Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sister Sally and Brother Chuck

A very chilly 8 degrees frozen solid here today. Unusual for us. But then, even Tucson got a hard freeze.

Arctic air, paying us a visit. Just a little reminder that it can.

Besides, it's sunny and clear. Already the solar energy is warming the house.

I'm an only child, if you didn't know. My mom didn't really plan it that way. In fact, I'm sure she would have loved to have more children. But it took five years of trying for her to get pregnant with me and then my dad died when I was three. She was a widow for four years and, when she remarried, my stepfather didn't want more children.

(In many ways, he didn't really want even me, but he loved my mother and we were a package deal. Don't be sad - things got much better once I was an adult.)

At any rate, as a wildly imaginative kid who often played by herself, I enjoyed the company of many imaginary friends. One was a ghost I called Casper, along with a little girl in a red dress named Jill. I remember seeing them quite clearly. They were vividly present to me. Sometimes I wonder if imaginary friends aren't some kind of non-physical entities that small children have the non-busyness to talk to. Of course, there was also a magazine rack shaped like a cat that I remember told me stories when we lived at my grandparents after my dad died.

Fine lines, I suppose.

I never felt the lack of siblings, except that people were forever asking me if I minded not having them. People being grown-ups, of course. Other kids never asked me if I minded. In fact, they always said how lucky I was, usually when an older brother was tormenting them or a younger sib was being a pest. As I got older, nothing I saw in my friends' families made me think I was really missing out on the sibling experience.

Except that people kept on about it. People even sometimes hinted that I might have psychological problems because of it.

So, at one point, I invented a little sister. I couldn't see her as clearly, but she was short, bouncy, and had blond ringlets. I named her Sally. She was an ideal little sister because she was available to play or gaze at me in adoration, and also conveniently disappeared when I lost interest. She didn't last very long, but I do think of her, from time to time.

I thought of her a little while back, when my mom's friend, Jan, was dealing with her aging mother and all those awful decisions about nursing homes, etc. Jan, also an only child, said to my mom over drinks: "I keep wondering - where the hell is Chuck?" When my mom looked blank, Jan explained that Chuck was the brother she never had, the one who should be there to help her make those decisions.

My mom just got a new kitten. This sounds like not a big deal, but it is. Since her last cat died, over a year ago, she's gone without. For pretty much the first time in her adult life, she hasn't had a feline companion. So about a month ago, she finally went and got a rescue Main coon kitten.

And named her Sally.

It's significant, I suppose, because my mom had to take into account that it's possible Sally will outlive her. She asked me if I'd take her in, if it came to that. I said of course I would, though I don't like to think about that.

Sally is a bit skittish yet, from her traumatic start, but we played with her all of Thanksgiving. She became the main entertainment. By the end of our four-day visit, she'd let me rub her ears. But David won her heart by teaching her that couch pillows make great tunnels.

So, now I do have a little sister named Sally. One who lives in the immediacy of the moment, who forgets her fears in the spirit of play.

A lovely addition to our little family.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Oops, We Did It Again

We really didn't plan it this way. There might have been an element of "oh, this was so fun last year, we should do it again."

My mom, Hope and I went shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving. It's not as crazy as it sounds. We go to La Encantada in Tucson, which is this lovely outdoor mall that isn't crowded. We don't go for Christmas shopping, either, but more to screw around and enjoy ourselves. We had Italian for lunch. And really, Hope did the most shopping, which is a major reversal.

All was well until we hit the Black/White store and found these great tops that were neither black nor white. My mom loved the sweater and went to try it on, while Hope and I waited in the dressing area. We'd previously spotted and admired the tops with the roses, but left it there. Then this young gal came out of a dressing room and looked so fab in that selfsame top, we felt compelled to try them on, too.

It was meant to be, don't you think?

I got Hope's for her as a birthday present. She promised to put it away again after Mexican food night, and re-open it on her special day. We'll see if she does.

This was our Thanksgiving. Nothing profound. Nothing earth-shattering. We did silly things and ate great food, drank a lot of wine. We slept in, sat in the sun, took walks, read.

Perhaps a happy life gives one little to report of interest.

Still, I'm thankful.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Counting Trespasses

No Crazy Gym Lady today!

She's off to Baton Rouge for Thanksgiving. (Sorry Danica.) But I saved this one from last week.

"Normally I love to cook, but I hate cooking for Thanksgiving because my mother's kitchen is so...Limited! It's very frustrating for me."


This year my mom and stepsister, Hope, are doing all the cooking. I don't recall if I mentioned that. Despite my NoNaNo words about Thanksgiving being about lots of prep, things worked out so that we can't get to Tucson until tomorrow midday. For those keeping score at home, that leaves little time for cooking, even though we do eat later in the day.

They're both so lovely about it, they've said not to worry and I can cook at Christmas.

So I'll waltz in and be fed. Pretty glam.

We're lucky to have a place to go for this celebration, with people we enjoy so much. I've been having a lot of conversations this week with friends dreading their Thanksgiving obligations. The same themes rise over and over again. Families who don't listen to each other, who are so busy judging who's living the more correct life that no one can relax and take pleasure in the day. The gathering of family becomes a gauntlet for some, an annual performance review that almost always comes with a stamp of "Did Not Meet Expectations."

Never mind that those expectations are rarely anything the person agreed to.

People have been saying a lot this week about thankfulness, gratitude, counting blessings. That's to be expected for this holiday. It's important to me, to count the ways I am so fortunate, so rich. Perhaps, though, we might spend time thinking about the demands we lay on the people we love, who we expect them to be, how we expect them to behave.

I think often of this quote, which I'm sure I've quoted here before, by Jim Morrison:

The most loving parents and relatives commit murder with smiles on their faces. They force us to destroy the person we really are: a subtle kind of murder.

He's talking about those expectations. I imagine we can all think of ways our families have asked us to be someone we're not. David and I have been trying to turn that around, being diligent not to be the smiling murderers ourselves.

That's my small bid for change. Sending along my wishes and hopes that you who are dreading the gatherings find joy in some part of them.

If not, you can all come to my mom's house!

