Monday, October 30, 2006

I'd Like a Show of Hands, Please

Okay, first off, how many of you were delayed at least an hour and a half on your flight last night? Probably a lot of you, right? Especially if you were flying in or out of LaGuardia, I'd guess there are a lot of hands raised. Good. Not just me. Okay.

Next, how many of you then had to sit on the tarmac for an additional hour and a half once your plane had landed because of an unidentified substance found on one of your airline's other planes? Okay, I see you. A few of you. Did you see all the fire trucks? Because I saw a lot of fire trucks. Great.

All right, third, how many of you then took a not-cab (town car whose driver was trying to make a little extra cash) into the city and had a driver who assured you over and over again, "I get you there. I get you. You run, you know, hurry, when you get inside, but I get you there," and then proceeded to drive like a maniac while you closed your eyes and prayed that you'd live to see another day. Hmmmm...I'm not seeing any hands. Oh, wait, there's one in the back. Did you make your train? Good.

Finally, is there anyone else who got off the last train of the night to discover that there were no taxis at the station, and the special taxi-calling-phone-thing had been ripped out by a vandal, thus necessitating that you walk home at 2:45am in the dark, alone, past a very large cemetery?


(*lack of raised hands*)

(*still only crickets*)

Just me on that one, then?

Friday, October 27, 2006

There's a Reason My Hair Smells As If I Spend My Days Working on a Road Construction Crew

Do you know what the T in Neutrogena's T/Gel stands for? Go ahed and guess. But don't look down until you're done guessing, because I'm telling you the answer down there.

It stands for tar. Coal tar. Point five percent, it says, and below it not only does it say that one should contact poison control immediately if it's swallowed, but also that it is known to cause cancer in the State of California.

Does that mean if I'm washing my hair with it in Connecticut, I'll be okay?

But of course I went ahead and used it, keeping my lips clamped tightly together so as not to let the smallest bit enter my mouth and be accidentally swallowed. I'd hate to call poison control for that one. "Um, yeah, so I had a small case of dandruff that I wanted to get rid of before a wedding? And I bought this shampoo without really reading the label? And it has coal tar in it, right? But I used it anyway because I was desperate? Because the dress I'm wearing to my friend's wedding is black, and, you know, dandruff flakes on black aren't pretty? And I didn't have time to go get something else? Right, so, do you think if I accidentally got a few coal tar shampoo bubbles in my mouth, I need to do something about it?" Not only will they wonder why I'm using inflection to make every statement sound like an individual question, but they'll come to the conclusion that I'm not very bright.

Really, I'm sometimes not very bright. I feel you should know this if you haven't figured it out already. High IQ does not equal good common sense, and it's about time we all came to terms with that.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

It All Starts to Make Sense

When I was a teenager and in my early twenties, I went on several trips with Teen Missions, and while there are things now that I look back on and find a bit troubling about it, I think that by and large it did me a world of good, and it introduced me to other lands and cultures that I never would have otherwise seen.

As part of our training, we attended not only construction and evangelism classes, but also what boiled down to being inspirational speeches about the life of whomever was speaking. One of the founders of the organization gave a speech every year about where he'd been and what he'd done previously in his life that didn't seem at all to fit together, but suddenly came together brilliantly when he started Teen Missions. All those little things that seemed unrelated came together like puzzle pieces, and there he was, sending thousands of teenagers overseas and knowing exactly how to do it. Which is pretty remarkable when you think of just what it takes to teach thousands of teenagers and their adult leaders how to travel together and go build something substantial that will hold up for years after they've left.

So this morning I got into the car with Al, and when we got to school he realized that he'd forgotten his playground ball, which is the ball he brings every day, which is what he plays with at recess, which is, to him, the most important thing EVER EVER EVER. When he lamented that he'd left it at home, I sympathized, but didn't offer to go get it for him. I told him that it was not the end of the world, that he could play something else today, that I would be sure that he remembers it tomorrow. He wasn't buying it. He demanded that I go home and get it and why couldn't I just go home and get it and he was not moving from the car until I agreed to go home and get it and I'd better go get it. He kicked my chair for effect, because we all know that kicking someone's seat is an excellent way to convince that person to go out of their way to do something nice for you. I restated my position, that it was not the end of the world, that I'd like him to learn to accept when things don't go exactly the way he'd like them to, that it would be fine for him to spend one day without his ball, and that if he didn't go into school, I'd have to take him in.

