Friday, December 31, 2010

Everyone's fat

A.: I just got off the phone with Nina. Here's the plan: we show up at her parents' place tomorrow, late morning. She and I go for a walk around the pond. You (and her parents) are welcome to join us, or do you own thing.
Mom: Well, maybe you just don't need to see Nina.
A.: Of course I need to see Nina. What is the issue?
Mom: Isn't today better?
Dad: Today is not better. We have banks to stop at and phone calls to make.
Mom: I just have no desire to go over there.
A.: Why not?
Mom: Look at you--you've gotten so fat!
A.: Could we maybe focus on making these plans?
Mom: Seriously--you've gotten fat!
A.: Okay, please back off and answer the question about tomorrow.
Dad: She's always on my back about being fat, too.
Mom: Of course! Of course you run to her defense!
Dad: What, do you not hound me about being fat? How is pointing that out, running to her defense?
Mom: You should stay out of this!
Dad: Stay out of what?
A.: Does anybody object for the plan for tomorrow? If so, call Nina's parents and make other arrangements.

Spoke too soon

Dad and I are making breakfast. We hear the vacuum cleaner in the next room, and then, mom comes in and starts sweeping. I go wash an apple to put in our oatmeal.

Mom: A.! Watch out! You stepped in the dirt pile.
A.: Mom, we're making breakfast. Which requires moving around the kitchen.
Mom: Well, you should have cleaned first, then started on breakfast. Don't you see all the dirt?
A.: No.
Mom: Well, you should have looked.
Dad: We're going to make a mess anyway. Let's just clean after breakfast.
Mom: What mess? No, I have to clean now. A.! You did it again!
A.: I'm not maneuvering around dust piles right now, mom.
Mom: Grrrrrrrrrr!!! Unbelievable!

Mom storms away.

Oh, and last night, mom hugged me good night, and insisted on pinching my apparently fat back (and making an appraising face in response).

Thursday, December 30, 2010

In all fairness...

I commented on this matter to dad this morning and to my friends just this evening when they asked about the week with mom: mom has gotten better.

What I mean is, mom definitely says a lot of things that are unnecessary and mildly irritating, but she's not been nasty. This has not always been the case. Three years ago, she made me wish that I'd driven so I could have driven home. I actually called the airline to see if they could have put me on an earlier flight, change fee and all.

Mom hasn't thrown her signature morning fit. She hasn't gone ape$hit over spilled milk (or, more literally, over parsley that she perceived to be left out overnight, even though I'd just taken it out because I was about to use it)--point being, she used to do that: she used to throw fits over minor things. She came close, over my not having 'shut up' her computer before leaving, but she let it go relatively fast.

She hasn't even lectured me about being cold, and that she did as recently as Labor Day weekend. I mean, do you remember when she visited a year and a half ago? And when I was here for the holidays three years ago? Remember when she threw a piece of feta at my father because he asked her not to yell at me when I wouldn't agree with her disbelief in the theory of evolution?

So she hasn't missed an opportunity to mention that I've put on weight. And she continues to ask me whether I'd eat some vegetable or another, after I made it clear, repeatedly, that I generally *eat vegetables.* This is all workable. It doesn't even bother me (in part because it's fodder for the blog). It's just quirky.

I'm actually amazed, in a good way, that we've gone almost a week without a screaming fight. Usually it's a matter of days. It's actually pretty awesome.

This is why I hate the suburbs

A.: Watch the pan, please? I'm going to look for my CharlieCard.
Mom: We'll drive you.
A.: I'll at least take the T back.
Mom: We can pick you up...
A.: Or just let me borrow the car.
Mom: No! Where are you going to park, especially with so much snow?
A.: Good point. Anyway, it's not a problem to T back.
Mom: We're going to have to pick you up anyway, may as well drive for five more minutes than you waiting for the train and then taking another half-hour to get to the T stop.
A.: Can I at least T back to Cleveland Circle?
Mom: Why? What's the point?
A.: Save you having to drive down Beacon.
Mom: Whatever. There's nowhere to pull over by Cleveland Circle, anyway.
A.: I really can just T back...
Mom: We can just pick you up.

This is all very nice of my parents, but it's a reminder of how annoying it is to not live near a T stop. When I lived in Boston, I lived right on the T. Getting around wasn't an issue.

We actually drove by Cleveland Circle on the way to the hospital the other day. It looked like Circle Cinema had closed. That place was a local institution. As a child, we'd go to birthday parties at the Ground Round next door (long since replaced by a chain of other stakehouses and such) and then go see a movie. As a teenager, we'd very often go to Circle--I have many memories of seeing movies there, including one that stands out especially. It was the day before Thanksgiving, so school got out early--and it was also the first snow of the season. What did we go see--was it Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein"? Anyway, it's too bad that place has closed.

Cutest video ever?

Dad joins the food fights, as an antagonist

A.: What is that crap on the artichokes??
Dad: What?
A.: Is that... salsa?
Dad: Oh, yeah. I think it's an improvement.
A.: Well maybe you could improve whatever's on your own plate, and not the artichokes that are out for everyone.
Mom: Do you have to be so rude?
A.: Does dad have to destroy my food?
Mom: You're such a purist. It all started when we drove her where we shouldn't have, and now we'll have to listen to this hippie crap for the rest of our lives.

Mom is, of course, alluding to the environmental conference to which she drove me, after which I quit eating meat. Not really relevant, since--although I don't recall the details--I don't think they ever talked about artichokes or salsa. What would be more accurate would be to complain about having let me study in France and (French) Switzerland, where I learned to cook and really like food. And where I learned that food isn't about mixing together all the crap that you can find and overwhelming the flavors of individual ingredients; it's about using ingredients that speak for themselves. But as far as Russians are concerned, if it's not overwhelming, it's bland. Not that my dad doesn't have a refined palette; he did, after all, cook himself a couple of hot dogs for dinner.

A.: WHY IS THERE DILL ON THE TOP OF THE SALAD?? I already put dill in the salad!
Dad: There was extra from the dill you cut up for soup. Why?
A.: Because the salad doesn't need more dill. That's why.
Dad: You can never have too much dill.
A.: [Lotus. Flower.]

Not. Rocket. Science.

Mom: So you won't eat cheese, either.
A.: We've discussed this, mom.
Mom: What's wrong with cheese. They ruminate, graze.
A.: Rarely.
Mom: But there are those that do, right?
A.: Right.

This morning
Mom: So you'll eat apples?

A post you can all identify with

Celebrating the holidays with family means different things to different people, but there are some common threads for everyone. While you--at least the non-Jews among you--didn't mark the holidays with being told, at every possible opportunity, that you've put on weight, chances are you did mark the holidays by helping your parents out of whatever computer messes they'd gotten themselves into.

From the moment I arrived, mom started going on about all the things we'd need to do with the computer(s).

A.: What do you want to start with?
Mom: Everything!
A.: Okay, but we have to start somewhere. Pick something.
Mom: Let's install Windows 7.
A.: Okay. Where's the CD?

Mom spent hours looking for the CD and still hasn't found it.

A.: Do you know if mom's found the Windows 7 CD?
Dad: I have no idea. She tends to use CDs as coasters--she puts them under plants-- so there are CDs all over the house. It's hard to tell which ones are actually useful.
A.: [Sigh]

Mom: Okay, let's call Bill Me Later.
A.: You don't need to call them. Just go online...
Mom: I want to call!
A.: Then you call.
Mom: You call!
A.: I will go online. If you want to call, you can call.
Mom: Those jerks! They didn't tell me there was an annual fee.
A.: There is no annual fee.
Mom: Then what's that?
A.: APR. You only have to pay it if you carry a balance.
Mom: I'm not sure about that.
A.: I am.
Mom: I don't want it!
A.: Then why did you sign up for it?
Mom: They told me it was more secure and efficient.
A.: Well, then.
Mom: They didn't tell me there was a fee.
A.: There is no fee.
Mom: Well, I still don't want it.
A.: Fine.

A.: You've already use it--you have a balance. You'll need to pay it off before I can cancel the service.
Mom: Then pay it.
A.: Can I have your checkbook?
Mom: No, I'll do it online.
A.: Right, but I need your routing and account numbers.
Mom: No, I want to do it through my bank. I don't want to give them my account number.
A.: Then do it through your bank.
Mom: Where's the statement?
A.: Online.
Mom: Grrrrr.
A.: What?
Mom: That's it. Let's call them.
A.: You call them. We can figure this out online.
Mom: I want to call them!
A.: Then call them.

So many meaningless superlatives

Just now

Mom: Cod is the healthiest fish. I read that somewhere.

Ten minutes ago

Mom: What's in my oatmeal? Walnuts?
A.: Almonds.
Mom: Almonds are the healthiest nut. Edgar Casey says so.

Several times over the last week or so

Mom: Beans are the healthiest plant food. Dr. Oz says that all the time.

I don't believe in the 'Eat This, Not That' approach to nutrition. I mean, if you eat out a lot or eat fast food, sure. If you eat real food, just eat real food.

The has been my response to mom, in the past. I've lately given up, since she's not listening. But here's what I've said before:

Every nut is healthy in a different way. There's no sense in declaring that almonds are healthier than walnuts. That is a meaningless statement. If you're after Omega 3s, choose walnuts; if you're after the highest proportion of protein to fat, choose pistachios. Almonds are close after. Various nuts have various healthy properties. Mix it up according to your taste, but let go of the idea that one is better than another.

