Category Archives: meme

Kits, cats, sacks, wives

Litlove writes a fantastic blog, which is ostensibly about books she has read but seems to also bleed out into gentle yet powerful musings on so many other topics.  She does not write short, pithy posts, but if you are up for a healthy dose of intelligence with your blog reading, she’s your girl.  Which is why I was honored (should there be a U in that word, as she’s English?) that she awarded me the “I love your blog” award.  The bling got lost along the way, but the rule is that I am to pass the love on to seven others, a game that reminds me of the man coming from St. Ives.  I have chosen blogs that may or may not continue the chain but that I consider gifts to you for their consistently high quality.

Yankee Fog

Full Hands

Woman on the Verge

Blogs Are Stupid

Julie Pippert: Using My Words

The Musings of a Defiant Mother

Missing in Iraq

I’m off to enjoy some quality family time this weekend.  Happy Thanksgiving to those who are celebrating.

A note to my husband and a meme

With apologies to Anne Bradstreet.


            Should you ever again find yourself gracing our temporary apartment with your presence, you will find a particular item of furniture has gone missing in the 80 hours you have worked this week.  You may also find that I have availed myself of Google’s services to determine the symptoms of a concussion, which, thankfully, the elder child does not have.  Finally, you may find that I have finally figured out a use for the miserable excuse for a balcony that overlooks scenic Colorado Avenue.

            We can move the coffee table back inside before we move out, should that ever occur.

            Love, Emily


Those of you who have been here for awhile know I rarely do memes because my answers always suck.  However, there was one over at Tales from the Reading Room that I had to do because it is to help her with research on a writing project that will be excellent.  Please head over there and answer some of her questions, whether you have a blog on which to do the meme or are just leaving comments.  It would really help her out.  Thanks!

Parenting Meme

How do you view your role as a parent? What are you there to do?

I try to set boundaries for my children.  It is my job to raise adults, not children.  I also try to make a safe space for them to be who they are, rather than living up to generic societal expectations.  For example, Zachary needs to approach things at his own pace, and I try to honor that.

In your social circle, are mothers expected to work or are they encouraged to stay home with the child?

We are expected to spend our lives struggling with the balance.  No one is happy with where she is.  The ones home miss work, the ones working want more time home.  Everyone ideally wants part-time work with a short commute and excellent childcare, not to mention good pay, excellent vacation, and an understanding boss.  Someone let me know when you get that set-up.

How do you feel about your child’s education? What’s good about it, and what do you wish could be done differently?

We are still early in this.  The most important part of his education at this age is making him love learning. In London, he had an excellent teacher who stretched the expectations most parents had of preschool.  There was a mother who removed her not-yet-four-year-old from the preschool because it wasn’t academically focused enough.  I almost wet my pants when I heard that she was leaving a fantastic teacher who understood each child’s developmental pace because she wanted him better prepared to get into a big school.  Here in the US (at least where I have lived), people seem to believe that the best way to prepare young children for big school is to encourage exploration and keep the academic expectations loose.

How do you share the childcare with your partner (if it is shared)? Do you tend towards different activities or different approaches to parenting?

He plays more.  I keep things moving forwards.  He is more conservative on certain gender stereotypes, but otherwise we really agree on things like providing structure, discipline, and affection.

What are the most important virtues to instill in a child?


What’s the relationship like between mothers at the park and the school gate? Would someone you didn’t know help you out in a stressful moment?

SO MUCH BETTER HERE!  The mothers at our London school were WAY cliquey.  And they saw every overture as my attempt o crash their club.  Here, mothers chat all the time at drop-off and pick-up.  We offer to watch each other’s kids.  We try to find ways to help each other.  Now, it may only be surface niceness, but it is a welcome change.

What do you fear most for your child?

Abduction.  That and of course Benjamin running into traffic.

How do you discipline your child and what are the errors you would put most effort into correcting?

Safety comes first.  Then violence (such as hitting, shoving, and biting).  Then things like whining, tantrums, and rudeness.

Zachary responds well to simply being told to behave, although we also use time-outs.  Benjamin responds to nothing, but we still use time-outs.  Today I strapped him into his car seat in the beach parking lot while I got his brother dressed because he refused to stay in one spot.

Do you think the life of a child has changed much since you were young?

Yes.  But then I sure hope my kids have a different childhood than I did.

What’s the best compliment your child could pay you for your parenting skills?

That despite the yelling (TOO MUCH), they feel safe and loved. 

