Friday, December 22, 2006

Secondary Gripes

Because I’m not yet finished complaining about this book, I have to point out two other things that really burned me up (or at least made me understand that the authors’ values are not my values, as if that wasn’t obvious from their insistence that I must “get it all.”)

1. Spirituality. One of the things the authors emphasize is that GALs (SAHMs who are Getting it All) have a strict daily regimen broken down into fifteen minute segments. That’s fine with me. I’m Type A. I like schedules. But they insist that in order to be a GAL then you must dedicate an entire fifteen minutes per day to “spirituality.” Their first instruction is to create a “sanctuary” at home (it should be easily set up and taken down) with whatever accoutrements you might need to feel peaceful and relaxed. Next, spend fifteen minutes in your sanctuary repeating the mantra of your choice, and, voila! You can check off your spirituality box for the day. You have now fulfilled your daily spirituality requirement and are well on your way to being a GAL. Isn’t that great?!? Say your centering mantra for 15 minutes and be on your merry way. Don’t get me wrong…I love centering prayer, but it seems cheap to insist on spirituality as just another thing to do on your way to getting it all. Don’t even get me started on the fact that they cite “elegance” as a spiritual discipline. Gag.

2. It’s All About Me. Despite the fact that GALs are supposed to be spiritual people (a spirituality perfected in 15 minutes per day), there doesn’t seem to be much room for selflessness. In the chapter on finances they claim that “doing generous, selfless things will bring wealth to you” (270). They then tell the story about how one of the authors gave a ten-spot to a guy selling a newspaper in an intersection and told the vendor to keep the change. That afternoon the authors got a call from a publisher wanting to publish their book. Why? Because the author was so generous to the newspaper vendor, they claim. So always be on the lookout for opportunities to be generous, not because being generous is a good thing, but because it will bring you the good karma in the end.

They devote a lot of space to sex and ways to nurture intimacy. Not a bad thing at all, but ultimately they advise that doing good things for your husband will pay off for you in the end. Apparently GALs don’t do nice things for their husbands because they love them. They do nice things to get nice things in return. They suggest offering a foot rub or a shoulder rub because that will help you get in the mood when the time comes. “Remember, it’s not just for your husband, it’s for you!” (222). They also suggest offering compliments to your husband because “When you compliment him, he will compliment you back.”

So to sum it up, to be a GAL, I have to remember that it’s about me, me, me, me, me! Great! Let’s get started!

OK, I think I’m done. I feel better now.

Friday, December 15, 2006

On Not Getting It All

I mentioned a few posts ago that I was reading MomsTown Guide to Getting it All: A Life Makeover for Stay at Home Moms. Normally I would not have even considered something with such a title, but someone in my SAHM book club chose it as our November book. The woman who chose it hadn’t actually read it, but thought it looked interesting. When she began reading it, however, she found it an utter waste of time and recommended that we choose another book to read instead. Not being one to let a book go unread, especially one that I’ve paid for, I decided to read it. It ended up being a quick read, mostly because it was insipid garbage and I was able to skim through it.

The crux is that there are two kinds of stay-at-home moms, “ordinary SAHMs” and “GALs.” GALs are SAHMs who are “Getting it ALl” Clever, huh. I’ll save my secondary rants for another post, but here is my primary aggravation: When are we going to stop trying to convince people (moms, in this case) that they can get it all? I realize that these two women make their living by making women believe that they can get it all, and that if their argument wasn’t convincing they’d be out of a job.

But it simply isn’t realistic.

When you make one choice, you automatically eliminate a whole host of others. If you choose to stay home with your kid(s), your career is most likely going to take a hit. If you choose to go to work and leave your children in the care of someone else, you’re going to encounter a whole host of other issues. For me it was not feeling completely present in my job because I really wanted to be with my kid. For other women I know it’s feeling that they never have enough time to spend with their children. For others it may be something else. But I don’t believe for a second that we can “get it all.” We create our priorities and we make decisions based on those. Not everything can be our top priority. Such a notion sets us up for failure. It makes us believe that if we don’t live up to that “getting it all” standard then we’re not doing the best we can. It’s hard enough being a mom without having someone telling us that unless we’ve “got it all,” we’re “ordinary SAHMs.” I was especially amused by their constant reminder that while we pursuing our passions in order to "get it all," we may find that we need to utilize child care during the week. Um, if I wanted my kid in child care, I wouldn't be staying at home with him. It's that kind of logic that made the book so aggrivating.

The irony is that the book we chose to read instead of this one was Little Earthquakes. One of the plotlines is about a woman who tries her best to “have it all” and realizes that it isn’t possible, that you have to make choices, and when you choose one path you have to accept the fact that you’ve eliminated the possibility of many other paths. It was refreshing and much more real than the “get it all” myth.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Get It?

Jay obviously needed to blow off a little steam last night. He was at school until 9:00 p.m. finishing writing his finals. He started baking as soon as he got home. When I woke up this morning this was on the counter. The pumpkin pie and pecan pie are both in the refrigerator.

Don't worry, they're not for us. We're taking them to a dinner for the engineering and physics faculty tonight, which explains the bit of "nerd" that Jay had to throw in for good measure.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Run, Barack, Run!

Word has it Obama's on his way to New Hampshire.

I told Jay the other day that if he runs for President in 2008 I'd actually volunteer for his campaign. I'll make phone calls, stuff envelopes, deliver yard signs, whatever.

I said that I even consider--consider--putting a campaign sticker on my car.

Jay wants to know what's happened to the real Mary Beth. I say, how can you turn down this face?

Note: After looking over this post I realized that it sounds like I'm a fan of Obama because he's an attractive guy. In fact, I have been overwhelmingly impressed with everything he's had to say, from his World AIDS Day speech at Saddleback to his article in Sojourner's. He gets it and can articulate it in a way no one else can.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Yesterday I was able to participate in an Advent mini-retreat with some other women from my community. It was at the (unbelievably gorgeous) home of one of the staff members from my church. There were six of us total and we were all connected by knowing either our hostess or the leader of the retreat. I was really excited to go as I haven't exactly been feeling "Advent-ish." It was easy to feel "Advent-ish" in Chicago. The weather was cold and blustery. The outside was dark and uninviting. I really did spend all of Advent waiting for the "light of the world" to appear. It's hard to get into that mindset when it's still sunny and warm enough to play outside with Joshua. Not that I'm complaining a bit! I'm thrilled! But it makes it harder to get into the Advent spirit.

So I was looking forward to a time to help me really feel like we're starting the Advent journey. Jay took the morning off from school and stayed home with Joshua so that I could go. We began the morning listening to the words of Henri Nouwen and sharing a litany from the Northumbria Community. Then we went off by ourselves (there was enough room in the house that each of us could go to a separate area and not even know that anyone else was there!) and spent an hour and a half in silence. An hour and a half of silence!!! Those were the most glorious words anyone had said to me in awhile. What would I do with an hour and a half of silence? I started with some mindful meditation, moved on to an abbreviated time of lectio divina using a passage from Isaiah, and just sat in the quiet.

To my surprise, I actually started to get a little antsy. After being home with a baby/toddler for the last five months I'm a little out of practice at sitting still and 75 minutes is a long time. I like silence much more now than I used to, however. I used to have the television on all the time, even if just for background noise. Now the television is on, at maximum, three hours a week, and those are all after Joshua is in bed. I love the quiet, I love the absence of sensory input, I have to have quiet these days to stay sane.

