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Friday, December 21, 2012

At Least I Have A Gun

Boy, was yesterday a lousy day.

It all started on my drive to work.

I was minding my own business, driving down the highway, when in my rearview mirror I saw the blue lights flashing. I pulled over, kept my hands on the steering wheel, and tried to remember what I learned about the Fourth Amendment in law school.

The officer approached my car, all business-like, and asked to see my license and registration. In my sweetest voice, I asked him what seemed to be the trouble. He said I didn't seem to have had my car inspected recently - the stickers on my plate were the wrong color.

I handed over my registration.

He compared my home address to the address of the Town Office that had issued my registration. Then he started writing me a ticket.

I sputtered out a series of questions that boiled down to "what in the world am I being ticketed for?"

Driving in an improperly-inspected, improperly-registered car, he told me. Fix it by tomorrow, he told me, or I'd get an even bigger ticket next time. Cars like mine aren't allowed on the roads, he told me.

I was already late for work, but I didn't want to be driving an illegal car for one minute longer than necessary. I headed to the "correct" Town Office. I was operating on borrowed time, so I really wanted to drive fast. The speed limit, however, was 35MPH the whole way. I went a risky 40MPH.

I also wanted to kill two birds with one stone and call a mechanic on my drive to Town Hall so that I could set up an appointment for an inspection. But in Maine, you're not allowed to drive while you're talking on a handheld device.

After sorting out the registration and inspection issues, I headed to work. But then I realized how hungry I was. And how badly I needed comfort food.

What I really wanted was a decadent grilled cheese. I headed to the grocery store. I was looking for my favorite raw-milk French cheese. Not seeing it in the deli case, I asked the man behind the counter where it could be. He said probably the closest shop I could find it was in France. Unpasteurized cheeses aged less than 60 days are illegal to import, he explained. Two people died from the bacteria contained in such cheeses in the past 15 years, so the U.S. banned the cheeses altogether, he elaborated.

Hungry and fuming, I left the grocery store. As I exited, I realized I was right next door to the pharmacy, so I figured I would pick up some Sudafed for my head cold. I grabbed a box and went to pay. The check-out lady with acrylic nails shaped like Christmas trees looked me up and down and asked for some identification. "What do I need to provide identification for?," I asked. She haughtily responded that drug dispensaries (like Rite Aid/CVS/Walgreens) have to ask for id in Maine anytime someone is trying to buy a "drug" that can be used to home-manufacture methamphetamines. I showed her my layer of lingering pregnancy weight and my 401(k), and threw my driver's license at the register.

I was getting more worked up by the minute. I decided to do something productive with my day to make myself feel better.

I called in sick to work and went home to get some trash we'd been meaning to take to the dump forever. I loaded it into my car and drove to our town's "transfer station," which is a fancy way of saying dump. I backed up my car, opened the trunk, and was greeted by a shifty teenager trying to assume an air of authority. "Sorry, ma'am. I can't let you transfer those goods at this station unless you've got a ticket to do so." I NEED A TICKET TO THROW OUT SOME TRASH AT THE TOWN DUMP? "Yes, ma'am, I'm afraid you do. The tickets are issued at the Town Office down the street so we can keep track of who's transferring items and control our costs." I shoved everything back in my car and decided to let my husband deal with it.

I thought about going to visit my friend, Jill, in the hospital. First, I called her girlfriend, Jody, to see if the timing was okay. Jody told me Jill was actually toughing out her kidney stone at home -- they couldn't afford the hospital visit because Jody's health insurance doesn't cover domestic partners who couldn't prove they'd been in a civil union for more than 5 years.

By then, I'd given up and accepted the fact I was going to need some help calming my nerves. I thought about buying some marijuana, but that's not legal in my state because just imagine the havoc that an incredibly chilled-out person with a case of "the munchies" could cause. I decided I'd go to our local tavern for a glass of wine.

I bellied up to the bar and asked for a Merlot. The barkeep looked me up and down and asked me for some identification. I asked him if he was related to the check-out lady at Rite Aid. He said he wasn't joking. I said neither was I. He held out his hand. I gave him a low-five. He said "ma'am, I can't serve you alcohol unless and until I see some id." I said "you just called me ma'am. You've solved your own puzzle." He said "our policy is to card anyone who looks younger than 63. You look to be about 61. Let me see some identification." I showed him my eye wrinkles and unbrushed hair, and threw a maraschino cherry at the register.

As you can imagine, I was coiled tight with frustration. I needed a release. I needed some way to get rid of the aggression boiling inside.

I crossed the street, staying well within the outlines of the cross-walk so as not to be ticketed for jay-walking. I walked a half-mile down the sidewalk, passing the children's clothing store and the children's hair salon. I took a right. I stepped inside.

I walked to the back of the store. I paced aisles and aisles of options as I tried to make my choice. I nodded my head in the direction of the man talking to himself and enacting a beach-storming scenario on the linoleum floor. I pointed to one of the gleaming beauties that looked comfortable to hold and not too heavy, but guaranteed to do more in 10 seconds than Congress does in 10 months.   I'll take it, I said. A burly guy in a blue smock smiled, handed it to me, and pointed in the direction of the register.

I slid my credit card across the plastic conveyor belt to the lady wearing a Santa Claus hat with blinking lights and a name tag covered in stickers. She never looked at me, just monotoned that I needed to sign and hit "Enter." I did. She asked if I needed a bag. I said, "you have bags for these?" She said no. I left.

I opened my trunk, pushed aside my son's stroller, and lovingly bestowed my new semiautomatic Bushmaster AR-15 in my trunk. I crumpled up my Walmart receipt and tossed it in the trash -- the last thing I needed was a ticket for littering.

As I drove out of the crowded parking lot, gone were the thoughts of the day's annoyances and limitations. At least I was able to buy a gun in the same amount of time it takes me to log onto my computer in the morning.

And then, the only thought going through my brain was:

Wonder what's the best spot around here for target practice?

Lest you consider me a raging hypocrite, and lest you not catch on to the tone in which this post was written, allow me to assure you that none of the above is true. The important thing is, it all could be.

Image via

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

26 Acts

Two days after the Newtown tragedy, Ann Curry sent out the following tweet:

Those 140 characters have morphed into an online campaign that is heart-warming, inspiring, and a nice soul-scrubbing. A "pay it forward" for the digital world that can help restore our faith in each other.

Ann's initial idea for #20Acts - to honor the 20 first-graders who were killed on Friday - morphed into #26Acts to account for the 6 school teachers and administrators who died with them. Some have upped the ante to 27 to include Adam Lanza's mother, Nancy, who was his first victim.

The uplift has spread as more and more people sign on for the challenge. Ann repeatedly retweets what her comrades in compassion have been inspired to do: buy coffee or pay the highway toll for the person in line before them; drop off 26 pairs of new socks to a homeless shelter; bring a friendly dog over for a visit at a lonely neighbor's house. Big or small, monetary or not, people have brought comfort or a treat or a kind word into an unsuspecting recipient's life. Random acts of kindness in honor of the people who fell victim to a random act of violence.

I encourage you to participate, be it on a scale of 20 or 26 or 27. Just reading Ann's retweets has made me feel good; I can't imagine how much more meaningful it will be to actually perform an act of giving in those children's and those teachers' honor. The more of us who sign on, the more we prove to ourselves and to each other that we are, indeed, better than what we looked to be on Friday. And that if we are better, we can do better.

Whether you publicize your acts is your decision. On the one hand, it feels slightly off to trumpet a good deed out into the world; often the value of doing good is tied up in the nobility of doing it without the need for recognition. On the other hand, I really have found it gratifying to read about the good and the generosity that other people are putting out into the world, and I don't interpret it as bragging. If you decide to share your efforts, I encourage you to tweet them to Ann (@AnnCurry), and I'd also love it for you to tweet it to me (@AbbyDiaz1). If Twitter isn't your thing, I'd love to hear from you directly: email me at

In case you need ideas of how to participate, I'm listing below 26 examples of what I've read other people doing and some I came up with myself.

Thank you in advance, and hurray.