Beans are healthy. They're high in protein, and it irks me to no end when fitness/nutrition advisors say that their protein isn't as good or that they're not a good source because they also come with carbs. Who the f* cares?

But there's no sense in saying they're 'the healthiest plant food.' You need a wide range of plant foods. Sure, black beans and cacao beans are highest in antioxidants, but if you're eating real food, there is no need to chase after antioxidants: they come with your food. Really. Put down the acai drinks laden with added sugar, and eat food.

I made the oatmeal while mom went upstairs for a quick shower. She came down half an hour later--probably watered some plants along the way--at which point I ladled the oatmeal. She got some cream out of the fridge and poured it on.

Mom: The oatmeal's cold.
A.: Take a walk around the block, and then put some ice in it. See what happens.

Thursday morning roundup

Tension behind the China-India niceties. Pakistan's disappearances problem is still bad.

Ivory Coast is a crisis and/or opportunity for Ecowas and the international community.

Celebrate New Year's with the historically significant black-eyed pea.

Chinese-speaker Nicholas Kristof says, 'learn Spanish first.'

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Making dinner (Wednesday)

Mom, matter-of-factly: And how do you feel about celery?
A.: What?
Mom: Did your research turn up anything about celery?
A.: ??
Mom: Is it healthy? Unhealthy? Anything odd about it?
A.: I didn't research celery.
Mom: But you'll eat celery.
A.: I will eat celery.
Mom: At least we have that.

A.: Does anyone else want 'yachmyen' [barley]?
Dad: Can we please keep calling it "pearlovka"
A.: As long as you understand that the barley in question isn't actually pearled.
Dad: [rolls eyes]

I just realized we're all nuts, including me

I walked in--I'd gone to see my friend and her baby--just as a family friend had popped in to share in mom's mushroom collection.

Mom: She's driving me up the wall with her whole grains. Do you know how much I've heard about barley?
L.: What barley?
A.: I'll show you. Mom, where did you put the barley?
Mom: It's insanity. One thing I'll say though is that her skin is amazing.
L.: It is.
A.: Then let's stop making a fuss of the lack of dairy.
L.: How do you know it's lack of dairy, rather than the barley?
A.: I suspect it's a combination of both, but the lack of dairy has been the constant. When I traveled for work--or even here (who am I to turn down dolma)--I've let go as needed on the whole grains--albeit not on the added sugar--but I haven't had dairy except a trace amount on the business trip.
L.: How do you get enough protein?
A.: Whole grains, seeds--do you know that pumpkin seeds have 8-10 grams of protein per serving? Hulled barley had 7 or so.
L.: I think I need to get going--I'm having trouble taking in so much practical information.
Dad: How's M.?
A.: Good. Baby's good.
Mom: She had us go to the hospital in the snow storm. Of course, we had to get birdfeed. But she bought $200 worth of seeds--all sorts of vegetables.
A.: $30.
Mom: She'll need acres.
A.: I have containers.
Mom: We've a houseful of roasted vegetables. It's insane.
A.: Oooh, want to try some kabocha? Take some home for Maya, too.
Mom: Oooh--let me show you the pressure cooker. And let me show you how well the beets turned out in it. Where'd I put the beets?
A.: I put them in my fridge. But do tell me where you put the hulled barley and the oats.
Mom: Where are the beets?

Once I've packaged some kabocha for L., I find the beets. And start snacking on one.

Dad: Um, we have a visitor.

In the living room, there's a spider hanging from its own thread.

Dad: I hope it's not a black widow or something.

A.: Ooh! I'm going to take a picture. There's a pet setting on my new camera.

I was struggling to get to the pet setting with one hand.

A.: Here, hold my beet.
Dad: [Sigh] Finish your beet and then take the picture.

I stuck the beet in my mouth--must have looked like a suckling pig--and proceeded to photograph the spider.

Mom: Someone should be taking a picture of you.

I hand the camera to dad and instruct him to continue to document the spider's exploits. I continue to snack on the beet.

L. takes off. I feel no guilt blogging rather than getting ready for our walk, because I know that it will take at least this long for my parents, who are "ready," to get their act together. I'm about right, but now it's time to get ready. Ciao for now.

Fridge space

A few days ago, mom insisted on cooking a bunch of beets in order to demonstrate the wonders of her new pressure cooker (she got me one, too). Since then, I've been suggesting that we move the beets to the fridge, but she's insisted that they're fine because it's pretty cool in the house. She's also complained about the proliferation of pots on the stove since we've had to make two dinners (we've always "had to" make two dinners, for as long as I can remember). Also, we've regularly had a variation on the following discussion:

Mom: So, no mayo?
A.: No.
Mom: So, you won't have a beet salad with mayo and walnuts.
A.: I never have. I just like my beets plain or with a little bit of lemon.
Mom: But it's so good.
A.: Just not to my taste. You can't taste the beet if it's slathered in mayo.
Mom: So, when are you going to have the beets?
A.: Do I have to eat them all at once?
Mom: Are you going to have them at all?
A.: I had one this morning.
Mom: What, whole? Plain?
A.: Yup. Perfect post-workout recovery snack.

A few hours later

Mom: Don't forget about the beets! Do you remember that we made beets?

Later yesterday, putting away the groceries

A.: Why did you get more beets?
Mom: You can never have enough beets.

An hour later

Mom: Don't forget about the beets.

This morning

Mom: A.! I told you to put away the beets! They're going to go bad! How could you forget about the beets.
A.: No, you keep asking me when I'm going to consume the beets. You never asked me to put them away.
Mom: Yes I did!
Dad: Does it matter? How hard is it to put away the beets?
A.: I'm putting them away as we speak. I just didn't know that was the agreed-upon decision for the beets. [Sigh as I make sense of the fridge] I'm setting these olives out.
Mom: Is it true that green olives are healthier than black olives?
A.: I have no idea. I doubt it.
Mom: Maybe I read that somewhere.
A.: [Shrug]

Dad: Is this birdfeed?
A.: What?
Dad: Whatever this porridge is in the glass pot.
A.: No! That's my barley!
Dad: What is it doing here?
A.: Mom must have taken it out of the fridge.
Mom: No room in the fridge! It'll be fine out there.
Dad: You know this is where we keep the compost and scraps for the birds. I almost put the coffee grinds on top.
A.: Grrrr.
Mom: You and that barley.

I've been preaching the virtues of hulled (rather than pearled) barley. Yesterday I got both parents to concede that it was tastier and of a better texture. So, yes, I know that I, too, can be tiresome. But you know that.

Five minutes ago

Mom: Beets are amazing. They keep forever and don't go bad.

Wednesday morning roundup

An activist in China is killed, but to that country's citizens' credit, people are furious. Meanwhile, another activist is freed from prison.

The Times would do well to mention that in much of the rest of the world, doubling up is the standard, not the last-recourse-in-tough-times. I'm not suggesting that's good, or bad, or that that family's situation doesn't suck, but I am making the point that it's a luxury to expect to not live with one's extended family.

Virginia schools are using error-laden history books.

There's hope for the Chesapeake but don't let the farms and developers off the hook yet.

Just as some phenomena are f*ed up enough that I sometimes find myself siding with McDonald's, to my surprise, I also find myself siding with a homeowner's association. As for liking communities that ensure homeowners keep their yards free of junk: there's only so much you can do when everyone around you litters and, speaking of the devil, there's a McDonald's two blocks away. I do my best to keep up with the crap that blows into my yard--at least half of which is McDonald's packaging--but I'm glad there's no "community" to big-brother my battle against the area's litter.

On a quasi-related note, DC area housing prices are going strong.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mom blog reader's guide

The other day, I presented three complementary angles through which to appreciate the mom blog:

(1) Regardless of my actual weight and shape, mom's regularly pointing out that I have gained weight neither helps nor makes me feel good.
(2) Regularly pointing out that I have gained weight is somewhat absurd given that I'm not overweight (or close to it).
(3) It is also somewhat absurd, given that mom is clearly preoccupied with my perceived weight gain, that while mom encourages me to put sour cream in my soup and cream in my oatmeal, she vocalizes opposition when I opt to eat more soup (sans sour cream) or salad.

Does anyone else think that that's hilarious?


Mom was washing the dishes, with a trickle of water.

A.: That has got to be the most inefficient dish-washing I've ever witnessed.
Dad: You're so unromantic. It's not about efficiency: it's really about taking the time to enjoy the process.
Mom: Ha ha. You're very witty.
A.: Mom actually let me do the dishes earlier today.
Dad: Did she stand over your shoulder and provide a running commentary?
A.: Of course. She said several times I was using so much water.
Dad: There was a writer, Turgenev... do you know his first name?
A.: Ivan.
Dad: [speechless for a moment] Impressive. Anyway, he wrote a very tragic story...
A.: I believe he wrote many.
Dad: Hi story "Mu-mu" [quite possibly the most f*ing depressing story ever] is at the root of the expression "muchyet mu-mu" ["to torture mu-mu," which is commonly used to describe a tortured process]. Anyway, it would most appropriate to apply that expression to the way your mom washes the dishes.

