Tuesday, November 30, 2004
It's no surprise, then, that our addition of a whole entire tree to the living room is meeting with immense approval. One by one, they're all taking turns lolling around underneath it, blinking up at us from the branches. They drag their little catnip cigars under there with them and have a toke. They snuggle up in the most comfortable part of the tree skirt. "This is really comfortable," they say, "but will you turn off all of those little white lights? I'm trying to get some rest."
Max chilling out
Monday, November 29, 2004
Continuing my belated Thanksgiving series, I’m immensely grateful for my husband, for a happy and still new marriage. With every week that goes by, I learn more about the depths of this person, and the depths of myself and what I’m capable of with respect to another person.
Some of this --actually a whole lot of it, more than you might expect -- is happy-fun learning, hearts-and-flowers, moon-June-spoon stuff. Some of it is harder. Sometimes you’re faced with a stupid fight or disagreement and you want to be mad at this person and then a few hours go by and you suddenly find yourself being kind to them when you didn’t expect to feel kind and then shortly after that you notice that you’re just really not all that upset anymore even though maybe you should be but what’s really overriding everything is that you really, actually LOVE this person, more than you used to know how to do, and some of the little stuff just doesn’t matter so much. And then you just breathe in the compassion and passion and clarity of those moments and feel lucky to be alive.
Marriage has got to be the most fascinating process I’ve ever been involved in. I’ve been married for one year, two months, and nine days, and I think I’m only just now beginning to understand the true immensity of this endeavor. Being newly married feels so much like being children in a big world, or being new emigrants, unsure of the language – exciting, but there’s so much you don’t see. Now and then I rather inarticulately try to tell Brett this:
me: Yknow, marriage is kinda weird, don't you think?
him: What do you mean?
me: I don't know.
But what I mean, in part, is that what feels so different from dating to me is that now we seem to be part of an immense and powerful structure that extends far beyond the moment, the right now – we’re the iceberg’s tip, a crag on a mountain that extends into the rest of our lives. Most of the time you don’t feel that, but when you do, it’s like you can feel the buzzing of the power plant running right through the heart of your life. It’s electrifying.
I couldn’t be happier with my in-law situation – everybody’s wonderful and has welcomed me into the family with open arms. But it’s somewhat startling to realize you’re going to see a relationship unfolding with these folks for the rest of your life. It gives you an odd sense of patience. I really love getting to know my new sister-in-law, Marilyn, for example, and always wish I could talk with her more than I usually get to at a gathering, but I also have a sense that there’s plenty of time to get to know her better. Years and years, most likely. No need to rush.
It’s different feeling from new friendships, in that sense, and it’s just another example of the unexpected pleasures marriage adds to your life. I certainly feel blessed and thankful this year for the new and growing relationships I have with Brett’s family, for the fact that we all genuinely like each other, and for the fact that we’re spared the clichéd in-law-vs-new-wife sitcom scenarios.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
I ended up sacked out with a cold one of the days we were down there, which meant that I got to lay around on Marilyn's couch with the doggies while she, Brett, and their father were out taking care of things that needed to be done. While I was doing that, I took a few pictures of my newest friends.
Zero the Handsome, posing for a closeup like a good boy. Doesn't he seem to be looking right into your soul? Really, he's saying, "Boy, I'd like a snack. Got a snack?"
His counterpart, Fifi, who's half his weight but rules the roost:
Zero takes a brief rest against my leg, as we loafed on the couch watching movies while everyone else was out:
In the meantime, Fifi mostly pursued her hobby - standing at the front door to see if every sound she hears means that Mom might be home:
Zero has a lot of opinions, and expresses them freely:
This year we were in Sacramento from Thursday through early Sunday morning, so we had to wait to get our tree until the Last Possible Second (in my world) - Sunday afternoon. After naps. After showers. After lunch. Of course, through all of this I'm just barely succeeding in not revealing my inner five year old. Can we GO yet? Can we? Can we? Huhhuhuh?
There's a tiny little tree place near our house that we like to go to for this - ever notice how people working in the Christmas tree business seem to especially like their work? And this year, we had a car with an actual roof rack to tie the tree to, instead of the sports car we tied it to last year. Fifteen minutes out of the house, and there we were, picked out and paid for and securely tied onto the car, zipping home. That's more like it.
