Friday, November 30, 2007

On Racism in America

You know what I've come to realize? Only white people ever say, "I'm color-blind." Or, "I don't know what race So-and-So is; I only see the person, not their skin color." Or, "I don't care if someone is green with purple polka dots!" I've never heard a person of color ever say those things. Their race is a non-negotiable reality that comes up constantly in their daily lives. It cannot be ignored. I have a black co-worker who started instructing his son to take off his coat whenever he goes into a store at the tender age of four, knowing that his son will inevitably be accused of stealing someday.

At 12, he started talking to his son about what he should do when he gets his drivers license, because he KNOWS his son will be pulled over for "driving while black." He started drilling him FOUR YEARS before he can even get a learner's permit. "Get your license and registration out immediately, before the officer gets to the car. Keep your hands visible at all times. Never reach for anything in the glove compartment. Stick to 'Yes, sir. No, sir.' Never argue." He feels strongly that these lessons about traffic stops could save his teenage son's life, and he's not wrong.

Only white people have the privilege of ignoring the issue of race, because we don't experience racism day in and day out. We can ignore it if we want to. We have the luxury of deciding race doesn't matter. The "green with purple polka dots" comment is a perfect example. People don't come in green with purple polka dots. They come in black and white and brown and pink and beige, and people have DIED over this difference.

I'm the first to admit that I am too Politically Correct. For the most part, I'm proud of it. I want to have my finger on the pulse of what is the most inoffensive way of saying things, but at some point, one must speak. When Nelson Mandela was elected president of South Africa, a major American news outlet with an international audience was so afraid of using the word "black" that they ended up having to run a correction the next day. They referred to Nelson Mandela as the first "African-American" president of South Africa when he's, you know, African. He was the first black president of South Africa. He's never been an American anything.

I was recently working on a story about two sisters who are shooting a documentary about the first black residents in Lockrand County. One of the sisters is an attorney who fought and won a case against a huge real estate development company who wanted to dig up the only cemetery where African-Americans were permitted burial for decades in that county. The developers built the Gigundo Mall anyway, but the cemetery was preserved. It's tucked in between a parking garage and a giant Target, but it's still there. Nothing says eternal resting place like Pottery Barn and Cinnabon.

Anyway, we were talking about race and disenfranchisement and history, and this documentary they're filming. They interviewed a local historian- an old white guy who bears an unfortunate resemblance to the crypt-keeper in all but one photograph I shot of him. He debunks the authenticity of claims that a house in Nyack was once a stop on the Underground Railroad, which I find completely fascinating.

I heard somewhere, probably on NPR, that the majority of homes that claim to have been stops on the Underground Railroad really weren't. It's an interesting manifestation of white guilt, in a way. There were very, very few safe houses. Taking in runaway slaves was an enormous risk. It seems like such an easy way to gloss over the brutal realities of enslavement, to say, "Well, slavery was really bad, but in our town? Well! We had good people who HELPED the runaway slaves! Our town was DIFFERENT." And 90% of the time, it's just not true.

The very, very liberal town of Nyack (where Joel and I would love to live) has an example of this. There's a historical marker right outside the Dapper Dog Salon on Main Street, proclaiming the home of the Hesdra family to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. In reality, Edward Hesdra was a biracial person who was passing for white. He was able to get away with this in part because he was married to a wealthy woman. This wealthy woman was also biracial. Her father was white, unmarried, and very powerful. The Hesdras were able to pass for white in part because of his influence.

As I understand it, there is one verifiable instance where Edward Hesdra brought in one fugitive slave, one time, who was walking the streets of Nyack in a daze. He saved that man's life, definitely, but it's very unlikely he would have jeopardized his family's precarious ability to "pass" in white society by running a full-time safehouse.

I was talking about all of this with one of the filmmakers when my PC White Person ColorblindnessTM kicked in. I wanted to ask about Mrs. Hesdra. I figured her mother was probably one of her father's slaves, but I found that I couldn't just ask that. I simply couldn't say it. Instead, I asked, "So I take it her mother wasn't exactly a celebrated member of society?" The filmmaker looked me right in the eye, and she said, "Oh, he probably raped one of his slaves."

