Monday, July 30, 2007


My weekend started at 4:45 on Saturday morning. Being awake and functioning that early on a Sleepinurday is an unnatural act, and I hope Thumper is in full agreement with me on this one. I expect him to wait until 10 a.m. for his breakfast on Saturdays. And Sundays, too, for that matter. But on Saturday, I set aside my normally strict adherence to the rules, and I volunteered to help with a triathlon for kids and adults. I reported for duty at 6 a.m., and I was amazed to find that not only did I manage to get up, but so did a whole slew of teenagers. Conscious and functioning at 6 o'clock on a summer Saturday morning! And nary a one was surly!

I was posted at one of the intersections along the bike route to help keep any over-zealous and under-patient drivers from running over the participants. All of the drivers were patient and considerate, though, and gave the cyclists plenty of space and time. Most even waved and smiled at me, and some even rolled down their windows to thank me for my participation. A couple of the adult cyclists even said thanks as they zipped past.

The kids raced first, and then the adults. My instructions were to stop oncoming traffic if cyclists were approaching; my instructions did not include cheering the kids on. But I could hear the guy at the next intersection hollering enthusiastically and clapping for each kid that went by. Then the event organizer that had posted me went by, riding alongside the racers on her own bike and telling the kids how AWESOME! they were and what GOOD WORK! they were doing. I had just been smiling at them as they passed, but I began to feel like I should be yelling encouragement, too. But I was inhibited by a self-consciousness of which I have never been proud. I told myself that I didn't know how long the course was, or where my relative position along it was. I was in no position to judge how awesome any kid was or how good was the work that any kid was doing. Rationally, I knew it didn't really matter, but I felt like an idiot the couple of times I said, "Lookin' good!" to some poor kid sweating along. I wish I hadn't worried about my dignity and just cheered them all on like any normal adult would have.

I also wish I'd done something about the two loose dogs that came upon the scene about twenty feet in front of me. One was a rottweiler with a limp, and the other appeared to be a mutt with some amount of pit bull in him. If they were a cartoon, the rottweiler would have been the streetwise thug and the other would have been his sidekick who uses wisecracks to hide his vulnerabilities. As soon as I saw them, I foresaw some sort of Tour de France-style pileup at best and a half-dozen mauled children at worst, and parents and event organizers blaming me in either case. But I couldn't think of a thing to do about it. In the end, they ran gleefully alongside a couple of kids for a few seconds before getting bored and wandering off, though. So no disasters ensued, but I still chastened myself for not being more proactive. I should have thrown myself on the dogs, sacrificing myself for the good of the children.

My favorite part of the event, by far, was the moment when the last of the kids went by. He was tiny, probably 5 or 6 years old, on a bicycle whose wheels looked to be about the size of dinner plates. He came along far, far behind the last of the stragglers who'd preceded him, but he was not daunted in the least. In fact, he was pedalling along with great enthusiasm. The last of the adults, when they raced a short time later, would not look nearly as fresh when she passed as this young man did. She would rather look distinctly wrung out. But this young man looked fresh as a daisy, and the AWESOME! organizer was pedalling slowly alongside him as he came. In the several seconds that they were in earshot, I heard his non-stop monologue, punctuated with her interjections:

"I'll probably play tennis, or basketball, but I don't think I'll ride bikes like Lance Armstrong..."


"Or I might race NASCAR. My brother's almost eight, and he wants to race NASCAR too."


And then he was gone, chattering cheerfully as he pedalled away. I think a little focus might have helped his finishing time a bit, but I don't think his overall enjoyment of the event could have been much higher.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Thanks to MTAMM for her post yesterday on kids and religion. I've been thinking about it for years, actually, and I don't even have a kid yet. Some people have accused me of over-intellectualizing things. Well, of over-thinking them, but I had to intellectualize it up a bit.

A couple of years ago, Mrs. Rodius and I went to dinner with Big Brother and his wife. Because Mrs. Rodius and I were thinking about maybe beginning to consider the idea of having kids someday, I naturally jumped right to thinking about the religious education of our not yet even theoretical children. Of course!

So we got well into an interesting conversation. Big Brother and SWSIL (Social Worker Sister-in-Law), like many of the commenters on Minivan Mom's site, did not participate in organized religion, but did, at least in SWSIL's case, believe in God. I don't recall if Big Brother said he did or not. But they tried to live spiritual lives, and taught their children that many people believe many different things, and that that's OK.

On a side note, their 8-year-old daughter may or may not have had occasion this month to explain to her Baptist grandmother that she's Greek. As in, she believes in the Greek gods and goddesses. I never did hear the rest of that story. I'm sure it's bound to be a good one.

Anyway, we were deeply involved in our religious education conversation, with me wondering aloud if, by attempting to teach your kids all religions, you effectively teach them none. It seemed to me that it's more likely for a person to embrace a religion if he does so at a young age. And for a young person to embrace a religion, it seemed to me that he would have to be indoctrinated in it, not just educated in it. I don't think Mrs. Rodius, Big Brother, or SWSIL necessarily agreed with that position, though.

Suddenly, a woman from the table next to ours rolled her chair over to join our conversation. I'm not sure why Olive Garden has chairs with casters on them; perhaps it is to reduce the chance for abdominal injury by encouraging patrons to wheel their overly-full bellies well away from the table before attempting to stand. Or maybe it's just to make it easier for strangers to insert themselves into your conversation. I'm sure it was the subject matter that made her feel welcome to participate. If we'd been discussing the relative merits of a variety of sexual positions, she may not have felt so comfortable offering her own opinion on the matter.

I don't really remember now what she contributed, probably because I spent the entire time she was talking drowning her out with my own internal monologue of, "What the hell?" over and over again. I vaguely recall her taking the pro position on formal religious education. I also recall thinking that she wasn't quite understanding any of the counter-arguments that Big Brother or I may have tried to employ. But mostly I remember thinking, "What the hell?"

So I don't really think that conversation resolved any of my uncertainties of the time. I think I mostly just tabled those uncertainties until a later date. Myself? I'd call myself an atheist if I wasn't afraid God would strike me dead for my arrogance. I was not brought up with any particular religion. I attended services at a Presbyterian church for a few years with my mother and Big Brother. I was never deeply touched by the dogma or the services. I thought the giant cross was pretty cool. I enjoyed the grape juice and hawaiian bread. I liked to contemplate the practical mechanics of things like the distribution of the bread and "wine" and passing the collection plate. I wondered where one could get the plastic shot glasses for the wine in such bulk, or the red-velvet-and-brass carrying case with holes custom sized to fit those plastic shot glasses. Mom had her own spirituality going on, but she wasn't very open about it with her kids at the time, though she is much more so now.

I had regular playdates for awhile with the niece and nephew. Once, when I asked the niece (who is now Greek), what she wanted to do for our next playdate, she decided that she wanted to go to services at the Lutheran church where her little brother was attending pre-school. She glowed with delight when I showed up at her house to pick her up wearing dress clothes (including a tie, and shoes that were neither sandals nor tennis shoes. But it wasn't a suit. I don't own a suit.). If you knew me, you'd know that such an outfit is almost unheard of for me. I thought when she suggested it that maybe this would be the occasion that would open my heart to the church. The people there were very warm and welcoming, and I could imagine myself becoming a part of their community, volunteering to help at the barbecues, and so on. But the service itself just did not resonate with me. We stood when were supposed to stand, we sang when we were supposed to sing. We listened when we were supposed to listen. Neither the substance nor the ritual sounded an echoing tone in my heart.

So thinking of young Thumper and his religious education, I wonder:

Is it possible to indoctrinate your child into a religion without participating in it yourself?

If you teach a child that there are many religions in the world, and all of them have equal relative merits, are you not also teaching your child that none of them is actually right and true?

Is it possible to teach children to be ethical and compassionate without teaching them that there are grave and eternal consequences for not being so?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

He's Just a Simple Caveman

And by that I am referencing Phil Hartman SNL skits and not Geico commercials. Does that make me old?

The simple caveman to which I refer is, of course, young Thumperino. He's just a simple caveman. He doesn't understand our fancy, modern way of life.

