Wednesday, January 31, 2007
Another Round of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Life would probably be simpler if my days could just pick a theme: today will be Idiot Drivers Day, next week we'll celebrate Random Acts of Goodness, February is How Stupid Can You Be month, and so on. But, no, instead we like to cram things all in at once. Who am I kidding, I would know what to do with a dose of predictability anyway.

So, the Good:
Ticker from

100 days from today, we depart! I am still plenty, plenty excited, thankyouverymuch. Bouncy-excited. And if you know me in real life, you know that I am rarely bouncy.

The Bad:
Today would have been my father-in-law's 65th birthday. There are ways in which it seems like Willem is grieving more now than he was back in August, but in general we're all moving along pretty well. I plan on showing the kids the slideshow I made for the memorial service, probably after dinner tonight, and then I'll have them call my mother-in-law. I'm not sure yet if I'll have the fortitude to speak to her myself. That largely depends on whether I have more experiences like I did last night...

The Ugly:
When I arrive at a hospital to interview a client, I have a sort of pat routine I go through. I walk in with a clipboard holding a data-collection form and a pen, and I say, "Hi, my name is Kate. I'm with Behavioral Health Services. The hospital asked me to come in and talk to you. Is that okay? Okay. I need to go and get a couple of things together, so while I'm doing that, I'll leave this for you to fill out. I need your name and address here, any insurance information here, and then on the back you sign here [points] to give me permission to talk with you, and here [points] to let us bill insurance instead of you directly. Any questions before I go? No? Okay, then, I'll be back shortly." And I leave, return 5 minutes later, collect the clipboard et al., and say, "Thanks. Okay. So, Mr(s). So-and-so, what brings you here today?"

Which is a nice wide-open question and I get all sorts of responses, ranging from, "Well, when I was three, I...." to "The ambulance brought me here. [silence]" Yesterday, though, was the first time I got the response of, loudly, "FROG you!" and the clipboard thrown at me. Because she could. The fun part about it all was, until that moment, it had all seemed very normal and in-control. Surprise!

Only it sounded more like "truck" and less like "frog" when she said it. Hmm.
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
From Mars
This morning, I was getting ready to leave, and I asked Willem whether he had already started my car for me, "Because I can't find my keys."

And Jacob, who was sitting angelically at the table, look at me incredulously and screeched, "You can't find your PENIS??"

Willem immediately said something along the lines of, "Yes, son, and that's the problem for most women."

Sometimes the only thing you can do is scoff and walk away.
The Magnetism of Doorways
There's this phenomenon around doorways that happens in my house and amongst my family. I'm considering investment in a flame thrower to discourage continued incidents.

The phenomenon manifests quiet young; almost as soon as the children are mobile. They truck around the house, destructive and happy, and almost nothing can slow them down. Except an open doorway.

In rooms, even those largely constructed around sitting still, they travel and move about until I'm ready to get out the staple gun because so help me if they stand in front of the TV one more time... but in doorways, structures intended for passing through, moving from one spot to another, they stop. Often, abruptly, in a manner that regularly gets them steamrolled over by whichever unfortunate person behind them hasn't gotten the memo that an unexplained nerve impulse has halted momentum in the small person ahead of them.

Especially if said unfortunate person is carrying a basket of laundry or the sundry bags and paraphernalia that accompany any trip to or from school. Unmatched socks and toddlers scatter everywhere.

It doesn't only happen in my house. Routinely, when trying to drop Jacob off at daycare, I end up bonking him in the back of the head with a lunchbag or pillowcase because he reaches the threshhold and stops like a deer in headlights. It's not an unwillingness to be in the new place, I don't think. It seems more like an effort to survey the new room before committing. But, you know what? That surveying can happen a foot to the left and is a lot less likely to usher in a cold draft or a long line of other parents waiting to bonk their kids in the back of the head.

And, sadly, it's not only the under-10 set that suffers from this affliction. Our living room and kitchen/dining room are all open-plan, with an 8-foot doorway type thing between. My father loves to stand in this doorway and talk to me while I'm sitting on the couch. Which is fine, except that he talks loud and the sound travels directly down to pound on the sides of my sleeping children's heads, and the kitchen light is directly behind his head so that I can't see his face. Not a huge issue, perhaps, but I read lips, but in order to read 'em I have to be able to see 'em. And last night, I babysat a friend's daughter for a few hours, and when her mom came to pick her up, she also became rooted in the doorway to chat first.

I'm thinking of starting a "Save the Doorways" commercial drive, with pictures of small dirty children with really big eyes being bowled out of the way by people actually trying to use the doorways for transit.
Monday, January 29, 2007
There is only one therapist who works in this new building where I am now, A. We see her wandering through to the kitchen once in a while, but that's about it. Today, she stopped to say hi, and Perfect J mentioned, "Oh, was that your name I saw in the paper?"

A's face went completely flat, blank. "What?"

Perfect J lowered her voice. "In the paper. Did you get a divorce?"

A went paper-white. "Um. They put that in the paper?"

"Sure, any court-related thing is a part of the public record."

"Oh. And... people read that?" she whispered.

"Well... I do."

"Oh. I didn't really want people at work to know about it."

And I spoke up then, trying to sort of ease it away from her a little. "Well, being that we deal with nothing but crisis, we read the obituaries all the time. And when my husband worked at the high school, he was always reading the crime reports to see which of his students wouldn't be in school the next day."

A just sort of wandered away, shell-shocked. Whoops.
Not the Sharpest Key on the Ring
Since changing regular offices isn't enough chaos for the moment at work, we're also being given a new office at one of the hospitals. The old office was directly next door to the room where we actually see clients, directly across the hall from the security office. The new office is down the hall, turn left, down the hall, through locked doors, turn right, pass three doors, into that unmarked door, there. The one with no heat, and a big sign on the back of the door proclaiming that coat racks will be coming soon, because until a day before we got the office, it actually was a closet. Literally.

But, whatever, we don't spend that much time there and it's another powers-that-be decision handed down without discussion anyway. We'll cope. The hard part has been the key situation. The office needs to lock, because we deal with confidential client information, blah blah blah. We never had keys at the old office, because the security guys were right there with their big important key rings. But now, that's not so helpful.

We had been going to the hospital, waiting for security to be able to walk us around the block to open the office, and then having to go back and get them every time we needed to get back in, because the door can't be left unlocked while we're in with clients, but we need to get back in to make phone calls, blah blah blah.... it's boring, I know, but it was irritating.

So finally, the hospital gave us keys. Two keys. For eight people to share. Many of whom work from home and never cross paths. So, two keys, not so helpful.

But there's a fix, right? Just get more keys. Hah! The hospital couldn't do it, and no one knows why. So I finally took one of the keys home with me to try to have copies made.

And was unsuccessful, because they're a weird length and none of the three hardware stores I went to carried blanks, and I'm not that motivated.

So the whole way back to the hospital, I was trying to figure out, "How am I going to get the key back to the office? I hate to bug security just to open the door for this, because it means going all through the ER and everyone sees me and maybe they'll suddenly remember that they need me to do a consult and I just want to go home. So maybe I'll just slide the key under the door. But what if it doesn't fit on the ring? I don't want to have to go all the way back to the ER after going to the office first, so maybe I should just stop at security anyway. But the security guys are all kind of creepy and way more chatty than I want to be." &etc., &etc.

Are you seeing the lapse in logic here?

Yeah, it took me until I was all the way inside the hospital with the key in hand before I realized I could just open the door myself. With the key. In my hand.
Saturday, January 27, 2007
It Probably Balances Out
Today, I woke up with a very bad headache, which I've been unable to shake. I had agreed to get up with the kids this morning, and I'd been unable to go back to sleep after about 7:00, so by 8:00 I figured I might as well grab my headache and drag it out to the kitchen for breakfast. And then, since I had stuff that had to be done, I went out to the post office and the Chaos Which is Walmart. With both kids. Why not? I already had a headache, might as well have it in public as at home.

Today, I found myself constantly and easily irritated by the short people who share my home. Emily had another inexplicable mooing tantrum, preceded by about 437 instances of flatly not listening when she was told to, or not to, do something. Anything. Jacob was less oppositional, but he stayed in that race until the end.

