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.