Thursday, December 18, 2008

Holiday Cheer & A Little More Work Shit Talkin'

First of all, whoever sent me this oven mitt here, is a genius. Could this be more perfect? I love it. When I opened it, I stared at it for a long time because 1). I have been on this girl's website before and I nearly bought something from her. In fact I had to think long and hard whether I had actually bought the mitt, like, a month or so ago and I was just receiving it? But I knew I hadn't. 2). It's so me. Thanks so much, Friend Sender. Reveal thyself!

Let's talk bikes for a second. I've been getting acquainted with Whitey Heidi. We're getting more and more comfortable with each other though it has certainly been a transition. That bike wants to fly. For all my friends who know that I'm old school, hell yes I'm wearing a helmet on Whitey. In fact, I get all geared up for her in fancy padded pants and snug long-sleeve jerseys. Oh and the clipped shoes. Every time I leave the house in my get-up I ask Husband, "Do I look like a total douche bag or just a little like one?" He says he thinks it's hot, but saying such things is in his marriage contract. Good on him. I've reported before that I don't feel vulnerable on Loops, my commute bike, but it's another story on Whitey. Cars notice you much less on a bike that cooks. You're more of a surprise, like, surprise! I'm going 20mph too! Also, the bike is so slight. That feels very vulnerable to me. I've been on the tentative side around a lot of cars, but in less busy areas I try to open her up and my heart rockets to my throat at what she can do. I realized I could climb a hill all day long, but I don't know how to go fast. I grew up commuting on bikes in cities my whole life and I've watched for doors, I've watched for eye contact with drivers, I've watched for cars backing up, pulling out, turning left, and I've watched my speed. Learning how to go fast on a quality bike will be my biggest learning curve.

I've been hit on a bike by cars twice in my life; once in junior high, once in high school. In junior high I was actually doored when a guy was peeping out a garage sale that he had parked for and he swung his door wide open right as I came by. The strain -- I let out a long, wind-sucking grunt -- kept me from flying over the door. I told the guy I was fine and shakily I went on my way as my front wheel wobbled around lopsidedly. In high school, a woman turned left into me as I rolled through the intersection. She braked pretty good almost in time and I was only knocked down. She was a mess. She threw my bike in the back of her convertible and frantically lectured me about how I needed to be aware for myself AND for drivers. She drove me the half mile more to school. I didn't tell her that she hadn't given me enough time to be aware for the both of us. I couldn't wait to get out of her car. My mother was pissed that I didn't get any money from her. So, yea, I'm more tentative on Whitey than I thought I'd be, but she and I are working that out.

The other thing I've learned on my rides is that the seat that came standard with Whitey is a motherfucker. Wow. I've unaffectionately named it the Pooty Killer. It ain't killing my booty. No. I think I've had bike booty for a long time, but the aggressive positioning of the road bike coupled with the steal rod they call a seat kills the pooty, y'all. Whoa. I just ordered the saddle pictured. The below photo will give you more indication why this should ease what ails me. Hello Female-Friendly Friend:

So, about work: Mitch and I do all the buying and selling for a huge account in Arizona. He works in-house at the client's office in AZ and I work the magic from Cali. Every year our Big Client holds a Holiday Cookie Off, and every year Mitch volunteers me to bake for it. He tells them, "Oh yea, we got this. We'll represent and kick all y'all's cookies' asses." And then he'll IM me on the side and say, "Right? Is that cool?" Hell yea, Mitch. We got this. This year I made some Rose Water Pistachio joints from Veganomicon and my own Gingerbread Creams. I tried to recreate a vegan oreo filling and sandwiched it with gingerbread cookies. To Die! I fed ex'ed them out on Tuesday and the Big Client's warehouse promptly lost the box on Wednesday. Sigh. I have visited the Big Client's warehouse before. It's 100,000 square feet. I'm not joking. They have programmed robot/tractor things to retrieve product from rows, off pallets. So, I guess cookies could get lost in there. I think the "ATTN: MITCH" part threw them off. Ooo, Mitch was hot over it. The running joke for the last few months has been the Big Client's warehouse. They lose our product all the time. They'll say, Nope, didn't get that order. And we'll say, Isn't that your signature on the fed ex website? Pissing match then ensues. But when they lost the cookies, that sent Mitch over the edge. It's one thing to lose the cables and screws and credit card swipers and other stupid shit we sell to them, but not the cookies. Come on, not the cookies, guys.

Out here in Cali, we had the company holiday lunch yesterday. The lunch was in lieu of the killer parties we've had in past years. It was still fun and a little wild. We just can't help ourselves because though the event was scaled down dramatically, they still opened the bar unlimitedly. That's all brokers need; a little gas for the tank. In fact, the filling up started at the office when one of the top sales guys gave the owners and other big shots each a bottle of Patron. After a couple shots at 10:30 in the morning, you couldn't keep one of the owners off the intercom. That's always fun. He sang a little, talked to individuals over the speakers, said some personal stuff about himself. Then called us all into the conference room. Lindz, Rob and I groaned. When we schlepped into the conference room, thirty paper cups were filled with two inches of Patron. The Intercom Owner handed me a cup and said, "Oh just drink up." I said, "Hell no." He laughed and gave me the smirk he always does. He loves my spunk, he's always telling me. I said, "Yea, spunk this." He laughed harder.

Margaritas were pounded at a record pace at the restaurant. Rob and I bet the over-under on how many drinks certain people would have at lunch. I bet over four, but four was the most consumed in the hour and a half. I hate losing a bet! One guy ordered a rum & coke and he was immediately interrogated as to why he didn't get a high-end Margarita. He said, "I'm just keeping it real," which is a ridiculous thing to hear from a 30 year old guy. Another broker yelled across the room, "Yea, real high school!" Oh we're a funny bunch. One sales guy asked a buyer what the word "arroz" was on the menu. He said, "What's this 'aarrr-zz'?" Oh my man, we fell over on that one. I said, "Hey, what do Spanish Pirates eat? AARRRR-zzz.!"

