A "good enough" mom muses about alpha moms, adoption, computers, the State Of The World, Internet quirkiness, and the Kosmik All
Ooookay, I'm not an agnostic?
I read Rabbi Gellman's comments. I write a response on my blog. I go in to work, go into an all-morning meeting, I buy a Navajo taco from our department's retirement fund fundraiser for lunch, I hop onto the computer and swing over to Sitemeter to check my hits... ...and there are more than 150 hits! And 9 comments! Whoa! Now, for some of you, this is pissant traffic. Ho, you're thinking, ol' OmegaMom's getting excited about 150 hits?! Girl, you need a life! But for me, that's Big Stuff. I have a core of about 50 regulars who swing by almost every day; I have my subscribers (all 15 of them!), so to see all those hits was quite a surprise. Where were they all coming from?? It seems that Newsweek likes to list a Technorati search on their articles, and there was OmegaMom, in all her glory, listed on MSNBC. Wowzer. It just goes to show that the Main Stream Media still has some pull. Anyway, welcome to all you newbies if you're swinging by again. There's a futon over there that you're welcome to slouch down upon, but you'll have to move the very large horse that has taken up residence there first. Amongst the commentators was Not Agnostic, who took me to task in a long-winded and unparagraphed way for claiming I am an agnostic. I always thought agnostic mean "not knowing", which, frankly, I don't. I don't know if there's a God or not. I don't have any proof one way or another. I believe in Something, but belief does not equate to "knowing", y'know? Anyway, PAGent took Not Agnostic to task for ignoring the main gist of my post. Thanks, PAG--you are, indeed, a gent, as always. So, a word to the hit-hungry: do commentary on a column on MSNBC or Newsweek, with a link back to the column, and you're likely to get a good many hits.
One of OmegaDad's fellow students in his master's program invited us to join the crowd for the opening show of her drama class production. Quite interesting. One of the featured segments was a series of skits written and performed by her students, Navajos, entitled "Brown in this Town". She started the semester with a discussion of racism, and her students started talking about their own experiences, and the discussions blossomed into this performance. They were awkward. The skits were poorly performed. But...but...sigh. Some of their stories just broke my heart. One or two of them, I could pass off as misunderstandings. But others--there was no way possible to gloss over with a "oh, surely it wasn't meant that way!" It makes me think of OmegaDotter, and what she might encounter as she ages out of the oh-so-cute-toddler-girl stage, and moves away from the protection of being with mom and dad and out into a world which won't see her through the eyes of love.
Speaking of "eyes of love" and OmegaDotter...I was not looking through eyes of love at her this evening. A highly verbal child can cause parental units such as OmegaMom to forget that the child is, in fact, still a child, and only four years old. The dotter had promised no whining during dinner out and during the performance. She had promised to sit still. OmegaMom, faked out by precocious verbosity, ignored the reality of the situation: a four-year-old is going to whine, and a four-year-old can't sit still for very long at all. We had to leave at intermission (I actually had elbowed OmegaDad a few times earlier, in hopes of removing our embarrassingly wiggly and chit-chatty child). I was bummed--the hoop dance was cool, the "Boomtown" poetry slam/scathing indictment of the progression from "trendy" to "over-developed" was intense, and I wanted MORE! So. In a horrid display of immaturity, I hissed at OmegaDotter as we were waiting for OmegaDad in the car that I was missing the second half and it was all because of her! And gave her a shake. And it made her cry. Um. Shit. I sit here stewing in guilt at that Bad Mommy Moment. But please don't blame my Bad Mommy Moment on the fact that I don't have religion!
The final tally on the Newsweek/MSNBC hits: 232. Wowzer.
posted by Kate @ 4/29/2006 12:20:00 AM   2 comments

Why I am an angry agnostic
Dear Rabbi Gellman: I'm not an atheist, I am an agnostic. I realize that to many folks of the religious persuasion, that difference is slight; they don't get the idea that I have a spiritual life but simply do not like having a religious life. In this, I mean that I don't want the rituals and Big Men Telling Me What To Think. My husband and I get our experience with God/the Kozmik All/the Ineffable One/whatever you call it by walking in the woods, by admiring the beauty of the universe, by seeing the curve of our daughter's cheek when she's asleep. We don't tell other people what to think. We don't go around grabbing people on the streets and saying, "Fool! You are lost! You are being led around by Big Men Telling You What To Think! Experience God/the Kozmik All on your own, and you will be set free!" But the fanatical religious people out there do that to us, figuratively and literally. We have evangelical Christians doing their very best to get "creation science" taught in our schools as science. We have fanatical Muslims bombing our people going about minding their own business. We have orthodox Jews pushing Palestinians out of the Middle East, and Palestinians doing the exact same thing, for the exact same reason. All of this in the name of "religion". We have people all across the United States insisting that Terry Schiavo be kept alive. We have people all across the United States trying to mandate how I or my daughter handles an unexpected pregnancy. We have people all across the United States insisting that people who don't have religion can't be moral or ethical people, that they live lives of "existential despair". I am not threatened by the idea of God. I am threatened by people who insist that their idea of God is the One and Only True God. I am threatened by people who use their idea of God as an excuse to wage war. I am threatened by people who insist that I follow their idea of God, or else... I am irritated by people who claim that my life is filled with "existential despair" because I don't follow a religion. I am irritated by those who claim--either outright or by implication, like you do--that being without religion means that people will submit to their "desires to do what we want when we want to do it". To me, that implies that people are by nature vile and evil, willing to commit any and all nasty actions at the slightest impulse. What a dark vision of humankind! Why do religious people believe that humankind needs a carrot and stick approach to behave well? Behave well in your current life and you will be in heaven in the afterlife...what about behaving well in the current life simply because it's the Right Thing To Do? Does humankind need a numinous Father figure to Do Right? If so, then we are lost. All of us.
posted by Kate @ 4/28/2006 07:24:00 AM   12 comments

Shitty mood
I've hardly seen my husband at all for two or three weeks. It looks like we'll be ships passing in the night for weeks more to come. I want his night classes to end. I want him to not have to go into the field as often. I want to--what an idea!--go on a date or two with him. Wah. Wah. Wah.
posted by Kate @ 4/27/2006 09:35:00 PM   0 comments

There are aliens among us
And they think like this: When Crystal Clear Waters Become Muddied. I got this from Sster, who promptly turned it into a neatly packaged essay on entitlement. I am in awe of her abilities; that website left me gobbling and speechless and feeling vaguely unclean, somewhat the way my eldest brother would leave me after our infrequent phone calls. Given that eldest brother (now deceased) lived a life of carefree sociopathology, wherein his feelings and impulses trumped those of others, what seemed diametrically opposed to me at first glance (I had put "for totally different reasons" at the end of that previous paragraph) actually turns out to be the other side of one leaden coin. I am always impressed--not in a good way--by people who think that they know God's Will. Isn't God supposed to be, by definition, unknowable? Anyways, those of us who can't figure out ways to give a hand up to women in a pregnancy crisis can now rest easy at night, assured by this very "Christian" bunch that we are merely doing God's Will by ensuring that they (the women in crisis pregnancies) aren't troubled by those oh-so-unChristian doubts about relinquishing their children in adoption. Gah. Look. It's not up to me or you or that...erm...adoption "registry"...to figure out what a woman in that situation should do. It's up to her and the father. Her life. Her child. His life. His child. Their decision.
posted by Kate @ 4/26/2006 09:36:00 PM   1 comments

