Sunday, December 28, 2008

It Has Come To Pass

According to The Girlfriend's Guide to Toddlers, I no longer have one. Starting today, Jarrah is four, and that is the cut-off. I'll be sure to remind her of this pertinent fact next time she has a tantrum. In the mean time, I am marveling that I've been doing this motherhood thing for nearly three years. How did that happen?

I am working on a special birthday post for my girl, but like so many of my best-laid plans, it's going to have to wait another day. Today, there is birthday cake to decorate, latkes to slather with apple sauce (it's the last day of Hanukkah, too!) and a new experience to be had--Mary, Joy and I are taking Jarrah ice skating for the very first time. Will she love it? Hate it? Cry? Laugh? Cling to the side the whole time? Who can know? And that's the beauty of each day, isn't it, Readers?

She is becoming her own little person. All I can do is stand back and watch her glide.

And offer my hand if she gets a little wobbly.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Career Choices

Jarrah likes to play this game in the car she calls "What Am I? You suggest that she is something ("You are a doctor!") and she says "Noooooo!" And then finally she decides what she is (always something different) and she yells "You are CORRECT!" Here was today's version:

Jarrah: Okay, what am I?

Sam: You are a kid!

Jarrah: Not just a kid.

Sam: You are an artist!

Jarrah: Not just an artist.

Sam: You are a dancer!

Jarrah: NO. Do you want a hint?

Sam: Yes, give me a hint.

Jarrah: I am...a ballerina!

Sam: That's a great hint. Okay, you are...a ballerina!

Jarrah: You are CORRECT! Good job!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Let Them Eat Real Cake

Yesterday we went to the Firehouse in La Jolla for a performance of Richard Scarry's Busy Town, a teeny, adorable show with children dressed as various animals singing about their career choices. Jarrah, who is an ace theater-goer already, watched in rapt attention throughout, only occasionally shooting me disapproving glances when the girl in front of us did not use her inside voice.

There was only one moment when Jarrah felt compelled to alert the crowd that the emperor had no clothes, and I saw it coming from a mile away. Towards the end, the actors wheeled out a huge, hot-pink layer cake--pretty obviously (to me, anyway) cast in paper mache (do kids still paper mache with the frequency and gusto I did in elementary school?) I knew--as sure as I know my own face--that this development would put Jarrah on high alert, and I did not have to wait long for confirmation. In the lull before the curtain call, Jarrah rose to her feet and shouted:

"When do we eat that CAKE?"

It got a big laugh, like she was an audience plant. I laughed because it was funny, and even more because I'd so called it. (Luckily, the show organizers are not cruel: there were tiny cupcakes on offer just outside.)

Later, however, when the glow of the day (which included more cake at Yea-Yea's house in honor of HER birthday) had faded, and we were home with no frosting in sight, Jarrah's thoughts returned to the strange oversight:

Jarrah: Mama, why didn't we get to eat the pink cake?

Sam: The pink cake was pretend, lovey. That's one of the wonderful things about theater.

Jarrah: Why?

Sam: Well, you know how Mommy is in a play?

Jarrah: Yeah.

Sam: You've seen me in the video--I have a husband. But am I really married to him?

Jarrah: No. You are married to David.

Sam: Right! And the man in the video is John. Is he my husband in real life?

Jarrah: Nooooo. He's not your husband.

Sam: Right! Just pretend. That's what's fun about the theater. All the pretend.

Jarrah: Okay. But why didn't we get to eat that cake?

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Story of My Nocturnal Life

I skim the New Yorker cartoons every week, and usually they just trigger a slight smile, but when I saw this one I laughed out loud. And then I started a giggle fit, which I couldn't shake for half an hour even though I was alone. Every time I looked at the cartoon, I started giggling again.

Because it's as if she climbed in my brain at 3:00 a.m., Readers. These are the exact categories I furiously shuffle into the wee hours, and for which I want to kick myself in the morning when I am haggard. I've always thought Roz Chast was a genius, but this time her insight is downright spooky.

Talk amongst yourselves--I'll give you a topic. A quote from Sartre: "Three o'clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do." Discuss.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where In The World Is Sammy San Diego?

My friend Michelle politely requested that I update this freakin' blog, so even though I've been feeling strangely mum of late, I'll comply in her honor. Hi, Michelle! (Readers, go check out her blog--she's far more disciplined than I am and updates nearly EVERY day.)

I haven't actually been a blogging slacker; rather, I've been blogging feverishly and incessantly on my secret drama blog, which you'd know if you'd ever asked for an invitation. The fact is, I'm deep into this theater thing right now, and can think of little else. And not just because I'm busy--because I'm EXHAUSTED. Turns out this dramatic lifestyle is better suited to the young and the retired. The past two weekends, I haven't hit the pillow until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, though a certain person who is nearly four isn't much interested in my beauty sleep, and comes a-callin' at 7:00 as usual. It takes me most of the week to recover. And it's not just Friday and Saturday nights--we've been having full-length "brush-up" run-throughs on Thursdays as well.

Well, yada yada yada, you might be thinking, and right you are, too. I signed up for this with my eyes open, and despite my kvetching, I'm having a total BLAST. My scene partner, John (who's on his sixth production with the troupe) asked if I would consider coming back for another show, and without hesitation I answered "Just try to stop me." Oh, Lady of the Lights and Greasepaint, your siren call must be answered!

And because, like all good performers, I suffer from a lifelong, deep-seated complex of inadequacy mixed with narcissism, I must share with you Readers--of which I have already boasted in the secret blog--that we had a critic at the show last Saturday night, and while he included a pretty comprehensive overview of every scene in his review, he only singled out particular actors for mention by name. Here's one snippet of interest:

"A too-good-to-be-true husband drives his wife nuts with his perfection, until he comes up with the perfect solution. Daffodil (Samantha ___) and her husband Ira (John ___) do a masterful job, hitting every line."

Did you catch that, Readers? Catch what, you ask? Oh, just a certain adjective...did it escape your notice? Please allow me to gently guide you back, then. The adjective I'm referring to is MASTERFUL. And no, I haven't met this critic. There was no furtive pay-off in the alley. I just got up there and did my thing (looking like a giant, pink inflatable doll in my vintage costume) and, well, there's just no disguising talent. It outs itself, like a blazing star. I gotta be moi. Okay, I'll stop now.

More to follow shortly, in which I beg for your guidance in managing my no-longer-toddler who I think may have been replaced by an alien pod.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

It's Showtime!

Dear Readers, you may remember me mentioning back in late September that I was in a play. I've been blogging every detail of the rehearsal process in my secret theater blog, but I wanted to go public with the news that IT'S ON!

We had two shows over Thanksgiving weekend, and the feeling is all kinds of awesome. Here is the official poster with all the details, which we've scanned here because (hint, hint) maybe you would like to come on down and see it!

And no, that is not me in the photo. Someone actually asked me that. Hello! The show, which is about dating and relationships--has a huge cast, lots of variety, adult content (no nudity--my sister was worried about that) and--if we're lucky--lots of laughs. And you can't beat the price of a ticket!

Click on the image to see the dates, time, location and reservation phone. Drop me a line if you want more info. Six more performances left!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This Week in Jarrah

Unlike a lot of other kids I know, Jarrah is not that discerning about music. Oh, sure, she's fond of The Wiggles and a few juvenile standards, but--at nearly four--she's never developed a taste for "grown-up" music and tends to get cranky when I put on the radio.

Which is why the following incident was such a surprise. The three of us were road-tripping (probably to the OC to see my parents) and, as is our wont, listening to a podcast. One of David's favorites (I am also partial) is called Filmspotting, and it's basically two dudes talking about movies they've seen, only now they're famous and go to Sundance and host interviews with fancy directors. Anyway, in the vein of NPR, the segments have little song bridges in between, sometimes with lyrics related to the topic, sometimes not.

A song smidgen came on, about 30 seconds of bouncy pop tune with a sprightly female vocalist. If I had to compare it to something, it would be "My Boyfriend" by The Cucumbers, which I used to play on my show back in my radio DJ days in western Mass. But I'd never heard this one, and probably wouldn't have again except that as it faded out, Jarrah announced:

"Now I want to hear my song again."

"Your song?" I asked, momentarily confused. "Which is your song?"

"My song," she repeated firmly. "Play it again."

Figuring out it must be the podcast, we rewound the iPod and played it again. And again. And again. Finally, I had to explain that in the interest of Mommy and Daddy's heads not exploding, we needed to take a little break.

