Friday, December 28, 2007
In the Sunday Des Moines Register, there was a map of all of the hot eateries or bars frequented by the campaign workers and candidates. There is much talk in my parents' neighborhood about which restaurant Hillary and Bill ate at the last time they were both in town. Morning Newscasts begin with a daily schedule for each major candidate in Iowa - 8:30 am: Sioux City. 10:00 am: Council Bluffs. Noon: Boone. 2:30 pm: Madrid. Evening newscasts begin with an accounting of how the major candidates spent their day. And so on, and so on.
The weather was bad over the weekend in Iowa and the big news was who still attended their scheduled appearances. Actually, the only one who didn't even try to make his appearances was Fred Thompson, who cancelled everything. I don't think he has a chance of winning Iowa now. Iowans don't like wimps who can't handle a little snow.
On Monday, Christmas Eve, I was alone in the house and the phone rang:
Hillary: Hi! This is Hillary Clinton. Bill and I are calling to wish you and your family a joyous holiday season and hope you have a Happy New Year. In this time of family and giving, I would like to . . . .
Me: Click. (I like Hillary, but I just didn't have time to listen to the spiel. It's like preaching to the choir.)
When my parents got home, my dad asked if there had been any calls:
Dad: Did we get any calls?
Me: Yeah. Hillary Clinton called.
Dad: Oh, yeah? What did she have to say?
Me: Just wishing us a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Dad: Well, that was nice. She calls almost every day now. There were three messages from her on our machine when we came home from Thanksgiving. We also got a couple of cards from her and Barak in the mail today. We haven't heard from John Edwards yet, but I am sure we will.
Ah, the peculiar life of Iowans during caucus season.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
There were other reasons for my suggestion. First, when I say “our family,” I only mean my parents, my brother and sister-in-law, my nephew, me, and my son. We do not regularly give gifts to aunts and uncles, cousins, or grandparents, unless we spend the holiday with them. Therefore, my holiday shopping consists of shopping for a total of six people, four of whom are adults.
Second, it’s not like the adults in my family need Christmas gifts. My parents buy whatever they want for themselves. The things I really need as gifts (defined as things I can’t or don’t spend my own money on) are things like carpet cleaning, repainting my bathroom, refinishing my kitchen cabinets, or paying off all my law school loans. These aren’t things that make good gifts and aren’t in the normal gift-price-range.
Third, while I really enjoy picking out the perfect gift for someone, my brother and sister-in-law really suck at gift giving. One year, they gave me a hot pepper plant, despite the fact that I am not a huge fan of spicy food. To make matters worse, the pepper plant was infested with aphids and quickly infested the rest of my house plants. Another year, they gave me a tea kettle which had a huge dent in one side and chipped paint. Two years ago, I asked for the DVD of The Sound of Music. They got me the DVD of Mary Poppins. My brother said he thought they were “close enough.” Last year, they ordered presents so late that they didn’t arrive from Amazon.com until February.
Fourth, my brother and sister-in-law have no idea what constitutes an appropriate gift list for themselves. (We all email around gift suggestion lists, an idea that was started after the aphid-plant incident.) My brother’s list will frequently contain hard to find professional chef items or "investment" wines that can only be purchased at obscure online sites and cost more than $100. My sister-in-law’s list contains similar expensive or hard to find items. (Plus, it is kind of annoying that she continues to publish her Christmas list after converting to Judaism three years ago.) She also writes my nephew’s wish list, which once contained requests for a new car seat, snow boots, and a big boy bed.
Therefore, 2007 became the year of no presents, except for my nephew, my son, and the baby-to-be (coming January 2008). However, it occurred to me that this may not be a good idea. I started to think about the lesson this is teaching my son. What is the message when all of the Christmas presents under the tree are for one kid? (We were not with my brother’s family at Christmas this year.) It essentially is like his birthday, which is only one month before Christmas anyway. What’s the point, really?
I don’t want him to grow up and think Christmas is all about him. Although, now that I think about it, what kid doesn’t think Christmas is all about him? On the other hand, I don’t want to forego all Christmas gifts because giving is the spirit of the season and I have such good childhood memories of Christmas gifts. I don’t want people to think I am one of those crazy “Remember the Reason for the Season” nutjobs, mostly because I don’t believe Jesus is the reason for the season. But that’s another post, another time.
In my opinion, it was actually kind of nice not to get Christmas presents, mostly because I didn’t feel that inevitable let down of getting bad gifts. It was fun to focus only on my son’s excitement about his gifts (although he mostly enjoyed ripping wrapping paper). But I do miss giving gifts at Christmas that people really enjoy. My dad is still talking about the gift I gave him last year - a large supply of pretty postage stamps and a box of Crane stationary. He said it was one of the best gifts he had ever received.
I thought most of the way home yesterday of a way to solve my conundrum. I want Christmas for my family to be about giving and not just receiving. I also want it to be about spending time with family, talking and sharing stories and playing games. Oh well, at least I have another year to think about how to fix this problem.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Growing older is not for sissies. We've both become aware of limitations that weren't there before and we've developed some medical problems. So far, nothing serious, but as we get older, it's hard not to dwell on them. And it's hard not to spend too much time thinking about the past. On the other hand, having friends who have known (and accepted) us for 30, 40, or even 50 years is very gratifying. Making new friends has been a wonderful and an unexpected pleasure these past couple of years.
Hanging onto hope, it seems to me, is the main psychological task of these years, and we're pretty good that that. And worry! What would I do with my time if I couldn't worry? I read recently that Virgil Thompson said that worry was the one form of prayer he found acceptable. I'd probably agree.
When my oldest grandson was here for a visit about a month ago, he and I looked out the west window of the sunroom one evening, toward a beautiful late fall sunset. I remembered this little poem by e.e. cummings, which, I think, speaks not only to a little boy, but to an aging man:
who are you; little i
(five or six years old)
peering from some high
window; at the gold
of november sunset
(and feeling: that if day
has to become night
this is a beautiful way)
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
My regular babysitter was over at my house last night. I love her dearly, as does my son. She is a really good babysitter but, unfortunately, she knows not what she has done.
When I arrived home last night, the babysitter said to me, "Oh, I discovered your son really loves Barney! We watched an episode from On Demand TV about manners. He loved the singing and was glued to the TV the whole time!"
I said, "Oh . . . great! I am so glad he had a good time." I paid her, let her out the front door, closed the door, placed my forehead on it and silently screamed. No, no, no, no, no, no, noooooo.
I really thought we could avoid the whole Barney situation in my house. I'm not anti-kids TV. I would be perfectly happy to have Elmo be a favorite, or Thomas the Tank Engine, or Rocket from Little Einsteins. But Barney? Please, no. I don't know what it is about Barney, but I just can't handle him and his friends. They are too happy, too nice, too sugar-sweet, too pandering to the lowest intelligence level, too . . . common.
(OK - I said it. Does that make me elitist? Maybe. But, seriously. My mental health is at stake here, people.)
So, you might ask, what makes Barney NQOCD but Elmo, Thomas, or Rocket QOC? I can't quite put my finger on it. But, like the Supreme Court and pornography . . . I know it when I see it.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
But the mood of the season got to me. I love Christmas decorations, particularly the traditional Scandinavian decorations that are common in my family. I lovingly unwrapped the straw goats (Julbock), Lucia candles, embroidered Advent calendars, and various sizes of tomten. I put up the artificial tree and dug through the boxes for the tree lights. They were nowhere to be found. So I unwrapped a few more items and dug in a few more boxes. AHA! One string of lights. That didn’t work. Dammit!!
After digging through all of my Christmas boxes and not finding any working lights and then searching all of the boxes in the basement that could possibly have Christmas stuff in them, I didn’t find a single string of working Christmas lights. Then came the little voice in the back of my head:
Ms. PH - remember? You threw away your Christmas lights last year. Remember? You thought it was time for new lights? Remember? You thought you would get new lights during the sales in January? Remember? No, there was nothing wrong with your old lights, you just wanted new ones. Remember?
Groan. It’s all coming back to me now. The grand plan - buy new Christmas lights during post-Christmas sales because the old ones were . . . boring? Dim? Wrong? I have no idea why I rejected the Christmas lights last year - I had had them for about 10 years and they seemed to be working just fine. What is clear is that I completely forgot to buy new lights during the post-holiday sales.
