Monday, September 20, 2010

Ancient History

When I was in about third grade I got a fossil. Technically I was loaned a fossil by my dad's friend George who had found it while out hiking but I loved it so much that I kept forgetting to give it back and eventually George let me keep it. The fossil was a trilobite which is a marine bug from the Cambrian period. Being a bug they are actually fairly common but to me it was as rare and valuable as a Pterodactyl wing. It had two distinct parts: the bottom which had a bumpy head attached to ribs of some sort and a top covering that came off like a puzzle piece and formed the mirror image of the ribs. I kept it in a cardboard earring box, packed in cotton with the word "fosel" written on the cover. For a while the fossil stayed at school, neatly tucked into the back corner of my desk where it was safe and protected but readily available for impressing friends.

One day, in the middle of class, a man appeared in the classroom doorway. He exchanged a few words with my teacher and then scurried over and hunched down next to my desk. He was kind of sweaty and breathing hard and I assumed that since he was allowed to interrupt the class like that he must work for the school, perhaps in a custodial capacity. In a frantic whisper he asked me if I knew what I had in the box. In a hushed voice he told me that what I had was a genuine fossil and very valuable. He was clearly just as impressed with my fossil as I was and I began to think I was in possession of something more along the lines of the Lost Ark of the Covenant rather than an ancient crawdad. Maybe I could sell it! I also remember thinking, even at that tender age, why are you going through my desk?

Anyway, I've grown up now and the fossil has stayed in its little box and each year I try and get Vaughn to take it to school for Show and Tell. Despite knowing better, I still can't shake the feeling that I am giving the class a very special gift, access to touch and hold something they wouldn't otherwise have access to. When those forms get passed around where you have to list a unique talent or skill you as a parent might be able to bring to the class it is all I can do to not write: I have a real fossil.

Vaughn has never really appreciated the fossil so each year when I say, "Why don't you bring the fossil to school?" (And honestly I really can't believe that I'm still having to hear "What fossil?") I get flimsy excuses like, "It's not show and tell day." This year I took matters into my own hands and safely bundled up the fossil and tucked it into a plastic baggy with a note to the teacher explaining what it was and that I thought the class would enjoy seeing it. I gave it to Vaughn with instructions to deliver it to his teacher which he confirmed had happened.

It's been a few days now and while I sort of hoped to get an email thanking me for giving the class a chance to really experience history (or anything along those lines- I'm just throwing ideas out there), I've let that go. What concerns me though is - why hasn't the fossil come home? Is it being saved for some special unit or something? I mean, if she's thinking she can just forget to return it for long enough and I'll let her keep it she's wrong.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where You Headed?

I had a boss once who, upon observing my ladder climbing tendencies, observed: Be careful what you are climbing to. You'll wake up one day and be just like me. I don't think she was wholly unhappy with her life but undoubtedly she had found herself in a situation where work consumed more of its share of space in how time got divvied up. I really thought I had fallen out of that mind set when just two days ago, I went into a small flurry over a rumor that someone with less experience (a lot less experience) might be promoted. Not even necessarily over me but clearly ahead of me. What track was I on?

Thankfully Jacob quickly talked me down from the ledge. We have enough, he said. Why would you want to work more for not much more pay? Besides he said, we would miss you.

What are we trying to buy in this world if not more quality time? I read Your Money or Your Life recently and it really illustrated this point. If you think of your time as your life energy, what are you spending it on? What would you rather be spending it on?

I think that is part of what Jacob and I are trying to accomplish with this trip. Not just a sabbatical from the on-going grind of work life but a time out from ALL life to clear our minds and maybe take enough of a step back to afford ourselves some breathing room to reassess how far we've come and where we want to go. I realize to put such a lofty goal on a six month trip might seem optimistic at best but if nothing else, we're putting our money where our mouths are: we want more quality time.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Hannah - The Golden Years

In recent months the cat has taken a very sharp turn to favoring Jacob over me. She was always a real equal-opportunity pet with no real allegiance toward anyone but the person petting her at the time so this is a surprise. She regularly demonstrates her preference for Jacob by wedging her fat body onto the three inches of mattress between Jacob and the edge of the bed rather than spreading out in the expansive space between us in the middle. Last night, after Vaughn crawled into bed with us, she delicately stood on the edge of Jacob's pillow, hovering over his face and patiently waiting for a spot appropriately close to him to open up until he woke up and said, "What are you doing, Hannah?"

