Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Not-too-shabby November

My finally finished oh-so-crafty Thanksgiving Advent calendar: The idea is to write something you're grateful for in each day's pocket, and then do something to show your thankfulness. Examples: Nov. 17: Steve is grateful for zombie movies Maria lets him watch sometimes. Nov. 22: Steve is grateful for books Maria lets him read sometimes.

22nd Birthday (Steve made the cake, lemon with lemon frosting, and no, that is not too much lemon)

Snoqualmie Falls on the way to Thanksgiving dinner in Carnation. I think he was too hungry to really enjoy the moment.

On "The Shaky Bridge" during the post-meal/pre-pumpkin pie part of Thanksgiving

Post-pumpkin pie

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Electric Babyland

"Would it be okay if I video document the moment?" I ask Ms. Ultrasound, holding up the video camera so she knows that I'm really serious, even though I said it in a way that didn't sound so serious (video document) so if it be that she shoots me down, gets angry at the question, snatches the camcorder from my hand, opens it up and pulls the celluloid tape with the finesse of a seasoned government agent, I won't seem so crestfallen. She doesn't go so far as to destroy the camera, but she does shoot me down. "Oh, yeah, no problem," I say, chuckling because I am good natured about it and not at all recalcitrant, and put it back in Maria's purse, as though the whole thing were a prop in a gag.

Maria reclines, looking quite comfortable. The chair that I am in has no padding on the back, so I lean forward a bit. Ms. Ultrasound is readying the machine, pressing buttons and turning knobs. Once everything is calibrated and she's turned on the baby finder, Ms. Ultrasound has Maria raise her shirt so that she can smear Maria's stomach with a gel. She tells Maria that they heat up the gel before application, which seems like a nice gesture, and I'm about to ask her why they stopped there and didn't put padding on the back of the chair I'm sitting in, when she flicks on the screen of the ultrasound machine. Maria and I are drawn to it immediately, hoping that we'll get a glimpse of our baby, even though Ms. Ultrasound has yet to probe Maria's stomach with her little radar gun. I stand up from my chair, not in protest of the non-padding, but because I feel the need to stand up and I can't sit down, I need to get closer to the screen, and I hear my mother's voice saying something about not sitting too close to the screen, it's bad for your eyes. With her right hand Ms. Ultrasound holds the radar gun, poking it into Maria's belly, and with her left her fingers deftly bounce around the control board, silently pressing buttons and keys without that click-clat that accompanies computer keyboards. She does not look down at the control board, which is complete with one of those little ball things that act as a mouse and that you'll sometimes see in old arcade games, and she does not look at her right hand. On the screen emerges controlled black and white and grey chaos. Lines are fuzzy, and you want to slap the side of the screen to get a better reception. Ms. Ultrasound's sort of waves her left hand over the control board and the outline of a baby appears, conjured and organized from the black and white and grey chaos.

By all accounts it appears human. Little hands, little fingers, little feet, little toes. And...he's a boy. A little boy inside of Maria (later I will tell her that her gender is now neutral, cancelled by the baby boy inside of her). Maria and I hold hands and squeeze, because sometimes that's enough, especially when you're in front of Ms. Ultrasound, who tells us that she has dogs not children. The baby now has a definitive pronoun. We have felt for some time that he was a boy. I had a dream in which I was holding an infant boy wrapped in a blue blanket in the lobby of a hospital. But I wouldn't consider that dream prophetic or precognitive because Will Smith was in the lobby as well. Reading a magazine.

So I am going to be a father of a little boy. Many fears present themselves: I don't think I've seriously thrown a football or dribbled a basketball in years. I took karate classes when I was a kid, but I'm uncertain as to how I would do should I have to "lay someone out" at a carnival or state fair, because that's where I always imagine that sort of thing happening, scuffling amidst funnel cakes and legs of turkey with some guy named Hank after he knocks my kid's snow cone to the ground. I'll probably be the guy who slips a big drunk a twenty so that he'll throw the fight and I'll come off as Dad of the Year, or Best Dad Ever, or whatever other paternal titles they hand out these days. And then there are things that I have to learn to do, like change the oil in a car, learn to fly fish and possibly skin an animal.

During the ultrasound I wondered if the doctors ever take that machine out to a lake or something and go fishing.

Aside from being sublime and awe-inspiring, the ultrasound was strange because I was able to see our baby in a way that I've never seen myself. This could be taken metaphysically, an introspective moment, something sweet that'll make Oprah cry. But really it's just that I've never seen my own spinal cord, nor the spinal cord of someone that I know.

