Saturday, December 29, 2012

The View From Here

Jarrah is EIGHT!

Yesterday we celebrated in the traditional way with a day devoted to the whims of the birthday girl, shared with Joy and family, and this time happily joined by David, who has a full, glorious week off, courtesy of Go-Pro.

Things went a little differently than planned.  There was the requisite visit to Build-A-Bear, which typified our child's personality when she chose the very first, hideous hot-pink cat she laid eyes on and was done looking after that (I joked that I hope she doesn't end up choosing her romantic partners in this capricious and impulsive way:  "Right:  you by the door.  You'll do.") and with a surprisingly small amount of fuss she was persuaded to change her McDonald's plans to Stacked! instead, much to the relief of everyone else who didn't want to eat at McDonald's.  We had a fun lunch at Stacked! even though it takes about 30 minutes for everyone to get their order into the iPad, but we weren't in a rush.

After that, Jarrah headed up to Encinitas with Mary and Paul for some Barbie Dream House quality time, while David and I headed back to our place to gather snow clothes for another annual tradition--sledding and s'mores at Quail Gardens's Holiday of Lights.

Then, once we arrived and she opened the fabulous Spy Kit from Joy, she didn't want to go to the snow anymore, and I just had to roll with that.  I say "I" because no one else really cared, but it did mean David and I had done a whole lot of shlepping basically for nothing, since we ended the night with the traditional pie at Coco's--and we could have had Coco's right by our house.  Ah well.  We all had good company and fun, and Jarrah was happy.

On a more somber note, I missed the traditional homemade Swedish pancakes at our place and most of the Build-a-Bear festivities, as I had an impromptu trip to the opthamologist--my second in three days.  I started feeling like I had a boulder in my right eye about a week ago, followed by a dry, gravelly feeling and an extreme amount of blurriness.  Because I was worried about the boulder, I took a chance and called the same office I went to in 2009 when I had the opthalmic migraine.  That day was traumatic, but ended happily because the migraine went away and I still had my 20/20 vision, which made me not a little bit smug.

This trip was not so triumphant.  It was awesome that not only did they remember me, but allowed me to come in instantly (I mean, like, the minute I called) to check for the boulder, and you'd think I'd have some closure.  Instead, the (very nice) doctor did a quick exam, peeled my lid back with a hook (OW!) to check for rocks, and said whatever it was, it wasn't serious.  She prescribed a full exam on January 10 and said I have Dry Eye Syndrome.  Why do I have this?  Because, apparently, I'm old.  It's more common than anyone thinks, she said.  I have to put artificial tears in my eyes six times a day.

But here's what made me cry.  I couldn't read the eye chart.  Normally, I can read it lightening fast and even see the "Made in USA" at the wee bottom.  This time, I couldn't even read the top line; it was too blurry.  I cried.  What had happened???

So apparently some of the blurriness is due to the dry eye.  But I'm gonna need glasses anyway.  I don't know why this is so hard to accept.  I think people who lost their "perfect" vision early on didn't have as long as I have to get attached to it.  And now I miss it mightily, despite the slight consolation of getting to pick out super-cute glasses.

So off I went with my drops, and the boulder feeling did not go away.  Plus I kept waking up during the night feeling like my right eye ACHED, and it feels incredibly light sensitive, like there's a stripe of white in the middle of it.  It freaked me out enough that when they said they were closing for five days after noon on Friday and could I come right back in, I ran, even though it meant missing some precious birthday moments.

She checked everything again.  Didn't see anything.  Did a fun test where she GLUED little pieces of paper to my eyeballs and told me to RELAX for five minutes with those on, to measure my tears.  I am supposed to have a 15 something-or-other in each eye, and I have a 9 and a 12.  My options are:  continue with the drops, do some other expensive drops for five months that might hurt and might not work, or get some artificial tear ducts surgically implanted in my eyes.  Guess which I chose?

Still no news on the weird stripe in my right eye.  She says she doesn't see it, but I haven't had the full exam.  So I'm still pretty worried about that.  When your eyes are bothering you, it's hard to think about anything else--ever noticed that?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Hanukkah Monologue

The following is an impromptu piece I wrote yesterday afternoon when challenged by my friend, Anna.  She was hosting a latke party and I asked what I could bring.  "How about a comic monologue?"  she said.  "You better not be kidding," I shot back.  "It's okay if you're not off book," she said.  I wrote it quickly and read it after the candle lighting, and that was fun, though as typical in these situations afterwards I was wrapped in a hot paraffin dip of shame for having called attention to myself.  I'm such a paradox.  Love me anyway?


When my daughter started public school, I figured I’d be thumb-wrestling all the other stay-at-home moms for the privilege of presenting on Hanukkah in the classroom, but it turns out:  I’m it.  Each year, I gather up my menorahs, my candles, my dreidels, my gelt and my Trader Joes latkes (shhhh!) and prepare to dazzle the children with the Wonder of Being a Jew.

Last year, something went slightly awry.  I received 22 thank-you notes, 20 of which included some version of “Thank you so much for teaching us about the bloody, bloody battle where everyone died.”  Hmmm.  Thought they seemed a little too alert during that section.  The last two hoped Jarrah would be in their class next year because they liked my cooking.

This morning, it was my turn again, and when the kids returned from recess, they found me attempting to stuff candles into a bunch of nuts (the metal, not the edible, kind) on the preschool menorah I cherish from five years ago.  I also brought the fancy zebra-wood art menorah my atheist husband gifted me with when we’d only been dating three months.  Hmmm.  I guess he really wanted some, um, holiday cheer.

“Can you eat that?” one of the girls asked skeptically as I wedged the pink wax into the recalcitrant holes.  I get that a lot.  If a holiday tradition isn’t about gifts or snacks, they don't see any point to it. 

At least I have a bit more good news than for my Passover presentation.  “Well, they slathered their doors in bloody, shredded lamb and then a lot of people’s children died screaming in the middle of the night while their mommies and daddies cried and cried. The Jews ran and ran, trying not to be shot or drowned, and then we ate some extremely constipating crackers for about 40 years.”  Good times.  Jews know how to party.  You can imagine the mirth after the Yom Kippur talk.  “Wait…you guys celebrate by STARVING?”

 The kids were really great.  They actually seemed interested when I explained that no, Hanukkah doesn’t gallop around the calendar at whim, but actually falls on the 25th of Kislev every year, no matter what.  Sometimes we might be eating turkey at the time, or watching everyone else open their stockings, but by gum, we are consistent.

When I said “Who knows what ‘Nes Gadol Hayah Shum?’ means?” a bunch of hands shot up.  “Isaac?”  I called out.  “Education?” he said. 

Alright, alright, you made your point.  “Dedication” is not exactly a scintillating translation for the word “Hanukkah.”  Why couldn’t it have been “Dazzling Drag Revue and Dessert Buffet?”  We’d get more takers. 

I read them a book called “The Story of Hanukkah,” which contained this priceless lesson:

“Although the Jews were not trained soldiers, they fought incredibly bravely.  They ran out yelling when they saw the king’s army, then ran back and hid behind some rocks until the army left.”  I love how apparently the Jewish definition of fighting “incredibly bravely” is going “Nah-Nah Nah NAH Nah” and then running and hiding.  Reminds me of my favorite quote from the British novelist E.M. Forster:  “I would rather be a coward then brave because people hurt you when you are brave.”  Now there’s a boy who’s going to make his mama proud. 

The kids were dismayed when I said that the Maccabees sobbed because the temple had been messed up and filled with garbage.  They seemed so wounded I wondered if they thought it was kinda like being made to clean their rooms.  That was a pain and suffering they could relate to. 

Dreidel was a big hit.  Everyone got really competitive REALLY fast, and there was a lot of “ANTE UP!” and “SUCKA!” when someone landed on gimel.  One boy looked close to tears and told us “I had the entire pot, and suddenly, it was all gone.” 

“Well…” I said, and his teacher continued:  “…don’t become a gambler!”  Hey, we know some valuable stuff.  They don’t call us The People of the Book for nothing.

Last year, Jarrah told me she was sad that she didn’t get to celebrate Christmas, and it made her feel very alone because all the other kids did.  “Oh, sweetie.”  I soothed.  “I’m so proud of you.  You’ve learned what it means to be a Jew.  Yes, it’s sad, and hard, and you will suffer.  I’m glad you’re getting the hang of it early.”

I jest, but really, I do feel a lot of warmth and good cheer around Hanukkah.  It’s a nice time to spend with family and friends, exchanging gifts, singing and being grateful for the past year. 

Oh, who am I kidding.  Hanukkah rocks because—like my grandmother always said—for eight days fried food has no calories or cholesterol.  Pass the jelly donuts, will ya?

Thursday, December 06, 2012

My Strong Suit

David and I have been married a long time.  I mean, not ladies-and-gentleman-the-last-on-the-floor-for-our-wedding-dance long, but pretty darn long.  Sometimes I'm reminded of how long by a particular incident.  Like this one.

He wanted a new suit to go with his sharp new haircut.  Now, that doesn't sound like a big deal, except when you know all the facts.  Which are:  he hadn't cut his hair in 18 years, and he hadn't bought a suit in 14.  How do I know that last figure so precisely?  Because I was there when he bought the last one, and because we had just started dating.

Four weeks into our relationship, my old pal Synthia called me up and asked me to bring David to her wedding.  This was significant, because she was pretty controlling about her guest list.  She said, "I just get this feeling he's going to be important in your life."  Smart woman.  But you might recall that I met David at a wedding, a wedding where he was wearing an elf-like costume of green pants, a mint green shirt and some sort of green tie.  No jacket.  He didn't own one.  His shoes--brown before that evening--he had handily painted black with "shoe paint."  So you're getting a picture of his personal style.

