Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve: Making Dinner

Mom decided to fry up more mushrooms. I started smelling bacon.

A.: Are you using that frying pan? Dad fried bacon in it this morning. Please don't put those mushrooms in the soup!
Mom: Oh, please!
A.: Fine, I'll set aside the mushrooms that are already ready.
Mom: You're being ridiculous! Who cares?
A.: I care.
Mom: Someone fried bacon in this pan at some point in history! So what?
A.: Someone fried bacon in this pan this morning, and the bacon's still there.
Mom: So what? It's just a trace. It's one thing not to eat animals, but who cares what the mushrooms are fried in.
A.: I care. I care. I'm not asking you to care. I'm asking you to respect that I care and thus not fry things that I'm going to eat, in animal products.
Mom: Grrrrr.
A.: Keep growling. I'm going to go listen to my meditation.

I did. Mom kept growling, muttering. When dad came in, she complained to him.

Dad: Well, she doesn't eat animal products.
Mom: It's not even an animal product.
Dad: Yes it is. If she doesn't eat animal products, she doesn't eat animal products.
Mom: It's ridiculous.
Dad: That's not our problem.
Mom: Grrrrr.

More videos of the year



[Cringe... this one is so wrong but so funny...]




Slide shows

The whole set is spot-on, but I especially like slides 6, 9, and 11.

In this slide show, check out these adorable rescue puppies.

Friday night

We got to the cinema just in time. "The Artist" was cute, beautifully done, and entertaining, though not exactly mind-blowing. Which is fine--sometimes you're in the mood for entertaining-but-not-mind-blowing.

I was still in that mood when we got back to the house. I thought it would be a perfect evening to sit back and do crosswords--I brought the stack that piled up over the last couple of months--with some mindless TV in the background. There was nothing especially good on TV, and I didn't want to get sucked into anything remotely engaging (like CSI), and I wasn't about to watch "Kourtney and Kim Take Manhattan." So I settled on "Transformers." I repeat: this was not for intellectual stimulation. In fact, I'd heard that the film was horrendous and the acting represented an elite level of suckage, so I was kind-of curious about how bad it was. And it didn't disappoint.

Mom came and sat down in the living room.

Mom: Are you watching this?
A.: I am. Would you like to change the channel?
Mom: No.

[Pause]

Mom: Are you really watching this?
A.: I just told you that I was, but I'm not really, so feel free to change it.
Mom: No, it's fine.

Mom: Are you actually enjoying this?
A.: Look, mom--we're either watching this or not watching it. We're not watching it and critiquing at the same time. I know it's a bad movie. There's nothing else on. If you want to channel-hop, feel absolutely free.

Mom: What's going on?
A.: I don't really know. I haven't seen this before.
Mom: Why did he do that? Who's that?
A.: I don't know, mom. Let's change the channel.
Mom: Oh, no, this is fine. The sacrifices one makes for one's children! You're only here for a short time.
A.: It's not a worthwhile sacrifice. I don't care about this movie. It's just here. Change the channel if you want. But if you don't want, stop muttering about what a bad movie it is.

Mom: This movie is awful. Every time I look up, the same thing is happening.
A.: Yup.
Mom: Then why are you watching it?
A.: I'm not. I'm doing crosswords.
Mom: Why did you put it on?
A.: It's not like I went out and bought the DVD. It's on TV and nothing else really is.
Mom: Okay, fine.

Saturday morning roundup

I'm not exactly on the side of the aspiring frackers, but I question the wisdom of farming in the desert without better irrigation. That said, the article ends on the key point: weigh the costs and be honest about them.

Speaking of irrigation... organic produce is not necessarily as sustainable as we think it is. Now, I don't have a problem with non-local per se, because/when it means that produce is grown under more efficient (thus more sustainable) conditions. I do have a problem with inefficient/unsustainable agriculture.

Is sex-ed-by-text-message an effective educational strategy?

Whom would you choose as a celebrity neighbor?

New Year's quiz!

Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday dinner

When mom's in a mood, she gets ridiculous (in a whole different way). She lashes out at everybody, about just about everything, but it's so absurd it's humorous.

Here's some context for today's lash-out session: (1) Dad decided that we should go to "The Artist;" and (2) Mom and Dad spent most of the afternoon--yes, dad took off more time to deal with this thing--moving the sofa. I kept asking if I could be of assistance, and they kept saying no. So I made a salad. By the time mom and dad came in, it was dinner time (if we were going to the movie). I noted that we were low on soup. That was mom's first fit.

Mom: Why didn't you make dinner?
A.: What do you mean? Everything's ready. You all have your fish, and I have my tofu. But if we do a soup course, we're low.
Mom: You could have started frying the onion to add more mushrooms!
A.: I had no idea that's what you wanted to do for soup.
Mom: Ha!

I left. She continued to mutter intermittently about how she couldn't believe that I didn't make dinner.

Later, she called dad and I to dinner. I set the table. Dad went to get wine. I served myself some tofu so I could put it back in the fridge, which I did. Mom later took out a bunch of appetizers, including the tofu.

As we were sitting down

Mom (indicating the tofu): Is this yours?
A.: Yeah, but I won't have any more.
Mom: Then why is it on the table??
A.: Does it matter?
Mom: Yes, it does.
A.: Then it's on the table because you took it out with everything else. I put it back in the fridge.
Mom: It's been here all day.
A.: It hasn't.
Mom: Yes it has!
A.: Are we going to fight about this?
Mom: Hmph!

Mom (to dad): Please get the sour cream.
Dad: It's already on the table.
Mom: I can't reach it over there!
Dad: Why are you yelling?
Mom: Why are you telling me it's already on the table?
Dad: Because it is.
Mom: That's irrelevant. You should have passed it to me.
Dad: I would have, had you said, "please pass the sour cream" rather than said to get it out.
Mom: Whatever.
A.: Please pass the salad.

Dad passed the salad. We should be leaving for our movie, right now, but we're not.

Friday afternoon roundup

Bill Maher has some new rules for you.

Don't seek health, beauty, or any other advice that involves science from celebrities.

People are pretty f*ing sick of fees.

I don't want to have to walk Gracie.

Friday afternoon

Social media roundup

Oh, Fox News.

On the topic of creative uses of social media, the Groupon proposal is creative, Twitter proposal is just lame.

Friday morning roundup

Patriarch Kirill I defends the opposition, but some believe he's just playing the regime's good cop.

Our daughters deserve better than what the toy industry thinks is girly.

I've lived outside of Boston for almost a decade, but I still appreciate the sense of loss over Filene's' demise. Mom and Jay were even discussing it over dinner the other night.

Mark Bittman remains my hero:
But most of us do need to eat “better.” If defining this betterness has become increasingly more difficult (half the diet books that spilled over my desk in December focused on going gluten-free), the core of the answer is known to everyone: eat more plants.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday afternoon roundup

I have to admit that I got caught up in "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo," but I share this blogger's uneasiness with it, and especially with the idea that the novel is about strong women (rather than victimized ones).

I hadn't thought it possible, but here's something to make us hate Valentine's Day even more.

An overwhelming majority of iPhone users prefer to get it on with other iPhone users.

This guy shares my mom's logic about veganism.

Thursday morning roundup

A shadow economy takes hold in Mumbai's most famous slum.

GM corn may no longer be pest resistant; rather, the pests have become resistant.

WTF

I know that sometimes we, I have a tone that we're not aware of, but I promise you that whatever mom heard this morning was completely imagined. I was blogging when mom asked me about the oatmeal.

Mom: Is the oatmeal ready?
A.: I didn't know you were having oatmeal. I'll make you some.
Mom: Did you already have your oatmeal?
A.: Yeah. I can't exercise on an empty stomach.

I get up and make the oatmeal.

A.: You want dried fruit in yours?
Mom: Naturally. And seeds.
A.: What kind?
Mom: Any kind of seeds.
A.: Where are they?
Mom: In that cupboard.

I opened the cupboard, didn't see any seeds.

A.: I don't see any seeds, but I'll look around.
Mom: Hmph! There are seeds.
A.: Okay. Give me a minute.
Mom: I haven't even stretched yet.
A.: Okay, go stretch. We'll heat up the oatmeal when you're ready.
Mom: A.! Your tone! It's so rude! You don't talk to anyone else that way, just your parents! Especially me.
A.: I didn't even say anything, mom!
Mom: Yes you did! You're so rude.
A.: [Sigh.]

That didn't take long

Mom: Of course if you sit at the computer all day, you're going to gain weight!

The ironies here are many, and some I've already discussed. I want to avoid getting into the massive, massive clusterf* of yesterday, in which mom's purchase of a $40 sleeper sofa from a thrift shop (the sofa is actually new) ended up costing three times as much once transportation costs were included. Also, dad had to take a day off work. And it's still sitting outside, because they can't get it into the house. But for our purposes, I bring up the sofa because it's central to how I ended up walking for hours yesterday, willingly.

