Thursday, February 28, 2008

Thank God for my crazy brain, and for all of you

The truth is, I don't live a very exciting life.

So many people are all, "oooh, you live in Hawaii! Whee! Paradise blah blee bloo."

But it's not like I spend my days hiking through the jungle admiring waterfalls and vistas like the cast of Lost.

In fact, because I work from home, my exposure to the outside world is pretty limited. Yes, I'm in Hawaii, but I spend most of my time sitting in my normal suburban house working on a computer and occasionally getting up to eat, exercise or do laundry or dishes. Twice a day I drive up the road to drop Zeke off at school and pick him up, and occasionally I'll detour to the drug store or grocery store for provisions. But I spend alot of time by myself in my office, so to an alien observing me from Planet Xorcam, my existence is kind of boring.

But I don't feel that way, thank God -- at least not most of the time.

Because I've got my phone, so I can talk to my family or my friends and keep up with what they're doing.

And I've got my imagination, so I can perseverate on why I had the most amazingly complex dream last night involving riding on the space shuttle with The Connells, a band I have not listened to or thought about since I was at UVa., while they played me a belated birthday serenade. And yes, I second your "WTF??"

And most of all, I've got the internet, so I can read the news and stay current on my blogger friends and feel like I'm out in the world, rather than on a tiny island in the middle of the fucking Pacific Ocean. Even sitting alone in my little office, I feel like I have a little community I'm a part of, that keeps up with me and checks up on me when I'm down, and that engages me in something other than my own humdrum life.

Bless you all. You keep me sane. Sort of.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Impulse control

I am not a big shopper. At least not for clothes. I hate malls, department stores, boutiques. For the most part, if I can't buy it online, I feel like I must not really need it.

But I love love love drugstores. And places like Target and WalMart. Target in particular, but Hawaii doesn't have one (I'm counting down to next March when one opens about 2 miles from my house -- whee!!), so WalMart has to suffice.

Kathleen and I used to joke that we were incapable of going to Target without spending $100. It didn't matter if we were going in only intending to buy a new pen. Somehow, that pen turned into new underwear and an Isaac Mizrahi purse and some laundry detergent and ink for the printer and some cute shoes that we had to have.

This morning after dropping Zeke off at school, I went to WalMart to buy toilet paper. I left with toilet paper, plus a new wireless router, a new phone for the house, a USB storage drive, and a sponge for the kitchen sink.

At least the router is tax deductible.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Amateur hour

For the first time in my life, I went out surfing by myself today during my lunch hour. It was very intimidating -- the whole time I felt like a total poseur. The fact that I drove into the beach parking lot with my board strapped to the top of a red Mercedes sedan, rather than a crappy Dodge Dart or a pickup truck, didn't help. I got some funny looks from the guys with the bleached out hair who looked like someone had called and asked for surfers from Central Casting.

The waves were decent -- there's a bit of a south swell -- but they were breaking a long, long way out, so I was paddling forever to catch anything. It was easier to stay and catch some of the inside waves, so that's what I did. And I was out for about 25 minutes, caught a couple of good ones, caught a couple of mediocre ones, and took a couple of dives. But I did it, and without humiliating myself.

Everyone is congratulating me and telling me how brave it was for me to just contact the law school out of the blue and propose a new course and get it on the curriculum. But I felt much braver heading out to a local break -- White Plains is not a tourist beach at all -- and holding my own among the big boys.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another tribute

It's been a crazy and wonderful week. The house on the North Shore was amazing, huge and spacious and perfect for an enormous group with a passel of munchkins, right across from Chun's Reef, a break that is more intimidating than the baby waves I get at my local beach on the south shore, but not so huge that I couldn't catch a ride from time to time.

And speaking of, I'm officially surfing again. Jason and I have been every day for the past 5 or 6, and it's been so great. Yesterday we went out in the morning (my mom hung out with Zeke) and even though there was a huge crowd, it seemed like most of the people were just sitting on their boards because they weren't properly positioned to catch any waves. Without any help from Jason, I caught about 7 or 8 waves on my own, and was figuring out how to turn into the wave and walk the board. It's a long paddle out to the waves, though, so after about 45 minutes I was exhausted, plus all the paddling was making my shoulder ache where I separated it. But it was a sweet morning in the water, and so fun to be out with Jason.

