Friday, January 25, 2008

An open letter.

Here’s the thing, Hillary: I don’t like you these days. And if you’ve lost me, a core Democratic supporter who had actually planned on voting for you, then you are losing other people, too. At least, I hope you are, because this bullshit of the last week or so has really pissed me off. What do you think you’re doing, trying to rip up another Democrat; one of the brightest lights of our party? Are you truly so blind to the needs of this country that you would sacrifice our future for your own, immediate grab for power? I don’t know, maybe this is your revenge against Bill for all the shit he put you through when he was in office; certainly he is making a big, fat fool of himself now to further your goals.

The more I watch this spectacle you’re creating, the more I think you might as well be George Bush for all the good you’re doing for American politics. Most of us are longing to move past this kind of old school, Tammany Hall shit and get on with a more optimistic future, and you don’t want to let it go. Look, I’m not quibbling with you on the issues – at least you are more or less still a Democrat. I’m just tired of watching you act like a puppet on a string, changing your tack every 5 minutes to try to capture whatever your advisers tell you is the way the wind is blowing this week. Last week you were laughing like a hyena; this week you’re “finding your voice.” Sorry, but that is so disingenuous and you know it. Why can’t you just play nice? You started this, so it’s not like you were on the defensive.

Sister, we NEED to win this election. The fate of this country is on the line. The next president is going to determine whether we will ever regain a position of respect in the world or maybe even if we’ll all die at the hands of people who really, really dislike us. Do you think Mitt Romney is going to garner us that respect? The answer is NO. John McCain? I don’t ever want to have to find out. So stop acting like a goddamned fool and be nice to your fellow Democrat, because I don’t want a bitter taste in my mouth if I have to vote for you next November. This election is an opportunity for America; don’t fucking blow it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

And then dousing them.

Lest you think that my husband is a jerk or that we have serious problems with our marriage, I should probably have pointed out before writing my last post that both he and I have an occasional habit of “catastrophizing” to a remarkable degree. What I mean by that is that he or I, in this case he, will take the germ of a valid idea and blow it so out of proportion as to become almost ridiculous. The bad part of this is obvious, as it can cause ruffled feathers and result in some unnecessarily hurt feelings and unwarranted fears. The upside, however, is that nobody can ever accuse us of complacency, and so we end up getting issues out on the table before they ever really become issues at all. (The other downside: talking shit into the ground.)

Of course I made my husband reassure me several times that he only fears we could embark on a path of parallel lives; not that we have already done so. He told me, “I’m worried it will just happen when we’re not paying attention.” I said, “Are you kidding me? You, not paying attention?” So that was pretty much the end of the discussion, although it remains true that the constant needs of a baby do result, necessarily, in not enough time for us to focus only on each other. There’s really no getting around that. And so, thank CHRIST, we are not canceling our trip to Paris just yet.

Speaking of catastrophizing, if I was going to have to cancel our trip to Paris I was thinking I might as well just hang it up as a person. Retaining some sense that there remains an individual behind the wife-and-mother façade is imperative to me, and keeping up my annual trips to Europe is part of that. I realize it’s unlikely I will be able to keep up the annual aspect too religiously, but I really, really, REALLY don’t want to just sit here in Denver forever watching my child grow up with no exposure to the world. Oh, good, I’m glad a marginally unselfish thought just flowed out of me for a change – it’s not just about what I want (annual shopping sprees, basically) but also about retaining a link to the larger world, and instilling that value in our child. The single best thing my mother ever did for me in terms of shaping my adult life was moving us to Paris when I was 12. That exposure made a difference to the way I have coaxed my life to evolve; from moving back to Europe again and again to not saving enough money because I blow too much on trips back there when I am living here. And you know, other things – like being really open to other cultures.

That was a joke. I’m open to European culture, but I don’t put my money where my mouth is when my tolerance for other cultures is put to the test. For example, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that from what I can see, I wouldn’t be feeling particularly diplomatic if I were called upon to visit, say… the Middle East. I’m just not that open to the “culture” I see flowing out of there. Call me old-fashioned, but not so old-fashioned I’m still living in the 13th century.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Fanning the flames.

Did a whole week just go by? I suppose it did; in a blur of sleepless nights, calculating Weight Watchers points and endless news analysis of the presidential candidates.

And then there was last night, when after feeding and tending to the baby from 2 until 3 in the morning my husband returned to bed and said, “I don’t think we should go to Paris in May.” Even as disappointment welled up in me, I wasn’t surprised to hear him say it and so I said, “Okay.” I thought I knew where this was coming from; could we really leave our baby with his grandmother when he still wasn’t sleeping through the night? Would we travel thousands of miles only to sit around and cry about missing our baby?

