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.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Day #15: Skeptical

I can now tell you that David has been in Vegas for the past five days, and for once, not for work.  He was there voluntarily for a "skeptics conference," which I quote because I'm still not sure what that is.  It has a name, but since I'm not in the business of promoting it, I don't have to post it, so there.  Not that I begrudge David of his man-cation.  In all these years, he's only ever wanted to go on two, and they were both this year.  First, the race cars, and now this, whatever it is, that he claims is totally unrelated to hookers and blow.

So, since I've just fetched him from the airport and driven (with two breaks) for four hours, I'll limit tonight's post to the things I know so far about this conference.  Mind you, my perspective is limited to bullet-points.  Now that I have that advisory bulletin out of the way, here goes:

1.  It was around 114 in Vegas, but that's only hearsay, because David did not leave his hotel the entire time.

2.  The first day, he had lunch with Yau-Man from Survivor: Fiji, which weirdly, is like the only Survivor out of like 20 we haven't watched.

3.  He posted a photo to Instagram of two indeterminate young people dancing in the altogether to a band called No God.  I commented, "Are they nekked?  Is that what they're skeptical of?  Clothes?"

4.  One late-night event following the day's panels was called "The Bacon and Donuts Party," and was hosted by Penn of Penn & Teller.

5.  Another day, a man who claims to be my shy, self-effacing husband but may just be posing as him, flagged down, at a brisk trot, the very same Penn, saying he had a story to tell him (?) that he was going to find really funny. (??)  He never got to finish the story due to some interruption, which annoys him.  (???)

6.  I received a text from this same husband saying he'd just attended some panel that was life-changing because it presented a "new" way to understand something in physics.  Yes, please tell me more about that, but first:  Prop me up, will ya?  And then get me an espresso, stat.

7.  One of the panels was upsetting.  I don't know why yet.  Hopefully, it's not because it provided the exact date and time of the impending zombie apocalypse Jarrah keeps talking about.

8.  He didn't sleep much, and actually had to nap one of the days, foregoing some riveting panel in order to do so.

9.  I received the following text:  "Just saw the second guy under 30 in a kilt.  This was not a fashion I was aware of."  

10.  We're glad he's home, and he hasn't tried to talk us into joining anything...yet.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Day #14: Road Trip

Jarrah and I are visiting my sister, her husband and my gorgeous niece, Lilah, in LA tonight.  I know I keep making excuses for why these posts are getting in just under the wire, but there you have it. 

Lindsey has just moved to a fabulous new house in Redondo Beach and we needed to see it.  Jarrah's first review:  "Wow!  How can they afford this?" which is how you know how nice it is.  I'm especially excited by the giant rooms devoid of furniture so I can practice my dance moves.

Lilah just gets cuter all the time.  I love how she grins at you and says "hi!" in this very encouraging way when she likes what you're doing, and narrows her eyes and says "BYE" when she doesn't.  I also love how she covers only one eye like a pirate when she's playing peekaboo.  She's an all-around delightful baby who doesn't even require sleep, apparently, since she stays up around the clock whenever I see her.  Battery-free non-stop fun!

Jarrah gets a little cranky with all this baby-love.  After all, she's always been the baby.  She doesn't like me paying attention to anyone else.  At one point we couldn't find her for ages and finally located her in a tiny corner of the backyard.  When I asked her to come in, she said "But this is the place where I can be alone with my feelings!"  Man, that kid is my daughter.

She was sulky enough that I saw the wisdom in her staying home with her uncle and watching a movie while my sister and I had a girls night out.  We tried this amazing place, the Tin Roof Cafe, which was bursting with patrons and hot waiters, and was also delish.  It was fun and unusual for us to catch up over a glass of wine and a strawberry-rhubarb parfait without anyone interrupting us.

