Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Over the Hill. Also Far Away

Oh dear. So this afternoon at about 4pm, just as I was getting ready to load YG and a teammate into the car to take them to the first playoff game of the Little League season, I got a call from overseas. It was my husband, in a state of considerable dismay: his passport has gone missing, which (among other things) could make it very difficult for him to return home today. It was, local time, about 1 am, and all the agencies which would normally be of assistance were, of course, long abed. He has to wait until about 7am (11 pm, San Francisco time) to check with the hotel to see if the passport had been turned in, and until 9am (1am, SF time) to talk to someone at the US mission. So of course he was not only upset, but in a position wherein he could do bloody little. I was as helpful and soothing as I could be at a remove of several thousand miles, and then had to head off to the softball game.

The game was hard fought, and the kids showed moments of genuine brilliance on both sides, but two of our best players were not there, and another one was mildly injured from a spill she took over the weekend. In the end, YG's team lost, 12-17. My daughter was a hero: not only did she pitch for two innings, but she improved with each inning, even while visibly tiring. The game started at 5:30 and didn't finish until 8:20. On a school night. Because it was a playoff the usual "1 1/2 hours or four innings" rules didn't apply. It was six very long innings, and they finished when there was just enough light so that no one got killed. YG's coach made a point of telling me that several other coaches commented on the girl's stamina and heart, as well as her nascent skills. I passed this on to YG, who seemed more interested in her Ritz Bits and Capri Sun than the praise of her elders.

As for me--the game was played on Treasure Island (no, honestly, that's what it's called; former naval base in the SF bay), and as the sun got lower on the horizon, the wind began to kick up. I did my part, cheering loudly and conversing with others among the parents. But I have to say that, as I got colder and creakier, I began to think I might have fallen afoul of a species of Hell: my honey's in Spain, my ears are freezing, and this game will go on forever. But no, it ended and we came home and ate pizza. And so, to bed.

Monday, May 30, 2005

And today, while SG did all the homework she had specifically saved up for the last minute (Sarcasm Girl has to get the sarcasm from someone in the family; might as well be me) YG and I went out for a bike ride, picnic, and catch. Packed all manner of food, plus mitts and a softball, and peddled down the street to Glen Park Canyon, which was chock full of dogs, ball-players, toddlers, hawks wheeling overhead, and citizens catching the good of a really spectacularly beautiful day. So we locked up our bicycles and helmets and hiked up to the middle of the canyon, where there's a rock outcropping where we set up our picnic (YG had brought a placemat, so we were very civilized) and had lunch. As we were finished, a long-haired Corgi named Toffy (and her owners) came by, and YG of course had to discuss dogs, specifically the merits of the Corgi and a pet. My child deeply wants a dog, and I am in favor of the notion in a general way--except that I fear it would suddenly become my dog in terms of responsibility, and her dog in terms of love and bragging rights, and somehow that sounds like a lousy distribution of effort to me. After parting from Toffy and her owners we played catch for twenty minutes or so, and I tried not to say anything improving and useful ("Mom, it's really not a great idea to lecture someone on something you're not very good at yourself"). Finally we wound up at the playground. Since I had neglected to bring a book, I was a bit bored, but I coped. So now, a little tired but cheery, we are home, where SG is still toiling in the fields of homework. Maybe I'll take a nap.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Out of the Jaws of Something

This morning I rose early and got myself pulled together before I tried to wrestle YG out of bed, only to be told that she felt "barfy" and had a headache. I diagnose this as a hangover from Too Much Fun (tm) yesterday. So I left her behind, went to WeightWatchers to weigh in, then took off for San Jose and Baycon again, all on my own. Things got busy: had coffee with friends upon arrival, then did my first panel (the Regency panel which had been postponed from yesterday because they double booked us in the same room with a themed reading), then took part in a poetry contest (but had to leave before the winners were annouced; I doubt I was one). It was about then that I realized that one of my earrings (a long dangly silver-and-opal-and-black-pearl earring made by Laurie Edison, my favorite jeweler) had come out of my ear. I looked everywhere, could not find it, and felt that weird sort of mourning when that comes from losing a beloved object. Despite that, I made it to my last panel (on Barbarians vs. Civilization, and how to tell which is which), and was about to strike off for home again. But as I passed the probable site of my lost earring I saw a friend bending over, picking something up. My earring, a little bent around the finding, but whole. After profuse thanks to the friend, I started home. But first I had to get gas...

