Tuesday, April 30, 2013


      Benson jumps up, and cocks his head, listening.  It's the quiet of the morning, the semi-dark still before the valley wakes.  I open the window.  It's brisk, not frigid, almost Spring.  Clouds have moved in.  The air is heavy.  Benson snuffs.  Whatever he hears, I can't, at first.  Maybe, I think, there is a bear in the neighborhood, or a moose.  Perhaps a neighbor is returning late from the bars, singing badly.  But then, from the direction of the river a mile distant, a single moan.  I know wolves follow the  trails between the coastal forest and the mountains behind the house, but I've never heard them before. Ben's ears are raised, intent.  Another voice in the distance joins in, and the first becomes louder, more soulful.
      Across the Glenn, folks have lost pets off their porches, even people have been circled and threatened.  One incident led to a thinning of the pack, shooting them from helicopters on base.
      Several wolves are in the song now, and "haunting" doesn't describe the feeling I'm feeling.  There is emotion in the sound, character and timber in the voices, hollow reverb as the echo bounces around the canyon.  I shiver.  Since breakup's begun I haven't used the woodstove, but it's stoked and ready to go. I'll be lighting it.  As if they know when to join in, seemingly every dog in Eagle River except mine starts to yap and yowl, drowning out the wolves. After a minute, it's silent again.  I close the window, sidestep down the stairs and light a fire, much to the delight of poor, deaf, oblivious old rat terrier, more aware of the comforting promise of a striking match than any link to her ancestry.  Ben stares at the window for a while, then settles in front of the fire, soon whiffling and whimpering in his dream.  Some say that Anchorage is a nice place, not far from Alaska.  This morning it's NOT far.  Not far at all.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Dear Nora - Fashion and Body Image

Dear Nora:
       Please notice that without exception, adjectives used to describe your appearance are positive:  Cute, adorable, pretty, awwww, etc.   Except for the occasional "looks like Dad", which is usually meant in a good way, there will be little criticism of your appearance for at least a year or two.  But then folks will start to notice the brand of the footie you choose, whether your ears are pierced or tattooed (people still DO that), if your body is properly proportioned, your eyes set apart by a nose from a catalogue, and the length of your fingers and lashes. (Be glad your not a boy.)
       Here's what I suggest: Keep your body in the condition that allows your brain to function it's best (listen to it), and ignore standards set by others as to roundness or lankiness, BMI, height/weight, uber-condition or sexiness.  Dedicate time to activities that keep your body strong, without abusing or neglecting it.  Eat some of everything, and not too much of anything.  Avoid violent sports, and wear a helmet.  (Sorry, off topic.)
       The body your soul wears now is the gift you were given.  Be grateful for it, even if sometimes it seems flawed (and it will). You could do worse.  Wait until you see what some folks deal with without letting it kill their spirit.  Your grandmother curses every time she needs a step stool to access the top shelf, but at times her bigger friends wished for her smaller frame.  There is no perfect body, no matter what airbrush artists believe.  You can sculpt yours naturally to some extent, and artificially even more (reference my tattoo letter), but my preference for you is to to be confident and comfortable in your own skin, which, I'm guessing, is quite beautiful.
       By the way, never trust the "honest" opinion about your looks from older close relatives.  Their judgement is glazed by their agenda; your promise and your happiness.  Always consult a sister, or a jealous true friend, if you think your eyebrows are bushy or you don't wish to go to prom with an inappropriate stain.
      Speaking of clothes, in case you're not already aware, they're required.  It takes a strong and dedicated person indeed to go through life without them. (There are careers and occasions that allow you to "slip into something more comfortable" occasionally, but that's another letter.)  The bad news is that the rules for wearing them are myriad and fluid.  Nobody has ever learned them.  Everybody laughs at their yearbooks.
       Now I'm no 'fashionista' (why are you laughing?), but I do have a guideline that might help; Learn the classical rules of fashion and operate within them, except where it's more fun not to.  For instance, 'Winnie the Pooh goes on the OUTside' is a dictum of long standing, to which, in my old age I've added, "except on Thursdays", unless, of course, the Winnie decal is uncomfortable.  When uncomfortable clothes are worn, they are called costumes, and are used only for short duration and for specific purpose. If costumes serve a utilitarian function, like a weather shield, or carrying weapons or tools, they become "gear", but can be costumes nonetheless.  Costumes are sometimes necessary, for professional functions, etc., but view them as means to an end.  When choosing between a bunny suit (fun) and a formal gown to wear to an awards ceremony (you'll have plenty), consider whether acting an idiot or furthering the career you've chosen is really the more fun.  I've always struggled with that.
      I've also struggled with body paint, including makeup.  I can't help you there.  Some folks use up huge parts of their lives with it.  Some allow others to poke holes in their body's protective layers just to decorate themselves.  There is a kazillion dollar industry selling nail paints, and face cake, and hair whitener, and tissue siphoners, and pre-destroyed jeans, and gear to pretend they're someone they're not.  I have no doubt you'll be involved to some extent. All I ask is that you think before you allow someone to advertise on your rear end, that you value the resources you dedicate to fashion, and you have fun establishing your own confident, purposeful, comfortable and healthy style.
       Meanwhile, I'll type a tale.  You do the same.  K

