Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Douchely Priest

I made a book of my mom's paintings for my dad for Christmas. He thought about it for awhile, and decided that my mom would have loved to have been published, and because of that, we should offer the book to her friends and family. I used a publisher who prints books on demand, and while not horrifically expensive, it's a premium service, and, so, the books cost a bit more than a similarly sized book in a store. But the results are professional, and personal, all at once. This isn't a sales pitch, but feel free to check out the link to the publisher's site, on the right, if you'd like to see more of my mother's paintings, or if you're interested in getting a copy of the book.

Earlier in the week, I sent out an invitation to the "book release" to many family friends, including a bunch of people who were invited to her memorial, back in July. I even reach out to several of my mother's so-called friends who came up with incredibly lame excuses to not attend her memorial. I figured that enough time had passed that I had no right to be irritated anymore. I'm not sure what I was thinking.

One lame-ass, no-show wrote back to me yesterday simply saying, "How is your baby growing?" While I appreciate an interest in my incredibly glorious son, I hate when someone ignores my question. I didn't mention my kid in my invitation; I mentioned my mother's book.

You may recall I lost my mind in early July at the volume of douchery my sisters and I encountered from some of my mother's so-called friends, at their reasons for not attending my mother's memorial. Specifically, you may recall I went off on the priest friend for suggesting we hold the event on a different day to accommodate his schedule. I even went as far as to intimate he was on crack, and I wrapped up the diatribe by calling him Fr. Massengill. Yeah, yeah, I know it's "wrong" to suggest that a "man of God" is on crack, and probably even a mortal sin to call him Fr. Massengill, but I have no regrets. Even with a bit of time and distance between then and now, and the lack of pregnancy hormones coursing through my present-day veins, I still feel the same way. The guy is a douche, priest or not.

Yesterday, I received this message from him:

Hi Chrissy, thanks for the e mail. I am sorry I was out of the country during your moms memorial. I will take a look at the book ad after I close this note to you. I am wondering about a pencil drawing your mom made of my hiking boots. She said at one point that she was going to give it to me. I think it was just before you moved out of Howell. I no longer recall what happen, I think she just liked it so much she decided to keep it. We then lost track of each other. I have some interest in that drawing if it is still around. I actually still have and use the boots. If I can acquire the drawing somehow let me know. Take care. Fr.MASSENGILL

Note: that is his text, verbatim, save for the very last word — his name — which I changed to protect his identity. Sort of. The creative use of punctuation, and the sense that the note was written by one who acquired a bit of English as an adult, are all his own. Also, I want to note that I didn't alter his words (other than his name) at all to show, too, that he's a cheap bastard, or not much of a hiker, or both. I remember when my mom made that drawing: I was a junior in high school, which would have been 1985-1986. What sort of guy who likes to hike, AND gets free room and board courtesy of his parishioners, wouldn't buy a new pair of stinking hiking boots after all those years?

I had a crazy day yesterday, but had enough time to forward the note to my father and sisters. My dad said he'd look for the drawing of the boots when he got home, but I kinda wished he hadn't bothered: my mother was very generous with her art, especially if she used you, or a pair of your shoes, as inspiration. Also, once she discovered watercolors, she was very eager to get rid of her pencil drawings; she was SO over them. I'm not sure why: her pencil drawings rocked. Anyway, the fact that she withheld the drawing of the hiking boots from Fr. Massengill says that he probably pissed her off after she finished the drawing, but before she picked it up from the dude who used to frame her artwork.

My father wrote to me when he got home:

It appears the good father is SOL. I could not find the picture. Maybe Mommy threw it away when she figured out he was a Dick Head.

Dad
I don't often have the joy of reading cuss words from my pop, but oddly, I've seen him capitalize "Dick Head" at least one other time; it's the name he gave to his Macintosh hard drive several years ago. Anyway, I like it capitalized, like a proper name, like Fr. Massengill. One of the biggest reasons we offered the book is to save us the trouble of rooting through our closets for specific paintings or drawings. My mom was VERY prolific, and right now, so soon after her death, and not long after having a baby, and right after the holidays, we just haven't had a chance to get everything cataloged. Maybe someday. I'm pretty sure one of us has the drawing; in fact, I think I do, though I spent as much time as I could today, looking for it, but I wish I hadn't, because I couldn't find it, and that made me feel like a shitty daughter. I'll find it though, and soon. I'm just not sure I want the douchely priest to have it, not at any cost.

Maybe I'll change my mind in the coming months, but I suppose that's as about as likely as Fr. Massengill ceasing to be a douche.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Nail Set


Today I am 40. In case you were unsure, know it is a pretty wretched time of the year to have a birthday, regardless of your age. It's officially two weeks before Christmas, and amid the ubiquitous Christmas Carols, every year on December 11th, until this one, my mother woke me up — either in person, or by phone — by singing Happy Birthday to me. I was always embarrassed by that, as a child and as an adult. It was so heartfelt, that it just terrified me. My cheeks burned, and I counted the seconds until the little song would end. And, admittedly, I was always irked that she'd wake me up. Why did she call so damn early? But today, Matthew had me up at a ridiculous hour; he was laughing and playing with his feet; and despite my lack of sleep, and the permanent backache, my little baby boy makes me smile, and makes me sing, too. I missed the phone call this morning. A lot.

Karen's birthday is the day before mine; I know she misses my mother's unabashedly earnest singing, too. We both miss it more than we were embarrassed by it.

I've thought about my mom a lot since losing her, of course, but I think about her more during these cold, dark days. My mom was kinda nuts — there's really no delicate way of saying it — and she was always at the center of the birthday and holiday insanity: in my family, things were CHALLENGING from Thanksgiving right through New Year's Day, and often, beyond. Hurt feelings and offended sensibilities and loud voices preVAILED. I felt badly about it while she was around, and even worse now that she's gone. It's not exactly peaceful without her, but there has been less chaos. We're not better for it, though.

While my mom excelled at singing with abandon, she was pretty terrible at gift-giving (I say that at the risk of sounding like I lack gratitude; I don't). But I think some of that came from a good place. She told us stories of inequality and favoritism in her home growing up, so she worked hard to make sure her three daughters all got the same thing. The problem with that, though, is that we're all different people. The other part of the gift-giving dilemma is that possibly my mother thought we were all younger versions of her. So there were years and years of knee-high stockings and disposable razors, and orange lipstick with which to deal. Does anyone wear knee-highs anymore??

But those were just the stocking-stuffers. Once, she gave a particularly heinous pocketbook to my sister Karen for her birthday, and Karen didn't know what to do with it. As a joke, she wrapped it back up and gave it to Jenny for Christmas. Jenny wrapped it back up and gave it to Karen at the next opportunity, and Karen gave it back to Jenny. This went on for at least two Christmases, before my mom caught on, not too happily.

My mother had a tremendous flair for the dramatic, too. Every year she got us what I began calling "The Nightmare Gift." A trio of nail sets were wrapped and placed in our stockings, and we were ordered to open them simultaneously, so that my mom only had to explain once: she watched a show on TV about how to escape from a vehicle that's plunged into the water, and apparently, the only thing able to break through the glass underwater is a nail set. We were ordered to put the nail set in our vehicles, and while I have some lousy qualities, I am fairly dutiful. I put my nail set in my truck, where, I believe, it still lives, even though I am uncertain of its abilities to bring me to safety, if, in the ridiculously unlikely scenario, I wind up trapped in my truck, under water.

One year, we all received a book on how to set up our wills, along with a copy of my mother's last will and testament. "Merry Christmas, girls!" began the note that accompanied that gift. "You have to be ready for the inevitable," she told us.

There was the year we all received videotapes about breast cancer, because my mom read that one in four women — and this is where she'd solemnly note there were four women in the room — would get the disease.

She wanted us to be ready for when tragedy struck. But you never are. It strikes when and where it wants, and how it wants, and you can never prepare.

Despite our lack of control over our own fate, I still smile when I think about her uncelebratory, and downright frightening Christmas gifts. I teased her last summer about her fascination with death, and how gifts relating to death and disease are kinda depressing. She laughed, but disagreed. Even so, last Christmas she gave us far more appropriate Christmas presents: handmade soaps, chocolates, slippers, and garden decor.