Over coffee this morning, he admitted there was more. Last night a friend had come over for dinner and after a couple of bottles of wine had said “No offense, but you two seem in love with Eeyore.” Even though she had started five other sentences with “no offense,” in each case where there was nothing offensive being said, my husband interpreted her words to mean that while we seemed in love with our child, we didn’t seem in love with each other. In the dark of the night, he had decided that he didn’t want to go to Paris because what if her words were borne out? What if we could find nothing to talk about except Eeyore and whether he was surviving at home without us? Never mind that we find interesting things to talk about every day of our lives together; clearly she had seen something that was there, apparent to all but us.

This was upsetting to me. I don’t feel that way, and in fact I have been fantasizing for months about this trip as one extended romantic stroll along the Seine, complete with accordions playing in the background. I’ve pictured him taking me to see the buildings he’s studied, and my taking him to all my favorite restaurants. We’d end every evening with a last glass of wine at an outdoor café, snuggled up close to each other and talking about what we’d seen that day. Other than calling home to check on the baby, and acknowledging that we would of course miss him, my fantasies about our trip to Paris hadn’t included feeling estranged from my husband of a mere year and a half.

In the light of day, he claimed to realize that was extreme, but that he was concerned that we could go the way of many parents who become just that: parents, and no longer the couple who loved only each other enough to get all the rest of it, the family stuff, started. This is, of course, a valid concern for any two people who have had to shift their focus from solely each other to include a third, bottomless pit of a person. It’s hard to find time for each other when much of our time together requires constant attention to a squirming baby. Still, maybe I am naïve, but I had thought we’d been conscious of the pitfalls of parenthood and had been trying to stay ahead of them with things such as scheduling a babysitter most weekends so we could go out alone. We’ve even been back to see our couples therapist to make sure we keep working on our communication and, uh, stuff. Despite knowing we’d miss our child, we had planned a romantic week away, just the two of us. Doesn’t that active effort we put into our marriage put us ahead of most people?

What can new parents do to keep the central relationship, the one that makes everything else possible, thriving?

Friday, January 11, 2008

Adding a little color.

I've been thinking that this new blog has been sadly devoid of photographs, so here are a few for you from Christmas. VERY thrilling stuff, although I doubt your Christmas photos are that much more exciting.

The mantel.

The backyard on Christmas Day, when we had a snowstorm. I guess we kind of forgot to put away the patio furniture at the end of the summer, huh.

The dinner table. You can see some of my green depression glass if you look closely: Ring and Manhattan glass tumblers. There are also Jadite serving dishes, ooh, lovely; but I also spy some crappy Pyrex. I also have a large collection of mismatched green antique plates (they all have some green in them), and if you know what you are looking for you can see that I have alternated black Midwinter Landscape plates with some new Staffordshire. I can't say I am too fond of the runner/placemat setup, but I was kind of winging it last minute. Fortunately, people usually cut new moms some slack.

You probably recognize this as a Christmas tree.

You know who this is, checking out his namesake.

Good lord, could he be any cuter? Except today someone at work asked me how the baby was doing, and I sent this picture with just the message: "Voila Eeyore!" She wrote back: "She's a beauty! I know you are having such fun with little Viola!" I suppose he could look like a girl, but really!

A baby gets tired (except in the middle of the night, of course).

Thursday, January 10, 2008

The merry housewife.

This morning while I was drying my hair and marveling at how it can still be so thick when I lose a mouse-sized amount in the shower every morning, I tried to come up with some ideas about things to write about in my blog. Several of the blogs I read regularly post lovely photographs and recipes for delightful meals, and so I laughed as I imagined posting a picture of dinner in our house last night: a plate of too many Safeway brand cheese ravioli, unappetizingly slopped with more than one portion of Barilla tomato and basil pasta sauce. And two glasses of Plungerhead zinfandel. The previous night’s dinner would have appeared better at first glance: an attractively browned chicken breast next to a ton of yellow squash (and a glass and a half of Sanford chardonnay). But then I would give you the recipe for 4 chicken breasts:

½ cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
4 tblsp bread crumbs

Combine mayo and parmesan and spread on chicken breasts. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs. Bake at 425° for 25 minutes.

Yes, I made a recipe that involved coating chicken with mayonnaise and cheese. Of course, it keeps the chicken quite tender despite the baking at high heat, but still.

The other problem with dinners these days is that they only happen after we have gotten the baby to sleep. He’s usually asleep by 7:30, but that’s after getting home at 6, a bath at 6:30, then a bottle and whatever soothing it takes to get him to pass out. There’s no time to even get anything started before he falls asleep, so it’s usually a decision about whatever is easy and fast and not too processed or full of preservatives.

On Sundays I try to make something a little more involved, but even then I don’t really rise to the level of gourmet cookin’. For example, last Sunday I made stuffed green peppers. As one friend said, “Oh, school cafeteria food.” Actually, they were very good and very healthy, but I guess they do smack a bit of childhood dinners. Not of lunchroom food, though; that was more stuff like “chili mac.” Which I also tried making recently and which was pretty gross.

