Month: November 2010

Black Friday

No, I didn’t go shopping. I worked. I worked yesterday too.

I’ll work tomorrow and Sunday. All of this is most unfortunate because I had a series of conference calls and email round-robins with folks as early as July, and yet no one figured out until about a week ago that *something* needed to be done, and apparently it’s me with a huge S on my chest, for “Super” or “Something” or “Silly”, because I’m doing it. By “it” I mean cramming about 7 days worth of work into a 3-day period.

In honor of this momentous occasion, and the fact that by virtue of working I completely missed the two things I was going to purchase on Black Friday (1, I’m in Arizona; 2, the online sales I was after were apparently on Eastern Standard Time and I just finished working for the day. It’s 11pm local), I give you optimism.

Or pessimism.

This all started with a fridge. I’m at my parents house in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they have two refrigerators. One in the kitchen, and one in an anteroom. This isn’t uncommon but what *is* is that both fridges are completely stocked. My mother could be Mormon if she wanted to be; the secondary fridge is stocked with flours and cereals and spare juice and all kinds of things. As we played Tetris to get the Thanksgiving leftovers put away, I remarked that most people’s fridges are only half-full.

Which started, in my head, all of the ways people look at things. I want you to know that between this and distributing a 10-figure sum I stayed up late last night with insomnia.

  • Optimist: the glass is half full.
  • Pessimist: the glass is half empty.
  • Realist: it’s a glass of water.
  • Engineer: the glass is too big for the water it contains.
  • Project Manager: we overspec’d the glass, just in case.
  • My counterpart in Europe: Over here, we say it differently, and we’ve been drinking longer.
  • My counterpart in Asia Pacific: Our glasses are a bit more engineered than yours, you may want to stick with yours.
  • QA Tester: hey, look, you told us to drink from it, but there is no use case for measuring how much water is in there.
  • UAT Tester: so, just the one glass, then?
  • End User: damn, it would’ve been great if the glass was pink.
  • Trader Joe’s Employee: you know, I have a glass just like this at home, and I like to fill it with…
  • My son’s Principal: I’ve been meaning to talk to you about the glass and its contents…
  • My son: well, you see, I tried to make the glass out of Legos, but it couldn’t hold enough water, which is why there’s only what you see there, and if IronMan/Tony Stark made it, it would have had this cool gun on it…
  • My stepmother: you should drink more water.
  • My mother: that glass should be filled with wine.
  • My dog: if the glass has water in it maybe she’ll go to the kitchen to put more water in it and bring me bacon.
  • My postmaster: Are you sure this is your glass? (In reference to the question marks I often get appearing on letters to not-necessarily-me-but-people-I-traffic-mail-for)
  • My stick-shift driving instructor: The important thing to note about the glass is how it sounds different as you drink from it.
  • My best friend: I’m with your mom on the wine thing.
  • My boyfriend: I’m with your best friend on that. Well, not *with* her, I mean honey, I’m really with you, and whatever you want is fine with me. It’s your glass and I support your choices.
  • My boss: Water, huh? You may want to switch that to coffee after this next meeting.
  • My skip level: Can I get a 3-or-4 slide deck, nothing big, with a complete analysis of the glass?
  • TSA Agent: put the glass on the belt, walk through here, and yes there may be less water by the time we’re done.
  • Alton Brown: Water is two hydrogens bonded to an oxygen at a 112 degree covalent bond angle, which explains why it boils/freezes/makes a good base/etc… blah blah blah science meets yummy food.
  • Virtuous Person at Work: is that all the water you’re drinking? I have this 128 ounce BHA free stainless bottle that I tote while riding the bus and bringing in my lunch when not riding my bike the 25 miles in.

and lastly, I give you my father:

  • Drink the goddamn glass of water already.
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A Ballet of Another Sort

I live on a 9% grade hill, which is nothing to sneeze at. I’ve biked up it, run up it, walked up it, sashayed, sauntered, and even, once, slunk up it. I can also drive up it, in the snow and ice, even.