Now I'm about to turn in and everyone is already upstairs.  Jarrah's zipped into her sub-zero sleeping bag on the air mattress and I'll curl up in the inviting bed with the fluffy duvet next to it.  Tomorrow Thomas can go back to dealing with the four crazy women of various ages under his roof. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Day 13: Save a Horse

Today's prompt is "Do you worry on Friday the 13th, or do you think the whole superstition is a joke?"  Well, I can think the whole superstition is a joke and still worry, right?  Because that's the option I choose.  I'm like Cassie in A Chorus Line, paraphrased:  "I'm a dancer--a dancer dances!"  Only substitute "worrier" and "worries."  It's my avocation.

Today, I worried that something horrible would befall my car while I was driving to and from Encinitas.  Indeed, it does make a sort of disconcerting "ker-chunking" sound in traffic, like it's kvetching about having to accelerate and decelerate for such piddling distances.  But I have no way of knowing if that's a genuine worry or just my car trying to say "eh, I'm old, give me a minute."

Anyway, we made it there and back and had a lovely time.  It was a good day, too.  Not only did I get Jarrah to camp on time with her lunch in hand (something I could not claim yesterday) but we swung through University Heights on the way to retrieve a red bellhop hat from the privet hedge of someone I don't know (ah, the unpredictable life of a theater geek.) Then, cappuccino outside at Con Pane (yum) my voice lesson and some brush-up work on my harmonies that I always enjoy, followed by a meeting at Azucar in OB so I could hand-off two big bags of props to Geoffrey.  Did I mention I somehow got backed into being Props Mistress for an upcoming show?  I probably did.  Anyway, my list is almost complete, making it feel like a successful treasure hunt.  I'm especially proud of the pistol with the barrel featuring tiny portraits of nudie women that is actually a lighter.  Score!

Having slogged through Friday afternoon slowdown on the way to Encinitas, Jarrah and I were rewarded with fun and company for our Friday evening.  She reveled in Barbie mayhem and pasta, and I introduced Mary to the wonder that is Cinepolis for a 21-and-over showing of Magic Mike with cocktail service and fully-reclining Laz-y-Boys.  The movie was great fun, though now more than ever I am deeply puzzled by the purported appeal of a dude in a leather thong. We followed that up with a lovely al fresco dinner at Tinleaf, my favorite place in North County, and the evening was as thick and balmy as beachside in Honolulu.

Hopefully, I can make it from here to the bed without incident.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Day 12: It's Late, So...

I can't decide if I'm the slowest person in the room to learn the choreography, or if I'm just the only one who admits when I don't know it.  I definitely ask the most questions.  And want to repeat the dance the most times.  Sometimes I wonder if everyone is struggling with the same stuff but they're just keeping their mouth shut.  But see, I don't see the valor in silence in this sort of enterprise.  If I learn it wrong, or fuzzily, then I'll have to unlearn or relearn it so I can do it right for an audience.  I'm not a vague performer.  I have to move in a definitive way or I won't feel like myself.

The last couple of nights, when we've been learning "War Is A Science" and "Morning Glow," I've felt the choreography getting easier.  Well, I mean, it actually is easier.  "War" is performed while perched on wooden stools, and while my feet certainly aren't still, at least my ass is.  It can stay in one place while I figure out where my hands and feet go.  That's a large portion of my body that's out of harm's way.

"Morning Glow" is mostly logistics.  We're holding "orbs" of light in one hand and have a flashlight tucked into our belts for later.  In one bit, I'm sinking to one knee while shutting off my orb in one hand and digging for the flashlight and turning it on with the other.  Apparently, other people are also singing during this part, but I'm like, do I look like an assembly line to you?  One thing at a time, people.  My super-cute little friend, Cody, who stands near me, reminded me to dig out the flashlight and have it in my hand during an earlier portion when I'm striding across the stage, keeping it under my hand so people can't see it.  That really helped.  Like I said:  logistics. 

It's all massive heaps of fun, though.  I come out of there really overheated, especially my feet in my new, professional "jazz" shoes, which feel like tiny Mt. Vesuviuses.  But they really do help with the spinning.  I couldn't make it all the way around without the shoes. 

Now if I can just remember to enter on cue, stay in sync, sing the top line of the four part harmony while I'm throwing my orbs around and not drop my flashlight with a great clatter on the wood stage, I'll be golden. 