He still didn't budge, except to kick me in the arm, which resulted in me moving in a way that caused my tea to spill all over may lap, making it look as if I'd wet myself. I calmly fished a napkin out of my handbag, sopped up what I could, turned around slowly, and let him know what the consequence of that particular transgression would be.

And then, folks, I got out of the car.

Looking liked I'd wet myself.

Refusing to give in.

Making good on my promise to carry him into his classroom if it came to that.

Because, by golly, I want him to know that I expect good things of him, that I mean what I say, that I do indeed want him to learn to calm down when something small goes wrong. That I want him to live a life that is not filled with anger and angst and negative consequences. And I believe that the best way to do that is to start small, to teach him one situation at a time how to better handle himself.

I was ready, and I was willing, and I was not backing down no matter what. He caught the look in my eye, the one that means business, and he bolted from the car to his classroom.

I always wonder what all those years of being stubbornly awkward and learning not to be scared of looking foolish were all about. I guess now I'm beginning to know.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I Taught My Mom to Jaywalk, and She Didn't Get Run Over Once

I tried to show her a New York drug deal, but that was a little too subtle. I had to just point out the drug dealer after the deal, when he was ducking into Burger King.

Come to New York! I'll show you the good stuff AND help you learn to break the law without injury!

In addition to the drug dealer sighting and the jaywalking, we also managed Times Square, Macy's, Ground Zero, Battery Park, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, St. Paul's, Trinity Cathedral, Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn (not the whole thing, of course, just the part you get to when you walk over the bridge), Upper West Side, Central Park, Fort Tryon Park, The Cloisters, a plethora of subway trains and stations, and a lot of other places that I said, "Hey, look at that! I don't know what it is, but later we'll find out so you can tell people you saw it!" I am, obviously, an excellent tour guide.

Good thing I have a really good map.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Laundry List

Next week sometime a new hot water heater is being installed. The kids' dad told me about it, and that we would be without water when it happens. He started brainstorming about having buckets of water around for washing hands and brushing teeth and cooking and whatnot. It was like he was planning for the apocalypse. However, the whole installation only takes five hours. Shouldn't we all just go hang out at Starbucks then?


Al is obsessed with the forbidden fruits of childhood; in the beginning, it was just movies with strict ratings that fascinated him so, but now curse words are right up there on the list. I'm not so fond of him trying to find ways to say curse words without really saying them, or of the fact that he looked up the F word in the dictionary at school, but I do love it when he says the phrase "strong sexual content," simply because he has no clue what it means.


Someone asked me in the comments section a long time ago how I trained to run Pikes Peak while living at sea level, and I never answered, mostly because between the actual marathon and then I had already resumed being a total lazyass. But today I have a small burst of energy, so I'll go ahead and answer now, when that guy probably isn't even reading anymore. The answer is that you run. A lot. There's a lot of running. I personally chose a training program that was meant for a fifty mile flatland ultra marathon. I'd look it up for you and provide a link, but oops, back to my usual lazyass ways. You can use google, right? Or that handy search box on


Speaking of Pikes Peak, there's finally a photo set of my Pikes Peak vacation right over here. Considering how late the last vacation photos were, I'm giving myself a pat on the back for getting these done and posted just two months after the trip.


Franc played piano in a band concert last night at her school, and she got the song (as played by professionals, not by sixth graders) on iTunes. She now has it on repeat. It is the most annoying song ever. I'm just sayin'.


My mom is coming in for the weekend. I guess I should make up a bed for her or something. (Or you could make one up. What does it look like? Canopy? Sleigh bed? Pillow-top mattress?) I'll take a lot of photos in the city, as usual. According to my most recent photo processing schedule, you can expect those in about two months.


