Saturday, June 30, 2007

Overheard In Public

The family stopped on a road trip at a "Bar and Grill" that had a UFO theme: Space Aliens. In addition to the classic movie posters--like the original War of the Worlds, and The Day The Earth Stood Still--it had enormous clippings from the Weekly World News. "Space Alien Backs Bush For President!" was one, and "Mysterious Cow Abductions!" was another.

Even the bathrooms were decorated in the spirit of the theme--the toilets were totally black, which was rather eerie.

While I was there, I heard a voice coming over a stall--NOT one of my own children's, however.

"Hey Mom! It's like peeing into a Black Hole!!"

I totally wish I had said that.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Today's Little Project

As we have already established, I have a little trouble keeping my keys straight. Now that I have a Schlage lock on my studio door, I have compounded the problem, because I have three keys that look identical.

I started to correct the problem at home by getting new keys--the one for the house is entirely purple (like the outside of the house! See how clever I am!), and the one for the garage has a purple cap on the top, while the rest of the key is silver.

But, see, now I'm too clever by half, because since I've been spending my days painting the studio purple, I automatically put the purple key into the lock, even though the purple key goes to the purple house and not the purple studio. Mnemonics have failed.

So today I went out and bought myself some groovy key caps and "Key-shirts"--flexible plastic covers to make my various keys visibly different from each other. Then, I transferred all my keys onto a single key chain. The end result is hardly slim, but at least I won't get my keys stuck in the wrong locks any more.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Splash Date!

This is a term of art--meaning the day your boat goes into the water. I love this term--it's so darn cute! And all these oil crusted men with varnish and paint covered pants, and sunburns on the backs of their necks who work in boat yard actually say this without any squirming or anything.

"What's your splash date?"
"Call me in the office to arrange your splash date."
"If you need to do a lot of work in the spring, you're going to have a late splash date."
"I don't want to have any splash dates after June 1."

Well, that last one was too bad, as Lady Cliff had a lot of work done to her hull and framing this spring, which finally got closed up this week, and today, she went into the water! It's an amazing thing, to see the mobile lift placed around her, straps run underneath (with cushioning cardboard, so as not to mar the paint!), and then the lift drives across the boatyard to the elevated track over the water, where she is lowered v-e-r-y c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y into the water. A work boat pushed her into her new slip, and a literal swarm of boatmen crawled all over her, checking for leaks, and bilge pumping and god knows all what else.

Tonight, Mr. Sweetie, Bunny and I had dinner in the saloon, and those of us over 21 toasted the launch with champagne.

FYI--getting tipsy on champagne happens even faster when the floor underneath you actually rocks back and forth! Use this information responsibly.

First Night

So, last night was the first one with the cursed machine. And I have to admit, at least it was quiet. Mr. Sweetie wasn't bothered by snoring at all (!) and as an added bonus, I woke up without the stuffed nose I've become accustomed to.

But it wasn't easy. Remember being pregnant? When it was hard to get comfortable because there was this thing that always got in the way, and kept you from sleeping on your stomach, and you had to roll from one side to the other swinging the bump over the top, which wasn't always easy to remember to do when half asleep?

Same deal.

It could have been worse, and when I woke up after about 6 hours, I took the damn thing off, and Mr. Sweetie--who was also awake--hugged me and kissed me and made sure I felt loved and attractive. Because he knows all about me and the shallow.

Okay, Now I'm Just Bragging

Pony went off to a two week Chinese immersion camp (I know! I never would have been that brave!) and Bunny and I drove her up there. It's a world famous language program, here in Minnesota, and the camp is on a lake up in Paul Bunyon country.

It took us six hours to get there--some poor signage and multiple stops to walk the dog, who came too--and then two hours to sign her in. And they really did speak Chinese to her! Sure, there were a lot of gestures, or single English words thrown in ("blah blah blah Massachusetts" while pointing to themselves, and even I understood they wanted to know where she was from). Everybody was really nice, very happy to be there, and we even met a girl who was staying in the same cabin, one year younger, and they were able to buddy up.

At one of the stations she had to check in, she made a name tag with her Chinese name in characters and in pin yin. And the woman manning the station, turned to me and started talking to me in Chinese. I said "I don't speak Chinese" but she didn't stop, encouraging me to make a name tag myself. BECAUSE SHE THOUGHT I WAS A STUDENT!!! Whoo! and Hoo!

Later, as I dropped the Pony and her stuff in her cabin, one of the other moms turned to me, thinking I was a counsellor! It must have been my youthful appearance, because I know I didn't look particularly knowledgeable about what was going on.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Results Are In

I had my sleep assessment appointment today, and as predicted, I came home with the machine. It turns out that, while sleeping on my own without the machine, I never got any deep sleep--no REM sleep, or the even deeper sleep that happens. My total sleep was light and troubled--which is exactly how it felt to me.

