Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

Best of

This month, I'm going to write about my best moments of 2009. It was quite a year.

Best Trip:

Our life was all about travel for so long, we'd become experts at hotel sleeping and bag packing and hellos and goodbyes. So when we moved back to Portland, we plunked down our suitcases, heaved a sigh of relief, and pledged to settle down for a while. We took a couple of weekend trips and a quick Vegas getaway, but there wasn't much glamor to speak of - nothing compared with Easter in Spain, or a villa in Tuscany, or an accidental trip to Hong Kong.

Whatever my twentieth high school class reunion lacked in glamor, however, it made up for in genuine fun and good will and laughter. It reminded me who I am and how I got here and made me proud of the people I started with, and who know me in a way that no one else does. (They also lived through the bad hair years with me. Never fear, you'll get to see more of that this month too.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Growing Up

The past few nights, Theo has taken a few toys to bed with him. Each night when he finally goes to sleep, we find the cars and plastic animals laying on their sides or their backs at the foot of his bed. Last night, he half-woke when Jeff tucked the blanket around him and noticed as Jeff absentmindedly turned one of the cars right side up.

"No, Daddy!" he said, suddenly awake. "They sleeping!"


He was in his room the other day, playing quietly, "reading" his books. I heard a sudden sob and peeked into the room. He was sitting on the floor with a book in his hands, weeping. "What's wrong, buddy?"
"I can't read it!" he said, obviously frustrated.
"What do you mean?" He'd been happily thumbing through books, saying he was reading them, for weeks.
"I don't know HOW!"
Well. Yes. That's true.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

This is It

I haven't had much positive to say about MJ over the past decade or so. He was so, well, strange, and whenever it seemed like he might finally fade into the background and raise his kids, he would do something creepy or bizarre that confirmed how troubled he was and that he was passing that trouble along to his children. And as much as I love to dance around my living room to Beat It, all the available evidence suggested that the plastic surgery and the financial and legal problems and the rumored drug use had combined to sap his health and his talent. I wasn't even that sad when he died because the part of him I loved, his magic, appeared to have evaporated years ago.

But I did love him once upon a time, and I'd heard "This is It" was worth seeing. So I saw it.

And it made me sad and happy. It was the closest I'll ever get to seeing a Michael Jackson concert. It reminded what a genius he was. It made me question the news reports about his health. It made me think of him as a man and a professional, not just an over-the-hill singer who had had way too much plastic surgery and dangled his baby over a balcony.

If Michael Jackson had allowed the world a glimpse of his life like the one I saw in "This is It," things might have been different for him. He seemed capable, physically healthy, in tune, and professional. I've read that he wished he could live his whole life onstage, and I can see why. He was skinny and his nose looked weird, but he knew exactly how to act up there, and exactly what he wanted, and he was humble but directive. He danced and sang like a gracefully aging pop star, not like the slightly crippled and over-dubbed skeleton he seemed in the press. It's true, he couldn't move like he did in 1983, but neither can I, and neither can Madonna.

Unfortunately it seems like he was incapable of living a happy or normal offstage life. He hated the press so he became a recluse, which only made him seem incapacitated and strange. He made his kids wear masks and he left the country and then held cryptic press conferences. He spent a lot of time with "spiritual advisors" who then sold their stories to the tabloids. His relationships with women were, well, inexplicable, and his relationships with young children were, at the very least, suspicious. His family and his upbringing were probably partially to blame.

But it seems to me that he had one main problem, which was also his gift: he was simply a vessel for his art, and outside that art, he absolutely couldn't figure out how to function. (Bear with me here for the artsy fartsy section. I just can't think of this in any other way.) Michael Jackson's body and his life offstage were seriously flawed, but his art was close to perfect. And when I say his art, I mean the whole package - the songwriting, the charisma, the singing, and of course the dancing. The film makes clear that it was all of a piece for him. He didn't write a song, then learn to sing it, then choreograph a dance. It all came to him at one time, and when he sang, it appeared that he had to move; he couldn't imagine music without song, without dance. And I can only imagine if he lived his whole life knowing the perfection of that feeling, he was flummoxed by the imperfection of every other aspect of his existence.

I wonder if that's why he was enamored with the innocence of children, and why he kept searching for spiritual fulfillment, and why he took drugs to help him sleep, and why he couldn't stop shaving off parts of his nose.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


-It is difficult to maintain a blog when one's computer has finally succumbed to death throes.
-Computer shopping sounds like fun but it feels like throwing a lot of money at something I don't know enough about. A little like buying a car.
-When I don't feel confident about a purchase, I tend to come up with creative work-arounds for having to buy a new one.
-My creativity only goes so far.
-Posting to my blog via my phone is, apparently, the last straw.
-Macs sound really great but I'm not convinced they are worth the money.
-I'll believe the above statement until I actually get one, and then I'll go around evangelizing about them like I do my iPhone.
-If you're going to make your child a pawn in your quest for fame, don't let him talk directly to the media.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Coughing it Up

Our little family of three does just fine with my new working mom gig as long as nothing disrupts the precarious timing balance we've so carefully constructed. As long as Jeff doesn't have an early meeting, as long as Theo doesn't wake up too early and disrupt my shower, as long as I don't have to stay late at the office. But then I went on a business trip last week.

I got home late Sunday evening after starting my trip with a canceled flight (and an exchange with an airline employee that was really just unrivaled in its rudenes. And the rudness was not mine, for once). But I was happy to have made it home and fell into bed, got up and went to work, and just about collapsed in a heap at 10am when I realized it was only MONDAY and OMG THERE ARE FOUR MORE DAYS OF THIS.

When I'm in my little routine, I spend Sunday evenings getting my clothes ready (I almost typed "ironing my clothes" but who am I fooling), figuring out lunches and dinners for the week, and going over the day care pick-up and drop-off schedule with Jeff. So without that structural safety net I found myself eating BBQ potato chips and Twizzlers I found in my desk drawer at lunchtime while sweating through an inappropriately-wintry turtleneck. But the turtleneck was clean at least, because I chose clean over seasonal.

All three of us have some version of a cough/runny nose/day care pestilence, so I've also been contending with fearful looks from bystanders as I hack up a lung. I feel like I should hand out anti-bacterial wipes everywhere I go. I'll admit, sometimes I cough right into my hand instead of into my elbow, and sometimes I don't wash my hands immediately after wiping my nose. It's hard when you're sitting in the middle seat on an airplane. But I am sick and tired of and, well, getting downright pissed off about, people's reactions to my condition. Let's be clear here: I do not have a fever. I do not have chills. I am not oinking. I just have a cold and a cough and when I get a cough it tends to last for a long time. And I'm not sure exactly what I'm supposed to do about that besides politely stuff my face into my elbow when I feel a cough coming on. Stay in my house for the six weeks it takes for me to stop coughing? Wear a surgical mask?

I am too lazy to expand this little rant into a well-constructed argument about the media and "news" and how the public has been not-subtly convinced to fear illness over the years and now we're all judging one another for our germs. But you get my drift. On the other hand, I am sympathetic to health concerns, I have a freaking toddler for goodness' sake. I have allergy-induced asthma. I know we have to take a health threat like H1N1 seriously.

But let's just all calm down, please. Please. Deep breath.

I feel much better now.

And as long as I'm going on and on about whatever is on the top of my head, let me send you to a couple of things I've been enjoying lately:

Penelope Trunk is always interesting and I'm finding her latest series on Asperger's Syndrome in the workplace really fascinating. She also just angered a whole lot of people, using 140 characters or less, and in a way that is sparking all kinds of conversations. Check her out.

Have you read The Unlikely Disciple? Speaking of controversy, it's a book about religion and sex and Jerry Falwell and college. I'm only about 1/3 through and I can't put it down.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Was I Right?

So, was I right?

Yes and No.

The Good:
Mya and Donny both did well. And Mark was all right. If he can get over the Kung Fu poses he'll do well.

The Bad:
Chuck Liddell was not good, but he has that sincerity of purpose that it's hard not to love. I practically had to turn off the TV when Tom DeLay came on, if only due to his practice wardrobe. And what can you say about Macy Gray? It almost feels mean to criticize her - she seems like she's living in some far-off wonderland.

The Surprising:
Kelly Osbourne was very good! And she'll get even better with practice. I guess Louis really is a genius teacher. She's also got the personality lacking in everyone else but the snowboarder hobbit. He's charming but I'm not sure he has anything in his bag of tricks besides those backflips.

Aaron Carter was even more annoying than I thought he'd be. Ick. I also had hope for Ashley Hamilton and there's no denying he's attractive but man, he hasn't an ounce of rhythm.