Now it's true that in the past I may have unceremoniously tossed her to the floor for cleaning her toenails in bed. And just maybe on occassion I've nudged her out of the way a bit forcefully when she has woken me up at 4 am with incessant meowing to be fed (and then CONTINUES to meow while I'm trying to feed her). But gentle reader you must understand that this is just setting appropriate cat boundaries. Anyway, Hannah is now over 16 years old and honestly, I think I have a short amount of time to turn this around or I'm out of the will.

Monday, September 6, 2010

When You Can't Have The Real Thing

Last night we took Vaughn down to the Oregon State Fairgrounds to go see Raul Rojas, the Michael Jackson impersonator for the Michael Jackson Laser Dance Spectacular show. The cost was $15 a person plus fair admission and I briefly debated not going in order to save some cash but given that this would be the pinnacle to date of Vaughn's MJ obsession, I really felt like I had to see it. Plus, I love the Fair and try and make it every year.

That morning I got up to check the website to confirm when and where to get our tickets and was horrified to see the price on the tickets had DOUBLED! There was no indication they were going to double the price the day of the show. Plus, I saw that the fair box office closed at 5pm. We hadn't planned on getting there so early since the show didn't start until 9pm but I figured this would just give us extra fair time.

On the drive down we hit massive traffic and it became clear there was no way we were going to make it in time for the 5:00 box office closing. I checked my phone to figure out what our other options were and, upon closer reading, realized that the box office at the Fair was only open Monday through Friday. We'd have to go somewhere else regardless.

We pulled into the parking lot of the Red Lion Hotel referenced as a box office on the Fair website and Vaughn and I sat in the car while Jacob went in to get our tickets. He came out ticketless about ten minutes later. Ticketless because the guy working at the Red Lion desk had forgotten his computer password. Technology only gets you so far.

We drove on to a Safeway that had been identified by our password amnesia stricken clerk as the next best option. Here Jacob was able to get our tickets but not before being told by the clerk, "You know, I have to tell you, these tickets are $33 a piece with the service charge. Yesterday they were $15. The show is an hour. You still want 'em?" Yes. Yes we did.

I found Jacob over at the deli counter buying putrid egg roles and a package of Nutter Butters for dinner. He suggested that we smuggle in wine. This was the best idea I had heard so far this evening. As we poured the bottle of wine into two empty juice containers in the parking lot we explained to Vaughn that mommy and daddy were being thrifty.

The Fair is still one of my most favorite activities. I love being able to pet not one but fifty pigs and I absolutely think it is great that a place still exists for folks to show off their canning and quilting skills. There was a replica of the Taj Majal built out of match sticks by a man in his nineties. Were it not for the Fair, who would see it save those lucky few nursing home residents?

After several hours of wandering through glass blowing demonstrations, old cars, pan flute Peruvian bands, and "exotic" black and white photos of really ancient Taipei elders smoking pipes, it was time to find the show.

I was disheartened to see that the show was going to be outside - it was already pretty cold. But I figured that we could huddle together and, if all else failed, I still had a solid half a bottle of wine (I have to mention that while Jacob had suggested we buy the wine, he failed to drink ANY of it; making if feel less like a devious little scheme we had hatched together and more like another night of Mommy Sad Sack).

