Wednesday, September 30, 2009

It All Depends on Your Definition

Last night we went out to celebrate my older son's birthday. (The actual birthday was last week, but last night was the night everybody was available to get together.)

As in previous years, it was immediate family + daughter's boyfriend + son + his girlfriend + his gang of friends, many of whom have been close since early high school. Party of 14, total.

My husband and I take all of them out to a medium-priced restaurant each year. It's lots of fun for everybody, a free meal for the college students, and probably the most accurate snapshot we get all year of what's going on in his immediate circle.

After we were seated, the waitress looked over the assembly -- a group whose parents or more distant ancestors hail from Africa, all over Asia (including Iran, Afghanistan, Japan and China), the Mediterranean, and pretty much everywhere in Europe -- and said, "What kind of group is this? It's obviously not a family."

Given that this is the gang that has been with my son all through his diagnosis and treatment for cancer, the gang who stuck with him and supported him and gave him a place to go where he could feel normal, I found myself thinking, "I don't know. I think it all depends on your definition."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

So Where Is That Line Between Past and Present Tense?

I'm stumbling over verb tenses recently. Is it:

a) my son HAS cancer? or
b) my son HAD cancer?

This is a much easier question when I'm talking about my mother, who had breast cancer twenty years ago. DEFINITELY past tense.

For my son, though, it's a bit more complicated.

Surgery over? Check. Chemo done? Check? Which means that, at present, there are no more active treatment options unless the cancer definitely and obviously recurs. Which it shouldn't, by a 95-5% ratio. And this is good.

But to say that this is DONE feels like tempting fate, does it not? It's not DONE. My son's bald head will cheerfully tell you that. We're still looking at five more years of quarterly scans and blood tests. Five more years of wait and worry.

And when you're looking at that, cancer still feels like a daily part of your lives. It is gone, yet it is still here. How do you talk about this kind of thing?

And so, semantically, we choose the middle ground: My son is recovering from cancer. My son just finished chemo. My son is expected to be fine, but it's been a challenging summer.

This is what we say as we cross our fingers and wait for the permanent past tense.

Friday, September 25, 2009

My Daughter Is Best in the World At Showing Me Ways to Throw Away My Life

Curse you, my daughter!

I have just spent a frigtening amount of time on the site "My Life is Average." Which is kind of like F My Life (or Vie de Merde) except that the stuff that happens to people isn't horrible. It's just...average.

Some examples:

Today, while eating M&M's I found a purple M&M in my bag. I'm onto you, red and blue. MLIA.

Today in maths I stole my friend's cellphone and changed my name in her contacts to our teacher's name. Half way through class she got a text saying "Stop talking and do your work!" and looked up at the teacher, with a very worried look on her face. MLIA.

Today, I was sipping tea with a spoon because it was too hot to put to my mouth. My Mom saw and said, "Stop that, you're not supposed to drink tea with a spoon." I then responded, "Then why is it called a teaspoon?" I have yet to hear an answer back. MLIA

Last week I met some new friends on my vacation. When I left we shared a big goodbye and said how we would never see each other again. I ended up sitting next to them on the flight home. It was awkward. MLIA

I needed these laughs.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Inner Word Nerd Has a Tunisian Enabler

I have discussed my word-nerdism here before. But there has been a change. Now it's not just me feeding my own addiction. Because I now have a Tunisian enabler!

To make a long What happened was that I found a French video in which a woman sings a sultry song professing her love for the ultra-controversial French soccer team coach. (He is controversial because he has some of the most talented players on the planet but he can't make them win games, to the point where France may not even qualify for World Cup. And yet the French football establishment refuses to fire him. Fans have decided that he must have some seriously compromising photos in his possession.)

But anyhoo. The video is titled, "Je Kiffe Raymond." The verb "kiffer" is a very trendy French slang word that roughly means "to adore." (But would probably translate slightly more towards "I think he's hot.")