...and when I had filled up the tank at a nearby gas station, the key would no longer turn in the ignition. I could pull the key in and out of the lock; I could Nothing. Tried all the usual tricks to defeat such a problem, and yet it continued. Called AAA, who promised to send out a truck within half an hour, and sat in the car (hot, too, and since I couldn't turn the car on I couldn't open the windows) fiddling idly with the damned key. Fifteen minutes later, for no particular reason, the damned key turned, the car started, I waited long enough to call AAA and cancel the tow truck, then drove home without problem. The children are still alive, Spouse is still in Spain, I have acquitted myself fairly at the convention, and I think I'm going to have a glass of wine tonight. Or maybe two.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


That used to mean something else when I was young.

So today Emphatic Girl (aka YG) and I went down to San Jose to Baycon. It was the girl's first convention, and I think she had a swell time--went swimming, investigated everything, became a gofer for a while, cruised the dealer's room looking for all the cool things (someone overheard me saying something in response to a query, "No, sweetie, you don't need a crossbow"). And then she signed up for Boffer Wars. This is organized chaos, in which people of all sizes and ages wack at each other with padded foam weapons. And it is totally up YG's alley. It took her a while to get the lay of the land, and all the rules, and apparently she irritated a couple of older kids through her imperfect understanding of the rules (and her willingness to press her luck, rules-wise, I thinkg). When it got down to the actual tournament, however, she was very good about calling hits, dropping when hold! was called, and being good humored about the referees rulings.

Meanwhile SG, left alone at home, went out to a double feature (Hitchhiker's Guide and The Interpreter, which is not a combination that would have occurred to me. And also meanwhile, Spouse is in Barcelona. So we all had a busy day. I, for one, am going to go fall over now. Tomorrow, we do it all again...

Friday, May 27, 2005


This morning I was wakened by Sarcasm Girl, fully dressed and stressed out looking, at my door. She was doing the not-so-subtle cha-cha that says "I want something but I'm not going to say what it is that I want." It is 5:50 in the morning. Ugh.

Turns out that she believes that it is 6:50, that she'll be late for work unless I take her to school. So I point out the hour, and she falls into bed and we cuddle for a little while, after which I get her some food and send her off to school. This sort of set the tone for the day: I was a chaperone for a third grade field trip to the SF Botanical Gardens. Of course, it was a cold, dreary, damp, foggy day, so it was essentially two hours of shivering nine-year-olds, punctuated by the chance to hold banana slugs and nose about in leaf mold. And then, off to karate, and softball with Emphatic Girl; after which we raced home so I could get SG to a performance (after which she's coming home with a friend for an impromptu sleepover).

No writing done today, of course. Somedays you just have to say what the hell. Or something like that.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

In Dreams

Spouse left for Barcelona this morning. Somewhere between his alarm going off and the shuttle company calling to say that van would be there in two minutes, I had a dream, and knew I urgently had to tell him that it was okay not to take the frozen stick of butter and the hot dogs on the plane, if security were worried abou them. So I told him. He got on the shuttle, taking this advice in stride, and I startled hustling to get the kids up and out of the house.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

In Which Our Heroine Succumbs to Middle Age

Oh, well maybe it's not that bad. Because there is a little less of me these days, what with the weight loss and the gym and stuff, my wardrobe--if you can justify it by that name--needs a little help. So I went out to find clothes today. Note: I am fifty-one years old, and no longer interested in wearing clothes that bare my belly button (which has survived two children installed thereunder, and is arguably a little worse for wear) or show off my cleavage. There is a quaint expression from Georgette Heyer: "Mutton dressed for lamb." I have no ambition to be a 51-year-old dressing up as a 24-year-old. Since many stores are now showing clothes that do both, under the assumption that every woman in the U.S. under the age of ninety is a size 3 and without modesty issues, this is a challenge. And it's spring, which means they're showing all those flirty little skirts and pastels. I hate pastels, and I'm not big with the flirty skirt thing.

On the other hand, I don't want to look like a...I don't know. A middle-aged suburban lady, I suppose. There should be some happy middle ground between Old Navy and Saks Fifth Avenue, something a little funky, comfortable, and wearable by, say, me. And the sorts of shops--not chain stores but one-off shops--that sell the clothes I might like are way out of my price range.