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Hilda's - Part Two

       "What, people with nut cancer don't get haircuts?", snorted Combover.
       We'd just learned that Buzz' brother was in the hospital with testicular cancer.  The consensus was clear.  Being in the process of losing one of your balls was a poor excuse for not taking your chair at Hilda's barber shop every other Saturday, as per routine.  When it's your turn for abuse, better to show up for it.  The coward.  Of course, his brother and the rest didn't cut him any slack just because he was absent.
       "I bet he never says 'I'd give my left nut' for anything again", said Flattop.  "No matter which side he's losing.  Which side IS he losing?"
       "I dunno", said Buzz.  If I survive this haircut, I'll text him and find out."
       "Quit talking", said Linda between trimmer strokes. "The fat on your neck keeps rolling."
       "Either way", said Combover. "That phrase is done."
       "So what next?", asked Hathair. "Does he get chemo? Lose his hair?"  Everybody laughed. Linda gasped.  Evidently, hair loss was mostly a moot issue for Buzz' brother.  Linda pretty much trimmed his eyebrows, shaved his neck, and massaged his shoulders extra, charged full price.  One of her favorite customers.
       "Maybe he'll get radiation", Buzz said.  "Most heat he'll have felt down there since his wife died!"
       "You don't know that", Linda scolded.
       "Unless you've got something to share", Buzz continued, "I'm pretty sure.  He lived for that woman."
       Flattop got solemn.  "Do you think he's ba.., um, uh, got enough fight in him to beat it?  If it gets bad?"
       Combover started laughing, "Ballsy enough?  Were you gonna say BALLSY ENOUGH?"
       Flattop shook his head, laughing.  Buzz shook his, too.  "He's pretty tough.  Kicked the shit out of me our whole lives.  But I dunno...  Lance Armstrong beat it, I guess."
      "Lance Armstrong was on steroids and had a bicycle seat jogglin' his nuggets twenty hours a day", offered Flattop with anger and conviction.  "He deserved it.  What was your brother riding? What drugs did HE take?"  Whoa.  Maybe some issues there.
      "Technically", said Mophead, who'd snuck in while I wasn't paying attention, "Lance didn't take steroids."  We all glared at him. Even Linda. He wilted.
      "Well hopefully", Buzz continued mercifully, "he'll just be off his nut, it won't have spread, and we'll fish this summer like we'd planned".  Linda was removing the last of the hot cream with straight razor, and she thumped him to hold still.
      "Not once in forty years in this God forsaken place,"whined Combover, "have I fished the way I'd planned all winter.  A few good trips, sure, but something always comes up, keeps me busy not fishin'."
       Hathair cleared his throat, like he does when he has something important to say.  "Life comes up.  The time you should be fishing just happens to coincide with the same time things are growing, and the house can be painted without frost, and folks come up from Outside, and twenty two hours of light isn't even enough for all the stuff that you've got to do...  Life comes up, and you cancel fishing, and then your wife dies, and then you get nut cancer."
        Linda fired up the vibrator and ran her hands over Buzz' shoulders.  We waited.  He handed her a bill, let out a big sigh.  "Listen, when you assholes are voting on whether I'm gay after I leave, take into consideration that I worked with only men for thirty two years, and I love my wife AND my brother. Seeya next time."  Then a parting shot for Mophead, who had no idea what we were talking about, "Who gives a fuck what KIND of cheater drugs he took.  Jeesus." Then he left.
        Flattop was already settling into the chair, and Combover had the broom, but there wasn't enough hair to sweep.  "Nope", said Hathair.  "Don't think so", said Combover. "Prolly not", from Flattop.
       "I don't know", I said.  "Those are the ones that'll fool you."