So, stuck at home with a baby and no way to get new lights, surrounded by a immense pile of Christmas ornaments that need to be put on the tree or put away before the baby wakes up, I decided to put the ornaments on the tree without lights. I mean, how bad could it be? It would still look festive in the day time, right?
Wrong. As it turns out, Christmas trees just look dead without lights on them. I missed that Christmas glow. I missed the tradition of lying under the tree looking up at the lights. I missed the sparkle of lights bouncing off of ornaments. But, at least I had put the decorations out and the house looked somewhat festive for Christmas. I could handle it for a week, right?
Wrong. I couldn’t handle it. Sure, my son was thrilled with the tree even without the lights. But I broke down and bought new lights two days later. But here was another dilemma. To properly place Christmas lights, the tree needs to be bare. It is virtually impossible to put lights on the tree while there are ornaments and bead-garland already on the tree.
So, obsessive-compulsive Ms. PH took all of the ornaments and garland off of the tree (last count of my ornaments placed the number at almost 200) and put on the new lights. Then obsessive-compulsive Ms. PH put all of the ornaments and garland back on the tree.
One thing is for sure - I am taking a lot of pictures of that damn tree this year. And nobody better touch any of the ornaments!! Maybe I should do what my grandmother used to do - take the whole decorated tree (lights, ornaments, and garland) up to the attic and store it there until next year. But where’s the fun in that??
*Dear potential robbers: Don’t even think about it. I have a big dog who hates intruders and a security alarm. And the cat isn’t that nice either.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Another reason I would like to be on a jury is to ensure the widening of the jury pool. In most cases, people who are actually picked to serve on juries make up two types - retired people and unemployed people. This is a not a significant portion of our population and is certainly not representative of a cross-section of the community. Not that there is anything wrong with being retired or unemployed (well, sometimes), but it is incredibly unfair that jurors are pulled from these two groups.
I know a judge (who shall remain nameless) who once told me that the people who become jurors are the ones not smart enough to get out of jury duty. He may have been jaded after presiding over so many jury selections in his time and listening to some of the stupid and ridiculous excuses people use to get out of jury duty. Some of the dandies I have heard:
"I don't like to drive in the city - I can't deal with the stress of driving to the city for jury duty. I wouldn't be able to concentrate."
"I'm planning my daughter's birthday party this week."
"My dog is very sick and needs constant care."
"I can't be fair because I don't like black people." (I'm not making that up, nor do I support it. I was present when the gentleman said this and was shocked. He was excused immediately.)
So, because I have witnessed all of this, I feel a moral obligation to represent my section of the community in a jury pool.
On the other hand, there is no way that any attorney in their right mind would place me on a jury. Mostly because I am a lawyer but also because of the type of law I practice. I had to laugh when I filled out the questionnaire. At the end, it asks you to circle certain professions if a member of your family or close friends belongs to one of those professions. The list is: Judge, state's attorney, public defender, other lawyer, Doctor, Nurse, Police Officer, and a few others. I had to circle them all.
Lawyers tend to be an insular crowd. We hang with other lawyers, we tend to marry other lawyers, and our kids often become lawyers. Particularly in a small city like Peoria, lawyers tend to know all other lawyers and such relationships will normally exclude someone from serving on a jury. I know of no attorney that has served on a jury after they entered law school.
Too bad. A jury full of lawyers would make for very interesting discussion. Of course, they would never reach a verdict . . . .
Monday, December 10, 2007
Man: You know anything about tree stands?
Me: Not really.
Man: You have your Christmas decorating done?
Me: Not yet.
Man: What?? Why not?
Me: Well, because it is only December 10th and I don’t want to spend the next two weeks saying, "Don’t touch the tree, don’t touch the tree, don’t touch the tree" to my one year old.
Man: (laughing) Yeah, my momma was like that . . . she was a real Republican through and through.
Me: Umm . . . well . . . I’m not a Republican . . . .
Man: Oh, no, me neither - I’m a Democrat.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out what political affiliation has to do with putting up Christmas decorations. I mean, religious affiliation may have something to do with what kind of decorations one puts up, but the timing of decorating?
I’m stumped. Anyone?
Friday, December 7, 2007
Let’s talk about the block in downtown Peoria bordered by Main, Monroe, Hamilton, and Madison. The following businesses/entities are in this block - the federal courthouse, a National Garages parking lot, Madison Theater, Euro Jacks, Gin Joint, Adam’s Apple, the Judge’s Chambers, and Hoops. Of course, the sidewalks in front of the federal courthouse are always clear and ice-free (our tax dollars at work). And, despite my extreme dislike of National Garages, I admit that they keep their portions of the sidewalks clear and ice-free as well.
Now let’s talk about the rest of these businesses. In the nearly seven years I have been walking on this block (and I walk on these sidewalks every weekday), I have never seen any of the businesses mentioned above clear the snow from the sidewalks in front of their establishments. NEVER. They don’t even bother to throw a little salt down, the lazy person’s version of shoveling. And we all know what happens to snow when it is trampled on. It gets packed down into very slippery and very uneven sheets of ice.
Isn’t there a city ordinance requiring business owners to clear sidewalks of snow and ice??
Isn’t there some moral code that tells these business owners that it is neighborly to clear their sidewalks of snow and ice??
Wouldn’t it just be good PR for these business owners to clear their sidewalks??
And, finally, (maybe this will convince them), do these business owners have any idea how many lawyers and JUDGES walk on those sidewalks every day??
Well, until any of these people wise up (or the city decides to actually enforce its codes fairly), I will continue to jaywalk to the cleared sides of the streets. And just in case a cop decides to issue a ticket to me rather than enforce the more obvious ordinance violation, I am prepared to raise holy hell detailing my justifiable actions defense.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
I was four years old and pretty content being an only child. Life was pretty good. I had my parents all to myself and both sets of grandparents all to myself. (I was the oldest grandchild on both sides). I had my own room. All my toys were mine, no sharing. I was the center of attention. I was blissfully unaware of my fate.
My father’s parents (Grammie and Grandpa) came down to stay with me during the birth. My mother’s sister also came to stay to help with the baby. I don’t remember my mother going to the hospital but the next morning, Grammie woke me up and said we were going to see my new baby brother! She was excited, so I got excited. We all went to the hospital.
In those days, access to patients rooms must have been more tightly controlled. We had to wait at the nurses station for a nurse to escort us back to my mother’s room. The nurses station was next to the nursery and my Grammie held me up so I could look at all of the new little babies. Then my mother’s nurse came to get us. She was an older woman, very tall, and with a pointy-featured face. She pointed at me and said, "She has to stay here." She bent down to look me in the face and said, "You have germs - you will make the baby sick. Stay here at look at the new babies in the window."
Now I was pissed. Not only did I not get to see my mother, but my Grammie, Grandpa, and aunt were leaving me at the nursery window. My Grammie said, "Don’t be mad, we will be right back." I stood there, folded my arms, and scowled. (Even then, I had a pretty nasty scowl.) When I got bored of scowling (mostly because no one was paying attention), I tried to look at the new babies. But the nursery window was too high! I couldn’t see anything! So, I went back to scowling.
When my brother finally came home and I got to see him (and infect him with my germs), I was very disappointed. He looked nothing like my baby dolls. He was a very ugly baby. He was jaundiced, so he was all yellow. He also had a red rash all over his body and a really pointy head. Plus, we had to share a bedroom until my parents bought a new house about a year later.
It took me a long time to get over his entrance into my perfect world. We get along now, but it was years of sibling rivalry in our house.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Old Lawyer: Ms. PH, do you know I have been practicing law for 45 years?
Ms. PH: No . . . wow. (Why the hell do I care?)
Old Lawyer: Do you know what I say when people ask me how I represent my clients?
Ms. PH: No.
Old Lawyer: I ask them, "Who was the first defense attorney in the Bible?" Do you know who the first defense attorney was in the Bible, Ms. PH?
Ms. PH: Umm . . . no.
Old Lawyer: It was Abraham!! He defended the people against Sodom and Gomorrah!!
Ms. PH: Okay . . . .
Old Lawyer: So, that’s I how I represent my clients: V-I-G-O-R-O-U-S-L-Y!!
Ms. PH: Okay . . . well . . . thanks.
Old Lawyer: I think there’s a lesson to be learned in that, don’t you?
Ms. PH: Sure . . . bye-bye.