In other news, my education law course got approved by the law school. So it looks like I'm going to be a law professor. So exciting, but also completely surreal.

We're back at home now, and I'm missing everyone like crazy. The nice thing is, Jason and Zeke and I are going to Denver next month to see Kathleen and her crew to do some skiing. I'm still all a-glow from seeing everyone, and overwhelmed at the fact that they flew out all this way to see me and spend time with me. So it's time for a tribute:

Mindy and Chris: Flew out from Atlanta with two small kids and stayed for two weeks. Mindy kept the house in clean laundry. Chris kept us in yummy food with his cooking. They both did well surfing -- Mindy got up on her very first try and rode a wave in to the shore. Chris did a "dawn raid" with J and me to a surf break on the west side and cheerfully rode in a beach chair in the back of Jason's noisy cargo van. Gave Jason an insanely generous gift card to a North Shore surf shop -- enough to get him a new board. 5 Organic Veggie Burgers.

Michele: Flew out from Atlanta with a 4 week old baby, and could only stay for 3 days. Was cheerful and wonderful in spite of an appalling lack of sleep. Spoiled us with her amazing vodka pasta. 5 Gulfstream V Jets.

Grayson: Overcame his nervousness (perfectly natural, given that he's only 3 years old) to get onto a surfboard and let Jason push him (gently) into waves. 5 Boogie Boards.

Kathleen and Addie: Flew from Denver to Atlanta to Honolulu in a short time, made me smile constantly with their cheer and sweetness. Kathleen fed her surf jones and got up on the board a bunch of times, including one ride that qualified as "wave of the day." Brought Zeke a bunch of great toys for the Jewish Holidays (all of them), including a stuffed Hannukah menorah and a Jewish holiday puzzle. Addie made a beautiful piece of art with paper, tape and stickers that is now adorning our fridge. She also entertained us with a hula dance in her new hula girl outfit. 5 Princess Crowns.

Mom: In addition to giving birth to me and being the greatest mom ever, she flew out to see me for my birthday, bought us groceries, cleaned up after us, watched Zeke so we could get time in the water, and generally was the wonderful sweetheart she always is. 5 Perfect Tans.

And last, but certainly not least....

Jason: Spent the entire last year organizing the week for me. Did all of it to make me happy, knowing how much I miss my friends. Cheered me on in the surf, giving me useful pointers and celebrating when I did well. Generally behaved like a mensch and a sweetheart, as he always does. I love you, babe. 5,000 Perfect Waves.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Village

In this beach house, we've got two couples, two moms traveling without their husbands, a grandmother, and five children -- a 4 week old, a 4 month old, a 10 month old, a 3 year old and a 4 year old. The kids keep us busy, but when one of the parents needs a break, there is someone on hand to pick up the slack, and everyone is able to get time in the water or time on the surfboard or time in the sun or enough naps or whatever they need. We take turns cooking dinner and cleaning up and watching the kids in the water. We talk about buying a huge house somewhere, in which each family has their own wing for privacy yet there are common areas for eating and playing, and we are only half kidding. Because this kibbutz-style life is seriously the way to go.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Back in the saddle

We're up at the beach house on the North Shore. It's huge and across the street from a wave called Chun's Reef. The beach is wide and has big areas shaded by trees, so it's great for sitting with the kids.

And it's got killer waves.

I haven't surfed since February of 2005, when Jason and I were in Hawaii so I could take the bar exam. By the time we got here last year, I was already pregnant, and since Zeke was born I've been either trying to get back into shape or too intimidated by the prospect of trying to shlep the baby down onto the beach. Plus, since it's been so long since I've surfed, I really wanted my first few times back out to be with Jason, and it was obviously impossible for us both to get out into the water and leave the baby to fend for himself.

So today Mindy and Chris and Jason and I took the monkeys to the beach, and Zeke fell asleep, so Jason decided it was time to get me out in the water. We got on our boards and started paddling out. At first my arms were tired, but then I got into the swing of it and we made our way into the lineup. The first two waves I tried to catch were busts. The first one I had, but I froze up and lost my muscle memory of how to pop-up. The second was big, and I had it, but I psyched myself out and jumped off because I was scared.

Jason could tell my head was getting in the way of catching a wave, so he told me to follow him to a particular point, made me turn around, said, "start paddling" and pushed me into the wave. And all of a sudden I remembered what to do. I pushed with both hands, pulled up my knees and suddenly I was standing on the board, riding the wave. It was a nice, smooth wave, and I even managed to make a couple turns and walk the board a little bit. When the wave petered out, I raised my arms in the air, yelled "woohoo!" and jumped off.