I had plans to meet a friend in town for lunch. My parents would pick up the U-Haul, which they believe sat three in the cab, and drop me off downtown. I would hang out until it was time to meet my friend, and take the bus (or something) back afterward. I don't love buses--the ones in DC are notoriously unreliable, but in Boston, I just don't have a good idea anymore of where to catch the Express bus (and the local ones are very unreliable).

To make a long story shortish, we got to U-Haul and learned that the cab only seats two. Mom said she'd drop me off at the local bus stop. This was a horrifying prospect. I asked her to drive me a few more miles, to the bridge to Harvard Square, where I could take a non-horrendous T line (the B train of the green line is as bad as the local bus; the few times I've taken it, I noticed that I could walk faster than that train moves). So mom complained but grudgingly dropped me off where I'd asked. It took all of five minutes. Perhaps you think I should be (more) grateful--and I'm not ungrateful--but I don't feel guilty about mooching rides off of my parents because that's the predicament they put me in by living in the suburbs. When I lived in Boston, I lived several minutes' walk from a T stop. But I digress.

Even before the U-Haul cab issue came up, my mom didn't get why I would stand for having to hang out in town for a few hours. I love hanging out in town. I would do it more, only my parents live in the f*ing suburbs and the public transportation is a pain in the ass. So this, to me, was a win-win.

As it turned out, I didn't get much time to hang out in town. I ended up just walking from Harvard Square, which was even better. It was a nice day, though a little windy. I got there a mere half-hour before I was to meet my friend, and after lunch, I decided to just walk back. I made it past Harvard Square, out to the Publick Theater, by the time my parents were in the same area, having returned the U-Haul.

When I met them, after having walked from the Back Bay, mom told me my hair looked messy.

Hair

Mom hasn't told me yet this morning that I've put on weight, but she has told me that my hair looks better down. Mom rarely misses an opportunity to tell me that my hair doesn't look better in a different way, although she did tell me at dinner last night that it looked good. Unlike the weight thing, or maybe just like the weight thing, the hair thing is hilarious because it's nonsensical. This morning, my hair was pulled back because I was exercising. Yesterday afternoon, when mom told me my hair looked bad, I had been walking for over an hour in the wind.

Mom started nagging me about my hair perhaps a full decade before she ever started nagging me about my weight. Doesn't matter if I'd just woken up, just come in from a bike ride, etc.; mom would let me know that my hair didn't look good.

At least she's consistent.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wednesday dinner

Jay IMed to say he'd be late. Actually, I'd IMed him first to let him know that dad was really excited that we were having a real dinner. It's been hot dogs for them (and salad for me) all week. I think it's been blah dinners since mom's knee replacement. Anyway, since Jay would be late, I was at the computer, at the opposite end of the house from the front door, at 7pm when he knocked.

Mom: A.!
A.: Coming!

I started to walk toward the front door.

Mom: A.!!
A.: I said I was coming.

Mom: A.!
A.: Will you calm down? I said I was coming.

Mom: Will someone get the door?
A.: What is wrong with you??

I got the door. And vented to Jay the minute he walked in.

***
I'd set the food out on the table, and mom kept suggesting more stuff to put on the table, as she does. Never mind that dad made fish (I made tofu) for dinner; let's put a different fish out as an appetizer. I said quit taking stuff out of the fridge and sit down. Once we sat down, mom kept ensuring that Jay had everything possible on his plate, and she snapped at me whenever I tried to protect him or remind him that there were still two courses to come.

***
The phone rang. Dad brought the cordless to mom.

Mom: A., Maria's son would like to know whether it's okay for him to call you.
A.: Um, I'd rather he didn't.
Mom: So, should he call you on our home phone or on your cell.
A.: Did you hear me? He shouldn't call me.
Mom: Where should he call you.
A.: Your phone. Especially next week.

Mom put down the phone and started telling Jay about how wonderful this guy is.

A.: Do you even know his name, mom? If he's so important to you, why don't you know his name?
Mom: Why does his name matter?

Mom continued to go on about how great this guy must be and how Maria is psychic, so she must be on to something in terms of trying to hook us up.

A.: Mom. I'm seeing someone.
Mom: So?

Mom continued to tell Jay about how these men who take care of their mothers are wonderful.

Jay: David [his ex] takes great care of his mother.
A.: Rush Limbaugh takes great care of his mother.

Mom continued. I asked her whether she realized how absurd the conversation was. Jay realized it. Jay is really happy for me. He's happy that I'm happy. Mom apparently couldn't care less.

***
Jay (to me): The house looks really clean. Was that your doing?
A.: Not really.
Jay: Huh.
A.: Did you hear that?
Dad: Huh?
A.: Jay says the house is very clean.
Dad: Which? This house?
A.: Yeah.

Dad laughs hysterically. And keeps laughing. It's like the funniest thing he's heard in a year. He laughs, and laughs, and laughs.

Wednesday--making dinner

Mom: I don't understand how you can make mushrooms without butter. I don't understand it. (Rinse, repeat.)

[Pause.]

Mom: The most important issue here is that you're getting fatter and fatter on this plant-based food.

Mom blog analysis III

Russians have a funny relationship with rules. This occurred to me when I saw my dad push open a door that said "Do Not Enter/Employees Only/Protective Eyewear Required." I saw him do something similar at Lowe's when they last visited--he tried to cut something that was indicated to be the domain of employees. And he saw the signs, both times, and didn't care. In fact, when I yelled at him today for opening that door, he said that people who follow rules all the time never get anywhere.

Last year, he and I and Nina and Nina's mom were looking for a place to park at Houghton's Pond for a winter walk. Nina's mom suggested we park in the handicapped spot because there wouldn't be handicapped people who needed it that day.

I've seen enough of my parents' friends do similarly infuriating things that I really do think there's something cultural to it. They grew up in a time and a place where there were rules everywhere, and those rules were arbitrary and oppressive. It doesn't occur to them that restrictions are likely there for a reason.

I've gotten into arguments with my parents about this kind of thing because I won't accept why they can't just do as requested. It seems like common courtesy. I've also gotten into arguments with my parents because they don't respect my rules, things I've requested of them just because.

***
My mom has hardly softened with age, but the effect of her natural brusqueness has. She's always struck me as unintentionally rude, partly because she won't speak in complete sentences. If she stops someone to ask for directions, she won't say, "excuse me--could you please tell me the way to Gloucester Street?" She'll just say "Gloucester Street!" This, of course, has the additional disadvantage of people not always knowing what you're talking about. But my bigger point is that while mom has always been this way and she hasn't gotten any better, people take it better now that she's an elderly lady rather than a middle-aged grumpy woman with an accent. She's not actually grumpy, mind you; she's just Russian, and this inevitably comes off as grumpy. But now, when she yells "no bag!" to the grocery bagger or cashier, he or she is not offended, thinks it's kind of cute. I would still prefer that mom say, "I don't need a bag; thank you," but I can't change mom. I can only take comfort in the fact that the world at large appears to be generally more receptive to how she comes off.

Wednesday morning roundup

Somali women and girls are bearing the violent brunt of the conflict and famine.

Meet the Israeli taliban.

Does Yad Vashem have double standards?

Drunk shopping is apparently a thing.

"Good morning" is so 20th century

I was heading downstairs this morning just as mom was getting up. She came out of her bedroom, saw me, put her hands on my stomach, and said, "you've gained weight... from your vegetarianism."

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday tea

Mom: When did we last see you?
A.: July.
Mom: You've gained weight since then.

Tuesday dinner

Mom: Now I know why you've gotten so fat! You spend all day on the internet.
A.: Not really.
Dad: She's gotten fat because she takes after me, and I've gotten fat.
Mom: You've gotten fat because you're old. As my mother used to say, "eto nye ot kotlyet, no ot lyet." [It's not from burgers, but from burgers. It rhymes.]

My parents on the phone

Tuesday afternoon

Mom: When did you first gain weight?
A.: You first started telling me that I gained weight, in five-minute intervals, four-and-a-half years ago.
Mom: Well, you've gained even more weight since then.

Earlier, just after we got back from our walk

Mom: Would you like half of this kiwi?
A.: No, thank you.
Mom: What did kiwis do to offend you? What's wrong with kiwis?
A.: Nothing. I just don't want one.

[Pause]

Mom: What's wrong with kiwis? Why are kiwis forbidden?
A.: Kiwis are forbidden?
Mom: You won't have any.
A.: I don't want any.
Mom: Why not?
A.: Because I just had an apple and that's all I want right now.
Mom: Oh.

Mom has continually (1) asked me whether I eat random plant-based foods that come to mind; (2) asked me, when I happen to not want a plant-based food, what's wrong with it; and (3) frame my eating choices as an issue of what's forbidden. I've continually reframed as "I choose not to eat that."

