Sunday, November 8, 2009

Give me three days

In my three days off work, I managed to:
-- Shovel Al's bedroom, which in fairness to her, was a hybrid problem. Jen moved downstairs but left a mess behind. We moved Al into a partially cleaned room, because we are shuffling everyone around for the day when Beaux can't do stairs anymore. We know it's coming.
-- Install a bargain price but high-security router (took 10 minutes, including playing online to see that it worked).
-- Sew the curtains I've been promising Jen for her new room. Did I mention I hate to sew?
-- Cook a real meal every night. No microwave. Ta dah!
-- Turn the room that used to be Al's into a storage/work room.
-- Do a ton of laundry. Ugh.
— Organize the computer room.
— Take the girls grocery shopping at 10 p.m. just because it seemed like an odd thing to do.
There's a lot I didn't get done. But I made a dent. Hoo-ah!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Boo! I want my mommy

The porch light's been extinguished, the friendly ghost that howls "Happy Halloween" silenced, and I am approximately $40 worth of penny candy lighter, but I love Halloween.
I think it's because of my mom, Mary. She was born blind, but loved the costumes and revelry of Halloween. I grew up in more innocent times, when you could hand out homemade treats. And my mom would get up really early to pop lunch bags of seasoned popcorn to give to the kids who came to the door. They loved it. In her later years, when store -bought was the safety decree, she switched to penny candy, too, and I felt bad about that because the popping was a service she performed for love.
She had a little metal counter that she'd keep on her hand and as she dropped the candy in to the bags she'd click away, then gleefully tally it at evening's end.
I use the counter now. And I inherited her delight in opening the door, though I can gaze at the pirates and princess and scary goblins, while she had to say "what are you this year" as she directed them to hold their bags out where she could feel them.
I like to open the door with a loud, "What did you bring me?" Sometimes, the littler ones shyly offer me my pick of their treasure and I laugh and give them triple the candy.
We live now at a crossroads, the only actual house on our side of the street, between two neighborhoods. We get children from both. And because Beaux decorates like crazy and the ghost yells "Happy Halloween," we sometimes have kids 20 deep on our porch. Seriously.
I remember living in an apartment in college and being disappointed I only had about 20 trick or treaters. I have friends who say no one stops. Tonight, we got 268 before 10 and a few stragglers after. The teens, to my surprise, were the ones most apt to say thanks. The littles told me repeatedly my house was "pretty" with its graveyard and zombies, pumpkins and ghosts. Their parents stood at the end of the drive (except the ones that carried their own trick or treat bags -- what's that about?) and took photos.
It was not the biggest crowd; I once clicked 371 on a spooky night. But I feel sorry for the folks who don't bother to stay home and greet the kids with treats. A lot of houses are dark because both parents go out with their children. They miss the part about giving, although they do the receiving part okay. Me? I could care less how much the girls bring home. But I love the excited buzz of children on the porch, the surprise of "You're Jeni's or Aly's mom!" from classmates who live further away, the sheer pageantry of the evening.
And I think my mom would have liked this house on Halloween. It draws the kind of crowd she craved.
Happy Halloween, Mama.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Jen reveals her secret...

My oldest, Jenifer, who is 12, this week decided to make me privy to her darkest secret.
She is, it seems, part unicorn.
Now I was understandably surprised by this, since I am her mother and know her father very well.
It got even more interesting when she started telling me some of the unicorn rules. So I asked her to write them down.
Imagine my surprise when I came home and found this. I've typed it up and, yes, I did punctuate. Can't help myself. If you've ever wondered what rules the creatures must follow, read on.

UNICORNS by Jeni Kyle, age 12:
Unicorns are known as myths. They used to be called mystics. Jhon H. Unicorn discovered a group of them. No one believed them. Of course, people decided to make stories of them and they decided since Jhon Unicorn found them, that would be the name.

Unicorns can transform into any living thing but can only be one for less than 24 hours. If a unicorn stays a fish, it will have a small amount of fish DNA. If a unicorn stays a fish for 48 hours, it will be a fish and lose its powers. Unicorns can basically breed with anything living except for leap frogs. They have a unicorn poison.

All unicorns are allergic to oil, celery, cauliflower. Unicorns can't eat carrots, avocado, ketchup, pine trees, fish, cactus or lemons after 6 to 9 p.m. Unicorns were made beautiful, so they are also allergic to makeup, which is sad when a unicorn breeds with a cat.

Unicorns try their best to keep quiet about themselves. The population is bigger than you would think. Picture a row of ten houses. Every house is made up of only humans except for one. It has all humans and one unicorn. Unicorns have many powers. They can fly, transportate, run fast, jump fences, eat 36,000 leaves in one day and other things.

The Unicorn Mountain Council is not allowed to tell creatures unicorns are considered one of the smartest animals at 28 years of age. Unicorns are helpful and are herbivores. Lots of unicorns are afraid to tell family about it because humans will not want to play checkers, tag or baseball with them and they love to play. Unicorns at the time they are born are uncooridnated and fall a lot. At the age of 15 a unicorn should be rightfully ready to handle flying and should be sure-footed.

Unicorns are cool creatures because their hair grows very fast. It's a unicorn's natural instinct that tells them their hair needs to be in their face. Unicorns are playful creatures that are trustworthy.

Most of the world still does not see how important unicorns are. Every spring they use their super eyesight to produce more cow milk. During fall they paint leaves with their wings and put them on trees. That's why the wings of their close friends, Pegasus, are beautiful and colorful.

Monday, September 28, 2009

From the heart of strangers

I've heard of prayer quilts before, but never actually held one in my hand until today. For some reason, the sight of it set me weeping.
A week or so ago, I got an email asking whether a stalking-horse bidder had been found for an oil refinery that's for sale. I didn't know the answer, but said I'd watch for it.
I asked about her interest and she told me that her husband hopes it sells so he can go back to work. We chatted like neighbors over a fence, comfortable and personal both. I told her I sympathize; that my husband will soon be unable to work because he's on a transplant list and is starting to struggle.
She told me she's part of a prayer quilt ministry and asked if they could pray for him.
Absolutely. And thanks. We accept all prayers and good wishes. And we believe in their power, as well.
The card that came with it shows what they prayed as each knot was tied — the gist, not the words.
They prayed for Beaux to get a transplant. They prayed help with the cost of the antirejection meds he'll need. They prayed that shifting insurance will not put his placement on the transplant list in jeopardy. And that he will have comfort and peace and feel God's presence.
And as I held that beautiful, loving gift from strangers in my hand, tears streaming down my face, I reached out and grabbed every blessing I could get.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Do it for them...