I suggested that he might be more comfortable in a traditional suit at this wedding, since it was black tie optional.  He agreed, and right there you can tell that he really liked me.  He was going almost as far out of his comfort zone as a few weeks later, when I enrolled him in salsa lessons (that's a story for another day, Readers.)  As we drove to the mall, he was silent and edgy.  When I tried massaging his neck, he snapped "Could you not PUSH my head forward when I'm driving?"  He's a testy one, I thought.  (Actually, I was wrong there.)  When we arrived, I suggested we start in Banana Republic, of which he had never heard.  "Does that have something to do with COLONIALISM?" he said.  I had a bit of a stomach ache.  This wasn't going to be easy.

We ended up at Nordstrom, where the capable Men's Finery dudes took over.  They installed him in a big dressing room, where I could sit and watch.  They brought in a black Mani suit (I heard "Armani") and told us that tailoring was included.  The suit cost about 700 dollars, about which David was incredulous, noting that he had never paid so much for an article of clothing he would probably never wear again.  We also chose some "furnishings," including a sharp blue shirt, a blue-and-gray tie, some dress socks and some smart shoes.  I had to admit he looked pretty nice when they were done with him.  Now if I could just convince him to wash his hair before this event, he'd be a looker.

We had fun at that wedding, and all the weddings after, including our own, three years later.  Along the way, David got a lot more use than he expected out of that suit.  We even added a couple more shirts and ties.

And now, here it was, 11 years into our marriage, sullen seven-year-old-hunched-over-iPhone in tow, after a long day of school, work and general domestic drudgery, and we were back at Nordstrom, in search of a new suit.  We'd both started to notice that the old one was a bit out of date:  pleated pants, thick fabric, VERY long jacket that he seemed to be swimming in.

Here we were, in the very same Nordstrom, in the very same dressing room, on the very same quest, and yet...and yet I started to see glimmers of difference.  And Readers, these glimmers amused me mightily.

First off, I had researched suits before we arrived, and I already knew to ask for a particular Hugo Boss that had caught my eye.  The suit guy (who seemed like a lifer, compared to the young turks on the floor) sized him up and brought him a Long.  David slipped it on and pronounced it comfortable.

"No," I said.

"No?" they both said.

"No.  Jacket's too long.  I want something that hits about hip length.  Kind of like"--my gaze swept the room, alighting on a 20-something dude behind the register--"his.  I think it will look better because David has a long torso and really short legs."

"I do NOT have really short legs," David corrected.

"Okay, whatever, but I want a shorter jacket.  Can he try a regular?"

"But, madam...this jacket fits him well.  It's his size."

"Hmmm.  No harm in trying the regular, though, right?"

Both of them seemed a bit peeved, but the regular was located, and I proclaimed it perfect.  Something was wrong with the pants, though.

"Are they going up his butt?"  I asked.  "I think he needs some shoes.  Maybe a dress shirt, to really see how everything lies."

Suit-Lifer (aka Charles) scurried off, and David was kitted out with shirt and shoes.

"Not that kind of shirt.  I want something thinner.  Chic-er."

Charles galloped off.  David galloped after him, to ask about the pants, and I could hear them yelping in the corridor.  Jarrah's head was down over the Zombie Invasion.

And then I started giggling.  Because I realized...THINGS HAVE CHANGED.  No need to stand on ceremony anymore--David doesn't get fashion, he knows it, I know it: DONE.  And the guy's been married to me for 11 years.  No need to pretend I'm not a bossy thing who wants things just so.  David knows it, and now--lord love him--Charles the Suit Guy knows it, too, and he won't make the mistake again of asking David's opinion about anything.  That's not where his sale is going to get made.

I can hear them in the hall.

"She didn't like the shirt!"

"Does she like the pants?"

"I don't think so!"

Now I could just enjoy myself.  With the new shirt, something was not quite right with the jacket length.

"Okay.  How about the Dolce and Gabbana?"

Charles raised an eyebrow.  That was a significantly more expensive suit.  The way I figured it, if David was averaging one new suit every 14 years, he might as well make an investment.  Charles scurried off, and returned with a beautiful D&G suit.  It looked fabulous on David.  He even smiled, looking at himself.  He never does that.  Something was wrong, though--and we needed another size.

"No problem," I said.  "Let's check the computer for other Nordstroms that might be able to send it to us."  For some reason, this seemed like a surprising solution to our friend Charles.  But he did it, and the correct suit was located in San Francisco, to arrive within five business days, in time to be tailored for the upcoming party.  As he rang us up, he said "See?  I told you he was a Regular length all along."  And then he winked at me.  He winked at me, Readers!

That settled, we headed out onto the floor to look at shirts and ties.  "White?"  David asked.  "No," I said.  "Something with color.  More contemporary."  He picked up a tie with some sort of gold pattern. "I like this."

"Oh, sweetie," I said.  "No.  No, you don't."

Last night, the D&G arrived from San Francisco, and we had it tailored.  It's perfect, fits like a glove.  Makes David look even taller, if that's possible.  I picked out a lavender paisley tie.  David was skeptical.  "You'll get used to it," I promised.  Charles brought over an electric blue one to show me.

"Yes?"  he said.

"Hmmm."  I said.

"You can just say you don't like it."

"Oh, I will.  I was just trying to figure out why."

I caught sight of myself in the mirror.  I looked like a vaguely homeless freak, wearing a mismatched shirt and hoodie, pajama bottoms, hair sticking out of the pony tail in every direction, and my purse COVERED IN DIRT from having left it on the ground during an outdoor party last weekend.  Yep, I looked like a high roller, alright.  Hey, Big Spender.

And yet, it was because of me that this suit sale was going down.  Now that I think about it--I'll bet Charles sees this a lot.

And it was certainly no surprise to David.  Nope, it was pretty much like any other Friday night--me deciding what he's going to do, and he--for the most part--happily doing it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I'm A Loser, Baby

So it's Monday morning and I have a splitting headache because my stomach doesn't remember how to drink coffee and I'm focused on eating this piece of toast in front of me because whether I should be attempting to eat a piece of toast yet is still a matter of debate.  And I haven't slept because David and I apparently can't tell time and don't realize we're only going to get a few hours before the school alarm until it's too late.  Also, I really, really need some Advil due to a certain little visitor but--again, with the stomach, so instead I'm just in a lot of pain.

And I'm reading the paper, trying to catch up on all the ones I missed while we were away and I was poisoned (really, is there more of a fool's errand?  The damn thing is different every day anyway) and I open to an article about a show I auditioned for a while back, the one where everyone laughed merrily and everyone said I was hilarious in Pippin and I was clearing my schedule for the callbacks when I got one of those stock e-mails that said my talents wouldn't be needed for this production and I got this email before the auditions were over.  Meaning, they had no idea yet who they were going to see before the callbacks but I, in particular, personally, ME, was not needed.  And now there's this big article about how the show is a world premiere and everyone is so, so excited, yada yada, and I grimaced.

Then, on the next page, is a big spread about a lovely woman who is currently the Big Kahuna of American poets.  I mean, she's gone as far as you can go with that title, let's just say that.  She's also the director of a creative writing at a major university and has about a million awards for her books.  She also seems really smart and interesting.  Which I don't really remember because I knew her a long time ago.  When we were both in the same MFA program and graduated at the same time.  And since then?  The book I wrote?  Well, it's in the library at UMASS, but if I want to see it, I'll have to visit it there because the only copy I have is on a floppy disk that stopped being viable around 1996.

In the afternoon, my child was furious with me because her playdate's parents picked her up too soon, which was apparently my fault.  She packed her American Girl accessories and her pillow and left a note on the bed which read "I just don't feel like I fit in here, so I'm moving out.  I'll write you a letter if you want."  She then set up camp in our driveway for the rest of the afternoon, occasionally sneaking back inside to steal snacks.  No matter what I did or said, I couldn't make her do her homework, take a bath, clean her room or do anything I said.  My threats and entreaties were either met with "No." or "I can't stand you."  I was the most useless parent ever put on the planet, even that's supposed to be, like, my main job.  And I hid in my room and I cried.  I hid from a seven-year-old.

Then I have this meeting at my house in the evening, a meeting where I've put out coffee and cupcakes but I can only stare at these things because my stomach is saying "no, no, no" still.  And one of the people at this meeting was there when I auditioned for a show very recently that turned me into Miss Havisham, waiting by the phone day after day in my lacy wrap for a call that never came even though I had a callback where I felt like I totally killed.  And finally I can't keep deftly sidestepping her mentions of this show and when I say I never head ANYTHING she says that the director loved my reading, yes he did, my reading was amazing, what an incredible reading.  So I just had to say, but not my SINGING? And she said, oh so delicately, well, he felt the part needed a really particular kind of belt voice, so...

...which was apparently the particular kind of belt voice that is not mine.  And that smarted.  A lot.  Because I thought I did my best.  And I've never had an audition where I thought I did my BEST and they didn't like it.

And then they all left and I cried.  And then David and I watched "Dancing with the Stars" and I cried some more because it would be so cool to be on that show but I'm not a star but also because they are just so good sometimes and it's a triumph of the human spirit.

And after that?  I was tired.  And, like Scarlett O'Hara, I figured tomorrow was another day, and I'd never be hungry again.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Birthday Week Blues

I'm in a Monday morning funk.  Still in my bathrobe.  Sulking.  Instead of being grateful that I have legs, which is my policy.

