Saturday, January 31, 2009


It's kind of a shock to the system to think that anyone other than my mom might notice that I took a small blogging hiatus this week. As much effort as I put into this site on a regular basis, it's still hard to wrap my head around the fact that spending my very limited spare time on Facebook for a few days to reconnect with old friends instead of writing would register with anyone.

But to the anonymous commenter on the last post, I'm flattered. Thank you. I Girl Scout promise to put more effort into my first major online love -- blogging. (Although, I technically only actually made it though Brownies, but I still sold cookies, so that has to count for something.)

I suppose the other option would be to go all Soup Nazi on your asses, but that's just not my style.

Right now, however, it is nearing 2:30 a.m., and I'm surprised I'm coherent enough to type considering how early I have to get up. Jerry and I both had a lot of added responsibilities at work this week, leaving us extra tired and frazzled. My paper is launching a major redesign on Monday, and I volunteered to make the conversion possible for my department -- creating templates, updating style sheets and libraries -- otherwise known as VERY DETAILED TEDIOUS HEADACHE-INDUCING WORK THAT I INEXPLICABLY GET OFF ON.

If only the Girl Scouts had a patch for QuarkXpress minutia. Maybe I would've graduated to the green uniform and sash.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Trip to Target with my co-worker Amanda

After I got in the car from scraping off the snow, making faces when I cleared her portion of the front and side windows:
"Why do I get the feeling you do that with Allison?"

When I told her the reason for my needing to go -- returning two sets of invitations that only had nine each instead of the 10 promised on the package:
"You DO have your receipt right? Because they probably have a picture of you behind the counter that says 'BEWARE OF THIS WOMAN' after that last incident."

On our way out, one of the competing local news stations tried to interview us for a segment on the digital TV conversion:
"We totally should've done it. Then, at the end, screamed 'BUY THE PAPER! THE PAPER ROCKS! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!'" (complete with extended tongues and devil horns -- much like you'd see on a spring break video after too much tequila)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Totally just spent my time for blogging on Facebook. I'm sure the new car smell will wear off soon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

One dad was wearing a 'Watch Midget Porn' T-shirt

On Sunday, we went to our friends' daughter's birthday party at Funtown Action Zone. I can't ever remember the actual business name, so I keep making something up when I refer to it: Happy Fun Land, Playtown Crazy Mart, The Place Where Ears Bleed.

It was our first time taking Alli to anything even remotely close to that, so of course I was that crazy mom who took a ridiculous amount of photos.

At one point, Jerry said, "You'd think it was OUR daughter's birthday."

Might as well have been. She had THAT MUCH FUN.

We spent the majority of our time in the toddler play area.
It was somewhat buffered from the 10,000 other screaming children
running, climbing, catapulting and sacrificing their younger siblings.

I was impressed how well she could climb. But once she figured out the
concept of the slide, that was enough motivation to get back back to the top.

And if she thought the little one was fun, I should've been prepared
for the squeal she emitted while careening down the big one. But
getting to it was no easy feat. I had to climb ropes, crawl through
tunnels and try to move my adult-sized butt for the impatient children
trying to get around it. It was like the nightmare of grade school
and my physical ineptitudes on the playground all over again.

Jerry right before he attempted to make it to the big slide himself:
THIS AGAIN!" But he can't fool me. That there is a smile.

Jerry's photo contribution -- father of the birthday girl, Roger.
Thank you, Jer. What would our digital files be like without you?

"Look, Ma! No hands!"

And what Action Playtime Warehouse birthday experience would be
complete without pizza? As in, pizza smeared on clothes and hair
from little fingers. To be more specific, on MY clothes and hair.

That's right, you're jealous of my rockin' Dora sticker.

Despite this smiling photo, the ball pit was every bit as traumatizing as
I remember it being in my childhood. But we really did have a great time.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Newspaper column

As I watched the live coverage of Inauguration Day on TV, my attention was often interrupted by the toddler at my feet, handing me the contents of her mini ball pit, one by one.

At times, I had to walk away completely to prevent her from scattering a stack of magazines on the floor, putting something in her mouth she shouldn't have or break her grasp on our dog's ears. We even had to pause for a snack and a trip upstairs to find her favorite book.

But despite all of the distractions taking me away from such an enormous historic event, I couldn't help but welcome the reason for it.

My daughter might just grow up thinking that having a black president isn't extraordinary. That skin color doesn’t make you different or lessen your abilities or aptitude. And it certainly isn't a limitation.

