Thursday, January 19, 2006

Routine, Smoutine.

In the shower yesterday, while soaking my hair in my weekly moisturizing treatment (it actually works; well for $18.oo it should), I experienced that wondeful sense of feeling at "home." After succumbing to the general chaos of unfamiliar surroundings and (lack of) routine, I finally realized that this place and this life is now familiar. Even though I don't have the kind of routine I tend to crave (same schedule, everyday; same work, everyday), I am actually blending in rather than resisting.

Of course, there are still some things to work on. I'm still easily annoyed at transportation. Yesterday, after picking up Jack at daycare at 3:30, we headed to Brookline Village to pick up Ed. We agreed to meet at 3:50. Because of a wretched wind and rain storm (half a tree is resting on the roof as we speak, no doubt the chain saw crew will be here just in time today for Jack's nap), I hurried to get to the T-station early. But, by 4:00, no Ed. Irritated, Jack & I drove around the block about five times before parking. I knew if Jack didn't get out and walk, he'd go psycho in the car on the way home (it takes roughly 25 minutes to drive the six miles home at rush hour - that's roughly 45 minutes total of no moving around; tough for an 18 month old). As soon as we parked and walked to the platform, Ed had already gotten off and was waiting on the other side of the street where we usually pick him up. Of course.

I worked hard to overcome my irritation. I wanted to avoid a repeat of fall semester, when I dropped off Ed for his first day of classes, not offering any support for the fact that he was starting a new program at a new school in a new town, working hard to balance all the pressures that these changes brought. Rather, I was a raving lunatic (okay, bitch) about having to navigate the Boston roads, sure that Jack would fall asleep in the car (thus, no nap) before I had a chance to get back home in time. I'm sure that Ed headed off to his first class with the image of snakes writhing out of my skull and flames shooting out of my eyes.

Yesteday, I wanted to be Laura, not Medusa. I assumed that Ed had a good reason for being late - and he did; the T wasn't working, so there was a bus instead, therefore, pushing the schedule back. Fair enough. We had a pleasant enough ride home; though I'm sure Ed could sense that I was wrestling crazy woman into submission.

I realized that our lives are like driving in this town. Most of the time, I couldn't tell you how to get somewhere. When I get into the car to drive anywhere other than the local grocery store, I have to squelch the impending panic and tell myself that I will remember how to get there once I start driving. Once I hit a certain intersection, I'll remember to take that right over the bridge and then the second rotary will have that Starbucks, reminding me to veer left.

Our days and weeks are the same; ask me on Sunday what's going on this week and I'll be able to give you a skeleton of a schedule. By Wednesday, though, meetings have been added, I've got to head into the office to pick up some last minute freelance project, and oh! yeah, probably should get the oil changed and take Jack in for a haircut. My personality longs for more order, but I'm thinking there might be room for more possibility when our the scope of our daily lives isn't set in stone.

So, yeah, we're finding a routine, and as with most folks, that routine is providing the kind of security we long for. It's just the kind of routine that keeps us on the lookout; there's no way to get too comfortable when everything (and by everything, I mean schedules, jobs, income, etc.) changes every few months. There's no way we could wear blinders, looking down the same path; peripheral vision is crucial to thrive. And I guess that's what we bargained for when we moved here- to do more than live, but to thrive.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Boston is looking suspiciously like Seattle today. Weather is windy and rainy, with tempatures in the 50's. So much for the much feared Northeast winters...

School started up again yesterday. I had two classes yesterday and the Fellowship class this morning. First classes are as enjoyable as, oh, I don't know, dental work. The professor always asks for everyone to stand up and introduce themselves.

Hello, my name is _________, my program is ____________, one interesting thing about me is __________________.

Shoot me now. Please.

I like spring semester because you feel like a seasoned veteran. You know which elevator is faster in the SED building. You know which 1st floor vending machine is a good place to get change for the parking meters. And you don't feel like such a loner. It's always good to see people you got to know last semester in a class this semester.