Today, every time I said something to Willem, I managed to offend or irritate or otherwise off-put him. I made a sharp and concerted effort to not allow my headache to become the family's problem, but that effort was not successful.

It's not that the day was a total failure. I finally got around to writing and mailing thank-you notes from Christmas. I packaged and sent something to my transcription job, and something else to a friend for her birthday. I bought three yards of white flannel, tore it into 1/2" strips, and am knitting it into a new bathmat to go in my new bathroom.

But yet, underlying it all, there was this creeping crawling crud, as though I had accidentally worn my underpants with the ruffles on the inside or something. (I've checked. I didn't.)
Friday, January 26, 2007
We Went to Different Schools Together
As a wrap-up, I did send that letter to my classmates, largely in the same form as below. And it has gotten a very sweet, unexpected response. Several people have written to me, using words like "brave" and "respect" and "happy." So, that's cool.

Another unexpected result has been the realization of just how diverse a group of people can be, even when we're crammed into the pressure cooker of grad school and mixed together in odd ways. I look at J, for instance, who comments here regularly and has maintained a consistent blog-comments relationship with me since we left school, and I realize that while on some level I knew that she didn't feel like she was in the mainstream crowd, I always thought of her that way. Sure, she had a few bumps in the road and concerns about whether she would make it (didn't we all?), but she has completed her internship and dissertation and is officially Dr. J now. But she doesn't play basketball. Which is really a loss for the sports community.

But I read her comments, and her blog post, and I realize that she didn't feel as self-confident or part of the in-crowd as I thought she was.

And I'm reminded of how many parents I know who put on a happy face, talk about how much they love parenting and how fulfilling it is, and they don't admit to the times when they feel like idiots, like failures, like fodder for future therapy discussions. Or the times when we admit we don't like something about our kids, or feel like we're missing out on something other parents have (blogger Erin has a beautiful post on this, but again, I'll wait to link it until I get her permission). Yet when we do give in and get brave and admit to those self-doubts, we realize how many other people feel that way too, and we get all sorts of support and relief. "Oh, you feel that way too? It's not just me? Oh, that's so great. I'm so glad you're not perfect." Crazy how that works.

So, yeah. Just another case of going to different schools together - all these people sat mere inches away from me for four years, and yet everyone had such wildly different experiences in the moment, and different memories now. So far, no one sounds like a failure.

Not even me.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
What's Brown and Sticky?
A stick.

That's about the extent of my humor today. I'm not cranky - in fact, I find the joke hilarious in a curse-you-Willem-don't-tell-me-these-things sort of way. I just had an incredibly mundane, boring sort of day, and I don't have much in the way of interestingness to bestow upon the world.

Why don't cannibals eat clowns?
Because they taste funny.

Staff meeting was canceled this morning, which may be considered evidence of a benevolent deity. Except that same deity was perched on the eave of my house watching me leave yesterday morning, and nailed me with an icicle. Oh, that was a treat. I was holding Jacob and laden down with the 57 different bags and items necessary to get the two of us out the door, and I must have been looking slightly upward, because the shaft of death, which started out about a foot long and an inch in diameter but was about the size of a jousting lance by the time it landed, glanced off my forehead before it slid between my glasses and my cornea and scraped just below my eye. I was left with this:

Doesn't look like much of anything, does it? And it wouldn't be, except my forehead has a goose-egg which hurts whenever I make a "that's gross" face. Which, I'm learning, is not uncommon. I wonder what that says about my lifestyle.

So, whatever, karma, what goes around, comes around, blah blah blah. Which leaves me with one last bon mot for the evening...

Descartes walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Can I get you a drink?" Descartes says, "I think not," and promptly disappears.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
My Daughter Has Mad Cow Disease
I don't have it on video, so you'll have to take my word for it. (At least until I get mean enough to actually film it.) When Emily has a tantrum, she makes this noise which can most accurately be referring to as mooing. Very loud, a sustained note, just about as annoying as a mortal can be. I don't care how many closed doors are between us, that sound can eke its way through any minute crack and find its way into my skull. And I'm hard of hearing.

Last night, the tantrum du jour had to do with her not wanting to take a bath. I have absolutely no idea where that came from or what it was about, because she's had a bath most nights of her life and it's never been an issue before. Whatever. Last night the mooing was particularly entrancing, given the echoing off the porcelain and tile.

Rather than waste energy trying to out-shout her or make her calm down, we use the ignore-and-taunt tactic with great success. We don't talk to her, we just sit around and moo at each other. Drives her crazy, makes us giggle, keeps everyone alive one more night.

In the midst of the barnyard extravaganza, I remembered the old "How to Tell if Your Cow Has Mad Cow Disease" email forward, and ventured online to find it. I was successful.

But before I found it, I found two other sites. The first one, I fully expected to be G-rated, just like all of the other mad cow joke (singular, joke) I had seen online, so I had Jacob all snuggled up to me on the couch when I pressed PLAY. Within 7 seconds, it was decidedly Not Safe For Work, Home or Certain Cars. Yikes. I'm all for the general suggestion that one should fornicate, even with equines, but we don't need to have my two-year-old passing along said suggestion to his classmates. The second one is quite a bit more family-friendly, though it still scares the bejeezus out of Jacob.

All in all, last night was a bovine-intensive night. Luckily for Emily, there has been no mooing tonight. Mondays and Wednesdays, Willem teaches until 8:00 so I'm alone with the kids, and my tolerance for mooing is even lower than usual. And it's not usually that high to begin with.
A Letter To My Former Classmates
Okay, so here's what I'm thinking. Does it sound too desperate, fake, brittle? I felt all of those things the other night, but feel none of them now. I've had time to remind myself that trying to judge myself by others' standards is just a waste of time, and that I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me.

And, to clarify, in editing-after-the-fact mode, I don't feel I owe an update or explanation to anyone. But once upon a time, this group of 20-odd (some of them very odd) people were very significant in my life, and I'd like to let them know where I'm at now, with the hope that I may have been significant for one or two of them.

And, furthermore, I'm tired of overthinking.

I have the dubious honor of piping up as the token non-success story, at least as far as school is concerned. You may remember that, after finishing all of the coursework and qualifying exams, I decided to delay internship by a year because of my family's upcoming move and some other changes on the horizon. At the time, I felt such a weight lifted off me, which I attributed to the knowledge that the summer of '05 would have one less big, life-altering change in it.

I did apply for an internship the following year, and didn't get one. That was difficult, to put it gently. I don't have a lot of experience in failure, and I have to say, I don't recommend it. It's not as fun as it looks from the outside.

I spent a lot of time depressed and feeling sorry for myself, and then I spent more time just thinking and processing it all, and then I spent even more time coping and getting over myself. I've realized that my initial relief at withdrawing from the '05 Match wasn't just about a temporary reprieve from chaos, but that an internship and dissertation, both what they entail and what they represent, were not right for me. Doctoral-level clinical psychology, as a whole, was not right for me.

So, I'm mostly done. I'm still registering each semester, to delay repayment of student loans, but am no longer pursuing an internship or (sssshhhhh... don't tell the Registrar!) working on my dissertation. I work in the Emergency Services department of a community mental health center, which is a good pace for me and the money... could be worse. My main priorities, at the moment, are to support Willem and my kids through their efforts, and to nurture interests and goals of mine that I had spent a long time ignoring. I'm working on a book, maybe two, and planning to travel quite a bit this year. I'm also hoping to work on a third child in a year or so.

Not "success" on certain terms, perhaps, but I'm happier now than I had been for a long time. I may, eventually, return to school in some form, but recent events in our families have reminded me that long-term plans aren't always the way to go.

Please do stay in touch - my email is, and I have a blog at

Be well,
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
Sometimes It's Bad Luck...
...and sometimes it's just bad parenting.

I wasn't there, so I can't guess which camp this falls into. Big local news story, a Worcester family was on vacation in Florida and got kicked off their plane before take-off because their 3-year-old refused to sit in her seat and was having a huge tantrum. Now the parents are outraged and making national news.

Let's dissect this, shall we?

