Monday, March 31, 2014

Have I Written This Post Before?

I write this post every single year. At least I think I do--I really can't remember.

This is the time of year when the Evil Rule Makers mess around with the rules governing our clocks.

"Mwahahaha!" I imagine them cackling as they sign the legislation. "Let's make a rule that for six months everyone is going to feel terrible! Their alarms are going to go off ridiculously early, and they will have to leave for work in the dark, even though days have gotten nice and long."

Then Daylight Evil Time goes into effect, and I spend at least a month feeling groggy and walking into walls. (I mean that literally--this morning I was trying to put on my shoes and tipped over into a wall. No bueno.)

That's probably why those of you subscribe to this blog through e-mail just got a notification that a new post was up, but the new post consisted of...nothing. After 781 blog posts, I forgot that you have to WRITE something before you hit PUBLISH.

I'm feeling a little dizzy, slightly headachy, and as if I could sleep for three days straight without feeling rested. I want to put my head down on my computer keyboard and drool, just like the pretty girl in today's illustrative photo but without the nice manicure. Ordinarily I would suspect I'd contracted a virus, but I know that in this case it's just the to-be-expected side effects of DET.

I need a sick-of-saving-daylight day. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Sunroof Kind of Day

I had a lunch meeting downtown today, and it is a beautiful, beautiful day in our nation's midsection so I opened the sunroof as I drove. Yesterday, at exactly the same moment in time, I was being pelted by icy rain during my walk across the parking lot between my building and the cafeteria, and this was a lovely change.

The change was so lovely that I decided to feature the view out my sunroof as today's blog post, and I wanted to accompany the view with some cruising music that featured the word "sunroof." Unfortunately, I could not think of a single song with the word "sunroof" in its lyrics so my friend Mr. Google offered to find me a song.


Who would have thought that "sunroof" would have been paired with so many words and concepts the likes of which will never be sung by those nice Mormons in the Tabernacle Choir, or even by the Osmond Brothers after they went rogue?

Mr. Google has terrible taste in music.

To wash my mind out I searched for Raffi, to whom I have not listened to since the Boys were wee tots. He was the only children's singer who did not make me want to push a pencil into my ear until it came out the other side, so we spent many, many hours listening to Raffi. And bless his heart, on his website Raffi has lyrics and accompaniments for those perky songs I haven't heard in decades, and now "Down by the Bay" has settled into my ear.

Tonight when I go home from work I plan to turn off NPR--I've had enough of missing planes and mudslides for the day. While I drive home, I'm going to have the sunroof open and sing at the top of my voice. I'll be like those cars with the enormous subwoofers that make the pavement tremble with bass vibrations for a block before and after they're in view.

"Have you ever seen a goose, kissing a moose, DOWN BY THE BAY!"

Yup, just like those irritating noise polluters, except with more annoyance. 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I Eat at Home, Too

After so much blather about what I ate while I was gone last week, you may be left with the impression that I never eat while I am in my own home. That impression would be mistaken. I just don't photograph my every bite, although this week's fruit bowl looks as if it could have been painted by my favorite artist if it had been set on a table in a wheat field.

(I'm not kidding--he's really my favorite artist. He also is the nicest guy in the world, and while I don't own any of his original paintings, one of his prints hangs in the breakfast nook and is the best-looking food in my kitchen.)

Anyway, Boy#3 was home for a couple of days of his spring break last week, and because I was feeling guilty that I had fooded my way through Washington with his brothers and without him, I sent him home with enough food to stave off starvation for several weeks.

I sent Make-Ahead Meat Lovers' Lasagna Roll-Ups, beautifully packaged in disposable meal-sized containers, and a freezer Ziploc full of Hearty Black Bean Quesadillas. I also packed up and sent most of a Chocolate Sheet Cake--Husband had been terribly sad when he didn't get a cake for his birthday, but also explicitly told me he did not want a cake for his birthday (and people say women are difficult to interpret) so this was three-weeks-later compromise cake.

In fact, I spent most of Saturday in the kitchen, slicing and dicing and browning and mixing. The house smelled amaaaaaazing by the time Husband got home to wave good-bye to Three when he pulled out of the driveway toward his own place.