The drinks loosened the lips of many. The most damaging thing that was tossed out there like a moldy brick was the fact that one of the owner's hair-brained ideas was costing the company tons of money. One guy slurred to another, "Just take a guess at how much money we lost in this deal so far?" He was tapping the back of his hand on the other guy's arm, "JUST GUESS!" he yelled. I bet you didn't guess $800k. Because I surely didn't. Rob and I eyeballed each other from across the table and our lips curled up. "I didn't need to hear that," he said quietly. I said loud enough, "Well, that's where our party and bonus went. Great, thanks!" One of the guys involved in the deal yelled over, "Next year, we'll be taking you guys to Hawaii for Christmas! As soon as everything hits." "I've heard that before," I said. "Until then, you'll be riding on all of our backs as usual. Awesome!" They laughed. Oh, they love my spunk.

Then a flying napkin fight commenced which evolved into an intra-table sugar packet war. Good thing there was no music pumping over the speakers or table surfaces would've been cleared, and god knows what would've happened.

Sigh. I told Mitch this morning, as I tell Rob and Lindz all the time, I appreciate him and our partnership. The three of them are some of the finest folks I've ever worked with so that keeps me going. I also told Mitch that I've got nothing else on the horizon so I should just shut my damn mouth and remain thankful for what I have.

Happy Holidays almost!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Need Nothing

On Monday night, we walked along a dark, small street that was sandwiched between the 10 freeway and the high school. I powered along holding Mina's hand. I called for Maya to stay close. I checked to make sure their jackets were zipped. We were behind the tennis courts and near a large, building-like trailer that was unhitched and read "Santa Monica High School Viking Band." I pointed out the baseball field, told Mina about the good tennis program. But I pulled them forward. We didn't lightly flitter around in our wondering and curious conversation like we normal would. I was aware of the darkness and the cold, the presumably empty street. We had a few more blocks to go. The girls didn't complain, but settled into my intentional grove. They stayed near and alert. We talked a bit, but they sensed I needed them to stay on task.

Forty minutes before, my car had been towed from a meter behind the Santa Monica library. I was so happy to have found a 2 hour meter open that I failed to see the tiny sign below reading that a restaurant valet would tow after 5pm. It was shocking to see my car gone, disappointing more especially when I had just told two people last week how it made no sense to drive in Santa Monica. But on the fly, after picking Mina up from an after-school reading program, I decided to drive to the library this time. It was cold. We had trumpets and heavy back packs. Why wait for the bus tonight? The blanket of disappointment was suffocating when I looked at my girls with backpacks on shoulders lit yellow by a street lamp. I am good (especially when I was younger) at hunkering down, alone, to solve things; muscle through anything that seemed like an obstacle. Alone, these things could roll off me and a mechanical-like track could take over where I simply do what had to be done. With the girls, I softened a bit knowing that I'd have to stretch and spread this hunkering over them; I'd have to pull them in tight and show them how to handle their shit. The thinking was over dramatic really, but it's the process I put myself through. They put their hands on my coat sleeve and said, "I'm sorry, Mami." And I shook off the disappointment and said, "Well, this kind of stuff happens, but we have to take care of it. We have to stick together and just knock it out, ok?" They nodded. They were ready. They knew not to be goofy or jokey.

Cars are so often towed from this spot that the valet had many slips of paper in his drawer where he had written the number to call to find the car. First we'd have to go to the police station about a mile away. We caught a bus traveling that way, and the driver, close to the end of his route, didn't charge us. The policeman at the counter took his time He called the back impound lot to see if my car was still there, "No?" he said, "By the way, that sandwich you brought me earlier was really good. Yea, fantastic," he said before he hung up and picked up my paperwork again. He then charged me a police pimp cut to release the car. Over $100. I didn't flinch or sigh. There's no use in that. As I waited for the release slip, I looked back at the girls. They had both retrieved a book from their backpacks and read quietly until I was done. The tow yard was another mile or so away, a straight shot behind the high school, over the 10 freeway overpass, past the Salvation Army and industrial buildings. The tow yard attendant told me through the intercom that there would be an extra fee for opening the gate after hours. "Yes," I said, "the police told me. Thank you." The gate clicked and rolled back to reveal a grave yard of cars and mopeds. A small Christmas tree stood on a box on the porch of the office, lit and lopsided. The man rang me up and we stood behind the chipped linoleum counter, the three of us with Mina just peeking over the counter and Maya standing erect, not moping or sighing either. I stared over the man's head looking at a collection of toy trucks displayed in a neat disarray on slanted shelves. I was calm and to the point. And these men that you sense could be rough and rude were soft and apologetic. I took the keys and we traipsed over to the car. I peeled a parking ticket -- on top of it all! -- from under the windshield wiper. Safe in car, my guard went down a bit as did the girls. They were new to the fact that hunkering down together pulls the strings closer. I let the high price tag of the night go. It would be fine because at least I had gotten a holiday bonus on Friday.

But about the bonus:

Friday, a holiday bonus from the job hit my bank account without announcement or forewarning. There is was. I only looked because Mitch my partner at work asked if I had noticed any money falling into my hands that morning. It was a good bonus. A validating one; one that made Mitch and I feel valued for all the hard work as of late. I have to say the bonus put a wind in my sails. All was well. I worked hard, my family is perfect, I had a little change in my pocket for the holidays.

Yesterday, Mitch asked me again if I had checked my bank account. Half of the bonus had been reversed, taken out of his account, he said. I said, "Shut up." But he said his account was now negative. I raced online and it was true. Half was gone, sucked back out on Monday. It turned out that it was an accidental double deposit. My Job had really only wanted us to have half of the amount that we thought was validating. I was light headed. All the air in my guts had let out. I wasn't angry. I was embarrassed that while that really nice bonus sat in my bank account for the entire weekend I felt I deserved it, that they understood what we were doing; that they recognized all the hard work. And that was not true. It ended up being the same bonus as last year. This year there's no party. And sales are up. I left the office for lunch, still feeling a little sick, and I noticed the sparkly new black Jaguar with no plates sitting in one of the owner's parking spots.

I let it go then. Seeing the Jag reminded me that I need nothing. I have everything. I need nothing more to make me feel more loved or complete. I have perfect girls who are sincere and honest and good people, my loving dogs, my favorite cat, my friends, and my Husband who immediately said to me after the half-bonus news, "I appreciate you and everything you do to make our family the best." This is all he said. It was all I needed.

