Friday, December 31, 2010


what a great word glaze is.  when you say it out loud- go ahead- you can feel it's smoothness, the dull shine, the slipping, dripping of it.

so many ways to use glaze- so many ways a glaze can be.  like the glaze on pottery which looks like chalky pepto-bismol when you put it on greenware.  then fire hotter than we will ever feel and live to tell about it, transforms all those milky minerals to a gloss, swirls of colors, a hardened shell.

some donuts have glaze.  sugar coated.  fine covering of syrup that is dried a bit.  it melts in your mouth.  it coats your tongue.  some avoid it.  others hunt it down in every city along with hot, strong coffee.

when you deglaze a hot pan by throwing liquid in it creates a rich sauce, potent with all the flavors stuck on the bottom of your cast iron.  spoon it over your steak and potatoes.  dip some bread into it.

and then there's the state of mind: glaze.  it may come upon you unannounced, uninvited or perhaps you seek it out through various means.  but you know when you are there.

your shoulders slump and your eyes narrow.  nothing can penetrate your glaze enough to cause any strong emotion.  it's not oblivion, but they live on the same street.  that place where we all go sometimes because it is possible to care too much, too often, too deeply.

and probably, it's a hard place to be for long.  for some of us, it takes just as much- if not more- effort to not to care.  to let things be. to glaze.  then it does to try to help.  to create.  to at least contribute our own opinions from the sidelines or the couch or the co-pilot seat.

when i am glazing i struggle against it.  that coating that holds me down- a place where all the flavors are too intense- i resist them all.  i want to Do Something To Makes Things Better.  and by better, i mean different.  i just want a shift, a change.  except when it's not the shift or change that i, specifically, was going for.

perhaps this glaze place can be a small refuge to just accept life, accept me, accept donuts, and salty food, and pieces of pottery that you work on for hours,days only to pull them out of a kiln completely destroyed.

except that they have a gorgeous glaze that catches the sun and spills back brilliance into your eyes.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


what's the first thing you do when your computer starts to act strange?  you reboot it.  you shut off the power source and watch the screen go dark with fingers crossed.  maybe you count to 39 or sing the alphabet or light candles while chanting to infamous deities.  then you turn the juice back on.  you watch and wait, breath held, and <sigh> all is right with the world.  the glitch is gone, the memory is intact, you can get back on facebook now.

this strategy has worked well for several electrical things in my life.  there was the boom box that i was given when i turned 18 that suddenly became very finicky about playing CDs- a relatively new method of music merriment at the time- only to accept and play them again after about 5 months in a closet.  it was like a retreat of sorts, maybe. 

then there's the vent in the bathroom- which you may have read all about in another posting- that suddenly stopped one day.  i pushed the switch on and off with renewed hope each time to no avail.  and then the power company turned off our power for 20 minutes to work on the lines outside and -presto!- the fan worked again.  maybe the electrical current got lost somewhere in the attic.  i don't understand why this works but it does.

now the stove has begun to flash F-5 at me while beeping as i prepared hot meals.  you may have also already read about my stove-fixing adventures.  when i mentioned the F-5 code at a dinner party recently someone said "oh that happened to my parents.  they unplugged it and it seemed to work fine after that."  so that's what i did.

that got me thinking about this need so many things seem to have to be cut off, powered down, rebooted, reset, decompressed.  including me.  the thing is that as i have grown up and reproduced children i have forgotten my own codes and signals.  i don't have a screen on my forehead that flashes any letters or numbers or any beeping...i don't even stop doing my essential tasks!...but it slowly becomes obvious that i am barely operational.

with my kids- it is very obvious and easy to reset: nap time.  sometimes it might be food.  or perhaps the need for a good belly laugh.  these things probably would help me to reset too.  the trouble is that i don't have anyone who says to me: nancylee, you need a nap now.  i might say this to myself but then the louder part of my brain either recites a list of things to do or a list of nice distractions.

maybe it's because as a kid people always told me what i needed.  and i went along with it.  at first i didn't.  i remember being somewhat "crabby" as they called me.  and then- well, i guess i gave up.  gave up on myself.  as a kid you realize your limited power in the world.  besides whining- what can we do?

now when one of my kid starts to show signs of needing a reset- i try to get them to come up with the answer.  i give them prompts like "what do you think will help you to feel better?"  or "did you drink enough water today?"

and other times i pull rank and state clearly "it is time to nap."  more often than not this is met with a big grin fro my 2 year old.  he loves nap time.

