January 2008 Archives

Aloha, again

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Did you know that Aloha means hellogoodbye, and I love you, among other things? It's a very versatile word, that one.

I am back from Hawaii, tanned, rested, and with a whole new appreciation for my family. I haven't been out there in seven years, so it was interesting to see all the changes, including those in myself.

The trip started out on a somber note, as we attended a funeral on the first day there. It was really heart-wrenching and just plain tough. I know those kinds of things aren't supposed to be easy to get through, but at one point they played "Over the Rainbow" by Iz, and I just fell apart crying on my mother's shoulder.

By the end of the day, we found ourselves at a bar with the mother and a lot of other family, and it seemed like life would go on. I am constantly humbled by the strength and wisdom of mothers, and as I watched and listened to everyone, I felt like I was learning a lot about what it is to be human.

The rest of the vacation was just plain fun. I goofed around like it was my job, constantly cracking jokes or confessing things the Muppets in my brain had cooked up. I had a blast, and we saw and did all kinds of awesome things.

I wish I could say more coherent and interesting things on the subject, but I am ferociously jet-lagged, so I don't want to babble sloppily in summation. If that sounds like a cop-out, it is. I've resolved the last bit of drama related to this semester (more on that soon), so now I really really want to go back to sleep for a bit. (Or write the article I owe a professor ASAP.)

Something about nine hours trying to sleep in an airplane seat over a red-eye flight, never fully catching up on rest, and attempting to operate on a five-hour time difference is kicking my ass. I never have trouble with jet-lag flying west to east, but man, east to west kills me.

Thankfully (or not), Eric is on a sympathetically disastrous sleep schedule, and he is enjoying his new favorite past-time of trouncing me at Scrabble on Facebook.

I have a class tonight, for which I must approximate functionality, then less than 12 hours later I start my job. We'll talk about all this stuff soon, I promise.


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I am off for ten days in Hawaii! Woohoo! I'll be back on the 26th.

My Tall Chef

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Background: When Eric was young, he had a cookbook called Who is that Short Chef?,from which he learned to cook alongside his mother. He told me about it years ago, but I'd completely forgotten about it.

Today, he is making Magic Cookie Bars, which involve crushing graham cracker crumbs into a crust, then topping it with all manner of deliciosity. He insisted on doing it by hand, despite my repeated arguments that he would get a more consistent crumb using the food processor.

After several minutes of inefficient but loud crushing, we had the following exchange:

Eric: Even if it would have taken a quarter of the time, this way is still better.
Vicki: My argument was never based on the speed, but on the quality of the crumb.
Eric: Well still, this is more fun.
Vicki: That's all that matters.
Eric: Yeah. Damnit.
Vicki: When you're a nearly 30-year-old man, you should only worry about having fun.
Eric: Yes. Hmph. Who is that Short Chef?

I can't say exactly why, but I burst into about ten minutes of hysterics after he said that.

Among his protests, he stammered "Hey! Those are my memories you're laughing at!"

Such a cutie. I can't wait for his cookie bars!

Meme gankage ahoy

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I'm fond of these types of memes, since they were the source of beloved commenter Peppermint Merlot's alias.

This particular one was ganked from Mo.

1. YOUR ROCK STAR NAME (first pet, current car): Emily Galant.

2. YOUR GANGSTA NAME (fave ice cream flavor, favorite type of shoe): Pistachio Pumps (I think this should be my stripper name).

3. YOUR NATIVE AMERICAN NAME (favorite color, favorite animal): Green Kitty.

4. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME (middle name, city where you were born): Anne Red Bank.

5. YOUR STAR WARS NAME (the first 3 letters of your last name, first 2 of your first name): Boa Vi

6. SUPERHERO NAME (2nd favorite color, favorite drink): Red Whiskey

7. NASCAR NAME (the first names of your grandfathers): Bob the Sheik (ask me sometime)

8. STRIPPER NAME (the name of your favorite perfume/cologne/scent, favorite candy):Cucumber Chocolate (oh my)

9. TV WEATHER ANCHOR NAME (your 5th grade teacher's last name, a major city that starts with the same letter): Cestone Chicago

10. SPY NAME: (your favorite season/holiday, flower): Autumn Dahlia

11. CARTOON NAME: (favorite fruit, article of clothing you're wearing right now): Kiwi Sweater

12. HIPPIE NAME: (What you ate for breakfast, your favorite tree): Pasta Cyprus

13. NEW LJ ID: (One word from your street name, a nickname of a family member): Taaffe Holmes (sounds like misspelled projects)

Now you go! Leave your answers in the comments or let me know if you post it on your blog!