Don’t get me wrong, I CAN cook more impressive meals, and I try to do so at least when we have dinner guests. But during the week, there’s no time for that, or even for a trip to the grocery store after work to replenish the larder and avoid another evening of frozen chicken tikka masala and naan (Tandoor Chef brand – actually the best I have ever had in the States).

Here’s one very good, quick recipe for you, though:

Salmon fillets
Olive oil
Feta cheese (preferably this Australian brand they carry at Whole Foods that’s really soft and soaking in olive oil and herbs and costs too much - $10 for a little plastic container)
Pine nuts

Drizzle olive oil over the salmon fillets and bake them at 350° for however long it takes. My salmon never seems to cook as fast as recipes say it will, so I’m a little clueless here. Maybe 25 minutes? When the salmon is just about done, toast the pine nuts in a skillet. Smear a bunch of that awesome feta cheese on the cooked salmon fillets (as much as you want – don’t skimp, it is SO good), drizzle it with a little more olive oil, preferably from the feta cheese container if you bought the stuff from Oz), then “scatter” the toasted pine nuts on top. I say scatter for you bird-like eaters; I dump a bunch on.

That is such a good recipe and yet somehow I managed to make it sound disgusting. Good job, me.

Anyway, it’s quite good with that Uncle Ben’s Long Grain and Wild Rice fast cook rice, even if that stuff has enough sodium to blow you up like a balloon for a week. Add a veg, and Bob’s your uncle – an easy, delicious dinner.

Tomorrow: Let’s learn to macramé! I hear it’s coming back in vogue.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

One hundred long winded things.

Taking a cue from other blogs, I thought I would see if I could come up with 100 factoids about myself to help you while away part of your work day.

1. I am very happily married to a man I met on Yahoo Personals. Not even Match, mind you, but Yahoo.

2. We were engaged after having known each other 2 months, married after 6, and had a baby after being married only for a year. Commitmentphobes have to move this quickly or it will never happen.

3. I am 38 years old and sometimes feel like I am starting to look it. Other times I look in the mirror and I think I still look like a teenager. Then I blink.

4. I am an in-house lawyer for a large company. It’s like working in heaven compared to working in private practice, which I did for 6 years before this.

5. I’ve lived a combined total of 7 years in Europe, comprised of 2 years in Paris in junior high, my college junior year abroad in Rome and Paris, 2 years in London after college and 2 years in London with a U.S. law firm. I hope I can provide that kind of opportunity for my own child.

6. My parents divorced when I was 3, which only seems right to me. I can’t even slightly imagine them together, as my mom is an international lawyer who has traveled all over the world and exposed me to that kind of lifestyle, and my father is a total homebody who lives happily in Florida with his wife and dogs and only went to Italy last year because it was a church-sponsored trip.

7. I have a large and quite nice collection of green early 20th century kitchen glass, consisting mostly of Depression glass but also including a fair amount of Fire-King (Jadite) and some California pottery.

8. I am originally from Georgia and even though I haven’t lived there since I was 10 years old, I still think of myself as a Southerner. Without the cultural baggage.

9. I think my meatloaf is better than any other meatloaf I have ever tasted.

10. Even though my husband is ridiculously good-looking, what I love the very most about him is how smart he is. He knows something about anything I would ever want to talk about, and not in an annoying way.

11. When I lived in Paris as a kid, my mother and I would make frequent weekend trips to W.H. Smith, the English bookstore, where I was allowed to buy whatever books I wanted. Then we’d have tea in the tearoom upstairs and each look through our books.

12. I own two electric guitars and haven’t touched them since I got pregnant. Before that, I was really bad but I also really loved playing.

13. I used to write music reviews for an online music magazine. That too, has fallen by the wayside since getting pregnant. Apparently to grow life inside you requires killing off parts of yourself.

14. I started smoking when I was 13 and only quit for good a year and a half ago when my husband was hospitalized with blood clots in his lungs. We both quit that day.

15. I had really, really loved smoking even though I knew how bad it was for me. Also, I gained 15 pounds when I quit, which seems really unfair to me.

16. Tucker Carlson was in my class in college and my boyfriend was his fraternity brother. That fraternity was packed to the gills with the rich taste of right wing entitlement.

17. The last time I lived in London, after breaking up with my then-boyfriend I spent the last few months alone in the big house we had lived in together. Some weekends I didn’t open my mouth to speak to anyone except my cat, Thomas. London can be like that.

18. I can see the Rocky Mountains from my office.

19. Some people would rather be hot than cold, or vice versa, but I can’t bear either.

20. I originally came to Denver on a 6-month secondment from my office in London, loved it and never left.

21. I say that if I could be anything I wanted I would be a writer, and then I never do what it takes to be one. I am my own worst enemy.

