Thursday, December 31, 2009

Out with the old, in with the old(er me)

Good riddance. Thank God it's over. And so on.

I don't know. I just can't work up a respectable level of animosity for this year. I mean, sure. Layoff. Money problems. Marriage missteps. It wasn't perfect. Still, I can't help feeling I've come a long way this year, not to mention this decade (which, you know, technically shouldn't be over until the end of 2010).

What with being born on an even year, and hitting my 20s as the millennium turned, I feel like I'll always have an easy time keeping track of just when I came of age. The decade started with me being too young to drink, and ended with me being old enough to know better. It started with nothing-matters-but-New-Year's-Eve parties, and ended with, well, everything matters. New What? I'm not sure if the New Year's Eves of this no-name decade are a microcosm of my growth throughout the decade, but maybe. The nights themselves take me from aimlessness, through partying, to lameness, to acceptance of lameness, to plain old happy; with side trips to Vomitland and way more David Caruso than I'd realized.

On the last night before 2000, I went to Denny's with my boyfriend and our friend. We had Diet Coke and fried something with fried something else on the side, covered in ranch. They tried to be ironic by singing "Party Like It's 1999," only it wasn't so ironic since we were being lame as a matter of course rather than by choice. I demonstrated my pedantic pretension insightful attention to detail by making sure everyone we encountered knew it wasn't really the start of the 21st century. I could tell by the way the waitress rolled her eyes that she was intimidated by my perspicacity.

As 2001 rolled around, I was hanging with a new, shallower cooler crowd. Our group had five or six guys, a sister of one of the guys, and me. For some reason, I was pretty popular. (I'm pretty sure it had to do with the fact that I knew 2001 was the actual start of the century and millennium. The guys certainly listened intently to my explanation, particularly when I took off my bulky sweater so as to elaborate in comfort.) I was dating one of them, and our group threw an ever-expanding all-night house party. This was the night I learned Jell-O shooters are not the same thing as Jell-O Jigglers. Incidentally, this was also the night I learned that it's probably bad news if your friends are smirking and won't tell you why, and that hangovers suck ass.

2002? Um ... I spent 2001 getting promoted at work (which really just meant agreeing to live there), dating a small series of increasingly worse boyfriends, alienating some of my good friends, getting pregnant, barfing for a few straight months, reconnecting with a few friends and family members and wrecking my car. Also, September 11. And did I mention pregnant? I have absolutely no recollection of what I did on New Year's Eve, 2001, except maybe to rejoice in the year's end.

New Year's Eve, 2002, found me asleep. I'd tucked my son in and watched CSI/CSI Miami/Something Else with my mom and crashed early. David Caruso flourished his sunglasses and revealed whodunit. I woke up and it was 2003. Whoopee.

New Year's Eve, 2003. Television with Mom. We talked over the parts where Caruso stopped in the middle of sentences to take off/put on/take off/put on his sunglasses. She turned in at 10. I was up past midnight, but only because my son chose to be. I rang in 2004 reading in bed, hoping the baby monitor would remain silent. I happened to glance at the computer monitor at 12:14 and decided to count it.

For New Year's Eve '04, I actually got invited to a party -- the kids in my lab group at ASU were going wherever it is they go, and asked me along. I couldn't go. I made up for it by doing most of our lab report, and pretending to regret that I would miss out on obligatory dancing and beer pong. I had a wine cooler with my mom at home, and watched Caruso wear grooves into his temples for an hour or two. 2005, and me feeling old, officially arrived.

My husband (then sort-of-boyfriend) and I rang in 2006 leaning against his car under the stars, kissing. We thought no one knew. Pretty much everyone knew.

2007 began with us newly married, in our new (to us) apartment. I don't remember if we rang it in at the actual time, but we made sure to kiss, and it was the first year my son appreciated the "See you next year" crack. My husband and I played Trivial Pursuit.

As we wrapped up '07 and rang in '08, my husband was living retail management, I was living/breathing/sweating my manuscript, and it was all we could do to scrape up the energy to laugh at my son's "See you next year" joke. I think we might have argued about whether we would wink-wink "ring in" the new year. I think my husband used the actual wink-wink. I don't think we actually did, though.

New Year's Eve, 2008, my mom called around 8 p.m. She said she hoped she wasn't calling too late. My husband, son and I welcomed 2009 in a new house. (Actually, our son went to bed a few hours before, and we were all happy enough to play along gladly with the "See you next year" bit.) I had a Diet Coke and some Excedrin, probably the strongest New Year's Eve fix since that wine cooler. Nine years after the lame dinner and Diet Cokes found me back with the same guy and with another Diet Coke, but so different I felt like there must have been several intervening decades. New Year's Eve hasn't changed much, but I sure have.

