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Friday, September 29, 2006


May all of your eggs be sunny side up

Ah, the bliss that comes from a well-oiled and finely-tuned routine. This week was the perfect combination of work and relaxation. Every day occurred exactly as I planned it. School drop-offs and pick-ups worked like magic; Rosa showed up as planned; I saw some friends and shared some laughs; I spent quality time with the kids; I wrote tons of posts including these two for BlogHer and this one for Silicon Valley Moms Blog; and I even got to spend some time shopping in San Francisco. A truly blissful week.

And it looks like the feeling of bliss will be continuing into the weekend. I've already got the makings for a super deluxe breakfast waiting in the fridge. Mike requested corned beef hash with an egg on top and I'm going to make the corned beef from scratch with the leftover tri tip and potatoes from tonight's dinner. I know! I'm impressed, too. What weekend can go wrong after a breakfast like that?

After breakfast, I've got less than 30 minutes of painting to go in Mike's office and then we can put up the shelves, assemble the desks, and start making it the home office of his (and my) dreams. We might be able to finish the whole thing tomorrow, and I'll definitely be posting before and after pictures when it's done.

There's really nothing like having a feeling of contentment, and that's how I feel right now. Life has been especially full and rewarding lately. I like this particular stage of motherhood that I'm in. The minute-to-minute demands are less, and with Emily in preschool two mornings a week, I now have the opportunity to spend time alone with Thomas. It's nice to have regularly schedule Thomas-n-me time. And I think it's also good for him to be apart from Emily once in awhile. It gives him an opportunity to explore the world without being in the shadow of his older, wiser sister.

I've been reading one of my favorite authors lately, Alexandra Stoddard. She is a "philosopher of contemporary living." Per her website, "Alexandra Stoddard’s unique insights reveal the small but significant things that we can do to change our attitude, heart and environment for the better. Her mantra is Happiness is the first principle of life. Love & Live Happy."

Stoddard's message is hopeful, but her writing isn't sappy or mawkish. She's smart, she has good taste, she likes interior design and organization, and she is self-aware enough to know that the thoughts she has on how to live well and happy are ones that others may benefit from knowing, too. I've read only a handful of her books (she's written 25), but her words of wisdom never seem re-worked. She's somebody I would love to one day have the opportunity to meet, if only to thank her for sharing her insight with me.

One piece of insight that I just read in her book Things I Want My Daughters To Know is perfectly applicable to working on Mike's office tomorrow. She writes, "Nothing great is ever accomplished without plans and perseverance." She goes on to explain how other people can inadvertently derail our plans with their own and how we owe it to ourselves to stick to the plan that holds true to our original intent and accomplishes our own goal. What I particularly like about her writing is that she provides realistic examples of how life and situations can so easily derail our happiness. I also enjoy her assurances that many times the circumstances are not out of our control, as we so often think they are.

I highly recommend her books if you're looking for something to read that will make you feel good and give you hope.

Have a great weekend, everybody! May all of your eggs be sunny side up.

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Thursday, September 28, 2006


Love on a tray, ain't no surprise

Marriage is a funny thing.

If you're lucky.

No, but seriously, folks, keeping a marriage together is hard work. It takes a bunch of things I don't always have: patience, strength of mind -or- a mild stroke, determination, amnesia, pills, booze, love, sex drive. To name a few.

But here's a simple thing you can buy on teh Internets that will help you fall in love with 'ol Mr. Right all over again:

Oh, the joy which comes from teh Internet
His-n-her laptop trays.

Yes, when the box containing his-n-her laptop trays arrives in the mail you know that you have just kissed the romance buh-bye and the everlasting love that can only come from growing old together, one laptop tray at a time hello.

His-n-her laptop trays
Let the games begin.

P.S. This post brought to you by Love Thursday, which usually isn't quite so cynical. Really.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2006


How to make your kids happy they woke up

Knowing that this was going to be my day-o-relaxation, I made the kids a super extraordinary breakfast this morning. They each got a chocolate dessert cup filled with banana slices and topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup.

Emily eating breakfast

Thomas licked his plate clean and then cried when I told him there was no more left.

I had a great day. Rosa came (late, but better late than never, right?) and I took off for a run. The morning fog still hung in the air, which helped because I tackled a hill that I just recently found. It takes me to the highest point in my neighborhood and overlooks a canyon. The view's amazing; I'll take a camera next time and photograph it.

After returning home, I finally touched up my roots. That made me feel human again and I knew the day could only better from there. I ate lunch at my desk -- chicken curry sandwich made from leftover broiled chicken breast that I made last night-- then headed out in the Boxster to experience life as only a mom on the loose can.