Even the people that annoyed you by being such pretentious snobs in class last semester don't seem all that bad. Like the guy in Qualitative Research last semester. Oh, he's still a pretentious boob, but now I know his name is Marcus and he's in Administrative Policy and Training.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Back to the Grind

Today is the last day of a LONG vacation; other than a few days of freelance cold solve (checking 6th grade math problems), Ed & I have had no work and no school for nearly a month. Some people seize the free time of to get the “work” done that can’t be done during the regular “work” life- you know, organize all of those photos or baby clothes (still on my “to do” list) or visit those places that are not-so-local and require a day devoted to driving. We did none of that. Instead, the three of us lounged around the house – our parents during the holidays and our own after. We’ve taken walks around Jamaica Pond, worked out on a regular basis, played for hours at a time with Jack, tried half a dozen new recipes, watched a handful of movies, and slept in. Actually, Ed & I took turns getting up with Jack so one of us could sleep in until 8:30 or 9:00 (amazing). Also, and in case you are one of our very few regular readers, we’ve been blogging on a regular basis (for better or worse). Yesterday, we turned the heat down to 65 degrees to avoid an astronomical gas bill and even though we are freezing (well, I am), I am sad to be leaving the laid-back schedule which has allowed us to be a family for 24 hours a day.

When we were figuring out how to get Jack on a sleeping schedule, one of the things we discovered (and one of the few things that I found to be true in all the parenting readings) was that sleep begets sleep. The better Jack slept, the better he slept. Same goes with me and Ed, except the more we sleep, the more we sleep. Relationships seem to be like sleep – the more you are around another person, the better you get along. Love begets love. Maybe it’s the ability to pause and actually enjoy time with the other person- Ed & I ran errands last week while Jack was at daycare, but because that’s pretty much all we had to do that day, we took our time, getting coffee and browsing. It allowed us time to talk about all of those kinds of things we’d talk about before our entire life focused around Jack, and making enough money to (barely) pay our bills. You know, finding out where Ed eats lunch during the week and discuss elaborate ideas (that we can’t afford) for celebrating our 10-year wedding anniversary this October.

I used to feel guilty about not getting big projects done when I had the time. When I was teaching full time, I always intended to revise my entire syllabus over the week break between quarters. Instead, I barely changed the one I had and students would get the course schedule only a few weeks at a time. If one student mentioned that they liked to plan further ahead, I was a confirmed bad instructor. During the summer, when we are inevitably less busy, I usually plan on going through and organizing all of our stuff in storage (clothes, books, Christmas decorations), but it never seems to happen. The only reason that I am remotely organized is that we move, on average, every two years.

Why is it that the more we have to do, the more we get done? Or, why is it that when I suddenly have the time to get those things done that are always on our to-do list, I find the greatest excuses in the world to put off doing them even longer? I usually use the, “I’ll do what I want since I have the time; my enjoyment is just as important as sorting Jack’s baby gear” -- even though I know I’ll feel better about myself if I spent the three hours sorting. The ironic thing is that when I am at my busiest, when I am fantasizing about having chunks of time to tackle the huge jobs, I actually get a lot more done in the process of having no time. In other words, I’m more likely to efficiently pump out a decent course schedule if I’m facing freelance work and SAT essay scoring than I am if I have an entire week of nothing to do. For me, procrastination rears its head when I have too much time.

