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June 2006

Old business

Oh my stars and garters I think I finally got the redesign to work. If you are only reading the feed, go look! Validate me! Tell me I'm pretty! And let me know if you see any bugs. For those of you who are css idiots like myself, I highly recommend creating a tester blog and trying everything out in there before you publish your real site. Just don't forget to move the files into the right folder. And my apologies to anyone clicking around in the last couple hours. I was going to wait to upload everything until the weekend when the Internet is dead, but I'll have you know that BOTH of my bosses are in FRANCE for the next three weeks and GOD I AM BORED ALREADY.

I reinstated the "books I'm reading" thing on the sidebar because I've been turned on to a whole bunch of reading and writing blogs and my reading list is growing. Just in time for the new library branch opening up near me! The books currently on the sidebar are dull as dirt, but it's a start. They're placeholders for all the books YOU are going to tell me I should read. Ante up people!

In other news, I've convinced my friend Sean to write the first of what will hopefully be many guest posts. Hopefully he'll see this and think, "Oh snap! I better write something quick before Maggie sends me a 47th reminder!"

There's a new about page. It says the same crap. Only different.

The flamingos? Are a church fundraising idea. You pay $20 to have the church youth secretly deposit a flock of flamingos in your friend's yard for a few days. The genius part is that the flamingo recipient will want to retaliate and, therefore, the youth can count on at least another $20. We've responded in kind, and passed the favor on to some flamingo newbies as well.

Phillip's anniversary gift? SHOES. And not cool shoes, not shoes the Manolo would look and at squeal "super fantastic!", but TENNIS shoes. Oh how I embarrass me. In my defense, he's been wanting new tennis shoes since forever and, hello, I had to find something made out of leather! (Because I am a dork who thinks the traditional anniversary gift ideas are kinda neat.)

Also, the parents are flying in this evening. That means a very full weekend of listening to the parents kvetch about the morons who run whatever airline they are flying, what annoying people they had to sit next to, how the plane was batted around the atmosphere like God's badminton birdie and how they are never going to get on another plane as long as they both shall live, amen. Also, I am very excited to see them! I know some people prefer to have their parents as far away as possible, but I really miss mine. Sigh.

And finally, is it okay to leave for your lunch break at 10:45 am? GAH.

Loads of love, Grandma

The first thing I thought of when my mom and dad told us that we were moving to Italy was: What about Grandma and Grandpa? I was ten years old and, in my ten-year-old opinion, terrifically mature, but I still bawled my eyes out at the airport when we left. I can still see my grandfather getting out his white handkerchief and waving goodbye as we walked down the jetway. That was the last time we saw him.

After that, it was just my grandma. In the summers we stayed a few blocks away from her house (My parents, opting to save their sanity, bought a condominium after staying with her during the first summer.) Grandma had always been nearby. She'd sewed our entire wardrobes for as long as we we'd been alive. She kept us stocked in puffy elasticized sleeves and smocking and frilly underpants for every holiday. I had an entire dresser full of clothes she'd made for my Cabbage Patch doll. When we came home in the summers she fed us ice cream cones every night and let us watch anything we wanted, although if she was going to sit with us we opted for Shirley Temple and Fred Astaire movies. She taught (or, in my case, tried to teach) us embroidery and simple sewing projects. She knew some of the cookie dough wouldn't make it into cookie form, and she always let us lick the frosting off the beaters. I could show off my tap dancing steps on the kitchen linoleum and she would clap; I could play 'Red Roses for a Blue Lady' into the ground and she'd say "That was beautiful, Maggie!" after every rendition.

My grandma is very much the sweet little white-haired old lady, the kind who offers you a fourth piece of cake and sends you $5 checks for Halloween. She's kept every single letter and card and picture her grandchildren have ever given her. She has pictures of us nailed to every wall in her house, and snapshots of the great-grandchildren cluttering up the kitchen. My grandma has always been old (what grandma isn't?) but now that I am closer to 30 than 20 and there are three great-grandchildren and it's been years since she's made a flouncy Easter dress, she seems so much older. She'd make me an ice cream cone if I asked, but now she just wants Phillip to fix her email and me to help find a knitting needle. I swear she shrinks each time I visit. She used to be in charge of me, but now I'm the boss of her. Last weekend I made her tell me what to bring for lunch, then I talked her into buying flowers at Home Depot, then I made her come outside to tell me where to plant them.