It's not about the gifts, even though they take up so much of our efforts during this time of year. My mother's absence is a huge hole in the room. And I miss her especially today.


_________________________________

Now. I'm gonna try to lay off the melancholy for awhile, since it only reflects only some of my life. Things are good. We're having a family birthday party this weekend, and I'm hoping it provides some funny blog fodder. Failing that, there were those folks who rented the Baldassari this time last year for their own birthday party, and then brawled over birthday cake and chicken. I get it: birthday cake and chicken is some of the best stuff in the world. I mean that, truly. I hope that person/those people have a special birthday this year, with or without police activity. Though for our sake, I hope for the latter. As long no one gets hurt, right?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Trim


I have a cold and am zapped. Sorry about that. I have been conserving my energy for making the house holiday-ready, though. We didn't do anything at all last year, for a few reasons: we both were sick, we had a pipe burst in the house, and it was just a bad year for us, mostly. So, after two years in the basement, Glen pulled the Christmas bins out earlier this week, and we had a lot of fun going through decorations we had collected together over the last few years, and with our new nine-and-a-half-foot tree, we might actually get to display most of them.


I like the look of an orderly tree with a theme of similar ornaments, colors, or textures, but I also like the hodge-podge we have on our tree, because I can remember with relative clarity where we were each year when we got our ornaments. And since I'm not religious, I tend to focus on the fond memories and food aspect of Christmas, and there are a lot of good memories (and good meals) associated with our ornaments. We picked up a bunch of them in New York City, with Glen's sister Clair, and her husband Frits, several years ago, two nights before Christmas, in Macy's. It was a warm night for December in New York City, and we were sweating, up on the 5th or 6th or 7th floor of that old building with those old escalators, burdened by our heavy coats and winter accessories and packages. Afterward, we pushed our way through the throng of humanity in the City, and went into St. Patrick's Cathedral, which couldn't be more different from Macy's: it was cool, and quiet, and reflective, and magnificent.


Another group of ornaments came from the old Treasure Island store at the Mercer Mall while Glen's sister Brenda (yo, Bill!) was down for a visit. We spent hours in that store, knowing the end was near for it, combing through all the kitsch and sparkle. We bought SO much stuff on clearance that we climbed around bags for the entire time Brenda was visiting. A very successful visit!


We have ornaments that make me think of specific people (and critters) in my life, and now, with several of them gone, what a strange flood of emotions they evoke. The plump, glittery, red-headed woman makes me think of my mom. The little wispy fairy makes me think of Catherine. I have a dog and cat ornament for Lacey and Monkey, both of whom have left me since we last had those ornaments hanging on a tree. So, it's certainly with considerable sadness that we decorate, but it's cathartic, too: the ornaments are a reminder of many good years, and hope, and love. On a lighter note, the John Denver ornament makes me think of my sister Karen, even though she cried for the old days when she saw it. The duck with a rifle makes me think of my dad. The Star Wars stuff turns my mind to my nephews. The ceramic snowmen and Rudolph stuff make me think of Brenda. The silver snowflakes make me think of my grandmother, Catherine, who is now 90; who gives each of us one every year. They also make me think of my sister Jenny, because she only uses her silver snowflakes and red bows on her tree — a stark contrast to my chaotic tree — and I love the way her tree looks. Hockey skates conjure thoughts of Glen's exuberant nephew, Aidan. And we have a small box of silly ornaments Glen and I made together the first Christmas we were together — just clear glass balls we filled with fake carrots and moss and cloves, and had there not been that association with them, I'd think they were stupidest looking ornaments ever possibly made. Well, they are, but that first Christmas Glen and I shared in 2001 was cozy and sweet and so full of great potential, and that's what I feel of when I see the pile of cloves and fake carrots and moss inside those glass orbs.


Matthew was reasonably content while we decorated the tree, though he spent most of the evening looking up at the ceiling fan, and playing with a couple of bean bag toys. I'm looking forward to Christmases with him, and I like the thought of looking back on this Christmas, with him so little in his baby pappasan, and with years of ornaments to remind me of our stories.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The What If game...

Thanksgiving, 1987.
Top row(ish), left to right: Uncle Jim, Cousin Scott, Aunt Janet, Dad, Nana, Mom, Karen. Seated: Jenny, me.


If your family is anything like mine, you must start thinking about Christmas over the long Thanksgiving weekend. Of course, once I got out on my own, I bucked the family tradition, and got indignant at the commercialism associated with the holidays, and generally trudged through December out of obligation and fueled by the promise of cookies. Cookies are my favorite food.

Part of the reason why I dragged myself through December was that I always had to go someplace else. The holidays are much more special if you can remain in your jammies a bit longer, curled up on the couch, hanging with your dog. I never got to do that, because I was shocked awake by the morning shower, and the need to wrap some last minute presents, and then load everything into the car, on what is usually a very cold morning, though here, seldom white. Also, I think my poor mom had a very unrealistic concept of who we were as people, and thought she'd be able to have a holiday similar to what was pictured in say, Martha Stewart Living, even though she never read that magazine. But instead of the storybook holiday, where the family gathers around the fireplace to sing, or admire gifts, my sisters and I played the extreme holiday version of the "what if" game, where we'd force each other choose which kind of parasitic infection we'd prefer, botfly or tapeworm, and why. Or, we'd have to make the hypothetical decision to have sex with a grossly unattractive man or a beautiful woman, to find out how far we'd go before turning gay. One year, we played a variation on the board game, Taboo, but we didn't bother to pull out the board; instead we just used the cards. In one memorable exchange, my sister Jenny looked down at her card, and grunted in disgust, and exclaimed, "UGH! I HATE this person! HATE!" And we had to guess who she was talking about, and I raised my hand excitedly and said, "Demi Moore! Demi Moore!" And Jenny said, "YES!" And Karen said, "I hate her too!"

After all of these holiday guessing games, my mother would inevitably leave the room, disgusted. Once, she dramatically tossed her cape over her shoulder and demanded, "Come on, Mike, we're leaving."

Anyway, back to Thanksgiving. While we were growing up, my dad had a ridiculous habit of getting up way too early on the weekends and singing songs he made up himself to irritate us out of bed. Since he was a man of music, he always chose the holiday music on Thanksgiving morning, and I remember hearing Andy Williams down in the living room, and it urged me out of bed, way too early, of course, but at least it wasn't an irritating made-up song. No offense, Dad. And he'd pull the tree out of the attic — or we'd get a live one over the long weekend — and spend the day decorating it.

This year, without my mother, and with a new baby, I am filled with many conflicting emotions about the holidays. My mom, with her unrealistic expectations about this season, was a time bomb set to explode around 11 a.m. on Christmas morning, but WOW, I miss her. These days ahead feel empty without her. And at the same time, it's so exciting to watch Matthew discover his world. Glen came home with a new Christmas tree over the weekend — an enormous 9 foot dealio, with lights built right in; he put it together and we admired it, with no decorations, for a good long while, and Matty seemed intrigued by the tree. Or the lights. I'm not sure which, and he's not saying. Even though the cast of characters is different than in years past, it felt strongly like family, and really good at that. I'm really looking forward to starting our own family traditions with Matthew.

So, as much as it pains me to hear Christmas music in November, I'm happy to crank up the carols for the sake of my boy. And I miss the old standards — Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Johnny Mathis, Perry Como, et al — so I spent some time this week buying some of that music from iTunes.

And then I remembered another music service I've used in the past, Magnatune. Magnatune is a music label that splits the proceeds with the artist 50-50. And you can listen to everything online, just to listen; or you can listen before you buy. Really a cool company. What's best is that they are home to some talented musicians, many of whom aren't heard on regular, commercial radio. And I hate commercial radio because radio commercials are so freakin' stupid; of all the advertising in the world, radio is the worst. Plus, Magnatune has this great new deal where you can sign up for a membership — as low as $15 a month, though I believe you can set your own price even lower, if you need to — and you can download all the music you want. Awesome. So I signed up, specifically in the hopes of finding some new, unique holiday music. I'm nostalgic for the old standards, but I'm not a fan of the holiday crap that's played on the radio these days. So, I decided to poke through Magnatune's vault for some alternative/world holiday music, and there's not tons, but they do have plenty. I downloaded Ralph Rousseau Meulenbroek's Christmas Carols album, which is filled with lush, rich viola versions of all of the classics. I also snagged Cheryl Ann Fulton's The Airs of Wales, which isn't specifically a holiday collection, but is festive and evokes an image of an Elizabethan holiday banquet.

