Friday, December 31, 2004

The Disaster That Is My Hair

For the first time in my life, I may be seeking the help of a professional hair colorist. My hair is orange and red and all shades of unnatural in between all over, and, well, it just ain't pretty, kids.

Jack and Mary Liz's mom called it "sassy" this morning and said she liked it; I suspect this may have been both out of pity and the fact that she couldn't see the full horror thanks to the fact that the morning light was still quite dim. It looks kind of punk rock, and I? Am not punk rock.

Here's hoping for a nice shade of brunette shortly after the New Year dawns. For tonight we'll just have to pretend it's my fun New Year's Eve experiment and that it's cute and...sassy.

Happy New Year's Eve, everybody!

Taking "Lather, Rinse, Repeat" To Levels Previously Unreached

I've been wanting to color my hair darker for quite some time; my eyebrows and my hair have never matched, and I thought it might be a good idea to try it. So we three traipsed into Target today to choose a new color. I selected one called Chocolate Mousse because A) it looked close to my eyebrow color, B) the color I really wanted was out of stock, and I wanted a quick haircolor fix, and C) I really love chocolate mousse as a food, so I figured it was a good fit for me. After the family dinner, I rushed home to slather the dye on my hair and let it work its magic while I did some other tasks. I was blissful, unconcerned. I traipsed around the house like a happy cat, anticipating my exciting new look.

My first indication that something was amiss was that, as I began to rinse, the color of the rinse water made it look as though I had murdered someone in the tub, not as if I were rinsing chocolate mousse from my hair, as the name of the color might imply. The second indication was, well, the way the hair looked once all that blood red dye was rinsed out. It was practically glow-in-the-dark. ACK!

So I did what any semi-unreasonable home hair experimenter would do in this situation: I went ahead and applied the highlighting paste included in the kit. If my hair was going to look trashy, it was going to look professionally trashy, by golly! I waited the allotted time, I rinsed, I considered my options. There was only one thing I could do.

I got in the shower straightaway and washed my hair five times.

It's looking marginally better. I am greatly relieved.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

People Around The World Are Dying And I Still Feel It Necessary To Sit Here Being Irritated

Nearly everything that is of no real consequence is bothering me today. If you thought yesterday's complaininess was bad, you don't even want to hear the half of what I feel like complaining about today. I don't want to hear it either, so I'm keeping my mouth (and my little typing fingers) shut.

I'm off to make an attempt at being a little less selfish. I think it will help greatly if I am out of hearing range of Jack's radio, which is, right now, playing some Shania Twain.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Watch Out, I'm Feeling Complainy

When I dropped my young charges off at school yesterday, I noticed a sign on the door indicating that they would be closed not just New Year's Eve, but also the day before New Year's Eve (New Year's Eve Eve, if you will), which means that, SURPRISE!, I get to work tomorrow. I'm sure it must have been mentioned in some announcement sheet sent home, but as it wasn't on any announcement sheet I picked up, I am now stuck with an unplanned extra day of work and a whole list of things I need to get done then.

Meh.

Mary Liz has been breaking things right and left. If the broken thing can be fixed, I make her fix it herself, sans help, before she can do anything else. She doesn't like this arrangement. I don't care whether she likes it or not; I care that she learns to be responsible. Much wailing and naysaying ensues, which means that eventually I have to use my Secret Nanny Powers (otherwise known as the side hold, in which I hold her sideways at my side, arms and legs flailing, until she's done throwing her fit) to get her to comply. The Secret Nanny Powers require the use of Secret Nanny Muscles, and let me just say that we need to stop feeding that kid because the heavier she gets, the more I risk injuring the Secret Nanny Shoulders and the Secret Nanny Arms and maybe even the Secret Nanny Back.

Meh.

The kids got a bunch of huge new toys for Christmas, and I have no idea where we're putting them. Their dad wants the house to be in good order when he gets home at the end of the day, so now I'm going to have to work a Secret Nanny Miracle and make something work.

Meh.

I have one more family dinner to drive to this week. I don't know if I've mentioned this lately, but I'm not overly fond of family dinners. They stress me out. I have to drive far, I have to bring something, I have to socialize with people whose first question is always, "Are you still running?" I should wear a shirt that says, "Yes, I am still running" except then we wouldn't have any way to start a conversation.

Meh.

My car has a few small problems, so while Dad is fixing it, I am driving the behemoth (Oldsmobile Delta 88--spacious!). This morning when I came out to drive to work, the windows needed to be scraped. But guess what the car lacks? An ice scraper.

Meh.

Did I mention I have to work an extra day this week?

Meh.

And that I probably don't get New Year's Eve off?

Meh.

Meh.

Meh.

I think I'm done now.

I think.

What You Find When You Look For What You'll Be Eating Until You Run Out Of Food

(In which I update you on how I'm doing with my little experiment.)

I found five cans of peaches in my cupboard.

Five.

What single person needs five cans of peaches?

In order to avoid having to eat them all in a row once I'd consumed all other food products in my cupboards and freezer, I attempted to eat one can for dinner this evening.

The whole can.

Um, yeah. That didn't go so well. Maybe a whole can is a little much?

On the menu for dinner tomorrow night: Leftover peaches! Fantastic!

Saturday, December 25, 2004

What Crappy Gift Are You?

Here's what I got--perfect, no?





You Are Socks!





Cozy and warm... but easily lost.
You make a good puppet.




Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2004

Last Minute Giving


it's christmastime
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
It struck me yesterday as Mary Liz was hugging me tightly enough to break ribs that we three, nanny and charges, are pretty lucky. We have our health, plenty of everything we need to be warm and well-fed, and best of all, we have each other. They don't realize how good they have it, and I am prone to forgetting my own good fortune as well.

This year, more than any year previous, I have been aware of how good my life is, how much I have been given, how little I lack. It has been important to me this year to make those thoughts count by sharing some of my abundance with others. I've made my donations late in the season (um, today), but they're out there now, and I feel good about that. Next year I hope to do more.

Perhaps you are doing your very last minute shopping today. Perhaps you don't have much time to think about what to give and where. Well, don't worry: I am here to help. The following are links to the places I chose to donate this year (one for kids who lack physical resources, one for kids who lack health, respectively). Both are worthy charities. I encourage you to give a couple of clicks and a couple of dollars, either to one of these or to another charity of your choosing. It won't take long, and you'll feel pretty grand about it, I promise.

Donate here or here.

One more thing: Hug the kids you love a little tighter this year, and remind them how much you love them.

On behalf of Jack, Mary Liz, and myself: Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Take THAT! And THAT! And THAT!!!

She tried to play the Grandma card on me. As in, "I know the children were incredibly naughty, but Grandma is here so couldn't you mean what you say another time?" And I said, no, no, absolutely, not, especially not when Grandma is here because then what is an excruciating situation will be made even worse.

Let's review the situation, shall we?

To begin, we spent a lovely morning at Union Station looking at model trains and having lunch at A Streetcar Named Desire (by some miracle, and I mean MI. RA. CLE., the children forgot all about Fritz's and their train food delivery system--thank you, thank you, thank you, amen). Grandma was a bit slow, but fine, and though she was annoyed that I equated the greasy fried chicken fingers with the greasy fried fries (insisting that due to the greasy fried nature of both foods, it didn't matter which the kids ate most of, while she kept complaining that "potatoes are a starch"), we made it home without major incident. I put the kids to bed in Jack's room so that Grandma would have her own space in Mary Liz's room. And here is where the problems began.

I explained to the children from the get-go that for each warning I had to give to get them to sleep without making noise, there would be a consequence. Each consequence was stated plainly for the record previous to its execution. (Warning of Consequence One: "If you talk, I will turn off the music.") We moved swiftly through the consequences until we were faced with the final, most brutal consequence of all, which was missing the school Christmas party. We would drop off the gifts, but not stay. I also explained that, due to the fact that getting to sleep had taken so long, we would not only have to come home, but they would have to finish the nappage once we returned. I emphasized the need to sleep or else. And guess what?

We didn't get to stay at the Christmas party.

Guess what else?

Grandma seems to be the only one scarred by the experience.

The kids know I mean what I say. It was almost as if they were relieved when, after Grandma had played her card, I said, "No, Jack and Mary Liz need to know that I mean what I say. We won't be staying. I'm sorry." Furthermore, upon arrival home after the gift drop-off, both children took off their coats and shoes and headed dutifully up to bed--without even being reminded. They were even smiling. "We'll take the rest of our nap now," Mary Liz sing-songed as she climbed the stairs.

I have rarely been prouder. Jack and Mary Liz, you are the bestest ever in the whole wide universe.


Christmas With Someone Else's Grandma

This year marks the third Christmas I will spend with Jack and Mary Liz, which means it is also the third Christmas I will spend with their Irish grandma from Brooklyn. Every year there are more stories to tell; she's a quirky one, much like a child in her need for care, only more difficult in temperament. By the end of the week she spends here, I will have many stories to tell. I just may be too tired to tell them.

