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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Wiki Wednesday 10-31-07

Time to learn something!

1. Go to Wikipedia.
2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
3. Post it!

And just in time for the end of baseball season, we get this one:

Walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP), in baseball, is a sabermetric measurement of how many baserunners a pitcher is responsible for allowing per inning pitched. It gives a general measure of a pitcher's ability to keep batters off base. A WHIP of 1.0 or below will often rank among the best in Major League Baseball.

WHIP=\frac{BB+H}{IP}

As indicated by the name, it is calculated by adding the number of walks plus hits allowed divided by the number of innings pitched.

WHIP is one of the most commonly used statistics in Fantasy baseball, and is standard in leagues that use the 4×4, 5×5, and 6×6 formats.

If you want to know more about this, you should probably be asking my son - he's the fantasy-baseball expert, not me.

In-laws and "outlaws"

My grandfather would refer to relatives-by-marriage as "the outlaws." There's a popular stereotype that in-laws don't - or aren't supposed to - get along; I think it goes with the idea that "blood is thicker than water." I used to work with a woman who had no siblings and whose parents were both dead, and figured that her husband would have it very easy in the in-laws department; interestingly, as far as I know, she's never married.

For most of us, our spouse is the one exception to the adage that "we can't choose our relatives." But we truly get no choice at all in the existing family package that he or she comes with, just as we didn't get to choose our own. At least with our own, though, we've had some experience and figured out how things work (or don't); we have to start from square one with these new family members, and there's a lot of history among them that we haven't been a part of. The relationships among them may be complex, and our own relationships with them may have a whole new set of complications.

Conventionally, the in-law relationships that get the most attention, and can be the most troublesome, are the parental ones - fathers-in-law and sons-in-law (especially when son-in-law married "daddy's girl"), but mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law even more so.

Broadsheet recently reported on a new book exploring the relationship between daughters- and mothers-in-law, Mothers-in-Law and Daughters-in-Law: Understanding the Relationship and What Makes Them Friends or Foe, by Deborah Merrill. She interviewed about 50 DILs and many of their MILs in central Massachusetts, and found that
...a third of the daughters-in-law -- who usually are more negative about the relationship than their mothers-in-law -- described their relationships with their husbands' mothers as "tight-knit." Forty-two percent of the daughters-in-law said that there had been no conflict with their mothers-in-law in their marriage. And almost half said that they felt that they could confide in their mothers-in-law. Merrill also found that this relationship often improves over time. Even so, she observed that when this relationship is bad, it can be really, really bad, with very high levels of conflict and, yes, resentment.
In a e-mail interview with Broadsheet, Merrill answered questions about (emphasis added):
The archetype of the interfering mother-in-law

It's the result of the fact that the mother-in-law has always been her child's main caregiver...The continued concern and drive to advise is seen as interference, though, once a child marries and has their own family. Relinquishing one's role can cause resentment on the part of the mother-in-law, particularly if this has been an important source of her identity.

The best and worst MIL/DIL relationships in her study

The (best relationship stories) were the women who had relationships that were similar to a quasi-mother and daughter bond. Several of the women had very distant relationships with their own mothers, or had lost their mothers early on in their lives but felt like their mothers-in-law were like second mothers.

The role of the sons/husbands in (the problematic) relationships

The majority of the sons/husbands did not get involved. This was extremely frustrating to the daughters-in-law who wanted their husbands to "stand up for them" or "take their side." ...Those few sons who did interfere told their mothers either that their wife was their priority now (rather than her), or that their mother-in-law needed to interfere less.

What makes these in-law relationships hard

The marriage of a son is a life course transition for which many families are not prepared. This results in conflict early on in the relationship that in-laws are never quite able to overcome. When a son marries, a new and separate family is created*. While the daughter-in-law is trying to create her own family, her mother-in-law is trying to maintain relationships in her family as they have always been...There are no shared expectations of an in-law's role and obligations in the family. Instead, expectations differ from family to family...They may marry into a family that focuses just on biological connections and feels no need to include in-laws...Mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law are expected to treat one another like family without the benefits of a mother-daughter tie. They have neither a shared history nor the unconditional love that balance the obligations of family ties.

How to make MIL/DIL relationships work

Include them in your family. The mothers-in-law's main complaint about their daughters-in-law was that they often felt like they were on the outside of their son's life looking in. Mothers-in-law want to be included, and the daughter-in-law needs to bridge the gap and make her feel welcome...Daughters-in-law were much more likely to have good relationships with their mothers-in-law later on if they felt welcomed into the family from the beginning. Acknowledge your son and daughter-in-law's marriage by including her in your relationship with your son whenever you can.

*The observation that a "new and separate family" is created when a son marries goes back a very long way, and was once phrased as:

"A son is a son till he takes a wife,
But a daughter's a daughter all of her life."

My relationship with my first mother-in-law was spotty at times, but to be fair, her relationships with her blood relatives were probably worse. She and her mother could barely stand each other most of the time (but she remained very fond of her ex-husband's mother). She and her daughter blew hot and cold, but it's been cold for a long time now; ex-MIL hasn't had any contact with either of her two children for over ten years. I assume she has no idea that her son and I have been divorced for over five years now, that he married again almost three years ago, and that her only grandchild is now a college graduate and living in Washington, DC.

On the other hand, I adore my current Mom-in-law, and she returns it. She has been accepting, generous, and welcoming to me since our first meeting; before that happened, she had told Tall Paul that all she really needed to know about me was whether or not I made him happy. My own mother has been gone for a number of years now, and I'm happy to consider my mother-in-law in that role - and teasingly remind her that I'm her "favorite" daughter-in-law (but that's our secret - and no, I'm not the only DIL she has. That's why it's our secret.).

The plane tickets have been bought and the travel plans confirmed; on Christmas Eve, I'll be meeting my son's girlfriend of over a year. At his point, I have no idea whether she may someday be my daughter-in-law - and knowing my son, I hope that "someday" is still several years away, whether with her or someone else - but this will be like mother-in-law practice for me. I hope to follow the example my Mom-in-law has been setting for me over the last couple of years, and to be welcoming and appreciative of her.

"Marry(ing) into a family that focuses just on biological connections and feels no need to include in-laws" - that's the "outlaws" mentality, or that of the old-fashioned monarchies. Families are made of much more than that, and family bonds can sometimes form among in-laws that are just as strong as those in the "natural" family, and possibly even more so. It's complicated by the fact that, as Merrill states, there's really no societal template for these relationships, and what models and expectations can be found in the general culture are frequently negative - but that can be overcome, and in many cases it's in the family's best interest to make the effort to do so. While marriages can and do end for various reasons, the families that are formed through them may continue on afterward. Then again, when those relationships have been problematic, it's probably a relief for all involved not to have to maintain them anymore. (Similar things can probably be said about stepfamilies.)

The thing is, this is the family that produced your spouse, like it or not - and assuming that your spouse likes that family him- or herself, it's probably best for all concerned to make the effort to like them too. And this spouse is the person your son or daughter has chosen as a life partner - and unless that partner is truly harmful to your child, it's most likely in everyone's interest to accept and trust that choice.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Down Memory Lane: 10-20-30 Year Meme

Once again, I'm borrowing a meme from Literary Feline, who issued an open invitation for anyone else who wanted to join in. I thought it might be fun.

