Tuesday, December 26, 2006

James Brown - Sex Machine

The Godfather of Soul has left the building. Check out this clip from sometime in the 1970s to savor the magic of James Brown live - four minutes of hard, tight funk, two breaks, at least three rhythm changes, and he just looks meaner than hell with that moustache. James Brown is tearing up the clubs in Heaven tonight.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Word of the Day: Croupy

He had had a runny nose for the last couple of days, so we weren't surprised when he started coughing Wednesday night. But his coughs sounded harsher and rougher than usual, and he was wheezing. He was gasping for air, and he made these horrible strangled sounds as he struggled to draw breaths.

"He's never sounded like that before," R said at some point during the night. Neither of us was sleeping well, listening to him cough and rasp and try to breathe.

We all got up in the middle of the night because he was wide awake, crying in misery, and besides, he had to have his diaper changed. (Toddlers hardly ever poo in their diapers overnight, but when they do, you don't want them sleeping in it.) He sounded ragged and raspy, and both of us were worried. I suggested giving him cough medicine, which he fought viciously. I called the overnight consulting nurse at our local clinic , and left a message, expecting a call back shortly. After all, breathing problems seemed like a fairly urgent priority. Then R went to lay down with Oliver in the bedroom while I slept on the couch, waiting for the call.

At some point, Oliver and R came back out, and he was sobbing, making pitiful weak mewling sounds. I held him for a minute, and he curled against my chest while I rocked him in my arms. He fell asleep for a few minutes, then woke up, miserable. R tried to get him back to sleep by nursing him, by rocking, any way she could, all to no avail.

By 6:30 the nurse still hadn't called back, so we decided to consult Dr. Google. I found a website that suggested several frightening causes for his breathing problems: pneumonia, RSV, croup, and others too terrifying to even recount. The barking cough sounded like the cough described for croup, but neither of us were certain at all. We just knew it was bad. We threw on a coat over Oliver's pajamas and put slippers on his bare feet, and headed to the emergency room.

Oliver started to perk up on the way to the ER, strangely enough. But as we were giving our insurance information to the registration staff, he barked out a couple of coughs and she nodded and said, "that sounds like croup." Croup is a swelling of the voice box (larynx) and trachea, and the barking cough and strangled cries are classic symptoms of croup. The term "croupy" entered our vocabulary at that moment, as did "stridor," which refers to the stranged wheezing breaths we heard for most of the night.

They checked his temperature. Then, with an odd little strap attached to his toe, they checked his oxygen saturation and were pleased with the result - he was still breathing well enough. We didn't have to wait long before we were sent back to exam room 9. There, we undressed Oliver down to his diaper and put him in a toddler-size hospital johnny with Sesame Street characters on it.

Mercifully, we saw a nurse and then a doctor in short order. They asked questions, listened to his chest, and disagreed about whether or not he was actually wheezing. After the doctor and nurse agreed on the diagnosis, they sent him to get a chest x-ray as a double-check.

Now, when adults get an x-ray, they know what happens. You lay down on a table, turn this way and that, and generally do what's required without much fuss. But a sick baby who's barely slept is not a good candidate for x-rays, especially with an x-ray tech who had obviously had little experience with children. I put on the heaviest apron in the world and stood next to Oliver while he sat on a stool, his back against a platform, while the tech gave preposterous instructions. "If he can just sit back a little bit ... maybe if he can turn his body straight ... okay, now I'm going to need you to hold both his hands up..." All this while tears and snot are streaming my little boy's face. We took two x-rays - I thought we were done - and then he decided we needed two more. He called in R for reinforcements, gave her a leaded apron of her own, and the two of us tried to gyrate our baby while he wept and wept and wailed and wailed. Finally, after 4 x-rays, the fiend dismissed us from the x-ray chamber of horrors.

We went back to exam room 9. The nurse came in and announced they would be giving him a dose of Decadron, a steroid to bring down the swelling in his larynx and trachea. "This isn't flavored, and it tastes really bad," the nurse explained, and suggested getting some apple juice ready to chase down the awful medicine. She pulled out an eyedropper the size of my thumb and prepared a massive dose, and then somehow got it down Oliver's gullet, despite his furious head-shaking and thrashing. The nurse suggested that he might have to be admitted for a day or two to get his breathing under control.

Shortly thereafter, the doctor came back in. He started talking about what we would do once we went home with him. He didn't want to admit Oliver, and we were grateful for that. Just seeing the emergency room was bad enough - staying overnight in a hospital, four days before Christmas, was just unthinkable.

A respiratory tech came in soon and hooked up a cool mist for Oliver to breathe. He offered a clear child's breathing mask (complete with funny eyes and nose) and asked if he would wear it. We both thought it wasn't likely, so R just held the hose near Oliver's mouth so he could breathe in the mist.

We waited for the medicine to kick in, and for the mist to help his breathing. Oliver kept trying to nurse when the room was empty, and fell asleep once or twice while his mother nursed him. I fell asleep at some point while we waited, sitting upright in a chair.

Finally, we were given the all-clear by the doctor. He called the clinic that normally saw Oliver and explained the situation, and told us to see our doctor the next day. "Tell them you were in the ED, and that I told you to get a follow-up. That'll get you to the front of the line. You know how it is." The doctor had a child about a year older than Oliver. The nurse had a biracial son nearly Oliver's age. She showed us pictures. Everyone on the staff was kind as possible, and took a liking to our little boy.

We drove home at 10:30, delirious, tired, emotionally wrecked, and starving. We picked up bad fast food on the way home and scarfed it down. Oliver fell asleep in the back of the car and let me carry him up four flights of stairs without waking up. (Note: our elevator was still out of commission from the sudden blackout of the day before. See previous post.) I laid him on the bed, wearing his big winter coat, his slippers, and pajamas. He slept for hours with hardly a motion. We both slept, too, while he was down. We were all exhausted from the ordeal of his first ER visit, right on the heels of the power outage and everything else that had happened that week.

Lights On

We got our power back on Tuesday, and I'm sorry I forgot to mention it. However, I'm still fairly convinced that all five of my readers live in Woodinville and North Bend, so you probably just got your power back five minutes ago.

Actually, to be fair, we got our power back Tuesday afternoon, and then, just for kicks, we lost it again Wednesday afternoon for a couple of hours. We had decided that if the power didn't come back, we'd head to Oregon a day early. Then, suddenly, the lights came back on! And then, the next day, ka-phlooey! And I rushed home from work, prepared to pack like a madman and drive to Oregon that night.

And then, double ka-phlooey! (Note: my spell check does not recognize "ka-phlooey" as a word. Stupid spell check.) Power snapped back on, and instead, I came home to hang with our kid and my beautiful wife, both of whom were coming down with some sort of cold.

And then things got interesting. And by "interesting," I mean "scary and miserable and icky." I'll tell you why in the next post.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Still Dark

It's been 84 hours and counting. I'm sick of counting the hours, and sleeping in a hotel room that's too small for the three of us. (R and Oliver are sleeping in one queen-size bed, and I'm over in the other. I miss sleeping next to my wife.)

Were we prepared for this storm? Nope. We only owned one flashlight. We didn't have firewood (we have a fireplace that I haven't used in a year, because of the toddler roaming our house). But we've been out of power for three and half days - how do you prepare for that?! In a major city? I'm not in the wilderness or anything - there's three coffee shops within walking distance of our house, and a grocery store on the corner. We shouldn't be still out of power. Now I'm just getting irritated. The trees that fell early Friday morning are still on the ground. The power lines that fell in the street are still there.

From David Goldstein at Horse's Ass:

No doubt I was woefully unprepared for a prolonged power outage, but then again, I live in the middle of a fucking city, so I wasn’t expecting one barring a major disaster. Sure, we’ve got some rugged country around here, and we expect blackouts from downed trees and such. But not in-city. If this is what happens after a windstorm, imagine what it’s going to be like after a major earthquake?
Yes, yes, and yes to everything he said. I want my damn power back on, people.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Let It Blow, Let It Blow, Let It Blow

I'm not going to write much now, for fear the clacking keys will wake up Oliver. We're alive. We're all okay, but our power's been out since 1 am Friday morning. We've decamped to a Best Western in downtown Seattle, so we have heat and running water and all the amenities thereof. (Bonus: free wi-fi!) We were one of the lucky ones - most of the hotels that still have power are full up right now and are turning people away.