With that, I'll leave you to at least enjoy the time off. Have a lovely holiday!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stocking Stuffers

Crazy Gym Lady (to a guy leaving the gym): "You won't relax. You're high energy like me. I keep myself busy."

"Manic," I mutter under my breath.


I dream sometimes about missing holidays. I know I've mentioned this before from time to time.

It's one of my standard anxiety-dreams, along with the one about taking a final without having been to class all semester. (Why is it always Calculus?? It wasn't as hard as Organic Chemistry or Biochemistry. Yet somehow I have this lingering idea that there's one semester of Calculus I still "owe" somebody, somewhere. And of course I never have studied for it...)

The other night, I dreamed that I forgot stocking stuffers. Everyone was at our house; everything was ready. And I realized I had no stocking stuffers for anyone. Off I went to buy some, which segued into the long dream of the strange and endless store which morphs into some kind of haunted Victorian mansion with a boat at the dock I never seem to reach.

You guys have this dream, too, right?

Anyway, the stocking-stuffer deal is pretty much mine in the first place. I suspect the rest of the family would drop it if I let them. Which I won't. I love the touch of magic in it. Playing Santa. I like that we have to sneak around, trying to avoid each other late on Christmas Eve, or early Christmas morning, to tuck little gifts in the stockings. Generally they're silly things. We each find three per person. It can be stuff like lottery tickets, candy, mini-screwdrivers, and iTunes gift cards. Sometimes someone gets frisky and does a more expensive small something - jewelry or tech devices.

It's fun and a challenge to see what people come up with.

But, because they have to be small, require inventiveness and because they're low-key, people put-off acquiring the stocking-stuffers. Then you have to keep track of them without nametags and keep the unwrapped things hidden. Just a bit more effort.

Every year someone asks "are we doing stuffers this year?" hoping we can drop the tradition. Always I talk them into keeping the magic for just one more year. Let's not let it slide just yet.

Last night someone said to me on Twitter that her family is thinking about Denny's for Thanksgiving dinner. I'd been teasing someone else about whether Southerners knew how to to a "real" Thanksgiving and passed her when she assured me they have pumpkin pie, not sweet potato pie. This other gal jumped in to tweak me with her Denny's deal. I obliged her with crying blasphemy and she said she knew - that's why they like it.

But is it really being iconoclastic? Breaking tired traditions for the freedom and energy of it can be a terrific thing. Sometimes though, we just don't feel like putting in the effort, so we dress it up as being rebellious.

I usually find the results are worth the effort. It's tempting to let things slide, to let competing projects, like crying baby birds demanding to be fed NOW, take priority. But it's not always the loudest, most obnoxious thing that deserves our attention. It's up to us to choose.

And, to whomever I owe a semester of Calculus, I swear next time I'll study.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Frosty Moon

Crazy Gym Lady (as I walk in the door): "Let's see, she's got on her red coat and teal headband - she's all ready for Christmas!"

Me: "Um, but it has nothing to do with Christmas."

Crazy Gym Lady: "Well, I'm very visual."


This moon is from Saturday evening. I would have liked to catch it last night, but I foolishly scheduled an FFP board meeting at the same time as moonrise. But, since the moon was technically fully full at 10:27am Sunday morning, the night before is pretty much the same as the night after.

November's moon is the Frosty Moon. It's also called the Full Beaver Moon. I am not Tawna Fenske, however, so I decided to stay away from that one.

Saturday wasn't frosty at all. In fact, it was fully and gorgeously warm. Doesn't that picture look like a summer sky? We went hiking and sat on the patio for cocktails. But, as if ushered in by the Frosty Moon, cold weather hit last night. The wind roared in, freezing rain pelted the windows. Between the bright, full moon and the turbulent storm, we and the animals woke several times during the night. This morning shows a dusting of our first snow.

Seems appropriate for Thanksgiving week to me.

Which, um, has nothing to do with Christmas.

Friday, November 19, 2010

More than a Feeling

David loves Pandora. You know, it's internet "radio." You plug in a song or a favorite band and Pandora creates a "station" for you of similar music. He hooks his laptop up to the stereo and listens for hours that way.

Yesterday, Boston's More than a Feeling came on and, like music can, it took me back.

No, I'm not old enough for that song to have been a current, hot hit for me. I was ten when the album was released. I don't know that I had ever heard of Boston or that song - what got me was the cover. Somewhere around the time I was 13 or 14, I found that record at a garage sale for something like 50 cents. Heavy into sci fi at the time - which had the additional bonus of often including quite steamy sex not discernible from the appearance of the books - I bought the record for the spaceships.

When I played it, though, the opening chords of More than a Feeling sucked me right in.

Something about it transported me, gave me that more-than-a-feeling feeling. It's added layers now that the lyrics say "when I hear that old song play."

Around that time I joined the Multi-cultural Club. Oh yeah, possibly the geekiest club in school. It was like I couldn't help myself - I irresistibly drawn to those social groups who doomed your chances of ever being cool if you went to even one meeting.

Of course, I didn't think that way.

At any rate, we wanted to do a fundraiser and it was to be a fashion show. I don't know why. I think to showcase the different national costumes or some such. The club sponsor was a young woman. Early 20s, I realize now. And she was of some kind of Latino or Hispanic extraction. Maybe South American? I didn't really register it then, but she spoke with a heavy accent and was shy. I said we needed music and she said okay, I was in charge of music.

We did this during lunch, to maximize the audience. How this was a fundraiser, I have no idea.

As we gathered together, this gaggle of geeks, with our various outfits to change into, I eyed the busy lunchroom with trepidation.

This was a really bad idea.

Nobody is cruel like high-schoolers trying to each lunch. Even in my hopeful naivete, I knew this. But we were committed. Our club sponsor happily started the record and I readied myself to step out onto the platform catwalk we'd set up around the room.

Those sweet opening chords filled the room, propelled me forward. I became that girl walking away. Not a geek, but a model on the catwalk.

It was spectacular. They even applauded.

More than a feeling, indeed.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

It's the Little Things

This is actually a sunrise picture. Ha! Tricked you, didn't I?

Yeah, the sun here, it goes up, it goes down. Sometimes with clouds, sometimes without. Always doing something.

