Thursday, May 31, 2007

Literary Life

I just finished reading Death of a Writer, by Michael Collins. It's sort of a murder mystery, and sort of an analysis (indictment?) of academia, particularly the writing and study of literature. Some of the novel, set in a small, fictional New England college called Bannockburn, hits a little too close to home for me, since I attended a small, New England college, and because I later taught literature and writing to college students in the manner of Adi Wiltshire, who is a seventh-year graduate student on the verge of getting kicked out for lack of progress on her dissertation. Late in the novel, she is driving with Allen Horowitz, a writer who has become rich and famous by "reconceptualizing" the coffee table book, when she has the following outburst:

[Adi] said in a searching way, "How come life feels so unreal, so meaningless? You know, somewhere along the way I think I lost something...lost the reality of reality, locked away with my books, all those years wasted, tearing things apart, dismantling things, debunking false power structures, sexual, economic, and otherwise, not out of some sense of nihilism, but believing that what one had to do was transcend the ordinary to arrive at the profane. There was something permanent and transcendent about the college...from its old ivy-covered buildings to its aging faculty." Adi took a shallow breath, shivered again. "It existed outside of real life. It came to stand against the transitory nature and failure of everything I had lived through. But the thing is, now I don't know how to reconcile that life with this life out here. I have this superficial sense of self-consciousness. I see myself as nothing but a character passing by in a car. I see myself as nothing."

Adi hasn't finished her dissertation, she feels, because she has nothing to say. When she does catch a break, it's only because the attempted suicide of another character initiates a chain of events in which she becomes the executor of his estate. She is able to capitalize on the fervor with which his fiction, written in quiet desperation and previously unpublished, is embraced in the wake of the scandal. Even though she ultimately garners a peachy tenure-track position at another exclusive, private college, she recognizes that her "dream job" is simply the result of learning how to play the game. She resigns herself to being the facilitator, the conduit of genius, rather than a creative force herself.

There was a time when I felt very lucky to be studying literature, to be "reading for a living," as I winkingly told people, and hopeful that this would lead to a busy, purposeful life in which I was stimulated and fulfilled. (Sounds good enough to be almost naughty, doesn't it?) I enjoyed my eight-hour sojourns in the library, snaking through the stacks in search of the ultimate justification for my argument. I buzzed like an extreme athlete when I finished a paper just minutes before a deadline, instinctively knowing that I'd nailed it, stuck the landing, even the German judge would give me a 9.9. I enjoyed discussing passages like the one above, but more than just enjoyed it, I felt there was some intrinsic importance in the act of discussing things. Analyzing texts could make me smarter, bit by bit, and when I was smarter, bit by bit I could contribute to the world.

I finished my Ph.D., wore my cap and gown along with hundreds of others, took photos in which I'm smiling with a tassel in front of my face. Officially, I have the right to be addressed as "Dr." now. Not to brag, but about 50 percent of Ph.D. candidates in the humanities do not finish that dissertation and graduate. It's lonely, isolating work, writing a 300 page book with no one to talk to, no one to validate your ideas, no one to remind you not to spend the day watching reruns of 90210 and eating Nilla wafers out of the box. The people who finish tend to be focused, disciplined. They know what they signed up for, and are prepared to follow the necessary steps to achieve recognition, which is NOT a diploma--it's a job. And job is the wrong word, because being an academic is a lifestyle that encompasses so much more than working. Yes, it's about teaching, about writing and research, but it's about seeing the big picture for all three. Most of all, it's caring not just about what you do, but what you THINK, because as a writer and academic, you are what you think.

From the earliest days of my coursework, I could tell that I didn't understand that part. It's not that I am fundamentally opposed to any of the elements--on the contrary, reading, writing, researching, teaching, discussing and thinking are probably my favorite things to do. Somehow, though, bringing them all together in an organized, cohesive, progressive fashion overwhelmed me. Very early on, I knew I wasn't up for it. In fact, I was sitting in yet another droning, humorless, lingo-stuffed seminar in my second year of classes when I decided to drop out and move to New York, where I'd show up at Entertainment Weekly and work my way up to movie reviewer. I told a classmate my plan during the break. His expression didn't even change. "Have some coffee," he said. "You'll feel better."

