Monday, April 30, 2012

Flashback And Sort of A Before And After

I was going to share some pictures from my doctoral graduation last summer, because I never blogged about it. So I dug back in my flickr sets and looked at the pictures, and I was like, "Whoa, I was thirty pounds heavier." Look, here I am with my beautiful friend Erika last June, and below that is one taken of me this Easter.

erika and me
June 2011
me at Lover's Leap
April 2012
I don't know that I've actually seen the comparison before. Even with my being slightly hunched over in this pic and thus accentuating my honeybaked ham belly, I can really see the difference in my face and arms. It's funny, in my mind's eye I've always looked the same.

So, my graduation last June. Remember how I had wanted the whole family to go and then I almost didn't go and there was crying? Well I am so, SO glad I went and shared those days with good friends. It really properly marked the ending of that grad school chapter in my life, in a true valedictory way. Before the graduation ceremony, I was always feeling slightly melancholy for Santa Cruz. I loved living there--we had so many happy, major, formative times there. Laura arrived there as a newborn and left ready for Kindergarten, and it was a complete intellectual, social, and emotional passage for me. I guess that is why they call it an education.


Getting my hood
procession 6
With my friend Jon
engagement photo
Our engagement photo
super braintrust
Braintrust: David, Erika, and Veronica
sc beach boardwalk
Beach Boardwalk
Even as we settled into our lives here in Atlanta, I always felt a little like I somehow should still be in California. But somehow going out there and walking in the graduation helped me feel happy that it all happened but not sad it was over. There might something to this whole mark-a-life-moment-with-a-ceremony thing. It could catch on.

If you are into it, more pictures are here.

And you guys! It's the last day of our month of daily blogging. I have loved our talks. It has been more than worth the loss of evening netflix time. (Believe it or not, it takes like an hour to talk about nothin'.) Thank you for coming around and reading and commenting. You are such a peach.

If you haven't already, go click on the facebook button up there on the left and "like" SubMat on fb. That is, if you like SubMat. Then we can be all chatty all the time. I'll be like, "OMG," and you'll be all, "I know!"

Sunday, April 29, 2012

I Guess It Wasn't Awesome Behavior, I Don't Know

So this is kind of far up the butt of the rules and codes of conduct governing the Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association, ALTA, but it's been rankling me today. I'm rankled! There was rankling.

We hosted a home match today. (I made pasta salad with farfalle, pesto, green onions, tomatoes, and feta.) The rules state that the home team opens a new can of tennis balls with which the match is played. If the home team loses the match, we take those old balls and go home. If the home team pair wins, the visiting team gives us a can of new, unopened balls to replace the ones we played with. We then give them the game balls to take away as a consolation prize. It seems complicated and the first season I played, it was confusing, but it boils down to this: one way or another, the loser is out a can of balls.

Today I played with S, a girl I don't know well but I really like. She is Venezuelan and we have a slight language barrier, but she is very sweet and we have always won together. Today we won again. Now, to set the scene: It was 88 degrees, no shade anywhere. I was wearing heavy-duty sunscreen from my hairline down to my ankles. I'd been hydrating since breakfast and my urine was as clear as a pure mountain stream. I was ready to play. Also a part of the scene: I am a nice person. Okay.

We beat them 6-0, 6-0. They barely won any points in those games. I was thinking, they must be really new, 'cause S and I play fine but we are not, like, killer tennis monsters. I was all Nice Becky during our two quick sets, being cheerful because I AM cheerful, making pleasant chat between games, calling out "good shot" when they hit a good shot, etc. One girl seemed happy enough to be playing but the other one was like a wet rag. I don't know. When we won our match point, I went right to the end of the net to shake hands and all that, and S and I said the standard things, "Great match, thanks for playing, you played some great points, etc." These girls didn't really want to be friends, it seemed, so we all started packing up our stuff.

At this point there is usually the business of gathering up the game balls and putting them in their can. I would say, "Here you go" and give them the old balls and they would hand over a new can. We would thank them, sisterhood would flourish. But that's not what happened. I held out the can of old balls and one girl said, "You keep them," and then they both bee lined for the gate.

When they were gone, S said, "See, I thought they were supposed to give us balls, right?" I said, "Yes, they are." And I knew that they knew it, because in the little chat that we were able to squeeze from them, we established that the wet-rag girl has been playing for two years. They were avoiding the ball handover. Which made me want to make a thing out of it. I said to S, "Do you want to me to mention it?" And she said, "Yes, you do it, you can make it sound better than me."

So I don't know what got into me, and this is not how manners operate, as I have understood them all my life, in years of being drilled in ladylike modes of not seeming to put oneself first and never drawing attention to the lapses of others, etc. But I went and ASKED FOR THE NEW BALLS.

S and I followed those girls to the picnic area and as we got there, I called out, so breezily (BREEZY!), "Lisa, do you have a can of balls?" And that girl did not speak to me, she just rooted in her bag and pulled out a can and handed it to me with a little pronation of her wrist that I can only describe as pure bitch. I am sorry but you would have thought the same if you'd been there. When I am faced with that kind of attitude, I become like the freaking Homecoming Queen. Amy, you know what I'm talking about. I trilled my thanks to her and passed them to S. Then I knelt down to the girl's little daughters who were standing there by the picnic table and said, "Do you guys want some watermelon? And did you see these cookies?" I was the soul of warm, inclusive festivity. Their mother said, "They saw them."


So okay, I KNOW that I should have just let the whole ball thing go, and I have on other occasions. New players sometimes don't have the whole ball trading token ritual thing figured out and so what. A can of balls costs three dollars. Not a huge prize. But rules are rules, and the main thing is I sensed that those girls just DIDN'T WANT TO HAND OVER THE BALLS.


(At this point I am like balls balls balls, how many times can I say balls?!?)

So Reader, I know I did not exhibit top drawer behavior. I felt equal parts grubby and vindicated after the whole scene. And as we sat on the bleachers, eating our chicken salad croissants and watching the matches that were still going on, our captain came over and said she'd just caught the tail end of a convo at the picnic table in which one of my opponents was saying, indignantly, "Well it's a shame because it's supposed to be about having fun." And I wanted to turn around and yell, "I'M HAVING FUN." But she was probably talking about something else.

I came home and told Matt about it and several minutes later, I said, "But was I wrong to ask for the balls? I wanted S to have them back!" And he was like, "Rules are rules. Are we still talking about this? What?"

I know that you would like it if I would take my tennis balls and jog slowly away toward the horizon right now so you can stop hearing about this world. The good news is, today was our last regular season match. The bad news for you is, we made the playoffs!

Oh yeah baby, coveted bag tag here I come!

Seacrest out.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

One of The 940 Saturdays


Hank's weekend job is going to birthday parties, and my job is wrapping the gifts and driving him. Today was a double header. The first party was at Chuck E Cheese.

At 9:30 in the morning.

I know. I know! Who does that? I laughed when I got the evite. I laughed because I thought it was a terrible idea and yet I knew I'd be getting up earlier on a Saturday than I do during the week and driving fourteen miles so that Hank could attend.

