Archive for July, 2008

A not so ordinary Thursday morning…

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Just in case anyone thought they were having a bad day, you’ll never guess what happened to me!

I left the house at 5:30 AM. Just leaving San Clemente, CA, the 5 freeway south slows, and then stops. There’s an accident and no one is going anywhere. I turn off the car for about 30 minutes or so. Then, slowly, one lane opens (I’m about 4 miles south of the accident). A helicopter medi-vac’d people out. A semi and truck are on fire. Finally, at about 8:15 AM, I pass the accident (note that I initially stopped the car at 6 AM). Lots of people are standing there doing nothing.

Now, you’d think I’m home free. No such luck. I’m on the 78 west, about 4 exits from work in San Marcos. In the middle of all of this, I call my friend and co-worker Lesley to go to a meeting for me because I am running late. AND, I have to pee. I’m going 80mph and a guy gets in front of me going anywhere from 65 - 75. There’s a break and I go to pass him. And guess who’s behind me? A cop! I get pulled over for tailgating?! (I didn’t even know there was a law against it!) I give him all my info. and as soon as he walks away, I realize that my insurance and registration have expired. I’ve been driving a company car and haven’t paid attention to my own “car,” the Jeep I’m driving. I just got the smog check yesterday and the insurance paper was sitting on the desk at home. Good thing that cop got called to the same accident I sat through and was super nice. He laughs when he asks why I was following so close and I said I really had to go to the bathroom. He gave me a fix it ticket.

I walked into work at 8:50 AM.


Ah, from the mouths of “babes”

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

Just returned from a quick walk “around the block” with three of my children. I don’t know what came over them, but NO ONE wanted to ride anything. No scooters, no skates, no “wave” boards, nada. Considering I usually “waste” a good deal of energy reminding them – over and over and over again – to put their helmets BACK on, and warning them – first in a loud, strident voice, and then in a softer, yet hoarse voice – to STOP at the end of each block so that the dog and I can catch up, I was looking forward to the break. I could almost see us all chatting amicably the whole way…but it got better.

Quentin, my almost 13-year-old, volunteered to walk the dog – Ayla, an Alaskan Malamute who out-weighs him by nearly 10 pounds. I did pause, holding my breath, as they took off down the street ahead of us, certain that Ayla was going to pull him off his feet. But he did okay…I watched Quentin make her “sit” and “heel” and “wait” while another dog passed going the other way. I let out that breath, relaxed my shoulders, and thought, “Okay, I could get used to this.” 

I walked between Parker (7) and Olivia (3) the whole way, most of it nearly a block behind Quentin and Ayla…close enough that I could keep an eye on them, yet far enough away that the three of us could more or less forget about them and enjoy OUR time together.

We talked about going SWIMMING, a priority among the under 14 set in Riverside this time of year. Olivia made me promise to take the kids in the morning after my run. Parker asked me to IMAGINE how much fun he would have with this new Lego set – some 18-wheel truck that hauls miniature Ferraris, and made a case for purchasing the $80 set NOW while it’s on sale, even though he would be happy to wait until his 7 and 1/2 birthday in September to build it. We talked about Bald Eagles; how fun it would be to go to South Dakota for 4th of July next year; how ugly California Condors are; and about why the birds – buzzard’s, I believe – ate the Dalai Lama’s father in “Kundun.”

About then, we were nearly drenched by the sprinklers at the park. Laughing, Parker wondered aloud how much fun it will be when the “big kids” are gone. “Where are they going?” I asked. “College,” he said. Then he went on to IMAGINE (word of the day, maybe?) what his room would be like, and how Quentin’s room could be his den, and where the “kids” would sleep when they came home. “Will they come home?” he asked. Olivia joined in and told me that she would sleep in the REAL, big bed (Reiley’s bed…Olivia sleeps in the trundle, and has apparently developed a complex about that). Parker estimated that, because Quentin is SO SMART, he will be gone in three years, Reiley in five years, if we’re lucky. He reasoned that he’ll have, at least, four years at home WITHOUT them…unless he can figure out how to become a professional football player without going to college (or running with all those pads on, but that’s another story). 

