Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Letter

I'm not as clever as David Sedaris yet I still have urge to write a Christmas Letter. Unfortunately you're not as likely to laugh reading mine.

So 2010 was quite a year. As most know, I was pretty blue at the start of it. The wind still knocked out of me from brother Warren's unexpected suicide in Nov 2009. But I did have a highlight the first week of 2010 when I got to meet baby niece Lilly-Mac (we are hoping she'll be eligible for government bail-outs later in life). Lillian McNamara Delano appeared Dec 2009 and has been growing ever since. Little Brother Brendan & awesome sister-in-law Kate tend to her whims at their house in Greenbrae.

While I was happy for them, I was even happier for myself - Marc & I conceived in early January. Unfortunately God smacks down the smug and I miscarried in March. Just to smite me, I learned about the death of two friends about that time as well. Could it get any worse? Yes! I had blabbed about the pregnancy to everyone at Warren's memorial only to miscarry a few weeks later. Nothing like being asked repeatedly for the due date when the baby was only a memory.

Yet, not to be dismayed, I took a job change. However the job wasn't a good fit and by April I had landed myself in the therapist's office. I have since learned that I am not quite equipped to handle two deaths in the family, a miscarriage, two deaths among my friends and an unhappy job change. Make note for future stressful times. I do not know how I would have managed had I not had Marc with me through this rough patch.

Life kept coming and, like a well written play, comic relief injected it self over the summer. Our first laugh came from David & Ashley's wedding in Kansas City, MO. Marc & I journeyed with Dad, Aunt Sally, Uncle Richard, Cousin Dania & her husband Chris to Mid-Continent International airport. We enjoyed the family time at Aunt Nancy's house before & after the wedding. The day of the wedding we were in town with the Cousin Nathan, Cousin Dania & Hubby Chris. Dania & Chris offered to let Cousin Nathan, Marc & I use their suite to get dressed for the wedding, as they were staying closer. When Marc when to change, he realized that I had left his pants at our hotel room. Whoops! A quick trip to the local Brooks Brothers and we were again on our way. Even with the store run, we were early to the wedding. We made the logical decision to not spend the extra 45 minutes waiting in the Church, but to find the closest Bar and get liquored up. We all found the service much more fun than the rest of the family.

Barely a month later the family again gathered, this time in Port Huron, MI. Mom & I traveled together to attend Grandmother Polly's internment. Thankfully we had brought our passports as I took wrong exit and we crossed a bridge over a canal to find ourselves in Canada. Whoops! After much begging and pleading one of the boarder guards gave in and stamped my passport. I did need proof of our trip! Other highlights on the trip was meeting Cousin Alie, meeting Luisa, Cousin David's now wife and taking a ride in the Cris Craft that impressed on my father the coolness of wooden boats.

Other summer highlights included a visit from Marc's mother & brother. Later Marc's Aunt Christine, husband Pete and cousins Livy & Alex showed up. Their visits resulted in multiple trips to Yosemite and even a mule ride. Great to get to know my future family better, even if they called eggplant aubergine.

Late in the summer our luck changed for the better. There was a shuffle in the teams at the office which almost moved me to DC. However instead, they made me a sweet offer to get me back in my old role. After a week of deliberation, I came to the conclusion that I'd rather be happy with what I'm doing than be doing a job that could be better for my career.

Not long after the job reversion, Marc & I got the house situation resolved. The house is ours and at actual market value. Yippee! That finalized while we were enjoying a weekend in Massachusetts. The other Cousin David was marrying his beautiful German bride, Luisa, on Cape Cod. Lovely service and very enjoyable wedding! This time we got liquored up at the wedding instead of before. We took a side trip on the way there to visit my Alma Mater, Smith. Boy has the campus changed! The students looked the same. The town was slightly larger yet still full of restaurants and shops geared to the college crowd.

Another stroke of luck came with getting pregnant and making it successfully through the first trimester. We finally had a due date we could share - May 15th. With the pregnancy and the house was settled, we were able to plan our wedding!

Thanksgiving arrived and we got Marc's mum to come back to attend, as we weren't going to be able to get to England for Christmas... or so we said. Once she arrived, we revealed the real plans: To get married at Dad's on Thanksgiving and fly off to Fiji for a two week honeymoon. The wedding went off beautifully. The sun cooperated and we were married on Dad's deck in Sausalito. Dad did the ceremony, Brendan held the rings & took photos, Kate was Matron of Honor and dog watcher, Mom & Mum were witnesses and Cathy did a reading. The service was short and perfect. I had always felt that Dad's deck was the perfect place to get married and it was. The meal was perfect - Turkey and all the trimmings.

Two weeks in Fiji with lots of sun & snorkeling - heaven after the long & turbulent year. We got home to find that Christmas was in full swing. Yet after living for weeks without To Do lists or work, getting in the Santa Swing was tough. We skip the tree and enjoyed Christmas Eve at Dad's - complete with Yorkshire pudding. Christmas Dad was at Kate & Brendan's place. Kate's family was in town and we are SO happy that her brother Chip has returned whole & unharmed from his time in Iraq.

I'm hoping we're back on an upswing for 2011. All my best to you & your family.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blossoming Bellies

I'm told that I should feel the baby move any time now. I'm 1 day shy of 20 weeks and eager to feel that first kick. I may have felt it already, just not realized what it was. As for this week's status report: "Your baby weighs about 10 1/2 ounces now. He's also around 6 1/2 inches long from head to bottom and about 10 inches from head to heel — the length of a banana." Yikes. I've got a banana tucked into a melon in my abdomen! You think I'd notice if the banana decided to move around.