(And on this "memorable" occasion - Happy Birthday, T! This message is brought to you by T's sister.)

10 Years Ago (1997): At 33, I felt like my life was actually somewhat together - that would only last for another couple of years, though, and it took getting past 40 to recover some of it.

1997 was a pretty busy year. My (then) husband got tenure, and we bought a house - which is still the only one I've ever owned, and may turn out to be the only one I will ever own (damn SoCal real-estate market!). With First Husband's career apparently settled, I was contemplating a job change, although that didn't come together until the following March - and it was well worth the wait for the Zoo. The house we bought meant a change in schools for our son, and although 8th grade might seem like a really bad time to uproot, he liked the new school much better, and got to know the group of friends that he'd hang with through high school. Getting a house, and a yard, meant we could enlarge our family, and we added puppy Shadow, an energetic retriever mix (soon to be 11, and still living with First Husband). The house also had a couple more bedrooms than we needed, so we could have both a dedicated guest room and an office/reading room! Guess where my favorite place was?

That was The Year Everyone We Knew Got Married - we traveled for three weddings, and sent gifts for a couple more. I ended up with a lot to write about in that year's Christmas-card-enclosure letter. Things seemed to be getting settled, and I wasn't sure what would come next - or if anything would. I was starting to get a little anxious. A couple of years later, things started unsettling with a vengeance.

Notable events of the year
include the start of President Bill Clinton's second term (January), the mass suicide of the Heaven's Gate cult (March), the handover of Hong Kong to China by the U.K. (July), and the death of Princess Diana in a car accident in Paris (August). The world first met Harry Potter on June 30. A couple of songs I liked that year were "Everlong" by Foo Fighters, "The Impression That I Get" by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones - and it was also the year of the Spice Girls. And the Titanic may have sunk in 1912, but the movie was huge in '97.

20 Years Ago (1987): Newly-minted college graduate, as was my husband! I remember this year as having a sense of excitement and promise.

We moved across the country, from Florida to the Finger Lakes region of New York, for First Husband to begin graduate school in chemistry. Since I had majored in business, I was ready to start my career, and even though a small college town didn't offer a big range of opportunities, I was set against taking just any student-spouse office-clerk job. As it happened, I lucked into a temp job in the university accounting office in August, and was hired full-time in November. The work wasn't quite what I'd expected or prepared for, but it was valuable first-job experience all the same (even though it took some years' distance for me to appreciate that properly). My life as a working mom began then, too; and with a three-year-old child, the timing for preschool was just right.

My sister graduated from college the same year and went to work in New York City, four hours away, so although we were far from our extended families, at least we weren't too far from each other.

Notable events of the year included sex scandals that took down two televangelists and one Presidential candidate, the "Black Monday" stock-market free-fall and "Baby Jessica's" fall down a well (both in October), and "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" (June). Musically, it was the year of The Joshua Tree (U2), Sign O' The Times (Prince), Dirty Dancing, and the debuts of Guns 'n' Roses, Debbie Gibson, and Tiffany, among others. My couldn't-put-it-down book that year was The Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe. And my very favorite movie, The Princess Bride, premiered in theaters.

30 Years Ago (1977): Oy, thirteen. A challenging age for most of us - my stepdaughter just arrived there, and we commiserate over the miseries of middle school.

My family had just moved from Connecticut to Florida, and was basically starting over from scratch. My parents had taken losses on a business and a house. Dad was going to try to start up an accounting practice on his own, and Mom wasn't going to be working anymore. We were living in a small, rented two-bedroom house, and my sister and I had just entered Catholic school for the first time (despite the extremely tight family budget, my Northeastern parents didn't think much of Southern public schools). That was a lot of transition to deal with, on top of becoming a teenager.

Thank goodness for books. We made weekly trips to the library, and I read all the YA fiction I could get my hands on; and I was learning to love bookstores, too. My favorite writer in those years was Madeleine L'Engle, and I also liked S.E. Hinton and M.E. Kerr; I think I read The Thorn Birds that year, too. I also devoured the teen magazines; one of the things I enjoy about getting together with women my age now is occasional reminiscing about our Tiger Beat favorites (Shaun Cassidy! Andy Gibb! Leif Garrett! Robby Benson!).

Notable events of the year can be found via the Wikipedia link - being thirteen at the time, I didn't really notice current events all that much. There were a few pop-culture landmarks that year, though, notably the releases of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours album and a science-fiction fantasy movie called Star Wars (aka "Episode IV"). Seeing that in theaters during its original run - it ran for months, and stayed over a year in some theaters (that was before many people even had cable TV, let alone VCRs) - was a rite of passage for some of us; ignoring it was a badge of honor for others.

If you'd enjoy doing some reminiscing of your own, please play along! No tags, but leave me a comment so I'll know to look for your post.

Friday, October 26, 2007

A post a day for 30 days

Does a post a day every day for a month sound like a challenge - or a vacation? Depends on how prolific you are, I guess. In any case, how about spending November as a participant in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo)? I'm going to do it! I post something most days anyway - this just makes it official, and means I don't get to skip the weekends. Once you sign up, you can also join groups with other like-minded bloggers. There's still time to get in on the action!

As I understand it, daily posting is the only requirement - the content of those posts can be anything you like.

Thanks to Madame Meow for the heads-up and the invite to join her "Randombloggers" group - really, where else would I end up? (The 3rd "R" and all that, you know...)

Another quiz - but this one's informative!

There's been no shortage of silly quizzes in these parts lately, so here's one with a little substance for a change.

Gretchen Rubin recently posted about the "five-factor personality model" and a new book that explains it. It sounds interesting. In summary, the factors are:

1. Extraversion – response to reward
2. Neuroticism – response to threat
3. Conscientiousness – response inhibition (self-control, planning)
4. Agreeableness – regard for others
5. Openness to Experience – breadth of mental associations

She also provided a link to the online version of a questionnaire at the end of the book which evaluates respondents on each of the five dimensions. I'm usually up for taking a personality test; sometimes I learn something, sometimes my impressions are confirmed (validation!), and sometimes the questions and answers don't quite mesh for me and I get some unexpected results. This one is short and fairly straightforward, but don't neglect the demographic questions at the beginning or it won't accept your answers. (It assumes you're British, by the way...you'll see.)

For me, this quiz looks pretty solid - here are my results, with explanations of what they mean (Highest score = Relatively high; lowest score = Relatively low):

  • The first dimension is Extroversion. People with a relatively low score in this dimension could be considered aloof and quiet. Relatively high scorers are outgoing and enthusiastic, often termed 'Wanderers' by personality experts.
    Your score was: Relatively Low. (No surprise at all here - I've owned up to my introverted tendencies before.)

  • The second dimension is Neuroticism. The lower your score the more emotionally stable you will be. High scorers are prone to stress and will be categorized as ''Worriers".
    Your score was: Medium High (No real surprise here either, just a little disappointment that I haven't improved in this respect - becoming less so, that is - as much as I'd thought/hoped I had.)