Holy crap, it was so much fun. I can't believe it's been three years, and I can't wait to get out there again. I know I've been kind of bitching and moaning about Hawaii lately, but all of a sudden the prospect of being able to strap my board to the roof of my car and head down to the beach to catch a couple of waves during lunchtime is incredibly appealing. What an awesome way to break up the work day.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Baby love

Today is my birthday. Every year on my birthday, my mother calls and tells me the story of the day I was born (or more accurately, the days leading up to my birth plus the day I was born). It's the best tradition ever. I could recite the story for her at this point, but it's so much fun to pick up the phone and have her say, "do you want to hear about the day you were born?"


"Ok, well, the night before Valentine's Day we went to a big dance, and your father and I danced so much because I was hoping it would encourage you to be born the next day. I was so excited! Anyway..." and she recites the whole story, and tells me that from the day I was born, she loved me like crazy and always had so much fun with me.

This year, obviously, is the first time that I've listened to the story as a mother myself, and it gave me such different perspective. When she called, it was about 6:30 in the morning Hawaii time, and Jason was getting Zeke dressed and ready for school. When he came in and brought me the phone, he had Zeke in his arms, and when Zeke saw me and heard my voice, he gave me this enormous smile. And he has the best, best smile. He's got this gorgeous dimple and when he smiles he opens his mouth really wide and just looks like he wants to shout for sheer joy. It's wonderful.

So for the first time, I felt like I truly understood the joy my mother had with me as a baby, and it gave me a burst of love both for her and for Zeke that practically made my chest explode. Like I was finally experiencing motherhood the way it was supposed to be experienced.

Because nobody ever tells you this before you have a baby, but the initial couple of weeks (even months) after giving birth can be grueling and difficult, and sometimes it's hard to feel that rush of baby love that you feel like you're supposed to have. I heard all of these stories about moms who give birth and the first time they hold their child, they feel this instant rush of intense love for their baby.

But I didn't feel that when Zeke was first born, and I felt horrible about it. I was too exhausted and in pain and just worn out, mentally and physically, by the whole experience.

Don't get me wrong -- I loved him because he was my child and I felt protective of him and enjoyed holding him and snuggling with him. But for the first two months -- and in particular, the first four weeks -- I felt completely shell-shocked. My hormones were going crazy, so I cried at the drop of a hat, my body felt weird and mushy after being pregnant for so long, I was depressed because I really wanted to breastfeed but wasn't able to produce enough milk, I was completely exhausted all the time, and I was mentally on edge because there was this tiny helpless person that needed me for everything and I felt like I didn't know what the fuck I was supposed to do with him half the time. Plus he wasn't really reacting yet to our faces or our voices, so it was hard to feel like he really knew us or felt any connection to us.

But then, slowly, Jason and I both became more competent with the baby care, and Zeke started to settle into more regular patterns of eating and sleeping, and it became easier.

And then he smiled at us for the first time when he was about 2 1/2 months old, and we fell in love with him all over again. A different kind of love than we had felt before -- this love felt truer and unique to Zeke himself, because we were getting to know him not just as this blob that we were taking care of, but as an individual with a budding personality. Soon he was seeking out our faces when he heard our voices, and enjoying bathtime (and pre-bath time), and giving us huge toothless grins when we sing to him or make funny faces or even peek into the crib in the morning when it's time to get up. We spend time with him and marvel at what a wonder he is and how much we adore him.

The other day, Jason and I picked Zeke up from daycare together, and Jason sat in the back seat with him while I drove home. Jason made a funny face or noise or something, and Zeke laughed. A full, "hahaha" real laugh. Jason burst into tears, it made him so happy.

So now I understand that crazy, wonderful baby love that parents experience. And it's just the best birthday present ever.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A romantic Valentine's Day exchange

I'm sitting with Zeke in the rocker, trying to get him to go to sleep. He's been up past his bedtime and is overtired and a little fussy, so I'm trying to soothe him and get him to settle down. He finally starts to relax -- he's working on a bottle and his left hand is massaging the top of my left breast, just under my shirt collar.

Suddenly, I hear steps like someone (presumably Jason) is running, a loud crash, an "ooof," and then groaning.

