Thursday, December 30, 2004

A Year Without a Santa Claus

My Christmas was awesome last year. I got an e-mail from our facilitator in Ukraine, who wrote, "Pack your bags. You need to be here next week." I waited for those words for 17 months before I got to read them. No wait, it was more like four years.

This year was even better because I got to spend Christmas with our new son. It was everything I had hoped it would be and then some. The kid spent almost 30 minutes unwrapping his presents on Christmas Eve. Then he tried tearing into ours. Then he took stock of all his loot. He couldn't believe his eyes.

Hard to believe this time last year he was in the hospital in Ukraine. And when you think if "children's ward" what comes to mind? Perhaps some colorful wall murals, stuffed animals, mobiles hanging from the ceiling? You might smell anticeptic, but that's about as "foul" of a smell as it gets, right?

The hospital in Ukraine was a series of two- and three-story buildings on frozen grounds. We parked on the street alongside the hospital, across from a series of high rise apartment buildings built during the reign of communism. If you've ever seen projects or tenements in, oh, maybe the Bronx, Watts, Newark or South Capitol in D.C., the apartments in Ukraine made those look like palaces. There were stray dogs roaming through the streets, picking through various trashcans--at least those that weren't lit with fires for people to warm themselves or cook their food.

Lights weren't on during the day and so when we initially went to the "lobby" of the main building, it was dark. Someone pointed our translator to the "children's ward"-- a building on the far south corner of the hospital grounds.

Getting to that building was treacherous on the icy ground. And even where sections of paved path were dry, they were uneven and bulging from massive tree roots underneath.

One side of the building had a row of doors, almost like a walk-up for each room. The other side was the main entrance and stairwell, leading to the upper floors. The first thing I saw was a huge teddy bear mural painted on top of a Robins Egg Blue background. Then I looked outside the window as three orderlies wheeled someone on a guerney outside. The shapeless body underneath the sheet was more than just cold, it was stiff. I supposed the morgue was next to the children's ward.

Inside was as dark as the lobby of the first building we'd seen. A mixture of urine and feces permeated the corridor.

We were led into a physician's office, which seemed cozy, compared to the rest of the building, but that's not saying much. Everything in the building was as gray as the daylight outside. In fact, when they brought in our little boy, he was the only colorful thing about the place; and I mean that literally because they had dressed him in a bright yellow and red clown outfit that was three sizes too big for him.

Over the next few days, we had a chance to play with Mr. Na in his room because we assured the head physician that both of us had had the chickenpox as kids. His room was quarantined--and he shared it with two other babies and a nine year-old boy who was the pox culprit. There was no way to access his room from the inside of the hospital--we had to make our way outside and around to the other side of the building. The steps leading to the door were treacherous, if anyone could make it that far without sinking in a hole full of ice water.

Access to the room was through the bathroom, which smelled 8,000 times worse than the feces/urine combo in the hallway. It smelled like the entire hospital's sewage system was right there, in that 8'x8' yellow-tiled room with a toilet that was nothing more than a glorified hole in the ground.

Our son-to-be (Mr. Na) barely had the chickenpox, and looked a lot healthier than his roommates who were each covered in spots. To add insult to injury, they looked as though they had just returned from a paintball battle. Their faces were smeared with a blue iodine solution to minimize the pox itching. We nicknamed the little girl roommate "Bluebeard" and found the 9 year-old to be quite handy in terms of trying to quiet down the children. When they cried, he'd get up and rock them; and when the nurses came to change or feed them, he'd help. He was the only one in the room who wasn't an orphan, and his family would come by at least once a day to bring him treats or toys--all of which he'd share with the others.

Mr. Na had just turned 19 months when we met him on that day in January. He had been in the hospital for 21 days--a lifetime for a baby. He was there long before the boy with the pox came--and the staff figured he might as well get those, too, while he was recovering from bronchitis.

Santa managed to miss this little speck of rice on Earth and Christmas didn't come last year for him or for Bluebeard, or for the little baby boy who was always crying because he was always wet because the nurses never changed him. There were no twinkling lights. There wasn't a tree loaded with ornaments and lovingly wrapped presents stuffed underneath. There were no stockings filled with cookies or chocolates. Just a few community pacifiers and rattles that probably hadn't been washed since they were unpacked.

Even though Santa found Mr. Na this year, and more than made up for the two years he spent Christmas-less, I couldn't help but think about Bluebeard or the little baby boy who cried nonstop. I hope that families found them the way we found Mr. Na. I hope someone is showering them with the love that they deserve. And I hope this year, Santa found them too.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Top 10 Books I Read in 2004

When it comes to reading, I'm not the type of person who follows various bestseller lists for recommendations. I used to do that and wound up wasting my time reading a lot of crap. The DaVinci Code comes to mind.

From a reading standpoint, 2004 was a "word of mouth" year for me and I based my selections on recommendations from friends and fellow writers (and some who I consider both!) I hope that if you scan my list and you find yourself wondering, "did I read this?" you'll pick one of the following books up in 2005 because they're all really great and you can tell your friends they were recommended to you by a Seattle Simian.

One of my dear writer friends loaned me Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas and I appreciated the examples of books Maas used when illustrating a point of character, plot or narrative development--so much so, I wrote down 30 or so titles of books I had either read long ago or missed entirely.

What follows, then, is a list of classics I've enjoyed this past year and some newer selections which I believe are also destined to withstand the test of time:

Rabbit, Run
Rabbit Redux
Rabbit is Rich
Rabbit at Rest
- John Updike
You can't read one of the above without reading the other three (g'wan, read the first one and you'll agree). Updike delves into the human psyche, creating characters so real, I felt like I knew and really HATED Rabbit. The series spans nearly four decades during Harry "Rabbit" Angstrom's lifetime and Updike used some pretty sharp imagery with was consistent among all four books.

Slaughterhouse Five - Kurt Vonnegut
Easily one of the best books I've read. Vonnegut's matter-of-fact voice is suberb and the story borders on pee-in-your-pants funny to thought-provoking.

1984 - George Orwell
How'd I miss having to read this in high school? Maybe it was assigned in my Junior year, which, quite coincidentally, was 1984--but it was also the year I cut so many classes that my GPA plummeted to a mere 1.8. Either way, I'm glad I somehow skipped it because it's much more meaningful to me now, as a wisened old monkey in a world full of crazy motherfuckers who remind me very much of Winston Smith's comrades. I've seen the movie, of course, with John Hurt (and as a matter of fact, I rented it again after reading the book) and always admired the Apple commercial (that was THE commercial that did it for me in terms of getting my shit together and going to college to study advertising) but none of these things holds a candle to Orwell's descriptions of a world so completely fucked up. Where Vonnegut spelled out the ruins of Dresden (by comparing it to walking on the moon), Orwell's storytelling placed the reader in a war-torn London without having to use one rubble-esque descriptor.

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita is beautifully written, to the point where, as sick as it sounds, you (dear reader) start to feel sorry for the perv.
I can't help but read this book now and think of Jeremy Irons, because he brought Humbert Humbert to life, and I'm really turned on by his diction. He was perfect for that role.

Dry - Augusten Burroughs
I loved this book from the get-go as I, too, aspired to be (a female) Darren Stevens from Bewitched. Having spent 16 years in advertising and PR (mostly in agencies, God, how sick is that?) I felt so connected to Burroughs in this novel and I loved his depiction of the agency world; but beyond that, Dry is a great story about staying sane and sober, in a world that's often better lived-in completely sauced.


Running With Scissors
- Augusten Burroughs
Contrary to my review of Eggers's book, I found Burroughs's memoir so utterly fantastic, there were times I thought it was fiction. I couldn't believe his incredible story and I'm really looking forward to the movie's release in 2005.

You Shall Know Our Velocity! - Dave Eggers
Eggers's characters and setting are so vivid, I often believed this was memoir, not fiction. I was amazed by his storytelling. I could have done without the cow part, but...hey, that's me. I hated the short story Eggers wrote about the Golden Retriever drowning in a river, too.

Other books I recommend:

Martin Dressler - The Tale of an American Dreamer - Steven Millhauser

Perfume - A Story of Murder - Patrick Suskind

The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner

To The Lighthouse - Virginia Woolf

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Merry Chrismukkah

My list is now on McSweeney's, co-authored by yours truly and her sig other. It was his idea--I just made it better.

I haven't had much to say lately, mostly because I've been suffering from sheer exhaustion. I guess this year finally caught up with me.

I hope to come back soon enough with some end-of-year lists. I'm working on the list of Top 10 Books I've Read and a list of Awesome People in 2004. Stay tuned.