I have this friend whose marriage has been going bad for the last several years. It was one of those long-time coming deals. He'd been a drinker until she told him his choices were rehab or divorce. He'd had a couple of affairs in the past, but they'd worked it out and moved on. They'd reached a point where he wasn't drinking and they were trying to make things work, but the little things still pointed to fundamental cracks in caring for each other.

It's funny which things really get to people.

She'd already put up with far more than I would have, more than a lot of people would have, when the whole truck thing happened.

He drove her to the next city over - about an hour - to buy the truck when her old one died. She's the kind of gal who plans ahead, who saves. She knew her vehicle was on its last legs so she'd saved her money and researched dealerships. They went and she bought exactly what she wanted. A rare treat.

Except it ended up costing a bit extra because the husband asked the dealership to add a decal to the rear window of the truck of an eagle and an American flag. Several hundred dollars worth of decal.

Then he wanted to drive the new truck home and have her drive the old one.

She was so mad.

I mean, this is a gal who rarely complains. She likes everyone to get along. I don't know if she's ever been in a shouting-mad fight. But she fumed over this. The audacity of him thinking he'd drive her truck home. Oh, and how she hated that decal she had to pay for. It had the added bonus of blocking her sightlines out the rear window.

When things finally got bad enough to blow the top - when she discovered he was involved in yet another affair - they split. He moved out. She kept her truck, of course. We all said, Now you can have that decal removed.

But it turned out to be expensive to take off, too, and she decided it wasn't worth it. She hoped a rock on the highway might break the window and she could just replace the whole thing with insurance help. When we visited, we discussed sneaking out at night and smashing it with a baseball bat, making it look like vandalism.

Unfortunately, none of us have ever shattered a car window with a baseball bat. Sure, it looks easy in the movies, but... we chickened out.

He's been gone a couple of years now and her life is better.

The other night, for her birthday, she went out in the evening to meet friends. She emailed me the next morning saying she'd be out for a while, taking her truck in to get fixed. Turns out she backed into her friend's steel flatbed truck. Didn't scratch it, but put $2700 worth of hurt to her pickup.

It was raining, she said, and had she ever mentioned that the dammed decal has bubbles in it that catch water. She couldn't see a thing through the water-filled eagle and flag.

The good news is, she's having the decal removed. The daughter is overjoyed, too. There are different ways to measure cost.

It's about time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Creation, Destruction and Writing

A lot of writer's blogs give writing advice.

I'm not entirely comfortable with this.

Never mind the whole question of at what point in your career are you really qualified to offer advice on the art and craft of writing. I really couldn't say. But I notice that people often pass around the same "lessons" on how you should do things. Frequently this kind of teaching is repeating what someone has told them, rather than from experience.

We used to run into this kind of thing with Kung Fu.

I studied and helped teach some of the Taoist arts for about 15 years. The three major internal arts, Tai Chi, Pakua and Hsing-I, are often presented as arts for lifetime practice. Like most arts, it takes time to learn the forms, the movements and the rules. Then you practice. Over time, you make it your own. Like most Taoist approaches, results are measured by your internal barometer. There are no real external markers for success.

Of course, our society isn't much for long-term anything and we're all about external markers of success.

Thus the weekend seminars where people learn Tai Chi, and then go teach it. To me this is a lot like passing along writing lessons that aren't from actual experience.

So, I rarely give writing advice, except to talk about an experience.

I'm breaking that rule today.

I notice a lot of people complain about getting stuck in their manuscripts. Always at the same place. For some it's starting, for others finishing. A lot of people hate the middle.

This isn't just about writing a novel, it's about dealing with all of life.

So, I give you the cycle of the five elements here. If you're familiar with this sort of thing, you'll know the principles of the five elements form the foundation for much of the Oriental philosophies. Yeah, I'm lumping India in with the Orient.

Here's a nice simple chart. There are some abysmally complex ones out there, but we're keeping this simple. So a basic way to read this is, water grows wood, wood burns into fire, fire reduces to ashy earth, earth transforms into metals and metals reduce back into simple water. Don't get caught up in the logic - suffice to say their idea of "metal" is a bit different.

Instead, look at it this way.

No, I'm not just randomly substituting. Birth is like water, like the primordial sea that is the beginning. Wood is growth, like the forests, plants and vines covering the world. Maturity is the fire, the balance between growth and decline. It can be nurtured to last a long time or can be a flash and disappear. Earth is the decline, the sinking back of growth into the ground. Death is the endpoint that cycles back into birth.

That's one of the points. This isn't a straight line; it's a circle. Death makes birth possible.

You can match this to the seasons, too: Spring is birth, followed by summer, a moment or forever of midsummer, the decline of autumn and the death of winter - which gives way again to spring.

So, at last, my point:

We can apply this to writing our stories and novels. The analogy should be clear by now. You have your beginning that sets the stage, the growth of the story, the middle, which often contains the turning point, then the the decline, the wrapping up of the story and the ending.

Most of us are better at some points in the cycle than others. In our hearts, we already know which parts of life we struggle with. Some can start things; some can't end them. Some get stuck between growth and decline with no understanding of what to do with it.

One writer-friend of mine has a hard time with decline, for example. She hates to let things go. Once they're already declined, she can let them go into death, but she has a tendency to try to keep things from declining. That's where she gets stuck.

Me? I don't like killing things off. I like things to last forever. So I practice. I try to embrace the end of things in my life. Kill it off and let it go.

I'm not necessarily good at it.

Ah, but the birth that follows is a glorious thing.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

High Drama

Overheard from the Crazy Gym Lady: "That wasn't sugar. It was honey. Honey isn't sugar."

This morning, the Jeep was completely frosted over. A heavy fog had settled in overnight - indeed a wind-driven fog bank was still whipping by overhead, foaming and turbulent like those old paintings of horses boiling out of the surf - and froze onto every surface in a thick coat.

David turned on the defroster, to the second-highest setting, then got out to scrape off the windshield. Once he was out of the car, I turned the defroster up to its highest setting. He won't do this. Something prevents him from using the "high" setting on anything. Even boiling water in the tea-kettle, he'll put it on just a notch down from high. Or, much more aggravating, he'll put it on somewhere around the low side of medium.

Not particularly wanting to wait half an hour for the water to heat, I'll sneak into the kitchen and turn it up to High.

