Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hoppy Holidays-- There's Beerly any 2007 Left

If you are wondering what we are liking during the cold times, here's a little list of quaffable selections. Very succinctly:

Staight-Ahead Good Winter Beers: Alaskan Winter Ale (notes of spruce and slightly sweet); Bridgeport's Ebenezer; Big Sky Brewing's Powder Hound; Dick's Double Diamond Winter Ale;Anderson Valley Brewing's Winter Solstice(warm with notes of Sarsparilla).

Lazy Boy Brewing out of Seattle has a great one with the name of Mistletoe something or other (I'm so bad for not paying attention, but how many beers have mistletoe in their names?) that I got to try one of the first pints of on tap at Belmont Station a few weeks ago. Today we visited there and had a great stout and barleywine, but for the life of us can't remember which breweries produced them. Not because we drank too much, but because we had a very busy little boy on our hands! I'll try to keep pen and paper around to keep better track of our beer selections. We did, however, get in a couple hands of cribbage, Joe took the first and I the second. And I did have a killer hummus plate with lots of hot peppers, so I was very satisfied.

We also tried a great barleywine a week or so ago called "100" by a Swedish brewery. Amazing stuff. And Schmaltz's "He'Brew" label makes some great beers. We liked their Jewbalation beer ("it goes to 11"--I like anything with a Spinal Tap reference) brewed with "11 hops and 11 malts"-- a very nice seasonal. Their Lenny R.I.P.A Imperial IPA with Rye was pretty amazing, a great strong beer.

I'll do my best to keep up on this, for those of you who like a good beer now and again. As the SNOB (Support Native Oregon Beer) teeshirts say, "Life's too Short to Drink Bad Beer"!

Our Funky Mellow Christmas

It's been a few days since we celebrated the Christmas holiday, but in case anyone was wondering how we spent it, here's a recap that hits the highlights.

On Christmas Eve we were invited to an open house hosted by Mark and Parni, former coworkers of Joe's. Their son Max is six and really into Star Wars, so he demonstrated his prowess with a plastic light saber and dug into the sweets while the adults hung out. Parni has a one-of-a-kind light-up display of Bedford Falls, Jimmy Stewart's hometown in "It's A Wonderful Life"...ah, if it hadn't been for him, it would've been Pottersville! This is the second year I've attended their open house and I'm getting to know the regulars. It will be interesting to see where they're all at next year.

After enjoying the yummy nibbles, we headed back to our neck of the woods for our tradition of strolling down Peacock Lane, Portland's premier street of Christmas Lights. Every year we bring a flask of something warming to take a few swigs of before braving the crowds on the sidewalk. There are always one or two people who are far more amusing than the displays on the lawns and in the picture windows, and this year was no exception. On our way walking down on side of the street, we were behind Japanese tourists and in front of some, I believe, Middle-Eastern fellows who had a bit to say (judging from the tone, not entirely complimentary) about the goings-on they were witnessing. On our return trip up the street, we were stuck behind a woman and her dog who took up 90% of the space on the sidewalk. This wasn't too bad, except that she stopped several times and tried to make her dog "look" at the light displays, holding his head and turning it to the attractions. C-R-A-Z-Y.

We made it home in plenty of time to hang out and groove to the festive sounds of James Brown's "Funky Christmas" album. Each of us opened a present and relaxed before heading up to bed.

The next morning was also very mellow. Life with baby is a bit more regimented and so there's a lot to do before opening presents. In fact, we started getting Christmas calls before we'd ripped the wrapping paper. Joaquin was more interested in scooting around on his belly and playing with ribbons than with any toys he received. Joe surprised me with a cd of ELO's greatest hits. (I'm sure this dates me far more than I would care to admit, but I was eight when I was running to turn up the radio every time "Sweet Talking Woman" came on, so I'm not that old.) There was also a lot of chocolate under the wrapping paper...yummayumyum. I made up some scrambled eggs and leftover roasted veggies, and coffee and we spent the morning returning calls, smiling at each other, and heading outside to walk in the snow...which, in Portland, is a Christmas miracle in itself as the White Christmas is like Sasquatch around here, rumored to exist, but seen by few.

In these days that have followed, I've loved having Joe home some of the time. And below, in our next installment, I'll have more of the holiday beers to report. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Havin' Ourselves a Merry Little Solstice

Well, a few days ago we said hello to the light as the Winter Solstice officially marked the beginning of longer days. It's hard to believe that, as winter really begins, that the days are becoming more lengthy instead of shorter. Thank goodness we have all these holidays to look forward to.

Friday night we lit candles in honor of that change and came together with friends. Saturday afternoon our friends Maarit and Aaron and their daughter Milena invited us over for some Finnish pastries and glugg, a warm spiced wine. The star-shaped puff pastry was filled with warm plum preserves and the homemade cookie sandwiches with raspberry filling coated with superfine sugar were excellent. As I get to know Maarit more, I'm convinced that there's an untapped wealth delicacies that the Finns have hidden up their sleeves. Yum.

Today was quieter. We're watching the third in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, in short episodes while Joaquin is sleeping. I'm somewhat wary of letting the baby watch the violent goings-on these fantasy movies seem to have endless supply of. We are happy to take it slow.

Tonight, I've rented one of my favorite "Christmas" movies--Ernst Lubitch's "The Shop Around the Corner". I say "Christmas" because part of the movie takes place during the holidays and I just love watching it this time of year. Jimmy Stewart is great as the unsuspecting young salesman who, unbeknownst to his own self, is carrying on a romance with the pert saleswoman at his shop who seems to annoy him most. Very sweet in the way only old movies can be.

I must go--my coyote boy howls. Have happy days and fall in love with your holiday traditions, be they lighting candles to celebrate the light, or getting your Nog on before fillin' up stockings. Merry Solstice, Christmas and the whole nine yards!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rippin' on Rudolph

A few nights ago, we got cozy and watched the broadcast of the classic Rankin and Bass "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer". Poor Rudy--if he thought the other reindeer were giving him a hard time, I'm glad he couldn't hear us. We cracked wise and laughed our heads off. Here are some of our observations, in chronological order. Mind you, we came in a little late...

1. Digitally enhanced snow. Do they have to mess with everything?

2. During the song "We Are Santa's Elves" I thought for certain that with all those elves standing so close together, and those sharp pointy ears, someone was going to get their face impaled.

3. Head Elf seems very down on the idea of Herbie becoming a dentist. I'm unsure why that is; if he's against elves having medical and dental benefits or what.