This morning

Mom: You can't have cheese.
A.: I choose not to eat cheese.

Yesterday

Mom: You only have veggie sausage because you can't have real sausage.
A.: I choose not to have "real" sausage. If I wanted to, I would have it. Besides, there's nothing more real about turning meat into sausage than turning tofu into sausage.
Dad: The tofu sausage is really not bad.

***
Check out what we saw on our walk:

Pull the string

More talking-mom-doll soundbites:

Oatmeal is fattening!

That's a lot of soup you're eating!

I don't eat much; I'm not even hungry!

Fasting always makes me feel better!

***
Mom: So much oatmeal! I can't eat this much.
A.: Then don't. Who's making you eat "that much" oatmeal?
Mom: I can't believe you eat this much oatmeal.
A.: All I have for breakfast is oatmeal (with flax seeds, soy milk, and half a pear, mind you). You felt the need to bring out some smoked fish, ciabatta, and god knows what else. Of course you're not going to have room for half a bowl of oatmeal.
Mom: I'm soooo full. I can't eat another thing.
A.: Then don't. Mom, if you're full, stop eating oatmeal.
Mom: This is pretty good. Did you add honey?
A.: No.
Mom: You should talk to the bees. Tell them that you love them and that you don't fear them. They understand everything. They won't want to sting you then.

***
Ten minutes later

Mom: You know you've gained weight, right?
A.: No.
Mom: You don't know that?
A.: No, I don't.
Mom: A belly has appeared on you. But that happens to all vegetarians. Meat is not fattening.
A.: [Shrug]

Mom combines two nagging points

I was just reading the paper and blogging about it (see previous post). Dad was getting ready for work. Mom woke up and came downstairs, found me at the computer. Mom said, "good morning." Just kidding.

Mom: Tsk! Already at the computer? It's making you fatter, you know!
A.: Go away.

She's now yelling at dad about something. And now, she's in the other room, watching the news. Which is apparently superior in her mind to reading the news online.

***
It's not like mom doesn't spend hours watching TV. It's not like she wastes any less time than I do. Sure, I watch the odd kitten-playing-with-iPad video, but mostly, I'm reading the paper or blogging or working on something. Where the hell does my mom get off commenting on my computer time?

Tuesday morning roundup

There's got to be a way for Greece to get its budget under control without decimating its health care system.

I love this reflection on reinvention.

I know you can't always keep babies quiet on a plane but I appreciate it when you try. I don't pass judgment on those of you who hold a crying infant; I pass judgment on those of you who don't.

Here are some movies to rent.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Monday evening roundup

Israel, of all nations, has to call a genocide, a genocide.

Please read David Remnick's most excellent, in-depth analysis of Russian opposition movements and Bill Keller's shorter one.

Mom blog bonus: mom is making mushroom soup and muttering continuously under her breath about how it's a travesty to not use butter.

WTF

Mom: Let's limit your computer time.
A.: Let's not.
Mom: How much time do you waste, looking at cats and staring at the computer?
A.: I'm an adult. I can decide for myself how much I should waste.
Mom: Why don't you read "The Master and the Margarita."
A.: I plan to, but I'm not going to do it now. I have other things to read, and write.

Does my mother really think she needs to manage my internet usage for me?

Talking dolls

Fudge-sickle! The honey badger talking doll is sold out. I was going to get one and have it say "honey badger don't give a $hit" when Gracie whined and "look at that sleeping f*ck!" when she (and maybe others who will remain unnamed) lazed around.

This got me thinking, I could design a mom talking doll. "You've gained weight!" "Real writers already know how to write!" "What will you do with all the cows?" I actually suggested this to her, but she shrugged it off.

Monday coffee

A.: I changed Gracie's food--put her on something more natural--and she's gained weight. I have to go back to Science Diet.
Mom: You've put on weight, too, you know?
A.: Are you comparing me to Gracie?

Do you people know how fat my cat is?


***
Dad: I slept very poorly last night. Not sure why.
Mom: I'm trying to sleep on the right side because Dr. Oz said it's better.
A.: Actually, I think sleeping on the left is better.
Mom: I don't think so.
A.: I'll look it up.

I go to the computer, look it up.

A.: Dr. Oz said on the left is best for high blood pressure. The Times' Well blog says its also good for heartburn.
Mom: Could you send us those links? I really don't trust the New York Times, but I'll let it go.
A.: Will do.

[Pause]

Mom: I take responsibility for this madness. We read to you. You wouldn't go to sleep as a child until we read to you. That's how you got your fear of imaginary spiders. We read you "The Hobbit".
A.: I know this story mom.
Mom: I still have the paperwork. I still have the diagnosis from Children's Hospital that you wouldn't mentally progress past the age of four.

***
This morning, I was doing yoga. Mom was about to hop in the shower. Dad was about to do laundry. I heard their voices upstairs, then dad came downstairs and went to the basement. Mom called him.

A.: He's not here. He went to the basement.
Mom (from upstairs): Oh.

I heard dad come back downstairs from the basement.

A.: Mom's calling you.
Dad: Mom is always calling me.
A.: I know.

***
I have been able to read, etc. when mom's asleep. Otherwise, she's always calling after me to have me see what's on TV or what's on the internet or to hear her tell me, again, that real writers already know how to write.

Monday breakfast

A.: Do you, by chance, have any seaweed, other than the seaweed salad?
Mom: We have everything.
A.: Where would it be?
Mom: In the other fridge. The fridge is off, I use it as a cupboard.

There was, indeed, seaweed in the fridge/cupboard.

A.: Jay says I love seaweed too much.
Mom: Tolstoy, Pushkin, Bulgakov... all real writers, they didn't have to study how to write. They just did it.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The things you learn when you watch TV

I had no idea--and I'm so glad--that Randall hit the big time

Yenta

Mom: We can drive you to South Station tomorrow.
A.: That would be great. I don't think the Express Bus is running.
Mom: What time are you meeting him?
A.: 6:30.
Mom: Is he still with the same guy? That muscly guy that he brought over?
A.: No.
Mom: Why not?
A.: Because, among other things, he was a jealous bitch.
Mom: Is he dating anyone else?
A.: Nope. Not seriously, anyway.
Mom: Why not?
A.: I don't know.

At least she acknowledged the angelhair as my savior

From another room

Mom: A.! A.! I have something important to tell you.
A.: Yes?
Mom: Every real artist, every real writer--
A.: Dammit, mom, you've told me this a gazillion times since I got here.
Mom: I haven't told you today.
Dad: I heard you tell her today.
Mom: Clearly it hasn't sunk in, so I need to say it again: every amazing writer can't help but write. It comes organically. It comes from God, from the higher being-
A.: From the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Mom: Fine. Whatever you choose as your higher being. My point is, they had to write. And they knew what they were going to write. Pushkin cried, but he had to kill Gherman.
A.: I heard you the first ten times, mom.
Mom: I'm going to keep telling you until you understand.

Christmas morning

As we were sitting down to breakfast

A.: Why is there a rotting beet next to my head? It's bad enough that I don't even have a place of my own at the table. I have to share with all of mom's vitamin bottles and used tea bags.
Dad: Oh, I took it out of the fridge because it was rotting. I didn't compost it because I didn't know whether mom wanted to try to salvage parts of it.

As we were sitting down for coffee

A.: That beet is still there!

Dad gets up, picks up the beet, and puts it on the other counter.

A.: That's it? You're just going to move it from one counter to another?
Dad: Now it's not right by your head when you're eating.
Mom: Why do you have to move the beet from one counter to another for her? Why can't she do it herself?
A.: Why is the rotting beet not in the compost bin?
Mom: I'll carve out the good parts.
Dad: You can sit down now. The offending beet has been relocated.
Mom: I still don't understand why you couldn't do that yourself.
A.: I still don't understand why it was there to begin with.
Dad: I still don't understand why we're still talking about this.

Christmas morning roundup

It's snowing!

The immigration system is broken and short on legal aid for those caught in the debris.

A return to farming in Haiti may help with food security, overcrowding, sanity, and overall development.

What to learn from Shackleton?

This kid is my hero:

Christmas morning ramble/rant

My parents and I were watching the News last night (France 24, which is broadcast in English here) and Gorbachev came on TV to comment on the uprisings in Russia. All of us had the same, simultaneous reaction: "Whoa, he's gotten fat!"

Russia House, you disappoint me. First of all, why is your executive chef not Russian? Second, why "pierogis" double-plural but just "pelmini"? In fact, why "pelmini" and not "pelymyenyi"? Good thing you're overpriced and lacking in vegetarian food anyway. That's what I get for seeing if I wanted to celebrate Russian Christmas on the 7th in style.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ode to George Soros

I am currently blasting Pandora so that I can't hear my parents continue to argue. What are they arguing about, you may ask, since they both agree that George Soros is an anti-semitic, former-nazi-collaborating, socialist? They're arguing whether it's okay for us to agree to disagree. Or even agree to drop it. I don't really have an opinion about George Soros; I just know that every fact-checker on the planet defended him against accusations of nazi-collaborating. According to mom, that's because he's bought them all out--all the fact-checkers. Anyway, dad wants mom to drop it, but mom wants to keep ranting.