Over the weekend, David did some research and downloaded the song. Turns out it's called "This Isn't Farm Life" by the Brooklyn-based band Essex Green. He surprised Jarrah by playing the whole thing in the car when he drove her to school. She was thrilled, and now demands it every day.

Anyway, I guess I need to retract what I said about her not being very discerning about music. Turns out it's the opposite--she's crazy-picky and really knows what she likes. And what she likes is one particular song by Essex Green.


Jarrah has recently gotten interested in family. Like, when all three of us are holding hands, she shouts, "We're a family!" She also tells everyone that she has "an imaginary brother and sister, and an imaginary dog." I have no problem with this, since it doesn't involve any work for me, and she never mentions real ones.

Last night at dinner, she suddenly said (as I've mentioned, there is a dearth of segues in her conversation lately):

"I'm going to have three children when I grow up."

David and I had no response for a moment. Then I managed:

"Three children? You're going to be busy."

"Their names will be Jack, and Jane, and Unintelligible Mumble. That makes three."

"Indeed it does. Tell me, will you adopt these kids?"

"Yes. They're going to be born in Australia."

"Australia! Just like Daddy!"

"Or Indira."

"Indira? Do you mean India?"

"Yes. They're going to be from India."

You heard it here first, Readers. Jarrah will be Mom to three Indian-Australian children. Hopefully, they won't be too busy to call and visit.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

And You Will Be Visited By Plagues, Inclusive

It's been a stressful couple of weeks around here, and with my play opening next Tuesday, it's not likely to level out any time soon. We had our first two tech run-throughs this week, and let's just say people collapsed and died and I'm not joking. (Hey, you'd know all about it if you'd ever asked for an invitation to my secret theater blog, so that's all you're getting.)

Lately we've been getting a bit too close to a Passover seder around these parts; the edge of our plate is covered with dots of wine from our pinky fingers. (For that one, you may have to Wikipedia "Passover.") We begin:


As in, the stuff that lubes your car. Who knew that cars are super-finicky about how much? Not me. Not until last week, anyway. My car had been making strange clackety-clack noises for a while so I asked David--casually--what that might be. He ordered me to get my car serviced. What was supposed to be a routine 60,000 mile check turned into three whole days of me driving a brand-new black PT Cruiser around, complimentary (batting my eyelashes still gets me somewhere on a good day.)

When the car was finally ready (and we were considerably poorer), Mechanic Manuel affixed me with his level gaze and said in a slow, helpful voice:

"We're really lucky we were able to save your car, miss. Did you know that a car needs regular oil changes to function properly, and that the engine will not continue to work without them?"

I looked at Manuel and said, "This sounds like an important life lesson I hope I have learned." Know what? I wasn't being even a teeny bit facetious.


I won't go into too much detail (my dear husband is entitled to some privacy for all he has to put up with being married to me) but David had a long-overdue appointment for his fair epidermis (so unlike my own leathery hide) and ended up with three separate sets of furry black stitches for his trouble. It was very worrisome to me, though he was nonchalant about it. Well, nonchalant except for the times I give him a swift smack on his back in the spot where they cut him. Sorry, dear--I forget myself.


I hesitate to apply this label to our problem--it's mostly for poetic reasons. Rodent-lovers, please do not take offense. The fact is, I, too, think mice are very, very cute--except when they're sprinting through my kitchen late at night. Then I simply see them as a metaphor for a lack of control in my life.

This particular mouse was strangely intrepid--he wandered right out in the room when we were enjoying our dinner, and only retreated at the sound of my screams. For several nights, he scampered freely, enjoying a lavish buffet of peanut butter that we smeared each evening into some evil-looking traps. The little imp was able to extract every molecule of the good stuff without ever coming to a bad end, and so often that we grew rather fond of him. I chatted up a nice fellow at Home Depot and purchased two more traps--a "live" trap that looks like a little mouse house, and one of those old-fashioned wooden smackers. Several more nights passed in which our little friend was far too smart to enter the live traps. At last resort, we put out the wooden guillotine, and while we were reading in bed one night, there came such a sickening crack from across the house we knew we had closure. David, who had to deal with the tangible evidence of our crime, was pretty shaken, and we both shared a brief period of remorse and mourning.


A couple weeks back, I delicately mentioned a plumbing tragedy we endured while watching the election returns. Imagine our surprise when the problem returned only a week later. This time, our plumber, Ray (who came to feel like a member of the family) was not so blithe about the cost or intervention necessary. He spent a full Friday--from morning until after dark--digging and digging in our yard, and then he returned on Monday with a friend, Rudy. By the time I'd returned Monday night (having whisked Jarrah from school to a movie so we could be out of the house) there were three of them, and two trucks. Our front yard looked like a giant pile of dirt (due to the state of our grass, that's not much of a change, but that's another plague) and photos revealed that Ray had been compelled to jackhammer (yes, that's how fresh and verdant our lawn is--to enter it, you need a JACKHAMMER) down to depths of 20,000 feet into the earth's magma core in order to reach our seriously screwed pipes and their rain forest-like population of roots. He claims it's all fixed now, but I'm still not convinced.


Well, we haven't actually seen any locusts. But something must be in the air because all three of us have had a hacking cough for about a month now, and just when we thought it was getting better, everyone seems to be a little worse. I decided it had to be allergies and asked David to buy me some allergy medication, which I was certain would make a new woman. I felt like a new woman, all right--for two days I felt like a woman with wet wings who has just shoved my way out of a cocoon. I walked around in an echo-y fog, smiling stupidly, trying to remember my name and my purpose in life. On the plus side, my nose wasn't as stuffed.


Readers, I don't want to sound ungrateful. As my Dad pointed out, none of these troubles are worth mentioning in the greater scheme of things. But it was a good wake-up call about not taking the simpler things for granted, like being able to drive my car, flush my toilet, breathe through my nose or walk through my kitchen without clapping my hands like a toddler music teacher.

I'm sure that, like the necessity of oil changes, this is all an important life lesson that will stay with me, at least for the next few minutes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Appreciating the Classics

My dear friend Grace, who lives in Connecticut, sent me a "mix tape" for my birthday. Jarrah and I were listening to it in the car today.

Jarrah: Hey, what's that silly man doing?

Sam: He's not silly. He's a great singer.

Jarrah: Did he just say 'I love you, Samantha?'

Sam: Yes, he did. It's the name of the song.

Jarrah: Samantha is you!

Sam: It is me.

Jarrah: Hey, is that Daddy singing?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Always and For Never

Since becoming a mother on February 6, 2006, I have been a big proponent of absolutes when it comes to parenting. Here are a few:

Jarrah will always love vegetables.
Jarrah will always be fearless.
Jarrah will never be potty-trained.
Jarrah will never use scissors in a manner disrespectful to my property.

One by one, these absolutes have toppled like so many alphabet blocks. Yet I keep finding faith in new ones, Readers. Here's one that I have believed in--with great smugness, I should add--for nearly three years:

Jarrah will never ram anything up her nose--she's too sensible for that.

Do you hear that sound, Readers? It's the sound of cherubs crying. The ones who have kept me veiled in innocence for so long, and now must see me dazzled by the blinding truth.

Two nights ago, I was making dinner (rather handily, I might add--I had several pots boiling at once) when Jarrah, who'd been rolling on the carpet in front of the TV, suddenly announced:

"I need to get this out."

"What do you need out?" I asked, without turning around. I didn't want to oversteam my broccoli.

"I need...this out." Now I turned around. She was pointing to her nose. I could see something poking from her left nostril. It looked like a giant booger. As I moved towards her, flexing my index finger, I realized it was far too white to be a booger. Too shiny. And too...large.

At this point, I should divert briefly to describe an earlier incident. During school pickup that day, Jarrah had spotted a tiny, round stone on the curb. "Can I bring this home?" she asked. Who knows why she wanted it? She gets very attached to random natural objects. One day a pine cone, the next a stick, the day before a dessicated leaf.

"Sure," I said.

"I'm going to call him Rocky."

"Sounds like a plan."

"He's going to take a nap with me."

"Not in the bed."

"On the pink chair?"


And that was the last I'd seen or thought of Rocky. Until now. Because now I could see it was Rocky who was currently and inelegantly stuffed into her nasal cavity. I froze. I began speaking in a soothing, deliberate voice, as if negotiating with terrorists.