But what's really kicking me is the pregnancy rules. It seems that almost everyone wants to get in on the game of telling expecting women what they should or should not be doing. Some times it makes sense - Don't take Aleve or ibuprofen because it will increase the rate of birth defects by 7%. Some times it doesn't - you cannot wear high heels. (I realize I might not want to wear heels while pregnant, but how is that going to damage the baby's development, exactly?)

I labor under the abundant unwanted advice that is thrown at me: eat fish, but don't eat *that* fish. I'm struck by the urge to say either, "Shove it" or "Do you realize how dumb you sound?" From what position to sleep in (left-side) to the shoes I should we wearing (no heels, no flip-flops), to my choice in lunch (no sushi, no deli meat or hot dogs) I'm sick of these rules.

I am not only amazed that the wrap-the-pregnant-woman-in-bubble-wrap mentality, I'm also stunned that so many women I know to be smart & thinking women buy into it. Does it ever occur to them that, "Hey, we've managed to keep the human race reproducing for nearly 40,000 years and only in the last 100 or so years have we seen these rules. Maybe it is mostly hype? The women in France seem to be enjoying brie with not a noticeably higher rate of miscarriage" Poll the women 60 & older - they'll tell you that they drank while pregnant with you and you seem (mostly) OK. Maybe this has to do with the desire to just let go for 40 weeks - "No, hon, I can't clean the kitchen, my doctor says to take it easy. Yet, when I miscarried, I was told that it was likely genetic - not that lovely Camembert cheese I had.

I'm a little slow, yet what I'm coming to understand is that this is the pre-birth version of Mothers Guilt. While Freud started this movement with his blame your mother psychology, the tone and rigor escalated once women who didn't need to work yet didn't want to stay home put on their hats and got jobs. I can recall the news casts talking about how scarred latch key kids would be as adults. I was a latch-key kid and I seem to be a (mostly) well adjusted adult.

Thankfully, we've seen the real data - a generation and a half having grown up without mom home baking cookies - and so far, so good. Lately the tactics seems to be focused on getting mothers to feel guilty that they aren't providing enough opportunities for their child to thrive in. Hence the well scheduled & over-planned life of the modern child - from play date to music lesson to soccer practice, and woe be to the mother who doesn't make a good, home-cooked meal after busing Junior around all day. Just stop already.

I do say that all women should find the right balance for themselves. My balance involves an occasional drink of wine, nearly daily work-outs and all the blue cheese I can eat - balanced with my 5-7 servings of fruits & veg, one of which should be a leafy green and total ban on caffiene, unless it is in that chocolate I just noshed.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Wedding

Oh whoops - I promised a report on the wedding plan.
Here's how it happened....
As we we looking at our due date and considering our post-house purchase financial status, I suggested that spending $15k - $20K next summer, on an event that we'd have to fund, plan and execute while dealing with being a parents of a 2 month old seemed like a lot. We both missed out on a honeymoon the first time round and, with our current wedding budget projections, it looked like we would miss it the 2nd time round as well. So I suggested we elope. The only problem - I didn't want to get married outside the US and Marc didn't want to honeymoon in the US. He explains, "It isn't a real trip if they speak English & use US Dollars."

So, what if we got married on the down-low here in the US and then run off? I labeled it "faux-loping". Sounded good to me. We were mulling over plans and bringing in Dad & Cathy to co-conspired with us at Cousin David's wedding to the lovely Luisa on Cape Cod. Also at that event a conversation with my Aunt who tells me, "It just isn't right to elope. Part of getting married is sharing the even with friends & family..." Great, she didn't even know our plans and was already condemning them!

We then decided where to go - at first we were thinking Australia, but then realized there was too much to do/see. So we took it down a notch and decided that after this crazy year, we could really do with some quiet together time. Fiji came on the radar. Cousin Dania gave us good advice on where to go.

So, the event - well, we got Marc's mom to agree to come out for Thanksgiving. She wasn't sure why, but we got here here just the same. We worked out the planning, flowers & cake with Dad & Cathy. I had a tough time with a dress - what is the appropriate attire for a Thanksgiving Day, 2nd Wedding, at my father's house while pregnant? The long white gown was SO out. And finding something that doesn't look like it should be worn to the prom/opera gala/office can be tough!

But we worked it all out. We told the other attendees - My mom, little brother & sister-in-law on the precessing Tuesday. They were all excited and sworn to secrecy. The weather cooperated with a sunny day. We decided that the deck with the view would be ideal. Everyone arrive by about 11:30. We realized that Dad wasn't going to be able to read the ceremony from his iPad, so we put it on the nook. Sister-in-law helped me get dressed and led me to the alter at the right time. Both Mom's signed the paperwork. Step-mom read a passage. Little Brother took photos and tended the rings.

We said "I Do" and exchanged the rings then a kiss. Dad didn't let little brother bring the shot-gun for some silly photos. We had a toast (I got a baby glass of champagne). We enjoyed Cathy's traditional Thanksgiving feast. We cut the cake and then caught a flight to LA to catch the evening non-stop to Nadi, Fiji.
As soon as we boarded the plane, we changed our status on Facebook & turned off our phones for the next 2 weeks.

Three weeks, 1 day we've been married. I'm happy. Oh so happy. So there's the scoop.

My Belly Preceeds Me

I'm coming up on 18 weeks. I'm eager to pass the 20 week mark so that I'm official half way to my delivery day. This is the I'm-not-fat-I'm-pregnant phase. I find myself telling anyone who will listen, "I'm pregnant!". I've gained ten lbs (some of that is the baby, some is the Fiji Honeymoon). My waist has expanded four inches. My clothes don't fit anymore. For the first time in four weeks I was in the office. The female coworker say they see it. Yet asking a male colleague, he responded, "Jen, no male's eyes will notice your stomach". I realized that due to my increase in cup size, 99.9% of men will find their eyes unable to drift below my blossoming boobs.

