Friday, November 30, 2007

Came to the Party

DAY TO READ campaign - January 10, 2008

Do you ever worry that you will plan a party and no one will show up?

How could I ever doubt you?

Yesterday I threw out the idea of Day to Read. A day for people to either cut back or completely step away from blogging to read. A book. A magazine. The newspaper.

And you all came. With tales of reading to share.

Jodi wrote about how reading blogs had indeed taken over reading books and committed to reading a book on January 10th. Then she asked for suggestions.

Flower Child recalled how her parents wouldn't always buy her or her siblings toys but books were "always free".

CableGirl notes that she has observed as an adjunct professor the quality of college students' writing "is downright disturbing". She then goes on to list her TBR books (To Be Read). Impressive and humbling. I am so not smart next to her.

Jami described how her father defended her in the library when the librarian wouldn't let her take out all the books she wanted to check out. There is also some Communist ramblings but you have to go read the post yourself.

Gunfighter outright orders us to read. An armed book-lover? Now y'all better find a good book for January 10th and obey his orders. Yes sir!

Luisa made a simple statement that she was in on the day.

Then my co-conspirators:

Jenn in Holland - she wrote about hiding fiction books behind the books she was supposed to be reading at school. Such a rebel. And she made the button (she always makes the buttons! And for that I love her) and sang the praises of the idea. She talked it up and made me feel like this was a great idea. Isn't that what a good friend is for?

Jen in Michigan - she went on the promotion circuit. She even tried to get on the NPR show Talk of the Nation yesterday while they interviewed the chair of the National Endowment of the Arts about the reading report. And she got Day to Read mentioned in the NPR News Blog (which mysteriously disappeared when I went back to link to it). She has been a true champion. And in her piece introducing the day spoke of how A Wrinkle in Time played a special role for her as a child.

I'm off to read Water For Elephants by Sarah Greun. It is one of those ignore-your-kids-while-they-destroy-the-house kind of book. It is delicious reading.

So what is your reading story?

Psst - if you don't tell me you are promoting Day to Read, I can't sing your praises.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Day to Read

DAY TO READ campaign - January 10, 2008

January 10, 2008

Please mark your calendar.

Because, well, I'm asking you a favor.

But first a story. About a story. Or really a book.

Do you remember reading late at night, in your childhood bed, way past your bedtime a book you just couldn't put down?

One of those books for me was The Princess Bride. Yes, young readers, it was a book before a movie and a brilliant book at that. The premise was that the father didn't want to read the book to his son so when his kid wasn't interested in reading this book he came to find out that his own father had skipped the so-called "boring" parts about such things as horse trading, geo-politics, and naming trends in a far away land.

What we then get is the "good parts" version of The Princess Bride. He alludes to the boring sections but it only enhances the over all storytelling and obviously those never made it into the movie (doesn't that make you wish you read the book?).

So, deep under the covers, way past my bedtime, Buttercup is being pulled by the Dread Pirate Roberts along a steep ravine near the Fire Swamp. She eventually pushes him into the deep valley to avenge the death of her love and as he tumbles down he yells "As you wish....."

And I nearly screamed from under the covers. I remember distinctly my childhood bedroom, the sheets and the complete shock when I realized, along with Buttercup, it was him. Him!

Imagine not having that experience? Of not having a book take you completely out of who you are? Where you live? Of seeing the characters only in your head.

And, according to research, did you know that reading books is linked to civic engagement?

I recently read about a National Endowment for the Arts report that young folks aren't reading like they used to. Get this:
  • only 30% of 13-year-olds read almost every day

  • the number of 17-year-olds who never read for pleasure increased from 9 percent in 1984 to 19 percent in 2004 - that is 1 in 5 kids don't read for fun

  • Almost half of Americans between ages 18 and 24 never read books for pleasure

  • The average person between ages 15 and 24 spends 2 to 2 1/2 hours a day watching TV and 7 minutes reading
According to Diane Gioia, the Chair of the NEA,

"The poorest Americans who read did twice as much volunteering and charity work as the richest who did not read. The habit of regular reading awakens something inside a person that makes him or her take their own life more seriously and at the same time develops the sense that other people's lives are real."

Does that quote give you chills? It does me. So that's why I'm asking folks, myself included, to take time one day in January to stop blogging - for the entire day or part of the day - and use the blogging time to read. A book. A magazine. A newspaper.

Take the button (email me at amitchells AT yahoo DOT com for the code) and please paste it in a post as well as your sidebar.

Write about this. About what books, magazines, newspapers mean to you. Write a couple of posts about writings that have taken you to another place. And mark Thursday, January 10, 2008 as Day to Read. Then on Friday, January 11th, write a bit about what you read.

And thank you.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Meme in place of a hug

This is for Fourier Analyst AND The Real Life Drama Queen. If anyone deserves me to break (again) my no meme stance, it is them. They have both shared more heartbreak this fall than any mother should bear.

But what was really sweet? They both named me so that I would have something to write about during NaBlolalalala. Ladies, I literally write two posts per day and only put one up on my blog. I've got a backlog of writing. But thank you for thinking of me.

So this meme is in the place of flying to give them both hugs in person.

A. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning. Done.

B. Each player lists 6 facts/habits/secrets about themselves. Yup.

C. At the end of the post, the player then tags people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog. Nope. Not doing that part.

So I am ornery like that. I'll give you the information, but not pass along the task.

1. Fact - Like Fourier Analyst I cannot remember phone numbers or codes on keypads but can remember the pattern on the pads. I will literally have to draw a key pad to "map out" the numbers.

2. (Former) Habit - I bit my nails until 3rd grade when my mom made a $10 bet with me that I couldn't bite my nails for 3 months. I haven't bitten my nails since.

3. Habit - I pick at my cuticles.

4. Fact (or Habit?) - Like The Queen, I enjoy speed. As in driving fast in the car. Or mini-van in my case.

5. Fact - I was the voice of a character in a film strip (remember those?). I remember being in the studio with two other kids and wearing the big headsets. For the life of me I cannot remember what the film was about.