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Day #11: Trying

Sigh.  This was a bit of a hard day.  I mean, it could always be worse.  But I was close to tears a couple of times.

Last night, on my way home from rehearsal, my dashboard lights came on.  This did not seem promising after how much my car had been poked and prodded all day.  David was hopeful that it was just some kind of loose electrical connection.

This morning I went to get my hair colored, a visit that was long overdue.  I spent about 15 minutes lamenting to my hair gal that I might not be able to color my hair anymore because my scalp is SO FREAKIN' ITCHY ALL THE TIME.  Seriously, I don't know what to do about it.  There's no flakiness, no redness: just itchiness.  And it makes me want to crawl out of my skin sometimes.  She listened with Concerned Face but is obviously not a doctor and had no clue what I should do about this.  Not that a doctor would know, either (and I say this knowing that a dear dermatologist friend of mine would heartily agree.)

So I did my hair anyway, consequences be damned.  And it did cheer me to see how good it looks.  Then, not wanting to tempt Fate any further, I drove straight back to Midas.

And lucky I did, too.  Turns out that "re-manned" alternator from yesterday?  The one I've been using for less than 24 hours?  Had failed.  The battery was quickly going dead, and I'm lucky (see? something to celebrate about this day!) I didn't end up stranded somewhere.

Instead, I ended up stranded at Midas, where at least they were actively fixing my car at the time.  They made some noise about another re-manned alternator, and though I don't know a thing about cars, this time I had a strong opinion:  "I want a new alternator.  Where can one procure one of those?"  The Midas gal, perky and adorable, felt sheepish enough to make a run up to Miramar solely on my behalf, and was able to locate one within a couple hours.  And since the previous one was still under warranty (snort) I only had to pay the difference.

So I spent another four hours hanging out at Coco's.  I'm learning a lot about their menu.  Most items, even innocuous-sounding things like a turkey sandwich, are upwards of 1,000 calories.  But the cream of broccoli soup, which I've always loved, is 220 for a generous bowl.  So that's something new I learned.

While I was chillin' at Coco's, and later at Starbucks, I realized that I felt shaky and near tears.  Why?  I asked myself.  "Self, why don't you celebrate the thing you're always saying you want?  Several hours with nowhere to be when you can just read in peace?"  But somehow being forced to do it was stressful for me.  I also had to do some frantic texting to find someone to pick up Jarrah from camp.  My Midas friend had assured me they'd have my car ready in time for dismissal.  I believed that like I believed they didn't break my air conditioner, so I promptly started looking.  Guess who was right?

Tonight at rehearsal I started noticing that I'm standing in the back a lot.  I mean, it's okay.  Someone has to stand in the back.  But, me being me, I suddenly decided to take it personally today.  And maybe because I was already feeling shaky and teary I had to kind of buck myself up a couple of times to stay focused rather than dissolve into a spacey blob who couldn't follow anything that was happening.  And I think I managed that, mostly.  One of the cute teenagers in the show, who has been a dancer all her life, responded to my claim that learning choreography "is more difficult for me mentally than physically" with a cute whisper between cues:  "Dancing has been shown to ward off dementia."

Well, then.  I better do a whole lot more of it.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Day #10: Bubble Wrap

Today's topic:  "Bubble wrap:  do you love to pop it or not?"

Ah, finally a subject on which I consider myself informed.  I LERVE bubble wrap.  Well, popping it, anyway.  I've never had much use for it otherwise.  Sure, sure, I know you're supposed to pack stuff in it, but I tend to squirrel it away in closets and then I forget I have it and end up using newspaper, so it doesn't fulfill its intended function.

But the popping part is awesome.  I especially like those marshmallow-sized cells where the sensation of pressing your thumb against it is like puncturing a water bed; it's so swollen, it's ridiculous. 

When I lived alone, I happily popped with impunity, often while multi-tasking during an activity like watching TV or writing something for school.  Living with David and Jarrah has changed all that, sadly.  She will come caroming around the corner at first pop, wanting her own piece of the action, and David will permit only about five pops before he yells for us to stop it.  Which is kind of weird, now that I think about, because he is generally tolerant of all other things that would annoy the hell out of me. 

