Monday, April 30, 2007

Co-sleeping is over

During the dark hours this morning, I woke up and couldn't tell if I was in my bed or Z.'s. I was alone--was Z. missing or was A.? After a few seconds my head cleared enough to remember Z.'s night waking, taking turns in her bed while the other parent used the bathroom. When I quiet Z. during the night, I go back to bed once she's down. A. stayed in Z.'s bed in the end, and fell asleep there. (I can't sleep when Z. is next to me, but A. sleeps through anything.) This was the first time that happened since we moved Z.'s bed to the other side of the room--before when Z.'s bed was next to ours, it was as though we were in one big bed. It felt so strange to be alone.

Since we moved the bed, the nights have been more interrupted, but my sleep has been deeper in between the wakings.

Feminist mystery lovers rejoice!

Denise Mina's Garnethill trilogy is being reissued this fall by Back Bay books! Hooray, hoorah!

Verizon baffles me

Our home DSL is out, or so I think, but I'm not certain because every time I call Verizon I get as far in the menu as telling them I have a connection problem and then they disconnect me. How can a phone company be so inept with its phone system? I ask you.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Fear and hostas

I am supposed to say something about fearlessness for Miriam, but I'm afraid (ha!) that I would wind up on the opposite emotion. So I'm going to sit this one out and talk about my garden instead ... my lovely, unkempt, healing garden. But Miriam, I'll try to pitch in on the next one.

My Plant Delights order came today: 5 new hostas, two very cute miniatures, three quite handsome larger ones. Also a trillium that frankly looks a little worse for wear, but I've had good luck with these guys before, so I planted it and we'll see how it goes. And a non-vining clematis, something I've admired but never planted in my own garden before. And oh, those hostas! (I never liked hostas before I got on the Plant Delights mailing list. Google 'em yourself--it's well worth the search!) In other garden news, one of the apple trees we planted after Z. was born looks like it has enough blooms to actually produce an apple this year--assuming there's another local apple to fertilize it, since none of the other three are in bloom (so much for the bloom-time chart I pored over).

Also, my sainted mother was here today, and we made terrific headway on pruning chaos and excess books from the first floor. A yard sale is in the offing--I suspect decluttering alone will help me feel more functional. The Someone Else's Problem fields have taken over our house.

If I actually overcome my fear, I'll take the decluttering approach to my finances on Monday--really, if they're as bad as I think they'll only get worse if I keep looking away each time my hyperventilation starts up.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Google hits (cheap content)

One thing I learn from my search hits is how many things people want rhymes for various words they're using in poems, especially in birthday poems (an unintended consequence of the title I chose and one of my tags). Also, in recent weeks a lot of people have been very interested in the last frost date.

Two sad ones I've had recently:

dog dies lack of oxygen what happened
a preemies less week in the regular nursery [sic]

If either of you is still reading, you have my sympathy, and I hope you found answers somewhere in that search. I know things must be really difficult right now.

Phantom, I have to chalk this one up to your comment of a month or two back:

black scabs on tip of nipple breastfeeding

If that searcher is still reading--I've been there, really I have. If you hang in there, it will get better. Check out what Magpie wrote about her early nursing experience.

Staying ahead of the boo

Z. is definitely growing up: over the past week we've had fight after fight. What inspires them? Going to sleep for naps and at night; what she's going to wear; combing her hair; what we're going to do in the afternoon; and whether she's going to school on a given day. She stays home about twice a week, either for sniffles or mama deficits, which I'd be okay with if it were once a week. (We pay "school" for five days a week because the pricing works out to about same as four days a week, and we get more flexibility. But once it gets down to three days, we're losing.)

Most of these fights serve to keep her from doing something new. Any kind of transition at all is to be resisted to the last ounce of two-year-old endurance.

I've had to discard all the toddler tricks I used to use: offering two choices of shirt results in her saying no to both rather than embracing one; counting to three to let her get ready (which used to be magic!) inspires her to take evasive action; preparing her for a transition brings on new delays. So far the only new trick that seems reliable is limiting choices and threatening her with deprivation for non-compliance. I've taken to giving her toys so that I can threaten to take them away if she doesn't cooperate.

Oh moms and dads and aunts and uncles of older toddlers, what have you found that works with over-two's?

(Revised to add: but to be fair to her I should report that in a reversal of the trend of resistance, Z. started searching out the spinach in last night's spinach-and-cheese burritoes! Will wonders never cease!)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Getting back in the pool

No, I didn't make it to the Y since my last post, nor did I sleep enough, but I talked to my mom and spent a lot of time in the garden and I made a start on getting some things out of the way that have been weighing me down. I can't always sort out what's depression/SAD/PTSD and what's plain old procrastination and what's terror in the face of the enormous undertaking of the store. I think I want to because I have this idea that then I could get the right treatment for each one, but really it's all my life and all debilitating. In the face of anything upsetting or psychologically dangerous I retreat into safe spaces--books, internet, toddler parenting, chocolate--and the dog hair builds up in the corners and the laundry doesn't get washed and I get fatter and no fairy godmother appears to magically pay my vendors on time while carefully keeping a reserve to meet the next payroll period.

