Wednesday, November 30, 2011

booze, needles and santa claus

1. ivf (i’m [a] veteran [of this] fuckingprocess)

If only meeting birthmothers was as easy as meeting fellow adoptive parents.* For every subculture, there is a blogging sub-subculture, and last night I met up with a local segment of the adoption blogger sub-subculture, plus Heather of Production, Not Reproduction, who was in town for the BlogHer conference.

None of the rest of us are quite so committed to our blogging, but we were happy to commit to drinks at Magnolia. Can I just say how nice it is to be with a group of five women where I don’t have to assume, anytime someone orders a nonalcoholic beverage, that she’s pregnant? And then proceed to try to coax myself back from depressed resignation?

It was nice—and weird—to be able to talk in a sort of shorthand. “At first, I was so freaked out by the needles,” Victoria said of her IVF adventures. “It took me four hours just to do my first Lupron shot!” Hahaha! Because everyone knows that Lupron needles are skinny, and it’s the Menopur, Bravelle, and estriadol validrate needles that are really a bitch.

Right?

Heather did not know. She is the rare adoptive mom who is 36 years old with a six- and a three-year-old. In our mid-thirties, AK and I feel like we’re on the young end of most of our adoption meetings, so Heather and her husband must have felt like babies when they were going through the process. She projected the innocence (whether real or imagined by me) of people who manage to have kids just because they want to. I mean, by definition she had to work harder for it than the glass-o’-wine-and-sex crew, but she didn’t have that shroud of been-through-hell that I felt like the rest of us carried to varying degrees.

Joanne, the only other not-yet mom in the group, hadn’t tried IVF, but, as she said, she’d had enough fertility tests that she knew “I didn’t want them rooting around in there anymore.” She said it all in a lovely London accent. How is it that a British accent makes everything sound understated and manageable? I know Joanne wanted kids as badly as the rest of us, but she sounded so very keep-calm-and-carry-on about it.

2. the big things and the little things

Kristin of Parenthood Path, who organized the meet-up, immediately won my heart by complimenting our adoption profile (“Not that I’m exactly your target audience,” she pointed out) and confirmed my instant like by asking thoughtful questions and making sure everyone was included in the conversation. Eventually she said, “Okay, I’ve got a glass and a half of wine in me, so I’m going to talk about race now.”

We talked about transracial adoption; adopting older kids (Sue was surprised with an eight-month-old, and Joanne is considering a child as old as five years); the IVF reality show pilot Victoria shot (how could that not get picked up? What could be more TLC-ready than a show about highly hormonal women spending gobs of money?); and, eventually, about Santa photos and advent calendars. I suppose this is where all of it leads—to the actual parenting part. Thank god, right?

“All Santas are not created equal,” Victoria warned. “The first year, we got one with a real beard, but last year we got the drunken pedophile Santa.”

Kristin, whose son is two, shrugged and said, “Maybe we’ll do a Santa photo when he’s five.”

That sounded about right to me. One thing at a time. Till then, I’ll keep chiming into parenting conversations with anecdotes about my cats.


*A note about the image in this post: I would never actually wear this shirt any more than I would wear the “There are two peas in my pod!” shirt or the “Pregnant, not plump!” shirt advertised in Pregnancy Magazine. The only statement I want to make with my clothes is “I am a snappy dresser” and such shirts accomplish the opposite. Also, they are assholey. I did, however, tell Keely once that I was contemplating a T-shirt that said,
“Not pregnant, I just like dessert!” At the time she was pregnant, so she said she would print one up that said “Pregnant AND I like dessert.

Monday, November 28, 2011

why i would be happy to raise amy poehler’s children but not kiefer sutherland’s

It was a lovely, lazy weekend. Yesterday AK and I hiked up the west side of the big hill that is Debs Park and discovered a lake at the top. Well, maybe a pond. A very green pond. There were a couple of people fishing in it, which seemed a little risky, though probably less so than fishing off the Santa Monica pier.

We heard a guy tell his kids, “Come look at the turtles!” and we both ran toward him because, hello, turtles!

When we saw him, we concluded he seemed a tad too urban to know much about pond fauna. We did not see any turtles, although we spotted a bunny in the brush. All this five minutes from our house. We looked out over Highland Park’s old bungalows and marveled at how wide Avenue 50 looked, and how faraway Downtown seemed. So that’s why it takes me so long to get to get to work.