(My husband's not into CSI in any of its incarnations -- but at this time each year, I like to imagine dramatically split-up one-liners, hands on hips and sunglasses-putting-on action anyway. Just for old time's sake.)

Like this:

"Have a great New Year, everyone. Just remember..."

[Bam. Sunglasses!]

"'s not actually the start of a new decade."

And this year? We all had the day off together -- partially because we're unable to find much work, but what the heck. We took a speed walk while my son rode his new bike, rounding the curves until I could barely see him and was torn between pride and panic. I got some work done, but mostly the guys, and cats, tore me away from it. We watched a lame movie. The only intestinal turmoil I'm likely to experience is from the pizza we're ordering way too close to bedtime.

I'm old, and lame. And I kind of love it.

Happy New Year, everyone.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Year in half-assed review

Apparently it's the time of year when we all unofficially agree to do "Year in Review" posts. So my supreme wisdom of this year is...

Wait. Screw that. I didn't learn jack this year. I'm still doing all the same stuff as this time last year, most of it a little better, some of it not nearly as well, and all of it with much less money and security. So here's a random list of things I learned (because screw editing and rearranging; that's why).

In 2009, I learned to spot a pretty good read, and that my reading taste of old? It was pretty horrible, in some cases. (What the hell, ten-years-ago self?)

...that the exact details of a family's life rarely have much to do with how happy the family is. Deciding to be happy is corny, but it works.

...that my mom rocks, even a little more than I knew she did this time last year. to take better pictures, and teach my son the same.

...that mint truffle Hershey's Kisses will be the death of me. But it'll be a good way to go.

...that my husband will always surpass me in technical mastery of the camera, but is likely to never EVER listen to me about scouting good light. (Any of y'all want to tell him like it's not my idea? That might work.)

...that there are still some damn stupid people in this world. A whole heck of a lot stupider than me. (Stupider than a goldfish, for that matter.)

...that none of them will listen to me, regardless of how loudly or eloquently I opine.

...that there are still some damn good people in this world. A heck of a lot better than me.

...which online postings are likely to spark debate, and not to update my status with anything particularly inflammatory if I can't afford to be distracted for the next ten hours.

...that mysterious smells in the kitchen are never a good thing.

...that mysterious smells that smell like something melting are even less of a good thing, and only idiots ignore them.

...that I'm an idiot. to make eight batches of cookies and a amateur but good batch of cornbread in record time, while dressing myself, talking on the phone, and forcing my son into clothes -- and that food does indeed impress my in-laws. (Good call, self.) to live with freaking no money. to take steps toward actually earning some money.

...that, in a marriage, absolving each other of the need to successfully "hit on" the other one works wonders. to teach my son to be both proud and humble.

...that we might need to work a little more on that latter part.

...that I will never, ever get more than ten seconds to myself between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 p.m.

...that, on the rare occasions that I do, I'm crazy and get all Hey! What's wrong? Don't you want to play together? to be a better wife. to be a better mother. to be a better person. to get my husband to finally remember the symbols for male and female. (Hint: It has to do with a ridiculously immature mnemonic device involving the shapes and what happens to males' male parts.)

...that our carpet is a great color for hiding cat puke stains. to host a boys' sleepover without going insane. (Hint: It involves equal parts vigilance and selective ignoring.)

...that if you propose something, and your partner says Hey; that's a great idea. Where did you get that from? and the answer is a previous romantic partner, you should keep that part to yourself.

...that I suck at keeping anything to myself.

...that the previous point is likely to make this list way too long, so I should probably wrap it up here.

Happy season, everyone. Enjoy the rest of this year.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I would like to wish my husband a very happy anniversary.

I really wish I had more to offer him than "Happy Anniversary," and maybe, a, erm, celebratory activity when he gets home from work -- even though by then it'll be the next day.

But we don't have much any money, so we both kind of agreed to get each other less financial stress for our anniversary by not worrying about buying some obligatory present. Still, I wish I could give him something. Do something for him, at least.

But this is what I do. I write. Ramble. Tell. I tell way too damn much, according to him. Less telling is most definitely more in my husband's opinion. (Still, he'd known me for almost 15 years by our wedding, so you be the judge. Either that's not really his opinion, or he's not so good at thinking things through.)