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(Hi! Did you know this is a cat-blog now?) (It's not).

We're cat-sitting Oreo this week. I brought him up early in the interest of saving myself a few hours on the highway, as Eric is watching him while my parents and I are in Hawaii.

Seems easy enough, especially after cat-sitting my grandmother's cat Sheba, whom we nicknamed Satan a few days into her stay.

But oh no, Oreo has to make a pain in the ass of himself. We have to give him pills twice a day. They're called Uroeze, and I'll let you imagine what they're for. Not surprisingly, he doesn't really like them, and I have so many scratches on my hands and wrists I'm afraid of being mistaken for a cutter.

After his first night here, I noticed he was unusually ornery and stunk to high heaven. The resolution to this situation has involved many eyedroppers full of olive oil and me in rubber gloves wiping his ass and attempting a rudimentary digital kitty enema. I think he's fine now, but let me tell you how much I've enjoyed inspecting the litter box.

To thank me for my concern, he got up on the freshly-washed sheets on my just-made bed and peed all over it, soaking down to the mattress. For those keeping score, this is the second bed of mine that he's hosed down.

To be perfectly frank, I am more than a little sick of concentrating on things coming out of his orifices. Because of the disasters that could ensue with all the yarn and canvas paintings in the office, Oreo is now locked out of both rooms and left to take his chances with the ferocious Ignatius in our main room.

He's opted for the luxurious accommodations of his cat carrier, and that's fine with everyone I think.

(God help him if he pees on my couches or my shoes.)

Now here are gratuitous photos of the handsome, well-behaved Iggy and Smokey.

If only every cat could be so lovely.

Iggy Attack!

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Since I am in a bit of a foul mood (someone smashed a window of my car AGAIN), I'm going to give you the piece of cinematic brilliance that Eric made today:



I think it's the music that makes it. ("Wildcat" by Ratatat).

Something you may notice as well is the big awesome thing I previously alluded to, namely that between Christmas and New Year's my mother came up and helped me clean and organize the whole apartment.

Now it is pristine and really quite charming. I have a studio space. And like, all my stuff is away, and I can find it. Eric's too. It is amazing beyond words.

(Okay I have to say one thing to jerks who break into cars and can't even find anything to steal because my ashtray with change has already been stolen - CUT IT OUT!!! I only had my car here for two days, and you couldn't leave it alone?! There's nothing in it! You can see that through the window that you smashed! I am seriously trying to find a way to rig my car so it releases pepper spray or tear gas or flings poo if the windows are broken, but until then, you see what my Iggy can do, and I'm not afraid to use him.)

Risk-taking and dangerous behavior

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I just watched this video, 5 Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do, in which the speaker excerpts some concepts from his upcoming book.

It's not perfect - some of the examples are not the best, and the arguments are disorganized or a little weak - but the concept is certainly there, and it's solid.

Increasingly, people try to protect and insulate children from harm with what I (and the speaker) consider excessive "safety" measures. He describes a world full of rounded plastic, which to me seems like confinement in the colorful toddler equivalent of a padded room.

By not letting children explore the world as it really is, dangers and all, parents console themselves with the illusion of safety, while in fact creating its opposite. They take all kinds of extended precautions and create suffocating limitations in the interest of protecting the child, but none of these can adequately replace proper education and supervision.

The most nefarious factor, as I see it, is that pseudo-safe precautions breed complacency in parents who feel they've "done everything they could," such that when inevitably something does go wrong (it always will), they regard it as a "freak accident," and above all, certainly not their fault.

This is not to say we shouldn't protect children, obviously, but I think it is being taken way too far these days, at major detriment to the child's cognitive, behavioral, and psychological development.