But you see, Chuck E Cheese is like Hank's Paris. He enjoys the place rhapsodically, he vows to return more often in the future, and he is sure that he is really his truest, most essential self when there. I could not stand in the way of that.

I came in, said hi, saw him busily setting out with his pals and his tokens, and then I left and ran an errand. I came back in time to see them bust a pinata full of tickets and spend their last tokens and it was still way more Chuck E Cheese than I wanted. The whole economy of tokens-tickets-little toys is depressing to me. But I am not here to bag on CEC. A mommyblogger griping about Chuck E Cheese is like an 80's comedian talking about the bad food on airplanes. (There used to be food on airplanes!) Nah, I'm not judging the Chuck, I'm just observing that it was the way it was. He had a blast. And I will say that at 9:30 in the morning, the place is clean and calm-ish.

Then we had a couple-hour lunch break at home before heading to the next partay, which was at Hank's karate place. THAT was a hootenanny and I literally spent about three minutes inside. When I arrived back at the end, all of the kids were exhausted and sweaty. It had turned into some kind of pre-K Crossfit. That was at 4:30. So Hank put in a 9-5 day of birthday going.


There's a little tidbit floating around on the intersphere about there being only 940 Saturdays between when your child is born and when he leaves for college. If your child is five, 260 of them are gone. I know, let's just sit with that for a minute. Click on that link--the Jezebel article has a graphic that makes it easier to grok. And yes, really, 940 is a big number. That's a lotta days! But it's more that there even is a number--that our lives with our children don't stretch out forever and ever in front of us like it seems when they're very little.

(I anticipate that my dad will be along in the comments to tell how he had this realization--that we have finite days with our children--when he was taking my younger sister to college. I don't know why MY leaving home did not occasion this thought, heh. We should ask him! But I mention it not to jump on your story Dad, but because I thought of it when I read this.)

This 940 Saturdays thing comes from Harley Rotbart's book No Regrets Parenting. I'm not likely to read it--I think I get it--but if you do, tell us if it's good. I mean, I am not like a guru of Parenting Zen, but I feel like I do okay with not feeling bogged down in the hard details and instead enjoying the passage of ordinary time with these guys.

Back when I was doing my cancer treatments and was scared and thought about dying more, I used to play a little game. I would ask myself, at some random point in the day, "Okay, if all of life were this moment right here, right now where you're trying to adjust Laura's watchband or waiting for Hank to put on his second sock, if this were the last and only moment forever, is it good? Is it enough?"

I never felt perfect fulfillment in those moments--like a resounding "YES" that would make a great ending for this blog post--but the self-questioning became a habit of mind that was its own comfort.

Goodness. I started at Chuck E Cheese and where did I take us? I've said it before, but man, daily blogging.

Hope your Saturday was good.

Friday, April 27, 2012

How My 5th Grader Spends 100% of Her School Time Now That Standardized Testing Is Over

This is all the gospel truth. It sounds like her teachers are practically coming to school in their jammies. Not that I blame them! It's been a long year. This coming week, the fifth-graders are touring the middle school one day, and another day they're going up to the Northwest Georgia Science Museum, where I expect they'll learn that Adam and Eve rode dinosaurs to church.


She did learn about sonnets this last week. One night her homework was to scan and analyze Shakespeare's sonnet 46, "Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war," which I thought was a strange choice for them, as it's so thinky and fussy and wrapped around its own axle. But I can read the absolute shit out of a sonnet, so I was like, "Yes, FINALLY, I can put this PhD to use! Let's tee up this sonnet and knock the cover off! Go team!"

But then she didn't even really need me. After I helped her with some of the vocab, I asked her what the sonnet was saying and she goes, "Well, it's like the eye and heart disagree over who gets the pretty person they're talking about and they decide that the eyes will get the outside and heart the inside of the person but I don't think this is a real problem that anyone ever has in real life." I was like, "Okay. Pretty much just write that down."

Are y'all learning anything new or is it just one long slide towards summer?


Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Haunting of Briar Patch

Well, with daily blogging going on, it was only a matter of time before I shared this movie the kids made. Laura filmed it with her ipod and edited it in iMovie. Briar Patch is what we call the mountain house sometimes.

I swear, it's only a minute and a half long, and it might make you laugh. It did me. And it's more fun than me telling you what I did today (tennis, talking to children, eating food).

The kids have no school tomorrow--it's an inclement weather day we didn't use and so get to take off--so Laura is at a sleepover and Hank has stayed up this late reading Harry Potter with Matt. Pretty weather tonight. This day started off with me in a jacket and ended with me wearing as little as is legal maybe. April. 

You guys gotta tell me some stuff to blog about for the next few days. I am a husk. A happy husk, but you know.

Hope you're cruising into a pleasant evening. xoxo

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Summary Judgments; It's Been A While

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: I definitely get what y'all were saying about this movie's difficulty, and my experience of the first half hour or so made me go, "Oh, so it's that kind of party!" It was convoluted, but then it sort of opened up. I think it teaches you how to watch it--the way it circles back to the same episodes, sometimes with new information or a different perspective--and I wound up really enjoying it. I had read one of the other George Smiley books, but I don't think it was necessary to have done so. You just gotta kinda relax on who exactly is who at first and just roll with it. Loved Benedict Cumberbatch. Cumberbatch! He is a force. Ditto Tom Hardy. And Colin Firth was great but he and I just have too much history for me to really embrace him in every role.

Sardines: I eat them pretty much every day. My life no longer works without them.

New Frontline series, "Money, Power, and Wall Street": I watched the first part of this online today. You should check it out. I know what credit default swaps are now. I mean, I kind of knew before, back when This American Life did a totally heroic job of explaining, but now I really get it and can even see why they seemed like a good idea one time.

College Inn Thai Coconut Curry Broth: I think if you live in the mid-Atlantic region you can find this stuff at Publix stores. By the time I was wise to it, they were phasing it out of the places around me. Y'all, you need this. I mean, assuming you like these flavors. It is so easy to cut up some veggies and cook them in this broth and feel all fancy. Maybe throw in some mushrooms and onion, and like Carl Weathers says, you got a stew goin'! But getting your hands on it is the trick. I actually went and "liked" College Inn on facebook, which made me feel like kind of a tool, just so I could ask where to find this delicious broth. And I was one of legions with the same question. It finally came in stock on amazon and I ordered a case.

Winning Ugly: Mental Warfare in Tennis: The title makes it sound a little more cutthroat than it is, but his point is that a big part of the game is mental, and that there is almost always a way to win if you watch your opponent and match your strengths to her weaknesses. He has a great section on how to neutralize the games of different types of players. I gave it to my bud T and she is giving it to our team captain. Plus this guy's tone is kind of adorably humble and journeyman-like. He's all, "Get Granddad some more whiskey and I'll tell you how I made John McEnroe retire one time. For six months he wouldn't do nothing 'cept swear at the TV."