He says, "I want cranberry juice!" I just went to the grocery store yesterday, and nobody said anything about wanting cranberry juice. Thus there is no cranberry juice in the refrigerator today. I try to explain this to him. He says, "Cranberry juice!"

He has also done the same thing with meatballs. And chocolate. Granted, the chocolate thing was my fault. There's almost always chocolate in stock. He had every reason to believe it would be readily available. He's my boy, after all, and I live by the motto, "If it ain't chocolate, it ain't dessert." I'm afraid I let him down on the chocolate thing.

But meatballs? When was the last time we had meatballs in our freezer, just waiting for their chance to get called up to the Big Show? The only reason he knows he likes meatballs is because his Aunty T gave him some at the baby shower. We haven't had meatballs at our house since Hector was a pup! I mean, I'm happy to get the boy meatballs, but it would be helpful if he could, you know, make a list in advance or something. Let me know on shopping day. I tried to tell him that. He said, "Meatballs, please!" Sometimes he says please.

Big Pimpin'

My back still hurts. Speaking of money...

I got skillz, yo. None of them include pretending I'm young and hip, though, so I'll just stop there.

I've been posting to Craigslist, and I've found two clients so far, and a potential third. I've bought a domain name, and I've been thinking, but not acting, on forming a company and making a website. But it occurred to me this morning that I have a webpage of sorts. Perhaps it would be wise, odd though this may seem, to put it to a practical purpose. It's so crazy, it just might work!


I type 80 wpm (you didn't think I've been two-finger typing all of these unnecessarily verbose posts, did you?) and I have transcription pedals. If you have audio that you need converted to text, I'm your man. So far I've transcribed seminars given by a vocal coach and phone and in-person interviews by a Ph.D. candidate. Both were pleased with my work. I'm fast, I'm accurate, and I give you my word that I will never promise a deadline that I can't meet.


I'm self-taught, and certified by no one in particular, but I can make Filemaker get up and dance. I created a scheduling application that is now the chief means by which my office schedules and disperses information about events in our building. It has multiple calendar views (color-coded and customized for a Monday-Sunday week) and automatically emails staff when an event is created or changed. It contains an address book, and it's used to keep track of a wide variety of event information from parking and police to contract status.

I've also written customized payroll applications that meet the highly specific needs of two different departments. One uses a barcode scanner to clock employees in and out, checks for employees that are working too many hours per week, and stores employee photos for printing identification badges. The other allows for a very complicated and specific system based on the type of work done, holiday or weekend hour multipliers, and journeyman or master status of employee.

Other databases I've created have been used to track telephone contacts with prospects, to track inventory, to play roulette and blackjack, to cheat at an online word game, and to store recipes. The recipe database calculates calories per serving based on information imported from USDA data files available online.

So do you have any use for either of those services? Email me with the link at top right, and let's talk about it.

Oh yeah, and if you've got any free advice about starting a small business, forming a company in the State of Texas and which type is best for my situation, I'd love to hear it.

Thank you. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging program.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Thanks for All Your Thoughts; Now Here's a Baby Update

Thanks for all your input. I think I won't exactly tell the BFF to piss off, but I'll just wait and watch it fade away after I tell him thanks but no thanks on the Forum in January. I don't think he's long for Austin, anyway. He's bought property in Costa Rica which will sustain him when the End Times come (i.e., when the oil runs out and the U.S. starts looking like location shots of The Road Warrior or, alternatively, we all start having to learn Chinese. Or when the Killer Plague comes. You know, six one, half dozen t'other).

In other news, Thumper is continuing his southern migration. This morning, the doctor could feel his head, but used some B word that apparently means he's not fully engaged yet. The cervix is softening, but not effacing or dilating yet. By poking, squeezing, and making faces, she estimated him at about 7 1/2 lbs. It'll be 37 weeks in two days; after that she'd be happy to see him come any time.

When Mrs. Rodius asked if a pedicure with leg and foot massage would be OK this weekend, the doctor said, "Oh yeah. You're ready. When women start worrying about their toes, they're ready." But is Thumper ready? He hasn't said if he's started worrying about his toes yet.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Crisis Point for a Lifelong Friendship

I have a friend. I remember quite clearly twisting around in my seat with the rest of the first grade to stare at him and his glasses at the back of the classroom. It was his first day at a new school. I don't remember introductions, or slowly becoming friends. We just were. His mother was our Cub Scout Den Mother. His father was our little league coach. His house was always stocked with home-made cookies and cakes and all manner of sugary delights. I may have spent more of my childhood in his house and yard than in my own. We were inseparable from 6 to 15, BFF's, though of course we'd never heard that term at the time.

After junior high, I followed Big Brother's example and transferred out of the high school that Phil Donahue once referred to as "Ken and Barbie High" to go to the rival high school a little further away. We weren't the kids whose parents bought them Mercedes and Mustangs for their 16th birthday. BFF wasn't either, but he chose to keep on at Ken and Barbie High.

Without seeing each other daily, the distance between us grew. Our activities and our circles of friends diverged, but we still remained friends. After high school, he spent a semester in the dorms of a college some 200 miles away. When he came back, I moved to Boston. We wrote letters to each other, in those days before email and instant messaging, and we played a long distance game of chess, one move per letter, over the course of years. He came to visit, and so did I.

We moved to Austin because Big Brother and his family had settled here, my parents and oldest sibling were only 200 miles away, and because I intended to go to grad school at the University of Texas. A bonus incentive was that BFF had settled here, too. With my return to Texas, our friendship was renewed. But now, it may be ending.

Since my return to Texas eight years ago, BFF has demonstrated a tendency toward evangelism. Not of the fundamentalist Christian variety, but evangelism nonetheless. He discovered The Tao of Health, Sex, and Longevity by Daniel Reid, and it became his bible. He felt healthier than he'd ever felt before. He no longer had problems with allergies or acne. He had found The Way that was right for him, and he immersed himself in it completely. He also gave copies of the book to many of the people that he knew, including me. The tenets of the book dominated his conversation for a long time.

He also became an environmental activist. Again, he gave away copies of books that were important to him, like The End of Oil by Paul Roberts. Daily, he forwarded emails from the various green listservs to which he belonged. He pointed out the dietary and environmental failings of his friends and lovers. He preached with the fervor of a born-again sinner.

It was important to him, and he was important to me, so I went along. I tried his diet for six months, and felt no different. I fasted twice a year for a few years, and I got a little bit more out of that, but not enough to make it a permanent aspect of my life. I debated politics with him, in person and in email, until I could no longer stomach the same arguments going around and around and around. As I've mentioned before, he helped curb my rampant conservatism, to a degree. But I finally had to tell him how weary I've grown of his relentess efforts to change me into the friend he wishes I was.

And now, he's discovered Landmark Forums. After a lull in our friendship, he called me out of the blue to apologize for not being a very good friend to me and to ask me to support him by attending a graduation ceremony for a class that he had taken called Landmark Forum. I was touched that he reached out like that, and I told him I'd be there. After I hung up, I Googled it. I was concerned by what I found. It struck me, rightly or wrongly, as a cynical combination of cult and corporation, manipulating their clients' emotional response to the carefully developed and presented content in order to convert them to recruiters to grow ever-larger the corporate bottom line. Is it an actual cult? I don't know. Is Scientology a cult? I don't know. Do the histories and ideologies of Landmark and Scientology intersect here and there? I think so.

The language BFF used in that phone call was repeated in the pages I found: he had been "running a racket" on me, creating "vicious circles;" he wanted to "be present" with me, and "create the possibility" of a better relationship. I read that the phone call he made to me and the invitation to the "graduation" were indeed part of the Forum, and that part of their purpose was to have current Forum attendees working on their friends and families to increase enrollment in future Forums. I found it disturbing. I called him back to tell him that, while I would attend his graduation, I'd appreciate it if he did not give Landmark my contact information and let me make the decision myself how much involvement I wanted to have with them. He agreed, though he felt I had their motives all wrong. I considered parking a few blocks away and walking, so they couldn't hunt me down through my license plate.