I think Parker was feeling really good about his future by the time we got home. Me too. I actually got Olivia, who kept ME up until after midnight last night, excited about going to bed right away so that she can go swimming “soon” after “the sun comes up.”


Okay, let’s turn it on.

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

I HATE walking into my home with the blinds and windows closed and the air conditioning on. After a long day at work in my cube, with no windows, I want to be welcomed home with the sun shining through giving our house natural light.

I live in Colorado, so having an opportunity to leave windows open in the summer is fantastic.  I enjoy the warm sun and the breeze coming through the house.  I want to take advantage of the warm months as much as possible because before I know it, I will be coming home to the blinds closed, sun down, and the furnace on.

I took a stand on Friday. We got an attic fan to help eliminate the warm air in the attic.  In theory, an attic fan should keep the house cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter. We had the windows open all day Friday and Saturday.  So far, so good.  The house wasn’t too bad and we still had the cool breeze at night to cool down the house.  Following a three-day streak with no A/C, we rolled into Sunday.  The temp was forecast to be high, but I didn’t think much of it. It couldn’t be that bad…Sunday morning to mid morning, the sun was hot but not enough to turn on the air.  Once we got past mid morning, though, the window of opportunity to turn on the air had passed. 

I really do think Sunday may have been the hottest day yet- a whopping 96 degrees.  It was definitely mall and movie theater weather. 

Evening and I kept waiting for the air to cool down and the breeze to pick up.  I waited and I waited and I waited, but nothing.  I actually thought it was getting hot. I looked at the temp in the house and it was 85 degrees!  There is no way could to sleep well in that…We actually contemplated rearranging the room to enhance the so-called breeze we were waiting for.  We vetoed that idea and pulled out the reserve- the loudest and smallest fan ever! So, we had the mini fans AND the ceiling fan going with the window open- still really, really hot.

I don’t think I have had a worse night’s sleep.  I was up all night and then I finally make it to sleep and I wake up-it’s Monday morning:(!

(Needless to say- before I left the house this morning, the  windows and blinds were closed with the A/C on full power- I felt like I needed to make up for lost time.)


Hands Free in Sunny So. California!

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Yesterday – after nearly 17 full days under California’s new ban on cell phone use while driving – I FINALLY learned to coordinate turning my bluetooth headset (bright red “Jawbone”) ON, setting my cell phone to RECOGNIZE BLUETOOTH, and placing/receiving calls MYSELF, as opposed to asking one of my personal assistants (okay, my children) to call for me and put the phone on SPEAKER. Wow! Totally cool. I look like a character right off the set of “Star Trek: TNG,” but it is SO convenient. I even wore the thing shopping and, for the first time in three-year Olivia’s life, I did not have to choose between continuing my conversation and corralling her. 

Of course, by the time Olivia is in college, SHE’LL have a bluetooth implant – her generation’s latest ”information and communications technology” (ICT). Much as I appreciate the dawn of California’s hands free era, I can’t help wondering if we shouldn’t be “concerned” about this latest slip down the slope of ever more sophisticated ICTs. Many, if not most, of today’s ICT users operate as if computers have ALWAYS been affordable and accessible; EVERYONE has a cell phone; the Internet is THE source of information and relationship; email, instant messaging (IM), and text messaging have always been viable ALTERNATIVES to the telephone or – gasp – face to face communication; and no one every gets LOST. To those of us who learned to type on a TYPEWRITER, learned to program in BASIC and use a KEYPUNCH machine, routinely pulled the telephone right out of the wall, and regularly pulled over to look at THOMAS BROTHERS guide, the Internet, cell phone, and GPS are practically miraculous. At the very least, they are monumental time-savers. I run two businesses almost entirely online (and help my children operate a third online enterprise), depend on my computer and ICT- mediated conversations to complete the majority of my research, writing, and preparation (for classes, conferences, meetings), rely on mapquest and my cell phone to get nearly everywhere, and don’t leave home without my iPod.

While I may not be as ready as Bill McKibben to scream, “ENOUGH!,” if my own attachment to ICTs is any indication, there may be something to the argument that the currently – in CA, anyway – ubiquitous bluetooth headset has taken humanity dangerously close to a society of cyborgs.