When there's nothing on the agenda we sit. Most of the time I will talk. And talk and talk and talk because either she doesn't think anything I have to say should be dignified with a response, or she just likes hearing the oh so melodic and comforting tones of my voice. She says she doesn't have much to say, but I can ask a question and settle in for an hour to hear about The Good Days. The good days are:

1. When her kids were little and she took care of them.
2. When her kids' kids were little and she took care of them.

I ask her to tell me about how she received her engagement ring (in the mail, from her future mother-in-law in Chicago) or how she met my grandfather (when she worked in the Army finance office) or how she picked the names of her children (my aunt is named after a soap opera character) or how she managed to survive walking up and down all of Tacoma's hills in stockings and pointy 1940s heels. She talks about the bright red hair my oldest uncle had when he was a baby, how the whole family just thought he was precious. She talks about the dance costumes she sewed, trying to get a curl to stay in her daughters' hair, how she didn't think it was right for my grandpa to do any chores after he got home from work.

And then sometimes she'll tell me about babysitting me and my brothers and sisters. How Alex could be a holy terror and Grandpa would have to stick him in the bedroom. How our parents made sure we were perfect angels in public. How we used to like to go to the lake and feed the ducks. Oh, those were good days.

I've spent a lot of time with old people, ones who've spent years in bed, sick ones, dying ones, the ones who have no family, the ones who have pets, the ones who can never remember I'm married and keep trying to set me up with nephews they think are my age, but are probably in their 50s and 60s. I've always compared my grandma to these people and felt a little bit proud. She turns 84 today. She lives alone and makes her own dinners and deadheads her own rhododendrons and maybe she's a little bit fuzzy about where she keeps the Christmas decorations, but she knows who I am. She is the daughter of southern Italian farm kids who immigrated after the first World War. Her mother grew vegetables in the yard and raised chickens and her father earned a living digging ditches. My grandmother was sent home on her first day of school and told not to return until she learned English. When she grew up, she waited four years, four months and one day for the guy who did the Army payroll to return from the South Pacific. She had no promise, just stacks and stacks of letters in my grandfather's lilting cursive. When he came home they got married and had a bunch of kids- those were the good days. These days? Not so much. She's gone sixteen years without her husband, sixteen years longer than I want to go without mine.

I've heard her tell me how excited she was to get her ring in the mail about 400 times. I've seen the remains of the box it came in, glued carefully into one of her scrapbooks. And every time she tells the story there's a different detail and every time I know I'll want her to tell me again next time.

She remembers who my good friends are when I talk about them. "I'm going to visit Malia," I told her, "in Hawaii, remember her?" and she said, "Oh, that Malia is a sweet girl." She dove in for a hug the first time I brought Phillip to meet her. When I bring her See's chocolates she's like a five-year-old with his very own chocolate cake. She adores my brother so much I occasionally consider that I may be wrong about the "obnoxious nitwit" label I've stuck on him. She loves when I call, she loves when I visit. She tells me that she knows how hard it is to drive down there, how terrible the traffic is, how much she appreciates seeing us, like we should be nominated for sainthood for visiting our old grandma. It's like she hasn't met our grandma, who has always welcomed us and smothered us with presents and kisses and space to zone out and watch crappy television, thinks we're the smartest and the most talented and future Nobel prize winners, and, best of all, thinks fourteen chocolate chip cookies are not enough for one sitting. Who would not want to tell the entire Internet about THAT lovely and amazing grandma's 84th birthday?

Happy birthday, Grandma. I'll tell you about the Internet next time I see you.

Anniversary v3.0

Years 19 and 20 were not particularly dignified ones in the Mighty Maggie Space Time Continuum. Year 19 was spent pathetically pining and brooding for the devastatingly handsome Chinese man down the hall from my dorm room, who paid not the slightest bit of REAL attention to me. I desperately tried to NOT care about this. I really did. I would take myself for determined late-night walks on the Burke-Gilman in which I gave myself very stern lectures and resolved not to think about him any. more. ever. And then I would return to my room and Phillip would be sitting on my bed, playing my guitar and chatting with my roommate. I kind of wanted to kill him, except that he was playing songs I liked and maybe he KNEW I liked them and was playing them for ME!

(See how pathetic?)

Year 20 found me resigned to the pitiful pining, no longer furious with myself for stooping to such a low and sorry level, but exhaustingly and dismally hopeless. In order to maintain some semblance of pride, I started acting like I Didn't Care, that I was totally ambivalent about the oblivious thorn in my lovelorn side. This made me feel better (see how it feels, buster!) but I still figured I would have to move to Siberia after college to get away from the stupid and mortifying pining and hope that some nice Russian man wearing polar bear furs and carrying many bottles of vodka would rescue me from the unrequited love of my college days.