More bothersome, however, is that I experienced significant apnea: both complete stoppage of my airways, and partial blockage. Over four hours of unaided sleep, I had stopped breathing an average of 13 times per hour. My partial blockages were even more frequent, with a total arrested breathing score of 53 times per hour.

That's nearly one per minute! Oh my god! I had no idea it was that bad! So, if you define "restful sleep" as "sleep when you aren't waking up all the time" then I wasn't getting it at all. No wonder I am tired all the time.

With the CPAP (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) machine, it took me forever to fall alseep--90 minutes! And that was starting at 2:30 in the morning. I knew it took me a long time to fall back asleep if I'm awakened! However, over the four hours of CPAP sleep, I did get deep sleep, and my apnea episodes fell to 3. That's quite a difference.

So, I guess I'm going to be sleeping with a machine now. I had to run out to get a power strip, so I can plug everything in that needs to be plugged in next to the bed: CPAP machine, reading light, alarm clock, window fan, table fan. . .

The whole thing is far from fashionable, but maybe this will help the same way taking antidepressants helped--that I'll discover that I'm myself again, and that what's been making me cranky, lethargic, exhausted, weepy. . .can be corrected! Maybe that will be worth the unattractive bed partner look I'll be sporting. Or maybe I'll just start sleeping in a burqa.

And That's How He Got His Name

So, I told Mr. Sweetie all about my doctor appointment tonight at dinner. And he was wonderful about it.

Me: I had my doctor's appointment today.
Mr. Sweetie: (dropping utensils onto the plate, looking directly at me with love and attention and concern written all over his face) I'm all ears.

So I told him about the fact that over four hours of the study, without the machine, I never dropped below stage 2 sleep, which is shallow, and non-REM. That I was having breathing interference approximately once every minute for those four hours. And that the problems all went away while on the CPAP machine.

Mr. Sweetie: I'm really excited for you. This is great, it's going to help!

All right, I know it. I'm all about the shallow. But Mr. Sweetie has more than earned his nickname today. Plus, he went out and bought me some distilled water after 10 tonight for the damn thing.

I am a very lucky girl, having such a wonderful man to be my best friend and my life partner.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Last weekend, I heard a story on NPR about a 30+ year old protest against the KKK and Nazi Party, where the protesters were holding signs and chanting "Death to the KKK!" As happens at these things, some members of the KKK and Nazi Party showed up, and there was shooting. People died. In the aftermath, the man who had organized the protest acknowledged that the language had been inflammatory, and there were other ways to express his disapproval.

Later, that same weekend, the Evil family went to a baseball game. Among all the promotions, advertisements, PSAs, etc., was a drive to eliminate ALS--better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease. Every time a batter was retired on strikes, a certain amount of money was to be donated. The running tally was posted on the scoreboards using the abbreviation for a strike: K

Because my mind works this way, I naturally put these two things together, and have the new slogan for the next protest against racism: "Strike out the KKK!"

Sunday, June 17, 2007

My Point Is Made

So, did you notice the two posts below? Did you see the horrible juxtaposition of me, all wired up and dopey looking, and the fabulous, Romantic, Pre-Raphaelite painting of Sleeping Beauty?

Like I said, this whole sleep thing is interfering with my self-perception. Okay, let's call it what it is--my delusion of who I am and what I look like. Even adding a tiara won't make it better.

As a sage once pronounced. . ."You can stick rhinestones on a dog's ass. . ."

Sleep Study Photos!

I had a camera in my purse when I went Sleeping for Medicine, and I've finally got the photos off the memory card. Enjoy!

Six electrode sensors on my scalp, buried in my hair. This part wasn't too bad, as it was similar to what the stylist does when doing a color foil, only less stinky. Although there was a lot of gooey crud that didn't come out the next morning.

Yup--wires on my legs too, to check for Restless Leg Syndrome or something. Either way, it's another measure of whether the sleep is restful or not.

This is the device that all my wires attached to, and then it is attached to a computer hidden in the bedside table. It looks complicated and serious, and reinforces the knowledge that this is NOT a SPA TREATMENT

This is the final effect--glamorous, I know. My skin is still reacting badly to all that tape on my chin--a gift that keeps on giving.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

When Insomnia Becomes Ironic

Okay, so, I went to the doctors and underwent this annoying sleep study because not only was I getting reports from all kinds of people that I snore, but I was finding myself needing 10 hours of sleep a day and I was still not rested. I'd sleep as much as I could at night, get up and get the kids to school and the husband to work, spend an hour doing stuff, and then I'd go back to bed.