I suppose this might have had more meaning to me if: (1) I cared whether my client hired this guy; (2) I cared what this guy thought of me; and (3) I had ever read the Bible.
The lesson I learned? Hang up as soon as an old lawyer starts talking about the Bible. Jeez. Like I needed his critique on my legal abilities today. Have fun representing my client, Old Lawyer. He’s a real pain in the ass. You are perfect for each other.
Monday, December 3, 2007
I started thinking about this because I received a Christmas card on Friday in the mail. I could have told you it was going to be there before I even opened the mailbox. It was from a friend of mine who I knew in law school. I knew it would be there because she writes (handwrites) all of her Christmas cards over the Thanksgiving holiday and mails them the following week. I have known her for more than 10 years, and every year hers is the first card I get.
She and I were study partner friends rather than "share-all-your-deep-dark-secrets" friends, but we communicated often while in law school. However, since graduation, we really haven’t spent much time keeping up the friendship. In the end, we don’t have much in common and the trauma of law school cannot form the basis of a life-long friendship. She has also become much more right-wing religious since getting married about four years ago. Not that I mind religious people, but I do mind them when they do not have equal respect for my views.
I don’t always reciprocate with a Christmas card to her. I have a disdain for "newsy" this-is-what-we-did-all-year generic Christmas letters, so I prefer to handwrite a message in mine. Of course, this means that I tend to send out far fewer Christmas cards because I just don’t have the time to write to everyone.
So, I started wondering, "Why does she bother?" I haven’t seen her since her wedding four years ago. I’m not even sure she knows I have a child. We live four hours away from each other and didn’t have the strongest relationship even when we saw each other everyday. Am I being a real bitch for wondering why we should still be friends? Actually, I am not wondering that. I am wondering why she still considers me a friend, because I can’t say I consider her one.
That sounds harsh - it is not that I hate her, I mean, if she were lying on the street, I would stop to help her. But, I don’t really feel the friendship stuff for her.
I have several long-term friendships, relationships that have lasted throughout the years even though we no longer live in the same city or state. There is some unidentifiable string holding those friendships together year after year. These are different than "time and place" friends, people I was really close to during a certain period in my life but no longer have a relationship with today. These are important friends, too because they ground you in the place you currently are and become part of that fabric.
And then there are those friendships that end with a "fuck you." You know, some argument ends the friendship, usually because one of you learns something about the other one that you won’t stand for in a friendship. Thankfully, I haven’t had too many of those in my life because those are the worst to get over. Those endings leaving you feeling the most alone. Those are the friendships where, many years later, you wonder about the fate of the person. And perhaps you have a little sadness from the loss of the relationship. But mostly, you wonder if the person is still such a bitch.
And then you Google them and see they have a fabulous life, a great job, and own a huge house. And then you feel better because you know they are still assholes. And you wish just a little bit that Google had revealed they were in jail instead. Or bankrupt. Or fat.
Come on, people. That last part was a joke.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
It was Friday night and, although the place is ginormous, there was a wait for a table in the main dining room. So, we decided to eat at a table in the bar, which utilizes the full menu (so, one asks, what’s the difference?) And, they were willing to bring a high chair into the bar for my son. Which reminds me of that line in Sweet Home Alabama, "You have a baby . . . in a bar."
Anyway, the menu was huge and offered a lot of variety in American chain restaurant food. Steaks, pastas, chicken, some seafood, salads, and fried appetizers. They also have a kids’ menu but I don’t like to order off kids' menus in general because the food is all fried or covered with cheese sauce. So, I ordered a meal that I thought both my son and I could eat - homestyle pot roast. What we got was the largest plate of meat and potatoes I have ever seen.
The following was on my plate - a huge portion of meat, which melted in my mouth. Slow-cooked carrots, onions, yams, and potatoes. All of this was covered by a red-wine gravy, which was very tasty. All of that sat on top of a mound of mashed red skinned potatoes. Next to the meal was a biscuit that was at least four inches across.
I ate some of the yams, carrots, roasted potatoes, and meat. My son ate all of the mashed potatoes and cried when they were gone. He also ate a good portion of the meat. He loved it. And there was plenty left over for lunch the next day. The biscuit was nothing much to speak about, so I threw it away.
But here is the real reason I am writing this review. This restaurant had something that I had never seen before at any restaurant. When the waitress saw that we were there with a small child, she offered us the "Baby Plate." I have never heard of such a thing and said, "Sure!" I don’t know who thought up this thing, but it was genius.
Before our meals arrived, the Baby Plate came out to keep my son entertained. It had a small dish of mandarin oranges, a bowl of applesauce, two packages of saltine crackers, two slices of cheese, and a rolled up piece of turkey breast. This is exactly the type of kids meal I would offer if I ran a restaurant. It was perfect for my little guy. This restaurant really understands kids. Babies can’t (or shouldn’t) eat a lot of fried foods and most restaurant food is hard for kids with only a few teeth to eat. This is the type of food I feed him at home! Love it!!
The only questionable item on the Baby Plate was the sprig of parsley. Just for laughs, I gave it to my son to try. He made a wonderful gross out face! Maybe that is the parsley’s purpose on the Baby Plate - parental amusement. I'm all for that too.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Here are some parenting tips my sister-in-law taught me over the weekend. Before you read them, I would like to say in her defense that both she and my brother are highly educated, intelligent people. They really love their son and try to do their best. However, sometimes the common sense isn’t there.
Tip # 1 - Only place a child in time-out if you have given him at least seven warnings to stop a behavior. Let the child decide when he is done with time-out (usually about 20 seconds).
Tip # 2 - If you pour some soap into the tub during a bath, there is no need really to wash the child’s body or hair. You figure that if he splashes around enough in the tub, he will be clean.
Tip # 3 - There is no need to supervise a child in the bathtub once they are fairly steady on their feet, say, at 18 months old.
Tip # 4 - The way to tell when your baby is ready to eat solid food is when he starts eating dry cat food out of the cats’ dishes.
Tip # 5 - It is perfectly acceptable to allow your child to strip naked during Thanksgiving dinner and climb up and down on his booster chair (naked) and sit spread eagle (naked) at the head of the table.
Tip # 6 - If you are in a drug store to shop for one item and your child sees a tube of toothpaste with Thomas the Tank Engine on it and he screams to have it, you should buy it for him. Furthermore, you should let him remove the tube from the box, remove the cap from the tube, throw the cap in the street, and suck half of the toothpaste out of the tube on the way home.
Tip # 7 - If your child throws a stuffed animal on the stove while his aunt is cooking Thanksgiving dinner and his aunt takes the animal away from him, it is very helpful to immediately retrieve the animal and give it to the child.
Tip # 8 - "When my son was a baby, I used to cut up all of his food into small chunks. But then I noticed that he just shoved a handful of chunks into his mouth, so I just gave up and starting giving him the whole piece of food. I figure it all ends up in the same place." Such as hot dogs, grapes, etc. (I might add, it does all end up in the same place. The question is, does it get stuck on the way there?)
Tip # 9 - To help your child go to sleep, send him to bed with the following items - a sippy cup full of orange juice, a sippy cup of milk, and a bowl full of Teddy Grahams. If your child gets out of bed and demands the entire package of Teddy Grahams, give it to him. Then act surprised when he wakes up from his nap covered with sticky Teddy Grahams because he dumped the entire package in his bed. Then pick up all Teddy Grahams and put them back in the package.
Believe it or not, I held my tongue all weekend. It was very hard.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
That paragraph is printed on the front cover of the book, "Into the Wild" by Jon Krakauer. Well, with a lead-up like that, who wouldn’t be intrigued? This, of course, is a non-fiction book based on the true story of Chris McCandless. The basic synopsis provided on the front cover sums up the story well. It was a fascinating story, but the interpretation of the story must change dramatically depending on who is reading it.
For example, the author seems to alternate between revering McCandless for his bravery and gumption and ridiculing him for his stupidity and careless decisions (walking into the Alaskan wilderness with only a few books and a ten pound bag of rice). I suppose this is on par for the basic feelings about McCandless. I admire him somewhat for the nomadic, no-strings-attached life he led for two years after graduating from college. He seemed to just want to live life, with no possessions, no connections, no responsibilities, no duties, no home, no security, and essentially alone. I think everyone has had moments when they want to leave it all behind, particularly when obligation and responsibility gets to be too much. But few of us actually do it.