I collapsed in relieved laughter and mocked by own hand-wringing hesitance, saying, "Sorry, that's just my bleeding heart liberal women's studies degree holding White Lady Factor kicking in! That's what I was trying to say, but my PC Censor when into hyperdrive." We started talking about why I struggle to ask about the ugly truth. She shrugged and said, "Just say it. It's what a black woman would do."

On a related topic, Flea, author of, wrote an amazing post about discovering the script of a Thanksgiving play that her son read aloud in class last week. You need to go read her post. No, really. I'll wait. This next bit might not make sense otherwise. Go and come back. *whistles softly, examines cuticles*

Alright, for the cheaty cheatersons who didn't read it, the author's son was learning the myth of Thanksgiving in school about the pilgrims and Squanto and how they all "made friends with the Indians," yadda yadda first Thanksgiving plant-the-corn-with-fish thing blah-de-blah.*

*QUICK DIGRESSION: How come the “Indians” in the children's storybooks about Thanksgiving are always shirtless and clad in, like, loin cloths? DUDE. It was MASSACHUSETTS. In the middle of WINTER. That place is COLD. The pilgrims are in those heavy cloaks for a REASON. Can we see some nice watercolor and pencil drawings of fully clothed Native Americans for once, puh-lease? It's like Squanto saved the pilgrims from freezing to death during the cold, cold winter by warming them with the heat emanating from his magical, super-metabolic bare chest. Sheesh.

Anyway, the author was talking about trying to find a way to talk to her son about the realities of white peoples' relationships to indigenous people without completely overwhelming and scaring him. She writes:

A few years ago I read an essay by a conservative columnist, whose name I won't mention because I can't remember who it was. I remember the article was about her irritation that her son's school was celebrating either African-American history month, or they were studying about Dr. King, or they'd just given a lecture on diversity, something like that. Up until that point, she wrote, her son had no idea about racial issues, or that there was any difference between black children and white. And now she had to explain it all away, so thanks a lot, school..... I understand her reluctance to get into it with her young son. I don't want to get into it with mine, either. Is there ever an appropriate age to learn that your ancestors kidnapped and enslaved a race of people, beat them, raped them, murdered them en masse? ....I don't want to tell him about any of that stuff, either, and the crazy thing is, I don't have to! Our school books will mostly back me up! It's African-American parents, Mexican parents, gay and lesbian parents, and Native American parents that have to do all the heavy lifting. Again. Still.

She's right. It shouldn’t be up to people of color to do all the heavy lifting. Issues of race and ethnicity shouldn’t come as a surprise to white children during Black History Month. I don't know why a lot of white people seem to think that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement. I don't know why people are surprised when I talk about the Klan having a visible community presence in the region where I grew up. (Although I'm mostly referring to my experiences covering Klan activity at the Dork Raily Yecord, the KKK marched through Lancaster when I was 12.)

I don't know why I'm surprised that a cross was burned on the front lawn of a black family's house here in Stepford, the night before Thanksgiving. This is not the Deep South. It is not 1963. This is practically the WASP capital of America, one of the wealthiest places in the nation. Cross-burning. Here and now, in a town near you and me. Well, me, anyway.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Skunked: The Trilogy

Bella got nailed, again, in our front yard when Joel took her out for her night walk. Our jackass neighbors never put out their jackass garbage in actual trashcans, so the jackass skunks are always skulking around, eating right out of the jackass plastic bags on Tuesday nights.

Bella got it full on in the face this time. (Did I mention I had taken her to the groomer less than 24 hours before? Bye, money!) It took ELEVEN shampoos, a gallon of tomato juice, two bottles of hydrogen peroxide and a full freakin' box of baking soda to cut The Stink. Our apartment smelled like we tapped a pipe directly into Hell, so we had to open up all the windows in the dead of almost-winter night. Of course, Bella was all wet, and we have no control over the heat in our apartment, so we had to move her crate into the kitchen, which was heated by the oven. Awesome!

The hallway (which we share with the Nice Mexican-American Family and the Contemptous Portuguese Couple from the second floor) quite simply smelled like ASS. There was, like, a visible haze of Highly Evolved Mammalian Emergency Response Instinct (patent pending) over the stairs. We put up an apology note. I would hate us.