Which is to say I sped down 280 blaring AC/DC's Back in Black and went shopping in The City.

I found a black nylon quilted coat at Rabat on 24th Sreet and a heavily discounted tunic top at Ambience (I think that's what it's called.) Then I casually meandered up and down the street while sipping a chai latte. You do understand that I spent the day in heaven, don't you?

It's late and I need to hit the sack. Tomorrow I'm taking Thomas on a run and to playgroup while Emily is at preschool. Is it weird that I'm looking forward to exercising? Freaky.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Stopping to eat the pumpkin

I just got back from the monthly meeting of my book club. We discussed Alexander McCall Smith's The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, which is a great book. It's an easy read and it's full of moral pointers, simple truths that explain the hows and whys of things so well you can't help but believe them immediately and without hesitation. For example, consider this passage:

"She stopped. It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin."

Lately I've been feeling the need to read a self-help book. I like to read self-help books when I feel down or out of sorts. I think my general malaise has to do with the changing of the seasons, the shortening of the days as we move into winter. I am a summer child; I gather strength and am my strongest at summer's peak. My strength and resilience wanes with the fading light of fall and winter. Historically I have made my most life-changing decisions in December and January: quitting jobs, quitting lovers, dropping out of school, moving. Maybe I feel the need to do something in order to jump start my life when it's naturally at its least productive.

Anyway, so I'm feeling this general malaise as we move into fall and The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency has proved to be as good as any self-help book. The above passage reminded me that so often I can get caught up in negative thinking spirals where I replay situations over and over again in my head, describing them in great detail as if I'm explaining them to somebody else who happens to care very, very much.

A little of this introspection is good, but too much of it makes my head spin and doesn't allow me to move forward or to accomplish something of which I can be proud. It's at those times that I need to remember to eat my pumpkin, to stop and focus my attention on something simpler and--most likely--more important.

I also like how apt this visual reminder is as we head into October and pumpkin season. I think I'll buy one next time I'm at the store and put it on my desk.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006


Mexi-Cali White Trash Casserole

Every family cook on this planet has a variation of this casserole recipe in his or her repertoire. Whenever I make this casserole, my future passes before my eyes. Watching Thomas chow down on two, three, and sometimes four plates of this mac-n-meat feast, I know that I will be making this dish for the next seventeen years he lives at home. And then when he goes to college, I'll be making him special double batches (in dishes I don't need back) to put in his freezer when I visit.

The year he is a vegetarian, I will substitute Gimme Lean for the ground turkey.

The year he is a vegan, I will substitute Gimme Lean for the ground turkey, quinoa for the mac-n-cheese, and use soy cheese for garnish.

Mexi-Cali White Trash Casserole
Alternative title: How to cook your way into my son's heart, future love interest of his

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 package ground turkey (approximately 1.25 pounds)
1 box white cheddar mac-n-cheese
butter and milk according to mac-n-cheese directions
1 package taco seasoning mix
1 (4 oz) can diced green chiles, mild
1 (15 oz) can whole kernel corn, drained
1/4 jar spaghetti sauce
1/2 cup grated cheese (mozzarella, monterey jack, cheddar, or some combination of the three)

  • Prepare mac-n-cheese according to directions on box.
  • In large skillet, saute chopped onion in oil until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Add ground turkey. Break up and saute until almost brown.
  • Add minced garlic to skillet.
  • Finish browning turkey.
  • Add package of taco seasoning mix to skillet with one cup water.
  • Stir and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn on oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add can of chiles, can of corn, and spaghetti sauce to skillet.
  • Simmer for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add mac-n-cheese to skillet and stir to blend.
  • Transfer mixture to casserole dish and top with grated cheese
  • Put in oven for 7 to 10 minutes until cheese is melted and slightly browned.

Serve hot. Makes great leftovers, too.

For your present and future enjoyment, a video of Thomas finishing dinner:

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Saturday, September 23, 2006


Me, a baby, and some self awareness about houseguests

My blogging has been light lately; life has taken precedence over writing about life. It was a good thing for the week or so it was happening, although I'm glad the hectic pace is slowing down and I can resume my normally scheduled self-centered blogging existence. I missed me! Blogging about my day helps me put things in perspective and control the jumble of thoughts in my head. Exercising and blogging are my sanity checks.