Every year somebody suggests ethics reforms for our elected officials and every year our state or national legislators find some reason to vote "No."
This year, my tolerance took a serious nosedive. I think it has something to do with the realization that when the Old Boys Club sins -- whether it's faulty financial practices within the banking industry or said ethical lapses by lawmakers — somebody's going to step up and bail them out.
And somehow, the rest of us will pick up the tab.
I think it's time, folks. And I think we start by demanding that lawmakers live by every single law they inflict on the public. Every one. That means no free pass when they speed, not carve-out that lets them have better health coverage than the rest of us, no exemption of any type.
We are all in this together -- just one big, happy family.
Which brings me to the next thing: Stop ripping my country apart with your partisan politics. Start viewing America as a country and not two teams in a competitive sport.
I think lawmakers need to explain every item they take as a gift and I don't care what the value is. I'm not telling anyone not to take gifts. Just tell me what you took. No limit, no exception. And if you're embarrassed to own up to it, do not take it.
And for lawmakers who have served decades and decades: Thanks. I mean that sincerely. Now go away. You have perpetuated a system where you make yourself too important and powerful. And the citizenry has bought the theory that without your seniority they won't get good representation. I believe it's possible that because of your seniority — and your entrenched-ness, if there's such a word — we won't get good representation. We need to start seeing other people.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My name is Lois and I have a story...

The child's name is Annie and she is 10 years old. She's tiny, with a smile that seems somehow bigger than her face, shiny dark brown skin and the weight of the world's orphans on her shoulders.
600 million children in trouble worldwide, she says. Enough that if they held hands they could circle the earth 18 times.
I don't know if her math is accurate. But I know that there are many children in war torn or poverty-ravaged countries in real trouble. America has its share of children in trouble, too, whether because of poverty or parental absence or just inertia on someone's part.
Annie was part of the Matsiko Children's Choir, which gave a concert at Northwest Middle School in an assembly, on Friday. Jeni came home enraptured and asked if we could go to the free show that night. Sure. Why not?
So I loaded up Jen and Al and two strays (dear friends of theirs).
Matsiko means hope back in Uganda, where the children come from, Jen told me. These kids are trying to give hope to struggling children worldwide.
What they gave us Friday was joy and love and exhaustion. It was such a high-energy performance that I burned calories watching it. And you just had to clap and laugh and go with it. The love came at the end, when some of the littlest kids hugged a visibly moved audience.
There was no pitch, although it was clear they hope to find sponsorships and donations for related children's programs. It was low-key that way.
And somewhere in the middle of the orchestrated, choreographed program, I had a Eureka moment. I need all of them I can get.
The kids were passing the mike down the row as the choir sang Jim Croce's "I've Got a Name." And one by one, they introduced themselves. "My name is Anita. I've got a name."
The Eureka part is the realization that it's tempting and far too easy to lump people together. The children's choir. The Democtrats or Republicans.My girls. Journalists do this. Teachers are like that...
I'm not like any other journalist. None of us are. I've got a name.
The "girls", Jen and Al, couldn't be more different. Why would I expect everyone else to fit in a little mold?
A name. And a story. Unique indeed

Friday, August 28, 2009

If I told you 'bout my life, I'd have to kill you...

I've been possibly the worst blogger in the history of the sport this summer — which, incidentally, beat all speed records for how fast it flew by.
Time does fly when you're being thwarted.
Beaux and I have been creating two separate realities this summer for the girls. By night, we do things like hang out until 2 a.m. watching the meteor shower out by the lake whenever we get the chance and can muster the energy. By day, we work long hours and drag home exhausted, him from disease and me from I don't know what.
On that recent jaunt, I made a mental note that, hopefully, that moment would stick in their mind as they recalled this last year. Memories of time together, instead of fears about what may be coming as Beaux gets sicker and his need for a liver transplant grows dire. We know it's coming, but we really are trying to do happier things. And although we don't talk about it, I suspect we're trying to fix memories in those young minds.
The other daytime activity has been the most aggravating of my life. Here it is, in a much-condensed form:
In May, our health insurance at work changed. The transplant will be covered. Anti-rejection meds will not. Those are a lifelong necessity and, depending on how much rejection you're experiencing, run between $900 and $3,200 a month. We don't have it. So we've been trying to connect Beaux back in with the Indian tribe to which we've been told he was born. That meant opening his adoption, which took place in 1965 when he was almost 4 (he'd been in foster care with his adoptive parents for quite some time).
People said that would be hard, but aside from having to figure out which county in Arizona did the adoption, it was not bad, thanks in large part to a very nice judge. We used the Indian Child Welfare Act and in early July received information about his birth parents. She was reportedly young and unmarried, so he was "allegedly" the father.
The tribe ran a quick scan and said they had only one match, and the girl was too young. I pointed out we thought she was very young and they said we should get a birth certificate.
Laugh here. Ugh. It's been sealed for almost 50 years.
I provided the court order opening the adoption records, but it wasn't good enough for Arizona vital statistics folks. So I asked the judge for another order, which she granted. It, too, was not worded to the taste of vital statistics. But third time's the charm (Thank you, Judge for being so patient!) and we finally, last Friday, got the original birth certificate.

Which listed entirely different parents than those named in the adoption. . . I have no clue what we're to make of that. I literally alternate between wanting to cry and throw up. And I've talked to a couple of friends who are juvenile court judges here in Utah who say they've never heard of such a thing.
I am not sure how we resolve it. I've written to the poor, long-suffering judge who probably wishes she'd called in sick the day the original adoption petition came in. And I have fantastic scenarios playing in my head, like the 28-year-old of the birth certificate is actually his grandmother, who managed to get someone to fake it so she looks like the mother instead of her daughter, who is listed on the adoption paperwork....... But nothing really makes sense and I have no idea who to ask or what to do.
In the meantime, the tribe enrollment officer, who asked me to get the birth certificate, isn't returning my calls. And we don't qualify for help from the pharmaceutical companies.
That sound is me shrieking in frustration....

The photo, which shows how I feel, was taken by Alyson Kyle, age 10 at the time.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Have we met?

The Deseret News not long ago hired a fellow who for whatever reason appeared to dislike me. I decided, at first, it was a generational thing. He's one of the younger journalists, a fellow half my age.
Still, I'd watch him in animated conversation with practically everyone else, but though he sat right next to me and I tried countless times to strike up a conversation, he refused to take the bait.
"So, Ryan, what do you think of the healthcare reform debate?"
Not so much as a turn of his head.
It has really bothered me a lot, perhaps in part because I've always prided myself on being friendly. When we hire new people, I've always tried to get to know them and help them figure out the minutiae.
As we've gone to different shifts, though, it has become harder. For instance, we hired a fellow named Ethan on the police beat, but we've apparently always worked different shifts. I'd never so much as laid eyes on him.
About a month ago, I had one of those lightbulb moments that I seem to be in increasingly dire need of.
"Ethan?" I whispered tentatively to the oh-so-snobbish Ryan. "Is that you?"
His head whipped around and he smiled at me.
It helps immensely if you call someone by his actual name. I have no clue, now, where I came up with Ryan.
I'm thinking about this because my friend Ethan -- who got a tremendous kick out of my stupidity -- became my friend. (I think he thought I had an imaginary friend named Ryan and he was too courteous to make fun of me for it). And now he's moved on to graduate school and other adventures and I miss him.
This kind of thing seems to happen to me increasingly. And I'm left wondering if I'm confused or just too lazy to be a good caretaker of other people's details.
And I'm hoping it's the former, because the latter is a choice.
A bad one.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Forget abstinence...