There's a lot of other great stuff in the Magnatune library, too. So, check it out. I'm looking forward to having a new soundtrack for a new chapter in my life, though I hope my sisters and I will continue to play "Choose your parasite" for all of our holidays to come.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Monk

The Monk, 2000-2008


I never intended for this space to become The Memorial Zone, but I never imagined we'd experience so much loss in such a short period of time, either. Because I don't want to be known as the chick who writes about dead stuff (though I probably am), I almost didn't post anything, but Monkey deserves a little tribute. She was, at one point in my life, just my cat. Now, because of all the subsequent furry friends to join our home, I feel compelled to say, "my first cat."

We shared several years of her being just my cat, and she showed up at a pivotal time in my life, so, I was very loyal to her, even though she sucked in so many ways. I like a spirited animal, though, so her suckage didn't bother me too badly, even though I learned through experience with other cats, that Monkey was indeed a kind of bad one.

My ex-husband and I split up in February of 2000, and Lacey and I moved into a small condo with a fireplace, a short time later. It was a dark, but transformative time in my life, with many quiet evenings spent in front of the fireplace with a book, music, red wine, and usually a can of Poppycock.

My ex-husband called one day, and suggested we go into therapy, to try to work things out. I was done. I knew it. But it was a low point for me, and I doubted my own judgment; also, I believed in marriage, even though in my heart, I knew there was no going back to that one. But I agreed. We decided to touch base the following week after we checked our options, and we'd set up an appointment. We talked the next week, and I suggested a couple of counselors and dates, but nothing worked for my ex. It turns out, he had a girlfriend, and they were planning a vacation right around that time.

Monkey walked into my place of work a day or so after this conversation/revelation with my ex. She jumped up on my desk, and headbutted me. I had no experience with cats at this point, and thought it was funny. Everyone in the office took it as a sign I should take the kitten home. I protested: I had a dog, I was renting, the lease only specified the dog, etc., etc., etc. Everyone went out at lunchtime, and bought me a load of cat supplies, and, so, I took the little monster home with me that evening.

My ex-husband had a significant cat allergy, and I decided to commit to the cat.

Kittens are hard, but Monkey was harder. She destroyed all of my plants, the curtains; she "talked" all day and all night; she never slept, and for about a year, neither did I, always on guard for my very real monster under the bed. She positioned herself behind the couch, the headboard, and doors, and would spring out and attack, or swat from her little hidey-holes. She drew copious amounts of blood. And, inexplicably, she adored Lacey. Lacey tolerated her, I think, to please me.

After his vacation, my ex-husband stopped by with my mail, and commented that my acquisition of Monkey sealed our fate as a couple: we were done, since he was allergic. He added that Monkey was adorable, but violent; one of his friends just acquired a kitten who was cuddly and lovable. Monkey, on cue, sliced open his leg. I scolded her, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't smiling a little on the inside.

Monkey's energy didn't really decline as she grew into adulthood, but she became slightly less violent. During this introspective time in my life, I loved to come home after work to "my girls," even though one of them was a mouthy, cantankerous cat. I loved to say, "Hi Monkey," to her, and she'd meow back at me, but it wasn't a normal, friendly meow, but rather, a cranky, "what do you want?" kind of sound. Every time I said her name, she'd make the "What do you want?" meow back at me. Over and over. I'm kind of a moron, I guess, because this provided me with a decent amount of entertainment. Life was cozy, and I was content.

The Monk lets The Snowman know who is boss.

Glen and I got together about two years later, and Monkey just loved Glen. She'd sit above him on the couch, or in bed, and purr. Purr. Purr. I thought it was sweet. But Glen is greedy about his sleep, and does not like to be disturbed. He came up with many a nickname for her, too rude to mention here. She scratched the moldings in our house. She got into the dishwasher. She bit me. She continued to destroy plants, and never slept. She ate constantly. She got into the laundry, my work papers, the newspaper. She missed the litter box. Despite our best efforts, she always slept on the stove.

It got to the point where I could sense that Glen was going to nudge me to choose between him and Monkey. I'd like to say I'm one of those people who would never choose an animal over a person, but I'd like to think I don't choose people who'd make me choose. Glen knew this, and we discussed all of our options, and consulted with everyone we knew, and many, many people said, "Get another cat." So, we did. For awhile, it was just Lacey, Monkey and Simon, and Simon kept Monkey busy enough that she left Glen alone. So, Glen stayed.

Monkey received a Virgin Mary statue to help guide her toward better behavior. It didn't work.

But then we moved to Trenton, and, well, cats happen.

The Monk did not do well in Trenton. She didn't like the other animals, mostly. She got incredibly fat, and it wasn't from overfeeding her. Her teeth started to fall out. She had a minor flea issue a few years ago, which led to tapeworms. I know this can happen, if an animal eats flea eggs, which have been contaminated with tapeworm eggs (sometimes the circle of life is disgusting), but it never happened to anyone else I knew. Just Monkey. She continued to miss the litter box. She scratched the walls. She bit me. But she never stopped purring. We kept her isolated in our TV room, until a couple of weeks after we brought Matthew home. She seemed more social, and the other cats seemed too occupied with the baby to go after Monkey. We had a good couple of months, and I'm glad for that.

Monkey got a bit lazy in the last week, but we weren't too concerned, because it was getting chillier outside, and she was stationed near the heaters. She rallied a bit toward the end of the week, and we had a good morning yesterday. She positioned herself in the living room window, and I always loved how she looked in a window. By 5 p.m., she couldn't lift her head, and she died around 11 p.m.

She purred constantly, and years ago, a friend told me she'd probably outgrow it, but The Monk never did. She always purred. In fact, she purred right up until the end last night. I'm gonna miss that sound.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Flour

Last Friday night, I made homemade pizza for dinner, and it was successful enough that Glen mentioned he'd like it again. I said, kind of absentmindedly, that we were running low on flour. I made the crust from scratch, using a recipe my sister gave me, a recipe that works well for all sorts of breads, too, by the way; the recipe calls for more than 4 cups of flour. In retrospect, I should not have said we were running low on flour, since we certainly had enough for another homemade pizza night, with a little to spare.

Glen came home with 50 pounds of flour the next day.

Fiddy pounds!

I figured I'd better get baking, before the flour goes bad, so last night, I made two breads, using what was left of my old flour. I made both breads based loosely on my mother's addictive pepperoni bread recipe, but I made some substitutions, since I know we'll be getting a lot of pepperoni bread through the holidays. So, last night, I made one with a steak-n-cheese filling, using Steak 'Um style steak, and shredded mozzarella; the other was a cinnamon bread, filled with brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter.


Steak (cooked) and mozzarella went into this one. I salted and peppered it too. I reckon some grilled onions and/or peppers and/or mushrooms would be delicious, too, but we didn't have any...


The steak bread all rolled up. I try to tuck in the edges as I go, to avoid blowouts while the bread cooks. Well, blowouts happen, no matter what, but tucking in the edges helps to keep more of the innards in.

The steak bread, cooked.

The cinnamon bread in the works.

The cinnamon bread, cooked. It had a minor blow out, but I scooped up the sugary buttery goodness and spread it on top of the bread, as it finished up. Can't let that go to waste!

Both were fantastic, but not out-of-this-world, I'm sorry to say, but I know what needs to be done to knock both over the top. The steak bread needs a sauce, that's all. We have plenty of leftover bread, so tonight, I'm gonna make a horseradish dipping sauce (mayonnaise free, yo), and I think that will do it. The cinnamon bread needed to be rolled thinner, or filled more generously with butter, sugar, and cinnamon, so I know better for next time.

The baby was sitting with Glen, watching hockey, so I also prepped a quiche-like casserole, just off the cuff, with some Portuguese bread, eggs, milk, cheese, and a smattering of dry dill dip mix, because dill and eggs are wonderful together. I cooked that up this morning, and served with with a slice of the cinnamon bread, and Glen said he'd like to have the egg thingy every weekend. High praise, which made me feel good. But I didn't mention that we're low on eggs, just in case he comes home with 6 dozen (again; that happened earlier this year). But maybe I should have. The holidays are here, after all.