Hey, guess what? Speaking of sanity checks, my sister-in-law had her baby! Mike and I waited at the hospital while she was in labor. It was really an amazing experience knowing what she was going through just down the hall. My sister has three kids but I live in a different state from her and I wasn't with her for the birth of any of her kids. Being there at the hospital for my sister-in-law's labor and delivery was a unique experience and one that I might never have the opportunity to do again until (and if) Emily and Thomas start their families.

Waiting for the baby's cry
Waiting for the baby's cry...

My mom was staying with us this past week and we had a good visit. She stayed with us for four out of the seven days she was in town and I think that was a big reason why things remained pleasant and we had only a couple of minor disagreements. We also stayed busy and therefore didn't have time to sit around pushing each other's buttons.

I've come to the realization that while I enjoy having houseguests, I prefer them to stay no longer than four or five days. I feel selfish writing that, but I would rather have an enjoyable time that leaves a good taste in my mouth and more frequent visits with somebody than a bad time that leaves me wanting never to see that person again. Okay, it's never been that bad, but there's only so much conversation and entertaining I can do before I reach overload. And sometimes overload just ain't pretty. Also, it's hard to put my regular life on hold, even in small ways, for extended periods of time.

It was nice seeing my mom have a good time with Emily and Thomas. She got up with them every morning and made them breakfast. She watched Thomas one morning so that I could go to bad mom's coffee with Badger, Squid, and company, and that was great. I really appreciated it. She also watched them all night so Mike and I could be at the hospital with Jennie and our family on Mike's side. But besides enjoying her babysitting skills, I like the fact my kids have the opportunity to know their grandma. Granmie Martha! Granmie Martha! They followed her around every day like little puppy dogs, barely allowing her the opportunity to use the bathroom without company. She put up with all of the attention and seemed to enjoy it, too. My mom is a good grandma.

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Friday, September 22, 2006


Tumbling heart over head: A Review of We Are All Fine Here by Mary Guterson

We Are All Fine Here
By Mary Guterson
(Berkeley Trade, 2006; $13.00)

There are some books you read because the characters--usually the heroine or hero--are likeable. And there are other books you read because the heroine is unlikeable and you can't help but want more and more of her; you finish the book in record time because you literally hated every minute of reading about this person, this horrible creature who entered your own world through the pages of the novel and infused it with negative energy.

Reading Mary Guterson's book We Are All Fine Here was like that for me. The heroine, Julia, bothered me from the minute I was introduced to her. Here was a woman with a husband and a teenage son (Both of whom needed more of her attention and love, if you ask me. Harumph.) But instead of enjoying her life and attempting to find joy in her relationships, she is living in a mind warp in which she still pines for her bad boy boyfriend from college, Ray.

Ray! If you've ever loved a man who was horribly wrong from you but whose very wrongness seemed to make him the sexiest man you've ever had the pleasure of fucking, raise your hand.

I thought so.

I am a suburban housewife. And like many suburban housewives, I have a past that--if not for this blog--would rarely see the light of day in my current, rose-colored world. Now I've got the husband, the two kids, the 2,500 square feet of pristine lawn.

The thing is, I've had all of that before. Okay, In my past I was an urban wife who had a career and lived in a rented flat, and it was a garden instead of a lawn and we had no children, but my point is that I had a life with another person that could have been forever (isn't that what the commitment of marriage is all about?) but I threw all of that away for the smell and taste of danger.

My own honest side tells me that what I dislike about Julia isn't the decisions she makes, but it's the decisions I have made. When she's screwing her ex-boyfriend in the bathroom during an old friend's wedding, I cringed for her and also for me. One thing about Julia that does rub off on the reader is her utmost honesty. She knows what's right and she knows what's wrong, but that doesn't stop her from choosing wrong over right. I've been there; haven't we all?

We Are All Fine Here is not a difficult read. The sentences contain the requisite parts of speech; the action supports a story; the story is presented in a plausible manner. We read about a married woman whose husband has the hots for a woman in his office. Meanwhile, her teenage son is good at ignoring her and smokes pot in his bedroom. To amuse herself, she has a mild crush on a man she works with and fantasizes about the guy she loved in college.

But when she hoists herself up on that bathroom counter and gives in to temptation, when she allows fantasy to become reality, is when the story becomes less simple, more real, and for me, harder to digest. Wake up, Julia! He doesn't love you! is what I wanted to shout at her. Because that's what I shouted to myself on, oh, probably one million separate occassions when I knew that letting my heart lead over my head was not what I should be doing.

Julia's process of self discovery might conflict with what society pushes on us as the appropriate way for a mother and wife to think. But not all decisions we make are easy and not all outcomes are the ones we desire initially. By the end of this novel, I realized that it wasn't Julia whom I disliked. It was the part of me that is like Julia.

