Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Sunday, December 30, 2012


Last night I had the best night sleep since I left my in-laws.  That means I slept for at least 8 hours straight and did not wake up.  Let me back up.  We are sleeping on a blow up mattress on the floor in our new house.  I think I have it bad but the girls are sleeping on camping mats on bamboo floors and they haven't complained yet.  But I am not fond of the blow up mattress even though we bought an egg crate and put it on top and found some nice bedding and threw that in the mix as well.

Sleep is very important to me.  If I don't sleep well I start to get anxious.  Anxious while driving the car, anxious in crowds, anxious in the house, anxious outside of the house and if the sleeplessness continues then I get panicky. 

I'm well aware that I could take medication for all of the above and sometimes I do.  I know I spent most of my 20's and part of my 30's self medicating for a myriad of physiological symptoms that I self diagnosed with the help of my very bestest friends.  Right now however I choose to grin and bear it and so last night was a high point in a week of setbacks, sobs and chagrin.  And adventure.

We are opening a bottle of champagne when the movers show up.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Road Again

One of the hardest songs to play on the expert level (which is the only level that Gabe and I play on) in Guitar Hero is On The Road Again by Willie Nelson.  He does all these crazy things with his guitar and it makes my fingers feel like they are having a nervous breakdown.  I love to try it but I can't make it even 10 measures into the song without failing - and so we have to put it on a no fail mode to play and I cheat my way through it.  But I love the song.

When I was 10 years old we moved to Kingston Jamaica.  We didn't just go straight there we wound and twisted around the US until we got there.  I vaguely remember a train trip to somewhere like Arizona or Texas.  Then we stayed in with various friends and relatives until we found ourselves near Freeport Maine and we started the school year there until it was cold and our visa's came through and then we flew to Kingston and when we stepped off the plane the air was so warm and moist I felt like I was drinking.

At age 10 moving was a real adventure.  And the trip we took to get there was an adventure.  And now we are taking our kids on such an adventure too.  Today we talked to Gabe and his Dad and they were somewhere in Oklahoma and the plains were barren and dull and they were racing storms to get to their destination for the night.  They have been driving for 2 and a half days without breaks and they are over half way there but I could see the tiredness and stress on their faces as we Skype'd with them last night.  They will be happy to stop driving.

Two days ago I felt like I was playing On The Road Again, I thought I was having a nervous breakdown, not that I necessarily know what that feels like.  I came to my in-laws and I couldn't sleep.  And the girls were driving me crazy.  And I was exhausted and irritable.  And then last night I had nightmare after nightmare.  So I woke up every 2 hours and tossed and turned.  And I worried and I fretted.  But this morning I woke up and the sun was shining, the girls were rested and my MIL was making waffles.  So I had a waffle, a cup of tea and I clipped my kids toenails and I told each girl how much I loved them.  And I feel much better.  I am not having a breakdown, I am moving and while they are very similar, they are not the same thing.    I'm gonna be ok.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Goodie Bag

I have been wanting to write something for several days now but all my time seems to be sucked up by this upcoming move.  I will work feverishly for 2 or 3 hours and realize that I've done pretty much nothing.  I also stress out over the weirdest things which I'm not going to post because too many relatives read this and I don't want to freak them out.  But suffice it to say that I actually had a panic attack driving the car to pick up a kid from piano lessons and it actually took me about 2 or 3 minutes to realize I was having a panic attack and not a heart attack.  I didn't pull over of course because 1) the panic attack never wins and 2) I was too busy to pull over and 3) I live in Cupertino (still) and most people drive muy loca here so no one noticed.

I hate the Goodie Bag.  H.A.T.E.  I hate all the little pieces and plastic crap that goes into them.  I hate the paper or plastic bag that the small pieces go into.  I hate the pencil toppers, note books, whistles, slinkies, candy, balloons, erasers, squinkies, rings, blowpops, twizzlers, pez dispensers, hair clippies and all the other stuff that comes along with the Goodie Bag.  I hate that there is pressure to put together a goodie bag so that you get one at the end of a party.  I hate that each kid expects the goodie bag so that if you decide not to make one they are crushed on the way out of your party.  What ever happened to just being happy for the kid who has a birthday?  It is their special day and not yours, get over it.

I can say that there are a few very small exceptions to the Goodie Bag that I will allow.  One party we took home these fabric bags with velcro on them that we later used for sandwich bags that we wash and re-use, they seemed very eco friendly and earth sound.  One party we threw each child made bracelets and necklaces as a craft and so they each took home their own jewelry they had made.  And finally I went to a birthday party where we took a book and exchanged it for another so every child brought a book and every child took home a book.  It seemed so wonderful and educational and forward in the parents thinking.  After all, who has a child without any toys?  Please raise your hand if you do and I will personally take your child to the Goodie Bag store and buy them a bag full of plastic, small, vaccum cleaner breaking stuff that you can take home and then strew all over the floor and leave for your mother to step on. 

It is my mission to eradicate the Goodie Bag all together.  Remember that book by Al Franken where he ran for President and his platform was to stop ATM's from charging a withdrawal fee?  Well my platform is to eradicate Goodie Bags from the face of all parties.  Unfortunately I'm going to have to start in N. Carolina since I'm moving in a week.  More panic.

Monday, December 10, 2012


We spent a whirlwind weekend in and around Raleigh this weekend looking for what will soon become Casa McKeon - the most fantastic house for this Irish/Korean/Spanish speaking/pet loving family from Cupertino.  We wanted something charming and we wanted something cute and we wanted something with a little land and we wanted something that was us and finding all those things in one house is a lot of work.  It is also impossible.

The first place we saw was interesting, the kitchen was old, there was hardly any storage, a huge burn spot on the dining room floor but the neighborhood was cute and the couple seemed very nice.  They knew we were just starting out so they wished us luck and sent us on our way.  It was like they knew we would not be back.

The second place we looked at was fabulous.  It was beautiful and it was remote and the house was so pretty that we didn't feel like it was for real.  We tiptoed around the place and ooo'd and awww'd and then left.  It really felt like a grown-up house for grown-ups.  Not for a couple of kids like us.

The third house was hideous.  The fourth house was hideous.  The fifth house looked like all the houses my friends had in 1983.  It had bright blue carpet, wallpaper and floral motifs.  Ugly.  The sixth house was brand new.  Brand new and beautiful.  Cookie cutter end townhome unit, community pool, 2 car garage, expensive but beautiful.  The seventh house was cute.  But by this time of the night - 7:000pm to be exact, I knew that I had seen too many houses for one day.  I knew that I needed a break and I needed some food and I needed to go to sleep.

So we got up the next morning and drove back the the last house and looked again.  Everything looks so different in the light of day.  The couple renting it was so nice, oh so nice and we wanted to rent it for them because they were so nice and we liked them.  But then we drove back to the second house and walked around it.  And I stood there and looked at the house and as I photographed it, Gabe walked around the side and said, "this is our house, this is it" and I knew that we were not kids anymore, we were grown ups and this was our very own grown up house.  And so we called the guy and filled out a bunch of paperwork and that will be our new home.

And ya'll come visit anytime, ya'hear?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


This is a picture of what my new home state will look like.  It looks strange to me.  I have officially entered the kicking and screaming, temper tantrum stage of my move and the packers haven't even shown up. 

On Friday we will get on a plane and fly to North Carolina and check it out.  We will drive around and we will rent a house and we will meet people and we will check out schools and we will get on a plane and fly back home and then the movers will come and pack our stuff up and you know the rest of the story. 

Last night I was talking to my friend Whitney who I met through the Moms club I belong to and I was telling her that my biggest fear was that people would be having lots of fun and I would not be here to have fun with them.  And that it made me sad to think of myself miles and miles away and them here laughing it up, out to dinner, park play dates, fun events, beach trips, celebrating birthdays, camping excursions and all the while life will be moving on without me.  I started to cry because that is something that I am doing a lot lately and I felt silly, like a little kid that wants to have her cake and eat it too.  I can't move to North Carolina and live in California at the same time.  I can't move into the next stage of my life and become a home owner and stay on the west coast.  I can't say goodbye to my family and stay here and watch them leave.  This is a package deal - we made this decision together and we are going to make the best of this wonderful job opportunity and life changing decision. 

It just means that I met some pretty neat people here and I put down some roots and I will miss them.  And I'm sure that after a while we will put down roots there and we will meet people and we will make new friends.  And one day I will realize that I'm having a great time somewhere else with other people, new people and I won't feel so lonely or bad that life has gone on without me here in California. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pink Martini

In 1998, shortly after having moved to Portland, my brother stepped off a Tri-met bus and bent down and picked up a CD and brought it home.  It had a yellowish cover with a picture of some people in front of the Eiffel Tower on it and he mentioned that it looked like fun and we should listen to it.  We didn't stop listening to it until it was so scratched that every song skipped.