The egg thing. Yummy!

I'm not complaining, by the way, about the huge reserve of foodstuffs; I'm just a tad bit overwhelmed, is all. But if you can send some recipes to help me use up the flour, that would really help!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

08629

I've been blaming the changes in my personal life for my lack of writing lately, but I think lack of inspiration factors in, as well. And a large part of inspiration for this blog is the political insanity in Trenton. For the moment, politics in Trenton have kinda calmed down. There's always something newsworthy, or, more usually, completely bonkers happening here, but right now, it's just not to the scale it has been. No one's been murdered on my street for a couple of months, and we're all waiting for Irv to screw up, but in the meantime, things have actually been kinda peaceful in these parts. Awhile back, I was talking with a fellow Trenton blogger, and we wondered what on earth we'd do with our time — more importantly, our blogging time — if things started to improve here in Trenton. I figured I'd write more about my hobbies, or projects, or cooking, or better yet, spend more time actually doing those things. So, it's been the case for me, at least in a small way; Matthew does compete for my time, too.

So, we've been living our lives a bit here in Trenton, without as much analysis; though, news about the school district is far more interesting to me now than ever before, now that I have a kid who will need to get educated soon. I read today that the state Supreme Court rejected Governor Jon Corzine's attempt to decrease funding to poor districts, including Trenton's. I have mixed feelings about this, and I realize my thoughts, and my wishy-washiness on the matter might be very unpopular, but whatever. The Trenton school district has a really bad performance record, even though officials always point to the few children who make it through the system, and then go off to an Ivy League university, as some sort of "evidence" that the district doesn't actually suck. Perpetuating a lie doesn't make it true. We should certainly be proud of these kids, but that they made it out alive has nothing to do with our school system, and everything to do with their own resources and gumption and determination. Every other school district in the country sees kids off to bigger and better places, and in far greater numbers than what we see here in Trenton. Trenton kids deserve the same opportunities as kids in other districts, but throwing money into the Trenton School System hasn't been making that happen. I'd be curious to see what happens to graduation and off-to-college rates if the hand-out money was cut off. My bet: things would stay roughly the same. Can it get any worse? Really?

So, discussions about the school system have been happening, and Glen and I have been exploring all of our options, because I have a hard time believing that any parent who loves his/her kid could actually send that kid to a Trenton school with, say, a "persistently violent" reputation, like the school closest to me. We've even considered moving, but the thought — even though Trenton runs only slightly better than Mogadishu does — depresses us, so that probably won't happen. We've made friends, and love our home, even though it seems right now, the house may never be completely livable. But we're going to continue to make things work for us in Trenton. Whether things are going well here, or not, we feel a sense of pride about Trenton. This is where we live.

There is always so much for us to do to improve life in Trenton, and certainly that applies to me, as an individual. And while politics are quiet, it gives me some time to work on some stuff around the house. And my house needs it, as it looks kinda like a baby-clothing bomb dropped on it. I am happy that another family friend has a baby due in January, so I'll be able to pack up about a ton of Matthew's newborn clothing, which will clear some space. Also, I've been working on a number of crafty/renovation projects. I have had time for some jobs around the house in recent weeks, with the absence of the usual political inspiration that helps to fuel my blog. I had hoped to finish one particular project (I'll probably reveal it in the new year) with existing supplies, but unfortunately, I ran out of a few things over the weekend, and needed to trek into suburbia for more.

After hitting the home improvement store, I needed to get a couple of artsy things, and I found myself at the check-out counter of one of those big retail craft store chains, where they always ask for my ZIP code. I hate that practice, because it's none of their business where I live, and I hate the idea of these big stores making more junk mail to dump on certain zip codes. Until recently, I answered "68505," which is the ZIP code of the neighborhood in Lincoln, Nebraska where my aunt, uncle, and cousin once lived. I gave that zip code because I don't need any more flyers and junk mail to recycle here, because I resent recycling shit I didn't choose to bring into my home; and I hoped the stores wouldn't really target Lincoln, NE, in their advertising efforts. But now that our national landscape lacks any variation in a consumer sense, and West Windsor looks just like Hamilton, and both look could be mistaken for Lincoln, NE (save for "The Penis of the Plains"), who knows, maybe the megacorporations will dump advertising flyers on Lincoln for my lies? If so, my apologies.

On Sunday, while I was out, I put my goods on the counter, and predictably, the clerk asked for my ZIP. Mild irritation went through me, but without hesitation, I said plainly, "oh-eight-six-two-nine." I didn't say it with any boasting or conflict, or unnecessary volume. I didn't say it to entice the clerk to fight, or to make the suburban gals in line with their scrapbooking supplies* whisper behind my back, because none of them probably know that 08629 is Villa Park's post office, anyway. I wondered why 68505, which is always on the tip of my tongue, slipped away? Without any kind of warning, it has become more important to me to speak directly and unapologetically about where I live, than it is to be worried about the potential circulars that will get dumped on us. I'm making improvements to my home (at least I'm trying to!), and that home is in Trenton, yo.

___________________________
*I'm not dissing scrapbookers. Okay?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Food envy

I know I'm too hard on myself. It's not like I'm the tidiest person in the world, or the most productive, either. But we've reached new levels of chaos around here, and it is at one minute, just terrible, and another, incredibly liberating. For instance, right now, there is a large pile of dishes in the sink, and Steve and Glen — who are both sporting similar wild hairdos right now — both need grooming, and I am in charge of grooming in this household, despite my dubious abilities to cut hair. Despite my dubious abilities to cut hair, I got fed up with my own a couple of weeks ago, and was without a car that day (not that it would have made a lick of difference, though), and just went crazy, and cut off piles of it. I goofed up a bit and gave myself some accidental bangs on the upper left, and ultimately, I don't care that much about my lack of symmetry. It will grow back. Or I'll get fed up and do it again, and screw things up even worse. Well see. It might be better if Glen goes up the street to the new shop on Hamilton Ave., Classie Way of Hair (I took a picture of the sign for a recent post), and maybe he can bring Steve too; I'm sure CWoH can do a better job than what I'm able to do, which, right now, is nothing, because I am sitting in front of my computer, and I feel okay about that. Though I'll probably be angry that I took this time to blog, rather than catch up on my sleep. Or get to the dishes. We'll see.

I did, at least, just trim Stevie's brow, before coming in here to yammer away, so he can see. Priorities. I do have them. Sometimes. Buzzing off the rest of his hair requires a bit more time and concentration, so I'll probably get to that next year some time, long after he looks like a dwarf alpaca.

I wanted to write about another area of my life that's suffered in recent weeks: the food area. I spend so much of my time feeding Matthew that I don't have a lot of time for much else, certainly not preparing meals for the adults in the house. A few times, I've fed Matthew while watching the Food Network, which is torturous, so I don't do it much, especially after watching Guy Fieri last week — a dude I cannot bring myself to hate, even though — speaking of grooming earlier — I loathe his grooming affectations. I cannot imagine living with a dude who must spend HOURS to get ready for the day; HOURS positioning each clump of his ridiculous white/yellow hair. I hate his hair so much, though I don't hate the goatee. Goatees are okay. What pains me is the little tiny bit of goatee in the center that's, like, an inch longer than the rest. Oh, how it hurts me to look at that! I hate his jewelry, and wonder what kind of food residue is stuck in it, particularly, in his damn pinky ring. The sweatband scares me a lot: the thought of a guy who NEEDS a sweatband while cooking makes me wonder WHAT could wind up in our food. And, more than anything, I'd like to kill him for the sunglasses on the back of his head. But then he shovels a fried chicken sandwich into his head, or tosses two large dollops of sour cream into his casserole, or, best yet, makes his own dolmas. Dear Lord, I love dolmas. And I love Guy Fieri for making them, at least when I don't feel like killing him for his stupid hair and sunglasses. Maybe all the hours it takes him in front of a mirror to look really stupid would be tolerable if he made me dolmas?

See what I mean? But the gusto with which he jams his pie hole makes up for Guy Fieri's significantly flawed sense of fashion. And who am I to judge, besides? I'm still in my jammies.


