Monday, December 28, 2009

the high cost of insurance

I am amazed at the cost of insurance. Not for us, although that boggles the mind as well, but for pets. We have not had pet insurance in the past, because the dog has pre-existing conditions. Yes, you heard me -- the dog had pre-existing conditions. I finally found a policy today, that will cover the dog and his hip dysplasia and heart defects... for only $588 per year. It has a $20,000 per year cap, and a deductible; in short, it works just like a people plan. For my dog.

Because, with every advance in people medicine, there are corresponding advances in veterinary medicine. Your dog can have chemo, he can get insulin for his diabetes, he can be sent to PT for his hips. He can even get glasses for his eyesight (no, not making that up). I have no idea how they do an eye test on a dog. And you can pay thousands and thousands of dollars for his care.

I got the insurance for two reasons. 1) history tells me that the dog's vet bills are averaging more than $3000 a year and 2) I read a very sad article on the increase in financial euthanasia for pets. What this means is that more and more people are having to choose to put their pets to sleep rather than pay for medical care.

I saw this myself at the vet's the last time I was there. A woman had to put a 4 year old cat to sleep, because she couldn't pay $3000 for the minor surgery it needed. She was heart-broken, but she just didn't have the resources.

So now I have pet insurance for the dog. Next month, I add the older cat to the policy, and then after that, the younger one.

Because it is better to go broke slowly, than all at once.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a terrible decade, NOT

Last night, Katie Couric did a piece on how this decade was one of the worst in modern times. It got me thinking about the last ten years, in my own life.

In the last ten years:

we moved twice, both times improving our life immensely
our son got into the school that's changed his life
I went to work at Johns Hopkins
my husband started telecommuting, which has made him very very happy
I started graduate school, which has made me very very happy
we've watched our son grow from a little five year old boy to an almost sixteen year old man
we've met endless wonderful people who have become friends
we've travelled to Belize, Paris, Nova Scotia, to Michigan, Ohio, Tennessee, New Hampshire, North Carolina
we got a dog who has become family
we've made (and spent) more money than we ever thought we would
we've had marvelous dinners with friends, great parties, seen wonderful art, heard great music, read good books

Sure, there are tons of negatives to the last decade (George Bush, Dick Cheney, 9/11, the sniper, the financial crash, global warming). I am no pollyanna. But all in all, I wouldn't ask for a do-over.

Friday, December 18, 2009

so this is what it feels like

So this is what it feels like to be stupid. Or I think this must be what it's like. I had a very minor car accident last Saturday. I was stopped and someone ran into me. Hard. My head snapped forward and then back. I didn't hit anything like the steering wheel or the windshield or anything. I walked out without a scratch.

But, I had a headache. I am now in day six of the same headache. I went to the dr yesterday. She said the headache was the result of the brain in my head meeting the inside of my skull. I should be fine in a week or two. In the meantime, it is NORMAL that I am thinking very slowly. And I am mixing up words. And I have to type everything over and over to get it right. My balance is a little off. I am, technically, what you would call "punch drunk".

So, I can't spell, can't come up with the right words, can't type, can't concentrate on anything for long.... this must be what it's like to be stupid, and I can't say I am enjoying the experience. But boy does it make me value my normal old self. Can't wait to be back.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

another semester is done

I just finished my term-paper, and that completes the semester for me. Last night was our last class. We had a presentation on Ground Zero as a locus sanctus. Then we had wine, chicken nuggets, cookies, more wine. Then an Elvis tribute artist came to class and performed for us. Tommy El was terrific -- a truly talented impersonator. Then, we had some more food and wine. After that, we had presentations on a trio of holy people: Gram Parsons, Che Guevara and Edgar Allan Poe.

Here's the thing, and it's the big "why I love this program" -- it all worked. It really did. Mostly because my classmates are a brilliant, eclectic, fascinating group of people with endless curiosity.

The other part of it is the amazing and talented people who decide to teach our classes. Gary Vikan was our professor this term. He is director of the Walters Museum here in Baltimore. But he's more than a name for the program - he's a gifted teacher. He created an atmosphere where we could explore the topic, be ourselves, and enjoy each other's company.

It was a blast, from start to finish, and I am really lucky to have had the opportunity.

Friday, November 27, 2009

this makes no sense

Two interesting stats the day after Thanksgiving -- 40% of all food purchased in America is thrown away, and 1 in 6 Americans does not get enough to eat. It seems to me we need to find a way to reduce the waste, or channel it to the people who need it. Maybe buy less, or buy the same amount, but put some aside for the food bank. Invite someone struggling to make ends meet to a meal.

I don't know what the answer is, I really don't. I do know it bothers me to think that in a country of such overwhelming abundance and wealth, people are going hungry.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

wii not so fit

I've been walking every day in my struggle to be more fit and to lose weight. But I've been fighting against both genetics and time,in the form of family history and age, so it hasn't been working so well.

In response, I decided that I would "rent" our son's WII for a month, and see if I could use it to jumpstart an exercise program, and to see if I would use it enough to merit buying one. I am using Wii FIT and Wii SPORT, to start with.

This is the first time in ages that I have enjoyed exercising. The boxing, bowling and tennis games on Wii SPORT are addictive. I didn't like the golf, found it frustrating because I am so bad at it, but I worked up a sweat and was sore the next day after 15 minutes of tennis and boxing.

Wii FIT is harder for me, because well, I really am not fit. I am doing a few of the yoga poses (badly), some strength training, some aerobic exercise, and some balance games. I hate the strength training, like the yoga poses I can do (very few so far), and am having fun with the aerobic exercises. Jogging in place is just so much more entertaining when you are chasing someone on screen. And the hula hoop game is fun, gets me out of breath, and would make my neighbors fall over laughing if they peeked in my windows while I was doing it.

Is all this fun working? I am back to losing a pound or so a week; I can already see a difference in my leg strenghth and tummy muscle (no one else would notice, but I did). The exercise time passes quickly, and I actually run out of steam before I get bored. My guess is it will only take me so far, but since I have such a huge way to go, that will be a long long time from now.

Friday, November 13, 2009

stress challenge is really a sleep challenge

So, I am participating in this "stress challenge" this month at work. I basically track 4 things each day: nutrition, physical activity, sleep and relaxation. I get 1 point for eating either a target amount for fruit and vegetables, or for eating a whole grain breakfast, then 1 get a point for getting 8 hours sleep, 1 point for taking 10 minutes of relaxation time and 1 point for exercising 20 minutes. I have had only 3 four point days since November 1. Guess why? Nope. Not exercise. It's sleep, and I'm not getting much.

I've been doing a little research. It turns out most women in their mid-40s don't sleep well or enough. Most - not a small percentage, not half, MOST. This is crazy. That's a whole big group of cranky women sleep-walking through life. The reason -- stress, hormones, multi-tasking, basically our entire lives are conspiring to see we don't get a good night's sleep. Maybe it's nature's way of killing us off now that we have served our biological imperative. Maybe it's a joke. I don't know.

My doctor says that hormones are mostly responsible, but hey, this phase only lasts 6-7 YEARS and then I'll be good as new...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

simple kindness

It's not hard. Hold the door open for someone carrying a load of stuff. Smile at the people you pass. Say good morning. Say good night. Compliment someone, sincerely. Say please. Say thank you. Send someone a note, or a card. Tell someone you appreciate them.

It doesn't take much. I think we're all just out of practice. I think that every small gesture returns to you ten fold. Maybe you will make someone's day.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

things you have to teach your sons

Today's news carried the story of a fifteen year old girl. She was raped by multiple teenagers outside a school dance. Multiple others stood by and did nothing while she was raped.