Last night my cousin Lisa came to pick me up and take me out for our combined birthday celebrations.  We both celebrate in November but hadn't seen each other for quite some time.  I knew she had something planned but I wasn't quite so sure.  I was shocked when Pink Martini strode onto the stage at the Davis Symphony Hall in San Francisco to perform but what made it so wonderful was the fact that we were front row and smack dab in the middle.  I felt almost like I was on stage performing too.

When they introduced themselves and announced that they were from Portland I had to give a shout out to Portland because for a long time after leaving Portland I considered myself a Portlander and wanted to go back.  But maybe we will have to postpone that move now that we are in the process of moving somewhere else.

They performed something from all their albums and it was so fun to hum along or mouth all the words.  The last song they did was Brazil and people got up and formed a conga line and danced through the song. There is nothing quite like seeing a live group like that;  harp, guitar, violin, piano, congas, percussion, trumpet, clarinet and they were backed up by the San Francisco Symphony.  If you have never seen something like that, splurge, because you will spend the whole next day singing.

Just like I have been.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


We went to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with family this week.  It was nice to be around the familiar items of my childhood, the same wall hangings, the same throw pillows the same smells and customs and especially the same people.  Even though the house my Mom lives in is not the one that conjures up the most memories, she has hung the same pictures I grew up with and has much of the same furniture and so it is familiar to me as the house that I, for many years considered home.

I am the only child to make this pilgrimage on a regular basis to visit the folks.  For whatever reasons the other children do not visit two, three, four times a year like we do.  And my sister cannot visit at all, at least not for a while.

As my parents age I worry about them.  They are not as young as they once were, they do not remember things as sharply as they once did, they let things go that are not so important.  This is life and it will happen to each of us if we are so fortunate to be allowed to age with time and grow old and become elderly.  It is hard to imagine but one day I will also forget to do things like wash the lunch dishes, answer the phone and pick up the mail.  Instead I will choose to eliminate certain things I once considered important because it takes too much energy or because I would rather nap. 

I am not from a small family.  My mother has 4 children and her husband has 2.  But out of 6 children only one returns regularly.  As we plan a move across the country to a place that will take me very far from her it burdens my heart to think that no one else will go every three to four to six to nine months to check in and see how everyone is doing.  I have to think there are other reasons besides the fact that they live off the beaten track that keep the kids from coming back.  And whatever those things are, maybe time does not heal all wounds. 

I hope that maybe it just hasn't been enough time.  And maybe someone will read this and let bygones be bygones and stop by for a visit.  They will be very welcome.

Monday, November 12, 2012


I have come to the conclusion that Californians have to be some of the most obnoxious people on the planet.  We have this firm belief that everything east of the Rockies is the Midwest.   And that is about all the time we spend thinking about it.

When I moved to Portland Oregon in my late 20's I was devastated to leave California.  My Grandmother had died, my parents had sold their home and I was being evicted and unemployed at the same time and felt like I was annexed to Portland only because I had nowhere else to go.  No one wanted a 28 year old living on their couch - not even the best of friends.  So I moved to my sisters.  This is one of the times when it pays to have lots of siblings, somewhere to crash where they rarely kick you out.

I refused to change my California license for 4 years until it expired because according to me, I didn't have to.  Since I didn't own a car I didn't see why it mattered.  And I wasn't told that I needed to change it until I went to visit my sister in prison and the sheriff working there informed me that he could confiscate it since it was illegal to not update your license when you move to a new state.  Imagine me, being told in prison while visiting someone, that I was doing something illegal.  Needless to say I quickly changed it - God forbid I be forced to go to prison for anything other than a visit.

We are moving to North Carolina.  It is on top of South Carolina.  It touches Tennessee and Georgia to the west and to the east is the ocean, the Atlantic Ocean I believe.  And to the north is Virginia, not South Virginia as I called it earlier today.  I had to look up an atlas to be sure since I am from California and in my own defense I moved out of the US with my family the year we were supposed to learn the states and their capitals and have no idea where anything is besides California, Oregon, Washinton, Canada and Mexico.

One of my all time favorite movies (Kalifornia) has this great line in it between Early and Adele who are headed to California and it goes like this:

"You never have to buy no fruit on account it's all on the trees everywhere you turn. And they ain't got no speed limits. I hear your first month's rent is free, state law. So I'm thinking till we get settled we'll just move around from month to month."

I will miss California with its crazy drivers and the diverse population and the Asian restaurants on every corner.  I will miss being close to family and to friends that are near and dear to me.  I will miss being 40 minutes from one of the best cities ever (in my humble opinion).  And as much as I miss California and compare everything to California, I will have to start to change and start to love my new place and space.  .  And someday soon people will ask me where I am from and I will stop saying I'm from California and I will tell them I'm from North Carolina. 

Friday, November 9, 2012


There is nothing I hate more than change.  I hate the way the leaves change color and fall off the trees.  I hate when you wake up one morning and realize you need a second blanket on the bed.  I whole heartedly dislike when I discover one of the girls has outgrown their clothes and I need to get something larger.  I especially dislike when it happens to me.  And I really get irritated when something in the refrigerator has gone past its due date and I realize it has spoiled without my knowing it and now I have to throw away the one I bought and buy another one.  (I guess that one just means I'm cheap).

We've had some changes lately.  The first is that my husband has been traveling a little bit and that has left me in charge.  I hate when he is gone.  I don't sleep well.  The girls don't sleep well.  The animals don't sleep well.  We try to put on a brave face but it fails miserably.  I get tired, irritated, grumpy, strung out and snappy and it is all I can do to keep things on track.

I have anxiety issues.  That means when there is a lot of change I have an increase in my anxiety levels and I sometimes will have to use my superpowers to override a panic attack here or there.  I only recently discovered that I had anxiety issues - within the last 4 years - so this is a fairly new thing.  Since I'm in charge of 2 kids and 2 pets and 1 husband and not allowed to get stoned all day to mellow out, I have had to learn how to handle these attacks through the following:

1) breathing
2) mantras
3) meditation
4) yoga
5) exercise
6) therapy
7) time out

Another thing that is happening right now is that we are talking about a move.  A big one.  That is all I'm gonna say right now but it will involve a lot of changes, big changes.  I'm sort of freaking out - inside and not outside - at least not yet. I'm saving the real freak outs for later.

So far I'm doing pretty good.  I am pretty darn close to a super hero as far as I'm concerned.  But I do have to have things well organized and consistent and planned out and that doesn't always work with kids and life and pets and husband.  So I do have to dig deep once in awhile and get creative.  Life doesn't stop for me to get used to changes just like I don't stop and lay down and play dead so bring it!  Sometimes even I like to see what I'm made of.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween and kissing

I had a sick kid yesterday so I took advantage of the one hour that she was not running a fever to drop off dry cleaning, pick up dry cleaning, get gas, pay a bill, return something and drop off some library books.  I have many times expounded on the virtues of the public library as one of the most wonderful places in this town.  I feel very strongly that part of my kids love for books centers around the amount of time we spent at the library from the time they were tiny.  We take out stacks of books and movies and I can't wait to see what types of books we will get next.  Right now we are reading Geronimo Stilton, all types of Manga, Garfield and let's never forget the immortal Harry Potter.

Yesterday as I was leaving the library I happened to notice a car parked in the library parking lot with both windows down.  And sitting in the car was a man in the passenger seat and a woman in the drivers seat.  The reason they caught my eye was because the man was practically sitting on top of the woman.  And then I looked closer to realize that the man was not only sitting on top of the woman, he was devouring her with the most amorous kiss I have seen since The English Patient.   There is a kissing scene between Ralph Fiennes and Kristen Scott-Thomas that is so amorous that it makes me melt to watch it, at a certain point I am convinced that one of them will swallow the other and then poof!  They will disappear.  Anyway - this couple was really going at it.  As a matter of fact it made me slow down the car really slow and creep by as I creepily stared at this couple making out like a couple of teenagers in this gold Toyota Camry. 

Did I mention that the couple looked like they could be around my age?  Now, it has been a long time since I made out in the car and even longer since I watched the English Patient, but I didn't gross out - instead I was intrigued.  Why were these two making out at the library?  Were they lovers?  Were they married?  Were they having an affair?  Were they living out of their car?  Whatever the reason - I think we need to bring really awesome kissing back - all over the place and all the time.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mama knows best

I grew up in a house where the Teacher was boss.  That means that once we had left home where Mom or Grandma was the boss and got to school, the Teacher was in charge.  I don't ever remember thinking that was strange because that was just how it was.  I remember my first grade Teacher, Mrs. Maddox swatting me on the bottom because I was pushing and not listening to her and when I went home and told my Mom she just said, "well if Mrs. Maddox spanked you then you probably did something to deserve it".  I avoided Mrs. Maddox for the next 2 years until I got to 3rd grade and got a new teacher.  Mrs. Maddox meant business.