The graduation itself was less a celebration of what the attendees had accomplished through the class and more an hours-long marketing session for the rest of us. I managed not to fill out the contact information cards that were repeatedly offered, and they were much less pushy about it than I anticipated. Near the end, the attendees were instructed to invite the rest of us to sign up. I told BFF I was skeptical and wanted to do some independent reading on it. He seemed disappointed, but understanding. I told him that it seemed to me that what the Forum promised to teach me over a weekend were in fact the years-long lessons that make up a life, the kinds of lessons that define each of us as people. I told him I didn't believe there were any shortcuts to be had. Truthfully, I had no intention of ever signing up, and I hoped his passion for it would fade over time. I didn't want to hurt his feelings, though, and I didn't want to drive an even larger wedge between us.

I thought my hopes were being realized when he refrained from evangelizing for Landmark on the several occasions we got together for lunch since then. He barely mentioned it, only referring obliquely to his intention to take additional Forums in the future. Saturday, he called me while Mrs. Rodius and I were driving to meet some friends for dinner. He said he didn't want to distract me while I was driving and asked me to call him back when I got home. We took too long, though, and he called again as we were headed home. I couldn't for the life of me guess what was so urgent. Mrs. Rodius guessed that he was calling to tell us his ex-girlfriend was pregnant.

He was not. He was calling because he'd just taken another Forum and was again all fired up to enroll me. He told me Landmark had more power to positively affect the future of the earth and humanity than did his previously-beloved environmentalism. He wanted me to join him, because the two of us together, with Landmark behind us, could be such powerful agents for change. He told me that he knows me so well that he knows this was just the kind of thing I was looking for to make my life better. He wanted to get me into a Forum right away, before the baby comes, because he knows I won't have time for awhile after that.

I told him I don't have time now. I told him I can't spend the money. He said it's not about the money, and he'd pay for me to go. I told him I'm not looking for a change, because my life is exactly where I want it to be, and I'm happier now than I've ever been before. I told him again that I know this is important to him, and that he is important to me, but no matter what he said to me, the answer now would be no, because with the impending birth, I have no room in my life for the Forum.

But I do not want to lose him as a friend. I do not want him to become isolated from anyone in his life who is not a fellow proponent of Landmark. So I told him that if it was still important to him in six months, we could discuss it again. I did not promise to sign up, but I didn't make it clear that I won't be. I did not tell him that if he knew me so well, he would know this is exactly the kind of thing I would never want to be a part of. I did not tell him that it is about the money; it's not about whether or not I pay to attend the one Forum, it's about convincing me to be a recruiter, just as he has become. It's about convincing me to start a lifelong involvement with many more and more expensive Forums down the road. He would say that I'm "creating" that reality myself.

So now I am very sad. How do I keep my friend without signing up for a program that is utter anathema to me? Do I sign up in six months and let him pay for it (because I'm certainly not dropping hundreds of dollars on this thing after cutting our income significantly), just to keep him from feeling like I rejected it, and therefore him, without even giving it a try? What would you do?

Oh Crap, You Mean We Might Really Have This Baby?

Yesterday Mrs. Rodius, bent over in the laundry room, said "Ah!" and then just kind of stood there, still bent, forehead resting on the top of the washer.

"Are you OK?" I asked from the kitchen. When she didn't respond, I walked over to the laundry room and said, with a touch more concern in my voice, "Are you all right?"

"Just a contraction," she said calmly and straightened back up.

And then my brain said, "Ohcrapwehaven'tpackedabagthenursery'snotreadythediapershaven'tcomeIjustputaroastintheovenholycraparewereallyhavingababy?"

But it was just one of those practice contractions the uterus uses to work out with, pumping up its muscles for the real thing. So I had a little chat with Thumper later in the evening. I told him if he was going to come early, that'd be OK. In fact, if he's planning on getting any bigger, earlier might even be better. But really, this week's not good for us. If he could hold out until next week, at least, I'd really appreciate it. Do the ol' man a favor, would ya?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What Do You Know?

Hmmm... What to say. What to say.

What do you know about...

Landmark Forums?

Friday, July 20, 2007

What Was the Deal With That Sex and Death Thing, Anyway?

Yeah, maybe it was kinda out there for this forum. I started this blog because I'd been reading a lot of blogs, and it seemed like a good way to motivate myself to write more, meet some good people, and, well, ok, have some total strangers tell me how clever and funny I am.

So then PureLight posted something she'd written awhile back, and I thought, "I should post an old story of mine, too." And then a friend was a little more open in an email than I expected her to be, and then anniemcq went and told the internet a little something personal. So I thought, wow, Internet, our relationship is really starting to evolve. Maybe it's time to let it all hang out!

So anyway, it's a piece of fiction I wrote a couple of years ago and failed to sell to a couple of different magazines. I figured putting it out in the world might give me more motivation to write more. I haven't written fiction like I used to in a long time. But just so I don't start creeping you out, yes, it is fiction. No, I did not start writing to death row inmates. I don't own any dirty DVD's that I can leave in the DVD player. Mrs. Rodius and I are in a wonderful place in our marriage. Please do not feel obligated to call Child Protective Services on me to take custody of Thumper after he's born.

Please don't think too hard about what may or may not be true in that story, otherwise we'll have to avoid eye contact in the hallways and elevators of the Internet and pretend this never happened.

So, uh... How 'bout them Longhorns?

Hippie Medicine

"So's your back any better?"

"Not really. It's not really down in the boo-tock like sciatica anymore, but my lower back is still driving me crazy. I'm doing all kinds of stretches and using the heating pad, but it won't go away. It's been about two weeks now. I've stopped working out, and I feel like I'm gaining weight again."

"Well, let me ask you this: do you feel like you can support your family?"

"Uh... On my back, you mean?"

"No, like financially. It's the first chakra. Are you worried about being able to support your family?"

"Well, I am going to quit my job and go down to part-time employment. It's going to be a big change in our household income. It's probably one of the biggest worries I have about the baby coming."

"Ah, see?"

"OK. So what do I do about it?"

"Well what do YOU feel like you should do about it?"


"$&%@! Stupid hippie medicine!"

Aw, Yeah...

Online Dating


Don't read the post below if you're sensitive to language or sexual situations. Just sayin'. Maybe this will bump me up to Rated R...

Epistolary Evidence in the Death of Sex

The wife wouldn’t understand if I joined a dating service. At least, I wouldn’t think so. And that’s how she’d think of it: a dating service. Any normal person would. I know I would, if she did it.

But it’s not a date I’m looking for, just correspondence. I haven’t corresponded with anyone in what seems like a lifetime, like somebody else’s lifetime. Least of all the wife. If I did join a service, I’m sure I could never keep it from her. I’m a poor keeper of secrets and mysteries. I sometimes forget to take the dirty movies out of the DVD player when I’m done, though I can usually be counted on to dispose of the tissues. If I joined, she’d know. She’d see the credit card charge, or stumble across an email. And if I could explain it to her, really tell her the truth, then I wouldn’t need a dating service at all.

It’s only been three days, and I’m already going crazy. How about you? I can’t wait for spring semester to start. Did I really live here? It seems like years, not months. Every night, my mom asks me where I’m going and when I’ll be back. I don’t know how she survived an entire semester without knowing what time I went to bed! I miss you and all my friends so much, I can’t wait for Christmas to be over!

While she was working late, I decided to do a little research. No, that’s not true. I decided days before and was waiting, waiting. The search engine was waiting, too. If it remembered me, and maybe it did, it would expect any moment to fetch me back pictures of naked celebrities: a flash of white panties exiting the limo, grainy nipples on a European beach. The cursor was ready, and even patient. It blinked, blinked, blinked, and I watched it with my fingers on the keyboard. I got up and went to the bathroom. I came back, and it was still blinking, still patient and perhaps non-judgmental. I went to the kitchen and drank a beer in front of the open refrigerator door, almost hearing the metronomic patience of the prompt as it waited in the other room. I drank two more beers that way. Finally I sat down and typed “pen pal.” “Submit,” it said. So I did.

Surprise! I hope you use your Western Civ book today. Otherwise, when you sell it back to the bookstore, some guy next year will find a little love note inside, no extra charge! I wanted to think about you thinking about me today, and smiling. Are you still smiling? I can’t seem to stop. You said you never thought of us except as friends. You said you’re no smoothie. Margaritas and a massage after work? You can’t fool me, that was no innocent offer! What did you think would happen? Not that I’m complaining!