But I realized yesterday that the sound of silence is my background noise now. I realized at the that, more than silence, I need intentional quiet...quiet that allows me to listen to God and listen to what's going on inside of me. It's not exactly something I'm good at (and I don't like things that I'm not good at) but I need to try.

After the quiet time we had a wonderful lunch together and I got to know all of these great women a little better. One is a university administrator, one is the Director of Discipleship at my church, one is a radiologist who is now staying home to homeschool her oldest daughter, one is a spiritual director, and, to tell you the truth I'm not sure about the last woman but she's really into alternative medicine and eating for healing so that was really cool.

I was honored to be part of it and glad to remember my need for silence.

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Joshua has no use for us anymore.

This week he started walking, really walking, as in, it's now his preferred mode of moving himself from one place to another. And he wants to do it all the time.

Before he was walking our days were spent playing with his toys, puzzles, games, books, etc. No more. He just wants to walk. He'll spend a few minutes after getting up from either his morning or afternoon nap playing with me, pulling all of his toys out of his toybox or off his shelf, or pulling things out of drawers or cabinets. Sometimes he'll stop at his activity table, sometimes he'll stop and bang on the pots and pans, but not for a terribly long time. What he really wants to do is walk. I've tried following him around, but I think it just annoys him.

So I have to find other things to do since my little playmate is toddling about the house. I cook or fold laundry and every once in a while he shows up in the room where I am, just to make sure I'm still around, and then he leaves again. It's funny but a little disconcerting. I'm not quite sure of my role anymore and he doesn't seem to be in any hurry to clue me in.

As a side note, all this newfound walking has convinced him that he's a big kid. I dropped him off in the nursery today and he immediately walked up to a girl twice his size and pulled the pacifier right out of her mouth (I'm not sure why he wanted hers. We could never get him to take a pacifier). When we went in to pick him up he was in the middle of a group of four or five three-year-olds who were playing together. He was just standing there, waving his arms, like "Look at me! I'm big too!" Just as we walked in Jay saw the girl whose pacifier he had stolen earlier body check him. He landed right on his bottom and started to wail. We explained to him that if you steal a girl's pacifier she's gonna beat you up, but I'm not sure he understood.

He will one day.

Friday, December 01, 2006

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

OK, so not at my house yet, but how about a little red and green for the blog?

(Shamelessly stolen from Anna. I left a few out.)

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? Both, depending on whether the gift is shaped to oddly to be giftwrapped.

2. Real tree or artificial? We've had an artificial tree since our second year of marriage. We bought a real one our first Christmas in southern California and it was shedding needles by the time we got it home. After that we lived in Chicago and it's pretty hard to haul a live tree up to the 23rd floor! This year we'll buy a live one and plant it in our yard after Christmas.

3. When do you put up the tree? Whenever we get around to it! Usually a few weeks before Christmas.

4. When do you take the tree down? Whenever we get around to it! Usually after New Year's.

5. Do you like eggnog? Yes, and the Amish dairy farmers at the Farmer's Market are selling both egg nog and custard. I'm in heaven.

6. Do you have a nativity scene? A small glass one that we received as a wedding gift. It sits on our piano.

7. Mail or email Christmas cards? Mail! We didn't get around to them last year because of the new squirmy person living in the house, but we're almost ready to mail them this year!

8. Favorite Christmas Movie? A Charlie Brown Christmas, of course!

9. Favorite thing to eat at Christmas? Sugar cookies

10. Clear lights or colored on the tree? Clear

11. Favorite Christmas song? "In the Bleak Midwinter" I sang it to Joshua last year until I was hoarse.

12. Travel at Christmas or stay home? Both. This year we'll be home for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my dad, and then we'll travel to see the rest of my family.

13. Angel on the tree top or a star? We had an angel when I was growing up. Now we have a star.

14. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? It depends on the schedule. I think we've done it differently every year for the past few. This year we'll open presents on Christmas morning, I think.

15. Most annoying thing about this time of year? Shameless consumerism.

16. Favorite for Christmas dinner? Whatever someone else is cooking!

How about you?

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Back on the Wagon

If you pay any attention to my sidebar, you know that I'm currently reading this little gem. I actually find most of it to be obnoxious garbage (more in a later post), but the chapter on addressing one's physical fitness motivated me to start eating well again and exercising (which I haven't done on a regular basis since before getting pregnant). Unfortunately, Jay was able to find my packed-away Pilates DVDs in a matter of minutes and I had no excuse not to use them.

As a result, I slept better last night than I have since before Joshua was born. I think I got 8+ hours of (nearly) uninterrupted sleep. I did have to go to the bathroom once since I drank so much water, but I was able to fall right back to sleep again.

Of course, I feel like I've been run over by a semi.

I assume this will get easier. I already feel like a new person.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Still Not Quite Thinking Like a Parent

We had an eat-in area in our kitchen in Joliet. We never furnished it because it was the perfect place to drop the baby and his gear everytime we walked in the door. A little dinette set would have completely cramped our style.

Our new house has an eat-in kitchen, too, and the decision to furnish it was easy. Joshua quickly mastered the art of flinging sweet potatoes and other brightly-colored foods past the boundaries of his gigantic Spongebob Squarepants underneath-the-high-chair-food-catching-tarp and onto the carpet in the dining room. A whole can of Spot Shot later and we decided that we needed to eat our meals on tile rather than on carpet.

So Joshua and I set out on our new find an inexpensive yet stylish dinette for our eat-in area. We hit several furniture stores in town and quickly discovered that you are no one unless you have a "pub table" in your kitchen. It took me a while to get used to the pub table idea but then I was sold, and it wasn't long before Joshua and I found the perfect one. It was a four-top round pub table, but the chairs weren't so high as to cause my feet to dangle. I tried to think of how Joshua would manage once he was old enough to climb in and out of his chair by himself and decided that these chairs wouldn't be any more difficult to get in and out of than any other chair.

I shared my discovery with Jay. I described it to him in detail and then said, "Or we could just get a plain wooden table," hoping that he would think that was a terrible idea.

But he didn't.

"Maybe we should get a plain wooden table. We don't want to spend a lot of money on a table that's just going to get huge gouges in it when he plays with his spirograph."

Spirograph! I hadn' t thought of that at all. And then thoughts of No. 2 pencils and crayons running off the edge of the paper began flooding my brain. And errant streaks of glue from art projects. And gashes from scissors.

A glass-top pub table? What was I thinking?

So we went to K-Mart and got this. It was originally $220 but had gone on sale for $150. The sale was over but someone had forgotten to remove the sign with the new price, so we got it for the sale price anyway.

Bring on the spirograph, the writing utensils, the glue, the scissors! And maybe one day I'll start thinking like a parent.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am thankful that this Thanksgiving is not last Thanksgiving.

Last Thanksgiving Joshua was eleven days old. I was miserably sleep-deprived. I still had raging hormones coursing through my body. I was wondering if I shouldn't just give this squirming, screaming ball of baby away to someone made of better stuff than I. My dad, God love him, had driven up from Nashville to spend the holiday with us. He probably spent the whole time wondering what had happened to his happy, chatty, cheerful daughter and if she would ever come back to replace this hollow, lifeless, shell of a person who had taken up residence on the living room couch.