Most unlike the unfortunate souls out there this evening.

It’s Snowpocalypse 2010 in Seattle and the Eastside, and here I am looking out my library picture window onto my main street. It’s a two lane road, with one going “up” and one going “down”, bike lanes on either side, generous sidewalk as well. It’s the main drag between the area arterial and most of the McMansions I live amongst.

You can tell who has AWD or knows how to drive in snow and ice: they go thundering on up (or down) the hill at the usual 25 (30, 35) mph. Then there are those who climb the hill…

…and brake. For no apparent reason.

Then they discover they can’t start again, and the melody of skidding, slipping tires fills the air. It’s not long before this is joined by the merry (!) honking of the horn of the person behind them who, instead of simply driving around them, also brakes. And is stuck.

Inevitably, one or more of the cars involved pull over in a sense of despair, put on their hazard lights, and trudge up the hill. A few are on their phones, making arrangements for someone to retrieve them (presumably) at the top of the hill. As they trudge off into the dark, I hear the familiar slithering sounds of the next round of tires.

The resultant detritus stands at six cars currently, 3 of which are minivans. As of this writing my driveway is not blocked but there are, of course, no guarantees.

Sigh. 7.

Getting it in Gear

I have this list of things I think I really ought to learn to do, or should change in my habits. For example, some of the latter include an average of one “me” night per week, or healthier eating habits. The former include things like “learn to ski” and “learn to drive a stick shift”.

Today was my first driving lesson: stick shift. It was in a Subaru which was fancier than any other Subaru I’d been in, and the car itself had been driven to the arctic circle. It had a good deal more computers and junk in it one would expect of a Subaru.

It also had a stick. On the stick was a little diagram, like the three-man Henkel’s diagram, except this one had little numbers (1-5) and an R. We didn’t mess much with that. Instead, there is this other thing it had: a clutch. I can understand the physics of a clutch just fine.

Practical application, however, found me lacking. Safely nestled in the semi-empty parking area in the back of Bellevue Square, my instructor (hm, let’s call him G, to protect the innocent) had me, before starting the car, have my left foot fully extended to fully depress the clutch. Then, my right foot fully extended to depress the brake. Then, and only then, could I start the car. The image you should get here is of someone trying desperately to force their feet through the floorboards, white knuckling the wheel.

At this point, I should note, I hadn’t moved or done anything, except for starting the car.

With the car started, there was oration on how I would carefully lift my foot off of the brake, carefully put said foot (the right foot – Dexter) on the gas so as to get to 1,500 RPM, and then carefully remove my foot (left foot – Sinister) from the clutch, and roll forward.

This I did, but in no way shape or form was it elegant. It was a bit lurchy, although I didn’t stall the car there. I stalled it on the next go, and then at the turn I had to do, and then a third time. The total of stalls were about 3, the total of start/stop practices were roughly 12 (4 laps, 3 each) plus some extra little ones at the end. I learned many things, including:

  • Wearing high-heeled boots is not an intelligent driving choice when dealing with a stick.
  • That little wiggly thing people do with the stick actually has purpose.
  • You can tell if you are revving the car up too much because it sounds different.
  • You can tell if you are at the point where you will not stall because it sounds different.
  • Mall security will wait patiently behind you while you practice driving until your instructor waves them by, whereupon they will rev past you at 40 mph, to illustrate their point.
  • Thirty minutes go fast when you are clenching every muscle below your waist and at the end of your arms.

Lost and Found

Having a nearly 8-year-old son means I have the karmic retribution my parents longed for when I was 8. Actually, more like when I was 9 and 10. I was 9 when I got glasses.

I left them everywhere.

