Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Definition of Futility

is watching your DVDs of HBO's Rome and hoping that this time, this time Julius Caesar won't die, because you like the actor playing him, Ciaran Hinds.

Jim says that since Caesar was probably the most famous non-religious death of the last 2,500 years or so (up until 1865 or 1963, anyway) and that I shouldn't hold my breath.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Good Dim Sum in the Suburbs

If you're like me, you love dim sum. But if you're also like me, there are those occasional days when you don't want to schlep down to Chinatown to get it. Especially if it's raining or you're just not in the mood to buy a roast duck or bbq pork bun on the way back to your car.

Fortunately, we've discovered dim sum at lunchtime on Saturdays and Sundays at Far East Cafe in Woburn. We've been going there for a while for the dinner buffet (I confess I've never ordered anything off the regular menu--the buffet is well-stocked and fairly priced). A friend turned us onto the dim sum, for which I'm grateful.

Far East is set back in a somewhat unprepossessing office park called Cummings Park, behind a Bank of America and near the CompUSA, but judging by the crowds of mostly Asian families we see there on the weekend, we're onto something here. Unlike standard dim sum, most of the items are served on the buffet, including classics such as dumplings, egg custard tartlets, roasted meat, and some of the best rice congee I've ever tasted. (Don't miss the steamed feast rolls. Mmmm....) There are also special items you rarely see, such as tea eggs, which are something I've loved for 20 years and used to have to make myself. They also have several somewhat more exotic (for non-Asians) items such as tripe and cuttle fish.

The buffet is replenished frequently and also features standard buffet items such as chicken wings, fried rice, lo mein, sauteed vegetables, and really good chicken teriyaki that the restaurant labels "amazing chicken." And for those of us who can't quite let go of dim sum tradition, a few carts circulate through the dining room with items such as har gow (shrimp in wrappers), pork shiu mai, and sticky rice. You just point and receive--as much as you want.

And that's where Far East Cafe really comes up a winner: The price can't be beat--under $10 for adults (and kids over 10) for everything, including tea. That's for both the buffet dim sum and the circulating cart items. And free parking. (Dinner buffet is slightly higher and while good, doesn't include most of the specific dim-summish--dim sumesque?--items.) So the restaurant may not be as spectacular to look at as Empire Garden, but you'll like it. I'd bet my supply of tea eggs on it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

My Husband's Mottos

My husband doesn't so much live with numerous mottos, as I do, but he has a couple. His number one belief for a life of bliss: "Happy is the man who doesn't have a transmission guy."

We used to own a Dodge Ram Van. We had a transmission guy. I think you get the picture.

Now he's adding a new one: "Happy is the man who does have a lawn guy." This one came about after we finally decided that with Jim in graduate school and working AND a bad back (his) AND a broken mower, we'd go ahead and hire someone to mow the lawn a couple of times a month. Not a landscape architect or a full-scale lawn service, no fertilizing, no hedge-clipping--just lawn mowing. I found a really nice guy from Athol who works the western suburbs circuit to come by twice a month for a reasonable fee. And now my lawn (after waiting for the never-ceasing rain to cease, which caused much growth but made it impossible to mow) is trimmed.

Happy is the man, indeed. And his wife, too.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Passport Panic

I'm heading to Vancouver for a conference in about a week. Much to my chagrin, I've got my passport all ready to go. Even worse, it doesn't expire for another four years.

I dread ever showing anyone my passport. At the time the picture was taken, in 2000, I was still dealing with an active (very active) case of Crohn's disease (a we-can-treat-it-but-we-can't-cure-it autoimmune disorder of the GI system--you can look it up). I had been on prednisone (oral steroids--not the ones that make you hit like Barry Bonds, unfortunately) for over four years at that point.

Prednisone is great in many ways--keeps pain and inflammation down, very inexpensive--heck, it kept me out of the hospital, basically. But it has side effects--increased appetite (you're hungry way more than normal), sleeplessness, heightened emotions (for the first couple of months, anyway--it took me a good two months to stop getting teary-eyed over everything), easier bruising, bone-mass loss, increased blood pressure. And, oh yeah--puffiness. Classic steroid moonface.

Essentially, by the time that picture was taken, I looked somewhat akin to a balloon with a wig and a face painted on. It's awful. I'm not a little gal in any case--I have no illusions about that, and taking the pred didn't help (always hungry, remember?)--but even I knew that wasn't how I was supposed to look.

