Thursday, May 26, 2011

Scott's HDMI Hobby House

Okay, so the overall goal of this whole thing is to get rid of any type of TV payment subscription. Lots of people have been asking us how we plan on doing this (Scott, really, I don't plan on doing anything). So I thought I would document his work, which is experimentation, trial and error at times. Oh, and he gets to use fun tools and the biggest drill attachment you've ever seen.

Part one consists of figuring out how to get our PS3 (which is downstairs) to work with our TV upstairs, so that we can run Netflix up there, and also Blu-Ray movies. We (Scott) plan on doing that by splitting the HDMI output of the Playstation using an HDMI splitter and run one cable to our TV downstairs and a fifty footer all the way upstairs. Remember how we weren't going to put any more work in this house? Ya. Well, that doesn't count if the work is fun, I guess.

Part two is going to be putting a TV tuner card into our server, which lives upstairs in the very tippy top of the baby's closet. It doubles as a white noise machine. Okay, so that was Scott's first plan, but now they have a separate box available that you plug the antenna into and it connects to the server over the network. But the concept is the same. The server is going to receive all the programming and push it out to the entertainment centers.

Ya, so did I mention that we have a server and a home network that connects all (five) of our computers? (which includes the server). This is what happens when you graduate from the computer science department, and the wife is more than happy to go along for the ride. We also have a family emergency 24-hour IT customer service phone center in our living room.... haha nah just kidding, although it does seem that way, and since I reap the benefits of quick and easy installs and bug fixes I am all too happy to pester Scott into helping out. He spent half an hour on the phone with my sister the other night when she caught a virus while studying at school.

The software we are going to use on the server is really meant to communicate with computers at each TV. Instead of the satellite box that we have, we would have an actual computer. But we don't want to do that, because we are trying to save money. So we will record the shows into a format that can be played by the Samsung TV and the Playstation. There's a program called Myth TV which is a free Linux program that will do that for us.

We also have an eighty inch directional antenna on top of our house. SO ugly. I had rules about where he could put it so that it would bother me the least. But we got it up there, and it picks up the big stations, mainly from Santa Barbara, and connects to our server, feeding those in.

So yesterday, Scott used a mighty, mighty drilling tool and takes like hours and hours to run the HDMI cable about twenty five percent (hahaha) from the PS3 to our room. It has to run from the attic down into Ben's room, then down from Ben's room to the PS3. Then in another step, he will run it from the attic down into our room. So far, he dropped it down into Ben's room and that took all day. He also cut a bigger hole where a speaker wire was already feeding through to the downstairs center, and fit it with a special panel so that he could use it for the future HDMI cable.
Before he even started he figured out that nothing in the walls lined up like he thought it would. He ran into about a foot and a half of solid wood that he hadn't anticipated.  Solution? More holes in the walls.

Then, While trying to run the cable from the attic into our bedroom, he runs into another issue. A very... skinny wall?

Ya. Those are matching holes on each side of the wall from where Scott was laying down up in the attic. So... this is not an easy straightforward process. So far we have the PS3, downstairs, connected up to our bedroom TV. I am about to go up there and watch some Netflix right now! I'll get back to you with the rest in another post (ahem, when he actually finishes). There are bits of attic sprinkled around (thank goodness Ben is not yet a crawler) and dust and stuff all over him and in his hair. But despite all the griping and complaining, this is what he thinks of as fun. Crazy person.

Good times.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Top Three

Search Keywords That Will Somehow Take You To This Here Blog. (Or it did for these poor people)

1. the middle of a relationship
Well, I guess I am technically in "the middle" of my relationship. With Scott, I'm assuming? I don't quite remember broadcasting that assumption at any point, but if you guys see a subtitle that includes this little phrase, that would explain things. I have no idea what answers this person was looking for, but maybe looking around this little spot scared them off helped them out with that.

2. "knight flight batman" remote doesn't work
Sigh, yes it does. The thing is, it eats up all the power its battery can hold in about five extraordinary, crash-into-all-your-lamps-and-plants minutes. Check this out if you're confused.