The problem of watching Guy Fieri, or really, any food network show, is that I am left with a little, but real, desire to club the host of the show (some more than others, and you know who you are, Rachael Ray), and a misguided sense that I will be able to prepare the same sorts of foods that they do. I have a fussy 12-week-old baby and several other furry reasons who make cooking so difficult now. Recent results have not been stellar, or even worth mentioning. Until last night and this morning, and both meals — if you can call them that — were somewhat of a cheat. Creative cheats, at least. Glen requested Indian food last night, and since we have a well-stocked freezer (chicken, spinach, paneer, naan), and a well-stocked pantry (jarred sauce), I was able to throw it all together, and even embellished it a bit with extra tomatoes, coconut milk, curry, and saffron. I got a bit too ambitious, though, and put a can of prepared gulab jamun on to simmer. In case you've never tried it, gulab jamun, despite a terrible-to-our-English-speaking-ears-sounding-name, is a yummy Indian dessert. They're doughnut hole-sized pastries, that are soaked in a sweet syrup, and flavored a bit with cardamom and rosewater.

Gulab Jamun. My can, for the record, did not contain this many.

Glen does not like gulab jamun, but I grew weary of the can looking back at me, forlornly, and figured I'd eat it over the course of the next few days on my own, dammit.

But we forgot to put it away last night. Sigh. I made it to the kitchen this morning, with only about 3 hours of sleep, since Matthew seems to have gotten his nights and days confused recently. I felt broken, used, and in dire need of caffeine, since sleep was not an option, because at that time, Matthew was still wide awake. I found a cat curled up in the bassinet, and another in the sling. Steve had one of my shoes in his mouth (a shoe that took about a month to find just recently), and my wonderful little pot (a smart-looking white Le Creuset pot Glen found at the thift store for dirt cheap, woohoo!) of gulab jamuns sitting on the stove where I left them last night. I was depressed, and exhausted.

I was also ravenous, since I had been up for the previous 8 hours without a meal, and I do like a little something to eat in the morning even when I've slept properly, unlike other members of my family. I'm not sure why that is. I could give up — I think — any other meal, if I had to, but if I miss my breaky, I'm just so sad. So, I considered my options of getting myself fed quickly, while the baby was still content, and decided, perhaps hastily (we'll see) that I could not let my little jamuns go to waste. I rationalized, ultimately, that a batch of gulab jamuns left out would be as dangerous as leaving out a box of Dunkin Munchins. Okay, Munchins soaked in syrup. But the little Indian confections, at least, were in a covered, enameled iron pot, so I don't think many bacteria got in. But, I cranked up the heat, and brought them to a solid boil, as a preventative measure. I remembered I had some pears in the fridge, so I cut up a couple and added them to the mixture, along with (don't hate me), a dollop of British lemon curd — which sounds just awful, but I promise you, it is not. Lemon curd is like the velvety lemon cream of a lemon pie. Delicious. And I ate some of this concoction with vanilla Stonyfield organic yogurt, and it was so fantastic, I'm glad there are still leftovers, and I hope someone out there is a bit jealous of my creation, though I suspect most of you are frowning at my pathetic gluttony, to the point of getting your face stuck that way. Frown away. I don't care. All that sugar has me completely wired right now; though I'm probably headed for a very, very bad crash, especially if my little boy doesn't sleep tonight. But we'll see. Sleep is overrated, right?

My sister, Jenny, gave me a bread recipe earlier in the week, and I'm hoping I'll be able to make a batch a bit later this afternoon, because Glen has a hockey game on TV tonight, and I want to be able to make little individual pizzas that he can eat in front of his game. It is ambitious to make my own pizza crust, but almost (oh, I hope) foolproof, even with a potentially cranky baby, and a massive load of dishes that much be cleared away first. Famous last words, perhaps.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Blam!

I was out of town recently, and before I left to return home, my host offered me a gun to take back to Trenton, as my host tends to do, as my host thinks Trenton is a hellhole, and the good people might stand a better chance if we had guns to defend ourselves. But this time was different, for two reasons:

  1. The firearm in question was a bayonet, and
  2. was offered with a new urgency, because Barack Obama, according to my host, (and a whole bunch of other people) is "gonna outlaw our guns."
It's no secret that I lean to the left, primarily for social issues, and the environment, though maybe that wouldn't be the case, had the party of Theodore Roosevelt not abandoned the environment; had the party of the individual not become so interested in micromanaging everyone's personal rights. Whatever, though. My point is that I have mixed feelings on guns.

I don't see a problem with legal gun ownership, in and of itself, though I don't want to own a gun, or even a bayonet, personally. We have a lot of stuff jammed into this house, and miraculously, most of it is used, at least periodically. So, adding a gun to that mix would be dangerous, especially since we have more than our share of lousy neighbors, and I have no qualms about saying that we'd all be a bit better off without some of them.

It is, however, another thing to say they should be dead, or maimed, and yet another to do it myself, though some days, I think I could. Which is why I shouldn't have a gun. Or a bayonet.

My big lack of desire to own a gun is due entirely to a gun's design: to kill. I think killing is excessive, most of the time. And I like moderation much better than excessiveness, regardless of the item in question. So, my feelings about firearms has less to do with politics and more to do with fact that they are extreme. Here are some other things I think are excessive and will not acquire:

  • $6,000 backyard jungle gyms for my child
  • elective plastic surgery
  • gold fronts, or any thick metal ornamentation for the body
  • pit bulls
  • Hummers

I'm not saying that any of the above should be illegal, I'm just saying I don't want any part of them.

Admittedly, though, a $6,000 backyard jungle gym, and a gun, are both kinda cool. Just as it's exciting for a kid to play on a palatial, climbing, swinging, spinning, house-y thing, it is also exciting to fire a gun. I have fond memories of skeet shooting in the Adirondacks with my family. I don't believe skeet shooters, or even hunters, are responsible for the rampant gun crimes in our country, for the most part. And I don't think they should have to give up their guns. But, at the same time, it's because of our right to own guns that makes it easier for criminals to get them. Both Canada and the UK have tougher gun laws than what we have here, and go figure, violent crime, especially with guns, is much lower in those places. So maybe it's the person who commits the crime, but the tool can inspire, no? All I'm saying is that it would behoove us to explore the link between legal and illegal gun use, and find out, for instance, how guns wind up in places like the waistband of a teenager riding a bike on my corner.

Cities, like Trenton, are usually very poorly managed; often they're run by corrupt politicians more interested in advancing their own careers than improving their hometowns. This is a big part of the gun problem in cities, which has more to do with politics and culture than weaponry. But when there's a perception that life is no good anyway, or will never get better, and the laws aren't often enforced, guns certainly become very enticing.

I'm a registered democrat, but I'm not one to gloat or carry on, because I find it offensive when anyone does that. And I believe that in our hearts, we have more similarities than differences. If nothing else, I hope Barack Obama will be able to illustrate those similarities to African American kids: that we all, regardless of background or skin color, have it in us to be more. Certainly those who lean to the right see that as a good thing, no? If more inner city kids were more like Barack Obama than 50 Cent, we'd all be in better shape.

Politically speaking, because of the similarities that exists among us, I find it difficult to believe there will be any sweeping changes under Obama's watch. We may have two liberal branches of government come January, but the third — the one with the power to affect wholesale change in gun laws — is pretty conservative.

I'm not an intellectual or a political scientist, but just a regular person blathering away because I can, and it seems to me that politics will always just be politics on the federal level. One group of people or another is always panicking whenever there's a change of guard in this country, and it's unnecessary. A lot of our motivating issues — abortion, gun control, gay rights — don't even really matter to federal-level politicians, anyway. Abortion didn't go away under George W. Bush, and guns won't be banned under Barack Obama.