I know it's all vanity, but by God, it's my vanity.

I'm lucky. Four years ago, a new type of medication jump-started my remission and here I sit, no pred, no Crohn's meds at all, in the care of a great doctor in Boston. Still not a little gal, but with a face that looks normal. Maybe not movie-star purty, but normal. And for me, normal is good. I'm very, very grateful for normal. If a good attitude is helpful to a "chronic" (as my GI back in Texas used to call me), then I'm the poster girl for good attitude.

But I still cringe when I have to show that darn passport picture. The year 2010 can't come soon enough for me.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Happy Belated 2nd Anniversary!

Sorry I'm late with this, but life just keeps moving on: Happy 2nd Anniversary to everyone who got married on or after May 17, 2004. We were there for the first night (I wrote about it last year at this time), and it's still a memorable occasion--the crowds, the happiness, the sense of being part of something bigger than yourself.

And the best thing is, except for some glitches (sadly, some of them right here in my own town), nothing much has changed--and I mean that in the best way.

Here's to many, many more happy years. Thanks, Massachusetts--you're good folk (well, most of you, anyway).

Hey, There's Edamame in My Salad!

Which wouldn't be so surprising, except that my salad is from McDonald's, of all places. I must confess, their new Asian Chicken Salad is actually tasty, with mixed greens (not all iceberg), mandarin orange slices, the afore-mentioned edamame, and an excellent low-fat sesame vinaigrette from Newman's Own to top it off. (Yes, you're contributing to charity when you buy this salad, too. The guilt continues to decrease.)

I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. What's the world coming to?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Middle School--One Step Closer

We're past orientation now. I had to sign The Boy's class registration sheet today. Not much to choose from in sixth grade--continue a foreign language? Band, chorus, or orchestra? The rest are pre-selected by the school as required classes. He's really looking forward to computer science and keyboarding--touch-typing as emancipation from the curse of handwriting.

He hasn't even "graduated" from fifth grade yet (yes, there's a ceremony and everything) and we're well on the way to prepping for next year.

Wasn't he just born a minute ago?

Baby You Can Drive My Car--While Honking, Swearing, and Swerving

According to a story released today, Bostonians are among the rudest drivers in America. But not THE rudest:
It turns out all of the speeding, tailgatiing, and cutting off in Miami earned it the title of "rudest drivers."

Autovantage's survey lists Phoenix, New York, Los Angeles and Boston among the top five cities for rude driving.

Minneapolis, Nashville, St. Louis, Seattle, and Atlanta were rated as the cities with the most courteous drivers.

They are less likely to change lanes without signaling or swear at other motorists.

More than 2,000 adult drivers who regularly commute in 20 major metropolitan areas were asked to rate road rage and rude driving in telephone surveys between January and March.
Having driven in Miami, I have to give it the edge--scariest place to drive in the U.S. in my opinion. But come on, Boston! If you can't be nice, the least you could do is be ruder than Phoenix, NY, and LA. I mean, what do they have that we don't have? More congestion? Shorter tempers? Greater in-born incivility?

Maybe we need to trade a few of our more polite drivers for a top-draft Miami cabbie and a New York bus driver to be named at a later date.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

One of Those Problems You Like to Have

My son felt sick much of Sunday evening and couldn't sleep. Which meant I couldn't sleep. Consequently, neither of us felt too good yesterday morning (if you count a fatigue-induced queasy stomach and cotton head as "not too good"). He has MCAS this week and needs to be well-rested, so I made the executive decision that a fifth grader should not go to school on five hours of sleep and with an upset stomach. Fortunately, I had my laptop and a load of work for home, so I stayed, too, nursing my cotton head. (Good call on my part, too--he took a seven-hour nap yesterday, starting at 2 p.m.)

Every other Monday is the day my cleaning service comes. It's my biggest luxury. I'm not really a high-maintenance person in most ways--no manicures or pedicures (except the self-applied kind), very little makeup, no spa days, rarely blow dry my hair, and so on. It's not that I have any problem with other people doing these things, it's more that I can't be bothered.

Ever since I was diagnosed with a chronic GI illness 10 years ago, however, (thankfully in remission right now), my husband has insisted we get a cleaning service to save my energy for family and work. Just twice a month, just for the heavy-lifting things--vacuuming, bathrooms, etc. We still do the straightening, which is considerable in the cluttered SFNE compound. And of course, on a day-to-day basis, the dishes and laundry don't wash themselves, if you catch my drift. Nevertheless, as the ad says, "it's nice to come home to a clean house" (and no, we don't use that service)--at least every couple of weeks.

