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 He signed the order closing Gitmo, closed the secret CIA prisons overseas, repealed the Mexico rule that banned federal funding to any international family planning group that gave or recommended abortions, he banned torture as an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.