Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Monday Driver

1. Rush hour? Check.
2. Downtown on the 110? Check.
3. Gas tank on empty? Check.
4. Traveling zero miles per hour? Check.
5. Have to pee? Check.
6. Cell phone battery almost dead? Check.
7. Monday, you're such a Monday? Check.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Parenting: The Relay Race

4:15am - Child rises, requests glass of water. Dad takes the baton, gets out of bed, steps on dog, dog shrieks. Dad jumps up, lands on sneaker, slams top of bald head into closet door.  Bleeds. Retrieves water while cursing.

6:10am - Child rises again, requests breakfast snacks and SpongeBob. The baton goes to Mom.

7:20am - Mom makes school lunch of sandwich child will not eat because he no longer likes "that kind of cheese," apple slices that will still be in the lunchbox when it is opened tomorrow morning, and a baggie of popcorn that may or may not be traded for Matteo's baggie of goldfish crackers.

7:45am - Dad walks child to school, dog and baton in tow. Leaves child and baton at school gate. Dad walks back home with dog and plastic bag of dog browns.

7:50am - Baton and child are retrieved by child's teacher, Miss H. Miss H will seamlessly guide child and the rest of the class, from spelling to Rainbow Rug Time, to PE, to social studies, and a timed math test. She does not tire and never once drops the baton while gliding over rough terrain. *Note: Miss H is in her twenties.

2:05pm - Child meets Mom at school pick up and transfers baton. Child downloads the day's events including when Dustin, "acted like an egomaniac during kickball and called foul when it totally wasn't one because he thinks he's so great all the time." Baton feels heavier than it did this morning.

2:25pm - Child and mother return home. Mailman arrives. Dog barks. Child yells for dog to stop barking. Mom yells for child to stop yelling. Dog steals baton and attempts to bury it in backyard.

3:10pm - Before Mom and child leave for the park, sunscreen must be applied. Child screams, "Not in my eyes!" four times. Nervous dog eats underpants left on the floor near the hamper. Spitty baton is retrieved from backyard.

3:20pm - The park is hot and Matteo isn't there yet. Child is aggressively displeased with the extreme boredom he is experiencing. Mom sets down baton briefly and checks email on her iPhone.

4:15pm - Baton is picked up by Matteo's father who plays soccer with the kids. Mom texts Dad to find out his estimated time of arrival from work. Dad agrees to pick up dinner on the way home from Thai place by the freeway offramp.

5:30pm - Mom is twirling the baton, waiting for Dad and pad see ew to arrive. Mom puts a load of whites in, does dishes, and helps with homework including creation of a Jackie Robinson paper bag puppet. Mom reminds child to feed dog.

6:10pm - Dad is home. Dinner is served. Baton is passed.

7:15pm - Dad starts bath for child. Child requests that Dad stay in the bathroom to keep him company. Child recounts math homework that Mom has helped him with. Dad explains why the answers Mom helped him get to are incorrect. Mom wasn't the math major.

8:20pm - Child requests that Dad read to him before bed. Dad reads two chapters of The Wild Soccer Bunch. Mom arrives to say good night. Dad flips the baton to Mom as she says prayers.

9:10pm - Mom checks on child to make sure he is breathing because some things never change. She falls asleep with one hand clutching the baton. Late night water duty his hers tonight.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Jose Can You See

On Wednesday, the following costume ideas were sent home for Bob's school project about America taking place on Friday. (In case you had that old Johnny Tremain or Betsy Ross outfit hanging out in the back of your closet.)

We bucked tradition and instead of the powdered wig Ben Franklin garb, we went for the classic:

I mean, it IS red, white, and blue.

God bless America, and everything.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Here We Are Now, Entertain Us

Yesterday, I walked into the well appointed lobby of the assisted living where my friend is staying. Locked in an era long gone by, a dozen folks were gathered around the grand piano while someone played "Has Anybody Seen My Gal." Some were singing along.  Most of the ladies were wearing some version of a pantsuit or elastic waist pants with a decorated t-shirt. The men favored track suits - their current track being a walker-walk from the elevator to the dining room. 

In my mind, I flashed forward thirty or so years to when my peers and I would enjoy a similar living situation. Certainly the musician in our Starbucks and Burning Man themed lobby would be playing "oldies" such as "Smells Like Teen Spirit," and "Head Like a Hole." What would we be wearing? Denim overalls and concert t-shirts? A flannel and orthopedic combat boots? (Great idea, I know. That's my gift to you Doc Martens.) 