It was healthy to unplug, and I'm returning to the blog with some trepidation. I do think much of blogging has been good, but there are clearly ways in which it has reinforced the effects of my depression. I need to resist the Blogdrift Time Vortex with great firmness, I need to keep my bedtime in a reasonable relationship to the time my morning starts, and I need to time my blogging fairly carefully so it's not impinging on either my work or my family. A challenge. I've pruned out a lot of the blogs I don't ever comment on from my subscriptions. I've been typing in my first name in comment fields but that's actually fairly time-consuming. In short, I'm just going to keep an eye on myself.

Practical accomplishments in my time away from the blog: there are now squirrel traps outside the obvious holes in our roofline. (You can't fix the roof until the squirrels are out or they eat the wiring. Fun.) I made some other appointments that have been on my to-do list. We cleaned the patio and removed the sukkah frame that stayed up for a year and half in the name of sanity-preservation--now it's sanity-restoring to have it gone. We hosted a messy party for Z.'s late birthday--8 toddlers, 80-degree weather, and no mishaps.

What may be the most important thing (and much in the same vein as keeping our home from falling into dilapidation and reclaiming some space outdoors) is that we have now completed the application process for joining a babysitting co-op. We used to have a monthly date, but since Z.'s arrival it's become more of a quarterly thing. It's not really okay to never have fun with your spouse. So this should be good, and so easy: one phone call, as late as a few days before we want to go out, and an actual grown-up parent will show up on our doorstep--someone whom we don't have to pick up, pay, or drive home. How much we sit depends on how much we use it, so we'll do one sit a month to cover our one date a month.

And the pool is still on my list.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Behind the curtain

I wrote that last one at the store during book group time (people like that we have a book group and, now that we're discounting it, they buy the book of the month, but they don't show up to talk about it.) A. and I had one of our invisible fights immediately before I left for book group time--"invisible" because to someone outside the relationship they don't look like much but from inside they are upheavals.

The moment I stood up from the computer after the last post, I started crying. I cried as I shut down the store, I cried as I locked up, I turned around and put on a bright, sunny, walking-home-at-9 pm face to cross the 20 feet to our garden stairs, whereupon I started crying once again.

I am not in okay shape. I am underslept and overwhelmed and out of touch with myself and scared.

Blogging is good--I am interested in something new, writing a lot, and making new friends, something that is difficult in real life, not so much because I am antisocial as because while we were in Madison a lot of our friends--well, no, all of them, a remarkable and unlikely sweep, but it's true, really very nearly all of them--all of our friends moved away. They were graduate students or rabbinical students and they all got jobs far away just when we returned from far away, obliging us to find new friends while having a baby and starting a business and having a couple of really tremendously sucky years at work in A.'s case: this year she is at a different, different school (as Z. would say) and it is much better for her, which may be why I am falling apart more, since part of our dynamic is that only one person gets to fall apart at a time.

Did you follow all of that?

Blogging is also bad, because just now it is substituting for doing practical things in the real world that might help me get better. So I am going to take a few days off and try to get myself organized or at least slept-up. Make some calls. Clear out clutter. Garden. Maybe swim. Be outside while the weather is warm. Talk to A. instead of hiding up here at the keyboard. Oh, and there's a book festival table and a late birthday party I have to manage to pull off, too.

I'll be back next week--for the Wednesday Whine if not earlier--and I'll catch up with all of you then.

Cabin fever

We spent two years in Madison, Wisconsin while A. was in grad school. There's actually a lot to say about Madison, but the obvious thing about it is that is very cold for a very long time. Winter comes early and stays late, and it's an intense, unrelenting cold in between.

And I have seasonal affective disorder. I was far from my family, far from friends (my old friends who'd gotten jobs in Madison were on leave when we first arrived; the only person A. knew in Madison was her ex, who was a surgical resident); I was jobless, trying to finish a PhD that I was finally admitting to myself I had no use for; and on top of all of that I was realizing that I didn't miss teaching, which was the career I had always seen for myself, and had begun well, and had loved. I should have missed it. But I didn't. I was so relieved not to have to have grading weighing me down. But if I wasn't going to teach anymore, I had an enormous hole to fill.

My first winter in Madison was not pretty. I spent a lot of time reading second-hand mystery novels, knitting from my stash, eating chocolate, feeling poor. I gained a lot of weight on this regimen; even so, almost the first thing I did when we got to Madison was join a gym with a pool, and even in the worst parts of that winter when I just wanted to stay curled in the big armchair which a heap of beautiful wool and a book in my lap, I managed to get myself to the pool regularly.

