably hit a curb sometime and whacked it out…then he pauses and says…”or maybe I did.” Again, here is, not assigning blame in small ways. I hope this doesn’t sound like I’m declaring him at long last pussy whipped. I swear it’s not that. I think his shoulder is healing. The chip that had been filled in with toothpaste and painted over finally got a true patch. He’s almost forty and, by God, is shaping up to be a pretty decent husband. Who would have thought?


Proposal on Ice

I found out my boyfriend was about to propose to me when our connection flight to London was delayed. I spent a few hours in line and at the customer service counter, trying to figure out how we would be able to get out of the country and still meet our tour on time to travel from London to Amerstdam on a bus. My boyfriend of about four years used that time to get super drunk in the airport bar. We went up to our hotel room where he promptly emptied his pockets on the nightstand and passed out. In that pile of reciepts ($100 of vacation money in the bar?!) was a little red satin pouch with an unmistakable circular bulge. I was about to be propsed to! I was excited. I could hardly wait.
I tried to sleep. I really did. But as I lay there in the dark hotel room, I started to overthink. I just had to know…had he gotten me all wrong with his ring selection? I didn’t require anything large carat wise, but I had to know if he put any effort into his selection. Was it gold? Was it cheap? Was it…boring? I rolled out of bed and crawled accross the floor to the nightstand. Pouch clutched in sweaty palm, I stole into the bathroom, stuffed a towel under the door jam, got into the shower…and slowly spoiled the suprise.
It was a beautiful ring. A round bezel set diamond in platinum. Modest but stylish. I loved it. It was enormous, fitting loosely around my thumb, but that was probably the sample size and not his fault. He had done well! I was elated.
We missed the London portion of our tour, but did connect with the group in Amerstam. A rowdy group of 18 -35 year olds, we were sucked into a night of outrageous behaviour in the red light district. At one point I look over and see my man, hearts in his eyes, reaching for his pocket, and I think – oh no, he’s going to propose to me in a HASH bar. No! nononono. So I all but jump up and race out of the place. He wants me to slow down and walk by the canal, but I’m imagining my engagement story and all the burbles of laughter and implications that he only propsed because he smoked some of that purple haze, etc etc. Instead I suggest the sex museum. The next night, in Brussels, I was ready to be propsed to. I got all pretty and we went to this amazing jazz festival.Really, any fool could see that the time was RIGHT. But I guess he didn’t think so. Two nights later we pulled into Paris and I remember thinking, he wouldn’t propose on the eifel tower. No way, it’s too…well, cliché. I guess he had told everyone on the tour that what he was going to do because the followed us around like a flock of starlings, scattering nervously whenever I looked their way. Finally we reached the top and he leaned in and whispered, “I think you know what I am going to say…” and that’s all he said. I waited, expectantly. Eventually I prodded, “Well, you still have to SAY it.” and he did, sweetly and awkwardly. I said yes. We were engaged in Paris!
So we went out with about a dozen people from our tour to celebrate. We went to a karoke bar where my finace was a star, belting out Sweet Child O’Mine and sending the French into a state of metal rapture. Free champagne flowed freely. We then went to the Moulin Rouge (It wasn’t really, it was a discount rouge down the block, but my man still insists it was). More drinks. Soon we relaized the last bus that would take us back to our hotel would soon be departing and made our way to the stop. I got on and sat down. My fiance was the last to board the bus. I remember looking up after admiring my ring and seeing him with this wild light in his eyes. He then sucked in a huge breath and…attempted to cartwheel down the center aisle of the bus.
In his mind, he saw himself landing next to me in the seat. Like Mary Lou Retton, all athleticism and control. But what actually happened was that he did a round off right into my face. With his big, I’m-gonna-propose man shoe, he stomped right on my eye. The crowd gasped theatrically. “You kicked me in the FACE!” I yelled. Confused, he opted for denial. “No I didn’t” (I actually got a picture of him at this point, all glassy eyed. It was reflexive, my camera was already in my hand.) Eventually the tour group, who were beginning to turn on him after treating him like their king all night, convinced him that he had indeed caused the swelling and blacking that was taking over my left eye and cheek. He felt awful, of course, and wanted to make it right. At the hotel he went to the lobby restaurant and asked for some ice. It’s France though, and they don’t have ICE. Instead he came back with a handful of cold ground beef. At which point I became hysterical (okay, I had been drinking too) and told him this was not an I Love Lucy episiode and he was sadly mistaken if he thought I was putting raw meat on my face for any reason. So it swelled unchecked and the next day I had a gnarly shiner – blood in the eye, just a gargoyle of a face which still had to travel through three more Eurpoean countries, posing for countless photos with big Jackie O sunglasses. He really did feel terribly, mostly embarassed. He made me change the story to “some guy” kicked me in the face when we got home. And when people would hear the story and turn to him to ask if he kicked that guy’s ass he would always reply with “Look, that guy was just having a good time. That guy didn’t mean to hurt anyone. That guy was really sorry!” and then sort of slunk away.

