Monday, December 31, 2007

Crazy pills

I could have sworn that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated last Thursday, but maybe it was just my imagination, because CNN just advertized a one-hour special on Britney Spears (something along the lines of, "What will she do in 2008?"

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy New Year

A family friend from Israel called to wish us a Happy New Year. After about ten minutes, my mother launched into the Verizon saga. Dad and I rolled our eyes.

A.: Martha's not feeling well, so instead of our going over to her apartment, Wendy will just come here. Is that alright?
Mom: Sure. Is she a vegetarian?
A.: No. She'll have dinner with her parents, though.
Mom: Why?
A.: Because she wants to.

An hour or so later

Mom: Is Wendy a vegetarian?
A.: No.
Dad: Ask one more time.
Mom: I just want to make sure.

Wag the Dog is on.

A.: This is a good movie. Watch.
Mom, every few minutes: Who's that? Why is he doing that? Who's that woman? What just happened? Why did she do that? Who's he?
A., in response: Just watch.

The next generation

We stopped by the house of family friends. Their cousin and his wife and infant were there.

Lydia, to me: You look great! You're so thin!

The conversation eventually came to travel plans. I said I was ready to take a break for a little while, said travel can be exhausting. Indicating the little one, I said, "you know, with those on the plane, it's not exactly a relaxing trip... not that that one's not a perfect angel."

Dad: You just need to relax and tune them out.
A.: They're not exactly relaxing.

There's a reason that when you see relaxation tapes, they come in "waterfall," "seashore," and "stream," and not "screaming baby" and "barking dog."

Lydia: We were on an El Al flight that had to be delayed because there were fifty strollers. We boarded, and it was like we walked into a chamber of screams.
Igor: That's our next generation-- they're keeping us alive as a people.
Mom: Anya said her flight had been especially painful because of screaming babies.

Mom, echoing a comment dad had made earlier: Your hair's not a good length. It needs to be either longer or shorter.
A.: I'm growing it out.
Dad: Is Maya (daughter of family friends discussed above) older or younger than you?
A.: Older.
Dad: Huh, I wonder why she's so much thinner.

A., putting away groceries: Where does the coffee go?
Mom, in another room: There.
A.: Where's there?
Mom, not pointing to anything: You know... there.

A missed opportunity

R, in an e-mail: Tell your mom that you were offered a job at Google to replace this person but you turned it down.


My mother and I agree on at least one thing.

A., to dad: Could you PLEASE groom your eyebrows? What you have going on there is a safety hazaard.
Dad: Shrug.


Mom, to dad: It's like a braid hanging over your eye.
Dad: It doesn't bother me.
A.: Please, for me, could you bring it under control?
Dad: It doesn't bother me.

My mother and I agree on few other things. Last night, just before I left for Wendy's:

Mom: What do you think of illegal immigration?
A.: I'm heading out...
Mom: Just answer the question.
A.: I refuse to engage in a discussion on those terms. I don't believe in reducing complex issues to black and white...
Mom: Are you pro- or anti- illegal immigration?
A.: What I'm saying is I do not agree with the way you are framing the question, and I'm heading out now.

This morning:

Mom: I like Hilary. She's smart.
A.: She is smart, but she's not my first choice.
Mom: I don't agree with Obama's position on immigration. He doesn't seem to think illegal immigration is a problem.
A.: It's an issue that needs to be managed. It should not be reduced to rhetoric, emotion or easy answers...
Mom: It's a huge problem...
A.: You do realize you are an immigrant?
Mom: Legal immigration is different.
A.: Illegal immigration is not going to go away with a border fence...

This escalates into a screaming fight. Several times I say, "I am not going to discuss this with you until you lower your voice." I also reiterate that she's wrong about certain things, that the data go against the rhetoric spewed by Lou Dobbs and his ilk. She keeps repeating the rhetoric of Lou Dobbs and his ilk.

A.: Get the facts and stop getting your "information" from Lou Dobbs and Fox News!
Mom: Ha! Stop getting your "information" from the New York Times!

A.: Sigh.

My frustration is not primarily over mom's position on illegal immigration; I'm disappointed with the level of discourse. I've said before that my issue with Fox News is not the positions taken, but rather that positions are taken at all, and that complicated issues are reduced to sound bites and yes or no stances. What I'm trying to say is, I fundamentally believe that being "tough" on something is distinct from being "smart" on that thing, a distinction is one that Fox News and such consistently ingore and erode, to the detriment of the country. Sigh.

Dad: If your mother weren't Jewish, she'd be an anti-semite.

Are you planning on coming home?

Wendy invited Martha and me to her house (well, her parents' house, where she is staying over the holidays) for tea.

Mom: You're having tea now, and you'll have tea again later?
A.: Well, yes.

I mean, it's not... alcohol, or even dinner. We all have tea, all the time.

As I was getting ready to leave the house:

Dad: Are you driving?
A.: No, I'll walk.
Mom: Let me drive you.
A.: No, thanks. I'll walk.
Mom: But...
A.: It's just Wendy's house.
Mom: Go for a walk during the day... it's dark out.
A.: I want to walk.
Mom: But there's snow on the ground, the sidewalks are covered.
A.: They're mostly fine, I walked from not far from there the other day.


Mom: You really have gained weight.

It's great to catch up with Martha and Wendy. Among other things, they don't need to regularly (or ever) point out that I've gained weight. Shortly after 10pm, Mom calls.

Mom: Are you planning on coming home?
A.: Well, yes.
Mom: When?
A.: I don't know.
Mom: About when?
A.: I don't know.
[More discussion about coming home].

Not sure why it's so shocking that I'm out-- within a mile or so of my parents' house-- shortly after 10pm on Saturday night, with friends I haven't seen in a while, or why we have to keep having this discussion, even though my mom asks me when I'm coming home all the time and "I don't know" is usually my answer.

It's easy to answer the phone and say "I don't know" a few times. I don't feel the need to change her.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


Relatively peaceful day; we were mostly still bitter over yesterday. Neither side has apologized but toward late morning we seem to have moved on. We went for an early afternoon walk, toward the end of which mom had stopped to look at something and Dad and I continued ahead. About half a mile ahead of her, we heard her screaming; turned, and saw her jumping up and down and yelling. We approached.

Mom, angrily: You missed it! The sun was just beautiful, and you missed it! You don't even look around when you walk!
Dad: Is this really worth yelling about? Everyone looks at different things.

Mom continued to throw a fit and express her disapproval of dad's and my walking preferences.

Over dinner, I had to justify opting not to have soup.

Mom: Why??
A.: It's just too much food.
Mom: It's good to have a little bit of everything.
A.: I don't want to eat that much.

Mom did choose to have a little bit of everything, and proceeded to complain while she was eating that it was too much and that she was stuffed.

Oh, earlier, she and dad each tried to blame the other genetically for my "situation."

Mom: I was stick-think at your age. You must take after your father.
Dad: My whole side of the family is quite thin.
Mom: Well, I was much thinner than that.

Friday, December 28, 2007

I know I'm not a people person, but really

Mom: I'm a water sign, which makes sense, I so love the water.
A.: I'm an animal sign.
Mom: You're a taurus: stubborn and difficult.

It's a beautiful day, especially for December in Massachusetts. Mom continues to dilly dally, can't find the ninth attachment to her Verizon letter; Anya, understandably, is getting restless. I convince her to leave it for tomorrow out of fairness to Anya. Mom decided she'd take Anya to Revere Beach. I suggested Castle Island, thought it would be closer and prettier. Mom said no and then kept explaining why Revere Beach was better, as if she were seeking my approval. I said, "I don't care, just go whereever you want!"

Mom: You have such a tone! This is why you don't get along with anyone at work?
A.: Who told you I don't get along with anyone at work?
Mom: You did!
A.: I never said such a thing.

I really don't know where she got this.

On the way, Nina came up. My mom has apparently taken to reinventing herself as supportive and open-minded; as such, she started telling Anya about how Nina epitomizes the idea that you should do what you love and everything else will fall in line. Which is great. I just wish she meant it.

On the way back from the beach, on a whim, I suggested we show Anya the Haymarket. Mom balked. Then, she turned off the highway toward it, only to get a bit lost and not find parking.

Mom: Why did you convince me to go to Haymarket?
A.: I didn't; I mentioned it.

A few minutes later:

Mom: Why did you muddle my head with the idea of going to the Haymarket?
A.: Shrug.

Various conversations

-Mom offers me a polyester tube top with a sequined star on top. She is amazed that I don't want it and proceeds to try to convince me to take it. At the same time, over the last day or so since I've gotten here, she keeps saying, "why do you have so many suits? you don't need that many suits!" As with my sense of getting enough sleep, the amount of suits I need is something of which I have a better sense than my mother does.
-Mom proceeds to talk at me as I continue to write her complaint. "Did you tell them they charged me $250 for two weeks of service?" she asked, after I'd told her several times that I did.
-I am doing the dishes with the radio on; Van Morrison's Moondance is playing. Mom, who felt no need to turn on the tv earlier, expresses frustration as she comes into the kitchen and turns on the tv over the radio, saying, "what annoying music! I don't understand how you can take it."
-Just now, the letters have been printed, we're ready to send the package and move on with our lives, when mom comes by and says, "add that while the telephone service didn't work, the television reception was excellent!"

Career advice

I mentioned my job-related stress to mom. She promptly blamed it on me (first last night when it came up, and again just now), suggesting that I have trouble getting along with people.

Mom: Here's what I have to say to you: don't be so demanding and idealistic and unforgivable.
A.: What?
Mom: You don't always have to say what you think at work.
A.: That is not the issue I'm having.
Mom: [Continues to lecture me on the management of office politics].

Can we move on?

I've mentioned in previous blogs my mother's warped sense of urgency. Related to that is her lack of appreciation for my desire to sleep. When I was high school, she would often come in to my room early in the morning on a weekend and say, "It is so stuffy in here! How could you possibly sleep with the window closed?" And I would think, "how can I sleep with you yammering at me?"

