Monday, March 31, 2008

Day 31: What NaBloPoMo Has Taught Me

Well, this is it. I feel like I've just schlepped the last box to the car and returned to gather up the pizza boxes, vacuum into the corners, and then stand wanly in the foyer, surveying the empty shell of my past before I close the door forever.

Wow. If that sentence doesn't suggest a gift for melodrama, I don't know what would.

But this is not forever, Readers. It's just that today is...


This is my 31st post in 31 days. I set out to do it, and by gum, I did.

I laughed pretty hard when I read Cheri's emphatic refusal to start all over in April ("Will I do April NaBloPoMo? Not on your life.") even though it's oh-so-tempting because the April theme is "Letters," and I am and always will be an epistolary kind of girl. Who knows, maybe I'll be inspired to do a letter post once or twice. But I am looking forward to a little break. Many days I write feverishly through Jarrah's nap time, desperate to finish before she wakes up because there is no concentrating after that. I miss the good ol' days of knitting and watching Gossip Girl during nap time, not to mention surfing the internet for porn.

I want to take a moment to thank, from the bottom of my heart, my loyal readers and commenters this month. You have no idea how often you made my day. Cheri is so right when she says all bloggers are "comment 'hos." There's nothing like a little validation that someone is out there, receiving these transmissions.

A special shout-out to Cheri, who has inspired me every day of this month. I shamelessly stole from her, laughed with her, shed a tear at times over her warm and moving posts. Most of all, she kept me going, not only with the daily posting, but with the list theme, even when I worried I couldn't enumerate one more item.

Today I am beginning a new adventure. This evening, I'm starting an acting workshop that will culminate with a series of performances in June. No doubt that will bring fresh material for the blog. And now:


1. The more I ruminated about a "concept," the longer the post became. A few times, I was shocked to see how long. (Brevity may be the soul of wit, but if Polonius was a rambler, at least he got laughs--I'll take my comfort there.)

2. Short posts get more comments. Short posts about Jarrah get the most comments of all.

3. Blogging as part of a contest is a great way to get to know people. I've been introduced to some fab blogs (and their owners) along the way. Tonight, I'm even (sadly) missing a get-together of San Diego bloggers.

4. It's possible to turn anything into a list. It's all in the formatting.

5. I often think in lists now. "How many reasons can I name for getting the Mint Chip? How many reasons for the Rocky Road?"

6. Writing every day is good exercise. For the brain. I haven't been forgetting stuff as much this month. I feel like my vocabulary is sharper (it had taken a serious plunge in the last couple of years.) And I have to think on my toes when I need a fresh idea every day. (Why oh why didn't I ask you smart people for suggestions sooner?)

7. Adrienne Rich was right. Mothers who write seriously are fighting the good fight. (I read "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-vision" when I was in college, and had no clue what she was talking about. It's dated, but it still resonates.)

8. My life seems more interesting when I read about it in the blog.

9. When I write every day, I can dispense with telling a lot of people what's up with me, and get right to what's up with them. (Hey, "Samantha" does mean "The Listener" in Aramaic.)

10. I had yet another opportunity to learn how much my husband loves me, from his tireless efforts to take, tweak, and post my photos, HTML pointers, and Jarrah-wrangling so I could "just finish this sentence, puh-leez!"

11. I'm paying more attention to everything Jarrah says--after all, she's easy material.

12. I really enjoy writing. It makes me happy. I could do it for a living. (Maybe that's what I wanted to be when I grew up!)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Day 30: List about Lists

I think tomorrow I will reflect grandiosely on the profound experience of blogging lists for 31 days, so today I will reflect on lists in general.

I have started many lists that did not get finished this month. And I have contemplated many lists I couldn't even begin.

For instance, while I love Jennifer's idea of "Guilty Pleasures," I got as far as:

1. Reading trashy mags with no redeeming social value.

Then I realized I don't feel the least bit guilty about it. I'm not sure I have guilty pleasures. Guilt, yes, I've got by the truckload. But not with pleasure attached.

I also love Mary's idea "Things I Wouldn't Be Caught Dead Doing."

1. Going to Chuck E. Cheese.

Oops, already did that. Like a dozen times. So clearly when I'm caught dead I will be in the middle of most of the things I swore I'd never do.

I also love Joan's idea of "Cultural Misunderstandings Between Myself and My Australian Husband." But while I can vaguely remember...

1. Being confused when he said some computer software was "stuffed" (translation: broken)
2. Not knowing what he was talking about when he said "alu-MIN-yum"
3. Smiling every time he calls (to this day) ketchup "sauce"'s been a long time since I've had a jarring cultural misunderstanding with him (or maybe just a long time since I've been able to remember one.) After 10 years together, he's more American and I'm more Australian (and we're both more Chinese.)

Miss J suggested Sei Shonagon, and though my rainy Sunday morning brain couldn't get a list out of it, I did have a fascinating hour reading translations from the The Pillow Book. Thanks, Miss J! And in breaking news, here's "What's Under Our Couch Cushions:"

1 cheddar bunny
1 knitting needle point protector
1 hair-covered sticker featuring Yi Yi from Ni Hao, Kai Lan

Not bad for two couches, huh?

Cheri and Jenn, I am going to save "What I Love About David and Jarrah" for my long, bloviated posts--don't want to strip the mines just yet!

Caroline, I got started on "The Second Shelf of My Pantry," then scared myself by how fascinating I found it. "By gum, it's an ethnographic wonderland! Why DO I have two unopened bottles of Sweet Chili Sauce? Some unrealized yearning from childhood?"

In no particular order, here are some other lists that never got off the ground.

"Classic Movie Lines"

1. "Yo, wastoid! You can't blaze up in here!"

(E.C. if you can guess this one. I had it mounted above my desk when I worked in a law firm one summer. All the lawyers walked by and read it aloud, pronouncing it "WAHS-toid." I decided that lawyers have a vowel problem.)

And that was all I could remember.

"What I Thought I'd Be When I Grew Up"

1. A waitress at Coco's. (I really liked the faux-Bavarian dirndl frocks they wore.)
2. A secretary (according to my mom, because "all they do all day is paint their nails.")
3. An artist (I wasn't picky about what kind.)
4. A psychiatrist (because my dad said I could get paid for chatting with people.)

Then I got depressed.

And the ever-popular "7 Random Facts About Me:"

1. My first major in college was Religion. It lasted a semester.
2. My Hebrew name is Etta.

Then I realized that this whole blog is random facts about me, and there are precious few left that I haven't milked in the extreme. I couldn't even think of five more that you didn't already know.

Thank you, Dear Readers!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Day 29: Some of My Favorite Places

Today's list comes courtesy of Jennifer, who gave me the idea. Thanks, Jennifer! I love all the other ideas, too, and will find a way to fit them in!

It was really hard to choose from the many, many glorious trips I've been lucky enough to take so far. So I decided to pick places that I fantasize about returning to.

The Oaks at Ojai - Ojai, CA

No designer track suits, no fake boobs, no cell phones. From the second you shed your bag and clothing in your "cottage" at this spa (which is no flashier than a Motel 6) you feel your blood pressure starting to drop. You put on your suit and slip into the big rectangular pool that forms the centerpiece of the Spanish-hacienda-style property, ease onto a body raft, and let the desert sun warm your bones. Then you lounge poolside with glass after glass of frosty water (there are carafes everywhere), reading magazines and dozing until it's time for Veggie Break or Fruit Smoothie break. Soon after, your digestion is better than it's been in years. For fun and virtue, you also have your little schedule, handily provided at check-in, so you know when it's time for Broadway Musical Dance class, or Relaxation Yoga, or Aquafit (which involves some very special pool noodles) and when it's time for the fabulous meals, served family style so you whoop it up with interesting women, and totaling not more than 1,000 calories a day even though you are somehow stuffed to the gills with their clever combinations of fresh veggies, fruits and whole grains (even sublime desserts like banana splits and apple turnovers.) In the evening, you can attend one of the hilariously-themed (I don't think that's intentional) "programs" such as "Bra Fitting Techniques" or "Appetizers For Your Next Cocktail Party" or "Cruise Jewelry Shopping." Or you can glide from dinner table to massage table and finish out the evening being rubbed in aromatic oil and pummeled with hot stones. It's your choice, darling. By the time you're done, all the gals will be gathered around watching today's movie with their carefully portioned bags of popcorn. But maybe a late-night dip in the jacuzzi sounds more alluring: after all, it's still 90 degrees outside. In the morning--if you don't sleep in--you'll be able to hike into the glorious Ojai foothills at sunrise, and follow it up with fresh-baked muffins.