Last night we saw Melancholia, a beautiful Vogue shoot of a movie about how people of different worldviews respond to opposing situations. Kirsten Dunst’s depressive character has a meltdown trying to be happy at her wedding, but when (spoiler-ish alert) the apocalypse comes, she’s in her element. Her brother-in-law (Kiefer Sutherland) is a happy pragmatist who doesn’t worry until given cause, and then he just checks out. I sort of hate him and want to be him. But who I actually am is Dunst’s anxious sister (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who can’t quite convince herself that things will be okay, or that the world is worth giving up on entirely. Hence her (my) constant turmoil.

In between the hike and the movie, I read my student’s thesis while AK watched this video of Amy Poehler at the Time 100 gala. She’s such an amazing, quiet radical that I almost fell off the couch. Here is a female star (of my favorite TV show, not coincidentally) ADMITTING SHE HAS NANNIES. She doesn’t just allude to “having help” in the vague, guilty way that most female star moms do. She THANKS THEM BY NAME. Because they are humans who are important enough to have names, and because SHE ISN’T ASHAMED to be a mom with a job other than being a mom. It takes a village, ladies, not just to raise kids but to create a culture that supports female comics. Kudos to Amy Poehler and Jackie Johnson and Dawa Chodon* for making it happen.



*I can’t tell you how many articles I read that said she “thanked her nannies by name” but didn’t actually mention their names. Way to go, internet.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

how to make cheryl's semi-famous sweet potato pie

1. Buy overpriced ingredients at Whole Foods because it is the closest grocery store to your therapist's office.

2. Read about some MTV exec's wardrobe in Elle while sweet potatoes boil. Wonder why Isabel Marant makes sneaker wedges in which the wedge is hidden, so that the wearer looks like a strangely tall, awkward person who can't walk in sneakers.

3. Discover that your mixer is missing one if its little whisk attachment thingies.

4. Discover, triumphantly, that it is possible to mix ingredients with only one whisk attachment thingy. Imagine that this is how that one-armed drummer in Def Leppard must feel.

5. Pour batter into ready-made organic whole wheat pie crusts (thank you, Whole Foods!).

6. Spill batter down inside of oven door.

7. Learn that you really can't clean an oven while it's on. Wonder if Sylvia Plath wasn't so much despairing as trying to tidy up her kitchen.

8. Pour batter remaining in bowl directly into your mouth.

9. Have a happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

before you hit the mall, occupy literature!

Beyond bringing blankets and soup to protesters camped out at your local city hall, what’s the best way to support the 99 percent this holiday season? How about buying books published by small presses and sold at independent bookstores for 100 percent of the people on your gift list? Small presses give voice to writers and viewpoints overlooked by the mainstream. Indie bookstores let you be a literary locavore. And subscriptions to literary magazines are gifts that keep giving all year long. Consider the lists below your holiday literary activism starter kit. Happy browsing!

Southern California-based Presses:
Ammo Books: one-of-a-kind titles featuring amazing design, thoughtful writing, and exquisite printing
Angel City Press: nostalgic yet cool illustrated books
Arktoi Books: poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction that give lesbian writers access to “the conversation”
Beyond Baroque: books by local, emerging, overlooked, and previously out-of-print poets
Cahuenga Press: poetry that honors creative freedom and cooperation
Cloverfield Press: books as visually beautiful as they are intellectually and emotionally stimulating
Dzanc Books: literary fiction that falls outside the mainstream
Green Integer: essays, manifestos, speeches, epistles, narratives, and more
Les Figues Press: aesthetic conversations between readers, writers, and artists, with an avant-garde emphasis
Otis Books/Seismicity: contemporary fiction, poetry, essays, creative non-fiction and translation
Perceval Press: art, critical writing, and poetry
P S Books: micro-press that publishes conceptually motivated series on a project by project basis
Red Hen Press: works of literary excellence that have been overlooked by mainstream presses
San Diego City Works Press: local, ethnic, political, and border writing
Santa Monica Press: offbeat looks at pop culture, lively how-to books, film history, travel, and humor
Tebot Bach: strengthening community and broadening the audience for poetry
Tsehai Publishers: literary fiction and serious nonfiction, with an emphasis on first-time authors and writers from under-served communities
What Books Press: books by L.A.-based writers whose work spans the full scope of the past quarter century

Independent Bookstores:
Book Soup, West Hollywood
Beyond Baroque, Venice
Chevalier’s Books, Larchmont Village
Diesel, Brentwood and Malibu
Eso Won Books, Leimert Park
Family, Fairfax District
Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse, La CaƱada
Hennessey + Ingalls, Santa Monica and Hollywood
The Last Bookstore, Downtown
Libros Schmibros, Boyle Heights
Portrait of a Bookstore, Studio City
Skylight Books, Los Feliz
Small World Books, Venice
Stories, Echo Park
Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore, Sylmar
Village Bookshop, Glendora
Vroman’s Bookstore, Pasadena

Please forward this widely to those interested in books and writing. Happy holidays from the Future of Publishing Think Tank*!


