Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's not safe in the water.

First, while buying my organic soy, extra-hot, no whip, gingerbread steamer, I was reading in the New York Times about how dangerous drinking water has become, and how outdated laws to regulate drinking water are... then in my "Peaceful Daily" email, I see this article: (note: this does not make me feel peaceful)
The 7 foods experts won't eat
by Liz Vaccariello, Editor-in-Chief, PREVENTION, on Tue Nov 24, 2009 11:15am PST 1045

How healthy (or not) certain foods are—for us, for the environment—is a hotly debated topic among experts and consumers alike, and there are no easy answers. But when Prevention talked to the people at the forefront of food safety and asked them one simple question—“What foods do you avoid?”—we got some pretty interesting answers. Although these foods don’t necessarily make up a "banned” list, as you head into the holidays—and all the grocery shopping that comes with it—their answers are, well, food for thought:

1. Canned Tomatoes

The expert: Fredrick vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

(I don't eat alot of canned tomatoes, but my question is: how many restaurants avoid canned tomatoes when making sauce... my guess NONE)

2. Corn-Fed Beef

The expert: Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming

The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. More money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium, and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Salatin.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers' markets, and nationally at Whole Foods. It's usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don't see it, ask your butcher.

(Good News! I don't eat beef at all! One I don't have to worry about! Now, I should look into my husband's diet? Probably.)

3. Microwave Popcorn

The expert: Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group,

The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular, and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize—and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes, or soup mix.

(I MUCH prefer popping my own popcorn, it tastes fresher, you can flavor it more easily, and it is cheaper. I did have some microwave popcorn at my parent's house over Thanksgiving... but that will be the last time! Oh, and by the way... microwave popcorn is NOT faster...it takes the same amount of time.)

4. Nonorganic Potatoes

The expert: Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board

The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation's most popular vegetable—they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

(This one is tough. Organic potatoes are hard to find. Also, I love French Fries. And I am SURE that no place I order french fries from is using organic potatoes. Whole Foods, you price-gouging wonderland, you will have your shot at me again soon, I presume!)

5. Farmed Salmon

The expert: David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.

The problem: Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter, and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants, and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. "It's that bad." Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

(Have not been eating alot of fish since I got pregnant, but this one is good to know. It's tough when you have to worry about mercury and whether it's farmed or wild. Sheesh, and it's all already so expensive! I think flaxseed will continue to be my go-to for Omega-3s)


6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones

The expert: Rick North, project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society

The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate, and colon cancers. "When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract," says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. "There's not 100% proof that this is increasing cancer in humans," admits North. "However, it's banned in most industrialized countries."

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

(Luckily, our friendly Trader Joe's has organic milk for less than $6 a gallon. One gallon usually lasts us the week. Here is one more I'm doing well with!)


7. Conventional Apples

The expert: Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods

The problem: If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don't develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it's just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. "Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers," he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples. If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them first.

(This one is also tough. Organic apples are only around during local apple season. I guess I'll try to find another source - or try my best to eat more seasonal produce.)

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Year's Resolution

While I have been reading like crazy lately, I want to be sure I keep it up. So, I have taken note of this list from the Washington Post - their top ten:

AMERICAN RUST, by Philipp Meyer (Spiegel & Grau, $24.95). This powerful novel about two poor young men caught up in the murder of a homeless man scrapes beneath today's economic headlines to show us a community corroded by poverty and despair. -- Ron Charles

A GATE AT THE STAIRS, by Lorrie Moore (Knopf, $25.95). Profound reflections on marriage and parenthood, racism and terrorism, and especially the baffling, hilarious, brutal initiation to adult life. -- Ron Charles

THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE, by Orhan Pamuk, translated from the Turkish by Maureen Freely (Knopf, $28.95). Although it can be read as a simple romance, this is a richly complicated work. Masterfully translated, spellbindingly told, a resounding confirmation that Orhan Pamuk is one of the great novelists of his generation. -- Marie Arana

THE STALIN EPIGRAM, by Robert Littell (Simon & Schuster, $26). In what may be his finest novel, Littell dramatizes the horrific events that followed after the great Russian poet Osip Mandelstam wrote a 16-line epigram that attacked the all-powerful Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. -- Patrick Anderson

WOLF HALL, by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt, $27). A brilliant portrait of a society in the throes of disorienting change, anchored by a penetrating character study of Henry VIII's formidable adviser Thomas Cromwell. -- Wendy Smith

Nonfiction
FAMILY PROPERTIES: Race, Real Estate, and the Exploitation of Black Urban America, by Beryl Satter (Metropolitan, $30). A penetrating examination of financial discrimination. The most important book yet written on the black freedom struggle in the urban North. -- David J. Garrow

HALF THE SKY: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Knopf, $27.95). Opens our eyes to an enormous humanitarian issue and does so with exquisitely crafted prose and sensationally interesting material. This is one of the most important books I have ever reviewed. -- Carolyn See

POPS: A Life of Louis Armstrong, by Terry Teachout (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30). An exceptional biography of, in Teachout's lovely phrase, "a major-key artist." -- Louis Bayard

STITCHES: A Memoir, by David Small (Norton, $24.95). A shockingly candid illustrated memoir of one family's legacy of anger and repression and sadism. -- Michael Sims

A STRANGE EVENTFUL HISTORY: The Dramatic Lives of Ellen Terry, Henry Irving, and Their Remarkable Families, by Michael Holroyd (Farrar Straus Giroux, $40). A completely delicious and wickedly entertaining biography of Ellen Terry and Henry Irving, the queen and king of 19th-century English theater. -- Michael Dirda

Have other suggestions? If not, I will try to see how many I can read from this list and I'll report back.

*For more ideas, visit the complete list: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/artsandliving/features/2008/holiday-guide/gifts/best-books-of-2009/

Friday, December 11, 2009

Quickening


quick·en (kwkn)
v. quick·ened, quick·en·ing, quick·ens
v.tr.
1. To make more rapid; accelerate.
2. To make alive; vitalize.
3. To excite and stimulate; stir: Such stories quicken the imagination.
4. To make steeper.
v.intr.
1. To become more rapid. See Synonyms at speed.
2. To come or return to life: "And the weak spirit quickens" (T.S. Eliot).
3. To reach the stage of pregnancy when the fetus can be felt to move.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Ahh... quickening - those first fluttery moments when you are aware that there is life inside you. I had already seen her twice on the ultrasound, but it was so reassuring to feel her - like a butterfly or a bird lightly flapping its wings and tapping at the walls of its confinement.

The doctor said it was too early to feel anything. She was wrong. I felt the same movements under the same types of conditions and same time of day for weeks 14 to 20.

But now, the little one is growing stronger. Sometimes still a bird, but more often it feels like little popcorn kicks - pop, pop! pop, pop!

I am sure that there will be times when it is uncomfortable and painful, so for now, I'm just enjoying the knowledge that she is there, growing steadily.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Wishes, Dreams, Future and Past...



Ah, my birthday... how I love it so. Reconnecting with friends, spending time with loved ones, and feeling the love... so much love.

I woke up to this beautiful photo above, with the text attached:
____________________________________________________________
Hope your day has had a great start!

Here is a photo that I took in Barcelona, especially with you in mind. I saw the sculpture and thought of you. And I thought I could send it to you when you were with child. So here it is, birthday and mommy-dom, all in one this year.