Since Z. was born, I've barely swum any laps at all--and that's more than two years. Our Y membership is current, the pool is nice and it's not too far. I swam pretty often while I was pregnant and substitute teaching, our first 6 months back. I tell myself it's too difficult to find the time, but I'm managing to waste scrape together all this time to blog, so that's just a little white lie I'm telling myself. I don't want to look at how discouraged I feel about moving my body. It seems so unfamiliar to me now, not entirely trustworthy, and definitely not the body that I know from the water.

Did everyone else know this?

The thing about me and computers is that I am only as computer-literate as it behooves me to be. I only had a vague idea of what an IP address was--until tonight I thought it identified your inbox, but in fact it theoretically identifies the actual device you're using to connect to the internet. How did I learn this? I've been using Google analytics (since I started blogging Google is my new best friend) and I've been flummoxed by my Philadelphia-area visits.

I couldn't figure out who I was.

I figured that if a pattern I was reading looked like it could only be me, then it had to be me, even if I appeared to be in a nearby suburb. And then in another one. And then another one. And even for awhile in a town that you couldn't call a suburb, more of an easy day trip. Does my DSL provider have secret headquarters that move every so often? Or multiple ones through which I am randomly routed?

It turns out it's something like the last explanation. While an IP address identifies the device you use to get online, some ISP's use dynamic IP's, so you're assigned different ones at different times.

How discouraging, really, to know that I'll never know how many readers are really reading. I want Big Brother, darnit.

Niobe, one of the recent searches that found this site recently was dead baby jokes niobe. I hope they found you, too.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Water, water, everywhere

There is too much water in the wrong places in my house, which is at least 130 years old, but the plumbing and skylight are less than 5 years old.

We have a slow-draining shower, a slow-draining sink, a toilet-tank intake that pours out water every time you sit on the commode (and until we figured that out, it was causing leaks in the ceiling below), a skylight that leaks when rain hits it just so--all of which piss me off all over again at the pothead contractor who did the renovation, but let's not go there.

The weekend's big storm confirmed what I've been guessing--there's also now a leak in our bedroom near the front window, right above where my toes are when I sleep. (The bedroom is on the second floor of our three-storey house.) I think this means that the third-floor window casing is leaky, and since the windows are all of the same vintage we'll probably have to re-do them all.

We also have squirrels in the walls.

The repairs will get done, but some of them maybe not this year ... or next. I feel terrible about money from the store without having my house falling apart around me. It makes me feel that much more vulnerable and crazed, and I wonder if I'm sabotaging myself financially so that the store won't succeed and I'll have to get a real job, which I don't want, but financially what I'm doing is insane and possibly irresponsible.

Have I mentioned that I'm not paying myself? And the store is losing money? This is as expected, for the record--it's losing much less money than last year, which bodes well for next year, but even if we break even next year I'll have a hard time paying myself before offering my staff health insurance. Assuming I hold out that long.

Expecting something and living it are far from the same thing.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Blogging Against Disablism

Goldfish has set aside May 1st to blog on the topic of disability discrimination. This is important--none of us are more than temporarily able-bodied. Please join in.

Virginia Tech

When I was posting my suncatcher pictures yesterday, I wish I could say I was in blithe ignorance of the Virginia Tech shooting. But I wasn't--I had heard on the radio that it had happened, and that one person had been killed. At that stage, it didn't really engage me enough to stop me in my tracks. It was just part of the background of violence and sadness pumped out through the media to keep us afraid and sell the proverbial More Papers (and then look at the pretty ads so consumer culture can grind on unimpeded). After the first report, I noted how close the date was to the Columbine anniversary, and I thought, "thank goodness that's all, just one person." And I didn't feel upset enough by a school shooting with only one casualty to disrupt what I had planned to blog about.

How messed up is that? But I don't think my reaction was unusual. We need a lot of violence heaped on a lot more senseless violence to stop what we're doing and talk about it because there's so much of it coming at us every day. Usually at a remove, but damn, I know what it's like to be closer to it. I hate living in this violent, disjointed culture. This is the moment in the tirade of despair when Americans on the crunchy left say they want to move to Canada, which I don't, but I understand the impulse to say it. I feel like I'm trapped in this violent world I would never have chosen--where a school shooting prompts politicians to make public statments in favor of guns!

I know that the student who did the killing wasn't American by birth or nationality, but he was surely American by his actions.

For what a clear-eyed Brit has to say on the topic, head over to Relaxed Parents.

Monday, April 16, 2007

First knitting pix

You've probably noticed that even though I describe myself as a knitter in my profile, this isn't a knitting blog. Knitting is part of the way I get through the day, but it's not really a blog topic for me, and there aren't many knitting blogs I follow. (However, I like hearing about knitting projects my blogging friends are doing, especially if they're new knitters!)

