Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone

Hope you're having a fantastic day. Here are my thoughts as I spatchcock a turkey.
 

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Question of the Day

Question of the day: Who is the youngest person you know?
Answer of the day: Are you young? You used to be young. You are short.

When did my inner dialogue become this kid?

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Question of the day

Today's Question Of The Day: What is the best thing about your life right now?

Answer: That I am alive.

I mean, I know that his intent was very likely more literal than it sounds, but it still kills me.

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Daughter

For a few months in 2009-10, for no reason other than that I have a strong personality, we thought we were having a girl. It was a sort of automatic thought, and it wasn't just us; when I told the executive editor that I was pregnant, he smiled wide and exclaimed, "A little Judy Le running around!" But then we found out we were having a boy, and then Abbott came out and it all seemed pretty perfect. And in some ways, what the editor said is still right. 

But during that time, and even before I was pregnant, there were two things I was very excited to share with any potential daughter. And even though that never happened for me, I'm really glad these things are out there:


1. Wear Clean Draws, The Coup
 
If you haven't listened to this song, you should. It is an infectious and beautiful love song from a father to his daughter that combines classic childhood lessons with real, adult advice, all in the context of kicking ass. I love the whole song, but I especially love the last verse:

The star is the future that we gon' create
Where nobody steal money from the things we make
The revolution take time and space
But you as a woman gotta know yo place
That's in the front, baby
I'm bein' blunt, baby
If they get mad say it's they time of the month, baby
Your face is just like the sun when it raises
Thank you for adding beauty to my phrases

Pretty much I think it's perfect, the best little-girl song ever, and the only known antidote to that atrociously creepy and vomitous Butterfly Kisses song. Oh my gods, it is so horrible, that song. I wish that I could find a genie who could grant me three wishes so that I could wish for better writing ability so I could properly convey how terrible that song is.

2. The Very Persistent Gappers of Frip, George Saunders
This is a children's book, also steeped in girlish kick-assedness. The main character, Capable (Capable!), solves an age-old problem for her village, through hard work, common sense and ingenuity. I've sent this to countless nieces, and I'll definitely read it to Abbott (all kids benefit from kick-ass characters), but I always looked forward to sharing it with a daughter. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Crossing my Ts

My middle brother, as brothers do, has always liked grossing me out. So when he was in medical school, he told me about a guy he'd seen come into the hospital who couldn't fill out his admitting paperwork because he'd sliced through the tendon on the back of his thumb. So he had to wait, in pain, for someone to help him with his paperwork (I guess this was back when that kind of paperwork was done on actual paper with like a pen and shit). Of course, being the self-sufficient type that I am, I immediately started learning to write with my non-dominant hand. That was not going to happen to me! In high school and college I was able to practice off and on; it was slow as shit but I had a lot of time on my hands then. (It was also when I learned to twirl a baton and juggle.) Now, most of the time that I have to work on penmanship of any kind happens in meetings. And my writing behavior in said meetings breaks down as such:

Interesting or important meeting: Take notes with right hand.
Boring and/or unimportant meeting: Write same 2-3 words or phrases over and over with left hand (depending on length of meeting).
Offensively boring and unimportant meeting: Do math longhand, with left hand. (The worst was when there was this really bilious woman on the design team who would just unleash during our team meetings; I actually used to try to figure out the square root of pi [which means fucking nothing mathematically; you never need it] digit by digit. That was to keep from punching myself in the face.)

Anyway, as part of this left-hand/right-hand writing thing, I like to study the way people write. Again, this happens most often during meetings. I like to look at people's handwriting and the mechanics of the way they write. Like lefties who write hooked over, or from below. And I noticed that righties get to pull toward their hand as they write, first with the letters, and then with the dots over the i's and the bars across the t's. It's more comfortable that way, more fluid and natural, it seems. Like, painters don't push a brush, they pull their brush. But lefties are forced in this world to push. To scrape across the paper away from themselves. And for some reason that felt kinda shitty to me, so I started to push away from my hand with my bars and dots, out of some sort of silent solidarity. So: If I go to write the word "excitement," say, I cross from right to left. First the last t right to left, then the first t right to left, then the i. I've trained my brain that way; I've been doing it that way for at least a decade. But I was writing with my hands less and less, so it mattered less and less. It was just primarily during those meetings.