Takin’ care of business

            I am faced with a dilemma: I cannot read all of the posts that pop up in my Google Reader unless I:

            A) Stop changing Benjamin’s diapers

            B) Never, ever leave a comment

            C) Cut out about half the blogs in my Reader

            D) Stop conversing with my husband.

None of these options appeal to me.  And, so, the obvious answer is to not read everything that pops up.  Here is the only way I can think of to keep blogging and keep a real life:

            As it is, I do not post or read posts on the weekends.  But, clearly I am a minority with this restriction, because I find myself spending Monday and Tuesday frantically trying to catch up.  So, from now on, each Monday morning, when I power up the computer and log into Google Reader to find 217 posts waiting for me, I will simply hit the “Mark All As Read” button. This option clearly sucks, but Benjamin would get some nasty diaper rash if I went with option A.

            That said, I don’t want to miss the important stuff, so if you post anything earth-shattering between, say, Friday afternoons and Monday mornings, do me a favor and leave me a note in my comments so I can pop on over.  I’d hate to miss out if one of you posted that you had found cure for cancer.  Starting this past weekend, please.

            Thanks, folks.

            Jennifer, at Thursday Drive, gave me this lovely award:



(E is also for Emily, in case you were wondering.)  Jennifer truly deserves it, and she has recently begun a series of posts that promises to be riveting.  I suggest you bookmark her immediately.  You all gave me so much encouragement in a similar project, and I know she would love to have your support.

            I would like to pass it on to two amazing blogs I have recently discovered, blogs that require time for quiet reflection. Tales from the Reading Roomis written by an insightful and eloquent bibliophile.  Although I know many of you do not like fiction in blogs, Very Short Novels is worth an exception for the muscular yet nuanced voice (plus, all the posts are under 299 words).  Please visit these blogs, as they are truly excellent.

Because it wouldn’t be a post without something about at least one of my kids.  This weekend, Zachary said to me: “I heard you, Mommy.  Sometimes I can’t hear you because I am just too busy playing with my brother.”

Bossing his brother around, I think he meant to say.

            In my infinite wisdom, I have planned a baby shower for a friend four days before we move.  Fortunately, it is a very low-maintenance baby-shower, and pretty much everything is taken care of, as we will be going to an afternoon tea.  However, the guest of honor has agreed to do a few baby shower games, and I am not all that familiar with such activities.  This is the part where I ask you for suggestions — any favorite games?

               Because this is a rather lovely woman, I would prefer to stick to games that have a certain level of dignity.  In other words, we will NOT be measuring her belly or guessing the contents of a poopy diaper.  But, I would love suggestions of interesting activities to allow about 9 women to interact around an afternoon tea.  Lighthearted games are great; embarrassing ones are probably a bad idea.

                Oh, and L — don’t read the comments, or you’ll ruin the surprise.

Energy crisis (part two)

Second part of a two-part post.

What would I miss most in a world with rationed energy supplies?

            It is easy to forget how much we rely upon cheap fuel.  I am not just talking about filling the gas tank or heating one’s home.  Everything we buy must travel.  Ideally, it does not travel 1/3 of the way around the globe, but it travels.  I may get my milk from a local dairy, but since there are no cows in SW London, it stands to reason that someone did have to do some transporting.  The books I read, the clothes I wear, the food I eat, the medicines we take, and the water we drink all need to travel.  Not only that, but it takes energy to produce all of these things.

            I fear a world in which I could not get what I think of as basic necessities because there is not enough oil to transport them.  A world in which heat waves kill hundreds and cold snaps kill thousands because there is not enough energy to go around.  A world in which I cannot feed my children fruits and vegetables unless I have a back yard and can grow them myself.

            I would not miss driving.  Honestly, I really dislike driving.  I am happy to walk everywhere possible, but not everywhere is possible, so I suppose I would miss the ease with which I can now see people on the other side of the city or the other side of the country.  Mostly, however, I would miss feeling like my children have a chance to grow up in a world where they have everything they need.

 What can I do to help?

            “This environmental obsession of yours is sure saving us money,” J told me last week.  That is not really true.  Yes, I buy much less than I used to.  If I no longer like something but it is functional, I keep using it.  We no longer buy paper towels since we switched to rags, we buy fewer tissues since I transitioned to handkerchiefs, and I will not buy new Tupperwares just because the old ones are discolored and grey (although I think I will be looking for a non-plastic option).