"Sweetie. I can see there's a rock in your nose. I'm going to reach in V-E-R-Y slowly [demonstrating] and wiggle it out [further demonstrating] like this. Please try not to move at all. Not at ALL."

Thankfully, Rocky came right out. He hadn't really settled in yet, and didn't take a lot of convincing. I breathed a big, noisy breath (I think I'd been holding it for about 30 seconds, envisioning us in the emergency room all evening) and then rushed back to the stove to see about my broccoli. Behind me, Jarrah burst into tears.

"Now, Jarrah," I said. "You're fine. You just had a little fright. I am going to get this under control [twisting burners] and then we're going to have a little conversation."

I picked her up and carried her to the couch, and hugged her until she stopped crying.

"Are you crying because you're embarrassed that you put Rocky up your nose?"

"Nooooo. I'm crying because I'm sad."

"Why are you sad?"

"Because I had a rock up my nose."

"Um, okay. Listen, we have to have a talk. What just happened is a childhood rite of passage. Everybody does it. I had formerly believed that you might be exempt, but now I see that was just rookie foolishness. I'm not mad. But you must never, ever do it again."


"Because next time we might have to spend the night at the hospital, where it's cold and loud and crowded, and we'll be very tired and have to wait a long time. And a doctor will have to work very hard, with a sharp, pointy stick, to get the thing out of your nose."


"And there won't be any good snacks there."


"So can I trust you not to put Rocky or anything else up your nose again?"

"Yeah. But why?"

Ah, yes. Another absolute in the recycling bin. "All truths that are evident to me will be evident to my child."

Sure. For about 14 seconds. In our next installment: "Fun with Matches."

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Breathe, Baby, Breathe

This morning I woke up worried again. I was going to get a chest x-ray--my first ever--because my lungs haven't felt right since the fires a year ago. My doctor thinks I have adult-onset asthma, and he's the doctor, so he may be right. But I've been resisting systemic meds for my shortness of breath because...well, because it doesn't happen all the time, and doesn't happen when I'm walking or dancing or climbing.

I went to see him on Tuesday because when I get colds these days, they go to my chest and make breathing difficult. I wondered if I needed a little something, or maybe just a placebo-like pep talk to get over the hump.

My doctor was not pleased. He said there's a "rattle" in my chest, and that my Peak Flow Meter reading is way too low. He handed me the usual collection of Rx slips, and I looked at my shoes and announced: "I think I have lung cancer."

It's true, I worry about it. This girl from my gym died of lung cancer--she was young and didn't smoke. But I was a little surprised when--without changing his expression--he said "Well, let's get you a chest x-ray then." Um, does that mean he agreed with me? He whipped out his little tape recorder and narrated, "Patient has chest congestion, chronic, yada yada, thinks she has cancer, yada yada, next appointment one week." Eek.

This morning I went to the clinic, and couldn't help noticing that a lot of people were there for radiation. As in, they do have cancer. I twisted my fingers and darted my eyes around for the full five minutes it took for them to call my name. A lady who was apparently incredulous that I'd "never had a chest x-ray!" instructed me to put on the blue robe backwards, after which I leaned back on the little bench and actually screamed--it was that cold on my skin. The whole place was like a meat locker. Seconds later (I'd been told 10 minutes) a stone-faced technician led me into a brightly lit room and pushed me against a little wall while I posed like I would shortly be diving from a spring board, then snapped the results into a giant camera. I watched from behind as a picture that looked like lungs appeared on screen. They were black, except for two GIANT lumps (they appeared to be the size of fists) one on the bottom, and one along what seemed to be my spine.

Ohmigod. I am riddled with tumors, I thought. This is it. I'm not gonna make it. Suddenly, the technician whirled around and said, "Thank you. You may go."

"But," I began desperately, "What is all that?"

"Your doctor will call you. We don't read the results."

"But." I really didn't know what to say. What I wanted to say was, I think I'm dying. Please, please, please tell me I'm not dying. Instead I said, "When will he call?"

"In a couple of days. This afternoon if there's anything wrong."

I flung myself back in my clothes and raced to the parking lot, already dialing David. I broke down. "There are HUGE lumps in my lungs. I am dying. I don't want to die. How will you two get along without me?" I sobbed, and drove around in circles. I didn't know where to go. What was the point of going anywhere?

There is something about becoming someone's mama that has increased my hypochondria a hundredfold. It probably doesn't help that 40 came nipping on parenthood's heels. Every lump, spot or pain is clear evidence to me that my child will not remember me by the time she is 10. Perhaps this is a common phenomenon. All I know is, it's frequently paralyzing. It keeps me awake at night.

I drove to my doctor's office. I didn't call first. When I opened the door, it was kind of dark in there, which seemed odd for noon. There were three nurses milling around, but no one else. Based on my subsequent behavior, I am thankful for that. I asked the nurse I recognized, Lorraine, if the doctor was there. She said no, and asked what was up. My face crumpled and I sobbed:

"I just had a chest x-ray, and I think I'm dying! There were all these lumps!"

"You saw the x-ray?" one of the other nurses said wonderingly. "How did you see it?"

"I just looked!" I sobbed. "Giant lumps!"

Lorraine, whom I have known awhile, and the very young nurse, now began to avert their eyes from the crazy lady. But the other nurse, who had a kindly face like a stately oak and was named Linda, exhibited some genuine compassion for me.

"Oh, you know what, sweetie? I can almost guarantee nothing is seriously wrong, or they would have been on the phone to us the second you stepped out of there, looking for the doctor. And it's been, what? 20 minutes? And no calls."

This mollified me only slightly, and I continued ranting. The two other nurses returned to their regularly scheduled activities while Linda nodded and looked concerned. She then volunteered:

"You know what, if they'd seen something they really didn't like, they wouldn't have let you leave without more pictures. You would have had an entire album. And they didn't do that."

Now that actually seemed believable, and hence, I was somewhat comforted. I paced around for a while, but the phone never rang, and I recovered enough to feel slightly foolish. Linda took out a Post-it and a Sharpie and said "Now I'm going to put your cell number right here above the phones, and the second anything comes in, we'll call you."

I thanked them and returned to the car. I called David with the hypothetical news, and he sounded sufficiently excited by it. I left my Blu-Tooth on and drove to a meeting. I was probably in the car for 20 minutes, and then checking in for another 10. I had just sat down when my cell phone rang, and I lunged for the door, spilling my purse. I ran out into the hall and rasped "Hello?"

"Hi Sam, it's Linda," she said with a smile in her voice. "I'm looking at your report right now. It says 'NO ACUTE DISEASE.'"

"No acute disease. That's a good thing, right?"

"It's a very good thing."

"I can't tell you how much I appreciate this. I hope you have a wonderful day."

"You're welcome, and I KNOW you're going to have a wonderful day."

And you know what? She was right. Linda was like my guardian angel. Turns out the call with the report never came, but she couldn't get my distress out her mind. So she called them herself to follow up. Is that sweet or what?

I learned some valuable lessons, Readers.

Lesson One: Don't try to read x-rays. I guess I can admit there a couple things I don't know a freakin' thing about.

Lesson Two: The squeaky (or crying) wheel always gets the grease. (Unfortunately, I already knew that one.)

Lesson Three: Hypochondria may lead to further testing. Be prepared for this when you tell people you think you have cancer.

Lesson Four: Calm down. (Repeat as necessary.)

It was a wonderful day. Tune in next week when I find out what else that x-ray said.


What a crazy couple of days. Monday night I was out until all hours because I had a presentation and a rehearsal on opposite sides of the county, and I zoomed up and down the freeways like a teenager out for a joyride. I was looking forward to a relaxing evening on Tuesday, and readied us with a homemade veggie pizza and plans to loll on the couch watching the states turn colors while we ate.

Readers, it was not to be. About 7:00 p.m., when things were getting very exciting all over the country, things suddenly got exciting at our house, and not in a good way. Let's just say that the resident evil in our plumbing system reared its head, and there were no longer finite boundaries between different kinds of drains. Within five minutes, our happy home was fraught with peril, and I frantically flipped through the Yellow Pages, hoping those vans painted "24 hour plumber" actually meant it. I found one, and we choked down the now-stone-cold pizza as we waited in high agitation. Finally, a guy called back and said he'd be over in 30-45 minutes, but it was fully 2 hours before he pulled up. At that point, I was regretting the many beverages I'd enjoyed in the late afternoon, and experiencing both despair and heartburn.