By eliminating danger, we also eliminate the capacity for wonder and imagination. Sheltering a child from the elements and adventures in nature might seem wise if you want them to grow up without scars, but it's also the most surefire way to get a milquetoast, timid adult who's afraid to leave his climate-controlled condo.

When I think on my childhood, some of the most powerful and character-building experiences were the most dangerous by far. Snow-skiing, water-skiing, hiking in mountains and looking out from a cliff's edge, riding in power boats, traveling, snorkeling on the outer edge of a reef, standing on barely-cooled lava until my shoes melted to it, trekking out in the wilderness to hold a piece of glacier in my hands, etc.

The mundanely "unsafe" is where I developed my sense of identity and wonder. Riding my bike or roller-blading wherever I wanted, taking a row-boat out with my brother and a dog to go crabbing, turning on the oven or stove to cook or bake after school... I felt like I could do whatever I wanted because my parents had taken the time to teach me how to use equipment and machines safely, and they supervised me until it was clear I was competent and comfortable on my own.

I do know some people who still can't cook because their parents always considered the stove too dangerous. Others have still never ironed or used a power tool.

My brother does much more dangerous things than I ever did, like wind-surfing, scuba diving, off-shore sport fishing, double black diamond and trick snow-skiing or hunting with a bow and arrow and guns since he was a very small child. He is also one of the most safety-conscious people I've ever met, more so even than relatives who are so quick to come over and attempt to "child-proof" every area of the house, because he has learned to anticipate totally unforeseen dangers and react quickly to them.

I don't think it's by accident that he isn't afraid to go after his dreams, traveling to more than 40 countries before he was 25, and seeing things that some of us will never see in life. He wasn't afraid to start his own business because heck, he's already saved a guy's life with CPR when he keeled over several miles off-shore, at age 16. On a day snorkeling after work, he found himself face to face with a huge shark and quickly got himself and his friend out of the water by a frighteningly narrow margin. He's gone bat-hunting with the king of Fiji - he can talk to a girl in a bar.

I can freely acknowledge that most of my fears are completely irrational. (Clowns, spiders, and bugs). A few have a basis in actual danger (heights, snakes, and sharks), but they aren't a reason to keep from going out in the world and having adventures.

By keeping danger in perspective, I learned how and when to take risks, and what to do if things go wrong. I don't think of myself as particularly brave (how could I, when I grew up next to my brother?), but I do realize it took some courage to move to New York City fresh out of college and strike out on my own as an artist. Or to love and be loved without reserve. To rapell waterfalls and go white-water rafting in Costa Rica. Or to go live in a foreign country for a summer.

I know that I'm not afraid to think or write or make art expressing myself and my thoughts because I grew up in an environment that encouraged wonder and imagination, and my experiences of the world, with all its mysteries and dangers, have been profound and visceral.

Perhaps the thing that I admire most about my brother and parents is that they see what they want in life and do whatever it takes to get it. However slowly and clumsily, I'm really trying to do the same, and I think if I stopped to worry about safety and danger every step of the way, I'd never leave my bed.

I know that parenting must be an incredibly scary and daunting task, but I must say I feel there is a serious responsibility to oversee the development of a child's personality, coordination, and imagination which is at least equally important to maintaining their physical well-being. Helping children encounter danger under supervision lets them conquer it on their own in the future, and it gives them the sure-footed self-assurance to dream big and grab life by the reins.

If we want to be good parents, we must teach children to boldly face danger, see the world for what it is, and dream the big dreams that create an amazing, wondrous life that others could only fearfully imagine.

What else the holidays were like

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Tomorrow morning I'm packing Iggy, Smokey, and Oreo up, along with seventeen metric tons of laundry, and we're returning to Brooklyn. I'm sad to be leaving my parents' house, even though I feel like I've done little more than sleep and mope while I've been here.

I think that with all the heavy emotional stuff going on this year, I've forgotten to mention the really lovely parts of the holidays.

As a family we started a new tradition, celebrating the Feast of the Seven Fishes (La Vigilia) on Christmas Eve. Because they live at the shore and my brother is a charter boat captain, my family was amply prepared for such an occasion with some of the freshest and most amazing seafood I've ever had. We didn't exactly follow protocol, what with the dried salt cod and eel and such, but it was a damn fine meal.