First, 3-year-old. THREE. Not a tiny infant who is unable to understand or cope with the pressures of travel. I recognize that travel is stressful and often brings out the worst in people, but this is a child who is old enough to be reasoned with and, if necessary, threatened into submission. Jacob is two and a half, and you're darn right he would never, ever behave like that in public. Both of my children already understand, quite well, that I will tolerate a certain level of poor behavior at home, either with benign ignorance or with whatever ideal and perfect parenting response is required by the situation. But in public, my tolerance for crap goes way, way down. Make me look bad, and I will retaliate. Not with beatings (those are for home), but I actually will leave a restaurant, not leave the car, depart from a party, if the behavior dictates thusly. My kids believe me, they know their limits and my own, and I simply cannot imagine a circumstance where they would get so far out of control, in public, that I couldn't fix it.

Which means that most people who meet my children believe them to be very smart, polite, well-behaved, well-rounded individuals, and I don't disabuse them of that notion. They don't see the screaming "I don't WANT a bath" tantrums (post on that to follow), and I'm content with pretending they don't happen. Sure, that makes me an arrogant parent. Some things, I do pretty well. Sue me.

That's the first thing. The second is, think back to the times you've been on some form of mass transit. A plane, a train, a bus, whatever. There are always kids having tantrums of some sort, and planes are worse with the depressurizing (or is it over-pressurizing? I never remember) and the cramped spaces and frankly boring surroundings. Most parents prepare themselves to the gills, with snacks and toys and books intended to last a 3-hour flight but actually able to distract the child for about 43 seconds. So, tantrums happen. It's part of parenting, it's part of being a toddler. We've all sighed and felt either pity or scorn, maybe both, for the afflicted family. And we've let it pass, because what else can you do?

So, then. How BAD must this particular tantrum have been? Seriously. It must have been cranked right up to 11 on the dial, you know? Official news reports refer to the child as hitting her parents and crawling under the seats. After being asked to sit, repeatedly, and being unable to contain their 40-pound travel companion, the parents and spawn were escorted off the plane. I cannot imagine.

Third, at least they were escorted off before the plane took off. It would have been so much more inconvenient for the family if the airline had asked them to leave shortly after reached cruising altitude.

So, yeah, this has been stuck in my head today. I was willing to give these parents the benefit of the doubt, maybe their kid was getting sick or has a disability or is in some other way unable to control herself; maybe the parents are sick or disabled or in some other way unable to control her. But I saw their interview on Good Morning America this morning, and by all appearances, the parents are of normal functioning abilities and don't place heavy emphasis on discipline or communication with their offspring. During the television interview, for which, presumably, they had some time to prepare, the child was lolling around on her mother's lap, whining, and generally begging for a little structure. And not getting it. Fine, so, maybe it's not bad parenting, but it's not model parenting.

And while we're on the topic, if you and your significant other are sitting in a parked pickup truck in the parking lot, two spaces away from me, with the window cracked open a bit, and are smoking so heavily that I cough on it, then I will be turned off and unimpressed. Sorry, but smoking doesn't rev my engine. But we can coexist. But if you have a child small enough to be in a full five-point carseat in the cab of the truck between you, then we'll downgrade it to outright disgusted. That kid's lungs just don't even have a chance.

Two clarifications on the plane thing: from what I've read, it sounds like the problem wasn't the child's tantrum that was the cause for the family's removal; it was her unwillingness, and parents' inability, to secure her into her seat safely. None of us grown-ups get to float around the plane unseatbelted during takeoff, why should she? If anything, she's LESS safe than us. And, two, I don't think it was the kid's fault. Kids aren't expected to be in control of very much at that age... but the parents are.

Just, seriously, please. If that happens to me, kick me off the plane. Twice.
Monday, January 22, 2007
The Token Loser
Well, that was quite a bit less fun than poking myself in the eye with a knitting needle. And I have reason to know.

I just logged on to the intranet for my grad school, because I needed to be sure that my student loans were going to be deferred another semester. (They are. Hooray.) And discovered an inbox full of notes, because one of my classmates sent out a mass email to everyone else in my "graduating class" - we all entered in 2001, which means we should (hah!) be graduating in May. She wrote about what she's doing and what her plans are, and asked everyone else to reply.

So now I feel like a total loser. I know that I'm not - in my daily existence, I'm happy with where I am, I've accepted my failures and love my kids and generally feel okay with where my life is heading. But this is like going to your class reunion to serve fries to all of the CEOs, you know? Just, my accomplishments are not the things which are noted on a curriculum vita.

Ugh. Murky and pathetic, and now I get to decide whether to reply. I'm thinking, no. Allow me a moment of cowardice and pride... it's not that I'm ashamed of the sharp right turn that my life has taken, because I'm not. But that doesn't mean I want to be exposed to the judgment or - even worse - pity of my high-achieving classmates.

And it's so odd that it's me in this position. Three years ago, I don't think I was on anyone's least-likely-to-succeed list.

Blech. I wish I drank.
Bad Sportswife
I'll do an awful lot for my family. Aside from the typical cooking, cleaning, working when I don't want to, not throttling when I do want to, and other basics, I also learn about math and space and potty training because it's important to various family members, and I do get interested - I'm not faking it, I actually care just because someone I love cares.

But I can't care about sports. I just can't. Especially football (well, boxing and wrestling, too, but I will not watch those at all, so they don't count). I find the game too violent and complicated, and it simply does not interest me. I feel like I should care, because Willem cares about sports and I'd like to support him in whatever his interests are... but just like how I can't fake an enjoyment of certain of the music he listens to (sorry, Opeth, you're one fan short... but I think the kids like your quiet stuff), I simply cannot bring myself to enthuse about football.

This may become a problem. Yesterday, it somehow came up that not only do I not know the finer points of football, but I don't know what a first down is. Willem was initially shocked and appalled, followed quickly by an overwhelming need to explain a first down to me. And he was unhappy when I asked him not to. I feel bad about it, honestly I do, but there are some things I don't want to learn about.

So I'm in this self-imposed existential time-out right now. Would a better wife learn about everything her husband was interested in, just to placate his need to impose sports upon the world, or would she support her own right not to share some interests with him? I just don't know. I feel guilty that I don't want to understand the rules of football, but not guilty enough to actually want to learn the rules of football. At all.

He says that since he has made an effort to learn more about my interests - serial killers and knitting, to name two - then I should learn more about his. Which has some validity, but I have already learned lots more about Galileo and watched lots more Mythbusters than I ever would have on my own. So, are there limits?

We've had this discussion before. Willem is a consummate teacher, and he derives a lot of joy in being able to communicate knowledge to someone else. I know it hurts his feelings when I ask him not to teach me something. But sometimes I don't want to know about things, and I'm left feeling like I'm throwing it back in his face, and he feels like I'm stonewalling him. Or something. I don't know what words he would use.

But let's widen the net and look at the children ("Just think of the children! Won't you think of the poor little children?"). I'm happy to enroll Emily in art lessons and took her to a school year's worth of dance classes on Saturday mornings... and it so happens that I enjoyed those activities myself, once upon a time, so I felt I could share them with her. But trains... model trains, Thomas the tank engine, animated trains... they just don't rev me up like they do her. She seems okay with this. But should I allow her to pursue indepenedent interests without my presence/interest/interference, or should I involve myself in every aspect of her existence to prove to her that she is loved and attended-to? And what about when Jacob starts developing interests of his own?

Ugh. Just another thing to file under "How much of me is ME and how much of me is Mom/Wife?"
Sunday, January 21, 2007
A Friendly's Kind of Day
Yesterday sucked.

Not in a big, sloppy, welt-raising way... there were no deaths or injuries or permanent scars. It was just a series of small failures, leading eventually to my derrière planted on the couch and refusing to move because I was done and out of coping mechanisms. Not crying, not upset, just done.

It started with a 9:30 trip to the Local Automotive Repair Establishment because my minivan, while still stopping when I wanted it to, was making very loud and angry growling noises whenever I touched the brakes. And loud and angry growling noises are not the norm around here, brakes-wise.

So I'm sitting in the soulless boring waiting room with some knitting but no reading material, because the only magazines they had were automotive or child-friendly in nature, and frankly I was none of the above at the moment. I was not interested in joining Car Man Dave in his overly enthusiastic displays of fake humor ("Heh, heh... hot enough for ya?" in January in New Hampshire with a wind chill of -9F), nor was I interested in helping the two 90-pound athletic college girls in planning their upcoming birthday party for MeLISSa!, which they decided to work on while watching "That's So Raven." I've now watching 48 minutes more of "That's So Raven" than I ever had before, and with any luck it will be my last 48 minutes of that cuteness, too.