By removing embellishments that would only serve to give us a more distinguished and likeable Julia, Guterson's liberal application of straightforward, dry wit gives us a true heroine of our times. Julia is you and she is me. We all have decisions to make. Will we make the same ones she makes or will we choose a different path through motherhood and, ultimately, through life? For me, all stories I read become personal; Julia's story is no exception. It wasn't until I had time to digest this book that I realized I had projected my own ideas of what is right and what is wrong onto Guterson's heroine.

In order to enjoy this book, I had to remind myself that every woman in this world, whether it's me, you, or Julia, has to make her own mistakes. And she also had to decide if her decision is a mistake or if it's fate intervening in an otherwise boring existence. That's what I learned from this book. My past is my own; her past is her own; what's important for all of us is that we know when the present also contains our future.

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Saturday, September 16, 2006


li li li life

The paragraph seems like such an odd construct at times. Why bother with topic sentences, supporting details, and closing sentences when a bulleted list filled with rambling prose and sentence fragments will suffice? Onward, then.

  • Yesterday I had the most unbelievably horrible encounter in the lingerie department at Nordstrom in Hillsdale Mall. I was (un)helped by not one, not two, but three employees, one of whom was a manager. I was left half-naked and forgotten in a room and treated like shit only to find out that I'm not an idiot and I actually was wearing very close to the correct bra size and could have done without a magical fitting anyway. I'm fairly certain that at least two of the women had been snorting lines prior to going out on the floor. The whole place was a chaotic mess and to top it off, I almost got into a fight with another customer over who was next in line. It was such a surreal, bizarre experience that instead of getting the heck out of there at the first sign of trouble, I stuck it out in hope (?) that at any moment it would change into a normal experience. It took me close to two hours to buy two bras. It was an unbelievable encounter with customer service so bad that I couldn't believe it was happening to me while it was happening. And yet, I had gone into the store to get my post nursing boobies a new bra and was paying my nanny $16/hour, and DAMMIT I was not going to leave that store without my overpriced lace and elastic torture device. Thankyouverymuch. But still, the whole experience was bizarre. I'm still reeling from the shock.

  • Yesterday I spend $75 on one bra.

  • I didn't do any work on Mike's office today.

  • Tomorrow I will get up early and finish painting Mike's office.

  • I ordered Mike's birthday present last week but it will take six to eight weeks to be delivered. His birthday is early October so instead of the actual present, he will get a picture printed from a website and glued to a card.

  • If he doesn't like the present, I'm going to put it in my office.

  • I'm half hoping he doesn't like it.

  • My mom is in town visiting but she's at a hotel for a conference.

  • Tomorrow she and I are going to check out the Titanic exhibit at the Sony Metreon. I'm leaving the kids at home.

  • Starting Tuesday she'll be at our house until next weekend.

  • Today I called my sister Barb just to chat. I can't remember the last time I've done that, but I want to do it again soon.

  • I've decided to no longer do unpaid marketing blogging on my blog. I just don't have the time; the pressure is annoying; and I no longer see the point. If I know you and you wrote a book, that's different.

  • Our mow and blow guys started last week. I now see why Eva Longoria on Desperate Housewives was so hot for her gardener. Even though my guy is considerably older and less attractive, I seriously get a little hot and bothered when he leaves and the yard is completely mowed, edged, weeded, and swept. Wow. Hubba hubba.

  • A nice man named Ray came over today from a local nursery (Carlmont Nursery). He took a bunch of notes and he's going to give us a plan for our yard so that we finally can finish the backyard remodel that we started last year. Isn't it amazing how long things take sometimes? It took weeks just to arrange a time for him to come over.

  • Why isn't patience sold in pill form?

  • My old guilty pleasure: People magazine. I read that sick thing cover to cover every Saturday. Yes, I do.

  • My new guilty pleasure: Cheesy chick flicks. I like anything starring Kate Hudson, Lindsay Lohan, Sarah Jessica Parker. Hell, I'll even rent that straight-to-DVD movie starring Paris Hilton if it shows up at the kiosk at my grocery store.

  • Tonight I rented Phat Girlz starring Mo'nique and I have to go watch it RIGHT NOW.

  • That is all.

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Thursday, September 14, 2006


Into my arms

And I don't believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that's true
But if I did I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you
To each burn a candle for you
To make bright and clear your path
And to walk, like Christ, in grace and love
And guide you into my arms

--Nick Cave, "Into My Arms"

New Year's Day 2006
New Year's Day 2006

This post brought to you by Love Thursday.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Oh happy day

What a difference a day makes! Today was a great break for me. As soon as Rosa showed up, she took over and I took off.

