In which we move ahead

Me: I’m really enjoying my book. It’s funny writing and it’s interesting to me the way they went about their boycott. <shifts A Year Without Made in China across the table>
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Actually, the husband in the book reminds me of you. But it’s annoying me that instead of going without stuff and clearing out their house, they find other ways to buy stuff they don’t need.
The husband: Hmmm.
Me: But anyway, it’s really interesting. A very entertaining read.
The husband: Hmm.
Me: Oh my gosh you’re afraid I’m going to make you do it, aren’t you?
The husband: <avoids eye contact>

* * *

There’s a Google commercial going around right now that ends with a little girl asking into the phone, while lying on the floor next to her sleeping dog, “OK, Google, do dogs dream?”

Google’s response is, “Dogs dream like humans and about similar things.” The little girl smiles and pats her sleeping dog on the head.

Dietrich is sleeping right now and isn’t available to do a final dogblog before we move ahead. I don’t know what he’s dreaming about but maybe it’s all the new puppies in the neighborhood that we meet on our walks these days; he loves them, so the husband and I try not to talk too loud about getting a second dog when Dietrich is within earshot. We wouldn’t get a second dog here in the green-ceiling condo anyway, but the time will come, before Dietrich is too much older, that we’ll add to the pack in four-legged format. Dietrich is too great a dog to not pass on his wisdom to a younger pup.

And the oyster would love a second dog, too. After she took a nose-dive off a friend’s porch last week, skinning her cheek and her nose and developing a purple knot the size of her fist, she cried for a minute and then asked for crackers and puppies. The girl bounces back pretty quick.

And speaking of kids, today was my last monthly blood draw at the ob, provided the numbers come back normal. They have been normal since March so I trust that September will be no different! That means we have the blessing of Western medicine to add to the pack in two-legged format. When I asked the husband the other week if we should go ahead when we get the go ahead or if we should wait for, hmm, I don’t know, something or…another time…or…I don’t know. His response? “I’m always up for another kid.” Good man.

When we talked about having kids before the oyster, one thing I wanted was to be debt-free. That didn’t happen before the oyster came into our lives but it happened in June and delayed though our milestone was, it was an excellent 29th birthday gift to me. Then again we weren’t actually debt-free until August when I remembered a library fine of $4.50, packed up the oyster, drove to our old neighborhood, and forked over the quarters I was saving for the library book sale at the end of the week. All in the name of financial freedom.

Dietrich is awake now and he is looking at me with his cartoon eyes, which suggests that he thinks I’m leaving something out. Oh, I think he wants me to mention his gray chin hairs. All gray. Very distinguished and handsome. He also wants me to mention that we signed up for dog food delivery from Amazon so he gets a package every month and he feels very sophisticated and urbane.

But back to the conversation with the husband at the beginning of this post. This week I finished the book A Year Without Made in China: One Family’s True Life Adventure in the Global Economy by Sara Bongiorni. It’s my kind of book–a personal social experiment conducted purely to see if it’s possible? Yeah, that’s me. And no, I’m not going to make the husband do it. But it fits well with the moves we’ve been making toward a more minimalist lifestyle in the last few months and the fact that I borrowed it from the library instead of buying it from Amazon is proof positive of that. Dedicating ourselves to the frugal oyster budget was a great foundation for this minimalist thing and I like making less-is-just-less-and-that’s-the-goal a permanent thing for us. 

Anyway. Dietrich thinks we should keep the Red white and new Facebook page when we close up blog-shop tomorrow and I agree. That will be helpful in staying connected while we also spend less time in front of the computer, talking on behalf of the dog. Who has his own dreams of published books and perfectly broiled salmon, if Google is to be believed. 

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A credit union, a flower, and six strangers

photo(56)

Her favorite “toy” in the kitchen is the box of garbage bags. She likes the sound it makes when
she pops the cardboard “lid” in and out of the box. Preferences.