So, they stand at the entrance to Palau Reial in Pedrables. No, you are not a queen. And the baby is a boy, I think. That cannot be helped. We didn't know then what we know now. But I like how they are having a long, very positive look out, at the world that lays ahead of them. This reminds me of you. In their case, it is a lush and green and gorgeous garden of serenity and calm. With a note of modernity, if you look for it. And the whole city sits just beyond.

So I wish you, for you birthday, a lush and green and calm world, that has the comforts of modernity and always a reminder to what has passed. Because what we have seen helps to make us who we are. And of all the people I know, you TOTALLY get that.

Have a great day! I miss you lots!
_________________________________________________________________
She captures so completely what this birthday feels like: the comforts of the future and the remembrance of the past. I am so hopeful and excited for our baby girl to be born, but I have a remarkably heavy heart. I knew that I would miss my grandmother - miss her lovely cards and the annual birthday check. But with the passing of my sister-in-law's mother just two days ago, a woman who was a fantastic grandmother to their 3 young children, I am both humbled by my good fortune of having my grandmother for so long, and the knowledge that our little one will -God Willing- have my parents for many years to come. So I will go forward into this year with hope, with the knowledge that our loved ones are so precious.

But I'm not here to bring this celebration down, I am here to express my gratitude to all of my friends for all the love. I love the love...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

BirdQueen told me to...

Reposted from my dear BirdQueen's site:
I really love her post about being grateful. I think it is so important to be grateful for what you have, even in the face of all the things you don't.

I am extremely grateful for so much.

First, I am so grateful that after 34 very long years of searching for a kind man, I finally found one that is so well-suited for me, and shockingly loves me as much as I love him. I know our lives are not perfect, but I can deal with anything if he is by my side.

I have a joke, that single women of any age need four things: 1) a phenomenal best friend or group of friends, 2) a dog or other source of affection and unconditional love, 3) a vibrator or some other source of pleasure, and 4) a masseuse or some other source of non-sexual touch. I feel extremely grateful that I have so many friends that can help me find these things - should I ever need them: 1) I have two amazing best friends 2) I have Ben and soon Sara to visit or borrow should I get depressed 3) I have Jeanette and you to guide me should I ever need help choosing a non-human aid of some variety and 4) For now, I have yoga, my husband, and a growing number of strangers touching me. I am very much looking forward to years of cuddling with the new little one in my life.

I am grateful I have a wonderful job that gives me a great sense of purpose and I hope I will figure out a way to continue to develop my intellect and my ambition in balance with my other interests and family life.

I have a wonderful extended family that reminds me of how far I have come or how far I have left to go - depending on the day. And that has been extremely supportive of me emotionally, financially, and intellectually.

And I have something else. Something that very few people realize they have. I have dozens of people all over the city that greet me, check in with how I am doing, and make my everydays more joyful. So to the doorman at the Four Seasons, the cashier at Starbucks, the cafeteria lady, my hairdresser, my priests, my mother's secretary, etc, etc: to all of you... thank you for caring for me. Thank you for asking about me. Thank you for being so nice and making my life better - a few minutes at a time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Status Update:

How I feel today:


I'm gonna take a half day off, and hope I feel better tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

All Heart.


My first ultrasound was at 7 weeks. The baby was so small you could really only see the heartbeat and hear the sound... swish, swish, swish.

That's my girl, all heart.

My next ultrasound was at almost twelve weeks. The baby was rocking and rolling - moving like crazy on the tide of amniotic fluid - a wave pool for the adventurer and she was hanging ten with the best of them - all long fingers and movement.

That's my girl, taking it all in stride.

The third ultrasound was at twenty weeks (just days ago). The baby was in her father's favorite sleeping pose, on her side with her hands on either side of her face. Moving away from the pressure to get more comfy, but without the acrobatics of the last time. She seems shy - she moves away from the sonar at the doctor's office, shimmies to the left when the ultrasound wand comes her way, and is very patient with her mother sloshing her this way and that during the many yoga poses she does nearly daily.

That's my girl, modest and patient.

If it all goes well, that's the last time I'll see her until the end - when they'll check to see if she's ready to come out and play. I miss her already.

Friday, November 20, 2009

For your reading pleasure... edited***

I'm sitting here in the office, wasting time until our Thanksgiving Staff party/luncheon. I brought rum balls from my grandmother's recipe.

But I'm also trying not to cry my eyes out at the sweet and sentimental stories here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/18/AR2009111803036.html

I love having the holidays put into perspective. Especially in a year that is fairly lean.

Hope you enjoy them too...

***The Rum Balls were a hit! I think more people talked about the Rum Balls than any other dish. And all of them were eaten! AND I think that if people eavesdropped, they would hear the words Rum Balls more often than Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Angel:

So at my wedding, my darling husband serenaded me to an old Swahili song called Malaika (My angel). His brother spontaneously harmonized and I dissolved into a puddle of mush. It was the most romantic and wonderful thing that anyone had ever done for me.

So with this in mind, I've decided that I need to learn to sing the song as a lullaby. Here are the words:

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Ningekuoa mali we, ningekuoa dada
Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika
Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika

Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Pesa zasumbua roho yangu
Nami nifanyeje, kijana mwenzio
Nashindwa na mali sina we Ningekuoa Malaika
Nashindwa na mali sina we Ningekuoa Malaika

Kidege, hukuwaza kidege
Kidege, hukuwaza kidege
Ningekuoa mali we, ningekuoa dada
Nashindwa na mali sina, we Ningekuoa Malaika
Nashindwa na mali sina, we Ningekuoa Malaika

Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Malaika, nakupenda Malaika
Ningekuoa mali we, ngekuoa dada
Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika
Nashindwa na mali sina we, Ningekuoa Malaika

Repetitive, but the words are kind of complex for me - more sophisticated than the words I usually use in swahili, like "would you like some tea" and "good night, husband." So I have some work to do.

Here is what the song means (without some of the repetition):
My angel, I love you, my angel
And I, your young lover,
What can I do?
Were I not defeated by lack of good fortune,
I would marry you, my angel.
Money is troubling my soul.
Little bird, I dream of you, little bird.
And I, your young lover,
What can I do?
If I were not defeated by lack of good fortune,
I would marry you.
My angel, I love you my angel...

I've been listening to Miriam Makeba sing it, but here is Angelique Kidjo singing it:


The meaning, reminds me of this song - which I love:

I do not look like this:


* blatantly stolen from undisclosed location somewhere on the internet.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Anniversary Alert!


There are funnier bloggers. Prettier bloggers. More dedicated bloggers. There are bloggers with amazing photography skills. There are bloggers with more people on their blog roles than I have in my email contacts - and I mean the gmail one that saves every email I have ever sent from that account.

Are you getting my drift?

I am not the best. Nor do I pretend to be.

But, this little blog of mine, well, it's 3 years old.

It's walking and talking, it can carry a tune - and it's beginning to have a mind of its own.

And I plan to continue writing. Because the last 3 years have been great. Sure, 450 posts in 3 years might not win me any consistency awards, but I have truly enjoyed the process and hope to have really good, meaningful things to say someday.

Will it morph into a pregnancy or mommy blog? - It might sometimes feel that way to those of you that are not engaged in either of those things, but I have always felt this was a place for me to explore things that are really important to me. So the sky is the limit.

Kisses to you all for hanging in there with me. Let's hope the next 3 years have just as many wonderful milestones as the last 3! And thanks for coming along for the ride.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Insults that are true:

Did you get dressed in the dark?!?