First I hit The Container Store for the elfa shelving for Mike's home office makeover. I have to give a shout out to that store; the one in San Francisco has never let me down. Today I walked in and spoke to a competent individual who listened to what I had to say and immediately understood and was able to answer my questions. In less than fifteen minutes, I was walking out the door with a receipt in my hand and a smile on my face.

After that I picked up lunch and scooted over to my cousin's house to check out her new baby girl and hear her labor story. I thought it was particularly special because Jennie was there and she's --><-- this close to having her own story to tell. I really like that part of the motherhood club: how we share our stories of how our children came into our lives. Every woman's story is unique -- vaginal birth, c-section, infertility treatments, failed family planning, adoption, short labor, hard labor. Hearing and sharing stories is an age-old aspect of female relationships.

Oh, and the new baby was a total cutie, too. She even let me hold her for a couple of minutes before she started searching for boob. Babies! Like Chris wrote about recently (sorry, too lazy to look up the exact post), I'm really excited to be one of those women who visits other people's babies but who is done having them herself. It's a good feeling for me to realize that.

After a couple of hours of talking, eating, and holding a new baby, I jammed back to The Container Store and picked up my shelves. Here's a picture of me waiting in the car. I am happy. Can you tell?

No, thank you!

I hope I can finish Mike's office this weekend. I have about half a day of painting, then the shelves can go up. Afer I'm done, I'll post the before and after pictures. Then you can ooh and aah over the dramatic difference and offer me a huge check to do the same in your house. ha ha!

What I'm pondering: Will wearing Gap's new skinny black pants give me the legs of Audrey Hepburn? Are they magic pants? I've always wanted to look like Audrey Hepburn...

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Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I got a new mothertude

Today has been a hard day with the kids. Thomas is sick, which equates to needy, and he bursts into tears and howling about every other minute. He alternates between wanting to be held and wanting to be left alone. He's also talking more and using words to indicate what he needs. The problem is that it's difficult to understand him and my inability to interpret what he's saying leads to more frustration and tears on his part. Heck, there's frustration and tears on my part, too.

Emily has learned how to nag and boy, is it neat! Not. She seems unable to ask for anything once. Instead, she repeats her request over and over again until I tell her to stop talking. I find myself saying, Ask me one more time and you won't get anything! quite a bit. I'm not exactly proud of myself, but it's freakin' hard to always be patient and loving and supportive. Really hard.

Rosa will be here tomorrow. Whoo hoo! I am really looking forward to my day off. I will be visiting a cousin who just had her second child. I'll bring her lunch and give her my advice on how to handle life with two kids. Ha ha! The idea is pretty funny because I don't think I know how to manage two kids. Some of my best parenting days are the ones when Rosa is here with the kids and I am elsewhere.

I am grateful that we have the money to hire a babysitter two days a week. I'm grateful for other things, too.

  • I am grateful for my house and its fenced-in yard and patio. It's perfect for our family and our kids.
  • I am grateful for my husband and his cool-minded support. He came home early today knowing that I was about to reach boiling point. I let him deal with the crying and screaming while I curled up on the couch and read my new copy of Brain, Child magazine.
  • I am grateful for the fact that other women write about their own trying experiences with their kids. It's no secret that this whole motherhood gig is hard. Ya, I say things I'm not proud of, but today was today and tomorrow is a new day. The only thing I can do is resolve to do better tomorrow.
  • I am grateful for the fact that my kids go to bed every night without a fuss. Bathtime is at 7 sharp; Thomas is in bed no later than 7:30; Emily is in bed no later than 8:30. And they both sleep all night without waking until 7 AM. I need to remind myself more often of how good it feels to get an entire night's sleep every night. After two babies in two years, sleep is a gift that I never again will take for granted.
  • I am grateful for this girl and her smile:

Her smile lights up my life

Her smile lights up my life.

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Monday, September 11, 2006


Code Indigo

My mom has always talked about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy as one of the defining moments of her generation. She will always remember where she was when she heard the news of his death.

The tragedy that we know as 9/11 is one of the defining moments of my generation. I'll never forget where I was on the morning of September 11, 2001.

At the time I lived on 5th Ave in San Francisco with my boyfriend and another roommate. I worked as a technical writer, and that morning started out like any other: I was hung over and desperately trying to squeeze in just a few more minute of sleep before I had to get up and go to work.

