Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The "not" flu

Just a quick message from the land of the sick. Yes, it's fun in Wisconsin's winter wonderland and we are quickly stamping our passports full of every exotic bug known to humankind.

My son has a cold. I have some sort of dry cough/irritation and am feeling draggy, and my husband does "not" have the flu. He just felt nauseous this morning (he, as opposed to me, NEVER gets nauseated, and NEVER, I repeat NEVER throws up. ) and is currently cocooned in bed with a bevy of symptoms including headache, aches, shivers... in short, "not" the flu.

The son of two doctors, my husband never went to the doctor as a kid. Bust your head open? Come here kid, let daddy sew it up. No need for a doctor.

The funny thing is, when I woke up two mornings ago with this dry cough and he was annoyed because I asked him to get up with the child (who has been rising at 6:30 instead of 7:30 in this house of sleepers), he snipped, "Well if you're sick, go to the doctor. Otherwise get up."

This is not meant to be critical of him (lord knows I say some pretty outrageous things either to garner more sleep or in protestation of not enough sleep). It's just funny that he who never goes to the doctor is telling me to go.

So off I go downstairs to crack open a can of chicken soup. I had delusions earlier that I would make my famous matzoh ball soup, but I realized: Oh, wait a minute. I'm sick, too. And tomorrow is another day of (perhaps) sick toddler (who still has more energy than ten of me combined) and possibly the "not" sick husband.

Gesundheit. That wasn't a sneeze.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Cup Overfloweth?

Yesterday morning while outside did its best immitation of a Wisconsin winter (net 6 inches of snow and one SUV in the ditch down the road), our house filled up with friends for brunch. Afterwards, my cousin (also in attendance) remarked that she thought it was so interesting that I and the other women in attendance seem to have made similar decisions. That is, having married highly-educated husbands and being highly-educated ourselves, we are all stay-at-home moms.

That made me sort of scratch my head. Mostly because I think that staying at home with children is no longer a sign of inequality in marriage, nor is it a thing most women are doing because "that's what we do" or "I don't have anything else to do, so I might as well do this." I guess that's why we are thinking moms. We take our job seriously. Not that it is our only job, but it's definitely a calling. And that's not meant to dis any woman who decides to continue to work. It's just another principled option.

So I was reading this article which was the #1 most emailed on the NYTimes called "Why Are There So Many Single Americans?" mostly out of curiosity. For me, it elucidated why people who are married are and stay married. It's apparently because, more than ever, like is marrying like. Not in the sense of beautiful people marrying beautiful people or the bald marrying the bald, but in the sense that educated people are marrying each other.

What's so interesting is that a generation ago, oftentimes educated, highly-successful men were married to less-educated women. It's the old stereotype of the doctor marrying the nurse or the businessman marrying the secretary. Now the trend is: the more educated you are, the more likely you are to be married, period. From the article:

“The way we used to look at marriage was that if women were highly educated, they had higher earning power, they were more culturally liberal and people might have predicted less marriage among them,” Mr. Martin said. “What’s becoming more powerful is the idea that economic resources are conducive to stable marriages.”

So perhaps there goes the stereotype of the bitchy intellectual woman with the chip on her shoulder and no one in her bed? Naaaah... that one's just too fun to do away with.


Are you positive about the future? Does tomorrow look brighter than today? No, this is not the introduction to some free Scientology personality test. These are the perennial questions of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist.

If you're like me, your answer is probably: "Well, that depends." On the day, what my mood is, whether we're talking about the world at large or what my personal life is like.

Are you better off having high expectations and therefore creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or are you better off having low expectations and being surprised and excited when things in your life are even a modicum better than you had feared?

I've always sort of thought that I'd be better off being more of an optimist than I am, though sometimes I purposefully lower or dissolve my expectations so as to not be disappointed. Apparently, so do many people. In this short, fascinating NYT article it talks about how we human beings balance our optimism and pessimism. From the article:

...when it comes to the still bigger picture — the fate of civilization, of the planet, of the cosmos — pessimism has historically been the rule. A sense that things are heading downhill is common to nearly every culture, as Arthur Herman observes in “The Idea of Decline in Western History.” The golden age always lies in the past, never in the future.
and yet...
Research shows that we systematically exaggerate our chances of success, believing ourselves to be more competent and more in control than we actually are. Some 80 percent of drivers, for example, think they are better at the wheel than the typical motorist and thus less likely to have an accident.

