Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And TAG, I'm It....Or Something

I happen to LOVE this meme. Mostly I just like the ease of answering specific questions. The more useless, the better.

What are your middle names?

Brent and Margaret. (They'd make a good 50s sitcom couple, those middle names).

How long have you been together?

Since before I was old enough to drink, for the love of God. Almost seventeen years. That's a fucking lifetime, people. We made it legal in 1996.

How long did you know each other before you started dating?

Uh...a month? Of which we'd spent maybe an hour total in each others' company, always surrounded by other people? This isn't really a relationship route I'd recommend, except that we seem to have made it work. Oddballs that we are.

Who asked whom out?

We didn't really do dates, but I guess it was technically him. HE was the one who offered to lend me his jeep so I could go backpacking by myself. HE was the one who insisted on giving me a "lesson" in driving the jeep. Which ended with us lying on the hood of the jeep, watching the stars and otherwise getting romantically acquainted.

How old are each of you?

He's almost 40. My god. I'm 37.

Whose siblings do you see the most?

Well, his sister lives in our town, and mine lives in another state. So, his.

Which situation has been hardest on you as a couple?

The first three years of our relationship totally SUCKED, mostly due to the "learning to live with someone without controlling them" principle, which was a difficult lesson for both us. Also, we spent a lot of time living in separate towns during this time. Long distance = our kryptonite. Parenthood, in contrast, has been a breeze. No, really.

Did you go to the same school?

Get this: I transferred from my fancy bigname private school to a (actually very good to the surprise of my silly snobbish self) state school in order to be with him. Was this possibly behind the whole "learn to live without controlling them" problem and also the "oversensitivity toward any hint of being controlled" problem? Um. Maybe.

Are you from the same hometown?

No. He's a Colorado native, therefore sainted; I'm a plebian Ohio immigrant. However, I can proudly answer all those snobby Coloradoans who ask "are you FROM here?" by saying that my HUSBAND grew up here, thankyouverymuch.

Who is smarter?

Uh. Well, who is the biostatistics professor who created his own computer program to analyze his
dissertation data? And who is the one who is unemployed?

Yep, I suppose you could say he's smarter. However, I'm the one who can remember the plot of every movie we ever watched, AND ALSO who said what in that conversation we had in Wales in 1997. In fact, if you need to know ANY information about our mutual history, I'm the one to ask. He won't remember, so will make something up.

Who is the most sensitive?

Actually, him. Although I'm the one most likely to be found at home weeping over a) the ending of a book; b) the sad movie we watched three weeks ago, or c) my numerous imperfections. But trust me, it's really him.

Where do you eat out most as a couple?

Ha ha! We don't eat out anymore, not since our kids started eating too! It's too damn expensive. That said, our favorite restaurants in the town we just left were Los Terascos (fantastic fresh Mexican place), Suehiro's (sushi), and Sri Thai. Oh, I miss them. We haven't found a favorite place in Denver yet.

Where is the furthest you two have traveled as a couple?

New Zealand. WITH CHILD OMG. Although the 14 hours in an airplane with a two-year-old was THE EASIEST PART. I so wish I was kidding.

Who has the craziest exes?

Um, me. He has very good taste in women.

Who has the worst temper?

We manage to share this burden pretty equally, although I'm the one most likely to harangue, nag, and weep. Having children has brought out the gift for temper tantrums in BOTH of us.

Who does the cooking?

Unless we want taco salad AGAIN, I cook.

Who is the neat freak?

What? No, those piles aren't CLUTTER, they're WORK. Leave them alone.
Yes--he would be the neat freak. I need a certain level of creative mess in order to function.

Who is more stubborn?

On all important issues, me. On useless stuff, like why-can't-we-keep-the-bill-pay-area-neat-I-can't-live-like-this issues, he's more stubborn.

Who hogs the bed?

Neither of us HOGS it, per se, but one of us likes to "cuddle" and "be intimate" at night, while one of us would prefer to have the bed to herself and always gives a little sigh of longing when tucking the kids into their blissfully separate beds.

Who wakes up earlier?

Me, always. I also like to go to bed at nine, though, so there may be some connection.

Where was your first date?

Uh, on the hood of a Willys CJ5? Was that a date? Or a "lesson" that got a little out of hand?

Who is more jealous?

I'm not jealous. He is, of pretty much anything containing testosterone. Fortunately parenthood has tamed the beast considerably.

How long did it take to get serious?

We were living in sin within six months of meeting--and we only waited that long because I had to go back to school to finish the semester. I pretty much knew as soon as I met him that I'd never meet someone I liked better ever again. So far that's been true.

