Nothing Gold

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay. -Robert Frost

My Photo
Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

I am a white American middle class suburban housewife trying desperately to tell herself that that is not who she is. One time I was a glowing young ruffian. Oh my God it was a million years ago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

On Some Head Scratchers

Here is a list of some questions I have. They are not profound questions about God or the universe or the nature of man. They are just things that I wonder about and that probably have answers. If you know the answer to any of them, please enlighten me.

1. How do snakes make holes?

2. Who is R.A.B.?
Update: The identity of R.A.B. was announced on the news today. It is Regulus Arcturus Black.

3. What does the air do to bread that makes it turn hard so fast if left out?

4. When women live together their menstrual cycles become in sync. How the heck does this happen? My husband's answer is "hormones", but I still don't really understand.

5. Why does metal spark in the microwave?

6. Are mosquitos good for anything?

7. How come cottage cheese doesn't make you sick?

8. Why do frogs go limp when you rub their bellies?

9. What is the appeal of starting smoking? I can understand continuing to smoke, but why start?

10. Will I feel like a grown up if I buy a new couch?

Monday, August 29, 2005

On a Beautiful Place

It's Memory Lane Monday time again. This photo is from high school. My friend Sarah and I went camping with my family and we are hanging out in our bikinis on a high-above-a-stream log. It was a little scary, but very fun. I do miss Mt. Rainier so.

Now I think I have ruffled a few feathers knocking east coast mountains. Of course, my friends are not the type to be actually offended, and they know that it is all in good fun. I can't fairly knock mountains that I have never actually been to and the mountains in North Carolina and Vermont and West Virginia are probably very nice to hike on. I think it all comes down to what you were raised on. I love seeing mountains that are just so there. On a clear day you can see Mt. Rainier from really far away and it is so beautiful. And you can look around and see Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams and also lots of hills. And the mountains are different from the hills because the tops of the hills are not white with snow or touching the clouds. Also, growing up I was less than 45 minutes away from being "in the mountains". Actually much less as a high school driver:) And we used to go camping nearly every weekend in the summers. So, mountain, to me means much more than the scientific definition. It means a silhouette against the sky. It means the ground being covered in pine needles. It means trees so thick you can't see more than a few yards in from the road. And I would love to visit and explore and learn about these other places, but it will never be the same to me. And I know that there are places in the world more beautiful and majestic than Mt. Rainier, but I know I will miss it no matter where I am.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

On Mothering

Get ready for a whiny, self-deprecating post. Feel free to roll your eyes and refuse to indulge me.
My darling son has been watching a bit too much tv lately what with mom being sick and then him being sick himself. So today he was whining for it, handing me the remote and saying "tv?" I said, "no tv today, we're going to play and have fun" in my best cheerful mommy voice. He kept asking more and more urgently and I kept saying no until he threw the remote at me in frustration. He hit me hard on the knee. It was one of the few times so far that I have been angry with him. I said, "that hurt mommy" in an offended voice and walked away. Later I realized that this was probably a punishment-appropriate incident. Should I have given him a time-out, or taken something away, or hit him over the head with the remote (just kidding on that last one)? I suppose a time-out would have been appropriate, but I'm not sure how to go about it. He won't stay in a chair if I tell him to. I could strap him into his high chair, but I don't want him to associate punishments with eating. Locking him in the bathroom for a minute seems too mean. Should I forcefully hold him in my lap for 2 minutes? I'm not sure he'd understand what that's about.
Anyway, all this has forced me to assess my parenting skills and that terrifies me. What if this Attachment Parenting stuff (responding to his needs fairly quickly, nursing a lot, holding a lot, letting him sleep with us, etc) is all a bunch of crap? What if, instead of raising a securely-attached, trusting, confident child, I am raising a spoiled little brat?
Also, what if discipline isn't the only thing I'm bad at? After his first year, I felt pretty confident that I was doing an okay job. He was growing like a weed (95th percentile for height), meeting his developmental milestones, loved people and was happy most of the time. This is plenty for a baby. Sure, I had a few concerns, what mom doesn't? Did he have enough tummy time, would his stubborness about solid food turn into a problem? I told myself not to worry, he was fine. Now, though, as I'm nearing the end of his second year, I'm losing my confidence. This year didn't go as well. He has hardly grown at all. He still fits into his halloween costume from last year. He didn't walk until 17 months. His vocalization and his gross motor skills are below average. And apparently, he has a mean streak (remote incident). Now, most days I tell myself that he will be fine and that I am doing alright. I took enough probability to know that averages mean very little, and I know that his not eating has little to do with me. His development is, for the most part, fine. But, some days I feel like a giant It's all my fault fell out of the sky and hit me on the head. I know that with such love, a lot of worry must follow, but what if, what if, what if?
Anyways, here's a cute, anecdotal metaphor to end this grumpy post. The other day, Levi and I were playing at the playground and there was another boy Levi's age there. He was exactly Levi's age. Same birthday. Anyway, he was several inches taller that Levi, was running and climbing like a monkey, and was speaking very clearly. All I could think about was how much more advanced this child was than my son. I was standing there, worrying about his development and his intelligence, when I took a moment to step outside of my mind and observe the scene. Levi was laughing like crazy and following this kid around. They were both laughing like crazy and repeating one another. They didn't care who spoke better or ran faster, they were just glad to play together. Moral: I need to just let my kid be a kid.