A couple of decades ago, the psychologist Shelley Taylor proposed that “positive illusions” like excessive optimism were critical to mental health. People who saw their abilities and chances realistically, she noted, tended to be in a state of depression.

I really like the conclusion of the article, though, for its synthesis: "The Viennese satirist Karl Kraus came up with a formula nearly a century ago that remains the perfect blend of optimism and pessimism: Things are hopeless but not serious."

Get annoyed globally. Get drunk locally.


And FINALLY... to steal something from the article I just quoted, “Progress might have been all right once,” Ogden Nash said, “but it has gone on too long.”

When we were in Chicago over New Year's, my husband and I tried hard to not be seduced by our friends' HD tv. We found ourselves sitting in front of it for hours on end, mouths agog at the sheer beauty of it. We would pretty much watch anything, as long as it was in HD. We reveled in the little dewdrops you could see on a tiny fist of a crocus. You could veritably see each little fern-blade of moss growing atop the old thatch on the church-steeple!

Apparently, though, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Take for instance, porn. Not just your average porn: Porn in HD.

While one might think that porn in HD would be "even more of a good thing", bringing one "closer to the action", there are definitely some things that are even in this medium a little too close for comfort. Now you can see the unfortunate razorburn which heretofore had been just distorted enough by the limits of media so as to not interrupt your enjoyment of the carnal romp. Directors are having to be creative with angles so as not to feature the faint ripple of cellulite. Not to mention the advances in lighting and liposuction which will have to be invented to cover up the most human failures of the flesh...


The upshot of all of this-- the marital bliss, the optimism and pessimism, the porn: You can have your cake and eat it, too. Just look at it from the right angle.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hopping Mad

Aside from the general background of the world going awry (Iraq, Bush stupidity, global warming, the Donald vs. Rosie) I've been rather distracted by the smaller dramas in life.

Missing the preschool deadline. Dreaming of an orange Stokke Tripp Trapp from which my son can toss his food in modern style. The unexplicable hatred of our postal delivery mistress who seems to have a pre-printed slip for every sin imaginable (trash cans blocking box, someone parked too close to box, this time: a diagram for the 30-foot arc of snow that must be cleared for her easy approach and egress from the box so as not to require her to GET OUT OF THE CAR).

Yet today in a matter of hours I've got my ire up again. Where should we start?

How about with the 34th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Before you stop reading, don't. This is not about abortion. In's blog, Broadsheet, Tracy Clark-Flory discusses an article from the SF Chronicle called "On the Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade Creating a true 'culture of life'" by Lynn Paltrow. Basically, what Paltrow and Clark-Flory say is that the US does a miserable job at supporting "maternal, fetal and familial health". Amen. Paltrow,

...argues that lawmakers have failed to actually legislate for a "culture of life" by avoiding support of pregnancy and parenthood. Their consideration "of more than 600 abortion-related bills a year creates the illusion that the only aspect of pregnancy that needs attention is abortion."

Double Amen. Like the liscivious old dodgers that they are, lawmakers seem obsessed with regulating abortion, cutting funding for non-biased family planning, restricting access to birth control and other services here and throughout the world. Excuse my language, but missing the entire fucking problem.

The true "culture of life" respects and supports men and women and provides options and support far beyond a prayer and a free baby car seat.

Got my goat #2 goes to the New York Times who today on their main Web page have a picture of Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama with the caption "Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama, seen in July, are vying for favor from the same groups, including women and blacks." What kind of a statement is that?

It's as though some numbskull was looking at the pic, scratching his head and said, in the manner of those "you got your chocolate in my peanut butter" commercials, "well, I see a lady and a black. They must be trying to appeal to ladies and blacks!" I mean, I could totally understand the kind of duh commentary from the Cincinnati Enquirer or some other bastion of mediocrity, but the Times? No. Hillary and Barack are (hopefully) going to appeal to everyone who feels disenfranchised and fed up with the Bush government and its catastrophic handling of every situation from A to Z. And that means even white men. Even pickup truck owners. There's pretty much no one that Bush hasn't screwed over. Take a number.