"Wow!" Husband took a deep, appreciative breath. "That's incredible! What are we having for supper?"

And that's when I had to tell him that we were having Mexican take-out, because everything homemade was in a car heading north. It was not our happiest moment.

But the fruit bowl looked incredible.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The End.

I promise, this is the end of the postings about my trip to Washington, D.C. I have told you about the food, and about the company, and about the hotel room, and about the marathon, and...well, I'm sure you all feel just as exhausted as if you'd made the trip yourself.

But there's one more story, and that story starts in the lower level apartment of this row house. That's Boy#1 and Lovely Girl's place, where I was enjoying one last breakfast with my family. My plane was due to leave at 1:05 p.m., and Boys #2 and #4 were going to drop me at the airport as they left town on their way back south. With time changes, I was scheduled to head down the exit ramp toward Husband by 4:30 p.m.

We were laughing and enjoying homemade pop-tarts and a final cup of coffee when I pulled out my phone to check onto my flight. That's when I realized I had misread my itinerary, and rather than leaving in 90 minutes, my flight would be taking off in half an hour. Exactly the same half an hour it would take to get to the airport, with no time to spare for airport traffic, security lines, or final hugs.

I'm sure I looked as stricken as I felt as I looked up at my children. "I just missed my plane," I choked out.

And that is the moment a fundamental shift took place in my family's dynamics, a shift so solid and complete I practically heard it thump into place. You see, while Husband has always been the logistical mastermind of our family, my task has been to carry the emotional baggage. When things haven't gone as planned I've been the one who says, "This isn't a big deal. We can figure it out. I'm sorry this is happening, but we can deal with it."

My grown children looked at my distress and as if they had rehearsed for years, they went into damage control mode.

Boy#1 picked up the phone and called the airline. Two and Four grabbed their bags and headed for the car. Lovely Girl joined the emotional support group.

"It's not a problem," they all said. "We can figure it out."

"You're here, and not anywhere else," Lovely Girl said. "You have someplace to stay, and we'd love to have you for another day."

In moments we were whisking off to the airport, and after quick hugs and a race through security I found myself on stand-by. I had been texting Husband throughout the process and confessed I was shook enough that I had accidentally walked into the men's room instead of the women's.

"That's not a big deal," he texted back. "I've been doing that all my life."

Four flights later (two that left me, two that took me) I was walking down the exit ramp toward Husband. It was only six hours later than I had expected but I'm still thinking about the changes those six hours signified. My days as the family's emotional skycap may have come to an end--now my children know when I'm the one who needs propping up, and are eminently capable of  handling that job.

What a lovely new beginning.

Friday, March 21, 2014

In Case of Emergency Break Glasses

You know it was a good trip when the number of days of blog material I milk from it is higher than the number of actual trip days. We're nearing the end, though, so I go back to the beginning.

The start to our stay in Washington was rocky. I had booked and pre-paid the hotel room weeks in advance, marveling as I did at the rate that can be charged and that apparently I am willing to pay to be able to stay in the same facility the seminar is being held. But when you figure in the cost of taxis and the convenience of being within an elevator ride of your own bed (and bathroom), I swallowed hard and entered my credit card number. Imagine my surprise, then, when we arrived at 11:30 p.m. to find no room in the inn.

The management could not have been nicer (Mike at Renaissance Dupont Circle--you rock!) and hied us off to the hotel's sister establishment, paying for our taxi and comping the room. So, yay! A free night in an expensive hotel! And it took less than an hour to straighten it all out.

All that is prelude to explain why I was just a bit groggy when I heard the atmospheric uproar at 7 a.m. EST (6 a.m. body time) the next morning. K was in the shower and noise began to creep into my dream state. It sounded like...a foghorn? Someone yelling? Was I on a boat? Were we about to crash into the rocks?

Finally I swam upward through the jet lag and realized an alarm was sounding in the hallway. Ah-oooga! Ah-ooga! And a lovely gentleman's voice was soothingly telling me "An emergency has been detected. Please evacuate the hotel using the stairway. Do not use the elevators. An emergency has been detected. Please evacuate the hotel using the stairway. Do not use the elevators." Then the foghorn repeated, and the announcement, and the foghorn, and the announcement, repeat repeat repeat.

