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.


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


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.