26 Ideas:
  • Donate blood;
  • Buy a cup of coffee for your school crossing guard;
  • Pay the metro fare for the person behind you;
  • Help someone bring their packages into FedEx/UPS/the post office;
  • Shovel someone's driveway;
  • Deliver a present to a single parent you know for them to give to their child/children on Christmas;
  • Pay someone's cab fare;
  • Bring lunch to a homeless person;
  • Make a donation to your favorite charity in the names of the 26 Newtown victims;
  • Host a play-date so that tired parents can have some downtime or go out for dinner;
  • Say something nice to someone;
  • Write thank-you notes to the CT first responders;
  • Give money to a layaway account at Wal-Mart;
  • Sign up to volunteer somewhere;
  • Bring food to a food pantry;
  • Give a ride to someone you know who doesn't have access to transportation;
  • Overtip your waiter/delivery-person;
  • Falcons friends: give your game tickets to a fan who's never been to a game in the Dome;
  • Pay a bill for someone you know who is struggling;
  • Drag someone's trash cans up the driveway for them;
  • Buy flowers for your assistant;
  • Make cookies for your mail carrier;
  • Donate your air miles to Make-A-Wish;
  • Work with your kids on developing acts of kindness they can perform;
  • Purchase a gift card for school supplies for a teacher; or
  • Put money in an expired parking meter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Enough Was Enough

There is a classroom attendance list that no one will ever again answer "present" to, because the list is now a massacre's scroll.

Last night, President Obama concluded a Newtown vigil by reading the names of the twenty - feel that, twenty - first-graders who were gunned down in their classroom on Friday. He read nothing but their first names. And it was the most poetic, traumatic, beautiful, horrific, darling, depressing, poignant and powerful thirty seconds of speech I have ever heard.

Twenty children who were perhaps enjoying a morning snack or working on properly gripping a pencil. Twenty children who were looking forward to the winter's first snowfall, or their afternoon Cub Scouts' meeting, or the Giants' game on Sunday. Twenty children who were too young, too little, to have made any choice that could be traced back to as The Choice that led them to be placed in harm's way. They had simply woken up, eaten breakfast, kissed their parents, and gone to school.

And now they're dead because a young man borrowed at least a semi-automatic rifle, two handguns, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition from his mother's "doomsday stockpile," drove to his former elementary school, and fired multiple bullets into the layers of skin that had just lost, or maybe were still in the process of losing, baby fat.

I started this blog in March of this year. In the nine months of my writing here, this marks the fourth time - feel that, the fourth time - that I have written about a tragedy caused by gun violence. Trayvon; Aurora; and a temple in Wisconsin. An even starker, more grim reality is that I could have dedicated those nine months to nothing but American deaths by guns, and I wouldn't have even scratched the surface of my material.

One of the reasons that I like writing this blog is that it is an outlet for me. I can try to be funny, I can reflect, I can opine, I can be silly. Usually, the outlet feels sufficient; after I click "publish," I feel drained somehow, in a good way.

Today, though, confronting this post and the subject it tries to tackle only makes me feel agitated and frustrated; a tear-choked, sputtering anger. My arms are clenched, my fingers pounding the keys. How can this be something that even exists for me to write about? How can we have been so asleep at the wheel that we've enabled our country to enable this slaughter and those that preceded it? If we're so smart, if we're such global leaders, if our democracy is so great, then how could we and how could it have so failed the very people who are most dependent upon the decisions we make, the cost-benefits we weigh, the control we wield?

I believe that life is about knowing when to compromise, that negotiation is an under-appreciated art, and that politics is most productive when middle-grounds are achieved. But I view as entirely unacceptable any more half-measures, much less non-measures, on the issue of gun control.  We are past the point of enough being enough. Enough was enough at Columbine.

It is unacceptable to argue that people kill, not guns. That is absurd. A man cannot walk into a room and kill its occupants by his mere presence alone. His body cannot secrete bullets. He cannot actually shoot daggers with his eyes. He must have an accessory, be it his hands or a knife or a gun. And the man who wants to kill efficiently uses a gun. A man, empty-handed, is not a killing machine. A man palming a pistol is.

It is unacceptable to hide behind the Second Amendment. Nothing in the Constitution is an absolute guarantee, including the right to bear arms. As I've also written before, even the most conservative wing of the Supreme Court has acknowledged that the right is limited, and indeed constrains Constitutional gun ownership to instances of self-defense and to weapons that are not "dangerous" or "unusual." We don't need to amend the Constitution to do want we need to; we need to apply the Constitution to do what we need to.

Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School wielding, among other weapons, a .223 Bushmaster rifle - the semiautomatic weapon that allowed him to put as many as 11 bullets in one of his child victims. The Bushmaster was the same weapon used by the DC snipers to pick off 15 victims in 2001 and 2002. What legitimate place does such a machine have in our supposedly civil society? That's not a rhetorical question. There is an answer: absolutely none.

But it's on our streets and in Nancy Lanza's son-accessible arsenal for two primary reasons: First, an assault weapons ban was allowed to lapse in 2004. Second, even that ban included loopholes that profit-driven gun manufacturers quickly exploited. Nancy/Adam's .223 Bushmaster might always have been a room away, regardless of Congress' inaction since 2004.

That's because guns are good business. The NRA is a shining example of where money in politics can take you. Tread on supposedly sacrosanct gun laws, and you'll be treading water in some political no-man's-land soon thereafter. Bushmaster itself is manufactured by a private company that in turn is owned by Cerberus Capital Management, a hedge fund that bills itself as one of the world's "leading private investment firms." They have $20 billion under their management.

It is unacceptable for money to cloud the making of policy and decisions on this issue any longer. Show me the balance sheet that ranks "gun" as an asset and "6-year-old" as a liability. Let a Congressman lose his NRA "A" rating. Let Cerberus see its portfolio reduced to $19.5 billion. Let my daughter go to kindergarten next year without an armed security guard greeting her off the bus.

It is unacceptable to say we cannot or should not take action on gun control because the crazies will always find a way and because the video games are violent and because the mental health system is faulty. Ted Kennedy had a saying that went something along the lines of "don't let the perfect get in the way of the good." Perhaps we will never find a fool-proof, complete solution to mass-killings on our streets and in our malls and at our schools. But we can do better than what we're doing. Something is better than nothing. And the most committed, vengeful, imbalanced person cannot create carnage with a game console. He cannot create a portrait of terror for a child's final snapshot of life with a game disc.

We will go a long way to becoming the country we say we are if we remove the guns that have no place among us. It is unacceptable to say otherwise. It is unacceptable to act otherwise. It is unacceptable to accept otherwise.

We've all had enough.

This is a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle. It's also a picture of the last thing that Charlotte and Daniel, Olivia and Josephine, Ana and Dylan, Madeleine and Catherine, Chase and Jesse, James and Grace, Emilie and Jack, Noah and Caroline, Jessica and Avielle, and Benjamin and Allison saw before their sweet lives were cut terribly short.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thanks, Mayans

Don't look now, but they are quickly joining the ranks of Einstein and putting a man on the moon. It's all the rage in short-hand references to express how utterly flabbergasted or utterly superior you are.

"They're out of my favorite coffee. Thanks, Mayans."

"Bieber murder-for-hire plot foiled. Nice try, Mayans."

"Hangover 3? Hope you're right, Mayans."

Using "Mayans" in a sentence is the lazy-but-slightly-creative person's way of taking his or her ability to be ironic or satirical to the next level. Twitter is offering PhDs in this art.

The ancient Mayas, a people indigenous to Mexico and Central America, invented one of the first calendars - a calendar that is renowned still today for its accuracy. Word has it that trusty little calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Which could indicate fatigue on the part of the Mayans, or the end of the world as we know it.

Pretty exciting, huh?

A papal astronomer has issued assurances that the world is not going to end next'll just "rip apart" billions of years from now. So sleep tight. Hopefully that news will be of some comfort to the people of Russia, who have been so ridden with doomsday panic that its "minister of emergency situations" was forced to issue a statement, trumpeting his "access to methods of monitoring what is occurring on the planet Earth" and assuring his citizenry that the world was not on death's doorstep.

So that's awesome. If the Vatican and Russia say it's not going to happen, it's not going to happen. Probably. I mean, if a duo with direct lines to God on the one hand and the KGB on the other agree here, I like our chances.

Back to the hyperbole, friends!

Has something artificially tragic occurred in a circumstance that affects you in only the most mundane of ways? Give a shout out to the Mayans!

Is there some crisis - manufactured or otherwise - that has been averted? Tell the Mayans to go pound sand.

Need a way to express how distasteful or dismal or disappointing some future event is bound to be? Feign groveling at the feet of a Mayan.