We got really great seats up front. I figured that, unlike a real Michael Jackson show, at least there was a decent chance this one would start on time. Looking around I noticed two things: first, it was clear we were the only people here who probably spent over $100 on these tickets (which, by the way, we found out later that we could buy at any time at the Fair) and second, there were a whole lot of adults in Michael Jackson tee shirts. There was one woman in a sparkly glove holding a sign that said, "We Miss You Michael!!!! RIP". She was accompanied by a man wearing a nice, but clearly homemade knockoff of one Micheal's gold military style jackets. Who were these people that came to Salem, Oregon to publicly mourn and celebrate Michael Jackson?

The show was a mix of entertaining and cheesey. The performances by Rojas and his four backup dancers were pretty good and Rojas himself made an impressive MJ. Let's face it, considering the multi-million dollar productions that Michael Jackson concerts were anything is going to fall a little flat and having four backup dancers in track jackets pretend to be snapping pictures with low end digital cameras while a Latino MJ lip-syncs "Leave Me Alone" is going to require more than a little imagination to get to pseudo-Jackson status. Still, the crowd was willing to suspend belief and so were we. What was disappointing, however, was the filler. The whole first act was us sitting there listening to "Ben" being piped in over the loudspeakers. Then there was a lengthy video of old concert footage from the tour in China accompanied by a dramatic voiceover which I honestly can't remember any of the gist of. The middle of the concert had a terrible laser light show that included a large neon woman walking, a credit card being taken out of a wallet and dollar signs. Laser light show technology is so old and painful I almost expected to see a laser Pac Man being chased by a laser ghost. The Fair had provided us 3-D glasses for no apparent reason since there was nothing in 3-D and all the glasses really did was create a head crushing display of rainbows. We left during the finale which was just the backup dancers and about 20 random people ranging from age six to maybe 19 dancing in line. There was one featured kid of about 12 dancing in the front of the stage who was clearly selected for his ability to dance like Michael Jackson and while he was talented, I couldn't shake the thought that I was paying about $10 to see him dance when I've got a pretty good Moonwalker at home.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Hair Today

These days it seems we pack in so much activity it makes my head spin. We haven't even hit the period of shuffling Vaughn back and forth to various things so I'm not sure how we'll figure out how to squeeze that in when the time comes. All I know is when we have too much going on- life and work seem to blend together into one big Outlook Calendar and everything is broken down into how much time we have before we have to be to the next thing and it drives me nuts.

This past week was particularly bad with Jacob and I having something planned all seven days in a row. On Monday, Jacob had band practice and Vaughn and I were going to just hang out. I went upstairs to the bathroom to trim my bangs when Vaughn came up, noticed what I was doing and said he might like his hair trimmed too. Vaughn had been growing his hair out for probably two years and it would have been just gorgeous had it not been for the unfortunate decision to shave the sides and underneath the back in an attempt to make it less full and puffy (some of us would kill for this problem). At the time I didn't consider that this hair style would stick around and I never imagined we'd be dealing with a painfully grown out mullet. I was never allowed to even it out and any mention of trimming it was rebuffed with the reminder that it was his hair and he'd do what he wanted. Perhaps he harbored certain memories.

Anyway- let's just say once again we had a certain communication breakdown. I really thought I had been given permission to cut it up to even it out with his sides but alas, I was sadly mistaken. Halfway through the haircut (which, truth be told wasn't going that well because his hair is tricky) he got up to look and then exploded into a rage I didn't think eight year olds who haven't been severely abused ever experience. After being yelled at to "Get OUT" of his room I paced and frantically deliberated my next move while he alternated between yelling "I can't believe this is happening!" to just engaging in some primal screaming.

Because I always do my best work under pressure it suddenly hit me that maybe a professional haircut could make things better since I was no longer allowed near his person. It turned out that was a brilliant suggestion and he put on a hat and prepared to go. Now? We had to go NOW? We had no car. If we were more bike or public transportation savvy this might not have been a big deal but I might has well have been stranded on a desert island without a boat. Yes, we had to go now. Not a single person could see him until his hair was fixed.

A frantic call to Annalee got us a ride to Bishops where the hair cutting hipsters got us where we needed to be. Vaughn got an uber-trendy faux-hawk that he loves and I love never having to see him chew on his hair again.