So, I guess I can just tell. I'll give him a present by keeping it short: I love you. Almost daily Sometimes you snore, or sleep in past lunch, or fart, or are unbelievably stubborn, or do that thing where I'm working on the computer and you hover behind it until I want to throttle you and so I pointedly ask if you want the computer and then you get mad and want to throttle me -- and still, I never waver from knowing that I absolutely for sure married the only guy I ever could have married. (And you know how down I am on mushiness, since I lectured you on it last night.) And once in a while, I remember just how damn lucky I really am.

Here, a commemorative shot, taken a few days ago. All the pictures I have of him are doing things with us, because that's who he is.

And, other readers, lest you think I'm long-suffering: I frequently sometimes cry for no reason, or fall asleep at 9, or fart (which my husband, wisely, claims never to have witnessed), or am unbelievably stubborn, or do that thing where I bitchily ask who the heck put the peanut butter in the cereal cupboard, when I know darn well who put it there, just so I can have someone at whom to vent; and he never stops tolerating loving me.

You want proof we're meant for each other? The last time he admitted to checking me out in public, this is what I was doing (at the actual time of the checking out, seriously):

Sexy, huh?

Happy Anniversary, Aaron.

Monday, November 23, 2009


As usual, my words, his shots. (Here are some past posts if you have a hard time believing a five-/six-/seven-year old can consistently take these kinds of shots. I know I'm still amazed, and I see him do it.)

Except for the total homemaker FAIL to come. (You'll see.) I took those. He just laughed.


During our last car trip my son played with his seat belt and read the latest novel he's tackling (a good three years above his level, at least -- I read it to "screen" it, but also because I liked it, at 28). As an afterthought he asked, "Mom? When did religion start?"


"What's first base?" he asked one evening, at least partly to put me off my game during the usual can-I-have-pizza-for-dinner debate (which he wins more often than I care to admit).

"Uh, first base?" I fumbled. "It's a base, in baseball. The first one." (Well, I was hoping, anyway.)

"I know THAT. I mean, first BASE. Like not in baseball. What does it mean if some guy says he got to first base?"

"Well, he's usually talking about a girl he likes, and it's a silly way to say 'holding hands' or 'kissing.' And as long as that's all they do, it's fine, if they're older -- say, 54 -- and if they're nice to each other."

"Oh. I want to get to first base with YOU, Mom! Also, I've only had pizza once this week."

He got pizza.


He has been practicing the drums on Guitar Hero, and I just had to encourage it. He asked me to sing accompaniment to all his performances. Do you know anyone, with no musical inclination whatsoever, who knows all the words to "Beat It" (seriously, there are lyrics besides "Just beat it." Who knew?), "Eye of the Tiger," "Hotel California," "Heart Breaker" and "Are You Gonna Go My Way" by heart? Well, now you do. According to the game and my son (who regularly aces the drum part), I rock. According to anyone else in possession of ears, not so much.


My mom called me on impulse while bringing in her groceries. We'd spoken just a few hours ago; she called this time just to tell me I'm a good mom. We spent the next fifteen minutes talking mom stuff, at which point I had to let her go because her freezer stuff was thawing. I smiled for the next half hour, at least.


I preheated the oven to bake some cookies. Five minutes later, I smelled a molten plastic scent, almost exactly like the scent to which I became accustomed during my illustrious career as an injection mold operator. Huh, I thought, and went about making the dough. (Because I'm stupid, that's why.) I got the first tray of cookies ready, opened the oven, and found this:

Yeah. Turns out, if you're hiding a couple of straggler dirty dishes as unexpected visitors drop by, it's a great idea, as long as you take them out before heating the oven to 350 degrees. Especially if you're hiding your plastic dishes.

My son loved the new artwork.


We have a roadrunner that's been visiting our neighborhood recently. I spent a good half hour the one evening getting close to it, earning its trust. It clacked its beak and ran away each time passers-by came into view, but eventually seemed to accept me, even let me take a few shots. I figured now it would be safe to let my son come out and see it, at least before it fled. I was sure he wouldn't be able to stay as still or get as close as I had. He came out, looking like a clown in my husband's shoes. He walked smoothly (but much too quickly, I thought) up to the roadrunner. He stood at most two feet from it. The bird raised its crest a millimeter, then smoothed it back down, turned its head sideways and regarded my son with one eye. It never fled. Never clacked. They stared at each other until black enveloped us.


"What's Playboy?" he asked on the way home from school.

"Wh... Why?" I stammered.