I’ve decided not to feel badly about all that didn’t get done these last weeks. I realize that I’m too much of an outcome gal: I like to see the boxes clearly labeled and stacked; the pictures placed in chronological order in the photo albums. That way, I can always see the results of my efforts. Long term results are harder for me, like most, I assume. The labels for relationship outcomes are fleeting, though, of course more satisfying (Jack’s smile, Ed’s lingering kiss). The trick isn’t in knowing that Jack will feel more attached and secure because I’ve colored and danced with him more than usual. It isn’t knowing that Ed & I are able to laugh (rather than bicker) about those annoying habits (could you stack the pots and pans any worse?) because we’ve been spending more time laughing about other things. The trick is remembering all of this during the off-vacation days, the time when I’m trying to pack in all of those projects.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Saturday, 7:02pm: Who can resist playoff-time? What playoffs, you ask? Does it matter? Football, basketball, soccer... shoot, even curling would be exciting if it meant the loser was going home. My neighbor and I head out to the best sports bar I know to catch the home town Patriots play the Broncos in Denver. 80 television screens and the best buffalo-wings I've come across in a long time. Xanadu!

7:28pm: We park on Harvard Street and walk down the street to the bar. It's one of the mildest January days on record, 62 degrees. I refuse to believe the weather forcast that says it's supposed to snow tomorrow.

7:34pm: Ok, Boston loves, loves, its sports teams. There's a long line out the door. Crap.

7:35pm: We get in line. Neighbor gets the scouting report on the wait: 30+ minutes just to get in the door. Hmmm, we could go somewhere else, but there's 80 TV screens in there.

7:55pm: Still waiting. Apparently, the place is so full, they're letting 1 person in for every 1 person that leaves.

7:59pm: Still waiting, but we're moving. I can see the door!

8:05pm: Ok, still in line, but we're close. Psychologists really do need to study the psychology of waiting in line. My hypothesis is your disdain for other people in line is proportional to the distance from your spot in line. You loathe the people in the front of the line, because they're so close to getting in and you pity the people really behind you because, hah! They're never getting in.

8:10pm: Kickoff. Luckily, this bar pipes the games through speakers outside and we can look through the windows.

8:12pm: We reach the Point-of-No-Return. We can't bail from the line now. It's now a point of personal pride that I get inside to watch the game.

8:20pm: Here's the deal - if the place is packed to capacity, you lose your spot inside if you go outside for a smoke break. And besides, two smoke breaks in 15 minutes means you're not really here for the football.

8:36pm: We're all getting a little punchy from waiting. People arriving by car or cab are met with sarcastic cheering - and don't even THINK about trying to sweet talk your way in sweetheart - get to the back of the line! What, but your friends are in there saving you a spot? Back of the line! Oh, sweet justice.

8:44pm: First quarter ends. Close game. And we're 3 people from getting in! Of course, when you wait in line for a long time you bond with the people directly in front and in back of you. Why is that?

8:50pm: Finally. We get inside.

9:25pm: Buffalo wings. Good. Napkin please.

9:45pm: What I love about games that I'm not really all that invested in, is I can spend time people watching. Bostonians take their football seriously. Lots of shouting, cheering, and lots of cussing in New England accents. Broncos take the lead. There's actually a guy in here wearing a Denver jersey. He starts cheering loudly. The locals are pissed.

10:38pm: Well into the second half now and it's not looking good for the Patriots. I'll spare you details.

11:47pm: Patriots lose. No Super Bowl this year. Broncos Guy is pumped. We leave.

Oh, and it did snow today.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

So, I've been in a pretty good mood- actually expecting GOOD to happen. It's been nice. But, of course, it doesn't take much to revert back to negative, existential angst me. I actually think that it's only when I have too much time on my hands that I get moody- idle hands, I guess. Work will start up soon enough, but before I get caught up in the more productive life, I thought I'd indulge my moodiness, take it to a bookstore and exhaust it for what it's worth.