This really isn't that hard to do, Einstein. I mean, if we can put a man on the moon, surely we can figure out a way to beat the Mayan punchline to death.

Image of what I presume to be a Mayan calendar via

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twelve 12 Twelve

Happy 12/12/12!

If you're not making wishes all day long, then get back into bed because you're wasting the day.

Today's 12/12/12-ness seems especially fortuitous, seeing how it comes 12 days before Christmas Eve and 12 hours after I finished watching Love Actually, which is perhaps the best Christmas movie ever made. My At-A-Glance desk calendar also advises that today is Virgin of Guadalupe day in Mexico, too. Basically, there's no way this day could get any bigger.

12 is actually a pretty propitious number. (Yes, I said propitious.) I mean, think of all the things that come in sets of 12:

  • Donuts
  • Eggs
  • Roses
  • Place settings (if your wedding registry as any say in the matter)
  • Soda
  • Beer
  • Jurors
  • Apostles
  • Disciples
  • Days of Christmas
  • Months
  • Members of a basketball team
  • Tom Brady's jersey number
Bottom line, 12 is basically where it's at, unless you're an unmarried, atheistic, anarchist vegan with flower allergies who doesn't like carbonation or sports. In which case you may not be into numbers at all, and you probably don't read this blog, so there's no earthly reason I'm acknowleding your carve-out.

As I wind my way through this day, I'm going to play a game. I'm only going to allow myself to wish for things I'd like to happen in sets of 12. Some of the wishes that instantly spring to mind that I'd like to package in 12-chunks include:

  • Seconds for the fiscal cliff negotiations to end;
  • Minutes to complete all chores on a weekly basis;
  • Hours of sleep;
  • Days of uninterrupted, idyllic vacation with my family;
  • Years of Breaking Bad;
  • Best-selling books I author;
  • Thousand blog readers;
  • Million dollars;
  • Pounds shed;
  • Miles between my house and my most-distant sister;
  • Combined points to be scored by Falcons opponents through the Super Bowl; and
  • Wishes to come true for every deserving wish-maker on the planet.
This is a fun game. Go ahead and play - in the comments section below, over dinner, or in the nether-regions of your own addled brain.

Monday, December 10, 2012


"I hope you're not allergic to cats!"

"Don't mind the fur balls!"

"You said I would never have to change the litter box!"

I'm now the person who says these kinds of things. Because we now have a cat.

"We" have been talking about getting a cat for a while because "we" think it is good for our kids to have indoor pets. "We" understand that it'd be way too much to have a dog in our small house, so "we" compromised on a cat. "We" thought about getting a kitten in a breed of our choosing, but "we" eventually came around to the idea of getting a cat from a shelter.

For a correct rendering of history, please replace "we" with "my husband" in every instance of its quoted appearance above.

I was never hugely enthusiastic about the idea of adding another living soul to our menagerie of indoor/outdoor creatures. In the abstract, getting a cat just seemed like another thing to feed and clean up after. But just as I got worn down about the chickens, I slowly and gently folded on this idea as well.

I know, I know. I'm a pushover.

In my defense, the cat is not a dog. It's also not a goat. Yes, indeed. He's also toyed with the idea of getting a goat. Multiple goats, actually. He once even wondered aloud what it'd be like to have an alpaca, and if our town's zoning laws would allow us to keep one in our yard.

I'm not exaggerating. Unfortunately.

So, I've steered us clear of becoming a mini-fairgrounds and repeat town ordinance violators. I've also avoided, for now, the barking, jumping, chasing, yapping activities of a dog. Caving on the cat really was just a strategic matter of survival.

My husband spent serious time on his iPad researching cats, cat ownership, and cat politics. Through those weeks of research, I repeatedly stated that, if we were going to get a cat, I would prefer that it at least be a cat from a shelter. Of all the options on the table, rescuing a cat that needed a home had an added appeal to least for me.

He protested wildly that adopting a cat would be like giving up control: we wouldn't necessarily get the breed we wanted, and we'd be at the mercy of whatever psychological effects the cat was suffering from its previous 9-X lives. I kept making my case, but in quieter, more subdued tones, as I internally resigned myself to the fact we were getting whatever cat my husband decided he wanted.

Then we went to a Christmas party on Friday night, my husband talked for a few minutes with a friend who'd rescued a cat, and that night my husband realized WHAT A GREAT IDEA IT'D BE TO GET ADOPT A SHELTER CAT!

Marriage is a beautiful thing.

So on Saturday morning, my husband awoke with visions of the Animal Refuge League dancing in his head. While I took my children to visit my 98-year-old great aunt (MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I SAID MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!), he bounded off to the shelter "just to see what they had." About 30 minutes later, I asked my mother to bet with me whether he'd come home with a cat. We both agreed he would. 45 seconds after placing our bets, my husband sent me the following text message:

"Okay if I get one today?"

Two hours later, Gypsy Rose Diaz arrived at her new home.

"You named your cat after a burlesque performer famous for her strip teases?" you are now wondering.

Well no, not really.

My husband wanted to name her Gypsy, and my daughter wanted to name her Rose. So we combined the names, and the fact that said combination alludes to a woman who authored a mystery thriller titled The G-String Murders is just a happy coincidence.

The feline Gypsy Rose is 4 years old, house-trained, and completely freaked out by her new living situation. I think she's black, but that could be just because she spends most of her time hiding from us. The experts say this is normal. I say it's a sign she's hugely intelligent.

Perhaps the ice will thaw and she'll become a vibrant member of our family. Perhaps she'll meet my son and ask for emancipation. Too soon to tell which way this one's gonna break.

All that's certain is my daily routine now includes tasks like trying to coax a shy cat out from under the sofa so I can put her in "her room" and leave for work.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Don't Say I Didn't Warn You

Remember how your elementary school class made that time capsule that you buried in some obscure corner of the playground for other kids or aliens or subdivision planners to discover 50 years In The Future? You stuffed it with Lunchables, a VHS tape of New Kids on The Block's Hangin' Tough, and figurines of each Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle? You know, so that they'd know what it meant to be a child of the late 20th century?

I've been thinking recently that dating websites and matchmakers everywhere should take a page out of this elementary school lesson plan. They should encourage parents to jot down notes about, and gather artifacts representative of, their children as they age. Then down the road, when a prospective mate comes knocking, they can decide whether to proceed after digesting all that mother knows best. A spin on the What To Expect When You're Expecting series, you might say, only actually helpful. We could call it What To Expect from The Person I Expected.

There'd be an added bonus for mothers of sons, assuming they write their time-capsule submissions without their rose-colored glasses on: an immediate defense to charges of He Thinks The World Is His Pedestal. I warned you, sweetheart. Now please, I'm late for my mahjong game.

I'll get the ball rolling. Here's my first letter. The subject is my son.

December 7, 2012

To Whom It May Concern:

So, you think you might have a crush on my son.

Before you start not-talking to him and practicing how to say Mateo in Spanish, I'd like you to read this. There are some thing about him I think you should know.

He is almost 15 months old.

He still cannot walk on his own. He will travel on his feet, but only if he is holding someone's hand/finger.

He always wants to be picked up. As soon as he is picked up, he wants to be put down. He spends much of his life being carried in a horizontal position, as if he were Batman, Jr. preparing to take flight. It's the only compromise.

For months, he crawled using only his arms, as if our playroom were a beach he was storming. It took a lot of coaxing and coaching to teach him that his legs could participate in the activity as well.

He dislikes most new foods. The only foods he liked immediately upon their first introduction were french fries and Cheetos.

He is passionately interested, however, in whatever anyone near him is eating. He will grunt and gesticulate in wild indications that he would like to share. As soon as sharing has occurred, he throws the food item onto the floor. Then he immediately grunts and gesticulates for another piece.

He cannot be bothered to hold his own milk bottle.

He shows affection by clawing at faces, noses, and eyeglasses. If he really loves you, he will bite your knee.

He does not enjoy drinking water from a sippy cup, but he loves splashing his hands in the toilet bowl and then licking his fingers.

He left the holiday party at his daycare last night with a bleeding scratch and a black eye. That's because he spent most of the night wrestling with two 4-year-old boys. He had a spectacular time.

He will cry if the laundry machine dings during his afternoon nap, but he will sit in an LL Bean backpack carrier in a snowstorm without complaint.

He can only be entertained with sports -- either playing them or watching them. Either way, he will regularly groan "awwwww," as if he understands what just happened to the ball.

