Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I've been thinking about things which utterly dissolve my will-power. I'm pretty disciplined for the most part. I don't leave beds unmade or dirty dishes in the sink. I like the gym. I don't veg very much. But there are a few things that completely destroy my self-possession:

1. Dark chocolate. No diet can come between us. I will hoard; I will not share. I will tell you it's gone when I am hiding a piece under my napkin.

2. Waves and waving branches. Sometimes, I will jump, realizing that I have been standing stock still for the last ten minutes, staring at my neighbor's Cottonwood as it sways in the breeze. There is a Hornbeam tree in my back yard that hypnotizes me. Sometimes, I'll take a late-night cocktail out on the back patio and just watch the tree.

3. Men. Bless 'em. I will drop everything for a little flirting.

4. A good book. I can't walk through my bedroom at the moment without stopping to stare at Your Blues Ain't Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell, where it sits on my nightstand. I know I am supposed to get ready for work. I know I have a busy day ahead. But, still I reach for the book and read standing up (as if that makes a difference). If you also go spineless in the presence of a good book, stay away from this one.

OK! What about you? Can you think of a few things that will cause you to drop every good intention? Share, please!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Bad from Beginning to End

This day SUCKED! It sucked so much that I need a gin and tonic IV.

1. I woke up to the sudden realization that my credit card was gone. I had not wanted keep an eye on my purse at my school's picnic last night, so I took the credit card (in case I needed to run to the store for hot dogs or something) and tucked it in among some paperwork in a plastic shopping bag. And of course, at the end of the evening I unpacked the shopping bag and tossed it in the recycling without thinking about the credit card. Si was pissed off, and gave me a lecture. I thought I had better rush to school and dig through the recycling, so I left without breakfast and was three quarters of the way there when I had a sudden memory. Sure enough, I had decided at the last minute to conceal the credit card inside my camera case. There it was, safe and sound. Too far from home to turn around, have my breakfast and read the paper. Got a nice early start at the office,though; and it was such a pleasant place to spend a really long day.

2. Since the AC at our school is on the fritz, my office got hotter and hotter all day, topping out in the 90s by mid afternoon. I ate, like, 5 Popsicles, but still could not stay awake. I melted at my desk, in a torpor that I was unable to shake.

3. At 5 PM I was thoroughly melted, and it was time for me to drive north to the lovely town of Hooper, where Sara was playing in a soccer tournament. Rush hour. Traffic inching along at 10 MPH almost the whole way. Although I left an hour before kick-off, I managed to arrive near the end of the second quarter.

4. Having found my daughter's match, I was finally cool and relaxed on the grass by the field when the whistle blew for half-time. [Let me pause for a minute to say that the guys who are coaching and the soccer-moms who are organizing the tournament are a bit freakish about the whole thing. Lots of self-important striding about and yelling. I am a bad soccer-mom. I mostly sit on the sidelines and daydream, languidly clapping when others clap.] Okay. So the coach's wife yells, "SNACK!" That is the signal for the "snack parent" to produce the sliced oranges that are ubiquitous at Utah kids' soccer half-times. It was not until that exact moment that I remembered that I was the "snack parent", and that my carefully prepared snacks were still in the fridge at Guadalupe Schools back in Salt Lake. Oh, that sick horror, when you realize that you are the forgetter of the snack. The coach at this point is YELLING, "WE NEED FRUIT AND WE NEED IT NOW!" [Um... does this strike anyone else as funny? The coach is like a TV ER doc: "FRUIT! STAT!"] Well, dirty looks at Kate when she has to confess that she has forgotten the snack. The kids didn't care, but of course the parents use this as a measure and a mode of judgement. The coach's wife was digging around, crying, "Is there anything we can use as a snack?"

Not to make excuses for my sorry self, but I have often wondered why we feel it is necessary to feed children during any type of physical activity. Water, of course; but is it necessary for a child to have a snack at half-time, followed by another snack and a sugary drink at the end of the match? How do other children all over the world manage?

Well, I am good at staying cool under pressure. I asked at the hospitality tent where I might find the nearest grocery store. "Wellll, now...." (She wasn't chewing a straw, but it would have been fitting...) "Just go down the road a piece, 'til you come to the Sinclair station, then turn left and go a piece more until you get to the KernsMart." A "piece", as it turns out, is about five miles. I made it there and back with granola bars and drinks in time to watch the last minute of the match.

I stopped by the school on the way home and rescued my original snacks from the fridge. Sara has to play yet another match in Hooper tomorrow. We have snacks to spare.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

She WANTS Braces?