I grabbed Jarrah, stuffed her in a jacket and shoes, and told David I was taking her to Starbucks. I couldn't think where else would be open at 9:00 that wouldn't ask too many questions about my intentions, which didn't extend beyond sprinting to their facilities with my past-her-bedtime child in tow. Jarrah was very confused about being strapped into her seat in the chill of night, especially when I couldn't really explain where we were going. When I opened the door for her, she said "Are we going far from our home?" I felt a shiver of displacement, and was tempted to wail, "Our home has forsaken us!" but resisted. Just barely.

The Starbucks had gone out of business. (Wot?) There was a Soup Plantation next to it, and before I could think too much I dragged Jarrah inside. The problem with that place is you have no business even entering if you're not going to pay, since everything beyond the velvet ropes is "all you can eat." I didn't care. At this point, I was jogging. I even lost Jarrah for a moment in the crowd. When we finally got to a stall, I must have peed for five minutes. (Later, when I told David this, Jarrah added, "And then I peed for four minutes.") Now I didn't know what to do.

I ended up buying the buffet for Jarrah, which is very cheap because of her age, and she worked her way through a mini-ice cream cone, a bowl of mac and cheese, and a blueberry muffin. Because I hadn't paid, I felt too guilty to even taste hers, and for once I was grateful for her chatty, leisurely dining style. I wondered what we would do next. Go to a hotel? I called Mary, who said we could come over, but they live 30 minutes away. I called David, who thought the plumber was going to fix everything. I had some serious doubts because of the magnitude of the problem. I told him to call us with updates. I felt a wave of guilt for keeping Jarrah up so late on a school night, and sad that I was missing the speeches, but then I started looking around the restaurant and--just like that--felt all aglow with hope and possibility.

On this fine historic evening, Soup Plantation was only about a third full, mostly couples and families enjoying a late dinner. I could only hear one table--two couples--discussing the election. But I noticed that the group of us all looked very different, and that most of the families were interracial, and here we all were, together by the grace of our shared enjoyment of muffins. Like a goofball, I had a sudden urge to smile at everyone, to wave and call out "Hello, humans! Are you as giddy as I am? Is this an exciting night or what?" Then I realized I really was smiling at everyone, and that they were smiling back. People were waving at Jarrah. Jarrah pointed out a cute little boy and said "Look, he has two mommies!" I'm pretty sure one of them was Grandma, but hey, whatever. It's all good.

I called David. He said the plumber was done, it was fixed, we should come on home. And we did. The house was bright and warm and David had been cleaning to make it nice for us. We made Jarrah's bed with blankets warm from the dryer. When the house was quiet, we lamented that we'd missed the speeches, but the glow remained.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This Great Nation of Ours

Conversation in the car this afternoon:

Me: See my sticker? That says I voted.

Jarrah: I want one.

Me: Well, you have to vote to get one. And be 18.

Jarrah: We talked about that in school.

Me (excited): You did? You talked about the election?

Jarrah: Yeah. We learned you can vote for broccoli.

Me: Broccoli? What were the other vegetable choices?

Jarrah: (embarrassed expression) Oh. And John McCone.

Me: Ohhhhh! (cracks up) Broccoli! You mean Barack Obama?

Jarrah: Yeah. Barackabama.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Boo! Want Some Candy?

Jarrah is not quite ready to let Halloween go. This morning (in her pajamas) she asked if she could stand outside and "give out candy to customers." Not sure where she got that customers idea--really hope I won't find a stash of crumpled dollar bills in her hamper later. She was still wearing her witchy hat and swinging her broomstick at every available head (Note to self: No costumes with clubs next year.)

Last night's trick-or-treating was a great success. While we couldn't get Jarrah over the threshold at the self-proclaimed "Haunted House," she conquered her fears at all the rest, keeping her focus on the bucket of candy in the door-lit eye of the cobwebs, flashing lights, hanging ghouls and glowing jack-o-lanterns. Her motto seemed to be, "Life is full of the scary, but the scary leads to the candy."

Although we left for Hannah's house too early to do any trick-or-treating on our street (or give out any candy at our house) Jarrah didn't miss out--after a successful mission around the streets of Burlingame, she and Hannah became the official "giver-outers" back at her place. And they were a full-service operation--you didn't even need to come to the door. The two girls grabbed handfuls out of the bowl and raced down the front steps to greet everyone in costume, great or small, and stuffed their bags before they could even say anything.

In a happy coincidence, Jarrah was not the only "mean witch" in attendance--Hannah's other friends, sisters Leigh and Abbie, rounded out the perfect trio of Big, Medium and Little Wicca Sisters. It was cuter n' cute. And even kooky Mommy got in on the fun, doing a little impromptu Nia in the dry ice. The girls thought I was crazy, but I enjoyed myself.

We kicked off the seasonal festivities one week earlier, at the annual Haunted Birch Aquarium, where we were joined by Joy and Nathan's families. The place was all a-glow (including some of the fish) and a live band kept us boogie-ing. While there's some trick-or-treating at this event, it's minimal (I think Jarrah had two pieces of candy, and a few small toys, in her bag at the end of the night) and instead there are lots of groovy stations to explore, like the box you can shake until it glows (I learned the word "bioluminescence") and a big bowl of "eyeballs" you can reach into and squish. There were games and prizes, and a costume contest but you kind of had to be in marine-themed couture to win that.

This is the first year that Jarrah has been truly interested in Halloween as a seasonal EVENT (rather than a strange evening where you walk up to people's doors and, inexplicably, they hand you the thing you crave most in the world) and we've spent a LOT of time discussing the various implications of a holiday devoted to "making you say eeks!" We've read three themed books together--The Very Brave Witch, Vunce Upon a Time, and Scary, Scary Halloween--and last night she asked a minimum of 10 times "Why that house have steam?" and "How come that Quartz Bride have hands? Some Quartz Brides only have skeleton hands."

"But some Quartz Brides don't have skeleton hands? Why is that?" I asked her. I figure turnabout is fair play. She had no answer. Yet another mystery of scary, scary Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Birthday Meta-Post

It was a wonderful birthday. I pretty much did exactly as I pleased from the moment I opened my eyes until I went to bed close to midnight. It was my first Facebook birthday, and many dear people posted good wishes on my wall. (How quickly this Facebook thing has come to resemble life!) I got some nice phone calls, cards in the mail from old friends, a stunning flower arrangement from my parents, afternoon cuddle time with Jarrah (this is the child who normally responds to a request for a kiss with "You can have a kiss tomorrow") and--during her nap--Gossip Girl in my pajamas with a cup of General Foods International Coffee French Vanilla. I was treated to lunch at a scrumptious new-to-me place called The Guild by my friend Stephanie, right after I spent two hours being rubbed, creamed and hot-rocked into an invertebrate life form by the wizardly Amber at Indigo Spa.

And then there was you, Dear Readers. Dear, dear Readers, many of whom I've never met before. But isn't that the beauty of the blogosphere, where putting a request out into the universe might make you "Dooce for a Day?" I issued a challenge, feeling vaguely foolish but not foolish enough not to do it (this birthday was all about asking--politely--for exactly what I want.) And you came through. My former comment record was smashed by Tuesday morning, and by today, I'd doubled it.

Special attention must be paid to a pair of lovely ladies who made themselves my wing men. (Wing women?) Laural at Mamasphere, whose blog is understandably popular, posted a birthday blog JUST FOR ME. That's right--a public plea devoted to my quest, from whence an outpouring of support came flooding. I am currently in the process of stopping by to thank all my birthday guests, but I want to go on record here--in case your profile is blocked or (gasp!) you don't have a blog--and thank you from the bottom of my comment ho heart--you must visualize the the wicked grin when I turned on the computer as the first act of my natal day.

I am also indebted to the San Diego Blog Bitches, and particularly Cheri, who also posted in my honor, pimping me (her word) to bitches far and wide. I hope I am able to thank you bitches in person very soon.

And a final big smooch to my dear husband, whose passion for the latest gadgets put him in cahoots with Oprah this week as he gifted me with a Kindle. What's a Kindle, you ask? Well, I'm so glad you did, since every time someone does, it's more evidence of just how cutting edge I truly am. A Kindle is an electronic book, a device the size, shape and weight of a paperback, with a face of "electronic paper," that holds up to 200 novel-length books, content for which can be instantly sampled or purchased from Amazon in the time it takes to press "Buy It Now." As you might imagine, I am more than a little stoked.