On 5 Wonderful Years

To My Dear and Loving Husband
Anne Bradstreet

If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me, ye women, if you can.
I prize thy love more than whole Mines of gold
Or all the riches that the East doth hold.
My love is such that rivers cannot quench,
Nor ought but love from thee, give recompense.
Thy love is such I can no way repay.
The heavens reward thee manifold, I pray.
Then while we live, in love let's so persevere
That when we live no more, we may live ever.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Memory Lane Monday II

That's a picture of me wading in a small lake in Mexico a few years ago. When Schuyler first started working for his company, we spent 6 months traveling to different plants around North America; three weeks at each location. So we spent three weeks in the small, northern, industrial town of Monclova, about two hours west of Monterrey. Basically, the town was in the middle of the desert, but about 100km away was the natural wonder of Cuatrocienegas, a naturally occurring series of small pozas with their own ecosystem right in the middle of the desert! We visited several that were good for swimming and one that was the deepest blue I've ever seen. The blue was caused by the fact that, though the pond was only, maybe 20 yards in diameter, it was more than 75 meters deep! All in all, it was an amazing drive through rural Mexico. I'll need way more than one post to describe it...

Friday, August 19, 2005

On Homesickness

I haven't been coherent enough to write something this week, and I'm still not but I will write something short. A friend asked if anyone knew of a clean stream in the area and I don't. I thought, "what, aren't there supposed to be streams all over the place? clean ones even?" Then today, my son saw a big rock on tv and said, "mountain". This made me realize that there are no mountains here and my son hasn't even ever seen one that he can remember. How very sad. I want to go home. Also, being sick kind of makes me want my mom. --Don't feel too sorry for me though, I feel much better today.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

On a Rough Week

Common Cold

Go hang yourself, you old M.D.!
You shall not sneer at me.
Pick up your hat and stethoscope,
Go wash your mouth with laundry soap;
I contemplate a joy exquisite
I'm not paying you for your visit.
I did not call you to be told
My malady is a common cold.

By pounding brow and swollen lip;
By fever's hot and scaly grip;
By those two red redundant eyes
That weep like woeful April skies;
By racking snuffle, snort, and sniff;
By handkerchief after handkerchief;
This cold you wave away as naught
Is the damnedest cold man ever caught!

Give ear, you scientific fossil!
Here is the genuine Cold Colossal;
The Cold of which researchers dream,
The Perfect Cold, the Cold Supreme.
This honored system humbly holds
The Super-cold to end all colds;
The Cold Crusading for Democracy;
The Führer of the Streptococcracy.

Bacilli swarm within my portals
Such as were ne'er conceived by mortals,
But bred by scientists wise and hoary
In some Olympic laboratory;
Bacteria as large as mice,
With feet of fire and heads of ice
Who never interrupt for slumber
Their stamping elephantine rumba.

A common cold, gadzooks, forsooth!
Ah, yes. And Lincoln was jostled by Booth;
Don Juan was a budding gallant,
And Shakespeare's plays show signs of talent;
The Arctic winter is fairly coolish,
And your diagnosis is fairly foolish.
Oh what a derision history holds
For the man who belittled the Cold of Colds!

Ogden Nash

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

On a Silly Girl

Here are some things you may not know about me. They are in the form of bragging or confession. I will let you decide which is which and judge me accordingly.

1. I know most of the words to the Rocky Horror Picture Show soundtrack.

2. I got married when I was 20.

3. I have a tattoo. It's small. It's on my back. It's a strawberry.

4. In high school I took a voluntary national math test (what a nerd), and got the highest score in the school with 101. My dear husband (the school smarty-pants) got 99.

5. My husband was my high school sweetheart.

6. I am a terrible housekeeper.

7. I still don't really know what I want to be when I grow up.

8. I drank all the milk.

9. When I was a kid, I was afraid of E.T. I sort of still am.

10. I can't whistle.

Monday, August 15, 2005

On Good Times

In the vein of themed days of the week, I have decided to enact Memory Lane Mondays. A few of you in the know can call them Pensieve Mondays if you like. These posts may be boring to many of you, but I know I will enjoy writing them. So, if you think they're boring, don't read them. Anyway here is memory number 1: My mom got all her colleagues at work to save the little hole punch circles from their hole punches. Then, one day she brought home from work a shoebox full of "confetti". My sister and I frolicked outside, throwing confetti on each other. Man, that was a good day. Isn't it cool how the simplest things create the best memories? I am going to try and keep this in mind with Levi.