I ended up sleeping on the couch. It was comfortable, but I didn't sleep well for reasons that can be indirectly attributed to work-related stress. In the morning I got up and migrated to my mother's room. I was close to falling asleep.

Mom: Her face just fell when you said that about wanting to sleep in your own room.
A.: I didn't say anything about "wanting to sleep in my own room."

So, if what I said did upset her, my mother could have translated what I meant, instead of taking the opportunity to berate me. Can we move on now?

Mom: What I really want to convey to Verizon...
A.: Mom! Can we talk about this later??

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Great logic

Anya is leaving for Seattle tomorrow, where she will visit her uncle. I was charged with printing her boarding pass.

Mom: Do you have a good seat?
Anya: Yes.
A.: She has an exit row-- that's great.
Mom: Is it a window seat?
Anya: No.
Mom: That's too bad.
Anya: Actually I prefer it.
A.: I've learned to love window seats, too. Being able to get up regularly on a long flight really minimizes the back pain that often comes with a long flight.
Mom: I never had back pain when I was your age. It's because you're a vegetarian.
A.: What??
Mom: I never had back pain, and I'm not a vegetarian. Your back pain must be because you're a vegetarian.


Mom: You should eat nuts.
A.: What?
Mom: To strengthen your bones. So that you don't have back pain.
A.: Bones have nothing to do with it, and nuts are a regular part of my diet.
Mom: You said you had pain in your bones.
A.: It's not a bone strength issue. Can I write this letter, please?

If you want this letter written, let me CONCENTRATE

I’m editing the Verizon letter. Mom keeps interrupting me with other stuff. I ask her to let me concentrate.

Mom: Sleep later. You'll get enough sleep.

I don’t actually want to go to sleep right now. I want to finish the letter. I have to say, it is always annoying when people tell someone to “sleep later.” I know when I want to sleep. I know when I'll get enough sleep. I don't appreciate unsolicited advice, especially when it's over something that I have a better feeling for, by virtue of it being my getting enough sleep.

We argue over the conspiratorial language. She insists that Verizon had to know she returned the equipment. I tell her perhaps, but she shouldn't accuse them of it in the letter, nonetheless.

She keeps interrupting. I snap.

Mom: When you’re hungry or tired…
A.: I’m not hungry or tired! I want to write this $%^& letter without interruption.

Dad comes up to me, agrees that mom's obsession with letter-writing is more labor intenstive than constructive, talks about the issue with the bank (in which he promptly called and resolved the issue over the phone). As I've said, in the case of Verizon, I believe mom is in the right; I just wish she'd meet me half way-- or even a quarter-way, in the case of not talking at me while I'm trying to edit her letter.

I'm fat, continued

Mom: Oh, I keep meaning to call Emma. She had an operation.
A.: How did it go? [Turning to Anya]: I stayed with Emma in Australia.
Mom: I know you did. And you said she fed you well and persistently... but when you came back from Australia you weren't fat.
A.: Actually, according to you I was.
Mom: No you weren't. You never used to put on weight. What happened?
A.: Starost nye Radost.
[Translation: literally, 'Old age is not joy'; more figuratively, 'old age brings complications].

For those of you who, like my mother, wonder why I'm not as thin as I used to be, I offer the following hypotheses:

I'm not as young as I used to be
I no longer cycle to work
It's the holidays, and junkfood abounds

After dinner, I showed Greece and Turkey photos. My mother responded by one-upping at every other photo:
Dad: What a beautiful mosaic!
Mom: Remember the mosaics in southern Spain? Those were beautiful.

Anya: That's a gorgeous coastline.
Mom: I have memories of the coastline near Naples...

A.: [Narrating the pictures] That's the bazaar...
Mom: Thanks for not bringing us anything. I still don't know what to do with that thing [pointing to a gift I'd brought her from an earlier trip].

How could you say such a thing?

My parents currently have another houseguest, the daughter of a friend from St. Petersburg. Poor thing is already caught up in my family's dysfunction (for example, she witnessed the "you've gained weight" convo described in the previous post). Then there was this:

A.L Where am I sleeping?
Mom: In our room. Dad's sleeping on the couch in his study.
A.: Why don't I sleep there? That way he can sleep in his own bed.
Mom: Well, he goes to bed later...
A.: I'm just saying, I don't mind sleeping on the couch.
Mom: I don't understand what you want.
A.: I'm just trying to minimize disrusption. I want everyone to sleep in their own bed.


Mom: How could you say such a thing?
A.: What are you talking about?
Mom: That you want to sleep in your own bed.
A.: I didn't say that!
Mom: Now Anya feels awkard. She offered to sleep on the couch.
A.: I said I wouldn't mind sleeping on the couch.
Mom: Why are you getting defensive? Just admit it!
A.: Admit what?
Mom: That you said you wanted to sleep in your own bed.
A.: Because I didn't! I offered to sleep on the couch. In that context, it should have been clear that my comment about wanting people to sleep in their "own" beds did not apply to me, since that bed is not mine.
Mom: [Shaking her head].

I didn't add that if anya felt awkward, it's because Mom was being a bitch. The irony of this is that I can't be sure because I can't keep my parents' friends straight, but I think she's the daughter of the man who spent many, many hours on a train to visit my parents at their dacha only to leave the next morning because my mom had chewed him out for stepping on her flowerbed.

Later still, during the making of the matza ball soup:
Mom: The celery is chopped to coursely!
A.: Okay, I'll fix it.
Mom: You don't remember where the grain is, do you?
A.: No.
Mom: I didn't think so!

How difficult would it have been to say, "could you please chop the celery more finely, and by the way, the grain is in that container"?

Life immitates blog

Within five minutes of walking in the front door:

Mom: Look at you, you've really put on weight!
A.: I know.
Mom: Why have you put on weight?
A.: [Shrug]. Could you point me to the nearest pair of slippers, please?
Mom: Well, you have REALLY gained weight.
A.: Please desist, and show me to the slippers.
Mom: Look upstairs.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Complacent and Culturally Undistinguished

Read page 8 of this

And while you're reading things, see Paumgarten on commuting.

The commute is fifty-two miles. Though Kocis is normally a fitness freak, with a black belt in karate, in the past year he’d put on twenty pounds and developed nerve problems in his back.

Monday, December 24, 2007


This complaint letter experience has been relatively painless: I know my mother is in the right (Verizon has billed her for a piece of hardware that she has returned and is harassing her over it); and my mother took it upon herself to write at least the outline of the letter herself, rather than trying to convey a very complex situation.

Still, it's been ongoing for months and months, and while this is largely the fault of the offending corporation, my mother's penchant for complaint letters [that other people, usually I] have to write has only prolonged it.

This morning, I once again edited my mom's letter to Verizon. I found myself re-editing things that I had previously changed. I've tried to explain to my mother, in the case of this letter and many others before it, that sarcasm and conspiracy theories do not help her cause. I'm the first to admit that in some cases, wit is desirable when you can pull it off (see under armour correspondence). However, mom's accusations, which presuppose a certain amount of agency among Verizon customer service employees, don't meet those requirements:

"I can't believe that Verizon service dysfunctional to the such extend that they do not aware that the contract provision (No penalty if terminated during first month of service) and the reason for termination.
I do not believe that whoever concocted the bills did not have the information that the equipment was returned.
I suspect that the way the bills were written and the time they were posted and mailed has the purpose to confuse and deceive.
They invented the creative way to structure Bills that make it very difficult to follow and understand.
I strongly suspect that the last bill of November 5/07 that I was so stupid to pay $140.00 only encouraged them to step up the harassment. By paying the Bill I gave the impression that I found the charges correct, the case is settled and I had no reason to keep my receipts any longer.
There are too many mistakes to consider them coincidental.
The time spread between the contract termination and the last bill added to my suspicion that they believe that the documents that could proof that that I own them nothing would be lost or discarded
Now I see that paying &140.11 was a mistake. It may give them the impression that I stupid enough to let them squeeze anything from me if they are persist."

I don't doubt that Verizon's bill format aims to confuse and deceive. I don't doubt that it succeeds and thereby elicits payments from people who cannot or choose not to examine their bills in detail. I am not unsympathetic to my mother's situation: Verizon has wrongly referred a seventy-two year old woman to a debt collector because she refuses to pay for a router that she has returned (and has the receipts to prove it, and has faxed them to Verizon more than once). I am more than willing to get Verizon off my mother's back and hopefully punish them for their behavior. I therefore ask my mother to help me help her by a) dropping the conspiracy theory language in her letter to consumer protection bureaus; b) writing to the address on the bill specifically provided for billing disputes, as I did many years ago when Verizon tried to charge me for services it did not fulfill; and c) generally meeting me half-way when I write complaint letters for her by actually listening to me about things like a) and b). And asking me whether it's a good time for me to write these letters.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Only a few questions that have little to do with anything

Message from mom: They say it's strange weather in DC; they've closed the airport. So, why are you wandering around somewhere? Call back.


An hour or so later:

A.: Hi, mom. I was driving when you called.
Mom: Where?
A.: Friends of mine are in Prague, I'm feeding their cats...
Mom: Where do they live?
A.: Not far from me.
Mom: What are you doing?
A.: Feeding their cats.
Mom: How many cats do they have?
A.: Two.
Mom: What's their relationship to Prague?
A.: They're there, now.
Mom: Oh. What's going on with the weather?
A.: As far as I can tell, it's just foggy and windy.
Mom: The airport is closed. It will probably reopen by Thursday, but I'm just letting you know.
A.: It should clear up by then.
Mom: Your father's outside... can you wait a few minutes?
A.: Let's just reconnect in a few hours, I'm going to the gym.
Mom: Okay, bye.
A.: Bye.

To her credit, she didn't ask me what I was going to do at the gym and then proceed to tell me that I shouldn't do it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mom blog preview/prediction

A.: I'm already thinking of what I'll get to listen to next week. Mom will tell me that I'm fat, that she doesn't like my haircut, and that I should apply to Google.
Dianne: If you agree with her, will she stop?
A.: No. It will go like this:
Mom: Your hair looks bad.
A.: Okay.
Mom: No, your hair looks bad.
A.: I heard you.
Mom: I just don't like your hair like that.