Nancy Reagan made "Just say no" to drugs sound easy, but a whole generation of kids proved it was a lot harder than that.
In my fair state, they like to take the same approach to sex and the twin problems of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy. Abstinence education -- just say no -- is the core of the effort to deal with the raging hormones and poor judgment that are so much a part of adolescence.
And guess what? It doesn't seem to work as a deterrent for sexual activity any more than it did for experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Go figure.
I've given the issue a lot of thought. And by that, I mean A HELL OF A LOT OF THOUGHT because my two girls, now 11 and 12, mean everything to me and I want them to have their very best shot at an education and a childhood and .,.. well, you know what I'm saying. I don't want them to sabotage themselves.
I have listened to experts, read the books and yet, my moment of epiphany came in a most unexpected moment. I was sitting in the grade school library, helping ring up sales at a book fair, when it hit me.

Tell them about PTA. If you get pregnant, you will have children. Who will go to school. And you will be expected to participate in PTA. Tell them in detail. About the meetings. And the projects. And fundraisers.

If that doesn't scare them into behaving, they're already lost.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

It really is peaceful

We've been dividing our time this summer in an almost bipolar fashion.
On one hand is the frenetic, almost-panicked efforts to get Beaux reconnected with his tribe so he can access the anti-rejection medications that a change in our insurance put out of reach.
I've learned to write legal petitions and whimper and take nothing at face value. For instance, two days ago we were told Beaux is not Yaqui, according to their records. I asked a simple question and now no one's so sure. We need more information to figure it out. Next up for us is a quest to get the original, before-the-adoption-created-a-rewrite version of his birth certificate.
We're also frantically trying to keep up at work, an extension of the adoption/tribe/medical stuff.
The really good stuff is happening on the side, when we move slowly, more wandering than anything. At least a couple of times a week, we go looking for a spectacular sunset or a photo or flowers or a piece of nature.
This past week, we discovered what may turn out to be my favorite place ever. And it is, oddly and ironically enough, a cemetery.
Mt. Olivet, up by the University of Utah campus, is one of the loveliest places I've ever been. And I'm not the only one that thinks so.
A small herd of deer have moved in. So have a few rabbits, some ducklings and I can't begin to count how many birds.
Twice this weekend, we wandered over there to meander in the shade and read the headstones and -- the main event -- take photos of fawns who are wandering around.
Their ears are so big they look like kangaroos and their legs are so skinny and wobbly they seem like stilts. And I'm enamored with all of them.
I don't believe I'm going to care where my corporeal remains wind up after I'm gone. I'm not going to need them or hang around them. But if I believed that my body was going to roam near where it was buried, I'd vote for Mount Olivet. My body's pretty happy there while I'm alive, too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

God's foot and other wonders

I've been watching the skies a lot lately because they've become really colorful and funky, no doubt because of the wild little thunderstorms we've had every day or so.
Two days ago, I saw a cloud formation I'm calling "God's Foot."
Unfortunately, I was on my way to pick up Beaux at the time and didn't have a camera with me, so I called Alyson and asked her to run outside and look south. "You'll see what looks like a gigantic foot coming out of the clouds," I told her. "Take a picture. No one's going to believe me without proof."
She called me back a few minutes later with sad news. By the time she grabbed the camera and ran outdoors, then searched the sky (trying to remember which way is south), "the toes have separated from the foot, Mama. Now it's mostly just a mess, though I can see how it might have been."
This morning, when Beaux and I left for work before 6 a.m., we were stunned by a rainbow perfectly framed down the end of our street, a ribbon of color that hung suspended in the sky, unattached to anything. It was just a piece of joy, hanging there. I ran into the house and grabbed the camera and did catch that one.
What a lovely way to start the day. And it stayed in front of us all the way to work.
Beaux's getting sicker now, but rather than dwell on that, we're finding joy in odd places. Like a piece of eye candy in the sky.
If you click the second picture, you'll find there's a bird flying across it, as well.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

See you in a few days

Hello, blog. Sorry I've been neglecting you.
I've been hellaciously busy and all the lovely rain, which otherwise delights me, has kicked up my allergies to the point of insanity. Seriously. This morning I got a Z-pack for the resulting sinus infection.
Work has also been insanely busy. Between 12 hour days and my sinus issues, my house looks like kindling in search of a blow torch. If I don't get ahead of it soon, I can't even predict what will happen.
Today, I had a million things to do, but between dropping Beaux off at 6 a.m. and visiting the doc, I managed to finish some shopping so we'd have crucial items like mosquito repellent wipes and red licorice — not necessarily in that order. Got the girls new sneakers and held an impromptu deli picnic lunch in a small park, then we drove them to Pleasant Grove for an overnight space-simulation camp they've been hyped about since Feburary. Today's the day.
Found out Beaux needs an MRI to see what a "shadow" on his liver is. Could be good or bad -- good because it can move him up the transplant list although we haven't lined all our ducks up for the antirejection meds. We'll deal with that one when we get back.
Tomorrow's my last chance to get ahead of things and get ready, but I've got to go back to Pleasant Grove 45 minutes south and pick up the girls, then deliver my great-niece to Paradise, 90 minutes north. I can feel my day trickling through my fingers. We're leaving tomorrow right after Bx gets off work.
And, yet, I am just busy counting blessings. And ignoring you, dear blog. Sorry.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Did I mention?

We've been spectacularly busy the last couple of weeks, but are seriously loving the wet, April-like days in what's usually a water-hogging month in the garden. But I am way behind in updating anything and I don't actually have much to say. So on the theory that a picture's worth a thousand words, here are a few things we've seen in the last couple of weeks.
Sunday we went to the air show. Never go the sunny day. Much more fun to go when it might drizzle a little.

This is what our "drizzle" looked like at one point! Whoohoo!

This lovely fellow is Tiger, our super-sized creature. He has a super-high falsetto voice, a foot fetish and the softest fur I've encountered in 50 years of cat lovin'. But he's dumber than dirt. Seriously.

And it wouldn't be us, taking pictures, if we didn't see birds somewhere.
Have a great Monday and beyond!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

I'm glad you're here...