Just a few generations ago, it was not only impossible, but something most thought they'd never see in their lifetime.

Years from now, when my daughter is old enough to grasp the significance of Barack Obama's presidency, I wonder what I'll be able to share with her.

I won't have a T-shirt or a button or a commemorative plate. I probably won't save the Newsweek with his likeness on the cover that is sitting on our kitchen table. And I didn't make the trek to Washington to witness it firsthand like millions of others.

But I will be able to tell her that, in many ways, Obama's swearing-in ceremony transcended political differences and party lines.

I'll tell her that regardless of which candidate people voted for, whether they identified with liberal or conservative ideals, or agreed with his policies or not, that moment was something all Americans could be proud of.

I’ll tell her that people celebrated around the globe. That it put a symbolic end to the bigotry that plagued our nation for years. That it was an example for other countries at war over religious differences and hate. A reason to believe that someday, even genocide could come to an end.

I'll tell her that there were so many flags waving in the National Mall that from a distance it looked like the ground was sparkling. That there were faces of all ages and races in the crowd, but they all wore the same expression of hope.

I'll tell her it was the largest inaugural gathering in history and police didn't make one arrest -- a true testament to the man who brought them together.

I'll tell her how he led by example to focus not on what makes us different, but on our common goals. How in the midst of economic calamity and hardship, he tried to inspire the nation to roll up our sleeves and get to work to ensure that she wouldn't have to set her sights lower than I did.

I’ll tell her how proud I felt to be alive to witness such a historic event. That even I wasn’t sure I would get to be a part of something that shattered so many invisible barriers at once.

I'll also be able to tell her that she was there. How I held her in my arms as I tried to absorb the moment.

And that with hard work, determination and the right attitude, she really can grow up to be anything she wants to be.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Facebook is not a face, nor a book ... discuss

I've fallen victim to the final online frontier -- Facebook.

My friend Gisela, who is insanely persuasive, has been trying to coerce me to join for at least a year, if not longer. I'm pretty sure that the most powerful genes in her entire biological makeup are her piercing eyes, killer cheekbones and her uncanny ability to convince people to do things.

She can bend willpower the way Superman bends steel.

The only reason I was able to hold off as long as I did was because she lives a few hundred miles away. But even then, she waged a relentless campaign.

First, it started subtly. I got the site-generated e-mail saying Gisela wants me to join Facebook.

I sent her a reply.

"Suck it."

The way I see it, I already belong to MySpace and mostly only use it for music. The last thing I need is a membership to another social networking site, let alone another username and password to remember.

I've already created a wide-reaching wake of online subscriptions that clog up cyberspace -- Blogger, Xanga, Flickr, Snapfish, EasyShare, Yahoo groups, four personal e-mails, online banking, utility companies, not to mention all of my work-related accounts, which easily hit double digits. And those stupid sites I fall victim to at 3 a.m. after too much time spent online that promise to tell me which celebrity I look most like if I create an account and upload my photo. Or NEEDING to find out my "real age" after watching one of Oprah's Your Best Life episodes.

The fact that I remember any of them or check them frequently enough to remain active at all is nothing short of a miracle.

So when Gisela started dropping Facebook plugs into our phone conversations, I tried my best to give her the verbal equivalent of a middle finger.

"You can see all of my pictures from my trip to Greece," she'd say.

Or, "There are some hilarious pictures of you on there."

Or, "You can see pictures of me when I had supa '80s hair."

I have to admit, that last one had me wavering, but I responded with a meek, but resolute "shut the hell up."

Then, when she arranged to visit last summer, I braced for the onslaught. I knew it would be difficult to stand my ground once she could use her full powers of persuasion. Like sitting at my computer and signing me up herself.

Although she threatened it, she kept to a surprisingly positive tactic of showing me JUST! HOW! GREAT! IT! CAN! BE!

First, the pictures. Then all of our mutual friends who were waiting for me to join them. Then she wrapped up with Nike's tried and true slogan: JUST DO IT. DOOOOOO IT.

But I resisted. "No more passwords," I mumbled after mentally telling myself, "Must. Break. Gaze."

Then, months later, she delivered the final blow. Gisela, whose family I feel deeply connected to because I care about her so much, told me she was going home to Puerto Rico to meet her new niece.

And the photos would be available for my perusal.

On Facebook.



So I begrudgingly made an account. Because the promise of snugly new baby photos still has an indescribable power over me. And this wasn't just any baby. It was Gisela's niece.