By the time I got up, I had just enough time to take a shower and go pick the girls up from school. And eat lunch. And that was about it. Not much of a life, was it?

So, off I go to the sleep clinic, convinced that something is interrupting my sleep, something serious and chronic, because there just isn't really any time in a day for me to do anything but take care of others and sleep. . .and even then, there was a terrible tendency walk around all hunched over with my knuckles dragging on the ground from exhaustion. I think I looked like a gorilla in clothing.

So, now, I've had the sleep study, and because this is how the world works, my follow up appointment--where I find out what happens when I sleep, when I get some information back--had to be rescheduled for seven days from today. And, because this is also how the world works. . .now I don't sleep.

I'm not certain if it is insomnia, as I've not looked up a medical definition of what constitutes "insomnia," but I can tell you that it's the devil for me to get to sleep these days. I get the kids to bed, I tuck myself in and do all those properly soporific activities, I turn out the light and


Not a thing.

No sleep, no tiredness. My brain starts to throw up a bunch of disconnected thoughts from the past several days, my legs start to feel cramped, my eyes will not stay closed. It's the Anti Sleep going on now.

Last night, for example, Mr. Sweetie was gone on a business trip, which usually means I forget to go to bed. I stay up, because some pre-logical part of my brain thinks that he's going to come home and I should wait for him. But I had already not been able to sleep the night before, when Mr. Sweetie was home, and I was tired. So I went to bed when the kids did, and tried to go to sleep. After an hour and fifteen minutes, I got up, went to the bathroom, did some laundry, and tried again.

Of course, nothing. So then I stayed in bed (this is apparently key advice for getting back to sleep--stay in bed) and I got out my laptop, and started doing some Internet research, some reading, some computer games. . .all of which have been known to make me so tired I think I'm going to be ill if I don't go to bed. You guessed it: nothing.

Did you know that just before the sun comes up, the birds get really loud? That if you are in a darkened room with only the laptop screen for illumination, you can see the air around you get lighter as the sun rises? I finally started yawning at about 5:30 this morning, and got to sleep sometime before 6. And I woke up less than six hours later, and I've been up and fully alert and awake ever since.

Doesn't this throw a monkey wrench into my sleep history? Maybe by next week, I can develop yet another disordered sleep pattern, and drive the doctors crazy! Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Chivalry Lives

Sometimes, you get such an interesting perspective on your own life from listening to your kids talking to each other. At least, I do.

This evening, we were in the MamaVan, driving across town with my iPod on, playing tunes the kidlets hadn't been around for the first time: Sinead O'Connor, Lisa Loeb. And I was singing along, as I do. This in itself shouldn't be torture; I have been told by disinterested parties that I have a nice singing voice. The scene went something like this:

Bunny: (skeptically and a bit dramatically) Mama. Are you singing?

Me: Well, yes. I like to sing.

Bunny: (very dramatically) But that's torture! That's horrible! How can you do that?!?

Pony: (quietly, in contrast to Bunny's loudness, and perhaps so I don't hear) You can't do that. Mama doesn't tease us, so you can't tease Mama.

Bunny: (immediately stopping the histrionics and putting on an arranged expression of remorse) Sorry Mama.

Of course I said it was okay, and that I appreciated the apology, but I was surprised. I don't think of myself as "the one who doesn't tease," because I think of myself as "the one who is not as fun as Daddy." From this little snippet of insight, maybe the fact that I don't tease is actually something the girls value. I was struck by how deeply they felt the Golden Rule imperative--so that my two girls--my two silly and funny and delightful and happy girls--immediately responded to my being teased as something inappropriate. I was very touched, and my dried and shriveled up heart got a little bigger.

I do love these girls (I know, it's a big secret, isn't it?) and they continue to delight and amaze me, even at their advanced ages. They are really growing up, leaving childhood behind, and embracing the larger world as it opens up to them. But it looks to me like they are bringing some of the best of childhood along with them as they grow.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


I finally got the call--it looks like my studio will be ready (enough) for me to actually get the keys tomorrow. Woot!

Then I can start removing carpet tack strips, carpet mastic, fill in missing tiles, painting, laying vinyl tile. . . . .

Beating A Dead Horse

Because every good joke is better with a visual:

I have nunchucks!

Which are nuns!

Named Chuck!

On Chains!

(Photo source here)

Just Call Me Cleo

So, I was scheduled to have a follow up to my sleep study--in which a doctor would go over all the tests that I subjected myself to, and interpret them, and then conclude that I need to sleep with a mask over my face and with a machine next to my bed for the rest of my life. Can you tell that I'm not excited about this?