"Well, can I ever have one?"

After calming my internal freak-out impulse, I calmly explained that Playboy is a "magazine you would find either gross or boring, and it's definitely not for kids."

"Oh, never mind. I thought it was like a PlayStation or Game Boy. I guess I don't want a Playboy for Christmas, then."

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Egrets, I've had a few

As I cut my own hair yesterday (yes, it came out semi-OK; no, you may not see pictures), my son pranced by the bathroom door. He drummed on the wall, sang "Seven Nation Army" and hopped from one foot to another, as cats wove around my ankles. It was one of the best moments of the week.

Maybe it has something to do with hair, or songs. I remember my dad used to wash my hair was I was about David's age. He'd speed-wash it in between television baseball innings. He always sang "My Way" while he was doing it for some reason. I had to thrust my finger into the air in accompaniment at "what is a man" and "took the blows" and he'd rinse it on the final line. I have no idea how the ritual got started, but I ate it up. I'm aware that a million different people have a million different associations with that song, no doubt a great deal of them having to do with loved ones. Me? I remember strawberry shampoo and warm water trickling down my neck, and being lifted off the bathroom stool to run in and watch the rest of the seventh inning.

I've been thinking about happiness -- how to build happiness, how to make a husband and son happy, how money doesn't buy happiness (but since lack of money sure as hell prevents happiness then it kind of does), memories of when I was most happy. More to the point, I've been stressing about it. Like seriously, just sitting and stressing. Breaking an actual sweat. Please, Internet, I would like to know how to force my family to be happy. How to be happy myself.

I feel like we waste our time. David used to be so embracing, ready any time I wanted to have Meaningful Family Time. Now, he's aloof half the time. What if we piss it all away and then he's a standoffish teenager and then we never get to act lovey again? What if my husband and I forget completely how to be romantic, until it's all nose picking and open-door peeing and why can't YOU run the dishwasher for once? It's already the end of 2009, and I haven't packed nearly enough meaning into this year yet.

I say I'm easy to please. Don't take me on fancy trips. Just be in the moment with me. I like the simple things. But the thing is, I demand the simple things. I'm EASY TO PLEASE, DAMMIT, I tell my husband. All I ask for is for you to be HERE WITH ME, right NOW. How much more easygoing do you want?

The thing about happiness, in the be-with-me, isn't-this-moment-all-misty-and-wonderful, wait-you-think-it-isn't? What-the-HELL-then-why-aren't-you-MAKING-it-that-way sense? It's a luxury. I worry about it when the material necessities are taken care of and going well. If it's between relating to my family in a kind tone and making sure I have running water, I kick them out of the room and call the utility company.

Things went pretty well for the first half of this year for us. My husband was making decent money. We'd just bought our house. I looked to be close to bringing in regular income.

So, naturally, we had regular intervals of behaving miserably toward each other. We worried. And stressed. And yelled. We're doing FINE; we kept hollering at each other. Why can't you just be HAPPY with that?

Well golly-gee, I wonder why?

Now, things are decidedly not hunky-dory on the material front. Our bills are paid, but just barely. I'm still "close to bringing in regular income." My husband's job ... let's just say he's not leaping in the car each day. He's obscenely overqualified, but no one else is hiring. We cannot afford to do anything that isn't free. Sometimes, we can't afford that, if it costs too much in gas to get there.

So, naturally, we're the happiest we've ever been as a couple and as a family.

It's not denialism, either. (We conquered that once we realized that avoiding your bank statement doesn't make the pathetic figures any better; it actually might make things quite a bit worse.) I think it's the same thing that made us feel so ridiculously into each other in high school. It's us against this Big Thing.

We've stopped trying to MAKE each other happy, and we've been making each other very happy. Shockingly, those moments happen even if I don't demand them. I was surprised to find that my husband likes them just as much. I think he was quite surprised himself.

We go to the preserve (it's free!) on telescope night. David squeezes into the observatory and talks to the astronomer about Mars as he peers into the viewfinder. He's bathed in a red glow as he lectures bystanders about Mars's moons, which he knows from a board game we play at home. I used to play the game with my own parents, and only just recently stopped being a know-it-all about Phobos and Deimos.

My husband, son and I walk to the park in fading orange and pink light. My son plays on the equipment like he used to when he was littler, when I was dating my husband and we'd take my son to the park on thinly veiled dates for ourselves.

A lady with filthy dogs crosses our path. David loves on her dogs and talks to her. It makes her evening.