But I coped. Even when I learned that it was going to cost me $300 and take two hours, I coped.

Yesterday morning, instead of eating a healthy breakfast and starting my day off right, I had opted to put a third coat of paint on the new bathroom walls and spread out flooring primer. And then forgot to stop and get something from Dunkin Donuts on the way, but how long was it going to take to get an estimate, right? So I hadn't eaten a thing, and then when they said they'd be able to do the repair on the spot I felt like not disrupting my workweek was more important than me getting a timely meal. I can't remember why I thought this.

But I coped. Even when another woman showed up in the soulless waiting room with a hot coffee the size of her head and a full styrofoam take-out box of eggs and grease and ham and grease and potatoes, I coped. Even when she threw out half of it.

Then I had some shopping to do, and thought about stopping for lunch then, but I thought the shopping would be quick and I could eat better and cheaper at home. It ended up taking me three stops to get all the crap I needed, which is especially annoying because it could have been done in one stop but I don't like Walmart so I put it off to last.

Amongst my purchases were some small white shelves, a foot square by not-quite-three feet tall, intended to fit between the refrigerator, which is now tucked nicely over in the corner of the room because my washing machine has a brand-new laundry/bathroom to play in, and the counter. Very exciting, taking more steps in the making-my-house-look-decent, blah blah blah. I also bought 6 canvas-cardboard bag-box type things - here, these, but in cheerful colors - to put on the shelves, to hold the kids' dishes and cups, and so on. They were on display next to the shelves, with a note on the packaging proclaiming them "Compatible with these shelf models!" and providing a list. Which included the shelves I'd chosen.

I'm not even sure why I had the audacity to be surprised, then, when I got home, scavenged for breakfast at 3:00 in the afternoon (and, I might add, I coped when I discovered that Willem had eaten the last slice of pizza for his lunch, hours before), and then discovered that the boxes don't fit on the shelves. They're about 1/4" too tall.

That was it. I was done. I was tired and hungry and had reached my fill of failures for the day. Woe is me.

I didn't even get upset when the washing machine, on its first run in the new bathroom, walked halfway across the room during the spin cycle. I just sat and avoided new initiatives.

And, when the time was right - i.e., after the children were in bed and I wouldn't have to share - I went out for sundaes from Friendly's. Because it had been that kind of day.
Friday, January 19, 2007
Lights, Plumbing, Action
Over the past week, utter chaos has descended upon our house, at our request. In fact, we paid for it. It came, of course, in the form of having a second bathroom installed.

This shouldn't have been such a big deal, but the house sits on a slab instead of a basement. Those of you in the know are already nodding your heads, knowingly. Everyone else, let's just say that, given the choice, don't buy a house on a slab. We had already decided that the house was good for us, right size, good neighborhood, and we didn't entirely realize the house was on a slab until we had already made up our minds that this was good for us... and for the most part, it hasn't been a big deal. One stair in the entire house, makes it practical and safer, blah blah blah.

But putting in a bathroom means plumbing, and plumbing means pipes, and pipes mean... well, I can't think of a single-word way to complete that sentence. But it means that instead of running pipes under the floor, they have to run through my kitchen, up at ceiling-level, and a jackhammer was involved to get the tank into the floor, and who knows what-all.

In other words, not a do-it-yourself project, and I don't care WHAT Home Depot says to the contrary.

So, we called around, got increasingly high estimates, and decided to go with the last place we called because we were afraid the estimates would only continue to rise. Dan the Plumber showed up on time, and he had obviously prepared: he had the dark blue coveralls and a big truck with the company's logo on it. He had big complicated power tools and he knew how to use them. And as soon as he got ready to work, and was warming up through the mere effort of expending all that manliness, he took off the top of his coveralls, to reveal that he was doing plumbing in a shirt and tie. It was all a bit reminiscent of the Brawny paper towels commercial from a little while back, a commercial which never failed to crack me up while watching Willem glare imposingly at the screen.

Speaking of whom, Willem would like it generally known that, despite Dan's clear overabundance of testosterone, he had a very weak handshake, and so the only laying of pipe that occurred was actual, literal laying of pipe.

So Dan and his large-gutted friend spent two days imposing pipes upon my house, and the pipes brought their friends, dirt and chaos. But they're done, and we have operational pipes into what was once a closet. We also, as of last night, have lights and electrical sockets in the room. I'll spend the weekend priming and painting the walls, and then priming and tiling the floor, and on Tuesday, Manly Dan will return to install a toilet and sink.

Wicked exciting, y'all.
Or Not
Upon further musings, mostly in the shower because it's one of the few places I can count on five minutes' uninterrupted time at home, I want to clarify this post a bit.

I don't think it's the United States of America's fault that this girl took her life, any more than I think it's the moose's fault when it wanders into the road and the driver of the car veers off into the woods. (Speaking of which, I've lived in New Hampshire for FIVE YEARS now and still have not seen a moose. I consider those big signs at the side of the road a contractual obligation, and I'm getting irritated at the utter lack of moose. I don't think they actually exist.)

My point is, no, it's not the country's fault, but I do believe that the war, and therefore the country, was a contributing factor in her actions. Is it George Bush's fault that anyone has died in Iraq? It's handy to lay it on him, because he's such a convenient scapegoat, but the reality is, it's a big complicated situation which is well beyond my own comprehension. So, while it feels good to vent and point fingers, I'm actually able to recognize that I can't blame any one person or entity.

I deal with suicidal people all the time, and it never becomes routine. And often, it feels like we're able to make a difference; we're able to help keep someone alive long enough to get through that really dark spot, and they go on and get better, at least well enough to live and stop wanting to die. So hearing about a 19-year-old girl, who lived about 2 miles from my house, who just impulsively killed herself, without giving time a chance to make things feel a little more manageable, that weighs on me. I don't feel personally responsible, but I want someone to.

And while I recognize that adults are responsible for their own actions, and ultimately it was this girl who chose to hang herself in her room and break her family's heart, I don't believe that people who are suicidal are selfish in the traditional, conscious sense of the word. It's not the selfishness of a two-year-old grabbing the last cookie from his sister's plate (not that this has ever happened here), but more the selfishness that happens when you can't see outside the moment; that is, it's not a deliberate self-focus, but an inability to adjust perspective and realize that life will not always be that bad. They're so involved in their own misery and fear and pain that they can't hear you when you say, "Life without you would be worse than life with you. You're not worthless. It will get better."

I think it's rare - not unheard of, but rare - for someone to suicide as a form of punishment for someone else. That, in my world, constitutes true selfishness. Instead it's more a sense that they just can't see over the horizon; they can't imagine how things could possibly improve. So those of us sitting outside of their heads get frustrated and hurt because we can see that this is temporary and the urge will pass; life may not get better but it will get more manageable.

I'm not a true expert on this, but having been acutely PTSD/depressed with scattered periods of suicidal tendencies from age 12 to about 20, and now working exclusively with people in crisis, I don't think I'm entirely making stuff up. I know very well that there's no such think as a "typical" suicidal person, anymore than there's any such thing as "normal" to begin with.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
Another Casualty of War
I wonder, exactly what goes into the country's statistics about casualties of our current Iraqi Insanity? I know my friend's husband, who was killed by a road-side bomb in February 2004, gets officially counted. But what about the girl, locally - I won't mention her name because I want to give her family some space, though she wasn't a client of my agency and I have no legal need to protect her confidentiality - who died on Sunday? She hung herself upon being informed that her boyfriend was being shipped to Iraq. She was 19 years old, and an honor student.

I know, there had to have been underlying problems for someone to react that intensely to a what-if sort of situation, so I know she won't get any acknowledgment for dying for her country. But it seems to me that maybe her country played a role in killing her, nonetheless.

And let me be clear - this is not an anti-Bush rant (though I can go on one if you really want me to), nor is it anti-military. I don't like that we live in a world where military force is necessary, but I can dislike the institution while still having respect and appreciation for the people who, by choice or by necessity, keep that force running. I do think - and have from the start - that we have no business in Iraq, imposing our priorities on a bunch of people who don't want what we have to offer.