I don't want to jolt Zeke out of his reverie, so I whisper loudly, "Honey? Are you OK?"

More groaning.

I continue rocking in the chair. Jason is apparently nursing some kind of wound on the stairs, but he hasn't said, "call 911," so I stay with Zeke. Finally, I hear Jason stumble up. It's dark in the hallway and in Zeke's room, so I can only see his silhouette as he limps in to sit with me while the baby goes to sleep.

"Did you bump something?"

"Grrhnn." He grunts in assent, and then starts lowering himself onto the floor. He also starts to chuckle, because for reasons I will never comprehend, his reaction to extreme pain is to laugh.

"Honey, before you sit down, could you hand me Zeke's blanket from the crib?"

Jason leans over until he is on all fours, resting on his forearms, head down, continuing to laugh in pain. This goes on for a couple of minutes. I still don't have Zeke's blanket.

In the gentle sing-songy voice I use for bedtime, I say, "Zekey, could you tell Daddy to stop being such a pussy and hand me your blanket?" I'm starting to laugh a little bit at this point, but I'm keeping it under control. Jason starts doing that silent shaking thing when he's laughing so hard that he can't even produce sound.

Zeke starts to fuss because what was once a soft, still, comfortable place to rest is starting to move as I am beginning to have difficulty controlling my shaking. I shush him and pull myself together, and he calms down again.

Still no blanket.

A minute later, I say, "Boy, Zekey, Daddy's really being a soft-cock, isn't he?"

Jason starts to wheeze with laughter, but manages to reach into the crib and hand me the blanket. He then collapses on the floor.

"What did you do?" I ask.

"I think I broke my toe. I was running to come up here and slammed my foot on the edge of the stairs."

"I'm sorry, babe."

We stay like that for a minute or two. I snuggle Zeke, who is close to being asleep. Jason lies on the floor, waiting for the pain to subside.

Finally he decides to go put some ice on it.

"Good night, Zekers. Daddy's going to go fan the sand out of his vagina now."

And we both totally lose our shit. I burst out with a laugh about 6 inches from Zeke's ear, who starts awake and begins to cry again, plus I'm shaking uncontrollably, so he's understandably pissed. Jason is standing up but bent over at the waist with his hands on his knees, because that's the only way he can avoid falling over.

By the time we all calm down, I think we've all three peed in our pants a little bit.

Jason finally limps out to get some ice.

"Feel better, honey! Love you!"

"Love you too, baby. Happy Valentine's Day."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sign of the times?

Lately I've noticed the topic of a person's star sign coming up frequently in conversations I've had or overheard. "I have a tendency to do X," "Oh, well, that makes sense because you're a Scorpio" -- that sort of thing. It all goes right over my head. I don't know anything about astrology and though I have no problem with other people putting stock in it, I'm not sure I buy the notion that I have much in common with the other 1/12 of the world's population that was also born whenever Aquarius is (late January to late February?), other than we have birthdays close together. I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm just saying that with my extremely left-dominant brain, I don't really get it.

The benefit of all of this astrology talk is that I get a good chuckle because it reminds me of one of my favorite bits from Monty Python's Life of Brian. At the very beginning of the movie, the three wise men are in a manger in Bethlehem, thinking they are blessing Jesus, but they've actually stumbled into the wrong manger and are blessing Brian, a random baby.

Brian's mother learns they are astrologers and asks, "well then, what star sign is he?"


"Capricorn, eh? What are they like?"

"He is the son of God, our Messiah! The King of the Jews!"

"And that's Capricorn, is it?"

"No, no, that's just him."

"Oh, I was going to say, otherwise there'd be a lot of them."


So, what are Aquarians like? Is it possible that 1/12 of the world population is as moody, demanding, self-doubting and bossy as I am? All I have to say to that is, "oy."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In development: the ball cozy

About 3 years ago for New Year's Eve (it was before Jason and I were married, so it must have been New Year's of 2005), we rented a big house on a lake in the mountains of western North Carolina with 3 other couples and all their kids and dogs. We went for walks, took the canoe out on the lake, rough-housed with the kids, watched movies, and played cards and drank bourbon after the kids were asleep. Lots and lots of bourbon, and lots and lots of cards (I think we were playing Hearts).