That's a funny story, but it's not his fault that I didn't do it. I didn't do it because I was afraid, which is why I haven't done a lot of things. But I don't think I didn't become an academic because I was afraid. Sure, that would have been terrifying--week-long interviews at colleges in the midwest where a dozen people observe how you use your fork!--but I've plunged right into terrifying things when I really cared about them.

Do I regret not being an academic? I don't think so. I remember one of my committee members, a delightful, brilliant woman who's had tenure forever, reaching across her desk to grip my wrist. "You should write a biography. It would be fun. People would actually read it. Get out while you can. If you stay here, no one will ever see what you write."

I didn't seriously consider writing that biography, nor have I ever *seriously* considered writing anything. I never faced the question, "If I'm not an academic, what will I be instead?" Now--again, I recognize this is an excuse--I spend most of the day wiping things (dishes, counters, noses, bums) and can't seem to think about much at all. Like Adi, though, I have been rigorously trained to do something that I'm not really doing. And that makes it hard to accept ordinary life. I have "a superficial sense of self-consciousness" about spending each day as a mom without a job. Is this what it's supposed to look like? Am I doing it right? Am I supposed to be this bored? When people ask, "Are you working?" why do I wince before I answer? Yes, yes, I know this is a job in its own right, and yes, yes, I know I made this choice. That doesn't change my overwhelming sense of ennui, however. I watch myself, the character passing by in the car, and wonder why she doesn't do more of...what? Something in which I am part of a community, I know that much. Now I am so very often alone.

Do I regret being a mom? Not for a minute. Jarrah is my daughter, and I've made certain choices in order to find her and get to her. I also don't blame her for the way I feel. Whatever I am struggling with was going on long before she arrived on the scene.

Like Adi, I've spent years tearing things apart. I have learned to do it well and I'm really good at it. Also like Adi, I want to build something instead, to create, but I'm not sure I have it in me. At the end of the novel, Adi stands by her office window, drinking coffee and watching the rain, musing about the papers she'll be grading over Thanksgiving break. I felt envious of her, in a way, because she achieved what I didn't. But I also felt a kinship with her, because things didn't turn out quite how she expected.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The News in Brief

1. Jarrah did her business in the new potty this morning for the first time. So, it only took her 10 days to get the idea. Sarcasm is hard to detect in blog posts, I know. ;) Ever the multi-tasker, she simultaneously...

2. Read Old Hat, New Hat out loud. It was a thrilling day for Jarrah's text-analyzing mum when she chose this fine volume for her first recitation about a week ago. The book has no plot to speak of, just a Berenstain Bear trading in his tattered fedora for a fine new chapeau...if only they weren't "too beady, "too bumpy," "too feathered" and whatnot. She has the whole thing memorized except for a couple of adjectives she has no previous context for, to which she charmingly admits, "Don't know." Until I actually heard my child reading a book aloud, I didn't realize it would bring a tear to me eye.

3. We rode an antique train! From the '40s or even further back; it was hard to concentrate on the historical details while supplying two toddlers with snacks and walking up and down the aisles. Luckily, the train was swarming with children who were all doing the same. The windows were open, inviting the hot, dusty breeze of Campo, a town near the U.S./Mexico border that certainly has an impressive array of shrubbery. The ride was about 90 minutes out and back, and made even more charming by Joy's Grandma and Grandpa in special train costumes, narrating the journey for us. Jarrah especially liked when the "yellow bus" detached from the front and trundled around to the back via a parallel track.

4. We went to see Jarrah's third feature film in the theater! And we didn't have to flee to the lobby even once. The movie was Shrek the Third, and Jarrah wasn't scared a bit. I think we owe this circumstance to her previous ogre initiation via an episode of Charlie & Lola, in which Lola helps an insomniac ogre fall asleep with an improvised lullabye. Whenever Shrek left the screen (luckily not often) Jarrah would call out "Where ogre gone?" The movie was in a stadium theater with a section of trio seating, and it warmed my heart whenever I glanced over at the tiniest member of our movie-crazed family, the one who announced on the way home, "Watch ogre movie again. Peez." Now, we have a whole new category for reviewing this sequel that the critics ignored: it's the only one we've seen with Jarrah, so it's the best!

