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?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Desensitized

We all know that animals are often in lousy situations; we're even desensitized to it. Pictures of overcrowded cats in cages at the Trenton Animal Shelter won't make you donate your time, or send supplies, or money, to help with this crisis. "Oh well," you may think, "that's never gonna change." And you'd be correct. So maybe you'll continue working on that report, or will pull the chicken out of the freezer for dinner tonight, and just continue on your way.

I don't judge you for that. I don't. Glen and I do a lot for the Trenton cats (and occasional dog) and I'm convinced most days it doesn't matter at all. It doesn't change the fact that there are irresponsible idiots out there who don't sterilize their animals, and then dump them on the street; or, that people are losing their homes right now, and the family pet is often the first thing to go. Left unchecked, those family pets will take over the streets, where they will surely die; or they wind up in the shelters, where they may die, too.

I started writing this here blog in part because of the stray cat situation in Trenton. I had volunteered at the shelter a couple of times in 2005, and always left in tears, and sometimes, I left with an animal. Obviously, I'm an animal person, so feeling lousy for an animal in a lousy situation isn't difficult for me. But it does reflect a bigger trend: that domesticated animals are in such bad shape because their companions — humans — are, too. The way I figure, if I can change the circumstances of just one animal, it means everything to that one creature; it also takes some of the load off of the good people at the shelter; maybe it even helps, in a small way, to keep our taxes down (not that the shelter has seen much in the way of tax dollars; good God, have you SEEN that place?)


Photo courtesy of Paul A. Harris, Jr., of www.trentonrises.com. For more pictures of the shelter, including pictures of way too many cats in a deplorable state, click on his link.

We all have different strengths and talents, and some folks are really talented at saying, "Look at those stupid animal people who would do anything for animals, but won't do the same for their fellow humans." And some people are just trying to maintain and/or improve their little corner of the world, in the ways they can, and if their little corner is riddled with stray cats, well then, that's the problem that must be addressed. So, I'll focus on my neighborhood cats, and LA Parker, you can keep up your fine humanitarian efforts in Ewing.

Our goal with a cat-riddled corner was to keep our local cats out of the Trenton Animal Shelter, largely because it's a kill facility, but also because it helps to relieve the burden at the shelter, freeing up the staff and volunteers to focus on the animals who need attention. Plus, I should be able to take care of my own damn corner. I am capable of that. Most of the time.

I don't think I'm all that special. I don't have self-esteem problems, but I mean, come on: I'm a computer geek, and most of the time, I don't shower until a half hour or so before Glen gets home from work, and I spend my days at the computer, in my jammy bottoms. Today, they're South Park/Camo jammy bottoms.


My South Park jammy bottoms are awesome, and so are my long toes. That is Steve (who was a Trenton stray), resting his weary, cat-tormenting head on my knee.

I mention this because with the written word, you don't get to hear my inflection. And I want to convey that I am not really a self-righteous, sanctimonious person. If I were, most likely I would have (at least) showered by now. What I'm saying is that I do have respect for (most of) the rest of humanity. Surely most of you are more social and more active than I am: you shower and get dressed in the morning, and leave the house, right? I'm a bit busy these days with a new baby, a new dog, and a bunch of cats, but I assure you, even without all of those wonderful beings around me, I'd still be sitting here in my pajama bottoms. It's a fact.

My point is, if I can take care of a bunch of beings, certainly you folks who get dressed in the morning and leave the house occasionally can do a little something, too. You don't have to do a lot. Maybe just don't give up your animals, or try to pawn them off on suckers like me. Maybe you have some old towels you were gonna toss: the shelter can use those. Maybe next time you're at Sam's or Costco, you can buy a case of cat food and you can bring it to the shelter — or bring it to me, and I'll bring it to the shelter. If you've ditched an animal lately (and you know who you are, Dad), perhaps you can repent in even just the smallest way by buying a bunch of little fuzzy mice, and again, bringing them to the shelter, or bring them to me to bring to the shelter. If you do have a bit of spare time, maybe you can go to the shelter to help out, or coordinate with the volunteers and help out on adoption days at the pet store. It's a great activity for older kids who like animals.

I know there are people who figure none of these efforts will make a difference and there are people who will criticize because you're doing something for animals, instead of people. But your efforts do help humanity. Cats and dogs were domesticated by us; they are part of us and our history. They need us to care for them. Humanity is better for what companion animals have to offer, and their suffering does not improve our society.

