Ponder

A stream of consciousness post that makes even less sense than usual

Birthday Week is over. WOE. (Blogless Emily, you win the book! Send me an address!)

Also all my kitchen painting plans were postponed on account of someone feeling a little, "Didn't we JUST DO a big project? Can't we just LIVE HERE FOR A WHILE?" Etc. I still have a lot to say about my kitchen - including meeting with a kitchen designer from Home Depot - but that will have to wait because toNIGHT I was filling out Molly's school enrollment forms and this was the last page:

Photo

I'm not sure what to do with this. I sat and looked at it for a long time. I asked Phillip. (He snorted/laughed/ignored me.) I ended up not circling anything, even though I am a rule follower, because what would I circle? And now I am just wondering what the POINT is. Data - yes, but is something we "consider" actual data? Does it make her eligible for certain things? I am not at all above checking boxes and circling things to GET stuff. 

I don't know. I don't remember doing this for Jack, although I'm sure it was the same form. And I'm not UPSET about it or anything, I just feel like I need some more information. Or maybe it's just another one of those things we will encounter and be confused about. 

We went to see my visiting brother and SIL one last time today. They have three boys and a foster baby girl they hope to adopt. If SIL and I aren't talking about house renovations we are talking about foster parenting and shockingly, Phillip and I are both open to the idea. I think this is surprising to us both. I never thought I could be a foster parent because it sounds like nonstop emotional turmoil and I am already on medication for that. Phillip feels like our family is complete. But there's something about it. I'm not sure either of us could articulate it, although we keep trying, but something about it just seems Possible. I wouldn't say that we are anywhere close to pursuing it, or even wanting to pursue it, but it continues to feel Possible and that's... I don't know. 

And the picture of Raising Children grows ever more complicated. I think I would walk into the fostering process with the intent to be a temporary family, supporting reunification, while remaining open to adoption. Maybe not very open? But open. You hear about those people who've adopted sixteen kids from the foster system - how amazing is that? Am I that sort of amazing? I don't think so, but what a fully lived life, you know? What a right way to be on this planet. So all the possibilities are out there. More kids. Needy kids. Kids who don't look like us. Maybe this is the simplest of the complicated questions on the school enrollment forms I will fill out. 

I'm hoping to find out if I got a job this week. Talk about another Possibility. I haven't quite let myself think about how I'll take care of Emma - maybe that sounds irresponsible, but to me it's just not borrowing trouble. When I thought about foster parenting or having more children I didn't picture having a job. What does that mean? Maybe it means nothing. Maybe I will be going to the Y every morning and putting a baby down for a nap every afternoon like I planned. I don't know yet. 

I went to Ikea last week and bought desks for the big kids. I spent some time looking at beds and I am only interested in beds that maximize sleeping space. Bunk beds. Trundles. We don't have heaps of overnight guests, we don't have foster kids, we don't have people needing a place to stay. But there is something in me that requires making the most of the space I have. I am continually thinking about how many people I can house at one time. 

Sometimes people say they could never have a big house like ours because they couldn't clean it. I just tell them I don't clean it. But you guys I know I prayed for the biggest house we could afford in the city. I feel like there are supposed to be people in here. I feel like the space is not just for me to wander around in, stressing about paint colors. 

I don't know what all these paragraphs are amounting to. I don't know how I got here from a finicky question on a school enrollment form. It's entirely possible I'm just worn out and loopy and need to go to bed.


The gutter came to power

I was going to write YET ANOTHER post about how this whole school/nap/life schedule is going down, but I think we should discuss Hitler instead. Deal?

So NOW I am reading Double Cross, about double agents in Britain who misled the Germans about D-Day and HOO BOY is it convoluted and not written HALF as fantabulously as either of the big fat Hitler books I read earlier this year, and how disappointing is that? This is a book about SPIES! And eccentric, bizarre, WEIRDO spies at that! How does it manage to be NOT AS INTERESTING? 

The first big fat Hitler book I swallowed up this year was The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich by William Shirer. Who knows why I read this book. Well, there are two reasons, I suppose. 1) I am interested in WWII and 2) I was browsing for books on the Kindle and thought, "Hey, I've heard of that one." Also maybe 3) I like to read books that may, when I tell my dad I'm reading them, fool him into the impression that I Know Things. (HAAA.)

So I read it and dudes. I KNOW THINGS NOW. That big fat book was utterly un-put-down-able. It was fascinating. Horrifying. AMAZING. Then, because The Rise And Fall did not fully explore the terrible psyche of Hitler, my dad recommended Hitler: A Study In Tyranny, by Alan Bullock, and I read that. EGAD. So THAT book I checked out of the library and it was ancient and underlined and had notes in the margins and I had to renew it the maximum number of times PLUS go to the library and ask for MORE time, which they granted because no one had a hold on it (FANCY THAT). It was much more academic than The Rise And Fall, a true horror story told by a journalist. It was also - I feel funny saying this about a Hitler book, but whatever - beautifully written. After a while I started dogearing pages so I could copy down quotes. 