My boyfriend had gone to move his car to avoid a street cleaning ticket. While he was gone, he called me and exclaimed, "Turn on the TV! Something has happened!" He may have said something about a plane and a tower, but I didn't get it. He had heard something on the radio and had called his mom to help him figure it out. She had told him about the World Trade Center. At that point, only the North Tower had been hit.

I turned on the TV and started watching in horror. He ran in and we both watched as the South Tower was hit. It was a devastating moment to witness, our confusion mixed with frustration as we realized that horrible things were happening across the nation and we were powerless to stop them and fearful that our City would be next.

We decided to stay home from work and we sat on the couch watching Peter Jennings (my all-time hero -- so sad to see him go) all day and into the night. And we worried. With each new discovery we worried. The collapsing of the towers -- just thinking of that makes tears come to my eyes. Watching hope fall is the best way I can describe that moment.

We worried about people we didn't know and about people we did know. Our home felt like an oasis of safety even though we also worried because of our proximity to the Golden Gate Bridge. At that time nobody knew the targets; would we be next?

Feelings of patriotism and the desire to declare our love of country happened almost immediately. My boyfriend found a tiny American flag and hung it from our mailbox.

We were happy and relieved when my roommate got home from school; what we knew as a family was together and safe. The events of September 11 began a time when the whereabouts and safety of loved ones was utmost on everybody's mind. Even though I didn't know anybody who worked at the WTC or the Pentagon, I felt much sadness for the victims and for their families, as well as for the people who lived in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.

I still do.

A general feeling of fear and sadness hung over my life starting that morning and for many mornings afterwards. That was five years ago and my life changed dramatically after September 11, 2001. Maybe the changes would have happened anyway but maybe not. I certainly felt a need to move forward and reach more of my own potential after being given what felt like a second chance at life.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006


Color me out of beer

Dang, I just finished the last beer in the house and have had to move on to that funky sour apple pucker stuff, which is more than fine on a hot summer evening, but which seems just wrong on a fall night.

Yes, fall is here. The days are getting shorter, the wind is whistling down the chimney, and I'm one more night of fighting over the blankets away from getting out the electric blanket.

Today I almost had a heart attack when I realized that it was almost the middle of September and I still haven't gotten the kids their Halloween costumes. For a woman who would have made an excellent Boy Scout (We share the same motto: Be Prepared.), this is just wrong. I grabbed a catalog from our stack of junk mail and turned to the pages of Halloween costumes. "Emily," I said, "which one of these costumes do you like?"

"That one," she replied.

"This one?" I asked.

"Ya!" She shook her head to confirm her answer and ran off.

My kid wants to be Barney for Halloween.

Now you know why all of the beer is gone.


In other riveting news, the dumpster departed our house Thursday morning filled to the rim with crap, junk, and useless stuff. I'm sad to see it go; it was a gigantic trash receptacle that actually was quite handy to have in the driveway. It made our regular garbage can look puny.

I'm now on to Phase IV of Mike's room remodel. Phase III consisted of going to IKEA twice and getting a bunch of stuff, including desks, rugs, drapes, lamps, and bookshelves. I'm so IKEA friendly, it hurts. I know where to park, how to shop, where everything is located, and the best time of the day to go. I'm not sure if that's cool or pathetic, but I'm hoping the former.

So Phase I was getting rid of a bunch of junk and trash. Phase II was deciding what should go in his space to give him the work areas that he needs. He's getting two work surfaces: one is desk height and one is counter-top height. The higher work surface will be for doing electronics, putting together computers, etc. The other desk will hold his computer, monitors, and personal stuff. Phase III was IKEA shopping. Phase IV, which I am working on this weekend, is painting his room a beautiful masculine blue. I was able to do half the room today and I hope to finish it tomorrow.

I also started Phase V, putting together the furniture. Emily helped me put together two Billy bookcases -- pardon the IKEA talk. I felt all powerful role model-y today. I like the fact she sees mommy painting and putting together furniture. Hopefully it will offset all of the other, more traditional housekeeping stuff she sees me doing.

Where are we? Oh ya, Phase VI involves more shopping, this time at The Container Store for tons of Elfa shelving for above both work stations and then at A SPECIAL SECRET STORE for A SPECIAL SECRET ITEM. That I cannot tell you about because there is a slim chance that Mike will read this post and I don't want him to know what it is.

There you have it. I'm in the throes of putting together my husband's office. I know it sounds like I'm rushing the process, but not when you consider that we've lived here for two years and most of his personal stuff is still in boxes. This is a project that's been a long time coming.

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Thursday, September 07, 2006


It's Thursday, I'm in Love

It's Love Thursday, and a good love story is worth repeating.