*The Future of Publishing Think Tank is an ad hoc group of writers and representatives of independent publishers and bookstores, nonprofit literary organizations, and community radio. Our task: to consider the changes occurring in publishing, distribution, and marketing of literary work and to envision new ways for writers to engage readers and build audiences for their work. Visit us at www.foptt.com to see the results of our reader survey and find more bookstores and literary activities in your area.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

take the cannoli

1. like a bucket list, but tastier and less depressing

When Jonathan Gold’s “99 Essential L.A. Restaurants” guide came out last week, I immediately tallied up how many I’d been to. Eleven: Border Grill, Bottega Louie, Casa Bianca, Euro Pane, Good Girl Dinette, Guelaguetza, Huarache Azteca, the Hungry Cat, Musso & Frank, the Oinkster and Waterloo & City.

Not bad for a cheapo and non-foodie. (I love good food, but I can also thoroughly enjoy a vending machine donut or five.) It doesn’t hurt that Jonathan Gold’s tastes veer toward cheap ethnic holes-in-the-wall. Waterloo & City, where we went for Nicole’s sister’s birthday, has plates of charcuterie that look like a painter’s palette. But Huarache Azteca has plastic forks and random vendors who wander through the eating area selling bootleg DVDs.

The other 88 restaurants make for a nice to-do list. But it’s harder than it looks. When we first read the list, we just started reminiscing about Guelaguetza, where we held “planning meetings” for our Oaxaca trip. So that’s where we ended up last Saturday, with Lori and Brett. The mole, as Jonathan Gold promised, was “as black as Dick Cheney’s heart” (but much more full of love).

Last night we went with Christine and Jody to Maximiliano, which apparently hasn’t reached “essential” status—it just opened—but got a shout-out in Gold’s write-up of the Oinkster, which has the same unpretentious chef. Maximiliano is definitely fancier—with its mosaic tile oven and walls painted to look like abstracted bean sprouts or rice noodles (or maybe spaghetti would make more sense). But it’s not too fancy: Its tag line is “Kinda old-school Italian” and you can get a big-enough-to-share pizza for $12.

Christine has this amazing ability to make demands with a big grin on her face. So they don’t do flights of beers? Well, could they? Shouldn’t there be more cream in the apple brown betty? But somehow everybody wins. The waiter/bartenders (we ate at the bar—apparently it’s good to have a reservation, which makes me uneasy about the future of Highland Park) seemed to enjoy their day a little more, and Christine got what she wanted.

We all did: eggplant pizza with big dollops of burrata and a bubbly crust; roasted fennel, which is the rare dish that tastes completely indulgent while making you feel vaguely like you just brushed your teeth; and a warm salad with squid and blood oranges.

2. why i’m not a chef or a drug addict

Every now and then I think about my eighth grade home ec teacher instructing us to add mandarin oranges to a salad. I was like, Gross! Fruit in a salad other than a fruit salad?! Now it seems like the weirder the shit you throw together, the more delicious it is. Roasted Brussels sprouts and bleu cheese on a raisin bagel? Bring it on!

I realize it’s probably not quite that easy. It’s more about types of flavors working well together than whether the ingredients are traditionally found in the same dish. To be a chef, you have to know chemistry and stuff. Still, doesn’t my Brussels sprouts bleu-cheese bagel sound kind of good? Kind of?

Okay, maybe stick to what Max (actually, I don’t think there’s a Maximiliano; there is an Andre Guerrero) has on the menu. Dessert was the aforementioned too-dry apple brown betty. But I pointed out to Christine that I’d never had apple brown betty before. Maybe it was supposed to taste like diet cobbler.

The cannolis made up for it, though. Jody, who grew up on Long Island and has tasted his share of great Italian food, declared these the real thing, though he thought they were a little heavy on the nutmeg.

“Are you sure that’s nutmeg?” I asked. I was distracted by the dusting of crushed pistachios and the sweet spoonful of heaven that is mascarpone* with chocolate chips.

“Definitely nutmeg,” Jody said. “We used to try to trip on it in college.”

“Really? I had no idea you could do that. Do you, like, snort it?”

“We just mixed it with a bunch of water and drank it. It didn’t work very well.”

I think I will continue taking my nutmeg in the form of my true drug of choice, cannoli.


