further thoughts on robots

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Other than the self-diagnosed situational agoraphobia, I think I would do ok in space.

Not a spaceship as much as a space colony, after they’ve had a chance to work out the kinks. If it’s a space colony, I suppose we’re thinking about the future. And not a dystopian Hunger Games future where we’d all have to work together to snare rabbits for survival and overthrow an oppressive and evil government with nothing but our wits and a map. I was thinking more of a Jetsons set-up — pellet food, space mall, low-profile furniture – pretty much anywhere there’s a robot lady who can help me navigate the day.

“Do you have Siri?” I ask anyone with a new phone, hopeful I can have a chat with the intriguing electronic personal assistant.

“Naaaah,” some say.

Or “I do, but I don’t use it,” which is worse.

How are you not using it? Have you SEEN those commercials?

Many mornings I wake and grab my non-Siri phone and talk into it without lifting my head from my pillow.

“What’s my day look like?” I say to the phone.

“Pre-tty cra-ppy…you have ele-ven mee-tings,” I say back to myself in my best robot voice.

John laughed the first few times.

Today, I had a few minutes with Siri’s electronic sister when I called the bank. Because I had forgotten my password, we got to spend  a few minutes chatting. She’d ask me something, and I would slowly reply. She’d tell that was wrong, and to try again.

When she mis-heard me and I had to repeat myself, she said “Sor-ry, my fault,” and I felt bad. I wanted to tell her that it was indeed my fault because I mumbled, but that’s too many words and I didn’t want to blow her robot lady mind, and be forced to start over.

I know technically, it’s more accurate and PC (ba-dum-dum) to say “computer lady,” but my imagination always puts a robot with the disembodied voice. Keep in mind, I still do not understand the technology that makes a fax machine work.

Just like when Morgan Freeman is the spokesperson for anything, I find I accept what the robot lady says without question. Not every robot lady, but most. Our GPS offered us two voice options when we set it up. The first was a little too breathy and adult. I felt uncomfortable having her talk in front of the children. So we went with the English accent. Sure, she gets annoyed when I miss a turn, but with an implied sage wisdom, she redirects me just like Mary Poppins would, and we are on our way.

The reigning queen of the robot ladies though, is the one who’s in charge of the airport.

If one were actually flying to space, there is no way that it could feel as much like going to space, as Terminal 2 of San Francisco International Airport. The robot lady tells you which shuttle to board, reminds you to hold on, carefully disembark, and not to forget your belongings.

I think she’s the one who talked me into the tofu and shitake spring roll (basically a tofu-packed space food pellet), with a coconut water. I found myself sitting in an egg shaped chair at an egg shaped table, eating it out of a plastic box, when there was a perfectly good cheeseburger available 7 feet away.

Female robots have been an integral part of our cultural landscape for decades. Kudos to my personal favorites, Rosie the Robot (so full of sass!) and  The Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers (full disclosure, she was like, half robot). I was a proud owner of the Bionic Woman doll, with the roll up arm skin and removable face that revealed her circuitry. Don’t even get me started on what would happen if Barbie and Jaime were to get in a street fight. But sadly, more often than not, female robots are depicted negatively – from the Stepford Wives (spoiler alert!) to the Fembots, whose you-know-whats double as machine guns.

We’re looking to you Siri, to turn this around, and when I finally get you, maybe you also can remind me to hold on, grab my suitcase, get to my meeting, and hydrate.

How I’m ok with the robot lady when mannequins give me the uber creeps, I shall never know.

*The photo above is another favorite robot, R2-D2. Is a Droid a robot? Am I going to hear from all the Star Wars fanatics that an R2 unit is NOT a robot? He IS s guarding the LEGO White House, so relax, he’s a hero. I have plenty of Transformers, and Star Wars guys in my house of boys, but no lady robots, so R2 will have to do as my visual aid.

it’s not you, mtv…it’s me

MTV is 30 now. 

Awww, MTV, Happy Birthday! To celebrate, I think I might try watching the ol’ network; it’s  been a while, and it might be fun to catch up.