As the mother of a teen-aged boy, I know I have certain lessons to impart. I have had the "don't smoke" discussion. I have had the "don't drink if your under-aged, don't drink and drive, drinking impairs your judgment" talk. I have even had the "if you are going to have sex, wear a condom" discussion, even though he isn't even dating anyone right now. I'm saving the "don't sleep with someone you don't want to wake up with" for a later discussion. We have discussed the whole breaking the law thing as well -- you can choose to break the law, but if you do, you have also chosen to take the consequences.

Now I have to add a whole new subject for discussion. Don't participate in gang rape, and don't stand by while others do. Really. Get out, call the police. I never thought that would be something I would need to discuss, but I guess I do.

Because I am guessing that there are some surprised parents out in California today, ones who thought their boys would never be involved in something like that, and never thought their child would stand on the sidelines and cheer while others raped a girl outside a school dance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pennies on the Dollar

Today was our annual United Way Campaign kickoff breakfast. As always, it had me thinking about people who need help.

Almost all of us would jump at a deal that lets us pay pennies on the dollar to buy something. If it cost a dollar, and I could buy it for a penny, I would. So would you. Now turn it around -- would you give a penny on a dollar? If you had a dollar, and someone really really needed it, would you give them a penny? How about if you had ten dollars, would you help someone out with a buck? I think most people would say "Yes" to that.

So this is my challenge to all of you. 1%. Pennies on a dollar. If everyone would dig deep, and give a whopping 1% of what they earn, we could make a huge collective impact on hunger, on homelessness, on poverty. That's a fabulous return, for pennies on a dollar.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

blog action day -- climate change

Today is Blog Action Day, which means a topical post on climate change. Except I really have not that much to say.

Climate change is real. It is not a political invention of the left. It is not caused primarily by cows. It is not a natural phenomenon. It is a problem that man has created, with our great big brains, and our thirst for more of everything, and easier everything. And so we have cars, even for an errand around the block. And we have air conditioning, even when it's 70 degrees. We have microwaves because 10 minutes is too long to wait for food. We have huge houses to accomodate all our stuff. We crave fruit that doesn't grow in this hemisphere, so we ship it halfway around the world. We have short attention spans, so we have TVs, and stereos and computers and ipods and xboxes and a whole host of things to distract us.

If we each made a small change or two, if each and every single person, did one or two small things to reduce what we use, what we buy, how we get to places, we can make a dent in the problem. It's important. And it's urgent. So do something today.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

seeing each other as cut-outs

When did we stop seeing other people as "people"? three teens in florida lit another teen on fire, as retaliation for preventing them from stealing a bicycle. repeat, a bicycle. A six year old is about to get sent to reform school, for bringing a camping fork/spoon/knife combination to school to eat his lunch. A six year old! Certain pundits cheered when the city of chicago lost its bid for the Olympics, because Obama lobbied for chicago to win. An American city lost out on an opportunity, and people cheered the loss. WTF???

We apparently see each other as cardboard cut-outs. It's the only explanation that I can see. Maybe there are too many of us. Beyond a certain number in a given space, we just can't see anymore. I don't know.

It scares me. How do we get back to seeing each other, really seeing each other, as people? With hopes, dreams, feelings, real people. It's important.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

the new semester

The new semester has begun. I am taking just one class - From Jerusalem to Graceland. We are looking at sainthood, beginning with the byzantine saints, pilgrimages, relics, and ending with Elvis Presley and Graceland. It's thought-provoking, interesting,and just a heck of a lot of fun. Our class meets in what was the Walters family home, and is now the administrative offices of the Walters Museum. We meet in the parlor, complete with high ceilings, period furniture (except for our conference table), paintings, etc. It's definitely a treat.

I am already feeling pulled in too many directions, with too many time commitments. It
s not just a new semester for me. Work is heating up as we enter one of our two really busy periods. And our son has the busy schedule of a 10th grader. He can't drive yet, so I spend a lot of time schlepping him back and forth.

I have to admit that I love it though, even when it wears me out.

Friday, September 11, 2009

the lessons of sept 11

The lessons of Sept 11th are not that we should fear terrorism, or that we should give up freedoms for security. The lessons of Sept 11th are that we should help where we can, never take our loved ones for granted, appreciate our gifts and our freedoms, and live every day as if it were our last.

The people who went to work in the Towers that morning thought they would come home that evening. Many of them probably bolted through their morning routines. They might have remembered to kiss the spouse and kids, but they might not. If they could have chosen where to spend their last breaths, I doubt many would have chosen the office.

The firefighters, the police officers, the everyday folks who pitched in and helped, who ran toward danger rather than away from it, were showing us the way. That we give of ourselves, as much as we can, to help others.

Terrorism can strike anywhere, even the heart of New York City. America is not immune. But you can't protect against a truly determined killer willing to sacrifice himself; all we can do is try to get at the root cause, and not make more terrorists.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

a national disgrace

OK -- I get it. People are sharply divided on issues these days. But really, people! The last week has been a national disgrace. Our President, our democratically elected leader, wanted to encourage the nation's students. So he planned a speech. And the floodgates opened. Talk radio hosts encouraged people to keep their children home from school, so as not to be "indoctrinated" by the President. Parents protested. Schools decided not to air the speech, because of parental pressure.

The speech was not political. It was in keeping with Obama's role as president -- to lead the nation. He didn't say a single controversial thing -- unless you think encouraging children to study is controversial. His purpose was to encourage children to stay in school, to study, to make something of themselves, to take advantage of the educational opportunities afforded them. What a rebel!

You can disagree with the President. You can dislike the person who was elected. But the OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT deserves respect. You can teach your children an invaluable lesson if you can teach them the distinction between the man and the office. This is a democracy. That almost always means that some people did not get their choice in elected officials. But it only works as a form of government if the roles are respected. I couldn't stand George Bush. I did not respect the man at all. But I respect democracy, and I respect the office. That's what we are supposed to do, and that's what we are supposed to model for our children.

Honestly, we can do better than this!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

small changes

Sometimes, it's the small changes that really amount to something.

This morning, my fifteen year old son brushed his teeth without prompting. Then he packed a salad, A SALAD, for his lunch. I felt like I had won something. I'm not sure what, but I felt VICTORIOUS.

Today at lunch, I walked a quick mile, instead of web surfing. I got outside, felt the sun on my skin, enjoyed the cool spots of shade. Not a huge deal, not a real long walk, but I got moving.

Little things. Nothing earth shaking. But small changes add up. They really do.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

mourning Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy passed away today. Often, he is described as JFK's brother, or Bobby Kennedy's brother. He was so much more. It diminishes him, I think, to label him this way, as if his importance is as a small piece of Camelot, rather than a person in his own right. Ted Kennedy was a Senator for 47 years. He was a champion of the poor, the powerless, the voiceless.

He made horrible mistakes in his life. He faced tremendous adversity and personal loss. Yet he persevered, when others would have faltered. He could have lived on his fame and power and money, and never contributed anything to anyone. No one would have blamed him for retiring from public life when Bobby died. But he didn't. He truly believed that "from whom much is given, much is expected".

He was so much more than "the last Kennedy brother". He was the Lion of the Senate, and he will be missed.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I can feel Fall

I can feel Fall. This morning, I woke up and it was cold. We had left the AC unit on all night, and the temps outside had dropped. It was actually pleasant outside, after a couple of sweltering, humid weeks. When I walked from the parking garage to my office, I actually wished for a moment that I had a light jacket.

Fall is coming.

Our son goes back to school on Wednesday. We've bought school supplies, a new lunch bag, school shoes.

