Iraqi Election

I'm pleased that the election in Iraq went more smoothly than I anticipated. It is moving to see the people who voted, who are taking the concept of democracy to heart. It may turn out to be a blow against terrorism - it may not. It may turn the entire region around - it may not. I think it's too early to draw any conclusions about what the election means, because we won't really know whether it was a success until several years down the road.

It is rather depressing to read all the gloating from the right regarding the election, though. A successful election does not negate the way the Bush administration achieved it - lying to the American people, manipulating intelligence to support their conclusions, misusing our military men and women, killing many thousands of innocent Iraqi people, turning America into a country that commits acts of evil, like torture, dragging our good name into the mud. None of that has changed because Iraqi people have voted. There's really not a lot to gloat about.

Whatcha reading?

Since I am several years behind in my reading, I just started Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I'm loving it so far.

I picked it up at the bookstore this Saturday, where the girls and I spent the day. While we were there, I read David Sedaris' latest book, which I can't quite remember the title of - something about Plaid and Corduroy. It was quite good - lots of laughs, as in his previous books, but there were more stories that were touching, in a way that makes me a little teary-eyed. I'm in love with the whole crazy Sedaris family.


Also new

I also added links to the official website for Nellie McKay and to Ben Folds' website. Ben is going to be on Air America radio this Sunday at 10pm, so I know I will try to stay awake long enough to listen to the show.

I'm also going to see Ben Folds in February at the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts at UCONN. I'm very excited, it will be my second Ben show in less than a year, and he is just awesome live.



I updated my blog today - I put everything in alphabetical order (I always get slightly organizationally inclined during this portion of my monthly cycle) and added some new links, including Ezra Klein (who does look suprisingly like Matt LeBlanc in his picture), Body and Soul, Real Live Preacher (who has a lovely book out right now, called reallivepreacher.com), Political Animal, Political Strategy, James Wolcott (he must be a superhuman on that evolutionary scale of bloggers by now), The Poor Man, Tequila Mockingbird, Suburban Bliss, and Crooked Timber (even though I don't always understand what they are talking about - seriously, I sometimes need to draft a chart to keep track of their train of thought - because they always give me something to think about).

I also added links to Television Without Pity and Fametracker, because I really do enjoy watching TV ever so much more when I can visit a message board afterwards to talk about it with snarky people I don't know who are probably half my age.

I also removed the Kossack Bloggers heading, because my list was pretty out of date, and removed those blogs that I don't really visit. Not to say they aren't worthwhile, I just don't visit them.


I'm always amazed and slightly impressed with people who take hold of a particular lifestyle choice (and I'm not talking about gay people, I'm talking about Biker Guy or Gal, or Goth Teen, or Body Art Fella, or Fashionista, etc. Actual choices, not inborn traits) with both hands and don't let go. Mostly, I am slightly impressed that they are so committed. I still can't decide what I want to do when I grow up, and let's face it, at my age, the grown-up ship has long since sailed.

But I do love tattoo magazines.* Every month or so, Loki and the girls and I will head over to the bookstore (and there are only 2 chain bookstores left, so we usually pick Borders because B&N is at the mall, and I hate going to the mall), and I will unfailingly pick up every tattoo magazine on the rack, and just marvel at the committment the people documented within have made to their chosen lifestyle.

*Smooth transition, no?

I admire the artistry of some of the tattoo artists, no doubt about that. But I can't imagine making a decision on what tattoo to get, so I hold the tattooed in special regard, if only for their decisiveness.

A year or so ago, I was flipping through a British tattoo magazine, and I saw photos of tattoos that won awards at a tattoo convention (and here, again, is the committment - I have only attended 2 conventions in my life, one of them for work purposes - a telecommunications convention, so that was mandatory, and one Science Fiction convention so I could get Nicholas Brendon's autograph on my CD of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical, "Once More, With Feeling", and yes, that is a little dorky, but I can't help it, Joss Whedon and I are like twin souls, parted at birth, only he's much more successful and a much better writer than I am, and it's really beyond time for me to bring this sentence to an end) and in one photo, a gentleman had a lovely tattoo of what appeared to be a green alien woman with very large breasts. On his penis.

Do you want to know what award he won?

His award, for the tattoo on his penis, was the "Best Small". I admit, I felt a little pity for him - he went through all the pain of having a ink forced under his skin with a small sharp needle, only to be recognized for the minimal size of his member.

