Saturday, March 31, 2012

A Silver-Ribbon Day

Remember The Bloggess, and how she declared silver ribbons were for depression?  Yeah.  I'm wearing one today (metaphorically).

You see, my depression is so spotty.  When I'm doing something fun you or relaxing, I'm fine.  I'm cheerful.  Don't have to fake it a bit.  But then I get irritated and it all goes to pot.

I've been thinking about the body's 'pain-gating' mechanism.  You know -- where if you, for instance, break a leg, you don't really feel the sprained finger or the sunburn quite as much.  Your body prioritizes its pain.  That is why we scratch an itch.  The irritation of the itch gets replaced by the minor pain of scratching it, and the irritation diminishes.

I think that's why I get angry when I'm irritated.  Anger feels better -- more active -- than irritation.  I lash out (usually on quite a small scale) at whomever has bugged me (sadly, usually my family), and it is a release.  Right before I lash out, I feel overfull.  Bursting.  Like my eyes are being pushed out from pressure, like my very breath is being pressurized.  A quick yell or slapping my hands down on a desk or stomping my feet opens the valve a bit and brings the pressure back down.

But when I'm having a kind of tough time, the pressure just rises right back up.  What helps?  Exercise.  No, really.  The actual physical act of running or lifting weights or using the Elliptical just whooshes the pressure right out.  It really empties me out, in a good way.  Gives me a lot more room.  Also a glass or two of wine helps temporarily in that it seems to loosen the outer skin of my balloon.  It also gives me some flexibility, but it's not ideal by any means.

If I could get myself to exercise nearly every day, that would be a valve that I could rely on.  I must do this.  So far (other than the meds I'm on and the talk therapy I participate in sometimes), that's the best control I have.

[Amended:  Yesterday, I played some terrifically difficult and cathartic music on my flute for an hour.  THAT was almost as good as a physical workout.]

Friday, March 30, 2012

My Birthday Party, and Why It Was Awesome

In a word (two words.  Yes, I know), "DOWNTON ABBEY!"

You know what it is.  That PBS surprise hit featuring the Dowager Countess We All Want To Grow Up To Be, Lord Grantham (or He Who Strides), Lady Mary Grantham (Who Went Up The Hill a Bit@h And Came Down Halfway Decent), Bates the Valet (basically a basset hound in valet form), Anna The Maid (the girl we all wish lived in our basement, making our beds and helping us do our hair), and a variety of Turks, Americans, and Scullery Maids.

"But how, Kate?  How does this figure into your party?"
Oh, silly, silly reader.  It was a Downton Abbey Party.

First, I polled the potential attendees.
 "EAU MAH GAH!  I love Downton!  Don't you?"  If they responded, "Where down town specifically?" I mentally put them on the B List.  But those who crooned, "OH, BAAATES!  Love him!  And Matthew?  Such eyyyyyes!" I knew had to be invited.

Second, I had to plan the viands (fancy Downton-speak for food and drink).
I ordered a plethora of petit-fours (those adorable little decorated cakes), procured Mimosa-makings (orange juice and champagne), made a heap of Gougeres (little cheesey puff pastry thingies), and so on.  (OK - also I ordered a few dozen tacos from this COMPLETELY dive-ish place that is fantabulous; I bought 2 boxes of wine and some vodka, a bunch of frozen mini spinach pies, and lots of hummus and veggies).

Third, attire had to be considered.
I made the appropriate headgear.  Fascinators.  Those are little mini hat type things that are attached to headbands.  Mine were feathery (black feathers plus peacock plumes) with sparkly things on little wires, and turquoise, black, and pale blue ribbons.  I HOT GLUED until my fingers looked scary.  But I must say, the headdresses were AMAZING.
Example 1
My daughter, modeling Example 2

Entertainment needed to be arranged. Of course, I planned to show some episodes from D.A.  But how to involve the guests?  A-HA!  Downton Abbey BINGO!  I created BINGO cards for the attendees, and instead of the squares containing numbers (B3! G27!) they contained actions that might occur during an episode. "Dowager Countess verbally smacks someone down," or "Lord Grantham strides into/out of a room."  "Daisy gets yelled at," and "A bell is rung."  Each BINGO card was different, and as we watched the episodes, we'd cross out our squares until we scored a BINGO.  Our prizes were little jeweled hair clips that attached to their headbands.  They were gaudy in the extreme.

