Thursday, March 21, 2013

Learning curves

At Coco's most recent HELLRAISER BALLET class, the teacher noticed she tends to lead with her left foot and is therefore, possibly, a leftie.  We nodded our heads together in mutual lukewarm enthusiasm for Coco's hypothetical oddity.

Then the teacher mentioned "a little test" her family doctor mentioned to her years ago.  If you want to know if your child is right-handed or left-handed, stand behind them and, without warning, give them a little push.  Whichever leg they step forward with to avoid faceplant is likely the side they favor.

The following scene may or may not have played out five minutes later in front of the community center:

Me: *shove*
Coco:  AAAAAHHH......
Horrified Onlookers:  You are a terrible woman.
Me:  Confirmed!  A southpaw!

Alex's co-worker from Beijing, who was in Seattle for a business meeting, came over for dinner last week.  He was born and raised in Singapore but has lived in China for many years.  In discussing plans for dinner, he mentioned he'd never been in an American house before and also had never eaten Mexican food before.  Alex decided to take care of both at once -- dinner would be takeout from our favorite fancy Mexican restaurant, Cactus, served in the dusty old American grandeur of Banister Abbey.

I ordered butternut squash enchiladas.  I always order butternut squash enchiladas from Cactus.  They are my favorite and I don't mess with a good thing.  We ordered Singapore/China Dad a Mexican basic -- carne asada tacos.  When the tacos came out of the box and were set before him, he looked at them with question mark eyes.  To him, the almighy taco was a truly foreign object.

Singapore/China Dad is a fascinating guy with a fascinating life.  We had a lively fun conversation but through it all, he remained lost with his taco.  He poked at it for awhile, then scooped the insides out into a pile in the middle of the plate.  He seemed happy with the deconstructed taco pile but after many sidelong glances towards me, Alex couldn't take it anymore and interrupted the conversation for a taco lesson.

When Al said he was supposed to pick up the whole thing and eat it with his hands, Singapore/China Dad looked at Al like he was playing a joke on him.  He then looked at me for confirmation and I said, "Yes, it's true!  Mexican food can be really messy!"  He believed me, likely because I had butternut squash enchiladas smeared all over my face.  They're not messy or hard to eat, I just get a little overexcited sometimes.

When we asked S/C Dad what he thought about Mexican food, he proclaimed it, "exotic!"  That's about the last thing Mexican food is to me -- it's more like a necessary staple, like bread and butter, really -- but I'm happy to give him such a scintillating cultural experience.

 Sibling teamwork.  Lucien on gas pedal, Coco on steering wheel.

I've experienced some dental hell lately.  The dentist tells me I need about five thousand crowns, which is odd given my number of teeth.  I went in recently for the preparation/temporary crown step and the dentist wanted to put a wedge thing in my mouth to keep my mouth open.  Wedging my mouth open with something like a tiny rubber horseshoe?  Dentists, go home, you're drunk!

I take my bodily autonomy very seriously.  I went for a facial chemical peel once and the lady wanted to put these little sticky things on my eyes to keep them closed.  I freaked out.  There was absolutely no need for me to have my eyes open but the fact she was taking away any possibility of me opening them made my fight-or-flight kick in and I punched her in the face.  I kid!  I kid!  I didn't punch, just threatened her firstborn.

Even hugs.  I enjoy being hugged by Al if the hug is a normal one.  But sometimes Alex thinks he's a bear.  When Al thinks he's a bear, he squeezes so hard I can't move.  Then our laughing happy "hee hee we're hugging" turns into me screaming and clawing his face off and him looking at me asking, "My God, what happened to you as a child?"

Claustrophobia ain't just about elevators, people.  And for some reason, for me, it's only kicked in the past couple years.  What is it about getting older and fearing movement restrictions?  My theory is it's a growing fear of the coffin.

I refused the wedge thing.  The dentist said "please?" and I said "no."  She said "you won't be able to keep your mouth open that long" and I said "watch me."  She said "you're absolutely not allowed to move for a very long time" and said "if it will help me avoid the tiny rubber horseshoe of death, I won't."

And I didn't.  Two hours of near constant open mouth.  I didn't move a muscle.  The dentist was impressed.  My will can be cast iron as long as I know I have options.

