Monthly Archives: November 2012

In the Donzerly Light

In the Donzerly Light

I just missed him. He’s out the door now and I won’t see him until 2:45 when he lumbers through the door with his big feet; sifting through the mail like he knows what anything means, looking for a New Yorker or a The Week to talk about their covers, one of our favorite past times.

It’s quiet now; it’s 6:35 and he left while I was getting a cardigan. I thought I had more time. I just went upstairs for less than a minute, the water was still pouring into the pitcher to make more lemonade. I thought he didn’t walk out the door until 6:35. He left at 6:32. His interest in leaving earlier and hugging less and hiding out more in his room is increasing. The Washington Post has a fantastic photo on the front page of a bald eagle, his favorite raptor when he was younger, scooping a fish out of the water near the Shenandoah and left it by his oatmeal. I don’t know if he saw it. I wrote this post about him and his staggering growth almost two years ago.

His brothers wanted me to wake them up a half-hour earlier to take a shower. I’m feeling selfish. I like the quiet. It’s either right now or super late at night when I get to be alone. Did you see the moon last night? It was gorgeous. I just saw it again when I brought in the papers.

I don’t normally do this 5:50-6:32 a.m. shift with my Thing 1. His father does, but his father is upstairs sleeping off his wrist surgery. He injured himself during an age denial or flat-out age rejection activity at his parent’s beach house the last week in August. 500mg of Percocet and 25 mg of a pharmacy-grade antihistamine making things easier, supposedly preparing the body for the transition from when his nerve block wears off. Mr. Grass Oil is a wonderful father, better than any I knew when I was growing up; he is a blessing to me, to us all.

I tip my hat to single mothers and to those whose spouses have ultra-demanding jobs. I don’t know how they do it. We came home from the hospital and my stitched-up husband was greeted by the boys like a hero returning from war. Lots of small jumps up and down, “Daddy! You’re home! How are you? Daddy!” sweet strokes of kindness, awareness of his injury, ushered in by gentle and sincere excitement. I looked at them all with gratitude. After the flurry, Mr. Grass Oil went up to bed and surrounded himself with pillows in much the same fashion as I did when I brought home a son from the labor and delivery floor at the hospital and insisted on its sleeping on my chest for weeks.

It grew quieter, the boys were still pinging off the excitement from our arrival.

Nervous chatter, gentle taps from Thing 2. “How was your day, Mama? Was your drive home ok?  … Thing 1 was mean to me, Mom,” is what I got.

“The day was good, thanks! You know, I read some of the paper, I went to yoga, I went to –”

“He told me to get off the PS3 when I wasn’t ready to…” he interrupted.

“After yoga I took the car to the shop for inspection and then your fath–”

“I was in the middle of a mission. I had my new cheat-codes book and everything. Just because he’s oldest …”


It’s one of my pet peeves. Don’t ask me how I’m doing, don’t feign interest in a conversation if you’re not gonna listen to my story. And that fight with the badger was epic.

“He didn’t even give me a countdown, like you do… He just came in and said, ‘Get off. Now.'”

“I saw it out by the garbage. It had already killed a beaver because it was wearing its pelt as its own, but I knew it was a badger because of how it loped and beavers don’t have claws like that. They’re supposed to be endangered… or something, right? So I walked up to it with my dustbuster and I said, ‘Badger, get your stupid claws off my garbage can. Now.’ And you know what she said? She said, ‘Honey badger don’t care.’ Just like that! She talked just like one in the youTube video…”

He started to laugh.

It’s how I try to defuse fights around here.

It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I get sucked in, like a hurricane feeding off the weather systems as it approaches land. It’s hard to fight that draw. To be able to vent whatever frustrations you’re feeling at the moment or whatever comes to mind, frankly, based on the energy of someone else’s rant on the sting of inequality. Single moms work hard. I’m just 18 hours into this gig and it’s not fun. I can do it, and I may end up enjoying it because it’s so early and quiet, but every day, even on the weekends? And those parents whose spouses are in the military… mad props, peeps.

It’s 7:03 now. I better go. It’s time for my official shift to begin. If Things 2 and 3 are late they make it hard for the rest of the day. Thing 3 is always the hardest to wake; he’s a night owl like me. Getting him a Kindle with a lighted cover for his birthday two weeks ago wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it wasn’t the smartest either. Look at the book review he gave at 10:37 the other night which posted to my email because all the Kindles are on my account:

Thing 3's online review of a knock-off book.

His little apple doth not rolleth far from my tree.

It’s 7:06. I better go. I don’t want to, but I have to. I have a couple more things to say on here, but I’ll put it together at another time. This was nice, writing in the silence.

Thank you.

PS – for being such good readers, here’s the Honey Badger video on youTube … it’s quite funny.