We go back to the preserve, and the geese mob David as he tosses our mesquite seeds. A heron barks and takes off in slow motion, waving more than flapping its massive blue-gray wings.

Back again at the preserve, my husband and I spend an entire morning stalking and watching egrets and herons. Just the two of us. It was his idea. We whisper-yell to each other from our hiding places in the reeds and bushes as we try to capture the egrets in flight and joke about how geeky the herons look head-on with their rosy drumstick legs showing. We're going back tomorrow.

He woke me up last night to tell me that the roadrunner was back, sleeping on our neighbor's meter box. He knew I'd want to know.

Just moments.

Time's slowing down. Just a little. But it's definitely better.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Apoopos of nothing

We see a mangled dove on the side of the road on the way home from school, probably the victim of a windshield collision. Its wing splays upward, and we can't even tell if it has a head.

"Mom? What happens to dove minds?"

"Well, they stop working when their bodies do. It's sad, isn't it?"


[Long pause during which a jerk in a giant SUV, oblivious to my presence or anything but his texting, shoves me over into the turn lane early, and I cut off a cop.]

"So, Mom? What about souls? Do doves have souls?"

Now I'm chanting Pleasedon'tpullmeoverPleasedon'tpullmeover under my breath and have lost the thread of the conversation. I take the lazy thought-provoking route.

"What do you think?"

"Well, some people think everything has a soul and some people think only people do. Some people think nothing really does."

For my part, I hope I have one, because by now I'm pledging it to the traffic-patrol gods. It works. He continues on as I turn. "Um, yeah. You're right. Wow. Have you been talking about this with other people?"

"Sometimes," he says, around powdered cheese and a sizable mass of chewed up Doritos left over from lunch. "After we played Monster Mania but before I skinned my elbow -- I was a zombie mostly, and my friend was a ghost but then he was a vampire, but I think he cheated because you're not supposed to be a vampire on the equipment, but the playground teacher said to 'solve it yourselves' (here he makes sarcastic air quotes) -- after that, my friend said something about it. He said he thinks there might be like a big soul bedroom, and we all go there when we die, and he hopes that his turtle is there. But he said his other friend doesn't think any of them will be there."

"Well, people believe all kinds of different things."

"Yeah. Different things about God or Heaven and stuff."

"Yeah, that's true.

"You know what I think?" He cranes his head to talk to me in the rear view mirror. "I think that our soul isn't really like a ghost or an invisible brain or anything. I think that it's just the word we had to make up to talk about what we are altogether. Like, our thoughts and thoughts about thoughts and stuff, and everything nice and not nice that we did, and how we know that when we die that's the end of the line for us in our body but our body breaks up and becomes other stuff, like water in a lake or animal food and then animal poop, or stars and stuff -- and knowing that and how nice we are until we die is our soul. Also, I don't know, maybe some part of our knowing, like some part we don't know is there, goes to where lots of other things that were alive are. But no one knows exactly if that happens and how it goes and all that's too long to say so we say 'soul.'"

We pull up the driveway. I'm at a loss. When did we make the jump from baby talk to this? This? I figure I'd better give it my best try. I turn around in the driver's seat.

"Well, people really do believe all kinds of different things, and I think you're pretty darn smart and can figure out for yourself what to believe and how you think the world works. You're kind and you explore the world and that's what really matters. No matter what people call or don't call things they believe in -- God, or Heaven, or other names for it, or if they just believe in life and do their best -- we all do and love the same things, we just speak about it in different langua... What's wrong? Are you sad about the dove?

"No." He's grimacing. "It's just, you're talking a lot, and I really have to poop. Can you get bring my chips in?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Don't let the sun go down on me (until I have my camera ready)

My online presence is not insubstantial. However, since I'm supposed to be a writer -- I abruptly sprang awake other night at 3 a.m. as my brain suddenly decided to contemplate the gravity of paying off the tens of thousands of dollars I've spent learning how to be a writer with the zeroes of zeroes of dollars I've made recently practicing the art -- of course I would have an easier time producing photos than essays. Add to this that I have several family members and friends who differentiate between my blog (which they call my "blahhhg" -- I have several family members and friends back east) and my "website," which is really just the Flickr site of a wannabe photog; and my online offerings can seem pretty slim at times, to say nothing of my coverage of typical Arizona topics. Several of these fine folks, most of whom don't usually visit the latter site, have expressed surprise a time or two that I have yet to really say anything about Arizona sunsets.

I reply that it's cliché, done before, and that I don't have anything particularly useful or new to say on the subject.