Happy Holidays, Friends, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before

You know, it's kinda funny how, after eight years of living here, I bitch and moan about the weather and how dreary it is. Today was just one of those days where, if I had allowed myself, I would have stayed in pajamas and curled up on the couch to watch endless episodes of Thomas and Friends or Dora the Explorer, but instead, I mustered up everything I could and got myself and Mr. Na bundled up to leave the house for awhile.

I was in such a pissy mood, too. First, Mr. Na insisted on taking THREE Mega-Blok trucks--the kind that come apart in three pieces. So I'm toting my messenger bag, sippy cup, a bottle of water for me, my keys and his three trucks to the car and as I lift him in to the car seat, one of the pieces goes flying underneath. So while it's pouring outside and Mr. Na is demanding I retrieve his beloved truck piece, I'm crawling underneath my car to try and find it.

Then, halfway up the street, I realize I had forgotten my shopping list--something that is a MUST HAVE when you have a 2-1/2 year-old sitting in your shopping cart, playing slapjack with your hands. So I had to turn around, park, run back inside and grab the list.

Finally, I make my way back up the street and turn on my MP3 player. I've got a Phat Noise that holds 2800 songs and I use every single mega-byte of it. As I flip through my 30 or so "Discs" (folders of different bands or genres), I come across The Smiths and I am instantly transformed. There are very few bands who have that sort of seratonin-like effect on me.

The first single I ever bought of The Smiths was a 12" of "What Difference Does it Make?" issued by Rough Trade in January 1984. For the longest time, I thought it was Morrissey on the cover, in blue sepia, holding a glass of milk (and I never made the correlation that Terence Stamp was the head bad guy in Superman 2). Either way, The Smiths alleviated any middle class teenage angst I carried around, though I'm sure Morrissey would be the first to roll his eyes at the mere thought of me. I wasn't some punk living on the Dole in Manchester--I was a 15 year-old Orange County KROQ groupie with a penchant for OP and Vans, not plaid pants and body piercings, though I preferred to run with the best of them (ahem: the best that Burbank could provide, that is).

Morrissey's nonepareil voice was the perfect accompaniment to Johnny Marr's guitar. Marr, who is one of the best 12-string guitarists--bar none (in fact my favorite Talking Heads song is "Nothing But Flowers" where Marr's 12-string kicks ass).

I had the pleasure of seeing The Smiths at the Hollywood Paladium in 1985. It was a hell of a show, only to end abruptly because a skinhead bounded up on to the stage and grabbed Morrissey. Thankfully, it was during the first or second encore. It was still sheer bliss.

While interning at Capitol Records in 1987, my boss stuck out her tongue when I put "Louder Than Bombs" in the tape player we shared. By the time "Oscillating Wildly" came on, she asked if she could borrow the tape.
"Take it," I said. "I'm getting the CD after work."

It's still one of my favorites after all these years, though I will say, my all-time favorite song is "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore." It has always been the song I listened to nonstop when shit went down for me, regardless of what it was: breakups, divorce, death, miscarriage--whatever.

The Smiths--to me--was one of those bands who, whenever I go to England, I stop and reflect, thanking the Queen and all of her country's problems so that a band so amazing as The Smiths could have fodder. It's really no wonder that God chastised Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People for never signing them.

Despite their breakup, The Smiths will always be a favorite.

As I drove in traffic this morning, listening to "Stop Me if You Think That You've Heard This One Before" I caught a glimpse of Mr. Na in the review mirror, head bobbing. He was in the zone.

You know, this kid's got good taste.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Whew! One more hurdle down. We survived court and Mr. Na is ours (again!)

What a crazy week--and one I don't want to re-live ever again.

On the plus side, I heard of this site and it's awfully nice to see others getting dumped on for a good cause.

I'm preparing my top 10 list of the best books I've read in 2004. Certainly, Da Vinci Code and Angels and Demons won't make the cut; however,they give me hope that I could be, um, a better writer.

C and I saw The Incredibles last weekend. What an awesome flick! I had my doubts going into it, but was very surprised. I loved Edna (but who wouldn't, dahlink).

I'm debating on whether or not I should take Mr. Na to see Polar Express at the IMAX. I'm afraid his little brain will explode.

Well, here's hoping next week will be a lot less stressful.

Monday, November 29, 2004

We have a scheduled hearing tomorrow at our county's courthouse to readopt Mr. Na in the United States. And though, in theory, this should go a lot smoother than our court hearing in Ukraine last January (and even that wasn't so bad), I'm just beside myself with anxiety. I feel like I have so much more at stake right now because I've become so attached to this little guy, and I don't know what I'd do if I lost him.

The reason why we've chosen to readopt Mr. Na here in the states is so we can get a U.S. birth certificate; but more importantly, our only proof that Mr. Na is our child, is a foreign decree from a country that's steeped in crisis right now and if Ukraine had any cause to revoke foreign adoptions, we would be at the mercy of their government if we didn't have a U.S. birth certificate for him. We also live in a state that doesn't recognize foreign adoptions decrees (currently, there are only 26 states that do).

As I mentioned in previous posts, Mr. Na will retain his dual citizenship until he reaches the age of 18; however, Ukraine only recognizes Mr. Na's Ukrainian citizenship. And every year until he's 18, we have to fill out a four-page questionnaire and submit 10 photos of Mr. Na to the Ukrainian Consulate so they can keep tabs on his whereabouts (small price to pay for having the most awesome little guy in the world!)

On the plus side, tomorrow's hearing will be very cool (if all goes well...and I can't vouch that it will because I was too cheap to hire an I could have fucked up every single piece of paperwork). Thinking about it reminds me of our hearing in Ukraine in January. The judge (who was a woman, by the way..and I thought that was pretty cool!) turned to me and said,

"Do you promise you will give this child a loving home? That you'll care for him and restore his health?"

My eyes filled with tears as I said yes.

So far, so good--but I'm in this for the long haul!

Thursday, November 25, 2004

My Thankfuls

This has been such an awesome year and so it's only right that I list my thankfuls:

I'm thankful for my husband, whom I've nicknamed Buckaroo Banzai. He's handsome, funny, schmart and talented in so many ways. He's also generous, kind and completely unselfish and as I've come to learn this year, he's an awesome Papa!

I'm thankful for my beautiful, sweet and SCHMART Ukrainian prince, Mr. Na. And though I've only known the kid for 10 months, I feel like he's been here with us forever. I feel so damn lucky.

I'm thankful for my friends because without them, I'd have given up on my manuscript many times over; would never have written a smut piece that would be published in a smut anthology (Spring '05!) My friends have shown me unconditional love and overwhelming support--especially now as I'm facing this daunting readoption and am really scared shitless about Ukraine's future (my son will remain a Ukrainian Citizen until age 18).

I'm thankful for my health and though I've faced a lot of perimenopausal challenges this year, my symptoms are easing. Giving up caffeine was definitely a step in the right direction and I've been sleeping like a baby!

More thankfuls:
Valerian Root, lowfat soy nog, presidential term limits, Fifi, naptimes, good books, a kickass running soundtrack, personal trainers that kick your ass, Mother-in-Laws that spoil their grandkids, Ugg Boots, The Emerald City, longtime friends who come to visit, the O.C., occasional freelance jobs, s'mores, the ocean, and re-connecting with high school friends.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

There's a Rat in the Basement What Am I Gonna Do?

We have a rodent in our basement and, judging by the size of the shit he leaves behind, it's a rat. This sucks on many different fronts, namely that the basement is where all of our extra food items are stored (luckily in a metal, locked cabinet) and it's a place where I do laundry on a daily basis.

It's pretty gross, too, because I'm finding rat shit on top of the washing machine every day and it makes my skin crawl, wondering where the fucker's hiding. Is he staring at me with his beady little eyes from the rafters? Behind the dryer? What if he curls up in the laundry basket among my socks and underwear? That's just fucking nasty.

This problem just makes me mourn the loss of Aspen all the more. I mean, we still have our sweet Golden (whom Mr. Na rightfully nicknamed Fifi), but she's not Aspen. Aspen was the Mouse King.

When Aspen and I lived in Brentwood, we had a mouse move in from the 405 Freeway. He bore a hole in our sectional couch and made himself nice and comfy. Aspen was the first one to notice, especially because the mouse would sneak out in the middle of the night and poach kibble from his dog dish in the kitchen.

Aspen used to piss me off whenever he'd push something under the couch--which was on a daily basis. Our apartment had hardwood floors and the couch was just high enough off the ground for him to slip dog cookies, bones and toys underneath. He'd sit there and bark at me until I lifted up the couch so he could retrieve his prize. Sometimes I'd look and find absolutely nothing under there, but he'd remain relentless until I'd lift the couch up high enough for him to crawl completely underneath and find a microscopic piece of dog biscuit.

So I started yelling at him for taking his kibble and burying it underneath the couch. He wasn't a messy eater so I wondered why he took on this new habit of dragging kibble out from the kitchen to bury it all the way in the livingroom.