I also impressed Mom this morning, after she insisted that we check whether I'm smarter than a fifth-grader (I was). That established, she suggested that I go on the show to make a dent in my mortgage.

Tuesday dinner

A.: Would anyone like more salad?
Dad: Nope. It's all yours.
Mom: Ha! [To me] You've already put on weight, my dear, and you have no idea how fattening vegetables can be.

Just in case I hadn't heard earlier...

Mom: You've definitely put on weight.

One gets fat

Mom: The problem with your diet, is that from that kind of thing, one gets fat.


Mom: Do you hear me?
A.: Yes.

It was a late morning for me and an early one for mom--she's sleepy but felt like getting up--which put me in the living room, lifting weights, at the same time that she was in the living room, sorting through her papers and stuff.

Mom: You know, you really have started to put on weight.


Mom: Your exercises are too muscle-oriented. You should take care of your bones.
A.: Weight-baring exercise is very good for one's bones.
Mom: You used to do yoga.
A.: I still do yoga.
Mom: I'm just saying.

Mom: Did you put anything on your face?
A.: No. Why?
Mom: It looks really good. One might even say 'porcelain.'

Okay, my skin doesn't look that good, but I'm trying to leverage mom's admiration for it so that she quits harping on my "diet."

Tuesday morning roundup

Perspectives on Muslim women, from India to right here.

In Russia, over-the-top partying is back, which should surprise you as much as the latest political trial.

On that note: exploring international understandings of the concept of corruption.

Eugene Robinson looks ahead at the incoming Congress.

Stephen Stromberg's excellent, excellent point about subsidizing obesity. Let the symbol of capitalism that is McDonald's actually experience the free market (hint: rather than the highly subsidized corn and soy that its cattle feed on, for example).

What's more disturbing--that Glenn Beck makes the cut among the top ten most admired men, or that the Post misspelled "Mandela"?

Caroline reader wisdom on various topics, including the "nice guy" myth.

Monday, December 27, 2010

That didn't take long

Mom: I think I want some yogurt. Do you want some yogurt?
A.: Mom.
Mom: What?


A.: I don't eat yogurt.
Mom: What? But yogurt is healthy! Everyone knows yogurt is healthy.

Earlier. Mom's Australian friend, E., is on the phone.

A.: I was telling mom about how you were still, as of recently, traumatized about her water restrictions.
E.: It was a nightmare! I'd never experienced anything like it. Does she let you use water? Does she let you wash dishes? Flush the toilet? When you all come visit, I'll let you use as much water as you like.

It's lost in transcription, but we were all laughing uproariously.


I'm relieved by the time we get back to the more banal interrogation about my eating habits, but it doesn't happen right away.

Mom: Did you get that thing I sent you...
A.: I don't know.

I didn't say, "I don't bother with most of what you send me because you send me so much ignorant, conspiratorial crap."

But I digress. As I was saying, it was a relief by the time we got to this:

Mom: So you don't eat anything sweet.
A.: I eat fruit...
Mom: You eat... cranberries?
A.: Yes.
Mom: Apples?
A.: Yes. [I do not say, you've seen me eat apples every day].
Mom: But you don't eat grapes.
A.: I do eat grapes.
Mom: Oh. Well, then, it's all good.


Mom: You don't eat dairy.
A.: No.
Mom: That, I've read about. There are people that don't think dairy is good. You know, those people.
A.: There are various constituencies who aren't thrilled about dairy.
Mom: Fair enough.

I hope this newfound acceptance persists past the next time we come across a specific example of dairy that I don't eat. We shall see.

Gambling in the casino

Mom: We spent so much time making dinner. I don't even know what's going on in the world.
A.: Lots... for one thing, Khordokovsky was convicted.
Mom: What? Where did you see that? The New York Times?
A.: Uh huh.

Mom starts screaming, cursing, saying she knew it yet she didn't believe it. And we're no help--no pressure, just big treaties. I interject that that has nothing to do with anything and less than public pressure isn't the same thing as no pressure (and public pressure is often less than helpful). She continues to scream in curse.

A.: This surprises you? At least he's going back to jail, which is more than you could say for the journalists and political candidates that get beaten or killed once a week.

More screaming, cursing, arguing about how much this actually matters. I mean, you have to know I'm anything but indifferent to the fate of political prisoners. I just don't understand why anyone is surprised. Am I just jaded?

Mom: In no other country in the world...
A.: I could name ten in the next five seconds.
Mom: Consistently! They consistently elect...
A.: They don't elect anyone. They haven't had a free and fair election in years. They don't let any viable candidates actually run for office. Anyone who tries gets hurt, mysteriously.
Mom: I'm telling you! No other country is that dysfunctional!
A.: Are you serious? Do you know how many political candidates Colombia has seen assassinated? Even as political prisoners go, Russia has some steep competition in today's world.

Not that it matters. Russian political prisoners, quite understandably, have a special place in mom's heart, since her father died as one. She talked again about his being taken away, about his letters, about growing up without him. I don't question or begrudge her her pain, frustration, or sense of helplessness. I'm just *not surprised,* and I don't see how screaming is going to fix anything. I try to change the subject. Ian Frazier's new book, maybe. But it doesn't stick. I get up to go blog.

Mom: What do you think of George Soros?
A.: I think Glenn Beck is a moron.
Mom: He knows everything! He's always right! I know! I know history! You don't know history! I know what's behind eloquent speeches!
A.: Mom, I'm busy.

Making dinner

Mom is very adamant about saving water. Whenever anyone else does the dishes, she yells at them for using too much water. When I visited her friend in Australia, she asked whether I ever did the dishes at my parents' house, and, if so, whether mom actually let me use water. Dad has negotiated with her to allow him free rein in washing coffee cups and wine glasses, which he won't allow her to wash. This was no small feat.

She also, as mentioned earlier, reuses paper towels. God help you, even in a time-sensitive spill situation, if you tear a fresh half-sheet of paper towel, rather than reach into the container of used paper towels.

Here's another thing she does: she opens the fridge doors... and leaves them open for significant stretches of time while she contemplates what she wants to get out of the fridge. This is especially annoying because the fridge lets out an annoying series of (irritating) beeps to alert the offending party that the doors are open and that ice sheets are breaking off from Antarctica.

Mom, taking various things out of the fridge: Did you already use these?
A.: Yes.
Mom: That's not enough--take more!
A.: No. The amount in there is proportional to the salad.
Mom: We want more of these!
A.: Grrrrr... would you people stay out of the salad? And would you close the fridge, already?

Mom continues to open and hold open the fridge.

Fridge: Beep! Beep! Beep!
A.: Mom!
Mom: This is my house and I'll do as I please.
A.: Suit yourself, but you're killing the polar bears.
Mom: Whatever.

Mom: Do you want hummus with dinner?
A.: No, thanks.
Mom: What about...
Fridge: Beep! Beep! Beep!
A.: Mom!
Mom: Aren't you done, yet?

Fridge: Beep! Beep! Beep!
A.: [Deep breath]

Mom: We put feta in the salad. Do you want to put feta in the salad?
A.: I'm happy to set some out for you on a plate so you can put some in yours.
Mom: Feta! Everyone knows it's the healthiest cheese.
A.: [shrug]
Mom: Do you eat onions? Are onions, at least, a part of your diet?
A.: Well, first of all, you've seen me eat onions every day for the last three days. If that's not sufficiently evidentiary for you to answer that question, the next clue would be, "are onions an animal product?"
Mom: You're saying you do eat onions. Well, at least there's that.


Mom, somewhat but not very loudly: V., are you going to have mushrooms?


Mom: Is he upstairs? Or asleep?
A., more loudly: Dad, are you upstairs or asleep?
Dad: I'm pretty sure I'm downstairs.
A.: Are you asleep, then?
Dad: Nope. I'm conversing with you.
A.: Are you going to have mushrooms?

[Dad comes into the kitchen]

Mom, proudly: I reuse paper towels.
A.: You'd do better to close the fridge.
Mom: Do I tell you what to do when I'm in your house?
A.: Absolutely you do.
Mom: I do not! I stay out of your business.
A.: Like hell you do!
Mom: I don't tell you how to run your household.
A.: Yes you do.
Mom: I stay out of your food.
A., to dad: Are you hearing this??
Dad: Leave me out of it. [Leaves]

A.: OMG, will you get that ass-clown off the screen!
Dad: Shhh... he's talking about American history.
A.: He doesn't know anything about American history.
Dad: If you were to debate him, he would crush you. You don't understand history.
A.: I have nowhere to go. I think I prefer listening to mom lecture me about dairy.

You know I love Venn diagrams

This one's brilliant.

Live a little

The birds are all set, which means the sun has set on my period of peace and quiet. I tried to keep reading while mom kept talking, but it was not to be.

Mom: Look, this is the brochure from the concert we went to.
A.: Can I look later?


Mom: Would you tell your father to finish that portion of the molding?
A.: Why don't you tell him when he's awake?
Mom: I find it more effective this way. Mention it a little at a time, and eventually, something clicks.