I sped through the signup, knowing I'd almost never use the account. Then Alli woke up from her nap, so I abandoned it for another day.

But when I went back, this strange thing happened. There were all sorts of friend requests from people I've long since lost touch with. Friends from high school. Old college roommates. Former co-workers.

Then I found some friends I talk to regularly, but realized I could have a whole new level of connection with them online.

Before I knew it, I was leaving comments, responding to others, checking out photos, uploading photos, scrolling through people's friends lists and otherwise being voyeuristic -- and lets face it, that intrigue is a big part of what makes those sites successful.

And although my first message to Gisela was "you better friend me fucker," followed by deserving coos over her newest family member, I'm sure she's deducted from all my activity on the site that I don't find it as offensive as I thought I would.

But I refuse to admit that she was right.

My eventual cooperation will have to be reward enough.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Too good to wait for two more to group into a full Jerryisms entry

As we were driving home after going out to dinner and passed a Red Lobster sign with the "t" not illuminated:

"GOD! I WISH THE 'B' WOULD GO OUT! ... I'd stop right now. Even though we just ate, we'd have to get dessert at the Red Loser. ... It almost makes me want to pay off a sharp shooter. ... GOD! HOW GREAT WOULD THAT BE?"

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

I won't be going to any inaugural balls, but I may have some champagne to celebrate

Today, I am especially proud to be an American.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I probably would've told him to pull his hat down ... a little more ... a little more ... until he couldn't see

Sometime last week, Jerry was asked by a few of his co-workers to make an on-air bet on the outcome of a somewhat likely all-Pennsylvania Super Bowl: Steelers v. Eagles.

A bet for his eyebrows.

Apparently one of his company's Eagles fans was ready to make the committment to shave their eyebrows off if their team was defeated, but Jerry declined, explaining that taking our daughter to church without eyebrows might raise a few on others.

On Sunday, after the Steelers won, he changed his mind.

"I think I'll take that bet at work afterall. ... Oh wait, THE EAGLES AREN'T GOING TO THE SUPER BOWL."

Apparently bragging rights are just as important as eyebrows.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Behold The Loaf

I just crossed an item off my Bucket List. It's nothing as exhilarating as that trip to Europe I dream about. Or as fulfilling as seeing my name on the front of a book cover. But it was up there.

I finally ate a slice of Mac & Cheese Loaf.

Remember? The N-A-S-T-Y mystery meat I spotted at my grocery store last summer?

After months of continually using it as a punchline at my office, one of my co-workers slapped a bag of it on my desk on her way to her department. Probably because she hoped I would shut the hell up about it.

All I could do was cheer.

I have been waiting for the mystery meat to reappear at my grocery store, but apparently it's like Brigadoon -- it only comes around once every hundred years.

So I immediately rolled a few slices into little mystery meat tubes and shared with the only other person I work with brave enough to try it with me. We cheersed them much like I did with my first shot of bottom-shelf whisky on my 21st birthday. And the result was much the same.

I nearly barfed.

It has the gritty consistency of bologna, only not as refined. The aftertaste felt almost like I coated my mouth with flour. I'm guessing the red chunks were pimento, but they did little to add to the flavor. Or mask it. Whichever.

The noodles -- if you could call them that -- were indestructible. I tried to peel a few out individually to see what they tasted like on their own, and they kept coming out whole, no matter how much I pulled and yanked to separate them. Forget concrete. We should build entire buildings out of the noodles in this loaf. They would withstand earthquakes.

And the cheese? Ingenious. Why wait for a deli worker to slice yet another item for you when you can just combine the meat and cheese into ONE LOAF? I imagine this was the brainchild of a Cheese Whiz executive. It appears like the meat was just injected with the tip of a spray can in places and depressed a few times, leaving little hunks of orange substance behind.

Internet, my advice? If you can find it, RUSH OUT AND BUY SOME OF THIS LOAF IMMEDIATELY.

You will not be disappointed.

Unless you're actually hungry and are in the mood for something edible.

The Loaf.

A closeup of all its glory. I know. You're completely salivating.
And, yes, by salivating I mean audibly gagging.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Letter leftovers

Allison, it never fails. The second I get done writing your letter, I think of a million things I left out. The only way for me to avoid this problem is to write about all of the little anecdotes as they happen, but then it would be your blog, not mine.

I guess I'll just have to wait until you turn 5 and you're ready to carve out your own space on the Web.