for me- in order to reset- i have to shut down through complete body exhaustion.  i have to wear down my mind until it has no choice but to surrender to my body's whims.  like when i was in labor.  eventually my mind realized i could not think myself out of the pain and just floated away so my body could take over.  but labor as a reset option is complicated, to say the least.

i think for me, and maybe for many other folks, we have to have some kind of resetting in our routines because we don't recognize the signs as we live our daily life.  we can hold off on the tantrum when we see the property tax bill if we know that some day soon we are going to yoga or to church or fish or to a bar.

pick your poison.  we usually do.  it's true that as adults we seem to gravitate towards the reset buttons that aren't so good for us.  or at least, i sometimes do this.  perhaps this is a sign of waiting too long to reset.  the weekly walk on the beach works nicely but it you go for months without it maybe it then turns into a bottle of gin.

the new year is when we reset the calendars and taxes and our resolve to live better, different, more fully.  to me- i simply need to have a reset routine that i can stick to.

with a tantrum clause if need be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


i remember when my dad taught me to wrap a present.  being an engineer, his focus was on using a correct amount of paper, creating tight corners, and appropriate use of tape.  it was like learning the secret to a magic trick.  the way a plain package became cloaked in mystery.  like dressing up dolls but with more math skills. 

i've had my deep moments of wrapping-love.  folding the edges before applying the tape- horizontally, of course.  aligning the pattern so that the seam is invisible amidst the flowers or frogs or reindeer.  ribbons coiled about the box and then -zipppp! viola!- they are curly.  like the hair i always wanted.

i've experimented with ways to wrap with less paper, using fabric or making my own wrapping paper out of newsprint rolls left over from the herald or from sunday comics themselves.  i've used brown paper bags from grocery stores and old buttons. 

and i enjoyed it all.

this year, seren decided to wrap a book for his brother.  this was a book he picked from a shelf in his room.  a book, seren does not particularly like but maybe he thought the 2 year old would.  i saw it as a good thing.

he asked if he could wrap it and i spied him on the floor with scissors and tape near by.  his wrapping method is like making a burrito.  you get the biggest tortilla you can find, pile the stuff in the middle, fold all points around the center and secure as best you can.  in this case- he would often end up with about three times as much paper as he needed.  and about 4 times as much tape as needed.  and a finished package that in no way resembled the original item- the corners distorted with layers of shiny red paper.

he proudly presented the wrap present for my approval.


his brown eyes shined with pride.

"did you enjoy wrapping that?" i asked in my best impersonation of a loving, supportive mom who isn't overly focused on wrapping things correctly- the way her mechanical engineering father taught her.

"yeah!  i'm the best wrapper!" he crooned as he put the present under the tree.

he wrapped several more gifts like this.  i freely gave over gifts for him to wrap.  i looked for things he could wrap.

each time he cut too-big pieces and rip off strips of tape long enough to disable all eight reindeer.  and i held my tongue.

i was so proud. 

of me. 

of how i was holding my tongue and resisting the persistent urge to teach him how to do it my way.  the way that gives crisp edges and swirly bows.  how i was sacrificing for my child's needs.  see, how well i was adjusting?  see, how easily i gave up my needs for his? 

then came the present that was to go to someone outside of the house.  the present to travel.  the present that had a really great, sturdy box.  and all i wanted to do was decrease the amount of paper he used by about 14%.  i made the smallest suggestion, followed by a friendly demonstration and "poof" the magic spell was broken. 

he got that look.  the look of "can't you just leave me alone to enjoy this small task?  this task that ultimately does not really matter all-that-much because people just rip off the paper anyway!"

ok, maybe it was just a look of disappointment.  actually- it was more a look of irritation.  the look of "go away, mother."

so- i did.  i said casually, "yeah, your doing great.  i just thought i'd show you how i used to wrap presents.  but you don't seem to need my help," as i slid into the kitchen to drown my shame in eggnog.

i peeked back in to see him working on the next present- his eyes focus on his task.  not at all thinking about doing it "right"- just doing it his way.