But then I look at my photos, and my waiting photos, and what I spend the most time watching, timing, analyzing, and capturing. If sunset photography is a cliché, than I am a walking, point-and-shooting cliché.

I blame my mom. When we first moved to Arizona, she was obsessed with sunset shots. Red clouds, orange poofy clouds, pink smeary skies, gold flares through the front window ... she captured them daily with a thin teal 110 Instamatic camera. After a while, we started making fun of her pretty mercilessly, and so she began shooting the cacti (at sunset); our new house (at sunset); my brother, sister and I playing (at sunset, and we only made it in the barest portion of the bottom corner of the frame; the rest was sky); and the raised dirt-rock-hill-thing in our front yard (guess when?); all to circumvent the basis for our mocking. (It didn't work.) Then she consolidated the shots into a sort of matrix, a collage of snapshots that she kept tacked to the wall in the master bedroom, right above the piano no one played. That made it look like one unit, rather than an ongoing obsession. (We still didn't give her a pass, of course.)

But she got to know the sky and the state and the desert. She always knew when the sun was about to dip -- just about to, but hadn't yet -- when the light would flare most vividly, how the shadows would jump and stretch, what the light would hit. Her routine intertwined with the sun's. Hell, I should have been astounded. I was sixteen before I even knew which freaking direction was west. I couldn't even find the sunset.

I've gone through bouts of hating and absolutely loving the desert since then. I've studied the science of just about every aspect of it -- geology, biology, botany, ridiculously specific entomological topics, tracking by scat (my son's favorite). I've written on astronomy, wildlife, conservation, and caves in our state and in my corner of desert; about oversized arachnid pedipalps and nipple beehive cacti (try Googling that one at work). But I've never really just backed up to get to know the place. To feel the desert wake up each day and breathe. Seriously. Somehow, I got in the habit of doing that these last few weeks and months. I know when the sun rises (which I usually just glimpse through pulled blinds) and when it sets each day. Just the conscious decision to monitor it, to follow the day's journey and see it out, has put me in step with its rhythm. Just looking at the day has put me in sync with this place in a way I never got before by looking stuff up and and looking for stuff.

My son waits for it each evening now. From our usual vantage point downstairs we can tell when the sun dips below the wall out back, which is actually just the preview to the real sunset. We either take a walk right then, or race upstairs and capture it from the window. The day is tucking in just as we begin watching. The roadrunner roosts on our neighbor's meter box, the doves wheel and circle, lizards hide in the cracks in walls and beneath rocks, spiders come out, and the sky bursts. It gasps and sighs. And it glows and blazes, and slowly it fades. But it's not dull. It's kind of like a winded afterglow effect, with swirls and wisps to play out the day's last hurrah. And it's nearly always amazing. Always, always something different.

So, yeah, that's it. Just look at these. Just a few (for real -- I have hundreds, maybe thousands more) shots from our recent evenings. I've said enough. This is our view each night. Here, for anyone who wanted to see, and even those who didn't. I'll shut up and show. I have to do something with all these shots. I have too many for the wall in the bedroom.

(Oh, and sorry, Mom.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

(Overdue) snapshots

I hate Cox.

I hear you snickering. Shut up.

the cable company? Not on my nice list today. I had more snapshots, but instead of writing them down first and transferring them to the blog, per usual (or even making cryptic notes like "Elab. RE: butts!" which, even if I forget what they mean, are at least intriguing to my three-hours-later self), I decided to type them directly into Blogger. I also had a semi-lengthy eloquent (I swear) pitch going in Yahoo Mail. So of course when I tried to save or post the blog, and send the mail, Cox flopped.

Seriously, shut up.

The phone, Internet, everything.

It's back up, mostly, now. So here are some of the snapshots, but I swear it was better before. Grr.

Cox sucks. (Shut up.)

But either way, get a load of my son's shots. He rocks
, no?


My husband: "Did you see it?"
Me: "I did. Thanks for the ice cream!"
My husband: "What about the note?"
Me: "Oh, I love you too."
My husband: (Smiles)
Me: "But seriously, thanks for the ice cream.

My son begged and begged to take his camera on the field trip to the local heart center. After asking his teacher and several bring-it-back-or-else lectures, I sent it with him. He was a hit. He video taped the presentations and documented the entire event, but I'm not allowed to share the majority of the footage because every single segment features things like "...and that's why the arteries constrict. DAVID WATCH THIS!!" punctuated by his friends making goober faces and flapping their arms at the camera like the guy who played Paul Pfeiffer did in the Wonder Years credits.