6. Secret - I really, really enjoyed writing that piece of fiction hosted by Jenn in Michigan earlier in the month. I only wish I could do more writing like that. She's decided to do it again so you should join in. It was a lot of fun.

Want to share with the rest of us? Consider yourself tagged, write up your six - posting those rules at the beginning - let me know and I'll promote you.


Remember over at Looking Into we having Animal Week all this week. Today we welcome a new guest photographer. Go check out his photo!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Be an Ally and a Friend

On November 28, 1998, Rita Hester was murdered not far from where Amazing Guy and I were living at the time. One evening she met a man (at a bar if I recall correctly) and brought him home. Upon realizing she was transgendered, he killed her. The local paper was taken to task for blaming her for being murdered, as if somehow she had "tricked" him and his reaction was "justified".

Earlier that year we went on a long weekend get-away with relatively new friends. They were a wonderful couple - incredibly smart, real foodies and very worldly. We loved spending time with them and envisioned a long friendship.

Sometime that summer he called us and asked to talk to Amazing Guy first. I knew it was quite a conversation because I had never heard AG sound like he did on the phone. Eventually he handed the phone to me.

Our friend started with "I have something I want to share with you."

To which I happily yelled "you're expecting!!"

He then went on to apologize for not telling us in person. I then started hearing about how he had been born in the wrong body and he had sex realignment surgery several years earlier. He mentioned medical terminology. He used the letters "F to M".

Sitting on our sofa in our apartment, holding the phone, I heard him ask me if I had any questions.

"So, you were born a girl but now you are a man?" I asked.


"Oh, well you were a guy when I met you so you are still a guy to me."

Both in memory of Ms. Hester, and in honor of our friend, please watch this short PSA from GLAAD. November 28th is Transgendered Day of Remembrance. [And a big thanks to Jami - a new friend who I feel like I've known for a long time - for posting about this]

And don't get all judgemental. You know someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. And Jack from Will and Grace doesn't count. You owe it to yourself, your community and most importantly the children in your life (the ones you birthed and/or just know) to be a friend and ally.

Being alone is really hard. Knowing someone is out there who won't judge you can be a lifesaver.

So be a friend and an ally. Regardless of your faith or beliefs. Because your higher power, regardless of what you call that power, values all life - and the well-being of all those lives.

I am honored to be a friend - and an ally.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Introduced my boys to a classic

Music Monday

"So guys, this is a classic movie scene. Can you imagine singing outside daddy's office window on a float in a parade?"

"NO!" declares one guy.


"Yeah...." says another guy slyly. "I would do it."

And I would be there cheering.

Got a musical tale to share this Monday? Let me know and I will link back to you. And check out both Jessica and Jenn's story.


Go visit Looking Into this week. We have an animal thing going with new and old guests....

Sunday, November 25, 2007

SOS - Fly me to the moon

It's that time of the week again, Soap Opera Sunday started by Brillig and Walking Kateastrophe's. Go to their sites today to read their and others' sudsy tales.

Amazing guy is quite the singer. I'm not just saying that. When I walk into a bar with him for karaoke night, the guy running the mike yells out his name and let's him jump the queue whenever he asks for a song.

He does an incredible Michael McDonald in "What a Fool Believes". You should hear his version "I'm Easy" by Lionel Ritchie.

One story I've heard is that he lost a bet while in Montreal and had to go out to get breakfast for his travel mates the next morning. As he was walking down the street he was stopped by a group of older tourists.

"You're the guy from the bar!" they exclaimed. "The one who sounds like Frank Sinatra!!"

Which is exactly who he sounded like when he sang at our wedding.

Amazing Guy copied a song several times on a cassette tape to play continuously in the Jeep's tape deck during his hour long drive to work running a housing program for persons with AIDS. He practiced it in the shower. He made sure the band we selected to play at the reception not only knew the song but also would hand him the microphone.

That night he was called up and I tried to hide along the back wall. Eventually I was found and pushed to the dance floor as he sang

Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
Let me see what spring is like on
Jupiter and Mars

In other words hold my hand
In other words, Baby, kiss me


Fly Me to the Moon has ended up on several birthday CDs for the kids. They all know this is the song daddy sang to mommy at their wedding.

"I'm not getting married" declared one little man over the summer while Fly me to the Moon was playing in the van.

"Really?" I asked.


"Any reason?"

"Do you have to sing at your wedding?"

I assured him that was not expected as part of the groom's duties. Just his daddy's.


The story the kids haven't heard is what he sang to me later in the evening, after his parents had left the reception but while my parents were still there.

She gets too hungry, for dinner at eight
She loves the theater, but doesn't come late
She'd never bother, with people she'd hate
That's why the lady is a tramp

Doesn't like crap games, with barons and earls
Won't go to Harlem, in ermine and pearls
Won't dish the dirt, with the rest of those girls
That's why the lady is a tramp

Like my music stories? Inspired to write some of your own? Join in on Music Monday!

Music Monday at Soccer Mom in Denial

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Life feels....

Singular Saturday


For more Singular Saturdays, go check out Jenn in Holland. She started it all.

Friday, November 23, 2007

New kajamas

My daughter is an interesting girl. She is so girly in how she carries herself, talks to people and in the things she loves. Hand her a pink teapot to play kitchen or a microphone for her to perform with and she is happy as a clam.

But she hates new clothes. Hates to have to switch away from her summer clothes to her winter ones. She's got the nasty cough to prove she is not dressing warmly for the 40 degree days.

So on Saturday evening, while the big and little boys were off at a professional fight hockey game, I broke down and did something I never thought I would do.

I talked up shopping with my 3 1/2 year old daughter.

"We're going shopping for new clothes!" I said excitedly while keeping the rising vomit in my throat. I really hate to go shopping.

"We're going to get you new pajamas so you won't be cold at night."

"But I don't want new 'kajamas'!" she protested.

We had a lovely dinner, got ready for shopping, and charged into the store. She became all excited about a pair of pajamas pants with dogs all over them.