I remember coming home in the 5th grade with welts on my right hand and telling my Mom that Miss Marajgh had hit me with the ruler for being late to class after lunch.  And when I told her my hand hurt she said, "I guess you won't be late coming back to class ever again."  And when I was a freshman in high school I remember coming home and telling my Mom that the PE Teacher, Mr. Evans, was picking on me and so she cautioned me to improve and do better and then he would have any reason to pick on me. 

By the time I was in high school I got really really tricky though, I came home and told my Mom that playing volleyball was injuring my fingers and affecting my violin lessons and could she please write a note and excuse me from PE for the quarter.  My elaborate scheme came crashing down when my Mom wrote the note and the PE Teacher read the note in front of the whole PE class and my entire grade stood and laughed at me right before we picked teams for PE.

But my Mom was right about backing the Teacher.  I stayed out of Mrs. Maddox's way and we never had any other problems.  I listened to the rules and behaved and we got through the 1st and 2nd classes.  I was never late to class in the 5th and 6th grade and Miss Marajgh never had any reason to have me come to the front of the class and cane me with her ruler.  And I learned how to play volleyball backwards and forwards and ended up being one of the best players in the class by my senior year and my PE Teacher stopped picking on me.

 I'm glad that I didn't get any support to my shenanigans in school.  I'm glad my Mom supported the Teachers always, it set the stage to make me a good Teacher and make me a good Mom.  Teachers have a rough go of it out there, especially public school Teachers; packed classrooms, budget cuts, curriculum cuts, low pay and to make matters worse, many parents no longer support or respect the Teachers like they used to back in my day.  We have been super lucky in having wonderful Teachers for our tykes and so backing them has been something we've always worked hard to do.  But I have to also throw out some kudos to my Mom who was one smart cookie when it came to me and my Teachers.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Husband of the Year

Gabe was gone last night and I got a miserable amount of sleep.  But that is not what I want to talk about.  I was bleary eyed and grouchy this morning when I took the girls to school.  Partly to blame was us all waking up really late and rushing around to get to school and partly to blame was the fact that Gabe does so much stuff around here that getting up and showering and dressing and making lunches and feeding animals and feeding children was overwhelming and too much.  Lets remember that I usually only have to deal with my little cup of coffee and my trashy Internet gossip sites in the morning so you can see why I was grouchy - all that work! 

Anyway - he is in North Carolina talking to some fancy people about a job that they think he would be good at.  Considering the amount of work he does around our house I am more than confident that he can tackle anything North Carolina has to throw his way.   And now that we are on the subject of jobs, I haven't wanted to talk about his job interviews this time around because the last time I got excited about them nothing really came of it and I felt like a deflated balloon.   So he is talking to folks here and there and I hope that something great happens soon because I really really really want to buy a house all my own and paint it any old color I feel like.

So back to school and the 3rd grade line up as the kids wait to spend 6 hours with a teacher that should be winning a Nobel peace prize of some kind.  Some of the kids started to laugh at a boy who mentioned something about boys dating boys and I perked right up.  I started to bristle a little because at our house we are OK with boys marrying boys and we talk about girls marrying girls and recently we had a lengthy conversation about boys who wear skirts and mascara and girls that don't ever wear dresses or want to dance with boys.  And we talk about how we are working to change the laws so anyone can marry whomever they love and that is the only criteria for getting married.  And then I started to worry that if we move to an area that is in Middle Earth (any state East of California and West of New York) we might get stuck in a place where my children are teased and taunted for their parent's beliefs.  And then I looked at my 3rd grader and she smiled at me and shook her head as if to say, "I stay out of it" and I was instantly proud of her.

And I can't wait for my husband to get back home so I can take a breather.  

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Shop and Hide

I have started that annual tradition of buying little things here and there and ferreting them away for that big day in December when our kids will rip open 20 presents in under 2 minutes.  It seems a little early to me this year but we are already in October and usually by Halloween I am done.  I have not had the impulse or motivation this year to get out there and buy.  I also have not have the motivation this year to start to create little things that I can sew, knit, glue, cut, or assemble. 

Every year I feel this pressure to get the perfect gift that each child will ooo and ahh over and they will assure me that they got exactly what they wanted.  Of course I will also admit that I very sneakily open their Santa letter each year after they have sealed it and find out what they want so that they are happy and excited on Christmas morning. 

It was so much easier when the list was just chocolate candy and a hula hoop.  Now the list is longer and has very detailed stuff that even Santa has a hard time finding or making. 

Last year we started a new tradition of taking each child out shopping for their sibling, cousins and parents.  That way we reinforce that they are focusing their energies on others and not only themselves.  This is infinitely more difficult on the younger child and results in more than one in store meltdown.  But we only had to drag her out of one store physically because she refused to walk.  Hopefully this year we won't have to drag her out of any. 

And finally - it is getting harder and harder to find the perfect hiding place for these items.  Kids are smart and they know that the parents hide things and they know where those hiding places are.  My sister ruined Santa for me in a big way by taking me out to the garage and showing me a box of brand new ice-skates about 2 weeks before Christmas when I was 5 or 6 and telling me that I would see them again on Christmas morning.  While my kids still believe in Santa the older one is starting to get wise to our antics which means the jig will soon be up.

Friday, October 5, 2012


There are moments in life when you look around you and you feel so happy you can’t do anything but smile.  And when you have those moments, you are doing something you really enjoy, reading something wonderful, spending time with someone who makes you feel warm, dancing to your favorite song.

I got on two airplanes yesterday and headed up to the Great Northwest to spend time with friends.  I me  my friend Jill while in high school, she was the little sister of a classmate of mine.  When we were teenagers it seemed like I was soooo much older but it turns out she acts much older than me.  Ok, maybe only a few years older.

I am taking a little Mommy break and doing the following for the next 4 days:

sleeping in (until 7am)
drinking wine
taking naps
eating whatever I want whenever I want (like cookies at 7am)
watching Larry the Cable Guy and 7:15am with Lamont
watching the most beautiful nature from inside because I’m terrified of bears

And I am enjoying every minute.  I’m smiling, reading something wonderful, spending time with someone who makes me feel warm and dancing to my favorite song for the next 4 days.  And then I will come home with my batteries recharged and squeeze my little ladies until they beg me to stop and kiss my husband until he begs me to keep going.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Re Unions

I went to my 25th high school reunion this weekend.  I went to a very small Adventist High School that sits on the edge of a very small Adventist college campus where many of us continued our schooling once high school was over.  It is small, there were at most 125 students in all while I was there and my graduating class was only 25 or 26 kids.  Only 9 of us showed up this weekend to celebrate the years we spent together in this small conservative school in this small conservative town called Angwin.

My family  moved to Angwin when I was 14 and because it was the place we stayed the longest in my whole life, it is the place I have always considered home.  It is hard sometimes to visit because nobody from my family lives there - they have all left - and our old home, the place where I lived off an on for nearly 15 years,  belongs to someone else.  But I digress, this is about my reunion.

While there were lots of weird and creepy stuff that went on in this small religious community and this even smaller religious Prep school, there were equal amounts if not better amounts of great, fun, fabulous, gut wrenching, show stopping, hilarious and crazy stuff that happened.  So the 9 of us met at the school around 2:45 or 3:00pm and walked around the halls and looked at pictures, peeked in classrooms, retold stories and laughed and giggled.  I almost started crying at one point.

I realized a couple of things while we were there, first of all it smells exactly the same.  I'm not sure why but it does.  And secondly the school is so small.  And I remember it being so big.  And finally, I started to act like a moron while I was there, almost like I was 15 or 16 again and sliding back into my high school Joy persona.  Very very very silly and fun.

Then we went to another friend's house and drank punch and looked at old yearbooks and laughed and talked.  And from there we went to St. Helena to dinner and talked and laughed some more and then we went to another bar and all the really good stuff started coming out.  We talked about who dated who.  We talked about who didn't date who.  We talked about who didn't show up and why.  We talked about who we were glad didn't show up and why.  We talked about who was married the longest and who had been married the most times.  We talked about Tom who died.  We talked until there was nothing left to talk about and then we went to sleep.