I realize just how long it’s been when I can’t find MTV in my channel guide. We have about 900 channels, and I can tell you where to find Hoarders, Mickey Mouse Club House, Barefoot Contessa and Barefoot Contessa in HD.

I scroll through the channel guide at least twice, getting distracted by the fact that the Giants game is still on, and that movie Zodiac is about to start on IFC.

After I finally find it buried between between channels where the letters don’t mean anything to me (what is CSN+H and PLDHD?), I see that tonight’s MTV offering is Jersey Shore. What I know about this show I’ve learned from more sophisticated programming like Saturday Night Live, and The Soup. The format is instantly familiar though, and not entirely different from the first five seasons of Real World that I watched unapologetically back in the day: voice over narratives by the young cast, quick cuts and edits, and a roomful of 20-somethings arguing over whatever someone said that was like… the worst. I squirm; “What are they talking about? Why are they so mad? What’s that girl’s name? Why is she wearing that? Why am I so bored with this?”

Mercifully, a commercial comes on, and I flip to Zodiac. I shouldn’t watch this: it’s going to be scary, but I think it’s kind of a newspaper drama around the San Francisco Chronicle, and hunting for a killer they never capture (spoiler!). Intrigue, and mystery like All the President’s Men — same era, same typewriters. No Robert Redford, but there’s Robert Downey, Jr.! And Jake Gyllenhal! Mark Ruffalo! Chloe Sevigny! And an obviously nuanced and thoughtful performance by Anthony Edwards from Revenge of the NerdsTop Gun and ER.

I should really change the channel back to MTV, and finish what I set out to do tonight: watch MTV.

But I can’t. This movie has my favorite movie thing – exciting research scenes. The characters are pouring through file boxes, and the background music is pulsing, and watching these guys read is downright thrilling. (Helllloooooo, All the President’s Men!)

At the commercial break, instead of using the time to flip back to MTV, I listen to the ads for IFC’s Whisker Wars and look up facts about Zodiac’s director, David Fincher. He lived in the same little Bay Area town we did for a while, and he’s directed some of my favorites; Social Network, The Game, Se7en (could only watch that once), Fight Club, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Apparently I’m a David Fincher fan, and so I guess I’ll have to see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, even though I was physically incapable of finishing that book.

So now, I am officially failing miserably at watching MTV. By the time I get back to it, Teen Mom is on, but that makes me a little more uncomfortable than the movie about the Zodiac Killer.

Ok, so I’ll watch this movie, and not MTV; I don’t want to miss any more critical plot points, and MTV won’t miss me. Even though my musical taste wasn’t frozen in time with A-Ha and Tears for Fears, they don’t need me anymore. I’m not their demo, though I was once.

When MTV started on basic cable, I was old enough to be very aware of its significance and also old enough to beg my parents for basic cable. I was, however, young enough for it to be a significantly formative part of my formative years. I knew that Nirvana and Pearl Jam were going to change the world.  I loved everything MTV had to offer: House of Style, Club MTV, Remote Control, Daria, 120 Minutes. John and I watched Beavis & Butthead on study breaks. My friend Liane and I went to sit in the stands at MTV Rock & Jock basketball in LA. At half-time, Tag Team performed their smash hit of which I owned the casingle,  “Whoomp! There it Is.”  Liane went so far as to go on to work for MTV, becoming the envy of us all.

So even though I’ve entered the next stage of life, the VH1 years, It’s not like I think Snookie is the 4th Horseman of the Apocalypse, I’ll  just leave her chronicles in the very capable hands of a generation who needs a study break.

Bring back Yo! MTV Raps though, and we’ll talk.

**That photo up there? That’s John and I on a study break, watching Beavis & Butthead.

all star tear jerk

I’d been in the room about 42 seconds when the tears started. Why? Why? Why did I have to wear mascara today of all days?

Wedding? No, that was five days ago, and I waited two full minutes ‘til I unapologetically turned on the waterworks. Graduation? Nope. Moving church service? Not this time. Stepping through the gates at Disneyland?  Don’t I wish.

It was the flippin’ ESPYs.