Fall is coming.

I bought a new notebook for me for school. Don't need one, just love new notebooks. Work is getting busier. It's getting darker in the morning when I wake up.

Fall is coming.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Happy 27th!

Today is our 27th wedding anniversary. I still think it's one of the smartest things I ever did. And I would do it again, if I had to do it all over again.

My personal wish today is for another 27 wonderful years. My wish for everyone else is that they get to enjoy the same happiness that we do.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

what I learned on my summer vacation

in no particular order, here's what I learned on my summer vacation:

  • your kid can surprise you, in a good way
  • any day that starts with a cup of tea, sitting on a dock looking over the water will be good
  • to be really at peace, I need to be near water
  • you can have too much fried food
  • mcdonalds is even worse than I remember
  • a few hours with a good friend can restore your spirit
  • america is a truly beautiful country
  • michigan may be one of the prettiest places I've ever been
  • traverse city is a nice place to visit, but it is kind of stepford
  • fresh raspberry blueberry cobbler is amazingly good
  • summer at 73 degrees is very different from summer at 92 degrees
  • we are spoiled by how nice people are in Baltimore
  • don't underestimate the power of a really good armchair
  • naps are essential
  • there is a huge difference between hiking 5 miles in the woods, and walking 5 miles on pavement
  • there is no sound like the laughter of a two year old
  • sandwiches are under-rated
  • the cleveland zoo is better than the baltimore zoo
  • I want to come back as a sea otter
  • I am not addicted to my computer -- no problem giving it up for a few days
  • you can go out to eat too much
  • it was easier to drive 500 miles when I was 20
  • I need to take more vacations

Thursday, July 23, 2009

would you sell your kidney for...

A rabbi was recently arrested as part of the huge NJ corruption case. He is charged with trying to broker the sale of human kidneys. For $160,000. Which got me thinking -- would I sell my kidney to someone who needed it, for $160,000? A woman at Johns Hopkins, Pamela Paulk, recently donated her kidney in a 16 way donor swap. Her kidney went to a complete stranger, so that a friend of hers at Hopkins could get a kidney from someone else who was a better match.

I thought recently about doing the same thing as Pamela. As soon as my son is out of the house, I thought, I would volunteer to donate a kidney. But I soon chickened out, mentally--since I hadn't actually committed to anything, except in my mind. But now, sad to say, I got to thinking again. For $160,000, yeah, I think I would give up a kidney. I mean, I was going to just give one away. Why not help someone and profit at the same time?

Like I said, it's sad to say.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I am 47 today. I had a great birthday. Lots of sweet birthday wishes. A nice dinner with my husband and son. Got a couple of books as presents that I have been dying to read. Signed up for a half-marathon with a friend. We are going to walk it, not run it, but we have to finish in 5 hours.

My brother arrives tonight, so I will get to see him this weekend.

Life is full, and life is good!

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Fifteen years ago, I gave birth to a baby boy. 7 pounds 15 ounces, 21 inches long, if you care about such stuff. He had all the requisite fingers and toes, and we thought he was amazing. Fifteen years later, we still think he's amazing.

I am grateful that he's our son, and I am joyful at the prospect of what the next fifteen years might bring.

Happy birthday, baby boy!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

ocean city

I used to go to Ocean City for a week every summer when I was a kid. We didn't actually stay IN Ocean City most of the time; we usually stayed in a campground outside of Berlin/Snow Hill. But we would hang out on the beach near 1st Street. We would fish off the getty there. And we would spend one day on the Boardwalk, eating Thrasher's Fries, playing Skeeball, riding the rides, playing the games. Mom would spend the whole day in the Bingo hall (don't know if it's still there).

Ocean City then was crowded. The people were invariably white, and blue collar below 50th Street or so, and white and white collar north of 50th. Traffic was crazy, and it was very difficult to walk around.

I just spent a few days around the 4th of July at the Carousel on 117th Street. Oddly, even with the holiday, Ocean City was less crowded than when I was a kid. They have made improvements in the flow of traffic, and in the local bus system. It was pretty easy to cross Ocean Blvd, even at high noon.

The people were the biggest change. Ocean City has discovered diversity, finally. For the first time, I heard people speaking foreign languages. I saw people of every ethnic background, skins of every hue. It was great. Northern OC is no longer the province of the wealthier summer visitors.

There has been some attempt made to plant some grasses, and to clean the beach. The sand is weird, too soft to be "natural" if that makes any sense. Basically when you walk on the beach, you sink into the sand. I think it's because the sand is carted in, and cleaned by machine daily. It looks great, but isn't the beach sand you find in Ocean City New Jersey, or the Outer Banks.

I enjoyed the visit. I might even go back.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

a noticeable absence

For those who have followed my facebook ramblings, our beloved family dog has been in the animal hospital. Initially, the vets thought that the dog had a bowel obstruction, possibly needing surgery. Unfortunately, Largo has a heart condition. Surgery for him is, in itself, life threatening. He has a very small chance of surviving even minor surgery. But, if he had an obstruction, it would kill him if he didn't have surgery. So, huge stress-inducing dilemma.

Because they didn't want to operate, they elected to do a risky test instead. This involved Largo drinking a huge quantity of barium, which they would then trace in x-ray every hour to follow the path of the barium through the digestive tract. The test should take 4 hours to complete. After 11 hours, the barium still wasn't completely through Largo's system.

But he wasn't obstructed and didn't need surgery. He has pancreatitis, and we should be able to manage it with meds and diet, once we are over this episode.

All of this detail is really preamble. What I discovered is how noticeable an absence we have in our home, with Largo at the vet. I derive incredible comfort from the sight of the dog sleeping on the floor next to our bed. I am more secure, and I feel more safe, with the dog in the house. I even miss his rather over-bearing company at dinner. I hate his begging and mugging for food -- but apparently I miss it when it's not there. I can sit all evening, reading undisturbed. And it doesn't feel right. I keep thinking I am forgetting something. I feel this distressing sense of things being out of kilter. I come home at night and there isn't a face pressed against the glass. No wagging tail. No head-butt of adoration as I come in. I cook dinner, and there is no one watching my every move with utter concentration.

There is a hole here that can only be filled by a dog. And not just any dog, OUR DOG.

Monday, June 15, 2009

the company of women

I hate to admit this, but for most of my life, I haven't had much use for other women. For years, my guy friends outnumbered my girl friends. I work in a male-dominated field, where being "one of the guys" is a career advantage. And I've never been much of a girly girl. I think, though that I have short-changed myself.

When I got married, I entered inot the community of wives. I had more in common with the other women in my world. We had a wealth of shared experiences that came out of being married women.

When I had my son, I entered into another community, the community of moms. I suddenly had more in common with the other women in my office, and in the neighborhood. I found connections where I hadn't seen any before.

Now, as I age, and expand my universe of contacts, I am finding joy in the company of women. The commonality of experiences strengthens me, and my relationships. The resilience and kindness and intelligence, the fortitude and strength of the women I have met have added immeasurably to my life. Their humor keeps me sane, and their help keeps me going.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

end of school year

We are done another school year. Our son finished up 9th grade today. He did well, although not nearly as well as he could. We won't get the grades for a few weeks, but he will likely get mostly Bs or all Bs. He could easily get As, doesn't even have to do better, just turn in all the homework. But he doesn't see the point, and doesn't get that it might matter at some point in the future. He reminds me so much of me at his age that it's maddening. I once told a teacher that I could do a ton of work and get an A, or not lift a finger and get a B, and that a B was fine with me. Yes, I was a pain in the ass, and a true joy to have as a student. SIGH.

