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


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.


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.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

It's a mystery

Philip Henslow: Mr. Fennyman, allow me to explain about the theater business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Henslow: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Fennyman: How?
I don't know. It's a mystery.

-- Shakespeare in Love

It's the strangest thing.

Just when I think that things are dire and that failure is on the brink, something happens, completely unexpectedly, to pull me back from the precipice.

Yesterday I was lamenting the fact that, upon finishing a final brief for Former BossMan, I'm out of legal work. I had been trying to network and get my name out there, but nothing had come of it.

So I'm plugging away, and I pick up the home phone to call someone, and there's a message. From a guy who found my profile on, saw that I have experience in administrative law, and called because he needs a lawyer to help him with an administrative appeal. Which is pretty much the type of litigation I've been doing my entire 14 year career.

Now, the crazy thing is -- other than the sheer poetry of the timing -- I didn't even know that my FindLaw profile was even up yet. I have been working with my customer service rep, but the last I heard from him, he was going to draft a profile and send it to me for my approval before posting anything. So imagine my surprise when my prospective client tells me that he found me on the internet.

So, it looks like I may have a new paying client. We'll see what happens. But it's certainly encouraging.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Zeke wears us down to the point that all standards -- of both decorum and parenting -- are cast aside: a photo essay

"I'm walking now. Isn't that cool? I'm still a little unsteady on my feet, but I'm getting there. Mommy and Daddy chase me around constantly. They seem a little tired lately. I wonder why? They also usually don't let me run around in just a diaper. I've heard the phrase 'white trash baby' thrown around, but I don't know what it means."

"I've discovered the trash can. I like banging on it and pushing it around the room. Mommy and Daddy seem to discourage this, but today is Sunday, so they're lying around watching football and couldn't be bothered to stop me. Score!"

"I also like opening and closing things with lids, particularly when there's a chance of getting my fingers caught. Mommy tries to explain to me that I'm going to hurt myself, but I'm a risk-taker. I like to live on the edge."

"I tend to do more exploring when only one parent is home. Mommy went to the store to get me some more swimming diapers, and I managed to crawl into the dishwasher when Daddy had his back turned for 3 seconds. Dude needs to pick up the pace if he's going to keep up with me, yo."

"Bwahahaha! I rule the world!! I get to do whatever I want!"

"OK, not really. But I'm still a white trash baby, whatever that means."

Friday, October 03, 2008

It's brains, stupid

I've been thinking quite a bit about Sarah Palin, and what the general take is on her qualifications (or lack thereof) to be vice president. Many of her critics seem to focus on her lack of experience.

I don't buy the experience line. Not because I think she is particularly experienced, but because, if you look at history, experience has never been the indicator of who will or will not be a great president. Look at Lincoln, or Kennedy, or George Washington. Before being elected president, Lincoln, who I believe was our greatest president, was a small town lawyer, owned a store, and served in the Illinois legislature and then in the U.S. House of Representatives. (Sound familiar??) George Washington was a planter, a land surveyor, and a military man. He also served in the Virginia House of Burgesses for a bit. Kennedy served in the Navy, in the Massachusetts legislature, and then a term the U.S. Senate.

In other words, these men, who are considered among the greatest of our presidents, had no more experience than Barack Obama has, and none of them had the type of executive experience that Sarah Palin has, i.e., none was ever a governor or a mayor or held similar executive office. But they were great nonetheless.

So, let's cut the bullshit. It's not experience.

It's judgment. It's smarts. It's intellectual curiosity and lifelong scholarship. It's a willingness to surround yourself with people who might challenge your views, and a willingness to actually listen to them. It's temperament. It's having true vision.

Palin exhibits none of these characteristics.

The problem with Sarah Palin isn't that she isn't experienced enough. It's that she isn't smart enough. She lacks the intellect or the knowledge base or the desire to improve her knowledge base that I believe is essential to an effective leader, particularly in these complex times.

Palin didn't do too terribly last night, because the expectations set for her were so low that basically, as long as she didn't walk out on stage and immediately burst into flames, the right-wing punditocracy would fall all over themselves gushing about how great she did. Palin looked nice, and manage to string some coherent sentences together (even if they were nothing more than rehearsed speech bits), but she never really said anything substantive. She never showed any real breadth of knowledge or understanding of the issues she purported to discuss. And as DCup eloquently points out, if the Dems nominated a man who performed as Palin did, they would be laughed out of town, and creamed in the election.

That's why she's unqualified, and why, as Andrew Sullivan has repeatedly stated, McCain's choice of her as VP renders him unqualified as well. It's not that she's inexperienced. It's that she's not very bright in any of the ways that really count.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Happy Baby

There's a yoga asana called Happy Baby that's a great way to stretch out your back and relax, particularly at the end of a long workout. In addition to being physically soothing, I also find it spiritually soothing.

If there was ever a day I needed Happy Baby, it was today.

Today the depression hit me hard. As I've discussed numerous times, I suffer from clinical depression, and it's something that is with me pretty much always. I take medication for it, but I still have occasional cycles of despair that I can only chalk up to my internal wiring.

Of course, there is such a thing as situational depression as well, and the stress of our current situation tends to bring on days when I have an inordinately hard time getting out of bed, and even when I do drag my ass up, I spend much of the day crying or feeling utterly despondent. Maybe the clinical depression makes me particularly susceptible to reacting badly to a rough situation. I don't know.

Anyway, on days when this happens, I'll feel shitty all day, and then out of the blue, my head will clear and the feeling will pass, or at least mostly pass. I can at least function, or change out of my pajama bottoms and leave the house.

I was a wreck today. I couldn't shake the feeling that I'm a big fat loser who has failed at everything she has ever done, who has made nothing but shitty decisions and who is now reaping the consequences of those shitty decisions.

So I moped around and did a little bit of work, but couldn't get into it. And I slept some. And I spend a large chunk of time watching the coverage leading up to the VP debate, and then the debate itself.

And then Jason came home from picking up Zeke at school. And in addition to feeling cheerier because my son lights up like the sun the minute he sees me, his daily progress report said this:
Zeke had a wonderful day. He took a long nap and woke up very happy. He played with his friends. He sure likes to talk alot, to caregivers and friends. He's also trying to walk - he takes two - three steps and then gets happy and claps. He is a very happy baby!
And it's true. He is. We play with him and read to him and sing to him and there's alot of laughing and giggling in the house, on everybody's part. I can honestly say that whatever fucked up negativity I've got swirling around in my head, I'm raising a happy baby.

And that's not an insignificant accomplishment.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How's Zeke?

He's fine. The cut is right on the line with his eyebrow, and did not require stitches. It's healing up just fine with the butterfly bandage. He's been happy as ever, eating and sleeping fine, not in any pain that we can tell.

And no, he isn't drinking shampoo. It's an empty bottle that we washed out and now he uses it as a bath toy.

As DCup stated, we've joined the Benign Neglect club. Yay?