The sixth grade class at the girls' school always closes out its multicultural night by having the students march in with the flag of their homeland.
This year, there are 13 countries represented in their class, from the single member of the Navajo Nation to the trio from Bosnia, the 20-some from Mexico, the smaller groups from Somalia and Guatemala and — I can't even remember all of them. The "Americans" marched in last, my Jen among them, amid raucous applause from the entire group because they're all here, all proud, all American.
It's my favorite part of the entire program, a strangely emotional display of solidarity from people who come from vastly different backgrounds.
In grade school, they're not arguing about immigration or whose country it is or who's to blame for this or that. They just play together and accept one another.
In my grade school, there was one little black girl in a sea of white. My brother and I were also "diverse," because we were a different religion than the majority. It was uncomfortable at times, painful at others. My husband and I picked a diverse neighborhood so our children would grow up with all kind of people and ideas and experiences.
So today, as the children marched under their flags, I cried. The beauty of that moment rivaled the most spectacular sunset.
The debate about immigration will rage on, fueled in large part by misinformation and the very human tendency to want to blame someone when times are tough. And the truth is, who did or didn't do what is no reflection on these innocent kids. Looking at the multicolored young faces, so full of hope and promise and joy, I had only one thought.
I wish you well -- for all our sakes.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

A half-century later

There's a "Barbie at 50" ad campaign circulating that resonates with me. It was created for an anti-obesity message by Latinworks, Austin, USA.
Barbie and I are contemporaries, born in 1959 and starting to expand a half-century later. I'm like an optical-illusion statue. Turn me one way, I have jowls, another and my butt looks bigger than my car. If the angle's just right, it doesn't look like I have changed that much.
But amid the list of things that have grown (in some cases, significantly), it's easy to forget a couple that aren't so bad: My self-confidence and my sense of humor.
There are a lot of things that the "old" me can do that would never have occurred to a sleeker, younger version. When I lose a bet with the girls these days, the penalty is apt to be a starkly different color hair. It's kind of fun and neither defines nor explains me. I could do robin's egg blue without blinking, I think. Red and dark, dark brown are particular favorites.
I can laugh at myself, too.  And given the perspective of the cancer I had years ago and Beaux's placement on a liver transplant list, I honestly don't sweat the small stuff much.
And at the end of the day, looking back with the perspective of lots of years and a lot of experiences, it's all pretty much small stuff.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Maybe next time...

This morning, I took Beaux to work at 6 a.m. and came home and crawled back in bed, where Aly found me a couple of hours later.
Get up, she said. Weren't we going to the park for breakfast?
For the past two weeks, we've repeatedly passed a sign announcing the Lions are cooking breakfast in Riverside Park Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. And repeatedy, I've said, we should go.
So I jostled Jeni into getting dressed and we headed out, only to discover we didn't know where Riverside Park is. We called Beaux to find out, but we circled around toward the sign to see if it said, too. And there we discovered that we'd been looking at the right park, but the wrong day.
They're cooking breakfast next Saturday.
No sweat, I told the girls. McDonalds, here we come.
As I was pulling in, my cell phone rang. It was my friend Maggie, who is 102 years old and was next up on our to-do list.
"Can you come next week, instead?" she asked. I have workmen coming and going all day and it's so distracting."
No problem.
When I told the girls, Jen cocked her head to one side and said, "I get it. We are going to do today next week."

Monday, May 11, 2009

Hurray! The tomboys score!

And so ends the nightmare saga of the graduation dress.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Things that make me happy

My surprisingly good-humored better half. He's fighting for his life, but laughing more than he used to, as well. And he wears his wit on his sleeve.

These sassy, savvy girls, who keep me on my toes.

I love our strange visitors. There are three of these that basically live on our roof and chill on our fence post. Plus a few dozen little guys who hang out for the free food.

I love birdhouses and flowers and the first signs of spring.

This month, I celebrate a birthday, anniversary and motherhood (Can you see why Beaux hates May?). Here's to life. I feel blessed.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tomboys in search of a gown

Jen casually mentioned that all the girls in her sixth grade class have photos of their graduation dresses on their phones, like screensavers. "It's lame," she opined.
About the third time she said something about it, I realized she was trying to tell me something. She's approaching a fashion crisis and in typical NotMommyoftheYear Fashion, I'm not picking up on. Duh. She has an event coming -- and nothing to wear.
Now mind you, there's great irony in all of this: I am the anti-fashion queen. I am the bag lady of journalism, completely indifferent to clothing, as long as it's clean and comfortable and semi-presentable. I don't wear sweats to work. But I am wearing a few favorites regularly that are approaching classic status because I've had them so long. And makeup? Takes too long and I frankly need the extra 10 minutes sleep in the morning.

Perhaps because I've never emphasized fashion, my girls have been left to sort of develop their own personal style. And while Jen has inherently good taste, apparently a genetic gift from her dad, she has my love of the casual. Al's a mini-me, clueless and mostly not troubled by the fact.
But the thing is, the graduation requires girls to wear a dress -- and who the hell, by the way, thinks kids need a full graduation at every stage of life? Kind of takes away from completing high school, if you ask me. When we were kids, we got our report card and started junior high, sans the pomp. And it didn't ruin any of our lives.
Jen would rather wear Levis and long-sleeved shirt. I think she figured I'd back her on it. But I think she'd regret that on the actual day. So I suggested that she, instead, decide to go whole hog and glam it up a bit. We'd do her hair (Good Lord, who is this woman masquerading as her mom?) and shock everyone who's used to super-casual Jen. And as soon as it's over, she can change. Like instantly, at the end of the ceremony. I also agreed she can wear her Convers sneaks, since they make her happy. What the hell? It's her graduation.
She decided she might be able to stand that, if it really provided some shock value. But there are rules. The school has one: The dress must be modest and for some reason, the litmus test for that is how wide the straps are. Huh? They have to be two inches which, by the way, is not easy because everything on the racks right now celebrates the sun with skinny little straps. Jen's rules are different. NO color. The dress has to be black-and-white or plain black, below the knee, and killer cute but not too frilly or femmy. Etc. We've now been to 12 stores, her friend Ayla calling every half hour to see if she found one.
Not yet.
I'm thinking her jeans idea wasn't such a bad one after all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

America, 60 years later

My first overseas trip for the newspaper was to Luxembourg, which, world traveler that I was, I had to look up on a map. There, at age 24 or 25, I stood in the vast grand hall of a genuine and humongous castle and looked down at the most verdant valley I've ever seen while an elderly man described a day when tanks rolled through but could not overtake the castle because of its position on the steep hill.
It was on that trip that I heard the stories of how younger Jewish families were "sold" the idea that their elderly loved ones needed to be moved to a safer location where they'd be safe from the Nazis. They were loaded, along with their treasures, into trains .... you can figure out the rest of the story. Although many Jews from Luxembourg would ultimately get away without being sent to concentration camps, only 36 of those who were sent to such death traps came out alive.
In this tiny country, I knelt in a chapel below a stained-glass window that depicted Jesus in a garden with his disciples -- and an American soldier. The American soldier, in fact, was everywhere in stories of the country's history. Someone had cut an American soldier into another stained-glass window among the 12 disciples at the Last Supper. It was jarring. And charming.
It was the American soldier who brought me there, to spend July 4 celebrating America, in a land across the sea. Americans liberated Luxembourg in World War II and they had not forgotten that debt. I heard so many tales from elderly Luxembourg residents of what young American soldiers had done for them.
Not long before that, I'd huddled in a doorway in a commercial district in Athens, Greece, while angry young men marched the street protesting American capitalist policy. It was scary, but I was "saved" by Greek shopkeepers more than willing to invite this capitalist inside to buy souvenirs while the demonstration raged outside.
It was never easier to be an American than in Luxembourg as they celebrated our independence day.
Amidst the horrors of World War II, there really was no better time to be an American, although there were certainly grave challenges. Our role in the war could not be second-guessed. There was a rightness and purity and unity of purpose that America in wartime has never since achieved.
We represented freedom and justice and that old cliche, the American way back then, some 60 years ago.
As I see the stories of road rage and celebrity stupidity and corporate malfeasance and greed and plain stupidity (watched any TV lately?), I'm not sure what we look like to outsiders -- or even to ourselves -- these days. But I think it's worth giving some serious thought.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Then Aly drew a name....