There are few more ghastly pages in history than this attempt to eliminate a whole race, the consequence of the ‘discovery’ made by a young down-and-out in a Vienna slum in the 1900s that the Jews were the authors of everything that he most hated in the world. 

 

In making use of the formidable power which was thus placed in his hands Hitler had one supreme, and fortunately rare, advantage: he had neither scruples nor inhibitions. He was a man without roots, with neither home nor family; a man who admitted no loyalties, was bound by no traditions, and felt respect neither for God nor man. 

 

No man was ever more surely destroyed by the image he had created than Adolf Hitler. 

 

I had a lot of questions when I started - probably the biggest was "how could this have HAPPENED?" And in answering that question, specifically, I realized a lot about, well, ME. (OH HELLO NARCISSISTIC BLOGGER!)

I realized that I have no real framework for imagining the sort of government, or lack of one, the German people had at the end of WWI. I'm used to presidents who step down after four or eight years. Two political parties. DEMOCRACY, even. I just couldn't think about "how it could have happened" within in my 21st century picture of American politics. 

That probably sounds incredibly simple and stupid, but it was a big lightbulb for me. 

Also issues of culture and history and tradition, the place of the German military in public life, senses of honor and betrayal, the crushing humiliation of defeat. Until I read these books, what I knew about the war was largely about the Holocaust. It was SO disturbing to read that the Holocaust was... well, there were all these other elements that made it POSSIBLE. Hitler didn't come to power and start a war because he hated the Jews - that was just PART of the plan. And it blows my mind that something as massive and evil and tragic as the extermination of millions of people was just PART of what was going on in that demented mind. 

A long while back I read a biography of Churchill, mainly because of reason 3 up above, and I found it fairly boring. Political intrigue, especially in the parliamentary system that I still don't understand, and military strategy were, I decided, not my thing. Churchill himself was an interesting subject, of course, but all the political and military minutia, of which there were tons, of course, made my eyes cross. 

Not so with Hitler. Halfway into my books I realized that, when posed from the perspective of a raving madman, political intrigue and military strategy are suddenly fascinating. You understood Churchill's motivations without reading his book. I've read a bunch of Hitler books now and I'm still baffled by his decisions. 

The German generals... they could have stopped it all. At so many points along the way they could have stopped everything. Although that was one strange aspect of reading solely from the German perspective - certain characters are sympathetic. Rommel, a handful of other generals, and (especially in The Rise And Fall) Ciano, Mussolini's son-in-law and Foreign Minister. I had to keep reminding myself that Ciano was a Fascist, that he was in MUSSOLINI'S camp. But there are ways that even Mussolini is a sympathetic, or, at the very least, pathetic, character in this history. 

Neither book concentrated too much on the particular evils of the Holocaust, but every time I sensed I was about to read something truly horrible I quickly flipped the page. I can't read more of that. 

But troop movements, diplomacy, treaties, conferences, secret deals, economics, strategy - my head was pounding. I found myself looking up books about specific battles, like Stalingrad, which I have never ever done before. Who am I? MY FATHER?!

My friend who's as into personality tests as I am gave me a book called Strengths Finder. It had a code inside to take the quiz online and I was sort of surprised by my top five "strengths". Three of them I could have easily guessed, but the other two were "Input" and Context" (the book comes up with vagueish names, perhaps so you are forced to read the book.) Anyway, "Input" is basically liking to read and collect information and "Context" is sort of "looking back to understand the present". So. My current fixation with Hitler books is explained, eh? This is from the "Input" section of my "personal report" (a more detailed explanation of my particular strengths and how they interact):

Because of your strengths, you are inclined to read about major wars.
While some people find this topic boring or irrelevant, you are quite 
fascinated with it. Whenever you read about global conflicts, you feel
impelled to collect more information. One book or article is likely to
lead you to another then another.

HAAAA.

Anyway. So many things crossed my mind when I was reading that I can't possibly remember them all and write them down here. You are thankful. But I'm still going to be annoyed when I publish this and realize I FORGOT SOMETHING. 

I think... I have a much better understanding of what happened, obviously. And a more sober, I suppose, viewpoint on current events. My dad is fond of saying that you can't understand WWII until you understand WWI so I suppose that one is next. After this spy book. And maybe that book that came out recently called Inferno, which tells more personal stories of WWII from all over the world. I kind of want to read that one too.

Did you guys see the movie Valkyrie? With Tom Cruise as the guy who tries to blow up Hitler? I copied this down too - as a way to honor them, I think.

Tresckow to Stauffenberg: “The assassination must be attempted at any cost. Even should it fail, the attempt to seize power in the capital must be undertaken. We must prove to the world and to future generations that the men of the German Resistance dared to take the decisive step and to hazard their lives upon it. Compared with this object, nothing else matters.”

GAH I'M SORRY. But it's Friday, you can just move along, and rest assured I will be back with more heartwrenching stories about how a schedule and routine of my own making is trying to kill me. 