"Why is the tea kettle on High?" he'll ask.

"So the water will boil," I tell him in my soul-of-patience voice.

"It's already boiling."

"No - it's just hot. I want my water hotter than that."

"You just like to superheat everything," he tells me.

He tells me that a lot. I like to put the take-out pizza in the oven to keep warm while we eat the initial slices. Yes - "superheating." I bring pasta water to a rolling boil. I like baths hot, not tepid.

Oh yes, it's a problem sometimes. I'm impatient, so I nearly always start a skillet or pan on my favorite setting, start the oil, maybe the garlic, and dial down from there. Sometimes I might, um, get distracted, too. I really do try not to let this happen often. The getting distracted part. I'm still quite fond of High.

That's the intensity in me. The drama. I like things bold and decisive. Dithering drives me up the wall. While David rarely dithers, he's for the careful approach. He likes to ease into something, take it slowly. Wait and see.

We're fire and water. It actually works for us.

Though I'm forever turning the dials up, he's there turning them down. He hesitates to take action, but I've already bought the tickets. When I'm running too hot, he tells me to settle down.

Are we attracted opposites? I think it's more the balance.

Honey isn't sugar. Except it is.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Suicide Owls

I'm not usually rabid about symmetry. In fact, for a long time I habitually wore two different earrings, just to be asymmetrical. But I like how this photo came out.

Straight road to the mountains and the sky beyond.

The other day I heard a loud crack, the unmistakable sound of a bird hitting one of our windows. I knew immediately the bird had killed itself. I didn't have to get up from my desk to know. Birds hit our windows sometimes, because they reflect all that sky, but usually they're just scooting around the house on birdie business and bounce off. In over a year of living here, this is only the second bird to die on our windows. It's only when they're not paying attention, when they're hunting or being hunted, that they screw up.

It's with dread that I go look to see what bird it had been. Sometimes I'd like to pretend I don't know, avoid looking altogether. I can't give the bird its life back and yet I feel I have to at least witness it.

Surprising to me, this time it was a raptor. I thought a little kestrel, but David ID'd it as a pygmy owl. Turns out they sometimes hunt birds during bright daylight. Which also explains why he was easily fooled by our windows. Daylight is still not the strong suit for owls.

Really a neat little guy. I wish I'd seen him alive.

Cycle of life and all that.

And then David found out yesterday that one of his lifelong friends had "died suddenly at his mother's house," according to the obituary. He hadn't seen the friend in quite a while, but it's a shock. The guy was only 56.

These things make us sad, in diffuse ways. There's nothing to be done. It's part of the natural order and yet, it's also natural to mourn their passing.

Death is the bookend to birth. A dreadful symmetry that draws boundaries around our mortal lives. We might try to buck that, play little games with ourselves and pretend that death is far away or that we'll be different. But we know it'll chase us down sooner or later.

We never know when we might be shooting for the sky and snap our necks on plate glass instead.

Because we can't know, we focus on life. Death moves among us, but we live. In some ways, we owe it to the dead to enjoy our lives. Relish every breath, every joy and sorrow that reminds us that we're part of the world.

And when we get down the road, there is the sky, and everything beyond.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Smell Me a River

So, today Crazy Lady at the Gym - who works there every morning but Thursdays (ah! how I've come to love Thursdays...) - stops us just as we finish running on the treadmill.

"Now that it's winter," she says, "I'm asking everyone to wear deodorant to the gym. And to wear fresh exercise clothes everyday."

We stare at her in disbelief.

"Because we're all closed in here," she explains. "I'm asking everyone."

She added this last, in case we thought she was making a personal remark about us.

Yeah, this one annoyed even my mild-mannered David.

"It's a freaking gym!" he exclaims as soon as we walk out the door. "People sweat in gyms. If you don't want to smell sweat, don't go in a gym!"

He also started in on a rant about adequate ventilation systems. I just smiled. Usually it's me complaining about Crazy Lady, while he pats me on the head and makes sideways remarks about how I'm not always the most tolerant person.

I know this is just her little deal, since she seems to view the gym as a cross between her personal exercise area and her living room. This "rule" is, of course, not in the contract. Never mind that a good proportion of people around Santa Fe don't use deodorant at all because of health concerns or sensitivity to perfumes.

Have I mentioned Crazy Lady is from Louisiana? She probably thinks women glow.

The subject of smell is a sensitive one. Or not, depending on the person. In our refined, technological society, we've been taught that the smells of the human body are bad. We scrub our teeth and mouthwash our breath. We use body-washes, lotions, powders, anti-perspirants, perfumes, deodorants, and shoe inserts. All to keep us from smelling like human bodies and more like a pretty object in a parlor decorated in chintz.

I've noticed it's rarely men who complain about how someone smells.

On the other side, it's becoming far more common to ask people to refrain from wearing heavy perfumes and deodorants. I've noticed it on several conference flyers now, reminding people that many around them have allergies. Physiological reaction to aerosols is somewhat more grim than not liking a natural smell. Allergies and sensitivities are different than dislikes.

This is like the shades up vs. shades down battle. People who like shades down think it's only considerate for the shades-up people to lower the shades if a shades-down person complains. Similarly, people who don't like certain smells feel free to tell other people to correct it. Rarely do they seem to realize that they don't have to have things the way they like them all the time. I don't like small children being disruptive in restaurants, but I would never ask someone to leave. I simply put up with it.

With perhaps a bit of grumbling, but still.

If I go out to a restaurant, I run that risk. If I walk into a perfume shop, I expect to smell perfume. If I walk into a gym, I expect to smell, well, sweaty people. In fact, I'd wonder about a gym that doesn't smell like that.

I'm trying to decide now if I want to complain to management, or simply wear the same clothes over and over for weeks on end...

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Yesterday, two crows chased our resident Cooper's hawk down the valley, where it turned and made a stand on a juniper. One crow took off, but the other lit also. It looked like the hawk had captured something the crow wanted. (No, we won't think about what kind of critter it likely was.) After a fairly long stand-off, the crow finally gave up.

I found out yesterday that my blood pressure is high. Technically it's on the high side of pre-hypertension, but for a person who's always had pretty low readings, it was daunting.