Justice for the Little People

Justice for the Little People

“I love these little people; and it is not a slight thing when they, who are so fresh from God, love us.”

― Charles Dickens

So I’m a mom. I’ve lived in the same house in my neighborhood for 12 years. The school my kids go to is within walking distance. I’ve been a PTA officer, communications chair, president and school volunteer. I consider myself a child advocate and an active citizen. Just a head’s up: I am not a PTA psycho. Promise.

For the past seven years, at least, I have been highly interested in getting our neighborhood’s school zone reduced speed lights reinstalled.

They were taken away in 1990 or thereabouts. When we had them, the main road was a typical 2-lane, 2-way, 35mph suburban street. We had the school on one side and a shopping center on the other. We had neighborhoods on one side and neighborhoods on the other side. Crossing the street was no big deal.

In 1990 or thereabouts, Virginia Department of Transportation widened the road to what it is now: a 3.2 mile long, 6-8 lane median-stripped 40mph (60mph at times) suburban secondary artery. It has flouted our neighborhood’s initial design: a walking community. Our neighborhood was established about 11 years before this roadway was irretrievably altered. All in the interest of the Chamber of Commerce and traffic gods.

Since the changes: About 32,000 cars traverse our street daily. During a 6-month period 408 speeding tickets were written averaging 57.9 mph. The majority of offenders: soccer moms, local people, not commuters. I can’t explain why this is, but all I know is that my kids’ school lost their speed zone. Drivers regularly careen past this school and shopping center without a care in the world.

My fight to reinstate this speed system officially began on paper and in practice when I was PTA president in 2009. I was not alone; I joined a community group to bring awareness to the speeders on our street. I was appointed to a task force to research, understand and recommend changes to bring safety to pedestrians and motorists on this speedway. Many other members of my community raised their voices in great concern for this situation.

Who were the people who took away the signs? VDOT.

Who where the people who didn’t put back the signs? Fairfax County Public School (FCPS) and its Office of Safety and Security (OSS).

As PTA officers, we tried to bridge with this group, work toward a common goal, bang a louder drum. They shut us down and all but publicly mocked us when we appealed to them for stronger speed enforcement.

What did FCPS OSS say?: Don’t cross the street.

Tell me how this makes sense: you increase the speed, the danger, the curve and the reduce the line of sight of a massive road in front of a school with a shopping center on the opposite side, and you ARGUE that it’s safer. In fact it’s SO safe, you don’t see a need to reinstate the signs because now, as FCPS OSS, you’ve created a better and SMARTER way to transport the children to the school that used to be within a safe walking distance: YOU BUS THEM. These kids live literally… 3/10 of a mile and YOU BUS THEM. You shut down my neighborhood, you restrict my foot traffic and mobility, you decrease my personal safety and you BUS our kids to school and  THEN… THEN you bitchandmoan when we try to stand up for ourselves.

“Parental prerogative,” Mr. OSS said, about a hundred times. “I’m not ever going to advocate for your parents to cross that road… it’s not safe… It’s their parental prerogative…” he would say, sort of singing it… “pah-ren-tallll pre-rog-ah-tivvve…” with everything but the Jazz Hands to flourish the ditty.

So, YES: by all means DON’T do anything about the speeding when you KNOW parents are going to take their own lives and the lives of their toddler, stroller’d, baby bjorned children into their own “prerogative” hands and cross that street during the very times of day when a proven, familiar, and cheap speed-reducing intervention would be MOST effective. Dicks.

You stupid, idiotic, moronic dicks. Blame it on the parents. NnnnNNnnNnNnnnn.

The useless fight continued; FCPS held all the cards. They really did. And our school board rep at the time? Useless. “Regulations stipulate…” We asked, “what about a review on a case-by-case basis…?” DENIED.

But What Ho… What Madness is This?


Finally in January 2010, the task force was created and our then-current school board rep was a lame duck, and thus entirely uninterested in helping us. What can I say? Some people love their red tape. In November 2011, we voted in a new school board member. She was younger, she had kids in the school system and she cared. After more than a few conference calls with her I got advice, an ear and an advocate. After a few more task force meetings, we got some traction with the County supervisors. “It’s a budget concern… we want to do this, we just don’t have the money…” Uhhh… we’re like the 4th? richest county in the nation… I think we can find $65,000 to cover the lights. 

In February 2012, there was a public >wink-wink< land use meeting that I was >wink-wink< encouraged to attend and present content in a very >wink-wink< specific way because our school was suddenly moved up the list on the renovations schedule. I let the money thing go, other than reminding everyone that $65,000 was about .03% of the County’s $16.6 million renovation budget for our school. That meeting led to a hearing a few months later that I was also >wink-wink< encouraged to attend.