Two-thirds through the book, the author reveals that he also made a similar voyage and trek into the Alaskan wilderness. Obviously, he didn’t die and seems to almost resent McCandless’s conviction to stick it out. Perhaps a conviction that the author didn’t possess. The most compelling part of the book was this paragraph:
It would be easy to stereotype Christopher McCandless as another boy who felt too much, a loopy young man who read too many books and lacked even a modicum of common sense. But the stereotype isn’t a good fit. McCandless wasn’t some feckless slacker, adrift and confused, racked by existential despair. To the contrary: His life hummed with meaning and purpose. But the meaning he wrested from existence lay beyond the comfortable path: McCandless distrusted the value of things that came easily. He demanded much of himself - more, in the end, than he could deliver.
Personally, I think the author read too much into McCandless’s journey and sparse writings. I think he was crazy and not just crazy in a "that guy’s a real nutjob" way, but truly mentally ill. He had been showing signs since his early teens that he was walking down the path to mentally ill - a loner, few friends, odd hobbies and interests. After he went away to college, far away from his parents, these characteristics intensified. He was the oddball on campus, again with few friends, and often lived in an unfurnished room with no telephone. His closest relationship was with his car, which he later abandoned. From the information provided by the book, no one close to him did anything to help him. It seemed as if he was simply ignored by his parents and the college. It is sad to think this downward spiral could have been prevented.
It has been a few weeks since I finished the book and my thinking has changed. I still think he was crazy, but I also think he was an asshole. His parents and a family friend paid for his four years at a very expensive private college. McCandless wasted that education. He took off on his "adventure" right after graduation but never told his family were he was going and never gave them a way to contact him. It would kill my parents if I had done something like that. McCandless was so thoughtless, so unaware that other people existed and had feelings, that he thought contacting the people who loved him was a waste of his time. He was gone for two years and dead for months before his family knew anything.
I am all for soul-searching and a certain amount of naval-gazing. However, when it is done at the expense of other people, it is not OK with me. In my opinion, McCandless was in fact, a "feckless slacker."
Friday, November 16, 2007
9:20 - Day care calls. Son does not have pacifier at school. Naptime will be hell (my word, not theirs). I think - must have dropped it in the car on the way to school. I will be right there.
9:31 - Found pacifier under passenger seat of car. Drive to day care, wondering why it is we only have one day care pacifier but 25 pacifiers at home.
9:43 - Leave day care, scratching my neck. Wonder why my neck itches. Scratch, scratch.
9:50 - Arrive in parking lot at work. Pull neck of sweater down to investigate itchiness. Realize my sweater is on backwards.
9:51 - Decide to switch sweater in car. As I am swinging back to front, notice homeless man watching me from the sidewalk. Nice.
9:58 - Back at desk. Working.
10:36 - Doctor’s office calls. They don’t have new insurance card for son’s surgery on Monday. Surgery will be canceled unless I fax it immediately.
10:38 - Dig through purse for insurance card. Damn.
10:41 - Dig through desk for insurance card. Damn. Decide I will have to go home for lunch and look for insurance card.
11:52 - Leave work for home. In the next hour I must: (1) find insurance card; (2) change a load of laundry; (3) finish making cheese straws for neighborhood party tonight; (4) eat lunch; and (5) unload dishwasher.
11:59 - Arrive at home, mad dash for possible locations of insurance card. Five steps in the door, slip in wet spot on floor. Manage to catch myself on side of couch, but lose shoe and step in wet spot. Look down. Yell dog’s name. Dog cowers under dining room table, the obvious guilty party.
12:01 - Having removed nylons, search for floor cleaner while yelling at dog. Clean floor.
12:07 - Wash hands and feet in bathtub. Wipe down shoes. Put on new nylons. Turn on oven.
12:09 - Remove cheese straw dough from fridge. Dough is rock hard. Remember only supposed to chill for 30 minutes, not overnight. Damn.
12:10 - Commence rolling out rock hard cheese straw dough. Work up sweat. Take off sweater and finish rolling dough in bra only.
12:25 - All dough rolled out, start twisting dough, place on cookie sheets. Put in oven. Set timer.
12:32 - Re-read party invitation. Realize I have not RSVPed yet. Call neighbor, apologize, and RSVP. Promise outstanding cheese straws.
12:34 - Remember I was supposed to be looking for insurance card. Race around looking for card.
12:39 - Find card. Remove cheese straws from oven. Drop one as I am transferring to cooling rack. Damn dog catches it before it hits the ground, swallows it whole. Well, at least she is good for something.
12:42 - Change load of laundry.
12:47 - Empty dishwasher.
12:55 - Put sweater back on, put shoes back on. Leave house.
12:56 - Almost have accident with neighbor as I am pulling out of driveway. Smile and wave.
1:08 - Arrive at parking lot. Neck itches again. Look down. Yep . . . my sweater is on backwards. AGAIN.
Mama said, mama said.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
My decision not to be a smoker has nothing to do with saving my lungs from looking like week-old road kill. It really has nothing to do with wanting my teeth to be white rather than yellow. It has little to do with the price of cigarettes. My decision did not stem from a fear of cancer or other hideous diseases. It's not because I think smokers have bad breath or look gross. It is not because I don't like smelling like an ashtray. In fact, there was a period of time when I thought smokers were the absolutely litmus test of coolness.
I wanted to be a smoker in college. All of my friends were smokers and, I admit, I thought it looked cool. Smokers always had an "in" with a stranger. "Do you have a light?" "Can I bum a cigarette?" I saw my friends pick up more men with those two lines than they could have by taking off their shirts in a crowded bar.
Considering all of that, here is the reason I do not smoke. I watched my dad quit smoking after being a heavy smoker for 20 years.
My dad became a smoker when he went to college in 1958. He was a very heavy smoker (even smoked a pipe for many years). Of course, these were the days when everyone smoked. He smoked when my mother was pregnant with both me and my brother and smoked when we were growing up. For some reason, he decided to quit smoking in 1978. I don't remember the reason. I don't remember whether there were all of the PSAs on the air about the effects of smoking. But I do remember the day he quit.
It was early Spring and we had been out to eat at a diner-type restaurant. I was 7 years old. My dad said at dinner that he was going to quit smoking today, right now, cold turkey. (I had no idea what cold turkey meant.) He left his pack on the table, along with his matches. We bundled up and left the restaurant. As we were getting in the car, the waitress came running after us saying, "Sir, sir! You forgot your cigarettes!!" My dad said, "Keep them. I'm done."
What followed that moment of incredible strength was the worst four weeks of my family's life. My dad had terrible withdrawals. He shook all of the time. He was coughing up gross stuff. He had constant headaches and would lay on the couch with a pillow over his face. He didn't play with me or my brother anymore. And he was incredibly grouchy and mean.
This is the only time in my parents 40 year marriage that I remember them fighting in a semi-violent manner. No physical fighting, just yelling and slamming doors. (They fought other times, but mostly heated discussion fighting.) This is also the only time I ever heard them discussing divorce. At the worst point, they were fighting and my dad screamed, "Do you want me to leave, is that it? Fine! I'll leave!" And he walked out the door.
To my seven year old brain, I thought he was gone forever. I cried and cried and my mother tried to explain to me that he was sick. To me, sick was coughing or throwing up. She explained that he was sick because of the cigarettes and soon he would be better. He came back a few hours later and things were fine. But the incident scared me enough to scare me away from smoking for life.
In the end, I don't know how well PSAs work against combatting smoking. I think it really does take a personal reason for people to make the decision not to smoke, especially for teenagers and young adults. I don't smoke because I do not want to go through what my dad went through physically, my parents went through in their relationship, or what they put their children through. And, pretty much, that is the only reason I don't smoke.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
This morning was the best bit ever. Robin is talking, talking, talking and then he says (with a Chinese accent):
"You like our Chinese toys? You should try our Chinese pharmaceuticals! Special today - Viagra mixed with ExLax! So you can come and go at the same time!!"
I laughed so hard, coffee actually came out of my nose. I had to sit down I was laughing so hard.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Anyway, as I was saying, most holidays require forced family participation. You know - Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Those holidays are considered family holidays and every one expects you to hang with your family. To make matters worse, not only do you have to see your family but you have to partake in specific holiday activities with your family.
Easter - dying eggs and egg hunts and uneven candy baskets.