The two or three friends that knew about the whole Phillip thing thought I was a total moron. "Why don't YOU say something!" they said with great annoyance. "You CAN'T spend another summer being a DRAG and a MOPE and writing in your STUPID JOURNAL and setting an EMBARRASSING EXAMPLE FOR THE SISTERHOOD."

(Which, I am ashamed to say, was a perfect description of me the summer previously.)

But at the end of those two years, the NIGHT before we would both get on planes to spend our summers in opposite parts of the world, Phillip stopped by my basement bomb shelter apartment and we went for a walk. I remember nothing about it except for the part where his arm ended up around me and he awkwardly said : "Uhhh, what's going on here?"

PEOPLE! Okay, so it wasn't, "Oh Maggie, I've been SO IN LOVE WITH YOU, you are RAINBOWS and SUNSHINE and YOU COMPLETE ME," but you have to admit it's a step up from "Hey, I've been meaning to ask what you think about me dating So and So." Right? RIGHT? At the very least, it was enough of an auspicious start for two people whose engagement story consists of a giant fight IN THE SAME PARK where one person bellowed, "I'm just SAYING, I think we should GET MARRIED!" and the other person threw up her hands and screeched, "FINE THEN!"

And now? We are married. Sometimes I look over at him and think, "For the love of God, why can't he pick up his DAMN SOCKS" and sometimes I look at him and think, "Back then I would have never ever in a million trillion years thought I would be here, at this moment, with him."



Is it bigger than a breadbox?

Last night I holed myself up in the little yellow bedroom determined to redesign this thing. Which is kind of dumb, because no one looks at actual blogs anymore as they are all using a holy and sainted invention called Bloglines (you are using Bloglines, right? You aren't? LUDDITE!) and so who cares what your site looks like? But there is a reason I pay for TypePad, the Turbo Version, and that is to mess around with Design. Even though I don't know good design from, say, the fancy new church directories we picked up on Sunday that, I SWEAR, look like junior high yearbooks. I was totally asking people to sign my church directory. And I wanted to write "2 Sweet 2 B 4gotten" under my friends' pictures before they left on their vacation. But they thought I was just kidding. Which I wasn't. Stay cool!

No really. I even made a tester blog where I could preview my new designs without having to republish this behemoth every five seconds (why can't you preview advanced designs? Why?) But what kills me is Photoshop. I am a Photoshop MORON. I can't count how many banner images I've created with Photoshop but EVERY STINKING TIME I screw up with the size and even when I swear it's right, my banner image ends up saying "ighty magg" or some such awfulness. After the ninth or tenth try I finally surrendered and went to sulk in bed where I promptly melted into a gooey sweaty puddle of human ooze.

So tomorrow is my anniversary. I am trying to decide whether to post our one decent wedding photo and a disgustingly sappy Ode To The Husband, or if I should just post a recent picture of Phillip with the caption: Sock Dropper- Repeat Offender. I suppose it depends on if he manages to secure dinner reservations today, and then only if he doesn't laugh at his anniversary gift.

Which I am not sharing with you. For it is horrid. Seriously. If someone gave ME what I am giving HIM for our anniversary, I would probably call my lawyer and start on the divorce papers.

I don't TRY to get him horrid gifts, really, but somehow I succeed, year after year after year. One year for his birthday? I bought him this little plastic thing that you hooked onto your keychain and what this little plastic thing DID was tell you what song was playing on the radio.


See, I am married to a Geek. And I say that lovingly and with tons of respect! I have a THING for geeks, and all kinds too, not just those who give their hard drives sponge baths and champagne. Phillip, for example, is geeky about computers and music. Music! Music is cool! But the problem with geeks is that they are terrifically difficult to buy for. Why? Because there are only a few things they like to receive as gifts: geeky things. But if you attempt to PURCHASE a geeky thing, you can be 99.9999% certain that you are buying the wrong thing. Which is why a keychain that tells you the name of the song on the radio is GENIUS, people. 1. It's a gadget. 2. It's about MUSIC. and 3. I did not have to read a textbook on SQL server to pick it out. (And also 4. The plastic thing went out of business two months later and now I have to remember the station and the time and use the Internet when I get HOME. Which is LAME because the plastic thing was AWESOME.)