And I'll muzzle myself here rather than launch on an uninformed rant, because, really, who needs that?
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Hey Now
According to Wordnerd, last week was Official Delurking Week.

I totally missed this. I don't even know what I was doing, but I was not online. (Can you imagine such a world?) So, here. Make up for it now. There's dozens of you here everyday. Say hi. It won't hurt, I promise.
I Was Here First
Recently, it has come to my attention that there's a movie coming out "soon." I don't know how soon, because the hit counters don't tell me the answers when people type in questions for searches. Questions like, "When does the movie Because I Said So come out?"

Sigh. I was here first. I had this title before I knew that such a movie was happening. I'm sure that the movie was in production before I changed the name of the blog, because the name change was, what, three or four months ago? More recently than a movie would come out... but it wasn't advertised yet, as of then.

Sigh. But I feel like a plagiarizing, unoriginal, me-too'ing copycat. So do I change the name again, or wait for the movie to blow over? I was considering, in honor of the upcoming Parisian adventures, calling it C'est la Kate but... I dunno.

I'm flaky today. Got any opinions?
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Reluctant Confessions
I have two confessions... things I'd rather were not part of my daily existence, but they are. We all need flaws, right?

Right. So, the first thing... I love my new office. Love it. Really. I have a window, with stuff going on; my old office overlooked an alley. Sometimes there was a truck parked there. I have natural light as long as the sun is willing to cooperate; the buildings next door caused sunset at about 2:00 in the afternoon at the other office. The building has character; the old one was prefab and bland. It's downtown in one of those fabulous old New England port towns, so I can walk to a dozen different restaurants, cafes, bookstores, parks, and - wonder of wonders - a nice, non-chain high-end yarn store. I would love to live here, and our next house will be in a town similar to this (all relevant husbands take notice).

This is sort of a surprise to me, because my old office was 2.7 miles from my house, and this one is about 10 miles away. More commute means earlier leaving and later returning, farther away from my kids during the day, can't pop home for lunch. But it's not THAT much longer...

...and this brings us to the second confession of the morning. Remember my iPod of Satan? Well, I've come over to the dark side. There are still things about it I don't know how to do, kinks I need to work out, but being able to drive to work and listening to music instead of the half-assed lame humor of FM DJ's, well, that makes the whole commute thing kind of, dare I say, nice. Pleasant. Gives me a little time to transition out of Work Mode and into Home Mode.

So, there you have it. My flaws of today. Can't wait to see which new ones pop up tomorrow. I bet Willem could tell you plenty... but he won't join the blog, so that will remain our little secret(s).
Monday, January 15, 2007
Do NOT Forget Paris
Oh, my goodness, could I BE any more excited?

To back up, 2007 is a rather auspicious year for my family of origin, numerically. (I know, there I go with the big words again. "Origin" means "where I came from" and "numerically" means "numbers and stuff.")

Anyway, in April, my sister Mary will turn 16. In May, I'll be 30. And August will cause my sister Sarah to become 21. Big, milestone-ish sorts of birthdays, one and all. We had this realization on New Year's Eve when the girls were here, and it psychically presented itself to my mother the next day, such that while she and I were on the phone, she mentioned, casuallike, "We should all go somewhere for a weekend, to celebrate."

And the idea stewed, and processed. And a week or so later, I was talking with another friend who was also planning a big sisterly vacation this year, listing off my possibilities for a weekend destination, when it came to me, in a flash of inspiration and "Well, DUH."

Paris. We need to go to Paris.

I've been there, but only for a weekend out of a 3-week European backpacking trip. My mother and sisters have never been overseas. The girls took/are taking high school French, as did I. My mother has always fantasized about going to France, and in fact got her passport in 1998 just in case the opportunity ever presented itself. Well, then, it seems about time that the opportunity presents itself, don't you think?

So Willem and I talked money - there's a possibility my mother won't be able to help out much with the money, given her combination single-mom and runs-own-business status, plus we're putting in a second bathroom starting tomorrow - and decided that, given the fact that between now and April I will be putting in a minimum 9 hours a week overtime while a coworker is on maternity leave, and we're finally well ahead of the bills after running pretty close to the wire when I stayed home with the kids last year, and we're expecting a pretty sizable tax return, we can swing it.

My biggest concern with the trip was that it would become one of those situations where we talk and talk about it but never actually DO anything. So, last night, I talked with my mother and verified with her, "Here are the dates I think we should go. Is it okay with you if I buy tickets?" She gave the royal consent, so last night I BOUGHT TICKETS TO PARIS.

Paris in May... seems like someone should write a song about that.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
So, never mind. No surrogacy here. Jenny and her husband met with The People In Charge, who reviewed the whole process, sure, sure, nod along, harvest eggs and sperm, toss 'em in a Kitchenaid mixer, not a problem. But then the issue of money came up... and the issue of insurance not helping. And they've decided that it's not smart to spend at least three years' worth of a college education on a what-if.

So, that's that. One less drama for the year. Frankly, I'm glad that they're not taking an at-any-cost, no-matter-what approach, because it proves to me that they aren't totally insane. Always nice to have proof. I'm a bit disappointed that I can't help them out, but I'm not losing any sleep over it; I won't be entering myself into the Registry of Random Uteruses. I would have gone through nine months of discomfort followed by the pain of labor and delivery if the circumstances had called for it, but I'm not tearing my hair out over the change in plans.

And, if there's a 75% off sale on the procedures, they know where I am.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I've Got Big Balls
Bigger than they were last night, anyway.

A friend sent me a lovely skein/hank/quantity of hand-spun hand-painted yarn, and last night I had a tantrum at the project I was working on (pattern said "sweater"... I did not deviate from the pattern by one stitch, including using the "correct" yarn and needles, and I had a monstrosity that was hanging down to my knees freshly knitted... and after you start to wear something, it tends to stretch even more. So, I pouted and swore for a while, and decided, enough. I had already taken apart 2/3 of a sweater with the same yarn because I screwed up the pattern, so clearly this batch of yarn hates me. Rather than tearing it all apart, I've just banished the whole project to a plastic bag... I wanted to throw it out but I just couldn't. Mustn't anger the yarn gods.

So, what to do next? I decided to pull out this delightful hand-painted yarn sent to me by the lovely Lisa in New Jersey, to play with a new scarf pattern pointed out by the equally lovely Nisa in New Hampshire. We're a well-traveled bunch, if the Northeast counts as traveling.

Anyway, I clipped where the yarn was tied, and started to pull one end, to wind it all into a ball. Instead, in a moment of skein wrath, the yarn gods struck back, and tied that whole ball into a huge, painful, impossible knot. Oh, it was horrible.

But I worked, and slaved, and sweated, and after about three cumulative hours, I tamed it all back into a ball. For a while, actually, it was two balls, because I found both ends of the yarn and was working back and forth depending on which side had more slack.

And now I barely have the heart to start a project, but I'll risk it. It is really nice yarn.
I Am Chagrined
You're right, I'm a bad blogger this week. The flagellation line can form to the left, the adulation line to the right. Let's try not to get those lines confused this time, okay?

It's just been a busy week. Normally, work equals blogging time for me I work hard and never give a stray thought to posting tidbits about my life online. This week, we moved to a new office. Words cannot adequately convey my utter overwhelming delight at this particular turn of events, except that they can because I'm less than thrilled. My commute just went from 2.7 miles to 11. I know, I know, it could be worse, but I liked being that close to home, not to mention about 1/2 mile from Jacob's daycare. Ah, well, it's a big-ish agency with random senseless decisions trickling down from the top, so I'm sure that just about the time I settle in here, they'll move us again. My coworker, Perfect J, says this is her ninth move in eleven years here.

Which reminds me, there is a silver lining to this particular cloud. The inconvenience to me isn't that huge, and the building has a nicer vibe to it - the old office was very cookie-cutter-prefab-strip-mall, whereas this one has actual bricks and wood - so I'm not that put out by it. Perfect J, on the other hand, is foaming at the mouth. She lives in the same town I do, so the old office was closer to her house (actually within 1/2 mile) and she has to go home at least twice a day to roll her dog.

No, you read it correctly. She rolls her dog. Apparently it's about 4,000 years old, severely arthritic, blind, and unable to get itself up off the floor or roll over on its own, but "he's not in any pain, so I can't see any reason to put him down." I'm staying very, very far away from THAT one. I understand her pain... but... anyway.

