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Archive for February, 2008

No accounting for taste

I saw this meme over on Ginger’s site and decided to do it here. I figured what better way to confirm what a geek I am than to showcase my horrible taste in music.

The idea is to set your iPod to shuffle and post the first 10 songs it plays. Before I do that, let me first say that I’m all over the place when it comes to the stuff I put on my iPod. I recently went through my CD collection and weeded out what was iPod worthy and what wasn’t. Basically, if the house was to catch fire and I wanted to save my music collection, what stuff would I sorely miss if it wasn’t cataloged on my iPod?

I’ve always been a top 40 listener, which accounts for a lot of my collection. However, I also have a penchant for motion picture soundtracks, classical music and Motown. Add Autumn’s ten Baby Einstein CDs into the mix along with the “Story of Jesus” audio book my grandma gave her for Christmas and you’ll never know what will pop up.

So here goes…

1. Jimmy, Jimmy-Madonna (True Blue)

2. Clarinet Concerto in A-Mozart (Baby Galileo)

3. The Right of Spring-Part 1-Adoration of the Earth-Stravinsky

4. Koolen-Eric Serra (The Fifth Element soundtrack)

5. The Letter (Swing Kids soundtrack. Explanation..Christian Bale. ‘nuf said)

6. Damn, I Wish I Was Your Lover-Sophie B. Hawkins

7. Book of Days-Enya

8. Dudly Pippin and his No Friend-Free to Be You and Me

9. Badaboom-Eric Serra (The Fifth Element soundtrack)

10. An American Girl-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I was going to try to redeem myself by listing the top 25 most played songs, however every single one of them is The Wiggles.  We pipe them into Autumn’s room most nights when she goes to bed.  So the Wiggles are now the most popular tunes on my iPod.

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Barnes and bribes

I’ve heard the term “setting yourself up for failure” many times, but never realized how easily it applies to dealing with a toddler until last night.

I picked Autumn up from daycare and brought her straight to the mall after work. I only needed to to pick up a pair of swim goggles at the sporting goods store and didn’t need to go into the mall proper.

Autumn was holding my hand as we walked towards the store when I stopped, bent down and asked her to look at me. “We need to talk about some rules before we go in,” I said. “You stay with Mommy and don’t let go of my hand. You don’t run away. Okay?”

She nodded and uttered a barely audible, “Okay…”

I continued. “If you’re good and do as I ask, I’ll take you to the book store and buy you a new book. Okay?”

“Okay.”

We completed our errand at the sporting goods store without incident. She broke free of me a couple of times to insist we go “that way”, but for the most part she was good.

At that point I should have just taken her home, but I had made certain promises contingent on good behavior and intended to keep them. I also wanted to go to the book store myself and should have just gone there straight away. But no. I had to stop at Younkers to see if they had any toddler winter coats on clearance.

I think the Younkers trip put us over the threshold of toddler tolerance. She was fine in Younkers, but as we approached Barnes & Noble, she tugged on my arm and resisted going in. “That way,” she pointed towards some unknown spot past Victoria’s Secret.

“This is the book store,” I said, “Don’t you want Mommy to buy you a book?”

“No,” she said and continued to tug. I think she may have caught sight of the carousel near the food court and wanted a ride.

I finally coaxed her into Barnes and escorted her to the children’s book section. Once there, she had a great time pulling sticker books and board books off the shelves and depositing them on the floor like she does at home. I followed behind her like a dutiful maid, re-shelving books and scolding her for making a mess.

We settled on a book called Spongebob’s Easter Surprise and left the children’s section so I could make my selection. That’s when she started to melt down. She sat her unhappy butt in the middle of the main aisle and refused to budge. Then she rolled over and buried her face in the heavily-traveled carpet. One of the Barnes employees looked at her and said, “It looks like we have a pretty new rug here.” I looked at the young woman. “Yes, you do,” I said and wanted to add Would you like to keep it?

I hauled Autum up from the floor and brought her to the front register to check out. As I paid for my purchase, which did not include Spongebob’s Easter Surprise, Autumn found a spot next to a magazine display and started pulling issues of Time and National Geographic out of the rack. “Look, doggy!” she said and pointed to the front cover of Time, multiple issues of which now strewn across the floor.