Hilda's - Part One

       It was a one chair shop on Saturday, because the two male barbers had bailed.  The owner who inherited the shop doesn't work Saturdays, period.  The other guy thought he might be coming down with what his wife had.  That left Linda, working her second job with a sore back, and a stack of cranky guys.
       Understand that this shop used to belong to Hilda, a true Alaskan character.  She was a wild bawdy bombshell who famously shot-gunned (and killed) her soon-to-be ex-husband's Cadillac and stopped conversation at bars by leaning across billiards tables in short skirts, winning much more money there than she lost.  As she and her legend aged, she ran a barber shop and told stories, remembering with her older mostly retired military customers, and entertaining the rest of us.  If a youngster couldn't sit still, she'd box his ears, and point to the dusty stuffed animals mounted there.  "You wanna be next?"
       Hilda died last year.  We all miss her.
       Now, Linda will carry the conversation when it lags, but this day it was animated.  Other than griping about her coworkers and her back, she didn't participate much.  Considering the topics, and the situation, that must have taken some lip biting.
       When I came in, four older guys had skeptical looks, while the mother of a teenager and the guy in the chair talked about pyramids.  If I'd been busy, I'd have left, like a half dozen that peeked in after me.  But this was the last of my to-do-today list, and Hilda's is one place I don't mind waiting.  Pyramid guy was evidently supporting the mother of the teenager, who'd introduced the topic to a mildly hostile cross-armed audience.
       "Believe me, the math supports the power of the pyramid", he said, glancing nervously from face to face in the room.  "Modern critics didn't take into account the limestone siding, the math is perfect!", he almost pleaded.  "Actually", he leaned confidingly toward the mom, "I built a pyramid sauna. In my yard. You can FEEL the energy."
       Linda cut the motor on the massager. Pyramid guy looked disappointed, handed her a bill, and walked over to the mom, talked in hushed tones like everybody couldn't hear about how he appreciated her research and to keep it up.  He hugged her and left.
       As the teen walked to the chair, the guy with the buzz cut, arms still crossed, asked the room about pyramid guy; "Gay?"
       "Yup", said combover.
       "Yessirree!", said flattop enthusiastically.
       "Ah-hah", mumbled hat hair.
       They all looked at me.  "Don't care", I replied without returning their glance.  The kid in the chair was grinning.  Mom said nothing.
       Linda broke the silence.  "Where's your brother?"  To the kid.
       Mom answered before he could, unaware she was breaking barbershop etiquette, "He's getting ready for the PROM!!"  Then she proceeded to tell us how HE had been asked by HER, and how he'd had no clue about what to wear or how to act, that the girl had insisted he take a dance class with her, and how he was shocked at how much this was all going to cost, and how he'd been embarrassed having to meet her folks, and how now he was all stressed out getting ready.
       "And he didn't need a haircut?", asked Linda.  producing a welcome but uncomfortable silence.
       Finally, hat hair pipes up, "You don't get a five dollar haircut for prom."
       Linda waves her scissors, "Mister, if you think you're getting a haircut for five bucks, you're in the wrong place!"
       From Buzz, "He didn't say what you charged, just what it's worth".  The kid is smirking again.
       "Anyway", Mom spins back up, "They're meeting a bunch of friends.  The prom is at the railroad depot. A wonderful venue. I've been there. Today's proms are more about getting together with your friends and having a good time. Not so much about romance."
       Linda didn't flinch, but the rest of the room could have won a medal in synchronized chuckling.
      " Oh come on!", Mom chided.  "This girl chose him because he's a nice kid, and he's tall enough she can wear heels.  That's all."
      Silence.  Mom looked like she wanted to put her hands over her son's ears when she half whispered, "It's not about SEX!"
      Nothing.  The kid's grin is almost audible, it's so big.
      Linda, "Well he IS a really nice boy."
      Combover leans forward.  "I raised two spectacular daughters. They chose their prospective husbands in 8th grade, and they're still grooming them. Really nice boys.  I'm pretty sure their proms involved some romance.  I'm not sure about sex.  I didn't ask."
      Mom is wide eyed, throwing money at Linda and ushering her younger son away from our influence. As they get to the door, Buzz asks again, "Whaddaya think? Gay?"
      Mom keeps walking, pushing the buttons on her key fob, escaping.  The kid turns in the door to hear our response.
      "Huh uh."
      I hesitated.  The boy raised his eyebrows, waiting.  "I'm concerned for the brother, though."
      The boy gave us a thumbs up, then ran to open the door for his mother.
      Buzz creaked into the chair and Linda wrapped him in her Marilyn Monroe cloak and took his glasses while flat-top found the broom and swept up the hair from the last few cuts.
      "Where's YOUR brother?", Linda asked Buzz.  Nobody answered for him.
      "He's laid up at Mercy.  Cancer in one of his nuts.  No proms for him for a while, I guess."                  
      We all laughed, and then we didn't.
      "Sorry", was all Linda said.
      "I'll tell him we were talking about him at Hilda's", said Buzz.  "He'll like that."