Another reason you wouldn't want to be Real Life friends with me

This is not typical mommyblogger fare, but I've been entrenched in a history book and I cannot get out of it. And I don't want to. I'm fixated. 

If you grow up with a dad like mine, you learn a few things about wars - ancient, modern, worldwide and obscure - whether you're interested or not. For the most part I was (am) not. I tuned out conversations about Gettysburg, ignored reading recommendations on WWI, begged to be excused from visiting battlefields, did not pay the slightest attention when we drove by pillboxes or memorials or various war leftovers and ruins of fortifications (which there are quite a lot of in Northern Italy and Austria and Bavaria, where we did a lot of traveling.) 

As I've gotten older I've developed an interest in the time periods of WWI and WWII. I love books set during wartime (especially English detective series, be still my heart); I love the TV shows and movies (Foyle's War, Downton Abbey). But I haven't been all that interested in the mechanics of the wars themselves. Hopefully not because I'm shallow and uncurious, but it's like when I read that Churchill biography - all that political and military strategy makes my eyes glaze over. 

What I have been interested in, since I was a little kid, is the Holocaust. Judging from the heaps of middle grade fiction books about the Holocaust I don't think that's so unusual. (And I read all of them.) But I've always felt a little... well, like that piece of history is especially nervewracking to me. I can't remember the context of this conversation at all, but I remember my dad telling me that our family would have been sent to a concentration camp. "But I'm not Jewish!" I think I said, and my dad, who is Jewish, and who remembers relatives with numbers tattooed on their arms, and who had a much better understanding than my elementary-school-aged self, said, "But that wouldn't have mattered to Hitler!"

So began my overly empathetic relationship to all number of tragedies - the plight of German Jews was just my specialty. First I was obsessed with what would have happened to me, if not for the year and location of my birth. And what sort of person would I have been? Brave? Probably not. The more I read the more ammo for my imagination, the more existential crises. Just in the last year or so I read that book about the couple who hides Jews in the zoo in Poland (true story) and oh God could I have done that? 

I have no idea why I started reading The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Well, actually, I do. Sometimes I like to read history and it was only $2.99 on the Kindle. Plus I like to at least APPEAR well-informed in front of my father. Sometimes. So I downloaded the sample and only a few pages in I knew I would be buying the book. It's a horror story. Literally. I can't tear my eyes away. 

And the thing is, I've been reading this book for a week now and the war hasn't even started yet! I think this is what's most horrifying to me. I thought I knew the story, but I didn't, not really. The war hasn't even started yet and I am gobsmacked by the "rise", which was so easy, so swift, so unproblematic, so helped along by all the people who should have stopped it. THIS political and military strategy is unbelievable. It really is. I keep having to remind myself that THIS HAPPENED. I keep asking myself HOW DID THEY LET THAT HAPPEN? 

I sort of wish I were reading, say, a really excellent YA novel that all the rest of you were interested in and totally wanted to read instead of this ginormous book (seriously, the Kindle says I'm only 30% done) with loads of footnotes. I'm sorry. I DO have other things on my mind, but this is the thing that I want to write down. I feel depressed and fatalistic and Phillip is annoyed with me because he wants to talk about his business trip but I have Hitler on the brain. I had to make chocolate chip cookies to feel better. HITLER IS MAKING ME GAIN WEIGHT. 

I just... I want people to be better than that. Are they? Am I? 

 


I'll have to give you the recipe

Thanks for all the nice things you said about my house. Me and my desperate for affirmation neuroses are all aflutter. However, since none of you are actually IN the market for a Seattle townhouse you are no good to me whatsoever. 

I have a mommybloggish post stewing in my brain, but I am EXHAUSTED (they said the "brokers' open" - an open house for agents - would last till 1:30, but when I came home with my crazy tired kids at 1:30, two more agents showed up and said, no, it goes till 2. Have I mentioned my kids usually take their naps at TWELVE thirty?) and also I have eaten about half the cookie dough I am storing in the fridge for Sudden Potential Buyer Appearances. I have eaten half of it (and I am not, unfortunately, exaggerating) because there haven't BEEN any Sudden Potential Buyer Appearances. 

BUT! I am tired of talking about my house. I bet you are tired of it too. So. Herewith: some really excellent things I've read this week, online and off. 

I just finished this article in the New Yorker today about how we treat depression (and mental illness in general, and I suppose that's the point of the article: is depression mental illness?) Is it a purely biological thing? Are pills the only/best answer? I've read a handful of these articles over the last couple years, mostly book reviews I think, and I find them FASCINATING. I can't decide what I think about this issue (and neither can the people who are supposed to be figuring it out) but I love reading about it. The bummer thing about most articles I read on this topic (and, now that I think of it, that article in the Atlantic a few months ago about the happiness study - also a good read) is that there's no discussion of the effect religion/spirituality has on psychological conditions. I don't know what that effect IS, if any, but I always think it's odd when a writer leaves it out of the article entirely. 