5. David and I celebrated our sixth anniversary! He treated me to dinner at the Parkhouse Eatery in my old neighborhood and a play at the Diversionary called Bunbury. Discerning Oscar Wilde fans will want to know: yep, THAT Bunbury--the one who's "more of a concept, really" in The Importance of Being Earnest, which is my favorite play. In this play, the character exists in parallel to the others, and meets up with Rosaline from Romeo and Juliet (another character who never appears in her play) and the two of them run amok through literary history, altering details so that poignant, thoughtful tragedies end up cheerful and bland. It was funny but also had us discussing themes in the middle of the night.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

My Girl Wants to Potty All the Time

Today is a banner day because when we got home from Animal Crackers there was a giant box on our doorstep. And I knew what was in there.

"Ooooh!" I squealed, like a girl who's just been presented diamonds or Jimmy Choos, "Jarrah! Your potty is here!"

For some time now, Jarrah has enjoyed the occasional respite from her busy life on a cushy seat insert atop our toilet. She's never done anything up there, but she enjoys the view. Recently, I purchased her the book Once Upon a Potty, about a little girl named Prudence and her adventures in Pee-Pee and Poo-Poo. Jarrah enjoys this book very much.

"My potty?" Jarrah asked, perplexed. "In bawth-room!"

"This is your very own potty," I told her. "All for you."

"Open!" she said. "Open, open!"

"As soon as I bring the groceries in."

But she couldn't wait. She hoisted the box which was--no joke--taller and wider than she is, and carried it over the threshold. "Open, open!" she repeated, each time I walked by with bags.

When I finally zipped open the top and revealed what looked kinda like a salad spinner, she was entranced. She smiled at me and said:

"And she sat and sat and sat and sat."

For a moment, I had no idea what she meant. I often have no idea what she's talking about these days. It used to be that I couldn't understand her. But now it's about fifty-fifty between the unintelligibility factor and the opaque logic factor. Sometimes I just can't work out how she got from A to Z. Then it dawned on me.

"Yes! Just like in the book! That's what you do on the potty!"

She couldn't pull her pants off fast enough. She sat down, smiled, and...she sat and sat and sat. I got the book and read it to her. But she wasn't really listening because the potty also came with a Prudence doll, who comes with a Velcro diaper. Off and on. Off and on. Finally:

"All done!"

"Well, that's the cool thing about this potty," I said. "When you're all done, you just stand up and go. You don't have to wait for us to help you."

She stood up, very pleased with herself. She peered in the potty. "Look!" she shouted, "A tiny poo-poo!"

I looked. There was a speck, maybe a sand granule or wood particulate from the park. Maybe just a molecule of fuzz. No poo-poo. The kid has some amazing eyesight.

"Not this time." I said. "But maybe next time, okay?" She was satisfied as long as Prudence could take a nap with her. I'll keep you posted on further developments.

In more serious news, thanks to everyone who expressed concern for the state of Jarrah's health after my last harrowing post. It was a tough week of staying indoors in isolation, but she is much, much better. She still coughs occasionally, but each day when she doesn't vomit is a good day. One learns to be thankful for the little things. ;)

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Think I've Earned My Mom Badge Now

Back to "As the Toddler Turns:" Jarrah was still steaming when David got home yesterday. She was also peculiarly gray in visage and her breathing was shallow and rapid. We tossed her in the tub and she barely protested. That was also weird. We stalled for a bit but I think we both knew it was time. When we finally called our pediatrician's office, the attending said "Go to the ER." So we did.

I was nervous and light-headed on the way there; thankfully, I don't know much about emergency rooms, let alone those devoted to children's emergencies. The whole thing seemed slightly surreal. David dropped us in the circular drive and went to park the car. I had just gotten Jarrah out of the car seat when I heard someone behind me say "She's gonna blow!" Right then Jarrah barfed down my back and into my open purse. Suddenly, I was a weird combination of embarrassed and scared. I started running with Jarrah in my arms towards the check-in desk, and then straight back out again as I wondered: "Is it rude to carry a vomiting child indoors?" Then my terror overruled that polite consideration and I ran back the other way. I got in line and Jarrah snuggled her head under my chin. Just before my turn, she let loose a torrent of puke directly into my cleavage. Twice. I stood there, clutching my burning child, coated in hot vomit, just in time to hear "Next!" I opened my mouth, and no sound came out. Tears started running down my face.