            We buy less partly because the landfills are overflowing, partly because manufacturing goods spews crap out into our air and our water, and partly because of the energy required to produce new goods and then get them to our house.  Theoretically, we ought to be saving a bundle.  If only I weren’t pouring the savings into the things we still do buy – when we need new clothing because the kids keep eating or mine is in tatters, I try to buy ethical clothing.  This is only so feasible.  Why is it I can find loads of fair trade, organic shirts but no trousers?  I feel like a hypocrite as Zachary wears his “Little Green Radical” shirt (pink, of course) with whatever jeans we can find that actually fit his little behind.  And, please, if someone has found an ethical bra, let me know.  This is off the topic, however, as the question is about energy, not pesticides or child labor, and one of the best ways to reduce energy usage is to buy used items locally. 

              I would buy used if used-clothing stores didn’t stress me out so much because I hate shopping and they require patience to sift through things.  Seriously, I would rather buy nothing, which is what I usually do, than have to spend hours in a store trying to find a pair of jeans.  I think I am going to have to start shopping used for environmental reasons, but I am going to need to bring my inhaler with me.  Used is about the only way our shopping habits have become less expensive.  On the whole, we are buying fewer things and paying more for them.

We pay more for a milkman and our produce is organic and locally grown but more expensive.  We are using disposable diapers with Ben (a subject for another post), but we are using the pricey, environmentally friendly, not-made-with-a-tub-of oil kind that I have to walk a mile to buy.  We are pretty much spending exactly what we used to, in purely financial terms.  But, we are also spending much less energy, getting a few things we need rather than unnecessary things we want.

            I struggle in a few areas.  We still buy toys now and then, but I try to insist upon quality toys that will last through the children.  And then there are the books.  It is an addiction.  When we move, I need to start using the library more (the one here is awful) because too much energy is going into bringing books to my door.  Yet, I cannot imagine breaking the book-buying habit.  Who would support all those authors?

            We walk a lot.  Part of that is personal preference, but part is an understanding that we do not need to drive everywhere.  I suspect moving to LA will be very, very hard.  Did I mention that I like to walk, not drive?  All we can do is try to cluster all our services in one area and then try to live in that area.  J will still need to travel for work, and there is not much we can do about that.  But the rest of the family can limit our fuel intake.

            “This house is so cold,” my husband complains.  So, wear a sweater.  ‘Nuf said.

            There is no doubt in my mind that we will continue to use energy.  It is almost impossible not to.  But, now, when I think about cost, I do not just think in terms of money.  How much does something cost means how much pollution did it create, how many children worked in a sweatshop to make it, how much packaging does it come with, and how much energy did it take to bring it to my door.  Chances are, if it is a 99¢ tchotchke from Target that will end up in the landfill, it costs way too much. 

Although we did buy Zachary a big pink ring.  Story for another day.


I am not tagging anyone, because that would be absurd, given how many memes I have not responded to.  However, please feel free to take this and run with it.

If only it were that simple…

Zachary: Mommy, why do you work after you put us in bed?

Me: Because I have a lot of work to do honey, but I want to be with you when you are awake.

Zachary: You should go to bed if you are really tired.

            Julie, who ever so eloquently uses her words, awarded me this:


Now, technically, I have gotten this before, but, dude, I’ll take anything Julie wants to give me.  The award originates here, and recipients are to go over and register themselves.

            I worry sometimes about these awards.  Clearly, I think quite a few people are a daily dose, or I wouldn’t be reading their blogs.  Yet, if I listed 58 names here, no one would click, which would defeat the purpose.  You see, what I like about getting these awards is they give me a chance to pass them along to other people, so that maybe someone who has not discovered a great blog will head on over. 

            What I do not like about these awards is that it may give the impression that, because I have not named your blog, I am excluding you or I have some people I like better than others.  This is not the case, I promise.  I love to hear from new people, so everyone should always feel free to leave comments.  And, there are many, many blogs I like that I do not have a chance to recognize.  Please do not feel I am trying to be cliquey or exclusionary; I have found the people here in the blogosphere to be anything but.

            I am passing this award on to a few of the blogs I read, and I chose these particular ones because of specific things they have recently done:

                      Sober Briquette — Because her comments always hit the mark

                      One Plus Two — Because her posts make me want to be better

                      Woman on the Verge — Because any woman who mentions Habermas in a post on Valentine’s Day…

                      Milk Breath and Margaritas — because I jump for excitement when I see she has a new post up in her series on work/family balance

           I have three postcards from the British Museum and one from Hampton Court Palace to the first commenters who ask for them.