22. Historically, I have criticized myself mercilessly. I would never be as cruel to another person as I have been to myself. I am trying very hard to break that pattern now, at a time when I might as well accept that nobody is young, thin and lovely forever, and it is getting easier all the time.

23. I love all the places I have lived, and visit them regularly in my mind.

24. My current favorite TV show, or at least it was before the writers’ strike, is Brothers & Sisters.

25. As a teenager, I had mild Goth tendencies. I dressed pretty normally during the day, but when I went with my friends to underage, underground clubs at night, I tarted myself up like Robert Smith from the Cure with teased hair, white face makeup, the works. That was the music I listened to, as well, from New Order to Siouxsie and the Banshees.

26. My hair was every shade of red in high school from orange to eggplant, but my mother never permitted me to have the white or black hair I wanted, and for some reason I listened to her.

27. All the really great, classic books I have read on my own time, I read in high school lying on my twin bed. I could easily while away an entire Saturday with Ayn Rand. I think law school beat my desire to spend that kind of time reading out of me.

28. Until I was in college, I kept a jar of M&Ms or some other chocolate candy next to my bed and would grab a handful as soon as I woke up in the morning. Now, if there is anything sweet out on the kitchen counter, I will shove it mindlessly in my mouth before contemplating breakfast.

29. I have too many friends that I don’t talk to anymore because of some perceived slight that nobody wants to get over.

30. I will only go to early movies because I prefer to go out to eat afterwards instead of before. If I eat before, I feel rushed about getting to the movie on time, which is not relaxing. To me, dinner out is about relaxed conversation and, of course, wine.

31. I’ve wanted to be a TV news anchor since I was about 14. I’ve watched the local news religiously for as long as I can remember.

32. I’m too shy to be a TV news anchor. In college I interned at the local CBS station and would ride around with the reporters. One night, the reporter I was with offered to let me make my own version of the story he was reporting and we could go over it together back at the station. I was too much of a chicken and I can still remember how painfully frustrated I felt that the crushing weight of my shyness had won the battle against my desire to try something new.

33. I like to do my clothes shopping at the high street stores in London but I fear that right now (a) the dollar is too weak to make it worth it, and (b) I’m too big to fit into any of their tiny little fashions. London girls only eat chardonnay.

34. My first drink on my 21st birthday, which occurred during my semester in Paris, was a Malibu rum and pineapple juice.

35. When I spent my semester in Rome, I didn’t like wine yet and would only drink Nastro Azzurro beer. We would sit out on “Nun Beach,” which is what we called the terrace of the convent where my college program was housed, and everyone else would drink Chianti and smoke cigarettes while I quaffed the Italian equivalent of Pabst Blue Ribbon and smoked cigarettes.

36. Much to my husband’s chagrin, the summer before I met him I had a crush on a singer/songwriter who is also one of the members of the Raconteurs. After a show he played in Denver, he and a bandmate came over to my house with a friend of mine and we all sat in my back yard and talked until the wee hours of the morning.

37. I adopted my cat, Thomas, from the Battersea Dog’s Home in London. When I went into the small room where they kept the cats, another girl was playing with him. I couldn’t see his face, but I could see a paw poking out of a cage and batting at whatever the girl was holding out for him. As soon as she stood up to look at the other cats, presumably to reassure herself she had made the right choice with Thomas, I moved in. I crouched down by his cage, interacted with him for a few seconds, and knew he was the one. I asked the attendant when I could take him home, and she said right then. We left together, he in a cardboard box and meowing for dear life as we took the train back to my neck of Battersea.

38. Once when I was a young lawyer in Washington, a guy chatting me up at a bar asked me what I did for a living. I asked him to guess. He told me that was easy; I was a teacher. I asked him how he knew that, and he said because I had that “hungry” look about me. Of course, he was a lawyer himself.

39. I am a pretty pedestrian cook, even though I enjoy it. I envy people who can throw together simple, delicious meals and make it look easy.

40. We eat more frozen food in our house than we should.

41. I’m fine with having my baby in school until about 3 pm, when I start to feel frantic about wanting to pick him up.

42. I’ve only voted for one Republican in my life, and it was for Lowell Weicker as a senator for Connecticut. He was more liberal than the Democratic nominee at the time. Now, I could never bring myself to vote for a Republican even if I liked him or her, because I can’t support the agenda of the party as a whole. Sad, but that’s how it goes for me.

43. My first job in high school was at a bakery across the street from my school. On weekends, I would get in at 6:30 to bake the croissants. Sometimes on weekdays my boss would ask me to come in at lunch to help make sandwiches for the lunchtime rush. I would find excuses whenever I could because I hated the idea of my classmates ordering sandwiches from me.