Oh, I can do that!

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Yes, this is another post about climbing.

We were actually about to leave the rock climbing gym (Thresh Hold: I had told the kids – all four of them were with me – that I wanted to try this route (V-1 with a pretty significant “hanging parallel to the floor” bit before mantling, or climbing over the top of the wall) one last time. The boys took Olivia upstairs to play video games in the lounge, while Reiley joined me. She scrambled to the top of a (less difficult) V-0 route next to “mine,” while I laid back on the mat, looking up and strategizing how I was going to move – left, right or right, left – so that I could “throw” myself over the top after reaching the last hold likely to accommodate BOTH of my hands.

And then this guy SWINGS into my view. An older man, only in the sense that the vast majority of the guys are our gym ARE in that target 16-28 year old range for rock climbing…I’d seen him there before. I’d just never seen him swing, literally like a monkey, ACROSS the wall! It looked great. Imagine a rock wall littered with holds and tape to mark various routes. This guy was hanging by his left arm, deliberately keeping his feet off the ground, and then swung IN toward the wall and AROUND to grab the next hold with his right hand, then turned – to the left – to face the wall again and grab the next hold with his left hand before pulling himself up the remainder of the route without touching the wall with his feet. 

“Wow!” I said and asked him if that was the way it was “supposed to” be climbed. (I’d climbed that route before and NEVER looked anywhere nearly as graceful, and definitely took advantage of the footholds available to me.) He said, “No.” He was just showing his friend (only THEN, did I notice he wasn’t alone) how to “campus” the route. “To campus” refers to a rock climbing training device called a campus board, which typically looks like thin, horizontal wood slats attached like a ladder to an inclined board. 

When he came back down (via the stairs from the top of the rock), I asked him to show me again how he pulled off that “monkey bar” effect, which he did. Reiley, who I had completely forgotten was there, blurted out, “Oh, I can do that.” I wasn’t surprised. It honestly resembled swinging on monkey bars or rings on the playground. She tried it…and blew it, tangling up her arms and dropping off the rock rather than even attempting to climb up.

Okay, I HAD to give it a shot. It really IS hard. Think about it. When you are swinging on monkey bars or rings, you are facing FORWARD and, usually, high enough off the ground that seeking relief by “tip toeing” along the ground isn’t an option. This strategy for this route required me to FACE the rock and swing under a tiny hold that created a space between my body, extending from my left hand, and the rock, while bending my knees to keep my feet from touching the ground. Just as I managed this feat and successfully grabbed the next hold with my right hand, I felt it – an intense twist in my upper left arm/rotator cup. Ouch! I quickly let go with my left hand, which I used to grab the next hold, and dropped to the mat, landing on my butt.

“See?” Reiley asked, “It’s hard.” 

“Right,” I said, “I think it’s time to go.”

So, no I didn’t make it up and over that V-1 I’d been working on, but I learned a great new series of moves, which I DID master on our next trip to the gym. (Key seems to be that one’s hand AND arm need to rotate.) It’s great! Even if I do still have to use my feet to clamor over the top of the rock, at least I can look really good when I begin the climb, swinging along like the monkeys in Disney’s “Jungle Book.”

Oh, yeah, I can do that!

We have swimmers…

Thursday, July 10th, 2008

So, on Sunday we took the trip to far out Canan City (about 45 minutes away).  My brother turned 40 and we thought a white water rafting trip was just the activity to celebrate.  The water was high and the Royal Gorge had just reopened the day before.  This year is supposed the best year for rafting since 1995.  Some of us were a bit nervous, given that there had been record deaths in prior weeks; and it definitely didn’t help that, on the bus ride to the river, we were given details on what to do when you fall out of the boat.  Jeanna’s favorite was what you do when you fall out and you end up under the boat…I thought we lost her at that point.  I was thinking that there was definitely going to be some “swimmers” during our trip, but just didn’t know who was going to fall victim…Jeanna and Terri plus two of our brothers and more for rafting, July 2008.