Memorial Day - picnic (for which sister-in-law refuses to use paper or plastic plates and utensils, so we have to pack the real thing and drag to the park and back) and talking about dead people.
Fourth of July - fireworks (which equals very freaked out dogs and crabby babies these days) and homemade ice cream.
Labor Day - always falls right after my birthday so we have to dwell on that horror and discuss my various embarrassing moments from birth on.
Thanksgiving - planning the meal and cooking the meal, which is always tense with a professional chef and two very good (but not professional) cooks in the family.
Christmas - the worst forced happy family holiday with the added pressure of maybe getting really crappy gifts or one sibling getting toys and the other getting socks and underwear.
Don’t get me wrong - I love my family (most of them) and I like spending time with them. But I find that, often, it is easier to spend time with them when there is not the added holiday we-must-make-good-memories pressure. So, this is why I love the "lesser holidays" - MLK Jr. Day, President’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veteran’s Day. I have these days off from work but there is no expectation of family gatherings. I can run errands, do laundry, clean the house, read in bed, shop, embroider, paint, or whatever else strikes me. It’s a free three-day weekend.
I know what you nay-sayers are thinking. "You know, Ms. PH, there are good reasons for these holidays and you are supposed to be _______ on these days." I know, I know. I know I should be celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays. I know I should be thanking Columbus for discovering our country after the Native Americans and Vikings discovered it. (What a feat that was.) I know I should be honoring the men and women who have served our country.
And I do celebrate these days. Like I said, I celebrate by running errands, doing laundry, cleaning the house, reading in bed, shopping, embroidering, painting, and whatever else strikes me. Is that bad of me? Probably. But, did you also notice that I don’t go to church on any of the religious holidays mentioned above? Or that I don't go to church at all? That’s probably bad of me too. Oh, well . . . I guess I’m going to hell one way or another. Too bad I don’t believe in hell. I bet every day is like Veteran’s Day in hell. Sounds like heaven to me.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
For example, one year I got a really beautiful antique lamp. All it needed was a little cleaning and a new shade. I get compliments on this lamp everytime someone new comes to my house. It is quirky and a little weird, kind of like me!
Last year, I got a great deal of baby clothing for my son and my nephew. In fact, today my son is wearing one of the Zutano outfits I got for him last year for only $4. A lot of the children’s clothing is barely used - they grow out of it so quickly - and it is always reasonably priced! I have also purchased him toys and books at great prices.
The adult clothing is great too, although you really have to be in the mood to dig if you want to find the best stuff. A lot of the clothes are name brands and all of the clothes are in good shape. I have found cashmere sweaters for my mom and silk ties for my dad.
And don’t forget about the New Merchants section, which only sells absolutely new stuff from area merchants. I have found great purses and shoes in this section. Last year, I got my dad three packages of new black dress Goldtoe socks (his favorite) and my brother a bunch of Brooks Brother’s dress shirts. As you can tell, I do a lot of my Christmas shopping at Julep’s Closet.
The sale starts on Friday night, which is called "Twice the Price Night." You pay $1 to get in and pay twice the marked price for all the merchandise. Why? Because, in addition to being a great community service, Julep’s Closet serves as one of the Junior League’s fundraisers. The money you spend at Julep’s Closet allows the Junior League to invest in its various community projects, including the Peoria PlayHouse. Past projects of the Junior League of Peoria also include Race for the Cure, Family House, and Sonar Tide at the Civic Center.
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Frankly, I put off reading this book for sometime. It just kept going further down on the to-be-read list. Mostly I put it off because I try to limit the amount of "chick-lit" I read. Too much chick-lit is like too many jelly beans at Easter. So, I have a rotation system that involves classifying books into several categories including fiction and non-fiction (it is usually two fiction then one non-fiction), chick-lit, mystery, favorite authors, must-read classics, and recommended reads (that I otherwise would never touch).
In the end, this book wasn’t really chick-lit. Sure, it was written by a woman primarily about women, but it wasn’t as frivolous as most chick-lit. The basic story is this: A middle-aged woman has just lost her husband to cancer. They were deeply in love and had been married for approximately 20 years and had no children. After his death, she sells their expensive home in Boston, nets more than $1 million, and drives aimlessly to the Midwest to a small, quaint town to restart her life. Of course, she only does this because her husband has told her he thinks this is how she should deal with her grief. When she finds this small town (which happens to be in Illinois), she immediately finds the perfect old house in the perfect neighborhood and buys it.
There were parts of this story that I was really drawn to while reading it. I have always thought it would be an adventure to pack up all of my stuff and drive randomly to some small quaint town where no one knows me, get a silly no-stress job, and live a simple life. (You know, like Sleeping with the Enemy but without the homicidal husband.) This dream ends in about five minutes when I remember how much I hate small towns and not being able to buy good produce, good coffee, and good wine. But, the dream kept me going through the book.
My biggest problem with the book was the unrealistic nature of the relationships described. The main character thinks adoringly of her husband at every moment. The way he dressed, the food he ate, the books he read, the love notes he sent her, his passion for his work, the way he picked his nose . . . everything about him was perfect. It made me sick. Of course, I know that there is a tendency to obsess about the good things when you lose someone you love. But there is no one in the world that has only good qualities and no bad qualities. It just simply wasn’t believable. Even in grief, you remember the bad parts too.
The other unbelievable part was this character’s relationship with her friends. After her husband dies, she realizes she has no friends. (Of course, her justification for this is that she and her husband were so complete together that there was no need for other people. Barf.) Feeling lonely, she contacts her friends from college, whom she hasn’t seen for more than 20 years. And, of course, those friends pick up everything from their lives and come to her rescue and everything is back like it was 20 years ago. Whatever.
Relationships don’t work like that, at least not in my world. People change and grow and, believe it or not, people do not just sit around waiting for you to re-enter their lives after you ditched them for a man 20 years ago. I don’t buy it.
Aside from this, the book was well written, the story well crafted and woven together. It was a short book, so my irritation was over quickly.
Monday, November 5, 2007
Over the weekend, I got one of the oddest questions I have ever heard. A middle-aged woman came up to me in the grocery store and said, "Why is his hair like that? I mean, did you do that on purpose?" I wanted to say, "Bite me" or "Step off, bitch" or "Why is your hair like that?"
I should explain. My son does not have much hair. He has been pretty much bald since birth. Basically, all the hair he has is just filling in the hair-area on his head. It doesn't grow very fast or very long. Except for one piece. Without any coaxing from me, there is one lock of hair behind his left ear that has grown longer than the rest. When it is wet, it hangs down to his shoulder, a good inch past the rest of his hair. When it is dry, it is one single curl. The rest of his hair is stick straight.
Many people have said to me, "Why don't you just cut it off?" Well, because I think it is funny (and what is parenthood if you can't laugh at your kids), cute, and unique. And it allows me to call him "One Curl Merle," which cracks me up. And it will provide endless funny stories when he brings girlfriends home.
So, I looked at this nosey woman and said, "We keep it that way for religious reasons" and walked away. When we passed in the frozen food aisle, the woman wouldn't make eye contact with me. I really hope she spent the rest of the day trying to find out what kind of crazy religion I belonged to and how dangerous we were to the community.
Funny, because the only religion I belong to is the Church of Mind Your Own Damn Business.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
(1) Do you drive downtown on weekdays?
(2) Do you drive through the intersection of Main and Madison?
(3) Do you drive through said intersection between 8 and 9 am and 5 and 6 pm?
(4) Do you turn left in this intersection, either from Main to Madison or Madison to Main?
(5) Do you always have on your bug-eye sunglasses?
(6) Are you talking on your cell phone while driving through this intersection?
If you answered all of these questions “yes,” then keep reading - I have something to say to you.
First, a little driving lesson. You should have learned this in driver’s education, but hey . . . you were probably too busy writing I “heart” Dave on your paper and snapping your gum to really listen. So, here is a refresher. When you are turning left at an intersection with a stoplight, you must yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk who are crossing with the green light and walk signal. Also, it is not a good idea to start your left turn before looking to see if there are any pedestrians in the crosswalk. By starting your left hand turn prior to checking for either oncoming traffic or pedestrians will create a very interesting problem for you. You will be stuck between oncoming traffic and a pedestrian and neither of them will really care whether you make it through the intersection.