“Yes, that’s a doggy,” I said and bent over to clean up yet another mess. As I straightened back up to sign my credit card receipt, the cashier looked at me and said, “It sounds like you’re having fun there.”

“That’s one word for it,” I said. There were customers behind us waiting to check out, no doubt sizing us up as an inept mother and her bratty child. Years ago I would have thought the same thing.

My friend Sarah says it only takes seven seconds for someone to snatch your child. I tried to keep that in mind as I walked towards the Barnes exit while Autumn remained rooted to her spot next to the magazine rack. Only when she lost sight of me did she come running. She took my hand and we went back out into the mall.

“My book?” she asked when she spotted my bag.

“I’m sorry, but you were naughty. Mommy said you had to be good to get a book.”

She seemed to understand and kept repeating “Autumn naughty” as we walked back to the car. As always, each unpleasant incident with the child winds up being a learning experience for me. This whole thing could have been avoided if I’d stopped at the goggles. It could have been avoided if I’d just demanded good behavior without promising anything in return. That’s the way it should be.

Maybe some day the two of us will figure that one out.

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Cirque du sorrow

A couple of weeks ago, we received one of those penny saver mailers containing coupons for various businesses around town. One of the advertisements was for half off an admission ticket to the Shrine circus, which is coming to town mid-March.

Nathan and I thought it would be fun to take Autumn. She loves animals and we figured it would be a treat for her to see lions, tigers and elephants in person. I’ve never been to the circus so it would be a treat for me as well.

The other night, however, I came across a random banner ad on someone’s blog that said, “Why I’ll never take my kids to the circus.” It led me to a PETA sponsored website about the cruel treatment of elephants trained for circus acts. It was a real eye opener, and after watching it I knew there was no way I could take Autumn to the circus and enjoy it. She’d think it was a blast, but I’d know what those animals went through to make her smile.

I don’t like to get too political here, but I urge you to visit PETA’s Circuses website and read for yourself how these animals are treated for the sake of entertainment. It’s very sad.

So now our plans are to take Autumn to the children’s museum instead of the circus. It will cost half as much and we’ll have loads more fun.

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Meeting of the minds

I had my first meeting with my graduate adviser today. He seems like a nice guy and I really wish I could have talked to him longer. I was on my lunch hour and he was a bit tardy for our meeting, so I wasn’t able to stay for long.

I’ll admit I was a little nervous going into the meeting because I was expecting an interrogation of sorts. Why do you want to study literature at the graduate level? What’s your favorite literary period? Author? Poet? Do you have any ideas in mind for your master’s thesis? Some of these questions were touched upon, but the conversation was informal and I felt totally at ease. We actually started off talking about work stuff, mainly our hellish computer system transition and the problems that has caused.

He did end up asking me if I was pursuing the degree for professional advancement. This is a smaller university and the English graduate program is relatively new, so cultivating future scholars would be great for them. However, I know exactly how hard, how time consuming and how expensive it would be to pursue a PhD and have no guarantee of employment at the end. So I said, no, I don’t see myself as an academic and at this point I’m not looking at going further. I did, however, say that that’s how I feel right now and a doctoral program might appeal to me later. But let’s be realistic here. Just think about how much TV I would miss if I had to write a freaking dissertation.

After my adviser and I parted ways, I walked back to my car feeling totally energized. Everything about this feels good and I’m very excited to get started. Hopefully, if all goes well with my surgery, I’ll be sitting in my adviser’s Shakespeare seminar this May.

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The Tale of the Tossed Shoe

This was about eight or nine years ago. It was the summer of 1999 or 2000. I can’t remember which, but I do remember Nathan and I hadn’t been married very long.

We were due to attend the wedding of my former next-door neighbor. He was getting married in a nearby church and the reception was being held at the same place Nathan and I had ours. It has since been turned into a pub that charges for refills on sodas and no longer caters shindigs like ours.