I found the hole when I went to vacuum the floor behind the couch. It was pretty big and I knew right away it came from something other than my dog. A mixture of mouse shit and kibble lay on the floor beside it.

I didn't know what to do at first, so I went to the store and looked at different mousetraps, and settled on glue traps, not really thinking about the consequences.

My bedroom was a loft above the living room and sometime in the middle of the night, Aspen bolted off the bed and ran down the stairs, barking like mad. When I turned on the lights, I saw the mouse--the little bastard--stuck on the glue pad and trying to break loose. Unfortunately, he dragged the glue pad over to the floor lamp and somehow managed to get the cord stuck on to the pad as well.

The three of us looked at each other, not knowing what to do. It was an awkward moment. Finally, I took a broom from out of a closet and I went over to the mouse and said,

"Alright, look, I'll make a deal with you. I'll let you loose outside if you swear to me that you and your homies NEVER come back. Got it?"

The mouse swore at me in his mouse language and I somehow managed to get the electrical cord free from the glue pad with the broom. I then slid the glue pad with the cursing mouse across the room and out on to the patio. The little guy only had one paw stuck on the glue pad, so I figured he still had a fighting chance. He'd either be known in his circle as a hero or a gimp--but either way, he was free.

After that, I never underestimated Aspen's ability to be a good watch dog. If he was still alive today, he'd be cleaning house. As much as I love Fifi, she's a priss and won't go down the basement steps unless we make her. Meantime, we're stuck with the rat snuggling in my gym socks.

Friday, November 19, 2004

He is Sporticus

I'm in love with a children's TV show character...again.

The first time it happened, I was, I think, four--no maybe six. I had to have been a little older because I had a diary and I can remember writing entries about him:

Not the guy on the left. Ew. And no, they weren't lovers. My guy was Butch Cassidy from Hanna Barbera's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids. (circa 1973). The dude on the left was his best friend, Harvey who, coincidentally, was voiced by Micky Dolenz. I say "coincidentally" because it was around that same time I was in love with Michael Nesmith from the Monkees, too. (Oh, and another that I think about it, Butch looks a lot like my ex-husband).

This time, my crush isn't over a cartoon character, but a live action guy named Sportacus on Lazy Town:

Although this Adonis deserves more real estate on my blog than given, I can't seem to find a better photo. But trust me, he's all that and a bag of chips. I'm not the only one who thinks so either. You should get a load of some of the comments I've run across in the Blogosphere. Yep--Sportacus is hot. Funny thing, though, I read the actor's bio on Nick Jr. and in reality...feh...not so hot! Granted, he was a Silver Medalist in something like Aerobics for Iceland (his homeland).

Aside from his yummy physique, Sportacus is teaching Mr. Na (and children around the world) that getting up and being active is important and eating sugary snacks...not so good. So he's perfect in every way.

Lazy Town is pretty bizarre and from the moment I first saw it, I knew it had to have been foreign (it's produced in Iceland). The show is skewed toward 2-5 year-olds yet it has a driving techno soundtrack and the main character, Stephanie, has pink hair. Still, it reminds me of the bizarre crap produced by Sid and Marty Kroft--particularly The Bugaloos and HR Puffinstuff. I would say this was a combination of both, except those shows in the 60s were more about psychadelic head trips and less about promoting a healthy lifestyle.

Honestly, though, Lazy Town is not such a bad little show--providing entertainment for the kid and eye candy for the mom.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Tales of a recovering junkie

I'm a coffee addict, I freely admit it--but I've had to give it up a few weeks ago because I was suffering from insomnia and heart palpitations. My body just couldn't stand the sudden surge of adrenaline that coffee gave me and I began living on Tylenol PM to try and sleep at night, only to repeat the cycle of drinking coffee the next morning when I woke up.

"Isn't that how Elvis died?" my friend Jade asked me last week.


I thought it would be so tough, quitting the "C" -- but actually, I couldn't be happier. I'm sleeping well at night--best I've slept (without a sleep aid) in months and although I still miss the smell of coffee, I don't miss the havoc it wreaked on me. And I still get a small dose of caffeine every morning, either with a 1/2 cup of chai or a cup of green tea.

My husband's a skeptic (and a fellow coffee addict). He doesn't believe that my coffee addiction is what made me wired but tired. He sent me links showing me the amount of caffeine in a 2 oz shot of espresso vs. a serving (4 oz.) of chai. The 2 oz of espresso has 100 mg of caffeine whereas the 4 oz of chai has only 30-35 mg of caffeine (The green tea chai only has 20-25 mg of caffeine). He proposed that I split the difference and make a split shot of coffee, yielding around 55 mg of caffeine per serving.

I love you, honey, but you're an enabler.

Of course, living in the coffee capital of the world, one would think I'd fall off the horse and go back to the "C". But no thanks, not me. I'm happy not to feel my heart thud in my chest at night and for the first time in months, I'm actually having dreams again, although, I can't say they've been all that great. Last night, I dreamt I was fooling around with David Cassidy (actually as the young Keith Partridge) in his dark room (which wasn't really the Partridge Family Home) in a sleeping bag on the floor. We were constantly interrupted by Danny, who, I think, wanted a piece of the action, and then by Tracy who had a flashlight and tried to crawl into the sleeping bag, blinding me with the obnoxious high beam which in reality was my Timex Big Ben Moonbeam Clock flashing at me to get out of bed for my appointment this morning.

No wonder the love of my life wants me to go back to coffee.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Apologies all around

A week has passed and the Internet is chock full o'election post moterm. So I've noted a few things that made me giggle:

Here's a site that allows people to post apologies to the world, for the big mistake the other half of the country made last Tuesday.
Kinda like apologizing to your friend for bringing your drunk boyfriend to the party, who managed to vomit all over your friend's house.

A friend of mine sent me this link today. It's pretty self-explanatory.

And finally, while I've seen various sites that represent that "re-mapping" of America, based on red and blue state divisions, this one cracked me up most:

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Mr. Na experienced his first Halloween on Sunday and I'd swear the kid was a natural. Once he learned that he could score a piece of candy by saying "trick or treat" neither my husband or I could keep up with him. Luckily at his age, it was all about the thrill of the hunt and not the feast. I've seen this child on sugar and it's frightening!

The bad news is, we're sitting at home with three large bags of candy and I'm in the throes of PMS. If that isn't bad enough, Bush was re-elected for a second term. Shit happens in threes.

If you've read my earlier posts about Halloween, you'll recall that the hubster and I grew up wearing poorly-designed costumes made from either boxes or something found deep in the back of our moms' closets. We passed our tradition on to Mr. Na, creating a Thomas the Tank costume made entirely of cardboard boxes and styrofoam. I will say, since it was more his sweat and toil than mine, that the outcome was amazing. Not only was Mr. Na the spotlight of attention at our local shopping center, but I was also the envy of all moms when I boasted about my husband's talent. It's one of the reasons why I married a geek engineer.

I need to gloat about something, dammit, my hope for regime change has been shattered!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Shoes Make The Pope

Last night at a Halloween party, I noticed a millieu of people dressed as religious figures, including the Pope, an archbishop, some wayward clergymen and a few nuns as well as angels, devils and iterations thereof.

It made me think back to a comment I made to my friend the other night as we drove home after seeing The Grudge. To me, it seems like when things are really weird in the world--with wars; presidential administrations gone awry; and a jittery economy, we tend to focus on all things "spiritual"--regardless of what that means to us as individuals and I used this as an example: do you ever notice that some of the best horror movies are made during some of the lowest points in history? When things happening in the world leave people feeling about as insecure as they do when they sit through stories about the supernatural?

To be more specific, The Exorcist came out in 1973--the same year that OPEC hiked oil prices tremendously in retaliation for Western countries' involvement in Yom Kippur War; Nixon resigned after the Watergate scandal; and granted, the Vietnam war ended for U.S. troops--but only after 23 years of wasted involvement and nearly ten years of outrage and derision from Americans. According to "InfoPlease" the Violent Crime Rate in the U.S. was 41.5 per 1,000--which was double the Violent Crime Rate 10 years earlier.

I'm not saying The Grudge was as good asThe Exorcist;but it was definitely one of the better scary movies I'd seen in ages. Forget about the slasher movies like Scream or its lame-ass sequels...I enjoy movies that touch on the supernatural--"spirits" that could quite possibly exist, like ghosts and demons. Both movies did quite well at the box office, too--so it isn't just that filmmakers are picking up on the scary vibe. People are flocking to see movies about things they aren't sure are real.

Maybe watching scary movies helps us deal with all the scary things in the world that are real; but just like the victims in these films, we have no control over who's going to do what to us next.

Please get out and vote tomorrow. It's your right to choose who's in charge!