My son: "Mom, what does this word say?"
Me: "You read it. You know how to read."
My son: "No, really."
Me: "OK, fine. Read me the letters."
My son: "C-O-C-K ... never mind. I have it now."

He had saved up his coins for ages. I came out a few weeks ago to a giant mound of pennies and nickels, seven dollars in all. He wanted to order a book from the Scholastic order by himself. I exchanged the coins for a check and mailed it off, only to have a bit of bank-balance-related drama in the meantime. When his book didn't arrive in time, I was so worried it was our fault. He'd be crushed. Turns out the order was late. He got his book and spent the weekend reading it at to me.

My son: "Um, Uh, Mom?"
Me: "What?"
My son: "Wha.. er, eh, what... oooh, ahh, what, what, er, ah, oooh ah, wha.... what is it ... oooh, ahh.... what is it when people, when people, when they can't get out a word sound?"
Me: "You mean stuttering?"
My son: "Yeah. I'm glad ... ooh, ahh... I'm glad I, er, ah, oooh .... I'm glad I don't do anything like that."

When I woke up, there was an elaborately folded construction-paper package on the bathroom counter: "TO MOM FROM DAVID. OPEN IT." There was a picture of a pterosaur saying "I love Mom," and also a twirled blue and red ribbon and a nickel.

He came bursting out of the school front doors, elbowing his friend and cracking a joke. He didn't even glance at me. He looked so dang old. I was so proud. And more than a little freaked out. An hour later, when he cried over something trivial and ran to me, I felt awful for being a tiny bit relieved.

We read the part involving an incarcerated dragon in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. He almost got choked up about the fictional creature. Later, when he compared it to circus elephants, he did get choked up, and angry. Dang, I love this kid.

He told me he had a good day, but held my hand a little too tightly. It was slick with sweat from both our hands by the time we'd finished our walk. "OK, Mom," he confessed. "I had only a sort of good day." By the time he was done confiding in me, he said, it felt like a "100 percent good day."

He's going to write a book some day about how turkey vultures are beautiful and not ugly at all, he told me this morning.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


I was telling my mom last night that she should get an account on Facebook to keep up with my siblings and me. She doesn't have an Internet connection at home (can you really live that way?), so she declined for now. But it occurred to me -- I'm careful enough with what I throw out to the online ether in case a potential editor or employer looks me up, but what if my mom did get a Facebook account?

I decided to speculate --

This week's status updates, if my mom became my Facebook friend:

Kimberly called that financial institution that keeps calling her mom's number, and it turns out they were just calling to say what a responsible, model borrower she is.

Kimberly is replying to all her e-mail in a timely manner, especially e-mails from her mom.

Kimberly never speeds.

Kimberly is meticulously balancing her checkbook, just like she does each and every week.

Kimberly is going to bed at a decent hour each night, and rising with the sun each morning.

Kimberly is totally not wasting time online. In fact, this is the only time she's been online all day. She's going offline now to get big-time important grownup stuff done.

Kimberly hardly ever has Diet Coke for breakfast.

Kimberly's bank account is thriving and she doesn't ever dread checking the balance, despite what anyone may have heard.

Kimberly's son listens to her and minds absolutely all the time, as she has developed a consistent system of discipline thanks to her own upbringing.

Kimberly is putting work before play, and not deluding herself that play is work.

Kimberly is going to the doctor regularly for checkups.

Kimberly is not writing this update to procrastinate real work. On the contrary, all her work is already finished, well ahead of schedule.

Kimberly is not cracking her knuckles.

Kimberly's backyard is in pristine condition, thanks to the hard work she puts into it each and every morning.

Kimberly loves getting phone calls from her mom.

Kimberly is being honest with that last one.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Falling (now with 60 percent more gratuitous bubble pics!)

The fall doesn't really come when it officially arrives around here.

The calendar says fall started a few days ago. Fall break is next week, and I'm hoping to go camping with my family, or at least take a bunch of extended walks. Maybe see a few early mornings and teach my son some September-October constellations, heedless of bedtimes and school nights. But it's still getting up to 102 degrees today and tomorrow.

By the time winter officially arrives in three months, we'll have just gotten used to enjoying cool temperatures, and it will sort of seem like we plunge into a cold winter with only a tiny autumn intermission. (Yes, friends/family in the Northeast and pretty much everywhere but Arizona. We do consider 65 degrees "plunging into cold.")