Last Christmas I bought him a printer/scanner/copier combo. Not only was Phillip all, "Um, we already have a printer, but this one is cool too! Thanks!", it no longer PRINTS. This Christmas I attempted to buy the upgrade to our DVR software (oh dear, the geekiness, it rubs off) but I had a panic attack trying to figure out if I needed the upgrade or the whole package, and then did I want them to send me a CD or did I just want to download it, and oh God what would I do with the DOWNLOAD and aaaaauuuggghhh what version do we have?!?! So OBVIOUSLY I couldn't buy that, even though he kept hinting about it, because I would totally buy the WRONG THING. So I bought him walkie talkies instead because 1. Walkie talkies are gadgets. 2. There was a small chance he might think it's KIND OF cool. and 3. This way we could talk to each other when I am in the little yellow bedroom on the third floor and he's in the first floor office. Instead of IMing. Because we are GEEKS.

I feel extra bad about the horrid present giving because I? Am a world class present haggler. Starting about, oh, APRIL, I start asking about what he's giving me for my anniversary. Come May I occasionally intersperse my interrogations with questions about my BIRTHDAY present. I'm rather demanding.

But, sigh, tomorrow I shall hand over the Most Disappointing and UnRomantic Anniversary Gift In The Entire Universe. I may have outdone myself this time.

I will give you a hint: The traditional gift for third anniversaries is LEATHER.

(Dude! I was just tooling around looking for an extra special idea for a post title, and I found this. How to give your wife a gift. Read that item, Men!)

Hot time summer in the city

I love summer. I love gardening and flip flops and grilling hamburgers and playing frisbee and all the incessant checking to see if I have even the semblance of a tan. I love the sun. I even love days like today, which my weather lady says is going to be a recordbreaking 92 degrees. It's hotter than the summer I got married, which is the hottest one I can remember. Of course, it's all going to disappear by the end of the week, but I spent about five total minutes indoors this weekend, filling up on Vitamin D in preparation for the traditional Fourth of July rain storm.

What I do not love about summer is whatever annoying DNA thingie set on some UH-OH IT'S HOT OUTSIDE! timer that explodes inside Phillip's genetic code, causing him to start no end of futile wars against Mother Nature. Here are a list of ideas Phillip has come up with in the last several days to Keep His Cave House Cool:

  1. Cut a window in the bedroom wall, right above the bed.
  2. Cut a skylight in the bedroom ceiling, right above our bed, preferably with a drop down crank so that, at 2:30 in the morning, he can relieve his miserable sweltering with just a few twists of the half-asleep wrist.
  3. Install actual air conditioning, running us about 478 dump trucks of dollars more than what is currently sitting in our bank account.
  4. An elaborate system of open windows and strategically placed fans that, as far as I can tell, only swishes the lukewarm air about in a lovely and swirly fashion, no matter how many arrangements he tries.
  5. Opening all the doors and turning on all the lights. Oh wait. That must be a strategy for something else. I do wish he'd let me know why all the lights are on ALL THE TIME.

Since I nix all of the ideas that cost more than the irritation of dealing with the patented not-to-be-messed-with fan system, he ends up spending a lot of time in his first floor office where he can open the front door and the teeny office window and pretend he's sitting in a wind tunnel. Poor poor dear.

Really, though, his battle against The Hot is rather trying. I'm tempted to strap him into my beloved automobile, turn the AC on full blast, and drive around the neighborhood until he falls asleep, the way you do with fussy babies. Then I'd throw him over my shoulders and haul him up the stairs and put him to bed. I may break my back in the process, but then I wouldn't have to listen to the whining about sticking to the sheets, and the latest bullet point in his anti-heat manifesto.

What's worse is when the Men get TOGETHER. And then you have four or five of them standing around your living room with their hands on their hips, frowning at windows and fans and electrical outlets and rubbing their stubbly chins. They are all in deep contemplative thought about one thing- not sleeping comfortably, not sweating while watching television, not eating out every night because it is too hot to use the oven- NO. They all just want to WIN. This is why they work in teams. Cool-ifying one man's house is a victory for all because they're all in this TOGETHER.

(And I speak from experience, having grown up with a man who turned the living room air conditioner on High, pulled the entire house's rolladen shutters down in the middle of the day, turned on the ceiling fans and went to read in his bedroom, the better to ignore his impending fate of death by 87 degrees and his irritating daughter, who liked to point out that we were not BATS, nor we were nocTURNAL and WHY DID WE HAVE TO LIVE IN A CAVE.)

