Thursday, May 21, 2015

That's how we do it in my family Part One

Life is the damndest thing.  I haven't disappeared from the blog solely because I'm busy.  I've disappeared partly because things have gotten hard and I've got things to figure out and not just normal everyday things like "how can I make this food I just ordered look homemade for our company."

I wish I'd made some progress but so far the "figuring out" part has involved staring into space and wasting a lot of time.

and watching my daughter kick ass
on her all-boy tee-ball team


So I've started seeing a therapist.  I've never been to therapy before.  My friends are loaded with therapists; I think some of them have a separate therapist for each of their problems. They were always shocked to hear I'd never been to one, a reaction I found vaguely insulting.

I found my therapist through a women's therapy referral service.  I was referred to three therapists, had a consultation appointment with each one and then chose mine, the woman who is going to lead me to enlightenment, inner peace, maybe donuts, and who hopefully will flat out tell me what to.  Do therapists do that, I hope they do that.


there she is again

The first therapist I met for a consultation was in the most beautiful building in historic Pioneer Square.  I wanted her to be "the one" simply for her building.  It may be the wrong reason to choose a therapist but you should have seen the ornate original millwork around the doorways.

Our session got off to a strange start when she came out of her office and found me stroking the intricate banister railing like a lover.  After taking a seat on her couch, I then spoke at length about leaded glass and shellac.  She may have thought I was avoiding my problems, or that perhaps my strange discussion topics were at the root of them.

Beautiful building aside, she's not my therapist.  She said part of her process is covering clients in weighted blankets and asking them to draw their feelings.  I told her that was a bad idea, that I'm claustrophobic and if she covers me in a weighted blanket I will most likely fight her. I advised her to consider the current length of my fingernails and my freakishly sharp and pointy elbows.

Also, I don't want to draw my feelings because drawing reminds me I suck at drawing.  That fact makes me even more sad and confused than I already am because how can I possibly suck at drawing?  I should be really good at it, I'm a child of the arts!

here she is being amazing at the dentist

The second therapist I saw had the most beautiful, soothing, whisper-soft voice.  She had a vaguely foreign accent and had nearly lulled me to sleep with her soft, melodious, meditation-inducing voice ten minutes after walking in the door.  As much as I wanted to curl up in her lap, I decided I couldn't work with her because my therapy sessions would not be effective if I was asleep.  I bet if I did fall asleep, though, she would cover me in a soft blanket and stroke my hair.

I chose the therapist I chose because within thirty minutes she had already drawn some pretty heavy parallels between my role in my family of origin and how I continue to act in my daily life.  She does not lull me to sleep and is forcing me to face some truths without reminding me of my painful artistic limitations or tackling me and smothering me in a blanket.


still have the boy, too, he's just harder to get a picture of 


My sister, Raba, and my sis-in-law, Zee, invited Alex and I to see a play with them a couple weeks ago.  It was an entertaining play about pet bunnies being let loose in a zoo by heartless owners and then forming a bloodthirsty cult hellbent on revenge for being forgotten.  There was murder, lots of blood, and some graphic bestiality.  It was a real hoot.

We were in the lobby before the play and my sister, Raba, asked me, "Have you heard from Mom and Dad?  I emailed them five days ago and haven't heard anything back."  Most people would shrug and make a mental note to call their parents the next day but not us.  It quickly spiraled from "Have you heard from our parents?" to "Oh God, Mom and Dad got sucked up in one of those tornadoes in Oklahoma because they mentioned that one time maybe driving to Oklahoma to get Mom a new hammered dulcimer."

That's how we do it in my family.  Anxiety and catastrophic thinking 4-ever.

Zee, my sis-in-law, stared at us incredulously.  "Let me get this straight," she said. "You're both going to sit here getting worked up about your parents twirling around in tornadoes and neither one of you is actually going to CALL THEM as we sit here with half an hour to kill before the play?"  I admit, it hadn't occurred to me to call them.  I just wanted to speculate and fret.  Isn't that what people do?

Coco's former preschool teacher was in the bloody bunny play.  I snapped a picture of her to show Coco.  Coco looked at the picture the next morning and her eyes widened, "Why is Teacher Ashley covered in blood??  Mommy, is she OK?  Is she OK?"  I tried to explain she was pretending to be a murderous bunny and was doing just fine, in fact living her dream in theater so couldn't be better! Coco was not buying that crap and now likely has some anxiety herself.

That's how we do it in my family.  Not thinking things through 4-ever.