It's also totally hereditary and thus no surprise. My mom has been on high blood pressure medication for almost twenty years. She's in otherwise excellent health and the medication works well for her.

So far as bad apples in the genetic gift basket, this one isn't so bad.

Still I'm annoyed.

Oh, I have a list of things to do, to try to lower it naturally. I can increase my magnesium and Co-Q10 from what I've been taking. David has me adding Hawthorne berry extract. I've been working the weight and body fat down, but now I need to get serious about that last ten pounds. I might have to back off drinking wine, my very favorite thing.


Amusingly - or not - I've had the gas law, PV=nRT, on my list of blog topics for a while. That's the formula that describes how pressure, volume and temperature interact. It's a fascinating equation, really, because so much of our world, and our physiology, is governed by it.

Basically it says that Pressure multiplied by Volume equals Temperature. The n and the R describe molecular action, which is pretty stable for most purposes, so we can safely ignore it for most purposes. That makes the equation P*V=T. Or, to put it in a way that makes more intuitive sense by using that algebra you figured you'd never need, Pressure = T/V.

Thus, the hotter something is? The more pressure you have. Think of a pressure cooker. The more you raise the temperature, the more pressure inside the pot. Once you take off the lid, you increase the volume from a little pot to a great big room, and the pressure decreases.

There are more factors when you get into liquids, but the overall principle is the same. Body temperature is relatively steady, so blood pressure becomes largely a function of volume. As arteries narrow, for whatever reason - constriction due to stress or a wallpaper of fat - the volume available decreases and pressure goes up. That's why diuretics, like my mom takes, work well. Reduce the volume of blood and there's less pressure.

For whatever reasons, too, computer screen time is being linked to elevated blood pressure and there's strong evidence for email apnea. So I'm resolving to decrease my screen time. And also to get up from my computer once an hour and breathe, walk, do the dishes or Tai Chi.

It's not easy for me. I tend to sit for hours, concentrating on my work until the driving need to pee forces me out of my chair.

Yeah, I know - not healthy behavior.

But I'll get better about it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Time It Was

Overheard from the crazy lady at the gym: "None of the clocks in here are right. They had to come in last week and reset them all - but that doesn't mean anything."

I should note that she said this before the time change.

Yes, due to popular demand, I've started writing down what the crazy lady at the gym says, in my little notebook where I keep track of weight lifted and distance run. On those occasions when I don't have the solace of my earbuds, I sometimes catch what she's saying to some other poor soul she has trapped in conversation.

Clocks and time have been on our minds this week. At least, for all of us in places who embrace the antique custom of Daylight Savings Time. For the record, we just went off DST and back to real, actual, dictated by the cycle of the earth's rotation time. Amazing to me how many people don't know which is which.

Yes, it does so matter! (This message brought to you by the People In Favor of REAL Time, aka PIFORT.)

People have been feeling the pain of the time change for the last several days, complaining of lost sleep, children awaking early, pets being a pain. It seems that we shouldn't feel the impact of the autumn change (back to REAL time), because we get to sleep an hour longer in the morning. Well, yes, this would work great, except that we're staying up later.

Instead of acknowledging that we feel sleepy and ready for bed earlier, we look at the clock. Hoo boy, no! we chortle. It's *way* too early to go to bed. But our bodies know, regardless of what the clock says.

Changing our clocks reminds us, rather brutally, of our circadian rhythms. Otherwise we tend to ignore our animal selves in favor of our tech selves. We stay up late, with our lights and our TVs and our computers, working into the night and ignoring the sleepies.

In the morning, the alarm sounds and we force ourselves from bed, to meet our carefully detailed schedules.

It's not really what Ben Franklin had in mind at all. We're not taking advantage of shifting the pattern of our days to take advantage of the light so we can work in the fields more effectively or save on artificial lighting. And yet, our representatives in the House and Senate voted to expand DST as an "energy-saving" measure.

Yes, our PIFORT lobbyists are working on this.

The truth is, I think, that we've made the clock king. The digital readout, not how we feel, runs our lives. Sleep science has long shown that we spend more time in healing Slow Wave Sleep (SWS) in the early part of the night and more time in REM sleep (Rapid-Eye Movement or dreaming sleep) in the morning hours. You can really witness this if you sleep during the day at all. Sleeping in late into the morning produces lots of dreams. Afternoon naps are heavy and dreamless.

So, if we don't go to bed until late at night, guess which kind of sleep we miss out on?

Sometimes I think it would be interesting to live a non-electronic life. I think people must have slept long hours in the dark of winter, which is what my body wants. Once black night fell and you fixed and ate supper, you wouldn't sit around by the fire knitting or whittling or reading for all that long. Even if you woke at dawn to feed the chickens and milk the cows, you'd still be sleeping maybe ten hours a night?

I think about this sometimes, when I look out the windows and see the slanting glare of our electric lights spill into the night.

Then I go back to whatever brightly lit thing I was doing. I reset the clocks, but that doesn't mean anything.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Babysiting Disasters

I posted this photo to Facebook back in August, but a high school friend just commented on it and reminded me. This is Lisa and Denise, two of my best friends in high school. We were on a geology field trip in the mountains on a drizzly day. And, no, I have no idea why they look so dramatic and pensive.

Makes for a cool picture, though.

This has kind of been high school nostalgia week, anyway, what with celebrating Kev's birthday and some odd 30 years of knowing each other. I know it's old news to lots of people, but I think my cohort is just now realizing that we're hitting our middle years. We don't feel old, but it's hard to deny those mid-40s numbers.

Interestingly, I don't see a lot of us racing out to buy sports cars or cougar on nubile young people. I like to think it's because we are so much wiser than our parents.

Also, those nubile young people? They don't know Mikhail Barishnykov was a ballet dancer before he was on Sex and the City. And they don't understand when you try to explain that he claimed political asylum. I'm sorry: you can't base even meaningless sex on that.

Anyway, I mentioned yesterday that my high school years were largely spent babysitting. This was partly on my mind due to teen nostalgia, but also because of a blog post a friend put up last week about leaving her kid with a babysitter for the first time. She asked people how much they checked in, etc.

And it reminded me of this one babysitting disaster.

