Sunday, December 28, 2008

The moral of the story is, don't ever, ever travel with me

I am the queen of the travel fuck-up.  If it can go wrong in the course of air travel, I have experienced it.  Massive delays, flight cancellations, missed flights because of gate changes that went unannounced, lost luggage, emergency landings because of equipment failures, you name it.

But I have never experienced anything quite as ridiculous as what caused me to arrive in Denver 12 hours later than I was supposed to.

My flight on Friday night was to leave at 11 pm.  So Jason was going to take me to the airport at around 9-ish, and we recruited a neighbor to come and sit with Zeke, who would have been asleep at that time.  We're sitting around watching the news or something at around 7 when all of a sudden the power went out.  

No biggie.  We were experiencing some weird weather, lightening and such, so power flickers happen.  

About half an hour later, the lights flickered on, but only at about half power.  

"That was probably someone trying to fix the transformer and getting fried," Jason observed.

Then the lights went out for good.  All over the island.

Perhaps you heard about it.  Seeing as how it made the national news and all.

We went outside, where the neighbors were all congregating.

"I bet your flight's cancelled.  Last time this happened, it shut the airport down," said Kyle, one of our neighbors who has the tendency to be the voice of doom.

We turned on the radio, which was broadcasting emergency information.  All grocery stores and convenience stores were closed.  Waikiki was in total gridlock and people were fighting in the street.  Everyone wondered how Obama was doing and whether he had power.

"It's going all Lord of the Flies pretty fast,"  I observed.

Another neighbor walked up and told me that he had heard that the airport was still open and that flights to the mainland were leaving from gates 14, 15, 24, 25 and 28.

"Did you happen to hear whether United flight 42 is still taking off?"  I asked, only half joking.

"Nope, they didn't mention that," he grinned.

After much back and forth, we decided to just go to the airport and try it out.  If in the meantime an announcement was made that flights were cancelled, then we would just turn around.

So Kyle stayed with Zeke and Jason and I left for the airport.  

When we got there, there was some hustle and bustle, though most of the airport was dark.  Jason dropped me off at the United terminal and I got in line.

The line didn't move.  Looking inside, you could see that agents were doing the agricultural check (you can't take plants in or out of the island) and security screenings by hand.  It looked totally chaotic. 

I kept checking the monitors for information, all of which listed my flight as still taking off, still on time.  A couple of other people in line did the same.  We all got friendly.

Finally, at about 10:25, a lady came out and announced that all United flights out had been cancelled.  She was a fellow passenger, and was making the announcement because the United agent inside refused to come out and tell anyone in the long line, which snaked around the building, what was happening.  He told the lady that he figured that if people wanted to find out what was going on, they would eventually make it inside.

Everyone started clamoring around the lone agent inside at the desk.  I called United on my phone, learned that the flight would be taking off at 10:15 the next morning, and called Jason to come and get me.  

A number of people have asked me if I was all pissed off and irate.  The truth is, no.  The one thing about constantly experiencing travel problems is that it's made me very Zen.  

At least I had a bed to sleep in, unlike the poor bastards who had to sleep on the floor of the United check-in area, which, like the rest of the airport, has a roof over it, but is otherwise outside.  

And I'm in Denver, safe and sound now.  I had 7 hours on a plane during which I didn't have to deal with a squirmy toddler.  The flight was largely empty, so I had an entire row to myself to lie down and read an excellent book from cover to cover.  Kathleen picked me up at the airport and we stayed up 'til late shooting the shit and drinking champagne.  

So really, it's all good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas

The Shaka Santa display at the Honolulu City Hall

Let me start by saying that I'm not Christian. I'm Jewish. I don't celebrate Christmas, and until I married a man who is (nominally) Anglican -- though he claims to be a Jew by virtue of being married to me -- I never had a Christmas tree or any of the other trappings of Christmas. When I was growing up, Christmas was a day to go out for Chinese food and go to the movies, or do something cool like go into DC when there was no traffic and everyone else was home celebrating and walk around the empty monuments and memorials on the Mall.

Don't get me wrong. I think Christmas lights and Christmas trees are lovely, and when I lived in Atlanta, I had my own Christmas tradition of eating Christmas dinner with Kathleen and her family, but in my own house, I lit my Hannukah menorah and said my Hannukah blessings.

Let me also say that I'm not trying to piss anybody off with this post. I know that many of my readers on the mainland are freezing their bollocks off in unbelievably shitty weather, and I'm not trying to rub it in when I say that Christmas in the tropics just doesn't feel right.

It doesn't feel like Christmas. Even though it's not my holiday, I always liked driving through my old neighborhood and seeing all of the pretty lights up on the trees and bushes, knowing that everyone was snuggling up with sweaters and cups of cocoa by the living room fire.* The Christmas season felt distinct because of the change in the seasons and the discernible onset of winter, even in Atlanta's relatively temperate climate.

In my neighborhood here, you see some half-hearted attempts to put up lights on the front of the garage or around a palm tree or two, but it doesn't work for me. The big blow-up snowman on my neighbor's roof just looks weird when it's 83 degrees out. And because it's pretty much always 83 degrees out, nothing about this time of year feels any different from any other time of year.

So in addition to all of the other positive things about moving to Colorado, it'll be nice to be able to experience the Christmas season and have it feel like Christmas. I'm finding it odd that I feel this way, but there it is.
__________________________
*Of course, being Australian, Jason has never experienced a white/cold Christmas (our first Christmas in Atlanta after getting married he went home to visit relatives), so this feels very normal to him.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Togetherness

I read about the study last week finding that watching romantic comedies is bad for your ability to have good romantic relationships (elevated expectations, unreasonable notions about the roles of the sexes, etc.), and then DCup wisely posited that it's all Hugh Grant's fault on her relationship blog, and I got to thinking.

I understand the results of that study, because until I got married (and quite frankly, sometimes I'm not quite sure how I got here) I always felt like the odd man out in not having a strong desire to get married. Before Jason, I'd had boyfriends, and I loved them, but I usually wasn't all that happy being with them. Sometimes it was because we just weren't compatible, but often it was that too much togetherness gets on my nerves. You spend enough time with someone, and that little quirk that you thought was so cute becomes that grating habit that makes you want to stick hot pokers in your eyes. Familiarity breeds contempt and all that.

My mother used to laugh at me for saying this, but I very firmly believed that the ideal relationship, whether a marriage or some other arrangement, would be with someone that lived across the street, or maybe around the corner. So they were close enough that we could spend time together when we wanted to, but we still had our own places to go back to when we wanted time alone. And importantly, the alone time would be the default position. In other words, you got to be by yourself unless you sought out the other person's company.

And the truth is, I'm happily married, but I still think I was right. I love Jason, but particularly now that we're both unemployed and home all the time, all of this togetherness is driving me a bit nuts. Especially because Jason is a "togetherness" kind of guy.

He wants to do everything together. With him, it's all joint trips to the grocery store, to run errands, to pick up and drop off Zeke, to give Zeke a bath, to go for a surf or for a ride, or exercise (we're doing P90X together right now). I, on the other hand, would much rather do these things on my own, only inviting Jason along if I decided I wanted the company. Going to the grocery store is not a two-person job, in my opinion. If he wants to take Zeke to school, I'd just as soon not go -- why sit in traffic?

The problem for me is that I really need time to myself. Time to read, or surf the internet, or just go through the daily activities of life without anyone else's running commentary. And when I don't get that, I get really grumpy.

Like this past weekend. Every once in a while, I get to a point where just being around my husband is annoying. And that's how I was feeling much of Saturday. It took everything I had not to snap or be mean, because God knows I was feeling mean. And I was wishing that I had the ability to live out my pre-marriage fantasy of having separate (but close) living quarters if I had to put up with being married to someone.

I'm feeling a little better today. Last night we had some friends over for the first night of Hannukah, and it was lovely. And this morning we did our workout together and took Zeke to school and all was well. But I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't happy when Jason informed me that his friend David had called and that he was going mountain biking with him.