"It's okay, Mom." said the admitting nurse. Like an angel. A special Patron Saint of Vomit. She slipped the little pulse thing-o on Jarrah's finger. "She's awake and responsive. That's a good thing, Mom. It's okay." I cried some more but managed to get out a couple pertinent details. David came in just as it was time to sit down and wait. Now I was able to focus on other things, like the fact that I was wearing vomit and hadn't brought a change of clothes, and that everything in my purse was wet and stinky. I snapped open my cell phone. Totally wrecked.

I couldn't change, but I had a moment to appreciate our surroundings. The lobby was new, and sort of cheerful. There wasn't any screaming or crying; no one appeared to be bleeding or dying. By the time I was done with that, they were calling "Ja-RAH! Ja-RAH!" and we were on our way to triage.

The triage nurse took her temperature, and then we all held her head for a very sloooooow dose of Motrin (since all the recent ones had come right back up.) By now Jarrah was no longer excited about the "doc-tah"--back at the house she'd been psyched, since she'd seen one on the Wiggles. The nurse sent us back out to the lobby, saying "If you haven't been called in an hour, let me know." Uh-oh. But they called us in two minutes, if that. I never did finish any of the admitting paperwork they gave us. Hopefully someone did.

When we got to the overly bright room with the paper tablecloth, Jarrah was over it. "Go home now," she said. "I want to go home, too, sweetie," I said. I really did. I was ready for dinner and Heroes. "We've got to wait for the doctor." Another triage nurse came by to do her vitals, and said she "heard something" in Jarrah's left lung. Eek.

All of the above happened bim, bam, boom. But we waited for the doctor for an hour. We put Jarrah in a gown covered in tigers. "Don't like it," she said. "Don't want it." We got her a cherry popsicle and the nurse took her temp again. It had gone up. But she still had the presence of mind to prefer the Red Vines from the gift shop to her popsicle. "That one," she said. And then she said it about 20 more times. Because we thought she had the stomach flu, however, we couldn't give her anything but liquids, in the interest of keeping the Motrin in.

I was getting hungry (and cold--I ended up shucking the vomit shirt and putting on David's jacket with nothing underneath) so David sent me to the attached McDonald's for a snack. Later, he said that Jarrah cried for me the whole time I was gone. Cringe. McDonald's in a Children's Hospital is even more depressing than usual. I ate a cold Happy Meal while reading a brochure on how McDonald's gives back to the community. I listened to a man near me say into his cell phone, "We're here for the duration. Thanks for your prayers." I shivered thinking about all those tired, sick kids on the other side of the wall, and their anxious families sitting around. I scurried back to our room.

When I got there, David was talking to Dr. Dabhia. She was young and beautiful, and very sweet. She confirmed that Jarrah needed a chest x-ray, and went off to order it. Right before she did, I stood up and almost fainted. The room spun around and around. I had to sit down and put my head between my knees. I'm not sure what was going on; maybe I had forgotten to breathe for a while.

David went snack-hunting right as the respiratory technician came in. He explained that he was going to give Jarrah a breathing treatment. He asked me to seat her on the edge of the table and hold her hands. Then he snapped the little mask like you see in the movies over her face and turned on a big unit that pumped out dense, white steam through a blue tube. For a split second she froze, in what looked like total disbelief rather than shock. Then she opened her mouth and screamed at the top of her lungs, ripped off the mask and made a dash for the door. That's my girl--she can take care of herself. I wanted to be strong for her, but I immediately began sobbing when I saw her little face looking so betrayed, that expression that says, "Why are you letting this happen to me?"

In the end, the technician and I had the lovely experience of holding Jarrah in a headlock (it took two of us--she's that strong) while he pressed the hose directly to her nose and mouth without the scary mask. I swear we did this for 15 minutes, and my eyes were about six inches from his crotch the whole time. You know, because the situation wouldn't have been quite awkward enough otherwise. Throughout, Jarrah was keening, "Noooooo.....noooooo.......noooooo" until he finally said "There's no owies, right?" and something seemed to click for her--true enough, there were no owies! She stopped crying and moaning, though we still had to hold her head.