The Inner Game of Tennis: This is just straight up good, like, for living. It was published in 1974, before a lot of the Zen-and-the-art-of ideas of mindfulness became atmospheric. So some of this, we have soaked up. Like, observe yourself without judging yourself, that kind of thing. He has this great part about how we can't improve until we can really see our game and our shots clearly, and that a coach should just help you to see. I think this idea of seeing clearly is, of course, bigger than tennis.

Different things help different people, but one practical tip that really stuck in my head was this: when you're going to hit a forehand groundstroke, imagine that you are going to swat the ball with your hand, how you would pull back your hand, where you would make contact, and how you would follow through across your body. Swing the racquet like you were hitting the ball with your hand. I don't know, that cut through a lot of overthinking for me.

Hank's new habit of calling me "Momsy": Adorable. And disarming.

Meat: I mean, we've been eating less meat all around and definitely less red meat, but every now and then I'm reminded that meat has power. Matt loves my soup concoctions and the broccoli dish and all that, but tonight I made him a steak au poivre, using the Good Eats recipe, and when he walked into the kitchen and saw it, he just gathered me up in a tight, wordless hug. Meat can do that.

Anything you need to share/sound-off on?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Saw Rock City

birdhouse peeps
My peeps
I'm not completely sure how widespread the See Rock City barns still are. I grew up seeing them all around the Southeast, and I think they could be found as far away as New England? This advertising campaign was dreamed up by Garnet Clark, who among other things is known as the Father of Miniature Golf, which he called Tom Thumb Golf. He seems like a guy with a lot of hustle. At Clark's behest, a young painter named Clark Byers started working on the barns in 1936 and eventually painted 800 roofs. A sign at Rock City says that by the 1950's the barns could be found "from Michigan to Texas to Florida," and that Clark Byers lived until 2004. They're an iconic image to me and I imagine, to many southerners.

In Cormac McCarthy's The Road, the father and son walk by a See Rock City barn.

And speaking of books, have you read Neil Gaiman's American Gods? The premise of that book, which is a fun read, is that all the old gods from mythologies are still wandering around, and that they're drawn to roadside attractions. Roadside attractions, the book explains, are "places of power," where in olden times you would find a shrine, a stone circle, or a magic well. Instead, in the modern world, people feel called to by certain places, but they respond by building a house out of beer bottles or creating the world's largest ball of twine.
"Roadside attractions: people feel themselves pulled to places where, in other parts of the world, they would recognize that part of themselves that is truly transcendent, and they buy a hot dog, and walk around, feeling satisfied on a level they cannot truly describe, and profoundly dissatisfied on a level beneath that.”
Rock City is exactly that kind of place (and it's where the finale of Gaiman's book plays out): a nostalgic tourist attraction that started as somebody's wish or their wonky, weird mania. I mean, the mountain and the rocks were there, of course, but somebody had to look at the landscape and say, "What this needs is a gnome village. Right down here. And it should glow in the dark."

Not to be missed.

And you know, it totally works for me! If you require your outdoor experience to be a pristine natural landscape, maybe don't See Rock City. But I thought it was so charming and retro-delightful, and everybody loved it. We want to go back at Christmas. I can only imagine.

There is also gorgeous scenery there. It's on Lookout Mountain, of course.

laura at rock city

lovers leap
Lover's Leap

shaky bridge
Hank shakes the shaky bridge, Laura freaks out.

Looking towards Chattanooga

needle's eye
Matt told the kids the walls might squeeze together.

matt at rock city
Hey honey, let's just duck into the Goblin's Underpass.


If you find yourself in the vicinity of Chattanooga, you should See Rock City. I mean, just See it! It's there waiting, good grief! Have you seen it yet?

More pictures of someone else's vacation are here. This is way better than if I made you come to my house and look at slides. Way better. xoxo

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Other 49.8%

Laura has a lot of little apps on her iTouch that prognosticate on different matters. Like a Magic 8 Ball gone digital. The other day in the car, she entered my birthday into some app and then informed me that I have now lived 50.2% of my life.

I both hope that is right and protest that it isn't giving me enough credit.

In the interest of making that number more like 40%, I've made a lot of changes in the last couple of years. Basically they all boil down to cruciform vegetables.

(Get it? Boil down! Vegetables? Oh ho! Japery.)

I mean, in addition to the 999 pieces of evidence that broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage are superfoods and should be in your diet, there is more and more evidence mounting that these foods have specific anticancer activity.

So okay, I've been on this journey of wonderful cruciferous discovery and meanwhile, Matt decided to lose weight too. He also uses the MyFitnessPal app, and he's lost thirty pounds (or more?) since the first of the year. We are becoming the thin couple.

In our years of keeping house together, Matt has only ever gone on purpose to buy the ingredients for and request that I make two dishes. One is my lentil soup, which, you know, I won't lie, is very good. And the other is this broccoli-cauliflower purée. Now, wait, if you are thinking, "broccoli-cauliflower purée, where is the yummy in that?" just listen. Something about puréeing those things yields a texture and taste that is magically delightful. You would swear that there was a potato in it. It seems starchy or creamy or something. And if you are counting calories, it is basically free.

You need:

olive oil
an onion, chopped
clove or two of garlic, chopped
couple of carrots, chopped or shredded
a couple crowns of broccoli cut into pieces
cauliflower, half a large head or whole small head, cut up
broth of your choosing
half cup of ricotta cheese
chili pepper paste (optional)
a handheld immersion blender, or a good countertop blender and lots of patience

In a cast iron dutch oven, first I cook the onion, garlic, and carrots in some fat. Today I used like a tablespoon of olive oil, but I've also used ghee. When the onion is cooked and has little brown bits on it, I pour about a cup of broth in. I use chicken broth but you could vegan it up. Let that simmer while you get your broccoli/cauliflower ready. I even cut up the broccoli stems, just in very thin slices. Honey badger don't care. Then you dump all the cut up veggies into the pot and pour the rest of the container of broth in. I added water to get the liquid about halfway up the sides of the veggies. Then put the lid on tightly and bring to a boil. You're basically going to boil some of the veggies and steam some of them. A couple of times, open the lid and mix the whole business around with a spoon. You should throw in some salt and pepper here.

When they're tender but not too tender, turn off the heat. Then get your immersion blender out and go to town. Pulse that stuff, being careful not to splatter yourself with boiling hot vegetable parts. When it is starting to look mashed up, pause and add a few dollops of your chili paste. I use that tube of chopped chilis that you find in the produce section. It is key, I think. Blend a little more. Then add half a cup of ricotta cheese and go at it with the blender just a bit more. It should now have a smooth texture and a pretty green color.

Serve with grated parmesan, sour cream, or a few slivers of butter. I won't tell.

A big bowl has about 130 calories, I think? And that's good, because that's all the room I had left in my calorie budget today. Laura had a well-checkup at the doctor's and got three shots, and THEREFORE, she, Hank, and I all got milkshakes at Chick fil A afterwards. I finally had the banana pudding milkshake, and it was everything I'd hoped. Then I got home and looked it up in myfitnesspal and saw that the small shake (the small, mind you) has 780 calories. And I won't even tell you how many grams of sugar. I straight up fuh-reaked out.