The baby is healthy and Maria is healthy and I still put chocolate chips on my waffles, which is not healthy. We often sit and watch Maria's stomach for movements, tiny tremors from within. We put earphones on her stomach and play songs for the baby, trying now to give it a positive predilection for good, sound music. And sometimes when the baby is not moving, when he is resting, Maria will prod at her stomach, saying, "Wake up, baby. Wake up."

Sunday, November 1, 2009

I'm not there, I'm gone...

You're next, Mr. Watermelon.
Maria learned pumpkin carving from the Norman Bates School of Knife-Wielding.
This is my best impersonation of me.
For one who has faith, the visage of a familiar face appears. For those without faith, the visage of a face that may look familiar, but isn't quite, and it's not Jim Morrison.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

At War With the Mystics

According to my sources, Baby-size has gone from lima bean to grape to kumquat to avocado, and is currently the size of a bell pepper.

From where I'm standing, I'd say its a blue-ribbon festival-winning size bell pepper.

The "fetal survey" ultrasound is Nov 2, where Baby will get to go from "he/she/it" to just "he" or "she." The feeling remains that it is a boy. I asked my two year old friend what she thinks it is, and she answered boy with a huge smile and such conviction that I feel pretty convinced. But like I said, I'm sure the baby will continue to be full of surprises...
I can not express how excited I am for this. I found myself incredibly envious of my friend's 6 week ultrasound where the barely-there fetus looked like a blurry teddy graham. She had several IVF miscarriages before this pregnancy and yet I, who have had a relatively pain-free, problem-free, completely healthy pregnancy, was jealous over her black and white images. My midwives won't refer me to the ultrasound office unless there is a medical need, outside of this upcoming standard 20-week fetal survey. But as I've been counting down the days to Nov. 2 (15), I've become acutely aware that not only do I wish I already have had an ultrasound, but that I would prefer a 38-week ultrasound too. I'm still trying to figure out why Steve's sketches just aren't cutting it, but until then, the ultrasounds may be a deal breaker in the future.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


As Steve once very charmingly remarked (he's also very charming in person), I dislike the smell of certain chocolate bars in my distinctive condition, among other things. Recently, my supersmell sense underwent an outdoor survival challenge when Steve and I went on the ward camp-out. Gparents Hall were kind enough to let us use their camping gear, but, unfortunately, the tent had been through kinder-smelling days. Steve, me and a Glade air freshener made it through the night.

Giant slug

Then I began to look chubby. I became acutely aware of this when Steve and I decided a couple of weeks ago to hike around Sunrise, what I've been told is the highest point one can go by car to Mt. Rainier. My favorite T-shirt felt extremely tight, but I didn't really notice this until I got in the car for the trip. By the time we arrived, I had already unbuttoned the top of my jeans for comfort, and because that's how all of Steve's gangster friends wear their jeans.

I'm sucking it in.

We went on a "moderate" level hike, destined to take us to a beautiful place called Frozen Lake.

A lake we on the way up to Sunrise, which prompted us by it's beauty to hike to Frozen Lake.

The hike was quite arduous for us, and by us I mean the baby and I, not Steve, or the elderly hikers that were lapping me so casually they had enough breath to ask, "Hi, how are you?" when I could only humph in response. By the time we reached the end of our hike, having grumpily walked through a place that I can only describe with the smell of sulfur, I had exerted myself to the point of hyper-sensitive personal space so aptly described by Steve in a previous post.

Apparently Mordor is on the way to Frozen Lake.

Steve strode a safe distance ahead of me, calling out platitudes like "What doesn't kill you only makes you stronger." If I was any stronger I would have killed him. Unfortunately, the Frozen Lake had already thawed and evaporated and rained on Forks by the time I arrived.

There was no lake. And the shirt was still really tight.

We ate our pears and snacks at the "lake" and then took Wonderland trail to get back to our car at Sunrise. Wonderland trail turned out to be an unused utility road. However, Steve being as clever as he is charming and full of platitudes, came up with the "lets rap like that episode of House where we each make stuff up and the other has to rhyme." Our posse of inner city squirrels that had been accompanying us started beat boxing, and my winning lyrics went something about me liking the name Leo and my baby's daddy being unable to accept that in actuality Leonardo DiCaprio does not own the name, nor does that mean our baby will be a late bloomer. Maybe later I'll sit down and write the full version.