*Spell check informs me that it’s not spelled “marscapone,” like the planet and the gangster. Spell check and I also struggled with cannoli and burrata, which tells you how often either of us writes about food and/or goes to Italy.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

it’s really just damn lonely sometimes: the adoption bloggers interview project

As part of my ongoing exercise in magical thinking (in which blogging a lot about adoption = getting a kid sooner), I signed up for Production, Not Reproduction’s Adoption Bloggers Interview Project. Apparently being only an occasional adoption blogger didn’t disqualify me. The idea was that adoptive or prospective adoptive parents would exchange some Q’s and A’s and post the answers on their respective blogs.

When Heather of PNR paired me with Jenni of Sincerely, Jenni, my first thought was, Is this, like, some kind of odd-couple stunt? I’m a queer, childless, marginally fertile, urban liberal planning to adopt an infant through an agency. Jenni is straight, has bio kids and step kids, lives in a tiny town in Iowa, links to a blog called Getting Down with Jesus, and is so fertile that she got pregnant accidentally at 19 and placed her son for adoption (more on that later). AND she’s planning to adopt an older child through the foster care system.

But after emailing with her and reading her heartfelt and good-humored blog, I started wishing our kids could have interstate play dates. I imagine that this is good practice for matching with a birthmother. Maybe you don’t have a ton in common on paper, but shared experience brings you together.

Here’s what Jenni had to say about home studies, racial issues and reindeer food:

1. Your family is planning to adopt an older child through the foster care system. Why did you choose this route?

My husband had a vasectomy in 2001 after our youngest daughter was born, because we had decided we were done having children. About five or six years ago, it came up in random conversation that we might consider having another child, but neither of us felt like we wanted another BABY. We felt like we were past the baby phase of our lives, as our children all are very busy with sports and other activities. Over the last several years we talked about it more and more and finally decided our children were old enough that adoption of a younger school-ager was a real option for us. We decided we would look into adopting from the foster care system. There are so many children in our state needing a family, and we want more than anything to add another child to ours!

2. I just read your post about the supermom myth--did you ever feel like the home study was some kind of interrogation to find out whether you and your husband could be super parents (or is that just my own paranoia)?

We just finally found out our first homestudy appointment is going to be Monday the 21st (YIKES!!!), and to say I am nervous would be a gross understatement. I have been seeing my home in a whole new light lately. The paperwork we have needed to fill out has been so probing and so intense that if everyone needed to complete this stuff before being allowed to have children, there would be a LOT of people in this world without kids, that’s for sure! I think as potential adoptive parents, we all try to present our best selves, because we are all competing for the same children. It’s sad to think about, but its true. My husband and I are competing with other couples in the foster/adoption process in the hopes that we are matched with particular children. It’s stressful to think “What can I be doing differently to make my house/life/kids/job/past finances look better in order to make this outcome turn out the way we want it to?” As potential adoptive parents, we are so NOT in control of the situation, and I think that’s the hardest part of it all. It’s a waiting game, and a lot of hoops to jump through and it’s really just damn lonely sometimes.

3. Youve discussed how the child you adopt may be of a different race than you and/or have special needs. Unconditional love is the first and most important ingredient in making a family, but what outside resources will you look to for help?

We are so fortunate to have a wonderful family and a great group of friends that are so open and willing to support whatever child we welcome into our family. We have discussed with all of them the fact that we are not ruling out any children at this point, other than we are looking for a specific age range (4-7) and sex (boy). Our children have such wonderful hearts and are so open-minded and ready to welcome a new brother to the family, whatever the ‘package’ he might be wrapped in. We are also lucky to have a great school district with a fantastic special education program (if needed). As far as race, that is the one issue that is a bit of a concern for me. We live in a small community and it is mostly white. There are a few African-Americans, and they are children (most of them have been adopted by Caucasian parents). As far as I know, there are not any Hispanic or Latino members of our community. We would make sure that we make every effort to seek out cultural opportunities in communities around us (Our state’s capital is within a few minutes from us, where the minority demographic is quite different).

So I guess what I am trying to say is… while our family is very open to accepting any race the child happens to be, we will probably have to stop outside our small community to expose him to his own culture more often.

4. In addition to the two biological children youre raising, you also have two stepchildren, right? How do you think being a stepmom has prepared you to be an adoptive mom?