Color me grateful

            It has been kind of rough around these parts with Zachary lately.  He was practicing Delightfulness for months, and we were starting to think we could get used to having a three-year-old around.  But, because we have big mouths and could not stop ourselves, we started talking about the move in front of him, and now he is a big ball of anxiety.  Now, no matter how much I explain that we will not move for awhile and he will have friends in his new school, he ain’t buying.

            Sometimes, he voices his concerns directly.  “I don’t want to move.  I want to be here for Halloween so I can go trick-or-treating with Caspar.”  Or, shockingly, “I don’t want to leave Timmy.”  (Dude, I have no problem leaving Timmy.)  I cuddle him and explain we will all be there with him.  I read him The Berenstain Bears’ Moving Day constantly.  I know how to deal with direct concerns.

            Most of the time, however, Zach uses a time-tested technique to express his discontent.  He whines.  Sometimes, he screams and cries.

            Now, I know I am lucky to have a three-year-old who can and will ever tell me the exact source of his feelings.  I know that obnoxiousness is par for the course with an anxious pre-schooler.  I just wish he weren’t so darned good at it.

            So it was that one morning last week, waking up to find his father still traveling and me still working and the world not spinning at exactly the speed he would like, Zach was in a fragile mood.  As I took him to the bathroom, before getting Benjamin out of his crib, I found myself already saying to Zach, “If you are too tired not to whine, I will put you back into bed.”  He stopped and we went back into the boys’ bedroom.  And I opened the blinds.  Zach likes to help open the blinds.  And I callously opened them on my own because, contrary to popular opinion, I am imperfect and sometimes I cannot keep the entire script of the World According to Zachary in my head.

            Zach let out a moanscream and started with the hysteria, screamcrying and running over in protest.  I picked him up, dropped him back onto his bed, lifted Ben out of his crib, and left, shutting the door behind me.  I changed Ben’s diaper and took him down to breakfast.  Three minutes later, I heard a whimpering at the top of the stairs.  “Mommy?  I am ready.”  A slightly shaken but otherwise composed three-year-old joined us at the table.

            What is my point in all of this, other than that only morons talk about a move more than three weeks beforehand to a small child?  My point, and it is a significant one, is that nine months ago I would have yelled at him.  Or, I would have let him get his way without first composing himself.  Or, I would have fumed on about it for twenty minutes.

            Whatever I would have done, I would definitely have spent the entire day feeling like my childhood had predisposed me to be an inadequate mother.  I would have been sure that most of the problem had been manufactured by me.  My insecurity would have fueled me to either be too stern or too lax as the day wore on.  By nighttime, Zach would have been confused, I would have been frustrated, and we both would have been exhausted.

            But, for the last nine months, I have been writing.  Writing here.  And you have been responding, telling me that sometimes even parents who had lovely childhoods get frustrated.  You have been reassuring me that much of what I feel has nothing to do with twenty-five years ago and everything to do with twenty-five seconds ago.  You have helped me regain confidence as a wife, a writer, a mother, and a person.

            So, when Amy awarded me this…


…I was floored.  The fact is, I feel like I give so much less than I take here in the blogosphere.  I am grateful to each and every one of you for the hand you have held out to me as I have walked these miles.  And, so, while I pass it on to a few of you, please know that each and every one of you deserves it more than I could possibly find words to say.  Without further ado, six people who have left poignant comments, sent supportive emails, and basically been there every freaking step of the way:

Bub and Pie


Painted Maypole


Lawyer Mama


Honestly, it was almost impossible to break it down to this group, but I know if I list too many, no one will click over.  I hope that some of you will click over to the blogs of these amazing women and become friends with them, because they have so very much to offer.

            Thank you all.

Because I know you really want to know

            Since I know you are all waiting with bated breath to learn the results of our preschool search, I bring you the following PSA.  J has been on the ground in LA for a week now, and he has ferreted out a preschool.  Actually, I ferreted several out and lined up appointments for him, neatly spaced in one-and-a-half-hour slots with an extra half-hour for lunch.  There were a few that had spaces available, and after careful consideration, we have chosen one and we have put down a deposit.

            It is a synagogue preschool, which means no more Christmas plays or Easter hat parades, although I have a sneaking suspicion I will be attending a Purim carnival or two.  That suits me just fine; if the kids are going to be learning about a religion, I vote for it to be ours. 

            The director impressed us with her concern for children’s developmental level and her understanding that children do not all fit a single mold.  Zachary will start the week we move.  Twice a week, Benjamin will be in a transitional class, which means I need to be there, too, even though I am pretty sure he won’t notice my presence if there are toys and other children around.