Wait. Is that too old? Did I just insult your generation?

You'll probably be blogging before you're potty trained.

Regardless, here are a few more tidbits from this month:

It finally snowed enough to take you sledding a few weeks ago, and
you didn't disappoint. We took you to PA grandma's house and pushed
you down the little incline in her back yard. You stuck your tongue out,
squealed and even raised your arms into the air as you flew.

This photo encapsulates this month: You running around, carrying
your crap EVERYWHERE. Sorry. I know. Bunny and Bear make
the world go round. They are reason enough to draw air every day.
Please ignore the plastic bags attached to the doorhandles. It's how
I stay organized. Crap to go downstairs. Crap to go to the attic.
I promise Bunny and Bear will not ever become contents of them.

Dad thought he would be very funny and put you in
a pillowcase while we were making the bed. Then
he picked you up inside it and now you're probably
wondering when we get to change the sheets again.
Yeah. Not for a while. Mama loves flannel in winter.

When you chucked Toby's bone inside the laundry basket, the two
of you pondered how to get it out for awhile, pacing and whining for
me to rescue it from its plastic prison. But I wanted to see how it
played out, so I didn't. Then you shoved the basket over and crawled
in. Toby, being too much of a pussy to even think about it, was much
obliged. You can consider it repayment for all the times you poke
at his eye sockets and grab at the hair surrounding his sphincter.

Can you fit more things into those two arms? You spend your days
trying. I've seen you carry more than most adults could manage.

  • Earlier this month while Dad and I were putting the groceries away, you snuck into the fridge and pulled out an apple. You're enamored with the fridge. Wish you could live inside it, curled up next to the grapes. When we realized it was entirely too quiet and neither one of us had a small child attached to our pants, we started looking for you. By then? YOU HAD EATEN ALMOST THE ENTIRE THING. But that's okay. When I looked back in the fridge, there was your little dollhouse baby sitting on the shelf. Apparently you left him as payment. Way to be considerate.

  • Your love of music is infectious. I could watch you dance all day long, and apparently I'm not alone. When we went to the mall so Dad could return the horrendous mistake of a present I got for him for Christmas, we tried to make do without your stroller, which was accidentally left at PA grandma's house. So we set you down a lot to give our arms a break, and you reveled at the chance to explore a little. Except when we got to Express where the music was pouring out of the speakers like a dance club. As soon as you heard the beat, you started your thing right in the middle of the entryway -- bouncing, nodding and otherwise being completely adorable. From all the attention you received, I wished I could've convinced Dad to take off his hat and start taking collections. We could've paid your entire college tuition. ALL FOUR YEARS.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

1 year, 2 months

Dear Alli,

Crawling is officially a thing of the past. Your feet were made for walking, and now you know it.

At first it seemed so strange to watch you enter a room standing, but now I just expect it. I also expect to race you to things on the floor you shouldn't have. Or try to beat you to the steps so I can close the gate. Or the refridgerator. Or the dishwasher.

You are constantly underfoot, clinging to the sides of my pants as I try to make breakfast or make my way to the bathroom. If not, I can usually hear you screaching in glee in the opposite direction as you attempt to run fast enough to break the sound barrier.

Because of this, playing with Toby has become more of a competitive sport. If I give him a treat, the two of you will take turns chasing each other for it. I know I should be completely grossed out that you're playing with a slimy rawhide, but I have too much fun watching you guys run in circles to care.

You can now cover almost every square inch of the house and it shows. If your father and I neglected to pick up after you, we'd struggle to remember what color the carpet is. When you were little, your toys were primarily confined to your two play areas. Now they migrate with you.

I'm never surprised when I find something of yours in even the most unusual place.

Like your Legos in the bathtub.


Your verbal skills have improved too, but what's more impressive are your comprehension skills. After months of talking to you about "Toby the dog," you've finally picked up on both words.

They come out sounding somewhat similar, but if I pay close enough attention, they're easy to differentiate. Toby sounds a lot like "Toe." Dog sounds more like "Doh."

Homer Simpson would be proud.

I couldn't tell whether you understood that Toby was the name of our dog specifically or that all dogs were also called Toby. I imagine that would be a tough concept to grasp. But last week, when we got home from running an errand, our neighbor's dog was outside giving us an exhuberant greeting.

As I hoisted you higher on my hip, struggling to open the latch on our gate while carrying my purse and your diaper bag, you laughed at that big silly black lab and said "DOH!" as your little puff of breath created a cloud in the cold air.