He has come close to breaking a Johnny Jump-Up and an Exersaucer from jumping too hard.

He has a great giggle.

His favorite person in the world is his sister.

He is very cute.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Yours truly,
Mrs. Diaz

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Just Like Us?

It was the stifled urge to vomit heard 'round the world.

Earlier this week, Kate Middleton Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, reported to a hospital with "acute morning sickness." That forced The Palace to report publicly that, yes indeedy, The Prince and Princess of Charming are with child.

In the hours that followed that announcement, there was news that betting had begun on (a) what the gender of the baby will be; (b) what it's name will be; and (c) what it's eye color will be. (I'm serious.) Perhaps less surprising, fashionites are eagerly anticipating the loveliness Kate will bring to maternity wear. And every American, even those that think a "fiscal cliff" is short-hand for a really hard hike, will soon know that "pram" is British for "stroller."

The glee and early-onset hysteria that erupted post-announcement is surely just a precursor for the attention that will be devoted to, and lavished upon, this young couple and their offspring. We can all picture, easily, the first shots of Kate leaving the hospital a months from now, with the bundle of joy cradled in her arms. We can hear the chorus of "jolly goods!" as the baby travels in its first horse-drawn carriage to the site of his or her baptism, gowned in white and hoping to be seated at Uncle Harry's table for the post-ceremony brunch.

Pregnancy announcements and baby arrivals are almost always cause for joy, even amongst us mere mortals. But when a celebrity, even one of unknown origins and/or unidentifiable talent, comes forth with that news, it somehow becomes more special, more magical, and more noteworthy. And when one of the handful of royals on the planet starts shopping for onesies? Well, it's as close as we'll ever get to understanding what it must have been like when three guys heard about a baby being birthed in a manger.

Getting pregnant is a biological act we're all theoretically equipped for. A lot of us have a child; some of us have more than one. We love our children, but we could live with fewer Facebook status updates about Other People's Kids ("OPKs"). I mean, hurray, he likes peas, but do we need 47 pictures of him eating peas?

The universality of reproductive machinery doesn't matter, and the eventual fatigue with OPKs disappears, when it comes to Important People's Kids ("IPKs"). We can never see enough pictures of Suri Cruise walking down a New York City sidewalk. We can never get enough of President Obama's references to Sasha and Malia doing their homework. We can never hear enough about how the Jolie-Pitt children like to invite Cirque du Soleil for private performances in the game-room of their rented chateau in Bahrain.

The same goes for the more mundane aspects of life. I get almost no enjoyment out of feeding parking meters or going to the dry-cleaners, but I click through pictures of Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock doing those very things every day on US Weekly has gone as far as dedicating a page in its weekly to Stars doing Things "just like" us, such as standing up and sitting down and pushing things (children on swings, food in grocery carts, feet into shoes, etc.). And by now I think I could ad lib Jennifer Garner's shopping list for her weekly jaunts to the Brentwood Country Mart.

This skewed value proposition is perhaps the most bizarre aspect of the celebrity worship phenomenon. I can understand losing your mind around someone whose talent is awe-inspiring, and I can get aboard with the semi-religious idolatry of a person who does something you wish you could do but know you never will. What I cannot understand is why people - me included - find some added significance to the life moments that we all share or can equally aspire to. I may not be Jessica Alba, but I know how to take my daughter to the park. Why is it remotely interesting to watch her do it?

This umbrella of the inexplicable includes all the folks of questionable talent who have somehow attained a level of fame. The Kardashian family might headline this group, but it embraces almost all walks of reality television. The television industry may soon become the Peeping Tom Industry, what with all the time so many of us spend every night watching them get drunk and fight or them eat ants or Donald Trump say something so preposterous you hold your breath until the sky starts falling.

If the stars are "just like us," why are we so much more interested in what they're doing and the way they do it? Are we so bored with our own lives that the boring parts of a famous life somehow become entertaining? Why is it reassuring to know that Jennifer Lopez has cellulite and that Blake Lively sometimes leaves the house without makeup on?

Then again, maybe this passionate voyeurism is not reserved to the regular human-Special Famous Human divide. We learn to gossip in elementary school, and it's not of the "Did you hear who George Clooney's dating now?" variety. We continue to do friendly cyber-stalking on Facebook, even if we have to avoid the pea-eating pictures. And you read this blog (hopefully religiously, and thanks if you do).

So maybe we just like taking stock. Maybe we just like sharing in the human experience. Maybe keeping tabs gives us ideas, goals, confidence, standards, inspiration, and, yes, a little fun. Maybe watching someone do it in the limelight, with lots of money and lots of personal assistants, is just a little more fun because it's also a little more of an escape. Because, really, wouldn't it be great if when I bring my daughter to the park, I looked like Jessica Alba? I think so.

I don't think I have an answer to any of this. Not really.

What I do have, though, is one more question:


Monday, December 3, 2012

Poem for A Monday

Did my alarm go off?
I didn't hear my alarm go off.

It's 6:07. I'm already running behind.
Should have woken up earlier and gone to the gym.
But I didn't.

Why am I in my daughter's bed?
Oh yeah. She woke me up at 2:18
To chat.

Hear my son moaning in his crib.
I should go get him.
But I don't want to get up.

It's 6:23.
Now my son is humming
And banging his hands in rhythm.
God, I don't want to get up.

Get son.
Change son.
Dress son.
Feed son.

ESPN, tell me who won yesterday.
Please do highlights.
I have 43 seconds.

Time to face the kitchen.
Why is the dining room a mess?
What was my husband doing down here last night?
Building a nuclear reactor?

Never mind.

Put cereal boxes on counter.
Serve cereal to son.
Watch son throw it on floor.

Must be upstairs getting dressed in 23 minutes.
Make husband's lunch.
Make daughter's lunch.
Soynut butter is gross.
Make son's lunch.
Wonder if he'll eat any of it.

30 minutes have passed.
How have 30 minutes already passed?
Thank goodness I sliced and cream-cheesed
Those bagels last night for
My daughter's class snack.

Daughter is still sleeping.
Tired from all the chatting at 2:18.
Rouse daughter.

I should really do something about my hair.

Make the bed.
Hey, where'd my son go?
Remove son from playing in the toilet bowl.
Give my daughter 5 minute warning.

I should really do something about my hair.

Shake my son off my leg.
Stop biting me!
What in the world am I going to wear today?
Two more minutes, I'm serious!

I should really do something about my hair.

Grab that and that and that.
I think that's an outfit.
It's outfit-like.

Wash face, put on face cream!
Brush teeth.
Whoa, way too much blush.
Whatever, wintry rosy-cheek glow.

I should really do something about my hair.

Son needs a diaper change.
Change it.
Daughter needs to get up.
I swear to God, you have one more minute!

Quick! Dress before he starts eating your socks!
Where did I put my phone?

Okay, missy.
Downstairs, everyone!
Did I put on deodorant?
Hope so.

I should really do something about my hair.

Mittens. Yes, you do.

This bag.
That bag.
Don't forget your lunch.

In the car in the car in the car!
We did it!


You're right.
I did forget to feed you breakfast.
Special treat morning!

We'll go there.
Line's too long there.
We're late.

We'll go here.
Line's kind of long here.
Run run run.
Now hurry up and eat!
We're really late.

Full parking lot.
Squeeze in there.
When I say hustle inside I mean HUSTLE!

Put snack in classroom.
Put lunch in cubby.
Kiss kiss kiss.

Son to daycare.
Let go of my hair.
Kiss kiss kiss.
Sneak out the door.

Deep breath in.
Deep breath out.

Back at the car.
Is that me reflecting back at me?

Wait a second....

I left the house like this?

I should really do something about my hair.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Theory of Relativity

Just over a week ago, we were sitting around tables talking about, or hopefully at least thinking about, the things we are thankful for. Family, friends, health, hair straighteners, etc.

Unless you were my husband. If you were my husband, just over a week ago, you came home in a bit of a grumpy mood, tired and excited to just crawl into bed and call it a day.

On that same day just over one week ago, if you were my same husband in his same frown-won't-turn-upside-down spirits, you then received a little talking-to from yours truly. That went something like, "FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, IT'S THANKSGIVING. YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE THINKING ABOUT ALL THE GREAT STUFF IN YOUR LIFE, STUFF THAT SURELY OUTWEIGHS WHATEVER IS GETTING YOU DOWN IN THE DUMPS RIGHT NOW."