 

One of the most exciting and most humbling parts of being a parent is realizing, usually a little more each day, that this tiny person I’m taking care of isn’t just a baby, she’s another person. A whole, complete person and that means she has a personality and preferences of her own. It’s cool to see and like I said, humbling. I think the earlier parents learn that our kids do and will have their own preferences that may not be the same or even similar to ours, the less hurt and offended and frustrated we’ll be as those preferences and personalities develop and gain mass. Helping these little people do just that is part of the whole idea, after all.

Yesterday the little oyster and I went to Old Town with the little sister. We were heading for the used book store on King St. and the little sister had to stop at the credit union. She dashed inside and the little oyster and I sat down on the edge of a large cement planter in a courtyard. Planted behind us was a colorful tangle of little flowers. Tiny white, pink, and yellow blooms were cuddled up with vibrant greenery, each delicate petal and leaf swaying gently in the light breeze.

I love flowers. I love to look at them and take in the colors and decide which blossom I think is the prettiest and which one is the most tenacious and which one I’d want to live in if I were Thumbelina and there were no such thing as ants. I like watching the wind move things. So I faced the little oyster toward the planter and pointed out the different colors. “Flower, baby girl.” “Yellow.” “Petals.” “Bumble bee.” The oyster watched the flowers quietly until a city bus drove by behind us and she craned her little neck over my shoulder to see what she was missing.

I turned us both around to face the street. As the bus chugged by the little oyster squealed with delight. A tall gentleman walked past wearing sunglasses, a messenger bag over his shoulder. The little oyster waved frantically at him and when he smiled, waved back, and greeted her with a “Hello, little girl!” she applauded. As he went into the building she looked for someone else to “talk” to. An older man dressed in gym shorts and a shirt that didn’t match shuffled by. The oyster waved both hands at him and chirped when he paused to wave both hands at her. A woman on a cell phone–smile and wave–delight on both their faces. Six strangers walked by between the time we turned toward the street and when the little sister came of the credit union. Six strangers in my estimation, six new best friends if we ask the little oyster.

By no means is anyone required to acknowledge my sweet baby when we’re out and about, but she’ll do her best to get you to. When we shop, she leans out of the cart and around displays when she hears people talking so she can see them and wave. She grins, her little eyes squinted up like an anime drawing and all six teeth showing, when someone walks by. Sometimes people see her and greet her and she claps for them. Sometimes they walk by unaware of the beaming little face shooting silent friendship rays at them. I make it a point to look people in the eye and smile at them when we pass, but I don’t seek them out the way the little oyster does. I was grabbing a box of Milk Bones off the shelf at Target the other day when a repetitive motion coming from my cart caught the attention of the only other shopper in the aisle. The oyster was bobbing her head like a turkey, staring down the other dog owner. When the lady smiled at the oyster and told her she was such a happy little baby, the oyster let out an ear-splitting shriek of sheer delight. Hear that, Mom? She likes me! We’re friends! I made another friend!

The little oyster is like her dad in this regard. Less shrieking on his part, but the outgoing, “How about those Nats, where are you from, I’ve been there before, let’s get a drink” is the same. You expect big personality from big people, but a lot of people see babies and figure they’re all the same, they’re all “just babies.” Sure they’re babies, but babies are wee people and their personalities may come in earlier than their teeth. I will be a better mom if I learn early and often that my daughter may prefer to watch traffic and wave at strangers instead of stopping to smell the petunias. That’s fine, the bees were getting too close for comfort anyway.

Tiger mother

tiger mom

Typically I would read a book, have an opinion on it, and post it quickly in the Books are our friends section of this blog. And for the record, I don’t post every book I read because that would be tedious and a decent number of the books I read right now are chick lit which is generally good reading (I recommend anything by Hester Browne if one needs a solid beach read!) but not generally worth reviewing, even so briefly as I do.