If I can get serious on you for a moment, I would like to say that there were so many people dear to my heart who were instrumental in making this a birthday for the ages. The entire week has been a lesson in gratitude. And I'm an excellent student. Thank you all.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Brother, Can You Spare a Comment?

It's my birthday tomorrow, and in honor of that international event, I want to issue a friendly challenge. Please help me beat my comment record for my birthday!

I believe the record is 32, set way back when I was in China, doing some un-comment-worthy thing like, oh, becoming a mother.

But this is different, Dear Readers, because, see--I'm getting older. I need more comments to sustain me and the blog. It's just part of the aging process, I'm afraid. Please send help.

It being my birthday and all, that breaks the ice, in case there's nothing else on your mind.

And yes, I know I'm a comment ho. There's time for rehab later.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Six Little Words

Laural at Mamasphere (which will soon be renamed, but by any other name would smell as sweet--it's hysterical and I love it, go check it out) tagged me with a fascinating meme called "Life in Six Words."

Now, those who know and love me would probably have a lot of gracious things to say about my talents, possibly even more than I would helpfully suggest myself. And those who know and love me would also vigorously agree that brevity is not my strong suit. I struggle just limiting myself to a single sentence to describe my "status" on Facebook. Six words is a genuine challenge.

So I'm going to steal Laural's idea and give myself a few chances to get it right. Here goes:

Constant worrying sucks out your soul.

This one is more aspirational than anything. I worry a lot, and I wish I didn't. I'd have a lot more time--and space in my head.

Dance like nobody is watching you.

I know, I know, I stole that one from a bumper sticker, but isn't it great? And I do. I'm always dancing. Even when people are watching, I don't mind--I dance like they're not.

Well-behaved women rarely make history.

Another bumper sticker; I wielded this one in an argument with David the other night, after which I could see he was carefully counting to ten to avoid saying something he might regret.

Write about your life--photos lie.

This is my counter to "A picture is worth a thousand words." Which is just not true, in my opinion. Not that I don't like pictures. But I like well-chosen words even more.

There is no try, only do.

This one is courtesy of Yoda. It sounds better when you're a little green guy with big eyes and ears. But I like the idea behind it, because it speaks to our fear of failing. The only way we fail is to do nothing at all.

Treat everyone like they are innocent.

I'm a grudge-holder. I can hold grudges against people I've just met. So one of my life goals is to assume the best of people, not the worst. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Not take everything so personally. This one is as tough for me as writing something in six words.

Take a risk--do it now.

This is a biggie, because it applies to everything, from apologizing to joining the circus. I'd like to say I live by it, but I only WANT to.

How about you, Readers? Feel free to tag yourselves, or post your favorite six-word motto in the comments. Publishers of those tiny books displayed near the cash register at Borders are standing by.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Eye of the Beholder

In a coffee shop this afternoon, Jarrah suddenly focused on the wall behind me:

"Hey, that guy is just wearing underpants!"

I turned around. She was pointing to a portrait of Jesus on the cross.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's All in the Delivery

Today in the car, Jarrah said "Let's tell jokes."

Sam: "Okay, here's one. A duck walks into a bar..."

Duck: "Got any bread?"
Bartender: "No."
Duck: "Got any bread?"
Bartender: "I said no."
Duck: "Got any bread?"
Bartender: "For the last time, I said no! If you ask me again, I'm going to nail your beak to the bar!"
Duck: "Got any nails?"
Bartender: "NO!"
Duck: "Got any bread?"

Jarrah: I've got a joke. A moose walks into a barn. He sees a dandyflower. The dandyflower grew and grew. Then it talked.

Sam and Jarrah: (beat) HA! Hahahahahaha!

Sam: Okay, I've got another one. A moose walks into a barn. He sees a dandyflower. He says to the dandyflower "Whassssssupppp?" The dandyflower says "Whasssssuppppp?" The dandyflower grew and grew. Then it talked.

Sam and Jarrah: (beat) HA! Hahahahahahahaha!

Jarrah. No.

Sam: Whaddaya mean, no?

Jarrah: That's not right. A moose walks into a barn. He sees a dandyflower. The dandyflower grew and grew. Then it talked. Nobody says "What is up."

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Jabberwocky and the GPS

I don't write too many traditional "this is what our family is up to!" kind of posts (do I?) but I can't resist with this one.

David had to give one of his mysterious "presentations" up in LA (I ask so few questions, just hope they have nothing to do with strippers or Ponzi schemes) and had to be there at 9:00 a.m. on a Saturday. Did I mention we live 2.5 hours from LA? But he was determined (or obligated, or some such nonsense) so he made a suggestion: did Jarrah and I want to meet him afterwards? We could take the train, and we've been wanting to see the latest Troubadours show, and the theater is right down the block from where he'd be.

My automatic response was "Are you on crack?" I had a hard time visualizing anything fun about spending more than two hours on the train with Jarrah--by MYSELF--and then spending a long day dragging a napless crankster behind us when we were already exhausted.

Well, Readers, we went anyway. And it really was mostly delightful. Emboldened by our recent upgrade on the Catalina ferry, I booked Business Class seats on the Amtrak. Oooh, naughty! And nice. I chalked it up to sound planning: I was going to be alone with an unpredictable small person, and Saturdays on the train are crowded and crazy. I spent about an hour (I've noticed a strange, new obsessive side to myself since parenthood, in which I fixate on small, meaningless tasks for long periods of time) gathering "printables" (who knew this was a whole genre?) from the internet from Nick Jr. and PBS. I packed a bag with books, markers, crayons, Scotch tape, glue sticks, collage paper, construction paper, coloring pages and lollipops (reading that over, I really do sound crazy) and tested the weight of my bag in advance.

I needn't have bothered. We got in the car later than I'd planned and had to park about three miles from the depot. I had to wait in a long line to print out my tickets (feeling like my head was going to explode from trying to read, think, bat Jarrah's fingers away from the buttons, answer her questions, and ignore the frantic queries of the lady behind me) and then had to run to the train because we were on the wrong platform for Business Class. By the time we got upstairs, sweating, there were no more forward-facing seats, but oh well.

If at all possible, Business Class will be my new lifestyle. The seats have X-treme leg room, with electricity and overhead storage. They set out a breakfast buffet with unlimited coffee and pastries, in addition to newspapers for everyone. Later, they brought us beverages and an entire sack of lunch goodies that put plane travel to shame. Best of all: the quiet and privacy. Not that I enjoyed it immediately. In the first hour, I was a total freak, snapping at Jarrah not to drop her crayons and to use her inside voice. All my printing was scorned after she'd made one artful mark on a single page, which will show me (or not.)

But after that, I was sort of a genius, if you want to know the truth. I'd packed her collection of Pixar figurines (where did they come from?) and casually mentioned that the tray table was a "tent" and the footrest a "stage." She leaped under the seat immediately, while I went to the buffet and returned with napkins, sugar packets, a coffee cup and lid, and a stir stick. Improvising as I went along, I announced with authority that the announcer could stand on a pedestal to introduce the show, while audience members (like Buzz and Woody) watched from sleeping bags and later took a row boat around the lagoon. She bought it instantly, and I didn't hear from her again for about 90 minutes. I read magazines and watched the scenery, marveling at my brilliance. And if my child had to wallow on the carpet for my convenience, so be it--I scored nothing less than a bloodless coup with that stage idea.

David met us at Burbank Airport station, and we were both cheerful and rested. I had gathered some info about restaurants near the theater, and we ended up at Bob's Big Boy across the street. That might sound odd, but this Bob's Big Boy is original to 1949, and a Point of Historical Interest for the state of CA. It's also an architectural artifact of "Googie" style, once frequented by Bob Hope and The Beatles. Who knew? Anyway, the place was packed with eyebrow-ringed hipsters, and the food was yummy.

I had printed out directions to a park so Jarrah could stretch her legs before the show, but it turned out to be an empty patch of grass near a freeway on-ramp more suitable for drug transactions than frolic. After some meandering, we ended up in the "Burbank Village District," a designation more hopeful than accurate. Still, it had some sweet, tree-lined streets of cafes and shops, and after a brisk walk and coffee at "Romancing the Bean" I was feeling much more alert. Jarrah was happy to learn it was finally time to go to the "movie theater."

The Troubadours, or "Troubies," as they're affectionately known, are a troupe characterized by circus stunts, physical comedy, a full band and Shakespeare adapted to include pop songs. We've seen such shows as Fleetwood MacBeth and A Midsummer Saturday Night Fever Dream but now they've added a "family show" - Alice in One-Hit Wonderland. The Falcon Theatre, small and cozy with a huge stage and great access to the audience (Troubies love to pick on people in the first row) was new to us, and very nice.