We don't need no education
What we need, apparently, is tests. Lots and lots and lots of tests. Standardized tests. So we know where everyone "stands", as it were. I am speaking, of course, of NCLB--No Child Left Behind. Accountability is the catchphrase. Standards is the watchword. Let's have national standards! Let's make sure the kids are all edumacated! Let's make sure we don't fall behind! How do we do this? Well, since we don't have a national curriculum, let's test the kiddos to be sure they're reaching The Standards. Let's take away money from schools that are having trouble! That'll solve the problem! Woohoo! Soooo. What is the result of this? What you get is "teaching to the test". What you get is kids regularly subjected to weeks of practice tests before the test to see how they'll do on the Real Test. Then, of course, you get the Real Test, to see how well the kids have learned. Get that? So what do the kids end up learning? Really. What do they end up learning? They end up learning that Tests Are Important. They end up learning bits and pieces of this and that that will help them Pass The Test. The kids who have support at home, who are (like OmegaMom) superb test-takers, or who can figure things out on the fly, will do well on the Real Test. The kids who really need help, who could use the weeks of practice tests to, say, practice the learning instead, they won't do well. Usually, the schools that have students from families that are willing to work at home to help the kid actually learn the concepts (what a concept!) will be rewarded with school funding (the carrot), while the schools that have students with families that either don't give a hoot about education, or think it's all up to the schools, or are working their butts off at two and a half heavy physical jobs (that would be a large portion of the folks in my department) so that they're too tired to keep on top of things--those schools have their funding decreased (the stick). At the same time, school districts scrambling to keep their heads above the water--for whatever reason, whether it's overspending on administration, or dealing with students who regularly bring guns, knives, drugs, etc. to school, or coping with kids whose only regular meals are at school--flounder around, seeking new and innovative curricula to teach the kids or grab at the golden hoop of well-marketed, poorly-proofed computer-aided learning systems. On the one hand, you've got parents who think that the schools aren't teaching. On the other hand, you've got teachers who have to deal with thirty students of wildly varying learning abilities who end up spending their personal hard-earned money on extra supplies for the classroom because the school district can't afford (for whatever reason) the basics. Kids who have to share textbooks. School districts that are cutting out science and history and music and sports because these have no bearing on NCLB-mandated testing. I have buds on the boards who are parents. They seem to be constantly dealing with their children being in the "practice testing" phase. I have buds on the boards who are teachers in non-mandated areas who are seeing their programs being pared to the bones or completely deleted. The parents report that their kids are bored to tears by the constant testing. The teachers report that their peers are demoralized and the better teachers--the ones we want teaching--are leaving the profession because they can't stand the constant NCLB drumbeat. Where's the "education" in all of this?
posted by Kate @ 4/25/2006 10:28:00 PM   3 comments

"Would you like some cheese (smell), Gromit?"
So the Little Green Car is back home from the body shop, sparkly and shiny and fixed. The grand total for the fender bender: $2,500 and some change. It could have been worse; say, if the axle had been hit. But. Even though the body shop did a spanking job, and even detailed (sorta) the interior, one thing remains. The Smell. Y'see, OmegaDotter likes these. Oh, they are so cute. They're packaged just right for little kiddos to love, with these cute little red wax wrappers underneath the red crinkly "cellophane". So she occasionally gets them (correction: GOT them) in the car. And she unwraps them in the car. And she eats them in the car. Partially. Somewhere in the Little Green Car, there is either a wax Baby Bell wrapper or a half a Baby Bell itself. When I picked up the car from the body shop, all the windows were closed. It had been sitting in the sun. I opened up the door... ...and staggered back, assaulted by The Smell. We've been avoiding this particular problem by having the windows cracked open almost all the time; the dry winter has been quite helpful in this respect. A good airing, the breeze blowing through the car when we're on the highway, no windows closed all the way--The Smell stays at a tolerable, almost subconscious level. But I think it's time for a pricey detailing session. Even Wallace wouldn't be happy with The Smell.
posted by Kate @ 4/24/2006 06:19:00 PM   4 comments

Book boners
Whenever I watch a movie or TV show set in a city I am familiar with, the physical transitions make me wince. In a movie set in Chicago, for example, you'll have someone motoring down Lake Shore Drive, then abruptly midway down the Dan Ryan Expressway. In ER, you can turn a corner from the hospital right next to the Chicago St. El Station, and be on Lake Shore Drive, too. Or, in movies set in San Francisco, you'll have someone driving directly from Golden Gate Park into South of Market, and then they'll be going down (Movie cliché alert! Movie cliché alert!) The Crookedest Street In the World. Sorry, folks, it doesn't work like that. (Not to mention the two worst assumptions in movies: that you'll always find a parking spot directly in front of the building you're going to, rather than driving endlessly around a half-mile radius looking for one parking lot with one empty space; and that, the instant you exit a building, there will be an empty taxi waiting for you, available for your fare, and there won't be someone else trying to flag that taxi down at the same time.) So I read The DaVinci Code while in Tulsa (it just came out in paperback). Good book. Lots of political machinations, code and cyphers, bad guys, good guys, chase scenes, etc. (I figured out who "The Teacher" was about halfway through the book.) I'm no art historian, so I don't know the problems with the book in relation to that. However, I am pretty well-versed in computers. So, when I picked up Digital Fortress, also by Dan Brown, at the airport in Tulsa and read it cover to cover by the time my boss deposited me at Mr. OmegaMom's office doorstep in Small University Town, hours later, there were some bones I had to pick with it. (Spoilers ahead!) There's a major plot turn that revolves on the idea that Mr. Bigshot can take a copy of Digital Fortress (an "unbreakable encryption algorithm"), insert his own back door, and replace the copy, thus having a key into all future encrypted files. So far, so good. The problem is that Brown has this file previously released to the Internet. Multiple copies. Flooding the Internet. Everyone eager and waiting for the chance to have the "unbreakable encryption" for themselves, as soon as the key for decrypting the program is available. Soooo.... There's Mr. Bigshot, with his one copy of DF with the hidden back door. There are thousands (if not millions) of copies of DF out on the Internet, without the back door. Once the unencrypted DF (back door installed) hits the Internet, the folks with the encrypted copy can decrypt it and use it to their hearts' content. With no back door. Somehow or other, we're expected to believe that Mr. Bigshot's copy is going to trump or replace all the other copies floating around out there. Sigh. But then, y'know, people can write viruses to penetrate alien computer systems in just an hour or two (Independence Day); teens can dial into and hack into the National Command Center and have the wargaming program play on their PC just like it does in NCC, complete with vocalizations (War Games); Big Major Protection Systems allow multiple attempts to crack a password without locking the person out (it starred Whoopee Goldberg--Hackers??). Blah, blah, blah. It would be interesting to know what real art historians think about The DaVinci Code. What real boners did it contain? It would be interesting to find out. (Oooh! Oooh! I forgot! Major boner (and spoiler) alert for Digital Fortress! The NSA has a vast databank of intelligence information--it's the heart of information for military dudes planning an operation, CIA folks doing analyses, FBI fingerprinting files, etc. It's all housed in one big megacomputer. In a design to make data warehouse and systems security designers faint with envy, it's all easily accessible and compartmentalized by security clearance. Woohoo! Buuut... They don't have a backup. Bwahahaha! Yeah, sure. Riiiiiight. Jabba the head sys-op, computer mind extraordinaire, doesn't have a backup. Riiiiiight. No disaster plans. Riiiiight. Dudes, I work for an itty-bitty facilities maintenance department for a Small Mountain University. WE have a disaster plan, and backups.)
posted by Kate @ 4/23/2006 10:35:00 AM   3 comments

A sentence
Grabbed from another blog: 1. Grab the nearest book. 2. Open it to page 161. 3. Find the fifth sentence. 4. Post the text of the sentence along with these instructions. 5. Don't search around and look for the coolest book you can find. Do what's actually next to you. "Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa--the shield volcanoes that from seafloor to summit are the highest mountains on earth--stand close to the southeasterly tip of the Hawaiian Islands." -- from Rising from the Plains, by John McPhee. OmegaDad is very into John McPhee.
posted by Kate @ 4/22/2006 04:38:00 PM   4 comments

A different kind of "word" issue
When OmegaMom was in her second stint at college, at Loyola University in Chicago, she took a psychology class. Her professor, a man who signed all his commentary on term papers "Dr. Robert H. BlahBlah, Ph.D." (gimme a break! Picture OmegaMom rolling her eyes bigtime on that one!), regularly stood in front of the lecture hall with his big stack of index cards... And read each one... Word for word. I had another professor, a computer professor, who did this in my final college stint at CalState Hayward. He accompanied his reading with overheads. (Do you rememer overheads? How twentieth-century. These days, he'd have a PowerPoint presentation.) Again, word for word. Sheesh. Just give us the overheads at the beginning of class, then let us go outside into the sunlight and read them on our own, why don't you? We had students in that class who sat at the back and slept through every one of his lectures. At the XYZ conference, we had one presenter who did the same thing. Well, almost; he had a PowerPoint presentation with bullet points, but he also had a sheaf of paper on the podium before him, which he read... Word for word. Sigh. He was obviously--obviously--incredibly knowledgeable about the subject. It was a subject that my boss and I were desperately interested in. We really wanted to hear what this guy had to say, how he approached the questions inherent in the subject, how he solved problems we have already encountered. The presentation style, unfortunately, detracted from the gist. (The upside is that we have the presentation in electronic format, so we can read it at our leisure, and we can call him up or arrange a meeting to dig into his expertise further.) The problems with reading your presentation directly from your crib notes: 1) Some people just can't read out loud. Sorry. That's just the God's own truth. 2) The presentees could get that directly from the notes; give us something more to chew on, please. 3) Often, the presenter can only get partway through the presentation--if you're doing it on-the-fly, you can glance at your watch now and then, estimate how much time you have left, and adjust your presentation accordingly. 4) If you're reading from your notes, you are not connecting physically with your audience. In a presentation, you need to be looking at people, using their body language as a gauge to determine if you need to expand on this point, or keep it short and sweet on that one. Outlines are Your Friends. Trust me on this. Do a high-level outline in your PowerPoint. Do a more detailed outline in your notes. Then wing it. If you know your subject dead cold--which this guy did--you'll do just fine. I learned the art of outlining in high school, and have found it to be an invaluable resource in the years since. (Just like typing. Word to the wise: Have your kids take a typing class. It'll be boring, but oh-so-useful.) How did I ace essay tests on a regular basis? I would read the question, and immediately write an outline on the inside front cover of the Blue Book. Higher-level, then bullet points beneath. I'd do this for each question. Then I would write the essay, a paragraph or two for each sub-level. The outline ensured that the essay would be coherent and that I'd cover all the important points. Basic tools from school: Reading. Writing. Arithmetic. Fractions and the art of outlining.
posted by Kate @ 4/22/2006 03:31:00 PM   0 comments