I've notices my breasts too. I noticed that, when I got hit my a jelly fish in the water, I was unable to see my waist, as the boobs blocked my view. I've noticed that while swimming in the ocean my nipples felt like they were getting run through a grater. They may be big & luscious, yet they are totally "Look but Don't Touch". Today's advice: a month before the baby is due, start brushing your nipples with a toothbrush to help desensitize them and make breastfeeding easier.

Aside from the onslaught of advice (were women really able to reproduce when they didn't know that they could kill the baby by lying on their backs??) which, as a pregnant woman, I've found myself drowning in, I'm finding myself awash with, "Congratulations". I just got out of nature's way, had some fun and here I am expecting the next generation. It takes no brains - as we can see on 16 and Pregnant - no brains at all to get pregnant. I know those of us 30+ do have a harder time, yet, for the most part, it felt good and I think Marc did all the work. It is like getting Congratulated for finishing a big bowl of Ben & Jerry's.

As my belly grows, I bet the weirdness responses will only increase. Last night, hubby looks over at me while I'm chopping veggies for dinner and says, "You do look pregnant". "Really?" I wonder, or do I just look like I have a belly? Of course I have to sneak upstairs to the full length mirror to check. When I have good posture, my belly doesn't go out farther than my breasts. When I slouch - my belly precedes my boobs. Belly - no Belly - Belly - no Belly.

Yes, I'm pregnant but one of the few things I've liked about my body is my flat stomach. My thighs break my heart, but my belly and narrow waist make me proud. Now the belly is not flat. I look down and my belly is blocking my view. How? Why? Did I really let this happen? I want to look pregnant, not big-bellied, is that possible? So many months to go before I diet... so many months to go...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Settling down again

Life seems to have slowed, finally. The house is settled. I'm pregnant. We have a plan for our wedding - I'll tell you about that in a week or so, once the details are worked out.
The last year happened behind closed doors. From the miscarriage back in March, which may have contributed to a depression in the following months (was reading about this the other day). It took 5 months for my body to recover which, doubtlessly taxed my emotions. Combining that with a job change that, while possibly being of more career advantage, diminished my happiness level. Hanging over my head the whole time was the, "are we moving or are we staying"?
All of it felt too personal to write about. It overshadowed my adventures such that I couldn't feel compelled to write about it.
In the end, things appear to be working out. I'm back in my old job, with added responsibilities and the coworkers I adore. Since we know we're staying in the house, I got 270 bulbs to plant in the garden this weekend. I've fallen in love with the comfort of maternity pants.
My home is happy. Marc takes good care of me. He's been nudging me to be more careful of what I eat while pregnant. I do push for my 5 servings of fruits & veggies, he's trying to keep the excess Halloween candy out of my grubby paws. Although we do have a standoff - he refuses the flu shot & I'm refusing to stop consuming all types of cheese (save queso fresco which has been clearly linked to Listeria infections).
With all these changes for the better, I hope to restart writing regularly again. No longer do I have anything to hide. Until I have the baby and do something like drop it or leave it unattended near an open power socket.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


On the way home today, Bill Bryson reading his book "At Home" to me, described a 19th century explorer who, after returning to England to find his fortune in tatters, retired to his bed too lethargic to write his own autobiography.
And my first thought was, "I'm not sure we missed much." Terrible. I have a suspicion of Autobiographies. Now, to be clear, we're not talking about memoirs - those books that can engage the reader while recanting a story of a specific time or experience.
Instead of engaging or amusing the autobiography often has an agenda. Instead of amusement they often have agendas and self-promotion. I attempted to read Carly Fiorina's autobiography yet found it a description of how she glossed through life, with effortless ease having one blessed opportunity after another come her way. Of course she worked hard.
Yet even if the work was supposed to be an honest account of one's personal history, we all put bias into our memories. Just ask any researcher who studies the recall of events. Of course, if you're involved in a traffic accident, you'll recall the situation as much to your favor as possible. However, even when the person was a disinterested observer researchers find people are unable to recall the event correctly (as compared to a video chronicle of the situation). How could that tendency not be magnified when looking at one's own life?
I imagine writing my own autobiography, yet my thought is, "Who the hell would care?" Really. I haven't Done anything. My life has been rich, yet benign & bourgeois. Granted, if you're reading this, you know me and probably find certain times of my life (specifically those you shared with me) more interesting and possibly worthy of a memoir, were I to find a better writer than myself to ghost write it.
Going beyond a memoir, for an autobiography, how do I choose which events to include? How do I determine what caused what? Did my reaction to having physicians as parents result me in shunning that profession or was it actually due to my decision that biology was numbingly dull? What impact did that 7th grade boyfriend actually have on me? How much truth is there in my job history narrative that I tell all potential employers?
Now, for someone who has a blog it may seem silly to say such things about autobiographies. You're probably right. And then, I don't really expect anyone to read my blog - I mean, don't you have better things to do?

Monday, September 06, 2010


After spending an hour pruning my tomatoes, I had a sudden realization - pruning a plant is a lot like exfoliating. I'm just taking away the dead bits from the plant so that it can grow new, fresh leaves.

This three day weekend has been just delightful. Marc & I - after nearly 7 weeks of travel & visitors, finally can be home. He was declaring that this coming week would be his first full week in the office for 5 weeks. I corrected him - this week was a 4 day week, so cannot count in that tally - he's had 6 weeks of travel, class & vacation.

This week should give me some insight into the next 3 months. The house sale is progressing and I may have a escrow close date. Also, there is a chance I'll get a transfer to DC and I'm waiting to hear the likelihood of that. Strange to be working on settling my home situation along with investigating the possibility of moving.