It may even devolve into this:

A.: Could you please back off?
Mom: I don't like your tone of voice!!
A.: Well I don't like it when you harp on how bad I look.
Mom: Don't be so sensitive; I'm trying to help you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Score one for Italy

At least there's one country that protects children


I called and said, "okay, tell me about Verizon."

Mom: Oh, you're too late. The letter has been written. Irina spent the entire week that we were away writing it...
A.: Then why did you ask me to write one yesterday?
Mom: Hers hasn't arrived yet. In case it doesn't, I need you to edit the one I've written. I spent hours and hours writing this when you were away!
A.: Okay. [Is she implying that I should not go on vacation, in case she needs me to write letters for her, or more likely, that it was selfish for me to go on vacation given that she had letters for me to write?]
Mom: I've lost sleep over this. They've sent a collection agency after me because they claim I haven't returned the router, but I returned the router... you know what, if you don't want to help me, fine, don't!
A.: I just said I would.
Mom: I'll send you the letter.
A.: Okay.
Mom: I don't like your tone of voice! You're superior and snooty. You're not... pleasant to talk to.
A.: Sigh.
Mom: Bye.
A.: Bye.

A war I can support


Monday, December 17, 2007

Call the $%^&*#! number on the bill

Mom has a knack for calling just before I'm about to go to bed. And there's no need for this, since there's the rest of the evening. Sure, 9pm is early, but I'm still jet-lagged and can't manage to sleep past 4am (even when I stay up), so why not go to bed earlier?

I had called earlier in the evening to check in after both our trips (they returned from Palm Springs late last night). Dad was cleaning off the car, so mom suggested we connect later.

She just called, and started talking:

Mom: So, I haven't been feeling well, but I just had to take this letter and look at the one Irina wrote... the thing with Verizon...
A.: Mom, can we do this tomorrow?

Tomorrow is going to be a long, busy day and I need to have a clear mind, i.e. a mind unpolluted with verizon drama, among other things.

Mom: Why don't you listen to what I have to say, and then you can do it tomorrow!

I wanted to say, "because I'm not going to concentrate right now" but opted not to.

A.: Fine.

Mom: So, Verizon sent me this bill... okay, fine, let's do this tomorrow. Bye.

All she would have to do is ask-- not in a, "itemize what's on your plate so that I can determine whether you're justified in asking for an extension" kind of way; how hard would it be to say, "I know you just got back from your trip and are catching up on things. Are you terribly busy this week?" And then I could say, "I have a lot going on right now, but later in the week I can help you out." That would be... constructive.

If you rent no other movie this or next year...

Just when I thought the tension headache induced by hearing Little Drummer Boy three hundred times (office hallway music, everywhere else), I recovered by (unexpectedly) laughing for an entire hour and a half.

Rent or netflix Idiocracy. This minute.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Et tu, Robin Givhan?



By the way, in case it's not evident or at least derivable from the title, I (really) like Robin Givhan's column. I think that the haters need to get a grip and get some perspective. She write a fashion column, and a damn good one. She doesn't claim that a presidential candidate's cleavage is as important as her health care plan; she just recognizes that her purview is the former. It's not only okay to write about the fashion of politics, it's a public service. Appearance matters, and she makes sense of it for us.

Having said all that, I still don't like the holidays (except for the days off and the occasion to write holiday cards).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Istanbul, Delphi, and the Athens airport

Dulles. The checkout counter guy was rude; the security checkpoint ID checker recoiled when she saw my passport photo (she apologized but I wasn’t bothered).

In the boarding area, I heard a few kids—and let me tell you, I’ve developed a sense for the ones that are going to be annoying. One already was: “look, daddy! Curtains!” I was relieved, as I boarded, to see her and her family far away in economy plus.

The flight over was not awful; I had a row to myself until someone jumped the seatbelt sign to usurp the other end of it before I could, but I shot him a dirty glare and occupied three of the five seats. The “breakfast” was a donut (230 cal, 110 g fat (!), 22 g sugar). And they wonder we have an obesity crisis.

The noiseblockers made a huge difference, on the way there and back. You still hear the kids, but their ability to gnaw at your soul is significantly curtailed. Ironically—and fortunately, since it makes you less dependent on a battery—they’re more effective for blocking non-ambient noise when switched off, perhaps because the ambient noise helps block out individual voices. That and they’re effective during takeoff and landing, when you have to turn off electronics. Whenever they announce that, I want to say, “could you ask those people to turn off their child for now, as well?”

Time for a public service announcement: DO NOT FLY LUFTHANSA. I had to wait in four different lines (directed to each by the one before) only to be told to go back to the gate to get my boarding pass, which for some reason I could not get when I checked in at Dulles). People were mostly rude, as well as useless, and the entire area was full of people annoyed that they were standing in the wrong line because airline personnel kept giving them the wrong information. The one thing I will say for Germans, or Europeans as a whole, is that they’re less likely to help themselves to part of your seat. That and they have the decency to serve alcohol for free, unlike United.

At the visa counter in Istanbul, the official handed back my passport as well as a fortune (I will be recognized and honored as a leader in my community). It was an auspicious welcome to a fabulous visit to an amazing city.

As soon as I got through immigration, Kate greeted me with a big hug and introduced me to her friend Ian. We then met the son of the family that runs Marmara Guesthouse, who drove us there along the Bosphorus Strait and the walls of the old city. Elif, his sister, checked us in and gave us lots of suggestions for exploring the city.

Istanbul is the only city in the world on two continents. I was under the impression that we’d be able to walk to Asia, but apparently they only open the Bosphorus bridge to pedestrians once a year, so a ferry would have to do. Even before we learned that the bridge was for motor vehicles only, Kate informed me that it was “quite a long walk to Asia.”

We settled in and went out for dinner and a walk. We learned quickly not to flush what I, after over a week with Kate, have come to call “bog roll.” Signs everywhere warn against it, including one in our hotel bathroom that adds, “Thank you for understanding the Turkish sewage system.”

The waiter in the restaurant we opted for (or were lured into— they have people standing outside to convince you to go in) was a bit odd. He—and he wasn’t the first— was confused by this arrangement Ian had going and was determined to figure out what was going on by asking if we’d had trouble finding a hotel and whether being married or not made a difference. He then said to Ian and Kate,

“I can’t understand you, perhaps because you’re American.”
“Actually, we’re English.”
“Why don’t you talk with British accents, then?”
“We do.”

He wasn’t the only one; it wasn’t long before I was asking them to repeat themselves and they were asking the same of me.

A.: I hear the hippodrome’s cool.
Ian: There’s a pajama school?

After dinner we went for a walk. It was Ian that the restaurant people approached (and approached constantly). The next day, carpet salesmen and, when it started to pour it down, umbrella salesmen joined their ranks. Some were witty (“how can I help you spend your money?” and, upon our return in the evening, “I’ve been waiting all day to sell you carpets!”); some were risqué (“which one is yours?” and “Oh, you have a harem! But you need six for a harem…”); all were persistent, but also cordial and not threatening. A lot of the time they made us laugh, and if nothing else, they inspired us to find alternate routes to and from the Guesthouse. It was almost like we were friends by the end of our visit—when we walked to the train station four days later, they said goodbye and wished us well.

Back at the hotel, I was caught taking notes and confessed that it was for the blog (well, travel notes, but they’ll go in the blog).

Kate, to Ian: Careful, or you’ll end up in the blog.
Ian: Will I be able to read it?
A.: The url’s clingingtomysanity…
Ian: The Euro is clinging to your sanity?

Kate said a few things that we deemed “too crass to blog,” which made it even funnier when we saw the Kras Airlines counter at Athens airport. Something had to be funny at Athens airport.

In preparation for the trip, I consciously chose clothing and shoes that would not scream “American.” Apparently, I did very well, because several locals asked me whether I was Turkish. One, handing out newspapers on the street, handed one to me (but not to Kate or Ian). It became a running joke.

I woke up the next morning at the call to prayer, but fell back asleep before I could decide whether or not it was time to get up. Thursday, our first (rainy) day, was great for all the touristy things: Topkapi Palace and its Harem; Hagia Sophia; Basilica Cistern; and the Blue Mosque. At Topkapi I found myself shopping for armor in the Armory; the maces looked like they could knock a screaming child right out.

On Friday we hit the Grand Bazaar and then the Spice Bazaar, where we tried samples of teas, lokum (Turkish Delight) and spices, and bought some to take home. Outside the bazaar buildings, street vendors sold similar wares. Dolce and Gabbana is apparently the knockoff of choice in Istanbul.

As we crossed the Galata Bridge over the Golden Horn, we made our way up to Beyoglu through what were apparently the fish bazaar; plumbing bazaar; satellite dish bazaar; and more). We enjoyed our walk across the bridge, in spite of the smell of fried fish. The bridge was always lined with fishermen.

Kate and I bought our tickets to Thessaloniki at the train station, once the terminal of the Orient Express. We walked around in that area and passed several restaurant lure-people, one of whom was particularly persistent but still friendly. We would walk by him several times over the next couple of days.

We explored Beyoglu and had a delicious, affordable dinner with a view. We walked back across the bridge and through the Sultanahmet neighborhood, local of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, as well as our hotel. We took pictures of them in the dark (mine came out not only dark, but with water spots), and I stepped aside to get a shot of HS without the cat that was sipping from the reflecting pool in the square in front of it. Kate said, “you could include the cat, then show it to Gracie and say, ‘this is what you could like if you lost weight.’” So I did. Feral cats abounded in both Istanbul and Greece, but for the most part they looked healthy and not emaciated.

On Saturday we took a cruise along the Bosphorus, stopping in Asia—in the village of Anadolu Kigali—for lunch and a hike to the castle ruins. From there we could see the Black Sea, and yet look back to downtown Istanbul in the other direction. We were very happy with our trip to Asia and with the ferry trip. We made it back to our hotel through the complete madness of Istanbul on a Saturday night, and had a wonderful dinner at Yeniyilda (“New Star”) in Sultanahmet.