Would we bring our own era with us, or is there a set expectation of what elderly looks like? Certainly the assisted living of 2045 will have tenants with tattoos, full sleeve tribal ink sticking out of their dressing gowns. Instead of rolling into the beauty parlor for a blue rinse and a wash and set, will there be a dread specialist at our salon? Will we still be getting blow outs when our hair is white?

What innovations will there be? Maybe we will be riding on Rascals fueled by jet packs. Perhaps our nurses will be pleasant and attentive robots, our vitals checked via arm implanted computer screens. I foresee a future of Saturday nights, sitting in dark rooms watching movies like Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High, sipping our mochachino flavored Ensures. 

I'm five short years away from the prime-time to buy into extended care insurance. I'm not planning on making the move anytime soon, but when I do I'll expect to crowd surf my way into the building. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Most

"Mom? What do you think is the most important thing in the world?"

"To me? Bob Rosenberg."

"No, not a person, a thing."

"Oh, okay. Kindness."

"No, I mean an actual thing that's important for life."


"I think it's trees because, you know, oxygen and everything."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Number 42

Why yes, that is Jackie Robinson, first African American baseball player in the major leagues.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Our Place, Our Things

The underpants show up everywhere; the couch, behind the big chair, under the kitchen table. Often, they are left on the bathroom floor, still inside the shorts they have been riding in all day. The dirty socks, are launched off of little boy feet onto the piano keys and the dresser mirror. The t-shirts bunched up in a pile next to, but never inside, the hamper. The interior of the house is a treasure hunt of cast-off clothing.

Pokemon trading cards rest under the bed pillows. Deflated soccer balls litter the yard. Chewed and still spitty dog toys are underfoot, giving a loud squeak when stepped on. Video game controllers hide in the couch cushions. Leaves from outside are tracked in through the front door, the side door, the backdoor.

On the kitchen counter, empty coffee cups ride a wave of last week's homework. A garden rose in a vase drops petals into a breakfast plate. There is a passport, a cycling jersey, a box of pencils, and a favorite wooden letter opener carved in the shape of a seahorse, each must be moved in order to set the table. And the books, the books are all around.

This is our place, where we do all the living.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Mr. Rogers Is My Jam

At five years-old, my first boyfriend was Mr. Rogers. I adored him and I still do. The kind and wise man in the excellent sweaters would have been 87 yesterday. Celebrate his birthday by reading this sweet story about those sweaters. There is a lovely list at the bottom of the article with some swell quotes from him too. It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, friends.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Two Great Things About Friday

Two Great Things About Friday:

1. Breakfast and laughter with some wonderful women.
2. Friday

Thursday, March 19, 2015

A Kind Reminder

A friend on Facebook recently started a thread asking, "What is the most important thing in life?" There were many good answers: family, compassion, learning from experience. I didn't have to think long about mine, I quickly set aside my first answer, (French roast coffee and Elvis Costello) and I went with my other go-to answer for most things, kindness. There's a Henry James quote I love, that sums it up nicely, "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

I'm no kindness expert. I know at times I fail, but when a question arises, I look for my answer in another question, "What is the kind thing to do?" Often this is kindness to others but I also try to remember to offer this kindness to myself. That is often more difficult. 

Writer Anne Lamott often talks about self care, referring to it as radical. "Radical self-care means that I gently bust myself out of the desperate lifelong need to please, and it means that I start to say no as a complete sentence."

The lesson that self-care is as important as care for others can be tough for a people-pleaser like myself. I'm told it's like when on an airplane, if the cabin loses pressure, we are to secure our own oxygen mask first, and then help others. My problem is, I want to make sure everyone has had enough waffles and is wearing clean underwear before I breathe into my mask and by then I will have passed out on my tray-table.

The concept of offering kindness to ourselves is especially difficult for those dealing with other "bigger" things, like raising children, supporting a partner, helping aging parents, or giving your all to a job. Fear of letting others down at the expense of ourselves is not kind, and at its worst it can lead to resentment of the things we love. I do not get extra Jesus-points for wearing myself down to a sighing martyr, still in pajamas at noon, who could use a shower. 

Self care does not have to look like an impossibly expensive spa day or running away to join an ashram, although that doesn't sound so bad. It's saying no to one more obligation, it's letting the dishes sit and reading a book for a few minutes. It's a tiny bit of whatever makes you feel more like the you in your favorite version of yourself.