4.Can you tell me which scene featured the song "Christmas Party Hop" in the background? Extra bonus points if you do!

5. I can see why those reindeer did call Rudolph names. They regularly laugh at failure. "Coach" Reindeer not setting such a good example.

6. The whole "romance" end of things: okay, folks, there seems to be some pressure for these deer to mate rather early in life. No horns, but already acting, uh, horny. And Felice, my dear, what freaking deer wears mascara? Obviously not a "true story".

7. Santa seemed to have an uncalled-for reaction to Rudolph being, ahem, shall we say different. Makes you wonder if Santa might have a hidden prejudicial streak, which raises the question, can he be trusted to distribute toys with equity?

8. I love the whole "Felice wants Rudolph to walk her home" sort of thing. Kind of reminiscent of that whole 60's "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" biracial couple sort of thing. Red Nose+Black Nose=True Love Forever. But then she ruins it by singing that horridly mushy "There's Always Tomorrow". Then, to make matters worse for poor Rudy, Felice's dad appears to be afflicted with the same prejudice that's taken hold of the rest of the North Pole. Who knew Santa's little world was so hateful?

9. Herbie and Rudy pair up over their misfit status. In the 80's they would have become Goths or D&D players and bonded over Bauhaus or 7-sided dice. But it's the 1960's, so off they go into the snow and catch sight of the Abominable Snowman, which, if you ask me, is far more interesting than sitting around your parent's basement listing to "Bela Lugosi's Dead".

10. Burl Ives gives us a break, singing "Silver and Gold", during which we see a nest of newly hatched chicks surviving in the sub-zero weather. The North Pole is truly a magical land!

11. Our main misfits meet up with Yukon Cornelius, a liar and a fool. After a showdown with Abominable, Yukon sets them "free" to escape on an ice floe to nowhere. Thanks buddy! Joe notes that the Abominable "looks like Chris Elliot".

12. Donner takes off alone to find Rudolph, telling Mrs. Donner that searching for their son is "Man's work", as apparently alienating and humiliating their son also was. Great job, dad! Fortunately, Felice and Mrs Donner head out to find Rudy, who I'm sure would much rather see them than the guy who made him feel like crap.

13. Maudlin loserfest on the Island of Misfit Toys. Apparently they still have a dysfunctional relationship with Santa, who has declared them "unworthy". They think Christmas is wonderful even if they can't participate. It's akin to being wildly unpopular with bad skin and worshipping prom---mass-o-kiss-stick!

14.That night Rudy decides to strike out on his own and leaves the door open "and they all froze to death" said Joe.

15. Rudy travels through the land of polar bears and though it's cold and they have no food, they do not eat him. A Christmas miracle indeed.

16.So he returns(he's 18 now!or the deer equivalent); cue more digitally enhanced snow and igloo blowing over. Rudy finds mom and girlfriend about to become Abominable's puu puu platter. Yukon arrives in the nick of time and gives Abominable a concussion. Then Herbie practises unlicensed dentistry and removes the monster's teeth, which will eventually leave him to starve to death as I don't think Santa's dropping off an Osterizer to puree his prey. Yukon practices a mercy killing by running Abominable off a cliff before starvation sets in.

17. Herbie returns to discover that Union Leader Elf will allow a dental practice, which is good since apparently he's been snacking on too much Christmas candy.

18. In light of a storm, Santa reassesses his "different is bad" theory and decides that Rudy's halogen nose will save Christmas. Hooray! The End! (also hooray!)

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Longest Day and A-Rod

The longest day of my year. I am the happy but exhausted mother of a baby who decided, today, that naps are for other babies. To be honest, he's slept for an hour and twenty minutes today (10 minutes this morning, 30 minutes at 2 and 40 minutes just a bit ago, and it's now 6:45 and he's awake again.) but that's about half of what he gets, at the very least. And he's been unsettled, so I've stayed home from my evening water aerobics class. Earlier today, after he didn't go to sleep after an hour-long walk, I threatened to go home and have a beer. I settled for some soy nog and cheese and crackers, so I guess I get a gold star in the "Good Mama" chart for the day. But I'm gonna have a beer now, because hey, it's after 7 and I've got a feeling we're in for a long night.

Speaking of gold stars, I just wanted to give a shout-out to Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees. (Who will never ever read this, but still...) Last week, when the nasty list of names of doping players was being read on the news, I actually held my breath, hoping your name wasn't uttered. And it wasn't. I'm not a big sports fan, but have always rooted for the Yankees. It might sound silly, but when I was twelve I learned Mickey Mantle and I shared the same birthday. Thus, my October 20th connection with the switch-hitter sealed the deal. Joe (my fella)being a Yankees fan, being from New York, also encouraged my passing interest. But here's the thing: I know that Joaquin, even though he's only 8 months old now, will grow up watching Yankees games on tv with his father. I want my son to have good examples and positive role models to look up to, and Alex, I think that if he ends up interested in you and your career, a fan, well, I think that's just fine. I'm glad you've chosen to pursue athletic success au naturel, without hormones or forearms that look like tree trunks. Thanks for keeping the old school honor and traditions of baseball alive, for keeping it a fair game, and for giving kids a winner they can look up to. A lot of kids were disappointed and ashamed last week when they discovered their heroes were frauds. You're the real thing, Rodriguez, and I just want to say Thanks.

And now, I'm back up to the baby, who I love to pieces. And who will be grounded for life if he ever takes steroids. Goodness. What a world.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Big Disclaimer

I wanted to be lofty. To find the treasures and beauty in life. That was the original hope for this blog. And that's the attitude you'll find at the top of the page.

I wanted to excel in thinking more poetically about life. To be more, um, positive.
I really hoped to bring a balanced and wise voice to this page. I guess my ambitions got the better of me.

Perhaps it's because it's been raining and cold lately and the cabin fever hits and all I can think is "Pizza and Beer and dvd...NOW!".

Perhaps it's because life hasn't been terrifically easy. Life is messy and real. I'd like to be as transcendent as a monk. Then again, monks don't have babies and if you louse up the job, there's a whole crew of the High-Minded Saffron Robed to bail your ass out. Unless it's one of those solo-trekking monks, then I guess, you might be screwed. But I'm really thinking of the communal living, chanting "om" in incense filled halls sort of monks. I'm sure this vision has something to do with having watched too many Kung-fu movies.

So, anyway, if you are disappointed that my posts aren't addressing the big questions, please keep in mind that my life has lately been filled with loads of the little questions, such as "When was the last time his diaper was changed?" and "Did you feed the cat?" and "What do we need at the store?" Not lofty questions, to be sure, but they keep us fresh as a daisy, unclawed, and fed.