Which ever happens, I'm sure it will be for the best. Each path looks inviting and once I'm on it, there isn't much I can do about it. Trial & error. A move could do good things for my career and staying here might to good things for the future family. The inability to travel both paths, look back and then make the decision makes the choice I make the best one. How can one compare it to a road not traveled?

Marc's making me breakfast. Bacon, Eggs, Mushrooms, Toast - he might even include British Beans. We've done our ride (20 miles there and back). I did my post ride triathlon training post ride run - only 15 minutes, but I was able to do 9 minute miles. The garden is trimmed and time for breakfast.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Where did the Wrinkles Come From?

When I see a photo of myself I immediately check for my flaws. It starts with the expression, am I smiling? Or am I in the middle of saying something, thus appearing like one of those poor crazy people we cross the street to avoid. Are my hands & arms placed in such a way that they don't appear disproportionately large? How is my waist? Turned to look thin and delicate or am I inhaling and buddah belly? But really, is there anything about me that is delicate? I move down to the trouble zone: hips, rear & thighs? Can we crop the shot to eliminate the legs? No, then how about the ankles? I realized, after a photo of me from a beach BBQ last summer that I am NOT to wear flats with a skirt. I MUST have some sort of heel to give my ankles a good form.

These checks have been standard for 35 years... well, maybe not 34. I don't think I started turning the critical eye until I was about 12. So 23 years. Now, suddenly, I've been spotting something I haven't had to look for before: Wrinkles. The weren't there before, I swear it! Recently, like in the last 2 months, they have appeared. With a smile I've got a crease explosion coming out from the corners of my eyes. Even without smiling, there is a tightness in my face that seems to say, one wrong expression and I'm crinkling up like crumpled sheet of paper.

The wrinkles, the "I don't think I'm ever going to have legs to rival Daisy Duke" realization and I'm slidding like a contestant in Wipe Out into the deep dark pool of middle age. They talk about this and there are endless Hallmark cards mocking the fact in Walgreens. Yet, really why am I surprised that it might happen to me. I blinked and I was cast out from my shiny 20-something years and they've put me up against the MILF wall.

What can I do? Botox - I hate to say it is tempting, hell all forms of plastic surgery now seem acceptable and worthwhile. Not the other week my friend with a 6 month old said, "Yep, three years and I'm getting a boob job". That might be overkill before I have children.

Maybe I should just start out with a facial? Get some good face cream. Do eye creams really work? A recent article in the New Yorker suggested that nothing really works for wrinkles. Some treatments do some good for a short period of time... but really, I'm beginning to believe that the best way to deal is to two things. First - get into a job where one's looks do not impact one's employ-ability or income stream. Next, find a mate who won't trade you in when the smile lines persist after the smile is gone.

T.E.A Party Troubles

On today's "Smug-me" trip to the Farmers Market in Brentwood, I found that the local Tea Party had a table set up. They were wearing red shirts and had signs about Federal Fiscal Responsibility.
Seeing them polluting my little liberal haven of eat-local & organic food haven irked me. Where were the for the 8 years of Bush running up the federal budget like a drunken sailor? Where are their anti-war signs? The wars are costing us millions a day. No, only when we decide to invest in our own nation do they suddenly come out of the woodwork and start demanding that we reign in spending. There are no demands that we stop bombing other nations.
What morality can account for their turning a blind eye on spending that results in killing people while motivating them to actively protesting health care for the weak, young & sick? Where are the pastors and priests decrying such behavior as completely contrary to Christ's message?
I want to spit on the Tea Party.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

The Dodgers

Growing up in Palo Alto, it had been suggested that I might want to be either an A's fan or a Giant's fan. Honestly I never mustered the energy to develop any sort of affection for one or the other. They both are plagued by terrible color schemes - I mean, how can the Giants represent the city of the gays with orange & black. I realize that Halloween was the biggest holiday in SF for many years, but really does our team need to dress like a pumpkin through-out the summer?
The A's aren't any better - Green & Yellow? Ick.

So, until I became Duncan's girlfriend back in my early 20's I let baseball be. But he wasn't content with my empathy towards the boys of summer. He did not make me choose between the A's or the Giants. Instead I was instilled with a loathing for the Dodgers. He explained that the Dodgers were against all good things. I liked kittens, the Dodgers hated kittens. They were for cloudy rainy days, I like the sun. They represented all things bad in the world.

About six years later, I did move to Los Angeles. I tried to embrace my new home. I went to a Dodgers game - they were playing the Giants, so it was kinda OK. I ate a Dodgers Dog and was nearly injured in the 3 fights that broke out within 10 seats from me - and I wasn't even seated in the bleachers. Such a contrast to my later experiences at PacBell Park when I moved back... from fist-fights at the Dodgers game to white wine and sushi at the Giant's park.

So, what has prompted me to write this? I have been receiving spam from the Dodgers for the last five years. I've tried to remove myself from their list. I've tried to put them on the black list with no success. They keep trying to invite me to their hateful games, despite moving 400 miles away and pledging allegiance to the Giants. Nothing stops the spam. Duncan was right, the Dodgers are evil.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Miss America

I was just reading a fun bit about Miss America. Our first Arab American to be crowned. The Right wing is all up in arms - I'm guessing they feel only blond haired, blue-eyed Aryans should get the title. The idea didn't sit right with me.

The Arab world tends to be very conservative. Generally, they would prefer their women barefoot, in the kitchen and under a tent of cloth. Isn't the Miss American contest generally anthem to their values? The one event that could get picketed by both conservative muslims and card carrying feminist is the Miss America Contest.