Galiano Island - The Gulf Islands, British Columbia

David and I went here as part of a trip to Vancouver and Victoria. We loved it all, but Galiano Island was its own slice of heaven. The Galiano Inn is about 10 steps from where the BC Ferry disembarks, and our balcony overlooked the ocean. Dinner at the Inn featured all local produce and wines. We took a boat tour and were surrounded by orcas and verdant green islands. Then a hike in the light rain under a canopy of trees, with no sound but the scratching of small waves over the pebble beach, as a seal watched us from just off shore. My favorite part was walking around the island, picking wild blackberries, and standing on a rocky point where we could see a couple getting married by the lighthouse. At night we lit the fireplace in our room and drifted off to the sound of its crackling and a CD of a local harpist.

Read and see more about our Galiano Island trip on

Rottnest Island - Perth, Australia

As the Australian branch of my family knows, I was smitten with every place I went in that country. But the day on Rottnest was truly magical. We took a one-hour ferry ride from downtown Perth to a place only locals go, an island populated with the world's only quokkas--a marsupial like a tiny kangaroo (or a giant, soft-eyed rat--hence the island's name.) They are everywhere, and practically tame--I even fed one. The water is baby blue, the sand like sugar, and the snorkeling pristine. The whole island is fully traversable by bike, and it should be--no cars are allowed. I can still feel the wind in my hair as I sailed down a hill in the late afternoon with absolutely nothing in sight but David and the ocean. And I can't forget the sumptuous warmth of a ridiculously simple but divine creation: the baked bean pasty (like a turnover, with beans and cheese inside) from the Rottnest Bakery, which I sampled directly after emerging from the cold, fishy blue. As evening fell, I watched the folks who were there for a week traipsing from the local grocery back to their cottages, bare feet sandy and wine in hand, and wished feverishly I could stay there forever.

See more Rottnest photos on

Costanoa - near Santa Cruz, CA

I read about it in Vanity Fair, I think. I liked that it was described as "camping for people who would never consider camping." That would be me. Call me high maintenance, but I like my vacations with plumbing. Costanoa is a "campsite" on a wild stretch of Hwy. 1 that does not permit commercial development, so there's nothing else for miles except driftwood-covered beaches and redwood forests. Each "tent" features windows with screens, a platform bed with heated mattress, down comforter and a mosquito canopy. Plushy robes and a basket of spa goodies await your trip to the "comfort station," which has outdoor showers and spotless bathrooms with heated floors for those late-night treks under blazing stars. In the morning, you stumble out of your "tent" and walk 100 yards to the "general store," where a hot breakfast and superb coffee await you--all included. And if this is too much roughing it, you can stay in the "lodge," with your own bathroom and a private hot tub. During the day, we strolled the empty beaches and hiked through the silent woods--gawking at giant banana slugs--and at night we admired the stars from our Adironack chairs while sipping local wine from the general store.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Day 28: Embarrassing Moments

So, I'm doing this 60 Day Challenge from the blog Ask Moxie, and every day I send a report to some friends who are doing it, too. Fascinating stuff like "I did cardio and weights today" and "I drank some water, but wish I drank more" and lots of other scintillating details. A couple weeks ago, I received an e-mail from a stranger: "Re: Tuesday: 'Hi, I don't know you. I think I got this by accident. But I certainly admire your commitment!'"

Oof. That was pleasant. At least my e-mail was simply boring, rather than rife with scandal.

But it put me in mind of several times in my life when I've been mortified. So, instead of sharing my workout habits with one stranger, I'll now share some of my most embarrassing moments with the internet. Next, I'll pour Bosco and baked beans on my naked torso on stage and call it performance art.

1. When I was a grad student at UMass Amherst, I interviewed to teach in the writing program: twice. Both times I was rejected without explanation. I screwed up my courage and showed up unannounced at the director's office, with the mature intention of asking for specific advice on how to improve my chances. Instead, I opened my mouth to say "I'm here to talk to you about a teaching job..." and then burst into hysterical, hiccuping sobs. I cried for about 15 minutes while she tried to comfort me (looking like she'd rather be cleaning up vomit) and never really got a coherent word out. I went away thinking, "Well, I can kiss that job goodbye." One week later, she called me herself to say a position had "suddenly opened up." The rest is history. Unfortunately, I may have imbibed a message that all things in life are there for the crying.

2. I decided to ask this guy in one of my classes on a date. I wrote him a note. He wrote back, saying yes. I wrote another note with my phone number. He wrote a note with his phone number. I called. He wasn't in, and never called back. I finally accosted him in the hallway, asking when he wanted to go out. He wouldn't look at me, and kept rocking on his heels, saying "How about during the day sometime?" I was a bit daft, even when I said "We could talk on the phone" and he said, "Oh, that's probably not a good idea." We made a vague plan for the following Friday and I left, perplexed. To cheer myself up, I drove to the mall, intending to see a movie and eat junk food. I stopped at a pay phone, where apparently someone stole my wallet. I thought maybe I'd dropped it, so I ran around the mall, searching crazily. I ran outside to check my car; it had started hailing. I ran back in, looking like a wet dog, tripping over my unlaced boots, bangs plastered to my face, starving and movie-less. As the automatic doors opened, I ran SMACK into Cagey Guy...with his arm around a dry and attractive woman, just like in a bad romantic comedy. I looked up, we made eye contact, I looked away and ran. I never found my wallet or got any food that night, and I never saw Cagey Guy again.

3. I had a bad break up. I got a therapist. At my first appointment, I tried to explain to her that I just didn't feel like myself these days. She nodded and wrote stuff down, looking like she agreed that I might be crazy. I left, feeling somewhat unburdened, and walked to my car in the warm sun. Things would get better. I stretched, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed something odd. I looked down at my shirt. It was buttoned wrong. Not just a little wrong. I mean, so wrong that bits of my belly were showing.

4. I was in college, and called Jill, an old friend from high school, to see what she was doing. "Guess what! I'm with Jason right now!" she said. Jason was our BFF from senior year--we used to hang out with him every weekend. He was tall, blond, gorgeous and a total sweetheart. My mom used to say, "What's wrong with that boy?" "What do you mean, Mom? He's perfect." I said. "Right. I can see that. But he spends all his time with two pretty girls and doesn't want to date you. I think he's gay." When she said that, I was speechless. I couldn't understand how A+B=C in her mind. I told Jill about my mom's crazy theory and made her swear not to tell Jason.

Now, years later, Jason was as adorable as ever. "So," he said right away, "Jill tells me your mom thought I was gay." I had been bending down to adjust my shoe and froze in horror. I looked up slowly. He was smiling. "Anyway, your mom is a genius! She knew before I did. How did she do that?" I just stared at him like a deer in headlights. Then he started telling us about his boyfriend.

5. I was on my way to teach Nia when I suddenly turned my car around, realizing I hadn't packed a clean outfit for afterwards. I was meeting friends for dinner later, and knew I'd want to shower. I showed up late, frazzled and out of breath. I'm never late. I dashed in the room to find my boss with a clip board, waiting to evaluate me, a stealth attack. "I'm so sorry I'm late!" I gushed to everyone. "I wouldn't have been late, but I forgot my underwear!" There was a short silence. My boss furrowed her brow.

"I wouldn't have needed it, except I'm going out afterwards!" I yelped. "I mean, of course I wear underwear when I TEACH." The whole class cracked up, and I could not get my mouth to form any more words. My boss made a lot of notes, and I was close to passing out for the next 30 minutes until she left.