This just goes to show you that when one starts a blog as an escape pod of sorts, the pod usually returns to the mothership. Boomerang mentality. You can never escape who you are or what your life is.

Hey, I think that might have just been a Big Thought....

SuperCute Baby To The Rescue

Can I just tell ya'll how darn cute my baby is?

His powers of cuteness are so amazing. The pure distraction is a blessing.

Now, anyone who knows me KNOWS of my rather curmudgeounous ways. And to be fair, I am somewhat of a "Every Silver Lining Has A Cloud--Just Keep Looking" sort of person. In fact, this post was originally going to be titled "Crappity-Crap-Crap".
And with good cause.

I've had a hell of a weekend. Got something wicked nasty bad wrong on Friday night--we're still unsure if it was food poisoning or just your garden-variety gastritis. The soup was tasty, but was the seafood in it tainted, or was it the fact that the hot-and-sour flavor disguised the chicken broth? (Not so good on a seven-year vegetarian stomach) Or was it that I whined at Joe to get the soup when he might have already had enough on his plate and it feels a little like Instant Karma come and got me? So many questions I won't ever really know the answers to, except for the last one: I should have just been happy with my frozen burrito and quit my kvetching.

But let's not get mired down, no, let's get back to the cuteness. I've felt crappy all weekend but I've had a very cute little boy to keep me distracted and get my head outside myself. Can't just be miserable when you've got a drooly cutie smiling at you, wanting to sit in your lap, wanting milk. Or what about the fact that I've got a little buddy to nap with? And how can I feel like the universe is spitting at me when, in my hour of need, after a week of horrible sleeping, Joaquin's sleeping is so much better? We slept from 11-9 last night, and with only two interruptions, a far cry from the nights before. I tell you, I'm one lucky mama. Imagine being sick and having a baby as fussy and miserable as myself. "Good God--NOOOOO!"

So, SuperCute Baby, worthy of the cape, tights, and all that jazz. He has healing powers, that baby does. I feel better already.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Music, Together

Today is one of those quintessential winter Sundays in Portland. To be precise, rain, rain, followed by wind and more rain. Yesterday we ran all of our weekend errands and now it's noon and we are still in our pajamas. Joaquin's taking a morning nap. This kid loves to nurse to sleep, holding my hands. It's a very warm and cozy feeling for such a cold miserable out-of-doors day.

Last night we headed out to It's A Beautiful Pizza to see our friends play in their band, The Sons of Bernard (otherwise known as the SOBs). I love taking Joaquin to see live music, if it isn't too loud, and the SOBs were wonderful. Lots of 60's and 70's covers from names you've probably heard before and some you might not have. (Van Morrison, Neil Young, the Grateful Dead... as well as a lot of stuff I was pleasantly unfamiliar with) No covers of "Brown Eyed Girl" or "Casey Jones" or any of the typical cover-band stuff, most of the songs played last night were not hits off the classic rock station. And they were all well-delivered, the band was tight and the harmonies were wonderful. Guest musicians featured a gentleman on flute and then saxophone and a fellow playing a mean fiddle. We loved it.

I'm not sure what Joaquin likes the most, but I have a feeling it was being in a sea of new sounds and new, smiling faces. This kid really likes a crowd, especially one that makes big happy faces at him and loves to coo over him. As his parent, I feel fortunate to know so many genuinely nice people. And it was great to reconnect last night with some folks I literally hadn't seen in years. Good folk gather to support their friends and last night, with the music area packed, it really showed.

As someone who has done hard time working for years at a record store, music is something I hope Joaquin develops an appreciative ear for. I never played an instrument, but love to sing. Joe played flute in school. And we both like a wide variety of artists. Around the house, I'm especially partial to old-school jazz like jump, stride, trad and bebob and swing; or rock and pop, but could never confine myself to one or two genres. Joe loves ambient music, garage rock from the 60's and beyond, and so much more. Joaquin's first concert was seeing Patti Smith at the Bite this August. When Patti's teenage son got onstage and played guitar with Lenny and the band, all I could hope for was that perhaps we as a family will continue to enjoy music together when Joaquin is older. And after laughingly admitting to each other a few days ago that "Mary J Blige is really good...I kinda like her!", I think Joe and I are up to the task of being parents that keep an open mind about new music.

Speaking of Music Together, we were fortunate enough to be gifted with two Music Together cd's from former client Susan. Her children listened to them and have probably outgrown them in favor of something a little more sophisticated. (If anyone has invented "Pirate Rock" or "Hamster Love Songs" I'm sure that Max and Emma are all over that, respectively.) If you are unfamiliar with Music Together, they are wonderful music classes that focus on creating, recalling and changing rhythm patterns, singing, and in my opinion, developing a child's ear for all sorts of music. The rhythms and music explored on the cds are sophisticated, and the music has obviously been created and chosen by folks who have a well-developed ear and true love for music. I love that the cd's treat the children as people: the voices on a MT disc aren't the cloying, high-pitched homogenized voices one all-to-often finds on kid cds. Rather, they are trained, 'real' voices that sound more like a campfire song circle than a Disney show. In a world of very affected little teenybopper performers all sounding like each other, it's important for children to hear the real voices of children, adults and older adults to form a realistic impression and assessment of what it is to sing. I also like that the songs are about things relevant to children, like hiding and rolling and jumping. There's a certain joy in this kids music that love songs and opera (however cultured and exciting it may be) and rock-n-roll just can't deliver. It's genuine and simple and I love it.

I'm sure the little guy's naptime is almost over, and anyways, I'm hungry for a bowl of that soup I made a couple days ago. Ah, yes, music and soup and bread and naps and hugs and cribbage (and later, I'm sure, a beer) on a cold late-autumn day. Throw in a Miss Marple mystery on dvd, and you have perfection.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Black Friday

Ahh, it's that time again--break out the wallets and go shopping because it's officially "Christmastime!"

What a load of hooey.

Forgive me my Ebenezer ways, but to me, the mindless idiot mentality of "Ready, Set, Shop!" is frightening. The weirdly symbiotic relationship of stores and consumers sets my head reeling. Take this for example: how many stores do you know that will open hours earlier than usual for masochistic "early bird" bargains today only? I can think of several. Kohls and Fred Meyer opened at four-freaking-a.m. for their heavily advertised sales. And yes, they have a right to do that. Question I'm thinking of is this--if no one showed up, wouldn't they stop doing it? We'd have to spank'em for a couple years before they got the idea that the additional overhead in staffing wasn't worth it.