On July 1, 2002, I received the following email:

Hi Mary,
Are you going to Andrea Abernathy's 4th of July party? Do you still live in Berkeley? Maybe we could carpool.
Mike Tsao

On October 14, 2002, I received the following hand-delivered note:

To Mary,
Hello. Will you please marry me? Thank you.
Mike Tsao

On November 16, 2002, Mike Tsao and I were married in the living room of our condo.


I love you, sweetie.

P.S. You're still a hottie.

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Wednesday, September 06, 2006


Ah yes, the dreaded college party photos

Steph left a comment on my post about ex-girlfriend/boyfriend memorabilia and brought up another kind of item that many of us hide, some of us burn, and others of us are just tipsy enough to post on their blogs.

Guess to which group I belong?

Behold, in all of its glory, a college party photo from the Mary Tsao (formerly Mary Spivey) archives. Specifically, this is a picture from my 19th birthday party.


It was August of 1987 in Chico, California. That was a fun summer, and yes, in case you were wondering, I am high as a kite in this photo. The guy to my left was my boyfriend for a day or two -- maybe a whole week. Until he dumped me for a girl that I knew. She asked my permission if she could start sleeping with him. As she explained it, he was amazing and also really into Love and Rockets. And she was, too!

I let her have him. I was really only attracted to him because of the fact he wore Jovan Musk for Men. He also had a glass eye.

He passed away about fifteen years ago. R.I.P, Mark.

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Tuesday, September 05, 2006


To Emily on the occasion of your first day of preschool

Dear Emily,

Today you entered the hallowed halls of academia with your first day of preschool. Just think -- you have only nineteen more years of school left. Every journey begins with a single step, as they say.

First day of preschool

This semester you will be attending school on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Daddy will drive you like he did today. You seemed excited to go so I didn't sit at home and cry about the loss of my little girl. Actually, I am quite enjoying your transition to big girl. You amaze me every day with your vocabulary, your most-excellent capabilities on the potty, and your generous spirit.

Leaving with daddy

On the other hand, Thomas was bummed that you were gone and wandered room to room listless and bored. I finally put him in front of the television where he sat, sad and alone, with nobody to watch TV with because you were gone. When it was time to go and get you, I told him and he jumped up right away and turned off the TV. At this rate, Thomas may end up living with you forever; he certainly seems lost when you're not around.

Thomas waits for Emily's return

When we picked you up, your lower lip quivered just a bit when you saw me. Your teacher Leanne was surprised; you hadn't cried all morning. I think you were overwhelmed and tired from three hours of playing with new friends and being in a new environment. Leanne said you played mainly with the little wood kitchen and you kept talking about playing with the castle. She explained that the castle was outside and they didn't go outside today but they would next time. Honey, you will get your castle experience. I promise!

Emily, I don't know how much of your current inclination to play with gender stereotypical toys is because of your upbringing. We don't push one toy over another on you, but you see me at home every day doing household chores and you certainly love dollhouses and play kitchens and playing store. Your imagination is budding before my very eyes and I often watch you at play in total amazement at how cool you are. Sometimes you catch me looking at you and then you become shy. That's usually when I give you a hug and a kiss.

After we picked you up, Thomas and I took you to lunch. It was one of those crazy fast lunches that I am used to having when it is just the three of us. I wolfed down a seafood (shrimp and crab) louie salad (my favorite kind of salad) and you and Thomas had pancakes shaped like Mickey mouse and dotted with bananas. You had chocolate milk and Thomas had apple juice.

Drinking chocolate milk

Emily, I am going to make it a tradition that your first day of school is always followed by a meal of pancakes and chocolate milk. At least until you're old enough to prefer seafood louie salads.

I am very proud of you, my big girl.

Love, mommy

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Monday, September 04, 2006


Odds, Ends, Beginnings, and Do-overs

Happy girl
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
I just did two wonderful things:

1. I unsubscribed myself from three Yahoo groups, including Flylady, thereby ensuring that I will receive a hundred less emails every day.

2. I deleted fifty emails from people I didn't know without reading them. Bye bye.

Doing those two things made me feel very, very good.


Emily starts preschool tomorrow and I have been in a cleaning frenzy for the past three days.

I do not know if those two things are related.


Fall is in the air. I can feel myself rushing to get things done before winter sets in. Even though winter in my area simply means the need for a long sleeve shirt and a fleece instead of a tank top with your jeans. Winters here are not what you would call brutal. It's not like I have to can the last of the summer harvest to make sure we have enough food for when the snow piles as high as the barn.