Why yes, I did.

The light bulb in our bedroom blew out first thing this morning. And in the bleak light of early morning, I could barely discern teal from purple. And forget the mangled mess of my tights - so I just went without.

The outfit? It could be worse. But it's not great.


What else am I in the dark about?

Swahili.

My wonderful sister in law brought presents upon presents for us last night- including several awesome swahili-english dictionaries and such. One really cute one has pictures for everything. So there will be a picture of a chicken, the word chicken and the word kuku. It's going to be very helpful.

But there were some peculiarities also. Like the picture of the Tiger, the word tiger and then the swahili phrase that translates to "Like a leopard, but from Asia and big."

Why not just put a picture of a leopard instead and skip the lesson about tigers altogether? Perhaps if someone asks about a tiger, say "we don't have them here." Questions like these will remain unanswered. Mysteries for all time.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Each One Tell One.

I have a major problem with telling people about major life events. I kept my very small wedding to myself and my family... only telling most people afterward. Now, I am finding it very difficult to tell people that I'm pregnant.

Not that I don't like talking to friends, reconnecting with them, or hearing about what's going on in their lives, but when it comes to big things... and right now big things growing under my sweater... I'm very tight lipped.

So. Here is my idea. Each person that reads this, tell one person. And have that person tell one person. And pretty soon everyone knows! Great! Because I am having trouble picking up the phone and telling people. Partially because I am still quite exhausted at the end of the day and partially because it feels so awkward to start a conversation, "So... I'm pregnant."

I am feeling good. The baby seems to be healthy. Charles and I are thrilled. There is no bad side. Well, literally there is, I am looking a little chunky in photos, especially directly forward-facing photos.

If I haven't told you this news yet, please don't be mad. Rest assured I love you as much as I have always loved you... my dear friends... I am just completely incapable of being a normal human being when it comes to public declarations. Please don't take it personally.

The baby is due in April. I am about halfway through.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I miss your face.

I was looking at my Facebook profile page today, and I realize that I created something like 4 photo albums this summer. In almost the same amount of time this fall, I have created exactly zero.

What happened?

Well, you see... the Fall and Spring semesters are SO much crazier than the summer months at the college, that I can barely keep up with the basics: food, laundry, dishes - let alone make plans with friends, remember to bring a camera, and find the time to upload the images afterwards.

Also - with my husband in school full-time while maintaining two jobs - it becomes increasingly more difficult to get us in the same room, at the same time - and awake. I am considering starting a "Sleep" album with pictures of us asleep - particularly cat-napping - which is a skill that we both are very good at.

But, with the big FIRST anniversary rapidly approaching on Sunday, I will try to get at least one picture of us posted - so everyone can be witness to our bliss (read: exhaustion).

And if you are one of the myriad folks that I usually see that I have not seen recently due to exhaustion and/or scheduling - rest assured, I miss your face.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Returning to the Fantasy.

So back in April of 2008, shortly after Charles whispered in my ear at 6am something about getting married, I wrote a story about how we met. The story was prompted by a fiction contest - which i did not win. Someone asked me today how we met, and I was reminded about this - so I'm reposting it. Our first anniversary is coming fast and it is so fun for me to read this and see how close I got to my fantasy.

The beginning is all true. I'll notate the end with the fiction:

I spent over one hundred thousand dollars on my top-shelf education, and all I can remember now are stories that make me interesting at cocktail parties. I cannot recall how to find the ratio of a triangle, I have at least temporarily forgotten the year that Queen Victoria took the throne, but I do remember the lyrical story of how Corot left England to vacation in Rome and was changed forever. It was something about the light.
Apparently, the same thing happened to American artists when they headed to the West. The intense light and open sky of the Southwestern United States changes your life. I searched and waited for that same kind of transformation - I waited over ten years after I left college, slowly becoming convinced that I might never find it. I tried Mexico, I tried Greece, and I tried Santa Fe. All are pretty places that I was happy to visit, but equally happy to leave. I was looking for a feeling of change and a place where I could settle - I covered several countries and nine states in search of it. I longed for a place that was different, and one that could hold my affections. I wanted bright and beautiful, with a full spectrum of emotions. I wanted the place I lived to be like life itself: overwhelming, chaotic, teeming with colors. And then I found Nairobi. (Okay so I've still not been, but the feeling of being part of my new family is close enough - until I can go that is.)
.....
All romantic transitions in my family happen in the same way, in a swirl of words. My parents met in the library of their graduate school. This library - a big, lofty cave of intellectuals - remains a spot where ethnicity, economic backgrounds, and race are leveled by education. A place where idealism is both encouraged and negated in long-winded prose, bound but uncovered in long, ordered rows.
My romantic story begins in similar but more vulgar fashion, the place so often touted as the modern equivalent to the library, in the local big-box bookseller. Here the words are coated with a capitalist sheen, and arranged by topic and appeal. Disneyland for bibliophiles, this store is not known as the place to locate a well-written treatise on 19th century French poets, but instead as a splashy stock-all for current events, fashion magazines, expensive coffee, and immediate entertainment. It is as if someone took that nice, old library out on the town and the collective cultural zeitgeist ended up spilling its strawberry-kiwi mojito all over that library’s sensible new dress.
I walked into the store and immediately noticed a very tall, handsome stranger on the second floor. In the whitewashed world of suburbia, tall, dark and handsome was a combination so extremely rare that I uncharacteristically found myself investigating. I loitered in the same section; following close enough behind to view his selections, but casually enough to not seem desperate. His selections showed someone worldly, with a wide range of influences, showing precisely the type of interests that I had hoped he would have. I briefly caught his eye, panicked, and booked a rather quick retreat, pausing long enough to purchase the item that I had been carrying in my hand.
I returned to the safety of the first floor, back to my usual quiet place - the biography section. Slowly I realized that by hiding in the far corner of the store, I was both wasting the courage I had just mustered and actively prohibiting the possibilities of the situation. I thought perhaps something miraculous could happen if I just gave a little nudge in my preferred direction, so I stationed myself approximately five paces to the left of the down escalator. I tried to appear completely engaged in some fluffy nonsense with the latest advice of some celebrity know-it-all while I waited to see what would happen. (Okay it was a cookbook, but whatever.) Only thirty seconds later, although feeling excruciatingly longer, the same tall gentleman lumbered up beside me and asked me what I bought.
Most of the next few minutes are left as a blur with the combination of fear, excitement and smugness at my ability to manipulate fate. As I recall, we talked of Kenya and he seemed surprised that I guessed he was from Nairobi. And at some point in those few minutes he told me of the loneliness he felt to now be trapped in a place where no one knew or cared about his home - the place that meant everything to him. I listened and walked him to his car. I was comfortable and it was easy to jokingly suggest to him that he become my Swahili teacher - and he left me with his email address.
The next romantic transition was again a mixture of words. We started by meeting at that same bookstore to talk about Swahili. First I practiced the Swahili words that were already part of my lexicon, courtesy of Kwanzaa and The Lion King. Then we moved on to simple greetings followed by short sentences. I found an online translator, and tried to surprise him with new phrases, never getting them quite right. This exchange of language led to the exchange of stories. The exchange of stories led to the exchange of emotions. The exchange of emotions led to the exchange of vows.
....
The drive from Nairobi to Kisumu is about five hours directly west, heading towards Lake Victoria. In front of me is only open road. But behind me is a crazy caravan of Range Rovers, convertibles, and one old-timey bus. His family and mine are intermingled in this cavalcade on our way to Seme for the dowry celebration. (So the preceding three sentences were all fiction, but the next few that follow are eerily close to what our wedding was actually like.)I am drunk with an elixir of mixed traditions. At our civil ceremony, I wore white and carried a bouquet. At the wedding, we had a chupah of flowers, but the priest was Episcopalian. We had a blessing by my husband's favorite Catholic priest in Nairobi, the one that taught him to play ping-pong and encouraged him to sing in the choir. Now, we are on our way to Nyanza, where my family will receive cattle as payment for their daughter, and a goat to signify the wedding ring. We have brought many presents to give to them and a number of mammoth suitcases of books for their tiny library. Even with all of this, I am tempted to add more blessings, more traditions, and even more fanfare. Not because I ever thought I was the type of woman that wanted all this attention, but because I am so excited to finally feel a love that preserves a sense of freedom and encourages a particular type of uncertainty.
---
The fiction of this story is the thought that the rest of our life will feel just like this moment in the sun. The wind in my hair, my brother at the wheel,(I don't have a brother, but the fiction contest had to refer to a picture - which had a man in it, so I had to come up with some dude) we are lucky we have not yet been stopped by the police, or by some group of young ne'r do wells with some kind of hustle foremost in their minds. At any moment there are possibilities for tension that words cannot relieve. The romance of it all could vanish. But for now, the open road gleams before us, looking almost, but not quite, solid. It's something about the light.