The only thing I remember about Thanksgiving dinner is that I ate about three bites while trying desperately to nurse Joshua. I chewed as quietly as possible so I could hear whether he was actually swallowing anything or just pacifying himself. Not that it mattered, of course, so long as he was quiet.

Both my mom and dad had reassured me that "this time next year he'll be sitting at the table eating turkey and mashed potatoes." It didn't matter. I couldn't see past the next month of writing ordination papers while trying to soothe this poor guy who would be happy to sit down by himself for about, oh, fifteen seconds before demanding to be picked up again.

Right now he just woke up after twelve hours of good sleep. He just finished "helping" Jay fix breakfast by pulling everything out of the kitchen cabinets and now he's playing in the living room with my dad. This afternoon we'll enjoy our Thanksgiving lamb and Saturday we'll do it all over again with my mom's family in Nashville.

I'm so thankful.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Queen of the Mountain

Our friend Christie, the wife and ranching partner of Montana Dave is now a blogger! She's a fascinating woman with lots of insight and wisdom. And she's also a fabulous writer. Go visit.

Warning: Her first posts are graphic, gut-wrenching, and not for the faint of heart.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Read This Book

I don't often recommend books to everyone, but you (yes, I mean you and you and you) should read this. Trust me.

Monday, November 13, 2006

One Year Ago Today -or- Joshua's Birth Story, The Final Chapter

By this time the nurses were well aware that I had a very clear idea of exactly how I wanted my labor and delivery to go, so they didn’t hesitate to ask how I wanted to push. I told them that I wanted to be as upright as possible, wanted to hold my own legs, and wanted to be left alone.

“You know how on all those birth shows they have people standing over the mother yelling at her to push?” I said and they nodded.

“Don’t do that.”

“And you know how they’re always counting to ten through the pushing?” I asked and they nodded again.

“Don’t do that either. I can count and I know when to push. I’d appreciate just being left alone.”

One of the nurses left the room altogether and the other one stood by the monitor while I pushed. I wasn’t sure of the protocol for this manner of pushing, so every time I felt a contraction I’d announce to the near-empty room, “I’m going to push now.” And when the contraction was over I’d announce, “I’m done.” And Jay would look to how things were going in my nether regions, and the nurse would come over and clean up that which needed to be cleaned up. It became clear after a few pushes that Joshua wasn’t enjoying ride. His heart rate would bottom out during each contraction, so the nurse suggested I push on my side. It wasn’t the most comfortable position, but I managed, and Joshua seemed to appreciate the change. However, when I changed positions, the contraction monitor at the nurse’s station went haywire since I had to contract my abdominal muscles in order to move. The doctor came running in to find out what was going on since he thought they were blasting me with Pitocin to spur on contractions. Once that was cleared up I was left alone again to push.

After about an hour Jay checked “down there” and said to the nurse, “Maybe it’s time to get the doctor.” She took a peek and agreed. After that things are a blur. The doctor came in, broke off the bottom half of the bed, rolled out his impressive array of instruments, allowed himself to be dressed and gloved by the nurses, asked if there were any residents who wanted to watch (Hello? Does anyone care if I want residents to watch?), called the pediatric team to the room (Joshua pooped in utero, which is common in overdue babies, so he had to be checked right away), and calmly gave me final instructions.

“OK, push with the next contraction, and then push again immediately after that.”

“You want me to push when there’s no contraction?” I checked. He nodded. We were cool.

Pretty soon he announced that there was a head, and a whole body attached. Jay describes it by saying, “His head came out and then he kept coming and coming and coming.” Joshua began to wail immediately. He was perfectly pink with a big pile of black hair. And he was whisked away to be checked by peds. It took me a minute to remember that I didn’t even know his full name yet. We had decided on Joshua months before, but I left his middle name up to Jay. I turned around to ask Jay what his name was. Through tears he said, “Joshua Christian.” Joshua is the name of one of my very best friends from seminary. Christian is the middle name of Jay’s grandfather. It was perfect.

I delivered the placenta, which was very pretty as placentas go, and the doctor pulled out his suture kit. It took me a minute to figure out what he was doing.

“Oh,” I said, “Is it bad?” My doctor also knows me well enough to know that certain information will just make me a basket case. He smiled and kept stitching.

Soon after, the head of the peds team came over and introduced herself. She explained why they had been called down and informed me that Joshua was perfect, with two 9’s for his Apgar scores. She thanked me for letting her team provide services, packed up, and left.

Joshua weighed 9 lbs., 5 oz. and was 21.5 inches long, pretty big as far as newborns go. Because he was so large the nurses needed to conduct some blood tests to make sure his blood sugar was stable. After what seemed like ages, they finally put a squirmy, naked Joshua on my chest. He proceeded to poop all over both Jay and I before any of us remembered that a diaper might be a good idea. Joshua and I tried out nursing and discovered that it wasn't so hard after all (although by the time a week had passed I was good buddies with the local lactation consultant). And then we went up to our room to get to know each other.

It's hard to believe that I've only known this kid for a year. It seems like he's been around my whole life.

One Year Ago Today -or- Joshua's Birth Story, Part II

It was a little after 1:00 a.m when we got back in the car. This time I was really uncomfortable and rode the whole way while lying down in the backseat. Jay did his best to coach me from the front, but I wasn’t a very good listener. We finally arrived at the hospital and Jay dropped me off at the door. As I walked back to the triage desk, Nurse Shortfinger looked at me like I was crazy. I panted at her, “My water broke” and I shortly found myself back in Hell’s Triage Room where the temperature was now somewhere around 110 degrees. That’s when things started getting messy in ways that don’t need to be shared via internet. One of the nurses did a test to find out if my water really broke (which I certainly appreciated after having made the huge mess on my bathroom floor) while the other nurse re-entered all of my information in the computer. (Apparently Nurse Shortfinger hadn’t bother to save everything so I repeated all the information I had given just hours before).

After informing me that my water had broken, the nurse then informed me that I was 2 cm dilated. Yes! All that work and I had made a whole centimeter of progress. Visions of labor lasting for days, even weeks, began darting through my head. I was admitted “for observation” and told that the doctor would call back at 6:00 a.m. to find out if I had made sufficient progress to stay in the hospital or if I needed to return home. Please note that at this point I was in so much pain that I couldn’t even roll over onto my back. The contractions felt like they were rolling on top of each other. I would’ve thought that I was actually in transition except that I still had 8 centimeters to go before I could push. But they would admit me “for observation.” There were a few things that I wanted them to “observe” but none would have been very appropriate.

I finally made it to my LDR room at 4:00 a.m. Lisa was waiting for me with an IV. Even though I intended an unmedicated birth, I was a Group B Strep carrier and needed at least two bags of penicillin before delivery. By that time everything I had learned in Bradley classes was out the window. I was too far along in labor to be able to relax. The room was too bright, the noises were too loud, I was sweating and shivering at the same time from the hormone surges, and I was fairly certain I was going to die right there. I apologized to Jay for wimping out, turned to Lisa, and begged for the anesthesiologist. She looked at me wide-eyed, giving me another moment to change my mind.

“Please,” I said.

I know the anesthesiologist was dressed in white, but I’m pretty sure she had a halo, too. It took a long time for her to place the epidural because she was being so cautious, but when she finished I felt better immediately. I had a little button to push to control the amount of medicine I was getting. I was able to regulate it so that I could still feel my contractions, but I wasn’t in mind-blowing pain any more. Right after the epidural was placed, a resident came in to check me and told me I was at 4 centimeters.