44. I used to love raw oysters but have gotten food poisoning from them so many times that now I get queasy thinking about them. I developed a love for smoked oysters in high school that I maintain until today.

45. I was a master snacker in high school, easily polishing off a big bag of Ruffles with onion or clam dip in front of the TV. When I lived in Paris, where something like onion dip would be against the law, I made my own dip out of mayonnaise, mustard and paprika.

46. It bothers me that I am talking about high school so much on this list – shouldn’t I be able to think of 100 current things about myself?

47. I started a blog over two years ago as an outlet for my snarkier alter ego. With my new blog, I’m trying to keep it as something I wouldn’t be embarrassed for anyone to know about me.

48. My first and best stuffed animals were Ted Bear and Bun Rab.

49. I love that my son is starting to hold his stuffed animals, even if the ears and tails quickly end up in his toothless little mouth.

50. I never knew that all the revolting baby fluids I so dreaded would be such not a big deal. Sure, they’re warm and they smell bad, but whatever.

51. Wow, am I only halfway? There are not 100 things about me at all.

52. My favorite social activity is to go out to dinner. I love, love, love nice restaurants.

53. Whenever I visit my mom, we always drive up to San Francisco one night to try some great new restaurant. I wonder what will happen with that now that I have a baby.

54. I am a white-knuckled flyer, and only get through it with booze.

55. I am worried about how I am going to fly with the baby when I can’t get drunk.

56. I don’t ever want to fly with my child because I know that karma is a bitch and so he is destined to be the most rotten child ever.

57. My husband and I are going by ourselves to Paris and London in May and even while I am looking forward to it I am also dreading being away from my baby for so long.

58. My husband is the most complicated, fascinating person I know.

59. I have a thing for Hello Kitty and have some of her helpful office supplies in my office.

60. I really, really like my family; at least on my mother’s side. My father’s siblings, though nice, have always seemed a little harsh to me.

61. My mother and her sister are best friends, so I grew up with the best of both worlds: an only child with cousins almost as close as siblings but not so close that they were always trying to take my stuff.

62. I have no desire whatsoever to travel to Tibet or Nepal.

63. I can’t remember when I started to distrust organized religion, it has been so long.

64. I love politics, but I’m a fairly rabid partisan. I’m not proud of that, by the way.

65. I do not like to debate issues because during college and law school, my formative years of critical thinking, I was always surrounded by people who thought they were smarter than everyone else and would take any opportunity to debate to try to squash other opinions like a bug. I got tired of it and now I clam up when in the presence of people who try to antagonize me into defending my opinions.

66. I drive an Audi wagon that is perfect for Colorado driving.

67. I want to lose the last 15 pounds of my pregnancy weight. It seems to have settled in the strangest places, none of which are my boobs.

68. Gym locker rooms gross me out, mostly because it seems that a lot of women are exhibitionists. Maybe you do dry your hair at home dressed only in your thong underwear, but I don’t want to see you standing there with your bare boobs, flipping your hair around. And I REALLY don’t want you to walk that close to me when you are naked.

69. I have an addiction to celebrity gossip.

70. My favorite color is green.

71. Most nights I fall asleep while reading or watching the news and my husband has to take off my glasses.

72. My tipple of choice is chardonnay, passé though it may be. My current favorite is Sanford.

73. I drank a glass of wine two or three nights a week after the first trimester of my pregnancy.

74. Nothing pleases me more than to make people laugh, which is weird because I don’t think that in general I am a particularly funny person. In work meetings, I keep making jokes until I think I’ve gone too far and then I won’t open my mouth again for the rest of the meeting, even to talk about work stuff.

75. At an office surprise party to celebrate my engagement, when I was put on the spot to say a few words, I told a story about how when I told one of my colleagues I was getting married he had expressed surprise because he thought I would never settle down because I enjoyed playing the field. Before I could stop myself, I said, “Basically, he thought I was a slut.” That colleague is now my boss, so we’ll see how reviews go this year.

76. I have rosacea, and sometimes I blush uncontrollably.

77. I am a diehard feminist.

78. When I would ask who I looked more like, my mother or my father, my grandma always told me I was a lovely combination of both.

79. Sometimes when my mom and I talk to each other we refer to each other as “Charlene” and “Mama” from the Greater Tuna plays, complete with cornpone accents.

80. I hate when I am walking down the street and some man says, “Smile! It can’t be that bad!” How the hell do they know whether or not it is that bad? The one time I decided to take some schmuck’s advice and actually lift my chin and smile as I walked, I tripped on the curb and fell onto the sidewalk.

81. I’m scared that my son won’t love me.

82. I wonder sometimes if all the surprises of my life’s path are through; if I will have the same job and live in the same town for the rest of my life, never experiencing much that’s new except on annual vacations.