For more information, check out the Trenton Animal Shelter's website.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dancing Monkeys

I spent much of my life absolutely opposed to having children. So now, with a little guy around, my ideas and goals have been challenged, and admittedly, I do like a shake-up like that. This chance to re-evaluate is a gift, maybe? Even if it's not a gift, I appreciate a chance to have a well-rounded life experience. Even with a new attitude, a big concern, especially regarding this blog, is irrelevance. I've always aimed for a balance between local politics, and personal stuff. And right now, there is SO much interesting stuff happening here in Trenton, but also, Matthew is pretty much attached to me most of the day, and I'm not sleeping well, so most cerebral thought is out the window.

I may have been a relatively intolerant person before kids, and I suppose having one gives me the ability to see that aspect in myself, and perhaps, change it (or grow less tolerant of other aspects in life??). In my former life, I wasn't much for hearing about other people's kids, unless I knew the kid well. So, I promise, I won't go all "poopie diaper" on you; and at the same time, I hope you don't mind that I write about my experience — so far — with Matthew. I suspect that not everyone is as intolerant of Baby Stuff as I used to be. I hope.

That's a disclaimer, I guess; though at this early stage, and with a kid who may stir at any moment, I really have no idea where this will lead me today. I just need to exercise my fingers!

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that I was going to pack up and get rid of all of my parenting/pregnancy books, and I did pack them up, but I haven't actually taken them to the thrift store yet. It's because priorities have shifted, in a seismic way, and mere maintenance is difficult. But we're doing okay. Matthew has been far more vocal in the last couple of weeks: there's a lot of screaming and crying, which is really distressing. He's hungry, a lot, and he's incredibly impatient, it turns out. But once he's chowing down, he's relatively content. Since I'm home with him, and the one doing nearly all of the feedings (thanks to biology, is all; Glen would love to do more feedings, if he had lactating boobs), I'm not doing much of anything else, since it often — depending on the baby's mood — requires both of my hands to hold him in place. I have been reading a bit more than I had been in the last couple of years. I just finished [finally] J.D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey, and I'm about halfway through Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. My niece, Megan, loaded a couple of games on my cell phone, and have been playing a cool game called Cubes. It requires a bit of basic strategy, and a free thumb, and I can spare both. It's quite addictive, and I have quickly become a high scorer; I am ashamed to admit that, but not too proud that I can't.

Try it, it's addictive!

Matthew isn't napping much during the day, most days, so it doesn't give me a block of time to get much done. But when he does sleep, or contentedly swings in his very awesome swing, I usually have a few minutes to take a shower, or go through some of the baby loot we have stashed here and there.


Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!


Coming home from the hospital without Catherine, and facing a house ready for her, was excruciating; packing everything back up was numbing. I didn't want to get ready for Matthew, until he was in our arms, and we are still paying for that, since mere maintenance — dishes, laundry, animal care — is huge right now. But I am able to sneak away for a few minutes and go through a closet of baby stuff, or the bags of the stuff intended for Catherine in the attic.

My initial reactions, of course, were a deep, profound sadness: those things were Catherine's. There are some of Catherine's items I can't bring myself to pull out and use for Matthew though: one is a lovely handmade quilt from a friend* and the other is a box of handmade newborn cloth diapers; the diapers arrived a few days after Catherine's death. That sucked. Really bad. There is a lot of back and forth on the issue of cloth diapers, but since ANY poopie diaper seemed insurmountable to me back in January of 2007, I figured cloth ones wouldn't be any more wretched than disposable ones. But no matter what your thoughts are on diapers, you would agree that these little diapers are just adorable; well made, too.

We've pulled the top diaper out, in the last few weeks, but put it back promptly. The rest of the box remains as it was last year, and stays untouched in the closet.

Matthew is Catherine's brother, and because of this, he, of course, looks like her. And the resemblance is the strongest, of course, when he sleeps. It was so hard in the first few days, to see him sleep, to see her face, to wonder if he'd live. We know there are no givens, but that he's a bit of a fitful sleeper is comforting to us. There are difficult feelings associated with the use of Catherine's items, too, but I'm able to put those feelings aside relatively quickly. Had she lived, we'd be using hand-me-downs. And, I'm plain practical: Matthew needs blankets and onesies and towels and toys too, and we have a bunch of them that were taking up space without purpose until Matthew came along.