Al and I have been trolling architectural salvage yards recently.  They are some of our happiest places.  There's nothing like walking into a place full of rusted old house parts and seeing all the possibilities --


"We disagree, we are bored."

My book about Paris has been on the back burner for a long time.  There's always something happening that takes my attention from book writing and focuses it on a house falling apart or a child vomiting in my lap.

I need inspiration, and accountability.  I've signed up for a memoir writing class in the hopes of adding structure to my writing life.  My first class is this evening.  I'm nervous, primarily because it's a class full of "real writers" and I am but a lowly blogger.  I'm sure I'll look stupid.  Thankfully, this is not a deterrent.

 Grand finale -- Al in a bib.

A southpaw!


  1. Didn't you know she was a leftie from the hand she favoured to hold her spoon?

    Ahhhhh Mexican foooooood:) I stayed for a week with a family in Tlaxcala, Mexico, and they had a full-time cook. My God, did I ever eat well while I was there! Going back to my own slop was a big shock afterwards... Rather underwhelming, I must say.

    I totally hear you about the claustrophobia. Mine started after a burnout... It came to a point where I couldn't lock the lavatory doors on airplanes for fear of being trapped... It's OK now, but I still threaten to flip when I'm very tired and too hot on planes. And at the "height" of my burnout, clothes that were too tight would do it too. Good times.

    Whatever will you do when you're out of houses to renovate?;)

    Yeah! Writing workshop to finish Paris memoir!:))) You go girl! Do us proud!:)

    1. Hi D!

      I can't say I've noticed the hand anybody eats with, ever, including my children. Is that something other people notice? Guess I'm not keen on details.

      Mexican Foooooood. I'm envious of your Mexican living experience. I bet it was so good.

      Nice to know I'm not along in my late-onset claustrophobia. How strange human beings are. And I don't think I'll ever have to know what to do after my house is renovated because it's never, ever going to be done. A lifetime pursuit!

      Bye, Duchesse.

  2. I'm the same way about hugs. What's even worse is that I DO NOT TOLERATE anyone touching my neck, or anywhere around it, and my husband knows this. So he enjoys coming up behind me and resting his chin on my shoulder... very close to my neck. This results in me flail/scream/kicking/cringing as I get away, and him laughing tears. Jerk.
    I am drooling over those architectural salvage places, particularly that tub. We lived in England for three years and I did a good bit of damage at our local auction house and got the bug for old stuff. And it's a strong virus.

    1. Gesci! I love that you have a weird neck thing! We are all so strange with our quirks and oddities. Fantastic stuff.

      The architectural salvage yard is not for everyone so I'm glad you understand the beauty of rusted stuff. The tub was ridiculously beautiful. A bit too pricey, though -- it was $9,000!

      Here's to old, old stuff!

  3. I hope your writing course was successful and enjoyable for you! I've been an anonymous and silent fan for awhile now and have worked in publishing for over 15 years. Humor in writing is a rare talent and a very tough balance for most to successfully achieve. Post after post, you nail it. Keep up the good work, you are extraordinarily talented.

    1. agreed-really talented-REALLY!

    2. Thank you, Anonymous, that is truly truly kind of you to say. I like doing it, anyway, makes me happy people want to read it now and then.

      And thank you Duchesse and g, a round of drinks on me!

    3. you know mj one of these days i'm gonna take you up on the halloween party and that round of drinks....maybe when that book gets published-are there rooms for rent in BA-one way to fray expenses-just sayin'-

  4. I love the "little test." *chortle*

    Hey, just FYI, I am a "left leg leader" but right-handed writer. It is a form of being ambidextrous. It confused my gymnastics teacher when I was 11 and went to do a cartwheel leading with my left leg, and it caused her to ask which hand I wrote with, and I said "Right." She asked if I was sure. o.O LOL. It was VERY confusing ofr me during softball in elementary school because while I was right handed, I preferred to stand on the left side of the plate when batting. *sigh* Hopefully Coco will not be as confused as I was and just pick being left-handed to go with the left-legged(ness).

    Hang on, my pasta (gluten-free) sauce needs a sprinkle of garlic. Be right back...