Monday, October 25, 2004

I've just returned from the Surrey Writers Conference. It was my first time there but my third writers conference and I've come to the conclusion that I need to stop going to these things until I have a finished manuscript. I'm not learning anything new and I can't really make a connection with someone until I've got something to show. Needless to say, it was inspiring in that regard and I've made myself a promise to write new pages EVERY DAY come hell or high water. I've also vowed to have my ms finished by the end of the year--a lofty goal, but one I'm very serious about.

Anne Perry, Michael Slade and Elizabeth George were great keynote speakers. I jumped for joy when Elizabeth George announced that she thought The Davinci Code was one of the worst novels ever written. I was standing in the back of the room when she spoke, and some asswipe turned to me and sighed and said, "Just another jealous writer..."

I couldn't believe all of the groupies who followed Diana Gabaldon, Don Maas and Michael Slade around like puppy dogs. That was just about the silliest thing I'd ever seen.

But the best part of the conference was rooming with two of the loveliest women in the world! Our conversations about writing, ghosts, siblings, parents, significant others, the silly writer groupies, and hormones lasted well into the night and I swear it was the best time I'd spent with two women--ever! We talked about an idea to get all of our writer friends together for a weekend writing retreat somewhere very fun like on a coast or like in Savannah so we could do what we love doing together--writing!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Mad Monster Party

I'm a sucker for the old Rankin/Bass TV specials, but my favorite--which happens to be my favorite Halloween movie--is Mad Monster Party?
The "animagic" in the show is a little clunkier than, say, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer or Santa Claus is Coming to Town, but the characters are so awesome and the soundtrack is pure kitsch from the late 60s.

The legendary Boris Karloff lends his voice as Baron von Frankenstein and Phyllis Diller voices "Thang's" wife, who has that unforgettable laugh and is decked out in Go-Go boots.

Someone actually gave me the movie on VHS as a gift several years ago and when I saw that it had been reissued on DVD, I couldn't wait to get it and watch it with Mr. Na--who's fast becoming a fan! The DVD version is amazing, too, which makes watching it even more pleasurable!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

I think I'm the only person I know who gets stressed out over Halloween, and it's been that way for me for as long as I can remember. I usually have a tough time trying to pick out a suitable costume--and then I create one out of a hodge-podge of crap which is usually what I end up looking like.

I think my hodge-podge tendencies stemmed from my parents. In 1974, they dressed me in a wig, put bright red rouge circles on my cheeks and some gawd-awful skirt and blouse combo three-sizes too big so that I could march in the annual Ragamuffin parade. Unfortunately, they took the name of the parade literally and dressed me up as a frigging Ragamuffin. If you're unsure what that looks like, here's an example:

So to carry on with my inherited hodge-podgerie, one year, I decided to go as a housewife, only to have the cold cream on my face freeze into a solid mass, while my skin itched uncontrollably underneath.

In 1982, I decided to go as one of these chicks:
from A Flock of Seagull's "I Ran" video. I used a black Glad trash bag and red lipstick on my face--creating an oily mess, which, again, felt uncomfortable in the cold air.

Manufactured costumes were not much better than the shit I threw together, either. I can remember the Frankenstein costume I had as a child. It doubled as pajamas that glowed in the dark and came with a plastic mask that made me drool from behind the tiny slit used as a mouth.

It's interesting trying to teach our two year-old about Halloween. At this point, all he knows is that there's quite a bit of candy sitting around the house that gets used as negotiating tools when he refuses to eat his dinner. But today, he sensed something was up when Papa took a few Huggies boxes and began cutting and rigging them together. He immediately recognized the shape of a choo-choo and shrieked with delight as Papa fitted him for accuracy. Yes--we're slapping shit together, just like we did when we were kids; only this time, my incredibly talented husband is going to make the best costume on the planet for a toddler: Thomas the Tank. God willing!

Meanwhile, I'm struggling with our costume idea: going as Dexter and Dee Dee. It sucks, too, because we've been invited to a few costume parties this year and while I really don't want to go as Dee Dee, I'm too exhausted to think of anything else.

Maybe I'll snack on a few negotiating tools while I brainstorm.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

More Jabs From Jib Jab

If you thought Jib Jab's "This Land" short was funny, you should check out their latest endeavor, "Good to Be in D.C."

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Tickle me, Elmo

Ever wonder what you could do if you beheaded and skinned a whole bunch of Elmo dolls? Here's an idea.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Picture of the week

This is just the coolest!

Bill Shatner with Ben Folds and Henry Rollins

I'm looking forward to William Shatner's new album "Common People" featuring Ben Folds, Aimee Mann, Henry Rollins, Adrian Bellew and Joe Jackson. It'll be out on October 5!

I have a running list of who--if given the choice--I could have chosen to be my Dad and Bill Shatner's in the top 10!

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Is it Safe?

I'm sure everyone is going to be writing in their blogs tonight about the debate and who they hated more and why. So I've decided to write about who I hate--outside of the presidential candidates--my dentist.

I don't actually hate my dentist per se--I mean he's a pretty decent guy. It's his hygienist I hate because she's the one who inflicts pain upon me. She's evil. EVIL I tell you. E-V-I-L!

It's only been within the last eight years that I've been really dilligent about seeing a dentist every six months and flossing my teeth. But the reason why I'm so anal about it now is because the first time I went after a long hiatus, they measured my gum pockets to be wider than the Grand Canyon. So, I do my penance every six months and go in for my routine cleaning and exam--and the gums have definitely gotten better except now middle age is sinking in and all the clinching I've been doing in my sleep and throughout my career and in taking care of a toddler has taken its toll, causing me to feel pain in my upper right incisor to the point where it feels like I am constantly sucking on a 9 volt battery.

My dentist has three or four hygienists in his office and I usually book my appointments with the kinder, gentler persuasion so I can avoid the woman I fondly refer to as the Bitch of Buchenwald. But I recently had to reschedule my appointment and the only time slot available was with BoB--and so I spent 90 minutes in the chair of death while she shamed me for not flossing properly.

Don't get me wrong--BoB's a nice lady and I'm sure her Teuton looks have nothing to do with the fact she's a sadist. It's just that she wields her "gentle" ultra-sonic cleaning tool as if there's a war inside my mouth and the plaque she's fighting wants to overthrow the regime.

I writhed beneath BoB, eyes shut, as beads of sweat formed on my head while thoughts of Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man danced in my head. "Find your happy place, find your happy place," I cried inside while Chuck Mangione wafted through the room--above the drone of BoB's weapon. I hate Chuck Mangione. I hate Smooth Jazz. I hate BoB and I hate the chair of death.

Alas, she clicked the tool "off" and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was safe again.

Two things to note today: A) I FINALLY finished the piece I want to submit to the parenting anthology. Wish me luck; B) Chimpy made the front page of McSweeney's. Oh that man of there anything that he can't do?

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Smile! I see you!

Ever wonder who's reading your blog?

I do and I use Site Meter to track who my readers are.

It's just nice to see where everyone's from--and I even have a few people who visit me about once a week. (Hi to the person at the EPA or Ameritech! Hi Poppy!)

Today I had a reader from Whole Foods. (I LOVE your store and used to do PR for you! Sustainable fishing anyone?)

I just wanna say "thanks" for reading! I don't know how you stumbled across my site, but I'm glad you found me!

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Old Life + New Life = Sheer Exhaustion

We adopted our son from Ukraine this past January when he was 19 months old. Needless to say, I'm a relatively "new mom" and I've spent the last nine months at home getting to know him and seeing him flourish from a tiny, malnourished baby to a bright, beautiful and active little two year-old boy who, at the moment, is singing the "Backpack" song from Dora the Explorer.

Prior to finding our son, I spent 16 years in advertising and PR--fields which, in my opinion, are better left for 20-somethings who have more drive, ambition, and that inner gooey, rubbery stuff we all possess at a young age that enables shit to literally bounce right off of us. I was pretty happy to get out of the business--though I managed to work on a few cool accounts and was able to "retire" somewhat fulfilled.

During these last few months, though, I've discovered that when my former life interferes with my current life, it's as if two worlds are colliding and I'm caught right in the middle.

For example, a few days ago, a former client of mine representing one of the world's largest food manufacturers called me up and asked me to help out on a project they were working on. They needed someone so desperately they didn't care that I'd be working from home in my Paul Frank jammies with my little guy ramming our dog with his Mega Bloc dump truck in the background.

So there I was--on the phone with one of the top radio stations in NYC, trying to negotiate a radio buy and basically trying to sound in control when all of a sudden my son finds me in my hiding spot on the other side of the house yelling, "MAAAAAAAA-MAAAAA! Maaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh-maaaaaaaaah! There she is! Hi Mama!"

The radio rep on the other end just sniggered...and I knew he was going to be a bastard on the final deal. I was pretty embarrassed.