Just returned from a Jewish Women's Retreat in the woods near a town called Angelus Oaks.  Yeah, I hadn't heard of it, either.  Apparently, bears know it well, since a gal opened her cabin door and one was chilling right outside.  I didn't want to walk alone at night (hell--ever) after that.  But otherwise, the weekend was a good experience.  I met some really cool women who have had amazing lives (a bunch of them were older than me) and taught three Nia classes to smiling and appreciative students (even if two of these classes were at freakin' dawn.)  They served massive amounts of tasty food, provided lots of pretty paper and glue for a Saturday night art project, built a big campfire for s'mores, and introduced me to the wonders of Liat, the 25-year-old song leader, who could play absolutely anything on her guitar for sing-alongs.  Because I'm a big diva, I insisted on my own cabin (the other women were four to a room) and I'm glad I did, after Saturday morning reports of snoring, heating disagreements and constant bathroom trips.  I'm a light sleeper, and I was snug in my tiny cabin with the white noise feature on my iPhone and a luxurious mint-green velour blankie from home.  It also gave me a place to hide for 15-minute increments of reading when the hours of making cheerful small-talk with strangers got to me (extroverts are really just introverts who charge their batteries with huge swatches of alone time.) 

And that should conclude my near-constant gallivanting for the present.  We had returned from the Florida/Bahamas/Disney Cruise excursion only four days before I left for the weekend.  I am happy to say I am a cruise person (I think?  This was a short cruise) and that the Disney Dream is gorgeous and not just for kids.  One of the highlights was an adults-only dinner at Palo where we were treated like kings and queens, and the "Rainforest Experience" in the adults-only spa where you could stand in a beautifully tiled chamber and press a button that said "Mediterranean Storm" or "Siberian Mist" and get a personal show of water, light and scent.  In the ports of Nassau and Castaway Cay (the Disney-owned island) I loved, respectively, the Dolphin Encounter (it's impossible to be cynical about hugging a dolphin) and the Stingray Adventure, where we snorkeled in a crystal-clear white-sand cove with 56 resident sting rays swooshing and flapping around us.  Bliss.  Disney Dream employees either love their Disney jobs or are operating under threat of some horrific punishment, but they were smiling, generous and warm 24 hours a day.  Free self-serve ice cream cones and towels shaped like animals and a veranda overlooking the navy-blue sea didn't suck, either.  Oh, and Jarrah was all about the Oceaneer's Club and the Aquaduck, a water slide four flights of stairs above the top deck that actually extends over the sea. 

I also fulfilled a life-long dream of visiting Epcot park, and it did not disappointment (it didn't hurt that it was International Food and Wine month, either.)  The various lands are so beautiful, and the gray, misty weather really cooled things down that day (otherwise, both Florida and the Bahamas were ridiculously hot and sticky for October.)  There were no crowds, and it was all very relaxing, except for Mission to Space where I'm fairly certain my heart actually stopped for a couple of minutes.  We also visited Magic Kingdom, which was sort of interesting and sort of meh, considering most of the rides are the same as in the park where I practically grew up, and it was horribly hot and crowded.  We took one Disney sabbatical day and traveled a couple hours to the Gulf of Mexico and Clearwater, FL for a pilgrimage to the marine rescue center that is the home of Winter, the famous, tail-less dolphin from the movie "Dolphin Tale."  That was a great day, and sunset on the sugar-soft, white beach capped it off beautifully.

See?  I have nothing to be funked about.  This always happens, though.  I look forward to my birthday celebrations but I dread them, too, expecting too much and also expecting disappointment.  It's a vicious cycle. 

But enough about are you?  How do you feel about YOUR birthdays?

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Room Moms Are Evil

I haven't written here in ages, and I've skipped a soul-shoring trip to Maui, the first day of second grade (we scored an amazing teacher) and Jarrah's budding soccer career, which is blazing (as I expected--the kid doesn't share my scared-of-balls genes.)

But what has sent me scurrying for the benevolent cover of my blog is a problem that I have no idea how to fix.  I signed up to be "Room Mom."  I wanted to help.  Let's be honest--I wanted to put my stamp on things.  But I never should have done that.  Because now I am being steamrolled by the twin Mack trucks of the campus mean moms.

Yes, yes, I'm overstating a bit.  But at our first meeting, the two of them seemed to have everything all figured out--had I missed a previous meeting?  The plan, as David described it, was to "shake down" the parents through a process of guilt and intimidation for large sums of money (this is public school, people!) which we would then use to purchase birthday, holiday, end-of-year and Teacher Appreciation Week gift baskets and gift cards in eye-brow raising denominations.  I should add that I was instructed to email all the parents to clarify that they were still expected (I changed it to "welcome") to contribute individual gifts for all these occasions.  I asked (reasonably, I thought) how much of the money would go back into the class?  Again, public school:  maybe the parents would like to see some of this money spent on class parties, or classroom supplies?

Apparently, I'm an idiot, and a stingy one at that.  I was quickly schooled that parents would be contributing potluck items for the parties and we wouldn't spend one cent of the gift fund there.  As for supplies, which I observed running low by second semester in first grade, I was told that I had been given an opportunity to donate these supplies at the beginning of the year, and I was welcome to take it.

That burned me. I followed that "suggested donations" list like it was gospel, and gave every item, some of them twice.  It's also been suggested that I don't understand that teachers are "unpaid" (I guess she meant "underpaid") and "unappreciated" and the least we can do is lavish her with $500 (!!!!) worth of gift cards.  The least we can do, people.  The least.

Well, color me schooled.  I mean, I taught for 18 years, but I had no idea that teachers are underpaid and unappreciated.  Really?  How weird.  I always felt uber-paid and uber-appreciated, every minute of every day.  And $500--bitch, please.  I got at least $1,000 in swag every time I taught, because I'm just that awesome.

I would kind of like to quit, but I don't want our teacher thinking I have some kind of personality disorder or follow-through problem.  But I can see lots of fun ahead as I tacitly cooperate with the total domination of the second grade, or I step aside and watch the room get leveled under a pile of BevMo and Macy's cards, flower arrangements from Costco and "Coffee Day Theme."  I would kind of like to tattle to the teacher--really, that's what it would amount to--but maybe she'd like a say in where this absurd amount of money goes?  She can't possibly want that much stuff.  It makes it seem like we're overcompensating for our Talking Tina/Chucky Doll-type children--I don't need to do that.  My child is a treat empty-handed.

And I do care, very much, about teachers, public education, and my daughter's classroom in particular.  After all, I volunteered to do this thankless job.  But seriously, I turned in my form on the first day so I could be eligible for art help and reading and stuffing folders and chaperoning field trips.  More significantly, I will actually be providing P.E. for a P.E.-less school when I start teaching Nia to the class in a few weeks.

A friend reminded me that I'm not doing this to make friends with Mean Room Moms--I just want to be a part of my child's classroom experience and help out her teacher.  I need to stay focused on that.  But I can't decide if I should continue to fight the good fight, which is basically:  "Let's save $100 of this money for classroom needs!  We can even ask the teacher what she prefers!" or just lay down and let the gift baskets march over my body.

Any thoughts, Readers?  If any of you are out there?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pippin and Other Projects

As you can see, I've been on a bit of a hiatus since NaBloPoMo ended.  But I came by it honestly.  After a long week of tech, Pippin opened on August 3rd, and closed on August 12th.  During that time, I hosted three (!) cast parties at my house and went out every single night after the show, often with most of the cast, as we became very close.

It's been a beautiful summer, in which I learned to really dance on stage, sported more than my share of sequins, got called "baby girl" by beautiful gay boys, and had a whole lot of fun ad-libbing in a British accent.  (Favorite Sam moment:  when Prince Lewis tells Pippin that another king "demands his reproductive organs on a pike staff," I exclaim "Kind of a deal breaker, that." in a concerned deadpan.)  I also got to wear my hair crimped for the first time since the '80s (and learned that it will stay in indefinitely if I don't shower) and discovered that it is possible to wear three shades of eyeshadow at once, as well as glue rhinestones to one's face with eyelash glue.  Yes, I'm getting an education here, people.

And when the last of the sequins had been swept away, the facial designs scrubbed off for the last time, and the trays and trays of cookies packed up and sent home with younger people, I didn't have much time for sadness, since the very next day I started auditioning for my playwrights festival directorial debut.  Two nights of 3-hour monologue and improv sessions ensued, and I'm happy to say that I've completed my casting.  Sarah will be played by Loni, a gal I fell in love with during the auditions, and I wasn't the only one, so I was lucky to get her.  Larry will be played by Andrew, from our 48 Hour team this year, who serendipitously showed up for auditions when I'd been thinking he'd be sort of perfect.  We have our first read-through tonight.

Sadly, it doesn't look like I'll be acting in this year's festival.  I've been so distracted by Pippin that I didn't prepare a monologue until the morning I planned to audition--Mabel from Wilde's An Ideal Husband, a great piece, very funny.  But when I tried to do it for David right before leaving and messed up three times, I knew it wasn't going to showcase my brashness if I stood up there stammering and shaking.  I made a sudden, bold decision while I was sitting there to submit to on-the-spot improv, and I think I got a pretty difficult topic:  "The apes have taken over the world and put the humans in cages.  What do you say to them?"  Going on a tip I'd received from a 30-year improv pro the night before who totally killed it ("Just start talking.  No silence at all.") I started yammering about how I can't take any more bananas and wheedling that I'd be happy to pick fleas off each other so we could relate to each other better.  There was a lot of laughing, but then when I said I was only free the last weekend of October, there were also a lot of audible "Awwwwwwwssss."  Which is flattering, I guess.  I got approached by three directors who said they wanted to use me, but they weren't Week Four, so that was that.  In the second half of the night, directors had different groups of actors up on stage to read from their plays, but I didn't get called even once and felt grumpy about it.  And now I haven't had any calls.  David says I'm being silly since I said myself that I'd limited my chances by 75 percent because of our October trips.  But it still stings.  I had a lot of fun acting last year.