At some point, Jason, who has a colorful way with words, mentioned to someone that they might want to think about sticking their cards up their mud-button. And yes, it means exactly what you think it means. Kathleen practically did a spit-take, she was laughing so hard, and "mud-button" became the word of the weekend. Someone who was being a dick while playing cards got extra "mud-button" points. We vowed to come up with a way to add "mud-button" to the Oxford English Dictionary. Could it be a verb as well as a noun? We were determined to make it work.

This week and next, a bunch of my friends and their children are coming to Hawaii (or are already here) for my birthday. My mom's coming, too, which will be great, because she hasn't seen Zeke since he was born. Jason rented a huge house on the North Shore, and we'll take the kids surfing and build sand castles and just relax and have fun.

And last night, I think we came up with the new word of the week -- this year's "mud-button" if you will.

When my mom was stationed in Papua New Guinea, I went to visit her and I brought back presents for some of my friends. As a joke, a couple of the guys got penis gourds. Last night, Jason and Chris and I were sitting around after dinner gabbing, and we were talking about my PNG trip. Chris mentioned the penis gourd, but he couldn't remember what it was called, so he kept calling it a "ball cozy." Which just about killed me. I kept thinking of a smaller, testicle-sized version of a tea cozy and I couldn't stop giggling.

And of course, "ball cozy" kept working it's way into the conversation. How useful they would be while hiking or doing athletic activities, particularly in the cold, what the TV infomercial selling them would be like, and the variety of colors they could come in.

I may actually knit some this week as party favors, if I can figure out a pattern. (Or I could cheat and cut up a hacky-sack and put a drawstring on it). And if the guys don't like it, I'll tell them they can stick it right up their mud-buttons.

Monday, February 11, 2008

For the first time in my life, I feel old. And boring.

Yesterday I walked by a mirror in the house, got a look at myself, and was horrified. Not because I had spinach in my teeth or because my ass looked fat or anything like that. But because I appeared to myself to be the epitome of a suburban housewife type. Striped t-shirt, khaki shorts, boring bobbed hairstyle, flip-flops.


When did this happen? I used to have some style. I had gorgeous suits that I wore to work and a pretty slammin' shoe collection and cool clothes that I wore out with my friends, and I looked somewhat hip some of the time.

But when we moved to Hawaii, I knew I would have no need for suits so I sold them or gave them away, and did the same with most of my shoes and my winter clothes. Then I got pregnant, so all I wore was maternity clothes, usually tank tops and baggy pants. After the baby I never really went shopping except to buy t-shirts in bulk at WalMart or KMart.

And so here I am. I feel like I look so boring and conventional. And old. But it's hard to justify going out and buying cool clothes, because I don't have anywhere to wear them anyway -- all I ever do is go from home to daycare to the grocery store to back home again. Plus Zeke has an ear infection and isn't sleeping again and I'm so tired and I feel like I have no time to clean the house or get my work done or just read a book or do anything but stumble from one chore to the next, completely delirious with exhaustion. I feel like the "before" picture -- the "what not to do" picture -- from a Ladies Home Journal article on The Modern Mom Trying To Do It All.


Friday, February 08, 2008

I know a secret. Finally.

Perhaps the one area in which my husband and I aren't entirely compatible is our attitude towards surprises. I hate them, he loves them. I seek out spoilers about my favorite TV shows, because it doesn't ruin the watching experience for me if I already know what happens. (Though I was unspoiled when Janice shot Richie Aprile in the second to last episode of Season 2 of The Sopranos, and the shock of it was fucking awesome.) I will sometimes peek at the end of a novel to see what happens, because I just want to see where it's going and if it's worth my effort to continue reading. It doesn't dampen my enjoyment of the book at all.

I have many friends and relatives who chose not to find out the sex of their baby during pregnancy, because they wanted to be surprised. I don't understand this at all. What's so great about being surprised? To me, knowing something in advance not only allows you to enjoy the thing when it happening, but also to enjoy the anticipation of it, so you're basically doubling your pleasure. Like the Doublemint Gum TM version of life.

These issues have all come up in the context of Jason's birthday present for me, namely arranging for a number of my close friends from Atlanta to come to Hawaii, and renting a big beach house up on the North Shore for everyone to stay in. I guess the idea was that he would come up with some excuse to get in the car, like we were going out for dinner or something, and we would pull up at the house and everyone would be out on the deck and I would plotz from excitement. Jason ended up having to spill the beans because one of our friends is getting married the day after my birthday and I was seriously contemplating flying back to Atlanta for the weekend to be with her, as distasteful as an 11 hour flight with about 36 hours' turnaround sounded.