Have I mentioned that we were on the eighth floor? We were on the eighth floor. But we were also in Washington, D.C., where incidents that could actually involve the eighth floor are more common than they are in Small Town, Kansas, because in Small Town no building in town goes above four stories. This was not a simple matter of stepping outside the room and dashing back in when the all-clear is sounded.

"K! We need to get out!" I shouted through the bathroom door. But if this was an actual emergency, there would be news cameras, and YouTube postings, and no way was I going down eight flights of stairs and into the street in my nightgown so I threw on clothes.

Then I grabbed my glasses from the side table and realized what the emergency was: I HAD GONE BLIND. The world was blurry, as if I were breathing some kind of insidious gas that had attacked my optic nerve and was working its way to the left side of the brain, the crucial segment that's responsible for rational thought . Oh, no! How will I be able to read, or knit, or work if I'm blind? I'll be a burden to Husband and the Boys. I'll never see Paris. At least I would be dressed when they found me in the courtyard, having groped my way down the stairs....

And that's when I realized that the alarms were no longer sounding, and that I had picked up and put on K's glasses (shown on the left in today's photo) instead of my own (shown on the right).

I looked out the window to where the hotel's more compliant clients were huddled in the courtyard, saluted their bravery, and went back to bed.The left side of my brain needed just a little more sleep.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Documenting My Food

There are some people who come home from a trip halfway across the country with pictures of the places they've been and the loved ones they've seen. Pffft, I say to those people. Those places will be there the next time you visit and those loved ones you should be able to remember without photographic documentation.

It's the food that counts, travelers. What did you eat that made you swoonishly happy? What did you eat that made you gag? Do you have photographic proof of the difference between the two?

I do. And I know you've been waiting breathlessly for the moment I trotted out this proof. So, without further delay, here is what I ate while I was away.

1. Eggs Benedict. Every single day of my life I have a healthy breakfast, which includes steel-cut oats cooked with an apple and a teaspoon of cinnamon, and a four-shot cappuccino with low-fat milk. Each   of the ingredients is calculated to keep me healthy way past when I am laid in the grave (except for the four-shot cappuccino, which will just keep me awake through all of eternity). The morning after we arrived at the seminar, though, K and I found ourselves in the restaurant of the fancy hotel where we were staying. Our room for the previous night had been comped due to room overbooking, and the refund of money I had already "spent" was burning a hole in the expense account to which it had been returned so K and I splurged three extra dollars and got Eggs Benedict rather than the buffet. I even ordered the deluxe version, with the layer of tomato preserves tucked between the English muffin and the ham slice. I've never been a fan of runny eggs but, oh my, was this delicious. Between the sweet of the tomato preserves and the salty of the ham slice and the savory of the Hollandaise I didn't even notice that yolks were running all over the place and threatening to KILL ME with their uncookedness. Grade of A for this meal.

2. Lunch at Bobby's Burger Palace. Bobby Flay did not fix our hamburgers, much to our disappointment. The sweet potato fries were delicious, and I regret that we forgot the leftovers in the window well of our hotel room. I had the Napa Valley Burger, I think, but I don't remember exactly because this was the rarest slab of protein I had ever put in my mouth and I was trying not to think that this "medium" burger was dripping "medium" blood all over my plate. It was delicious, but I believe I heard it moo, which is a bit of a downer. But on the upside (sweet potato fries!), this is the first burger joint I've ever seen that served Fresca. Grade of B.

3. Dinner at Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. I don't travel a lot, but when I do I try to avoid eating at places also found in Small Town (no combination cafe/bookstores here), and I try menu selections I wouldn't normally choose. And that, boys and girls, is how I found myself eating curried goat. It wasn't baaaaaaah-d, but I probably wouldn't order it again--it was more fatty than I had expected, and had enough tiny bones to work around that at one point I remarked this goat must have gone through a woodchipper. Oddly, my dining companions were squicked out by this description and completely ignored the fact that I was eating meat that had once been somebody's kid. Grade of C.