"YES! ... DOG!" I said, thrilled that you were able to correlate Toby's small stature with another much larger breed in his species.

Then, when we got inside, you saw Toby, smiled and said, "Toe."

You're so smart, I might have to invent a baby diploma.


You've also made huge strides while playing. I know. It sounds silly to commend you for using your toys appropriately, but that's how you learn.

Just this morning, you were able to put all of the stackable rainbow rings on their peg in the correct order. I've been working with you on this for awhile now, but it still amazed me when you zipped through the activity without struggling.

To the uninitiated observer, it probably wouldn't seem like much, but for weeks you didn't understand that you needed to aim the peg for the negative space on the ring. You kept jamming the plastic together and would get frustrated when you couldn't make them fit like I could. Then it just seemed to click for you.

Now you can disassemble and reassemble with ease.

Pretty soon I'll have you cleaning up after yourself! Wee! Won't THAT be fun!

Another surprising moment during playtime was a few days ago while we were in your room. I pulled out your car and, as usual, it only had one of its original two occupants. The baby was in the driver's seat and the mommy was no where to be found.

But as I started to push it around on the carpet, making vrooming sounds, you charged away into the other room. Not understanding why you left, I started to call for you, asking what you were doing.

Moments later, you walked back into your room, smiling ear to ear, carrying the mommy triumphantly high over your head.

If I hadn't already been laying on my side, I would've fallen over.

You knew what piece was missing, remembered where it was, knew how to get it and did.

That almost makes up for the Legos in the bathtub.


Speaking of the bathtub, can we talk about bathtime for a moment?

You no longer swish at the water with your toys. Now the water itself is a toy. And you swat and slap and pound and twist and shake and kick that water until there isn't a dry surface in the entire bathroom.

A few days ago, I walked in to find Dad's sweatshirt sopping wet up to the elbows and asked if he had to retrieve you from the water in a panic.

"Nope," he said. "Bathtime is like having a front row seat at Sea World."

Then, as if right on cue, you stuck your tongue out and summoned Hurricane Allison. Within seconds, my jeans were wet enough that it would've been uncomfortable not to change. I've never laughed so hard. I just ducked behind your father and tried to weigh the pros and cons of attempting to get it on video.

I figured years of videos to come are more important than one last video of you in the tub and a shorted-out video camera.

But your pre-bath routine has gotten even better. I thought I would miss watching your bare butt swish toward the tub when you used to crawl, but I don't. Now Dad has taught you how to carry your own towel and washcloth to the bathroom, and the task has empowered you.

You walk with purpose.

But he didn't think it all the way through. If the tub is full and he isn't there to intercept you, you run straight for the bathroom and chuck your towel and washcloth into the water.

And last night, when he didn't hand you your towel and washcloth fast enough, you found the clothes you had just been wearing, carried them to the tub and tossed them in.

I can't say it often enough: You're lucky you're cute.


When your grandparents from New York were in town for Christmas, we went out for dinner one night. While we were eating, you started choking on your drink, something that isn't all too uncommon because learning to handle a cup isn't the easiest thing to master.

Well, grandma summoned something from my childhood that I had forgotton. She immediately threw her hands into the air and said, "HANDS UP!"

The idea behind it is that putting your hands in the air lifts your diaphram and helps you breathe more freely while you're choking, but conveying that to a 1-year-old isn't easy. So there, in the middle of the restaurant, grandpa, Dad and I all joined in, raising our hands high above our heads shouting "HANDS UP!" in the hopes that you'd join us.

You stared at us like we were idots, which we are, but well, you're stuck with us kid.

Eventually you followed suit, but not until after we had all put our hands down.

And so it continued for awhile. Every time you coughed after taking a drink, we put our hands up, then you waited until we put them down to join in.

It became a very fun game.

Now, every mealtime, you randomly throw your hands into the air with wild abandon and stare at us expectantly. So Dad and I indulge you and join in, knowing the reward will be one of your fantastic giggles.

The whole thing seemed like it was getting a little out of hand until Sunday night when we went to a party to watch the Steelers playoff game. Then, right as the referees announced the first touchdown by raising their hands in the air, it dawned on me.

"HANDS UP!" I yelled, and you obliged, tossing them high in the air, smiling wide.

You were a big hit.

And the Steelers won. And now there's only one more team standing between them and the Super Bowl.

And Dad's pretty superstitious about these things, so you better be prepared to put those arms up this week, too.