Miz Language Person: Eschew sesquipidalianism
Somewhere in OmegaMom's collection of boxes which have been schlepped from house to home to cottage to apartment to the current Big Pile of Logs (thanks, GrrlTravels, for the nickname!), there is a yellowed, aged clipping from the Wall Street Journal. It is one from a series of ads for a product, service or company that I can't remember, but the ad--that I remember very well (though I had to get the exact wording from Anthony Huey).
Keep it Simple. Strike three. Get your hand off my knee. You're overdrawn. Your horse won. Yes. No. You have the account. Walk. Don't walk. Mother's dead. Basic events require simple language. Idiosyncratically euphemistic eccentricities are the promulgators of triturable obfuscation. What did you do last night? Enter into a meaningful romantic involvement, or fall in love? What did you have for breakfast this morning? The upper part of a hog's hind leg with two oval bodies encased in a shell laid by a female bird, or ham and eggs? David Belasco, the great American theatrical producer, once said: "If you can't write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don't have a clear idea."
As I was growing up, OmegaGranny, a journalist by trade, regularly shared with me the philosophy that if there are two words that can be used in one sentence, the shorter the word, the better. It was a case of "Germanic words" versus "Roman words"; in a fight between "gut" and "abdomen", she said, go with your gut. Some people use a variety of words simply because they love words and playing with words, the sounds, the rhythms, the subtle shadings that different words bring--and that attitude comes through. But then, there are some people who can't write without tossing in long words or unusual synonyms as a code for "Hey! Look at me! I'm educated! I know lots of big words!" I read their writing and grit my teeth; most of the words I know, but the phrasing feels forced and awkward. A former copy-editor, I find myself mentally gripping a red pen, savagely crossing out "sagacious" and replacing it with "wise", "savvy" or "observant" taking the place of "perspicacious". I come away from their writing impressed by their snobbery, not by their writing. Many years ago, I stumbled across a fantasy series by Stephen R. Donaldson, The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant The Unbeliever. Now, I know lots of words--some would say too many. But even I had to read Donaldson's books with a dictionary nearby, looking up at least one word per page, which had the unfortunate byproduct of making the narrative choppy and hard to follow. How can you keep the thread and rhythm of the story when you have to stop, re-read the word, haul out the Big Dic (a little dic wouldn't do because the words were never in there; it had to be the OED), look up the word, then go back and re-read the sentence with the meaning in mind? Fer the love of God and little kittens, why use "clinquant" when "gleaming" or "glistening" are perfectly good words and mean the same thing?? A really rip-roaring good read was turned into drudgery by Donaldson's use of obscure words. Folks, a word of wisdom. If you are thinking of pursuing writing as a career, keep your customer (the reader) in mind. The best way to see if a big word will work is to read your paragraph out loud. If you stumble across that big word, or it sounds clunky in the midst of your sentence, or if you find yourself losing your breath halfway through, stop. Dig out your thesaurus, look up your big word, and go backwards. Look for the smallest words that mean the same thing and have the same shadings of meaning (not just any of the synonyms will do!). Plop them into the paragraph, and re-read it. Remember that if you stumble, your readers are more than likely to stumble, too, and that takes away from the effect you're trying to create. If you're trying to communicate something, showing off your lexicon is the wrong way. The reader doesn't want to know how sagacious and perspicacious you are--the reader wants to be swept away into another world for a while, a world where ringing phones go unanswered, the dishes can wait to be washed, the unpaid bills are ignored, and the book gets carried into the laundry room for one last paragraph before the dryer gets unloaded and the wets go into the dryer. Coming soon: Presenters who read their notes, word-for-word. Argh.
Mr. OmegaMom likes the cut, but says he can't see anything different. My boss, on the other hand, when I snuck back into the presentation rooms to sit in on another session, said, "Oh my Gawd!! I love it! It's red, but it's subtle!" Male versus female.
posted by Kate @ 4/22/2006 09:14:00 AM   2 comments

Gluttony, sloth, greed, pride
Gluttony: The conference here has been just jam-packed with food. Food, food, FOOD. Mostly good food. The joke has been, go to the XYZ conference and spend the next two months on a diet. So, the conference ended, and there was no food scheduled tonight. Ack! What to do, what to do?? Oh, well, say, go to the steakhouse restaurant downstairs and order a prime rib with blackberry barbecue sauce? And the "Five-Star Sampler Dessert"? And a glass of rather yummy dry chardonnay? The dessert sampler: tiramisu (of course, how passé, but very yummy nonetheless), carrot cake (not gluey carrot cake, thank heavens!), chocolate decadence (ahhhhhhhhhhhh...), Italian cream (dunno really what this was), New York cheesecake, and a lemon-creme on top of pound cake type thing. I did split it with my boss, so maybe it only counts as half a gluttony? Sloth: The hotel has, of course, a fitness room. Have I been there? No. There is a riverwalk within half a mile. Have I been there? No. There's a swimming pool. Have I done any swimming? No. Then there's the fact that there is no Small Child Waking Me at 4 A.M. Ahhhh. Sloth is being able to sleep right up until 15 minutes before the start of the first morning session. Ahhhh. Sleep. Ahhhh. Greed: Read that litany about the dessert sampler. That should say it all right there. Pride: Er. Ahem. There's a salon in the hotel. There was ONE morning session during the three days of the conference where none of the breakout sessions appealed to me. I could have been virtuous and worked. I could have been virtuous and exercised. I could have been virtuous and networked and schmoozed. Instead, I poked my head into the salon and asked if they had, by any chance, an opening for a cut and... ...highlights. Yes. I broke down. I got my hair highlighted. It was expensive. (EEEK!) It was not nearly as pricey as it would have been in NYC, but my semi-rural approach to costs suffered a severe shock. The results? If I had blonde hair, this highlighting session would have resulted in just as amazing a golden blonde mane as the women mentioned in that post are seeking. As I am a mere brunette, what I got was a lovely brunette-with-red-tints jobbie that blends in scrumptiously. I am very happy with it. I also purchased a $25 hairbrush. Good God. I am sunk beneath reproach--a perfectly good $6 hairbrush from Target has been my sole hairstyling companion for lo these many years. There are people in this world who could feed their family for a week for the cost of that hairbrush. So all I need now, to complete the litany of sins, is envy, lust, and anger. Hmmm. I think I can pull off the envy and lust, but just can't hack the anger side. I'm much too content, like a fat, slothful cat slumbering in the sunlight. Picture me sprawled across a comforter on my back, arms and legs akimbo, purring drowsily. Home again tomorrow. The Dotter is surviving quite well, thank heavens. OmegaDad informs me that the Little Green Car may be completely fixed. The house? Well, I suspect that rather than some sweet leprechaun having magically cleaned the house, the combination of Dad-n-Dotter may result in me having conniptions when I come in the front door (even us lousy housekeepers have standards, y'know).
posted by Kate @ 4/20/2006 07:10:00 PM   4 comments