Joanna Krupa could be the next Brooke Burke. Unfortunately that means we'll also being seeing Derek again, week after week.

Who knew Kathy Ireland was so tall? And poor Tony, he really deserves to win, but this is not going to be his season.

I felt an overall lack of pizzazz. Even in the glare of the sequins. It's why Kelly Osbourne stood out so clearly and why Donny did well. Where is the sex appeal? Where is the passion? WHERE IS GILLES? (Excuse me, I've started channeling Bruno.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Working for the Weekend

I'd forgotten about the weekends.

For a long time, I've taken care of my to-do list on the weekdays. I grocery shopped, I made dentist appointments, I called the insurance company. I found a baby shower gift. I searched online for a recipe for that applesauce cake I was going to try to make. When weekends came, they were devoted to sleeping and eating waffles and having fun.

I anticipated the exhaustion I'd feel on weekday evenings after I started working, and it arrived right on schedule. By Thursday night last week my eyes were droopy at 6:30pm and Theo was singing his "Wake up, Mama!" song and reminding me that the sun wasn't down yet. But I remembered that feeling, and I kind of sunk right back into it, my throat scratchy from talking all day and my feet hurting from wearing stiff shoes. For me, it's a little of what accomplishment feels like. I like it.

But I'd forgotten about cramming the rest of my life into the weekends. Now we're trying to do the fun stuff on Saturdays and Sundays - seeing friends and playing with cousins and going to the library and eating out - and then doing laundry and buying diapers and packing lunches after the kid goes to bed. No more lazy weekends for us.

I'm tempted to become a weekend hermit, holing up with my little guy and my big guy and eating Cheerios and watching America's Funniest Home Videos for two days straight. In fact, I'm sure there will be weekends when that happens. However we'll run out of cereal eventually so there will be a trip to the store on the agenda at some point.

Party on.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Good Advice:
Eek! A FB Friend Request from an Ex

A thirty-something woman lounges on the couch with her laptop. She sips a diet Coke as she cruises through Zappos and checks her e-mail. Partner/live-in boyfriend sits further down the couch with either his laptop or a remote control in hand.

Close-up on her screen. She has opened a message from Facebook. It's a friend request.


From her ex-boyfriend. Her first love. Who broke her heart and to whom she hasn't spoken in fifteen years. She glances furtively over her computer at the guy on the couch, her mouse hovering between "accept" and "ignore."


I fully expect to see this on my television soon, either as an intro to a Dr. Phil segment or an ad for anti-anxiety meds. Because the drama du jour, besides who's really writing celebrity Twitter updates, is What To Do With The Ex on Facebook. Do we ignore and wonder and worry that the ex will think he's won? Do we accept and keep it a secret from our current flames? Do we accept for politeness's sake then de-friend when no one is looking? Do we accept, write "CHEATING ASSHOLE" on his wall, and then de-friend? Do we accept with the knowledge that there's still a little bit of feeling there, and what happens then?

What we do right now, if the people I know are any indication, is let it sit in the in-box and then dish with our girlfriends about it. We talk way too much about what "friend" really means, and motives, and what would I do if I knew my husband were Facebook friends with that hussy he dumped when he met me, ad nauseum. And then we go off and stew a little more.

A few weeks ago, a very wise friend of mine got just such a request. He was a significant person in her life for several years in her early twenties, but it ended in a difficult way. She had always wondered about him and where he'd ended up, but she moved on. She now has a happy family and a successful career and hadn't really thought about him in a while. But still, when she got the friend request, on her wedding anniversary no less, she sent an email to us, her faithful girlfriend sounding board, with Subject: OMG OMG OMG. As one does.

We, her bumbling band of advisors, hemmed and hawed and said wow, that's crazy timing, I wonder what he's doing now, that's so wild! And gave her no useful advice at all. So she took matters into her own hands. And she put on her grown-up shoes (mine are red patent peep-toe heels) and wrote this reply to her ex:

Hey there! I hope you and your family are doing well. Thank you for the
friend request. Unfortunately, I will have to decline. My husband and I
have a deal, no exes. Especially significant ones. I really hope you are
doing well and wish you all the best. Today is my 10yr wedding anniversary
and we have a beautiful 3yo daughter and 17mo old son. I would love a quick
note hearing about how you are doing. And I hope you understand and respect
the decision about the request.

And then, of course, she practically lost her mind as she wondered what he would write back.

Later in the day, she got a reply. It was extremely kind. It included the kind of apology that every person wants from an ex who has broken her heart. It gave her a nutshell description of his life since they were together. And it ended with sincere respect for her choice to honor a promise to her husband.

I'm not sure why I was so surprised at the happy ending here. My friend just did the responsible thing, the thing that most people would do outside Facebook. But for better or worse (better being the fact that I can officially count myself as a fan of Bacon and put up an avatar of Molly Ringwald in memoriam to John Hughes, worse being the "friend-ing" and "de-friending" drama), Facebook pulls some of us into junior high school mentality even though we all swore we would NEVER go back to junior high, given the choice.

So although I can't promise that you'll get as gracious a response as she did, my friend and I both give you permission to cut and paste her message into your Facebook reply box when the ex-boyfriend from 1998 who moved out of your apartment in the middle of the night and who you later saw sucking face with the receptionist from his office tries to friend you.

You're welcome for that memory.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Not Yet

Theo is just starting to grasp the ideas of time and place. He understands Now and Later and When and Where. This means he comes up with questions like, "Where I going, Mama?" just before we walk out the door, and replying "Not yet. I playing," when I ask him if he's ready for lunch. Every night before he goes to bed he asks, "Tomorrow a play day?" meaning he's wondering if he'll get to sleep in (a "play day") or if I'll rouse him out of bed to take him to day care. His attention span is expanding and he has been known to settle in with some cars or a book for twenty minutes at a time. Last night he grabbed my hand and led me into his room, asking me to "Play a game with me, Mama." He also gets excited about taking his vitamins, and his latest favorite book is Olivia ("Read Livia to me, Daddy!"). I can't wait to see what goofy new thing he does to make me laugh as I lift him out of bed after his nap - lately when I stick out my hand, he says, "I'm DeeDee," to which I'm supposed to respond, "Nice to meet you, I'm DahDah." Don't ask me how that is supposed to make sense.

Every stage in his life is interesting to me, but now that the physical growth has slowed down a bit and his intellectual progress is faster, I am more fascinated by him than ever. He's started making jokes, and remembering directions ("We going left?"), and trying to figure out what day it is ("Today Tuesday?"). Of course he's also bossier than I ever imagined he could be, and he has a real problem remembering that everyone deserves a turn on the slide and that blocking it with his body and just hanging out at the top really isn't acceptable playground behavior.

So isn't it just my luck that, just when he's at his most charming, I've up and got myself a full-time job? It's true. I start next week. I'm excited about it. I've really missed the intellectual stimulation of working. I always liked my work and now that I've had a four year break, I know for sure that it really was the right field for me. So I'm going back.

Before I had a child I suspected I was not stay-at-home-mom material, and although I am beyond grateful that I could hang out with Theo for as long as I have, I still believe I'm happier when I'm working. I do not do well with unstructured days and hours alone with my toddler. I do not enjoy housework, and I just feel guilty that it's not getting done while I'm trying to re-assemble a broken dump truck. I am terrible at arts and crafts. My patience for whining is severely limited.

Of course this new plan is kind of breaking my heart too. I am savoring our sleepy mornings this week, eating breakfast in our PJs and wandering over to the library and the park. I don't like thinking about the post-nap cuddles I will miss, or the quiet weekday visits to the zoo.

But it still feels like the right thing. I'm happy with our child care situation. Jeff and I are both looking forward to caring for Theo in a more balanced partnership. And it's a financially responsible decision for all of us.

But I'm not looking forward to giving up our play days either.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dreaming with the Stars

I hate to follow up a post about a dance-themed reality TV show with another post about a dance-themed reality tv show, but...I don't really hate to do it. I love it.

Did you see the new cast of Dancing with the Stars has been announced? And, according to the headlines, its most exciting member is Tom DeLay. Wha? I can't wait to see what John Stewart has to say about this development (don't tell me, we don't get to watch him until a day later).

My predictions:
-Final three = Mya, Marc Dacascos, Donny Osmond.
Mya and Donny both have dance/performance backgrounds. She was in the move musical Chicago, he was in Joseph & The Amazingly White Teeth (or something). Somehow it doesn't seem fair to pit a professional dancer against, say a snowboarder or a rodeo cowboy but then again, Lil Kim didn't get voted off because she was a bad dancer. I'm most excited about Marc Dacascos who plays the Chairman on Iron Chef America. He is a martial artist and I really hope they pair him with someone besides Karina because she scares me.