Immediately after, a radiology technician popped in to take us to x-ray. By now Jarrah looked positively shell-shocked. "Any chance you're pregnant?" the cute x-ray girl asked. "Um, nooooo." I said, in my sarcastic voice. I've got to stop doing that with total strangers. We hoisted Jarrah onto a narrow table and the technician strapped her down. Then she positioned bright lights on her and wheeled a giant machine towards her. "Look!" I cried shrilly. "What a big camera! You're going to have your picture taken, but this camera is much bigger than Daddy's!" I stepped behind a giant glass screen while David held Jarrah's arms over her head. Her expression was dumbfounded, but she didn't cry or struggle.

Back to our room, which was starting to feel like home. Jarrah thought the ceiling track for the privacy curtain was for trains, so I turned it into a choo-choo and made it chug along for her. A sweet nurse brought her a stuffed giraffe as a souvenir of her visit. She found the abandoned oxygen mask on the counter and made him wear it. She palpated his stomach (which had been done to her several times already) and said, "Giraffe go to doc-tah!" We had a pink vomit basin from earlier, which Jarrah decided was a phone: "Hello? Hello? See you soon!" Then I positioned the giraffe's head over it and said "Blehhhh! Blehhhh!" "Don't give her any ideas, " said David.

Dr. Dabhia came back and told us Jarrah had pneumonia, in the early stages. She was going to need antibiotics. She went off again to write up the Rx. A cute nurse who reminded me of Seth Rogen from Freaks and Geeks came in to discharge us, and explained that Jarrah was only throwing up because she was coughing so hard. All signs pointed to it having been a good idea that we got her looked at sooner rather than later.

Jarrah was ecstatic that we were going home. It was 10:30 p.m., we'd been at the hospital for nearly four hours, we'd been treated really well, and we'd gotten some answers. Outside, it was strangely tropical, like Hawaii, only we were in a parking structure in Kearny Mesa. "Wiggles!" shouted Jarrah as we made our way to the car. She has a very strong association of where we parked for the Wiggles concert, and since her mommy is claustrophobic and avoids parking garages whenever possible, there hasn't been much to compete with this memory. Now there is.

I'd like to say that all our troubles came to an end with our return home, but Jarrah soon vomited in her clean bed and spent most of the night alternately crying and coughing. I went unshowered and unbreakfasted to the pharmacy when I finally woke up, having been up the first half of the night on a hair-trigger response for more coughing-vomiting interludes. Jarrah slept in, clearly exhausted from her cootie battle.

And get this: insurance wouldn't cover any of her meds because a generic is being released on May 11. Because we obviously can't wait for it, we had to pay over a hundred dollars to get her better starting today. I guess they think she should just suffer until then to get the generic? If I wasn't so tired, I'd be making some irate phone calls. Tomorrow's another day.

41 Cents

Jarrah is sick again, a scant two weeks since her last fever extravaganza. She's already missed one day of school, and today she threw up while she was taking her nap. She threw up twice more while I was trying to clean it up. I'm guessing she'll miss the other day, too. I'm trying to do the responsible thing by plying her with fluids and keeping her inside, away from other children. However, I am accomplishing these goals with a gross of Capri Suns from Wal Mart and far more than the recommended daily allowance of Elmo.

I did get out to the dentist today. That was relaxing, at least. I planned--six months ago--to go when Jarrah was in school. I once tried to reschedule an appointment and they offered me another in 2008. So, David had to be late for work.

On the way there, I stopped at our local post office to mail a package. I belong to a Yahoo! group for people who have adopted from the Chongqing Children's Home, and one of the members is collecting photo collages of children who once lived at the orphanage, to put in a book which she’ll mail to the Home. Another member posted that when she visited, the CCH director proudly displayed the books from previous years. It's a very sweet idea, and I feel guilty that I've missed the original deadline by nearly two weeks. Luckily, a recent post suggests that there is a whole mess of other slackers like us. So I think we'll make it in.