Who eats more?

Prior to six p.m., me; after six p.m., him.

Who does the laundry?

Me. Although if I pour all the washed & dried laundry out upon the bed, he will fold and put it away. The tricks you learn...

Who's better with a computer?

This is one of those tasks for which my natural ability has completely atrophied, thus cementing our pair bond. Should we ever come asunder, he would slowly starve to death on a diet of frozen pizza and chips and salsa, while I might actually have to learn how to use a "manual" and ask "questions."

Who drives when you are together?

The one who doesn't WHINE that her LEGS are falling asleep when she sits in the passenger seat, that's who. Also, I prefer to pay attention to my surroundings, instead of the road.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Animal House II

The weather this weekend was mild and lovely, and we took advantage of the weather to do some typical midwinter Colorado things. We went and sat in traffic in the mountains for four hours, a.k.a. "skiing"--which actually was really wonderful, and our oldest is starting to LIKE doing this, which gives me rosy visions of a future in which we can all go slide down the slopes, or down remote mountain trails, together, instead of one of us snowplowing incessantly behind Silas and the other hanging out with Helen at the beer tables sans beer. Then, on Sunday, I got out the pruning sheers and did some winter pruning. This started out being very Martha-Stuart-better-homes-and-garden-ish: I trimmed the apple tree, and put the branches in the bird cage, and then I pruned the thorny flower bush, and put the already-starting-to-bud branches in some water in the house, so in theory we'll have some early spring flowers here in a week or so. Very pleasant and productive; all good.

Then I started in on the juniper bushes crowding the front of the house. These are almost forty years old and very, um, VIGOROUS, so it took me a while to get through the outer branches. I piled these up behind me, whistling a little Martha-Stuart-ish tune. Then I got into the middle of the first juniper, and whoa, different channel. One with a frat-house theme: I started pulling out beer bottles, and beer cans, and cigarette packages, and soda bottles. Out of one (1) bush, I pulled seven (7) beer bottles and one extra-large beer can. And these were just the ones I could reach. Four more would have involved diving into the heart of the juniper bush, preferably wearing a hazmat suit.

One (1) bush. Eleven (12) beer bottles/cans.

Other things we've found buried in the yard/ walls/ insulation of our house:

Yard: Approximately 48 little toy cars, car parts, and little plastic toy pieces. The kids love this, of course.

Garage wall insulation: half a hot dog, with bun. McDonald's receipt for an Oreo Slushy (I found this on a hot day and could only salivate helplessly--"Mmmm. Oreo SLUSHEEEE...") Three mouse nests.

Between the drywall of the bathroom and one of the kid's rooms: two toy cars, a Toys R Us gift card, a calling card, two packs of playing cards, one unopened, and an Etch-a-Sketch that works better than any of our other Etch-a-Sketches.

Hmm. I remember the nice old couple at the closing table, the ones who'd lived in the house for fifteen years--and think man. I know more about them than I ever really wanted to know.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Just Ignore That Tearing Sound

1. The greatest thing about moving house only 1.5 hours away from where you lived before: your kids can still hook up with their friends for birthday parties, occasional playdates, etc.

2. The WORST thing about moving house only 1.5 hours away from where you lived before: your kids can still hook up with their friends for birthday parties, playdates, etc. Only it takes 3 hours of driving and takes the whole damn day and every time you don't do it you feel like a total HEEL.

Silas's best friend's mom called me at 7:30 am this morning, delighted she'd finally found our new number (we left our new number! with her AND her ex AND her son! several times!), to tell us her son was having a birthday party and really really wanted Silas to come. Tomorrow.

AACK. Of course, we already have plans, and I said no. But I seriously considered canceling them, even though they involve other people, and now I am feeling the guilt for not.

It doesn't help that this is Silas's bestest best friend, the one who ADORES him. Or that Silas doesn't have anything like him here--his best friend here is mostly kind of a buddy, a hey, cool, you're-here-too sort of friend.


Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy Red Day!

I never was much for Valentine's Day, back in the days before I had kids--I was of the "don't fall for that nefarious Hallmark crap" camp (see also: still at 37 trying to learn to remember Mother's/ Father's Day), plus, I don't know, roses and chocolate never really excited me. Not that I have anything (ANYTHING) against chocolate, or roses either (except for those damn thorns). It was more like, hold the trite symbols of Official Romance, let's go get ourselves some sushi and green tea ice cream.