So, you can all rest easy tonight, knowing all we have left to sort out is housing, transportation, and sunscreen.

            Every now and then, I get tagged for memes.  I want to comply, really I do.  I am a rule-follower by nature.  But, I never seem to like the posts I put together out of memes.  So, if you have tagged me and I have not come through, please do not curse me with seven-years bad luck and please forgive me.

            I do, however, make a point to acknowledge all the kindness I am shown here on the internet.  Sheila, over at My Memories, has given me this lovely piece of bling:


It is really a wonderful award because it goes out to “the blogs that you’ve discovered that you can’t possibly live without. They make you laugh, cry, think and feel connected every time you read a post. They give you a thrill as you see them loading into your browser and you get an equally satisfying thrill when you see that they have commented on your blog.”  It originates over here, and recipients are to go and link to those they are giving the award to.  Thank you so very much, Sheila, for passing on an award you so richly deserved.

            Now, for the fun part.  I decided I had to limit it to two blogs, but I read about 100.  It was tough going, but I chose two blogs to which I really am addicted, to the point that I shove all other posts out of the way when I see them come up in my Google Reader:

            Flutter, because you are honest and raw but still snarky;

            And Becky, at Mommy Wants Vodka, because I think I have a crush on your snarkiness.

            Does anybody notice a trend, here?

            You may notice that, now and again, I get these awards, but I never pass them along to Julie.  This is odd, you may think, as I clearly read her blog every day and engage with it on a rather intense level, not to mention my joy every time I get one of her very thoughtful comments.  The problem is, none of these awards ever seen to sum up the way I feel about Julie’s blog.  I could invent one of my own, but we all know how technologically adept I am.  So, to Julie I award the first (and perhaps only) “People who say you are thinking too much are clearly not thinking enough” award.  And, Julie?  If you can figure out a way to fit that on a button, please feel free to pass it along.

             That’s it. Back tomorrow with weight and substance and all the good, dark stuff you have come to dread expect at this here blog.

Various and sundry


You are seated at breakfast.  The entrée is pancakes.  You may choose either:

A)    A warm, fresh, intact pancake straight off the griddle, with a side of syrup

B)     The outer circumference of a cold, leftover pancake, all that is left after someone else has eaten out the center portion.

Which do you choose?  Your choice, in our house at least, is largely dependent upon whether you are an older or a younger sibling.


The funny, thoughtful, and apparently genius-level Magpie has awarded me this lovely bling:


My cup runneth over.  There are a lot of people to whom I’d like to pass it along, but I have to choose one, so I will send it along to Ally, who I wish would post more often because her posts are always well-written and socially aware.  She always manages to retain her humility while also advising her readers on how to better the world.  That takes a great deal of skillful writing.


Thanks to Google Reader (sorry, Snos), I am now reading a wider range of blogs more efficiently.  This is good, as one of the things I love about blogging is the communication between diverse groups of people.  There is a sense of community in knowing you read me and I read you.  I do think there are lots of you out there reading me without leaving a calling card.  That’s totally cool; no one should be pressured to comment.  However, if you are a regular reader who never or rarely comments, I hope you do comment in the next few days and leave me a link to your blog.  I’d like to check you out because – for me at least – reading each other is part of what blogging is all about.

This attitude, however, has gotten me into a bit of a pickle.  I always comment the first few times I read a blog because I want you to know I am there and paying attention to your words.  Then, I feel like I need to keep commenting so you won’t think I have disappeared.  This would be fine if it weren’t for things like load times and the kids wanting to see their mother now and then.  I find my self reading less attentively because I feel the pressure of wanting to form a comment.

Now that I am reading more blogs, I am going to need to cut back somewhat on my commenting.  If I have been a regular reader of your blog, rest assured I am still reading everything, and probably in a more timely and thoughtful manner than I have in the past.  I am there, I am reading, and I am interested.  But, I may not be commenting as often. 

That’s probably for the best, because how many of my snarky comments do you really want to read in a week?


Thank you for the kind comments on my new banner.  That is Benjamin’s mouth up there.  It was taken a month ago, but he still has only six teeth.  For the uninitiated, let me explain.  He had no teeth till he was 11 months old.  Then, he got four teeth in one month.  Since his first birthday, he has cut two more teeth.  This leaves him 16 months old with very little to aid his continual quest for more calories and more varieties of flavor. 