Friday, December 19, 2008

We can't seem to get off the topic

Last night we were lying in bed watching The Incredible Hulk (the good one with Edward Norton, not the shitty one with Eric Bana that Ang Lee directed) on DVD. It wasn't my first choice, but Jason is a really good sport when some obscure documentary arrives that I put on the Netflix list 6 months ago and then promptly forgot about. I didn't really get the ending, but it wasn't bad. It's got an impressive cast, in any event.

So at one point in the movie, the Hulk turns back into Edward Norton in this dramatic scene in which you see him lying on his side, naked. The POV* is from the ceiling, so you're looking down at him. And he looks all vulnerable and the lighting has a chiaroscuro effect and it's all very artistic and dramatic.

I turn to Jason and ask, "How come in movies or artsy pictures, when you see a guy naked from the side, you never see his balls hanging down?"

"You forget who you live with, baby. Not everyone is like me or Zeke."

"Oh. Yeah, I guess not."


_____
*POV = "point of view." I speak movie.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A history lesson, or, reason 8,492 that I love my mother

I decided to try again with the shopping thing. I put on regular clothes, a bra that works under non-exercise attire, and put a pair of dressy work heels (the one pair I kept) in a little bag to take with me, in aid of the trying-on process. I had a cup of coffee and a protein shake. I was going to head straight to Honolulu, where I could hit the Nordstrom/Macy's/Neiman's trifecta from one parking spot, but then remembered there's another mall on the way that has a Macy's. Why waste gas, right?*

As I drove, I made my (at least) daily phone call to my mother.

"I'm heading back out to the mall."

"I didn't want to say 'I told you so' on your blog."

"It's OK, Mom. You were right."

We talked about shopping a little bit and then moved on to her favorite topic.

"How's Zeke?"

"He's fine. Going through a bit of a cranky phase in which he gets pissed off about something and throws a temper tantrum, but I think it's pre-language frustration over an inability to communicate his needs and wants."

"That's probably accurate. Just be patient with him."

"Oh, I am. I don't get mad, I just ignore it."

"Good call."

"My bigger concern is trying to get him to eat decent food. I've been killing myself trying to figure out a way to get him to take in some green vegetables, but he just spits them out. I've covered them with cheese, paired them with potatoes, tried slathering them with ketchup, nothing works."

Peals of laughter emanate from the phone.

"What's so funny?"

"Oh, honey, you're so conscientious. I love you. I don't think I'll remind you of how you ate as a child."

"I know, I was very picky."

"But I didn't bug you about it because you ate enough to sustain yourself, you were happy and healthy, so if you were a little picky, I wasn't going to make a big deal of it."

"I know. I don't worry about his health, though it doesn't seem like a good idea to subsist on cheese slices and Chef Boyardee mini raviolis."

"Remember, honey, the Mongols survived for hundreds of years on nothing but fermented mare's milk and horse meat. He'll be fine."

"You're right, you're right, I know you're right."


I wonder where I can find some fermented mare's milk.

________________________________
*As it turns out, the Macy's doesn't sell suits. Nobody in Hawaii wears suits. There were some random suit separates on the sales racks at Ann Taylor, but nothing that really worked. So fuck it. I'll go shopping in Denver.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I feel like it's something of a personal failing, really

To watch chick flicks or reality TV or to read comic strips like "Cathy" (which I don't, by the way), one would come away with the impression that women and shopping go together like bacon and eggs. In this world that is played out for us in the media and elsewhere, women get together with their friends and meet for coffee and then cheerfully peruse designer handbags and browse racks and racks of blouses and jeans and skirts and accessories, while complaining good-naturedly about their husbands and their busy lives. It's all very fulfilling -- a way to charge your batteries, if you will.

I can say in all honesty that I have never felt that way. In fact, the older I get, the more I absolutely despise shopping to the point that the thought of it makes me tense.

But right now, it cannot be avoided.

I have job interviews in two weeks, one with a fairly buttoned-up firm where the lawyers all wear suits (they didn't get the society-wide memo that we're all going business casual). And I don't have a fucking thing to wear.

You see, when we left Atlanta, I knew I'd be working from home, and that even if I did have to look somewhat professional, a pair of black pants and a black blazer would suffice. So I went through my closets, containing upwards of 25 suits and dresses, and gave them away either to friends or to the Salvation Army. I kept one black pair of pants and one black blazer, neither of which fits me particularly well since having a baby.

Plus, Colorado is cold. The clothes I have are not suitable.

My mother generously offered to buy me a new interview suit. Knowing how I am about shopping (the poor woman has suffered when she wanted to take me shopping and everything she suggested for me was met with, "no, thanks, I don't need it," as I nervously scouted out the nearest exit), she advised me to go when I was well rested and in a good mood.

Today I went up to the local outlet mall go get an outfit for Zeke for his school's Christmas program. After I had picked up what I needed for him, I figured I'd look in some of the grown-up stores for a suit.

This was a mistake.

First of all, I had just come from teaching a Baby Boot Camp class, so I was wearing workout leggings, a heavy sports bra, and running shoes -- not exactly conducive to trying on silky blouses and pinstripe suits. Second of all, I was hungry and a little tired, and thus ill-suited to partake of an activity that I hate under the best of circumstances.

But, I was there, after all, so I figured I may as well take a look.

I went into the Banana Republic store. Nothing terribly suit-y. Lots of separates, but I wanted something conservative. The Saks outlet - nothing. The Michael Kors store - nothing.

The Anne Klein store had a couple of promising options, but on one the button on the jacket was too high and looked weird, and on the other the jacket looked good on the rack but horrible on my rack.

Nothing at Brooks Brothers. Nothing at Ralph Lauren. And the Barney's store made me want to slap everyone in there. All hipper and cooler than thou. Feh.

And of course, this particular outlet mall gets swarms of tourists, all of whom seemed to be prancing around in Ugg boots (paired with miniskirts or shorts) even though it's 83 degrees and sunny. This annoyed me to no end as well.

By the end of it, I was in a fair strop, as my husband likes to say. I was tense and grumpy -- in no shape to shop productively. So I went home.

What's wrong with me? Why am I incapable of enjoying this activity that others of my sex seem to view as a sacrament? i'm not ugly, as far as I can tell. Clothes look OK on me. I don't have body issues. But nonetheless, going to a mall gives me an anxiety attack.

And the worst of it is, I still need to buy a suit. Meaning I've got to fight the traffic and venture into Honolulu to go to Nordstrom or Macy's or Neiman's during the Christmas shopping season.

I have a stomach ache.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A lesson in appreciating what you've got

We've been in Hawaii for almost 2 years. There are things about it I've liked - the weather, the physical beauty, the ability to go to the beach 365 days a year - but mostly I've been wanting to leave. I hate being so isolated from the rest of the world, including what I obnoxiously think of as the "real" America (so very Sarah Palin of me). The expense and time it takes to travel anywhere (other than another Hawaiian island) is depressing. The public schools suck academically, and the local culture promotes an attitude of anti-intellectualism that drives me insane. The cost of living is astronomical. The provincialism and racism makes it hard to make friends. The traffic is horrendous all the time. There's no Target.

But -- and I've said this before -- it is a wonderful place to be unemployed, especially if you can put your kid in daycare. The past two months, Jason hasn't been working and I've been working only sporadically, so we've had lots of time to play.

We go surfing at least 3-4 times a week.

Our tans are fabulous.
(My tan is rockin'. Zeke's, not so much. I may be an unemployed bum, but I'm still a responsible parent with the sunscreen.)

We take naps in the afternoon before going to pick up Zeke at daycare. We've hosted visitors and had time to show them the island.

(With Andrea at Waimanalo Beach)

We've seen Kelly Slater, the best surfer in the world, win the Pipeline Masters surf competition, which is on every surfing fan's list of things to see before you die.