As I got in the car and drove down the hill this morning I felt good, glad I had come and seen the old place.  Glad I spent time with Lorna.  Glad I stopped at the College Market and bought those nasty veggie hot dogs my kids love.  And glad to be going back home to my family.  But I can't wait to come back and see it again because it is very much a part of who I am. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

South Korea

We said goodbye to friends who are leaving California and going back to their country, South Korea.  We have known them a very long time and have enjoyed their company, laughter, cultural differences, having and raising children, work, delicious dishes and much much more over the last 8 years.  We went out to dinner with them on Thursday to enjoy one last Korean meal together before we said our goodbyes and hugged them over and over and promised to someday meet each other again either here or in South Korea. 

When I quit my job in Portland and my husband quit his job in Portland and we moved to Davis so he could go to school, we had to start again from the beginning.  He had not been in school full time in a few years and I had never been a stay at home Mom.  Shortly after moving we met our Korean friends and started to converse with stilted English as they had just moved to California and were still picking up words, sayings, slang, and learning their way around this sleepy and hot Northern California town.  

We ended up spending a whole lot of time together in the end.  I took care of their son for over 3 years while I was raising my babies.  Our kids napped together, they ate together, they played together, they fought together.  We celebrated birthday's together and we spent a lot of time either at their house or at our house.  I learned how to cook a bunch of really delicious Korean dishes from scratch and I learned how to make 4 very delicious kinds of kimchi.  I learned how to say more dirty words in Korean and I learned how to say them very well. 

When we went to hug each other goodbye - I didn't mean to start crying.  We had been all smiles and jokes until that moment.  But we both started to sob at the same second and then we couldn't let go of each other.  We just stood in the parking lot as our kids ran around and our husbands watched and hugged each other and cried.  And I realized that while I will miss being a part of their lives, they will also miss being a part of ours.  And how lucky we were for 8 years to have each other.

Monday, September 10, 2012


So yesterday I got to spend the day with my very favorite 15 year old niece in the whole wide world.  She is going to an Adventist boarding school in Healdsburg and so I drove up to my in-laws on Saturday night, spent the night and then headed up to the school on Sunday morning to pick her up bright and early.  My mother in law loaned me her very adorable and brand spanking new car to drive which is a super Fiat 500 and so when I pulled up she thought I had gotten a new car!  We had so much fun zipping around Santa Rosa in this tiny but speedy little toy.

After checking out her new room we got in the car and drove down to Santa Rosa and had brunch at this cute Bistro.  She had a full stack of pancakes with strawberries and I had Chilaquiles (my favorite Mexican breakfast, lunch and dinner), but the best part of this meal was talking to Heidi and seconded by the French Press coffee that I got hot at the table and sipped throughout breakfast. We must have sat there for over an hour just chatting and laughing.  We could have sat there all day!

Then we hit the mall.  And we got lost in the labyrinth of Forever 21.  I vaguely remember this store becoming popular when I was in my early 30's.  I always felt way too old to shop at this store but I certainly enjoyed helping my niece pick out some cute jeans and tops.  It was the opposite of what shopping is like with my kids.  And most of the clothes were super skanky but we got the 3 or 4 items that were not skanky because she has a strict dress code at school that doesn't include anything skank.

We did some other fun stuff like go to the movies and grocery shop for her little dorm room fridge and microwave and all the time talking and laughing and catching up!  And while I don't get boarding school and I'm pretty sure none of my kids will ever go to a boarding school, Heidi is pretty amazing in my book and so I imagine I will be making monthly trek's up to Healdsburg to see her and hang out.

Look out Healdsburg!

Thursday, September 6, 2012


One of the things that I always knew growing up was that I would someday struggle with my weight.  I knew it every time I looked at a picture of my grandmother.  I knew it every time I looked at a picture of her mother.  I knew it when I looked at certain pictures of my mother.  I knew it when I looked at pictures of myself.  It wasn't so hard in my 20's and early 30's to keep it off.  I prided myself on being able to drop 5 pounds in a week by just sticking to cottage cheese and cucumber slices and that was because I hated cottage cheese.  I exercised obsessively to the point of exhaustion many many times.  I lived on diet cokes. 

And while I exercise daily and I like to think that I prepare healthy and mostly vegetarian meals I have a middle section that I like to think of as a survival technique.  When I was a child I was raised Seventh Day Adventist and we would hear about a "time of trouble" when food would be scarce and people would have to run for the hills.  I will not be the first to die if and when this occurs. 

We visited my folks  last weekend and whether or not my mother intends to do this, she always manages to somehow mention my weight and how fat I am whenever I see her.  When I was a teen I would just make a joke and ignore her.  When I was in my 20's I didn't have to hear it because I was thin.  When I was in my late 30's and having babies I would make a joke and tell her it was baby fat.  Now that I'm in my 40's I just ignore her.  But she still has to bring it up.

Last week I took the girls to the mall.  We were sitting near this Starbucks/Pretzel place so I could enjoy a coffee while they enjoy these hot pretzels.  Next to us was a Spanish speaking family and from the sound of their Spanish they were most likely Mexican.  The mother was holding a baby and bottle feeding it and a young boy about age 5 was walking around wearing a new backpack his parents had just bought him.  His parents admired his backpack and then his father said, "Oye, ven aqui Gordo".  For those of you that don't speak Spanish he called his kid "Fatty".  And then he proceeded to call his son "Fatty" evey time he talked to him.  "Si Gordo, No Gordo, Porque Gordo, No hagas eso Gordo, Dejalo Gordo, Come mas Gorgo"  I started wondering if maybe he had forgone Jose, Juan, Jesus for a more descriptive name, Gordo.  Of course it didn't help that the kid was about as wide as he was tall. 

I've heard people explain that in Latin culture calling a child an adjective is a term of endearment.  It is the equivalent of sweetie or honey or precious or lovely in English.  At our house we don't let the girls use the word fat to describe someone, they use the word round.  For example, "Hey look at that fat chick" sounds so much worse than "hey look at that round chick".  See? 

It is all in the way you say it.  I know my Mom probably heard that kind of stuff when she was a kid and so that is why she says it to me.  I also know she isn't Latin so she definitely isn't passing out terms of endearment.  But imagine how sweet it would be if she was.

Thursday, August 30, 2012


My favorite time of year has rolled around and that is the time that kids are back in school.  I love it for so many reasons but the first reason I love it is because I get to spend a lot of time in kindergarten with 4, 5 and 6 year olds and listen to them, talk to them, watch them, help them and it is wonderful.  It also helps that I have a child in kindergarten so it makes my trips to kindergarten personal and being a part of my child's learning process is so important to me.

I am tickled to find that popular culture has such a big part of the names people choose for their kids.  In one of my kids classes there is a child named Hermoine which is the name of the central most important female in Harry Potter.  While I love the character in the books and the movies I have to say that I'm surprised by this choice in names.  And also there is another kid in school named Aragorn which probably means his parents watched Lord of the Rings and fell in love with that character.  

My husband claims the name Gabriel because his mother loved a Joan Baez song by that name.  And I know a guy whose parents named him after Cary Grant.  I am pretty sure I was named Joy because it rhymed with Roy but I've heard there was also a college friend out there who was very bubbly and happy named Joy.  I've yet to meet her.  Of course when I made mention of this to a friend they pointed out that Fiona was also a movie name and I had to scratch my head and think . . . . . . oh damn that is right, Shrek!  I promise a million times we didn't name her after a green Ogre from the movie Shrek.

I guess that means everyone having babies right now will be looking at this list:


Where did your name come from?  And how did you pick out names for your kids or your pets?  And what did you wish your parents named you?  I always wanted to be called Nicole until I was 18 or so.  I'm glad I stuck with Joy because it has served me well.  And it still rhymes with Roy.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


I used to write about bad customer service episodes and keep the names of the companies confidential but I really don't think that I can do that anymore.  First of all, I think everyone should know what people think about where they spend their hard earned money and secondly if what I write keeps you from spending your money there, maybe they will clean up their act next time?

I hate hate hate hate that Target employees smoke while slouched in the front of Target.   As a customer I really hate having to pass the front of the store with my kids who are learning in Red Ribbon Week at school that drugs and alcohol, (ie booze and cigarettes) will kill them and then head inside to buy stuff from people who smell like they fell out of an ashtray.  It is unsightly and it is nauseating.  And the people slouched in front of the store are pasty and pale and usually gasping for air.  Not the picture of health that the commercials promote, no jumping in colorful pants or dayglow hair scrunchies.  And I used to smoke.

And I hate hate hate when you go to a store like Ross/Marshalls/TJMaxx/discount hell and have people share their Friday/Saturday/Sunday drama/real life events with their coworkers and you.  "I had half a bottle of jagermeister last night and I am sooooo hung over" as if the white color around your lips and the overpowering jagermeister smell didn't give it away.  Or "I told him I wasn't interested but then he moved on to her, she can have him cause he is nasty" while you are waiting to have your groceries bagged.