Kidney beans, pea pods, salmon, hamburger, broccoli, apples, carrot sticks, cheese wheels, dal, pad thai – yep, he can manage those.  It is harder to eat beef satay with six teeth, and this morning I had to tell him that walnuts were probably out of the realm of possibility.

Come on, baby, just imagine what you could do with a couple of mashers.


I’ve given in to the temptation.  I’ve been here.  But, I have put a cap on it.  Three wrong answers and I have to stop for the day.  Otherwise, I’ll spend all day at it.

A sign you might care too much about grammar

The other day, three-year-old Zachary said to me: “My Taggie needs to be picked up.”

It was all I could do to restrain myself from including the words “passive voice” in my response.


Slouching Mom (a woman I really wish lived next door to me) gave me this:

Isn’t it cute?  Here are the rules on this one:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to five blogs that make you think;
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme;
3. (Optional) Proudly display the “Thinking Blogger Award” with a link to the post that you wrote.

I pass this along to

Stephanie, who is a thoughtful thinker (yes, I just modified a noun with its adjectival form)

Melody, because those photographs show such depth of thought

Kevin, with whom I do not always agree, but whose dialogue is always thought-provoking

Liz, who wrote an incredibly intelligent comment on yesterday’s post that inspired me to check out her fantastic blog

and Catherine, who probably thinks too much.

Now, if I can figure out how, I’ll work on displaying the bling.  Stay tuned for tomorrow, when I demonstrate that I might also care a bit too much about word choice…

Guest post – Getting to know Chris


I will be posting some more on my teen years later this week.  In preparation, however, here’s something from someone who knew me in those days.


One person who asked to be interviewed actually does not have a blog.  He is a high school friend of mine with whom I recently got back in touch.  I decided to guest-host his interview responses because he is a truly fascinating guy and I thought you all might like to get to know him.  However, his answers were SO long I’ve had to simply eliminate the answer to #2, which asked how many blogs he reads.  He reads 160 regularly.  This is possible because he has a superhuman reading rate.  He is incredibly intelligent — probably a genius — which is why I thought his answers might provide insight into the kind of mind most of us just don’t have, bright though we may be.  So, I present you with “Getting to Know Chris.”

 1) In high school, you sat in a math class with 25 other completely baffled students.  Yet, you seemed to get calculus with little effort.  OK, I’m being kind — as far as I could tell, you got it with no effort at all.  Most of us have no idea how that feels.  Did you realize at the time that you had an extraordinary talent?  How did it make you view yourself?  What did you think of the rest of us who could not figure out the work no matter how hard we tried?  

While I knew that I had a higher degree of ability in math, to be honest I was humbled in that class.  When NS (the 8th grader) came into the class and regularly scored in the same range as I did I was quite surprised.  My parents didn’t allow me to skip from 2nd to 6th grade when it was suggested, for which I am eternally grateful so I’ll never know if I would have been able to handle moderately advanced math at such a young age.  I already knew that I have a very high IQ so that particular class didn’t really have a huge impact on the way I view myself.  I try to surround myself with people who are interesting, which didn’t always correspond with intelligence. I often come off as arrogant, but I really make a concerted effort not to assume that the people around me have less worth than I, just because I have a high IQ.  As for the way I viewed other people who were struggling,  I was generally understanding.  Some things come easily to some and other things easily to others.  I was and still am not the most creative person on the planet.  I actually try pretty hard to surround myself with creative people when I can.  That’s one of the things I really admire about my wife.  She’s super intelligent and creative.  I found calculus to be pretty easy, but I never really found it surprising that other people might not.  I still can’t draw a decent stick figure, I’ve got zero musical ability and I’m not exactly William Shakespeare.   As such I just assumed and still do that people who have difficulty with math are probably a lot better than I am at other things.

3) If you were to have a child, what is one thing from your life that you would hope he would do differently than you did?

Oh, now here is a very, very tough question.  Right now I can honestly say that I’m a pretty happy guy.  My choices have led me here.  There is a theory that states that every single possibility of every single moment is played out in a parallel universe.  This means that in some alternate reality, I fell in love with the bitchiest woman in our high school* and am trapped in a miserable marriage with a person I can’t stand.  In another, I’m running for the Senate in 2008 as a Republican!  Would either of those fates have come to pass had I made the decision I’ll discuss here?  Well, I doubt that I’m a Republican anywhere but you never really know!


*Editor’s note: Was that me?