They're still yelling. I can't make out any of the words. Thank you, Pandora.

This post is not for the easily-offended

Mom: Why isn't the cabbage on the table?
A.: Are we having cabbage?
Mom: Why not?
A.: Okay.
Mom: We also have a lot of very good cheeses. Oh, yeah... you don't eat cheese. Why don't you eat cheese? How does it goats to get milked?
A.: Goats can be factory-farmed, too, and in any case, the baby goats get sent to slaughter.
Dad: They should just do late-term abortions on the baby goats.
Mom: When God said, go forth and multiply...
A.: You believe in God now?
Mom: I believe in an intelligent being... a higher power...
A.: The Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Mom: What??
A.: Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Mom: Oh, no--it's not a monster.

Saturday afternoon

Mom invited Maria and her son to dinner.

A.: That's going to be awkward.
Mom: I don't understand why you have to be dating someone who's not Jewish.
A.: I have to be dating someone who's not Jewish, because the person I'm dating isn't Jewish.
Mom: Protestants! They're the worst.
A.: What's wrong with you?
Mom: Protestants!
A.: He's as protestant as I'm Jewish. Less so, actually.
Mom: So? His parents are protestant?
A.: So? My mother is bat-shit crazy.
Mom: In what way?
A.: Think about it.

[Pause]

A.: Did you remember the shopping bags?
Mom: You're such a klisma.
A.: I take after you.
Mom: This is true.

[Pause]

Mom: Maria's had her eyes on you since the moment she first saw you.
A.: That's her problem.
Mom: She always thought you were wonderful.
A.: We've spoken five words to each other.
Mom: Maybe that's why she's so entranced. You're not going to charm anyone once you open your mouth.
A.: Did you tell Maria that? And did you tell her I was a klisma?
Mom: Look, I know you're going to do what you think is best--
A.: Well, it is my life.
Mom: --I'm not going to stop you.
A.: It's not really up to you.
Mom: No, if I were to say, don't go out with this guy, it would matter to you.
A.: It would really be your problem and not mine. I would like for you to be supportive, but it is my life.
Mom: Really? You don't care what I think?
A.: I would appreciate your support, but it's not going to influence my choices.
Mom: You say that now.
A.: [Shrug.] What do we have to do about this dinner? Is he a vegetarian?
Mom: No. You can retrain him if you see fit.
A.: I don't retrain people, and I'm spoken for.
Mom: It's not like you're married.
A.: I'm in a relationship where we have agreed that we're not seeing other people.
Mom: With a non-Jew.
A.: Is Maria even Jewish?
Mom: Her husband was!
A.: Ha! That means her son's not Jewish! Ha!
Mom: So?
A.: So your argument is even more ridiculous than it was before.

Mom blog analysis II

It's not just snippiness. It is not a case of my not being able to control my temper. It--snapping at mom--is the only way I have of communicating the message that I will not play by her rules.

It's not just the physical stuff about her lifestyle (i.e. the clutter) that (1) drives me up the wall and (2) is something that I've consciously chosen to move away from. It's the drama queen. And that means I'm not just going to ignore it, I'm going to call her on it.

She was having a fit this morning about oats.

Mom: What's that in the kitchen drain? Oats? Why? Why are they there?
A.: I didn't see them, mom. Sorry, I'll compost them right away.
Mom: Why are they there in the first place? Why didn't you get them out sooner?
A.: Because I didn't see them.
Mom: They shouldn't have been there.
A.: What is the problem, mom? They're no longer there. There! What is the big deal??

She was speechless. It didn't occur to her not to think of the oats as a big deal.

It was the same thing yesterday when we were shopping. Every potential setback, an incitement to losing it. Calm down, mom. Look, you were so distracted complaining about the traffic light that you didn't notice that it turned green a few seconds ago.

***
Case in point

Mom thought she had a massage appointment for tomorrow at 10am. It did not occur to her--and I didn't do the math at the time--that the gym where her friend, the masseuse, works, would be closed on Christmas Day. Her-friend-the-masseuse, incidentally, is the friend who wants to set me up with her son. But her friend just called, asking where we were. Apparently, the appointment was for today. Mom said, "I'll just finish my coffee and we'll be there in half an hour."

I lifted weights yesterday (when mom went all Jewish-mom-guilt-trip on my ass) and wasn't anticipating a trip to the gym tomorrow. I also just hennaed my hair and mom's, so I'm kind of done with anything related to bathing (saunas, hot tubs, etc.) even though I'm usually perfectly game.

A.: Who's we? Do I have to go with you?
Mom: Yes.
A.: Why?
Mom: Because.
A.: It's my time. Why do I have to sit in the gym while you get a massage?
Mom: Because.
A.: No.
Mom: You can hot-tub.
A.: I don't want to. I want to do something with my morning.

This turned into a screaming fight. Dad decided we'd all go together and he and I would go for a walk while mom got her massage.

Saturday morning roundup

It's the Tunisian street vendor and the Plastic People of the Universe all over again: when people get caught up in an unjust system just by virtue of going about their daily lives--and Russia's system has long ceased to pick its battles--people who would have otherwise just stewed in apathy are going to take issue. Are you listening, TSA? People in this country will go to battle over their cupcakes.

Birds are smarter than you think.

And we're back

A.: Where are the oats? Did you put them back in the shed?
Mom: Probably. What, are you hungry?
A.: Why, yes. It's time for breakfast.
Mom: Who knew.

Mom puts her hands on my stomach.

Mom: You've put on weight, you know.

***
Dad: What are you doing?
A.: Grinding the flax seed. Ooh, I can show you how to make eggs, if you want!
Dad: I prefer that the chickens make my eggs.
A.: But do the chickens prefer it?
Dad: Yes.
A.: Not when they're confined in cages or just shoved together so closely they can't move their wings...
Dad: Do chickens want to move their wings?
A.: Sure they do.
Dad: What did people do 50 years ago when they didn't know what you know?
A.: Factory farming wasn't an issue then.

[Pause]

A.: Oh, my oats are about to boil over...

I turn off the burner. Mom goes to take off the lid.

A.: No, don't...
Dad: How many people does it take to make kasha?
A.: Exactly.

That, my friends, is your second Russian lesson of the week. We're going to reclaim it from the ignorant masses who say "pirogis" and claim that kasha means buckwheat. Kasha is a general term for any kind of porridge. Buckwheat is but one grain from which one can make porridge. I don't care what some people in Ukraine say. Don't tell me kasha means buckwheat. I will not stand for it.

Mom: So, you won't have butter?
A.: No.
Mom: So you won't have mushrooms if I use butter.
A.: Right.
Mom: Then I'm not making you mushrooms.
A.: Okay.
Mom: I can't waste mushrooms on any other kind of cooking oil.
A.: Okay.

[Pause]

Mom: You don't eat cheese, either?
A.: No.
Mom: Total sickness. Had I but known when I drove you to that thing 20 years ago!

***
Dad suggested that mom use olive oil, for some reason unrelated to my veganism. Mom mumbled continuously about how it was just wrong.

Mom: Do you eat salt?

***
Mom: Read Bulgakov! Read Tolstoy! Writing has to come from the heart, not the mind. It's not something you study. It's something that flows!
A.: GO AWAY, MOM! I heard you the first ten times.
Mom: What, I can't talk to you?
A.: No, you can't lecture me about the same ignorant bullshit ten times in the same exact language.
Mom: You're so obnoxious! You've become awful! You've filled your head with idiocy and it's seeping into your every day life! Spend more time at the computer! Idiot!

Mom blog gets heavy

Dad and I crossed paths this morning, just as we both got up.

Dad: Oh, I forgot to move the car. It may have gotten fined.

Dad stayed upstairs; I came downstairs and checked the car. I heard steps coming down the stairs.

A.: There's no ticket on the car.
Mom: Why would there be a ticket on the car?
A.: Dad left it on the street.
Mom: Oh. What, you went outside in your pajamas?
A.: Yeah, so?
Mom: Where's dad?
A.: Upstairs.

A few minutes elapse. I read the paper (oil sands pipeline may came back to rear its ugly head).

Mom: Where's dad?
A.: Up. Stairs.
Mom: I don't understand. You went outside in your pajamas.
A.: Yes.

Mom: You went outside in your pajamas? Where's dad?

Mom went away. I continued to read the paper. I heard footsteps from one part of the house, then another.

A. (to dad): There's no ticket on the car.
Dad: Oh, good.
A. (to mom): There, dad's downstairs.
Mom: Where? Where is he?
A.: In the living room!

Where else could he be?