Coco will probably need a therapist soon.  It can even be a feeling-drawing one because Coco is really good at drawing.  We all know she didn't get that from me, dammit.

It's been so long since I've written there's an impossibly long list of things that have happened.  I hate that feeling.  So many memories I failed to capture.  I'm not going to beat myself up too much because my therapist said I should stop doing that.  So I'll just address a couple biggies and then wander off to live a happy guilt-free life.

First, I turned 40...

My friend Rusty bought me the hat.  It happens when your friend Rusty is hilarious 
(and you're celebrating your birthday next to a legal pot shop)


My birthday night began in a fun way when Alex and I popped our heads into the TV room on our way out the door to remind Lucien to feed Bobo before he went to bed.  I believe our words were, "Make sure you give Bobo a handful of greens tonight, he hasn't eaten in a couple days."

As we grabbed coats and walked away, we heard the (brand new) babysitter ask, "So Lucien, who's Bobo?" and then we heard Lucien, precious babe of our loins, reply that Bobo was the homeless guy we let live in our attic.  Alex and I turned on our heels immediately to set it straight.  Our heads popped into the TV room a second time -- "Bobo's a lizard, not a man, bye again!" I hope she believed us but we couldn't stick around to find out.  We had a party to attend.

My 40th birthday was full of laughter and nude mannequins and mini golf.  And my face on cupcakes.


Thank you, friends.  Another dream realized.


We celebrated my rapid aging in a private room at Smashputt, a pop-up art installation/bar/mini golf destination.  Smashputt slinks into a city, sets up in some abandoned location (ours was an old post office) has raucous fun for a few months and then poof, it's gone.  It's mini golf on steroids with saw blades and air rifles.






Turning 40 was fun.  I felt loved and celebrated.  I also smacked a golf ball into a Skeeball game while my friends heckled me and told me I suck at mini golf.  I'll hang onto those warm memories as my limbs begin to shrivel and fall off with decrepit age and I start forgetting where I put my sunglasses (psst, they're on top of my head...)



The other big event to mention is we went to Mexico for Spring Break.  I meant to write about it here but realized I have a lot to say about it so it's going to be a separate post.  I'll post it soon, better than my two or three month hiatus or whatever blog neglecting stunt I just pulled.

Yes, life may be going to hell just a little bit but there's one fact that keeps me going and keeps me positive.  And that is, drum roll, that Banister Abbey finally has a Banister --



it's unfinished.  but it's there.


I know you haven't heard from me in awhile.  Incredibly, it's not because I was in a tornado.
MJ

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Stop, drop, and roll


If you ever forget where you live around here, your memory will be jogged when you notice the WiFi password posted on the wall at the local organic smoothie bar --

definitely still in Seattle


So I'm turning 40 in a couple weeks.  Whee!

I think I'm becoming more eccentric in my middle age.  For one thing, I'm less tolerant of unexpected visitors at my front door.  At the top of my "go away" list are the religious people. A Jehovah's Witness recently stopped by as I stood quite visibly in the middle of the kitchen. When he knocked and peered through the glass of the front door, I did my usual; I stopped, dropped, and rolled out of sight.

Supermodel Neighbor was unfortunately sitting at my kitchen counter eating lunch at the time, frozen with a fork halfway to his mouth.  I whispered loudly from the floor, "Is he gone yet?" to which S.N. asked in disbelief.  "Are you seriously doing this?  How old are you?"

The answer is almost 40 and I'll do what I please.


The stair railing is coming along very nicely
 so I will allow Supermodel Neighbor to stay 
and continue to judge me


My current humor writing class is uninspiring.  I enjoyed the first class when we rewrote The Metamorphosis as comedy but my interest has waned since then.  The main problem is my teacher's sense of humor is not aligned with my own sense of humor.  In fact, I believe his sense of humor is more aligned with those of psychopaths.

Think that's an exaggeration? Last class he handed us Edgar Allen Poe's The Telltale Heart and asked us to analyze the "humor" within.  The guy in The Telltale Heart kills a man who has a gross, weird, pale blue watery eye and then buries him underneath the floorboards.  Ha ha ha ha ha!  Poe, you clown.

I read through that story a dozen times but was unable to find a single shred of funny probably because, as everyone knows except my teacher, Poe is a master of writing horror. He's really good, too, I'm not going to be able to sleep for weeks.

I'm considering alerting the police about my teacher.  I'll tell them he thinks Edgar Allen Poe is a laugh riot.  Maybe it will raise a red flag,  make them understand he's worth arresting preemptively before he goes apeshit.

