Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Chicken Bone

Once upon a time, when Sean and I were newly wedded and only a year or so into our New York life, we had some good friends. Do you remember Dom from the band days? His wife Katie is also a pal and I had almost completely forgotten this but it was she who one day pointed out to me all the chicken bones strewn about our 'hood.  It apparently being a fried chicken-loving community, we conjectured that it was customary to consume your chicken while out and about and cast the bones aside where you stand/sit. Perhaps done ceremonially, as part of the custom.  Perhaps as a way of making your mark in the world, or because of the goodness of your heart for the poor city rats and squirrels.  Or pigeons. You know i once saw a flock feasting on a New York slice [of pizza] so maybe our Brooklyn pigeons also like them some fried chicken?

Anyway, ever since she'd pointed that out, I did begin to see them EVERYWHERE.  And over time, it became a symbol for me and a strange source of comfort.  I turned it into a magic thing, where every time i saw one I declared it, pointed to it, and regarded it as a small, inconspicuous, gnawed-on little friend.  And it became very special, and its symbolism grew, bringing into my being an overall feeling of "Brooklyn."  I have passed on this magic to Julian, choosing my words and moment carefully so that he, too, now regards spotting one as a special thing.  We're excited, a little bit reverent, and feel like we just pocketed a bit of luck.  It fills me with joy to watch him do this.

As we witnessed friend after friend arrive and then leave this place, I began to mentally prepare myself for that mysterious future event, should it ever occur, or at least just try to imagine what it would be like. Over and over again I have done this thing. So many friends. And as this symbolism grew, I told myself, I think that I could maybe leave one day, as long as I bring a bunch of chicken bones and strew them all around me. Then it will feel like home.  Friends to find along my way. Because part of the beauty of this place is finding that beauty in typically disgusting circumstances.  It's a rugged beauty, unrefined, but glorious, and cuts you straight to your heart.

Now, I have this symbol and I know others must have theirs. And I am convinced that we must find that symbol, give it a name, and make it so that we can take it with us. What it means to be ________, a thing or person or feeling that we hold dear, and make it ours forever. So it doesn't matter where we actually are. We feel this way about those we love, right? This is something important, and I feel strongly about it.

This summer a few friends were moving to faraway places.  I wrote an ode, a tribute to these friends, to the chicken bone and what it stands for, to all who have been blessed to the highest degree with experiencing an intense city love such as this, and dedicate it to them and to my friend Katie who opened my eyes to this thing now very dear to me.

And now I will post it on my blog in part for me, because we are moving from Brooklyn.  It actually happened.  All those years of preparation and visualization and contemplation are paying off immensely.  And now that the moment has come, I need my own poem.  Here it is:

Chicken Bone

by Jen

Chicken Bone, Chicken Bone,
All around is Chicken Bone.
Its presence is a subtle one
Hidden down, cast to the ground
Could be forgotten, did it not abound.
Chicken Bone, Chicken Bone,
A subway stair could be your home
Or on the bus, right next to me
At the curbside, at my feet.
Chicken Bone, Chicken Bone
You are a symbol, a beacon bone,
Signaling all, your Brooklyn home
In the gutter, on my stoop
In my heart now, my Brooklyn heart now.
So now you're free, don't sway, don't droop
On this street, or that one far,
The Chicken Bone is in your heart.

So where'er you're blown, where'er you roam
Where'er there's Chicken Bone, you're home.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Summer Reads

I think that every blog post I write this summer should have "summer" in the title somehow.  And, not to be confused with Summer Reads of Beasts, the other day I got an email saying all the books I had put on hold at the library down the street were in. I had sort of forgotten what i'd requested so it was a fun surprise.  Strangely, they were mostly all available simultaneously. When I went to the library to pick them up I was pleased and amused at what appeared to be quite the eclectic collection. I thought maybe I could do a summer book review, because THAT'S nothing new, am i right?? But perhaps I can put a different twist on it somehow, as which is a general goal in all that I do.  We'll see.    But for now, here's the list:

1. I Am Spock, by Leonard Nimoy.  This is a mid-90's sequel to I Am Not Spock, published 20 years previous, after the original hullabaloo of the short-lived television series.  I would have read that one first but it wasn't in the library so when faced with the decision of Spock or No Spock, i will always opt for Spock.  First rule of thumb. (--what a weird expression. somebody tell me what it means.)

2. Charlotte's Web, by E.B. White.  A classic. And right up my country and old times-loving alley. Julian and I are reading this one together and heartily loving it. It's so good.

3. Sarah's Key, by somebody.  Since I love WWII tales, someone recommended this to me forever ago and I actually remembered it and put a hold on it--miracle.  I can never remember people's recommendations.  Instead of just recommending the thing, why don't they just GET the thing FOR me and bring it to my door? "Hey, you know what you should try? THIS cheesecake from that new place! Voila!" (then they present it from behind their back for good surprise effect) This ensures I will try it out and then I will totally get back to them when i'm done. Everybody's happy. Everybody wins.

4. Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin, by someone.  Since we read up and visited many-a museum showcasing Benjamin Franklin, such a fascinating character, I thought it might be interesting to read about his sister whose name I remember seeing here and there but not sure how she was involved, etc. We'll see.  Who knows, maybe she'll turn out to be the dud Franklin.

5. Longbourn, by someone also.  Tells of the goings-on at Longbourn house from the point of view of the servants to the family Bennett.  Sounds pretty good, right?

Maybe for each book i'll have a template of questions, or maybe i'll try to find the common theme that MUST be there connecting them even though these were all chosen at random.  For example:

  • What I liked
  • What I didn't like
  • Favorite quote
  • If I had to be someone in the book, who would I be and why
  • a stray, loosely related story the book sort brings to mind. 
  • This book's take on the selected theme. But how can i select it unless i've already read ALL the books?? Oh hey, i'm still typing in this bulleted list.
Well anyway, let's give it a try.   How's your summer going? What are you reading? Any recommendations? ;) 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Faces of Summer

Angry Face!

Sad Face!

Laughing Face!

Thinking Face!

Now Just Be


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Guest Post: A Little Boy Who Was Four

by Julian

Once upon a time there was a little boy who was four, like me. And his name was Johnson.

Actually his name was John.  And he had a round ring. He took it outside and he dropped it in a down deep hole, a down wide hole. And he climbed a rope and with a flashlight he looked under ground and there was lots and lots of jewels.  He dug with a shovel, but he didn't know which ring was his.  He was trying to find it with the flashlight and he found something shiny.  He looked and looked until he bumped into something.

It was just the end of the hole.

So, he shoveled and shoveled and found more space and he found more rings, but he couldn't find his. So he shoveled and shoveled and shoveled [repeat 7 times] and he realized he was digging under the street! He found pipes.  Actually, he was under the earth where there's lots of jewels inside Earth.  He kept digging and digging with his shovel until he found  a shiny light shivering down. He realized it was a car going under the road! The car fell in the deep hole and broke into pieces.  He could hardly know, but he realized it was yellow, so he realized it was a taxi cab!  He found pieces of seat and pieces of steering wheel too.  And then he heard *clickity clack, clickity clack!* and he realized it was the train.. the subway!  He then saw something shiny and gold and he realized it was his ring!

But he didn't know which way was right. And so he walked until he fell down in the subway. But he couldn't get up because the hole he had made was too up to the ceiling.  So he took the train up and up and he saw two huge eyes! It was the Ring Monster!  But he said, "hello, I'm nice. I just wanted to see what your ring looked like."  The boy said, "oh, I'm not so sure I want to show you. It's special. My mom gave it to me."

The End.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


When Sean and I were first married I learned a very sad thing: He'd never had a surprise party. I know, right?  :(   So of course i had to throw him one just because. It entailed arriving at a friend's house, silly string all over the place, including right in his surprised mouth. So a solid surprise birthday, I'd say. You just have to have one in your life.

You also may know that I love to scare people. I don't scare just anyone. It's usually close family and it's been a while since when I scare Sean (who is the best), it comes at a price. I've mentioned this before.  Julian, too, is fun to scare and all too easy, but he's a little more tender in the feelings department and I laugh too wickedly in the moment so it risks not ending suuuper well. But sometimes is worth it. I choose my moments wisely.