       The lab happily gulps anything I toss to him, including a fish oil capsule. The rat terrier lets it hit the floor, approaches carefully, eyes it from two sides, smells it, then looks at me as if to ascertain my intent. No wonder she's lived so long. She could use the lab as a food tester, but she'd starve.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Beauty Hurts

       She had traffic stopping good looks, walking across the WalMart parking lot.  Unfortunately, the new black Camaro didn't stop, and ran into the Volvo in front of it. She didn't flinch, but kept walking into the store like this happened every day.  Two crew cuts got out of the cars, shook hands and laughed together.
       She was in the checkout line in front of me, and the teenage cashier was obviously intimidated by her, couldn't speak even though company policy requires it.
       Now I am of the firm belief that even beautiful people have personalities; deserve the common courtesy of a hello. For the checker's sake I decided to tease her a little.
       "You know that accident in the parking lot was your fault."
       She turned her head to me.  I thought I saw a flash of anger. Gawd, she WAS stunning.
       "Do you think you could tone it down a little?  You know, gain a few pounds, drag a couple of kids around, dress frumpier?  Public safety issue and all..."
       The anger in her eyes was replaced by a profound sadness, and tears welled up there.  She almost whispered, "I wish... sometimes."  She held my gaze for a full second, then turned back to pay for her groceries.  The cashier was staring at me like I was an ogre.  I was feeling like one.
        I should have told her my attempted compliment was badly timed, obviously. I should have asked if she was OK.  I should have reassured her that whatever was troubling her would pass. I should have offered to help, if I could.  But when she looked into my eyes, and I saw that hurt, that vulnerability, I froze like the teenager before me.  I choked out a "Sorry", and she gave me a half smile and a no-worries wave of forgiveness as she left.
        The checker asked if I knew who that was. I said "Nope", and left.  Thinking back after I got reoriented, I think he was about to tell me she was someone recognizable to a more informed person.
        If you had told me four hours ago that I could ever again be shaken by a look from any woman, a girl really, I'd have asked to share your drugs.  But I will never forget those eyes.

Benson Earns His Kibble

I'm tossing a toy for the dog that just shredded newspaper all over the house to protest being left home alone during the day all week.  There's a Dodger game on my earbud, and the force of a "wubba" launch flips the bud out of my ear into the wet leafy grass.  Dammit.  I look without moving my feet.  Don't find it.  I turn up the sound.  Traffic noise, no hope.  I plant a stick and search systematically for ten minutes in the rain.  Nope.  Then the light bulb over my head lights up. (Doesn't happen much anymore.)  I stick my finger into my ear, get it good and waxy, get Benson to sniff it, and pretend to throw something into the grass, telling him to "Bring it!". It took him all of fifteen seconds to find it, twenty feet away from where I'd stood.  He wouldn't pick it up (can't blame him), but he smiled and wagged his tail, snuffling in the grass around it.  Good dog.  It's just newspaper, not the couch, and he's right about being left with all that responsibility.

Dear Nora: Compromise

Dear Nora:
       I assume you are feeling pretty good about yourself.  You should be.  Things are going pretty much your way.  You raise your voice, folks don't ask, they jump.  They are quick learners.
       So, rock star, I'm glad you are the confident ruler of your world.  But, as you are probably becoming aware, the world at large is large indeed (It'll seem small later), and controlling the chaos there has proved exceedingly difficult for the generations that came before you.  Without a doubt, you have skills, but I'm going to suggest a couple of compromises that may help you avoid un-winnable battles others have fought.
       Language:  You may already be experiencing problems with English.  We all struggle with it.  There are other lingos, but few are much better, and NONE could match the fluid beauty and structure of the language you will develop on your own over the next year or so.  That's a given.  The sad conundrum though, is that change is difficult for people older than you, and convincing the greater world to adapt to your obviously improved tongue is a task of monumental proportion.  Some very talented folks have tried, some dedicating their entire lives to the task, to minuscule effect.  Then you have those, some in your own extended family, who spread and teach English dogma, and might resist your well intended efforts to improve it.  Your talent and the internet might be the force that changes the world, but I'd suggest that unless this is the purpose to which you are called to the exclusion of all else, give it up,  just enjoy sounds and words, and become expert in the languages that surround you.  But don't ever buy into the idea that language is static.  It is constantly evolving, to the point I can't understand folks your parent's age half the time.  So play with it. You can only make it better.  I don't even want to talk about spelling.
       Pooping:  It's an unintended but necessary consequence of eating.  Both are natural, positive functions, and distinctly satisfying.  Some time past, as our culture became more "civilized",  people started telling other people what to eat and where to poop, even attaching taboos and guilt, which has messed up many a mind for life, I'll tell you.  Don't ever buy into that c$@p.
       At some point, a hineywrap fad started, where some very good salesman convinced folks it was better to capture kid's poop against their skin to avoid scooping piles.  Bad call.  Kids protested, and now cream tube wielding parents chase unhappy kids around day and night, fighting the dual battles of diaper rash and only partially filled landfills.  Eventually, parents wear down, and start reading wistfully about toilet training.  When your time comes, use the pot. It's not as scary as it looks, and I'm not aware of one person who hasn't come around to it sooner or later in one form or another.  That's one convention history seems to have gotten right.  I enjoy mine.
       I hope my tips prove useful.  Feel free to use or discard them according to what makes sense.  I'll keep tossing my opinions out there.  You do the same.  K