-Possible spoiler = Aaron Carter
Also has a performance background. But, based on his bizarre family reality TV show, might be kind of a jerk. Which could hurt him. He's no Cody Linley in the wide-eyed ingenue department, is all I'm saying.

-First to go = Macy Gray or Chuck Liddell
Have you seen Macy Gray move? Yikes. And I just don't have much hope for the Ultimate Fighting Champion. I'd say DeLay might get kicked off early but the Republicans are fired up and like to get out the vote.

-Other possible nightmares: Joanna Krupa and Kathy Ireland
Models seem to have a hard time with rhythm and movement on this show. Except for Brooke Burke, of course. Because she was BORN TO BE A DANCER!!! according to the judges.

Now I'm on pins and needles, wondering which professional dancers will be cast with the celebs. Any predictions? Hopes? Dreams?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

So You Think You Can Come Up With A Better Name For This Show

I try not to be embarrassed about the number of hours I spend watching reality television, but sometimes it's hard. I have sworn that I will not get caught up in The Biggest Loser this fall, not because it's emotionally manipulative (even though it is) but because it consumes four full hours per week of my precious post-bedtime evenings. I'm just not that committed to America's weight loss trials and triumphs. I'd all but sworn off American Idol until Paula Abdul went down in a blaze of glory and now, well, I might have to watch. But NOT during the audition rounds. At least not all of them. I wish I could quit Dancing with the Stars but I'm not sure I can resist. I'm not proud of my weakness for the Paso Doble.

I am proud, however, to announce that I am a huge fan of So You Think You Can Dance. When I saw it for the first time I couldn't quite believe that real dance - not fake ballroom, not Michael Jackson video ripoffs, not the Nutcracker on PBS - was on network prime time. I loved it but I was sure it wouldn't last. Was the country that made The Swan a hit really going to support choreography starring electronica and a crash test dummy narrative? Would anyone tune in to a show with such a cumbersome title? Would we get it?

But, apparently, we do. The gorgeous host, Cat Deeley, manages to seem geniunely sweet and goofy and like the anti-Seacrest. The judges are nerdy and over-Botoxed but do seem to know what they're talking about and generally don't sound like they are on drugs. Well, except Lil C. The contestants are jaw-droppingly talented, and instead of being sold mainly on their back stories (The Widowed Church Guy! The Country Girl Whose Daddy Is In Prison!), they are featured for their talent. The prize, though nothing to sneeze at, matters less than the performances and the exposure the dancers receive. And, most thrillingly to me, the choreography is sometimes strange and inaccessible but always interesting.

Don't tell anyone, but I think we, as a television-viewing public, are appreciating Art. And it's on Fox. Please make every effort to keep this development from Rupert Murdoch, because this is a slippery slope. What's next? Opera?

I wanted Janette to win. I think Kayla was thwarted by her own weak choreography in her solos, but she absolutely rocked the stage whenever someone else gave her something to do. I believe it's unfair that they split the competition along gender lines until the end, because at least three of the women should have made it to the final four. I loved the Butt Dance. Mia Michaels needs a new makeup artist. I've downloaded half the music from this season. I can't wait until the new season starts.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Tonight's Gonna be a Good Night

I went to the dentist last week and smugly came home and announced that the hygienist told me I had pretty teeth, therefore validating my devoted flossing. And then I mentioned that I had to go back again to have a cavity filled and it didn't even occur to me that the whole thing sounded sort of stupid. I mean, a tooth with a big ugly hole in it isn't very pretty, is it? Especially to a dental hygienist. I think she was just trying to make conversation.

So today I had my cavity filled and the dentist had to dose me three times with the anesthesia and by the third try I just stopped reacting when the drill hit a nerve (sorry!) and dug my fingernails into my palms a bit further. Obviously I must have been somewhat medicated or I would have involuntarily shrieked at high volume but still. You're not supposed to feel the drill, are you?

Anyway, the medication kicked in about an hour later and suddenly my whole head felt numb and everything on my right side, including my eyebrow, was rendered immobile. So my plan to go to the mall and hit up the MAC counter for some new blush was foiled and I just went home instead and tried to eat ramen. You can imagine how that went, with my droopy lip and half-numb tongue. I'm going to have to do extra laundry tomorrow. And then I baked my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Mainly to celebrate the temperature finally remaining below ninety degrees after a ten-day heatwave. But not inside my house because when you turn the oven on, it heats up the house.

Not my best day. But hey! I have a new bionic tooth and chocolate chip cookies and this week is the season finale of So You Think You Can Dance and after six hours or so I can finally feel my face again. Life is good.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Twenty

Though I sometimes like to pretend high school was miserable for me, it wasn't. It was, in almost every area, a good time. I had close friends. I liked my teachers and they liked me. I went to a small school where I was involved in everything from drill team to drama to student government. I got good grades. I went to a nice college. I had a date for the prom. But high school memories live in the portion of my brain that still is in high school. It's the portion that can recite all the lyrics to "Right Here Waiting for You" by Richard Marx, and that is embarrassed that my best friends were always the ones with the boyfriends and I was always sitting in the back seat by myself on the way to the dance, and that flips the personality switch into Tracy Flick mode when I'm not looking. It's the part that spent too much time feeling awkward and a little ugly even when I probably wasn't.

So I can understand why people balk at attending their high school class reunions. When the invitation came for mine, I had a second of doubt. Did I really want to see people on whom the last impression I made was a yawn-inducing graduation speech about Following Your Own Personal Star? Or, worse yet, they might remember me as the girl who didn't even know where the senior kegger was held, probably because there was a suspicion that she might call the cops. It's hard not to focus on regretful behavior, but someone wise reminded me that it's a very self-centered thing to do; most of my classmates probably don't remember the idiotic things I did, or if they do, they've got their own litany of idiocy to worry about.

I didn't let my thoughts linger for too long at the failed pep rally in my head, although it wasn't because I made a difficult personal decision to overcome my fears and grow stronger in this difficult time. No, mostly I went to 20-year class reunion because I wanted to know the rest of the story. I wanted to see where people were living and how many kids they had and if they had become even more handsome than they were in the eighties (odds were good, considering the perms and Cosby Show sweaters everyone was sporting in our graduation photos). And maybe I wanted the opportunity to shock them all by drinking a beer in public.

Damn, I'm glad I went.

I saw my child racing gleefully through a sprinkler with the kids of one of my dearest friends. She and I were just a year or two older than they are now when we met. It made me a little tearful, until Theo threw a matchbox car at her son's head.

I hung out with the wives of my junior high school crushes and it reminded me that small town boys have good taste (and so did I).

I heard a story about wrestling a mountain lion, masterfully told by a guy I could never persuade to be the prince in my four-year-old princess pretend games.

I recognized people by their voices and their walks which hadn't changed in two decades, and I could tell whose kids belonged to whom because they looked exactly like their parents at age ten.

I was reminded once again that I married well as I watched my normally shy husband spend day after day conversing with strangers and politely laughing at reminiscences that made no sense to him.

I saw a lot less bad hair than when we were in high school, but that might just be because there was less hair in general.

I heard stories about children and partners and how great it was to be back in Montana, if only for just a little while. I heard no bragging about jobs or houses or status symbols.

I ate too many cheeseburgers. I drank a beer in public, but no one seemed too shocked.

If you have a reunion coming up, you should go. Ignore the part of your brain that's embarrassed because you made out with that guy who never talked to you again, or worse because you dated that guy for ages and he might actually be there. Ignore the reminder that you never made varsity. Forget the suspicion that everyone might be skinnier/taller/richer than you. Instead, remember laughing together at your ridiculous World History teacher. Think about the time your car ran out of gas and the intriguing girl you'd never even talked to from homeroom offered you a ride. Expect to hear about the good stuff, the families and friends, because those are the stories that will get told. Don't skip it because you "don't want to re-live high school." There's no way it's going to be the same as high school because twenty years have passed and everyone likes a happy ending.

Just go.

Full set of photos here.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Daddy, are you my friend?

To his dinner: Hello, food. I am going to eat you.

To me, when I tell him it's time to leave Nana's house: I need a second.

Let's watch Jeopardy! Or the dancing show! (The dancing show = So You Think You Can Dance)

Blame it on the juice! Blame it on the a-a-a-a-a-a! (Nice one, no? Taught to him by his father.)