This brought me, at last, to Talbots. This marks a sea-change of sorts: I think of Talbots as being a sort of suburban-middle-aged-lady kind of clothing shop. On the other hand, their clothes leave the belly covered and don't display too much chest, and that's a good thing. After trying on a bunch of clothes that looked reasonable in terms of fit but did make me look more Mrs. Cleaver than otherwise, I finally selected a pair of slacks and a sleeveless sweater, both of them fairly noncommittal in terms of suburban vs. funky, both of which fit. I will find some way to dress them up to look more like things I would wear. Meanwhile, if I wear them without dressing them up, the children will blink and be confounded by this woman who doesn't dress like their mother, and that's always fun.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Occassionally, for no reason I can completely suss out, I am overwhelmed by a feeling of imminent doom. Maybe it's just because Spouse is going away for six days, leaving me in charge. Maybe it's just that I'm at that point in my paranoia cycle. Whatever it is, I wish it would stop. My mother used to tell me "Worry about zero," by which she meant, don't worry. Me, in one of these fits of dread, I worry about zero, and one, and two...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Saw The Movie

If you can't figure out which, you haven't been paying attention. It has flaws, it's not perfect, but it is, overall, very satisfying, with some really fine moments. And for the first time since, maybe, Return of the Jedi (or maybe even Empire Strikes Back) there is humor that doesn't rely on cute funny characters. For my money, Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Yoda take the show, poor Natalie Portman has nothing much to do except look exquisitely gorgeous, and Hayden Christenson holds up far better than in Attack of the Clones.

Friday, May 20, 2005


This morning I recieved a copy of the paperback edition of Point of Honour! They have lightened up the background color so it's much warmer, and the title and author's name are foiled and embossed (meaning, gold foil raised lettering) which costs extra and is a sign of the publisher's faith in the work, It looks awfully pretty. I urge anyone who can find it to buy many copies; they make excellent gifts. My mother in law believes that someone should make a movie out of the book, but at the moment I'm just happy to see the mass-market edition. Will read it later for the (inevitable) random typo.

It really is like having a kid who's gone off into the world come home to visit: squealing and hugs, followed by close inspection.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


The last couple of days have been rotten for writing; sick 15 year old, fundraising meetings at school, dealing with some possible repairs at my property in Massachusetts (doesn't that sound grandiose? "My property in Massachusetts." Wow. It's my father's house, but now I own it, and I have the World's Greatest Tenants living in it and taking care of us, which is a huge relief, being as we're 3000+ miles away); and trying to get the last of the summer camp paperwork under control and out the door. Sounds deeply trivial, doesn't it? It does to me, certainly. But it's all stuff that has to be done. And then, when 1:50 rolls around and I pick up YG, the =real= work of the day begins.

Yesterday, after YG had finished her guitar practice and homework, she asked to watch Pride and Prejudice. This is mostly because she is doing a "living biography" of Jane Austen tomorrow, and wanted to get in character. She's seen it before, and really likes it ("Jane Austen has the best movies!"). SG has never seen the movie, and while she's read Emma, she hasn't made it to Pride and Prejudice yet. So we're all watching, and SG starts commenting on the story: Darcy is gorgeous, but so rude! and Wickham is witty and funny and charming. This totally tickled YG, who rarely gets a chance to know something before her big sister does--particularly something about literature. It also weirded SG out that her nine-year-old sister was commenting on Colin Firth's relative hunkiness with considerable approval. Now we are Tween, and we're clever as clever...

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Throwing My Hat Over the Windmill

I bought my air ticket for Worldcon this morning. Already have my room and room-mate lined up, and a membership in the con. I have to say that the thought of 16+ hours in the air (interupted by an hour or so layover, thank God) is a bit daunting. But it's an adventure. Now I must research places to buy historical maps--I want a couple of London (1800, 1810, 1820, if I can find them) and one of England ca. 1810--and find a hotel room in London.

May I just say: Whee.

I think I may have to sell my comic book collection to finance the trip (I wasn't kidding; I am a geek!) but it's more satisfying than having to sell the comics to finance a new toilet or something.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Say Your Piece and Render Unto Caesar

Always the last to know, I had not heard until today of Representative Walter Jones's House of Worship Freedom of Speech Restoration Act. The purported idea of the bill is to protect the freedom-of-speech rights of church leaders to endorse--from the pulpit--campaigns and candidates without fear of having the church's tax status revoked.

I think this is a lousy idea.

Is anyone (including the IRS) saying that a clergyman or woman cannot speak in favor of a particular cause, candidate, or campaign? No, only that if they do so under the aegis of the church the institution's tax status may be reviewed. In much the same way, I am free to say that Politician X is a lying, scum-sucking weasel, subject to the possibility of a libel suit. If supporting the candidate of your choice (or excoriating one you loathe) is so important to you that feel you cannot in good conscience keep silent on the subject while in the pulpit, then you should be ready to take the consequences--or your organization should. Otherwise, give your personal endorsement when you've climbed down from the lecturn.