We brought them home, washed them and she put them on.

In the morning she asked to wear them to church. I told her she could put them on in the evening for bed time.

During an early afternoon hike after church she asked if she would be taking a nap when we got home. "I'm so tired" she yawned with much arm-stretching and dramatic eye rubbing. When we got home she went straight to her room, changed into her new pajamas and took a great nap.

For thanksgiving dinner she conveniently changed out of her clothes to show the "kajamas" to her grandparents. When she declared that she would be wearing them for the meal itself we all gave in. So here we were, in our slightly dressy clothes and she was wearing her pink thermal pajamas.

I think she likes these new "kajamas". Think I'll have as much luck with the new turtlenecks?

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Before a meal (even breakfast) our daughter usually insists that we grab hands around the table and say in unison,

We love our family. Amen

We started it when getting everyone to go around and say they love each member of the family got too painful (e.g. one boy would intentionally skip his brother causing the other to kvetch for the rest of the meal).

After we say our short grace we lift our glasses and loudly say,


I hope you are surrounded by love and cheers today.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Did your history go from Thanksgiving straight to the Revolution?

Mine did. Although we spent a little time talking about the Salem witch trials. But only because we lived down the highway from Salem.

So that was how early American history was taught in my neck of the woods - Pilgrims landed in 1624, ate a big meal, later that century some folks were hung or crushed under rocks over lack of food (so goes one theory) and then - boom - the shot heard 'round the world in 1776.

I finished - inadvertantly before Thanksgiving I will admit - Mayflower by Nathaniel Philbrick. I was motivated in part to see what happened in southeastern New England through the 1660's but also to read about my ancester, William Brewster. Neither he nor his family factor too much past the first few years of Plimouth. Small comfort considering what was done to native Americans by the children and grandchildren of the Pilgrims.

It felt like a painful replay of other parts of our history. Native Americans rounded up and sent to live on barren islands with few natural resources. Torture and trumped up charges leading to executions. Killing women and children.

I'm not proud of our country right now. We are both behaving horribly with the rest of the world and treating each other terribly right here at home. It seems, though, that we are simply repeating the sins of our forefathers and mothers.

Perhaps, as we gather together for this American holiday - Thanksgiving - hopefully surrounded by love and good food, we can all work to get our country back on track. A country where we welcome newcomers, trust one another and behave with dignity on the world stage.

Is that too much to ask?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You're a (sneer) girl

"You're a (insert sneer) girl!"

I cannot convey the nastiness that comes out of his mouth when he says that.

Let me clarify.

The nastiness that comes out of my son, who I gave birth to, when he says it to his twin brother.

One night I lost it.

It had been brewing for a week. He would insert it and I would try to get him to stop. Then, he finally said it one more time over dinner to his brother.

"So it there something wrong with me, your mother who just cooked this dinner, cleaned your clothes, picked you up from school and tucks you into bed at night, because I'm a girl?"

"No" he says looking down.

"Is there something wrong with your teacher because she is a girl?"

"No" in a smaller voice.

"Is there something wrong with your soccer coach because she is a girl?"

"No" as he shrinks into the kitchen floor.

"Is there something wrong with your sister because she is a girl?"

"No" as he starts to go off his chair as I rise off of mine.

"Is there something wrong with your grandmothers, your aunts, your principal, your minister and every other woman you interact with because they are girls?"

"No" as he starts to back into a corner.

"Good, so that means you won't mind writing 10 times on a piece of paper 'Girls are o.k.' and if you say it again you will write it 20 times and lose television for the evening."

What I didn't tell him is if he said it a third time he would be writing a two page essay on Susan B. Anthony.

Where the hell do boys learn that being a girl is bad, inferior, an insult?

I work very, very hard to stay calm when they say stupid things. But after a 7 month pregnancy with two of them inside of me (don't get me started on the virtual party going on inside my uterus, particularly at night), 8 weeks in the NICU, 16 months of nursing twins (I should get a medal for that one), all the various health issues, this list is starting to get too long but you get my drift....

After all I've done for my sons to have one of them equate being a girl as inferior? Oh sweet baby boy. You better fix your ways now.

And the next day? He didn't say it and he was very, very affectionate to me.

As he should be. As. He. Should. Be.

Monday, November 19, 2007

You are awesome

Music Monday

Actually, wicked awesome.

Remember that little request I made about a month ago? I'll refresh your memories...

Believe it or not, while doing all my other projects I need to compile a list of songs from the last 25 years.

Done laughing yet?

It is the 25th anniversary of the organization I work for and we have two events coming up that in part celebrate this milestone.

So who gave me some awesome suggestions?

Jenn in Holland
Painted Maypole
Flower Child
Jen in Michigan

And Aimee, oh the Mistress of Greeblemonkey! She made 4-6 alternative suggestions for EACH YEAR!! Do the math - that is at least 100 songs she wrote out in the comments. Go check it out.

And now for the songs that played at last month's annual meeting and our big fundraiser this past Friday.

1999 ~ Prince
She Works Hard for the Money ~ Donna Summer
People Are People ~ Depeche Mode
Thriller ~ Michael Jackson
Born In the U.S.A. ~ Bruce Springsteen
Hot Summer Nights ~ Miami Sound Machine
Everybody Wants to Rule the World ~ Tears for Fears
Walk Like an Egyptian ~ The Bangles
In Your Eyes ~ Peter Gabriel
Livin' on a Prayer ~ Bon Jovi Slippery
A Groovy Kind of Love ~ Phil Collins
Fast Car ~ Tracy Chapman
Going Back to Cali ~ LL Cool J
Love Shack ~ The B-52's
Love will never do ~ Janet Jackson
Something to Talk About ~ Bonnie Raitt
Smells Like Teen Spirit ~ Nirvana
Jazz (We've Got) ~ A Tribe Called Quest
Walking On Broken Glass ~ Annie Lennex
Real Love ~ Mary J. Blige
End of the Road ~ Boyz II Men
Can You Feel the Love Tonight? ~ Elton John
Fantasy ~ Mariah Carey
Waterfalls ~ TLC
Because You Loved Me ~ Céline Dion
I Believe I Can Fly ~ R. Kelly
Hard Knock Life ~ Jay-Z
If You Had My Love ~ Jennifer Lopez
Livin' la Vida Loca (Spanish Version) ~ Ricky Martin
Beautiful Day ~ U2
Music ~ Madonna
Fallin' ~ Alicia Keys
Turn Your Lights Down Low ~ Bob Marley & Lauryn Hill
Whenever, Wherever ~ Shakira
Where Is the Love? ~ Black Eyed Peas
Crazy In Love ~ Beyoncé
Hey Ya! ~ OutKast
The Long Way Around ~ Dixie Chicks
Heaven ~ Los Lonely Boys
Feel Good Inc ~ Gorillaz
Crazy ~ Gnarls Barkley
Waiting On the World to Change ~ John Mayer
The Way I Are ~ Timbaland