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

All Things Grass

Batching it for dinner. Mrs. Grass soup doesn't have a flavor egg anymore. Where's the magic? I'm done with all things grass. It's not my fault if you are too young to know the golden flavor egg. Look it up. I'm not happy.

Nora: The Big Outside

Dear Nora:
       So you had an exposure to the big outside.  And you took Dad and Charlie along. Probably wise first time out.  What did you think?  Unlike anything you've ever seen, right?  That's what it's really all about, setting your fears aside and challenging your inside to experience as much outside as you can.
       The next bit of your life (all of it) will find a few challenges, none of which will present much difficulty for you if you remember one of my keys; stay curious.  The arbitrary milestones folks assign to the very young happen quite naturally and easily if you are curious.  You'll hold your head up because the view is better.  You'll scoot and eventually walk because you NEED to taste or touch something.  You'll imitate sounds and eventually speech because it's fun, AND because of the reactions you'll get.  (Words will freak them out at first; use with caution!)  Just remember to ignore timelines.  There are millions of things to learn.  Adults only a understand a small number of them, and your priorities and pace are your own, at least for now.
       I mentioned fears.  Fears are ideas that stop your growth. There will be setbacks.  You'll crawl into a wall, or fall down, or run into somebody who doesn't care about your progress.  Those are challenges, and they are sometimes painful.  But they only become fears if you allow them to stop you from exploring different ways to overcome them.  Stay curious, in spite of setbacks.  Humans weren't built to hide in their cribs.  Get out and live a little, even if it hurts once in a while.
       Now, I don't mean to imply that there are no risks in the world.  Between disease, animals, diseased human animals, age, gravity, and your own distracted brain, there are plenty of safety issues over which you have little control.  For now, that is Charlie and your Dad's business, and they take it seriously.  Later, when you (and they) are more confident, you won't want bodyguards.  Be aware of danger, define the risk, listen to your gut, train yourself to react.  (Sorry, this little lecture follows news of innocent people being hurt.  It happens.)  But don't let random dangers keep you from your marathon.
       You have a miracle brain.  It's true.  And you may be more in touch with all parts of it than you'll ever be.  One dirty trick of life is that the more you gather experience, the more focused you're brain becomes on functional purposes, losing versatility.  You will learn more in a minute today than I will in a month.  It boggles my mind.  And sometimes it is hard to be patient with boggled minds.  But that's what I'm asking you to do.  Whenever you have difficulty understanding the behavior of anyone over the age of about four, try to remember they may be out of touch with part of their brain, and be tolerant.  Help them if you can.
       I'll be in touch.  You do the same.  K