Dear Readers: Please help! Give me some ideas for lists you'd like to hear. The well is running dry.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Day 27: "Have a Nice Day" List

Some days I'm a bit haggard after getting up early and hangin' with a three-year-old. Today has not been one of those days. Get back to me tomorrow, however--so far she has been resistant to napping.

1. Got up at 7:00. For once, did not feel like warmed-over hell. Must have slept good.

2. Jarrah was being kind of cute. And we were able to do a lot of tidying (aka, throwing stuff into closets) in anticipation of it being "Irma day" and book club tonight.

3. I showered, dressed and performed all my ablutions in blissful solitude. Dora must have been especially riveting today.

4. Mary called. So nice to hear her voice. Hi, Mary!

5. Jessica, Yea-Yea and Irma arrived all at once. And off we went, to return to a sparkling house. Woohoo!

6. Played at Toby Wells park. Relaxed in the sun. A lady and her little girl (looked about nine) murmured "Look how cute that little girl is!" MY little girl.

7. Checked the girls into KidsPlace. They never looked back. (In fact, they were both highly annoyed when we came to claim them.)

8. Yoga class, relocated to the basketball court while they resurface the studio. Huge room, lots of space and light. Challenging class, but still felt nice and noodly at the end.

9. Time for lunch! Headed down the street to Fusion for Korean BBQ and slushies. Mmmm, slushies. Mine was strawberry-vanilla. Jarrah got green apple with about 100 boba balls in the bottom. Everyone feasted.

10. Stopped at Daisao Japanese market, which is kind of like a dollar store where NOTHING is crap. I wanted everything, from the tiny fruit-shaped erasers to the stationery that read: "Happy Happy Fruit" and "Doggie and Chick felt in love with this room at first sight" and "Lovely Duck: I feel more refreshed than anyone."

11. Home for nap. Jessica was a peach and dashed to the store because I forgot to buy some things for tonight, and Jarrah was no longer manageable due to tiredness. Thanks, Jessica!

12. I'm hosting book club tonight. I don't think I've hosted in a year. We probably won't talk about the book, but we'll have lots of time to dish, and I'm excited to present my three book choices. (Whoever hosts gets to pick.) They are: The Post-Birthday World (Lionel Shriver), My Horizontal Life (Chelsea Handler) and Then We Came to the End (Joshua Ferris.) I'll get back to you on the winner.

And guess what, Readers? I think Jarrah is finally asleep. Off to cook. We're having penne ala vodka, sweet corn vegetable salad, marinated green beans, bread with "special" cheese (that's what Jarrah calls it--it's cheddar with pieces of apricot and fig inside) and brownies.

P.S. Book club was fun. They ate all the food, which makes me happy. And we chose The Post-Birthday World, which I really wanted.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Day 26: Songs That Make Me All Verklempt

Brenda Russell - "Piano in the Dark"

Russell’s voice is as heavy as velvet curtains from the very first note, and I can actually picture this fractured couple, wishing they could love each other again. “I cry just a little, when I think of lettin’ go…” Who hasn’t been there? And the fact that she can hear him playing the piano without really seeing him just gets to me.

Tom Petty - "Learning to Fly"

I wrote about this one when I first started the blog, on the eve of becoming a parent after a five-year quest. “Well, the good ol’ days/May not return/And the rocks might melt/And the sea may burn.” There’s a quiet acceptance for whatever the future brings, yet a sense of agency to the struggle: he’s going to learn to fly, it just won’t be easy.

Janet Jackson - "Control"

I believe Miss Janet and I were both having a coming-of-age moment when she released this song, and I still get a thrill of possibility when I hear her snarl “I’m in control/And I love it.” Yeah, baby. I love it, too.

The Beatles - "In My Life"

I put this in the dinner mix for our wedding reception. But even when I was 13, I felt the gravity of the sentiment: “Though I know I'll never lose affection/For people and things that went before/I know I'll often stop and think about them/In my life I love you more.” Nothing like aging a bit to really bring this one home.

Cat Stevens - "Two Fine People"

The instrumentals are so buoyant, it’s like the proclamation of love can’t be contained. It’s not a subtle song, but the ending is so simple and perfect: “Two fine people should love each other/Two fine people should help each other.” It just makes sense—a great message of hope.

Bonnie Raitt - "Nick of Time"

Beautiful and wistful, yet sung so intimately it’s like she and I are having coffee and she’s confiding me. “I see my folks, they’re getting on/And I watch their bodies change/I know they see the same in me/And it makes us both feel strange.” Some of the most natural, yet relatable, lyrics ever. The other verses work just as well.

Rent - "Seasons of Love”

I saw the movie Rent, and hated it. I never saw it on stage. Maybe I would have liked it better. The first time I heard this song was during a slide show at a wedding. Corny, I know, but I was sobbing. It still gets me every time. It was my favorite moment in the movie, and all they were doing was standing in a line on the stage. “525,600 minutes/How do you measure/A year in the life?” The song helps me to be grateful.

Louis Armstrong - "What a Wonderful World"

My dad and I danced to this one at my wedding, so I’m kinda biased, and yes, I know it’s a bit of a cliché. I don’t care, because it’s so lovely when he sings, “I see babies cry/I watch them grow/They’ll learn much more/Than I’ll ever know.” I can’t adequately describe the quality of his voice—luckily, lots of other people have already done it. Let’s not even discuss the Kenny G version—it’s a shanda, as my people would say.

Van Morrison - "Cleaning Windows"

This one reminds me of the year after college, when I wasn’t doing much, but life still had low stakes, so it didn’t matter. I was working at an ad agency—making copies—and the rest of the time I was dancing, dining, drinking and falling in love with Boston. I loved how he conveys the simple pleasures, “paris buns and lemonade,” books and music. “I’m happy cleaning windows”—I believe it. “I’m a working man in my prime.” Something seemed noble about that—I embraced it.

Elton John - "A Word in Spanish"

I don’t know what he’s talking about, but I think I understand the idea-- wanting to reach out and make someone understand exactly how you’re feeling, but not quite getting there. “And there's a word in Spanish I don't understand/But I heard it in a film one time spoken by the leading man/He said it with devotion, he sounded so sincere/And the words he spoke in Spanish brought the female lead to tears.” The melody is haunting—it makes me think of someone doing a melancholy dance around a dim room. Or maybe I’m just remembering me doing that when I first heard it.

Bruce Springsteen – “Tunnel of Love”

I’m especially touched by this one because I know that Bruce’s first marriage was cracking up when he wrote it, and he’d only been married a few months. Sometimes you mean well, but you make a mistake, so stand back: someone’s gonna get hurt. “Then the lights go out and it’s just the three of us/You, me and all that stuff we’re so scared of.” It’s got a powerful bass line, and what sounds like wailing in the background. No wonder—the song is about real pain.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Day 25: Dishing and Dancing

By the time you read this, two of them will be gone, forever banished to the land of Tom Bergeron's one-liners. But right now, before the first elimination, I can list all twelve hopefuls and break down their potential for you. Don't mention it--it's what I do.

In alphabetical order, the stars of Season Six of Dancing with the Stars:

Adam Carolla

Strangely, I was not familiar with this purported comedian, but I do like his self-deprecation in rehearsals with the fresh-as-the-flowers-of-Utah Julianne Hough (a two-time winner whom Adam has grimly informed will not be eligible for the "three-peat.") His fox trot had a Lurch-like quality (and he looks spookily like Jon Turturro) but I found his mambo rather fun. It was entertainment-dance of a higher caliber than Jerry Springer's, but in that same mode. He's going for it, I'll say that for him. He'll probably scoot by on his charm for a couple more weeks.

Cristian de la Fuente

I was like, WHO? But I did recognize him from the clip from Ugly Betty. I was surprised the judges were so ga-ga over his Cha Cha the first week. Yes, the man can move his hips, but I agreed with Bruno that his shoulders were distractingly Quasimodo. For some reason, I don't remember his Quick Step at all, but I know the judges are still digging him. I do think he's teachable (and doesn't seem like an idiot) so he'll probably stick around.