Even at 9, I didn’t like the stigma that glasses came with (when you’re older they denote maturity and intelligence, when you’re younger they simply — or it seemed to me — equated to “outcast”). I can remember my dad getting nearly home and having to turn around the car and drive back to the school where I had to hunt for my glasses — and I remember to this day where they were: there was a low, curved, brick wall that encircled the larger recess area and I had left them there, on the top of the wall, in the sun. The “reactive tint” technology had just come out and, having baked in the sun for what must have been 2 or 3 hours, they looked like any normal pair of sunglasses. My parents had opted for this technology on glasses for a 9 year old not really because I was outside all that much — although I was, and it was California, after all — but because this “sunglass effect” was supposed to lighten the stigmatic load. I waited ten long years for contacts and was ever so happy when I got them.

I therefore “get it” that it is now my station as mom to contend with an endless stream of semi-lost and permanently lost items. In kindergarten, it was the good heavy winter coat (a Carhart one), in first grade more than one hoodie and two pairs of gloves were never to be found again. This year’s permanent lost item would appear to be the Harry Potter scarf I knitted for him, the loss of which he feels more than I do (which is saying something). I do not hesitate to point out there is a perfectly functional lost and found at his school; I also do not hesitate to point out that it is used by some children (and likely some morally flexible parents) as a trading game.

At the end of every month, the lost and found is weeded: any items not clearly marked with first and last name are taken to a charity in Guatemala. I don’t know what the winters are like in Guatemala but as the things typically lost are scarves, gloves, hats, and jackets, those kids should be set for inclement weather. My son had chosen that day to lose his grey “Hurley” hoodie — Hurley hoodies being what Costco sells and are quite ubiquitous in the local school system here. A quick inspection at home proved it wasn’t here, so I got in touch with the gal who does Lost and Found Donations and was granted an audience in her garage…

…where the BoyChild and I went through three 60 gallon bags of items collected from the Lost and Found at his school. This provided me two benefits: one, I realized mine wasn’t the only child who misplaced things, and two, I realized there were other parents who are apparently so wealthy they do not notice the absence of jackets, sweaters, lunch boxes, etc. Or not much.

The Hurley wasn’t there. Its distant cousin — same grey color, slightly different lining — was there, however, and we had picked it out by accident. Upon inspection though we determined it wasn’t the BoyChild’s, and then he announced that the zipper was broken. The Lost and Found lady was disappointed, and went to trash an otherwise perfectly good hoodie.

To which I interjected: I would take the hoodie, and repair the zipper, and the BoyChild would pay for the zipper as amends for losing *his* hoodie. Then we’d put the hoodie back into the Lost and Found, giving the original owner the opportunity to collect a now repaired hoodie (and hopefully pay it forward) or at least ensuring a functional piece of clothing in donation.

(At this point I should note that I had never replaced a zipper on a garment. I had never put a zipper into any new garment. I had managed to lead a life of garment creation based on buttons or elastic, which means no, I don’t do much in the way of making non-costume clothing).

Tonight the zipper was installed in said hoodie, and it looks I think quite well done. It goes back into the Lost and Found tomorrow, the BoyChild is out $3.67 (after tax), I have one less thing on my to-do plate, and now I can figure out if I want a zipper in my Chiffon Hoodie.

Yes: I was serious about that.

All Tharp, All The Time

NB: I totally blogged about all of this last night, from my iPhone, at like 11pm. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to post, and so I am re-blogging, in a much less recent/scintillating fashion. Sorry about that.

I didn’t have time to write, as originally planned, during the intermissions. For one, each intermission was 20 minutes and that’s barely enough time to get up and walk the four paces to the orchestra (like, the people actually playing the music) and take pictures of them while they hustle around, then talk to Nancy, then go to the ladies’, then tweet and retweet, and then talk to Nancy some more, and take a few more pictures. I mean, come on — where are YOUR priorities?

Who’s Nancy? Nancy was the seating-guide-and-programme-handing-lady, and she is a real hoot. Nancy’s got two daughters — one in Portland is a GM for a hotel (I didn’t tell her who I work for) and the other in NYC doing stand up. Nancy recognized all of the regulars — she was able to tell them things like “this is a lot like that one program you saw that you got up and left after the intermission”. She was also full of information: an hour before each performance there is a presentation on what the show is about (kinda necessary with ballet), and afterwards you can talk to some of the dancers (I didn’t because it was too late for this turnip by then).