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Dear Nora: Choices

Dear Nora:
       Now that you have established yourself, there are some preliminary choices you need to consider. Like what college you'll attend, your political party, a religious affiliation (or not), the professional sports teams you follow, and what shoes to wear.  The culture you were born into is one of extreme categorization (sorry, it's true).  When you pick a category and claim allegiance, like minded cohorts will begin opening doors.  All of your information will come from radical preferred sources, and you'll be expected to think and act like the group acts.
       People will judge you first on your looks (shoes), then on your association with groups.  Slap an Oakland Raider sticker on your stroller next time through the mall and watch the reaction if you doubt it's true.  So don't take these decisions lightly.  But no worries, you can change groups.  Members of Congress do it all the time.
       There are state colleges, prestige colleges, party colleges, nerd colleges, art colleges, God colleges, and lots more.  They pretty much all teach the same things, but people in groups look at the initials on the piece of paper with a prejudiced view.  If what you want to do in life depends on your class rank amongst snoots, then by all means, borrow the two hundred grand.  Otherwise, pick a place with a program that excites you, a pretty campus, and a social setting where you'll make friends for life.  For now you can just pick a school with a mascot that resembles a character on your crib mobile.
       When you choose a political party (doesn't matter which), the important thing to remember is to never compromise.  Loyalty to your politics outweighs any feigned concern for the country as a whole.  Gray area discussions are not allowed.  Independent thinking is holding our country back.  I'm not saying it's right, it just is.
       You probably should just attend the church your folks go to for a while.  Saves on fuel.  Plus you learn in detail the rituals and traditions of a faith that you can enjoy, and when you need it, fall back on.  Don't ever forget, though, that there are branches within every religion who do things differently, and lots of people in entirely different religions across the world, and good people who have no faith at all.  And all of those groups are more similar than some would have you know.
       Now Nora, I've known a few people who refused to let their associations define them.  It didn't matter to them if people thought their shoes were cool, or they went to an uppity school, or if political or religious leaders ranted in their behalf.  They were too busy with their life work.  That doesn't mean they weren't fun, or thinking, or involved; they just weren't followers of patterned thought.  It's a consideration.
       As for me, like most of America, I just want to be associated with a winner, whether or not I am one.  For a few years there, most of the groups I gave my heart to were losing, and it was difficult.  The Denver Broncos alone made me a shameful recluse, and it was too much work to swap loyalties. (I was close)
       Anyway, text me a list when you gather your affiliations.  I'll stock up on t-shirts and bumper stickers, because I'm a big follower of yours.  Periodically, I'll record a thought.  You do the same. K

Friday, April 12, 2013

Dear Nora: At a Week

Dear Nora:
       I understand that you've handled everything they've thrown at you like it was a stroll in the park.  Way to go.  You'll get an actual stroll in the park soon.  You'll like it there.  It is to wild nature like Charlie to a wolf, but as an intro course, it'll do.
       Rumor has it you don't like a wet diaper.  I'm pretty sure nobody does.  But good for you, listening to the messages your body is sending.  There is something to that metaphor, the body as a temple. You don't worship the temple itself, but that is the place your spirit is active and renewed.  Let the temple ruin and you'll suffer, distracted from the things you were put here to accomplish.  Some think a body is just a bag of water and chemicals, but it's the bag only you were given, the bag where the inner you lives, and it's a pretty wonderful bag, no matter what the fashion magazines say.  By design, you'll feel what it needs.  Don't ignore it.  Some kids live with so much filth and pain they quit complaining about it.  Don't ever compromise there.  Make sure your body is taken care of. (Said the guy with no neck)
       I wrote today to tell you something you may already know. You're gifted.  Now I don't mean that in the way schools will later describe you; advanced in the knowledge and skills schools measure.  And I don't mean you are some sort of prodigy or intellectual giant. (You might be. Who knows.  And who knows if that's more gift or burden?)  What I mean by gifted, is that you have special talents (I believe we are all born with them), and  nothing to hinder you revealing them.  You are healthy.  Your DNA, with a few exceptions, is sound.  You are safe, for now. You are loved. You are not born into poverty, or arrogance and wealthy privilege.  You have extended family.  The society you'll know, while not perfect, is better than most, with values and traditions, as well as challenges.  Did I say you were loved?
       And now the bad news.  Since you are gifted, there will be expectations.  Part of the excitement of a newborn is the potential for the development of a person of unique value; someone who can make a difference in the world, make it a better place, maybe fix some of the problems we couldn't.  You represent hope.  That's a lot of pressure, even though nobody can clearly define that "person of value" for you, or show you a sure way to get there, as it should be.
       You'll pretty much decide your own course, and in your case there's nothing stopping you.  Some of us spend our whole lives just trying to figure it out.  Trust me, the bar setters will have high standards for you.  Ignore them.  Blow right past them.  Don't allow yourself to be limited.  Be that Marine commercial.
       Once again though, you have an edge. You share a home with accomplished difference makers.  Understanding what drives them can help you.  Wherever that leads, know I'm cheering you on.
       Now and again, I'll set paper to pen.  You do the same.  Go team Nora! K

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Promise Kept

 The baby cruised through gestation and was born normally and she's fine.  Better than fine.  She kept her promise.  Of course she did.  People in that family always do.  And now I can admit that I was terrified that she might not.  All the disappointment and doctors and drugs and moods and embryos in glass...  Then the announcement and celebration ten minutes pregnant... And the documentation, baby bump photos, research and friends sharing advice...  The nursery build, the showers, the photo shoot, the sonograms.  I suppose there are warriors and worriers, and I'm more the latter,  but I couldn't keep from the edge of my mind the fear there might be a problem, and the devastation that could follow.  But as she graduated trimester to trimester my confidence grew, and now that she's home and swaddled, I'm hoping my reticence didn't scare or offend anyone.  Someday I'll thank her, just for showing up.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Practical Thermodynamic Weight Loss