(A competitor takes a steep drop on a huge wave --
the face of that wave is probably 15 feet. Yoiks.)


Basically, it's been an extended vacation in paradise, which few people ever get in their lives.

But we know we have to leave soon, because we can't afford to stay. So I've been job hunting in Denver, and I've got two interviews there at the end of the month. The odds are pretty good that I'll get an offer from at least one of the firms, so the end of our run here is becoming more and more discernable.

And it's making me a bit sad. Living in the cold, having to go to an office and do actual work
every day (*shudder*), giving up all of this fun and relaxation -- it's going to be a shock to the system.

I know that Denver will be a great move for us. I will loooove being close to Kathleen, having Zeke grow up with his cousins, being a short plane ride away from everyone I love.

But the prospect of actually leaving has brought all of the things that have been great about life here into sharp focus. It puts a lump in my throat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh, the tables, how they have turned...

This morning Jason and I dropped Zeke off at daycare and drove up to the North Shore to see the final rounds of the Pipeline Masters surf competition. Yes, we're those kinds of assholes. But it's Pipeline Masters! The Wimbledon of surfing!

So as we're driving up, I'm talking to a friend about our little episode at Tracks the other day and also about how Jason is having a bitch of a time getting the local electrician's union to recognize and give him credit for his credentials. He want to take his electrician's license, but his manager couldn't get his act together to certify Jason's hours in time, and then the union gave out bad information about the deadline for filing the application to take the exam, and then of course, there's the question of whether the union will even allow him to sit for the exam because he got his training in Australia instead of in Hawaii. No matter that the training in Australia is a million times harder than what Hawaii requires, or that half the guys Jason works with couldn't find their way out of a hatbox with a map.

My friend laments the crappy attitudes and racism we had to endure while surfing. I point out that racism is affecting Jason's job as well, and that there's a good chance that the electrical board overseeing the exam will be harsher on Jason's application because he's a haole.

My friend responded, "well, then maybe another good thing about going to Colorado is that at least there white people might have a chance to get ahead."

And that, my friends, is a sentence that I never thought I'd hear uttered.

It took me 10 minutes to stop giggling.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Localism

Surfing is one of the most joyful sports I've ever done. There is something quite magical about being out in the water on a beautiful day, getting exercise as you paddle around, keeping an eye on the peaks approaching from the horizon, and finally being in the right position to catch the wave and ride it.* And it's a very zen experience, and one which focuses your mind utterly on the task at hand. When you're paddling for a wave, all you're thinking about is your paddle strokes and whether the wave has "caught" the board and popping up in the right place and angling the board to take it down the line and on and on.

Plus, if it's a decent size wave, i.e., as tall as I am, like the waves I was trying to catch yesterday, there's always the prospect of being out of position and having large, heavy waves crash on your head and hold you down, or being on the wave, only to have the nose of the board shoot down into the water, sending you tumbling while heavy waves crash on your head and hold you down. Surfing is fun, but there are many ways to get hurt, so you need to focus.

Which is why it sucks when localism rears it's ugly head.

Localism is the tendency of locals to be aggressively territorial about a particular wave or break. Most of the time, if you practice the rules of surf etiquette, i.e., yield the right of way to the person already on the wave, don't sit out waiting for a wave in a spot that will nose in on someone else also sitting nearby, etc., you'll be OK. Respect and the aloha spirit will win the day.

But sometimes not.

Last week a couple of huge swells came in from the north, creating massive waves on the North Shore (one day the waves were 30 feet at Sunset Beach) and smaller, ideal conditions on the west side of the island, which gets "wraparound" swell. So Jason and I headed out to a break on the west side called "Tracks" where we've had fun in the past.

We weren't the only ones with that idea. There were at least 75 people out in the water, all locals except for one lonely haole woman sitting out behind the waves. I was instantly intimidated, and vowed to myself to stay out of everybody's way, hang back, and only catch a wave if I was truly and indisputably the only one in position to catch it.

So I paddled out and sat behind the waves, watching where they were breaking and where people were positioning themselves to catch them, smiling at people when eye contact was made, and generally doing my damndest to avoid offending anyone. A couple of times I tried to go for a wave, but was out of position and didn't catch it.

Turns out, this wasn't just bad luck on my part. It was a deliberate effort by the locals to block me off the waves. I discovered this in two ways. First, I finally, finally was in perfect position to catch a gorgeous wave, about 5 feet (or almost as big as me). I had it, I was on it, and I was about to pop up and ride it. When all of a sudden, this little shithead kid races around me and dropped in on me, i.e., cut in front of me on the wave so that I had to pull off to avoid hitting him. As I said, "heeeeey!" really loudly at him, he looked back at me and laughed. Fucker.

The next wave I tried to catch I was out of position and got pounded, so I decided to call it a day and head back to the beach. Jason stayed out to try to surf some more.

As he paddled around, he overheard about 4 guys talking to each other and conspiring to block his access to waves or drop in on him when he caught one. And that other lonely haole girl that was there? They were doing the same to her. So he finally gave up and we went home.

It was one of the most frustrating surfing experiences I've ever had, and the first one that left me so angry that I would wake up in the middle of the night stewing about it. And not stewing as in, oh, I should have said something or done something. There's nothing to say or do. I doubt anyone would have laid a hand on me if I had raised a stink, but they definitely would have gotten in my face and tried to scare me, and they definitely would have laid a hand on Jason, so it's not worth it to start something.

It's more stewing of the, surfing is supposed to be so much fun, there are waves enough for everyone, why can't people just practice this aloha spirit you hear tell about so much in Hawaii? Why the bullshit aggression? And for God's sake, there's enough going on in your head when you surf without having to worry about getting the shit kicked out of you because some aggro punk doesn't like the color of your skin.

Enough time has passed that I've calmed down about it, but that day, I was thinking that Hawaii would be really great without most of the Hawaiians. I know I sound like an asshole, but it's how this place makes you feel sometimes.


*Much of the pleasure for me is attributed to being out in the sun and warm water -- I don't get the guys who put on 7 mm wetsuits with booties and hoods to surf dark, angry looking waves in places like Iceland or wherever. Though my brother has to suit up to surf in New Hampshire, and I guess if it's all you've got, you do what you've got to do. But the pros who travel to places in northern Europe to surf in the freezing cold are nuts.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Balls

About 45 minutes after Zeke was born, he was whisked away to the nursery to be cleaned up and weighed and whatever else they do to newborn babies. Having gone through 29 hours of labor, including 4 hours of pushing, I was, to be honest, happy to have some time to get some rest. Jason stayed with me for a little while in the room, but was antsy to see his boy, so he went down to the nursery.

A while later he came back, all excited.

"What's up?" I asked.

"He's got the biggest balls of any kid down there!" Jason said proudly.

"That's nice," I responded. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Not much has changed.

I don't mean that I go around comparing the size of my son's balls to those of his contemporaries. But from time to time, his balls, and balls in general, seem to occupy an inordinate amount of focus.

My good friend Andrea came to visit this past weekend. We had a wonderful time, relaxing, going to the beach, surfing, driving around the island. She's an incredibly easy guest -- smart, funny, fun to talk to, interesting, and unfazed by the bawdy conversation that seemed to predominate.

While we were at the beach this past Sunday, I let Zeke run around naked because, really, why not? And after playing and wearing himself out, he fell asleep in the sand in the perfect baby pose: head down, mouth open and drooling (and covered with sand), ass up in the air. Which meant that everyone around us who turned over on their towels found themselves face to face with a pair of low-hanging baby balls.

Andrea took this picture, and tried to just make it a cute baby butt shot, without all the spare elbow skin hanging down. But there was no way to avoid it. They were just .... there. We looked at this picture alot this weekend, and talked about it even more.

"I was really trying to keep them out of the picture," Andrea lamented. "I just couldn't get the right angle."

"He's an Armstrong, mate," Jason explained. "He's all stones."

I guess I should be proud?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Three years ago today...