So, onward to focus on directing for a while!  I really am very excited about that part.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day #31: Back In Time

This is it, kids!  (See what I did there?) 31 posts in 31 days!  I'm pretty proud of myself, even though it's been a lonely journey.  It's funny how blogging has changed so much that you can post something on the internet for the world to see and still feel like you've written it in your private journal.  It's good timing for me to wrap up this little exercise, as we moved to the theater last night and I get very tired during tech week.  Throughout this show, I've been leaving rehearsal more energized than when I arrive, but last night I just wilted during Act 2.  Sure, it was a long night (four hours) but not nearly as long as some I've experienced, and really, it went pretty smoothly.  Except for when I galloped on for one of my entrances (having forgotten it) and--once there--realized I'd entered from the wrong side.  Well, I get another chance tonight.  We're getting used to a stage that is not as deep as our rehearsal room (though wider) so we're having to dance closer to each other (me to Charlemagne:  "You kept poking me with your sword!") and I'm realizing there are a bunch of times I'm so mushed in between people you can't really see what I'm doing anyway.  That's the magic of theater.

Today's topic is an interesting one to close:  "If you could go back to one point in your childhood, which would it be and why?"

It didn't take much thumbing through the memory bank to alight on fifth grade, and I justified staying there because my memories of that year are really strong.  I was absolutely smitten with my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. von Kleinschmid (we called her Mrs. von K) who was beautiful and raven-haired with a bell-like laugh.  She was a real champion of mine and I believe she gave me the confidence to pursue my education like a smart girl--she always made me feel I could do anything.  Once she cast me as Queen Isabella in our Columbus play, and I was suddenly moved to do a lot of ad-libbing with Columbus and completely change the script, effectively writing myself a much bigger part.  The class howled and beat on their desks and it was the first time in my (surprisingly, cringingly shy) childhood that I felt the sensual pleasures of pleasing an audience.  Later, Mrs. von K ruffled my crazy-curly hair and said "You know what you are?  You're uninhibited.  Do you know what that means?"  "It means I don't live here?" I said.  She laughed.  "Go look it up.  It's a good word for you to know."

And I remember that play for another reason:  the boy who played Columbus, Greg Rokos.  Ah, Greg Rokos.  I was not the only girl in Mrs. von K's class swayed by his considerable charms.  I think we were all in love with him, even the ones who swore he had cooties.  He was tan and kind of beefy of body, with long, thick, shaggy golden-brown hair and big, brown eyes.  He had very white teeth and a slightly raspy voice.  He was beautiful, but what I remember most about Greg is that he was kind.  He seemed to know he had a community responsibility for the fragile psyches of a dozen 10-year-old girls, and he took that seriously.  On Valentines Day, we each received a card with a personalized note, stuffed with candy.  I wonder if I was the only one who slept with theirs under their pillow.

Greg was my first real crush, one that I sustained the entire year.  I do remember the heartbreak of the last day, when we went rollerskating as a class and he skated the Couples Skate holding hands with Jennifer Pomeroy, who seemed much more mature than the rest of us.  I felt slightly numb with disappointment all day, but I remember feeling like that field trip was the end of childhood in a weird way, because we were going to middle school now.  I was sort of right--middle school was a lot bigger and scarier and meaner.

That year I also spent a lot of time with my two best elementary school friends, Wendy and Jill, but also with my own, new friend from class, Kristin.  I slept over at her house a few times and since she was an only child, her house was quiet and serene and her mother had time to bake cakes with us and her dad took us to the movies.  I also remember her parents gave us money to take ourselves (!) out to lunch, a decadent pleasure I'd never had, and that we walked to get "subs" at a hole-in-the-wall deli that is still there.  I had no idea what "subs" were but was afraid to admit it.  Then it turned out to be the most delicious thing I'd had so far in my life.  Roast beef, swiss and mustard--the sacred trinity that I love to this day.

It was the year we invented Future Worms (a fuzzy, personalized creature that Wendy and I did a brisk business selling at recess--the market crashed when we ran out of the special fat pipe cleaners necessary for the bodies, and in the pre-internet age had no idea where to get replacements for) the year that Pop Rocks could command top dollar on the playground black market, the year I learned all the capitols, read Are You There God?  It's Me, Margaret and spent countless hours walking the school track with my friends, puzzling over the details.

But you know what?  My real answer is I wouldn't want to go back to any point in my childhood, and here's why.  Even in a magical year when I discovered both theater and love, my happy memories are clearly all of school.  Though I've blocked a lot of it, that would have been the year my parents split up and were living apart, trying to decide whether or not to divorce (they ultimately didn't.)  There was a lot of screaming and a lot of things said that I didn't even understand except that they were bad.  My dad bought us two hamsters--since we'd never had pets at home--and one morning discovered that the larger one had eaten the head of the smaller one, which pretty much sums up what it was like to be the oldest child, caught in the middle of their crumbling relationship.

I'm pretty hazy on the details of my home life during that time, but that's okay.  I have no desire to go back and have my memory refreshed.  And I'm sure that goes for any other time that I now recall through a golden scrim of nostalgia.  I'm happy for those times to stay that way--distant, indistinct, and--whether happy or sad--not visceral.  Just a part of my history.  Onward.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Day #30: Shavian Wisdom

Today's topic:  "Do you agree with George Bernard Shaw that youth is wasted on children?"

Well, when I first saw this question, I was kind of annoyed, because I would have bet something important that the saying is actually "Youth is wasted on the young," which I think is very different than saying it's wasted on children.  Children are not the ones living the life which Shaw considers wasted.

But then I started Googling, and found the alternate version "Youth is a wonderful thing.  What a crime to waste it on children."  Which really doesn't have the same insouciant roll off the tongue, if you ask me.  Nor the same meaning.

Then, further searching revealed that no one is sure when or where he said this--it doesn't seem to be in any of his plays.  The final muddying of the waters made me giggle, which was someone arguing that it wasn't Shaw at all--it was Oscar Wilde (and it does sound rather Wildean, I think.)

So, I will be discontinuing my quest to scoff at the composer of this topic, and reverting to a more traditional response in the actual spirit of the thing.

I think I can begin by returning to my Googling, where someone had posted "I know this saying, but what does it actually mean?" and someone retorted "You must be young."

Which is really the point, I suppose.  That when you're young, you're clueless about why youth is so amazing.  You spend a lot of time wishing you were older, or just kind of reacting to your circumstances and rolling through the days, doing a lot of sleeping, eating and playing and precious little thinking.

On the other hand, this is precisely why this time is such a gift.  It's a time unfettered by the weight of mortality, the heavy hands of regret, guilt, and doubt.  People spend a lot of time telling you to "apply yourself" but you figure there's time to do that tomorrow--today you're going to watch TV, argue about gymnastics vs. ice skating, eat Froot-Loops out of the box, kiss someone inappropriate, and lay on the grass watching a bug.

I'm constantly reflecting NOW on the gift of hair that doesn't change color by the end of the month, staying up all night but then not sounding like a yeti the next day (or looking like one, either), eating chili-cheeseburgers at 4 a.m. and then sleeping like a baby until noon, knowing that all the leading lady parts in the play are open to me, (sigh) getting chatted up by strange men in public places.

Some of the other stuff is too painful to joke about, and almost even to write about:  a time when I didn't know my body didn't make children, a time when I thought I would soon become a famous movie reviewer, a time when I assumed I'd move around the country and the world every few years or so, as it suited me.

But I don't need to be too maudlin about it, because everyone will go through what I have.  It's the one unavoidable experience.  Getting older and realizing that youth wasn't as everlasting as it seemed when I was in the middle of it--working a thankless job in advertising (but the next one I'll have more responsibility and lots more money!) smarting from an unexpected break-up (but the next relationship will be transcendant and lasting!) living in a railroad apartment where you heard gunshots (but it was romantic and historic and only temporary!) drinking and dancing with friends after work most weeknights (because we need to vent and you can sleep when you're dead!) and never really thinking about what exactly would come next because it's a hot night in Boston and the Charles ripples in the moonlight and soaring strings rise up from the glowing Half Shell and grass tickles your bare feet and the people you're with are definitely going to be there always because this is the real thing, the essence, the soul, the center of life.

Being able to access those moments again are why Shaw (or Wilde, or whomever) said what he did, and why it makes everyone ruefully smile.  Unless they are young.  In which case, let them revel in this time when they have no idea what it means because they will, oh.  They will.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Day #29: Lazy and Crazy

It hasn't been that long since I wrote the last post, but it's been sort of a weird day and soon David and I are going to see The Queen of Versailles and maybe eat some Afghan food.  We haven't had a date night in ages because he's been away a lot and I've been in rehearsals.  Of course, we just had lunch, so maybe a big meal in an hour isn't going to happen.