Shannon Elizabeth

Now she has been a big surprise. I love that she looks so genuinely thrilled to be there, and this week her Quick Step was a massive improvement over the Cha Cha. Even that benefited from her balls-out enthusiasm. For such a big, lanky gal, she's light on her feet, and works the audience. I told David that Jennie Garth from last season could learn a thing or two about how to manage her facial expressions from Shannon. A few more weeks like this (and unless she succumbs to "The Model Curse," I think she'll stay) and I'll be able to completely forget her crazy balloon-like boobies from American Pie.

Steve Guttenberg

The last time I saw "the Gute," as they call him, he was scaring the hell out of me with his frozen clown face on Veronica Mars. Now, his face seems to have thawed, and he's kind of--dare I say?--adorable. I don't think his dancing is as bad as the judges imply. He's fairly light on his feet, and performs up a storm. He also seems like an audience favorite, so I'm sure we'll be seeing more of him.


I don't know who this guy is, but he's cute, he's game, and he's got Karina. If she could propel Billy Cyrus to the finals, she can do anything. And he's competitive--you can tell. He got his hips moving a bit in the Cha Cha, and then he flew around the floor in the Quick Step to the point where I couldn't tell if it was good or just fast. (Also, I was distracted by his caveman tuxedo.) I think Carrie Ann is in love with him, or just wants to get Mario-ized.

Marlee Matlin

I read in the paper that she was good, so it wasn't as much of a shock to see HOW good. Wow. She might be deaf, but she's musical, and an Oscar winner. She performs the hell out of those dances. It's intriguing me that her partner, Fabian Sanchez, is the only non-vet of the professionals. Were some pros skittish about working with her? I also love her wry sense of humor, like when she put her hand over the mike that Samantha Harris keeps dopily shoving in her face. And my favorite quote ever is when she explained that the fans have been great, if a little confused, like the one who asked her "Will you still be deaf at the end of the show?"

Penn Jillette

He of the monster feet makes me feel a bit bad for Kym Johnson. She always seems to pull the short straw and get matched with a good ol' boy who can't really dance but wants to show everyone how much FUN he's having. It actually IS kind of fun to watch them dance together, especially when he scoops her up in his meaty paws and her feet actually leave the ground. But I don't find all his "humorous" interruptions of the judges and Samantha very amusing. He's kind of strident, and it makes me tense. I think he'll be the one to go this week. Either him or Adam.

Priscilla Presley

About three seconds into her fox trot on the first night and I was totally smitten. Last night's mambo only clinched it: I have a crush on the 60-something former child bride of Elvis. And I admit this AFTER having announced to David (before I saw her dance, mind you) that her waxy visage and painted-on mouth reminded me of The Joker. What can I say? Cupid is a mad scientist. It's not just her dancing (although that is spectacularly sultry)--it's also her languid modesty. She's the one to watch.

Monica Seles

Aw, sweetie. I'm sure you're an excellent tennis player. And there's something about the worried furrow of your brow that makes me feel protective of you. But the second you start dancing, just the look on your face makes me almost spew my Dr. Pepper. Then you add your thrusting arms and the bounce that makes it look like it's your serve, and I totally lose it. I know you're working hard--no one doubts your commitment. But a merciful God likes to spread the wealth around, I guess. I'd start saying my goodbyes, if I were you.

Jason Taylor

I don't watch football, so as far I'm concerned, this guy could be a florist. And I was surprised to find him strangely alluring--his soft puppy eyes, his southern drawl, the delicate extension of his fingertips. The guy can dance, and isn't afraid to get a little sissified in the name of ballroom. I think he's better than what's-his-name, the football player who won the whole thing a few seasons ago.

Marissa Jaret Winokur

Man, that name is a mouthful. But she is cuter than cute. They could use her face as a generator in the next NYC blackout. I'm rooting for her. And I couldn't stand it when Carrie Ann changed her tune half-way through her review last night to say she was disappointed. The quivering lip, the eyes abruptly averted. I think the judges are being a bit tough on her. She makes dancing look fun. And Tony Dovolani is my new hero for that sweet pep talk he gave her. I believe him. I'll bet she is a blast to work with.

Kristi Yamaguchi

I'm one of those girls who grew up thinking ice skaters are gods descended to walk among us, so I did have high expectations for my girl Kristi. Then she raised the bar to the heavens with her two performances thus far. In her face, I recognize the stamina and determination of Apolo Anton Ono--you don't get Olympic gold by trying kinda-sorta. But Kristi has an edge that Apolo didn't, and that's that her sport actually required her to be graceful. Don't think I'm comparing dancing to skating--they require a completely different musculature, for one thing--but they do share the "light as a fairy princess" illusion while, like the duck, you have to be paddling furiously underneath. I told David that Kristi is risking it all each time she gets on the floor, and why not? "Unlike on the ice, she can put it all out there, hold nothing back, and there's still very little chance of her landing on her ass." She's the one to beat.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Day 24: Because She Makes It Too Easy

On seeing me wiggling my hips while mopping yesterday:

"This music not for dancing, Mommy--only for cleaning."

On discovering that although centrifugal force was plastering her to my armpit on the Himalaya Deathdrop at the indoor amusement park, from an analytical perspective, it was kinda fun:

"I thought I didn't like rollercoaster, but I DO like rollercoaster!

On being offered a single representative of her Easter loot, and finding it lacking:

"Can I have ALL jelly beans now?"

On seeing her mommy in a white nightgown (beneath a very cranky face) late at night when she should have been sleeping:

"You look a beauty!"

On the taste sensation that is carne asada tacos:

"It has cheese on it, and crapcake."

On the necessary preparations for going to the park:

"I'm ready!" (naked as a jay bird, except for flip-flops and a ladybug backpack)

Coda: Today after preschool, Jarrah's teacher Janet beckoned me over to tell me that Jarrah had been getting loud with her friend Alex during lunchtime. When Janet came over to investigate, she asked "What's going on here?"

Jarrah: "We're just having a bit of a chat."

Janet told me she had to turn around quickly so the girls didn't see her laughing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Day 23: Spring Shout-Out to Some of Our Peeps

I got a package from my Secret Blog Pal! And she is a Mistress of Stitchery, as you can see from the Phabulous Photos of Jarrah and I in our MATCHING MONOGRAMMED APRONS! And my SBP couldn't have known that Jarrah and I just had our first successful Joint Baking Venture a couple of days ago--we made banana muffins, and I swear all I had to do was put them in the oven! In future, we will be baking together in Matchy Style. As icing on the polka-dotted cake, she also included a monogrammed back pack for Miss J--all the better to haul her Beanie Babies wherever she goes! Many thanks, SBP!

Today we had an egg hunt and yummy brunch in Jessica's backyard. I know what you're thinking: what's a nice Jewish girl like me doing celebrating Easter? I'll tell you what I'm doing: eating the first leavened brunch foods on this particular holiday in my entire adult life. (Passover is late this year.) And mighty fine leavened foods they were, too. But never fear--the bacon was turkey. Many thanks to Jessica and her family for a perfectly lovely event.

The theme of today's list: Sweet, Adorable and Yummy Things:

This is our first official iris of spring.

Jarrah modeling her adorable SBP gear.

Jarrah and Mommy gettin' a little jiggy with oven mitts.

Adding a little of that ol' razzle-dazzle.

Olivia showing Jarrah her Easter basket--I am very excited about the pink Gerber daisies, the pink Peeps, and the seeds. Jarrah was all about the chocolate. Check out her hand-smocked Australian gown, a gift two years ago from Nana and Granddad. It finally fits!

And the hunt is on!

Getting the hang of this egg thing. At one point, Jarrah discovered a chewed doggie tennis ball and was about to stuff that in her basket along with the eggs.

Can you resist these pink chicks? I can't. And doesn't my husband take a nice photograph?

Some of the fabulous booty.

A full basket means a successful hunt.

Hunting eggs is tiring--time for some Belgian waffles with fresh fruit compote. (Jessica is an incredible cook!)

A big hug after a refreshing dip in the kiddie pool.