Our son is politer, but really thinks school is a holding tank until you get released and can go on to what counts -- college. The idea that it's not the knowledge but the study skills and habits that he gets from doing the work that will help him get through college has not caught on with him yet.

I am proud of him, though, I really am. He did a ton of volunteer work this year, and took on a leadership role with Habitat for Humanity and with the Ronald McDonald House. He grudgingly participated on the track team, and did not let his lack of success get to him. He is participating in an honors group that discusses topical issues. So far, he is navigating the social waters of high school without too much fuss. He applied for a volunteer job at a day camp for the first part of the summer, and he got it. He went to CPR and first aid training and passed his tests.

Best of all, to me, is that he is becoming more and more of a person. Today he saw Sin City at school (no, not kidding). We talked about it. He said that it was a "great film, albeit dark", and might be one of Frank Miller's best works. OK, he had me at "albeit".

I can actually talk with him. And he can surpise me from time to time. That's the best thing to come out of this year, I think.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

where are the parents?

I have ranted on facebook, and now I will rant here. In the news yesterday, there was a piece on gangs of teenagers randomly attacking tourists at the Inner Harbor. There was also a piece about a 16 and 14 year old who were charged with beating another 14 year old to death.

In both pieces, the emphasis was on the police and how they should do more to prevent these kinds of crimes. And of how the schools should be more involved.

Where are the parents? Your children are not the police's problems. Your children are not the school's problem. They are everyone elses' problem because you are not doing your job. If you have children, you have a job until they are grown. Raise your kids! They don't have to be perfect, no one is. They just have to be law-abiding citizens. That's the bare minimum. If you can also provide them with education, life skills, and produce happy, well-adjusted adults, go for it. But honestly, we would all settle for moderately socialized, and law-abiding. We really would.

How did this get so out of hand? When I was a little kid, every adult raised you. Every single damn one. Step out of line in front of an adult, and someone would correct you. No question. And your mom and dad, they would not resent it. They would appreciate the help. Bring a note home from the teacher, and the question wouldn't be, what is that teacher thinking, criticizing my child? It would be, "what did you do?"

Maybe parenting should require a license. You know -- read the manual, pass a written test, maybe have to babysit and get graded on it. Whatever. Something so that every idiot with working reproductive parts can't just have a child. Because giving birth does not make you a parent. Nor is it the sum total of your parental responsibilities.

I don't think I am asking for too much. You have them, you raise them.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

thinking of the future

Those who know me know I always have a plan. I may change it every year or so, but I always have one. And lately my thoughts have been turning to the future. What do I want, down the road?

I know I would like to retire from here. That keeps me at Hopkins until I am 57, if I want to retire with everything the University offers to retirees. After that, I am thinking I would like to snag a government job for 10 years, and then retire from there. That would give me whatever the government offers to its retirees.

What I really want is a place at the beach, and a place in the mountains. I'd like to keep our house forever, as it is now firmly fixed in my mind as HOME. But I would like a place of my own at the beach, somewhere I could go to whenever the need hit me for sand and sun and water. And a place in the mountains when I need trees and quiet and nature.

I wonder if it's doable, or if it's more or less a pipe dream. My husband would love the mountain retreat, and grudgingly go along with the beach, I think. I know we both see ourselves in the house in Baltimore forever. Everyone has to have a home, that place that pops in your head when you say the word. The thing that tugs at you when you are away, and gives ease to your bones. So I think that part is a given. But I do know that we both want to travel, to see as much of the world as we can. So somehow that will have to fit into the vision as well.

It's nice to think about. I guess we won't know how much of it we'll do, until we get there.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

twists of fate

I had an odd and unsettling experience today. I saw a couple of old friends today, while they were visiting the Kimmel Cancer Center. One friend is doing well, better than when we were younger. The other friend is not doing well at all -- he was the patient at the center. He is my age, married, with an 8 year old daughter. He has cancer. He is hoping the clinical trial he is participating in will save his life.

When we were all 17 years old, we were at basically the same point. We were all getting ready to graduate from high school. We liked to joke around, laugh, have a good time. Now it's 30 years later. And we are at really different points. The difference doesn't so much seem to come down to specific choices we made. It seems to be fate.

Why does life single out some people for hardship, and others for success? you fall in love, get married. It works out great for some people, awful for others. The starting point was the same. You have kids at 20, or at 30, or at 45. You lose a job, or luck into a career. You get sick, recover. You get sick, you die.

Random. Fate. Destiny. I don't know what to call it. I think though that sometimes awful things happen to good people. And sometimes great things happen to bad people. And there doesn't have to be something that turns that wheel in one direction or another.

We have to roll with what we have. And love the good stuff, because it's precious, and rare and maybe, just maybe, temporary.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

the itch is back

The itch is back. The almost overwhelming desire to GO SOMEWHERE. I am buying travel books again. Rsearching flight prices. Hotels. I know I can't, just can't, afford to do this. But the impulse, and that's what it is, is really powerful.

I spent a week in the Outer Banks in April. I am going to OC for a few days in July. I am spending a week in Michigan in August. I am not vacation deprived. But it's not the same. This is connected to the concept of NEW. I want something NEW, DIFFERENT, not the same. I don't want to move again -- the other way I scratch this itch. I'm already in school, and that helps some. I need to stay at my current job for at least 7 more years, so that Michael can go to college, and JHU can help me pay for it. So no new job.

Hobbies don't work. A project doesn't do it. I suppose I could get a puppy, or adopt a child -- but those seem to have more downside than I like in a change, and the other folks in my life would NOT be happy with that version of NEW.

That leaves travel. And boy oh boy do I wanna go. Portugal. Laos. Hungary. Peru. Guatemala. Hell, Toronto would work. If only I could deduct travel as a mental health expense. In the meantime, I guess I could renew the passports. And dream.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

effective, but it doesn't matter

I just watched a news program where torture was the topic of discussion. The CIA type answering questions said it was effective, and the people being tortured weren't Americans so it didn't matter. WRONG.

The question isn't whether torture is effective. It might be. It might produce the best results in the shortest amount of time. BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER.

The question isn't whether torture is effective; it's whether it's the right thing to do, under any circumstance. And the answer is a resounding NO. It is never the right thing to do. It is a terrible action under all circumstances. You may still choose to do it -- people choose to do bad things all the time. But you also choose to accept the consequences of doing this wrong action.

Torture does not have a place in a civilized nation. Period. No question.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

that time of year again

It's that time of year again. The "I need this like I need a hole in the head" time of year. Yup -- it's term-paper time. Except this time, I have two papers due. So, I am writing about world-building in science fiction film, and civil rights and marriage for justice class.

I don't know why I never start earlier. And why I never have a clear grasp of what I am going to say. And why I never make enough time for research, or proof reading. I repeat the same mistakes over and over, without ever really improving my habits.

Perhaps I am addicted to procrastination. It works so well for me in my work life. If I wait long enough, projects tend to disappear as needs change. Or I would have spent weeks on something, only to have to re-do it a few months later because of new needs. While it works for me in some areas, clearly it is not working for me in others.

I think though, that habits are fairly difficult to change the longer you have had them. And this one has been with me for most of my life.

Oh well, I will work on it. Next year.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

money confusion

America is seriousl f*ed up about money. Yet again, a father has murdered his entire family, and then killed himself. Over financial troubles. He was in financial difficulties, which would have come to light very shortly. He just couldn't face being broke, and he couldn't face telling his family what he had done.
Earlier this week, another father did the same thing. Same reason.
WTF??? We seriously need to look at values and get over our love affair with money.