The stage was set.  I pulled out all of my finest china (Limoges, naturally), crystal goblet, flutes, and bowls.  I pulled out the beautiful lace-filled linens and silver candlesticks.
Like this, but green instead of blue.

My friends began to arrive, and they chose their feathery headpieces in a flutter, sat on the couches, the floor, the chairs, and poured mimosas and vodka tonics.  We ate Brie, nibbled the endive-wrapped Bleu cheese salad, filled up on Indonesian spicy tofu/shrimp coconut stew.  We laughed and laughed and oohed and ahhed over the Grantham girls' clothes

and we sighed over Bates and Carson and Matthew.
Oh, Mr. Bates. 
And SIGH.  How could Mary have been so stupid for so long?

It should be noted that I have thrown myself big festive birthdays exactly ZERO TIMES before this.  (I have had parties, but never one I planned and executed myself)  It was DELIGHTFULLY fun.  I enjoyed the planning and preparation and shopping nearly as much as I did the event itself.

The moral of the story is that we should sometimes put our money where our mouths are and CELEBRATE ourselves and our friendships.  And Dame Maggie Smith.

Do not forget the Dowager Countess.  Remember what almost    happened at the flower show?  You don't want to mess with her. 

Simonism: March Edition

From the backseat of the car this morning, I hear,


"Yes, honey?"

"If we're all -- everything -- made of star dust, why doesn't everything FEEL the same?"

"...... um.  Did you know that stars -- and planets and moons -- are all made of MANY different elements?  Carbon and iron and so on?  That stuff can all turn into other stuff, depending on how hot it gets or how hard it's pressed."

"Oh.  Ok."

Friday, March 23, 2012

Comic* Makes Me Realize My Son Is Awesome

This morning, my 8 year old son sat next to me, and started a conversation.

Mama?  Why do people have to have sex?

Um.  They don't HAVE to, but it's fun, and it can let a family have babies if they want to.

But.  Why do some companies TEASE women and say they can't have pills so they don't have babies if they don't want them?

Honey? Where are you getting this information?

A comic.

Oh.  Got it.  Doonsbury.  Well, it's not teasing.  It's real.  Some companies are arguing that women who have sex should always have to deal with the possibility of getting pregnant.

But, Mama.  It says here that the men get to have a pill called "Vitagro" (Viagra, I presume, although his interpretation is hilarious) so they CAN have sex.  Why is that legal, but the lady pills aren't?

Oh honey.  It's crazy, isn't it?  Some people think that they know how the world should work for EVERYBODY, and what is right for EVERYBODY.  I disagree.  This is why I keep writing letters to politicians, and why I vote.

This is just wrong!  It's wrong!  I think boys and men should be against this.  I think I should tell politicians that.  I think I know how to solve it.  

How, baby?

When I grow up, I'm going to start a business where I get people to go to these companies -- the ones who don't let ladies have these pills -- and they will join these companies.  Then?  They'll all go on STRIKE.  And the businesses will lose money, and they'll go out of business.  

Wow.  That's awesome. Just wondering, Simon, but why do you think women should have the right to these pills?

Because some ladies want to be able to be loving and close with a man, but don't want to make somebody else to take care of.  

Oh, honey.  That's so true. 

Mama? Are there other things where ladies don't get to do things that they should?

Well, years ago, women couldn't vote.

WHY?  Mama?  Why should ladies not be able to do all these things?  (choking up) I don't understand why other men and boys aren't talking about this ALL. THE. TIME.  I am GOING TO.  It makes no sense at all.

Honey, can you think of any things that men or boys aren't allowed to do, just because they are male?