I finished the recent Atlantic article about how the recession will affect us at my parents' house over the weekend and HOO BOY was that depressing. Also in the FASCINATING category, but you'll need to go to the liquor store afterwards. 

I tore the Washington Diarist column (by Leon Wieseltier, who I don't normally like to read because he always seems to be competing in the Erudite Olympics) out of the February 18 New Republic. I was going to write about it, but I couldn't think of anything to say (surprise surprise). But I've kept it in my desk drawer and I THINK about responding to it. It's about the Haiti earthquake, but also about the existence of God, our collective reaction to disaster, suffering, fatalism and the [crappy] nature of men. GAH. Pretty intense and ultimately a total bummer of a read, yes, but (am I using this word too much?) FASCINATING. Also: short! I promise! 

WOW have I been reading DEPRESSING STUFF. 

My dad also emailed me Ten Rules For Writing Fiction which he found linked on Arts and Letters Daily, a FABULOUS spot for online reading. Basically it's a bunch of famous writers giving their ten rules, which aren't always that helpful. For example, Margaret Atwood's first rule is to take a pencil to write with on airplanes because pens leak. 

Oh, and I might as well link to MYSELF: tomorrow (Thursday) at Parenting you can read about my yesterday, which involves vaccinations, flu shots, screaming children and (of course) cookie dough. I [spoiler alert!] survive.


In need of a deadline or four

It's never a good day when cleaning all three toilets is what puts me in a better mood.

I think I'm looking forward to the return of Real Life tomorrow. Phillip will go back to the office (and school on the weekends) and I will go back to some kind of routine. The kids are infinitely less beast-like when they doing the same things day in and day out, and I might get bored, but at least I'm not threatening to send someone to Time Out for the nineteenth time. Usually.

I frittered my entire afternoon away - I hate that feeling. I made this big To Do list, but nothing on my list was particularly urgent so I sat around, clicking through the internet, thumbing through the Sunday ads, reading The New Yorker. (I got a buttload of magazine subscriptions for Christmas. How am I supposed to read actual books?) But I put the magazine down and forced my eyes closed. I just felt so jittery and restless, like I had so many things to do, but I didn't quite know what those things WERE... and then I woke up feeling worse. I HATE taking naps.

Oh, and I printed out my NaNoWriMo novel. It's about an inch-thick stack of paper. There's got to be at least five worthy sentences in that stack, right? RIGHT? Woe. I think that angst is for another post. 

For the first time in, oh, EVER, I was watching the clock, willing Jack to wake up already. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME? I knew that he'd be up for a little walk around the block, which is what I self-prescribed for Mood Improvement. When I checked on him he was sitting silently in his crib, like a little boy in a horror movie. The silences and empty spots that kid can endure - hours alone in his crib, hiding in dark closets, SHUDDER. But I yanked him out of bed and jammed on his boots and his hat and let him dictate our route. I felt so much better when we came home that I actually apologized to my husband for taking my frustrations out on him earlier (even though, seriously Word 7, stop being a tool) and went upstairs to clean the bathrooms. Miraculous!

So now I'm feeling a bit better. Things were accomplished. The end. Also, I have tentative plans to drink meet up for happy hour with friends after the kids go to bed, a guaranteed mood-lifter.

I think I'm feeling goal-less. I never thought I was a goals person, really, until just recently when Phillip said wait, actually, you are TOTALLY a goals person, HELLO speed-novelist. I've thought about it a little, though, and what I think he means is I am a DEADLINE person. Kind of sort of the same thing, sometimes, but not always. I lost the baby weight well before my 30th birthday, but then? Meh. Pass the fries! Oh, and same with my sister's wedding. When I realized I'd packed on six pounds I pulled out all the stops to get them off by the wedding and I DID. But now? Pass the leftover tiramisu! And when I look at my "novel" I despair at the thought of ever beating it into shape. Will I have to wait for November 2010?

Maybe my list of resolutions should have been a list of deadlines. I'll get back to you on that.

In the meantime: I am ready. Monday can bring it.


I'm posting this because I'm avoiding posting about grad school. You're welcome.

Last night I was talking to my mom about an old friendship, one of those relationships that's a lot different than it used to be, and you're not entirely sure when or where things changed. I told my mom, "I used to think she just really changed after we graduated, but now I wonder if she was ALWAYS like this and was just different when we were in school?" And my mom said, "I think LOTS of people change when they're in college and then revert back to who they were before" and then we started talking about everyone we knew who could or did or might or is currently fitting this mold.

I think it's hard to say, because most of us aren't terribly sure who we are before we Go Out Into The World (college, for most of us, and whether that is The World is debatable). But as far as you can really categorize these things, I think it's true for me. I was a boring rule-abider before, during and after my college years, no huge changes for me. But I WAS different in college. As unfortunately evidenced by the totally worn out pair of Birkenstocks I finally threw out the other day, with a huge exclamation of "I CAN'T BELIEVE I EVER PUT THESE ON MY FEET" disgust.