We’re did get married and are in the process of living happily ever after. Three years ago I lost the engagement ring…but I’ll always have kicked in the face.

Twila in the Garden of Good and Evil

Seven years ago today we were in New Orleans on our honeymoon. I remember reading about a bar called Blue Nile on Frenchman Street, and wanted to go visit it because I was working at a Seattle company by the same name. It was the bar across the way though, where we ended up spending the evening. It was called the Spotted Cat.
This was the first place we had been in New Orleans that didn’t seem, well, wholly contrived. And I am sure this impression was merely a function of being a tourist and staying on bourbon street, eating po’boys, taking voodoo tours and steam boat cruises, all manufactured to please young binge drinking couples like ourselves. But this place felt different. The music felt easy, even the trombone had a sort of lazy sense of humor about itself. When we told barkeep we were newlyweds he immediately supplied us with a magnum of champagne which we were no more than a third of the way through before we noticed her.
How we missed her until that point, I’ll never know. She was beautiful, with curly, strawberry-sunset hair not unlike Nicole Kidman circa Days of Thunder. She was fair and freckled pleasingly. She had two broken arms. They were in casts from knuckles to clavicle, maybe even joined by a bridge of plaster across her shoulder. There were steel posts bracing her forearms against her hips, leaving her in a perpetual flexing posture.
She was sitting at the bar just down from us, frowning and watching the door. She had a drink in front of her, which she was nursing through a long, red straw. We saw that it was nothing but melted rocks and offered her some of our bubbly bounty.
She accepted and we sidled nearer. She introduced herself as Twila. I had never heard the name before, but thought it could not be more fitting. With a blue bar light illuminating her, she did look like a sullen nymph of twilight hiding out until the dawn.
We requested another glass, which my new husband overfilled. As it sizzled angrily on the bar I popped the straw in and let her take a long draw from the champagne. Soon we were on familiar enough terms to ask what had happened to her arms. I very vividly remember her face squinching up for a moment before she confided in her soft drawl that the story began at the Spotted Cat, at the very bar where we sat.
She was new to the big city, come from a neighboring state. She was waiting tables and had come to the Spotted Cat on recommendation from a friend for good music and atmosphere. She had met a man.
Though she didn’t describe him, for beautiful Twila to be instantly smitten, I imagine he must have be been one of those charismatic and handsome lads that strike a girl like a flash flood. They spent the evening together, dancing and laughing and drinking. Twila leaned earnestly in to explain that she never does they type of thing she was about to describe, and then confessed that she decided to go back to his apartment with him. She gets a far away look in her eye and you just know in the moment she had been really thinking it was more than a one night, hook-up scenario. On that night she had felt the possibilities and imagined herself as step mother to this man’s children.
Outside, he led her to his motorbike. He had two helmets and helped her settle one on her head. She climbed onto the bike behind him and clung like a baby koala to his back as he pulled out.
She realizes now he should not have been driving. She didn’t see it coming at all, with her face turned into his shoulder, but she felt the bike hit the slow median separating the traffic lanes. And then she felt herself separating from the bike and hitting the pavement, hard. She tried to catch herself with outstretched arms, but wonders constantly now if she would have been better off rolling to one side or curling up in a ball, anything to keep just one arm unbroken to perform essential activities.
“Then that mother-fucker just drove away!” she announced, overloud during a lull in music. “He just drove off with out even knowing if I was dead!” Apparently he had retained his seat and just skidded a few feet sideways. One must presume he didn’t not want to chance a DUI along with any other charges relating to her injury. One must presume panic gave him wings and that it is not that he cared nothing for her life at all, as much as he just cared far more for his own. So he fled. Leaving her in the middle of the road, scraped and broken and drunk and disillusioned. She remembers his glimpsing his license plates as he drove off. Local.
Her job as a waitress did not provide medical coverage and so the hospital bills were astronomical. Anger makes her sharp as she begins to outline her situation. She cannot dress herself or go to the bathroom un-aided, and this will be the case for many more weeks. She can’t work and she can’t feed her cat.
This is his fault, that stupid handsome man she had tried to go home with. That sociopath with a drinking problem who charmed her so easily, he won’t get away with this. Every night she has her neighbor dress her, apply make up and pay her bus fair back to he scene of the crime.
“I know he will come back here. He told me he likes his place. He’ll come back. And when he does….and when he does…he’s going to pay.”
I was not sure how she meant to accomplish this. I am not even sure if she meant pay her medical bills or pay in the bad karmic way. For all I know she had a knife wedged deep in her black wrapped cast. She was that mad. Her anger made it sort of uncomfortable to continue to sit by her. And our bottle had dried up. We told her we were confident she would find him and make him sorry. I didn’t know what else to say. I was not sure I’d ever met someone on an actual quest before. In retrospect, I wish I’d have offered to help her to the restroom at the very least. It was a lot of champagne. But soon we were joining the able bodied people on the postage-stamp sized dance floor where we swayed and writhed like the decidedly buzzed newlywed couple we were.