Still, just getting the tattoo leave me slightly impressed, so...congratulations, English guy, with your "best small".

The Shadow of the Torturer

If Alberto Gonzalez is not opposed, we will all be living under the shadow of the torturer. While he is not the person physically peforming the torture, he (acting on behalf of his long-time benefactor, George W. Bush) is the person who is condoning, encouraging, facilitating the action. He, like all people who support the use of torture, is morally depraved.



I'm a big dork

School started today, and that always gives me a happy feeling. Yes, I always loved school, from kindergarten through whatever grade I'm in now. I loved high school so much (not the classes, necessarily, but just being there) that my favorite day of the week was Tuesday, when I got to school at 7am and didn't go home until 9pm.

I'm taking a madrigal class this semester, and it looks like a pretty good group - not enough men, which is pretty typical, but the teacher seems fantastic, and it looks like we'll be doing some interesting music. We sight-read a piece tonight that was crazy - there is a bass solo that was foghorn low.

No more road rage

My father has an absolutely foul temper, and this is one of the traits he has bequeathed to me. I am aware of my tendency to fly off the handle and get excessively angry over little things, so I work very hard to control my temper, with a fair amount of success. My kids don't tiptoe around me, I don't punch holes in the wall or break windows - when I start to feel enraged around my family, I tend to just put myself in time-out - I take the dog for a walk or wash dishes or just breathe deeply until I feel less angry, which puts me in a better position to put whatever triggered my anger into perspective.

One of the things that was killing me was driving behind cars with Bush/Cheney stickers on them. I could feel the rage move through my whole body, and I would usually drive a little faster. I dealt with this by reframing the issue in my head - a car with a Bush/Cheney sticker was doing me a favor, because the sticker was identifying the driver of the car as either completely misguided and misinformed or a complete idiot*. That really helped me feel less angry.

I have also adopted a new habit, which is giving thumbs up to people with anti-Bush stickers. Yesterday I gave the thumbs up to a gentleman whose pick-up truck sported a sticker that said: Proud to be a Veteran - Ashamed of G.W. Bush. He gave me the thumbs up in return.

*It's my opinion, and I'm sticking with it.


Back to school

I start back at school tomorrow. I completely chickened out from my oft-repeated goal of finally getting that remedial math class* out of the way and instead signed up for a one credit vocal music course. It works out pretty well, because we have a lot of expenses this year (Sio is going to Toronto and Greece, Monkey is going to camp, I need a new stove, I want a new dishwasher, and I have to finally suck it up and finish painting my kitchen, a job I started two years ago**).

*I will tell the story of Why I Suck At Math another time. Suffice it to say, my problem is one of psychological impairment rather than incompetence or stupidity.

**I am truly the laziest homeowner ever. I bought 3 quarts of paint because I wasn't sure which one I wanted on the wall, and I painted half the kitchen, but I never put down any primer, so the 3 colors I chose are now flaking off in the high traffic areas. I need to just make a decision about the color and get the primer down so I can finish.


I love New England

I may just be saying that to convince myself, though, because it's fucking freezing (although it did reach a high of 13 fahrenheit on our back porch today) and we're supposed to get 2 feet of snow. At least if it happened during the week, I could miss some work, but no, it had to happen on the weekend.

Oh well. I've got the necessary amounts of bread and milk to get me through any crisis.


The Last of the McCafferkeys

My maternal grandmother died today, at age 99 years and 8 months. There won't be a lot of grieving - she's had Alzheimer's since the late 80's, so all our grieving was done a long time ago. She outlived all of her siblings, who, one by one, all nine of them, succumbed to cancer. She outlived her husband by 30 years, and for the last 20, she didn't even remember him.

Writer Nuala O'Faolin has written that the Irish love a character, and by god, my gran was a character. She was born in Mayo, and her striking looks made her the object of a lot of male attention, which she loved. She was tall and slender, with jet black hair, and a dazzling white smile. She was never clear about when she first came to the U.S., but she was pretty clear that she had a lot of "fellas" as she called them. My sister and I would visit her in her Queens apartment after my grandfather died, and she would hike up her skirt and tell us how the fellas loved her "Betty Grable legs". At the time, she was in her 60's, and her legs were ravaged by varicose veins, which made T and I wonder who this poor Betty Grable was. But in gran's mind, she was always young and strong and beautiful, an object of desire.