I must very gently take myself by the hand, and sit down with a quiet moment and a cup of that French roast coffee and breathe in the oxygen. It's the kind thing to do, and that's important. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Pick Any Two

You're probably familiar with the old business adage, "Good - Fast - Cheap - Pick Any Two." Meaning, if it's good and fast, it won't be cheap. If it's fast and cheap, it won't be good. If it's cheap and good, it won't be fast. For my purposes an accurate adage would be, "Read - Write - Laundry - Pick Any Two." Guess which one hasn't been picked lately?

The laundry was so very not done this morning that Bob was at risk of wearing two-sizes too small pajama pants and last summer's basketball jersey to school this morning. I managed to cobble an outfit together for him but I will admit that one of the socks he wore came from the dirty pile next to the hamper.

I know.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The People Who Made Me Irish

These are the Sullivans, my maternal great, great grandparents. This photo was taken around 1900, before my great grandmother, Easter Jane Sullivan, was born. Here they are in their Sunday best and for the boys, that did not include shoes.

May you always walk in sunshine.
May you never want for more.
May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Retro Bob & T

Bob in 2007 and the teddy bear he named "T." 
T still resides in Bob's bed, close at hand. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

And This Season

"Mom? Isn't it so perfect outside today? Like not too hot or too cold and just all in-between? All those trees have leaves and flowers on them! And the grass just got mowed and it's all grass smelling! Mom? Why are you sneezing so much? Your eyes are all red and watery. What's hay fever? There's no hay here so you should be good. Want to roll on the grass?"

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A New Season

A new season of little league has just begun. New cleats, same old glove, and we're back in action. Bob's new team colors are maroon and gold and the players picked a team name yesterday. Saturday will be the first game of the spring for "The Lava Balls."

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Like Son

"I'm pretty sure I'm the tallest guy in second grade at my school. Me and Caleb."

"I think you're right."

"Mom? Do you think I'll be taller than Dad?"

"That is entirely possible."

"I hope I get to be smart as him and everything too."

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

My Time in Jury Duty: The Chaos

Last week I completed eleven days of jury duty.  I had delayed my service over and over. This time, if I didn’t show up, I would receive a bench warrant. I showed up.

My fellow jurors and I are prohibited from making money by sharing the story of our experience for the first ninety days after the trial. I will remain on the right side of the law and earn no money in the telling of this story.

Phoebe and Peter Chao are a married couple who are in the real estate and finance business in the Southern California town of Arcadia. In 2009, they manufactured a fake loan program, primarily targeting Chinese women who were not fluent in English. These women were lured in by the promise of fast money courtesy of an Obama Economic Stimulus Program.

Victims were told that they could qualify for these loans simply by having high credit scores. The Chaos promised to repair victim’s low credit and then broker their loans. Then they began the process of asking the victims for more and more money, with the explanation that the victims had a problem with their banks that needed to be fixed, or more loan application fees were required.  The Chaos explained that if they weren’t given more money immediately, the loan would be dropped.

The victims paid. They wrote checks, they deposited money into accounts held by the Chaos, and they handed over cash by the thousands.  Once a victim ran out of money, the chaos became elusive.  They could not be reached by phone or said they were out of the country or would state that the loan had been cancelled.

The Chaos were facing criminal charges of eleven counts of theft by false pretenses.  Additionally, Phoebe was facing a perjury charge for making false claims to the DMV. She had used two drivers licenses to create two identities for herself. One using her Chinese maiden name, the other with her married last name and the first and middle names she had chosen for herself: Phoebe Chanel Chao.

Phoebe claims to be involved in fashion. She reminded the court a number of times that she wasn’t really in the loan business, she was in the fashion business. She dressed for court like she was walking down a runway: boots, sequins and always, one of her signature chokers.

After the prosecution presented the court with pages of evidence, fake loan documents, false e-mails, and meaningless applications, they presented witnesses who could prove the validity of the evidence.

The first victim took the stand, dissolving in tears when relating that she had given the Chaos $40,000. for a loan that never materialized.  A newly divorced mother of three, she had handed all of her savings over to the scam.

Another victim was a long-time friend of Phoebe’s. She had applied for a loan and even referred other friends to the loan program. She and all of her referrals were duped as well. Friendship meant nothing to the Chaos.

One victim shook her finger at Phoebe and Peter and repeated, “Bad people. You are very bad people.”

There was a victim who, after applying for her loan, returned to China to be at the bedside of her cancer stricken husband. Phoebe Chao called and informed her that she needed to come into the office immediately to give more money and sign another document or her loan, and the subsequent thousands she had already spent, would be lost. This woman, left her sick husband behind and made a special trip, flying from China to Los Angeles for the sole purpose of giving the Chaos more money and signing a meaningless piece of paper.

