Sunday, February 26, 2012

Ack! No Voice!

And not in some droopy metaphoric way, either.

I've had a cold, combined with too many social events that required chatting, and now...

I literally have NO VOICE.

Yesterday I couldn't even make a sound. Not even little squeaks. Today, I have a super quiet, barely there whisper. I've had to cancel tomorrow's yoga class as there is no way I'm going to be able to teach a room full of people.

It's an odd sensation, being unable to talk. People look at you with a mixture of curiosity and sympathy as you point and sign and make exaggerated facial expressions or just mouth words. Except my family, of course. They simply think it's hysterical fun and a good reason not to have to listen to my directions.

I hope it comes back soon!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Cut Back or Make More Money.

That’s the philosophy espoused by Becky’s dad in the hilarious Mini-Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella. And it needs to apply to our family as well.

We are well into 2012. It’s a fabulous new year, still so full of so much promise and hope. This is going to be the year when things transform. That includes our financial situation as well. We are reaching the end of the time when we can still save for the future in time to be prepared before it is upon us.

Making more money I am already on top of. I am working as much as I can within the limits of my other responsibilities and my somewhat-fractured attention span.

But I think the time has come to face the dreaded CUT BACK as well.

Our fixed bills are fixed. And they are pretty immovable. Of the range of variable expenses that we have each month, those are surprisingly consistent as well. I’ve gone over and over them and concluded that the ONLY place we can probably successfully cut back is in our food bill.

That’s right. Buy fewer groceries. Eat out less often. Simply eat LESS.

With a bit of attention and some hard choices, I think I can drop our grocery bills by half. And that’s the money we badly need to put into a college fund. ASAP.

We need to eat less anyway. At least my husband and I do. The last few years have not been kind to my figure in terms of caloric consumption. Between stress, laziness, workload and being around food all day long, I’ve gained 70 pounds more than I wish I weighed. So far I am still healthy and active. But it won’t hurt me one bit to cut my food in half.

In fact, food has been my go-to drug of the last few years, the only substance I can count on to safely regulate my mood and calm my anxiety without immediate side effects. Since I stay away from all illegal and legal drugs, and since the yoga studio I relied on closed down, food has been the only thing I had left for quick regulation. And it works beautifully for me.

But now, well, it’s 2012. Time to be healthy. Time to be leaner. Time to cut the food – and the costs – in half.

Why Are We Still Talking About This?!

… is what my friend said as she slid into the booth and joined us at our table. My other friend and I were halfway through our dinner and in mid-conversation as well.

Apparently, B, happily and steadily married to a charming husband, just didn’t have the understanding – or the patience – for why we girls might be talking about the ins and outs of relationships – again.

But C has had nonstop romantic drama for the last year. The constancy with which she struggles in love reminds me of a perpetual motion machine. At this point, I simply expect struggle as one aspect of her life, and thus, our friendship.

B’s blunt comment resonated with me; it stuck in my head. Now when I find my thoughts turning to the obsessive tracks that they prefer, I often laugh at myself and say scoldingly, “Why are you still talking about this?”

It’s a great line. Try it.

There are good reasons why we might still be talking about things, why issues or memories might still linger in our lives long after it would seem time to let them go. B had a point – why keep revisiting the past? But C and I had a point too. Sometimes even old business still feels fresh. And then, it does help to talk about it. With a patient, sympathetic friend.


Below my happy and contented surface lurks a person prone to deep depression, insecurity, and crippling anxiety. I strive every day to keep myself in balance, with every choice I make. It is second nature for me now, and it works beautifully. The strategies I use tend to make my life look much easier and care-free than it really is. Which I take as a mark of tremendous success.

One of the biggest compliments I receive is when my friends bemoan their lives to me. It means that they are forgetting – or they just don’t understand – exactly how difficult my own life has felt from the inside. And it means that what I’m doing is on track.

Tonight, I have dinner scheduled with friends. At first, I wasn’t too enthusiastic. Part of me prefers to just lounge on the couch with my cozy family. But my friends are truly fabulous when we get together. We are like the group from Sex and the City in real life. We dine, we whine, we sip amazing cocktails as we make each other laugh and sometimes cry. We are always there for each other, and looking amazing at the same time. My friends are my reward for a life well-lived.

I cannot wait to see them all tonight!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Wha Ha Ha Ha - My Ongoing Journal

He He He He He… it’s more of a quiet crazy giggle this morning than a maniacal evil laugh. I’m tired today. The wind is whipping and wrapping itself around our house. When I parked on the edge of the bluff, hoping to drink in the vista and clear my mind, the wind pushed my car like a malicious imp, rocking it back and forth. I wondered idly if a parked car could flip over, but without much actual concern.

Snow-capped mountains fell into the black pools of the clouds’ shadows as they chased by above, intent on their own vaporous affairs. I make a list of things to do during the day before I come back to my house so that I am not sidetracked into aimless puttering. Too bad I have to make so much money – it’s a lot of pressure that never stops.