There were compliments and grooving galore at both events. But the one I want to share with you was early Friday morning. We were setting up for bankers, developers and others with deep pockets to show up for our big breakfast fundraiser at a super fancy museum (a bank paid for the space). This place was so fancy it could take my iPod and play the music both in the lobby and a different floor where the food was being set up.

At one point two museum staff members - a security guard and an event person - were standing by the front door. The white woman turned to me and said, hesitantly, "is this your music?"

I enthusiastically confirmed it was.

The young African-American man in a security uniform smiled shyly.

"Did I hear Going Back to Cali?"

"Yup, you did."

"Never heard that here at 8 in the morning" he said as his grin got bigger.

So thank you, friends, for giving people some pretty big grins.

Be sure to check out Music Monday over at Flower Child and Jenn in Holland. Are you playing some tunes as well? Let me know and I will list you too.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

SOS - finding out there was a litter in there

It's that time of the week again, Soap Opera Sunday started by Brillig and Walking Kateastrophe's. This time it is being hosted over at Anonymous Soapiness. The subtitle says is all:

The place where you can post a Soap Opera Sunday and your mom won't read it!

We were trying to get pregnant. Amazing Guy and I had been married a little over four years and were in our early 30's. We knew it was time to start our family.

We planned a trip to London and Bath so I brought along one of those pee-on-a-sticks to figure out if I was pregnant. I planned to not drink alcohol during the pregnancy. At the beginning of the trip, I peed and got one blue line. That meant a week of gin and tonics! I wasn't too disappointed since it was on a few months into our family-making efforts.

But then nothing came which was expected during this trip. When we got back to the states I promptly peed on the second stick that was in the package and that one showed two lines. A trip to the doctor the next morning confirmed I pregnant.

We only told my parents I was pregnant. I figured if something went wrong I didn't want to have to explain it over and over again. We planned to start telling people (e.g. other family, friends, my job) after week twelve.

But I started showing week 8. I didn't think anything of it but that coupled with the nausea throughout the day made the pregnancy hard to hide.

Finally, a woman I worked with, who I considered a mentor, said to me "So, what's the other job you are taking?" When I declared loudly that I wasn't taking another job she said "Oh don't give me that! You are distracted, leaving meetings - you are leaving us!"

It was week 10 so we called Amazing Guy's parents and started telling other family. The next day I announced my pregnancy at work.

Three weeks later we were in New Orleans for a wedding. We saw all of Amazing Guy's family and nearly everyone declared how large I was. "You carrying more than one, darrl-ing!" was said multiple times.

I was a bit defensive. So when I plopped on the table with our mid-wife at week 14 I moaned about everyone's comments.

She put the doppler on my right side and we heard a distinctive heart beat. She went over to the left side.

We heard a totally different heart beat.

"Maybe he* raced across your belly and is really excited" (*generic "he" - we did not know the gender).

So she walked to a phone and called an ultrasound technician. She asked him to stay after 5 on a Friday afternoon to "rule out twins".

Amazing guy and I walked into the waiting area for the diagnostic department. We were the only ones waiting. In a corner was the mounted television tuned to a local news broadcast. One of the anchors said in that urgent news anchor voice,

"And next at 5:30! The REAL COST for raising a kid here. AND IT DOESN'T INCLUDE COLLEGE!!"

Amazing Guy started to softly bang the back of his head against the wall.

We were led to a room. This was my first ever ultrasound so I didn't know what to expect. I jumped on the table, hiked up my shirt and the technician covered my belly in cold gel. He put the wand on my right side.

Immediately Amazing Guy softly said "wow."

Then the tech moved the wand to my left side.

A quiet "ugh" was Amazing Guy's response.

"WHAT DO YOU SEE?!?!?!" I yelled. The screen was facing the men.

"Oops, sorry for not showing you as well" the tech said as he turned the screen for me to see. "You've got two in there."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Not quite setting up the slide projector...

But close. I loved our trip to Seattle. I love my new nephew and am very proud of my younger brother and his wife. I just can't stop talking about this trip (in case you couldn't tell) so here are some more photos, in no particular order.

One of my boys' teachers made him a journal for his trip. She also made one for his brother even though he is in another class.

We rode a ferry to Bainbridge Island.

A quote on the wall of the bakery where we had lunch on the island.

Underneath the park with the terrific view was an equally terrific playground.

Wicked cool Uncle (aka my younger brother) brought the boys and me to the University of Washington campus to show us where he teaches and studies. He is working on his PhD. That makes him not only wicked cool but also wicked smart (or "wicked smaht" as we say here).

Thanks for indulging me. To show my gratitude the above is a rare photo of me. Not sure how long I'll keep it up but now you know how I look. But more importantly, isn't that nephew cute? Definitely cuter than a hippo.

Of course, there were be weeks worth of photos at the photoblog site I share with Jenn in Holland, Looking Into. You may have missed a few already. Go see.

Friday, November 16, 2007

There once was an old troll who swallowed a car

Every evening both of my sons bring home a large ziplock bag with a single book from their classrooms. We all signed forms that we would take care of the books and read them every night. For our trip, each teacher let the boys bring several books.