  • The third dimension is Conscientiousness. Relatively high scorers will be organized, but can also be quite rigid and inflexible. They will often be seen as "Controllers"; on the other hand, a relatively low score can indicate that although spontaneous, you can be careless.
    Your score was: Medium High (Hey, I'm a "controller" - my business card says so! I think this score is about right.)

  • The fourth dimension is Agreeableness. Relatively high scorers are trusting and would be classified as 'Empathizers', very people focused and sociable. Having a relatively low score indicates that you are not at all focused on other people.
    Your score was: Medium High (So I'm a sociable, agreeable introvert? That sounds about right to me, actually, if a bit counter-intuitive.)

  • The fifth dimension is Openness. High scorers in this dimensions are usually imaginative and eccentric, open to different experiences. They are often termed the "Poets" by personality experts. Relatively low scorers are practical and grounded and can be relied upon. However they can be closed to new experiences.
    Your score was: Medium High (I don't know about this one...I think I'm pretty practical most of the time. However, I know I'm a bit eccentric, and I've certainly become more open and adventurous in the last few years; turning 40 was good for me. I guess I'm open to this score's accuracy.)
  • Thursday, October 25, 2007

    Booking Through Thursday - Read with Abandon?

    btt button

    Today’s suggestion is from Cereal Box Reader

    I would enjoy reading a meme about people’s abandoned books. The books that you start but don’t finish say as much about you as the ones you actually read, sometimes because of the books themselves or because of the circumstances that prevent you from finishing. So . . . what books have you abandoned and why?

    Don’t forget to leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

    An abandoned book has been taunting me for almost six months now. That's my fault, really, because I was fool enough to leave it out where I see it several times a day, so that I could keep deluding myself that I'd go back and finish it. I've heard and read so much praise of Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, and I've found parts of it riveting. But it has backstory upon backstory, and it jumps around a lot - I've just found that tiring. I left it at the point where yet another backstory was introduced, because even though I do believe she'll bring the threads together in the end, I was just out of patience with all the distractions.

    I was in Starbucks with the book back in the spring, and the barista asked me what I thought of it; he said he'd been reading it too, and had a hundred pages left. He'd had them left for a year. I understand that now.

    I really don't abandon books very often, though. If I do, it's usually for a reason like this - I just run of out patience. Sometimes it's because it's just not the right time for me to read it, or it isn't really what I expected or wanted it to be. And sometimes - well, it's just a poorly-written book.

    My fiery diary: 10/21-10/24

    As we were online reading updates about the Ranch Fire on October 21 - of the dozen active wildfires that started in Southern California this past weekend, that's the one closest to us - Tall Paul said, "When we retire, let's move somewhere that doesn't have fires."

    My husband was born and raised in So-Cal, and he's lived with fire season, flood season - which usually follows fire season, unless it's a drought year - and year-round "earthquake season" - all his life. I guess it's getting old for him. Considering that when these things aren't happening, our coastal areas have a truly enviable climate and gorgeous, dramatic vistas all around, I still view them as part of the "price of paradise" (yes, them and the traffic) - but I haven't lived here as long as he has.

    I've lived in the Northeast (blizzards and nor'easters), on the Gulf Coast (hurricanes and waterspouts), and in the Mid-South (thunderstorms, ice storms, and tornadoes). I can't think of anyplace that doesn't have issues with nature. The weather is still one thing we can't do much about, unless you're the mad scientist or megalomaniac with a weather-control machine who shows up as an occasional plot device. But that doesn't mean it won't make you nervous. All you really can do is stay informed and be prepared to keep yourself and your family safe.

    I chronicled my observations of the fires in my Member Notes at Work It, Mom! and transferred them to this post.
    10/21/07 4:45 PM

    I'm really glad we didn't have this weather a year ago today - it would have really messed up an outdoor wedding.

    The Santa Ana winds have been kicking up this weekend, and there are two wildfires currently burning in our general area. Fortunately, we're not in Malibu, which is getting quite literally toasted. (Just goes to show that wealth is no protection from nature, I guess).

    I don't think our area is seriously threatened at this point - one fire about 12 miles west of us is expected to be contained in a few hours, if all goes well, and a larger one to the northeast probably isn't moving directly toward us. But depending on that one's progress, it could move toward the next town, which means the kids might stay with us tonight and not go back to their mom's house. We have to see how the next couple of hours go. (Good thing we're saving the anniversary plans for next weekend.)

    We've closed all the windows, but I can still smell smoke in the air. The sky is a very odd orangey-gray color, and the sun looks red through all the smoke clouds. We're trying to stay inside, but I will have to walk the dog this evening, and tomorrow morning - and there's no telling how long this stuff will be in the air, even if the fires themselves don't get too close. The winds are still blowing, the air is very dry, and the weather is forecast to warm up in the early part of the week - none of these things is comforting.

    10/22/07, 8:15 AM:

    At the office, 30 miles southeast of home, the winds are quiet and the sky is clear. It's a typically beautiful California day.

    On the way here, fierce crosswinds made keeping my Honda Civic in its lane on the freeway a challenge while driving into the western San Fernando Valley. The winds kept up through the night, and are strengthening this morning; along with that, the sun, warm temperatures, and very dry air will all make the fires harder to get under control.

    The fires to the north and east of us grew dramatically overnight. As long as the Ranch Fire continues on a mostly westward path, we'll be out of direct threat, but we're still under smoke clouds, and you don't want to be outdoors unless you have to be.

    Safely at the office, I'll be keeping up with the news today, and probably fretting about whether getting home tonight will be complicated.

    10/22/07, 11:25 AM:

    The latest from the Ventura County Star website. (It's not much of a paper, but they're the best place for truly local updates. The LA media sites treat the VC=boondocks most of the time.)

    My stepdaughter is home sick today. Usually she stays alone (she's 13), but her mom's with her, just in case the Ranch Fire takes a turn to the southwest, Both the kids are back at our place tonight, and we're even further away than their mom's house is, so hopefully we won't suffer from anything more than the smoke and lousy air quality.

    10/22/07, 1:15 PM:

    Naturally, I'm most concerned about the Ranch Fire in Ventura County north of home, but it's only one of a dozen fires throughout So-Cal today. The LA Times website has a wrapup and a current map.

    The most recent update from the VC Star website mentions concerns that a couple of fires could merge. When I look at the maps, two of the largest - the Ranch Fire and the Buckweed Fire - look like they're not very far from each other as it is. Each has already burned well over 25,000 acres.

    The Ranch Fire is almost surrounding the small town of Piru, which is to the north and separated from our town by about 20 miles and some mountains. Evacuations have been recommended, but aren't yet mandatory - so a lot of people are staying. Sorry, I say it's not worth it. Your family's safety is more important than your belongings, and while you have some warning, you can get some things together, throw them in the car, and go. Besides, if you wait till you're ordered to leave, and so does everyone else, it's going to take longer to get out of town.

    Surprisingly, I have gotten some work done today, in between checking the news.

    10/22/07, 3:20 PM:

    Talked to Tall Paul about 15 minutes ago, and he said the air all over Ventura County is really bad. I've got tabs in Firefox open to monitor the Ventura County Fire Dept. and the Star website.