Except for the sunburn

You know how, when you were 12 or 13, and your parents wouldn't let you stay at your friend's house and your hair never looked right and your brother embarrassed you in front of the high school kids and you had a zit on the tip of your nose and you weren't allowed to use the phone because you were supposed to be doing the dishes? And how you locked yourself in your bedroom and daydreamed about what it would be like to be a grown up and have your own money and hang out with your cool friends and stay out as long as you wanted and eat ice cream for dinner and take off for your spur of the moment plans, like the beach or the movies or the mall or the park for a barbecue with all the fun and wonderful and super cool people you would know? Because you are a grown up and no one tells you what to do and you can have as much fun as you can possibly cram into 24 hours?

Yeah. That was my weekend.

More blather about babies

My neighbors told us quite a while ago that they were expecting. I forgot about it (we have a rather large grudge against these neighbors), although every once in a while I would see the wife and notice she certainly didn't look like she was expecting. Then the other day Phillip sat next to the dad on the bus and found out that his older daughter is adopted from Kazakhstan and they are waiting for their referral for a new daughter from China. A quick perusal of my morning reads tells me the referrals are in (to a certain date, at least) and now I'm expecting to see a new baby fairly soon. Perhaps I need to rethink my grudge because gosh, I really like new babies.

The last time I talked about adoption here someone asked me why I want to adopt. And I have been thinking about that. I don't really have an answer. Unless "because we really want to" is an answer. Which it isn't.

The first time I ever thought about adopting was when I was in high school and read a news story about a bunch of Chinese baby girls who'd been packed in SUITCASES and carried onto buses to be sold to people in different cities. I have absolutely no idea if this story is true. I don't remember where I read it or what the context was. But I was horrified. And my first instinct was to instantly fly myself to China and adopt every single orphan baby girl in sight. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to adopt Chinese babies when I grew up and my mom said, "Oh, I would like that!" (Because, at the time, I believe I'd informed my mother that I was never getting married and definitely not having children and her grandmotherly heart must have leaped  joyously at this small bit of hope.)

I admit there is definitely a part of me that wants to "rescue" babies. I know that is Not Cool in adoption circles, and parents who are adopting want to dissuade other people from labeling them as 'saviors'. I'm not positive about this, but I would bet that most US citizens who adopt haven't been able to have biological children, for various reasons, and they aren't "doing a good deed", they just want children. In addition, they don't want anyone to look at their baby and see a charity case, which totally makes sense to me.  Those babies are people, not statements or proof of saintliness. At the same time, it's hard not to also give thanks that an orphan baby now has a home.

So I can't ignore that part of me wanting to adopt: there are many many babies without homes and I am readily available!

I was very nervous two years ago when Phillip and I wormed our way into an invitation to an orphanage run by westerners in China. I was certain it would be worse than the European orphanages I'd visited. I'm not even sure why we wanted to go so much, other than simply thinking that we were extra sets of arms to hold the babies. I think we felt like we were going to do some ministry, like babysitting kids while their single mothers attended job training, or making sandwiches for the homeless men at the St. Martin de Porres shelter.

I was expecting something like a Communist prison, not this:
We were not allowed to take pictures of the outside so I asked for this stock photo. The sky wasn't as blue (and I have to believe that was Photoshopped, because the sky was NEVER blue in China) and it didn't look quite so Disney-ish (although still rather bizarre as it was a huge pink building with turrets in CHINA, surrounded by construction and dirt and torn up landscaping). We were only allowed on the second and third floors as these were run by foreigners. The other floors were Chinese only and off limits so I can't say I've seen a "real" Chinese orphanage. However, the two floors I saw were beautiful, brightly colored and as warm as the employees could make them. But it sort of doesn't matter how many murals and toys and blankets there are when you walk into the Toddler Room and see 20 little cribs all pushed up against each other.

But it was during my couple of hours at this orphanage that I think my heart changed from "I could give one of these babies a home" to "one of these babies could be mine." Specifically, this one:

This is May. You can't see her very well because she wouldn't hold still. I'm not going to write about her all over again. I will just say that nearly two years later, I still think about her and pray for her and hope that she was adopted. Hopefully May is running around some house in the Midwest, or in England, or in Germany, wearing her parents out and getting applesauce in her hair.

I hate to speculate too much about what we'll actually do, or why we'll do it or what contingency plans we'll have in case the original plans don't work out. And this is SUCH a sensitive subject to begin with. I really don't know what God has in store for us, other than a sense that Phillip and I could be good parents, whether our kids are biological or adopted or fostered. I know a lot of people feel strongly about the genetic tie. I've grilled and tested myself on this subject many times, especially about not having a family that looks alike. I have four brothers and sisters and while we think we look nothing like each other, there are still people who mix up my little sisters, who think pictures of Rebecca are pictures of me, who see pictures of us as little kids and can't tell any of us apart. I think I look exactly like my dad. How much of that do I subconsciously expect in my own family? But plenty of genetic families look nothing like each other. And I'll bet my biological children won't look anything like me (or Phillip) anyway.