I hollered for Matt like I'd eaten deadly nightshade. I wailed, "But the other flavors of shake are only like 500 calories! What's with the banana pudding one?" He was like, "Uh...pudding?"

So, yes, pudding. I gorged on the pudding milkshake of heedlessness, and tonight I sip the veggie purée of penitence.

Enjoy in health.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I Chop Wood, I Carry Water

Good weekend here. Saturday morning, Matt took Laura to a swim meet and I went to work a volunteer shift at the spring carnival at Hank's school. Look, velcro wall!

My job was to take tickets at and oversee the Big Kahuna inflatable slide. The key task was to keep the kids from piling up at the bottom of the slide and smashing into each other. We strive for injury-free operations at the Big Kahuna. It was very fun but kind of cray-zay. Two hours of directing that traffic was all I could handle, and I was happy to see my relief worker show up at noon. Then Hank and I were free to doodle around the magic show, train ride, sideshow games, and petting zoo filled with long-suffering goats.

Today I had a tennis match out in Dacula, which is basically in East Egypt. It was fun and we played well, but we lost, and when my partner double-faulted at match point, it was a really good opportunity for me to practice my Zen detachment from this world and its endless cycles of desire and frustration.

Then I got to the picnic area and a girl said, "There's beer in this cooler," and she lifted the lid to reveal no beer at all, and it was a really good opportunity for me to say, "You people DRANK ALL THE BEER?!?" really loudly, and I know they will be thrilled to have me back anytime because of my good sportsmanship.

Then some people hugged me because they felt sorry for me, probably about the beer, and I drove home.

There I changed clothes and we went to a little birthday gathering at Pretty Neighbor's house, where I had cake AND beer. Also more hugs.

Then I changed back into my tennis clothes and played two sets of singles with Matt. We left the kids at home watching Tintin. It got dark and the wind gusted. I was up four games in the first set, and then the ball pinged off my frame and into my eye. It hurt a lot right in the moment, but I was mostly chagrined to have gotten hit in the face with a ball twice in one week. I pressed my palm to my eye for a while and then it was okay. My jaw, however STILL HURTS from getting hit on Thursday. I need to get better at tennis before I suffer serious injury.

I think that hit to the eye broke my spirit, because he took that set and went 6-0 in the next.

Also, lesson: I never want to get punched in the jaw. Because that was just a TENNIS BALL that hit me, Lord!

Now I am sore in a few different places. And I'm going to watch a little of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. Matt and I once tried to listen to that book on tape and we couldn't do it. It was too complicated to be an audiobook. We kept going, "Wait, who? Who is that? What?" and rewinding. And finally we stopped.

Did you have a good weekend? Here comes the week, rushing straight at us. Let's be careful out there.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Four More Years!

hank hands

On this day I have been blogging for four years. I cannot account for my persistence in this habit. I must really be getting something out of it.

And of course I am! (That was my trademark dry humor that you've come to love! RIGHT?)

Three big somethings come to mind: I have made real friends of people I met entirely on the internet, and I've grown closer to people I already knew because they became readers here; I have learned a ton from the people who comment here, on matters practical and more metamagical; and the third thing is more interior. It's that sometimes, on this blog, I have known the satisfaction of saying something the way I meant to say it. Anyone who writes, even if it's just an email to a friend, knows that that is an elusive butterfly.

I certainly don't achieve it in every post, but it flickers in and out, even if only I can see it. And I get satisfaction from reading back and discovering moments that make me say, "Oh, this is a true record of how I thought about this thing," or, "This is exactly how this was for me."

I don't mean for this to be horn-tooty! I'm just talkin' 'bout Shaft.

By way of anniversary retrospective, here are the posts from the last several months that stick out in my mind. In these posts, in places, I said it the way I hoped to:

Old Picture
The one about the snapshot of my brother, sister, and me. I think about this one still.

He'll Be Here All Week
The one where I took Hank for his five year-old checkup. I'm saving it for his rehearsal dinner.

All Happy Families Are Alike
The one about being with my whole family in the mountains and the group picture and the nightstands left in the Swap Hut. Reading it makes me feel like we're still together. A close second in this regard is Cricket Finger.

Let's Name Numbers
The one about my health insurance clusterfuck. To put it delicately. The comments on this one are invaluable, really.

The Report on That Dildo Party
I read this and still laugh. Read it and you never have to go to one of these parties. And thank you for being a friend.

The one about having The Talk with Laura, sorta.

My memory only goes back to late last summer, apparently. Thank you for indulging me in this look backward. You people are in my head. You're in there when I'm writing, and I'm thinking, "How to tell them this?" It is some of the best fun that can be had.


Friday, April 20, 2012

Good To See You Too!

A couple of nights ago, I was making a late-ish run to Publix. As I walked in the door, I nodded to a man walking out. He was carrying a 24-pack of soda on his shoulder and really studying me. Nice-looking fellow.

Then he said, "Mary Ann. Mary Ann! I haven't seen you in so long!" He was looking right into my face and I figured that in just a split second, he would realize his mistake. But he just kept grinning at me.

I shook my head slightly and said, "Sorry, wrong person. I'm not Mary Ann."

And immediately, for some INSANE reason, I felt like I was lying. That I really WAS MARY ANN and didn't want to run into this guy.

(I am crazy. Also, why did I feel the need to apologize?)

Then, THEN, he goes, "But it is such a coincidence because your name came up at lunch today! And I said, 'Mary Ann! I haven't seen her in so long!'"

And I'm just shaking my head, like, nope, still not that person. Not a coincidence.

And then he seemed so crestfallen. And he goes, "And then there you were!"

So I said, ruefully by this point, "But it was not to be." Then he said, embarrassed, "Well, sorry to bother you, good night," and walked on.

But I don't know if he believed me! I think he thought I really was Mary Ann. I am not even kidding you right now!

Reader, I felt a little bit bad that I couldn't be Mary Ann for him. I mean, not in any particular way. But I don't know. It was odd being the obverse/wrong side of someone's fortuitous-encounter-that-wasn't. Now, the next time (if ever) he does run into Mary Ann, his meeting with her will be haunted by his failed meeting with her/me at Publix. And maybe he even left there harboring ill feelings toward Mary Ann if he did in fact think I was really her and that I/she didn't want to be recognized by him. Do you see? Problems!

I think I need to pour all of this out on Craigslist and see if we three can find each other and work it out.

Any missed/chance/misleading encounters you need to process?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thursday Night Used To Feel Like Friday Night

Back in the ancient times, when Matt and I both had uninspiring office jobs and no children--this might have been when I worked at the prison and he was cutting grass, or when he worked at the library and I was answering phones, or possibly after we both worked at a health insurance company and I tried to merely look busy all day long--we used to have really warm feelings about Thursday night. It was like a little mini-start to the weekend. He would say, "We only have to go to work one out of the next three days!" And then on Friday we would each walk from our respective offices and have a two-hour lunch somewhere in downtown Chattanooga. And then we would spend the weekend doing nothing. We never had plans. We would drive around. Hike in the Sequatchie Valley. We saw a lot of dollar movies in those days.