“Did you mean ‘penpal’?” it asked me snobbishly. I’m sure it’s two words, really, but I agreed. “Penpal” was indeed what I meant. I’d even thank it for correcting me, if that’s what it wanted. There’s no profit, I’ve learned, in arguing with The Internet.

Quite pleased with itself, it presented me a list of 124,825 web pages for people seeking the joys of correspondence. I clicked on the first, then went back to the second, then to the third.

I know you need the overtime if you’re going to save enough to get back into school, but I missed our little meeting this morning. With you working nights, we get so little time together. Five minutes on a subway platform and a kiss goodbye. I think about it all day. It seems so clandestine, meeting in the subway, that I almost feel like we’re having an affair. I wait with all those people who don’t know about us, don’t know that I’m waiting for you. My heart flutters a little more with each train that comes in. Then you’re there, holding my hand – then my train comes – too long for yours, too soon for mine! We steal a quick kiss, and we’re off in our different directions again. I think about those minutes all day long, waiting for the next one. If only our trains crossed in the evenings, too, I’d have two kisses a day to keep the cold, cold wind from chapping my lips!

Dating services, mostly. As I expected. Friendship was usually third or fourth on the list of goals the sample satisfied customers had for their foray into the world of correspondence. It seems like people would want to start with friendship. That’s what we did, a hundred years ago, when we met. I forgot all of that, the beginning. I remembered the Story, the Genesis Tale, the history become mythology, but I forgot the experience itself until I found the box in the garage. It had all of them, His and Hers, the letters, the notes, the cards. Our correspondence.

“If ever any beauty I did see,
Which I desired, and got, ‘twas but a dream of thee.”

I awoke with a smile, pleasantly surprised as always to find you there, curled up next to me. You were still asleep, so warm and soft that I reached out to touch your cheek, almost before I realized I was doing it.

Lightly, very lightly, I traced the tips of my fingers along your neck to your shoulder, wanting to kiss the soft, white hollow of your neck but not wanting to shift the bed and wake you. Already I felt familiar stirrings that rise so easily at just the thought of you.

You lay on your side, facing me, your arm across your naked breasts, your legs drawn up beneath the quilt. I slipped my hand beneath the covers, running my fingers slowly past your shoulder, down your side, and, and into the maddening curve of your hip. I thought I saw the faintest trace of a smile on your lips. Were you only pretending now to sleep?

As I moved down your hip and around to follow the rounded line of your ass, I was fully aroused, fully awake. The warmth, the feel of your skin beneath my hand, and memories of the night before were enough. I dragged my fingernails lightly down the back of your thigh, and you turned, a sleeper changing her position, shifting onto her back in mid-dream. Now I knew you, too, were awake, but still you pretended...

By the time I finished the six-pack, I was reading descriptions of women in prison. Some even had glamour shots, presumably taken before they were incarcerated. I paused for a moment, imagining myself as the photographer at a prison glamour shot studio. The fantasy wouldn’t develop.

A serial killer, I thought. That has promise. I do admire strong women. Serial killers are likely to be on death row, and death row inmates are unlikely to show up at the front door while I’m having dinner with the wife. And better a serial killer than a battered, embittered woman who set her husband on fire. Were there any women serial killers? I didn’t know. They’re supposed to be smart, though. Crazy too, sure, but maybe crazy doesn’t come off in correspondence like it does face to face. Antisocial. Maybe She wouldn’t write back. Egotistical. She probably would. Maybe I won’t even read Her letters. I wanted to write, was beginning to feel like I had to write, but the thought of reading didn’t give me the same pulling sensation in my chest.

Ah, but I’d have to read Her letters to know whether or not She’d understood. Understood? No. Pitied? No. A nameless, faceless She, absorbing me through Her eyes. Drawing me in, liquid on a sponge. If ever I got caught, then I’d think about why and chastise myself for such a pointless, dangerous act. But this was the time for the heat of the act itself.

The Internet is chock full of nuts, sure, but how would I find a female serial killer who wanted to be a penpal? That’s probably too specific a fetish. I thought about the pornography I’ve downloaded and realized that no, correspondence with murderers was probably pretty tame stuff. Probably even has its own name, something Japanese or German. And I’d heard of women writing to men in prison, women falling in love and marrying those men. But would men seek women? I smiled at the ridiculous question. Of course they would. Men would go pretty far for good masturbation material. I decided to write the letter first, then find its recipient later.

Roommates! I don’t want to have roommates anymore – I just want you! They eat my food, they don’t pay their phone bills, and they let their drunken friends sleep in my bed when I’m working! Two months seems like a lot of days to count, but I am. I’m counting them down one by one until summer comes at last and we can make a home together. I don’t know how we’re going to look for an apartment together, though. Do realtors work on weekends?

I pulled a blank sheet of paper from the printer. I type faster than I write, but I didn’t want any sort of record on the computer for the wife to stumble across. I knew the lines of my thought would curve across the unlined pages, as if the writing would spiral in on itself on a large enough page. I took a blue pen from the desk drawer, then replaced it with a black one. Black seemed more official. On the top of the page, I wrote, “June 4.” I thought about opening another beer.

I know you’re tired of this schedule. I’m tired of it too. It’s hard to have a relationship when I only see you when you’re blow-drying your hair before you run off to school, or coming through the door from your job while I’m going out the door to mine. We should put in a revolving door; we’d have less risk of cracking our skulls together coming and going. We have our weekends: grocery shopping, housework and homework, and bus trips home to see your family. I’m trying to get off this damned night shift, but the only way it’s going to happen is if someone quits or gets fired. It’ll happen, I swear; you’ve just got to hang in there with me. It’s still you and me, right? You and me against the world?

“Last night she said to me, ‘I don’t know what changed, or why, and I’m sorry. But, well, I don’t want to swallow anymore.’ She paused, and then, in case it hadn’t been enough to get the job done, she added, ‘I’ve wanted to tell you for a long time.’ I can feel it still, like a punch, two punches, in the belly. I can’t even write the words without squinting my eyes and baring my teeth.

“It’s been a long, costly war of attrition, and I’m running out of allies. I almost cry reading the casualty reports. The Kitchen Counter. The Bathroom Floor. Standing. Sitting. Wednesday Afternoon. Tuesday Morning. If Friday and Saturday Night fall, I will truly be without a friend in the world. And now Fellatio, critically, mortally, wounded. Alas, poor Fellatio! I knew him, Yorick… Here hung those lips, that I have kissed I know not how oft…

“Are you married? You may know what I mean. In the wedding announcements, the plastic smiles of people who can’t yet see the trajectory of their marriage look remarkably similar to the plastic smiles in the obituaries of people who can’t yet see the detonation of their lives. I certainly didn’t see it coming.

“I’m jerking off almost daily now, even two or three times in a day. I’ve outpaced my adolescent self, the boy who dreamed sweaty, sticky dreams of the geometry teacher outside whose door daily gathered the coaches of football, and baseball, the teachers of history and shop. Now I am the man, not the boy, and I know that the yearning ache in the chest and beneath it never went away for them either, those nervous, laughing coaches and teachers: the ache for a smile, a glance, a glimpse of lace between shirt buttons, a flash of white thigh beneath the hem of a skirt.

“Almost fifteen years married, I should be past all that, past the hidden pornography, past the extra-long showers, past the driving home from the office in the middle of the day for “lunch.” I should be settled comfortably into a routine of sedate twice-monthly lovemaking, a slight upturning at the corners of my lips where once there was wild laughter and mischievous grins. I am ashamed to remember that I used to tease my poor, lonely, single friends, when they rolled their eyes at my folly, marrying so young. I laughed at them, laughed that marriage was sex on tap, and I could pour myself a glass any time, any time at all. I knock on the empty keg now, a hollow thunk, and think ruefully of my pride. The tap has run dry.