The big stuff didn't change - I didn't lose my faith - but the details did - I became an honorary non-denominational Protestant for four years.

One of the biggest things that happened to me was one of my best high school friends (I KNOW. Eventually I had GOOD FRIENDS from HIGH SCHOOL!) made a special trip to my dorm room sophomore year to come out in person. This was an enormous deal in my universe. It affected everything from how I interacted with my NDCF friends to what classes I chose to the music I liked to recalculating a lot of high school memories to (and this is embarrassingly true) how I cut my hair. I'd always been interested in feministy genderific sociological stuff, but now I was REALLY interested in it, obnoxiously so. I really needed to make sense of certain things, and I really really wanted to live "authentically". I was super committed to doing and being the things I said I was going to do and be, namely: Independent! Smart! Well-Traveled! Did I mention the INDEPENDENT?!

Then I started dating a boy. (One of my very favorite Dar Williams concert moments is when she told us that she got married that year, paused a second, then added, "TO A MAN".) Many - practically ALL - my feministy genderific sociologically contrived ideas floated into outer space somewhere. Half because they were mostly stupid ideas, half because I didn't need those ideas to protect me from Phillip's big scary Man Agenda. In fact, when I tried to tell him why this stuff was so entrenched in me he never appeared to be anything other than Utterly Clueless, so nonexistent was his Man Agenda. Sigh. College Me was frightfully stupid.

ANYWAY. I tell you all this because a few years later I was telling a friend how much I just really wanted to quit my job and stay home with a baby and she was looking at me like I had sprouted another nose. If this person thinks much about our friendship I'm POSITIVE she wonders Where I Went Wrong. We had several conversations about it, all of which made me feel tremendously guilty because where DID I go wrong? Was I copping out? Failing? Turning into someone I never wanted to be?

I spent way too much time thinking about this, but I'm glad I came to the right conclusion, which was: IT WAS OKAY FOR ME TO CHANGE. And perhaps I wasn't so different after all. Maybe the person she became friends with wasn't "authentically" me, but maybe someone trying out a lot of new ideas, the way they say you're supposed to when you're in school.

When I was out with two friends getting my nails done this weekend, we calculated that one friend and I had now known each other a total of twelve years. TWELVE! For someone whose formative years were spent either moving or having friends move, that's a huge number. We've weathered each other's changes, although we're much better friends now than we were in school. But other people haven't ridden the Change curve as well, myself included. It's totally okay for ME to change but I'm not at all sure it's okay for other people.

Did you change or change and then revert? Do you have those different-than-they-used-to-be awkward friendships? What do you do about these? I was telling my mom that my current strategy is to just Go With It. I'm not really sure what that means, but I think it has something to do with letting go of expectations, to just take whatever I get and do my best in return. That's all we can do, right?


#487 on the List of Ways to Improve

I am not going to write about the baby today. But first I will tell you that I have a pregnancy weight-centric post up at Parenting. Mmm, ice cream.

I got an email yesterday from someone thanking me for fulfilling my [minor] responsibilities on the church committee. The thanks was so profuse it was a little embarrassing. Or, it would be if it wasn't completely real. You know how some people thank you because they think it's getting them something? Well this person thanks you because he means it. He's always like that, in emails and during the meetings, and not just to me. He thanks everyone. Not just thanks, he appreciates everyone. He makes sure to acknowledge what each person is contributing and appreciates them. Publicly.

Not for the first time I realized I appreciated his appreciation.

But first I have to go through my inner monologue of suspicion, cynicism and motivation questioning. Why is he so NICE? I'm not proud of that. I don't know why I have such a hard time accepting that there ARE genuine people who genuinely appreciate.

I have some other friends (one of whom I think reads this website, gak) who are good at the appreciation thing. Right before Christmas I realized I hadn't made the treats I usually make and pack in little gift boxes for gifting out to all the random yet important people around us. I frantically threw some fudge together and then, realizing that you do not simply "throw fudge together" I frantically mixed up a batch of fake no-skills-required fudge and added that my gift boxes. A few days after passing them out I got a message on my phone (seriously people, my phone is never on, sorry!) telling me I was no less than Ina Garten herself (who's YOUR favorite Food Network chef?!) and that was the BEST FUDGE EVER and oh man, the MARSHMALLOWS (told you this was fake fudge) and the WALNUTS and they swallowed the pieces whole, they were THAT GOOD. It was totally embarrassing. I mean, FAKE FUDGE. So not worth the accolades. And yet, these are people who thank you with complete sincerity. A cold cynical person like myself will find them a bit off and wonder, much like Bing Crosby, what their angle is. But they don't have angles. At that moment in time my fudge WAS the best fudge ever.