As, I mentioned yesterday, I babysat A LOT. I had a great reputation and new people often called me who'd been referred by other people. Well, this mom called me. She lived in the next subdivision over, had *just* moved in and had been invited to a neighborhood party. I'd been recommended by a neighbor and could I sit their three kids?

Easy peasy job. Older boy, younger girl and a toddler. Boxes everywhere. But mom was organized. She had the list of emergency numbers, including the party. (For you nubile young people, this was before cell phones. Yes, indeed. Sit wide-eyed at my knee and listen.) She gave me a list of allergies and rules and bed times. The kids were charming. Everything seemed just fine.

All went smoothly. We ate some dinner. We played games. Bedtime went with stories and without protest.

Until the middle girl started puking.

Lots of puking. And diarrhea.

She was sick all over her bed, so we had to clean her up, change her sheets and put on fresh jammies. Then the toddler got sick. Big bro was helping me and I'd had sick kids before, but this wasn't looking good.

Now, I pretty much never called parents. I figured they'd were out for a fun evening and, really, very little ever occurred that couldn't wait for them to deal with. I'd called a couple of times to ask questions or verify something, but never had I called parents to come home.

But I couldn't find more fresh sheets, so I called the parents.

At the party.

A very LOUD party.

As with most parties, the person nearest the phone was, of course, not the person who lives in the house. But the guy was genial (happy drunk) and I explained that I was babysitting, my kids were sick and the parents should probably come home.

He says, okay, who are they?

I realized I had absolutely NO IDEA.

I'm sure when she called me, she'd said "This is Mrs. Such and So" or "Judy Such and So," but it hadn't stuck in my head. I looked around on the counters. They hadn't started getting mail yet, so there were no clues. I couldn't find a name anywhere.

I explain this to genial drunk guy, tell him the house address, and he offers to go around the party asking people. He'll call me back. Um, no, because the phone number to the house isn't on the phone. I don't know what it is, either.

At this point, I felt like a complete bimbo. Not my usual competent self.

So, he sets the phone down and heads off. I listen to the party banter while my three miserable charges huddle in blankets on the couch. Eventually someone, probably wondering why the phone is off the hook, hangs it up.

By then it was getting late, so I hoped the parents would be home soon, anyway.

Then - Hallelujah! - the front door lock clicks and in they come!

"Oh!" I exclaim, "I'm so glad you got the message."

They look puzzled. "What message? Our neighbor's sitter called and said the kids were sick, so we decided we'd just come home, too."

No, I say, that was me. I wonder if I got the address wrong, too. And I confess that I didn't remember what their names were.

They were so nice to me and, yes, I babysat for them many times after that. I also asked new families to write down names for me and put them by the phone, just in case.

It turns out, bizarrely enough, that the neighbors' kids *were* sick also and that sitter had called, just around the same time I did. It was a mini-flu epidemic and a bunch of kids got sick. My poor little girl ended up in the hospital for a few days, to replenish her fluids.

Elizabeth's question reminded me of this story and I wanted to tell it to her. But, 1) it's too long for comments and 2) I didn't want to freak her out.

Of course, the advent of cell phones and texting has really changed this.

As long as the genial drunken parents pull their phone out of their pockets once in a while, just in case.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Diapers and Destiny

This weekend I went shopping for diapers.

Along the way, I stopped into the Borders and found Enemy Within cozied up with the Iron Duke. In broad daylight, even.

I started reading Enemy Within, too, and *love* it. No, I hadn't read it before. I read a draft of Marcella's second book and my comments resulted in her gutting it, rewriting and missing her deadline by, oh, a couple months. She says I shouldn't feel guilty.

Now I don't because if Enemy Within is what she's capable of producing, then I'm glad I held her to a high standard. I realize I haven't read any classic sci fi in a while. I know I've never read a post where the main character has been imprisoned and tortured by insectoid aliens. The latent psychological trauma is gritty, moving and incredibly well done. Romance-wise, I'm all about the hero getting through to trauma-girl where no one else can.

(Currently plotting time away from work today to read more, more, more!)

Anyway - I went shopping for diapers for little Aerro. I mention this here because everyone seems to forget I have grandchildren. I bought a few cute things, too, but for a tiny baby she has lots of stuff already. My stepdaughter and son-in-law are doing cloth diapers this time around and they do need more of those. Lauren told us the brand they planned to use, which I ought to be able to buy in Target.

So, I went to Target, I went to the cute baby stuff section. Nope. Several burgeoning couples were there with the baby-registry scanners having a grand old time, but no sign of diapers anywhere. I went wandering forlornly, expanding my circles outward through the various stages of clothing for kids, teens, adults, fat adults, cars. Finally a worker in the automotive section spotted me for what I was, completely at a loss. I hesitated to say I was looking for diapers - of course, he immediately laughed at me. I wanted to explain that I figured they didn't keep diapers in automotive (being clever like that) but that I was on my way to somewhere else where they might more logically keep it.

The baby section, right? No no no.

He says "see this big wall right here?" Yes, even I can spot that big wall. "Go to the opposite wall on the other side of the store."

Right. Paper towels, cotton balls, Q-Tips, tampons, depends and...diapers! Organization by function. All absorbent materials must be shelved together.

Then they didn't have the kind Lauren said. So, I'm the woman on her cell phone getting the man at home to look them up. Turns out Target sells them in Colorado, but not New Mexico. Not in Wyoming, either, David discovered. Why? It's a mystery. Emptier landfills in Wyoming and New Mexico, perhaps.

So, we'll order online. I bounced off to the bookstore and to get a pedicure like the light-hearted non-diaper buyer I normally am.

I'm not quite sure at what point in my life I became the non-maternal type. When I was younger, I babysat all the time. I didn't have much social life, so I babysat pretty much every weekend and on weeknights, too. I cared for newborns, even, which was the big money in those days. I could change any diaper in a flash.

A friend of mine has a daughter who just started her sophomore year at a prestigious Ivy League college. She's always been a startlingly intelligent and talented girl. However, she has never had a job. Last summer, strongly encourage by her parents to start getting a feel for the earning money thing, she babysat for a friend's baby. When the baby's mother returned home, she saw a Google page up for "how to diaper a baby."

I love this story.