Last night we watched The Constant Gardener starring Ralph Fiennes (he loves him some movies with planes in Africa). The movies was good enough, and even though I could tell that the book is better (the whole "garden" metaphor got lost in the film), I was reminded that my faith in "things working out" is indeed brought on because of the economic and geological circumstances that I was born into (middle class America). I won't get into the sordid details, but basically I was reminded that there are millions of people whose lives are hideous. As I watched African children playing near garbage in this fictional film, I couldn't help but wonder about their laughter; how all kids smile easy, how Jack smiles easy and it isn't until later that we realize (do we) how bad or good we do have it. I woke up down, wallowing in my middle class angst, wondering what was the point of wallowing, yet still feeling bad. My politics, as usual, veering right, but tempered by an emotional left. I refuse to become some cliched version of white middle class guilt - I'm much more interested in figuring out the meaning of life (that way I don't have to deal with the individual sufferings, you know - and I can keep it all academic and selfish).

So, I took my angst and drove to Borders at the Atrium Mall (yes, I did) where I purchased Bertrand Russel's The History of Western Philosophy just so I can intellectualize my frustration at trying to answer all the big questions. Big questions that will no doubt fall by the wayside when I have to deal with the know-it-all 18-year old male in the back row of my classroom snorting at my diatribe about the importance of critical thinking. I sat down after browsing and buying, sipped on the best chai latte I've ever had and started reading. Immediately I missed Jack & Ed (it took the usual 30 minutes just to drive the 7 miles to the Boston destination and another 10 to park). I wonder if I will really read this book - or if buying it will curb any personal philosophical searchings. I don't want to be that person - the one who wonders, examines for a day or so, and then moves on, developing some lame, surface ideas based purely on emotion and goes about her life narrowly focused on only what's in front of me. YOU KNOW?

Of course, with all these musings, I've begun to feel the panic of work (or lack there of), so in part to avoid any deep (and probably boring) philisophical ramblings and in part to pay the bills, I'm heading off to to see what other Boston publisher might need some freelancer.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


I hear Seattle is approaching (or has established) a record for consecutive rainy days. I thought the record was 40 days - apparently that's the record for days without sun. I did miss the sun when we were in the Northwest, and admittedly, was ready to return to Boston for some actual WINTER weather. And, some sunshine. Today was one of the those days where you look outside and the sky is so blue and the sun is so bright that it is easy to imagine that it is summer. Except for the bare trees, it could have been. Today's high was near 60 degrees! It was amazing. Jack, Ed, and I walked to the local school's playground - Ed in shorts, Jack in a sweatshirt (no coat) and me in a light jacket. It felt like spring. I guess this means two feet of snow in April. Even though I was craving some snow, I am delighted to be able to open the windows for some fresh air and turn down the heat to avoid another ridiculous gas bill (our bill for December, two weeks of which we were gone and the heat was off, was $250).

2006 is coming along nicely, weather and all. I picked up two classes at a local community college. It will be nice to be teaching again. And, hopefully, with continued freelance work and SAT scoring, my dream schedule will continue. Yesterday we took Jack in for his 18 month appointment and the pediatrician told us that the next six months or so are the most dangerous of Jack's life. This is the age when kids start to climb and jump, unaware of the effects of height on their bodies should they fall. Jack proved his doc right by carelessly jumping from the big toy at the school - Ed caught him in time to avoid a trip to the emergeny room. Ah, the fun really begins now.

School starts for Ed next week, and me the week after- so we're trying to enjoy the down time now: renting movies, taking advantage of the weather, being a family during daylight hours, trying new recipes. Friday night is curry night. Gotta love it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The new year wasn't two weeks old and our family faced our first crisis of 2006. The TV was broken. Ok, let me go on record now by saying I wish this wasn't a huge problem. Honestly, it isn't. But c'mon...our TV... was broken. No sports, no Sex & the City reruns, no Sesame Street, no Playstation...

We had to decide how long we could go without a television. One week? A month?

We headed out to Best Buy the next day.

Went and saw Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire on Sunday. Wasn't disappointed, but wasn't thrilled either. I can imagine it's pretty hard to adapt a book into a movie, let alone one of the most popular books in recent memory into a 2 1/2 hour movie. Still, the movie lacked....oomphff. At the end, a character is killed and the main villain is reborn and on the loose. If you were like me - you were shocked, shocked, by the end of the book. Cedric died! Lord Voldemort is alive! Holy crap!