One boy brought Three Billy Goats Gruff in his plastic bag. After the wicked cool Uncle and Aunt took them to the corner of N 36th and Troll Ave, he is convinced that the Fremont Troll is the inspiration for the book.

When actually the troll is based on the story. Although the Volkswagen under his left hand, which may have been lunch, isn't part of the book my son had.

And since I can't let go of this trip, I'll post mainly photos tomorrow to wrap up it all up.

PS - Thanks for the title suggestions. Sadly for me, I didn't know most of your recommendations. Clearly my loss and I will get on listening to them!! But did you like my play on There Was an Old Woman?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Red red wine

For a vote of 7-2 I bring you, the bar story.

This bar story involves a fine bottle of red wine and no photos (sorry Jami) because there were no cameras (that we know of). And really nothing that outrageous. More annoying.

Mimi is one of those friends every person should have. We met 20 years ago this fall as freshman in college. We grew up within 7 miles of each other. She was my coxswain when I rowed in the Head of the Charles and single-handily saved Paris when I was having one of the worst travel experiences in history (What? You don't know about the train ride into Paris? Or the guy j*rking off?).

She lived in NYC while I live in New Orleans. She moved to Seattle in the early 1990's to work for a small computer company whose name starts with M and was founded by a guy named Bill. She came back here to be in my wedding. She came and stayed with us for a long weekend to help take care of the babies so Amazing Guy could studied for law school exams. I remember her standing in the hallway of our little apartment, jiggling a baby on her shoulder at 4:30 in the morning, pleading "Could your mother come over this afternoon so we can have a nap?"

Amazing Guy, the boys and I flew to Italy for Mimi's wedding. The boys were the ringbearers and I read a poem. When our daughter was born, we asked Mimi to be her godmother.

She's also one of those friends who doesn't hold a grudge or get pissy if you don't talk for, oh, months at a time.

So when Amazing Guy and Mimi's husband told us to go out for a girls' night, who were we to say no? She picked me up, drove me to one of her favorite restaurants and we cozied on up to the bar. She asked the sommelier for a wine recommendation and we were drinking a delicious red wine that cost more than I'm willing to spend on shoes, never mind wine.

We decided to eat our dinner at the bar as well and were working our way through the bottle. We still had about 1/3 of the bottle left and had only just finished our entrees. We hadn't really decided on coffee and dessert when a member of the waitstaff, who had never interacted with us, came up and asked,

"Would you mind moving from the bar? You've been here a while and there are people waiting."

I, not wanting to cause a scene, said "of course" and we were moved to a sofa area to finish our wine. We picked up our conversation and seemed no worse for the wear.

However, Mimi did complain to the matron d', who seemed genuinely horrified that we had been asked to move before we had finished our wine or even been asked if we wanted coffee.

I do feel that once you've got a spot in a restaurant, it is yours, especially once you start paying for a bottle of wine that costs as much as what some people earn in one day (like, oh, the people who washed the dished I ate off of that night). But I didn't want the night marred. Now both Mimi and I have a good question for all the cocktail parties we are not going to.

Was it wrong for the waitstaff to ask us to move from the bar?

Last story tomorrow is about finding a troll under the bridge, about to eat a car. I need help for the title since I have found a song for the other Seattle posts. Didn't you notice?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

River Deep, Mountain High

There is always some place in a city that gives the best view of the skyline. Sometimes it is in an exclusive area that us average folks can not access. Fortunately Seattle is not one of those places.

While driving to Kerry Park on a cloudy Sunday, Amazing Guy let out a huge "Woah!" and pointed to the left. Mt. Rainer was literally glowing under the clouds.

He and I are both from parts of the USA where land does not go that high. In his part of the country a park actually added a grass-covered dirt pile so kids could experience what it is like to run up and down a "hill". In my part, the mountain people brag about climbing is not even half the hight of Rainier.

And while it was still cloudy on the day we visited the park with a view, it was no less spectacular to admire the vista.

A bonus was the sculpture "Changing Form" by Doris Chase in the middle of the lookout. The kids had a field day climbing all over it.

Yesterday the hippopotami, today the mountain. Which of the last two stories will be next? Being asked to leave a bar or finding the inspiration for Billy Goats Gruff? You decide, but only if you leave me a message. Like I have said before, my telepathy is not what it used to be.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Zoo, zoo, zoo - how about you?

Now that I travel with kids, it seems that every trip to a large city involves a visit to the zoo. They really are perfect - large spaces to run around, different animals (occasionally roaring for dramatic effect) within yards of each other and usually other kids who are behaving atrociously just to remind me of how lucky I am.

The zoo in Seattle was truly wonderful. As usual for most zoos and aquariums the animals were grouped by global region (e.g. Asia, Africa) but they included a typical village/living arrangement for a specific area in that region. It gave the kids a context for how some people live throughout the world.

Pretending to grind in the African Savannah village.

Having been to South Africa in 1999, I am partial to all things African. According to the placards the village was typical for a Kenyan bush and had a teacher's hut, a one-room family home and a school house. The kids loved running through the desks, sitting at the head of the class, and talking about what was missing (e.g. no computers or art projects, few posters on the walls). It made their church project to raise funds for school library books in Alice, South Africa a bit more real.

But by far the highlight was the hippopotami. Three lovely ladies hanging out in the water. I wasn't even going to bother to take photos of them since it was a grey day, the water looked grey, and - funny how camouflage works - hippos look like logs when they are floating in the water.

Suddenly they started moving fast (by hippo standards) to a side fencing as my sister-in-law was trying to engage the kids about some random fact written on a placard.

We weren't really listening and finally told her to turn around. A zoo keeper was throwing whole red apples into their mouths.

And yes, I have over 20 shots of her lovely mouth. I even have close ups of that large tooth on the bottom. It had a piece of grass stuck in it. Clearly she needs to start flossing more regularly.