But I was not that girl. I always had the idea, as most girls do, I think, that I'd have babies someday. Somewhere in the sweep of graduate school, acquiring stepchildren, and trying on careers, I never got really excited about having babies. Once, when I was 36, a woman I knew asked me if I'd regretted never having children. I replied that I didn't know I'd never had them yet.

Yeah, it was a bitchy thing for her to say.

I did think, though, for a very long time, that I might wake up one day and have the overwhelming urge to have a baby. That clock that women talk about would suddenly tick-tock in my head and I wouldn't be able to hear anything else until I had a baby in my belly.

Didn't happen.

Instead I became completely obsessed with writing and becoming one of the great writers of my generation. Or possibly just supporting myself as a writer. Both of which have the added bonus of never requiring diaper-shopping.

People talk about being childless-by-choice. I'm not that. I helped raise Mike and Lauren from the time they were five and seven years old. And I never really decided not to have children of my own. Instead, I never decided to have babies. Kind of like I never decided to move to Thailand. It's just that, most people never decide to move to Thailand.

It could be pointed out that a lot of people don't necessarily decide to have babies either, but fall into parenthood, as it were.

I suppose I'm just on the opposite wall from everyone else. On the other side of the store, wondering why anyone would dress up their car in zebra print.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Exercise to Writing to Work

Today we have the long-awaited (at least since Wednesday) expose on how Jeffe changes outfits multiple times a day.

No, really.

(I can't believe you guys are interested in this. Or that I'm posting pictures to the internet of me looking scuzzy. But look, here I am.)

In the interests of science, and glasnost, I'm showing you my actual "look" for the various times of day. Hang on, phone is ringing....

Vogue, again. When will they take no for an answer???

Okay, so, KAK asked about PJs. Here's me at 6 in the morning. Please cut me generous slack. This is the black wintertime robe. There are no actual PJs. We live in a natural world and, hey, I'm a natural girl.

I change into my exercise clothes. There's a red jog bra under the pink sweat shirt. I would have shown you, but I figured you all don't need to see my astonishing toned abs. The picture might make you spit up your coffee or something and that's no way to end the week.

This pic is post-workout. The sky is barely lighter at this point. Looking very much forward to the end of Daylight Savings Time on Sunday!

Then we get to the best part: the writing clothes. This is what I'm wearing as I type. So, see, when I first started writing, back in the day, I really didn't have a dedicated writing desk and I wasn't good at sitting down to write on a regular schedule. I created rituals to ease myself into the process. I wore my favorite shleppy dress, this blue jersey knit that I loved. I loved it for years. Um, until it literally fell to pieces. Finally I wondered aloud if I should throw it away.

"Yes," said David.

"But - " I whimpered.

"It has holes in it." He replied.

"But it's been my writing dress for years!" I cried.

"The writing comes from you, not a dress." He told me.

I had to concede the point. The dress went to the great beyond, a farm maybe, where it's playing with other happy outfits and Velveteen rabbits. So now I wear the fab sweatshirt my stepsister Hope picked out for me. If you can't read it, it says:

Careful, or you'll end up in my novel.

Note that this outfit includes comfy slippers for feet and a headband to keep the hair out of my eyes as I furiously type. It helps me to stay in kind of a dreamy, sleepy mode to write, to maximize that subconscious flow.

Once I get my words in, it's off to the shower for me. I do hair and makeup, put on some workier-type clothes. If I think no one is likely to see me all day, I usually wear something like this. It was tempting to put on one of my snazzier outfits for this photoshoot, but that would violate the honest spirit of this expose.

If I have meetings or will see people, I dress up more. If you've seen me at conferences, that's the general spirit.

So - more than you ever wanted to know about me?

Yeah. That's what I figured.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

La Kev

Okay, I know that I promised the whole exercise clothes to writing clothes to work clothes expose today, but it occurred to me that I need pics of each stage. So I'll do it tomorrow.

That seems suitably frivolous for a Friday anyway.

Instead, today I think I'll do a little ode. An essay of mine once appeared in a literary magazine dedicated to odes, which I always thought was kind of a cool idea. While the first definition of ode is "a poem written to be sung," the modern use has it as a "lyric, rhymed or unrhymed, addressed to some person or thing and characterized by lofty feeling and elaborate form."

Since this is about my friend, Kev, maybe that's not what I mean at all.

Hee hee hee.

Today is Kev's birthday and it's made me reflective. We've know each other now since I was 15 and dropped as a bewildered sophomore into trigonometry class with a bunch of juniors. Kev helped me with problem sets and charmed me with his charisma and humor. I fell in love with his soaring tenor in our high school stage productions as much as his sweet brown eyes.

Oh yeah, I pined after him.

He flirted with me. Okay, he flirted with pretty much ALL the girls. But the other ones he dated. I crushed on him until spring of my junior year, when I finally broke down and left a love letter on the windshield of his car - a Baha VW Bug he'd dubbed the Baha Humbug - inviting him to the Sadie Hawkins dance.

What can I say? I'm a traditionalist.

Maybe I had a way with words even then, because he bit and we started a love affair that lasted two years. It was consuming and wonderful and perfect and everything first love should be. Between my freshman and sophomore years of college, I broke up with him. I still remember the pain of that, how I'd asked him to love me, then asked him to stop.

The thing is, we still love each other. That's the best part.

I don't regret my choice, because we've both found really wonderful life partners and our lives have moved in very different directions. And yet, after all this time, we're still friends. We talk on Yahoo IM and know each other's old jokes. We trade music and he keeps me up to date on the musical theater scene. There's a deep-running affection between us. Sometimes I think his is more for the girl I was, but he also keeps a library shelf of everything I've ever published. He was among the first to encourage me to write, which was a gift beyond compare.

So, Happy Birthday Kevin! It will be interesting to see what the next 30 years brings.

P.S. If I forget who you are, will you remind me?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Morning Commute

I drove my boss in for work this morning.

She lives in New Hampshire, so we don't normally see each other all that often. She was in town to work on a project that I can't work on, due to conflict of interest. So, she stayed with us and we got to socialize, but we didn't work together.