I can respect his position, but it's still sad.  Sometimes popping a full sheet of bubbles does give one the sensation of having achieved something, or at least completed it satisfactorily, and there's not much I can say that about.  So it feels good.

What didn't feel good was the past six hours, when I wandered and sweated up and down Mission Gorge while my car was at Midas.  They were able to determine pretty quickly that the R2D2 noise was "a blown diode on my alternator."  I put that in quotes because I'm proud of myself for remembering it.  They said there was no telling when the other diodes would blow, and I didn't like the sound of that.  It took exactly the two hours to fix they said it would, during which time I drank a lot of coffee at Coco's, texted and contemplated glitter nail polish at the CVS.  I picked up the car and started for home, looking forward to a shower. 

Then I noticed that the A/C, which I had just turned down from the wind tunnel setting someone had left it on during the test drive, was no longer conditioning in any perceptible way.  In fact--I noted now that I'd driven about three blocks--no air of any kind, conditioned or otherwise, was emerging from my vents.  I made some phone calls, all involving long periods of holding and a lot of repetition, only to be told by someone that the alternator and whatever this was seemed unrelated.

Well, I have to admit, I can't argue with that.  If you'd told me that the engine and gasoline seemed unrelated, I couldn't argue with that, either.  Not my area.  Know what my area is, though?  Analytical thinking.  And that was telling me that if my air conditioner was working when I arrived at Midas, but wasn't working at all when I left, Midas was in some fashion responsible. 

I was more than a little worried I would cry when I told them this.  For one thing, I often cry in these situations, which is sometimes helpful, sometimes not.  For another, I was feeling hot, tired, frustrated and out of control, and those things (if you add hunger you have a sure thing) often lead to crying.  Amazingly, I did not cry, nor did I yell.  I explained that I'm a good customer, and not just of oil changes.  Then I explained my theory about this particular coincidence.

I'd like to say that I convinced them, or that they had to admit I was right.  Nope.  In fact, they were still swearing it was a coincidence when I picked up the car another two hours later.  But they did decide to comp me for the part and labor, which perhaps testifies more to the skill of my argument than anyone agreeing with me might have.  At any rate, I was happy to agree about the coincidence if it meant I didn't have to pay any more money to be fanned with cool air as I drive around in July. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Day #9: Opinionated

Eek!  I'm a hot mess.  It's almost 11:00, just got home from rehearsal, not exaggerating about the "hot mess" part because I'm sweaty and disheveled from two hours of dancing.  Tonight's routine is called "Aggressive Ladies."  I wonder why I got cast in that one.  Hmmm.  Someone trying to tell me something?

Also I can't find my NaBloPoMo topics.  You're like, what?  Isn't it on your computer somewhere?  Or on their website?  Well, sure, and probably.  Can't find it anyway.

And my car sounds like R2D2.  That's what Liz said when I was leaving.  I just had it serviced but it's making this sighing squeal when I accelerate.  Back to the fix-it shop in the morning.  Great.

So, guess what?  I was wrong about the Pirates.  They did not sweep San Diego.  Far from it.  In fact, it seemed like some sort of conspiracy, they won so little.  They were surprised.  The audience was surprised.  Even the people who won were surprised.  It's the first year that I remember so much behind-the-scenes scandale with the 48.  David and I had a fun night at the Best Of anyway, because we had VIP reserved seats, and because it was like the Oscars, with nominees and the Voice of Disneyland announcing them.  Pretty awesome.

David wants me to tell you a funny Jarrah story from yesterday.  When I lived in University Heights, we frequented a tiny hole-in-the-wall place called El Zarape for the most amazing potato burritos.  Now they've expanded into a swanky location with table service and tequila.  We had seen it driving by and decided to give it a shot.  We walked in and I was taking in the bright tile and cheery decor but I guess something else caught Jarrah's eye before we were even seated:  the wall of Virgin Mary statuettes and crucifixes.  The waitress was seating us when Jarrah announced in a very loud, slightly officious voice:

"This place isn't very Jewish."