Thursday, July 09, 2009

All I Ever Wanted

I'm leaving tomorrow on a trip to Montana, where I will eat some steak and Theo will run amok due to grandparental spoilage, and then we will hang out with a bunch of my high school classmates who I haven't seen in twenty years. I'm pretty sure none of us has changed a bit.

While I'm away, you should watch this trailer for the new Ricky Gervais film. He is a genius.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Olden Days

I'm not much for nostalgia. You'd never guess it, based on my musical taste and my pop culture knowledge, which are both firmly planted in the late 1980's, but it's true. I rarely sit around wishing things were like they used to be, or wondering why we can't just slow down a little bit. I like to think about the future. I'm an early adopter. I like to see what's next. Yeah, it was great when we could ride our bikes around the neighborhood until dusk and our parents didn't have to worry about us, but I kind of like the idea of a helmet on my speeding child's head. Yeah, it was great when traveling by air was a big deal and people used to get dressed up to do it, but I kind of like that it's become part of everyday life and that we're all more mobile and aware of the world. Yeah, I used to enjoy writing letters, but I love e-mail. Yeah, Twitter is weird, but it's fun and really useful.

I've been a blog reader longer than I've been a blog writer. I've seen blogs morph from ugly journal pages that I swore weren't really meant to be read by the public (but I'm not above a bit of voyeurism and I was reading them anyway) to somewhat more organized and entertaining collections of daily musings, to well-designed and well-written collections of personal essays. I cheered their progress. I saw ads pop up on many sites and that didn't bother me at all, as long as they weren't singing or screwing up my browser. Eventually I even added some to my own blog (See Exhibit A ----> ). And when the corporate sponsorships and giveaways appeared I thought, hell yeah, finally companies are marketing to me and not just to my grandmother. And then some of my favorite bloggers started writing columns at magazine sites and actually earning a living with their talent and I thought, this is how it's supposed to be. Great writers earning a living with their writing.

These great writers have, of course, gained large enough readership that they've started to guard their privacy. I certainly can't blame them. Those who began writing about their screaming babies now have older kids who aren't as keen on having their poop stories broadcast to the world. More regular people, not just geeks, are reading blogs, which means that the risk of having one's blog discovered by the next door neighbor is increasing. And that means fewer stories about the crazy neighbor who yells at his lawn mower, or the cute daughter who innocently likes to dance to "Pass the Dutchie," or the book they absolutely hated because now the author is likely to find the blog and leave a cranky comment. And, well, I miss that stuff.

These successful bloggers are making an effort, I know. They try to make time to update their personal blogs, but it's hard when paid deadlines loom. They honor the readers who love them by weaving personal anecdotes into their magazine columns, or giving away treats and prizes that relate to the stories they've told. They're trying to balance the transition from hobbyist personal bloggers to career freelance writers. I get it and I applaud it and I understand that's what the future holds. And I read way too many blogs so I realize that there are still zillions of fantastic personal stories being posted each day. I'm grateful for that.

I'm not naming names here because, really, this isn't about individual writers. It's about a trend. It's an exciting trend that, at its core, financially supports art and quality. But like most changes, it means we're going to lose something to gain something. So before I get excited about what's ahead, please indulge my nostalgia for a moment. Do you feel it too?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


I've been hanging out at the community center lately, near lunchtime when the local meals-on-wheels organization serves a meal to seniors in the dining room. They do food delivery too, but those clients who are able-bodied and socially inclined show up to eat and chat and pick up a sack of day-old bagels or a newspaper.

Before lunch, the center hosts exercise classes of the kind you imagine at senior centers - they sit on chairs and stretch their arms; they stand behind the chairs and stretch their legs; they bend from the waist to one side and then another. I like to watch them because they remind me of my grandparents, most of whom are gone. I lived within a half hour of all four of them when I was growing up, but when I moved away twenty years ago this summer, I saw them only a couple of times a year. I find myself imagining Grandma doing the slow-motion version of the hokey pokey at the senior center.

This week I was there a little earlier in the day, and instead of the swayers I was surprised by a whole different group. The ladies' tap dance class was taking place on the stage at one end of the dining room and I swear I could have watched those women all day long. They were dancing to Rockin' Robin (A Michael Jackson homage? Perhaps.) and man, could they tap. I took my share of tap-dance lessons and I never really mastered it; it's all about ankle and knee control and I was better suited to stiff-legged ballet. The class of seven was led by a woman who must have learned tap dancing during World War II. She was serious, stopping the group when someone was clearly out of step and making them all start over again, and they were all way better than I had ever been, even at age ten with my young joints and brand new shoes.

I wonder what kind of class I'll take at the senior center when I am seventy-five. Hip-hop? Maybe Macarena?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

What's Going On

I haven't posted about what's going on with me in a while. And that's mainly because, on a day-to-day basis, it seems like nothing much is going on. I eat Cheerios. I post boring things to Twitter. I take Theo to the park, where he spends most of his time begging to climb on the concrete skatepark and I spend most of my time pointing out that the kids with the low-rider pants and long hair would mow him down with their boards in 1.3 seconds if he toddled into their paths. I watch So You Think You Can Dance.

Aaaand I just killed a spider that was walking across the arm of my chair. Just then. I meant just to brush him off, onto the floor, but he was squashed in the melee. (This is real-time blogging, right here. Riveting, isn't it?)

Fortunately there are a few other places on the internet where things are a bit more exciting. How about these?

Let's Panic About Babies!
You might not want to click on that while you're drinking your coffee because you'll snort it out your nose. The 1-800-DINGOES ad did it for me.

Heavy Cross by The Gossip
Best band name I've heard in a while. They do a kickass Careless Whisper cover too. Also, from Portland!

John Cusack is on Twitter, another example of why it's sometimes more fun to worship celebrities from afar than to actually know what they're thinking. (Side note: It's unfortunate that the more boring and misspelled the twitter feed, the more convinced I become that the celebrity is actually writing it himself.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

It Don't Get Better Than This

During the Tony awards, Bret Michaels wraps up a rollicking performance of "Nothing but a Good Time" with his Poison bandmates. Bret gets a little carried away taking his bow. The Tony show producers are hyper-aware of their schedule, considering this is the lowest-rated of the low-rated awards shows, and they need to get on with things to keep their advertisers happy. So they cue the scene change, assuming that Bret will notice there's a giant piece of scenery barreling down from the ceiling at him and get out of the way. Bret, suddenly realizing he's supposed to be exiting upstage along with his bandmates, turns around and makes a leap for the drum platform. C.C. DeVille tries to give him a hand. Bret almost makes it, but he's on a collision course, and the audience cringes as he is clotheslined by a huge mural of the Manhattan skyline. Stockard Channing, gripping a fur stole, belts out "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered" stage left.

That whole scenario sounds like a SNL sketch from the 1980's, and I'm quite sure that until a couple of weeks ago neither Poison nor Stockard Channing could ever have imagined they'd be sharing a stage. But that's showbiz, right?

Following the mishap, Tonys host Neil Patrick Harris takes the stage, makes a joke, and says, "Oh, he's fine!" and gets on with the show. Because that's what you do in the theatre. If Bret had been knocked unconscious during a swordfight in Romeo and Juliet ("Starcrossed Lovers' Bus?"), they'd have dragged him offstage and his understudy would have appeared seconds later. He probably would have worn a little SuperGlue on his bruised nose during the next day's matinee. That's it.

Back in 1986, while promoting Look What the Cat Dragged In, Bret probably got beaned in the head by C.C.'s high kicks once or twice. Considering the way liquor hinders one's reaction time, it's inevitable. But I"m sure he just went right on singing "Talk Dirty to Me" while wiping the blood out of his eyes, no harm done.

But now that Bret's a reality TV star and a blogger, he posts pathetic photos of his injuries. He blogs about how it's not his fault, mentioning that Liza Minnelli rushed to his dressing room after the accident. He whines.

And though my fifteen-year-old self who thought hair bands were all badass would be sorely disappointed, I have to admit I'm not completely shocked by this turn of events. Just take a look at that album cover and tell me those guys weren't ultimately headed for musical theatre. Or, possibly, the circus.

Bret, it don't get better than this.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Things That Matter to Me, Apparently

-Good Manners
I never pictured myself as one of those parents who says, "WHAT DO YOU SAY?" to her child after the checker at the grocery store hands him a sticker, but I have become the please-and-thank-you police.

-A Clean In-Box
Allowing e-mail sit in my in-box for more than a few days gives me hives. This affliction can lead to premature archiving.

-A flattering Facebook profile photo
Why, I'm not sure, considering that so many of my FB friends saw me in junior high, high school, and college, wearing an unspeakably frizzy permed mullet, braces, and/or stirrup pants. But I tried to put up a goofy one and I just couldn't stand it.