One time I decided to visit Utah and for some reason I decided to keep it a secret from my mom. We had my sister help me out and we set up a video camera in my mom's room.  I snuck in the house, called my mom and asked her a question that would require her to go into her bedroom, I sat on the bed, and hit record. SO GOOD.  She was so shocked I think she just immediately turned her back on me like she was suddenly faced with a terrifying nightmare that she refused to accept as real.  Wait a second, this was a good surprise, Mom, right??   She may have uttered a scream though, and I think her expression was one of shock so I got some good results, (even if I am a scary nightmare one needs to have advanced knowledge to prepare for).

Needless to say though (at least for me), my mom is a lot of fun to surprise.  A Bklyn friend just put a video up on the Facebook of her surprise-visiting her mom who's on a mission in Washington.  It's awesome and guaranteed to make you cry.  Her mom screams and screams and screams. Man, there is nothing better than someone's shocked face hopefully born out of love.

This reminded me of another surprise I gave my mom that i also videotaped.  It was March of 2009. Julian was a 17-week-old grapefruit in my guts that no one knew about.  Since we had waited for quite some time for this miracle that was never going to happen, the build-up was already fantastic and perfect for some kind of setup.  Since i was a bundle of nerves,  paranoia that i would be found out beforehand and also because I just didn't know how to formulate the words that I never ever thought I'd say, I quickly devised a scheme to introduce a "game" to my family.  It was a "new game" that I had "made up" and was "super fun."  I sat at the dining room table for far too long (even for me) and after a while we began.  In attendance were my mom and dad, two sisters, brother, and his wife.  I gave them each a card with a secret phrase face down that I would further explain.  What was written:

Jen is pregnant. That's the game. You win!

Man I was so nervous. I really don't know how I kept it together. I tried to sneak my camera onto the table and hit record, knowing my mom would most likely be the jackpot of reactions.   I was right. Right at the start, her face is solid gold.  After about 30 seconds it's mostly just me snot-crying and bumbling and slurring some words together (good luck understanding me because I sure can't). Also some jokes about the "game."  But yeah, it's pretty good stuff. Bringing back some good times for me. Three cheers for using our parents' love for our own amusement at their expense!


Monday, June 09, 2014

Out of Africa...Still

Every once in a while I experience thoughts, feelings, notions or videos that make me demand myself to know why I'm not living in Africa and am instead wasting my life doing whatever it is I'm doing.  It all started in college when I took an intro to anthropology class at the very last second. I honestly can't remember ten seconds of class discussion (maybe because i rarely went) but I loved the reading. One was of my teacher's experience living in Africa amongst a tribe whose name I can't recall and I basically fell in love. Lots of things to inspire those feelings pop up here and there and here's a video that did it again.  But then, mom and baby elephants are one of my achilles heels so I was doomed from the start:

(you could watch from the beginning or start around 4:00. A baby elephant fell into a pit/well or something and these guys are trying to help it out)


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's Words?

For months now I've been living in a world of constant and interminable sleep deprivation. It has changed every aspect of my life. I've gained a lot of benefits from what I'm doing, which is teaching early morning seminary to 5 teenagers at church and a new experience for myself.  But the sleep thing has been Item #1 for 8 months.  I never even experienced anything like it with a newborn.  I don't need to go on a big whine fest but perhaps just a tiny one?

One of the tragedies of this lifestyle change is it's completely 100% zapped my ability to be creative.  I laughed when I wrote that because at times I hardly have any cognitive ability whatsoever, about anything. I can move my body. The motor skills are there (for the most part. I've found a lot of new bruises on my body lately). But cognitive? Thinking? processing thoughts? Forget that.  I've never been in such a state.  I'm thinking it's not just getting up early that takes the toll (and which, by the way, never got easier) but the burden and worries and and constant thoughts on this thing called seminary. Seminary is life. 

I have a good friend here who serendipetously is in the same position so we just talk and talk and talk and talk and talk to each other about it. We're like a married couple who has to force themselves to NOT talk about the kids.  But then we do it anyway.  At the end of the week when it's accumulated to epic proportions, we call each other and laugh/cry/freak out at our inability to function or even speak a sentence. Not to mention deal with the pressures of the job outside the physical aspects. We've come up with the phrase we say that explains our stupor of everything, our garbled language after we just give up trying, resigned to the fact that we don't actually know talking afterall. It's so good I've made it the title of this post:

"What's words?"

We just don't understand them anymore.  Talking? Words? What?  What's words?  It's pretty perfect and one of my favorite seminary jokes that have risen from the year (there are a lot). You can use it too when you're tired and slurring your speech and feeling like a dummy.

But the zero creativity has made me extremely sad. It's a big part of me and i feel like it's dead dead gone, DEAD.  Thus the lack of blog posts (I'm sure everyone has noticed/cares).  But I hate it. I don't like it. Even if I really can't do it. Even if i can't think of anything new or interesting or coherent and it's not my fault,  I hate it.  It's really important to me to have all my faculties, you know? I like having my wits about me. I never get the laughing gas at the dentist and dislike cold medicine because i hate feeling outside of my body. I hate not feeling in control. So every once in a while I give myself writing exercises. As we all know, the brain is a muscle and I have to exercise to get better.   i feel like I've been stripped of everything i've ever had and had to begin again. Sigh.

Every attempt to write or be creative is kind of excruciating.  But i have to keep going because i have to believe that one day I'll get it back.  So here I am, blogging, but it's work.  It's exercise. And the things i produce won't necessarily be great. I'm not even shooting for that. I just need to grit my teeth and do something.  And I'm going to do all that i can to lay out some thoughts in hopes that I can make something of them. Because even if they're nothing at first, perhaps they can be transformed?  It's not even that i just have to practice writing again, I have to practice thinking. I've just never had to do this before. I've always been quite good at it, the thinking. So frustrating. I hate feeling dumb all the time, in such a dense stupid fog all the time.  Sometimes it takes me a good 7 seconds to come up with a word. A stupid word that everyone should know.

So let's have some thoughts! Jen's thoughts.  On Jen's log. Thoughts I'm thinking because I have thoughts. Deep thoughts. Interesting thoughts. (-- pep talk) Ok, lemme see what I can dig up here.

1. A few weeks ago we visited the NY Botanic Gardens. We have some stellar Gardens here in Bklyn but these other ones are in the Bronx, near the zoo, and supposed to be bigger and better.  While lovely, i'm happy to say i don't necessarily prefer them to ours, and I love that ours are special to me on a personal level. I feel sentimental about it, which was sort of surprising.  While there I went into the gift shop and finally, at long last, purchased myself something I've always wanted: A butterfly habitat wherein to raise and grow butterflies.  yay!

Everyone does this, but not me, until now. So i ordered my caterpillars and they arrived and let me tell you, if you haven't done it, it's...amazing.  They eat and grow and eat and grow at such an astounding rate. And then they climb to the top of the cup lid, hook into a J, and make their chrysalis! And you don't have to do anything but watch and marvel at the wonder and miracle of science!  It's everything I hoped it would be. Right now they're metamorphosing and I'm just loving it. I can't believe this process is real. As I type their cells are rearranging--whaa? It feels like science fiction. Go nature!  We moved them over to the habitat and i talk to them like little wrapped up alien babies. I sat at the piano just now, something i haven't done in a cougar's age, and began to play a soft gentle tune, asking Sean if he thought my playing would affect them. He replied he didn't think it would bother them. No, i said. I mean, did he think they'd turn into even better, more beautiful butterflies, like plants that are richer and healthier because they're exposed to music.  He had no reply, but I wonder...

2. Remember how I have brain mix-ups? Where I instruct my brain to fetch me a word and it comes back running, pleased and proud of itself with not quite what I asked for, but I love it anyway? Also this and this.