So, if many liberal groups are repelled by said beauty pagent, what is the logic of those said liberals trying to influence with, Conservative author Daniel Pipes, says, "odd form of affirmative action". I dare say that must on the left would prefer to find the Miss America contest a home on the entertainment shelf next to black-face and throwing Christians to the lions.

Beyond that, selecting a Muslim woman is more red-neck that liberal. What better a way to give the finger to the Taliban than to allow for the lustful viewing of one of "their" women in a bikini the size of an amoeba? I'd think the Right Wing would be cheering this as a victory of Pure Blooded Americaness over commies & terrorists.

I'm going to go back to hating the event. Congratulations to Rima Fakih for winning the most repugnant prize of all.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Car Rental Reviews

Tilly got put in the shop yesterday. She had a little problem that caused her to return to the body shop. My insurance got me a "free" rental. "Free" as I know I'll pay for it through my premiums.
The rental pick-up was nice enough. I got the car, drove it the mile home and didn't notice anything strange. The nice counter guy showed me how to adjust the seat, open the boot and such. Fine, fine, fine... just want to get home and nurse my wallet which feels injured by my deductible.
This morning, totally new story. I needed to get into the office today. So I leave the house, go to the car and then realize that I have no way to open the truck. The Saturn has only keys and no remote entry. Then the trunk - there is no slot for a key. I have to go around to the front door, unlock it and then press the button on the door to get the trunk unlocked. At lunch, I noticed that the passenger door doesn't rate high enough to get a slot for a key. So, if I were a gentleman and wanted to open the door for a guest, I'd have to open the driver side door, unlock the car and then run around back to the passenger side. What a production!
Little things... little things make a car acceptable.
My drive in was unresponsive and cushy - just as I would expect from an American car. The only thing is that the turn signals don't auto-cancel. They just keep going. I ended up having my idiot sign on for a solid mile. Maybe this car just has some wear & tear. The counter guy tells me that he get the cars that are just about going to die. Our little nowhere outpost doesn't get the mini's or 300's or any fun cars... we get the about-to-be-sold-to-unaware-consumers. Joy.
The last bit of note is that my drive, due to lack of MP3 connectivity, was dominated by local radio. As usually I have either BBC Radio One or my iPod filling my ears when on the road, I learned that my "just West of Ohio" neighborhood has an abundance of God-Radio. I couldn't help but feel bad for the faithful listeners, as they get really the short end of the drum-stick when it comes to music. The God-Rock puts God before the rhythm, which is marginally better than the hymns sung by the Battle-of-the-Choir competitions. Bad music and men who sound as sleazy as a vat of french fry grease. There is no good to be found there. I have to surf the stations to keep from going insane. Anyone want me to call them on my drive home? Or shall I learn the value of silence?

Keeping Fit

Yesterday I decided to jog the mile to the gym, work out and then jog home. It worked out pretty well. I didn't take my gym card and got hassled a bit at the front desk, but in a non-hassling way. "Since you always bring your card, we won't bother you about not having brought it." Right.
On the way home, I pass the high school. There was some event by the auditorium and, despite it being 6:20 PM, kids were making their way back to school. I came up behind a young couple who were flirting, but distantly. I was too far back to hear what they were saying, but she was reaching our her hand, as if to touch his arm. He bobbed back and forth - occasionally leaning towards her, often retreating. I kept thinking, "You fool, she just wants to hold hands."
As I got closer, suddenly I become quite self aware. Such a contrast between these kids in their teens going through the adolescent mating rituals and me, in gym clothes running by trying to stay fit. To them, their warm afternoon gets punctuated by sweaty middle aged woman wheezing as she goes by. I must be a total wet blanket! Call me libido killer! Poor kids. But maybe I prevented an unwanted pregnancy?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Car Troubles

Yesterday, as I drove over the Bay Bridge a lit cigarette stub flew into my windshield, having been released from the driver's side window of a green Honda. Not a few minutes later, as I followed a white Jeep Cherokee with License Plate# 4AVV385 garbage was released from its driver's side window. Clearly, I was so incensed, I took down their license plate. I know nothing can be done, yet I do hope that karma comes around and bites these two base, ignorant individuals. Do they really feel that the world is their trash can? Holding it until we get to the can does make a difference.
But how big of a difference? I know that trash doesn't disappear. That we just put it where we can forget about it and hope that it goes away. Instead of releasing a crumpled up something from your window while on the bay bridge, effectively ensuring that it gets released into our bay. He could have put it in a trash can where it would end up as landfill. When will we run out of landfill?
I believe, we can do better. What if we shifted away from having trash in the first place? Instead of releasing the crumpled up packaging of cigarettes (what I believe the white jeep littered), how about buying loose cigarettes and putting them into a refillable cigarette case? Not much we can do about the cigarette butts, aside from quitting smoking - which is a good idea as well.
Next we could tackle those single use water bottles. We drink the not-much-better-than-tap water out of them and then discard them. And where do they go? We could do so much better as a society by finding ways to move towards re-usables. Have pure water filling spots - aka water fountains - where people can fill up their long-term water bottles. Start charging for plastic bags at the supermarket- make the option of reusable bags much more appealing. Little steps here and there which will add up - if the majority of us do them repeatedly.
We can do better.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Doggie Designs

I'm not alone!
Others enjoy making their dogs into canine topiary!