Hard to believe it's been three years. So much has happened, and is about to happen. The wedding feels like forever ago. But I know this: I love my husband as much as I ever did, and have more fun with him every day than I would have thought possible. Marriage can be tough and frustrating, but also full of joy and adventure. I am happy with my choice and look forward to the rest of our life together.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Saga Continues

Remember Next Door Neighbor? You know, the one who, from the day we moved in, started lecturing me about the trees in my yard? The one involved in the Great Plant Massacre, in which she called the police after Jason cut down a little bush in our yard?

Yeah, her.

Well, in case you were wondering, she's still crazy.

The latest is that as far as we can tell, she's trying to destroy the plants on our side of the yard, all while falsely accusing us of trying to kill them. A couple of weeks ago, Jason caught her trying to coax her dog to pee on our bushes. Then one of the bushes in the little yard area between our houses mysteriously shriveled up and died within the span of a week, as if someone had poured bleach or gasoline on it.

Then other plants started looking all mangled, as if someone stepped on them.

Meanwhile, while we were away in DC for Thanksgiving, and thus physically incapable of doing her plants any harm (except maybe by telekenesis, a power that neither Jason nor I possess, as far as I know), she reported us to the community association manager, alleging that we were trying to sabotage her. She also bitched about us to neighbors, with whom we happen to be good friends.

Jason is furious, and makes a point of loudly disparaging her whenever we pass her house. I find the whole thing both baffling and slightly amusing. Honestly, who calls the police over...plants? Plants that, incidentally, aren't even hers. Technically, they belong to the condo association.

And moreover, who gives a fuck? I honestly don't care enough about this woman to go through the effort of messing with her plants. I've got enough shit going on in my life.

Plus, she's trying to sell her house. I don't like living next door to her. Ergo, it would be ridiculous of me to do anything that would jeopardize her ability to move away from here, and quickly.

Am I missing something? Is this how people behave? Are these the sagas that go on in other parts of the world? Who has time for this shit?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sometimes it's a good idea to just admire from the beach

(A surfer rides a 25 foot wave on the North Shore, December 2, 2008 -- photo taken by Bruce Asato for the Honolulu Advertiser)

There are huge swells coming from the north, so the surf on the North Shore of Oahu is firing. Like, over 25 feet in some spots. Around here, big swell is a big deal. People head up north just to look at the waves, and surfers take great pride in saying they rode huge waves. But in all of the hullabahoo, sometimes we forget how dangerous those waves can be.

One of the surf spots that Jason and I like to surf is a point on the North Shore that usually doesn't get huge when it's really big elsewhere on that side of the island. Something to do with the way the current wraps around a particular point, the deep channels nearby, whatever. So yesterday we figured we'd go up and check out the huge waves, and then maybe look at our favorite spot to see if we could handle going in.

When we got there, I took one look at the waves and knew it was more than I'd be able to handle. Usually the waves there are gentle peaks that crumble at the top rather than curl over in a heavy barrel. Also, they tend to break to the left, which is my preferred route, being a goofy-foot. But yesterday, they were breaking to the right, and were huge and heavy. There was also an obvious strong rip current that looked incredibly difficult to battle. Plus, the only waves that were really breaking with any consistency were way out off the back of the reef, and they were easily double-overhead or more, i.e., 12-15 feet. Way beyond my level.

(That's a huge wave called Avalanche breaking out in the distance. If you click on the picture, it'll blow up to a large image, and you should be able to see surfers towing in to the wave. It's about 20 feet high)

I told Jason I'd hang on the beach. He decided to paddle out and give it a shot.

The surf was so rough that it was difficult to see the surfers out in the water. So I tried walking around to the tip of the point to see if I could see Jason. I couldn't see him, so after about 15 minutes I made my way back to the beach to wait for Jason to come in. As I was walking back, I saw him standing on the shore, with half a board in his hand.

It took him at least 15 minutes of hard paddling to get out to the waves -- usually it takes about 3. Then before he could even catch a wave, he got caught inside a set of breaking waves, and got pounded. His board, which is a 10 foot epoxy longboard that floats like a barge, got pushed down into the water and started to crease. Jason was getting held down, and worried that his leash would snap, leaving him out in the crazy surf with nothing to hold onto, so he wrapped his arms around the board in a bear hug and just tried to hang on for dear life.

Another big wave broke over him, pushing him and the board down into the water again. He felt the board flex and then snap in two, and the top part of it shot away from him, scraping the hell out of his arm in the process. He managed to "ride" the back of the board back into shore. We later found the top of the board about 500 yards down the beach.

He was pissed that his favorite board broke. He was bummed that he had to go through all of that tumult, and didn't even get to ride a wave. But mostly, he was happy to be alive.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I consider it something of a betrayal. Don't ask me why.


Most Americans' exposure to vegemite extends no further than having a vague recollection of that Men At Work song that was big sometime around when I was in 9th grade. We sang along to the "she just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich" line, thinking it sounded kind of funny, but having no idea what the hell a vegemite sandwich actually is.

To quote Inigo, "let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up."

Vegemite is a brown paste that is made from yeast extract. I'm not quite sure who first had the idea to spread it on bread or crackers, but it's huge in Australia, something of a cultural icon.

It is unquestionably an acquired taste, i.e., if you don't acquire it before you're old enough to know better, you will never, ever think it tastes good.

I first tasted vegemite when my mom and I took a trip to Australia back in 2001, while she was stationed in Papua New Guinea. With a "when in Rome" attitude, one morning I gamely spread it on my breakfast toast.

To say it tastes like salty toe-jam would be overly generous. (And don't ask me how I know what toe-jam tastes like. Some things you can just imagine, OK?)

But, notwithstanding my distaste for the stuff, I abhor people who feel the need to comment negatively on what other people eat. There's nothing ruder than when someone takes a bite of something they love, only to have someone else say, "Eeeeew! How can you put that in your mouth?? That's DISGUSTING!"

So, when I married an Aussie, I made a point of scouring the various grocery stores in Atlanta until I found one that sold vegemite, so that I could keep Jason supplied with the stuff of his homeland. When he was working on a job that required him to get up crazy early and leave the house by 5 a.m., I got up with him and while he was showering and dressing, made him coffee and vegemite toast to take in the car.

Jason has looked forward to the day when he could introduce Zeke to vegemite. I wrinkled my note at the thought of it, but couldn't voice any legitimate objections. It's perfectly healthy stuff, loaded with B vitamins. But still, in my mind, Zeke is American. Self-respecting Americans don't eat vegemite.

Until now.

This morning before school, I was making some cinnamon toast for Zeke's breakfast. Jason said, "I think I'll let him try some vegemite toast." So I cut the piece of toasted bread in half. Jason spread his side with butter and vegemite, and I spread my side with butter and cinnamon sugar.


Zeke chowed down on all of it, the little freak.

Monday, December 01, 2008

At this point, it wouldn't surprise me if he developed some bizarre flesh-eating disease

These are the times that try a mother's soul.

In the past week and a half, while dealing with the stress of traveling across the world for the holidays, and everything that that entails -- jet lag, being around lots and lots of unfamiliar people, dealing with cold for the first time in his young life -- my poor son has been afflicted with a veritable grand slam of baby maladies.

An ear infection. An inflamed, painful skin infection on his stomach. A bronchial virus. And the real kicker -- a horrible diaper rash that developed suddenly and spread like wildfire over his delicate loins, making every diaper change agonizingly painful and uncomfortable. The rash was exacerbated by persistent runny poops, undoubtedly brought on by insane doses of antibiotics to treat his infections, which also created, notwithstanding my efforts to spike his bottle with probiotics, the perfect conditions for the growth of yeast.

So everything is cleared up now, except that my little monkey is now battling an aggressive yeast infection that is now covering not only his penis, but all of the surrounding skin. He looks like he's got mange all over his balls.