David and I snorted back our laughter as the waitress smiled in a sort of unspecific way and offered us menus without comment.  I felt like we should say something, but I wasn't sure what.

I guess she kinda said it all.  I mean, it wasn't like she was wrong.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Day #8: Cafe Culture

Jarrah has enjoyed playing "waitress" as long as I can remember.  This blog contains several posts about her early forays into the food industry, when she used to widen her eyes at "customers" and shout  "PIZZA?  OK!" before sprinting into the "kitchen" to retrieve this universal order.

She still loves playing waitress, but she's gotten ever more sophisticated with age.  Sometimes, I come around the corner to discover a table has been moved to become a "hostess stand" where she can ask about our reservation.  Now that she can write, she presents us with a detailed menu (the sides are always "with a side of anything you like") and--alas--a detailed bill, and these places aren't cheap.  She also takes our order on a little pad, and wears an apron she received at a kids cooking event.

I like to engage her in the same kind of chit-chat I would with an actual waitress just to see how she handles it, and the results are always priceless.  She tends to get really fixated on whatever I bring up.  Witness this morning:

J:  Hello!  Have a seat!  Do you like this lovely set-up?  (The couch features a dog bed with a plastic salt and pepper shaker and a ketchup container niftily supporting a stand-up menu)

S:  I do!  Thank you!  You have quite the extensive menu here.  How long you been open?

J:  A while now.

S:  Great!  I'll take a coffee and the chocolate-chip pancakes.

J:  Coming right up!

She returns with a tray containing a coffee cup, a pitcher of coffee, a smaller pitcher of creamer, and a spoon.  Nice, I think.  Attention to detail.  Someone goes to a LOT of restaurants.

S:  This is delicious coffee!  Tastes like Kona?  Did you have it shipped in from Hawaii?

J:  Oh yes!  The owner had to wait for the ship to arrive so it took a long time for us to open.
She puts down a plate with two plastic hamburger buns.  Can you just pretend these are pancakes?  Thanks.  

S:  Great service here!  

J:  Thanks!  It's just me today.  Normally, the owner helps me out, but he's off getting more Kona.

S:  Oh wow, so you're cooking and serving?  That's a lot.

J:  Yeah.  Also the owner sometimes spends all our money on Kona, so then I have to work harder to get us some money.

S:  Sounds like the owner has a little bit of a Kona problem.

J:  Yeah.  You should come back tomorrow.  We're having Couples Days.  You can come with your kids, your friends, even your husband.  Even teenagers think we're great for the romance.

S:  I might just do that.

J:  I also have a competition where I decide who's best for the romance.

S:  Awesome.

Occasionally, I'm not in the mood to drop everything and go to the restaurant where plastic food and imaginary Kona is served.  But I usually remind myself that this run has already been extended several times and probably must close soon.  The Broadway of pretend waitress will inevitably go dark.  And that will be a sad day.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Day #7: Under the Wire

Oops!  Just got home and realized I only have a few minutes to keep up with my July goal.  It's fitting that I should be doing NaBloPoMo this month since in July 2011 I managed to post nearly every day while on our amazing trip to Australia.  Can't believe it's already been a year.  We're talking about making it a biannual trip, though, so hopefully I'll be back soon.

Because it's a weekend, I have no assigned topic, so I'll keep this short.  Just returned from a lovely night out with some Birdie peeps to see Rent at the Birch Theater in North Park.  This was remarkable for a few reasons.  First, I've never seen Rent, except the movie, which I hated.  I have to admit that it's one of those shows (like A Chorus Line, my fave) that just doesn't work on screen.  It's got to have that visceral, chunky live quality or it seems self-indulgent and tedious.  This I enjoyed.