My recent pottery class was a bust, too.  My current teacher proves that sometimes artists, as talented as they may be, should not teach.  Example:  I asked her, as I sat at the wheel with the clay caving in on itself yet again, for some helpful tips and she told me, "you've got to just feel the clay."

But I was feeling the clay.  I was feeling the clay being a goddamn mess all over the place.  I wanted to know how to "feel" that mess into a discernible shape but my teacher just skipped away humming and staring dreamily into space.

My old teacher was a talented potter but also had words to share in a teaching manner.  She could spin things magically from her hands but when it came time for teaching she could bark, "No! Put your left hand here and your right hand here and press here and make the damn bowl, hippie!"

I miss her.

Other than my current crappy class juju, life just kind of keeps plugging along.

The Rebirth Brass Band straight out of New Orleans for a friend's birthday


an urgent care visit with a miserably sick little girl
and a very bored big brother
(Alex was out of town, he had no choice)



Seattle Mom's daughter getting beyond festive for Saint Patrick's Day



Cute friends, a blanket and a growler of beer


a highly disturbing game of Cards Against Humanity 
after we lured our kids away from the area with a movie


The kids are doing well.  Lucien continues to be a mischievously grinning class clown.  His giggle, when he cracks himself up, which is often and usually due to a fart joke, is the best sound I know.  He's got a quick wit and a loud voice.  When one friend recently told him, "Lucien, you're a comedian."  He immediately responded "I'm not a comedian, I'm a Canadian!"

His favorite catchphrase, which gets placed at the end of everything he says, is a growly, '''cuz I'm Batman" followed by a swoosh out of the room.

"Mom, cool news, I don't have homework tonight....... 'cuz I'm Batman."
*swoosh he's gone*


Batman is about to eat a ton of pancakes and feel sick the rest of the day


Coco has a squeaky little voice that's gaining in volume because she wants to be heard over her loud older brother.  She charms most everyone she meets unless she's in a punky mood, in which case a silent glare is all you'll get from her.

Coco loves all things art.  The kids recently recreated famous works of art at her preschool.  I appreciate how she plays with scale --

there it is! down there


I was in charge of the preschool Spring Party last night.  I purchased appropriate tablecloths and paper plates and begged parents to sign up to bring kid-friendly food.  Bring on the mini pizza extravaganza and hummus, oh so much hummus.


My favorite part of the party was when I failed to realize the olive container lid wasn't closed.  I therefore picked it up more sloppily and with more force than I should have.  The result -- festive olive explosion!  The amount of olives in the container appeared to double as they flew up in the air and then crashed and rolled around all over the floor.

The olive oil smeared on the floor proved troublesome when little Johnny tore through the room and fell on his back.  I'm a party planner who's full of surprises.

Being the Spring Party planner also came with cleaning responsibilities afterwards.  I was pretty tired and traumatized by the olives by that time so I chucked a bunch of recyclable and compostable materials in the garbage to make it go faster.  Forgive me, Seattle.


Kale chips forever,
MJ

Friday, February 27, 2015

Kafka is a riot

The bad news is I'm guilty of blog neglect.  The good news is I've been neglectful because there's so much incredible fun livin' going on around here.


exhibit a

For example, the kids and I have recently taken up geocaching.  Geocaching, to most participants, is an exciting worldwide treasure hunt using GPS coordinates to find random hidden stuff stashed all over the place.  For me and my two kids and my finicky inaccurate GPS, however, geocaching is being lost in the woods for two hours, walking in circles, and never finding what you're looking for.

We knew, thanks to a clue on the geocache website, that the thing was hidden in a fake rock at the base of a tree.  We eventually began kicking rocks under every tree we passed in a desperate attempt to find the thing and feel successful.  Trust me, you do not realize how many rocks are under trees until you start looking for a specific one under a specific one.

In other fun news we lost the Super Bowl.  We threw a Super Bowl party that was really exciting and energy-filled right up until the end of the stupid game.  Our guests were so upset, so desperate to flee and nurse their wounds in private, they left within thirty seconds of the last play. They left in such a rush and in such emotional states, two people left without their shoes.  Sad barefoot football fans roaming the streets, that's what that day did to us.

We're mostly over the loss but it's hard because our house continues to mock our pain.  Every morning we come downstairs to this festive bunch of Seahawks balloons which, for some upsetting reason, refuse to die.  I could pop them but I paid a lot of money for them so can't bring myself to do that. Perhaps I'll let Coco play nearby with a ladder and a sharp knife.

perky as ever

Alex and I went to see a band Thursday night.  Sonny and the Sunsets are a fun band but their opening act was a real stinker.  It was a solo lady with a guitar who apparently kissed her boyfriend a bunch of times.  I am assuming this because she sang a song in which the sole lyrics were "I kissed my boyfriend I kissed my boyfriend I kissed my boyfriend."