If you are broke, you are broke. Not a lesser being. Not worthless. Just broke. If you can't live in a 2 million dollar house, don't. It doesn't mean you are not worth anything in the eyes of the world. Money is nice. It isn't everything. If you need help, say so. To everyone, anyone. And stop judging yourself by an artificial yardstick of financial success.

Some folks don't have a roof over their heads. They don't get enough to eat. Help them when you can, and take help when you are in the same boat. There is a reason other people are in this world with you. To help and be helped. We are in this together, truly.

When a person can get several million dollars a year for dribbling a basketball, and a teacher can change the lives of hundreds of kids for less than $50K a year, it becomes clear that there is little real worth attached to income. If you were to lose everything, absolutely everything, you would still be alive, breathing, getting a chance to move around in this world. Priceless. If you had nothing, you would still be the owner of this most amazing gift of life. Don't squander it, and don't steal it from others.

Monday, April 20, 2009

a wee bit of a rant

OK. The weather is crappy, and it's Monday, and I am feeling pressured on all sides. So of course, things are bugging me today. I am mostly irked about the casual attitude people have toward bills and debt.

Where we live, a beloved local institution is in foreclosure. The postings and letters about this event are beginning to really tick me off. Apparently the bank is considered the bad guy in this transaction for asking for its money. They have worked with the business owner for YEARS and YEARS, extending deadlines, extending new lines, doing basically everything a bank can do to help the man out. And now they want payment. I don't find this unreasonable. Banks lend money, with terms, as a buisness transaction. They do not lend money to support the community. They do not lend money because they are "nice guys". And you wouldn't want them to. Banks would fail, and everyone would be in worse shape.

A loan is a CONTRACT. You are obligated to pay it back. If you put up collateral, you do so with the expectation that the bank can take that collateral if you don't pay your bills. It is sad when things go wrong, and people have a business fail, or lose their homes. But unless the bank was deceptive or fraudelent (not the case in this instance), or you were congenitally incapable of executing a contract, really, you can't blame the bank, and yes, you still owe the money. The bank should not "forget about it". That's how banks fold.

Item #2 on my list of peeves today. People are up in arms in the city because they are being hit with late fees for parking tickets. If you get a ticket, you can pay it, or you can go to court and appeal it. That's the law. If you don't pay your ticket for a few years, and you are aware you got a ticket, you owe fines and penalties. Also the law. It is not the city's fault that you decided not to pay, and now your $21 ticket is $620... that's the law. If you felt you got the ticket in error, it says right on it that you have x days to appeal. So appeal it, if you think you shouldn't have gotten it. Don't ignore it, and then whine about penalties.

Item #3 on my list, and it's the last one. Do not WHINE about your taxes and then take advantage of every government program in existence. If you don't want to pay taxes -- don't take any services. You can't have it both ways. I'm not saying taxes aren't wasted. That's what voting is about, and what representation is for. Don't like how things are going? Protest, write your congressman, VOTE.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

the beauty around us

Today we went to the McKeldin area of the Patapsco River Valley State Park. We hiked the switchback trail, a 4 mile trail that winds through the hills and valley near the river. It was rated moderate, meaning that in my current slothful state, it was very difficult. But oh so worth it.

We could hear the river gurgling. The first green plants were coming up in the marsh areas. We saw deer bounding through the woods. The turtles were out sunning themselves. The canada geese are nesting, and tried to drive us away with their honking. It was warm, 75 degrees and sunny.

Beautiful, beautiful.

Friday, March 27, 2009

update: the new frugality

So, we decided to get serious about being frugal, and I figured it was time for an update.

Through meal planning and coupon cutting, I have cut our food bills by more than 25%.
We took advantage of the low interest rates to refinance the house, cutting our mortage by more than 15%
We kept our car, and didn't get the 2nd one
And big big sacrifice -- the dog goes to daycare only one day a week

Where we haven't done so well: we booked two vacations for the year, still eat out too much, added a Netflix account, added HBO on Demand.

the next six months are about building savings and reducing debt. I'll post an update in September and we will see how we did.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

who knew?

Today, I was doing some reading for class, and stumbled across the ideal job description:

"those who are called philosophers, or men of speculation, whose trade it is not to do anything, but to observe everything: and who, upon that account, are often capable of combining together the powers of the most distant and dissimilar objects"

that's want I want, to do nothing and observe everything... where do I apply?

BTW, the quote is from Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

ten days, two papers

And so it begins. I have ten days to write two papers. Two completely different, no intersections at all, 5-7 page papers. The first is on The Problem of Atheism and Natural Rights. The second is on how sci-fi films create a world, a sense of plausible reality.

It's all very schizophrenic, and interesting and exhausting.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I don't think that word means what you think it does

BONUS -- a reward for good performance.

That's what I always thought it meant, in a work context. But clearly I am misinformed. AIG is awarding $100 million in bonuses to the executives in the business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse this year. AIG got billions in bailout funds from the federal government so they could stay afloat. So what performance are they rewarding with these bonuses? Why aren't they firing the losers? Why a bonus? If they have an extra $100 million floating around, why not use it to pay back a small fraction of the taxpayer's money?

How clueless can you be, and run a multi-national corporation??

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

the Catholic Church strikes again

The Catholic Church has its head up its ass again. I say this with all due respect. Seriously. The Church has condemned an abortion. Not surpising, except this abortion was performed in Brazil, on a 9 year old girl. No typo, folks. This poor girl was expecting twins, as a result of being raped by her stepfather. Her life was threatened by the pregnancy. The girl weighs 80 pounds. Her doctor says her body was just too small for one baby, let alone two.

Abortion is illegal in Brazil, except in cases where the mother's life is threatened. If the courts in Brazil can see that this is a compelling instance for abortion, why can't the Catholic Church? The Church is considering excommunicating the girl's mother and her doctor for participating in this "heinous" act. Apparently the act her stepfather committed is considered less offensive.

I hope the pope burns in a hell of his own making. I really do.

Monday, March 09, 2009

is DST really worth it?

I am a creature of habit. Really serious, deeply ingrained habit. So Daylight Savings Time is hell for me. It takes me several days to adjust to the time change. I feel out of sorts, cranky, disrupted and unsettled. I KNOW that it's only an hour either way. I know it. But my body doesn't. It insists on feeling like someone yanked the rug out from under my feet, and the feeling won't go away for another couple of days.

So really, now that we are not farmers anymore -- do we really need this? Does it really make a difference in our economy? couldn't we come up with a better scheme? I vote for let me get up when I'm awake, and go to sleep when I'm tired, and work when I feel like it. Doesn't that sound better than making everyone march to the same drum?

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

deja vu

This week, I had to read portions of Hobbes' Leviathan for my course on justice. Almost 30 years ago, as a college freshman, I was doing the exact same thing. I was in bed, reading the other day, when I was struck by this incredible sense of deja vu. And then I remembered. I was in bed in my dormroom, back in Denton Hall, struggling to get through the exact same passages. I felt the same, I really did. I was more successful this time -- I didn't actually fall asleep every two pages.

Back then, I remember being furious, absolutely furious with a dear friend. We were taking the same government course. I told her how tedious the reading had been for me. And she said it. The truly terrible thing. "Me too, until I found the summary in the back of the book." There was a summary? A SUMMARY?? I hadn't had to read the hundreds of pages of tedium? AAAARRRRRGGGGHHHHH!!!

This time, because I am infinitely more mature [no snorting from the peanut gallery, please], I actually read and followed the arguments. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I can say that I didn't fall asleep. And I didn't look for the summary.