Awwww. I can't stand it.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Day 22: Seven o'Clock Train to Georgia

Last night I had dinner with friends at Pomegranate, a Russian-Georgian (their modifier, not mine) restaurant on El Cajon Blvd. It's a small place, and I would have driven right by had I not spotted "PECTOPAH" in the window. I visited Russia in my youth, and the Russian word for "restaurant" is one of the few I mastered.

Inside, it was cramped and cozy, and the servers struck matches on the sides of furniture to light our table candles. It was dim, so I never really saw what I was eating, but it was all delicious. I couldn't really tell you what was in the food, since the menu descriptions ranged from saucy to poetic, but rarely mentioned actual ingredients. But who needs ingredients when it all tastes good?

We started with a vegetarian appetizer platter--six dishes we were instructed to eat "clock-wise" so as not to pound our palate to a pulp with the ever-increasing ratio of garlic to other ingredients. Mmmm, garlic. I'm not sure what any of these were called, but perhaps they were:

Ikra Badrijannaya: "The poor man's caviar. A vegetarian's dream of heaven when in hell." (Okay, I think I'm sensing some anti-Vegite sentiment.)

Georgian Eggplant Salat: "Try this dish once and your wife will never see you again...grumbling." (Now this one fascinates me. Your wife won't see you again'll be invisible? Or because you'll smell bad? And who will be or your wife? There may be a dangling modifier alert here.)

Later (much later--the service was, shall we say, leisurely) there were various main courses. I had some kind of meatballs with pomegranate sauce. Two of my companions ordered:

Shashlik - "It is said that this dish saved the accord in 1944 in Yalta between Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt." (I guess those guys really dug kebabs. And these were particularly good.)

Another ordered a chicken stew--perhaps this one:

"A strong Russian tea or a bottle of Cabernet will put you in a pensive mood. 'How wonderful the world is!' Allow approximately 20 minutes for us to catch a chicken first." (They had plenty of time, since someone else was out spearing the shashlik.)

Full, but determined, we split three desserts, including a yellowish layer cake, a hot chocolate-y cake, and a baked apple stuffed with stewed fruits. I'm not doing these any justice, however. Here are the menu descriptions:

Babushka's Surprise - (That naughty Babushka--what is she hiding? I think maybe prunes and apricots and sultanas, inside her warm, appley bosom.)

Napoleon Torte - "Escape with this sinful retreat." (More cream, baby. Seven layers of it.)

Zhukov Torte - "Overwhelms the defenses of all your senses." (Those defenses were down, let me tell you.)

Toad Sweat Ice Cream - "Not for the faint of heart!" (Actually, we didn't order that one. Our hearts are faint.)

I only wish I had finished like this:

Turkish Coffee - "Our Turkish coffee is black as night, hot as love, sweet as sin, and powerful as damnation. The perfect way to end your evening meal."

Oooh. Does anyone have a cigarette?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Day 21: What I Believed Before I Became a Parent

1. That no child of mine would even know what a television DOES before her third birthday.

2. That I would never, ever stoop to potty-training with M&Ms.

3. That kids meals in restaurants are revolting and kids should be happy to eat adult food.

4. That parents who carried baby wipes around were just control freaks.

5. That once kids are talking, it's fairly easy to reason with them.

6. That kids who stand up and turn around in restaurant booths, the better to pull my hair, have parents who don't believe in discipline.

7. That there was no reason for preschool as long as one parent stayed at home.

8. That watching my brother pull a giant booger out of my niece's nose with his fingers was the most disgusting thing I'd ever witnessed.

9. That it would be fairly easy to keep a tidy house with children, as long as the children were taught early how to pick up their own mess.

10. That parenthood is hard, but would bring a deep level of satisfaction to each day, and all activities that once seemed mundane would now be filled with meaning.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 20: Temp Jobs I've Had

1. Backstage at the Nordstrom shoe department. I spent eight hours each day pulling wads of tissue paper out of pumps and lacing up boots in the dusty semi-darkness, while haggard, over-pomaded men whisked in and out wringing their hands in search of a size 10 Nine West in brown.

2. Some kind of high-tech firm in Carlsbad. I don’t know what they did, but I know what I did: Cut shapes out of card stock with an X-acto knife for eight hours (no reason was given.) I sliced off the top of my thumb, and continued cutting with a few band-aids to stanch the bleeding. At one point, I noticed I was alone, and after a long time a man came running in to say the front of the building was on fire and I should go move my car.

3. The Money Store in La Jolla. They didn’t ask me to do anything, not even answer the phone, but all day people came by to chat, smiling and thanking me for my efforts. A few of them offered to bring me coffee and baked goods. Most of them told me how much I reminded them of Julie, an apparently much-loved former receptionist. When I asked how we were similar, one gal said wistfully, “Oh, she sat there, too…”

4. Some department at MIT (I’ve already talked about this one) where I decided to steal all the supplies they had delivered from Central Processing—including tissues, pencils, tape and glue—and then came this close to getting caught and probably arrested.

5. A high finance company in downtown Boston, where they handed me a really long dot-matrix printout of unintelligible notes and asked me to create an outline. They said it should take a couple of weeks. By 11:00 am. I’d finished and been suddenly stricken with a debilitating flu. They sent me home for some rest, praising me for my incredible speed. When I woke up four hours later, the agency called to let me know they had fired me.

6. The Republican National Convention offices in Del Mar. I was on phones. But my actual job was to get screamed at every five minutes by a person I’d never seen before, who would lunge around the corner, snarling like a jaguar, to tell me I’d screwed up their call. At 3:00, I was told to announce on the P.A. that it was June Birthdays, and everyone to reception. Someone plunked a chocolate cake next to my phone, and for ten minutes everyone came out and ate it, laughing and talking. Then they went away. For the rest of the day, every time someone came by to yell at me, their faces contorted in fury and disgust and they spat, “You have chocolate cake on your face.” I hadn’t touched the cake. I have a dark brown beauty mark next to my lower lip.

7. Cabot Advertising in Charlestown, MA, where my job was to answer the phone and type letters for five junior executives. Four women—all of whom typed their own letters—and one man, senior to me only by virtue of not being a temp—who couldn't or wouldn't even type his own name. One of their clients was Prime Computer, notable for creating a word processing program that required EIGHT STEPS to underline a word.

8. The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, MA, where I answered phones in a windowless room populated by three other people, all chain smokers. I actually loved them, and the job, despite the smoke. There was very little to do, and I yakked on the phone and read all day when I wasn’t gossiping with the two women, and went on long lunches in Harvard Square.

9. Children’s Hospital Boston, where I was a secretary for an extremely famous emeritas heart surgeon, who was now 95 years old. He came in only about once a week, seemingly just to chat with me. The rest of the time I sat alone in the office and hoped the phone would ring. When it did, it was usually him, telling me (in his thick Hungarian accent,) “Sa-MAHN-ta, I am lunching at the Harvard Club today and won’t be in. Please hold my calls.”

10. Insurance company in Laguna Beach, CA. I was the file clerk. I learned all about how much people hate insurance agents. And became really good at alphabetizing. I also fell in love with one of the agents, not knowing for a long time he was the son of the company president. Our flirtation was as aggressive as blood sport, yet he had a girlfriend, a wispy thing who looked like she had trouble supporting the weight of her own hair. Still, it was extremely painful the day I was unceremoniously fired (along with all the other temps) in a downsizing move. The son and I sat on the curb outside the office until nearly 8:00 p.m., not quite able to to go somewhere together, but not wanting to say goodbye, either. And then I never saw him again.

DEAR READERS: Can you guess which one of these jobs became a permanent position?

Extra credit: Can you figure out which THREE of these jobs offered me a permanent position by the end of the first day? (P.S. There's no overlap.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Day 19: The 3-Year Checkup

Nearly three months.
How long I waited after Jarrah's actual third birthday to schedule this appointment.

"You're getting so tall--like Daddy!"
What Jarrah said when she saw us in the reflection of the building.