Happy Weekend, Y'all.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I Think It's Obvious What My Next Career Should Be

It's a niche market that's not been filled. The squirrel population is hungry for quality portraiture, and I am here to give it to them. Look at that little guy (girl?) on the right. He (she?) has never had a quality portrait done before, and it is a tragedy. All those nut gatherings, all the company picnics, all the family reunions...and nothing to show his (her?) friends and family. Well, no more. I am here to help.

I'm also maybe a bit off my rocker. But the squirrel is cute, no?

This weekend I ventured out with Allison to visit The Cloisters, which is located in Fort Tryon Park. If you ever have the chance to visit, I highly recommend hopping on the A train and getting settled for the long ride up to 190th. Both the park and the museum are stunning, and you won't be sorry you spent the time and the two dollars to get there.

Autumn in New England is a beautiful season. The trees are beginning to blaze brilliant reds and oranges, but there's still plenty of green mixed in. I'm enjoying running near the water more than ever. I've never been in a place that had distinct seasons and and ocean nearby. I hope winter here is just as lovely.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Sometimes I Get Discouraged, and I Get Grey Hairs from Worry

I've found four so far.

I try my best to chill out about it, but it's harder here. Yesterday I forgot to clear out Al's backpack, and when I went down this morning to do it, it had been done already. Last time I forgot, I got a note saying that it's very important that I make sure to take care of this. So I left my own note today saying that I did come down to take care of it when I realized I'd neglected it, but I will worry all weekend anyway that they are displeased. I can't seem to help it, like I can't seem to help forgetting some small things from time to time because here there is so very much to remember, to keep up with, to keep track of.

I don't want to criticize the family. I understand that things are different here, that their lives and their children's lives are much busier than other families I've worked for, and that it is, in fact, my job to keep on top of things. Whereas in the past the parents had enough free time to deal with things fairly easily if I forgot something, this family has a lot less time.

I wish I could be the girl that remembers every single thing every time, but I'm not her. I'm just the girl who's about to go make an addition to the list of things to make sure she's done by the end of the day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm Just a Big GIVER-UPPER, That's What I Am

However, it does work to my advantage, and to the advantage of others, so it's really a positive thing. Even though you wouldn't know that by the way Al said it after I told him that having him "teach" me how to throw a baseball was quite enough, and I'll thank him to lay off trying to teach me to throw a football. "You're such a GIVER-UPPER, Mary. Why do you have to be like that?"

"Oh," I replied, "you mean why do I have to be the same way you're being about your golf class? Just not doing it because I don't want to and it's not super easy for me?"

Guess who's agreed to go back to golf class if I'll let him teach me how to throw a football.

Yes, I know exactly what I'm up to. Stand back, people, I'm a professional.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Kissing and Other Things You Can't Do Via Webcam

Shortly before we gathered our belongings and headed for Grand Central, Jarod and I shared a meal at a place called Niko's, where the food is good, but the service is terrible, and to make all things even they give you ouzo and little pieces of what appears to be cornbread soaked in syrup for dessert. On the house, of course. Sorry we forgot about your order and didn't refill your water. Seated at the table behind Jarod were two people discussing opera. One of them, a woman, works at The Met, and the other sings, I guess. It was hard to tell just what he does with all the chatter about what he'll do when he's famous and what he'll tell about Julliard and The Met and all those places people think are so great and how he'll decry the utter lack of artistic freedom or something. At one point the conversation took a turn from how opera singers are prima donnas (Um, duh? Born yesterday, were we?) to the recent engagement of someone they both know. Apparently the couple had taken their relationship long distance between Pittsburg and New York City (Oh, NO! Those cities are so VERY FAR AWAY FROM EACH OTHER!) and were keeping in contact mainly by phone. Upon speculating about the future of the couple, the guy remarked sarcastically, "They've talked on the phone a lot, so they know each other so well." I was quite tempted to walk over to their table and ask if they think that with the addition of a webcam, it can last. Because otherwise, oops, we're totally screwed.