My back was to John who was in the kitchen tossing a perfectly dressed salad with fruit and everything. He’d once again magically created an honest-to-goodness meal out of the random contents of our fridge, and I was standing mesmerized by ESPN’s annual awards show and a year’s worth of highlight reels.

The screen flashed with jaw dropping 3-pointers, bone-crunching hits, gravity defying catches and mind-blowing runs. There was jubilation and celebration and many, many dogpiles.  But, this wasn’t your average recap show. Those are on every day in this house, to the point where it feels like I am watching highlights of the last highlights show.  I have never had to sit down with a box of tissues to get through those.

They really upped the ante here – there was music, slow-mo and the critical close-up shots of their triumphant and/or heartbroken faces. And with that little bit of editing trickery, they seemed to turn these well-paid, famous yet often faceless athletes into extraordinary people with annoyingly extraordinary abilities and certainly compelling stories… and me into a weepy mess.

Just when I thought I’d pulled myself together, they go and show all the athletes that died this year. I recognized Jack Lalane, and that was it. The other grizzled and determined faces on the screen were pictured mostly in black and white or the grainy film of the ‘70s or 1994, like when you watch a re-run of Friends.  But these folks had been outstanding athletes in their heyday, probably even heroes.

Suddenly, things became very clear in my head, and it went something like this: “How inspirational! I get it. I get the true allure of sports and athleticism, and the home team. Why, these are people who are using their God given abilities! It’s important to have drive and discipline and sportsmanship. This is good for the morale of our country! I’m really glad we have Jake in basketball camp…that’s an investment in his future. It’s good for him as a person, and for the nation, really. John’s probably going to have a lot of sermon illustrations after this.”

And then… the show started.

No. No. No. Oh my gosh, yes. I had just cried at the introduction. Of the ESPYs.

The very funny Seth Meyers took the stage and in his opening monologue teased Brian Wilson about his beard and his spandex tuxedo, and I chuckled loudly with a little over compensatory show-offiness, asking some camouflaging questions about the All-Star break, while swooping around futzing with the dinner plates.

The 10-year-old looked at me sideways, “Are you crying?”

“What? Are you serious? Here, have some more salad. How was basketball camp?”

giving the boot to getting the dirt

I hit rock bottom last week on something that nobody should really hit rock bottom with.

It was a Friday night, and as I was about to go to sleep I perused the entertainment headlines like I tend to do, oooohhhh…every night and every morning, every day of the week. There it was… a horrible terrible headline insinuating in a snarky tone, that I might have enjoyed under different circumstances, that my favorite celebrity couple was on the outs, and on the verge of a breakup.

I read the words over and over in disbelief. What was the feeling that was welling up? No…it couldn’t be… what is that? Panic? Sadness? Worry?

The offending “article” was not even from one of my reputable high-end elitest go-to sites like E! Online, TMZ, or US Weekly. I died a little bit of embarrassment every time I clicked on one of 30 or so related headlines, posted on sites like celebritypoppycock.com and youretoooldtobereadingthis.com, and dontyouhaveanythingbettertodo.net. I scrolled through, thumbs flying and eyes scanning back and forth across my tiny screen like I was (best show ever) Alias’ Sidney Bristow trying to memorize and decipher pages of code before being discovered in the secret offices above the party she had infiltrated in another fantastic disguise while her partner Dixon pretends to be a bartender or a DJ downstairs… but I digress.

Each story cited the last terrible story as a legitimate source. I should have shrugged, turned off my phone and read something more worthwhile, which would have been absolutely anything else in the house. But no. I read every last gossipy word, then I lay there in the dark, sad. Sad for the couple*. Sad for myself. “Well,” I thought as I lay pouting, “there goes my weekend.” There. Goes. My. Weekend. That’s when I realized, I might have a problem.

Celebrity gossip was changing the trajectory of my day.

“Tomorrow…,” I thought. “Tomorrow, I will read those something elses, and I will regain the perspective of an adult with a thoughtful and well informed world view.”