Wait! I’m supposed to be talking about the ballet, though, aren’t I? Ok:

First Performance: Opus 111, music by Brahms, with 12 dancers. There were three groups of four dancers, each of the four dancers (2 ladies, 2 gents) had matching dress, with slightly different colors than the other three groups. So if dance group 1 had purple tights with a brown top and an orange sash, then dance group 3 had brown tights with an orange top and a purple sash, etc. This is clumsy to write about; so here is a picture:

Pictures are awesome. At any rate, this piece was extremely… athletic. You can see from the photo that there is a lot of arm movement — more than the standard arms-up ballet moves you see — and that was consistent through the entire evening. For this one, though, there were a lot of deep squats, lunges, lifting of whole bodies with one arm, etc. As I was front row I was able to see all of the muscles functioning, and the little rivulets of sweat, and honestly? It works. It’s one thing to see a graceful dance, it’s another thing to see the technical skill that must be employed to do it and not have that sight diminish the gracefulness.

Then there was the intermission where I decided I am going to make myself a chiffon hoodie.

Then the second piece was Afternoon Ball. It features a scant 5 dancers, 3 are ruffians/urchins/smack addicts; 2 are fancy-dress ball-dancing.  This was one of those performances where it would have been good to get the information on what I was supposed to see in it; I have no idea what the intent was, but here is my take: 3 rough-and-tumble people, living on the street, begging for money and having all of the dramas that that implies (drugs, odd allegiances, etc.). Dancing around them is this extremely well-to-do couple, always missing the urchins by just so much space, completely ignoring them (and ignored by the urchins). At the end, the lady and gent dance off, the girl urchin leaves with one guy, and we have one urchin left, in the cold, alone. And he freezes to death (the last dancer to come out is dressed all in resplendent, floor-length, twinkling white; an icy angel of death. As she puts her hand on his shoulder, the stage lights go completely out). It was BRUTAL. And amazing.

Here are the urchins:

With this done I went back to the ladies, chatted with Nancy, read some work email, and texted the male person to inform him that we would be possibly dragging him to a ballet next year.

Then I decided to actually read the programme, and the last piece “Waterbaby Bagatelles” included 7 music pieces. Number 5 of 7 was by Astor Piazzolla, who is probably the most famous tango musician in the world and certainly my father’s favorite.  The seven pieces were very different — dramatic, heavy music; light, fluffy bits; crazy bits. The costuming ranged from what looked like those 1950’s water-dancing movies to what had to be nearly sprayed-on velour bodysuits (tops optional for men). Again, the costumer allowed us to see the amazing musculature of these folks.

I read somewhere that the dancers have an hour-long class on technique each day, and then another 6 to 8 hours of practice, every day. It shows in that unless you’re absolutely looking for it, you don’t see it.

Culture!

Greetings from the dining room at McCaw Hall, where I am without a doubt the youngest person here. I have all my own teeth.

Flying solo as I am this evening it affords me the ability to play with my phone at the dinner table without offending anyone. This in turn offers camouflage whereby I can pretend I am at a loss for what to phone-type next and let my eyes wander and review my dining “companions”:
1. I am not the only Dona sola here: there are two others, but they are infinitely more secure because the are not fiddling with their phones.
2. There are a good deal of elderly couples… One and all are dressed nicely and appear to be having those comfortable conversations that long term couples do. (“Well I’m not sure I should have a martini… There are *two* intermissions.” “Say what was that martini we had the other day… Yes you do know what I’m talking about it was at that place… Of course you were there…”)
3. There is too the very rare four top.

Pardon the pause… You may not have noticed it but I had to load the WordPress app for the iPhone. Much better.

At any rate I am halfway through dinner and the dining room is quite full now, lively and loud. I am fighting the urge to join a conversation to my right. The couple next to me is wonderful: not cloying, at ease, happy and laid back. They are now apparently celebrating being debt free and she knows the origins of pasta puttanesca.