The one that takes the cake is this:  "I'm gonna go apply over there because they treat their employees really good.  They pay $$$ per hour and they get 2 breaks.  This place sucks.  Do you want paper or plastic?"

I used to think this was an age thing but it turns out that it isn't.  I have seen lousy customer service with old people, middle aged people and young people.  And since customer service is on an all time decline I have gone out of my way to congratulate someone when they provide me with outstanding customer service.  Thank you so much for your help.  You have made me want to shop here again.  You are very helpful.  I'm talking about places like Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Starbucks, Nordstrom and others.  But the list is getting smaller and smaller.

Stay tuned for my part two where I talk about the declining work ethic nowadays and how people feel like 3 months employment constitutes work "history". 

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I am guilty of being in love with all things spicy.   I love cracked red pepper, I love Tabasco, I love Tapatio, I love salsa, I love Pick-A-Peppa sauce, I love peppers, I love jalapenos, I love habaneros, I love birds eye peppers, I love ancho chillies, I love serrano chillies, I love my pepper mill, I love Korean kochu-caru, I love cayenne, I love it all.  I am famous for making a delicious dinner or arriving at a delicious dinner and heading straight for the cupboard and pulling out the chilli flakes and dousing the dinner with them.  I know where the hot sauce is in my mother in law's house and I know she keeps it only for me. 

I can remember being 11 and eating a late lunch with my brother in our school uniforms in Jamaica and having hot sauce eating contests where we poured the sauce into teaspoons and just ate that until we could not handle it anymore.  I remember working with groups of Mexican ladies and having them douse anything crunchy with lots of tapatio sauce and then eating the salty, now soggy chips until my mouth burned.  I can tell you that the smell of Korean hot sauce will make my mouth start to salivate.  That combination of hot from the fire and hot from spice is something I crave.

I'm sure part of this love is that I am  half Korean.  I love all food items Korean. (except for that blood sausage crap)  I love the spicy broth and stews that warm everything going down.  I love the pickles that are tart, crunchy and fiery hot at the very end.   I love the red pepper paste that can be added to just about anything to give it a little kick.  I can tell you that as a child the sight of Korean food complete with the spicy side dishes was the most wonderful sight in the world.  While most of my cousins were passing on the food of their parents and opting out for a PBnJ, I was asking for more rice and side dishes and savoring each spicy bite.

Here is my moment of sadness.  My body does not handle the digestion of spicy food very well.  I don't know if I need to spell this out but for those of you can love spicy food, you know what I'm talking about.  It means that several hours after a meal of spicy food you may be spending more time hanging out around the bathroom than you would like.  And while that might seem like a deterrent to spicy food it is more like a call to prayer for me.  To me, it means that the food was doing its job and now I can rest a few hours until it is time to bring on more spicy food.  

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


We have been sick this week so spending lots of time laying down and resting and trying to save energy for getting things like ibuprofen and glasses of water.  Don't want to use energy unless we absolutely have to because who knows how we will be feeling at that point?  Also handling two rambunctious kids while trying to get better and rest is also challenging.  We actually turned on the Sound Of Music yesterday and passed out while the kids sat mesmerized for 3 plus hours.  That is one long movie.  Thank you Julie Andrews.

It was in the midst of this cold induced fog that my husband crept upstairs today and smiled at me with letter in hand and said, "We did it Baby, we passed our boards!".  I felt like I was able to let out a long breath that I had been holding for a very long time.  I got teared up and we hugged and kissed and then we called our family and let them know that he had passed.

I know that Gabe took the boards by himself but sometimes I feel like I took them too.  It was only 8 years ago that we started this adventure that has brought us to where we are today.  And while I know that this is the end of something big, I am sure it is also the beginning of something even bigger. 

He studied very hard.  I have memories of a man holding a baby in a bjorn and holding notes out in front of him at 4am and pacing back and forth across the kitchen while he carved out alone time with his baby girl and study time.  I tried to help him by giving him time to study but there were times when he didn't get to study because family and kids and life just got in the way.  And those were the times when he just had to hope that he would be ok. 

But that is all behind us now, because he passed and to us he is a big deal.  Congratulations Dr. Big Deal!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


It is hard to imagine that in 2 short weeks I will have both my kids in school for 3.5 hours a day, 5 days a week.  That means that for the first time in 8 years I will have the house to myself and alone time every day.  For those of you without kids, I recommend you stop reading now.  You will most likely not enjoy the rest of this blog. 

When I found out I was pregnant a little over 8 years ago I went through the confusing and arduous task of finding out out the following:  what kind of coverage my employer had for maternity/disability leave, how much daycare cost, how long I could stay home before I needed to go back to work so I didn't lose my job, how long women in Denmark get to stay home after they have a child, how much they get paid, what kinds of daycare’s were out there for 4 month old babies, how much time my husband could take off, how little money he would be paid to stay home for a few weeks, what my commute would be like to drop off baby, go to work, pick up baby and come home. 

Shortly after I had put in for my maternity leave everything changed and we decided to move to California so that my husband could go to Veterinary school and I decided to become a stay at home Mom.  And let me tell you that it was life changing.  Not in a good warm and fuzzy way, I fought it tooth and nail.  I missed my job, I missed my friends, I missed my work life, I missed everything about it.  But 2.5 years after baby #1, then came baby number #2 and we were knee deep into diapers and all that great stuff and I started to warm to the idea of just being Mom. 

Don't get me wrong, it is work, lots of work and exhausting work and time consuming work.  And to offset the cost of having a husband in Veterinary school and then residency, I did lots and lots of babysitting.  LOTS.  And nothing teaches you patience like doing lots of babysitting.  And nothing teaches you to love the professional world like doing lots of babysitting.  When people say, "wow, good for you, I could never do that!" they really mean it.  But it all allowed me to stay home and just be Mom. 

And when I walked my oldest child to kindergarten that first day I cried like a baby when she walked into that classroom, a big girl going to learn new things.  And I missed her!  And I imagine I will cry like a baby when my baby walks into that classroom, finally ready to learn new things and separate from Mom.  I am going to miss her!  

And everyone keeps asking what I am going to do with all my free time and what kind of trouble I am going to get into.  While I'm not really sure what I'm going to do, I know it will take some getting used to, the 3.5 hours alone.  But the best part of the day will be when I get to pick them up and we get to talk about the day and what was learned and how many atoms were split and all the hugs and hand holding and skipping we will do as we walk home.

Monday, July 30, 2012


For the last 6 weeks, my husband has been at home, to work with, to play with, to talk to, to hug, to do chores with, to argue with, to have to pick up after, to do family stuff with and whose company I thoroughly enjoyed.  His objective was not to take 6 weeks off and hang out with his girls, it was to study for his boards which he took a week ago and hopefully passed.  But in the meantime we got to enjoy having him home for 6 long and short weeks.

He spent some time at the library studying, it wasn't all picnics and swimming.  But we managed to squeeze in a lot of picnics and swimming after the studying!  Not to mention, camping, bike riding, vacationing, daytripping, eating out, wrestling, the list is long!  But this morning he woke up early, got his work clothes on, packed a lunch, kissed us all goodbye and headed out the door for his return to his weekly routine.  I know he was happy to go back but also happy that he got to spend 6 weeks doing all the fun stuff he loves with his 3 favorite girls.

And now we wait to find out how he did.  But this summer will go down in history as one of the best summer's ever!

Thursday, July 19, 2012


The front page of this week's New Yorker shows a family of four standing on a beach somewhere tropical, Hawaii, Bali, Bora Bora, Fiji, Jamaica, and they are all standing with their backs to the ocean waves and they are each holding a cell phone.  They are appropriately dressed with hats, shorts, tanktops and sunglasses but it appears they are busy texting.  There is a shadow in front of them of a person taking their picture while they are doing this and the picture is appropriately named "Capturing the Memories" by Mark Ulriksen.

I am at a waterloo with my phone right now.  I am still under contract with a company I have been with for a very long time and am trying to remain loyal to but my phone is so unreliable and shoddy that I have to smack it, turn it off and on and remove the battery to reset it so many times a day that I'm considering going to a flip phone and not messing with smart phones ever again.  This is a perfect time for me to write about how annoying and how liberating smart phones and technology is right now.  One moment I am praising it and the other I am cursing it.

I know that we celebrate technology - look how far it has gotten us.  Look how useful it is.  I no longer have to try to find a place by driving around and around the block.  No one rolls down their window to ask directions because everyone has GPS.  We don't have to ask how a restaurant is, we can look on Yelp.  We don't have to hang signs to sell stuff we can Freecycle it or list it on Craigs List.  We don't have to interview babysitters, we can go to Sitter City.  And we can do all this with our cell phones - we don't have to sit down at a computer.  But it isn't all good.