She was also peculiarly obsessed with teeth. My suspicion is that healthy teeth in a country like Ireland were an indication of wealth and health, and gran was obsessed with her teeth - she brushed and flossed and never ate any sugar. When she would come visit us in the country, she would inspect each of us as if we were horses she was considering. She would look into our eyes and determine whether they were sufficiently bright and shining. Then we had to bare our teeth for her. For several years, she was very concerned that my incisors, which seemed to be growing in horizontally, would cause me to never marry, but they eventually straightened out on her own.

She always made me march up and down, as well, and then she would turn to my mother and declare that I was a cripple. Yeah, she wasn't always a nice lady.

When she was first diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she lived for a time with my Aunt Bernadette, and when Aunty B couldn't take it anymore, my mother took gran in. After a couple of years, it was clear that she could no longer be managed at home anymore - she still came across as very coherent to people who didn't know her, but she also did things like shoplift, hide food in her pocketbook, and she would set out on walks and disappear for hours.

So she was placed in a nursing home where my Aunty Mo worked. One evening, Aunty Mo was cleaning out gran's night table, and she opened the bottom drawer to reveal rows of false teeth. Apparently, gran had been sneaking out of bed at night and stealing the other patients false teeth from the glasses where they soaked.



I always make New Year's Resolutions, although I have a poor record of follow through. About five years ago, I decided I wanted to learn how to swim, and that one worked out really well - the only stroke I can't do is the butterfly. And maybe 3 years ago I decided I had to lose weight, so I joined Weight Watchers, and lost 30 lbs, which I still haven't gained back yet (although I do work on it sometimes - damn you, Shady Glen and your delicious crispy cheeseburgers). Other than that, my resolutions have been utter failures: I haven't finished my degree, I haven't saved $2000, I haven't exercised on a daily basis, and my house is still a mess.

This year, I decided to deal with the messy house. My resolution is to do one thing every day that will help rather than hinder the ultimate goal of having a neater house. My sister suggested I sign up for Fly Lady, but I had to immediately unsign up after receiving 20 e-mails at work telling me it was time to deal with that entryway closet* and asking me if I was wearing laced up shoes**, and wondering if my sink was shining***. Thanks, but no thanks. In addition, she recommended a James Dobson parenting book, and I'm sorry, I cannot trust the judgement of anyone who would do that, I don't care if you can eat off her floors.

So far, it's going pretty well. I've made a dent in the piles of clothes in my room that need to be donated or thrown out. I take about 10 minutes a day to just throw out crap that I would ordinarily walk by without a second look. Instead of thinking "I'm going to have to deal with those books that someone has taken down and not returned," I just get up and deal with it.

And I have finally, after a lifetime, cultivated the habit of making my**** bed when I wake up. I've made my bed every day so far this year, and changed the sheets twice. What's more, this bedmaking has caught on, so now Monkey makes her bed everyday, too. (Sio is a compulsive cleaner, her room is completely spotless and she's always made her bed. Loki and I presume this is a recessive gene.)

So far, so good.

*My house was built in 1920, when it was apparently unfashionable to have closets on the first floor of a home. Our bedrooms have substantial closets, which is actually unusual for homes built at the time, because our neighborhood used to be *the* neighborhood, where all the chi-chi people lived. It's still a really nice neighborhood, even though we live there.
**I don't even own lace up shoes, because I cannot reach my left foot due to my hip. I'm a fast learner - the first time I had to ask someone to tie my left shoe for me was the last time I wore shoes with laces.
***My sink hasn't even been empty, let alone shining.
****Loki never makes it through the night in bed with me (his skin is so heat sensitive, and I'm an oven when I sleep. Plus, I have sleep apnea, and Loki is a light sleeper, so the sound of the CPAP keeps him awake. He nearly always ends up on the couch, which he says is his favorite place to sleep anyway. And after 16 years of marriage, I have come to believe that Rob & Laura Petrie had the right idea, sleeping in separate beds - it's easier to ride the bumpy road of marriage when one is well rested.


Stuck in my head

For some reason, I cannot get Bjork's Human Behavior out of my head. I don't even know the words to the song, but that beat is just pounding away in my brain. And the last time I heard that song was at least a week ago.

My usual surefire cure to getting a song unstuck is to sing It's A Small World After All. Unfortunately, the cure is worse than the disease - you end up with It's A Small World After All stuck in your head.

Oh, great.