I understand you are supposed to maintain some level of secrecy around real people names on the internets. So, in this description, I shall refer to my oldest two children as Venti and Grande to maintain their anonymity.

Venti, 5, and Grande, 2, like to act out the adventures of their super hero alter-egos in the back yard. It’s often a mishmash of action and shrieking, but occasionally a real storyline emerges. The imaginings below mostly belong to them because they are brilliant and gifted and mine, but the rhymes are my gift to you.
To put you in the mood, it was a sun dappled afternoon in our backyard. Venti had been rolling with the dog and was grass stained and dirt crusted. He acted out his portion of the story mainly using sound effects and slapstick comedy action. Grande was wearing her hot pink tutu with her hot pink snow boots and a fleecy white hoodie sweatshirt. She had a wand in her hand and wild I-slept-sweaty-during-my-nap hair. They had a common enemy, the mutt-beast Stella who cowers before adult males but freely tramples willing children before turning to wash their faces with her lolling tongue. A giant silver yoga ball and some smaller nerf darts were used as props. Grande set up the story, narrating as a shocked onlooker, “Oh, no, Mommy, Candy Girl has to stop the tiger!” and then morphs into her character to save the day. She and Venti storyboard as they go, throwing new ideas out and exploring the possibilities.

Candy girl is small and blonde
With a swirling pink cape and a lollipop wand
Vegetable boy has strong bones and muscles
With powers over broccoli, asparagus and brussels

Vegetable Boy, his talents abound
He can shoot it or throw it if it grows from the ground
And Candy Girl, so sweet your teeth hurt
Makes sure all the bad guys get just desserts

They may have been different, an unlikely pair
Fighting for justice, with unusual flair
But luckily, they show up wherever there’s danger
With delicious, nutritious help for strangers

On one such a day, the zoo raised the alert
As the keeper came running, all covered in dirt
“Help, Candy Girl,” he sounded quite terrified
“A tiger is loose, he’s gotten outside”

“And Vegetable boy, you’re needed too!
A bear also escaped, we don’t know what to do!”
Then the little scared man dove right under a chair
Shaking with fear from all he’d witnessed out there.

Candy girl raised up her lolli-wand
And in a poof of cotton candy, both heroes were gone
Moments later they appeared at the zoo
And leapt into action, knowing just what to do

Vegetable boy made a celery telescope
While his partner in justice wove a licorice rope
“I see them!” he crowed and pointed due East
Where the tiger was clearly preparing to feast

That orange and black tiger had his sharp teeth bared
At a class of kindergarteners, all crying and scared
Candy Girl sent her lasso a’flyin
And flew through the air with a call like a lion

The tiger, distracted, turned away from the youngsters
And bounded right toward her, lips smacking in hunger
But before that tiger made Candy Girl yield
Vegetable boy created a cauliflower shield

With a wall of cauli protecting his chum
Veggie boy’s time for action had come
Scanning the zoo, he saw a furry flash
And there was that bear rooting ‘round in the trash

“Hey, Candy Girl, can you handle the cat?
This critter’s a litter-bug, we can’t have that!”
Candy Girl replied, brave as can be,
“You bet, Veggie Boy, just leave it to me”

Placing her wand in the dirt at her side
She spit in her hands and held them out wide
Between them grew a magnificent bubble
Pink and round and sticky and supple

It grew very big, as big as a boat
So she used her lolli-wand and urged it to float
That silly tiger, he never knew what occurred
One moment free, the next caged like a bird

That giant pink bubble snapped right around him
The sweet smelling jail just seemed to astound him
His claws couldn’t free him, the walls were elastic
All the kids cheered, they thought this was fantastic

A fierce tiger’s roar just isn’t so scary
When he’s encased in a balloon that smells of sweet cherry
Getting him home wasn’t difficult at all
Great thing about bubbles, they roll like a ball

But where was Veggie Boy? Did he need her assistance?
She squinted to see his green cape in the distance
It was clear from his grin, he had a plan for that bear
That silly old grisly hadn’t a prayer

As always, Veggie Boy thought quick on his feet
And loaded his salad shooter with onions and beets
He called to the bear – “It’s not very likable
To throw garbage about, at least half is recyclable!”

But the bear, he wasn’t so bad in the end
And his rampage for food was nearing the end
After all, when a carrot comes flying your way
Why not just enjoy it, start munching away?

So, Vegetable boy just laid out a trail
Leading the bear right back to his jail
And the bear went quite easily, munching zucchini
Even seemed a bit sorry for being a meany

Then Candy Girl and Vegetable Boy
Scolded the animals for their evil ploy
It just goes to show, to perform super-feats
Sometimes you need veggies, sometimes you need sweets.