I still can't get used the actor who now plays Dumbledore (I miss Richard Harris). The new guy will always be the slimy executive he played in the movie, The Insider, [in southern drawl] " I know you know the contents of your confidentiality agreement Jeff-rey..."

The kids will be what, 25, by the time they start shooting the fifth movie? We voted the actor who plays Ron, Most-Likely-to-Appear-in-The-Next-Guy-Richie-Movie.

Of course, Snape is the best thing about every Harry Potter movie. How could they ever recast that role?

Book 4 (Goblet of Fire) ends on an ominous, serious note and I liked that. I didn't feel like the end of the movie had the same tone- kind of like, oh, everyone's bummed, but hey, the school year's over, aaaaand scene. Here's a question for all the HarryPotter-niacs out there: was Dumbledore's line, "hard times are ahead Harry, soon we'll all have to make a choice between what's right and what's easy," in book 4? I'd go look, but I know we have readers who already know the answer to that question.

And is there anyone out there who still loves going to the movies? For cryin' outloud, $9?? Commercials for TV shows?? 2 dozen pointless movie trailors??

I guess we can always watch the movies on our new TV.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


I helped teach a Women's Literature class in graduate school. It was the culmination of one of my dreams: reading and discussing my the greats (Virgnia Woolf, Toni Morrison), hashing out feminist theories, analyzing interesting films (Real Women have Curves and Cheryl Dunye's The Watermelon Woman). We also read Zines--self published magazines usually filled with brutal honesty in word or visual form; and emotionally charged rants or raves on topics ranging from music to sex to food to clothes. The spirit of zines is one of rebellion bordering on revolution inspired by genuine insecurity, inbalance, outrage, and passion. Every student in the class contributed one page to our class zine, producing an amazing aray of the kind of honesty the good zines cultivate: provoking that exhiliarating mix of tears and laughter.

The reason I'm explaining all of this is because one of my favorite--perhaps low-key--aspects of the zine was something called the "googlebox." No, there's no connection to the dominate search engine or a woman's anatomy (well, that might be in there). A google box is a list of someone's top 100 favorite things in life - be it material possessions, a certain time of the day, a particular memory, or person, -- whatever. Only one person in the class tackled this seemingly easy task. It's hard- try coming up with 100 things that you cherish. When the course ended and I had some free time, I attempted to fill up my googlebox. I think I got to #30. The trick is finding the "ultimate" googlebox material - I wanted only the timeless and ultimate items. Also, the more specific the better. For instance, I wouldn't just write "Jack" - I'd probably put "Jack dancing his dance when a song overcomes him during dinner."

For the last five years, I'll think of one or two things that could be added and wonder, fad or established item? In many ways, the googlebox, though a whimsical notion, has become something to represent my ultimate joys - for all time. Hardly whimsical. Hardly an easy list to make. I think it might be what gets read at my funeral.

I've been thinking about my googlebox because yesterday it was my birthday. I have good birthdays- usually perfect. The thing is, I never really do anyting out of the ordinary - for some reason just the idea that it is my birthday taints the day with a subtle magic. Walking around Jamaica Pond with Ed becomes the perfect walk, playing with Jack while Ed makes an amazing birthday dinner instantly feels like one of those memories that flashes across the mind right before death. So, #26 in my googlebox is "birthday." I only need that one word to remind me of one of my best days of the year. It is these "things" that are to be detailed in a googlebox. How do you capture honest pleasure in a list of 100 "things" that fit on one page? It's the simplicity of it all that makes it brilliant. On the way home from the store yesterday (birthday) I had an item to add: Mexican Chocolate. It's my absolute favorite splurge: the mix of luxurious chocolate with the exotic spices of cinnamon and cayenne pepper. It makes me think about the extraordinary in the ordinary day-to-dayness of life. Another perfect googlebox item.