Observation. Ha.

Jay sat on the chair next to the bed for the next few hours and pretended not to doze off while I did my best to get some shut-eye. At 7:00 a.m. I was checked again and had made it to 6 cm, and at 8:30 a.m. I got a great surprise! Even though he wasn’t supposed to be working, my doctor came in to deliver Joshua, although he said that the deed had to be done by noon so that he could watch the Bears game. He checked me immediately and informed me that it was time to push.


I still hadn’t gotten my second bag of penicillin, so the doctor changed his mind about the pushing thing and went to the nurse’s station to read his novel while I got the second dose of medication. At 9:15 he came back and took one more look. He ordered a minute amount of Pitocin, despite Jay’s objections, as my contractions had slowed from 3 minutes to 5 minutes, and gave me the go-ahead to push.

This is getting long. I’ll finish the story in one additional post.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

One Year Ago Today -or- Joshua's Birth Story

One year ago today I went into labor. It was quite a surprise, really, even though I was already overdue. According to the doctor Joshua was due November 8, but according to my (much more accurate) calculations, he was due on November 11. When I went for my regular checkup on November 11, however, nothing was happening. He hadn’t dropped at all and my cervix was closed up tight. I was about 80% effaced, but I had been that way for several weeks. The doctor scheduled a non-stress test and ultrasound for the following Tuesday (the 15th) and an induction for the Monday after that (the 21st).

So it was a surprise when I started feeling crampy on Saturday morning. Jay had gone out for a run and I was sorting laundry, figuring I could use another Saturday to get things in order around the house. I called my friend who had given birth just six months before.

“I’m having cramps,” I told her, “Am I in labor?”

She gave me the short list of things to do: stand up, sit down, lie down, drink as much water as you can choke down. If you still feel crampy, you’re in labor.

I was, indeed, in labor, a fact that I doubted for the rest of the day. I was sure that the contractions were going to go away and that I would be pregnant forever. Jay came home from his run and showered, and then we started timing the contractions. They stayed about six minutes apart all day. We whiled away the hours watching football and trying to take a nap (in hindsight I should’ve done everything in my power to fall asleep, seeing as that was the final opportunity for pre-baby rest), but I kept alerting Jay to every contraction and neither of us could sleep. Finally I sent him out for Portillo’s, which we jokingly referred to as “The Last Supper.” At 8:00 p.m. I began doing laps around the living room/dining room/kitchen circuit in the parsonage, which shortened the time between contractions to three minutes. Finally we decided to call the doctor and head into town. If I knew then what I know now we would’ve just headed into town and gotten a nice hotel room rather than going to the hospital, but I was a first time mom and perpetually neurotic, so we went to the hospital.

It took a little over an hour to get there (we moved during my pregnancy but I didn’t want to give up my doctor) and I was only moderately uncomfortable. When we showed up I was sent to a triage room and given a gown to change in to. Several minutes later the triage nurse showed up and began her exam…or at least she tried to. The poor woman couldn’t have been more than five feet tall, and her hands were in perfect proportion to her height: She couldn’t reach my cervix. And that was not for lack of trying, mind you. Finally, she gave up (much to my relief) and called a taller woman in to do the job. Nurse #2 gave me the fabulous news that I was 1 centimeter dilated. I almost cried. It was about 90 degrees in the triage room, I’d been laboring all day long, I wasn’t terribly comfortable, and I had barely made any progress.

The nurse started to offer the possibility of admitting me and starting a Pitocin drip. About halfway through her offer she remembered my intention to have an unmedicated birth and stopped herself. She offered to let me walk around the floor to see if I could get things moving along any faster, and also suggested staying in a hotel nearby until I began making more progress (for those of you new to this, a woman isn’t considered “in labor” until she is at least 3 cm dilated). I was hot, miserable, embarrassed, and frustrated that no one could give me any indication of when I might “really” be in labor. I only wanted to be in my own bed.

Totally crestfallen, Jay and I got back in the car and drove back to Joliet. I crawled into bed, wondering how many more days I was going to have to endure in the relative discomfort that the contractions were causing. I asked Jay to sleep in the guest room so that he could actually rest since I knew I probably wasn’t going to be able to sleep. After about five contractions I had to go to the bathroom. As soon as I dropped trou', my water broke.

Jay has a strange gift for low-profile sleeping. He can be almost completely undetectable in a bed. I looked for him in the guest bedroom, but he wasn’t there. I went through the first floor of the house, but he wasn’t there either. So I went back up to the guest bedroom and noticed a slight lump under the comforter. I informed him that we needed to go back to the hospital, hopefully this time to have a baby.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election Reflections

I have never felt as cynical at the polls as I did yesterday, even after listening to Copland's Lincoln Portrait (complete with narration by Katherine Hepburn) at lunch. Here's why:

  • Discrimination. This is the second time I've had to vote on a proposition to legislate discrimination. We lived in California when Proposition 22 passed, stating that the state would not recognize same-sex marriages contracted outside of California. As if that wasn't bad enough, now good old Tennessee has decided (by a landslide, no less) to write discrimination into the state constitution. The state cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when hiring persons for state jobs. The state cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when admitting students into state schools. But by golly now we've decided that the state can discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation when two people of the same gender want the same rights that married heterosexuals have. And we wrote it into the state constitution. Are you kidding me?
  • Dirty Campaigns and Demonization. Our senate race was dirty. It was mentioned on NPR no less than five times (that I heard) as an example of one of the nastiest campaigns in the country. And it wouldn't be so bad if I had really been able to get behind one or the other of the candidates. As it was, however, I felt that I was picking the lesser of the two evils. On top of that, I am so tired of the sweeping, demonizing generalizations. Republicans claim that the Democrats have no "family values" and that Democrats "hate our soldiers." Democrats claim that Republicans want America to be a theocracy. When it comes right down to it, nothing much is going to change regardless of who controls the House and Senate. As a nation, our priorities are still completely out of whack and it isn't the politicians who are going to put things back together again.
  • Screwy Priorities. And speaking of priorities that are out of whack, I am more than a little disgusted by the amount of money spent on the Tennessee senate race alone. (The figure I heard was in the millions of dollars). That makes my stomach turn. It is absolutely sinful (and I mean that in the most theological of ways) that there are children going to bed hungry in this state and yet there is that much money going into a political campaign. I'm disgusted.
  • Two Parties? Jonathan posted about Chris Lugo last week, which prompted me to consider voting for him (Chris, not Jonathan). But of course, "a vote for Lugo would be a vote for Corker" By voting for Ford, though, I essentially said, "Hey, Harold Ford, I agree with you! Or at least I agree with you enough to want you to represent me!" But I don't agree with him on a lot of things. He just happened to be the lesser of the two evils (who had a shot at winning). How many other people who would've voted for Lugo voted for Ford instead because "a vote for Lugo is a vote for Corker?" If they had voted for Lugo would it have sent a strong message to the Republican and Democratic candidates that, hey, a lot of us think you're both full of baloney? If we're voting for the lesser of the two evils instead of the person that we think is right for the job how are we ever going to break free of the two-party system? Are we just being cowards if we don't vote the way our consciences dictate? I don't know.
  • Stupid Voting Machines. The ones where I voted worked fine. I even got a lovely tutorial on how to use it properly. But it seems like everyone was just waiting for the machines to screw up. Ford started hollering early about how a polling place in Jackson had to turn people away because the machines were broken. Turns out that was wholly untrue. It seems that the voting machines are just another thing that the candidates can make a stink over if things don't go their way.
I'm done now.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday to my dad and to my godson David!