I'm of the contingent that likes to sleep in on my day off. Not to mention I find the idea of making workers wake up at 3 or earlier to go to work for no personal gain patenetly inhumane. At least pay the poor sucker double overtime if you are going to take them away from their families and force single parents into acrobatic contortions to arrange childcare. Not eveyone's grandma live in the neighborhood, you know.

Ooo, I know...High Scrooze factor here. I'm not anti-Christmas, however, I am all for conscientious consumerism. There's going to be a lot of cheap, plastic crap purchased today. And they are bargains, to be sure, but on whose backs does the low cost fall? Underpaid workers in "democratized" countries? Underpaid workers here? It might make you think twice before purchasing those things that not only aren't necessary, but aren't built to last.

And we are told to continually up the ante. On Christmas morning, when I was a kid, my stocking would usually hold a couple outfits for Barbie, a set of pencils with my name on them in gold print, a pencil sharpener, a little notepad with a cute cover, and a couple tangerines and peanuts. Maybe some chocolate. Not bad. I never expected Santa to be a source of endless wealth and resource. After all, there were millions of other kids in the world and hopefully, the elves weren't working in sweatshop conditions. Nowadays, turn on the television and you'll find cell phones, ipods and digital cameras touted as stocking stuffers. Yes, they are all small enough in size to fit into a stocking, that's true. But as a kid (and even now), I always considered the traditional stocking to be somewhat of an "appetizer" if you will to the "main entree" of gifts under the tree. If you get some expensive, digital high-tech toy in your stocking as a kid, what's left under the tree is probably a disappointment.

Or much more expensive. Every year a number of families go into debt to produce a "perfect Christmas"...perhaps some hope giving will cover the multitude of parenting sins that have taken place throughout the year (those times that Ma yelled at the kids because she was just exhausted, or the soccer games missed because Dad had to work). Or because we feel that we have the means, be them cash or credit, to get our kids and spouse what they really want and we know what it was like to be disappointed when we opened a gift. Yeah, that sounds a little touchy-feely, but guilt is a great motivator; unfortunately, it usually motivates us to find a quick-fix gift instead of changing our parenting or getting some counselling around those feelings of being deprived we suffered from earlier in life. So into debt we go, we spoil our kids by trying to give them everything they want and at the same time set a poor example of fiscal responsibility. And when the credit card statement arrives in January, these parents will be more likely to snip at child and spouse...thus the cycle continues.

Okay, a lot of complaining here, you might say, so what do I propose as a solution? How about giving our dear ones a loving dose of reality? Let's start with one idea: One cannot have everything one desires. Choosing one or two desired items is a start. How about a piggy-bank with $20 in it, so that they can start saving for that high-ticket item they are wanting, and a list of opportunities to earn money? If they want the latest video game system, here's a start...or if they choose to spend the money on something else, so be it. It's not a parents responsibility to make their every dream come true, but it's wonderfully wise to give them an opportunity and some support to make it happen themselves.

Or how about more experiential gifts? A certificate for a date at the zoo or go-cart track, just the two of you or you take your child and a friend. What about a "how-to" kit to get started in some form of art, craft or model-building, or a set of lessons in something your child's interested in, say beading or karate? Younger children can develop an interest in the world around them through beginning stamp collecting kits and a map of the world to stick pins in. Or give them your time by choosing a project to work on together and then making time to follow through with it. Building a model, sewing or knitting a blanket, or even building a playhouse in the backyard together will all provide far more meaningful memories than just being given any one of those items.

The same can be said for gifts one might give a spouse. How about arranging a camping trip, just the two of you, or a special night out at a hotel? An evening out with dinner and tickets to a play or to see a favorite band. The opportunities to build up your relationship are endless. Yes, all of these things involve a certain amount of money, but they don't have to be expensive. Try getting those tickets for a favorite local band; going out to that favorite restaraunt you loved whey you were dating and both a little broke. The romance will overshadow the price tag.

So there you have it, my solution for that nasty over-done consumerism problem. It isn't perfect, but I think it's a start. Until we all start whittling our children wood toys and raising sheep to make beautiful hand-knit sweaters... giving with a sense of purpose and thought is a big start in making the holidays a bit more meaningful to those that live with us. Being able to smile at those around us because we aren't harrassed by debt is a wonderful gift we can all enjoy well into the new year.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Teeth


It's been one of those weeks. Baby still snotty from a cold, and while Joe was in Boston for work, Joaquin's first tooth surfaced. Those tiny serrated edges, those sore little gums...we have had some tough moments. I now understand why, not too long ago, rubbing their gums with a fingertip of whiskey wasn't frowned upon. I have to wonder if it is any worse than the unknown ingredients of the more-accepted Baby Orajel. I'm not sure, but we'll go the pharmaceutical route, as CSD doesn't get their knickers in a twist over those sorts of things. But personally, if something's going to make my tongue numb, I'd kind of enjoy having a little bit of a buzz to go with it...but that's just me.


A silly picture for a week that needed comic relief. This is Joaquin at Week One. Joe sent this to me one day with the caption "He's beginning to look more like his Daddy." Well, honey, let's start with the milk teeth before we move on to facial hair...


Friday night found me sitting in the kitchen with the lights out, a candle lit and a glass of petite-shiraz, looking out the window at the rainy twilight. My sister and I were on the phone, discussing the challenges of our guys being gone, either physically or just mentally not being present. "You have three, how do you do it when Ralph's away?" I asked. She said that when all else fails, a cozy time on the couch with a pile of books worked wonders. Ah, blankets and a good book, my two favorite things.


Although Joaquin is only seven months, we do like to read. "Angus and the Cat" by Marjorie Flack is a favorite and always is greeted with his little chubby-cheeked smile when I bring it out to read. Another we picked up from the library this week is "Wee Gillis" by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson. Leaf and Lawson are responsible for the wonderful story of Ferdinand the Bull--you might remember him as that mellowest of Bovine, who liked to 'just sit quietly and smell the flowers'. "Wee Gillis" is yet another story of a likeable protagonist whose individual proclivities and abilities don't necessarily render him a great fit for the future others envision for him. Gillis is a young Scotlander who is born of both the Highlands (his father) and the Lowlands (his mother) and comes to a point where he must 'choose forever' which he will be, a Highlander who stalks stags or a Lowlander who tends the long-haired cattle. That he finds his own solution to the limitations others impose is by chance, but utterly also by choice. I'm enjoying this book immensely and wish I'd discovered it as a child myself.