Anyway, I challenge you to create (or start) your own googlebox list. It's a spectular way of counting blessings. I usually don't do the whole new year resolutions thing- but I do have a goal to finish my googlebox list in the next few months, write "2006" at the top and tack it somewhere where I can jumpstart those uninspiring, lackluster, insecure days.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Another Reason We Need to Be Sure All is Good in Iraq

I'm a closeted pro-Iraq war gal. Hell, we stayed in Germany for YEARS after WWII to make sure everything was okay (no, we DON'T know it all, but we - the U.S.- have some beneficial influences). Why not hang out in Iraq to help those who, yeah, want some personal liberty (guess what, folks, it just might be universal that EVERYONE wants individual rights). And, yes, secure some P.R. to keep the black stuff flowing (we're all buying it).

Anyway, it hit me tonight. Well, after a second, rather full glass of rather fine Wilamette Valley Pinot Noir (hey, girl), I had Ed pop in the third disc of Sex and the City's third season (my political views withstand any lack of sobriety). My sister, whose husband is actually currently probably embracing his wife and two children after a year in Iraq himself, was generous enough to have her husband (while still in Iraq) pick up the last ENTIRE disc set of the famed HBO series from some street vendor for one of my favorite (okay, FAVORITE) Christmas presents. Other than some bad graphics on the cover and some copy mistakes on the back, it seemed to be fine. And has been through the first season. But tonight, when Ed pressed play on the 2nd season's third disc, we realized that it was just a copy of the first disc of the 2nd season. I was disappointed. If anything, we need to be sure we stay in Iraq to be sure that this kind of mistake -- along with the random killing of thousands of people by the insurgency and the complete erasure of women's rights -- does not happen again.

Sick by my fickle, materialistic comments? Can't believe I'd compare missing the ongoings of a too-likeable New York City columnist who inhabits a much, much too small body with the peril of an entire region? Well, I'll tell you this- I think it's a shame that it takes half a bottle of Pinot Noir to admit that I support that the American way of life is, well, something worth striving for - Carrie Bradshaw's upper class problems included. We all should be so lucky to have them.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

It's strange how fast Christmas, and then New Year's, comes and goes. So much anticipation wrapped around a two-week period. That's the fun, isn't it? The waiting. Christmas comes and before the day's over, we've got the Christmas Blues. The song should be remade into "The 12 Days Before Christmas".

"On the 12th day before Christmas, my true love said to me, 'we need to think of getting a Christmas tree..."

It was a busy 2 weeks. My parents were nice enough (and brave) to allow us in their home through the Holidays. It was really nice. Going back home to your parents' house can be a tricky proposition, for everyone involved. I can imagine it's a mix of emotions for parents when their kids come back to visit. On one hand, you're glad to see them, but after awhile your routine gets thrown out the window. What's Christmas 2026 going to be like when Jack comes back home, somehow deletes my dynasty from my Playstation 5, eats all my chips, and leaves his dirty clothes all over his old room? Like I said, tricky.

We got to see a lot of friends. Two weeks is never enough time to catch up with everyone. It's hard to compress the past 4 months in one or two succinct sentences. The answer to, "so how's Boston? How have you been?" was usually, "uh, good. School's good." I had a tough time with that, the awkward catch-up talk...

"How's school going?"

"'s good. So how's [fill in major or minor Life Change]?


Ugh. I think I'd much rather skip the catch-up and get to the everyday-to-day stuff. And when I say "everyday-to-day stuff", I really mean, watch sports together. This is how most of us (males) communicate with each other. We're not going to sit down over a coffee or dinner and catch up. We're going to eat some food, turn the game on, and sit down. Not necessarily in that order. Oh, we'll talk about our lives, but it'll be in the course of dipping a chip or a carrot stick while commenting on the lack of team defense.

In the end, we were ready to go, but not ready to leave. Does that make sense? I got a feelin' 2006 is going to be a good year. The even-years always are.