31 January 2012


When I was little, we had a lot of kids books that had my mom's name written in her perfect handwriting. Even in Liberia we had them, rows of books that had been hers before we existed.

It was because she had been a teacher, mostly, but somehow seemed like she just owned the magical world of books. I never thought to wonder why she had them. It was always just a fact: Mom has lots and lots of books.

For Christmas this year, I asked for the collectors editions of the Little House on the Prairie books, and today the last one arrived in the mail. ("We had a terrible time getting the right ones," my parents told me on Christmas morning. "We kept getting the same ones over and over in the wrong edition.")

But the whole set has arrived, now, and I am going to write my name in them, and Christmas 2011, and from Dad. And then I will line them in a row on the shelf, to read myself and to wait for the day when I can read them to my own kids, and they can wonder at my signature in each of them, like I did my mom's.

30 January 2012


I have no excuse, really.

Better things to do?

I don't know. Something like that.

It is January, you know. January is long and cold and dreary, and it's hard to find the energy for anything. And if I am going to find the energy for anything in January, it is going to involve getting out and seeing real live people.

I did manage to pull myself together enough to get a subscription to @m@zon pr1me, because nothing says January like unlimited access to television online.

23 January 2012

thumb-shaped hole

"One of the times I fell, I jammed my thumb," I said, on the ride home from cross-country skiing, "on nothing but snow."

"Do not tell anyone that," the driver said.

Oh, reeeally. Clearly he does not know me very well. My ability to jam my thumb on nothing but snow is exactly the sort of thing I tell the entire world about via the internet. Mostly because I find it hilarious.

I mean, I fell down into SNOW, and jammed my thumb, on SNOW. I even checked to see if there was anything else there, but no, it was just snow, with a thumb-shaped hole. (Well, an hand-shaped hole, with a thumb-shaped hole at the bottom.) There was still fully three feet of snow below that, too.

I have a special talent for accidental self-injury.

20 January 2012


"They never come to visit you anymore," the woman said, weaving across the Gone West sidewalk. "It isn't that they don't love you a lot, because they do. It's this weather. They can't drive in this rain."

I glanced behind me to see that there was no one else on that side of the block.

Yup, she was talking to me. Yup, I love this town.

I drove up to Gone West for a retirement lunch for a former coworker. She and I snuck a little bit of chatter about friends and boys between the rest of the conversation, and then I set off in the rain with purpose(s).

I needed a new umbrella. My trusty old lost-and-found turquoise one from four years ago met its bitter end two days ago on the streets of Universe City. The gusts of wind that were hurricane force at the beach had lost force over the mountains, but they still tore it inside out. It has blown inside out before without incident, but this was too much for the old thing.

I wanted the same one, though, because who has ever gotten four years out of the same umbrella? Certainly not me, before now.

The store that sells them had two options: a tan one and a black and blue splotchy one. I am not really one for splotches, but tan is an unacceptably boring color for an umbrella, so I got the bright one. My choice was vindicated later when I smiled at a couple of hotel bellhops and they told me that my umbrella (and my KLM coat) were very cool. Compliments from strangers are always a win.

Also on the agenda: a coat I can wear for work. I adore my KLM coat, but it is fraying just a little around the edges, and also, it is getting very tedious not to have any other options. And it is not waterproof.

Somewhere on the internet, I had seen a coat whose website said that brand is sold at a particular trendy boutique in Gone West, one into which I had never dared enter because of my tiny issue with thinking that boutique type stores are not intended for the likes of me. (What? I do not come from a family that spends $500 on a sweater, and I feel like the employees can smell that I am out of my league from the moment I walk in the door.)

My issues with buying coats are myriad, but they can be summarized by saying that coats intended for the average woman do not fit me. My shoulders are too broad and my arms too long and if a coat fits me in the shoulders and arms, it is inevitably too big around the midsection. Harrumph.

My first glance at a price tag in said store confirmed that I did not belong, because, again, $495 for a blazer? This is no T@rget, folks.

I persevered, however, and found a 50% off sale of coats in the back corner. Coats, as it turns out, that are made by a local, sustainable, socially and environmentally conscious company, and just so happen to be cut with broader shoulders and longer sleeves, and just so happen to look great. It was only the prospect of imminent broke-ness that kept me to one new coat, with which I am now having a torrid love affair.

On the way back to my car, I stopped for a cappuccino and a rosemary black pepper shortbread cookie at a snobby coffee place, and I picked which roast I wanted them to use of the three carefully described by tasting notes on the board, and I drank a quintessentially Gone West cup of snobby coffee.

I love this town.

Yes, Universe City has grown on me. But, I thought, looking around nostalgically and remembering that a mere two years ago I got to live here, Gone West is, really, the best.

17 January 2012


Everyone who guessed that it would take me weeks to get around to emailing the photos to DODOcase was wrong. WRONG.

It only took me two days.