The reason we had lunch at 3:00 is because Jarrah was having a fit.  She does that sometimes.  This time it was because we'd asked her to turn off the computer where she was playing some Wizard game, so she could get ready to go out.  And the "going out" was purely a treat for her--we were headed to one of those indoor arcade/restaurants--not Chuck E. Cheese but another one--at her request.  So when she freaked out, we had no choice but to cancel the field trip.  I've been trying to stick to consequences that I threaten, because I realized that for years I rarely have, and she knows it.  No matter how much she cries, she ends up really getting the message and it's gotten a bit easier to to sway her behavior with a mention of consequences than it used to be.

But then, there was at least an hour of crying and recriminations, so we were all pretty light-headed by the time we got to El Zarape.  And then it was so good.

Next, we went to Party City in search of some dog ears for her Snoopy performance this week, and did indeed find some, though they are brown and that's not right.  David is all keen on dyeing them, because he's an engineer to the core that way--why buy something when you can take a really, really long time to make or fix something else?  And we also had a treasure hunt in Ross Dress for Less for anything white for her to wear--the only shirts were for school uniforms (which bothered her mightily for some reason--we got one anyway) and the only white bottom in the place turned out to be a pair of boys basketball shorts which might look really cute because there's a black band around both legs--very Snoopy-esque.

It will be nice to have a quiet night before the madness starts this week.  Because this company rehearses in one location and only moves into the actual theater the week of the show, the first couple nights of tech are more or less harrowing (and time-consuming) and the director sometimes looks like s/he needs a big ol' drink as we flail around, entering and exiting wrong, stepping out of the light, tripping over things.  I have faith it will come together, though.  It's just I'll be really, really tired by the time it does.

On the other hand, I get to recuperate in Maui, so I really can't complain.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Day #28: Grad Night Tired

That's a weird title, referring to the time after ninth grade graduation that my class spent the night at Disneyland.  That's how it works--they sort of lock you in until 5:00 a.m.  Wearing a dress and heels.  Sounds like torture now, but we were pretty stoked then.  I remember that Tommy TuTone, they of the one (admittedly pretty rad) hit "Jenny, Jenny (867-5309)" played for us, and that my boyfriend, Isaac, gave me a gold necklace with little wings on it for our one-month anniversary.  One-month anniversary:  freakin' adorable.

The next day they bussed us back home and then we had about an hour before the bus picked us up for school.  Why did we have school the next day?  I don't know, but while we were sitting around at my friend Terri's house after breakfast, I started studying the faux-Persian carpet and next thing I knew there were some loud noises and I opened my eyes and there was a kind of blue fuzz where my vision used to be.  I jerked my head and realized I had fallen face down into the carpet pattern while I was looking at it and was now covered in drool and the bus was here.

So, that kind of tired.  I fell asleep on the couch for a few minutes this evening even though I could clearly see David was having to do all the dinner prep himself.  I just couldn't pick my head up.

I think this was partially due to a three-hour run-through early this morning followed by a two-hour dance rehearsal this afternoon, all of which had been preceded by four hours of sleep following a party I threw for the Pippin cast last night.  Whew!  That's too much math for this state of mind (and body.)

The party ended up being fairly relaxed and a nice size--about two-thirds of the cast came, plus our director.  We had burgers, a sundae bar and lots of other fixin's that people contributed.  Teresa brought her guitar and she and Nick played for us.  We sang a little and spoke of watching the Olympics but it never happened.  I stayed up talking about life with Austin, Cody and Teresa, and most of the time I didn't feel much, much older than them.

I do think the atmosphere was livelier, closer, more optimistic this morning.  And it was definitely our best run-through so far, or maybe I just felt that way because I remembered 90 percent of my notes and 75 percent of my dances.  I'm shooting for an even 100/100 on opening night.  Monday we start tech in the theater, so this was our last day in Santee.  Always makes me feel a little sad.

Afterwards, a bunch of the cast had lunch together at a fairly repugnant chain restaurant, and then I spirited 17-year-old old dancer and castmate, Ariel, back to my house (Jarrah was on a swim date, and David at the movies) for Pippin Dance Boot Camp.  I'm not sure who worked harder--me because I insisted on doing everything over and over and over to really drill it into my head, or her because, well, I insisted on her doing everything over and over and over, too.  Either way, I know we both had a sense of satisfaction when we were done, and I feel like I really put in the work and it will pay off come show time.

Now to put in that time for my harmonies.  Wait, not now.  Now, time to sleep.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

Day #27: Kid Questions

Today's topic:  "What's the best question a kid has ever asked you?"

Oh, this one is easy.  And the way I know it's easy is that I tell this story all the time, so it obviously made quite an impression.

When I was 25, I met a guy through my sister--she worked with him and I spent a day volunteering at her work.  He called the next day to ask me out and our relationship was sort of fast-tracked because I was leaving soon for a summer teaching job in Utah.  He was only five years older than me, but he was divorced from a youthful military marriage and had a son, age 5.

On our third date, he said it was his regular afternoon with his son and that I was going to meet him.  I felt pretty anxious about this, for lots of reasons.  It seemed awfully big and soon to be meeting someone's kid (and these kinds of boundary issues did end up being a problem.)  Also, as I've discussed in previous posts, I was pretty skeeved out by kids and had no idea how to act or what to say around them.

Daniel quashed my anxieties pretty quickly.  After they picked me up, I rode in the back of the car with this little tow-headed cutie who smiled sweetly but didn't say much.  What won me over is he reached out and gently petted my arm as we drove, stroking me with two fingers the way children are taught to pet rabbits.  I was pretty charmed by this and stopped being nervous.

And then when we arrived at the beach, he automatically reached for my hand before we crossed the street.  Now that I'm a mother, I know that little kids whose parents have put a monstrous fear of cars in their heads do this automatically to any adult-type person within arm's reach, but at the time, it seemed a  gesture of trust and I fell for it immediately.

We trudged through the sand down to the water, and I followed Dan when he started climbing the rocks.  My new boyfriend was standing below us in the waves, and for a few minutes, Dan and I were alone, our conversation drowned out by the surf.

He was a child who knew his mind.  He spoke clearly and unhesitatingly on all occasions, and almost always, I was amazed at his maturity and insight.  But I didn't know any of that then; I'd just met him 30 minutes before.

He climbed onto a rock across from me as I held his hand and said:  "So you're a teenager?"

"No, I'm not a teenager." I said.  And then, inexplicably, "I'm a fully-grown adult."

"Is that as big as you get?"

I laughed so loudly that Dan's dad came dashing up the rocks to see what happened.  Dan was still watching me with his big, round eyes under a fringe of almost-white hair, waiting for an answer.

Now I know that kids ask stuff like this all the time, and they do so because they'd genuinely like some information to add to the stash they've begun squirreling away.  I still love it, but that day, I was completely amazed by it.  Dan cut through all the formality, the expectations, the ordinariness of a getting-to-know-you conversation, right to the stuff he most wanted to know.

I fell in love with him right then and there.  Driving home from the beach later, my new boyfriend asked "So what did you think of Dan?"

"So far I like him more than I like you," I said.  And he laughed with delight, as a father should.  The fact that it was true and stayed true is probably why we went out as long as we did.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Day #26: Hungry

Today's topic:  "What did you swear you would never do as an adult that you still never do to this day?"

I should preface my response by saying "Not much.  Hardly anything.  Nope, mostly I'm just a big, fat hypocrite now."  My stance on television, kids' meals, saying "Because I'm the mother, that's why" and practically everything else has been leveled under the bulldozer of actual parenthood. 

But there's still one thing that haunts me and I try not to forget it.  And that's that you don't have control over your own appetite as a kid.  No, someone is always saying "You'll spoil your dinner" or "You've already had enough" or "But we're eating a real meal in two hours."  And I'm still traumatized by that.

You see, I am what nutritionists typically call "a grazer."  And what may also be called "hypoglycemic."  (I actually don't know that part for sure, but I will tell you I have a full personality change when my blood sugar gets too low--I can't think, speak or behave rationally until I get some real food.) And I think maybe I have some control issues about food as an adult because a lot of childhood is defined by the "three squares a day" model and "no snacking between meals" ethic.

Having skipped breakfast (too early, too lazy) and eaten ice cream and Diet Coke for lunch, I was chew-an-arm-off hungry after school throughout junior high and high school.  But I had to sneak snacks when my mother was out doing errands with the other kids.  I didn't even want sweets--I remember standing at the fridge shoving cheese and fruit and hot slices of my mother's homemade bread in my mouth so I didn't get caught. 

But the worst days were when I had swimming.  Now, I know that two hours of swimming laps can burn like 1,000 calories and it was no mystery why my legs were shaking when I got out of the pool.  But it was still two hours until dinner, two hours I often spent weeping in my room instead of doing my homework because I felt so weak. 

I'm not trying to vilify my mother.  She was making the choices she thought best, not trying to torture me.  But my memories of that gnawing hunger are still so visceral, I can't bring myself to deny Jarrah her snacks unless we really, truly are eating dinner in five minutes. 

I guess I also ascribe to the hilarious Seinfeld bit on "the appetite." 

I gotta tell you. I am really enjoying being an adult. You can do whatever you want. For example, If I want a cookie, I can have a cookie. I can have 3 cookie or four cookies or 11 cookies. Sometimes, I intentionally ruin my appetite and then I call my mother to tell her that I did. "Hello mom, I just ruined my appetite with cookies." Because as an adult we understand that if we ruin our appetite, there is another on the way. There is no danger of running out of appetites.