Second, a little warning. It’s never a good idea to hit a pedestrian. Even the most empty-headed of you have probably figured that out. But it is particularly not good to hit this pedestrian. Really, it is not even good to come close to hitting this pedestrian and then give this pedestrian a dirty look while she wonders whether you are paying any attention at all and whether you will hit her and whether it will hurt when her head hits the pavement.
You see, this pedestrian is fed up. She is sick and tired of having her life flash before her eyes when simply crossing the street every day on her way to and from work. So, get this through your thoroughly moussed head - it will not be pretty if you hit this pedestrian. Yeah, sure, I’m talking about the blood and brains all over the pavement. But I am also talking about the pain you will feel when you realize you have hit this particular pedestrian.
You see, even non-litigious lawyers like myself do not take kindly to being hit by a car. It ruffles our feathers. It makes me wonder who will take care of my child if both of my legs are broken. It makes me wonder who will plan his first birthday party if I am in a coma. It makes me wonder who will care for my parents in their old age if I am dead.
But, mostly, it makes me think about one thing . . . damages. Compensatory and punitive damages.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
As mentioned on several other blogs, there were a few "special guests." One of them was so special that he could not be bothered to talk to the women's table at the bash. Matt Bisbee, a member of Jim McConoughey's campaign, showed up shortly after the bash started. Frankly, when he entered, I thought he was lost. He was dressed like your classic young Republican - very clean cut, not a hair out of place, very straight teeth. He walked in and talked to the men's table for awhile and left without even glancing at the women's table. Before I knew who he was, I thought, well . . . whatever, maybe he just isn't into women.
But as he was leaving, someone said who he was and that he was from McConoughey's campaign. Well, I am certainly not going to vote for McConoughey now. Admittedly, I am as likely to vote for McConoughey as Howard Dean would be, but still . . . it was just not good form. A good life lesson (an even better lesson for pols, or their wannabes) is - talk to every one in a room when you are representing a candidate. You never know who you may snub.
And for those of you who are wondering, I did vote for a Republican once. He was a friend of the family running for the House and he was pro-choice. Well, he won the election, but it didn't turn out well after that. I learned my lesson.
Actually, the best part of the bash was that several people at our table thought Matt Jones was the manager from Bar Louie. Matt's great (well . . . for a Republican) but thank god his chosen profession is law.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Of course, now that I think about it, my paternal grandfather discussed these things. He was the car-maintainer king. Of course, he bought a new car every five years for as long as I can remember. I think I didn't pay attention to his car interest because I got the feeling my parents thought it was a little obsessive-compulsive. I got the idea that they thought his car talk could be filed along with his "mow the lawn in different directions every time you mow" lecture or his "check your roof every fall and spring for problems" lecture.
Anyway, my check engine light came on this weekend. Wait, that sounded wrong. My car's check engine light came on this weekend. My check engine light is an entirely different thing and probably shouldn't be discussed in public.
What to do, what to do? It came on on Saturday evening and I had this thought that it might just go off if I let the car "rest" for awhile. So, the car rested overnight and I checked it Sunday morning. Then I thought it might go off if I filled the car with gas and re-tightened the gas cap (this is not crazy - my car has had this problem before). Nope. Well, the car needs servicing anyway (so the dealership schedule tells me) so I called the dealer.
This is probably one of those things that is going to cost me hundreds of dollars to "investigate" and turn out to be a short in the light that illuminates the check engine light. I think I might follow the advice of the guys on Car Talk and just fix it with a small piece of black electrical tape. You know, to cover the light.
Monday, October 29, 2007
Sometimes, if you're in need of an easy day, you can just make it happen. Who's to say you have to accomplish everything that's been laid out for you today? You have more control over what you do, how you do it and when you do it than you realize. It's time to wise up to your power and flex your muscles a little bit more aggressively. Do not feel intimidated by the authority figures around you. Just talk to them like normal people, and they will respond favorably.
Yeah, right. I am sure the Court of Appeals will understand if I just need "an easy day" and my brief will be just a little late. The Court of Appeals does not want to be talked to like normal people and I can guarantee they will not respond favorably.
So, sorry, I do kind of have to accomplish everything that's been laid out for me today.
Why is it that children are always able to rub vomit into their hair before you make it to their bedroom after hearing the vomiting in the middle of the night?
Why is it that children can easily and peacefully fall back to sleep after puking while parents lie in bed awake for two hours surging with the adrenaline of having just stripped a puke-covered child naked, given him a bath, cleaned the crib, floor, and walls, desparately searched for clean pajamas, mattress pad, and sheets, taken dirty items to the basement and started a load of laundry, then taken a shower because you feel like there is vomit all over you, and changed your pajamas?
Thursday, October 25, 2007
The Associated Press couldn't get it right:
The AP article stated: "'We agree that the evidence of the defendant's guilt was overwhelming,' the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in a 15-page opinion." Try again. The majority opinion is the opinion of the Court. This quote is from the dissenting opinion, which is not the opinion of the Court and should not be stated as such. Of course, later in the article, the AP stated the opinion was "just one paragraph long and contained no explanation." Right, except that the AP reported just two paragraphs earlier that the Court did have an explanation - there was overwhelming evidence. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
"The court refused to grant the "so-called" en banc hearing." I want to know exactly what a "so-called" en banc hearing is. If it is granted, it is an en banc rehearing. Nothing so-called about that. Ryan didn't make up this thing called an en banc hearing. Perhaps a review of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure would help. I think that's where the Court came up with this "so-called" en banc thing. Just like every other circuit court in the country.
"Not clear whether Ryan will be now be required to report to prison." Get a clue. This opinion was not about whether he will report to prison. It was about whether he will be granted a rehearing. Insinuating the Court of Appeals was remiss in someway by not mentioning when he will go to prison is ridiculous.
In addition, over the lunch hour, WCBU got it wrong. First, use the correct name for the Court. It is the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Not the Seventh United States Appellate Court. It's not that hard - it's the first thing on the first page of the opinion.
Second, WCBU reported that the "full court" considered the case. Untrue. In fact, Judges Joel Flaum and Ilana Rovner took no part in the decision, as noted on the first page.
But what really gets under my skin is that no one even mentioned the 14 page dissenting opinion (aside from the mistake mentioned above). The dissent carefully lays out the argument for granting the petition for rehearing en banc in painstaking detail. That is the interesting part of this decision. True, Ryan has not prevailed in the Court of Appeals.
However, what the dissent has done is sent a 14 page direct message to the Supreme Court. That is the news today.
Of course, since the media can't the basics right, why would they care about the actual issues?
* The link doesn't seem to be working. Try this: http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/7N0Z0RGD.pdf
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Oh, but the responsibility of choosing that first Halloween costume. Really, it will probably be the only time I can choose for him. Next year, he will be almost 2 years old and (if he takes after me) he will be hell-bent on choosing for himself. Of course, we will probably have a small battle over his choice because of my dislike of the commercialism of childhood (with certain exceptions as previously noted on this blog for Star Wars, Snoopy Sno-Cone Machines, and Hello Kitty).
I think it is difficult mostly because he has very few tangible "things" he is into at this age. He likes food and bottles, but it seems a little silly to dress him as a baby bottle full of soy formula. He loves his pacifiers, but that also seems a little silly (and a very complex costume that might look more like a condom than a pacifier, I might add). He sleeps well, but dressing him as a sleeping baby is redundant.
His only real obsession, aside from getting control of the remote, is anything with wheels. Trucks, cars, chairs, buses, vans, strollers, wagons . . . I mean anything. He nearly flips himself out of his stroller trying to watch the wheels turn when we are walking. But, he can't really be a wheel for Halloween, can he? It would be pretty hard to fit a wheel costume into a car seat or the stroller. And I am pretty sure he couldn't crawl in it.
So, then I thought about the "average" baby costumes. Animals are always good for this age, but boring. I thought about making him a little devil but, despite my best efforts and training, he is actually a pretty good little kid and devil doesn't really fit him.
I also thought about doing a duet of a costume with him and the dog. Like maybe he could be a cowboy and the dog could be a horse. Or he could be Han Solo and the dog could be Chewbacca. Or the dog could be melted Popsicle and he could be the Popsicle stick. But this poses two problems: (1) I would have to buy or make two costumes and (2) I would have to bring the dog Trick-or-Treating. Not appealing.