Friday, August 12, 2005

On Having Some Fun

As my Romeo has already attested, I ended up going to the Kings of Leon concert last night. Here is the story in a little more depth. I woke up yesterday with a sore throat and just generally not feeling good. You know the headache, eyes-want-to-stay-closed, don't-go-up-the-stairs-too-fast-or-you'll-get-dizzy feeling? I didn't feel too bad, but I decided to make the responsible decision. I knew that going to a loud, smoky concert would make me get sicker. Also, our wonderful friends who were to be watching Levi have a beautiful little baby and I didn't want my son to spread my sick germs to him. So I called them to cancel and told my husband to go with someone else. He offered to stay home and take care of me, but I told him, "no way, you love these bands, you're going."
So another wonderful friend agreed to go with him. Then my husband and the friend came over to get changed and have some dinner. At this point they started trying to talk me into going, at which they eventually succeeded. So, the wonderful friend and his wonderful wife stayed up into the wee hours of the morning, while my husband and I went out to have a wonderful time. It was absolutely wonderful to be able to act young and childless for a few hours. I hardly noticed the not feeling well, I was able to rest between shows and lean on my husband sometimes and it was great. And, I'm only feeling a little worse today, which I might have even if I had not gone.
I will write more about the concert later, when I'm hopefully feeling a little more coherent.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

On Albus' Death

For the Phoenix - A eulogy

The ashes lay cold and flat and undisturbed,
no glimmer, no glow
never to give shape again,
and the lonely dust settles and settles.

The chasm of pain and grief and hopelessness
yawns and opens wide,
and the silence echoes all about
with the sighs of lost times and moments.

A Man remembered and missed.
Guide and protector.
But no more will the walls call softly,
with the echo whispers from a friend.

Wings forever raised, head forever bowed,
rest well and rest deep,
and go foward with joy and pride.
It was an honour to have known you.

Jazzy Cat Jr

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

On a Few Great Things

Here are a few of my favorite things in no particular order. Some of them are universal and some are probably a little strange.

1. When It's a Small World stops running through your head and you finally fall asleep.

2. A winter-time picnic on the living room floor that consists of dungeness crab, steamed clams, crusty buttered french bread and white wine.

3. The feeling you have when you are about to tell someone really good news.

4. My sweetheart's dimples.

5. Waking up in a sleeping bag on a crisp Mount Rainier morning and you smell bacon that someone else got up to cook. Then you snuggle up in your sleeping bag for five minutes before putting on a sweatshirt and going to eat bacon.

6. Ice Cream Snow.

7. The way my son's tiny arms feel around my neck when he gives me a great big hug for no reason.

8. The feeling that occurs, including the barely suppressed giggles and skipping, when you go through the archway to Main Street, USA, Disneyland and read, "Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy.

9. Seeing your child chew and swallow food. This hasn't actually happened to me, but I imagine it would be pretty great.

10. Being proven right.

11. Being naked in the woods when you are sure no one else is around.

12. A new pair of jeans.

13. The feeling you get when you do something that's not a big deal to help a stranger, but it feels like a big deal, such as helping him/her get his/her car out of the snow.

14. Getting a package in the mail.

15. When you're pretty sure you've found the lowest possible price for a rental car online and then you find one for $50 less.

16. When a stranger is really nice to you.

17. When you're using the bathroom at someone else's house and there is no toilet paper and just as you're thinking, "oh, crap", you find a roll in the back of the cupboard.

18. Seeing a deer.

19. Babies laughing.

20. Getting thirty minutes to yourself.

21. When you spend a lot of time cooking something and it turns out really good and you get lots of compliments on it.

22. When you get your film developed and there is a picture of you that you secretly think you look really good in.

23. Jalapeno chips, ranch dressing, and champagne.

24. Looking at photos you haven't seen in a long time.

25. When you can take a 3 hour nap.

26. When my son takes a 3 hour nap and instead of cleaning, I read the whole time.

27. Taking a 10 day road trip with a girlfriend to San Francisco with $100 each and a cooler full of Diet Coke, peanut butter, jelly and bread.

28. Sitting around a fire with some family and friends, drinking Coronas, listening to mellow tunes, and hoping you didn't get a sunburn from being on the boat all day.

29. Good Margaritas.

30. When you're playing Risk (missions version) and your heart speeds up a little because you realize you will probably be able to win on your next turn.

31. When you come in from playing in the snow and your fingers and toes really sting from the warmth and your mom makes hot chocolate with marshmallows.