This makes a lot of sense to me.  There's no danger at all.  If my kid is hungry, I say let her eat.  Why should she have angst about it?  Why does it have to be an opportunity for neurotic doubt and introspection?  She feels like she wants food; she should eat food.  Now, I do have to police what KIND or she would eat nothing but candy from morning to night.  But otherwise, I say food is fuel and since she only has two speeds--turbo and asleep--she probably needs a lot of it.

I want to let her know that I trust her to know her own body.  That I don't get to say what it needs and doesn't need, when, where and what.  Let her grow up knowing she's beautiful and that food is beautiful, too.  I never want her to have a second of doubt about either of those things.  

And while I'm at it, I'm still trying to fix the hungry kid in myself, too.  There are times I actually speak soothingly to myself when I'm really hungry and in a situation where I can't get food for a long time.  I will say, Sssshhh, it's alright.  You're alright.  You are not going to be hungry forever and as soon as we have an opportunity to find food, you can have some.  No one's trying to deprive you.  Just chill.   

I have to remind myself that I'm in control now.  And when I do, it actually does help. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Day 25: Stuff That Keeps Me From Napping

Today's topic I sort of covered yesterday, about stuff I do now that I wished adults wouldn't do when I was a kid.

I'm feeling really wiped out today.  I've been rehearsing a lot at night, and then being totally wired until 1:00 in the morning.  I think I'm kind of worried that we're not ready for this show, or maybe just that I'm not ready.  I am still messing up the dances, but now I am also messing up the songs.  About the only thing I can count on is my acting, so I'm really going all out in that area.

I've also been spending long hours reading plays.  Have I mentioned this?  I'm going to direct a short play for a festival and the trade-off is I have to read 300 of them to vet 24 for the program.  I'm trying to be really careful because from the five I'm ultimately allowed to choose, one will end up being the one I'm assigned.  I don't want to end up directing something I don't care about.  Therefore, I've already visited the theater five (!) times, with a sixth coming up tomorrow.  It's all very low-tech--we just sit there with a pencil and a plastic tub filled with plays stapled together.  I've gotten a bit better at just reading the first page and knowing whether it will work for me.  Here are some of my rules:

1.  No anthropomorphism.  If it says "Charles Darwin is having lunch with a jellyfish," I'm moving on.

2.  No world-weary military vets.

3.  No meetings between God and the Devil.  No angels, either.

4.  No preliminary stage directions longer than two sentences.  And no outlandish staging, such as "throughout the scene, mackerel are falling from the sky."

5.  No plays featuring teenagers or octogenarians (just because they're going to be hard for me to cast.)

6.  Meta is ALWAYS in.  The second the play mentions directors, actors, auditions, or references the play currently occurring, I'm all in.

I am also researching a trip to Maui--I think that's what they call "white girl problems."  But I am so neurotic I have to research and cross-reference every hotel, every neighborhood, ever itinerary, before I commit to anything.  Whereas David looked at my copious literature and notes and remarked, "I think I would like any of these with the beach and the trees and stuff."  Bless his blissed-out little heart.

I've also been "auditioning" for a job I don't think I'm going to get, but I'm giving it the old college try.  Only the job is not about acting, and in college I wasn't expected to lie through my teeth.  A pal of mine from Birdie is a producer for a local station and is looking for a promo writer.  I asked if I could apply and he said you have to know how to write.  I said, haughtily, "I have a Ph.D. in Literature!" and he responded just as haughtily, "Not THAT kind of writing!"  I love that.  Anyway, he said I could have a three-day trial--watch the news, then write a 1-3 sentence promo that would make people want to watch that story.  The first thing I learned is that the news is really hard up for things to talk about.  Most of the 30 minutes is weather and sports.  The rest is strangely amplified reports of things like the economy and local real estate.  Which is maybe why they need the promos.

Anyway, I thought my first attempts were completely awesome if maybe a bit exaggerated, but he had the chutzpah to call them boring!  He sent back "revised" versions and I had to restrain myself from writing back, "Oh, so you just want them to be outright LIES?"  Which I meant in a gently amused way--it seems sort of strident in writing.  Which is maybe why I didn't write it.  So last night I tried again (let me tell you how fun it is to watch the news and write stuff about it at 11:00 p.m. after you've been dancing for three hours) and didn't hold back on the hyperbole this time and today he said they were good!  I was so proud!  But he still offered the job to someone else who has, like, EXPERIENCE.  Whatever.  Harumph.  He was really sweet, though, and said if that guy doesn't take the job, he is going to try to promo me to the higher-ups in such a way that they'll consider me, lack of experience notwithstanding.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 24: Adults Are Cray-Cray

Today's topic:  "Talk about how you felt about adults back when you were a kid."

Good one.  Well, on the one hand, I thought they were idiots.  Because when confronted with one they all repeated some version of "Wow!  You're getting so big!"  This seemed moronic to me.  How would they know if I was getting so big?  I didn't even know who the freak they were.  Now the joke's on me because I literally have to squeeze my lips shut to avoid blurting that exact same line every time I'm re-introduced to somebody's kid I haven't seen in a while.  So, repetitive adults of my youth:  I absolve you.

On the other hand (and I find this rather sad now) I thought they were omnipotent.  I figured you weren't "allowed" to get to adulthood without learning absolutely everything about everything.  I remember feeling very secure in this belief.  And it double-went for politicians and teachers and anyone with any sort of obvious power.  I figured they had to be the smartest, wisest, most all-knowing and all-seeing people on the planet.  Sigh.  It was a tough fall from that one, since it wasn't direct.  No, instead, I rolled slowly and awkwardly down a semi-steep incline for years, bashing my head against rocks occasionally, but didn't really hit bottom until recently.  I think having a kid in public school is what finally yanked the remaining tendrils of wool from my eyes.  And that, Readers, is all I'm going to say about that.

What else did I think about adults?  Oh, they liked weird things.  I remember going to a play in New York with some relatives and we had dinner at Sardi's first.  They all got really drunk and ridiculous, and I couldn't for the life of me understand why anyone wanted to drink that foul-smelling brown liquid and then yell a lot of pointlessness for hours.  They also ate weird stuff, like salmon (I still think that) and enjoyed weird games (like bridge.)

I also will never forget showing my 16-year-old babysitter my parents' copy of The Joy of You-Know-What (I really don't want people Googling that) and her explaining that people did this to make babies.  That seemed such a Draconian trade-off, I was practically speechless.  I got my verbal faculties back a few seconds later, however, when she said the words that are etched on my brain:  "And some people just do it for fun."  To which I shouted back: "ONLY DISGUSTING PEOPLE!!!"

What else did I think of adults?  They had boring conversations.  Had unpredictable reactions to stuff I found hilarious.  Stayed up ridiculously late.  Had a weird fixation on ironing and emptying dishwashers--two activities I couldn't see the point of.  They enjoyed "errands," to the exclusion of practically everything else.  They read a lot.  Enjoyed hiking to a pathological degree.  Didn't see why Dolly Madison Zingers were the perfect food.  Were maddeningly dense about why I was currently crying.

More than anything else, they enjoyed screaming at each other, especially when I was trying to fall asleep.  It seemed compulsory that when you became an adult, you had to get married, and when you got married, you had to call each other names.  I wanted no part of that, so I just figured I'd find a way out of getting married.  I made good on that vow for a long time, but eventually, I gave in.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Day #23: Kid Problems

Today's topic is:  "What is the hardest part about being a kid?"

Some people might say "School!" but, clearly, I didn't imbibe that message and voluntarily stayed in school for 30 years.  They might say "Eating your vegetables!" but my mom is a good cook and I didn't mind them.  Perhaps "Sharing with your siblings" but, honestly, it wasn't an issue.  I had my own room, and later, my own car.  I didn't suffer for my own stuff.

I think the hardest part for me is the same as it for Jarrah.  (So why do I forget to be compassionate about it now?)  And that's the lack of CONTROL.  You want to do things now or later or your own way, and someone is there to tell you it's not gonna happen.  It's too dangerous, too late, too expensive, too wasteful, too messy, too close to dinner...whatever.  IT'S NOT UP TO YOU.  When I used to think about being a grown-up, I imagined a magical world where I got to do whatever I wanted.  Readers, that wasn't too far from the truth.

Jarrah gets the most frustrated when we interrupt her playing or movies or snacks with commands about stuff she definitely doesn't want to do, like get ready for school, go to bed, pick up her toys.  Sometimes she flies into an insta-tantrum at these times.  I can be surprised at these sudden transformations, but I also remember that the same sorts of transitions--which at the time seemed arbitrary--used to enrage me, too.

Some of my strongest memories of childhood were being suspended in the amber of someone else's needs, schedules, desires, and feeling like my head was going to explode with the frustration of it.  All those hours spent sitting on curbs alone because my mother was dealing with some other kid and couldn't pick me up right away, those hundreds of trips to Gelson's with my new license (where I became known to every single checker) for what seemed like a teaspoon of flour when I wanted to be out with friends, the stupefyingly long grocery trips when she stocked up for a week of meals for six people and I resorted to stealing candy and hiding it in my underwear just to pass the time.

I remember the countless day trips with my dad that were interrupted by his sudden conviction that we should sweep the garage first, the times I sat at the kitchen table after everyone had left because I wouldn't finish my milk, the many occasions I thought I might die from grief when my friends were all at Knotts Berry Farm without me because I was grounded for something or other.  I distinctly remember losing a boy whom I worshipped, Mark, at 15 because I didn't drive and couldn't get a ride to the Friday night post-temple events where he was becoming distracted by another girl, Tracy.  For a while, he kept calling me, and he just talked and talked of her in raptures.  I remember being absolutely certain that if I could just get myself physically into his field of vision on those nights, Tracy would be invisible.  But alas, I was at home, wheel-less, and he was falling for Tracy unimpeded.