I've been at it nearly 30 years, though the first 9 were sporadic, with knitting being just one of the least frequent ways I messed around with yarn and fiber. My Scottish grandmother taught me how to knit, I taught myself to create stockinette stitch (flat knitting) on my own--first by knitting back and forth and then by teaching myself to purl. Then a 6'3" friend dared me to knit him a sweater for our high school graduation and I've been serious about it ever since. I've also given away more sweaters than I can remember. I was a feral knitter for much of that time, I knit lefty even though I'm a righty, I knit while I read, and watching me knit makes one of my knitting friends dizzy. My interests are largely in technique, tradition, artistry, and color. Debbie New, Alice Starmore, and Mary Walker Phillips are some of my knitting heroes. I never like to sew things that are knit: I find it inelegant.

But here goes, because knitting ties in with what's been going on with me since Helen died. Helen's friend Nikki had the idea of making a memorial tree sculpture for Helen, with leaves contributed by everyone. So I thought, waterproof knitting: fishing line. But fishing line won't show. Glass beads! So I knitted a bunch of leaves for the sculpture. I sent them off without taking pictures--the memory card was full, I was superstitious about emptying it, I just had to send them off, etc.

Doing the leaves opened up a whole new range of possibility for me, like a nudge from Helen to actually do some of the funky things I've been thinking about. Also, not surprisingly, Z. was mesmerized by the beads so for her birthday I made her a suncatcher. It is the most photogenic and unlikely knitted object I've ever made. I've been meaning to take some pictures of it for awhile and when we set it up in Z.'s new bedroom-corner I thought, a-ha, now is the time.

The suncatcher has Z.'s name knit in beads in the middle of it, so you'll have to imagine the full circle. It starts with purple in the center and makes its way out to the edge with blue. I strung it on the inner circle of an old embroidery hoop. I'm happy to go into the technical stuff with anyone who's interested: scallen3 at America Online, or drop a note in the comments.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Moving day

This morning we moved Z.'s bed across the room. Z.'s bed is twin-sized, a big ol' box with two drawers in it and a futon on top. The side of the room we moved it to contained a blanket chest topped by a Moses basket overflowing with sweaters, bedding, and yarn projects, and fronted by a laundry basket in similar condition. Behind and under the blanket chest were a repository of lost socks, spilled spools of thread, useless bit of paper, spare shoes, and breastmilk storage bottles. The corner next to the chest used to be my pumping station, and even though it's been a good solid year since I was sending any mamamilk to day care with Z., we hadn't cleared them out and they had fallen and scattered.

In short, it was a pretty big cleaning day, and now the corner of my bedroom that I refused to look at looks like a toddler mini-bedroom, complete with baskets of toys and a stepstool so she can get up onto her bed by herself (she was using the dog bed for that extra couple of inches, but the new layout won't permit that). We also decided to do away with the guardrail, since its only function has been to keep her animals on the bed, and the animals now have new quarters in the baskets and cubbies (we have given over some of our shelf space to her things in the new arrangement.)

And our bed is really our bed again. There is actual floor space between us and the kid. Phew.

Friday, April 13, 2007

For a reason

There was a time when I made an inchoate prayer out of finding small objects, things that winked up at me from the sidewalk. Inevitably, a lot of these things were toys children had lost--a rubber stamp showing Piglet with a balloon, a 1-inch pinched-clay teacup, marbles. Some were more grown-up: a miniature leather jacket meant as a key chain, a shrink-wrapped sample bottle of lubricant.

These are still arranged on my dresser with other bits and pieces I've accumulated. A piece of driftwood from a childhood beach, a rusty horseshoe I found in a creek when I was seven, a piece of rock my uncle claimed was from the petrified forest. A turks-head bracelet a friend made for my teddy bear, a wristband from the Michigan Women's Music Festival, the only year I went. A pin from the Red Cross for swimming 50 miles, most in a single summer. A clay pipe, never used, given to me by a ceramicist friend when I was coming out. A school token for the DC Metro, now out-of-date nearly thirty years.

I never fully thought out why I had these found objects, let alone put them in pride of place with other things that had clear sentimental meaning. It was consciously a gesture of mischief, of honoring chaos and attention as much as sentiment and history. I would say to people that I believed in a god of coincidence, and these were the traces I followed. There were series of findings: in my mid-twenties, I found playing cards. In my late twenties, I found bolts and screws. Both were remarkable in their diversity. Since I moved out here to the residential reaches of the city I walk less, and so does everyone else. There's less lost on the sidewalks, waiting to be found. And I think I have also stopped paying attention because the game doesn't really matter to me anymore.

I don't see god that way anymore, as an absent trickster. There was a time when I saw god as akin to an animating force, the purified essence of being, a Platonic ideal of existence. As I write this I'm understanding how hard it is to do theology, because what I mean keeps slipping away from the words I try to pin it down with.

Today my therapist told me she thinks everything happens for a reason, so that we can learn and grow. I admire her as a spiritual seeker--she has committed much more of her life to finding a path than I ever could--but this is not theology I can accept or use. It's self-evident that people do learn and grow when bad things happen, that is, if they don't self-destruct or tear their worlds apart or pass the legacy of bad things on to their children. I would be much more comfortable with leaving the intentionality out of it: okay, this bad thing happened, and learning and growth are the best of the shitty options available to us in our traumatized state. Let's see if we can make our way there.