Monday, March 02, 2009

good things

The DOW dropped 300 points today. It snowed. I'm cold. And you know what? Doesn't really matter. Things are good. GOOD. We have all we need. And increasingly, I am reminded what a big, big deal that is.

I was resentful this past week. Too much of my time had claims on it. I had work, and school, and our son had a ton of stuff to do. We had family stuff to do. And then it hit me -- I was cranky about good stuff.

I had family stuff to do -- I had family that wanted to spend time with us, and us with them. My son needed me to drive him places. Because he was serving dinner at a soup kitchen, going to a Habitat leadership meeting, worked in an East Baltimore park, prepping it for spring. I had classes to go to. Because I love going to school, and my work graciously pays for it. Poor poor me.

I had to go to work. Damn it. To a job I enjoy, with people I like, at a salary I only used to dream about. Poor poor me.

Sometimes I need to take a breath, and remind myself how damn good it all is.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

a month, more or less

Barack Obama has been president for just over 4 weeks. I hear people every day saying he isn't doing enough, he hasn't changed anything. He has been president for just over 4 weeks! It took 8 years of the Bush presidency to flush the country down the drain -- it will take more than 4 weeks to fix it.

Why the excessive expectations? Is it because we believe so much in Obama's message that we expected miracles? or is it really that many people want the president to fail, because he isn't the person they wanted for the job? I suspect the latter.

Monday, February 23, 2009

old home week

It feels like old home week. Yesterday I had lunch with a dear friend, one I haven't seen in twenty years. Neither one of us has changed a bit. Okay, we've changed tons, but it didn't FEEL like we had. Not once we started talking.

And then, through the miracle of modern technology, I was contacted by another old friend. This one was the best man at our wedding. We haven't seen him in maybe 15 years or so. It feels great to know how he is, what he's doing now.

I absolutely love "finding" people, which is really another way of saying I hate losing them.

Friday, February 20, 2009

sign of the times

We are in the process of re-financing our house. The interest rates are at their lowest, and since we plan to be here for years, it just makes good financial sense. The appraiser came out today to inspect the property. Now, this not our first house. It is our fourth. So we have dealt with appraisers many times in the past. On the last two occasions, the appraiser drove by the house, and then phoned in his appraisal. That's it.

This time, the appraiser walked around outside. He took pictures. He moved piles of leaves next to the foundation. He measured the thickness of the tile on the porch. He came in, looked at every room, on every floor. He even went into our basement. He asked a bunch of questions, took a lot of notes. It was scary.

Banks have to be more cautious now. They don't want to lend money (or in our case re-lend money, since our current mortgage is with the same bank) without being sure, absolutely sure, of their investment. But it is frightening, when you already have property, to have it judged on an entirely different scale.

It really makes me feel for people who have mortgages that now exceed the value of their property. What happens to you in that situation? What happens if you have to move?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

what's just

What's just? The nine year old Arizona boy who killed his father and his father's room-mate has plead guilty to 1 count of negligent homicide. This was a deal arranged by the prosecutor, who frankly had no idea what to do with a 9 year old killer. Neither does the judge, or the court system.

The family of the slain room-mate is unhappy with the decision. The child took away their family member, he planned the act, he carried it out, he understood the consequences enough to concoct an "alibi". The will serve no jail time, and may get to go home with his mother. The family feels this is unjust.

The problem -- what is just?

This is a little kid, 8 years old at the time of the murders. He told a case-worker he was not going to be spanked any more. He had been taught how to shoot by his father. Is fear of spanking self-defense? Is being 8 years old diminished capacity? Does a child understand consequences in the same way as an adult?

But there are two dead adults. What of them? Is it just that their killer walks free? Is it just to pay more attention to the perpetrator than we do to the victims?

Is fairness the same as justice? How do we decide? What best serves society, whom the laws are written to protect? How much weight do the various parties have in this? Do the living outweigh the dead?

How we mete out justice is a defining action of what we are as a people. So, what's just?

Monday, February 16, 2009

holy hand-grenade, batman!

Holy hand-grenade, batman! That was close. Two nuclear submarines collided with each other recently. The announcement came today, but the accident occured in early February, when British and French nuclear submarines ran into each other during underwater operations.

LOVELY! apparently the sub's locations are super-secret, even from NATO allies. And despite having a lot of ocean to play around in, they still managed to bump noses. Both subs were dented, but no nuclear material leaked out.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

a valentine for my sweetie

Those of you who are embarassed by sentimentality may avert your eyes. Today's post is for my valentine, my sweetie, my hubby of almost 27 years.

This isn't the way we would have chosen to spend our day -- both of us sick and stressed -- but it doesn't make it any less sweet for all that. I love you, I appreciate you, and I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without you.

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

how much has changed in my lifetime

I was thinking the other morning about how much had changed in my lifetime. I grew up in an atmosphere of racism and intolerance. Didn't know it then, but I look back and think, OMG, how could we be like that?

The kids in my neighborhood, myself included, used to play a game called "Smear the Queer". Do you remember that one? Whoever was the queer, caught the football and was then jumped on by everyone else in the game. Nice values.

When it got hot in the summer, and you would get all sweaty, a grownup would wipe the "nigger babies" off your neck (the black grime that would collect in the folds of your neck). Our version of "eenie meenie" included "catch a nigger by his toe". Really. Pretty awful when you think about it.

We did not play with black children. We were not allowed to invite them home or to sleepovers. I didn't have a sleepover in 4th grade, because I could not invite Janet Pulley, along with all the other girls. Didn't seem right to me, although I think it was more about friendship than about any budding social conscience on my part.

Our neighborhood was completely white. 100%. When we went to sell our house there, another three houses were for sale. The neighbors agreed to not sell to anyone black, so that the neighborhood wouldn't be ruined.

Yet I did not grow up to be a bigot. I did not grow up to be a racist. Why? Because I learned to read when I was six. And I got a library card. And an education.
I am so glad that my world opened up -- I would hate to still be in the same place I was then.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

about time!

The Senate passed a bill today that would give the District of Columbia voting representation in Congress. It still has to get through the House, but really -- this is long overdue. The people of DC pay taxes. They vote for President. It is time they had what all other citizens have, a voice in Congress that actually counts. Non-voting representation is just plain insulting -- like being allowed to sit at the adult table, but only if you don't talk.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

split personality

I am taking two very different classes this semester: Science Fiction Film and Ideas of Justice. So today, I spent some time on homework for class. This means I read 60 or so page of Aristotle, and then read up on Flash Gordon (the 1930s serials). I think I have mental whiplash. I also read a sermon from St John Chrysostom on social justice.

In between, I also walked and played outside with the dog. I cooked for the week, did laundry, did my grocery shopping and went to the bookstore.

I am not sure if I am crazy or not -- but I actually enjoy the schizoid life...

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I hate citibank

We have exactly one credit card in our house. We make our payments on time, every month. Today we got a piece of what looked like junk mail from Citibank. Luckily, I opened it. It was a notice that our interest rate was going from 6.99% to 24.99%! If I hadn't opened this, in April we would have received a staggeringly nasty surprise. I believe the mailing was supposed to be ignored and trashed. They hope customers won't read the notice, because by law, once the new rate has kicked in, you have no recourse. If you read the notice and respond in writing in 30 days, you can choose to decline the rate increase. This means closing your account to new charges, but they let you continue to pay your balance on the old terms for as long as it takes to pay it off. Oh, yeah, and they take your rewards account away. So the miles we have been hoarding will go away in 30 days, meaning we can't use them.