So what is disappointment? There is none, really, is there? Feh, the car, the money. Who cares. The rent is paid, there's food in the fridge. Most presents are bought. I got a bike! (And I deflect that guilt!) The tree is lit, the fire goes on and all I have is the love that fills me and the love that surrounds me.

Friday, December 05, 2008

And Back to Biking . . .

I'm ready to talk about my ball of energy. Only because it's time to get some collective energy building, get me rolling so to speak.

I've been in training to take road biking more seriously. For the last three months I've been working out, taking a lot of spin classes, reading/researching nonstop, commuting around on Loops, of course, and most importantly, all these months I've been saving up for a road bike. Today Loops got a sister.

She's a Cannondale Six 2009, carbon frame, Shimano 105 components. And she's gorgeous, no? My friend Rob asked me which character I was in Breaking Away? Dennis Quaid? I said the fake Italian dude for sure.

I researched bikes for a long time. I was close to pulling the trigger a couple times, but I had to wade through some emotional shit to commit to such an investment. It was an odd process. It took me a lot of self coaxing to let myself buy not just a bike, but an expensive beautiful piece of cycling technology. After months of this, I test drove this bike, and I was done. This was it. I was in love.

Mina and Husband had gone with me to test the bike. When we left the bike shop, they knew I had finally broken through and that this was going to be the one. I asked Mina what we should name the bike -- she had named Loops after all -- and without hesitation she said Whitey Heidi. Man, we laughed, but I thought OH NO, I don't want that to stick. But it stuck. It's too good, too funny. Whitey Heidi for crying out loud!

As I've gotten stronger, my daydreams of the biking possibilities have gotten grander. A century (a 100 mile bike event) is on the 2009 list for sure. Y'all know I want to do some touring. But maybe if I actually learn how to ride Miss Whitey properly, maybe I'll enter a race or two. Time trials even! Maybe earn a yellow jersey in a Tour de Middle Age. Feh, we'll see. In the meantime, I'll spend the next however many months becoming as one with my beautiful Whitey Heidi.

Monday, November 24, 2008

So, Back To Cooking . . .

I did some ambitious cooking over the weekend. Or at least I think bagels are ambitious. They're so easily bought and can be really good when bought, so what's the point, right, but the LA Times did a big spread last week on bagels that included a recipe and tips, and I wanted to give it a shot even though they take two days to make. Here's the hook for me though: The more things I make from scratch, which is really a lot as of late, the more hearth-like I feel; like gather 'round my loving and modest yet inventive kitchen where I'll make you a pot of perfection from two beans and a carrot. I feel pioneering, resourceful, like a magician of sorts; a master nurturer, a creator -- it always comes back to some sort of Goddess Theory for me. Every time I put a good meal on the table that I created from the ground up, I feel like I'm saving the world, kinda. How the entire world and her ailments are connected to a few quinoa dishes and pie, I'm not sure. I'm only going off of raw feeling, like I usually do.

So the bagels. . . they took finesse. But every time I cook or bake I say that. I mean, what skill shines without finesse really? The bagels were close to perfect, though I think I know how I can make them perfect truly; perfect enough for Husband to eat at least. His heart is pure Cali now, but his palette remains true to New York. He said the bagels were a bit doughy, but the taste was there. I took this as a compliment even though he only had a bite. The girls, however, gobbled them up in a day. I had a couple myself. Doughy schmoughy.

Sunday morning, I made a mushroom Tofu Scramble and baked blueberry muffins. Mina woke first and when she came out of her room she said, "It smells funny in here," which wasn't really what I had hoped to hear. I had just added nutritionals yeast to the pan and it did smell a little funky. She is an extremely picky eater though I have to say that lately every home cooked meal has been a hit with her. She has requested seconds and asked that leftovers go into her lunch. Maya and I have almost the same exact taste in food so it's a thrill to cook for such an eager recipient. But with Mina I just hope for the best. I love that she has liked most everything in the great From Scratch Experiment. But when she said, "It's smell funny," I thought, Feh I can't win them all. When breakfast was on the table, I gave her much less tofu than I did Maya. I said, "Mina, the tofu tastes a little like soy sauce." Mina has tried to drink soy sauce straight from the bottle she likes it so much. She said, "Are you just trying to get me to try the tofu?" I said, "Pretty much." After the first bite, she yelled out, "Why does Maya have so much more than me!?" I said, "I didn't know if you'd like it. You said it smelled funny." She said, "Just because it smells funny doesn't mean it doesn't taste good." She demanded more. However, she wouldn't touch the homemade blueberry muffins. "You know I don't like blueberries," she said. "Uh, since when?" And Maya said, "Shoot, good, more for me," as she practically shoved muffins in her PJ pockets.

Steaming plate of scrambled mushroom tofu and muffins. If I didn't like blueberries, I might've still eaten these. Did I tell you that I took a raw food day-long class back in August? Back when I was pumped on transitioning more to raw foods? The class was given by the owner of Leaf Cuisine, who was intriguingly aloof and sharp-witted. He seemed a bit over it all in a weathered way. It seemed, with no obvious indication, that he internally struggled with the compassion and patience he projected and the fire of whirling insults and eye-rolling that possibly came instictually yet he suppressed. I loved this. He was handsome with greying blond surfer hair that was cut and swept back in a mature way. In between processing dates and chopping lemons and half-heartedly walking us through the menu hand outs, he'd casually drop snippets of his life in relation to the food. "Did you know that falafels were originally a raw dehydrated food, centuries ago? I learned this from the nomads of Egypt when I had that scuba diving business on the Red Sea." Huh? Later, I looked up his story and it was a doozy. He was basically run out of the town he lived in on the Red Sea with the end of a broken bottle by unsympathetic business partners who took over his business and any possessions with what he couldn't flee. He tried to fight these partners in the Egyptian courts, defending himself in Arabic.

So we learned how to make his kale salad. And raw mushroom soup. Oh and he lived in Paris in his early 20's, studying fine cuisine, then lived with a grandmother in Rome.