4. These offerings from Wisteria Gardens, sadly, I did not eat because it is not food, it is contraband. Boy#1 and Lovely Girl took me for a roam around the Eastern Market, which is only a hop and skip down the street from their apartment, and I loved the place. The moment I sampled this strawberry balsamic jam I knew it was what I wanted to take back to Husband as a consolation prize for having missed the trip (and, I hope, me). What I didn't remember in my addled tourist state was that I was not checking bags and therefore the TSA would not allow me to take lovely jam and delicious jalapeno treat onto the plane. The only consolation was that One and LG will be able to enjoy its deliciosity. Grade of Incomplete for lack of data.

Lovely Girl, Boy#1, Boy#2, and Boy#4
5. And really, my kids deserve some deliciosity. Look at those faces! Food schmood--give me time with these folks and I will completely forget that there is a crab cake and pasta in front of Boy#1. Or I would except that he took a picture of it and sent it to me as I was getting the third shot of the goat curry.

Hmmmm. Maybe I need to just shut up and eat.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Whippersnapper Sidekick

The reason for this trip to Washington, of course, was not solely or even primarily to make sure my children could have some smothering unremitting torturous quality mom time. No, I was working. My professional development organization offered a seminar that was an opportunity to fill a gap in my professional knowledge, so I jumped at it. And because this gap happens to be one that is flooded with whippersnappers, I took a whippersnapper along so she could actually apply the things we were learning.

K is the social media coordinator at Small College. She is smart, hardworking, funny (and gorgeous), and has an amazing instinct for whippersnapper-related communication methods. She grew up with a cell phone in her hand so she knows what to tweet and when to pin and how to boost a Facebook post for maximum exposure.Also, she understands hashtags which is the modern equivalent to my knowledge of how many points are in a pica.

What I had not anticipated when I asked her if she was interested in the seminar topic was how good a traveling companion she would be. I mean, I've traveled with my boss before, and frankly, it's kind of weird. Not only is there a significant age difference, there's also the prospect of all those performance reviews looming in the future and hogging the thermostat in a shared hotel room does not help one in a performance review. I was a little worried that K would have a terrible time and that the three days she spent together would be way, way too much togetherness for a working relationship.

Well, maybe it was, but you wouldn't know it from the sheer delight she exuded during the trip. She had never been to Washington and we had an extra three hours so we hopped on a trolley tour that took us past the famous sights she'd never seen. I've seen the Capitol and White House and presidential monuments many times and I never get tired of them, but seeing these icons through her eyes was like seeing them again for the first time.

And K understood something that neither Husband nor any of the Boys have ever comprehended: taking pictures of food.

Not once did she laugh when I pulled out my phone to record whatever was on the plate in front of me. In fact, she usually was recording her own gastronomic delights.

And when Small College's women's basketball team was playing in the national tournament during one of our seminar sessions (the one that was waaaaay over both of our heads) she pretended it wasn't weird to share the earbuds of my iPad so that I could have someone to silently cheer with. She even posed for (and tweeted) the picture that documented our reaction in the final seconds of the game.

She may be a whippersnapper, but she's a good sport. She's also going to be doing great things for Small College's tweeting and pinning and hashtagging, and some day she'll probably have my job.

I think that performance review is going to go just fine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Unexpected Victory

If you had told me when the Boys were little that one of them would grow up to be President of the United States, or a Nobel Prize winner, or an astronaut, or the conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, I wouldn't have laughed. I would have thought about the possibilities for a second, nodded, then said "Yeah, that sounds about right."

If you had told me one of the Boys would grow up to run a marathon, though, I would have giggled hysterically.

Of all the many fine qualities our Boys can claim, athleticism is not one. The gene pools combined by  Husband and me predestined them to be ultra-competitive, which is an asset to an athlete, but also slow, which is not. Husband added extreme near-sightedness and I contributed total lack of eye-hand coordination to the DNA mix, so it was a huge relief when they aged out of team sports in eighth grade and we no longer had to endure the just-missed soccer goals and innings spent in left field.

It wasn't until he had graduated from college that Boy#2 decided he wanted to run. He started jogging to drop the pounds undergraduate life had slipped onto his long frame and I didn't quite understand that decision. Do you like to run? I asked him. No, he told me, but I like having run.

It's easier to do something you don't really like to do if you have a goal, so he ran a 5K, then a 10K, then he persuaded Boy#4 to join him in running the Bearathon, a half-marathon that raises scholarship funds at the university they both attended. And last weekend Two ran the Rock and Roll Marathon in Washington.