Stop ducking the question Chris.  OK.  So, what would I hope my child would do differently?I would hope that my child would place more value on the education that they are receiving.  It sounds trite and arrogant, but the fact is that I failed badly in high school.  There are reasons behind that failure but it ultimately falls on me.  I was bored and I responded poorly to that.  I expected to be bored in college (and the truth is that the required course bored the hell out of me) and when I wasn’t bored and in the cases when the course work was challenging I found that I had failed myself.  I never learned to properly apply myself in an academic manner.  By the time I realized just how poor a student I really was, I had blown it.  I should have been a scientist or a psychologist.  My particular personality and mindset would have been great in those arenas.  I didn’t learn to discipline myself appropriately until well after college and when all is said and done, I don’t really have the job satisfaction that I could easily have had. I’m not saying I wish that I had studied 8 hours a day from 3pm to 11pm or that I had been first in my class, I think balance is necessary, but I would hope that my child would learn some of those vital skills in order to have more choices and doors opened when the time came.  I really don’t know how I’ll instill that knowledge because even in High School, I knew that I was making bad decisions, but I was too arrogant to believe that I couldn’t overcome those choices later.

4) What is one thing from your life that you would hope he would do the same?

Easiest question of them all.  Care about other people.  I have always cared about the feelings and situation of other people.  When some jackass would torture a kid in grade school I befriended that kid.  When someone came out as gay in a time when that was just obscenely hard to do, I stood by that person.  When a friend ran out of a classroom in tears and other kids laughed about it, I went after her to comfort her.**  When someone told me about a hidden abuse I encouraged that person to seek professional help.  This is the one thing about myself that I’m really proud of.

** Editor’s note: That MUST be me.

5) Tell us about your grandparents.

We’ll start with my maternal grandparents. My grampy, Matthew, was quiet, reserved, intelligent.  He and I played cribbage.  For hours on end.  We worked in his garden, we fixed things in his workshop in the basement.  He was a World War II veteran, a corporal in the U.S. Army and had a bullet in his leg. You could actually see it under the skin and he’d move it around on occasion. You may ask why he never had it removed?  He accidentally tripped over his own rifle and shot himself.  He went to the doctor, got himself patched up and never told the guy it was actually a bullet wound.  He was the son of Polish immigrants.  He had 3 daughters and a dog named Happy.  He used to jokingly confuse the names of his grand-children, always confusing the boys with the girls.  He also wasn’t the greatest of people. He loathed my father, he institutionalized his wife on a few occasions, basically because she was a bit depressed as a housewife.  This was at a time when mental institutions in the country were not pleasant places.  I  loved him quite a bit and he clearly loved me back.  I spent at least 2 weekends a month at my grandparents’ house growing up and have fond memories of him.  He died when I was about 12 of a heart attack.

My Nana.  My Nana is alive and in her early 90’s now.  She and I played scrabble.  All the time.  I credit a lot of my good vocabulary to playing scrabble from the age of 5 onwards with my Nana.  She read to me, and sang to me and played the piano for me when I spent time with them.  She always had Popsicles and ice-cream in her freezer for me.  We watched Alfred Hitchcock movies together and played gin rummy. She’s a sweet little old lady with a major flaw.  She’s become a self-described “Conservative Christian” in her old age.  Her favorite Presidents are John F. Kennedy and George W. Bush.  She listens to Rush Limbaugh, her favorite Senator was Rick Santorum.  She loves Bill O’Reilly.  We try to avoid discussing politics because I refuse to hold any punches just because she’s old.  She should know better than to support those assholes just because they call themselves “Christians.”  She’s a complete obsessive compulsive when it comes to her home.  It is the cleanest home you will ever set foot in.  Her basement is cleaner than your average hospital.  She loves my Angela as much as she loves me.  When I told her I had asked Angela to marry me she said “It’s about time!”  We love her and know that she won’t be with us for much longer.  One of my fondest memories is how she would tuck me in at night when I stayed with her.  She’d come into the room and tuck me in TIGHT.  she’d make sure the sheets and blanket were tucked under the top mattress and I grew to really like being cozy and warm in a tucked in bed.  My wife likes the bed messy.  I love my wife.  I have a messy bed.