Kath wins the giveaway. And your $15 certificate is quite literally in the mail.
Thanks for playing, kids.

Monday, April 27, 2009

A bigger, better giveaway. Jewelry, anyone?

My new friend Lorrie Veasey, the funny chick at and creator of Our Name Is Mud pottery, is always generous about directing traffic to other cool blogs and giveaways. To that end, she published a pre-Mama Day note about a friend's jewelry creations. They're handsome and original and could be yours. You just have to visit Lorrie's blog here by Wednesday morning and leave a comment. Go get yourself some really cool bling.
And come back here Wednesday morning to see who gets the Amazon gift card, as well. There's still time to post a caption. Pretty please?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The picture says it all

Words fail me. But if you can come up with the perfect caption, you'll be well rewarded in the first-ever Miscellany giveaway. So comment away and see what delights await. Here's a hint: Gift certificate to
-- Lo

Friday, April 17, 2009

Whaddya know?

Today I feel a little like the paranoid guy who figured out that everyone really WAS out to get him.
For at least three years, I've said I'm a little off my game. Not breathing right. Exhausted. And all the allergy meds, antibiotics for sinus infection and miscellaneous other attempts to get ahead of it have done nothing.
Turns out that task belonged to a strong-stomached surgeon willing to put a variety of creepy little tools in my nose and pull out entire walls of tissue that were completely blocking six out of eight sinus cavities.
Bless him, he even provided me with a stunning little DVD that documents the mess. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall. He held one particularly lovely piece of tissue against the base of my nose so that I could see it was bigger than my nose.
So today, I'm miserable because there's a lot of swelling. But even with the swelling, more air is getting through. And I know that I'm just a few days away from feeling better than I have in years.
I'm also being watched over by my 23-year-old buddy, Oscar. Me and my shadow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dude, this both sucks and blows

Unfortunately, it's not my nose. These days, that marvelous orifice of aromatic attraction does neither. That baby is clogged.
Next Wednesday, though, it's going to be a different matter entirely. I'm having a nasty little outpatient procedure at Intermountain Medical Center whereby a nice white coat will clip some scar tissue and polyps and flush out what are supposed to resemble donut holes (empty) and instead look like a toxic bog.
They assure me it will hurt like hell. And I can hardly wait.
Increasingly, I feel like I'm wading through marshmallow cream, bogged down in slime and muck so thick I cannot think. I am slow and sluggish and want nothing so much as a good nap.
That's apparently the result of the sludge in my head.
When it's gone, I'm gonna find Me again.
Bring it!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Creepiest Thing About Coraline

Was the guy sitting next to Aly. We're hunkered in the dark, watching this odd little animated film about the girl who longs for attention but can only get it by trading in her eyes for a pair of buttons. And the guy next to Aly (also known as Burt, Bertie and Albert) absent-mindedly wipes his hands on her legs to get rid of the popcorn grease.
Seriously. Weird. And. Creepy.
I didn't get the impression he was a perv. Just an idiot. I know I certainly have trouble telling my own leg from someone else's. But I think he's one of those slobs who just wipes their hands on the furniture and thought Al was the seat next door.
Had he done it a third time, though, I was winding up to clock him -- because I was getting ticked off, if you'll excuse the pun.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Pushin' It

Jake and Burt, as I'm fond of calling my daughters, decided a few weeks ago to enter the Cesar Chavez poster contest in the Salt Lake School District. While they plotted their designs, I was roped in to get them poster paper, which had to be a specific size, and round up magazines I'm done with so they can cut them up. It took me a few days to get the message to my brain at a time when I could accomplish it, but I did get it done.
They both worked hard for one evening, then Jake got bored with the process, announced there was no way she could win such a highly competitive process, and stopped trying. Burt, as usual, tinkered a bit more, then started procrastinating but announced she was going to finish. When she says that, she does it. Much of her effort consisted of staring at a photo of Chavez she found on the Web. After looking at him for about 20 hours, she freehanded her version of him. Then she set it aside until a couple of days before it was due.
When she tackled the project hard, her primary task seemed to be cutting out pieces of the magazines that were ether black or blue. I couldn't figure out what she was doing, but it clearly involved a lot of little bits of paper and a ton or so of glue.
I was off the day the project was due (remember the painting fiasco?). Friday's a short day, so Burt was home early to tackle her project. And she did. I went about my business, occasionally reminding her she was running out of time.
It was due at 5 p.m. in the downtown district office. At 4:35, she declared it finished. I couldn't believe it when I looked at it. It really was an amazing effort -- hair and shirt were collage, face pastel chalks, background some of the paint from my wall. Mixed mediums indeed.
Still, we had to get it there and that would prove daunting. We had to route ourselves around a car accident and slowdown. Then, a half mile from our destination, I got stuck behind a horse-drawn carriage. Normally I love those, but not that day. We were on a mission and it felt like the meteor was about to hit planet earth.
I veered down a side street and found -- ah, hell -- a series of no-left turn signs. I swear the digital clock was ticking loudly. The ride had taken a decidedly desperate turn. We were not going to make it.
I started coaching them on the emergency plan: When I get to the district office, you girls get out and run inside. Maybe you can get in before they lock the outside door. Then well try to talk them into taking it.
In fact, we pulled up at 5 p.m., straight up. They rushed inside and I went in search of a parking spot. All I could do was hope... When I got there, they'd found the right room and made the deadline with no time to spare.
Today, the school announced that Burt's effort took second place in the district. Whoohoo.
Here's her take on Cesar Chavez....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

My "Modrian" masterpiece

By popular demand, here's my wall painting masterpiece (see Skippin', below). Now that you can see the painted wall, you can kind of picture the painted carpet.:)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Took a week off because I had too much vacation time and, as always, a ton to do. The first couple of days, I mostly hung out with Beaux. But today I decided I'd better hit it. I didn't mean it literally.
I'm in the process of painting one wall of the living room with these cool glazed overlapping rectangles that I saw in a book. Simple task, a single wall. But it's the one that's open at the top, dividing the kitchen and living room. That's where the lanterns normally hang out.
I pulled them off and pulled myself up to the 8-foot-above the ground ledge, where I happily painted for a half hour before a little voice below me said "where are you?"
Beaux's next question was a good one. "How you getting down?"
Woops. Monkey me can climb, but you can't exactly dangle from a freshly painted ledge.
While he got the ladder I should have used to begin with, I carefully put the lid back on the can of paint. No reason to risk spilling a drop ----
--- when you can trip on a chair leg and -- holy crap -- heave the whole thing at the wall you're not painting and the entire expanse of carpet that lies between.
Besides wall and carpet, I also thoroughly soaked with robins-egg blue paint a bench that contains coat hooks and a compartment where the girls (I now know) hid a bunch of (seriously soaked) notebooks. I'd scooped up a boat load of paint (who knew a quart can hold a gallon; spilling must expand it) and positioned plastic underneath to catch what came pouring out the bottom.
Then I spent a couple of hours shampooing carpet (that was going to be Friday's big play date)
Okay, disaster resolved.
Next up, I went to move the bench a little. AnD THE DAMNED THING COLLAPSED.
Now, by this point, I didn't even flinch. Just walked in the kitchen, washed my hands and sat down with a cup of coffee to play Sudoku.
I still have two days off.