Well, long ago, before blogs were even invented-- it could have been collegetime or high school, I really cannot say-- my sister and I were cruising in the car and I can't recall the exact details but I meant to say "waffle" and out came "taco."  Or vice versa.  Close. Real close. But not quite the same word, is it.  And you wouldn't think those two would really go together, would you. Or WOULDN'T YOU. Because this morning I heard an ad, and feast your eyes, Ash! It's real, and I'm pretty sure my mix-up we heartily laughed at and made fun of was actually a premonition for THIS:

The waffle taco. Oh my lands, that looks so disgusting! Ha ha ha.  But reminds me of this, so i love it.

3. A friend and I saw Godzilla over the weekend.  One of my favorite things is a Saturday morning movie.  That should be all capitalized.  Saturday Morning Movies are special. Sacred, you might say.  And the fluffier the movie, the better. One we saw was the 2nd Thor which I thought was better than the first. And i could even see it again if for nothing else but to get my Loki fix.  Loki and Natalie Portman kind of cancel each other out in that one.   Another time we saw Nonstop, or as we like to call it Taken Part III.   It's not part of the Taken franchise(?) but i'll be darned if I don't love Liam Neeson action flicks!  I saw Taken one night when Sean was off somewhere, a random itunes purchase and what a startlingly pleasant surprise! Anyway, this one was great. I spent the entire movie making predictions which I'm not terrible at but was completely off by a mile in this one.  It's a really fun ride.  

Thoughts on Godzilla (sort of spoiler alert, not really):

  • What an adorable tubby monster! He's so plump!  Love the ridgy spikes on his back.  We decided that watching the movie would be completely cathartic if you were over-stressed and needed a release, because we both agreed that the monster scream was one of the best parts. No music or background noise. Just monster scream.  And then we analyzed other monster screams with the same effect, like the T-Rex in J-Park (gotta abbreviate ev-thing).
  •  The mothra's pretty great. We analyzed it and decided that spindly= scary and tubby = heroic.  You root for Godzilla.  Except there were moments when  i was confused as to how I was supposed to feel. Am I cheering him on? Or being scared of him? As the News caption read: Savior of mankind? question mark? That part gave me a good laugh. Picturing someone writing that in the newsroom. "Only time will tell, when we're all dead. Stay tuned!"  
  • I definitely appreciated some connections to other favorite films, such as Jurassic Park, as mentioned.  There are some scary impact tremors to make you fairly alarmed.  Also, i thought that the mothras were a good cross between the scary giant rabbit-things the gelflings ride in Dark Crystal:

and Predator:

Since I can't find a picture of a Mothra, you'll just have to go watch the movie and see that I'm right. (Also, why do I keep coming back to Dark Crystal in my life? Anyone else experience that?)  At one point Suzie wondered if our human hero had covered his face in mud, and I eagerly exclaimed "... like Predator!" But I may have gone too far with my nerd.

**More of a spoiler:**

As Suzie astutely pointed out, the relationship between the two monsters is almost more touching, more convincing than the human married couple.  The movie on a whole? Not so great.  I was underwhelmed on the whole. The monsters looked great and had some great sounds. I could have had more of that.  And more interactions, dare I say. Usually i tire quickly of all the fight-fight-fight, kill-kill-kill.  But the battle scenes could have used a titch more epicness.  I mean it's Godzilla. But we had some good jokes and it was decently entertaining. Go see it today. 

4. Well, some time/days (weeks) have passed since I began this post and therefore I can provide you with a butterfly update.  First, science is a MIRACLE.  I couldn't get over how amazing it was. They really do eat and eat and get so big so fast and make their own cocoons! I mean, we read about it in the children's books. We learned about it in school. I haven't witnessed it for so long, all I could do was just marvel.  The butterflies emerged when we were out of town for an overnighter.  Well, 3 of them. I almost cried, I was so happy for them and their miraculous transformation. "Look what you did, you guys! Look what you did!"  I felt a quiet awe come over me, a reverence for them, for accomplishing something greater than I ever could. These tiny creatures with a mere glimmer of a lifespan.

One emerged over night and then the other during the quiet morning when my back was turned.  I heard a tiny crackle and then there he was.  Two chrysalides had been overlapping and I wondered if they would be pals or conjoined or something.  Not conjoined, but when we finally went outside to release them, two flew out, high in the sky and never looked back. One needed some coaxing but eventually found his way, but the last two stood huddling side-by-side on a daisy (because when they emerge, you do magical things like put in freshly cut flowers, fruit, and nectar for them. I was this close to googling when the fairies would appear).  The last two never flew away.  We blew on them, we tried to get them to fly and fulfill their destiny but they never did, as far as I know. We set the flower on the ground and they stayed there, bosom buddies.  I think it was those two that had metamorphosed so closely to one another.  I miss them all dearly.  So magical. So, so magical.

And there are a few thoughts of me.  Seminary ends this week. I am equally ecstatic and brokenhearted.  I told Sean it feels like the birth of a child. So uncomfortable you just want it to be over but also fearful for what life will be like when the baby comes.  Except kind of the opposite, or not at all what it's like? I'm trying, you guys.  Stay with me.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Things I Eat: 2014

This morning I was puttering around the kitchen (does that make you imagine someone taking small steps and making short motorboat noises or something?  If not, me neither, i was just asking.) trying to figure out what to eat. I got these great hot dog buns that are actually wheat bread cut hot dog style. Thanks again, Trader Joe's!  Anyway, the bummer is that the hotdogs I bought were gross. Is there any kind of hotdog NOT the fatty fathead kind that isn't gross? Does trying to find one completely strip, deplete the nature and identity of a hotdog? I almost feel guilty now, for eating a more healthful version. Like i've perverted the intended purpose and natural order of a hotdog. It's just...it's not right.

But anyway, the upside is that these buns are great for making a fun long sandwich.  I stood there thinking and here and there these days--not frequently-- i've tried the peanut butter. And I tried it again today-- no dice. I almost gagged.  It did not go down easy. I feel like sufficient time has passed for another peanut butter phase so that's why i've been trying it out but every time I am repulsed.  So i came to my blog to check and sure enough, i've got another year to go. Premature, Jen. Premature. Don't rush these things.  You can't rush science.  So i'll put it away and just let nature take its course.

So, to compare and contrast to the last time, here's a list of the things I eat as of this moment, 2014:


Breakfast is tricky these days. Since i last reported, I have discovered that eating breads and flours makes me sad, so there goes white flour and whatnot, for the most part.

 I do have alternate versions, like this crazy flat pancake made out of almond meal that i'm crazy about, but it's super off the beaten pancake path. It's fantastic though.

But as for more mainstream stuff, i stick mostly to smoothies and eggs. Occasionally an egg on toast.  But smoothies are just about daily.  I need my morning fruits and vegs.  I know, everyone is doing it, and I am too.  I'm not too crazy though.  Just your standard kefir, spinach, carrot juice, bananas, and frozen fruit smoothie.


Pretty much consistent with two years ago. These days, lunch consists of whatever vegetables are in the fridge and fruit also.  Apples, pears, peas, cucumbers, carrots and peppers are my go-to. Maybe some cheese.  I really do eat an exorbitant amount of fruit. But that's fine, right? All the better for me, right? (right?)


I hate dinner. Hate making dinner. Hate dealing with it. Since i have a 9pm bedtime (goal-wise anyway), i am on a completely different digestive schedule.  So i eat at about 5:30.   Since i'd rather die a torturous death than meal plan, dinner is very simple or delicious take out.    I actually did meal plan yesterday and set out to TJ's to embark on what has to be one of THE WORST days of my Brooklyn life.  No need to go into it but here's a screen cap (just typed "scrap")  to sum it up:


Yesterday I met a friend on the sidewalk for a chat and I just love throwing out things like, "Oh, better go, we've got a crockpot going..."  (which doesn't make sense since crockpot = never think again, but i had to turn it down. one last step.) and then she says with raised eyebrows, "Oh, DO you!"  and we laugh.  I've learned that one of the ways I handle mom life is to make fun of it and my place in it as much as possible. We all have our mechanisms, right?  Sometimes I make casseroles for people just to say, "I just thought i'd bring over a casserole."  It's the same one every time-- tuna.  And actually it's the same person. (Holla, Suvi.)