Mom: You've gotten so heavy. You're awfully solid. More importantly, you're so overly rational, and that's not right. Live a little! Be spontaneous sometimes! Let your emotions guide you. And eat whatever you want!
A.: I do eat whatever I want.
Mom: No, you don't!
A.: I don't want to eat dairy.
Mom: But ice cream is so good!
A.: Non-dairy ice cream is good, too. I'm going to make some...
Mom: Make? Ice cream? Ha!
A.: I prefer homemade ice cream anyway, so I may as well make it myself.
Mom: [Shudder]

Mom, as she goes through the mail: I can't believe the city...

I get up to leave.

Mom: Okay, okay, I'm going to stop talking.

I sit back down.

Mom: It's just...

I get back up, and come here to blog. A minute later, she calls my name. I'd better find out what she wants to tell me.


Mom is dealing with the bird feeders and bird feed, and doesn't want any help. In other words, while mom is occupied with something, I can actually read without being either called over or spoken to every twenty seconds. I'm just getting into "Mating," which I might have quit after ten pages had not one but two good friends told me it was an amazing read. But I digress.

Mom comes into the living room to get another of the birdhouses she purchased yesterday. She walks behind me and pinches my back.

Mom: Hmmm...
A.: What?
Mom: Hmmm. [In a tone indicating that I'm to know what she means]
A.: ??
Mom: There's something to pinch there.

Really, mom? I mean, seriously? I don't have an abundance of back fat. I do, however, have skin. Maybe I don't spend enough time pinching my back to get a gauge of my back fat?

The family food wars at a simmer

By the way, I'm the first to admit that I'm a pain in the @$$. I don't remember what it was that had my father remark that I was a 'klizma,' but it was probably food related.

Last night, before dinner

Mom: Now I'm thirsty rather than hungry.
A.: Why?
Mom: From the toasted walnuts.
A.: Who told you to eat toasted walnuts?? Are you picking toasted walnuts off the salad?
Dad: I'm certainly picking toasted walnuts off the salad.
A.: What am I going to do with you people? Are there any nuts left on the salad?
Dad: The fewer the better, as far as I'm concerned.
A.: Grrrr.

Last night, after dinner--overheard on the phone

Mom: Now she doesn't eat anything normal.

This morning

Dad: I don't get it: oatmeal for breakfast, barley with dinner? You're basically having kasha for every meal.

Kasha is the Russian word for porridge. Don't be fooled by Ukranians or other bull$hitters who tell you "kasha" means buckwheat. That's a load of ignoramus crap.

A.: Yes. I eat grains for every meal. I might make wild rice for lunch, actually. And you have to admit, the barley goes perfectly with mushroom soup.
Dad: It's even better with butter.

Dad: Do you take any of these supplements that your mom has me taking?
A.: No. I don't take supplements, apart from B12, because I eat food.

I am fully aware of how pretentious that sounds, but it's true, so I say it anyway.

Later this morning

Mom: Mmmm... bread with roe and cream cheese... the best thing in the world. Cream cheese, you also disrespect?
A.: I don't eat any sort of cheese. If a cheese ever tempts me otherwise, it isn't going to be cream cheese.
Mom: Well, I have to say, your skin looks great. It looks amazing.
A.: In light of that, might we end the discussion on what I eat and don't eat?
Mom: No! If something is healthy, I can tell you to eat it.

Just now, as I'm blogging
Mom, with her mouth full: What is that thing? That thing Indians eat? Tumeron...
A.: Turmeric.
Mom: Right, it's the healthiest thing ever. It's...
A.: Mom, could you finish chewing and then tell me?
Mom, mouth still full: Ha! Maybe I won't tell you at all, and then you won't know.


Mom: Why did you make so much oatmeal? You know, kasha makes you fat more than anything else.

Mom proceeds to pour half a cup of light cream into her bowl of oatmeal.

Battle of the personality types

A.: You're not going to work, are you?
Dad: If I really need to, I'll work from home, but I don't like to, because your mother would be constantly distracting me.
A.: I know what you mean. When I was really sick a couple of weeks ago and it was freezing, I contemplated going in rather than teleworking because of Gracie. What if you close the door?
Dad: You know your mother--it's always something. Some cat picture someone e-mails her that I have to go look at that second.

This is true. Mom is constantly calling one or both of us over.

Mom, bless her, is an extrovert. Dad and I, not so much.

It was evident on the way home yesterday. She narrated the entire trip. Which is the driver's prerogative, but after half an hour or so, I was tempted to jump out into the snow for some peace and quiet.

You may know that I try to get my yoga in before mom gets out of bed, because otherwise, she'll talk to me the whole time. She'll point out that my butt is huge, or tell me that I'm not doing a pose quite right, or talk to me about how important concentration and focus are in yoga.

I was about to go help dad shovel--I kept insisting, he kept telling me to stay in, and finally he agreed to let me clean off the cars--once I finished the roundup. I estimated I'd need another five minutes or so. Mom comes in and starts talking to me. We talk for a few minutes, and then she tries to remember what she wanted to tell me, and talks through the remembering process out loud. I ask her very politely to tell me once she remembers, because I'd like to finish the paper and go help dad. She continues to talk to me. I continue to ask her to let me finish the paper. She gets frustrated and leaves.

It's tough, managing extro-introvert relations. Two very different ways of interrelating. What do you do?

Monday morning roundup

North Korea is hurting, especially outside of Pyongyang.

You know things are bad when I start siding with McDonalds. Take this article on the abuse and harassment that many Pakistani women endure from their families and others when they seek (menial) work outside the home:
At work, some women spend more time deflecting abuse from customers than serving them. On the way home, they are heckled in buses and condemned by neighbors. It is so common for brothers to confiscate their uniforms that McDonald’s provides women with three sets.
Argentinian squatters force the Kirchner government to reconcile ideology with pragmatism. Or at least choose one.

Santos is Not Uribe.

Paul Krugman writes that rising commodity prices are the result of global recovery.

Jon Stewart, by virtue of his role in the Zadroga bill, is drawing comparisons to Cronkite and Morrow.

Greener refrigerators are coming but they're gonna be pricey for a while.

Fred Hiatt marvels that counter-obesity initiatives have been made partisan.

The Times Opinionator on forgiveness.

Ask Amy on clueless parents and sanctimommies.

Moviegoers are apparently holding filmmakers to account in terms of quality. Meanwhile, Manga students are flocking to Japan.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow day

Earlier today

A.: You know where it is?
Dad: I'm pretty sure, but get the address anyway. Use your mother's laptop there.
Mom: Did you say 'shut up'?
A.: I shut it down, yes.

A.: Do you want me to plug in the Garmin?
Dad: To charge it, but we know how to get to that hospital

Half-way to the hospital

Mom: I don't understand why you can't just see her when she's released. Your dad didn't even see you until you were released.
A.: We're already on the way, so it doesn't really matter.

Two minutes later

Mom: I don't understand why you have to see her now. She's probably not even up for visitors.
A.: She told me on the phone that I was welcome to visit today.
Mom: You could just wait a couple of days and see her when she's back.
A.: Mom, I appreciate that you're driving me, but we're already on the way, so I don't understand why we're having this conversation.

Two minutes later

Mom: You could just see her when she's back.
Dad: We're almost there!

A few blocks from the main entrance

Mom: Where do I go now?
Dad: Straight.

Mom turns left

Mom: Well? Where do I go?
Dad: Why didn't you listen to me?
Mom: Because I know where I'm going. Where now?
Dad: At this point, I don't know.
Mom: Tell me where to turn!
A.: Should I turn on the Garmin?
Mom: No.

We find the main entrance. My parents decide to wait, although the plan was they'd go shopping and then pick me up.


A., calls: Where are you??
Mom: Come out of the hospital and take a right, and walk to the traffic light.

I do that. Five minutes later, in blizzard conditions, I turn back and see my dad waving at me from across from the hospital entrance.

A.: WTF??
Dad: She meant, go straight.

I get in the car, thank them for waiting. It was very nice of them to drive me.

A.: They're both well. He's cute as a button! He's just over six pounds.
Mom: You were even smaller than that!
A.: What do I have to do with anything?
Mom: I'm just saying.

After the hospital, we go shopping. Mom needs to stock up on bird feed. The ride home is understandably very, very slow.

We get in.

Mom: I told you to shut up!


I realize she's talking about the computer.

A.: I hit "shut down."
Mom: You never listen.
A.: I did what you tell me to do.

I go to change out of my snow-soaked pants and come downstairs. Mom and Dad tell me my phone buzzed. I go to check the message.

Mom: A., did you...
A.: Just a minute mom!
Mom: Check your message later, I'm asking you a question!
A.: I'm already checking it, so please be quiet so I can hear it.
Mom: Check later!
A.: There, ten seconds later. What did you want to say?
Mom: Are those my slippers?
A.: No, they're the ones I was wearing.

I come here to blog all this and hear mom screaming from the living room.

Mom: I told you to say shut up! Why didn't you? When it's shut up, nothing's blinking. Now things are blinking!
Dad: Could you drop it? You've said that ten times now. Whatever's going on with the laptop, let it go.

A.: Come see how cute this baby is!
Mom: Yes. And she looks very happy.

I wouldn't date RM

You know how I don't blog about dating because it's really not fair to the dates? Someone has to really piss me off or insult me consistently before they make it onto the blog.

Well, dude from last week has crossed that line. Maybe you guys will tell me I'm being unreasonable.