But right now I'm pretty busy with the next development: excessive digestive gurgles. Potentially, this could be the baby moving, but I wasn't sure. My midwives and all the books say that for a first-time mom it usually takes a bit longer, usually 18- 20 weeks gestation, for the movements to be felt and recognized. Moms with multiple children tend to recognize the feeling for what it is earlier, beginning at about 16 weeks along. So when at 15 weeks these gurgles became more and more interesting, I was too scared to hope that these were actually the baby, that this was it, the moment second only to actually holding the newborn itself; I was actually feeling the little person inside of me. But at 16 weeks and one day, I was in mutual (I'm the Laurel Advisor for my ward (awesome)) and I was listening to a closing talk at the end the activity. I had a hymn book on my lap, propped up against my belly with my arms folded across it, and suddenly I felt the book on both sides of my skin. I know that sounds odd. There was little push from the inside that met resistance, and I felt the book push back on the outside of my belly.
I think I froze, more out of surprise than anything, and then looked around, expecting everyone else to have noticed and been effected by the cosmic and eternal effect of that little bump. I had expected, when I sit down to think about it and then type my thoughts, that the baby would give me some warning, so I would be prepared for it and that Steve would be there and also be forever changed. Who knows where that idea came from, but I'm sure it won't be the last time the baby surprises me without warning.
Speaking of surprises, other developments have been afoot and now we know that our little kiddo will be blessed with cousin friends. Yay!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Of waking up and finding yourself asleep

I am not a good sleeper. I don't sleep well. While Maria is dreaming of sugarplum fairies and the like, I am sighing loudly, possibly loud enough to wake her up and to have her ask me if I am having trouble sleeping. I say no, well, yes, but you don't have to worry about it. She doesn't worry about it, rolls back over, and again there are those sugarplum fairies, dancing sugarplum dances. I find faces in the stucco ceiling, people I know, dead presidents, Francis Bacon, Rodney Dangerfield, the last face surprisingly often.

If I tell someone that I have trouble sleeping at night, they tell me that maybe I should try sleeping in the day. After I tell them that that won't work, that I'd miss breakfast and lunch, they ask if I'm perhaps worrying about something, that there may be a weight on my shoulders or a weariness in my heart that keeps me up.

Of course we all have much in our life to not worry about, and much of us spend our life worrying about what we shouldn't worry about, and we have plenty of time during the day to worry about these things. At nights when I lay awake and Maria lies asleep I think, and I think, and I think. This time could, I suppose, be dedicated to something a little more productive, like finishing carpentry, building a bookshelf, going to night clubs and volunteering myself as a designated driver.

We've been practicing things. We carry eggplants in our arms. Maria and I speak to each other in cooing sounds, our faces contorted in smiles that match the cooing sounds. Mornings we sprinkle cheerios across the kitchen floors, and then, on our hands and knees, we pick them up. When I do finally succumb to sleep, Maria wails until I wake up to comfort her.

I've stuck my tongue as far into my cheek as I possibly can, there's no more cheek, but I can't find any clever way of expressing my excitement over the prospect of being a father. I don't want to downplay it, but I also don't want to be one of those people who use multiple exclamation marks (e.g. "We're having a baby!!!"). I shudder when I see emoticons, and they never look like real people anyway, so those are out. I've tried to keep all sentimental notions that may creep from my fingertips and into the keyboard from being insipid or maudlin, hence the cheek and the tongue. I've been careful with previous posts so that our "blog" doesn't achieve "Dear Diary" status or become one giant "tweet."

As some may have gathered from Maria's previous post, and to officially disseminate the natal news, Maria and I are expecting our first child. Maria discovered three months ago that she had a growth in her stomach. We discussed the growth with doctors, shamans, and the Aztec calendar, and they told us not to worry, keep your hair, this growth will go away in nine months.

Maria has been working hard; she's three months into production, and she's given the baby the deadline of March 21st. Both mother and baby are fine and healthy, although Maria has found that some of her senses have heightened.

Maria: Is that chocolate? (Looking at Steve, who is eating a chocolate bar)
Steve: Uh, yes?
Maria: It smells. Get rid of it.

The new Maria, the one with the little person inside of her, can't stand the sight of melted white cheese, and you must be wary to not say the word "calzone" within her earshot, because apparently that's some sort of nausea catalyst. The new Maria, the one with the burgeoning belly, now watches all the TLC reality baby shows. The new Maria, the one with "the glow," flitters and flutters amongst the babies clothes at the store, the little onesies, the miniature jackets, the pint-sized sundresses, and the baby booties, we can't forget the baby booties. And the new Steve, for surely there must be a new Steve to match the new Maria, smiles and chuckles as he feels his heart expand and expand, a la Grinch, until he feels he could float away with it, take it on a trip around the world, but he won't, he can't, because if he gets too far away he'll deflate and fall until he's back with two feet on the ground, and can't you just taste the tears and the emotions? Can't you see the emoticons? Aren't you expecting the multiple exclamation points to line up like a row of overdue parking meters?

