Friday, December 29, 2006

Merry and Bright, Abridged

After not writing for several days now, I just tuned in and wrote a few paragraphs that were not worthy of you. When one hasn't written in a while, one begins to fret about where one should begin, and then one starts typing about oneself as in the third person, and thus begins a downward spiral which must end, oh, I'd say now.

Because I have so much to share with you and yet I am stealing time during Viva's nap, I must abbreviate this post.

Top Three Wonderfullest things about this holiday season:

1. My sister-in-law, Diva, offered to take Viva on Friday night Dec. 22 and return her to us on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, so we could enjoy Sweet Dub's birthday on Dec. 23rd kid-less. It should be obvious to all that we adore our child. But having a break from her for two nights was as good as having a three-week family vacation. We were recharged and ready to rumble.

2. On Sweet Dub's birthday, I had planned to surprise him with a massage at a local spa. When he found out that I had scheduled a massage only for him, but not for myself, he insisted that I take the appointment instead because I'd had a rough week at work. On this he would not be budged. "It's my birthday, you have to do what I want, and this is what I want," he said. The massage was heavenly, the staff was friendly and helpful, and I got to walk home from the spa through my neighborhood on a beautiful crisp clear day, leaves crunching underfoot, free of care and tension. Sweet!

3. I know, Christmas is not only about the presents (contrary to what Viva might have us believe). But Sweet Dub gave me the coolest little digital camera. I think it just might change my life. Now I can show you stuff like:

Viva playing with some of the 5,000 containers of Play-Doh she received this Christmas; or

Viva checking out her new basketball hoop

without having to say, "Hey, honey, can you upload the still pictures off your videocamera and e-mail them to me when you get to work?"

In fact, I could even upload the photos I took from this morning's hike in Bronson Canyon...if only Sweet Dub hadn't taken off with it (and my cell phone!) to deliver a TV to his cousin out by the airport. I may even take pictures of our cat.

Oh, right. Have I mentioned that the cat who left the rat head on our welcome mat has adopted us? He or she (I can't get close enough to it to identify which it is, not that it matters) began crying outside over the past few days. Having shared my home with cats from the age of 7 until 30-ish, I surmised that he or she was hungry. I pretty much caved quickly after that, bought some organic cat food at Trader Joe's, and began referring to the cat as Jean-Jean. Jean-Jean eats like there are mad Viking ocelots chasing him/her. S/he doesn't leave a morsel in the bowl, and as soon as s/he licks it clean, s/he vanishes. I don't mean you actually see the cat run away. No, I mean the cat literally evaporates, propelling itself to another dimension.

Every bit of this is true.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Hello, I Must be Going

Why, hello! How is your day going?

My day did not start out well. I am in some kind of a rut these days. L.A. is going through a cold snap (I know, cry me a river) and the temperatures plummet overnight. It has been in the 30s here and that is very unusual. All this to say, it’s pretty damn cold in the morning, and as a result I have been having trouble getting out of bed. So has Viva. Hence and therefore, mornings have become even more of a whirlwind, and thank God many people have taken this week off, because the traffic at least has been lighter. Which doesn't explain why I had to blow my horn at a stick-figure rolling through a stop sign in her silver Range Rover this morning when I was already in the intersection, and could see her charging right for my front fender. Perhaps she missed the memo about how she should stay off the road when I am trying to get my child to school (only Monday through Friday, between 7:45 and 8:30 AM).

Well and so, I am scrambling to finish two major projects before my last day of work for the year, which is this coming Friday. One of them is due December 31st and the other is due January 1st. Six of one, half dozen of the other, I can hear you saying. So true, so true. It is amazing how we so often think the same way, or at least I think we do.

At any rate, this morning I realized that I have just been figuratively holding on until Friday, and I also realized that this means that I have in some way been wishing a part of my life away.

Well, who does that? Be in the moment and all that. Life goes by quickly enough as it is.

I have been freaking out about everything that has not gotten done. I haven’t finished Christmas shopping, for one thing, and Sweet Dub’s birthday is coming up on Saturday and I’m trying to make plans for that. I have friends I’m supposed to see (hello, friends!) and oh, there’s no food in the house, and at least three other birthdays to buy presents for and Viva’s holiday show is tonight and then she only has a half-day of school Friday and it looks like I will be at work all damn day tomorrow because everyone is in vacation mode already and I’m not getting the four pieces of data I need for one project that I’m working on – data that I requested over a week ago and which I have repeatedly requested over the subsequent days, data I said I needed at the very latest YESTERDAY MORNING and you see how that would just make you want to smack somebody.

But you can’t, you see. Because that would be wrong. And not very Christ-like. And it’s the holidays, the holy days, when we are supposed to be all Christian charity-like and thing.

Find a happy place. You know what makes me smile? Viva’s imaginary friend Soren Lorenson has somehow morphed into an imaginary little brother. She is very concerned for him and makes sure I pick him up and put him in the bath with her and tuck him in with her at night and give him a kiss and take his blood pressure and temperature when we are playing doctor. It is very sweet and gives one the warm fuzzies. I am quite certain that if Viva had a real little brother, it would be just like that all the time. They wouldn’t fight and there would be none of that “He started it!” and they wouldn’t both be trying to get my attention while I was simultaneously driving the car and filleting a fish. It gives me hope.