Once we hit the Arkansas River, we proceeded to get in gear with our helmets on and our life vests fully secure.  We had minimal breathing with the life vests on; staying alive with that thing on was going to be a task in itself.  So, we took further instruction before getting into our “seats.”  We were all still a little nervous but confident given our guide had 20 years experience.  They place us accordingly to balance out the boat and then they seek out the ”princess.”  Jeanna couldn’t have dropped her paddle quick enough.  She was game on having the princess seat.  She got to sit in the middle front of the boat and hold on to a rope.  At no time was there a paddle in her hand.  I think all of us aboard felt safer that way.  There really wasn’t any logic in giving Jeanna a paddle…

We begin heading down the river and we practiced our strokes and were instructed on what to do if…Our guide was pretty clear on telling us that at some points you just do not want to fall out.  So, we proceed down the river as we chatted and got to know one another (the guide is really good at conversation).  We were all still a little nervous because we had yet to see how rough the rapids were going to be.

We continued paddling, some of us in-sync, and most of us not.  The key to rafting is staying in-sync with one another.  Our brothers Brian and Danny, need hearing aids, I think…Just an FYI.  We were warned of the first rapid coming up; it was the smallest of the rapids so we all expected to be fine – just listen to the instructor and follow your lead men.  I guess, in theor,y that’s a good idea, but when I was wrapped up in the rapid, my eyes were shut and I was either holding on like crazy or paddling whatever is next to me. We made it through the initial rapid.  I have to admit, I was a little scared but I knew we would all be fine.

After each rapid there is a down time; this is where you see the big horn sheep, the cool looking birds and the neat rock formations.  The downtime is when you prepare yourself for the next rapid…what to do and how difficult it will be to get through.  This next rapid was where we were informed of the camera that is placed to take pictures of us.  So, we headed through the next rapid, all of us paddling, cameras flashing…we have an adrenaline rush and we make it through.  All bodies are accounted for and we proceed…Well, we try to, until we see there is a “swimmer” who must have fallen out of the boat in front of us.

We have a swimmer!I couldn’t help thinking, “Who falls out in the second rapid?!” I look, since we have time and we can’t go any further, and of course, it’s my boyfriend Maz.  At first, I was concerned. After all, I didn’t know what kind of swimming skills he has.  He is 6′3 and about 225 pounds- how did the largest person in the group fall out of the boat?  Maz seemed to be okay and it looked as though the guide took the ranks and pulled him back in.  After the first shock of “oh crap, he is in the water” I started laughing…


100 lb duckling overboard.The real funny part came after the fact.  Thanks to the pictures, we were able to capture Maz’s last point of contact with the boat AND see the little 100 pound boy he took in the water with him. I felt so bad he pulled someone in.  Not just anyone, but probably the smallest person on the boat.  How does that happen, this kid made it through the rapid just fine and Maz, a complet stranger falls out and while trying to get back in, he pulls this kid overboard…That would suck!  What a story though…


So…What color are Parker’s toe nails?

Friday, July 4th, 2008

Yesterday was HOT, hitting well over 100 by the time we left the rock climbing gym. The kids wanted to go swimming, but the level of adult supervision required for that cool antidote to the day’s temperature escaped me. I was much more interested in RESTING. And then I noticed the nail on my left big toe, the one my daughter Reiley managed to pull half way off a few weeks ago when her sandal caught it as she ran over and by me. (Yes, OUCH!) By yesterday, it had grown back enough that a pedicure would would be fully ten-toes worth it. I suggested a stop at the “Star Nail Salon and Spa” on our way home.

Both girls quickly agreed that was a wonderful idea and immediately began discussing which nail polish colors they would pick. “Sparkly,” as always, for Olivia. Something patriotic – maybe stars and stripes – for Reiley. Parker snarled, slipped down in his seat, crossed his arms over his chest in disgust and asked “What am I going to do?” If his big brother Quentin were home this week (he’s at camp on Catalina Island), EVERYONE would have been “up” for a trip to the spa because the boys usually go to Borders to have a drink and choose a book while we “girls” enjoy being pampered. I bet he thought he’d have to JUST SIT AND BE BORED :( . But I returned the Nintendo DS he’d lost earlier in the day for failing to feed the cats, Parker sat up with a “Yeah,” and we were off.