3. ie goodlife pest repeller worth it
I could just start using these as post suggestions. Please write your next post about pest because apparently that is what your target demographic is really looking for. Noted. Thank you, gentle reader.

Scott's Guilty Pleasure TV Shows.

1. Chelsea Lately
He says sometimes he thinks she looks good and sometimes... "not good". He doesn't get what that's about. That may be what keeps him coming back. Gotta see if Chelsea looks hot today. He asks me to analyze her look and tell me why this inconsistency continues. My only idea so far is perhaps she has a manic depressive stylist?

2.The Dish Earth Channel
Seriously, a live video of earth from space. He will leave it on in the background all day. The guy just loves space. He will just stare at space. Or, more accurately... take a nap in front of space.

3. TMZ
It all started with Tiger Woods and his whole infidelity scandal and suddenly he's addicted. Tiger was like his crossover hit. It also kind of happened around the time he got hooked on Top 40 music. And started loving Justin Bieber... maybe he's having a mid-life crisis. Now he wants to grow out his hair like The Bieb and I am telling you I will cut it in his sleep if he tries it. I mean, come on...

I just can't let it happen.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You Know Someone Who Has Been Raped

Three rapes were reported this week here on the Central Coast. Our community is, thankfully, outraged and afraid. In a great article from the college newspaper, they pointed out that actually the statistics on rape occurences are at least one a day so actually three in one week is not unusual. What is unusual is the fact that they were reported, and publicized. It is unusual that the victims were brave enough to go forward with that. The victims, not surprisingly, were women. That's because rape is a crime born, raised and fed by sexism. 90% of victims are women. That's right. 9 out of 10. We like to think that as a society we are making a lot of progress toward equality, but we think about rape as a crime just like any other- we don't seem to consider the fact that it is overwhelmingly aimed at women. Men like to say "stop blaming the men for everything". Well, of reported cases it has been stated that 96% of the perpetrators are men. They need to realize that this is a problem that exists amongst them, in their social circles, and that if they expect to keep their mothers, sisters and daughters safe in this world, they need to address it there, where it lives. I will talk much more about what men and women can do to bring about change toward the end. Stick around.

What is the issue?

The majority of rapes are date rapes and acquaintance rapes, and one of the main issues is consent. Giving and receiving consent before sex is seen as unromantic, not sexy and excessively inconvenient. Well so is putting on a condom. But since AIDS, we have been forced to think again about the importance of safe sex. Well, AIDS is estimated to affect about 1 in 300. Rape affects at least an estimated 1 in 4 women in the US. 1 in 10 men will commit rape. And we can't reconsider our attitudes about consent? This is more than an epidemic, clearly. It is an emergency.

These women are not being attacked in majority by sociopaths or men with obvious mental health issues. The majority are date or acquaintance rapes. That means, the completely typical guy they know through a friend, who offered to walk them home from a party. The guy who also decided to crash at a mutual friend's house. Especially the guy who thinks its okay to have sex with someone who can't stand up on her own because she had too much to drink.

But let's stop talking about this like it's health class.

One in four is here. In your neighborhood, within your friends, within your family. If you have three hundred Facebook friends and don't know anyone who has been raped, why is that? If you are my friend, or if you are just here reading my blog, you know someone who has been raped. You know me. Honestly, you probably know many women who have been raped, but they haven't told you about it. The main thing that I took away from my encounter with the male police officer who took my complaint was that I had been drinking the night that it happened (read: "intoxicated and unconscious"), so I did not have much of a case. Many of my close friends, who loved me very much, tried to find reasons why it happened to me. Maybe to make themselves feel safer? Maybe to make them feel like this couldn't possibly be something that could happen to just anyone? They know the guy that raped me. Trust me when I say that he is a normal guy. The kind of guy you could be friends with. The guy that I would have been friends with. What does that mean? That surely I didn't realize I had somewhere in there given my consent? I must have had some part in it that I could take responsibility for? It was excruciating to have these conversations with people I trusted, who suddenly had no trust in me that my account was the truth. People that knew me dissappeared. Good people. People that love me and are in my life today. Why? They just plain didn't know what to do or what to say. It's not an issue that is talked about, so of course we have no idea how to respond. That's why you don't know the stories of the many women around you who have been raped. We are told that it is our fault, because we were drinking, because of what we were wearing, or whatever. It is implied that there must have been something we did to deserve it, or at the very least something we could have done to prevent it. And when you share your story, you meet absolute radio silence.