Things took a turn for the worse after that.  I think her boyfriend dumped her and got a new girlfriend because the next song's lyrics were "Jessie's got a new girl Jessie's got a new girl Jessie's got a new girl" sung over melancholy chords while wearing a dark pair of sunglasses. Jessie was probably not into being kissed 24 hours a day and needed some space.

Alex and I felt awesome being out late with the band-listening crowd.  Band-listening people wear perfectly worn-in jeans and vintage corduroy jackets with ironic patches on the back like "Pete Peterson's Family Friendly Gun Shop!" Indeed, it was fun to feel part of the scene again but then we made the mistake of leaning against the back wall.  We immediately began dozing off from the overwhelming fatigue our aged bodies were experiencing.

We went home halfway through the set, leaving all the hipsters wearing overalls and women with ombre shaded violet hair behind.  It's OK to try to be young again but it's also OK to be true to your damn selves and get out when your feet start to ache from all the standing.

we came.  we saw.  we left early.


I'm still learning how to throw pottery on a wheel.  I'll let you know when I make something that doesn't make people laugh out loud upon seeing it.

I'm also in a writing class.  I needed a boost for my Paris book writing, needed to shake off the stagnant place in which I found myself and mix it up a little.  I enrolled in a humor writing class, first class was last week.

Right off the bat, immediately after roundtable introductions, our teacher told us to re-write the first paragraph of The Metamorphosis by Kafka but make it HILARIOUS.  We would then read our paragraphs out loud.  It was strongly insinuated if we didn't make our teacher laugh, we were failures. He gave us ten minutes for this exercise which, when re-writing Kafka as uproarious comedy, doesn't seem like enough.

That was quite a bonding experience.  We scribbled furiously, occasionally stopping to glance at one another and silently mouth swear words in wide-eyed panic.  I re-wrote The Metamorphosis in first person and turned myself into an ant, awakening in my room to the sudden overwhelming desire to lift a Buick.  The teacher laughed so I didn't fail.  Not yet anyway.

Work continues on Banister Abbey.  Supermodel Neighbor is here again. He now carries enough authority in the house to give my children stern talking-tos when necessary and has his own shelf in the refrigerator. He's family.

S.N. is currently building stair railings for our two flights of stairs.  It's a momentous time -- Banister Abbey is finally going to have banisters.


As a reference, this was the 3rd floor stairway when we first viewed the house nearly three years ago --

 Welcome to your new home
we strongly suggest never going upstairs


Before we moved in, we had a temporary railing made of splintery 2x2s installed so nobody would fall off the stairs and die on their way up to the office --




But now, after just a few weeks of Supermodel Neighbor cursing repeatedly, here's where we are --


Never mind the blue painters tape.  I'm in the process of priming and painting the unfinished newel posts and skirts.  It's still a work in progress but trust it, it's going to have pizazz.

The balusters and hand rail used above are originally from the main staircase. They are original to the home, circa 1904, and were located here when we first saw the house --

they don't make them that awesome anymore


Now regarding the picture at the beginning of this post --



Despite being the only person in the room -- in fact the only person on the first floor -- when the lamp was snapped in two, Coco still claims absolutely no knowledge of events.



Punk


My apologies for neglecting the blog.
In my defense, it's very difficult to blog when I'm lost in the woods.
MJ

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Snafus and lessons learned

Welcome to this side of 2015.  With the holidays behind us and our Christmas tree lying pathetically dry and alone on our front lawn, I decided to check back in and tell some stories of our holiday season.

Guys, please, can I just get one good picture in front of the Christmas tree?
No, mom, you can't.

First, a weightlifting snafu.  Alex lifts weights in our basement -- a truly admirable thing given the terrifying nature of the space.  Our basement is claustrophobic, maybe 100 square feet, with low ceilings and damp concrete walls standing three-quarters of the height to the ceiling.  The remaining quarter, the space between wall and ceiling, is a void.  It's a deep dank abyss into which you cannot see but from which you can occasionally hear a faint rustling.

What I'm saying is the basement sucks and I avoid it as much as possible.  I thought Alex was nuts as he carefully, piece by piece, carried his weight set into the basement.  He brushed aside thick cobwebs and whistled cheerfully as he assembled.  Unbelievable.  I'd rather pump up my muscles naked in the front yard with a camera crew present than spend time in that hellhole.