As for me, I've just finished Sefi Atta's "Everything Good Will Come". Atta is a Nigerian-born author and her debut novel left me with much to chew on afterward. The narrator is Enitan Taiwo, the daughter of an English-educated lawyer and an angry and restrictive mother who has turned to religion after the death of her young son. Both parents have high standards; her father would like for his daughter to be an educated, liberated young woman--a radical thought in 1970's Nigeria--and not be bound to the house and the kitchen, in the service of men. Her mother refuses to let her play with the outspoken and brassy neighborhood girl, Sheri Bakare. While Enitan cultivates her relationship with her young neighbor friend on the sly, her hometown of Lagos continues to exist in a state of extreme wealth and poverty and political unrest as coup after coup takes place in her country. At a tender age, a tragic turn of events serves to shape the girls lives for the next twenty years. The story that follows made me wonder a bit about my own place in the world, how my actions impact the lives of others, and what it means not only to be a feminist but a person with a conscience.


It's a rare book that reads so deeply; five pages feels like twenty, and the world Atta describes as so colorful and diverse, with so many different peoples living inside the same area ascribes as "one country" by colonial rule, can easily remind one of Iraq or other countries where so many people opposing religions are trying to live within a small area with a given amount of resources. Nigeria's main export is oil and there is much discussion of the concentration of wealth and power by one faction of the population, and what sort of poverty and despair can befall the rest who are not so lucky. In this militaristic society, Enitan sees firsthand the dangers of speaking out against the regimes, which are many, and must make choices to live as she has been taught by her elders and peers, or to live an authentic life. Sheri Bakare lives the life of a woman who understands the accepted and socially safe position of being a submissive woman while also manipulating that system to get what she wants and needs to live. Both women are wonderful examples of people who don't truly believe their world around them is correct in its perceptions of women, but they both find their paths in ways that feel true and honest for themselves.


Dealing with themes of global justice, gender issues, interfamily relationships and so much more, I'd highly recommend "Everything Good Will Come" to anyone with a book group.


And now, my brain needs a little rest. I've just started the latest Harry Potter...perfect reading after a taxing, teething week.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Beer Me--Yeti Another Reason to Visit Belmont Station

Ahhh, beer! There are few things on the planet better than beer.

Yesterday was one of those perfect days. I packed Joaquin up in the stroller and headed for Portland Nursery and then headed over a few blocks to Belmont Station. In the last year this establishment moved from its former digs on Belmont Street next to the venerable Horse Brass over to SE 47th and Stark. The change has only been for the better.

In keeping with their former location, Belmont Station still stocks a mindboggling variety of beers; "Over 1000" reads the sign. Whether it refers to types of beer or actual bottle count, it's still a lot. But now, there's the Biercafe next door where you can get a hot sandwich, soup, or a variety of simple plates (think Greek hummus with onions, pita and olives and feta..that sort of fare) along with a beer of your choice, on tap or by the bottle. Bottles in the store side are priced twice "To Go" and "Drink Here" with the obligatory OLCC markup for corkage fee, so if one of the carefully selected four taps on the Biercafe side don't meet your liking, or if you feel more inclined to grab a ginger ale or Jones cola, you have a lot of options. A big plus, the BierCafe is also nonsmoking indoors.

Wade was tending the bar last night, and overheard me exclaiming my delight at the arrival of a keg of Dogfish Head's "Festiva Peche" a peach ale I had been looking forward to trying. I've heard the fresh-tapped flavor is different than the bottle, and wasn't disappointed. Fresh and whitish in color (and I'm not usually one for paler beers, except of course, IPAs), the Festiva Peche was a real treat and went down smoothly. I was almost tempted to get a liter to take home.

We also tried the Anchor Christmas 2005, gingery and sprucey and quite rich. This is the kind of beer that puts you in the mood to celebrate. I heard from a brewer at the bar that this year's Anchor Christmas in bottles is less spice, more spruce, so if that's your thing, consider grabbing a six of that to curl up by the fire with. Speaking of seasonals, I've also been rather partial to the Alaskan Winter ale, a little sweet but not cloyingly so, with some spruce notes, and have to give top honors to Anderson Valley once again for a stunning Winter Solstice. A beer with depth, sophistication and a hint of sarsparilla; put together with finesse, Winter Solstice is wholly satisfying, and exactly what we would expect from a brewery that consistently carries top honors in the beer world.

I left last night with one purchase, Great Divide Brewing Company's Yeti Imperial Stout. Imagine, beer you can drink with a fork! All the hop notes of a great stout as well as a darkness and depth that reminded me of another wonder, North Coast's Old Rasputin. (As we like to say round here at our house "There's no disputin' the Old Rasputin".) Both are strong stouts that can stand up on their own two feet, but drink'em slow, because they can also kick your ass. The Yeti may be one of my fave picks for winter brews this season. It'll put hair on your chest, but hopefully not mine.

I'm glad I live in Portland, a city where you never have to drink a Bud or PBR. Even the corner stores sell Lagunitas and Rogue. What would I do anywhere else? Thankfully, I'll never have to know. I'll raise a glass to that!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Little Guy


So, my girlfriend and I went out for a walk yesterday. It was beautiful, the leaves crisp and all sorts of brown, ochre, gold and a pale yellow. They were crisp, caught in the wheels of the stroller every now and then, making a soft 'shhhhh' as I walked. We stopped for coffee and then went back to her front yard, where her daughter and my son played under the maple tree. The above picture was taken by Maarit, and so many thanks, it will be sent hither and yon to everyone who would care to see our little guy playing in the leaves.


Joaquin is at such a wonderful place. Befitting the season, the first food he seems to be really enjoying is winter squash. I caught him scrutinizing the rubber tree yesterday, examining the cluster of leaves at the top and following the trunk down to the pot, then back up. Really studying it. This morning he sees the dazzle of light reflected off the mirror of the Whoozit onto the ceiling, follows it with his eyes as he maniupulates his toy. This lasted a whole minute. He never lost track of it.


And he's making the milk sign. Deliberate or inadvertant, I'm unsure. But still...it's lovely to see this little fellow becoming more interested in his world. I'm excited for him.


There's one thing he's still interested in, however, so I'd better get upstairs...

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Two Little Hours

It's been a heck of a week in Babytown. Baby J came down with a cold exactly a week ago this morning. It's been a lot of snot-wiping, sleeping upright, and walking the stroller until he fell asleep. Fortunately, we had a lot of sunshine which made the cool weather comfortable, as this was the best way for him to sleep. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't nap with him, which I was aching to do. Kind of hard to nap on the hard cold porch while the stroller is out back. It was a week with no real breaks at all. Nonetheless, his cold has nearly disappeared, and now daylight savings time made it all catch up with me. We were up at six this morning. Not good.