Here is why extensive cautionary measures aren't helping nearly enough: because the majority of rapes aren't by strangers. Thank you, world, for the monthly forwards I get about how I should be more "alert" (aka terrified) in parking lots. I should hold my car keys between my fingers and not remove the flyer from the back window of my car. Thank you, but no thank you. Most girls are raped where they feel like they should be safe- at a friend's house, with a family member, or in their own bed. Locking a door would work, if you knew that your friend who asked to crash on your couch was going to attack you. But you don't. This is why women, and all victims, cannot do anything to prevent rape from happening. Statistically, they are the most vulnerable to it when they feel the safest, and it's impossible to accurately predict which someone you feel is trustworthy will become your attacker. Even behind five locked doors, absolutely stone cold sober, it will still happen because the person that becomes the perpetrator is the one she would have let in anyway.

My Story

Don't think for one second that I don't feel terrified, nauseated and alone when I share this story. I live a full, happy and fulfilled life now, and thank God for the fact that I have coping skills to deal with this. Lots of us don't. But it cannot take away the feelings of raw violation that I have and will always have buried deep in a nicely locked up place. Feelings that come roaring to life when I hear the offhand remarks that people make when they hear these recent victims reported as "intoxicated and unconscious" and imply that they should have known better. You are speaking in my presence. I was that girl. I would appreciate it if you would not assume an entire story of your own based on those words. You who do not understand what it is like to have to live on and rebuild.

If you don't know me well, here is some background. I was twenty. I was having a long term, very confusing, on and off sexual relationship with my boyfriend. It's really anyone's guess if we were on or off at the time. Off would have been my guess, but if you had asked us then, we probably would both have shrugged and rolled our eyes. I had just gotten back from a long trip south with my friend Amy. My roommate had invited some people from her class over that night, including my (ex)boyfriend. The drinking probably started around seven. I averaged about one beer an hour, drinking more in the beginning and less in the end. We sat around the coffee table and played a few drinking games, listened to some music and talked. There were seven people there total, including myself. I hardly noticed this guy in particular, but he seemed very nice, funny and just like anyone else. I didn't pay much attention to him, other than the very friendly attitude I would direct toward anyone I met.

I said that I was heading to bed, somewhere around eleven or twelve and said goodnight to everyone. I remember the whole night pretty clearly, especially considering it was ten years ago, but of course the reasons for this are probably obvious. I vividly remember asking if my (ex)boyfriend was coming to bed with me, so that we could talk things out. He was flirting heavily with the girl I had just met and said that he might. I know, I know, ridiculous. I should have just blown him off and gone to bed, but I figured he might come in, so I lit candles (ugh, I know) and laid in bed awake for about twenty to thirty minutes. After that, I got up and blew them out, and took some time to fall asleep, thinking about how crazy mad I was that he was out there undoubtedly hooking up with someone else.

In the middle of the night I was in bed with, I thought, my boyfriend. I thought he had joined me sometime earlier when I was sleeping. We were having sex, but I still had my eyes closed, reluctantly pulling myself out of my dream and beginning to wake up. I would say sex in the middle of the night, especially the way things were, was unusual, but in my experience at the time, not really cause for alarm. I said his name, not for the first time, and I was answered. He said "I am not ___". That woke me up in a heartbeat(duh) and I completely freaked out. I did not feel afraid of this guy, I was too angry. I screamed at him to get out of my bed, out of my room, to leave me alone and go and get my (ex)boyfriend and send him in. He tried to soothe me, saying, "Come on, come on, don't be weird about this," or something to that effect. I looked at him like he was nuts and screamed at him that I would feel however I wanted to feel about it and that he needed to stop talking and get the *&%$ out of my room. He left, finally. I just sat there and tried to quell my own panic. Then he came back into my room. He said my (ex)boyfriend would not come in and that there was nowhere else in the apartment to sleep, so he had to sleep in my room. I said, "Fine, if you won't leave, then I will," and I got in my car and left. One of my friends saw me getting ready to leave and asked to come. I parked down the street and cried and told her what happened and she was shocked and sympathetic. I took her back to the apartment and went across town to my cousin's house, I had a key and let myself in. My cousin came down and I told her the whole story (for the second time) and then went to bed.