David is three years old today. My dad is a few years more than that.

We here at Bernheisel Central hope they both have wonderful birthdays!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Feeling Blue in a Red State

Just when I thought I had figured out who to vote for on Tuesday, Jonathan had to go and post about Chris Lugo, the Green Party candidate whom I didn't even know was running.

Life was much easier when Obama was one of my options.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween!

I would have uploaded this last night but Blogger was being cranky.

My dad and I have a long history of pumpkin carving together that I wanted to carry on for Joshua. Every year my dad and I picked out a pumpkin together and came up with a design. (There was usually very little variation other than how many teeth to include). Then I would clean out the guts and he would carve. We even did it last year when he was visiting for my baby shower!

This is my first time trying my hand at it all by myself, as gut-cleaner-outer, designer, and carver. I don't think it's half bad for my first time.

You can get a better view at Josh's blog.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Can't Sleep; Ants Will Eat Me

I spent Saturday afternoon in the front yard trying to clean up some of the landscaping. I was particularly annoyed by a patch of weeds growing next to our garage and made it my goal to clear them away. In pulling the weeds, however, I managed to unleash Satan's own army of ants. They were everywhere and they were pissed.

Jay had insisted that I wear shoes and socks rather than my flip-flops, but it wasn't long before the ants were climbing up my shoes and into my short socks. I went inside to change into long socks, but that didn't help much. Pretty soon they were crawling up my pant legs and biting me everywhere, all the way up to my back.

It's a good thing our neighbors are too far away to see into our yard because I panicked. I left a trail of shoes, socks, pants, and yes, even drawers, from the driveway through the garage and into the house.

I decided to leave the ants alone and work on our flowerbeds instead, but I itched for the rest of the day.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Where Have I Been All My Life?

I seem to have spent all of my creativity (and there wasn't that much to begin with) on writing a book review for my church newsletter. So I will continue marking time with some relatively mindless trivia, in this case a map, stolen from Darby. The states in red are those in which I have spent at least one night. If I included the states that I had driven through, there would be five more (OK, VT, RI, CT, and IA)

create your own visited states map

How about you?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

100 Things

No, it's not the usual 100 Things meme because I couldn't possibly think of 100 things about myself interesting enough to share. But I stole this from Jen 'cause the hard part was already done. The things I have done are in orange.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink

02. Swam with wild dolphins

03. Climbed a mountain

04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive

05. Been inside the Great Pyramid

06. Held a tarantula

07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone

08. Said “I love you’ and meant it!

09. Hugged a tree

10. Bungee jumped

11. Visited Paris

12. Watched a lightning storm at sea

13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. Seen the Northern Lights

15. Gone to a huge sports game

16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa

17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables

18. Touched an iceberg

19. Slept under the stars

20. Changed a baby’s diaper

21. Taken a trip in a hot air balloon

22. Watched a meteor shower

23. Gotten drunk on champagne

24. Given more than you can afford to charity

25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope

26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment

27. Had a food fight

28. Bet on a winning horse

29. Asked out a stranger

30. Had a snowball fight

31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can

32. Held a lamb

33. Seen a total eclipse

34. Ridden a roller coaster

35. Hit a home run

36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking

37. Adopted an accent for an entire day

38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment

39. Visited all 50 states

40. Taken care of someone who was drunk

41. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country

42. Watched wild whales

43. Stolen a sign

44. Backpacked in Europe

45. Taken a road-trip

46. Gone rock climbing

48. Midnight walk on the beach

49. Gone sky diving

50. Taken a train through Europe

51. Been heartbroken longer than you were actually in love

52. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger’s table, and had a meal with them

53. Milked a cow

54. Alphabetized your CDs

55. Sung karaoke

56. Lounged around in bed all day

57. Gone scuba diving

58. Kissed in the rain

59. Gone to a drive-in theatre

60. Started a business

61. Taken a martial arts class

62. Been in a movie

63. Crashed a party

64. Gone without food for 5 days

65. Gotten a tattoo

66. Got flowers for no reason

67. Performed on stage

68. Been to Las Vegas

69. Recorded music

70. Eaten shark

71. Buried one/both of your parents

72. Been on a cruise ship

73. Spoken more than one language fluently

74. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over

75. Been to the Statue of Liberty

76. Had plastic surgery

77. Survived an accident that you shouldn’t have survived

78. Wrote articles for a large publication

77. Lost over 20 pounds

79. Piloted an airplane

80. Petted a stingray

81. Broken someone’s heart

82. Broken a bone

83. Eaten sushi

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Parasailed

86. Skipped all your school reunions

87. Shaved your head

88. Caused a car accident

89. Pretended to be "sick"

90. Surfed in the ocean

91. Saved someone's life

92. Fainted

93. Been in the room while someone is giving birth (Yeah, me)

94. Hitchhiked

95. Adopted a child

96. Been caught daydreaming

97. Been to the Grand Canyon

98. Called off a wedding engagement

99. Donated your blood

100. Become a follower of Jesus Christ

I've done over a third of the things on the list. I don't know what that means. Probably nothing.

I'm not going to tag anyone, but feel free to share your own list in on your own blog or in my comments.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Until Next Year

I've officially squeezed as much as humanly possible out of my 32nd birthday.

It started last weekend when my dad came for a birthday visit. We worked on the yard all afternoon and then he grilled steaks. He even brought birthday cake for dessert! Yum!

Jay and Joshua gave me a gift certificate to a local day spa, and Jay took Joshua duty so that I could cash it in. I spent Friday afternoon getting a one-hour massage, a one-hour facial, an eyebrow wax (my first ever!), a manicure, and a pedicure. Ah...

By the time I got home, the birthday cake that Jay's dad sent me was ready for consumption (it had to be frozen overnight). Yum...

Then on Saturday we took off for Nashville to call upon Gran's babysitting service so that we could go out for birthday dinner. I chose Radius 10 and couldn't have been happier. I had a gourmet version of shrimp and grits, and Jay had duck on a bed of dried cherry bread pudding. We split an order of gnocchi with wild mushrooms. Sweet potato ice cream with toasted meringue was the perfect finish.

Two birthday cakes, two birthday dinners, lots of family, massage, facial, manicure, pedicure...

It's been a good birthday.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Put a Cork In It

I was sitting in Jason's today having lunch with my friend R. Our friend B and her two charges had just left, so R and I were sitting on the same side of the table facing the door.

Out of the blue, R said, matter-of-factly, "There's Bob Corker."

"What?" I asked incredulously.

She nodded towards the door--"There's Bob Corker. I knew he was campaigning in town this week but I thought he'd already left."

For those of you not keeping up with Tennessee politics, the senate race here is tight. So tight, in fact, that I've actually heard it covered on NPR several times over the past few weeks.

We sat and waited for him to approach us. As he walked toward our table, R, knowing my political leanings, leaned over and said, "Now, be nice."

He held out his hand. "Bob Corker."

We introduced ourselves.

He told us he hoped we'd consider voting for him in the election.

"Indeed!" I said. (Sure, I'll consider it one more time, when I step in the voting booth.)