Happy holidays.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Deep Breath and Count to Ten

Unexpected blog break – work is too crazy and non-work is even crazier. I just stopped posting for a while there and I can’t promise I’ll be posting more this week.

Right now I am having difficulty concentrating because my next-door Pentecostal cube-mate is loudly discussing yesterday’s service with a co-worker. This discussion involves actual singing, a replay of key points in the sermon and even, yes, a brief spate of praise dancing in the cubicle. Jesus H. Christ. And I mean that.

Speaking of which, last night, I was lying in bed with Viva, reading her stories. We were all cozy snuggly under the covers with our heads noodged together. We had just finished Blueberries for Sal and she asked me to re-read Merry Christmas, Maisy. Since it was already an hour after her bedtime, I said no. She then said she wanted to read it to me. I again said no, that it was late and she needed to go to sleep because she had school tomorrow. She balled up her little fist, hauled off and punched me.

And that was when all the air got sucked out of the room and it grew deadly quiet. Viva squirmed over on her side and stared up at me with big unblinking kitty cat eyes.

“I am very disappointed in you,” I said, climbing down out of the bed. (She sleeps in a loft bed.) “Hitting me? Especially so close to Christmas? That is not nice. It is very, very naughty. I don’t know if you should get any presents after that.”

Viva dissolved into a puddle of tears, hanging one arm out of the bed. “I looooooooove you,” she sobbed, reaching out pleadingly.

I hugged her to me. “I love you too,” I said. “But we don’t hit each other, right?”

“Yuh,” she said, sniffling and wrapping herself around me. “Will I still get toys [for Christmas]?”

“Yes, baby, you’ll still get toys.”

She sat up and pulled out of the hug slightly. Face still streaked with tears, looking up into my eyes, she said, “Even a Doodlebear?”

It is amazing to me that if Sweet Dub is stern with her, Viva can keep it together. She may get a little upset, but she won’t break down. If I am angry with her, forget it. She falls to pieces, and the worse thing I can do is walk away from her. She can’t stand it if she thinks I am mad.

It is also amazing to me how patient I can be with her. I am generally low on patience. I know this. I am prone to anxiety and irritability. I know this, too. And knowing this, I try extra hard with her. She is so small still.

Have you ever heard that old fisherman’s prayer, “Dear Lord, be good to me/the sea is so wide/and my boat is so small”? I really get that. I try to remember that when I have moments that try my patience. It is such a big world, and there is so much for Viva yet to learn.

And now, I must get back to my fishing. The seas are choppy, today, my friends.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Life in the Wild - Part 2 in a Series

This morning, I was deep in my slumber, but sort of coming back up to the surface and not quite waking up -- does this ever happen to you? You don't realize until you wake up that you were kind of bobbing up and down on the surface of wakefulness? -- and then Sweet Dub definitively broke my slumber by yanking open a dresser drawer and rummaging through it. I stretched and rolled over, which Sweet Dub took as the perfect opportunity to start yakking my head off. As it turns out, he was trying to wake me up. It was all part of his evil plan.

"Honey!" he said. "You're up. Oh my God."

"Hi," I said, or something like that.

"I got up this morning and I went out onto the front porch to get some wood to build a fire and I wasn't wearing any shoes and I stepped on a RAT HEAD. On our welcome mat! Oh my God!"

"Oh my God," I said, or something like that.

"I've been in the living room freaking out about it for twenty minutes and I can no longer be alone," he said.

I got up, put on my glasses, and realized it was 4:31 AM. On a Sunday.

We have this cat, you see. It doesn't belong to us, but our yard is definitely part of its turf. The cat is evil, in the way of Jean Jean and his evil cat. The cat has fought off another cat in our driveway at 3 AM, drinks out of our koi pond, sleeps in our backyard -- oh, and when I came by the house after we had gotten the keys but before we moved in? I found a half-eaten mouse on a bench in the backyard. Courtesy of the evil cat. The evil cat is deceptively beautiful. It is black, with a long full coat, a glorious fluffy tail and green eyes. It is not tame and does not want to be bothered with you. It just wants to hunt in our yard.

As it turns out, our property is the promised land for this cat. Because we live where? All together now: In The Wild.

I submit to you the following.

A few weeks after moving in, we began to hear disturbing scratching and scrabbling sounds above our heads at night. The sounds would wake us up. More than once I'd grab a broom and start pounding on the ceiling. But wait -- we no longer live in an apartment in the heart of the urban jungle. The sounds were not, as in our old place, tweaked-out meth addicts on the roof. This appeared to be some sort of animal.

We have yet to figure out what the animal is, but Sweet William went out and spent a fortune on sonic blasters, which he plugged in around the house and even up in the crawl space (I have no idea how he managed that). Guess what? No more noise.

A couple of weeks ago, I opened the back door to go throw out the recyclables. I stepped two feet out the door and heard the most bizarre noise imaginable. It was like a combination of squeaking and hooting coming from a bush a few yards away. I stopped and looked. The bush moved, but nothing came out. I stepped back inside.