Over a million people lost power in our area Thursday and Friday. Some won't have the lights back on for days. Maybe as long as a week.

There are downed trees all around our neighborhood, including one gigantic tree that crashed down on someone's front yard and exploded, apparently, and took down at least one utility pole with it. We're not far from the section of Fauntleroy Way that's been closed for the last two days.

The windstorm on Thursday night was one of the most frightening things I have ever seen in my life. I've never been so afraid of the weather before. I've seen wind, I've seen rain, I've seen lightning. I've never seen anything like that.

We're hopeful to have power back tomorrow, so we can go home to our nice warm beds. But we're grateful to have warmth and a roof over our heads. It could have been much worse.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?

Our Christmas tree went up last weekend, and Oliver had a key role in decorating it. Look at all the work this kid was doing.

First, he strung all the lights...

Then he had to find the perfect place for each and every ornament...

"Hmm. Not quite right."

And finally, he's done. Behold the masterpiece.

Who you calling a platypus?

I was searching for something on the hilarious Defective Yeti blog, or so I thought. I hit the "go" button after entering my search term, and I was transported into a quiz on what kind of venomous egg-laying mammal I might be.

As it happens, I'm a platypus.

Are there other venomous egg-laying mammals out there? and who knew platypi were venomous? I have a newfound respect for them (although mostly, that's fear).

Seriously, go try it yourself. Maybe I hallucinated the whole thing.


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

James Kim

I never met James Kim, but I've been following his family's plight for days, since I first logged into CNET (to look for laptop recommendations) and noticed the news item in the corner. I was crushed this afternoon when I read that his body had been recovered, eleven days after his family first left Portland.

How many parents can see themselves in the eyes of James and Kati Kim? How many of us shuddered as we read about Kati nursing the children once the food ran out in order to keep them alive? About them burning the tires of their car for heat? About the items of clothing James left so he could be found? He sounded so strong and so resilient, and we all hoped and prayed that he would be found alive, waving at a helicopter with a grin on his face.

One of his daughters shares the name of our niece in Oregon. It was a small tidbit that made the story hit harder.

He was near my age, a man in his mid-thirties with young children. I saw myself in him. I could imagine all too clearly falling into the dire circumstances that befell them. It was a simple series of mistakes.

Kati Kim told officers they were traveling south from Portland on Interstate 5 and missed the turnoff to a state highway, Oregon 42, that leads through the Coast Range to Gold Beach, where they planned to stay at a resort.

After leaving Portland on Interstate 5, search leaders said, the couple missed a turnoff that leads to the coast and took a wrong turn on a twisty mountain road they chose as an alternative.
I can imagine doing this. A wrong turn, a poor choice of a road that goes from bad to impassable. Sure. I can see this. And suddenly there we are, trapped in the car, scrambling to find food, huddling together for warmth.

When I was a kid, I read one of those stories in Reader's Digest about families ending up in unthinkable situations and making their way back to civilization. This one was about a family whose car broke down in the desert. They sucked cactus leaves for the moisture, I remember. They rubbed aloe on their bodies to cool their sunburns. But they made it home safely, to live and write about their experience.

We're driving to Oregon this Christmas. I'm repacking our emergency kit with food, warmer blankets, a flashlight. I don't ever want to be trapped like the Kim family. I know that I would do everything to save my wife and my child, but I'm just not confident I could be as ingenuous or as creative as James and Kati were. I don't ever want to find out.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Snow in Seattle!

Ooh, snow on Sunday! Hooray, snow!

It's so pretty! It's so magical!

Oh, no, snow on Monday!

Oh, no, the commute's a disaster! (It took me 1 1/2 hours to get home - usually I have a 40 minute bus ride.)

Oh, no, let's cancel school for the entire Puget Sound region!

Looking out my window, the streets are bare and dry. No ice, no snow (except on the sidewalks.) The skies are blue. So much for Snow Apocalypse 2006.

To be fair, last night was a disaster on the roads. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of cars were stranded on the icy roads. Buses were stuck in snow and ice. I saw some people on the morning news who had been on the highway for six hours trying to get home after the Seahawks game.

Mrs. B's home today - her school is southeast of Seattle, and they've probably got treacherous roads down there. But thousands of Seattleites called it a snow day today and stayed home.
Anyone who doesn't live in Seattle will laugh at this, because you can barely tell it even snowed. But honestly, I've seen these people drive in snow, and I'm grateful that they're staying off the roads. Better safe than sorry upside down in a ditch, holding your latte between your feet.

Monday, November 27, 2006

A place of humiliation

I saw the video of Michael Richards losing his mind in that comedy club last week, and I can't think of anything that didn't involve actual violence that was as jarring. It's disturbing for the language, but more than that, he seems completely unhinged. I can imagine that the audience was frightened as well as just plain horrified.

It's an unbelievable sight. Apparently, there's more that didn't make the video. According to reports, Richards first called out members of audience by calling them "dumb Mexicans and blacks" who were interrupting his show. Then commenced the rant that you've undoubtedly seen. (If not, you can see it here.) There was more that wasn't captured on video. According to one report, lines not seen on the video include "I have enough money I could have you put in jail," and "When I wake up tomorrow, I'll be rich, and you'll still be a nigger!"

So now he's hitting the airwaves to defend himself. And proclaim his deepest sorrows for "this thing" - not for screaming racist insults and threatening people, but just for "this thing," which apparently rose up and spat out of his mouth like something out of an "Alien" movie. He sputtered out an apology on Letterman, but never seemed remorseful so much as tongue-tied. Then he went on Jesse Jackson's show and proclaimed not only that he had never used such language and images before. (Let's try and remember how well that defense worked for George Allen.) In fact, says the shocked Richards, he's not a racist at all! Why, he grew up in a black neighborhood! His best friend was a ni ... a black person!

But he was humiliated. Or rather, he was in "a place of humiliation." (Sorry, I had to stop for a minute. I was in a place of laughter.)

Let's talk about this for a second. He's saying that he was lashing out because he was humiliated. But he pulled out the worst possible thing he could say to a black patron - the one word for which there is no response. He pulled out the n-word as a weapon to defend himself from humiliation, even though (he says) he had NEVER used that word before. NEVER used it before. Never. I'm going to call bullshit on that. He had the word in his vocabulary - whether he said it every day or once a year, it was there. And when he need something big, he reached into his bag of weapons and pulled it out. People do instinctive things when they feel threatened, as a comic does when he's bombing on stage. They don't think, they just act. Somehow, the word was enough of an ingrained part of him that it came out in his most vulnerable moment. That says to me that the word wasn't new to him, it was something that was used regularly.

Look, I grew up in a suburb of Detroit with black friends and classmates. I used that word, when I was younger, when I didn't realize the impact it had. I knew the word was bad, but white kids used it pretty regularly. I haven't used it in twenty years, but I know that word exists somewhere, back in the recesses of my mind. I can't imagine any circumstance - any - where I would pull that word out and throw it at someone. Can't even fathom it. It's the atom bomb of slurs. So in my opinion, something was going on in Richard's head for him to start calling out "black people" and then escalate it to the N-word. Somehow, that insult was prepared in his mind and was waiting for use. Is he a racist? Who knows? But for him to say that it was about anger, that's only part true.

I'd like for him to come clean and say that, sure, he might have some racist tendencies, maybe some racist beliefs. Like large portions of America. And that, unlike the people whose racism lies dormant, his inner racist came spilling out in anger, and then got splattered all over the internets. Instead, what I've heard is him trying to change the subject. More than once, his apologies have turned into social critiques on use of "that word" in the entertainment industry (read: "Soul Plane" and rap music).

"I fear that young whites will think it's cool to go around and use that word because they see very cool people in the show business using that word so freely. Perhaps that's what came through in that ... the vernacular is so accessible."

He's not looking inside. He's trying to find an enemy, a scapegoat, something else he can blame. I could really give a damn about Michael Richards' soul being saved, or his conscience being mollified. What I care about is his attempt to change the subject by turning it into a discussion on how other people (read: black folks) use the n-word with each other. That's not the issue. The issue is a 57-year-old man who makes his living (or not) in the public eye. He should have known better. For someone in the entertainment industry, he should have known, better than most, the power of words as weapons. This was about power, this was about an arrogant celebrity, and this was about a tv comedian outing himself as having some kind of racist thoughts in his head. Nobody knows how much of this was racism and how much was anger, but both were undeniably present in that room.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Holy Grail of Triangulation

What's the real reason that illegal immigration can't be stopped? Why, it's legalized abortion.