I have two stepchildren, ages 16 and 14. When I first met their father, they were 4 and 2 years old. My husband is also a stepfather to my 16-year old daughter. She was 3 years old when he and I met. I think the most important thing it has done to prepare us for adoption is that it has taught us how to bond with and parent children that are not our own. Being a step-parent is not an easy job. Shared parenting with a birth-parent that is not all that excited to have you around is pretty similar to being a foster parent, when you think about it. The kids sometimes compare me to their “real mom” and it can get frustrating. Sometimes I have to get used to ranking lower on the totem pole, but really—it has made us a stronger family because of it. We have learned to be so much more accepting of different types of families.

5. You also placed a child for adoption when you were 19 (so you've been pretty much every kind of mom--birth, bio, step and now adoptive--there must be some kind of prize for that!). How does your own experience shape your attitude toward the birth family of the child youll adopt?

A lot of people think of kids being removed from their home and put into foster care and they automatically assume the parents are horrible people. They assume abuse, neglect, drugs, alcohol… the worst. In many cases, this is true—unfortunately. What I’ve come to learn, both through placing my own child for adoption and also through taking classes to become an adoptive parent, is that we all make mistakes in our lives. Some people are just not ready to parent. Some people just have fallen down, and have a hard getting back up. Many times the children need a place to go temporarily while the parents pick themselves back up and get the help they need. Then there the times that the children need a permanent home because the parents decide they can’t parent the children or the courts make the decision for them. In my case, I made my own decision that I was not ready to parent. I was too young, the father wasn’t in the picture, and I knew there were couples out there that couldn’t have children that could care for my child so much better than I could.

Now, all these years later, having met my son, I know I made the right choice. I am so grateful that his parents have let me be a part of his life. We have a wonderful relationship. I still grieve missing out on 18 years of his life, but I know he wouldn’t have turned out the way he did had I chosen to keep him. Now, WHERE’S MY AWARD????

6. You have a full time job outside the home. What tips do you have for other working parents (or future working parents)?

Consistency is key. My kids are very active in sports and activities and I have tried so many different tools and gadgets over the years to keep our family organized. For me, nothing works better than a regular old planner and pencil. Everything gets written down. I use one planner for everything – work and home. Everything that my husband and kids do go in there—practices, church, school events. Everything. And its all in pencil, because things change all the time. I also keep a big calendar on the fridge. Everything also gets added to that.

My other biggest tip is this: Don’t try to be a supermom and do it all. You are only setting yourself up for failure. I find it is so much more important to spend quality time with my kids than making sure my kitchen floor gets mopped on a weekly basis or that I am a part of every committee at my kids’ school. (On that note, why the heck am I on so many committees at my kids’ school? Sheesh.) It has taken me some time, and I have learned through trial and error, the fine art of MODERATION. I can do a little of everything, but I now know when to draw the line when I am over-scheduling myself or my kids.

I am also very fortunate to work for a company that is VERY family-friendly. They are so accommodating to employees that have children and offer flexible scheduling, and are always willing to work with me if I need to leave early or come in late. I don’t know how I would manage if it wasn’t for that.

7. I dont know too much about the process of adopting an older child through foster care. Is there a chance that he could be returned to his bio family without your consent? If so, how do you think youll handle that?

There are two ways to adopt through the foster care system. One is foster-to-adopt, where you take a foster children with the intent of eventually adopting one (or more) of them eventually. These children do not have a TPR (Termination of Parental Rights) in place already. Your home might be the first foster home they come to after being removed from their birth parents. It can be a lengthy process, and sometimes even though you think the child is targeted for adoption, they might end up being returned to their birth parents—or another family member of theirs steps and wants to take them.

The other way to adopt from the foster system is just a straight adoption, which is what we are hoping to do. There are listings of children already in foster care—whether in group homes, or living with foster families. They already have their TPR in place, and they cannot be returned to their birth families.

8. Are there any circumstances that would make you choose to end a foster placement? If so, what?

Right now, we are not planning to do foster care. We may consider it after our older children leave for college and we have some extra room in our house. But, I think the only reasons we would consider ending a placement would be if the child was physically harming one of our children or one of us. Since we have the option of saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to a placement before taking a child, I would hope we would get as much information as possible before bringing the child into our home in the first place.

9. Does your family have any wacky habits or rituals that you think will make the kid you adopt just scratch his head?

One of our weird rituals at Christmas time is to make reindeer food instead of setting out milk and cookies for Santa. I always told my kids that so many people leave milk and cookies but forget about the reindeer, and you know they probably get hungry flying all over the world! So we always made reindeer food! We’d mix up reindeer food (a.k.a. oatmeal) and add in the special “magic spices” (a.k.a. gold and silver glitter) and shake it up really good. Then we would sprinkle it out in the snow. The reindeer can see the magic spices from up in the sky and so they could not only find our house easier, but they would also get some yummy reindeer food as well!