I would have preferred to sit like a cat watching the grasses wave and bob. I was pretty sure that if I sat there long enough, and looked with the right focus, that the wind itself would become visible to me, huge trailing currents of purple and golden force moving vector-like above the land.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wha Ha Ha Ha - My Ongoing Journal

Wha ha ha ha ha. Here I am at Sandwich Cafe and YOU are SO jealous!! The world-famous writer travels the city with her laptop slung against her side. She may be on break; she may be working. She watches all and sees all. You, dabbing at your lips with your crumpled paper napkin, your blue pin sparkling on your lapel. What is that - a small fiery lizard? And, You, with your anachronistic 50s hat and trench coat. And You with your crazy arm tattoo. Poetry, yes, we encourage, but scrawled along your forearm? It seems like the result of one really, really bad night. Dawn cracked slowly over the house and you were still there, quivering with your persistence and with those words left indelibly on your arm.


So, knowing the way that way leads on to way, I just bumbled around on the internet and wound up on Wil Wheaton's Twitter account. Just wanted to see for myself what is so great that it pulls in a whole "Wheaton's"* worth of followers.

And I have to conclude: I just don't get it. I DO NOT GET the appeal of Twitter.

It's just choppy to me. And time consuming. And clearly unnecessary as I survive without it on a daily basis.

I know most congresspeople need an account so they can send out inane updates as policies are discussed. And sports stars and celebrities.

But as much as I want to buy in and be enchanted, I'm just not.

I still think that adult Wil Wheaton is a bit creepy, no matter if he has 191, 607 followers or not, although that might be the envy talking...

*Twitter followers: Wheaton
The Wheaton is a measurement of Twitter followers relative to celebrity Wil Wheaton.[34][35] The measurement was standardized when Wil Wheaton achieved half a million Twitter followers, with the effect that Wil Wheaton now has 3.4 Wheatons himself. As few Twitter users have millions of followers, the milliwheaton (500 followers) is more commonly used.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hysterical and True... XKCD


Valentine Dilemma

Gaining Perspective... Or the Cream Puff is Delicious

Happy Valentine's Day, Dear Readers!

Always a dicey time of year, isn't it? Unless you are on the far ends of the spectrum - so sure in your relationship that you can ignore this corporate-historical shenanigans, or so sure that you are NOT in any relationship and don't care that you can disregard the whole foolish business, perhaps kissing your monkly robes in gratitude that you no longer have to interact with intimate relationships - then this day is sure to stir up a whole lot of feelings.

Only a lucky small percentage of the population is in the first heady throes of love, those infatuation-infused days when everything romantic is easy. The rest of us have to muddle along somehow, limping through the day with cards or flowers, gifts or dinners, or not, as we find best.

Most of my friends are miserable with the effort that love requires. The married ones are mostly resigned and just getting through it; the single ones are suffering. I know this because I just had a series of dinners and lunches last week with girlfriends in need, and, boy, are my arms tired.

Whoops. Mixed up my punchline there. Mostly because even I get bored with the repetitive nature of striving and suffering that love brings out in all of us. Man, if you want to watch your friends circle in a never-ending spiral, ask them about the details of their love lives.

So it wasn't that surprising to me, that after a week of juggling work demands and needy friends, I was pretty drained. Wiped out. A bit down. All of which tends to make me a bit irritable and demanding, and which tends to put my husband's danger guard on high alert. Since he had an extra day off yesterday, sure enough, Bing! our valentine's week fight.

Except it wasn't even a fight really. That's because there was no root cause or problem to fight about. Neither one of us is doing anything wrong. Which doesn't mean you can't fight, especially if you both throw your shoulder against it. But I wasn't in the mood, so I kept backing out. Overall I'm pretty happy. Happier than anyone else I know, and I don't see anything better out there.

So my husband's deep seated and understandable fear that I will leave him is not very realistic. If my husband needs to leave ME, that's a different story. He's got that right and I would be very devastated. But I'd probably go on, based on my continued ongoing from other difficult circumstances. Whereas my husband really seems to need me, need me for his very existence and survival. And of course that deep need makes him insecure and then volatile. Poor thing. Like I said, I've had time to think it over a lot, and I feel so much empathy for the whole situation. So much love and caring for him.

But that doesn't mean I like the way he gets. He gets hurt so easily, and then he fights mean. And that cuts me. But we are still here, so now I shrug it off and keep going. I'm sure that any therapist listening to the communication during our conflicts would foretell the doom of our relationship. I'm not sure how we keep it going. But we do. And tomorrow will be 27 years together. Despite everything we are still here, and we still love each other. So I assume that will continue.

Last night, I felt so tired and depressed. Like packing it all in. So I did the next best thing. Told myself to go to sleep and that today would be a brand new day. And it is.