83. My family has spent our summer vacations in Hilton Head since I was a kid.

84. I got married in a town square in Savannah.

85. When I dream of dying, it’s most often in a plane crash, but sometimes in a nuclear explosion.

86. I have had panic attacks since I was 19. I have them largely under control but sometimes they still manage to make it through my mental barriers. They’re scary.

87. I spend too much money.

88. I think I have good taste in interior decoration, but most people probably think that about themselves.

89. It surprises me how much I love visiting my son at school and seeing all the babies in his class. I go most days at lunch, and it’s always the highlight of my day to greet them all by name and have them smile back at me. I never knew I would be such a sucker for babies when before Eeyore was born I thought babies were gross. Now I could almost quit my job and hang out with babies all day.

90. One of the things I miss most about my life before having a baby (besides sleep) is settling into my couch on Saturday mornings with a cup of coffee and a stack of cookbooks. I like reading them even when I have no plan to make anything out of them. I own a lot of cookbooks.

91. I also own an inordinate number of diet books. You name it, it’s probably sitting on the bookshelf in my basement. From The Martini Diet to the Fat Fallacy to Volumetrics, they’re all there. I’ve never followed one of them.

92. One of the reasons my husband knows so much is he reads the New Yorker religiously, which is something about him that I find very attractive. When he recently tore out an article for me that he thought I might enjoy, I got halfway through it before tossing it in the trash. If all the writing is like that, I don’t know how he makes it from cover to cover every week. I will continue to admire his intellect from afar.

93. One of my favorite things to do in other countries is go to grocery stores, and I always stock up on items I can’t get back home. I’d give a lot for Marks and Spencer to open a branch here.

94. I hope I live in London again before I die.

95. I have to sing Jimi Hendrix’s “Waterfall” in my head to be able to pee in public bathrooms.

96. I only bite into a Tootsie Roll pop after most of the tootsie roll center is exposed.

97. I’ve never had a dog, and in fact I’ve been scared of them ever since a dachshund named Pup bit a chunk out of my leg when I was a kid. My husband wants to get a dog for our son when he gets a little older, and I’m not happy about it.

98. I never pictured that at age 38, married with a child, I’d still be living in a 2 bedroom house nowhere near as nice as the houses in which I lived growing up. I don’t understand what’s happened when a lawyer and an architect can’t afford to live in a big, old house in the nicest part of town. Who the hell IS living there?

99. While I write this my husband is down in his office working on a house he’s designing for a client, one of my cats is curled up on the couch next to me while the other is sleeping on my bed, and I keep hitting the button on my baby monitor to watch my beautiful baby asleep in the next room. I can see his bald spot.

100. I’ve been dealt a pretty fabulous hand in this life.

Monday, January 7, 2008

60 seconds of silence.

OK, I think I am hopping on the bandwagon. It’s time for me to just accept that Hillary pisses me off for reasons I can’t entirely figure out, and that even though I like John Edwards, he’s not going to get the nomination. Not to mention that in an interview on NPR the morning after the Iowa caucuses he made some unnecessarily rude remark about Hillary that I didn’t think showed him in his best light. So, even though I think Barack Obama sometimes has the air of a petulant teenager about him, and even though his constant lambasting of the old guard personified by the Clintons to my mind overemphasizes their perceived irrelevance to a new world, nonetheless I, too, like the idea of something completely new in Washington. Now, I think it’s a little false to pretend that one person and his administration could waltz into Washington and shake things up so thoroughly; somehow do things so differently, that the lumbering, bureaucratic machine of Washington would defy nature and pop up, pixie-like, on the tips of its sprightly little toes, and embrace that change. However, it’s mighty intoxicating to imagine that it could happen, and Obama is the one candidate who I think represents at least that dreamy possibility.

Pundits, even Republican ones, are describing Obama as having the potential to be a Robert Kennedy-like figure. One article I read today described a “leading Republican strategist” as saying that Obama has the power to appeal even to a substantial number of Republicans. I wonder!? That’s heady stuff.

Anyway. Did I mention that having a baby is on occasion, usually in the middle of the night, an unpleasant state of affairs? Take last night, for example. Our lovely, four month old son, Eeyore, had some kind of bug up his butt that woke him up for a 90-minute crying jag at 10:30, then again at 3:15. What fun it is trying to decipher what could be wrong with a baby who shouldn’t be hungry, has a clean diaper, has no fever, has no stuffed up nose, and generally doesn’t appear to have anything wrong with him whatsoever! How delightful to stand over his crib for the sixth time in 10 minutes, feeling less sympathetic and more crazed with each pulling-back of the covers of my warm bed. How did he know to time his cries just to the moment I drifted back into sleep?