I have encountered a number of items my mom had given me for Catherine, in these forays into the attic and the depths of the closet. I came across a crib set with monkeys all over it, from my mom, and I got a lump in my throat. She gave it to me at my baby shower for Catherine; she and I were not getting along particularly well on that day, and so it's a horrible mess of complicated feelings to see those dancing monkeys, for the baby we didn't bring home, the grandchild she never got to know. And here I am, now sitting with her second grandchild she won't get to know, with a monkey comforter that reminds me of a time when I was bickering with her.

Oi.

No offense to anyone in my family, but my logical brain knows that my mom wouldn't be that helpful to us right now with this new baby. I use the word "help," because she would have offered to come "to help." But she'd only want to hold the baby, and the house would ultimately be much messier for her visit, and we'd be stressed out of our minds. My mom brought chaos with her. She did. Despite the problems we had at the end, wow, I miss her. My mom loved her grandkids, really, really loved them. And, it is so nice to hold Matthew, and I think my mom would have loved holding him, too.

This is my mom, Maggie, and her first grandson (my nephew), Richie, in 1993.

I am so sorry she won't get to hold Matthew like that.

I'm also sorry that this post has become kind of depressing. And the use of that word makes me wonder about postpartum depression, but I don't think my blues are hormonally driven, and they aren't all-encompassing. I just feel kinda sad today, and I think it's okay. Sometimes life is hard, is all.

Sometimes life isn't hard. And sometimes those sensations come back-to-back. So, I also feel optimistic, too. My boy, who has been spending so much time hollering lately, has just begun smiling. And not just little hints of smiles, but rather, big, huge, whole face, twinkling eyes, gaping wide-opened grins. He doesn't spend his days grinning, yet, but maybe that's coming? And as of this weekend, he added a new sound to his vocabulary; I'd put this new sound in the "coo" family, but it's more of an "Aah," a sound that says, "This is SO cool." Matthew's only done it three times in as many days, but I'm hopeful.

And hope is good.

_____________________________

* We received an absolutely stunning handmade quilt for Matthew from a friend; I love all the work that went into it, and I love that it's HIS; I'm glad he has one that was intended for him.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"The sad fact"

If you look at Mayor Palmer's personal public relations vehicle, the website for the city of Trenton, you'll see he's supposedly taking an "aggressive team approach" to help Trenton residents keep their homes, in these tough economic times, when so many people are facing foreclosure.

Earlier this year, the mayor said of the mortgage crisis, "Throughout the month of June, and going forward, we will show that in OUR city, we can make a difference, with volunteers willing to help." The Trenton Mortgage Mitigation Task Force was formed to let people know that information and counseling are available for those who are getting behind in their mortgage payments. For more information, by the way, you can call 609-341-4714 or 1-800-656-9637.

According to Susan Jouard, the communications and public affairs specialist for NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit organization created by Congress to provide financial support, technical assistance, and training for community-based revitalization efforts, "New Jersey is 14th is the nation in foreclosures — one in 37 New Jersey homeowners will face foreclosure."

Some other interesting facts about foreclosure, locally:
New Jersey's homeownership rate is approximately 65%
Mercer County's homeownership rate is more than 67%
Trenton's homeownership rate is 45%
(all numbers are from 2006, source: US Census Bureau)


I was looking at Mercer County's sheriff's foreclosure list for 9/3 through 11/5/2008, and there are 218 properties in the county in foreclosure at this time. More than half of them — 135 — are in Trenton. And a few of them list the property owner as the City of Trenton.

I'm running on very little sleep these last few weeks, and I've never been terribly good at math, but it sure seems like Trenton's foreclosure rates are very high, given that homeownership here is lower than the rest of the county, and since the population here is not half of that of the rest of the county.

Back in May, the mayor said, "We need to stop the ripple effects of this foreclosure disgrace ... and that means on every front, together, we have to fight for solutions.”

Certainly this problem is not all Mayor Palmer's fault. But he certainly isn't qualified to lead in tough economic times, that's for sure. His words are hollow. Under his leadership, business and educational opportunities have bailed out of Trenton. Even my college alma mater ditched the "Trenton" in its name during Palmer's tenure, erasing all association with the city. Coincidence? I'm not so sure. And he's stacked this place full of low income housing, which perpetuates the cycle of poverty and crime, and encourages good people and businesses to leave, making it even more difficult for people to work and pay their bills. And subsequently, they lose their homes.

"The sad fact is," the Mayor said, "too many people are paralyzed with fear on this issue. That's why we are stepping up this information campaign."

The REAL sad fact is that the Mayor just doesn't care.