Just over ten minutes later, we were inside the “kitty cat” spa (that’s what Olivia calls it because of the black cat logo). Before I could finish signing in, Olivia had selected hot pink nail polish from the rack, managed to open it, and spilled it all over the floor. Tempted to rethink the afternoon’s indulgence, I nearly left…I’m glad I didn’t, though. In addition to missing out on an hour of “cura,” or care, I would have missed terrific, gendered and gender-bending, multicultural experiences.

First, there was the slightly uncomfortable “little” girl with braces and her long hair pulled tightly into a high pony-tail – just like Reiley! “Look, another member of your club!” I told her as we took our seats, dropped our feet into the warm, bubbling water, and turned on the massagers. Reiley smiled and blushed. THEN, following a quick conversation among a triplet of Vietnamese manicurists, the woman filing my finger nails told me that this little girl was not quite 11 and “so tall.” “Just like Reiley,” I responded. “Your daughter is ten also?” She asked. “She turned 11 last month.” “Oh, so tall,” she said and shook her head. Later, Reiley and her new-found soul mate chatted while their toe nails dried. (Reiley’s are bright red with blue and white stripes in the center.) Reiley learned that they are both 5′ 2″ tall, going into sixth grade, and like bright, seasonal nail polish.

Second, there was “the woman with the big arm muscles,” as Parker would tell me when he ran over to alert me that she’d come in. “Yes, I know,” I told him. (From my vantage point, it was nearly impossible to miss new comers to the spa.) To be honest, she does have muscular upper arms. We nodded briefly a few weeks ago at the rock gym, where she’d brought a group of women she is training. Then she turned up at our daughters’ dance class. Olivia usually takes dance on Fridays, but there were a number of weeks we had to attend “make up” class on Thursday, which is when this woman’s daughter dances. We chatted briefly about how much our daughters like to dance, how “girly” they are, and about what kind of work outs we enjoy. And yesterday, there she was at the spa. I love it! Women who work out used to mock those who didn’t, casting them as pampered, simpering, weaklings. Yet here we both were. I was sort of a wreck, having spent the day working at home, then onto the rock gym, with a quick stop on campus to do some research. She was wearing a sundress.

Third, there were the “little girls” – Olivia and this woman’s daughter, who immediately recognized one another. Olivia’s nails – sparkly with flowers – had just finished drying. She ran over and was visibly torn between playing with this little girl’s toys (HER mom was so prepared; she had a tote filled with toys that appeared to be “Polly Pocket” sized dolls and accessories) and running around the spa. Thankfully, she opted for the toys, but not for long. Soon BOTH girls were “boxing” with wax hands – you know, the ones featuring different lengths, polishes, and designs for those getting acrylic nails to choose among? Yes, the girly-girl little dancers transformed themselves into life-sized miniature “rockin’ boppin’ robots.”

Fourth, there was Parker. This kid is so in touch with his feminine side that I’m honestly surprised he didn’t, at least, inquire about the possibility of a pedicure. After all, SOMETIMES there are men having spa treatments when we’re there. He didn’t, though. He played his Nintendo DS until the battery died, then switched to my cell phone until he was bored, and finally resorted to riding the rolling stools that the women sit on while doing pedicures. He’d just nearly lured Olivia away from her boxing match to join him when his father called. I could almost see him roll his eyes when I told him the girls and I were having our nails done. He said he only had one question: “What color are Parker’s toe nails?” Momentarily recalling the days when his older brother used to join me when I was “painting my nails,” I assured him that Parker had passed on the opportunity in favor of video games.

Finally, as a sort of  testament to how diverse our suburban world is becoming and how very observant children can be, our spa experience ended with a quick review of My-Thuan Tran’s LA Times article on Vietnamese immigrants who have both found a quick way into the American economy by training as manicurists, and altered that economy by making the “day spa” affordable to middle-class and working women. Once we had paid and were safely back in the car, Parker asked aloud, “Why are all of the ladies who do nails ‘Chinese’?” Before I could offer an explanation, thanks to Ms. Tran, Reiley pointed out that there was one Latina manicurist. There was! And, ironically, her client was the only Asian woman in the spa who wasn’t an employee!