    And my Mom-in-law in San Diego County has fires about 15 miles away to both the northeast and southeast of her home. But she doesn't follow the news, so her son had to tell her about it. We don't know her evacuation status - hopefully she won't end up in Qualcomm Stadium. Over 250,000 people in SD County have been ordered - not asked - to evacuate.

    10/22/07, 7:30 PM:

    I've been home for a couple of hours, and was a bit surprised by conditions here. Even though there are now three fires burning to the northeast of us. some combination of the wind patterns and the mountains must be what's sending most of the smoke further west. The sky over Simi Valley is clearer than it was yesterday, and the winds are a little milder.

    But tomorrow's supposed to be warmer, and the only thing predictable about wildfires is that they're unpredictable. The Santa Ana winds aren't expected to subside much for another day or two, the humidity is in the single digits, and none of these fires is more than 20% contained right now. The huge Buckweed Fire could merge with the newer Magic Fire (near Magic Mountain amusement park). which is the closest one yet to where we are.

    Due to the air quality and generally uncertain conditions, the local public schools will be closed tomorrow, so Tall Paul's getting an unexpected day off with the kids. That may help me be less anxious tomorrow - at least he'll be home if we're threatened here, and he can take care of the kids and Gypsy.

    10/23/07, 8:45 AM:

    I don't know whether it's the winds or just the fact there are so darn many fires going on, but the smoke's not particularly concentrated anywhere this morning.The winds are dropping a bit today, but the temperatures are supposed to get HOT (in the 90's), so it'll be another rough day. The weather won't be much help for another couple of days, or so say the weather wizards.

    San Diego County has it really bad. Tall Paul needs to check back in with his mom this morning.

    Help is coming in from other parts of the state, and other states too - the firefighters are making their usual heroic efforts. And FEMA's on their way here too. Oh boy.

    The Magic Fire is threatening unincorporated areas in the northeast portion of Simi Valley. This is what I've worried about since Sunday:

    MAGIC INCIDENT (LA County near Magic Mountain)- 06:12 am, October 23. The fire that started near Magic Mountain in Los Angeles County and is nearing the Ventura County line.

    It is now approximately three miles away. Intense backfiring operations overnight appear to be working to slow the advance of the fire. 428 personnel are currently assigned to the incident. Approximately 950 structures are threatened.

    THE VENTURA COUNTY SHERIFFS DEPARTMENT (805-654-2551) IS ISSUING A PRECAUTIONARY EVACUATION ORDER FOR THE UNICORPORATED AREAS OF NORTHEAST SIMI VALLEY IN THE BENNETT RD. AND DITCH RD. AREAS.

    It is 20% contained. Smoke from this fire is blowing into the Simi Valley and Westlake Village areas and the amount of smoke is likely to increase as the fire moves into the county.

    The Ranch Fire is 10% contained and is now the biggest one near us (41,000 acres burned); containment is estimated as of next Wednesday.

    Schools in our area are closed and Tall Paul is home with the kids - he's monitoring from there and will let me know if anything affects us.

    6:00 PM, 10/23/07:

    I'm hoping that I won't be posting many more of these updates. The winds are starting to slack off a bit, and the forecast is much more favorable to the firefighters starting tomorrow - the Santa Anas should subside, and cooler, moister air is expected to come in. No major new fires broke out in our vicinity today, which is very good news. The Magic Fire didn't get too big and it's now 40% contained. The Ranch Fire is still huge and only around 10% contained, but its path doesn't seem to be headed our way.

    The smoke has definitely come back to our town today, though. The sky is grayish and dusky, and if you can see the sun at all, it's very red. Even so, schools are supposed to re-open tomorrow, but they'll probably try to keep the kids inside.

    Mom-in-law is OK, but many people in San Diego County (around 750,000!) have been evacuated and can't say the same. It's being declared a Federal disaster area, and the President and FEMA are on their way. (So if it wasn't a disaster area already...sorry, just couldn't help myself there.) It's almost the direct opposite of Katrina - fire instead of flood. I heard there are some areas where the firefighters just can't keep up, and eventually some of the fires may burn all the way to the ocean. I feel guilty for feeling relieved that it's not nearly that bad here.

    8:45 AM, 10/24/07:

    I stepped out to walk Gypsy earlier this morning, and there was barely any breeze at all. The temperatures are still supposed to get into the 90s today, but cooling is expected starting tomorrow. But the winds have noticeably dropped, and are forecast to decrease even more.

    The good news this morning mostly comes from the fires in my area. The Magic Fire was fully contained as of last night. The Ranch Fire is still going, but isn't gaining much ground into Ventura County and doesn't seem like it will move much south and west, so it's not likely to threaten us directly. The Malibu Canyon fire has gotten a lot of the news attention - because it's in Malibu - but there's been a lot of progress with that one too.

    There are some coyotes that live in the hills behind our house, and I realized yesterday morning that I haven't heard them for a few days. Maybe they'll be back soon.

    Hopefully as things get better in L.A. and Ventura counties, the firefighters can get some rest, and then go help out in San Diego and Orange counties, which are where things remain very bad.

    Since it doesn't look like we're directly threatened any more, this is probably my last fire update (from this round, anyway - fire season has a a few more months left, so we'll have to see what else happens).

    Thanks to everyone for your support during this very stressful time. Please keep the firefighters, and the people of San Diego and Orange counties, in your thoughts/prayers as it continues.


    Wednesday, October 24, 2007

    Wiki Wednesday 10-24-07

    Time to learn something!

    1. Go to Wikipedia.
    2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
    3. Post it!

    I might need to try to find this somewhere - it would take care of a major gap in my music library.
    Greatest Hits Live is a live album by the punk rock band the Ramones. It was recorded at The Academy in New York City on February 29, 1996. This was their last live performance in their hometown New York City.

    The final two tracks are bonus studio tracks that are covers, neither of which appeared on a Ramones album previously. "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." is originally by Motörhead, from their album 1916, and the song was written as a tribute to the Ramones. The other is "Anyway You Want It", originally by The Dave Clark Five.

    Track listing

    All song by the Ramones unless otherwise noted.

    1. "Durango 95" (Johnny Ramone) – 1:31
    2. "Blitzkrieg Bop" – 1:37
    3. "Do You Remember Rock and Roll Radio" – 3:00
    4. "I Wanna Be Sedated" – 2:07
    5. "Spider-Man" (Robert Harris, Paul Francis Webster) – 1:48
    6. "I Don't Want to Grow Up" (Kathleen Brennan, Tom Waits) – 2:24
    7. "Sheena Is a Punk Rocker" – 1:46
    8. "Rockaway Beach" – 1:31
    9. "Strength to Endure" (Dee Dee Ramone), (Daniel Rey) – 2:41
    10. "Cretin Family" (Dee Dee Ramone, Rey) – 2:17
    11. "Do You Wanna Dance" (Bobby Freeman) – 1:21
    12. "We're a Happy Family" – 1:28
    13. "The Crusher" (Dee Dee Ramone, Rey) – 2:10
    14. "53rd & 3rd" – 1:46
    15. "Beat on the Brat" – 2:42
    16. "Pet Sematary" (Dee Dee Ramone, Rey) – 3:38
    17. "R.A.M.O.N.E.S." (Würzel, Phil Campbell, Lemmy, Phil Taylor) – 1:27
    18. "Any Way You Want it" (Dave Clark) – 2:25

    The work/family juggle - school days edition

    I submitted this as a guest post to the Work It, Mom! Blog back around the beginning of the school year; on October 16 it made its way to the front of the queue and was published there. (Guest blogs run on most Tuesdays and are a popular feature, so there's a wait for posting.) And on a related note, check out Elizabeth Horn's post about managing "the afternoon activity shuffle" at Mommy Track'd.
    Many of us want to be involved in our kids’ education. It may frustrate us sometimes when schools schedule events that cause us to juggle our workday if we want to be there - and can make us feel that they just don’t consider working parents, especially in schools that seem to have a lot of students with an at-home parent - but then again, it is their workday too. School classrooms, offices, and administration buildings are staffed by working parents, but they don’t tend to work the same hours that many of the rest of us do. (I have to admit it took me a long time - and the input of some teacher friends - to see that perspective on it.)