OK, things have sure changed since I was a kid. Back then, braces were made of birch bark, and kids only got them if their teeth were so bad that there was a chance:

1. they wouldn't be able to eat and might starve;
2. teeth were growing in through the roofs of their mouths;
3. there was a good chance that they would never mate.

Now, everyone is in pursuit of the "perfect smile".

Sara's dentist said that she needed braces. It's a racket, I'm convinced. He's getting kickbacks from his orthodontist buddies. We took Sara to two different orthodontists who said, "Probably not." Yay!

Well, this is the other difference from when I was a kid. Sara WANTED braces. She was devastated that she wasn't going to get them.

"But, Mom! All the kids have them!"
"Sara, you don't NEED them."
"But, I want to fit in."
"You don't understand. You already have what they are trying to get. You should be glad!"
"Please? Pleasepleaseplease? The other orthodontist told Daddy that it would only cost about $136 a month!"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Lost My Temper

Losing my temper is like a roller coaster ride. Do you ever feel that way? My anger builds slowly. It's like the car ratcheting its way S-L-O-W-L-Y- up the track. Then there is the moment of pause at the top. I look down the swooping track and think: do I really want to do this? I actually don't get truly angry very easily. Irritated, exasperated, fired-up, yes. Angry, no. Because when I do lose my temper, it is a very bad thing.

And when I lose it, there is an anti-gravity, a bottoming-out; and also the sense of release that I love for the power of it, but which gives me a sick hangover afterward. I'm a Midwesterner: typically, we avoid confrontation. After I lose my temper at a person, there's an excellent chance I will never speak to that person again. It's the nuclear option. I have not indulged in it in YEARS. The last time was in about 1994 - I threw a sugar bowl at Simon's head. I was cleaning up the mess for days.

And why this was the situation, I don't know. This guy really wasn't worth it. This was a phone call to the office from a guy who was interested in being a volunteer tutor for our English program. If any of my colleagues read this, they will be shocked - I'm always saying that we need to be extra-especially nice to a prospective volunteer. They are gold. But this guy...

First of all, he was bizarre. Let me choose a font that denotes a flat affect and snippy, nasal tone. We'll go with his one:

Him: Yes. I want to volunteer.

[I wait, listening for a second. There is usually more elaboration, explanation.]

Me: To tutor English as a Second Language?

Him: Yeah, OK. [Like, whatever. Like it had just occurred to him this minute. I wondered if he was court-ordered. Some volunteers are. So, I asked:

Me: How did you hear about our program?

Him: Some other volunteer place. [Again, a long pause. Again, I expect to hear more, but there is a huge void. Finally he says:]

Him: The ESL Center.

Me: Oh, OK. Well.... [...and I launch into my usual explanations about what our volunteers do, when we have school, how to get started volunteering, etc... Normally, these turn in to conversations in which the prospective tutor asks questions, there is dialogue, etc... In this instance, I am unnerved by the complete silence on the line. At one point, I begin to wonder if he is still there. I pause...longer...longer...I'm just about to ask if he is still there when he says:]

Him: Yes.

So I tell him about how we have orientation for new tutors twice a week. I tell him that we will have one next Tuesday, but that we will then be taking a short break and will be back in session on July 13. After that we'll return to our routine of two orientations a week.

At that point, he had something to say.

Him: Well, I don't have a lot of time. I plan to start going to the College of Social Work in the fall and I only have free time over the summer. I really need to get started right away. You know, you people say that you need volunteers, but when I called ESL Center, they told me that they have already done their volunteer training for this month. Then I call you and you tell me you're taking a vacation?!? You say you need volunteers, but you just throw up barriers for people.

Why should that make me snap? I have managed civil phone conversations with everyone from annoying salespeople to ambulance-chasing lawyers to immigrant-bashers. But I let the roller coaster run its course.


[The whole time I am ripping him a new one, there is the Little Voice that remains rational. It is saying,

Little Voice: You are letting yourself do this because you know this person has no social skills and could never be a competent tutor anyway.

I would never talk this way to a tutor who took issue with our break in a normal, rational way. In fact, I have occasionally arranged special orientations for people who have schedule conflicts. But is this case, there was no way I was going to accommodate this freaky, snippy, mean guy.

Would you believe, he didn't have anything to say for himself? All I heard after that was a click. Coward. I can only hope that I scared him.

I threw the receiver at the phone as hard as I could. Then I picked it up and threw it again. And once more. I know how I am when I am like this. I could easily have smashed the phone to pieces.

