December 31, 2006

Time to Change the Station

It's almost the end of the year, and at this point it couldn't go fast enough for me. After months of what felt like a largely idyllic existence, I seem to have suddenly fallen victim to some horrible voodoo curse related to all things mechanical in my life. My stereo receiver died. This was actually a good thing, considered in a certain light, as the receiver in question was the original "heading off to college" edition, and I had been eager for it to give me a reason to replace it. When it croaked at last, I spent months discovering that all stereo receivers are ugly. And then I finally found my fabulous Harmon Kardon receiver (pictured above, except it's way cooler in person), with free shipping, no less, from J and R.

Two weeks after the Harmon Kardon arrived, my CD player died, rendering the receiver mostly moot. My DVD player had already succumbed. One of the overhead lights in the kitchen is on its last legs. The lights in there take these circular flourescent bulbs that take two adults and a fifth of rum to replace. And I don't drink.

Once we'd all recovered from the cold from hell, T's car limped home and died in our driveway. As the granddaughter of a chauffeur, I expertly diagnosed the problem based on the symptoms she reported, called out the AAA battery truck, and had the car up and running in no time.
Since we'd been concerned about how rough the engine was running, I decided to drop the car off at the shop anyway. just to be on the safe side. Turned out the car was running on three cylinders. The mechanic took hundreds of our greenbacks and replaced a fuel injector. Two days later the car died again on the day before Christmas as my partner was running around doing her by-now-traditional last minute shopping. The initial issue had been with the alternator, not the battery, and the new battery had masked the problem. We signed over another paycheck and hoped we were out of the woods.

Two days later we piled into the other car for a trip to my sister's in MD. At the gas station on the way out of town some total stranger accosted us. What did this guy want? When we rolled down our windows and concentrated, it seemed that he was concerned about the non-round shape of our right rear passenger-side tire. Yep. Flat city. We loaded it up with enough air to get it to the garage (I think we're funding our mechanic's next vacation), transferred all our luggage and presents, and left it with instructions to please deal with the flat. Yesterday the aforementioned mechanic called to say that he couldn't find the key for undoing the wheel locks.

[insert whimpering noises here]

SO. These events have driven me round the bend. I have easily earned the "crazy" to qualify for membership in the "
Crazy Hip Blog Mama" ring. And while I generally believe that anyone who claims to be hip immediately voids any claim on the title by saying it out loud, I will gently refer any skeptics to my sidebar, which includes not only a Flickr badge but also an Upcoming badge. I even know what a favicon is.... and I have one, too. Not to mention the fact that I hosted the Running Fool earlier this month. I mean, c'mon! (I realize that all of these pieces of evidence may actually be tallied in the "geek" column, but I do have a trump card: I'm a gay American. Totally hip, right? Or at least trendy.)

The "blog mama" part of my qualification is abundantly clear to
anyone who's ever read this blog (hi, Dad!). We can simply stipulate and move on, n'cest pas?

All of this means that I can also drool over such bloggity items as a new site design by the fabulous folks at
Ciao My Bella.

Hope I win. I need to change the station.

December 27, 2006

Aging Haiku

A wall of old tools –
lit by the light of their time –
aching to be used.

We went on a lantern-light tour of some of the historical sites in Washington Crossing State Park last week. I love that feeling, of history simultaneously impossibly far away and yet tantalizingly close.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 26, 2006

Christmas Past

After living in New Jersey for almost as long as I lived in Philadelphia, the stars finally aligned this year to allow me to partake of some of the fabulous historical re-enactments of the events surrounding the battles of Trenton and Princeton.

I shouldn't have been surprised to discover that there are thousands of people who turn out to watch the annual re-enactments of Washington's famous crossing of the Delaware.

It's a great story (and I'm borrowing liberally from David Hackett Fischer's great account for my details), and watching the Durham boats make their way across in the same spot that Washington's forces did is spine-tingling theater.

There were supposed to be three groups of colonials crossing the river on the cold and stormy night of December 25th, 1776. Generals Cadwalader and Ewing were forced to call off their planned crossings; the river ice and rising storm made the task impossible. Only Washington was able to get across with both men and cannons, aided by local ferrymen who knew the river and men of a Marblehead regiment who knew how to handle boats in adverse conditions. The great majority of the army, like most populations in eighteenth century America and Europe, were unable to swim a stroke.

The secret pass phrase that night was "Victory or Death," and though I am a good Quaker, I am also grateful now for the work of those men then, without whose determination and passion our fledgling republic might well have foundered.

(Apparently someone told one of these re-enactors
that the soldier he was representing hadn't owned shoes after all...)

We're already talking about next time.