The first Christmas she came I was reeling from a break-up. Nothing much is clear from those days, but I vaguely remember her complaints at the price of substituting fries for chips at Rainforest Cafe and the way she told me she couldn't have soda since she is diabetic, yet poured sugar into her coffee, packet after packet after packet. We took the kids for mall portraits; I had as much trouble keeping her happy as I had getting the kids, then barely three and nearly two, to smile at the same time for the photos.

The second Christmas she came I was accustomed to her style. I shrugged when she commented about the possibility of the children getting snatched over the tall backyard fence while I was cooking lunch and giggled a little watching her try to play kickball with them as she protected them from the imaginary insanely tall kidnappers. The kids' mom and I laughed together over things Grandma had said about me in the evening--for instance, how I had fed them canned vegetables (oh, the horror)--and her daytime antics, which I relayed. By the end of the two weeks she stayed, the kids' mom and I were both sufficiently amused and also well past exhausted.

This year should bring its own special moments. I won't lie to you and say that I look forward to work in the morning. I will, instead, bid you goodnight a little early and slip to my bed. Grandma has arrived, and I need all the rest I can get.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Since You Are So Good At Giving Me Advice

I thought I'd ask you for more. Here's the deal: I'm feeling kind of bad about calling the object of my dilemma (scroll down one entry) creepy. He actually seems pretty nice to me; it's just that I don't think it's appropriate that he should be putting his arm around me while I'm working. I inwardly give him the benefit of the doubt, because, well, that's what I do. It's what I've always done. What if he's not really creepy and here I am giving the poor guy a bad name?

Here's where your opinion/knowledge of Mexican culture comes in: Is he really creepy? Or is this just a cultural difference? Do men in Mexico put their arm around women without asking? Is this acceptable? Or should I feel a little creeped out? I keep thinking, "But he's really nice, he probably just doesn't know that's not appropriate." And thus my reluctance to reject him outright and my impulse to instead be a bit sneaky about it. I tend to err on the side of mercy, to let things slide that I probably shouldn't. So far it's been okay, but at the same time I think it would do me some good to be wiser. Wise as a serpent, gentle as a dove. That's what I'm looking for.

Any thoughts?

Dilemma

So I did a photo job for a guy I met running at the park; he is a housepainter and needed some shots of some interior work he'd done to put in a portfolio. I quoted him a fairly low price since I knew he wouldn't mind if I printed on photo paper that is of a lesser quality than my usual. He seemed happy with the deal, so we did the shoot, and now I'm printing...and the photos are turning out a shade too blue. This is a paper problem, not an image problem, though I could fix the paper problem by making the images less blue in Photoshop and then returning them to their original shade later. So you're thinking, "Well, no problem, Mary, just do that and shazam, good photos, returning customer, nice." And you would be absolutely correct in your line of thinking.

Except that I don't want him back as a customer. The whole time we were shooting, he kept trying to put his arm around me while I was showing him the LCD and then at the end he kind of sort of asked me out but not directly and OHMYGOODNESS could I BE less interested? And could I also be more creeped out by the guy? (Well, yes, he's not THAT creepy, but still...)

So my question to you, readers, is this: Is it wrong to give him work of a slightly poorer quality than usual in order that he might not ask me to do more?

Addendum: Dilemma resolved. Boy are you people quick to offer advice when I ask. Thanks! I am reprinting all the photos and practicing saying, "NO! I don't want to do another job for you!" and "NO! I will not go out with you!" And when I say no I will tell you all and you can reward me by saying good job and buying me one of those raspberry cream cheese brownies from latteland.

Monday, December 20, 2004

If Only

This morning when the kids' mom came downstairs, she asked me how my day was going so far. I said, "Well, I got out of bed; I'd say that's a step in the right direction," and then I laughed. She didn't laugh with me; I suspect she may have an idea that I was secretly being quite serious.

It is hard for me to get up every single day of the work week. Whether I've slept enough (or well enough) the night before or not, it doesn't matter. I am never ready for 6:50 am. Out of necessity, I have honed my morning routine to the point of being able to carry it out without thinking about it. Who can think before dawn? Most days, looking back on the morning, I can't remember brushing my hair. I'm pretty sure I do it nearly every day. I'm also pretty sure that some days I don't. (The good news here being that, my hair being the self-styling wonder that it is, I doubt most people can tell.) I somehow stumble to my car, drive to work, and arrive on the cusp of 7:26, an ungodly hour if ever there was one. I tell you the truth: If I ran the world, work wouldn't start until 10 am at the very earliest.

I don't run the world. How unfortunate.


Please Remove Any And All Scissor Or Scissor-like Apparatus From The Vicinity

Mary Liz has discovered the joy of the self-haircut.

I asked, "Why did you do this?"

"Because I wanted my hair to be short," she answered matter-of-factly.

Well, fair enough.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Holiday Cheer Just Never Ends Around Here

us girls
"There are a LOT of people here."

"Yeah, when we drove up we just kept going and going--the line of parked cars never ended."

"Did you have to park far away and take the shuttle?"

"Yeah, I think we're in Lot E, Row 14 or something like that."

Jason threw his annual Christmas party last night. There was a lot of good food, anything and everything you could possibly want to drink, and a lot of good company. The house was full, the music was good, the atmosphere was relaxed. It was a great party. Thanks, Jason.

(To see more photos, click here.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Danger! Danger! Holiday Confusion Alert!

Mary Liz just found an Easter chick in her room. It's one of those that has the two little spots on the bottom that, if touched at the same time, will make the chick chirp. It also has a string sprouting from the top of its head, which makes Mary Liz think that it's a Christmas ornament. She just headed downstairs to put it on the Christmas tree.

Chirp.

Chirp.

Chirp.

Merry Easter!

Thursday, December 16, 2004

What I Did This Morning: Another Ofoto Album By Mary

Tonya called last night to see if I would borrow Declan for the morning, and I said "SURE!" Declan is my faux nephew, and I love to borrow him now that Jack and Mary Liz are so big. It is perfectly delightful to take a non-talking, non-arguing, non-snarky child around for the morning.

See our adventure here.

You may notice some inconsistent capitalization and punctuation. Sorry. Can't be helped; I'm too tired.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Another One About My Mom

Oh, wait, really it's about me. Sorry. However, it happened because my mom called me last night to ask me what I'd like as a stocking stuffer, so it's still kind of about her, right? You're going to love this one.

Do you know what I told herI wanted?

Do you?

Do you understand how, with one request, I have proved that not only am I an adult, but also very practical and boring?

I asked for a bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap.

For real.

What has become of me?

And Then She Laughed

I was talking on the phone to my mom last night, the same mom who often says, after I've told her something she disapproves of, "Well, I couldn't tell some of my friends you did that," and I just decided to use up all my luck and sprinkle in some mild profanity. What I said, specifically, was, "He's just being an asshat."

To my surprise, she laughed.

And I was proud to call her my mother.

Monday, December 13, 2004

This One Is All Erica's Fault

Erica e-mailed me and told me that she really likes my ofoto albums, so from here on out you can blame her for my ofoto habit. In case you haven't guessed yet, there's another one:

Go on, now,get your mingle on.

In case you were wondering, these are from Todd's Most Wonderful Christmas Party.

Um, Excuse Me?

The problem with me reading magazine articles that advise parents on child-rearing is that I disagree with almost all of them. Take this little gem from Good Housekeeping for instance. Ross Greene is explaining his method of discipline, in which there are three categories: A is for the non-negotiables such as playing in traffic--for this the child has no choice but to follow the directive, B is for the negotiables and allows the child to help find a solution--for instances in which they want something that isn't reasonable, but there may be a better solution, and C is for the things you just let slide--for things such as minor manners violations. It sounds pretty good until he gets into the examples. Here's my favorite:

"Just the other day, a mom was bringing her ten-year-old son to my office. They were running late, but he was whining for pizza. Normally, the mom would have said, 'We're late, we're not stopping,' and her son would have started screaming and, well, made a real scene.

Instead the mom said, ' You want pizza now?' Her son told her he was hungry. ' You're hungry, but we don't have time for pizza,' the mom said. 'Do you have another idea?' Yes, he did. They stopped at a deli for pretzels. That was enough to curb his hunger and they got here on time."


First of all, if your ten-year-old throws screaming fits, you've got BIG problems, and maybe if the guy you're seeing to help out thinks this is normal for a ten-year-old, you need to be seeing someone else.

Second, is this man saying that if the kid is being a brat he should still get to negotiate? In my Nannified Universe, that is not acceptable. If we're hungry, we don't whine, we simply say, "I'm hungry." (We like things to be direct in the Nannified Universe.) If we can't get food right away, we wait. Egads, people, your child won't perish if he doesn't get what he wants or something he deems an acceptable substitute right when he wants it. For crying out loud--no wonder the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Inventory

Sometimes it seems the whole universe conspires to move me in the right direction. For months now I have been evaluating all that I have, looking into cupboards and closets and nooks and crannies and discovering that, holy cow, I have a lot of crap. And some not-so-much-crap, but still unnecessary items. I've been given a lot. I've also purchased a lot. At times I have been wise, at times I have been quite frugal. In the midst of it all, I've been longing to be able to give more--of myself, of my time, of my resources. The elephant that stands in the way is my debt. I've got a lot of it. I budget and work extra hours and try to drum up more (more, more) to make it work, but somehow the freedom I have sought has eluded me. Not for lack of trying, but for lack of earnest effort and a real commitment to what I say I believe in.