All this means is that when we hear that first cry in the night it will be me who is sent to soothe. We all know I can't sleep anyway.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Notes from the Northwest

Go west, they said. It's a bad time to graduate from college, they also said.
But its just so fun in Provo, we said. Everything we need, except diversity, multiple freeways, and Texas is right here.
They had no answer to that.
So we moved to Washington. It was a little cold for August though, so we immediately left for a trip to California (see Liz and Travis' blog for more proof). We went to a Dodgers game with the Polsons, Stolks and Grandma Hall, had a couple beach trips, Steve achieved his long awaited In-N-Out binge, went on a lovely temple trip, hit up Steve's fav thrift store, attended an awesome Flaming Lips concert at Del Mar, and went to Seaport Village in San Diego, and celebrated several of Kaitlyn's succesful potty experiences, to name a few of the activities.

I was still cold, so headed out to San Antonio for a visit with my family. We had a lot fun goofing and talking off mostly, which was just right. I went with my sister to her Dr.'s appts, and was with her when she found she's having a boy.

Sadie's adorable baby bump

So that was really exciting, and I got to participate in the ritual sweet treat reward following every appointment. I was also there for my mom's birthday, and my sister Mercedes and I made a beautiful cake, inspired by one of my mom's favorite movies, Mamma Mia.

I also dyed Jazzy's hair dark brown, painted lots of fingernails, gaped at the houses in my favorite neighborhood, went swimming, and had game nights with my family and dear friends.

After overheating, I returned to re-unite with Steve in Washington.

We've had fun enjoying the Halls, whom we're living with, picking their brains about all things Pacific Northwest. We've done a bit of exploring of our own in the area. We've made some important finds- the best thrift store around, the dollar theatre, and a great hospital for our baby.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Y Mtn, Pioneer Day, and the Great Salt Lake Fly Trap

'Twas our final month in Utah, and Steve and I decided to cross some things off the list of-things-to-do-in-Utah. Steve thought it would be defining or something to graduate without hiking to the Y...

... but having satisfied that little part of his on-going rebellion against whoever it is that he rebels against, he conceded to the hike for the sake of an exercise, and the hope that I might concede to hold his hand on steep spots.

This is Steve halfway up telling me about the size of his dream beard.

He thought it would be even more defining to actually streak the whole way down.

With that checked off, we were freed up to some more local adventures. We visited the park on Pioneer Day in Provo, where we enjoyed the air conditioning of the Pioneer Museum, watching missionaries get all the free food they wanted, and listening to what must have been the rejects from the Mickey Mouse Club.

He's worth a lot more than $1000, even with inflation.

We went to Spanish Fork for Pioneer Day fireworks that night with Nate and Olivia.

Nate and Olivia and their tans.

Steve and I. Steve had loaned his tan to a friend, thus the whiteness.

And who can live years in Utah and not see the Great Salt Lake? Apparently everyone, because it smells awful and, according to Wikipedia, has a population of over one hundred billion flies. We walked close to the water front, and the flies were so numerous that one step forward caused a ripple effect for dozens of feet in all directions as the displaced flies spread out, displacing more flies, etc. And there were a lot of dead sea gulls. Don't drink the water.

Steve wondering if he holds his mouth like this long enough, would it get stuck?

The little man just balances on my thumb, I didn't even have to try.

Most of our list is crossed off for Utah, everything except leaving Utah for anywhere non-Utah. We are way excited about moving out of Provo on Friday. Only four more days!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Hyperawareness leads to cold embraces

I am breathing heavily and the running shorts I am wearing are running shorts that I worry are too short, so short, so short they are almost a belt, though they are probably not that short, and it is nice to use running shorts for running instead of for waking up and not wanting to put on real clothes and walking around the house wondering how we eat so much cereal so quickly. We have run some distance, but that is all behind us now, and Maria is behind me now, and I am waiting for her to catch up. I stand at the traffic light, motioning to her, beckoning her to come to me, to not give up, one foot after the other, holding out the little cookie snack I carry in my waist pack (that's where it is so that is what I am calling it), which we use as a sort of motivator and reward.