You know, I had a chance to kill the skunk a few weeks ago. I could have run him over with the car. It would have involved running a red light and quite possibly swerving into a parked car at 25 mph, but still. THIS SKUNK MUST DIE.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A Viewer's Guide to the Thanksgiving Video

The Wacky Gift Competition started when I was in 7th grade. My mom had back surgery shortly before Christmas. She did all the holiday shopping and wrapping for my sister and me in November, but she put my dad in charge of stocking stuffers and the final little details. My dad did the majority of the final Christmas shopping at the hardware store. He got us, among other utilitarian items, suction cups. They were the little kind with hooks that you might use to hang a suncatcher, but we didn't have any suncatchers? So... what, exactly, were we supposed to do with them? I can't really explain why it was so funny, but we all just cracked up on Christmas Day.

For the next few holidays, including birthdays and Fathers Day, we started getting each other funny but utilitarian things. A Pickle-Picker-Upper. An egg timer shaped like an egg that changed colors when the egg was hardboiled. Eventually, we had bought out the local Lechters wall of kitchen goods, and my mom and sister took turns deciding whose gift was the funniest and most creative. That's when the fun really began. This was circa 1993.

Every Christmas for the past 15 years or so, my dad and I compete to get each other "The Gift." Our extended family found this hilarious and always wanted to know whose gift my sister and mom chose as the winner. So we started a family-wide vote after Christmas dinner, with Amanda presenting the gifts and distributing the ballots. In recent years, my sister has been on an alternating holiday plan with her husband's family. We hold the contest on Thanksgiving whenever she spends Christmas with his family.

The criteria are as follows:

"The Gift" has to cost less than $20. It should be "wacky." It has to be useful in some way. It has to work during the demonstration. You can't tell anyone else what you've gotten ahead of time. If anyone finds out, they can't vote. I've won in the past with a mooing ice cream scoop shaped like a cow, a smoke alarm that looks like a Christmas ornament, a hot dog shaped condiment keeper with a door that closed on its own to keep flies away from the ketchup at picnics, a talking soap dispenser shaped like a toilet that uses a motion detector to remind you to wash your hands if you walk past the sink without stopping.

Last year's losing contribution (mine): a toothpick holder/voodoo doll.

My dad and I search all year long for "the Gift." You technically have from the day after one year's contest to the day before the next year to find it. We've gotten in the habit of crowning the king or queen, but the crown was a cheap AC Moore tiara, (yes, my dad wears it with pride when he wins) and it's broken at the moment.

A few other traditions in the video for the as-yet-unintiated.

1.) My dad has asked my sister and me if we'd like to contribute to the family prayer since I was about four years old. We always say "no" in unison. On the one year we decided we'd outgrown this cutesy tradition, circa 1997, we got a lot of flack for it, and so... The "no" continues even though we're 28 and 30. Anything for our public. heh.

2.) We go to the beach every year with our friends. My dad, a.k.a "Daddy the Do-er of the Impossible" has always carried towels, sand chairs etc down to the boardwalk using a little yellow cart. My sister and I found this HUMILIATING as pre-teens. My friend Kelly was the only one who was never ashamed of walking with my dad and his cart. Over the years, my parents have started getting us- the young adults in our extended family/friend circle- beach carts of our own once we get married. This is their way, more or less, of gently hinting for grandkids. ;) We probably have Kristen and Adam to thank for reinforcing that association, as they announced they were expecting Aiden immediately after opening their own little blue cart, which is ideal for schlepping baby gear from the house to the beach. You can see my dad with his little yellow cart in this video.

We didn't know there were baby bibs for all of us in the next gift-wrapped box.

Amanda and Tom's turn!

3.) Greg just got a special award for working day and night on a big project at his job. My mom made him a hat to wear. (He works for the company who labels are on the hat.) This is kind of a theme. Spend a holiday with us, it seems normal. Sort of.

4.) My high school friends have always come over for pie on Thanksgiving night. Even the year I was studying abroad in London, they all showed up anyway.

5.) For those of you who love Larry, (a friend of my grandmother's who has a heart of gold and a unique way with words and catchphrases) he has a special cameo. Without further ado, the Thanksgiving video. It lasts about three-and-a-half minutes and takes less time to watch than it took you to read this description. Gawd. Shutting up now!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

After Thanksgivadoodle

My sister and brother-in-law recently got a dog. Jackson is a Labradoodle, and let me tell you, adding the suffix "-adoodle" to just about any word is kind of addictive.