I have actually purchased a costume because I didn't want to leave it to the last minute. Even though I have technically made the decision, I am still obsessing about it. What if it is not the best costume for his first costume? What if he doesn't like it when he looks at the pictures years from now? I think I may need mental help. Seriously - I have gone off the deep end of obsession with this.
He is going to be Shrek. Mostly because he sort of looks like Shrek, in a really cute way. I mean, he has normal-shaped ears and he's not green, but he kind of looks like Shrek. So much so that some of his teachers started calling him Baby Shrek. It stuck. And he looks really damn cute in the costume.
Of course, now I may have to find a donkey costume for the dog . . . the cat's already in his puss-n-boots costume . . . but maybe I could find a hat somewhere . . . . OK, I need to stop.
Monday, October 22, 2007
Flashback. . . .
It is 1979. I am 8 years old and all I want for Christmas is a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine. I can't picture my life without one. You throw in some ice cubes, the Machine grinds them into frost, you scoop them into a paper cup with the Woodstock Sno Shovel and then Squirt some Snoopy-flavor-juice on the ice. Heaven in a paper cup.
I begged and begged and begged and begged. Every time the commercial came on, I forced my parents to watch it. Every time, they looked at me like I was crazy. Finally, my dad looked at me and said, "We already have something just like that."
Had they been holding out on me? Was Christmas coming early this year? Would I finally get something I actually wanted for Christmas?
I followed my dad into the kitchen. He said, "Close your eyes." I shut them tight. I couldn't contain myself. I heard him opening cabinet doors and shutting drawers. Then he said, "Ta-da!!" I opened my eyes. My father had carefully arranged the following items on the counter:
A large shot glass
A silver ice tea spoon
A tray of ice cubes
An old metal ice crusher - the one he still uses to crush ice for making martinis - the one with a handle you have to crank yourself.
My face fell. I was nearly in tears. My dad was suppressing a giggle. He said, "Well . . . make me a snow cone!" I looked down and said, "I can't. There's no syrup. The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine comes with syrup."
He handed me a bottle of Creme de Menthe.
I didn't get a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine for Christmas that year. But here's the thing I realized. I would probably do the exact same thing if my kid begged for a ridiculous toy with no real purpose. On the other hand, I might just give in and let a kid be a kid. All kids need a few useless toys in their lives. Think of all the useless adult toys we all have.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
For those of you who are wondering, I am not one of those Star Wars geeks who goes to conventions and still has Luke Skywalker sheets. I never collected the action figures and kept them in their shiny boxes. I just love the movies. Star Wars (and The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) defines my generation in the same way Harry Potter defines the current generation. Star Wars was huge in my life as a child and a cultural phenomenon.
Of course, it helped that my mother was a big fan of Star Wars when it first came out. In May of 1977, my mother pulled me out of school (I was five years old) to stand in line to see the movie. In May of 1980, she did the same thing, but this time we had been discussing The Empire Strikes Back for months. Finally, in 1983, we went as a whole family to see the Return of the Jedi. Every Christmas Day, my family still watches the original trilogy. Those days are some of my fondest memories. I still get chills when I hear the music.
I didn't get into the toys as much, although one of my friends had all of the action figures and the Death Star play set (which was like a four-story Death Star playhouse). I had several books, but my favorite toys were my two Barbie-sized dolls. I had a Han Solo doll and a Princess Leia doll. Leia came in the white robe costume she wore during most of the first movie and her hair in two buns. (By the way, I took the hair out of the buns the first day I had her and it never went back the right way again. I also cut off her toes because she had wide, flat feet that wouldn't fit into Barbie shoes.) Han Solo looked just like Harrison Ford. He was HOT! (Incidentally, I also had a Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones doll. He came with a fedora, a gun, and a whip. They just don't make toys like that any more.)
It always surprises me when people say they have never seen Star Wars. I feel as if an essential understanding of the world is missing from their lives. How could you not have seen Star Wars? How could you not love it? The stories are universal - love, struggle, independence, evil, politics, patriotism, envy, back-stabbing, friendship, equality, and humanity.
And some of the best quotes from movies, ever, including:
C-3PO: We seem to be made to suffer. It's our lot in life.
Darth Vader: I'm altering the deal. Pray I don't alter it any further.
Han Solo: I'm out of it for a little while and everybody gets delusions of granduer.
Plus, there is nothing funnier than sitting around the dining room table and talking like Yoda.
Monday, October 15, 2007
This win came at a good time for me and NTPL - I was on the edge. I was about to give up. I only know about one out of every 20 photos posted. It is just no fun to play if you know you are not likely to win. (How's about that for some insight into my psyche?) But, I am back on good terms with NTPL. For now.
Anyway, I am on the edge of my seat wondering what my white elephant prize will be?? White elephants can vary widely. Once, I got a three-pack of plastic beehive wigs as a white elephant gift. On the other hand, I also got a bottle of rum once. It wasn't a great bottle of rum, but it did the trick. Another time, I got a food dehydrator, which I was really excited about. However, I used it once and it wasn't so much a food dehydrator as a food rubberizor. It made really, really chewy dried tomatoes and bananas. My dentist wouldn't approve. I haven't used it since.
With my rediscovered zeal for NTPL, I encourage all of you to play. It is more fun that way. Except for Chef Kevin. He always beats me to the punch on the ones I actually know.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
I am throwing a dinner party tomorrow night for him in Peoria. My mom and I are coordinating dinner and we spoke twice by phone yesterday. The last call ended with her saying, "I will call later tonight to finalize things." When she hadn't called by 9:45 pm, I called her.
It wasn't pretty.
When she answered the phone, she was clearly a little tipsy. Curious as to why she was tipsy on a Monday night, I said, "How is everything?" She replied, "Oooohhhhh . . . you know . . . hmmm." I said, "What's going on?" She said, "I will tell you later. Let's just say, we have almost finished the bottle of Chartreuse." I said, "Oh, my. Straight up?" She said, "Straight up. I'll talk to you in the morning."
When she called this morning, I heard the full story. Apparently, my grandfather is insisting on my mother writing a part of the family history she does not want to write. She said, "He is so rigid!! I got so frustrated, I just about blew. And he wouldn't give up. So, we decided we would just get him drunk. The problem is, I got sort of drunk in the process." I said, "Well, that is one of the pitfalls of trying to get someone drunk."
After finishing our dinner conversation, she said, "Promise me that if your dad and I ever get so rigid in our old age, you will just slap us or something." I said, "Well, how about I just get you drunk? That seems to work for you!"
Getting old people drunk. Just one of the coping skills brought to you by my well-adjusted parents.
Friday, October 5, 2007
What an exciting job - it makes me want to poke out my eyeballs. I wonder what these guys say at the annual physicists convention? I mean, the geek quotient must be pretty high among physicists, but these guys must be in the upper deviations of the bell curve of nerdiness.
"Yeah, I just spent the last 12 months dropping strings into boxes and tumbling them."
"No, there is no useful knowledge resulting from my work."
"My big plans for next year? Dropping paper clips into cups and discovering the fascinating world of paper clip chains."
Thursday, October 4, 2007
Anyway, I soon learned that either I went to an incredibly bad grade school or these kids are not real fifth graders. How many actual fifth graders know the answers to these questions? I am sure I didn't know the name of Zeus's wife when I was in fifth grade. I do now, but I proably didn't learn that until high school humanities class. I am also sure I did not know that a "fathom" was a unit of measurement for depth in fifth grade either. Or which country controls Easter Island.
But the question and answer that caused me to turn the channel was "Which century was the artist Pablo Picasso born in?" which was classified as a fourth grade art question. You know, when I was in fourth grade, I am pretty sure we were still working on the color wheel in art class. Anyway, back to Picasso. I knew he was born in the 19th century but I know I didn't know that when I was 9 years old. But what did the fifth grader on the show say? Her answer was, "1881 - 19th century."
Are you freaking kidding me?? What fifth grader knows the year of Picasso's birth? Seriously. I didn't even know the exact year he was born.
Maybe I will just switch over to NBC's "1 vs. 100." I mean, that is one dumbass mob. I saw 23 adults miss the question, "What color do you get when you mix yellow and blue?" While scary in its own respect, somehow I am much more comfortable with the idea that the average adult is not that bright than the idea that there are these mini-genuises making fairly intelligent adults feel like idiots.