December 21, 2006


(D and his best friend JT have been playing together in the livingroom almost nonstop for about six hours.)


Let's play pretend,
that game where you start
by saying let's pretend,
and then you keep going,
and anytime you stop,
the other person can say
let's pretend and get it going again.

Let's pretend
that I
have the powers of Lord Voldemort
and you
have the powers of Darth Vader.
we will be so bad.

Let's pretend
that this broom on the rug
is actually flying through the air
and that chair is a dragon
and we both have wands
but sometimes our spells
don't work right.

Then let's ask if we can
take our shirts off
so we can be pirates.
When we get thirsty
we can go into the kitchen
and ask for chocolate milk
except we'll call it rum.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 20, 2006


As parents, we are conscious of the awesome opportunity and responsibility we have for creating meaningful traditions in our son's life.

We have a tradition of Forever Family Day (the day his adoption was finalized).

We have a tradition of Friday evening trips to the library (for new bedtime storybooks) and the bread store (for raisin challah).

We have a tradition of singing "The Moon Song" at bedtime. Every night.

All of these traditions came into being with some degree of awareness on our part. But sometimes a tradition just sneaks up on you. Apparently we also have a tradition of D cutting the netting off of our newly selected Christmas tree.

Glad we stumbled into it.

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 19, 2006

Walk On the Wild Side

On an average day, we are presented with approximately 29 opportunities to put the proverbial parental foot down.

The Five Year Old Manual apparently includes entire chapters on "How to Dig In Your Heels" and "How To Pick Fights With Your Parents."

Thankfully, I am married (excuse me, domestically partnered and eventually may be civil unioned, arrgh) to a genius.

When Little Mr. Wonderful started kicking up a fight about the necessity of making the transition to long-sleeved shirts and long pants as the mercury dropped, my better half came up with a brilliant action plan.

She put him out.


Just for a minute or so, you understand. It went like this:

Tama: Well, sweetie, the weatherman thinks it's going to be pretty cold out today, but you're feeling like you don't want to wear warmer clothes, is that right?

D: Right.

Tama: Okay, maybe the weatherman was wrong about today. Here's the deal. You go out the back door in the clothes you think are warm enough, and run around to the front door. When I let you in, you tell me whether you were warm. Are you ready?

D (always happy for an excuse to run, and not quite believing his good fortune): Ready!

Tama: On your marks, get set, GO! (Opens back door and releases t-shirt and shorts-clad five year old into the wild.)

7 seconds later at the front door, D: Oh my gosh, the weatherman was wrong, it's not just cold, it's FREEZING, I need two jackets, quick, Tama, quick, before the frost bites me!!

Common Sense: 1
Foolhardy Exposure: 0

December 18, 2006

Go, Running Fool!

Would you give this man a ride in your car? How about a meal or a place to sleep? Nearly 300 people from cities across the United States and Canada are doing one or more of these acts of kindness for a stranger - who's a virtual friend - as they participate in the 2006-2007 Ze Fool Relay.

I'm going to try to get Luke Vaughn, aka Running Fool, aka the Human Baton, to slow down enough for a pit stop en route to NYC from Philly on Dec. 23rd.

Why? Because I love being the welcome wagon. And because it just seems like it would be fun. I don't know him well enough to know what might tempt him, though. And he's got a pretty busy itinerary.

So Luke, if you're listening, tell the DelVal Sports Racers what might make it worth your while... :-)

Storm Haiku

The birds were quiet,
their silence leaving space for
the song of the wind.

Afterwards, branches
laid on stunned earth, murmuring
hello's and goodbye's.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 16, 2006


Do you remember God's Eyes?

I had completely forgotten.

Now that D is old enough to be in the "kindergarten through 2nd" First Day School class, I am usually not with him until the rise of meeting.

Earlier this month, when I went to pick him up, he was halfway through creating his very first God's Eye, and I was suddenly flooded with memories of my own childhood hand-crafting days.

Remember the first potholder you ever wove? On that little tiny loom? Remember the boondoggle lanyard
– or did you call it gimp? – that you made at camp? Remember that super-cool popsicle stick birdfeeder?

Such a thrill, to enter the world of making, to be able to create something that seemed real and recognizable and useful and grown up.

What do you remember? Tell me a story?

(Thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 14, 2006

The Ghanzi-Kang Road

For years
for lifetimes
the government of my country
has been trying to push me
out of my homeland.

Only one game reserve in the world
is larger than ours
here in the Central Kalahari desert.
Surely there is room enough
for hyenas, wildebeest, lions, gemsbok
and the San – my people –
in addition to the diamonds
everyone cares so much about.

Yesterday, in a courtroom,
we won the right to return.
Do you know that feeling,
washing off the dust
of Deception Valley
but still so happy
to have walked in it?