A wacky habit in our house is more to do with our dog, Bella, more than anything. Our yellow lab, is absolutely devoted to me. I have no idea why. She follows me everywhere. She sleeps in our bed every night (under the covers, of course!) and has conditioned herself to wake up and hop out of bed when she hears the “beep-beep” of me shutting my alarm clock off. She also knows when I shut the TV off at night and it makes a “beep-beep-beep” shutting down sound, she runs upstairs and knows its time for bed. My husband and kids are amazed when I show them these little tricks, because I am the only one she will do them for.

10. As someone whos been on both sides of the adoption experience, what do you think birthparents and adoptive parents should know about each other?

I think the most important thing to remember is that no matter what, everyone is in this for the child. That’s who matters most. Our main goal is to do what’s best for that little boy or girl.

Monday, November 14, 2011

USA! USA! USssigh….

I’m at Starbucks right now, ostensibly doing some freewriting in preparation for a possible future novel, which is a huge indulgence because the circus novel isn’t anywhere near done. But a few drafts in, I get itchy to start something new, and I’m not nearly practical or short-winded enough to just work on a short story.

I’m also drinking a salted caramel hot chocolate, another huge indulgence (360 calories; thanks, stupid new law requiring Starbucks to inform me of this).

But I was distracted from my indulgences by these wristbands that Starbucks is selling. They look like little loops of bungee cord sealed with a metal square. I have to admit they’re more attractive than the LIVESTRONG-style bands. The red and blue bungee bands promote “Americans Helping Americans Create Jobs.” If you buy the $5 wristband, some money will go to a domestic micro-loan program.

My first thought when I saw this was Oh my god, we’ve become our own third world charity case.

I’ve done my fair share of holiday shopping at The Hunger Site, and I would definitely prefer to give someone a fair trade Taureg* ebony and coin silver cuff bracelet from Mali than sweatshop-made Muppet-fur boots from Claire’s Boutique. Nevertheless, I’m always a little skeptical about shopping for any cause. Is making ebony and coin silver cuff bracelets for Americans as helpful as, say, making food or clothing for fellow Malians? Does buying a bracelet lull us into a false sense of good deed-doing and prevent us from writing our congresspersons or donating cash to an organization that would make a bigger impact?

I genuinely don’t know the answers to these questions. I just know that such transactions smack of paternalism in a way I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe just because they let us pretend we didn’t create our own crappy post-colonial world in the first place.

According to some statistics I’ve heard,** the U.S. is officially a second-world country now, meaning that while we have stuff like the internet and Chipotle, we also have a giant chasm between rich and poor. So now we’re treating ourselves in the same well meaning but half-assed and unsustainable way that we treat Mali or Haiti or Guatemala.

Because let me tell you, every mug, thermos, and eco-friendly reusable Starbucks lunch bag they’re selling here is stamped Made in China. Call me crazy, but I have this idea for how we could create jobs in the U.S.


*The site says Taureg is a “term used to identify numerous groups of nomadic peoples in the Sahara Desert.” Is that why Volkswagen named their SUV “Touareg”? Because driving around in an all-terrain vehicle is kind of like being a nomadic person of the desert?

**The Second World by Parag Khanna. Also, my yoga teacher.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

unbirthday

As anyone who’s been surprised by a tiny thirty-week baby or gotten induced for a second time knows, due dates don’t mean much. Still. Tomorrow would have been mine. 11/11/11—which I only found out because I used one of those online due date calculators, not because my poker-faced doctor ever encouraged me to look so far ahead. (And he was right, but still, fuck that.)

Except that it wouldn’t have been my due date, because I was carrying twins, who never hang out in utero for the full forty weeks. Sometimes it boggles my mind that I was pregnant, and with twins. Even just typing it feels like a lie, or at the very least some kind of dubious legend passed down from a long time ago. But my body knows. My body always knew. And when I fell apart so spectacularly, I think it was partly the result of my mind pushing one idea—You can’t possibly be this sad about babies who were never babies, so there must be something else terribly wrong with you—and my body pushing another: You were sheltering two little people and then they just left and now you’re all alone.

Now both my mind and body are wondering about the parallel universe in which I’d be the sleep-deprived, grouchy, terrified, self-doubting blissfully happy mother of two one-month-old-ish boys.* AK would have been sleep-deprived, grouchy, messy, socially starved and blissfully happy.

I’ve been helplessly, absurdly, gut-wrenchingly envious of pregnant women over the past six months (well, really, the whole year, from when we first started trying). I’ve been more envious of pregnant women than women with babies, which is weird because I never saw pregnancy as more than a means to an end. But that’s my mind talking. My eyeballs saw baby bumps and transmitted wishful telegrams to my heart and uterus.