I'm back.

I have been sick for almost a week, but I am finally back at work. I might be a little grumpy... with all the sniffling and such I have been doing. But today, I've noticed a few things.

one: other sick people

I brought liquids, kleenex and hard-candies on the train to ensure that I would make it through without anyone near me feeling like I was spreading my germs. How was I rewarded? A woman behind me sneezed violently all over me. Yes, I could feel and smell it. EW.ew.Ew.

two: other tired people

I know that I am extremely tired. I had to catch the early train to compile some info for my boss. But there was a man in the quiet car this morning that was snooring so loudly that I could not nap myself. People moved seats - this was like sleep apnea stuff - not pleasant.

three: work is hard

I have a busy job and even though my sickness fortunately coincided with Fall Break, I still had over 200 emails in my inbox this morning. I will not finish the work that they contained today. I might not even finish this week. It is daunting.

four: afternoon naps are fun

How will I live without my nap today? I just don't know how to get through without that sweet little 3-hour snooze. Sheesh - I need a recliner in my office.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Portrait: Google Earth



My husband sent me this Google Earth image of the area of Nairobi where he grew up. I am SO intrigued by it.

I have been fantasizing about being able to zoom in and somehow being transported into the past. In my mind, I get to meet his parents, see him as a baby, and watch the school children play. I get to see how he met his dearest friends from primary school. I get to watch his sisters grow up into the wonderful, established women that they are. I get to meet his aunt and uncle when they were young. And watch his life unfold.

Maybe everyone else just sees geometric lines indicating buildings and roads, but I see the place that nurtured everyone that I love so much - my new family.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vocab


I have been loving reading the books of Anne Fadiman. Ex Libris was amazing and I'm happily slogging through the dense, but fascinating The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.

I love the way she writes, because it keeps me on my toes. Like for the last 20 pages, all I can think is "...why does she keep using the phrase polygyny instead of polygamy? I need to look up the difference."

As I suspected, Polygyny is the act of having more than one wife and Polygamy is the act of having more than one spouse.

I am certain that Anne Fadiman choose the word Polygyny simply for it's clarity. The Hmong people that she is studying do not have more than one spouse, the men often take more than one wife. I am certain that linguistic clarity is an admirable trait. Something that I am sure she strives for. Much like not ending sentences with prepositions, something that I pledge to work on.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Everything Old is New Again.

The way in which I got married was not exactly the stuff of Hollywood. There was no scoreboard at halftime, no rose petals in my apartment, no fancy dinner full of tears and endless descriptions of the love we had found.

There was me. There was him. And that was enough.

There were discussions for over a year. There was exactly one decision made during all those discussions: we loved each other and we wanted to be together.

So whether you count the 6am whisper into my sleeping ear of "we should really get married" or the Xanax-induced decision of a feasible plan as the real moment of our engagement, one thing is true of both moments: there was no ring.

And honestly, I didn't want one.

I hated the idea of us using money we didn't have. I hated the idea of someone potentially suffering for days and months while mining the stone for said ring. I didn't need something to prove what we have. I live it. I love it. I trust it.

BUT.

And it's a big butt. I mean a big BUT.

This month, we had another ring made, from some small diamonds that I had in a necklace and ring from my maternal grandmother. And I LOVE it. It's not flashy, but it does feel more substantial. AND I LOVE IT.

Instead of sitting around in a safe deposit box, those tiny sparklers are now going to be worn. After nearly 30 years of waiting for their chance to shine, I have found a way for them to be useful again!

When I look at it, I think of my grandmother and my sweet husband. A lady who wanted me to have beautiful things and a man who wants me to be happy. And I can assure the world that I am both: a woman who owns beautiful things and one who is extremely happy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Mourning.

Last night, I stepped out of my car and my flip flop broke.

My bronze Reefs... my favorites. The ones that they don't make anymore. The ones I wear almost everyday from April to October.

I smell sabotage. Or something equally foul.

I know two friends that will be happy to read this: one that hates feet in general and would like them to be covered, and one that hates that women wear flip flops to work.

I know it's time to upgrade. I know I need to move to a more seasonally appropriate shoe, and I even know that those flops probably contributed significantly to my plantar fasciitis two years ago, but I'm still upset, still sad.

Very, very sad. RIP dear flops. RIP.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I want my MTV.

I know that I wasn't the only person over the age of 30 watching the VMAs, since Madonna and Janet Jackson were both there, but I bet the number of us watching was about 12, so I'll give you a little recap.

First, Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift's acceptance speech to say that Beyonce should have won. He is on drugs.

Second, Pink's performance was amazing. If you've ever heard of YouTube, go there and watch it.

Third, Beyonce won "best video" at the end of the night and handed over her time to Taylor Swift, proving that you can rise above those that you associate with and save face for everyone.

Fourth, Jay Z and Alicia Keys also had a WONDERFUL performance, but why did Lil' Mama jump on stage at the end? I was listening carefully, and at no time did the song mention lip gloss, so why did she feel the need to act like she had some part in it? She is on drugs.

Finally, here is my admission of being too old to watch the VMAs: who the hell is Russell Brand? Why is he famous? And was it my imagination or did he imply that Katy Perry is a ho?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Place for Us.

One of the pleasant surprises of my courtship with my husband was finding out how religious he is. He was an altar boy, a friend to many visiting priests, and the dutiful son to a woman who was most often photographed holding her Bible. While for many people, finding a man with a healthy religious appetite might be a problem - a deterrent, for me I felt relieved. Especially relieved when I realized that he still believed that people need to live their lives, take care of themselves and their families, and not hold so tightly to religious dogma that they end up hurting people even more.

"Finally!" I thought. "Someone that might understand me and might not be totally overwhelmed by my parents."

So I still get excited when he wanders in on Sunday morning to my still slumbering lump-of-a-body and asks if I want to go to church. I'm usually up in an instant and we're out the door and on our way!

I've written before about the transition for me about getting used to the subtle differences between Episcopal services and Catholic services, but boy do I have a story to tell from Sunday.