Again, this isn't punitive. We didn't miss a payment, we didn't pay anything late. We are "valued customers" and they "value our business" -- they are just thinking this is a way to raise quick cash or something. It is a terrible terrible idea, at completely the wrong time for most people. Do they really think that tripling interest rates is a great idea in a recession? Who do they think will actually pay that much? Maybe they could stop running so many commercials as a way to cut costs. Or cut bonuses or something.

I would like to think this is isolated -- that it is just Citibank. But apparently other card issuers have been doing similar things. The rate we were given is actually lower than some cards -- some folks are getting letters with a 28% rate. We are toying with the idea of not having a card at all -- we do have a VISA check card, and pretty much everywhere that takes cards accepts it. And it has the added bonus of not being able to overspend, since we are limited to what we actually have in the bank.

In the meantime, I would advise everyone to read every scrap of mail that comes from your credit card company. You don't want to be taken by surprise.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

feeling all nerdy and outcast

I am taking a sci-fi film course this semester. So I should be in my element, right? Doing the reading tonight, I found a nice long passage about the common perception of scifi fandom --

"Yet the ‘fan’, and especially the ‘science fiction fan’, has a very low cultural currency today. He or she exists in a cultural climate of low-level ridicule and dismissal;thought of as obsessive cultists, unskilled at social interaction, physically unattractive and unhygienic, outsiders, nerds; to instance a cultural icon with whom many people will be familiar, the comic book store owner in The Simpsons cartoon series." -- Adam Roberts

Nice, huh? Wow, but I feel special.

I suddenly felt like I did when I was 8 or 9 and the librarian would ask me why I wasted my time on that "trash" when there were so many good books to read. By the time I was 12 or so, and socially aware, I hid my love of sci-fi and fantasy. I don't think even my closest friends knew that I was a fan. Not until college did I admit to liking the stuff. And then I got tons of abuse from my English Lit peers, who couldn't or wouldn't understand that sci-fi and fantasy could be worthy of attention.

Monday, February 02, 2009

reproductive ethics

The recent delivery of octuplets has me thinking about reproductive ethics. The mother of the octuplets had six children before having the most recent 8. She conceived by in vitro fertilization, and asked that all 8 fertilized eggs be implanted. She is a single mother, and does not have the financial resources to pay the full cost of her medical care. The cost for the delivery is well over $100,000.

By all accounts, she is a good mother. But I feel that this is wrong, and I am trying to work out why. I believe that I cannot be forced to carry a child to term that I do not want. The converse, that I should not be forced to terminate a pregnancy that I do want, also applies. Is the issue that this was voluntary? She chose to implant the 8 embryos, knowing that all 8 could, and did, develop into babies. Is it that she chose to have children she cannot afford? That's part of it, although it is a slippery slope to go down ethically, to say that being able to afford children is a requirement for having them. Is it the medical costs that society will bear, for what is a voluntary event? Again, that definitely weighs for me.

Is it the medical risk of the procedure? It borders on malpractice to implant 8 embryos... it is significantly more dangerous for mother and child, with each additional embryo. Where was the counseling? the medical advice and responsibility in this process?

What about the children? 14 children, all conceived via in vitro, 8 of them premature and low birth weight. How much attention can 1 single parent provide to these 14 children? How will they feel about themselves and their mother? Will they be healthy? Happy?

Where is the line? is there a point where someone has too many children? should society have any say? should medicine? because we can achieve 8 multiple births, should we?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

ISEE progress

Last Saturday, our son once again took the ISEE exam. For those who have never ventured down this particular path to hell, this is the independent school entrance exam, used by most private schools as their placement/entrance exam. Catholic schools use their own exam in place of the ISEE.

Last year, our son's scores were abysmal. He had a high of the 17th percentile for the verbal portion, and a low of the 1st percentile for math. He did not get into the selective private school he adored, in part because of his scores.

This year, despite having a bad cold, his scores improved quite a bit. His verbal was once again his high score, but this time he had a score of the 80th percentile, an increase of 63 percentile ranks in one year! His math was once again the low mark, scoring this year in the 3rd percentile. Is it enough to get into the school we have applied to? Don't know, and at the moment, don't care.

I'm simply going to enjoy the progress.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

nice side benefit

My sci-fi film class started yesterday. I almost immediately enjoyed a really nice side benefit -- watching a classic film with my family. I needed to re-watch The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951 version) for class. I started out watching by my self. My son came in during the first few seconds, and stayed for the whole film. My husband came down about 10 minutes into it and joined us. And all of us really enjoyed the movie. I am hoping we will repeat the experience with the other 10-12 films I will be watching. Metropolis, Things to Come, Flash Gordon Space Soldier, Destination Moon, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dr. Strangelove, Soylent Green, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spaceballs, Galaxy Quest, The Day After Tomorrow, An Inconvenient Truth, Wall-E, Minority Report, The first 3 star wars, Bladerunner...

It should be fun.

Friday, January 23, 2009

impressed so far

I am impressed at what Obama has done in just a few days. He signed the order closing Gitmo, closed the secret CIA prisons overseas, repealed the Mexico rule that banned federal funding to any international family planning group that gave or recommended abortions, he banned torture as an interrogation method.

WOW! Usually, I can't find 4 things a YEAR that I am happy about a president doing.

It's a really nice feeling.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

a weight lifted

Today I realized that some portion of me has been "clenched" ever since Obama was elected. It's as if I couldn't trust that we had really done it. I've been worried that something would prevent it from really, truly, happening. Part of me has been holding my breath, waiting for the bullet, the bomb, the disaster, that would prevent him from taking office. I actually thought, once the oath was done, that no matter what happened now, they couldn't take away that he had been president.

Today I have that sense of relief you get when you finally realize the other shoe is not going to drop. We really did elect Barack Obama, and he really did take office yesterday.

What wonderful sweet relief!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

a proud American

Today, I am a proud American. We came together in peace, in joy, in hope, to peacefully transfer leadership. We picked a good man to lead us. We picked a man with vision, with integrity, with purpose. We forgot about our differences on this day, and became one country, together.

We lived out the American Dream today. A man without connections, without wealth, raised himself up to the highest office in the land. He did it with hard work, with education, with perservance and persistence. By doing so, he gave us all hope.

Monday, January 19, 2009

feeling uncool

Today, I had an interesting experience. I had to go to the mecca of teen coolness, Abercrombie & Fitch. Our son got a pair of pants from there for xmas, and I needed to finally get them exchanged. It's one of those stores where everyone who works there is cooler, younger and better looking than you are. And the lighting is low and artistic. The music is loud, and bad.

The sales clerk looked at me like I was from Mars. And it took me 20 minutes to find something that our son would wear -- he does not like brand names splashed across his chest, or his ass, which limited the selection by a lot. I finally found a pair of pre-washed jeans in his size. For almost $80. No, that's not a typo. I ended up having to kick in $10 to effect the exchange.

And then they put my purchase in a store branded bag. If you haven't seen these, they are less than inconspicuous. The bag is a black and white photo of a chiselled, hairless, muscular young man's chest and groin. His pants are low enough in the photo that they had to airbrush out his pubes, and an inch more of photo would have been illegal. And I had to walk through the mall carrying this bag.

I felt like a pedophile, or a cougar. Who does this appeal to? My son would be mortified to be given a bag like that, and lots of teen boys shop there. And no, they didn't have a similar bag with an airbrushed young woman on the front.

I have rarely felt so like a dinosaur.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Obama visits Baltimore

Today, President-Elect Barack Obama came to Baltimore. I ended up watching him on TV, with my family. We had planned to go to the War Memorial and be part of the crowd, but it didn't work out. The temperature when we got up was 5 degrees. My husband woke up with a sinus headache. Our bathroom pipes (just the 2nd floor bathroom) were frozen, and took until noon to thaw, with us running a slow trickle from the faucet from 8am until noon. And, due to a growth spurt, our son has almost no cold weather gear. No boots, no real shoes, just Vans at the moment.