I mean, I don’t know. I don’t know how the mind and body work, or how they’re connected. I’ve learned that the body does in fact carry knowledge, but I’ve also learned that that particular truth is a slippery slope into thinking that your mind caused a baby to die or a tumor to grow or whatever, and I’ve racked up some serious therapy bills trying to learn that the universe’s math is not nearly so neat and tidy (or so mean).

Still. I wonder, as my parallel universe self proceeds from pregnancy to motherhood, if I’ll stop reserving my most intense envy for pregnant women and start directing it at parents of infants. And then toddlers. And then…but hopefully, by the time we would have had a toddler, we’ll actually have an infant. (If not sooner. If not tomorrow. The fun of adoption is that it could, in theory, happen any minute. This is also the craziness of it.) And by that point, I’ll be so in love with our actual baby that I’ll be glad to live in this universe and not that other one.

There’s also a world in which I never got pregnant at all, and one in which I’m still with B, and maybe one in which I lived out my ninth grade dream of marrying the guy who played Sodapop in our high school production of The Outsiders. But the Squeakies were in this universe for a minute, which is why I’m glad to be here now, in one of the worlds in which I got to love them.


*Did I ever tell you they were boys? We know this only because they did an autopsy, or whatever you call an examination of a body that was never a body. They were “genetically normal males” with a pesky neural tube defect. I am glad and not glad to know all of this, like so many of the things I know.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

this friday, let's do something different

Yoga and movies are getting a little old. Instead, let's go to a dive bar on the industrial outskirts of Santa Ana, near the John Wayne Airport. A place where guys dress like this:


We'll meet up with Lori, Brett, Maria, Calvin, Pedro and Stephen, plus Stephen's sister and her crew, who told us about this night.


So that's a Huey Lewis and the News cover band onstage? I don't actually know any of their music, but if you say so. I do remember shelving their CD that summer I worked at the Wherehouse. Remember the Wherehouse?

Let's pretend like we're being followed by paparazzi.


I guess the next band, Lady Zep, is the only thing it could be: an all-girl Led Zeppelin tribute band. What do you think their day jobs are? I mean, assuming this isn't a full-time gig yet.

You're right, the lead singer is definitely an admin assistant. The kind who sounds very authoritative on the phone but takes a lot of smoke breaks. Except, she doesn't really sound like she smokes. She sounds pretty good, actually.


And how about her? She looks like she likes animals. "Do you have your Petco card with you today?" Yeah, I can picture it.


The drummer is a dispatcher for a trucking company. She will not take any shit. Not any.


Have we really been here two hours? I can't believe Stephen's sister and her crew have been in the dive-bar equivalent of the mosh pit this whole time. I admire them, seriously. Endurance is a very important trait, like, if you're in the CIA and being waterboarded or something.

Oh wait, the headliners are finally here! Metalachi: They do mariachi covers of heavy metal songs. Get it?

From far away, they look like a mariachi band.


Up close they look like Kiss, or pirates, or vikings. Or all of the above.


They sound kind of great. I mean, they're jokier than Mariachi El Bronx, which is my new favorite rock/mariachi hybrid, but they can play the hell out of their instruments.

The between-song banter is starting to annoy me, though. Why did they invite that girl onstage and spend like ten minutes mixing her some wacky drink and then pretend to hump her? There wasn't really a punch line. I feel like I'm in a weird dream.

They all talk in these fakey Mexican accents, except for the guy who sounds inexplicably Bostonian/New Zealand-ish. I mean, I know they're Mexican and all, and it's supposed to be okay to do stereotypical impressions of a thing if you are that thing. But it doesn't feel quite that well thought out.

Oh, and now they're joking about some slutty girl. I hope she's fictional. One of them just said, "Ay, I heard that girl's a dude" and someone else yelled, "Nasty!" Ha ha! Girls who aren't pretty are lame! Girls who were born dudes could never be pretty! The concept of a girl with a penis strangely intrigues and therefore angers me!

Okay, we're outta here. We ordered some sodas to stay awake, but they were the flattest sodas ever. And I like flat soda. The fish and chips we had earlier was pretty good, but seriously, what kind of bar cannot make a Coke? Next Friday, let's go to yoga.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

what i read in october

Not much, as it turns out. I blame shortened library hours. But I did reread Pinko by Jen Benka and wrote a longer review for Gently Read Literature (cyber-flip to page 11). I almost never reread books because there are so many I haven’t read even one time, but whenever I do, I’m reminded of what a worthwhile activity it is. New meanings emerge, structures become apparent, the text works its rhythms into your soul. I feel like real writers reread.