"Can you tell I work out of my house?" I asked innocently.
"Um, yeah. But you're lucky!" he replied.

Don't get me wrong--I love being a stay-at-home mom and I love my son to pieces. In theory, it gives me time to write...which in theory, is what I do. But I haven't exactly yet found my groove. This mommy business is hard work! Really hard! Bless you mamas who have MORE THAN ONE because I am exhausted with just the one

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

I'm bein' followed by a moonshadow...

According to Associated Press, Yusuf Islam, the man known to the world as singer/songwriter Cat Stevens, was denied entry into the U.S. today on a flight from London.

It was reported that Islam was traveling to the U.S. to promote his new DVD of his 1976 Majikat Tour.

Islam had recently re-recorded his 1970 hit "Peace Train" in opposition of the U.S. war on Iraq--however, he has openly criticized the September 11 attacks and the most recent hostage situation in Beslan, Russia.

Though I am not a big fan of Cat Stevens, this story made me sick inside.

The Patriot Act strikes again.

Cat Stevens - Moon Shadow Lyrics
I'm bein' followed by a moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow.
Leapin' and hoppin' on a moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow.
And if I ever lose my hands
lose my power
lose my land -
if I ever lose my hands

I won't have to work no more.
And if I ever lose my eyes
if my colours all run dry

if I ever lose my eyes

I won't have to cry no more.

I'm bein' followed by a moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow.
Leapin' and hoppin' on a moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow.
And if I ever lose my legs
I won't moan and I won't beg

if I ever lose my legs

I won't have to walk no more.
And if I ever lose my mouth
all my teeth North and South

if I ever lose my mouth

I won't have to talk.

Did it take long to find me? I asked the faithful light.
Did it take long to find me and are you gonna stay the night?

I'm bein' followed by a moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow.
Leapin' und hoppin' on a moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow.
Moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow
moon shadow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Vacation, all I ever wanted...

For the last six years my husband and I have retreated to one of the prettiest patches of Pacific Northwest coastline for a week of R&R.

Aside from taking the dog for a swim in the ocean, there isn't a whole hell of a lot to do, especially in September, when the weather can range from nice and sunny to gloomy to terrential downpour. So our "R&R" entails little more than hours of reading, writing, nookie and a daily stroll on the sand.

This was the first year we brought Mr. Na to the beach--something we both looked forward to for a long, long time. I don't want to say we had a "bad" time because that would sound too harsh--but we had a "different" time. There's no such thing as "quiet time" with a two year-old around, that's for sure! So of the above mentioned beach activities, we managed to get a lot of, uh, reading done...between 2-5 p.m. and after 9 p.m.

this is an audio post - click to play

I'd rather be swimming in the ocean, thank you!

Actually, all bitching aside, I had fun flying kites!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Cuz we are surfin'...surfin' on the World Wide Web

Wanna know the top 30 most mistake-filled movies? Wanna see which DVDs have Easter Eggs hidden in them? Then check out Movie Mistakes online.

I personally loved seeing the gas cannister on the back of a chariot during the film Gladiator.

Friday, September 03, 2004

New rule of the day...never go to a double feature of scary movies and expect to get a full night's rest when you get home!

Yes, it's true...I am 36 and I slept with the light on last night. Shut up.

Jade and I saw Open Water and the Exorcist-The Beginning. Of the two, Open Water was the movie that scared the freaking shit out of me while watching it. It just seemed so real and put me into the "what would I do?" mode the entire time.

The Exorcist-The Beginning, on the other hand, sucked major ass. It wasn't scary at all--yet that was the movie that kept me awake all night with the lights on. Why? Well, let me put it this way: demon possession is one of those things where, I don't know if it's real, but if I found out it was, it would be the hard way either by being possessed myself, or knowing someone who was...and don't you think that'd really be a sucky way of finding out?

So last night after the movies, I was lying in bed alone, since my dear hubby had a sour stomach after eating the rest of the Trader Joe's Dunkers (serves you right you bastard) and is on the couch in the den supposedly studying but really reading the new Dave Eggers anthology personalized by Dave who wrote: "thank you, thank you, thank you for contributing some of the best goddamn work..." (for McSweeney's) and signing it "your mentee" (and I realize I am paraphrasing here since I can't find the actual book now--probably because C took it with him to either a) show it off at work; and/or b) is carefully preserving it in his laptop bag instead of having mine or our son's grubby hands mucking it up...and all I keep thinking of is that if I turn off the light, some crazy-ass demon is going to spider-climb my walls into my bedroom and scare the shit out of me and I can't let that happen or else I won't sleep and if I don't sleep I'll be worthless trying to tote Mr. Na around all day and entertain him because he expects me to be frigging Bob Hope all the time...but as it turns out I can't sleep with the light on either so I wonder if I'm better off trying to finish reading Rabbit Redux, which, by the way, is pretty good or just trying to get into a good position to fall asleep--which isn't working because the more I toss and turn, the tighter my silk pajamas get--so much so that I'm giving myself a major wedgie.

So then, of course, I try and talk myself out of leaving the light on and I shut it off only to remember the movie trailer I saw for Ju-On earlier in the afternoon where the little boy ghost sits on the bed while the woman now I'm thinking there's this little Asian boy on the foot of my bed which is why the dog jumped down and if I open my eyes, he'll have his beady little ghost eyes fixed on me.

Sometime after 5 a.m. I managed to fall asleep (with the light on).

On the plus side, my finest material is written on the shortest amount of sleep. Maybe it's giddiness...or maybe my internal editor is too groggy to give a shit about what I write...

Thursday, September 02, 2004

So I was having drinks tonight with Dave seriously, in fact, my dear hubby bought a pitcher for the table. Never mind the fact he was with 20 other people...he drank our beer so now he's considered family.

Alright, let me back track by saying that I and my wonderfully talented writer friends went to see Dave Eggers speak tonight at the U Bookstore. He was promoting his latest collection with two local contributors. Afterwards, we met up with him at a local watering hole.

Like Ben Folds, Dave also strikes me as the kind of guy friend I should have had in high school (see my post about Ben). What can I say--I'm a sucker for dry wit--which is probably why I love my husband so much (though he's driving me up a fucking wall about the fact that he's had two lists already published on Mcsweeney's website).

So I'm a little bummed we didn't get to chat all that much. When he said goodbye to me and C, I said "I'm so glad we at least had a chance to catch up..." but really, I had so many burning questions left unanswered like:
1) Who does the Golden Retriever actually belong to? and
2) What exactly did you draw on the inside cover of my copy of AHWOSG?

I guess they'll remain unanswered until next time!

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The Cure at Everett Event Center

The show was awesome. Mr. Na was good for the first 90 minutes and then Papa had to take him to the stairs across the hall so he could run. But he danced his little toddler butt off making everyone around him laugh hysterically. He was stylin in his day-glo earplugs and his "Clash Kiddie Rockers" t-shirt.

Robert Smith and the boys played for over two hours and included favorites like "Charlotte Sometimes" and some other goodies from Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me and Disintegration. It's too bad this gig wasn't at the Gorge--but it still sounded great. I really hope they'll come back soon and finally play there!

this is an audio post - click to play

Monday, August 30, 2004

Is it just me or is everyone else who watches Six Feet Under sick and tired of the blatant marketing through product placement?

It was just silly to have Barbara's 12 year-old daughter give Nate a copy of Stiff to give to David, which, by the way, I'm told by a dear friend that it's awesome...but c'mon please...a 12 year-old? To make matters worse, she saw Nate a few months later and asked him if he had given it to David and then went on to say "oh you should read it too, it's great."

But THEN even more insulting to me was George's STUPID comment about walnuts as he entered the kitchen with a 25 pound bag of them. "They're packed with Omega 3's and other nutrients..." GRRRRR!!! Ok, so maybe I'm a little sensitive since a) I've been in PR all of my frickin' professional life and b) my friend works on Hazelnuts...but really--I think blatant product marketing is for the birds.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

A Message For The Children (taken from the Onion)

Here's what some celebrities had to say to the children of the world.

My favorite response is from Sarah Vowell who said: "The third Harry Potter is the best. Also, your parents are just making it up as they go along."

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The Cure...

Well, so I never posted an audioblog from the Curiosa tour this weekend because the concert was cancelled. Thankfully, though, the Cure has rescheduled for August 31--closer to home and our tickets from Saturday will be honored there.

I was so looking forward to seeing the Cure play at the Gorge, dammit!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Rules of the day...

New Rules (sorry, this is a direct rip-off from Bill Maher).

Rule #1 -- Do NOT let your toddler watch "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King" even if it's only for five minutes. Otherwise, he will pretend he's Gollum for an entire week -- and climb all over you and the furniture muttering "Gollum-esque" utterances.