I did have a bit of a fright, though, when my friend John (who knows him from the same place) pointed out my old nemesis Charles from a certain despotically-ruled jazz revue in which we appeared two years ago.  He was the stage manager who taunted and yelled at me, well, everyone, really, but John wasn't bothered by it.  He's not bothered by anything.  Luckily, he didn't have a big enough part to throw me off my game, but it was still disconcerting.  His voice is nice, but I wouldn't offer testimonial to the rest. 

It was also my first time back in the Birch since being on the other side with The Vagina Monologues.  It felt odd to sit in one of the velvet chairs and face the stage rather than be on stage (or in the wings) facing out.  But I got over it quickly--the theater is a gorgeous piece of art deco history and the acoustics are incredible.  I totally teared up during "Seasons of Love," as I knew I would.  At intermission, I sprinted out to the bathrooms so I wouldn't have to wait in line and once I'd locked the door realized I was in the same stall where I'd changed into my costume last year.  What a different time that was!

Along with Birdie peeps Ryan, Candace and John, also got to see Ben--he was our editor for 48 Hours this year.  I told him it was refreshing to have a conversation when we'd both slept the night the before.  I also got to thank him in a coherent way for how great he was to work with, and how talented. 

Oh, and I've decided to go to the Best of San Diego with David tomorrow night.  I really am curious to see the other films and decided I just need to get over myself.  I figure if I get into any awkward situations, I can use my acting skills to get out gracefully.  Yeah, because that always works for me.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Day #6: Messin' Around

Today's prompt is "Do you come right out and tell people when you're joking around, or do you leave them guessing?"

Well, Readers, this is actually a dilemma I face often.  I have a bit of a deadpan, sarcastic style, and since I flatter myself that I'm also rather creative, I sometimes (who am I kidding?  almost DAILY) make a comment that has a person I don't know well saying in a high, flutey voice "REALLY?  Wow, uh, um, really?"

And then I have a choice.  If they seem genuinely at sea, I tend to take pity and throw them a lifejacket, in the form of a big, reassuring smile and a "No, not really."  But if they seem like they're just having a momentary lapse but are mostly down for this duel, I go even more deadpan and say "Of course." and then I add something even more unsavory and odd to follow up.  And that can go on for a while.

Now, if the person is really, really good, time goes by, and we keep this ball in the air, and eventually I no longer know if THEY'RE kidding and I start to panic and flail and my snorkel fills with water and I have to come up spluttering, crying uncle.  That's a moment that's both exciting and frustrating, because  it's fun but it means I lose.

Speaking of losing (prepare yourself for a big segue here) I am feeling so, so bitter about how the 48 Hour Film Project turned out this year.  Because, honestly, I get why the audience wouldn't choose us first (especially with those ahoy-matey Pirates in the mix) because the subject matter is a little self-consciously clever and the dialogue is complicated, getting funnier with multiple viewings, which that audience doesn't get.

But the judges?  Aren't they supposed to be filmmakers?  Which means they love self-consciously clever?  I mean, the one they're loving all over quotes Butler and Kristeva, for Pete's sake.  And you can't fault our mise-en-scene, which looks beautiful, or our acting, which is the strongest ever.  Plus, it's funny.  I mean, the audience laughed a LOT.  So what the @#$%&*?  It's even harder this year because instead of just finding out if you get an award at the Best Of, there are nominations for things.  And we didn't even get nominated!  Nor did we get chosen for the Best Of, for the first time in, like, five years.  Oh, it stings heartily, it does.

David still plans to attend the Best Of, because he's giving a Go-Pro award (though between you and me I think he would go anyway because he's a better sport than I am) but I am loathe to put on heels and a fake smile for an occasion where I am a has-been.  To fly so high last year!  And to melt our waxen wings and plummet back to earth!  It really hurts.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Day #5: Premature Ignition

Today's prompt is "What prank do you wish you had the guts or expertise to pull off?"