I had my first cup of caffeine in six months this morning, thinking it would help me make it though the morning. Somehow, after 6 month of decaf, I didn't realize how crabby and wired I'd be after one cup of tea. (Oh, and waking earlier than I usually do.) However, that soon came to light when Joe, who had slept in for two hours, complained about how the cat woke him a few times early this morning. Now, I'm not sure about this, but I think a wee little part of me kinda wanted to smack him. Not that I would. It was the caffeine talking, I'm sure of it.

If any guys are reading this, listen up: When you wake up in the morning and see that bleary-eyed mama in the bed next to you, have the good courtesy NOT TO COMPLAIN about any animal waking you. Even repeatedly waking you. That bleary-eyed mama goddess has been multitasking in her sleep, dreaming the demented (often the "where the hell did I put that baby?" dreams), listening for the baby, nursing the wee one not once but 3-4 times before sunrise, staying awake enough to make sure baby doesn't lose the nipple and suck a hickey onto her boob, and then trying to make sure she really doesn't have to go to the bathroom before going back to sleep because, god forbid, if she gets up, it's going to be next to impossible to get back to sleep again for an hour or so. And she might wake the baby in the process of getting up. Oh, and her body is making milk. So you see, she's not really getting much time off. So if the cat or dog or the squeaky hamster wheel annoys you in between snores, please wait until we've had a cup of decaf, or say, dinner and a glass of wine, before complaining about it. We will be in a much better mood and not want to tell you, in unsparing detail, how freaking lucky you are.

All that said, I proposed to take a couple hours to myself today. Joe was fabulous and agreed, but it was difficult to figure out what I wanted to do. Decided to go for a short walk to clear my head out, only to discover how frustrated my efforts are. I thought about gardening, but my gloves are destroyed and I forgot to get new ones this weekend. I thought I might do some sewing, but some furniture needs to be moved before I can access my sewing machine again. I thought about working on some thank you cards, but I'm not in a particularly grateful mood. I thought I might sit on the back porch and drink a gin and tonic and stare out into space but my backyard would just chastise me for its sad state of neglect. You cannot mother a backyard and a child, and besides, I'm out of limes, which are really essential for a g&t.

So, like the compulsive writer that I am, I wind up here, smacking out the letters, hoping to feel like I've done something worthwhile in my two hours. Perhaps I'll do some writing on a piece I've been working on about giving positive attention for neutral behavior. Perhaps I'll try to load up the ipod with the last couple of albums I've picked up. It's so hard to decide, but I do know this...I've got one more precious hour to go and I can't waste it.

I sometimes wonder if it's more work to have this time available, more frustrating to figure out how to use time when it's so precious, than to not have it at all. I'm sure I'm examining the teeth of the gift horse here, but really...it feels a little like that question "You are on a desert island with a stereo and only five records. Which records do you take?" It seems to be more pressure than the occasion should reasonably warrant. When you have only two hours to yourself out of a whole week, it kind of feels this way.

But I get an intermission. Baby needs a milk fix. So I'll post this, milk baby up, and go do something else. Heaven knows what.....

Friday, October 26, 2007

Joaquin's Big Day


Last Friday our Little Baby J, Joaquin Frederick, graduated from our New Mom's Group at the hospital. So, a little recap of the last 6 months...

Born at home, in his own room at 4:16 a.m. on April 17th. The birth was lovely, no complications. Just so excited to meet this amazing little person I'd been packing around with me for 10 months. Wonderful.

This kid came out "having read the manual", said his Auntie Amanda. Good nurser, good sleeper. Likes his life. Loves being packed around. Enoys watching faces, sitting up, grabbing onto toys and exploring them. Very interested in the cat. Just started being able to swallow some banana mashed up with a little bit of breastmilk.

Constantly keeping me amazed. Our little graduate. Sweet Joaquini.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I'll Be With You in Apple-Tasting Time

Everyone has their favorite time of year. I just peeked at my sister's blog to discover that her's is autumn. Joe's might be too, for this is when things cool off and life slows down...welcome to the world of having a pint and a game of cribbage without a lot of guilt that one should be out preparing the garden or working on some home improvement project. In the damp days of fall, we tend to move indoors. This is especially true in Portland, where October heralds the first of our nine and a half damp months. Leaves turn colors, drop and are pulverized, turning to applesauce on the road. Not exactly pleasant.

But last weekend wasn't bad at all. On Sunday, I got an itch to go do something I hadn't before--taste apples at the Apple Festival. Each October, Portland Nursery holds an apple and pear tasting in one of it's large covered areas. It's a big deal--there's live music from an eclectic variety of good local bands, face and pumpkin painting for the kids, cider pressing and cooking demos and a scarecrow contest. Oh, and tons, literally tons, of apples and pears for sale.

I arrived at about 11:00 or so, Joaquin sleeping soundly in the front pack. Joe would grab a shower and meet us later--he'd been out running and felt it was the sociable thing to do. While waiting for my fella, I found myself enamored with all the blooming chrysanthemums and getting that glow I feel every time I go to the Nursery. I must confess, there are days when I go and walk around there just to look at the plants and smell the herbs and flowers, even when I don't have a penny in my pocket. I just love the place. I meandered in to a covered area where vendors were sampling their wares: honey, chestnuts, preserves. I tried a unique 'apple mustard' that was quite zippy and exceptional, then sat down on a hay bale and watched a demo on poaching pears. There was a lot of peeling involved, but the delicious result of these poached bosc pears (cooked in a spiced red wine and cider solution) topped with a creme anglais sauce made me think I might actually attempt this sometime in the future. When Joaquin is, say, a few years older.

Joe arrived and we got into line to taste the apples. If you plan on coming to this event and don't like to wait in a line, arriving earlier is definitely better. There had been no line when I had first walked past; forty minutes later we had a good 10 minute wait. Families were out in full force and everyone seemed in good spirits, so the time passed quickly. And then it was our turn to grab a toothpick and sample some apples. The sheer variety of offerings was impressive:44 apples, 9 pears and 4 asian pears. Names as familiar as Gala, Granny Smith and Red Delicious juxtoposed with exotics like Mutsu, Splendour, Winter Banana, and the decadent-sounding Ambrosia. Let the tasting begin!