Nevertheless, the upcoming quarter promises to be busy. I've got travel plans already for October and November as well as a plan to do NaNoWriMo again in November. December is the month I turn into a combination Santa Claus and Betty Crocker and between Christmas cards, cookies, decorating, shopping, and partying, I'm hoping to find a bottle of xanex in my stocking.


I got three quotes for our fence and I'm happy to report that the lowest bid came from the company whose representative impressed me the most. It's like the stars were aligned or something. Now if we can get them to schedule and finish the work by the first weekend in October, that would be grand.


The dumpster we rented last Thursday is almost full. About 1/2 of its contents is trash from our side yard (old strollers, broken furniture, etc.) and 1/2 is garbage from Mike's office.


I am pushing my husband to clean out his office so that I can give him the office of his dreams. Sometimes I feel like a shithead for pushing him to go through boxes of old stuff from six years ago, but I know he will be much happier when he has an office that he can use to host poker night. He has said as much.

I know he doesn't want to do this work, but I also know he will be happy when it's done.

And he seems to be responding to my approach, which basically is to rent a dumpster and start tossing things. Actually, I don't toss anything that isn't an empty box. I'm just the organizer, decorater, painter, and coach. Only he can say what gets tossed. Honestly, I don't even understand most of what he owns. Or why some of it stays and some of it goes.

For example, why would anybody would want to keep a pair of rainbow flip flops from 1980? They're sixteen years old. To me, that's a reason to toss them. To Mike, that's a reason to keep them. Such value! See how long they've lasted?!

Again, I am only here to provide support and to organize items that we are keeping. For the record, we are keeping the flip flops. They now reside in the bedroom by his other shoes instead of at the bottom of a cardboard box, underneath 30 feet of ethernet cable, a book about Windows 98, five T-shirts that he made for a fraternity party in college, and a plastic bag of receipts from 1996.


Hey, ladies. Does your husband have any ex-girlfriend memorabilia that he still hangs on to? What do you do with stuff like that? I have one file folder filled with letters and faxes and two boxes filled with photo albums that contain photos of my ex. I guess I could toss the letters, but dealing with the photos is trickier. Not all of them have him in them. And it feels weird to systematically remove a person from my life. I mean, he was there in my life, whether or not photos exist. Life contains no do-overs. Unfortunately.

So, two questions, if you don't mind:

1. Do you have items (letters, photos) from your life with an ex? If not, was it because you threw them out?

2. Does your husband have items from his past? Does he know you know about them? Does the fact he has these items bother you?


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Saturday, September 02, 2006


Happiness is...

Happiness is...


Checking items off your to do list.

(Somebody's coming tomorrow morning for the bricks!)

Side yard, clean
Getting up early and cleaning up the side yard.

May I offer you an apple?
An apple tree that produces lots of worm-free apples.

Dumpster of dreams
Dumpsters and throwing stuff out.

Baby stuff
Giving stuff away.

Bushes, trimmed
Trimmed bushes.

Living with kids who like each other.

Drinking sour apple schnapps, frozen and over ice.

I hope you are experiencing some happiness of your own this weekend!

Friday, September 01, 2006


Surrender to This Perfect Post

It's time once again for the Perfect Post Awards. OMG! What will I wear? (Off topic -- I went to a fall fashion preview last night at Nordstrom. It was sponsored by the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and I'll post more about it soon. To see what I look like wearing a hell of a lot of makeup, check out my photos on Flickr.)

This month, I am awarding the talented Rita Arens of Surrender, Dorothy for her post titled But Who Is Your Audience of One?


I enjoyed Rita's post for a number of reasons. I like that she's coming from the perspective of a professional writer when she speaks about audience. As a writer, your audience is who you imagine is reading your work. As a professional writer, you change your style, tone, and voice of a piece to better speak to and reach your audience.

But with blogging, Rita admits that her audience has become herself and that writing for herself has allowed her to explore issues she may otherwise have not:

"... what I've done with this naked blogging of mine (figurative, not literal - I'm fully clothed, even wearing shoes, right now) is to make the audience really And I think many of you are me, the me that is authentic. Naked blogging ... is about revealing that part of yourself that you're exploring to the extent that you can't hide it and achieve the goal of self-exploration."

I also liked Rita's post because as she explores the idea that her audience is herself, she also reveals reasons why others may blog as well as her own guidelines for blogging about others. Great analysis in a great post.

For a list of other bloggers and entries that won an August Perfect Post Award, check out Suburban Turmoil and Petroville. And thanks to Lucinda and MommaK for sponsoring the event!

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