***
Dad's been saying for a year now that mom's memory is going. Mom has been noticing signs of age that had eluded her up to a year or two ago. She says the trip to China a few years ago--preceded by a very bad cold--threw her, and she's still feeling the effects of her knee replacement in March and the associated drugs.

I've been in denial about mom's purported memory issues because she's always had memory issues. Partly, she just has a selective memory, and she's never been a good listener. The above conversation, where she asked me the same two questions three times (each) in the span of ten minutes, could have happened twenty years ago. So I thought maybe dad was just starting to notice, because it occurs to us to notice poor memory performance when one is older, but dad suspects that mom's memory has gotten substantively worse.

Mom's sense that she's actually getting older surfaced yesterday in a tragicomic, quintessential-Jewish-mom conversation that I'm not sure how to interpret.

Mom: If you do go to grad school, you're on your own. We not really in a position to help you financially.
A.: I know that. I'm not asking you too.
Mom: I mean, we're going to have to think about elder care. I don't want to end up in a nursing home. I remember when my mother was in a nursing home--and she was in a very good one--but she hated it. Her eyes would glaze over, and when we came to see her, she would beg to be taken out of there. But we didn't have the resources then for in-home care. We did that for a while, until we just couldn't do it. And in the nursing home, they wouldn't let her die in dignity. They kept shoving tubes up her nose. They weren't helping, they just added to the pain, but they wouldn't stop. She asked them to stop, we asked them to stop, but they said they needed the doctor's permission to stop. The doctor had already left for the weekend. I don't want that for myself. If it gets to that point, I'll just eat a [poisonous mushroom] and be done with it.
A.: Mom, you don't have to go to a nursing home... there are a lot more options now than there were then, and if it comes down to it, we'll figure out the best thing--
Mom: I don't want any of that. I'll just eat a [poisonous mushroom].
A.: Mom!
Mom: I think this is an important conversation to have.
A.: What's your point? That if I go to grad school, I won't be able to afford in-home care?
Mom: That's not what I'm saying.
A.: What are you saying?
Mom: I don't want to be kept alive artificially.
A.: That is an important conversation to have.

I did not say, "too bad your dear Sarah Palin led a campaign to make that conversation more difficult for millions of families."

Mom: I've been living, ever since, with the guilt of how my mother spent her final days, and I don't want you to be in the same situation.
A.: We're not even close--
Mom: You never know.
A.: None of us ever know.
Mom: That's not what I want for me.
A.: Well, when it becomes an issue, we'll figure out what you do want for you.

Friday, December 23, 2011

She's right, too

The Penis Mom explains herself, compellingly.

Friday evening

I was minding my own business, reading last Sunday's paper (idiots are making things difficult for planners in Virginia; a new book on political evil disappoints; there's a trade war over chicken feet.) Then mom came into the living room, sits down where dad had been sitting, and picks up a section of the newspaper.

Mom: What's this? What paper are you reading? Is that the Tab?
A.: No, it's the Washington Post.
Mom: Why is it here? Why do you have to make a mess.
A.: I left that article there for dad to read.
Mom: Why? Why dad and not me?
A.: Because you weren't sitting right there when I finished reading it. You can read it too.
Mom: What's it about?
A.: Why don't you look at it?
Mom: I should have bought that other pressure cooker.

[Pause]

Mom: Do you subscribe to that paper?
A.: Yes.
Mom: Why?
A.: Because I like to read the paper on paper.

[Pause]

Mom: [Reading from the paper out loud].
A.: Mom!
Mom: What? Why do you have to yell?
A.: Because I have to yell. Because I'm reading so read to yourself please!!
Mom: You have a fit at the slightest provocation!
A.: No, I raise my voice after a series of provocations. You then have a fit.
Mom: You're awful.
A.: Fine. I'm awful. I'm now going to read the paper in peace.
Mom: Why do you have to be like that?

I got up and left.

Friday afternoon

We were driving back from a prolonged shopping trip. There was a pond to our west, and the sun was setting over it.

Mom: Wow, look at the sunset.
[I looked.]
Mom: A.! LOOK AT THE SUNSET!
A.: I'M LOOKING AT IT!
Mom: NO YOU'RE NOT!
A.: Mom! What the hell is your problem?
Mom: You're not really looking at it. If I weren't driving, I'd be mesmerized.

It's like when we go for walks and she yells at me for not looking around enough.

***
I made the salad and dad the veggies while mom was on the phone. We went to the living room--I to read, he to take a nap--just as she was coming into the kitchen to make her part of dinner. It wasn't long before she needed something from one of us or the other.

Mom: A.!
A.: What?
Mom: A.!
A.: I'm busy, mom.
Mom: What is this?
A.: What is what?
Mom: Come in here?
A.: Do I have to?
Mom: A.!

I went to the kitchen. It was zucchini. Mom knows what zucchini is.

Mom: Open that thing for me, please?
A.: What thing?
Mom: That thing.
A.: The fridge?
Mom: No.
A.: [Looking to where she was pointing.] The oven?
Mom: No!
A.: What, then?
Mom: That! What we bought today.
A.: What, the dishwashing liquid?
Mom: Yeah, that.

Spoke too soon, it's both

We're getting a "you've put on weight" every twenty minutes or so. As for the "real writers just write," it's just a continuous, non-stop flow.

I was just putting on my shoes (we're finally leaving the house!) when mom started going on.

Mom: Real writers, it comes to them. They can't not do it, and their works write themselves. Pushkin cried when he had to kill of Gherman, but he had to do it. People who write, just write.

So I'm basically going to be lectured about this for the next week or so from someone who can barely put two sentences together (including in her own language).

This is a source of resentment for me because this fallacy of my mother's is one reason it took me so long to start writing. I don't believe it, I don't want to hear it, and I don't need her to keep repeating it over and over and over again.
When I got out of the shower this morning, fully dressed... I mean, I was fully dressed by the time I came out of the bathroom:

Mom: You've really put on weight.

Mom followed me into the guest bedroom, where I found my shoes, put them on.

Mom: You've really put on weight.

We had breakfast/tea. The cranberries had, indeed, gone off, but mom insists that that's how they should be. We're clashing as much as ever because our lifestyles are so different and her lifestyle drives me up the f*ing wall. She hasn't changed--I mean, she's not really doing anything she hasn't always done--but I notice it more and it bothers me more, because I've managed to learn that it's not normal, not how I want to live, and perhaps part of me fears that she'll drag me back in. But I digress.

A.: Mom! Don't stick the knife with hummus on it into the honey!
Mom: Why not? Do you even eat honey? It's my honey.
A.: So? It's gross. Take a clean spoon.
Mom: You're a real klisma.

[Pause]

Mom: So what about this guy you're dating?

I thought (and kind of hoped) she'd never ask. She was previously so obsessed with her friend's son that she couldn't give a shit about whom I was actually dating. I started to fret because I didn't really want to talk about it, but I also suspected that mom wouldn't get far without rocking it back on to her, and I was right.

A.: What about him?
Mom: Do you like him?
A.: I should think so.
Mom: I mean, do you actually have feelings for him?
A.: I don't understand the question.
Mom: Well, some people date someone just because they like to have a boyfriend.
A.: That's always been me.
Mom: Really?
A.: No.
Mom: Does he like you, as well?
A.: Presumably.
Mom: What does he like about you?
A.: [Shrug.]
Mom: Tell me about him.
A.: What do you want to know?
Mom: What does he eat?
A.: He's a vegetarian.
Mom: That's not right. Besides, in a relationship, there should be variety.
A.: [Shrug.]
Mom: Oh, I remembered what I was telling you about yesterday...

And for the next fifteen minutes, mom discussed her exploits when she was my age (and younger), and didn't ask me any other questions.

Cranberries

Cranberries are huge in Russia. They're a food, a favorite infusion for vodka, and a storied metaphor for pretentiousness. In the nineteenth century, a (western) European writer traveled in Russia and wrote of noblemen on trains with cranberry sprigs hanging from their seats, or something like that. Only cranberries grow in bogs, not sprigs, so it ("klyukva") became shorthand for pretentious, ignorant BS.

I wanted to get cranberries yesterday to put in my oatmeal, but mom insisted that we had some. I found some last night, but they'd gone off. Mom brought some in this morning, and they didn't look good. Our disagreement over whether the cranberries were still edible turned into a screaming fight, because that's what mom and I do. She doesn't believe in agreeing to disagree, so she continued to escalate, and I'm frustrated by mom's general food-buying and storage habits, so I continued to escalate as a proxy issue. And so we found ourselves screaming over cranberries.

Then we made up and hugged. My mom put her hands on my waist and commented on how much fat she could feel. So we're back.

New comment

Drawing your attention to a friend's comment on my anti-stroller-in-crowded-places rant.

We have a surprise ending

We are working out in the living room.