I really can't, Mama.  That is so unfair to ladies and girls.  It makes no sense at all to me.

Honey, I'm so proud of you.

Mama, I'm proud of YOU.

[Note: some people think I give too much information to my kids, but as you can see, my youngest is an example of how information, delivered calmly, can lead to thoughtful conversation.  And hopefully, a compassionate and loving man, someday.]
*Note #2:  I had originally thought it was Doonsbury Simon was reading.  It was actually "Candorville," a similar comic. Whoops.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Crazy Passionate Post

Oh, what a night.

I'm talking about music, friendship, and more music.  And PEOPLE!  you see, there's this guy -- Bobby Carcasses.  He's a musician from Cuba, and is probably in his 70s.  He sings, plays piano and flugelhorn, drums, you name it.  Oh, and he came here to give a massive concert Friday night.  He was the resident artist for a few days at the university, and then gave a sell-out concert at a big hall.

Last night, we got a call from a colleague of Dr. Smartypantz's, saying that he was having a little reception at his house for Bobby, and would we like to come?  Bring the kids!  Um.  YES!?!

Bobby Carcasses

We show up, and over the next hour or so, people trickle in.  Our kids played with the host's kids and some others who came later.  Soon, the catered food arrived (Jamaican chicken, rice/beans, oxtail, cabbage, and plantains).  A total of maybe 20 adults finally settled in to eat, drink, and be merry.

However, two of Rodney's (the host) kids had had birthdays recently and he had been in Indonesia playing some concerts, so there were birthday cakes!  The kids began clamoring for cake.  Well, you can't have cake without singing "Happy Birthday," right?

Rodney is a bassist, and he has one of his basses in the corner of the living room, along with a cello and various other instruments (electric keyboards, amps, etc.).. 

I heard from the living room "ba doom boom boom ba DOOMP ba doo DOOP" being played on the bass.  One of Rodney's students was trying it out, for fun.  Then Rodney took over.  More "baDOOMping."  Then a percussionist grabbed a cardboard box that had held the kids' CapriSun juice packs and ripped it artfully, making a drum pad.  He had his sticks and brushes with him, and so he started sssssshhh-ssshhhh-sshshshhshh--ing.  Somebody else grabbed a tin of Altoid mints and used them as a maraca.

Then the electric piano (in the next room) was being used to get the crowd singing Happy Birthday.  Let me tell you -- that was the best damned version of Happy Birthday I've ever heard.  Bobby started singing along, the two female gospel singers started twirling and flying their beautiful voices over the melody...

Pretty soon, all the instruments got corralled into one room, and they started to play.  Trumpets, 'drums,' piano, singers, Altoids, a beer bottle being tapped with a fountain pen in lieu of a cowbell.  Clapping, stomping, singing, hooting....

Then.  Bobby wanted to sing.  He sat at the keyboard and began.  Gorgeous, soulful Cuban songs.  There were tears in the eyes of so many of us.  He segued to something upbeat and hot.  The drummer joined in, then the trumpets.  Rodney's student played bass.  Pretty soon, Rodney's 3-year-old son grabbed the cello form the other room and planted himself next to the singer and pretended it was a bass.  Nobody stopped him.  Bobby smiled a bit.

Bobby asked the other musicians if they could accompany him on "My FUnny Valentine" in d minor.  And off we went.  He sang.  It was rough -- gravelly.  Gorgeous.  Then he picked up his flugelhorn and played.  One woman was a club singer (jazz mostly) and she started to croon, to sing over his flugelhorn solos.

The best way to describe it was this: imagine being in a room full of regular brown birds.  And every so often, one of them opened up their tailfeathers and became a peacock.  And they would show their azure feathers like it was nothing at all.  Then they'd close them back up, go about their business, as another little brown bird turned into a thing of beauty.

You'd never ever know how amazing these people were from just looking.  There were no stylish fashions.  No Botox or perfect bodies.  No riveting drama.  NOBODY handed out business cards.  Nobody exchanged phone numbers.  No flirting.  No arguing.  No crying in a bathroom.  No tension.