Admin Weak

I wonder if all women who work in an office, especially those who started from the bottom (receptionist desk), wish as hard I as I do that it could be forgotten. Something we don’t need to talk about, unless years and promotions are stacked between the tellings. I wouldn’t say I am ashamed. No, it is a perfectly reasonable job and a perfectly reasonable way to get into a company that may offer expanded possibilities once inside. And I certainly don’t feel at all superior to the women (I hear there are men too, I’ve just never seen one) currently filling the role. I believe it is just the fear of being typecast (pun intended) that makes me loathe to hear mentioned that I may have once been the one to stock the coffee bar.
Back then I didn’t even drink coffee, because a casual trip to top off your cup could turn into a request from a manager you’ve only seen twice to clean out the fridge by Friday, noon. No, I kept my distance, apart from an elaborate show of ignorance now and again if someone asked for a fresh pot. Filters? Scoops? It’s all too much!
It was the same with copy machines and faxes. Often people might call me in to look at them if they became jammed, etc. And look I would, from about eight feet away. Hmm. Yep. Looks broken. I think there is a number on it, you should call. I felt like if I learned too much, I would soon be syncing blackberries and troubleshooting software glitches. Completely not for me.
Organization was another thing they might typically expect from an administrative assistant. I could do it for a while. I was really good on projects with a beginning and an ending. But organizing on a constant basis? What was the point of me managing the schedule of someone who presumably knew better than I what priorities were for the day? Weren’t they really in a better position to know if five-thirty was too late for a meeting with someone flying out the next day? If I have to call them and ask, why not just talk to the person directly, cut out the bumbling middleman? I would work to slowly wean them from my daily services.
Does it sound like I was a terrible assistant? I basically was, although I always got rave reviews. It was all in the personality. Executives aren’t used to being treated with ease and informality and they generally respond well to it. I would earn my keep in other ways, too. I have always been a great idea person. I am often creative and always enthusiastic. Willing to go out on a limb, that’s me, anything is better than trying to reconcile travel receipts (again, wouldn’t they know where they ate and when better than I?).
So finally someone noticed and created a job for me that allowed me to do this, full time and in the open. Bless them. For the last two and a half years, my job has been a perfect fit for me. I do communication and engagement activities. Without going into great detail, it’s the soft skill side that an engineering organization can easily lack. I love it, almost every day. However my skill code of Staff Analyst does fall loosely under the Administrative umbrella. I try to make sure no one remembers that.
But this year, all the managers in my organization seem to have had a meeting where they decided to really “recognize” and go overboard for Administrative Professionals Week. It was all very kind and sweet of them. Yet it translated as unbearably condescending.
First of all, Admin Professionals Week? Like anyone does Admin work as a hobby or in a competitive circuit? I don’t know how it got on calendars, but it’s bullshit. But along with the Office Administrator and the other Staff Analyst (she does real technical stuff), I got showered in vaguely sexist gifts for an entire week.
Flowers. Plants. Manicure gift certificates. BANANA BREAD, for fuck’s sake.
It took me a few days to work out what I hated so much about this. But here it is. Fifty-one weeks a year all these people treat me like an equal. And yet they feel it’s necessary to carve out one week a year to remind me that, yes, I am support staff. No amount of “We know who really runs this place.” Wink wink, makes if feel good. I’d vastly prefer they reward me by giving me interesting projects or praising me (publicly, please) when something goes off better than anticipated. I know their hearts are in the right place, but reward me by not acknowledging my humble origins and instead talk about where I might go in the future.
Otherwise they might as well be patting my ass and sending me out to get their drycleaning. But…that was good goddamn banana bread.