32. When you laugh so hard with the girls that your abdomen hurts even though it's 2 am and you really ought to get to sleep.

33. Going to a church where you feel comfortable contributing and you are actually growing closer to God every week that you go.

34. Not having homework on Sunday nights.

35. Getting unexpected presents.

36. Slip 'n' Slide.

37. Swimming in the ocean/running from waves/looking at the ocean. The ocean.

38. The weird fishy smell of the Seattle waterfront. Seriously, I love that smell.

39. Halloween.

40. When you're having a rough day and you forget about the mess and add to it by building a fort in the living room and playing in it with your toddler.

I reserve the right to add to this list as I think of things today.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

On the Grasshopper and Cricket

The poetry of earth is never dead:
When all the birds are faint with the hot sun,
And hide in cooling trees, a voice will run
From hedge to hedge about the new-mown mead;
That is the Grasshopper's—he takes the lead
In summer luxury,—he has never done
With his delights; for when tired out with fun
He rests at ease beneath some pleasant weed.
The poetry of earth is ceasing never:
On a lone winter evening, when the frost
Has wrought a silence, from the stove there shrills
The Cricket's song, in warmth increasing ever,
And seems to one in drowsiness half lost,
The Grasshopper's among some grassy hills.

John Keats

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

On Class

When my family and I first moved out here to the D.C. area, one of the first things that we noticed was the terrible service to be found at nearly all stores and restaurants. Back in the Northwest, if someone said "Thank you, have a nice day" with no smile on her face, one thought, "Wow, what's her problem, she must be having a really bad day."
Here, one feels lucky to escape the store without being growled at. An affable service worker is rarer than a four-leaf clover and finding one is even more likely to brighten your day.
We also noticed that a disproportionate amount of service workers are minorities and that there is more racial tension than we were used to . We chalked this up to being so near the south. I am coming to realize that these phenomema are very interrelated.
I'm not sure whether I can state my thoughts on this very clearly, but I am going to try. Please let me know whether or not you understand/agree with what I'm saying.
The culture is similar with regards to class/racial lines in Washington, Oregon, California etc, so I feel safe saying West Coast for purposes of my comparison. I'm not sure what the rest of the East Coast, or Southeast is like, so I will be only talking about the Washington DC area for the other side of my comparison.
On the West Coast, there is very little importance placed on class/job level. Sure, parents would rather see their children grow up to be doctors or lawyers than mechanics or janitors, but it is purely based on wanting a higher quality of life for them. It has little or nothing to do with social status or self-worth. If a person is asked what he/she does, there is no embarrassment in answering "I work at Blockbuster." Lawyers are allowed to be close friends with waiters or lawn-mowers or cashiers. People who work at Safeway usually live near Safeway, in the next-over, smaller scale neighborhood from their doctor and lawyer friends. People with money show off, of course. They want bigger houses and bigger cars and bigger boats then their neighbors, but the things they buy ostensibly raise their quality of life somehow. One sees very few Burberry suits or Marc Jacob handbags. They do not buy expensive things in order to show that they are aristocrats. Less importance is placed on where (or if) one went to college. Educated people work alongside uneducated people. A degree earns you a higher starting salary, but it does not guarantee that your uneducated colleague will not be promoted above you if he is better at his job.
In the DC area, what one does for a living is very important to one's social status and even to one's self-worth. It would be embarrassing to many people if their children grew up to work in service positions. It is a very educated city (a good thing) and a lot of importance is placed on where (or if) one went to college (a bad thing in my opinion). There is an abundance of jobs for educated people, but they do not work alongside uneducated people. Jobs that are available for the uneducated are considered less worthwhile. There is no pride/self-satisfaction to be gained from doing a service job well. The jobs are considered demeaning, and if one has no degree, he will most likely never be promoted. It would be very demoralizing to work a job like this. Especially when the people you are serving believe that they are more valuable than you because they are more educated/affluent than you. Not only are the service people very unlikely to be friends with the professionals, they also most likely live nowhere near them. In the rather affluent neighborhood that I live in in Northwest DC, there is a bus that goes to Anacostia that stops near my home. I am not going to explore the reasons here, but most of the people that live in Anacostia are black and most of the people that live in my neighborhood are white. This means that many of the people who scan my groceries, cook my fast food and mow my neighborhood lawns got up early this morning to ride the bus from their dangerous, run-down neighborhoods where the schools are terrible and the hospitals are nonexistant to my well-manicured, safe, white neighborhood, in order to wait on people who believe that they are not worth as much. Even if our country did not have the sad history it has with regard to black americans, this would not be a wonderful way to foster good race relations. So, now I understand why the service is so bad and it makes me sad. I'm not sure what can be done to fix the problem. If anyone has any thoughts on this I'd love to hear them.