So here's a vague list of what i'm having this week:

  • Crockpot chicken and rice stuff
  • Tacos with pork or something?
  • Sloppy joes with cole slaw just for Sean. I got shredded broccoli and cabbage and carrots. And beets. That's enough for a slaw, right?   What IS slaw, anyway. And why does it have that horrible name. 
  • Baked ziti-type thing.  With basil from my own pot(!!)  We've recently begun a windowsill garden. This is a big deal because I'm the worst at plant-growing. But Julian and i planted some seeds and it was amazing the way these new green things carried us into the spring. They have brought us a lot of joy. And we've added yet another skill to Sean's already lengthy list of things he's naturally good at: gardener/plant arranger? Horticulturist?  Someone please give me the word for this that i know must exist. It's not even in my vocabulary. Anyway, we even bought a hanging bowl and put some thyme and basil in it. We're hoping they intertwine and create a new herbrid (--see what i JUST did there?)  We're calling it thasil. 



These days I enjoy a nighttime rootbeer float. I'm kind of into experimenting the many different varieties of rootbeer out there. It is quite enjoyable.
Otherwise, I also enjoy an ice cream cone.  Or a brownie. Or anything. The other day i made the BUHGLiest banana cream pie because i had such a hankering. The color of it was of the rotting flesh hue, with a slight tinge of green?  But if that's what rotting flesh tastes like, sign me up. It was delish. 

That wraps up this edition of What Jen Eats.  Check back next year to find out about that peanut butter and what else I'm eating, or doing, or thinking about.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Dear Mother: A Song Letter

I have all these potential Mother's Day posts and no time/brain power to give them all that I would want.  But I do have this one. And maybe i'll just extend this day to all week. Mother Week. Or something. Probably just "regular week" since they mostly have to do with Julian and i'd post them anyway.

My feelings on Mother's Day:  I honestly have never cared for the day as it pertains to me as a mother or even woman. I don't need a day for that. I don't know why. I guess I already spend so much time celebrating myself that one specific day seems totally unnecessary and anti-climactic?  Like "oh, am i going to make this official now?"  No need.

BUT. I do love lovin' up on my own mom, the queen of all mothers who ever mothered on this, our Mother Earth.  (heh)  But for real. I love my mom and since the first gift I made for her in kindergarten (a decorated flower pot) I knew that this was something I could get behind.  Here's a photo of my mom at age twenty-three on the cusp of birthing eight children:

Love this pic.  I would make flower pots for you forever, Mom.  Actually what I try to do is collect flowers through April and press them in my giant atlas to make a card in May except THIS year there weren't any flowers in April. The few i pressed i gave to seminary students so we made cards then, mine of which is still in my bag, I am just remembering. Yaaay, go me.  Love you, Mom. 

Ok, here's the pic zoomed out a bit because my dad's too good to crop. (note to self: make that into a greeting card)

As for getting stuff, though, Julian made me a craft in preschool and it is rather adorable.  I loved it, buuut I don't know... does it beat getting a muffin? 

Here it is, a picture with a magnet on the back. He said he wasn't supposed to paint on it like that but he did it anyway. Rebel! And rightly so because it is the 2nd best thing about this, after his face. (3rd best--magnet)

For this post I'm going to feature something I made because if self-promotion isn't the name of blogs (and Mother's Day) then i don't know what is.   As you may know, I am a letter writing zealot.  I Love to write letters, and constantly preach the importance and practice of it to all who would be prevailed upon to listen. My hope and dream is to someday start up a website devoted to it but for now I'm just dreaming my dreams and compiling data.  I'll keep you posted.   But let it suffice that I devote a lot of time and energy to it, though not as much as I would like, to be honest. I have a mental list of people to write letters to and it's taking me far, far too long to get to it.

One day I sat down to write to my mom. This was sometime last year. Springtime, actually.  As I sat, staring at my blank stationery I thought, what can i do to make this special?  And one thought led to another and voila! I wrote out a song letter. A letter song.  A letter to be sung. To be sat on the piano and played and sung.  The tune is silly and I'm no lyricist but it's really just letter words set to music so that would make sense. In any case, I make myself chuckle.  Give it a try if you're so inclined, and sing a letter I wrote to my mom.  (don't miss the ending)

Happy Mother's Day to all. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Word Names

One time I came across a blog post of somebody where they talked about diseases that sound like lovely names for a person.  I loved it and completely agreed. Diseases, especially old timey ones, can be so romantic at times.  I recently went on a tour of old houses and the tour guide, eager for a star student, asked right answer/wrong answer questions nonstop and the one I was tempted to answer was a SCURVY question and my friend Miss Smartypants Val got it first.  Scurvy! *shaking fist*

Oh, I remembered who wrote it.  So good, Kim.  A classic I think back to often.

Since I think about words a lot, I've been thinking about regular words that could be nice names.  Some people try to do this in naming their children, i.e. Apple.  This to me works ok, but isn't great.  It's sort of like naming your son "chair."   For me, anyway. But no offense if you've named your son that-- it's super cute.

If you choose to name your child after a noun, since it's such a specific thing, an item, you could have a hard time mentally separating the thing from the person. And physically, because maybe Apple loves apples?  And not to say I'm thinking about Gwyneth Paltrow's kids THAT often, but fairly often.

The words on my list made it because they perhaps resemble a real name. There are real name attributes therein so if you try really hard, you might be able to hear it as a person's name. Here's what I have so far:

1. Gasoline

For me this makes sense because so many names end in that "een" sound.  Janeen, a girl i knew named Malene, my friend Rene, mother-in-law Pauline, and countless others I frustratingly cannot recall at this moment. Doreen, Maureen, I knew a girl named Shalene.  Ok anyway.   So Gasoline sounds kind of nice, right? Elegant, even.  I don't know if you could go as far as using Gas as a nickname, but it's so close to Gus, so maybe? Plus I love using "gas" to mean something funny. Which I've never actually done, because I'm not from 1950, but i love the idea of it. If I start, will someone please name their kid Gasoline?

2. Catheter

Cathy, Catherine, Catheter!  Peter. Heather. Catheter.

Hi, my name's Catheter.  
Hey, Cath!
No, I only go by Catheter. 

It totally works.

3. Gender.

Any word with "gen" will work, of course.  Because Gennifer, see? Also, I met a girl named Jendar and that's pretty much the same.  Gender also happens to be a nickname of mine, used by a total of two people.

4. Genuine.

This works for the above reasons and also the last part of the word.  So the Gen + win elements.  Other names that end in "win"-- Edwin, Arwin, Eowen (what, these are real people).   So it makes sense that Genuine would be a name. Actually i'm fairly certain it is.

5. Margarine.

Marge + rine.  Margie.  Catherine. Margarine.  Could also be pronounced Margareen, i guess, except that wouldn't be a word, just a name, similar to Margeen or Marjean. I kind of like it though (the Margareen pronunciation).  It sort of takes Margarine and gives it an extra umph, sort of what Caroline (hard i) does to Carolyn, also a nice name.  Was this confusing?

I'm just realizing what a great post this would be for helping people choose a baby name. I'll keep going.

6. Tendril.

I don't know what the real name elements are here but I just like the sound of it, don't you? Sort of regal, sort of middle earthy.  It sort of reminds me of Kendra which is real.

After realizing most of these are girl names (obviously) I started to be on the lookout for boy word-names.  Here's one:

7. Cumulus

First, my favorite kind of cloud.

Has sort of a Roman sound, like Titus or Atticus, both of which are A+.

Also, i've decided that Tendril is gender-neutral. So is Gender.

8.  Plume.  

Leaning toward girl, here. With this one i sort of feel like I'm naming characters from Hunger Games.  It's nice though, right? And ironic since mostly males have the better plumage.

9. Chalk.  

For a boy. Like "Chad" and also rhymes with "jock."  I'm not really a fan. But it's a possibility. But it also reminds me of Chance, which I do like.

10. Soothe.  

For a girl.  It already has "Sue" in it, why not add the th and calm everybody down?