So, my third annoyance is as follows: After issuing a blistering report about the failure of infant car seats to protect babies, Consumer Reports has rescinded its report because its testing methods were faulty. Am I mad at CR? Sure. They need to be RIGHT. They need to get it right. They play too important of a role in making sure that manufacturers' claims are true and push for higher accountability and safety. However, my true ire is reserved for the fact that the current safety standards for infant car seats are insufficient. And, what's more, the LATCH system, which is now required on all new cars to help ensure proper installation of child safety devices, is jinky at best. Anyone who has tried to put their kids' car seat in using LATCH knows what I'm talking about.

Here's a thought: Why not make car manufacturers responsible for working with child car seat manufacturers to make sure that they come out with products that WORK TOGETHER to ensure the best fit and safety for our children. How's that for a revolutionary concept?

Now, back to your regularly scheduled domestic bliss.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Overachieving in Stupidity Since 1974

Yes, ladies and gents, last night's antics were a pinnacle of stupidity (see previous post "Bad Mom" if you don't know what I'm talking about and before I spoil it for you). Nay, they were an acme. Stupidity cum laude.

I did not awaken when my husband arrived home from his brief but meanigful visit to the Milwaukee airport post office. Staying true to my title as reigning Champion Sleeper TM, I did not let my silver-medal performance in the Annoying Hysterics grand slalom keep me up a second past midnight.

This morning my son had plans of his own. At 5:30am he awoke shrieking and, despite handholding, gentle hair-stroking, or even the granddaddy of them all, the full-court press into mommy and daddy's bed, he was not going to be convinced of going back to sleep.

Somehow at 5:30 in the morning, I must be forgiven. My limbic system, not fully awake yet, goes into a test mode similar to how those pesky smoke detectors seem to go off either a) when your boiling rice overfloweth or b) when the battery is dying. Except my version of the annoying, deafening peep is muttering a stream of expletives. In fact, I think I probably inherited this charming skill? predisposition? from my father's side of the family. Which makes it none the more charming.

Anyhow, after my son and I had hung out on the living room couch for a while, followed by breakfast (and his first little taste of guilt-ridden rice krispy treat), my husband emerged, bedraggled from the bedroom. Poor poor man. He said he had to drink one of those gallon-sized gas station cokes to stay awake. Then, in a moment of piercing lucidity, he said, "I was just thinking. We probably could have faxed it." Dagger through the heart!

We both dissolved into a pile of laughter.


A recent report found a correlation between longer lifespan and higher education. My husband and I, we are out to prove them wrong.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Bad Mom

I forgot to take in my son's preschool registration this morning. It has only been on my mind for months. I had him all signed up in my mind.

But then there was the dazzling light this morning kicking off the snow. I was trying to photograph it through the glass sliding doors (foolish). Then I was rapt in an appreciation of the warm light being cast into the house through the high windows. I took pictures of the oblongs of light skimming just below the stairs. I took pictures of the shadows of my son's play kitchen utensils.

Then it was hurry, hurry, pack ourselves up warm for playgroup. There was the car-bound reverie of a mix cd my best friend from college had made for my son. I was overjoyed to hear some of our old favorites from then (Michelle Shocked, Bob Dylan's "Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues") with his new ears. How wonderful to sing about making jam, having picnics, octopusses gardens (what do they look like?)

My son got obsessed in the afternoon with one of those pedantic Baby Einstein books that he discovered (purposefully) hidden at the bottom of a pile somewhere. I read it at least six times in a row. Baby Einstein, you're no Richard Scarry. I know Richard Scarry. You're no...

You can see how it went. From my obsessions to my son's. Then dinner dinner hurry (son said "crayon" and wanted that same thing, then when I agreed to get them he said "Coming! coming! coming! coming!" which is what I say when he's being impatient. I almost bust a gut).

Then husband home, son in bath, son's laundry downstairs, a momentary cuddle and conversation with the hubby who was trying to convince me to do something useful instead of hiding in the bedroom all night. (Mental sanity isn't useful?)