Matt sitting through a mediocre movie in the middle of the day because it costs a dollar to see it...that is literally unthinkable to me now. A lost world like Atlantis is lost.

Then, when I left that insurance company job to go back to grad school (not the PhD program, another one but that's a long story), my boss said, with real trepidation in his voice, "Becky, I really want to ask you, are you taking a job with one of our competitors?" Like he was afraid I would carry all the Top Secret info over with me. And I was like, "Dude, you should want me to go take up space at Blue Cross."

All this is to say, Thursday used to feel awesome and like a night to party. And now it is the night when all the sins of the week catch up with me. Do you know what I mean?

The not getting enough sleep hits me hard on this day, as well as whatever other exertions I've got going on. I have played a metric assload of tennis this week. I'm tired.

I got hit in the side of the chin with a tennis ball at practice tonight. Kind of my bottom lip and chin. The lip looks fine, but my jaw and my neck on the opposite side hurts. I think my jaw got a good knock and I must have tensed up my neck. I really should have hit that volley.

It made eating my taco salad for supper less pleasurable. But I still managed to take some nourishment.

And while we were up getting the kids to bed, the dog peed all over the floor. After I bragged about her genius in last night's post!

I still need to make lunches and get Matt to make popcorn so I can assemble fifteen little snack bags of the stuff. I am still Snack Mom.

I guess what all of this means is that everything is great here.

I promise a more substantive post tomorrow or you know, whenever. In the meantime, let us all work to cultivate this attitude:

hank meditates

Good night and good luck.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Lunch Lady

I get slowly better at doing this life. Some things are obvious, I know, but I am just now getting wise to them.

That last sentence should be engraved on my tombstone.

One small victory in my domestic sphere is that I'm finally making the kids' lunches at night and not in the morning before school. I know. I know! For the five previous years of Laura's elementary school career, she has bought lunch at school, despite the fact that the food there is not that good. Somehow I thought that she preferred it that way, and that it was more convenient. Turns out, she would rather bring her lunch from home because that way, she can choose her seat as soon as her class enters the lunchroom. When she buys lunch there, she has to go through the line and then accept the vagaries of lunch table seating fate, or, even worse, sit at the dreaded "overflow table," from whose bourn no traveler returns.

Laura, self-portrait.
So now we're packing her lunch at night and she is free to place herself precisely in the coterie of her choosing.

She gets: cheese quesadilla, boiled egg, fruit, yogurt, juice box, and a crunchy (crackers or the popcorn Matt makes nightly).

Hank gets: peanut butter and jelly sandwich, fruit, yogurt, juice box, and crunchy.

I don't do pretty bento lunches, and I over-rely on baggies. But again, progress is slow for me in some areas.

Related: my beagle can count to four. Whenever I start to make Hank a sandwich (a zillion times a day), she smells the peanut butter or something and stations herself at my feet. She knows that I will cut the crusts off and feed them to her. I make a cut to each side of the sandwich, and she eats them one, two, three, four and then turns and walks away. Genius counting dog!

I'm telling you about this lunch thing because when it is late and I am tired, I think, "I still need to make lunches." And here lately in April, I think, "I still have to make lunches. And blog." So I am using the one to furnish forth a post for the other.


I will not lie, I had a pretty awesome day today.

Even though it started off with a fretful and feverish Hank. I assessed him this morning and decided that he needed his ear checked by the doc. They could see us at 9:50, which gave me time to go through the drop-off line at Hank's school and drop off not him, but the day's snack for his class. I am the snack mom this week, and I couldn't let the kids go without their individual cups of applesauce. Then I drove through the rain towards the doctor's office, thinking about how hard we are all trying. Just trying hard to get things right and do things well, all of us, you and you and me. And I thought, "I should just say to myself, 'You are trying hard, to do right and do your best. Good work.'"

Then we got to the doctor and they were able to see Hank quickly, and all was well. I got him medicated and got him set up comfortably at home. And I know it sounds weird, but I treasured the ordinariness and remediability of that ear infection. Little problems with ready solutions.

After lunch, thinking the rain would cancel all tennis-related activities for the day, I did the shred workout with Pretty Neighbor. Then my foster children came over to play. Then, later in the afternoon, PN and I fed our kids together at my house and then went to a meeting for rising sixth-graders at the middle school.

Middle school!

This school is just like Lake Wobegon; all the kids there are above average.

While I was at the meeting, my tennis buddy T called me and said the courts were dry and that we were on at 7:30, our first match in the T2 season. (T2 is a so-called flex league, where you just grab a partner, get matched with opponents, and schedule your own matches.)

I went home, greeted the kids, changed clothes, and went up to the courts. I was nervous because we're new to this league. And y'all, we had such a great match! T and I won in three sets, it was really close: 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. We knew the girls we were playing against, and I remembered them as much better players than us.

But we've gotten better! And, as Matt says, they stayed the same.

At one point, the score was 15-all and the girl hit a lob to the corner on my backhand side. I was running to it, watching the little yellow ball, seeing nothing else, when all the lights on the court went out. We were plunged into black darkness. For a second I thought that I had gone blind, because I couldn't understand why I could no longer see that yellow ball.

Then we moved to the other court and replayed the point and then there was winning! So much more fun to win in a competitive match than to crush or be crushed.

I know, one of those tennis blogs.

We played for over two hours, yet when I came home the kids were still awake. I set that right and visited with Matt. Then I made lunches. And here we are.

Goodness I do go on! Thanks for reading me. I hope you found some pleasure in your day. xoxo

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Dread Words

"Mom, my ear hurts."

Uh oh. 

Hank started complaining of an earache earlier tonight and now he is still wide awake. I'm using all my remedies. Laptop is about to be used to play netflix bedside, in hopes of keeping him distracted and keeping his head flat so the auralgan will stay in.

I asked him how he feels and he said, "Like a pile of dust."

This concludes our nightly blogging.


Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Clubbed

Book Club was a little bit of a dud tonight. There were only five of us there, and only three people had finished the book, The Tiger's Wife. I was not one of those people, I'm about half through it. I'm finding it absorbing, though not as absorbing as I wish it were. I will have more to say when I'm finished because I do want to stick with it longer.

But I guess I am a lazy reader, or one kind of lazy reader, because when I'm reading a book that doesn't totally grab me, my mind wanders to a similar book that I would rather be reading, usually one that treats the same material and that I've read in the past.

So when I was reading that execrable Hotel of Bitter and Sweet book for my first book club meeting, I thought fondly of Snow Falling on Cedars and wished we were learning about the Japanese-American experience during WWII through that lens instead.

And reading Tiger's Wife, so far, makes me nostalgic for The Historian, which also has the family romance, grief and loss, and the persistence of folkloric beliefs into contemporary life, but also a tight, intriguing plot.