He had prepared for the race by sending me a link to an article that detailed the various ways marathon runners can die in a race, and photos of racers who had pooped their pants (explosively) while they ran. In the interest of your eyeball health I am not linking to these pictures, and Google them at your own peril. Apparently this is a thing, which I had known nothing about. So helpful, that son of mine.

On Saturday I walked with him to the start line. Marathon runners are typically tiny and compact--think Frank Shorter, or those angular Kenyans who win Olympic golds. Two, by contrast, is nearly 6'4". He was not the most unusual-looking in the race, though; this was the weekend before St. Patrick's Day and there were leprechauns galore, as well as one bearded runner in a shamrock-covered full-body unitard. I kept track of Two in the sea of 25,000 runners by watching for the guy in the banana suit who crossed the start line at the same time. But I kept thinking about how unlike a runner my son is. Did those runners who died share his body type?

The next time we saw Two he was at the halfway point of the race. His normal daily runs are 13 miles, so he was still fresh and joking as he posed for a picture with his brothers and Lovely Girl, gulped down Gatorade, filled his pockets with Gummi Bears, and stepped back into the stream of runners.

And then, at the 25 mile point, I hit the video button on my camera phone when we saw him coming down the hill toward the spot where were cheering on the runners. "Woooooo, Two!" you hear me shrieking in playback. "You're doing great! WOOOOOOOOO!" and then my voice drops as I whisper to Lovely Girl "Oh, my gosh, he looks terrible," and amplifies again. "Only a mile to go! You can do this!"

Later he would admit that he felt just as terrible as he looked, but when I saw him next he was coming toward me wrapped in one of those space blankets, and he was wearing a finisher's medal and a grin. He had completed the course that took him past Washington's most scenic spots and then through its seedier side before dropping into the finish line at RFK Stadium. He finished with a respectable time, midway through all finishers and his age group.

In the middle of hugging him I realized I was on the verge of tears, verklempt with pride that was mixed with relief that he had not died. Kids never finish surprising their parents, but this was an achievement I would never have predicted:

Boy#2 ran a marathon.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm Baaaaaack!

Ed Begley Jr. Really.
Oh, my goodness! I feel as if I have been gone for many years, years during which I was constantly thinking of funny things to say here and taking pictures of food. And now I don't even know where to start.

Should I start with the day K and I arrived in the nation's capital just before midnight, weary and covered with trail dust, and discovered that our reserved and pre-paid room had been GIVEN AWAY TO SOMEONE ELSE? Or should I kick off my travelogue with a description of the 7:30 a.m. evacuation in the subsequent hotel that turned out to be a surprising insight into my psyche?

Should I talk about spending quality time with three of the four Boys, plus Lovely Girl, and loving every.single.minute of it? Or, every.single.minute up until the time I misread my flight itinerary and MISSED MY FLIGHT HOME?

What if I mentioned how beautiful our nation's capital is at this time of the year, especially since I managed to escape before the latest round of snow that led to a snow day for federal employees, which, all things considered, might be best for all concerned? And that I never, ever got tired of seeing the Capitol dome as we drove thisclose past it several times each day?

How about a report on one of our Boys who completed (without dying) an athletic feat I never, ever in a million years imagined a product of Husband's and my gene pools attempting, much less completing?

Or maybe you just want pictures of food, of which I took so many that at one point Boy#1 took a picture of his own pasta and sent it to me with the helpful label "food"?

Oh, people, I have stories. Many, many stories. But since I've already thrown out so many tantalizing teasers that I'm sure you are sitting on pins and needles in anticipation of hearing what I ate while I was gone, I will leave you with one of yesterday's highlights:

I was three people behind Ed Begley Jr. in the security check-in. Yes, I was. It was confirmed by the lovely TSA agent who, when I breathlessly whispered "WAS THAT ED BEGLEY JR.?" replied. "Yeah. I think maybe I should know him, but I don't remember where I've seen him," so I had to smack her over the head with my Dr. Victor Ehrlich Fan Club membership card. And EBJ looks exactly like himself, which is much more like him than the picture I snapped with my cellphone did. My carry-on and jacket traveled into the x-ray machine immediately after his, so closely the CSI team could probably get EBJ genetic traces off of my Samsonite.