The problem I refer to in the title above is the one that occurs whenever we're home when the cleaners arrive. They're very nice--though I think their English is about on par with my Portuguese, so smiling goes a long way--but I just feel like I'm in the way. I'm not supposed to be here when they clean. I'm usually at work.

Is it an underlying unease about having someone do my housework? After all, I didn't grow up with household staff (except my mom, of course). Realistically, I don't think that's it, though. I'm paying decent money to people who need it who do their job--cleaning--better than I can, or even wish to.

When you get down to it, I think it's just a general feeling that I'm an obstacle to their work. I end up having to move from room to room with my laptop, while they apologetically ask if it's "okay?" to clean the room I'm in. Of course it's okay. I'm the one who shouldn't be here. I'm one of those people who absolutely hates keeping others from the proper completion of their rounds--hates being a bother unnecessarily. (Notice I said "unnecessarily"--there are many exceptions to the "no bother" rule.)

I guess I just have to get over it. Or, better yet, talk to my son about timing his illnesses. Nothing on Sunday night or Monday morning when it's the cleaners' day.

There. I'm feeling more relaxed already. Plus my house is clean, so it's all good.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

My Newest Motto

I have many personal mottos. I believe life is complex enough--and if we're lucky, long enough--that one phrase or saying can't cover everything.

For the last several years, I've lived by several mottos (not all original--they just work for me), including, but not necessarily limited to:

--You can bitch to me all you want, as long as you're not bitching about me. (In other words, I've got a great ear for listening, but if you're mad at me, expect me to be a little less patient.)

--Take my advice, I'm not using it. (Good for so many situations.)

--It takes a friend to help you move, but it takes a real friend to help you move a body. (Don't believe me? Rewatch the pilot episode of Nip/Tuck.)

--Of course I want it today. If I wanted it tomorrow, I'd have asked for it tomorrow. (I used to manage a print shop. I think at least half my customers had this one tattooed on their foreheads.)

Now I have a new one, courtesy of the wonderful movie director, former child star, and all-around good guy, Ron Howard, as quoted in this month's Vanity Fair. Namely:

--Panic is not our friend.

Words to live by, especially these days.

To the Moms!

As we near the end of another Mother's Day, let's ignore the greeting card aspects and remember that moms deserve their day anyway. So happy Mother's Day to all the moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, big sisters who act like moms, aunts and great-aunts so close they could be moms, mom's best friend who's like a mom to us--you get the picture. Especially my mom, who's the greatest. And my mother-in-law, no slouch either. She raised a bunch of fine kids--the best being my husband, of course.

And here's to all you kids who make it possible to call ourselves moms, stepmoms, grandmoms, etc. Especially my kid, who's the greatest.

Forget the weather--hope you had a wonderful day! And forget the calendar, too--remember that it's okay to treat the wonderful women in your life as if every day were Mother's Day.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Brotherly, uh, Love?

Oh, puh-leeze. Shouldn't those approval ratings in the low 30s give you a clue? Why would you want your brother to live through the agony of another Son-of-Bush presidency?
ORLANDO, Fla. --President Bush suggested Wednesday that he'd like to see his family's White House legacy continue, perhaps with his younger brother Jeb as the chief executive.

The president said Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is well-suited for another office and would make "a great president."
Do you hate Jeb that much? Because as far as I can tell, you must hate the rest of us or you wouldn't even consider such a thing. Let's leave the whole dynasty thing to the Kennedys, shall we?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Prom Vs. PI--Which Is the Better Bargain?

If there's a lesson to be learned from today's "Prom Bomb" story in the Boston Herald, I guess it's this: Depending on the school system, you're better off spending your money on a criminal background investigation of your daughter's boyfriend than on something as frivolous as, say, the prom dress:
A Cape Cod teen is all dressed up with no place to go after her high school snooped into her boyfriend’s past and banned him from the prom after learning he’d been convicted of pot possession.

“It’s like a smack in the face,” said 18-year-old Erica Eckert, one of two seniors whose non-student boyfriends were too bad for the big dance. “I’m honestly not sure what I want to do,” she said in a tearful interview last night.

Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School banned Eckert’s 19-year-old boyfriend from Saturday’s soiree after a criminal background check turned up a past marijuana possession charge, Eckert said.