Brett blinked less this year at the annual parade of more boxes of decorations than you'd think possible up from the basement, and even participated a bit. By next year, I think he'll actually be ready to put a few ornaments on the tree. Ten years from now he won't even twitch. "Oh? Is it November 28th already? Let's go get the tree."
Anyhow, here's the end product:
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
And... and... I just got speakers at home! (Boy, I am backwards, aren't I?) A year ago, when I was moving into the house here out of my apartment, I made the mistake of letting Brett pack up my computer. If I had been doing it, I would've taped various cords together or at least paid attention to what went where and grouped things logically. But no. The guy method for doing this is to apparently rip everything apart, dump ALL of the cords in one box, and throw the rest in the back of your car in various pieces. End result is that we never found the power cord for my speakers, and I've been speakerless every since.
Until last weekend when, among other things, Brett picked up a new pair of speakers for himself, which meant I inherited the old ones. And because I was busy cooking him dinner at the time, he even set them up for me. (How domestic does this sound? Sheesh.)
These two factors -- Napster AND new speakers -- now enable me to do things like drive him out of the home office completely by suddenly getting a yen to hear cheesy old eighties songs from folks like Lou Gramm and Boy Meets Girl.
I've never seen him vacate his computer chair quite so quickly.
"I'm going to watch Tivo," he muttered. "Something. Anything."
Heh. Heh. Heh.
Sid and I had a nice Italian meal, reminiscing over past trips we've taken to Europe. Sometime later, after I'd left to walk over to the theater and meet up with Brett and James, Brett stopped by the restaurant to see if I was still there, and had this conversation.
We both found this pretty amusing. Brett went on to explain to Mr. Horrified Waiter that no no, it was nothing so dire as he might have assumed, and that I was in fact dining with a friend, etc. but I'm still somewhat embarrassed about whether they're going to remember this the next time I go there.
Brett: I'm looking for my wife.
Waiter: We don't have any women dining on their own tonight.
Brett: No, she's with another man.
Waiter: pained expression on his face, as if thinking "Oh god, not this again..."
Friday, November 19, 2004
Um, master's degree required? In hip hop? None of you hip hop dabblers for this position, you've got to be serious...
Education - Physical Ed Dept at ****, seeks a PT Hip Hop Instructor, T-Th at 10am & 11am beginning 1/4/05. Master's degree preferred, bachelor's & prev teaching exp req'd.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Disclaimer: this story is a bit embarrassing, because it reveals what huge weirdos my husband and I are capable of being. And that we have a mental age of ten years old. Combined. But, on we go.
One thing that I didn't know until recently you could tell about someone, from the way they make a bed, is whether they have a sense of humor or not.
Brett and I, not being parents and thus having way too much time on our hands, have acquired a pair of small stuffed animals -- one won at a carnival for a kid friend who, it turned out, didn't want it, and one bought as the result of a running gag while Brett was in Germany. Having been raised by an inventive father who made all my animals talk and show evidence of rich interior lives, I immediately invented personalities for them both. Monkey communicates only in gestures, causes mischief, and feels intensely grateful for his liberation from the German toy store. Herschel, the purple elephant, has the personality of a surly old Jewish guy and likes to complain and ask nosy, intrusive questions. It amuses us and we have long-running stories going about both of them. We claim we're researching a children's books about Herschel's adventures, but really it's just fun. As I said, we're ten.
After we'd had them a little while, though, Brett started packing them up and bringing them along on trips. Monkey went to London. They both went to Hawaii. And they both went to Victoria, this past August.
When we got to Victoria, we dumped our stuff in the room, jokingly set Monkey and Herschel on the open windowsill so they could "see the city," and took off to find dinner. We joked a few times about what would happen if they fell out, but we didn't really think much of it.
Until we returned to the hotel room, went to get them off the windowsill, and found them gone.
Monkey and Herschel were gone! I leaned over the windowsill and scanned the ground as well as I could in the dark, but didn't see them.