As R. and I stared at him, shell-shocked, he stared straight back at us and continued his dentist drill of waa-waa-waas. I imagined the thoughts circulating in his less-than-developed little brain:

Eeyore: “I hate you, mommy.”

Kate: “I can see that, dear.”

Eeyore: “It’s kind of funny how I can just lie here and scream and you have to figure out what to do about it.”

Kate: “It’s not at all funny, fruitcake; we worry about you. Are you sick? Does your tummy hurt? Isn’t there anything we can do to make you feel better?

Eeyore: “Wouldn’t you like to know?!”

Kate: “Yes, please! OK, let me pick you up and snuggle your little ear next to mine and maybe that will help.”

Eeyore: “Waa! Waa! Waa! Why can’t you figure it out!? You can’t do anything right! You’re a lousy mommy.”

Kate: “Jesus! Fine. Get back in your crib. Here’s your pacifier; I’m going back to bed.”

Eeyore: “Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! Waa! WAAAAAAAAA!”

Eeyore’s Dad: “Why did we have this baby? Come here, Eeyore, let me hold you.”

Eeyore: “Coo… snuggle, snuggle, snuggle….snore.”

Kate: “Nice.”

Friday, January 4, 2008

The politics of adolescence.

Well, the Iowa caucuses were last night, and if I wanted to I could analyze the results for you here. However, as I recently read in Newsweek, only 20% of Americans care about politics whatsoever, and everybody else would rather do or read about anything else. Why alienate 4 of my 5 readers by launching into one of my diatribes when obviously, you know how I feel in particular about the results of the Republican caucus?

I will say that this constant focus on politics has me thinking about Washington, D.C. a lot lately. I have lived there at different times in my life, for a total of about 10 years. I first moved there from Atlanta when I was 10, left for Paris for a couple of years and came back for the first two years of high school before moving to California, then came back later for law school and a few years with my first firm before moving back to London. I’ve always loved Washington, and think it’s a great place to live even if it is completely marinated in politics. That said, my first move to Washington marked the start of a few years of if not being bullied, at least being ostracized by some of my fellow middle schoolers/junior highers.

Except it did start with good, old-fashioned bullying. When we first moved north, it was winter and my mother was unable to secure me a spot in a private school. So she did what any mom would do when faced with one of the worst public school systems going: she sent me to the same public school that the president’s daughter attended. I made friends, but there were still a few girls who decided quickly that they did not like me. Sadly, Amy Carter’s secret service detail didn’t extend to protecting fellow Georgians.

One day, bad luck had it that I was the last one to leave the classroom. As I started toward the door, a girl appeared in the doorway to block my path. I recognized her as the older sister of a girl in my class: lank blonde hair framing a red, tautly plump face with a porcine nose that lifted her top lip so her small, square teeth were perennially exposed. She was a big girl, and she exuded the full authority of a middle school bully as she blocked my exit.

“You’re a dirty redneck,” she announced, reaching toward me. I stepped back, denying her assertion, “I’m not a redneck!” I thought that if this girl knew what a redneck really was, she would know that she fell quite squarely within the definition.

“Oh, you are,” she said, and raked the fingernails of both hands down my cheeks.

The next day, our class had its weekly afternoon of art classes at the Duke Ellington School. When classes were over, I started my walk home the few blocks to our house in Georgetown. It was soon clear I was being followed, as two girls behind me began plucking at the back of my coat and trying to step on the back of my shoes.

Irritated, and unschooled in the niceties of avoiding physical conflict, I whirled around to face them. There stood the equally beefy younger sister of the girl who had scratched my face the day before, and her tough, wiry friend. I spouted off some confrontational comment, spurring the flunky friend to grab my arms and pin then behind me. The red-faced future resident of Cell Block H saw her opportunity and didn’t waste it. She drew her arm back and threw a solid punch to my nose, breaking it.

When my mother reported what had happened the next day, nothing much happened to the girls. They each received an in-school suspension of one day; probably not enough to deter future derelict behavior and just enough that I was terrified of future repercussions.

Thankfully, nothing further ever materialized, and the next year I found myself safely ensconced back in a private school where I would not be beaten up again. Instead began the on-again, off-again emotional abuse reserved by adolescent girls for each other, a phenomenon apparently well-documented in the book “Queen Bees and Wanna-Bes” by one of my girlfriends from those years. But that is a story for another time, and involves my telling you how I wish I were Tina Fey.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Nouvelle Kitty rocks the vote!

I feel disenfranchised. Yesterday I checked to see when the Colorado primary would be held, only to learn we have a caucus system here. I don’t understand the caucus system, and there hasn’t been any push by the candidates to come here and teach me what the hell has to be done the way there has been in Iowa. The best I could tell from the Colorado Democrats website, I have to show up at my local precinct voting station at 7 pm on “Super Duper Tuesday” to listen to my nosy neighbors debate all the local bullshit they want to see on the ballot:

Activist Neighbor: “People, we can NOT let our local restaurants serve alcohol! Do you realize the element that will bring into our neighborhood?”