The green, green hills of home
I haven't lived in Chicago for 20 years. I haven't missed it lately, either. I'm perfectly happy living in the mountains of the southwest. I adore the vivid clear blue skies, the crystalline clarity of the mornings, the ability to step out of a bathtub, towel yourself off, and be dry, something that was a rarity during Midwestern summers. I love having Indian ruins nearby, deserts within driving distance, skiing within driving distance the other way, mile upon mile upon mile of Ponderosa pines singing in the wind. I don't miss (too much) the ambience of the city, the ability to go wandering through art museums and science museums and huge libraries with windows that tower three stories high. I don't miss (too much) the wide variety of ethnic restaurants, kicky boutiques right next door to chic hair salons right next door to bakeries with pastries to die for. I don't miss all that water. Or so I thought. Then I come visit Tulsa in the springtime. What's that, you say?! TULSA?!?! You're writing this paeon to beautiful nature versus sophisticated cities, and you're talking about Tulsa??? Guys, don't laugh. Don't run me out of town on a rail. This city has--in the very few glimpses of it that I've gotten in between being force-fed massive amounts of very good food and going to breakout sessions--stolen my heart, I think. It's beautiful. There are all these trees, you see. Huge oaks and cottonwoods and maples and...with rolling, lush lawns and gardens...and little creeks winding through the neighborhoods...It's breaking my heart. It's taking me back to my childhood and adolescence and young adulthood in Chicago. All these trees are newly leafed out, with a particular vibrant green that is seen only in springtime, only in the midwest. Rolling landscapes. Neighborhoods where the houses are buried in trees, and no one house looks like another. Little narrow streets that curve this way and that, hooking into the larger grid. And today, they treated us to an outdoor catered dinner at this place. I was able to spend some time ogling artwork--sculptures; six-foot tall paintings with luminous colors leaping out at you; frescos; murals; formal gardens; huge trees; terraces, fountains, balconies, cupolas. I had forgotten how much I loved being able to go to museums. And even though it is "humid" (oh, yes, you midwesterners may think that 23% humidity is dry, dry, dry, but believe me, those of us who live in the southwest can walk outdoors in that 23% humidity and feel the water in the air), and "hot" (95F today), it's a springtime hot and humid, so it caresses your body instead of oppressing your soul, and it's not so humid that when you emerge from the shower and towel off, you feel like you need another shower to cool off. So Tulsa is joining one other midwest city on my list of absolutely beautiful places in the midwest that I might be willing to live in again; Kansas City, Missouri, is the other. You have no idea how this place has keyed into so many deeply buried physical and emotional memories of mine...
posted by Kate @ 4/18/2006 07:01:00 PM   1 comments

Sunday, bloody Sunday
The important part: all is well. The scary part: OmegaDotter, happily dancing along the wooden curb at the park on her way to the playground, trips, falls into the iron fence face first, and proceeds to bleed all over the place. So for fifteen minutes, a worried OmegaMom sits on the door frame of the car, cuddling a weeping dotter, stanching various floods of blood with her T-shirt and gobs of paper towels, and wonders if we have to make a trek to the emergency room. Broken nose? Broken tooth? (No, no, just lots of blood.) The "whew!" part: OmegaDotter decides at the end of the fifteen minutes that she really, truly does want to ride on the dinosaur after all. Ditch the ER idea. The "oops, I forgot what it would look like" part: OmegaMom and dotter arrive back home after a few hours; OmegaDad bounces over from his gardening to describe his afternon...and sees THE SHIRT!!! ALL COVERED WITH GREAT BIG BLOOD SPLOTCHES!!!! and goes into panic mode ("Where's the dotter?! What happened?!?!") before OmegaMom can repeat "It's all OKAY!" loudly enough so that it penetrates the panicky defenses. Nobody can prepare you for that OH MY GOD SHE'S REALLY HURT fear that clutches your gut. And, dayum, it leaves you feeling totally worn out afterwards. I don't like adrenaline rushes. But in the end, all is well, we're back home, OmegaDad had fun in the garden, dotter had fun at the playground, and OmegaMom got only a few more gray hairs out of the deal.
posted by Kate @ 4/16/2006 05:04:00 PM   3 comments

That Easter Bunny is mighty sneaky
Somehow, during the night, the Easter Bunny snuck into our house and left a basket for OmegaDotter. OmegaDotter had to look for paw prints. No paw prints = sneaky bunny. OmegaDad offered to lock the doors and windows to the house next year, which was met with a horrified, "NO!" OmegaDotter is suspicious:

No longer suspicious, but excited:

Checking out the loot:

Everything arranged neatly:

There ought to be a law against taking pictures of women who have just woken up. OmegaDotter and Mr. OmegaMom did most of the bunny basket while OmegaMom was still asleep; then, OmegaDotter, excited beyond belief, came and yanked OmegaMom out of a sound and blissful slumber (she was jumping up and down next to the bed: "Mom! Mom! The Easter Bunny came and he brought horsies!"). Unbeknownst to me, Mr. OmegaMom was taking pics. You do not get to see them. I have some shreds of dignity left. If you had told the Omegas, four years ago, that we would willingly be bringing My Little Pony stuff into this house, and paying for it...I would have laughed your head off. How the mighty have fallen!
posted by Kate @ 4/16/2006 09:04:00 AM   4 comments

Words from the heart
I think I'm going to sit down at the hotel desk while I'm in Mid-Size Midwest City this coming week and write Mr. OmegaMom a letter or two. What brought this on? This heartfelt wish from a widower that he and his wife had exchanged letters, so that he could have, as he says, "a letter from her, in her bold, beautiful script, to read and reread." He has photos, he has videos, he has recordings...snapshots and vignettes of a long life shared. But what he wishes he had, in retrospect, are her thoughts, something tangible, direct from her to him. Mr. OmegaMom is a wonderful letter writer. He has always sent me letters when we are apart--some funny, some serious, some just quick notes to say, "I love you! I miss you!" Our first summer apart, when I was back in my little cottage in California and he was living in a 20-foot trailer in Lubbock and subsisting on ramen and tuna on a graduate assistant's pittance, he sent me a series of funny postcards, pictures of animals in odd situations or positions, each with a quick sketch in words of what he was doing, or thinking, or feeling. Every few days I would come home, open the mailbox, and discover yet another amusing tidbit of living on the Llano Estacado, and a verbal hug to envelop me in his love. I became addicted to that moment, and found myself waiting expectantly each day to see what the postman would bring. If there was a drought of letters, nothing in the mailbox for days on end, during one of our endless phone calls I would meekly request a fix. I was never very good about reciprocating, which is odd as I have always been a writer. So, while I have a box filled to bursting with his letters and postcards and pictures sent to me, he doesn't have much. Shaw's essay about wishing he had something tangible to hold onto now that his wife is gone inspires me to see if I can't do more.
posted by Kate @ 4/15/2006 11:06:00 AM   1 comments

Ships that pass in the night
Mr. OmegaMom has been going out in the field quite often lately. Add this to his night class once per week, plus a tuckered-out OmegaMom falling asleep with OmegaDotter when putting her to bed, and the following vignette makes sense: OmegaMom and Mr. OmegaMom meet in the kitchen Wednesday morning. Mr. OmegaMom does a double-take, then holds out his hand. "Hi! My name's Mr. OmegaMom...Do I know you?" Sigh. Wednesday went downhill from there. There was OmegaDotter telling OmegaMom she stunk (as in smelled bad). There was the big gold Nissan Frontier that backed up into the Little Green Car's fender. OmegaMom, who had just gotten into the LGC and was putting it into gear to head out of the daycare parking lot, thought she had popped the clutch big time and wasn't quite sure how it had happened, when she heard a SCREECH BANG POP, turned her head, and saw the BGNF pulling itself off her fender. Then there was the hurried scramble to produce a "Welcome to big facilities management system!" powerpoint for a subgroup of the department that is switching over, while at the same time contacting the insurance company, the body shop, the car rental company, etc. Then there was the rental car attacking OmegaMom when she opened the driver-side door after picking up the dotter. Okay, it didn't attack, but the door is shaped like a pointy triangle, and is a different size than the LGC's door, and OmegaMom's body memory had her head right here when opening the door, which is where that pointy triangle wanted to go. (No biggie, just a cute little triangular dent by the side of the nose.) Then, in hopes of vegging out and recuperating from the day, OmegaMom bops onto the computer to do some mindless surfing, and discovers that, yet again, the cable has gone out for the time between 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. Thursday was better. Friday was better. But would I be a Bad Mommy to admit that I'm super glad to be going on a business trip next week? The mere thought of four nights of uninterrupted sleep...Ahhhh. Even if the trip is to a city in the middle of Tornado Alley in the springtime, the dream of luxurious, quiet hotel rooms is drifting through my head. But, after I get back, Mr. OmegaMom is out in the field the next week. Then we have a week together, then he has a field review for a week, then he's in Indiana for a fellowship for a week (woohoo! He applied on a lark, and got it, and he's pumped!), and then he has a soils workshop to go to the week after that. It sure would be nice to see him a bit more often.
posted by Kate @ 4/14/2006 07:42:00 PM   0 comments