Anyway. The other week I found a copy of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua at a Goodwill. It was $1 and I remembered that the book had fueled great controversy when it was first released not long ago, so I brought it home. For some reason I thought it would be more research-heavy, all “studies show” and stuff. It wasn’t, it was entirely anecdotal and a very quick and engaging read.

Like I said, the book caused a major flap when it came out but I wasn’t really paying attention then. I do remember that Today had Chua on to talk about the book when it was published and that generally speaking, Americans were aghast at the book and its author. Chua stood her ground, and I, as someone who tends to be skeptical if I’m not flat out rejecting something, figured I would largely be on Chua’s side.

Holy tiger mother, Batman. I kid you not, this was my face more than once:

insane shocked

As we’ve established on this blog and in person, if we’re real-life friends, I don’t generally agree with and therefore don’t generally practice typical American battery-powered here’s-a-prize-for-participating-and-oh-didn’t-you-do-so-great-everyone-is-a-winner parenting. The husband and I, by dint of our personalities and conscious decisions, lean toward the less child-worship and more whole-family-focused French way of doing things. On paper side by side with sweeping generalizations about American parents, our Francophile methods can look inflexible or callous. (They’re not either one by any means. Look closer.) But compared to Chua’s tiger mother methodology, we’re on track to run a veritable Pleasure Island over here.

I could go on for days about this book and I highly recommend it to anyone who, well, anyone. It’s quick and it sheds interesting light on cultural differences that I bet most of us have encountered in some form. One thing Chua insists is that all parents want to do what’s best for their children, “the Chinese just have a completely different idea of how to do that” and that’s where I disagree with her the most. Obviously she’s right, Chinese and Western parents do have a different view of how to do what’s best for our children but I think a more serious difference can be found in what we think is best for our children. Without understanding first what we believe is best for our kids, how we accomplish it is a moot point.

And also:

whaaaat

The Reading Room

Library of Congress

Me: I have an all-day training session at the Library of Congress.
The husband: Oh, that will be fun for you.
Me: It’s in the Madison Building though.
The husband: You should go for half of it and then spend the rest of the day in the Main Reading Room. Take a page from my book on attending teacher training conferences.
Me: Hahaha. But hmmm. I have never been to the Reading Room. Can I get in there?
The husband: Your badge will get you in.
Me: It will? I’ve never tried. I can get into the main part where all the people are researching and all the tourists look down on them from the glass cage up above, like specimens?
The husband: Yeah. You should check it out, you’d love it.
Me: They’ll really let me in?
The husband: Yes. And then you can dance around like Belle.

That’s what sold me. Taking a lunch hour to be in the largest library in the world, a place with limited access and practically unlimited volumes of knowledge and wisdom (and Harry Potter!) was really an opportunity it would have been silly to ignore.

So after the husband and I ate our leftovers on the Library of Congress patio (Madison Building) I strolled over to the Jefferson Building (there are four Library of Congress buildings, btw. The Jefferson Building is the main one, the one people picture when they picture the LoC.) and tucked in through the carriage entrance.

I told the kindly gentleman at the information counter that I was there for the Reading Room and showed my Congressional staff ID. Amazing what that little bugger can do for you! He directed me through the winding halls of the building and soon I was at the entrance to the Reading Room. The kind but no-nonsense security guard told me I was supposed to have checked my bag in the cloakroom downstairs, since I wasn’t there on official business. I asked him what would constitute official business and maybe I could make an argument for it, but I was just a staffer there on my lunch hour. Congressional staff? Do you have your badge? Go ahead.

Go ahead I did. With a kid-in-a-candy-store grin on my face, I floated as if on a cloud walked through the “mountains of books, cascades of books!” I even took some of the winding secret staircases I came across.

Bliss.