And then on that same day, if you were my same husband....all right, enough already with this literary device.

Bottom line: my husband responded to my edict with the following: "I think about things I'm thankful for even on days that aren't Thanksgiving, so I'm allowed to think about things other than thankfulness on Thanksgiving."

I know. What an idiot.

Okay, okay. Of course my husband was right.

Hopefully you all spend more than just one day a year reflecting, however quickly, on the things in your life that you're grateful for. I know I do. I normally try to keep those things to myself, lest I lose more of the few friends I currently have. While I'm no expert, I'm relatively confident that preening about my luck at having fowl-to-table eggs directly delivered to my kitchen counter every morning isn't the best way to earn yourself a friendship necklace.

My internal monologue regularly includes exclamations that could be construed as expressions of thanks: The smile that hits my face when I see my son staring out at me from his crib in the morning. The peace I feel knowing my husband is more settled in our new Maine lifestyle. The heartbeat that skips when I come upon my kids making each other laugh.

Then big things happen. Tragedy strikes, frustrations loom, disappointments set in. And I realize that I should be thankful for even more things than I am already taking the time to appreciate

If those bad things happen directly to me, then I see how lucky I had it beforehand. A miscarriage makes prior failed attempts at getting pregnant seem, somehow, gentler. Juice spills on the couch and I no longer notice the fraying of the seams. My submission to a writing competition isn't selected and low readership on the blog for a few days doesn't sting as much.

If those bad things happen to someone else, then I see how lucky I have it generally: She can't get pregnant at all; I just couldn't get pregnant for a while. They lost their entire home; I can deal with a blemished piece of furniture. He lost his job; I just lost a lark.

I find that if I let myself go really "meta" with this train of thought, I begin to feel badly about ever feeling badly for something that's happening in my life. I feel guilty that I'm sad or disappointed, because someone out there certainly has it way worse.

While that's probably true, it also probably isn't healthy for me to excommunicate myself from the land of the Sometimes Unhappy. The range of emotions is at our disposal so that we can experience them all, at least in doses, and as long as they're not criminal.

But it is also probably true that (a) I should only let myself wallow in the unhappy thoughts to a point; and (b) a sure-fire strategy for bucking up is to consider how lucky I am, even in my disappointments, relative to what someone else is having to endure.

I sometimes struggle with how to feel about that tactic, though. In a way, it seems mature and perhaps even spiritual to take stock of where you (and your problems) stand in the big scheme of things, and proceed accordingly. Self-awareness and empathy are important traits, and practicing them more every day would probably leave to smoother personal lives, not to mention political circumstances (but perhaps less reality television).

On the other hand, it seems to exploit the misfortune of others. To get really philosophical about it, you could argue that you're using someone else's sadness to your advantage by leveraging it to end your own. In so doing, could it be said that you're validating -- or valuing -- someone else's suffering by putting it to positive use in your own life?

Ultimately, I have to believe that's not the proper way to look at it. Indeed, I have to believe the above perspective needs to be shifted just a bit. I have to believe that when bad things happen, there is a lesson to be learned. That lesson could be that we need to pay more attention to climate change or that we need to end a certain way of doing business or that we need to recognize the miracle of good health. By absorbing the lesson in a way that prompts us to better appreciate or lead our own life, I have to believe that we are not taking advantage of another's misfortune, but are instead acknowledging how deep and profound and worthy of attention that misfortune is. We honor the misfortune by learning from it, and by moving forward in our own lives with that lesson in mind.

At least, I hope so.

So today, even though it's not Thanksgiving, I am giving thanks. I am thankful that my worries and sadnesses and disappointments are what they are. Because relative to her or him or them, I've got it good.

And I hope you do, too.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It's A Fine Line

I walked into our bedroom just in time to catch my husband sneaking out the window. Not because I'd finally asked him one question too many, but because our bedroom window provided the best access to the roof over our front porch. It was from that roof that my husband wanted to hang the final 50,000 white Christmas lights, arranged in an "icicle" formation.

I let out a sigh as his left boot landed on the roof alongside his right boot, and stifled a comment as he adjusted the camo baseball hat he bought at Wal-Mart in a fit of "blending in." He'd been working all day on decking our halls. There were lights on our picket fence, lights on our shrubs, and garland wrapped around everything else that stands still. He had left the house in fifteen minute intervals to buy "MORE WREATHS!," because apparently you can never have too many wreaths. Our stockings were hung from our staircase with care, for if we hung them from the mantel, our son would destroy them there.

In a way, I wanted the activity to stop. He'd been fully absorbed with it for hours, our tiny house was sagging under the weight of all that holiday cheer, and the calendar hasn't even turned into December. For a woman who ranks "disdain for drugstores that put holiday decorations out months before the associated holiday" as one of her character strengths, I was being dragged into some dangerous territory.

But I contained my heckling impulse because - you know what? - I thought the house looked great. There's nothing I enjoy more than well-placed white Christmas lights, and all the wreaths on the windows masked our prolonged failure to purchase curtains. And if my husband fell off the roof, well, I know exactly where our life insurance policies are and how much he's worth.

It's a delicate enterprise, though, the whole decorating-the-house-for-Christmas thing. You want to be on the right side of the blow-up manger scene on the front lawn. Indeed, my husband hails from the land of Animatronic Christmas Characters. The first Christmas I spent in Puerto Rico, I thought he'd taken me on a haunted sleigh ride when we pulled into what I later confirmed to be his neighborhood and I was greeted by a blow-up waving Santa surrounded by swaying carolers that looked distinctly New England-ish. To date, nothing on our front lawn hums under the power of a generator. I take that as a reassuring sign that we have not yet become the house people drive by to feel superior, even if just for a fleeting five seconds.

Fine lines are tricky things. You can flirt with a fine line and be considered brave or a visionary or fun-loving or Lena Dunham. As soon as you cross that fine line, though, you immediately jump from some shade of adorable to a distinct hue of crazy or bizarre or "no trick-or-treating at that place next Halloween."

And the biggest trouble with fine lines is that they're physically invisible. They are defined only by what the people around you decide is excessive. Which means you could cross a fine line without even knowing it. The news might be broken to you only when you short-circuit your home or a loved one pulls you aside for a heart-to-heart. Or maybe you'll never know, and you'll just be the happy schmuck drowning in a pile of tinsel and home-brewing egg nog.

Fine lines are the trip wires we're constantly navigating. Is that young woman wearing a scrunchie hip in an ironic sort of way, or is she woefully unfashionable in a me-in-middle-school sort of way? Are the Twihards who line up for the first midnight showing of every installment of the movie series endearing innocents, or are they unfulfilled housewives who need to embrace the fact that Robert Pattinson is neither vampire nor available? Should the Jolie-Pitts really try to have enough children to field their own soccer team?

Flirtatious or harassing? Buzzed or drunk? White lie or impeachable offense? Jay-Z or Donald Trump?

The only thing we know for sure is that the Chris Brown fans who launch death threats via Twitter against anyone who tweets a negative word about the singer need to expand their extra-curricular activities.

I will continue to monitor my book purchases so that I don't go from avid reader to suspected stockpiling arsonist. I will try to wear less black, lest I become the world's first preppy-goth mom. I will watch Breaking Bad religiously, but won't allow myself to think it's a primer for adding to our nest egg.

And I will let my husband decorate our house to his heart's delight, but if I ever see prancing plastic reindeer on our lawn, it's lights out.

Image via

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sorry About That

Hey, Falcons fans.  Gather 'round.

Yesterday was kind of rough, huh? Not really the production we're used to seeing. There were bright spots, but we're growing accustomed to the entire thing being one big, sparkly bright beam of blinding light. I know, I know.

But you can stop reading all the doomsday commentary. You don't have to find a headset and start practicing your play-calling. Put down the pigskin.

Because yesterday? That was all my fault.

Actually, hold on. That's too harsh. The blame for yesterday falls squarely on the eight shoulders of my family. Including the 1-year-old's. Perhaps especially the 1-year-old's.

This is all really hard for me to discuss. I've got a knot in my stomach, a lump in my throat, and a guilty conscience sufficient for an entirely new brand of Western religious philosophy. And yet I'm going to woman-up and just come clean so that we can all move on, together, and rise up from the ashes of yesterday's performance to emerge clean and bright like a diamond next Sunday.