11. Ricochet.

This name has everything. Rick + fancy french.  What more could you want in a name?  Americanize it and give it a hard ch and t to make it cowboy.

12. Roulette. 

Has the feminine suffix of "ette" like Suzette.  And Rou is just lovely.  And, she's mysterious.  You never know what you're going to get with Roulette.

13. Collate.

I don't know about this one, regarding its success as a name or which gender to apply it to. It has "Cole" in it which is a great name, but the suffix is confusing.  It rhymes with "Kate,"  and also sounds like a deformed version of Colette.  So the logic is there but the final product is questionable.
14.  Magnet.  

This is a great name. And has real name elements, like Mag as in Magnussen, Maggie. I know a little tot named Magnolia. Great name. I love names taken from trees. And if you can do that, you should be able to name someone after one of my favorite things to play with.  And it's just so, so... alluring.

I guess I'll end it there.  Hope this has helped you on your quest for that perfect baby name, or for something to do.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Julian to King's Pawn

Back in the day I did some substitute teaching and one day I came head-to-head with a kindergartener who totally schooled me at chess.  This was before I learned how to play and in my defense, and according to his friend who came up to watch, he was not playing entirely honestly, but I was none the wiser.  (Also, did ALL 5-year-olds know how to play chess?)   Well anyway, I'm realizing that Julian is coming up on his 5th and I need to get on it.  So here's a little glimpse of our progress. I don't want to brag but he's pretty much a chess genius, and also, better than your kid.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Unlikely Dream Jobs

I've been mentally making a list of these and I thought i'd better write them down before I forget.  Because you never know, one day maybe they won't be so unlikely.   Here they are:

1. Meteorologist.  Do I really want to go to weather school to become a meteorologist? No. Could I never EVER tire of talking about the weather with anyone who will listen?  Do I watch weather shows like tornado chasers and find myself intrigued by weather patterns and shifts? Yes and yes.   I love the weather. It's a part of me. It's a part of you. Weather is life.

2. Professional storyteller.  Wait a second, let me clarify. I don't tell very good stories. i leave out important details. I rush to the end. I think some parts and vocalize others. I guess I could try making them up but i don't think i'm so good at that. What i mean is, I want to read to people, as a profession.  Does this mean I like the sound of my own voice? Does this mean i should be an actor and lend my voice to audible books? I don't think so. I just like to read aloud and I like to be with the people I'm reading to.  I try really hard to say the words, read the story, the best way i can, in the way it was intended.  To not misinterpret the words or put the wrong emPHASis on the wrong sylLABle.  I'm not great at doing different voices, something I could work at and I do, sort of.  But I just love reading aloud.  What i envision is being a traveling book-reader for maybe people who can't do it for themselves.  Old people, blind people, sick people, kids. I'm thinking hospitals, assisted living centers, etc.

3. A tour guide of some kind. You take a tour and the tour guide has been doing this so many times and been surrounded by this information for perhaps a long time and they're friggin' experts. You have a question? They can answer it.  I want to be an expert on something!  You know?  Something interesting. Something historical, mostly. Yeah. Historical.  I feel like right now the closest thing I have is the Titanic. Blimey, I've never studied something so intensely.  I just watched probably my 6th or 7th documentary that pretty much blew my mind.  I have such a hard time retaining information so it's a good thing i've read and re-read every children's book ever written on the subject. Too bad I can't give tours on the Titanic, though.  I'd say that's a pretty unlikely dream job. So now what?

4. A crewmember on a starship for the Federation of Planets.  I say this is unlikely because I just can't close my heart off completely to this possibility. You just never know, alright?!  Lately I have re-fallen in love with Star Trek The Next Generation. I'll be honest, like a fool, I haven't seen it in a good long while. Far, far too long. I don't know why.  A friend and I were texting about something somewhat related, perhaps very loosely related, and I said something like "Oh man, I have been watching some NG and am LOVING IT."  She texted back, "I know, right? Who's your favorite character?"  And just as I started making my list (because of course I have one) she sent me hers, a ranking list of characters from New Girl.  Uhhhhh...  yeah.  Super nerd alert.  So i had to confess, and then offer up my list in both categories--mostly just to be amiable, because I don't really care about New Girl.  But if you want to know Next Generation:

1. Captain Picard or Data. It's a tie. Basically they're all who I really care about.
2. Worf, I guess. I feel like I could tease him relentlessly.
3. Lwaxana Troi, Deanna's mom. She's so racy! I love it.
4. Geordi? He's so cheeseball sometimes. He's super brilliant and engineering and then he's making cracks and I just don't know.
5. Ryker, i guess. He's kind of boring but nice and reliable. Sometimes he's fun, sorta.
6.Dr. Crusher?
10. Wesley. He's so annoying! I even like the old doctor, Dr. Polaski  better than him, and she's totally mean.

There are so many I could include in my ranking so I just sort of gave up.  As I said, I only have eyes for Picard and Data.   Anyway, I can't believe how much I didn't know I missed NG.  It's like I'm 13 again, discovering it for the first time. The love is so intense. I literally have Star Trek dreams, wishing so badly I could be part of their world.  I talk about it at length with Sean, and it goes far beyond silly chit-chatting. I delve. I'm so happy to know I'm still the same person I was when I became who I am, (a 13-year old).  And it's brought up a very intriguing and difficult would-you-rather:

 Would I rather join starfleet as a crewmember on the USS Enterprise -OR- live in the Shire? They're such polar opposites. But I don't know! It's so hard.  Also, what would be my job in starfleet? Ok, this reminded me of one more side story. Just one more, I swear. Probably. 

When I was in the sixth grade, our class visited a space center for learning nearby. I don't even know why this place existed, nor why I never visited it again, but it was set up like a bridge on a starship, perhaps there were other rooms too,  and we were all given jobs based on what our teacher thought our strengths were.  I think we also got to choose our top 3 preferences.  I was fast at typing so I was assigned as the ship's recorder on the bridge.  I think there was also damage control, captain, #1, and others. My job was pretty lame, but it did put me right where the action was and I didn't have to get in the middle of it, just write down everything that was happening and observe, which does suit my personality. Though secretly I thought i would make an ok captain.  But it's fine, the person who held the job was just fine.  Anyway, the whole thing-- I loved it. I remember just loving it, and trying not to let that love show too much. And this was before my introduction to Star Trek. So a little foreshadowing of things to come, i suppose.

Since the combined cold + rainy weather has all but killed all of my will, the only thing that keeps me hanging on is watching the show. I don't want Julian to watch a lot of kid shows but we'll watch some NG.  Since he's happy to watch anything if he can get it, i got this great quote from him the other day:

Jen:  Want to watch some Star Trek?
Julian, super enthusiastically:  Oo yeah! I LOVE your Star Trek! I love it even though it's boring!

The best thing about this is I think "your star trek" means NG, and his star trek would be the original. It's ok. It's what he knew first. I get it.  And of course it's ours. It's special. personal. Sean's is the original also, for example. Which one is yours?

Well, I got way off track with this list but I'm on such a high having talked about Star Trek for so long, I think I'll just end it here.  I am always making additions to this list, though, of weird, unlikely dream jobs, so perhaps this should be a series?  We shall see....

But also, do you have any unlikely dream jobs?

Monday, March 31, 2014

No, Sam. I Can't Recall the Taste of Spring

When I was a child I had a dream I was riding my bike out on the street outside of my subdivision.  This would have been a big deal and somewhat scary for me at the time.  But the scary part of this what I now deem a nightmare wasn't that I had ventured far from home, but that when I did turn down my street, everything was fine and looked the same except for one thing:  when I got to where my house was supposed to be, it wasn't. It wasn't my house.  It was a different house.  Panicked, I thought, if I try again, it will be there.  So I'd ride up and come back down and same thing-- different house. Not my house. And thus a nightmare was born and I woke with a feeling of all I knew to be true and real suddenly wasn't, and it was terrifying.