Anyway, that appointment was supposed to be today. And since I'm an erratic sleeper, I even had to set an alarm to make certain that I didn't sleep through it. But an hour before my appointment, I got a call: one of the doctors was ill, and the others have to all cover patients and hospital rounds, etc. etc., and not only is my appointment today canceled, I can't get rescheduled until they work something out with who is going to be where, and when.

Which I am just as glad about, I guess. It allows me a few more days to live in denial about my condition and the likely solution to it. Sure, I've had totally messed up sleep, and I've lost a disproportionate amount of my life to the many hours I need to sleep, and when I wake up I'm still groggy and kind of messed up. . .

Okay, so I guess I do need to do something about this. But I hate the headgear and the whole "I'm going to look horrible and not at all cute and not at all attractive and I should just go sleep in another room and spare Mr. Sweetie the pain" is really weighing on me.

Do you think if I add a tiara, I might not mind it so much?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Kid Is Still Insane

The Bunny was treating us to one of her stream of consciousness stories today. I think it had something to do with a dream she had of blackberries attacking her classroom. At any rate, she started talking about what the kids in her dream did to defend themselves.

"So then, she started to defend herself! With a kitana! And nunchucks!

Which were nuns!

Named Chuck!

On chains!"

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Studio Blues

This is a pun, because I am blue over the fact that another week has gone by, and I'm still not in my studio. Yes, the management company is prorating my rent for June, but I had hoped I could be in by now. . .maybe even have some furniture in place by now. But no. Because the walls still have to be repaired, my track lights have to go in, and none of it will be done before Monday. At the earliest.

Plus, the floors. Have we already talked about the floors? Why yes, it appears that we have! So we are all aware of how heinous the floors currently are? Yup--carpet removed, mastic left behind, and some chipped and possibly asbestos tile underneath! Whoo hoo!

I got the bid for installing the vinyl tile for my studio. And. . .well. . .since I don't have a money tree in my back yard, I'm not having the commercial guys do it. Instead, I'm going to do it myself. Because, really, how difficult can it be? And if the landlord isn't going to pay to have it installed, then the landlord is going to have to live with the quality of work I can do, and the quality I find acceptable. And what's the point of being an artist of any caliber if I'm not willing to try something I've never done before? Where I only have to please myself?

So I've picked out a marine blue floor, (get it? "Studio blues?") which goes beautifully with the purple wall color I've chosen as well. If things work out better than they have so far, I should have keys to the studio on Monday afternoon. Work will then commence and we'll see how it goes.

Sleeping for Medicine

So, after a consultation with a lung specialist, it appears that I am a likely victim of sleep apnea--the condition where one's muscles become so relaxed during sleep that the tongue blocks the breathing passages, and one actually stops breathing, often several times a night. Based on my reported sleep habits, many complaints that I snore, and the apparently small size of my airways, I was recommended for a sleep study.

This is because sleep apnea can really only be diagnosed by watching the patient sleep. And since doctors aren't going to stay up all night just to watch someone else sleep, I got to go to a "Sleep Disorders Center" and get hooked up to all kinds of wires, machinery and cameras, all of which generate data about how I sleep so that the doctors can look at my situation.

So, my appointment was last night at 9 p.m. I was to bring pajamas, toiletries, and my insurance card. Once I was checked in (paperwork! Whoo hoo!) and a name bracelet was stuck on my wrist, I was shown to a sleeping room. At first glance, it looked like a hotel room: highly figured and rather corporately unattractive bedspread, forgettable art overhead, armoire, television, full bath and nightstand. Okay, so the bed was a dinky little single bed--not the size most adults are used to sleeping in, as far as I'm concerned. And there were no curtains, plus some other things were just not quite right. I was instructed to change into my sleepwear, and then I was hooked up.

Sure, I'm an optimistic person. I try to mentally convert medical procedures into spa services. . .as much as is possible. This wasn't really possible. The lack of any light but glaring overhead fluorescents was one characteristic that I couldn't overcome, and the total lack of soothing music and aroma therapy was another. I did ask the technician about it. Don't think I didn't! He laughed, but he thought it was a good idea. He also thought the bed was a bit small. Don't you think some mattress company would donate some decent beds, just to have their name associated with a sleep clinic? If you saw an ad for some mattress that promised better sleep, and said "Used in sleep clinics across the nation" wouldn't you make a point of checking it out?

Anyway, the hooking up process took a good 40 minutes, or maybe longer. At least as long as a good spa service should be. First the technician (Dave--and I refrained from using my HAL voice when using his name) measured my head in three different dimensions, in order to place six nodes in specific places on my skull. I got one by each eye, one behind each ear, several on my chin (I'm not sure why--I'm sure he explained it, but I don't remember. "I'm sorry, DAVE."). I also had two just below my collarbones to check my heartbeat, one on each calf to check for leg motion, and two breathing bands--one across my chest and one across my abdomen. Then the whole mass of wires was attached to a 4"x6" console. The whole process involved several swipes of alcohol cleansers to wipe off any body oil to make sure the adhesives stayed attached all night, and gobs of some sort of gummy goo (I think this is a medical term) were placed in my hair to keep the skull nodes in place.