"There's something out there," I said to Sweet Dub.

"Of course there's something out there," he said. "It's probably a squirrel."

I opened the door again. Another squeaking hooting warning call. I closed the door.

"No, it's a sound I've never heard before," I said.

After more discussion, Sweet Dub admitted that he had heard the sound recently as well, but didn't want to tell me for fear of freaking me out. "It doesn't sound like any animal I've ever heard," he said. "It sounds kind of like a primate. It's definitely a warning or alarm call."

"That is just our luck," I said. "Something has escaped from the zoo and it's in our yard."

Have I mentioned that we live a stone's throw away from Griffith Park, the one of largest urban parks in the U.S.*, and that it houses, among other things, the L.A. Zoo?

Have I mentioned that while hiking one day in Griffith Park a few years ago, we ran across what at first seemed to be a large squirrel, which we then realized was some sort of exotic animal? On the spot, I dubbed it a bandicoot, just because, well, who doesn't like the sound of that? I have since revised my opinion and now believe it was some sort of lemur.** It had a stripey tail, kind of like this. Even so, we still refer to it as the bandicoot, and when a mystery animal took up residence in our backyard and began squeak-hooting at us, that automatically became its nom de rigeur.

This morning, after peeking out the door at the rodent head on the mat, I sat back down on the couch in front of the fire. "I bet that cat ate the bandicoot," I said.

Here is where it gets fun for my readers. You - yes, you! - can help to settle a debate. I am going to share with you now a photo of the head the cat left on our doorstep (along with some innards). If you are squeamish, stop now and click away if you don't want to see it. Click onto something fun -- go buy some bodywash online or something.

Okay, for the rest of you: do you think this is a mouse or a rat? The head is approximately 2 inches long.

The other item in the lower part of the picture is one of its organs. I know, nice.
Okay, so mouse or rat? What do you think?

* According to the Griffith Park website, "With over 4,210 acres of both natural chapparal-covered terrain and landscaped parkland and picnic areas, Griffith Park is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the United States." It's pretty fricking big, is all.

** Sweet Dub strongly disagrees.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Great Mental Anguish. Well, Not So Great.

I have been swamped with work as we get close to the end of the year. Everyone, it seems, has realized that it’s December and that they’d better unload their charitable contributions by the 31st in order to get the tax break. So I’m getting a lot of “Can you write up a two-to-three pager for the Findiculous Fantabulous Foundation? Their Board meets December 15th, and they need to give away ten hundred kajillion dollars,” and the like – and let’s just say it: that’s my job. But I already had a spiraling-out-of-control “to do” list, and I’d arranged to jury-rig together a smorgasbord of personal days, half-holidays, and vacation time in order to get December 22 through January 2nd off. So I am a bit concerned about how it all will get done, and since I am from New England, I have that pesky Puritan work ethic thing that magnifies my everyday craziness.

Hence, this conversation:

Mama Blah: …and then I got an e-mail from [name redacted], who talked to this guy at the Boop-Boop-She-Doop Foundation, and he says they’d welcome an application from us, so I e-mailed back and said did you get the impression that this could wait until January or is it something we need to do now, and [boss of us all] e-mailed me and said we should strike while the iron is hot, so now I have to do that too, and I already had Project X, Project Y and Project Z to work on, so I’m a little kind of like, just kill me now.

Sweet Dub [outraged on my behalf and simultaneously sick of listening to me high-speed whine]: Well, that’s ridiculous. Why are you doing Project Y? It seems like someone else could do Project Y.

Mama Blah: Yeah, but I want to do Project Y.

Sweet Dub: [stabs self with safety scissors so he doesn’t have to listen to me anymore]

Thursday, December 07, 2006


The scene: I'm working at home at my dining room table. I have files spread out all over the place, my laptop is humming away, and I have the back door open to let the fresh air and sun in. Suddenly I am distracted by a noise from the kitchen. I walk into the kitchen just in time to see a bird flit from the top of our mint-green refrigerator and fly like hell back out the back door.

Current status: door closed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Punctuality is the Thief of Time

Let me just say that I am usually at work on time in the mornings. I may be a couple of minutes late here or there, but I’m usually here when I’m supposed to be. My boss lives about 45 miles east of L.A. and it takes her For.Ev.Er to get here each morning – sometimes as many as two hours.

This morning, Viva and I were delayed for a variety of reasons getting out the door, and then we hit really bad traffic. Cars were crawling on Melrose Avenue at a pace reserved for, say, your garden-variety Helix Aspersa. We arrived at Viva’s school at 8:30 – which is when I am usually arriving at work.

O woe! I unloaded all her stuff and spoke with her teacher briefly, then delivered her unto the playground and ran back to my car. Traffic was just as bad getting to work. I sheepishly slimed in at about 8:55.

Two seconds later my boss popped up at my desk, all bubbly and full of energy. She has a meeting this morning, so she made an effort to leave extra early to make sure she had time to prepare. She usually doesn’t get here until close to 10 every morning, and I am pretty much on the honor system to be here on time. I felt like a gigantic ass.

Happy Monday.