      Two folks discussing the best way to lose weight and remain happy, healthy humans.  Exercise and portion control with supplements wins the day.  However, the old calories-in-vs-calories-out cliche ruffles feathers, and the debate heats up.  I've been in this discussion, and it is silly, in a way.  I hear my own words spoken a different day, "Everything you eat is burned, stored or passed.  It's simple physics."  And from the other side, "But people metabolize at different rates.  Some store fat more efficiently", yada yada.  All true of course, but irrelevant to the starving argument.
      They both turn to me.  Dangit. I knew this would happen.
      "Well", I say, "Real world observation shows that, without exception, malnourished individuals lose tissue mass.  But I'm not sure they're all that happy about it!"

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Dear Nora - A Modeling Career?

Dear Nora:
       Folklore describes the loss of a bit of life energy whenever a human image is captured on paper or in a box.  Some would say that putting a camera on every corner (and in satellites) produces a soul-less society.  I don't know if that's true.  But I can relate that cameras have gradually come to record major parts of my life, even being inserted into an orifice or two, and with every incident playback and viewed image, I feel diminished. 
       I wasn't too distressed seeing the first grainy photos of your cute face pressed up against the glass pane of the womb, only curious that there seemed to BE a glass pane in the womb. 
      Then you and your folks decided to do that pregnant photo shoot.  There you were, pushed out front in some poses that weren't perhaps suitable for all audiences.  I don't know if you had input into the tone and content of the session, or retain editing rights and control of the release of the material, but this early in your career I suggest being conservative to avoid regrettable images that might dictate your path.
      Of course, at your coming out party, there were lots of photos with family, etc.  Even those pics should be limited to ten thousand or so, and should require a waiver. 
      Then, lo and behold, the hospital is using your picture on it's promotional billboards around town.  Hundreds of thousands of folks will know who you are.  Congrats to your agent.  Some say that "any press is good press", but I can assure you from personal experience that is not always the case. (Not talking about it.)  But from the images I've seen, you're safe, and the hospital made a good investment.  You ARE getting paid, right?  You can count on photographers, ad-men, and "friends" in the industry wanting a piece of your success, but insist that bits of your soul come with a price.  Your "life energy" is boundless now, but you won't be young and perfect forever with clamorers at your door.  Work it. 
      Anyway, congrats at your achievements. I'll drop a note here and there.  You do the same. K

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dear Nora: Happy Birthday

Dear Nora:
     Happy Birthday.  I'd sing but they say my voice should be perfectly pitched.  But really, it sounds like your birthday WAS happy.  Good job.  The labels I spoke of earlier, the ones people will assign to you because of the way you came; seem to be all positive.  "She sure didn't wait around!", and "Wow. Once she made up her mind...", and "She knows what she wants (food), and she's GOING for it!".
     Not to spoil your pride rock moment, but you may have noticed those around you are winding down some.  The adrenaline rush will have a rebound.  They, like you, have been through some changes in the last few days.  In a perfect world, you'd all have a quiet week to just recoup and adjust, but that's not the way of things.  There will be a parade of well wishers and tribute payers, people who really want to get to know you and people who just like to hug babies.  It's all good.  They're all good.  Buy into the entertainment value and network a little.
     Heads up, though.  Your Mom may be in for a chemical mood storm in a couple of days.  It affects some Moms pretty bad.  Do what you can to help her through it.  You've got some pretty powerful tools at your disposal.  Try this:  Look as far into her eyes as you possibly can, and report back to me what you see there.     Sometimes you have to stare, or squint, or really focus, but what you'll find is magical.  And the more you search, the quicker and more thoroughly she'll heal.  I've seen it.
     Forgive your folks if they lapse for a moment here and there, forgetting that your needs come first.  Nobody is 24/7 totally on task strong. I'm guessing that your household won't need much reminding, but when they do, be gentle.
     Well, on your second day, try and experience something entirely different.  Know that I'm thinking of you and yours, and that I'd be right there with you instead of sitting here all hermitty comfy, watching the snow build with a hot breakfast in my belly and my feet on a warm dog, except that there are serious, serious deeds here needing tending.  Ahem.
     I'll write now and then.  You do the same.  K