We used the few words of Turkish we’d managed to learn. Everyone we ran into spoke English, but just lit up anyway when they heard “Tessekur Aderim” (sp?) for ‘thank you’ or other such words. Overall, people were incredibly friendly.

The next morning, after taking some pictures from the terrace of Marmara Guesthouse, we walked Ian to the tram he would take to the airport and said goodbye. Kate and I were curious whether we’d get a lot more unwanted attention without him; we didn’t.

We decided to just wander (our train was that evening), and wandered across the bridge and into Beyoglu, stopping for dessert along the way. We walked up and down Isteglal Caddessi and its side streets; bought some fruit and Borek Spinaca, i.e. Spanakopita for the road; explored a very cool used book bazaar; and had lunch in Cicek Pasaji (or Flower Arcade).

We crossed back to Eminonou on the bottom level of the bridge, passing a whole line of restaurant lure guys, each starting a conversation with us. Seeing that we were in a hurry, they didn’t press. The fourth or so that we passed, having seen us walk by the others, said, “I am the next one.” We couldn’t help but laugh.

We returned to Marmara Guesthouse to pick up our bags, said goodbye to Elif, and walked to the train station. We walked by the persistent restaurant lure guy, who wished us well, and realized we had an hour before we had to be at the train station, so we went back to his restaurant. He asked where we were going and offered to carry our bags, and was really surprised when we said, “here.” He took my bag, and said, “what is in here? I know! You killed your camel and stuffed it in your bag.” He chatted with us as we ordered, and, asked how he was, responded, “I am very sad, because you are leaving Istanbul.” Kate and I ordered lentil soup and a pizza to share. I dropped my lemon into my lentil soup, which splattered on my face and clothes. Kate lost it laughing; I got up and went to the washroom to clean up. One of the waiters asked her what happened and apparently also lost it laughing when she told him. He brought me a new lemon and made a flinching motion when I lifted it over my soup. From then on, when Kate and I directed the other to smile for a picture, the instruction was, “think lentil soup!”

We proceeded to the train station, settled into our couchette. As the train left Istanbul, we still saw the old wall of the city for quite a while. It was a very comfortable trip, apart from the (illicit) smoking in the corridor and the passport checks along the way. The customs guy asked us if we had anything to declare, looked skeptical when we sleepily shook our heads. “No? Nothing? Cigarettes? Whiskey? [pause] Drugs?”

We arrived in Thessaloniki only to learn that the next train to Athens was full. I’ll spare you the details, but we ended up getting bus tickets to Delphi (where we would have gone anyway but probably from Athens) and then spent the next few hours finding a tourist info center, and then booking it back to the train and bus stations to pick up our stuff and catch the bus. It was an interesting, pretty walk. The ride to Delphi was scenic, replete with hillside villages and the odd ruins. Even once it got dark, we could see orange trees and outlines of mountains.

The bus was practically empty, and mostly pleasant apart from the cigarette smoke. We had to change buses about half an hour beforehand, so I ran out and called a few hotels in Delphi, only to find out that they were closed for the winter. While I was at the phone booth, a local woman approached Kate with the name and phone number of Hotel Pan; I called, and they said they would expect us. The driver of the local bus enjoyed maneuvering the narrow streets and negotiating passage with the other cars. A cigarette in hand and Greek rap music blaring, he got us to Delphi.

Hotel Pan was beautiful—beautiful room, beautiful view. We went for a quick walk and quickly crashed. The only issue was that we were out of bog roll and the hotel manager had already gone to bed. He wasn’t particularly responsive the next morning, told us the cleaner would put some in the room. Luckily, she arrived early, and Kate could declare that we would no longer need to ration bog roll.

The next morning, we set out to find the oracle. I had the impression that if we just kept walking uphill we would get there, and Kate and I were both happy to just wander. This is how we ended up hiking on Mt. Parnassus.

A.: Keep your eye out for an oracle.
Kate: What might an oracle look like?
A.: Good question.

As we hiked, the rain got stronger and stronger. My waterproof shoes held out for a good hour, until they got wet from the inside. Kate and I couldn’t see where we were going because of the fog, but it was nice to be amid nature, having spent most of the previous day on a train and then bus. We kept asking the other if she wanted to turn around, but both decided to keep going. Then, the rain got really bad, and we approached some sort of natural stopping point, and turned around. Just as we did, the rain stopped, the sun started to come out, and the fog started to clear. A beautiful view opened up ahead of us, and we were completely surprised by it because we couldn’t see a thing on the way up. We had a lovely hike down and even dried off a bit.

We returned to the hotel to change clothes and camera batteries, and continued our search for the Sacred Precinct. When we found it, it was more amazing than we imagined. We visited the Temple of Apollo and surrounding ruins, and then crossed the street to see the Tholos. I thought that might be the oracle, as did Kate, since it’s the postcard image of Delphi. We asked it a question, at which point the cat sitting near it meowed, twice. We accepted the cat for the present-day incarnation of the oracle, even when we later read that the oracle was most likely up by the Temple of Apollo (the oracle referred to a being, rather than a set structure; the location referenced above is where the priestess conveyed the oracle’s pronouncements).

Delphi is SO beautiful. Even without the ruins it would be beautiful, but the ruins make it picture-perfect. We were very happy to be there, rain and all, in the off season, because it just wouldn’t be the same with hordes of people.

We headed back, ready for food, and debated whether we’d get a snack for lunch and big dinner, or the other way around.

A.: We can’t have spanakopita every day!
Kate: There’s no law that says you can’t.
A.: Okay, I can’t have spanakopita every day and wonder why I’m not as thin as I used to be.

We ended up getting—what else—spanakopita, which held us over to dinner. We set out for dinner and visited the few shops that were open in the off season. We chatted for a while with one shopkeeper, who said that over the weekends quite a few school groups and other visitors from Athens come, so it’s not as quiet, but that in the summer it gets crazy and very hot. She said that Canadians, who are often overweight, suffer when they come in the summer. Kate and I both figured she meant Americans but didn’t want to say it. She told us a little bit about the Greek language, and mentioned a common joke about how foreigners will say Calamari for “good morning” (which is “Kalimera”).

We weren’t quite ready for dinner so we stopped at an internet café. I discovered that Citi had absolutely gouged me with a foreign ATM withdrawal fee (the irony: my ING atm card had been in my wallet the whole time, but I canceled it before I found it).

We had a lovely dinner, although we had a feeling our waiter was a stoner. He had to ask Kate what her order had been, seconds after she placed it. I went to wash my hands, but the figures on the washroom doors were so androgynous that I couldn’t tell which was the ladies’ room. The one that had breasts also had a mustache. I guessed (and needless to say, nobody cared). We had a drink to toast our wonderful day. I remembered that before leaving the States, my friend May said to have an extra drink, for her, so I did.

We turned in and woke up the next morning in time to catch an earlyish bus to Athens. When we got to the bus station there, I watched our stuff while Kate went to find information about which bus to take into the city center.

Kate: Do you want the bad news, or the really bad news?
A.: [Blank stare]
Kate: The buses are on strike.

We went to get more info from the info desk. The woman there told us how to walk to the train station but couldn’t tell us whether it would be open, and told us the taxi drivers were gouging even more so than usual. We hoped to leave our bags there to explore Athens on foot. We stopped in the park across the street to eat our olives and to-mah-toes (as Kate calls them), as I couldn’t stomach anything else with phyllo dough (i.e. everything for sale at the bus station), and then lugged our stuff to the train station. My bag was awkward but waterproof, and not too bad carried as a backpack. Navigating Athens on foot was pretty scary, but we made it to the train station… only to find it closed. We opted to get a cab into the city center, but the cab drivers told us the city was cordoned off because of protests. We were about to walk, when he told us the metro would be open for another hour. We took it to Syndagma Square. On the way, a man on the metro gave Kate some basil, which made our journey fragrant if nothing else. We came out of the metro and saw for ourselves that the city was just not a good place to be at that time. We think the hill we saw from the square was the Acropolis, but didn’t wait too long to find out before we decided to cut our losses and head for the airport.

We took the metro as close to the airport as it would go, and then followed the locals out. We got some coffee and the only food available (the café was out of spanakopita, so we had to settle for cheese pie, i.e. spanakopita without the one healthy ingredient). It was quite good, but the phyllo dough diet was getting really old. The woman behind the counter told us to try to train, but it too had shut down. A guy on the street told us that all we could do was go across the street and hail a cab to the airport. He was very nice, and somewhat apologetic that our visit to Athens had come to this.

Kate: The people are really nice.
A.: Yes, the ones that don’t try to run us over are quite nice.
Kate: Well, yes… the ones we talk to.

We dallied on the highway for a while and took some pictures, and then tried to hail a cab along with a dozen other people. Eventually, a man who worked as a security guard at the airport hailed a cab and shared it with us, and we got there.

Kate and I had hoped to get earlier flights out of the city, but upon arrival we learned that all the flights for that day had been cancelled, because the air traffic controllers were on strike as well. So we made the most of what would be a very long night. I found myself at saying, “oh! Let’s explore the zeroth floor!” in a tone that should have been reserved for, “oh, look, it’s the Parthenon!”

Over dinner we had a slow-eating contest. Kate is one of the only people I’ve met who matches me in speed-eating (and actually in memory, too… we did a lot of reminiscing). Later, we had some wine, over which we played “car games.” She asked me to name all ten countries with four letters in the name (which Ian had asked her back at work); she and I together tried to name all the countries in Africa (surprisingly, we got all but three). We visited the really crappy but free internet terminals (which boot you off after ten minutes; have trouble sending e-mails—Kate drafted one to her husband about five times); and are difficult to type on) and did a few tours of lobby before settling into a perch on the second floor. Which was not carpeted. Tragi-ironically, it was the day of Kate’s (doctoral) graduation, but she’ll be able to formally graduate in the spring. Kate was able to sleep more than I did; I slept some, people watched more. In my few days in Greece, I noticed that people were very trendy, and skinny jeans abounded. Now, I respect Kate Moss as a fashion icon, but I also realize her iconic status is largely merited by the fact that she pulls off looks that few others can; most people have no business buying skinny jeans.