If this dreadful bill manages to get through Congress, my only hope is that the liberal ministers take it and run--since it seems pretty clear to my eye that Jones is only concerned about the freedom to speak of conservative clergy endorsing conservative candidates. It would be very nice if this turned around and bit people in the ass.

Next thing, you've got doctors refusing to help someone who won't listen to their endorsements, or pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions for drugs or services they don't approve of, of--no wait, we've already got that happening. I dunno. I thought the founding fathers were on to a good thing with that Separation of Church and State thing.

Representative Emanuel Cleaver, a United Methodist pastor, former Kansas City mayor, and congressman, notes that he never endorsed someone in his church. "'When the church and the state sleep together, the church rises the next day without respect. The church must retain its purity.'"

So must the state. It's a rather tattered purity, but it's important, nonetheless.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The Glamorous Life

So a few weeks ago, at a local street fair, we signed Sarcasm Girl and Younger Girl up for a potential audition with what we thought was a talent agency. SG is acting mad; YG just wants her own show on The N or Disney Channel. So it seemed harmless. They called on Thursday to invite the girls to an audition. YG was otherwise engaged (she had a long-standing sleepover date) but SG was very excited. So we head out to the agency offices in San Anselmo on Saturday morning, running a little late (of course) since SG had neglected to plan for what she was going to wear. We got there, and discover that what this place is is not a talent agency per se, but a "talent development" organization. Essentially, it's a company that grooms people--from 4 to 80--to try to break into modeling, print ad work, and acting.

SG did her interview and her audition (which took all of three minutes, but I'd never seen the kid play to a camera before--other than the household videocam--and was surprised and delighted at how well she did). And today we got a call: they're delighted to accept her. In the mean time Spouse and I had discussed the whole thing and decided that this was not something we were going to throw our child (and thousands of dollars) at. To her credit, SG herself said the whole thing seemed a little bit "scammish" to her. The kid's got talent; I just think she should be working on the talent part; she can catch up on the hair styling and wardrobe selection later.

On the other hand, I had a nice drive across the Golden Gate Bridge with the girl. I really like her, and weirdly enough, she seems to like me too. Good thing.

Seeing Less Of Me

When we moved to California I stopped walking two miles a day. In New York, just to get through a normal day, pick up kids at school, go to the gym, etc., I walked a minimum of two miles a day. And while that wasn't power walking, I walk fast (my usual pace is about 4 mph). When we moved to San Francisco and got a car, I stopped walking so much. People will tell you that SF is a great town for walking--but then they'll tell you about a great walk, only ten minutes by car. I like what I call purposeful walking--not strolling or walking for the exercise, but walking to get somewhere, and then walking back. And unless you have a whole lot of time to kill, SF is not a great place for that kind of walking. I also love walking in dense urban areas, and SF is somewhat light on the dense urban scene.

The result, among other things, is that I packed on a lot of weight. By Christmas of last year I had gained about 25 pounds from my NY weight, and I was feeling pretty dreary about it. I managed, between Christmas and the middle of February, to lose five pounds just by not stuffing myself with holiday food (well, the holidays were over. That helps). But then I decided to take drastic measures, give or take, and went to Weight Watchers.

My mother would have hated Weight Watchers: the cheeriness, the encouragement, the slogans. But since I like my meeting leader, I found it very helpful this time. I go, I talk, I clap for other people, I get weighed in. And in 12 weeks I have lost 21.6 pounds, and am at my goal weight. The challenge, now, will be to keep the weight off.

The girls' first thought, when I told them I'd reached my goal, was "Cool! Let's go get hot fudge sundaes!" But they meant it in a good way.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Thought for the Day

Sarcasm Girl upon eating asparagus for the first time:

"I stopped, I smelled the roses. Turns out I don't like roses."

I'll Be Damned!

I am:
Ursula K. LeGuin
Perhaps the most admired writing talent in the science fiction field.

Which science fiction writer are you?

Friday, May 13, 2005

First Dance

So today was the 9th-10th grade dane at Sarcasm Girl's High School; when I was in High School, there were three or four dances a year, 8-11pm, in the gym or cafeteria. My father would embarrass the hell out of me by coming in to the dance rather than waiting decently out in the car. But enough about me. Today's dance was held from 3:30-6 in the afternoon: in other words, so one could walk from class to dance. According to SG, no actual dancing occured. They did have a huge inflatable slide, and a bouncy castle (apparently left over from some festival earlier in the day) and that appears to have been hwere all the teachers and kids hung out.