The most memorable part of month 14 for me isn't anything that would show up in a baby book.

Frankly, I've struggled with the fact that I'm not filling out one of those prefabricated record books for you, but after years of predominantly typing, my penmanship looks like I'm trying to strangle a goat.

At least this way you'll be able to know what the hell I was trying to convey to you instead of spending your entire adult life going to handwriting experts trying to decipher whether that's a "p" or a "q" and paying for a top-notch psychiatrist because you think I said something entirely different about you in relation to Sea World.

And hopefully by my bucking the trend, you'll have off-the-cuff memories recorded of yourself instead of how many teeth you had each month -- 10 by the way, soon to be 12 -- memories like how you spent this entire month with your tongue out.

I'm not sure why, but you've decided that every emotion can be conveyed with your tongue. When you're feeling coy, just a peek of your tongue. When you're happy, a full tongue. When you're mad, a forceful tongue. When you're deleriously overjoyed, a full open mouth with your tongue all the way down to your chin.

I call that one Little Gene Simmons.

And lady, those moments make me so happy I should probably summon my inner Gene Simmons, too.



Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A long overdue update

I can't say my sleep schedule is to the point that I feel well rested all the time, but it has drastically improved since Jerry stepped in and tried an experiment.

For awhile, I was getting home from work around 1 a.m. and Allison was waking up at 5:30. In those few months, I found out that sleep walking doesn't just have to occur when you're in a deep REM cycle.

Jerry tried to convince me to give her a bottle and put her back to bed, but I couldn't help but do the math. If she went to sleep at 8 p.m., that was 8 and a half hours of rest. It was purely selfish of me to try to get her to go back to bed. I could wait until her nap a few hours later.

But then sleep wouldn't come easily for me. My head would start ticking through all of the things that needed to be done around the house, and before I knew it, she'd be crying to get up again.

That hour was never sleep. Inactivity, maybe physical rest, but never sleep.

Sometimes it got to the point that I was so tired, I couldn't move when she'd cry. I would hear her in the distance somewhere, but my body wouldn't respond. Her noises, which always jolt me immediately, had no impact. Eventually they'd subside, and I'd get the sleep I so desperately needed.

When she woke the next time, I had vague recollections that she might've stirred, but the clock always confirmed it. I could set a watch to Alli's naps. They are always one hour. Much longer and I knew I had slept through something I shouldn't have.

The guilt was overwhelming.

Eventually, Jerry just did it on a weekend morning he was home to intervene. She got a bottle as he changed her diaper, and she went back to bed without a protest.

I couldn't believe it.

That week, I changed our routine. She got a bottle when she woke up and then back to bed.

That simple change changed everything.

She started sleeping even longer and was a happier baby when she did get up. I started getting six or even seven mostly consecutive hours instead of four or five. And then a late morning nap.

I'm still tired, but its more than manageable. Jerry and I take turns taking naps during the week and we both try to catch up on our sleep on our days off.

There are still mornings like today that I got home from work later than usual and Allison got up earlier than usual, but it's not the endless cycle it once was.

And it has changed my outlook drastically.

Ongoing sleep deprivation is a very debilitating thing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Disclaimer: This post includes graphic details

My job really gets to me sometimes.

The work itself.

When putting together a page filled with particularly grim news, I often joke that we should hand out straight razors and nooses with the next day's paper, but the truth is, it doesn't always seem like it would be that inappropriate.

Some nights I lay awake unable to sleep thinking of the horrific injustices going on around the globe. Some of the images of war that never make print haunt me. Stories of people I'll never meet, whose language I'll never speak, will stick with me for months, maybe longer.

Just last week, for example, I was scrolling through images of Israeli and Palestinian fighting, searching for something to go with a story on the war in Gaza, when I found one that literally caught my breath.

It was a picture of a little girl buried up to her neck in rubble, just her bloodied head exposed, drained of color, covered in dust. She was dead. Just one more child civilian casualty in a war I'll never understand. A rescuer's hands were poised in a nearly pointless attempt to free her.

She couldn't have been older than 3.

My thoughts immediately jumped to her mother. If she survived, I'll bet she begged for death.

It took everything I had not to cry or vomit.

Moments later, I edited the war story that included details of a toddler who was waiting for help in a hospital, her left arm blown off to the shoulder. The reporter described her as "wide-eyed in shock and fear."

A little farther east, in Afghanistan, a 14-year-old rape victim was near death because her older brother had performed a forced abortion on her in the family's barn while her mother held her arms down.