First, the homily was about the late Senator Ted Kennedy, a controversial figure, sure, but one that championed equality, civil rights, and a more level playing ground for all - economically, socially - in health care, in schools, and in society in general. Perhaps he was not someone that I would raise to the level of a "hero" but certainly he did good things for people throughout his career, and I admire him for that.

Back to the homily. So the priest suggested that the Catholic church made a major misstep by not highlighting the fact that Senator Kennedy was pro-abortion during the funeral. I was offended. First, by the terminology: Pro-choice does not mean Pro-abortion. Second, how rude to speak ill, and potentially slander, the recently deceased, and third, the priest admitted that he did not even watch all the coverage of the event.

Blood boiling... must calm down and not shout down the good Father.

Then, to add insult to injury, during the sign of Peace - the part of the service where the congregation greets one another and says "Peace be with you" - perhaps my favorite action in all of Christian liturgy, the man next to me would not shake my hand. He crossed his arms and shook his head. If he had not been greeting the other ushers earlier in the service, then I might think he had a cold or something, but no... he made no mention of any sickness, went up for communion and drank from the chalice like everyone else.

So then why was I rebuffed?

Well, Charles happens to be the only non-white person in the congregation. He says he doesn't even try to shake people's hands anymore. Sad. Sad. Sad.

I'm glad that I openly kissed him and held his hand during the service. I love having a partner who shares my faith. From now on though, I will be trying to convince him to switch to another church - one that perhaps is more diverse.

One thing I know for sure. Later in the day, we were watching West Side Story and when the song Somewhere came on, I could not keep from tearing up. Excuse me while I launch this post firmly into the realm of melodrama by reposting the lyrics:

There's a place for us,
Somewhere a place for us.
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
Somewhere.

There's a time for us,
Some day a time for us,
Time together with time spare,
Time to learn, time to care,
Some day!

Somewhere.
We'll find a new way of living,
We'll find a way of forgiving
Somewhere . . .

There's a place for us,
A time and place for us.
Hold my hand and we're halfway there.
Hold my hand and I'll take you there
Somehow,
Some day,
Somewhere!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Sometimes crazy is closer to evil.

**
This morning on the train, a disabled man that often rides the train had his daughter with him. A sweet-looking young girl of about 10 or 11, who is also in a wheelchair.

My usual spot is right where the man normally sits, so I offered to move. The man cheerfully said "I only worry about your toes if you don't!" So I happily scooted to the seat right behind them.

Because the designated area is woefully inadequate on the outdated SEPTA trains, the man's daughter partially blocked the aisle. There were still about 3 feet to pass her though.

Most passengers just scooted by, like I did, took their seats and were fine. One evil woman audibly "hrmph"ed as she passed and made a nasty face at the girl and her father.

I must say, in a city where accessibility is sub-par already. Where disabled people are excluded from most restaurants because of stairs or high curbs, most accessible entrances to cultural institutions are through the parking garages, and until recently not even the sidewalks could be counted on to have the appropriate ramps, I am shocked that there is ALSO this lack of patience for disabled folks!

My God woman, all you had to do was TURN YOUR BODY - that was the extent of the inconvenience - not even a second added to your day.

While the disabled populations still struggle to gain accessibility to common everyday businesses and institutions. (Even the office that deals with disabled students at a local college has three flights of stairs as a barrier between them and the students they serve. Instead, they meet students in the lobby or in the courtyard.)

C'mon people, we can do better than this. Especially when over 50 million people in the US have some sort of disability - and over 10% of the population has a severe disability. But apparently we don't care about minorities of any kind in this country - WE SIMPLY CANNOT keep this attitude, it's as if we are saying: don't have health care, too bad for you, can't get to work because your office is not accessible, your problem not mine, your children are not successful in school because the school is underfunded and sub par, maybe you should have sent them to private school.

Well, I don't agree. I make less than nearly everyone reading this, I promise you. But I still say: Tax the hell out of me, if it means that disabled people can work and live full and interesting lives, poor people have the chance to live and be healthy, and children of all races, economic levels, and geographic areas have the access to education.

And if I see that lady who "hrumph"ed... she better watch out. I'm feeling feisty!

*PS... yesterday I saw an actual sign that said "Caution: Handicapped in area" - couldn't we be a little more PC in our sign-printing while we're at it.

Monday, August 31, 2009

It's not all crazy ladies.

I'm never a fan of when people are overly negative about their pretty fantastic lives. Roof over your head, nice partner, food on your table, then you probably don't need to complain quite as much as you do. (Myself included)

I know everyone has a half dozen friends that simply cannot be grateful for their lives. Their facebook status, their emails to you, even dinners out at nice restaurants can quickly devolve into Bitchfest 2009 with no intermission.

While I do believe that it's "better out than in" and that everyone needs to vent, I do tire of overly negative people lamenting every hangnail and sour glance they get in their lives. What's odd is that most people I know that are truly in crisis, they are pretty nonchalant about it... just putting one foot in front of the other.

That was a long-winded way to say, I'm about to complain...

First to give you some back story:

About 6 months ago, I had some friends over for a nice Kenyan lunch. After lunch they were quite nearly asleep on the sofas, when there came a horrific sound from the hallway. The woman across the hall appeared to be trying to kick her door in. Now, I knew that she had a long-standing feud with the little old lady next door, but I had never experienced this level of outburst before. So... kick, kick, kick... and then quiet.

About 30 seconds later, she came and tried our doorknob, then knocked on the door. Yes, you read that in the right sequence, she TRIED OUR DOORKNOB, and THEN knocked.

I looked at my terrified friends, mumbled "you've got my back, right" - and watched their looks escalate in their degree of fear, and then opened the door anyway...

Well, she only needed to use my phone to call the police. Did you know that you can call 911 to have the police come and unlock your door? Well, now you do.

So, fast-forward to last night. I am semi-comatose on the sofa around 8:30pm. I hear someone try the doorknob, and thought it was Charles. Now my husband actually HAS a key to our house, so I don't know why I thought it was him. Eventually I realized it must be someone else, maybe my brother or sister-in-law.

I looked out of my peephole and there stood my crazy neighbor with her head resting against the door.

Most of the conversation that we had through the door was unintelligible. I know I said "Who is it?" - "This is not a good time right now" - and "What can I help you with?" What she said is a mystery, but the semi-evil look on her face through the peephole was not fun and made me respond by quietly sliding the chain on the door.

By the way, did I mention that she tried the doorknob first! Who does that?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A nice walk on a late summer day.



Last night, I was walking with two former students of mine that came to visit me. We were talking about their lives and loves. And they were asking about mine.

I was telling them about my husband something like...

"Well, his sister was coming from Kenya..."

Suddenly the woman walking in front of us whipped around, held her bag up in the air like she was going to punch me in the face with it, and screamed...

"Did you say my name? Are you talking about me with these bitches?"

I jumped back to avoid the blow and said...

"No! I didn't say your name."

She put her arm down and said...

"Oh."

and walked away.

Sheesh. So I tried to compose myself and go back to the conversation. We sat in the park and chatted for another half hour or so, and then my students said...

"Sorry, you were assaulted during our reunion. Do we need to escort you to the train station?"

I was fine. But I did notice that slightly crazy people seem exponentially more threatening after you've narrowly escaped being punched in the face.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Hit the ground running.



Like my handy photo work? Fancy, right?

Well, I didn't feel like getting a usage release from the others in the photo, so there you go... now you can only really see me. And my Cheshire-cat of a husband.