I had a kind of a rockin' history teacher in tenth grade. I didn't appreciate him enough at the time. One of the things he laid out for us was the dilemma of an omnipotent, omniscient, benevolent god. You can't hang on to all three in the face of the truly bad things. I choose to hang on to benevolence. This is akin to the Belarussian beekeeper's small god. An omnipotent, omniscient higher power that is using the complex chaos and misery of this entropic world in order to dole out challenging life lessons is not benevolent. Yes, I know that free will has a place in any argument about divine omnipotence, but if we assume things happen for a reason than we have already assumed that free will is limited in that the will that apparently was operating freely was following a divine plan.

I would prefer to find divinity in the networks of people who help each other in times of crisis. This is why it is so powerful to me that the kaddish (mourning prayer) is responsive, requiring the presence of a minyan of ten adult Jews. A minyan is not actually such an easy thing to put together--you need a large community or a very dedicated one. You need a web of relationships to drawn on. You need to work against entropy to maintain them over time. This is mundane, limited, Sisyphean, and human--and also transcendent and holy.

From Pirkei Avot: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The view from my window

Will you show us what you see when you look up from the screen?

I don't know if this really counts as a meme, but maybe it does. I'm inviting you to post a picture of your view, and in the caption ask your readers to do the same. No tagging is necessary. I'm curious to see what you see, and to see what happens.

Do you know about this?

No taxation without representation.

Stand up for the District, y'all.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

To the goats, to the goats!

Phew, finally some time to write in this busy day.

We spent the last day of pesach at the zoo (and we weren't the only ones--we ran into another family from Z.'s day care arriving at the time we were leaving.) Z. got a family membership to the zoo for Christmas, and this was our first opportunity to use it (thanks, Mom!) It was dandy.

Z. associates the zoo strongly with her Cousin D. (who's my first cousin, which makes him her first cousin once removed), since we went to the National Zoo with him, his mom, and my mom when we were in DC at Thanksgiving time. He's 4 1/2 and she's 2, so when they hang out it's like she has her own personal superhero. No other Big Kid gives her as much attention. When I announced the zoo trip yesterday, I had to dissuade her from the notion that Cousin D. would be with us. (She has similar associations with Seattle friends of ours and museums, but I digress from my digression.)

The National Zoo is in better shape than Philly's, but Philly's does have a mighty fine petting zoo. There are goats and ducks and sheep to feed, chickens wandering free, and pony rides for the somewhat older set. There is also a partial tractor that you can climb in and pretend to drive. Z. was ever so slightly appalled that, after waiting patiently for her turn to climb up, it didn't actually go anywhere.

She adores feeding the goats though: peals of laughter as they mouth the kibble out of her fingers. Visitors can also go into the goats' yard to brush them. The fat little goats completely ignore this intrusion, since no kibble is allowed inside the fence. They are either dozing or begging for kibble from the kids outside the pen. Z. didn't mind being ignored, but there were so many goats that brushing was kind of unsatisfying. Everytime she got one dab in with a brush she noticed another goat that she hadn't groomed yet. How fabulous was it that the brush was purple? Very fabulous.

We also took a ride in the "Trumpet of the Swan" pedal boats (the book actually is set in the Philadelphia zoo, at least according to the signs at the zoo--I admit I didn't look it up when I got home.) This would have been easier with two moms, but we did manage to make it around the bitty island in the middle without running in to anyone else or having any toddlers go over the side. I was impressed that Z. was unhesitant about wanting to have a ride. She had never been in a boat before, didn't blink at the life jacket, and was completely placid about being on the water--she squirmed a little more than I would have liked, but just toddler stuff, not wanting off the boat. I'd like to do it again with another grownup helping pedal: I think I could let her enjoy it more.

The high point of the trip for me was on our way back. Z. wanted to see the tiger, responding completely to the advertising that featured a tiger's face promoting the big cat habitat. So we traipsed through the exhibit at just about noon, when all the cats were dozing, including the tiger, whom we first spotted with nothing but fencing and some bamboo between us. We waited a few minutes and were rewarded: he lashed his tail a couple of times. I coaxed Z. into the little shelter a few yards down the path, where even though we were further away, there was a glass wall and a better view. The tiger put his head up. He yawned toothily, he rose, he came down his little hill and drank, just a few feet away. And then he began to pace. In pacing, he nearly brushed the glass. He was perhaps four inches away from Z. each time he walked by.

This was too much for Z., who had to go in to see him. Of course, zoos do not make it easy, or even possible, for two-year-old people to do things like this, but Z. decided the first thing to do was to go back to where there was no glass wall. The fencing actually kept us farther away from the tiger, but there was only air in between. This was not any more satisfying, and I could see a big fuss on the horizon, so I did what I think any parent with a twenty in her pocket and a 10% off card at the gift store would do at this juncture.

I bribed her. It worked beautifully.