Monday, December 20, 2010


no, this is not where dora lives.  but if she were a real person, rather than a cartoon on nick, she would love this place.  it's in old town albuquerque and it is a hands-on science "museum" for kids and their lucky adult companions.

we visited there for the first time on our recent trip to new mexico.  a state i have been many, many times in the past 10 years- usually with at least one child in tow- and yet, i have never before visited this amazing spot. 

here are some highlights:

there are very few instructions on anything.  just inviting little centers for you to play with.  some are so basic and beautifully inspiring that i was shocked that i haven't seen them replicated in every other kid's museum i've been to.  for example, a box fan- the kind you have in your attic right now- placed at one end of a long, smooth table and a stack of snap-together toys, some felt fabric strips and tape.  create a boat, turn on the fan to see if you sail works.  genius.

another easy example- large pvc piping and all the joints you could imagine with a platform drilled with holes that the piping fits into.  cyrus, at 2, found this delight and spent more time there then at the train table.

and a bubble table as big as a bathroom.  the only thing bigger than those bubbles were the bright eyes of the kids giddy at their popping creations.

there were other more in-depth spots too.  seren and stood in front of a large metal door trying to decide what to do next- when it swished open to reveal an elevator bigger than our living room- and complete with a couch and some arm chairs.  i felt that thrill of being thrilled- that moment of time when you are completely delighted by life's surprised.  "whoa!" sums it up pretty well.

the water fountain- not something you drink from- but a main piece of art in the central area- shoots streams of water so crystal clear and focused (due to some kind of filtering process) that they look like arcs of glass rods.  after a snazzy display of what the six or so jets can do- you can take over by pushing large buttons to control the flow of the water streams.  you can also take over when your kid is playing with it and you gently push them aside with your mama hips.  you could, but who would do such an evil thing....

as i wandered from station to station i wanted to spend all day here.  i wanted to be there without my kids! 

and, more than anything, i want every community- my community!- to have one of these. 

to take it a step farther...i want this to exist and i want it to be free to get into.  i want there to be staff to supervise kids if a parent needs to step into a meeting room to share with her support group, or to get a much-needed massage or to take a parenting class.  i want community to be a place where any parent and child can walk into and feel supported, feel challenged, feel alive.

now what's the first step to making this happen?

Sunday, December 19, 2010


zoos are strange places for me.  i have fond memories of them during my child days.  the wax mold machines that would magically create your very own model of a rhino or tiger.  the way it warmed my hands, the sound of my quarters clinking into the metal box inside the machine.

then there's the not so good memories.  the gorilla who would shit in his hand and then fling it at us humans while we ran to hide in the concession area.  the smell of elephant urine on los angeles concrete.  the dull stare animals give you once they realize they cannot fight you and they cannot escape you either.

as a mom, i never know if the zoo is really a good idea or not.  it is one of the few places in the big wide world where kids are accepted.  if you don't have kids you haven't thought of this yet.  unless you remember being a kid, that is.  once you are a mom you begin to analyze and categorize places based on kid-friendliness.  this goes beyond changing tables- cuz i will change a stank diaper at the table if your posh cafe or downtown ice cream joint (what's up with that mallards?!) doesn't give me a more private option.  people may sneer at me for it but it's your food they will associate with the smell of my child's pooh.  or not anymore- potty training accomplished.

so- the zoo.  it is designed for kids.  they have diaper changing tables- and step stools so kids can wash their hands after wards even. most of the dangerous things are in cages.  the food is too expensive to buy and you know that going in so you bring snacks along.  they encourage wagon use- and rent them if you forget yours in the backyard.  and the paths are endless so a good deep nap is almost guaranteed.

and my kids want to go to the zoo.  the idea of it is appealing.  look at animals.  see live zebras.  watch monkeys mate.  try to figure out what part of the koala you are looking at.  avoid stepping in bird poop. 

the reality is different.

in truth, the zoo is depressing.  terribly so.  the animals know they aren't supposed to be there.  even animals that enjoy human interaction no doubt get bored with the same scenery- it's just common sense.  cabin fever to the nth degree.  it reminds me of the time the mobile refinery behind my high school sprung a leak and i was stuck in 9th grade french class for 3 hours with the teacher who had that strange grape-cluster tumor hanging from her upper arm.  but at least she let us leave the room to pee.

seren noticed the animal boredom away when we recently visited the zoo in duke city.  it's an ok zoo but it needs to face facts that polar bears do not belong in new mexico.  but that's not the point.  here's the point.  as we watched the looming giraffes lope around there dusty "habitat" seren noticed how incredibly plain it was.  no trees.  no grass.  just dirt and some very tall straw umbrellas that hint at some type of "african" feeling.

"oh- how sad.  i feel bad for them," he lamented.  and yes, he laments.  deeply with sighs and eyes sad in a way only brown eyes with lush lashes can be sad.  i ask him why he feels bad for them although it is obvious what they are lacking in their daily lives, namely something green to look at, smell, nibble.

"they must be so bored," he explains.  and then with an optimistic lilt to his voice- fringed with possibility and the optimism of an 8 year old boy as he watches the giraffes meander in small circles, "unless they have some tic-tac-toe skills."

skills are the cure for common boredom.  even for giraffes.