One of the things I will never get is the people who talk on cellphones in public restrooms.  What could be so important when you are in the mall or at the restaurant or movie theatre that necessitates your loud voiced, full fledged, super important conversation while you are in a stall doing your business?  Because here is the deal, it is not important at all.   Maybe it makes you feel important to have so much to talk about you even have to talk about it while you are doing a number 2.  (my mother reads this blog so I try to limit each subject to only one swear word)  Not to mention it is gross and rude.  Trust me, I am a person who loves to be around people in the bathroom, but at home.  In public - I like to eliminate in private.  I wish everyone else felt the same.

I hope the New Yorker features a picture of a family doing their business on the potty in a public restroom while all talking their cell phones and calls it "Capturing the Bullshit" by Joy McKeon.  But I can't draw.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Drill Bits

Soooo I was at the dentist today to get some fillings and crown work, one of my favorite things!  I wrote in the past about a horrible experience with Strip Mall Dentistry but we have changed and we have a new dentist and we love love love the new Dentist.  The rooms are clean, the office is pretty, the Receptionist is lovely, she smiles and talks to me like we are friends, the Dentist is gentle and doesn't stab me in the lips, the list of great stuff goes on and on and on. 

I came home with a fat lip and sore gums and the advice to take some ibuprofen to help with the pain should I experience discomfort later on in the day.  I gummed some soft and squishy food for lunch so as not to eat my bottom lip or tongue by accident and then sat down at the computer.

I'm sitting there and I feel this stabbing feeling in my rear end.  I remember the doctor's words and so I get up and go get 2 ibuprofen and take them for the pain and go sit back down at the computer.  I feel the same stabbing pain but it is still in my butt and not in my gums.  I am in the living room, I stand up and quickly strip off my pants and notice that something shiny has fallen to the floor.  My 8 year old is sitting on the couch giving me the strangest look and laughing at me because I have stripped off my pants and now I'm standing in the living room in my birthday suit, from the waist down.

Yup, it was a drill bit that fell out of my pants.  Somehow it worked its way into my pants while I was at the dentist.  The hard part of this story is figuring out how it got into my pants in the first place.  I'm pretty sure I didn't put it in my pants.

Then I decide to call the dentist and ask the Receptionist if I should bring back in the drill bit, maybe they need it for a future procedure, but of course she was laughing so hard both when I told her the story and when she came back on the line to tell me to throw it away that I could tell that this is not a call they get very often.  Apparently they keep lots of these drill bits on hand and the one I have is not that important.  Especially after it has been in my pants.

I have to tell you that I feel like this kind of stuff only happens to me.

Friday, July 6, 2012


I am trying very hard to be bona-fide, authentic, honest.  We live in a culture that doesn't promote honesty above all other things.  We promote other values, but honesty is not one of them.  I have met people from other cultures that are very honest and can tell you what they are thinking without worry of being too harsh or too open.  We use the sentence, "You hurt my feelings" when someone is too direct or too critical but are we many times just saying, "I am not comfortable with your level of honesty or directness?"  Or "I can't handle the truth?"

We try really hard to teach children to be honest.  Don't lie.  Don't cheat.  Don't be disingenuous.  But we also teach them to be mindful of others feelings.  We were at a playdate and one of my kids told a little girl that she was not as fast running as my child was and the little girl started crying and said that her feelings had been hurt.  The truth was that my child was faster, so what is the fix?  To tell the other child to accept the truth, that she is a slower runner?  Or to tell my child to avoid honesty to save an over sensitive playmate?

I remember hanging out with this guy when I was in my 20's and I was really crazy about him.  We had been hanging out for 6 months and he had never tried to kiss me, hug me or anything.  We had been to countless movies, dinners, hikes, drinks, played games, you name it, nothing was going on!  Finally after much coaching from my friends and his friends I decided to ask him what was going on.  So I asked him straight out, I knew he wasn't gay, why was he not making a move?  And he looked me straight in the eye and asked if he could be completely honest.  And then he said, "I'm just not into you like that.  I like you as a friend and I don't like you romantically and I want to just be friends, is that ok?"  And while my pride took a momentary kick in the face, we went on to be the best of friends for a very long time.  I valued his honesty like crazy, it was so refreshing.

My youngest child was going to a Co-op Preschool and for those of you that are not familiar with what this means, it is a Preschool that is parent/teacher driven.  That means that each week I went to preschool and worked hard and helped participate in my child's education in a hands on style.  One day we were at circle time and I was sitting between two little girls that liked to chat and giggle to keep them focused on the Teacher's lesson when one of the little girls took the opportunity to voice very loudly, "You are really fat!  I like that you are soft right there" and she proceeded to lay on top of me like I was her human pillow.  She was only 3 or 4 years old but it was adorable, honest and funny and I laughed until I cried. 

It might be hard to do, being honest instead of being kind.  But in the long run, aren't you doing a good thing?  Won't the person who you are being honest with thank you in the long run?   Even if they hold it against you for a few days, months, years, forever?   Or should we work hard to protect people from what is staring them in the face? 

I honestly don't know which is better, I honestly don't.  

Sunday, June 24, 2012


Yesterday we had a little birthday party for our 8 year old that included pizza, root beer, cupcakes and several hours of ice skating at our local skating rink.  It was cold, it was slippery and it was wonderful.  For those kids that can skate it wasn't really a big deal but for my kids who start out holding the wall and slipping all over the place but end up skating back and forth across the middle without holding my hand or the wall, it is miraculous.  Just the ability to be able to show that kind of improvement is a wonderful feeling for anyone. 

I can tell you that for a 43 year old sahm, I am a wonderful skater.  I can skate for 2 whole hours and not fall down.  I can also chase 10 year old boys while playing tag and watch him fall repeatedly and not fall down.  I even tried to teach a 4 year old boy who resembled an octopus learning to skate and didn't fall down. 

You have to remember that I have lived in many areas and none of them were areas that included ice skating as a national pastime or hobby:  California, Yuba City,  Jamaica, Angwin, Spain, Calistoga, Oregon, you can see that these are not big hubs of ice skating activity.  Just the fact that I can stand up in skates and speed up, slow down, spin (yes, I can spin) and do all those other tricky moves I do whether intended or unintended is so much fun and great for my self esteem.

I will also add that I could hardly get out of bed this morning because I was so sore.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


Kids say the craziest stuff.  Last night our friends Peter and Emily were over and eating food.  They were sitting at our table with us and we were talking and eating and talking some more and Peter starts telling us about how he loves dogs and loves them so much his parents signed him up for a class where he reads books to dogs. 

I look at Gabe and then back at my food and carefully ask Peter where this is and he proceeds to tell me that at the public library they have a program for kids to go and sit in a room with nice dogs and read books to them.

I have never in my entire life heard about this program but I love that Peter and Emily got to go to this and since I loved the story so much I offered they come over and read as long and as often as they want to our very own Sally Tomato.  Although I'm not sure he can sit through an entire book - actually I'm not even sure he can sit through the first page. 

If they bring a ball for him to stare at, maybe.

And this brings me back around to the belief I hold dear to my heart and that is the  public library is one of the most amazing places on the planet, hands down.  Free books, free movies, free magazines, free music, an aquarium full of fish to look at on AND dogs that like to be read to.  God Bless America!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Summertime Simmertime

I have had trouble writing lately.  I have wanted to write about a lot of things but something has been holding me back.  But . . .  I have felt like I have stepped on toes and didn't want to write for fear of stepping on more toes or even legs.  But at the same time I don't usually write for others I write for myself and I tend to write the types of things that one would write in a diary which means I should be allowed to write whatever I want, right?

It is summertime and we had two of our most favorite people visit for a week, Heidi and Alex, my niece and nephew.  Here are some of the things we did while they were here:  swim, visit the beach, eat out, play guitar hero and rock band, play games, bicker, eat cheese, picnic, swim some more, ice skate, play video games, eat pizza, eat eggs, eat meat, drink milk, eat ice cream, oh and did I mention they are vegan?  I love when they come to visit, their visit marks the passing of another year my sister is gone which means she is one year closer to being with us again.  It also means we will have a week or two of unfiltered fun, laughing and play.  It means that we will stay up late, watch too many movies and be totally exhausted when they leave but we will talk about them for weeks and months until we see them again.

It has been very hot here, which means in Bay Area speak, in the 90's twice.  We have been hanging out at our very favorite pool and plan on doing so all summer long.  Two of us are very dark, one of us is a little tanned and one of us is very white and freckled.