He explained that he did it to avoid the scorn that comes with premarital sex. Even rape is considered the victim's fault in that country and is hardly ever prosecuted.

He had cut her open to perform the operation and sewed her up with heavy string used for closing burlap potato sacks. She blacked out, but told police she remembers him holding the baby above her.

A little closer to home, a Texas death row inmate dug out his last remaining eye and ingested it in his jail cell. Apparently he ate the first one awaiting trial.

The event prompted his lawyer to ask for a retrial, explaining his client should've been deemed mentally incompetent and, therefore, never would've been sentenced to death.

For killing his wife and children and carving their hearts out and carrying them around in his pockets.

That night I found it particularly hard to fall asleep. Maybe that's why I like to indulge in a few chapters of a mindless novel or stupid YouTube videos before laying down.

I've struggled with the existence of God all my life. It's hard not to question a higher power when you know such travesties are taking place.

Even still, I pray for them.

I pray the bombs stop. I pray the little girl's mother finds peace. I pray that the toddler without an arm can escape to a country where her injury won't cripple her right to marry and have children. I pray that the teenager survives, shares her story and becomes an agent of change in her country.

Then I pray that my little girl will never know pain like that.

And that the memories and images will fade quickly for me.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

On the bright side

A five-day liquid diet does wonders with extra holiday pounds after a month of cramming my maw with Christmas confections.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

I feel shitty, oh so shitty

Hoping the musical theater buffs will get that.

Anywho, I woke from a nap this afternoon in a puddle of my own drool because my nose refuses to function with all of the snot clogging it. In my feverish hallucinations, I must have reached for the jar of Vaseline on my nightstand because I was clutching it in a death grip.

Strange? Sure. But I would've been really impressed if my subconscious could have figured out how to apply it to my tissue-chapped nostrils.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sugar and spice and everything nice AND snakes and snails and puppy dog tails

One of my sociology professors in college was openly gay and talked at length about her personal life to help illustrate points she was trying to make in the classroom.

Because of that, much of what she had to say stuck with me.

I had her for Childhood Socialization -- part of the core curriculum for my Sociology degree -- and she often discussed her decision to raise her son from a previous marriage as gender-neutral as possible.

"If he wanted to wear a dress to school, I let him," she said.

I remember the stifled giggles that erupted around me, but all I could think of was how incredibly freeing it would be if everyone could wear what they wanted instead of being constricted by social norms.

She said a few of his kindergarten classmates started teasing him by calling him a girl, but she had explained to him what the repercussions might be, so he simply responded that he was not a girl because he had a penis.

When they continued their taunts, apparently he showed them as proof.

The story stuck with me all these years, but it seems particularly poignant now that I'm a parent.

For Christmas, Allison received a little pink purse from an extended family member that came with a lipstick rattle, a bracelet, a crinkly dollar bill and pastel car keys. As an added bonus, it sings when you open it.

The manufacturer, probably in an attempt to bill it as an educational toy, chose lyrics that include colors and numbers. But the songs frustrate me every time I hear them.

Here's a sampling:

"What's my favorite color?
Hmm, let me think.
Yesterday was purple
but today it's pink."

What? Little girls can't like red best? Or orange? Or (gasp!) blue?

But here's where I really start to struggle. What is the likelihood of Allison preferring another color when her entire world is drenched in pastels? Everything for little girls is pink and purple and sparkly and ruffly with ribbons and bows and hearts. You know, the stuff princess vomit is made of.

Even more frustrating? I love it. I love her in dresses. I love the flowers on her bedroom wall. I love putting clips in her hair when she's distracted enough that she won't immediately rip them out.

But with my background in understanding how socialization shapes behavioral development, I constantly struggle with it.

Then I heard these lyrics:

"Look into the mirror,
put my lipstick on,
grab my purse and go,
I won't be gone too long."

Gah! What lesson is this teaching? Make sure to check how you look before you walk out of the house?

It took me years, YEARS, to break this neurosis. I used to sleep in my bra and makeup in junior high because I was afraid my house would catch on fire and I'd be caught out on the street not looking my very best. I mean, what could be worse than trying to survive a potentially life-threatening situation? NOT HAVING MASCARA ON WHILE YOU FLED.

I can do my best to buy Allison sleepers from the boy clothing section with animal prints and pass over the pastel blocks in favor of the primary colored ones. I can even get her a tool set to put beside her play kitchen, but I know I'll never be able to be as aware as I want to be.