I signed up for the more advanced class that would be given in October. I was jazzed about learning more complicated stuff. As the weeks rolled on between courses, my raw food interest waned though I tried quite a few things. I found the amount of nuts in recipes upset my stomach a bit. Fruits and vegetables are obviously still by best friends, but I faltered with consistently experimenting with raw recipes. I gave in to the comfort of vegan cooking and baking, though I don't bake any where near as much as I used to. But when the second class came around, I was still intrigued to get more advanced raw instruction. When I showed up on the last Saturday of October for class, the kitchen of the rented synagogue was closed. No one else was there. I waited, and felt foolish after ten minutes. I called the restaurant and they said, "Oh yea, that was cancelled because only two people registered." Sigh. Thanks for telling me. I guess I won't be hearing any more swashbuckling raw chef stories.

Alright, I'm out. The dill rice is almost done.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bike, Cooking, Bike, Cooking

My flow is shot. My words have run dry, but I'll work through it, choppily, if you let me.

* I hardly drive my car anymore, but I drove to the Co-op at lunch break because Maya had to use my bike yesterday. While driving I felt I was in the middle of swirling, heavy, metallic chaos that is barely contained by lines and rules. It's nutz out there! I never feel this way on a bike, which is ironic, considering the metallic chaos could f up my world in a heartbeat. But no, no such feelings when riding.

* While driving, I saw a bicyclist on the corner waiting for the light to change. He looked like a sales guy who I had hired to work for my company a lifetime ago. I laughed out loud remembering some of his stories like when he came in on Halloween dressed in a bike helmet, short button-down white shirt, skinny black tie, slacks and a pegged pant cuff. He was a Mormon, but the best part was that he had his 11 year old son wear the same exact thing and that's how they went around together trick o' treating. Or the time he got so drunk while at a party with his wife that he passed out when they got home, naked in the shower after turning on the water. He went down in a way where his left face cheek was covering the drain and water was starting fill the shower unable to go down the drain. His wife couldn't lift him because of drunk-guy-dead-weight syndrome and plus is face was suctioned to the drain. Firefighters had to come and unsuck his face before he drowned.

* I've been working a lot lately. Enough where I feel like a robot, a work robot, and it's kind of deaden my brain. I've taken on more work at the job, and after I took it on, I wondered why. It doesn't promise more money, certainly not more praise. The driving force was that I knew I could do it. I knew I could help straighten out the account I primarily work on, and I was tired of it getting so screwed up. But the price has been higher than I thought. I feel numb, like a machine. I wake in the morning and do five million things until I lay my head back down at night. I'm not sure what to feel about this. Because my brain is dead. RIP, brain.

* Husband came home the other night and Maya, Mina and I were all sitting on the same chair. Not a love seat or sofa and though it's a big chair, it's still a chair. More funny was that the pugs were trying to squeeze up with us too. Dog-pile on Mami (I won't say literally.)

* The thing is, is that I feel isolated lately. Lonely even. My husband has been working very long, hard hours -- hard as in slippery slope hard; as in he fights hard to win battles that are not beatable kind of hard; hard in that he wonders why the majority of people are lazy and he has to work to make up for it kind of hard. But he's carving out his mark in the world and where we're from, in our psyche, this is the only way to get any where. After work, Husband then plays hard. An understandable and necessary outlet, but I haven't seen him much in the last couple months. I miss him and sometimes I'm mad at him.

* But part of the isolation also has to do with the fact that most all of my friends are long distance or virtual. I am a work machine, a home machine. My children must share the same chair as me. The dogs too. But lately I feel a little adultless and lonely in all of that.

* Embarrassingly, all I can think to talk about any more is biking, my bike or cooking. I struggle to think of anything else. I feel my brain is stuck. I love those things, really, truly, obviously, but I think I'm boring people to tears.

* I went to a 4th Grade Parent Meet Up last night where only the parents of Mina's class got together to get to know each other. A lot of us already know each other from past years, but I met a new mom last night, new to the school. She's a scientist at UCLA where she teaches geology and researches cool stuff like planets under pressure. Then I realized I know three scientists that work at UCLA, two of them women, which gave me an instant pang of pride, oddly. So the cool scientist and I talked about earthquakes and minerals (a little) and then cooking. I'm proud to say I restrained from bringing up my bike. In my mind, I was thinking, Don't do it. Don't talk about biking; don't, goddamn it. But SHE brought up Top Chef so, cool.

* I want you to know that of all the people in the world -- grown or not grown --, I would most like to share my chair with the girls.

And my bike.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Close to the Vest & Potato Jackets

Twenty years ago, a writer friend told me that she never talked about a story she was working on; not a hint of the story line, characters, nothing. It dissipates it, she said. It's a piece of advice that I most vividly remember adopting immediately. An idea is a ball of energy, right, that floats between your mind, your heart, your pen, or however you express it. And to talk about it pin pricks the ball. It slowly deflates. The energy escapes.

And sometimes I feel that way about the blog. Like, when I get all excited to, let's say, sew aprons for a living, I feel sometimes I prematurely barf it up on the blog and the energy of what seemed like such a good idea in my mind dissipates and slips passed my determination and drive. But maybe I just want to do too many things, maybe I'm "desirous of everything at the same time" as my new favorite quote goes, and my ideas blow in and out like seasonal winds.


In any event, I'm holding my ball of energy close right now. I'm rolling it around in my hands close to the vest, stoking it, keeping it mainly to myself, and when it erupts then I'll think to share. It's not anything big, really. This is more of an experiment if anything. It's the ol' Do-Don't-Tell technique. I'm new to this.

In the meantime -- because I miss you -- here are some pictures from Molly's 2nd Annual Potato Jacket Night. She came up with the brilliant idea to bake a good number of potatoes, make a good variety of toppings, lay them all out and let friends and neighbors create their own potato master piece. Very fun and super yummy.

Baked potatoes and shredded rice cheese.Toppings, salad and sweet potato pie.Molly makes toppings.I made sweet potato pie. The nut topping made of walnuts, almonds and hazelnuts was outrageous.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Thank You Active Citizens

When I watched President Elect Obama make his speech last night, I felt it was just him and me. He was talking to us individually, wasn't he? I've never really felt that way about a leader before. I appreciate the restoration of patriotism. Maybe it's newly found.