If I were a real writer, I would probably be reading the classics below for the third time. But I also believe that real writers don’t waste time apologizing for their imperfect reading habits. The important thing is the voraciousness.

A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean: I started this book on a trip to Montana (perfect, right?). Maclean sums up the spiritual effect of the landscape beautifully: "For all of us, mountains turn into images after a short time and the images turn true. Gold-tossed waves change into the purple backs of monsters, and so forth. Always something out of the moving deep, and nearly always oceanic. Never a lake, never a sky."

He talks about hiking--during his years in the Forest Service--to various rhythms, and clearly he has a musician's ear. Or maybe a preacher's, like his father. The language is one part cowboy wit, one part biblical. The content is a similar blend of adventure tale and philosophy, set in the rugged terrain of men and lovingly calling its bluff, which makes me see him as an odd sort of precursor to Dave Eggers. I also really enjoyed reading a somewhat contemporary older man's remembrances of his youth--I feel like that's the closest look I'll ever get at 1919, and it feels like a privilege.

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton:
This earlier novel of Edith Wharton's lacks the polish and maturity of The Age of Innocence; sometimes I felt like I was reading a trashy gossip rag. But I mostly mean that in a good way. The story of Lily Bart, a fun-loving upper class bachelorette who is inconveniently lacking cash, exposes the cruelty of class and gender discrimination as well as many tragic personal flaws (namely Lily's ability to adapt to any situation, which makes her unable to commit to any one kind of life). At an earlier point in my own life, I think I would have been more put off by Lily's snobbery and greed. Now it's hard not to relate to this woman who wants too much (though not more than many of her peers have), is punished for it, accidentally (spoiler alert) commits suicide while trying to manage her anxiety, and dies clutching an invisible baby. There but for the grace of Zoloft....

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

happy halloween! here’s a peanut butter cup and my life story

I love our neighbor Jennifer. When I complained to her the other day that we never get any trick-or-treaters, she promised to come by with her daughter. I take all commitments very seriously, so I went into work early, left early and sat in traffic thinking, There are children who need me!

I got home and threw our light-up Snoopy “Happy Halloween” thing in the window just in time to see Jennifer and Lucia coming up the sidewalk (or, more likely, they came over when they saw our light was on). Lucia was a baby carrot, although she’d gotten fussy when Jennifer tried to put her green frondy hat on, so basically she was wearing a big orange bib.

“It’s okay,” I assured her. “Some carrots don’t have tops.” But I don’t think Lucia, who is two, was all that self-conscious about it.

“Kitty,” she said.

“Do you think we could see your cats?” Jennifer asked.

I invited them in, the cats having been sequestered for the night to protect them from possible tricksters. Seriously, my aunt had this adorable black kitten named Spider who was killed in a truly horror movie-worthy way one Halloween. No way am I letting ours (who look like a witch’s cat, an increasingly round pumpkin and, well, a cat with cancer, respectively) out into the wilds of Highland Park on Halloween night.

T-Mec did her happy three-legged bunny hop over to Jennifer and Lucia, whom I think she’s missed as she’s become more housebound. Lucia petted her very, very gently.

I don’t know Jennifer very well—I actually just found out Lucia’s name like a week ago—but she’s one of those people I want to instantly spill my life story to. She just has such a warm vibe. It must be hard to be one of those people, always getting sidelined by people’s life stories. I wanted to tell her that I love her kids (even when they’re screaming, as one was the other day, “Daddy, I will never love your again!”) and the fact that she worries about being “that lady” when calling the police about the abandoned house around the corner. I wanted to tell her that C.C. and I are working on having kids of our own and that even though hers might be, like, ten when that finally happens, I want them to have play dates.

“Alright,” she said to Lucia. “Let’s go home and you can eat your candy.”

Lucia explained her priorities: “I want kitty.”

“You can come by anytime,” I said, and I meant it.

“I want kitty,” Lucia said.

We also got a baby monkey and a princess and a superhero. Toward the end of the night the teenage kids from up the street came by.

“Where’s your cat Fernando?” they asked. “And what’s the other one’s name? Missouri?”

We figured it made sense that Ferdinand would kick it with the older kids. For the rest of the night we called Ferd and Temecula Fernando and Missouri. We didn’t want OC to feel left out of the nickname biz, so we decided that City is to State as County is to Continent. We called him Australia and Western Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa, and he and I both pretended that we weren’t too shy to make friends with the neighbors.