I was just reflecting that I had a really good day today. Good pair of days, actually. The nanny’s boy is sick. He’s got some throwing up illness, and she has kept him at home for the last two days. I didn’t have anything vital going on at work, so I just took a couple of sick days to hang around with my well kids. Midweek field trips are the best. You can go places with ease. No lines, no traffic, no parking really far away from stuff and trying to herd my small children through parking lots with tempting puddles. I was glad for time with my nine month old Finn who is getting jollier and more demanding by the day. He’s squirmy and hard to hold, rolls around like a little potato bug, endlessly frustrated that he can’t…quite…crawl. Anyway, the first day was nice. We went to the play area at the mall, lunched, etc. The evening was placid, too. So nice that later I opted to crack a bottle of Shiraz complete the relax.
However, the cork was synthetic, and after it came out, seemed to swell and outgrow the bottle. I really did try a variety of fixes, including trimming the bottom lip of the cork, but it was hopeless. I am not the sort of girl who will just let a nice red go to waste.
Besides, knew I probably wasn’t going to have to go in to work in the morning. Likelyhood of nanny wasn’t high.
Unfortunately, when I was much of the way through my mission, Bobby-honey got a call out – someone had water flowing into the ceiling at one of his construction jobs. He had to go. And I thought – oh, shit, it’s me getting up with the kids. No back up. Bobby-honey usually helps a lot, but when one of us has legitimate reason to get to bed late, the other one is just silently expected to take over. Noooo, I hate getting up groggy. And Finnegan was possibly teething. The very idea was hideous.
Quitting the bottle at the cowardly three quarter mark, I slunk to bed. I couldn’t fall asleep right away and when the first cry came at 1 a.m. I practically vaulted out of bed to the baby’s room, deftly finding the pacifier, scooting him down until he wasn’t jammed against the crib rails like a starfish clinging to a rock, and reintroducing sleep comfort without letting him come fully awake. Nicely done, but then I have to make my way back to bed without sound, never knowing if the smallest noise make him aware that I am trying to get away. If he whirls around to look over his shoulder, I’m done for.
I make it out and get back in bed with Bobby-honey, who has probably been there for some time. I go to sleep and sleep deep.
He starts to cry again around three. Between three and four am is the absolute worst time for him to wake. He may think he is done sleeping for the night. He may be ready to play or be very grumpy but too restless to sleep. It sounded like the latter, this time. He was crying like a baby who had been poked awake by a sharp stick; a cry that would definitely wake his siblings. Nothing to be done but hustle him downstairs. I took a deep breath and…Bobby-honey gets out of bed. He didn’t even pause to see if I was going to react, but went in there and slung that baby over his shoulders like a sack of potatoes…very stiff, angry potatoes, and went downstairs. While his methods are not mine, and I often puzzle over the way he flips on lights and lets the baby scream on the floor while he makes a bottle, goes to the bathroom, gets some water, etc. Still, the fact that he didn’t even try to use his “I need sleep card”, that was a wonderful gift. One I appreciated with every fiber of my being, perhaps more so when I felt the bed dip under his weight again around four-thirty. Bless you, husband.
At some point little Delilah gets into bed and I enjoy cuddling her little two-year-old form against me. Then, when she wakes up around six and wants to get up, Bobby-honey again got up with her! What a treasure! I was able to sleep in for another forty-five glorious minutes.
The morning: making breakfast, picking up, loads of laundry, cleaning spills, changing diapers, feeding snacks, making bottles, watching Dora. Around ten the kids are swathed in wooly hooded sweatshirts and we head to the library for story time. Then we briefly hit the park next door where a woman and I trade condensed birth stories. Not that I really needed to hear details of hers, I could tell by her bell-bottom, lime-green corduroy pants and long long hair that she was going to be one who went all natural. I could have just asked “What Goddess did you name your daughter after?”
After that we got tacos and came home to eat them. Finnegan went down for a nap without protest. Lilah and Oliver played and generally had a good time running around and shrieking while causing minimal damage.
My mom came at noon to stay at the house while I took Oliver to school and went shopping for Easter egg color kits and candy. Then I went to workout. Getting to use the gym midday was great. Machines that are always in high demand when crowds are there after work are blessedly free. You can pick the eliptical near the tv news channel with the best closed cationing stenographer.
I get home and both Delilah and Finn are awake. It occurs to me that I should have gotten some more accomplished during these two days, errand wise. I decide to do something I’ve been meaning to do for weeks. I get some stuff together I want to mail a friend. In the stroller goes the baby, with the tot trailing. Dog leash around one wrist and purse around the other, we head off to the post office. I successfully mail a package to a dear friend. It feels like a miracle. We walk home with some coaxing on my part. Delilah has her magic wand and is experimenting with different ways to walk while holding it. Shoved between her knees, clenched between her shoulder and ear, in her teeth. Almost immediately when we get home my Dad arrives with Oliver, whom he has picked up from school. He sits in the living room and plays with the kids while I made a healthy dinner of turkey fajitas with fresh guacamole. When I get dinner on the table, both kids eat it without notable protest! As we eat I am glancing at the computer, which has entertaining messages from my friends.
My dad stays for a while. He keeps trying to leave but is distracted by the kids taking turns adoring him. Unexpectedly, a car pulls up. It’s my cousin Julie and Grandma Dorothy. Grandma Dorothy is the kids’ great grandma and ninety-three years old. And she looked in the very bloom of health, not a day over 85. She and Julie had been to Ikea and just stayed for an hour or so to visit. It was perfectly lovely. Grandma tried to convince me to enroll my kids in Catholic school and assured me that uncle Terry had been a choirboy and no one tried to molest him. That effeminate football coach that wanted him to play so badly his senior year…that was another story, he had just been looking for the opportunity. We talk and laugh some more and the kids pay attention to her and offer her gentle embraces. Bobby-honey gets home and plays guitar for them and somehow ends up promising to come by this week to fix her bathroom fan.
Finally it’s just our family. We boil eggs but don’t get a chance to dye them.
Finnegan goes to sleep first. He’s been a great baby today. I rock him in the rocking chair while leaning toward the hallway light to read a chapter from a novel. Downstairs we are folding laundry, hot sheets and towels, and the kids help us put them away. Delilah is the next to go down, and she does so sweetly. She is obviously tired. I tell Bobby-honey my back aches and he says something sort of sadly funny like; “Take a hot shower and massage yourself.” So, that’s what I do. And it isn’t bad advice. While the boys play video games, I take a long, hot shower. A restorative shower. My arms and back are aching from slinging kids full time all week. I wash my hair and put all kids of creams and potions on my skin. While I do this ritual the best songs are playing on my iPod, Carla Bruni, the Pixies, that “I got a brand new pair of roller-skates” song. How that even got on my iPod, I cannot say. But it was the perfect soundtrack. I blow dry my hair with extra care and then come out to the living room where my boy wants to cuddle with me. He curls his big four-year-old, forty-five pound camouflage pajama body into the lee of mine. We watch myth busters and he is excited by a gun that shoots soda cans through car windshields.
I walk Oliver up to bed and tuck him in. He tells me he loves me more than video games and I tell him I love him more than books. Downstairs Bobby-honey and I talk for a bit, then he turns in. I will be going up as soon as I finish this note.
Good day. Yes.