Little Voice: Do you really want to go to Vicki and tell her that you need a new phone?

Me: No. I guess not. This feels so good, though.

L. V.: No, You'd better stop. And by the way, why didn't you just say something banal, like, "I realize that it seems like a barrier to you, but it is a necessity that we close for a short time to prepare for a new fiscal year?"

Me: That's what I would have done, ordinarily.

L. V.: You better hope he's not as crazy as he seemed. What is he comes down here with a gun?

Me: Little Voice?

L.V.: Yes?

Me: You are a major drama queen and you can shut up, now.

How about you? Do you have a temper? Do you give into it very often? Do you know before you blow that you are going to do it? How does it make you feel?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's Just a Pedicure

I've never had a pedicure. I've always figured that I would save the money and paint my own toenails. But then my colleague, A. showed up with very pretty toes the other day and I was a bit envious. I was admiring her feet and complaining about how dry and cracked mine always are. She told me that getting a pedicure isn't just about the toenail: they soften, exfoliate, massage... Yeah, but for how much? She goes to the Paul Mitchell School and gets half an hour of foot happiness for only $18. I glanced at my cracked heels and decided: I was havin' me one of those.

Granted, I'm a rookie at this, but how hard can it be to make a pedicure appointment?

I called and arranged to go in next Saturday morning.

Receptionist: OK. So, how many appointments?

[Huh? My mind races. Do you have to go in for one part, then come back later for more? Are the appointments all in half-hour blocks, but I need an hour?]

Me: Uh... I don't know. How many do I need?

Receptionist: No, I mean how many people?

[Now my mind is really racing. I'm imagining those scenes from Wizard of Oz when Dorothy et. al. are in the Emerald City and each one of them is being worked on by a small army of people. ]

Me: Wow. How many people do we need? I mean, it's just a pedicure.

Receptionist (who is now getting tired of me): I'm asking if you are bringing any people with you?

[Moral support?]

Me: No....why would I do that?

At this point, another colleague, M. is about peeing herself, listening in on this. When I got off the phone, she told me, "Lots of people go to get pedicures with their friends." Really? Shit, should I call some friends? Will I be the only one getting a pedicure without my posse? Come to think of it, that is what Dorothy did. Now the receptionist will think, "Oh, THAT one. I remember her. She's dumb and she has no friends!"

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Chocolate Porcupine

So, we were out to dinner the other night and Nate ordered one of these. Actually this isn't the exact same thing: Nate's was way bigger and slathered in ice cream. I asked whether his eyes might not be too big for his stomach. No, he saved room. I hate it when kids save room.

He couldn't finish it, of course, so we brought quite a bit of Porky home in a box. In the meantime, I had decided that I need to go back on my diet. I do fine with it until it's almost supper time. Then, I have a really hard time not snacking. I'm so hungry. Three days after the arrival of the now forgotten porcupine, I was making supper and feeling...let's say, peckish..and also rebellious (diets have that effect on me). I saw the box in the fridge, opened it and dived in. I mean, I was scooping up the chocolate in my fingers and cramming it in my mouth, looking right and left like I was some kind of burglar, even though I knew everyone else was out at soccer practice. Yummmmmmy!

Nate ate very well at supper and popped up from the table with a meaningful look at his dad. "Yes," said Si. "You ate such a good supper. Now you can have that chocolate porcupine." "GOOOOOOOOOODYYYYYYY!!!!!" Nate ran for the fridge, arms outstretched for the handle.

Aw, shit. So he hadn't forgotten it after all.

"Nate! Just a second! Come here for a minute!"
"Just a sec, Mom. I have to get my yummy porcupine!"
"No, come here first. I need to talk to you about....the... porcupine."

Simon's eyes went wide. My in-laws both turned to watch. Simon says, "Did you EAT the..."
He turned purple with supressed amusement. I shot him the evil eye.

"Nate, come here and sit on Mom's lap for a minute." [Simon snorts.]
Nate gives me that grin that means he is about to burst into tears.
"You see, Nate, I thought you had forgotten about the porcupine, so I-"
"You ate it!?! OH MY GOD, MOM!"
"Well, I'm very, very sorry. I had no idea you still wanted it. It was wrong of me to eat it. [Meanwhile, I was thinking how tasty it had been and wondering if I really repented.]

Nate BURST into tears. "Burst" is a very good verb to describe the way that Nate cries. The tears positively squirt out of his eyes. They were raining down on my arm.