I did not approach him, though, because it was late and we were in a terribly busy airport and no one wants to make chitchat while  trying to put shoes and belt back on, but if I had ventured closer, I would have told him how much I have appreciated his work over the years, both for the environment and in keeping me entertained as Dr. Ehrlich and as Erin's father on The Office and during countless roles in between. I would have thanked him, but I'm hoping it was enough thanks that I left him alone during the indignity of personal reassembly following security check.

He is a lovely man, and seeing Ed Begley Jr. was a lovely and fitting end to this trip. Stay tuned for details.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Great Start

You know my post from yesterday, where I talked about how I'm a terrible packer? How I always take too much stuff and forget something crucial?

This morning I stopped by the office to take care of a final detail before we leave on the big journey. I reached for my phone to send Husband a text and--whoops. Guess what's still in its charging station next to my bed?

This does not bode well.

**I still have time to go home and retrieve it. Whshew.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Packing My Bags

My new luggage
Santa brought me a new set of luggage for Christmas this year. My old set had begun to fray at the edges and didn't have fancy all-direction wheels so the carry-on tended to flip over on my heels if I tried to change directions as I sprinted through the airport. I picked out some Samsonite on eBags and Santa (being a brilliant selector of gifts) made sure it was under the tree. I was delighted, if not surprised. It spins! It has a handle on the side as well as on the top! It is the exact same color as every other bag coming off the carousel so I will NEVER know when my luggage arrives!

Tomorrow I will be on my way to the nation's capital for a conference, followed by a couple of days of hugging incessantly checking up on  visiting Boy#1 and Lovely Girl. This will be the first time I will be able to see if having new luggage has made me any better at packing, but I suspect that it is luggage and not a miracle with zippers.

I am a terrible, terrible packer. I have lived long enough and gone enough places that I know all the rules: Lay out everything you plan to take with you on the bed, then leave half of it at home. (Half the stuff, not half the bed. Leave the whole bed at home.) When you're planning what you'll wear think about the weather forecast of the place you're going no matter how hot/cold/rainy/snowy/windy/ beautiful it looks right now immediately outside your window. If you have to think twice about whether you need it, you don't.

That's what my head knows. What my heart knows is this: I might need it. And by "it," I mean the third pair of shoes, the second jacket, another book, the extra t-shirt, a second extra t-shirt, a cozy robe in case the hotel room is chilly, work-out clothes, one more book, and a rice bag. And while my heart is thinking about that rice bag (how am I going to get through a week without having it to warm my cold hands? what if I pull a muscle?) I completely forget my phone charger and earbuds, any kind of jewelry, my business cards, my refillable water bottle, an umbrella, and socks.

Now that I'm sitting here overthinking it, what about a hat? We're going to be outside all of Saturday, and I don't want to overheat. And granola bars, so that I don't raid the mini-fridge and bankrupt myself. And some homemade cookies for One and LG....

Never mind. I have my ticket and my photo ID, and anything I forget is for sale on the other end of the flight.

Watch out, D.C.--here I come!

Thursday, March 6, 2014


(Before I get into this, I need to warn you that if you read this post aloud you will sound as if it's five years ago and you are a tween girl who has just encountered Justin Bieber on the street. You do not yet know that Justin is about to turn into a big ol' mass of drag-racing stupidity, and you think that if he looks your way you will DIE! Just DIE! In other words, read aloud at your own peril.)

Omigosh, omigosh, omigosh!


Yesterday when I got home from work the postman had left a package on my front porch, and it was the MOST EXCITING THING EVER! I mean...well, let me back up a step or two.

One of the blogs I read is written by the lovely R who, much like Jerry McGuire, had me at the blogger's equivalent of 'hello.' Her site heading says she is "Another mother doing her best and hoping it is good enough." This philosophy completely nails motherhood. Completely. What sets Doing My Best apart from the rest of us in the blogosphere, though, is the second part of her heading: "Also trying to make the world a better place, one Crappy Day Present at a time."