    That schedule difference usually means having to make arrangements for our kids before school, after school, or both. If some form of flextime can’t take care of everything - and it’s unusual if it can, on both ends of the day, when you’re working outside the home - then you’ll need to decide among child-care programs, sitters, and, for older kids, the “home after school on their own” option.

    Unless they’re part of your regular after-school arrangements, extracurriculars add even more wrinkles - literally, if you’re stressing over them a lot. My thinking on that is to keep them limited until your kids become independently mobile (read: high school), because fitting games, practices, dance lessons, etc., into already crowded schedules is completely optional, unlike school. And my opinion is also that school, including homework, is the most important thing they’re doing - and homework is becoming a bigger thing all the time. I’ve also noticed that these activities often are scheduled in ways that aren’t especially friendly to working parents, either. If you are making time for activities, though, you might have your child choose the one activity or sport he or she most wants to do; it’s not bad for them to learn that there are limits. (Some of us parents need to remember that at times, too.) If you do that, I think it’s important for it to be the child’s choice, even if you might have a different preference - he wants karate, you’d rather have him play baseball - so that he or she is really invested in the activity. And they honestly will be OK if they don’t do extracurriculars, at least sometimes - it might give you all a little more unstructured family time (or even find you some “me” time - can you imagine?).

    Since it’s unlikely we’ll be seeing year-round schools with schedules approximating our standard work hours (perhaps with before- and after-care hours included for families that need them), we’ll need to learn the best way for us to work the school-year juggle - so it doesn’t end up working us. And although as moms we tend to take everything on ourselves, we shouldn’t forget that - if we’re lucky - there’s another parent around too.


    Tuesday, October 23, 2007

    Another 10 on Tuesday: True-or-False Answers!

    Just in case anyone was still wondering, here's the T-or-F breakdown on the "10 Things About Me" I posted last week.
    • I weighed just over four pounds at birth. - TRUE. And I was full-term, as well, but my mom had severe bronchitis for much of the winter she was pregnant with me, and they think that's what kept me so small. I was incubated for two weeks until I got over five pounds, and then my parents took me home.
    • I never use my real name at Starbucks. - TRUE. I get tired of spelling my name for them! If I'm asked for a name there, I use my middle one there, which is much more common. (I know a few other women with unusual first names who also have a "Starbucks alias.")
    • I bring a book with me everywhere I go. - TRUE, as previously mentioned here.
    • I was first-chair violinist in my high-school orchestra. - FALSE. My violin career ended in the fourth grade, and my high school didn't even have an orchestra (although I did sing in the choir.)
    • I spent four years in the Ivy League (at Cornell). - TRUE, but only because of the phrasing. This was while my ex-husband was in graduate school there; I worked for the university for most of that time, but never took a class. (I'm a graduate of the University of South Florida - go Bulls!) And by the same token, my son went to Cornell when he was three years old(!).
    • My (present) husband and I got engaged on Super Bowl Sunday. - TRUE. Tall Paul and I are not football fans, and on the first Sunday in February, 2006, we went for a drive and ended up in Santa Barbara. We spent the afternoon there, and he wanted to get some pictures of the sunset at the pier. That's where he proposed - but there aren't any pictures of that.
    • I have been in every state on the East Coast - I actually like road trips. - FALSE. I really do like road trips...I've been in every East Coast state EXCEPT Maine, so that's what makes it false.
    • I have never once smoked a cigarette. - TRUE. Never even sampled demon tobacco in junior high. I was an unbelievably straight arrow, even for a Catholic-school girl.
    • I was a member of the American Contract Bridge League. - TRUE, but only because I worked there for six years. Not a huge fan of the game.
    • I've broken each of my arms once. - FALSE. The two broken arms belong to my stepdaughter - both this year, actually.

    Monday, October 22, 2007

    Situation wanted: Trophy Wife

    This came via e-mail from my uncle, and has apparently been making the rounds. Snopes has been unable to confirm whether the whole thing is true, but the New York Times reported on the first part (the original Craigslist posting, which was verified) on October 8th. I actually do hope it's fact-based, because it's a classic - even if girlfriend is setting back the cause for women by a good 50 years or so, and I think the responder lets her know it (sort of).

    What am I doing wrong?

    Okay, I'm tired of beating around the bush. I'm a beautiful (spectacularly beautiful) 25 year old girl. I'm articulate and classy. I'm not from
    New York. I'm looking to get married to a guy who makes at least half a million a year. I know how that sounds, but keep in mind that a million a year is middle class in New York City, so I don't think I'm overreaching at all.

    Are there any guys who make 500K or more on this board? Any wives? Could you send me some tips? I dated a business man who makes average around 200 - 250. But that's where I seem to hit a roadblock. 250,000 won't get me to central park west. I know a woman in my yoga class who was married to an investment banker and lives in Tribeca, and she's not as pretty as I am, nor is she a great genius. So what is she doing right? How do I get to her level?

    Here are my questions specifically:

    - Where do you single rich men hang out? Give me specifics- bars, restaurants, gyms

    -What are you looking for in a mate? Be honest guys, you won't hurt my feelings

    -Is there an age range I should be targeting (I'm 25)?

    - Why are some of the women living lavish lifestyles on the upper east side so plain? I've seen really 'plain jane' boring types who have nothing to offer married to incredibly wealthy guys. I've seen drop dead gorgeous girls in singles bars in the east village. What's the story there?

    - Jobs I should look out for? Everyone knows - lawyer, investment banker, doctor. How much do those guys really make? And where do they hang out? Where do the hedge fund guys hang out?

    - How you decide marriage vs. just a girlfriend? I am looking for MARRIAGE ONLY.

    Please hold your insults - I'm putting myself out there in an honest way. Most beautiful women are superficial; at least I'm being up front about it. I wouldn't be searching for these kind of guys if I wasn't able to match them - in looks, culture, sophistication, and keeping a nice home and hearth.

    it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

    PostingID: 432279810

    THE ANSWER
    Dear Pers-431649184:

    I read your posting with great interest and have thought meaningfully about your dilemma. I offer the following analysis of your predicament.

    Firstly, I'm not wasting your time, I qualify as a guy who fits your bill; that is I make more than $500K per year. That said here's how I see it.