I am not a nervous parent, as anyone who reads this blog understands. But having a sick baby, particularly where the hits just seem to keep coming, is getting me down. I feel like I did something wrong, or didn't take care of him properly, or was somehow negligent. Logically, I know that it's not my fault. As soon as there was a discernible problem, I took him to the doctor, including multiple visits to the emergency room when I couldn't get to my regular pediatrician in a timely manner. But he's so helpless, I feel responsible for every bad thing that happens to him.

Luckily, I can provide the one remedy that every giver of solicited or unsolicited advice has offered over the past number of days: get him to the beach, and get him naked.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Unemployment mutes my keyboard, largely because I haven't been near it

So, I haven't been here for about a week. Not sure why, but I just felt internet-ally quiet. Didn't feel like coming up with funny stories about my day, or even like booting up my computer. Mostly I've been enjoying being un(der)employed in Hawaii. I figure if I'm ever unemployed again (and God willing, I won't be), it won't be on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I've been doing alot of surfing with my similarly un(der)employed husband, hanging out with my baby, and hanging out with my friends that came to visit last weekend.

In fact, I've discovered that it's really fun to live here if you can act like you're on vacation all the time.

Being with Kathleen and Michele turned me into something of a tourist. Friday we went up to the North Shore to check out a surf competition, one of the legs of the Triple Crown of Surfing that was being held in Hale'iwa. We hung out on the beach and watched awesome surfers rip up the waves. Part of the attraction was the waves themselves. The day before we were there, a huge swell and come in from the north, and the waves on the North Shore were 22 feet (yes, you read that right). By the time we got there, the swell had dropped off some, but the waves were still pretty impressive, about 6-8 feet and perfectly formed.

The scene at a surf competition. Usually there are more people, but these were the early rounds and it was a bit cloudy. All the pros hang out under that white tent. Saw a bunch of famous surfers.

With the girls on the beach. We're trying to download a YouTube video of some guy kite-surfing into a whale's tail.

(I don't know who this is, but this is one of the competitors executing a nice snap-turn off the top of the wave.)

After the surf competition, we went into Hale'iwa to get shave ice at the world famous (sez them) Matsumoto's. This is something I had never done before in almost two years of living here. But I'm a tourist now. It's what we do.

(I had root beer and vanilla ice over vanilla ice cream.)

We spent the rest of the weekend going to the swap meet to buy souvenirs and trying to get rain-free beach time. It's been uncharacteristically rainy, and it seemed like every time we hit the beach, it would start out sunny but then clouds would roll in and it would get windy, cold and rainy. The last day they were here, we ended up huddling under an umbrella at Makaha Beach. It would be sunny, and then rain would roll in from the mountains behind us. Then it would stop and the sun would come out, and we would feel like we had dodged a bullet. Then 5 minutes later the clouds would roll in again. This happened 3 times before we finally packed up our soggy towels and left.

(That grey mist behind us is heading in our direction. I'm huddled under a towel, freezing. And I'm thinking, "I live here. I don't need to sit on the beach in the rain. I can go to the beach whenever I want. Why am I doing this?" But the tourist mind-set had me trapped.)

I actually had some work to do two days ago, so I didn't get to surf. But yesterday Jason and I went up to watch some of the later rounds of the Triple Crown competition, which was still going on (the waves had died out early in the week, so they postponed the comp until another swell came in). We watched a couple of heats and then went to a nearby break to catch some waves ourselves. The waves were about shoulder high and really fun.

Then we went to get Zeke from daycare before heading home. One the way we saw this:

(Note the poor dogs having to hang out under a giant boar carcass. Blech.)

Only in Hawaii, folks.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A moment

Yesterday, for the first time, Zeke and I went for a walk together. Not just me shadowing him while he toddled around our street (we live on a dead-end, so there is much toddling about by little munchkins, and it's all very safe), but the two of us heading down the street and out into the neighborhood, side by side.

Some babies, when they figure out how to walk, aren't all that into it. They get to the point where they can take a few steps, but it's hard to put many steps together with coordination, so they'll continue to crawl for awhile, because it's just easier.

Not Zeke.

This is a child that likes to move. And as soon as he figured out how to take steps, he kept practicing, no matter how often or how hard he fell, until he could truly walk.

And now he's figuring out how to run, sort of. He's not fast, but everywhere he goes, he seems to be half-trotting.

Anyway. So yesterday, he's totally chuffed about being on a walk with Mommy. He's trotting along beside me, stopping occasionally to check out a flower or a stick or to point to an airplane with his chubby fingers and say something resembling, "what's that?"

We walk to the end of the street, and we get to the big cross street. And I'm happy to let him roam around on our little dead end, but I have to draw the line when we get to the street where there are cars, many driven by punky-looking teenagers that have looks on their faces that I want to slap off, even though I don't even know them.

Jesus, I'm getting to be an old fart.

So I look down at Zeke and reach my hand down toward him and say, "baby, you need to hold Mommy's hand when we cross the big street."

I don't think he understands me. I assume that I'll say the words, but that then I will reach down and simply take his hand.

But before I have a chance to do that, he reaches his hand up and takes hold of my fingers. And my heart skips a beat. I can't even deal with how much I love him or how adorable I think he is.

We walk across the street, and even when we've reached the sidewalk, he continues holding onto my hand for a little bit. At one point, he looks up at me and smiles, and I look down at him and smile, and we walk for awhile, holding hands and looking at each other and grinning like a couple of goofballs.

And I know, immediately, that this moment will stick with me for the rest of my life.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Aussie Word of the Day: Unemployment Edition

Aussies tend to abbreviate everything. No frequently used word remains intact for long. The two main forms of diminution are by shortening the word and then tacking "-ie" or "-o" on the end. Thus, "afternoon" becomes "arvo." "Petrol" becomes "pettie." "Beverage" becomes "bevvie." Jason's brother Dean becomes "Dean-o." "Sunglasses" becomes "sunnies."

My favorite of these is "smoke-o," short for "smoke break."* Smoke-o falls at about 11 in the morning, between breakfast and lunch. For those that don't smoke, it can be used for morning tea or a snack. When Jason was working, he would call me every day during smoke-o to say hello. In fact, he set an alarm on his watch to remind himself.

This morning Jason and I went for a surf after dropping Zeke off at daycare. There's a nice swell coming in from the northwest, so we decided to head up north and hit one of our favorite breaks. The waves were nice and clean, about 3-4 feet, with an offshore breeze. There was a good 5-10 minutes in between sets, so we tended to bob around on our boards waiting for the waves to come.
A side view of the wave

During one of the lulls, I looked out at the waves just in time to see, about 50 yards away from me, a dolphin jump out of the water and spin around before diving back in. There was a huge pod swimming and playing, and the younger ones were showing off to each other, flying out of the water and flipping around. Then out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a giant turtle surfacing not to far from where I was sitting. He poked his head up, looked at me for a couple of seconds, and then went back under and swam away.

There's something so magical about being out in the ocean and encountering beautiful sea creatures willing to share their habitat. And it was a gorgeous day, sunny, not too hot, not too cool, blue skies. I may not love living in Hawaii, but on days like today, it's hard to beat. There
are certainly worse places to be unemployed (or under-employed).

So there we were, enjoying the day. I caught a bunch of really great waves, including one that was about as perfect a ride as I've ever been able to produce. As I was paddling back out to the line-up, I heard Jason's watch beep.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Smoke-o!" Jason laughed.

"Well, thank God. I certainly need a break from all this...perfection."

_____________
*For full Aussie effect, say the word with as nasal a voice as possible, and pronounce it "SMAU-kau."

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Turning lemons into lemonade, or, My husband really missed his calling as a lawyer

Let me start by saying that if you're horrified by bathroom humor, and specifically, discussion of farts, this is not the post for you. Elizabeth, I'm talking to you, dearest.