(Notes to self: "Rise Up" would make a great team mantra, and "bright like a diamond" sounds like the beginnings of a sultry, catchy-cool song. Should communicate these ideas to someone ASAP.)

Okay, so here's what happened.

1. On a typical Sunday gameday, I go to church in the morning and send up a little "please oh dear God just please please please no injuries solid play victory formation please seriously are you getting this please please please." It's all very eloquent and special and pretty powerful, which is thanks to the careful drafting and diligent editing I do of my religious haikus. Well, yesterday, I WENT to church but I couldn't really ATTEND the service because (a) I brought my son, who is a devil, and I introduced that devil into God's house which just can't be karmic; and (b) I taught Sunday school, so I missed all the praying parts. Ergo, God and I didn't really get a chance to talk, and apparently God is pretty middle-schoolish when it comes to a person withholding a chat.

2. My daughter made friends. This is a very uncharacteristic thing for a Diaz to do, and yes, she's still being evaluated. These friends of hers held a birthday party yesterday. What time was the party? IT WAS AT 1PM, PEOPLE! So while the Falcons were punt-returning, I was watching my daughter jump in a bouncy house shaped like a castle. That quarter of 3 interceptions happened while I fished her out of a pit of Styrofoam blocks, and ended at about the same time she turned her lips blue with artificially-flavored cake frosting.

So thanks, daughter, for desecrating the sanctity of the gameday time slot with your friendship-cultivating diversions. See what happens when you don't listen to me about confining your activities to the home and the dangers of smiling?

3. My son took a 3.5 hour nap. This fact makes me put the lion's share of the blame on my son's shoulders, because this is where our family karma really triggered some nastiness. You see, my son hasn't napped well since The Robert Pattinson-Kristen Stewart Reconciliation. And that has caused me major frowning. I complained about it so much that someone - that sly fox, God; Mother Nature; Doctor Spock, whoever - decided that yesterday would be the day my son finally slept instead of shrieked. In retaliation, though, He/she/he decided I had to pay the piper in some form, and so He/she/he hit me in my other soft spot (my psychic soft part; physically, I am nothing but soft parts), and he made the Falcons game a slog-fest.

(That paragraph was supposed to prove yesterday was largely my son's fault, but really it looks like it's all my fault again. (Which is exactly how parenting works.))

4. And really, maybe this whole thing is my husband's fault. (Which is exactly how marriage works.) My husband, who only watches games if a relative is playing in them and still doesn't fully understand what happens during a football game, somehow has some cosmic connection to games. He always - ALWAYS - knew, as soon as his feet hit the arena, whether my sister would play well in a basketball game and whether her team would win. He spent the rest of those games reading the Financial Times, so assured was he of her performance and the outcome. I can't think of a game he called wrong.

It's the same with the Falcons. He ALWAYS knows, as soon as I fire up my parents' DirectTV or start cursing at ESPN's delayed "play-by-play," how the game will go. He sometimes can predict which players will have particularly good games. It's bizarre and also perhaps an untapped source of income for us that we haven't yet exploited, which is really unlike us.

Anyway, yesterday I was at the aforementioned birthday party and he was home doing yard work. AND HE COMPLETELY FORGOT THE GAME WAS ON. He didn't even remember there was a game until I came home with the fairly dismal report of where things stood as the 4th quarter ran down. He actually had the nerve to say "Oh my gosh, I completely forgot the game was on." To his credit, when he uttered those prophetic words, he looked like he was about to cry and/or vomit.

I am sorry, Falcons Nation. I promise to pray harder, to forbid my daughter from making additional friends, to zap my son with a toddler-friendly taser every time he seems inclined for shut-eye, and to have my husband so dialed in to future games that he will forget he ever even owned a rake.

Seriously. Sorry.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Dear Abby: He Cheated, So What?

Stop me if you've heard this one before:

Man marries. Man climbs political ladder. Man enjoys some power. Man cheats on wife. Man holds awkward press conference referencing grave mistakes, genuine regret, forthcoming rehab, and eventual memoir....

Okay, okay, I'm stopping!

General David Petraeus is just the latest in a long line of men to follow this path to perdition. If you don't know who he is or what I'm talking about, congratulations. Now go turn on your television or type "P" in your Google search box and catch up.

I'm separately writing in HelloGiggles about the merry-go-round nature of these cheating scandals and what can be done to stop them. Today, on this glorious little blog, I'm addressing a reader's question about what I think of the scandal, but through this lens: should we even care?

The general consensus on Petraeus is that he was a strong military leader, served as a capable head of the CIA (the Benghazi scandal notwithstanding), and had a promising career ahead of him. That same yellow brick road beckoned men like ex-Governor Spitzer and ex-Congressman Weiner and ex-human Edwards and ex-Speaker Gingrich. (I leave ex-President Clinton off this list because he (a) held onto the presidency; and (b) has managed to reincarnate himself as the President Many Wish We Still Had). All of those men, while perhaps not universally adored, had strong bases of support and a buffet of professional options at their fingertips. But then, in their "private" time, they got too handsy with a paid escort or a smartphone or their non-wife. They were forced off the national stage by a tsunami of media coverage, salacious details, and general hysteria.

Here's the rub: if the only "law" these men broke was the sacrament of marriage (even Spitzer was never charged for his solicitation of prostitutes), what's the big deal? Do we really have to lose a public leader because he's a private loser?

My initial reaction is that it should not matter. If the guy is good (enough) at his job, who cares if he's not good (enough) at his life? He's only human, after all, and if perfection were a job requirement, Washington, DC would be a ghost town and corporate America would be staffed by my mother, Julie Andrews, and Deepak Chopra. A politician's extra-marital diddling should be a concern only to his wife, his family, and his church (if any). The taxpayer money that gets funneled to "investigations" of infidelity and the attention that gets diverted to timelines of affairs could be so much better spent and effectively allocated.

Then I keep thinking about it, though, and I'm not entirely comfortable with where those thoughts lead me. Because I do think the brouhaha is over-played, and I do think the wasted money and time is a shame. That said, I don't think we should just be expected to look the other way or simply pass along the best self-help books when we discover that another leader is banging the nanny.

I've discovered that there's still some pie-in-the-sky left in me. I still believe that when a person is elected or appointed to higher office, he or she becomes the standard-bearer of his or her constituency. We put our faith in them to do right by us, and they take an oath swearing that they will.

The stakes become higher as the office becomes higher. The President is the person we anoint as the physical representation of who we are and where we want to go as a country. The Director of the CIA is the person that's anointed for us as the one who will keep us safe.

Those are important roles with long to-do lists attached. So does it become a big deal when we learn that carve-outs from "manage the country" and "protect the country" are made for "canoodling"? You know what, I kind of think it does. An affair - any secret, really - takes an enormous amount of energy, attention, and time. If we're going to talk about wasted resources, isn't it fair to consider the cheater's wasted efforts? We're paying him to do a job (that he raised his hand for) that is broadly accepted to be 24/7. Why should we accept time off for trysts if the man doesn't even get paid vacation days? I don't know about you, but if I had my hands on General Petraeus' daily planner, I would have made less time time for devising Gmail "tricks" and more time for trying to prevent terrorist attacks.

To believe that a public life can ever be effectively cordoned off from a private life may be as misguided as a Congressional inquiry into how many military boyfriends Jill Kelley manages at once. France is a country that loves to think of itself as progressive on this point. Untidy private lives are very c'est la vie when it comes to France's presidents and their ladies-in-waiting. But even France is consumed with a scandal all its own, as its current President, Francois Hollande, is being accused of ineffectively keeping his former mistress from going all Fatal Attraction on his former wife. Everyone knew about the girlfriend when he was elected, but now the girlfriend is threatening his very presidency.

It seems that no matter how "above the fray" a public can pretend to be, the fray eventually starts making noise - a disruptive, non-symphonic noise.

The question, it seems, could be boiled down to this: do we let go of our perhaps antiquated expectations of our leaders, or do our leaders let go of their perhaps antiquated notions of the trappings of power?

I'm tending to think it's the latter. Our leaders shouldn't be expected to be perfect, but when they're on our clock, I'd like to think they should strive to behave, yes, perfectly. I think it's pretty easy to say what side of the dividing line "conducting an affair" should fall on.

So come on, guys: Keep a zipper on it for the 2 or 4 or 8 years you're in office, then go be the lying sonofagun you were aching to be during your term(s). Okay, you don't think a private affair should prompt a public downfall, but please don't test the electorate's value system by going ahead and having the affair. And if that really feels like too big a limitation, too punishing of a sacrifice, then you have some re-evaluating to do. Professionally and personally.

