Saturday, October 31, 2009

Cruz into November

Happy Halloween from San Francisco! Today I am having a 'homework afternoon' in which I hang out at a cafe and do homework with my friend A who is a full-time graduate student. She has way more homework than I do. Hence the blogging.

Like A, I work much more efficiently in libraries and coffee shops than I do at home. If I decide to go to graduate school myself, the first order of business will be to procure a laptop so that I can take my work on the road. For the class I am currently taking, I have had to write my papers on the desktop and, in so doing, have proven that I am still miserably unproductive at home.

So today we work hard and tomorrow we reward ourselves with a road trip to Santa Cruz! That will be an all-new destination for me. I'll tell you all about it next week, but right now I guess I should get back to my assignment.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Frozen Corn

Yesterday evening, as I sat down to the delicious dinner K had made of lasagna, corn and warm bread, I asked him, "Is this frozen corn?"

"Canned," he replied. "So no, you may not start a wild rumpus." (In the movie Where the Wild Things Are, frustration over frozen corn is what pushes Max over the edge, sending him into a rowdy frenzy in which he yells at his mother, bites her, and then runs away from home. He eventually finds a little boat and sails off to a rocky shore where he finds the Wild Things, becomes their king and decrees, "Let the wild rumpus start!")

K is really good like that. He always gets my barely-there movie references. This time, granted, we had seen the film only three days earlier. But still - any other person would have assumed I was asking a simple meal-related question.

I'm afraid I cannot claim to be equally proficient in picking up on K's movie references. His memory for quotes, scenes and plot points far outstrips my own. Also, he seems to have watched every American movie made since 1975. I have literally watched him flip through a tv that had several dozen movie channels and call out the names of all the films. Alien! Over the Top! Black Sheep! Chasing Amy! (These are not the actual titles. I wouldn't be able to recall them now, but I do remember thinking, Who are you and when did you have time to watch all of these movies?)

So if you ever find yourself tortured by the need to know some obscure piece of movie trivia (and you have a phone but no internet access), or if you are in the Cash Cab and need the names of the children from Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, I recommend you call K. Please do not call me, because you will be disappointed.

But I digress. We saw Where the Wild Things Are, and it was terrific. I went in expecting a movie that tried too hard to be profound in a kids-flick way. (Inside all of us is... hope. Inside all of us is... fear. Etc.) As it turned out, the sappiness was minimal and the script didn't even seem to have been written for a child audience. To me, one of the best things about the movie is that it is so unexpected. You definitely will not go see it and say, "Well, that's exactly what I had in mind, no surprises there."

Apparently Spike Jonze agrees with me - Tzippy/KW is a girl!

Even if you cannot get on board with the story, with all of its character background material (perhaps necessary to extend the 10-sentence book to a full length feature), there is no denying that this film is an arresting visual spectacle - it will knock your socks off. That being said, I don't really want to give anything away. I'll just leave you with one of Judith's snarky comments: "Happiness isn't always the best way to be happy." Does that go for humans too, or just Wild Things?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wild Things: New Movie, New Names

K and I have not had a weekend at home in Chicago together in over a month. Now I'm looking at my calendar and see that we're booked solid for the next three weekends too. I kid you not. Don't get me wrong - I'm not complaining, exactly. All of these engagements have been/will be fun.

It's certainly tiring after a while though, this self-imposed no-weekends-at-home policy of ours. All the normal life things - laundry, dishes, workouts, homework, etc. - must be packed into the weekdays. (They have nowhere else to go.) Many of the precious extras - long strolls, afternoon movies, sleeping in, going out for brunch, etc. - get pushed out completely.

At the end of the month I'll be in San Francisco for work and then stay through the weekend of All Hallow's Eve to visit a close friend whom I've missed tremendously. (Anyone have ideas for a good two-person costume?) But then. Then! K and I have no weekend obligations for the entire month of November!

No, no, don't say it. Don't say "Yet." K and I have already discussed how we are going to keep our November weekends as free as humanly possible. Sure, Thanksgiving might turn into a big hoo-ha (already there are rumors of my family coming in from New York), but those other weekends... those other weekends are ours, baby. I can't wait.

In the meantime, in light of how busy I have been, my blobjective (blog-objective) this week will be an easy one: to see the new movie Where the Wild Things Are, opening tomorrow and based on the classic children's book by Maurice Sendak. K and I are driving up to our hometown in Michigan this weekend to celebrate his dad's birthday, and the birthday man has already slated WtWTA to be part of the festivities.