Today, I am up and dressed in my crisp white and crimson red outfit. I'm adorned with jewelry, ridiculous scarf, perfume and lipstick. I'm at the bookstore, reading all the titles about how to solve life's problems and sending caring texts to various friends who are overwhelmed by this loveday. I'm drinking hot cinnamon tea and eating a cream puff and writing and enjoying myself immensely. Later I will go to my favorite grocery store and buy everything for a delicious, romantic family dinner - about the best you can do on a Tuesday. Some flowers, some candles. Wine, cheeses. Chocolate!! I pamper myself. I romance myself, and others as well.

And, again, I say to you - Happy Valentine's Day. I hope your suffering is light, that light fills you with joy, and that you experience the romance of love in any of its flavors.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Now that I'm a parent instead of a teacher, I have a whole different perspective on the educational system.

And, let me say, it's not the easiest system in the world to interface with.

I have so much more sympathy now for the parents that I used to talk to, the ones who seemed so befuddled and overwhelmed and inadequate in guiding their child to academic success. Because now I am that parent. And while my children are succeeding rather well, the success only comes at the price of CONSTANT involvement and monitoring on my part. And still, it is often not enough.

Often, while my attention is focused on one area, another one is slipping. And my children are excellent children. Enjoyable, open, trustworthy. I can see now just how easily a child might slip out of a parent's control while their attention was diverted. Especially if the parent was struggling in their own life, trying just to keep their own head afloat, as so many adults in our culture are.

By the time I get my children back from their legally mandated school day, they are intellectually and physically exhausted. They are worn down and need time at home to recharge and enjoy life without intense pressure. The daily amount of homework adds more responsibility to each evening, and on top of that, I have to require them to do chores around the house as part of keeping our living environment stable. And they have to run errands with me sometimes. And they want some social interactions. And that doesn't leave much time at all for me to provide extra instruction.

But I'm realizing that re-teaching is exactly what I need to be doing. I need to spend time with my younger daughter going over and reinforcing her spelling and her math skills, practicing the basics AND teaching the new concepts to her again so that she really grasps them. And constantly enticing her to read so that her language continues to grow.

And my older daughter was failing English. That's right - English. With a 38%. Sigh. Mostly that grade was the mathematical result of her missing a few days and not handing in a few assignments on time. But this is my super-smart, can't pry her out of a book to make her sleep, always scores at the top of the Advanced level on state tests daughter. Who had an A just last semester. Even now, I just checked her English grade and it has risen to a B.

But what concerns me so much is that I'm not sure that she is really learning anything. I'm not convinced that her grade actually is an accurate measure of either her ability or her acquired knowledge of seventh grade English-Language Arts State Standards. It feels to me like her teacher doesn't even know who she is. Like he doesn't know anything at all about her English use and writing, never mind her personality.

I sat down to work with her on a Persuasive Essay and realized that she hasn't learned the first thing about how to structure an essay. She doesn't even know how to form a paragraph. And I have to wonder what he is teaching for that precious hour each day.

I remember when I taught English. We wrote a paragraph every week. We wrote an Essay every month. We broke them down into parts, and we put them together. We went over and over different examples as a whole class. We talked about writing, and we practiced writing and we edited writing. And we had fun with it, with the process of it. And that was only one fourth of what we did. We also did reading and silent reading and group reading and grammar and mechanics practices. And speeches. And projects. AND played games and had fun.

A lot. Heck yeah, it was a lot. It was a big juggle. But that was my job. To teach those students all those different skills. And it's starting to look a lot to me like I'm going to be spending the next few months and the whole summer having to teach them to my daughters, as well.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Crash and Hiss... ssss...ssss...

“All the best stories in the world are but one story in reality,
the story of escape.
It is the only thing which interests us all and at all times,
how to escape.”

– Arthur Christopher Benson (1862-1925)

Reading the quote, I find
My eyes lingering on the final word.
I trace the curve of the "s"
The round of the "c" with
First my gaze, and then
My finger

And between their sinuous curls
I am pulled through the word and
Open onto an ocean shore
The curling sibilance of the waves
Crashing as echo of the curving
Curling letters of the word

I see the word as one might
Notice "see" and find myself in
"Space" the vast openness promised
In the "pace" and the "cap" of white
That licks from the waves onto the

And all the while I search for the
"Ease" through all the waves of black on white
And also throughout the "sea",
The Sea,
Always the Sea...

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Ha! All Those Hours of Studying Pay Off

So, I'm sitting in a cafe in a city a bit far from home, innocently minding my business and sending out emails with various bits of info to various clients when who should walk in?

The super-handsome, tall, sexily-accented, French husband of one of my French's friend's friends. I leap to my feet and greet him with a big Bonjour! Ca va? and the appropriate double kiss. He joins me and we chat of his wife and girls, France, and his work, and our mutual friends, and even cows.

As he leaves to return to work (ha ha, I am already at work!), I realize that we have just had one of those scripted exchanges that you practice ad infinitum when you study a foreign tongue. You know, Jean Francois and Sophie greet up in a cafe and exchange pleasantries. And I have just lived through it in real life!

All those hours and hours of French are paying off in real friends! I'm tellin' you, you just never know what intriguing and pleasant thing the day is going to bring you next!

Go to cafes to write and just see what happens.