Rowrbazzlin' trackback links that don't work...
Grrr. The story of the quilt is HERE. My other link didn't work. Go read it. All full of heartwarming mushy goodness that'll make you believe that, yes, people are good.
posted by Kate @ 4/13/2006 02:37:00 PM   0 comments

The "value" of the blogging community
A while back, I wrote a defense of blogging in response to some quoted commentary from Big Name Media types. I must note that the quote I attributed to Andrew Keen is only partially his; the "I grow weary of your scribblings" was actually contained in a paragraph which said, paraphrased, "It is as if he is saying 'I grow weary of your scribblings'." Fair is fair; the guy himself did not say the weary phrase. However, he did ask, "What is the value of your experiences?" Out there in Internetland there are some true hard cases. Con men and women extraordinaire. People grifting off of others. People pulling health hoaxes--for psychological or monetary reasons. People whose sole purpose in life seems to be making others miserable. But then, you run across a story like this. Short version: A community of infertile bloggers grows. One of the bloggers becomes, quite happily, pregnant after infertility treatment. Then, with no warning, she delivers quite prematurely. One of her buddies in the IF blogging community pulls together a surprise long-distance baby shower for her premature baby, and all the bloggers send gifts and well wishes. The shower buddy, however, has no luck with IF treatments, IVF, etc., and is turning towards surrogacy. The showeree (an accomplished quilter) puts together an online fund-raising raffle with a gorgeous quilt as the grand prize. The raffle pulls in $7,300+. Read the post. Ogle the gorgeous quilt. Read the comments. Think of the "value" this community has found in blogging. Oh, not the monetary value. The sharing value. The caring value. The intertwining of lives and emotions and support. Anyone who says that the "community" one finds on the Internet is valueless just hasn't found the right community. These people aren't blogging for the money (which seems to be a big attractor for many of those who write about "why blog?"). They aren't blogging for the fame (another apparent attractor). They went into the blogging biz to trace their journey through life, and found others whose lives were following parallel paths, or paths that followed the same main highway, then branched off in different directions. I have some folks who I have been posting with for anywhere from four years to more than seven years. (Shout out to Kate, who I will forever think of as "Colleen Donohue", her nom de plume for many years; to Carpe; to Cathy; to LizC; to Carol Anne; to AmyNoLongerOnTheRez; to LaNelle; to Miss Cellania; to Paula and Vaughn and Jzygale and Phoenix and Dawn and Mindy and and and...) And thanks to blogging, I am expanding my circle of online friends, discovering others who are leading parallel lives, whose experiences and the sharing of those experiences help me as I tread the murky waters of motherhood and getting older and being a moderate in a world which seems to becoming more and more polarized by the day. (A big howdy to Johnny--start writing again, dammit!, Mrs. Figby, Karen, Figlet, PAGent, bh, Gigi, and and and...) People posting on the Internet are more than just words on a computer screen. Blogging can be a blast of ego, mere blathering on petty subjects, but it can be much more. It can be plain information from different points of view--if you're open to it (and the blogger isn't frothing at the mouth!). It can be a community. It can be friends. Hi, friends.
posted by Kate @ 4/12/2006 10:14:00 PM   6 comments

Don't bother me with that stuff...
Joel on Software has a splendid article called The Development Abstraction Layer which probably won't interest anyone outside the software biz. But since I liked it so much, and the model applies to so many other businesses, I thought I'd post it. I wanna work on that yacht, for that crusty old fart...
posted by Kate @ 4/12/2006 07:12:00 AM   0 comments

All the queen's horses
So here's the panorama (the dresser is in the pic to give you context):

And here are the new horses:

The tan and brown horse was supposed to be Spirit. Alas, I didn't really look at Spirit himself to get the colors; Spirit is blonde and black. Sigh. But OmegaDotter is okay with it--this is Spirit's cousin, y'see, and his name is John. John. Not "Wind". Not "Dancer". Not something imaginative. John. Ah, well. Anyway, now OmegaDotter wants more horsies, on the wall which her bed is up against. We'll see.
posted by Kate @ 4/11/2006 08:05:00 PM   4 comments

My love affair with doomsagers
Cast your mind back seven years. We (the Western World) were creeping up on the year 2000. There were folks who were relishing the thought of ushering in a new millennium. Please, please, let's not have a philosophical argument as to whether 2000 was the first year of the new millennium or 2001 was--whichever, there were folks who were hyped. There were the various doomsday cults that foresaw a new Rapture, sweeping up the Blessed and leaving the Damned (that would be me and my family and cohorts) behind. And then there were the Y2K nuts. I was--peripherally, at least--one of them. I discovered comp.systems.y2k early that year on Usenet. I read it compulsively. There were all these computer pros passionately arguing the question: WILL all the systems that run our utilities, our produce delivery logistics, our clocks, our microwave ovens, all crash at once or not? Is it TEOTWAKI (The End of the World As We Know It) or not? There was the guy whose buddy, nicknamed "The Baron", was building a self-sufficient compound in Florida to retreat to when it all came crashing down, with food supplies sufficient to feed his followers and ammo sufficient to fend off the hordes of starving urbanites who would--undoubtedly--come crashing at the gates. There were arguments as to whether the worst effects would be from financial systems crashing, or from all those embedded chips running things like electrical grids. And there were the scoffers, the non-believers, the ones who said their companies' systems were all fixed and ready to go. I listened. I worried. When autumn came, and it started getting chilly, I persuaded Mr. OmegaMom to purchase two cords of wood to tide us through the winter if all went whacky. We would, I reasoned, heat the house with our woodstove if necessary. I had us purchase some extra food and water to stash in the garage. Um. Well, if you were to visit the Omega homestead now, you would find us with half a cord of extremely well-seasoned wood neatly stacked and covered by (newer) tarps over by our fence. It burns spectacularly well. It was very nice to have on hand last New Year's, when the power went out for two days and we didn't have heat. The food is long gone, thank heavens. In other words, Y2K was not TEOTWAKI. But, damn, it was so convincing! I always liked the doom and gloom end-of-the-world science fiction stories, a la David Brin's "The Postman", or the variety of novels dealing with post-plague society. Heinlein's "Farnham's Freehold" was one of my earlier SF tidbits. All of this may key in to an almost Germanic melodrama and pessimism to my personality. It's genetic, I think; my dad had similar tendencies, as does OmegaBro. Anyway, the latest doomsaging comes in three flavors: World culture clash between Islam and Christianity brings down civilization! Peak Oil threatens us in our lifetimes! Global warming will swamp our coastlines and throw our weather systems totally out of whack! (There's also the libruhl conspiracy theory of BushCo trying to impose martial law, that's always a nice scary thought.) Choices, choices. Which disaster shall I choose? Which disaster will choose us?? So, I chomp them up. I think about things. And, is my wont, I worry. But I don't let it ruin my life. Yet. Though there seems to be ample opportunity for me to decide to purchase another two cords of wood to tide us through FimbulWinter...
posted by Kate @ 4/10/2006 05:41:00 PM   2 comments

Torture (warning: TMI!)
Woe! Woe, I say, WOE is me! Or, scrambled and delettered, like some puzzles: OW is me. One always reads about medieval torturers doing things such as putting people on the rack, using hot pincers, and pulling out finger- and toenails. OmegaMom is awake at 3:30 a.m. writing this post because the Evil Killer Toenail Fungus, combined with stupid OmegaMom picking at her toenails while reading about George Bush and his cohorts thinking of going to war with Iran and, possibly, using nuclear warheads there (you gotta admit, that's enough to make anyone pick at their toenails!), um...kinda...sorta...pulled a toenail out. And is suffering the after-effects. Now I know why it was favored by the Spanish Inquisition ("Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"). The weird thing is that it doesn't hurt that badly when my full weight is upon it (say, standing up, walking around, sitting at the computer in my typical pose--one knee up, the other flopped over, like the stereotypical image of some historic person whose name escapes me at the moment). No, it hurts like hell when I'm lying down and trying to sleep. The little pained-puppy whimpers that twisted from my lips did not, in fact, awaken Mr. OmegaMom. Now, tiptoeing into the bedroom to avoid startling him, a sound which one would think would be masked by his incredible ability to snore, will send him into a frenzy where I have to pat him on the shoulder and go, "There, there!" like I do with OmegaDotter, and secretly get bent out of shape at his hyper-vigilance against potential robbers, stalkers, house-mayhem-provokers, etc. But when I'm in pain, does he wake up? Nope.
About BushCo: Three options. Either it's exactly what Ahmadinejad is claiming, "psychological operations", with the Bush Admin wanting to jangle their nerves while simultaneously pressuring on the diplomatic front, or it's disgruntled BushCo types venting, or else it's the God's Honest Truth. GHT can be broken down two ways: Either the nukular option is just a far-fetched possibility that is being tossed about and planned for, because that's what military planners do, or else BushCo really intend to do it. Unfortunately, given BushCo's record, I'm inclined to think there's some truth to the whole shebang. Also, given BushCo's record, I'm inclined to think there's very very little attention being paid to the post-Shock-and-Awe logistics. The whole world often seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, and here I am with a torturous toe.
On a more frivolous note, the Dotter is going about asking us, "Who wants to be a dead fish?!" in a very bright and chipper voice, like asking, "Who wants some ice cream?!" Where does she get this stuff?? The horsie mural is complete. Pics to come.
posted by Kate @ 4/10/2006 03:30:00 AM   0 comments