So, now, she can't get home as easily to do the dog-rolling. Plus, at the old office, there was a clear sense that it was her place, and I just happened to get a corner of the room. Here, we're all starting from scratch, so I got to choose my own desk location and I physically arrived here earlier than her, so there's a bit more of a sense of equality. She's not thrilled. She remained at the old office until every last stick of furniture and acre of 5-year-old paperwork was loaded up, literally sitting in her chair and refusing to stand up until SHE was ready. Don't laugh, I could suffer serious eyestrain from all the eye-rolling I was doing.

And, I tell you what, she tried HARD to prevent that nasty slimy equality from sneaking in. We sit in a cubicle area, four desks clustered together, with two along an outside wall (and, therefore, having windows) and two along a hallway, with no delineation between those two desks and the hallway. When I arrived Wednesday morning, three different people made a point of showing me, "THAT is the desk that J chose. That's J's desk. I don't know which one is yours, but THAT is J's spot." Gotcha. Good to know she's already been here, marking her territory. Whatever.

She had picked one of the desks with a window, which made sense to me. I didn't have placement envy, and I decided to take the other window-desk for myself. And, like I said, I arrived here earlier than she did, so I had a little time to get my stuff (a whole grocery-store bag of it; I don't tend to keep much stuff at work) organized. I was 99.9% unpacked when my phone rings.
J: Hi. They took my chair, so I guess I should head over.
K: Okay, well, I'm here and pretty much set up.
J: Which desk did you take?
K: Oh, they showed me which one you wanted, no worries. I took the other one by the window.
J: [OMINOUS SILENCE] Oh. [MORE SILENCE] Um. [CONTINUED JUDGMENT OOZING THROUGH PHONE] Well, I think Supervisor N wanted you to sit at the other desk, so that you would be next to me rather than behind me.
K: [RETURNS THE SILENCE AND ADDS SOME BAFFLEMENT] Excuse me? I'm confused. You had desk assignments planned out?
J: Well, Supervisor N did. I think.
K: Really? That's so unlike her. She didn't make the assignments at the old office.
J: Oh. Right. Well. Maybe it was you who said you'd rather be next to me than behind me?
K: Well, J, I've never actually been in this office building before, so I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have claimed a desk already.
J: Oh. Right. Well. I guess I just thought it would be better for you to be at the other desk.
K: Well, you head here, and if there's a problem with the setup we can talk about it.

See, and words aren't working here to convey her sheer bossy petulant tone on this one. It was precisely like a fourth-grader on the playground saying, "The teacher wants you to wear your hat," and then backing down when asked to actually prove it. I continue not to take Perfect J's perfectionism and bossiness too personally, because she's like this with everyone, and really, how comfortable can it be, to live in a world where you feel personally responsible for every niggling little decision that is ever made? Must be exhausting.

But she got here, I was all set up, and she didn't press the issue.

So now I have a desk with a second-floor window, overlooking a busy intersection. Lots to watch, for those times when I'm not blogging working hard on obscure paperwork just to be a busy bee. And I couldn't blog Wednesday because Rickheadwas here (I got to meet him face-to-face, and I was able to resist saying, "Funny, you don't look like a prick.") setting up the computers and changing the printers, blah blah blah, and so I was being physically as well as virtually monitored, so to speak.

Ugh, this is enough babbling already. I do have plenty more to talk about, things like surrogacy and Paris and knitting debacles and iPods and my own personal Mecca, but they can wait. I'll be back later...
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
Did You Vote in November?
If you did, good for you, give yourself a lollipop. And then go vote here, again because, well, why not? Don't feel obligated to vote for me, there are way too many other bloggers in this vague life-parenting-rambling category and there's not a snowball's chance in hell that I would get, much less deserve, any nominations. But vote, for someone (well, at least three someones, by their rules), because it'll make someone's day.

And if you didn't vote in November, you can still complain. That's fine by me. And you can redeem yourself by voting here, now.
Monday, January 08, 2007
Reading in the Vortex
After the weirdbad interview, I gave myself some time at Borders, just to decompress and read and not think for a while. I found a mindless Nora Roberts book, brought in my knitting bag (oh yes I did) and found a chair. Every once in a while, I'd glance around, watching strange people walking by, notice the odd bodily noises emanating from the gentleman in the chair across from me, perusing book titles in my general vicinity.

So it came about that I realized I was sitting in a vortex at the edge of the universe, right here in New Hampshire: behind and to my left were books about religion, including approximately 537 different Bibles, and to my right was the Self-Help Sex section.
Weird and Bad
Think back over your history of interviews, for jobs or schools or whatever. How often does the phrase "weird and bad" come to mind? If it's more than once, you have my sympathy.

Today, weird led the parade. I had my interview, singular, for a psychology internship position starting over the summer. They're willing to pay me $15,000 for a year's worth of 55-hour weeks, but that's not weird. What was weird was showing up, announcing my name, and having a string of people, from the receptionist to the leader of the group part of the show, to the director of the program, look at me with a quizzical head-tilt and say, "Oh! You're here! Yes..." and then wander off to find someone to talk about me. Then they would come back and ask, as though they really cared and not just to be polite, "How are you feeling?"

Words cannot adequately express how discombobulating this was for me.

Finally someone explained, "There were supposed to be eight people in your interview group, but one person called in sick. Their last name is [mine minus the last letter], so someone must have crossed the wrong name off the list." And the light dawns, as the explanation for the misplaced concern presented itself to me. Way to start things off on an odd note, people.

Then, later, came the bad part. I felt like I was behaving myself well enough during the interviews, no random swearing or nose-wiping on strangers, so that was fine. But toward the end, they mentioned, "Oh, and our news is, we've revamped our program and relocated some of our offices. So, beginning this summer, anyone planning to work with adults [read: Kate] will be splitting their time between our East Podunk office and our Middle of Nowhere office [read: an hour and a half commute for Kate]."

Fantastic. I was already several different flavors of ambivalent about the internship in the first place, and now we're tacking another five or ten hours a week extra commute time onto the fun?

So, you may remember, a few weeks ago, I asked you not to wish me luck, because I really didn't know what I wanted out of all this? Well, I've decided. I do NOT want this internship. Not bad enough to call them and ask them to take me off their list, but bad enough to fervently hope for a gentle-but-firm rejection letter at the end of February.
Sunday, January 07, 2007
Wonder What Grade I'll Get?
I just got homework from my dad's girlfriend, to send her the rules to gripe rummy. We played it while she was here the other week, and she wants to share the madness with her daughter. This ended up being way more complicated than I thought it was going to be. Not her fault... just, have you ever tried to write out the rules to any card game? It's like those early programming lessons where you have to write out every step that is needed to make a peanut butter sandwich - you can just go and do it without conscious thought, but when you have to write it out it's hard.

And this is an obscure and complicated game, so it's like handwriting out step-by-step instructions to make Baked Alaska, for use by the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. But I think I managed it, and I'll post 'em here for posterity and so that anyone (all two of you) else who plays it can point out my errors and idiocy.

Without further ado... The Rules to Gripe Rummy per Kate...

  • You need two decks of cards, jokers removed.

  • Runs are consecutive cards counting in the same suit.

  • Sets are matching cards, any suit.

  • 2s are wild, which means that runs can start from 3-4-5 and go up to Q-K-A, but A is always a high card; you can't have a K-A-2 run.

  • You need a minimum of three players, but the game is awkward then. Four is the best, and we've played with up to six. Past six would be possible, but I think you'd need a third deck.

  • To play: Rotate dealers for each hand. The first person deals 11 cards to each player, turns one card face-up on the table and leaves the remaining cards in a face-down stack. The play moves clockwise. At your turn, you draw one card - either from the face-down stack or the top card in the discard pile (but you cannot draw that card if the previous discard was already "bought" - more on that in a minute). To end your turn, discard one card, face up on the discard pile.

  • Buys: The play moves clockwise, and that includes dibs on the discard from the person to your right. You have first dibs on their discarded card, which you can take up, or you can choose to take a card from the face-down stack. If you do not want that discard, then before you take the card from the face-down stack, the other players have the option to "buy" that card: they can take it up, along with the top card in the face-down stack. This is useful early in the game, if you need a specific card to complete your hand but the person "upstream" from you isn't being helpful with their discards, and it is necessary in the last few hands - you are dealt 11 cards, but the last few hands call for more than that to be completed. You are allowed three buys each in the first nine hands, and four buys in the last hand.