Morning came, and I was able to check in. I had to go through security, but Kate couldn’t get her boarding pass yet, so we had to say goodbye. Since we both arrived in Istanbul, it seemed so normal to be together again, as if nothing had changed since we met ten years ago or last saw one another five years ago. There were little reminders along the way that we would part ways, i.e. when she and Ian talked about what they would make with the spices they bought and I realized I wouldn’t be cooking with them. Nonetheless, it almost came as a surprise to me that we had to say goodbye, and I found myself choking back tears. I cried the whole way to the boarding area. I am capable of human emotion, who knew? Don’t tell anyone.

We both arrived home safely and much later, which is the important thing, but the rest of the trip was not fun. I was starving but hadn’t eaten in the airport because I was trying to acclimate myself to EST, and somehow the request for a veggie meal didn’t make it to Lufthansa (which is odd, because it’s automatically on my United profile, and it has in the past when I’ve flown partner airlines). It did not help that the flight attendant informed me that I had to order one in advance, and no I did not want a ham-covered tray anyway. What the cabin crew did do right was not support the asshole behind me who wouldn’t let me recline my seat even a little bit. I found a hand coming down on my head, and looked back, horrified. I reclined a little more. The asshole pressed the call button. I heard the flight attendant say, “you have enough room” and walk away. He continued to kick my seat out of revenge, but I managed to sleep anyway. Sadly, I was so preoccupied by the indignity of it all that I left my book—the one Kate gave me—in the seatback pouch. I realized it as soon as I went through immigration, i.e. as soon as it was too late to go back. I was crushed, both because of sentimental value and because I had gotten into it (I have since acquired another copy, although it's not as nice).

I won’t go into detail about why the next three hours in Frankfurt were not fun, except that Lufthansa not only doesn’t let you into the boarding areas if there’s a preceding flight there—so I had to continue to sit on hard floors—but also kept changing the gate. Lest you think I’m feeling sorry for myself, don’t; I read the NYT article about the state of children’s health in Afghanistan at the internet terminal in Athens airport, I know not to complain about air travel. I know even air travel can be a lot worse. Yet, I know it can also be a lot better.

The flight to Washington was full of screaming kids (the headphones REALLY do help) and other annoyances. A man got up to get something from the overhead bin and dropped a coke can on my hand; that hurts. The guy sitting next to me kept elbowing me. I don’t have a book, and unlike the way over, there’s one film screen for the whole cabin and I can’t see it (which is just as well because the films all suck). We arrive at Dulles and people take their sweet time getting off and making their way to the shuttle bus. Ironically (because I thought in Europe, I can’t wait until I’m somewhere where not everything smells of cigarette smoke), the shuttle bus smells of cigarette smoke. My point is, it was an unpleasant trip back.

It was SO worth it, though. It was a great trip.

Travel essentials

Priceless travel items:

Noise-blocking headphones (Panasonic)
Waterproof shoes that do not scream American, very comfortable (Totes)
Battery charger with adapter (and car charger for camping trips)
Hand sanitizer
Notepad (ironically provided by Google)
Altoids tin (for vitamins, gum)
Ballet flats
Waterproof duffle bag, below (it poured down rain in Istanbul and Greece, but my stuff stayed dry).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My absurd, authentic Athenian adventure

So, Athens is on transit strike-- metro, bus, air traffic control. am at airport waiting it out (wasn't going to contend with street protests and risk getting stuck).

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Because, that's why

I called from the airport.

Mom: You're there early... well, I suppose it is international. Do you have a book to tide you over.
A.: Of course.
Mom: How long is the flight?
A.: I don't know.
Mom: How do you not know?
A.: Well, it's a few hours from Frankfurt, and you've flown through Frankfurt.
Mom: That's long.
A.: Eh.
Mom: Do you have noiseblockers?
A.: I do.
Mom: Good ones?
A.: Yes.
Mom: How much did you pay?
A.: Does it matter?
Mom: Yes.
A.: Why?
Mom: Because I like to know everything that you do. How much?
A: I'm not telling you.
Mom: Why not?
A.: [Because you'll tell me it's not worth it and that i'm financially irreponsible]. I'm sorry but it's none of your business.
Mom: Fine! Have a good trip! Bye!
Dad: You should choose your words more carefully.
A.: Fine, call her back to the phone.
Mom: What?
A.: Dad said I shouldn't have said that.
Mom: Dad said? What about you?
A.: I'm not telling you what I paid for the headphones.
Mom: Bye.
A.: Have a good trip, too.

My blogging was just interrupted by a great quote:

Kate: A., I've got some bad news for you.
A.: What's that.
Kate: It's quite a long walk to Asia.

On that note, I have to go figure out what we're doing tomorrow. The fortune (i.e. fortune cookie fortune) I got with my sticker visa may provide inspiration.

More on why NOT to fly Lufthansa, why drugs for kids can be good, and, most importantly, how cool Istanbul is, later.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Blog for the road

Well, I made it home from work without falling asleep; finished packing; mailed the holiday cards; watered my plants; changed sheets from jersey to flannel; fixed the cheap (as in, cheaper than it costs) bed-bath-and-beyond makeshift clothing rack that collapsed in the room I've turned into a glorified walk-in closet; did yoga; and washed my hair.

I'm leaving for the airport in twenty-five minutes, which is plenty of time to share some thoughts as my hair dries.

I asked myself whether I was making things harder than they had to be-- should I have skipped the yoga, or the cards? Yoga's a wonderful thing, especially before a long flight. It's what keeps me sane and gives me focus when everything around is spinning. As for holiday cards, you may say, "but you don't even like the holidays!" And I'll say back, "holiday cards are the one thing I do like about the holidays." I don't always have time to do them, much less in time for the holidays, but I was determined this year. In this world of mass e-mails and blogs, holiday cards are a chance to pause and think about every person that made my year special. They're kind of a thank-you note for being in my life, and thinking about all the great people in my life makes me happy and gives me the perspective to get through all the craziness.

I won't check the blog, but I will probably check my e-mail, so if you have any requests from Turkey or Greece, let me know. Take care!

P.S. Happy Birthday, Martha!

Monday, December 3, 2007

NOT helpful

I did not want to do this, i.e. describe what the last three-four days have been like, but I have to now to set the scene for the mom blog that follows.

Friday: work, do yoga, see Edward II, meet friends for drinks, go to bed late.

Saturday: get up early, waste time with Delta and eventually manage to get a ticket home for the holidays, talk to Kate to tie up last-minute loose ends for the trip, do pilates, drop my car off for an oil change and alignment check, go to the gym while waiting for it, go to the mall because it's still not ready two hours later, go home and write holiday cards until late.

Sunday: get up early, do yoga, do two loads of laundry, vacuum, go feed my friend's cat, shop for clothes and shoes for the trip, blog about the annoying kids that made that last item particularly frustrating, discover that I can't find my ATM card, go into town for the Smith Club of Washington's holiday tea, go to my friend's house to see her before she moves to Ecuador for two years, go home, cancel ATM card, do another load of laundry, start packing, write holiday cards until late.

Monday: get up early, work, try to do pilates but discover that the dvd player on my laptop is broken, do some last-minute trip shopping, get home and try to figure out what's wrong with the dvd player on my laptop, even though I really should be packing (and writing holiday cards)...

...when I get a phone call from mom.

Mom: You're leaving tomorrow night?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: Well, I guess in that case you probably don't have time to write Verizon before you leave... you wouldn't believe the bill they sent me...
A.: No, no, I absolutely do not have time to write Verizon.
Mom: [Describes latest Verizon saga.]
Dad: Have you packed?
A.: Not completely.

We talk about other stuff. I say I should probably go but that I'd call tomorrow.

Mom: What time is your flight?
A.: At 10pm.
Mom: Oh, then you'll have time [to write the letter].
Mom, sweetly: You're coming on the 27th-- DO NOT USE THAT TONE OF VOICE WITH ME!--that's great (in a sweet voice).
A.: Yes, the 27th.
Mom: Why is it that you don't have time?
A.: Because I don't.
Mom: Say that again, politely.
A.: BECAUSE I DON'T. Goodbye, I'll call tomorrow.

This is SO mom. It's like asking me why I don't want to talk when I have a sore throat.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to pack and figure out whether my dvd player is under warranty.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Memo to parents

I already know that your kids make great nazguls; you do not need to convince me by bringing them shopping so that they can suck my will to live. I also know that strollers and such make for a great obstacle course, particularly in a busy store. You don't have to block passageways with yours to make your point. I don't really have time to shop (but I don't, or didn't, really have the right shoes for my trip, either). Please don't make it harder for me.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

(better) things come to those who ask

I don't like to ask for help. I don't like to ask for anything, really. But I'm learning to get over it.

I've been searching for a ticket to Boston for New Year's, so unsuccessfully that I was ready to compromise a lot on schedule and airport, until... to the rescue! I found an ideal set of flights for about $160 incl. taxes on Delta. And then I went to book it, and got a "system unavailable" message. Repeatedly. So I called and talked to India, and the first thing the woman in India told me was that she couldn't even see the flight that I was trying to book. She asked me if I was sure that was the time and flight number. Yes, I was accused of hallucinating. I directed her to, where she admitted that it did exist. She put me on hold for what seemed like hours, and by the time she got back the ticket was gone due to "schedule changes." She put me on hold again. To make a long story short, there was lots of holding, at the end of which I still could not by a ticket online; the outgoing flights I wanted had disappeared; and the flights remaining, some of them at twice the duration and a stopover in New York, had gone up in price by at least $50. I told India that this was unacceptable. I wanted back the wasted hour of my life, or at the least to not waste any more on looking for flights. So I asked to speak to a supervisor, and she gave me the line about how there were no supervisors, just coordinators. Bring it on! I got to talk to someone in Atlanta-- Thomas Friedman can say what he will, but let me tell you, there are advantages to talking to people in the country. I recounted my situation, and while she couldn't get me the evening flight that I'd originally wanted, she could get the only remaining one at the $160 rate (which I have to say, for the holidays, is really good). I'm glad I asked.