The Governator. Mark Sanford. Anthony Weiner. Cheaters all.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

People, I'm Calling Your People

Today marks the official kick-off to the holiday season.

People Magazine announced its Sexiest Man Alive, Part 2012.

The winner is Channing Tatum, a/k/a This Guy:

Image via
Okay, so wow, People. Way to stretch the limits of creativity and trains of thought with this pick. Sexy man.....ohhhh look! There's the guy who wore a tie with no shirt underneath and some snazzy pants he could rip right off when his hips needed more room to gyrate! Let's pick him! Let's pick him! Where are my $1 bills? Let's pick him!
All right, so I'll admit it. I'll admit that when Dear John happens to be OVTN or TLC or PMS, I'll stop for a bit and watch Channing do Channing. He is the kind of man that makes you want to be the kind of woman who's waif-like and in some sort of Life Dilemma, hopefully with a douche of a dude that Channing can one-up and stare down. But he's also the kind of man who starred in The Vow this year, which is basically like Dear John Part Deux, only with Rachel McAdams playing hard to get after she miraculously comes out of a coma.  (Full disclosure: I haven't seen The Vow. Fuller disclosure: I don't need to.)
I know that People's favorite charade is to insist that they pick the guy who's "hot" because of what he's done in the past year, career-wise, and not just smoldering-look-wise. And so this year they point to all that "range" Channing demonstrated, between the Magic Mike strip teases and The Vow un-brain-freezes and the 21 Jump Street idiot cop formula-eezes. Not coincidentally, this has been the year that Hollywood Writ Large has declared The Year Channing Tatum Assumes The Mantle of The Next 'It' Guy.
Bandwagon, meet People magazine.
Channing seems like a nice enough guy and I am sure there are many ladies out there muttering things about him eating crackers in their bed and that being perfectly fine. His movies, it must be said, are generally entertaining. Also, his wife Jenna talks a lot about how he's so "spiritually open." I have no idea what that means, and she probably doesn't, either. The point is, we can all kind of assume there's some there there. He's not Ryan Lochte.
But I still cry foul, am sore from the head-scratching, and am kind of headachey from the eye-rolling. Were you not paying attention last year, People? Your people were up in arms that Bradley Cooper bested Ryan Gosling, and this year you don't even do us the solid of acknowledging your mistake BY CORRECTING IT?!?
Fine, fine, fine. The only movie Ryan Gosling was in this year was The Place Beyond The Pines, which I didn't even know about until I looked him up on IMDb. But that's because he was filming THREE movies for release in 2013, PEOPLE!!!! AND didn't you see him all over the place during the presidential campaign, in those memes about how he'd never put a woman in a binder and the PaulRyanGosling twitter handle? I mean, talk about range! A Hollywood elite being deployed in conservative schtick!
What's more, it's time for some big picture perspective. Not only does The Notebook best Dear John every day and twice on every day, but The Notebook is and forever will be the movie a gal watches when she really wants to feel insufficiently adored and totally under-appreciated. It's the movie she goes to when she wants to cry, when she wants to envy, when she wants to believe in love. That's right: believe. in. love. And it's all because of Ryan Gosling.

He can make hearts swoon, he can makes stomachs churn when he bashes in someone's skull with the heel of his boot, he can make a grown woman wish she were a plastic doll. It doesn't matter what he's doing, all that matters is that he's the one doing it.
Yet you won't give him a picture on the front of your glossy?
The only good excuse for this repeated oversight is that tomorrow you're announcing a new mantle whose working title is: Best Man in the Recent History of Hollywood and Perhaps All Professional Pursuits of the Post-Industrial Age (Second Only to Johnny Depp). And that you're honoring the title by publishing an issue composed entirely of pop-up photo spreads featuring Ryan Gosling posing, half-smiling, and holding his hands out to cup the reader's face.
I assume this is in the works.

And I assume my copy is in the mail.
It's faulty decision-making and questionable priorities such as those evidenced by the above that make a person have to move to Canada.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Riddle Me This

Yesterday, the Atlanta Falcons lost. It was their first loss of the season. Their record is now 8-1.

For Falcons fans, and I presume for the team itself, it was a tough loss. Not so much because it is the first blemish of the season, but because (a) it was to New Orleans; and (b) they could have won. Like, for real they could have won. With time winding down, they were within 2 yards of a go-ahead score. When they were unable to convert, they managed to get the ball back with enough time for the offense to do what it does and pull a win out of its playbook. This time, though, they ended up 2 yards shy of a huge Roddy White catch for another variation of glorious Atlanta Falcon Football Fantasticalness (it's a word).

And now the "L" column of their 2012-13 season doesn't stand for "Lonely" anymore.

As you can surmise, I have paid attention to the Falcons' season and to the attention that has been paid to it/them. I am puzzled to report that yesterday afternoon, for the first time I can recall this year, the Falcons' game was the lead story in every game break, game recap, and game psychoanalysis. THE FALCONS LOSE! THE FALCONS LOST! THE FALCONS ARE 8-1! NEW ORLEANS HELD OFF THE FALCONS! THE FALCONS CAN'T MOUNT A COMEBACK! HOW DO YOU LIKE THEM APPLES, MATT RYAN HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH?!?!?!?

It was the loss heard 'round Twitter, the goal-line stand to rival the last stand of the Battle of Antietam, and the crumbling of a wall slightly less monumental than the one that used to divide the Germanys. It's as if the world outside of Falcons' Nation heaved a collective sigh of relief, followed immediately by a "Yeehaw" and topped off with a (remarkably less mature) "I TOLD YOU SO!"

Until yesterday, the Falcons were the success story minus the story. They were the over-achieving child the parents kept locked in a closet. They were the precocious perfectionists everyone decided were best dealt with through an extended media timeout.

Until yesterday, the most consistent coverage the Falcons got was in the form of "yeah, but." Hey, they beat the Broncos! Yeah, but Peyton's neck is still tweaky. Hey, they beat that phenom you all liken to the love-child of a Steve Young-John Elway-Dan Marino threesome! Yeah, but they were losing until they beat him. Hey, they beat the Cowboys at home under that wicked huge, kinda scary tv! Yeah, but the Cowboys aren't really The Cowboys anymore.

The players insisted they didn't mind this short shrift. Fine, good for them. Not only are they far superior athletes than me, they are far superior perspective-keepers. I thought the begrudging, back-handed attention being paid to the Falcons was annoying. But I didn't really care enough, because the Falcons were winning. Which was kind of the best comeback to any and every variety of "yeah, but."

Yeah, but yesterday the Falcons lost. I don't think they are going to make a habit of it. What the loss showed me most immediately was that my nagging suspicion that the Falcons were the team everyone loved to root against was not misplaced. It was the sports-world equivalent of "na na na boo boo."

Sports is a weird world for lots of reasons. One of them has to be that it is a world where you're allowed to hate a person you'll never meet, a team you could never make, and a city you may never go to, just because. Just because he rivals "your" guy. Just because they might beat "your" team. Just because you've made it "your" city since you were born there or your dad was born there or it's the city with the name you learned how to spell.

Remember how the Green Bay Packers were undefeated for a while last season? I looked back at THEIR first 8 games, and they didn't beat a single team with a record over .500. In fact, several of the teams they beat were well under .500. And even as they continued their march towards perfection, the best team they beat were the Detroit Lions, whose record was 7-3 going into the game. Yet throughout that run, I do not recall their 8-0 record, or the perfection they maintained until a surprising loss to Kansas City that put them at 13-1, being tainted or downgraded or "yeah, but-ed" the way the Falcons was through yesterday.

What is it about the Falcons' franchise that inspired the tepid reaction they received? Why the fawning over Green Bay and the flailing over the Falcons? What's the difference between the Packers beating "average" teams and the Falcons beating "average" teams?

Sports is a fickle business, a petty pastime, a dangerous mistress. Maybe the difference between the Packers then and the Falcons until yesterday was the point differentials. Maybe it was the highlight reels. Maybe it was Aaron Rodgers coining a dance that would make for some great State Farm commercials, and Matt Ryan sticking with less Hollywood fist pump.

Or maybe the difference is just that people find the Packers a team they can more universally get behind. And that would be their loss.