Neighbors were over last night and I made rice and beans and we fist-pumped every announcement of a freshly-anointed blue state. When red states were called I secretly thought, Oh no, even though we were far ahead the whole night. It was hard to trust anything. Even when the screen switched to the words "Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States," I shook it off. I was on the phone with Betsy. I told her and she said, "Really? Already?" We both switched to other channels and the internet. Really? Really.

My girls were hugely involved in this election. We had many discussions about propositions and the candidates, and they campaigned enthusiastically for Prop 2 & Obama. Prop 2 passed by a landslide here in Cali (whoohoo!) and I told the girls this morning, "The hard work that you guys did for Prop 2 will now help ease the suffering of 20 million animals. That's amazing. You guys should be so proud of yourselves." They blushed and smiled. The impact was great; the realization that with action and a voice they could accomplish something. Most people I know haven't felt that before, or hadn't before last night.

Maya volunteered two separate times at the Obama call center. The center was packed with middle school students every single day. Some days it was so crowded the center said there were no more phones and the kids would have to make calls on their own cell phones. And they did. It was ingenious to recruit the youngens of liberal parents. They were knowledgeable for the most part, easily given permission from us, and they were uninhibited to make phone call after phone call to strangers in Montana. "Hi, can we count on your support for Senator Obama this Tuesday? Yes? Oh cool!" Or "You're voting for McCain? Oh ok, bye." Or "Oh yea, sorry we'll take you off the list. Sorry 'bout that."

Both Maya and Mina were able to vote at school. At Maya's middle school they held a more detailed election where they voted for the presidency and on the major propositions. At Mina's elementary school, they got to go into mock booths set up in the cafeteria and cast their vote for president. And again I was thrilled to see their voice reaffirmed. They believe their vote matters. They haven't been shown or told any differently.

And to you my friends and to the country in general, thank you so much for your involvement and action during this election. We all made a difference. I found the spirit of democracy infectious and inspiring. I feel alive and hopeful.

I leave you with this year's school pictures.

Mina, 9, 4th grade. Awaiting her photo is always a surprise. Like, surprise! I'm wearing something completely different than what I left the house in on picture day. Or surprise! I decided to water down my bangs at recess and go for this look. Oh Mina, I love you so much. Maya, 13, 8th grade. A true beauty inside and out. I love you so much too, Maya. My little citizens are steady on their pace to become world-changers, if they aren't doing it already.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Dreams & Halloween

Last night I dreamed that I was at a film documentary premier about a group of men who herded marlins in the ocean with chainsaws. The marlins had been attacking boats near a particular harbor and the group was hired to steer them clear of the boats, not in a general way, but just as they were attacking the boats. We watched footage of a great-sized marlin trying to overtake a small boat and then suddenly a wild-looking man was along side the huge fish with an arm over it, forcefully guiding it away with the buzz of the chainsaw. Most remarkably was that the man was nearly the size of the marlin. I was horrified at first because I thought they carved into the fish with the saw, but then I learned that it was just the sound and vibration of the chainsaw that did the trick. In the dream, I then had no opinion about it whatsoever. I went to the theater lobby to get refreshments. Husband had told me to buy five espressos. In the lobby, there was a model of a chainsaw that the herding crew used and I held it, noting that there was no handle; the men could only grip the thing from underneath. At the concession stand, Barack Obama was working behind the counter. We knew who he was. We were humbled and nervous about asking him for service. We did know though that he was a skilled barista; we knew he was known for whipping up a mean coffee. People ahead of me in line would say things like, "I hope this is the last time I'll ask you for a soda." "After this weekend, we never want to see you working at this stand again!" And I was thinking the same things. He would smile, but not acknowledge any talk of the pending presidency. He was only concentrating and working hard at the task at hand. As we stood in line, we ogled him with such reverence, praying we'd never seem working anything but as a president after this. When it was my turn, I said self consciously, "Five espressos, please." He brightened up, "Ah, yes, great choice." He asked me what great espresso I had had before. And I said, "I had some with an Italian family I know. And I have Turkish friends." It was a lie because I didn't want to disappoint him. And then he went about brewing up a special batch for my five espressos. He gave me the drinks and said, "Have a great weekend." And I said in a you-know-what-I-mean way, "No, YOU please have a great weekend."

So, now that I've met him, kind of, I'll feel that much more devastated if he doesn't win. But I'll believe what Rebel Girl says: He WILL win. We WILL celebrate, Tuesday and beyond.

Just one more thing about Barack and them . . .on Halloween night, our cool downstairs neighbors Travis & Nikki had a party. Halloween is Travis' birthday, which how cool is that? I baked some Dia del los Muertos treats -- you'll see below -- but for his birthday, I made these cupcakes we can believe in, cupcakes for change. I was channeling some democratic spirit carving out the fondant tops. It was trance-like.
Here was the tiny-skulled apple pie. What I don't reveal in the photos is that when I was taking the pie out of the oven, I scraped part of the upper crust on the top rack as I pulled it out. My kitchen is so small that my oven door doesn't open all the way and I have to angle the baking pan up and out to free the pie and I miscalculated the space this time. It crushed me. For a second. Then I was over it, kinda. What am I gonna do? It was still delicious and the scrape hardly went noticed, though you know I was eyeballing that shit at the party most of the night. Until a slice with the scrape was eaten, and the evidence was gone. Here's this year's Picado Pumpkin Pie. This is always fun to make.Maya's BD and Sanne drove in from Vegas to join us for trick o' treating. It's now almost a tradition that they come every other year. This is the second time and it was lots of fun. It's great having them around and Maya & Mina love to fawn over the two baby girls, RaeRae who is three and the new addition Gabriella, three months.

Here they are as a 90's dead prom couple.
Goth Fairy Maya and Dead Daddy.
Here's BD and his new lil monkey, Gabriella.
Trick o' Treaters, Witch Mina & Princess RaeRae. They're as close as any sisters.
Trick o' Treaters, Grandma Annie & Goth Maya. When a camera was around Maya was never out of character. It was awesome.
Papi and Witch Mina.After Trick O' Treating, we went down to Travis' party and had a blast, all of us. The kids and the adults, we held it down. We took over the dance floor, laughed hard. We tried on other people's wigs and hats.