(My mom is so cute. As I blocked the kitchen doorway taking this photo, my brother was cussing up a blue streak behind me but she kept smiling.)

We technically had eight fishes, but my mother doesn't eat salad dressing, so she had seven. A few had multiple preparations as well:

Caesar salad

New England clam chowder

Fried calamari with marinara sauce (also served with the most delicious onion ring fish).

Fried oysters and scallops

Scalloped oysters

Blackfish cakes

Scallops broiled with Parmesan and herbs on toast (these were insanely good).

Toodle (tuna-noodle) salad


I must confess, I don't much care for fin fish or oysters at all, so I only had bites of those. The scallops were some kind of heaven, though, and one of my fried scallops was the single best bite of food I had all year.

I was in charge of dessert, so I got cannoli and three flavors of Ciao Bella gelato: coconut, pistachio, and nocciola (hazelnut).

We also had a very delicious wine, which made gift-wrapping quite a creative endeavor for me later on that night. On one of my brother's gifts I just wrote "Santa had waaaaaay too much fun at Seven fishes man." The next morning, I saw that I'd kind of crumpled the paper around the package, then taped another piece to the back. Maybe not my finest hour, but a fun one.

We hadn't decorated our tree until fairly late in the season. My mother actually finished decorating it on Christmas Eve. The rest of us had given up much earlier, but she persisted in getting another fifty pounds of ornaments on it. Between knitting my father oiled wool gloves and getting up close and personal with the tree and the dogs, I had a heck of an allergy response going on, so I was pretty woozy.

Christmas morning was nice, though I was cranky from staying up so late finishing the Secret Santa lace scarf (which I designed). I got her the stinking gift card anyway, but I made sure there was something handmade and personal in the package, and she really loved it.

My family gave me over-the-top amazing gifts, as usual. They are generous people who spoil me rotten, and I'm looking forward to playing with my new stuff.

I'd prepared the dough for some delicious Earl Grey tea cookies, but I fell asleep after breakfast and my mother baked them for me (she's so nice). They came out spectacular, but I didn't get a chance to photograph them. I'll definitely be making some more soon though.

We had Christmas dinner at my aunt's house with my mother's family. It was a very nice time, and I was looking around thinking how comforting it is to have a warm and loving family. I'm really glad that I'll get to see my father's family in Hawaii, because I was getting a little sad thinking how infrequently I see them.

Our New Year's was pretty low key. I slept all day, woke up for a delicious ham dinner, then watched TV with my mother. She and I agreed that unless you go to a party or are with a crowd, New Year's is pretty anticlimactic. The next day, my brother told us about the lamest New Year's Eve party he'd ever heard of, which ended around 10:30pm.

The cats have spent most of their vacation on my twin-sized bed freaking out when the dogs come in the room. Iggy bit my mother, scratched my brother, and turned into a lawnmower on my father's leg one morning. They don't seem to realize that it's nothing personal, he's terrified of the dogs (he's never seen a dog before and the trifecta of lab, lab puppy, and very loud dachshund is a lot to take in). They'd get all up in his grill, he turns to a hissing, puffed-up Halloween cat, and then one of my family members sticks a limb in his range. I tried to liken it to how they might react if a zombie walked into a room with a few Kodiak bears behind him, but none of them are buying it.

My mom says the cats are so bored that they're going to put on a play. Cats,specifically.

An exciting thing that happened over the holidays is that my brother moved out of my parents' house and into a new condo with an old friend. He's still back and forth getting things or stopping by for meals, but it's very exciting that he's in his own place. I'm not sure if he's teasing, but thus far he's refused to tell any of us his address so we can't come by. I think this is rather foolish, since I desperately wish my parents would come up to my apartment more often. They tend to show up with casserole dishes full of venison macaroni and cheese or cases of wine, and while they're there, they're wonderful company and tend to fix things too! I'm sure he'll come around on that after one or two visits.

Yesterday I was feeling either nostalgic or festive (it's just hard to tell sometimes), so I baked a chocolate chip cookie cake which was insanely delicious.