Of course, then I thought, this means I have to take all of Thursday off-- should I just take the week off so I can spend Christmas with my family, too? Suck it up, pay the extra $50-$100, maybe even fly through New York? And then I realized that I was Jewish and that anyway Christmas signified little more than rampant commercialism; that more time with my family, while a source of amusement for you, is often a source of insanity for me; that I didn't want to take that much time off; and that it was absurd to pay more to fly from DC to Boston through New York.

There was a great moment when I'd called Delta earlier over the pin issue. The recorded voice kept asking me whether I was calling for a new or existing reservation. I said "neither." The voice said "I'm sorry. I didn't understand you." I tried to press 0, to no avail. After a few iterations, I was annoyed, and answered in expletive. To which the voice responded, "I'm sorry. I didn't understand you."

Judith Warner's blog

I'm not even going to try the link. Google "Judith Warner" and "Helicopter Parenting Turns Deadly."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In this case I actually blame the system

I'm not criticizing mom here, for the most part. This story is more cute than anything else, although I'm asking myself why I'm blogging when I should be in bed, because if I'm not in bed I should be watching Project Runway but I decided to go to bed because I was too tired. It's also more an indictment of the websites and internet service of the travel industry, already on my shit list because I had to spend time on the phone with Delta today because they introduced a pin on their site and I had to set one. I do not like spending time on the phone. That is why I do business by internet. While I was setting a pin, all the remotely decent fares to Boston around New Years' appear to have been bought up.

Mom called in the early evening to say hello and ask a question about her upcoming flight to California.

Mom: It says reconfirm. Do I reconfirm with the airline or expedia? I need to finalize my ticket...
A.: I'm not sure what you mean. Did you already buy your ticket?
Mom: It says I have 24 hours...
A.: That usually means you have that long to pay for the ticket.
Mom: But they already charged my card.
A.: Then you don't have to do anything.
Mom: I'll forward it to you.

Hours later, she forwards it to me. I call her to say I can't see what she's referring to, since I can't log into her expedia account. She copies and pastes the offending sentence into an e-mail.

Mom: See where it says reconfirm?
A.: That just means you call the airline or check online to make sure the flight hasn't been delayed.
Mom: But it says 24 or up to 72 hours...
A.: Believe me, that means they recommend that you confirm that everything's on time, etc. You do not need to confirm to them that you are going.
Mom: Are you sure?
A.: Yep.
Mom: Okay, goodnight.
A.: Goodnight.

My parents, while not native English speakers, are not new to the world of air travel. Less than a month ago, I saw an entire line of people waiting to check in at an airport held up by people who couldn't figure out kiosks. Sometimes I can't say I blame them. These things are not always self explanatory and the industry could do a lot more to guide infrequent flyers about procedures. Our parents and their generation taught us to read and add. The least we can do is make travel in the 21st century more navigable for them.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A reader's comment on "Goodnight, Cow Jumping over the Moon..."

The following is excerpted from an email from a friend of mine who teaches high school:

I just read some recent entries on your blog and checked out that
Sesame Street article -- craziness! A couple weeks ago 60 Minutes did
a piece on this new generation called "the millennials" -- I could
completely relate given how different my students are from us. My dad
has observed much change in his law students in recent years. 60
Minutes said that this generation -- at least the upper middle-class
version of this generation -- has grown up with much (excessive?)
praise, prizes for everyone, every moment in their childhoods
scheduled, a sense that they can do and have it all, gadgets to meet
every need. My major observation of my students is that they just
can't think for themselves -- even the very bright students want
simple tasks broken into so many steps. I can no longer just assign
an essay with some basic requirements; they need to know how many
quotes should go in each paragraph, exactly which scientific process I
will use for grading the paper, etc. If the student earns an A-,
he/she wants a very precise explanation about those missing points.
The assumption is that each student begins with an 100 and loses
points only for those conspicuous mistakes. I can only imagine
encountering these folks in the workplace! -- high maintenance, to say
the least. I also noticed how when my brother was in college (and this
could just be Wesleyan and not a reflection of the shift in time from
when we were in college), Wesleyan did excessive amounts of
communicating with the parents -- monthly newsletters, local parent
groups in various areas of the country, etc. -- all this crap about
how it "feels" to be a Wesleyan parent -- like some sort of social
culture was supposed to emerge in the parent community.

because I can't, okay?

Mom called at a bad time, left a message asking why on earth I couldn't come to the phone. In the course of the message there were a few asides to my dad, one of which was, "work? why would she be at work?" Mom must think that over the weekend I sit around all day. That would explain why she thinks I have a lot of time to write her complaint letters.

Am I the only one who thinks that's a silly question? Does she really need to know the answer, first of all? Does it matter? More importantly, is it really a stretch of the imagination that I may be unable to come to the phone on a Saturday afternoon, or ever? Does she not know people who put themselves in positions where they are unable to come to the phone? Perhaps she expects me to regularly change my outgoing voice message to reflect why exactly I am unavailable ("Hi, I'm in the shower/my hands are covered in batter/I'm with other people/I'm driving," etc.)

Later, I called back, got the machine, left a message asking why on earth she couldn't come to the phone. I was at a cafe with a friend when she called back (I didn't answer); she left another message.

I called back again, got mom and dad on the phone.

Mom: How are you?
A.: Good. You?
Mom: Good. Anything new?
A.: Not really.
Mom: Where were you?
A.: Just in town...
Mom: Seen any good movies?
A.: No, have you?
Mom: Yes. I don't remember what it was called. I'll tell you about it later.
A.: Okay...
Mom: Okay. Bye. By the way, you could have called and asked how we were.
A.: I did call and ask how you were.
Mom: Oh, please. Okay, bye.

We had talked on Thursday (i.e. two days before the above conversation). I called to wish them a happy Thanksgiving, check in. I guess it was inconsiderate to go 48 hours without calling. Thursday's conversation wasn't blogworthy, although now that I've mentioned it I may as well add that mom asked again why I was trying to go to two countries in ten days. I responded that Greece is closer to Istanbul than most of Turkey, so why not. That seemed to be a satisfactory explanation at the time, but I wouldn't be surprised if the issue came up again.

Cry for help

Now that I've acknowledged my apparent dependency on dropping NYT articles, I'm going to take the next step and ask for help.

To those of you more internet savvy than I: is there a way to insert links into blog entries without their getting cut off?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Goodnight, cow jumping over the moon (chewing on non-hormone-treated cud)

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I did, but together with that bearer-of-epiphanies that is the IM convo with Gina, it made me realize that people are getting younger. I mean, younger people are getting older... I mean, people who are younger are taking up positions in society and the workforce that were once more predominantly occupied by people who are older.

The signs that one is getting older are obvious and absolute; I have a streak of gray hair and my once chinchilla-like metabolism isn't coming through for me like it used to. But what I want to talk about here are the more relative signs that times change, like the fact that the generation entering the workforce today wouldn't know that Madonna wasn't always an English Jew.

What I'm really trying to say is, you know you're getting older when you increasingly find yourself in conversations about what's wrong with kids these days. And you don't mean kids on planes; you mean kids in the office.

I found myself in one of those conversations last night and again tonight. After Thanksgiving Dinner, someone brought up the "helicopter generation" phenomenon, aka "the millennials," but I like 'helicopter,' because it's a reference to the hovering of the parents. Can you believe that it's common now for parents to demand an explanation from human resources for why their child wasn't hired, or to call their child's management when there's a problem.

Now let's put this in perspective: to appreciate just how messed-up that is, understand that my mother would never think of doing that.

But I digress. This is about how I've become a "kids-these-days" curmudgeon, not about what's actually wrong with kids these days.

There's more: not only do I regularly engage in "what is this world coming to" conversations, but-- as I realized thinking back on my chat with Gina-- my perspective on what this world is coming to appears to be largely based on pieces that appear in the New York Times. I realize that one can do a lot worse for a predominant source of information, but still. How long could I go without referencing an NYT article?

It all started with my sharing the Sesame Street article with Gina (which Serenity shared with me). And if you haven't read this, you must.

Sesame Street

So, Gina and I discuss the Sesame Street article and what it means about what this world is coming to, and by the end of the conversation, we've incorporated the chicken nuggets article and what it means about what the world is coming to, and the Goodnight Moon article and... you get the point. See below:

10:22 PM did you see the piece about how there's a warning on the original sesame st dvd set, about how it's not suitable for children?
Gina: No...
me: [link]
10:27 PM me: oh and this explains me
it's been a year of holidays, considering how many weddings/rehearsal dinners I've been to Holiday Weight Gain
10:28 PM Gina: Good ol' over-sheltering of 21st century children.
I was just talking about this with my sister.
10:29 PM Gina: I totally remember Alistair Cookie.
And I've never felt the urge to smoke a pipe.
me: we were talking about it too, about how entitled the generation now entering the workforce is.
Gina: Yeah.
me: parents calling and asking why their kids weren't hired or why they were managed
Gina: I'd read about it happening in colleges...
10:50 PM me: ok, goodnight, feel better
Gina: I just finished reading the Sesame St. article.
Goodnight... thanks.
10:51 PM me: oh, what did you think
Gina: It's fascinating.
me: (I'm reading an article about sweater care, in the paper/not online)...
yeah, pipes shouldn't be smoked or eaten
Gina: I was just having a conversation with my sister along similar lines...
me: it's funny, I watched Sesame St as a child, and I did not grow up eating pipes
Gina: Rebecca (10) had to do a project in school on a celebrity. She picked Shirley Temple. I was saying how I think it's important for children to be exposed to these "classics," the same way they should be exposed to classic literature, or should study the old theorists or philosophers. I was saying how the kid up the road, Auron, watches a lot of movies, kid ones but full-feature Disney films and things, even though he's only 2. I try to limit that. His mother mentioned that Auron does not like the "old" Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Auron will only watch the new, improved, computer-animated Rudolph. I thought that was fascinating, that a kid would be that discriminating.
But wait, that's only about graphics.
What about the story liine?
It occurred to me that Tristan watches Dumbo, circa 1940 or whatever it is
Gina: And there are things that stick out in these old movies, things that wouldn't be appropriate in a new movie made today.
Gina: But I just refuse to shelter Tristan from these movies, because I fear that somehow something will be missing in his psyche if he is.
11:00 PM Maybe I'm totally over-dramatizing, but that's just what I believe.
11:01 PM me: agree
Gina: It's the same as censoring literature..
Gina: Yeah, I mean I just loved Sesame St. as a child, and always hoped it would still be on the air when I had children.
me: yeah
Gina: Sesame St. is so great in so many ways. Interestingly, Auron doesn't watch it. Not because he's not allowed, I guess he just doesn't like it.
Gina: Tristan does. Of course, he is partial to Elmo...He's starting to express things like being scared of certain parts of shows or movies, and I think that's good.
11:04 PM I say it's okay to be scared. Or sad, like when Dumbo's mom gets locked up.
me: exactly
Gina: I mean, it's horrible, really, but how else are kids supposed to learn and grapple with hard things in life?
11:05 PM me: did you see that article a while ago about what a censored version of goodnight moon would read like?
Gina: I did...
Gina: Yeah, I recited that to Tristan every day for the first two years of his life (lately I've been reading other things at bedtime).
11:06 PM It's funny, the balloon is a choking hazard.
And Pa's smoking a pipe.
me: is he eating it, too?
11:07 PM Gina: But that book is not even about those things, it's about the melody of the rhyme, and saying goodnight to your things.
me: exactly. does any child care, even notice?
Gina: No
me: I hate smoking, and I doubt it’s because I wasn't exposed to images of pipe-smoking as a child
Gina: I was reading an interview by Madeline L'Engle, probably from some Smith thing. She was talking about how she read everything as a child, things meant for adults. And she just automatically censored out the things that weren't of interest to her.
me: it's like the chicken nuggets thing, except culturally
Gina: I'm trying to apply your chicken nugget analogy... Oh, limited diet?
11:10 PM me: remember that oped piece, I think I sent it to you, on how chicken nuggets and the whole concept of kids meals, are creating a generation of chicken nugget adults?
Gina: Yeah, diversifying his diet has actually been the hard part...
me: the kids don't learn to try new or interesting food
Gina: Yeah. But it's exactly the same concept.
me: she was talking about how as a child, she ate what her parents ate, it didn't occur to anyone to create bland food just for her
Gina: Auron will only watch the flashy, 21st century Rudolph.
me: we're sterilizing our kids' brain food
11:11 PM Gina: True, that. On that note, I should probably get to bed.
me: me too. goodnight, it was good chatting
Gina: Okay, my eyes hurt. goodnight moon.
me: goodnight room
Gina: Goodnight cow jumping over the moon (chewing on non-hormone-treated cud).
me: lol
Gina: Okay, goodnight alrready!
me: goodnight!!!

Goodbye, Moon
Chicken Nuggets

Thursday, November 22, 2007

About 1 to 1.5

A.: Let me e-mail them and ask whether the 20 Euro airport transfer is per person or per party.
Kate: Well, in any case, 20 E isn't very much...
A.: This is what I keep trying to tell you: it is to me... the dollar isn't worth a lot right now.
Kate: What's the exchange rate right now?
A.: About 1 to 1.5.
Kate: F*ck!!
A.: I'm saying. It's one-to-one with the Canadian dollar.
Kate: I didn't realize it'd gotten that bad. Maybe we really should have gone to South America.
A.: As Europe goes, Greece and Turkey are among the least worst destinations.
Kate: We'll go to South America next time.
A.: Let me figure out where Thessaloniki is... argh!!!! it's in Greek!
Kate: What sight are you on?
A.: Google maps!
Kate: And it's in Greek?
A.: You'd think there'd be an option to show the place names in English. I can't read Greek. I suppose this might be a good time to learn.
Kate: I can't get them in English either. It's supposed to be a four-hour train ride to Athens...
A.: I'm sure I won't mind hanging out in Thessaloniki... once I figure out where it is.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Appreciation of the little things...

Sure, it's an unseasonably gorgeous day today, but that's actually not what I'm most grateful for.

What I'm most grateful for came at the expense of many other people and suffering of at least one, but I can't help it if that suffering and inconvenience benefited me: someone introduced vomitus into the pool at the gym. So the pool closed. And when the pool closes, parents don't bring their little hellraisers to the gym (and by extension, to the sauna). For the first time in ages, I stewed in the sauna in peace, without little ones coming in and bouncing around, talking, leaving the door open, or even just being loud in the shower area. It was wonderful.

Jadedness loves company (and inspired music)

Last night's Ani concert was disappointing, but more importantly, a sign of the times. Sure, she was off, and she's one of those artists (unlike Bruce Springsteen, who is apparently always at least amazing) who either blows you away with her energy and stage presence or makes you realize how tired you are with a lack thereof. I thought it may have been just me, but Marisa, who was there when we saw Ani at Wolftrap a year and a half ago, felt the same way.

Beyond the lack of her potentially electrifying energy, there was another issue: she was, in her own words, "happy." She talked about how she can tell when she's happy because the songs she writes are shorter; she introduced another song as a transition into her happy songs phase. Even "Gravel," which she chose for her encore, sounded light and happy, and that's just wrong. I know that feeling left behind by Ani's change in mood is so ten years ago, but I can't help it.

A character in Sarah Ruhl's "The Clean House" at one point said to her soul-searching housekeeper something along the lines of, 'I'm sure if we'd met at a party, I'd find you to be an interesting person, but I've hired you to clean my house. So please clean my house.'

I'm glad Ani the person is happy, but dammit I need Ani the musician to turn out and play powerful, jaded music. Can't she at least fake it when she plays her old jaded songs in concert? Does parenthood leave no one unscathed? Does everyone affected by it get a happy, beautiful-world attitude adjustment?

The big issue here of course is our projecting onto artists the image that attracted us to them in the first place, and not being interested in sticking with them when they try something else. They're not, after all, our friends; they serve a discrete purpose in our lives, like a housekeeper does. As people, they may have a right to grow, but that doesn't mean that we, as consumers, have to like it. Joni Mitchell was shocked at the disappointment of her fan base at her foray into a different genre. The uproar over Marc Jacobs has been attributed in part to his critics' discomfort with his changing as a person . Philosophically, I believe we need to accept that artists are people, let them be who they are. As a consumer, however, I miss the personality that used to come out so powerfully in Ani's music.

Is everyone on crazy pills? Is no one else complaining about this? I once again, this morning, called AT&T. This time I said that as soon as I research another plan, I'm leaving, I've so had it with the text messages in the middle of the night, and I want them to note on my account that that's why I will be switching providers. At least this time I got someone with at least half a brain on the line, and she didn't say, "well, your autopay is expiring. And she actually found why it was happening, but needs to research if there is a way to change it without taking me out of autopay. Crazy pills. I cannot choose not to get text messages, much less in the middle of the night. How does that work?

What is it with the Christmas music starting before Thanksgiving? And they say that my people control the media.

Thursday, November 15, 2007



A.: Hello?
Mom: Well??
A.: I haven't looked at it yet! I've just settled down and I'm getting other stuff done.
Mom: Well, look at it!
A.: I'll call you back later.

"It" here refers to something she forwarded me. Unbeknownst to her, she's prolonged the time for which I won't look at it, because I have something to blog about.

Previously (perhaps half an hour before the above phone call):

Mom: Where are you? Why are you walking and not driving?
A.: I'm walking home from the gym.
Mom: What do you do at the gym?

Okay, we've had this discussion myriad times. It's up there with "you don't like coffee?" and "it's so politically correct of you to wear sunblock." It usually plays out with my saying "I lifted weights," and my parents saying, "oh, you shouldn't lift weights! why do you lift weights?" And that's exactly how it played out tonight:

Dad: Oh, you shouldn't lift weights.
Mom: If you're going to lift weights, why not do it at home?
A.: The gym has better weights. [And an elliptical for me to warm up on. And a sauna, although children and the parents that let them run rampant have a way of putting a damper on that experience].
Mom, Dad: It's probably not a good idea for you to lift weights.

It's kind of funny that my parents don't remember that we've discussed this. Sure it's also funny that my parents dish out advice about things they don't understand, since lifting weights is quite healthy. Perhaps they worry that I'll bulk up, which, apart from being physically unlikely, hasn't happened yet and I've been lifting weights for, oh, going on five years now. But my parents must not realize that because they're surprised every time it comes up.

Some of you may recall the most classic conversation about my weightlifting. The actual conversation preceded this blog, but I may have written it up anyway. In any case, here it is, early 2005:

Mom: Why were you unable to pick up your phone?
A.: I didn't have it on me, I was at the gym.
Mom: Are you home now?
A.: I'm walking home.
Mom: What were you doing at the gym?
A.: Lifting weights.
Mom: I don't think you should lift weights.
Dad: I don't think you should lift weights. I saw this program on the fitness channel...

[My parents just got cable a few years ago, and they overcompensate by watching every channel].

Dad: I think you should take up... gymnastics.
Mom: I agree with your father. It would help. The way you walk is totally not sexy, and I imagine that the way you dance is also without grace.

[This is also not the first, or last, time I got the "the way you walk is not sexy" speech.]

Mom: What are you wearing to Julia's wedding?
A.: A pink dress. [The same one I wore to Rachel's wedding, see photo in one of the October blogs].
Mom: Oh, I have cute red shoes that would go with that.
A.: Red doesn't go with pink.
Mom: You're so concerned with what society thinks!

Anyway, that is just one of many times in which we've had the "oh, you lift weights? you shouldn't" conversation. My mother apparently doesn't recall after each one that I lift weights. My mother doesn't remember a number of things that have been established many a time (I don't like coffee, for example).