Sunday, April 18, 2010


I found spring's arrival this year to be inconsistent. We had a week or so of sun in March, then weeks of cold & rain until Saturday. Finally the sun arrive, warmed the air and helped dry out the earth.
I spent Friday night with my mother, out in the woods. We got there late, as we were both up North. I brought a deli dinner - Thanks Andronico's - and then settled into talking. Saturday we got her iTunes and iPod talking friendly. She took me on a private March Walk. I did my best to ask any question I could think of. We had sun at the start, yet fog started rolling in by the time we were done around 2 pm. I left my mother and headed back to sunland.
I did make a stop along the way at the Half Moon Bay Nursery. I intended only to get some lavender for the front yard, two flower plants and then head home, but I could stop. Shortly after I had 4 sage plants, as I think they do good for keeping some pests away from the veggies, or so I thought. Not sure now.
So, one I was home, I kissed Marc hello and then headed into the garden. Marc followed me out and tried to offer assistance. As I put in my 8 tomato plants he did try to dissuade me. He kept saying something about "Wall of Tomatoes" and saying I would need to better contain them this year. What - just because I might have 8 tomato plants instead of 5, that might be a problem.
He kept a close eye on me as I seeded some other plants - I'm working on two bits of eggplant and then I planted some seeds I thought was corn, but now I'm not terribly sure. We'll see what comes up. I put a row of lettuce in between two rows of mystery plants. Cross your fingers.
All this to say that spring really is here. I got my garden in order. Marc bought me a bike - I rode home from REI on my new bike. Loved it. Today we had time to lie about in the sun. Another treat. I think spring is now my favorite season.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Are they Serious?

So I'm reading this:
"I have hopes that President Obama will at least try to appoint somebody who will get a huge bipartisan vote, and if he will, he's going to go down in history as a better president," said Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. "If he doesn't, there's going to be a whale of a fight if he appoints an activist to the court. That's not good for him, it's not good for the Senate, it's not good for the country."

Looking toward the hearings, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, "Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint and the fundamental importance of an evenhanded reading of the law."

On Yahoo news and am shocked.
The Republicans are squealing about getting a judicial nomination who understands judicial restraint. What about Bush's appointments to the Supreme Court? I mean, his justices just overturned 100+ years of rulings regarding free-speech limitations for corporations. They're steadily working their way to over turn 30 years of abortion rights. Where is their restraint?

The push by the Republicans to appoint their extremist judges has caused a shift in the court so profound that Stevens - a judge nominated by Republican President Nixon - from the center to the far left.

Their judges have little respect for civil rights - see their opinions on about anything. Their opinion on States rights ends with their own values- see Scalia's ruling on states setting their own laws for marijuana usage, contrasted to his opinions on gun ownership.

President Obama, please nominate a leftist woman who is under the age of 50. I think it is the best way to help keep the balance on the court.

Friday, March 26, 2010

You want me to drink HOW much water?

The last few years I've become frequently annoyed with this pressure to drink water. The, "at least 8 glasses a day" thing. I think the last straw was being told that I need 8 glasses of water and that, No, tea and sparkling water don't count.
Really? What does all that H2O in there do to my system if not get ingested? Tea is 99% water and 1% stuff. You're telling me that 1% stuff cancels out the water? How exactly? If if did, wouldn't the 1% cause the water to shoot through my system so fast as not to get absorbed? I don't get the runs from drinking water, so I'm not believing.
Let me talk about my dogs for a minute. I've got nearly my weight in dogs - two good sized boxers and my 7lb weiner-dog. They, collectively, drink maybe 16 oz of water per day. Did humans really evolve so far from dogs that we're supposed to consume 4x the amount of water? And where did primitive man find so much water to drink daily? And how did he tote it around?
In a Bush-like effort to find the science to support my opinions rather than evaluating the scientific finds, I present you with this:
Summary of the article peer-reviewed & published by the American Physiological Society:
"This age-old advice is the scientific equivalent of an “urban legend,” with no basis in fact, according to a noted Dartmouth researcher whose findings are published in the American Journal of Physiology"

And it gets better! When it comes to coffee, tea, coke and other caffeinated beverages:
"According to Valtin, there is strong scientific evidence that not all of the 8x8 needs to be taken in the form of plain water. Research conducted by Dr. Ann Grandjean and her colleagues has shown that caffeinated drinks – most coffee, tea and soft drinks – should count towards the daily fluid intake for the majority of people. The authors' conclusion that “advising people to disregard caffeinated beverages as part of the daily fluid intake is not substantiated by the results” of their study, was published in 2000, in the peer-reviewed journal, Journal of the American College of Nutrition."

I am vindicated!

Death of a sibling

I have found that losing my brother has been a terribly confusing ordeal. Not just due to his unexpected and shocking suicide, but also as loss of what was supposed to be.
In writing this, I realized how warren fills my childhood memories like mokume metal. When I think of events, he is as much of a part of them as I was, thus our entities in my mind have bleed together. I cannot recall being a child as an experience distinct from being a child with brother Warren. Not that we were some inseparable team, as we weren't a close pair even if it was visually obvious that we were siblings. We had been asked if we were twins more than once.

He had all the same teaches before I did and left shoes that I had to fill. Every teacher said, "Jennifer DeLano? Your Warren's sister, right?" From that moment I knew they would expect me to be smart & well behaved. He was in some ways in the room with me, becoming the yardstick against which I was measured.

When I came home from school, he was there. I might play in the back yard and he'd be in the living room programing the Atari. We traveled together every other weekend to stay with my father in San Francisco. He studied, played the keyboard and programmed.

Only when we went to college and matured in our 20's did my memories start to form without him. Yet, I still recall dates by our relative age. He graduated high school in 1990, and we overlapped one year, so I started high school in 1989. Likewise, we both graduated in 1993 at the same time - he after 3 years at Yale, me from Gunn.

There were a few years after college where he was doing his PhD and I was trying to sort out life after college. But then he brought me on at Sunesis and, again, life was life with Warren. I'd see him daily. We'd discuss the IT situation. He encourage me to stop staying out late on Fridays and find a worthy idea to pursue passionately, as he did with PyMOL. Lunch at Sunesis was spent in philosophical, political or ideological debate with, of course, Warren and other Sunites.

