Sunday, November 30, 2008


"Hi, I'm Susan. I'm 47 years old, and I've never been to a high school or college reunion. I'd like to share my story. "

As I've posted in the past, I generally don't do parties, especially parties in which the sole purpose of the event is to look at each other to see whether one made sensible decisions about whether or not to date the other party goers, all those many years ago. I am, perhaps, a tad insecure.

Last night a kind and generous high school friend gathered up a group of high school drama geeks, spanning at least 10 years worth of graduating classes, and I insanely agreed to go. A major case of nerves had a while to build up (it was an hour drive, plus an hour of trying on all of my clothes before I left, trying to minimize thighs and cover up my ancient-looking chicken neck).

I stopped to fortify myself with Red Bull (yeah, I may need to enter a Red Bull 12 step program soon...but that's another post) at the Novato Safeway, surrounded by multi-million dollar homes, my Yaris parked among Lexii and BMWs. I was feeling a leetle out of place even before I walked in the door.

But I had a great time. Sometimes it's worth swallowing your anxiety and just walking in the room. Nobody snickered when I walked in, and in fact people who remembered me (many) were even genuinely happy that I was there. I got to hear what's been up the last 29 years for these folks, got to see relationships that we all knew were doomed still in flower so many years later, see children of people I knew as children.

It was kind of magical, to be suddenly in conversation again with some people whom I'd formed strong connections with years and years ago, and then missed for so long. I also got to watch a rough cut of a documentary about one of the guys I used to hang out with, look at a memoir by someone I hadn't known well but who had a great life story, and hear of adventures harrowing and wonderful, mourn losses, celebrate triumphs.

And nobody said a word about my neck OR thighs.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Skewl Update

My school, not the kids' school. Let 'em get their own blogs.

2.5 weeks to go, and I will have lived through the first semester. Pwahhhhhhhh, will be the noise I make after I walk out of the last final. It has been quite a four months - some of the more stressful of my life, but certainly also among the most interesting and fulfilling. And MAN, does time fly when you're busy and happy. I'll be through this degree in no time.

I finished my last paper today, I have two take home finals and one in class final left to go. No one is to mention the word, "Christmas" until after that.

I've gotten interested enough in environmental health (that's your garden variety air pollution, lead toxicity, radon, and now new and improved with global warming for extra added value!) to squeeze every ounce of extra class time into my spring schedule, topping out at 14 units (at least two will be credit/no credit, so I don't die of acute academia). So, just in case you're keeping track, starting January 21 it'll be:

Statistical Analysis of Categorical Data (that's stuff that isn't measured by number, like gender)
SAS (that's the big statistical software package)
GIS (that's the big spatial data modeling program)
Global Environmental Change for Health Scientists (pretty self-explanatory)

Heavy on the geek stuff. I'm excited!

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I'd honestly got to the point where I felt that I would never be healthy and sane again, but I got there, as of this morning. Fingers crossed that it will last for at least another few hours, or maybe even days. But even if it doesn't, I'm grateful for this moment of being OK.

I'm closing in on being caught up with school work. The house is clean, laundry done. Internship application done except for a paper I need to pick up on Monday. My eyelid twitch is receding into memory. I even had a little run and a long bath earlier today. Things is pretty good.

Plus? California is totally whooping Stanford's wimpy red football butt. This has always made me happy, but actually being a student at the Cal makes it swEEt.

And "boom," goes the cannon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

On Growing Up, Revisited

The first day in Manhattan, I was carefully instructing Annie on how to "be" in New York. Yes, you really are expected to cross against the light. No, those aren't real Rolexes. Yes, New Yorkers do talk a lot, and they like it when you talk back. No, you can't stop suddenly on a busy street to snap photos.

Although she was having a great time, she looked a little like a deer in the headlights. The peak of her insecurity happened the second day in Manhattan, in the morning. After sitting through the information session at NYU, as we began the tour, she leaned over to me and said quietly, "Mom, I can't possibly get in here, why are we doing this?"

That was at about 11:30am.