Despite it's Nectar of the Gods name, the Ambrosia, while good, was overshadowed by some regally named selections. Joe liked the Empire variety with its straight-ahead pure "appleness" (my wording, not his) and the dark-skinned King Davids were one of my favorite, perfect for pairing with cheese and a good hearty beer on a cool evening in front of the fire. Cox's Orange Pippin, Swiss Gourmet and Rubinette, the former hailing from England and the latter two from Switzerland, were all favorites for their sweet-tart flavor and crisp texture, juicy as an apple should be. And while I'm not much for green apples, the Ginger Golden was a shameless flirt of an apple, sweet-tart with just a bit of spice. Other notables were the Jonagold, Jonathan and Northern Spy, all fairly common names but still some of the cream of the crop. Sadly, my absolute mouthwatering favorite, the Honeycrisp, was available for sample but not for sale. You can only know how tragic this situation was if you've ever had one of these amazing apples. They remind one of a reisling wine, sweet with a bit of zing and oh-so-juicy! Amongst the pears (some of which seemed a bit less ripe than one would hope) the Cascades were the big stand-out, our palate preferring the local taste of the ruby fruit.

On our way out, we voted for our favorite scarecrows. The PeeWee Herman with it's cloth-sewn abstract looking face was very original and Joe's favorite. I took quite a shine to the hay-bale spider hanging from the rafters. It was impressive to see how the locals really turn out for this event, from the high-school face painting volunteers painting children's faces to the adults cutting up hundreds of apples and those at the weighing stations, measuring bags full of goodies headed for pantries, cellars and apple crisps. We loaded up with King Davids, spicy Galers and a token Ginger Golden before walking home, Joaquin still sleeping.

Never mind that he missed the whole thing. I'm sure we'll be back as soon as he can hold a toothpick and say "mmmmm". Fall may not be my favorite season--I'm not sure I have one, but the apples sure make it a sweet one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Beverage Ritual

Long ago, in a life far, far away, there lived a former version of myself. One who had plenty of time in the morning. I actually woke up a good forty-five minutes early in order to enjoy my daily ritual: a proper cup of tea. Golden Assam Tips, a hearty English or Irish breakfast tea, Darjeeling...these names bring back sweet memories. I would recall the names of teas past with the romance one would experience recalling the names of former lovers.

Teas are the first loves of my life, in so many ways. Good friends, dependable, all with their own qualities, wonderful on their own but marvellously adept at being comfortable with a bit of sugar and milk. Creamy, dreamy, that first cup of tea in the morning. Time belonging solely to me and the tea-- ideal time to gather thoughts or to space out, staring at a favorite painting and petting the cat.

Here is the Western World modern tea ritual:
  • Run cold water for the brita. Wait for it to filter. Contemplate dreams from the night before.
  • Pour a fresh kettle of water; place on stove to heat to a boil. In the meantime, fill teapot and cup with hot water. Smile to yourself that you haven't given up on the finer things in life, one of them being a warm cup for your tea.
  • As water comes to a boil, use one heaping teaspoon of loose leaf tea per cup you are going to make. As I was always up first, one was all I needed.
  • Pour boiling *not hot, but rapidly boiling* water over the tea leaves. Cover, set timer to steep for five minutes. Get your cozy spot ready on the chair or couch of your choice.
  • DING! Pour your tea through a strainer into your warmed cup, then add desired condiments: sugar, milk or lemon. Clasp your warm cup in your hands, find your cozy spot, and enjoy the quiet.

Now with my new life, baby calls, but I usually have time for a small french press of decaf. It still feels like a ritual, still keeps me sane. Only this ritual is much less reflective.

  • Run water through the brita. Wonder if baby is going to wake up with the noise. Race to use the bathroom while brita is filtering.
  • Put kettle on stove. Go back upstairs to check if baby is still breathing.
  • Kettle boiling. Take kettle off heat. Scoop out one tablespoon expensive water-process decaf per cup the pot will hold. Remember, one standard cup of coffee is considered two by European standards. We are Americans. There is no time for teeny cups.
  • Pour water over grounds, stir, cover. Set timer for four minutes. Wonder if ticking timer will wake baby.
  • DING! Pour coffee, add condiments: milk and sugar. Stir, race upstairs carefully and sit with cup of coffee, sipping contentedly while baby sleeps. Watch the baby breathing and realize how life changes and rituals adapt.

Be thankful for decaf. It keeps me sane.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bad Mom/Good Mom vs Sad Mama/Happy Mama

So we saw it coming from a mile away, but yesterday the news was in: Britney Spears has lost custody of her children. As a mother, I'm not going to gloat, nor do I have a lot sympathy for anyone involved, except for her two little ones. Two years ago, who would have guessed Kevin Federline was going to come out of this being portrayed as smelling like a rose? Wasn't he a national joke for nearly as long? How did things come to this point, and more to the point, why do we care?

I believe, in my heart of hearts, that it's got a lot to do with our sense of judgement. Or rather, our being judgmental. This is where our language around parenting could use some changes.

I think that Britney isn't necessarily a bad mother, but I think she's really sad and very lost. Being depressed about one's life can manifest itself in damaging ways, especially in making poor decisions and practicing poor parenting skills. Self-medication is another behavior symptomatic of this greater problem. I know there are a lot of us out there that truly hope she takes some time to get into serious therapy, get some education on how to parent and takes steps to make a new, healthy life for herself.

So consider the language of being a "sad" mom. Do you feel any empathy? Have you ever been depressed to the point of making big mistakes? I know I have. I don't have the right to consider Spears as a 'bad' mother, because it would render me a hypocrite. I don't think her poor decisions and lack of parenting skills is due to any inherent "badness" on her part. But I do think it's easy for a lot of us to consider her to be "bad". It's easy to look down on someone else, it's almost reassuring, really. Judging someone else's shortcomings, when they are so transparent, lets us off the hook, at least for a while. We can feel better about our flawed selves. But it also robs us of an opportunity to do one of the truly great things humans can do, which is to relate.

Let's relate to Spears for a moment. It's as hard as hell to be a new parent, by far the hardest thing I've ever done. It's hard to go through a divorce. It's hard to be the object of ridicule, and to know that every time you make a mistake, it goes public. Take all that into account; now pretend that the person I'm writing about is a best friend, in a bad spot in life. Is she a bad mother or is she sad, needing a lot of help?

One thing that is most critical when one wants to change their life for the better is having the self-esteem and belief that they deserve more than what their life is right now. There are a lot of hurting mothers that don't have those tools to even get started. Should we kick them for their failure?