By the end, I was feeling like I had a major dreadlock 'do going on at the back of my head. Once I was hooked up to all these wires, I had to climb into bed and get an oxygen monitor taped to my right index finger, and then a breathing tube attached below my nose to measure the air coming out of my nostrils. This was possibly the worst part of the whole mess, because it had that unmistakeable scent of newly opened, certified sterile, medical plastic, which stunk up into my nose all night.

"Okay, so when you are ready to go to sleep, you just let me know. I've got a microphone in here and I can hear you when you call." So, I tried to read myself into sleepiness, which isn't easy in a strange room, with a too small bed, where the only light is a screaming overhead fluorescent. . .but I tried. By about 10:15 I was ready to lie down. . .and then we had to do more testing.

"Lie on your back with your hands on your sides. Now with just your eyes, look left and right. Now with just your eyes, look up and down. Take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds. Now move your right foot up and down. . .and now your left foot. Take a few deep breaths. . .good. Good night."


Let me tell you, it isn't easy to fall asleep. And it felt like I was awake for at least 40 minutes until I got any kind of sleep at all, and even at that I was jolting awake quite a bit. Still, I was asleep when Dave came in to ask me to sleep on my back, because he startled me awake. Okay, sleep on back to test the most classic form of apnea. Yeah. Sleep. On my back. Yeah. Right. . .

"Okay, you're doing great. Now we are going to hook you up to the machine." This machine is the CPAP machine: Continuous Positive Air Pressure. You wear a small triangular nose cone attached to an enormous headgear to keep it in place as you sleep. The machine pumps out a continuous stream of gentle air to force your airways to stay open. It isn't too hard to breathe with it, but I gotta tell you it's impossible to talk. The stinky nose thing was untaped, but not removed because it was already tangled up in all the other wires. The CPAP went on, and I was allowed to try to go back to sleep.

Listen--I was already wide awake from the startle reflex, and adding the odd feeling and the weight of the CPAP thing didn't make me any more comfortable. So what did I need? MORE wires, I guess. I plugged in my iPod and listened to a book on tape. Actually, even though I had listened to this particular book before. . .recently. . .I found I wasn't nodding off. I finally gave up and tried to get to sleep without it. I tried to do it while on my back, so Dave wouldn't come back and wake me up. . .AGAIN. . .but it didn't work. Actually, the cone weighed rather heavily on my teeth, squishing my lip against my teeth. But I STILL had to sleep on my back, after Dave came in and woke me up AGAIN.

It wasn't very restful, and the CPAP had a weird effect on my breathing. I felt like it was forcing my sinuses open, and also that because the air was going in, I hardly had to breathe at all. In fact, if you asked me my opinion, I'd say I did less breathing with the machine than without it. I also thought I did less sleeping too, but I guess the data will show if that's true. I was asleep when Dave came in to say it was 6 a.m., and time to go home. I woke up so quickly, though, every time, which is quite unlike my usual sleep, and so until proven otherwise, I believe I didn't sleep as deeply as I usually do.

I was going to just get up, throw on some clothes and come home to shower, but once Dave ripped off all the adhesive and tape (boy, am I glad I shaved my legs!), there were still gobs of that crap in my hair, and residual stickiness around my neck and I just couldn't stand it! I filled out the final paperwork, took a shower, and came home to go back to bed.

I go in to see the doctor on Tuesday, who will read the results of my tests, as well as Dave's report and that of the other sleep disorder specialists on staff. Apparently, although there are several options for sleep apnea, only the CPAP is actually consistently effective. Which I have some trouble with. I mean, I spent years in high school, faithfully wearing the god awful headgear for my orthodonture, and trust me, the CPAP skull cap is worse. It just isn't how I see myself, wearing this big ugly appliance-type headgear and attached by the nose to a bedside machine. I mean, really, did Sleeping Beauty wear a CPAP? How about Meredith Grey, even when she was in a coma after nearly drowning in Puget Sound? NO! They didn't! As for me, it's hard to get over the non-aesthetics of it to confront the medical reality. Apnea is dangerous--it leads to all kinds of serious medical conditions, like increased risk of stroke, high blood pressure, etc. etc.

But it's hard to get over the feeling that it's like being on life support, and I really didn't plan to be on life support until I was a whole lot older, and had a couple of hips replaced, and perhaps had senile dementia, so I wouldn't notice.