But, now that kidlets have given me an excuse to celebrate/ educate the new generation about society's symbols, I embrace the day in my own haphazard way. Thus, tonight we are having a Red Dinner. Spaghetti and meatballs, red wine (fruit punch for the under-ten set), and beets. Also, spinach salad. Also, because Valentine's Day is about red but is also about products made with that little dry bean that grows on some South American trees, chocolate cake.

After this evening, we will all be dyed red from the inside out, and even our private moments will be festive.


In related news, for the past few years I've tried to embrace the (self-)educational possibilities of President's Day, and try to read a presidential bio every February. This Feb: James Garfield. Who was a confusing political muddle of great ideals (he believed strongly in civil rights, and that full enfranchisement of the newly-liberated slaves was the only way to full citizenship), appallingly bad ideas (he thought all property of rebellious Southerners should be confiscated and given to loyal northerners--how's that for a way to mend a battered nation), and fantastic charisma. All cut down after four months in office. Hmm.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Happy, happy house....wife

This afternoon, straightening up at home before going to pick up my son from school, I caught a glance of myself in the bathroom mirror. I was still dressed in my "work" duds, my red corduroy pants and braided belt and patterned paisley shirt (FANCY, I know. You should see me on NON-work days. I'm a snappy dresser.) A little pang went through me--work!--and then I relaxed: done for the day. Whew. Nothing but domestic tasks ahead of me: comfortable, easy stuff.

Yes, I know. I'm still new; work is necessarily uncomfortable, full of long well-meaning silences at the lunch table as I desperately try to make conversation with someone I don't know. Everyone is trying to be friendly, which is nice, but I don't know the lingo or the in-jokes. This is normal, this feeling of not-fitting-in and inadequacy.

BUT. Moments of relief like I felt earlier today, realizing I was DONE, make me wonder about my general fitness for work. Days like today I feel like I'm best suited for the quiet life of home, of cooking meals and overseeing homework and doing laundry and reading: a place where I don't have to project or posture, I can just be me (and slightly withdrawn).

And then I'm totally appalled, and tell myself to get a frigging grip, already.

And THEN I pick up kid one and he yells, "Why didn't you bring the car? I wanted you to pick me up in the CAR! [tears]"

And then work, and projecting, and posturing, don't look half bad. GAWD.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Heritage Honkerknockers

Had to get the emission test on the car today, which entailed a tour de suburbs, branching out from my own little suburban enclave...into other people's suburban enclaves. Many of which I was familiar with from our house-hunting extravaganza last spring. And...they are all so overwhelmingly similar it kills me. Yes, I know. Suburbs=samity-same blandness is not exactly an original proposition, or even a very accurate one. And yes, even I can tell the difference between the most contrasting of the suburbs. Heritage Greens, for example, which I had the misfortune to get stuck in once on an inadvertently very long run, has an abundance of spartan, spotless houses and absolutely no footpaths, bikepaths, or pedestrian exits of any sort. Heritage Village has a mind-boggling number of cul-de-sacs, and is also surprisingly hilly. Heritage Heights has fantastic views and is also fantastically close to a high-tension powerline (these were the houses we visited saying things like, "$250K for 3000 square feet? And the house is in nice condition? What's that about--oh" as we saw the three-story power tower in the backyard. Ohhhh.) Palos Verdes has a shabby seventies vibe to it, as well as a large proportion of residents in their seventies. Palos Verdes also has a schizophrenic approach to house style--on one street you might find a spectacular modern house, with 20-degree angles on the corner windows, a flat roof, and dramatic carport architecture. Next door, a Tudor-style house with distressed bricks and authentic-looking beams. Next to that, an adobe house, and next to that, your basic unadorned split-level ranch.

Yet, despite the style-of-the-month feel, none of the houses here really feel different. The same with the hundreds of Heritage This and Hunter's Run That suburbs that make up the densely settled Urban Growth Boundary of southern Denver: they all seem like they present basically the same solution to urban/ suburban living. Over and over and over again: one answer. Not the worst answer--most of these suburbs, with the wretched exception of the hermetic Heritage Greens, are very pedestrian-friendly, with stores, schools, and libraries within walking or biking distance. There are bike paths galore, and a decent light rail system. The various homeowners' associations clearly differ on the importance of bluegrass and lawn water, but thanks to some wicked dry summers, even the golf-course-iest of them at least acknowledge the usefulness of xeriscape. Still--still. One answer.

I'm not even sure what the other answers are, just that I'd like to take a peek at them (and preferably within the Urban Growth Boundary, not outside it). Co-housing, maybe. A development of 50% off-the-grid solar-and-geothermal houses. A development of underground houses. Houses built around community gardens, or of all-native materials, or 100% xeric landscaping. You know?