Mom: So, how are you going to support yourself, as a writer?
A.: Mom, we're done.
Mom: How are we done?
A.: We've had this conversation and we're done.
Mom: Oh. I must have missed your response the first time around.
A.: The response is, I don't know.

Mom: How are your relationships at work?

You'll recall that when I left my last job, mom assumed/insisted that it was because I couldn't get along with people and had alienated everyone.

A.: My relationships at work are fine.
Mom: Fine?
A.: Very good.
Mom: Have you told anyone about your plans.
A.: Absolutely. In fact, I've asked for recommendations.
Mom: And?
A.: And my friends/coworkers have encouraged me.
Mom: Whom, exactly, did you tell?
A.: What kind of question is that? You don't know any of my coworkers?
Mom: How are you going to support yourself? Is the stipend sufficient?
A.: I DON'T KNOW.
Mom: You could have said that calmly.
A.: I've said it calmly ten times. The only way to get through to you is to raise my voice. Otherwise, you don't listen. You only listen when I yell.
Mom: I just have to wonder about these things.
A.: Mom, I don't know. I don't know if I'll get in. I don't know if I'll go. I don't know if I'll be able to rent out my house, and if so, for how much. I don't know, I'm trying not to think about it until the admissions decision comes down, and I would appreciate it if you wouldn't keep bringing it up.

At that point, I interrupted my workout to blog. Mom came over as I was blogging and gave me a hug.

Mom: Why do you have to go do this full-time? Can't you come home from work and write?
A.: I do come home from work and write. It only makes me want to write better and write more. I don't know how I'm going to finance my life, but I know I don't want to go on doing what I'm doing for much longer, or any variation of it.

[Pause.]

Mom: When it comes down to it, this is all very unstandard and original, and I respect you tremendously for it.

Friday morning roundup

Art becomes life in this modern-day Stalinist experiment.

This kipple phenomenon very much describes my parents' house.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Mom blog analysis

I know I'm not handling my part of this best, either. I know, theoretically, that there's a high road, and that since my mother isn't getting any younger, isn't going to change, doesn't know how to be any way other than how she is. But there's something about the interactions themselves that blocks up the high road for men and always has.

It hit me earlier this evening that my mom and I are having the same personality clashes we've been having my whole life. Mom is an imposing presence; she doesn't read signals or listen to reason. I'm viscerally protective of my boundaries; if I sense that someone's crossing them, an almost-instinctive response takes over.

When I was little, I apparently got mad at my elderly grandmother and turned away from her, wouldn't talk to her. This hurt her and my mom later made me feel bad about it, as well she should have. I don't know whether I would have known better than anyway, but not that much has changed--when someone just doesn't listen (remember RM), I grow a shell and counter-attack. In some ways this is a good thing, but in other ways it's not.

So when mom stops me on my way to brushing my teeth and the conversation starts like this--

Mom: So, I was thinking, for tomorrow, we can start with the dollar store, and then go to that hair supply place on Moody Street, and then--
A.: Okay, let's have this conversation after I brush my teeth.
Mom: I don't know what time the hair place opens--
A.: In a minute, mom.
Mom: We can also go to Goodwill, and then--
A.: LATER, MOM!
Mom: What is wrong with you?
A.: What is wrong with me is that I have something stuck in my teeth and I need to floss it out before I lose my f*ing mind, and I can't think about anything else until I do!

Now, it is true that I technically have discretion over my response, since I'm sure that if the same situation happened at work, I would suffer through the conversation, without snapping. But truth be told, I work with few people who put me in that situation. I mean, I may find myself in such situations, but the added indignity of being held there because the other person doesn't care about what you're saying and just wants to keep talking, is rarely if ever a factor.

That's the long way of saying that my mom can bring out the worst in me and always has, and my worst--my reaction to her--then brings out more of her worst that then brings out more of my worst. I'm not trying to say I couldn't, shouldn't make a conscious effort to break the cycle. I'm just saying it's not easy because it's really f*ing annoying when someone just doesn't listen. But annoying isn't the point. It's that when someone doesn't listen it doesn't exactly inspire you to try harder; it inspires you to try to walk away.

But back to the other points I made earlier: mom isn't getting any younger, isn't going to change, and doesn't know how to be any other way. And she's my mother. So I am going to make an effort to manage my response.

Thursday dinner

Mom: Is it okay to swat flies?
A.: Are you asking me?
Mom: Yes.
A.: I would swat a fly, yes.
Mom: What about wolves?
A.: Huh?
Mom: Is it okay for wolves and bears to kill? They kill animals for food.
A.: Yes they do. That is what they do.
Mom: So?
A.: So?
Mom: Isn't that what we do?
A.: No. We don't hunt our own prey. We partake in a destructive, unfair, industrialized food system.
Mom: Whatever.

A few minutes later

Mom: What was that Belorussian expression? "All that goes in the mouth should be eaten?" [It's catchier in Russian; it even rhymes.]
Dad: Hold up. That expression was born of a very hungry time in the Soviet Union. It was an almost-propaganda-like slogan to get people to eat things they wouldn't have thought of eating. It's not quite applicable in this day and age and place.
A.: Thank you for that.

***

Mom: I think we have a [Russian layer cake] in the freezer. I was saving it for guests, but you count as a guest.
A.: Only I don't eat cakes with dairy in them.
Mom: Maybe it doesn't have dairy.
A.: I think it does.
Mom: Well, let's have it anyway.

***

Mom: Just think--decades from now, you'll look back on this moment and many others like it and think, I wish I'd tried that cake. You'll think about all the things you never tried.
A.: [Shrug.]

***

Mom: Writers know how to write. Nobody has to teach them how to write. Right?
Dad: Wrong. If someone has a message they want to convey to humanity, and need some guidance in conveying it, why not get that guidance?
Mom: How much do you owe on your house?
A.: Mom, we can have this conversation if/when I get in. I'm not interested in having it every five minutes for the next week.
Mom: I'm just sayin'.
A.: I know how much I owe on my house without your saying anything.

I've done it!

I found something to preoccupy my mother.

Her line of choice for relentless repetition is no longer "you've really put on weight!"

It's "I don't know of a single outstanding writer that had to actually study writing."

Occasionally, it's accompanied by, "those poor writers who had to figure it out before they had MFAs in writing! Whatever did they do?"

Do you wonder why I don't talk to my mother about anything personal unless I have to?

My dad is awesome

A.: Do we have chick peas?
Dad: Like, in a can?
A.: Sure.
Dad: I'll go look in the basement.
A.: I can go.
Dad: Oh, no--you wouldn't get through. Mom's Occupying Wall Street down there. She's practically built barricades.
A.: [laughs hysterically]
Mom: What's so funny?
Dad: Seriously. It's not passable.
A.: That's hilarious. [Laughs again.]
Mom: Wow, what an awful laugh you have. It's old-ladyish.

Making dinner

But first, another gem from Randall:
***

Mom: You burned them.
A.: I burned one. The others are just toasted.
Mom: Why do you even have to heat them up.
A.: Because they're crunchier and tastier that way.

Mom reaches across the (shallow and full) salad bowl in her bulky sweater to sample the toasted walnuts from the cutting board.

A.: Mom! Your sleeve is in the salad! Mom!
Mom: What? Why do you have to take that tone? You know, you're very brusque.

[Pause.]

Mom: Do you know that?
A.: No.

Late Thursday afternoon

We walked past a posted notice advertising a dog walker.

Mom: They make good money, you know.
A.: Maybe that'll be my income source once I'm a writer.
Mom: No good writer ever had to learn to write. It just flowed out of them.

I didn't say, "I can think of a large number of excellent writers who all got the degree I'm applying for, from the same place."

***
On the drive to the store and then home, mom started talking about what a badass she was when she was my age. She rode motorcycles, went sky- and SCUBA diving and skiing, etc. This turned into how she had to leave her first husband, who wasn't interested in doing much of anything. He's on his fourth wife now. All four were present for a recent birthday celebration of his. One gave a toast from "his wives."

***
Mom seems to have lost interest in the guy she wanted to set me up with. His mom invited us over for dinner but mom said "they live far away, and besides, we have too much food in the house." So that's that.

Thursday afternoon

A.: Okay, so the attempted withdrawal did bounce back.
Mom: What? Are you out of money?
A.: What? No.
Mom: Then what happened?
A.: Just hold on. I need to call both banks again.
Mom: Do you need money?
A.: No. It's not a money issue, it's a money transfer issue.
Mom: Why are your checks bouncing?
A.: Mom! Can you let me deal with this, please?

***
Just before I came to the computer--to blog--we had a small lunch. I would not have come to blog about it had it merely been a case of mom talking about feta pretty much the whole time, although I will now report on that. It was where else the conversation led.

Mom: Would you like some Bulgarian feta?
A.: No, I would not.
Mom: No feta?
A.: I. don't. eat. cheese.
Mom: Not even feta?
A.: No.
Mom: It's so healthy. It's the healthiest thing there is.
A.: [Shrug.]