I think I've needed a swift kick for quite some time.

But the swift kick never came; instead I heard whispers and echos and felt that inexplicable heaviness in my heart that indicates that something is indeed wrong.

I choose today as the day to begin doing something about it for several reasons, the first of which is that this day is the anniversary of another day that changed my life forever. I'll skip the specifics and sum up by saying that out of great pain came great promise, and I am grateful.

Today I am beginning an experiment in which I ask myself what would happen if I committed, for one year, to eat what is in my cupboards before buying more and to wear what I have instead of rotating my stock as if Goodwill Industries depends on donations of the things I have tired of. What would happen if I learned, for this year, to be content with what I have instead of buying more? What would happen if I were freed from giving a certain dollar amount and instead listened more carefully to where to give and how much? What would happen if I erased my wishlists and let it all go for a year? What would happen?

Folks, I'm about to find out. I'll keep you updated.

Look for the final evaluation of my experiment on December 11, 2005.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to sort through my inventory.

Your Two (FABULOUS!) Choices

Around here in the Nannified Universe, when one of the little someones gets a lot whiny, I am often heard saying, "You're either going to have to deal with your life or just go back to sleep."

Whilst thinking, "Man, I wish someone would offer me that second option."

Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Exciting Life Of Mary

Tonight is Thursday night--the night before Friday! The night it doesn't matter if I'm up a little too late because there's just one workday left to make it through! The world is my oyster! I can do anything! I did do anything!

I...
I...

I gave my cats a bath.

And I took pictures.

I then finished off a box of Frango mint chocolates and submitted a photo of myself to go next to the entry for pathetic in the dictionary.



Please Help Me, I Can't Stop Making Ofoto Albums

Yesterday the kids and I met some moms and other kids to see some model trains and then go give the long gift request list to Santa. While it is good for the kids to hang out with other kids and good for me to see other adults during a long workday, these things always stress me out and exhaust me. And so, I present to you:

Trains, Santa, Bah Humbug

Otherwise known as: Our Morning At The Gates Of Hell

Enjoy.

Holiday Inspiration via Sarah McLachlan

This video was played at church on Sunday, and I missed it, but finally caught up tonight. It's phenomenal. Please go take a look.

Someone at my impact group tonight mentioned that they can't understand what she's singing, so you can take a look at the lyrics here.

This holiday season, let's take some time out to pass on some of our wealth to those who have so little. Some ideas for sharing are posted on Tim Keel's blog here.

'Tis better to give than to receive. Pass it on, folks.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

You May Stop Talking Anytime, Buddy. Any. Time.

I'm sitting in the office at the computer and Jack comes in, fresh from his nap, and starts talking. I keep responding to e-mails and commenting on blogs, occasionally saying, "Uh-huh" and "I see" and "Oh, yeah?" but not really looking up. The terrible part is not that I'm mostly ignoring him but that I'm doing it just to see how long he will keep going without any eye contact. It's been fifteen minutes. Still going.

Someday his persistence will pay off.

In candy.

From me.

As an apology for torturing him this way simply for my own amusement.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Monday, December 06, 2004

Chicago(ish)

Just some tidbits:

The Christmas party host said, as he set the sausage meatballs down right in front of me (gee, thanks), "Watch out, they call your name." Boy was he ever right.

We never made it into Chicago proper, so my title should, instead, be something like: Dundee/St. Charles/Elgin/Schaumburg/Castigny And Some Other Towns Along The Way.

I went to Chicago(ish) and came back with Mr. Wonderful. It's not what you think. Or maybe it is what you think if you are thinking along the lines of white elephant gifts and Christmas parties with three rounds of gift-trading excitement. I almost came home with a Lite Brite, but it didn't have any of the pegs.

With a self-timer and a trip to a historic estate, you, too, can create beautiful self-portraits.

Coffee. Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.

No matter which hotel you stay in wherever you are visiting, the hotel gym will stink. It will also have a television which only plays sports, news, and Anaconda, and a big mirror next to the stationary bike which will allow you to observe that, when pedaling, your legs look like giant grasshopper legs.

Mary: Is there anything you guys want to pick up today in Long Grove?
Judy: Well...no...I don't think so.
John: Maybe there's something Mary wants to pick up, though.
Mary: (unaware that she is totally setting herself up to be the punch line of the new Joke of the Day) Huh?
John: Six two, lanky, dark hair, nice sweater...

May I have another champagne truffle, please?

Friday, December 03, 2004

The Good News, Parenthesized

Despite the rocky start to my morning (see below), I do have some good news. I'm going to Chicago today--all expenses paid by some very good friends. (You know they're very good friends when they won't even let you pay for your own Starbucks.) Not only that, but I get to get off work early to do it. (Thanks, Rach, for covering the end of the day for me.) In addition, I have everything packed into the car already and have even left the apartment in fairly decent order (meaning that I put the clean dishes away, not that I scrubbed the floors). It will be a good day and, most likely, a very good weekend. I'll bring some photos back for you.

Enjoy your weekend.

(One more thing: Thanks to all the fine folks who have fed me fabulous meals in honor of my extended birthday celebration this week. You know who you are, and I think you should be aware of the fact that YOU ABSOLUTELY ROCK!)

Has Anyone Seen My Cocktail Forks?

So I get here early this morning because both parents have to be to work early. It isn't even light yet, and already the children are being snotty and demanding and getting away with it. By the time their mom leaves, both televisions are on (one per kid, how convenient) and the kids are staring blankly at the shiny boxes, pausing only to complain about each other when I come in to say good morning and warn them that TV-time is not going to last long. (It never does when I'm around.) Though the whiny manipulation worked early on, the results will not last.

I am the nanny, by golly, and we are NOT having that kind of day.

We might be having the "Go to your room until you can behave nicely" kind of day, but we are not having a whiny manipulation kind of day. I would sooner poke my eyes out with cocktail forks than teach them to whine and manipulate to get what they want.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

It's Okay If You Don't Like Me Much Once I Tell You This

I'm completely finished with my Christmas shopping. Not only that, but I only have one gift left to wrap, and that is the one that has to be shipped to me. I already have the bow and the gift tag set out for it, right next to the gifts that are wrapped and neatly stacked in the living room.

It's not even December, I know, and I'm done, like some over-achieving gift-shopping circus freak. It's an illness. I'm sorry. I couldn't help it.

Happy Is As Happy Does

Today happy did:

Get the last available size 6 long pair of the cutest, most comfortable jeans she's ever worn on sale at Old Navy.

Run in the snow, the pretty, pretty snow.

Have a chocolate cream cheese muffin and hot chocolate for lunch.

Use her gift certificate at the running store and got her first ever fancy-schmancy patagonia hat, which looks really dorky and even says "patagonia" in orange letters on the front. And she loves it because it is so very dorky.

Buy some suprises at Target to mail to someone else. (Suprises! Target! What could be happier?!)

Get two free inks for her printer.

Listen to some Ben Harper while posting to her blog and keeping her cat happy. All at the same time.


In case you were wondering, I'm happy.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

ANNOUNCEMENT!!!

It's my birthday.

(And Erica's and Todd's as well.)

Thanks to all of you who have sent birthday greetings already. You folks are really on top of things, aren't you?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Thankfulness in Pictures

It's a little late, but I've made an album of some of the things I am thankful for.

Take a look.

Belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Snow is falling, snow on snow...


first snow
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
What a beautiful world to wake up to. Good morning, winter world.

Clap On, Clap Off, The Clapper

Probably since the dawn of time, or at least since before the apartment buildings and shops arrived, crows have been coming to my part of town in the winter. They appear en masse near the beginning of November and they leave with spring's snowmelt. It's the same every year. I cringe a little each autumn when I hear the first caw of arrival, and for good reason. Crows are dirty and disgusting and noisy. They poop on my car every single day. I count it a small miracle that they haven't done the same right on top of my head. Everywhere you look around here there are stray feathers and splots of bird crap. It's downright annoying, but after the first week of crow onslaught, I find myself just sighing and resigning myself to the circumstance. They were, after all, coming here before I showed up. It's not their fault that the trees in my back lot and in the park where I run are some of the only ones left worth perching in. I go about my daily routine and try to ignore the nastiness that is living in Crowville USA.

My neighbor next door, on the other hand, the one with whom I share both front and back deck, has no such inclination towards resignation. He is out to fight the crows, and he means business. He has an owl decoy perched on his corner of the back deck. He is constantly walking out onto the deck, making as much racket as possible, and then walking back inside--only to come back out five or ten or twenty minutes later to do it all again. That man is determined. They may have been coming here longer than he's been alive, but he'll show them!