This morning, I drove her into downtown Santa Fe. We stopped at Starbucks on the Plaza, which is one of my very favorite Starbucks anywhere and she treated me to my first Gingerbread Spice latte of the season. I dropped her off at the offices, said goodbye and came home to my desk overlooking the valley, while all the other cars streamed into town.

It's funny to break up my ritual that way. Normally my working day starts with me changing out of gym clothes into writing clothes, then into work clothes. Some days, I don't really leave the house, except to go to the gym or to take a walk. My daily rhythm becomes largely my own. I'm aware of the East Coast time zones, as my colleagues there shut down for the day, or the Pacific Time folks, who generally start and finish later. Otherwise, I have no commute, no one glancing at the clock when I sit down at my desk.

It's a lovely lifestyle. Don't mistake me - I appreciate it no end.

There's a certain comaraderie, though, to the beginning of the day. I like seeing the woman at the traffic light fluffing her hair in the rear-view mirror while the yellow school bus passes in front of us, small bodies bouncing inside. I like seeing the line-up at Starbucks, of the people in suits with briefcases, the stylish shopgirls in their black outfits getting ready to open the galleries, the scruffy types who wander in to stay a bit and maybe bum a cup of coffee.

Then again, I know it's fun for me because I don't do it every day. I don't have the accumulated aggravations of traffic, the people paying more attention to primping than driving, the hassle of loading a small body onto the school bus in the first place, the sinking heart at the sight of the long Starbucks line while the hands of the clock march to the time I'm supposed to sit at my desk.

Instead, my job is to sit at my desk overlooking the valley and write about it.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Today is Tuesday! You Know What That Means?!?

Today is Release Day for Marcella Burnard's Enemy Within!!

Let the dancing, rejoicing and the running out to bookstores (or your favorite online ordering venue) begin!

I believe Marcella is planning to run a contest today for people to post their pics with a copy of the book, which should be on her blog. It wasn't when I wrote this, but it's only 6:30 at her house, so we'll cut her a little slack. Maybe the interwebs aren't awake yet. But my understanding is that if you post a pic of yourself with the book, you'll receive your heart's desire.

Or pretty damn close, anyway.

Regardless, here's my copy just arrived on the Kindle, with a little Dia de los Muertos action. See? Even the dead love Marcella's book!

This book is so awesome, in fact, that it's already one of the five nominees for RT's Best SciFi Romance of 2010! I kid you not. They already gave her a top pick review.

The only complaints I've seen about the book from reviewers is that there's TOO much science for some of the readers who prefer a lighter story. Which says to me, all the better for us sci fi/fantasy lovers!

Go embroil yourselves in someone else's politics, in a civil-war in totally different star systems. I'm pretty sure Health Care never comes up and I know that blowing things up is a perfectly reasonable solution to most problems.

Have at it!

Monday, November 1, 2010


Quote of the Day from Crazy Lady at the Gym (spoken to David while I'm using a weight machine with my blissful earbuds in): "She's wearing two of my favorite colors: red and turquoise."

So, this is the view from our hotel room this weekend, at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort at Santa Ana Pueblo. We went down for the Barenaked Ladies concert hosted by the Santa Ana Star Casino. We decided to make a mini-break of it and stay over Saturday night. That way we could have some drinks and not have to drive home.

We had the best time.

David and I drove down midday Saturday. We passed the Santa Ana Star Casino which, quite disconcertingly, has large signs on it that say "this is YOUR casino." Past the bright lights and big signs of the casino, the road wended deep into the countryside, to the Tamaya resort. Beautiful, gorgeous, you so should have been there.

We ate lunch on the patio, enjoying the gorgeous blues skies and golden afternoon. I took that pic with my camera phone, so it's all wrong. But I thought it was worth posting, just for the blue. While we ate, a guy came in with a tote bag from the BnL Stunt tour and sat down to eat lunch. We speculated whether he was a fan or with the band. Then the waiter asked the guy at the table behind us how everything was and he declared that everything was beautiful! I laughed at his broad-voice enthusiasm, then realized he was Tyler Stewart, the band's drummer.

Yes, we *are* that cool.

After a fab lunch, which included drinks and brushes with celebrity, we went to hang at the pool. Isn't this photo somewhat reminiscent of Darynda Jones' cover for her upcoming debut? Totally not on purpose.

The hotel shuttled us over to the casino for the concert. This was the third time I've been to a BnL concert and the smallest venue by far. I loved being in a smaller room. The casino also provided a bar for the concert-goers, with beer, wine and margaritas. We queued up to get our drinks (note the Canadian vibe permeating the experience) and I noticed the guy in the scruffy black sweatshirt talking to some people nearby was Ed Robertson.

While we waited for the concert to start, I saw this couple, reading to kill the time. These are classic BnL fans: the geeks of the world. I mean that with all the greatest affection. They're probably my readers.

So the question I know you're all asking: are they as good without Steven Page? (He left in February 2009.)

Yes and no. The interplay between Steven Page and Ed Robertson is legendary. The two enjoyed the amazing synchronicity like the kind that made Steven Tyler and Joe Perry so great together and so much weaker apart. Yeah, that's missing. Page brought a major presence to the stage. He and Robertson wrote many songs in a style that allowed them to bounce back and forth off of each other.

I missed that.

However, an interesting thing is happening. Because the songs require it, the other three members of the bands are stepping up more to provide that interaction for Ed Robertson. The show came out quieter in some ways, deeper and richer in others. Old songs received a new spin. The humor still comes through. In the mandatory rendition of "If I Had $1,000,000," Robertson asked if we'd come to the treehouse and bring OUR casino. Because after all, if it's OUR casino and the House always wins....

The also talked about flying into Albuquerque on Southwest Airlines and riffed about seat-lottery strategy.

This was not the arena-event of their Stunt era. The one where I couldn't hear anything because of the teenage girls screaming in my ears. This was a group of tremendously good musicians sharing their art. Are they wounded? Oh yes. And it comes through. For an encore, Robertson took the drums and Tyler Stewart sang a vicious, prancing parody of "Alcohol." Though Page left the band amicably, I wonder about his 2008 cocaine arrest. The remaining four guys sing songs that remind of dysfunctional relationships and what it's like to live with an addict.

Like all good artists, they're using that pain and turning it into something extraordinary.
Related Posts with Thumbnails