Next month we're reading Unbroken, which I hear people are loving but I am suspicious of as I don't like to be bossed around by inspirational reading. (But it will probably be awesome.)

Then the NEXT month we're reading The Wedding Gift, which I am really looking forward to, but which I am afraid will make someone in that room start talking about how slavery wasn't always so bad as we've been told. I wish I were kidding you, but I am not. Maybe this is no longer a regional thing, maybe there are apologists for slavery everywhere, but...argle bargle, this isn't where I wanted this post to go.

So, please, leave a comment and tell me the number one book you've read lately that you would recommend, and tell us something about it. I am looking for things that are very plotted and fun, but not light, you know what I mean? Like, I read that book Violets of March last year, expecting to really like it because it involves an old diary and a mystery, and it was just too easy and shallow. Maybe that isn't my genre. I think of it as too Nights in Rodanthe-ish even though I have never seen the film of Nights in Rodanthe or read the book. I am unfair that way. But you know, a woman who is hurting over something goes to some beautiful house owned by a well-to-do relative who has the decency to not really be around much, and she wears baggy pants there and holds her coffee mug with both hands.

Which sounds like a wonderful way to spend some time, actually.

But all the loose pants and baggy sweaters and adirondack chairs and solitary walks cause the cold, cold stone of her heart to thaw just a little.

Okay I was going to go on but I'm boring even myself.

So speak up about the books.


Sunday, April 15, 2012

My Publicist

This afternoon our tennis team had an away match in another neighborhood. For Sunday matches, people bring their families. After the match, Laura and I stood chatting with a couple of ladies from the other team. I commented on some pink tennis balls they had, and one lady said, "Oh, so-and-so on our team had breast cancer last year and these are her good luck charm." Normally I probably wouldn't have said anything, but I thought Laura expected me to, so I said, "Oh, I had breast cancer too, good for her to be back out here playing."

They were like, "Oh, you did?" and etcetera, and then the one girl asked, "How old were you? You look so young." I said, "Well, I was 37 when I got diagnosed and that was a couple years ago. 2010 was not a great year."

Then Laura piped up and said, "But Mom, didn't you also finish your Ph.D. that year?"

It was so funny, because if I don't really announce to strangers that I had breast cancer, I really don't mention the fact that I have a Ph.D. It just practically never comes up. But we three ladies laughed and I said, "Yes, Laura is my PR person, and she's right, some good things happened that year too."

It was a sweet moment, though. Thinking about it afterwards, she was bragging on me the way an adult usually does for a child. Funny role reversal. And also, I think it was something in her that resisted having me so casually describe a whole year--ten percent of her life, really--as "not a great year." That was the form her rebuttal took.

It's been true the last couple of years, but now I notice more and more that she is my little shadow, hanging around by my elbow and listening to what I say and how I say it. I remember doing the same thing with my mother and the other women in the family, learning how to operate, learning how to be sociable and what tone to take, learning all the different registers of daily facework.

And with kids who are no longer little kids, you start to realize that they see not just the face we all present to them as their moms, they really see us. They know us.

No pressure.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Saturday Check In

Don't just stand there, bust a move.
Hey. It's Saturday night! I'm blogging every day!

This morning Hank had one of his many graduations in karate. This is our third one since he started in November. I decided it was time for Matt to get a turn taking him to the belt ceremony. They set off for that about 9:30 and I went back to bed for two hours. I was just toting along a sleep deficit all week long. I've gotta do better with that, because when I'm putting all the pieces together--eating well, exercise, enough sleep--I am feeling bulletproof. Like, better bring kryptonite. But when one of those pillars gets shaky, I notice a slight but definite degradation in the state of affairs around here. Okay, so I slept in.

Then in the afternoon, I took Hank to a birthday party in a park in the old town part of Norcross. Living in a homogeneous suburb as we do, I forgot that within easy distance are these places that are still like small-town Georgia. Like with a real little downtown clustered around the rail depot, red brick main street, and beautiful old houses. You just don't see that in the Atlanta burbs. It was refreshing. I definitely want to go back, even though it was twelve miles from my house. It was a great playground too.

Hank had a great time. But he always has a great time. There was some kind of dancing game, which was awesome, and a piñata (awesomer), and a cake that looked like a boombox. The speakers were waffles. The knobs were oreos. We all admired it.

Those Boden shorts are on their third year.
Then we came home, Hank falling asleep on the way. When he does that, I just roll down all the windows in the car and leave him in the garage.

The weather could not have been more gorgeous all day. Just perfect.

Then in the early evening, Matt and I played tennis with the Hamiltons while Laura rode herd on the kids at the playground. They beat us terribly, but when we swapped wives (swingers' tennis!), it was much more competitive. Then we had pizza at our house and talked about the game biz. Then I gave Kelly one of my Tropicana roses in a Red Stripe beer bottle, which makes an excellent bud vase. Then they left, Matt went downstairs to work, and I came in to write to you.

My Tropicana roses are bananas. I don't know what's gotten into that bush. It is just busting out and making all the rest of creation look bad.

Now you are up to speed. Yes, I know you didn't want to know any of this on a Saturday night, but I am serious about this blogging every day thing! Super serious!

Love to you.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Well That's Okay Then

Yesterday I was standing in my kitchen slicing a cantaloupe. My sister texted me: "Didn't get a chance to tell you...going in now to hear results of BRCA test. Appt in 20 minutes. Will keep you posted, natch."

The BRCA test is a genetic test that determines if you have one of the recognized harmful mutations in the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes, mutations that are known to be linked to a greatly, greatly increased chance of developing breast or ovarian cancer. I think that with a BRCA mutation, a woman's lifetime risk of developing breast cancer is somewhere in the range of 65-85%.

When I was diagnosed, with no history of breast cancer in our family, I didn't have the BRCA test because nobody thought it was a thing. But then when Amy was diagnosed, obviously her docs were like, "Okay, let's check into it."

I got her text and suddenly the reality hit me of what a positive BRCA result would mean: more surgery, more reconstruction, goodbye ovaries. And then, when that initial flurry of crap was past, a difficult and murky issue for the family going forward. What would this mean for our girls?

Before, I had not really thought a BRCA mutation was a possibility. Or, more truly, I hadn't yet gotten as far as considering it. But when she sent me that message, I considered it. I thought about all of it, all at once, for Amy and for me. In my mind's eye, I traced our twin paths on opposite sides of the globe, back to the surgeon, back to the plastic surgeon, long meetings with the oncologists, trying to understand the data, talking to our kids, laying the groundwork for more complex talking later. I saw all of it. I stopped slicing the cantaloupe because I couldn't see what was in front of me. People sometimes say, "Oh, I was in a fog," and that's exactly what it was like. I just stood there and leaned against the counter. My feet were stuck to the floor.

I stayed in my kitchen for thirty minutes. I texted Amy a couple of times, knowing she was probably in her meeting. The feeling of suspense was a little bit dreadful. And one thought I had, as I was waiting, was, "Okay, for this round of surgeries, nobody will be commenting on how strong and upbeat I am, because I am going to just take to bed and refuse to talk about it." Like, I just didn't want to give the whole issue the space of one word. Just, no.