Minor triumph
OmegaMom, after hovering around a Technorati rank of 100,200 for weeks 'n weeks 'n weeks, has finally broken 100,000:

Woohoo! Banana dance time!
posted by Kate @ 4/08/2006 11:01:00 AM   3 comments

You say it's your birthday???
Yeah, well, it's OmegaMom's birthday. Shameless plug to get pats on the head and lurkers to comment. I am now officially on the downhill side of the downhill side of my 40s. Ack! Last night, while I was snuggling with OmegaDotter, she learned over my shoulder and whispered, "It's your birthday tomorrow!"...pause..."Are you excited?!?!" Awwww. Yeah, sweetie, I'm excited, because you're excited. Funny how that goes.
posted by Kate @ 4/08/2006 09:26:00 AM   9 comments

A failure to communicate
OmegaMom reads a particular adult Korean adoptee's blog on a fairly regular basis. So do other adoptive parents on the Big List. We're reading the same things. OmegaMom comes away from this person's blog seeing an almost-30 gal who is a successful freelance journalist, married to a loving person, a kick-ass writer, funny, loving, living a good life--who happens to have a few issues about being an Asian-American adoptee. Other people come away from her blog seeing a bitter, maladjusted, Adult Adoptee With Issues. Yet another person (well-loved by OmegaMom) reads a post on the same person's blog and comes away offended at being labeled as "having no culture"--whereas I read that same post and came away seeing people who are trying to appropriate their adopted child's culture being labeled as "living in fear of having no culture". Two totally different interpretations. In another scene, a famed and noted population ecologist gives a speech at the Texas Academy of Sciences, urging, among other things, that humanity should be stewards of the earth, rather than dominators of the earth. He further goes on to reiterate what population biologists have been saying for years: a crowded population of any species that overruns its habitat is a tempting biological target for disease to ravage, and humanity is reaching that point. A few hundred attendees stand and applaud. One attendee listens and hears a Dr. Strangelove plotting to eliminate 90% of the human population, or luring his students to do so, and writes it up that way in a newspaper. The scientist is overwhelmed with death threats and a visit from the Department of Homeland Security as a result. (OmegaBro, an ecologist Ph.D., when questioned about this dude, responded with typical turgidity that included phrases such as "We are not actually speaking of simple linear starvation models here, but, rather, much more complex models of multiple system insults and cumulative debilitative effects, embedded in extraordinary spatio-temporal heterogeneity of drivers and responses... " I dearly love OmegaBro. I really, truly do. The scary thing is that I understood what he was saying. The heart-rending thing is that I read that and it is my dad all over again, except with an emphasis in ecology, not mathematics and physics.) In an online debate, OmegaMom once said that she understood people who had children that died returning to work right away, because they might see work as a distraction from grief. One reader took this as a recommendation that all parents do this, and scathingly took OmegaMom to task as a cold, heartless person who had no understanding of just how horrible having a child die would be. (Luckily, the majority of the people in the debate realized what OmegaMom's point was; otherwise OmegaMom might have checked herself into a hospital for some severe headshrinking to figure out why what she said one way got warped into something totally different.) It's a game of telephone out there. No matter what you say or write or express through art, your audience will view it through their own perceptions, their own filters. Even if you strive to be precise in an email, say, your typical reader reads the first paragraph only, and you are doomed to frustration when your coworker comes and asks you a series of questions, all of which were already answered in your email. If I say "green", what do you see? If you say "tasty", does your "tasty" mean the same thing as what I mentally taste? We all strive to communicate, and society has shortcuts and conventions that help. So when you do say "green", you can at least have a fair assurance that what I see will be related to what you were talking about. But when you bring emotional overtones into what is being said--adoption issues, doomsday scenarios of the earth, grief over a child--the message you try to convey will be read through a myriad of personal lenses. Sometimes the message that ends up being conveyed will leave you gasping, floundering, saying, "But...but...But that's not what I meant!"
posted by Kate @ 4/07/2006 08:45:00 PM   3 comments

Another universe (more hair stuff)
OmegaMom is most definitely not blonde. Cast your eyeballs over to the right, to the picture of the Omega females, and you'll see: dark brown (me), very greyed brown (OmegaGranny), black-brown (OmegaDotter). Not a blonde hair amongst us. OmegaMom is not a Fashion Maven, either. I attained my pinnacle of make-up wearing at my wedding eight years ago, where one of my cousins, more adept at fashion and make-up, painted my face--very nicely, I might add. I don't think I've worn make-up since then. I wear Tevas with socks (in the winter) and without socks. Hiking boots. Mom jeans. Turtlenecks during the winter, boatneck tees in the summer. Recently, in a frenzy of de-cluttering in preparation for re-doing OmegaDotter's bedroom, I emptied the closet and storage boxes of old semi-chic wool skirts and linen suits and dresses left over from my days of being a City Gal, way back when. We won't discuss how long ago those days were, or how many times I schlepped those unused clothes along on moves. Here in Small University Town, people wear jeans and sweaters (albeit nice jeans and sweaters) to eat at the high-priced, celebratory-dinner-venue Continental restaurant in town. The only times I see women wearing dresses is at the university symphony performances. It's just not a dressy kind of atmosphere. So when I clicked through from Kitchen Table Math to this NYTimes article on The Golden Girls, it was like reading about an alien race on a distant planet. The article is talking about the phenomenon of "The New York Blonde", apparently a fashion cliché in and around Manhattan. Women who spend big bucks and lots of time in pursuit of the perfect blonde highlighting session. Women who feel that it "creates in the viewer a sense of lack, a message that says, 'I have more than you.' This is power." Highlighting sessions that cost $500. (Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor. The Omegas own a car that has a Blue Book value--if you're really generous--about that much.) I suppose spending that kind of time and money and effort to achieve such a perfect look means "power" to some folk. To me...well...I have never been a girly-girl to that extent. My grandma, whose favorite pastime when I was a teen seemed to be picking at my hair and saying things like, "You'd look so nice if you only..." was always frustrated by my lack of girly-girlishness. She was also frustrated with OmegaGranny's lack thereof, though looking at pics of OmegaGranny from the late '50s, early '60s, she seems to have looked awfully sleek and sophisticated. All that fussing around with hair and make-up and clothes seemed like a waste of good time to me, time better spent reading or thinking or daydreaming. Like my mother before me I perfected a somewhat slap-dash method of putting on make-up, which was, if not required, at least expected of a city gal, but it was at most a desultory attempt. The experiences I had with younger girl cousins who would vanish into bathrooms before family outings and stay in there for an hour and a half before emerging with big hair and lots of make-up always left me baffled. Why spend all that time hiding away and primping and preening when you could be spending time in conversation with all these interesting people? (Okay, that's an assumption right there--I found them interesting, but perhaps to 18-year-olds, they were a bunch of old fuddy-duddies.) The upshot of all this blather: OmegaMom, who is contemplating a small amount of highlighting to cover up the encroaching gray hair (o vanity of vanities, all is vanity!), will never be the owner of a glorious golden mane of hair. Eh. That's okay. I always wanted red hair, anyway. Red heads were interesting. The "blondes have more fun" attitude simply perplexed me; what they were doing just didn't seem "fun" at all. Which is, I suppose, the base of it all: an alien point of view. I'd rather spend a morning hunched over the computer reading blogs. (Disclaimer: I did get my hair permed many many times. OmegaGranny tells me, in retrospect, that it was "poodle hair". Sigh. Looking back, I have to admit she was right. Herewith some evidence.)