“I used to think that Sex was not dying, just ailing from time to time as we all do. It was supposed to be, as the books and the scholars say, cyclical. Peaks and valleys. I am not so foolish that I believe that happiness can be maintained for any length of time, but I did believe that, though it would go, it would always come back around again, as sure as Halley’s Comet, but on a shorter orbit. I thought it was axiomatic: sex doesn’t die, it just winters in the sunnier climes.

“I have the letters, the evidence. They go back almost to the day we met, a story that I didn’t know we were writing since I only saw it a word, or a phrase, or a sentence at a time. Would you like to read them? They do not point to murder, I think – nothing so deliberate or pre-meditated as that. We could, both of us, be charged with reckless endangerment instead. Neglect, perhaps, but not abuse. There are a stack of them here, the letters, some still folded in their envelopes, some scratched on yellow notepads faded white, some on white paper wilted yellow. You can see our scribbles and doodles, sketches and coffee rings, poems and songs stuffed into the margins. I’ll send some next time, or maybe some excerpts. For you to look at. For you to see.

We should be talking about this in person, but when I tried, you walked out on me. I’m sorry this is hard for you. It’s hard for me too. I’ve finally found a therapist I really like, and I think I’m on the verge of something powerful now, something liberating. But to get there, to really deal with my past, I have to shut that part down right now. I know it’s important to you. It’s important to me too. But I can’t do both, I just can’t. I hope you understand. I’ve dredged up so much ancient history lately, and I can’t stand the idea of thinking about that history when you’re touching me. I don’t want that between us, too. I hope you won’t pressure me, or resent me for it. I know it’s hard, and I understand if you can’t stay with me through this. I love you, and I always will, even if you choose to go.

I read through the letter once and smiled. It was clever, I thought. Clever and well-written, particularly the little turn on Shakespeare. I read through it again. It wasn’t much of a letter, though. Not really. There was no “how are you, I am fine.” It didn’t matter. Some random Woman, sitting in a tiny room, maybe windowless, as She opened the envelope. Would She really care to hear what I look like, or how I twisted my ankle mowing the lawn last week? Probably not. She’d care to hear it even less than I’d care to tell it, most likely. It wasn’t important. Only an idiot twists his ankle mowing the lawn.

When I get back from Mom’s next weekend, we’ll talk. I think what we need, what we both need, might be a vacation. A change of venue, a breath of fresh air to clear out all the old dust and debris and help us start over again. I’ve always wanted to spend a week or two on white sand beaches, not doing anything. It seems like we’re always doing something.

“Women prison penpals,” I submitted. Not quite so smug this time, it returned a list of only 2, 689. I should have known: Alliteration is always good in marketing, no matter what you were selling. At least the prices seemed reasonable. Some charged a monthly subscription, some charged per address. The payment problem again, I thought. Yes, that’s definitely how I’m going to get caught.

cat food
fabric softener

In the end, though, I narrowed the search (“death row women free penpals”,) and discovered that death row inmates were a special breed of prison penpals, Anti-death penalty organizations were handing out their names and addresses for free to anybody that would take them. They even gave out helpful statistics, like age, interests, even religious preferences. No glamour shots, though. And what pictures there were had no smiles in them. Maybe nobody writes to a happy death row inmate. I tried to picture what kind of person would choose this as a hobby, and I couldn’t. Freaks and weirdos, I’m sure. They say it takes all kinds.

You’re not getting old... That was last year! Have a fantastic birthday!

I settled at last on a woman in Virginia who was fifty-six, enjoyed singing, had no religious preference, and spoke English. I was meticulous addressing the envelope, carefully following the instructions and checking and re-checking her prisoner number. As I was writing, I imagined the wife, pulling an envelope from the mailbox, “Insufficient Postage” in giant red letters across my neat printing. I put two extra stamps on the envelope.

For three weeks, I sweated nervously and tried to think of a lie I could tell that would make her stop checking the mail. I couldn’t. But in the end, she carried it in with a couple of bills. I needn’t have worried. She left the envelope on the kitchen counter for me. She never even asked me what it was, showed no curiosity at all. I took the envelope into the bathroom. My hands were shaking. The wife had touched the envelope. Now I was touching it. I let the water run. I flushed the toilet. I pictured the wife outside in the hall, listening. I didn’t picture her wondering why the sink was already running when I flushed.

Inside was my own letter. I couldn’t fathom what this meant; was it returned for excessive postage? I unfolded it, stared for a second or two without reading, without even really seeing. Then I turned over the first page. Written with red ink in generic, draftsman’s print was:


I turned over the second page. In equally tidy print was:


I dropped both pages and the torn envelope into the toilet. I flushed again. Then I washed my hands.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Few Thoughts on Traffic, Buddhism, and Group Think

OK, so I'm about nine and a half years behind the curve. A few months ago, while reading through defective yeti's archives, I read this, which links to this, an analysis of traffic flow patterns based on the analogy of fluid dynamics, written by an electrical engineer named William Beaty. I can already see your eyes glaze over as you slide over toward that back button. I know, I know: "Traffic analysis and the physics of liquid? Is he serious? And this is the guy who made fun of his brother for watching city council meetings on community access cable? What happened to the pregnant chick and impending baby stories?" And this right after a post about local politics that even my own wife groaned over and refused to finish reading. If you're good, I'll throw you a couple of baby bones at the end.

But hear me out: this article changed my life! That's right. Changed. My. Life.

OK, it changed my driving life, but I was trying to get you all excited there. I know you're not going to read it, so allow me to summarize: a single driver can't really improve his own traffic situation, but he can improve the situation of those coming behind him. The best thing any driver can do to improve a heavy traffic situation is to leave a large following distance between himself and the car in front of him, even in slow-moving traffic. So I've been doing exactly that. I have no idea if it's improved anything for the schlubs 5 five miles behind me, but it's improved my own situation immensely.

How? Instant Buddhism, baby! I, like everybody else, have always hated traffic, hated all the rest of you bastards out there slowing me down, and have done everything I could to succeed in the twice-a-day competition that is driving to and from work. I've cursed you and flipped you off for cutting me off. I've pulled up close to the car in front of me to keep you from getting in front of me. I've roared my engine as I passed angrily on the left and the right (though never on the shoulder; everybody's got their own moral line in the sand, after all).

But now, simply by accepting before I start that I will maintain a long gap between me and the car ahead of me, I am no longer competing with the rest of you jerks. I know that you will get in front of me, because that is precisely the point, and bam! I'm knee-deep in Buddhist non-grasping! The stress is gone. The anxiety is gone. The commute doesn't seem as long. Sweet!

So how does the gap work and why is people getting in front of you precisely the point? Well, you could read the article, but you won't. Frankly, I'm amazed you're even still reading this. So again, I'll summarize for you: the gap does a couple of things. It allows you to smooth out the stop-and-go, accelerate-decelerate of heavy traffic, and it eases the back-ups caused by people having to stop or slow down to make a lane change for an exit or for a lane that ends. Essentially, allowing the free flow of traffic between lanes improves the free flow of traffic within lanes.

Mrs. Rodius hasn't embraced my Buddhist outlook, though. She sometimes tells me, "Look at that guy riding up on the right. He knew that lane was ending; he just wants to get ahead. Don't let him in!" And sometimes I get caught up in that competitive fever and close up the gap on the guy because I just don't like the looks of him. But usually, I just let it go.

What do other drivers think of my philosophy? I usually get three reactions. People give me the thank you wave as they get in front of me. People slam on the gas and jump in quick before I come to my senses. People behind me squeal their tires and gesticulate angrily as they rush to get from directly behind me to directly in front of me because that gap? It just! Ain't! Right! I guess for some people, the gap blinds them to the fact that I'm actually going the same speed as the car in front of me. Drivers abhor a vacuum as much as Nature does.

That's what I think is fascinating about traffic: the imperative it creates for competitive action. Mass transit culture in Boston was completely different, though driving in Boston was exactly the same and even worse. People on buses and subways have a certain head-down, trudging resignation about them (a resignation I used to think of as evidence of the death of the soul), and even sometimes a tendency towards cooperative action. I think it's because the walls between us are literally removed and the space between is literally closed. When you are shoulder-to-shoulder with your fellow travellers, it's harder to shove past them to beat them onto the bus, especially when there's a pretty good chance you'll be standing nose-to-nose with them when the bus doors close. And sometimes, selfish actions are met with cooperative punitive action on the part of the crowd: they'll close up ranks to block your path; they'll verbally chastise you; they'll give you the corrective glare. Put every man in a car to himself, though, and cooperative action goes out the window, along with the spit and the cigarette butts.