And so I tried it. I pulled out a stack of magazines from our coffee table and picked the most serious looking back issue of Time I could find…Joel Stein’s Awesome Column wasn’t even in it. And I read it cover to cover, the entire time thinking, “I’m back to being a serious adult. I’m very actively not thinking about celebrity gossip. Who cares about that drivel? Look at me reading about the 2% economy, unemployment, our failing education system, troubles in the Middle East, stalled American innovation, rising airline prices, ugly Washington politics, uglier cancer, the Miami Heat, and rhino poaching. This is fun!”

I thought I was sad when I was reading celebrity gossip…but grown up news, consumed in large intentional doses, is much worse, thus answering my long lingering question, “why did I ever start reading celebrity gossip in the first place?”

Not wanting to turn to anemic summer TV, I needed something else as a distraction. iPad Boggle. I could dedicate my pursuit of intelligent input to playing this delightfully whimsical spelling puzzle game! I would be exercising my brain, which is the exact opposite of celebrity gossip. Then I remembered my iPad Boggle thing from a few months ago when I first got the app. I’d ended up on the couch nearly getting carpal tunnel syndrome from shaking the iPad to “toss” the letters into the wee hours of the night, my fingers flying (Sidney Bristow style again, I like to think) only to end up making the same stupid 1 pt. words just about every round: eon, eons, tones, tone, tons, ton, ones, one. What really killed it was John yelling from the other room, “I can hear you Boggling from here!”

So I guess I can’t avoid them any more; I’ll go back to books. Our house and offices are strewn with (mostly) very good books on faith and theology, in varying stages of being read, or studied, or annotated. But an occupational hazard is that those can sometimes feel workish when you’re looking for a summer read. John, while out of town, sent me books from my wish list like one would send flowers: Tina Fey’s Bossypants, and my own copy of Stephen King’s On Writing (brilliant!). John sends flowers too, but books keep better.  And now, thanks to my friend Margie, I also have The Help sitting right there. No matter what room I go to, it’s there, eerily calling out…. “Read me! Hurry, before the movie comes out. Everybody else has…they are going to take your girl card if you don’t.”

Books are longer, and bigger, and heavier, and they don’t tell me what was happening 27 minutes ago, but they will certainly be a worthwhile anecdote to fretting over the economy, or the celebrities who I don’t know, and who don’t know me, and who I’m almost certain aren’t lying awake wondering what I’ll be up to tomorrow.  

*I will not name the celebrity couple because I do not want this post coming up when some poor sap like me catches word of the hopefully not true rumor, and frantically Googles additional stories. Also, you’re better than that.

bloomers

 

 

I’ve logged enough hours with Wills and Kate this last week that they should be able to do me a solid, and issue a royal decree that it is officially summer.   

I followed the media coverage, and sat on my bed dutifully watching my recording and weeping a little bit, like you do at the weddings of all your friends. John happily excused himself to make dinner, leaving me to my celebration, while the boys drifted in and out the room asking questions. They could not believe how long everything was taking and I hadn’t even told them about the first 200 minutes of pomp I had already watched. They asked about the trees in Westminster Abby and I reported as if she had told me herself, that Kate is very outdoorsy and was really going for an English Garden feeling. Then they asked about the carriage and the footmen, and all of the fancy outfits on the clergy, and it was decided that John should probably get that cool tall hat if he’s gonna get anywhere in this ministry business.

When it finished, and with great sadness and blurry eyes, I deleted the wedding from the DVR in order to make room for May sweeps. I then ventured into my yard to reconnect with the people I know in real life and enjoy the glorious weather.

Zach and I even went outside in the morning before school the other day. It’s Teacher Appreciation week, and we were asked to cut flowers from our gardens to contribute to bouquets for the extraordinarily deserving and saintly pre-school teachers. An absolutely lovely idea. Now if we only had a garden. Thank God for the flowering bush outside, that I can take absolutely no credit for. Its vibrant pink flowers bloom generously just in time for teacher appreciation every year. 

John took Zach to the store the first day of the week and they gallantly delivered beautiful and professionally tended red roses. I thought on the second day, I’m going to go to my garden, aka flowering bush-I-do-not-know-the-name-of, to select some lovely home grown blooms. Zach and I stood at the bush with my pruning shears. They are pruning shears one day a year when I stand at that plant during Teacher Appreciation Week. On every other day, they are the office scissors with the orange handles.