For the rest of you, and particularly those of you who know me well, it's no secret that ours is a farty household. If there were some kind of Seven Wonders of the Bowel World, Jason's innards would easily claim a spot in the pantheon. The man eats more than anyone I've ever met in my life (yet he's still got a hot bod -- god bless him) and consumes combinations of food that would fell the heartiest of constitutions -- sandwiches consisting of creamed corn, onions marinated in italian dressing, huge slabs of cheese, and canned salmon, for example. He puts hot sauce on everything he eats (except my chicken piccata). He drinks alot of milk. He puts away copious quantities of bread.

And the results are predictable. He's got gas like no one I've ever encountered. And I grew up in a family of farters, so I'm not a shrinking violet when it comes to flatulence.

His farts are one of the few things we ever argue about. He'll let one fly, and it will smell horrible, and I will say, "Jesus, couldn't you leave the room or something?" and he'll say, "I didn't realize it was going to smell." Which sends me into orbit. "Really? You didn't think it would smell? Based on what, exactly? What precedent has ever been set for a non-smelly fart coming out of your ass?"

I don't mean to imply that I'm ever blameless in a similar scenario. Jason has even complemented me on the trumpet-like timbre of my farts. "They sound exactly like the ideal fart should sound like, baby!" And mine can be stinky on occasion.

Anyway, I've gotten to the point that I just don't feel like arguing about it anymore. I love my husband, smelly ass and all, and I don't want to spend my life having the same argument until one of us dies.

So we've settled into something of an uneasy truce. Jason makes an effort to step away from me when he has to pass gas, and I try to do the same. If we slip up and can't get out of the room in time, the other covers his or her nose and we try to laugh it off.

But I think I'm getting too lenient.

Last night we were watching TV, and Jason farted a couple of times, loudly. They didn't smell too bad, so I didn't say anything. Then I farted a little while later.

"Nice one, babe."

"Thanks, honey."

Silence for awhile. Then he farts again.

"I'm killing you, you know," he says, grinning proudly. "I'm up on you, like, 3 to 1 at this point."

I roll my eyes. "I didn't realize we were in competition." And then I fart, just for good measure. "3 to 2."

We turn our attention back to Friday Night Lights.

And suddenly, it dawns on me. He's turned the tables on me. By making it a competition, he's changed the rules so that the more he farts, the more he wins.

I quickly put an end to the game. But a part of me respects his ingenuity for slyly working it into our discourse, and almost getting me to buy into it.

Almost.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Can

When we lived overseas when I was growing up, my mom was a consular officer. Meaning she worked in the visa section of the embassy, reviewing and determining the applications of people who wanted to come to the United States to work or live or whatever. I'd go visit her at her office after school sometimes, and on my way through the security checkpoint into the embassy I'd pass huge long lines of people whose biggest dream was to come to America. And it made me feel proud and blessed to have been born a citizen of this wonderful country that so many people around the world wanted to be a part of.

The past eight years have been tough for me, as they have been for many. I love my country, and it's been difficult to see the values upon which she was founded -- due process, equality, open government -- be stomped on by Bush et al. As a lawyer and constitutional law geek, I always marvel at the deliberateness with which the United States was created -- no other country in history was formed for the specific purpose of establishing a particular kind of government, and one which was to be by the people, for the people, and of the people. So when Bush used the war on terror and whatever else was on his agenda as an excuse to bypass constitutional protections like habeas corpus and the Fourth Amendment, I cringed when the proffered excuse was, "these are bad people! They want to kill us! It's different this time."

Because my feeling is and has always been, it can't be different. That's the point of this country. We are a nation of laws, not of men, and if we simply cast aside our principles whenever the going gets rough, then we've betrayed everything we are supposed to stand for. The whole point of the Bill of Rights is that it is precisely when the going gets rough that we have to dig in and stick to our ideals. Otherwise, why bother? If these are fleeting principles, then what are we fighting for? What are our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan dying for?

So last night was huge, on so many levels. I feel like we're getting the country back from a bunch of hooligans who have been disrespecting her for 8 years. I admire and respect Obama's intelligence, temperament, and attitude, and I feel he has the potential to be truly great.

And then there's the incredible history of it. As I looked at the faces of people like Jesse Jackson, with tears running down his cheeks, and the students of Spelman College, celebrating wildly, and John Lewis, who worked and marched with Dr. King, I was overcome with emotion and wonder. What must this be like for them? As much as the promise of America feels reborn to me, it must feel like that a hundred times more so to them.

There are enormous obstacles before our country. The economy, health care, energy, Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention Russia, Iran, North Korea, etc. etc.). But I feel like we've taken a step toward regaining our place in the world, and we have a leader who will inspire us to work hard and tackle our problems and do it in a way that is inclusive rather than divisive.

Yes we can.



Sam Cooke's "Change Is Gonna Come." Obama referenced the theme early in his speech last night. It's a gorgous song, and Cooke's voice makes me ache in its clarity and emotion.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Temper temper

Zeke is starting to show more personality these days. More individuality, to be more precise. A distinct preference for certain things over others, a certain cheekiness as he learns and understands the meaning of the word "no," but is determined to test the limits of its power over him.

It is fascinating to observe, from a human development perspective, but also terrifying, from a parenting perspective.

Because for the first time in his young life, our wills are beginning to clash, and the force of his reaction when he doesn't get what he wants has been a bit horrifying. Up to now, he has been malleable -- a generally agreeable quasi-person who was subject to my will and who didn't fuss much unless he was hungry or tired or uncomfortable. Fussing was a way of communication, really, so it was an essential part of his existence because it was the only way he could tell me when he really needed to be fed or when he was ready for a nap or when his mouth hurt from teething.

And then he discovered the button to turn the TV on and off. And apparently, buttons are fun! Pushing buttons -- yay!! And he discovered playing in the toilet -- whee!! Fun for dropping things, like mommy's new cell phone, into the water.

But I'm no dummy. I watch Nanny 911. I know that one of the keys to good parenting (other than showering your kid with love and affection) is maintaining a calm and consistent firmness. Neither Jason nor I ever yell at him (or even around him) or are harsh with him. When he's melting down at night and it's clear he's exhausted and needs to go to bed, I put him in his crib, give him a kiss, tell him I love him and say, "it's time for night-night, baby." And generally, as soon as I leave the room, he stops crying, lies down, and goes to sleep.

But the button thing apparently has a powerful lure, as does the toilet. When I see him head toward the bathroom, I walk quickly past him -- and he tries to speed up to keep pace -- and close the door. And he gets to the door, bangs his fists against it, and collapses on the floor, crying inconsolably. Like, lying on the ground, head in hands, wailing.

Same with the TV button. When he heads for it, I block his path, put my hand over the button, and say "no" in a firm voice. And he cries and screams and tries to pull my hand away. The way he carries on, you'd think he was being beaten.

Eventually, I'm able to distract him with a different toy or by bouncing the ball or piling up the blocks so that he can knock them down. And he stops crying and walks over to me and throws his arms around my neck and gives me a hug.

Sometimes, when he's hugging me, he puts his mouth on my shoulder and gives me a little bite.

I'm not sure if it's a misplaced attempt at a loving kiss, or a warning.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Update

So much is happening, it's been hard been write about any of it. Not because I'm shy, but because I've been so nervous and anxious that it's like I'm communicationally constipated, if that makes any sense.

Halloween was fun. We dressed Zeke up as a University of Virginia football player. I made him a little jersey with his name on the back, made some shoulder pads out of pieces of foam, and used black lipstick on his cheeks. He was outrageously cute, and quite pleased with his costume.

His school has a little trick or treating outing for the kids, and when we showed up for it, he was giddily running around the room, flirting insanely with everyone he encountered. He hated the actual trick-or-treating -- all he wanted to do was run out into the street. And it's not like he's allowed to eat candy.

That night Jason and I went on a date to this cool Mexican restaurant up on the west side of the island. It's the side of the island that's really trashy and full of homeless people, so people were quite surprised at our choice of outing, but the restaurant was great. Of course, we were the only people not in costume. When our waitress teased us about it, we said, "oh, no, we're dressed as parents getting time away from their kid."