Oh, and then? A few church committee meetings ago I said something stupid that someone smart immediately had to pick apart. It was the equivalent of getting up the nerve to raise your hand in your 400-level comparative lit class and saying something that is only half right. As I was getting schooled by the smart person, I consoled myself by thinking that at least I raised my hand, I never raise my hand, no one else was raising their hands. During the break the man who emailed me today said something like, "I bet you'll remember THAT from now on!" and I said something like, "Or I'll just keep my mouth shut" and he laughed like I had said something hilarious and WOW that made me feel so much better. I know, I might be making him sound kind of weird and irritating, but in that moment I felt appreciated for not being a snotty know-it-all (at least not on my committee!) and for having a sense of humor. I felt like he got me. In a moment when I really wanted to be gotten.

I want to be like them. I want to be the kind of person who is humble enough, secure enough and sincere and genuine enough to express appreciation the way they do. Sure, I know how when the occasion obviously calls for it. I think I've picked out some pretty swell hostess gifts, I've written glowing letters, and I am an excellent hugger. But I tend to keep my mouth shut about the every day stuff. I'm thankful in my head, but I often miss the moment to say something out loud. Plus, there's just something suspicious about people so free with compliments and enthusiasm and thanks. I wonder if I'm comparing my lack of generosity to their endless wells of it, and the resulting grouchy feeling keeps me from trying it out.

But that email yesterday challenged me. So yesterday I told my bagger at the grocery store how much I appreciated her bagging skills. The bread was not smushed. The eggs were safe. The chips were on top. No bag was impossible to carry. And we all remember how uptight I am about bagging, right? I said, "Thanks for bagging everything so well," or something equally dorky and she looked at me like I was that dorky and said, "Thanks". But maybe she went home tonight and told her boyfriend about all the annoying uptight people at the store today, oh, except for that one lady with the baby who thanked her for not cracking the eggs like DUH doesn't EVERYONE know that?


Twelve years too late!

In keeping with our little school theme here, I got an email the other day from a girl I knew for all of one year of high school. Apparently she found my brother's MySpace page, got my email address from him and there she was, asking me what I'd been up to for the last, oh, twelve years.

(Note to my brother: People with MYSPACE PAGES have no business making fun of people who run highly entertaining professional-looking BLOGS. Mmkay?)

(Note to everyone who'd rather read about the baby: Please help me in my Continuing Adventures With Baby Food over at Parenting. Seriously. I NEED HELP.)

So anyway. It wouldn't be such a weird occurrence, getting an email from an Old School Chum, right? Except that this was a girl I knew during the worst year of high school on record, when I didn't have anyone to eat lunch with, let alone someone who would think to email me twelve years later. And we weren't even friends! I mean, of all the people I would have liked to have been friends with at that school, she was at the top of the list. She was probably the friendliest nicest person I knew that year- but being friendly and nice meant she was friends with everyone else and there obviously wasn't much time to become BFF with me. We were on the basketball team and in the same classes, but that'd be the extent of our friendship.

Which leads me to wonder: WHY EMAIL ME?

The obvious answer is: because lots of people in the world are much nicer and pleasanter and sunnier dispositioned than I am. SOME people just like to say hello and catch up. It's a NICE THING TO DO.

And it's not like I MINDED getting an email from her (and believe me, there are plenty of high school era people I'd rather not get emails from.) The handful of memories I have of her are all good ones. I was sort of surprised that I wasn't creeped out when I saw that email was from a High School Person. There are exactly three people I communicate with from high school and two of them I haven't talked to in years. Tracking those people down, finding out what they're up to, the thought of going to (oh dear God in heaven) a REUNION makes me queasy. So the fact that I thought it was nice that she thought of me is not un-meaningful.

BUT STILL. I guess I just don't see the point. It's not like we had some great friendship to reignite or anything. We didn't even graduate together. We were on the basketball team sophomore year and then she moved away. The End. So what is the point of emailing me?

(See, Phillip got really sick of me going on and on about this last night so I have to come do it here.)

I have to admit, there are two or three people I'm curious about. I'd like to know if they got married and what kind of jobs they have and where they live. Just so I can sort of finish them off in my brain. Closure! But NO WAY am I going to hunt down their MySpace pages and EMAIL THEM. (Okay, MAYBE I would hunt down their MySpace pages, but I would not email them. Although MySpace is scary. SCARY. Why can't everyone have nice little blog?)

I don't think this girl was looking for me. When I saw "your brother's MySpace page" of COURSE the first thing I did was go FIND my brother's MySpace page and INVESTIGATE. Turns out he is "friends" with a whole bunch of people from our high school (he graduated two years after me) and clicking through all those profiles seriously messed with my head. And then I discovered the high school reunion page two girls set up to connect everyone and MY BRAIN EXPLODED. Too much information! Too many old names and faces and updates! Gah! I'll bet anything this girl was clicking through just like I had done, found my brother's page, thought to herself, "Hey! He had a sister in my class! I should see what's up with her!" and then actually DID THAT VERY THING.

So who is the normal one? Her? Or me?