I talked for weeks about cutting all my hair off, the hair I have been growing for the last 3 years.  I finally ran out Sunday morning very early and found my favorite non English speaking Hair Passion guy and got a really nice 40 minute cut for the bargain price of $18 dollars.  I think that he was a little surprised that I wanted to cut it all off because it was really long but after he cut it, he was very happy about my choice.  He did blow dry it and puff it up and put a pound of hair product in it which I immediately washed out when I got home and flattened with some goo but I love the short hair and when I get around to it I will post a picture.

And finally our Sally Tomato has perked up and is doing pretty good.  He doesn't do well on the very hot days but is still eating a little and hopefully will be around for a little while longer.  We are going to try to take him camping.  I bet he is going to love it!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I am a writer.  I have been writing for years.  The first diary I have is from when I was 10 years old.  I wrote about what I ate, what I did for homework and how many hours a night I slept.  It wasn't very good stuff but I was writing.  I kept a diary off and on from the time I was 14 until I was 34.  I love going back and reading some of the better stuff, the escapades, the shenanigans, the high jinx, the skinny dipping. 

I often run across stuff that I forgot about and have no memory of having done.  Once my sister and I and someone else (Lorna?) climbed the fence at the PUC pool and skinny dipped on a Friday night instead of going to vespers (a worship service that was a cross between a worship service and a meet and greet/date night with fashion show).  When we got to the pool they had these plastic pool covers on which we decided to use as slip and slides  and slid across naked until our weight pulled them under the water.  Lucky for us we didn't get caught and we never thought about the danger of being trapped in one of the covers and getting pulled under the water.  We were just having fun.  It wasn't until after we left that my sister noticed the two red spots spreading on her wet t shirt, turns out that skimming across the pool covers had completely rubbed the skin off our nipples.

When I was in high school I traded diaries with my cousin Ann and we wrote for a month or so and then traded books and continued this all year.  It was so fun to read what she wrote and then in turn for her to read what I wrote.  It also helped us keep in touch during our school year and helped me get to know her better and vice versa.  I was mostly ping pong-ing that year between two boys named Todd, neither of which had any interest in me. 

I've often wondered what famous people do when they write about friends and family, what do they have to do, ask everyone's permission to write about them?  Do they write private things and change all the names?  Do they pay people handsomely for their stories?  And what happens when they tell a family member or friend's story and offend them?  How do they mend that fence or fix that break?  Does it ever heal or is it a sore spot forever?

I just finished a memoir by a woman who had an affair with JFK and I thought it was convenient that she chose to write about her affair now that most of the people connected to the time and place were all dead.

I recently found out that I wrote something about someone dear to me that hurt them.  I will say that until lately I never cared if something I wrote hurt anyone because mostly my writing was all diaries and private, the only thing anyone reads is this blog and lets be honest - not that many people read it.  But to know that something I wrote caused pain or hurt or sadness makes me feel terrible inside and I wish I could lessen that pain in some way. 

I will need to be more careful in the future and I will need to take great care with the hearts and minds of those I love and those that love me.  A thousand apologies.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Oh my sweet Sally

Before we decided to have children and before we were married we decided that it would be a good idea to get a puppy.  I had brought a 6 year old Australian shepherd mix to the relationship and my then fiancĂ©e had brought a 2 year old domestic male cat and we wanted to add to our family.  We drove out to Gladstone, Oregon and we got a 6 week old male German Shepherd puppy.  I had 2 names picked out, one was Pussy Galore (thank you Ian Fleming) and the other was Sally Tomato (thank you Holly Golightly).  We decided on Sally Tomato McKeon.

Sally cried all the way home in my lap, a loud moaning sound that I had never heard a dog make before.  He whimpered all afternoon and pee'd all over the place, the deck, the steps, the concrete, my lap, and so we let him sleep in our bed.  When we took Sally to dog training classes at 10 weeks he was the largest dog in the room and also the biggest baby.  He would cringe and hide between our legs and refuse to do anything cooperative until we broke down and brought Howard to class too at which point he behaved a little better.

Sally grew and grew and everytime people would see him they would comment on how large he was because he stood much taller than most Shepherds.  At 6 months we took him to the Vet to have a dry patch checked out on his elbow pads only to learn after paying $60 some odd dollars that they were callouses.  We got a lot of teasing for that one.  We hired a high school girl to come by and walk Sally when we were at work because we worried that all those hours in the crate were hard on him.  The truth was those hours were hard on us, we worried about him and fussed over him and loved him. 

Last week my husband told me that Sally has cancer and a large mass in his belly.   It has been growing for some time = but it has gotten to where Sally isn't always feeling so great and has stopped eating mostly.  He can't go for long walks and he just wants to rest.  I always knew that he wouldn't live forever but it doesn't make this part of life, any easier. 

I can only hope that we can make his last weeks comfy ones, give him all his favorite treats and scratch those big ears a lot and toss his favorite ball.  I hope that wherever he goes to, they have big sticks to chew on.  I hope they have cat food to eat because he loves cat food.  And I hope they have tennis balls that can be chewed to shreds because while he loves to catch the ball, he is not so good at dropping it.   And I hope they have someone there who looks like me a little and someone who looks like Gabe a little so he isn't lonely.  I know Howard will be there so at least he will get to hang out with her again.

We love you Sally Tomato!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

El S-E-X-O

Yup, that's right folks, the first blog on Sex.  So if you are related to me and cannot handle reading what I am about to write with regards to Sex or something sexual in nature or are under the age of 18, please go ahead and log off or at least read this when your parents have stepped out of the room or have fallen asleep.  And make sure they are in a deep sleep because nothing is worse than reading something that has the word SEX splashed all over it and having your parents walk in half way through and you can't figure out how to minimize the page or they ask you, "So what are you doing?"  Awkward.

I stayed up very late last night to read the book Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James.  It is a best-selling erotic fiction book that has people (mostly women) giggling and tittering in the aisles of Target, Barnes and Noble and the Public Library, for some months now.  I'm not sure where I first caught wind of it but I felt the need to read it for research sake and I stayed up very late to make sure I had thoroughly finished it.

Lets just start with the obvious and that is, the book is clearly not written by an American.  It is about a fellow in Seattle and a girl who graduates from college and moves to Seattle so she can have this BDSM relationship with this guy (and if you don't know what BDSM is, then stop reading right now and click on some other link).  You can tell the writer isn't from Seattle because no one in Seattle uses the word "Rucksack" or signs off on their emails "Laters". 

While I found the book mildly stimulating and by mildly stimulating I mean that I was able to finish it before I fell asleep on top of it as I tend to do when a book is really dull, I am concerned about one important thing:  When are writers going to stop portraying sex between a man and a woman as a series of multiple and simultaneous orgasms and then everyone falls asleep only to wake up in a few hours and repeat the multiple and simultaneous orgasms?  Why not portray what really happens so that young men and women who read the book (as they most assuredly will) get an honest account or at least as close as honest can get to what really goes on and we don't perpetuate this stupid notion that a woman orgasms when a man looks at her or commands her to orgasm.  I actually found myself skimming the sex scenes in the book because they were so so so so fictional in every way.  It had me wondering if maybe the author was a 15 year old teenage boy. 

But I can say I read it and I most likely will read the other two books that follow it because I am very concerned now for the heroine in the storyline and how she is going to escape this very abusive and misogynistic billionaire that has her in his grip.  And once I'm done I am going to pen a very poignant letter to the author and ask her to consider actually having sex before she decides to write about it next time, at least that way she can get it more accurate.

There, that wasn't too painful was it?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Odds and Ends

I have had a hard time coming up with good stuff for my blog lately so I "Googled" the word blogs and came up with a blog that listed 10 ideas for blogs when you feel like you've hit some kind of writer's block.  They were all crap ideas so I decided to just wait until something great happened to write about.  I try not to limit what I blog about but even being wide open on what I can write about isn't helping me.

I'm trying really hard to get back to my plant based diet and fighting it violently.  This was a week of trying new things for the kids and I can't say they always enjoyed it.  We had a white bean salad with red onions, radishes and parsley which they picked the beans out of and didn't ask for seconds.  We also had a lentil salad dish with fresh celery and onions and a cumin dressing which they picked the celery out of and grimaced as they said it was delicious and refreshing.

I'm trying to ignore the chronic back pain that comes from wearing flip flops around the house but I broke down and ordered my first pair of Birkenstock's.  I found a great pair of Teva's and bought them and put them on and showed my husband.  He burst out laughing and reminded me of all the grief I put my brother Joey through when he showed up with the exact same pair of sandals about a year ago.  I promptly returned the Teva's.  I also found a brand new pair of Keen sandals at the Flea Market for $15 dollars (a steal) but couldn't bring myself to buy them because they were so hideous.  I longingly look at the shoes in my closet and wonder if they will be ornamental from here on out.