I'm a supportive wife, though, so whenever Alex needs a spotter for a weight-lifting session, I descend the wobbly narrow stairs agreeably.  I've done this dozens of times without incident, for the record.

This time we were both off our game.  The first set went fine but the second set quickly went to hell.  Usually when I spot Alex, I only have to apply a small amount of force to the weight, just enough to help him get his arms back under it again.  This time, though, he fatigued earlier than usual and I wasn't ready, wasn't quick enough on the draw.  The weight bar came down on his chest, with all of the nearly 200 lbs attached to it, and there it stayed.

I panicked as he turned red in the face.  The bar was so tightly pressed to his chest, I couldn't get my fingers even a little bit under it.  Even if I could have, I cannot lift 200 pounds because I'm not an ant and cannot lift two of myself, especially while in a bent over and panicked position.  I settled for screaming in Alex's face instead.

We should have practiced this scenario beforehand.  I could have run around to the end of the bar and pushed it up and off him.  Instead we did the worst thing and began rolling the bar down the length of his body.  As it rolled over his ribs, it did some damage.  He finally wiggled out from under the thing and eventually, after what seemed like forever, stopped yelling, "OWW! OWW! OWW!."

He's on the mend but is still walking around the house moaning and clutching his torso.  He's also telling everybody within earshot his wife tried to kill him for the insurance money.


Aside from that disaster, we also had a squirrel poop snafu.  Coco and I sat outside her preschool one morning waiting for it to open.  It was a gloriously sunny day so Coco asked me to open the sunroof.  I did and soon thereafter a couple things hit me on the head and bounced into the open hood of my jacket.  At first I thought, "Oh! Some delicious berries!" and reached back into my hood.  I very soon -- and yet way too late -- realized I was handling squirrel poop.  I threw the poop out the window and ran into Coco's school, begging to be let in early so I could wash my hands because, well, poop.

I guess the lesson is don't park under a tree with the sunroof open.  And if you do, don't wear a hood that can serve as a squirrel poop receptacle.

Then there was a tequila incident.  We were invited to a tequila tasting at a local bar by some friends. Alex and I were starving upon arrival because we'd forgotten to eat for hours.  We were greeted at the table by an enthusiastic group of people and seven bottles of tequila.  Alex turned to me and said, "Seven shots of tequila on an empty stomach.  I'm sure this will end well."

Fast forward -- it didn't end well.

here's a unicorn Coco made out of some paper

Then there was the birthday party snafu.  Lucien was invited to a classmate's birthday party at a local family-friendly establishment.  When the birthday girl still hadn't arrived 15 minutes after the start time, one of the parents asked an employee what was up.  The employee responded the birthday party had been cancelled.

After much grumbling, all the other guests left except us.  We decided to stay because the kids were occupied and happy, there was free WiFi,  and Alex and I needed a block of time to work on the final versions of our official wills.  It seemed reasonable to stay put.

Five minutes later the birthday girl walked through the door with her frazzled mother and little sister. The mother said they had waited in line forever to get the birthday cake and were therefore late to their own party!  Then she asked where everyone was.  Alex and I froze, looked at each other with wide eyes.  It was an epic miscommunication involving so many people.

Alex and I have many faults but one thing we do well is can-do attitudes.  We told her it was OK! We were going to have a great birthday party right there, so private and intimate, and won't everyone else be sorry they gave up so early and left.  The mom started to cry anyway.  Then the little sister decided to practice her reading skills in front of Alex's laptop screen.

As the mother cried, the little sister read aloud our intentions should Alex and I die.  She read (she's a super good reader, little devil) all about who gets our kids should we both bite it at the same time and how to divide assets if we die and our kids die and everyone is dead.  It didn't help the birthday party get off the ground, in fact gave it a rather somber vibe.

Lesson to learn -- if you hear a birthday party has been cancelled, get the hell out of there. Whatever you do, do not start working on your last will and testament.  It is not the convenient time you believe it to be.

Christmas happened.  I knew I was getting sick as I prepared my pork tenderloin for Christmas Eve dinner. Not just getting sick, but going down really really hard.  I hit the couch to sleep and Alex, confused by the pork tenderloin laying phallic-like before him on the counter, ordered Italian take-out for dinner.  It's not the way I pictured spending our last Christmas with both kids semi-believing in Santa Claus.  (The jig is already up with Lucien and Coco has been naturally skeptical of  The Man in Red since she was born.)