So we watched from our living room. And it was moving. It meant so much to this town. Baltimore gets very little respect. We are known by what people watched on The Wire, or on Homicide. More famous for the Stop Snitching video than for our universities. That Obama stopped here was huge. I hope it inspires people. He spoke of change, and how it starts with each of us as individuals. Maybe that message will sink in, and the city will solve it's own problems -- one person at a time.

It was also wonderful to see us pull together such a large scale event on such short notice. With no hitches. Nobody died. There weren't riots or fights. Just people happily celebrating together.

And that really seems to be the Obama message, at its core. People together. Not separated by our differences, but brought together by all we share.

Friday, January 16, 2009


Today was Johns Hopkins' Martin Luther King Celebration. It is an annual event. Hopkins invites a big-name speaker or two, a gospel choir performs, and service awards are handed out. In the past, we have had Jesse Jackson, James Earl Jones, Maya Angelou. Last year's speaker, Al Sharpton, was a no-show, and Barbara Mikulski had to fill in at the last minute.

This year Congressman Elijah Cummings, and actress Lynn Whitfield were the speakers. The choir was Unified Voices, our "house" choir. I missed Rep. Cummings speech, but Lynne Whitfield gave a dramatic reading of a YA book written about Martin by his sister. It was very well done, but went on so long that I had to go back to work before the program was over.

There was also a video tribute to Barack Obama.

It was all very moving and uplifting. But it got me wondering. Would it even be possible to have a Martin Luther King now? Would the press have shadowed and hounded him, looking for his failings and weaknesses? Has the power of words been diluted by the avalanche of information bombarding us daily? Would we have loved him for his 15 minutes of fame and then gleefully watched his downfall?

I like to think that we still have room for dreams. And words that mean something. We did elect Barack Obama, and to me, that means we still have the ability to hope.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

elbow, part deux

I find going to doctors depressing and confusing. My elbow is still hurting me, pretty much all the time. So I went back to Kaiser today. This time I saw an arm and hand specialist. He said it is NOT my shoulder or neck that is causing my problem. It's my elbow. Where the pain is. And exercising isn't going to make the pain go away, but it might make it hurt more. Instead, he diagnosed me with Cubital Tunnel Syndrome and Tendinitis. I have a prescription for meds, was told to go to a sporting goods store and buy and elbow pad to wear during the day, and sleep with a doubled over towel wrapped around my arm (so I can't bend my elbow at night). If that doesn't help, or I finally get tired of being in pain, I can schedule my surgery at any time. It's out-patient, takes about 45 minutes of surgical time, and has an 80% success rate. Recovery is long, because the nerve and muscle have to heal, but you are not out of commission except maybe 1-2 days. And its just a small incision at the elbow (1-2 inches).

I decided I trust this doctor. This is his specialty. He also didn't shake hands, which I think is a mark of high intelligence in a doctor. I never understood why so many of them shake hands with you at the start of a visit. He also was fairly blunt and honest. I told him I had a sleeping cast before. He said "those never work", because no one can stand them long enough for them to be useful. You can't get any sleep in one of those...

So, I'm gonna try the meds, try the elbow pad, try the towel for sleeping, and see if it helps. If not, I am going to have surgery in May (when school is over and work slows down for me).

Monday, January 12, 2009

new years resolutions, update 1

I am doing okay with the resolutions. Not great, but okay. On the fitness front, I have walked at lunch every day but one, though the weather is eating into my plans to hike on the weekends. The healthy eating is also a struggle. This happens every year. I "relax" my self-imposed dietary rules for the holidays, and then find myself struggling with sweets, chocolate, bread and butter, once the holidays are over. The playoffs don't help, as I admittedly seem to see football and food as companion pieces.

I am struggling with being less snappish, but I am at least acknowledging when I scew up and am trying to apologize when it happens.

Fiscally, I have been really well-behaved, but mostly because I'm stone cold broke. If there is nothing to spend, there is nothing to spend.

New mantras: "it is what it is" and "I have everything I need or want"
repeat as necessary, until the urge to control everything has passed, and the desire to buy, shop, add, change goes away

Friday, January 09, 2009

smart people acting dumb

Mayor Sheila Dixon was indicted today. She is accused of perjury, taking bribes, etc. Basically, she was dating a developer. He showered her with gifts while they were dating. She did not disclose the relationship or the gifts. So now her career may be over, despite being a fairly good mayor, over a few thousand dollars in gifts.

The governor of Illinois (not going to even try and spell his name) has been impeached. He tried to make money from his position, attempting to sell a senate seat, various privileges and patronage. His career is also over, for not much of anything.

Bill Clinton ruined his political career for illicit sex. So did Elliot Spitzer.

What do all these people have in common? These are smart, successful people. Accomplished, at the top of their games. And they all threw it away by behaving as if they didn't have a brain in their heads. WTF? Do these people secretly believe they don't deserve what they have? Are they all trying to fail?

Why would you toss away so much, for so little?

Monday, January 05, 2009

Ravens vs Titans?

The Ravens defeated the Dolphins in the wildcard game. This was a wonderful moment, something to savor once the season is over. Next on the agenda -- the Tennessee Titans. The Titans are favored by 3 points. I think we can take them. I'd even bet on it, if I could find anyone in the city of Baltimore who disagrees with me. The Purple Bus is rolling! We have Joe the Quaterback handling the offense. Not stellar, but capable, and dependable. And he's got heart. He can take a sack, and still run it in for a touchdown. And we have Ed Reed. Haloti Ngata. Ray Lewis. We have Samari Rolle. LeRon McClain. Willis McGahee. Oh yeah, and Matt Stover, our reliable field goal machine.

I am gonna keep my fingers crossed, my toes crossed, and just be jittery as hell until gametime on Saturday.


Friday, January 02, 2009

musings on art

Today, my son and I went to the Franz West exhibit at the BMA. It was a challenging exhibit to view. West made art that is often interactive -- for example two chairs placed opposite to each other on a platform. Suspended between them on a cable is a large cube, all white, roughly plastered. You sit on the chairs and can see the person opposite you, but slightly obstructed by this large cube. The cube slowly spins or moves as air currents hit it. What does it mean? I don't have a clue. It was interesting, though. There were pieces made to sit on, to pick up and move with, things to just look at (mostly collages), extremely rough, raw plaster of paris works.

I came out unsettled. I started looking at ordinary objects as if they were part of the exhibit. Was that phone part of it? the bench?

My son, who usually LOVES modern art, didn't like any of it. He said it had no skill to it. None of it had any resonance for him. I can't say I liked it either, but it did make me think.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

new year, clean slate

It's a wonderful new year. Fresh start, clean slate, nothing in the way of reaching my goals for the year. So, what are they? What do I want to have done, this time next year?

I want to get more fit. I'm not going to say I want to get in good shape, just better than where I am now.

I want to cultivate more patience. Or maybe I should say, cut down on the irritability. Be less snappish.

I want to get more fiscally fit. Our finances need some serious attention. We need to work on living within our means, so that we can cut down on debt and re-build savings.

Find ways to be content with what I have. I have an abundant life -- I don't need anything. So I should work on ways to stop coveting, wishing, wanting what I don't have.

Take time. for me, for my family, for my friends. If I can find time to do laundry, or time to write a term paper, I can find time to spend an afternoon hanging with my husband and son, or with my friends.