Yet, she does remember, or claim to remember, things she read once. Tonight, after admonishing me about weights, she said:

Mom: Have you seen previews for "Love in the Time of Cholera"? Why is she brunette? Why isn't she blond?
A.: I don't know?
Mom: She was blond in the book.
A.: I don't remember. [And I really don't care].
Mom: Do you have the book?
A.: I think it's at your house, but I think it's in Spanish.
Mom: Yes, a lot of your books are at the house.
A.: I don't remember her hair color.
Mom: Could you check?
A.: I don't have time to reread "Love in the Time of Cholera"!
Mom: It's at the very beginning.
A.: I've read a few things by Garcia Marquez, and I doubt it's at the very beginning, but it any case, I absolutely do not have time to look for it. So, no.

Impressively, she didn't launch into an attempted guilt trip about how she'd do it for me. It would be hard to justify Fermina's hair color as urgently-needed information. Nonetheless, I'm reminded of the extent to which my mother does not appreciate how busy I am.

Mom: It won't take long, just look it up.
A.: I am not going to look it up.
Mom: What did you think of the "kitten and crow" video?
A.: I haven't looked at it yet.
Mom: You haven't??? Call me as soon as you've looked at it.
A.: Okay but I have things to do so it won't be right away.

Ten minutes later (on the same phone call):

A.: Okay, I'm hope, I have to feed the cat.
Mom: Oh, are you home?
A.: Yes.
Mom: You didn't say you were home.
A.: Sure I did.
Mom: Okay, look up her hair color if you get a chance.
A.: I am not going to look up her hair color. Bye.
Mom: Bye.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Apologies to Samuel L. Jackson

Remember those nazguls flying overhead in Return of the King? I mean the film, but I suppose you could remember those in the book if your imagination serves you-- but you'll have to imagine some very intense screeching.

Have you got it? Do you have that shrill screeching in your head?

That's pretty much what I was subjected to, in addition to the occasional kick in the seatback, from the row behind me.

My new noiseblockers (Panasonic HC500, not Bose, I'm not a millionaire) helped somewhat, but they were no match for that thing.

All I can say is, I am sick of motherf***in' kids on motherf***in' planes!

You know what else doesn't make for an entirely pleasant flight? When the person in the seat next to you is taking up a fourth of your seat (maybe a fifth, but still). I don't recall specifying, when I made my reservation, that I would only need four-fifths of a seat. The cost of the ticket did not reflect a 20% discount, so I'm not sure why I had to make do with only 80% of a seat.

Now I know that the first thing you'll hear from someone who's about to make a racist remark is that they're not racist (the second thing, a la Colbert, is "I have a black friend"). I know that it rings hollow to say that I see obesity as a health issue, not a personality disorder. And yes, I have an obese friend that I care about a lot. All I'm saying is, I wish people who require more than one seat, would purchase more than a whole seat, rather than encroach on any fraction of mine.

Monday, November 5, 2007

a kiddy mommy and a kitty mommy compare notes

This conversation took place over the course of a couple of days:

me: so are we more or less clear on who's getting what?
Gina: Yeah, I was just emailng you. :)
Gina: So, I'll use your artichokes, canola oil, and mozz. cheese, and you said you can pick up parsley -- will you use the leftovers?
me: of parsley? sure
me: I'm going nuts. but we've discussed that
Gina: Me, too.
me: you're going nuts?
Gina: Yeah, from motherhood.
me: what's he doing, besides being a toddler?
Gina: He's actually napping right now, he was just all out of sorts today. I attempted to bring him to a party (it was a family party, with lots of little kids).
He unfortunately saw at the party a gift bag with a bulldozer (or was it a dump truck?) on it.
Gina: So then all he kept saying for the rest of the party (we only stayed for two hours) was "I WANT THAT PRESENT!" And it was only because of the bag. I couldn't get him to stop. I felt like a failure.
I was literally in tears on the car ride home.
Anyway, people were trying to reassure me that all of their kids have these days.
But it doesn't really help when you're in the middle of it.
And when NONE of the other kids, ages 1-4, were acting like this. Despite not having naps.
me: in the preface of 7 habits (of course I didn't have time to read this weekend) he talks about being mortified because his daughter wouldn't share a toy at a party
so it's apparently a pretty common occurrence
Gina: Yeah, so I keep being told.
But somehow it always seems like my kid is the only one at whatever time he's doing it.
me: did he let up when you left?
Gina: No. He kept saying in the car that he wanted me to get him a present.
me: what did you say?
Gina: I said if he sat on the potty I'd get him a gift bag.
So he sat and peed, and I found a gift bag, but of course it didn't have a bulldozer on it so that wasn't acceptable.
Gina: That's another thing that's driving me crazy.
I told him today if he went on the potty, I'd get him a car transporter. Well, that was a mistake.
Because then he just threw a tantrum about wanting the car transporter, and not understanding the clause, "When you go on the potty," being something in the future.
me: it makes you feel any better, and I know it's not the same, gracie's driving me up the f*ing wall
Gina: LOL
Well, that at least made me laugh!
me: (it also relates to potty training, mostly)
Gina: I thought all cats just know to go in the litter box?
me: oh yeah she knows how but when I travel, she rebels by pooping on the porch
Gina: Oh. Wow, that's so... behavioral. For a cat.
I mean, I didn't think cats rebelled.
me: that and she's just very needy. I thought I would get a cat, feed it, take it to the vet occasionally
Gina: Sounds like we are both having trouble with rebellious children.
me: but she always wants to sit on my lap
Gina: Also sounds like Tristan.
Very much like Tristan!
me: she really wants to sleep on my bed but I've read that it's perfectly acceptable to not let them when interferes with your sleep, which it does
Gina: I thought I would have a baby, feed it, take it to the pediatrician occasionally.
me: so I have to block my door so she doesn't open it
plus she's still so fat
her belly's not going anywhere
Gina: Fortunately, the one thing we haven't had too much of a problem with is Tristan wanting to sleep in our bed. That's a big one with many parents/children.
me: she's lazy, plays for about five minutes then gets bored
and then whines too much
Gina: That is just bizarre (the fat)>
me: she's a whiner when she wants something
Gina: Wow. That REALLY sounds like Tristan!
Gina: Tristan's always been a whiner, practically from the moment he came out.
I wonder if we just give in to them too much?
Or if we just have high-needs children.
(Listen to me, I'm talking about a cat like it's a child...)
me: I've tried not giving in (and spraying with water, which you can't do with kids) in my case it's that I got her at five, and old habits are hard to retrain, and I find myself trying to reason with her and getting frustrated when she doesn't get it
Gina: LOL
Again... sounds familiar.
Maybe your cat has Asperger's.
me: LOL. maybe
Gina: I try not giving in, also.
me: but it's like... you know how it is-- I have so much that I'm trying to do
Gina: I've been really trying to put my foot down lately, but it seems like there's always a battle over something unexpected.
Gina: It's just easier to give her what she wants.
me: I just mean, it's hard to focus with someone whining or crawling all over you
Gina: This is why I can hardly get out a Pampered Chef invitation when Tristan's awake...
Gina: Well, the testing wears on you after awhile.
Gina: So I'm just f*cking him up royally.
me: well, the thing with kids is that you have time and some behaviors self correct
like the truck bag thing--
Gina: I hope something self-corrects, because I'm out of gas.
me: he can't carry that into adulthood
other kids won't allow it
Gina: No. But he will probably go on about it for days.
me: right now, it's just a pain for you
Gina: I hope so. I'm hoping the peer pressure thing kicks in soon. He already has kids in his preschool saying things to him.
Gina: He's just so immature socially right now, and with communicating.
It really is tough. No wonder kids used to get whipped.
me: yeah
Gina: Anyway, I should go wake him up. As much as I'd rather not.
me: ok. I should try to pack as much as I’d rather not
Gina: Oh. Well, enjoy your time away from Gracie.
me: thanks.
Gina And thanks again for agreeing to host a P.C. party, with all of your other engagements.
me: I didn't mean to make it sound that way :)
Gina: I really hope you're not stressing yourself out over it. It's really supposed to be something you dont' have to do a lot of work for.
me: I'm actually looking forward to getting people together
I always have to do a lot of work
it's me, not you
Gina: Oh, that's good.
Are you breaking up with me?
me: LOL
anyway, I'll let you go deal with your whiny one
Gina: Okay. You, too.
me: bye!

10:04 AM Me: okay for example.. I am running around like a chicken with my head cut off, not going to have time to get things done before I leave. I have to go pick up pecans in mclean for the smith fundraiser, I'm leaving the house for the trip at 2pm, I'm doing laundry. and gracie was whining from first thing this morning, and then kept whining even after I fed her. but now, my sheets are in the wash and I don’t want her on the bed when it's just the mattress pad (I don't want her on the bed period but like you I pick my battles) so five times now she's jumped on and I've told her to get off, pushed her off, carried her off, etc. I'll push her off from this end, and then she'll go around the other end. she knows I don't want her on the bed. she's driving me nuts. I don't have time for this.
On 11/5/07, Gina wrote:
So, are you saying you'll have pecans for the pecan brie? :)

Sounds like my morning with Tristan. Trying to prepare Pampered Chef documents, etc., while he's whining that he wants to go ride his bicycle because Elmo was riding one on Sesame St. I ended up screaming at him, which is so not thoughtful parenting. Okay, he's screaming again...

Yeah, that's the other thing-- it's all about them. No consideration for everything you have to get done, for your cold, for your need for sleep.

> On 11/5/07, Gina wrote:
I'm getting all of these fruit flies in my house, in the kitchen and even bathrooms. It's really grossing me out. I've read the only way to get rid of them is to find the source, decaying matter somewhere, but I can't find the source. Meanwhile I'm trying to sweep up every crumb and wipe up every spill in the kitchen. It's futile.

Tristan's screaming because he can't find a puzzle piece. Thank god we leave for preschool in a few minutes!

A: yeah see that's we're your challenge is-- you have to actually help your charge develop into a functional member of society; I just have to keep mine healthy and happy to the extent reasonable, and not go nuts in the process.

Gina: I don't know, lately I've been thinking I should just give up on the
functional member of society part, and just do the "keep healthy and
happy to the extent reasonable and not go nuts in the process" part.