Just people.  Trading places at the piano or the bass.  Dancing in the hallway.  Dancing with the kids. 
Plopping down on the couch next to one of the most famous Cuban musicians in the world.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Mental Lint

Is there any research done on the pitches of burps and/or farts?  Like, for instance, are there more F-Sharp farts than A Naturals?  In the wild, I mean.  Not domesticated.

And who is "TED"?  As in the "TED Talks."

In that vein, you know what's great about being me?  And all the failure I've been through?  I'm not terribly afraid to fail.  I know I'm gonna fail.  I'm sure of it.  But I might as well try some amusing and interesting stuff, because at least I'll have some good stories.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Allie & Friend's Kitchen: A Loose Transcript

Right this minute, my 11 y.o. daughter and her 10 y.o. across-the-street best friend are trying to make cupcakes or muffins or something.  I can hear them from the next room, but can't see them.  BTW: I have NO idea how any of this relates to VAMPIRES.  No idea.

BFF: How are we going to do this?  Can we just make it up?
A: Well, yeah.  But...
BFF: Maybe we can use a recipe?
A: But that's boring.
BFF:  Well, we could just ... let it guide us.
A:  YEAH!  WE can add stuff!

BFF: Let's divide it up.  It says "wet" and "dry" ingredients are separate.  You be wet, I'll be dry.

BFF:  Ok.  Um.  How much flour?
A: 2 cups?
BFF: You sure?
A.  Uh.  Let me check.  OH.  2 and a half.
BFF: Is that 'two AND a half' or 'two halves'?
A: I think two and a half.  It says .... "two, one slash two." That's two and a half.

 BFF:  Now it says "baking powder." What's that?
A: It's up there.  The round one ... no.  Not that one.  The next one.  Right there... yup.
BFF: How much?
A: I think.... um.  A tablespoon.
BFF? Tablespoon?
A: The big one.
BFF: You sure?  Or is that 'teaspoon'?
A: "T B is tablespoon.  T S P is teaspoon."
BFF: ohhh

A: Ok. Butter.
BFF: How much?
A: It says a half stick.  How much is that?
BFF? Well, a half of a stick.
A: But our butter comes in a round thing.
BFF: Hm.  Let's see.  OH!  It says "4 TB" also.
A: Oh.  Ok. Then four tablespoons.
BFF: Just dump it in? OK
A: WAIIIIIT!  It's supposed to be melted!
BFF:  Whoops.  (clinking sound heard)  There.  Took it back out.
(microwave beeping)
A: Careful.  You never touch the bowl when you've heated something like butter.  It's really hot.
BFF: Ok.  (drawer opening heard) Can I use this?
A: Yes.
(Beeping of oven temperature being set)
(much clanging of spoon on bowl heard)
BFF: Stir hard to get ALL the lumps out!