-Comfortable shoes
I love my red patent leather heels but I can barely bring myself to wear them. I wish I could banish the worn-out Born oxfords from my closet, but they make my feet happy.

I'll wear it even if I'm not wearing any other makeup.

-Knowing all the words
I go out of my way to research the words to songs that I enjoy so that I can sing along correctly. Seriously. I've googled the lyrics to "Little Red Corvette."

It's the little things, isn't it? What matters to you?

Ruminations on the Tabloids at the Grocery Check-Out

OBAMA'S GAY LOVER TELLS ALL: Apparently this is what happens when we get a president with some dress sense.

ASHLEY TISDALE GOES BRUNETTE: Who is Ashley Tisdale? And that looks like her natural color to me.

MELISSA JOAN HART SHOWS OFF HER BIKINI BODY: Isn't she a witch? Shouldn't she have magicked a bikini body long ago?

INSIDE JON AND KATE'S MILLION-DOLLAR DIVORCE: I'm waiting for their hairstylist to get her own reality show. Or to be sued for the bad publicity resulting from Kate's hairdo and Jon's plugs.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Current Playlist

Smooth Criminal by Alien Ant Farm
This is a rad remake of a rad Michael Jackson song and who doesn't love a band called Alien Ant Farm?

Viva La Vida by Coldplay
Makes me want to jump around the room, flailing my arms. In a good way.

Falling Slowly by Glen Hansard and Market Irglova
I'd sort of forgotten about this until I saw it again on American Idol. It's lovely. I'm still trying to forget that the singers met when she was like nine and he was thirty-five and they're now a couple.

My Maria by Brooks & Dunn
Apparently all that country music in my past is seeping to the surface. (This is a ridiculous video but the audio is the best I could find.)

Chasing Pavements by Adele
She performed at the Grammys in her stocking feet which bugged me a little but after I heard her voice I didn't care.

Renegade by Styx
Did you ever see the Styx episode of Behind the Music where Tommy Shaw made fun of Dennis DeYoung and Dennis DeYoung got all miffed and Tommy just continued to mock him? It's right up there with the Leif Garrett one.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I've admitted before that I have a conflicted impression of Gwyneth Paltrow. On one hand, she's elegant and interesting and has a hot husband and cute kids and you don't see her slouching down the red carpet with her nipple hanging out. (Indeed, these are our standards for decent celebrity behavior nowadays.) On the other hand, she has fashioned herself into a kind of lifestyle guru and speaks in public about how great her macrobiotic diet and personal trainer make her feel, and how everyone should give them a try.

So, depending on my mood, I react to these kinds of statements in one of two ways. When I'm in a pro-Gwynnie state of mind, I sort of appreciate her candor. She says she likes to drink wine and eat cheese and therefore must work out for two hours each day. She does not try to tell us she maintains her figure on a diet of French fries and milkshakes and tranquil walks on the beach. She talks about how she's chosen not to work as much as she used to because she doesn't like to leave home in the morning when her kids are asleep and come home after they've gone to bed. She doesn't pretend she's One of Us. She admits that she has two nannies.

But when I'm feeling cranky, I want her to dial it down. Is life really so difficult for someone who has two nannies and a cellar full of wine and a cupboard full of cheese and a Pilates studio in her back yard? Five days last year she had to work and didn't get to see her children at bedtime. How often does that happen to the average working parent? About once a week. Now I realize I'm sitting here in my comfy chair at 3:49 on a weekday afternoon, typing away on a nice laptop and wifi, which probably puts me closer to Gwyneth on the scale of most- to least-annoying complainers than to your average hard-working grocery store employee. But still! She's advising us to buy a jumpsuit? Seriously?

So, tell me, is it better for celebrities to be out of touch with the way most of us live but at least to admit it? Or do you prefer the Fabulous People who swear they still do their own grocery shopping?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Checking it Twice

Is it only Wednesday? Because it seems like it should probably be Monday of next week by now. Remember that job I talked about a while back? I didn't discuss it in detail because, well, we all know you just don't blog about your job. And one of the details I didn't discuss was that it was a temporary job. It ended last week. And all the planets aligned so that Theo's daycare is closed for its one-week-per-year vacation this week. Which means that I went from dressing in grown-up clothes and eating quinoa salad and fresh-baked bread from the salad bar three days per week and creating spreadsheets and talking about action items in meetings, to spending all day every day attempting to convince an oompa-loompa-sized human that having a clean diaper is infinitely nicer for everyone in the household than walking around wearing a dirty diaper. And while our time as a mother-and-child unit has had its wonderful moments (staying in my pajamas past 7am, for example), I've felt the abrupt loss of a sense of accomplishment.

You know what I mean. Making lists and checking them off. Even adding stuff to the list after it's already done so you can cross it out. So I made a list to make me feel better.

Recent Accomplishments:
-Taught Theo to answer back ROCK YOU after I sing "We Will We Will" a la Queen.

-Spent $18 at that really nice Whole Foods that usually seems too far away just for a quick grocery stop.

-Took a bag of clothing to the resale store. Traded it in for an Old Navy bikini that I may never gather the courage to wear.

-Uploaded the Epicurious app to my iPhone and then failed to open it.

-Updated my resume to include "80s Rock Lyric Contest Winner."

-Jinxed the outcomes of two reality shows with my confidence that, of the three finalists, at least one of the two people I liked would win. (Helen?! And Shawn?!!) I am not even going to watch the AI final tonight lest I damage the careers of both Kris and Adam with my support.

-Found a Matchbox car inside Theo's diaper. I'm assuming this is the result of his recent fascination with dropping everything down his shirt, but one never knows.

What have you accomplished lately?

(Also, does anyone know how to fix my template code so the ads don't hang off over there on the right? That's causing me physical pain right now.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Why I Am Going to Hell

Last week, while surfing the CNN website for ways that I can make a difference in the lives of starving orphans and a detailed breakdown of the latest stock market fluctuations (by which I mean skimming the entertainment section for the previous night's American Idol results since I missed it and forgot to set the DVR), I saw this headline:
Another racy Prejean photo emerges; site promises more

And I was surprised that Sister Helen Prejean, the human rights activist brought to my attention (as are so many important humanitarian heroes) by Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn, and a touching but probably somewhat overblown biopic, was posing for racy photos. So of course I clicked through and learned that Miss California has the same last name as Sister Helen (no relation). Miss California, incidentally, feels it's very important to provide scantily-clad photos of herself to the public in order to convert The Gays to heterosexuality before they try to get married. Or something like that. Like I said, I was just trying to make sure Adam hadn't been voted off.

Honest mistake, right? Same last name, read the story, got a little chuckle out of my misinterpretation. Well, that's not why I'm going to hell.

For the following day or two, I'd see the name in headlines, and every time I would first think of the nun, and then remind myself that it was the pageant contestant. And I chuckled and figured I couldn't be the only person making this connection, right? So I decided to share the laugh! Of course! So I told Jeff, and he said, "huh!? Oh yeah. Funny." Which was not particularly satisfying.

So of course I posted it to Twitter:
Shocked that Sister Helen Prejean (of Dead Man Walking fame) would take "racy photos." Also, wouldn't have pegged her as a pageant type.
Kind of funny, no? Not my very best tweet ever, but if anyone else had made the same mistake, maybe they'd laugh! I would have laughed if someone else had posted it. And even that probably wouldn't have sent me straight to hell.

But then, just a few hours later, I got this reply:
playproject@Blythe - where did you see this about Sr. Helen?
And I clicked through to the Twitter account, and then to the website.

And yes, indeed, it's an organization that works with Sister Helen to produce the play "Dead Man Walking" in schools and they thought I'd actually read somewhere that their heroine had been competing for a pageant title AND had released nudie photos to the media.

And I had to reply and tell them I'd been making a lame joke at a nun's expense. And they were nice and gracious in their reply and now they're following my updates. Either because they like my sense of humor or so they can monitor my tweets for more evidence that I'm defaming Sister Helen.

And that's why I'm going to hell.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

My Son the Man

This poem came my way today and I couldn't help but share it.

My Son the Man

by Sharon Olds

Suddenly his shoulders get a lot wider,
the way Houdini would expand his body
while people were putting him in chains. It seems
no time since I would help him to put on his sleeper,
guide his calves into the gold interior,
zip him up and toss him up and
catch his weight. I cannot imagine him
no longer a child, and I know I must get ready,
get over my fear of men now my son
is going to be one. This was not
what I had in mind when he pressed up through me like a
sealed trunk through the ice of the Hudson,
snapped the padlock, unsnaked the chains,
and appeared in my arms. Now he looks at me
the way Houdini studied a box
to learn the way out, then smiled and let himself be manacled.