He looks like a cross between a muppet and mop, a total lovebug. I tried all weekend to make a picture of this little guy where he looked, I don't know, like a DOG and not a cleaning tool. :) This morning, my eighth or ninth attempt, I finally did it!

We held the annual gift competition at Thanksgiving this year, because Amanda and Tom will be with his parents for Christmas. I was facing an unprecedented third consecutive loss, so I seriously had to bring my A game this time. I'm pleased to say that me and my flying alarm clock swept the competition, thank you very much-adoodle. (See? See? I can't seem to stop!)

The crown is broken, so long story short, I was honored this year with a Campbell's Soup hat. :) There is video, coming soon.

You can see a lot of the photos I shot this weekend here.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Waiting and the Naming of Cats

Ho hum. I am waiting for the cable guy to show up and fix our television. Waiting around the apartment with no TV? Not so fun. Also, our DVD player broke yesterday. It was fine on Saturday. Nothing changed, no power surges or falling off TV stands. Just dead. Dead, dead, dead.

Ollie is being a complete cuddleslut right now, which helps with the waiting. He's usually up for a purr session. No matter what, he'll always give you five minutes if you scoop him up. Sometimes he has Big Plans, like batting at Fred's tail and nipping at his butt while he's trying to eat, so after those five minutes he'll take off. At least twice a day, however, I get a full-on, melty cat who purrs like a motorboat and sleeps on me for as long as 30 minutes at a time. He usually instigates these sessions, hopping up on the couch to stretch across my lap. It's so cute I can hardly stand it. Keeping him? Such a good plan.

A few people have asked how we chose the name "Ollie." Ollie is short for Ollivander, the wandmaker in the Harry Potter books. Fred is named after Fred Weasley, since he was with his equally troublemaking brother in the beginning, whom I had named George. Bella's full name is technically Isabella Lou!se M!tchell Sheffer G@ul J@ckel, in honor of all of her original co-owners. (She took on Joel's last name after her vision crisis. :) Bella is not technically named after HP character Bellatrix Black-LeStrange, but she is a black dog and Bellatrix is Sirius Black's cousin and he's an Animagus who transforms into a black dog and it all kind of (to quote my 11th-grade English teacher) "smacks" of Harry Potter. Yes. Ollivander seemed like a good choice to keep with the Harry Potter motif.

All three are getting along rather well. Bella can be a little bossy at times, growling and not always wanting to share her food. Ollie can be somewhat of a pest, sproinging and pouncing and grabbing wagging/flicking tails. Fred is just kind of doing his own thing, as per usual, but he gets more exercise chasing Ollie than any other way I've ever seen or tried. All in all, it's working quite well.

Come on, cable guy. This is my day off. I have errands to run. Please, be here soon.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Things I Hate (In No Particular Order)

1. Our cable is out. No TV until Monday. Have to waste time on my day off waiting for repair person, who will hopefully be literate and able to read the big sign on our door that says: DOORBELL BROKEN. CALL FOR ENTRY. This has eluded repair-folk in the past, many times.

2. There was a misprint on my latest batch of checks. Bills and rent and lots of other things are all late and bouncing now. Fees up the ying-yang.

3. Bella attacked a stack of wrapped Christmas presents. One of the gifts was 41% Cacao Brazilian chocolate. I had to induce vomiting with a piece of bread, diluted hydrogen perioxide, and 37 laps around the backyard. It was super-fun.

4. One of the gifts she opened had a mug in it. The mug itself is missing. Can't find it anywhere. Bonus: Induced vomit did NOT contain pottery shards!

5. Joel's mom is still angry that he suggested his parents get a cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts when they showed up 20 minutes early. We've each explained that there were extenuating circumstances, i.e. the cat pee/duffel bag crisis and severe lack of pants on me. She knows those things. She acknowledges they were early, but she's not sorry and she's really not accepting Joel's apology. Also, next time we get together, she says she plans to be late. Okay!

6. Back in September, I had a run-in with a cop who tried to stop me from doing my job. He was completely in the wrong because 1.) First Amendment 2.) I was working a car accident on the Thruway and he's not a state trooper, so he has no jurisdiction over the scene and 3.) there was no police tape or perimeter to prevent me from being where I was. He threatened to tow my car and insisted I tell him which car was mine, which he has 1.) no right to do and 2.) no ability to make happen as I was on the Thruway and he's not a state trooper. I was polite. I was firm. I was RIGHT, and I refused to stop shooting just to indulge his desire to be a dick. I was relieved that there was no ticket on my car when I finished shooting. I remember that perfectly. (Also, it was 9/11/07, so I remember all my assignments from that day .) Today I got a violation notice for an unpaid parking ticket received on the Thruway that day. He wrote the ticket, but never put it on my windshield, just so I'd get dinged with a double fine. See above: Dick.