Things is changed since I was young, clearly. On the other hand, SG had a good time, which is more than I can say about me and some of my school dances.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Spare the Rod, Please

There is nothing more certain than a two year old who wants something you will not let her have. I mean, really. Any wobbly new parent--and what new parent is not wobbly? The responsibility for this new human thing you have to take home, keep alive, and raise up to be a law-abiding and loving person is a terrifying thing--will tell you: when you have to face down a toddler who is utterly certain of what she wants, when you yourself are not totally resolute on the topic of, say, another cookie, it's tough. All my "am I worthy" buttons and "question authority" buttons get pushed. Me, I learned to sound more resolute than I felt, and my kids mostly buy it. Not only that, but parenting is a learned behavior, and each time I hold the line I feel a little better about holding the line next time. And watching friends, family and strangers with their kids has convinced me that telling a child not to do something in a wishy-washy voice doesn't get you very far. So I have the Mom voice, and while I may have to say a thing twice (or three times), it works.

At our house we do not spank. We talk a lot, and listen a lot. My kids are talkative, enthusiastic, creative, goony girls. You'd like them, really. When they go someplace without us we get "they're so polite" feedback from people who have to reason to lie. So I can't help but feel that our system works for us.

I mention all this because I have lately been following some blog-conversations about physical discipline, and one of the questions that comes up is why anyone would choose to follow advice in books that counsel parents to "break the will" of their children. For their own good. The only rationale I can come up with, in my auctorial way, is that there are people who are just as uncertain as I am when faced with the terrible certainty of a small child, who feel that if they cannot, through force of Parental Authority, cow the child into obedience, they are failures. This is how a guy like James Dobson becomes an authority, I think: because parents feel there's some lack in themselves and will take the strongest sounding advice they can find.

But Dobson, I'm here to tell you, is a piker. Via Echidne of the Snakes, I have been introduced to Ronald E. Williams, who, God help us, runs a "rehabilitation ministry for troubled teenage girls." Williams wants you to use a rod, see. A good strong one that won't break in an hour or two session of "correction," while you break the will of the child. The rod "is not a pencil, or a ruler , or a pillow. It is far more severe than any of these objects. Nor is the rod a rubber hose or a length of barbed wire! A rod in most cases is probably a wooden paddle used for spanking the buttock." Causing serious pain over that 1-2 hour "session". Pain "delivers, in some mysterious way, the heart of that child from its rebellion, stubbornness, and willfulness." I'll bet it does.

And you should start 'em young. In Williams's household the object has been to break the children's wills before their first birthday.

In Williams's mind, of course, the stakes are no less than saving the child from Hell. And the parent, too, since he provides abundant (and to my mind, entirely wrong-headed) readings of the Bible to support his theories, and a parent who doesn't pummel his child into submission is failing in his duty to God and the child. I cannot, honestly, believe that any child who is raised this way, with God and the Bible used as justification to beat her into submission, will grow up willing to submit herself to the authority of that God and that Bible. When I consider a paddling--probably, from Williams's salacious tone an enthusiastic paddling--going on for an hour my mind reels. It begins to make the floggings in the British Navy of Nelson's day sound positively wholesome.


62,000 some odd words (228 pages) on the Current Book. That's out of a projected 100,000. So one could say I am on the downward slope. I just wish my brain would pull itself together and get the work done a little faster.

In other news, Happy Birthday, posthumously, to Katharine Hepburn, the actor I most want to look like when I grow up. Still, and despite the fact that she's dead and I'm theoretically grown up.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

My Child Knows Her Mother

In YG's class they are doing "living biographies"--each kid has to make a report about their subject in the first person, dressed as said subject. YG originally thought of studying Babe Ruth, but the idea of dressing up like him dampened that ardor. So, casting about for another subject, she found a writer she knows I like. "And I've seen three of her movies!"

Thus, I have three days to make her a Jane Austen costume. With bonnet.

The trouble, of course, is that I can do it. And she knows it. (Four years in the theatre department, including several shows I saw only from the belly of the costume shop...I can handle a single muslin round gown). So I went out and got a light figured calico, and cut the fabric tonight. I'm not making her a bonnet, but I will make her a cap, which is a simpler thing. And of course, she knew I'd be tickled that she'd chosen Austen.

And it could be worse. One of her friends, a tiny, delicate girl whose family is from India, is reporting on Martin Luther King!