She reaches me and I am elated, overjoyed, exultant, not only that she has finished but because she is with me, we are on the same corner, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, the passing cars whirring like bees in our ears. O, I am happy to have her at my side! We shall cross the crosswalk, hand in hand, heart to heart, boldly and unabashedly in love, so that all the people waiting at the red light can see it, and the ones who are in thier cars alone and have no one will probably feel a bit sad and turn up "Nothing Compares 2 U" on the radio, but we will not care, for we are together and in love and not in the car singing along to an Irish singer who shaves her head. I extend my arms to her in standard pre-loving-embrace style.

"Don't touch me," she says.

Apparently there is some "zone" that Maria enters when she is jogging, and within said "zone" there is a "space" and this "space" is "personal," and in this "personal space zone" Maria has achieved a state of "hyperawareness of (her) personal space," which apparently feels threatened when I extend my arms in indication of expressing a sentimental feeling (though perhaps I am just simulating flight and don't want a hug, wouldn't accept one if she offered) and wishing said sentimental feeling to result in physical contact of some kind, preferably an embrace, though I'd settle for a hand-shake or even a high-five. People become serial killers because they never had any one to give them a hug. Also, when she says that she becomes "hyperaware" of her surroundings, you would think that she means her senses are heightened to a preternatural level, whether a product of increased adrenaline or something really biological and scientific, to the point where she can count the wing-beats of a hummingbird and can tell when you are lying because she hears your heart rate increase, and if you get lost she can track you via your scent. But it appears that this "hyperawareness" means that Steve can't get anywhere near her and definitely can't raise his arms towards her in huggly-manner and basically shouldn't speak to her at all for a couple of minutes after the run has finished and must pretend to be interested in the buildings around him and certainly not interested in Maria or her "personal space" or any desire to hug her or put his hand on the small of her back, which is in violation of her "personal space" and will not be tolerated and will bring upon Steve many caustic words, combined to equal, "Don't touch me."

Today Maria goes to Savers, a trendy, hip, low-scale thrift store that is sort of like the Wal-Mart of thrift stores. We shop there because we feel the clothes there are rich in history, that every shirt has a tale (tail, clever). She goes there alone, with the intent of purchasing a white shirt for a photographic event to occur in the near future. Though I am not with her I am holding correspondence with her through text messages we send to eachother like little butterflies that speak for us. She tells me that she has found the coolest vest ever, but through a cognitive lapse she leaves it in the changing stall. Upon returning to retrieve the coolest vest ever, she finds that the c.v.e. is gone, disappeared, vanished, dematerialized, or evaporated or something, because it is not there. Frustrated but hopeful, she stakes out the changing stalls like a lion in the Serengeti, waiting to pounce upon the unfortunate patron who pilfered the c.v.e. She notices a woman standing outside one of the stalls with two shopping carts, one full of clothes for her daughter to try on and the other for clothes that her daughter has tried on but which aren't good enough for her.

Maria is in a conundrum. I am in a conundrum, she thinks to herself. How can she retrieve the c.v.e. from the sixteen-year old daughter and her surely surly mother? Ideas race through her mind, ways in which she can recoup the c.v.e. Ask for it. Pull the fire alarm. Tell daughter the vest makes her look fat. Say to mother and daughter, "Hey, that's the vest we donated after grandmother died." Wait until daughter comes out of the stall and brain her with the blackjack. First brain mother with blackjack, and then brain daughter. Check for blackjack. No blackjack. Maria calls one of her sisters and this sister advises her to enter into dialogue with mother and daughter. Maria waits for mother and daughter to finish, approaches.

"Did you happen to see a coolest vest ever lying around?"

"Oh, no," says daughter, "is it yours?"

Mother says nothing, but tightens grip on bar of shopping cart.

"Yeah," says Maria, "I was going to buy it but I left it in the changing room. But if you want it you can have it; I'm not going to steal it from you or anything."

Mother says nothing, but sizes Maria up and looks for weaknesses.

"Well," says daughter, "you can totally have it, since you saw it first, you know."

"Yeah, but if you were going to get it it's okay..."

"No, if you saw it first it's yours."

Mother says nothing, wonders where she went wrong with daughter.