7. In the last 24 hours, I covered a car that went down an embankment off the Thruway, a 13-year-old boy who got hit by a bus, and a girl who got stabbed at one of the high schools I cover regularly. Sweet.

And that's all the news that's fit to print in this very, very idiosyncratic life. How are you? Are you good? How's your checkbook? Is it okay? How about your dog? Are all your mugs accounted for?
Love and Cuddles, :)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Unbearable Cuteness of Being

Here are some photos I shot on Monday night hanging out with Tanii and el bebe, plus some of Ollie, Bella and Fred.

I can't believe how much he's changed in just one month!

This is Baelin's and my first photo together. We're reflected in the mirror above his swing.

Ah, a preview of the years ahead when he'll be SO. TIRED. of his Crazy Aunt Angie and her everpresent camera. ;)

That's just spitty. (Ha!)

Changing topics now...

Everything you need to wrap Christmas presents: tape, scissors, paper, gift tags, labels, a pen, spare boxes, and of course, the ultra-necessary Cat-in-a-Bag. Yes, I've started wrapping already. Since I make a lot of presents for people, I have to start early.

This is what they mean by "Cat Nap."

Joel has all three monkeys in this one: Ollie in the crook of his arm, Bella on his feet, and Fred weighing down the covers so he's not tempted to move. I swear, they conspire to keep you there so they can mooch your body heat.

Joel is jingling his keys off the left, trying to get them to look up. it's clearly pissing Fred off.

Ollie: *I* am cute and snuggly! I AM cute and snuggly. I am CUTE and snuggly. I am cute AND snuggly. I am cute and SNUGGLY.

Bella: You're a natural, dahling, but it's MORE than just snuggling. True cuteness comes from *within.* Watch and learn, honey chile. Watch and learn.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

There and Back Again

Ollie likes to run around the apartment like a winduptoy in the pre-dawn hours. We've taken to calling him "the Mazda." :::Sings commercial jingle poorly::: "Zoom, zoom, zoom." Get it? :)

6:00 a.m.

Joel: Ollie is zooming around the apartment.
Cat Feet: *whappituh* *whappituh* *whappituh*
Me: Zzz...snert?
Cat Feet: *whappituh* *whappituh* *whappituh*
Joel: Ollie is zooming around the apartment.
Me: Put him in the bathroom for ten minutes until he calms down.
Cat Feet: *whappituh* *whap-*

6:12 a.m.
Joel frees the cat.

6:13:01s a.m.

Cat Feet: *whappituh* *whappituh* *whappituh*
Joel: Ollie is still zooming around the apartment.
Cat Feet: *whappituh* *whappituh* *whappituh*
Me: Put him in the bathroom for ten minutes.
Cat Feet: *whappituh* POUNCE! *whappituh* POUNCE!
Joel: I tried that.
Me: Put him in the bathroom until it's time to get up.
Joel: What if Fred has to pee?
Cat Feet: *whappituh*
Me: Set up the second litterbox, then.
Joel: *groan*
Cat Feet: POUNCE!
Me: Fine, I'll do it.

11:04 a.m.

Joel: Up time!
Me: What time is it?
Joel: It's a little after 11. My parents will be here in less than an hour.
Me: WHAT?!?
Joel: What?
Me: Here? What? What happened to meeting at the restaurant?
Joel: They're meeting us here so we can all go to the restaurant together.
Me: Noooo!
Joel: What?
Me: The house is a disaster!
Joel: So?
Me: There are piles of laundry everywhere, cat litter all over the bathroom floor- Oh my God, OH MY GOD!
Joel: .....?
Me: You do NOT bring a future mother-in-law to an engaged woman's incredibly untidy apartment with no warning.
Joel: huh?
Me: (grabbing vacuum, Swiffer mop and disinfectant wipes) CLEAN! CLEAN! Clean like the wind!
Joel: My mom doesn't care.