From Poetry Foundation

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Happiest Place on Earth

I never thought I’d become a Vegas person. You know, the people who go every year and stay at Bally’s and get to know the concierge and can tell you where the highest-paying slots are and which buffet serves the juiciest prime rib. Normally these people are very tan and like to wear flip flops. They also know what “double down” means.

I am and know none of these things. I have ugly feet so avoid flip-flops, the last time I had a tan was 1987 (seriously) and I just don’t enjoy playing cards that much or even trying my hand at the slot machines. But I could happily spend a long weekend in Las Vegas annually. When I’m there, I feel like I am On Vacation. I order strawberry-flavored drinks poolside. I sleep in the sun. I shop for impractical clothing. I send Jeff off to the roulette tables with a wave and nestle in with a book. I sip fancy cocktails at bars on the 39th floor. I use an excessive number of white beach towels on my deck chair.

The Vegas people surround me while I’m there, of course. They talk about taking a taxi downtown, and where to get tickets to see Donny and Marie. They wear sparkly sunglasses. They smell like coconut oil. They possess cards that fit into the slot machines. And they provide the best people-watching on earth. When Jeff and I took a little getaway a few weeks ago, we lounged and gambled a bit but mainly we sat at restaurants and in bars, eating fantastic meals and delicious drinks and eavesdropping. We watched two families meeting for the first time, making small talk while they waited for their engaged children/siblings who were over an hour late for dinner (maybe on purpose?). We witnessed a man trying to coax his bronzed teenage daughter, who was wearing earbuds and lying face down in her bikini, to come inside already because WE HAVE TO CHECK OUT IN TWENTY MINUTES, CECILIA. CECILIA, CAN YOU HEAR ME? We overheard a tableful of Euro hipsters wearing pencil-leg plaid pants (men) and purple eye shadow (women), fighting over the check in their various accents. We must have seen twenty wedding parties, most of whom were on their way to or from taking photos in front of the “Eiffel Tower.” I loved every minute of it.

I’m already shopping for some rhinestone flip-flops and am thinking of signing up for a special affiliate card at Caesar’s. Because despite denying it, I guess I really am one of those people after all. Who needs Europe when we’ve got Vegas, baby?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Look! Over there!

My blog has a brand new home.

Go to www.theblythespirit.com to read all about it and re-set your bookmarks.
Don't forget to update your feed reader.

See you there.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


So! Apparently I'm taking the month of April off from writing my blog. Sorry for the late notice.

Until I come back, you might want to try:

-Making The Pioneer Woman's Pasta Primavera. We had it for dinner last night and it felt so nice and healthy, especially when we didn't think about the heavy cream bathing all those veggies. Also, "Primavera" means "Spring."

-I bought one of this guy's posters for Theo's room and I love it. I'm thinking about buying another one. Which is your favorite?

-Every time I do one of these link posts I send you to Mimi Smartypants but can you blame me? Her daughter says stuff like this:
"Quick! I will hide in my secret lair! My secret lair is really this area in front of my closet, but what are you gonna do."

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Oscar Pool 2009 P.S.

As requested, here's a post-script to the Oscar pool results.

People who guessed all eight of the "major" award winners correctly:

(By major awards, I mean Picture, Director, Actor, Actress, Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Original Screenplay, Adapted Screenplay.)

Others who did a bang-up job:

14 people got five right
10 people got four right
5 people got three right
2 people got two right
1 person got one right

Most people were tripped up on Best Actor, which was widely predicted to go to Mickey Rourke, but we were all spared his chihuahua speech thanks (ostensibly) to Prop 8 protest votes and great acting by Sean Penn. (Personally, after seeing Frost/Nixon, I think Frank Langella should have gone home with the Oscar.) Best Director was apparently a tough prediction as well, although that might have been skewed by a Portland-heavy pool of entrants who have been rooting for Gus VanSant for all these years. Meryl Streep was the spoiler in Best Actress voting, especially from people who had low scores overall - I'm guessing that those of you who didn't see many of the movies hedged your bets and (wisely, based on the odds) voted for her because she is, well, The Best Actor Ever. Best Supporting Actress was a tough call for many of you as well, probably because there was no real front-runner.

Thanks again for playing!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Ruminations on Shoe Shopping

-DSW apparently believes large-footed women do not deserve cute shoes.
-Proof of Jessica Simpson's height-impairedness: heel height of her shoe designs
-Is there something wrong with me if I buy a pair of Dr. Scholls shoes? Like, medically wrong?
-Salesperson, please do not take a shopper's query about shoe comfort as the opportunity to create a one-woman show about your European vacation for all the store to hear. Those Europeans, they walk EVERYWHERE. We get it.
-What's ickier: Carrying my own sweaty trouser sock around in my purse for unexpected shoe shopping emergencies, or using those disposable nude nylon footies that inevitably pop off while I'm in mid-stride on the way to the mirror?
-New shoes are the gateway drug to new jeans (need the right length for heel height), followed by Anthropologie sweaters (on sale!), followed by trench coats (must look pulled-together now that pretty shoes and jeans have been acquired).

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sleep Numbers

We used to tiptoe into Theo's room after he fell asleep so we could watch him. Slumbering children are so beautiful and sweet that it was worth risking that his batlike sense of hearing would detect the turn of the doorknob as we stole into the room. If he stirred, Jeff would crouch below crib level and I hid behind the door before he saw us. If we were lucky, he would snorfle and turn his head away and close his eyes and we would scurry silently out of the room.

If he saw us, however, he immediately began to squeak and howl, begging to be picked up and cuddled and rocked. He pushed up onto his arms and bleated pathetically, and we would scurry from the room, listening for a few seconds until (hopefully) he forgot about us and fell back to sleep. Or else we had to go back in and pat his back and say soothing things and stroke his cheek with his stuffed giraffe and beg him to put his head back down. Which worked most of the time. But he obviously wasn't happy that we were awake and available and watching American Idol and he was missing out on the fun.

But times are changing. When we go in his room now to listen to him breathe and see his peaceful face, he still wakes up sometimes. But he just squints at us and rolls over, as if to say, "Um, did you need something? Because I'm trying to get some sleep over here."

It's just another milestone that makes my brain scurry forward ten years to the day my pre-teenage son just wants to be LEFT ALONE with his iPod (or with the computer chip that has been injected into his inner ear that picks up radio signals or whatever we will be using to listen to music in 2019). I'm pretty sure he's going to be the sort of person who sleeps until noon on Saturday mornings. But I like to think he might keep his special stuffed giraffe under his pillow even then.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oscar Pool 2009: The Results Show

You know that feeling when you've promised someone a favor? It's someone you really like, and the favor is something you enjoy doing, but you just never seem to get time among all your other responsibilities to get it done. And you find yourself avoiding the person because when you talk with them you spend all your time apologizing about the favor, when they've probably either forgotten all about it or else just did it themselves because holy cow it wasn't a big deal and it was taking you forever.

Yeah, I've kind of been avoiding blogging because the Oscar pool results were hanging over my head. You'd think I was being asked to do my own taxes or something. (My accountants and the German and American tax authorities are all thankful that's not the case.)

So about the Oscars. I had a great time watching the big show with Katie. (Well, besides the part where I tried to demonstrate the wonders of modern technology and somehow used our DVR to skip over about 20 minutes of the telecast.) It was Slumdog Millionaire's night, as you know, and while I am not convinced it will stand the test of time as the Best Picture, I couldn't help but be touched and thrilled by the fresh-faced enthusiasm of the cast and crew as they accepted award after award. Highlights for me included Penelope Cruz winning Best Supporting Actress, the Milk screenwriter's speech, and Kate Winslet receiving long-deserved recognition. I'm glad I didn't have to see Mickey Rourke talk about his chihuahua and I like Sean Penn just fine but I wish Frank Langella had won. Also, I made some killer guacamole, which was delicious.

And now, the pool results. My sincere apologies for taking a year and a day (well, just a couple of weeks, actually) to get the results tabulated. Thanks to all 37 entrants. Repeat players will note that our big winner, Melanie, has been in either the first or second spot all four years we've played this game. If she doesn't watch out we might have to name the award after her. Notably, she picked only three of the 24 awards incorrectly. Next year, let's all take her to Vegas. Second place goes to my blog pal B. who has had kind of a rough year so far and deserves some good news. Neat prizes will be headed their way soon.