One of his favorite methods of attempted crow relocation is clapping. Simple. Direct. Annoying as hell. (I'm making the assumption that hell is annoying here; I wouldn't know, really.) And also? Completely ineffective. To clear the crows from the general vicinity for the duration of the walk to one's car, it's reasonable. To be convinced that if it is done several times an hour that the crows will go away completely? Ridiculous. Why an otherwise fairly sensible human being would engage is such activity is beyond me. All this clapping is getting to be more of a noisy nuisance than the crows.

So please:

Give it up, man, you're only adding to the din.

Monday, November 22, 2004

No, Really, You Shouldn't Have

The kids' mom went to Chicago last week for business and brought back some Frango mint chocolates for me. As she was pulling them out of the bag this morning, she said, "I picked up some Frangos for you. I hope that's all right."

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

She must have forgotten who she was talking to.

Friday, November 19, 2004

When Mr. Reflux Came Back To Town, He Brought A Friend

I've known that I have reflux disease for a few years now; while I still had insurance, I took a magical little pill every day that eliminated my symptoms, much to the dismay of Boston Market, who was making a lot of money off my plain mashed potato and fruit punch orders. When I changed jobs and no longer had insurance, I tried some alternate forms of treatment such as regular exercise and slightly better eating habits. For the past couple of years, this has worked beautifully, but apparently not anymore.

Mr. Reflux has returned, bringing his friend Mr. Insomnia with him.

Bring on the Tums and the naps.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

I Must Be Doing Something Right

For the past two and a half years I have been grooming these children to like what I like and to eschew those things which I find unbearable. We've had our share of begging for McDonald's and the train store, but we've made out pretty well overall. Both kids love Starbucks and know how to order their drinks. They like to read books and listen to fairly decent music. Walking around on the Plaza is usually at the top of their lists of what we should do for the morning. Still, there are some areas of resistance. They are, after all, still children, and children like to do a number of things adults do not. So you can imagine that I was a little nervous on Jack's birthday, when I offered him the option of going wherever he wanted and then out to lunch at a restaurant of his choosing. I needn't have worried. He chose the following:

  • Apple store
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Tomfooleries

Good job, Jack. Very good job.

Now if I can just get Mary Liz to give up on Chuck E. Cheese by the time her birthday rolls around...

Monday, November 15, 2004

Dorks 'R' Us, How May We Help You?


dorks!
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
I couldn't resist posting the WORST PHOTO EVER of the three of us. This is what we look like when:

1. The birthday boy isn't feeling well and has been injured by his sister--ON HIS FACE! (And of COURSE it necessitated using a band-aid.)

2. The nanny has not washed her hair or gotten adequate sleep because she has holiday-related insomnia. (And you're thinking A) it's not even the holidays yet and B) couldn't you have washed your hair while you were not sleeping?)

3. A little girl thinks that "say cheese" means "squint a lot".

Aren't we lovely?

Birthdays Should Be Fun

My young charge, Jack, is turning five today! If you have a moment to leave him a birthday message in the comments section, I know he'll get a kick out of it. I can tell him, "The internet loves you, Jack!"

For bonus extra credit super specialness, mention Spider-Man or trains or SpongeBob.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I Need You To Do Me a Favor

Actually, I only need five of you to do me a favor. Because I'm poor and I can't afford an iPod. And because my birthday is coming up and an iPod would be a really nice gift. And because it is free for you and you could also get a free iPod if you can convince five people to do this same favor for you. Sounds good, yes?

I'll be up front about what this involves before I commence further begging. Basically, you'll follow the link I provide and register to get your own free iPod (or pretend that's what you're doing because you may have more dignity than I do and would be ashamed to be begging on the internet for five people to help you get something for free). You'll go through a series of yes or no questions and then it will present you with some special offers to try. Most of them are free. All you have to do is accept one (just one! so easy!) of the free (FREE!) offers and you're done. It will take between ten and fifteen minutes. Which is not long to spend shopping for someone's birthday gift, is it? Someone's birthday gift you won't even have to pay for, I might add.

You want to help me out, right? Excellent.

Click here: I heart you, Mary, and I want you to have an iPod for your birthday!

Pretty please with sugar on top, give an iPod-less girl a hand. I will thank you profusely and mail you cookies (really!) if you do. Oh, and did I mention that my birthday is coming up and an iPod would be an excellent gift? And that it's free? It's the truth. Clickety-click, people. I NEED you.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Saved

A lot of Christians use the term "saved" as if it's a one time redemption thing. They say, "I got saved," and what they mean is, "I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and prayed the sinner's prayer and now I'm going to heaven." However, unless I hear someone else using it this way, this is not how it is processed in my mind. When I think of being saved, I think of those small instances in which one moment has been changed, one moment that adds into the great equation that is the gradual redemption of my life as a whole. You see, I've gotten saved a lot.

When I was growing up, and until recently, actually, as long as I'm being honest, I thought it was normal that my brother hit me on a regular basis. It never occurred to me that this didn't happen in every family. If he didn't get his way, he'd hit me, and this was normal. Expected. Hard enough to hurt, not hard enough to bruise, at least in the areas (mostly on my arms and upper body) he chose to hit. I told my mother about it, but he was never punished. I think she believed, as I learned to believe, that hitting was just something older brothers do to their little sisters, and that maybe the real problem was that I was a little bit of a crybaby. I complained to my aunt of this once, and she talked to my mother, concerned about what was going on. My mother chewed me up one side and down the other for making her look bad to my aunt. "If you have a problem," she said, "you talk to me about it, not other people." I walked away ashamed and heartbroken. My brother continued to hit me when he pleased. This continued on through my adolescence until the day I got saved.

We were alone in the house, my brother and me, after school, finishing up homework and doing chores and such. We had an argument--one of those that, between siblings, really is quite normal. He told me to do something and I refused, but that's all I really remember. The next thing I knew he was hitting and pushing, his face turning red with rage. There was a blue vein popping out on the side of his forehead and somehow it struck me funny, the red of his face, the blue of the vein, the realization that I didn't have to do anything just because he said so. And I started laughing. He threw me on the couch and on the floor, chased me around the house, shoved me up against walls and screamed at me. But I couldn't stop laughing. He continued his pursuit, but I just couldn't quit. It didn't make sense to me why I would be laughing so hard when I should probably be crying for help, but somehow I just kept laughing. And it saved me.

(God, you saved me.)

My brother grew so frustrated that he couldn't control what was happening, he stormed out of the house. I locked all the doors and waited for someone to come home. I'm pretty sure I told my mother what had happened, and also pretty sure nothing came of it. I don't recall punishment or comfort on either side. But on that day, I don't think it mattered to me much whether or not he was punished, whether anyone else acknowledged the wrong I'd suffered. I knew that on that day, I had finally won. He never hit me like that again.

I was saved.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Me and Ray Charles

I was a little hesitant to go to my dance class last night; the last time I'd gone, it hadn't been very fun. There are a number of problems, the first of them being that I have no formal basic dance training, unless you count the six months I took tap when I was five. My instructor will say things to me, and I'm sure they're instructions on how to dance, but he may as well be speaking Chinese because I have no clue what he's talking about. He'll notice something wrong and say, "I think this is your fault, not the gentleman's," after which he spouts off something I don't understand at all. Louis, I know you're French, but could you please speak dumb dancer's English for me?

One of my biggest problems relating to that lack of formal dance training is that I don't really know how to follow the gentleman's lead. I try really hard, but something just doesn't quite work right. I misinterpret where he's leading me. I try to anticipate where I think we're supposed to go, but don't quite get it right. However, last night, we had a breakthrough. Louis observed me for a long time (thereby making me very, very nervous, which increases my bad dancing habits tenfold) and told me one thing that will change my life as a budding young west coast swing dancer forever: "You need to dance with your eyes closed."

I felt like a moron, but I tried it. And it worked. Not only was I able to follow the lead of my partner flawlessly (kind of), I was a lot more relaxed. The moment I opened my eyes? Dancing disaster. It turns out some things are just done better when you can't see. I am a blind dancing sensation.

Lead me. I'll follow. Just don't expect me to look you in the eye.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Can The Parking Control People Actually Read The Signs?

Coming back from my run yesterday morning, I noticed something flapping happily in the breeze on the windshield of my parked car. It looked like a parking ticket.

It was a parking ticket. The violation cited was "Parking in a No Parking Zone."

The problem? I wasn't parked in a No Parking Zone. There was one close by, but I wasn't in it. The second problem? I'm not sure there's any way I can prove that.

Gah. Time to schedule a court date. I'm not giving up my $38.50 without a fight.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Improvements

There were a lot of foods that I didn't like as a child. Many of those were fruits and vegetables and other healthy unprocessed foods, which I have now taught myself to enjoy (yes, it's possible, just not with fish). Others were highly processed junk foods that should never have touched the lips of the young, let alone be allowed through their digestive systems. Because they were not only void of nutritional value, but also disgrossting. As an adult, I never considered tasting them again since they are neither good for me nor delicious. However, several late-night, nothing-to-eat-but-crap-kid-food jobs have driven me to try some of those foods or else starve. I may be a little silly sometimes, but not silly enough to think that Diet Coke (the other staple besides kid food in most American family kitchens--what ARE you moms thinking??) A) is even reasonably tasty, or B) that it can sustain one for the course of a very long evening with small monsters. It has no caloric value. Calories = fuel. Adequate fuel = making it through a very long day marginally sane.