"Oh my god, they're miss--" I started, and then I turned around and saw this:
Notice the tightly made bed, turned down corner, and careful arrangement of the two conspirators. We decided right then and there that the turndown maid had a good sense of humor -- she not only found them on the windowsill, but she tucked them neatly into bed for the night.
They look mighty pleased in this closeup:
I note this today simply because it came to mind tonight when I came home. We have a cleaning lady who comes every other week on Tuesday and does all the nasty chores around the house - washing floors, bleaching the bathroom, etc. Usually I make the bed in the morning but today I didn't, so I was very interested to come home and see how she did it.
Bed: nicely made
Monkey and Herschel: shoved under the pillows out of sight
Sense of humor: not so much
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Me: Why won't you ever let me have the remote?
Him: The TV is mine.
Me: What? You really consider the television all yours?
Him: Well no, not really. Well, sort of.
Me: What about the stove? Is that part mine?
Him: Oh sure. You can use that.
Me: I see. So I suppose the vacuum cleaner is half mine too?
insert whacking-with-pillow noise here
Monday, November 08, 2004
In 1798, after losing a key Congressional vote he opposed, Thomas Jefferson wrote the following: “A little patience and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake.”
Those words still ring true 206 years later.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
But maybe that's too much to ask. So I'm going to write about me. Here's how the post-election week has affected my world. One person, one world view, one small voting dot in a blue state clinging precariously to the western edge of the continent.
- Brett's embroiled in a level of rage that worries me. None of it is directed at me - he's still the same great, easy going guy to his family and friends - but he didn't use to be someone who said such dark things about the fate of other people, even those with opposite views and values. We argue, half-heartedly, about this now and then - I think hate is corrosive and something you should try to release as much as you can. But a lot of my friends are feeling this right now and I know it's a part of the process.
Maybe I should be getting that mad too, but I just can't yet - I'm somehow muted at the moment, but there's a lot going on under the surface. Brett's begun writing about his post-election thoughts on his blog, RalphWiggum. This blog started as a joke, poking fun at the many mundane blogs out in the world, but it's taken a turn for the serious. I hope it helps.
- We had some friends over for dinner last night, a couple who, in addition to being wonderful people and interesting conversationalists, good friends and keen observers of the world, also happen to be gay. We began the evening talking about the election and circled back to it repeatedly for the next three hours.
Watching their level of despair ove the recent election and the anti-gay legislation that passed so easily in so many states was the most painful part of the last week for me. As bad as it is for us, it's ten, maybe a hundred times worse for them. I hate the direction we're going as a country and a culture, but no one is telling me I'm an abomination, a moral cesspool, a threat to conventional and god-fearing folks everywhere.
While we've all been talking about moving to Canada in the last week, my sense is that most of us don't mean it yet - it's too easy, it's too helpful to the other side, and it's not time yet. I want to stay and fight and help the country turn around, at least until people start disappearing. But folks like our friends, faultless and talented and in love and just trying to live their lives, will leave long before we will. It will be an incalculable loss.
- I'm frequently perusing a site called Sorryeverybody. On this site, one man is publishing hundreds and hundreds of pictures of individuals holding hand-made signs of Americans apologizing to the world for what our nation has done. We're sorry. We tried. We're almost as screwed as you are. In the midst of it, there's one picture from someone in Mexico.
"It's okay, America," his sign reads, "we know."
- Now, more than ever, I love, love, love Jon Stewart. We clung to him on election night like a life raft on a sinking ship, and I've been watching him religiously ever since. In a recent episode, he had the staunchly Republican editor of a prominent conservative magazine on. "How do we get these morals of which you guys speak?" Jon asked him. A brief smile at the end of a dark week.
- Work has been interesting. I work with quite a mix of conservatives, moderates, and liberals, and this week has been a strain on everyone. On Wednesday morning, I walked in to experience two very different reactions from the most conservative members of my team.
Person one sent me a very thoughtful, respectful email asking my opinion on the events in Ohio and whether I expected the state to go blue or red; no problem here - we had a good conversation about it and I appreciated and (I hope) returned his openness to other views. Person two began the day by making "flip flop" election cracks as part of delivering their morning status. Arg.
It's this kind of intolerance and superiority that's making the divide in our country that much worse. I'd ask how we got to this point, too, but I think it's a naive question - America has always been founded on divisiveness and religious intolerance. We've bred this into our culture for hundreds of years. It makes me doubt our survival, in the long run.