With no direction but feeling like I should pull at least one book from its shelf, I wandered until finally, there it was. Who’s Who in 20th Century Great Britain. Baroness Margaret Thatcher had passed away just that morning. The husband and I had (middle) named the little oyster after her, and it seemed only fitting to pay a small tribute to her in this way. I pulled the book from the shelf, searched for Thatcher, and read the small blurb that, of course, as yet only included her birth date and marriage dates. I left the large volume open on the research table and went back to work.

reading room

Enraptured though I was, I did not, in fact, dance around like Belle. Maybe next time.

belle

Higitus figitus

The husband has had an extremely busy week at work, with long hours (last night he got home at 1:30 a.m. after a floor debate that lasted into the morning) and not much time or energy for anything else. This means that packing the shoebox has been up to me and while this truly isn’t a problem–I’m pregnant, not disabled–I do wish that Merlin was here to help. Hockety pockety.

Fortunately a lot of our boxes are still packed and stacked in the furnace room, which has doubled as the husband’s closet and tripled as off-season storage while we have lived here. Unfortunately in the last six months no fewer than seven utility/service/repair/handymen have come and gone from that room to fix anything and everything, so what used to be a carefully stacked and somewhat arranged set of boxes is now a haphazard leaning tower of cardboard and flimsy wire shelving.

Even more unfortunately, more for my attention span than anything else, there is a lot in those boxes that we have lived comfortably without for some months now, and, you guessed it, it’s not all coming to the new condo.

One thing at a time though. We have the shoebox until the end of the month, so there’s no need to box or donate everything before our mini U-haul arrives in the morning to carry our mattresses and my dresser to the new place. The priorities are packed and stacked neatly in a shoebox corner, since as Merlin says, “Books are always first, you know.”

And the sugar bowl is still sitting on a kitchen shelf, that pushy little bugger.

R&R at G&G’s B&B

This weekend the husband, Dietrich and I drove north to PA and spent the weekend at his grandparents’ house in the lovely, quiet, peaceful countryside.

Although it’s not actually a bed and breakfast, it may as well be. Staying with Mommom and Grandpa means sleeping in, hot cinnamon buns for breakfast, relaxing all day, sitting on the screened back porch feeling the wind blow gently, great food, and card games late into the night. The husband and I could get used to this retirement thing.

On Saturday the mother in law took the husband and me out to lunch at a favorite little restaurant in horse country. Lunch and the company were great. From there the husband took me to this book lover’s fantasy shop:

Yes, that is a barn filled with books. Five floors of rare, antique, and used books for every stripe of reader. The pictures are from yelp.com.

Of course a place like this has a resident book dog and a book cat, as any used bookstore should have. As we were preparing to tear ourselves away, the one book I was looking for out of all 450,000+ volumes caught my eye, and I was pleased to leave with a copy of Tina Brown’s The Diana Chronicles for next month’s book club.

The husband and I opted out of church on Sunday and spent the morning resting. Thanks to the roast Mommom made for dinner, and all the amazing trappings that went with it, Sunday was the first time I have felt full in about a month. This feeling lasted approximately four hours, and then it was time to feed the beast again.

Second week back at the new old job. I have all my new representatives lined up and a few media opportunities for them this week. We have more friends coming this weekend and I am so looking forward to having familiar faces around. This last weekend of R&R came at just the right time and I feel ready for a new week!

Dietrich, however, does not. The only time he moved from this position since we got home last night was when he woke himself up with his own snoring.

What we’re cut out for

The husband: Ok, this one will work. <swings racquet back and forth in aisle>
Me: Do you need to take any balls with you?
The husband: Hmmm. I might. I don’t know if this guy will have some.
Me: Heehee.
The husband: Heehee. <grabs can of racquetball balls>
Me: Anything else?
The husband: It’s really a good idea for me to have goggles. What do you think of these?
Me: Sexy.
The husband: These will work. Ok, I’m ready.

On Sunday the husband discovered that some of our new church friends play racquetball and soon he had Thursday evening plans with one of them. Picking up his new equipment, our conversation turned to rugby, one of the husband’s old pastimes.