Yes! R came up with the concept of the Crappy Day Present. Sometimes when you've had a truly terrible day, all you want is someone to give you a piece of chocolate and say "there, there." But sometimes (cough tax season cough) there is no one around to do that, so R invited the entire internet to be that someone with an impeccably organized system whereby you are assigned to send someone a box of little gifts you think she would like. Go to her blog and see how it works because I'm doing a truly terrible job of explaining it, but the bottom line is that I signed up for it, and a couple of weeks ago I sent off a box of goodies to the person I had been assigned. At about the same time R e-mailed me that I was going to be REALLY EXCITED when I saw who she had assigned to be my CDP buddy. 
Jaded Me

It isn't that I don't trust R (I mean, she has the perfect mothering philosophy, which is to say it's the same as mine) but I'm a jaded old broad, and I countered her excitement with a swoony sigh, a Greta Garbo-ish, "Of course, my dear. I'm sure you are most correct. Sigh. It's February. Whatever."

Yesterday my Crappy Day Package arrived on the porch.  



My Crappy Day Partner is ALEXA STEVENSON! 


I went from being jaded old broad to this baby in no seconds flat.

You may not be reading Flotsam, but you should be. Really. I discovered Alexa years and years ago, before she was married, and I began reading because I loved the way she writes. She was funny, and she was human, and she showed the reality of her life which included a photo of her messy apartment.  I was charmed. 

And then Alexa got married, and eventually she got pregnant with twins and that experience and the birth of her daughter kept me refreshing my browser compulsively to find out what was happening to the 1 lb. 11 oz. preemie. Alexa kept us updated in a way that made me laugh and cry and pray for this tiny, tiny baby and her mother even though I had never met them.

Okay, I won't spoil the story but let me just say that the baby is now in school, and the account of her entry into the world became the basis of Alexa's book, Half Baked: The Story of My Nerves, My Newborn, and How We Both Learned to Breathe. Yes, that book. A real book, printed on pages and sold in bookstores, the one that was on Anne Lamott's list of favorite books. 

I read every excerpt I could get my hands on and they were funny and human and completely captured the clutch-hearted emotions of a mom who was afraid her child was going to die. I've been there; I know those emotions, but I was incoherent in their grasp. Alexa spoke them onto paper.

And when Simone was out of danger, Alexa kept writing her blog. Today she and her husband have two daughters and I feel as if I know them, because I "know" their mom. She hates the word "impactful" (BECAUSE IT IS AN ABOMINATION! YES! IT IS!) and her blog posts are tagged with descriptions such as "Deplorable Solipsism." Yesterday a box of goodies from ALEXA STEVENSON arrived on my front porch! With my name written on the box with ALEXA STEVENSON'S ACTUAL HAND!

 Inside were all kinds of goodies that will make my crappy days so much less crappy, goodies that were chosen and wrapped in colorful tissue paper in spite of The Plague that was plaguing the Flotsam Family at the time the box needed to be mailed. 

Really, at that point I couldn't justify opening anything from the box because does that baby up there look like it's having a crappy day? Only if literally (and I am using this correctly) dancing around the kitchen with joy qualifies as a symptom. But one of my sons had a disappointing day yesterday. It was nothing that will leave a permanent scar, but I was disappointed along with him (a mother is only as happy as her unhappiest child, you know). So I dug down in the box and pulled out a flat package that I hoped would be...


And it was for ME!

I cannot describe...I...just...

Alexa Stevenson, you can't imagine how much I admire your writing. I think we could be best friends, except that you live eight states away and are young enough to not have any idea who that swooning actress is up there, and I must admit that even I think this post is kind of creepy as I re-read what I've written. But we have almost the same kind of glasses!
Thank you, so very much, for the Crappy Day Presents. And thank you, too, R, for coming up with this whole idea. Please, don't either one of you ever become big ol' masses of drag-racing stupidity or I will be crushed.

And I'm sorry, Kelly who was my Crappy Day Present recipient, that there is no possible way you could be even one-gabillionth as excited about the box of goodies from the House on the Corner.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Music and Joy

My siblings and my father (and me) on Saturday. MOS is second from left.
Last week my Much Older Sister was inducted into the hall of fame. This wasn't the one in Canton, or the one in Cooperstown, or the one in Cleveland. This was a hall of fame for people whose life work and calling has been to teach music to children.