He got up to reheat some of the chinese. Then it hit me. Blam. All that, all that whole day of here and there and dally-dally-ho! and I missed this thing I have been obsessing about for weeks. The upset started to eat at me. My husband was understanding, "I'm sure there's still room for him if we take it in tomorrow."

Me: But you don't understand: He Must Go! He Must Go to That Preschool! I had it all planned out!

A quick check of the USPS web site confirmed that the last open post office in Madison was closing in six minutes on campus. No way in hell to get it postmarked in time. Worry and resignation and rationalization and internal whack-a-mommy kicked into high-gear.

Then my husband, God bless him, decided to take one for the team. He is, as I am writing this, somewhere halfway between Madison and Milwaukee heading towards the only post office in the state open until midnight to postmark our little man's preschool application.

It goes without saying that I love my husband. His ability to just DO things boggles my mind sometimes.

Bad mom cleaned up the kitchen, took out the garbaggio and made a long-delayed pan of rice krispy treats (and ate 1/4 of them before they cooled).

It occurred to me: Perhaps bake sales are simply mother guilt orgies. We fail. We goof. We bake. "Eating it" takes on a whole new meaning....

Monday, January 15, 2007

Sweet Machines

There's nothing like a snow day. Nevermind that today was Martin Luther King day and we all had off. We played "cut off from the world" without actually being cut off from the world. We cooked my son's meals from the bounty of our freezer. We ate chinese at 8pm by the bounty of the chinese delivery man.

Today was my husband's birthday, as well. There was no cake. My son scribbled something that I interpreted as a black hole, then I scrawled a formal dedication across the page and left it on the table. My husband accepted it as though it were actually meant to be, hugged our son who was a bit dumbfounded and somewhat preoccupied with a train book.

I was thinking back to how many of my husband's birthdays my son has been with us (the answer: two, today included). (I am notoriously bad at remembering such numerical milestones-- I often forget how old I am). This is a salient fact because I was remembering my husband's birthday three years ago while I was pregnant.

I had a somewhat complicated pregnancy and there were questions about the baby's health. On that birthday we didn't do anything particular either, but I remember sitting down the day before and writing a card to my husband from my in-utero son. He said (in his broken German) that everything would be OK. That he knew that my husband's worry was a sign of his love. There was a kind of recognition that was written through me, of which I was not the author.

The note ended, "Anyway, you shouldn't worry too much. I've heard that's bad for old people like yourself."


My husband has been obsessed lately (and no, that's not an exaggeration) with two things: the new iPhone from Apple and selling crap on eBay.

His obsession marks our lives far beyond the twenty times I have to ask him to do something simple like throw me down a new pair of socks.

The iPhone has affected us indirectly: My husband has been waiting with bated breath for weeks, watching Mac rumor pages on the Web and sharing with me their wild speculations about what Steve Jobs would announce as the new developments at MacWorld. "Apparently he's invited all of his personal friends to come to the keynote," he shares with me enthusiastically. Which is to mean what? "There's something big cooking."

Let me explain: It is because of Mr. Jobs and my husband's zeal for all things Mac that we do not have a television. More properly, we have a computer upstairs, right outside my light-sleeping son's room, with something called Eye TV installed. That means we get "television" "through" our computer. That also means for all intents and purposes that aside from sitting on the concrete floor in our basement, our "television" is located in the most uncomfortable, impossible spot in this entire house.

There have been discussions about moving it downstairs, which causes its own problematics: Where does the G5 go then? Should we wait and get an iMac? What offers the best recording quality? HOW MANY FREAKING YEARS IS IT GOING TO TAKE ME TO GET SOMETHING THAT WORKS LIKE, SEEMS LIKE, AND IS A WORKING TELEVISION IN A ROOM WHERE I CAN ACTUALLY USE IT?

Mr. Jobs was supposed to have the answer. Instead, he announces the iPhone. He has not made any of this easier. Thanks, Mr. Jobs.

The second preoccupation-- selling shit on eBay-- was inspired by our friend in Chicago who bought himself a sweet midlife crisis car from his eBay sales. Now my husband is hell-bent on ridding our lives of all sorts of things we never used, used, or have no use for. He is currently cleaning out the battery holder of his old SLR with Qtips (my favorite cleaning implement) and a mild rubbing-alcohol solution.