Seriously, people?  With the pranks again?  I must say it scares me a bit to think of people needing "expertise" for pranks.  Shudder.  What a weird world.  What if we used our guts and expertise to find ways to be nice to each other?  Which actually reminds me of when I was a surly middle-schooler lurking at the Clinique counter, no doubt applying lipstick over and over again, and idly watching a handsome man quizzing the Clinique girl about all her favorite products, which he planned to purchase for "someone special."  She seemed giddy with delight, no doubt anticipating a big commission or something, picking out lipstick after lotion after shadow and watching them all stack up on the counter between them.  He paid, asked her to box up the whole lot, then gently pushed it toward her with his business card on top.  "Enjoy.  Have a nice day.  Call me?"  And then he strode away without a backward glance.  She was so gobsmacked she whirled around and gripped my shoulders with her shiny red talons, squealing "OMG!  OMG!  Did you see that?"  I nearly drew a line of Luscious Lilac across my cheek.  I assured her I had indeed seen it, and suggested she call him, since he was a stone cold fox.  I wonder what ever happened there.

Last night we had a new fireworks experience--on the beach at La Jolla Shores.  We were able to do this because of the generosity of Joy's grandparents, who had us over for a BBQ before the show.  That meant we had a parking space, and then we could just walk.  Jarrah and Joy were thrilled to be at the beach at night, and due to the unseasonably chilly night, it wasn't even very crowded.  We curled up in our blankies and admired first the La Jolla Country Club display and then the show across the cove.  The only hitch was that Jarrah and Joy got into a spat because Joy wanted to curl up with her mum and watch the fireworks and Jarrah didn't see any reason to interrupt her industrious tunneling to the center of the earth.  The sky was literally exploding all around her shadowy little figure, and she remained hunched, head down, digging.  Later, she sulked and cried a little, because "I don't understand the point of fireworks!" Which is kind of odd but also funny.  And I admire that she has a mind of her own and doesn't just succumb to that mindless crowd mentality that it's supposed to be, like, impressive or beautiful or something (whatever) when the sky is crackling with sparkly, colorful designs.

It's a funny thing, because if we hadn't gone to La Jolla, we were thinking about springing for a harbor cruise where we could watch the downtown fireworks from the water.  And--I know this sounds like a joke--the big scandale is that the "Big Bay Boom" (snicker) suffered from "premature ignition" last night and the whole shebang went up in one hot mess ball in 10 seconds, five minutes before the thing was even supposed to start.  In the videos that are everywhere today, you can hear the patient masses (who are not in Jarrah's camp) going "WHOOOOO!" for that 10 seconds, and then...all was silence.  OOPS!  Some heads are gonna roll over that one.

We even figured out a secret way to drive home without any traffic, so that was awesome, too.  A very nice 4th indeed.  How was yours?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Day #4: Happy 4th!

Today's prompt is "Describe what the 4th of July was like for you as a child."  Hmmm.  Why don't I remember that?  I guess we weren't big celebrators of holidays.  I remember fireworks, and I remember ocean, so my guess is we went somewhere to watch the fireworks over the ocean.  I do have the sense that fireworks lasted for several hours when I was a child, which means that 15 minutes starts to seem a lot different the older you get.

One thing I have been thinking about is how many "family parties" or gatherings we went to where I brought a book and kept my head in it the whole time.  Lately Jarrah has been bringing a book--usually one of her graphic novels--when we go someplace she might be bored, and it really warms my heart to see this.  Yesterday, I had a theater meeting in OB and she read Diary of a Wimpy Kid the whole time, nearly an hour.  Love that!

I guess I was older (I hope I was) but I remember lots of parties where I was far too engrossed in a big, thick paperback from the Flowers in the Attic series (man, those make the Twilight books look like The Very Hungry Caterpillar) to interact with (sniff) PEOPLE.  There was this one family my parents liked to spend holidays with, and they had a big, sprawling house with a pool and a games room but they had two sons and I certainly wasn't going to talk to BOYS.  People would approach me timidly to say there was a game going on somewhere and I'd glare and say "I'M READING."  That would be it for the night, usually.  At some point, I'd eat a slightly weird-tasting hamburger and maybe some ice cream and then I was right back to the book, until someone would mercifully say it was time to go, many hours later.