He did have a life outside mine, but it seems like a side of Warren that was very distant from the man I knew as my brother. Yes, he was married. He had a house. He did home projects. He developed PyMOL and impacted the global scientific community. He had a pilot's license and flew planes on occasion.

Our interactions were distant from that world. He continually pushed me to be better, stop all that needless travel and focus on something meaningful. We discussed the impact of the mortgage crisis on the American economy. He told me to stop being so emotional and calm down about things. Yet he did want to "be there for me" when I broke up with Greg. He frustrated me by not getting mom a gift on her birthday.

As we matured, our relationship did change. We stopped annoying each other and even started to interest each other. The last year or so, I think we started to really see the other as adults separate from ourselves. I wonder how our relationship would have changed over the next ten years. Would we have finally evolved into separate beings? I assumed we'd be interesting & annoying each other for 70 more years. That we'd retire to White Sands together and sit at the same lunch table, as we did at Sunesis, and discuss politics, philosophy, economics and such. Of course, he'd probably die a few years before me - I mean, he was my OLDER brother. There, you see that? Even as I imagine my own demises, it is an event tied to Warren.

I struggle to separate us. I feel like he was the balloon and I the hot air - he was always one step, one inch, one year beyond what I am. My actions all get measured against him and he lead the way. My memories aren't of just him, they are of me & him. When I describe him, I am utterly unable to do so without including myself. I have always been in his shadow, yet he protected me from the wind & rain.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Waiting for Warren

The recent weeks have had some ups and downs. On the upside, Marc & I snuck off for a long weekend in Hawaii and he surprised me with a beautiful ring. I started a new job at the same company - which is a good move, yet stressful as I get up to speed. Then we completed a grueling 1/2 marathon with 2400 ft of elevation gain/loss. My ego felt great, but it wasn't able to help me up and down the stairs the last few days. My legs were less thrilled with the accomplishment.

Through this, I've found I've been thinking more of my brother Warren. I haven't had the urge to call him, but wish he could know what I've been doing. Normally mom would have given him updates and he and I might try to find a day to have lunch.

I feel more in denial that I did right after his death. I don't want to accept that he's dead. My father asked who I'd like to have at my birthday lunch and I couldn't include Warren & Beth. It isn't an option. He's been with me for most of the last 30+ birthdays and now he's not.

I feel my brain struggling with the concept of death. What is this not here stuff? What does it mean? Why did he die? How is it possible? Logical answers don't help me with these questions. I want an explanation from the universe - why are we here? Why isn't Warren here? Where did he go?

There just aren't answers. I am hoping my need for them eventually diminishes.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Count me Census!

I can't recall where I was the last time we had the census. I don't recall much, but I do recall that, like this year, I was keen to get selected to fill out the long from. Something about filling out those forms give me a feeling of importance.

However there weren't enough interesting questions on the form. Name, gender, birth date and then race. I get to select White. I'm not of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban or other Hispanic, Latina or Spanish decent. And why do we single out Mexican, Puerto Rican or Cuban? I mean, we don't count Colombian, Peruvian or Jamaican. Why are those three nationalities so special? And what if you're of Peruvian Native American stock? Do you fill out the Native American slot and say Peruvian, as that would be more accurate than Hispanic, right?

Likewise there is no interest if you're from Africa. My friend who is white, Jewish, South African descent... is he white or African American? And why should the Moroccans be lumped in with the Kenyan and Mali? Are they all the same race?

Then we come to the Asian breakdown. Suddenly we have a world of interest with Japanese getting to be different from Chinese & Korean. I mean those three countries boarder each other - that's like saying we need to have the British and Italian differentiate from each other. Are they really difference races?

At the end I realize how meaningless it all is. I check the last box, feel unfulfilled and tuck the form into the envelope to send back. There are more important unimportant things for me to fret over.

Friday, March 05, 2010


I can hear birds chirping. Their twitters and chirps sound much like a mother fussing over her brood.
And such a little noise and I have flashbacks to my childhood. The blurry memories from my first few years at 3330 Thomas Drive. I'd hear them and know I had a day of fun ahead. I associate the birds with warm days - however the memories have blurred with time. First the chirping, then the back yard, then going swimming at the Eichler Swim and Tennis Club. When I was really young - 3 or 4, we might walk to the Peninsula Dairy that wasn't too far away. They kept a freezer out front where we could buy an ice cream pop. They tore down the factory and put in housing developments a few years later.
More than the sights and sound, the feeling of being small floats into my consciousness. The feeling of safe unknown - I didn't know what was in store for that day and I wasn't worried about it. I knew I'd be fed and dressed and have things to do. I wasn't worried that I needed to tackle a To Do list. Or maybe my To Do list had only a few things on it: play, eat, sleep. The world was so much bigger than I was and irrelevant to me. I neither knew nor cared how the milk got into the fridge. It was just there. The cheerios were in their box. The cat was wondering around. A child's zen of living in the moment.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Job Change

Despite enjoying my job immensely, I feel I've played it out. I've learned a lot and am itching to do more, expand my skills. After some poking, prodding and self-promotion, I've got a job change. In two weeks I start a new adventure. Adventure is the right word. I'll be back in the world of direct sales. I'll have a quota again, no longer riding on others' sales successes.

However, I'm terrified. Since graduating, I've had six jobs. This will be my seventh. Of those six jobs, three fall into the category of clear mistake. Bad fit or bad manager or just plain wrong. Were I more clever, I could mine those jobs to create a dilbert-esque sit-com or screen play.