But so see how the picture makes it look like we are all disolving? That's what I feel like, I took my vacation too late in the summer... too close to the start of classes, and now all my relaxation and fun is dissolving too soon.

I guess that everyone suffers from this, but I usually avoid it by not taking long vacations. I miss the freedom. I miss the lack of stupid drama. I miss taking naps in the afternoon and doing fun, active things with my husband.

... oh the poor man... he is going to suffer from the same thing... BIG TIME... but not until next week, when he starts back to the jobs AND school. I best go home and be nice to him... encourage him to be lazy while he has the chance.

That's my plan for the evening. Help my husband be lazy.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ah Vacations...

So you may be asking yourself, what did I do on my vacation?

I found a tree with a face - (attn. Gina... there are two in the world)


I went kayaking and swimming in a lovely, warm lake in Maine, 10 yards from the house we stayed at... complete isolation: no internet, no tv, no other people!


I drove! My driving anxiety is much better. I drove over bridges and on highways, in traffic, in cities, and on crazy curvy roads in the pitch-black darkness.


I saw my sweet nephew and his sweet parents.


And I became negligent with sunscreen application (thus the hiding under this sweatshirt at the soccer game.)

Friday, August 7, 2009

On Vacation...

Please return to find stories of the trip next Tuesday.

Emergency contact people are: my boss, Banjo Baby, my maid of honor, and my sister-in-law.

Surely you know one of them.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Adopt-a-pig



I have adopted this little guy and he now sits in my office. I'll be collecting money in him to send off to little kids with cancer. For more info on the program, visit: (www.adoptapig.org)

One step at a time.

I am wearing my new pedometer today. So far, I've walked 3,861 out of my required 10,000 steps - and it's only 10:30am!

The problem is that I sit at a desk all day. No steps are taken. We'll see how I do, I have a few things I have to walk to: the gym, the drugstore to pick up my prescription, lunch, and the train.

But if anyone I work with wants to call me for an impromptu "meeting" in your office, that would be great... every step counts.

I also have new shoes - a gift from my husband. I love him!

****Update****
3:44pm: 5,114 steps. Only halfway! I may be pacing back and forth in the apartment tonight to get my required steps in!

************2nd Update***********************
9:15pm: 12,757 steps. That translates to: 8.3 km, and 572.6 calories - and I didn't even wear it during my gym workout!

So where did I walk?
- To and from the train station
- To and from the drugstore
- To and from the burrito place.

That is it! I didn't even go anywhere special. This is totally doable.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Ode to Gina

For the last year, my college friend Gina, her husband, and her daughter and son have been living here in Bryn Mawr. They leave to return to San Diego in just a few days, and I am very sad to see them go!

When Gina moved here, we started one of the most depressing and shortest-lived book clubs of all time. We started by reading "Age of Iron" - an apartheid era novel about a terminally ill woman, we moved onto "The Bookseller of Kabul" - an expose of sorts about women's lives in Afghanistan, and we stopped just shy of discussing "Mercy" the new Toni Morrison book about 19th Century slavery. I wonder why no one (including us) wanted to join our book club? I know she's going to be excited to return to her military-wives book club in San Diego and return to reading normal books again - or at least ones that do not require the reader to be on a therapeutic dose of a mood elevator.

We had dinner with friends occasionally too, but the real jewel of her time here was our Friday night "dates." Now Thursday nights are my "date night" with my husband, so initially I felt bad introducing competition in calling it a "date", but it was also so nice to have a day that we planned to see each other, even if it was more often every other week.

In the process of our Friday evenings together, I got to spend quite a bit of time with her brilliant, adorable, and talented children. I loved seeing her and her husband with them - a united front, but equal parts playful and structured. Her daughter is creative and sweet. She is friendly and precocious with an enviable imagination. Like the first time I spent the whole evening there - when she did a dramatic interpretation of the life cycle of a butterfly - or last night when she drew just about the best horse I could ever imagine a 3.5 year old drawing. And her sweet son is like this tiny silent bumper car of smiles... ricocheting off furniture, finding his way into new and ever-more dangerous places, but with a full-body grin that makes you want to just ease him to a new venture without scolding.

Spending time with them has provided me with a parental model I really want to emulate: equal parts books and playing, fun not only in the messing up of things but in the picking up too, and an omnipresent consistency that allows the children to relax into the routine - comforted in knowing what is going to happen, regardless of whether it is mom or dad who is actually doing the routine.

I know it's not easy for them, but this is truly a beautiful family - inside and out. And I am grateful to them for welcoming me into their lives so openly.

...And I am going to miss them terribly.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Magic number: 10,000

I am in the process of reading Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers right now. There is something about the way that he slowly begins to beat you over the head with his thesis that leaves me slightly annoyed and wanting to disprove him.

That small detail aside, there are already a few interesting things in the book (I'm only 50 pages in). The first chapter is COMPELLING and really makes you think this book will change the way you view life in general. The rest, eh?

But one concept he talks about in great detail is the rule of 10,000 hours. Basically, if you want to be great at anything, you need to have spent about 10,000 hours practicing doing it. Talent is an empty ideal - time spent doing things is the real measure of success.

This is a very interesting concept, and one that I quite believe to be true. In my job, I watch women struggle with reaching their goals and making changes to their lives, and the ones that seem to succeed are the ones that put alot of time and energy into the whole process. They are the same folks that would have practiced their piano or written every night in their diary. They do NOT give up. They just keep plugging away at things, until they reach their goals.

So, how much time do I really spend on reaching my goals? Good question. I am quick to let distractions derail me, and I think this book will reinvigorate a sense of discipline! Let's hope at least.

Now the other 10,000 - steps. My acupuncturist, the sweet woman, would like me to lose 20 pounds. Easy for her to say! But I have slowly started working on increasing the intensity of my workouts and making sure I don't take any days off. So far it's working. We'll see tonight when I weigh myself again. But in addition to my normal workouts, I am going to try to ensure I get the recommended 10,000 steps in everyday. My darling Miss Maria is going to give me a pedometer! Yeah!

So there you go... 10,000 hours and steps... my two new goals.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Randomness...

It's summer and I cannot be expected to think or write in any structured fashion. Spelling for example is falling by the wayside. But I still have things to say.

Like for example: How would the demographics of those people that are executed change if we started applying the death penalty for company officials that are found guilty of bribery? Seems like the number of people executed in Texas would actually go up.

That's a joke... sort of.

Now, also on my mind are things like flip-flops. Like how I want to stop wearing the ratty ones I own, but I cannot bring myself to buy a new pair of shoes to replace them. So instead, I look cute from the ankles up and trashy in the foot department. For gosh sakes, I don't even have toe-nail polish on right now. That hasn't happened in the summer since 1995.

Other items on my mind:
- Why does it seems strange to me that Tony Blair is going to head up the EU?
- Why am I tanaphobic? Both afraid to get more color on my skin and afraid of overly tanned people.
- Why can't I form coherent thoughts when the mercury rises above 85 degrees?
- Why can I drink a glass of water and feel like the room just cooled down by 5 or 10 degrees?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

How Facebook killed my blog.

I have slipped into this summer haze... it's not that I'm not busy or doing things, but more like I have no interest in expending the energy to talk about them.

So hang tight... maybe I'll have things to post this week.