Joel's mom is possibly the most judgmental person alive. Trust me, she cares.

Me: If I killed you right now, no all-woman jury in the world would convict me.
Joel: The D.A. would make sure to put a man in there.
Joel: I want to eat a bowl of cereal first.
Me: We're going out to lunch!
Joel: I'm starving.
Me: So eat a quick bowl of laundry.
Joel Eat a bowl of laundry?
Me: Oh my GOD. Can't talk, cat hair everywhere.
Joel: But...
Me: Eat, then clean!

11:32 a.m. Joel walks Bella, throws in a load of laundry just to get it out of sight.

11:35 a.m. Joel curiously watches me frantically add dirty laundry to a partially filled basket while (still) eating.

Me: (bitchily) is that, like, the everlasting cereal bowl?
Joel: huh?
Me: I feel like you've been eating cereal for 15 minutes.
Joel: I keep stopping to do stuff like walk the dog. Why are you dumping dirty laundry in the clean basket?
Me: This is all dirty stuff.
Joel: No, it's not.
Me: Are you sure?
Joel: Oh.
Me: What?
Joel: I guess the stuff I just put in the washer was the clean stuff.
Washer: Swish, fill, swish, fill.
Me: The only clean clothes we have are now wet?
Joel: Yeah.
Me: Everything I was going to wear is in there.
Joel: Shit.
Me: Clean like your life depends on it! It kind of does!
Joel: You love me!

11: 37 a.m. Bella is barking her face off. I yell at her and threaten to take her to a glue factory.

11:38 a.m.
As I'm yanking the second laundry basket out of the closet to fill with mountains of dirty clothes, to then be shoved BACK into the closet and hidden, I unearth a puddle of cat pee on a big blue duffel bag full of bottled water, tarps, and other provisions in case of natural disaster or terrorist attack. (Al-Quaida is no match for our DD batteries and canned Progresso soup. Rah!) Late last week, Joel accidentally trapped Ollie in the Closet of Enchantment and Mystery for, oh, five hours or so. When I finally freed him, it was clear that nature had, um, called. I thought I had cleaned up all the pee, and a highpowered Renuzit air freshner took care of the stink. But apparently there was a small puddle still on our waterproof duffel bag. Hell damn fart.

The dog is still barking.

11:39 a.m. We decide the best course of action is to merely stash the reeking duffel bag in the backyard until after his parents' visit. Joel runs down the stairs with the bag. He runs into his parents, who are standing on the porch. They are 20 minutes early. They have been there for a few minutes already. They never remember that our doorbell has never, ever worked. This is why Bella has been barking. Crap.

Joel tells them that we're not quite ready yet and suggests they grab a cup of coffee at the nearby Dunkin Donuts. I am muttering, "I was not brought up this way. I was not brought up to leave guests out in the cold" while frantically trying to find pants, as my only clean pairs are swishing away in the washer. They return to their car, but do not leave for the suggested coffee. Joel is trying to haul the 70-lb metal box of studio lighting gear up three flights of stairs, so there's room for them in my car. He gives them clearer directions to Dunkin Donuts. His father yells, "We don't feel like it!"

12:00 p.m. sharp. We are dressed. The apartment is presentable for in-law viewing after lunch.

Joel: She's pissed. Time to kiss up.

12:01 p.m. His mother refuses to ride in our car.
12:02 p.m. Joel convinces her. There is a scuffle over the seatbelt in the backseat. I try to take on my role as cheerful cheerleader. We're going to a historic inn! George Washington ate there! It's supposed to be haunted!

12:40 p.m.
We are twenty minutes early. I say that if we have to wait for our reservation time, we can always sit at the bar. It's the original wooden bar from the 1770s! Sam Adams drank there! We can have a Sam Adams at the bar where he actually drank! I am so upbeat and positive that I want to shoot myself in the face with the genuine Continental Army musket hanging by the coatcheck.

Joel's mom says, "If the waitstaff can't seat us because we're early, maybe they can waste the time dragging a big blue bag into the backyard."

Cricket, cricket. Cricket, cricket.

12:45 p.m. We are seated. His dad gives us a hard time about how busy we are and how hard it is to pin us down to get together. He helpfully shares that some distant relatives are angry that they haven't met me yet. What have we been so busy with? Why are we so hard to make plans with? What are we so stressed out about?