Only this week did I discover that we also have roses growing in the yard. In spite of me, we have roses. The bush must be just far enough away from the basketball hoop to have survived this long. Right now there are four blooms – full and dark red and wildly fragrant. If you put your nose to them, you would undoubtedly note the universal smell of great-grandmother. When I found the roses, I insisted the boys come over for a whiff. They looked nervous and asked if something was going to come out of the petals to get them. Perhaps they do share my wariness of the great outdoors after all.

Just a few feet from the valiant rose bush, is the spot where the Venus Flytrap of a horribly mean cactus is disappearing.  We have a guy who’s making that happen. We don’t ask questions; I don’t want to know how he makes it go away, he just does it. He takes care of the problem. I feel like the mob boss wife of cactuses. While there was remorse for the tree that fell in the storms a few months ago, and even the blooms we cut from the bush in the morning, I have no feelings for the cactus. Its needles were like tiny daggers, and we lost many a baseball to it. It didn’t take long for the kids to realize that when it comes to boy vs. cactus, cactus wins. I was certain it was eyeing the children hungrily. Since the thing has started disappearing in sizeable chunks, two baseball carcasses have surfaced.

My brother, the person in this world with who I am most genetically linked, gardens and grills and does things that require regular trips to stores that specialize in fishing poles and tents. He can grow anything, and to counter his stressful schedule, he lovingly tends his suburban crops. It has to be absolutely perfect weather to get me excited about eating in the yard because there are about 40 extra steps to serve an outside meal. I’ve said it before, and I will say it again. You have to clean bird poop off the table before you can sit down outside, and I have never had to do that in my dining room. However, when there are twinkle lights up, I find it much easier to lounge at the table, waving bees away from my grilled veggies and listening to the boys happily chatter without the distraction of the stuff that waits inside like homework and dishes.

So hang the twinkle lights, hose down the poop table, smell a rose, kill a cactus and call me Duchess of the Yard, it’s time to be outside again.

don’t call that vintage:snaps

My designer friends would probably tell you that the resurfacing of the 70s and 80s aesthetic sensibility is so five years ago, but I am aware of it now, so I’ll just say that it’s “new.”  Maybe it’s because I realized my son is closer to the age of 21 than I am (oh, *&%$!) Maybe it’s because I visited a Swatch store on vacation, I don’t know, but I am seeing pieces of my childhood resurface in the oddest of places. Only now, the hipster at American Apparel is telling me it’s ironic, and fresh, fashion-forward, but still, gulp…vintage.

Every generation nods with a wink at a generation or two from before. I wore John Lennon glasses for a while, and for no reason. Maybe it’s fine for the kids who are enjoying it the first time around, but isn’t there some kind of rule preventing me from whole-heartedly embracing dingy bad photos and questionable shoulderpads, because I lived through them already? Maybe.

I’d like to welcome you to part 1 in my blog mini-series. “Don’t call that Vintage – I bought that new.”

I am about a year late to the hipstamatic party, but I am completely hooked on taking early 1980’s photos with my smart phone, which I realize is weird on about 7 different levels. I posted some of my work (may I call them “pieces?”) on Facebook, and almost immediately got a snarky remark, from a favorite snarky remark giver – a college freshman currently living across the country.

“Someone just discovered the hipstamatic app,” she wrote.

I had, and it was a problem, and I knew that.

I was lounging around in quarantine AGAIN with a flu-ridden kid when I downloaded the app to my phone. Hipstamatic takes what would be a perfectly good photo, and subjects it to vintage film, lens and flash effects. The kid with the flu was actually the one subjected – to me taking multiple photos of him sitting on the couch, taking a nap, watching tv, or pretending to take a nap in the vain attempt to get me to perhaps go away.

I showed John my results, and he nodded. After about the 10th oddly lit and grainy shot, he sweetly said, “They’ve made many advancements in photography, you know. On purpose. Pictures are much better now.”

“I know, I know. But look how gritty it is. It looks like the 70’s.”