I'm heading for the Ghanzi-Kang road,
and from there my tracks are my own.
I am going home. I am going home.
It will be a fine story.
I am going home.

(Thanks to the women of Poetry Thursday
for their continuing inspiration. And to
the San, whose victory yesterday inspired this poem.)

(Click here for the story of the San's victory.)

December 13, 2006

We're Going To Miss You, Bob Lucid

My beloved sister called me in tears last night to tell me that Bob Lucid had died.

That little tiny picture is the only picture of him I could find, and I wish now, of course, that I had taken the time to get a good picture of him at Steve's awesome party this summer.

Bob Lucid was a guiding light in my sister's life, and my knowledge of him comes through her, so I am one step removed from the sadness.

Which makes most of you two steps removed.

So rather than talk about Bob himself, this guy I didn't know very well and who you maybe didn't know at all, I wanted to talk just for a minute about the Bob-sized hole he left behind.

Bob Lucid was the kind of person who believed in others. If you had a dream that seemed a little crazy to you, Bob would treat it as something that you were likely to be able to achieve. And somehow, buoyed by his enthusiasm, you would find yourself thinking that maybe your dream wasn't so crazy after all.

Bob Lucid was an elder with a long memory. If you were lucky enough to have been his friend for many years, he would keep parts of your history alive, telling stories from your life and his, binding them together.

And he believed in the power of language to connect people.

So that's part of what my sister is missing tonight. And it's not even the half of it. We're going to miss you, Bob Lucid.

December 12, 2006

Christmas Carol Tag

Nancy over at GenreCookShop tagged me with this request for my five favorite holiday songs. A nice excuse to have my head full of music; thanks, Nancy!

Stille Nacht (auf Deutsch)
I realized in putting together this list that I like this song in German not because I'm snobby about doing it in the original or anything like that. Rather, it's the fact that my German is a little rusty that makes me want to sing this song in German; I have to think just a little bit about every word, in a way that I never would in English.

O Little Town of Bethlehem
It's the small town girl in me, I guess; I just like it when a little town gets its moment to shine.

Oh Holy Night
Just can't resist this soaring melody.

Deck the Halls
C'mon, you know nothing says "holiday season" like GAY apparel!

Baby It's Cold Outside
Just love the playful overlapping lines of this.

Runners Up:
White Christmas
Pearl Bailey's rendition of "Five Pound Box of Money" (cracks me up every time)

Hell, no:
Little Drummer Boy
He can just pa rum pum pum pum right outta here, thank you very much.

Chelle, Sassafras Mama, Jaxter, Julie, and Cate, you've got next ups!

December 10, 2006

Haiku - Container

Solid in our grasp,
the box of things that matter.
Until all changes.

Hills and drifts of snow

bring us firmly to stillness.
If only briefly.

What contains us now?
Who and what do we contain?
Lines blur in the white.

(Thank you to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 08, 2006

Think Equal

Think Equal

Today's addition to my Christmas wish list?

A bunch of people supporting this ad campaign. Seriously. Got $5.00 lying around? How about $50.00? How much would you pay to join the fight for true equality for my family?

PS: Thanks, Juan.

Punishment and Reward

Punishment should be swift, but not unheralded.

Punishment should not establish a precedent for physical violence or cruelty.

Punishment should be tailored to the offending act whenever possible.

Punishment should pass like a summer storm; emphasize the possibility of redemption, not the likelihood of everlasting damnation.

Rewards should be lavished, not doled out in a miserly fashion. If a reward has been earned, get into that celebratory spirit and live it up!

Rewards should not contradict previously established rules. ("But I thought you said fried foods were bad for me!")

Rewards should not be offered for behavior that should be standard. (This is the famous "do not confuse rewards with bribes" corollary.)

Rewards can serve as a useful reminder when the task at hand is of a long-term nature.

This is what I believe. My actions do not always conform to my beliefs. Your mileage may vary. And Wendy Mogel probably said it better in her helpful book, Blessings of a Skinned Knee.

(Thanks to the women of Sunday Scribblings
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 07, 2006

Cold Haiku

My eyes are tearing.
My nose is about to drip.
My pillow calls me.

December 04, 2006

The Dude in the Red Suit

D informed me in the car ride home tonight that he believes in Santa.

"Not everybody does believe," he clarified. "But I do."

"Me, too, buddy," I said.

But then I started thinking about all my friends for whom the Christmas season is basically one long slog through hell.

If you're one of those folks, or even if you're not, you might enjoy this gallery of Santa visits gone bad.

Sometimes we all need reminding that what's fun for us can be downright torturous for someone else.