But, it turns out, he was still holding out on me.

Because of the craziness of peoples' schedules -- one couple was trying to sell their house and couldn't do anything until they did, another just had a baby about 4 weeks ago, another was about to get married, etc. -- I was told that only one family could make it. But Jason kept hinting that I would be getting another surprise, and I just had a feeling that it would be that my best friend Kathleen would be able to come, even if she couldn't come with her husband and kids.

And then I found out that my suspicions were right. And now Michele (she of the Gulfstream V rating) may come out as well with her new baby. And not only does Jason not know that I know, but I don't think he knows about Michele because she just decided to try to come out, like, yesterday.

Part of me thinks I should just let Jason have his fun and think I'm in the dark. But part of me wants to emphasize to him how much more fun it's been for me over the past week or so knowing that other people would be able to make it and looking forward to seeing them. To me, that millisecond of shock and joy that the surprise would have caused is nothing compared to the joy of knowing my friends will be here and anticipating how much fun we're going to have.

What should I do?

*Jason doesn't read this blog, so there's no risk that he'll find out about this by virtue of this post.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Survivorman Face

I have no poker face. If I'm happy, it shows, if I'm upset, it shows, and if I'm disdainful, it really shows.

Jason refers to it as my Survivorman face. Survivorman is a show on the Discovery Channel made by this guy who's an expert in outdoor survival, so on the show he plops himself out in the middle of the Arctic tundra or the Amazon rainforest or the Sahara desert or whereever and has to survive on scorpions and toe lint for a week. The conceit of the show is that he films the show himself without a camera crew, so he lugs all the cameras around and sets up shots himself, and spends lots of time babbling to the camera while he's out there alone in the wilderness.

Jason introduced me to this show a few years ago, and while I certainly respect the guy's skills, I always found his incessant chatter annoying (somehow, Bear Grylls of Man vs. Wild manages to do it without annoying me, but maybe because he's smoking hot). Without being conscious of it, I would spend the majority of the show with a look on my face that came to be known as the Survivorman face.

The Survivorman face is basically an exaggerated "who farted?" face. Brow furrowed, eyes slightly narrowed, nose and upper lip pulled up, mouth slightly open. It's a look that I spend much time and effort hiding. In court, for example, it is the height of bad form to react to something your opponent says with eye rolls, heavy sighs, or open looks of disdain. It's rude and unprofessional, the sign of a rookie. So when I'm in court, I keep my face absolutely neutral. The most I will allow myself is a slight eyebrow raise from time to time, kind of like a pressure valve to keep my head from exploding right off my shoulders.

But it takes enormous effort to maintain that facial calm, and in my everyday life, I have more trouble disguising it when someone does something that betrays them as a complete chowderhead.

Which makes dealing with my next-door neighbor difficult.

Did you ever meet someone and discover that every single thing about them irritated you? That's my next-door neighbor. She's a busybody who's always complaining and seeing conspiracies against her everywhere. Plus, if the sun is down, she walks around the neighborhood all bundled up in a ski parka and hat, even though the lowest it gets here is about 75 degrees. She even asked if she could have one of Zeke's newborn-size onesies so her stupid little yippy dog could wear it. Everything she does bugs the living shit out of me.

I knew we were in trouble the first time we met and she introduced herself. She has this crazy name that her parents made up and that means nothing, but her parents apparently told her is a biblical name. It isn't. So of course when she told me her name and said it was from the Bible, I thought about it and immediately the Survivorman face appeared. Jason elbowed me and I made it go away.

Within days after we moved into our house, NDN started bugging us about the trees in our yard. According to her, our trees are too tall and violate the condo rules. She has been writing letters to the condo association for over a year, and they have been ignoring her. Our sellers did not disclose any possible violations of the condo rules, so my position is and has been that it's not my problem -- if someone wants to remove the trees, fine, but I ain't paying for it.

One night NDN showed up on our doorstep with a big stack of copies of the letters she had been sending to the condo board for the past year, and copies of the condo rules she claims we have violated. I opened the door, saw who it was, and immediately forced my face into my neutral "court" expression.

"Hi. I just wanted to give you copies of these letters so you would know what's going on."