We mothers are not ever going to be perfect. The degree to which we screw up will be reflected later on in how long our kids are in therapy or if they are just able to brush themselves off and go about their business. Much of it depends on our ability to help them recover from our mistakes. We all lose it with our kids at some time or another. My son is only five months old and there are times that his father needs to take him now!. I hear other mothers who confess to yelling at their babies or swearing at them. The all-night crying of babies who won't go to sleep can make a new parent feel desperate and angry. We are only human.

Which isn't to excuse any sort of excessive behavior. I know firsthand the effect of growing up with a mother who was 'down' a lot. She wasn't depressed, per se, but she was down on her kids and herself quite a lot of the time. She didn't believe she deserved better, in fact, it seemed to me that after four marriages, she was still down on the men she chose to have in her life. Down down down.

It's hard to see a parent feel so limited, to witness a mother who deliberately chose some of the worst options possible and continues to blame others for her choices. This example taught my sister and I to become victims, people with no control over our lives. It took a long time and a lot of work to unlearn that way of living, but once you have, you can't go back to giving other people absolute control over your life. There's a certain power that comes with being powerless: you can always blame someone else for the disappointments in your life. It's pathetic, really, but when you don't care enough about your own happiness to make changes, that's what you do.

So, I have some empathy for Spears. I hope, for the sake of herself and her children, that she is willing to make some investments in herself and grow into the person she truly wants to become. Her boys don't need a celebrity mom, they need a happy mother. One who can find balance, choose wisely and keep herself grounded in this reality. I try to remember this everyday as well: my little guy needs a joyful mama, one can reflect that joy back to him. His self-esteem will depend on it. Because, deep down, I don't want a 'good' kid, I want a happy kid.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Such a Cozy Little Family

Saturday Afternoon was rainy, cold and somewhat melancholic. Two men screaming at each other in our street warranted a call to the police; it wasn't obvious if they were under the influence of some unknown substance or just really nasty angry jerks with a limited vocabulary. Apparently the Old School "F"-Word is noun, adjective and adverb all in one! Not so splendid.

I had the chance to go up the street for a cup of coffee and a chapter of a book I'm reading, then returned home to a sleepy fellow and waking baby. We decided not to go out, but instead built a fire. That was a definite turning point for our afternoon. Suddenly, it was cozy and warm; being at home felt like a good idea, as opposed to a last option due to a very bright and vocal baby. Our style didn't feel quite so cramped.

The cribbage board appeared on the coffee table. Glasses were brought out and a bottle of barleywine popped open to warm and breathe a little before decanting. Baby J happy on the couch, playing with the junk mail and a small container with a marble inside. I won our game, but my fellow's pretty good--he'll probably beat me the next time.

After dinner, I nursed Baby to sleep and we watched a Miss Marple, sitting next to each other on the couch, holding hands. How long has it been since that occurred? Baby woke right at the end.

All I can think is, What a wonderful life we have with this squeaky, squawky baby, if only we take a moment to build a fire and let it spark our thoughts. Being aware of what we want, then putting it into action, is so easy to do, if only we can remember to do it.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Celebrity Game

Imagine you are a celebrity. This is easy to do. Banish thoughts of dullness, of yourself as an everyday person. You are no longer ordinary. You are a celebrity -- You've got it goin' on!

Imagine you are a celebrity. What are you celebrated for? Is your face your fortune? Are you notorious for whooping it up with the best of them? Did your mind make you a million? Have your cunning and creative culinary skills made you the chef of choice? Did your band score three platinum albums before you left and went on to successful solo stardom? Have your words been worth reading? Pick your talent and work it.

Imagine you are a celebrity. There is no time for not liking yourself in this moment. Look in the mirror and know that your face has been on billboards, celluloid, book jackets, Cd's, and ads for heart medications. Do not think of your face on a milk carton--the term celebrity is not that broad. If you want to be a missing person, this is not the game for you. Please seek professional help.

Imagine you are a celebrity. Hold your shoulders up a little more, please. Celebrities have no reason to slouch. Straighten that back. Go brush your teeth. Remember that you are A-List and you don't get to the A-List with bad breath. Take a moment to give yourself a little polish. Clip those hangnails, wipe your nose and run a brush through your hair before leaving the house. Your paparazzi might not be visible, but they could be hiding in the bushes, waiting to catch you looking rumpled.

Imagine you are a celebrity. Wrap your favorite scarf around your throat just so. Pop a sparkly pin on your hat or strut out the door in those beat-up boots that are so incredibly who you are. Give yourself a little panache. Remember, when it comes to fashion, you are a celebrity and can do no wrong.

Imagine you are a celebrity. As you walk out the door and down the street, remember that you like yourself. But don't like yourself too much or defamatory remarks about your conceitedness will spread like wildfire through the pages of US magazine and you will become the subject of many polls. Instead, a gracious celebrity like yourself will belong to their public, will be accessible and gracious. You aren't above holding doors open for people or letting someone with only two items go ahead of you at the checkout counter. Your celebrity self will smile benevolently when those fortunately favored with your kindness thank you. "Oh, it was nothing. Have a (great, lovely, good, awesome--depending on the flavor of celebrity you are) day!" You will dazzle with a smile or cooly shrug in a good-natured sort of way.

Imagine you are a celebrity. Have fun! Enjoy even the most mundane moments in your life. Pretend you've let your housekeeper have the week off for her son's graduation trip to Hawaii, which you so thoughtfully paid for and arranged. She is like family, you know! So clean house like a celebrity: put some music on, pour yourself a glass of wine or pop a beer --unless you are one of those alcohol-monitor-anklet rehab celebrities-- and get to work. Sort your bills, scrub your floor and fold your laundry, all the time like a very important person.

Imagine you are a celebrity. You are getting ready to make a meal. Eat well--your career depends on it! Cheetos and ice cream will leave your skin camera repellent. Microwave burritos are beneath someone of your stature and income. Good gracious! And carb-loading will leave you with no energy for going out with your friends for one of those impromptu gatherings which are so much fun. Choose your food wisely; your diet will wind up compared to those of Halle Berry,Gweneth Paltrow and Patrick Dempsey. Hopefully, it will stand up to such competition.

Imagine you are a celebrity. Know that others around you watch what you do and consider what you say. Take care of yourself, bathe regularly, dress well and keep your nails clean. Love yourself...but not too much, or the word megalomaniac will appear people's minds in quite an unflattering font. But keep the celebrity game in mind. After all, God is watching. And if he's taking a break, well, there are a lot of hidden cameras around town....