posted by Kate @ 4/06/2006 09:59:00 PM   4 comments

Hair drama and The Bribe
I regaled my horde (::snicker::) of readers with The Hair Drama two (Ed.: Whoops! Three!) weeks ago. You may recall that I threatened to cut off OmegaDotter's hair if she didn't quit her bellyachin' about combing. I really, really meant to. But Mr. OmegaMom came up with The Bribe. There was this horse, you see, at Target. A large horse. Very large. It had a saddle. Stirrups. Reins. It was big enough for OmegaDotter to sit upon. It was only $30. Mr. OmegaMom laid out the deal: Be Nice About The Hair (for five days in a row), and you will get an extra dollar for your weekly allowance and we will allow you to go buy The Horse. This was enough to cause OmegaDotter to contemplate not caterwauling when confronted with the comb. For a mere four days in a row. Whoops. There went The Horse. After much pleading and misery, the Omegas relented. Mr. OmegaMom replayed the deal. Five days in a row. No less. Well. OmegaDotter accomplished this Herculean task. Then we ran into a slight snag. Mr. OmegaMom, scouting out the scene after work, discovered that Target no longer had The Horse!!! Oops. We dithered. We dallied. We avoided the whole question of Target. (OmegaDotter did, however, get the extra dollar--for two weeks in a row!) OmegaMom secretly harbored the hope that the dotter would simply forget The Horse. Hah. So we called Target. We begged them to let us know when it arrived on the shelves again. We deftly redirected OmegaDotter by having OmegaMom continue painting horsies on her wall, and OmegaMom, on the altar of pain, tried appliquing a horsie for the dotter. In a last ditch effort, OmegaMom posted to one of her lists, requesting that anyone who located such a critter would be A God In Her Eyes, or words to that effect. That same day, Mr. OmegaMom called Target again. The Kozmik All stands for balance and harmony in all things: Target had the creature today. OmegaDotter is now the proud owner of "Frankie":

This thing is HUGE. OmegaDotter is happy.

OmegaDotter still has the hair. The grand sturm und drang of hair combing has subsided. OmegaDotter has promised that this will continue. We shall see. We still have to tackle the concept of "paying Daddy back". Hmmm.
posted by Kate @ 4/05/2006 07:10:00 PM   2 comments

Balance and harmony
So thinking about the "Turtle Pose" (in conjunction with computers) led OmegaMom to thinking about proper posture, exercise, and yoga. The "Turtle Pose" I speak of looks similar to this picture, but envision it a bit more hunched over and the head squinched back even further:

This is not to be confused with the real Turtle Pose, from yoga:

In yoga, the emphasis is on (of course) stretching, flexibility, and balance--physical (as in the Tree Pose) and spiritual--and in balancing each movement with another movement. Hence, you have Downward Facing Dog followed by, say, The Cobra.


Another kind of balance is between action and inaction, or tension versus relaxation. Thus, you have tadasana, the Mountain Pose, paired with its opposite, savasana, the Corpse (or relaxation) Pose. In tadasana, you are focused, strong, centered. You plant your feet solidly down to the earth, and stretch your spine strongly upward, one long, strong line sweeping from your feet through your spine and up out of the center of your head. You are centering your body so that you are prepared to move into any other standing pose--Warrior Pose, the upward stretch, the downward bend--and balanced so that you can move into any of the balance poses. In savasana, you are relaxed, loose, centered mentally. Ideally, you are supposed to empty your mind of all thoughts, and just be. Be your breath, moving in and out. Be a body, soaking into the ground. At its best, savasana has me feeling like I am melting into the earth, the layer of molecules on the surface of my body meshing with the layer of molecules on my blanket. You float, you exist, in a timeless moment of perfect relaxation. Ahhh. Now, truth be told, I can't reach that state of mindless being, but I have developed three differing strategies to get very close. The first is related to a story written by Dianna Wynne Jones, Fire and Hemlock, a retelling of TamLin. (Great book, by the way, and great writer. If you ever get the chance to read Dark Lord of Derkholm, and you are a fantasy lover, the book will have you howling with laughter.) In Fire and Hemlock, there is an image of two puzzle urns, with letters written on them; if you spin the urns, the letters combine in a variety of manners. "Now here", "Nowhere", "New hero", "Here now". I use the phrases "Now here" and "Nowhere" as a mantra, thinking one as I breathe in, the other as I breathe out. Unfortunately, this is often interrupted with snippets and scenes from the book. Oops. A Yogi I am not. Then there's the "golden lifeforce" visualization, which is very new-agey and woo-woo. In this one, I envision the life around me emanating streams of golden energy; as I breathe in, I suck in the golden streams and they coalesce into a fiery golden ball below my navel. As I breathe out, I envision the golden energy pulsing outward from that center through each of my limbs and head, emerging like sunbeams from my toes, my fingertips, and the crown of my head. The third visualization I use is floating through an idealized vision of Monument Valley, and is rather hard to describe. It's very relaxing and peaceful, though. The key thing to savasana, though, is to let go. Let go of the picayune details of the day. Let go of the tension in all the muscles of the body. Let go of the world, and just be. The end result: OmegaMom emerges from a yoga session to share in the shanti blessing feeling totally limp, noodly, and one with the world. Shanti. Shanti. Shanti. Peace. Peace be with you. Peace to your family, your friends, your loved ones. Peace to all people walking on this earth. Peace to all living creatures. Shanti. Shanti. Shanti. The feeling of Oneness With the Kozmik All continues as I walk out the door and get into my car. The feeling of meshing molecules continues as I sink luxuriously into the car seat, every muscle in my back conforming easily to the contours of the seat. But, alas, the peace slowly seeps away as I smell the aroma of old cheese that is somewhere in the car which we can't seem to locate (I blame OmegaDotter!). And dealing with the pure physical necessity of driving home and coping with Other Drivers makes the peaceful "be-ing" hard to keep in the moment. But...ah. Savasana. While you're in that moment, it is a blissful place to be.
posted by Kate @ 4/04/2006 02:11:00 AM   0 comments

A walk in the woods
Now that the sun is setting later, accompanied by balmy temperatures, OmegaMom was inspired to haul Dawg and Dotter off for a walk in the woods. "OmegaDotter...Do you want to go for a walk in the woods?" OmegaMom asked. Dawg made no bones about it--he was thrilled at the idea, as he ran back and forth from where his leash is stashed to OmegaMom's feet. OmegaDotter, bouncing up and down, seemed to feel the same way. OmegaMom, mindful of the fickle nature of toddlers and the easy ability to weary quickly, mentally selected a nice flat spot that was once one of her favorites to take an evening walk. The same spot on the dirt road has a rigorous climb to the left and a flat road spur going off to the right; the climb is a favored spot for mountain bikers, and leads to the top of a mesa covered with pines and oaks, very pretty. The lower walk is milder, quieter, and often has wildflowers. OmegaDotter, happily ensconsed (ensconced?) in the car, proudly showed off her new-born ability to fasten the buckles on her safety belt, then demanded that Dawg get in the back seat. Dawg did not comply. We drove off, off our (oooooh!) new pavement and onto the dirt roads which OmegaMom warned dotter were "lumply bumply". OmegaDotter watched and crowed as we drove through mud puddles and bumped this way up and that way down. We located the turnoff, parked the car, Dawg bounded out, dotter struggled out of her straps and buckles and we headed off. "Can we find flowers, Mommy?" "Yes, dear, but I don't think there are any--" Dotter finds dried flowers. "Oooh, look, flowers! Can I pick them, Mommy?" Yes, dotter... We head off down the road, Dawg galloping past and bounding gleefully ahead. Dotter goes barreling after him. OmegaMom mentally notes this behavior and decides to shorten the walk, knowing that Very Soon Now, dotter will proclaim her absolute bone weariness and demand to be carried. There's wet sand in the road. Dotter wants to write her name. Mommy and dotter take turns with a large stick; mommy writes a letter, then dotter writes a letter. "G"s are very hard, and require much coaching. Then it's off again. Dotter calls out, "Mommy! Mommy! You can't catch me!" and dashes off. Mom, wisely conserving energy, merely picks up the pace a tad. Dotter races after Dawg, shouting, "I'm gonna getcha, Dawg!" Poor Dawg, nonplussed, keeps trotting on ahead of her. Dawg stops to do what Dawgs do. "Ewwww! Mommy, what's Dawg doing? Is he peeing, Mommy? Is that how dogs pee?" Dash. Stop. Turn. Shout. Demand to write Mommy's name. Dash. Stop. "Mommy, come after me with your hands doing this!" (Dotter demonstrates the "I'm gonna getcha" hand movement, which looks strikingly like a goose pecking at someone.) Mommy obliges. Pretty soon: "Mooooommy! I'm tired! Let's rest!" So we "rest" on a stump. For dotter, "resting" consists of climbing up on the stump, stomping her feet, peering down, climbing on mommy, demanding to pet Dawg, climbing off, climbing on...you get the idea. Mommy says that it's time to turn around. "AWWWWW!" No buts about it, kiddo. Off we go! Dotter wants to get wet sand for daddy. "Okay, but it has to go in your coat pocket, Dotter!" Dotter packs her coat pocket with wet sand. We move on. Pretty soon: "Moooommy! Can you carry me on your back?!" "Nope--that's why we turned around so soon, sweetie. But I can hold your hand while we walk, is that okay?" A small, warm hand gets thrust into mine, trusting and loving. We walk on. "I like this, Mommy." "What, sweetie?" "The handiness." She swings their hands. Mommy practically melts into a puddle. "I like it, too, sweetie." More wet sand gets stashed in the coat pocket. Muddy hands get mischeivously rubbed on Mommy's jeans and on the back of her jacket. "Ooooh, look! Look, Mommy!" We have arrived at Mama's name written in the dirt. We move on. Soon, it's time to march. "Let's do the ants, Mommy!" Mommy starts singing with Dotter, but, oh, no, that's not permitted. "I'm the small one, Mommy! You go on ahead! But you have to march, to get down into the ground!" We march on. Pine cones, pine needles, dried flowers from last year, mud, wet sand, dawg--all get commented on. Once upon a time, OmegaMom loved walking and hiking in the woods in silence, listening to the wind and the birds and the "plop" of pinecones falling out of trees. This walk in the woods was a totally different sort of love. Last year, OmegaDotter couldn't have handled it. This year, she is full of excitement and dancing and skipping and running, and it is beautiful. Just like her.
posted by Kate @ 4/03/2006 06:58:00 PM   0 comments