Daughter hands Maria the c.v.e., a conciliatory gesture, but c.v.e. is intercepted by the quick hands of the mother, who disengages her hands from the shopping carts and snatches the c.v.e. "This is good enough for my daughter," says the mother. She attempts to swallow the c.v.e. in order to keep it for her daughter and not for Maria, but Maria finds the blackjack and brains the mother, expulsing the c.v.e. from the mother's throat and mouth and into the air, high up towards the ceiling, swirling and twirling. Everyone in the store freezes, they are riveted, eyes following the twirling, swirling vest. It begins its descent, and old women put their hands to their mouths and small children clench the hems of their mothers' skirts. Maria reaches and reaches, reaching more than she's ever reached before, and catches the vest. She looks at the daughter, who smiles and gives her that hey-my-mom-deserved-it-and-this-kind-of-thing-happens-whenever-we-go-out-I-can't-take-her-anywhere kind of look, indicating that there will be no remonstration. Maria heads to the register and purchases the c.v.e. Standing in the threshold of Savers she raises the c.v.e. over her head, gives a triumphant howl, and comes and picks me up from work.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Pious Portland

Steve and I went to Oregon last weekend and found religion.

Steve would definitely be a casual visitor at this establishment, especially since it is open 24- hours. He's had a small shrine of devotion, albeit forlorn and oft ignored, admiring Elvis since he refused to let me re-gift a two-foot tall plastic guitar full of popcorn with a sticker of The King across its front. 

He insisted that no one at my work's White Elephant Christmas party two years ago would be as deserving as he of such a treasure. So I relinquished it. Upon Steve's closer inspection of the guitar, he found that the lid of the guitar has a slot, implying its use as a coin container. 
Seeing as he prefers piggies over original rock-a-billies to stash his cash, Steve instead created a Compliment Elvis Guitar. 

For over a year now, this plastic guitar has collected a handful of thoughtful notes and praise from a few appreciative visitors, but not enough to give proper honor. The guitar, as of yesterday, has a new home in Steve's studio where he teaches guitar lessons. While the musical environment may lead those present to great appreciation and an increase in compliments, why limit anyone? Feel free to add your adulations here. Here is a baby picture to get you started:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A day in the life in which Maria is absent

Since Thursday morning Maria has been off and gone to the state of Arizona for the wedding of one of her friends, which makes Arizona a state worth visiting, and which leaves me since Thursday morning without Maria, and I will be without Maria until late Saturday afternoon. During this three day interim I am expected to entertain myself to such a degree that Maria's absence is to be minimal and unnoticeable. I am to wake up with such fervor for life and the day and ready to carpe the diem that I do not notice the empty pair of sandals that wait on the bedroom floor. For anyone else this may be an easy feat, where the day's tasks are executed independent of whether Maria is present or not. For myself, who loves Maria muchly, and who finds that anything I may ever do to try to distract myself and forget her absence, such as reading a book, watching an old movie, or playing guitar, is marred and made ineffective solely by my knowledge that if Maria were to be with me as I read the book , watch the old movie, or play guitar, the activity would be much more enjoyable just because she was there with me. 

Being without Maria turns out to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, and she turns out to be a lot more miss-able than I, the one who has to collect her five or six jackets that are placed (scattered) throughout the house and hang them up in the closet each day, had expected. If this were a "Married with Children" episode and I a more pleasant version of Al Bundy, I'd be thrilled to have a couple of days to myself without that harpy (that's Al speaking, Maria) telling me that somebody, somebody, should really think about fixing the dining room chairs. I'd sit on the couch, watch a football game with "the guys," and extend after-dinner dessert hour to anytime I feel like it. In my mind I had a list of things I wanted to do that I hadn't really been able to do because Maria was around. The items on this list wasn't anything sinister or extravagent; just finish two or three of those books on the shelf, and maybe watch an old horror movie that she'd refuse to watch. 

Things I do hoping that they will be more fun than having Maria around:

1) Listen to the Rolling Stones' "Aftermath."

2) Listen to the Rolling Stones' "Beggars Banquet."

3) Watch "The Hustler" with Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason and wonder if Paul Newman and Jackie Gleason made all those pool shots themselves.

4) Watch an episode of "24" only to find that it's tough to only watch one episode of "24."

5) Watch an episode of "M*A*S*H" and laugh as Hawkeye tells Colonel Blake that if he thinks he's a good surgeon now wait and see how good he is two or three wars down the road.

6) H*A*V*E  F*U*N  T*Y*P*I*N*G  I*N  T*H*E  M*A*S*H  F*O*N*T.

7) Growl and cough along to Tom Waits' album "Rain Dogs." Gargle thumbtacks and cleaning products to achieve a more faithful imitation. 