"Well, now, Nate. Maybe we could have a trade..."
"Well, would you like to have a couple of the chocolates I brought back from San Fr-"
"Oh, that's right. What about three of my favorite Hob-Nobs from England?"
"Donut from the grocery store"?"

The tears stopped instantly. INSTANTLY. So abruptly that I'm surprised a rainbow didn't shoot out of his nose.

"DEAL!" He took the edge of his shirt, wiped the tears off my arm and ran off to play. "Hey, Sara! Guess what?"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sometimes I Do Sweat the Small Stuff

But I hate myself for it. Hey, who moved my Zen?

So, someone said something today that could be construed, if I were in the right mood, as insulting. And it was said in front of rather a lot of people. Plus it doesn't help that Simon heard it and later said, "Did you hear that comment? Did you think it was appropriate? I thought it was unnecessarily aggessive."

Of course, my response was bland - vanilla with vanilla sauce. Why create a confrontation? Probably the other person meant nothing by it and for them, it's forgotten.

So, OK. finished. But it is still bugging me. I run my fingers through it over and over, trying to figure out why it bothers me.

What do you do when something is bothering you and you cannot figure out why you are wasting energy on disturbance?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Friend

It has been ages since I have written a book review! Well, what's THAT all about?! I love doing this, particularly when I hate the book, which lends passion to my voice. I have to give my usual disclaimer, though: this is not a book review by an experienced, talented or articulate reviewer. If you want that, go find a nice, classy book-review blog. If you want some low-class ranting, you have come to the right place.

The Gospel According to Biff is one of the most ridiculous hunks of literary clap-trap I have ever bothered trying to read. The premise is interesting: what about all those years when Christ was growing up? What was he doing? Did he have anything resembling a normal childhood? How did it prepare him for his future role? And this topic is interesting to ponder even if you don't believe that Christ was the Messiah. If you believe he existed and was a social philosopher in his time; if you believe that he created phenomenal social change, then you would be curious. And a lighthearted approach seems like a good fit, since we all know that it's all speculation. Don't look for anything thought provoking in this book, though.

In this rendition, Jesus, unsure of what is expected of him in his future role, decides that the best way to sort that out is to find the three magi and ask them for help. So he travels to Kabul and hangs out with Balthazar. Then, he goes to China and hangs out with Gaspar, who is at this point a Buddhist monk. Then he took offerings of food up the snowy mountainside and bonded with the Abominable Snowman. I slapped the book shut and went to read Madame Bovary. It's just too dumb. I realize that I'm missing the whole interface with Melchior, but who cares?

And the humor is so lacking in real wit and subtlety. Lots of fart humor, camel poop, blow job jokes etc... The author ruins the fun by trying too hard. He'll put a gag in there and then verbally poke you in the ribs, yukking, "Didja get it? Huh? Huh? See, he's farting 'cause he ate a two thousand year old egg! Is that funny or what? Oi, I just kill myself!"

AND...I found two typos.

Final rundown:

Quality Writing: 4. The author is not illiterate; he needs a better editor. And occasionally, he had some lines that were truly pithy. They were all quotes of Lao Tzu, though, so he doesn't get much credit.

Interesting Characters: 3 Jesus is the good cop, and Biff is the tough talking bad cop. Surprised? Neither was I.

Good Plot: 2 It's amazing: how can you can take a tale of travel, adventure, beautiful women, battles, blizzards and demon fights and make it so boring?

Un-put-down-ability: 2. If you can get past the Abominable Snowman, let me know. I'll be impressed with your stamina.

Overall score: 2.75.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

England 1, USA 1

Well, I'm sure this guy is not having a happy evening.

MIL and FIL are visiting from England this month. It's MIL's birthday today and she had a flower delivery in the afternoon. The delivery guy, looking at the English flag drooping, wet and forlorn over the front door, asked if they were a condolences bouquet.

Friday, June 11, 2010


It will not stop raining.

Today's high was 59 degrees. The furnace kicked in.

I woke up chilled, with a stiff neck. If I sit down, I immediately doze off.