If anything, it made me want to email one of the friends I haven't emailed in years, just so I could say, "GUESS WHO EMAILED ME!" And then gossip about all the people I saw on the reunion page.

I often wonder what it would have been like to attend high school in the states. Phillip isn't exactly friends with people from high school, but he'd always run into them on campus or reconnect with them through job networking or friends of friends of friends. I have other friends who were super excited about their reunions (okay, not freakishly so, but they still wanted to go whereas I would not consider the thing in a million zillion years.) I wonder what it'd be like to go home to your parents' house and hear about all the other kids who've been in town lately. I don't know. But going to a school where NO one goes back home didn't make a difference to all the people friended on the reunion page. THEY were beside themselves with the getting reacquainted.

Maybe it is ME. And my surly snobby high-school-is-the-pit-of-all-evil* attitude. That must be it.

What did Christian say about prom on Project Runway? "I think prom is horrible and tacky and gross!" Yeah.

*Actually, I do not think this. Not entirely. It's just that the good parts of high school- my kick ass volleyball team, my English teachers, the drama stuff, the going out and dancing, the actual friends I eventually made- NOT AS INTERESTING. Who wants to read about that? GIVE ME THE ANGST!


More thoughts on school

Like I told my mother last night, "Sometimes you ask the internet what is wrong with your screaming barfing baby, even though you kind of already know the answer and the comments aren't that helpful. But SOMETIMES you ask the internet something and THEY REALLY KNOW." Reading all your stories was so helpful! Even though we won't be making this decision for a while (and I do mean "we", as I had to reassure Phillip who wanted to know why I was asking the internet where to send our child to school without even asking him first) it's good to know this stuff.

By the way, my mother would like you all to know that she does not declare her Catholic school experience to be representative of all Catholic school experiences. That said, she went to school in the Olden Days and her nuns were big fat meanies. Also, she would appreciate it if I stopped writing about her without asking first.

Overall, after reading your comments, I have a much better impression and idea of what Catholic schools are about. I mean, as much as you can after reading Long and Terribly Interesting Reader Autobiographies. Which is a lot!

I don't really have any context for private school, other than my mom's and my aunt's stories about the nuns. Until we moved overseas I went to an elementary school where both of my parents taught previously and all the teachers knew me and treated me like a princess. When we moved overseas there was one available schooling option- the Single American School On Base where your parents worked, where all your friends went and where all your parents' friends worked. At my last school we had a couple of Italian students who paid through the nose to attend the American school (and after visiting a couple of Italian high schools aka giant communist concrete boxes of boredom, I would have too!) There were also lots of international schools in Italy, which I know about because we often kicked their butts all over their fancy basketball and volleyball courts. Those diplomats' sons and embassy workers' daughters were no match for the spawn of the American Military. I had strings of rotten teachers in my Department of Defense-funded public schools, but I also had a handful of truly stellar teachers. My chemistry and physics teacher conducted real estate deals from his desk while we goofed off (I am pretty sure he owned over half the town), but my senior English teacher had as much an impact on me as my best college professor. Also, when you are attending a small public high school dripping with government money, you get to do a lot of stuff. I was a member of pretty much everything there was to be a member of. I went all over Europe with sports teams and bands and speech and drama geeks. I mean, we went to VENICE for field trips.

As my friend Lee noted in the comments, it's true, I don't really know anything about the local public schools. I've heard vague unfavorable comments about the Seattle school system and many, much more specific comments about the district my mom and sister teach in, which Jack won't be going to anyway. There is always a huge struggle to pass school levies (although that may be true anywhere?) unless you are living in Rich Microsoft Suburbs or something. I know there are a couple of local standout high schools, but I know next to nothing about the elementary schools.

But the fact that my church has a little school next door has always been attractive to me, even before we had a kid. It shows that your church is active in the community and the annual school fund raiser is a HUGE neighborhood event. The school just recently started a pre-K program and while we haven't really decided anything, I think it's probably a given that we'll enroll Jack when it's time. We love our church community, we love our church, we already know a dozen of Jack's future classmates and all of that adds up to, what seems to me, an excellent place to be.

Also Catholic elementary school is really attractive. I've dropped things off at the school before and snooped around in the hallways looking at all the displays. Displays for All Saint's Day as well as President's Day. We like the idea of Mass and religious education as part of his normal school day. Again, we are fans of the community and the school itself seems to have a Rah Rah St. Urban Wealthy Neighborhood! attitude anyway. I can easily see us sending Jack to this school if we are 1) still living here and 2) can afford it. Neither of which are for sure.

But I have more doubts about Catholic high school. I have fewer now that I've read your comments, but there's still something about it. I really REALLY don't like the idea of a little insular Catholic world. It's the same kind of thing I noticed in some of the more "sheltered" kids in the non-denominational college fellowship. Having this perception of non-Christians (or non-Catholics in this case) as The Other. But I suspect that has more to do with the kind of kid you have and what kind of world you provide for him outside of school. It might even be more important to send your kid to a Catholic high school, according to you guys, what with the quality of education and all that. I guess this shows that environment is an important concern of mine. I'm not particularly worried about the racial make up of classrooms and things like that, but diversity of thought is important to me.