Leaving the gift shop clutching her new baby tiger, Z. announced "I want to go back to de goats." Next time, next time.

Time lapse

These are all the view from my backdoor. (Phantom, there's the witch hazel.) I would like to pretend that our dogs knock the bench over on a daily basis, but no, we just don't bother dealing with things like that til it's warm enough to actually be outdoors.

The lawn is a mess. I hate grass, I hate mowing, I don't water, and this is the result. I sort of think I should let the whole thing go to clover.

March 22:

March 28:


Sweet relief

The deposit resurfaced. Phew. A. found it last night.

If it hadn't been Passover, it would have turned up sooner: I put it on a ledge where we put plates and cups that are on their way back down to the kitchen, along with other small items to go downstairs. But the Passover dishware doesn't circulate in the same way.

Monday, April 9, 2007

And a related question ...

...(after you scroll down to the last post)...which books do you actually re-read? (Maybe this is the more interesting topic.)

In my case, it's series mysteries. I read detective fiction largely for the development of series characters over time, and about twice a year I'll go back to a series I read piecemeal and read it from beginning to end/most current novel. Some of the authors that have gotten this treatment: Elizabeth George, Ian Rankin, Phil Rickman. (George is writing largely about broken motherhood; Rankin about alcoholism, Scotland, and masculine power; Rickman about folklore and mysticism. Rickman is also brilliant at the inexorable lead-in to the over-the-top finale.)

Here's an embarrassing admission: I often find I've completely forgotten the solution to each and every crime.

So--what books do you return to, and why?

The books of our lives

My clutter situation is always teetering on the brink of total mayhem. There are areas, however, in which I've had some clear victories. The second floor hallway used to be impassable because of boxes and debris. Now it is impassable because of dog beds and laundry--which means it is now functional, rather than dys-. And much of my yarn stash (though not all) has moved into the future mudroom--but really, that's as much as I'm willing to say about the future mudroom. That particular topic is now closed.

Other parts of the house vary. The living room is a mess, but one that can generally be cleared swiftly by returning toys to their homes. The foyer is a constant battle, but right now it's not too bad, if you overlook the perennials in temporary residence. There is a corner of our bedroom I simply refuse to see. Same with much of the guest room, where the computer is. The kitchen, because of Passover cleaning, is immaculate (yes, Mom!)

However, there are changes afoot. The bedroom corner I can't see (imagine me sticking my fingers in my ears and humming real loud, only visually) is slated to house Z.'s bed, which currently is shoved up next to ours. A.'s office, which until recently was mined with 2-foot-high towers of books, is becoming a back-up play space. There are a few big plastic storage bins in various locations that need to be moved so other big plastic storage bins can take their places.

All of this means that we need to clear paths and free up storage space, and ultimately that means getting rid of books.

Why is it that I hang onto a book even though I look at it and know I will never read it again? Beyond a doubt. I will never have another occasion to open Of Grammatology, for instance. I didn't even need it in graduate school. But there was a time when it mattered a great deal to me: that I had committed to literature, rather than sociology; that I had undertaken the project of understanding deconstruction; that I was taking that particular seminar, and was associated with the professor who taught it, as my mentor and friend. And yet--that time in my life will not be altered retroactively if I no longer keep the book on my shelf. I should get rid of it, and at least another shelf's worth like it. But I can't bring myself to take it down yet.

Which brings me to my question: what books do you still have on your shelves that you know you shouldn't?



Sunday, April 8, 2007

I'm going to tell you a story

One morning I went to de office. De bookstore, de office, and X. broke my 'puter. I used it for making letters. And X. broke it. It went Buzz.

Buzz, buzz, buzz, took off my cast. Dey took off my cast and put on a new one [shows extent of new cast with other hand]. And I was VERY BRAVE. And I walked home.

I walked and walked and walked. And I saw my house. And I saw MOMMY.

I runned around and around and Mama said STOP.

* * * * *

You're going to go to shul. You're going to dress, dress. Like a hamantaschen!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Double chai*

Well, having had a recent point of comparison, I can report to you all that it is more fun to turn two than to turn 36. Especially when your birthday falls on both shabbat and Passover and you didn't manage to find a babysitter. Maybe if this happens again I'll break shabbat to pick up my birthday calls. Birthday voice mail isn't the same. I did have a few unexpected emails waiting for me just now, and A. made a fairly ambitious orange nut cake at my request. She also gave me a packet of fancy kleenex and a little bird statue. Z. attempted to appropriate the bird. That was it for things to unwrap today, though I know there are other presents in the mail. It's not all about the presents, but you're not fooling me if you pretend the presents don't make a difference.

I used to have better birthdays, but the thing is that to have a good birthday you have to plan ahead, and I just haven't been up for it the past few years. I don't mind a low-key birthday, but I don't think I should be able to forget for hours at a time that it is my birthday. Harumph. I believe in the concept of the birthday season, though, which lasts for a month after your birthday, so maybe things will improve.