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Mommy Brain

I was reflecting this morning about this week, which looks to be another logistical logjam chez nous, what with all the kids' activities, Spouse's work schedule, and oh, yeah, my fencing class and writers' workshops, the field trip I'm chaperoning, a possible haircut so I can look less like a rumpsprung rain forest (honest, my hair needs trimming) for Baycon, and so on. It was lucky, I thought to myself, that I got my degree in theatre, concentrating on stage management, which gave me the juggling skills I've used in every job I've ever had, including my current Mommy Gig. On the other hand, between encroaching maturity, the lingering effects of the move west, and the unceasing chaos of life, I frequently think I'm just leaking brain cells everywhere. Which is why I enjoyed reading This Is Your Brain on Motherhood , an op-ed piece in today's New York Times. Approaching a lot of the challenges of parenthood from Ellison's perspective, damn if I don't suddenly feel more competent! Still harried, yes, but like maybe I haven't been hit with the Stupid Stick. Nice, for a Monday morning.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Spa Day

The ancient festive custom at our house is breakfast-in-bed for mother's day, which was duly made and delivered. YG had a class project for me: a poem collaged with a black and white photo; plus a tea-ball in the shape of a house. SG gave me the order form for a book she's ordered for me from Amazon. And I was permitted to sit with my coffee and toast and read the entire New York Times Magazine and take a bath before going about my business. Fortunately (for me, at least) it was pouring, and the Little League game was cancelled. So YG decided it was spa day! This involved me renting a movie that I could watch while she was treating me to all sorts of esoteric massages and lotions: first she smoothed aloe gel all over my legs; then lavender lotion on my back and arms; then she gave me a cucumber and avocado facial mask...all this while watching Fahrenheit 451, which caused some fascinating discussions. Finally I had to stop the movie so she could give me what she calls a sponge bath, which turns out to be a bath with lots of bath salts, and her sponging frantically at my back and legs. She washed my hair, then soaped my arms and legs vigorously, then sponged all the soap off again. I rather threw off her rhythm by insisting on a change of bath water, as there was so much soap in the water it was getting sticky.

YG's approach to bodies is refreshingly blunt, and she is utterly without embarrassment, so that while all this relaxing was going on I fielded a number of questions: what does it feel like to have breasts? Why do they float? Do breasts get saggy and floppy when you get older? Is it weird when babies drink milk from breasts? Did it hurt when they cut my tummy open to take her sister out? Why couldn't they take out some of the fat then, too? To which my answers were: about the same as it feels to have a nose or feet; they're lighter than water; yes; not to the babies; no, I had lots of useful drugs that kept me from feeling it; and, I've often wondered. At last I was permitted to leave the tub, and we went in to finish watching the movie.

Later in the evening Spouse and I went off to see The Interpreter, which I thought was good. I've always had more technical admiration for Sean Penn than actual liking, but I thought he was excellent. So all in all it was a swell mother's day, although my skin is now very dry.

By the way, the girl's poem reads:
My nose is like Grandmother Barbara's elegant one
My eyes are like two gorgeous forests in the sea
My cheeks are cushy as a Koosh Ball
My mouth is networking crazily
My heart holds commitment that is strong as gold
I live in your heart
and I eat your veins.

The form was apparently dictated by her teacher, thus the rather gruesome ending. Still, I like it.

Sunday, May 08, 2005


Like most such posts, this will mean very little to anyone who didn't know her, but: Helen Murphy died today.

Helen was the wife of one of my husband's oldest friends from High School. Paul, an actor and director with a goofy face and a goofier manner, stayed home with the kids when he wasn't rehearsing. Helen was the one who went out to work; she was also the one who knew how to fix the broken step out to the patio, knew where the clean socks were, and maintained a level of humorous calm for everyone in the family. When their older child, Keith, was very small they had a bad couple of years--Keith had a brain tumor, and the treatment was long and harrowing for him and for his parents, but he recovered. Keith is now in his late teens, a huge, strapping kid with a sense of humor as goofy as his father's and a pacific manner much like his mother's. SG used to see their daughter Julia once or twice a year, and it was always as if they'd only missed a day or two away from each other. The Murphy's annual 4th of July barbecue in their house in New Jersey was huge--their house faced the field where the town set off their fireworks, so after hours of eating and genial argument and chatter you could lounge about in lawn chairs or perch on the trampoline and watch the skies explode. It is a testament to both Paul and Helen that I liked pretty much everyone I ever met at their house (I can't even say as much for all my own parties).

A few years ago Helen was diagnosed with cancer; she was treated, the cancer remitted, and she changed a lot about her lifestyle, again in that calm, competent, hold-on-a-minute-and-I'll-fix-that-nuclear-reactor sort of way. She and Paul were both tall and heavy, but Helen lost weight, did some exercise, and took care of herself, without making any particular fuss about it. When we last saw her she was well, and busy with life. But since we moved west, of course, we haven't been to those 4th of July parties, and communication has been fragmented. Now we learn that the cancer had recurred, that it had been a very swift decline, and that Helen is gone.