It's my wish — perhaps as the liberal black sheep of my family — that we, as a nation, work harder to find our "purple." Not everything is so blue or red, right or left. We have so much in common, and as much as I hate to use too many cliches, there are more ways to skin a cat. Some of us prefer to do it with something other than a bayonet, is all.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A status update, and a whole lot of hockey

I can tell by my Sitemeter stats that this blog is still getting a few hits a day, even though I have very little to say right now, for which, I apologize. I have a slightly upset baby on my shoulder at the moment, and probably, based on the slightly wet sensation, a small puddle of something that no longer skeeves me out, also on my shoulder. Matthew was not an excellent sleeper last night, which is too bad, since I'm sure I'll be up very late watching the election coverage tonight. He hasn't been an excellent sleeper this morning either, and Glen and I have come to the conclusion that Matthew's issues are slightly related to personality (and astrology, perhaps...he is a Leo, after all), and perhaps a bit of gastrointestinal distress. We heard that Baby Bliss Gripe Water should work wonders, but no one around here sells it, that I know of, so I ordered some last night from Amazon, and it will arrive none too soon, that's for sure. It makes me sad when my baby gripes, and well, it's kinda exhausting for me, too. So hopefully, the product will bring us all some much needed bliss. I'll be sure to provide an update.

Since the little guy has fallen asleep, I'll take this opportunity to fill you in on what we've been doing. It is, in some ways, hard to believe that anyone would really be interested, but I know I'm getting some traffic, and I love you for that, so, here you go.

You've noticed I haven't been blogging much in the last couple of weeks, which is largely due to my all-over-the-place schedule with little Matty, but also because I'm working on a few personal projects. I'd love to write about them here, were it not for the fact that most of the people in my family read this, and I'm hoping to surprise them at Christmas. The truth is, I feel this tremendous creative urge, but right now, there aren't enough hours in the day. Anyway, we'll see what I'm able to get done in time for Christmas, and again, I'll be sure to provide an update, because it's wrong to say, "I'm working on other stuff, but I can't tell you about it." I will. I always do.

Life in Trenton continues to be interesting, of course. Am wondering how things are going for the city's administration with the transition in the BA's office. I was simultaneously thrilled and bummed to see Jane Feigenbaum's picture online; I've wanted a digital image of her for a long time now, because I had always hoped to base one of my Sunday Funnies on her. But now, since she's our former Business Administrator, there's not much point in lampooning her. But I snagged that photo anyway (thanks, Trentonian), in the off-chance there's an opportunity, and time, in the future. I wonder how her house in Mill Hill will look now that she doesn't have to pretend to live there?

I've been wanting to just walk around more, for me, mostly. But also for the baby, so he can start to see some of his world, before all the leaves are gone; and also for Steve, who spends many, many hours of his day tormenting cats, pulling Glen's socks out of the hamper, running the circuit around the house, without — I think — actually ever touching the floor, and on occasion, bleeding, from his run-ins with one of the cats. Nothing brings Stevie down. Not even blood. I'm thinking the walking might help wear him out just a wee bit, so he'll spend less time bleeding later in the day.

It's been hard to get out, though, mostly because Matthew is kind of fussy, and I'm not sure how I feel about walking around the hood with a screaming baby, and an insane little dog, on my own. But Glen and I did some walking this weekend, and it was good. I've felt totally disconnected from the wackiness around here. I've got a couple of good pictures — and perhaps advertising for some local businesses — to share from our excursions.

I've always loved the names of the hair salons and barber shops in Trenton. A couple of my favorites were Larry's Way of Hair, and the Hairport; now, many of those establishments are gone, but I'm glad to see that the new ones are keeping up with the creative naming practices of their predecessors.

I wish I had zoomed out on this picture, because the Contractors of God left an unholy mess at this construction site, or at least it would look that way. There is a whole lot of litter around this property, and call me stupid, but I'd figure someone who'd hire a Contractor of God might have some more pride in His beautiful green earth, but what do I know?

I've been itching to do more cooking, since fall inspires more complicated and rich foods, but again, there hasn't been that much time. I've been doing my best to make some soups here and there, and today, I'm making an asparagus soup, since we have an abundance of asparagus. I'll let you know how that works out. Glen and I, in the meantime, have been enjoying a lot of great food my sisters cooked for us, in preparation of Matthew's arrival. Oh, and eating a lot of frozen pizza too. I don't really care what anyone says, frozen pizza is awesome. Awesome in a different way than DeLorenzo's, for instance, but still awesome.

Matthew received 5 little Halloween outfits, and I had no idea what to do about that, since — I hate to admit this — I don't much like to dress him, even on regular days. He doesn't seem to like clothing much, either: he gets really hot and cranky, easily. Plus, his little fingers and toes are hard to pull through the sleeves and pant legs, and that scares me. I never liked playing with dolls as a kid, either. But the outfits were just too cute, and he won't fit into them next year, so we had a little photo shoot, and Matthew modeled each piece, and really – I'm so proud of him! — kept his spirits up the whole time. If you'd like to see more of the photos, send me an email, and I'll send you the link.

The Jack-o-Butt smiles at a poopy butt, AND in anticipation of one.

Speaking of baby butt, I ordered some handmade cloth diapers for Matty from Etsy.com. I am scared, but all diapers are yucky, and a couple of things pulled me toward cloth again: Matthew just doesn't poop that much, at least not yet. And when he does, it's no worse than Steve turd, and certainly way, way better than cat shit. So, I ordered enough for one day, and figured I'll give it a try at least one day a week. This is kind of a hot topic, so I am irritated with myself for being on the fence about this. I wish I could either just say, "okay, I'm using disposables, and that's all there is to it," or, "I'm concerned about the environment, and the number of icky old diapers I'm gathering out of the diaper genie every few days, so I'm using cloth, so get off my back." But I'm somewhere in between, and cannot commit on this, and hate being so wishy-washy. I am just happy my boy's plumbing works just fine. The diapers are made to order, and have not arrived yet. If this experiment is interesting to anyone else who reads this, I'll be sure to report back.

Lastly, there's been a lot of hockey lately. A lot of it. Glen has been telling people that Matthew is all set for the 2026 NHL entry draft, and a first round pick, at that. Glen is a Buffalo Sabres fan, so he hopes Matthew we be able to join that team. In one of our fairly typical, pointless "what if" conversations, I asked Glen to pick a local team he'd like to see Matthew on, if he couldn't be a Sabre, and everyone around here wanted him. Glen was not happy about this potential development, as a Sabre fan, and a huge hockey fan, and a Canadian, and just as stubborn Glen. There is no "second best" for Glen, but even if there were, it would probably not be a local hockey club, I'm sorry to report.

But he knows how the "what if" game works: there are no other options, if he wants me to ever stop asking. So, if all the local clubs wanted Matthew in 2026, Glen could live with the New York Rangers drafting him.

The "what if" game never ends there. It pushes further. If Buffalo couldn't have Matthew, or any of the other teams in the league, except for the local organizations, except for the Rangers, who's next? The answer surprised me, and it might surprise everyone else too, since Glen worked in Philadelphia for a number of years, and its small town personality turned him off, and the sports fans are horrifically behaved (the fans sometimes doberman their own team, for crying out loud). Glen would be okay if Matthew became a Broad Street Bully. Hm.

Glen thought the conversation was over – Sabres hockey was on TV, after all — but I made Glen choose between the Devils and the Islanders for Matty's future. With Rick Jeanneret's fantastically colorful and passionate announcing filling our ears (Jeanneret does rock; even if you don't like hockey or the Sabres, click on his name, above, to hear some of his greatest calls), Glen's face turned sour; I felt badly for ruining a Jeanneret moment, but hey, that's why we pay the big bucks for DVR. Glen gave this unlikely and unsavory scenario some thought, and it caused him some paralyzing dismay. Glen's third choice pick for his son's hockey career, in a terribly disappointing future, would be the New Jersey Devils. I've never been any kind of sports fan, really, but I suppose I have sympathies. My sister, Karen, and her son, Eric are HUGE Devils fans. And, I am state-o-centric, and New Jersey is poorly underrepresented in professional sports, at least in name, and so, I feel a sense of loyalty to the Devils, and I'd be proud if my son played for them. Plus, my favorite sports memory involves the Devils, during the 1994 Stanley Cup series (with the Rangers). I wasn't watching the game, but I heard an eruption of ecstatic cheering when the Devils won one of the games (though they went on to lose the series). Apparently, everyone at the complex I was living in at the time, was watching the game, and everyone was a Devils fan. And to be caught up — even as an outsider — in that throng of pure human glee, still gives me the warm fuzzies when I think about it.

But Glen said, "The Devils run their organization like a concentration camp, so I don't want Matty to play for them, but...."