One of the reasons I bring this up is that I'm grateful to RM because I'm now much quicker to recognize tone deaf behavior. I would tell RM to back off, and he would come back creepier. I would tell him that we needed boundaries, and he would nod and then present me with a pair of pearl earrings.

I don't ask that the people that I date be uber-intellectual, rhetorical superstars. In fact, I would find that tiresome. But I've dated people--including recently--where the conversation was not painful. Actually, I had a really good date with someone that I opted not to see again because we were in different places and wanted different things, but the date itself was a blast. With most of the people I date, the conversation may not be earth-shattering, but it flows. There's stuff to talk about. And I don't feel like it's work to keep it going.

With this last guy, it really was like a date with RM. Awkward staring, awkward conversation, and it's not like it had to be that way. I knew what he had had planned for the weekend, so I asked him about it. I didn't especially need to talk about what I'd done that weekend, but it occurred to me later--when I was assessing to what extent to fault the dude for the awkwardness--that he might have asked. He knew I went to see a play, might have asked what it was, how it was. Knew I'd just come off a long volunteering shift, might have asked where, etc. I might have told him it was really neat to see so many people coming to the shelter with holiday gifts. That would have propelled a conversation. I'm not saying he had to ask about me because I wanted to talk about me; I'm saying he might have asked about things he knew I'd just done, in order to have something to talk about, so he wouldn't have had to just stare at me. It was so bad that I was actually annoyed later, when he told me I was a great conversationalist. Really? Because I was doing the least I could do to talk about something so he'd stop staring at me.

Now, I understand that good people may come in awkward packages, and that people aren't at their best when they're nervous, but this was beyond the pale. And yet, when I wrote him back to say I wasn't sure I wanted to see him again but I wanted a couple of days to process to see whether it wasn't just me, because I still wasn't feeling well, after all--that might have been the time to back off and give me some space. But no: he pulled a RM; he continued to push. Where I'd have been willing to overlook the awkwardness, possibly, I was not willing to overlook the tone deaf.

And here's another thing about asking someone about themselves, and this lesson applied to RM as well: it's not purely altruistic. It's not "I'm going to be magnanimous and make it about you for now." Now, I, for one, care about what's going on in the lives of other people. I ask questions because I care. I genuinely want to know. But it's not even that. Forgive the cliche, but knowledge is power. I want to know what's going on in someone else's life before I start blathering on about something or other. If someone is healing a broken leg, I'm not going to go on about my awesome hiking trip. If someone's busy, scattered, etc., I'm probably not going to go on, period.

You may recall that RM often want to talk at the worst possible times, for small and big reasons. Sorry--this may sound petty--but when someone's just come home, by bike, from a long day at work, don't get between her and the forkful she's already lifted from her plate. If someone's concerned about something, don't waste her time.

This was what it was like living with Kevin: we hung out, we chatted, we read each other's moods. When one of us was having a bad day, we talked about that. I never went up to him when he looked upset and said, "let me tell you about my trip to Whole Foods!" I'd say, "what's up?" and he'd maybe tell me what was going on with his daughter or his basketball team or class.

Anyway, this morning, the foremost thing on my mind was baby and mommy news. I'm not going to divulge the details of my friend's situation, but for the purpose of context, it hasn't been straightforward or painless. It was increasingly on my mind as the due date approached. It was really on my mind this morning.

And no one's necessarily expected to know that... which is why it never hurts to ask what someone has going on. But it made this morning's e-mail from dude-whom-I've-already-twice-told-to-go-away even more annoying and counter-productive. I would have been more likely to listen to RM if he'd let me get some food into my body after an intensive bike ride. I might have been more receptive to dude had he maybe said something like, 'how have your holidays been?' But there was none of that. There was just a monologue about how holidays are the time for hope and second chances. But why would I want to give another chance to someone who doesn't listen and doesn't care about what might be going on in my life, even if only with regard to how receptive I might be to requests for a second chance?

What do you guys think? Am I way harsh? Asking too much? Should I be flattered/impressed by the persistence? Is this the guy that Lori Gottlieb is telling me that in a few years I'll have wished I'd opted to see again? Because if that's the case, I choose to be single-woman-with-cat. I mean, with Gracie it's also all about her, but that's to be expected. I want more from humans.

So close to making me feel guilty about mom-blogging

I'm in the shower, which is not silent, when I hear my mother try the bathroom door, and then rattle it, once she finds that it's locked. "Good lord!" she exclaims, at the absurdity of my having locked the door. I'm still not sure what she wanted.

It turns out mom was banging down the bathroom door because my phone was ringing, and mom knew that I was eagerly anticipating baby news. That's a good reason to bang down the bathroom door.

I came downstairs and left a couple of messages on different phones. Then, I came into the kitchen, and mom told me something else that made me even more hesitant to write unflatteringly of her: she'd gone to get oatmeal (I'd asked her to find it before I hopped in the shower), but the crowds were out of control, so she went to the convenience store across the street and bought some overpriced instant oatmeal. This is really sweet--mom is really cheap. She's been known to yell at me for spending $3 on ingredients. So it's heartwarming that she went out to get me oatmeal, and spent over $5 on it.

Then, my phone rang again, in another room. When I answered and talked to my friend, mom tried her hardest to refrain from getting my attention. At one point, she couldn't take it any more and brought a pair of snow boots to my attention. I understand that it was a practical measure, but it could have waited. Still, I appreciated that she wasn't interrupting for other reasons.

I got off the phone and took to making our instant oatmeal. I was chopping up an apple to go with it when mom turned the tide.

Mom: You've gotten so solid! You used to be so delicate, and now you're so hefty.
Dad: That's not a bad thing.

Remember that line from "Sleepless in Seattle" where Rob Reiner talks about setting Tom Hanks up with a friend of a friend who's a weightlifter? "It's not like her neck is bigger than her head or anything." Well--I'm not a professional weightlifter, and my neck is certainly not bigger than my head. In my previous post, I explained that I was not especially flabby. Please note next to that that I'm not especially Hulk-like, either.

A.: Could we please turn the sound off!
Mom: I need to hear the weather, especially if we're driving you to the hospital!
A.: I'll check it online.
Dad: Why don't you sit down?
A.: Because there's a television screaming where my head would be if I did.
Dad: Where's the remote?
Mom: I just had it.
A.: It's way too loud in here, even if I'm not sitting right there.

Five minutes later, we find the remote and turn down the sound.

I look at the ingredients on the "original" instant oatmeal and marvel at the fact that it still has crap in it, but I don't say anything because I appreciate that mom got it for me. But dad sees me looking, and makes some comment about how the government makes food manufacturers put extra ingredients in things. I counter that the government doesn't make food manufacturers add anything, and manage not to add that he's been watching too much Glenn Beck.

As we speak

Mom: What, you don't like pickled cabbage?
A.: Not really, no.
Mom: Goodness gracious! Such deviance!

Sometimes even I love Christmas

I got my happy baby and mommy news, so my holiday wishes are complete.


Thus far, I've stuck to the facts, i.e. the dialogue as it has happened. After a point, I start wondering how to frame the weight thing. What's funniest about the weight thing? Is it that it's not humanly possible for me to have put on as much weight, cumulatively, as my mother perceives me to have put on? Even taking each event at a time--let's say I put on a noticeable amount of weight at least once--wouldn't it have been memorable enough that mom would have remembered, and not reacted with surprise the next time she saw me with the same added weight? No, she's not afflicted by age-related memory loss. She's always been a bit absent-minded about perceptions she's incurred.

It might be appropriate at this point to let those of you who do not know me or haven't seen me in a while know that I do not weigh 300 pounds. Or 200. Or 150, for that matter. Unless I'm mistaken, I'm not someone that people apart from my mother see and think, 'she must have gone nuts at the buffet table every day for a year,' or 'poor thing, I hope she doesn't have trouble getting around with all that extra weight.' On the flip side, were I a sugar plum fairy, Alastair MaCaulay would most certainly find that I've had more than a few sugar plums too many. While it has been said that at the time I left Boston, when I was 25 years old, I was emaciated, I honestly don't remember ever being emaciated, and I'm certainly not now. My point is, I'm neither rotund, nor frail. My other point is, whatever I may be, it's well time for mom to get over it. It's not interesting, it's not intriguing, and it's not even worth mentioning again.

All this to say, here are the possible frameworks for taking in the mom blog:

(1) Regardless of my actual shape, mom's persistent harping about my weight is what's ridiculous.
(2) Given that my actual shape is not that of a hippopotamus, mom's mom's persistent harping about my weight is particularly ridiculous. If we go with this angle, I may get dad to take a picture.
(3) Mom's issues with my actual shape are particularly ridiculous in light of her constant encouragement to consume fatty and sugary foods, and to dismiss as unhealthy obsessiveness any disinclination to do so.

Pick one or all three. Enjoy

Post-Christmas hangover roundup

Mugabe is still a thug.

Frank Rich's tempered, vicarious nostalgia for a more idealistic era.

It is a truly sad reflection on our politics when something as valuable as end-of-life counseling has to be treated as a stealth issue to escape over-politicization.

I never thought I'd say this, but Daniel Ellsberg is starting to piss me off. It's not the same at all.

On the science of a kiss.