She was a graceful woman, funny and smart. I can't imagine how her family will go on without her--she and Paul seemed to me to be partners in the best possible way--but I know they will. Just another damned light gone out of a world that could sorely use it.

Mother's Day

(As I said below:)

Happy Mothers' Day to all mothers, caregivers, and nurturers out there. Yes, this means you and you know who you are.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

A Gorgeous Saturday

YG is, as the Reader will have gathered, playing Little League Softball this year. And today was Little League Day at SBC Park. So, far too early (like, 8:30 or so) with YG in her Giants uniform (yes, her team is the Giants; much bliss there) the four of us headed off to the ballpark. Gates opened at 9:00 and the SFLL program started at 9:30. For an hour we got to hear from one of the coaches, a pitcher (I forget which one!), and the catcher, all of whom were well-spoken and fun to listen to (although I did keep flashing on the "talking to the public" lessons from Bull Durham: "I'm just happy to be here, and I hope to help the team, Good Lord Willing." There was a raffle (we didn't win anything) and then we got the run of the stadium, more or less, until the game started at 1:05. The day had started out gray and overcast, but the fog burned off and it was a clear, hot, beautiful day.

A word about SBC Park: I am no connoiseur of ballparks; until I married, I had never been to a professional ball game. And while I reverence Yankee Stadium and Shea as the founts from which my inerest in baseball spring, they're old fashioned and a little dreary (especially Shea, which has a 1963 World's Fair vibe without any particular charm). SBC Park is relatively new, and it's gorgeous: built to remind one of an elegant park of the early 1900s, red brick, arched hallways; but it also was clearly well thought out. There are enough bathrooms, there are enough food and drink and souvenir vendors so that you don't have to wait long for anything. If the Disney Corporation had made an "old time ballpark" it might have been much like this, and I mean that as a good thing (Disney may hark back to a good-old-days that never was, but their people-moving skills are excellent...remind me to tell you a story about that some day). The park is south of Market, overlooking the Bay, with McCovey Cove right behind the right outfield (every time a Giants' player bats a ball over the "splash wall" into the cove, Old Navy puts $500 into the Giants Community Fund; there are always a few people in small boats haunting the Cove, hoping a ball will clear the wall and they can catch it). To the east there's the Bay Bridge. It's breezy with the wind off the Bay, but on a good day it's just about the most beautiful venue you can imagine for a ball game.

Some of YG's team-mates sat nearby, and her coach (it turns out he's a stone SF fan; once he found out I wrote the stuff he got endearingly goony and wanted to talk about writing and SF and...everything). And then the game began. For the first three innings it was 0-0; then, in the fourth inning the Giants had the bases loaded when Moises Alou came to bat, hit one over the wall (not the splash wall, alas!) for a Grand Slam. It was a genuinely thrilling thing to see. The next inning the Giants' fielding went to hell, and the Nationals got 5 runs, and then two more. It was pretty depressing. Finally, the Giants pulled ahead, and we went into the last inning 8-7. Of course, the Nationals turned that around, and went into the bottom of the ninth inning 11-8, and of course the Giants fell apart in three easy outs. By this time the fog was beginning to move in, and we headed off to the Muni to go home. It was by then about 4:30, and we had been there for seven hours. Ran into one of YG's classmates and his family, and we all agreed it had been a long and mostly excellent day.

We returned home, grilled burgers and watched A New Hope and then shoveled the Young off toward their beds. Tomorrow is supposed to be drowningly wet, so I guess we got our fun in on the right day.

Friday, May 06, 2005


This has been a perfectly delightful week, except that I've gotten no work done, haven't made it to the gym, and fell mildly off the wagon, diet-wise. Today I am chaperoning a 3rd grade trip to Mission Dolores; we had visitors and birthdays and life, and it was all swell, except that I am left with the cranky whine of worthlessness in the back of my head: "You didn't get any writing done! You couldn't even make it to the gym! What a bad person you are! Bad bad bad!"

Yeah, I know it's foolish. I will get back on the wagon on Monday. But I don't seem to be able to say that as loud as the Cranky Whine says its piece. I will try to reverse the process by surrounding myself with nine-year-olds. Joy.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Poor George?

So I'm writing books set during the English Regency (or my version of the English Regency). The other day, being far from home and my books on the subject, I needed to look up the date of the Act of Parliament which made the Prince of Wales Regent, so I potched about in Google and found what I needed. I also observed a significant pro-George III or anti-Prince Regent slant to a lot of sources. Or at least, I became aware of my own sympathetic slant regarding his son.