The post office was peaceful on a Tuesday morning, and the line was short. I made a mental note to ask for a book of stamps. These days, a mental note does not suffice; I must also mentally underline the note with a green highlighter several times, and then thumbtack it to my frontal lobe. So I was busy focusing as I approached the man behind the counter. I gave him my package, and said:

"I just heard in line that the postal rate is going up--"

"You JUST heard? Where ya been? Under a rock?"

"Um...hanging out with a two-year-old?"

"It's been in the paper. It's been on the news. There have been notices everywhere."

"Okay. When does it go into effect?"

"You really don't know?"

"No." I had an urge to apologize, but stifled it.


"Yikes, I guess I need some stamps then."

He whipped out a little black book of stamps, seemingly from his pocket, but probably not. "You see these? They're good forever. Even if the postal rate goes to 50 cents, you can use them. They will always be good."

I waited for him to explain how to peel the sticky bit off the backing, affix it to the top-right corner of the envelope, and then think real hard about what to put in there. But he didn't. He was done with me.

Where is our friendly, neighborhood post office? I wanted to say to him. Didn't I wave to you on a float at Spring Fest? Didn't you throw us candy? What has changed?

I hung my head and slunk away in shame. I live under a rock. If only they'd done a feature on the postal rate change in US Weekly, I'd have been on top if it. If only Britney Spears had worn a T-shirt with the new stamp on it. Alas, no. I need to get out more, or at the very least, watch more TV.

In related news, I was apparently vague about how Spring Fest got its new alias. We told Jarrah we were taking her to Spring Fest, and she said "Beef Fest, yay!" And we tried really, really, really hard not to repeat that, but we failed.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Beef Fest

This weekend is the Allied Gardens Spring Fest. We have lived in Allied Gardens for two years now, and this is our third time at the fest. The first year, we had just moved in, and we had a leisurely stroll around the park, admired the greyhounds from Greyhound Rescue, snacked on some peanut chicken, and meandered in a way only a couple with no toddler in tow can.

Last year, we had been home from China only a few weeks, and everyone was still jet-lagged. The spring sunshine was like a slap in the face every time we made it outdoors before 6 p.m. (not very often) and I'm surprised we even noticed Spring Fest had come round again. I was at a baby shower that day (what else is new?) so I sent David and Jarrah (in her stroller) to watch the parade. David has many wonderful attributes, but a talent for recalling events in vivid detail is not one of them. I heard there was a parade, that it was interesting, and that it was long. That's all I remember. Of course, I also don't remember much these days.

This year, we learned that the fest had expanded to two days, a Friday night hoe-down with a band, and the usual Saturday parade and fair. To make up for last year, I suggested we go both times. Last night we ate a quick dinner after I taught Nia, and headed over on foot this time. Jarrah was excited about walking, and about going to the park "at nighttime," and she was especially excited because she knew it was "Beef Fest." The park is only a couple blocks away, and before we'd even rounded our corner, we heard the screams from the Tilt-a-Whirl. This year, the fest was going big.

Jarrah clutched our hands, but seemed very excited. We soon discovered that between the three of us, we'd brought 37 cents, so rides and snacks were out of the question. Jarrah has become such a thrill-seeking adventure pro, she took one look at the upside-down, shrieking teenagers on the Tilt-a-Whirl and said, "Tickets." I kid you not. The child is a ticket fiend, because tickets mean rides.

To distract her from our ticketless state, we headed over to the stage, where a band was knocking out some lively covers of the Beatles and Rolling Stones. We did a little dancing, and had an interesting moment when I spotted a little Chinese girl--probably about eight-years-old--and her obviously non-Chinese family. No doubt because of this, her eye alighted on Jarrah, then briefly on us, and I could read her lips saying "Mom! Look..." as she pointed in our direction. They had a conversation we couldn't hear over the music, and then Jarrah and I waved at them, but we didn't end up talking. I was intrigued by this little interlude, though, because I often give surreptitious looks to families that I suspect are "my people," and they often give them back, and often we do end up chatting. But this was the first time that one of the children in this scenario pointed out our connection first. Very interesting indeed--I wonder if Jarrah will do that, too.