"Oh, OK. Thanks."

You can see that this newsletter highlights the fact that trees in your yard can't be over 15 feet tall, or over the roofline. I tried dealing with the previous owners but they ignored me, and the condo board hasn't done anything about it either, but your trees clearly violate the rules."

"Hmmmm." Deep breath.

"I know it wasn't disclosed to you and you didn't know anything about it, so it really shouldn't be your problem."

"That's right, it isn't." Stay neutral, stay neutral.

Oh, and also, there's a board meeting tomorrow that I think you should go to. There's a proposal to put in a gate at the entrance to the neighborhood, but I know for a fact that the company that has bid on the job to build the gate has one of the board members in his pocket and is giving him kickbacks. You should vote against it."

Slight eyebrow raise. "Is that right? How do you know this?"

"I have a source on the board."

"Really? Who?"

"I can't tell you."

"Hmm," I keep my voice silken. "Well, that makes it hard to assess their reliability, doesn't it?"

"Oh, they're reliable, I can promise you that. Anyway, I just wanted to give you these letters."

"Well, I sure appreciate that." Sometimes having spent half my life in the South comes in handy. "You take care now."

A few weeks later I ran into the property manager. When he realized where I lived, he said, "oh, you live next door to the crazy lady. Don't worry about your trees, they're fine. I'm sending her a letter tonight telling her that her complaints aren't valid." We haven't heard from her about the trees since.

Then last night, the doorbell rang. I opened it, and NDN was standing there, all rugged up in her parka and scarf. It was almost 80 degrees outside. Survivorman face started to creep up, but I caught it in time.

"Hi, can I help you?"

"Hi, Wendy. Do you smell something? I think something died in your backyard."

I sniffed the air.

"No, I don't smell anything. Jason, do you smell anything?"

Jason went out into the back yard and took a whiff. "Nope, I don't smell anything."

"Well, when I was walking on my walkway, which is next to your yard, I smelled something that smelled like a dead animal."

"Hmm. I don't smell anything and neither does Jason."

"Yeah, also, I was washing my car and one of the kids across the street came over to me and said he smelled something funny."

Neutral face, Wendy.

"I don't smell anything and neither does Jason."

"It smells like something died."

"I don't smell anything and neither does Jason."

"It smells like it's coming from your back yard."

The facade is beginning to crack. I'm trying really hard to keep it together.

"I don't smell anything and neither does Jason. I don't know what else to tell you."

When I went back in the house, Jason took one look at me and burst out laughing.

"Hello, Survivorman!"

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Imposter Syndrome

Do you ever feel like you do all of this grownup stuff that some people find very important and impressive, but really you're just winging it and full of shit, and eventually the world will figure it out? I feel that way most of the time. I could be arguing a case before a panel of judges at the United States Court of Appeals, slamming one of their questions out of the park, and I still feel like I look and sound like a teenager and that any minute, someone's going to ask me for my credentials and send me back to study hall.

It's called Imposter Syndrome, and I think alot of people experience it. My mother, who is a career Foreign Service diplomat and has served as a U.S. ambassador to foreign countries, confessed to me once that she feels that way, too. When she was an ambassador, people were constantly coming to her asking for advice and instructions and policy recommendations, and she knew the answers but said she frequently felt like she was flying by the seat of her pants and that she was convinced others would soon be on to her.

So far, I've managed to fool everyone.

I'm developing this education law course to teach at the law school at the University of Hawaii. I was looking for a way to get out into the legal community and make some local contacts, because working from home can be very lonely and isolating. So I went onto the law school's website and checked out their course offerings, and discovered they don't have an education law course. I have practiced special education law exclusively for 9 years, and know a bit about education law generally in addition to special education law specifically, so I wrote to the academic dean of the law school and offered to develop and teach a course for them. She took me up on it. It would be a new course that has to be approved by the curriculum committee, so the dean told me to write up the course proposal, pick out a textbook and develop a syllabus, and she would present it to the committee next week.

Today I sat down and wrote out the proposal. It took me a few hours. I researched textbooks and found one that was highly rated and that includes discussion of newer topics in the field. I developed a description for the course catalogue and a justification for the law school to expend resources on a course like this. I planned out a week-by-week syllabus for a semester.

The dean loves it. And I feel like a little kid playing "school."

Whither willpower?