The big news of the weekend was deciding that we're going to leave even sooner than we anticipated, i.e., we're not going to wait for May. Jason can take his licensing exam in January, and if he passes it, we're out of here ASAP. My biggest regret was having to call the law school to tell them that I can't teach the education law course, but it's how it has to be. We've got enough money to float us through January or February, but beyond that, it's a big fat question mark, so I've already started posting resumes and doing job searches and looking at real estate listings in Denver.

Speaking of which, the prospect of living in a place where the cost of living is reasonable almost makes me weep. I was looking at rental listings in Denver, and we could get a really cute place in a terrific part of town, and even with the loss we'll take renting our place here (it'll be at least $1000 difference between what we can rent it for and what we pay in mortgage), we'll still come out about $1000 ahead every month. Crazy wonderful.

I'm also going to sell Baby Boot Camp. I'm not taking it to the mainland with me, so I may as well get rid of it now. Oh, well. So much for being an entrepreneur.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A Year of the Zekester

Zeke's first birthday was this past Friday. It took awhile for it to really hit Jason and me. Then all of a sudden we looked at him and thought, "holy shit, our baby isn't really a baby anymore. He looks like a little boy."

His new haircut adds to this effect. The crazy baby curls are gone, and now he looks like Alex P. Keaton in training. Or a baby Ralph Lauren model.

Then there's the fact that he's gotten so toddler-y all of a sudden. About a month ago, he figured out how to stand up, and how he's walking everywhere. Yesterday we were outside playing with a ball and he practically ran after it. He's chattering and pointing to things and saying "what's that?" and just figuring so many things out.

So here's another Animoto video. It makes it easier to get my head wrapped around how we got from here:to here:


A year of the Zekester

Limbo

I'm feeling all jittery and nervous. Everything feels like it's up in the air, like I'm waiting waiting waiting for things to happen.

Which, of course, I am.

It's the last week of the election campaign. All signs point to good things happening on November 4, but being a Democrat, I can't help but assume that somehow it's all going to go to shit. The Republicans will steal the election. Democratic voters will be harassed or purged from the voter rolls. The Bradley effect will turn out to be real (though, based on what I've read, it never actually existed, even in the Bradley election). It doesn't help that I'm an obsessive blog-reader/poll-checker/pundit-keeper-up-with. It's good to stay in formed, but it's not doing anything to calm my nerves.

Jitter jitter.

I finished my first week of Baby Boot Camp classes. I have one paying student. Woop-dee-freakin'-doo. I've had a couple of people register to come to class and then not show up. I had another come to do a class, but then announce that "she wasn't really into exercise," so I doubt I'll see her again. I've got another new student coming to class on Thursday. We'll see what happens.

Twitch twitch.

I've got some legal work to do, but one client owes me alot of money and I need to get paid if I want to pay mortgage next month. Which I obviously do.

Jitter.

In the meantime, I'm preparing my application to be admitted to the bar in Colorado.

Filling out a bar application is a little bit like being in an episode of This Is Your Life! I've had to list the names of three lawyers that know me, three people that know me from every locality I've lived in, the address of every place I've lived in for more than a month since I was 24, every job I've held, every school I went to, etc. The good news is, I'm admitted to practice in 3 jurisdictions already, and I was smart enough to keep copies of my old applications, so I don't have to bang my head against the wall, thinking "dammit, what was the house number of that place I lived in for 8 months with Jenn and whatshername??"

And all of my conversations with Jason consist of "which car should we take to Colorado?" "should we ship the car all the way to Denver or just to Oakland and then drive to Denver?" "should we start checking real estate listings?" "have you submitted your electrician's licensing stuff?" "we should call that real estate guy and see if he can recommend a good property manager for when we rent the house" "how much of the furniture should we take" blee blah bloo.

But mostly, they're just, "Gawd, I can't wait to get out of here."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Done and done

Jason's back from his bike trip in Colorado. Big fun was had by all.

And he's sold on moving to Denver. Not only did he really love the city, but he (unprompted by me) started echoing the sentiments about getting off this island that I have been feeling all along.

That it will be wonderful to have close friends and family in the same city. Being able to head over to Kathleen's house on a whim to have a glass of wine and a chat, or to watch Project Runway or some other stupid reality TV show. Jason and Rich being able to plan a last minute bike ride or ski/snowboard session, or decide to get together to watch a football game on the Fiddy.* Getting together with my cousins and their children. Having Zeke grow up with his cousins and with the children of my best friend -- children whom I love as if they were my own.

He also marveled at the ability to drive for 5 hours out in the country and be in such beautiful, open land.

"I didn't realize how much I was suffering from island fever," he remarked.

The mainland is so huge and diverse. Hawaii is beautiful, but it's small, and limited (and limiting) in so many ways -- culturally, intellectually, geographically. It's hard being so isolated.

And then there's the cost of living. Kathleen and Rich's last electric/gas bill was about $70. Ours was $520. I can find good work in Denver, that utilizes the expertise that I've been developing for the last 9 years. I can't do that here. So not only is the cost of living here choking us, but we've got almost no money coming in.

I can't deal with the stress of it anymore. And neither can Jason.

So last night we were talking, sort of dancing around the issue of, "should we make a definite plan? Should we wait a few months to make a decision?"

And we decided to make a definite plan.

My law school course ends in May. Exams are in mid-May, so I'm assuming I'll have to get the finals graded and the grades turned in within a week or so of that. Jason finishes his union course around the same time. So it looks like the end of May/early June is our departure date.

There's so much to do. I'm still terrified about not being able to make it financially until then. But we'll figure it out.

I can't wait.


____________________________________
* Our obscene 50-inch flat-screen TV.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Interview

"Mr. Armstrong, I see from your application that you're seeking to be admitted to the Cole Academy's Wobbler program."

"Yes, I am. And please, call me Zeke."

"Oh, OK. Zeke. Well, Zeke, why don't you tell me why you want to join the Wobblers."

"Well, I am getting to that age -- you know, 1 year. My birthday's on Friday."

"Oh, congratulations!"

"Thank you. Anyway, so that's the standard time to start transitioning from the infant room to the Wobbler program. Plus, I feel that I'm ready, development-wise. I'm walking fairly steadily at this point -- wobbling, if you will -- I'm getting pretty chatty, and at this point, I'm towering over the other kids in the infant room, plus the babies can't really keep up with me."

"How so?"

"Well, I'm constantly on the go, and I'm a big fan of leading marauding groups of short people around the room, pulling toys off of shelves, crawling around under the cribs, that sort of thing. It's more than most of the others can handle, since, you know, most of them can barely sit up on their own."

"I see your point. Let's talk a little bit about the future. What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

"In 5 years, I'd like to be done teething. My mouth is hurting these days, so if I seem a little cranky, you'll have to forgive me."

"Not at all."

"Anyway, I'd obviously like to be running soon. I'm a big speed demon, but right now my gross motor skills can't keep up with the pace I'd like to maintain. Talking would be a plus. I'm imitating lots of words and sounds, but most of them are just Greek to me."

"Early childhood education humor -- love it."

"Thanks. I like to keep things light. Where was I? Oh, yes. So 5-year goals. Um, I guess in 5 years I'd like to be in big boy school. I know most kids start kindergarten when they're 5, but I hope to follow in my parents' footsteps and blow off kindergarten. Lame! So in 5 years, I'd like to be reading, in 1st grade."

"That's very ambitious. Best of luck to you. How about strengths and weaknesses?"

"Well, I've obviously got alot to learn, both academically and functionally. But I guess my greatest strength is my attention span. My parents tell me that my ability to focus on a particular task (or toy, whatever) is quite remarkable for my age. If I had to name a weakness, I guess it's possible that I'm a little too awesome."

"You saw Obama's speech at the Alfred E. Smith dinner, huh?"

"Yeah, I couldn't resist. Sorry."