By 5:00pm that night, she was volunteering to wait on line by herself at the TKTS booth while Julie and I shopped Times Square. She was telling me which way to turn to get to the theatre, and how much time we'd need to get back to Grand Central in time for the late train (and finding her way through the GC maze once we got there). She was walking in a perfect Manhattan walk, about a half block ahead of me at all times ("hurry UP, Mom"). She was gamely eating oysters, even the big ones that make me gaggy. And perhaps most telling, she was talking about *when* she lives in the City.

Even for Annie, this was quite a growth spurt. At least five years worth of maturity and self-confidence in just over 5 hours. But it was magical to watch, and very gratifying to see.

I can't wait to see the wonders she encounters on this journey.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Our Little Trip

It was a fabulous trip. I am a sucker for Manhattan, any kind of weather. I even loved it in the 1980's, and it just keeps getting safer, cleaner and more pleasant, every time I go. Annie seems to have inherited my fondness for it.

We both were suffering from a variety of ailments while in New York, but that didn't slow us down much. The photos here are just some highlights, and you'll notice there are none of colleges. We didn't want to look like idiots. :-)

We also, rudely, failed to take any interesting photos of our hosts, Julie and Jonathan. Yeah, that's pretty bad. They're both very photogenic, they just tended not to be there when we were snapping away.

But we're very appreciative for all they did, really!

So you'll see a lot of headstones...yes you will. We're not terribly morbid, it's just that cemeteries are free, historically and artistically very interesting places, and never ever crowded. (And although we didn't indulge on this trip, they also make great spots for picnics in the summer.)
Annie saw four, I was sick for Woodlawn (see Herman Melville, below) and stayed home. I did get to see Alexander Hamilton at Trinity Church, which was wildly cool. And the pet cemetery in Scarsdale, with tombstones dating back a hundred years, was awesome.

The nachos on the ferry to Ellis Island took the award for most disgusting food we've gone ahead and ingested in a good long while (we were starved, but MAN they were gross).

OK, and finally: Brooklyn Person who thought to hang up this home-made sign outside the subway entrance? You're a god. As you know, the official, city-made signs made absolutely no sense and had us wandering in circles. Once we saw this, we were home free.
It really was a great trip.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Blast and Be Bothered

First the laptop (exactly 1 year and 1 month old, feh on Dell laptops) gave up the ghost on this trip, and then I caught a head cold on the last day. Still nothing to complain about over all (and in fact pretty typical travel crises, in my experience), but the lack of computer means I can't upload any of the fantastic photos we've taken over the past few days. And the head cold means I probably wouldn't if I could.

Saturday it rained heavily and the tiredness of three days of college viewing took over. We slept until very late in the morning (er, afternoon for the teen among us) and then ran a few errands and visited an enormous pet cemetery nearby. It was utterly charming, although it did make me wonder a bit about people's relationships with their pets.

Yesterday Julie was suffering from the same or a different cold, so Annie and I set out on our own for a day of high touristing, and had a great time in Manhattan, again. I refuse to talk about it until I can post the pictures, though.

This afternoon Annie is out viewing Woodlawn Cemetery with Julie and Jonathan while I try to get through a Linear Regression chapter in Biostats, and then we're off to the airport to fly home. As a public health person, I fervently believe that airlines ought to let you change your flight to avoid spreading germs all over the plane, but I don't think Jetblue will see it my way. And really, it will be nice to sleep in my own bed tonight.

Friday, November 14, 2008

NYC College Tour

No photos yet (I'm just too tired to upload), but this has been a very valuable process. Time well spent. Soon I hope to write a post about watching my daughter grow up over the course of three days, but I'm not in any shape to be eloquent tonight.

The short story is that I think it will take an act of God to keep her from going to school in Manhattan. She is one determined cookie. And whereas I thought small and cloistered would be the right fit for her (being a mom), I now see that small and cloistered would be a dreadful, dreadful mistake.