  • Object: Each player attempts to gather the necessary cards to make up each hand, and has to keep ALL cards in hand until s/he has the complete hand (so, the first hand is 2 sets of three - you can't put down 1 set of three and wait to get a second set). Once you have a complete hand, you can "go down" - place those cards in front of you on the table. The lowest number of points wins, so you want to get cards out of your hand and onto the table wherever they play.

  • Discards: You cannot discard any card that would play in front of someone else. So, if someone put down a set of 4's, you can't discard a 4. Once you have "gone down," then you can place that 4 onto the other person's pile. Similarly, if someone had a 4-5-6 run in spades, you can't discard the 3 of spades until you have "gone down," and then you can place that 3 on the bottom of the other person's pile. Likewise, if someone created a run in spades of 4-2-6 (remember, 2s are wild), and you had a 5 of spades, then you hold onto it until you "go down," at which point you can replace the 2 in that run with your 5, placing the 2 at the bottom or the top of that run.

  • Going out: When you have gone down, you will usually have a few cards left in your hand. You play as many of these as possible on top of other people's plays. The hand ends when someone is able to play all of their cards with one remaining to discard. Everyone else counts the points for the cards left in their hands; you get zero.
    • Rarely, it happens that you are not able to discard - say, you had a 4 in your hand, and you play that on someone's set of 4s. You couldn't simply discard it, because it plays, but now you're left with no cards in your hand. Now you're what's called "floating" - play resumes around the table, and the next time it's your turn, you pick up the top card from the face-down stack and - unless it plays too - you discard it and end the hand.

  • Scoring: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 = 5 points. 9, 10, J, Q, K = 10 points. A = 15 points. 2 = 20 points.

  • The ten hands are as follows:
    • 1. 2 sets of three

    • 2. 1 set of three, 1 run of four

    • 3. 2 sets of four

    • 4. 3 sets of three

    • 5. 1 set of 3, 1 run of seven

    • 6. 2 sets of 3, 1 run of five

    • 7. 3 runs of four

    • 8. 1 set of three, 1 run of 10

    • 9. 3 sets of three, 1 run of five

    • 10. 3 runs of five

Viola! And if you actually play it, perhaps under a different name (rumor has it that some philistines in New Jersey play a similar game called "May I?"), let me know... especially if you're close enough to play it here.
Friday, January 05, 2007
If you happen to be a gentleman of the New Hampshire persuasion, I have a few gentle suggestions for you, all of which circle around the general notion of subtlety.

One is, if you happen to drive a big white pick-up truck with bumper stickers reading "ONCE A MARINE ALWAYS A MARINE" and "Snipers: No Need To Run, You'll Just Die Tired," you've already made your point. You don't need a license plate that says, "1SHOT." That's just overkill. One bumper sticker, maybe I'll park a spot away from you in the parking lot in case you're watching me from the roof of the mall, ready to take me out if I scrape my door into yours. But now I just think you're overcompensating.

And two is, if you happen own a Monument & Gravestone Busness, you could start by adding an "i" into Business. Just rounds it out, somehow. And I have a tiny twinge in the back of my head at the idea of holding a "10% Off Sale Today Thru Monday" - do people really wait for a sale and then stock up? - but I'll let it slide. As long as you promise to take down the big neon-yellow arrows pointing to the "New Low Prices!" headstones. Deal?

Number three is directed at the denizen of style hanging out in the parking lot outside my work. For one thing, it was never cool to talk with a cigarette in your mouth, and I don't care what Marlon Brando told you. And for another, if I can still have a little bit of difficulty focusing my eyes when I arrive at my car, thirty feet away, because your cologne is so strong that it is causing me to have small yet elegant hallucinations, then you've taken it a step too far. Just because they sell cologne at the wholesale club doesn't mean you have to use it in bulk.

Thanks for your time and attention. Now, knock it off.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I Miss Grandma O
I just had an epiphany.

I knit weird.

I was - yes, I understand, by admitting this I am baring a truly geeky and uncool side of my soul; I am at ease with this - watching a show that is so insanely faux-trendy and irritating that it's like having Grandma's gaudy ceramic turkey salt and pepper shakers on the table, where it's so bad that it's actually kind of sweet and comforting, called Knitty Gritty...

...I'll just pause while you fight off the nausea that the cutesiness of the name inevitably incites...

...and I happened to notice, "Hmm. That man is knitting differently than I do." It's subtle, and I had already known that my way - which I believed was the Continental method - looked different than how my sister and a few of my friends knit. They knit in the American method (I know it's the same page as the last one, scroll a little!). I'm a mere beginner - I learned the basics about 3 years ago, and have only really been into it for the past few months, with my first project, a really loud blanket, finished in April 2006 - but I can knit pretty quickly, and without looking at the needles. The purls and the knits just feel different. Shut up, it matters to me.

Anyway, it was interesting to me that I had learned the Continental method, which isn't rare but it's less common than the American method, at least in America (I tend to think there's something about the naming convention that would suggest this to me, but I can't think what). Interesting because I learned from my great-grandmother, whom everyone called Grandma O. You'd have called her Grandma O, too, if you knew her. This is not cute blog-shortening to protect her identity, that's actually what we called her. We're Irish, she had an O' last name... you get the idea.

I miss her so much, and somehow more this year than last, likely because I was in such a deep dark depression this time last year that no one thing stood out as a stronger sadness than the others. (I must have been SUCH fun.) Growing up, I spent two or three weeks every summer with her in the Adirondacks, in this kitschy summer-only trailer neighborhood thing that we all referred to as "Camp." She was 70 years older than me, almost, and being the much-oldest grandchild, I was mostly there with her alone. So we talked some, more her than me, and we just sat together. She gave me a lot of freedom and trust, and taught me how to crochet, and cook without using recipes, and build a decent fire.

I can't put it into words well, other than that I am so unspeakably grateful to have had her in my life, and I ache for my children that they won't know her. How many other 80-year-old women do you know who got kicked out of an Irish bar on St. Patrick's Day, for lecturing the cook on how to properly make Irish stew while her traveling companion - my other great-grandmother, Grandma B - was demonstrating an Irish jig, on the bar? How many other people consider Parcheesi to be a full contact sport? She died in June 2005, just days after our last visit.

But, like I described here, I did not learn how to knit at Camp. Dunno why, just never did. So the fact that I found the time and motivation to learn from her later, in a nursing home, while she was still coherent and herself, is a point of pride for me. And now my only regret is how clueless I was; I didn't even realize there was more than one way to knit, much less that there was anything unusual about the way I was learning. I didn't know I should ask her how she learned that way.

So, back to the present. I was watching my dorky show, and realized that the guest knitter (ah, yes, a new life goal) was doing it differently, and since my laptop was right here all wifi'ed up and ready to go, I went to my favorite knitting website (shut up, it's got videos) to investigate. And it turns out that I don't knit American - I knew this - nor do I knit Continental. Instead I use a rather obscure and unusual method called Combination knitting.

I had no idea that such a thing even existed, much less that I was doing it. HOW did Grandma O learn this way? Who taught her? Why can't I be twelve again, sitting on the porch at Camp, listening to the rain and one of three channels on the TV ("just on for company") and another Grandma O Story?

And, to step out of the maudlin for a moment, how weird is it to learn something like that about yourself? This may not seem like a big deal to those of you who don't knit, but it's a bit like suddenly learning that everyone else holds a pen between different fingers, or ties their shoes up-side-down, or something. I barely even recognized myself in the mirror.

The end result is the same, as far as I can tell, but the process is different. How's that for armchair couch philosophy?
Wednesday, January 03, 2007
To the Sanctimonious Little Snot in the ER
Dear Mike,

I understand that, seeing as how you are six inches taller than me and in much better physical shape, not to mention blessed with a brand-spankin'-new bachelor's degree that is eight whole years younger than mine and therefore much more aerodynamic and svelte than my poor sad old degree, which is so helplessly buried underneath three master's degrees and the better part of a doctorate, clearly you must know better than me about almost any topic on the planet.