Bad logic, you say? Too bad. A panel in Missouri just came to that very conclusion. According to the loonybird who put the connection in the final report, "We hear a lot of arguments today that the reason that we can't get serious about our borders is that we are desperate for all these workers. You don't have to think too long. If you kill 44 million of your potential workers, it's not too surprising we would be desperate for workers."

Oh, and you can also blame our "liberal social welfare" programs. I can't believe he couldn't find a way to personally blame Bill Clinton for letting immigrants over the border.

None of the six Democrats would sign off on this bizarre report. More here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/13/AR2006111300924.html

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

If Only Marilyn Musgrave had lost...

Then my joy would be complete. As it stands, I'm giddy.

Initiative 920, to eliminate the estate tax for the poor suffering 250 multimillionaire families in Washington state, went down in flames. Voters across the state rejected this initiative.

Initiative 933, which would have gutted our land-use laws, suffered resounding defeat.

Seattle passed Initiative 91, which prohibits the city from subsidizing sports stadiums unless they get a reasonable return on their investment.

Oh, and lapdancing is still safe in our fair city. (I couldn't care less about this issue, not being a customer of the business affected, but I thought the anti-referendum campaign was run brilliantly. They essentially mocked the referendum - which would have mandated a four-foot space between dancers and customers, created light requirements, and other stripper minutiae - as being prudish and ridiculous. One postcard showed a black-and-white photo of a police officer measuring the length of a woman's skirt, with the caption "Remember the last time the police had to carry rulers?")

Other initiatives across the country were signs for hope. A ban on same-sex marriage went down to defeat, the first time one of these bans has lost. Stem cell research was supported in Missouri. Minimum wage increases were supported across the country. An onerous parental notification initiative was defeated in California.

The Dems have won the House by a comfortable margin, and with the victories of Jon Tester in Montana and Jim Webb in Virginia, have taken the Senate. The House seemed a distant possibility at this time last year, and the Dems were hoping to steal one Republican's seat. They took six.

Across the map, common sense and hope won out over fearmongering and lies. This was a good election. A very good night indeed.

Thank you, Howard Dean

Dean made it happen. He was the one who pushed a 50-state strategy, giving insiders heart attacks and frightening the geniuses who crafted Kerry's surgical-strike victory in 2004. (Oh, wait. He lost.)

Dean was the one who said that we had to go for victories everywhere - not just in the key battleground states. Dean funneled money out into small legislative battles and forgotten districts. And today, we have new Democratic Senators in places like Montana and Missouri. They won 28 seats when they only needed 15. They could have poured money into just those 15 seats that looked like sure wins. But they ran a 50-state strategy. The Repubs were forced to play defense in areas they never expected (Idaho! Florida! Eastern Washington!) Dean spread them thin and took the battle.

At first, they said he was crazy. Now the label of "genius" belongs not to Karl Rove, but Howard Dean.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


It's Election Day.

I'm nauseous with anxiety. And fear. And hope. All of that, bouncing around my stomach, and I'm a little queasy right now from it all.

The top elections official in Missouri was asked (illegally) for ID at her polling place. Jean Schmidt couldn't cast her vote in Ohio. Voting machines are malfunctioning in Indiana, Ohio and Florida, and it's only 10 am on the West Coast. How many more Election Day nightmare stories are we going to see before the day is out?

The Dems need a net gain of 15 seats to take control of the House, and 6 seats to take the Senate. People are forecasting anywhere between 10 and 40 seats gained for the Dems in the House, and anywhere between 0 (thanks, Karl) and 7 seats in the Senate.

There are truly evil initiatives on the ballot in Washington state (to repeal the estate tax and to essentially do away with land use regulations). Bad things could happen today, or good things could happen and renew my faith in this country's voters.

My nails are bitten down to the quick, and my fingers are starting to bleed.

Still, I voted. My wife voted. It's what we can do. We can fret about the Diebold machines, the torrential rain in Seattle, the dirty tricks, the lies and slander thrown at good candidates. But when Election Day comes, all you can do is show up at the polls.

Get your ass out there and vote. If you encounter any problems, call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. Then call the Secretary of State. Then call the tv stations. Don't let anything stop you from voting the bastards out. The Republicans are all talking about how they'll crawl over broken glass to cast their votes for their crooks and their thieves. Let's show them what it looks like when the public is screaming for change.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Magic in the Heart

Above all remember this: that magic belongs as much to the heart as to the head and everything which is done, should be done from love or joy or righteous anger.

I am in possession of the new collection of short stories by Susanna Clarke.

Susanna Clarke is one of the few writers who genuinely excites me. Her first epic novel, "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell," was one of those rare books that not only creates a whole new world, but it did so out of the familiar surrounds of England and the British Isles. Napoleon, Lord Byron, the Duke of Wellington, and other historical figures were swept into Clarke's world of magic gone underground and brought back to use in spectacular fashion. It is a book I intend to read again and again, once a year as the need presents itself.

(Susanna Clarke also inspires a person to say things like "I am in possession of ..." rather than "I bought the new book down at the Costco, in between the chicken breasts and the Brita water filters.")

I'll let you know my verdict after I've read the entire thing. Don't be too anxious. I intend to savor this little book of magical tales. Now that I have another gateway into Clarke's world, I'm looking forward to settling down in it for a while.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Write a funny caption!

It's like shooting fish in a barrel, folks.

The actual (and accidentally funny) caption: President Bush returns a crying toddler to his parents at a campaign rally at Georgia Southern University. Bush said Democrats retaking control of Congress would be a victory for terrorists.

My caption: "All I said was that when he grew up, maybe he could be a Congressional page."

Got a better caption? Put it in the comments. And maybe ... just maybe ... there'll be a SPECIAL PRIZE for the winner! (Use of the phrase "special prize" should not infer and does not imply any value, quality, or desirability of prize.)

Thursday, October 12, 2006


I was putting laundry away in the next room when I heard the pop. The street is four floors below us, and the window was just barely open. The pop was metallic and unmistakably the sound of one car hitting another.

My heart instantly jumped up into my throat. Only moments before, R had gone downstairs with Oliver. They were driving to daycare first, and then R was off to work. I didn't know if they had actually left the garage or not, but I knew that she always took a left out of the garage to go to daycare. That would put her at the intersection below our window.

I looked down to see a green car sitting sideways on the side of the road. Another car, also green, had apparently flown, or spun, halfway up the street that ran by our window and was on the sidewalk.

I saw someone running, and a bystander charged after him and tackled him. I saw his red face and could hear him asking, "What happened?"

"You're drunk," his tackler told him. "You're drunk and you hit someone." I expected him to receive a couple of punches to the face (I might have done it), but it didn't happen.

As I watched all this, I tried to remember. Green sedan. Green sedan. That wasn't our car ... was it?

I didn't mention this earlier, but our family car is off being repaired after some idiot broke in and tried to steal the stereo out of it. (They left it hanging out of the dash, probably because we always keep the detachable faceplace upstairs. It's useless without the matching faceplate.) So R was driving the rental car, and was it green? Brown? Tan? I couldn't remember.

"It's not our car, it's not our car," I chanted to myself as I bolted down four flights of stairs. "It's not our car." I ran around the corner where our cars were parked. "It's not our car."

R was still in the garage, and our rental car was brown.

She saw my saucer-sized eyes and rolled down the window. She was safe. Oliver was safe and blissfully unaware. It wasn't our car. I told her what happened and she shuddered with the same fear I had. She drives by that intersection every day. If she had left a few minutes earlier, then ...

But it wasn't the case. Someone else was t-boned on California Avenue. Someone else's car was left laying in the street. Some other poor person was taken away in the back of an ambulance. I'll pray for their safety and for justice to be served to his assailant. But thank God - it wasn't our car.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Go Tigers!

The Tigers have won two games in Oakland. The game now goes to Detroit, where the Tigers are in perfect position to clinch the pennant and move onto their first World Series since I was a freshman in high school.