He started to walk away and then came back.

"So," he said, obviously uncomfortable, "what's the talk about the election around here."

I answered, "I was just telling R here that I'd heard about the race on NPR several times over the last few weeks. I guess it's pretty close if they're covering it on the national news."

"Well," he replied, "I hope I can count on you to help put me over the top."

R and I smiled.

We noticed throughout the rest of out lunch that he spent considerably longer with the other patrons than he did with us. We also noticed that most of the other patrons were about the age of our parents. At some of the tables he sat down, and at most of them he at least engaged in some sort of conversation.

Jay's opined that he assumed R and I were a lesbian couple out with our child (He didn't even mention Joshua or even look at him, by the way).

But my dad confirmed my suspicion, which is that Corker's pretty certain he doesn't have the 30-something female vote anyway, so there's no use wasting time trying to convince us otherwise. And dad said that if Corker had any hope that he might have our vote, my mention of "NPR" killed it.

You'd think he'd at least engage us in some conversation. It was obvious that at least one of us was a mom. Why not tell us about his position on education? On taxes? On something? But, as my dad said, "He's worried about getting my vote. Not yours."

To tell you the truth, I'm going to be holding my nose as I pull the lever on election day anyway.

It was interesting to watch and to be part of. Jay and I both decided my dad was right about why Corker was so standoff-ish, but Jay's suggestion made us laugh a lot.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Fall After All

I'm not much of a seasonal decorator. Granted, I always drag out piles of decorations at Christmas, but that's about as far as I go. I figure nature does the best decorating of all, and that I certainly have nothing to add to the beauty that I can see outside. But now I've changed my tune.

Sarah and her mom brought me a gorgeous fall wreath that's now hanging above my fireplace. And then yesterday I attended an Auxiliary luncheon at the university. They were giving away the cute table centerpieces as door prizes and I actually won one! I never win anything! It has taken its place on my own dining room table, displacing the fall candle collection that was originally the extent of my fall decorating.

So despite my complete inability to do anything creative in my home, it is fall after all.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Mission Accomplished

My grandmother's house always smells unbelievable. No matter what time of day you walk in, it always smells like she's just cooked a five-course meal. Ever since I've lived on my own (not including grad school, when it was a major accomplishment to feed myself anything), I've wanted to enter my own home to a smell as luscious as the smell of her house.

Last night it finally happened.

I put on the green beans (cooked with ham hock, of course) at noon. I put the baby back ribs in the oven at 2:00 p.m. When Joshua and I returned from the doctor at 4:30 (it seems we are being visited by a lovely case of roseola or some other viral infection), my house smelled so good. In fact, it smelled almost as good as my grandmother's house. I don't know how many more meals like that I'll have to cook until my house smells like that all the time, but I'm just happy that it worked once.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

City Mouse, Country Mouse

I recently received an e-mail from an old friend. He was shocked that I live in Tennessee now and said that he pictured me "at home in the city, close to culture and activity and all the other things that come with it." While I wouldn't trade anything for my life now, I ran across some pictures that made me nostalgic for my old digs.
It was the weekend before we moved from downtown Chicago to Joliet. I was twenty weeks pregnant. My mom had come up to help me pack and, by luck, she was also able to attend my 20-week ultrasound. Just a block away from my doctor's office (we rode the bus to get there, of course), in the Chicago Cultural Center, a group of monks were creating a sand mandala. It was unlike anything I've ever seen before.

That's colored sand. In one hand they hold a small metal cone filled with colored sand, and in the other they hold another metal cone. They tap or scrape the top of the cone filled with sand so that it comes out in miniscule amounts, making lines as fine as you can draw with a pencil. You can read more about it here.

That day is so vivid. It was hot, especially for me. We walked across the street to hang out in Millenium Park before my appointment, but it was too hot to bear so we just went to the doctor's office. The doctor was running hours behind, so my mom walked over to Marshall Fields to see what sort of damage she could do while we were waiting. After the appointment we headed over to Greek Town for dinner and stopped at Artopolis to get as many desserts as we could decently carry home. We decided to forgo the bus trip home and took a cab instead.

I guess I remember so much because it was my last real jaunt around town as a bona fide city-dweller. Anytime we drove into town after that we felt like frauds, like the suburbanites we used to make fun of, trying to appear that we belonged.

So while I love my home, my job, my life, I do in fact miss the city, the culture, the activity, and all that goes along with it.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

How Not to Get Repeat Customers

I thought that I had experienced the worst in face-to-face salesperson interaction earlier in the summer when we went to the fabulous mall here in our new hometown. I went in to Christopher & Bank to see what they had on sale while Jay and Joshua were amusing themselves elsewhere. They came in to the store to find me a few minutes later. The saleswoman, whom I had discovered in a previous interaction had very limited social skills, saw Joshua and Jay come in. She laughed and said, across the store, “I have never seen a man look so uncomfortable in a store.” Mind you, I almost never go shopping without Jay. He usually picks out my clothes. Needless to say, we turned around and walked out.

Yesterday’s trip to Stride Rite may have topped that, though. I went in looking for some shoes for Joshua. He’s not walking yet, but it just occurred to me that we keep sending him to the nursery at church without shoes and that the nursery staff may be wondering just what brand of redneck we are that we don’t put shoes on our kid to crawl around on tile floor. But I digress…

The saleswoman and I had already gotten of to a rocky start. I asked for “9-12 month shoes,” but she apparently had no idea that their baby shoes were sized by month, yet kept acting as though I were the idiot. Anyway, we finally found some shoes. I took them to the register to pay and she started to fill out a “Buy 7 pairs of shoes, get the 8th pair free” card for me. Then she stopped.

“You’re not local, right?” she said.

“Actually I am,” I said. “But I’m wondering why you made that assumption.”

“Well, your car has Illinois plates…” she trailed off.

I nodded, encouraging her to finish her thought.

“…and you talk like a Yankee.”

There isn’t another Stride Rite within 50 miles. That’s the only reason she got my money.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's Not Easy Being Greens

At least not at our house. They don't last very long.

When we first moved here Jay conducted a very rigorous experiment to determine what we should plant in our garden...he went to the feed store and watched what other people were buying. The answer? Kale and turnips.

Of course at that point our garden didn't even exist, so he headed out with his hoe and his seeds and made one. This is what it looks like today, complete with the world's best gardening-helper.
You can see my pile of greens that I cut on the left.
And here's what happened to them about five minutes later.

I'll let you know how they turn out.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Grousing and Grouting

I love my house, I really do. The layout is wonderful and the land is divine. There are a few things that don't exactly suit my taste, but those are certainly within the scope of several DIY projects. My current project, which I have spread out over many weeks, is the kitchen floor.

In recent conversations with our neighbor, I discovered that the man from whom we bought this house was a bachelor when he built it, which explains a lot, including (possibly) why the kitchen floor is made of faux brick tiles and cement-colored grout. (I mean this totally in jest! My dad lives alone and his home is immaculate, so I realize that "bachelor" does not equal "slob. ") When I consider why someone would choose faux brick tiles, I imagine that his logic must have gone something like this:

Brick is primarily an outdoor surface.
Outdoor surfaces generally do not need to be cleaned.
If I put brick tile on my kitchen floor I will not have to clean it.