    Your offer, from the prospective of a guy like me, is plain and simple a crappy business deal. Here's why. Cutting through all the B.S., what you suggest is a simple trade: you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here's the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity...in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won't be getting any more beautiful!

    So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset. Not only are you a depreciating asset, your depreciation accelerates! Let me explain, you're 25 now and will likely stay pretty hot for the next 5 years, but less so each year. Then the fade begins in earnest. By 35 stick a fork in you!

    So in Wall Street terms, we would call you a trading position, not a buy and hold...hence the rub...marriage. It doesn't make good business sense to "buy you" (which is what you're asking) so I'd rather lease. In case you think I'm being cruel, I would say the following. If my money were to go away, so would you, so when your beauty fades I need an out. It's as simple as that. So a deal that makes sense is dating, not marriage.

    Separately, I was taught early in my career about efficient markets. So, I wonder why a girl as "articulate, classy and spectacularly beautiful" as you has been unable to find your sugar daddy. I find it hard to believe that if you are as gorgeous as you say you are that the $500K hasn't found you, if not only for a tryout.

    By the way, you could always find a way to make your own money and then we wouldn't need to have this difficult conversation.*

    With all that said, I must say you're going about it the right way. Classic "pump and dump."

    I hope this is helpful, and if you want to enter into some sort of lease, let me know.

    *I think the "responder's" girlfriend wrote that line. And sorry if this is crude, but I think "pump and dump" might be a euphemism for what he has in mind.

    The calling - is it ever too late to answer it?

    This is my most recent article published at Work It, Mom! It's gotten some feedback there, so click the link if that interests you, but the full text of the article is right here.

    This was in a recent e-mail from a longtime friend of mine:

    I have read some of your blogs. I need to catch up. I even left comments so you would know I had been there...
    You truly missed your calling. You are a very good writer. Funny, thought provoking, and visual.

    I appreciated the complimentary feedback, and I know her well enough to know that she wouldn't have said it if it wasn't really what she thought. And I know it's just one of those things people say when they discover an unexpected interest or talent, but I keep thinking about that "missed your calling" comment.

    Maybe I didn't hear the calling before. Maybe I ignored it. Maybe I just didn't feel like I could answer it. But if it's getting through now, do I really have to "miss" it, or is there still time to answer?

    I'm not sure I always had this particular calling - when I was younger, I gravitated more toward drawing than writing. I loved reading and played around with writing stories, but felt more inclined toward art. However, neither seemed to be "practical" in the sense that it could provide a decent living, and I was oriented toward practicality. I was quite sure I'd go to college, and believed that my education there needed to prepare me directly for a career. My decision to major in accounting was largely driven by the belief that it was an area in which I'd always be able to find a job. And while that's turned out to be true, and I'm good at my work, I've spent twenty years building a career that I just don't love.

    I took a technical-writing class as a college elective, and was pleasantly surprised to find I was pretty good at it - and I liked it. As I advanced in my accounting career, writing opportunities sometimes came my way - policies-and-procedures documentation, budget narratives and analysis reports, training instructions; I enjoyed that as well, and I got good feedback on what I produced. I also was pleasantly surprised to find that I wasn't bad at editing other people's writing, either; I've been the unofficial staff ghostwriter at a couple of my jobs. But writing is not a primary part of my job, and in accounting, it's unlikely it ever will be.

    I've kept journals on and off over the years, but my blog is my first sustained writing effort. I've been able to explore a variety of subjects, and have found that I'm capable of writing a pretty decent essay. At first, I assumed I was writing just for myself, but as I've begun to participate more in the blogger community, readers have slowly found their way there, and I like that very much.

    The community here is full of women who have answered their callings, and that inspires me. I am not in a position where it would be "practical" (that word again!) to just drop the career I have and start from scratch - nor am I brave enough. However, I'd prefer to think I've found a calling rather than missed one. I'd like to be able to answer it more, but I'm not sure how without knocking my life too much out of balance. I'd like to figure out how, though, and I'm hoping you can help me with that, because I really want to believe it's never too late.

    Sunday, October 21, 2007

    A quick book meme: The Book Nearest You

    Here's a little book meme I'm borrowing from Literary Feline. Please play along on your own blog if you like!

    Take the nearest book next to you and answer the following questions:

    Title and Author:

    The Fourth Bear - A Nursery Crime,
    by Jasper Fforde

    Is the book dedicated to anyone? If so, who?

    Dedicated to the author's mother (awww!)

    What is the first sentence?

    The little village of Obscurity is remarkable only for its unremarkableness.

    Turn to page 47. Please share the first sentence of the first full paragraph.

    They pulled up outside a shabby used-car lot that was exactly the sort of place you might expect to buy a used Allegro.

    Saturday, October 20, 2007

    (More than) two sides to the coin

    We got a forwarded-to-everyone-in-the-address-book e-mail from my uncle urging a boycott of the soon-to-be-issued $1 coin because the wording "In God We Trust" has been removed(!). Note that only one side of the coin is pictured.

    But my enterprising husband - one of whose pet peeves is indiscriminate e-mail forwarding of unverified rumors - went to the US Mint's website to find a graphic of the new coin. The wording's still there, but relocated to the edge instead of the head or tail. He sent that info out with the "reply all" button (sometimes it is appropriate to use that).

    In this case, the truth is quite literally somewhere in the middle.

    While on the face of it, this doesn't seem to have anything to do with Bub and Pie's recent post on optimism (if you click through to it, read the comments too - she gets some great discussions going over there), upon further reflection I think it does. We tend to think in terms of dichotomy - optimist/pessimist, good/bad, dark/light, full/empty, heads/tails - although most things are more complicated than that. But at the same time, one part of the pair can't exist without the other - and at some point in the mix we might find those elusive things we call "truth" and "balance."

    My sister and I have gone back and forth on the optimist/pessimist thing for years. She's fundamentally an optimist, I'm fundamentally not. She's definitely a "glass is half-full" person. I want to know what direction the liquid's going - into or out of the glass - before I call it as half-full or half-empty. (I actually call that being a "realist," but according to B&P, that makes me a pessimist in disguise.) I tend to operate from the standpoint of "expect the worst, and you won't be disappointed, but you could be pleasantly surprised." My husband's approach is pretty similar to mine, but I suspect he's got an underlying optimistic streak that's a little wider than mine - when I admit to having one, and that's a relatively recent occurrence. I respect people who can maintain optimism - it seems to me that it takes a good deal of perseverance, along with a sizable dose of denial. A more pessimistic outlook is just easier sometimes - it doesn't seem to ask as much of you.

    I've read that one basic difference between optimists and pessimists in how they engage with the world is that optimists blame their circumstances for setbacks, but pessimists blame themselves. I know that in my case, that's pretty accurate, and one of the things that puts me on the pessimistic end of the spectrum.

    I think that most people's personalities trend one way or the other on this, and that the basic tendency is probably pretty much set for most of us. But I also think we can learn to incorporate elements from the other side, and that we'll have a healthier overall outlook if we can. At the extremes, optimists and pessimists can really irritate each other, but we need each other, and each other's viewpoint. Without some ability to look on the bright side, we might never do anything; but without being able to see the potential pitfalls, we might not stop ourselves from doing some really dumb things. So once again, we come back to the mix, and the balance that's in there somewhere. I think that's more interesting than having just two sides to every story - or person, or coin.