The National Honor Society Controversy

Sio has been invited to join the National Honor Society. Ordinarily, I suspect this leads to a burst of pride on the part of the parents, who surely have contributed not just genes, but emotional and financial and academic support to their young genius.

But in our house, the National Honor Society is on The List*. You see, when Loki was in high school, he was a candidate for the NHS, but they rejected him because he didn't participate in enough extra-curriculars for their taste - despite the fact he was a member of the Chess Club and the Arrow-Catching Club**. And yours truly was rejected because they decided I wasn't civic minded enough - apparently, they didn't mind civic involvement of the Eagle Scout/DAR variety, but they frowned on students who protested against Ronald Reagan and wrote letters to the editor condemning the actions of the Reagan administration in the Iraq/Contra scandal.

We're not going to stand in the way of Sio joining the NHS, because I suppose it still looks good on a college application, and it will probably look good on the thousands of scholarship applications Sio will have to fill out to help pay for college. Paying for college. That's a topic for another post.

*Term appropriated from The Out-Of-Towners (original version) starring Jack Lemmon and that flighty weird chick whose name I can't remember right now. Other groups on The List: Wal-mart, Best Buy, the Boy Scouts of America, the American Family Association, Connecticare, and NetfuckingZero.

**Loki had a very cool teacher who started the arrow-catching club for all the geeks who didn't play sports***. They met once, to create a secret handshake, discuss how *not* to catch arrows (with any part of your body other than your hand) and have their picture taken for the yearbook.

***I say this with love and affection, despite the fact I was totally sporty in my younger, non-disabled years. I'm not even 5'2" and I played varsity basketball, that's how much of a jock I used to be.


It's You I Like

Flea at One Good Thing has a post today about the unconditional (almost) love our kids give us.

It reminded me of the first time I got my hair cut after Monkey was born.

I lucked out in the hair lottery. Although I had to suffer through my childhood years getting called Carrot Top and even Tomato Head (after my mother put an ill-advised green bow in my hair for St. Patrick's Day one year), my orange hair darkened into a lovely red color as I got older. My hair is wavy, and it looks good even when I wake up in the morning. It also grows very fast.

My hair wasn't very long when I had Monkey, and I was so busy with her that I didn't bother to get it cut. For 2 years. One day, I was at work, and my hair was driving me nuts, so I went to the salon on my lunch hour and had them chop it, to about chin length. When I picked Monkey up from my sister's house after work, she took one look at me and burst into tears.

Kids really don't want their moms to change.


Finslippy has a great story up about her son finding his Special Purpose.

There are not a lot of boys in my family, so I don't have a lot of penis stories, but I do have one about my nephew, Dennis the Menace*. He was getting to be a real lazy porker of a kid, so my sister decided he had to start doing some sports. They tried baseball, but he was bored; they tried soccer, but he would just stand there looking at dandelions; but eventually they found 2 sports he enjoyed: football and wrestling. Football is great because it's a physical activity that helps him release some of his aggression, and wrestling is great because it's one on one, and he's not the best team player.

One day at a scrimmage, he was wrestling against a girl. The gym was crowded that day, my friends, and my sister was sitting with the other moms when DtM suddenly stopped and shouted out to my sister: "Mom! My penis moved all by itself!"

*Not his real name, but definitely his real personality


But what if the head cheerleader is a cheertator?

You know, the cheerleader defense may actually be the best the defense can offer. Because torture is simply indefensible.

Misfit parent, Queen Bee child

I never went through a phase where I tried to fit in with my peers. I knew I was different and I embraced it. I grew up with a bunch of kids whose dads were engineers and whose moms had MFAs but stayed home, or were in law school. My father only went to school until he was 11, when he became an apprentice carpenter. My mother dropped out of Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow High School to take a secretarial course rather than finish reading Great Expectations. Aside from that, I went to school with a bunch of kids whose families came over on the Mayflower, and I was the child of immigrants. My friends all had one sibling (or none), I had four. We were different, and I loved it.

In my more self-conscious and painfully awkward years, I worked very hard at being different. I had a tragically classic Flock of Seagulls style hairdo when I was 13, and I had a mohawk when I was 16. I enjoyed my status as a misfit.