I never thought I would write this but the hippos were just so cute.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Be true

Beatrice was running late to the café. Malcolm had opened up for her and he needed to be at a job by 10:00 am. As she hustled down the street, turning the corner by the flower shop with the sunflowers leaning into the sidewalk, she marveled at the sunlight. She had a painting in her head, one that captured fall on the Lake. It wasn’t a literal image of a tree or leaves but more the essence of the season. The crispness in the air, the smell of the leaves, the brightness of the sunlight as winter was looming.

But first she needed to get to the shop she owned with her husband. Both the café and his side work as a handyman helped pay for their tidy little house nearby and covered their student loan payments. They didn’t need or want much more and had no plans for children.

What they wanted was to find more time for their art. Bea tried to paint while at the café. There were quiet moments and it was easy for her to have the watercolors out. Sometimes the occasional brown smudge of coffee added a hue she had never considered. Malcolm though was often too tired to write after a job. Lugging wood for flooring jobs or reaching up all day for molding installation just drained him. While racing down the street it struck Bea as a bit odd that the one who only needed a pen for his craft couldn’t grab snippets of time to make art while she could set up a virtual studio next to the cappuccino maker and create two paintings in half an hour.

But she loved him. She loved her life. Growing up in San Francisco she never envisioned she would be happy in a mid-west town.

The phone rang in her bag. Bea assumed it was Malcolm calling for an update on where she was. While she was only three storefronts away she loved to hear his voice on the phone. It reminded her of their year living in different cities when he would read her his poetry late into the evening. She didn’t bother to look at the number on the screen. She loved the idea of being on the phone with him as she walked into their shop.

“Beatrice!” the stern voice demanded. “Why didn’t you take my call yesterday?”

She stopped walking. Malcolm could see her and immediately opened his phone to call the house were he was installing a new banister. He explained he would be a bit late. He then started frantically waving in Bea’s direction, pointing at his phone, telling her to hang up.

“Mom?” Bea studdered, “How…. How are you?”

“Well, I could be better if I knew what you were doing. Going to that little coffee place of yours?” she asked, tilting more towards a sneer. “And” she always paused before saying his name “Malcolm? How is he? Still being a day laborer? When will he write that epic poem?”

Suddenly the painting, the image Bea was forming in her head was shriveling. Going from vibrant reds and oranges to a dull, lifeless brown.

Malcolm explained to the two customers sitting in the café that he needed to step out. He nearly leapt to Bea. He wanted to fold up the phone and throw it down the gutter yet he knew Bea could not step away from a call with her mother. He lowered his head to be at her eye level and so his voice could be heard over a thousand miles away.

“Bea, I need you in the store.”

“Oh he needs you at the store,” her mother replied. “And what about me? Don’t I need you too?” This last comment was torture for Bea. Her mother never paid attention to her as a child and when she did it was simply to criticize or compare her to another, more perfect, child. Her mother suddenly needed Beatrice. She called her daughter daily but not to ask how Bea’s life was or if she was happy. She called to continue the criticism. Yet she cloaked it with a claim of need.

Suddenly Bea was tired. Too tired to face the shop, face her watercolors, face the day. Malcolm knew the look, knew the stooped shoulders and watery eyes. He needed her to get it together because of one of the customers in the shop. He looked in her eyes and silently pleaded with her to pull away from the voice that caused her pain.

“Mom, I need to go” she finally said. Quietly but firmly. Then she folded the phone without waiting for a response.

Malcolm didn’t give her a chance to cry. “Bea” he said as he took hold of her shoulders to straighten her up, “there is a man in the shop wearing a polka dot shirt under a sweater. He has on those glasses you keep telling me you like and wish I would get.”

Bea smiled a bit. She had been nagging Malcolm to replace the glasses he keeps together with a safety pin.

“Anyway he was asking about your paintings” he continued. “ Said he liked how you weren’t literal in your imagery but still conveyed something concrete.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t make sense to me but he sounded convincing.”

He hands her a business card. It was from a well-known gallery in New York City. Under the gallery imprint is a name with “Owner” printed underneath.

“He said he was pulling together a watercolor show next year. He wants to showcase ‘non-New York’ artists. I‘d say Ann Arbor is pretty ‘non-New York‘”

“Bea, this is a chance to prove your mother wrong. You can be a painter and be happy contrary to what she thinks. This is your chance to be true to who you are, not the failure your mother keeps putting you out to be.”

This was the first time one of her mother’s phone calls hadn’t reduced her to tears. While the knot was still in her throat, it didn’t seem so all-encompassing as it had in the past. Malcolm reassured her he would stay a bit longer. He pushed the door in and held it for her as she walked into the café, her hand outstretched to the man in a polka dot shirt standing to greet her.


Wait? What's going on? Is this a piece of FICTION? Yes, inspired by Jen at A2eatwrite, I joined in a writing exercize. We had to send Jen our ideas for a story, she mixed up those ideas and sent them back out to us. I got Anno's ideas and she got mine. Go see what convoluted plot twists I sent to Anno and commend her for making sense of them. Then go visit Jen for more short-stories.

Music Monday

But where is Music Monday? This week the music has spilled over to Jenn in Holland and Flower Child. Thank you ladies for keeping the tunes going while I played along with Jen.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Can't wait to tell you about this trip

But I'm actually having to do some work so the limited computer time I have needs to go towards reviewing a document.

To answer a question, no I cannot sleep on planes and we haven't left yet. Our flight back across the country leaves at 10:40 PM (groan). So another full day of snuggling a baby, hanging with family and friends and seeing sites.

Just to make sure you come back to read the travel tales I'll give you a taste. The stories will involve a troll under a highway, an elusive mountain, seeing the back of a hippo's throat and being kicked out of a restaurant bar area.

But tomorrow's post is dedicated to Jen in Michigan's first ever writing initiative. Come back to read my first foray into fiction.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


Yup. He's perfect. Big cuddly boy who coos, smiles and snuggles. His parents are terrific - comforting and calm. Nothing seems to phase them. We had a great day yesterday which I will more fully recount next week.