Right now, right this second, it seems a little like fall. It's still early enough in the day, in the 80s. There's a cool breeze. The air feels great to breathe, like drinking. The leaves (most don't turn color and drop around here) gleam in some barely discernible way, and the way the light lies on them seems to indicate that this is an in-between time. There'll be these moments off and on until winter, but not always. Mostly we just plunge in without realizing it.

Unfortunately, the "fall" in the other sense of the word seems to have arrived and moved in at Hosey-Wilson headquarters. I don't have a job. Can't seem to sell shit. Can't seem to write shit. My husband has a job, but one for which he is ridiculously overqualified. We have no money. We bicker about stupid crap. I propel myself out of the secondary chair in our home office. (We call it the cat's chair usually, but right now husband is in MY chair. Why is he on the computer anyway? Doesn't he know I need it?! Damn him and his need to unwind!). I holler something and slam the door, only to open it again in seven seconds, come back in, sit back down, and whine at him. What is wrong with us?

I am obsessed with the wrong kind of fall. David was playing on the little stone wall in our backyard last night, the one that surrounds a fire pit that hosts arthropods rather than flames. He pranced, balanced, leaped from the break in the wall to the other side, gripped the ledge with his bare toes. It was already slick from blowing bubbles; he'd flung soapy water all over it. Quit it, I told him again and again. He didn't care. He wasn't afraid of the fall. He didn't think about what a fall could mean. There's hard ground beneath you, I kept saying. A fall would be awful. But I never really do fall, he kept telling me. Even if he did, he reasonsed, it isn't really falling. I almost always catch him, or he catches himself. "It's just a half-fall, Mom," he said. "You're making it scarier by talking about it."

I had another glimpse of the good fall after that, last night. We just ... were.

I should back up. Yesterday began nicely -- I got some things done around the house, got a few random blog comments (how I can be reasonably sure I haven't arrived: that still makes me insanely happy), received a request to use a photo I'd forgotten I had even taken. The morning was clear and blue and breezy. Then my husband called and asked me to check our bank account balance, and well ... I mounted the fast track to the other kind of fall. By the time I left to pick up my son, all I could think was: We have no money. I didn't get anything done. Who cares about that photo; you're a writer, dammit. And why is it so hot again?!

And then, later, in the backyard, my son had the gall to play around with falling. He giggled about it. He jumped. Plunged. He landed on his bare feet, hard. Right beside where the backyard black widow used to live. (Not to be confused with the porch black widows, who are technically also in the backyard.) Sticks and web fragments stuck to his bare, bubble soapy feet.

He plunged, and loved it. He then moved on to the swings, where he again tested my cardiological health by leaping off the swing and trying tricks "that some guy at school showed me, before he fell off and skinned his face." But he survived, and my heart rate managed to stay below 200. He closed his eyes and swung hard, "making my own wind," he said. A fat lizard with a tail longer than its body scurried up and down the wall beside us. A giant dragonfly flitted in and out of the tree I never trim. The sky glowed with final smears of blue and cinnamon before going completely dark, and the crescent moon and stars winked on. He jumped one last time, trusting the ground to catch him without incident.

I don't know. Maybe the analogy isn't perfect. Maybe "fall" and "fall" is just a coincidence of language, and doesn't necessarily accommodate my hangups. Because the plunge would have to come first, right?

Because the thing is, I love plunges. I love roller coasters, cliff diving, those rides that just drop you over and over again, the feeling of leaving your stomach and heart somewhere above your head. As a kid, I liked that sensation of falling when I inevitably tipped too far in my chair. The only part that sucked was the actual collision, which is the part I equated with fall. If that part didn't happen -- like with roller coasters and diving into a lake and taking a chance that scares the crap out of you but turns out OK -- it didn't really count as a fall. The before-fall slice of time -- that part was great. Like the mornings around here lately, the almost-falls.

Whatever. Maybe my analogy almost works after all. Maybe falls are always fleeting around here. It's a matter of perspective. Maybe you're supposed to dwell on one, but I've picked the wrong one.

I'm applying to everything I can get my hands on. I'm submitting every day. I'm playing outside every evening. My husband and I are using the changes and challenges in our careers to grow closer, to support each other. I'm taking every ride I can. I have to. I'm in the plunge.

Maybe the fall doesn't really ever come. We'll plunge right in, all of us. And maybe it'll be pretty awesome.

Or at least, maybe we won't kill ourselves from a concussion after mixing soap suds and cement. And black widows.