While I'm bringing that up, I have to say that I am not at all afraid of accusatory fundamentalist types putting a not-parent-approved fear of God into my kid. For one thing, we live amidst and attend church with Good Seattle Liberals and Good Seattle Liberals would rather die before making snap judgments about your belief system- unless, of course, you are driving an SUV to work, by yourself, every day of the week. I have heard about this stuff happening in religious schools, but I really don't see it at this school. We are hippy dippy Let's Learn About All The Wonderful Cultures and Their Wonderful Customs and Incorporate Them Into Everything We Do types. We are not, however, hippy dippy about church teaching. My priest is the most vocal and open I have ever heard about The Controversial Stuff. Oh my God, you should hear him in the marriage classes. I have to hide my face behind my hands.

I feel like I am forgetting all sorts of stuff, but the baby is awake ALREADY and I have not taken a shower and now my day is ruined. Ruined!  I do want to try to respond to your comments, although I haven't been very good at that lately. Anyway, I really appreciate your stories. Honestly truly. Although my mom is disappointed no one had anything to say about the WASL, the Bane of her Existence. Oops, there I go writing about her again...


I need a nap

No baby today. What he lacks in size he makes up by rocking the non-stress tests.

I'm exhausted. I barely slept last night (third trimester insomnia?) and spent the entire day explaining 400 things to the new girl, which made both our heads spin. There is nothing like trying to train your replacement to make you realize how very complicated your job is, even though complicated is the last word you'd ever use to describe what you do. I called Phillip twice, once because I didn't want to do what I thought I had to do (reinstall Windows) and wanted him to tell me what I should do (which was reinstall Windows) and once to tell him no baby today. And both times he was certain I was in labor, coworkers cheering in the background.

Last night we went to Saxaphone Night at the University of Washington, a bunch of solo performances by undergrad saxaphone students. I can't remember the last time I was on campus and it's been years since I was in the school of music building, even longer since I sat through my last Saxaphone Night, watching my boyfriend play three movements of some concerto I've never heard of. I used to wish he'd play jazz, like any normal person who plays sax, but no, he studied classical saxaphone which meant I had to go to Saxaphone Night and symphonic band concerts and quartet performances and pretend I was enthralled. Phillip reeeeeally wanted to go and I think we're both feeling the "let's do everything we can possibly think of before the baby comes" pressure, so I agreed. As long as we left at intermission.

We sat in the back and made faces at the kids who were just there because they're taking Concert Series, which just means you go to random performances on campuses and write stupid reflection papers. For credit! The musicians were sweaty and nervous and I remembered Phillip being up on stage, with his pony-tailed piano player, his unfamiliar parents sitting across the auditorium. It occurred to me that I am ten years older than the freshmen. At intermission Phillip shook hands with his old saxaphone professor and introduced his wife and mentioned his almost-here baby and the two of them chatted about getting a real job and other students who've graduated and put their saxaphones aside. I wondered what a few of my professors are doing now. I ducked into the bathroom on the first floor and remembered ducking into bathrooms between classes, the cold metal doors installed into old brick walls. I remembered washing my hands and trying not to stare at the other college girls putting on lipstick and adjusting their clothes. I was so in awe of college. I never felt cool enough or urban enough or confident enough. I wanted to be the girls with the funky hair and the thrift store clothes and the bags full of interesting books. By the time I felt I'd arrived, it was time to graduate and now I'm old and married and expecting a baby. How did that happen?

I am so tired today. I passed off everything I know to the new girl. She is totally overwhelmed and I don't blame her. I want to say, "I tried to tell you what you were getting into..."  Then I remember that everyone has a miserable first day, even if the person showing them around tries her hardest to make it easier. I'm suddenly possessive. These are my coworkers. This is my computer. These are my responsibilities. I may even miss a thing or two. I don't want to be replaced.

I've never felt so aware of impending change. Maybe when I got married. Phillip and I are what my neighbor once called "old fashioned". We went from recent college grads with crappy jobs who said goodnight over the phone to married and living together and fighting over how to properly load the dishwasher in one weekend. We had no idea what it would be like, but we were doing it anyway. My dad told me that getting married was one thing, but having me- that was what turned the world upside down. And I feel like, okay, fairly soon the world will be upside down. I'm just waiting.

I still don't want the baby to come early. My brother, father of two, says this is because I am not uncomfortable enough, just wait. I see his point. But I did feel a tiny bit of disappointment when the nurses sent me home tonight. Proud of my baby for acing the test, bummed that I had more ultrasounds and NSTs and furrowed doctor brows in front of me. It's going to happen sometime, right? I'm okay with it happening now.

I should write some thank you notes, but I think I'm going to crawl into bed. Poor Phillip. He must think I'm never going to make him dinner again.