I accidentally start a family fight when mentioning sources of stress: election coverage, championship games, report cards due, meeting our officiant, Joel's car getting broken into. KABOOM! They didn't know. He didn't want them to worry. Let's fight about it!

12:48 p.m. I order the pot roast! Joel points out that it costs $17.76! Get it? Revolutionary War Era Restaurant? Ha! Ha ha ha! We are jolly!

1:27 p.m. Joel's mom is too cold. We are sitting by the fireplace. She wants coffee. The coffee is too cold. The waitress brings a fresh pot over to warm it up. It is still not hot enough. Joel's father asks the waitress to microwave his coffee for "exactly 1 minute and 60 seconds." There is no redeeming the coffee for his mom.

1:30 p.m. I start to get a creeping feeling of doom about impending tasting with wedding caterer.

Me: Scenes from the Julia Roberts movie "Stepmom" were filmed here!

1:32:57 p.m. His mother yells at his dad for talking with his mouth full.
1:33 p.m. I escape to the ladies room and play Pac-Man on my cell phone for a few minutes.
2:00 p.m. Lunch mercifully ends.

2:30 p.m. Annie calls my cell phone. I bounce it to voicemail because I am fielding questions about the East Pete Sportsmen's Club and whether or not they have a target where Joel's dad can throw tomahawks over Thanksgiving. They might.

2:33 p.m.
I surreptiously check the message. She says she's sad to report my 9th grade science teacher- Mr. Way, a beloved icon and notorious physics hardass- has died. He was in his early 40s. Do I know how it happened? No, I do not. Make mental note to call my dad, who used to run a science camp with Mr. Way. Say nothing to in-laws.

2:45 p.m. Welcome in-laws to hastily cleaned apartment. They meet the new cat. Bella puts on a show of whirling joy, bestowed toys and enthusiastic snuggling. Offer to make coffee flatly refused. I produce the mockup of the wedding invitation I finished designing last night. Joel's dad declares it wonderful, wonderful! His mom dislikes the choices on the RSPV card. (Guests can check: "Will be there with bells on!" OR "Will attend, not wearing any bells" OR "Can not attend, regardless of bell controversy.") Joel's dad keeps talking about adding something to a garter that I definitely am not going to wear. I can't figure out what he's referring to. Realize he means the ribbon and photo charm surrounding the invitation. Whuh?

3:15 p.m.
In-laws leave. Am absolutely exhausted. Joel and I hide under the covers.

5:15 p.m. Visit friend and new baby. Bounce, coo, laugh, toss. We eat McDonald's and play with baby on Happy Hippo mat. I learn how to reload the wipe warmer. I leave with formula in my hair and on my pants. I don't even mind.

9:45 p.m. Dad says he heard from Mrs. P who got a call on the teacher alert phone tree that Mr. Way was diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor about a week ago. He had a seizure on Sunday and died.

10 p.m. Return home. Hang out with Joel, who accidentally set fire to a decorative autumn-themed throw pillow while I was out.

11:15 p.m. Am sad. Join Facebook so I can read memorial messages for Mr. Way that Annie mentioned in voicemail. I remember Mr. Way coming up to me and Jon the night he graduated from HHS in '94 and wishing us well as a couple. He asked me why I wouldn't let Jon help me with my physics homework for the first two marking periods when Jon was a crackjack AP Physics student. Jon gave me a squeeze and a kiss on the cheek and said fondly, "She's very stubborn." It's only 10:15 p.m. in Colorado, where Jon lives with his wife, but still too late to call.

11:16 p.m. Have overwhelming urge to find and reconnect with Alison Trendler.

11:17 p.m.
Urge subsides.

12:22 a.m. Say goodnight to future husband. Play on the Internet. Start writing blog entry.

2:44 a.m. Ollie is zooming around the apartment.
Cat Feet: *whappituh* *whappituh* *whappituh*
Me: (warningly) Ollie...
Cat Feet: *whappituh* POUNCE! *whappituh* POUNCE!
Fred: Moo-oom! Get 'im off meee!

2:55 a.m. Put Ollie in the bathroom for ten minutes until he calms down.
3:01 a.m. Click "Publish Post."

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Wedding Slideshow

Jen and Keith have had the link to this slideshow for over a week now, but I know some of you really like the wedding stuff. You can see it here, if you like.