I am also now, in this new crowd, much more cheerfully anonymous.

More at the first intermission.

Late to Class

Everyone has that nightmare: it’s final exam day and you’re completely unprepared and possibly naked in class. Or you’re extremely late to class. Or unprepared in some other way. Or both.

Today I was.

And was again.

I was checking through the site of my nice fancy gym as to which class was available at the time I needed to go today — craziness abounded what with the car coming back from the shop — and discovered a good one about an hour from when I was checking. An hour later I found myself at the gym and went to the room where there is usually the pilates/sculpt kind of classes I go to. When I arrive they’re already in to the routine — there are scary looking poles and bars and barbells and pads and steps and stuff, but it’s all good I can do it. I found an empty spot, acquired equipment, laid down and did some wicked crunches for about 5 minutes…

…and class ended.

I had attended the wrong class.

I left that room and checked the other room that I’m less often going to and sure enough, there were ladies with pilates balls and mats doing interesting stretchy things, and they were 8 minutes into it. So not only was I late to class, but I was late to TWO classes, and completely unprepared. I did my 50 or so minutes, complete with odd twists and turns that make my butt feel (this evening) like it wants to fall off.

This was not as bad as the dream I have where it’s vertebrate histology and they tested us off of six slides on the projector — and actually, that happened in real life — but still. Quite embarrassing.

Score One for the New Girl

OMG OMG OMG O YOU GUYS!

I was totally right.

The Group Power instructor (Group Power being the hold these large barbells and do things like lunges and squats and lifts and all that in time with the Bee Gees and Twisted Sister, I so kid you not) WAS A CHEERLEADER! I totally called it. No one can have that much fun with a large group of people doing something that most would find only circumstantially appropriate.

Oh, fine, thus endeth the cheerleader hate. (I wasn’t one in high school, could you tell?)

Also, this was my second Group Power class. And I doubled my weight (no, not what I weigh, but what I lifted and hoisted and “singled” and “doubled” and all that). I am feeling very very good. I know I will be feeling very very sore tomorrow, but we aren’t there yet.

In other news, my latest big unwieldy project at work hopes to deliver on Wednesday, the boy is wrapping up soccer this week, and I am going to the ballet (alone! and I’m glad!) on Thursday.

I think I’ll get strangers to take a picture of me there with my iPhone.

Tail End of a Wagon

Remember that part in Indiana Jones, where he’s being dragged behind the truck, through gravelly road, hanging on by his whip?

Harrison Ford actually did that stunt, although he was given extra clothing and they pre-dug a ditch for him to “ride” in. Somehow gravel down the front of your shirt at however many miles per hour doesn’t sound like a good idea, though.

I feel like that lately. Halloween came and went way too quickly, and I am inundated with Christmas decorations throughout Target and any other retail outlet (except, comfortingly, Trader Joes). Folks, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet.

At work, the machine is inexorably charging to the end of the year, an amalgamation of metrics, goals, initiatives, and projects, culminating in an end-of-year event in Las Vegas in which I must present (both personally and professionally). At school, the first progress reports have come out but the schooling gets harder, the volume of new things increases and the personal responsibility the boy must have increases — making the winter break a fantastical respite not only for the holidays (for he celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas) but for the break from seven hours of daily seating and applying oneself. At home, we are contending with the recent passing of a beloved grand (and great grand)mother as well as the imminent passing of the family pooch; it’s very unlikely she’ll make it to her 10th birthday (Christmas Eve).

Let’s not even get into my sporadic ability to get to the gym — four times last week, but it’s becoming a real project to get it in this week.

I’m attempting to slow down the truck — or at least add speed bumps — by putting new and interesting things here and there. For example, Thursday evening I am going to the Pacific Northwest Ballet to see the All Tharp programme. I have no idea if I’ll like it, the idea hit while listening to Twyla Tharp being interviewed on KUOW’s Weekday with Marcie Sillman.  I have a front-row, far right of stage seat. I will be able to see the dancers up close and personally, but at a hyper angle.