And in spite of it, the sun has shone brilliantly since Wednesday morning, and the world has been turning, and we've been lighting fires in the fireplace and spending long weekend afternoons reading and finding comfort in our friends, and last night I dreamed that the daffodil bulbs bloomed early and were sending up small shoots of new leaves in the front yard. It seemed like a message, and in spite of my strong urge towards pessimism I feel myself drawn back towards hope in tiny, tiny ways.
I'm clinging to a few things right now - the fact that more people voted democratic in this election than ever before and that may mean a growing and continued momentum. The fact that more people than ever before, like my husband, got out there and volunteered and moved heaven and earth trying to influence the outcome of the election. Maybe those of us who didn't will now join in and the movement will become overpowering, sweeping away every obstacle in its path. People like Brett are thinking about public policy, looking into schools and programs and eventual careers - the leaders of the next round are gearing up right now, more ready than ever to devote themselves to a cause.
Politics are cyclic, like nature itself, and if we can all hang on and if we survive, eventually things will turn our way again. It's not impossible that, to use moviespeak, this could be the start of our finest hour, the last gasp before we mess up so badly that we have no choice but to start over with something new.
So that's it - my impressions on life in a blue state at the end of week one.
On a slightly tangential note, Blog traffic is up. I'm really new at this and tend to get about 12 hits a day. (Actually, I find the fact that twelve people are reading me very exciting. Thanks, all of you!) Wednesday, I had 50! FIFTY! For a little teeny blog like me, that was very exciting. All probably due to the fact that Brett liked my write-ups of his election day activities and sent it on to a bunch of his friends, but still, that little blip made me feel good.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
What: Writing one 50,000-word novel from scratch in a month's time.
Who: You! We can't do this unless we have some other people trying it as well. Let's write laughably awful yet lengthy prose together.
Why: The reasons are endless! To actively participate in one of our era's most enchanting art forms! To write without having to obsess over quality. To be able to make obscure references to passages from your novel at parties. To be able to mock real novelists who dawdle on and on, taking far longer than 30 days to produce their work.
I'm almost tempted to try this out, even though I'm a few days late. Not, of course, that I've ever written a novel. Or even started one. Or have an idea for one. Or have really ever written anything longer than twenty pages. But I like this no-pressure approach to the whole concept.
Of course, I'd need to quit my job to write 50,000 words in a month. Hrm. ;)
I love these folks. Another great passage from their FAQ:
NaNoWriMo is all about the magical power of deadlines. Give someone a goal and a goal-minded community and miracles are bound to happen. Pies will be eaten at amazing rates. Alfalfa will be harvested like never before. And novels will be written in a month.
Part of the reason we organize NaNoWriMo is just to get a book written. We love the fringe benefits accrued to novelists. For one month out of the year, we can stew and storm, and make a huge mess of our apartments and drink lots of coffee at odd hours. And we can do all of these things loudly, in front of people. As satisfying as it is to reach deep within yourself and pull out an unexpectedly passable work of art, it is equally (if not more) satisfying to be able to dramatize the process at social gatherings.
But that artsy drama window is woefully short. The other reason we do NaNoWriMo is because the glow from making big, messy art, and watching others make big, messy art, lasts for a long, long time. The act of sustained creation does bizarre, wonderful things to you. It changes the way you read. And changes, a little bit, your sense of self. We like that.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
I'm beginning to suspect the only positive outcome for the next four years involves the Rapture.
Which made me laugh because I actually contemplated this for a long time this morning while I was in the shower. How bad would it really be if all of these evangelical Christian, Republican, Bush-loving folks were assumed bodily into heaven and we were Left Behind?
Not normally something I'd contemplate, but it was compelling enough this morning that I got all the way through both shampoo and conditioner without finding anything bad enough to make me discard the notion entirely.