I've realized that even the words I use while I'm talking to her are sometimes gender-specific. When I greet her for the day, "How's my pretty lady doing this morning?" flows out without hesitation. If we had a boy, I'd be using completely different adjectives to describe him.

Sure, I know I could go crazy overanalyzing everything. And I'm certainly not going to give up dresses or bows.

But I am going to make sure she has a football in addition to a doll house.

And, more importantly, grows up watching her mother volunteer to use a chainsaw.

Friday, January 2, 2009

OMG, our Christmas was awesome

I know it's been a few days and some people, like my mother, are so sick of Christmas that every last ornament is wrapped and in the basement already, but I've been enjoying the season so much that I haven't had time to post pictures. I imported a few hundred this morning, and it was a blur of wrapping paper and little plastic balls.

Of all the things Santa brought, she went for the friggin' pink ball first.
I brought her birthday chair down so she could sit and unwrap the
gifts in her stocking, but everything now is done in the ball crawl bus.
LIFE is better when sitting amidst a plastic rainbow wonderland.

She wasn't quite sure what to make of Elmo. It's like another dog.
That talks. Really loudly over the sounds of his mechanical movements.

Like, OMG! Santa TOTALLY brought new bath toys!

She eats Goldfish crackers in there and then Toby scours the pit for leftovers.

Speaking of Toby, Santa brought him a new Mr. Fluff 'n Puff.
He killed the last one because the bastard owed him money.

Santa spoiled me too. I found this gorgeous blue topaz gemstone ring
at the bottom of my stocking. I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus indeed.

I got Jerry a video game he has been coveting for months. One night
last week, I came home after work and he could barely blink. Allison
had been in bed for hours and there was a butt groove in the couch. "Please
help me stop," he said, laughing. "I CAN'T STOP." When I sat between him
and the TV, he protested. "After I kill this mutant. Seriously. Just one more."

Later on Christmas day, we went to my mother-in-law's
house and made a giant mess of her living room.

Alli got so tired, she fell asleep.

A few days later, my parents came to stay with us. They got Alli
an old-school Red Flier wagon. Only with all-terrain wheels.

You'd think from this face, my stepdad didn't like his gift. But it was
a huge hit. We got him a wine aerator that instantly decants wine by
pouring it through the apparatus into a glass. Changes the whole flavor.
We tested it out on quite a few bottles. It will be on my list next year.

And even though it was windy and cold, we figured Allison should
get to try out her new toy. Then we retired it to the basement until spring.
It really is amazingly fun having a little kid at Christmas.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

I think my New Year's resolution is in here somewhere

Jerry and I opted to make the risky move of getting up with only a few minutes to spare before the New Year's Eve countdown. He needed to pee, and I wanted to put the containers of veggies we had been munching on back in the fridge.

While he was in the bathroom, I busied myself cleaning the kitchen, putting away the leftover meatballs from our crockpot and soaking the mess that remained.

When Jerry emerged, he immediately asked me to check on the countdown as he worked on popping the cork.

"We're good," I said. "We have two minutes left."

The clocks on our stove and microwave clearly showed we had ample time.

"Would you just check?"

"Dude. We're GOOD," I said, wielding the sink's spray nozzle to hit the spots where the marinara sauce had solidified around the edges.

"Just check."

"Alright, alright," I said, turning off the water to make my way back into the living room.


"What do you mean 'Oops'?"

"We missed it!"

I was laughing so hard I could barely get the words out. When I skidded around the corner to peek at the TV, there was Dick Clark manhandling his visibly reluctant wife, streamers flowing in the background as Ryan Seacrest screamed something about it being 2009.

I made my way back to Jerry who handed me a flute of champagne.


Maybe it was the two giant bottles of wine that we had already consumed that made me see the situation as hilarious, but I couldn't help bursting into hysterics.


I nodded.


Suddenly, I had a brilliant idea.

"Wait! Do-over!" I said, handing Jerry the remote. "Just rewind it. There's a leap second this year anyway. It won't be that far off."

So we kept an eye on the festivities blurring by on the screen until we saw the ball rise to its original position, then Jerry hit play and we partook in our own do-over countdown, trying to ignore the sound of fireworks already bursting somewhere in town.


We were laughing so hard, it was hard to kiss and clink glasses.

2008 will be hard to top in our house, but one thing's for sure: Our DVR has already earned its keep for 2009.