Sean told me when he lived in Colombia how awful it was when the season just never changed.  The days passed, time passed, but the weather stayed.  And he would begin tricking himself. His mind and the weather combined and played tricks on him and one day would be windy or rainy and he'd say, "oh, here it comes. It's happening,"  and he felt like he could move forward. But it would go back. The weather didn't change after all.  It would remain essentially the same and he found himself stuck in an altogether different realm of unsurety, the likes of which he had never theretofore experienced. It would make him question everything. Had time really passed after all?  Was this real life? Was this all a dream? Where was he? WHO was he? What was he.

I listened to this story in frightened hushedness and, like a horror movie you know you will regret for the rest of your days but find yourself tip toeing back to in your mind every once in a while, I sometimes picture this, and I shudder.  I've never lived in a place without seasons.  I've been tripped out visiting a place that has difference seasons at different times than I'm used to and have been pleased to visit a place with better weather than I was used to.  It's eerie and surreal,  but delightfully unnerving. And while I'm there I decide, I think I'm just going to chase this feeling, just as I do when I'm having an pleasantly unnerving dream. I chase it.

But when you're in real life, and your climate has a steady pattern, your physiology adapts, it learns. And your psyche can anticipate and it gives your whole being a sense of stability.  It's something I rely upon very heavily and I'm grateful for it. I'm grateful for the balance of the seasons and the feeling this gives me.      But what do you do when everything changes?  What do you do when the season won't stop? And it just goes on... and on... and on?  And you wake up with each new day and all of a sudden you feel as if you've been thrown into another dimension.  Suddenly you begin to question:  Am I caught in some kind of time loop?  Am I living in Groundhog Day?  Has something happened and no one's told me? Do I even know who I am anymore? Am I real? Are you real? Is real real?

The end of winter is always hard.  Consistently, everyone around here barely makes it out alive.  This is all understood. We know this to be true.  March has always been the worst because it's so spotty. It's so unpredictable.  It sees us weakened, vulnerable, and it pounces and preys on that.  I imagine it saying, in a snakelike hiss, What's that? You're sick of winter and aren't sure if you can go on? Well why not have a 60-degree day? there there. Yeeeessss.... Enjoy. And then, GONE.  It's GONE.  It harshly rips back the good day and you're back to winterlikeness.  And while I've typically hated it for this reason, at least it gave us a few warm pockets, a few 60-degree days here and there, a few reasons to hope, perhaps foolishly, that one day it would end for real.  

But that was before. That was before this winter.  This winter became something else.  This winter became alive, cognizant of its own existence as a separate, living breathing entity, capable of independent thought. And it became a monster.  But not like a monster you would expect. Like any other harsh winter in years before, we enter March crawling on our hands and knees, beaten, worn from battle, our clothes are tattered and torn. We're dazed, confused, a little bit weepy.  But we make it.  The equinox arrives and with the last bit of strength we have left, we thrust ourselves into it and collapse.

But not this March.  The equinox came and went and that's when we all tripped over a heap of dirty petrified snow and fell into the alternate universe this polar vortex created, where winter never... ever ends.  The sun will shine but it's icy cold. And there's a frosty wind that won't go away.  Day after day...after day.. after day.  And you sincerely begin to wonder, in that same hushed fear,  I know it was supposed to be here.  The spring was supposed to come. But it isn't here.  Everything else looks the same. My house, your house, your face, my face.  But it isn't here.  And the cold sunny days make you feel afraid.  And you wonder if the earth has quietly fallen off its axis, or, like an old record player, the needle becomes stuck and what once was a nice progressive tune becomes a repeated and jerking noise, cyclical and sinister.  Somebody bump the earth! you exclaim. Somebody do something.

They tell me hope has sprung but you have to look hard to find it.  We were driving in the car yesterday and I leaned my head against the window. I stared at the dead trees in the park and just as I was thinking the words, death...death... all around me is death, Sean said, "Julian and I saw some tulips today!"  Spring is trying to happen, but I have such a fog over my eyes, I can't make sense of any of it.  I can gaze upon some new growth but I don't really see it.  Spring is a fable, something from another time, some fantastical tale passed from generation to generation. Storybook lore of a place where there's spring but it's not a place I've ever been before.  I've forgotten it.  I've completely forgotten spring. I can't remember it.  I don't even know what it means.  Trees are going to have growing things on them? What does that even mean??  The touch of grass, beautiful things, the color green. Warmth.  True warmth. Going on walks. Lying on the grass in the park. The Botanic Gardens. Being outside for the joy of it. I don't remember any of it.

Anyway.  We're at the end.  I'm at the end.  The end of March. I gave winter until today and then it had to go.  March 31st and that's it. No more.  We woke up this morning to cold rain and thunder. It was so dark and gray.  A friend texted our weather forecast for today and asked me to please make sense of it which of course I couldn't:

And midway through the day, the sky was blue with a patch or two of clouds.  The sun shone, the air was still chilly.  The wind lingers with a bit of a bite but it's not as pronounced.  And tomorrow is the first of April (how CAN it be April? How can my birthday be so soon? It's not right. It doesn't feel right!) and we WILL see the change.  I'm not going to live in this crazy ANY. MORE.  It's right now 9:22pm.  You have a little under three hours to make your move, Winter.   Leave now, and never come back. LEAVE NOW AND NEVER COME BACK.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Smart Kid

There have been just a few times in my life where I was the Smart Kid in class. You know, when you know the answer when it counts.   I can think of three instances and they all have to do with birds.  This really is super weird. It must mean something, but what, I do not know.

When I was in the 6th grade my teacher was explaining something to us and paused because she was struggling to think of the correct term for something and said, "oohh, what is that word?? The name of someone who's an expert on birds."   I somewhat quietly yet confidently spoke up,

"Why, that would be an ornithologist." 

My teacher was exceedingly impressed and I never told anyone that it was because I had played Clue the night before and was studying Mrs. Peacock's card. 

One of my favorite children's books is Chickens Aren't the Only Ones. It talks about all the different kinds of animals that lay eggs with the most beautiful illustrations in a sort of free-flowing (but not too free) poetry form. Such delightful rhythm and meter.   Even as I read it as a child, I knew I was learning a lot. And I had a very poignant feeling that someway, somehow, the information in this book was going to be useful to me one day. A feeling? Or a premonition.

Well then I grew up and went to college. I took a class called Appreciation of Nature, which I loved.  My teacher asked a question and what i did was kind of embarrassing and super nerdy but I just couldn't help myself. Because I KNEW I'd use the information one day and the moment had come!  And i was ready. We were learning about different kinds of animals, possibly birds, when my teacher said "Now, there are two mammals that lay eggs..."  And faster than you can say "Hey, Hermione" my hand shot up. I may have waved it around. Like a 4th grader I may have said, "oooh, oooh! I know what they are!!"   This was my moment! My pivotal moment. It had finally come. And I declared to all the universe, trying to be cool but probably failing,

"The spiny anteater and the duck-billed platypus!!!"  

My collegiate career was satisfied in a single moment.   Now, no one really likes the smart kid.  We kind of want to punch them in the face from time to time (Hermione).  But I'm not a know-it-all.  I don't try to be. I don't even want to be. I just knew the answer to something pretty random!  I'm hoping my classmates understood that was what was happening for me then instead of wanting to give me a wedgie and knock my books out of my hands.   And let me just say, there have actually been many other instances where i recalled info from that book.  I don't know why. Usually my brain is an academic sieve, i have such a hard time with retention (sean is the opposite).  But not with this book.  I really love it. Go, buy it today and give it to your kids/nieces/nephews for Easter. Hey, that's a great idea. I think i'll take my own advice.

Then, in this same class, and it must have been close to the same time... actually, now that i think about it, this event probably preceded the last one.  Oh well. My teacher used to randomly call on people by asking if there was anyone named _______ in the room.  I was victim to this a couple of times. Obviously there was going to be more than one Jennifer in the class yet i was the one chosen. I wonder why? Maybe the other Jennifers were absent those days. What are the odds of that, though. And where were they? And why wasn't I invited?! I'm getting off track.  Anyway, one of these times, the teacher had had us write down in our nature appreciation journals (love) an organism we just hated.  I had written down "earwig."  And I was the Jennifer to explain why I'd selected mine.  We then had to write a paper on it, which was just delightful.  Love this teacher, whatever his name was.