We lived in the apartment back then, a two bedroom place on the second floor of a 12-unit complex. This has absolutely nothing to do with the story, but I’m just trying to paint a picture here.

Somehow we got into a huge fight just before we were due to leave for the ceremony. I don’t remember exactly what the fight was about, but it was a big’un. I think it might have had something to do with Nathan sleeping late, playing games on the computer and being unprepared to leave at the designated time. He was always getting on my case about never being ready so I gave him a dose of his own medicine.

We said some nasty things to each other and I told him I was going to leave with or without him. I went downstairs to where our car was parked in front of the building and started it up. About a minute later Nathan came hobbling out, fully dressed except for his socks and shoes which he held in his hands.

He got in the car and I took off without saying a word. Nathan struggled with his socks in the confines of our little car and tried to get me to say something. He may have apologized and I’m pretty sure I ignored him. That’s our usual M.O.

Nathan hates to be ignored. He hates the silent treatment more than anything, and as I’m driving down the street he’s begging me to talk about what just went down. When I didn’t respond, he held up his shoe and said, “Heather, so help me, if you don’t start talking to me I will throw this shoe out the window.”

When I didn’t respond yet again, he rolled down the window and chucked the shoe out onto the street.

At that point I started talking. We were the only ones on the road at the time so I stopped the car and looked at him. “Are you out of your mind?”

I think he asked me to back up to retrieve the shoe, but being even more pissed and a bit dumbfounded, I refused. I do remember driving off and watching my husband in the rear view mirror as he walked back to pick up the shoe, limping along on one shoe and one stocking foot.

I attended the ceremony alone but we made up and went to the reception together later. This June we’ll be celebrating eleven happy years as husband and wife.

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How do you like me now?

I’ve been toying with the idea of changing my theme for weeks but have been too lazy to actually do it. It’s surprising how difficult choosing a new theme was. I liken it to trying on wedding dresses. A woman will know exactly what she wants once she sees it.

I downloaded a bunch of themes and tried them on for size, but none of them really seemed to suit me.  Some pushed all my sidebar content to the bottom of the page, others were too “busy” and the rest just weren’t me.

So here it is, the final choice and I rather like it. Granted, it’s not much of a change from the last theme, but it gives the site a fresh look. Sort of like when you switch around the furniture in your living room. It’s still the same old stuff you fart on when you watch TV, but it just looks better when you rearrange it.

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So Rite and yet so wrong

I had just turned the corner on my street this morning when I spotted a six-pack of soda sitting just past the end of someone’s driveway. It had obviously been deposited there inadvertently and the owner, whomever he or she was, had yet to discover it missing.

Before I continue, let me give you a little peek into my childhood. I’ve mentioned before that my parents are rather frugal. My dad saves money by being a bit stingy. He doesn’t swim in his coin like Scrooge McDuck, but he knows what he likes and he doesn’t like frivolous spending. As he’s gotten older, some of the things that were a constant in his life have fallen by the wayside. Like Christmas lights. He hasn’t put up Christmas lights in years because of the spike in his winter electric bill, which come to think of it, is probably not such a bad idea in these energy conscious times.

My mother, one the other hand, saves money by spending money. Just recently she bought a gallon of Ken’s Steak House Cesar dressing, not because she needed a gallon of Cesar dressing, but because she bought it for a song at some wholesale place and couldn’t pass up the deal. Only later did she realize the thing was more cumbersome than it was worth and tried to pawn it off off on us. Unlike my mother, I can say no to some freebies and also turned down the two jars of peanut butter she was going to send home with us because she had several and no one in their house eats much of the stuff.

That being said, I can recall several occasions during which I was in the car with my mother and she would order me out to retrieve a pop bottle or can that had been discarded on the side of the road. We don’t see much of that here in Michigan because we have a bottle deposit, but once in awhile we’d come across the random gem at a stop light or some residential side street and Mom would get excited. “Oh, Heather! There’s ten cents! Go get it!” When I was young, I’d oblige and unstrap my seatbelt to snag the can before the light turned green. As I got older, I’d just roll my eyes and say, “It’s just a dime, Mom. Get a grip.”