And so I have been driven to the kid food. In recent years I have retried an unorthodox amount of highly processed crap. Some things have remained the same (um, Spaghetti-Os, still gross) and some have made vast improvements. Take the Fruit Roll-Up for instance. When I was a kid, these snacks were chewy and hard and had texture that would irritate the toughest of mouths. I NEVER understood why kids would work so hard to chew something that tasted that terrible and felt so uncomfortable in the mouth. Apparently the Fruit Roll-Up people came to these same conclusions and changed their product because now? Fruit Roll-Ups are so delicious I could eat a whole box after the kids go to bed.

They even kept me out of the Halloween candy. And that's saying a lot. Any food that can keep me from pilfering the Halloween candy buckets should appear at the top of everyone's grocery list because it is obviously a wonder food.

Obviously.

Now go enjoy your weekend.

Oh, and clients of mine? Don't forget to pick up some Fruit Roll-Ups. You can leave the Diet Coke on the shelf.



Thursday, November 04, 2004

Thank Goodness He's Stupid

So if you're wanted on a rape charge? It's probably a good idea to go on Blind Date. It's televised, you know, and this gives your victim an opportunity to recognize you and turn you in. Good job, loser. And I mean that. Every criminal should be so stupid. It would make the world a better place.

My Cat Has An Intense Stare and Other Highlights From My Thursday


staring contest winner
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
This is going to be filled with just bits of this'n'that so if you've got somewhere to go, please go there and come back and catch this later. No need to stick around for a bunch of rambling from a girl who's just trying to fill the time until she can go run another six miles.

Yes, I said another. As in: The second six mile set today. I'm not trying to torture myself, really; I just have a busier evening ahead than I planned and a busy weekend ahead and I've been eating too many brownies, so I've got to get the miles in there somewhere. It seems to make sense to just do a bunch today since the weather is perfect for it and I'm not any more tired than usual.

Cuteness alert: Yesterday Mary Liz said something that deserves to be remembered, at least for a minute or so. I had made macaroni and cheese with excessive amounts of Velveeta (and by excessive I mean "could have drowned small mammals in the sauce"), which she loved. After her first or second bite she looked down the table at Jack and said, "Jack, I don't think you should taste this. It's too tasty for you." And then she cracked up. Seriously, she just couldn't contain how incredibly funny she was being and she laughed so hard she almost fell over. I love it when she does that.

Also of note in The Nannified Universe: Jack lost his tooth yesterday. He was so proud, but evidently disappointed that the tooth fairy only brought him a dollar. He is still at the age where change seems more exciting, so I suggested to his mom that next time they just put a hundred pennies under there. He'll think he's rich.

Well, kids, it's been fun, but it's time for me to put on some running skips and hit the trail. Have a wonderful Thursday. I know I will.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Yeah, What She Said

I have all sorts of feelings and opinions about the election, but I don't have much time today for writing, so I'll just refer you to Amalah who said the pretty near close enough equivalent of what I've been thinking today. Not about the Miata, because I don't have a husband to wager with or a Ford Focus to pay off, but the other stuff. About the milquetoast candidate and whatnot.

Frankly, I'm just relieved we know who our president will be and that we don't have to go through months of recount agony.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Beat Goes On

This evening as I was driving my young charges home from school, we were listening to the radio. Jack's current favorite song, the one that sounds like aliens are invading planet earth and really just want to get it on, came on. Since he can't really understand the words or the innuendo, I let it play. After bobbing his head semi-rhythmically for a few moments, he paused and said, "You know what I like about this song? The BEAT!"

And that was the very cutest thing I have heard anyone say all week.

My Voice

I walked to the polls today. My "voty place", as I like to call it, is just blocks away. I pondered the choice I had made and what I would do in lieu of punching out one of the rectangles designating which presidential candidate I stood behind. I thought of my write in choices: Mickey Mouse was popular in the comments section, and one of the teachers at my young charges' school even had on a "Mickey for President" shirt today. Some friends had suggested I write them in, and I considered writing in one for president and one for vice president. In the end, I decided that it would be a mockery of something I consider to be very serious to write in the name of a cartoon character or someone who isn't even old enough to hold presidential office.

So I left the write in space blank.

I punched out no presidential rectangle.

And I believe I made the right choice.

I have agonized over this for some time, and finally decided that what my conscience dictated was to make silence my voice, to let the action of choosing neither likely candidate (nor a candidate I knew nothing about and who wouldn't win anyway) speak louder than punching out a rectangle could. My silence says, "I am tired of voting for the lesser of two evils, and I will not be a party to that sort of choice this time around." I voted for candidates who have my trust in some other races, voted my choice on the current issues, and walked out calm and perhaps a little bit proud.

This is my voice, America. It's time for a change, and I'm not just talking about from one president to another.

If you haven't already, go make your voice heard.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Until Tomorrow


until tomorrow
Originally uploaded by marymuses.

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I Love Ya, Tomorrow

Okay, actually I love the day after tomorrow, when the votes are tallied and we'll know who our president will be for the next term. But what I love about tomorrow is that I can get out and vote early and have the relief of knowing that what I'm planning on doing (or what I change my mind and do instead) is done. No more research, no more fretting. Depending on who is elected, I will have a whole list of other things to think about, but at least the question of who I choose (or whether I choose to abstain--I'm not telling you yet) will be all taken care of.

And that will be very good indeed.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Missing in Inaction

I recently colored my hair, and I don't like it. I keep trying new things with it, hoping that the right style or accessory will make it better, but there it is, still looking marginally ugly. So today I had the bright idea that maybe it was my pasty complexion that was actually the problem. After all, summer's golden glow has long faded into pasty pale and the new hair color only enhances that. In an attempt to give back some of that which I had lost with the onset of fall and fewer miles logged outdoors in the daylight, I decided that make-up was the way to go. I went to the bathroom to get out my make-up bag and...it wasn't there. So I checked the bedroom, thinking that maybe I'd carried it in there and set it somewhere strange. Still no luck. I checked my overnight bags. Nothing there either. So I began to think back to the last time I'd used it, to where I had been the last time I smoothed on foundation and swept blush across my cheeks. I retraced my steps and found it exactly where I'd left it: in the back of my station wagon, where it had been tossed when I was playing Designated Drivers 'R' Us.

After the class reunion.

On October 2nd.

Make-up lovers, take a deep breath. I went nearly a month without make-up and I STILL LIVED.

Friday, October 29, 2004

The Problem With Voting This Year...

...is that I'm afraid I can't do it. Can't punch the little tab through that denotes I've chosen to side with this presidential candidate or that one. I thought I'd made up my mind a long time ago. Then I thought I'd made it up again, and then I realized that it is far from made up and the election is only four short days away. I keep reading things that break my heart, and I mull over the likely future transgressions of each man, and I can't see myself standing there and punching through that little spot of paper, thereby saying, "What this man does will be okay with me."

Right now I'm thinking that it might be all right to just punch out the holes I'm sure of and walk away from the rest. It just might be all right.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Proud Moments

This little boy got three shots and blood drawn today and he didn't cry or whine once. He sat on the fuschia vinyl chair next to my blue one and held my hand and talked about his Halloween costume and acted like everything was fine. When we got to the car he asked, "Mary, was I very brave to get all those shots and not cry?"

And of course, because it is true, I said yes.

Yes, Jack, you most definitely were. That is so rock-n-roll of you. Now let's go put some gel in your hair.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

I Don't Heart I Heart Huckabees

Does anyone? If you have seen this movie and loved or even liked or even half liked it, would you please explain why? I'm wondering if I'm not philosophical enough or hip enough or I have a poor sense of humor. I went in expecting something clever and enjoyable and left quite disappointed. Please tell me something to redeem the $5.50 and two hours I spent fighting the urge to check my watch.

Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Pajama Day

I spent most of my day in my pajamas. Except for the unfortunate experience in the park (mentioned below) and the usual drop off and pick up of my young charges at school, I slept most of the day away. Honestly, I had no idea that I needed that much sleep. I kept looking at the clock and thinking, "Why am I not ready to get up?" After which I would promptly go back to sleep.

I suppose I just needed a rest--in the mental and emotional sense as well as in the physical sense. There's been a lot going on in life and in my mind and heart as well, so the past few weeks have been a little taxing. Add to that the fact that I haven't had my usual Sunday pajamafests for the last few weeks and you have one tired Mary on your hands.

But not too tired to make you a little photo album documenting one of the activities that has kept me busy these past weekends. My dad's side of the family spends a weekend every couple of years making apple butter outside in a copper kettle. We use the same copper kettle that my great-grandparents used, and the hope is that the tradition will continue generation after generation. Not only our hope as a family, but the hope of all our friends and neighbors, who have gotten a little too grabby with the apple butter over the years. Calm down, people. We'll make more.

And you'll get yours, too, if you ask nicely enough. In the meantime, just enjoy the photos.