As for bonding with or loving a baby who isn't genetically mine... that's not even a consideration. I can't tell you why. It just... isn't. Am I just clueless? I held May for maybe 15 minutes and only the surety of the Chinese government coming after me with big sticks and tear gas kept me from taking her back to our apartment in the taxi.

This little one looking up at me is Daniel.

This is Renee.


This is Frank (aka: FrankWhoBecameASmallHumanGrowthOnPhillip'sLeg.)


Maybe I'm being ridiculous and not Thinking Things Through, but I'm pretty sure we would have taken any of these kids home and made them ours.


(I've kept these photos in a password-protected Yahoo album since our trip because I didn't think I should plaster them all over the internet. But these kids are two years older now, and most of them are probably adopted. They most likely have different names and different faces and live all over the world. And because I once read a post on an adoption blog where some awful person had lambasted the future mom for decorating the nursery and buying clothes and toys and baby things long before she'd received a referral or "knew that the baby existed". These babies exist. And I would have loved to have been able to hold one of them and tell him his mom was waiting for him to come home, setting up his room and getting him cute clothes and things to play with and spelling out nis name on the wall with those ridiculously expensive wooden letters from Pottery Barn Kids.)

(Also because you can't see TypePad sites in China. At least you couldn't two years ago. WHICH, if you are reading, Chinese government censors, TRULY AND STUPENDOUSLY SUCKS.)


Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year. In Seattle we celebrate the solstice by watching a parade of naked men riding bicycles. You think I jest. I do not, although the parade organizers conveniently left that fact out of the event description. I intend to celebrate by picking up some Chinese take-out after work, defrosting some cupcakes in my freezer (don't ask) and dusting off the Firefly DVD that's been hanging out on top of the television for months because gimpy Lee is coming over and we're going to finish the season. And then maybe I'll do some weeding and planting because the sun is not going to set until ten past nine tonight. It's going to be sunny and warm and sublime.

Today also marks the beginning of the season of dreading November. November is not a good month for me. I love Thanksgiving, I love the kickoff to the winter holidays, I love breaking out the wool work pants and the heavy coats and I really love turtleneck sweaters. But November is when things get really dark. You can totally make it through September and even find a way to survive through October, but once November hits, you're in the dark. You wake up in the dark, you sit in an office all day during the light hours, and you leave in the dark, get home in the dark, watch TV in the dark. And then you do it all over again. Even early December is hopeful, because you know the winter solstice is coming up, and the days will start getting longer and longer. No, November is the worst and for the past couple of years, November has done an ugly number on me.

It's not really the weather. I find myself more annoyed by Seattle's weather as I get older, the rain and gloom and general blahness. I don't enjoy the weeks and weeks of rain. But the kicker is the dark. I can't stand the dark and, unfortunately, there is nowhere in the world I can go to escape that.

I'm a morning person, for one thing. I love the light streaming through my bedroom window at seven in the morning. I love getting up and opening all the shades and sitting in front of the living room window with my breakfast and a good book while Phillip is upstairs sound asleep. And when it's light enough to stay out late and not feel like you're going to be exhausted the next day, that's the best. At 9 p.m. in November, I'm drinking wine and watching TV, preparing myself to fall asleep. At 9 p.m. in June I'm at a friend's barbecue and going for walks and baking cookies and playing DDR in my living room.

The dark reminds me that soon I will have to go to bed. And for so long I've had such a struggle going to bed. My second experience with the Anxious Anvil of Anxiety Disorder Doom squished me flat in November of 2004. It took me until, oh, Spring of 2005 to feel like I could even try to fall asleep without the aid of Benadryl or a glass of Australian shiraz. I amazed myself this past winter, when anxiety returned only for a few days at a time, never enough to make me think it was zooming back into my life, never enough to really scare me. I haven't opened that Costco-sized bottle of Benadryl in a really long time.

But that doesn't mean I don't wonder when I will.

For now- HURRAY FOR SUMMER! Summer means anniversary, Hawaii, birthday, parents in town, shorts, gardening, barbecues, frisbee, no socks, driving with the windows down and the music blaring. And I LOVE driving across the Ballard Bridge and singing along to the country station at the top of my lungs. The other drivers pull up alongside me and think: "GOD. She makes Sara Evans sound like a COW in LABOR." But when it's sunny out and I'm wearing my movie star sunglasses, I totally don't care.