So I posted it in the blog about the French team this morning along with this question:

Also, native French speakers, satisfy my word-loving curiosity here. I know the verb kiffer (roughly “to like” or “to adore”) comes from the Arabic “kif.” But does the word kif in Arabic really have something to do with cannabis? Or is the person who told me that just having a little fun with me?

Got this back from our Tunisian blogger, Rami:

kif can have lots of meanings in Arabic. “kif kif” literally means “same same” in arabic or at least in Tunisian arabic.

“tkayef” means to smoke so there’s that extension from “kif” and there is the insinuation its canabis too depending on context.

in tunisia you can say something to the effect of “naamel kif” which literally means “have a smoke” but depending on how you use it can mean “i like it.” so if you’re having a smoke over something, it means you like it quite a bit. example: if someone “kif’s” or likes a movie just imagine someone sitting back and having a smoke while they watch the movie. the cannabis smoke or just a smoke haha.

ok that was long winded, sorry laurie, but short answer is yes lol.

Not sure why someone would kif Domenech though! I’d go crazy if he was Tunisia coach. Having Lemerre was bad enough!

Fascinating, no?

No, I mean really.

(Although I'm not sure he should be encouraging me like this.)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It's Funny 'Cause It's True

(This is probably the only thing I've ever liked Will Ferrell in.)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Look What I Found Under My Bed!

So today I was cleaning up the random junk that falls under/behind the bed. You know: socks, books, the occasional earring. And what turned up but a CD-ROM from the State Elementary Chess Championship that I hadn't seen in ages. (No idea how long it's been there, but I do know for a fact that it hasn't been there since 2006!)

Where did it come from? I have no idea. But it made me smile. Here are some of the kids and parents who were such a big part of my life for so many years:

(click to enlarge)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My Grocery Basket is SUCH a Stereotype


I was over at our church women's retreat this weekend. (Well, except for the eight hours I took to come back over to Seattle to watch my beloved soccer team's eleventh draw of the season.)


On the way back to camp, I stopped at the grocery store. As I was heading for the checkout stand, I realized that my basket was...well...let's be honest here... A stereotype.

What did I have?

Tampons, Advil and chocolate.

Damn. I am so female.

(Once I realized this, grabbed some earplugs and tossed them in the basket. You know. Just to throw people off.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I'm Not Going to Tell You My Birthday Wish...

I'm not going to tell you my birthday wish. But if you've been following along the past few months, you can probably guess.

My son's last day of chemo was today. It was time. I knew this because they had changed their latte special, and the drink I got hooked on six weeks ago now costs $4.00 instead of $2.75.

It's good to be done. Next step: hair regrowth, followed by the five-year wait-and-scan-and-worry phase.

Friday, September 11, 2009

"How to Communicate With Teenage Boys" and Other Pearls of Wisdom Triggered by your Google Search Strings

Ah, Google and the internets. How I love you. The fact that you not only allow random people to find my blog, but you then also allow me to see HOW they found my blog?

Genius. Pure and simple.

So what have we got recently? First off, every week or two I'll get at least one hit from somebody googling "How to Communicate With Teenage Boys." As the mother of one current and one former teenage boy, I feel your pain.

I also find it hysterically funny that you came to this blog, given that the post it leads to is all about how teenage boys do NOT communicate.

Because living with a teenage boy is like living with a specter. A wraith. A ghost. (A ghost that eats. A lot.) They kind of wander through your house in a way that's not like living with another human being, yet is also not like being alone (in that you don't have the freedom to run around in your underwear or dance to AC/DC.)

And like a specter they will, with luck, eventually transition to the next phase. This is what you are waiting for. Until then, you feed them, love them, and volunteer to drive them and their friends everywhere. Because it's amazing what they'll say to their friends when you're in the car. And don't think for one second that this is because they actually forget you're there. They just say the stuff they want you to know but wouldn't dare tell you face to face.