Healthcare. I have thoughts on this. Important, weighty thoughts. But I’d be preaching to the choir, or rather, prescribing to the patients, were I to outline my arguments in full here. It would be so much better to speak with a level headed republican and respond to their concerns.

Except, I can’t seem to find one right now.

Sour grapes has turned the lot of them into big balls of emotional outrage. I don’t really see how you can so wholeheartedly object to something that will bring immediate medical aid to our most vulnerable people; children and the elderly. Civilized societies care for their elderly and infirm. 29 million more people will be able to claim the right to fair medical treatment in the near future. How is that not something to be proud of? And this is even before we get to the regulation of the insurance companies which eliminate discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, Death toll aside, we all know this stuff routinely bankrupts people, placing more stress on families, communities, social services, etc. Insurance companies can’t even really cry foul, they are getting millions of new customers and profits will still be there even when they are forced to deal ethically with paying customers. I just don’t see how any of it is so objectionable that it has caused these very public clashes and the apparent certainty from the Republicans that this will not play well in November. Admittedly I listen and watch mainly left leaning sources, so I thought, why not take a brief moment to interview a republican before I go dispensing zingers and no doys? Maybe what they are saying in person is different from the infuriating sound bites I hear on the TV box.

I found one! He’s nice and older and likes to make parody songs about policies of democratic policy. He’s fairly jolly and definitely smart. Surely he can articulate the source of this rage. Hold on to your hats, here, but he was concerned about money (in that way that only a 50 year old man with no children or discernable wants in life can be). Spending a lot of money that is not now in the country coffers, specifically. He hates the start up costs and assumes that the deficit savings outlined by the non-partisan COB report will come to nothing as they depend on continuous improvement of the system as well as tax hikes imposed upon the elite which will go directly into the pillboxes of the newly subsidized folks living at the poverty level. There is resentment that they are “getting something for nothing”, a resentment so deep that he seems to have sold himself on the idea that they could get insurance if they had the ambition, but they just waited it out and hit the jackpot with the passage of this new bill. First, I love how vehemently people making far below the 250k household income level defend the right of the rich to hoard wealth. I think they have the American dream confused with the cover of a Better Homes and Gardens Magazine. I suppose there is some validity to the argument that it isn’t fair to charge the few to help the many, but I think that is only because the “many” are faceless and easy to categorize as bunch of lazy grifters. What say we assign an uninsured person to each of the top 5% earners in the nation. And when the sick person needs something, the sponsor will have to tell them to their face that a transfusion won’t be possible this month because it’s spring break and the family has really earned an all inclusive nine day resort vacation. “What, you say the family could still go on vacation for eight days, enjoying all the usual amenities, AND save a life? I’ll have to think about it. Maybe for your sixth birthday.”
Anyway, when did we ever have money in the coffers for anything before we decided to go do it? War, for instance. Do we have the dough for that? Was congress sitting on stacks gold bars when Medicare was established? Did FDR expect to just print more money when he passed into law the wildly unpopular social security? No, he just knew that elderly people wandering the streets for lack of care or means was wrong and something must be done. When something is necessary we do it, and we figure out what we will trade for it later. (I vote for war).
I also had a vaguely unpleasant facebook exchange with a conservative friend. It wasn’t him, it was a few of his friends who commented that this Healthcare bill is just a thinly veiled attempt to fund abortions. I don’t know who is telling them this (yes I do, it’s their churches) but it’s just ridiculously untrue. Despite the fact that this legal medical procedure ought to be included, the President is well aware that a hot button issue such as this can’t be allowed to sink healthcare legislation. He signed an Executive order reaffirming that no federal dollars would be allowed to go toward abortion. How much more clear can he be? But this assurance means nothing, they say. It’s not legally binding. It’s just, you know, a promise on paper. From the President. Who’s ability to lead the people is based in trust. Who would suffer severe repercussions from breaking his word in such a blatant manner. They think a man with a Nobel Peace Prize is trying to bait and switch them. It is sad that a passion for saving the hypothetical lives of embryos overrides saving the lives of already living people with families who depend on them.
I won’t pretend to get it. I guess the term abortion causes a red rage buzzing to enter their heads, like a Norse Berserker. Anyway, it’s a shame they can’t see that, in this case, the rights of embryos to burrow into a placenta are not being threatened.