I know, for all you suffering Cubs fans and Mariners fans and all the other teams, that 22 years doesn't seem like a long time. But the Tigers were a proud team, and they've had such a long road of despair. They had thirteen consecutive losing seasons before this year. They haven't been close to a contender since the '80s. They deserve to go back to the series.

This year, the Tigers seem to have suddenly become America's team. Many people I know who weren't Tigers fans before the last series have suddenly been charmed by the boys from Detroit. Their wildly exuberant celebration after beating the Yankees was one of the best things I've seen in sports: the champagne toasts to the fans, the victory lap, Leyland's emotions showing - briefly - on the field, the cheers that went on and on and on.

The Tigers don't have many superstar players. Pudge Rodriguez might count as one, although he's made himself into a cog in this team rather than a focal point. Their players are young, not experienced for the most part, and are often described with words like "scrappy" and "gritty." They have heroic young pitchers, one crafty veteran - Kenny Rogers - who's managed to transform from pariah to the mentor in the bullpen.

I love seeing the Tigers playing in October. I love hearing the announcers wax poetic about Kirk Gibson and Al Kaline, about Trammell and Sweet Lou, about Mickey Lolich and 30-game winner Denny McLain. I love hearing the stentorian tones of Ernie Harwell. Hopefully, by this weekend, we'll find out that the ride is going to go on for one more round.

Monday, September 25, 2006

What I Can Tell You

Sometimes, especially as a parent, you run across things that are so horrible that you wish you could scrub them out of your brain. These are the things that linger and come back to haunt you in the minutes before you fall asleep, while your child lays innocently dozing, perfectly unaware of the nightmare visions running through your head. There are stories you hear accidentally that lock inside your brain, that you can't even tell your spouse about because to say them out loud gives them more power over you. So you lock them inside, and they grow and manifest and sink roots into your subconscious.

You know what I'm talking about. I can't tell you what triggered it this time - I literally cannot bring myself to tell you - but you already know where these things come from. Local news stories. Needlessly disturbing horror movies. Child endangerment. Consumer warnings about unsafe toys. Stupid (or neglectful, or plain evil) parents. Or grandparents. Or teachers. Or guardians. Or strangers. Or babysitters. Or...

Anyway, I can't talk about it. So let me tell you what's going on with the boy.

He'll be sixteen months old shortly. He's walking now. And when I say "walking," I mean "restlessly pacing around the house and wreaking havoc."

When they start walking, it's cute to see them put three or four steps together for the first time. "Aw, look, he almost made it to the couch! Just a little closer, honey. One more step! One more step!"

And then they get to one more step.

And then they can walk across the room.

And then they can walk anywhere under their own power.

And then you realize how small your apartment is.

We have taken down the gates that used to restrict him in our living room. He just needs more room to roam. So now, all day when he's home, he wanders from the living room into one bedroom, into the other, back into the hallway, maybe into the bathroom for a change of pace, into the living room. Constantly in motion.

He has toys everywhere. I do not exaggerate. There are toys in the hallway. Under his crib. In the bathroom. He flings toys into the kitchen (the only part of the house still gated off) to get our attention, and just generally for the sake of flinging toys. He owns the apartment now.

Chloe (the cat - remember how I used to have a cat?) is under constant fear. She hops on the bed and he's right after her, reaching up to "pet" her. (Thump thump thump. It's a miracle he hasn't gotten clawed yet.) She jumps on the couch, and he's right behind her. He grabs for her tail - of course, because it's the most fun part of her body. He chucks toys at her sometimes, and when she flinches, he giggles because he's gotten the kitty to respond to him. So he chucks another toy. And another, until we finally realize why he's giggling in the other room.

I'm thrilled that he's walking, folks. Don't get me wrong. But it's infinitely more work keeping up with him, and childproofing has become something like defense. Trying to catch the problems before they become disasters. Suddenly, new things are dangers and easily within reach - the ironing board, the cords for the blinds, the phone charger cords.

He's also verbalizing more. He only had a couple of words at his most recent ped appointment, so we were just a bit worried about his verbal development. Here's one thing you learn as a parent - "words" are not the same as words. If he says "dat" every time he points at something, that's his word. "Dat." If he says "dob" when he points to a dog, or a cat, or a chicken, or a hippopotamus, that's his word for "animal." Whatever it is that he says repeatedly with some meaning, that's a word.

He suddenly has mastered the concept of "up" and "down." Concurrently, he loves sitting in chairs. So he points to the chair - "ub."

We sit him on top of his tiny tiny baby chairs. He plays for a minute, then gets restless.

"Dah." Down.

Again. "Ub." "Dah." "Ub." "Dah." This can go on for days.

Sometimes he fires off entire streams of words, the meaning of which is lost to us. It seems like sometimes I amuse him, and he's responding to me by saying dad over and over again. "Dah dad dad dad dad," in funny little intonations. Sometimes he just repeats the same sound in a blurt - "nuh. Nuh nuh neh neh nuh." Sometimes it's gutteral. Sometimes he surprises us with high-pitched variations. But he seems to be experimenting more with words, which has to be good. I expect that soon, he'll just have a burst of progress, and he'll just overflow with a big stream of new words. That seems to be his pattern of learning things - a little bit of progress, maybe a bit of a regression, and then suddenly full-steam ahead.

We are fortunate to have days off with him during the week. Every Friday with him is a joy. He surprises me so much, how much he progresses, how much he grows in just a few short days. He is the light of my life, that boy. He glows incandescently with happiness and curiosity. May it always be so.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years Ago

It was a Tuesday. I was busier than I had ever been in my life, helping to coordinate five separate events in a course of six weeks. That very day, I was supposed to work a press conference at the port of Seattle, something about pressuring port commissioners to support labor rights. I also had to go to the doctor's office that morning. I had sprained my wrist, or smething small like that. Something insignificant.

I was asleep when R called me. "Are you listening to the radio?" I groggily replied that I wasn't.

"You'd better turn it on." There was a seriousness in her voice that I had never heard before.

I turned it on at around 6:50 Pacific time. The World Trade Center was smoldering from the impact of both planes. There were reports of a car bomb at the State Department, and smoke behind the White House. I switched on the tv, and the computers in the living room, and kept talking to R on the cordless phone while walking through the apartment. My brother woke up, startled at the sudden commotion, and we started soaking in media reports together. CNN's website was frozen for some time, and then relaunched in a stripped format, only headlines and photographs.

I went to the doctor's office. As I remember it, the office was quiet and the lights were dimmed, but that could just be my memory.

I worked for a political non-profit then, and the office was somber. My boss quietly intoned, "This is serious, man. There's gonna be a war." It seemed prescient then, but looking back, she was just voicing the obvious. We had been attacked. The Pentagon had been bombed. The World Trade Center had been incinerated, along with thousands of people. Someone would be called to pay.

Did I trust Bush to get the war right? No. But even I was feeling like something had to happen. Grudgingly, I acknowledged that some response would have to happen.

R was just my girlfriend at the time. We had been seeing each other for ten months, and lived in different cities. We spent the night together, and most of the next week. We both went home early from our jobs and sat and watched Peter Jennings together. I remember how human he seemed, and he nearly choked up at one point when he told viewers that if they had children in another part of the country, "call them up." He was reassuring and he seemed to constantly report the facts, not the wild rumors or speculation, but "here is what we know." Twenty minutes later, "here is what we can verify."

I still remember watching Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and finally Bush making their comments and speeches, and thinking "these are not the people I trust to protect me." I was deeply suspicious of Bush and the cabal he had surrounding him. We had been through a horrible election, one which left me and millions of people with deep feelings of mistrust about whether the government was legitimate. I personally wanted Al Gore to rise up as the thundering voice of the opposition, but instead he went off to grow a beard. And then suddenly, after the attack, everyone immediately fell in line and starting saying things like "we have to support the president in times of crisis" and "it's not the time to question the government." It smelled of bullshit then, and it does now.

We ate dinner that night in a small pizza parlor in the University district. The proprietor, who might have been Lebanese, was talking about how Americans had been so complacent about terrorism, and now we would see how it felt to be the ones attacked. I wasn't angry at him, but I was surprised at his candor. It would be harder to make blunt assessments like that in the months, as we were warned to watch what we said and what we thought.