I was the Mama Witch and here's Molly the Martian. Great paint job! At the end of the night the wig/hat came off and Husband was wearing Travis' meathead hat. This was taken just after someone had handed me a shot of Jagermeister (jesus) and I had flung the liquid over my shoulder into the outside patio as everyone watched while chanting drink, drink, drink. Funk that. I say Hell No to shots. I don't succumb to pressure on that tip.
Happy Halloween, my friends. It was a fun one.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dudes, I'm Nervous

Husband has a propensity to watch CNN nonstop. But I can't watch it anymore, or any election coverage (save The Daily Show). I don't look at the poll numbers, though we're showing a lead. Or if I sneak a peek, I rationalize that if I haven't looked at it for more than three seconds, I haven't jinxed it. Mostly, I can't listen to any more f'ing talking heads analyzing the last molecule of shit out of every single aspect of everything . . .UG. It's maddening. I'm nervous though. I'm nervous that the race is as close as it is. This baffles me. I'm nervous to hear real live people -- from this here modern times! -- declare that if Obama is elected, the terrorists will have infiltrated the White House. Yet, it is perfectly ok that as a terrorist he is a U.S. Senator?

I feel like I'm waiting to see if I made the cheer squad. The list will be posted on the gym door Tuesday. Or maybe Wednesday, depending on the electoral cheer committee. But a thousand times more intensely -- if I knew what it felt like to try to make the cheer squad that is. I feel like I'm waiting to see if I got into a college that will make or break my major. They're ripping apart my essay now, I know it! That is if I knew what it felt like to try to get into a college. Ok, I feel like I'm waiting for a million dollar purchase order from a customer and if I don't get the PO I'll lose the account and my livelihood all together. This I can relate to, but in short, I'm just nervous, yo.

God help me on Tuesday. I'll have to run by the TV to check standings but only at periodic and random times with the volume on mute, of course, because any softened nod towards Obama as the votes still tally will be a sure fire jinx. It would be a roller coaster I wouldn't survive.

Another reason I can't watch any more coverage is because I am naturally not a hateful person. I am mellow and decent, usually, and I don't like the feelings of hate that gurgle up in my esophagus every time I hear the shameful and boggling things that continued to be unearthed during this campaign. I don't' want to hate. I want to regain my tread on the road of compassion and understanding. My guts can't take the hate.

I feel like I'm waiting for loan approval for the biggest purchase of my life. But that's not a good analogy because loans are hard to come by right now! Oh my god - what about that time I was late on my 1983 Ford Escort payment? Or when I maxed out the Sears card . . .

I waffle between extreme hope and extreme terror. Oh Tuesday, come already! But only with good news. The stomach aches I can no longer bear.

Monday, October 20, 2008

D'You Like Apples?

How do you like these apples?

The girls, Molly and I headed out to Riley Farms in Oak Glen, past Yucaipa (Where? Who knows) to go apple picking on Saturday. It was about a two hour drive straight east for us, with traffic of course, to a virtual no man's land as far as we coast-huggers were concerned. Before we left, the morning looked like this: 7:30am we went to Mina's volleyball game for some sluggish hilarity -- the short of it is that any nine year old who can serve the ball over the net will earn the point because hitting it back they have not yet mastered. Then we were off to Mina's TaeKwonDo studio where Maya had already taught the 9:30am lil white belt class. Kick, kick, block, block, yadi, yadi, then we were off to Maya's volleyball game where the kids demonstrated a little more skill than I had expected. Maya looked very self conscious on the v-ball court, bummed that she's not automatically fantastic at every athletic endeavor she attempts, even when she's never done it before nor knows any rules or ins and outs. I said, "What, you going out for the Olympics already in this? Catch yourself a break and have a good time." She was like, Oh, ok. She didn't play badly on Saturday, I thought.

Mina's game.

Maya's game. Then finally, we were off, towards Yucaipa and other unknown regions of Southern California for the much anticipated apple picking. We drove past downtown, past east LA, then we entered Illinois, I think. 50 miles outside of LA is pretty much middle America. You may find it surprising - I know I do and I'm from here - that California is not all wheatgrass drinkers and surfers or actors and film makers. Nope. We've got some salt of the earth right here too; enlightened and ignorant salt just like everybody else. We exited the freeway and followed the Yes on 8 signs all the way up to the farm. This made me cringe. For those not from Cali, Prop 8 is trying to eliminate same-sex marriage laws that were so hard won here not too long ago. No on 8 would keep same-sex marriages, Yes on 8 "upholds traditional marriage" and squashes the rights of others. This is a very heated topic here. In Santa Monica, No on 8 signs abound. In Orange County, where I work, I was taken aback when I saw the first Yes on 8 bumper sticker. Then I heard about the rallies where people stand on street corners -- for the Lord and family, don't you know -- and wave Yes on 8 signs. They've even been going door to door! And I thought, why is so much time and money being invested to take something away from someone else? Why is this time and money not going into good works for god or Jesus, if that's their agenda, feeding the hungry, clothing the poor and the like. I truly believe Jesus shakes his head at this kind of hate-mongering or right-blocking. He must be thinking, You really missed the point, y'all.

After a windy, uphill drive on a sidewalkless road, we arrived at the farm which was crowded and teaming with families holding brown bags that spilled apples . The grounds were gorgeous and the staff was dressed in pioneer-days style. I looked out onto the pumpkin patch, noting the spectrum of sizes; huge and lopsided squash to small and round ones with curved, ridged stems. The day was crisp, but warm still and the dots of orange in the field held hands with the blue of the sky. I saw a cute blond boy about four with a cap weaving around pumpkins. When he turned around, I saw that his parents had stuck a YES ON 8 round sticker to the back of his shirt. I looked around at the crowd suspiciously. I then noticed a Yes on 8 banner stabbed in the dirt at the entrance of the farm, and this all made me on edge.

But we wandered out into the fields then, past the endless baby strollers and pods of families wearing matching jean shorts, and the trees put me at ease. The dirt comforted me. Molly and I found ourselves repeating, "Nature is awesome" a hundred times. The girls picked up walking sticks and ran along the path. Mina threatened to chuck her stick a few times, announcing, "Look, I'm a javelin thrower." I wasn't sure if watching so much Olympic coverage was such a good thing.