P.S. At 11 p.m., I remembered I was supposed to go to a friend's daughter's wedding reception. Ah, hell. Back to sudoku for me.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I tried the darkness and prefer the light

A year ago, I went to Sweden in December to cover the Nobel Prize, which one of our locals won. That's where I first walked toward the light. Seriously.
It was darker than damned hell there in December, the sun coming up around 8 a.m. or a bit later. By mid-afternoon, the Littles were traipsing home from grade school in the dark, which is oddly discombobulating. And I found myself disoriented by the greyness of life. I'd go to an assignment at noon and come out to black skies. At 4 p.m. Say what? Left to my own devices and with no deadlines back home, I'd probably have just curled up and slept.
All this is a long way to say, Welcome, Daylight Savings Time. I love you. I wish you were mine year-round (although that extra hour of sleep in the fall feels slightly decadent and delicious. Must be my age.).
I dance in you, play in you, spend quiet time weeding in the garden. You extend my day past work time long enough for a quiet stroll through the neighborhood, a bike ride with the girls along the river trail.
Yes, sunlight, I could find you in the early morning — if I were one of those odd early bird types. I'm not. So I meet you in the evening and we enjoy each other's company.
When others say bad things about you, just ignore them. I love you big time.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Strange competition

Tonight, as Beaux was heading off to bed, he bent over and absent-mindedly kissed me on the top of my head. "Night," he said. "Don't forget to take Holly up."
Holly is our soft-bellied, wild-haired, unfortunately named boy guinea pig. He got the moniker back when we thought he was a strapping farm girl of a guinea pig. Wrongo, but I digress.
As carried the critter upstairs, I was thinking, hmm, where'd the romance go? But as I passed the bedroom door, Beaux flung it open and leaned in close. "Night little sweetheart. I sure love you."
That's more like it. Except, wait. He was talking to Holly.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A gathering of strangers...

I think the moment that defined my middle age was when I was walking through the airport and walked right past my sister, there to see someone else, without recognizing her. I wasn't expecting her to be there.
She was out of context.
I am convinced that we don't choose how our brain files material away. In my case, I am convinced that half the time it doesn't. I am very bright in some ways -- particularly when it comes to remembering useless trivia like how much a shark tongue weighs, on average. Or numbers. Here's something you don't want to contemplate: If I ever knew your social security number, I still do. I can't help it. But I promise not to hurt you.
Tell me a name and I can tell you a life story. Show me a face though and I'm clueless. Which, incidentally, is not a sought-after trait for a reporter.
I had a fresh reminder of the odd and feeble signalling my brain does tonight, when I was looking at photos someone took at my 30th high school reunion. I didn't go -- didn't know anything about it. But this friend had posted 51 photos on Facebook and I was looking through, ready for a trip down memory lane.
I apparently need a GPS to find Memory Lane. I did not recognize any of the people in those photos, except one woman named Audrey whose last name totally eludes me. And Audrey is the only thing I could recall about her. Go figure.
But wait. Some of them are wearing name tags.
WHICH I COULD NOT READ, even when I took off my glasses and put my nose on the computer screen.
See? You don't have to actually go to a reunion to feel old.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Jen makes her grand entrance...

When I was in my 20s, I had cancer and doctors told me I would be unable to have children. At the time, I didn't care that much, so I made my peace with it and moved on. I was happy to be alive.
Fifteen years later, I fell madly in love with Beaux, and it suddenly mattered a lot. But I was in my late 30s anyway, so we made our peace with it. We got married -- and 10 minutes later we were pregnant. No kidding. Jen was born about 9 months and a handful of days after the ceremony.
The pregnancy was easy, the delivery not so much. I won't bore you with the details, but what started out gentle at 6 p.m. on a Friday night ended with an emergency C-section Saturday night. She was in trouble and the doctor mentioned a couple of days later that I could have died. If I'd known things were going to go south so badly, I'd probably have skipped the part of the trip to the hospital where I made my frantic husband wait, suitcase in hand, while I cooked myself a couple of eggs because "they may not feed me right away." Duh.
We argued over names the whole pregnancy. He wanted to spell her name with One N, which I thought was a sure sign we were too stupid to spell. I called her Beula Lulu in protest. In the end, though, he won that one. I called her One N for a couple of years in a passive-aggressive way. After all, spelling is important to a reporter.
Jen has been a source of delight and very little sorrow, although she is an eye roller. Hm, wonder where she got that sarcastic wit.
The hardest thing I've done in my life is hand her to an anesthesiologist when she was 11 months old so she could have a valve problem in her heart repaired. I literally ran away, crying.
Beaux was so in love with her that the first time she spit up on him, he wore it like a badge for the rest of the day. And we both sobbed when she got her first shots. Good grief.
Beaux's favorite story about Jen was the day she was sitting in her high chair, waving her arms and yelling "What the F*CK."
"What?" I demanded. Her response was to say it even louder.
I glared at Beaux. He looked panicked, but said he absolutely had never said that in front of her.
While we were having our mean-look war, she got impatient. "Wheh the F*CK," she wailed. "Not the spoon, not the knife, F*CK!"
We didn't take her to a restaurant after that for quite some time.
She's mostly kind, except with her little sister. She's got a sense of humor that is breath-taking in its wit and wisdom. She's beautiful and clever and proof to me that God exists, because how else would the two of us produce something so magical.
Happy 12th birthday, Jinx!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Ah, timing....

I have this seriously happy knack for inappropriateness. A real skill set.
I was fuming at something a boss did a few years ago and told him, "I would not tell you if your hair was on fire." As the words left my mouth, bouncing off his shiny, bald pate, it occurred to me I could probably have picked a better body part than the one he didn't have.
Yesterday, I had lunch with one of my dearest friends and we dissected a personal problem that had been bothering her. In the elevator, heading back to our respective floors, I told her I wouldn't worry about it, if I were her. I'd -- and here I kissed my hand and blew it to her -- send that worry on its way.
Then, because I am thoroughly anal, I blew a second kiss to emphasize the point. Just as the elevator door opened for me to step out, nearly into the arms of a coworker not always admired for discretion or a slow imagination. He appeared fairly slack-jawed as he caught what must have appeared to be a private moment, blowing my female colleague a kiss goodbye.
Ever the devil, she smiled and mouthed "bye, lover."
Yup. Time to start a new rumor.
And I must be getting old. Because I had absolutely no urge to get upset or try to set the record straight. I just walked away, chuckling.
Perspective's something you can only get by aging.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Getting it off my chest