Weekend in Hong Kouver

Phillip and I knew there was only one thing in the world his dad would want for Father's Day, so Saturday morning we filled up the car and headed for Richmond, BC, home of the only acceptable Chinese food in the greater Pacific Northwest. Apparently there are decent Cantonese restaurants in San Francisco and possibly L.A., but, sadly, according to my father-in-law, who makes it his business to know such things, there are none to be found in Seattle. Luckily for us, the good restaurants and the rest of Phillip's family live in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, which is about two and a half hours away if you are Phillip and driving like your little Subaru is actually the star of The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift.

This is what we listened to on the way up.
(On the offchance you don't have amazing de-blurry-fying eyes, the screen reads: I'D DIE WITHOUT YOU. PM DAWN. THE BLISS ALBUM. Thank you,, for providing me with hours of middle school nostalgia.)

Here we have, while waiting at the border, a sort-of typical Northwestern United States set of bumperstickers: "EAT ORGANIC" and a shout out for KEXP, local community radio. This would be the perfect example of local bumperstickeria if there was some sort of vulgar anti-Bush slogan plastered to the other side, perhaps this one, which originates from one of my favorite local blogs. SIGH.

Of the 47 Cheungs in the directory, only one of them is related to us. No one answered when we called up to the condo, so we wandered into the mall below and watched the last five minutes of the Italy-USA game in the television department.


Internet, this is Mr. Cheung, in a perpetual state of getting everyone out the door so he can go eat dinner. And this is his son Phillip, caught making fun of Mr. Cheung's choice of overcoat. As Phillip was paying for dinner, he was still allowed to attend.


We could only get reservations at 5pm so we were the first diners to arrive. They were still setting the tables when we waltzed in: Phillip and me, my in-laws, three uncles and one aunt. And I don't know if you have ever been to an Official Cantonese Restaurant, but if you are a Caucasian daughter-in-law whose Chinese consists of "Yes", "Thank you" and "Oh well!", you just sit quietly and watch the Commotion. The Commotion consists of the youngish waiter in a too-big suit standing at attention at the father-in-law's side while he yammers away about what he wants to order. As he's listing off his items, the aunt and uncles make their preferences known. There is much discussion of what kind of chicken- boiled or fried- and which noodles are better and whether the Bird's Nest is made of potatoes or noodles and you just sit there and drink your tea. And then the waiter will attempt to speak, but he will be cut off, and then he will be crossing things out and writing new things and you look at your Chinese-American husband who doesn't speak any Chinese either and both of you make strained smiles and settle into your chairs for the Long Haul.

The first item that arrives is the soup.
I know this is hard to see, but inside that giant silver pot is a Wintermelon. And the wintermelon is carved out and filled with broth, shrimp, scallops, crab, mushrooms and weird little spongy things that I am 99% certain are parts of a fish I am wholly uninterested in eating, but I didn't ask to confirm. Another waiter brings this out (a lesser waiter, wearing a vest instead of a suit) and makes precise cuts in the melon so as to make sure everyone has a big soaking slice of melon (which tastes like... melon) in their bowl. Then he stands with one hand behind his back (every single waiter serving soup in a Chinese restaurant does it with one hand behind his back) and ladles it into all the little bowls. And then my mother-in-law picks one out for me, one that has a lot of melon, because that's the best part. Which, sigh, means I better eat all my melon.

The other dishes were broccoli beef (a standard) and some noodle dish I didn't really like. You can see I already have broccoli beef on my plate, even though the dishes had barely arrived. This is because while they are not discussing who won all the money at mah jongg last night, they are harrassing Phillip to "take care of Maggie!" All I have to do is smile and drink my tea and my plate will never be empty. And if I don't like something I just leave it on the side and Phillip will eat it for me. As long as you are sitting in between your husband and your sympathetic mother-in-law, It's quite easy being a Caucasian Daughter-In-Law.

This was ordered especially for me because PEOPLE. It is SUBLIME. It's a "bird's nest" made of deep fried noodles (YUM) and filled with broccoli and shrimp and scallops and unfortunately I had to share it with everyone else. I don't see WHY, because I wasn't eating their NOODLES. JEEZ.

What I did not take a picture of was the boiled chicken with the boiled head placed neatly next to the pieces.