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
From: the Commander, JAGC, U.S. Navy,Staff Judge Advocate
To: Mr. Clive
Date: Aug. 12, 2007
"Your client . . . was recently discovered to be wearing Under Armour briefs and a Speedo bathing suit. Neither item was issued to the detainee by JTF-Guantanamo personnel, nor did they enter the camp through regular mail . . . . We are investigating the matter to determine the origins of the above contraband and ensure that parties who may have been involved understand the seriousness of this transgression. . . . Such activities threaten the safety of the JTF-Guantanamo staff, the detainees, and visiting counsel. . . . We would like to know whether the contraband material, or any portion thereof, was provided by you, anyone else on your legal team . . . ."
And one defense attorney's response:
From: Mr. Clive Stafford Smith, attorney
To: the Commander, JAGC, U.S.
Navy, Staff Judge Advocate
Date: Aug. 29, 2007
"I will confess that I have never received such an extraordinary letter in my entire career. Knowing you as I do, I hope you understand that I do not attribute this allegation to you personally. Obviously, however, I take accusations that I may have committed a criminal act very seriously. . . . I also hope you understand my frustration at yet another unfounded accusation against lawyers who are simply trying to do their job - a job that involves legal briefs, not the other sort.
First, neither I, nor Mr. Katznelson [attorney for other detainee found with briefs], nor anyone else associated with us has had anything to do with smuggling ‘unmentionables’ into these men, nor would we ever do so.
Second, the idea that we could smuggle in underwear is farfetched. As you know, anything we take in is searched and there is a camera in the room when we visit the client. Does someone seriously suggest that Mr. Katznelson or I have been stripping off to deliver underpants to our clients?
I had never heard of ‘Under Armor briefs’ until you mentioned them, and my internet research has advanced my knowledge in two ways - first, Under Armour apparently sports a ‘U’ in its name, which is significant only because it helps with the research.
Second, and rather more important, this line of underpants are very popular among the military. . . . It would be worth checking whether this lingerie was purchased from the NEX [Navy Exchange store] there in GTMO, since the internet again leads one to suspect that the NEX would be purveyors of Under Armour . . . perhaps you might check the label to see whether these are ‘tactical’ underwear, as this is apparently something Under Armour has created specially for the military. . . . I don’t mean to say that it is an open and shut case proving that your military provided the underwear, as I understand that other people use Under Armour. One group I noticed on the web were the amateur weight lifters, who seem confused as to whether Under Armour give them a competitive advantage.
However, in the grand scheme of things, I would think we can all agree that the interrogators or military officers are more likely to have access to [the detainees]than the U.S. Amateur Power Lifting Association.
Ahh, yes. Years of advanced legal study and grueling law practice . . . put to good use researching millitary panties on the internet. Things like this make writing that student loan payment check every month totally worthwhile.
Monday, October 1, 2007
I walk over the TV and turn it on (yes, I actually turn my TV on by using the button on the television set). Then I look for the remote so I can surf digital cable to see what my viewing choices are this evening. Now that my child is mobile, I have to hide the remote in, shall we say, remote places to keep him from pressing all the buttons and probably selecting some inappropriate adult programs to watch. But after checking all of my remote hiding places, I still can't find the remote.
So, I take all of the cushions off the couch, look under the couch, look in all the drawers and shelves in the TV room. No remote. I then expand the search to the rest of the first floor. Living room couches? No. Front hall closet? No? Dining room shelves? No. Kitchen counters? No. Refrigerator? No. Freezer? No. (Believe me, these last two are not out of the realm of possibility - I have found weird things in the fridge and freezer before.)
Then I go to the second floor. I don't have a TV on the second floor, but stranger things have happened. Bathroom? No. My bedroom? No. Baby's room? No. Linen Closet? No. What the hell?? So, I start the search all over again, convinced I have missed it. Nearly exhausted and determined not to change the channel by actually pushing buttons on the TV (and seriously not sure if I know how to work digital cable without the remote), I sit down and think about this logically.
Where is the remote usually? On the sofa in the TV room.
What did I do to the sofa in the TV room today? Straighten it for company.
What was on it? Pillows, socks, blanket, and . . . the newspaper.
What did I do with the newspaper? Threw it in the kitchen garbage.
Where did the kitchen garbage go? To the curb because tomorrow is garbage day.
So, I am standing (in my pajamas) staring at the garbage can on the curb. I am seriously debating the desire to watch TV versus the desire to dig in the garbage can. I am thinking about the week's worth of garbage in that can (food, diapers, dog poop, paper products, cat litter). Then I think about how long it will take Insight to get a new remote to my house. Could be weeks. Then I think about Grey's Anatomy on Thursday night. I might have to miss it if I don't have a remote. I can't miss Grey's Anatomy. No way.
I found the remote. After a thorough spray with sanitizer, we are good to go.
Saturday, September 29, 2007
Since we couldn't use the swings, we sat down at a nearby picnic table. As I sat there watching these young teenagers, I was transported back to my own difficult junior high school years. I watched the interaction between these kids - the girls in their layered tank tops and short-shorts, texting each other on their cell phones. As the boys teased them, the girls pretended to be annoyed while putting on more and more lip gloss. The girls were outrageously flirting with the boys, although the boys had no idea what to do in response. The boys were still in their grade school forms - either still carrying their babyfat, or painfully thin and gangly. As they yelled to each other across the swings, their voices cracked and squeaked. The boys were all riding dirt bikes; the girls were all carrying new purses.
I smiled at the interations but realized how glad I was not to be living my junior high years. Those years were so painful and uncertain. Things are much more settled now. I know what I am going to be when I grow up. I've already decided what college to go to. I know who my friends are and know they aren't likely to stop speaking to me because I smiled at the wrong guy in math class. I know where I am going to live for the next 10 years and I like it. Life is so much better as an adult. Thank god those junior high days are behind me.
Just as I was in my little reverie, another boy rode up on his bicycle and exclaimed, "Hey! The Cubs are in the playoffs!! YEAH!" A couple of the other boys cheered as well. The girls smacked their gum and rolled their eyes. However, one boy (wearing a Cardinals T-Shirt) said, "Yeah, whatever. The Cubs are gonna lose. They always do." The first boy said, "Oh, yeah? The Cardinals SUCK!" He began taunting the Cardinal boy by saying, "Cardinals suck. Cardinals suck." I half expected him to add "na na na boo boo" at the end. The Cardinal boy responded, "OH YEAH. SUCK IT! THE CUBS SUCK IT! THE CUBS SUCK IT!!!!"
As I was walking away, I thought to myself - maybe things aren't so different when you get older. I bet at the exact same moment, there was a 35 year old guy sitting in a bar saying, "Cardinals suck." And another 35 year old guy responding, "Oh yeah? The Cubs SUCK IT!" Some things never change.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Juliane Bang ran a prostitution business under the guise of a massage spa.
United States v. Bang, No. 06-3060, (7th Cir. Sept. 24, 2007). Well, with a name like that, what would you expect? She was predestined to do something, you know . . . a little off color.
Apparently, Ms. Bang purchased the Osaka Spa in Rockford, Illinois in October of 2004 and claimed she didn't know it was a front for prostitution. She thought it was a legitimate massage therapy business. Umm . . . did she purchase it without seeing the place? I have been in many legitimate massage therapy businesses and, although I have only seen prostitution businesses on TV, I am pretty sure it would be hard to mistake the two.
Needless to say, the Court affirmed her 18 month sentence for conspiring to use interstate facilities to aid a racketeering enterprise and conspiring to commit money laundering. Let that be a lesson to you all. Never purchase a massage therapy business sight unseen. You know . . . look under the hood, kick the tires, that sort of thing. It's just good business.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
But, believe it or not, it has happened. The Wall Street Journal linked to my post about my week at home with my sick child at the end of this article. Unfortunately, the article is entitled, "When Home Isn't Safe for Infants," which wasn't really what my post was about. I mean, I was going a little crazy, but my home was still safe for my child. I certainly hope it was merely an electronic key word search that caused the link, not some commentary about working mothers being unsafe at home with their infants.
To find the link, go to the article, go down to the bottom of the page where it says, "Blog Posts About this Topic." There I am, right before a book review called, "Mothering: A Spiritual and Practical Approach." Now you know it was just a fluke!
Of course, my fame is limited to the two people who have actually linked to my blog from the article. And one of them was a friend I told about the link. I don't think this should count as my 15 minutes of fame.