In the Morning

I knew I didn't want to press charges. I knew what that would mean- having to defend myself over and over again against a guy who seemed to be an upstanding citizen. I didn't feel that I had the support system at the time that I would need to be interrogated by a defense attorney, lose all my friends in a town I had only been in for less than a year, be headline news and have to cry for days in front of a courtroom full of people. I told the whole story (for the third time) to a male police officer, who directed me to the rape crisis center and reminded me many, many times that I had been drinking and therefore did not have much of a case. I took a shower. I spoke to some people close to me, and relayed the story several more times. A few were completely amazing. Some believed me, and didn't know how to act, what to do or what to say. Some didn't believe me and said that perhaps I just didn't remember what happened clearly enough. I had friends that spoke to him about what happened, and argued in his defense. It was the most painful and depressing thing that had ever happened to me.

You know what the strange thing is? Before I was raped, I thought the worst part would be the physical attack, the paralyzing fear. Although I am sure that would have been absolutely traumatizing enough, that wasn't an issue in my case. The worst part for me was the knowledge that after the time I had spent trying to grow respect and trust in my romantic relationships, building up a sense of value and self worth... that someone could come along and just take what they wanted from me and treat it as cheap and worthless. I felt like I had been treated like trash- disposable. Something to be used once and thrown away without a thought about me being a complete person- with a childhood, a mother and a future. That frail, empty, burglarized pain still echoes through me. Someone actually thought that they had a right to try their luck- to come into my room, not knowing me at all, and turn back the covers while I was fast asleep. It still makes me want to cry.

As Promised, Here is How You Can Help

  • Both men and women need to make the two C's part of our safe-sex checklist: condoms, and consent. Both are sometimes inconvenient and can feel like a buzzkill, but they are essential to safe sex. This is a problem so huge that we cannot possibly go overboard with consent. A girl who has had too much to drink cannot give consent. Same with guys. So don't have sex when you or your partner has been drinking too much. "You're okay with this, aren't you?" and other heavily coercive language is not okay. There are sexy ways to ask if someone is interested in going further: "Do you want me to stop?" can be hot, I'm telling you. Try it. You have to pull back if they say slow down. You have to be ready to stop physical contact at any time. This means every time, even in long term relationships. Ever heard of a safety word? Killing the mood is nothing compared to the consequences of STDs or date rape. Neither are ever worth the risk. 
  • Men and women need to make changes in the way they talk to their peers about this issue. Men, if you have ever been in a conversation where a friend of yours has referred to a girl as a "tease", you need to let them know you don't buy into that. Women, if you and your friends are referring to other women as sluts based on their outward behaviors or what they are wearing, put a stop to it. We have all taken part in conversations like these, I know I have, and it's a part of the problem. If you don't know why, get educated. But in the meantime, these little changes can make a huge difference, and the safety of our loved ones is well worth it.
  • Women: choose the women you know to protect you over the men that you don't.  
  • Men: if you see a guy leading an obviously drunk girl away (and I don't care who he says he is), intervene and get that girl a cab or into the arms of her friends. Do not fail.
If Someone You Know Is Raped

Everyone is different in the way that they grieve, but showing support of some kind is infinitely better than dissappearing or pretending like it didn't happen. Here are some ways you can offer support:

  • Show them how angry you are, and make sure that you tell them that it should not have happened.
  • Make sure they know that you in no way hold them responsible for what happened to them, even if they feel responsible. Continually remind them that it is never okay for someone to do this. Not ever.
  • Do not make contact with their rapist, ever. Do not listen to his side of the story, do not suggest a reconciliation or an opportunity for redemption. This is their business and you are are either completely supportive of them or you are not. Showing sympathy towards the rapist can make the victim feel undermined and alienated. Many times suggesting contact or referring to the rapist can threaten their very delicate sense of safety and make them panic.
  • Offer to go with them to their local rape crisis center, or to get together with them after counseling sessions for a treat- a coffee, a movie or an ice cream, something to distract them.
  • Comfort them as if they had suffered a death. They may grieve in really unusual ways (for example, being afraid of public places, physical contact, or social situations), but if they are a close friend, pick them up essentials at the grocery store, bring them flowers and sit with them. Bring a movie. If they aren't a close friend, drop off a meal and a hug, and keep coming back. Sometimes rape victims feel rejected by society, or that people see them as damaged. They aren't sure who to trust. Reminding them every few days or every week that you are there, and willing to listen and be with them is reassuring. My friend Amy did that for me, and remembering her kindness during that time can still bring me to tears, even ten years later.
  • Support them if they want to press charges, and support them if they don't. Those girls that reported those rapes this week- I cannot tell you how impressed I am by their incredible bravery. If this blog or any media coverage reaches them, I only want them to hear words of support, sympathy and awe for what they are going through. Going forward with a legal process is an immense amount to ask of someone. There is so much focus on the responsibility of the victim, and it can be a traumatizing experience. Defend your friend's choice and let them know that you realize it is theirs to make and are there for them either way.
  • Remind them from time to time that you don't mind talking about it. Remember, it is much harder and more painful for them to live through than for you to listen to. Do not suggest solutions or ways in which you think they may have avoided the outcome, or could avoid it in the future. Just listen.
  • It is never too late to offer support. Never ever. The pain is still there, the potential for love and support is still there.

If You Have Been Raped

You are not alone, and it was absolutely not your fault. If you haven't taken advantage of resources in your area, do it now. It is never too late. I did three months of therapy, and I was sure that it wasn't having any affect, until the end, when I really did feel better. I didn't have to talk about the rape, I just talked. The counselors at rape crisis centers are uniquely qualified and it is a place where you can go and know that you are among people that understand what you have been through. Also? It gets better. It really, truly does.

A Special Note to Men

Please do not feel the need to defend your gender. Rape victims feel blamed and terrorized by the gender wars that erupt from conversations about date rape and acquaintance rape, and as you know, they are all around you, whether you know who they are or not. You do not need to defend the poor choices of other men, you are not them. Drop all the talk about extensive cautionary procedures. Support these women and their right to safety by expressing your anger about what happened to them among your friends and family. Be an example to the following generations by practicing safe sex and avoiding use of demeaning language. Women should always feel as safe as the men feel in their communities, and you can help to make that a reality. Visit for more resources and information.

This was a really painful thing for me to write and talk about but I am fiercely proud that I could. I shouldn't have to hide it. I did nothing to deserve it, it came and hit me in the face. The fact that victims feel like they have to hide this from their communities like a dirty little secret is wrong. It will eat them from the inside. It is my dream that girls like me will see this and feel seen and acknowledged. It is my dream that men and women will read this and find some tools to begin showing their support to those they love, because I know they want to. We need to be surrounded and embraced, and men and women need to gather together and be on the same team about this. We can do this. Begin trying in your small circle today.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, or pass it to a friend. I appreciate each and every one of you for the time and thought that you have invested in the message I have to share.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

These Are the Days, The Time is Now

There is no past, there's only future. There's only here, there's only now. --Van Morrison

Everyone has a time in their life when they have to face something that they aren't sure how to survive. We've all got our stuff: the tragedies, the losses, the battles. I know that everyone is out there trying to figure out how to make the most of today and get over yesterday. We all want to know how to fall asleep fast and easy when we hit the pillow tonight.