As a city girl, my idea of apple trees comes from illustrated fantasies of them; an Adam and Eve type tree, lush and full, thick-trunked with a bush of green leaves and low-hanging fruit. I hid my disappointment when I first saw the main orchard. It was a quiet disappointment still charged with the excitement of pulling fruit from the life source. We strolled up to a scrawny tree which had a puddle of fresh and decaying apples at the foot of the trunk. Some of the fruit on the ground looked perfectly fine, others were browned and flattened, returning to the dirt. The tree branches looked stripped and dry. Trees leaned this way and that. Then I looked up, and there they were. Apples clustered together like hanging jewels! I felt like we had stumbled upon a secret treasure. They lit up the brittle branches, and the trees did not look the same then. They were not scrawny at all; not dry or leaning or little. They were perfect; giving and beautiful and perfect. Nature is awesome.

This farm was not an organic one. This was a bit unsettling to both Molly and I and we were told that the trees get sprayed twice a year. We found some comfort that bugs still seemed part of the natural process. We saw plenty of bees and spiders and other bugs I can't identify. At first I wasn't going to let the girls eat any of our chemical-laden bounty until I had soaked them in vinegar first, but as we skipped back down the path with baskets and bags full of apples, we couldn't resist them. I rubbed each little apple on my jeans roughly and kissed it to the sky. Down the hatch. Good god, they were amazing. Chemicals and all. We ended up eating about four each and they were all great, the small ones, the ugly ones, the medium ones; all were sweet and snappy. Our faces lit up each time we took a bite, like it was a surprise every single time. When Molly bit into her first apple, she said, "This is the best thing I've ever put into my mouth." I had to agree. We were all under the apples' spell. She took two more bites and then accidentally dropped the apple onto the dirt path. We all stopped and stared at the apple for what seemed like an eternity, mourning its perfectness. Molly picked it up. The exposed white apple flesh was spotted with sticks and dirt, and I could see it run through her mind how the apple could be salvaged. We did too. "Let's just rinse it off somewhere," we suggested. We earnestly tried to solve this dilemma for a good five minutes because the fruit seemed so precious to us now; we understood what a gift it was. Finally Molly tossed the dusty apple over the side of the path. "Back to the earth," she said.

By the end of the day, all my nervousness about the people we were among had dissolved. I didn't even notice them or the hate signs by then. The apples and the sky and our little pod of love was all that mattered. I could only imagine that nature would soften their resolve too, melt away a little of their stand to block others right to be, to love. Ah, nature makes me sentimental, makes me appreciate the simplicity and strength of generosity. Back to the earth indeed.

Here are some pic's from our day. Molly taking photos of wildflowers. I spent most of yesterday baking, which I haven't done in a while. But what's a sister to do with a bushel full of apples? Is it obvious to say peeling and chopping and baking hand-pick apples delivers a type of satisfaction deeper than one experiences regularly? Eating the goods brought no less satisfaction. I sop up every photo taken from the experience.

Vegan apple pie, my favorite meal of all time.

Vegan turnovers, my second favorite meal.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I'm Just Saying

This was in last Sunday's LA Times. The source is the Tax Policy Center.

Here's what you'd pay in taxes under Sens. Obama & McCain's proposals:

If you make less than $19,000.00 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $567, with McCain $21

If you make between $19,000-$37,600 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $892, with McCain $118

If you make between $37,600-$66,400 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $1,118, with McCain $325

If you make between $66,400-$111,600 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $1,264, with McCain $994

If you make between $111,600-$161,000 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $2,135, with McCain $2,584

If you make between $161,000-$227,000 . . .
Your average tax saving would be . . .with Obama $2,796, with McCain $4,437

And for the top 5% of earners:
If you make $227,000-$603,400, under Obama you would PAY an additional $121, under McCain you would SAVE $8,159

If you make $603,400-$2.87 million, under Obama you would PAY an additional $93,709, under McCain you would SAVE $48, 862

If you make more than $ 2.87 million (top .1% of earners), under you would PAY an additional $542,882, under McCain you would SAVE $290,708.

The McCain proposal does not look Joe Plummerish to me. So maybe he should lay that already-tired metaphor to rest.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Sales Meeting In the Conference Room, Guys

That's what my boss said to me and my co-sales people yesterday afternoon: "Yea, come on. Quick sales meeting. Impromptu." I looked at his hands. I said, "I don't see any pink slips, so I guess I'll be there." He smiled and turned on his heels.

We all shuffled around in our cubes for a minute, pushing our chairs in and out; looking for the lingering email. We contemplated aloud about bringing a pad and pencil. One guy said, "You always bring a pad and pen to a meeting, duh." Another guy said, "Whatever." I whispered to my girl Lindz, "Take paper so we can pass notes if we have to." All of this, the shuffling, the pushing, the asking, the procrastinating was fueled by a nervous energy. What'd we do, we were thinking. It's all coming to an end, isn't it, we worried. You pendejos have made one too many lame broker risks, haven't you? HAVEN'T YOU? I hadn't thought of any of this until the second he called for an impromptu sales meeting.

The conference room was a chill 65 degrees. We nervously complained about it the second we entered the room. We can't help ourselves. After we were settled into cush conference chairs that remind me of gorilla palms, the main boss started to blahblahblah about seizing business opportunities and yadiyadi this and yadiyadi that, and we patiently, dozily waded through the sales-speak waiting for the meat, waiting for the hammer. We fumbled with our pens and fingered the corners of our blank pads of paper. Some people scribbled on their pads, making no effort to hide a non-business related doodle. What'd we do, we thought.

Then, all of the sudden, he moseyed up to the meat. It turns out, we're kicking ass. We did our best month of the year in September. Our margins are fat, more crazy brokeriness is on the horizon. I realized then his voice was amped, which I hadn't noticed before. He was slapping flat fingers on the table, and pointing and fidgeting. He hadn't even brought his Blackberry to the meeting. He told us how scrappy and nose-to-the-grindstone we were. I flushed a little.