[Pause]

Mom: This feta is amazing. Dad will like it for sure. What would you do with the sheep? You have to keep the sheep alive if you're going to milk them.
A.: But you end up killing the babies you had them have so you could milk them.
Mom: What? When you were a baby, we took you next door in Palyasha and the neighbor gave us fresh goat milk. She didn't kill her sheep.
A.: That's a little different from the cheese you buy commercially.
Mom: Well, maybe sometimes animals need to be killed. I think sometimes people need to be killed. There are much too many of us, and the planet can't take it.

[Pause]

Mom: Mmmm. This feta is good.

[Pause]

Mom: What else don't you eat? Is flour okay?
A.: Is flour an animal product?
Mom: Not brie, either?
A.: No cheese.

[Pause]

Mom: This is truly quality feta.

Mild afternoon update

So mom keeps suggesting we go for a walk, and then keeps doing other stuff, like calling the friend whose son she wants to set me up with. Oh, she just got off the phone with her.

Anyway, while she was on the phone I caught up on HuffPo. Someone doesn't have a sense of humor. For the record, most women I know do not find sweatpants sexy on men. I mean, I suppose it's possible, but not outside the house.

So I got bored with HuffPo and started looking for vegan recipes (what? I had lots of time at the airport this morning to read the New Yorker. I need brain candy, too.) But it turned into another source of frustration. Wasn't it just a week ago that I complained about people writing about pierogies in the plural? It's pierogi, people. That is plural.

Also: here are two videos, one a hilarious one from Jay and one, the cutest thing ever.

Again???

The internet can bring out the idiotic in people, as it did out of this same blogger yesterday, but today she points out some truly inane comments. Really, people? You think breastfeeding is about exhibitionism? F*ing really? I could start into a rant about how many men seem to believe that any level of skin exposure is about them and not, say, the temperature or convenience, but whatever. I'm not going to argue with people stupid enough to suggest that breastfeeding women are there to show off.

Not as bad as I thought

I told mom I was considering an MFA in creative writing. It had to happen (I had to tell her), and it came up when she asked me if I was going to refinance. Her reaction was better than I thought it would be. At first.

Mom: What? What made you even think about that?
A.: You can thank your Tea Party buddies. I had to wonder about my job security--
Mom: They're absolutely right. Too many do-nothing, overstuffed bureaucrats out there.
A.: Like me?
Mom: Well, no, but...
A.: Anyway, I had to think about what else I might do. And the MFA came to mind.
Mom: How are you going to support yourself?
A.: That's an excellent question.
Mom: Writers don't get paid well.
A.: I know that, mom.
Mom: You could get married.
A.: Huh?
Mom: That's what Lyena did. She hated her job, so she quit to go study from the best voice teachers.

I would have made a snide comment about how I didn't have any millionaire gentlemen callers lined up, but then mom would have reminded me that she did.

A.: Yeah, not really interested in the 'kept' thing. [Not that that's what Lyena's doing.] Look, I am well aware of the financial implications. I don't need your help to keep those in mind.

A few minutes elapsed.

Mom: Look at that bookshelf. Look at all that literature. Now, think about those writers. You think any of them have an MFA? The writing just flowed out of them.

Have we mentioned that mom doesn't write?

Later Thursday morning

I had enough drama to relate earlier this morning that I didn't feel the need to mention the "what do you mean you don't eat dairy" conversations we've already had this morning.

Mom: What do you mean you don't eat dairy?
A.: You know I don't eat dairy. I've been here three times since I stopped eating dairy.

Mom decides that this is a great reason to sort through the fridge, citing the things I can't eat.

Mom: What does that mean? No cheese?
A.: No.
Mom: So, no feta?
A.: No.
Fridge: BEEP BEEP BEEP!
Mom: No brie??
A.: No.
Mom: Huh!
Fridge: BEEP BEEP BEEP!
A.: Mom, close the fridge!
Mom: No queso blanco?
A. Nope.
Fridge: BEEP BEEP BEEP!
A.: Mom!
Mom: What is your problem?

Mom continues to hold the fridge open and ponder all of the things that I won't eat. The fridge continues to beep.

That was earlier this morning. Just now, mom called me into the living room to listen to Dr. Oz.

Mom: He's talking about the best kind of olive oil!
A.: I already have an olive oil.

The TV is really loud.

A.: Mom, I can't take the noise. I'm leaving.
Mom: Listen to me... [mom talks]
A.: Mom, I can't hear you over the TV. It's you or him.

Mom mutes the TV.

Mom: I am 76 years old? Is that right? Yes, 76. All of my indicators came out excellent, and I eat whatever I want. I eat everything. I eat things I pick up off the floor. And all my indicators are excellent. I mean, except cholesterol. What I'm saying is, you're trying too hard.
A.: I'm not trying hard at all.
Mom: Sure you are.

That's when I left to go blog some more.

Wait for it...

At exactly 9:33, as I type the post that will show up subsequent to this one...

Mom: You really have gained weight, my dear!

Thursday morning

Last night

A.: I'm thinking of bringing my laptop--I have some work I'd like to do that I need the software on my laptop for...

Mom: Why don't you just use our computer?

A.: Because I need the software on my laptop. Anyway, the thing is, my laptop doesn't function as a laptop--the screen is broken so I have to connect it to an external monitor. So, do you have an extra monitor lying around that I could use, and is your wireless completely up and running?

[A few years ago, mom had assured me that the wireless was indeed up and running, but it wasn't, as we found out after I'd already brought my laptop.]

Mom: What? I thought you had a laptop?

A.: I do have a laptop. The screen is broken. I have to hook it up to a monitor.

Mom: A monitor?

A.: Like the ones you have your computers hooked up to. Could I maybe use dad's while he's at work? Or do you have an extra one around the house?

Mom: I don't know. We'll see.

A.: Well, could you find out? I don't want to lug my laptop if I can't use it.

Mom: Meh.

A.: Could you also get the wireless info ready--find your password--so I can use it?

Mom: Meh.

Do y'all remember many years ago, when I asked mom to find out what time a family friend was getting married in New York? We were all going to the wedding. If it was on Saturday night, I'd come up Saturday morning. If it were Saturday afternoon, I'd take Friday off and come up then. She told me it was Saturday afternoon. I took Friday off, spent the afternoon and evening in our cousins' smoky apartment in Brighton Beach. Listening to super-loud Russian TV. The wedding turned out to be on Saturday night, 8pm. It's that Mom can't be bothered to check on things like that before giving an answer.

***
I'm three for three in the last two weeks for just-in-time arrivals to the gate area. I nearly missed my flight back from Phoenix--it was one thing after another that culminated in my running up to the gate ten minutes before departure and wiping out in front of the whole gate area, stuff flying out of my messenger bag. But I made it.

This morning, I was already running not-too-on-time, and several blocks out, I realized I'd forgotten my cord and power supply. I was already lugging the laptop; may as well go back. Got the cord, went back out, was greeted by a just-in-time metro train. I'd factored in some time for the trek to Terminal A, but not enough time. The historic terminal is closed, so the walk was even longer than usual. And the security line was long. And people (other passengers) were not being efficient. But I made it.

I think I subconsciously cut it close because I don't love spending time in airports, and I subconsciously figured I'd be spending time in Logan upon arrival. You may recall that my parents (well, my mother) won't leave the house until I've called from the tarmac once we've landed. God forbid she gets there early and has to circle or wait in the waiting area! She won't even split the difference... in fact, she won't even think about getting ready to leave the house until after I've called. She knows I don't check luggage. She knows flights often get in early. She knows it can be very cold in Boston in December, even though this morning, it wasn't.

Now, you may be thinking I have a sense of entitlement and that I should get my lazy ass on the T, but come on. My parents live a 20-minute drive from the airport, and why am I here flying to Boston, anyway? I'm coming to see them. Is it too much to ask that they come get me at the airport and that they at least try to meet me half-way in terms of wait time? At least, to their credit, they remembered the date and approximate time of my arrival. To her credit, I should say. Dad is pretty good at keeping track of these things.

Anyway, I called upon landing, at 7:30.

Mom: What? You're already there?
A.: [Sigh]
Mom: Alright, I guess we'll come get you.

I called again 25 minutes later to ask if they were close, if I should go outside.

Dad: We're just leaving now.
A.: [Sigh]

They called 15 minutes after that.

Mom: Traffic's just awful. It's going to be a while, so if you have any business to do, this is a good time to do it.
A.: Thanks, but I'm all set.
Mom: Are you sure?
A.: Yes, I'm sure.
Mom: Well, then go outside now.
A.: But you said you weren't even close.
Mom: So? You never know if we'll lose signal closer to the airport. Better go outside now.
A.: Can you estimate how far you are?
Mom: What's your problem? It's nice out?
A.: It's not freezing, but I wouldn't say nice.
Mom: Just go outside. Oh. Dad says 10 minutes.
A.: Fine. I'll come outside in 10 minutes.