...and, if you're not already pissed off, you probably will be...

"...the Islanders," [insert a series of expletives and a lot of disgust], "that's where you go to retire, after a really shitty career."

So, that's the detailed status update. Thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Plasma Tunnel

Matthew is kind of a fussy baby. It's hard for me to admit this, because we are fortunate to have him and I know how fortunate we are to have him. So, I don't like to complain, but man, he is impatient, and demanding as hell. He goes from content to inconsolable with absolutely no warning, and when he's inconsolable, it's a bad scene. I don't recall my sisters' kids being that way.

Brenda (yo, B-Spot), Glen's sister, says, "That's what you get for running with Canadians." Canadians are angry.

Still, he's adorable as hell, too. He sleeps pretty well through the night. He giggled at Steve over the weekend. He loves his bath. He likes his swing, though if he had his way, he'd be held all day, instead. I do enjoy keeping him on my lap, but on occasion, I need to move about freely, so he must ride the swing (the Neglect-o-Matic) from time to time.

And because of his demanding nature, there are times when he's just out of his mind, even when he's been changed, fed, swaddled, held, swung, etc. I'll hold him then, because I want him to know I love him anyway, and I care enough about his complaints to try to figure out what the problem is. Last week, I was poking around my computer, getting ready to do a back-up of important files, and a purge of old stuff I no longer need. I found a file that launched a screen saver, called Plasma Tunnel, I hadn't used in about two years. It's a cool screen saver, if you're into screen savers. It makes me think of what the doctor sees on the TV while performing a colonscopy, but a less gory. If you have a Mac, check it out here. It's free.

So, the next day, Matthew was in the middle of a meltdown on my lap, in front of the computer, when the plasma tunnel launched. He opened his eyes just long enough to catch a glimpse, and he was better, instantly. Apparently, we've been denying him of his plasma for the last couple of months, and that was the problem.

So now, whenever he gets cranky, I bring/turn him toward the computer and we enter the plasma tunnel. It's not a long-term fix for all of his complaints, but it calms him quickly and thoroughly, and it usually buys me a bit of time to finish what I'm doing.

I sent a note to the creator of the software, Fruitz of Dojo, today to say thanks for helping to turn my crabby little beastie into a sweet, content little baby, at least some of the time. But thanks aren't really adequate, so I want to let a few more people know about this cool software developer, in case you or someone you know needs a ride in the plasma tunnel.

Glen and Matthew take a ride in the plasma tunnel.

Meat Loaf and Macaroni and Cheese

I'm not a mean person, really. You, of course, can disagree. I'm cool with that.

I made homemade macaroni and cheese last night, a great comfort meal, and for me, conjures good memories, as well as promotes reflection on the state of affairs. No one made mac and cheese better than my mom; and if you tried my mom's, you'd probably agree. She made it with a load of cheese and a ton of buttery bread crumbs on top. She always served it with meat loaf, and this was one of my favorite meals. As an adult, I skipped the meat loaf (don't know why — I do like it), and focused on trying to recreate Mom's mac and cheese, usually with decent results. My mom's was better though. Far more addictive: it didn't matter how much food was in your gut, it was just not possible to shovel enough of this gooey casserole into your head quickly enough.

Recently though, I took a slightly different trajectory on my mac and cheese preparation, because of inspiration from a former coworker. She topped her casserole with buttered chunks of white bread, and — bless her heart — she would bring it in to share, and holy crap, that was good stuff. So, now, I make the "guts" of the casserole the way my mom did, except I use fatter noodles, like ziti or rigatoni, as they are far more effective cheese vehicles; and I top the whole thing with buttered bread, and it makes me very happy.

I swear, I'm not being mean, but rather, just stating things the way they are/were: both my mom, and my former coworker were/are large, large women. And, for the record, my former coworker was a spitting image of the singer Meat Loaf. It would be nice if our society wasn't so image-obsessed, and could see people like this — well, anyone who isn't a size 2 (whether or not they look like Meat Loaf) — as complete, beautiful beings. Most of us love food, but we have a tendency to be hypercritical of the heavy folks who make it for us. I love food, AND the people who make it for me, especially if they're overweight. Similarly, Glen has a policy: never get your movie popcorn from the skinny guy, because he won't know how to butter it. It's a fact, he says.

I'm no supermodel, that's for sure. I like my food, and hate diets, and am deeply opposed to exercise for the sake of exercise (exercise that happens as a result of playing a game, or taking in the sights, or getting a breath of fresh air, or building something, is okay). And like I said, I'm really not mean. Certainly not as mean as I might come off, or some people might think I am. I say all of this because I was called "mean" for noticing that my former coworker looked a lot like Meat Loaf:

I bet he can cook (or at least appreciate) a fine mac and cheese casserole.

Merely stating that someone looks like someone else isn't nasty or sweet. It just IS. Besides, I hear Mr. Loaf is a very, very nice person, and well, so was my former coworker.

Anyway, I was thinking happy thoughts of my mom, and my former coworker yesterday as I tended my impatient, but adorable baby boy, while I juggled the boiling pasta water, and the butter, and bread, and cheese, and cheese grater, but those happy thoughts did not change the fact that the top of my casserole burned a bit. The insides were fine, but without that buttery crust, what's the point? My disappointment made me miss my mom, and my former coworker.

Yesterday, as I prepared my ever-so-slightly ill-fated mac and cheese, rumors flitted about that Trenton's business administrator, Jane Feigenbaum, would resign, and today, I saw in the news that it's true. I'm not being mean, but it just seems to me that Mayor Douglas Palmer's ship is sinking. Sinking fast, and without recovery options (again, I'm talking about Palmer's ship, not the entire city). He can deny the dire situation this city is in, and his administration is facing; he can call me and the other bloggers "haters" in his State of the City address, if he'll even bother to address the city this year. But I'm just stating the obvious truth.

Sometimes the truth hurts, I guess.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Comcrapular, part le deuce

First, just a quick apology for not posting much. Truth is, I think about my blog all the time. Probably way more than what is normal or healthy. I just have a little guy who has become a) a bit of a screaming monster, and b) a constant (and I do mean CONSTANT) eater. I need to fatten him up, and he will probably chill out on both fronts. But right now, he's swinging. My midwife, by the way, calls the swing "The Neglect-o-Matic," which makes me feel badly, because, in a sense, it's true. But we all need some neglect every now and then.

So, maybe you noticed that an employee from Comcast posted a comment to my entry about our inconsistent service? I wonder if Comcast employees are paid to monitor the blogs for complaints, or if this was just a random bit of serendipity that she found me? We had a pleasant email exchange, and I received a follow up call from another rep, asking me if there was anything else Comcast could do for me, and I thought, "Wow, pretty cool." The people part of Comcast is really okay.

Everything was pretty cool, that is, until the storm this weekend, anyway. We have a fairly awesome Apple Time Capsule, which is both home to — get this — a freakin' terabyte hard disk, and a wireless router. A terabyte is massive, in case you're wondering. And we could probably offer Trenton wireless interwebs with this device. Heck, East Trenton is probably wireless because of us, at least if you know the password.

So we noticed the Time Capsule was blinking amber, which, like traffic lights on the road, is not such a welcome sign. "Caution! Caution! Caution!" is the message, and we don't like that (who does, right?), because we take our interwebs wireless. But in our case, the Time Capsule was blinky because the modem was flaky, and the modem was flaky because Comcast's signal was flaky.

I took a picture of the schmozzle of wires outside our window last weekend (I think it was last weekend, right?), and that schmozzle was blowin' in the wind, big time, this weekend, and I'd bet that is a gigantic part of the reason our internet is so damn flaky.

And this weekend's inconsistency gave some trouble to our Time Capsule; after a few hours of this on-again, off-again service, it just wouldn't offer its services, which made Glen very mad, and me kinda crazy. I had to feed the baby, so Glen broke down and called Comcast — and get this — our service went in and out so much on Saturday that we lost our IP address, and we never would have been able to fix it on our own. The tech on the line was able to assign us a new number, and we were on our merry little way of surfing the interwebs wirelessly again.

So, Melissa (comcastcares3), I hope you're reading this. You folks on the phone, and surfing the blogs, and in tech support are pretty awesome. But the wires outside my house suck bad. If y'all could fix them, that would be great.