I get my haircut tomorrow. That's exciting.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A nice weekend to make up for that last week:

Oh what a nice three-day weekend I had: hiking, a nightclub outing, and a marathon, co-ed baby shower (I ate two pieces of cake in a 12 hour period - that's more cake than in the last three months!).

It was great. I think most people have access to my facebook page, where the photos of this lovely weekend reside.

Now, three days of work then a FOUR DAY weekend. What do I have to complain about? Nothing. Not a single thing!

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Open Letter to the Week from Hell:



Let's recap:

There was a horrible Metro crash in which 9 people died.

Uncle Chuck died.

Farrah Fawcett died.

Michael Jackson died.

Mark Planisek, A former colleague was hit by a car and died.

I think that's enough death and destruction for awhile, okay?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The part where Farrah Fawcett and my Uncle Chuck go skipping off to heaven...


So you know how old people who love each other die around the same time? Well, my uncle Chuck, my grandmother's companion for the last 15 years, died this week - Just six weeks after her. I think it's sweet, and I am SO happy that he is not in pain anymore. He had been in chronic pain for over a decade, rallying mightily at my grandmother's funeral, but I'm still glad he has peace now.

Now me? Peace is not exactly the right phrase. I think this is coming right at the moment that I hit the "Anger" phase of my grief process, so I'm feeling quite a hefty dose of righteous indignation about having to stand up for their relationship during the planning of my Grandmother's funeral. (good girls don't talk about such things, I know, and while I hope I don't hurt anyone that reads this by talking about such matters here, this blog is mine, and I need to be able to write what I feel, or else make it private because these things aren't doing me any favors holed up in the deep recesses of my bowels, threatening to chew their way out. And yes, I know that was a run-on sentence, if you don't like it, you can just run-on outta here.)

...I'm really glad I did stand up for what I thought was right though, and that I got to see Chuck one last time a few weeks ago, sit next to him during the service, and feel good about all the wonderful times in the last 15 years that I saw him, spent time talking to him, and that I always was able to see beyond my grief at the loss of my grandfather to see him for what he was: a terribly flawed man that needed help, but that treated love like a base jump off the Sears Tower.

I can just see him grabbing Farrah's hand and saying, "follow me, 'darlin, I'll introduce you to some folks!"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Torn.

All last night I was planning a post today that would be called "What happens when your workout buddy goes to fat camp without you?"

But this morning I saw the reports of the terrible crash on the Metro in Washington. It occurred during rush hour last night and already 7 people have died. The crash was right outside my old Tacoma Park Metro station.

The photos are jarring. The stories harrowing. My heart goes out to everyone that lost loved ones in this terrible crash - and to those that are wounded - and even to those that have to figure out a new way to try to navigate that already over-taxed transit system in Washington.

So that's where my thoughts are today. You'll have to wait a couple of days for that other post, I guess.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I'm on vacation

So, my suggestion is that you goof off, put your feet up, do some online shopping, or take a sick day or two until I get back.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer blahs already?



Oh summer, how I love and loathe you all at the same time.

But I wonder how I can feel stressed and bored simultaneously.

Maybe it's because I don't have any weddings to go to this year - they were all weirdly compacted into last year.

I'll try to come up with something more interesting during vacation part one: beginning FRIDAY!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My Gwyneth Paltrow Impression...edited!

This is me:

This is Gwyneth:


So I've been going to an acupuncturist - something I have done on and off for years, and this one also does cupping, a special treatment to relieve congestion at certain acupuncture/acupressure points.

At first it feels like you are being vacuum-sealed for freshness. Then it starts to feel like you poured Elmer's glue all over your back. Then you start to feel the muscles in the region relax and there is great comfort after that. Much like when you press on a pressure point and at first you feel pain, but then you feel the muscles associated with that spot release.

It was pretty cool.

What will Charles say? My prediction: "My wife is polka-dotted."

Edited to include ACTUAL HUSBAND REACTION: "My wife looks like a pepperoni pizza"

How to build community.



I found this through a long list of things, but I think it originated here:
http://www.pinkofperfection.com/2009/05/how-to-build-community/

Friday, May 29, 2009

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Nap-a-thon coming to a close.



With all the activity and stress of the last few weeks, I really needed some recovery time - and boy did I get it!

Average schedule in the last four days:
8am: Wake up
3pm-5pm: Nap
11pm: Bedtime

Add that up and you'll see that I got about 11 hours of sleep everyday. It was magical. Glorious. And best of all, I had nearly every meal with my husband and spent many hours laughing, doing fun things, and relaxing and being happy.

Awesome weekend.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

From one hero to another.


Little known fact about me, that even I forget: my hair did not get curly until I hit puberty. Did you know that hormones can mutate your hair folicles? Well now you do.

On our way back from the airport this afternoon, my sweet husband and I were talking about our respective trips: mine to my grandmother's funeral and his to his dear friend's graduation.

I told him about spending time with my family - how nice it was to be together and how great it was to be able to be together, laugh together and cry together. I adore them and feel such gratitude for their constant support and love. I feel much less raw than in the last post, much more at peace, having given a very sweet woman a very sweet send-off. With much respect and love.

So Charles had a similar weekend - the same joy of sharing the nostagia of childhood and the same happiness of being with people who love and adore you.

ONE EXCEPTION: he met someone FAMOUS.

He was telling me about meeting all these wonderful people doing good work in Public Health - which is what his friend will be doing with his new fancy degree. He mentioned meeting someone from the Harvard School of Public Health. I mentioned that my uncle just graduated from there. He said, "Well, you should ask your uncle if he knows Paul Farmer."

PAUL FARMER. PAUL FARMER.

I nearly fainted. Good thing he was driving.

I sputtered off an explanation of how amazing the work he has done is. At his remarkable drive to heal people that most people do not care about. At how I feel he is so similar to my own remarkable aunt and uncle - and their continued commitment to the field of medicine. Model doctors. Model world citizens.

I made him drive me to the bookstore to buy a copy of Mountains beyond mountains for him to read - so he could be impressed by the sweet guy, who just happens to be a trustee at his friends new alma matar, and who now knows him as "Charlie Chaplain."

Gosh, I love my husband. Although I did joke with him that he was the worst husband in the world for not taking me with him. Just jokes - he's the best in my book.

So I left one hero back in Michigan to be greeted with storie of another. Unbelievable.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

M cubed.

It's late and I should be packing for a funeral. But instead, I want to try to return to the time, back 400 posts ago, when no one read this blog. When I could write whatever I wanted without the knowledge that I would have to be comfortable talking about it in the future, back when it was like a tree falling in the forest when no one was around...

... I'm gonna keep writing, but I don't want to talk about it.

First, I hate the feeling that I have to go to work tomorrow. That because the woman that passed was old, that I should be able to keep my shit together. Well, I just don't know if that's true. And I'm not sure I want it to be.

I've been feeling - since my last visit with her - that she was profoundly underestimated her whole life. That she was dismissed too often by all of us. That we did not value her to the extent we should have. I want to delete that sentence to protect myself from it, but I'm not going to.

I didn't learn to make her pie crust. I don't remember which flowers you snap the heads off of and which you let dry out. If I write her maiden name right now, will I mispell it? How many sisters did she have, 5?

She worked so hard to love us all. She worked so hard all the time to make a house a home. To make the simple delicious. To make us happy.

And she was there. She saw me. She noticed me. She wouldn't let me fade into the woodwork, instead she kept me close and had me help. And in helping her, I learned something different.