Oscar Pool 2009 Results, by name and number of correct predictions:

Melanie: 21
B.: 19
Anna B.: 15
Sandi: 15
Tom: 15
Courtenay: 14
Scott: 14
Aubrey: 13
Kari: 13
Kylee: 13
Chad: 12
Charles: 12
Erica: 12
Katie: 12
Kristen: 12
Hollie: 11
Martha: 11
Britten: 10
Christina: 10
Daniela: 10
Dina: 10
Kerri W: 10
Yvonne: 10
Belgian Waffle: 9
Darren: 9
Gerry: 9
Ingrida: 9
Jennifer: 9
Kerri B: 9
Emily: 8
Janice: 8
Kassie: 8
Amy: 7
Julia: 7
Julia D: 7
Kendra: 7
Mike: 7

(Special shout-out to those of you who voted for Hellboy II in the Best Makeup Category. Because that made me smile.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Jerk

Last week, I was feeling like I spent most of my time in negotiations. I thought far in advance about how I could convince my son to wear socks each day. I talked up the thrills and delights of his tractor plate at dinnertime. I offered to race him upstairs when the bathtub beckoned. But, most of the time, he was having none of it. He whined and flailed and threw his cars. I despaired, wondering where my easygoing kid had disappeared to. I thought (hoped) it was his molars. I didn't want to resign myself to the idea that he was just kind of a jerk, but the thought crossed my mind. He'd just turned two. This is how they act for a couple of years, I thought. Maybe I should hire a live-in massage therapist to reduce my stress, I thought.

I was ramping up to a business trip, and I was hosting my book group. I had a lot to do and plan and think about. And the more I had to do, the crankier Theo became. He spent the weekend alternating between angelic glee and freaked-out screeching. He'd even stopped sleeping well. He demanded attention at 3am, and then wanted books read and balls tossed and games played. All three of us were delightful to behold when it was time to get up.

Tuesday night, he woke up crying (again) and screaming. OUCHY OUCHY OUCHY he said. EAR he cried.

"That's a pretty clear signal," the doctor snorted when I told her the story the next morning. We gathered up our Amoxycillin and went on our merry way. He's not a jerk, you see, he just has an ear infection.

All this made me feel a little bad that he'd obviously felt miserable for a while but I'm not embarrassed to tell you I was relieved. Because he's gone through cranky periods before and I hoped and thought it was teething or illness and in the end he was just cranky. So this time, when the doctor handed me the prescription, it was good to have a solution that didn't involve trying to have patience, trying to listen and talk and convince a toddler that screaming should be confined to emergency situations and the playground (and possibly those evenings when his mother just can't take it any more).

(To those of you anticipating the Oscar pool results, I apologize for the delay. I promise to post the big news later this week. Thanks for your patience.)

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Today was better.

I had one of those low-point parenting days yesterday. It wasn’t even an entirely bad day, it was just a really horrible thirty minutes, when I was trying to feed him dinner and he wanted to eat dinner but then he didn’t, and he was shrieking and I was shrieking and one of us swore at the other one and finally I just angrily unloaded the dishwasher while he wailed in the next room. And when I finally went in to make sure he was still as mad at me as I was at him, he was standing sadly in the dark dining room next to the wall, trying to wipe his nose with the Kleenex I’d stuffed in his jeans pocket earlier in the day. So of course that made me feel like someone should probably just take him away from me because who does that? Yells back at their toddler, and even swears in his general direction? But before I was declared an unfit mother I snuggled him in the rocking chair for a while, and whispered apologies into his hair, and then we read some library books.

There’s more to the story than that, of course. There’s me making an entirely-from-scratch chicken pot pie. There’s him spending the whole of his life up to now eating absolutely everything placed in front of him and then asking for more. There’s both of us hungry and just wanting to eat our freaking food. There’s him trying to tell me he wants MORE CHICKEN but then throwing the chicken across the room when I put it on the table. There’s me wondering when Jeff is going to come home, why can’t he come home sooner, the dinner will be burnt or cold and if I hadn’t tried to wait dinner for him then no one would be shrieking. And there’s me, wondering when I became a 1950’s housewife making dinner from scratch and then resenting everyone to whom I’m serving it.

I realize this is just the beginning of the toddler control freak era. I realize that he woke up yesterday morning and thought, whoa, let’s go to Burger King where I can have it MY WAY. I realize that I’m not the first person who ever lost her temper with her two-year-old. But even though it’s normal and I’m not the only one, it was a bad thirty minutes in a not-so-great day. Today was better.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Public Service Announcement

The Oscar pool deadline is fast approaching. Don't forget to enter.

Also: if you're Julia who submitted the very first ballot (gold star for promptness - seriously, I love it), please submit another one as there was a glitch with your entry.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Mixed Up

I unearthed a batch of mix tapes over the weekend. I hung onto them through the CD years when it was all but impossible to create mixes myself, during a time when I didn't even own a tape player. Listening to old music is such a time machine experience, and I feel like I spent my Saturday afternoon as an early twentysomething, just graduated from college and flailing blindly through my life. Thank heaven my friends introduced me to some good music. Here are my mixtape favorites, that I downloaded and compiled into a playlist I named the Cassette Mix.

Heal The Pain by George Michael
This is so much better than "Faith," why don't I ever hear it on the radio?
Come Back Down by Toad the Wet Sprocket
I still don't understand this band name.
Dela by Johnny Clegg & Savuka
I'm a little horrified that this was part of the "George of the Jungle" soundtrack but I swear I was listening to it back in 1992. I'm not sure why that's better than hearing it for the first time over the credits of a Brendan Fraser movie but somehow it seems like it should be.
Occasionally by Melissa Etheridge
I almost always prefer the acoustic version of any song. Ergo, I really miss that MTV "Unplugged" series now that MTV only broadcasts Real World spinoffs.
Longview by Green Day
Theo loves this. I can't wait until he starts shouting the swear words from his car seat.
Let the Day Begin by The Call
Apparently this has become a popular choice as a campaign theme song. However I learned about it via my roommate and she first heard it on from the guys down the hall who played it to start their campus radio show that no one ever listened to. Maybe that's how Al Gore first heard it too?
Waiting for Somebody by Paul Westerberg
Remember "Singles?" Man, Matt Dillon sure looks a lot better without the hair and the soul patch.
Alison by Elvis Costello
I only figured out who Elvis Costello was in my twenties, but it feels like I've always known about this song, and I never get sick of it.
Kayleigh by Marillion
This is one of those awesome eighties videos featuring children in military costumes and a mournful yet indecipherable message.
Hymn to Her by The Pretenders
This is a beautiful song. I can't believe no one (Jessica Simpson? Mandy Moore?) has released an inferior cover version.
All That You Have is Your Soul by Tracy Chapman

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Two Years

Last year I worried that a five-minute video of Theo's first year was too long. But this year I don't care, and I made it over eight minutes long. Mostly because I suck at video editing and the software I was using made me want to cry. But also because my child is eight minutes' worth of fascinating. I thought about ending it with a shot of myself pulling out my hair and hurling my laptop into a ravine in frustration, but then I remembered it's not ALL about me.

Happy birthday, Buddy.

Thanks to B. and Jonna for musical inspiration.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Universe to Blythe

You know those days when it seems like the universe is speaking straight to you? Well, that happened to me recently except it was just my Google Reader, not the whole universe. Which is less intimidating anyway.

Jeff and I watched Iron Man over the weekend, and fifteen minutes in he said, "If I'd known what this movie was actually about, I would have wanted to see it a long time ago. But the previews made it look like it was just a big comic book superhero film." And then I read this on kottke.org, an excerpt from a depressing article about movie marketing. No wonder previews barely resemble the movies they're pitching.

And then I was trying to figure out if I should send out some Valentines, but it would be more fun to make them, but I'm kind of lazy. And this list of free downloadable Valentine cards appeared in my life.

I started subscribing to Penelope Trunk's blog recently and her latest post, Don't Try to Dodge the Recession with Grad School could have been a missive straight to the me of 1993, except I wasn't dodging a recession, I was dodging, well, real life. It's really smart advice.

My Crock Pot has been beckoning. So tonight I'm cooking these shredded beef sandwiches.

Don't even ask me how I found this, but I totally love it, it's an article by Guy Kawasaki about all the stuff that online companies do to drive away business. It's like he read my mind and made a laundry list of the stuff I HATE when I'm trying to get stuff done on the web.

And this list of People Who Are On Twitter just made me laugh. Especially since I am also on Twitter and I recently started following Shaquille O'Neal. (By the way, if you haven't joined Twitter, you totally should. It's like having a blog without really having a blog.)