We will see what the doctor says, but the odds are generally lined up for the CPAP, and then it's up to me to get over my issues about it. After all, I'm not the one bothered by my snoring, right?

The Kids Are NOT All Right

Not that I care to contradict those sages of cultural wisdom--The Who--but they never knew my kids! My kids are insane. I offer the following--a "To Do" list from my youngest, who is 10.

How To Take Over The World.
  1. Start with Brazil or Russia.
  2. Next, get Greenland and Iceland.
  3. Then get Chile and Argentina.
  4. After, get Middle East.
  5. Don't forget Australia!
  6. China is VERY important.
  7. Madagascar is after.
  8. The Sahara. . .important!
  9. Go to Mexico.
  10. Canada is maple syrupy!
  11. Sneak attack on U.S.A!
  12. U.K. needs attention.
  13. Central America and Cuba. (You might have gotten rid of its leaders, but it's not yours!)
  14. France, Italy, Span and Portugal's okay.
  15. Norway, Finland please!
  16. Rest of South America
  17. Oceana
  18. India
  19. Take Africa by storm!

Bumper Stickers To Love And Share

I saw this on the back of a car the other day--I can't remember the particular business advertised, although it was some funky little restaurant/bar thing. Somebody's "Burned Down Shack" I think.

"We cheat the other guy, and pass the savings on to you!"

Huh. I think it's more likely you're cheating me as well. But if the beer is good, I probably don't care.

Law & Order: Special Varieties Unit

So, Bermondsey and I went to the puppy park yesterday, and we met a border terrier. As you may recall, we had some idea that Bermondsey might be part border terrier--based on seeing the movie "Good Dog," which starred such a breed, and because as we were in puppy kindergarten we met someone who owned border terriers and who greeted Bermondsey saying "there's a puppy with some border terrier in him!"

However, as time has passed, I am coming to think this is wrong. The one we saw yesterday at the puppy park was a stocky little dude--barrel bodied with short and sturdy little legs and wiry hair. By contrast, Bermondsey has a scrawny little chest, long legs out of proportion to his body, and soft and almost downy fur. As I have run across Lhasa Apsos as well, their legs are much shorter than Bermondsey's are. So, the forensic reconstruction (see! It's the "Law and Order" theme!) is suspect.

"Look, Sargent, that theory won't hold up in court--any competent defense attorney will open those holes and drive truckloads of 'reasonable doubt' through it. Border terriers are a relatively rare breed: especially here in Minnesota. Lhasa Apsos aren't that common either. So, given that the defendant in question was a stray, found in a rural area--are you prepared to prove the existence of both those unusual breeds in that area, living closely enough to each other to achieve unauthorized reproduction?

"Anyway, it would just take a halfway decent dog breed judge to assess the defendant and pronounce him as incompatible with the modus operandi of the alleged breeds. We need a new theory, Sargent, and fast! The judge is not going to give us a continuance for lack of a good case."

Then, yesterday, while researching something quite different, I came upon these pictures:

This is a new "breed:" what used to be called just "mutts" but are now known as "designer dogs." This is the "Shih Chon," a cross between a shih tzu and a bichon, pronounced "shee shawn." I'm no official dog judge, but these are two breeds that are much more common here. Bichon frises also have longer legs and softer hair than the Lhasas and terriers.

I think these little male puppies look just like Bermondsey must have as a six week old: according to the breeder, they roll over for tummy rubs whenever someone passes by--very much like my own little guy.

This older dog has some of the contradictory gravitas and fluffy cuteness that is the hallmark of our little guy.

So--when people ask (and they do ask! This is really one winsome little dog!) what kind of dog he is, I think I'll go with the Shih Chon--but I'll explain it.


Monday, June 04, 2007

The End of an Era

Tomorrow is the last day of school, and the last day of Lower School for my family. Bunny graduates from fifth grade and goes to Middle School next year. It's bittersweet, watching the girlies grow up: I loved the children they were, and I love the people they are becoming. Leaving the Lower School ends an era that started back in 1999, and all year I've been experiencing events for "the last time." The last book festival, the last quiz bowl, the last Art Adventure, etc. etc.

On the plus side, tomorrow is "the last uniform" day. Once in Middle School, the kids get to choose their clothing, and--no surprise here--they invariably DON'T choose to wear navy chinos and red or white polo shirts. Six years is enough, I guess.

So, tonight I packed up all but one last uniform. (Okay, plus whatever ones are in the laundry. Let's not get so literal here, shall we?) You know what? We now have about 30 hangers free for other clothing!

Bad News, Good News and Studio Delays

Well, it's June now, and I don't have keys to my studio. Because my studio isn't ready. Because--like so damn much of my life--complications have arisen.