I remember thinking that Seattle could be the next target, a conclusion no doubt drawn from local news hyperventilating. I wanted nothing more than to spend my days with R. She was my rock, the person who kept me sane, and I wanted to spend as much time as possible with her. Time seemed fleeting.

Nine weeks later, in a Brazilian restaurant, I dropped to one knee and proposed to R. Her hands shaking, she said yes emphatically. The date of our engagement? 11/9. A coincidence, but I will say that the date is easy to remember.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Daddy's home. Wait - stop crying!!

And the day was going so well. I've got Fridays off with Oliver, thanks to my fantastic four-day schedule at the new job, and we had a really good morning. We did a little shopping at University Village, and Oliver got to walk all over the Land of Nod (he fell in love with a group of giant rubber ducks.) We came home, ate lunch, read him a new book, and then tried to go down for a nap.

Oh my God.

He's suddenly decided that bouncing is evil. We've used the friggin' balance ball to bounce him to sleep since he was three months old, and it's always been magic. Suddenly, as soon as the bouncing starts, he's flailing arms and arching his back and screaming! bloody! murder! He did this last night, but then he suddenly fell asleep all at once, like a switch had been flipped.

Well, today, that switch wasn't working. I tried to bounce screaming, bawling, bucking Oliver for fifteen minutes (it felt like hours) and finally, I thought, "Is this it? Is this the end of bouncing? Does he just want to go to sleep by himself in the crib?" Anxiously, excitedly, I lay him down in the crib. And then suddenly he's awake. Completely awake. Playing with toys, grinning at me. Wide the fuck awake.

So I just decided to leave him there and hope (read: pray) that he somehow would get tired and fall asleep by himself. And I decided to help him by laying down myself on the bed, which he can see from the crib.

Twenty minutes later, he was still eagerly awake, pointing at me and going "dat, dat, dat" to get my attention.

As soon as I pulled him out of the crib, he started bawling again. I tried to bounce, but if you can imagine laying a cat across your forearms and rocking it to sleep, it was like that. Chaos. At some point, he started clawing at my shoulder to try and get out of the prone posture and somehow pull himself to a safe place.

The screaming and crying went on for approximately forever, and at some point I was sitting, still bouncing, with him facing me and sitting on my knee. And then his head tipped forward. He fell asleep like that, his head buried in my chest, flopped over like a rag doll.

I know he's going through a lot of transitions now. He's a new walker. He's switched to one nap earlier than most babies do (15 months), and he just started daycare in earnest this week. But holy Mother of God, this was the worst nap he's had in a year. Things have got to get better, because that was just a nightmare.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Nancy Did It

Egads! Oliver's been tagged with his first meme at the tender age of 15 months. Thanks to Nancy over at Now You Listen Here for passing it on.

3 Things That Scare Me

  • Getting dropped off at daycare. Once (last week), I just ignored mommy and started playing. Now I ignore playing and just cry my head off.
  • The open spot where the elevator door opens, where it's not the floor anymore and it's not the elevator, it's just two slats of metal and open space. I fell down once here, and now that little space just freaks me out.
  • The washcloths that mommy and daddy use to clean me up after a meal. That's why I flail my hands all over the place when they come at my face. Get thee gone, evil washcloths!

3 People Who Make Me Laugh

  • Mommy
  • Daddy
  • Um ... that nice person on the flight home from Boston who played peek-a-boo with my froggy and didn't even get mad when I reached over the seat to touch her hair.

3 Things I Love

  • I love bath time. I love all my squirty toys, and I love splashing, and I love trying to throw the rinse cup at mommy or daddy when it's full of water! Wee!!
  • I love my kitty. She doesn't seem to have the same fondness for me - I try to pet her and she runs away. I try to be nice and give her one of my toys, like a car or a Lego, and she just glares at me. And then she runs away.
  • Boob. Or rather, what your people call "boob" and my mommy calls "nums." She wanted to use another word, so I wouldn't be in the middle of a supermarket and start shouting for "boob!" But I love some num-nums. When I wake up, when I go to bed, when I'm upset, when I'm just kinda feeling snuggly, nums are the best.

3 Things I Hate

  • The first two minutes of night-night. (Sometimes more.) I arch my back and yell and thrash like a crazy crazy little baby. Then the switch goes off, and I fall asleep like boom.
  • Getting my fingernails clipped. Yaaaarrrrrr! Go away! Give me my hand back! What do you think you're doing to my finger?! Here, watch me squirm out of your lap and slide onto the floor like jello, just to get away from you and your nasty nail clippers!
  • Going to daycare. See above.

3 Things I Don't Understand

  • Why daddy doesn't let me play with the electric fan.
  • Why mommy and daddy don't let me play with the cat food. What's the big deal? It's food, right?
  • What's the big deal about pulling cords? They're all over the house - why shouldn't I pull on one sometimes? Why would mommy and daddy have so many cords if I'm not supposed to play with them?

3 Things on My Changing Table

  • Changing table? I remember that. Now my folks change me on a big portable thing called a Patemm pad. They just put it down on the floor or the bed and change me there. So the stuff that's there changes all the time. But there's usually one toy to keep me distracted.
  • And a big thing of baby wipes.
  • And usually, the knee or forearm of a parent, to keep me from rolling away. It doesn't always work.

3 Things I'm doing Right Now

  • Sleeping. Like a baby. Because, hey, guess what, I'm a baby.
  • Laying in the cosleeper, which is almost so small for me that I can touch one side with my head and the other side with my feet.
  • Listening (in my sleep) to the sound machine that I've listened to since I was a wee little baby.

3 Things I (think) I Can Do

  • Walk, although sometimes I fall on my butt. One time, I fell down forward on my hands and knees, and then I fell down again and my face hit the carpet. I was really mad.
  • Pet the kitty really nicely. Sometimes I do. But sometimes, I just go whap whap whap with my hand, and then kitty gets mad.
  • Sit in big chairs, like the one in front of the computer. Really, daddy usually puts me in a big chair and then sits and waits for me to try to get down, or else maybe he's waiting for me to fall down. Anyway, he just sits there and gets real jumpy if I move at all. And if I stand up, his eyes get all big. That's fun.

3 Ways to Describe My Personality

  • I am confident and centered.
  • I'm (usually) a happy little boy.
  • I'm mischievous. That's what daddy says. He says I get a glint in my eye sometimes when I'm going to do something naughty.

3 Things I Can't Do (yet)

  • Run.
  • Face forward in the car. Mommy says we're not turning my car seat around until I'm thirty pounds, because it's safer for me.
  • Say a lot of words. Most of my words sound the same right now. "Ah." "Dah." "Dat." "Dot."

3 Things I Think You Should Listen To

3 Things I Think You Should Never Listen To

  • Kenny G
  • The lullaby Radiohead album. My daddy listened to this, and he had a look on his face like he just ate something out of the kitty's litter box.
  • The sound of me crying, especially when I just fell down and I'm really upset.

3 Absolute Favorite Foods

  • Avocado (but maybe not this week)
  • Bunnies. I like Cheddar Bunnies. I like Bunny Grahams. If they made little cheese pieces and called them Cheese Bunnies, I'd like those, too.
  • Watermelon. Mmmmm...

3 Things I'd Like to Learn

  • What's the deal with the computer? Either mommy's on it, or daddy's on it, or mommy's on it and daddy's looking over her shoulder. I never get to play on the computer.
  • Where does the water go when the drain gets pulled?
  • What's really going to happen if I eat cat food? Will I turn into a kitty? I'll find out someday. Oh, I'll find out.

3 Beverages I Drink Regularly

  • Breast milk
  • Water
  • Cow's milk (if by "drink," you mean "put the sippy cup to my lips and drink tiny tiny amounts")

3 Shows I Watched as a Kid (that would be NOW)

  • Um ... I watched some tv when I was on an airplane, but it was some movie about doggies and I couldn't hear the sound.
  • Daddy turned on the news once and I watched it for a few minutes. There was a fire at a place where some of daddy's friends lived. They were okay.
  • I liked to turn on the tv at grandpa's house in Florida. I kept watching these funny shows where they tried to sell stuff like kitchen equipment and jewelry. And then daddy would turn the tv off. Mean daddy.
  • P.S. I watch some tv at daycare, but mommy and daddy say they don't like to think about it.