But recently I got into writing by hand considerably more. About a month ago I got a beautifully handwritten letter from a dear old friend, on the really nice paper, so I got some nice paper and I wrote him back. And then it occurred to me to get a nice pen to write on the nice paper (for the next letter; it didn't make it into this one), and now all I want to do is handwrite. It's been fantastic. Many nights I spend maybe half an hour to an hour writing, just working through stuff. It's great for this time in my life. And it's also fun to work on my handwriting. Like, is this the kind of loop I will make on my y's? Is that the capital D for me? 

So the other night while I was writing, I started thinking about this backward crossing/dotting habit, and whether my pushing protest had gone on long enough. I notice that sometimes, especially when I'm tired, my brain gets jumbled trying to hit all the right t's and i's. And then I found this webpage that says that "the backward crossed t-bar (right to left) ... signifies the need to punish oneself." It also says "any time your handwriting moves backward when it's supposed to move forward, you are stuck in the past or focusing on yourself in an unhealthy manner." And my initial response is of course to say: That is a bunch of bullshit. But I mean, really, it'd be easier to dismiss that stuff it weren't also true.

It's kinda like when I found that horoscope site that listed Scorpio likes as "the unraveling of mysteries" and "being acknowledged the undisputed champion of anything." I mean, those are pretty good guesses!

And even though I'm relatively scientific, and the handwriting thing seems like a bunch of hoo-ha, part of me wants to try crossing the t's the other way again. I figure it can't hurt, right? And it'll give me something sort of mindless to work on. Which I think I could really get into right now.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Whoa up, Binney and Smith

You're still calling that color Peach? Come on, now! It's not nearly orangey enough. I mean, I think we all know that the only Peach that color is the Princess:

Striking, no?

How about you call it Pink Beige?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A few perks of having an old-lady name

1. You have the same name as almost everyone's mom or old math teacher. Sometimes both! I always think this is so nice because I must call to mind so many fond memories. Note: This is actually not always nice.

2. You never have to leave a last name. (though I'm pretty needy, so I hardly ever leave a name at all, always vying for a coveted "me" slot)

3. You find yourself in all kinds of old children's books, doing such wonderful things as patting a bunny or reading a book (about patting a bunny, apparently). So capable, we Judys!

Go on, Judy!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Four little words

In 10th grade I took what passed for a psychology class in my high school. The only thing that I remember from it is that the teacher, Mr. Larson (not that one, the other one -- the one with the mustache), told us that instead of saying "I love you," we should strive to say "I love myself when I'm with you." I thought that was nice, and it seemed true, so I tucked it away as a sort of litmus test.

And to be sure, not every relationship I've been in since then has met that standard. I mean, the heart wants what the heart wants, right? But one of the things that I love the most about Jeffrey is that he really pushes me to see other people's perspectives, and sometimes to see what my own perspective really is. It's not just this one thing, but even if it were, I would still know without a doubt that being with him has made me a better person. And that's just one way that I love myself because I'm with him. It's changed the way I look at everything, really, and made me infinitely more understanding. And I think that's a really great thing.


But twice last week I ran afoul of friendship law because I've taken that too far with friends. The first time, I was chatting with a friend and talk turned to his ex-wife -- someone I've never met. And even though I knew precious little about it, I tried to see her perspective. And my friend said, "I'm right here in front of you. You know me. You don't know her. Why are you giving her the benefit of the doubt?" He was pretty upset, and he had a good point, and I apologized.

Then another friend complained about something someone had failed to communicate to him, and I tried to explain to him that it was probably just an oversight. And then he, too, got upset. 

So I recounted this second, similar story to Friend 1. And he told me that he appreciates what I do, that it helps make him a better person, and that he didn't want me to stop doing it. But that sometimes a dude just wants the confirmation that the other guy's an asshole, or an offer to go in on the violence.

And you know, I think he's right, but not just for dudes. I know how great it feels to get that kind of backing. I think from friends, what I long to hear (and should therefore say more of) is not "I love you," and certainly not "I love myself when I'm with you." It's "Yeah, fuck that guy."

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

An us that doesn't exist

Last night over dinner I asked Abbott what he had studied at school that day. He paused and said, "Um, us but different from us. An us that doesn't exist." Turns out: They were studying genetic engineering. I mean, inasmuch as 4-year-olds can. 

But what he said was so beautiful to me, and I like to think that it's something we should all be studying.