It did snow on my birthday, for only third time in my recollection.

*for the non-Jews out there, chai ("hi," with the H like you're clearing your throat) is the word for life in Hebrew, and in Hebrew letters it looks identical to the number 18. Jews will often donate money in multiples of 18 for this reason.

Friday, April 6, 2007

New blogroll, Philly style

I went on a blogroll spree and found a bunch of Philly bloggers, some folks I know and more whom I don't--but I'm looking forward to reading more about you! Since I was going from mom blog to mom blog these are not exactly representative of life in these here parts, but I've been wanting some more local people to spy on. If you're in Philly reading this and you want me to add you, or delete you for that matter, just drop a line in the comment field.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Spying on myself

Okay, okay, I broke down and signed up for google analytics.

I've been puzzled by how people find me on searches (and not many do) because I figure I'm just so far down, how would you ever get to me?

A couple of the searches make sense. Two people googled the name of this blog, so of course I'm going to come up right on top. (If you're interested, the next hit is the Wikipedia entry on words in English that "may have no rhymes." The hit after that is a glossary of pirate terms suggesting "ravelin" as a rhyme for javelin.) So that's google as the blogland phone book.

Someone found me with helen hill murder, so they were also looking for me, in a way, but so many people have written about it that you'd have to be really dedicated to find a site this low-traffic (less than 100 visits this week, and that's counting all of my own). I get what's behind that search, though, since I've been through a lot of screens of google results trying to find every scrap that was written about her. Helen inspired that kind of dedication. Being touched by violent crime inspires that kind of obsession. (And if you found me that way and you're still reading, I consider you a friend.)

Others are baffling. How long would you have to plug away at "her cast" to find me? The same with stitches pediatrician.

Here are two that I couldn't guess where I'd be on the line-up, so I tried them myself:

oxygen rhymes, I'm towards the bottom of screen number four.

and, drumroll please,

if you google poopy pie, I'm smack-dab in the middle of the first screen. And as soon as I publish this I'll probably be even higher. I guess this is a mommyblog.

Z. still occasionally tells Puppy Pie "I put you in a poopy potty," and goes from there.

A Day in the Life

This is a good day to capture the things I'm trying to keep going in my life. This was actually a day when I wasn't too crazed because I wasn't working around Z.'s day care schedule:

A. was home (yay, spring break) and let me sleep late b/c I was up too late as usual last night, blogging, writing a letter in support of the Pro-Midwifery Maternity Department at the neighborhood hospital where Z. was born, reading the New Yorker, knitting, and fetching middle-of-the-night toddler snacks.

Z. is having Training Pants Week, so I did some cheerleading and cuddling on that front.

Then I wandered over to the store to catch up on everything I've missed the past week and half, with traveling and toddler illness. This included emailing a rep to find what's up with the rearrangement of various small presses' distribution (which will involve much persnickety database work) and emailing my professional women's support group about my inability to join them in Quaint Nearby Suburb and emailing the town watch group that meets in the store to say yes, they're welcome next Monday, and emailing the credit rep at Slick National Book Distributor to point out that I'd answered her question a week ago.

There was also a rally at 11:30 to save the Pro-Midwifery Maternity Department, which is threatened with closure b/c bureaucracy is the enemy of all that is good in the world. We were all going to go, but A. called to say that Z. was heading for naptime and wasn't going to make it, but could I please look for whole wheat matzah at Big Chain Supermarket on my way back. Losing my dates for the rally meant I spent that little bit too long at work and missed it. I drove by as it was breaking up and saw my midwife's husband. He said there were 50-75 people there, which is respectable indeed for something pulled together the day before yesterday.

At Big Chain Supermarket there was no whole wheat matzah, but there were whole wheat tam tam crackers and other goodies, and there was quinoa. Quinoa is what all the hip Jews are eating during Pesach this year, it seems, b/c our co-op is out.

I dropped off the groceries, grabbed some matzah, returned to work, finished assembling various PO's and started in with the new fax machine. This is my first direct encounter with it and after sending off five different faxes I realized (b/c one of our reps called to tell me) that I'd put them all through the machine upside down. So I re-did them.

The wire transfer finally came through, so I redistributed that money.

Still on my list for today, may or may not get to these: call the plumber about the little cafe at work, call the garden consultant about the apple trees at home, call the babysitter about going out for my birthday Saturday, call my midwife because I've owed her a call and she's leaving town soon, call my brother b/c I owe him a birthday call and it's embarrassing if I don't call him for his before he calls me for mine. Do laundry from the weekend. See how the various mail-ordered perennials are doing indoors while we wait for the cold snap to finish doing its thing. Maybe, but probably not, get out in the garden a little.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Financial mistakes and family planning

Last week I had a perfect storm of financial idiocy. First, a toddler of the store's acquaintance (not Z.) broke the fax machine. It was a lesson in why you should go ahead and correct a child, even if its mother is there, if your property is at risk. The mother very reasonably replaced the fax machine, but the new one didn't arrive until Friday, when I was already rushing off to points north. Why is the fax machine important to this story? Well, because I can't authorize a wire transfer without faxing my signature. Why couldn't I go to the co-op on the corner and use theirs for 50 cents a page like I used to when I had no fax? Uhhhh .... mmmm .... no reason. It just didn't occur to me.