A victim who spoke no English, testified through a Cantonese interpreter. She followed up her testimony by pointing at Phoebe in the courtroom and hissing, “God is watching you.”

When it came time for the Chaos to testify they were caught in lie after lie. Even in the face of irrefutable evidence they would still not acknowledge the facts.  They blamed the scam on “Guillermo,” a colleague in their office. They alleged that Guillermo had masterminded the whole scam and they took no responsibility. They held close to what the prosecution described as the “Guillermo Defense.” They spoke in circles, imagining that they could charm the jury into believing their story.  Each time another lie was told, the prosecutor’s face turned bright red. He was losing patience.

On the final day of closing arguments, Peter Chao turned his chair away from the court proceedings and facing the wall, proceeded to cry.  The trial was over.

On the eleventh day, the jury deliberated.

I was incredibly fortunate to be on a jury with friendly, interesting, smart people representing many different ages and backgrounds. We were a tight group. We ate lunches together and enjoyed each other’s company. On more than one occasion, Girl Scout cookies were passed around the jury box during an attorney sidebar. Yet, we all took our jobs very seriously. We understood the gravity of the situation and that there were people’s lives hanging in the balance.

Once in the jury room, we examined the evidence, talked through each individual count, and ate doughnuts and oranges. I was honored to be the jury foreperson. Our deliberations took a little more than two hours. The Chaos were multi-millionaires, they weren’t desperate for money. They set out to cheat these vulnerable women. They defrauded them simply because they could. We found the Chaos guilty on all counts.

After we were released from service, our group had an opportunity to speak with the Deputy District Attorney in charge of the case. He told us that the victims understood that they might not see their money again, but went to trial to get justice. He let us know that the Chaos had been offered a plea deal and going against the advice of their counsel, they did not accept it. Con artists to the end, they believed they could outwit the court as they had done their victims. Sentencing will take place later this week. The Chaos are likely facing multiple years in prison. They have children. The whole situation is sad, unfortunate, and messy.

It was a fascinating few weeks. I came away with a new appreciation for our legal system. Jury duty is completely inconvenient.  Trials can get tedious. There is a lot of waiting around in empty hallways. Yet, the next time I receive a jury notice in the mail, I won’t try to get out of it.

Monday, March 9, 2015


Thank goodness Mr. Rosenberg was a math major. Second grade math has already eclipsed my knowledge. Not even kidding you guys. I mean, what the what is "Ungrouping?"

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Smacksy Saturday Photo: Retro Bob Happy Feets

Pre-verbal Bob. If he could talk he would have said, "Good morning! I only sleep forty-five minutes at a time! Hey - why do my parents look like hell?"

Friday, March 6, 2015


"The jog-a-thon was awesome! I was like a super fast speeding dart kind of guy! And now I don't feel so good, actually."

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

He Told That Guy

"So, Mom? Today Mateo said that he was the greatest soccer defender in the world and so I told him he was being a ecomaniac."

"An ECOmaniac?"

"Yeah, Mom. Ecomaniac is a word for when someone thinks they're all way great too much."


"Mom? Why do I have to take piano lessons?"

"It's important to be a well rounded person."

"I think I might already be round enough."

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Ready or Not: Bob's Birth Story

During my pregnancy, Mr. Rosenberg, kept me supplied with the white bread sandwiches I was craving. He didn’t complain when our bed was turned into a repository for oddly shaped body pillows. He played the guitar and sang, “I Love You a Bushel and a Peck,” to me and The Tummy. He was on board with foot massages and shoulder rubs. He gained thirty pounds in sympathy weight, God love him. He was obviously more of a natural at this than I was.

At almost 39 weeks pregnant, I lay on the couch watching the Food Network. I had gained a delicate 65 pounds during my pregnancy, and it was quite apparent that 20 of each of those pounds were residing in my ankles. My ob-gyn and my pre-natal specialist had placed bets on how much of a giant this kid was going to be. I was placing our super-baby in the forty to fifty pound range.

I had bronchitis, and my Goliath-son had kicked me so hard I had a broken rib on my left side. Coughing was an event. It was my first official day off from work, and I was looking forward to some time with my swollen feet up. As I watched Emeril work his “essence” there were suddenly two Emerils, then three. I glanced away from the TV and saw that the room had also tripled. My vision was extremely blurry for a few moments and then it returned to normal. Then it wasn’t
normal. Then it was.