I stayed coherent long enough to play Santa.  I had to, it was my last year.  Setting out the milk and cookies made me gag so I laid on the floor for a minute, motionless.  Usually I eat the cookies myself but this year I weakly fed them to the schnauzer.  Oscar was delighted to take advantage of my illness, little jerk of a dog.

Christmas morning I managed to bake the sausage strata, start the coffee and pour the orange juice (when moms get sick they still get sh*t done, you see),  I then collapsed on the couch while my family opened presents around me.  I don't remember much about it.  I think the kids liked their new bikes?  At least for a minute they did.  They went outside to try them on the sidewalk and within thirty seconds Lucien flew over his handlebars. Brand new brakes are touchy.

seconds before it went wrong


It's time to focus on things that are going well and make me happy.  One is the fact I'm friends with the guy pictured below and he showed up at my house unexpectedly to wish me a Merry Christmas. His two passions in life are antiques and rebuilding cars so he was driving this --

The return of the prodigal Dan the Man

The other is my family.  My parents and brother came a week after Christmas to celebrate "late Christmas" and to attend the opening of Raba and Zee's play, A Streetcar Named Desire.  Raba and Zee have started a new theatre production company and for their first outing, it is spectacular.


Raba is playing the role of Blanche. She's painfully good.  The reviews of the play, and her in particular, are glowing, raving, and well deserved.  My heart ached watching her up there, slowly unraveling, slowly and brutally being betrayed by everyone around her.  Streetcar, you are such a cruel bitch of a story.

And finally, our Seahawks.  I won't rehash the NFC championship game; if you like football, you already know the details and if you don't like football, you'll skip over them anyway.  It is enough to say it was the greatest comeback in the history of anything, ever.  A game that seemed impossible to win (and had all of our guests silently nursing their beers with somber faces) was won in spectacular fashion in the last few minutes. Then our guests were spilling beer everywhere because of all the jumping and yelling and hurling ourselves into each others arms.


And now we're going to the Super Bowl.  AGAIN!!!

Seahawks never say die.
(or is that The Goonies...)


I, too, have always depended on the kindness of strangers,
MJ

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Mary in a bell

This is a preschool field trip I recently chaperoned.  We used the city bus to get there and back because we love the environment at fancy preschool.  Yee-haw.  


We may love the environment but we chaperones don't love the anxiety and logistics involved in putting 20 kids on a city bus already full of people and getting all 20 back off again.  I had a nightmare the evening before the field trip and you guessed it, I left my entire group up in there somewhere.  As of my waking, they hadn't been heard from since.

Yes, we preschoolers may love the environment but I'm not sure our fellow riders loved us an equal amount.  That was evidenced by the face of the one guy who got pinned in the back corner.  His expression turned from genuine friendly smile into frozen mask of terror as tiny kids piled all around him and asked his name repeatedly.

It's Lucien and a gigantic snake.  Just be cool. 

Let's talk holiday.  Christmas is my favorite holiday but it's gotten harder.  Christmas as a kid was about twirling in circles in new holiday dresses and sucking on candy canes. Now it's about sitting bolt upright in bed in the middle of the night nursing the panicked thought, "I forgot to put the speech therapist on the thank-you holiday gift list!"

(I then go downstairs and write her name on the list immediately, lest I forget to purchase an Amazon gift card for the woman who made my unintelligible daughter somewhat intelligible.)

I miss being young at Christmas.  Gone are the days of lying under the Christmas tree with my brother, staring up into the branches at the lights and giggling. We had large-bulbed brightly colored lights on our tree back in the early 80s, not the chic tiny white lights of today.  Those giant hot lights could burn your nose off if your face got too close so lying under the tree was flirting with danger.  In addition to the potential injury, the lights blinked maniacally giving our living room the constant feel of a disco.  It was a 1980s Christmas and it was glorious.

My mom was often baking things.  She probably felt the same way I feel now when I'm trapped in the kitchen baking things.  Had I understood back then that Christmas could be stressful, that it was often an agonizing month-long preparation purgatory, my six-year-old self surely would have helped Mom or at least patted her on the back reassuringly.

Or maybe not, because I was busy.  I was busy grabbing Mary, the blessed mother of the baby Jesus, from our nativity set, sticking her head inside a bell-shaped Christmas tree ornament and declaring her "under the hair dryer at the beauty salon."  Mary was more often dangling from that "dryer" than resting in the manger with her newborn son.  My mom suspected this activity was sacrilegious but Mary's head fit so perfectly inside that bell there's no way it was wrong.