Second, I lost the deposit. It was on the dining room table on Wednesday when I cleared it for dinner. It was not in evidence anywhere I looked on Thursday or Friday, before we left. The deposit represents only a fraction of the store's sales (most sales are by credit card and go directly into the store's account after mastercard plays the float for a day) but by the time I'm ready to go to the bank the cash and checks have added up enough to cover a few of my smaller vendors. I don't know what's wrong with my brain that I can't remember where I put this little, valuable stack of paper.

Third, I went ahead and mailed off a pile of checks anyway on Friday morning. In my defense, I knew that the fax machine was on its way, my manager had my signed authorization to fax off as soon as the new machine was set up, and the kind of transfer I've been doing recently is next day at the latest. It was still really, really dumb.

As I was driving across the Walt Whitman bridge on our way to the NJ turnpike, A. was fielding calls from my manager and my financial advisor. Finally it was clear the fax had gone through, but when I heard A. saying "Not til Thursday?" I knew I was in trouble. The local vendor checks were going to start hitting the account on Tuesday. The largest two, to Behemoth Media Empire and Slick National Book Distributor, would probably take a week or more, but there was no guarantee of that. And given what the next four days looked like there was not one thing I could do until after second seder.

The happy ending is that we were able to do a credit card cash advance today before any checks bounced, and tomorrow we'll have the money to pay back the credit card, but I hate these kinds of financial acrobatics. I still can't find the deposit and on top of needing the money to be somewhere I can use it, I can't stop berating myself for this memory gap. Is it mom brain? Is it hypothyroidism (I had blood drawn to check for this on Friday)? Is it sleep deprivation? Is it my usual absent-mindedness about keys and glasses and wallets, now extending itself to actual cash, which it never has before? Is it my deep feelings of entrepreneurial inadequacy expressing themselves through self-sabotage? And I don't even need to ask if it's my slovenly housekeeping. Duh.

Owning a business is like being out on a limb that constantly snaps and creaks underneath you.

It was in this emotional context that I spent much of this weekend at my in-laws, largely cocooning myself with novels and knitting. Also they have a full-length mirror, something our house lacks. Between the cocoon and the reflection, I came to a place of clarity:

I can't try to get pregnant again until I am at or below my pre-pregnancy weight. This was something I achieved 10 days after giving birth, but not in a happy way since those of you following this story know that Z. was hospitalized for 7 of those 10 days--now I'm back to about 10 pounds over pre-pregnancy and a full 60 pounds over anything like my ideal weight. Add 25-30 pounds of pregnancy on top of that? No.

And I can't try to get pregnant again until I'm confident it won't bankrupt us and destroy the store.

We've been talking about inseminating again this summer. The plan was to try again after Z. turned 2, and here she is, 2. Our donor was game when we brought it up last fall, but he teaches and wanted to wait for summer. The past few months I've been sorta charting, and starting to identify, though distantly, with moms pregnant with baby #2. But getting back on that 2 weeks on/2 weeks off merry-go-round felt like an ominous thing looming over me. Given the circumstances of Z.'s birth, beginning another pregnancy will require a leap of faith no matter when we start.

So I got it--now is not the time. 2007 is not the year. I have some worries about putting it off--36 is more fertile than 37, and somehow 3 seems a better age for a first sibling than 4--but those are sort of theoretical worries. Mostly I feel like I've given myself enough time to take care of myself, physically, and to have a holiday season that doesn't need to get plowed back into capital improvements.

I'm trying to take a lesson to heart about not making commitments before you have everything in hand you need to honor them.

Home again--and where is home?

Oh, there's much to say, I think--reuniting with an old friend, experimental theater, visiting with in-laws, seders we have known--but it's too late to start on all that now.

Instead I have a question for you all--do you have a favorite city that you don't live in? I ask because I think that in our culture, at least on the East Coast, New York is supposed to fill that role, so much so that people are always moving there from elsewhere, but I think there may be more varied answers than that.

So, if you have such a city, what is it, why do you love it, and why don't you live there?

For me it's DC, the city where I grew up, and I don't live there because my neighborhood is here, in Philly. If I could still live in my woodsy, crunchy, integrated, intensely Jewish, lesbian-friendly, co-op-centered, progressive neighborhood and also live in DC, where much of my family still lives, where the houses are prettier, the gardens abundant, the parks are distributed at regular intervals, where the museums are free (and even the zoo!), where spring comes earlier and I know the street plan like the veins in my body, well, if I could take here and transplant it there (maybe in a corner of Rock Creek Park somewhere around Mount Pleasant), I would move back in a heartbeat, and disenfranchisement be damned.