K and I both grew up in WtWTA households, and we've had our own copy of the book for several years. If we ever have children, K and I will probably fight over who gets to read this story aloud to them. Simple plot, gorgeous illustrations and monsters that are scary but not scary - what more could you want?

The book doesn't give names to the individual Wild Things, but as a child I identified with this one. For some reason, I always thought she was a 'girl' - the only female Wild Thing. Maybe it was the hair. Or maybe it was the kindness in her eyes.

Several years ago for Christmas, K's mom gave him a set of WtWTA toys. Check it out:

Right away, I noticed the character names on the boxes. (Wikipedia says that these names were chosen by Sendak himself.) So for the last few years, I've known my favorite Wild Thing by her proper name - Tzippy.

Excited about the new movie release, I did a little reading about it online this morning. I came across these beautiful banners and realized that they're changing the creatures' names for the movie! So now instead of Moishe, Tzippy, Aaron, Bernard, Emil and Goat Boy, we have Carol, KW, Judith, The Bull, Douglas and Alexander. What gives?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Chasing Shadows

On Wednesday I was supposed to shadow A, a speech pathologist I met through a friend of a friend. I looked forward to it all day on Tuesday, even taking the time that evening to mentally prepare a list of questions to ask her between client appointments. I was excited to see first hand how speech therapy is administered to infants. Seriously, what does that even mean, really?

So, Wednesday rolls around... 6:30am: I'm up! It's a miracle! How was it this easy for me to get out of bed when I normally struggle to get up at 7:30? I must really be pumped!... 7:00am: I'm showered and dressed with packed lunch ready to go. Just listening to NPR, eating my breakfast of champions and drinking my coffee... 7:30am: She'll be here any minute and I'm literally on the edge of my seat - as soon as she gets here and calls up for me I'll hurry down. If we're late to her first appointment, it will not be on account of me... 7:40am: I'm getting a little antsy. I check the weather channel... 7:50am: I send her an email - "Hey A, just checking in. Schedule change this morning?" Why didn't I get her phone number? Oh well, she'll get my message on her crackberry... 8:45am: Still no word from A. I send another email - "Hey there, I think I'm going to head in to work so I can save the day for future vacation. I'm not sure what happened this morning - I hope that everything is ok!"

I figured I would hear from A within a couple of hours after getting to work. She probably just zombied out and forgot to pick me up. Maybe she's not a morning person - I can relate! But then 11 o'clock rolls around: Still not a peep. Strange how she sent me a message at 8:30pm on Tuesday re-confirming our plan and then less than 12 hours later I've fallen so totally off her radar... Noon: I'll head to our free Wednesday lunch and lecture series. Surely by the time I get back I'll have a message from her... 1:30pm: Nope, no message... 5:30pm: I leave a voicemail for one of our mutual friends since I don't have A's number - "Hello, just wondering if you have heard from A today. Give me a call." I'm getting concerned...

8:30pm: Just when I thought there must be more to the story - bazinga! - A emails me and says, "I actually was down there and called up. I hope I didn't leave a message on some random person's voicemail! I guess I didn't call the right number. Looking back now, I actually think I dialed the wrong area code. I am SO SORRY!" Then she reveals this clarifying gem to me in a follow-up email - "My beloved blackberry pearl committed suicide in the toilet. It was a very sad day."

It really couldn't be more anticlimactic.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baby Talk

I am just over a month into my community college course in 'Human Growth and Development' (see here and here) and it has been a splendid experience so far. I lucked out with a very capable instructor who aptly breaks up our three hour and forty-five minute evening class periods into smaller, easier to swallow sections of lectures, small group discussions and videos. (Even so, I don't know what I would do without the Dunkin Donuts across the street.)

I have been finding the subject matter fascinating. Here's a tiny sampling:
- A newly fertilized egg survives without any nourishment from the mother for up to two weeks as it makes its way through the fallopian tube to the uterus and implants itself.
- Following childbirth, the uterus continues to contract for several weeks. (This is how it 'shrinks.') A few women report more pain from these contractions than from those accompanying childbirth. (!) Breastfeeding helps stimulate the secretion of oxytocin, which encourages the uterus to contract back to (approximately) its pre-pregnancy size.
- Infants literally grow overnight. Researchers have measured growth of up to a full inch in less than 24 hours in infants up to 21 months.
- Hopi infants spend the first year of their lives strapped to a board yet begin to walk at about the same time as children in other societies.
- Researchers who re-wired the brains of baby ferrets so that visual input was sent to the auditory cortex instead of the visual cortex found that the ferrets actually learned to see pretty well.
In last night's class, we started getting into the ways in which infants begin to develop language skills, and how their brains lay the groundwork for the tremendous burst of language development that will take place over the next several years. I perked right up, because one of my main reasons for taking the class is to explore my interest in speech therapy.