When we moved in the kitchen floor was absolutely filthy. It had recently been mopped so there were no big chunks of food or anything, but the grout was so dirty in some places that it was black. There was only one thing to do: get down on my hands and knees with scalding water, floor cleaner, and a scrub brush. In the several weeks that it's taken me to complete this project, I have emptied at least 20 buckets of black water. I should note that the faux brick is expansive. It is not only in the kitchen and eat-in area, but in the connecting entryway from the garage and the hallway to the master bedroom.

It was amazing how obvious my progress was. You could actually see, just with a quick glance, which sections had been scrubbed and which were still waiting the treatment. And then Jay had to go out and buy grout cleaner, which is essentially just an enormous tube of Wite-Out, and sealer. So just when I finish scrubbing every square inch of floor, another project looms ahead.

Here's a picture of pre-cleaner and post-cleaner, side by side. Keep in mind that the dingy half is sparkling compared to what it was before.
There are other things I'd like to do around my house, but I have a feeling that I'll be bonding with my kitchen floor for at least a few more weeks.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


This week is the 25th anniversary of the American Library Association’s Banned Books Week, celebrating “the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular” and stressing “the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them.” (From Why Banned Books Week?)

I will be celebrating Banned Books Week in honor of my own experience of book-banning.

The summer before my junior year of high school, our summer reading list included One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey and Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut. There were others, but those are the two I remember most vividly. Why do I remember them? Because when we returned to school my junior year I found out they had been removed from the summer reading list. It seems that my best friend’s mother challenged their inclusion on the reading list because of coarse language. She didn’t want her daughter reading those books, and she didn’t think they were appropriate for anyone else to read, either. The interesting thing about all of this is that 1) my best friend had one of the world’s foulest mouths when her mother wasn’t around and 2) those books weren’t required reading. They were two amongst several that we had to choose from.

In an effort to keep the peace between my best friend, her mother, and my mother, I chose other books to read. As a result, I have never read either One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or Slaughterhouse Five, both of which have been challenged and banned on numerous occasions all over the country. I originally considered reading Catcher in the Rye to celebrate Banned Books Week, but thought better of it and decided to read one of the two that I didn't have the opportunity to read lo those many years ago.

The ALA has a list of The Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2005 and the Most Challenged Books of the 21st Century, as well as the opportunity to vote for your favorite banned books. My mom also sent me this great article from her newspaper.

(Shout out to my mom for inspiring this post).

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I Swore I’d Never

I’ve been a hard-core scrapbooker for awhile. I started around eighth grade when the bottom drawer of my nightstand, where I kept my keepsakes, became totally overcrowded. So I went to Wal-Mart and got some 11x17 plain brown paper scrapbooks. Over the years I’ve amassed about 10 of them, full of all sorts of things that I’ve hoarded over the years. But today’s scrapbookers would scoff at my brown paper treasure-keepers, probably referring to them as memory books or something equally as mundane. They simply bear no resemblance to the super-fancy, super-expensive scrapbooks that seem to be all the rage today.

I swore I’d never start scrapbooking, you know, the real way. It’s way too time-consuming, and I know myself well enough to know that I’d become obsessive about it. But it didn’t help that my mom gave me the most wonderful scrapbook of my early years when Joshua was born. And she’s about as crafty as I am (which means that we’re both really good at anything that requires following specific instructions, but neither of us are particularly gifted at freestyle-type creativity).

It also didn’t help that one of my parishioners gave me a Baby Book for Joshua that just begs to be given the royal scrapbook treatment. I’ve spent the last few days poring over the more than 300 pictures that we’ve taken of Joshua so far, trying to determine what to put in and what to leave out. I finally narrowed them down and was headed to Target yesterday for double-sided tape when I passed a scrapbooking store—a whole store just for scrapbooking. I went in. I made it very clear to the owner that I am not a scrapbooker, that I was just looking for some good tape and maybe some templates for cutting my photos into interesting shapes. I left with templates, stickers, and tape, and promptly came home to become completely obsessed with the scrapbook. I stayed up really late. I hemmed and hawed. I cut and scrapped. I climbed the learning curve as much as I could in one night.

When I got up with Joshua at about three this morning. I couldn’t go back to sleep. I was unhappy with my layouts and so I just laid there wondering if it would be possible to change them without tearing the paper. I am obsessed. I have other things to do. I have too little time in my life and too many things to take care of.

This is why I swore I’d never start.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


The workout I knew I needed but didn't know where to find. Our first class was three weeks ago. I was surprised at the amount of physical exertion involved. I was really surprised, though, when I woke up sore on Wednesday.

Incidentally, we listen to NPR in the car on the way to class. The show that airs during our commute is "Calling All Pets." Have you heard this woman? She's an animal behaviorist who takes calls from listeners and diagnoses the strange behaviors that their animals display. I don't have any pets, nor am I particularly interested in why Dave from Milwaukee's cat drops one kibble of food into her water dish before she drinks out of it. But the host...she is either the most animated and engaged woman on the planet or she takes a lot of medication...every caller has the most fascinating problem she's ever heard or the most fantastic solution to an animal behavior problem or the most devestating story ever told.

Anyway, it makes the drive interesting.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Fair Enough

Yesterday was our much anticipated outing to the West Tennessee State Fair.

We were disappointed.

On our trips to other regional and county fairs we have spent most of our time in the livestock sheds and at the livestock auctions. We've watched beef shows and alpaca shows. We've been through the home arts buildings to look at the table-setting competitions and agricultural displays, and have found ways to spend hours and hours wandering around.

Not so here.

The main attraction appeared to be the midway, and while the rides and games did look quite exciting, they weren't exactly what we were looking for. There was one building containing the home arts and agriculture competitions, although the primary draw to the building seemed to be the talent shows and beauty contest. There was one livestock shed. That was all. It appeared that farms only brought their livestock on the days that they were being shown because there were no sheds for keeping the animals on site for the duration of the fair, as was the case with the other fairs we've attended. No petting sheep and goats for us.

On a high note, we did get to see the end of the junior beef show, and that was fun. We even got some ideas of farms to call to find out if they have some grass-fed beef for us to buy. That was just about the only redeeming quality.

Despite all of this, I'm sure we'll go again next year. But our expectations will be reasonable.

Clarification: While I was writing this post yesterday I was also being regaled with stories of Joshua's first foray into a sandbox, so I wasn't as clear as I might have been regarding the table-setting competition. In the table-setting competition, the entrants are given a theme such as first birthday, 50th wedding anniversary, Sunday brunch, wedding luncheon, etc. They are then to create a table that fits that theme along with tablecloth, centerpiece, and four or so place settings. The best part of the competition is reading the judging cards. Some of the judges are picky about things like "good use of theme," but for the most part they are hard-core about the place settings. You might see things on the judging cards like "Water glass is too close to dinner plate" or "dessert fork is too close to salad plate." (I don't know enough about setting a table to know if those are even viable criticisms of a well-set table. If I ever need to know, Amy Vanderbilt will be glad to help). I enjoy the table-setting competitions because it is fascinating that someone cares enough to be that meticulous about setting a table. At my house we're lucky to get enough utensils to serve and eat with. They're usually chucked in the middle of the table and diners can get them if and when they want.

Friday, September 15, 2006

She Said "Housewife"

I just called to make an eye appointment. Since it's my first appointment with this doctor, the woman making the appointment had to take down all sorts of information.

She asked me where I was employed.

I couldn't bring myself to say that I wasn't employed anywhere, so I said, "I'm employed at home."