Younger Neighbor: “But those are family restaurants, and they bring life to our community!”

AN: “Well, then, at least get that playground off the corner; kids are going to break their necks! And we have to do something before Joe Blow is allowed to build an addition on his house – it will destroy the feeling of the neighborhood!”

YN: “I’ll back you on that one only if you get that giant angel totem out of your front yard.”

AN: “But that’s art!”

The saving grace is that who to nominate is the first item on the agenda, but still. 7 p.m.? I’m trying to put my child to sleep at that time. Do I have to stay home and walk my baby barefoot around the kitchen so my husband can exercise his right to vote? Does he? Or do we have to hire a babysitter? I mean, seriously, WTF? Last I checked, having to go through contortions to vote was a big no-no. I guess I will have to take Eeyore to his first caucus and deal with it. Maybe it will get him started on a lifetime of recognizing the importance of playing a part in the political process. Maybe he will be president!

Or a Liberace for the 21st century; who knows.

On a completely different subject, I saw an article the other day about how Sanrio is updating its Hello Kitty character to appeal to men. Good grief. Kitty is girly, and to try to make her more “macho” to appeal to men seems like an exercise in futility. I’d think Kitty already has the only male following she will ever have - skinny boys with floppy hair and studded belts, presumably of both the Japanese and American “ironic” variety. Apparently Sanrio is even sinking so low as to have Kitty cheekily display her underwear, which I guess might bring in the hentai anime crowd, but probably not America’s suburban dads.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The oracle of Iowa.

Even though I lived “inside the Beltway” for 10 years, which one is not permitted to do unless she takes an oath to spend at least 60% of her time talking about politics and watching Sunday morning news shows, I still have trouble understanding some things about the political process. For example, what is the importance of the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries? Do they serve any real purpose beyond forecasting the initial thoughts of the citizens of two of our fifty states, and 2 of the more unremarkable states, at that? I’ve always found the energy put by the candidates into securing the lead in those states as rather extreme.

One thing the Iowa primary does seem to be showing this year is that the Republican Party is in dire straits. The frontrunners in Iowa are Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, which to my mind is truly bizarre. When did the Republican Party become the party that values Christian faith and fearmongering above all else? Why is it so important to have someone who holds out his Christian values like a shield in the Oval Office? Why would anyone in his right mind want that? I can’t imagine that the entire party thinks that way. Honestly, I am befuddled and dismayed that the Republican Party has turned into such a wretched throwback to the 1950’s. I don’t remember feeling so antagonistic toward that party when I was in my twenties, even though I have always been a fairly left wing Democrat. Somewhere along the way, though, my general opposition to conservatism turned into outright fear and loathing, and now I feel like the two parties sit on opposite sides of a very deep chasm. At least that’s what the media makes me think – I don’t actually have any Republican friends anymore so I don’t know what they really think. Are they tired of having their party co-opted by Jesus? Didn’t they used to care more about keeping liberal fingers out of the government pie than with whether other Americans were living up to their own moral code?

Anyway, I’d say the Republicans have a pretty crappy slate of men to choose from this year, but who knows if that will keep one from ascending to the right hand of Jesus in November. The Democrats, on the other hand, have almost too many great options. This is the first time I have ever found myself still not knowing who I will vote for in the primary. I am pretty evenly divided between the top three, with a soft spot even for Joe Biden. For a long time, I have leaned towards Edwards, but lately Obama’s charisma and easy manner are starting to sway me. Listening to him speak on Meet the Press on Sunday, and contrasting his obvious intelligence and thoughtfulness about the implications of world events against Mike Huckabee’s annoying, blinkered Christian guy performance, I prayed to your God to please give us a Democrat as president to stop this downward spiral of America’s esteem and position in the world.

And then, of course, there is Hillary. As I’ve said before, I am of two minds about her. She is very intelligent, well-spoken, and in my opinion perfectly capable of stepping smoothly into the role of president and doing a great job. On top of that, she’s a woman, and I wonder if I will kick myself if I don’t vote for her when I genuinely believe she will do as good job for our country as any other of the current batch of contenders. What other woman is there on the horizon with as good a chance as she has of leading this country? Will I see the opportunity again in my lifetime? Should that outweigh my nagging concern that electing her would be, to some extent, business as usual? Because that is what I don’t like about her, and it’s the same thing I don’t like about most politicians – she seems to me like she is in it for the power as much as anything else, and that she is a little too willing to go with the tide. Then… I wonder if I am the kind of woman who holds women back. Is sexism so pervasive that it has infiltrated even the recesses of my own, feminist mind?

If I don’t vote for Hillary, am I a weak sister?