Any physical change I experienced in my pregnancy, I looked up in the book What to Expect When You Are Expecting or as I had renamed this frightening work, What to Expect When You Are Expecting the Worst. I consulted my book of fears and found that blurry vision was a sign of preeclampsia, the high blood pressure that can accompany pregnancy. The only cure for this dangerously high blood pressure is childbirth. I called my doctor. She instructed me to go to the hospital. She would meet us there. If it turned out that I had preeclampsia, we would be having a baby today.

Jeff raced home from work. I was ready at the door with the large I’m-going-to-the-hospital-to-have-a-baby suitcase I had packed six weeks before. My bag was filled with everything every girlfriend and every book and every preggo website had suggested I might need for the trip. I had giant granny underpants and Hello Kitty socks and a robe long enough to cover my behind in the drafty hospital hallways. I was as prepared as I could be for an event that was mostly out of my control.

At the hospital, we learned that my blood pressure was fine. I did not have preeclampsia. There was no explanation for my intermittent blurred vision other than “pregnancy sh*t happens.” I was instructed to stay a few hours hooked up to the fetal heart monitor for observation, just in case.

I asked Mr. Rosenberg to retrieve a bottle of water for me from my suitcase. “And a protein bar, do
you see those in there? They should be near the magazines.”


“Thanks. Hey, Honey? Where’s your dad bag?”

“I didn’t pack my official dad bag yet, so I threw this together when we left the house.”

He held up a small plastic Ralph’s shopping bag. I looked inside.

“So you have three pairs of tube socks and two packs of Extra spearmint gum.”


“And that’s it.”


“Seems complete.”

“I’ll do better next time.”

When I went into labor three days later, he added a toothbrush to the bag. He was ready to be a dad. I had been going through contractions for fourteen hours when my doctor let me know that because Mr. Baby was very large, his shoulders might be stuck. I could continue labor and possibly deliver vaginally, maybe end up needing an emergency c-section to get the guy out, or I could have a c-section now. I wanted to be awake when he showed up. I opted for the c-section.

Back in my second trimester, Mr. Rosenberg and I had taken a childbirth class at the hospital with fifteen other couples. On the very last day of class, the teacher gave us all the option to stay and watch a video of a c-section. Most of the almost-parents made for the door, while we and two other couples stayed behind because we were obviously insane. What we witnessed was a somewhat dated video of the miracle of childbirth or what looked like a baby being born out of a pan of lasagne. Watching the video made me feel prepared for the procedure, as long as the procedure was done on a woman who wasn’t me and that woman had a Rachel hairdo.

As I lay on the operating table, the happy drugs I was on helped to create a somewhat disembodied feeling for me, which was definitely a good thing. Mr. Rosenberg held my hand and we watched in an overhead mirror as the love of our lives was lifted out of me. There was much bustling and fussing by the doctors and nurses. We had womb-freed him not a moment too soon. He had indeed been stuck, the short cord wrapped twice around his neck in such a way as to have made it difficult for him to come out. In addition, while still lodged in my baby-making condo, he had already taken the opportunity to relieve himself. This was definitely “a situation” but with the combination of drugs and anticipation, I didn’t care. As the professionals vacuumed our boy’s first baby mess from my insides, our nine plus pounds little man was deposited on my chest for our first meet and greet. He was squinty and purlpe-ish and put out.

“Hi. How are you?” I asked. He didn’t answer but I knew we’d be working on that. “Welcome home, Robert.” He wriggled and squinted and made a noise that in newborn-speak approximated, “Hey, where’s my sandwich?” Clearly, we were related.

The next morning, our pediatrician came to see Mister Baby for the first time. She cradled our kid sweetly. His face was covered in downy brown hair in mutton chop sideburns. She looked at the newborn acne sprinkled liberally across his chubby cheeks and his Eddie Munster-like widow’s peak and declared him, “Perfect.” She also recommended we take a picture of him in his pimply-baby-monkey state to show to him later and remind him that, “We loved you even when you looked like this.” So we did, and we did. We loved him.

Monday, March 2, 2015

And It Continues

"Mom? When is your jury duty going to be over?"

"I don't know, Bud. This week? Maybe next week?"

"Is it fun?"

"It's interesting."

"Are you like, solving crimes and everything?"

"Not exactly. More like trying to figure out who's telling the truth."

"Wow. Well, you've had a lot of practice with me, I guess."