Thursday, January 29, 2009

Exchanges

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.

AMENDED
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.

P.S.
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.