Monday, February 02, 2015

PYT

You know, I will admit that when Michael Jackson says, "Pretty young things, repeat after me!" I do, I repeat after him. I mean, pretty is subjective of course, and I'm not that young anymore, but fuck it. Nah nah nah!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Say my name, say my name

So this week I informed my friend Clay that I was going to start calling him Clayton. I always prefer the formal forms of names; sometimes I'll even add syllables for effect. He endorsed the change. It's adulty, he said: Clay got busted stealing cookies. Clayton defended your brother in court. I changed his contact info in my phone and liked what I saw very much.

But here's the problem with such a change: I never, ever address him by name. If we drop by each other's offices, we just say hey, do a couple upside-down nods at each other, and launch right in. If we msg each other on email, chat or text, it's the same thing. And frankly, on those, we're pretty lucky to get a hey in at all.

It's not just with him; I realized that I hardly ever call anyone by name. For those dearest to me there are sweet names; for most others, with whom affection is largely unspoken, there is the common hey-hey exchange.

The sad part is that we human beings love hearing our names. I remember when my friend Luis started at the paper and we sat around one night saying his name in different ways. We must have said it maybe 30 times in about 3 minutes; he just giggled with delight in hearing it. And I know the tiny thrill I get when I hear my name from the lips of someone I like. 

But so much of that has been lost in modern written and spoken communication. In the past few months I've thought a lot about the differences between email and traditional letter writing -- a medium I mostly missed out on and therefore understand not at all. My friend Mary suggests that they're different forms of communication altogether, one completely evolved from the other, to suit different needs. And that we should treat them as such and stop asking so much of email. For business, I think I can get on board with that. But I will say that for personal messages I appreciate a salutation and a valediction, as infrequently as I use either one. As old-fashioned-seeming and unfit-for-me as it feels, I have to admit that I really love seeing my name.

I suppose that it's because of familiarity that we lose the personal touch of the name. But who would you rather hear say your name than someone you like and choose to talk to every day? So I'm going to try to start using people's names more. 

But maybe not Clayton though. That shit is just too long. I don't know what I was thinking.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Old yeller

About two and a half years ago, a small dark-haired woman yelled at me at the Y. It was a Friday, I remember, because I was watching Scandal on my phone -- the very important last minute and a half of any episode -- and when I walked into the locker room, she accosted me.

To be sure: I was in the wrong. There was a sign very clearly banning phone use, I think because of the cameras. So when she angrily flew into my face, I just apologized, felt bad, and turned my phone off. 

In the intervening couple years, I've thought about that little exchange a lot. I've thought about my part in it, how I hate convenient rule breakers but find myself breaking rules sometimes. It's really made me consider how I act in situations, and how I see people. 

But mostly I've thought about her, about how she came at me like she knew me. I was really surprised by the anger in her face; it was the first time I'd ever seen her so I couldn't tell you how quick she was to anger. Maybe she's always angry. I just know in that 4-5 seconds, she was enraged. And she looked pretty comfortable with it.

So I've thought, well, something must have happened to her that she became this way. Or more likely a series of somethings. Maybe her family wasn't very kind to her, maybe she's experienced heartbreaking loss after heartbreaking loss. I've also thought about how inhospitable the world is to someone like that. It all makes me very sad for her. I've even fantasized about running into her again (never using my phone in the locker room, of course) so that I could maybe be friendly with her, and strike up a nice conversation. In that wildest of fantasies she softens a little bit. But it never did happen. I never saw her at the gym again.

But I did see her once more, today at Trader Joe's -- a full city away from that Y. I heard a woman yelling at another woman for being in her way, and for her daughter being in her other way. At first I couldn't see them, but when she came flying down the aisle I knew: It was her, the angry stranger. I was far enough away that when "Oh god, you shop here too?!?" escaped my lips I don't think she heard me. And I saw the young mom she'd yelled at, confusedly trying to go about her business. I left my cart and walked over and told her that the woman had yelled at me a couple years ago at the gym and that I was sorry that it had happened to her. I also told her what I'd had a couple years to think about, that life was probably a lot harder for her than it was for me, whether she brings it on herself at this point or not. The mom considered it, and suggested that maybe she suffers from mental illness. She was very nice; she thanked me for coming over to talk to her about it, and she seemed relieved.

As I made my way through the rest of the store, I didn't see the angry woman again. She must have been in a hurry. And I still think all of those things about her; things must be very rough for her. But you know, I don't think I'm going to fantasize about trying to have a nice conversation with her anymore.