Don't You Dare

At the park where I run, a lot of homeless folks hang out. Usually they are kind. I know some of them either by face or by dog companion. A few of them say hello to me every time they see me, and sometimes add things like, "Don't mess with her." I like them. I always try to smile and say hello back to them or tell them to have a good day when I'm on my last lap.

So today I was coming down the trail and I came face to face with an older homeless man that I didn't recall seeing before. I smiled hello and he responded by yelling, "How do you mother-f-ers run around and around this mother-f-ing place every day. You're just mother-f-ing rich and you don't have anything better to do." I was a bit stunned, but still willing to brush it off. I could understand why he would think I was rich. By some standards, I am. I could understand his confusion at some of us running one mile loops over and over again day after day. It does seem a little ridiculous. I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, to offer compassion. But then he dropped this gem:

"I'm gonna rape you and then you'll see what happens."

And that is where he crossed the line. Obviously. The moment he said it, it was as if someone flipped my inner switch from caring to outrage. Because that is something you just don't threaten. Mister, you can be as angry at me as you want because of what you have assumed about me. You can say whatever you want about my economic status or my running habits. But so much as make a move towards fulfilling that last threat, and fists will fly. I'll be dragging your bleeding self across the street to the hospital before you can count to twenty.

Don't. Cross. That. Line.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

When I Have Nothing To Say

Sometimes I find that what someone else has to say speaks for me. Here's a little something I'm thinking about that Rilke thought about--and wrote about, beautifully--first.

"If only for once it were still.
If the not quite right and the why this
could be muted, and the neighbor's laughter,
and the static my senses make--
if all of it didn't keep me from coming awake--

Then in one vast thousandfold thought
I could think you up to where thinking ends.

I could possess you,
even for the brevity of a smile,
to offer you
to all that lives,
in gladness"

Friday, October 15, 2004

How About We Go Here


a room at hotel astrid
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
Looks nice, doesn't it? You have to pay for the hot water in the shower and share the bathroom, in fact, with the other occupants of this second floor one star hotel, but the owners at Hotel Astrid are lovely people and the rooms...well, the rooms look like this. It's good enough for me, that's for sure.

Any day of the week. Let's go.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Competition

As a runner, I am not the fastest. One might venture to say that, as a first time runner at 26, I came a little late to the game. Too late to hope to excel enough to win anything. So I have convinced myself that it's not being first that matters. It's not even being second or third. It's about doing my best and finishing strong and continuing to develop my abilities and enjoy myself. I am not an incredibly competitive person, so it doesn't really concern me that people pass me. I pass some people, too. It's no big deal.

Except that honestly, that's a load of crap. Secretly, I long to win. I want the trophy. I crave the recognition. As much as I try to push that down and let it go, eventually it surfaces. Whether I whine because I lose a board game or I find myself trying to pass the guy who's racing in khakis with a belt, my inner competitor is always trying to get in there and get the job done.

So this morning I was running at Mill Creek Park, just relaxing through my six easy miles. After the first couple of miles, I noticed that another runner and I kept passing each other at the ends of the loops and on the crossover of the figure eight path. We were holding the same pace. Since he was a man and men naturally run faster than women, I was feeling pretty good about myself. And yet...I kind of wanted to get ahead of him. So I picked it up a tiny bit. Just enough to get to the crossover a little ahead and to reach the tip of each loop first. By mile six, I was a getting a litte worn out. I decided to settle for finishing even and held a constant pace. I rounded the last end loop and...he wasn't there to pass me. At the crossover, he didn't appear. He had gone home before me.

You know what that means, don't you?

It means I totally won.

Finally.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Saturday Morning Thoughts

Not too long ago, Tim recommended subscribing to the Bruderhof Daily Dig, a service that sends an inspirational quote to your inbox every day. I'm not always much for adding to my daily e-mail if it's not personal mail, but the quotes I read seemed so thought-provoking that I couldn't resist. I have enjoyed those quotes every day since.

Beneath each quote there is also a link to a related article; as much as I've wanted to peruse them, I haven't usually had the time. Today, however, I was faced with a massive amount of free time. What better thing to do, I thought, than read? I started with some of those linked articles. I only made it to the second one before my eyes got a little wet. You can read it for yourself here if you've got the time. The following is what I pulled from it and the thoughts that followed.

Danusha Veronica Goska writes, "The problem is not that we have so little power. The problem is that we don't use the power that we have."

She is speaking of the power to affect our world in a positive way, to change things. So many people think that in order to change the world, we must do something huge and impressive. It must take lots of time and involve travel to the nether-regions of the world. We must sacrifice everything. If we are unable to do that, we can't do anything. The thing is, that's just not true.

I have long been a proponent of affecting one small thing or person at a time. I know that I cannot do much towards solving the world's largest problems. I'm not an international figure; I don't affect foreign policy. But I can stop by and say hello to someone who is lonely. I can buy a strung out prostitute some lunch and shake her hand and remember her name the next day. I can hold open a door for a mom pushing a heavy stroller. I can let that same mom cut ahead of me in line so she can get her screaming infant out of the store a little more quickly. I can give someone directions in the pouring rain and smile and not be rushed to get indoors. These things don't matter much on a world or national or community or even a neighborhood level. But they matter on a personal level, which is, if you think about it, the most important level of all.

This morning I am sitting here looking at a photo of Mary Liz that I have scotch-taped to my office wall. In it, she displays a look of perfect concentration. She is listening to her favorite song. It is a sweet reminder to me every day of one thing I have given to the world which no one really notices, which no one needs to enjoy but her. I gave a little girl her favorite song. That may not be anything that affects anyone else, and it may never come up in conversation. It is nothing to boast about. She may forget these days as her future widens, but for now, for this one day, she can use this little gift and get that look on her face that says so much more than her faltering three-year-old words ever could. When I look at her, I think, "I have changed the world." And even if no one was looking, even if they never look, this snapshot of her contentment is all I need as a reminder of what life is supposed to look like when we live it right. When we give it right.

It only takes one small kindness to remind someone that the world can be an okay place. I know it's been true for me, and some of you who have served me in this way probably have no idea the impact you have had. How your small kindnesses have made me into the person I am now, which is more confident and grateful and genuine than I've ever allowed myself to be. And it's all because of those small things which have added up to quite a lot. Today you are changing your world in small ways that will appear in looks of perfect concentration, in smiles of recognition, in someone going home grateful for your help. You can do anything, you know. You can change your world.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Again With The Shoes


shoe party
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
After calling attention to the fact that I leave my shoes everywhere in the house without respect for convenience or neatness, I thought I should also divulge what it looks like when a lot of them get together. I don't plan this; sometimes it just happens.

They're still not put away, but at least they're centrally located.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Just So You Know How High My Current Level Of Dorknicity Is

So I went over to my blog today to respond to comments and I did three and called it quits. I checked on a couple of other blogs and then decided that, even though I had just checked my e-mail, I'd do one last quick check before heading downstairs to catch my afternoon nap. I sign in and it says I have three new messages, which makes me excited because I'm thinking, "Wow! I'm loved! Three new messages in such a short time and they're not even in the spam box!" But guess what those messages were? (If you know about blogger comment notification you've probably figured this out already.) They were notification of my three comments that I had just made on my blog. I had gotten all excited about mail I had generated myself and forgotten about. Nice, yes?

Is it naptime or what?


See those shoes under the makeshift desk?


my office.JPG
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
That's how I know this is my office. Without shoes everywhere, I'm not sure any place is mine. As much as I try to remember to put them away, there is always a pair of shoes strewn haphazardly somewhere in my space.

So welcome to my office. Put your shoes anywhere you like.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Ten Years And Counting

Every time I talked about my impending high school reunion, my mom would chuckle a little bit. Sometimes she outright laughed. Every time I played my part and said, "What?" As if I didn't know that it was a little strange that I was on the reunion committee. High school, as my mom reminds me (and I remember well), wasn't exactly my thing. Not that it was fraught with suffering by any means, but it was just a hat that never quite fit right. I had friends, sure, good ones. I did some really wonderful things. But the whole time I was there, what I was really waiting for was for it to be over. In my mind, high school was just another item to be checked off of a list of formalities necessary for me to get out there and live my own adventure.

So it was a surprise, to be sure, to me, too, that I was not only on the 10 year reunion committee, but that I enjoyed being a part of it. We put together an event that was by no means impressive, but that got the job done. I got to know and enjoy a couple of people who have grown up into really wonderful folks. I was thanked over and over again by the committee head, but truly the pleasure was equally mine.

The reunion itself went as I suspect most small town high school reunions go. It was anticlimactic and I was not surprised. Because I felt it necessary to grab Starbucks on the way, I missed my chance to run through the halls of my high school or scream at the top of my lungs or bust down those many sets of double doors. In fact, I wandered in for the high school tour just in time to discover that not only do they now offer the ACT right there in a little room in the new wing, but they can get a satellite feed and speak to NASA as well. (Was I totally deprived of a quality education or what?) Much has changed, but many things (like the aroma of the auditorium and the water fountain next to the art room) remain the same. As is the case with my classmates.