I had a strange flurry of productive activity today on my lunch break. You know all those phone calls and emails you've been putting off? The ones to the doctor's office to make an appointment and the french press company whose beaker was broken when your sister opened the gift and the fighting class people because you realized you can't afford the conference? Those busy work calls and emails? I rocked those suckers on my lunch hour today.

Which was good, because then I got swept into an afternoon whirlwind and barely made it out the other side alive.

16 January 2012

broken bits

I bought the coolest case ever for Webster. It is this one, and it looks like a book. I once left Webster in a very public place for half a hour, and he was still sitting there patiently when I got back, looking innocuously booklike.

Unfortunately, his case seems to have broken. The little bamboo pieces that hold him in place have cracked, and he is in danger of falling out. I've been ignoring the problem for over a week.

I finally emailed the company yesterday. I got an immediate response asking me to send photos of the damage.

It took me over a week to email the company in the first place. Who wants to take bets on how long it takes me to get around to sending them photos?

This is why I do well traveling the world: I would frequently rather just make do, despite the inconvenience, than actually get someone to fix the problem.

15 January 2012


If I lie down on my bed, I can look up at the snowflakes falling from the gray and blue sky. My favorite part of falling snow is looking up to catch that moment when the flakes differentiate themselves from the gray mass and become their own little objects tumbling down.


I had sort of forgotten what winter is like here, but then suddenly the world is all, "Ohhh. I forgot. Here, have some rain," and it's all coming back to me.

I was fooled by those days of cold sunshine. I forgot 1. how truly miserable it is to go outside in 35 degree rain, and 2. that a little bit of mid-winter sunshine does not mean that you can stop using the happy light, you blithely not-yet miserable idiot, you.

The eight hours a day of cold sunshine, during most of which I am inside and when I go out I am covered from head to toe, does not negate the need for the happy light. I know this, and yet every year I get busy and I am fine, just fine, until one day I am not fine, I am overwhelmed and always about to cry, and then I go back and do the math and realize that it's been a month since I used the happy light on a regular basis, and I (metaphorically) whack myself in the head with a brick a few times and go sit in front of the silly blue light for a couple of hours a day a few days in a row, and then I am fine again.

11 January 2012


I showed up late to my fighting class today, and frankly, I was glad I did. I still had plenty of time to get shaky in both my arms and legs from the crazy workout. Plus my shoulders still hurt from the guerrilla pushups we did on Monday.

Side Note One: I just looked muscles up online, and it was actually my pecs that hurt. Pecs. Do girls have pecs? The word pecs makes me squirm. Apparently everyone has those muscles, but it seems all wrong to speak of them on a woman. Just like when people talk about women having six-pack abs. There is nothing I want less in life than six-pack abs on myself, thank you very much.

Side Note Two: I don't actually know if these pushups are gorilla pushups or guerrilla pushups. Basically you have one hand on the ground down next to your side and one arm on the ground up in a normal pushup position or higher. They work your pecs (squirm), I have discovered. I discovered that from the lingering pain in that region.

It's kind of awkward as a girl to have sore pecs (squirm). What if you have a sudden pang in them and inadvertently reach up there?

Whatever. Guys rearrange their crotch (another squirm word) all the time.

And now, after even more gorilla/guerrilla pushups today, my pecs (squirm) hurt even more.

09 January 2012


My scarf came back, too.

I found it in the last place I had on my list of places to look: the lost and found at my martial arts studio.

I was so glad to see it there at the top of the box. It was my last resort, and that scarf has a lot of sentimental value.

When I was in Ethiopia, I admired my new friend's scarf, but when we went to the scarf store (it was a coop where the scarves were hand-made by women who used to carry heavy loads of wood for a living), I didn't buy one just like it. There were too many other pretty things.

Over the next few days, though, I became more and more enamored with the one she had. It was orange with little streaks of green, and it seemed to look good with everything. I bemoaned my failure to buy one like it, but the shop was too far out of the way to get there again.

When I opened my suitcase in the Netherlands, there was her scarf, tucked between the layers of clothes. I've been wearing it with my blue KLM flight attendant coat every winter since. I love it, and I value it.

I was trying to let it go gracefully, to hold lightly to physical objects. But I'm so glad it came back.

08 January 2012

dot com

In K0h1s, there was a woman about my age who was in a hurry and wanted to order something online, but not at the in-store kiosk because, she said, she didn't have time.

"So how do I order something online?" she asked the employee.

"You just go to k0h1s dot com," the employee said, "and search for it."

"I'm sure I'll be fine once I'm there," the woman said, "but how do I get there?"

"You just type in k0h1s dot com," the employee said.

"I don't understand," the woman said. "Could you write it down for me?"

"It's just k0h1s dot com," the employee said.

"But could you write it down for me?" the woman asked, again.

There followed the sort of circular talking-past-one-another that makes up brilliant comedy.