In the course of one lap around the sporting goods store, smelling all the athletic gear goodness, we had a brief and valuable conversation about things we have been interested in that maybe just aren’t for us. The husband is thinking that his rugby days may be over–he doesn’t want the risk with a surgically enhanced knee and now a baby on the way. Besides that, it’s a really intense sport to play and keep in shape for. So racquetball and golf it is, with tennis and only the occasional rugby alumni game.

I realized this week that I don’t have the personality to be a full-time freelancer. I loved doing my book reviews in the old days, but that was a side job. I am not cut out to make a career of it, and dragging my feet on responding to freelance opportunities and then my joy at being at my new old job confirm this. I like the idea of freelancing, like I like the idea of being a runner, but it’s just not for me beyond an odd book review or a jog around the block.

In first grade I was selected to represent my class on the student council. Caught by surprise and pretty shy in those days, I took my lunch down to the school library for the first meeting, unsure of what I was doing but sure I didn’t want to do it. I sat alone, set my Little Mermaid lunchbox on the table in front of me, folded my arms over it, put my face on my arms, and bawled.

We simply aren’t made for some things. We aren’t cut out for them. We don’t like or want certain roles for a reason. Then again, what’s uncomfortable at one point might be a great fit later. We change.

Back to first grade me, crying my eyes out at a student council meeting.

By the time I was nearing dehydration, a librarian suggested I join my friends in the cafeteria and consider student council another year. I never considered student council again until high school, when I was elected to the student senate. Then I was NHS president. In college I was dorm president.

Since my inglorious non-start with leadership roles in first grade, I eventually got the hang of what it means to lead. I wasn’t cut out for it in first grade, as Ariel can attest. But eventually I got it and pretty soon I loved it. Now I’m on the social committee at church and this year’s progressive dinner is entirely in my hands, which are not folded over a lunchbox, catching drips.

There is no election to become a parent. Sometimes we think we aren’t cut out for it (not the husband–he’s pumped and can’t believe we have to wait six more months) but then we get used to the idea.

So what if I bawled my eyes out when I first found out I won this particular election? With the husband so excited and family so thrilled for us, I think I have finally got the hang of it. It being the idea of being a mom. Getting a hang of parenting is a whole new blog. Plus, the Little Mermaid lunchbox found a new home before we moved so I had to get it together pretty quick this time.

Now THAT is a happy customer.

 

One down, 18 to go

Of course I didn’t throw a Microsoft Paint party for myself. Dietrich hosted…

Today I finished the first draft (!) of my first children’s story (!) and I’m very happy (!) with the overall result. As a draft it will obviously undergo some changes, but the bones are there and they have meat on them. Yesssssss.

With Ray the golden alpaca born now, it’s time for Amanda Gorilla to have her day in the sun.

After that we’ll see where the Happy and Round series picks up. Two of those stories, chronicling the (mis)adventures of two baseball-loving little boys, were nearly complete but were lost forever on the errant USB drive. May it rest. And may my inspiration return ten-fold.

Also in the hopper, a young adult trilogy that follows a female cop through the streets of (yay, a location I can write about first-hand) Washington, DC. There are no vampires in these books. This is how I know they will sell to my target audience.

One day the grown-up novel I have in my head will also find its way on to paper. Interestingly, I have been mulling this one over for seven or eight months, and I still don’t have a title in mind. That’s how I know it will be good. Eventually.

And of course, my etiquette guide is always in the works. Feel free to email me (redwhiteandnewblog@gmail.com) with etiquette questions you would like me to answer in this tome.

Last but not least, my memoirs. One about my time as a sales rep, in short story format, and the other about other stuff, also in short story format I think. The sales one is partially complete, but I am still deciding whether or not to name names because I might need someone to print all these amazing works of genius and the old sales company is probably going to be my best bet. Things to consider…