I don't know how to convince you that you have to see The Troubies before you die, but if you live in the vicinity of LA, you really have no excuse. They simply rock. Our show included dozens of One-Hit Wonders ("Double-Dutch Bus," "My Sharona," "Relax"), wondrous feats of jump-roping, a song performed while bouncing on inner tubes, a singing Humpty Dumpty who becomes a pool of yellow slime, and a 12-foot red puppet monster who ends up in bed with Mike Brady, smoking a cigarette the size of a telescope. During the course of the show, I got hugged by Tweedle Dum, leaned on by Alice Brady, and Jarrah got a shout-out from the Head Troubie, who ad-libbed, "We've got to keep up the pace here. That little girl probably has to go pee-pee. See, she's reading her program to see when this thing ends." (It's true, Jarrah clutched her program the whole time, but she didn't even know someone was talking about her because she was too mesmerized.) Unlike the other children, who were laughing and clapping along, Jarrah spent the whole time staring with her mouth open. Afterwards, she announced that we'd be staying for the second show, and I had to explain we didn't have tickets. That child is serious about drama--it's no laughing matter. She did speak at length about the "Jaggerrocket" on the way home, concerned about who was in there.

Because it was still early, we decided to break up the trip with a dinner stop in Orange County, but it didn't stay early because we hit massive traffic on the way back (L.A.'s a nice place to visit, but...) and David is GPS-happy and put me over the edge with his blind faith in that idiot box, to the extent that we were driving all over the place trying to get back to the freeway. I wanted to try a place in Irvine called The Counter, so we plugged in the coordinates and, traffic clear, headed south. Jarrah fell asleep with a lolly in her mouth--the next day her hair looked like it was styled with molding mud.

The GPS took us a lovely open field and announced "You have arrived." We drove around for a while while David tried to reprogram it, until I announced quietly, "Turn that thing off before I have a cow." There was some driving, arguing, calling, retracing, searching. Once there, we waited to be seated, and they brought us clipboards (their gimmick) with a million tiny boxes to check, with choices like 16 different sauces and eight different kinds of cheese. You could have toppings like curled carrots and dried cranberries and dill pickle chips, and the whole thing was micromanaged right down to the style of bun. We also ordered a 1/2 and 1/2 of sweet potato fries and onion strings, which might have been delicious if they weren't lukewarm when they arrived. The burgers (we both got chicken, actually) were beautiful and tasty and colorful with our 3 million toppings, but cool, almost cold. Our waitress zoomed by, "How is everything?" and as I opened my mouth to respond, she disappeared. Harumph. Afterwards, I told David is was patently absurd to call a place "The Counter" but only offer table service, and really slow table service at that. It's even more absurd to let people create the burger of their dreams down to the last molecule, then refuse to hand it over until it's cold.

We weren't home until 10 p.m., Jarrah snoozing in her seat, tired but exhilarated. The show was awesome, and we were proud of ourselves for attempting such a daring day trip with our 3-year-old. And she was awesome, too.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

One of My "What's Up With That?" Posts

I just succumbed to marketing and bought one of those "mineral" (like what kind? sedimentary rock?) foundation thingos. You know, the ones that look like powder, but have a little brush included, and you're supposed to "sweep it over your face in a circular motion" to achieve a "smooth, flawless finish?"

They also claim that the foundation is "good for your skin." In the same way that being buried under thousands of years of rock strata is "good for" fossils? Because it helps to preserve you? Because I think that's what my face looks like. A big fossil.

I followed the directions. I swept, I swirled. But my face looks like a recently uncovered archaeological dig--all the fault lines, crags and crevices are still plainly visible, but I'm coated in a thick film of sabulous earth so that I resemble an unlabeled specimen of indeterminate origin.

So I ask you...what's up with the hype? Is it because they provide sunscreen? In the same way that covering myself in river clay and sporting it all day would provide sunscreen? Is it because they're advertised by Jessica Alba, whose skin looks like a freshly poured latte? Or is this just another way for the beauty industry to make a buck off of me?

Don't answer that. Grrr.

A Little Light Reading in Bed

Friday, October 03, 2008

Collage from Catalina

The Boat

The Catalina Express is not as big as you'd think, and you can't really go on deck. But we didn't mind so much because--in honor of my hubby's Big Birthday--I'd booked The Captain's Lounge. We were kind of like celebrities--we had our own pre-board entrance, and were directed to a private "stateroom" just behind the ship's wheel. It had a TV, a really big couch, and a steward who poured mimosas for us. You'd think we'd be in awe of all this luxury, but on the way back, when the attendant said "You my lounge party?" and asked if we'd prefer champagne or sparkling cider, we said "Champagne!" and I added, "Oh, and can you bring orange juice? Thanks."

The Pueblo

I agonized for months over where to stay, partly because I'm a "How do the photos on the website look?" kind of girl, and they don't seem to care that much about websites over there. After some research of reviews, I finally settled on The Zane Grey Pueblo, and I totally scored. The Zane Grey was built in 1926 and is the former home of Western novelist Zane Grey (natch). It's also one of only two hotels (the other, The Inn of Mt. Ada, runs about $500 a night) perched high on the hillside with a sweeping ocean view. The Zane Grey, however, was a total deal, especially when I noticed most of the other places were smack-dab in the middle of town and hence, were probably quite noisy.

The Zane Grey is old, so I was expecting to rough it a bit, but nooooo. The rooms have a Southwest theme, and ours had a big (non-working) fireplace and two chairs overlooking the harbor and the Pacific beyond. The bed was super-comfy and, best of all, the closet contained a great, big noisy fan that we set up near the bed. This was key, because I often can't sleep in hotels due to the eerie quiet--at home we have all manner of white noise from fans and our Hepa filter. I slept so well! Oh, and I'd warned David there are no phones, clocks or TVs at the Zane Grey, and he'd have to go without internet. Imagine our surprise when the room came with free Wi-Fi! It may have been accidental, since our room was next to the office.

The Food

Of course I researched the hell out of the island's eating establishments, but I needn't have bothered. All the food seems to fall under the category of "fine." You can have any kind you want--Mexican, Chinese, Italian--as long as you don't want any complicated additives like flavor. Also, it didn't seem to agree with my tum all that well. The only part of me that was eager to get home was my stomach. I guess the highlight was The Pancake Cottage right before the return trip--David got some apple and raisin crepes that were light and airy, with smoking hot apple slices folded inside.

The Fish

Sunday morning we took a semi-submersible submarine (try saying that five times fast!) to "Lovers Cove" to look at the local fish. I am seriously claustrophobic, so I was a little nervous about being five feet under the water, even though David reassuringly explained that the set-up is no deeper than the Disneyland submarine ride. But as soon as we straddled our little seats inside the boat and I could see the silvery little fish under the pier, I was totally hooked. And that was nothing. Once the boat reached its destination, the captain threw a bunch of fish food all around us, and there was a crazy feeding frenzy, resulting in about eight thousand fish seeming to swim right up my nose. The most beautiful are the Garibaldi, bright orange semi-tropicals that are also the California State Fish (see, my blog is educational!) There was an awkward moment when one gentleman described their taste as "mushy" right after the captain had indicated it was 6 months to 5 years in the pen for catching one, but other than that, a sheer delight from beginning to end.

The Bus

Saturday afternoon we took The Skyline Drive Tour, which wends its way 10 miles into "the interior" of the island with a stop at Airport-in-the-Sky, a small private airport owned by the Wrigley family. We saw some stunning ocean and mountain vistas and some teeny-tiny bison at a great distance (there is a herd of 150 bison on the island due to a quest for "authenticity" during the filming of a Zane Grey movie nearly a century ago.) The tour was two hours, but it made me plenty grateful we hadn't opted for the four hour version, since I'd gotten my fill of the dusty and stifling (no A/C) bus by then. Part of the problem was that it wasn't a bus at all, but more of a Mac truck, with the accompanying noise level and lack of shocks. When that behemoth of a vehicle took hairpin turns on the narrow road with sheer drop-offs, I started wondering if I'm afraid of heights, too.