In which our heroine suffers a setback
I don't waaaaaant to cheat on the applique! I want the dotter to have soft-focus memories of her darling mudder seated on the divan, sewing hoop in hand, working diligently on a Labor of Love...sort of like this:

A very pretty daydream, trust me. But, Miss C. and Theresa, you may have OmegaMom joining you in the ranks of the no-sew (or machine-sew) shortcutters very soon. It seems that an hours' worth of teeny-tiny hand-stitching awoke an old Nemesis. Many moons ago, OmegaMom had a few days' worth of intense data entry on a database she was playing with. By the end of the 2nd day, her wrist was in intense pain when twisted, there was a mechanical icepick jabbing into her upper arm every thirty seconds, she could trace her radial nerve just by the bruise-like pain in her arm, and a variety of fingers had gone numb. Let me tell you, this was Not Fun. And it didn't go away. So OmegaMom trucked off to the doc's office and said, "I have this pain..." The physician's assistant, a lovely lady with the name of Nitza, a rattail down her back emerging from her just-below-the-ears haircut, and a brusque, no-nonsense manner, had OmegaMom sit down on a chair, then she came up in front of her, pressed her hands on OmegaMom's head, and bore down with all her weight. OmegaMom shrieked as the icepick JABBED with ferocious enthusiasm. Nitza promptly wrote up a prescription for physical therapy. OmegaMom really dug her physical therapist, a new-agey gal who, in addition to traditional PT stuff like ultrasound massages, traction, exercises, and just plain old behavior modification (N.B.: do not sit at your computer desk peering like a turtle. This is not good physical form.), was also into really neat-o keen-o stuff like Zero Balancing (which really works). Long story short: it took six months of physical therapy for the little man with the icepick to go away and for OmegaMom to be able to grab her purse from the passenger seat in the car without gasping in pain. The Nemesis seems to have returned. Hopefully for a short stay. But, just in case you ever thought of driving your cute sporty stick-shift Outback Sport along the twisty-turny dirt road from Bone Valley through Mineral Basin and back up to Small Mountain City the day after you've reawakened such a Nemesis, here's a clue: Don't. Just don't do it. Even if the scenery is grand and the company pleasant. Because you, too, will find yourself popping ibuprofen and aspirin like it was candy, and mournfully regarding a half-finished horsie applique with the dire suspicion that That Horse is the cause of all your pain.
posted by Kate @ 4/02/2006 08:46:00 PM   2 comments

Fiddly stuff
So I spent the past hour doing this:

The back was easy-peasy. The sharp turns, though. Argh! Like where the horse's tail hits the horse's body? And the tip of the tail? And, coming soon, the bottom of where the horse's tail hits the horse's body? Argh! I had to take a break to let my eyeballs and wrist rest. Any appliquers out there? With advice? Like where to find a pair of small scissors with very sharp blades? And how to handle those fiddly little corners? I am bound and determined to beat this thing. I have DREAMS, I tell you, DREAMS! Visions of a duvet cover to match the horsie mural are dancing through my head... Slap me, someone!
posted by Kate @ 4/01/2006 02:12:00 PM   3 comments

Coming soon, an anniversary
On April 18, you are likely to be seeing a multimedia showcase in every news source available about the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake. It was a magnitude 7.7 to 8.3 (disagreement abounds on this one, due to it occurring before the science of seismology was as advanced as it is now, and the magnitude being determined by historical accounts, rather than seismograph readings). It affected some 300 miles of the San Andreas fault, resulted in 700 recorded deaths (though the USGS says that there were probably 3 times as many deaths), and caused the great San Francisco Fire. By comparison, the Loma Prieta Earthquake of 1989, which caused such damage to the SF Bay area, was a 7.0 magnitude. Thus, the 1906 earthquake was anywhere from 7 times as intense to 13 times as intense. Think of that. Anyone who was in SF during and after the Loma Prieta quake, and recalls the great damage that was done by that, should stop and think just how devastating an earthquake of the magnitude of the 1906 quake would be. The USGS has a fantastic website about the 1906 quake. But even more interesting, in a horrific and amazing and intriguing way, are the simulations of the ground movement on another USGS website, passed on to me by OmegaGranny via email this morning. The main simulation at the top shows waves of movement rippling outwards from the San Andreas Fault, a great overview, but it's the regional and local views that are staggering. The simulations exaggerate the ground movement by 1000 times, so that it's easy to see over large areas, and the effects are awe-inspiring. You can watch the ground move horizontally and vertically, as each ripple sweeps past. Even the low-resolution clips are big (5 MB, for example), so don't click on them unless you have a good broadband connection. When I moved to the Bay Area in 1990, many friends and relatives all gasped: "Aren't you afraid of earthquakes??" they asked. Well, a little bit, but you don't really grasp what it's like until you've been through one, I'd surmise, and besides, it had been 73 years between biggies so I figured I was safe for quite a while. There were ongoing aftershocks still hitting after I moved there, and it made for interesting moments when I was out hiking and a small earthquake would hit--one moment I'd be striding along, the next, the ground wasn't quite where my body was expecting it; it leaves you feeling somewhat surreal and staggering to find the proper rhythm again for a few seconds. OmegaGranny spent much of her youth in California, and she recalls her grandmother rushing to stand in front of the highboy, arms outstretched to keep her precious china in place, during earthquakes. This is, of course, not the proper thing to do during a big earthquake, but it illustrates the mindset that human beings get into when confronted with ongoing natural phenomena that become just part of doing business and getting on with life. I became quite blasé about little 5.5-ers in much the same way that folks who live in hurricane country become blasé about hurricanes (pre-Katrina)--it's just something you live with and deal with, most of the time. Earthquakes come out of the blue, there's no way (currently) to predict them, so you get on with life and don't let the worry preoccupy your mind. Living in California, I soon learned to be much more concerned with fires, floods and mudslides; these are natural phenomena that occur with much more frequent regularity. September, October, November--those are fire months. January, February, March--those are flood and mudslide months. Having missed the Loma Prieta earthquake, I was there for the Great Oakland Firestorm; it's very sobering to come to work realizing that everyone you know knows someone whose safe, cozy home was wiped out in 20 minutes... No matter where you live, even in these highly technological times, Nature trumps all. Where the Omegas live now, in the midst of a nice, toasty-dry Ponderosa pine forest, the stupidity of a Valley camper leaving a campfire unattended or the strike of a bolt of lightning in a dry tree could ignite a fire that would leave us homeless. But we still live here...just as folks in Tornado Alley still live there...just as folks in earthquake country continue living there. You make the preparations you can, and live your day-to-day life, and don't let the knowledge that out of the blue, Nature can make it all come crashing down, overbear you. Keep on keeping on, and keep an eye out for more articles about the 1906 earthquake.
posted by Kate @ 4/01/2006 09:50:00 AM   0 comments

About Me
Name: OmegaMom
Home: Southwest
About Me: Middle-aged mom of a 4-year-old adopted from China. Love science, debate, good SF and fantasy, hiking, music of almost every style. Lousy housekeeper. "Good enough" mom.
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