4 Babies I will tag





Sunday, August 27, 2006

Final Respects

We had been living in this dreamworld where everything would somehow keep getting better. At least, I was. Some small part of me. We heard for months that he was worse, he was in the hospital, he was in trouble, and then the next day we'd hear that he got suddenly better, he was out of the hospital, he was going to physical therapy and he would be able to walk again within the week. Worse, and suddenly better. And then worse. And then better.

He didn't want us to come down until he was "better." He had bone cancer, and we knew that "better" was somewhat of a fantasy. He may not ever get better. But we played along with the game, because to refuse to play along was to force him to confront the truth, and R wasn't ready to do that, and I wasn't ready to tell her. She had to make the call. He was her father.

He was her father.

We got the call not from him, not from his partner, but from the roommate. The roomate knew everything about his health, and he was the only one left after her dad's partner was hit by an unexpected health crisis and also ended up in the emergency room. The roommate called because he was the only one left, and he knew where the important phone numbers were kept, who to call in case of an emergency. He called R first, the oldest daughter, the one who would know who else to call. R called everyone else that needed to be called. And then we flew to Florida.

We landed. We rented a car. We drove directly to the hospice facility - the suitcases stayed in the trunk - and we went to see R's dad.

I wasn't ready. We had just seen him recently in Boston at the wedding of his younger daughter. He looked thinner, certainly, and weaker, and he mostly sat while entertaining us and his grandson Oliver. But he was there then, solid, breathing, walking. He was there. When he saw him, in the hospital bed, wearing what people only wear in hospitals, he looked barely there. He was a mere rumor of the man he once had been.

We arrived on Wednesday. R visited him as much as she could. We went to the house, which was a more comfortable place to be than the cold antiseptic hotel. On Thursday night, R stayed with him late in the evening. She fed him sherbet. He remarked, "I've been eating a lot of ice cream lately." They talked. They had good time together.

By Friday morning he had slipped away. He went in his sleep. The hospice nurses later told us that he had looked at peace the previous night, and we pray that it was true. He had suffered greatly in his last months, and he deserved peace.

At the reception of the wedding in Boston, there was an open mike where people could offer toasts to the bride and groom. After a few lighthearted toasts, R's father stepped gingerly to the microphone. In a quiet but determined voice, he praised his new son-in-law, and told the crowd how joyful he was that his three children had all found happiness with the people they were meant to be with. "My life is complete." His newly married daughter embraced him, and many of us found ourselves wiping away tears as he took his seat.

R was an anchor for the next few days. She went along to the funeral home. She supported everyone else. When she came home, when we were along in the hotel room, she let everything go. But she was the rock for everyone else while she was there, as strong as I have ever seen her.

~ ~ ~

He was her father. She was his oldest child, and her relationship with him was not always perfect. You know how these things work: mom and dad split up when she was ten, dad moved out, and then years later moved all the way to Florida. But around the time we started going out, he started working to rebuild their relationship. He called. Once, maybe twice a month. It was a big step - he was always a quiet man, and talking on the phone didn't come easy to him. But he dutifully called, and chatted, and they started connecting.

He came out when Cutie Pie (Oliver's older cousin in Oregon) was born. That was years before everything started. We didn't talk much - he seemed shy, and his partner was more gregarious and did most of the talking. But he seemed an intelligent and serious man. He hated traveling, and he kept hedging on plans to visit Oliver. Then everything started down the slippery slope, and we made plans instead to see him.

~ ~ ~

We spent a lot of time in his house when we were in Florida. And I feel like I learned more about him by seeing his home than I ever learned sitting across the couch from him. He was an incredibly tidy man. An accountant by trade, he left all of his affairs carefully arranged in manila folders, in clearly labeled documents saved on his computer. He left the files of his life in a neat and orderly stack for his son, the executor of his will, to find.

Every square inch of his home was a testament to him. He was a crafty man. He was constantly making little modifications so that things would work better. He built a cat door that led into the garage, and when you looked in the garage, you would see that the cat door led directly into a litter box. He built a door specifically so his cat could relieve himself outside the house, and the smell wouldn't get into the house.

He had a spice rack built under the sink in his kitchen, accessible by a door that folded down. It was completely invisible unless you knew where to look. I opened the door accidentally, and I was first surprised and then amused. It was a simple and a brilliant little thing. His house was full of small, simple, brilliant things.

No two lighting fixtures in the house were alike. He had a thing for dimmer switches, and for recessed lighting. The cabinets in the kitchen were fitted with recessed lighting that illuminated the stemware like museum pieces. He also had remotes everywhere: for the surround sound system (complete with a subwoofer built under the living room floor), for the ceiling fans, for the fountains in the backyard, for the tiny flatscreen tv in the kitchen. Oliver loved the house because he had so many buttons he could push and make things happen. He will see that house many times in his coming years, and I want him to feel the way I did. I want him to feel that, in some way, his grandfather's heart and soul lived in that house as much as in his frail body. That house will be one way that he can learn about his grandfather as he grows up. "Who put that door in, mommy?"

"That was your grumpa."

Before we left, Oliver had a night time ritual of saying "good night" to a row of pictures on the mantle. Two of those photos are of his grandfather, one of them a recent shot in Boston with Oliver on his lap. Now, when we say good night to the mantle pictures, I get quiet every time we come across grumpa. Sometimes I tell him that his uncle Mike, who also has a picture on the mantle, is playing poker with him that night, somewhere up in the sky beyond the clouds.

Sunday, August 06, 2006


"How was the first week at the new job?"

Fine. Great. I have a new desk, a brand-new chair, and my boss is springing for a computer cart so I can have my keyboard and mouse in an ergonomically proper position. I have my own office, for the first time in my life. Flat panel display. There are two part-time administrative assistants - I can ask someone else to make copies or stamp my mail. It's crazy.

My office is right in the heart of Seattle Center. I can walk to the Space Needle. I have fantastic coffee shops and restaurants within walking distance, and my window looks out onto the monorail track.

Today is Sunday. I was putting away laundry in the room we once called Oliver's bedroom, that now is just "that room." Or "the back bedroom." It's essentially a storage area where we have our clothes, a futon, and lots of odds and ends and things that we can't put anywhere else. Like scrapbooks. And the memory box, that has clothes and hats and things from Oliver's earliest days. We had pulled them out yesterday, and I think something was triggered when I saw his little tiny "Born at Swedish" hat, the first outfit he wore home from the hospital. The little black onesie with "Daddy" emblazoned on it in mock-tattoo lettering.

Anyway, I went back to hang up a shirt, and I just stopped. I sat down on the futon, looking at the parenting books on the shelf and the bibs that he no longer wears. He used to wear these little cloth bibs when I gave him bottles, but he doesn't use them anymore because he doesn't get bottles anymore, because I'm no longer home with him. They are artifacts. Memories.

I sat down with his little puppy-dog bib. I picked up The Expectant Father, the book I used to prepare for life with a baby. I leafed to the last chapter, the one we read just before we drove to Swedish Hospital. The last chapter I read before I made the jump from "expectant father" to "new father." And then my eyes filled up with tears.

I don't know what happened. It just erupted. I sobbed and sobbed, and I thought ludicrously, "Oh, I must just be depressed. Probably doesn't have anything to do with being away from Oliver." As I sat next to the box of outgrown memories. With "The Expectant Father" in my hands. With an outgrown puppy-dog bib on my knee. This has nothing to do with missing Oliver.

It's good working again. It's a good feeling earning a paycheck (although I know I was working the whole time I was home with him.) It's good talking to adults again. It's very good working with this organization, which does good and critical work and makes me proud.

But the heartache just snuck up and waylaid me. Mrs. B comforted me through another sobfest, but she did let me know that the pain never really goes away. He's going to get older and have adventures with his mother (not me) for a few weeks. When she goes back to work, he'll spend three days with the daycare, having adventures without either of us.

But we're doing the best we can. Mrs. B is going down to four days a week, so she'll spend Mondays with him. One of the best perks of this job is that I work four days a week - long days, but I get the reward of a three-day weekend. So he'll spend Mondays with mommy, Fridays with me, and only three days a week in daycare. It's a good situation. My work days will be long, but it's worth it to spend an entire day with my little boy, just the two of us. It'll help. It's the best we can do.