Lately I have been having a wicked craving for cake. Or pastry. Mostly cake. I've been able to resist, for the most part. Until yesterday, when I was driving to Zeke's school to pick him up, stopped for gas because the light came on, and threw a pack of Twinkies in with the bottle of water and pack of gum when I was paying.

A fucking pack of Twinkies. And it was a 3-pack -- there was a bonus Twinkie in there for my snarfing pleasure. Whee!

I haven't had Twinkies, like, ever. My mother didn't allow us to eat crap like that when I was a kid (we were a "no sugar cereal" household), and I seriously cannot remember ever making the decision to pull a package of them off the shelf and hand over cash so I could consume them. I know I have tasted them before -- probably one of my elementary school friends with lenient parents let me have a bite -- but actually going out and buying them? I have no recollection of that.

Within a half-mile of the gas station, all 3 Twinkies were history.

"But wait," you say. "Haven't you been making a huge effort to eat well and doing a hard-core exercise program in an effort to lose that last 15 pounds of baby weight?"

"Yes. Yes, I have. Thank you for reminding me."

"So what happened?" you ask.

Well, that's a good question. I don't really have food issues -- I don't eat when I'm depressed or anything like that. The opposite, in fact. The more stressed I am, the more my appetite abandons me. And I generally have enormous willpower when it comes to diet and exercise. Give me a structured program, a calendar and a food scale and I will stick to it within an inch of its life. I'm almost addicted to the discipline of it. But I guess trying to stick to a difficult program when I haven't really slept in 3 months and everyone in my household is sick was just too much. I got a cold, I got tired, I got lazy, and I got my period. A grand slam of motivation killers.

But I'm back today with a vengeance. The good thing about eating crap like Twinkies is that within 24 hours I feel like a disgusting pudge, and any desire to eat junk food flies out the window. All I want to do is have a protein shake and lift weights. Zeke is sleeping longer at a stretch (shit, I feel like I'm jinxing myself by admitting it), my cold is gone, and I'm feeling motivated again. Which is good, because I've got a ton of stuff to do and I can't afford to be a bum. I need to write that education law syllabus for the law school today. I need to mail off my Hawaii tax return. I need to mail our Australian relatives a bunch of presents that were supposed to be Christmas presents but I guess will have to be Valentine's or Lincoln's Birthday gifts. And somewhere in all of that, I will find time to work out.

Wish me luck.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Chabon on Obama

This is not a political blog. Though I am extremely interested in politics and obviously have opinions about what's going on in the election, there are so many others that write about it far, far more adroitly than I could possibly hope to, that I just leave it to them.

But on this Super Tuesday Eve, I feel compelled to provide this link to an essay about Barack Obama, written by Michael Chabon, my favorite author and a man whose brilliance with the written word is humbling and awe-inspiring.

Let's fix this mess we're in. Get out and vote tomorrow.

Baby smack talk

In the last week, Zeke has all of a sudden started talking. I don't mean actual intelligible speech, but he has discovered that he has a voice and can make noise if he chooses to. And he chooses to. Yesterday we were hanging out watching the game (*sniff*) and Zeke was chilling out in Jason's lap, adding his own commentary. "Heeaahooo." "Hmmnnneee." It's outrageously cute.

Jason wondered aloud, "What do you think he's saying? Maybe he's trying to tell us something."

"Maybe. Maybe he's trying to talk some smack to us."

"Hnnoooo," said Zeke.

Jason translated: "You call that a bottle? It smells like you mixed that bottle in your ass!"

"Mhoooaaa," Zeke added.

"Who taught you how to put outfits together? Do you really think this onesie goes with these pants?!? I look like a moron!"

Zeke smiled broadly. "Hmheeo."

I think we're on to him.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Who are you?

Dear Internets,

I've been writing this blog for over a year and a half. At first it was just a way to stay in touch with friends, so I got, like, 5 hits a day, but over time my readership has (slightly) expanded and when I check my stats lately (and I do, I'll admit) I'm noticing some regulars whose IP addresses I don't recognize. And I find it fascinating that there are people out there who know all of this stuff about me and check up on my daily comings and goings, but I have no idea who they are.

So I was wondering if y'all could do me a favor. If you're reading this, could you leave a comment and say hello and let me know something about you. I don't need names and serial numbers, if you don't want to leave them. Just a note so I can have a little glimpse of who's out there.

Can't wait to hear from you,
Love, Wendy