Rule #2 -- Do NOT let your 67 year-old mother (with Glaucoma) drive at 11:30 at night in the pouring rain. She will turn right on a dark street and clip a parked Jeep Grand Cherokee--thus totalling her car.

Rule #3 -- If either (or worse...both) of these occur, run. Run as far away as fast as you can and don't look back.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Garden State/Zero 7/Losing Yourself in Music

I realize I'm behind the times--having just bought Zero 7's album "Simple Things" which was released in 2001; but I'd only heard one of the tracks--In the Waiting Line--this past Saturday when we saw Garden State.

I thought Garden State was a cool little flick...a nice digression from the summer's blockbuster-o-rama. I like Zack Braff and to my surprise his writing stirred me emotionally. I could relate, somewhat, to his fuckedupness and realization that there's a point in time where you simply have to address your problems or they'll fester. It's hard, too, when you're in love with someone yet you know there's still lots of shit to be sorted through without any distraction. You either have to slay the dragon alone--or run the risk of ignoring it.

Anyway, so while I was out surfing iTunes today, I ran across Zero 7 and gave a listen to the rest of the album, which--for me--is quickly becoming my new "writing CD". It's melodic and "girlie swirlie", meaning that it's neither aggressive nor poppy. Much like Garden State, it too is a detour from the summer's hit-o-rama. If I hear Maroon 5 again, I will puke.

The tracks seem to just blend into one another, which is nice for me while I work, since I suffer from a short attention span to begin with; but so far, In the Waiting Line is my favorite on the album.

Just in case anyone thought I was going soft in my old age--I also picked up Interpol's "Turn on the Bright Lights." I look forward to seeing them with THE CURE this Saturday...yep...I'M TAKING MY TWO YEAR-OLD TO A CURE CONCERT! That'll make for a fun Audioblog!

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Are We Suffering From Holocaust Overload?

Apparently one journalist thinks so, after screening "Rosenstrasse"--a film about Aryan wives living in Berlin in 1943 who protest in the streets when their Jewish husbands are taken away to be detained in other parts of the city.

His comment to the SG Mayer exec made me sick.

Sure they're hundreds of films and thousands of books about the Holocaust--but there are millions of different perspectives on the subject.

I'm eager to see the film since it's so similar to the plot of my book.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Hey, Who's The Freakin' Stuffed Squirrel?

In case you were wondering about my profile photo, that's not me--it's Chester, my dog's pet stuffed squirrel.

Chester is a midwestern brown squirrel who was once the lead singer of the speed metal band Nutcracker from 1988-1991. They disbanded when Baby, the drummer, OD'd on chocolate he had smuggled from Amsterdam during their Welcome to the Nuthouse tour. You can learn all about it from their Behind the Lyrix mockumentary.

Nutcracker's bestselling and final album, Welcome to the Nuthouse Posted by Hello

Oatmeal (my dog) met Chester when he was hired as a studio musician for her first album Moofie Rock which included covers of "Loving You" and "Have You Ever Been Mellow". He was trying to score some lines of nutmeg when she intervened, preaching "Choose Life" -- her own life's motto from one of her all-time favorite bands Wham!

When Chester isn't gigging with his old pals or getting baked with Baby on the couch, he's usually passed out somewhere in the house. I've been begging him to start a blog about his past life and current adventures, but he just stares at my breasts and says "I'll leave the writing to you, Mrs. S..."

Chester and his pal, former Nutcracker bandmate, Baby Posted by Hello

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Sketch Comedy

Fellow Seattlelites submitted ideas for Britney Spears' wedding gown. Personally, I love the "Pop Tart" look. Which one is your favorite?

Friday, August 06, 2004

While I was in Terezin this past December I picked up a copy of We Are Children Just The Same. The book is a collection of essays, poems from and interviews of the children who were interned in Terezin from 1942-1944.

I'm in awe of the childrens' talent and saddened that the majority of them had been sent to their deaths in Auschwitz. One of the boys, Petr Ginz, was only 14 years-old when he was taken from his parents in Prague and sent to Terezin. Yet despite his imprisonment he, along with the other boys who lived in Barracks L417, wrote Vedem--a weekly magazine of stories, poems and illustrations that often depicted the ghetto's hardship or musings of teenagers trapped inside a fortress of darkness and death.

I often wonder what the world would have been like if the Jewish Holocaust never happened. How many gifted people perished who might have made this world a better place.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Oh, the humidity

My love for the Pacific Northwest was rekindled this week when I stepped off of the plane in O'Hare and the humidity made the hair on my arms curl. I can't tell you how comforting it is to come home to cloudy, cool weather mixed with a faint smell of coffee.

We survived our trip and thank goodness it's only a yearly requirement.


Cedar Point (which, by the way, the audioblogger below is from the Corkscrew...I never got to add that to the audio).

Giordano's Deep Dish Pizza in Chicago

Mr. Na's choo choo collection doubling from the Grandparents


Melted fudge from Frankenmuth

A tummy ache from eating frozen custard at Greenfield Village (tied with being at Greenfield Village)

Not being able to find time to write

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

He's a Geek, but he's MY Geek!

My husband sent me an e-mail this morning, asking me to print out the following commands for our dogsitter:

C:\> Oatmeal /?

Causes dog to pay attention and perform one or more optional tasks

OATMEAL  [/Sit /Down /Stay /Come_Here /Leave_It /Drop_It
/Take It /Shake /Off /Up /Heel /Okay
/Go] [Correct Praise]

/Sit               Dog will sit
/Down           Dog will lie down
/Stay         Dog will stay frozen like when you played freeze tag as a kid. Often  preceded by /Sit or /Down option.
/Come_Here   Dog will come running in front of you from distances up to 50 ft.Must be facing dog when used.
/Leave_It       Dog will leave alone whatever it would usually act upon during normal circumstances.(food, dogs, people, etc.)
/Drop_It                Dog will open jaw and project saliva-covered object
/Take It                 Used in conjunction with /Leave It if you want dog to have object
/Shake                   Dog presents right paw for handshake. Often used after /Sit
/Up                         Used to get dog to elevate up to your chest/waist.
/Off                         Used to remove dog from chest/waist.  Sometimes necessary to grab front paws and place them on floor while saying command
/Heel                      Dog will stay near left leg when walking.  If you just want her to come to you, use /Come_Here option instead
/Okay                    Releases dog from stay
/Go          Dog will go where you are pointing

Praise                    If command is successful give dog affection.
Correction            If command is unsuccessful immediately correct dog
                              by popping leash or briefly shaking scruff of neck.
                              Rerun command immediately.


Known Bugs:

Bug No.     100054 

Description          Dog distributes contents of trashcan onto floor     

Status   Adding fix into \Leave It for Service Pack 1


Dog drinks from toilet                                        

No fix yet. Workaround is to always flush and close toilet.


Dog pulls leash doesn't respond to \Heel             

Using special hardware to implement fix in SP1


Dog cannot catch anything bigger than popcorn   

No fix. Awaiting end of awkward phase.  


Dog sniffs other dogs' butts.                               

Won't fix -By Design


Dog gets caught in loop chasing tail.                  

Won't fix, By Design


Dog locks up, does not respond to commands    

No Fix. Workaround: Reboot dog by alpha'ing it.


If you think this is bad, you should see the one he's written for the kid!


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Hot Dog!

 Posted by Hello

Mr. Na and I ran our first 5k this morning in honor of our six months home together.  I'll admit, pushing 40 pounds in front of me was not as fun as running solo; but just as I was running out of steam and dreading the final hill, a woman on the sidewalk yelled, "you're so cool!" 


The little guy made a few runners chuckle as he raised his arms in the air and said "go! go! go!"  Despite my lag in time, I like my new little running buddy! 

Friday, July 23, 2004

I'm Going to Hell

Before I insult half of my readership (that's my husband and maybe two more of you), I want to apologize.  I don't mean any disrespect with what you're about to read.  That said, if you're too sensitive or you're suffering from PMS this week, read on at your own risk or skip this post entirely.
I have to go to the midwest next week to introduce our son to my inlaws.  I hate the midwest.  I was born on a coast and I grew up on another (better) coast and I think the midwest is just this vast waste of space sandwiched between coastlines.  And don't ask me, either, why the fuck we're going in August--of all months.  I guess I just wanted to experience hell at full furnace.

My only saving grace is that I'm meeting one of my dearest friends who moved from LA back to the midwest (poor dear) and we're going to Cedar Point for a day.  I've never been to Cedar Point but I'm crazy about amusement parks.  Love 'em.  Granted, I get to stand in line for three hours for each ride with fellow fudgies in 80% humidity; but isn't that just the part of the fun? 

So now I'm entreating you to make this entry interactive.  If you've been to Cedar Point recently, post me a comment and let me know which rides to avoid and which ones are worth the wait. 