A: what do you wanna add?
BFF: chocolate?
A:  YEAH!  And maybe ... strawberries?
BFF.  Oooh. yeah.
 BFF: I wanna use the big, BIG spoon.
A. Here.
 A: I, like, got this pan for CHRISTMAS.  It has an anti-stick thing on it so if you spill stuff on it, it just slides off.  It's so awesome.
BFF: (giggles)
BFF: (giggle) Allie! You're squeezing the strawberries.  Eeewwww.  Let ME do it now.
A:  HA!  Oh no! Teddy (the dog) is eating something!  NO, TEDDY! Oh dear.  He's eating the butter wrapper.
BFF: Ok.  I need to wash my hands now to make mine.
A: Ok. Good idea.
BFF: I'm going to add strawberries ON TOP.  To make them attractive.
A: Oh, they're SO ADORABLE!
BFF: (clanging of spoon) Oh.  That is SO chocolatey and gooood.
A: Mine don't taste too strawberryish now, but I think they will once they're cooked.
BFF: Oooh!  They're nice! I can taste the cinnamon.
A: Oops.  OhhhH!
BFF: How much did you ADD just now?  DON"T STIR IT IN? DON'T!
A: Well.... too late.
BFF: HAHAAAA! Oh, that is PINK! Get your mom to see. HA!
(concentrated quiet, with the occasional clang of a spoon on bowl, and the crunching of muffin papers being rearranged)
(Beeping of the oven timer being set)
BFF: I'm going to do the strawberry ones now.
A: I'll do the chocolate.
BFF: Ok.
BFF: We should probably do the dishes.
A:  Mmmmmmph.
BFF: I only did one major one.  I mean, one that's completely full.  I wonder how it'll turn out -- probably splat out all over the place.
A: mmHmmm
A:  I have an idea!  We'll each use a big big big big pan and use the rest of the batter.
BFF: What kind of pan? Can we use cooking spray?  Do you have spray?
(spraying sounds heard)
(giggling and clanking)
BFF: Here, put some of THESE over there.  What did YOU DO, Allie? ALLIE.
A: Ooops.
BFF: Oh, Allie.
(many more short sprays heard)
A: C'mon batter! Go faster! (tapping sounds heard)
BFF: Maybe we could just.... (clanging sounds)  Hmmm.
A: Oh, LOOK!
BFF: Both of 'em?
A: Yes.
(Oven door opening, cautious sliding sounds heard.  Beeping of timer being started)
And then?  CLEANING sounds begin. Rumbling of chairs being dragged around, cabinet doors opening and banging closed.
BFF: When these are done? You can like, put them on a special tray, but don't put them there yet.  Vampires. You know?
A: Mmmmhmmm.
A: WHOA!  Look at YOURS!
BFF: WHOA!  Look at YOURS!  Look at YOUR Neapolitan one!
A:  LOOK at YOUR Neapolitan one!
BFF:  ALLIE!  50 seconds left!
A: OH!  OK!
Together: 10! 9! 8! (giggles) 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2! 1!

Post Script: 
Muffins were good. A trifle tough, but quite good.  And there were two very proud little girls who made a nice memory of an afternoon off of school.  But I'm still wondering about the vampires.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Hallmark Stores: No One Ever Needs To Go There

Yesterday, my daughter expressed her desire to get another Webkinz (TM) which is a kind of stuffed animal that has an online component.  It's quite ... deviously ingenious. You buy one, and then you get SuperSpecial access to WebkinzWorld (TM, I'm guessing), and your animal can play and has a house and clothes.  BUT, after a year, your access expires, UNLESS YOU BUY ANOTHER ONE.

So, as a birthday present, I had promised another of these insidious furry dustmite catchers.

These Webkrack animals are only sold in certain places (the kind that little old ladies and bored BORED teenagers ever go into), and one of them is Hallmark Stores (TM).  I haven't set foot in one since I was engaged to be married and thought that I Really Needed a "My Pre-Wedding Year" scrapbook.  (which, upon finding out the price and noting the fact that I'd actually have to PUT THINGS INTO IT, I slid back onto a shelf containing Hummels (TM). Which I loathe.  I really, really loathe Hummels (TM).)

As my daughter sized up the possible candidates (the patchwork turtle?  the bright purple dinosaur?  the sad-looking armadillo? (and have you ever seen a happy armadillo?)), I wandered around.

Here's my brain on Hallmark:
Oooohh.  SPARKLY!  [reaches out and fondles a flower sun-catcher thing]

Ooooh.  SMELLY!  [leans over and sniffs a violently scented candle that is operated by batteries]

Oooooohh!  BREAKABLE!  [shoves hands in pockets while tiptoeing past the Lladro statues (TM)]

Oohhhhh!  WEIRD! [repeatedly pushes the button on the 'lifelike terracotta-like resin" flowerpot of a scented rose you can make bloom and un-bloom]
Did you think I was making this up?