But really, at this moment, 5:17 AM, I am grouchy bordering on catatonic. And I have the entire day ahead of me. This is how the evening and night went.

Yesterday at 4:42 PM - walk into the restaurant.
5:00 PM - the kids look like they are going to pass out
5:12 PM - the pizza arrives. Little lady inhales two slices while one guy complains the cheese tastes yucky and just eats the crust and sauce. The other guy eats nothing.
5:45 PM - we're back in the hotel room and start doing the dance to keep little lady awake
6:45 PM - we give up and little lady is sound asleep
8:00 PM - boys are sound asleep; I follow suit soon after
10:30 PM - people are playing football in the hallway outside our room. I kid you not. I hear plays being called, running, bodies slamming into each other and walls, and laughter. I think of killing someone.
3:00 AM - one of our guys is wide awake. He lays next to me, chatting up a storm and showing me all the ways his wiggly tooth moves in his mouth.
3:30 AM - little lady is awake and coughing the lovely cough that sounds like a seal is barking in our room. I try to get her to hang out with me in the bathroom while a hot shower is running. After two minutes she bolts.
4:00 AM - little man falls back asleep. Little lady complains she is hungry. I sit (alright, lay down) on the floor with her while she eats left over pizza.
4:10 AM - little lady goes back to bed.
5:00 AM - after a Herculean effort in which she tried to go back to sleep with not one complaint, not one loud noise I offer to take her out for a walk in the hotel.
5:07 AM - we find the hotel "business center" so little lady gets to play on the PBS web site. I write this post.

Oh. My. Goodness. I've got an entire day to get through. I think I will be breaking my only-one-caffeine-beverage-per-day rule. I'll need more than that to get through today.

Maybe something like 34 quadruple shot lattes...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Little lady finally slept past 7:30 am

Too bad we're in a different time zone. Pacific to be exact. So while she slept to 7:30 this morning, it was 4:30 here.

Why did we bring the kids across the country for a long weekend?

To meet my nephew of course.

In less than an hour I will meet the most perfect baby in the world.

What makes him so?

Because he is my brother's boy.

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Once again, Wasserman is sadly funny. Haven't heard about how excessive fees are turning foreclosure proceedings into a lucrative market?

Call your congressman or woman (go to and put your zip code in the top left box to find your representative) and ask him/her to support Representative Barney Frank's bill to help families dealing with foreclosure. That's all you need to say.

And if you let me know you did it, I'll sing your praises in a later post.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

All in this together

The last song in HSM I is one of those big group numbers on the high school basketball court. The jocks, the math nerds, and the drama queens (male and female) all dance, clap and sing as the school band rocks on in the background.

As some of you know at times I cannot stand High School Musical. When my then 2-year-old daughter was dramatically walking down the stairs singing the heroine's emotive he-doesn't-love-me song I thought I had to turn in my feminist badge of honor.

But envisioning all the actors as drag queens? Now that is just hysterical.

So I didn't mention to the kids that the live stage production was coming to one of the fancier theaters in town. Then I got an email from a dear, dear friend asking if she could take the boys to a performance. Her treat.

Of course I would've paid everything and thrown in a limo ride to show my appreciation.

Over the weekend, the boys happily put on nice clothes and she even wore a skirt (something she doesn't do very often) which made for a dashing trio going into the theater.

Hours later she clearly enjoyed herself and the boys still had stars in their eyes. She gave them an afternoon of magic. She made them feel special and for that I am grateful. All kids need grown-ups to make them feel special.

We're all in this together
Once we know
That we are
We're all stars
And we see that
We're all in this together
And it shows
When we stand
Hand in hand
Make our dreams come true

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Beyond brilliant.....

I couldn't stop laughing last week during "The Word". Spit my wine out of my nose laughing.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Full mouth

Music Monday

The current favorite CD in the family van is the latest movie version of Hairspray. There is a song towards the end when the lily-white best friend of the heroine gets her groove on while singing to her new love, a black kid (remember the movie is set in the 1960's).

Towards the end of her solo in Without Love, Penny gets all deep throated and, well, white-girl soulful.

In my ivory tower
Life was just a hostess snack
But now I've tasted chocolate
And I'm never going back

(emphasis added to stress the soul coming through)

So one little man, after hearing this song 247 times since seeing the movie this summer asks from the back seat, "why is her voice so funny?"

"What do you mean?"

"It is so low."

I try to explain that she is singing in a different style than she is used to.

"Oh," he says in that I-understand-perfectly voice. "She has chocolate in her mouth."

Cough, snort, hiccup, cover mouth no-verbal-reply from the front.

Got some music stories? Favorite songs? G-flat laden memories that must sing? Join in Music Mondays. No need to play along weekly just do it when the song sings in you. Either leave me a message for a button or send me an email at amitchells AT yahoo DOT com. And if you give me some warning (e.g. email me the day before), I'll list you in my Monday post.

In fact go read Flower Child's post today!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

SOS - exposed

It's that time of the week again, Soap Opera Sunday started by Brillig and Walking Kateastrophe's. This time it is being hosted by Thalia's Child Go to their sites today to read their and other sudsy tales.

I remembered this one after my dear friend recalled it in a comment a few months ago....

We were all hiding in a friend's small, fabulous first floor apartment in the South End of the city, a.k.a the "gay section" of town. Amazing Guy and I were guests at a surprise birthday party for a grad school buddy of mine. A group of friends were taking her out to dinner then bringing her over to the apartment. We were milling about, drinking and eating while awaiting her arrival.

Then it happened.

AG had a horrible, eyes burning, throat scratching, frequent sneezing allergic reaction to the hostess' cats. And it was a bad reaction.

So bad he had to leave the apartment to find antihistamines. He got directions to the local drug store since we didn't live in that neighborhood and ran out to get some over the counter relief. And who should he blindly (due to scratchy red eyes) bang into while literally running to the store?

The birthday girl.

So he studdered, didn't make eye contact (because he couldn't see) and basically didn't explain why he was in the neighborhood. He runs off, convinced he has ruined the surprise.