Some people you miss because they told good jokes or because they had wise words or because they were important with a capital "I". I will miss watching her hands peel apples at the speed of light. I will miss long walks, swimming classes, and puzzles. I will miss her teaching me to enjoy the subtle parts of life.

Why do I know that her Buick salesman was named Al Hugly, but I don't know her mother's first name? Why do I know how much she loved her neighbor Kermit, but I don't know how she felt about her sister Jane? I can tell you the exact layout of her garden: first tulip and daffodil bulbs along the deck, then petunias when they fade, Tiger lilies in a bunch around the birdfeeder, honeysuckle around the back of the house. Divide the bulbs when they get too close together, pinch the petunias but not the tigerlilies, scare the squirrels away, but not the finches and the humming birds.

Pick strawberries in June. Pick blueberries in July. Pick cherries in august. Pick apples in september. Dust the tables before you vacuum. Fold the clothes before they wrinkle. Keep everything and discover the use for it later. Love your husband.

This must sound like nonsense, but this is the limit of language. These are the only words that convey what I want to remember.

I want to delete this post. I want to keep this personal. I don't want to talk about it. I should not be writing right now.

"My grandmother died" sounds so lame. Like an excuse to sleep in. Where is the weight? Where is the pain? What sentence does that live in? Where is my protective cloak to get me through the day tomorrow? My bubble? My shield?

You probably won't get to read this. It will probably just sit in my drafts folder until I delete it. Until the pain fades. Too bad. You may never know how to wind a cuckoo clock. You may forget the comfort of too many figurines in a display case. You might not get to drink your coffee out of a happy-face mug, or steal some cookies from the industrial-sized margarine tub. You might forget to add the boric acid when you are pickling. You might not figure out the perfect placement of a family photo. You might not get a check on your birthday.

Next on news at 11... a local woman falls into hysterics as she realizes that she will no longer receive a check on her birthday. Paramedics responded to the scene, but the woman could not be consoled, until she caught sight of an elderly woman powerwalking in beige pants and walked away mumbling what sounded like a shopping list for the produce section. She is not considered dangerous, and it is reported that she can be lulled into a submissive state by the ticking of a large clock, but only if she is also wrapped in a large, hand-knitted afghan and a given a homemade peanut butter cookie.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Sleeping is beautiful



I had a terrible migraine last night, so I came home from work and went straight to bed. Five hours later, I woke up briefly to talk to my husband and return some messages, but then was back asleep for six more hours.

Boy, am I feeling good today. Sleeping is quite magical, isn't it?

I did have one terrible dream about a baby drowning, but I will blame that on the migraine.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Revoking Citizenship and Radio Silence


Ah... the Spring - when students begin to crumple under the weight of their load, and Kleenex crumple under the weight of the pollen in the air.

I am a bad friend, a bad blogger, and numerous other things in the Spring. My responsibilities more than double, and I feel the pressure nearly 24 hours a day. It's beginning to wain, and I am feeling decidedly more optimistic about life in general.

Now, that being said, I am about to say something so blasphemous that I am certain that I will be deported from the great state of Pennsylvania immediately. I am kind of glad that THIS THING is happening (click on that link).

I am always sad to see museums deaccession works, but not in this case. I am not a Wyeth fan. Never have been. I don't understand the never ending hype about him. And here in PA, it's seriously never ending.

Oh no, they are here... handcuffs and leg-irons in hand, ready to take me off to another state, or maybe even will send me out of the country. Has Guantanamo officially closed? I hope I am not their last official prisoner... but I fear I may not be so lucky.

Warn your children... the first amendment does not extend to revered and overly exhibited painters! Save yourselves... keep quiet! Yes, I'm talking to you over there... the one about to say something bad about American Gothic or Norman Rockwell... DO NOT DO IT! It willl beeeee bread and water for yoooouuuu.....

Silence.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Quiz about what you want to be when you grow up:

Today on MSN Careers, there was a quiz to help you figure out what you want to be when you grow up.

Most of my responses were in the area that identified me as:
Your ideal career is probably creative. Possible career choices include: writer, photographer, musician, interior decorator, graphic artist, fashion designer. Of course there are many more careers to choose from, but knowing your preferred type can help you narrow down the choices.

But quite a number of my responses told me that:
Your ideal career probably involves working with people. According to Human Resources Development Canada’s National Occupation Classification, these careers may involve: mentoring, negotiating, instructing, consulting, supervising, persuading, speaking, serving or assisting. Possible career choices include: teacher, human resources, flight attendant, life coach, daycare worker, personal assistant.

This is quite on the mark for a woman that does professional development for artists and designers, that had a lovely career in 3D fine arts, but who writes in her spare time. Quite right.

Wondering what you want to be when you grow up? Take the quiz HERE.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

How to describe Philadelphia:


There is silly string on the Holocaust Memorial.
That's Philadelphia for you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Ugly side of Facebook

Yesterday, my darling husband posted a photo of me on Facebook that I think is very unflattering. Here it is:


I think I look like a crazed maniac. I am worried my sister-in-law will stop trusting me to play with her adorable children. Am I wrong?

I prefer for the Internet to see me looking like this:


Calm, happy, with hair in place and makeup on - eating some cake. And don't we all love some cake. (Right Bo? Cue gratuitious nephew photo here)




So if you are comfortable with a little remote mind-control, I encourage you to gaze at the second picture and think fondly of me. Maybe say a little "Om" or other mantra. Go to your happy place. And let's forget that other picture ever existed.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Preserving Language

In my sophomore year at Johns Hopkins, my french teacher gave us an oral examination on a well-known piece of literature. I performed fine. I understood her questions and I answered them. But my grammar and diction were flawed to her native ear. She suggested I let my french minor go. In her estimation, I would never speak well enough to do anything with it. And I was crushed.

It was a tide shift. Until that moment I was slowly adding knowledge of the language and grammar every day and every year that I studied it. That was the moment when I let it go and the words and structure of that beautiful language began to seep out. I can still do alright, but I now struggle and not just with the subjunctive tense.

So it was with great interest that I read THIS ARTICLE about languages that are no longer spoken.

Today, on St. Patrick's Day, Irish is one that is in the forefront of most people's mind. Spoken by less that 30,000 people, this language could be lost in one or two more generations.

This is a subject growing increasingly closer to my heart, not just because I love languages, but because I worry that I will not do enough to ensure that my children will be fluent in their father's language. Luo is less in danger than Irish - over 3 million people still speak it. It is still the primary first language of that ethnic group.

But, I wonder, does Barack Obama speak Luo? Probably not, or not much. He is more likely to speak Hawaiian - another endangered language - spoken by only 0.1% of the population of the Hawaiian islands.

The idea of linguistic and cultural preservation is one that is important to me. People need to know where they come from. The need to be able to communicate with their relatives. I know I am not a good example: I did not pay attention when our grandfather tried to teach us Hebrew and German. I think we had only a few lessons before he realized we might be hopeless - and instead helped us learn about a myriad of different cultures - and instilled in all of us the love of learning.

So with all this in mind, I will go forth to try again to learn Swahili and Luo. Ero kamano to all my teachers. I know I am a lazy student - if only you could have commiserated with my grandfather - he would have told you that I am more interested in swimming, reading, and eating lovely treats than I am in working hard on something that can be put off. Luckily, I now understand that sometimes you put things off so long that you miss an opportunity. Like how wonderful it would be to speak with your grandfather in his native tongue - to learn his accent instead of ridiculing it. That would have been so nice for him.