“But why would you want it to look like the 70’s? The 70’s really didn’t look very good. We knew that while the 70’s were happening. And we were kids.”

When we met up with some old friends at a Starbucks (sure it was a Starbucks in Las Vegas) I showed them my handiwork. Megan was nice enough to play along with me. I’d snap one, and then we’d quickly look at it, critiquing each shot…the flash, the composition, and how our hair looked. Our husbands looked at each other, rolling their eyes the way only grown men and 12-year-old girls can, and went back to talking about basketball.

Other than the photo of a “Tigers Love Pepper” t-shirt, the rest of my Las Vegas photos were taken this way, as were the bowling photos a couple of days later when parents from our church went out for a high-brow night on the town. There is something about Las Vegas and bowling that seem to be the perfect vehicles for gritty, grainy images, and face-distorting lighting.

After 11 grueling minutes of Internet research, the dormant cub reporter in me was intrigued to find out that there is actually a backstory to the hipstamatic craze. (I will call it a craze, because I am currently very interested in it, though I don’t actually have any research to back up its popularity. Apparently, I am currently not that thorough of a cub reporter.) There is even a touch of controversy and a hint of burgeoning urban legend. Suppooooosedly, two brothers manufactured a handful of all-plastic hipstamatic cameras in 1982, that were inspired by Kodak’s instamatic cameras. The brothers were tragically killed in a car accident a short time later, and nearly all of their photos were lost in a housefire in the early 90’s. The story goes that a third surviving brother strives to continue Hipstamatic photography to cement his brothers’ legacies and further the artform that they loved.  However, conspiracy theorists boasting more than 11 minutes of Internet research claim that no such story can be substantiated, and that it is a clever marketing ploy designed specifically for suckers like me, and kids being ironic.

Whatever the story, I love these ridiculous pictures. 1980’s flash does wonders for my vintage skin.

Three of the four photos above are from my camera. The other one is legit. (Hint: my mom’s pants are also legit.) The one with the female humans (girls? ladies? moms? women? that’s a whole different issue) is me and my friend Megan (she’s the adorable pixie on the right). We’re waiting for the fountains at the Bellagio entertaining ourselves while our husbands rolled their eyes. Again.

(weirdsies)

After a dozen or so false starts (again), I sat down with my box of cookies to plunk away and finish up this post. (I might magically find more time to write if I committed to bring a box of cookies every time I go to the computer). I noticed a pattern in what I’d already fitfully written. Nearly every kooky and meandering phrase I typed was kissed by a parenthetical thought (oh my gosh, I love that). This is where the weird part of me who loves to edit would go through and clean them up, (and roll my eyes at myself, while I took another bite of cookie). But in a roundabout way, (hang with me here) it kind of illustrates how there’s a second layer to everything this month. Nothing’s been straightforward or expected or without my editorial input (much to the dismay of many, I am sure). So I’m going with it, and I’m leaving the parentheses, which I suppose is darn close to putting one’s inner monologue out there for the world (scary). So, for you grammar lovahs, instead of wincing every time you see a misplaced paren, have a cookie.

February is the most deceptive of the months. So unassuming and short, and then when it gets here, it’s like, “what in the h-e-double hockey sticks is going on? I’m a mess!” It feels really quite anti-climactic to say, “Well, it is after all February. We’ll get through this.” And “We all know what February is like,” nudge, nudge. Oh yeah, smart guy, what’s it like?

On paper, it’s great. You’ve got the Superbowl, Black History Month, Groundhog Day, two 3-day weekends (thanks Abe!), Valentine’s Day, the Grammys, and of course, the grand dame of late-winter-though-every-year-I- forget-that-it-doesn’t-take-place-in-the-spring event of the year…that’s right, the Oscars. And this year, we’ve thrown in bizarre weather (which has given us my new favorite word, snowmegeddon), an honest-to-goodness revolution, and a skeezy congressman with an iPhone (this is not a political statement. I’m just anti-shirtless dudes inviting you to the gun show, while snapping a picture of it with a camera phone, and then having it run repeatedly by every news outlet in the free world, that’s all.)  However, in our house, we’ve thrown in our family’s first experience of having to manage three overlapping sports, drama, choir (I’m obviously not the one in choir), a few major endeavors at the church, a flat tire, John’s noble reentry into academia, (I can’t not think about macadamias when I hear this, which is probably why I’m not the smarty pants who has to do all the fancy reading) and a cat that has figured out how to crawl all the way inside Zachary’s box spring and who insists on drinking out of our water glasses. (We are now forced to all drink out of, what John will only refer to as, sippy cups). And February doesn’t even get Fat Tuesday this year.

