Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Books - August 2008

Things I Learned About My Dad (In Therapy)
edited by Heather B. Armstrong
A great read for a first-time parent. I laughed out loud at the opening essay and enjoyed almost all the rest, all for different reasons. Especially fun if you're already familiar with the authors' blogs.

The One Hundred
by Nina Garcia
Basic and beautiful fashion and shopping tips with lovely illustrations. If you're a Project Runway fan, you'll love it even more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Love a Parade

Theo and I eat breakfast every day in the lobby of our hotel where there’s a big buffet. Each morning he sprints for the elevator yelling, “brekky brekky! go go go!” We learned early in our stay to steer him far away from the tempting buttons (including the lowest, most prominent ALARM button) to the back corner of the lift. He usually elbows his way past the other passengers when we land, to careen out the door, toward the food. His excitement about the possibility of sausage for breakfast (“hot dog hot dog!”) is eclipsed only by his enthusiasm for greeting every single person in the room. It’s like a little parade as he toddles past in his footie pajamas, waving to the left, waving to the right, stopping to catch the attention of some businessman who isn’t waving back and who is probably thinking he should have stayed somewhere that doesn’t allow kids or dogs or breakfast buffet parades.

He has befriended the hotel employees too, of course, and they all stop by our table to say hello. It’s lucky for us that he’s so friendly because on crowded weekend mornings when the elevator takes forever, we’ve found ourselves mysteriously ushered toward empty tables when the whole place seems packed, and there is always a high chair reserved for us. All that just because of a daily greeting. Though his little bald head and dinosaur-print jammies probably don’t hurt. We are still trying to figure out where he gets his outgoing streak since Jeff would really prefer not to talk to anyone, ever, and I describe myself as an introvert in extrovert’s clothing, meaning I know how to interact with people but it’s more my nature to lock myself in the bathroom until everyone leaves the party.

The past two days we’ve been approached during the Cheerios course by a grandmotherly woman who stops to commend me on Theo’s good behavior and outgoing demeanor. She must be hard-of-hearing because he spent thirty minutes this morning screeching “CHOO CHOO! CHOO CHOO!” every time the light rail train went past and flinging his yogurt spoon at the window. I just said thanks, even though my initial impulse was to tell her I’d like to take credit but I spend most of my time trying to get him to stop waving hello and goodbye and just get back in the damn elevator already.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Elsewhere, again.

Well, that was a big success. Apparently you all dislike America. Or else everyone has stopped reading since I stopped posting. It's funny how that works.

Since you probably want to move to another country, why not go over and read my guest post at Katie's blog. And don't forget to scroll through her archives because it will make you happy that you don't need a chest x-ray in order to legally enter your workplace.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I Love America

Elections don’t always bring out my warmest feelings toward our country. Frankly, they make me think it’s broken. I feel pummeled by voices enumerating all the ways people running for office are going to fail and take America down with them. I worry that we’re headed for bad things. Right now, especially, when nothing seems to be going right (the economy is bad, we’re still at war, people are driving to Mexico to get their teeth fixed, and the fabulous shoes I bought online make my feet hurt), it’s easy to think there are better places to live.

Before I moved to Germany, I thought I might be more comfortable living somewhere else. I didn’t feel patriotic. I was frequently critical of my country and it seemed like my views didn’t fit with most of the opinions I heard were from “typical middle America.” I looked forward to escaping the advertising that seemed to hit me over the head everywhere I went. I thought the health insurance system had to be better outside my country’s borders. And I was ready to live in a place where religion wasn’t starting to encroach on the government. I knew I would miss my native language and all of my friends and family, but I was ready to take a break from American culture, including bad reality television, shopping as recreation, and the idea that our leaders must sound and act less intelligent than they are in order to get elected.

After three years away, I still think our health care system is broken, in fact it’s even worse than I remember. I wish my son’s diapers didn’t have Blue’s Clues plastered across them. And I am doing my best never to watch an episode of The Hills. But I’m so grateful to be here anyway.

America is the land of choice. At the grocery store, we get to choose from twelve different flavors of pickles, sliced five different ways. We can listen to talk radio where people argue about gas prices or we can switch the dial and hear heavy metal from the 1970’s. We can wear our clothing backwards and though people might stare, they’re not going to stop us in the street and tell us to turn those pants around, Daddy Mac.

Americans mean well. They want to be liked and so they begin and end conversations by being nice. They ask questions. They really want to know about you. They actually care (or they know it’s their job to care) whether or not you’re finding the organic whole milk you’re looking for. And they think your kids are cute.

Americans need to know why there are rules, and are careful about making new ones. They ask a lot of questions, and they expect answers. They want it like they want it. They don’t care if no one else eats peanut butter on the pancakes, they’d like some please and they’d like it on the side. And, usually, they get it, without argument.

Before I left, I thought America was without a singular culture. We don’t have a special hat or ethnic dance or anything except McDonald’s (which, incidentally, has moved waaaay past symbolizing America and now just means fried potatoes in your language of choice) and bad TV to distinguish us to the world. But we do have a culture, and it includes pride, openness, and high expectations. Like any culture, some members take the defining qualities too far. But at a basic level, they are good traits.

America feels like home to me. Before I left, I thought another place might feel more comfortable, but I was wrong. I realized that, no matter where I go (and I hope I visit many more places, because there are some fantastic ones I haven’t seen yet), I’ll always be a visitor anywhere but my own country. It’s a terribly imperfect place, but it’s the only one I know where I can drive thru and order fake cheese nachos at any hour of the day or night.

Cecily over at Uppercase Woman invited her readers to write about why they love America. I invite you to join me in my response. Tell me in the comments why you love our country. Or, if you have a blog, write a post and link to it here.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Everything in my brain right now.

I'm writing this post before the pathetic snotty little squeaks begin from Theo's bed. He's had a cold all week and the fever is gone now but he's at that stage where the pflegm is unstoppable. I watch him writhing around attempting to sleep earlier and I knew exactly how he felt because I had the same cold last week and passed it along to him. Thanks a lot, Mama.

I watched the VMAs tonight and was bummed that I either missed the Britney performance or she didn't perform at all, in fact sent an android instead to say "Thank God Thank Beautiful Family Thank Fans" every time a microphone was put in front of her. But Christina Aguilera did perform what appeared to be a Britney song with Britney's back-up dancers in a Britney wig, so maybe that counts?

I've had a bunch of different reactions to the Sarah Palin nomination. I've felt alternately a little unexpectedly thrilled (Wow, someone like me (from a small town, has girl parts and brown hair) standing on the stage, receiving the nomination), insulted (Just because I got a little thrill from seeing her onstage, I'm not smart enough to pay attention to her politics?), fearful (Let's make sure John McCain has an entire medical team next to his office (you know, in the one Leo McGarry used to occupy?) if he's elected), saddened (Bristol deserves to go stay at Shania Twain's Swiss retreat for a few years), embarrassed (I can't believe I'm judging someone else's parenting like this, I swore I wouldn't do that, but who hangs her family out for the paparazzi like that?), and slightly hopeful that this will swing things the direction I'd like them to go. But we'll see.