(I think I've said that once before.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

The New Job

Remember when I said that you all would hear about the big news "tomorrow?" (That was ... um ... Tuesday.) Yeah, well, sorry about that.

On Tuesday afternoon, I was offered a development position with a small and very intriguing non-profit. (I can't give you any more details without giving away their identity.) Wednesday morning, I called and accepted the position.

I am excited and terrified about this new job. Excited - it's a higher level of responsibility, not to mention more money, than I've ever had before. Benefits are great: medical, free bus pass, four-day work week (which means I get to spend Fridays with little O!), my own office...

Let me just say that again. My OWN OFFICE. A corner office, with a big desk and a lovely view.

The pay is over a 30% hike from my last job, and a 20% hike from my last development job. It's a good-paying job that will demand a lot from me. Hence terrified. This is a job that moves my career in a clear direction. And it's always possible that I will bomb out at this job, or I'll find out that it's not what I want to do with my life, or ... something. It may not work. And then I'll be stuck trying to figure out what the next move is, after falling off the career ladder.

But folks, I don't think that's going to happen. This is a perfect learn-on-the-job position, the same way that my first development job was a perfect entry-level development job. The difference is that this place doesn't show any signs of going under anytime in the near future. Interestingly, its financial future looks astoundingly secure.

I'll have to learn grant writing, but the boss has already identified a dozen foundations that would likely fund us if we sent them a proposal. All I have to do is touch base with them, get an RFP, and write up a proposal. Homework has been done for me.

This is the next logical step from my last job at FISH. I had a little grassroots fundraising experience when I took that job, and I got a crash course in writing fundraising letters, reading budgets, maintaining databases, and writing fundraising plans. Now, I'll get to use all that experience. Plus I'll learn about grant writing. I'll do some major donor work. And all of this will be supporting an organization that works on great issues that I can support wholeheartedly and enthusiastically.

It's good, people. It's very very good news. I've spent a lot of the last few days jumping up and down in my living room, and whispering to my wife and my baby, "I've got a job! A real job! The job I wanted!" And it was. I had a lot of interviews with a lot of interesting organizations, but this was the job I wanted.

It's a good thing when you get the thing you really want. Now it's time to see if I'm ready to do the job I wanted.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jumping Up and Down

It's going to be hard for me not to jump up and down for the rest of the week. (Except, of course, for the baby being asleep.) I'm also grinning like a damn fool, which I don't think I can stop.

I'll tell you why tomorrow, once it's official. But it's good news.

Very good news.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Interview Madness

I have had six interviews in the last ten days with five different prospective employers. I have two more interviews scheduled next Monday afternoon. One is a second interview, so that'll make eight interviews with six employers. All in a space of two weeks.

It's enough to make my head spin. I've been trying to consider which employer was my top choice, 2nd choice, etc. and it's tough to make a decision. I'm burdened with an abundance of desirable jobs - there's not a single one that is just a ho-hum job. And the range of employers is wider than typical for me: two schools, three non-profits, and a private business. Each job would be challenging, and most of them would be a good step up on my career ladder, albeit in slightly different directions.

I was almost relieved to get an email last week that I was not selected for one job. That only leaves four to consider. I've got a good shot at all four jobs. One is already calling my references, and another invited me back for a second interview with two members of the board.

I'm still sending out resumes at a furious pace. I'm not counting on anything. Either I'll get an offer from one place, or I'll get several offers and have to weigh the pros and cons of each. There's another option, but I'm not even putting it into words. I don't even want to think about it happening. Just in case, though, I'm keeping my name out there. I'd rather be in the position where I have to turn down interviews because I'm working, than have to start over again flat-footed.

But I'm hopeful. The interviews all went very well - I had people laughing and nodding knowingly. I said the right things, I responded to the right unspoken questions, I asked good follow-ups. I looked sharp. So yes, I'm hopeful. I'm cautiously optimistic.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

How Long? Not Long.

Every day is one day less with this particular version of our baby. This one. The one that babbles incessantly in consonants, in whispers and whale squeaks and jabbering speeches. The one that stand on the pinnacle of full-blown walking by himself. The one that takes cautious, plodding steps, one - two - three - four - and stop! And applaud, because he's so proud of himself for the work he's doing.

How long? Not very long. Weeks. A month or two. Then he'll be walking. Then, the gates we've erected to enclose him in the living room are going to be nothing more than punch lines. Soon, soon, he'll be walking up to us with the book that we absolutely must read to him at that very moment right there. Soon, we'll be watching him waddle down the aisles of the supermarket, through the doors of the coffee shops and toy stores. He'll walk to the elevator himself, press the buttons himself, and walk us, hand in hand, to the car.

So I remind myself to savor these moments. They disappear before I realize they're gone. I didn't realize until it was nearly too late that the days of bottle-feeding him were nearly gone, back at the end of June. And then it was the last two days that he'd get a bottle from me, and then it was the last day, and then it was the last bottle, the last time he sprawled on my lap to let me feed him. And then, there were no more left.

Soon, soon, the chirps and slivery syllables will give way to "mama," "dada," other words. "Bird." "Tree." "Book."

Then, "want more corn, daddy."

Then, it'll be "dad, can we read this book?"

Then, soon enough, "Dad, that's my bus. I've gotta go. I love you!"

It won't be long.

Every day is one day less with this version of our little boy. Soon, too soon, he will be evolving and changing into the new version. He's already shed so many skins: the embryo in R's tummy, the formless larva baby who cried and slept, the baby who lay on a blanket and batted at toys, tummy-time baby, rolling baby, crawling baby. Solid-food baby. Cow's-milk-drinking baby. Changes, changes. Sleeping-in-daddy's-arms baby gave way to sleeping-on-bed baby gave way to ... well, okay, he's not quite in the crib yet. But it'll be happening soon. I know it's coming, and yet I'm already missing the boy that's still here, already sad that he's changing in ways he hasn't even changed yet. He's constantly moving, learning, changing, and all I can do is watch him wake up every day and see how much he's changed since the last sunset.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Confidence - L'il Walking Oliver

Many things happened while we were in Boston. There was the whole reason we were there, R's sister's wedding. It was beautiful, and small, and heartfelt. Both her sister (who we'll call Pickle, for reasons known only to me) and her hubby are in their 30's, and didn't want something that was too big or too traditional. So they wrote their own vows, planned everything from the pre-wedding champagne toast to the reception. And it was great. It actually made me think about what me and R had missed by eloping - the chance for families to come together, a real public celebration, the cake and the dancing and all that.

But the big news - possibly bigger than the wedding - was this.

Oliver took his first steps.

Yeah, yeah. I know. I waited for two freaking weeks to tell you. But I've been busy! (See previous post.)

I was away at the bachelor party for the future Mr. Pickle, and Pickle and R were at home with little Oliver. At some point, R was walking him across the hardwood floors, hand in tiny hand, and suddenly he let go, and he took two little tiny steps just like that. Bang. There it was.

(R didn't remember to tell me until sometime the next morning. I almost spit out my coffee.)

He did it again two or three times while we were out there. Once, the future Mr. Pickle stood a few steps from him and dangled my watch (a favorite toy of Oliver's) in front of him. "See this? You've got to come here to get it!" And he did - six steps, right to Mr. Pickle and the watch, while we watched with our jaws on the floor.

And that was fun. And we were all excited, because suddenly we had a genuine! walking! baby! But then we came home, and suddenly he showed no interest in walking. We'd try to get him to do it, taking him on little strolls, then releasing his hands and whispering "Come on, Oliver. You can do it. We know you can do it," while the other person teased him with a book or a toy. And he'd plop right down on his bum and crawl over to the other person. He took the very occasional step or two, but nothing to get excited about.

And then, a few nights ago, he remembered. Nothing seemed to change, there was no great bolt of lightning or shower of fireworks going off, but when R would let go of his hands, he stood for a minute, giggle maniacally, and then step... step ... step. And he did it again, and again, and again. Once, he went for a good twelve paces before he let gravity take hold again. And every time, the wild giggle, like he couldn't believe he was doing it either.

Like silly people, we applaud every time he takes steps on his own. And we try not to groan too loudly when we stand him up, and instead of walking, he drops down on all fours and crawls instead.