But when it comes to the psychiatric hospital system in the state of New Hampshire, my friend, my badge trumps your cell phone. You're welcome to call as many supervisors as you want, but I am not easily intimidated and your righteous anger will not convince me that I should lock a 40-year-old mentally disabled man up in the state hospital simply because he has an ear infection and needs some rest. I understand that he is acting out and has actually thrown things and hit people, and that's upsetting and sad for everyone involved. But he's in pain, and when you have an IQ of 65 it's a bit of a challenge to announce, "Oh, by the way, I'm feeling a touch of discomfort, might someone be willing to load me up with codeine before I get frustrated and angry?" Help him manage his pain better, in his own house, with his own care providers. Don't try to force me to send him an hour away from home to be surrounded by mentally ill strangers.

And don't suggest to me that I am punishing him in any way. If the word "punitive," which you might well have learned just this morning from your word-of-the-day toilet paper, escapes your lips in my presence once more today, you may end up discovering just how effectively a clipboard can be used to hamper one's train of thought.

You may now return to your regular life, and be superior to me in every other way. But you will not win this round, son.

With deep regret,
The Mean Woman in the ER
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
Speaking of Mothers-in-Law...
Willem's birth mother has been back in touch again. It's been tentative and emotional on both sides, but I think it's going well. At least, Willem's handling it with sensitivity and she seems to recognize that she's not the only one in all sorts of wild and crazy turmoil over this. They each care about each other, and even if nothing else ever develops from that relationship, I think that's a huge, important thing for them both to know.

I don't, actually, have very much to say about it all, because it's so new and shaky and uncertain, but stay tuned. I have my suspicions that there's going to be some cosmic parallels between surrogacy and adoption coming up this year...
iPods are the Instrument of the Devil
I hate my iPod. I think I will eventually like it just fine, but right this second it drives me insane. It's been so much WORK getting my music imported and figuring out the basics just to get the thing to play, and now I'm trying to figure out how to make it fit in the car-stereo-player thing, and it turns out that I can only use it in the car without its protective carrying case thing but it's difficult to remove from its protective carrying case thing, which, admittedly, is probably a good feature for a protective carrying case thing to have, but still. Just annoying. I may get a different protective carrying case. But then that would mean investing more time and thought, and money, into something I'm still not sure I want to use anyway.

But my mother-in-law got me one for Christmas, and it is a very nice little toy, and in the spirit of rising above and graciously accepting a generous gift, I'm trying very hard to make it work, in hopes that an operational toy yields imminent happiness.

Though throughout my struggles and mutterings and frustration, I have wondered, how much of my effort has been because I am overcompensating out of simple, pathetic gratitude that the woman has finally seen fit to treat me, at least this once, like a step above the neighborhood crack dealer?

One unintended (by me) side effect of playing with this thing has been the frank ogling and gawking by my husband. Aside from my transcription work, I never, ever wear headphones. It's been drummed into me by audiologist after audiologist, headphones are BAD and they make you go even DEAFER and you need to avoid them at ALL COSTS. I actually had one woman tell me once that the only way I could safely use headphones is if I worse noise filters or earplugs at the same time. Does that not strike anyone as a wee tad inefficient?

Anyway, but, in the spirit of Rising Above, I've been trying to listen to the iPod at home, and that means using headphones while doing dishes. That's about the only time when I can count on my children magically evaporating. And Willem flips out, every time. "You look so WEIRD with headphones! My wife doesn't wear headphones! It's just bizarre!" Thanks, hon. Anytime I can bring a little freakshow into your life, I'm all for it.

So, we'll see. Someday I imagine I'll enjoy having all my music in one place... just think how long I waited to get a digital camera. And in the meantime, just let me hate the iPod a little longer. We all need something we're good at.
Monday, January 01, 2007
Out with the Old
I did my very least-favorite of all parenting tasks today. Something I like even less than changing diapers or the midnight puke sessions... no. Okay. So this was my second-least-favorite parenting task. Anyway.

I went through all their old clothes - right, Mary, let's be fair, I went through Jacob's and Mary went through Emily's - and sorted out the too-small things. This is something that used to just break my heart, putting the teeny-tiny newborn outfits away and setting out the huge, hulking 6-month-size things. But now when the step is from 2T to 3T, and 5 to 6, it's a little less of an emotional shock.

But still, it sucks. Time rolls on, your babies grow up, the year rolls over, ready or not.

Speaking of which, I don't make New Year's Resolutions. Too arbitrary, and too easy to procrastinate that way. I'm much more prone to deciding on a new path and following it, regardless of calendar. But I do have some things that are brewing at the moment, though a lot of them won't move for another two months, at least. I want to know, to KNOW, about this internship thing, just to be done with it all.

In brutal, pathetic honesty, I actually want not to get an internship, so that I have a good, solid excuse to close that chapter in my life and move on to funner, more personally satisfying things. Sure, some day, I'll look back and wish I'd finished my doctorate, regrets and doubts will abound, blabbity blah blah. But you know what? There's something about doing what I want. Now. Without structuring my life around "it's only a year" and "look at the big picture" and "maybe someday." There's just too much untimely death and unfair illness and random accidents out there to delay happiness too long, you know?

I dunno. Something.

Anyway, the point is, I'll go to the interview and I'll put on a smile and I'll try to give the right answers, whatever those are. And I'll let them decide, and I won't tell them that I'm hoping that, given three intern spots, I come in fourth-ranked, at the highest. We'll see.

Anyway. This started somewhere more festive, didn't it? Yeah. Because my big important New Years Thing is, let's get rid of this uncertainty and just KNOW what's going on with the whole internship / doctorate / oh-yeah-what-about-the-dissertation thing.

I also want to try some new things. I want to make a sweater for myself or Willem that we can wear in public. I want to try to write, for real. I want to go on a family vacation. I want to bear another man's - and woman's - child.

So, we'll see. Should be eventful, if nothing else. If only I had a place to vent and ramble about it all... ha ha.

Speaking of which, I saw this on several blogs last month and thought I'd jump on the bandwagon, because it looked cute and kitschy. The first sentence from one post each month... easier than actually trying to summarize a year which was a lot of work and effort.

Welcome to the Dissertation Abattoir, Where the Studious Are Bathed in the Blood of the Ignorant. I still don't know what I'm going to do when I grow up, but I'm less pathetic and catastrophic and miserable today.

There is one, and only one, person on the entire planet for whom I will jump up and down, dance, and cheer when they successfully use the toilet as God and plumber intended. In case it wasn't common knowledge, I thought I would let everyone know that Children Are Evil and Must Not Be Seen in Public, and as a corrolary, No Mother Can Possibly Adequately Supervise Two Children On Her Own. Look at me, all crafty and having at least something besides crushing depression and an empty bank account and an unreasonably large derriere to show for having spent a year home. We have just about perfected the recipe for Kate-flavored Mommy Guilt.

Every woman needs a certain special little appliance to brighten the day. Let's pretend you're my husband and it's Friday night.

Five years ago right now, I was settling into my second day of "real" grad school, a doctoral program, so early into it all that I hadn't even yet reached the "maybe I don't really belong here" anxiety. I was just sitting here, minding my own blogness, typing away and thinking about how to write about my marriage without sounding flippant or sarcastic (because these things are a way of life in our household, which is a nice balance from the occasional inopportune moments of giddiness which have been known to interrupt serious movies and intimate interludes), when I hear "MOM! COME HERE!" in a voice clearly indicative of my daughter mistaking a meat grinder for a pillow. One of my grad school professors once said, "No one dies at the end of their life. They're always right in the middle when it happens."

Every time I start to think that we've got this parenting stuff figured out, just a little, I get a resounding reminder that we're actually just idiots.

Anyway. I'm feeling scattered, could you tell? And I do have a goal this year, that you - yes, YOU - can help with. I want to try and get a better idea of who's out there. Who's reading this? How can I do it better? More interestingly? More worthwhilely? More something? Maybe you're all just a bunch of google bots cataloging my blog and then flitting away, I don't know. But if you're out there... just know that I get all sorts of excited when I actually get comments, because otherwise it's like Helen Keller lecturing... who knows whether it's a packed auditorium or an audience of narcoleptics?

So, welcome to 2007. Let's ride.