Friday, February 6, 2009

Cute Kid Stories

Much as I would like to, I will not bore my dear readers with details on the Cold From Hell that is SUCKING MY WILL TO LIVE. Suffice to say: yes, Virginia, you can break a rib coughing, and it SUUUUUUCKS.

Okay, then.

Little Miss Helen, on one of her typical rambles round my working self, said to me sweetly, "I love you, Mommy."

Of course I couldn't take that at face value, and had to ask, "More than Costi [our long-suffering dog]?"

"Oh, no no, Mommy. I love Costi a MILLION times more than you. Because she's so SOFT."

And you're so rough and scratchy, Mommy.


Last night, after a long protracted power struggle/ weeping session over why he couldn't play computer games at nine o'clock on a school night, even if, yes, he DID work Really Hard today, Silas came into the room where I was puttering about while he got himself ready for bed. He was still in his daytime clothes, with unbrushed teeth and hands that had probably not been washed since yesterday (I'm a real stickler for this one. Kid must wash his hands AT LEAST once a day. Yes, I know. I'm SO MEEEEAN.) He did, however, have a box over his head and shoulders. A box with a face, a keyboard, and a large button labeled "Enter."

"I-am-the-smartest-computer-in-the-entire-world," Silas said in his robot voice. "Ask-me-any-question-and-press-enter."

"Hmm. Can you tell me when Silas is going to bed?"

Silence. Then, in his normal voice, "Do you think I should draw another face on this?"

Refresh. Refresh. Cannot compute. Refresh.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


Started working ("working") at the Prominent Cultural Institution last week, and it's totally fun, and I'm not going to talk about it here. What I am going to talk about is a casual comment my supervisor let slip, as she was talking about her supervisor, the woman who had hired her and whose job she now has--"A great lady. My mentor..."

And she said some other stuff after that which I missed, having got stuck on that casual phrase, "my mentor..."

My husband had a mentor--a man who convinced him to go back to school for a PhD, helped him secure funding for that PhD, talked him up to anyone and everyone, groomed Hubs to replace him and helped him find the job he has now when Hubs decided he didn't want to work at his mentor's workplace. And, actually, this man was Hubs' second mentor.

My new supervisor had a mentor. A woman who hired her, made sure she learned what she needed, communicated her own vision to her, and helped make her a new communicator of that vision. And, not incidentally, helped her get the job she holds now.

I've never had a mentor. I've never had something I would comfortably refer to as a career, either. Coincidence? Probably not. Although I'm not going to be so simplistic as to say I don't have a career because I never had a mentor (if I only had a mentor, cue Wizard-of-Oz music).

But? they're still totally related, and probing the reasons why I have never had this kind of person in my life also gets at why my career, such as it is, has been such a stop-and-go, frustrating affair.

There are the women (and a few men) who would have eagerly been my mentor, had I responded to their overtures/ stayed in school/ pursued them even a little bitty bit. Instead I was busy pursuing professors who weren't interested, and transferring from one college to another. This lack of mentoring = totally my fault.

Then there's the woman who was my boss in the first job I really loved. Great woman, fun, made me laugh. Was not mentor material, for me or anyone else. Had she been, I may have stuck with wildlife biology. Instead, after many frustrating months of trying to make the wildlife biology into a permanent job, I took a housecleaning job and then a job in a genetics lab (narrative overvoice: "That was her first mistake...")

There were the professors in grad school. A few of these have been mentors, of a sort, for my fiction writing (that career is actually going okay, if at a glacial pace that will land me my first novel contract when I am approximately 82 years old). Another woman has been there when I need a reference or have questions about what to do next. However, I'm usually too proud to ask. Also, it's harder to be a mentor for someone who's not following in your exact footsteps. She can't offer me a job; I can't follow her career path unless I get a PhD.

Then there's my latest boss. He did offer me a job, a relatively good one, that's kept us in decent financial repair for the past four years, for which I am grateful. Again, though, his isn't a career path I can follow, unless I get myself a PhD in biochemistry and start doing independent research. And if I did that, he'd start treating me like one of his post-docs. I.e., a dependent competitor: this man is not mentor material, either.

And then we arrive at the current day: me unemployed, full of rue and vinegar, wondering what went wrong. Well, I can see what went wrong: I never had a mentor. I never pursued a relationship with someone who could be a mentor; I gave up too easily on the sorts of jobs that could have a career path that a mentor could help me with; I had a string of bad luck when it came to bosses who could have been mentors but weren't. Nevertheless, I've made a career, of a sort.

What about you? Have you had mentors? Have they made all the difference, or is mentoring overrated?