Don't mistake me: George, Prince of Wales (the future George IV) was spendthrift, emotional, autocratic, egocentric, needy, \, frequently irresponsible, and not at all the son his father wanted. On the other hand, the reading I've done suggests to me that none of the children of George III were the children their parents wanted. The king, in his lucid moments, was wont to say that his favorite son was the one who died at age 2; he loved all his kids when they were babies, pre-verbal and (I imagine) pre-independent. So far from making dynastic marriages for his daughters and getting them out of the house, he kept his girls so close to home that at least one of them rebelled in the only way she could--by getting pregnant out of wedlock. And the Prince of Wales, as heir to the throne and first born, was a constant disappointment to him--and was told as much. Given no responsibilities to learn from he was consistently told that he was irresponsible; his brothers were given charge of Army regiments or even kingdoms, but the Prince of Wales, as heir, could not go to war or administer family property (such as Hanover). On several occasions when he tried to do something useful, his father the King regarded it as a sinister attempt to wrest royal power away from him. The Prince is remembered for his love-life, his clothes sense, his preoccupation with architecture--largely, I think, because he was given nothing better to use his considerable intelligence upon. (A little like the current Prince of Wales, in fact: both born to young monarchs who then lived a long time, and both of whose love-lives and interest in architecture are well known.)

George IV was not a good king; by the time he finally attained the crown in 1820 he was sickly and worn out; the progressive ideals of his youth had given way to a tired conservatism. During his life he had seen himself go from being the Bright Hope of Europe to being a coffee-house joke, and that must have been hard. He was not a terrifically good son, although by all reports he was a responsible and loving brother. I wonder, sometimes, what he might have been had his father been willing to repose some trust and responsibility in his eldest son or, failing that, if George III had died or gone permanently mad in 1788. I'm just saying...


One of the features of adolescence, I guess, is the up-and-down nature of life. And nothing is more unfortunate at those down moments than to have a cell-phone with texting capabilities. Yesterday SG sent me a pair of text messages about how depressed she was about her birthday (said depression vanished when a friend gave her two bags of candy as a present). Now, first of all, the kid should not be sending me messages while she's in class. Second of all...by the time I read the message her life may have improved drastically, but I'm left behind fretting about her state of mind. I have tried, a couple of times, to tell her "no text messages from school unless you're on a break or at lunch" but it doesn't stick. And for good or ill, my point of view and anxiety level are affected by these little toss-off messages.

I also think, increasingly, that one of the things you learn, growin up, is that there are days when you just feel crappy, and you have to deal regardless. I cannot swoop in to math class and kiss it and make it better (hell, I can't even do that for myself!). But when I say something like this, I feel like such a hard-hearted creep. I suppose I should be happy the child is talking to me (and I am), but still.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005


Today Sarcasm Girl is fifteen! How did this happen? She's taller than I am (by a hair) and slender and gorgeous and bright, and funny. And sarcastic, of course. I think I may need to go lie down...

Sunday, May 01, 2005

This Just In...

YG has a love-hate relationship going with Little League this year. This year she's on a minor league softball team, playing with a mixed group of girls, some two years older and considerably bigger, several of them with considerably more experience than she has. Of course, when you're nine, you want to be a hero, whether or not you have developed hero chops. So there has been some despondency post-games: too much waiting to be at bat, the ball never comes to her, the coach thinks other kids are better than she is...

Well, today, she forced two outs while playing second, batted two singles and ran home on one, and was named MVP for the game. The angels rejoice.

And I have to say, given that I was the kid who was chosen last for every team and really didn't care about it, that it is damned impressive that I understand what I said in that last sentence.

SF Sunday

YG and her dad are off at her Little League game; Sarcasm Girl has gone off to the library (the SF Public Library is open on Sunday!) to research the Fourth Dimension for her math class. I have painted the front door (it's going to need another coat) and the windows on either side (discovering that whoever painted them last didn't have enough paint to finish the job, so that there's a ragged edge of seafoam green around the window, and no paint on hand to match the teal blue that the rest of the trim was painted). I feel so domestic. And this evening Derryl Murphy and his wife are coming over for dinner, which should be swell too.

Tomorrow my Aunt Julie is in town to celebrate Sarcasm Girl's 15th birthday. Somehow 15 seems vastly closer to adulthood than 14; she can get a learner's permit this year, and in a year she can get a job (and is already collecting brochures from local employers. Permit me to say: yikes.