In other holiday news, Thanksgiving happened.  My parents flew in to join my sister Raba and sister-in-law Zee at our table. It was a warm and happy time but we missed my sweet brother who couldn't get the time off work to make the trip. He probably misses simpler holiday times, too.

We added a stray to our family Thanksgiving, a French man from Alex's work who had never experienced Thanksgiving before.  French Man is outgoing, warm, excited to sample everything Seattle has to offer.  He smiles all the time.  He bounces up and down a little when he talks.   His hugs are like being enveloped by a psychotically happy octopus (How can he have so many arms?). He's such an enthusiastically positive force for good, Alex once said, "It's like he's not French at all!"

(our stereotypes are expressed with the greatest affection and we miss you, French people...)

French Man's presence at Thanksgiving upped the ante.  I would normally have foregone many traditional staples for more contemporary options but instead felt the need to stick with the oldies, most of which sound unpalatable to foreigners.  Pumpkin pie?  Cranberry sauce?  Potatoes covered in so much brown sugar and butter they should be classified as dessert?   Crunchy curly things on the green beans, what?

I expected at the very least some hesitation but French Man dove into everything and pronounced it "amazing!" and "incredible!"  I wonder if there's anything I could have thrown his way that would have broken his can-do spirit.  Maybe Jello with suspended sliced bananas?  Easy Cheese on Ritz crackers?  Marshmallow Fluff eaten out of the jar with a spoon?  I'll have to invite him again to try these things and will report back.

I forgot to take pictures at Thanksgiving but here are a couple of Mom tickling Coco's feet --




Speaking of French people, Alex and I attended the Beaujolais Nouveau event, sponsored by the French-American Chamber of Commerce, a couple weeks ago.  It was a fancy event held on the top floor of our tallest building downtown.  It was an impressive location for a wine that's widely agreed to be awful.


Thankfully there were other things to drink besides the B.N.   I accepted a glass of rosĂ© from the roving servers when we arrived and immediately said, "Alex, we've got to ask the bartender for the name of this wine, it's incredible."  Alex walked away to do just that and returned a few minutes later with a kindly Frenchman who kissed my hand and said, "I hear you like my wine, Madame."  I asked Alex to get the name of the wine and he returned with the winemaker.  It was well played, Al.  

The Beaujolais Nouveau fĂȘte was full of "somebodies," a few of whom I didn't like.  Once they've reached "somebody" status, some people stop being authentic and start being schmoozy to an uncomfortable degree.  They should also lay off the tanning beds because it's Seattle in winter and they're orange.

Orange folks aside, the view of my city was awesome

Most of the people I met were great.  I made a new friend at our table when he leaned over and asked, "Why are you sitting there laughing all by yourself?"  I was indeed laughing all by myself because two elderly people had begun dancing right next to my chair.  It would have been a sweet moment but for the nature of the Serge Gainsbourg song to which they were dancing.  Alex is a fan of Serge so I know most of his songs, including the English translation of his oft-salacious lyrics.

I'm pretty sure those sweet silver-haired people aren't as familiar with Serge as I am.  I leaned over to my new friend and said, "Do you think they know they're dancing to a song about doing it in the butt?"


I'll be under the tree if anyone asks.
MJ

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Dammit Karen

Alex and I were invited to a going-away dinner for one of his co-workers Saturday night.  Al told me the send-off was for a small group of people, just a couple others besides us, and that it was "a pretty casual thing."  I asked him if it was jeans casual and he said "probably, this is Seattle after all."

Seattle or not, I don't feel right wearing jeans to a dinner party so I wore my favorite dress but casual-ized it with a funky frayed cropped cardigan and clompy Seattle style boots.

We arrived at a giant house on a hill with a view for miles to find an extravagantly set table for 26 people and a handful of caterers in the kitchen.  Servers immediately descended upon me and offered a glass of champagne and some dainty spinach/cheese ball things.

After a quick panicked appraisal of the situation including the hostess's elegant cocktail dress, I whipped off my weird tacky sweater and flung it into the corner.  I also quickly got rid of my clunky boots, declaring I was "one of those people who believes it proper to remove one's shoes upon entry." (I'm not that person at all, I love my shoes)  Thankfully my tights were a lovely warm cinnamon color and were also blissfully hole-free, a condition in which most of my tights do not find themselves.

I shot Alex a sidelong stinkeye.  We've been together a long time so he knew exactly what I meant.  "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm not a detail person!" he hissed in my ear as he glanced frantically around the room and mentally evaluated his own wardrobe choices.