Tonight was the absolute best, because after taking a few hitchy baby steps, he started clapping himself. It seems only fair. He's the one who's doing all the work. It's only fair that he should get to applaud himself.

P.S. At the same time, he's suddenly learned how to turn his wagon around by himself. (I complained - gently - a few posts ago, because he was using the wagon like a maniac, but daddy or mommy had to turn it around every time he hit a wall or a corner.) All of a sudden, we saw him doing exactly what daddy did - tilting the handle back, pivoting the wagon until it was in the right direction - and then tearing off again. Once he got the mechanics, he was very nearly unstoppable. (Well, if it weren't for the toys that kept logjamming under his wheels.)

And once he could control the wagon, I realized that I had made a horrible miscalculation. During the early days, when I was trying to coax him into using the wagon at all, I would encourage him to use me as a target. "Come on. Come get daddy." And then, when he was a few steps away, I would leap away with a little scream. Well, now he's decided that the game is Hit Daddy with the Wagon. And I'm jumping out of the way more and more now, and no, it's not fun anymore. He's still laughing, though, every time he gets me lined up in his sights.

Confidence - Me

I've been sending out resumes since around February, even though I was still Oliver's stay-at-home dad until very recently. It's what the experts call "hedging your bets." I originally planned on going back to work this summer, once Mrs. B came home for her summer vacation. But it seemed like a good idea to start looking, just in case I got lucky before the summer started.

Well, it's been a tough haul. I've gotten the occasional interview, but only one at a time, and never more than the first interview. I guess I sent over two dozen resumes out, with only three interviews to show for it. It's been very frustrating.

Recently I took two weeks off from the job search. One weekend, we were preparing to fly out to Boston, and I was too busy preparing to think about sending resumes. and the next weekend, we were actually in Boston. The first Sunday after we came home, I tore open the classifieds and found ten different jobs - ten! - that I was qualified for, and that interested me. I sent out a ton of resumes. And suddenly, everyone is calling me back.

It's as if a dam burst open. I had an interview yesterday at 10 am. I had another interview today. There's another one scheduled for tomorrow.

And for Monday.

And on Tuesday, a second interview.

And on Wednesday, another interview scheduled. That's five separate employers who want to talk to yours truly.

Both of the interviews so far have gone very well. I've found myself fantasizing about the ideal scenario - what if I have two (or three? Or even four?) jobs to choose from, and I have to turn someone down? What if there's - gasp - a bidding war for my services?

But then I calm down and I remember that right now, I don't have one job. So getting just one offer will be good.

My confidence re: jobhunting is increasing stratospherically. I think it comes out in the interviews, too. I don't feel needy. I feel like I'm the best candidate they have, and I talk with confidence about my experience, my skills, and my vision for my next position. It's a good feeling, after months of rejection and silence on the job front.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Back to Regular Dad

I know that ticklish spot, right under Oliver's chin, and I know that when I tickle it with my bare toe just right, he goes spasmy with giggles.

I know that sometimes, his favorite thing is rolling across the floor like a log going down a hill. And that, if I gently nudge him with my foot, he'll roll and roll until he hits the window, softly giggling the whole time.

I know that he takes his naps almost like clockwork at 9 am and at 3 pm.

I know that he loves aquariums. And peekaboo. And watching birds. And watching the construction trucks that stream by our apartment. And anyone walking by our window.

I know that he smiles and occasionally waves at strangers. And he flirts with every woman who works at the grocery store, and they all flirt right back.

I know that when I eat snacks, I'd better put down a handful of Cheddar Bunnies or Veggie Booty for him, or else he'll get resentful.

I know that my little boy loves me. I know this. I know if I lay on the floor, sometimes he crawls right up to me and puts his little head against my chest for a few moments. If I'm really lucky, he'll crawl up to my face and give me a wet, sloppy, open-mouthed gooey kiss right on the lips. And that's the best thing ever.

Today is the last day I get to be a stay-at-home dad.

Mrs. B came home tonight and began her summer vacation, which is (unfairly) only six weeks. She gets a month and a half to be the primary caregiver for Oliver, while I try to find myself some gainful employment. And then, when the fall comes, both she and I will go to work, and Oliver will go to the day care seven blocks from our house.

I think back to those early days, when I worried if I was ever going to get the hang of taking care of him all day. (Actually, that first day, I was really worried if he was ever going to take a bottle from me.) Naps worried me. Feedings frightened me. I was constantly worried that I would poke him in the eye, or drop him, or something similarly awful.

And here we are, ten months later. Naps don't scare me any more. The bottles aren't even an issue anymore. We do two meals a day, two naps, hours of playing, and sometimes I'm exhausted and nap while he does and sometimes I don't even bother. I can keep up with him. He doesn't scare me anymore.

It's been nearly a year that I've been taking care of him, and we've grown so much together. I feel privileged to have had this much time with him, that we've been able to afford (barely) to do this. I have a bond with our little boy that not enough fathers get. My own father never had the connection with us from the early days that I get to have with Oliver.

Now I have to readjust to being just a regular working dad, one that drops his kid off at daycare in the morning and sees him at night for dinner and sleep. (Actually, the daycare won't start until late August, but stick with me, folks, I'm on a roll.) I won't get to see him play during the day, giddily tearing through his books or tossing around his blocks, one by one, with a squeal of glee every time one flies into the air. Those moments will just be on the weekends.

I'll miss all the intensive time with him. Hours of playing on the floor, hundreds of books read, balls tossed, blocks stacked and tumbled, messes made and cleaned and made again. I won't miss the problems: the difficult naps, the teething miseries, the days of complete distraction where he couldn't do anything for five minutes without screaming in frustration.

Well - I say I won't miss that. But I will. Because when things went wrong, I was the only one he had during the day to make things better, and almost always, I figured out how to make it better. I got him to sleep. I provided teethers and (before he had actual teeth) my fingers to soothe his aching gums. I found ways to keep him entertained. I figured out how to be his parent, the caretaker, the one he relied on. I learned how to take care of him, and he learned to trust me.

I don't ever want him to forget how much that time meant to me. I know I will never forget it.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sleater-Kinney - the End of the Road

Sleater-Kinney is breaking up. The website says it's an "indefinite hiatus," but I know a euphemism when I read it. They're done. Corin Tucker will move to widely acclaimed and occasionally misunderstood solo albums. Carrie will throw down as a guest artist on albums by Pearl Jam, the Gossip, and the Queens of the Stone Age. Janet Weiss will still play with Quasi, and some other group will have the good sense to sweep her up. She may be the only drummer strong enough to replace Matt Cameron, should he ever leave Pearl Jam.

Sleater-Kinney is breaking up. They released the most unexpected and devastating record of their career, the one that makes everything else look like an elementary school project. Then they folded up the tent. I'm left with a new sense of sadness every time I hear the blowtorch opening of "The Fox" or the vicious interplay of "Entertain." This was the last album by this band. This was the one that killed them.

I've been comforting myself with overload. I've been watching clips of them on the Henry Rollins show and live segments off the website. I'm listening to two live concerts from 2005 posted here (and my sincere gratitude goes out to the host. The cover of "Fortunate Son" is a gem, and the retooled versions of old songs are remarkable.) I've been reading their biography off the website, the birth I missed, even though I'm out in the land of evergreens and coffee. I didn't pick up on S-K until "The Hot Rock," and I didn't really hear them until "All Hands on the Bad One." And then I was hooked. I explored their catalog backwards, only recently hearing their remarkable debut album. I've only seen them once, during the AHOABO tour, playing a 1/3-full Key Arena and blowing the lid off it.

It's a week of transition here at Casa Bluesky, and it only hit me yesterday. This is the last week I'll be home with Oliver full time. Next week, Mrs. B comes home, and hopefully, I'll be working somewhere, either temping it or suddenly seizing a full-time gig. We have today and tomorrow, and then it's over. I'll talk more about this in a later posting. (I'm not ready yet.)

So what I'm doing today is project all of my emotions of loss and sadness about ending my stay-at-home tenure into my sadness about losing Sleater-Kinney. That's the only explanation for why I started getting weepy halfway through the (weird, foresty, blurry) video for "Entertain." That's gotta be it.

I saw something online that suggested that Le Tigre might be breaking up, too. If that's true, I'm just gonna fall apart.