And I sit in this moment, the one in front of me, and realize that I have everything and everyone that I need, and more importantly, so does this little boy. Swinging on the porch, fists hugging the ropes, eyes alight with excitement. His time is now; this is his day. These are the moments that are quickly forming his sense of being loved and secure, and I can't bear to waste this moment with him picking at what I would change about this world if only I could. I take a deep breath, sit back in my chair, and give him another push, listening to his little laugh and watching his chubby little legs kick in the afternoon sun. There is time to grieve, but right now, this life is more than fine. It's really, really good.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mary's Family Sweat Shop- Oops I Mean Craft Corner

So I finally got to the fabric store. Ben hates shopping there and I can't decide on a bunch of fabrics while I am trying to entertain him, so this time I had Grandma and Grandpa along, and it was a success. It took me over an hour to choose the right fabrics (I know, yuck). So once I got to the front, I told the girls what I was trying to make, and here was the huge issue: I could either get 14 yards and have plenty of fabric, but not in even lengths, or I could get 18 yards. With 18, I would be able to lay out the duvet cover in three equal length sections, but I would have way more fabric than I would need, and it would cost me an extra fifty bucks. I'm cheap. I ordered 14 and decided my husband and my mother in law would be able to work it out.
I wanted the duvet cover to be double sided, so that when you turn it down, you see the other, coordinating fabric. I was so nervous about this brown and blue floral pattern, but the light blue really highlights the colors that I like, and our drapes are the sage color (that appears grey-ish in this photo). The background is a bright yellowy cream, really cheery.
So we (ahem, they) had to work out a way to cut the fabric so that I could use the 14 yards, but in a way that would look intentional, of course. Well, apparently I created one of the world's biggest conundrums and it took them an extraordinary amount of time (and many sheets of St. Jude's notepad paper) to work it out. But in the end, I had instructions on how much to cut, in what dimensions and in what order and how to piece it together, AND saved fifty big ones. That one on the bottom right- so ugly. Scott was upset that what would work conveniently mathwise had to also pass aesthetics first. Bummer, right? Here are the final plans:

Okay, so sewing right along, and I go to pin the sides and...

 Ya. Oh well, I just went with it. Once I sewed it up, I tried it on the comforter just to make sure it was going to fit okay, and then trimmed off the excess. The unbalanced layout only shows on the underside, so no big deal. Plus, duvet covers are so forgiving because they are all... well, poofy.
Our last Pottery Barn duvet cover had ribbons on the inside to tie the corners in, and Scott really loved that. So, I ran upstairs and got some ribbon I had leftover from something and cut it into strips. It started fraying like crazy so I folded each in half and sewed a seam on there to keep the mess under control. Then I sewed two onto each corner. They work great! My perfect and beautiful PB duvet cover and euro shams are in the closet for now. Our cats actually pooped on them and I had to cut out the stain. I have big plans for a quilt in the future, but even if I had that now, kids would then have their way with it, so... it's being saved. This material is all 100% cotton (as opposed to, ahem, silk, so...) way easier to wash. Kids change your life. So do cats. Oh by the way, those naughty kitties are loving living outside, so that's a wonderful thing.

 Okay. So now for the button holes. I waited until Ben had gone to sleep because I was sooooo nervous. I sewed three sides up all the way and one side I... well first I forgot that I had to sew finished edges on the button-up side! So I ripped out a little of the stitching on each side and did that for both sides. Then I sewed in about six inches from each corner, just to make sure the comforter would stay inside the cover and not want to bulge out too much. Then I pinned where I wanted the buttons and practiced button holes over... and over. Until finally it was obvious that they weren't going to get any better and so I had to go for it. Here are the button hole settings on my machine, in red. Literally, you just lay down the button and mark with a pencil at both ends, then start with 1. Stitch the length of the button, then click over to 2, and do a couple stitches along the bottom (I did like 20, so... you may not need to be that enthused) and then click to 3, go back up the left side, and then 4 to finish the top. Two problems: going straight on steps 1 and 3. and trying not to miss the pencil mark in the light of the machine's lamp. Oops! Then when you're done, you use a seam ripper to cut a line up the fabric in the middle, to make the hole. Presto. And try not to sweat buckets of panic all over the fabric.
 Here is a button hole all finished up, and one of the buttons I used. I had six blue and cream buttons, all different kinds... so I used six buttons.
And here is the finished product, on the bed! I also have big plans for matching euro shams, when I get the energy, and hopefully a few throw pillows (even though Scott hates them.. maybe just one long one?). And I have frames leaning against the wall that are going to replace that poster, and hang above that shelf on the right.