Delayed Post

So... um... Halloween was kind of a while ago now. Joel and I decided to borrow some kids and go trick-or-treating. Bella was a big hit in her chicken suit. We were the reverse doggie trick-or-treaters, passing out bits of hot dog to any canines who came to the door with their candy-toting owners.

You can see a few more photos of our adventures here.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Art Imitates Life

Long story short, Ollie has joined our family. All three are getting along very well. We had a little hissy/spitty rivalry at first, but no one has expressed themselves by peeing in inappropriate places in over a week now. This? This is good. :)

I don't have any still photos of Ollie and Fred together on this laptop, but I'll post some soon. There's also a video in the works, but in the meantime I offer you this interpretation of the Fred/Ollie dynamic, as portrayed by Garfield and Nermal. the similarities are downright uncanny, except for the part where Garfield tries to give Nermal to the lady soliciting for charity. Last week, I wouldn't have been surprised if that happened. This week, no way. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Joel's car has been broken into a total of FOUR TIMES now. Twice in the last three days. I am so angry I could spit. The police say there's nothing they can do, short of filing a report.

When it happened two nights ago, we joked about putting this sign in the passenger side window.

To the individual who has broken my window 3 times in the last 3 months,

The guys at the junkyard can’t stop laughing at me. The iPod? Okay. I deserved that. The loose change? Whatever, dude. But the baseball glove I just got done breaking in and my cleats right before my championship game? That hurts, man. By the way, I no longer keep anything of value in here at all. If there’s something you want, I’ve left the window open a few inches. Please unlock the door, open it and take what you want. Thanks.

Now we want to hide in the bushes and wait for them.

We won't, but I am so, so frustrated. And no, Joel doesn't have a beef with anyone. There's no one who hates us this much. Even a disgruntled student would have to spend over two hours on three different kinds of public transportation to get here, and there's just no way that's happening every other night. Grrr.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Laying Low for a while

I'm not on hiatus, though the lack of posting might indicate otherwise. I'm laying low. I've just kind of... slowed down, on purpose, in my social life. It's a combination of a lot of things, I suppose.

Work hit a fever pitch this week with elections coming up on Tuesday, a bunch of championship games right after the other, a giant project we've got in the works for the start of January, and a series of scandals involving corrupt police officers, a sexually abusive priest, and an infestation of rats that were exterminated and died in the ceiling tiles of a local high school.

Oh, and yesterday I got pelted by wind and high waves on the banks of the Hudson River and then had two back-to-back games in the freezy, freezy cold. While still sort of wet. Why am I grown up with a job, again? Why am I not 15, huddled in the stands with my friends and then leading everyone back to my house to get in the hot tub? Mmm? Ah, yes. Paycheck. Riiight.

So I'm exactly not reclusive right now, but I'm blowing off a friend's post-marathon party right now to lay around with my laptop and work on things for wedding clients. The part where I get to work hard for my clients while wearing pajamas in a bed with three- yeah, three- snoring fuzzy companions is absolutely one of the perks of these jobs.

Brad is in the hospital again. He is in so much pain. I had a long talk with Jason last night, and all I can come up with is, "This is so unfair." Wait, I'm going to say it again: This. Is. So. Unfair. Those four hollow words don't even remotely being to describe how I really feel about the fact that this person I love so much is hurting this way.

Brad has just been beating the odds- up-down-left-right all-around-us-everywhere for so long. It feels downright ungrateful to feel bad myself when he's the one doing all the hard work. There are so many things to be grateful for, not the least of which are the extra years- heck, the extra decades- we've gotten with him. The opportunities he's stolen right out of the snapping jaws of his diagnosis- 10 years in love with his dream girl, law school, vacations, friends, an adorable nephew who pushes his wheelchair around the house even though he's barely taller than the wheels.

Gah. I am really, really angry, helpless, and bitter (but in a kind of numb, hard-to-describe way) about the pain he's in now. I can't help it.

He hasn't said anything, but we think it's painful for him to be hugged. It's dangerous, too, with some of the tubes he's got when he's hospitalized, and it more or less boils down to this: He lets me hug him- so, so gently, just the lightest pressure of palms and arms held apart in a cautious ballerina's first position- for my benefit. For my comfort, not his.

Muscular dystrophy is sometimes called "the disease that eats your heart." What they don't tell you is that it eats your loved ones' hearts, too.