Best thing I ever read on teenage boys was this advice from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who left the wild and woolly world of politics to spend more time with his family:

I don’t know how many of you have had teenage boys, I know nothing about teenage girls, but teenage boys are like clam shells. They really are exactly like clam shells. They are tightly shut and occasionally, just occasionally, when you least expect it, those clam shells open and you see inside this very soft and beautiful and very vulnerable interior. Then the clam shell shuts tight again and you don’t see it and you don’t know when, if ever, it will open. But it will open at a very unexpected time and in a very unexpected way, and if you’re not there when it opens you might as well be on the moon.


Next: To the guy who found this blog by googling "Free Cell Win Percentage"?

Give it up, dude. I'm at 100%. It is mathematically impossible to top that.

Okay, so I'm only at 100% since my computer got a virus and the tech guy had to delete my old data. Still. A hundred percent equals a hundred percent.

You googled me. You found me. Now it's time for the respect.

And finally, to all the people who have found this blog by googling, "pile of pantyhose"? I get the feeling this is some odd fetish that I do not understand, and it's creeping me out. So... Just go away.

To everybody else, though?

Thanks for googling, and be sure to stop by again.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Murphy's Law Regarding the iTunes Shuffle Function

Murphy's Law Regarding the iTunes Shuffle Function:

If you have an iPod playlist with several hundred songs, and a tiny handful of those songs have risque lyrics, and you decided to use that playlist as background music for a nice dinner with your husband and all of your kids and your daughter's boyfriend (with the "shuffle" function enabled), the risque songs will all rise to the top and get played. Guaranteed.

(Oh, what? So Cindy Lauper's "She Bop" and Tone Loc's "Wild Thing" bring back gr-eighties memories. Is that so wrong?)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

For Once, I Agree with the Wall Street Journal

It's not often that I agree with the ultra-conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page, but today we found common ground. A few excerpts:

"Conservatives for Filthy Hands"

The way some conservatives reacted when President Obama announced that he would address America's schoolchildren was downright kooky. "As the father of four children, I am absolutely appalled that taxpayer dollars are being used to spread President Obama's socialist ideology," Jim Greer, chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, said in a statement last week--an odd way to characterize what was billed as a speech whose purpose, according to the Education Department, was to "challenge students to work hard, set educational goals, and take responsibility for their learning."

Turns out, however, that the speech was about such radical and socialist concepts as hard work and reaching for your goals. Shocking!

Drudge amusingly bannered the president's instruction to WASH YOUR HANDS, or, as the speech puts it, "I hope you'll all wash your hands a lot, and stay home from school when you don't feel well, so we can keep people from getting the flu this fall and winter."

But really, the conservatives are more deserving of mockery in this case. Is it really their position that children should have filthy hands? [...]

Blogress Michelle Malkin, stung by Varadarajan's column, posted a response declaring, "It's not the speech, it's the subtext." What she means by that is that she has a litany of other (quite possibly valid) complaints about Obama. That is, she is objecting to something that is completely unobjectionable in the hope of somehow advancing her objections to things that may actually be objectionable.

Possibly there is a more precise adjective to describe this rhetorical strategy, but "kooky" does seem to fit.

Amen, WSJ. Amen.

Monday, September 07, 2009

Miraculous Reappearances

My daughter moved last weekend, vacating a large-ish duplex for a small one-bedroom apartment.

And this is probably entirely coincidental, but at about the same time, the following items made miraculous reappearance in my home:

The turkey roaster (aka the "Cookie Turker.")

The suitcase. (Okay, so this one's not mine. I just liked the photo.)

The low-backed lawn chairs

And, because these gifts couldn't come empty-handed, the also brought along their friends: the tiki torches and the broken desk chair. Oh, and various and sundry boxes, bags and clothing items.

Still waiting to for the miracle of the (2)cake pans and my Betty Crocker Cookbook.

Maybe in the next move?

Saturday, September 05, 2009

A Photo of Camp Colby

This is a postscript to my last post about the miracle of the survival of Camp Colby. It's a photo of one of the buildings that did not survive.

Take a look. In particular, look at the overhanging trees and the closeness of the other building.