No one seemed to notice that I was taking pictures. They were talking. They would talk for ten minutes and then someone would lean over to Phillip and tell him what they were talking about. Then they'd talk for ten or fifteen more minutes and then someone else would lean over to me and translate. Which meant Phillip and I were cleaning up the broccoli beef and hoarding all the melon. Which was actually pretty good. (Really! I liked something!)

This was dessert.
This is Red Bean Goop. It has another name, but I think that one suffices. I would rather eat the cold spicy jellyfish appetizer than eat this stuff. I would rather have the chicken head staring at me all evening. This stuff is vile and I have my mother-in-law's permission to never ever eat it.

When we were too full to finish, the waiters came over to package everything up for Phillip (Phillip always gets the leftovers) and the manager came over to hand out cards and wish us well. After that it was off to the condo for a few rounds of mah jongg and Phillip and I drove home. And Phillip's dad? Was THRILLED. We. Had driven up. To Canada. For DINNER. With HIM.

When we got home, we found these in our yard.




Whoever has done this shall pay.

There are still 2 hours left of Father's Day on the West Coast

My dad, even when he retires, even though he's taught fifth grade and seventh grade and been the librarian, will always be, to me, a sixth grade teacher. He has a podium, he reads  Save Queen of Sheba and lets them play Silent Ball if they've behaved and finished their work. He complains about the lazy ones, the dumb ones, the miscreants (for whom he has soft spots, although he won't really admit it) and the boring ones. The smart ones he remembers for years and years. Just this morning when I called to say Happy Father's Day, he told me he'd just finished with the smartest class he'd had in a long time, possibly even smarter than Laura McLaughlin. Laura McLaughlin is probably thirty-five years old, and Laura is not her name, but for the life of me I can't remember which 'L' name it is, and my dad will probably email me tomorrow with a correction.

For me, sixth graders will always be the Big Kids, the top of the elementary school heap. Even now that I know what sixth graders are like- smelly, loud, on the verge of great hormonal angst- I still think of them as the kids I wanted to be, the kids my dad liked best.

When I was in fifth grade, my dad taught sixth grade down the hall. He actually taught a fifth-sixth split and my best friend was in his class. She loved him (everyone loved him) and always gave me a full report on who got kicked out and who was made to look silly. My best friend was cute and blond and whip smart and there were three  other girls in that class just like her. My dad would come home raving about his Girls, the smartest cutest cleverest nicest girls he'd ever had. I remember all their names, I even remember some of the stories he told about them over dinner.

I couldn't stand them. For one thing, three out of the four had long beautiful blond hair and this vexed me to no end. If there was one thing in the world I would never be, it was blond. (And, being the daughter of people who didn't believe in children getting anywhere near pantyhose, New Kids On The Block tapes and hairspray, I was the only ten-year-old in the universe who didn't have perfectly crafted waterfall bangs.) And they weren't just cute, they were sixth grade geniuses. I hated hearing about how smart they were, what they had thought up for school projects and what particularly brilliant answer one of them came up with to a question about the Civil War. I DIDN'T CARE. I was ten, chubby, four-eyed and cursed with stringy brown hair. I may have been in the top reading group, but the Civil War bored me to death and I was never going to be one of the cute smartypants girls my dad talked about so much.

My dad taught my sister Katie. He talks about Katie the way he talked about Angie and Shanna and Kemper. "I had to cheat against Katie," he says proudly, "just to make sure she wouldn't win!" He never taught me (Katie swears this wasn't instant social death, but my God, can you even imagine having your dad send the boy you think is cute to the principal's office?) but I would like to think he would have had to cheat against me too.

I think I turned out all right. I haven't really accomplished anything spectacular, I don't have an amazing job or plans to find one, I'm still chubby and four-eyed and dark-haired, but I earn a decent living and visit my grandmother and provided him with a saintly and technologically-adept son-in-law. I will listen to his tirades on the war, or the state of teaching, or how he's faring on the South Beach diet and find all of it interesting- that must count for something. I tell him about the crazy people I work with and what I'm reading and how I feel guilty about whatever it is I feel guilty about that week, and he will laugh at me, because he knows I ended up with the entire allotment of guilt complex gene in our family. I talk about what it's like being married and being part of someone else's family, and he wants to know what I think about our family, what kind of dad he is. And I have to say, he's not bad at the whole dad thing.

He lets me know if he likes something I've written, and that means more than 100 comments or my boss bending over backwards to create a job for me or getting to spend a week in Hawaii. For a moment or two I am an eleven-year-old skinny blond girl with an upturned nose and a brain like a Civil War encyclopedia, praised for my cleverness over my sixth grade teacher's dinner table, which is pretty much all I have ever wanted to be.