But there I was this morning, faced with an entire six pack of bottles completely filled with soda. Free pop and sixty cents of deposit money to boot. At first I drove past, figuring the soda probably belonged to the owner of the house behind where the six-pack was sitting. A ripped grocery bag could have deposited it there or maybe..maybe even an angry passenger had thrown it out a car window. If you don’t think someone could do that, I’ll have to some day tell the story of how Nathan defiantly threw one of his shoes out the window of a moving car because I was giving him the silent treatment.

All sorts of scenarios on how the soda wound up in the road were going through my head as I put the car in reverse and traveled back where the six-pack was chilling in the snow. As I got out of the car and approached, I could see it was Diet Rite soda. Diet Rite! How serendipitous. I love Diet Rite. It could have been regular Pepsi or Coke or, God forbid, root beer. But no. It was Diet Rite and I was the one rescuing it from possible annihilation at the hands of someone else’s snow tires by tossing it in the front seat of my car.

If I was a completely solid citizen, I could have just walked up to the house and placed the abandoned soda on the front porch. But I didn’t, and now I’m faced with a very Earl Hickey-like conundrum; was Karma rewarding me for good behavior or will Karma punish me for absconding with the sodas? They aren’t mine, and I did have options short of canvassing the neighborhood for their rightful owner. I would like to think Karma is somehow paying me back for all the sodas that exploded in our garage during the recent cold snap. We lost at least half a dozen and were left with a pile of slush and mangled aluminum.

So the sodas are staying in my front seat. For now.

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It’s done

My knee surgery has been scheduled for later next month. It’s a little earlier than I had planned, but my doctor will be gone to conferences out-of-state throughout April. If all goes well, I will be back on my feet in about three weeks.

As much as I’d like this to be an easy recovery, the doctor did advise me that the procedure could become more complicated if the cartilage in my knee is severely damaged. I have to be prepared for a longer recovery that would entail putting no weight whatsoever on my left leg for eight weeks. The first time the doctor told me this, I looked at him like he was nuts because I’m not really built to be able to easily get around on one limb. What about showering or going to the bathroom? How am I supposed to do that without putting any weight on my left leg? And don’t get me started on how I’m supposed to get home from the hospital and up the Kilimanjaro-like stairs that lead our main floor.

The good thing is I’m a planner and can imagine a lot of things I could and possibly will need while I’m laid up. I have a month to get things in order and will probably try to figure out how to get around with just the one leg and the crutches before I actually have to get around with just the one leg and the crutches. When I first injured my knee back in December, the thing I found out about using crutches is that it really helps if you have a clean house and are not trying to navigate around bits of junk on the floor. It also helps if you’re not twice the size of the average human, but there’s really not much I can do about that now.

When I first learned I needed this surgery, I had hoped I could put it off until I lost enough weight so Nathan could carry me everywhere and I wouldn’t have to worry about putting weight on either of my legs. I’m not kidding. Up the stairs, down the stairs. Into the tub, out of the tub. He was going to be my mule. The more I thought about it though, the more I wanted to do this sooner rather than later. Waiting six months or a year could mean postponing or interrupting grad school and I’ll be damned if I’m spending another holiday on crutches. Been there, done that. This year I want to be out there and fa la la la la-ing with the rest of the happy people.

So as much as this surgery and its aftermath is going to suck, I have a great support system with Nathan. I keep telling him this is going to be rough because I won’t be able to do anything at all. No laundry, no grocery shopping, no cooking and no toddler wrangling. He keeps waving his hand at me. “Ill be fine,” he says. He’s even gone a step further and procured me a loaner laptop with wireless capabilities so I can stay in touch with the internet and complain about how my ass keeps falling asleep.

Good times ahead.  Good times.

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Things that go bump on the road

Yesterday it rained. The temps were a bit more mild and we lost a good bit of our snow.

Then today…it snowed again. All day it snowed and a frigid wind blew across campus. Everything that was wet yesterday is now ice today. I got into my car after work and pulled onto the main drive that winds through campus. I hadn’t gone very far when a white car decided it had waited for passing traffic long enough and pulled out in front of me. I wasn’t in any danger of hitting the car, but I still cussed it out good for being so stupid as to even try a stunt like that in such crappy weather.