She is making NYU her number one choice, and I have every confidence that she will make it happen. She has a year to finalize her ducks row. I'm already bursting with pride over her and her choices and accomplishments.

In between walking walking walking through NYU, Barnard and Sarah Lawrence, we saw Phantom of the Opera, took in a wonderful exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Technology with Aunt Julie, (who also introduced Annie to oysters with great success), figured out the train system to Yonkers, tutored Annie extensively on how to cross the street in Manhattan (if you wait for the lights, you'll never get anywhere), and I bought shoes and an interview outfit for next week. So far we've eaten incredible food (no surprise) from Cuba, New Orleans and Grand Central Station. This weekend, with Julie and Jonathan, we will see the Brooklyn Bridge and South Street Seaport and Ellis Island, along with some local cemeteries ('cause that's what we do).

It's been fantastic.

Saturday, November 08, 2008


I'm going to try to move past my political obsessions, but I just wanted to note that I'm watching a talking heads show this morning and a Republican woman, one who has gone on every week about McCain, just told the story of crying tears of pride in her country on Tuesday. There *is* hope for us to unite and heal and move forward to bring this great country (and ultimately the world) back. I am so hopeful.

Joe had a series of orthodontic crises over the last week. Brackets falling off, wires slashing his lip, multiple visits, lots of pain and blood swallowed. Poor moppet, he didn't really want the braces, and we'd been jollying him along, telling him it would all be worth it. Week after next is oral surgery to deal with the tooth that is causing all these nightmares, which will not be much fun, either. Send him good thoughts.

He's also struggling with the extremely high expectations in one of his classes, but I'm really proud of the efforts he's making to improve his grade and get with this teacher's program. I think ultimately he will be grateful for this teacher, as many have before him. But for now, not so much.

Annie has done a great job organizing her college-viewing trip coming up Tuesday. She has a schedule, is thinking about what she wants to find out, and had to turn only one bit over to me when we ran into an insane admissions office employee who was basically refusing to let us see the school because Annie's a junior. We are being hosted by the very gracious and accommodating Julie and Jonathan, to whom we owe much.

Rob has been swimming hard upstream at work all year, after many years of just treading water. I can't put the details online, but the issues are too big for even his thick skin. He's interviewing for other jobs within his school district, and we have fingers tightly crossed. He's also talking for the first time about going outside the district, but it's a scary time to lose tenure.

I'm finishing the last of the killer midterms this weekend and then taking a week off from work and classes to go see the New York schools and play a little.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Sorry, Canada...

...but I'll be staying put. I've cancelled my plans to move north. You're a fine country, wonderful people, beautiful scenery, great government. Even a wicked cool flag.

But I'm an American. A very proud American.

Monday, November 03, 2008


So, I was kind of thinking that all those employers lining up at the recruitment fairs were looking for us because we were competent enough to get in to Cal.

Oh, no. I had it wrong, I see that now. They are waiting to see if we are competent enough to get OUT of Cal.

There is a reason that they give us a month off in between semesters. It's to keep from killing us.

This is so different from any other school experience I've had. It's great, really great. I love learning so much so fast. But it is intense.

Yes, it is.

Sunday, November 02, 2008


Rob and I stood in line for over an hour today at the Alameda County courthouse, in downtown Oakland. I had to talk him into early voting, so I felt a little guilty about the wait. But it turned out to be a truly moving experience for both of us, even as cynical as we are.

We saw and spoke with young, first time voters, older voters who were probably voting in their final presidential election (but who waited gamely in line using a walker for all that time). Nine months pregnant voters. Voters who had never voted before because it didn't matter how they voted. Voters who had never voted before because they weren't citizens but were now. Contradicting the theory that Hispanic voters vote more conservatively, we saw many Hispanic families (including extremely patient small children) with Obama and No on 8 t-shirts (8 is the California measure banning gay marriage). We saw African American McCain voters, and white, wealthy-looking Obama voters. And we heard not one, not ONE complaint about the line and the wait. That was amazing.

I cried a little, for real. It was great. Better than anything I've done with a Sunday afternoon in years.