Lastly, I talked to someone completely on the fence, with no party affiliation, who just thought the bill should be repealed because it’s not right to force people barely getting by to buy insurance. Additional burden. Okay, I guess I’ll give that to you. I think this is a problem that requires some work. If I remember correctly Obama and Clinton went several rounds on this during a campaign debate. I bet we can figure this out, and put a “fix” through in the near future. This is a grain of sand in the shoe of a greater problem.

So, I still don’t get it. I feel like I want to convince someone, force them to recant. But hey, today we are the winners! Today we got it done despite the determined efforts of many. And I think the vast majority of Americans will benefit. So maybe I will just relish this victory and hope that soon these improvements to the system will be so ingrained we will take them for granted, like the rest of the necessary infrastructure put in place to make sure the American people are cared for and protected.

From the porch

This blogging business is just bound to get me in trouble. Because I like to look at people and talk about how they are and why I think they might be like that. I call it a character sketch, but inevitably it will be interpreted as talking massive shit about innocent people just minding their own business. Someday, someone will forward my blog to the nice, older, Asian lady at work who still has a rockin’ body but insists upon wearing that fake,clip-on pony tail. And she will know that I can’t stop myself from verbalizing my wonder that a woman with such cute jeans and sparkly tops would believe synthetic hair the perfect accessory for a day in the office – and she will stare at me with big hurt eyes – WHY? I don’t know. Because.
Just yesterday I could see that our young neighbors were having what lame, chain smoking wiggers (I am sorry, what other word is there to describe that speech cadence and certain lip twist that young Caucasians sometimes take on? I know it’s icky and dated, but what synonym is there for me which will make you immediately know the type of person I’m referring to? I feel like it’s making fun of someone with a disability, but really, it was likely conscious decision to adopt that style and apparently they are determined to stick with through young adulthood.) family would consider a day of good parenting.
I can’t actually tell who lives in this small white house kitty corner to mine. Such a wide variety of people can be seen smoking on the porch at any given time, leaving for work in the morning and evenings, and peering at crumpled fender cars on blocks in the side yard; It’s just impossible to know who pays the rent. But there are often a couple of kids over there – a girl about 6 and another about 4. Yesterday was sunny-ish, for March. These two little girls were frolicking in the yard while chaperones watched from a menthol cloud about twenty feet away. They were in their bathing suits (the kids, not the adults, who had on parkas). A sprinkler was on in the yard and the girls clutched giant super soaker squirt guns. It’s MARCH, people. Sure a watery sort of sun is shining, but still, WINTER, YO. So along with the pseudo-sitters and me, the disapproving neighbor, they are also being watched by two unleashed rottwiellers. Big dogs, tongues lolling out. Now, I’m not saying dogs aren’t good kid companions, even big dogs. I just doubt that these dogs are being raised in a way conducive to leaving them unattended with kids armed with water blast guns. I draw this conclusion from the gansta rap, rife with violent terms and imagery, which was at that moment (and most other moments) bumping from the house. Nope, those are intimidation dogs, not family dogs. I hope those girls don’t get their faces eaten off.
But I could just see the mantle of hominess (ha) over the place, like a group thought bubble “Drunk as hell but no throwin’ up, kids outside and the sprinklers flowin’ up…Today I didn’t have to use my AK…I got to say it was a good day”

Bare Knuckle Bucket of Duh’s

I feel like there are a lot of bad ads out there nowadays. I was never very ad conscious until I worked at an online retailer and saw the analysis and discussion that occurred around the smallest change in font. For a full-on ad, with billboards and copy and web presence etc, I assume it must be even more. Maybe it’s the economy? Maybe companies aren’t spending the money for top notch creativity? Or not conducting the focus groups they ought to be? Is it just failure in the pursuit of edginess?