Oooohh!  EXPENSIVE! [rifling through the Wedding Section's display of Unity Candles, Scrapbooks, Albums, "Chicken Soup for the Bridal Party's Soul" books, and commemorative dove-shaped "Bride!" pendants]

Then I suddenly snapped back into my mind and thought, "Ooooh.  POINTLESS."

Memories: How to Make Them

A few days ago, I reported to all 14 of my FB friends that, while in our local Aco Hardware (No, that's not a typo.  It's a cheap knockoff of Ace Hardware) in search of a drain snake (the metal kind, not the OMG THERE'S A SNAKE IN MY TOILET kind),

I was overcome by the piped-in atmospheric music, and had to STOP! Because, apparently, it was Hammertime.

Imagine this pose, but with a 41-year-old woman in a winter coat and a red handbag. In the plumbing aisle of a hardware store.

One of the best responses was from Rachel, a lady of impeccable maturity, who said, "HA! Kate, you make the world your amusement park!"

Yes. Yes I do.

And WHY, you might inquire?
Because if you do nothing noteworthy, you will FORGET things. 

Think back to 6th grade.  Remember the day before Christmas break?  No?  Well, if you had chosen that day to stand on your chair in Social Studies and start singing "The 12 Days of Post-Soviet Russian Christmas," you'd remember that day.  Precisely.  [Example only.  Did not happen.]

How about your birthday, 16 years ago.  No?  If you had pulled over while driving, and got out to pick some cotton in the field RIGHT THERE (while wearing cherry-red ballet flats, as I recall), and sang -- out loud -- "Nobody Knows the Trouble I Seeen.  Nobody Knows, but Jeeeesuuuuuuuussss," you'd be able to remember it down to the temperature, the shoes, and which side of the road you'd been on.  [Example that REALLY DID HAPPEN.  In Texas. It was the right side of the road, heading south.  It was balmy -- probably mid-70s in late March.]

Cotton is rather harder to pick than one might assume.

A Tuesday night, two years ago, mid-December.  Midnight.  SNOW DAY had just been declared for my kids.  I got them up, had them toss coats and snowpants and boots over their footie pajamas.  We went out and had a midnight snowball fight, then came in for hot chocolate.  They still remember that!

So, sometimes memories are thrust upon you (my daughter being born about 1.5 hours after arriving at the hospital), and sometimes?  You have got to make them yourself.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Most Romantic Card Ever?

I read The Bloggess' blog today, and was inspired.  Please go see her stuff!

I want this to be a card for Valentine's day.  Or really, for any occasion.

Front of the card.                   Inside the card.

Thank you, The Bloggess, for all you do.  You crazy little turdburger.

**TO FURTHER RE-CLARIFY AND PROPERLY CITE, THE IMAGE OF THE CREEPY CHRISFARLEYDUDE WITH THE AWESOME T-SHIRT IS THE BLOGGESS'ES.  I do not own that image.  She came up with the phrase "Use your ivagination" and turned it into one of the finest pieces of couture lingerie of all time.  Go thank her.** (Please, The Bloggess, don't come and kill me. Or sic Brian Boitano on me. He could whup me with one ice cream sandwich held behind his back.)


Simon, once again, sitting and eating his breakfast.  He's taken to reading the political cartoons in the newspaper, but, being 8, does not quite get them.

S: Mama?  What is 'plutocracy'?  The government of Pluto*?

Me: Um.  Plutocracy.... Yes.  Government of Pluto*.  They don't hold elections out there.

S: //rolls eyes and sighs//

[*Note: In our house, Pluto is still a planet. I'm old school like that.]

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Bacon Does Not, In Fact, Make EVERYTHING Better

My son (aged 8) was sitting at the kitchen table, eating breakfast and doodling on the newspaper with a mechanical pencil.  Just then, the pencil ran out of lead.

So, naturally, he took the pencil apart and replaced the lead with a strip of cooked baconNaturally.

Later in the day, I needed to jot down a phone number, so I grabbed the closest pencil and began to write.  Sadly, I found that bacon is not an adequate substitute for graphite.

File that away in  your memories, people.