About 15 minutes.
How long it took us to find the office, after a sign on our usual door read "If you are seeing Dr. Dern today, go to our other office, behind the building, near the fountain." After two steep hills, two decoy fountains, two elevator rides, two sudden entrances upon the same snack bar in the wrong building, a return to the original office to announce "I'm not very bright" and a final very steep staircase, we made it, both of us sweating.

Two--one of them chewed.
The number of books in this new office's waiting room, which had already made a bad impression with its camouflage skills.

96 and 71.
Jarrah's height and weight percentile, respectively. Wahoo!

95 over 51.
Jarrah's blood pressure. "Is that normal?" I yelped to the nurse. "Absolutely, ma'am" she said. It took a while, because Jarrah had trouble with the concept that the cuff was "giving her a nice hug."

All of them.
The number of "Milestones for 3 years" on the list that Jarrah has mastered. Some of them required an interview: "Jarrah, what is a spoon for?" "Jarrah, what do you do with a ball?"

Performance anxiety.
After I quizzed Jarrah from the list, she took it from me and said "Now go sit over there." I moved across from her, then she said "Now hop on one foot, and skip at same time." I made an attempt, and she exclaimed "Very good! Now what you use cup for?"

"Dr. Dern, I got cactus in my finger."
How Jarrah greeted the good doctor as she entered the room.

Comparable to my pinky nail.
The size of the chunk of ear wax that Dr. Dern pried from Jarrah's ear with a long, pokey instrument. And Jarrah actually let her do the other side.

Looked in both my ears and pronounced them "full of ear boogies."
What Jarrah did when Dr. Dern left the room, while we were waiting for the hearing test.

Her hearing test. Maybe the ear wax removal gave her an edge. She's too young for the eye test, apparently. Next year.

I had read on-line that the 3-year check has no shots, but I was wrong. She needed the second Hep A booster.

Why I'm a genius.
When the nurse was preparing the injection, I said to Jarrah with a big smile, "You're going to feel a big pinch, and then I want you to say 'OW!' as loud as you can!" When the needle went in, Jarrah looked shocked and wailed "Owwww!"

"Excellent!" I shouted. "That's exactly how you do it." She never cried, but on the way to the car, she said "'Member how you said 'Say ow' and then I said ow? I was good at that."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Day 18: What I Liked When I Was Thirteen

1. Dancing in front of my sliding glass door at night, so I could admire my moves in the reflection.

2. Richard Simmons. He was so kind, and had such good advice.

3. Making out in the back row of movie theaters--that was as private as it was gonna get.

4. Bubble Yum, Nibs and candy in general.

5. Spaghetti night.

6. Wearing my hair in a ponytail on the side of my head.

7. Harlequin Romances--I read one every day on the bus.

8. Trying on lipstick at JCPenney.

9. Talking on the phone for two or three hours at a stretch--especially when my parents were out.

10. Writing really long notes and passing them behind teachers' backs.

11. My Hello Kitty diary--I called her "Melody." (I just liked that name.)

12. Trying to figure out if boys liked me through incredibly detailed analyses with friends.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Day Seventeen: Bit o' the Irish

In honor of St. Patrick's Day, I am dedicating today's list to Ireland, where I have been twice, in 1986 and again in 1991. Here are a few memories from my visits to that gorgeous, green land.

1. holly hobbie

I traveled across the channel with six other women whom I'd only just met. Our first stop was Dublin, where we stayed in a hostel. The women's room contained 16 bunk beds. Only tops were left. We were given one pillow, one sheet, and a super-slippery comforter with Holly Hobbie all over it. Several times during the night, I awoke thinking I was dying, only to realize that my comforter had slid to the floor and I was lying in a 30 degree room under a sheet.

2. orgasm showers

Starting around 5:30, one could not avoid hearing a concert of moans and screams coming from the next room. The noise would start low, almost a strangled whisper, and then grow louder and more rapid, accompanied by gasping and profanity. It sounded like, "ohhhhh....uh-uh, UH-UH....OHHHHHH....AHHHHHH...AHHHHHHH!!!" I was so freaking tired I wasn't even curious, and wrapped my pillow around my head. Later, I would make the exact same sounds when I stood with the others under the unheated water in the eight-headed shower.

3. book of kells

Dublin was gray, and stately, and there was talk of visiting the Guinness factory which I mocked because I don't like beer, let alone beer that's disguised as a milkshake. Oh, Trinity College was lovely! And all the other girls were really excited to view the Book of Kells. I love books, too, but I never saw the appeal. Didn't find out what Kells are, either. I had recently dyed my hair red for the first time, and occasionally a little old lady would smile at me and say "Oh, bless yer heart, lass."

4. bus to glendalough

We took a bus out to the countryside, to a town called Glendalough. I remember it being several hours away, but on the map it looks like 12 miles. I think that's just how they drive in Ireland. The scenery was so green I kept blinking, thinking something was wrong with my eyes after not sleeping and then stabbing my face with needles of icy water.

5. naked hiker

The next morning, the girls and I took a really long hike through the hills and dales of Glendalough, and every waving cat tail, every wet, black rock, every puffed sheep, dazzled. At one point, we rounded a corner on a narrow trail just in time to see a lone young man, totally naked, emerge splashily from a charming pond. He leaped into some boots and strode into the nearby woods without looking back at us.

6. classic rock

We climbed a steep hill just because it was beautiful, and once at the top, weren't sure what to do up there. So we admired the view some more. Someone took a picture of the other six, casually seated on various rocks, gazing into the middle distance with the wind lifting our hair. To this day I cherish the photo for its strange evocation of a '70s rock album cover.

7. sublime soup

When we got back to the B&B, the hostess said lunch was done for the day. We stared at her, crestfallen and a little terrified, since we'd been hiking for six hours and were about to keel over from hunger and cold. (The town had no restaurants or shops.) She relented, saying we could each have a bowl of cream of chicken soup. Everyone looked relieved, except me, because that sounded disgusting. But I kept my mouth shut, and damn if it wasn't the best bowl of soup I've had to this day.

8. cliffs of baltimore

Turns out Baltimore is not just in Maryland. It's also a sweet harbor village in Ireland. Then you walk a few feet and the earth plunges away from your feet down the sheerest rock cliffs you've ever stood at the edge of. And then the water is turquoise at the bottom. I came back to Ireland with my friend Christina and a boy we picked up at Oxford, Cyrus Wolfe, with whom I was fiercely infatuated. In every photo, we are hugging, kissing, holding hands, but we never got together. I'm pretty sure he knew I loved him yet he teased me mercilessly the whole summer. My dad is always very loyal and says "Well, he must be gay!" when I tell him this sort of sorry tale. I really have no idea. My favorite photo is of Cyrus and me lying in the grass at the very edge of the cliff, our noses touching, with the Irish Sea laid out behind us.

9. cape clear

We took the ferry to Cape Clear Island, for no other reason except to be able to say we'd been to the southernmost tip of Ireland. There is a youth hostel there, and precious little else but thistle and saxifrage. We walked around the island, stopping at a farmhouse with a hand-lettered sign "ICE CREAM 10p" where a farmer in manure-covered boots brought cones to the door. At the general store in the center of town, we ordered "toasties" (grilled cheese sandwiches) for lunch. We walked and walked and I kept thinking, "Wow, this is definitely Ireland, just like I pictured it."

That night, I don't think I slept more than an hour due to the symphony of snoring and farting emanating from the bunk across from mine. As the dawn broke, I actually rose and stood over the offender; she was smiling in her sleep. Before we caught the ferry, I used the hostel shower, which was located in a sort of unheated shed across the way. I'll never forget it because the walls and floor were so thick with mud, and the water pressure so like a leaking garden hose, that I came out of the shower dirtier than I went in.

10. again with the bus

We hopped a bus back towards the ferry in Rosslare, leaving Cyrus in Cork. It would be dramatic to say I never saw him again, but we actually had dinner in L.A. just a few months later. Somehow his power over me was gone by then, but that day in Cork, I cried.

I also remember that the bus stopped in a town called Skibbereen, and the driver said, "Skibbereen! All out for Skibbereen! This bus will depart in three hours. There's a gorgeous cream tea at the shop across the street." He wasn't kidding, about either the layover or the gorgeousness of the cream tea.