The other time he had me come down to the board with him and he had everyone write down their guess of how many different species of birds there were in the world.  He asked me what my guess was and I said, "I'm not sure. It's either 1800 or 8,000.  I watched The Birds last night and she said it but i can't remember! It has an 8 in it though... right?"  Just a tad bemused, he said "It's 8,000." 

Also, can we all just agree that bemused should mean "bewildered and confused while also a little amused?"   Wait.  Wait just a second.  I just saw what I did there.  BEwildered + conFUSED???  = bemused!!!  Nevermind!  Nevermind.  It's already a good word. I wish i could throw in that 3rd element (amused) but i don't know if i can now, in good conscience.  It's fine the way it is. I'm sorry, words. I take it back. good one. back to the story.

So as you can imagine, these have been pretty significant moments for me.  And there's one more that stands out as a fond memory.  My dad used to teach at BYU and we would meet once a week for lunch somewhere.  It was great. Good family time (usually other sibs were there as well).  I never officially took his class but I sat in on it many times and it was very enjoyable.  One day at lunch it was just me and Dad.  Maybe i was feeling extra dumb that day and needed a pick-me-up but somehow we concocted a plan to stage me being the Smart Kid in his class.  ha ha. It sounds kind of sad and pathetic but who among us wouldn't do this, if given the opportunity? With a little forethought and planning, that one chance to be the Smart Kid. Come on.  So we did it.  He told me his lesson plan for class that day and a question he would ask with the accompanying answer, comprising of three elements.  I rehearsed it a few times, we had a good laugh, and later on in class, we were in position.  I never had any notes or textbooks out (since i was daughter-auditing. Dauditing.) and so i just sat with nothing, like I was a genius who had all the answers but without a care in the world.  The moment came, and trying not to sound terribly snotty, I answered. I actually could only think of two of the three things but i feel that added to the false authenticity of my genius.   "Oh, that would be ________, ________... and I think there's a third one but I can't remember what it is."   See? Not so hateable.  It was perfect.  Many heads turned and I casually sat in my chair and the feeling was nice.  I'm not ashamed.  The feeling was nice. 

Thus concludes this essay.  Lessons learned that I continue to believe and abide by to this day: 

1. Children's books are all you ever need in life. 
2. It pays to watch your Hitchcock.
3. You can learn a lot from games. Clue is an exceptional one.
4. It's helpful if your dad is the best.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Uterus Envy

What a great title to this post. Ahhh... I just love it. 

Well, I thought i'd write something though I wasn't sure what. It has been a while and I do have Philly pictures but a) does anyone really care? and b) do I care enough to slap them up?  Only time will tell.

But also, I've been thinking just a bit about gender roles, in part because I'm very interested in them and also in part because I'm being smacked in the face with them on a constant basis on Facebook with articles about this and blog posts about that. Geez Louise. I'll be honest, I'm pretty of tired of it. I can't read everything in the world! And I refuse to click on anything that has a bait title-- "Blah blah blah, and what made me decide to do it."  BOO.  Guess what? I'm fine with a little mystery in my life. So these days I rarely click on anything unless it's a good Buzzfeed article because c'mon.

But while I'm at it, let's talk about Julian just for a minute. I asked Sean the other day if he and Julian had good moments together. Like, bonding moments. If they had their own special thing.  Sean replied, "Well yeah. I mean, not like you.  We're pals, but not lovers."  And this is true.   And with that, I've been realizing lately that we are at the stage where he is mine. MINE.  i can do whatever I want with him.  In many ways.  But in particular, I can sculpt him and shape him and indoctrinate him in whichever way I please.  This is both scary and awesome, as power is.  I feel like He-man holding up his sword, "I...haaave...the... POWER!   Battlecat!"   If you don't know what i'm talking about, I feel sad for you because you will never understand why the 80's are the best ten years of all time.  No, here.  Go see it.  Also, because I'm talking about gender issues, here is the equally awesome She-Ra.  

The kid soaks up everything I say. He's sharp as a whip and I find myself frequently trapped in explaining to him things I 60% understand, like how volcanoes occur, evaporation, why there are earthquakes, etc.  I told Sean the other day Julian had asked me question after question about volcanoes. It went on for the longest time and I was totally talking out of my arse in my explanation. Just complete hot air (HA) about volcanoes spouting out (can't stop) words like "geothermal" and other nonsense and asked if i was at all right. I was pretty close! I had forgotten the part about the plate tectonics. But for someone who thinks about the science of volcanoes once a never, I was pretty proud of myself.  Anyway, the point is, Julian asks and when I speak, he listens. ( Another point: It's amazing what you pick up in 8th grade earth science class without even realizing. What ELSE do I know??) And like I said, I feel powerful. I could almost become giddy and maybe rub my hands together and give an evil chuckle.  It reminds me of when he was learning to speak and I was like, "I could teach him to say ANYTHING.  I could make up my own language and teach it to him. He could learn Elvish! Klingon! Or I could just totally screw him up and instead of "thank you" teach him to say "apple."   "What do you say? What do you say?"  "Apple."  ha ha.  Anyway.

In terms of gender stuff, I only have a couple of thoughts to share. They're short but I like them.

1. His pediatrician is a female and then there are female nurse practitioners. There may have been another doctor we visited who was female, but i can't remember who. Then last year we had to go see the ENT who was male and what glee I had when he exclaimed, incredulous, "What?? A BOY doctor??"  HA HA!  I replied, "I know, right? Boys can be doctors too!"  :D

2. Julian loves to learn and has a lot of questions. Over the years he's been inquisitive about body parts. This is fine. The body is fascinating! I am very frank in all my answers. We've also talked about how women carry babies in their bellies and how that happens.   I told him they have a special organ called a uterus that is amazing because it's this big normally but can stretch to THIS big--say whaaat?  Only girls have them, not boys. And since day one, he has insisted he has a uterus too.  He is determined that he have one.  The boy has uterus envy.  Which is both awesome and ridiculous because, let's be honest. But yeah, it's pretty great.  

The gender stuff is interesting because I actually feel a lot of hypothetical fear about having a girl. I see girls. I see what they do. And I'm scared.  And I am one and know what society is like.  There are legitimate worries. Now, girls are lovely, I know this. But i only have a boy. I only know a boy.  I have read articles about what kinds of lessons people want to teach their daughters and I agree, it's all very important, and I would do that too if I had a daughter.  But, you know, I would do it too because I have a son.  You and I both know that gender issues and gender equality isn't just for girls. And the more we talk about things and have open dialogues about whatever the hey, the healthier a person. Julian is the most emotionally in-tune little kid i've ever met. He can speak his feelings that can completely fly out of his control. But he knows them. He identifies them and has tools to handle them. This is just a small example but it's such a wonderful thing and it makes me think about other important things that i would want to teach my son. I want him to grow up respecting women, being knowledgeable about things others might deem inapplicable or irrelevant to them.  He definitely has "boy" things about him-- doesn't give a rat's bum about what he wears, he is major obsessed with cars and trucks, he's active and uses his body, etc.  But I just know these are the exciting moments when I can teach him everything I'd ever want, gender-related or not and he will just suck it in.  And it's pretty great.   

That's pretty much all I have to say about it. But, one last shining, proud as punch moment from the other day:

Julian was telling me about some show he saw and he said,

 "I wonder if there's a book about that that we could find?"  

me:   *head explodes with joy*

Wednesday, March 05, 2014


Once upon a time, in high school, maybe even Jr. High I went to see a French film with my French-speaking sister and classmate friend or two.  We saw THE weirdest movie whose title just now popped into my head-- La Ceremonie.  Mildly amused and highly disturbed we all went away thinking, French movies-- they be whack.  I saw a few more for school but can't remember any of them.  Wait. False.  I remember one. Ponette.  And I cried my eyes out.  I thought, this is far, FAR too emotional for the likes of me. Watching a tiny 4-year-old girl sob daily, mourning the death of her mother? Are you kidding me? UGH. (Go see it, but prepare to be gutted. This little girl's performance is and ever will be unparalleled)  At this point my view of French films was either out of control absurd with unapologetic disturbance or chokingly depressing.