What?? Robin Givhan is leaving the
? No surprise that she has the decency to leave is with an excellent column on fashion in general and Washington's relationship with fashion in particular.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


I come downstairs.

Dad: Do you understand American pop culture well?
A.: Sometimes.
Dad: Can you explain why, at the end of commercials for Cialis or Viagra, they always show people floating away in different vessels?
A.: No. I've got nothing. I've never seen a Cialis or Viagra commercial.


Mom: Unbelievable that you've gained weight. [Turns to dad] Hasn't she gained weight?
Dad: I don't think so. I think she looks athletic.
Mom: Her face is fine, but her stomach has gotten huge. She once looked like more of a girl.
Dad: And I once looked like more of a boy.
Mom: You always have to come to her defense! Look at her. [To me] Is it this new diet?
A.: I don't think anyone's ever gained weight by eating macrobiotically.
Mom: You have.
A.: I don't know. I don't weigh myself, and my clothes fit like they always have.
Mom: It's just intriguing.

Hmmm... interesting

I'm sitting in the living room when mom comes downstairs and through the door. She stops and looks at me for a few seconds. She kind-of squints.

Mom: It's interesting that you've gained weight.


Mom: Hmm. Interesting.

[Walks away]

A fair question

Mom: Did you... grow yourself a belly?
A.: Amazingly, it happens after every meal.

Christmas dinner

Mom: What, no sour cream???
A.: I've never liked sour cream. We have the sour cream discussion every time I visit, and this is my first non-dairy visit. So don't try to spin the sour cream issue as further evidence that I've lost my mind by virtue of giving up dairy.


Mom: It all started when I drove you to that thing when you were a teenager. I was so happy! I thought, I'm an environmentalist--I reuse paper towels--my daughter's a budding environmentalist, even at the age of thirteen! I thought, "how wonderful!" And I was so proud of you--I thought you were such a follower--I thought you only ever did what your friends did, never showing any initiative. But you still wanted to go to that environmental conference, even though your friends cancelled. I was so happy. Little did I know that that was 'Pandora's Box." That's where all this craziness started, and now you're going to such extremes. No dairy! [Shudders].


Mom: Your skin does look really good.
A.: Well, then.
Mom: I've always had good skin, and I always ate everything.
Dad: You smoked and drank, too. More importantly, you grew up and lived, for quite a while, amid deprivation, so you didn't have a lot of choices about what to eat, and you didn't have opportunity for excess.
Mom: That's the point: I smoke and drank and ate everything.
Dad: That's not the point. It was a different context. There was no way you were going to eat too much of anything because there wasn't enough, much less too much, of anything to eat. You're romanticizing a time of scarcity.


Mom: I will admit, your salad is good.
A.: Thank you.

It's like butter

Mom: I'm going to sautee the mushrooms.
A.: Please use oil rather than butter.
Dad: Really, A.?
A.: I don't eat butter.
Dad shakes head disapprovingly.

Mom: V., would you please get some olive oil from downstairs.

Dad recovers some olive oil.

Dad: There are about five more bottles down there (not including the two you just bought, that are on the dining room table).
A., opens bottle: It smells a bit stale, but it will do.
Dad: Well, it's been down there for a decade or so.
Mom: Whatever. Besides, you should sautee in butter.

A.: Do you shred or chop the carrot?
Mom: I usually chop it.

Five minutes later

Mom: That carrot is sliced much too thick! I usually shred them.
A.: You said you usually chop them! Didn't she?
Dad: She did.
Mom: Well, I usually chop more finely.
A.: It's actually quite thin.
Mom: It won't do.
Dad: My work here is done.

Mom: I can't do it. I can't bring myself to sautee mushrooms in oil.
A.: Could you give it a try, just this once?
Mom: Sigh.

But for the next hour, she alternated between the following two refrains:

(1) That carrot is too thickly sliced!
(2) Mushrooms. In olive oil! Who'd have thought? Unbelievable! A travesty!

If mom's persistent reiteration of the latter statement isn't absurd enough in and of itself, let me point out that I'll be the only one eating the mushroom soup. Mom and dad are having chicken soup; the mushroom soup is for me. Mom is fighting with me over whether or not to use an ingredient that I don't want, in a food that only I will eat.

Mom: Would you grab a few potatoes?
A.: From where?
Mom: What, you don't know where we keep the potatoes?
A.: No. How would I know where you keep the potatoes?
Mom: They're just there.
A.: There being...
Mom: [Sigh!]

Mom retrieves the potatoes from outside the kitchen, in a basket on the steps to the basement. And continues to harp about the olive oil.

Where to walk

Earlier this morning

A.: Are we going for a walk?
Mom: Do you want to go nearby or to Waltham?
A.: Nearby.
Mom: Are you sure?
A.: I personally prefer nearby.
Mom: Okay.

Later, while she's still dilly-dallying

Mom: Are you sure you want to go nearby?
A.: Yes, I'm sure-but clearly you want to go to Waltham, so let's just go there.
Mom: Well, it is wider out there.
A.: Whatever. Let's just go.

We're getting in the car

Mom: So, where do you want to go?
A.: You know where I want to go. And you know where you want to go. So stop asking me and just go.
Mom: Last call--I'm going to need to turn one way or the other in a minute.
A.: Just go where ever.
Mom: Are you sure?
A.: You're sure.
Mom: I just think it's nice there.
A.: That's fine, but you can stop asking me. You're like my former roommate.
Mom: How so?
A.: "You're really scrambling--can I do anything to help?" "Actually, yes--would you mind taking out the trash? That way I'll have a better chance of catching an earlier train." "Um... um..." "Or I can just do it." "Yes, it's probably best that you just do it."
Mom: That's different.
A.: You're asking me a question--in this case, where I'd prefer to go--without regard for the actual response, because you're pretty sure what you want to do anyway. I don't mind that you know where you want to go, but in that case, stop asking me.


I can't tell whether mom really likes talking to me while I'm in the bathroom, or whether she just likes talking to me when I can't hear her.

I was, again, brushing my teeth with an electric toothbrush (as I will continue to do, twice a day), when she opened the door and started talking to me. I have no idea what she said.

Then, after much "why are we still here/I don't know, what are you doing?" we went for a walk. I had on a fleece ear-band and the hood of my jacket. Mom would say something from ahead or far to the side. I told her I couldn't hear her and came closer. She would walk away again, or lag, or walk ahead, and again start talking about something. I would tell her I couldn't hear her. She would continue to talk without waiting for me to get closer.

Mom: You must get that vitamin, in the red bottle.
A., reading ingredients: The active ingredient is rice bran oil. I cook with rice bran oil and eat brown rice. I don't need this.
Mom: It's an amazing supplement.
A.: I get whatever it is through food.
Mom: You should also be taking pollen.
A.: Blech.
Mom: It's good for everything.
A.: I like food.

Invisibility cloak

A.: There, I put you on 'invisible.'
Mom: Huh?
A.: So that people won't skype you just because the computer's on.
Dad: How did you do that?
A.: I'll show you.
Mom: Why?
A.: Well, Irina just called, and you were having breakfast [and I was blogging about the dairy inquisition you were putting me through].
Mom: But if everyone did that, you'd never know who's online.
A.: You can set it to 'online' if you want people to call you. But sometimes you're online doing stuff and you don't want to deal with the call.
Mom: You could just not answer.
A.: Or you could just not be interrupted by the phone call or risk offending the caller.
Mom: But no one would ever call anyone!
A.: Unless they wanted to be called.
Mom: I don't like it.

Mom was truly unwilling to accept the concept that sometimes, people don't want to be reached, and in that event, they have the right to be invisible.

Saturday breakfast

Mom: No feta??
A.: Feta would be a dairy product.
Mom: But it's healthy!
A.: I'm not eating dairy. End of discussion, please.
Mom: It has calcium!
A., not out loud: It's got electrolytes! It's what plants crave!
A.: Mom, are we going to have this conversation at every meal?
Mom: Did you come to this on your own? Did someone tell you?
A.: I did some research and made a decision. I was moving toward giving up animal products for a while.
Mom: What are you going to do with all the animals if there are no animal products? You'd have to get rid of the animals.
A., not out loud: Thank you for that enlightened perspective on animal agriculture.

Five minutes later

Mom: But it's goat's milk! Totally different.
A.: Preferable, but I'm just not eating dairy.
Mom: Did your research tell you anything about calcium?
A.: Of course.
Mom: What?
A.: That you can easily get your needed calcium through plant-based foods.

Two minutes later

Mom: For millennia, people have been consuming dairy. No research needed.


Mom: Your skin does look great, though.

Christmas morning roundup

Renewable energy in the developing world is transforming ways of life.

China's military buildup remains a work in progress. There's some real humor for the wonkish in that article.

Charles Blows cites the British model for dealing with child poverty.

Don't get too excited about food safety legislation yet. It still has to be funded. Also in need of funding, in the national interest: diplomacy and foreign aid.

The haters can suck it, because DC is making cycling safer and easier.

Make the most of your Christmas tree by cooking with the needles. Those recipe ideas actually sound awesome.

Check out the year in Toles.

Christmas morning (part I, I'm sure)

Last night.

I'm brushing my teeth, with an electric toothbrush (that makes noise). My mother opens the bathroom door and tells me a story about how wonderful her plumbers are. Which is great, but might it wait until I'm done brushing my teeth?