So won't you join me please in the culture of the gap? Will you not now wave the drivers in, even the jerky ones? Let us make this a better traffic world, if not for ourselves, then for those that will come after. Peace be with you (and also with you).

OK, so you made it to the end. Here's your pregnant chick and impending baby update: the OB said everything's fine, and everything will start moving soon, but it hasn't yet. Mrs. Rodius and I are going today to a "meet and greet" with a potential pediatrician. I ordered $420 worth of Reusable Infant Waste Containment System this week. If you're in the market for cloth diapers, I highly recommend Bree's Bums. Bree is a hard-working young mother who gives excellent customer service. And cloth diapers all have such cute brand names. We're going not with the Kissaluvs or the Huggabunz, but with the Bum Genius. In assorted boy colors.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Local Politics Are Dirty Politics

And suddenly I want to sing, "Brown eggs are local eggs, and local eggs are fresh!" Maybe that's just a New England thing. I don't know. What was I talking about again?

Oh yeah, local politics are dirty politics (and dirty politics are fresh!). Well, all politics are dirty politics, really. I've never been that politically active, and certainly not at the local level. Big Brother, for whom I have a long list of Reasons I Know He's Completely Nuts, has this one near the top of the list: he likes to watch Austin city council meetings on public access television. He swears they are fascinating. He says, and rightly so, that local political activity has more power to affect your daily life than national politics. But seriously, city council meetings, on public access? With low production quality? And not even a rockin' soundtrack? Can anybody out there think of a better cure for insomnia?

My first taste of involvement in local politics was attending Homeowners Association meetings in the Land of Loose Dogs, Five Vehicles Per Home, and Getting Braids in Your Front Yard While Drinking Forties with Your Shirt Off While Fast-Food Garbage Tumbleweeds Blow Forlornly Down the Street. It was a nightmare. The HOA Board was little more than a mini-politburo whose individual members had for twenty years or more used their positions to pay their relatives inflated amounts to fix the road right in front of their own townhouse unit while letting the rest of the community fall into disrepair. They filled in the pool with dirt and grew grass over it to save the maintenance costs. They allowed the insurance policy that covered the exterior of the units to lapse, without informing the homeowners, because it was too expensive, thereby leaving all of the homeowners in violation of the terms of their mortgages. There was no continuity of records, with board meeting minutes only going back a few months because somebody had lost the files. They failed to maintain the proper paper work with the Secretary of State, or the Comptroller of Public Accounts, or one of them, and a disgruntled resident stole their corporate name, forcing them to rename the HOA. It was kind of a farce. After showing enough interest to actually attend a few meetings and send a few "WTF?" emails when the insurance expired, I was approached by a few other residents to run for a seat on the board. I politely declined, and then ran for my life.

But now that I'm a homeowner with intentions of long-term residence, local politics are starting to look a little more interesting, though no less dirty. Now, instead of an HOA (or actually, in addition to an HOA), we're under the jurisdiction of a Municipal Utility District. That's an actual governmental entity, and not just a non-profit corporation, so maybe it's a little less farcical. They have an actual lawyer that attends their board meetings and keeps them from breaking parliamentary procedure and everything. It's real professional-like.

But you know what? It's really not any less farcical. There are still board members who've held their seats for over 20 years, revelling in the power of their mini-dictatorships and bristling at the suggestion of cooperative action. Residents still mumble and shake their heads when encouraged to attend board meetings, because in the past, they've been actively discouraged by board members from attending, treated with open hostility when they did attend, and some even claim that they've been harrassed through the powers of restrictive covenant enforcement and other petty torments by board members that they've opposed.

Fun, right?

So last night I attended a public hearing called by the neighboring city council. It was supposed to happen six weeks ago, but the city didn't post public notice of the hearing properly and had to reschedule. The hearing is on an issue to which the district board is vehemently opposed, though they have shown no interest in explaining their objections to residents. Another resident and I met with an engineer who works for the city, so I've heard their side of the story. I was hoping the public hearing might fill in the gaps on the district board's side of the story. But when I arrived at the supposed appointed hour, I found out it had happened an hour earlier, and the city council had voted to proceed before any residents had shown up for the public discussion portion.

So what I got instead was a district board member holding court in the parking lot, whipping a contingent of residents into a frenzy against the city, while still paying lip-service to the fact she's not supposed to discuss these matters outside of board meetings with a quorum of board members present. Inside, the city engineer was holding court, whipping a contingent of residents into a frenzy against the board. And both sides were finger-pointing as to who had the wrong time and why. The city says they properly posted public notice with the correct time. The district board says the city underhandedly changed it and violated the public notice requirements again. The city says the board purposefully distributed information to the residents with the incorrect time because they don't want residents to hear the city's side of the story.

Fun, right?

So am I going to run for a seat on the board? Let's see: an uncompensated, volunteer position, to which one must devote a large amount of time and effort, and for which no matter how hard you work for the good of the community, some subset of that community will still always believe you to be at least stupid, and certainly selfish if not outright corrupt, and always working solely for your own benefit? Um, let me get back to you on that.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sixteen? Really?

It's just like me to plan a party and not ever really think about how many people are coming. Turns out there were sixteen of us. Well, sixteen and a half.

I don't know why this number is so surprising to me. True, we've never all been in the same place at the same time before. Ever. But it's not like there were long lost relatives that I'd never heard of before, all coming out of the woodwork for a beer and some barbecue. I was fully aware of the existence of all sixteen before they planted their butts in chairs in our living room. I'd never before thought of them in the aggregate, though. My parents, all of my siblings, their spouses, and all of their kids. Sixteen. And a half. I dig it.

There wasn't that much planning for this party, though. At least not on our part. We made sure the house was clean, bought beer and snack foods, and chopped up veggies from the garden for pre-dinner munching. The Old Folks (as I like to call them) brought additional seating, an inflatable pool, and a chest of squirt guns and toys for the grandkids. Pops (a.k.a. THWAM) even brought his own pump, inflated and filled the pool, drained and deflated it, and folded it all back up into the trunk of his car. Big Brother and family brought a pitcher of sangria, a gorgeously presented fruit salad they dubbed "Pineapple Extravaganza," and two giant boxes of Rudy's. That's my kind of party planning. If you can invite a bunch of people to your house and get them to do all the work, I highly recommend it.

It all went off without a hitch. The cadet was released from the Air Force Academy a day later than expected, but they changed her flight so she flew straight into Austin, and a contingent of the family met her at the airport and had her back to our place in plenty of time to regale us all with tales of glider flight and paint-pellet war games. She even brought show-and-tell material.

I think my favorite moments were:

1. Chatting through Sunday breakfast with my nephew, with whom I've had very little contact before. He was friendly and outgoing, and even found common interests (video games!) about which he could chat with me, for which I was grateful. I'm not always great with the small talk. He described himself as silly, and said one of his pastimes is cheering people up on the internet, because there are a lot of grumpy people on the internet. And there are. He even unwisely gave me an original piece of art. I say unwisely because he was lobbying hard for $30 for a new video game, and I easily could've been convinced to buy his artwork from him. But it all worked out, because he managed to hustle his mother at pool Sunday afternoon, and won the $30 off her.

2. Post-breakfast photo shoot. It's fun making surly teenagers pose for pictures. Mrs. Rodius was wrangled into the group shot of the grandkids, so Thumper would be represented. And Mrs. Rodius is herself a very useful person to have around when there's a goal to be accomplished, like getting sixteen people to stand together and look in the same direction while pictures are taken. As I've mentioned, she's the world's most capable woman.