We continued our day at a noontime picnic in the park. Everyone arrived with kids and spouses if they had them and we all chatted and munched together. It was sunny and cool and relaxed. To say more about it would ruin the moment, so I'll just leave it at that and call it the best part of the day.

Late afternoon found the committee setting up the community building for the dinner event. The DJ loaded in his gear while we all changed into less casual attire and then the people and their BYOB appropriate coolers arrived. I'd venture to guess that more than half the attendees were completely sauced before dinner even arrived. Dinner was served, the DJ cranked up some 1990s special for us, and...no one danced. Well, scratch that. Three of us, all committee members, and who would possibly have been voted Least Likely To Dance Wildy While Mostly Alone On A Community Center Dance Floor in high school, did, in fact, get out and bust a move to try to get things started. It didn't work. We retreated to the side of the room (still busting a move, thank you very much) and shrugged our shoulders at one another. It was nearly time to clean it up and move the party on anyway. As a last ditch effort to get my groove on and have others join me, I hosted a private dance party in the kitchen when Billy Jean came on. I mean, seriously kids, who doesn't dance to Billy Jean? Who? OHS Class of 1994, that's who.

By the end of the night I was exhausted, my feet were sore, and all I wanted was to slip into some pajamas and curl up tight in bed. After dropping off a carload of inebriated alumni (Designated Drivers 'R' Us) at the next stop, I drove home all too slowly, a little melancholy, and not sure exactly why. I dragged my bag upstairs, stumbled into some pajamas, and did the best curling up tight I could manage before I dropped off to sleep.

I'm so glad that's over.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Of Home Haircuts and Wiggly Children

This morning I asked the kids' mom if I could attempt to give Mary Liz a haircut. Sensing a great bargain (FREE!!!), and being a home bang-trimmer herself, she consented. By 9:30am the kitchen extension which is also my office had also a become hair salon. With a wooden chair and a phone book as the equipment. You might guess that we weren't starting off with our best foot forward. Still, I retrieved the hair scissors I'd gotten off a clearance shelf at Target, gave a lecture about how only little girls who sit still get pretty hair (which was promptly--and I mean promptly forgotten) and we got to work. There was a lot of wiggling. There were a lot of stern looks and possibly a little bit of a raised voice right about the time I nearly cut off her earlobe because she tried to jump in the chair. (She just felt like jumping, that's why. Doesn't that make good sense to everyone?) Still, it didn't turn out half bad. I'd even venture to say that it's 68% good, which is good enough for us. Both the hair and my patience are a little shorter than I'd like thanks to two major head movements during crucial moments of the haircut, but I think it will do for now.

For now. Next time we're going to a professional.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Why So Creepy?

I have a long, not-so-glorious history of run-ins with creepy people. They always find me in the most innocent of places. Which, frankly, makes them even more creepy.

Shudder.

Shudder.

Shudder.

Creepy people, be gone.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Totally

I was recently informed that I use the word totally a lot. But that's totally not true. I only use it when it is totally necessary. And to imply that it totally rubs off on others when I use it often? Is also totally wrong. I am totally careful about my word use. Like Gwyneth Paltrow, I am totally into being totally well-spoken. It's totally important, which is why I am totally going to watch it and go back and totally edit whenever I've used that word too totally much.

Thanks, I mean, totally, for your total support.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Enough With The Spinning

I go to a west coast swing dance class on Tuesday nights. It's usually really great. Each week I feel more and more comfortable being the worst dancer in the class, and I don't at all regret my decision to come in that first night instead of just driving away, as was my impulse.

So last night we were learning this new move, which isn't called anything, I don't think, but I call it Lots And Lots Of Spinning By The Lady Only. The men? Just walk back and forth and maybe turn a tiny bit. Never more than 90 degrees at a time. The lady, however, is spinning the entire time. It is, at first, confusing, and then it is fun, and then, after nearly an hour of practicing all that spinning, it is a little nauseating. As in, sit-down-and-take-deep-breaths nauseating.

Today at Target I'll be investing in some Dramamine.

To use during my dance class.

Does this mean I'm getting old?

Monday, September 20, 2004

Upheaval

I'm not doing so well today and I thought I knew why but really it's a bunch of different whys, some of which I hadn't considered yet, the biggest one (of the unconsidered whys, that is) being that I am trying yet again to cram more stuff into the small space I call my home. The makeshift office itself, which is half of what I liked to call the dining room, but was more of an extension to the kitchen, is coming along quite nicely, everything organized and stacked and software installed and all. The rest of the place, however, is in a sorry state, and there's not much to be done about it until I get some more time and a little bit of shelving. There are photos all over the living room and small kitchen appliances littering the floor in the half of the dining room/kitchen extension which has not been turned into an office. Packing material from the new equipment is everywhere it will fit until I'm brave enough to take it to the scary basement. There are probably a few pairs of shoes hiding underneath all that mess, but I'm not trying to figure out which ones and where. The opossum from the basement may have moved upstairs with me and I wouldn't even know. Kind of sad, really, but I guess he'll get along all right eating the crumbs that are hiding under there with him, since I certainly haven't had time to sweep anything.

The saving grace right now is that tomorrow after I drop my young charges off at school, I'll have a whole day to begin to unearth my apartment. And I suppose I can make it until then.


Friday, September 17, 2004

Logic According to Jack

We had a little bit of a rough morning this morning. It's partly my fault. I knew that both children had come down with a case of what we call The Naughties this morning, but I still thought it would be okay to run a couple of errands before our surprise destination. The rules for making it to the surprise destination were: Be good or else we won't go. Being good involves staying with your nanny in Target, being kind to your sibling, touching only that which belongs to you unless you have asked and consent has been given, and not being wild where there are breakables. By 10:15am both children had run away to hide in the middle of clothes racks, hit/pinched/kicked each other, taken items off racks without a thought towards asking, and knocked a computer monitor off the Radio Shack counter by ramming into a shelf (this task accomplished by teamwork and the element of surprise). By the time the monitor was handily rescued by Dave, now also known as Very Understanding and Merciful Radio Shack Guy, the goose was cooked. There would be no surprise.

Unfortunately, we still had one more errand to run. To make it through, the kids would need some sort of incentive. So I offered this carrot: If the naughty monsters could turn into nice children for just twenty minutes, there would be a small reward: chocolate milk at Starbucks. The same rules applied as before, and if there was a problem, no beverages for the naughty ones.

I was good as usual. The other two? Couldn't manage to be good for two minutes straight. There was pinching, there was name-calling, there was fake crying. The decree was: You will come in with me, and you can play with a straw and sit at a table, but you will have no beverage. Much wailing ensued. We entered Starbucks and each little monster chose his or her own table. Each obtained a straw. I ordered an iced grande hazelnut percent no whip mocha (high maintenance, yes, I know) and volleyed back and forth between tables, giving each monster equal time. And then I (how dare I!) got up to leave.

Without getting anything for the naughty monsters.

They looked at me in confusion, clutching their straws in their sweaty palms. "But we have straws," Jack whined, "and that means we get drinks."

Um, sure. Right.

Thank goodness it's Friday.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fabulous Advice!

You people have been so helpful! I took all your comments into consideration, mixed it up with my own research, and already made some purchases. I went out yesterday planning to just buy the computer, printer, and scanner, but ended up getting the camera as well. I realized after holding both cameras that I didn't have to do any more research to know which one I wanted. So here it is, the what and why:

The Mac: I purchased the eMac G4. In the end, it came down to cost. I love the look of the new iMac G5, and the Powerbook would certainly be handy, but for now I can do what I need to do with the totally unsexy, so-heavy-I-should've-called-someone-to-help-me-get-it-upstairs, complete-with-a-rebate G4. Eventually I would like to get a Powerbook that I could, as Tim suggested, take on shoots in order to show customers larger images right away, but for now I think my future clients can live with having the shots e-mailed to them by the end of the day.

The Camera: I went with the Canon Digital Rebel. I just felt more comfortable with it. The lens quality is not as good as the D70, but the difference is not something that will affect the kind of photos I will take. Also, I read a lot of reviews about both and the complaints about the Canon (cheaper lens, more plasticky body, fewer custom features) were things I could live with, whereas the complaints about the D70 (moire, focus issues) were things I didn't really want to have to deal with fixing. In time I will upgrade to a better lens, but that will happen, as the Powerbook purchase will happen, when the business is actually making money.

The Extras: In addition, I also purchased the Canon i9900 printer and the Epson Perfection 2480 scanner, both of which make me nearly as excited as the Mac and camera have. Scan and print! Scan and print! Fun times at my house for sure.

Thank you all so much for all your advice. Come over and play anytime.

(And did I mention that I can watch DVDs now? I can watch DVDs now. Come on over, especially if you're bringing a DVD and maybe, say, a pizza. I'll make the cookies. Good times.)

Monday, September 13, 2004

Skills

I believe that everyone has something (or somethings) that they do really well that is not normally recognized as a skill, but really is extraordinary. Some people are really great at doing things like cleaning mirrors with absolutely no streaks the very first time they wipe it off. Some people can name a song, artist, and album by hearing the beginning three notes of a song. I can't do either of those things. But I can load the dishwasher.