Then she texted me back with the good news.

When I read that, I could breathe again and I felt so, so glad. So glad that we can both just keep moving forward. I had felt, as I was standing there, that all of the good things I've done for my health over the past two years--weight loss, better food, better and more exercise--I felt that if we had this harmful gene mutation, that somehow all that good stuff would be rendered null. I know it's not rational. But this bit of good news made me think, "All right, stay the course. The past is past."

Then I got in the car and went to pick up Laura from swimming, relieved. But I felt almost like reality had divided in two while I was waiting for that answer from her. I am sure there is some branch of theoretical physics that would explain this. But I had seen the other future so clearly that it seemed to have its own weight in the universe, somehow and somewhere. In some other world, Amy and I were both starting on those twin paths.

But not in this world. Now, the frustrating thing about genetic testing is that it's not like they've got the genome all figured out. You don't get an "all clear" result. What they tell you is that your gene doesn't resemble any of the variants that they know are linked to disease. But there could be a BRCA3 that nobody knows about yet. There are just too many possibilities.

I don't really know what any of it means, or what this means for why we both got cancer. I'm thinking we'll never have that answer. Or it has to do with some environmental factor in how we grew up, our house? Our town? I think of this as the Haunted Indian Burial Ground theory. Or, as Amy said in jest (?), it was the BPA from all the canned green beans we ate growing up. Then our mom said to shush and that we never ate that many green beans from cans. I'm inclined to think it is just crappy luck.

So that was a good day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

How We Enter The World

Today my cousin Patrick and his wife Jessica had a baby girl, Olivia. They are the couple whose engagement and wedding I blogged about, like ten minutes ago, and now here comes Jess with a baby carriage.

So we start off like Olivia, just a wee baby thing with closed eyes and little fists, and then in less than a year, we are like this.

Business casual
Baby Gabriel! This boy doesn't turn one until July, yet somehow I suspect that he already has a LinkedIn profile. He just seems like he's in command of something. Probably there is a flowchart showing that a few other babies are his direct reports.

I already have his birthday present, so Gabe, would you hurry up and turn 1? Dawdling.


The pictures of cute babies are my offering to you, as I have had a busy day and am done being productive and alert. Or rather, I am finished, not done. As my mother in law would say, "Cakes are done, children are finished."

I had a tennis match this morning (winning! tiger blood!), and then a bunch of normal stuff, and taking Hank to karate, and discussing Laura's day with her ("Mom," she said, "Some of my friends are having problems with their relationships so I'm trying to give them a little coaching," and she couldn't BE more my child. I swear, it's like she's still attached by the umbilical cord 'cause we are activated by the same impulses). Then I had another tennis practice from 7-8:30, and that is a gracious plenty of tennis for one day.

Then, just now, in my kitchen, I spilled a great quantity of my DoMatcha Organic 2nd Harvest Matcha powder all over the floor. I just stood there in disbelief as the unbelievably fine green particles settled down on the floor, the edges of the cabinet doors, the toe of my boot. It's the most expensive mess I could have made with the contents of my kitchen. I mean, I'm sure Studio 54 had more costly powders to clean up at their place, but gosh, seeing all that matcha on the floor hurt. Matt didn't seem appropriately grieved and so I told him that it cost thirty dollars a jar, which would actually be a great bargain, as the current Amazon subscribe 'n save price is $33 and change. Then I used two pieces of paper to scoop up a good bit of what was spilled--thankfully the floor was basically clean--and vacuumed up the rest. Let us turn the page on that chilling scene.

I am going to be in bed by midnight-thirty if it kills me. Six and a half hours of sleep is not the same as seven and a half. Oh not by a long shot. This is an ongoing issue for me.

What are you up to?

Beck out.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Laura and Hank

I corralled the kids for pictures before they ran off to find eggs in their grandmother's yard. I worked quickly and got just a few.


Easter 2012
I tried to keep Hank's shirt tucked in but it was unpossible.
You mothers of daughters, meet me in the kitchen for a minute. Next to the dip. Okay, y'all, you will understand that I was so happy when I said to Laura, "We need to figure out what you'll wear for Easter," and she pulled this dress out of her closet and said, "I want it to be this." I mean, it's not a "junior" dress, it's not a Justice flashy 'n flirty number, it's a little girl dress. Because she is still a little girl. I mean, I don't know what I was expecting her to want to wear--J. Lo's green Versace gown?--but I'm still a little rocked on my heels by the whole eleven years old thing, and the fact that every now and then I look at her and she seems So Grown Up.

Matt and I did indeed make a midnight run for more candy on Saturday night. Then he filled the eggs and hid them outside. After the kids found them all, he had them come inside, pool their eggs in the middle of the table, and do an egg draft. This is the game designer in him. They enjoyed the heck out of it.


Found one!

Easter 2012

Yes, in the above picture, Matt is wearing athletic shoes, having forgotten to bring any other shoes to Chattanooga with him. But you see, he also forgot his good shoes and had to wear tennis shoes to our rehearsal dinner. So I look at this and see not absentmindedness, but a beautiful tradition of absentmindedness.

Nobody took a picture of me in my Easter finery--yes, I am like that desert rose, born to blush unseen--but you'll have to take my word that I looked totes cute. Here's a tiny, pretty flower instead.

purple flower

I hope you are having some lovely spring moments these days.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

Tennis practice this morning was kind of weird. Yeah, this has become one of the those blogs where I talk to you not about the sport of tennis, like, in itself, but about my local culture of tennis and how it makes me feel. You know, one of those blogs.

So why was it weird? First off, we were all pretty rusty after having had a week or ten days off. Only my friend T had played over break, but that girl watches tennis on youtube (vids of the Bryan brothers) and takes notes. Girl is dedicated. Anyway, we were all rusty but I in particular played like ass. Such that, at one point, the coach called out, "Becky, WHAT? You're just not swinging at all!" And I tried to yell, "Yes Coach!" but while I'm talking I'm comically clumsy. It's like I was all, "Okay, I got this!" then slipped on a banana peel. Or stepped into a mop bucket. The tennis equivalent of that.

Also, I didn't get to hang with my cadre of buddies, but was paired with a perfectly nice woman I'll be partners with on Thursday. We won a match together a couple of weeks ago, for our other team (a lot of these girls are on the same two teams, confusing). She's fine, we just don't know each other that well.

Meanwhile, Debbie Downer, from last week's post, is paired with Pretty Neighbor again this week. And not to beat a dead horse, or dogpile on someone who, as I have already stated, is a bit crazy, while we were on vacation she sent a whackadoo email to the whole team, apologizing for having played badly and enumerating specific areas of her game she was going to work on. I was going to tell you immediately but really, too cringe-inducing. And today she did her best to horn into a conversation I was having with the coach about my string tension. MY string tension, mine! But enough! Let us just wish her well and return to ladylike placidity on the subject.