8) Run and jog and jog and run as though I enjoy either running or jogging, which I don't, really, even though it is a summer goal to get to a seven, on a scale of one to ten, one being David Bowie and ten being The Rock (Maria tells me that I am currently at a five, although I suspect she's being generous).

9) Try to do yoga and meditate along with the early morning elderly woman on TV who is on a mat on the beach somewhere, but the Lotus Position is just too hard.

10) Watch at one in the morning what looks like Oprah's version of "The View" because our bedroom is too quiet without the steady sound of Maria's breathing and her consistent attempts to cuddle with me, which don't last long because it gets really hot and I can't sleep and after ten minutes I gently roll her over and maybe kiss her on the head or on the shoulder and she falls back asleep immediately and I lay on my side and wonder if I believe in luck. I also wonder what's the big deal with Oprah: she doesn't seem that interesting.

11)I read in Brian Doyle's The Wet Engine and I read of how the English novelist Thomas Hardy wished that his heart be buried in a small English town, and that the local veterinarian took Hardy's heart out of his chest, postmortem, of course, and placed it in a box and this box he placed on the table, planning on sending it off to that small English town, and that when the vet returned from going out she found the box but not the heart, and found her cat picking its teeth, I suppose, and the vet shot the cat and buried the heart in the cat in the ground in the small English town. And after I read this I laugh out loud to myself (for who else?) and search the house for Maria to tell her this story and to read it to her so she could laugh out loud for me and maybe we would laugh out loud together.    

I admit, with a guilty heart, that I was secretly looking forward to doing these things, and even considered making a fort out of blankets and a table and sleeping underneath. After Maria left me with a kiss and departed in a screech of angry tires, her window rolled down and her hand waving backwards to me, and after I worry about all of those nuns and school children who will be using crosswalks that day, I commenced with the festivities, thinking that this is the way to party. After about an hour or two of watching a Van Damm movie, I realized that none of this was going to work. Lying on the couch and staring at the TV screen didn't seem relaxing, and neither did reading a book or listening to music. My proposed leisurely schedule became taut with anxiety and a grating boredom. I felt like that guy in all those Greek myths who's in Hell and is always thirsty like just crossed the Sahara thirsty oh please give me something wet and no matter how much water he drinks the dryness in his throat doesn't go away rather it gets dryer and dryer to the point that he wishes he was born without a throat, I suppose. Basically the world just didn't seem as bright. I opened the shades in the room, and that didn't help either. 

I have always felt that I am the conductor of my Happiness Train, to make use of an entirely trite trope that sounds childish and also like the title of a hippie-rock song from the sixties, the title track of a Strawberry Alarm Clock album. As conductor of this Happiness Train, I choose what fuels the machine and keeps it going. I shovel in what the engine needs, what I deem appropriate to make the wheels turn and whistle blow. As I extend the metaphor even more, and as you begin to think of just how lousy this metaphor is, and you try to imagine me in pinstripe over-alls with one of those little caps that train conductors and taxi drivers wear (or that taxi drivers appropriated from train conductors as though taxi drivers evolved from train conductors) and as I pass you with my Happiness Train you motion to me to pull the cord which controls the train whistle, and I do, because I was once like you on the ground watching the trains rolls past, and you wonder again how much more overtly sentimental I can get before you stop reading this altogether or I get embarrassed and mention that "Die Hard" is one of my favorite movies. And you are also surprised that I look that good in pinstrip over-alls.

So at nights while Maria is away and not with me and I make up her side of the bed as though she were there probably wearing one of my shirts and probably it being the Motorhead one because she would never dare to wear it outside in public in front of people and I think about her and where she is and if she is thinking the same but about me and I say her name up into the fan that oscillates above my head hoping that the word and its five little letters (my most favorite letters) make it past the fan blades and into the night air and catch a faithful wind and somehow make it to Maria in a place far from here.  

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Our home is not on fire, despite popular belief