He has already gotten rid of a few things that way and it does seem to work: there is indeed somewhere a buyer for almost anything under the sun. From our loft-office overlooking the uncleared streets of West Madison, our lives are slowly being rid of their clutter.

Technology: It's that easy. Something for everyone. Everyone loves a perceived deal. Automation makes the world go round.

Who says there's no suffering for great art?


I gave my husband the Silver Spoon cookbook for his birthday, and I ineptly wrapped it in a piece of my son's drawing paper upon which I scrawled some of his many different qualities in crayon. Of course I had neglected to check and make sure the page was the right size (which it wasn't by a long shot) and so as neatly as I could, I tucked the paper around the hulking book and left it laying on his side of the bed.

He didn't see it until I started hopping up and down and pointing to it. Not sure if he overlooked it or if he's just graceful like that-- never falling over himself to "get" something. He loved the paper. He loved the book.

What a truly sweet day. I love it because it's the anniversary of the day this amazing person came onto the planet. His obstinate, over-cautious, over-excited, amazing self.

Welcome to the world again.

"Sweet Machine" is the title of a wonderful book of poetry by Mark Doty. I have merely stolen the title here for my own purposes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

You Are Here

I was talking to our friend from Germany the other day and he said that he had considered starting a blog, but decided that he didn't have enough going on to write about. Which made me think: What the hell do I write about? It's one of those questions that annoys me because any answer I could give would either be reductive or absurdly vague. I write about light bulbs. I write about life. How's that? Answers aren't so satisfying, are they?

My cousin seems to know what I write about. She's a writer, after all. We were both poets together before I took the big dive and came out a mom and a blogger (sounds so unsatisfying-- blogger-- almost a derogatory term). She will say things to me like "Oh-- that was a very you piece". It seems to me that not only do I have this thing, this way about me and my work, but that these little pieces of me are circling about in the atmosphere, landing like dust in the most innocuous places until I come to sweep them up.

(Anyone who knows me knows that I'm not a freak for order, but can be for cleaning. My favorite cleaning tool in the world is the Q-tip. I don't mind avalanches of books but I despise and cannot overlook the gook in the emergency overflow hole in sinks).

This scattering about and my utter glee for detail sends me scampering off into the woods-- sometimes not coming back for a long while. In a sense, all of my life is like my art. Which is in many ways highly inconvenient.

Take for example now. Now my son is asleep, it's a beautiful cold and sunny day and my husband has taken off to paint our bedroom a deep eggplant color. Inspired by his success in transforming the bathroom, he's onto bigger and better things. I can barely clean up the kitchen after a meal. All I want to do is think.

My babysitter came back into town last week and I had her on Thursday afternoon and I went to the bookstore. The BOOKSTORE! I was returning the book "Running with Scissors" which I had thought my husband had liked (and, in search of a new good book, I had bought) but it turns out he thought was pretty f**cked up. I'm not necessarily against f**cked up, but it has to be a certain transformative kind of f**cked-upedness for me to be able to stand it.

Anyhow, so I went to the bookstore and ranged around. I read titles, remembered things about authors, zig-zagged, layed books where they don't belong (and didn't pick them up again! The horror) and generally went into the flow-zone until my phone rang. It was my husband, asking me if we needed anything from the store on his way home. What time was it? Three hours later than when I arrived. I could have been there for six more hours, easily. And then gone back the next day.

Getting shit done, yeah, not so much my strong suit. Being? Yes. Definitely being. Its correlative? Nothingness. Which is to say if I am not in the form of being, I am lost. Perhaps that is what drug addicts feel like: they need this perfect spell to make themselves more real than real.

That is not to say that I can't get shit done, it's as I said before, not necessarily my strong suit. I was out with some girlfriends last night and we were talking about how we will know it's time to send our kids to preschool. I said I know my son is ready not only because he's ready, but because I'm ready. Finally I've come to a point where he's old enough that I can take back that one little dogeared corner of my self for myself. He's going. Oh yeah.