The school started Criminal Offender Record Information checks this year for non-students going to the prom. Any date with a criminal past would be rejected, she said. A School Committee member last night said the school’s administrators - not the School Committee - approved the policy.

Now Eckert’s mom Kathy is out the $500 she paid for her daughter’s tourquoise dress, limo and makeup for the big night.

“It’s just a real shame that everything is paid for,” she said. “It’s really sad.”
I think $500 will get you a good day's work out of a private investigator, won't it?

As an aside, please don't think I'm heartless. I actually feel sorry for poor Erica and another girl in a similar situation, and I'm glad the ACLU is looking into whether the school has the right to do this or not. On the other hand, don't you love the fact that the Herald made this its FRONT-PAGE STORY today? I know they concentrate on local news, leaving the national/international scene to that other paper in town. But THIS was the biggest story in the Boston metro area today? If so, I'm sleeping better tonight. Things must be pretty peaceful out there.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

I Love Beverly Beckham

One of the things I most look forward to in every Sunday's Globe is a new essay from Beverly Beckham. She's wonderful at reminding us of things that matter, yet without being icky or overly sentimental. (Reminiscent of Anna Quindlen's more personal columns, also favorites of mine.)

Today's column is no different. Check it out. Then keep watching for it every week.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Mystery Caller

This is kind of weird. My family has an unlisted phone number. Not because someone is stalking us, exactly. Back in Virginia, more than a dozen years ago, we first went unlisted because we couldn't get through a meal without receiving a telemarketer call. So that's a form of stalking, right? (Thank you, National Do Not Call Registry!)

We stayed unlisted in Texas and when we moved here. It just became a habit. We give the number to family, friends, legitimate businesses, etc. We're not "hiding" from anyone but unwanted sales reps. When I search for our number on or Google or Yahoo, we can't be found. Even before the DNC registry, the unlisted line reduced--though did not eliminate--nuisance telemarketing calls. That's what I get for my extra "keep me unlisted" telephone company fee.

Today, I was running through the received calls list on my phone to make sure I didn't miss anyone (we have only one phone on the first floor, and sometimes we miss the ring if we’re upstairs). Everything looked in order. Then, at the fourth-most-recent call down, I came across my own name and my own number in the list of received calls. Stranger still, my name had the wrong middle initial, yet the correct last name.

But the even-bigger question is: How did I manage to call myself from my own phone? How did I receive a call from me (or someone just like me but with a different middle initial), to me, from home? It's true I occasionally take Ambien--could I be sleep-calling, instead of the dreaded sleep-eating?

Any and all theories are most welcome. I'll entertain 'em all!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Maybe It's Just Me, But...

Doesn't it seem strange that--with all the talk of global warming and rising gas prices--this is the time the MBTA proposes raising fees for people who use public transportation? Shouldn't we be encouraging people to leave their cars at home and take the bus or the T? For the good of the environment if nothing else?

I mean, WWAGD? (What would Al Gore do?) Or more like, WTF? (Don't make me spell it out, people--I have a young kid at home.)

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Okay--You Love Data. But Who ARE You?

A small plane carrying one of those tow-along banners was flying above the western suburbs this morning (near Lexington, Bedford, Burlington, Waltham, etc.). I could clearly read "We HEART Data." By squinting and swerving my head (not the safest thing to do on Rt. 3, admittedly), I could just make out the words, "Watch Out EMC!"

I think it's an ad for Sun--there's a logo on the left side of the banner with a resemblance to Sun's, and they like to say "We Love Data" on their website--but these middle-aged eyes couldn't make it out without having to gawk one too many times while driving.

My advice to anyone using aerial advertising: Try a longer banner with bigger print. I'm still not sure who you are, and I risked my safety (and that of other drivers) trying to figure it out. Surely your ad budget can afford three more feet of banner?

On the plus side, at least it wasn't one of those horrible anti-gay marriage banners. You can read those a little too clearly.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Middle School Orientation

Omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod.

The Boy is growing up. Soon to be actually signing up for classes, instead of learning most things from one teacher. Changing classes. Using a locker with a lock. Taking "PE," not just gym. Bringing home binders. Working in teams.

Omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod.

I'm sure I'm much more stressed than he is. And I know that I survived such things. It's just, well, he's my baby. Even though he's growing bigger every day.

Middle school. Is any parent really ready?

Omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod, omigod. (repeat 500 times)