Gotta go. Screaming baby.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Remembering Lacey-Loo


I don't know what's out there, beyond my line of sight right here in this world. I don't have any answers or strong opinions about the afterlife, except I don't believe we should attempt to understand the mind/heart of God, if there is one.

I read the details of a study in Discover magazine some time ago about how people — even non-dog people — can interpret a dog's intention by the sound of its bark, its posture, its facial expression. And, it turns out, dogs are very good at understanding a human's intention, too. We have a symbiotic relationship, dogs and humans, and the deal between our two species benefits us both. Humans get some level of protection, and someone to clean up the leftovers; dogs get fed and housed; and we both get companionship. The deep love and understanding, in my opinion, is real and enhances our lives.

Because of this arrangement, and the wonderful, intricate history our two species have, IF there's a heaven, I cannot see how dogs could be excluded. They are part of our society, and I don't think God, if there is a god, would want us to be without them after we die, if there's something after we die, or else we wouldn't have them here on earth with us, even if for all too brief a spell.

So, today, I remember Lacey, my friend for 15 years. I will always miss her. She was a good one. And because of that, I hope she's in a good place now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Comcastic interwebs fail me in my Trenton home!

Our Comcast cable interwebs have been flaky all month which is frustrating, because I work from home, though most days, I sit around and surf the inter nets (particularly Facebook), like many of you who get out of your South Park jammy bottoms in the morning, and head off to work.

I cannot sit idle when the inter nets go down, so, when it happens, I unplug and replug and disconnect and reconnect all of the wires to the blinky World Wide Web boxes in my office that make the interwebs go, because on occasion, one of the vomity furry monsters living in our house will knock a cable out, or worse, puke on a piece of equipment, rendering it useless (though that's only happened once, and really, it worked out well enough, but that's a story for another time). And you know what? I could prolly check the cables and look for animal vomit until the cows come home, and it will never change this:

(Click to enlarge this Comcasticness)

That is the Comcast junction box for their cable, for their customers (including me) on my street. I feel badly posting this picture since it makes the neighbor's house look run-down, but it really isn't — if you come by, you'll see it's well maintained and will be repainted on that side soon.


Anyway, no wonder my interwebs break so regularly! All of the little data are getting tangled up in those knots! I envy my friends and family "on the outside," cuz I'm sure they don't have this outside their windows causing their interwebs to fail!

WTF, Comcast?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I am a geek and I watch too much television

I woke up this morning thinking of baboon ass. Bright red male baboon ass. Not in any kind of perverted way. Hell no. But just in a sense that nature is colorful. Weird sometimes, but ultimately elegant and well-designed.

The thoughts of baboon ass — naturally — led me to think about how righteous TiVo is, and how we don't have to be slaves to the television programs we like to watch, because we can watch them any time we want. And in thinking about how everyone ought to have TiVo or DVR service, I thought about the shows we've been watching, and it's a lot of stuff on the BBC.

I know this might make me sound snobby, but remember, I am sitting here in my jammy bottoms. South Park jammy bottoms, but not the same ones from yesterday. See:



These jammies commemorate the episode when the boys envisioned themselves as ninjas. That is Lady, my mother's cat, next to me, by the way. Lady really needs to find a new home, but I'm having a hard time with that. First, what's another cat at this point, right? And, she was my mother's cat, and my mother loved her, and having Lady around makes me feel — however deluded — watched over by my mother. Plus no one wants a cat. No one. Right? You don't, and I don't blame you. No one even wants an attractive cat, with an alluring beauty mark on her cheek. But if, for some strange reason, you do, there are so many other cats in worse situations than the ones living at my house, so if seeing Lady makes you want a cat, please consider visiting the Trenton Animal Shelter this week. Lady is from Trenton originally, so there's a good chance she has some kin over at the shelter. Kin in dire need of help.

Anyway, back to the BBC, and not being snobby. Further evidence of my lack of snobitude: sometimes I ask Glen to rewind a scene 15 or 16 times just so I can catch the snarky dialog. Those British accents are tricky, but it's worth it to me.

It is good we record our shows to watch when we want/can, because I like the BBC primarily for its science fiction. I am a total geek, but not so far gone that I'd actually say to friends on a Saturday night, "Hey, look, I'd love meet you at the bar, but I gotta catch Part Two of Torchwood." Not that we get invited to the bar THAT much, but I'm glad that we can keep our Saturday nights open, just in case.

Because of the writers' strike last year, we started watching even more BBC — more than Doctor Who and its kick-ass, WAY-too-adult spin-off, Torchwood — though it is frustrating that the English think it's perfectly acceptable to make five episodes of a particular show and call it a season. Sheesh. Despite this injustice, we started watching Top Gear, even though I don't really like cars, except for their ability to get us to and fro. These guys make me think of the guys over at Bald, Fat, and Angry, if the guys at Bald, Fat, and Angry were British, focused on cars, and, say, Short, Shaggy-Haired, and Vicious.


One of Top Gear's presenters, Jeremy Clarkson. He is hands-down, THE biggest bastard, personality-wise, I have ever watched on TV.
He is my hero.


We also like cop shows, so we started watching Wire in the Blood, which is kind of like the American show, The Mentalist (which we also started watching; the lead actor of The Mentalist, by the way, is not American, and if you click on the link, you, too, can tell by just looking at him, even though he pulls off an American accent convincingly enough). We also enjoyed watching Life on Mars, which has also become an American show (we also watched the American pilot of that show last week, and it, too, was very good, though there was some way-too-obvious, forced sentimentality about the World Trade Center; we all still feel bad about September 11, but it really bugs me when companies profit off it).

In watching some of these British shows, Glen got pretty excited for a new BBC program called Primeval, which started back in August, I believe. So, we've been watching that as well. This appeals to my not-so-secret fondness for British programming, and my geeky science fiction side. Primeval is full of time traveling, rifts, and some wacky creatures from the past AND the future.

And we watched our TiVo'd recording of this weekend's broadcast last night, and it is the reason I woke up thinking of baboon ass. And TiVo. And the BBC. See, on the most recent episode of Primeval, our heroes were confronted by what Glen suggested were angry walruses from the future, even though the characters tried to convince us the animals were the descendants of present day sharks. The adorable little pixie, Abby, is taken by one of these shark/walruses, and stashed away for later consumption. Maybe? That part of the story was a little unclear, and I suspect, since the series, like most science fiction, builds on itself, we'll find out more about this in a later episode. But Abby, being a main character and all, is freed from the clutches of the shark/walruses, only to be faced, a short time later, by an even larger, angrier shark/walrus. The larger shark/walrus had red spots all over its back, which immediately made me think of a baboon, and how the red asses of the males turn even redder when they're pissed.

I guess I appreciated this little detail, but where this show kinda falls down for me, is that nearly all of the creatures are freakin' ugly. The shark/walruses of this week's episode of Primeval were particularly ugly. And it would seem this show has a much bigger budget than other science fiction shows ever did, and they should be able to make their creatures formidable AND elegant. Baboon ass, in and of itself, is not attractive. But in context, with the whole creature, baboons are beautiful. Even some of the most frightening creatures on our planet right now, shit like spiders, and alligator gar, and man-eating tigers and sharks are all glorious (and effective) in their symmetry and ingenuity of design.

So, I have a very hard time believing that as time goes on, and as nature's hand guides the creatures on this planet to adapt to the conditions of their time, they'd become horrifically ugly and cumbersome. Maybe this is my own bias toward present day aesthetics speaking? I doubt it. I mean, there is just no way Abby, or her cohorts should have been able to get away from the giant walrus/shark thingy, especially the one with the angry red spots. It's making me think of the Sleestack from the 1970's show, Land of the Lost. The Sleestack stood upright, and used tools (including weapons), and dressed themselves (sometimes) but did not have really good joints at the knee, making them, in my humble opinion, the most ineffective, least-convincing villains in all of science fiction.

Oh. No. Watch out. It's a Sleestack.


I don't really have a point this. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Primeval, and will continue watching it, but its ridiculously ugly and angry creatures illustrate what's wrong with science fiction — especially science fiction with what would appear to be an expansive budget. Call me shallow, but I want better looking aliens, better looking creatures, more convincing villains. Is that too much to ask?