Not only was the dinner much fancier than anticipated but some of the "big guns" from the company were invited.  I'd heard the names before but had never met the people behind them.  Alex used to toss sleeplessly the night before giving presentations to these names and now I was about to meet them in my stocking feet.  I made a mental note never to listen to Alex's words again because they are false.

It was all ado about nothing, as are most things I get worked up about.  One guy did show up in jeans (this is Seattle after all) so I put my sweater back on because dang I was cold.  I met a woman who grew up in Detroit, a neighboring city to my hometown of Toledo, and now we're friends.  "The big guns" were no different from the underlings -- friendly, easy to talk to, good senses of humor.  Not once did I get nervous and blurt, "How much money do you have, money person?"

It was a success even though I felt dumb with no shoes and spent a crazy amount of time talking to a Civil War buff.  I was just faking it with that guy, I really don't know much about General Lee.

Sunday was glorious here in Seattle: clear, sunny, crisp, cold. We left our house in the morning with only a vague notion of what we were trying to accomplish then bounced around from place to place until we ended up back home.  Aimless days are usually the best days.


Playing Uno under the watchful eye of the Tabasco sauce



Ziplining into her brother



throwing rocks into the lake



Dad kid pile



a cheap haircut and an old school arcade


I'm snack parent at Coco's preschool this week and that's no laughing matter.  I must provide a full week of healthy snacks for 20 kids.  Each day's snack must include one protein, one carbohydrate and one fruit or vegetable.  Also, snacks cannot be repeated two weeks in a row. I have no idea why they can't be repeated but based on my experience, it's a rule designed to flush out the weak from the strong.

Your snack "menu" must be filled out the week before and submitted for approval.  Filling out my snack plan took an inordinate amount of time because I would think, "I'll bring pretzels for the carb on Tuesday" but then I would flip back to the week before mine in the snack menu book and "DAMMIT, KAREN!"  Karen had brought pretzels the week before my week so pretzels were no longer an option, they were dead to me. 

"OK....so...I'll bring pita chips then...." 
*flip flip* 
"DAMMIT KAREN!"  

Rinse and repeat with Goldfish crackers.

My snacks got obscure after that -- flax seed smoothies and salami wrapped breadsticks and hard boiled eggs dipped in strawberry coulis.  Karen sure as hell didn't do any of this, HA, I thought as I scribbled my snack plan furiously in the snack plan book.  

I'm getting carried away but all I'm trying to say is being snack parent is a weighty responsibility.  I awoke early this morning to chop up dozens of colorful bell peppers, portion out ham slices and count my rice crackers because it's just a big damn deal.  

We were hustling out of the house after my snack preparations when I took pity on our dog -- he's an old guy now, is deaf and has to wear a dog diaper at night -- and agreed he could ride with us in the car that morning.  But as soon as I opened the fence gate to shoo him into the car, Oscar, that idiot animal, took off down the street.  I yelled, "Oscar!  Oscar!"  as I ran after him clutching my cup of coffee and my snack bag full of prepared delicious goodness for 20 preschoolers.

Did I mention Oscar's deaf now?  He was so happy to be free.  He was oblivious, tail wagging, couldn't hear my frantic screaming.  For just a second he thought everything was right in the world and he was a young dog again.  Then he stopped to pee on a tree and Lucien pounced on him.  He looked up at us so hurt and confused.  He didn't understand our flailing arms and angry faces.  

We dragged him back to the car.  I opened the passenger side and he attempted to jump up on the seat.  Old guy he is, he got stuck halfway between the ground and the seat and dangled there whining until I grabbed him around the belly.  In grabbing him, however, my coffee, which was now clutched under an arm to load the dog, tipped at a precarious angle.

I saw what was going to happen before it happened yet I was powerless to stop it.  The coffee cascaded in a lovely arc straight into my meticulously prepared snack bag.  What didn't hit the insides of the bag ran down my dog's back , soaked my white gloves, and dripped down the front of my beloved red and white houndstooth coat.

 oh animal

Oscar was fine but was no longer welcome in the car that morning.  He was placed back inside the house.  I blotted the contents of the snack bag best I could.  The crackers were unscathed in their plastic container but the ham and bell peppers didn't fare as well.  I considered confessing as I handed the snack bag to the teachers with a cheerful smile but I knew they would make me re-do all that chopping and I didn't have the strength.  

To review, I served 20 preschoolers a healthy snack with one protein, one carb, one vegetable, and a healthy sprinkling of caffeine.  It should be an interesting day over there today.


Karen most definitely did not do that. HA!
MJ