The world beyond Falcons' Nation is missing out on a fun, talented, admirable team. So their loss is way more painful than the loss the Falcons experienced yesterday.

And something tells me the Falcons will learn much more quickly from theirs.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dear Abby: Page Turners

I have not written about what I have been reading in a while, and I've been asked for an update.

The truth is, I have been reading fewer books lately. My warped little brain decided to set up a home-schooling effort, if you will. I make the assignments, do the work, and give the grades. Kind of an awesome way to go to school.

My well-articulated goal has been to "get smarter." Because when I go to motivational speakers or listen to Suze Orman, I pay attention when they repeat ad nauseum to be specific and precise about your goals so as to ensure their successful achievement.

In my quest for "getting smarter," I have embarked upon the following:

  • I subscribed to The New Yorker (because I learned that all my smart friends read it).
  • I subscribed to Vanity Fair (because I learned that all my smart cousins read it).
  • I subscribed to the New York Times (because I learned that Katie Couric reads it and I still have an inexplicably passionate girl crush on her).
The Times subscription I opted for was just the Sunday paper and unlimited digital access. The New Yorker also only comes once a week, and Vanity Fair arrives once a month. Still, with the Sunday Times weighing more than both of my children combined and The New Yorker being a big fan of unlimited word counts and miniscule print, it's all I can do to keep up.

Plus, I've done some tweaking of my book learnin' too. In the days of old, I read mostly fiction, and it was usually of the contemporary variety. Which was all well and good, but when people started debating classic Russian fiction and I couldn't even spell "Dostoevsky," I just started feeling badly about myself.

So now my book-ing follows a pattern:

  • Non-fiction (of any variety, including my favorite...memoirs!);
  • Classic fiction; and then, finally,
  • Contemporary fiction.
My most recent tour through that trio included:

Don't Get Too Comfortable, by David Rakoff. I am ashamed to admit that I only heard of Rakoff after he died (in August of this year), a loss people lamented on Twitter. Rakoff is an essayist who I would compare to another David: David Sedaris. The Rakoff version is a slightly-watered down humorist of the Sedaris version. Where Sedaris is at his best when he is at his most outrageous, I found Rakoff to be at his best when he was at his most (subtly) caustic. This particular collection of essays takes a look at our general self-absorption and self-importance, but does so from entirely unexpected angles. For example, one essay is about joining a tour of a Brooklyn park hosted by a food forager, and another is about a juice fast Rakoff participates in for 30 days. The essays are spectacularly written, ingeniously nuanced, and very easy to tear through.

Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Yes, that Lolita. The book about the dude that falls in love with his teenaged step-daughter. Another admission: much of this book just grossed me out. I mean, I don't typically consider child abuse, especially child sexual abuse, remotely in the realm of "entertainment," "education," or "edification." But if there's a reason this book is a classic, I'd wager to say that it's because you somehow stomach the horror of the subject-matter thanks to the glory of the writing. I've never before felt like I was swimming through words, but somehow Vladimir (whose native tongue was Russian) manages to do submerge the reader in a current of (English) words that carries you along from chapter to chapter. I'd recommend this book if you can let literary value overtake actual storyline. Don't feel badly if you can't.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. Yes, that Gone Girl. The one you've probably already read and the one I just finished because I'm always behind the curve. This book is pretty exceptional. It's divided into three sections, and I'd say the first section is by far the best. It is there that Flynn sets the stage: she describes Nick and Amy's early relationship, which led to their marriage, which led to them hating each other. She tells the story through Nick's first-person accounts and Amy's diary entries, and it's enthralling. Flynn's telling is so authentic and so not-cliche that you feel like you're reading a Dateline NBC Friday night special. Once the stage is set, Flynn lets loose. It is not a spoiler to tell you that Amy disappears, Nick is suspected of her murder, and every crime novel or Nancy Grace broadcast you've seen plays out in stereotypical format. Here, the book degenerates a tad, just because of, well, the stereotypes. But then it takes a turn back to the original as you start to see what really happened. That reality, while original, is also a bit in fantasy land. So while it's still a good, gripping read, it doesn't enjoy the same uncanny insights as the first section of the book. All told, though, this is a must read. If you aren't already on the bandwagon, jump on.

Image via

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Oh my goodness. I am feeling frazzled and frenzied, with a dose of fired-up. My poor eyeballs are totally over-stimulated, what with all the articles and posts and tweets they've had to read in the past 36 hours. It's one thing to witness history; it's another to absorb it in every shade of pixelated, digitized, character-counted madness.

My guess is that you feel the same way. My guess is that if you read one more thing about politics, the election, or poll trends, you risk spontaneous combustion. My guess is that, like me, you still have 514 CNN Breaking News alerts to sift through.

So I'm going easy with today's post. I can't muster the energy for commentary, and I don't think you need it. And yet writing about almost anything other than what went down last night seems kind of odd.

All I'm going to do, then, is preen and gloat a little bit. Because Maine made history last night, and it's the kind of history I'm proud to be a part of.

For the first time in history, a popular vote - of the people, by the people, for the people - led to the approval of a gay marriage initiative. The people of Maine legalized same-sex marriage last night.

Six other states and the District of Columbia have same-sex marriage laws on the books, but those were the result of court decisions or legislative acts. Great result, but slightly less awesome path to get there.

By filling ballot boxes with more yes's than no's, Maine men and women went over and above their resident judges and legislators to extend the state's recognition of marriage to Mr. & Mr. and Mrs. & Mrs. Hurray. And also, finally.

Maine's state motto is Dirigo, or "I lead." Last night, we did.

Come join us, won't you?

Image courtesy of

Monday, November 5, 2012

Live From My Living Room

Do you ever get the feeling that you're entirely misunderstood?

You watch people interact with you, listen to the things they say to you, and think to yourself, well gosh, this person doesn't know me at all?!?

I feel that way a good 60, maybe 70, percent of the time.

Unfortunately, the people who sometimes have me looking over my shoulder, certain that they must be directing their commentary or questions at someone other than me, are my husband and two children. I'm no Dina Lohan, but I'm pretty sure there's something about that family dynamic that just isn't right.

I decided it was time to get to the bottom of the whole, disappointing mess. I scheduled a family meeting. Except I told each family member to show up at a unique, appointed time. And the meeting consisted of nothing more than me putting the following question to each of them:

"What do you think I spend my time away from you doing?"

I started with my husband, since on paper he should have the greatest alacrity with (a) speaking and (b) thinking. I then worked my way down the family roster. Here are the answers I got:

Husband, What do you think I spend my time away from you doing?

  1. Skipping through the treasure hunt of discarded button-up shirts, vests, and socks I leave strewn about the house for you to deposit in the laundry bin for me.
  2. Hiding the vest I want to wear, my "work jeans" or that thing I bought that one time with the thingy on the side that I need to do something outside. You hide that stuff and you roll your eyes when I ask where it is, and then you sneak off and put it wherever it was that I left it and act like I left it there and should remember things like that.
  3. Thinking of stupid things to say to me.
  4. Stock-piling questions to ask me.
  5. Counting down 'til the next episode of Pawn Stars.
4-Year-Old Daughter, What do you think I spend my time away from you doing?

  1. Dreaming up different ways to respond to the summons "Mammiiiiiiii??????"
  2. Shoving snacks up your sleeves so that you can produce them within seconds of a request.
  3. Practicing your perplexed face for when I want to play hide-and-seek and hide directly in front of you, in plain sight, talking to you the entire time.
  4. Practicing your excited face for when I report things to you like (a) seeing a bug; (b) putting on my own socks; or (c) finding the sandwich you made me that I lost.
  5. Enjoying a game of "which toilet needs to be flushed?"
1-Year-Old Son, What do you think I spend my time away from you doing?

  1. Strewing extension cords around the house for  me to pursue, yank, and insert into my mouth.
  2. Dropping bits of dirt, leaves, and other debris on the floor for me to pursue, examine, and insert into my mouth.
  3. Devising new ways to sit with your knees exposed so that I can pursue them, pat them, and insert them into my mouth.
  4. Wielding the most glorious device of God's creation, the remote control, so that I can pursue that wand of wonder, rip it from your hands, and insert it into my mouth.
  5. Buying whatever looks disgusting at the grocery store so that you can pursue me with it and trick me into eating it, which only forces me to spit it from my mouth.
The obvious take-away here is that these people are strangers to me. Or I'm a stranger to them. Either way you look at it, there's a disconnect.