Get Gephardt, one of our local consumer-friendly TV news segments where the reporter tries to right consumer wrongs, infuriates me. Seriously. I see red. And it's not that he's not very good at what he does.
The thing that genuinely ticks me off is that the average consumer can't fax over a cancelled check to prove she paid a bill or was charged twice or whatever. Fixing the most seemingly-simple problem requires involving the power of the media. And that's just flat-out nasty.
It means that unless I the consumer can threaten credibly that I will tell the entire viewing audience you're a jerk as a business, you'll just go on being one because -- well, because you can?
If that's the case, it ought to be called Cuss-tomer service.
Recently I changed beats at work, moving from covering medicine to covering the economy. (It's so recent, in fact, that I'm just beginning to figure out what I'm doing.) As part of that education process, I've been talking to lots and lots of consumers. And here are two things that may surprise some people.
I cannot count how many people have told me this month they'd like to see every single member of Congress tossed. One woman I really love and respect told me she thinks we'd do just as well with a drawing that includes all adults who would qualify to run for office. They could serve two years, she said, doing their best to help this country. And then they'd be done. Not a career, but a service to their country.
It's radical, but I do see the point. Too many have too much self-service invested. Too many axes to grind.
The other thing I found is that people were okay with their own struggles as long as they thought those doing better than they are were just smarter or had figured out something they hadn't. They're less sanguine if they figure that they've been hoodwinked or cheated And there are a lot of people feeling that way about the financial meltdown right now.
Don't even get them started on the fact that our new president, in whom we all have placed some genuine hope, doesn't seem to know many taxpayers. Or should I say, those he knows don't all seem to pay taxes.
It makes it seem a little like two Americas. And that's a troubling thought.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Thirty-second delight

Last year, Utah was absolutely plagued with cryptosporidium. That's the poop-in-the-pool (I know, eeeew!) intestinal illness that takes on a life of its own. It got so bad that health officials banned little kiddles from swimming and considered banning public swimming for everyone temporarily.
They launched education campaigns. They begged. They blitzed reporters like me with news releases and pleas to publicize how to avoid it. (Here's a clue. Wash your hands. Go to the bathroom IN the bathroom. Don't change diapers on the edge of the pool).
And then someone had a stroke of genius. They created a 30-second, funny PSA that is completely irresistible. If you haven't seen it, I promise you'll laugh.

Health officials were geared up for the "year after an outbreak," expected to be bad. In fact, cases dropped below baseline levels for a typical year. I have this theory that a lot of people stayed home for fear they'd see this guy poolside.
I love him. Seriously. But I hope with all my heart that he already had a wife and Utah's requisite 2.5 kids. Cuz I think this might have a chilling effect on viewing him as an object of desire.
What a hoot.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Happy B-day, Beaux

It's the big 48 for Beaux, who took time to celebrate with his family and good friends, Ted and Janice, Saturday. He even very sportingly let the stranger at the restaurant slap a cake hat on his head and call the crew to sing to him. Thanks for that, Janice.
If you've missed it, Beaux's waiting for an organ transplant. But as we wage a life-and-death battle here at Chez Kyle, we take time to laugh and tease and live, too.
Happy birthday, darling. Here's to 40 more.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

When I knew being a mama was weird

A friend was asking me about this recently. I originally wrote about it for the Deseret News, when it happened, just days after the Twin Towers were knocked down. Here it is, mildly edited.

My belief that 3-year-old Alyson is, indeed, an unusual child was confirmed by a physician in the emergency room at Primary Children's Medical Center.

The evening had been uneventful, until my 4-year-old, Jenifer, in true drama queen fashion, ran sobbing into the room, hugging herself and practically keening as she announced tearfully that "You don't eat coins. And Aly did. Now we must bid her goodbye."

It took a while to untangle the story, but near as I could tell, Aly had swallowed coins. The exact quantity was unclear, but she cheerfully informed me it was "many."

We poured out the piggy bank and I asked her to show me what she'd swallowed. She picked up two dimes and a nickel and held them out, then hesitated over another dime.

She seemed cheerful and happy. I wasn't sure if she'd actually swallowed any. And I'd heard lots of children swallow a penny and it passes right through.

But in true motherly fashion, I started worrying. A nickel's bigger. And what if it was actually a quarter? She's not exactly adept at identifying money. Would eating multiple coins cause problems? After an unsatisfactory call to the hospital, where a lawsuit-shy nurse said she couldn't offer advice, I decided to take Aly to the hospital.

It was a ridiculous ride. Because she sits behind me in the car seat and it was too dark to see her in the rearview mirror, not to mention past bedtime, I worried that she would choke or pass out and I wouldn't know it.

I made her sing to me the entire trek across town, while I lectured her sternly on how dangerous it is to put things in your mouth and you should never, ever swallow coins.

(You should also never, ever, leave coins where a toddler can swallow them. But, hey, nobody was there to lecture me.)

It would have made a crazy sound track.

The doctor laughed out loud as she ran the metal detector over Aly's torso. It sounded like an air raid siren, beep, beep, beeping its way across her tummy. "She swallowed something, all right," she said.

The X-ray was kind of cute. Fortunately, the coins had passed safely down her throat and not into her lungs, which could be very serious. They sat in her stomach like a little hoard, out of sight. What a savings plan.

They called her the little piggy bank and gave her a pinwheel for being such a good girl when the X-ray was taken. I was delighted that the doctors are so good at putting children at ease and worried that she'd have such a good time she'd do it again just to experience once more the enchantment.

Then I asked the question I should have kept to myself.

"You've seen other kids swallow multiple coins, right?"

"Not really," the doctor said. "In 12 years here, I've seen two kids who swallowed two coins. Never this many. "Most children swallow one and it doesn't taste good and there's no reason to swallow any more, so they stop."


The story didn't end there, either. I had to get a note from Aly's pediatrician in case my special child set off the metal detectors at the airport when we went on vacation last week. And I took along the screen shot showing the coins.

The suggestion came from the woman at America West Airlines, whom I called to see if coins in your stomach could set off the security buzzer.

"Get a note from the doctor," she counseled, giggling. "I'd hate to have some zealous guard crack her open to see what she's carrying. And thanks for calling. With everything going on, I needed a good laugh."

We'd been told to keep track of what she "passed," to avoid complications. So there we were at Disneyland when she raced out of the bathroom, exclaiming joyously, "Daddy, daddy, I pooped a dime!"
That got the attention of the guy waiting nearby. "My kids never give anything back," he said wryly.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The move from hell

Since our newspaper office was built 12 years ago, I have sat in the same desk. It's been part serendipity -- I haven't changed beats in that time -- and part design. I've surrounded myself with "stuff" quite deliberately because I LOATHE moving. And every time they rearranged the room, the bosses looked at my desk, shuddered and left me alone.

Until Now.

I am changing beats -- there's too much medical in my personal life right now as Beaux waits for a transplant. I don't need to live it at home and at work. And for reasons not clear to me, it requires a move across the room.

I've seen house moves that were easier. But I gritted my teeth and dove in, getting ready. But when I marched my first stack of files across to my new digs (which I don't dig, incidentally), I had a nasty surprise. The last two tenants had just left their stuff when they moved on or out. When one started covering a new beat and moved, she left her old files -- as if someone wants to wade through unfamiliar reams of paper to find something that might be valuable. Another just walked away. So I got to spend four hours cleaning out that area, too.