Then tell me a miracle did not take place here.

Friday, September 04, 2009

California Wildfires: A Story Behind the Story

Before you read this, you need to read this, from the LA Times.

Manager of church-run camp assesses fire losses, and saves

Mark, the camp manager in the article, was one of my husband's best friends growing up. After high school, Mark became a logger. Later, when my husband took a job in LA after college, they were roommates. They belonged to the same Methodist young adult group, and that's where Mark met his wife. When my husband moved to Seattle and we got serious and went to visit LA, Mark was one of the first old friends I met.

Mark is not a behind-the-desk kind of guy. He loves the outdoors. So when a job in Camp Colby -- the Methodist camp in the hills outside of LA -- opened up, he jumped at the chance. A few years later he became the manager. He and his wife have three kids who've never known any other home. He's been there twenty-four years.

There has been fire danger before this year, obviously. But this most recent wildfire looked like it was going to be the one that brought down the camp. As the article says, the flames headed their way and he was given an hour to evacuate. I think that the Fire Service told him that they couldn't make saving the camp a priority. This included their home -- a huge deal for a man with three kids, one of whom has autism and responds best to continuity and structure.

The last time J. Mark McConnell saw Camp Colby was Saturday afternoon, when flames were racing down from nearby Strawberry Peak and fast approaching the camp where he has lived with his family for the last 24 years.

Sheriff’s officials told McConnell, the site manager, and two other staff members at the United Methodist Church-run camp that they had one hour to get out. His wife and children had gone ahead. He hurriedly grabbed his cat and two dogs and left, but the cat slipped away from him and disappeared into the smoke.

The fire passed through the area, and damage to the area surrounding the camp was huge. But Mark had a friend from the Forest Service stop by the camp, and he told Mark that from what he could see, a few of the outbuildings had been taken, but most of the remaining buildings looked like they were still standing. Mark called my husband Monday night, overjoyed.

Problem was, that was all he heard. And he wasn't allowed to go back up to check it out. The Forest Service and everybody else responsible for safety said it was still too dangerous.

So he contacted the LA Times and got connected with a reporter. Somehow, she got them permission to go up. He told my husband last night that the ride up the mountain looked completely barren, like a moonscape.

On Thursday, his hopes sank as he traveled the precarious roadways up toward the camp in the depths of the Angeles National Forest, dodging low-hanging power lines and avoiding rocks that had tumbled down the steep terrain in the fire.

Where a lush canopy of green oak trees had once formed a tunnel above the roadway, only skeletons of trees stood, looking like charred black matchsticks. He stared in disbelief at piles of ash that marked where his neighbors’ homes once stood.

“They’re burned out over there, and over there as well,” he said, pointing at the debris. “My friend’s place was over there; it’s gone

But fortunately his friend at the Forest Service had been right.

But the 373-acre camp, where McConnell’s three children were born and reared, seemed to remain the only patch of greenery in the landscape of devastation. Many of the 25 wooden cabins tucked in amid huge mature oaks and cottonwoods appeared to have survived the flames.

Gone were three mobile homes — where the camp staff had lived — one cabin containing 12 beds, one meeting cabin and one restroom.

But his family’s home stood nearly untouched, and a $30,000 wood chipper he had just purchased also had been spared.

“They must have been up here, they must’ve been up here!” McConnell excitedly said of firefighters as he dashed in and out of the buildings, looking for his cat and assessing the damage.

He ran around stamping out smoldering patches with his boots, and shoveling dirt onto them. McConnell said he will be “walking with a spring in his step,” though his cat is still missing.

Is that the best part of the story? No. Mark found out yesterday that the firefighters never made it into camp. Everything left standing at the camp was the result of two factors: First, Mark's twenty-four years of work at making the camp inhospitable to fire, and second, the grace of God.

Oh, and the cat? It took shelter in the house and is fine.

(P.S. I picked up the details second-hand from my husband after his conversation last night. The bulk is definitely accurate. If I missed any details, though, forgive me and let me know.)