I know that a lot of people load dishwashers every day. Many of you do it quite neatly and some of you do it messily, but it gets the job done. Some of you can't do it to save your own lives. Such is the case where I work. I come in some mornings to find dishes stacked on top of each other in the dishwasher. It's been run, but the top of the stack is just as dirty as when it was when it was loaded, except now the crap has been dried on. Other mornings I open it up to find that they have somehow managed to fill the entire dishwasher with just five dishes. That's a talent for sure, but I'm not sure I'd call it a skill.

So it falls to me to rectify these situations, and I've become quite proficient. If the dishwasher has not been run, I often rearrange for optimal cleanliness and loading capacity. It makes me happy to look in the dishwasher, see it packed full, and know that every single dish will come out sparkling clean. There are methods I use, tricks of my trade, and they work every time. Today I took the load from a strainer, four plates, some glasses and one tupperware container to eight plates, a platter, that same strainer, the tupperware, the present glasses plus six more, four mugs, three pots, a steamer, two sippy cup lids, a couple of ramekins, and more utensils than you'd know what to do with. It just finished running, and everything is, as expected, sparkling clean.

And that makes me happy.

What special skill makes you happy?

An Announcement and a Request

For as long as I have been a nanny, I have been photographing the children I take care of. In recent years I've also been photographing their friends and families. Many of the photos have turned out well. There has been some enlarging and framing. I've never charged more than developing costs and whatever small tip they may want to give. I love to do it and I love knowing that I can produce the kinds of results that people want to display. Recently it has occured to me that I could actually charge real money for my services and perhaps procure clients whose children are not in my care. And so, the announcement: I 'm officially for hire. I will be doing on-location photography whoever likes what I do well enough to hire me. The concept is simple: That people photograph best in environments in which they are comfortable. Don't come to me; I'll come to you.

Now the request: I need some advice. I am shopping for both a digital SLR and a computer. The digital SLRs that I'm considering are the Canon Digital Rebel and the Nikon D70. I'm leaning towards the Canon at this point because I prefer the image quality and the price. I know there are a some features on the Nikon that the Canon does not have, such as custom settings, but I primarily shoot in manual mode with my current (non-digital) SLR,so I don't think I really need them. However, if you have compelling reaons that I should buy the Nikon as opposed to the Canon, please do tell me.

As for the computer, of course I am getting a Mac. My question is: What are the benefits of the iMac G5 as compared to the eMac G4? I will be using it for all my business records as well as for photo processing. Is it worth the extra cost to go with the G5, or will I do just as well with a G4?

Tell me what you know.

Friday, September 10, 2004

The Last Unicorn


a favorite
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
Or rather, the last Thursday Mary Liz and I had "just us girls" time. Actually, it was "just us girls and why don't we borrow a baby while we're at it" time, but it was still the last one. This week Mary Liz began her regular school schedule of full days Tuesdays and Thursdays, which means that our sweet Thursday storytime routine is discontinued. This photo is of Mary Liz using her music selection skills in the basement of Barnes and Noble on that last Thursday. Watching her develop her taste in music has been one of my favorite things about being her nanny. I just love the sight of her in those big headphones, her hair all mussed up in the back, using the touchscreen and scanning bar codes off the backs of CDs like a pro. I will miss these moments.

If you can guess what this is...


old and rusty
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
...or what it's part of, I will give you a prize. A yummy one. Hint: It's at my parents' farm, which is also known as Where Old Farm Equipment Goes to Die. If you'd like to see more of my photo extravaganza from the farm, send me an e-mail and I'll send you a link to the album.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Flattery

Last week as I was loading some things into my station wagon, Mary Liz, who was playing in the gravel behind me, and apparently studying me from behind, said, "Mary, you have a small butt."

All I could think to say was, "Thank you."

Friday, September 03, 2004

Pikes Peak is Big

Most of you already knew that. I certainly knew that, but I decided to run up and down it anyway. Maybe I did it because of its bigness. I do love a challenge, you know. Okay, sometimes I love a challenge. Certain challenges, let's say. Oh, forget it, I was just nuts to sign up for the thing. It still seems a little surreal to me that I did it. I look at the photos, particularly the one of the starting line with Pikes Peak looming in the background--way in the background--and it's hard to believe that I took it on one morning in August.

From Highway 24 you can see Pikes Peak from miles away. At times it looks as if you might run into it if you keep driving. The truth is you'll run into it if you try to, but not by driving down Highway 24. Pikes Peak is surrounded by mountain towns, with the main trailhead beginning in the lovely little berg of Manitou Springs, which is where the Ascent and Marathon start each year. Last year I ran the Ascent and, promptly forgetting my thoughts from the end of that race("This is the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my entire life."), I registered for the Marathon this time around. And so my summer was spent fitting in my training, worrying over details, developing plantar fascitis, and ultimately feeling, "Yes, I can do this race."

I was right. I could do it. But it was harder than I thought it would be. The ascent portion was easier than it had been last year, so from the beginning I was duped into thinking the rest would be smooth like silk. Thanks to an extra year of training, I was simply a stronger and smarter runner. The ascent felt good. I was delusional about the descent. I'd had several seasoned Pikes Peak Marathoners tell me that turning around at the top felt like leaving behind an extra fifty pounds and being completely free; they weren't lying. They just forgot about the rest of the descent. They never mentioned the part in the middle of the trail when everyone has spread out and you feel alone and tired and did I mention alone? On a normal day, this would have seemed peaceful and relaxing. After the push towards the top and running pell-mell down the first third, it felt like a letdown. And did I mention feeling alone? I felt alone. I very nearly cried. I told myself some jokes. I replayed my favorite moments of the race so far: that moment--ohmygoodness that moment--I stepped above the timberline and the whole world fell away in a hush, and I felt like I had never seen anything more breathtaking; the runners passing on the descent, telling our line of marathoning lemmings that the top was near; the volunteers at the top touching the top of my head saying, "You've been timed," and the sweet relief of knowing that meant I could turn around and go down and breathe easily again; the beginning of the descent, running pell-mell above the timberline, feeling like a kid again, slipping and sliding down rocks, but catching myself (miracle!) before I actually fell. There were a lot of good moments. I ate an energy gel and I didn't cry. Soon I saw a familiar runner, one who had been carrying a stuffed cloth bunny the whole way, and we fell into conversation. He could have passed me, I know it for sure, but he ran just behind me the whole way down, asking me questions about my life and telling me about his daughter, the bunny's owner, who will run Pikes Peak when she's old enough. As we neared the finish line, I thanked him; without him I may have finished, but I wouldn't have finished so well.

The final push of the race left me light-headed. There were people cheering my name all the way down Ruxton, and I was a bit befuddled, thinking, "I don't know any of these people. Are they cheering for me?" They were. My brother had told them all my name. And then there it was, the finish line, in sight. The announcer was calling my name and number and where I was from. I felt like bursting into tears.

And then I finished.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Every Day I:

*use the Crest Whitestrips that Jill gave me (thanks, Jill!) in the evening.

*forget to use those same Crest Whitestrips in the morning. This will be the longest tooth-whitening process ever.

*eat chocolate in some form. Usually it's in more than one form; yesterday I managed four: brownies, chocolate chips, chocolate frosting, chocolate teddy grahams.

*drink green tea. Antioxidants, hooray!

*trip over something. Cracks in the sidewalk, industrial floor mats, small pieces of string. Is it anything less than a miracle that I did not end up a bloody mess at the bottom of Pikes Peak?

*sing something to myself without realizing I'm singing out loud, just like that kid in About A Boy.

*let my mind wander when I should be paying attention.

*give someone a compliment. Usually it's Jack or Mary Liz and it's something like, "Very nice use of your fork."

*have trouble getting out of bed in the morning.

*have trouble getting to bed on time at night.

*become disgruntled about something trivial.

*thank God that I have the life I do. It's a good one, even if I forget that sometimes.

*have a crush on several celebrities.

*feel ridiculous.

*feel loved.

What do you do every day?

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Welcome to Weepersville

My name is Mary, and I will be your guide. Today we will drop off my youngest charge at preschool and she will be very excited and I will cry in the car as I am driving away. Later, I will take you with me to Barnes and Noble, where we can drown our sorrows in magazines we will never buy and CDs we may buy but not listen to nearly enough to warrant the expense. If time permits, we will eat chocolate chips directly from the bag and spoonfuls of chocolate frosting from the little blue plastic tub in the refridgerator. Starbucks is not an option, as your guide has completely used up her Starbucks budget for the month and a new month does not start until tomorrow.

Please raise your hands if there are any questions during today's tour. At the end of the day, souvenir visors and coozies will be available.

Right this way, please.

Friday, August 27, 2004

One Pensive, One Sweet, One Made of Bronze

Not bad for a day job, eh? You know I chose them because they're so lovely, don't you? The other families didn't have kids that were pretty enough for my Canon AE-1, so I had to take on the wild ones that photograph well.

Dollface


cute mary liz
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
One. Cute. Banana. Don't you want to go squeeze her cheeks and give her kisses right this minute?