Sigh.  I could really go on forever.  But, in a certain way, these kinds of memories are what makes adulthood all the sweeter.  You can't really do what you want--I can't fly to Greece today, or become a ballerina tomorrow--but I can decide what I want to do this afternoon and drive myself there, and call anyone I want to see, and if I don't feel like spending eons in the grocery store, there's always take-out.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Day #22: Picnick

This afternoon David, Jarrah and I attended the 2nd Annual Pickwick Picnick, which is a summer beach event for people who have been in Pickwick shows.  Although I sometimes feel like a shy outsider, I guess it's sort of official that after three shows, I'm sort of a Pickwick person myself.  They are a really cool bunch of people, many of them teachers, who like theater and kids, which kinda sorta fits my lifestyle to a T.

The Picknick was at Mission Bay, and we were late and missed the three-legged races and whatnot.  Partly, that was because Jarrah was having one of her unpremeditated fits.  During this one, she informed us she would NOT wear her bathing suit; she would NOT even BRING her bathing suit, and no one could make her go in the water.  When David said we were bringing the bathing suit anyway, the fit intensified, but he mildly stood his ground, reminding her that we've met her, and that's why we were bringing it anyway.  Guess how long it took her to decide to put her suit on when we arrived?  In her words, "one second."

Jarrah became fast friends with the daughter of Pippin's choreographer, and her day was pretty much non-stop fun, beginning with a swim in the mysteriously stinky bay, some frolicking in the sand with sand toys, some BBQ-ing of s'mores, a whole bunch of Doritos, and the commandeering of a lifeguard stand after dark.  Really, could a summer day get any better?

I was pleased as punch.  I had a comfy chair with a drink holder cradling a frosty one (that would be root beer), lots of lovely conversation, a perfect s'more, and more conversation.  The day was warm, but a marine layer blew in to cool us down.

As it grew dark and it seemed like things were winding down, I got a wild hare for an impromptu shopping trip for hot dogs and fixin's, and Jessica, Ariel and I had a fun time filling the cart at Keil's.  We were the conquering heroes when we returned with matchlight coals and three different types of dogs, quickly yummed up by the dinner-time crowd.

Situating my chair at the edge of the grass, I was in a great spot to watch the lights twinkling across the bay and the ring of blazing fire pits around us (somehow, our fire didn't quite blaze; it was more of a coy, smoldering coquette.)  Biting into the Nathan's dog I had carefully seared over the glowing coals and then drowned in ketchup and relish, I had to admit that the basic, historic elements of summer never disappoint:  fire against the ocean, sand between the toes, charred dinner on a stick, people to laugh with.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Day #21: Pride

It's late.  Post is due in less than an hour.  And I've been on the move for the past 14.  In that time, we drove and then shuttled to downtown Hillcrest with a pack from the Pippin cast (aka "Pipsters") and roamed both sides of the parade route for over two hours handing out promo business cards.  Our Pippin himself, already 6' 3", wore 5-inch stiletto pumps for this activity, which got us exactly the kind of attention you want at the Pride Parade.  It was quickly apparent that only Pippin and myself were up for selling ourselves to people in gold shorts and duct tape over their boobs, and we developed a pitch that included lines like "Fun, fierce, fabulous, Fosse and lots of other 'F' words!" and "We've got magic to do...some of it on stripper poles!" and "You know you love jazz hands!"  This approach actually worked, and we did manage to distribute nearly 1,000 cards during that time though I got a little hoarse and sweated like the lead singer in a rhumba band.

Afterward, we jumped straight in the car and drove to Encinitas, where we fetched Jarrah from her sleepover at Joy's, and then continued to the OC, where my brother's family is visiting from the Bay Area and my sister's from LA.  Only, for some reason the traffic was at Thanksgiving threat levels, and it took forever.  We even missed the beach trip attended by the entire extended family, but truthfully, we'd had enough sun for the day.  They returned to find us by the pool--and Jarrah in it--and soon she was joined by Thomas, Stella and Lilah, who was totally grooving on swimming with the big kids and grinned through her chattering teeth (that pool's not heated.)

My folks headed out to a fancy party, but the rest of us had dinner at Sharkey's, a Mexican place David and I like that soon became a favorite of the entire crew.  After that, we had some hang-out time and some of my Mom's lemon cake before Lilah's parents had to take her home and the rest of us undertook a very dark walk to the park to play zombies.

By the time we were ready to leave, Jarrah was curled up on the floor waiting to be carried to the car, and I started nodding off during the drive, determined to stay awake to listen to a fascinating "This American Life" account of an expat living in a remote Manchurian village.  And I did.

Home.  Looking forward to sleep after a jam-packed day.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Day #20: Babies vs. Older Kids

Today's topic:  "Which do you enjoy more, babies or older kids?"

Ten years ago, I wouldn't even have had to think.  Older kids all the way.  Babies, as I've mentioned, freaked me out with their myriad inexplicable needs.  Plus I thought they were sort of ugly--all red and squinched and flaily, and then all fat and stoned-looking.  And sometimes--like on the subway--they stared at me until I started to sweat, like "What does he WANT?"

Now I love staring at babies.  I love trying to find their tiny personhood in their eyes, that moment when they start getting all bashful or amazed or amused or just powerfully curious.  I think it's so cool.  I even sort of like holding babies now, though I prefer the ones without the flimsy necks, like Gerbera daisies with bent stems, their bright, heavy centers lolling to one side.  And--dare I admit it?--I even enjoy an endless game of putting the stacking cup on my head, letting it roll off and exclaiming "Uh-oh!" which is apparently the funniest thing on the planet.  Now there's an audience that truly appreciates my gifts.

Also, babies are uncomplicated.  Weirdly, 20 years ago I would have said the opposite, that who the hell knew what they were crying about when I'd just fed them and changed them and burped them and WHY THE HELL WON'T IT SHUT UP AND WILL I BE DOING THIS UNTIL HIS MOTHER COMES HOME???  But they're kind of ALL need, whereas the older kids keep throwing you curve balls, suddenly horrified by the offer of candy, or mad, sad or manic at times you couldn't predict.

But I really do like the idea of older kids.  I just think it would be so cool to hang out with an older kid who thinks I'M cool.  Now that idea is on the horizon in my very own home, so I'm getting a little nervous.  Will I be cool enough?

I thought about babies vs. older kids today while lounging by a lovely rock infinity pool about 30 minutes east of here, at the home of Mary's brother and his family.  Mary and I chatted and soaked in the jacuzzi and basically did our own thing for several hours while Jarrah and Joy whooped it up in the water.  What current Jarrah has in common with baby Jarrah is her love of the pool, but no longer am I gripping little hands and slippy little feet and keeping a hawkeye on that swim diaper.  Now she's up and down the rock slide, splashing with the pool noodles and beach ball, laughing and amusing HERSELF.  That part is both weird and wonderful.  When did she get so good at entertaining herself?  I don't know, but man, my life has changed a lot in five years.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day #19: Banned

Today's topic is:  "How do you feel about kids being banned from such places as restaurants and airplanes?"

Am I missing something?  Last I checked, both those locales were fully stocked with children.  I suppose I'm to assume they're speaking hypothetically.  Well, okay.  I'll play.

I am not a banner.  There's something very oligarchical about the idea.  (Well, I take that back.  I am totally for San Francisco's decision to ban plastic bags, and I hope the ban spreads like wildfire.)  Anyway, I'm not for banning people from anywhere.

Also, my feelings about this have definitely changed.  I used to veer the host sharply away when I saw them leading us towards a table near children--"Oh no." I'd say.  "I want a quiet table."  And I sighed noisily when I saw families approaching me on a plane.

But now, I have been those people.  And it's hard to go back to innocence once you've bitten the apple.    I have been the people whose toddler is screeching bloody murder over something really important and eminently solvable like the buffet has the wrong flavor Jell-O, and who is spreading a tapestry of food around the perimeter, marking our territory.  I've been the people on the plane whose baby missed her nap during a three-hour layover in St. Louis and is now going to sob inconsolably for most of this leg simply because she's too tired to fall asleep.

Once you've been those people, your compassion mushrooms and flowers and spores all over the place.  It grows like the Grinch's heart, and busts the boundaries of whatever was there before.

On the other hand?  I still don't like it.  If David and I are on a date night and have sprung for a babysitter, I will still steer the host away from tables with food-flinging toddlers, because I'm paying for it and I (usually) can.  I still don't love listening to screaming babies on planes (I mean, who does?) though I can't stop myself from giving rueful, sympathetic smiles to the parents.  Ironically, now that Jarrah is a good (and quiet) flyer, she is over babies on planes herself.  A baby was screaming and kicking her seat on a short flight about a year ago, and she stage whispered "I didn't know it was possible for a baby to scream that loud.  Why won't it stop?"

Excellent question, young grasshopper.  One you'll be trying to answer all your life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Day #18: Other People's Kids

Today's topic is "On the whole, do you like other people's kids?"  This seems like a loaded subject that's not easily addressed.  So I'll start with a little story.  When we had recently returned from China, I got an excited call from my friend and fellow new mom, Mary, who had an idea:  "I'll quit my teaching job, and you and I can open a home day care!  Then we can hang out with our babies and other babies all day long!"

"Oh, sweetie," I said sympathetically.  "You seem to be under the impression that I like children."