Thanks to my mother in law for all her help! I would not have been able to power through this so fast without her. I am loving all these fun projects... My wallet is not. But, when all was said and done, the duvet cover cost me $150, in fabric. Not bad!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mary's Saving Some Green Craft Corner

Hey guys! So I finally got around to covering our new (ish) dining room chairs. Hurray! I've seen my mom do this a million times but she used a staple gun, and after having the husband look around the garage, we couldn't find the one I had in college (oh the black hole of art supplies) so... we had to do a few different things.

This here is the fabric I picked out at Beverly's in town. I am so sorry about our awful carpet. We would fix it, but... as you know from this post, we don't want to throw any more money into this house. So. I am in a rug search.

Aaand the indents are from the high chair we used to use for Ben- they are totally temporary, I just took it off, and now of course, you can't see them at all since the re-covering.
So, as you can see in the photos below, the white canvas itself was actually a cover on the chair seat, held on by elastic. So I wrapped the thin cotton fabric around that cover and used a plain old stapler to temporarily attach it until we could screw it back onto the chair.

Here is our assembly line in action. Word to the wise- if you have an OCD husband like mine, make sure the fabric is the same direction on all the chairs.

Of course, until I broke the stapler. Oops! After that someone had the fine idea of using thumbtacks, and life went forward again. There you have it! Six reupholstered (ha) dining room chairs!

Darn Hooligans

Here's a Hooligan you might recognize. Sorted by number and barcode, totally normal right?

I find myself jamming to the radio in the car, before I realize that Ben is hopefully napping in the back seat and I should turn it down. I turn a corner to find four or five boys on skateboards, outside our cul de sac. They aren’t directly in my way, and they move easily. They are between thirteen and seventeen, I would guess.

I wish I had visuals for this little play-by-play but I thought it would be somewhat strange to hunt down a group of skater boys and randomly take photos of them. Also, chances of success are extremely low. Also… way creepy.

So my first response was like anybody’s over twenty. Pretty much: why are you out in the street, in my way, don’t you have somewhere to go, stuff like that. Then, I had some kind of epiphany. I stopped and actually listened to the script that my mind was running, and I argued with it. You know what I realized? I am truly glad that I live in a neighborhood where kids are gathering on my road to skateboard. It means that our streets are quiet and slow enough, that they feel safe there. I am not afraid of them, and they aren’t afraid of me.

Further than that, I tried to learn how to skateboard when I was eighteen. Tried being the key word there. Where did I go? The road in front of my house. Where I felt sure that people would drive slowly and I wouldn’t be harmed. Where should I have gone?

When my kids are teens, I don’t want them to feel their society turn on them suddenly. The fear and suspicion we show adolescents makes them feel alienated from the world, at a time when they most certainly need embracing. They don’t have homes of their own, not all of them have safe homes to go to, and teen “centers” are either a myth or a poorly funded sham, depending on where you live. In California, most household expenses require dual incomes, and they are expected to look after themselves, or at the least, keep to themselves. Is it any wonder that it’s a time of emotional confusion?

After this little talking-to I gave myself, I see kids skateboarding in the streets, and I think: curb appeal. I wave to them and smile. I want them to know how happy I am to see them there, enjoying the community around them that is just as much theirs as it is mine. If they feel accepted by strangers around them, as opposed to ostracized, perhaps it will give them a sense of kindness and loyalty toward their neighborhood.

 I hope neighbors will see Ben playing out in front of our house someday and smile.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Word To Yo Mutha

My Very First Mother’s Day was all that I had hoped it would be. On Saturday, Scott brought back a bouquet of flowers for the table and some chocolates, arranged in a heart.

Isn’t he cute and sappy? He knows I love it. On Sunday morning I got up early, feeling awake and energized, so I came downstairs, but Scott got up with Ben, and fed him breakfast. Then he made me a delicious breakfast sandwich, and he and the baby went out to get me some coffee. He even stopped by the store to get me my favorite freshly baked croissant, it was awesome. I took it easy all day and we went out to some wineries with the girls, it was cold and windy, but a gorgeous day.

Ben has been turning some serious corners lately. He is rocking forward but hasn’t tucked the legs under yet. He is obsessed with standing up but he hasn’t gotten the strength in his arms to pull up quite yet. That could change really fast. The other day I was imitating his screeching back to him and he tried to put his pacifier in my mouth! Haha he gets it.