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I was an exchange student in high school. I spent my junior year in Europe, drinking beer in bars and eking out passing grades and hanging around with all the other exchange students on weekends. It won't surprise you to learn that it was a life-changing, personality-defining experience for me. I had grown up surrounded by wonderful friends and family in my small town, but I'd never felt like I belonged there, and I had the sneaking suspicion that I was going to live my life as a bit of an outsider. So among the many, many lessons I learned that year was the revelation that not everywhere is like the place I came from. (I also learned just how long I could remain clothed without doing laundry, and the difference between apple cider and hard cider.) And as elementary as that might seem, it's a realization that happens to almost everyone when they leave home for the first time. I'd read about foreign lands in the newspaper and books (I practically morphed into an English schoolgirl during my obsession with Noel Streatfield's novels), but until I saw these new places or just met someone from somewhere else, the whole idea wasn't real at all. But, of course, after that year abroad surrounded by other exchange students from Croatia and Portugal and New Zealand and Liberia, I stopped thinking of those countries as spots in my eighth grade geography book and started associating them with real live human beings.

So you can imagine that last weekend's shooting in downtown Portland, where a group of Rotary exchange students waiting to get into an all-ages dance club was hit by multiple rounds of random gunfire, and where two of those students, an American preparing for her time abroad and a Peruvian student spending the year in the US were both killed, affected me deeply. And my sadness was compounded by what I remembered hearing from my European friends about their fears of American cities, about crazy people with access to firearms. I could just imagine what people in those exchange students' home countries were saying, that their frightened parents were already planning to fly straight to Portland and collect them all and take them home to safe places outside our dangerous country.

So when I heard a radio interview with the father of one of the survivors, an Italian girl who was shot approximately nine times and who is still unconscious, I almost wept right there in my car:
"We'd like that she continue the (exchange) experience," her father said. Cultural exchanges open minds and improve the world, and violence and tragedy can "happen anyplace."
He's right, and though I'm not sure I could have the same kind of faith and optimism if I were in his position, I'm so glad he said it, and I hope it's still true.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oscar Pool: Part Vier

I haven't seen a single nominated movie this year. I saw Gran Torino but apparently Clint and the Hmong are on the outs with the Academy this year. Maybe I'll make progress in the next three weeks.

Anyway, it's time for my fourth annual Oscar pool!

Just fill out this form:
Blythe's Oscar Pool
and submit it by midnight wherever you are on Thursday, February 19, 2009.

Yes, indeed, there will be prizes.

Last year's results
Results from 2007
And the results from 2006
A great Oscar info site

Friday, January 23, 2009

It's Theo Friday!

Because I'm a day late for Theo Thursday. Here's what he is doing right now:
-Saying THEO HOLD IT when he wants to touch something, particularly garbage trucks on television commercials and expensive, fragile household items. Then becoming very angry when we explain why he can't HOLD IT.
-Yelling DADDY SLOW DONKEY when Jeff walks in the door, which apparently means that he wants a piggyback ride. But it sounds like something more insulting to me.
-Crying when we wake him up and make him get dressed in the morning an hour earlier than he used to get up and eat breakfast in his pajamas.
-Spending the entire Christmas season saying GOAT whenever he saw a reindeer. And now that Christmas is over he's started saying REINDEER when we read farm animal books with goats in them.
-Protesting as we walk up the steps to day care but then running into the kitchen and saying BYE MAMA as soon as he sees breakfast.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Work It

I'm in the middle of a leeeeetle wardrobe crisis (maybe that problem I had with the dress was a sign of impending clothing difficulties). I did a massive closet purge when we moved to Germany, getting rid of, among other enviable items, the plaid wool pants I bought the week after I landed my first real job in 1993. Then I did another one when we left, hauling away the clothes I'd worn to work for ten years before we left the USA without noticing that the trouser legs were frayed beyond repair or that they had started to look, well, ten years old. So I'm proud to say I no longer own a bunch of clothing I never wear. I have a nice array of sweaters and t-shirts that go with a good selection of jeans. Theo, my main fashion audience, approves wholeheartedly.

However. Today was the first day at my NEW JOB. Eep! This development is cause for anxiety on a multitude of fronts, but I've decided to focus on clothing, because I'd rather worry about that than about getting my son to day care in time to get to work, or whether I'm going to be capable of adult conversation on a regular basis, or if I'm just better at being a kept woman than someone with an income.

Fortunately this new gig is only three days a week, so I figure I should line up six outfits. I can't remember what anyone I know wore two weeks ago, can you? And I'm not going to shoot for the stars. I don't want to be known for my fashion sense, or be a trend-setter. Mainly, I'd just like to look vaguely professional and periodically hear "That's a great sweater" every now and then. And because I know how easily I can become the person who puts on a grey turtleneck and a pair of black pants and some comfortable black shoes and wears that same outfit every day, I will attempt to wear a few colorful items here and there. So I'm going to start posting photos at The Working Closet Flickr pool to remind myself to actually take a look in the mirror every morning. I know you'll enjoy those snaps as they march past in the Flickr widget to your right.

As for the job, I'm excited about it although getting out of bed this morning just about KILLED me. But then there was a Danish in the break room and I was reminded that being gainfully employed has its positive aspects.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lurker No More

Today's the day to comment. Why?
Because it makes me feel popular and neat, and after that last post you know I need all the help I can get in the self-esteem department.

Also, because there's a prize!

Comment below with your latest favorite song (add a link to your fave version on YouTube if you'd like). It doesn't have to be new music, just something you're enjoying right now. I'll pick one random commenter and send him/her a $10 iTunes or Amazon gift card (your choice). Because I need some new musical inspiration and I need to feel loved.

I would also appreciate suggestions for sappy background music to be used in Theo's Year Two video, if and when I ever take the time to fight with the moviemaking software. You might remember last year's video, which was only a month late. Two months late for year two? That's a good goal. Anyway, this amendment was inspired by Jonniker's comment below. I am a shameless music/inspiration thief.

Speaking of prizes, we're giving away a really cool booster chair over at Mamas Worldwide. The deadline for entry is tomorrow at midnight.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Why I Am Not Now, Nor Have I Ever Been, Cool

I spent most of today on my own, shopping for odds and ends and visiting some cool fabric stores (when did I become someone who enjoys visiting multiple fabric stores in one day?), roasting potatoes and leeks for homemade soup, and just basking in the aloneness. Theo spent the day with a sitter and I cannot express just how much I needed that time today. The past three weeks were fun and the family togetherness was great and the fact that Jeff was around all day for most of the time made it fantastic. It might sound goofy but we're all happiest when our family is together, just hanging out and doing our thing.

On the other hand, togetherness has its limits, and between our weather-related quarantine and plenty of time spent on tiny regional airplanes with three people in two seats, I was ready (shall we say DYING) for some new scenery. So on my day off, I decided to head to one of the hip and happening neighborhoods in my fair city. I wore my groovy new necklace (made from a Scrabble tile!) and cute boots and anticipated eating an tuna-and-caper tosti for lunch and fitting right in with the hipsters. After exiting a fabric store where I bought nothing but coveted everything, I spotted a vintage clothing and furniture store across the street. Perfect! I would browse for stylish bargains! I would find a sixties-era chair to re-cover with modern fabric! I would buy vinyl record albums!

So I entered and checked out the wares and appreciated the enticing descriptions on the safety-pinned paper price tags ("You NEED this retro floral couch! $85"). I picked out a sweet summer dress that was clearly stitched by some sixties housewife. Its pleats were perfect. It would be just the thing for summer. Would it fit? As if by magic, the sales attendant materialized and pointed me toward the dressing room. I smiled and said thanks, wandering off as I appreciated my city, where a fifty-five-year-old man in a hot-rollered wig, a rhinestone sweater, and lip gloss works in retail sales. Here I am with the hipsters, I thought.

So I tried on the dress and it fit like it was tailored for me. The fabric was thin, I'd need some kind of foundation garment, but that's OK. For ten bucks, it could be mine. And I reached back to unzip it and realized the zipper wasn't going anywhere. And neither was the dress. And I stood there in my argyle knee-highs and see-through yellow day dress and figured, what the hell, I don't really have a choice. So I exited the dressing room and found the attendant and asked for help with my zipper. "Up or down?" was the reply. "Down, please," I said.

And that's how I ended up practically exposing myself in the aisle of a resale shop, being undressed by a transvestite (who, incidentally, had to break the zipper to get me out of the dress, so I didn't end up buying it). It's really too bad Theo wasn't around to see it. Maybe I'll try to re-enact the whole thing for him when he's thirteen and has had too much family time.