Of the other three, two were blessings (this current job falling into that category) and one was mediocre. Mediocre is not the right word. It wasn't good; it wasn't bad. Instead it came with moments of bliss and success however that interspersed with times that are best likened to being blindfolded and left in a kitchen with knives, hot pans and pots fresh from the oven scattered about.

Logically, I'm confident I can do the job. I have the skills, the drive, the motivation. With new situations, one faces many things out of one's control. Who doesn't find it easier to hide within the known, the safe and the regular. Even if it is a shortcut to mind-numbing repetition and death, the familiar pulls at us. Resist!

Flowers on the Trees

Last time I checked, the calendar was still on February. However, living in California, the trees are on their own schedule. Out here in the country, the tress are getting a jump on spring. Instead of staying sticks, they have adorned themselves with boas of petals. Covering themselves in little white or pink flowers.
I just love seeing it. However, we've had a storm come through and I fear the rain has prevented the bees from doing their job. I also fear that a hard shower might cause a premature falling of the flowers.
So far, they've hung on. I just cannot stand when the trees decide they are ready to change into something more comfortable. They release their petals and then work on covering themselves in little, lime green buds of baby leaves. On the ground, like a discarded dress, the petals lie about waiting for a wind to take them on their way.
Just two months ago I thought, "this must be the prettiest time of the year with all the houses decked out in crazy lights." And then we have the blooming of the trees and I think, "this must be the prettiest time of year.". What will cause me to say, "this must be the best season!" six weeks from now?

Saturday, February 20, 2010


A couple weeks ago I watched the Colbert Report where Stephen visits and applies to join the Olympic Curling team. Watching him fumble and test the young men's patience, I just smiled. It ended with his remote controlled stone landing in the middle and him requesting to join the team. All the guys couldn't help but smile when saying, "No, sorry, Stephen, you can't be on our team."

And today, as I type this, the men's curling team is up against Sweden. Seeing their shining faces makes me smile again. Kudos to Stephen for making one more curling fan.

I do feel bad for my English guests, as they don't get to see their teams on TV. The coverage is almost exclusively of Americans with a token bit to the Canadians. Without a doubt the impression it leaves is skewed - it seems that it is the American Olympic games. Should we change the circles to just red, white & blue?

Friday, February 12, 2010


As I fed our three dogs this morning, I noticed how well they were doing. The three of them, the two boxers and little Tsunami, all anxiously sat on the edge of the carpet. The aren't allowed in the kitchen while I prepare the food, so they sit and occasionally put one paw, then another, onto the kitchen floor - as if I might not notice this time. I see the creep and scold them, they retreat. Tsunami jumped back, bumped into Austin. A year ago, Austin would have growled his annoyance, testily relocating himself. But today he sat there, stoic and let Tsunami do a lap around him.

Time has helped. The first month Tsui was in this house, Austin refused to share the couch with her. She'd jump up, he'd jump down. But now they will flank me, one on each side, looking for love. Austin and Zoe do share a tighter bond than either do with Tsunami, yet I'm hoping, in another few years, they'll be buddies.

We all adapt. Strange, new and fearful new situations eventually become familiar. I wish I could have shared that with a friend who recently passed. She lost her baby, tragically, to SIDS and then her grief overwhelmed her and she took her own life. I'm sure her husband and all of her friends wish the same thing - that if we could have held her. Like I wish I could have held my brother. Been there to soothe the fear, the sadness, the overwhelming anxiety - just to help them through that rough bit. Help them learn that it will subside. That the sun also rises. We adapt, not matter how painful, we keep on living. With each breath we're closer to finding peace after the storm.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Long Time No Post

This weekend we had a fantastic abundance of friends & family around. We held Warren's memorial yesterday. There were 11 speakers in all. My old coworkers were surprised that I didn't speak. I just couldn't think of anything to say. I had nothing to add.

Probably due to my selfish grieving. I mourn my loss. I mourn that I can't have him with me through the rest of my life. One family friend shared the story of seeing Warren at age 3 or so, approaching me, the baby. It was clear he was going to hit me for some reason. The family friend suggested to Warren that if he hits me, I'd scream & bite him back then our mom would come in and send us both to our rooms. I think that was Warren's first introduction to logic.

My relationship with him was so primal and selfish. He was there to harass. He was there to mock. Even with him being dead, I still tell mom how much better I am than he. It is a knee jerk reflex - I don't know how to exist without it. We were rivals. As a child I did try to minimize that - I did not try his areas of success such as science, band or computers. He was no good at sports, so I was off the hook there.

The grief has mixed completely with the confusion of his death. My logical, sane, sensible, thoughtful brother lost his mind. He spent his final weekend in a mental hospital. Did something happened in his brain? As far as we can tell his brain looked normal, yet I realize how crude our scientific understand of gray matter is. Maybe his PyMOL will illuminate the answers eventually. There is so much science that we still have to explore. His legacy, PyMOL will help us find the answers.

I know he is dead. I touched his head, patted his cold hands before they cremated him. I have a voicemail he left me. I can listen to his voice anytime I wish. But I don't need that. Having had him as my big brother, I feel like I hear his advice any time I please.

But there are things he hasn't yet weighed in on. I haven't heard his verdict on becoming an uncle. I can hear him telling me that crying over him won't help - it's just not logical. Yet I don't know what he thinks about Marc & my plans for starting our own family.

I don't feel like he's dead. I keep thinking he's right there. He's a phone call away. The memorial did force me to confront his death for 1.5 hours. We spoke about him, remembered him and looked at photos of him. Cried over him. Despite all that, I don't feel like he's dead. It is impossible. He wasn't supposed to die until we were in our 90's.

I hear it will sink in eventually.