This time, it's the floor and the lights. I bought lights and delivered them last week. On Friday, I found out that the track lights won't work, because it's a recessed system that lies flat against the ceiling, and since the ceiling is actually concrete--the lights can't be recessed. Sure, we can jury-rig something, but that's just not a good idea. Especially since I spoke to the electrician, and he seems to be without any ideas as to how to jury-rig it. Relying on me for electrical installation advice? Not good.

So, I bought a different set of lights, and will have to return the originals. Fortunately they are all unopened. Unfortunately, I don't know where the receipt is. Let's all cross our fingers and hope that Home Depot can look it up electronically.

More bad news--when I delivered the lights, I got a chance to look at the carpeting that was on the floor. OMG was it foul! Stains, wear patterns, large blotches of what looked like oil tars, droppings of plaster and white paint all over. It clearly had to go. And, fortunately, there are plenty of cool things one can do to a concrete floor. Acid etching, paint, overlay--lots of options.

Except the floor is not concrete under the carpet. It's tile. Vinyl tile, or even maybe asbestos. Linoleum-type tile is what we're talking here. Ugly and cracked linoleum-type tile all covered with sepia mastic from the carpeting, and no way to remove it.

But! There is an option! The flooring contractors that the building uses use Armstrong EXCELON (TM) vinyl tiles, and they come in a profusion of colors! Including purple! Which is probably what I was going to paint the concrete floor that didn't exist anyway!

So, back to the drawing board--I need to decide colors for floor and walls and then order it and either install it myself or have it installed. But at least there is color!

Parenting Issues, New and Old

Every time a child does something annoying, you can count on an adult to say "It's just a phase. They'll grow out of it." Which is horribly annoying when you are the child--you aren't being treated like a human being, but like a lump of random whims, none of which are important until you reach some magical (and undefined) age when you are no longer in a "phase." At which point, perhaps, you are dead, since we are all growing and changing all the time.

This is now a new phase for me--and it might even be peri-menopause. I'm certainly old enough--bifocals anyone? And I have just had three months of glorious, period free existence. Until about yesterday, that is, and suddenly, it's back. I just hope its not like after being pregnant, I don't want several months worth all at once, thank you very much.

But it leads me to thinking about this new birth control pill, just approved by the FDA. You just take it all the time, and never have a period. Wow! I mean, sign me up! Except that I seem to be getting there all by myself now.

But really, think of it--never having to deal with the whole PMS thing, never having to worry about accidents, or getting caught somewhere without supplies, never to have to do all the damn laundry, never having to think twice about planning events, or going swimming, or anything! Sure, tampons help, but they aren't fail safe, and there is the little fear of toxic shock. To never ever have to worry? Priceless!

I look at my daughters, and think that all the hassle and discomfort and frank pain in the ass-ness that a period is--they could avoid it! One pill every morning, and hey voila!--no more period! I myself used to get such terrible cramps that I'd vomit from the pain--I lost about 10 days a year to cramps--and there was no controlling when they happened. I was taking a major final exam in college when I got slammed by cramps, and the pain was so bad I had no idea what I was doing. I read an entire essay question, and somehow didn't think it was a question and I almost didn't answer it. I wouldn't have, except the professor made a comment about what he meant the question to be--because someone else asked about it. I finished the exam, and then had to walk the 2 miles back to my apartment--which was heroic, if I say so myself.

It was particularly hard when I was in junior high--I was painfully shy and absolutely clueless about what to do. For about the first 3 years of my period, I used an actual belt--technology that was as out of date as a Model T, really. And I had an impossible time talking about it, and so I went for years hiding my pain, using ineffective supplies--and suffering debilitating shame about the whole thing. Look how much happier my life would have been with something like this.

But there are still risks, aren't there? And there is the whole question of what is normal--medically, culturally, socially, historically. And how do I/we/women/girls feel about their gender? In high school, I could only see the limitations put on women, and I desperately did not want to be one. All those period related limitations and hassles were part of it, for sure, but so was the sense that you had to act dumber than you were, in order not to scare off the boys. I was a debater, and it just angered me beyond reason that I was sometimes criticized for gestures that would have raised absolutely no comment if a boy had done them. Being female even into college was about limitations: liberal arts professors would routinely say things like "men think logically and sequentially, women think organically" and I would fume. Women are perfectly capable of thinking and writing both logically and sequentially, and stop being so patronizing.

It was only in law school that I started to recognize that it was okay to be fully a woman. I had enrolled in a class with a newly hired professor, who was supposed to be a legal genius. He may have been--I could not understand what the hell he was talking about. Ever. We had two weeks to try classes and drop them without penalty, and as the two weeks passed, the class fell from about 50% female to 20%, to 5%, to two women left in the class. I was one of them. And on the second to last day before the drop option closed, I realized I was only still in this class to prove that women could succeed at this class.