I'm looking for someone to post something to make this not seem so disastrously bad. To make it seem less likely that increasing war in the middle east is now a certaintly, to make it seem less likely that we'll go on to invade Iran or Saudi Arabia or someplace else where we can spend our troops' blood over the vaguest of premises. To make it not seem like the country is going to be run, now and forever, by a man who thinks he's appointed by God and who really holds no long term stake in the survival of the world because he'd like it to end according to prophecy. To make it not seems like civil rights and environmental resources are going to continue to be chipped away, with an erosionary force like water - slow, steady, devastating. To make it seem like this is still my country, that people like me have a place in this worldview.
Maybe someone will post something like that. Maybe later.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Sure enough, my parents made it to the poll. But get this -- Ohio incorporated touch screen voting this year. My mother's experience casting her ballot went just fine, but my father wasn't so lucky. Here's his play-by-play:
- Entered polling booth, started voting
- Press Kerry
- Bush/Cheney lights up as the selected vote (yes, seriously)
- Go get a poll work who tells him he "must have pressed the wrong button" (of course he didn't)
- Reselect Kerry a second time and it works.
I was floored. All the paranoia about fraud in the voting machines, all the jokes and cartoons about how the software behind these things really works, it could be true.
Happened again later when he selected the democratic candidate for sheriff.
He managed to correct it all, but it makes you wonder how many people maybe wouldn't notice that the wrong thing happened after they pressed the candidate they really wanted.
Brett, in the meantime, is still hard at work on the volunteer circuit. Shortly after lunch he called to let me know he'd been placed on sandwich board duty, standing at the corner of a busy intersection near our house in the pouring rain holding a "Kerry/Edwards" sign and waving at drivers.
"I just got flipped off by my first guy in a big huge SUV!" he called me to announce, at one point.
He stayed there for two hours in the icy cold, for which I'm sure he'll pay tomorrow, but he said he found it to be an amazing experience - drivers cheering in their car when they saw him, and only six people showing hostility. In the slow periods he calls me to look at various news sites and let him know what's being reported from the polls. (Not a lot yet.)
In the next few hours, he'll be helping out with what I think is the most important part of the day -- making sure everyone who's in line gets to vote before they close the polls. How great is that? Brett reported that there were so many volunteers at the orientation session for the Democratic party that they could hardly fit them in the ballroom they'd rented. All of these people are out there, giving up everything else they'd planned to do today, out in the wind and the cold and the elements with their flashlights and signs, just so that they can help ensure that each and every person who wants to cast a vote gets to.
Now that's inspiring.
On one hand, I think it's people's private business whether they choose to vote or not. But as so many bloggers are noting today, this could easily be said to be one of the most crucial elections in our lifetime. For myself, while I'm always an interested participant and observer of presidential elections, I do note that I've never before felt that same sort of anxiety-mixed-with-hope-mixed-with-angst upon waking up on election day in any other year. It feels like Christmas. It feels fraught with peril. It feels... well, it just feels fraught. That's the best word I can find.
I religiously avoid discussing politics at work - I manage a team of 25 people who divide rather neatly into half raging conservatives and half raging liberals, and there are just too many potential landmines to explode by sharing my own opinions when I'm the person in charge. However, yesterday, I did break my rules just slightly by sending out a mail encouraging everyone to do whatever the heck they needed to in order to get to the polls today. Boy did I want to say more than that, but I restrained myself. Then I had an hour long conversation about election anxiety with one of my newest reports during our status meeting; also a deviation from my norms. But this is an unusual year, and the times they are a-changing and a-shifting beneath our feet.
So Brett's out there, standing around in the pouring rain, helping people vote. He's in charge of a region stretching from Green Lake to the corner of our block - rather large. It was sort of fun to help him get all bundled up and equipped - the volunteers were given a list of items they needed to bring with them: rain coat, flashlight, notepad, etc. It was kind of like watching a kid get ready for their first day of school. All night last night he was so excited. "How many layers do you think I should wear?" "What's my dryest hat?" And on and on. This morning, we wound him up in various heat-retaining layers and wrapped him in a raincoat and put two flashlights in his bag (just in case) and he went bounding out the door full of hope and enthusiasm. For all his apparent cynicism, Brett believes in the good in the world. He believes there may be a Kerry landslide out there. He believes each volunteer can make a difference.
As he practically leapt and danced his way to his car, I breathed a little prayer to the universe. Please, whatever forces might be listening, don't break his heart today.