Sio is a misfit of sorts - she is a lovely person, friendly and kind, and everyone seems to like her, but she definitely marches to the beat of her own drum, and always has. I am more in tune with the music her peers are listening to than she is. She wears neat twinsets and skirts, and looks like a librarian while her peers are millimeters away from exposing pubes every time they move. It's all good - I can cope with this. I am comfortable with supporting her choices, because I can relate to not wanting to be the same as everyone else.

But Monkey is very aware of what is cool, and she wants to fit in. I can't buy clothes for her, because she needs to try things on to determine whether they are "cool" or "lame". She asks for Bratz dolls, and wants to listen to {sob}Hillary Duff and Lindsey Lohan. (She'll listen to actual music, too, but she wants to make sure she's also listening to what her peers are listening to.) I feel a knee-jerk reaction to dismiss her desires to fit in, because I just don't get it, quite honestly. But I guess it's a choice she's making. As long as I keep my influence, I will let her have a Bratz doll, and I won't make a big deal.

But I draw the line at Hillary Duff. She can listen to it at her friend's house, but not under my roof!

Truly, there are blogs for everything

I give you the Dunkin Donuts experience.

(Loki and I were fairly devoted Dunkin Donuts coffee drinkers, but since we have some saving to to do, we have dropped our daily visit - he gets a large hazlenut with lots of sugar and a little cream, I get a medium regular, regular - because we figured we were spending about $1200 on coffee. While we have a coffeemaker, coffee and half & half at home. So now we get Dunkin Donuts coffee as a reward for completing unpleasant tasks.)

Somebody call Lileks!

This E-Bay listing is currently going for $21,000. I figure with the amount of space he has available, Lileks could easily quadruple that.


bad health

Last night, I went to bed at about 11:45pm, way too late considering I had to be up at 5am. I watched most of American History X, a movie I hadn't seen before, which got me all worked up emotionally, and left me feeling generally depressed, because the Camerons of the U.S. seem to be winning right now.

At about 12:30am, I was awakened by the sound of tears. I checked in on Sio, who was sobbing quietly in her room. In the past couple of weeks, her psoriasis, which was basically in remission for about 10 years, exploded, and she was crying because she said she used to be so pretty. I hugged her, and told her she is entirely beautiful, inside and out, and there is nothing psoriasis can do to stop that. She has an appointment with a specialist later this month (because she will not miss school for a doctor's appointment.)

Then I realized that Monkey was also crying. I checked in on her, and she was crying because her privates were itching. This has happened before with her - she has very sensitive skin so we have to be very careful with the soaps she uses when she bathes...but she slept over her cousin's house on Saturday, so she probably took a bubble bath with them, which resulted in the irritation. Easily resolved with a very tiny amount of Monistat.

The whole Laughing Wild family has been suffering recently - oddly enough, I seem to be the healthiest one, since I'm only dealing with chronic pain. Loki has very bad eczema, which is triggered by stress, and his body is almost covered right now - I would ban him from reading online message boards, which get him all worked up, but I'm not that kind of wife - I just gently suggest it might behoove him to take a break from fighting unwinnable battles against "AmericanPatriot27" and "Bush2Rulz" on a political message board.

Loki slept on the couch last night because it's cooler downstairs, and his skin is so irritated that the warmth my body generates was just causing him pain. I got him some nice cool sheets (I've got flannels on the bed right now) and tucked him in. By the time I got to sleep, it was around 1:30am. I still got up at 5 and showered and got dressed (in my new cashmere sweater, purchased off the clearance rack at Marshall's for $38 - and I had a gift card, so I only paid $3.00 of my own money for it), did my hair and makeup (so people will see a functioning person instead of the extra from Shawn of the Dead that I actually am today), and took Loki to work, took Sio and Monkey to school, and headed into my own job. Damn. It was a long day by 7am.


Recent celebrations

In addition to Christmas (which didn't seem to be under any kind of attack in our blue state - I tried saying Merry Christmas to various shop people, and unlike Lileks & O'Reilly noticed, no one seemed shocked or horrified by it. One can only assume there is something personally offensive about the aforementioned fellows that was actually the cause of the horror. Maybe the shop clerk recognized They Shall Know Him By His Fivehead? Maybe O'Reilly had falafel breath?) and New Year's Eve (which I celebrated with my favorite sister and my daughters and her daughter, watching a marathon of What Not To Wear on TLC....it was my girliest new year ever) , Loki and I recently celebrated the 16th anniversary of that day when we had our traditional Irish Catholic wedding - I was 5 months pregnant when we got married in a bar.