On to my paternal grandparents.My Grammie.  Oh man.  Let’s get this out right up front.  The woman is a mean-spirited, self-centered, self-righteous, nasty bitch.  Yep.  I just said that about my grandmother.  Do I love her? Yes.  But I don’t have a lot of nice things to say about her.  She drove my grandfather to drink (and no he didn’t respond well when drunk, see below).  Her kids can’t stand her and try desperately to avoid her.  She actually pits her grandchildren against each other.  Quite literally she will rub one grandchild’s success into the nose of another and try to foster competition and dislike between them.  It’s ugly.  She claims to be a devout catholic and spends a massive amount of time in church.  However, she only does this so she can tell you what a good Christian she is and how awful everyone else is because they don’t go to church as often.  She has never, to my knowledge or that of any of her children ever even opened a Bible, much less understood any of the messages in it.  She squandered away every penny my grandfather ever earned on useless junk for herself.  She has ruined the life of her youngest child to a degree that absolutely breaks my heart because he had so much potential.  She regularly accuses my mother of being an awful parent.  Most of my memory of her from when I was a child is of her berating one or another of her children for being completely worthless.  She’s bigoted against blacks, Asians, Hispanics, homosexuals, non-Catholics and pretty much everybody else.  She thinks AIDS is God’s punishment.  Her entire family is ashamed of her and frankly so am I.  That’s an awful lot of negativity right there.  What can I say that is nice and positive about her?  She tells us that she loves us quite a lot.  I appreciate that.  She appears to take joy in the successes her children and grandchildren have even if she makes sure to turn it into a dig on you when she talks about it. That’s pretty much it.  We all avoid her when we can.

My Grandpa.  This man was a character.  He’s actually quite hard to describe because if you didn’t know him you wouldn’t really believe the stories about him.  Let’s start with the negatives.  He was a drunk.  Not an alcoholic, a drunk.  He’d drink a 5th of jack daniels like it was water and he’d get mean.  He never hit any of his kids or his wife but he’d pull out a rifle and threaten her with that.  He didn’t keep bullets in the house, but I can’t imagine how terrifying that would be all the same.  He was poor, he was incredibly intelligent and he was strong as an ox.  And I mean that literally. When the man was 70, he had the strongest handshake of anyone I’d ever met.  Not that he crushed your hand or anything but the grip was just solid and you knew that if he wanted to, he could break bones in your hand.  He was fiercely protective of his kids and his grandchildren. He was also a World War II veteran, a torpedo operator on a destroyer.  He personally sank a japanese submarine.  He had terrible PTSD.  He was one of the most complex people I have ever known and I was his favorite grandchild.  I know for a fact he would have done anything for me.  And I mean that quite literally, there isn’t an iota of doubt in my mind about it.  If he thought someone was a real threat or danger to me I *know* that he wouldn’t have hesitated to remove that threat in whatever way he deemed necessary.  I could tell a hundred stories about the man and it still wouldn’t really tell you who he was.  I almost think of him in mythological terms.  The man smoked 4 packs of unfiltered camels a day and was never, ever sick until he was diagnosed with cancer at 75 and was dead within months.  The day before he died he asked my uncle to sneak him out of the hospital because he “felt fine.”  He used to practice archery in his apartment.  My father went to visit one day, knocked on the door, my grandfather told him to come in and the next thing my father knew there was an arrow in the wall less than a foot from his head.  My grandfather was sober at the time and just kept practicing because he knew he wasn’t going to hit my father.  My father nearly passed out from fear but hey, that was grandpa.  And this wasn’t really a particularly surprising story about him.  He was friends with all of the local Hell’s Angels.  They LOVED him.  They came to him for advice because he was always honest about what he said.  I know Emily will have to edit and trim this rambling section, but the fact is that my Grandpa had a huge impact on the person I am today because he was such a truly big personality.  When he was in the room, everyone knew it and they expected him to determine the course of the day/evening/whatever.  He raised his four sons to be caring, respectful men who are all fiercely loyal like he is.  His wife screwed that up pretty badly though for the youngest one after he was gone. The last time I saw him before he got sick was about 6 months before he died.  He’d been fighting with the Navy for years about his pension and my father and I took turns going to the courthouse with him.  We were walking along a road in Boston and there was an attractive woman ahead of us wearing silk pants that were a little loose but still showed off her rear end.  As she walked you could see the cheeks of her buttocks swing out to the side, swing back inwards, impact and repeat.  I noticed it right away because I was and am a dirty little man.  My grandfather ducked his head down to me (he was about 6’2″, I’m 5’10”) and said in my ear, not so quietly that I could be sure she didn’t hear it, “Will you look at her? She’s got an ass like a cement mixer.”



Usually, the interviewer askes for anyone who wants questions to write it in the comments.  Chris, are you taking interview requests, even though you don’t have a blog?  And, does anyone want to ask Chris anything?