As part of my efforts to figure out whether I would enjoy studying speech therapy, this foundational course is all well and good. Actually doing speech therapy, however, is a pretty different animal. For that reason, I knew I would have to seek out opportunities to learn more about what it is really like to work in the field and whether the practicalities of being a speech therapist would be a fit for me.

With that in mind, I am going to spend all day tomorrow with a real live speech pathologist. Although A is not working in an area that I am particularly interested in - she works exclusively with 0 to 3 year-olds - I think it will be beneficial to pick her brain about the different types of work that are out there, her likes/dislikes, etc. Plus she is really cool.

So tomorrow I will shadow A as she visits her clients. I will have to get up a whole hour earlier than usual, but I'm thinking the adorability factor will make up for it. My co-workers are pretty cute, but who can compete with a bunch of toddlers? Speaking of adorable, here's a photo of the Amazing J, who I will have a chance to hang out with this weekend.

Look at that arm! It's like someone put a really tight rubber band around her wrist. So cute!

Last time I saw Amazing J, I wasn't sure what the correct term was for our relationship (she is my cousin's daughter). According to the Internet, she is my 'first cousin once removed,' but that sounds cumbersome and formal so I'm just going to stick to calling her Amazing J. 252 days old and counting... If any of the children tomorrow are as cute as she is, I may just have to steal one to bring home to live with me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Back Up, Back At 'Em

After three days home sick, I'm finally back in the game. Back at work and off the meds, I'd say I'm about 95%. That's not bad considering how terrible I felt on Tuesday morning - achey, sweaty, cold, congested, the skin around my nose so dry that it hurt to sneeze. We didn't have any tissues in the apartment, so I was stuck with toilet paper - owie.

After calling in sick and writing a quick self-pitying blog post, I spent the rest of Tuesday sticking diligently to K's Plan: stay warm, stay hydrated, stay medicated and don't exert any unnecessary energy. My adversaries - boredom and an endless internet, that pile of laundry in the corner and the paper that isn't going to write itself. Allies - my snuggly blue robe, Dristan Cold medicine, season one of Dexter and, most of all, K.

K doesn't work on Tuesdays, so he was available to bring me hot chocolate, a scone, soup, a sandwich and a quesadilla. (As you can see, I didn't lose my appetite.) He even went to the store and got some moisturizing lotion-infused Kleenex, which are amazing, by the way. We saw on tv later that same day that some environmental groups are currently campaigning against this type of super-soft face and toilet tissue, saying that the ultra plush varieties are made from the pulp of really old trees (decades or even centuries). Is it not possible to make ΓΌber fluffy tissue out of recycled paper products? If not, we definitely need to work on it.

Anyway, I spent all of Tuesday reading, sleeping and watching Dexter. And more of the same on Wednesday, except K was at work so I had to refill my own water glass and make my own food. Later, I found myself in a bit of a conundrum. I had previously purchased a ticket to see Audrey Niffenegger read from her new book in Andersonville. I convinced myself that it was reasonable for me to go: I'll bundle up and sit in the way back and if it goes long, I'll just leave early... And so, after 45 hours of Sticking To The Plan, I finally broke step.

I woke up this morning feeling much better and so, so happy for it. I might have burst into song but K was still sleeping soundly and I didn't want to wake him. We'd both been woken up a few times in the wee hours of the night by our new neighbors' six-month-old baby. Well, we weren't woken by the baby actually - more like the baby daddy. When the baby woke up, the dad would start singing really loudly. It was muffled like the adults in the Peanuts movies, but really exaggerated, sort of like - dare I say it? - Barney the purple dinosaur. This would keep us awake for fifteen minutes or so at a stretch. Then we'd fall back asleep for a while until the next performance.

Despite the relatively poor night's sleep, I am having a wonderful day. Being sick even for a few days is a humbling experience and makes me so thankful to be healthy and alive. Leaving work at 5, I felt so good that I decided to go to my regular yoga class, but halfway there, I remembered that my gym was hosting some sort of art event in the studio. So neighborhoody, which normally I love, but sometimes I just want my gym to be more gym and less community center. Oh well, I suppose I can make room in my heart for local artists. I can always just curl up on the couch and watch Dexter. I may be getting a little too good at Plan K.