Meanwhile the rest of us, in the apartment, get the signal that the birthday girl is nearby, become quiet, then yell "SURPRISE" as she enters. She claims to be genuinely surprised.

AG returns later clutching his new allergy remedy and apologizes profusely to anyone who will listen about ruining the surprise. Everyone laughs and the party continues.

About an hour later birthday girl pulls Flower Child aside and says she's worried about me. She then explains she ran into AG on the street and he was acting all secretive and funny.

"Could he be? Could he be hiding something? Or someone?"

Which caused Flower Child to burst into hysterics, march birthday girl to AG and we all had a big, huge laugh.

Although we haven't been to anymore suprise parties hosted by cat owners in the South End since.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Singular Saturday


Jenn in Holland has got a new thing going on - Singular Saturday. And anything Jenn does, I do.

Singular Saturday

Friday, November 02, 2007

Letters to new friends

Dear Friend,
Hi, my name is J. I’m twelve years old and am in the seventh grade. My favorite book and movie series is Harry Potter. What is yours?
I also love to act, sing and dance. I really like musical theater. My favorite sports are basketball and horseback riding. What do you like to do for fun?
Please write back if you can.
Your friend,

Dear Friend,
My name is W. I am 7 years old. My favorite food is pasta.
What is your favorite? I like to play tag. What do you like to do? Please write back if you can.
Your friend,

Dear Friend,
My name is J. I am 8 years old. My favorite band is Rascall Flatts. What is your favorite?
I like to play soccer. What do you like to do?
Please write back if you can.
Your friend,

Dear Friend,
Hi, my name is M. I am nine years old and I love animals.
I like to play soccer and basketball. My favorite singer is Kelly Clarkson. What’s your favorite singer? I also really like to draw.
Please write back if you can.
Your friend,

On Sunday I ran the church school. There were only 15 kids (meaning my three made up 1/5th of the children of the school). They wrote letters to new friends in Alice, South Africa. Students there do not have access to many books, either in their classrooms or their school libraries. After exchanging a few letters the children will hold a fundraiser in the spring to raise money for books.

They will make a difference. One letter and book at a time.

For more information about how to support libraries in rural South Africa, please visit Masifunde Sonke (Let's Read Together) at South Africa Partners.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

No characters

The Blog Exchange this month is a bit different. The following is my own post about why I don't (generally) buy character items for my kids. A previous blog exchange hostess of mine, Jodi, is posting her counter-argument on her blog. Go read Jodi's piece and read other point/counter points here.

Several years ago I was charging out of the elevator in a department store with the kids, trying to find whatever it is you look for in the kids’ section of department stores. We walked straight into a display of tote bags for a certain yellow sponge that lives at the bottom of the sea.

“I want that!” yells one boy.

“Me too!” yells his twin brother.

Their little sister in the stroller gurgled as she did during those baby years.

“Who is it?” I asked.

They both stared at me blankly, unable to answer this basic question.

“If you cannot tell me who the character is on the product, you cannot have it. Don’t ask again.” And so my no character rule began.

While my boys were in the neonatal ICU, we became friendly with a family with triplets. We would all go to their kids' birthday party and they would come to ours. It was in many ways our way of celebrating that our children had survived, had made it through another year.

But the triplets’ mother obsessed that each birthday had to have a character theme. Each kid was attributed to a character. Their first birthday it was all about the yellow bear so the son was the bear while one daughter was the tail-less purple thing and the other was the little pig. All the family's gifts centered around those characters. For the second birthday it was that movie about looking for a fish then the third was a tale about toys. By then the kids were asking for different, individual “themes” for their birthday but the mother wouldn’t listen.

What bothered me was that this mom had to “fit” the birthday into a theme. In other instances I listened to parents ask if a girl is a princess like a Disney character. Why can’t she (or he) just be a plain, old princess? Or why can’t a kid be a plain robot? Or even a, shudder, nameless train?

What is worse is this whole concept of a “lifestyle brand”. When did a television show become a lifestyle? I allow my kids to watch some television each day partly for the escapism, partly for the education and partly so I can have some quiet. However, on the rare times I let them watch commercial television they know how to fast forward through commercials. If they start bugging me for something in a commercial then I make them stop the television and we talk about what they like and how the company wants them to buy something. My now three year old daughter yells with perfect timing “Mommy! It is a commercial!”

The following from a co-founder of the Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood sums it up for me:

"The primary lesson [marketers are] teaching [children] is to seek happiness in
brands and commercial products," she said. "As we know, brands don't make us
happy. More ephemeral things, like relationships and job satisfaction, do."

I watched Wonder Woman as a kid. There were no bracelets, ropes or headbands for sale in the 1970’s. I either pretended to have the accessories or created ones. I read The Boxcar Children book series. I acted out the tales or made new ones with my best friend. There was no Boxcar Children wallpaper, cake designs or draperies. I vividly recall the power of my imagination and am grateful I wasn’t dependant on manufactured accessories to make my childhood ideas come to life.

I did though love Barbie dolls and my mother would never buy them for me. Every Christmas I would ask Santa for Barbie and everyone Christmas I wouldn’t get a single one. After one holiday, my mother was shocked at how sadly resigned I was that Santa didn’t care about me. Within days I received a big box in the mail full of my older cousin’s used Barbie dolls. I don’t think a package has given me more joy. I loved those dirty, unclothed, ratty haired dolls. And to this day I have a slight obsession with Barbie. Feel free ask Flower Child about it.

Which means, if one of my kids is really begging for some character toy a call may be made to a grandparent, uncle or godparent. Then the relative comes in with or mails a toy that makes my eyes roll, causes me to exclaim “How COULD they?” and I grumble that the toy is wrong.

And I hug the gift-giver on the side. Or place a grateful phone call.

Because within a week the glow from receiving the character toy is gone and I know the kid got it out of his or her system. I want my kids to remember the power of their imaginations. Not the power of the commercials.

Go read Jodi's counter point.

NaBloPoMo count - Day one done, 29 to go.