I’ve gone through my annual list of things I planned to do and learn this year — I still do not know how to drive a stick shift, I still do not know how to ski or snowboard (I think I’ll change that to snowshoeing or cross-country ski).  I’m not sure if adding these things is going to slow the wagon down enough for me to get on, or speed it up so I fall off.

Either way, I will still be contending with accelerated gravel a bit longer.

Belated

So, a couple of days ago it was the Day of the Dead.

I’ve always liked Halloween and the DotD, and I’m not really sure why. It’s morose, if you think about it. For someone whose first real, personal experience with death was a classmate killed in Afghanistan — Rest in Peace, Michael Montgomery — it’s odd that I’d groove on a holiday that celebrates that Time After Death.

Disclaimer/NB/FYI: I am not religious. Like really, let’s not even go there. Like the first thing I will do is set up a scientific postulate and attempt to prove it using anything but syllogisms. I totally respect religion, and I’m frankly envious of it in some cases, but I simply don’t have the ability to have faith. It sucks. Just sayin’.

My grandmother died today.

Being, as I am, the child of four parents, I had (appropriately) four grandmothers. I also had four grandfathers. My stepfather’s father died before I ever knew my stepfather, so that doesn’t really come into play. My stepfather’s mother died when I was 20. She stopped sending letters and that’s how we figured it out. My father’s father died a month before I was born, locked in a freezer by accident and then died from pneumonia — I have the original telegram sent. My father’s mother died when I was about 14, and her legacy is amazing cooking and a kitchen that I would love to reproduce in my dream house. Also, a faint smell… I can’t place it yet. Something like old roses and lilac. Everyone has a grandma that has *that* smell and she was it.

My mother’s father died when I was in my early 20’s, a conservative old bastitch who liked deep sea fishing and lived as salty as the sea he fished. My mother’s mother died from emphysema and a distinct distaste for food which I will never understand, probably disappointed that neither I nor my mother became debutantes. Still, she had good Christmases (until I moved to Washington). My stepmother’s father died in March of 2002, I know this because in April of 2002 I found out I was pregnant and conception date tied with the day he died. He was an old-school bastitch of a different kind, an engineer, a showman.

This leaves my stepmom’s mom. The grandparent I’ve had the longest.

Her name was Maria. She was born in Argentina.

She never quite got the handle of the english language — she always spoke a broken sort of english, reserved in privilege for a woman who moved here in her 20’s — was it 30’s? — with her husband and two children (she would have a third, my Uncle Sergio, once ensconced in the States). She cooked like no one else — seriously. As I told my son, if it was Nana and Bobby Flay in the kitchen, Bobby Flay should just get out because he had no place. When my cousin Marisa and I were growing up, she’d make Doll cakes for our birthday — like go get a Barbie, and make an entire dress for the Barbie out of cake. Whatever cake you like. The dresses were intricately decorated — I mean, frosted — and the flavor was amazing.

She made my wedding cake. She grew the Calla Lillies for my wedding bouquet in her garden, and flew them up with her from California for my February wedding.

She made empanadas and fresh pasta and bread that made you want to stuff yourself until your eyeballs popped out. It didn’t matter that she lived 90 minutes away: you’d drive there to get fed. You weren’t allowed to clean up, you were barely allowed to stand, ever. Her bottom-floor bathroom was all pink tile.

It didn’t matter what you did, or what you wanted to do, in your life. She was proud of you. It didn’t matter what sort of pitfalls or challenges you’d encounter. She knew you’d meet them. She had that quiet confidence that a grandma has, that refuses to be refuted, and that will silently quell any sort of fears or nervousness you’d get.

I didn’t visit her once I knew she was going downhill. I’m a coward, I admit it. This woman was so vibrant and outgoing she’d have a million sewing projects going at once, be halfway through reading her bible for the forty-third time (Grandma had holy water in her entryway), and be cooking 8-dozen ravioli for my uncle and his political party cronies. I couldn’t imagine her invalid in any sense. It wasn’t right.

She isn’t anymore.