Also last night

Mom: You're skin has gotten better.
A.: Since I stopped eating dairy.
Mom: [Shrug]
Dad: My skin is starting to look old.
Mom: Amazingly, it really hasn't until recently.

It's true. My parents both have great skin.

Mom: Do you know what's great for skin? Urine.

Mom proceeds to tell an interesting story--but you'll forgive me if I recall few of the details--about how when she was a kid and went to some sort of school in the countryside, her mother and a friend visited, and were given a piglet as a gift. The piglet developed some sort of infection or wound, and was successfully treated with applied urine.

Mom: It has everything that's good, that's filtered. I'm going to apply it to this [infection/bug bite that she's had for months] if it doesn't go away.
A.: Didn't you get drugs for that?
Mom: Yeah, but I forgot to renew the prescription, and apparently, if you do that, it's no longer effective after you skip it for a while.
A.: [Sigh]
Mom: But I'm telling you-urine! So many people swear by it.
A.: I know Natasha is a big fan.
Mom: Yes, and other people too. It really works.
A.: [Shrug]

This morning

I close the bathroom door. Before I have a chance to lock it, mom opens it.

A.: Mom!
Mom: Just a minute--I want to check to see that the space heater is on.
A.: Check it later! I have to pee.
Mom: Just one second!
A.: Mom! Now!
Mom: I just... see, the temperature...
A.: Close the door!
Mom: [Sigh]. Fine!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Friday night

It was a blissfully uneventful and efficient trip to Boston, and my parents picked me up from the airport in good time. It wasn't five minutes after we got into the house when, just after I took out my outer jacket, I got this:

Mom: Huh. You've put on weight?
A.: I have no idea.
Dad: Huh. [Shrugs].

A few minutes later

Mom: Are you hungry?
A.: A little--a snack would be good. Are you?
Mom: No. [Goes into the kitchen]. We have hummus...

I believe it. Mom knows I like hummus so she buys it by the tub when she's expecting me.

Mom: Do you want cheese?
A.: I don't eat cheese anymore, mom.
Mom: What?
A.: We've discussed this.
Mom: This is the first I've heard about it.
A.: No, it isn't. Dad?
Dad: I know you said you weren't eating dairy products...
A.: And cheese is...
Dad: Yes, I suppose.
Mom: Cheese is healthy!
A.: [Shrug].

Mom proceeds to ask me whether I want the contents of the fridge, one item at a time. I say 'no, thank you.' They do have fresh blini, which probably have egg, but I'm picking my battles. We sit down for some blini with hummus--although in theory, I'm the only one eating. In reality, my parents, who said they weren't hungry at all, each consume more blini (with roe) than I do. This is the way my parents eat, and the way I grew up eating, i.e. mindlessly.

Mom: Would you like a persimmon?
A.: No, thank you.
Mom: You don't like persimmon?
A.: I do like persimmon. I don't want one right now. Maybe tomorrow.
Mom: You could have one now and one tomorrow-I have a whole box downstairs.
A.: Tomorrow's good.
Dad: Would you like some chocolate?
A.: No thanks, sugar's out.
Mom: Ooh, we have pie... you don't eat that, do you?
A.: No.
Mom: It's good--look!
A.: That does look like a very good pie.
Mom: You can have just a little.
A.: I really don't want any--thanks.
Dad: So what do you eat for carbohydrates?
A.: I eat primarily carbohydrates, provided they're unrefined: brown rice, wheat berries, hulled barley, whole-wheat bread...
Dad: We have whole-wheat bread.
A.: Great!

I'm thrilled that we've named a food we can all agree on.

A.: Do you still have the oatmeal I brought last time?
Mom: Yes! I even know where it is!

See? It's going to be a great week.

I didn't think through just how macrobiotic I'm going to try to be this week with my family, but I'm pretty determined to stay off dairy, and almost as determined to avoid refined starches. I'm going to at least try. I'm less determined about eggs--my parents buy happy eggs--so those might be a weekend thing. We'll probably take a field trip to Whole Foods on Sunday and check out what goodies they have in the bulk bins.

Hot Christmas Eve Mess

I'm heading out of town in a few hours. The one thing I haven't done is call mom and make sure she knows I'm coming. I'd have done so earlier, but I've been too busy running errands that wouldn't need to be done had I been more organized over the past week. My excuse is that I was sick and couldn't bring myself to deal with anything. Anyway, here's the rundown of my week of chasing my own tail:

Saturday morning: Hit the Minute Clinic. I don't usually go to the doctor for a cold, but I also don't usually cough and sneeze up blood for a week. The nurse practitioner is unconcerned and tells me to get some expectorant and nasal spray. While I'm there, I get a polio booster for my trip.

Saturday afternoon: Get to town early so I can stop into a couple of museums and shop for holiday cards before going to see Second City. I find no inspiring holiday cards, but I do come across an amazing print that would be perfect for my living room. I buy it.

Saturday night: Wake up in coughing fits every two hours, in spite of expectorant.

Sunday afternoon: Volunteer for four hours.

Sunday evening: Go on a really boring, yet creepy date.

Sunday night: Wake up in coughing fits every two hours, in spite of another expectorant, this time with cough suppressant.

Monday and Tuesday: Work. Intermittently explain to Sunday date that no I do not want to see him again. Yes, I'm sure. Manage to sleep, thanks to Eastern European home remedy: sleep with a chopped onion (a quarter of one will do) by your bedside. No coughing fits!

Wednesday morning: Clean, make donations, pay bills, and head to Michael's for a frame for my print. Make a couple of other fruitless stops along the way, including Target, but can't remember what else I wanted to do while I was in the area. Park my car in the back because I think I'm done with it for a year. Parking out back is a huge pain; the gate leaves me little clearance.

Wednesday afternoon: Clean some, and realize that the plastic on the frame is scratched. Return it to Michael's, get a better one, albeit without a coupon, since I tossed them after the first trip. Still can't remember what I wanted to do while I was in the area.

Wednesday evening: Arrange and hang up print; rearrange other prints to accommodate new print. It looks awesome, except when the chandelier is reflected on the plastic. That's what I meant to do! Stop into ReStore and look at light fixtures, because the ones in my dining and living rooms have to go. Crap. Not going anywhere now; ReStore is closed and I need to write holiday cards. Write holiday cards.

Thursday morning: Do yoga. Wait for HVAC checkup guy. Stamp holiday cards. I'm six stamps short. Host HVAC guy, who notices the replacement windshield wipers (still) hanging out on my steps. Points out that there's no way that they match my car, which is out back (again). He explains that the measurement is from the middle of the wiper, where it snaps on, not the entire thing. I thank him and kick myself for not realizing that and returning the wipers when I was at Target the other day anyway. Guess I'm moving the car again.

Thursday morning-afternoon: Do a load of laundry (delicates). Take out the compost. Clean. A lot. Prepare pecan checks, only to notice that (1) I'm missing one; and (2) I'm $4 short in my check-writing bank account for the check I need to write to account for the people who paid me in cash. Had I dealt with this sooner, I'd have realized that in time to easily make that deposit on my way to or from the office from the metro, or the other day when I was out running errands. But I didn't.

It's as good a time as any to go through every single piece of paper in my living and dining rooms, since I'd planned to clean before the new year. That's actually a great exercise, and the house looks much better for it, but still no check. I probably stuck it in smaller pecan box and gave someone the box, with the pecans. Oh, well--small price to pay for being so disorganized.

Thursday afternoon-evening: Dust, vacuum, clean kitchen, iron, take out trash, move various prints around. Make multiple holes in the wall in the process, but I did finally get the right arrangement, if I do say so myself. Feel oddly lonely even though I'd have no time to be around other people, and am fully aware that I could have arranged to be among people. Good thing I didn't, though, because I last another few minutes before I conk out.

Friday morning: Do a load of laundry, put away the delicates that are dry, clean the bathrooms, pledge-brush the carpets, mop the kitchen floor, and put in another load of laundry. Head to Target to return the wipers (returning the wipers: five minutes; getting out of the parking lot, who the f* knows). Already in the car, so tempting to just drive to Old Town, so I do. And actually find parking. Make deposit and hit Walgreens for stamps, and thank heavens they sell them. Stamp additional holiday cards and drop them in the box. Stop into Banana and Ann because I can't help myself. Manage to get everything done in good time, thus not to fume at myself for having needlessly created three conditions (Target, bank, stamps) by which I had to leave the house when I'd have better been at home, cleaning and packing. After a twelve-point turn to get the car into the yard, come into the house and move the laundry to the dryer. Wipe down the counters another time. Admire the pot rack, and remember that RM was kind enough to help me install it, which is a good way to think, since I spent the morning annoyed at him for buying Lysol. It's already there so I may as well use it rather than spill it out, since it's going to end up in the air and water anyway. It's not only much more toxic than vinegar and baking soda, it is also less effective. But that's what RM did--the three times he actually cleaned, he didn't look for cleaning products or ask me--just bought them and wanted a medal (seriously: he would explain what a good roommate he was because he went out and did things like that). Fair enough--I once had a roommate who would wait for me to get home, only to tell me that the smoke detector batteries were low. Rather than go get them herself. There's got to be something in between, but whatever. The point is, I can't wait to get back to vinegar and baking soda, which is what I use in the kitchen.