    Are we cool yet?

    Thanks to Karen for this link to a short quiz to find out if you've gotten any "cooler" over the years - it seems like an appropriate way to follow up on the Nerd Test.

    Friday, October 19, 2007

    A little late for Boss' Day, but anyway...

    Thanks to Time's Work In Progress blog for this post from Tuesday 10/16. Save the list below for reference for next year's Boss' Day - although if you really have a boss that fits this, you probably don't have much to celebrate.

    WHAT TO SAY TO YOUR BOSS ON BOSS' DAY by Jeffrey Yamaguchi
    "Thanks for 'working from home' so much."

    "Thanks for giving me that copy of Who Moved My Cheese? -- I was able to use it as a joke gift at a recent party."

    "Thanks for speaking up so frequently at the all-hands meetings, thereby revealing to everyone in the company just how bad your ideas can be."

    "Thanks for taking credit on that project that ended up going south."

    "Thanks for calling me during my vacation -- I knew something was missing, and when all that work stress flooded back into my core, I figured it out immediately."

    "Thanks for getting on that jury that ended up being sequestered."

    "Thanks for using your expense account to buy our holiday gifts -- at least we got something decent this year."

    "Thanks for 'running late' so often and causing our never-ending staff meetings to be cancelled."

    "Thanks for dancing like that at the office party and even giving the thumbs up while I captured the whole thing on video with my cell phone."

    "Thanks for leaving that threatening, out-of-control, vulgar, totally inappropriate message on my voice mail, which I have converted to an mp3 and email around to friends and colleagues (and for which they in turn forward on to their friends and colleagues)."

    "Thanks for all the keen insights on how NOT to manage people."

    "Thanks for always thinking of us. We've come to love and cherish the leftover danish from your meetings, given that that's about all we ever get. Happy Boss's Day!"

    "Thanks for running such a tip top ship.From the copy machine on up, this place is simply out of order. Happy Boss's Day!"

    "Thanks for always keeping me in the loop. For example, I love how you come by my desk and tell me the coffee pot is empty, every damn time. Happy Boss's Day!"

    "Thanks for always stepping in front and taking the lead. You really know how to take credit for everyone else's ideas and hard work. Happy Boss's Day!"

    "Thanks for all your efforts. Such as the way you can just keep on talking about absolutely nothing and make those staff meetings drag on forever, to the point where everyone just wants to stab their own eyeballs out. Happy Boss's Day!"

    The Anniversary Waltz: Random things about our wedding, part 2 - Props

    (In honor of the first anniversary of my second marriage on October 21, I'm doing some reminiscing.)

    All pictures in this post are credited to, and copyrighted by, Michael Getlin Fine Photography/Getlin Media and are used by permission for personal/non-commercial purposes.

    Even if you're trying to keep a wedding fairly small and not too complicated, the amount of info and stuff involved can quickly get overwhelming. The wedding industry is well aware of this, and will be happy to sell you one of the many bridal planners and organizers that a little search on Amazon will turn up. But I'm connected, and I'm an accountant, so for me there was just one logical way to keep everything in order - spreadsheets! I had them for invitations, acceptances, meal choices, gifts, timelines, shopping lists, to-do lists - it just made sense to me to record it all that way. (And no special wedding-themed formats for me - plain old Excel worked just fine.)

    As I said in my previous post, we wanted a wedding that was both formal and fun. For the guys, "formal" meant tuxedos, of course, with waistcoats (dark red for Tall Paul - our wedding colors were deep red and purple, suitable for autumn - and black for the rest). But my husband hasn't owned a pair of traditional dress shoes since he was 15, and soon after our engagement he went on the lookout for just the right pair of cowboy boots to accompany formal wear. He found them in July - black cherry leather, nicely hand-tooled - which gave him some time to break them in.

    The color palette was favorable to my soon-to-be stepdaughter, who wore a long, simply-cut burgundy junior-bridesmaid dress, as well as to my sister; her apple-red, silver-embellished, two-piece tea-length dress accented her green eyes and fair skin. (And she actually can wear the top again, with a black skirt, although she hasn't yet.)

    I dithered over my own outfit at first. I thought seriously about wearing color, I was nervous about bridal salons, and I didn't want to spend a lot of money. A visit to to the Special Occasions department at Macy's - just to get ideas - ended up being the only shopping I did. A sleeveless, not-quite-white dress with a beaded top and slightly-A-line skirt just needed to be hemmed in order to be just right for me. And my boot-wearing groom inspired me to go in a similar footwear direction; not Western-style, but a pair of mid-heel, ankle-height, lace-up bridal boots proved a comfortable choice for a day that would involve a lot of time on my feet. And I was not going to wear a veil; my hair ornament was a decorated comb that I found in the wedding-decor section at Michael's.

    While we did have aspects of our wedding that we splurged on - most notably the venue and the photography - there were others, like the music, where we went the DIY route. If organization via spreadsheet played to my talents, a lot of the "real" paperwork of the wedding - invitations, programs, place cards - was right in the field of expertise of my soon-to-be husband, a graphic designer. While we both worked on text, he did all the actual design, paper selection, layout, and printing of our invitations, envelopes, and programs. When we decided that we would "name" our reception tables for TV and movie couples instead of using boring numbers, he came up with the list, found all the pictures, and created and printed the signs.

    Tall Paul also created a logo of sorts for our favors. On one of the wedding websites that I frequented during my engagement, I stumbled across a link for Fancy Fortune Cookies, which bakes fortune cookies in about a dozen different flavors and lets you customize them by including up to five different enclosures. We didn't write "fortunes" for ours, exactly; we selected a few short quotes about love and marriage to go in our cookies, and we packaged them - along with a few Jordan almonds - in miniature Chinese-takeout-style boxes (also from Michael's), to which we applied a decal that Tall Paul designed. The favors ended up being relatively inexpensive, unusual, and consumable.

    Our wedding didn't have a theme, but Tall Paul likes to say that if it had, it would have been "When Nerds Unite." The best example of that comes via two of our favorite wedding props, both cake-related. One day on his lunch hour, Tall Paul called me from the mall to say "The knife store is having a going-out-of-business sale. What would you think of a replica of Sting (not the singer - Frodo's sword from The Lord of the Rings) as a cake cutter?" After I stopped laughing, I said he should go ahead and get it. While that was a serendipitous find, our search for an appealing cake topper was getting more and more discouraging until we finally decided to give in to what we really wanted, and ordered a Simpsons cake topper on eBay.

    The kids are with us for our actual anniversary, so we're going to Catalina Island the following weekend for a slightly delayed celebration of our first year together, and to prepare for the adventures to come.

    26 - Happy Anniversary! Love you, ~28

    iPod Random Ten 10-19-07

    "Rehab," Amy Winehouse
    "I Who Have Nothing," Jordin Sparks (Yes, I downloaded some American Idol performances last season - I guess the secret's out now)
    "Can't Get It Out of My Head," Fountains of Wayne
    "My Valentine," Rhett Miller
    "Right in Time," Lucinda Williams
    "Up the Junction," Squeeze
    "There Will Come a Day," Melinda Doolittle
    "Promises in the Dark," Pat Benatar
    "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)," Bruce Springsteen
    "Testing 1,2,3," Barenaked Ladies

    If these are the next 10 songs coming up on the World's Weirdest Radio Station, it looks like a great start to my Friday workday!