Right then we ran smack into my friend Julie and a friend of hers, and since I hadn't seen her in ages, we had some catching up to do. That was fun because she hadn't met Jarrah before. After that, we headed home, as it was a certain person's bedtime, and because any longer and we would have started feeling sad that we had no money for ice cream.

Today we had an addition to our party--Hannah was visiting us while her mum and dad attended to other matters, and Jarrah couldn't wait to show off Beef Fest. We arrived just in time for a prime curb spot for parade-viewing, and it really may have been the most fun I've ever had at a parade. We started with an assortment of low-rider cars ("Car is dancing!" said Jarrah, as they bounced up and down) and worked our way through "floats" containing the principals of all the local schools, a gym whose members did jumping-jacks in formation, a crowd of little kids in martial arts whites performing kicks, Shriners in tiny cars, a bus blowing bubbles, and a clown shaking hands. Many of the aforementioned hurled handfuls of candy to the children, despite a desperate and heartily ignored woman running amok on the parade route, begging the vehicles to hold their fire due to last year's litter problem. Jarrah and Hannah are united in their yearning for the sweet stuff, and they both thought the parade was the best thing ever. I asked David if he thought the floats would throw me some beads if I flashed my boobies, and he said, "If they have beads." I decided not to chance it--one doesn't want to flash one's boobies without expectation of reward.

The rest of the day was a whirl of excitement. Jarrah and Hannah scaled an inflatable island (I had to forcibly shove them through some sort of log jam that they weren't able to climb over, but they clearly didn't mind the manhandling), moved on to the Dumbo ride ("Oh, that little girl is crying," I told Jarrah and Hannah as we waited for our turn. "But you girls aren't going to cry, are you?" Nope.) and a visit from the ice cream truck, an event with which Hannah has an evident familiarity. Before I even saw the truck, she'd dragged Jarrah down to the curb, ordered some sort of Dora the Explorer Exploding Gumball Extravaganza (I nixed that in favor of Big Sticks) and then dispatched her giant blue popsicle in three minutes flat. Jarrah lingered over hers, with the result of turning her clothes, hands and entire head bright blue, before we whisked it away amidst much anguished howling. Soon after, though, we made friends with the folks at our local independent coffee shack, where we purchased some juice ("You both have blue lips! Now that's something you don't see every day!") and then enjoyed some giant slices under the shady canopy ("Big pizza!" said Jarrah.) We capped off the afternoon with a ring toss (Hannah extended her turn by delicately retrieving each unsuccessfully tossed ring, and then trying again with the same one--eventually, she "won" about 14 prizes with this technique) and a last hurrah on what Jarrah called the "dragonfly" for some reason. We headed home hot, happy, sticky and blue. Two of us wore balloons on our wrists and clutched tall velvet daisies. Jarrah and Hannah had fun, too.

Breaking news! The phone rang while I was writing this. It was Beef Fest, calling to let us know that our three little raffle tickets (they came with the pizza) have won us some sort of big prize in absentia. I'm heading back over to pick that up now. Beef Fest just keeps on giving.

P.S. Our prize was a Spalding NBA basketball in "Adult Male" size. When I returned to the booth, they offered it to me, adding that I could have candles or shampoo instead "if you don't have a son." That decided it. I took the basketball. As I reached for it, a woman videotaped me accepting my prize, and another shook my hand and said "Congratulations." I think next you will be hearing of my nomination for Mayor of Beef Fest.

Look for me on a float at next year's parade.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Lusty Month of May

Those dreary vows that everyone makes
Everyone breaks
Everyone makes divine mistakes...

This post is about the divine mistakes. Not that kind, you saucy rascal. I went back to the doctor today. I think I guilted him into making me another appointment, for a second look at my dysfunctional bits. After a lot of "Wow! This looks great!" it started to sink in that the thing he thought he saw last time was actually not there at all this time. The best news possible.

Worth waiting an hour in a cold, fluorescent room, trying to read my book with my feet in stirrups and my tushy in danger of freezing right off for.

I sweated it out on the elliptical to celebrate, then sat in the sun with an Italian soda, soaking up the spring.

The buds are beginning to burst through.