I'd say that overall the weekend was perfect. We did some touristy things (walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, went up to the observation deck of the Empire State Building) and some not-so-touristy things (sat around in parks, watched DVDs). We got a late night meal on Columbus Avenue and saw someone famous there. We shared that same meal with a guy named Shorty who pays ten dollars a night in rent and begs for food. He ordered pasta and ginger ale and took a bunch of the pasta home. Said it's the worst thing ever when you get home and you're hungry and there's nothing there to eat. I quite agree, and I'm glad he ordered something big. I'm also glad he wanted to sit and eat with us; that was a definite bonus.


I've been thinking about that sort of thing a lot, about how we feed the hungry. I think that sometimes we can be a little bit self-congratulatory about it, but I really think it's supposed to be something we just do, that's, well, normal to do. Someone wants food, so you invite them to eat with you. It's simple, and it feels good, and it IS good, just sharing that meal, having a guest at your table, wherever that table might be. I don't think it should be something that gives us a lot of pause. I think the thing that should give us pause (and it almost always does now, for me, it gives me a twinge, really) is walking past when someone needs something or saying whatever our usual line is (Mine's, "I don't have any extra cash today." Really? What's that card in your wallet, ma'am?).

So. There's that.


I hope that everyone out there had as satisfying a weekend as I did. There are photos of mine on flickr, though not many just yet. Look for more over the next couple of days, all right?

All. Right.

Monday, October 09, 2006


But I won't prove it to you. You're going to have to trust me on this one.

aren't we cute?

He had to go home all too soon.

(More to come when I'm not busy brushing my teeth.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

About to Enter the Last Year in His Twenties

And I'm not even there to tease him about it.

My wonderful boyfriend turns twenty-nine today. I sent him the ultimate romantic gift, a plane ticket to see me, via e-mail because I believe that wrapping something up all special makes the person feel much more special. Also, I made it a surprise way back in, like, June or July or something by saying, "I want to buy you a plane ticket for your birthday. Is that okay? When can you come?" The special times, they just never end.

Please join me in wishing Jarod a very happy (and very special) birthday.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Because, That's Why, Just BECAUSE

Tonight on our way back from swim practice, Al asked, "Mary, is B-I-T-C-H a curse word?"

"Yes," I replied, foolishly thinking that would be the end of it.

"But why? What does it mean?"

"It means a really mean lady." (Also a female dog, but I didn't want to add to the dilemma and make a way that he could say it and then go, "But I meant it in the female dog way." We already have that covered with the word damn, thankyouverymuch.)

"Okay, but why is it a curse word?"

"Well, some words are stronger language than other words, and that makes them curse words."

"Yeah, but WHYYYYYYY??? What makes them stronger language? Why are they curse words and other words aren't?"

Honestly? I don't really know.

Questions: 1
Mary: 0

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Oh, Dear, I Mean, Oh NO, I Mean...

...Is this really necessary or appropriate? By the time I reached this item, I was laughing so hard I snorted. Maybe it's just me, but I don't think any of these products would inspire me to abstinence if I were otherwise inclined.

(Link via mimi smartypants.)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Reasons to Love Jamie Cullum

about to jump off the piano
Originally uploaded by marymuses.
1. Excellent musician.
2. Hosts perfect onstage dance parties.
3. Has a cat.
5. Doesn't smell bad up close, even after getting nice and sweaty.
6. Consistently fantastic shows.

Despite feeling a little bit craptastic yesterday (I'll try Hay Fever and Scratched Cornea for $500, Alex.), I made my way to New Haven to see Jamie Cullum up close and personal. I thought that "up close and personal" meant "from the seventh row," which is certainly up close and personal enough for a girl who usually ends up sitting at the back, but little did I know I was about to get a whole lot more up close and personal. At the end of the show, Jamie invited everyone up on the huge stage to dance, so I slid on up there to join the crew. At one point I lost sight of where Jamie was, only to look over and discover he was right next to me. Right. Next. To ME!

That was pretty much the raddest thing that's ever happened to me at a concert.

(I just said "raddest." You may commence chuckling at my expense now.)