Then yesterday we had an adventure with the tissue box.
I just needed a second of entertainment for him and thought he would pull out a few tissues and be done with it. Well, he pulled out a couple, and I picked one up and wiped some drool off his chin, and right after that, he picked up a tissue and wiped my pant leg! The kid is scaring me with his level of awareness right now. After that, I turned the box over so that he wouldn’t pull any more out, and this is what he did:

The kid is way ahead of me. What am I gonna do?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Party in the S.L.O. Grad School Edition

I love people, and love meeting new ones, but I especially love meeting women. Amid all of the talk of catfights and backstabbing that goes on in reality television, I find women to be the opposite. Whether I meet them through friends, or through parenting groups, they feel immediately inclusive and personal. Even if they don't open up with every little thing, or necessarily try to pursue getting to know me, I feel a very strong comraderie. I don't even think all of us know the many details that make up our common existences, and what kind of trenches we are all in together. But I still feel them when I meet someone new, and it feels familiar. I love it.

This weekend Steph brought some friends up north to meet the family and get the Central Coast Experience firsthand. They were a hand-picked crew, and we loved each and every one. Seeing Nanny Snuffy is always a special occasion, we are super close. But this weekend was extra fun. A nod back to earlier years, when we would have a few drinks with some of her college friends, or she would show up late on a Sunday looking a little worse for wear. Add in some fresh stories, good food, touristy activities and fits of hilarity and you have a rockin' weekend.

Amy got to work cooking us her famous nachos, with her own cast-iron skillet. Here she is contemplating the tools provided. Pretty much if you will cook for me I am endeared to you immediately.

This is her meticulous process in action.

The next day we had a nice long, lazy morning before heading to the Cliffs for lunch. Ya, this photo is a bit much, but still. The too-good-to-be-true is the real thing when you are at the Cliffs Resort. It makes me feel like I am on an expensive vacation when I really just drove ten minutes up the road to have some sweet potato fries.

I'm kind of feeling badly for not taking a photo of the gorgeous blue view that we were all looking at. If you really want a peek, you can see it in this post.

I was really looking forward to getting a chance to get to know Steph's friends from her Sociology cohort, she has been talking about them nonstop all year, so to place people with jokes and stories was a big draw for me, but I really didn't expect that underlayer of serious bonding that happened. What an awesome bonus. I really feel close to them and hope they will be back soon. Oh, and the magic of Facebook in the meantime.

Bonding with women can feel like a scary leap for some. It's hard to trust each other when every corner of media real estate is reporting on boyfriend "stealing", bullying, and gossiping. You may be sure that it will happen to you, and it might. But the joy of girlfriends is an enormous gift, no matter how many times you need to start again, no matter how late in life a new friendship begins. There is just something special about it. As Inara said on Firefly, "One cannot always be oneself in the company of men.” Not always, not always. But you can see in this last photo, those two are certainly being themselves. And I just drank it up like a martini.


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Life is One Grand Sweet Song

 And Maritza Spieller was onstage yesterday, playing her part. One of my favorite aspects of living near a college is the culture you can absorb. The best and the brightest are striving to achieve the most that they can in their chosen arenas and there are so many opportunities to sit and watch them shine. In a word: enriching.
 Pizza (rhymes with Maritza, natch) is one of our good friends, and she was giving the exit performance of her college career, a goodbye concert to her colleagues, professors and friends. It was beautiful to be there and we were so glad we showed up alongside so many others to support her. There was some fear that there wouldn't be enough room for all who wanted to watch her perform one last time.
 This makes it look like we brought those flowers. We did not. Since having a child I am that person again: tripping over my own feet to try and not make a social gaffe around every corner. Flowers? Ugh, that would have been a good idea!
 The loving details were so touching. Her family put so much into this celebration of her achievements. We were able to just show up and drink it in.

 Cheesecake bars. They will change your life.
 How cute are the miniature M&M trombones??
Look at Maritza's adorable purple details. Fantastic. We love you Pizza, and we were so proud to be there. Thank you for playing for us!