Was I enjoying it? No. Was I really learning anything? Not yet. Did I need to make the point at my own expense? Maybe not. Maybe it was just as important to show that women can make an independent judgment that this so-called genius was a terrible teacher and that women were willing to drop a useless class. Women were not imprisoned by their egos to test themselves against a reputed genius. I dropped the class.

Maybe by then I was finally becoming comfortable in being a female--I saw a different way of being, not just as "almost as good as a man, but not quite" but as "perfectly wonderful and not a man at all but something different that is--to be frank--more fulfilling."

How much of this is tied up in understanding my body, my brain, my self as a woman? Is a period a symbol of that difference? Is it a symptom of it? Is managing one a way of learning to manage the other? Certainly by the time I had children, I had learned a lot about accepting my body and its functions as both normal and amazing.

So, the question arises--how do I parent my daughters? Should I help them through the monthly hassle? Can I even do that at all well, given my own difficulties? Do I offer them the option to opt out entirely? Do I strongly recommend it? Is this one of the tough things about growing up that we are better for enduring, or would it be kinder to put it off until the girls become independent enough to handle it on their own. (Face it, it's a lot easier to manage a period when you can drive to get what you need, and can pay for it too. Relying on putting it on a grocery list is just asking for chaos.)

And so I'm back at the parenting question I have asked before--when do I make things easier for my kids, and when does it do them more good to struggle through?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pirates Of The Caribbean 3--A Review

What a big, glorious, beautiful mess this movie is! It's like everything that was done in the first two movies had to be done again, only this time BIGGER, with MORE EXPLOSIONS, and 30% MORE JOHNNY DEPP!

Don't even try to understand what is happening--the story careens from one set up to the next with little exposition or narrative logic. Captain Jack Sparrow has been swallowed by the Kraken, and everybody else wants to get him. Or to defeat the East India Company. Or something. It's not easy to tell. We see all our favorite characters, plus more of the Undead Monkey Jack, providing most of the comic relief.

This last chapter is darker than the first two, and I mean that literally. The first 30 minutes are so gloomy that it's hard to see all the stuff that has been stuffed into each frame. Everyone appears in half shadow all the time--all the better for the explosions I guess. And things do blow up. Lots of bodies go flying, structures fall down, but it's hard to know or care what is happening, but that's okay, because later we see all the characters have made it to the next bit, where they try to go rescue Captain Jack.

And here's where those of us who wanted more Johnny Depp get more Johnny Depp. Captain Jack has (don't ask how) been transported to a white sand desert with the Black Pearl. Both have survived being eaten by the Kraken (I told you not to ask) and Jack is hallucinating multiple versions of himself as his own crew. Mild hilarity ensues, and everyone ends up rescuing everyone else. And holding pistols on each other. And double-crossing each other. And then blowing up more stuff.

Really, it's amazing that any of these ships stay afloat, with all the shooting and crashing and running aground they do. Tia Dalma turns out to be 40 feet tall and made all of crabs, Davy Jones turns out to be a non-performing employee who must be replaced, and for some reason, the job description requires radical surgery. Sure, in Pirates 2, the reason Davy Jones put his heart in a chest was because he was disappointed in love and couldn't bear the pain--but now that appears to be a required qualification for commanding the Flying Dutchman. Go figure.

Frankly, there was just too much going on to get invested in any of it. [Spoilers ho! So, keep a weather eye on the horizon!] Elizabeth's father, the criminally underused Jonathan Pryce, turns up dead, without any reason why he was even in this episode. Elizabeth's would-be fiance, Commodore Norrington--who got to demonstrate his comic chops in the second movie--is back to wearing white wigs and making anti-pirate decisions, so he ends up dead too. Elizabeth and Will finally get married, but then Will gets stabbed with the sword he made back in the first movie, and has to cut his heart out and take over the Flying Dutchman.

Only after all the noisy and pointless fighting do we get the kind of moments that make us care about these characters: Will and his father have a quiet moment together; Will and Elizabeth have to separate for 10 years; and after 10 years, we see Will sailing back to meet his wife and their 9 year old child.

Pirates 4? Of course there will be one--this one has made a pile of loot, and the franchise isn't dead yet. Captain Jack Sparrow has lost his ship to Barbossa again, but he's stolen Barbossa's map and is off to find the Fountain of Youth. The whole Will/Elizabeth story has been wrapped up and now only Johnny Depp and Geoffry Rush have to be signed on for another installment. I hope only that any fourth movie goes back to having a smaller and less cluttered plot, with fewer explosions and more character interaction.

One can always dream.