And despite a few rough rapids in the river of our family history, there were no awkward or unpleasant moments, excepting the usual and expected teenaged surliness, which is understandable to those of us who can still dimly remember how hard it was to be both utterly bored by the adult conversation and utterly above the squirt-gun shenanigans of your younger cousins. And when you're underaged and vegetarian, even beer and barbecue hold no delights. Thank God for the iPod. So we were together through Saturday afternoon and evening, Sunday breakfast, and Sunday afternoon at Main Event, all without anyone fighting, sulking (again, teenagers excepted), or swearing never to speak to each other again. That's pretty good for family, right?

So thanks, Family, and I hope we get to do it again soon, after we've bumped our numbers up to seventeen!

Friday, July 13, 2007


If there are sahd's and sahm's, and wahm's and wahd's, and wohm's and wohd's, is anybody out there calling themselves sohd's and sohm's?

Got No Business

I ain't got no business being this cheerful. I'm even starting to make myself a little bit sick now. If this was Monday morning instead of Friday, I might just have to punch myself in the face. So I've really got nothing to say, but I'm walking around the office whistling a Bob Schneider song. So here it is in all its glory just for you fine folks. If I was all technically savvy like MTAMM, I'd stream it for you so you could be (la la la!) happy too. But I'm not, so I'll just have to kick it old school.

If you feel the need to punch me in the face, I understand.

"Getting Better"
by Bob Schneider
from I'm Good Now

Well I'm driving downtown in my big red Cadillac
sipping on ice wine, mixing it with Similac
feeling the amazing flow
of centuries in the afterglow

Set my stereo for nothing but the big beats
windows open sound of the city streets
blowing through the night like a tiger in a movie
feeling kind of groovy

And it's la la la oh it's getting better now
can almost forget how( la la la) it's a big beautiful day
and nothing's standing in my way (la la la)
Oh its getting better now (la la la)
can almost forget how (la la la)
bees they all sing her name (la la la)

Holding in the world and the world is full of love
everything I feel is coming from above
feeling the amazing flow
of centuries in the afterglow

Widow weeds and crows and ice chests
stacked up to the tv - I don't want to forget
the way I feel whenever she's around
I've gotta sing it now I've gotta make a sound like

(la la la) Oh it's getting better now (la la la)
can almost forget how (la la la)
it's a big beautiful day (la la la)
and nothing's standing in my way (la la la)
Oh its getting better now (la la la)
can almost forget how (la la la)
bees they all sing her name (la la la)
it never gonna be the same (la la la)

One hundred forty thousand years ago
when I was a wild-eyed buffalo
sky up above breathing by
Calamity Jane my oh my

Nothing matters explosions in the eastern plain
jackhammers wrapped up in the novacaine
my what a girl -- can't forget about
all the angels -- they are singing with me now

(la la la) It's getting better now (la la la)
can almost forget how (la la la)
ah it's a big beautiful day (la la la)
and nothing's standing in my way (la la la)
oh its so better now (la la la)
can almost forget how (la la la)
all the birds sing her name (la la la)
and nothing gonna be the same

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Notes from the Back Yard

A tip for the homeowners out there: pathological cheapness and environmental awareness have their place, but if you're going to go with the 18" electric mulching mower, you might not want to let the grass grow for 5 straight weeks between mowings, through the rainiest summer in memory. And man, I'm glad now that I didn't do the Full Hippie and get the reel mower I was considering.

At least now the nieces and nephews can play in Grandma's inflatable pool in the back yard this weekend. When they come back in, they'll probably be coated knee deep in grass clippings, but that's OK. Mrs. Rodius can vacuum it all up on Sunday...

Kidding! I'm kidding! It's a joke, people!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gather, Ye Family, While Ye May

For as long as I can remember, I've had a powerful yearning in my heart for the closeness of family. I think it's because the blurry, leading edge of my memory includes moments of extended family, mostly of my uncle's fantastical house (did it really have a homemade sauna in the basement, or did I make that up?): sparklers and hotdogs in their gigantic, tiered backyard on the 4th of July; roaring around the block in the Fiat my uncle was rebuilding; my large, loud, deaf Grandma who taught me the sign for "milk and cookies," and of whom I was terrified, though every time we went to her house, she gave me a toy to keep; getting caught by my aunt at maybe 4 or 5 years old, in bed with my age-peer cousin, comparing her parts to mine, both our eyes wide in amazement. Ah, good times.

But we moved from Colorado to Texas when I was 5, and all of that was lost. We returned for visits, and a camping and fishing trip at Red Feather Lakes, in which the Colorado family ridiculed the Texas family's new accents, singing "Put another log on the fahr!" at us over and over again. I remember listening to "The Gambler," and "Coward of the County," and watching Breaking Away with my cousins and laughing at a man shaving his legs. I remember sitting in the back seat of my uncle's truck, driving through Denver traffic without a rear-view mirror, wondering who was following us as he turned to look over his shoulder again and again.

Then Aunt Piggy (I called Peggy "Piggy" when I was younger, and it stuck) died of cancer, and Grandma died, and we went on with our Texas lives while the Colorado family shattered and the pieces drifted apart. I periodically missed them, particularly that cousin, so close to me in age, who had for the briefest sliver of my memory seemed more like a sister than anything else. I wrote to the uncle, with no response. I wrote to the cousin, and she replied, but the connection didn't stick. I found her again after she'd married, but again, there was too big a gap between us now to bridge.

In my immediate family, too, there were gaps I longed to fill. My oldest brother, 12 years older than I, was on a year-long exchange program in Germany when we moved. He completed his senior year in Texas when he returned, but then moved on to begin building his adult life soon after. I remember that he built towers of blocks for me to giddily kick over, and he patiently rebuilt them again. I remember the smell of the backseat of his station wagon and "Hell is for Children" on the radio as he and his girlfriend drove my other brother and me to a water park. I remember watching Eddie and the Cruisers on the television in his apartment.

My sister, too, is there, barely visible in the wavering images of my early memory. She, like my oldest brother, was a product of my father's first marriage. My clearest memory of her is walking in on her in the bathroom as she stepped out of the shower, and how she screamed at me. I was sure she hated me. Then she was gone to California to live with her own mother, another gaping hole in my picture of what my family could have and should have been, but never quite was.

When I married into Mrs. Rodius' large, Irish-Catholic family, I envied her the seemingly thousands of cousins she had. Every month, it seemed, there were weddings and wakes, birthdays and showers, and people to visit in the hospital. The aunts and the uncles seemed to be the core of the family events: the aunts organized and the uncles entertained. The wake and funeral for Mrs. Rodius' father was one of the first family gatherings that I was a part of, and I was overwhelmed by how many names there were to remember.

But this weekend, my family is gathering. We've had two or three "Family Days" a year since my oldest brother's oldest child was an infant. This year, for the first time, we're doing it at the Rodius house. My mother's house has always been the setting, because it's always seemed the most appropriate place, with a covered patio and a big back yard for inflatable pools and badminton nets and squirt gun fights, and within a short drive for about half the family. My sister has never been a part of Family Day, though. There were bad feelings around the time that she left and before that, feelings that I didn't understand or even know existed at the time. Now, though, she has moved from California to Florida and seems ready to come back into her Texas family again. She's coming, with her two teenage boys. My older brother and his wife are coming, with their two kids. My oldest brother is coming, too, with his wife and youngest child, a tennis-playing teenage boy. His middle child is an Air Force cadet, and she's flying directly from the academy to Austin. His oldest daughter, 21 now, may not come, beginning as she is now to build her own adult life. We'll miss her if she doesn't come, as she has been a part of these gatherings for as long as she's been alive.

I think my mother's thrilled to have another venue in the rotation. She's always expressed her willingness to have Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Family Days at somebody else's house, but we've all been content to let her host. And I'm thrilled to be carrying on the tradition and to find that more and more family are including themselves in it. I hope they are all a cherished part of Thumper's memory when he is old enough to be sentimental.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Sympathy for the Bedeviled

For a couple of weeks now, I've had a pain in my lower back that runs straight down into my right butt check. It hasn't been that bad, but yesterday morning, I almost fell over when I got out of bed to hobble-hop to the bathroom, and this morning, it took me an inordinately long time to make it from the car to the desk.

"Aha!" the more astute and experienced of you may be saying now, with that smug little grin on your face. "Right butt cheek. Sciatic nerve. Pregnant wife. He's got sympathetic sciatica! Isn't that cute?"