He told us that our company was safe. And this is when his monologue formed clarity and slowed down for me though he still spoke with earnest, rip-roaring excitement. He said financially we were strong, cash was good, credit was golden, references stellar. "It's scary in the world right now, but we are safe." I didn't know how important that was to hear until then. In that second, it became all important. I was pumped. I had heard two things you can't ever expect to hear because if you wait to hear them you slow down, you wallow, you're waiting on the wrong things. But when you do hear it, unexpectedly, when you hear that you're awesome and that you're safe, a surprising wind billows the sails. I felt an instant affection for my company and my boss and my coworkers, my own performance. This affection does come on suddenly and periodically for my job, my company, like a spike in hormones. This is certainly not the first time I've felt it.

My boss then went on to explain what he's got lined up in the far reaches of his business dream world. He's a straight creative hustler; he's an entrepreneurial eccentric. He's trying to pull business deals together that not in my wildest dreams would I think to do. The majority of this kind of stuff falls flat on its face, but he had already got me giddy so I was thinking, "Oh you so crazy. Go on with your bad self, you nutty broker you!" In my swirling appreciative fog, I believed he could achieve all outlandish shit.

We brokers play things cool. I have no clue if anyone else in the meeting was as gushy and pumped as I after the meeting. Usually we're mad cynical too, and though we look cool doing that -- cynically downplaying and snickering every deal but the one that actually sticks -- that cynicism is our excuse, our crutch. If the shit that we're flinging against the wall doesn't hold, we just KNEW our customer's higher ups wouldn't approve it, or that our vendors are greedy jerk offs screwing us out of our piece of the pie . . . That keeps us buoyant too, I have to admit. Keeps us dumping the last waste of energy and on to the next meaty deal. Keeps us rooting for truffles.

But today, I'm hopeful about my cubicle job, which I haven't been in a long while. I'm thankful, and I'm even willing to head up some of my boss’s substantial wild-hair projects. But he better land one of those quick before my whole mood goes broker-sideways. I got other shit on my plate too, doesn't he know?

Monday, September 29, 2008

What 41 Year Old BFF Women Do When They Get Together

We play. At least Betsy and I do.

I visited Betsy in the Bay Area this weekend. We had a blast, and we spent the majority of the time on bicycles.

Here's what 41 year old women do when they visit, at least from where I'm standing:

We roll out of bed and immediately practice track stands on a converted Bianchi fixed gear bike in our flip flops. No need to brush the hair or teeth or wipe sleep from the eyes. There are stunts to be practiced!
We weren't that good, but not terrible. A few more mornings like this and we would've had it.

FYI, I'm in love with this bike. I love it more so now being away from it. I thought about trying to fit it in my car over the weekend when Betsy wasn't looking. She and her husband only have twelve bikes between them so I thought maybe she wouldn't notice, but this particular bike is definitely the beauty of the bunch.This thing is light enough to be picked up with a finger or two. Dang! I shoulda taken it. But maybe that's not what 41 year old BFF do.

Here's what else we do: We do a lil impromptu strength and stretch session after track stands. Still in our pajamas and flip flops. There was a lot of light-hearted, Can you do THIS? She certainly has me on strength. I have her on stretching.Then we double fist coffee cups, which incidentally I'm back to drinking. Good thing too, because Betsy's not fucking around when it comes to coffee. She roasts her own beans for god's sake. Knowing this, I'm still not sure why she made me a cappuccino AND a cup of coffee so strong I was later plucking hairs from my chest. But I went with it anyway . . .Bottoms up!High on caffeine, it was time to hit the bikes and roll around the cities of Oakland and Berkeley because nothing else that we could've done interested us; not shopping, not lounging, not spa'ing. We couldn't wait to ride. First we rode around Betsy's beautiful neighborhood of Lafayette, no longer in our pajamas.

I can't explain my lure to cemeteries. I'm not interested in celebrity tombstone sightings nor am I particularly macabre. I just think they are beautiful, when the vibe isn't too heavy. I also think they are a fascinating waste of land. I say this with all due respect. It's just that I can't wrap my mind around saving the empty vessel. But I do immensely appreciate symbolism and shrines of remembrance. The Mountainview Cemetery in Oakland is an equal mix of lavish shrines and forgotten broken plaques. The land is rolling and steep with a view of the bay. It is spectacular. And there is hardly a vibe here if any. As we climbed the hills on our bikes I tried to conceptualize why. Did the breeze off the water sweep it away? Were we in a section of plots so old the dead no longer lingered? There were many tombstones that read things like: Mother. Father. A last name only. And I wondered if burying the dead goes through trends.

This family plot reads from top to bottom: Son. Mother. Father. And on the bottom, Daughter, Daughter. We tried to figure out why the son was on top. He didn't die last, and sadly I only imagined that he was valued most. Or maybe the sisters wanted to be next to each other. The stone in the back says Metcalf and underneath is says ABSENT. This baffles me.
The top was stunning. After hours of riding around and exploring neighborhoods and bike shops, we took the BART back towards Lafayette. While we were off riding around, Betsy's husband Jim was on a motorboat in the bay braving extreme chop and the carelessness of a thousand other boats because the Maltese Falcon was rolling through San Francisco for the first time, possibly the last. This is the largest privately owned sailing vessel in the world. It's over 289 feet, employs a full-time staff of 16 and cost on the upward of $300 million. Check out how small the people are on the bow. They are standing in front of two full motor boats parked up there.
The sails are fully automated thus the sick radar system. Jim said it is spectacular, especially when the sails tack and self adjust.Still, $300 million? Sigh. I'm concerned whether WaMu will cash my paycheck and a fuel fill up of the Maltese Falcon costs more than I've made in five years. Hey, who am I to judge?! The rich are free to squander their money in the most unhelpful and frivolous ways until their heart is (temporarily) content.

Speaking of the finer things, later that night Betsy pulled out a bottle of Anejo rum from Cuba that she bought in Mexico not too long ago. We drank it straight and from vintage miniature glass goblets. It was delicious. Speaking of finer things still, I woke early on Sunday morning and caught the sun climbing over Mount Diablo from Betsy's deck. In these moments I can be nothing but thankful for my life. And speaking of the finest things of all, I drove the five hours home deflecting thoughts of finances and instead day dreamed of bicycles and bicycle training and of seeing the girls and Papi, who I always miss terribly only an hour after leaving them. And I thought a lot about how much fun Betsy and I still have no matter the age; how it still feels like 24 years ago. I think by the time we're sixty-five I could almost beat her in a push up contest. Bring it, B!