***
They found me at the airport. Dad went to work, mom and I had tea. I hooked up my laptop to one of the monitors in the house. I asked mom for her wireless passcode.

Mom: I have no idea?
A.: Do you have it written down somewhere?
Mom: I suppose. Dad likes to write these things down.

Mom brings the notebook with the passwords. I'm able to connect. I check my credit card bill and yell, "WHAT??"

Mom: What happened?
A.: I'll tell you in a minute. I need to fix this.
Mom: What? What happened?
A.: I'll tell you in a minute.
Mom: What's happening?
A.: MOM! I NEED TO FIX THIS!

[Pause]

Mom: What happened?

***
What happened is that I have the least user-friendly credit card on the face of the earth. A couple of months ago, I'd set up auto-pay, whereby my bill is automatically paid from my bank account on the due date. Nobody told me that it would take a month for this to go into effect, so when I saw that my bill was unpaid, I called the card company. Customer Service assured me everything was fine, said the payment had gone through. The following week, I saw on my next statement that it hadn't gone through and that I'd been assessed a finance charge. I called again, was told that everything was fine; the finance charge was refunded. So I thought that everything was fine, until my credit card was rejected at Tastee Diner in Bethesda. Do you know how interesting it is to have one's card declined, not once, but twice, not at Gucci, but at Tastee Diner?

I called the company again. They informed me that the card was indeed declined because I was delinquent on a payment, because the autopay doesn't take effect for a month. Not to worry, they said; it happens all the time. I said I'd pay my bill immediately and asked whether, when the payment is drafted next time around, whether they would draft the full statement amount (including the amount of the last statement, which I'd pay) or the amount minus. Amount minus, they assured me.

Well, they drafted the full f*ing amount. And guess what: I didn't have those extra funds in my checking account. F*ckers. So that's why I yelled, and mom started asking me questions, and I told her to hold off until I'd moved money into that account.

So I moved funds into that account, hoping the payment wouldn't bounce and lead to fees from both financial institutions (it would be the credit card company's fault, but it's not like they're going to refund the bank fee). F*ckers.

I call the credit card company. I deliberately call them from where my mom is not and explain the situation to customer service. Mom sits down in the same room, starts sorting through things, and mumbles to herself. I ask her to be quiet. She then starts chewing loudly. I'm done with the credit card company and go to the other room to call the bank. Mom comes into the room.

Mom: Oh, my! We're missing Dr. Oz!
A.: Mom, I'm on the phone!

Mom stands there, sorts through things while I finish with the bank. I hang up the phone.

Mom: You've gained a lot of weight, from this vegetarian diet of yours.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Wednesday evening roundup

What? Almost 80 percent of the public doesn't approve of women wearing shorts?

I think the writers for the Post's "On Parenting" blog are on crack. They go out of their way to defend people who open unpaid-for goods in supermarkets, while slamming philanthropists. There is so much that's wrong with this woman's argument, but I don't need to get into it because the commenters already did.

Oh, Whole Foods. You're funny.


Really, Atlantic?? FYI, if you feel the need to comment on that article, note that I haven't read it, because I have better things to read about than trends in pubic hair.
***
Do you guys know what tomorrow is? Hint: I have reason to believe that there will be a lot of blogging for the next eleven days.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday morning roundup

The Syrian opposition, inadvertently honoring the late, great Vaclav Havel, is embracing resistance through art.

Let's not tackle procedural pests by burning down the Constitution.

How cool is bioluminescence?

Letters from Strip Clubs is an interesting project, but I don't care for its creator's feminist-bashing in this interview. Who? Who is this monolithic cult that decides what is and isn't right for women? And don't tell me it's not about power, when one of the guys writes that it's revenge for all the attractive women who wouldn't talk to them. How does that not translate into leveraging one's financial power against people who don't have it, to have them do something potentially gross? Even EMK's dismissive-if-spot-on take betrays that reality:
But for the average guy who goes to a strip club once a year for a bachelor party, it’s just a meaningless diversion that combines all of a man’s greatest pleasures: booze, boobs, and his buddies. We get to gawk and point and laugh and drink and bond with our friends before reality sets in and we go home a few hundred dollars lighter…
So where does that leave the women being gawked and pointed and laughed at? I can agree with Ms. Breslin: some women love that, are born to do it. But I imagine it's degrading for a bunch of them (and Ms. Breslin acknowledges that), and if I were a guy, I would get little joy out of gawking and laughing at them.

While we're on the topic of nudity, Wired provides an argument for minimizing bras. The article is about so much more, but, yes, ladies, men do tend to take us less seriously based on our mammaries.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday morning roundup: freedom edition

The world has lost Vaclav Havel, but we have his life's work to keep.

The NYPD's penchant for racial profiling has made the community into a police state for some.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Saturday morning roundup

Permafrost is in danger of melting, with catastrophic consequences. That said, I could have done without the frozen-broccoli analogy. Can't say that was helpful. In other potentially catastrophic climate news: it's decision time on the Keystone Pipeline, and there's a lot at stake.

Willie Nelson says Occupy the food system.

Gail Collins on the state of reproductive rights.

Look, you know that I don't think motherhood entitles you to take over the world. I recently got into an argument with a woman whose giant stroller was blocking a congested, narrow passageway inside a holiday market. Do I think she's entitled to take her kid anywhere, just because she feels like it? That's the wrong question... she may be technically entitled, but it's pretty f*ing inconsiderate, and she's not beyond snarky commentary just because she's given birth. But I digress. My point is, I will give clueless parents crap for letting their kids run wild in supermarkets and restaurants; I'll give them crap for parking their strollers in crowded places; I'll give them crap for not even trying to calm down their screaming babies on planes. Now that we've established my anti-entitled-parent cred, let me tell you what all mothers are entitled to do: feed their child without being asked to relocate. Why the hell do the errant security guards think these moms are (somewhat) exposing their breasts? Because they feel like it? Because they're bored? WTF?

Nathan Englander's awesome fiction piece in the New Yorker.

Speaking of awesome, Loudon County's holiday display features some pastafarian flare this year.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday morning roundup

Look, I understand that this is supposed to be a poignant article about the future of Loko, so maybe picking at the translations isn't the most appropriate thing to do, but mistranslations bother me too much to let them go. And for some reason, Americans mangle any variation of the Russian "pirog," which simply means cake. You do not eat a "pirogi," because "pirogi" is plural. "Piroshki"--plural of "piroshok," little cake--simply means "little cakes." It does not mean "meat pies." Are there no native speakers in the Times Moscow Bureau that could help them out with this stuff?

On a lighter note: Gail Collins on, among other things, what the campaign's foreign policy rhetoric has come to.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Wednesday morning roundup

Time chooses well for its Person of the Year.

When U.S. citizens get snared in immigration enforcement measures, the system's abuses and inefficiencies are exposed.

Y'all know I often roll my eyes at Tom Friedman, but when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict--specifically, the perspective of American Jews therein--he does speak for me.

Is this the best the Times can do in covering the social implications of a closing gender gap? On a side note: I'd never thought to think about, much less worry about, what (the appearance of) my credit card said about me.

Speaking of changing gender dynamics, here are one study's findings on what makes for happily married parents.

Get these buzzwords off your resume.

In honor of the $5 bottle of--I $hit you not--"artisan" water in my hotel room, I give you Lewis Black:

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Phone call (from Sunday afternoon)

Mom: Do you have a minute?
A.: Yeah.
Mom: So, we went to see a live telecast of the Metropolitan Opera. You don't have that, right? Anyway, it was Goethe's "Faust." I didn't care for the production, but the music was phenomenal, so it's probably worth seeing if you have the chance.
A.: Thanks, I'll keep an eye out for it.
Mom: You should really read the book. We used to have an excellent translation, I'll look for it or see if I can acquire another one.
A.: That's alright--I'm sure I can find a copy in English.
Mom: No, you should read this translation.
A.: It's a German book. I don't need to read it in Russian.
Mom: Why not read it in Russian? Would it hurt to read it in Russian?
A.: I would get more out of it if I read it in English.
Mom: But this is an excellent translation, and I have to tell you, translation counts for a lot. Believe me.
A.: I know that translation counts for a lot.
Mom: Why do you have to take on that tone? Why can't you just say things?
A.: I'm not reading a Russian translation of "Faust."
Mom: Why not try it.
A.: Is said no, mom.
Mom: Why do you have to be so rude?
A.: Because you don't understand polite. The only time you actually register what I'm saying is when I finally take on a tone. The rest of the time you just keep arguing with me.
Mom: That's no reason to take a tone.
A.: Fine.
Mom: Have you considered getting a small backup generator?
A.: No.
Mom: They're very handy. I was trying to convince your father that we needed one. You should also keep your eye out for one. They go on sale.
A.: Okay.

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