I made a power point presentation, had index cards, put on regular clothes and even brushed my hair and in April 2012, I testified at a public hearing before the Fairfax County Planning Commission, citing all my facts, as I had in meetings before, in conference calls before, with the school board, the task force, the board of supervisor member, the PTA, the cats and my dog. I did this a lot. I could recite this stuff in my sleep and I probably did.

The night of that hearing, I was a nervous wreck but totally confident too because I knew what I was doing was right and good and just and smart and SAFE.

All 14 of the commissioners were familiar with the road and many of them asked, “What? There isn’t a light there now??” Sheepishly I said, “No.” And not sheepishly I said, “And we want it back. VDOT took it away and FCPS didn’t reinstate it. Someone, maybe some of you back in the 80s voted to change our road, made it more dangerous and took away a safety precaution.” I think I even lightly pounded a fist for emphasis.

Here I am… making our case. This hearing lasted until 12am.

Thus at that hearing my opportunities to fight the good fight had ended. It was in the hands of the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. They had a few more meetings and as I understand it, FCPS OSS was quite stubborn. Some time between April and October, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, at the recommendation of our guy Braddock Supervisor John Cook (who will always have a vote from me, unless he pulls a Patreaus or something), approved the provision: Condition 11, which stated that for our school’s renovation to go forward the new speed reduction light system HAD to be installed. If FCPS wanted its renovation, they had to give us our light.

A few weeks ago, I saw signs of life: drilling and street slicing on the day I went on a field trip, the one with the zip line, with my son. Then today, I saw this:

This. This is what took so long to get. This is the west-bound pair of school zone speed reduction lights known in the industry as “Wink-o-Matics” – they save lives. On a day like today, rainy, overcast and bleak the cars would go by at 50mph easy. Those buses in front of the school are waiting to transport special needs students.

I didn’t fight this fight for me. I didn’t go after the system for some crazy notion of glory and honor. I did this because it made sense. Because little kids should see that their government cares about them and that their school will receive the SAME treatment other schools receive. I did it because we live in freakin’ Fairfax County – 12 miles from the Pentagon; 22 miles from the WHITE HOUSE and 26 miles from the US Capitol… This?? This is democracy?!

In the end, I did it also to become a giant craw in the OSS. There is a list of other local people whose names I don’t have permission to divulge so I won’t, but they were instrumental as well in this fight. The thing is, I’ll go ahead and say this because it’s true: I was in the fight until the end. After the hearing in April, I took more pictures, presented on more conference calls and exchanged at least another 30 emails about this issue until my involvement was moot. I didn’t give up. Even if we’d lost this time, I wouldn’t have given up.

The installation of these lights are more than a good idea. They say to the 32,000 commuters: we live here. They say ‘community’ and ‘families’ and ‘safety’ and ‘pay attention’ and ‘school’ and ‘kids’ and ‘slow down.’

To the FCPS OSS team, they say, “UP YOURS.”

Thank you.

PS: UPDATE 12/4/12:

The Wink-O-Matic lights outside my children’s school went fully operational today for the first time in probably 20 years. This is something I thought I’d never see happen because OSS fought this campaign so fiercely, as though it were some personal persecution waged against them. This morning: the yellow beacons of justice alternated causing ephemeral driver mindfulness, brake lights to illuminate and traffic to slow to a reasonable pace, 25 mph for just about 100 yards, making me feel as though change is possible and that years of hard work, respectful, focused, patient persistence and good old-fashioned drum-banging can beat the system. I learned that when you show up, you show you care. Thank you Office of Braddock Supervisor John C. Cook for all your support. You done good, sir. I’ll never forget it.

Tuesday Morning Press #7: The Importance of the Right Cat Litter

Tuesday Morning Press #7: The Importance of the Right Cat Litter

I don’t have much time today; less than usual actually, to get this off to bed. My kids were late this morning and then that sets everything off. Then my director sent me an email fearing that I’d keyed in an order wrong and it was shipping to the wrong address: mine. I didn’t – we’re all set. The order is going where it should.

So! Here we are…. how’s your drink?

Did you have a good Thanksgiving? I did. It was really great; Family is tough… I mean, we love all each other, RIGHT?!, but we also tire of each other. It’s hard. Even the beautiful family I’ve created with my husband, my tree, gets on my nerves. Maybe it’s that time of the month. You know: the end of it.

Anyway, we traveled out of town and visited my brother and his family. They are always amazing hosts and I try to be a good guest, helpful, out of the way as much as possible but also able to pinch hit at a moment’s notice. Thanksgiving dinner is a big deal no matter what you’re having, it seems. There’s that whole, “be thankful” thing.