The Carts

Officially, there are no cars allowed on Catalina Island. Somehow, there are some cars anyway, but the majority of the traffic is comprised of golf carts, in all sizes and styles. David and I rented a golf cart twice--so fun did we find it--even though it was crazy-expensive by the hour. The first day, we rode up to the Wrigley Memorial, but the second day we spent most of the time tooling around Avalon, and saw some jaw-dropping views on a winding road above the sea. During the second run, I conquered my fear and tried driving, and though the carts don't go much above 20 miles for hour, it's still exhilarating, like riding a bike that is really, really easy to get uphill.

The Hills

Catalina has one major town, and it's filled with as much ice cream, fudge and ocean-themed tchotchkes as any tourist could desire. But the rest of the island (more than 70 square miles) is a protected nature conserve, so as soon as you climb the hill above the village of Avalon, it's just eucalyptus and sage. The island rises to over 2,000 feet above sea level, so the effect is quite dramatic. And the climb is, too--both evenings we chose to walk back to the Zane Grey after dinner, and though the distance is short as the crow flies, I was actually light-headed the first time.

We also visited the Wrigley Memorial (William Wrigley, the chewing gum magnate, owned 99 percent of the island at one time, and his family still retains the rights to much of the commercial development) and that was a long, dusty slope through a beautiful garden, followed by 103 steps to the top of the memorial (we only know that because a helpful lady coming down told us she counted.)

The View

I've mentioned our view from the room, but even more impressive was the view from the gorgeous balcony on the side of the Zane Grey. In the mornings, the hotel puts out the most adorably spartan breakfast you've ever seen: a coffee warmer, and little plastic baggies filled with two slices of wheat bread and a single packet of jam. And a toaster. Not sure if it was the ambiance or what, but that is the best toast I've ever had. It had little sunflower seeds inside, making it pleasantly chewy. We had brought a carton of juice with us, so we'd prepare our toast and then dine in awe high above the twinkling harbor, gleaming white yachts, and mountainous hillsides dotted with colorful homes. At night, we'd catch our breath on the same balcony after the long climb, and admire the stars and the lit-up town surrounding the moonlit water like a big, sparkling horseshoe.

The Vibe

David and I are vacation power-walkers. We get a bunch of maps and spend the day hoofing it from sight to sight. This pace suits us, generally, but it was a wicked treat to go somewhere where there's just not that much to do or that far to walk. One afternoon we spent at least an hour on a bench under a tree reading the entire Sunday paper. In the evenings, we watched Netflix videos on David's laptop in bed. Occasionally, we just found a spot to stare into the water, looking for flashes of orange. It might be the most relaxing vacation we've ever had.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Totally Flouting National Stay-at-Home Week

So, I've written that post about Catalina Island; now just waiting for the photos to come back from Wal-Mart. Can you believe that David forgot to bring a camera on our trip? Yes, DAVID. Shocking.

Speaking of Wal-Mart, I never go there, and now I know why. I don't want to offend anyone, but what is up with that place that it depresses me so? I never feel depressed at Target. In fact, Target is often uplifting, with all its adorable products. But Wal-Mart...from the second I enter and smell the McDonalds fries and get engulfed in the eerie, gaseous green lighting, I kind of want to kill myself. Then, you hear it: the mounting cries of babies, first one, then another, then dozens and dozens, from every corner of the store. I scurried by one of the babies wailing his lungs out in a cart while his stone-faced mother looked straight in front of her, and did a double-take when I realized his legs and arms were covered in big, scabby sores.

All the shoppers look like someone just died, and like they haven't had fresh air or a home-cooked meal in many moons. It's all I can do not to RUN through the aisles, in a vain attempt to make my stay as short as possible. Vain because the place is like a maze, and because just when I think I'm free I see a basket of tiny spritzers of Love's Baby Soft, and I'm inexorably drawn to it, and find I am powerless to resist the fragrance I fondly recall from 8th grade, back when Brooke Shields's testimonials to its pleasures went "Love's Baby Soft. Smells like babies. You know, that yummy smell that makes you want to chew on them." Hey, look it up if you don't believe me. It's burned in my brain.

I have already had five hours of rehearsals this week. If you want to hear about that stuff, however, you need to drop me a line and I'll hook you up with my new "All Theatre, All the Time" blog. Some of you have already received invitations. It's up and running.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interim Blog

David and I just got back from Catalina Island, where we had the most relaxing weekend getaway I've ever had. There's nothing like having a 3-year-old (staying with patient friends) to make you cherish every second of sitting under a pepper tree in the dappled sun reading an entire newspaper in companionable silence with your sweetie. I am working on a full trip report, with photos, which is coming soon.

In other news, I just got cast in a play. We had the table read last night. The show is a comedy, with a huge cast. I'm in one scene, but it's a big one, and VERY funny. I may also be singing a "torch song." We will be doing four WEEKS of performances starting the weekend of Thanksgiving.

I want to blog in detail about the rehearsals, but don't want to get Dooced. So, I'm going to add an e-mail address to this blog where you can let me know if you'd like to read a NEW blog that will be password-protected, dedicated to the play. If you already have my e-mail, feel free to drop me a line there and I will send you the password when I get it all set up.

Thanks, Dear Readers!

Edited to add: No, you don't have to know me "IRL" to take advantage of this special offer. ;)

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Bedtime Story for David's 40th Birthday

Jarrah thinks I'm very good at telling stories, so in honor of David's birthday this Monday, I'm going to tell ours.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, David was born. He wasn't always 6'2", no, apparently he was small and bald like other babies. He lived in the jungle near Perth, Australia, a place so remote that other Australians don't even go there. His parents, Joan and John, were very happy to meet him, and he was "a lovely, easy baby," though soon he would be a terror. Two years later, he was joined by his brother, Ben, and they were all happy together. If you ask David, he'll tell you that his childhood was filled with trampolines and go-carts and ice cream "lollies," ergo, his childhood was not like other people's.

David doesn't talk much about these magical times, but I know that he spent summers on a mythical island covered with furry creatures found nowhere else in the world. I know he traveled around Europe in a van while his family was on a Busman's Holiday. I know he liked to make things like telescopes and computers, his evil genius tendencies emerging very young.

In this faraway land, kids don't leave home when they go to college, and if you tell them that YOU did, they ask if you're an orphan. So David stayed happily with his mum and dad and his gadgets until he reached the manly age of 25, at which point a guy at his work committed treason against the U.S. government (that is another story, Dear Children) and David found himself taking this guy's place on a plane to California. For a while, he worked and lived in the non-magical land of Oceanside, and when the people stopped paying him, he traveled across our country in search of the Holy Grails of American tourism, like Las Vegas. His quest fulfilled, he learned there was somehow another job and more money and let's just say to this day he's never had a job interview. No, David's powers enable him to invent things, just as he did as a child, for a living, and also to wear only clothing obtained for free at conventions, which instead of making him look like a slob causes investors to announce "Ah, the talent's here!" when he walks in a room.

One day, when David was about to turn 30, the king and queen threw a ball and invited every eligible prince in the land, or at least every prince working at Applied Magic. Being the only prince who was free that weekend, David polished his brown shoes with black paint and traveled to the distant land of Irvine to see the princess get married. But the princess was crafty, yes she was, and she cast a spell on David which forced him to eat dinner with a table of women in matching blue dresses. Though neither of them knew it that night, one of those blue-dressed women was his destiny,and that destiny, Dear Children, was Samantha.

Time went by, Dear Children, and David and Samantha became very close. They saw movies together, good ones and bad ones, and ate a lot of pie. More time went by, and finally, one day they kissed. They had a lot of fun. More time went by, and David invented a magical box that could turn ordinary home video into movies. Samantha taught classes, and worked very hard on not waving her wand and turning her dissertation into a book. They were very happy, even when people asked David if he planned to return to Australia soon, and he said yes while Samantha glared.

One day, when David had been living in a large apartment by himself for many months, he and Samantha decided to live together. They were both a little afraid, because they didn't want to break the spell and start hating each other. But, lo, the new life together was easy, and nice. They both kept working, and one day Samantha actually finished her dissertation.

To celebrate, David and Samantha planned a day in Fantasyland, and also Tomorrowland, and Frontierland. They ate frozen bananas and rode pirate ships. At the end of the day, Samantha was weary and wanted to rest on her fainting couch. David insisted that she put on a gown for dinner, and in general behaved peculiarly. While they were waiting for their salad, David offered a toast which included the word "wife." Suddenly, a diamond ring appeared, and desserts and well-wishers. They were getting married. They both cried.

There was some dress-shopping, and many notebooks filled with magazine clippings, and one day there was a magical wedding under a grape-covered canopy and a big, big party with friends and family. And they were very happy, Dear Children. Very happy.