No, it's not cute. It's a pain in the ass. I know I'm not supposed to complain about anything, what with the wife who's got a giant trump card brewing in her belly, but: Oooowwwwww!

What's the deal with this, anyway? Is it the running? And by running, I mean walking and jogging? True, it seems to be worse right after a workout. But when I get into a good rhythm and really feel like I've got a proper ChiRunning form going on, the pain goes away entirely. That's got to be a sign that I'm doing something right, doesn't it? Of course, it comes right back as soon as I start walking again, but, you know, baby steps. Maybe I should've started with ChiWalking. But I imagine ChiWalking must be a lot like ChiRunning, but slower. Part of the ChiRunning form is visualizing that there are bars sticking straight out of your ankle bones, so that you have to lift each foot high enough not to trip on the bar sticking out of the other ankle. I just can't bring myself to do that when I'm walking through the office.

And OK, maybe it's so bad yesterday and today because I drove to Houston and back on Saturday to pick up baby furniture. My brother-in-law helped me haul the bigger- and heavier-than-expected dresser and changing table down the stairs and into the rented van. He was kind enough and manly enough to take the bottom end on the stairs, which gave him all the weight, but it meant that I got to walk down the stairs hunched over to keep my end low enough. And there was the part where we grunted it into position in the van, which doesn't exactly have a cargo space tall enough to accomodate my 6'3" of rippling muscle.

So you see, it's not some kind of sympathetic pregnancy thing. It's not in my head, it's in my butt. I earned my back pain through manly pursuits. Don't look at me like that...

Thursday, July 5, 2007

In Which I Abuse Italicized Foreign Phrases

I've been loathe to breathe even a single political word in this space, because, well, I'm an attention whore, and I'm afraid of alienating the few people who do come here and feed my need. Y'all seem to be such kinder, gentler souls than I, and I didn't want to out myself as an auslander.

But now that I've been voted a sensitive, albeit Rockin', girl, I think it's time I admitted it: I voted for George W. Bush.

I'll wait for the gasps to die down.

I only did it the first time, I promise. I won't defend the decision, because I'm sure most of you consider it indefensible. At least the second time I voted Libertarian.

I don't know what to think about politics anymore. When I was in high school, I was oblivious. When I was in college, I was indoctrinated into the affirmative action outrage, animal rights outrage, pro-choice outrage. I've kept most of that last one.

When I got out of college, I did a lot of independent reading, some of it about the Civil War, and began to think more about states' rights and large, centralized federal bureaucracies. It's not the lesson we're supposed to draw from the slavers/liberators morality play that the Civil War story has become, but I began to believe that the larger a bureaucracy became, the less effectively it was able to manage the problems for which it was created. A large bureaucracy with coercive power has a built-in motivation to grow ever-larger, and corruption and abuse are inescapable side effects.

So conservatism, here I come! And which of the two major political parties pretends to be the fiscally conservative defender of the Constitution? Well, they both do to a degree, but I bought into the Republican hype because the Democratic hype doesn't have that much "limited role of government" rhetoric to it. And then there was Bill Clinton. I spent the end of the nineties whining, with much exasperation, "He's the chief law enforcement officer in the nation, who committed perjury and asked others to commit perjury in order to avoid personal liability in a civil lawsuit brought by a private citizen! Of course he should be impeached!" And the answer was always, "It's just sex. Everybody does it!" And so I swore off the Democratic Party for all eternity, amen.

But a friend made it his personal mission to liberalize my conservatism. His particular bent is environmentalism, and there is some truth to the idea that there is no other entity in the world with the authority to protect our natural resources from selfish misuse better than a large, federal government. So there's that.

And then there's the fact that the Bush administration, those fiscally conservative defenders of the Constitution, have grown the federal bureaucracy and mutilated American civil liberties more than any other administration ever, Republican or Democrat. So there's that, too.

Oh my, I just received an office-wide email about building security. It has the subject line "Back Door Entry." Must. Resist. The urge. To reply. Must! Resist!

Sorry, I got distracted for a second there. Where was I? Oh yeah, what's a fiscally conservative, socially laissez-faire boy to do?

I was thinking about this guy, but he came across as a total goofball with virtually no political savoir faire when I saw him on The Colbert Report. Of course, how can anybody come across as anything but a goofball when they're on The Colbert Report? But then I also read that while he doesn't think the Federal government has the authority to regulate abortion and gay marriage (they are more appropriately left to the individual states to legislate), he is personally strongly opposed to them. So that takes him right off the table. I can't vote for a guy who, upon becoming President, might suddenly feel the call of his moral imperative.

What does that leave? Where does someone turn when he wants a small federal government that doesn't interfere in social issues like gay marriage? Libertarians, I guess. But that seems kind of like voting for your little brother's video phone footage for Best Picture Oscar: it could be a gas, and it might even be true, but I can tell you right now, he won't ever have to worry about writing that acceptance speech. Anybody got any better ideas?

In Which I Abuse the Exclamation Point Key on my Keyboard

We went to our 34-week ultrasound appointment this morning, and I haven't been able to stop smiling since. Can I bore you with some pictures of my son?

First of all, everything looks great. One potential problem is no longer even close to being a problem. Yay! And even though we did the "anatomy screen" six weeks ago, the doctor still went over a few parts and said, "heart's great, kidneys are great." Great, great. Great great great. Great!

But there are two things that just fill me with idiotic, grinning pride, and shouldn't really. One, they estimate his weight at 6 lbs, 5 oz., with six weeks still to go. I put the size chart that the ultrasound tech gave us into a drawing program so that I could blow it up and measure with pixelated precision, and I calculate that he's bigger than 74.29% of his peers. That's my boy! Let the competitive child comparing begin, even in utero!

Two, did you see that foot? Now, I know it's hard to judge relative size in a grainy ultrasound picture. Looking at those things is kind of like seeing shapes in the clouds. (Hey, look! A foot! No, it looks like a rabbit to me... ) And I didn't, but should have, ask the tech to measure it in centimeters. But, that's a foot, and those are two hands, and man! That's a big foot! That's my boy!

So I guess that's why I've been grinning like a Transformers junkie all day: it's all starting to feel a bit more real now. There's a person in there. At one point, the tech said, "Those spiky things are his hair." The kid's got hair! Of course, she did have a heavy accent, and she may have said "ear." But I don't think ears show up in an ultrasound as "spiky things," so I'm going with hair. The kid's got hair! And a big ol' foot! And if you kind of squint one eye and turn your head to the side, you can make out a face, and hey! He's kind of cute!

At another point, the tech froze the image on a perfect circle and said, "That's his belly." That's my boy! He's got a basketball belly and big ol' feet! Just like his old man!

I do feel kind of guilty about being so happy about all of this, though. I haven't had much of a chance to talk to Mrs. Rodius about it yet, but somehow I bet she's just not nearly as thrilled as I am with the "6 lbs, 5 oz, with six weeks still to go" part.

But have you seen that kid's foot? That's my boy!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Wow, That's a Lot of Stuff

Mrs. Rodius' sisters threw a baby shower Saturday. Mrs. Rodius shed a few tears that day, and I think every day since, thinking about the generosity of our friends and family. Indeed, it is a giant pile o' stuff. And her co-workers are throwing another shower for her next week. And this weekend, I'm driving to Houston to pick up the crib, dresser, and changing table Mrs. Rodius' brother and his wife are kindly giving to us now that their youngest has graduated to the "big boy bed." It's gratifying to know that Thumper already has developed such a large entourage of groupies and admirers, and he hasn't even arrived yet. I think we may have to move the kid into the master bedroom and move ourselves into the nursery, just so he has enough room for his stuff.

I am looking forward to blogging about our use of all of these items, and posting pictures of Thumper in every one of those outfits, particularly the hat with the panda ears that my mother gave us. I even welled up a bit myself looking at the Snugli and thinking about all those days upcoming when I'll get to walk all over the greater Austin metropolitan area with the boy strapped to my chest. I'm even looking forward to sucking snot out of his nose, and putting the Butt Paste to use.

So thank you all so much, and I'm sorry I ever called you a cheap bastard.
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