My strongest memory of this family, though, comes from a time we hadn't seen them in a couple years and now I was in high school.  We went back for one of those house parties but this time it was all different.  Turned out the oldest son and I were the same age and liked the same music (probably something really edgy like Foreigner) and we went to his room to play records and gossip about school.  I don't remember there being anything romantic afoot, more that we were finally on the same page and had lots to say, but I think his dad threw open the door we'd closed for privacy and saw us lounging on his bed and freaked out, saying the door had to stay open and why couldn't we turn off that infernal racket and come join the party.  We were both a little puzzled, realizing we'd been told to interact for years but now that we were, it was suspicious.  And I think we laughed about this a bit.

I don't remember seeing them after that, but I bet I'm wrong.  But, of course, once all the kids were older, we weren't as likely to be all together at these parties.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Day #3: Meditative Fruit

Today's official topic is "Write about the best prank you ever pulled."  Well, right there, I'm out.  I can't think of any pranks I've pulled because quite frankly, the idea horrifies me.  I'm so gullible myself that I buy into practical jokes with a pathetic earnestness and then stand there, betrayed, fighting back tears.  But more about my childhood later.  What I learned from it, in short, is that tricking people doesn't seem all that funny.  Moving on!

Instead I'll talk about an experience I had with my child yesterday that previously we hadn't shared, even though at one time it was very important to me.  That sounds all very portentous but I'm referring to "paint your own ceramics."

Oh, she's done it before.  Many times.  Lots of birthday parties where they're allowed to choose a puppy or a panda and she heedlessly sploshed a lot of dissonant colors over the thing and moved on to the cupcakes.  But we'd never gone together, and hence, she'd never experienced the the event that is Mommy with a Mug and a Paintbrush--A Still Life.  Very still, because I can do it for like eight hours.  And have.  Back in the pre-child days, when David often worked until 11:00, I frequented a wonderful place in Del Mar with my friend, Sara, who has since moved away.  Run by two older women, it was huge, bathed in light, filled with music and didn't charge by the hour.  They also encouraged us to bring in coffee and pie from the cafe next door.  Why would I ever leave?

Jarrah takes an expedient approach to art.  It's not that she doesn't like to create.  No, she can spend an entire restaurant meal coloring in the menu, and our home "decor" attests to her daring feats with the kiddie scissors.  It's more that she's not a lingerer.  I actually have laboratory evidence for this hypothesis based on the year I spent "teaching" art in her classroom.  She was pretty much in the top three finishers on every project.  Rather than seeing it as impatience, I prefer to see it as conviction.  She has no angst about her choices.  She plunges ahead, consequences be damned.  She knows when the stakes are low--something that I've never figured out.

But this time, I wanted to introduce her to MY way.  I laboriously explained the need for multiple coats (you don't want patchiness!), checking your colors with the finished swatches, choosing sponges, Q-tips, toothpicks, etc. for "effects," and the importance of sketching in pencil first (it burns off!)  She looked skeptical through all of this, but was polite.  She had chosen a turtle; I, a mug.  To humor me as much as anything, she took the pencil and drew on eyes, a mouth, and some shell art.  I set to work researching "fruit images" on my phone.

"You're texting NOW?" she asked incredulously.  No, more that I've realized the never-ending usefulness of my iPhone, which enables me to view not only images of fruit, but how to draw them.  "How did you learn to draw like that?" she wondered.  I'm really not very good.  But fruit is my obsession, and I do my best.  This time, I was expanding into citrus--a lemon and orange slice.  Whoa, kind of crazy, I know.  But I gotta branch out from pears, grapes and cherries in order to stay fresh.

So what it amounts to is, I was still drawing when she was done.  Which I knew would happen.  That's where the iPhone comes in again, to provide entertainment while I lost myself in filling in those impossibly tiny citrus cells, breathing into it, feeling like it's one of the few places where I'm not on the verge of a panic attack.  I really need to do it every week--it's cheaper than therapy and, unlike drugs, the only side effect is a house full of fruit-covered plates and bowls.  And there are worse things I could do.

As for Jarrah, I think she'd be willing to paint ceramics with me again.  But only if I get her a second animal, or put more games on my phone.