11. waterford

After Cork, Christina and I realized we were never going to make it to Rosslare that night. There is just no way to make those Irish buses go faster. So we alighted in Waterford and set out to find a B&B. Once we did, we walked to a nice restaurant, mystified by the vast number of shops selling goblets and vases. Over steak and wine, we laughed ourselves silly that we hadn't figured out until now that Waterford meant THE Waterford, of the famous crystal.

That night, I ventured down the hall to the shower, where I discovered a tin box nailed to the inside with a sign: "HOT WATER: 50p for 5 min." That was all I had. After 10 hours on a bus and several days of showers that ranged from tepid to icy, that hot water felt like the embrace of an angel. I'll never forget that five minutes.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Day Sixteen: The Horror, The Horror

So, Cheri and Jenn recently posted what's in their purses, the description (and glossy color photos) of which have shown me I need purse rehab. Here is a list of what's in my purse at the moment. And a couple photos, carefully chosen to minimize nausea.

(all coated in a fine dust of Goldfish crumbs)

--clean tissues
--dirty tissues (more of those)
--chewed wads of gum wrapped in gum wrappers (hey, at least I don't litter!)
--non-descript tan wallet, bulging with receipts, change, membership cards, and not a single bill
--a black leather business card holder containing my Nia business cards (no laughing)
--a tiny yellow leather photo holder with two photos of Jarrah, both over a year old
--Carmex (can't live without it)
--Covergirl Clean pressed powder (ditto)
--Clinique lipstick in Tenderheart (from a friend's "gift with purchase")
--quilted sunglass case, purchased for $3 at craft sale
--sunglasses from Target (part of the faux-Tortoise-shell finish stripped by nail polish remover)
--tiny child-proof bottle of Advil (can't live without that, either)
--Visine tears (ditto)
--grocery list from last week
--cell phone in knitted Techno-Cozy from Stitch n Bitch
--hand sanitizer in a tiny pump
--packet of restaurant crayons
--Children's Motrin tablets
--Waterbabies sunscreen stick
--take-out menu
--tube of Neutrogena hand cream (empty)
--black velvet scrunchie from the swap meet

What does this list say about me, Readers? Or shouldn't I ask?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Day Fifteen: The French Response to Victoria Gardens

Victoria Gardens is a mellifluous name for an intermittently charming and depressing farm in Lakeside, CA, the town itself alternately charming--sheep, horses, hand-painted strawberry signs--and depressing--RV parks, old tractors, fast food sprawl. Because I am not only a mother, but also an intrepid explorer, I must visit every weekend destination in the Family Magazine before my inner wanderer can be satisfied. And Victoria Gardens, unlike some of the other territories we've lit out to, is not very far away.

As I've mentioned previously, I like driving into the boulder-covered hills of East San Diego, and right now the grass is billowing and the embankments ripple with lupines and Golden Poppies. And then we continued on to Barona Casino for lunch. Why? I don't know. It hadn't been discovered yet.


Jarrah got crazy-excited as soon as she saw the pony ride from the car window.


We drove right by the ponies and then had to make a harrowing U-turn halfway up a mountain while Jarrah shrieked like she was being killed because we had driven past the ponies.


A folksy lady welcomed us, cooed over Jarrah, and sold us a sweet wicker basket to hold our U-Pick strawberries from their patches.


Somehow the tickets for the pony ride, tractor pull and jump-jump cost a million dollars.


Jarrah looked adorable waving to us from the top of the hay bales in the tractor pull.


The tractor roared to a start and the pastoral effect was lost.


They had a train ride--Jarrah's adoration of trains is touching to behold.


The train was actually some sort of wheeled cart with a couple of wooden boxes painted and nailed to the top. It looked like a death trap and sounded like a Zambonie.


The petting zoo promised some face time with sweet bunnies and ducks and goats.


Up close, the chickens were molting nastily and lacked a certain vitality, leading Jarrah to moan softly, " don't want chickens to eat me."


Jarrah kicked off her shoes and shimmied to the top of the inflatable obstacle course, joining a small group of happy children.


One of the girls said to David: "Please ask her to stop following me around."


I was excited to get down in the mud and fondle the bright, shiny berries peeking shyly from under their cap of blossoms and leaves.


Lots of berries had bugs in them, and after about three minutes I thought I might need back surgery.


Barona Casino rises like a green and white castle out of the hills, gleaming in the sun. Everyone smiled and waved like we were visiting royalty. As we parked the car, a van stopped next to our car and a gentleman asked if we'd like to be driven to the front door.


The front door was 50 yards away.


As we flung open the glass lobby doors to reveal the lights and sounds of the casino floor in all its glory, Jarrah had only one response: "WOW." She couldn't even speak--she whispered it.


Jarrah could end up as one of those ladies who spends her pension check on the slots every month.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Day Fourteen: The Busy Modern Mom

This morning I spent two hours at The Dinner Studio, which is one of those preparation kitchens where you put together meals that you've chosen on-line. I first read about it in the newspaper, in a feature on the various kitchens that have opened in San Diego in the past few years. It was just me and the giant spanking-clean exhibition kitchen, with my apron and a jazz soundtrack. Don't call me domestic, but I couldn't stop smiling.


1. I walked in the door with a banker's box, and I walked out with two weeks worth of dinners.

2. Everything was metal and shiny: big metal bowls, shiny metal spoons, crinkly metal cartons and a motion-sensored stainless steel sink so you don't have to touch it with dirty hands.

3. The recipes were laminated and clipped upright on the stations, so I didn't have to hurt my neck or multi-task my elbows in order to read them.

4. Whenever I reached for an ingredient, the correct measuring implement was already in it.

5. Every time I used a bowl or spoon, I got to toss it in the sink for someone else to wash.

6. Don't like hard-boiled eggs or black beans in your casserole? Leave 'em out. Want several more heaping scoops of garlic or cheese? The world is your oyster.

7. The recipe listed the exact size baking container for each recipe, all of which were neatly filed on a shelf. When the food was inside, I pinched the little corners around the lid and slapped on a neatly-typed label, which really thrilled the part of my soul that is fulfilled by completing manual tasks.

8. Adorable freckled manager Lavinia plied me with soda, coffee and great big ol' slabs of gooey fruit pie (Steph and Mary: I didn't even try ONE bite!)

9. Any time I so much as looked a teeny bit perplexed, a staffer rushed to my side with help and extra spoons. After a while, I tried to keep my expression neutral so I wouldn't inconvenience them.

10. When all my meals were done, Lavinia gathered up a huge pile of specialized condiments, toppings and sides that were part of the bounty.

11. The whole she-bang fit onto two shelves of our freezer.

12. We ate the Beer-Simmered Flank Steak tonight with rosemary potatoes, and it was scrummy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Day Thirteen: Oh, The Places You'll Go!

Things I Wouldn't Have Done Today If I Didn't Have a Three-Year-Old:

1. Drive to a business park warehouse in Spring Valley filled with an entire city of giant jump-jumps.

2. Shriek insanely upon hearing that adults could jump, too.

3. Shimmy up a "volcano" while holding on to a rope, practically throwing my back out.

4. Negotiate for 10 minutes about where to have lunch while accompanied by back seat moans of "Pizza! I want pizza!" "No, mac and cheese! Mac and cheese!"

5. End up at a Mexican place and use the children as scapegoats for why we needed chips and salsa immediately--after all, the kids were STARVING.

6. Confiscate all the silverware to my side of the table.

7. Declare that the sugar packets were "cookies," and inquire "Would you care for a cherry, madam? Or would you prefer a lemon?" then pretend to nibble on sugar packets with exaggerated "num num" sounds.

8. Precede entrance to the knitting shop across the street with this warning: "Do not run, yell, touch or breathe while we're inside."

9. Conduct a diaper change in a bathroom so tiny that the changee was wedged underneath the toilet and my back was against the wall as I repeated like a mantra "Don't move, don't move, please don't move."