I am gearing up for having my husband home for 6 weeks from June to July as he studies for boards.  This is a big deal, the boards, something we have worked for nearly 8 years for so he has to study hard and pass.  But he will be home for the most part for 6 weeks and that is going to be interesting.  Gabe hasn't been home for more than a week here and there for the last 4 years so having him home again like he was when the girls were babies and when he was in Vet school will be different.  He has 3 girls that can't wait!

And finally, we had a chance to go to a wedding on Sunday night and see old friends and make new ones.  They had a photo booth and a table full of props.  So this is what we came up with - or at least these are the ones I am allowed to show.  I've discovered that pulling up my hair creates a natural facelift.  Makes my eyes look better and the skin around my eyes tighter.  And I've also discovered that black and white makes me look younger.  And for those of you that are wondering, Gabe had not gained a single pound in the 9 years we've been married.  Sigh.

Enjoy your May because according to the Mayan calendar, this is it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Idle Hands

Last week my friend Elisa and I had an opportunity to go and make phone calls to voters and ask for their support on a measure that will be on the ballot in June.  It is one of those things that means you will pay more taxes and that tax money is supposed to help schools.  I know it sounds like a load of crap especially since these types of things happen all the time and yet the public schools get worse and worse but I felt it was important since one of my children goes to public school, to support the measure and do my part.

We were given a packet with a script and a cell phone.  We were given a list of people to call and steps to take once we had made contact and actually spoken with these people.  Given my experience with making phone calls, I realized that we would be cold calling these folks and it would be at dinner/bath/bed time and they most likely would not like to talk to us.

I got many many answering machines.  I also got a woman that said it was bath time and didn't I have anything better to do.  I got someone who said they didn't speak English, in English.  I got an elderly lady (the voter info said she was 96) who was hard of hearing and I don't think she ever figured out what I was calling about.  I got a man who said that he was getting ready for soccer and couldn't talk right now.  I got a woman who said she was getting a massage and couldn't talk.  I got a lady who said that whatever we were selling she was not interesting, (yes she said interesting).  I got a man who said that the man I was asking for was not there and I heard someone shout out in the background, "You are a liar!"  I only got one lady who wanted to talk at length about the deplorable state of our public schools and how she used to be a teacher and how she wanted to vote for anything that improved our schools regardless as to how much it cost or how it impacted her taxes.  She was refreshing and seemed somewhat naive.

And then I looked over at my friend Elisa, sitting on the floor making her own calls and I realized that I was holding a pre-paid cell phone with an un-recognizable number and I was done with all my calls.  I decided in an instant that this would be a great time to prank call her husband on the phone and use my best "Francine" voice which is a cross between South Carolina and Texas and see if I could sell him some beads or dancing lessons.  After all, he would have no idea who I was and I could use a laugh.  Lucky for her husband he didn't answer his home phone the three times I called or his cell phone.  Lucky for the phone bank it was time to shut down for the night too because I was mentally running through a list of friends and family I could call and yank their chains.

It turns out the old saying is true, idle hands truly are Joy's playground.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spring Break

Spring Break 2012 introduced the McKeon family to a new family ritual known as the Temper Tantrum. I can say that it has really changed things up around here. To lay a little foundation, I have to say that we have an almost 8 year old that once ran up to me and half heartedly attempted kicking my leg and that was the beginning and the end of her outbursts. I am constantly reminded by friends, family, colleagues, well wishers and naysayers that there is still time, she is only almost 8. But she has a little sister and little sister has discovered the satisfaction of watching her mother lose most of her common sense by stomping her foot, shouting no several hundred times and then either screaming at the top of her lungs while she still inserts loud No's into the screaming or she throws stuff around and kicks anything near her and embarrasses her sister, forcing sister to ask me in a stage whisper, "what is she doing????"

I can honestly say that I have no idea what she is doing but I can tell you that I don't like it. And now I will list the things that do NOT work when your 5 year old is having a temper tantrum.

1) Do not scream back. This only enrages the child causing the tantrum to last longer and longer and get louder and louder. And yes, I tried this and I felt really ridiculous and stupid doing it.

 2) Do not turn the music up and try to drown the child out. This just makes whatever annoying song on the radio sound even more annoying and makes your kid scream louder. And yes, I tried this too and it especially does not work in the car.

3) Do not lecture the child or give them a speech. They are screaming and freaking out and could care less about what they look like to the neighbors or anyone else. And yes, I also tried this and I can tell you that the only person in the family that is concerned about what the neighbors think is the older sister who is running as far away from her little sister as she can because God forbid anyone she knows sees what is going on.

 4) Do not give in. Do not give the child a lollipop or a chocolate cookie or the cheesy crackers because they might stop making that terrible noise if you do. Because if you do give in, they will just do it again the next time they want something. And yes, I gave in, and if you are reading this and you think you never have done this or never will do it, you are wrong. Everyone has done it at some point and everyone will do it at some point and we like to call it "picking your battles".

5) Do not ask your mother or anyone else's mother what they would do in this situation. Because they will tell you that "honey in my day we did not tolerate that, we picked up the wooden spoon and we blistered that child's behind and it was legal". Or they say, "Girl, you better put that child in her place because no one likes a brat". Or "Listen here, that is nothing more than a reflection of poor parenting". And no, I can tell you that I have not asked my mother what she would do in this situation. She handled temper tantrums in her own way and I get to handle mine in my way.

Let me just say this much, I cannot wait for summer vacation!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

5th Grade

I haven't posted about knitting lately because quite honestly I have been so busy knitting. I am teaching a knitting class! I know I know who in their right mind would let me in a classroom to teach kids something useful? Well, it only took 18 years and this time it is a volunteer job but I'm baaaaaackkkkk!

I am teaching a knitting class for 5th grade girls. I have 5 regular attendees and they are each so unique and special in their own way. 5th graders are nuts and fun at the same time. 5th grade is when a lot of girls come into their own and step out of their shyness. 5th graders talk a lot. I have one 5th grader that doesn't shut up - you could call her Mini-me. But they are each lovely and they are doing something I love, knitting.

While I have been teaching this class I have finished a pair of socks for a friend's baby as well as a sweater that is supposed to be a pair of sweaters for a friend who is having twins. I have started 5 other projects too but am really enjoying this phase of knitting. I am no longer a rookie or a hack at knitting. I now know how to read a pattern like I am reading a cookbook. I have bought real, quality yarn from a real, quality store. I can knit both Continental and Standard. I can teach both Continental and Standard. I am a knitting proficient. What i have discovered though is: I am not 5th grade girl proficient.

While these 5th graders are a breath of fresh air, they are also terrifying. The other day one of the girls was talking about how she knows all the kids in the 2nd grade and I've got a 2nd grader. So she asked what my kid's name was and I told her. She said she didn't know anyone by that name and then there was discussion about how many kids I had and what grades they were in and who their teachers were. And then she stops knitting, looks straight at me and says, "I don't know anyone by that name, is she a nobody?"

I didn't really know what to say, I so rarely come face to face with that situation in my life, most of you know me as a woman of many many words, so I just smiled and said, "well, if she is, that makes me Mrs. Nobody." And then that song from Annie started looping in my head, "Little girls,Little girls, Everywhere I turn I can see them, Little girls, Little girls, Night and day I eat, sleep and breathe them".

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I have been taking this dance/exercise/aerobic class called Zumba. I have to tell you that I had to take three Zumba classes to find the one I really liked. And lets face it, I really would rather not have to take any Zumba classes but I can't lay around the house all day and still fit into my mom jeans if I don't do any exercise. So I tried step aerobics and yoga and running and hip hop and settled on Zumba because of several reasons.

One: All the women in the class are either in worse shape than I am or worse dancers (except for my friend Germaine) so I usually end up looking like a rounder version of Beyonce in Single Ladies. (or at least I do in my head)

Two: The music our teacher plays is fun, reggaeton, tango, salsa, hip-hop, it is so so so fun.

Three: The class only costs 4 dollars, yup that is right, 4 dollars.

Here is what I can't stand about this Zumba class: the teacher does the warm up to Chris Brown and the cool down to Chris Brown. Yup, the Chris Brown that dabbles in domestic violence and that got to perform at the Grammy's this year. I commented on how I can't stand that everyone has moved past his altering the color and shape of his then girlfriend Rihanna's face 11 or 12 or 13 months ago and someone commented, "I'm so over that, I think that Rihanna is even over it". But I can't get over it, I don't think I will ever get over a man raising his fist or words in anger to beat someone down whether a child or a woman or an animal.

So I pretend that I'm listening to Usher and continue to shout out "Cuckoooooo" or "Sigue Sigue" or "Dale Dale" and shake my booty as I improve my dancing.

After all ladies, "God Wouldn't Have Given You Maracas If He Didn't Want You to Shake 'Em."