Fast forward to college days and BYU where I began a beautiful relationship with the International Cinema.  First visited for classroom assignments, I soon began attending on the reg, sometimes going with friends but kind of preferred to view films solo.  The first film I saw there was Shall We Dance and I thought, well that was delightful.  I also saw a Chinese film called To Live which, again, is way too sad, leaving you just a mess of a person. I saw Red and loved it.  Then came the wildly popular Amelie whom everyone fell in love with.

During this time, I saw many films. I also took a class called French and Italian Cinema which I enjoyed but had a hard time developing a very critically fair eye because some of the movies I just hated when all I wanted to do was love them. I felt like a better collection could have been chosen, but my teacher was cool regardless.

I can't remember most of the films I saw but over time my feelings toward French films turned and I embraced them, my basis being just the few that I saw of course. Perhaps this is due to my development learning the language which I studied all through college and, at age 20, having visited the land where I came to truly love the people and the culture.  

This brings us to the present, just now in fact. I just finished watching the silliest movie ever. It's called Ricky.  Here's what it's about and my view of it:

French realism which I love. They've taken an absurd idea and put it into real life. Nothing overly fantastical or outlandish. Just one tiny impossible element thrust into a normal situation.  A woman, Katie, with a sweet and bright 7-year-old daughter, Lisa.  They share a sort of government subsidized apartment (I think) and Katie is a factory worker at a chemical plant.  Blah kind of life but she and her daughter have something special and it's sweet.  Katie meets Paco, a fellow factory worker and they "hit it off," shall we say. He moves in and Katie has a baby, Ricky.   Ricky is a normal chubby adorable baby until one day, Katie comes home from work and sees that Ricky has a red bruise on his shoulder blade. She accuses Paco of mistreatment and he leaves, for good it seems, being greatly offended for what he claims is a false accusation. Actually he doesn't claim much, doesn't put up much of a fight. But he leaves.

What happens is, soon after, Ricky develops a second bruise on his other shoulder blade and then he sprouts the most seriously disgusting chicken wing bones. These winglets grow and sprout feathers and soon the little tot is literally flying, flitting all around their apartment.  A literal cherub, but they hardly make any reference to that.

I am going to pause here and let you go view the film for yourself.  It's on Netflix.  Ricky.  Go watch it. Then come back.

The rest of the film goes on slowly and serenely which, again, is a style I have really come to love. It was amusing if a bit bizarre the whole way through and then I got to the end where I had an emotional reaction. Interested to see what others have said, I looked it up and read a review by Roger Ebert. I so disagreed with most everything he said that I will take out bits of his review and counter them with my own.  Here's the whole thing in its entirety.

Roger will be blue. I will be black.

His opening paragraph:

Parables are stories about other people that help us live our own lives. The problem with the French film “Ricky” is that the lesson of the parable is far from clear, and nobody is likely to encounter this situation in his own life. That would be pretty much impossible. The story begins in gritty realism, ends in pure fantasy and leaves out most of the alphabet as it makes its way from A to Z.

I am a dreamer. I love imagining "what if,"  but more than that, I love finding a deeper meaning where I can. I try to give something a chance for that.  The fact that Roger takes this whole movie at face value just makes me a little bit sad. (may he RIP)    And I wasn't doing this the entire film, actively trying to find a deeper meaning.  I thought it was basically all silly until the very end when I was suddenly struck with something real.  I'm not saying my interpretation is what the maker intended and yes, maybe it is unclear, but I got one at least. And I think my feelings are real. Moving on.

No, he isn't an angel. Maybe more likely the result of his parents working at the chemical factory, although the movie doesn't make that a point. It doesn't much make anything a point. Katie and Lisa are about as amazed as if the child had a lot of hair on its head. You'd think babies with wings were born every day. Later, after Paco rejoins the family, baby Ricky gets a little injury, and the family doctor seems, to me, insufficiently amazed. Surely this is an OMG case?

NO, Roger! That's what makes this so fun! It's taking something ludicrous and putting it into humdrum life.  I LOVE that the mother and daughter share a tiny OMG moment (tiny) and then continue on because guess what? That's life. "holy crap, the baby has wings. What do I do? What do I know how to do? I'm a mother. I be a mother, i guess."  So they take care of him the best they can with what they have. I love this.  Cover the crib with a blanket so he can't fly out because they learned that lesson the hard way.  She measures a chicken wing at the grocery store just to have some kind of reference. They put a helmet on him and pad everything. Awesome.  Not that I was comparing this to real life throughout the movie. I really don't do the "that could never happen in real life" approach. Why should I ever expect movies to be like real life?  I took it as it came and on many levels it just made sense to me.

I couldn't help myself. All during the film, I was distracted by questions of aeronautics. In early scenes, those wings are way too small to allow a healthy baby to fly. Even later, the ratio of wingspan to baby weight seems way off. A scene where Ricky breaks free and flies around a supermarket seems designed for comedy, but doesn't play that way. And what kind of a cockamamie idea is it to hold a press conference and let Ricky fly with only Katie holding a string around his ankle? This is worse than the hot air balloon kid, if there had been one.

I get it. It's wacky.  It's ridiculous.  It's French! At times the baby bounces around and bumps into things and you seriously cringe.  i don't have much defense other than sometimes I just like a little wacky.

The film is bewildering. I don't know what its terms are, and it doesn't match any of mine. I found myself regarding it more and more as an inexplicable curiosity. It's so curiously flat in tone that when a baby grows wings and flies (think about that!), people in the film and in the audience seem to watch with no more than mild interest. “Ricky” makes a good case for lurid melodrama.

As mentioned, I love this. I love being like, "ok, the baby has wings. what are you going to do with that?" This is movies!   In the end, here's what happens:

Paco returns, committing himself to Katie and Lisa. Katie is glad to have him back but not quite willing to fully trust him yet.  He suggests arranging a sort of press conference or whatever to make some money. Not to make money off their son (he claims) but because they're kind of desperate for it and they don't really know what else to do. Word had gotten out about the flying baby when he escaped from the grocery cart at the store and flew around the ceiling.  

Everyone watches the flying baby outside. His ankle is tied to a string which Katie is holding. When they let him go everyone smiles watching the baby soar, making you feel like this is sort of what he's meant to do. He's got these wings. He should fly.  She accidentally lets go of the string and Ricky flies off over the treetops, over a lake and becomes lost.  She's heartbroken but the family accepts the situation i guess and after days/weeks?/longer? Paco tells her it's unlikely he survived.  She gets up early one morning, unable to sleep.  Wearing nothing but a white nightshirt, she walks out to the park by the lake where the baby was last seen. She walks into the water and while there, Ricky returns and lands on the grass.  

What happens next is the grand reveal, to me, of the point of the movie. It's a few minutes of raw emotion that suddenly brings you to a feeling and you experience a little sweet heartbreak. Just a taste.  While in the water, Katie hears her baby in the sky and he lands on the grass. Overjoyed she walks up to him, but slowly and tentatively, as she doesn't want to scare him off.  Mother, wet, naked and exposed, crawls up onto the grass and whispers to her son to stay, does he remember her? does he remember his mama? She begins to weep and says to him:

My love.

How you've grown 

Your wings are so big, and you can walk!  [as any mother would, after seeing their winged child come back to them after being gone for weeks]
And then with a look of regret mixed with love she says:

Are you ok?

You won't tell me? 

You're mad at me, is that it?

I didn't want to leave you.

When I let the string go I didn't want to lose you.

But flying, you were so beautiful. So beautiful.

And he flies away, for good, it would seem. At this point I begin to blubber a bit and I watch it a few more times.  After this, Ricky up and flies away.  Katie returns home and with a look of serenity she embraces a confused Lisa and Paco and tells them she loves them and they all stand there in the embrace for a while. 

So of course my take on this is a mother letting go of a child and coming to terms with that.  It seems pretty clear to me but maybe it's not.  It was sweet, tender, very simple, and sad.  I love simple sad. I don't know if I need epic sad.  But simple, poignant sad i can do.