I don't know, Reader, but it gave me something to think on as I drove home from dropping Laura at swimming. And then the Chick fil A employee in the drive-thru line told me they were out of vanilla wafers for the new banana pudding milkshake and I was like, "Dammit! Why is everything such CRAP?"

But I rallied somewhat afterwards.

And that was a lot of what happened today.

Worst blog post EVAR.

But you have my love!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Little Brown Church

Little Brown Church on Signal Mountain
Little Brown Church
In Chattanooga, on Signal Mountain, there is an old chapel called the Little Brown Church. It was built in the nineteen-teens in Summertown, an area of the mountain colonized by folks who would come up from the valley in the summer to escape the heat and yellow fever. The story is that they didn't want to hire a preacher, so they split up preaching and teaching duties among themselves. It's still in use during the summer and still belongs to the community as a non-denominational chapel. It is anything but fancy, but it has a lot of charm. In all the years we lived there, I'd never seen it, so Betty drove us out there. I still don't know if I could find it again, as it involved a gravel road that I was sure must be somebody's driveway.

Little Brown Church door

Little Brown Church interior
The inside reminded me of a ship, all made of the same wood.
As I snapped the picture above, I thought, "I've taken this picture before." And then I remembered.

Chapel Interior
In Cataloochee Valley, North Carolina, 2007.
That's a tiny Hank on piano, Laura warming the front pew, and Matt bringin' a message at Palmer Chapel, an old place inside the Smoky Mountains National Park. Cataloochee is a really neat place if you ever get to visit. And thinking of this picture made me think of this from outside the church.

In Cataloochee Valley
Look at them. This was probably a year before I started blogging, so you guys never knew the baby Hank, and ragamuffin Laura. Looking at this picture, I worry that I can't remember how they really were then. Like, their physicality and how they sounded, how taking care of them in every ordinary moment really felt. I remember lots about them and about that time, but I can't re-feel the being. Do you know what I mean? I could break my own heart over it, almost.

L in Little Brown Church

But time, she is marching on.


Sunday, April 8, 2012

Ham Is Not A Lifestyle

Greetings! We got back to Atlanta a couple of hours ago. Easter Sunday has been going on and on for about two days, it feels like. And I think that some of its caloric legacy might be with me a while longer. On MyFitnessPal, the calorie counting website we use, my sister posted on my profile wall, where we can each see what the other is eating, and we sometimes give each other helpful words of encouragement.

Her message: "When you're ready to talk about the ham, I'll be here."

The ham. Oh the ham. Betty had this honeybaked ham sitting in the fridge for the last two or three days. And it was just so easy to reach in, nudge aside the gold foil, and peel off a slice, slam the fridge, and go. I got to where I could do it in one motion, deftly, with one hand, while checking email on my phone in the other hand. I mean, I had a Ham Routine. That can't be good? Do not do as I do!

And also, today after church I was making the deviled eggs, and you know how you always have filling left over after you spoon it back into all the egg halves? Reader, I grabbed a slice of, yes, ham, and MADE A LITTLE HAM AND EGG FILLING TACO. Like where the ham was the taco shell and DON'T EVEN LOOK AT ME.

(I wish you could see how I'm cracking up typing this. I mean, are these tears of mirth or shame, I don't know. It's some kind of release though.)

Today was a nice day even setting aside the deviled egg ham taco. Church, lunch, nap, brisk walk around the mountain, driving back home singing Glee songs with Laura, and now, looking at the pics I took and ham blogging.

Have a good night. I'll be back in better form tomorrow. Here's a snapshot. xoxo

Laura checking her dad's pockets for eggs. My girl.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Egg dyeing, coffee drinking.
Hey, what are y'all doing? Matt got here to his mom's late last night. We slept in this morning until, like, 11:30 or something. No shame in my game. Then we all went out to lunch and I had a bloody mary that was made with bacon-infused vodka. It is really true that all is for the best in this, the best of all possible worlds.

Then we took the kids to Rock City up on Lookout Mountain. Very wonderful. I love those retro-attractions. I took pics with my real camera and I'm sure you'll see them because, hi, blogging every day in April.

Then we colored eggs. Then Betty and I rearranged the furniture in her TV room. Together we moved, among other things, a china cabinet filled with crystal. Matt napped while this was happening (no judgment).

Then the kids went to bed and the Easter Bunny stopped by.

He also brought the Sunday NYT, it looks like.

For Hank, that's: Lego Harry Potter sticker book, Battleship card game, mystery Lego minifig, choco bunny, Wonka bar, two candy eggs. For Laura: new bathing suit, mystery Lego minifig, choco bunny, two candy eggs. As I write this, Matt is in the kitchen filling eggs with M&M's and jelly beans for the EB to hide. Actually he just came in to tell me that he wants to run out and get some more candy because the eggs need more variety. I will defer to his superior sense of candy protocols. Sure, it's after eleven pm but he had an evening nap (no judgment).

Hope you're enjoying some good times today.
(E) B

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Mudville Nine

Put me in, Coach. After I finish my Sprite.
We took the kids to a minor league baseball game tonight, the Chattanooga Lookouts. Go Looks! It was fun. It might have been even more fun if the Looks were better at playing baseball. They lost to the Tennessee Smokies 0-1. But as Laura observed, "Well, it isn't the major leagues, after all." The kids were excited to be there nonetheless. They've never been to a baseball game. I know!

A minor league game is just good entertainment. None of the seats costs very much, you can see the action really well, there are snacks and beer, and the people-watching is unparalleled. As Matt would say, there was one of everybody there.

One of my favorite people was a woman sitting in our assigned seats when we got there. We had tickets for actual specific seats, and there was a couple and a child in them. I did the thing you do of, "Oh, let's compare tickets." Because 99.999% of the time, one of you is mistaken about your section/row/seat/basic orientation in the universe. But this lovely, when I wanted to see her ticket, huffed and said, "Like I don't know how to read."


But I didn't even react because she was extending her ticket to me as she spoke, and I wasn't about to get into a slapfight with someone who was already missing teeth. I just wanted to see her ticket. And she spoke the truth! They had tickets for those seats and so did we. Ours we bought online and theirs were from the box office. We summoned the usher, who confirmed this duplication. Then he suggested we sit in some empty seats a few rows forward, which I thought was just kicking the can down the road, but whatevs, it isn't the major leagues, after all. We plunked down and it all turned out fine.

L has new Easter shoes, courtesy of her grandmother.
It was a fun, cheap outing, I'd love to come back on a summer night and do it again. It is a minor miracle that I did not eat a hot dog or something worse. I did have a light beer and that was all. I felt practically ascetic. There were fireworks after the game, which made the kids feel like they'd had a big night out.

Oh, and Betty, who has a sharp eye for social comedy, drew my attention to this scene.

Poor baby doll.
She said, "Here's a sign that someone is not from the absolute top shelf of society." And she pointed to the baby doll that had been lying in a puddle of beer all night. "You wouldn't let that happen," she said.


A fun night out in Mudville. Happy Easter Weekend y'all! xoxo