10. Order a Hawaiian shave ice with a requested combination of vanilla and bubblegum, not only with a straight face, but thinking, "Actually, that sounds kind of good."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Day Twelve: Don't You Forget About Me

Top 13 Signs I Went to High School (and College) in the '80s:

1. About my boyfriend in England, I said "he looks just like John Taylor from Duran Duran!" and meant that as the highest compliment.

2. I typed all my papers on a Smith-Corona typewriter with a "correction cartridge." Not many corrections got made. Easier to justify that the first choice is always the best choice.

3. The first time I shopped for a Madonna album, her records were categorized under "Soul."

4. Yeah, pretty much everything about #3.

5. Guys with feathered hair were totally hot.

6. When I really dressed up, I wore my neon trout earrings, which were three inches long.

7. My favorite movie was The Big Chill, though I couldn't imagine what those people were so bummed about.

8. I wore Dolphin shorts, even though they left half my ass out in the breeze.

9. My "desert island" foods were pineapple pizza, Chipwiches and Dr. Pepper.

10. Smoking cloves was SOOOOO cool.

11. Four different times, my first kiss with a guy was on the ride Innerspace at Disneyland.

12. A really, really fun day with friends meant going to see a horror movie at the mall, hanging out in the food court with huge combs in our back pockets, and getting our ears double-pierced.

13. I hoped and prayed that when I fell in love, it would be as meaningful as in a John Hughes movie.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Day Eleven: Revisiting Bad Dates

Although not a lot of you commented on my bad dates (perhaps you didn't want to point out how pathetic I am?) the comments I did receive were revealing. All of you thought I had a relationship with #2. You are right. You will receive your subscriptions to Mens Quarterly in 6-8 weeks. What scared me was people thinking I had a relationship with #5. I told David that just typing my memory of that date got me furious. And a shout-out to Cheri: I'm not sure what you mean by "make-up sex." (My mother-in-law, and occasionally my mother, read this blog.) So I'm going to guess it's like when you buy blush at the Chanel counter and don't even look at the credit card slip before you sign it. What a rush. ;)


1. When I was 16, a guy took me to see Being There, which he described as one of the all-time classics. I was so bored I almost slipped into a coma. I was dressed (adorably, I thought) in an '80s-era Madonna get-up with fingerless gloves, which he made fun of. But the best part was at dinner, when the waitress followed the standard greeting with: "And what would you like to drink? Tall, frosty glasses of milk?" I wanted to gag her with one of my gloves.

Yup, we had a relationship. But not then. It was, lo, many years later (nine, to be precise) before we got it together. That night ended with him deciding he needed to check his oil before driving home, dropping the dipstick into the engine in the process, and me waking up my entire family rummaging through the kitchen for a flashlight. Nine years later, I tracked him down in New York, and we began a whirlwind summer romance, after which I left dramatically for grad school on the other coast. I should have known there was trouble when he told me he'd called the graduate office and threatened to sue if they ever released his personal information again. But I did take a clue when he woke up one morning a year later and neutrally remarked: "You know, I just realized I'll never marry you." And then, Readers, he was gone, gone, gone. I never saw him again. (I have Googled him--apparently, he's written a bunch of boring-sounding books.)

2. One guy asked to meet me at a bookstore near the beach, where he proceeded to recite WWI poetry to me, apparently so I could swoon over his elocution. I kept trying to convince him to take a walk on the boardwalk, but he said his shoes hurt. He also confessed that he was "jonesing for some nicotine," which was a real turn-on. Eventually, I saw him groping under a table outside the bookstore, from whence he produced a huge bouquet of roses. "How beautiful!" I exclaimed, and asked if he would walk me to my car so I could drop them off. "But I want you to carry them," he said, wounded. "Why?" (They weighed like 50 pounds.) "Because I want everyone to know we're together."

Sigh. Yes, we had a relationship. For an entire year. It was long distance--I was living in MA at the time, he in CA (seeing a theme here?) Otherwise, I might have noticed sooner that he was crazy-controlling (anyone besides me find the rose thing creepy?) and scarily infantalizing (he was older, divorced and a father.)

3. I met this guy at a Hillel "break fast" at UMass and he asked me to meet him at Packard's, a restaurant in Noho. When the waitress came over, I went first and ordered a hot chocolate. He said, "Just water for me, thanks." Then he whispered to me, "I didn't bring any money." He had a huge smile on his face.

People! I don't even remember this one's name. But just to add to the humiliation, he invited me to his birthday party that night and I said yes, flattered in spite of my disgust. And then he never told me where the party was.

4. I tried to suppress my misgivings when I ran into this guy, whom I hadn't seen in a couple years, and he was suddenly speaking in an English accent. He's from San Diego. His English accent was so good, however, that I allowed myself to be lulled into a non-questioning state. We went to see The Full Monty, which I'd already seen, but figured he'd feel a kinship with the film--after all, it's about his people. He seemed distracted and raced to the exit as soon as the credits rolled. On the way home (I was driving) he confessed that he'd spent the day in an apartment that had just been fumigated and wondered if he had some brain damage. Then he launched into a lively tale about the previous evening, which had been such a lark: "I met these two Irish girls at the pub, they crashed at my flat, and I ended up shagging them both in the same evening!" I gripped the wheel and laughed with the merriment of it all.

Don't worry, I didn't go out with #4. Not that he was interested in going out with me, as I think I made clear. I was neither Irish nor shaggable. I remember laughing demonically as I watched him drive away, giddy with relief to have him out of my car so I could quench the flames of my degradation with a big ol' container of Haagen-Daz. The next time I ran into him, he was speaking in a French accent. Just kidding. I never saw him again.

5. This one guy and I went to see White Men Can't Jump (another pick of mine--this guy was a basketball fan--how could we go wrong?) and by the end, he was sulking. We crossed the street to a diner and I ordered French toast. Apparently, that was my second fatal move of the evening:

Sam: Did you like the movie?

Chris: You know, I really didn't.

Sam: Oh, I'm sorry. I thought you would.

Chris: Well, you thought wrong. Why did you order breakfast at night, just out of curiosity?

Sam: Ummm...I have no idea. I guess I think of diners like casinos--there's no day or night.

Chris: It just seems like an awful lot of food.

Sam: Hmmm. Oh, I just remembered a funny story about French toast. Wait, did I tell you already?

Chris: I'm not sure.

Sam: Well, I'll start, and you can tell me if you've already heard it.

Chris: You better not. If I've already heard it, it will be awkward.

Sam: Well, it will be awkward NOW.

Chris: (expression softening) Sam, I think we both know this isn't working.

Sam: It isn't?

Chris: No. So I suggest we just sit back and enjoy these last few minutes together, and then we don't go out again.

Sam: (rising and throwing some bills on the table, while trying not to hurl) No, let's NOT enjoy these last few minutes together. Okay? Let's NOT do that.

To make it a little more surreal, he ran after me, we had a fight in the parking lot, and it started pouring like a monsoon, so hard that we were both blinded by the water running into our eyes. As he began rattling off the many wonderful qualities about me he would always cherish (and those were his EXACT words) I leaped into my Jeep and peeled out of the parking lot, hydroplaning like a madwoman.

So you think I went out with him again, huh? Neewwwooo. Here's the pathetic coda: about two weeks later, I was in the process of handing over $5.00 for a huge-ass bag of Taco Bell (whaddaya want? I was 24 and thought I'd live forever) when I saw him coming towards me with a veritable posse of hooligan friends. My heart seized, I broke into a sweat (and this was before the fast food), and then I turned tail and ran. That's right, Readers: I RAN. Full-out sprint back to my car, just so I didn't have to talk to him. And you want to hear the really, really sad part? I didn't even grab my Taco Bell. So then I was dinnerless, too. And I forgot my change! I did see him again. About a year later, I ran into him on campus, and he was dashing and debonair, telling me he'd missed me, and he'd changed. "Look," he said proudly, "I got a tattoo." I stared at what looked like a small "x" on his forearm. "That looks like ballpoint pen," I said, before I could stop myself. "It is," he said. "But it's under the skin."