I couldn't get out into the increasingly weedy garden because it was pissing down relentlessly and will continue to do so for the entire weekend. All through the dark cold winter, I think about how hot and dry a Utah summer is and I can't wait for it to arrive. If I wanted this, I would have moved to Seattle. The weather is the same, but the politics are more my style.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Long Lost

Tired, so just a short post. I was sitting on the plane, coming home from San Francisco, and giving my wallet a bit of a sort-out. I reached into a little-used slot and pulled out £20. I was totally dumbfounded. Why did I have 20 quid in my wallet? Crisp, new bank bills. Then I remembered the £20 Simon had given me last year in England when I had asked for some cash. I KNEW I hadn't lost it. I KNEW I had put it someplace really safe!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

'Kay. I'm Full


After crunching numbers for nine solid hours, this was the only "bar graph" I was interested in looking at. Mine is second from the left. Obviously, I have the best retention.
Found a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with the BEST damn Chinese I have ever eaten and a ton of attitude as well. People crammed in there any which way. I ordered Bao Bin Pork, and Mu Shu Chicken appeared. She set it down on the table and no one claimed it, since no one had ordered it. She came back in a minute:
This for you.
No. Not mine.
She went away and came back a few minutes later.
This for you.
I ordered the pork.
No. You eat this.
Well, I ordered pork, but I like chicken...
Good. You order this. Eat this.
It was good. I'm so STUFFED! I have to say that I am tired of food. And I am tired of data. But I am not tired of San Francisco.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Up to My Elbows in Crab, not Data...

...although the meeting wasn't too bad today. We were seated with the Samoans. Adult basic education is, as you might imagine, somewhat challenging when the students need to island-hop in order to get to class.
After 9 hours of number-crunching, the Utah, Montana and Alaska folks headed down to the waterfront. Here's where we had supper.

This back view is what I call the crab entrance. They got off the boats, go in the back door...

...and their legs end up here. I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have never eaten crab-meat still in the shell. My colleague from Juneau gets to experience this sort of maritime bliss on a regular basis and instructed me on the use of my shell cracker. I gave up trying to be dainty after a couple of minutes and just let the sauce run down my arms.

Then it was off to the Buena Vista for Irish coffees.

I need to come back here for a real vacation one of these days.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Arrived in San Francisco

You can smell the briny smell of the Bay, here. I can't wait to get down by the piers tomorrow. The hotel is antique, but restored in an interesting way. Check out my room.

Yeah, the coffee table and the nightstands are orange acrylic cubes. The armchair has two front legs, but then a wheel in the back, like a wheelbarrow.

All these huge mirrors!
Right downtown.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

All Packed

Very late. Just a quick post. Off to San Francisco tomorrow for a conference on using data to make decisions about adult education program management. Are we excited yet? It's called "Diving Deep into Data". For three looooooong days. But, I have never been to San Francisco!

Before I travel, I always make a list of how I hope it will be. Or think it might be. Or whatever.

  1. The hotel will be a groovy "boutique" hotel downtown, and I will be able to walk to the piers.
  2. I will get to eat in Chinatown.
  3. I will take some awesome pictures with my new camera (which I am transporting in my hot little hands the whole way. I almost bought it a seat of its own.)
  4. I will find a place down by the Bay to go running. Or maybe I can get up to the Presidio, if I have enough time.
  5. I will get a chance to pester the Utah Director of Adult Education about policies that drive me crazy that I think she ought to change. This is how I drive her NUTS when we travel together. It's a hobby...
  6. I will find and purchase San Francisco-themed salt and pepper shakers (Si broke the handle on our pepper grinder the other night. It was only 16 years old...)

Gotta go to bed!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Alone, and Loving It!

I got to be alone again last night (Second time in two months! My kids must be growing up.) Here's what I did:
  1. Took the time to go out and admire my irises.
  2. Watered my pepper plants and talked aloud to the vegetable patch, as in, "Oh, my pwecious pets! Are mommy's little darlings thirsty?"
  3. Blew off supper. Didn't cook; didn't eat. No time to cook! I was busy reading!
  4. Read three chapters of Madame Bovary and two chapters of Lamb. Read Bovary aloud, so as to really soak it up. Reading aloud keeps me from rushing, but it's hard to do when people are home.
  5. Bought Creamies and had a banana one late in the evening (so I guess that counts as supper?). Wondered if I looked erotic eating it. Thought that I would go find Si and eat it in a suggestive way while waggling my eyebrows at him. Realized he was not home. Missed him. Just for a second, though.
  6. Painted my toenails a frightening shade of ...what would I call it..hot scarlet. Looked at the effect and thought that it looked cheap and tawdry. Added a sparkle top-coat. In for a penny, in for a pound.
  7. Took a bath. Lay perfectly still in the bath. Enjoyed the fact that, since I have cut my hair short, I can rest my head against the back of the tub without the clip poking my head.
  8. Read more Bovary until I dropped off.