I'll be reporting from hell regularly...and will even throw in a few audio blogs for your listening pleasure.    

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

My Boy Wants to Potty All the Time...

(Quick!  How many of you read the title and remembered Eddie Murphy's one hit wonder "Party All The Time"?  If you did, I'm sending you this CD because you, my friend, were undoubtedly a part of the Elite Eighties).
And now a word from our sponsor:
I'm not one who enjoys shamelessly plugging products (oh wait, wasn't I in advertising? ) but Daily Candy has promoted the coolest kiddie product to date:  Zeets.
Zeets are disposable cardboard seat covers for public bathrooms and if you have a toddler, they're the absolute shit. 
I can't tell you how frigging disgusting it is when I have to take my little one to a public toilet.  He's in the throes of potty training and while I'd rather just have him let it fly in his die-dee, I can't because he's literally this close to being fully potty trained.  So I cringe whenever we're out in public (which is every single day, for hours on end) and he proudly says "poo poo?" It's uncanny, too--just when I'm ready to bite into a sandwich or eat a salad, he's gotta go, which for me has become a new appetite suppressant. 
I think I would die if I had the ability to see all microscopic bacteria and if I did, I most certainly wouldn't use public restrooms.  As it is, my skin begins to crawl just opening a stall door, let alone, God forbid, I see someone else's waste either in the toilet or on the seat. 
It never fails either--from out of nowhere my kid sprouts tentacles like an octopus whenever we go to the bathroom and he touches everything in sight.  What's worse is that his tukus is so small, he'd most definitely fall in if I didn't hold his hands when I put him on the seat.  So we both are ready for full-body delousing by the time he's done.
So thank God someone came along and finally made life a little easier for us germaphobes.  Prior to discovering Zeets, I was seriously contemplating on keeping the kid in diapers until he turned 20.
Word of advice:  Zeets is only available online through two different e-tailers: Breast Feeding Express  or Potty Training Solutions.  BFE is a huge rip off because they charge $5.00 for each package you buy for shipping, which is ridiculous.  So unless you live in one of the eight measly states that carry this product, ordering through Potty Training Solutions is the way to go.  But beware--they'll be on backorder for God only knows how long. 

Sunday, July 18, 2004

Procrastination or...

It's Sunday night.
Hubby's out for coffee...
Baby's asleep in bed...
The night is still young.
Do I:
a) work on my manuscript?
b) watch Bands Reunited: Frankie Goes to Hollywood?
See what sucks here is that I chose "b" even though this fucking episode's been on the TiVo for over a month!  And the kicker?  I'm barely even watching it.  I'm Blogging instead!
Yes my friends, this is the story of my life.  I have oodles of free time this evening and how do I choose to spend it? On the fucking couch, sharing popcorn with the dog...watching Frankie Goes to Hollywood.
Oh shit, now it's I:
a) work on my manuscript?
b) watch tonight's Six Feet Under?
or my newest guilty pleasure...reruns of
c) My So-Called Life? (gasp, Juliana Hatfield was in the last episode as an fitting!)
Well, looks like Six Feet Under is the choice.  Sigh!  Maybe tomorrow? :-)

Friday, July 16, 2004

It's Good to Be Da King

Well, all in all, today was a good day to be a criminal.
Martha Stewart received a five month sentence; Robert Blake's murder trial has been postponed; and Slobodan Milosevic's war crimes trial has been delayed because poor Sloby's blood pressure's too high.
But on the plus side, the Bush twins have hit the campaign trail.  Check your local papers to find out when they'll be visiting a local bar near you.  If you're lucky, one of 'em might french kiss ya!

Friday, July 09, 2004

Think Before You Speak

A friend of mine sent me a link of some very funny responses to people who ask stupid questions about adoption.

Monday, July 05, 2004

I never really cared too much about the Fourth of July since the Bicentennial celebration in 1976 when I was 8. And even then I had Schoolhouse Rock to thank, along with the fact that I grew up on a street in NJ where the Baylor Massacre took place.

But this Fourth of July was slightly more special than previous years because my son became an American citizen this year and got to watch fireworks for the first time. Of course, he didn't understand any of it--and won't for a few more years--but the idea of bringing him here to this country to live fills my heart with hope that he has a much better chance of leading a happy, healthy life than if he remained in an orphange in a coal mining city in southeastern Ukraine.

Now I'm not trying to be all self-righteous or anything--branding myself a saint for saving this poor little guy from destitution. I'll firmly admit that I adopted because I wanted a child, first and foremost.

However, I do think that the greatest part about my son being an American is that he has the freedom to choose. Since he was born in Ukraine, he will have dual citizenship until he turns 18. At that time, he can either renounce his Ukrainian citizenship, or he can decide to live in Ukraine and go into the army--a choice I'll wholeheartedly respect whichever he decides.

I often wonder, though, what the world will be like in 16 years. Maybe by then, this country won't be such a great place to live and Ukraine will have become an economic dynamo worthy of inhabiting. Maybe by then, all males by their 18th birthday will have to enter into the U.S. Army as is now the case with many other countries. Maybe by then, many of the rights we enjoy as Americans will be stripped away. Of course that would mean the collapse of our Democracy--something that just can't happen...

I shudder to think.

Monday, June 21, 2004

I was at the mall today with my son--a task that can either prove to be daunting or one that can be lots of fun depending on his mood. I've always had the biggest beef about improper use of apostrophes, but as we walked by various stores, my gripe turned from mild irritation to full-on exasperation.

Has our society become so lazy that we've recklessly abandoned one of the most basic tools in English?

I'll admit I was not thrilled of my grammar class in seventh grade--the year we dissected sentences and were immersed in punctuation. After all, I had Sister Elizabeth as my English teacher. She was pushing 85 at least and she was one hairy broad. She never shaved her legs and her hairs were so black and coarse up against her pantyhose they looked like morning glory vines without the pretty flowers.

I could remember struggling with present- and past-perfect tenses and dangling participles, but never considered apostrophes a challenge. I was no brainiac either--so I could never understand why apostrophe usage is so difficult to master.

When I began volunteer work as a "community moderator" for iVillage I noticed people posting on message boards were not always mindful of their errors. At first, I let is slide; but then it began to bother me to the point where I wondered if half of these people slept their way through college (if, in fact, they really did attend college). Little things like using "advise" when they meant "advice" or the ever-present misuse of the apostrophe, in cases like "CD's" or "son's" (as it related to the plural sense).

Having worked in advertising and PR for many years, I guess it's the proofreader in me. As an account person (read: shit rolls downhill) I was always responsible if there were any typos in any published material. But it's deplorable to see typos generated by major corportations such as retailers because they're perpetuating the sort of laziness, backasswardness that drives me utterly insane.

Some of the irksome typos I've encountered:

At the gym: Sport's Bars
At JC Penney (also Boy's Shoes

Hey and how apropos! Here's a sweet, little spam e-mail I received from the Reverend Morgan(
"A few year's ago I was in Liberia where I had established a little congregation where I preached regularly, but the civil war escalated and the church was converted to a hospital of sought. On one faithfull day three Liberian Soldiers,whom l later learnth were special aids to the Liberian former President (Late Samuel Doe) came to me and left one trunk box containing money with me and swore to come back for it. But you guessed it, they never did because,they were among those who were captured and killed by one of the Liberian Rebels then,Charles Taylor,who later became the president,but now in Political Asylum in Nigeria. After this incident,l was left with the box containing about $10 Million Dollars(TEN Million United States Dollars) Because of the risk of keeping the said box on my pocession due to the in-security in my temporary Church/Hospital,l decided to deposite the aid box with a security Finance Firm,which has it's branches in many parts of Europe,Asia,America and Africa. O ver years after this urgly incident,l had tried all l could to locate either the address of the slain Soldiers or any members of their immediate families,but all to no avail..."Morgan(

Gee, you think I oughta send him some money?

I also believe that with the advent of the Internet, many people have slacked off in terms of spelling and proper use of grammar. Do a Google Search of an inaccurate use of apostrophes (like boy's shoes) and you'll be surprised how many retailers come up. At least Google's team is smart enough to ask me if I meant "advice" when I type "I need advise"; but there still several entries with the incorrect word exists.

I have cousins in Germany who are my age and we used to visit them every couple of years. While in Germany, it never ceased to amaze me how perfect my cousins and their friends spoke English--in fact, their speaking my native tongue almost had a lyrical quality to it. It made English sound--pretty. Sad thing is, I know many people who use English as a second language, and have respect for our difficult grammar rules (albeit they are not nearly as difficult as other least in English one does not have to conjugate based on the subject's gender).