The other three inductees were wonderful choices--their nominators spoke of countless hours spent  pursuing performance excellence with their students, and ensembles that increased in size, and top ratings in contests. Then it was time for my sister to be introduced. She started out as a music teacher, but for the past quarter century she has been an arts administrator in an inner city school district.

I won't get this exactly right, because I wasn't taking notes, but I cried when the presenter spoke:

"She has made it her life's calling to bring the the beauty of music and art to a population whose greatest common denominator is poverty," the presenter said.

Think about that for a second. Her students come in all ethnic minorities, but they're all poor. They're all ages from pre-kindergarten to high school seniors, but they're all poor. They have all configurations of families, from single parent to extended family living groups, but they're all poor.

These aren't the families who grow up like we did--a nuclear family singing four-part harmony on car rides and knowing that we would go without new shoes or fancy vacations before our parents would let us go without music lessons. The parents of these kids are running as fast as they can just to keep the rent paid and food on the table.

So my sister makes sure the students in her schools don't miss out on the important things of life. She writes grants to bring Alvin Ailey dancers to her districts, and shepherded a nationally-emulated group that brings free concerts and performances to thousands of urban students. And she isn't just good at funding--her administrative style is to pitch in and do what needs to be done. (If you know her, ask my sister about driving a compact car packed with members of a mariachi band across Kansas City, while she leaning out the driver's window to hold the string bass on the roof with her non-steering hand.)

I started this blog post thinking I would talk about how my dad and all of my siblings braved some terrible roads on Saturday to be there for MOS's big day, and how proud our mom would have been of her oldest child. I was going to say that this day was a symbol that of all the things that have held us together as a family, music is near the top of the list. Instead, I'm reminded that my sister, who could have chosen a career that was a lot less work for a lot more money, has invested her time in the lives of her family, and her colleagues, and her students who are economically poor but rich in opportunity because of her influence. The presenter summed up her powerful legacy perfectly:

"She brings joy to every room she enters."

Monday, March 3, 2014

My Much Younger Man

I married a much younger man, or at least that's the story you'll hear if you ask Husband.

"Yup," he tells everyone, "she's two years older than I am."

When I protest that the gap is actually less than 16 months, he uses numbers to confuse me.

"What year did you graduate from high school? What year did I graduate from high school? Aren't those two years apart? And what year did you graduate from college? What year did I graduate from college? Aren't those THREE years apart? So actually I'm giving you the benefit of the math."

"But...but...but I started first grade when I was five! And I graduated from college in  3 1/2 years!" 

I sputter and count on my fingers the gap between November and March, then add a year for the actual year I know I am older, and carry the one, and numbers numbers numbers, and then I give up. I'm even more confused during December, January, and February, when the gap in our ages is two years rather than one.

So what if I'm older? Age is only a number, and even though Husband's number is smaller by an unknown amount than my number, I do not have his encyclopedic knowledge of old movies, with the parallel talent of being able to quote entire pages of script from Sons of Katie Elder and The Great Escape. I am, however, much more savvy about social media. Which of us knows that # is pronounced "hashtag" and not "number sign"? That would be me.

What I have had over the years, because I'm older, is the opportunity to train up Husband into the way he should go. I've helped him relax his standards on orderliness. (Just one example: Before we were married he kept track of every single expenditure over $1, even if he spent cash for it. By the time he had finished merging our checkbooks, he was just grateful when I recorded the majority of my checks, and that silly cash stuff? Not a big deal. You're welcome.)

Because I am older I have spoken with authority about dirty car mats, and their lack of indication of sloth. ("They're floor mats! They're made to be dirty!") I've also been able to turn him away from his pre-marriage habit of storing books in the kitchen cupboards.

And in spite of my elderly status, he has been a most excellent Husband--the picture on today's post was taken as we waited for the Boys' flights to arrive before the Wedding of the Century. It was late at night and we were exhausted and the the international airport was deserted, so of course we got the giggles, and of course I took a selfie.

Our ages aren't important. What is important is that we've shared 30 years, four sons, and two lives, and those are the numbers that count.

But today, Husband, you are WITHIN ONE of my age! Mwahahahaha!