December 03, 2006

Haiku Close Up

Not just almonds and
cocoa and egg and flour:
this is alchemy.

For years my Oma spent these early days of December up to her elbows in flour, making almond cookies and her famous German Stollen for everyone in our extended family.

Which was great. Except I never really liked Stollen.

When I started to feel bad about all the time and energy Oma was putting into my annual holiday care package, I floated the idea of telling her. My immediate family members' reactions ran the gamut from aghast to horrified. "You can't TELL her!" my sister yelped.

But I did. As nicely as I possibly could.

There was a brief pause.

And then my Oma kindly said, "Ja? Vell zen, vat shouldt I make for you?"

So, as the next generation holiday baker in our family, I make something I DO enjoy (aided by an annual visit from D's Aunt Chelle, who comes and scoops him up and takes him on all kinds of adventures so that I can stay in the kitchen for hours on end). Biscotti.

And my only request to my family members is that they TELL me if they'd prefer something else.

Which they do.

(Thanks to the women of One Deep Breath
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 02, 2006


When our son was small, we timed his crying.

Not always. And not for long. (If it went on too long, past our pre-determined idea of how long was too long, we swooped in to rescue him.) But during that time when he was figuring out how to comfort himself as he fought and eventually gave into sleep, the waiting was torturous. It felt like he was crying forever. One night we wondered how long forever was, and so turned on a timer to document eternity.

Eight minutes, as it turns out.

My relationship to time has changed dramatically since becoming a parent. As a stereotypically "punctlich" girl of German descent, I have had to adjust my ideas about time, both in my approach to my own activities and in my ideas about time as they relate to parenting.

For one thing, I try to leave myself more time. I start getting ready to leave WAY before I think we need to, because, well, socks will be rejected, jackets will be AWOL, bathroom visits will be declined and then suddenly demanded, and tempers – mostly mine – will fray.

And I try not to rush D without good cause. Someone pointed out to me that a child's life must sometimes seem as if they're simply being dragged from one thing to another, desperately trying to keep up on their little legs when all they really want to do is squat down and get a good luck at that dead spider.

This first weekend in December has become the traditional time for my holiday bake-a-thon. In order to help me pull this off, and because she enjoys hanging out with her nephew, D's Aunt Chelle comes down for the weekend and largely whisks him away. (T, of course, is stapled to her desk reviewing applications.)

For this weekend, I am suddenly "sprung" from what has been one of the harder parts of parenting for me... keeping track not only of my needs but also of D's. Since he was born, this has meant that I have a kind of low-level awareness of a secondary clock. Not just when I'm hungry, but when he's hungry. Not just when I'm tired, but when he is. As the old mom joke goes, "I'm cold; put on a sweater."

Today, when I needed to return a movie, I just went and did it. True, when I got back I had two timers going, to remind me of which racks of biscotti needed to removed or turned, but they were timers that I had set, so it felt different somehow.

Someday, I'll get a chance to sleep in again. But I'll probably have forgotten how.

(Many thanks to the women of Mama Says Om
for their continuing inspiration.)

December 01, 2006

World AIDS Day

Support World AIDS Day

At my school, we start each day with an all-school assembly. I don't usually make announcements – it's more of a student thing – and when I do, they're usually of the "get your applications in" brand of nagging.

Today several students made announcements about World AIDS Day, and I was moved to speak about the need for our continuing attention to this ongoing humanitarian crisis as well.

I surprised myself by almost crying. Because I was remembering this:

The following press conference is the first public mention of AIDS in the Reagan White House. At that time 200 Americans had died of a new infectious disease. Reagan himself did not mention AIDS for three more years.


Office of the Press Secretary


October 15, 1982

The Briefing Room

12:45pm EDT

Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement ­ the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?


Q: Over a third of them have died. It's known as "gay plague." (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it's a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't have it. Do you? (Laughter.)

Q: No, I don't.

MR. SPEAKES: You didn't answer my question.

Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President ­

MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)

Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I don't know anything about it, Lester.

Q: Does the President, does anyone in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?

MR. SPEAKES: I don't think so. I don't think there's been any ­

Q: Nobody knows?

MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.

Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping ­

MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he's had no ­ (laughter) ­ no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.

Q: The President doesn't have gay plague, is that what you're saying or what?

MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn't say that.

Q: Didn't say that?

MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn't you stay there? (Laughter.)

Q: Because I love you Larry, that's why (Laughter.)

MR. SPEAKES: Oh I see. Just don't put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)

Q: Oh, I retract that.

MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.

Q: It's too late.

This transcript was quoted at the beginning of Jon Cohen's book, Shots in the Dark: The Wayward Search for an AIDS Vaccine, 2001.

Support World AIDS Day