    Okay, back. It tastes better now. I'm multitasking. Eating and blog-reading. I wanted some MJ cheer! ;-)

    So the other things I love in this post are Loosh and Coco co-driving on the video game. That is too cute for words! And OH WOW! What great stuff at the architectural salvage! Good times! One day the kids will appreciate it. Or not. But they are kids and must suffer some things like this. I remember plenty of similar kinds of outings with my sister and we managed to create some fun while along for the ride.

    Your BOOK. Yes, please. Just sit and write. Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott reference). Day by day. Try to carve a little time for doing just that! (The pot calling the kettle metal. Ha. My 16-year-old thought of that. Or maybe he saw it on Reddit. Anyway, he said it to me one day, and I thought, "How creative!")

    Note to self: Do not make MJ feel claustrophobic, ever. I'm empathetic. I have a bit of that myself.

    Love to you from Denver.

    P.S. Butternut squash enchiladas sound like they ROCK!

    1. Hi Karin!:) Good to see you in the comment section again!:)

    2. Karin, my dear, hello. It's possible Coco is ambidextrous. I just did the shove test again and she led right. I will continue to experiment on my child!

      I love the video game pic, too. I love how well the two of them get along, when separately they're just both completely bonkers.

      Book, hopefully, on the way. The memoir class doesn't deal specifically with the memoir I want to write, more teaching "how" to write a memoir. Hope I'm a quick study. I'm way over my head in that class. My classmates are serious writers. Learning curve will be steep, embarrassment will happen but hopefully I'll get something great out of it at the end!

    3. And agreed with Duchesse, great to have you around again! Mwah!


    Ah MJ, I giggle like a Japanese schoolgirl every time I see a new post of your hilarious ramblings in my inbox. Um, not that you ramble... your writing is delightful and flows like the wind... Abort! Abort!

    Your writing class sounds impressively grown-up, with people sitting around in tweed jackets drinking copious amounts of gin. Write the book, MJ! Doooooo eeeeeeeeeet!


      I do ramble, it's cool, no worries, I know it. And strangely enough, two of my classmates last night were wearing tweed and I'm pretty sure they were drunk. Stereotypes are sometimes stereotypes for a reason?

      Bye, Bec! TACO TRUCK

  6. Could you possible bubble-wrap that bathtub and ship it over here to Paris? Thanks. Owe you one. Maybe, in return, I can bubble wrap the Eiffel Tower (the REAL one) and send it to Seattle so you can use it as a lawn ornament?

    PS: We rent in Paris, and I have no place for that tub except for our self-storage unit (I'll have to throw out the 60 cartons of my husband's library, but everyone has to make sacrifices), but my husband is convinced I am writing a best-seller that will become a movie and then we can buy our dream chateaux in the French countryside. Where we will certainly need a bathtub exactly like THAT one.

    1. I'd be happy to bubble wrap that tub and send it to Paris. I may be in it, too. Free ride to Paris, sweet!

      Only problem is that tub was pricey-dicey at over 9K. If you got that kind of cash, I will make it happen. A posse member must own it if possible.

      After the book and movie and chateaux, it will be yours. My guess is it will still be sitting there.

      Bye, Lisa!

  7. obviously I am the only human that just does not get the mexican food me it's a messy mess of mess. Give me Thai or Indian anytime.

    love that tub must buy it and put it in bannister abbey.

    and I agree with Duchesse...doesn't Coco hold a spoon or fork? or are you all too busy eating messy mexican?

    bitter in the cold north.

    1. Debbie, I still like you even though you don't like Mexican food. I am looking at you a little strangely, though.

      I'm sure Coco has held a spoon or fork at some point but it never occurred to me to look at which hand she held it in. And yes, perhaps it was because I was too busy smearing butternut squash enchiladas all over my face.

      It snowed here today but I think you still got us beat in the coldness department.

      Heard it was your b-day recently...(a little birdie named Duchesse told me....) Happy Birthday, Debbie!!!

  8. Thank you MJ & posse, it makes me smile broadly to read the posts and comments - funny posts and caring friendships. Been reading a long time - never commented before. Snow on ground still - but 52 today & melting Anonymous from Boston area