At length, the employee wrote down k0h1s dot com on a piece of paper, and the woman went home to do her internet shopping.

By that time, the kiosk would have been faster. And it had free shipping.

07 January 2012

was lost, now found

I lose things so regularly that I have had to learn to accept their disappearance without angst once they go. When they disappear, I know that they are gone, and I get over it.

Surprisingly often, though, they come back, even long after I've given up. One time in New York, I found my hat a week or two later at the lost and found of a building I frequently walked by but rarely entered.

This week, I lost my scarf and my earring on the same day. I loved both of them. The earrings were new last week in Michigan, and the scarf was a gift from a friend I met in Ethiopia.

I have two more places to check for the scarf, but I have resigned myself.

I looked for the earrings in all the places I could think of: my friend's apartment, the lost-and-found at the movie theater, the lost-and-found at the mall, my coat. It was nowhere.

But in the mall there is another of the store that I bought those earrings from, so I wandered in. I liked them enough to buy another pair, maybe, if they were still on sale.

I had to ask a salesperson if they had any more than the one little rack of that brand, and she led me over to a special display.

"Do you just want to do an even exchange?" she asked.

"I was going to buy them," I said. "I bought them a week or two ago. I just lost one."

"Oh, we stand by our products," she said.

"But, I just lost it," I said. "It wasn't broken."

"I can do an even exchange," she said. "Just give me the one that you have."

"You mean because it shouldn't have fallen out?" I asked.

She loaded the new pair of earrings up with extra little rubber holders on the back. "There," she said, "that will make them harder to lose."

And I went home with a new pair of earrings.

06 January 2012

following the law

Yeah, hi. I've been busy. Living and stuff. Whatever. As I say every time this happens, blogging about blogging is boring.

You know what I do when I start in on a blog post about blogging or the art of blogging or search engine optimization or anything of that sort? One of two things: I pretend to skim and then click away, or my eyes immediately glaze over and I click away.

I currently am having my morning tea in a town that I describe as one of the two armpits of State of Happiness (the other is Universe City's neighboring town). I came up here for a little work thingee, and now I am procrastinating beginning the 1.5 hour drive back. It seems awfully unfair that even one of the armpits has a better downtown than Universe City.

Periodically, about every other day or so, I think that I am in the wrong profession. If I win the lottery ever (difficult, when you buy a ticket almost never), I am going to go back to school in something more helping profession-y and less fighting-y. (Shut up. Those are words. I just made them words, upon my decree.)

This work thingee reminded me of that again. I did a social work type job before I moved to Rwanda, and this morning I felt for a moment that I might be back in that world, just with grown ups instead of kids. I miss it.

Having a law degree is clearly a great privilege. Part of the reason i went to law school, at the final moment, instead of finding a way to do relief work in Darfur, was because I realized that being able to go and not going would be a slap in the face of all the people I knew in Rwanda who so desperately wanted an education but couldn't afford it.

But it is also a burden, sometimes. Once you have taken out well over $100,000 in student loans, you can never just go back to some low-paying job you love. You are stuck in this profession, for money or loan repayment help, and you can't get out. (And it seems to me now that spending that much money on schooling is also a slap in the face of all the people I knew in Rwanda who could not afford even the relatively low school fees there.)

Some of my most panicked moments in the last few years have been when I realized again that I don't have the option of leaving law, not for quite a while.

02 January 2012

the weapon

A friend of mine is currently between housing situations and staying in my guest room.

While I was procuring the wireless code for him, he said, "Uh, why is there a knife next to the wireless router?"

"I don't know," I said. It was a paring knife. "I assume M. was using it to open a box or something."

"I assumed it was to stab someone," he said.

He handed me the knife and I went off with it, not to put it away, which would be the logical thing to do, but to put away a few pieces of clothing of the chaos that is my return from the Mitten. When I picked up the knife again, I ran my thumb over the blade and cut myself.

"I just cut myself with that knife," I called to A., and he said, "I should have just taken care of the weapon myself, shouldn't I?"

"Yes," I said. "Probably you should have."

01 January 2012


And so, I am back, and this is a new year. Or something. I'm never really sure about this time thing, even though I like the numbers that repeat (11:11 is my favorite).

It's just all so arbitrary, though. Who says that this particular moment in the middle of the night means something? Someone just decided it, but there is nothing to differentiate it from the moment before or after, not if you don't have a clock.

Even with a clock, if you don't have the tv on to Times Square, the moment means very little.


For some reason, I started thinking about New Year's Eve 2003, when I'd been in Rwanda for two months. I spent the evening at the hotel that I always stayed at, in Kigali, and somehow I fell into sitting out in the grassy courtyard with a Lebanese guy who spent the evening telling me how he got a girl pregnant when she was 15 and he was 25, because it was the only way her dad would let them get married.

It was, to say the least, a strange evening, but at least I was too busy deciding whether or not he was creepy to be lonely.