Friday, April 5, 2013

Dear Nora

Dear Nora: While you're waiting, I thought I'd share some thoughts on this birthing thing. I know. You didn't ask. But I've met most of your extended family, and unsolicited advice is going to be part of your life. Don't worry, you'll learn techniques to deal with it.
      First of all, congrats on how you've handled your job thus far. Your growth has been phenomenal. Parent training regimens are coming along swimmingly. I want you to know that people are noticing and commenting on your progress, impressed when you busted a few playful dance moves. Keep up the effort and great attitude.
      Next, I want you to understand that punctuality in birthing is way over rated. Don't let anybody pressure you into anything you are not ready for, but fashionably late for no reason can cause people anxiously waiting to become explosive. But no worries, "failure to launch" discussion doesn't begin until you're like..., ten. You'll know when the time is right. "Due" is on you.
      Put some thought into how this will go down. Not to pressure you (sorry), but there are landmark events (birth, wedding, certificates) that will create the short summary of your life in the minds of those who don't know you well. Not that others will define you (you'll do that), but trends we set early sometimes carry all the way through. For example: My mother tells me we made three trips to the hospital before I made the big move (Can't verify, slept since then.), and folks think I'm STILL pretty indecisive.
      There will be records of your birth; digital, administrative, and imprinted memories among those who will be in the room. Unless you want "She came into the world waving at the crowds!" following you through life, don't do that. Just sayin.
      The birth process itself is undignified. What was naturally a private moment with your mother is now a full blown spectacle in a "birthing" room, with you in your birthday suit, tired, slimy, deformed and probably a little ticked off, being handled and polished, fondled and inspected, wrapped and braceletted, and possibly stabbed and microchipped (kidding, geez!).  That's just the way it is.  Deal with it. Go to the light, breathe, and endure.  You'll be fine.  They don't know how tough you are. 
      I've got to tell you, the setup you're coming into is pretty sweet.  The folks want you.  Really, really want you.  They put a lot of effort and resources into getting you here.  There's a reason they're celebrating. That's certainly not the case for many (most?) newbies.  You'll never be hungry in a serious way.  You'll get primo medical care.  You'll probably dance and laugh and learn a lot.  Lucky.
      So.  Be tolerant of all the gooey talk and smothering hugs and kisses.  Don't roll your eyes.  Don't discourage the fussing.  Wear the silly footies and diapers and frilliness knowing they all mean well and will not love you to actual death.  You'll settle in soon, and come to know who you are and to what purpose you will serve.  This new baby thing doesn't last long.  Not long at all.  Enjoy it. 
      So, welcome.  We'll meet soon.  I'm already proud we're associated, and I'll write occasionally.  You do the same. K

Monday, April 1, 2013

Nosepicker's Revenge

     I know a guy who told his sister that he couldn't believe he had seen her on national TV (at a baseball game) picking her nose. He was embarrassed for her and the family. He seldom joked, so she bought in and stayed up half the night playing the game back frame by frame. She and her nose were never on camera. So she plotted.
     Months later, she casually threw out the idea that I might have some relatives coming the next summer from Europe. A month after that, she went into more detail. The visitors were young, female, and would be traveling across the southern tier of states, coast to coast. (He was young, single, and living in Las Cruces at the time.)
     She let the idea simmer for a dozen weeks, then said they were definitely coming, had sent pictures of two very pretty adventurous girls, and that they would like to meet if schedules could be adjusted.
Just a week into March, she told him the girls were coming at the end of the month, and work being what it was, nobody was able to drive down to meet them on the only day they would be traveling through. She told her brother that she had given the girls his number, and would he mind just taking them out to dinner or show them around for an afternoon?
     He called his mother and complained that his sister would share his number with strangers, and expect him to entertain them. But, of course, he didn't turn the phone off.
Then the sister did the most bizarre thing. She got her friend to fake a Dutch accent (who knows what that really sounds like?), and call her brother. I heard the call. It was the worst performance I've ever seen. Botched completely. A conglomeration of Jamaican, French, and English English. She giggled the whole time, which, combined with his willing naivete, allowed her to pull it off, amazingly. Oh, and by the way, she managed to arrange a two night stay in his apartment to recharge from their travels.
       The brother spent the next days thoroughly cleaning his digs, stocking his fridge, and even bought a shirt. His roommate, who had a girlfriend, vacated.
Exhausted on the day the visit was arranged, he again called his mother to complain. "I haven't heard a word from anybody up North offering to help out with a little cash. I can't believe they are just dumping these people on me for the whole weekend!"
      His mother, who was not in on the joke, but knew her children, asked, "I know, I know, but... What day is this?"
     "It's Saturday! And I've got two midterms THIS WEEK!"
     Patiently, "Yes, but, what is the date?"
     "It's April firs...", then moaning, "APRIL FIRST!! She WOULDN'T! REALLY?? Aw fer cryin'...", and he hung up.
     The sister didn't answer her phone that day, but her brother received a message - Happy April 1st! Payback, Nosepicker.
     When they next got together, it was as if nothing had happened.