I had just hurled my last expletive at the white car when it stopped for a passing pedestrian. I then stopped, or at least I tried to stop. I pressed on the brake pedal and instantly went into a slide. Tap tap tap tap tap. I pumped the brakes hoping to stop my slide but nothing. So what did I do? I gripped the steering wheel and closed my eyes. Yes folks, I closed my eyes and prepared for impact.

Bump. I slid into the back end of the white car. The driver looked back at me and made like she was going to get out of the car right there on the street but then thought better of it. We pulled into a nearby parking lot to assess the damage. I could see some black paint from my car had tattooed her rear bumper a bit, but I saw no dents or scrapes to speak of.

We each got out of our cars. She was a student, an attractive blond who was not wearing nearly enough clothing to keep the wind from making her teeth chatter. “It looks like you’re in good shape,” I told her.

“You too,” she said. I went to the front of my car and saw nothing broken or dented. Just the rust spots and chipped paint that had always been there along with some fresh spots of white paint from her car.

I apologized to the girl for hitting her and explained what had happened. She looked like she wanted to be annoyed, but she was cool about it. I could have been annoyed at her for pulling out in front of me like an idiot, but we both just wanted to get back into our cars.

“Are you okay?” I asked, wondering if she was comfortable with leaving things as they were.

“Yeah,” she said and started back to her car.

“Be careful,” I said, thankful that our encounter was brief and damage free. If she can live with a little black paint on her bumper, I’ll live with a little white on mine. Ebony and Ivory, babe.

Later in the evening as Nathan and I were unloading groceries from his car, I looked at my trusty old Contour and said, “Thank you for taking such good care of me. You’ve never let me down and I’m going to keep you forever and ever and ever.”

“You’re nuts,” Nathan said.

“Hey, even a car needs to know its loved” I said.

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Play date at the pool

About an hour ago I returned home from a play date with my friend Sarah and her son Sam. Spending a few hours with them confirmed my suspicions that I do, in fact, have my hands full with that child of mine.

We had arranged to meet at the university fieldhouse to spend some time in the pool. Autumn and I arrived first and waited in the lobby for Sarah and Sam to arrive. Autumn was a tad bit impatient to get to the pool and kept pointing to the doors leading out of the lobby. “That way,” she’d say, apparently remembering the way after last week’s visit there with her cousins.

We only had to wait a few minutes before we saw Sarah and Sam walk through the doors. The last time I had seen Sam, he was seven weeks old and sitting in an infant car seat. He took one look at us, turned his head and fell back behind Sarah in an attempt to hide behind her. “He’ll be okay in a couple of minutes,” Sarah said.

I wish the same could be said for Autumn. As soon as she realized she not only had an audience, but a brand new audience who had never seen her act, she released her inner diva and refused to follow us to the pool. She just sat her butt down on the floor and refused to move. I had no choice but to pick up all 36 pounds of her dead weight and haul her to the stairs. It’s a wonder I haven’t added back problems to the growing list of things that are wrong with me.

I received more attitude in the locker room as I tried to get Autumn’s suit on. I looked at Sarah. “Are you dealing with this yet?” I asked, hoping her answer would be, “Oh, God, yes” or at least a “sometimes” but instead getting, “No, not really.” Apparently the one time Sam talked back to his mom he got the what for and hasn’t done it again. Meanwhile, my child is working her way towards being a card-carrying member of the brat pack.

We wound up having a good time in the pool, although Autumn did once again try to run away from me after we got out. This time, however, she came back when I ordered her to. She didn’t do it right away, but at least I didn’t have to flag down a random passerby to help lasso her. It’s a good thing she decided to listen because I really don’t think I had it in me to spank her in front of everyone and then drag her back to the locker room. No thanks.

We wrapped up the evening by getting some grinders at a local pizza place. Autumn behaved better there, but both she and Sam had a good time just being two. They worked off each other like Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, and when we finally parted ways, Sarah suggested our next outing be without the kids. I’m all for that.

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