Now, it's not really true that I don't like children.  Sometimes I think they're the bee's knees.  But it's definitely taken me many years to get it through my head that children are small people.  Babies especially, but even young children, have historically seemed like aliens to me, or at least some other species.  I was never sure what they wanted or what they were going on about.  I feel like that's gotten better since I've been raising one.

A good example comes from my non-illustrious babysitting days.  I babysat, like most unpopular teenage girls, but I didn't like it.  From the awkward meeting with surly short people who seemed disgusted with me through the interminable games of Chutes and Ladders to the cringe-worthy drive home with some silent dad-like person, the whole experience made my skin crawl.  Well, there was one part I liked, and that's raiding the freezers for new kinds of ice cream and chatting on their phone to my boyfriend du jour for hours at a time, going "You hang up.  No, you.  No, really, I'm hanging up.  Oooh, I think I hear the parents.  No, false alarm.  You still there?"  The kids would often say things to me like, "You're not our regular babysitter.  But she's at prom tonight so my mom had to call you."

Before I go, I want to talk about an unrelated item, because I find it funny.  Jarrah is starting to remind me of Wednesday Addams, the deadpan, macabre daughter in The Addams Family.  She carries around books with "Ghost" or "Dead" in the title, and plays zombies until she has nightmares.  She often talks about visiting haunted houses, debating whether it would scare her or not.  When asked her favorite part of The Avengers, she smiled and said "the violence."  When her new babysitter asked her who her favorite Disney princess was, Jarrah said "the evil stepmothers."  No, she didn't really, but she did stare and blink uncomprehendingly, like "What kind of question is that?" 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Day #17: The Push and Pull of Parenting

Today's topic is:  "If you parent, what is the best part of parenting?  If you don't parent, what is the best part of not having kids?"

Well, I guess the second part doesn't apply to me.  But--in hindsight--the best part of not having kids was being able to go to a movie on a whim!  David and I both miss that terribly.  When we first met, and even into the early years of our marriage, it wasn't unusual for us to go to the movies every weekend, or even twice a week.  Now we have to decide "Well, is it worth the $60 it's going to cost to see this trending indie with the shaky, hand-held camera and the sepia flashbacks, or should we just wait for Netflix?"  It just goes to show, you gotta appreciate the little things.

The best part of parenting?  Hmmm.  That's a tough one.  Off the top of my head, I think it might be something similar to what David always said he was looking forward to (and which I then made fun of) and that's "teaching them things."  Not in an academic, didactic way.  More like how they have questions about every little detail of life that they need answered every day, and they think you are definitely the person with the answers.  It gives me an opportunity, every time I have one of these moments, to really think about my reality, my perspective, my values, even how I use language to create meaning.  All of that is so important, because they really hold on to those first few words, and they really, really tune out all the ones that come after.  I always figure I have about four sentences of pure, sweet attention before the young one's mind inevitably strays to the wonder of fruit leather and my chance is gone.

I love how complicated the questions have become.  (So of course now I'm blanking on examples.)  Well, she was really interested in WHY Michael Jackson died, and that was a challenge.  I really don't want to lie about anything, or sugarcoat things, but on the other hand, I don't want to be spewing a lot of US-Weekly-like sensationalism, either.  Hence, I'm trying to sound all nonchalant and off-the cuff while behind the scenes, the little brain elves are running around, shouting orders and searching files.  I love that.

I love, too, the absolute faith that we DO have the answers.  As a teacher, I've had years of experience saying "I don't know.  Good question!" and I have no shame about it.  But it doesn't quite work with Jarrah because she'll furrow her brow and just ask again, and continue asking, as if it doesn't quite compute that I might not know everything.  Which is why when I wrote my stand-up act, I opened with "I'm a mom.  My daughter is six, which means I still know everything.  To her, I'm Google."

This is kind of weird, but another thing I like about parenting is the ability to genuinely make my kid feel better.  Even she has started to notice how competent I am in this area.  A few months ago, I got a call that she had thrown up in her classroom, and I picked her up in the office.  I gave her a big hug, said a lot of soothing things, gave her a warm bath, some tea and got her settled in bed with a little bell in case she needed me.  She gave me a sweet little smile before her nap and said "Wow, Mom.  You're really good at taking care of sick people."  I was all a-glow.  It might sound sort of strange, but when she's sick, she really needs her mommy and can see that I'm there for her.  The rest of the time, she's so independent, she doesn't want me smoochin' on her or helping her do anything.  When she's sick, I get the opportunity to demonstrate that I've learned a thing or two about taking care of a small, helpless person.  Mind you, it wasn't instinctive.  I had to learn on the job, by trial and error, but six years in, I'd say that I have some credentials.

But maybe the best part of parenting is the part I'd have said--a few years ago--is also the worst.  Learning to meet the needs of a demanding little developing id is the biggest boundary-pusher on the planet.  Every possible deal-breaker I've ever had with other people and situations in my life, has been foisted on me and usually at the most inconvenient times possible.  And while I'm sometimes simply aghast that I'm having a screaming fight in a toy store while I'm getting a parking ticket outside, or the same stuffed animal I just lovingly purchased is being thrown at my head, or I'm having to negotiate a complicated argument about vampires vs. zombies while trying not to die in rush hour traffic, or missing an important event because my kid has a fever, or trying to quell a few choice words during a conference with her teacher, or cringing in embarrassment because she's acting like a friend's baby is poisonous, or on my hands and knees scrubbing up some sort of effluvia that previously would not have been there...whew!  I find it's really made me a more flexible person.

And since I was really, really NOT flexible before this whole parenting gig, this can only be considered a good thing.  Last summer in Australia, making plans with a friend who's known me 25 years, I hadn't noticed how much I'd been saying "That's fine!" or "Whatever works best for you!" or "You can just text us when you're ready and we'll find you!" until she fixed me with a slight, sardonic smile and said "What the hell happened to you?  When did you get so flexible?"  And without even knowing I would, I heard myself say "I guess when I became a mom."

Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 16: The Having of Children

Half-way mark!  This is the first NaBloPoMo I've done where it doesn't seem to have increased my traffic or comments.  Which was a bit unsettling at first, but I think I've gotten used to it.  I feel like the discipline in composing something every day is still good for me.

Today's topic is "When did you know you wanted or did not want to have kids?"  Oh, so we're getting serious now.  No more bubble wrap!

This is a weird question for me.  Because I don't remember WANTING kids.  Or NOT wanting kids.  I just assumed I'd have them, and probably a few.  I think this is because of my upbringing.  As the oldest of four, there was never a time I wasn't around kids, or around mothering, since my mom didn't work outside the home.  It just seemed the natural order of things.

Funny word: "natural."  For some reason, I could never picture myself actually HAVING a kid.  I've talked about this before, but the whole idea of getting and being pregnant seemed way too hocus-pocus-y to actually happen to me.  Of course, I also believed I wouldn't be subject to the same biological imperative that caused OTHER people to get pubic hair, either.  So you can see where I was coming from.  

And that's why when I actually did try to get pregnant, after a fairly long adult era of being totally horrified by the idea, it was only a couple months before I concluded, "Welp, just as I thought.  Doesn't work for me."  Which is why it's pretty spooky that this turned out to be true.  And that no one ever figured out why.  Of course they can't figure out why, myself concluded.  They're not freakin' magicians.  

Again and again, we were told we had all the raw materials and factory-standard parts to make people, but year after year, this did not happen.  And while it was devastating, it wasn't surprising.

When people asked why we decided to adopt from China after several years of the ordinary channels failed, they often said things like "You must want a baby so badly."  And truthfully?  Not so much.  There was never a time I saw other people's adorable, tiny attention-hogs and felt my body and soul cry out for this relationship.  My reasons for adopting were far more pragmatic.

When I pictured myself 65, and then tried to picture myself 65 and childless, I couldn't do it.  Or rather, I didn't want to.  I didn't like that picture.  And of course, I understood that in that picture, it would genuinely be too late.  I'd have sailed through my child-bearing (and child-rearing!) years with my fingers in my ears going "LA LA LA" and now I'd have no one to blame but myself if I regretted it.

And I didn't want to regret it.  That fear of regret--nay, that strong instinct that I WOULD regret--is what spurred me on.  It was time to get my ducks in a row so I could avoid the regret that would inevitably follow if I didn't.

Does this sound cold or calculating?  That's okay.  I often say that people who have biological children have the LUXURY OF AMBIVALENCE.  They can sit around all day going, "Uh, what have we done?" but a few seconds of romping and red wine is still going to yield them a family whether they're in the mood or not.  When you decide to adopt, you have to be cold and calculating.  After all, what's less natural and organic and beautiful than months and months of paperwork and interviews and fingerprinting?  You have to stay focused on the end result, but when it's midnight and you're making an hour's worth of copies at Kinko's because the notary is coming first thing in the morning, it's hard to feel all swoony and romantic about it.

But the beautiful and natural thing that does happen?  Is that some day, a baby arrives, and the circumstances may be strange, and you may be on the other side of the planet having just spent two hours on a bus with strangers and your baby may be wearing red leather boots and have a lollipop in her mouth and you may feel like you're in a dream with all the other babies bashing into your shins with their walkers while they scream and snot their lungs out, but someday, and probably someday really soon, you realize that you love this little person fiercely, terribly, swoonily, NATURALLY and that, whatever your reasons and methods that preceded this moment, you are now a PARENT in love with YOUR child, and you will lift schoolbuses if you must to make sure your child is safe and happy.

And that part?  Is just as spooky and mystifying as all the other crap.  And just as true.