Alright, time to put away the laundry and get packing. I expect I'll be checking in with you regularly over the next week or so. For now, happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas Eve roundup

Virginia is for foreclosures.

Kissinger defends his decades-old words, but not very articulately. Let me know if you're convinced by his attempt to provide context.

Why START didn't have to have political stakes.

Matt Bai concludes that Washington, D.C. is not on planet mars.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Thursday roundup

Glad the Catholic Church is genuinely pro-life, as long as that life is unborn. If you're a grown woman, you're $hit out of luck as far as the Church is concerned.

Also SOL: the District. Eleanor Holmes Norton is about to lose what right to vote she previously had.

Good for Kirsten Gillibrand for getting things done.

Gail Collins sums up the lame duck.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Response to comment

Very sorry to hear about the herniated disk--that sounds awful! Hope it gets better.

On a more practical note, here are some homemade egg replacements for every occasion. A lot of people don't have a problem with Ener-G, but I always like to go with what I have around the house.

Seasonal reflections

Confession: I haven't written my holiday cards yet. Funny thing is, I've noticed other people's have come late, too... but they are rolling in, so I suppose I should get mine out the door. I've been sick, and busy, so I haven't really had a chance to shop around for awesome cards--I'm not thrilled with the ones I have, but they'll do.

I wonder what I should write. I've never seen holiday cards as a chance to brag--as I've written before, I see them as more of a "thank you for being in my life." But something hit me as I browsed the alum updates in the Smith Alum quarterly that came the other day--I'd just never have anything to report in that kind of forum, because it's all about marriages, kids, advanced degrees (I didn't report mine at the time I got it), and publications. And other people's holiday cards seem to be about major life events. And yet, I feel like I have something to say--something to tell people about--even though my news may not come in the same form. So, here goes my holiday card:

I got almost everything I wanted for the holidays: a New START; Don't Ask, Don't Tell repeal; and Zadroga bill. The other things I want are more important than any of that, and they include good baby (and mommy) news that I expect to get later this week or early next.

I went on an awesome holiday shopping spree this morning. If I go over this every year, it's not because I think you're dumb--it's because I'm genuinely surprised every time at how happy it makes me to make donations. I mean, I like food, I like clothes, and I like obscure kitchen gadgets. I wouldn't really say I like warm-fuzzies. And yet, when I put in my credit card and hit 'submit payment,' those are the transactions I'm most sure about out of all the ones I made all year.

But let's talk about the rest of the year, since holiday cards aren't just about the holidays. And, after all, just because I haven't married or reproduced, it's not like I haven't done anything with myself.

-I saw a lot of really cool plays and other performances, including two Second City shows. The best plays were "The Liar," "Hamlet," "Henry V," and "The Odd Couple." I've subscribed to two more theaters and look forward to seeing their plays more regularly.

-I went on a fantastic two-week trip to Japan, but you've heard enough about that. For a few months, I intensively worked on learning Japanese... it was fun while it lasted. In addition to the big trip, I also went on some neat business trips, and on an awesome weekend beach adventure with some friends. I'm already making arrangements for my next big vacation.

-I transitioned to a new team at work, and I'm really happy with the people I'm working with. Two products that I worked on over the last year (and longer, in the case of one) have been issued, and neither was easy to put together.

-I refinanced to a 15-year mortgage, which seemed inconceivable two years ago when I bought the house. While it's crazy to watch so much money leave my bank account every month, it's crazier, in a good way, to watch my mortgage balance decrease substantially every month.

-I took care of a bunch of big house projects (and acquisitions), including a shed--I no longer have to keep my lawn mower inside!--and a new fridge. A bunch of stuff that broke has been fixed. The gate held during the last series of fierce winds, so I continue to hope that my longstanding gate saga has finally wound down to a happy status quo. Also, I think I've definitively conquered the poison ivy that caused me so much grief.

-I've made it a point to meditate more.

-I've made it a point to date, which is everything you think it is--usually frustrating, sometimes fun, and sometimes both frustrating and fun at the same time. Everyone I went out with, with the exception of one person, wanted to see me again (I was less impressed with them). But it's probably better to date than not date, so I'm hanging in there.

-I've gone macrobiotic in my own way, which, apparently, is the new macrobiotic. I stopped eating animal products except seafood, and I eat seafood on special occasions (read: when I'm traveling, etc.), and generally moved to minimally processed, minimally refined foods. It's been a great move for me--I feel much better. But don't think, for a minute, that mom won't have a big butt to obsess over during the holidays.

By the way, I made waffles using a flax-egg (1 tbsp finely ground flax, 3 tbsp water, set for a few minutes). They turned out really well, and quite fluffy!

-Gracie is (still) fat and happy. And very vocal. In fact, she's telling me it's her dinner time (it isn't).

Wednesday morning roundup

The Times, too, takes a look at agriculture in Africa, from a very different perspective on investment.

Mr. Gingrich's view of the unemployed is so insightful--I don't know why I never thought of unemployed people as those who get paid for doing nothing.

That's over half a million disenfranchised.

I must have missed these guys yesterday--I remember running to catch the train, so I must have run right past them. They probably would have checked my handbag, given its roominess. I would have been just as annoyed as one of the people interviewed, had they caused me to miss my train.

Amazing how little sentimental things will just push us over the edge, to tears.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Monday evening roundup

Arizona's using outdated and out-of-context research to justify its medicaid cuts.

Whole Foods is adopting a humane slaughter rating system for its meat.

No wonder my mother loves Sarah Palin! Similar incapacity to make the distinction between something (like dessert) being enjoyed in moderation and it being forbidden--even government controlled.

My parents have been fighting over how much water goes in the tea kettle since before it was cool.

Baby cockatoos are cute!

Monday morning roundup

College students are hurting.

It's disingenuous to talk about the area's Catholic universities--and their treatment of Muslim students--as if they were monolithic. Georgetown and Catholic are two very different places. In fact, a friend of mine (more or less agnostic) from grad school (Georgetown) opted out of law school at Catholic because it was too overwhelmingly Catholic.

The Maryland Natural Resources police really doesn't know how to pick their battles.

I wish this article on Moscow's ice sculpture culture had more photos.

Oooh! The winter solstice is to be celebrated with azuki concoctions, among other things. I love azuki-based foods. Food aside, I wish the author had included a discussion of Zoroastrian traditions--it would be only appropriate, since the sun is so central to their beliefs.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


One of the things I hate most about being sick is being so inactive so much of the time. But one of the advantages of being inactive--sitting on my butt for hours on end, taking the metro more instead of biking--is that I have more time to read. All this to say, I've had a chance to catch up on New Yorkers, and now it's time to share. James Surowiecki's piece on procrastination is a must-read. I'll remember the others later.

Sunday morning roundup Part II

War is hardly less bloody than genocide.

Life in Venezuela has just become even more autocratic. Meanwhile, India's educational culture is growing more democratic.

Would someone tell Julian Assange that he is not Nelson Mandela?

DC residents have trouble planning for the future when external forces control their fate.

Okay, stop trying to rebrand homophobia as anything other than hate. You're the one that doesn't get it.

Speaking of not getting it, this vegan's family is really insensitive to her lifestyle. My parents may bring their own food when they visit, but it's already cooked, and they'd never expect me to bring meat.

What's behind gradual creative breakthroughs?

Sunday morning roundup Part I

In Zimbabwe, bartering for health care is no joke.

The Navy and Marine Corps are embracing renewable energy.

Guess which network's viewers are the most misinformed? And whose management, naturally, came out with misinformation in response to the finding? And do you think the viewers that hear about the study are going to take it to heart, or just think it's a conspiracy?

Frank Rich has no love for No Labels.

Maureen Dowd's thought experiment: are we ready for a gay president?

Britain's got class issues.

A handy magnetic gadget for cyclists.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Saturday morning roundup

SALT? Are you f*ing kidding me, WashPo blogger? Read your own paper, it's the START.

Is the Left undergoing a "purifying" ritual?

Gail Collins has your holiday reading list.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Friday evening roundup and ramble

The state of destalinization in Russia.

Awwww, we matter to Europe.

Tom Philpott puts together some compelling graphs on food and quality of life. Elsewhere on Grist: ignore the denials; the Times' cheese expose had its facts straight.

For an eco-friendly Christmas tree, go with natural.

I don't understand what this satire and response is about, but I think the metareporting on the Times' coverage over the years is interesting.

Last week a friend called to solicit my advice about luggage. She was shopping for rollerboards. I told her they weren't my thing because I've been in too many situations, such as cobblestone streets, where you can't roll them, and they're so heavy--even when empty--that it's not worth it. She said she didn't travel in developing countries. I told her I was referring to Paris.

I spoke with an energy auditor today who acted like my mother. I'd left him a message in the morning, asking for an estimate. He called back a few minutes before I needed to leave my desk (and my cell phone). He talked. And talked. And talked. I told him I had to go. He kept talking. I told him, okay, but I needed to leave. He kept talking. I had to hang up on him.

When I say I have to go, that doesn't mean keep talking. That doesn't mean get a few more things in. It doesn't mean continue to convince me that you're better than your competitors. It means wrap it up, dammit.