"Well, your application looks good, and it appears you're qualified. So, welcome to the Wobblers. You'll start your transition today."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The man I married

I'm driving down the road with my parents in tow, having dropped Zeke off at school and had a leisurely latte at Starbucks. Jason left for Denver last night for a big mountain biking trip with his posse.

My phone rings. It's Kathleen.

"Can I just tell you how much I love the fact that your husband showed up on my doorstep this morning in shorts, a t-shirt, and no shoes?"

"He wasn't wearing shoes??"

"Apparently he didn't wear them the entire trip. And he was trying to put on a brave face, but he's standing there shivering in ball-shrinkingly cold weather, poor thing."

This is my husband. The crazy blue collar Aussie whose upbringing could not have been more different from my own, in just about every respect, and who I still look at from time to time and think, "how on earth did we end up together??"

Looking back over old posts, I realized I've never really written about it. So here goes.

It was December of 2003. The country was newly embroiled in the shock and awe of the Iraq war.

And I was in Costa Rica for a surfing trip.

I had taken a surfing lesson in North Carolina the previous summer, and seen Blue Crush, and was dying to learn to surf properly. So in the fall of 2003, I decided to go to Costa Rica. I sent out an email to everyone I knew to see who wanted to come. Shahira, a sorority sister from UVa., signed on, as did Carrie, a friend who I'd met when we were both bridesmaids in Michele's wedding. We decided to go to Witch's Rock Surf Camp in Tamarindo, on the western Pacific coast of CR -- primo Central American surf country.

The day we got there, we had our first surf lesson. Our teachers were Nick and Roach (a nickname, obviously). We saw Jason giving a lesson off in the distance. He had long blond hair and was about as ripped as I'd ever seen a guy.

(Jason coming up from the beach after a surf lesson)

"Surfer boys are pretty," we thought.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the surf camp (breakfast is included in the surf package). Jason was there, and was sitting with a couple of other students. We joined them and got to chatting.

He mentioned that he was from Australia, outside of Sydney, and I mentioned that I had been to Australia and adored Sydney, and there was just a vibe there. I can't explain it. It wasn't exactly love at first sight, but there was an immediate attraction and connection that was undeniable.

He asked me where I was from, and I said I lived in Atlanta, Georgia.

"You're a Georgia peach!" he said, smiling at me.

I laughed it off, but was thinking to myself, "there's something really sweet about this guy."

I had a good surf lesson that morning, and managed to get up on a bunch of waves. Afterwards, I was standing at the bar at the restaurant getting a Gatorade. Jason came up behind me, put his hands on my shoulders, and said, "you're such a beautiful thing."

"You're not so bad yourself," I replied.

And thus started a cautious vacation romance. I didn't really think much of it at first -- I figured we'd hang out, do some surfing, smooch a little, but then I'd go home and we'd go on with our lives.

But as the week went on, the intensity of the feelings between us was getting a bit overwhelming and impossible to brush off. We surfed, we talked for hours, we kissed (but nothing more), and by the end of the week, the thought of going home was very difficult to stomach. We were undeniably falling in love.

So I called the office and made up an excuse about having an ear infection and not being able to fly home ("an ear infection named Pedro!" was my friend Andrea's reaction when she heard about it) and extended my trip for another 4 days.

We went on our first actual date to a rodeo in Braselito, a town near Tamarindo.

(At the rodeo on our first real date --
you can see people sitting on the fence surrounding the bullring behind us)


And it bears noting that at the rodeo, over a week after we'd met, I still had never seen Jason wear shoes. As we were walking around, he kept feeling something brush against his lower leg as he walked. Turns out it was a wooden kebab skewer that he had stepped on and was lodged in one of his feet. He hadn't felt it.

By the time I left, we had plans for him to move up to Atlanta in a few months. He came to Georgia in April, and we spent the next year and a half figuring out how to make our relationship work while Jason spent some time in Georgia and some time in Australia.

It wasn't easy, and sometimes it still isn't. We are very, very different. And before we got engaged, I kept trying to find reasons to break up with him, because I just didn't see how we could make a life together.

But I couldn't. I love him. He's incredibly kind and friendly, he's very funny, he keeps me laughing at myself, he's affectionate. And as I've discovered, he's a wonderful father. I'll stick with him, even though he doesn't read the same books I do, is content to watch stupid punks do skateboarding tricks on Fuel TV for hours on end, and still never wears shoes.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Busy busy busy ... feh

My parents arrived for a visit this past weekend, and it's been a bit of a whirlwind. Sunday was a chill day, but Monday we were off and running. My mom and I exercised in the morning (separately -- she did some kickboxing DVD, and I did shoulders, arms and abs as part of P90X), and then we went grocery shopping, and then we played with Zeke, and then we made lunch, and then "hey! let's climb Diamond Head!"

Diamond Head is a relatively short (it only took us 25 minutes, but we were booking) but intense walk/climb up a winding rocky trail, in and out of the military bunkers that the Army installed during WWII, and then culminating with 271 steps up to a lookout with an incredible view of the ocean and the back yards of very rich people.

(The view east. Jason and I surfed that break when we were here in February 2005 for me to take the bar exam. You can see the Diamond Head lighthouse down in the lower right corner. I think Oprah owns a house along that coastline. Super ritzy real estate down there.)

(looking west toward Waikiki and Pearl Harbor)

I was sweating my ass off, but I guess I shouldn't complain, since Jason did it with Zeke on his back and set a much faster pace that I would have set (but we had to keep up with him, because if he's going that fast with a 22-pound kid on his back, then we're pussies if we lag behind).

(Jason and Zeke. Jason not only hiked with Zeke on his back, but he was barefoot, natch.)

(I took Zeke on the way down. Try to ignore the unfortunate placement of the chest strap on the backpack, making my boobs look like they're plummeting over a ledge. That's my mom behind me.)

I was so exhausted driving home that I was practically nodding off. But then, so was everyone else.

Yesterday I had some work to do in the morning, so we took Zeke to school for part of the day. Mom and I got pedicures, went to the grocery store (I love it when they visit because our fridge is always packed), and then came home to get some stuff done. We picked up Zeke at about 2 in the afternoon and headed straight for the beach. Having another set of adults there was lovely, because it meant that Jason and I could surf together, something we enjoy but don't get to do very often. The waves were kind of small and mushy, but we caught a few good ones and had a good time.

(Zeke puts his face in the sand to see what happens. What happened was the expected -- a face full of sand.)

(Having a snooze using Daddy's shirt as a blanket)

When we got home, we all went to dinner at this great Hawaiian barbecue place that we always take visitors to. The food is amazing and it's a casual, fun atmosphere.

The problem is, it's technically a bar, so they don't have high chairs or booster seats. Meaning that we had to have Zeke sitting in the booth with us, and of course all he wanted to do was grab everything and crawl on the table and knock over water glasses and bang his chop sticks on the plate and wave away the apple-blueberry puree that I had brought for him to eat.

So by the end of the evening, I was cold and wet because my jeans were soaked with ice water, and my white t-shirt now has big blueberry apple stains all over it.

We're not taking him to a restaurant again until his language skills are better and I can explain to him what's going on and what's expected of him. Or unless they have a high chair. Not that he was bad, but it's too much stimulation for him to process without getting crazy excited, meaning that I spend my meal being super-vigilant over every last thing he might want to grab or knock over, taking a minute here and there to shovel food in my face, and then demanding the check and bugging out as quickly as possible. It's just not fun for me, and since I'm the one he's gravitating to right now (he's going through a BIG "mama mama mama" phase), I'm the one that ends up dealing with the bulk of it.

The topper is, we came home and within a couple of hours I started feeling sick. It's not food poisoning, because we all had the exact same thing and everyone else is fine. It's the same stomach bug that's been going around that Jason had last week. So I spent last night throwing up and trying to find a position to lie in that didn't cause my stomach to churn.

I have the house to myself for a little while because my parents went scuba diving and Jason took Zeke to school. But not before Zeke spit up on me.

Sigh.