If I don't have time to be, I don't seem to have anything left over to muster to be able to do. I sometimes feel the world dancing around me, teasing me with its motion like a fly might tease the nose of a sleeping bear. There's an elixir, a deliciousness to being off thinking, somewhere far away in the head which is somehow only more heightened by its compactness and its limitations. Even the annoyance of getting interrupted can make it more delicious if you can return to it again and again.

Like everything, life doesn't necessarily lend itself to the fine orchestration or calibration of time and ebb. Perhaps writing is, for me, the way to do that: to suspend time, a thought, rotate it through space, stare up through its structure, admire its lines, fill it and empty it over and over again.

Greetings from the big woods. Wish I am here.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bulb by bulb

Well, I survived another New Year's, much thanks to our friends in Chicago and five kids in a ball-filled pool in the middle of the family room. The evening's entertainment didn't require fancy dress or cheap champagne and only a couple of us were still up by midnight. Now that's what I call New Year's (though I did appreciate Becky's addition of sparklers. I'll keep that one in mind. Sparklers are definitely an underused and underappreciated party favor.)

So, onto the New Year, back to the fold. No more baklava binges (there are still ten pieces left, but they're at that not-so-fresh stage), out with all the blasted wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbon, crapola.

In with... what? Well, I'm not predisposed for making New Year's resolutions (see previous post "Great Expectations"), but I'm always a sucker for making life a little better. Who ain't?


My husband, the Brainy and Beautiful (and he deserves to be called beautiful, because he is), performed a determined act of mercy before we left for the weekend and painted our bathroom slate gray. Now, mind you, we've had that can of paint in our closet for almost the whole four months we've lived in this house. It was serving the important purpose of creating asylum for the dust-and-hair bunnies seeking exile from the bathroom floor.

Still, after all the deliberation and comparison between fifty gray paint chips and finding the chosen one, the gas went out. It was probably the combination of relief about living in a new house with the experience of having to paint my son's room three separate times that did it. My husband was so hopped up on paint fumes by the end of that tale that he needed to have four solid months of only organic, whole-grain products to clear his system.

Somehow, though, he got a bug in him last week that he wanted to do it and did it. Hallelujah! My bathroom has gone from a generic experience to an adult, cool place to be. And I can't say enough how important it is to have an adult place to be. It feels like this house is busting at the seams with everything for and by the Kid. Our love for him sometimes smothers us and we end up saying goofy things to each other like, He's so sweet. So adorable! Let's go wake him up!

(Don't worry. We don't go wake him up. We may be nut jobs, but I at least am a very sleep-loving nut job. More baby sleep, more mommy sleep. Only then is the world in its intended order.)

Now my husband has set his mind to painting our bedroom, and none-too-soon. The previous owners painted it the faintest, shittiest, nothingest yellow that makes everything just look shabby. Oh, and it looks absolutely horrific with our beige carpet. Let's paint the town red!


On a related note of "a little can make a lot of difference", two ideas to ponder...:

Apparently, cattle contribute more to the greenhouse effect than emissions from cars! I mean, I knew that Germany, in its energy-consciousness, had thought of harnessing biogas from cows (not exactly sure what that looks like, but I'm sure it ain't pretty: think cows with afterburners?) but I never took the next logical step to think that eating less meat could also impact global warming. I am resolving to eat a bit less meat. Perhaps you could consider it, too?

And secondly, Wal-Mart (yes, Wal-Mart) has decided to do whatever they can to promote the use of energy-efficient light bulbs. Holy slave labor, batman! I've talked before about my husband's zeal for those soft-serve looking lightbulbs and the compromises we've reached (using them outside, in the garage and basement). As we look to add and replace some lighting in the house, we're now looking into LEDs, which also remain cool (and look cool!) So there are more options out there for saving the environment and at the same time saving yourself some dough.


In the meatime, I am realizing what a difference it can make when two people (or more) decide to do something together. As I said above, my New Year's this year was so much better, much because everyone and everything distracted me from owning and rebelling against outside expectations.

And both my husband and I are prone to stasis. His recent brave charges into doing things (whether it be cleaning up the kitchen after a long day of toddler food fights or painting the bathroom) inspires me to be more determined to get off my bum and do more.

Move it, sista.