Steve and I went to a ward dinner last Saturday, one of those where the home teachers lost out to the visiting teachers, resulting in everyone getting a free meal in the cultural hall. The conversation at our table began benign enough. It went something like this:
"Steve, anything exciting happen this week?"
"Not much, just our apartment almost caught on fire."
"Excuse me?"
We then had to explain what had happened on Wednesday. I noticed as I went for drink refills that the other tenants of our building were telling the story to their respective tables as well. You can read the details here. I learned two things from this event: firstly, my siblings who live in Provo are educated and watch the news, and secondly, they care enough to call immediately after watching the news when they find out a man tragically died in my building. Our apartment itself is fine, we suffered nothing other than panic.
After that was out of the way, the conversation continued into the mundane no man's land that conversations are wont to wander, such as "What are you studying?" or "When do you guys graduate?" Both are very safe questions that usually are followed up, in mine and Steve's case, with the "What are you going to do with a degree in that?"
At this point Steve says he is going into creative writing, why, you ask? Because of a desire to write creatively. At this point the conversation usually goes back to other things, like the house fire. However, here, over our taco salads, our ward friend shares how his uncle, once a lawyer, switched mid-career to creative writing. Apparently he had a story he had always wanted to write, one of those stories that must be told. 
"What story?" Steve asks. 
Our tablemates exchange glances. 
"Well, he writes really weird stuff," our dear friend says, hesitating before continuing. Steve, now completely uninterested in his black beans and rice, leans forward. 
 "Really weird stuff, kind of like horror stuff," says our friend. 
Steve's eyes are popping out of his face. 
"Really? Like what?" he squeaks, barely holding back his great interest. 
"Yeah, something about Santa, who goes all crazy..." 
Now, for those who haven't heard, Steve has been pitching this idea about a Jack Bauer meets Santa who speaks like Sam Spade murder mystery since, well, Christmas. Steve is taken aback. Not only does someone have a similar idea (which can be crushing, as inferior as it is), but the idea owner is viewed as deranged by his loved ones, worthy of a "can we talk about crazy ol' so-and-so at dinner without ruining our appetites?" look before mention.
However, the real point of this post is to share a bit of good news. One of Steve's short stories was accepted for publication in a BYU literary magazine. And, of all the entries competing for spots in the magazine, it won second place. And Steve is reading it at a the BYU Literary Conference next weekend. You are all invited to sit in the back and make faces with me, and we can exchange the look, and I can question you about the fire (how do you not get out of your apartment when you smell smoke smoldering in your laundry basket but nothing is actually in flames until hours later? And why were none of the smoke detectors working?). 

Mutant Ninja Poodle

It's a fact that I enjoy hair color. But I keep it relatively simple. The trick, in my opinion, is spontaneity. I wonder what part of this picture was premeditated.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Baby Pictures!!!

To be quite honest, the only reason I even post these blog-things is for the comments.  If you were really interested in my life, you'd probably call or something (thanks Mom),

(thanks Mom)

 and if I was really deadset on informing you of our latest happenings, I'd probably call you, like maybe during dinner, or something. 

(during dinner)

So, if I'm not motivated by this transference of information, it's the comments that keep me going, the response/appreciation of the reader.

(listening to the masses)

The comment-fiend in me relishes that little "1 Comment" tag below each post, even if it is just my sister Liz, combining invective with affection: "Hey, freaks, we love ya!!!" 

(a future comment-fiend)

I've supposed, erroneously, I now see, that if I wrote funny posts I'd get more comments. I called in sick to Life one day, and set upon some research, to discover just how a blogger can win this comments jackpot. Perhaps there's some sort of formula, or image sequence. My latest fish post (which I thought was pretty clever) garnered 1 Comment, my sister assaulting my social status (or perhaps reminding me of it). 

(assaulted social status)

I visited all sorts of blogs: personal ones chock-full of recent vacation pictures; political blogs where people discover their true, inner Wolf Blitzer, and write about it; recipe blogs that I purposely left open, hoping that Maria would "get some ideas"; etc. 

(Maria getting ideas)

During this online expedition, I discovered what most incited the commenting masses to comment: baby pictures. People just love baby pictures. A baby picture will out-comment a funny story post anyday. A picture of a baby looking intoxicated grabbed Six Comments. A picture of a baby holding a phone upside down to her ear got Five Comments. A picture of a baby wearing what must be her father's cowboy hat picked up an astounding 11 Comments. How can I compete with that? Can I write anything as amusing or comment-worthy as an eighteen-month old riding on top of what one hopes to be a lame Golden Retriever? Maria and I have yet to produce any of these little things, so we are at an obvious disadvantage. 

(depressing disadvantage)

I wondered if it was just the situations, if the commenting was independent of the baby presence. Cowboy hats are always funny; maybe the baby didn't even need to be there. If I take a picture of myself chasing a butterfly on the lawn, will the comments get into the double digits? What if I make a mess of the kitchen, or dump the brownie mix on top of my head? Bath pictures? 

(staring down the competition)

Anyway, I've decided to experiment on the baby picture theory. 

(brown-nosing the commentators)
Thus, have at with your comments.