So where am I going with this? Can I single-handedly change the American Way of Life by writing some sort of a bill to stop Internet typographical errors? (Hey, if Tim Eyman can write pathetic bills and get them passed, why can't I?) No, sadly not. You can bet, though, that I'm going to be a hardass on my son when he hits seventh grade. By the time he does, however, I believe our entire grammar system will be torn to pieces and soon no one will know the difference between "loose" and "lose."

I've been feeling nostalgic lately. This happens whenever my life is in an upswing, though I can't figure out why--when my natural tendency is to glorify the past, which is anything but glorifiable (Yeah, I just made that up). But lately I've had this urge to get in touch with my Ex. I'm not going to--simply because I'm a believer in letting sleeping dogs lie; but I've been having dreams about him and they've left me wondering what he's been up to.

It's been five years since we last saw each other. He surprised me one day by calling my office to tell me he was in town. We had dinner the following evening and swapped stories: we were both getting married within the year; we had both come to the conclusion that we should never have gotten married to each other; we were both doing very well in our careers; and we both considered one another very dear, lifelong "friends," though we'd used that term loosely since we both decided that our friendship would never be one where we'd invite eachother's families over for a barbeque.
And that was that. The very last time I "talked" to him was in e-mail on September 11. Since he lived in D.C. and commuted to Los Angeles frequently, I was worried about him, but thankfully, all was well. Since then, I have not been back to D.C. and, as far as I know, he has not been back to Seattle.

It's strange for me to think of our lives in segments...especially when there are certain people who remain close to us in every stage. But when my dog (our dog) died last year, he was the last "link" to my former spouse and so in essence, his death sort of ended that chapter of my life. And not to be overly dramatic or anything, but I had to put my dog to sleep on February 27--which would have been our tenth wedding anniversary.

I just can't help but think about how life would have been had we stayed together. Would we have stayed together? It's highly doubtful. We grew apart--and thankfully it was pretty early in life, when we were both still in our twenties. I have no regrets of having met him, or falling in love with him, or even marrying the guy. In fact, I truly believe the crap we went through has helped make me the person I am today, which is both good and bad.

It's good because I met him at a time in my life where I could have just continued down the same, fucked-up path as the rest of my family. I was well on the way to suckville--by junior year of high school I had cut so many classes that I had a 1.8 GPA and had to retake American History in summer school. I had no plans for college--and when we broke up and I had wallowed in my self-pity long enough, I began to turn my life around. I didn't do it for me, though; in fact, I had very low self-esteem and I figured if I could get serious with school and my future, I'd have a better chance at winning his heart again. Pretty pathetic, huh? Well it worked. And we were "together" again by my senior year in high school--although we lived on separate coasts since he was in college in D.C. We got married right after I finished college and I never really took the opportunity to congratulate myself for a job well done, including the 6 out of 8 semesters on the Dean's List.

It took me a long time to realize I had achieved many things in my life to impress other people--rather than doing them for myself. And that's why it never would have worked out for us. There was no "us". There was only him and me for him. But that's the beauty of hindsight.

Anyway, thinking about all of this helps me keep the past in perspective. I won't be getting drunk anytime too soon and start dialing his home--or work.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Only 200 more days left of the Bush Administration.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

He's been parking in front of my house every day now for two years. The Ford Explorer is this ugly beigy/yellow and his driver's side door is rumpled--like it was hit by a dozen shopping carts or he smacked a pole when he opened a door. I guess he doesn't care too much about it, though. Either that or the repair will cost as much as the car and it's just not worth it. Strike one.

I'll call him "Mark" since I know absolutely nothing about this guy, except that he teaches at the middle school; and yet I've been creating this whole world around him for quite some time.

Mark looks like like a pear-shaped Starsky. He's got the same mediterranean-looking features: hawkish nose, football-shaped brown eyes, and tight curly hair that he keeps short. Most of it's brown--except for this patch of yellowy/white that matches the color of his car, which looms just above his dark, furry eyebrows. He wears khakis every single day. Strike two.

He arrives in front of my house at approximately 7:09 every morning. I know this because I'm in the kitchen at that time--patiently waiting for him to get out of his car and walk to school so I can let my dog out to pee. Otherwise, if I let her out while he's still at his car, she comes up to greet him. She did once before and it garnered a rather cold response from Mark. Not a dog lover. Strike three.

Mark is always on his cell phone and I often wonder who in the world he's talking to at 7:09 a.m. Could it be he's waking up his teenage daughter so she's not late for school? Perhaps it's his mistress--someone he ought not be talking to during "regular" hours. I've been going back and forth between these two choices and today I'm going with the mistress. It just seems so much more intriguing, don't you think?

What bugs me most about Mark is that he parks in front of my house every day like it's his own reserved spot. Doesn't matter if our car is next to it or if he's over the 30 foot rule (you can't park 30 feet in front of a stop sign in Seattle). Sometimes if someone leaves either spaces in front of the house in the morning, Mark will move his car to "his spot" at lunchtime--while he's talking on his cell phone.

Mark teaches biology--no wait--it has to be junior high school stuff--ok, he teaches some sort of science. like earth science...yeah, that's it...because he had a "Think Locally, Act Globally" bumper sticker on the back of his Explorer. It's gone now. His wife must've gotten it for him as a gag gift one year for Father's Day...and in order to impress Cyndi (his mistress), he had to peel it off because...well, it's just not cool anymore.

Cyndi is 22. She's a geology major at UW. They met at the Wallingford Tully's--Mark's lunch spot, where he'd eat a packaged tuna salad sandwich on ciabatta bread from "Mostly Muffins" everyday. Cyndi was instantly drawn to Mark's little white patch of hair on his head and soon, she would hide the last tuna salad sandwich for Mark so that no one else would snap it up first. Mark didn't notice Cyndi at first--but when she pulled the hidden sandwich out of the small fridge behind the counter, he smiled and said "thanks" and put an extra quarter in the tip jar. He sat down to eat it with the Naked Juice he bought every day and watched as Cyndi helped customers. She was perpetually tan from the salon down the street and she wore a tiny stud in her nose. He baby blue shirt was short enough so he could see her brown, lean waist peeking out from umnderneath the brown standard-issue apron. After she took change from the last cutomer in line, she looked over and caught Mark staring at her. She smiled and wiping her hands on her apron, came around the counter.

"How's the sandwich?" she asked.

"Fine, thanks," Mark replied. He was a little caught off guard by the way she came over and sat down across from him.

"I'm Cyndi," she said, extending her right hand.

"Mark," he said, hoping he didn't have slivers of red onions stuck between his teeth.

They chit-chatted about the weather and when she asked what he did for a living she exclaimed, "Oh no way! I'm a geology major!"

That was how their relationship started. They've been meeting secretly at the Bridge Way Motel for a little over a month now. She brings the tuna sandwiches with her.

Today's the last day of school. Mark is wearing his khakis as usual, but something seems a little different about him. His hair is a little tousled on top; and instead of wearing a button-down shirt, he's wearing a black and blue-striped henley. I can see a black necklace hugging his collar. He's walking with a spring in his step and I was even tempted to let the dog out this morning to see if he'd pet her.

Who knows--maybe Mark will trade in the Explorer for something sportier. Cyndi wants him to get an Acura TSX, but Mark thinks that's a little too young for him. He'd love to get a Solara convertible, but could never afford one on his teacher's salary. Maybe a Bug.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Notes to interior dialogue while running...

Warm-up: 10 min/mile, first minute
Oh God this is killing me...I haven't run in a few weeks. Ugh. Oh, I'm such a slow poke.

Just keep going. Look outside the window at the canal below. Keep breathing...

(Listening to Dee-lite's "Power of Love" on MP3 player)
Hey, this is a great song. Always reminds me of my last spring break in school when I went to Havasu with Janey. God I hated Janey. What a bitch. I only liked her because she had access to a condo in Havasu.

You're so incredibly two-faced!

I am not. She was such a bitch...and I only fully realized it in Havasu.

I wonder what she's up to now?

Last I heard she was some sort of manager at Sunset Studios...

Why is it the first mile is always the hardest?

Cos you haven't run in over a week, lazy-ass!

Don't call me lazy-ass! I have a toddler to chase down every day.

Yeah and you could be using the baby jogger, too, ya know.

I didn't come here to have a guilt-ridden conversation with myself, I came here to have a good run.

It's nice outside. Why didn't you run outside instead?

I dunno. Creature of habit I guess.

Oh come on and admit it. You're hoping to run into Dave Matthews again.

Yeah but that's not why I'm running on the treadmill.

Uh-huh. Last time he got on the treadmill next to you you ran a perfect 8 minute mile. So what do you call that?

Motivation. Besides, it's a moot point. He's probably gone off on tour by now. I haven't seen him here in awhile.

There goes your motivation

(increases speed to 9:13/mile)
There. That feels great.

You still run like a slow poke