It was not an easy proposition, since Smooch had chewed up the recipe card, and I had to kind of cobble it back together from the pieces of Christmas ornaments she'd also chewed (I think I got it right).

I put these twee little dollops of whipped cream on top, but because it was fat-free, they melted down the sides in the refrigerator. Whoops.

This may not have been the most photogenic cake, but because it used tons of brown sugar and vanilla, it tasted like cookie dough. Yum.

(If at this point you're thinking I take a kind of insane amount of photos of food, you are absolutely correct. I did, however, make a lasagna and it went undocumented. So yknow, progress?).

The four of us had dinner together last night, followed by cake, and it was a very cozy, warm and peaceful feeling.

I always hate when the holidays end. This year is especially precarious because I haven't quite sorted out what I'm going to be doing this spring. I have to figure all that out, but it happens that the day I leave for Hawaii is also the first day of the new semester, so it'll be another two weeks (and almost February) before I can make definite arrangements. Yes, this scares my pants off, but I'll see what I can do.

I have a few more errands to run today before I head home, which I'm dreading, but I am super-excited to see my sweetie tomorrow afternoon!!! And then in like a week, I'm going to Hawaii!

Marshmallow Heart

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I am one of those people who cries at long distance commercials, post office ads, poignant packaging, and neglected Christmas trees.

It should therefore come as no surprise that this Kleenex commercial with the song "Let it Out" by Starrfadu gets me every time:



My brain looks around hopelessly through the weepy mess of my vision and is like "That's it, I'm out of here."

Both my mother and I agree that it's a wonderfully effective ad because it sells emotions, not tissues. It's simply an unfortunate side effect that I am overabundant in emotions of late.

A three-month life

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I've been struggling to write about something that is both sad and private within my family because I am aware the internet is a public place and it's not my business to air their tragedies. I can't stop thinking about it, though, and it's raised a lot of questions for me.

Basically, a member of my family gave birth to a baby girl the same day as Sam's crash. She was born with only 2 heart chambers and was missing her pulmonary artery. This is a really dire situation, and her mother was actually advised by her doctors to terminate the pregnancy.

Supposedly (and all of this information is like worse than third-hand), one of the mother's friends tried to convince her to carry the baby to term with the argument that even one hour of life would be "worth it" for the baby.

No one told us when the baby was born, and we only found out about it in a Christmas card. We actually didn't even know the mother was pregnant. A photo of a tiny baby fell out of the card, with a brief but optimistic description of her health problems. We called around and got more details, learning the severity of the whole situation.

The deal was, she had to live long enough to get several critical surgeries, and they had to monitor her development along the way in the NICU. I don't know if she was always hooked up to machines (though I can only assume), but the photo showed the baby in her mother's arms. In a recent conversation on the 30th, my father learned she was faring well, that she was responsive, cooing, and exhibiting all the characteristics of healthy neurological development.

Two hours later, he got the call that the baby had died. She lived a little more than three months and that I know of, never left the hospital.

The mother and my family are heartbroken. Her baby was bonding and doing all the things a normal baby does, and obviously she was tremendously attached, especially considering all they'd gone through with her pregnancy. I think they believed she really was going to beat the odds and make it.

I keep mulling over the friend's statement and this concept of being "worth it." What kind of life did this baby have? Did she know happiness? Was there meaning for her, or was her existence mostly reflected in others?

She was a daughter, and she knew her mother. Did she know constant pain and discomfort, too? Was it the simple bliss of a baby who knew no other world? And how must the mother feel now?

I ask myself if I could have ever made the decisions the mother did. Other mothers I've spoken with have said they could never abort a pregnancy late in the term because by that point, you already know your baby, understand who they are, and have bonded with them. A family friend who gave birth to a child with severe Down syndrome has said that even if she knew he would come out that way, she's not sure she could have had an abortion.

How, then, can you know you are doing the right thing for your baby? Is it foolish to pray for a miracle or trust in the benevolence of the universe? Is that what we all do anyway, in the choice to have children?

This is all just terribly sad, and I feel awful for the mother and everyone who's been so close to her through this time. I know I haven't given you many specifics, but if you're the praying type, I think they could really use some prayers out there.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from January 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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