She said, "Ok, housewife."


Wednesday, September 13, 2006


As you may have noticed in my sidebar, I'm currently reading Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation. I'm behind, I know, since almost everyone I know (except TLS ) has already read it and expressed dismay over what they found inside.

I'm only about halfway finished, but I find myself regularly disturbed by the statistics and anecdotes that Schlosser presents. There are at least five or six statistics or stories per page that make me shake my head. Being a mom, there were two that stuck out to me in particular.

  • "About one-fifth of the nation's one- and two-year-olds now drink soda." (pg. 54). What? I wasn't allowed to drink "soda" ("Coke" where I come from) until I was older, and even then it was caffeine free. And it was a special treat...not an everyday occurence. Every other week or so my dad and I used to drive about an hour on Sunday afternoon to visit his mother. It was a huge deal to stop at a market on the way out of her town and get a Coke. And we shared it. I don't get this. I find it hard to believe that a parent would actually think that Coke is healthy at all, much less for a baby.
  • "About one-quarter of American children between the ages of two and five have a TV in their room." (pg. 46)Again I say, what? I don't even have a TV in my room and I'm 31 years old. Neither Jay nor I had television sets in our rooms growing up, and neither of us even ever had a game console. What does a two- to five-year-old need to watch on TV in his/her room?
My friend Jason says that the number one rule of parenting is not to judge other parents. And I don't want to imply that the way that I was raised was the only right way to raise children. But it seems that common sense would tell a parent not to feed their kids junk food or junk entertainment. What are we (and I mean the big, global we) not passing on to parents about how to raise healthy children? How do we (again, big global we) provide this information to parents who need to know?

I know I'm going to be even more disturbed when I get to the part about the deadly effects of E. coli on children. We may even have to go back to being vegetarian.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Is it Me?

Or are patrons of Wal-Mart and Target required to talk on their cell phones while shopping (read: pushing their carts aimlessly through the store with no regard for anyone in their vicinity)?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More College Thoughts

I keep finding myself thinking about my college experience. Maybe it’s because Jay goes to one everyday. Maybe it’s because, now that both universities have resumed, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a college student.

So here’s a question:

If you could travel back in time and talk to youself as you were entering college, what advice would you give? If you had a chance to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

Of course I won’t ask without also answering. If I could talk to Mary Beth the college freshman I think I would tell her not to major in music. For some reason I had this crazy idea that I already had to know what I wanted to be when I grew up before I even stepped on campus. I was good at music, so I figured I should major in it. But in doing so, I missed out on the true liberal arts experience since the music curriculum was pretty straightforward and left little opportunity to take classes in other areas. So if I were to do it again, I think I would have majored in religion or history, or maybe Russian studies (That was my minor. Now it’s offered as a major). But a lot of my good friendships were made within the school of music, so that’s a hard call.

So anyway, what advice would you give if you could travel back in time and talk to your freshman self? What would you do differently, if anything?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Salvaging Labor Day

We were really looking forward to Labor Day this year. We found a nearby small-town festival to attend and scheduled our travel around naptimes. We would drive up during morning naptime, letting Joshua sleep in the car, and then drive home during afternoon naptime, leaving plenty of time for exploring in between.

Monday morning we got up early and headed to Martin, TN, home of the Tennessee Soybean Festival. Joshua napped well in the car and woke up just as we got into town. We drove through downtown Martin and cruised the perimeter, but just couldn't seem to find the festival. Finally we stopped to talk to a woman sitting next to her produce stand on the side of the road. She explained that the Tennessee Soybean Festival, slated to run September 2-10, had been postponed until the 6th.


Come on, Martin! You're home to the Tennessee Soybean Festival, the official Tennessee Soybean Festival. As far as soybean festivals go, you're all we've got! We're counting on you! You can't just postpone the festival!

On the way into town we passed a huge John Deere store, so after lunching at a lovely meat-and-three (reason #253 why I love the south) we perused the John Deere store for a bagging attachment and fun John Deere toys that someone may get for his next birthday (Come to think of it, there are two people in the house who might like John Deere presents for their next birthdays).

Across the street was a great park, so we spent some time playing there as well. Although Joshua chose not to nap on the way home, it ended up being a great Labor Day after all.

But now I have to wait a whole year for the Tennessee Soybean Festival.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Reason #437 Why It’s Good to be Back in the South

Pimento cheese.

I love pimento cheese. Actually, I love my grandmother’s pimento cheese. Store-bought pimento cheese will do in a pinch.

When I first moved to Boston I got a hankering for some pimento cheese. I couldn’t find it in the grocery store, and when I asked an employee where they kept it, he looked at me like I’d asked him where they kept the goats.

Needless to say, I haven’t been able to find pimento cheese in the grocery store for almost ten years.

Until now.

And there’s a selection. There were at least five different brands in the store yesterday. I was overcome, but I’m trying to pace myself. One brand at a time, at least until I can get to my grandmother’s house and get a good fix.

I love the south.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Movin’ In

Freshmen moved into the university last Saturday. Apparently it is tradition for all faculty and staff to show up on freshman move-in day and help out. I convinced Jay that no one would fault him for spending the day with his infant son (and wife) rather than helping, but we did think it would be fun to swing by and view the bedlam from afar.

I had a visceral reaction. I think I actually shuddered.

That is one of those events that I’m glad I will never have to relive. It wasn’t the actual process of moving in at DePauw that was awful—it was the anticipation of it. And as if the weeks leading up to move-in day weren’t bad enough, I then got to stew and fret over the whole business during the five-hour car ride to get there. (Although we may have stayed with my grandparents in Louisville the night before—mom?) There were so many factors to worry about:

Timing is always an issue. Get there too early and you risk looking too eager and totally un-cool. (Like I had anything to worry about. You should see what I was wearing that day. There was very little else that was going to harm my cool factor). Get there too late and you risk missing out on the bonding process with your floormates.

Attitude is serious business, too. If you seem to gregarious, you risk looking un-cool (Unless, of course you’re wearing the outfit I was wearing. Then you save everyone the trouble of having to make a determination about whether or not you are cool). Act too aloof and people think you’re a snob.

The parents are another factor. How long is too long for them to stay? How involved is too involved when it comes to helping you try to get organized? (I don’t remember this being an issue. My parents balanced everything quite well. However, several weeks later my mom saw an episode of Oprah featuring mothers who were paralyzed with grief after leaving their children at college. My mom had some guilt about not being as torn up as Oprah’s moms were. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t bitter that she didn’t break down at the car when we said goodbye).

Of course, in hindsight, none of this made any difference at all. It just happened that those were the only things over which I felt I had some control in an otherwise overwhelming situation. In reality, everyone was way too involved in their own business to take much notice of anyone else. That would take a day or two.

Much to my surprise, I actually survived move-in day, but it wasn’t without its special moments. I had already corresponded with my roommate by letter, so we weren’t total strangers. But I think both sets of parents chuckled inside when I pulled out my “Phantom of the Opera” and “Gone With the Wind” posters while Gwen pulled out her muscle car posters. And when I pulled out my Bible and put it on my desk while Gwen pulled out her empty bottles of SoCo and arranged them on her desk as decoration. Despite our obvious and massive differences we got along swimmingly. So well, in fact, that in my later RA years I had very little sympathy for roommates who couldn’t seem to make things work out.

But moving in? You couldn’t pay me to do that again.