The one I’ve seen recently that is the worst is for a product I cannot even identify. It’s some kind of technical gadget, but the branding is so poor that it could be a GPS type thing or combination razor/breathalyzer, I have no idea. Anyway, they have billboards around town that say “A Bare Knuckle Bucket of Does” Huh? First of all, bare knuckle and bucket just don’t go together. Bare knuckle alludes to toughness without other weaponry – and then a bucket? That seems like cheating. Like, “Hey, let’s fight this out mano a mano!” and then your crack him over the head with a bucket when he’s taking off his fringed suede jacket. The nonsense of the bucket being full of does is just not worth delving into. I will take my intangible items and place them in my imaginary bucket and that will make me someone to be reckoned with? Are they marketing technical applications to the Marlborough man? I don’t get it.

There is a food drive going on here at work that has this slogan: Hunger has a Face! And the child pictured is all round cheeked and joyful. I guess because he’s eating all the macaroni and cheese people are urged to give in the drive? I think if they are going to go with this theme the kid should be at least a little gaunt, something about him that indicates he is older than his years. And I think he should look slightly resentful because he’s eating the canned vegetables that I donate, not the sugar cereal he WISHES I donated. What else has a face? Does diarrhea have a face? If I were making the decision I’d go with something more empowering like “Your Neighbor/Your Savior”, emphasizing the close to home benefits of community giving and put it in the tense that it could be you needing the help next time.

One I do like that also doesn’t make perfect sense is the new gum that has a mystery flavor and if you speculate about the flavor an ostrich wrangler will burst into your apartment and direct his beast to peck you in the chest. That, I can get behind.

Accumulating readers for your blog is an odd thing. I want people to read – I am a personality type that craves positive reinforcement, but on the other hand I want the freedom to talk smack about people when I feel like it. If I let people at work know I have a blog them might read it and then a whole ethics investigation could be launched when I write ruminations like this:

Over winter break I saw a woman I work with in the linen department of JC Penney. And then I saw another one of her, a few steps behind. Twins, but twins of a sort I have never seen. First off, entirely androgynous. They have conservative, short cropped hairstyles, the type you might see on a member of a male track relay team. Their facial features are blunt, but nondescript. Nothing pretty or feminine, but neither are they memorably manly. They wear Washington all weather clothes like fleece or North Face shell jackets. Jeans are worn at the natural waste and are definitely from the made for men in their forties. Belts wrap their thick waists, braided leather. Their shoes tell me that hiking might be the primary weekend pursuit. You would not think they are male, but you definitely pause when categorizing as a woman. While they don’t match exactly, with different color shirts, jackets, different tone leather accessories etc, you have a certainty that they do all their shopping together and that they are basically two parts of a gender neutral whole.

I don’t say hello, mostly because I would have had to raise my voice and yell wildly to interrupt their purposeful divide of the store. I make a mental note to say hello to the one I work with and mention having seen her and her twin.

I do just that a few weeks later. The one I work with is a respected engineer who has no time for small talk. She is very grave in general and I don’t think I’ve ever had a conversation with her apart form a move coordination a few years back. She was very particular about the placement of her keyboard tray. I mentioned see her and her twin to just a few folks who had known her for years and no one was aware of this. I know enough not to talk to her in front of a group of people, she’s clearly really private. But when she comes through my cube to talk to someone who sits nearby, I stop her casually and say, “Hey, (I’ll call her Shirley) Shirley, I saw you at the Mall just after Christmas.” She makes something close to a smile and I feel confident continuing, “You have an identical twin!” This is a leading statement, as anyone should know. She just acknowledges, “Yes.”

Now I am feeling slightly awkward, but I can’t stop what I’ve started, “It’s amazing how much you two look alike!” I enthuse. She now meets my eyes directly, emotionless, deadpan. She doesn’t say anything. So of course I must fill the silence, “I was going to flag you down to say hi, but we were in line…” she glances over my shoulder, bored with this line of questioning. I give up and retreat.

I guess I am a busybody. But I just feel like if you have an identical twin and choose to get the same haircut and wear the same clothes that you should be prepared for some level of curiosity. The most I expected to get out of the interaction was her twin’s name. Do they go together? Is it Shirley and Shelley? Or Shirley and Sherman? Could it be that, upon closer examination the twin was the MALE half of the whole? None of my business, but damn you Shirley, I am a kind and open person and don’t you feel the need to relate on some level with the people that work around you? I guess not. Maybe most of her quality communication is done via telepathy and pidgin twin language.

But lately it occurs to me maybe there is a specific reason she doesn’t want to discuss…maybe she and her twin share the job here! I think it’s possible. I don’t think anyone would know. They were THAT identical. I feel like the twin would naturally be an engineer, so maybe they just get one job at a time and do double the work – like a super employee! No sick days. Just one driver’s license! One library card! One diploma for an elite college! An alibi for crimes! Living life as one person. Da DUUUNNNN (creepy organ music sound effect).

You see, now I’ve convinced myself of this. And all because she wouldn’t share even the smallest shred of information. When someone is so cloaked in mystery you can’t help but manufacture motivations. Let this be a lesson to you; If you have a deep secret, be casual with surface details.