I'm getting a lot of digs because of the sheer volume of crap I've accumulated. But I assure you, I'm not the staff slob. I will clean up after myself. Which may actually make me some somewhat unique.

Today, I noted how rude I thought it was to just leave the mess behind. "Everyone does that," my editor shrugged.

"Perhaps I should, too," I suggested sweetly.

Wish I'd had a camera to capture the look of sheer horror.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gimme a B

A blogger who makes me laugh, Lorrie Veasey from Our Name Is Blog, turned me on to the Alphabet Super Game. You list Ten Favorite Things that start with a certain letter - assigned to you by the blog owner. Because Lorrie likes my husband, Beaux, and assumes (correctly) that I do as well, she gave me B. Also, I begged her not to give me Q or X. Her blog cracks me up and she's sent me a couple of treasures, so I wish her name started with a B so I could list her. But no.... So here are 10 things that do.

1. Beaux. He's funny and bossy and mystical. Who wouldn't love a guy who made an intricate treasure hunt to help the girls pass one summer? And a guy who put together the most incredibly detailed and actually gorgeous scrapbook I've ever seen, then gave it to me? He's definitely No. 1.
2. Books. And more books. Among my top 10 of any letter. I'm waiting for Bx (see NO. 1) to finish my favorite book. It's about...
3. Bees. I think they rock, although I have to carry an Epipen to be around them. Without them, I would be hungry and thus very sad. So when I garden, I always include flowers I think they will love.
4. Baths. I love them -- especially if I have time to read a Book or can get Bx to scrub my back. And the hotter (the water!) the better.
5. Blogs. They're becoming kind of a weird guilty pleasure. Who knew that everyone was a writer?
6. Bouquets. Love them. Until Bx got sick, he sent me flowers every two weeks, even when I irritated him. And I kept all the cards. The other day, I was going through them, remembering.
7. Brothers. I have two and love them both. Dave and Ken are two of my favorite people, although we have surprisingly little in common as we get older. They have different hobbies and interests and we don't even like the same music. But we amuse the hell out of each other.
8. Brothels. Not really. But I am struggling to find Bs. And the truth is, half a lifetime ago, as I was traveling through Nevada by myself on a car trip (Literally half a life ago, since I was almost 25), I took a long detour to see the Mustang Ranch, because I was fond of horses. Imagine my surprise...
9. Birds. Not sure why they make me so happy, but I keep them in mind when I'm gardening, too. And I have a ton of bird houses and a couple of bird baths and keep them pretty well stocked.
10. Bed. Especially with the nice little heated mattress cover that makes it all snuggly and warm on a cold winter night. As does Beaux.

Friday, January 9, 2009

If there were a weird kid contest

Today, the beastlies and I were driving along, reminiscing about how weird they are. And the subject of the birthday party Jeni didn't throw for herself came immediately to mind.
She was turning 8 (gosh, it has been nearly four years!) and we were having a Saturday afternoon birthday party for family at a skating rink about 20 miles away, splitting the difference in miles with our guests.
The night before, she mentioned casually that her friend Renee wanted her to have a birthday party and invite classmates.
That's nice, I told her. We'll do that sometime.
Oh, she said. We already did. We handed out invitations today.
Mind you, it was bedtime and she's telling me she and her little third-grade friend have invited people to a party we're not having at a time when we won't be home.
I think my voice pitch may have been a little squeaky.
It took a while to sort it out. She and Renee hand-wrote about 10 invitations and handed them out to girls on the school ground. She couldn't remember exactly who she handed them to.
I had a million questions floating through my mind. Like, how did she think there's be cake, or decorations, if I didn't know about it. Like, had she forgotten the real party we WERE giving her 20 miles away? Like, did she forget she had parents she should ask? And who the HELL did she think would let their kid go to a party when the invite was scribbled on lined paper, with no RSVP number?
I settled for "YOU WHAT?"
In the end, I made her quickly call the couple of little girls she remembered inviting, to tell them we weren't really having a party. On "party day," I typed a note in both English and Spanish to put on the door, explaining there'd been a family emergency and I was terribly sorry, but the party was canceled. And we left, chicken style.
And yes, someone tried to attend. There was a little gift on the step when we got home.
The best gift I gave Jen that day? The sure knowledge that if she ever pulled a stunt like that again....

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Don't touch my TV

A few years ago, at work, they were giving away a television set as part of a community-charity drive. It was the come-on to give everyone incentive to donate. A nice one, I might add.
They set the TV up on display where everyone heading to the lunchroom or restroom would pass it. And every time I went by it and saw someone looking at it, I said, "Please don't touch my TV." Or something equally obnoxious, always laying claim to the thing as if I'd already captured the prize.
I could do that because I did not for a single second believe I would win the TV. And because I genuinely believed that my lame efforts were funny.
The drawing was to be held the last day before a four-day holiday weekend. And I was getting ready to leave as I passed the fellow in charge of the campaign. On impulse, I told him I"d appreciate it very much if he's come out to the main room and draw my name so that I could get help loading it before I headed out.
He shrugged and said he might as well get it over with, so we walked out together and as I walked past the TV, I patted it and said something stupid like "see you in a minute."
The staff gathered around for the big moment and as he looked at the name he'd drawn, I got this awful, sick feeling. I knew that I had won. And I wished that he'd either called someone else's name or I'd been WAAAAY less obnoxious.
I took home something more valuable than that TV that day, though. I've been much better behaved in the decade or so since. I'm genuinely a nicer person and less of a smart alec.
I suspect, given that I am much easier to be around these days, no one begrudges me that particular "win."

Friday, January 2, 2009

My Beaux

For more than a decade, medicine was my beat as a journalist. And I've talked to probably thousands of people in all kinds of distress, from the family that was grappling with Huntington's disease to the pregnant woman who lost a perfect healthy baby to vasa previa.
I've always been struck by the grace these people seem to show and, indeed, be cushioned in.
I'm seeing that with Beaux, right now. Without a liver transplant, my husband will die. Probably within about a year. And along the way to transplant, whether it happens or not, he will become sicker and more tired and -- if the past year is any indication -- sweeter and more patient and more present.
In the nine months that we've known he will die without transplant, I've been charmed and amused and fallen head over heels in love with him. It's easy to think it's because the fear of losing someone sparks feelings. Maybe. But in our case, it's like he found himself and there's now so much more of him to lose.
He's taken up photography and made more time to laugh and takes himself a lot less seriously. He used to want things his way just because that's the way he wanted them. Now he doesn't worry so much about whose way. He just enjoys things.
In the middle of the fear and uncertainty, I see a man who is grateful for the blessings he has. It makes him easy to be around.
Mostly, he's both amusing and amused. He gets the global punchline these days.
I would do anything to make this go away. I hate it, for his sake and ours. I do not like that which I cannot predict or influence. But I would never trade this lovely man for the paler version who came before. He has brought much laughter and light and love into this house in the last year and nothing will ever take that away.
This year, he says, will make or break us. It's true that the crisis is likely to come and pass -- one way or another in 2009. But this year can not make or break us. We are made. And unbreakable.