Our travels meant we had to trust our cats. I have been known to post on my Twitter feed or in a comment string the following: “My cat’s a dick.” I have borrowed hijacked the phrase from a dear friends’ husband whose wit knows no bounds. They are probably one of the funniest couples I know. I digress. The point is yes, My Cat’s a Dick. Here he is in the background behind my beloved Murphy:

There is nothing warm and cuddly nor the least bit kind and patient about that cat.

That cat, Gandalf, is beautiful, actually. He is a classic gray barn cat. He has a sister, her name is Beezer. Anyway, trusting those cats is a big leap because during the last two weeks, all my mental focus and Mr. GrassOil’s free time has been spent trying to unstink the hell out of our recently installed basement carpeting because apparently, THEY DIDN’T LIKE THE (swear alert) FUCKING KITTY LITTER we provided them.


Apparently not.

Look, the irony of humans “having a pet” is not lost on me. Jerry Seinfeld probably stated it best when he talked about dog owners. I’m paraphrasing of course, but it went something like this, “When you think about the ‘Master’ and ‘pet’ dynamic, does it ever occur to you about who’s picking up whose poop? Who’s being pulled around on the leash by whom? Who gets their food no matter what?”

Ouch. But I love my dog.

There’s a line that makes me cringe inside: “Dogs have family, cats have servants.” HAHAHAH! That’s so funny I forgot to laff.

So apparently because we used the wrong kind of kitty litter, we got to spend more money on “Nature’s Miracle: Just for Cats” which comes with a welder’s helmet, chain mail gloves and a hazmat suit. We also tore out the padding beneath (of course) and have turned our beloved movie room / aka: bunker into a demilitarized zone.

I got back at them though: I moved their food to the carpeted area they  . . . used as their toilet. The long and short of it is this: it’s over. The cats are behaving themselves. The only thing is that I can’t tell if it’s that or that we reverted back to the original kitty litter that got them to stop because they don’t talk and expecting them to act like those cute tabbys or calicos on television commercials is OUT of the question. They are dicks. But I still wonder… Did I win?

Ehhhh who am I kidding? It’s the kitty litter. They don’t respect me. They’ve been the masters and commanders of our home since 2005. I was experiencing a moment of weakness because we had to surrender a beautiful rescue golden retriever (that I got from an old man who couldn’t drive away from my house fast enough) because he kept knocking over my children and trying to climb our trees. That dog, “Skipper” was given to me — I KID YOU NOT — by an elderly divorcee whose second wife left him after only a few months of marriage too soon after his wife of 45 years, his widow died of cancer. It was a touching story. The man told us that the dog was given to him by his children and was named “Skipper” in his honor because that man was a retired US Navy captain.

I decided later that the dog was named “Skipper” because “Vaulter” was taken. The man, after he’d dropped off the dog — that I only agreed to have meet my aging Maggie (my previous dog) — later called me to tell me that Skipper “doesn’t know what to do outside.” WHAT? Suddenly, I was the aging navy captain, my ears wrecked from spending all that time on subs and destroyers and aircraft carrier decks… “He isn’t used to being outside.” I looked out the window and saw Skipper, an 85#, full grown, glorious golden retriever on my very small deck table. Our deck at the time was only 10’x10′ – so the table was like … a bistro table.  He looked like a grizzly on a circus ball.

So I worked with Skipper, trained him beautifully, actually and got him to calm down a bit with lots of long walks. He actually was a saving grace to me during a time of personal struggle and we went on a 4 mile walk together one morning several years ago and he helped me sort things out on that walk. Were it not for him, I likely wouldn’t be coping as well as I do with myself. Even so, Maggie aged and Skipper grew into his adolescence, knocking more things over, including Maggie, and we had to let him go. That was a terrifically hard day for me. I tended to be a “fixer” and a “rescuer” of lost causes back then (I still wrest with some ghosts of that today) so giving him up was like admitting that I’d failed. He was truly a wonderful dog. The great news though is that he went to live with a family whose youngest son had autism and no friends and Skipper became this boy’s very best friend.

So when Skipper left, the cats came in. Not even a weekend went by. We were all taken in by their utter cuteness and blue baby cat eyes. We got two because everyone says to get two so they can keep each other company. The company they keep is more like “HHHIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSS” and “RRRRRrrrrRRRrRrrrrrrRRRRR RAAA-AAAA-A-AAAARRRROOOOOOOOWWWLLLL….” though. I’m not sure they are really fond of one another.

Cats live for a long time. We’ve been together almost 8 years. It’s gonna be awhile. I am sure I will have more posts to write about my awesome cats.

Thank you.

Google Google Google


I saw a cute joke on Twitter: What do virtual turkeys say on Thanksgiving? “Google Google Google.”

To my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving, friends! This is my first mobile post.



To readers from other nations, happy Thursday November 22, the only one of 2012! Make it awesomer, like you. 

Thank you.