Last week, I sat around a table of bright, funny women, and we were discussing Revelation. Yup, the book of Revelation. (It was assigned and pre-planned and everything – it doesn’t just happen, like I thought it would when I went to work for a church.) That book is full of weird stuff that people throughout history have been pointing to as sure signs that the end is most certainly, nigh. (I’m pretty sure my dad would have thought the four horsemen of the apocalypse would be clad in bellbottoms). Anyhow, I brought up the weirdness I was feeling and observing, and everybody chimed in with their own tales of weirdness and February misgivings. Since we’d ruled out Armageddon with nervous chuckles, my first question, as it always is, was, “Is it a full moon? It feels like a full moon.”

“No but, it’s a strong crescent,” somebody said. That makes sense too, I thought, while I nodded thoughtfully and solemnly. (This absolutely supported my unsupportable hypothesis that the stupid moon is going to make us all crazy.)

Part of my problem, was that I was in the middle of a calendar crisis. Just that morning, I had stood in front of my color coded whiteboard calendar, with a hot cup of tea and a frown. It looked like a clown had thrown up on it, and I was depending on a lot of people, and a lot of grace, and maybe a miracle or two to get through the week, and perhaps even, the month. Everybody I know who plans events, me included, were starting to run out of months where we could put something on the calendar and actually expect people to show up. You can’t pick January because people are still recovering from the holidays, or they’re in Tahoe. You could do March or April, depending on how Easter & spring breaks fall, and how many Tahoe ski weekends people are trying to squeeze in. May is out – sports! June’s busy, nobody’s around in July or August. September is completely taken up by school stuff. October is a veritable cornucopia of harvest carnivals and soccer games, and then people will unapologetically laugh at you if you suggest November or December. Hello? We’re in Tahoe, duh. And sure, yeah, the holidays.

My 2nd favorite book from childhood is Mexicali Soup (the first is Miss Twiggly’s Tree, of which my own childhood copy is being lovingly cared for by Jacob). A large family moves to America from Mexico. The unfailingly patient mother is making her signature Mexicali Soup, and one by one the family members insist on the omission of an ingredient from the dish for a variety of reasons. By the time she serves her meal, it is a big pot of hot water. February was the last month I was clinging too before I was left with a big pot of hot water.

So just when I think I’ve got it all figured out, and that I’m ready to go and kick February in the shins out of sheer frustration, I’m surprised again. Granted, we’re just now half-way through the month, (and though I promised myself we wouldn’t, preparing to deliver the sugariest of sugary Valentine candy to pre-schoolers no less). But suddenly, the projects I thought I could never pull off at work have been fine, fulfilling, worthwhile, and dare I say, fun. A few extraordinary people have stepped in at exactly the moment when I needed them the most. We discovered that Trader Joe’s is still selling their candy cane sandwich cookies (or what I like to call, writing companions in a box), Girl Scout cookies have arrived (TV companions in a box), and I’ve seen two of the movies that have been nominated for Best Picture, (that’s 1/5th of the nominees, a spectacular ratio considering how many babysitting hours that amounts too.) And alas, the package I thought was surely lost in the mail, arrived safely.

February may be completely weirdsies, with that wayward r right there in the middle of its spelling. But its quirkiness is what makes it most representative of what life is like…unpredictable, hectic and living in the shadow of the longer more robust months. It’s full of hearts and sweets, furry rodents, political and historical relevance, inclimate weather, and just enough sun to seed the hope of spring. And of course the people. The people who can mysteriously and simultaneously bring me great joy and great frustration as they drift in and out and around…on their way to Tahoe.