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    The Anniversary Waltz: Random things about our wedding, part 1 - Plans

    (In honor of the first anniversary of my second marriage on October 21, I'm doing some reminiscing. And regardless of your marital status or how long it's been since you were involved in a wedding, there's lots of fun and relevant reading to be found on the new wedding blog AisleDash. I know some of the bloggers there from their work elsewhere, and have been throwing in my two cents as a commenter here and there.)

    All pictures in this post are credited to, and copyrighted by, Michael Getlin Fine Photography/Getlin Media and are used by permission for personal/non-commercial purposes.

    When you're over 40 and are marrying for the second time, you may feel more free to plan a wedding that's less bound by tradition and convention than a younger couple might. When Tall Paul and I started planning ours - and we were planning it, make no mistake; this was not "the bride and the guy along for the ride" - we wanted an event that was both formal and fun.

    One thing we agreed on quickly was that this wasn't just a couple uniting, it was a family - and our children would be part of the event. The nondenominational minister we selected to officiate our ceremony encouraged us to customize and personalize it, and as we reviewed our options (she had five different ceremonies, and we were free to pick and choose what we wanted to include in ours from any of them, plus additions of our own), we decided we wanted to include a variation on the Blending of the Sands ceremony that would include all five of us.

    Our kids has more conventional roles as well. My son, a college senior at this time last year, escorted me to the ceremony platform (we had an outdoor ceremony, and the site didn't have a center aisle, just a sidewalk down one side) - but he did not "give away" his mother. Tall Paul's children helped give out programs, and escorted the grandparents to their seats as the ceremony began.

    We had a brief moment of insanity when we considered writing our own vows - I bought a couple of books for help and inspiration - but our minister helped us get over it. She spent enough time meeting and corresponding with us to craft a ceremony that contained what we wanted to express to each other and our guests, and her opening remarks reflected the time she spent getting to know us. (We're not regular churchgoers, but we wanted a minister to marry us, and after interviewing a few, we were very happy with our choice.) And the vows that she composed for us did not include the word "obey" for either of us.

    Besides the two of us and our kids, the wedding party was small. Tall Paul's best friend (since high school) was his best man, and my sister was my honor attendant, as I had been hers when she got married. Neither of them had to do much more than get their outfits and show up, be in some pictures, and sign our license as witnesses - but my sister gave a very nice bridal luncheon/shower for me a few weeks before the wedding. Since it was a second wedding, our parents - each of us only has one living, his mom and my dad - were simply honored guests and didn't really have to do much either.

    There was one person whom I really wanted to find a role for in the wedding, though, and when we decided to do the music ourselves I found the opportunity. Tall Paul didn't want a band, and we're both pretty opinionated about music, so we weren't certain what we might get if we used a DJ. We decided to create playlists in iTunes from our own library to use for the ceremony and reception music, and play them through an iPod-and-speaker setup. But we'd need someone to operate it, and without a DJ, we also needed someone to act as an announcer/MC for the events at the reception. This was a perfect job for my friend David, who had been one of my best supporters for a couple of years, and without whom I might never have been ready to enter the dating pool again - and who has no trouble speaking up or working a crowd. (He is "out there" in every way.)
    Creating the soundtracks that David would run for us was one of the most fun parts of our wedding planning. We set up the playlists so that they'd be easy to follow - numbered in the order they were to be used, with the songs in alpha order within them so they could be selected quickly as needed. We had about forty minutes of upbeat vocal selections to play before the ceremony began, but the processionals were instrumentals - a selection by Enya for the parents' seating and matron of honor, and the theme from my favorite movie, The Princess Bride, for my entrance. We didn't have any music during the ceremony itself. Our recessional was our only big musical snafu - the ceremony was held outdoors, and we forgot extra batteries for the speaker setup, so I'm not sure anyone really heard "Happy Together" by the Turtles as we walked out. Once the music setup was relocated to the reception room, it was hooked into the sound system there, so it was loud and clear for the rest of the festivities.

    Since we felt so strongly that our wedding was about family, we did something unusual during the "grand entrance" at our reception. First our kids were introduced, and then our best man made his entrance accompanied by his wife and sons; our matron of honor was also escorted by her husband and sons. We didn't have a head table, so the wedding party members sat with their families, and Tall Paul and I were together at a "sweetheart table" in the middle.

    Aside from the processional/recessional choices, the musical moment that mattered most to me was the first dance, and that was the one that made Tall Paul the most anxious. We decided to address that anxiety by taking some dance lessons, and went through the Intro to Ballroom Dance class offered by the local Parks & Rec - twice. We didn't tell anybody we were taking the class, just in case we still sucked, but as it turned out we made a reasonably good showing with our foxtrot to Clint Black's "When I Said I Do." (However, Tall Paul says that may be the last time he ever dances in public...)

    The kids took over the floor after our dance, and it seemed like we made some good party picks for the dance playlist, because it looked like people were having a very good time.

    Wednesday, October 17, 2007

    The young conservatives

    Back on my favorite soapbox again, but I'll try to keep it brief this time. Penelope Trunk's latest post on the Millenials suggests that they're a basically conservative generation, craving stability above all. They're not big-risk takers, and they're not rebels; they want their parents to help them figure out adult life. (That we knew.) Somehow, for me, that doesn't exactly jibe with the picture she's been drawing of these "emerging adults" as the group who will revolutionize the workplace. Maybe that's my traditionalist side talking there, or maybe I don't quite get it, and we just won't recognize the revolution when it happens.

    At the same time, though, this makes some sense...how would the offspring of the "helicopter parents" have ever been prepared to be risk-takers? And what says "stability" more than staying at Mom and Dad's for a few more years after college?

    I know I'm stereotyping, and I really don't think my own Millenial fits the stereotype, but I'm not the only one who continues to be fascinated - and irritated - by this topic. MaryP posted a long-simmering response to the article I referenced in this post on Wednesday (and sent a flock of new visitors over here - hello, and welcome!), and her post prompted an excellent response by a young man who is clearly very prepared for adulthood. (Are Canadians just more mature than Americans?) If you're not totally sick of this subject by now, go check them both out!

    Wiki Wednesday 10-17-07

    Time to learn something!

    1. Go to Wikipedia.
    2. Click on "Random article" in the left-hand sidebar box.
    3. Post it!

    Not the Kelly Clarkson song, but another with the same title:

    "Because of You" is a popular song. It was written by Arthur Hammerstein and Dudley Wilkinson in 1940 for the movie I Was An American Spy.

    A 1951 recording by Tony Bennett (Columbia Records catalog number 39362, recorded April 4, 1951) was the first major hit for him, reaching #1 on the Billboard magazine charts and staying there for 10 weeks. A cover version by Johnny Desmond reached #17 at the same time. [1]

    In 1961 a recording was made by Connie Francis.

    (Technically, this isn't a full-fledged random article - it's a random stub. Therefore, the whole thing is here, except for the references.)