One day they decided to become three instead of two. They were a family already, but they wanted to become a bigger one. But no magic happened. And for some time they kept on being happy but then they started to get worried.

The next part is not appropriate for a bedtime story, Dear Children. It's too scary. There's a lot of blood, and visits to the hospital, and sharp, sharp needles. A lot of waiting and tears and nothing, nothing, nothing. If only a witch had appeared and asked them to spin straw into gold, they would have found a way. But no witch appeared. Sometimes when she was without David, Samantha stared at the wall and tried to cry but there didn't seem any point. She had made a wish, but she was powerless to help it come true.

And so the years went by. Sometimes David and Samantha were able to forget and still were very happy. They traveled far and near, saw many movies, took long, beautiful walks. They laughed with friends, and at night when they were snug in their bed, they felt very, very grateful to have each other.

But something was missing, Dear Children. And one day, as if someone had waved a magic wand, David and Samantha knew what it was. With new hope they wrote a letter to a land far, far away and learned that they were going to have a baby. Their baby was already born, and living happily with her friends on the other side of the world. But for a whole year, none of them knew that. David and Samantha waited, and hoped.

It took many, many people, and two governments, to create a family. David and Samantha worked and waited for more than a year, and finally, the time was nigh. They answered the phone one morning, and the caller on the other end put a spell on their computer. When they looked into it, they could see their baby. She had a very round head, very round eyes, and was very beautiful. And they cried.

Soon it was time to fly to the other side of the world. They weren't alone--their friends Paul and Mary made the journey,too. And very soon after, the baby whose face they already saw in their dreams was placed in their arms. She was very heavy, and this made them laugh. She ate some candy and stared at them. She was named after a tree and a flower.

And that's how it began. No, Dear Children, it wasn't like a fairy tale at all. There was no happily ever after. They were a family, but sometimes there was crying without end and no sleep and throwing tacos at the wall. Sometimes when David or Samantha opened the baby's door in the morning, her cuteness struck them like someone squeezing their hearts. As time went by, they all fell in love, and Three was a Magic Number.

Now it's nearly three years later, but our story doesn't end, Dear Children. The baby walks and talks and makes everyone laugh. David and Samantha are tired but happy, and each day brings something new. The baby loves to sing and dance like her mama, and loves to space out at the computer like her papa. The journey keeps going.

Sometimes, late and night, Samantha marvels at how many things had to happen, at a precise time and in a precise order, for three people from faraway lands to be under one roof as a family. And she knows that, way back when, her wishes were all being granted, even though she didn't know it at the time.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gazing in the Mirror...and Cracking Up

I was searching for something about blog statistics (don’t ask me what; I’ve told you I have the short-term memory of a goldfish) and found this:

Researchers for the Oxford English Dictionary claimed in 2007 that "the 15 most frequently used words in the blogosphere (presumably the Anglo part of the blogosphere) are:”

[four letter word beginning with s]

I love it! My favorite part is the popularity of “lovely.” I know I use that word several times in each post, and find myself particularly adorable while I’m doing it. Clearly, I’m not alone!

I also laughed about “update” and “stuff.” I get a lot of mileage out of those, and I have experienced vague twinges of discomfort as I do so, sensing that I’m galumphing into the Lazy Woman’s blogging realm.

I’m a bit smug, however, that I don’t think I say “stupid” very much. Mind you, I find a lot of things to be stupid, but I force myself to find other words for these feelings as a rule.

How about you, Readers? Do you see yourself in this list?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Late Again

So, David has been highly annoyed with me that I keep forgetting to post this. I think there may be some Freudian foundational garments involved because, if you recall, we did get disqualified.

However, it is a cute little film, so some of you may want to watch it. Who knows what we would have won, had we been eligible? This is our longest entry to date, clocking in at about eight minutes, so get comfy.

A reminder, for those who care, that the required elements were:

Character: Joe or Josie Beeble, Construction Worker
Prop: Tweezers
Line of Dialogue: "Have you heard the news?"

Updated to add: Our genre was "Holiday Film."

As Jarrah would say, "Ladies and Gentlemens, presenting...!"

Beebles Who Need Beebles on Vimeo.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Taking the Cure

I've been feeling sort of crapcake--some sort of snorfly condition, and today I decided to do what I always did in my youth when I wanted to feel better: I went to the beach.

My dad (who is actually a doctor) has some old-fashioned ideas about how to fix what ails ye, and his go-to Rx was always "go get some Vitamin D on your head." Funny how all these years after the furor over sun exposure, doctors are prescribing daily sun once again. I've always felt that it was especially effective when combined with sea, sand and salty air, so--feeling a bit absurd--I packed my red-nose self into the car with a huge wad of tissues, my book and the little unit that I still struggle not to call my Walkman.

I couldn't decide between Coronado and La Jolla Shores--let's face it, neither one is nearby. We may have a house now, but the trade-off is living on an arid, land-locked tundra at least 15 minutes from water in any direction. I think I chose La Jolla Shores for nostalgia reasons--I have taken many a constitutional on that beach, whether for my body or my poor, battered heart. There is something about a solitary stroll steeped in melodrama that soothes the soul. (Okay, feel free to high-five that sentence for its alliteration.) Also, I like The Cheese Shop.

After ordering my sandwich, soda and British fruit pastilles (so difficult to find!) and paying what seemed a suspiciously small amount ("Are you sure you've got it all?") I followed the myriad wet-suited wanderers carrying boards and kayaks towards the water. I was a little surprised to see how high the tide was, and the waves did pound so. I always think of La Jolla Shores as a long, wide beach with soft, rolling whitewash, but not today. There were also massive piles of seaweed, with their attendant flies. And though I had been expecting an empty expanse of post-Labor Day sand, it was hot today, and tourists are not that easily fooled.

But it was okay. I strolled along the boardwalk until I came to a pink bench with a plaque reading "Dedicated to Billie Flack." I stopped and smiled. I don't know Billie Flack, but I once began a spectacular failure of a romance on her bench. Now I thought I'd have lunch with her, lo, these many years later.

My sandwich was pretty good, and I lingered over the food review in the Reader while listening to the many people passing me who seemed to be talking to themselves, until I glanced up and saw their headsets. So many that I wondered what they were doing at the beach, in their ties and pleated pants, but it was not for me to know.

I had decided that I wouldn't go down to the water...after all, I'd have to get my feet dirty, and then what? I started walking down the boardwalk and was suddenly very conscious of the cement beneath my feet. "This is ridiculous," I says to myself, and swerved onto the sand. My flip-flops dangled from my fingertips and the sand was surprisingly hot. Soon the waves were rushing over my feet, and it was cold but I stopped noticing seconds later. Suddenly, I knew I would have been an idiot to skip getting my toes wet.

I switched on, not Walkman, get it straight, Sam!...and it started up on Ella Fitzgerald's "Begin the Beguine." I was about to skip it, when I realized I didn't care if the song was an absurd fit for a Thursday morning at the beach, because I love it. And it's about heartbreak and somehow thinking about heartbreak at the beach seemed exactly right.

I have to stop myself from dancing. I dance everywhere; I dance in the cereal aisle. I try to look cute but I know I just look goofy. I'm not a trained ballerina or anything. So I just wiggled my hips a little...hardly at all!...and did some very small kicks. The waves mostly covered them. It was beautiful out there, seaweed and everything. A girl walked by with her iPod and I wondered what she was listening to. Standing in the waves never fails to cheer me up, and I noticed suddenly that I could breathe and I hadn't reached for a tissue in a while.

Then a song came on I hadn't even known I had. Billy Bragg's "Greetings to the New Brunette:"

The people from your church agree
It's not much of a career
Trying the handles of parked cars
Whoops, there goes another year
Whoops, there goes another pint of beer

I watched my toes and thought about all the places I've been while this song was playing, and how this was a new one. And how different the song sounded from 20 years ago, and yet not different. How it seemed like an anthem then, but now I could tell I was doing my rubbery smile that means I'm finding something ironic. If anyone had been with me, they might have asked what I was smiling about, and I would have had a hard time explaining (though never you fear, I would have tried.) But no one else was there, so the smile was just for me.

When the song ended, I started back towards the car. Sweaty, but feeling a lot better. Stopped at the showers, where my feet rinsed off admirably. On the Walkman, a little roar of applause began, which meant I was about to hear "Stop Making Sense" by the Talking Heads.