Sunday, December 30, 2007


So the black-capped chickadee is my first entry in my new bird list. I got a bird book for Christmas, so I am going to try to write down the birds that I actually watch and identify.

Yesterday we were hiking at Tryon Creek State Park. Fiona was telling stories, so we didn't see very many critters, but we walked around a corner and came into an open spot just chipping and swarming with tiny little chickadees. They looked like little black-dipped, winged thumbs moving around. They were so cute!

We saw a bunch of robins, too, but I had to look up the chickadees, so I'm counting them as my "first bird."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Grr thoughts

The phone company is my grr thought of the day. Why is it that their records show that I made a payment but they can't apply it to my account until a special team investigates the transaction? And why did I have to call two times about this?

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I'm having a moody day. I got a fundraising letter from Care yesterday, asking for funds to help end poverty and female genital mutilation in Africa, and it kind of put a damper on my outlook. It didn't help that today, bringing home our Christmas tree, we walked past crocus and daffodil sprouts. That's right. Nothing says "global warming" quite like daffodils in December.

I didn't give Care any money. That makes me feel down, but this year's charitable giving has already come and gone. We upgraded to green power, which will be (for us) a chunk of change, but we felt like it was the biggest and most important thing to do with our money. I have to remind myself what I was thinking when I did it--that world poverty will worsen, that people's suffering will worsen, that war and strife will spread if I don't do something to help with global warming. It's the most dangerous thing facing the human race. Ever. There won't even be an Africa for those poor mutilated women to live in if we don't do something about our god-awful carbon emissions.

And so, looking at our tree, brightly lit, beautiful with paper garlands and snowflakes, I just feel even more guilty. That's a lot of electricity and a lot of CO2 sitting in my living room. The only thing that comes close to making it worthwhile is the joy in Fiona's eyes. But is that worth it?

I don't know. I just don't know.

Friday, December 14, 2007

No words in the writing desert

Man, I haven't posted on here in 11 days. And you can pretty much count on the fact that I haven't added any words to my novel, either. I got lost in the word desert the last couple of days, working on my tan.

But I guess that's normal this time of year. I don't know about the rest of you, but December comes, and I am sucked into Christmas. Big time.

To some people, that's a little weird. I mean, my sister asked me if we were still going to celebrate Christmas even though I'm now out as an atheist. (As an aside, may I point out that my parents have never, ever, ever claimed to be Christians and raised us to *fear* the church, but they are as coo-coo for Christmas as anybody I have ever met?) Of course! I love Christmas. I love the fact that for one month of the year it is okay to be happy, sing out loud for no reason at all and give people stuff. It is okay to eat fat and sugar. It was socially acceptable to wear red and green together. I love the fact that Christmas legalizes dorkiness and loving behavior. The rest of the year, those guys get swept under the designer rug of cultural norms, but this time of year, it's acceptable.

Of course, I hate all the commercial junk and the non-stop marketing blitz. Kind of. They're part of the window dressing for me, and in some ways I wouldn't trade them for anything. That said, I don't watch tv, listen to the radio or go to the mall, so that pretty means my entire exposure to marketing consists of Internet ads and stuff they put on buses. It's really pretty tame.

Happy sigh. I gotta dash. I have Christmas cards to finish.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Macy's ate my childhood memories

If anybody out here in Portland grew up going to Meier and Frank at Christmas time, I have some advice: stay far away from Macy's. It will break your heart.

I can remember taking my niece and my baby brother to the Downtown Meier and Frank to ride the rickety old monorail and cruise through the bizarre Christmas scenes. Just getting to the Christmas floor--okay, half a floor--was an adventure. We would always take the escalators, which reached a point around the eighth floor where they narrowed and grew squeakier, as if a sudden twist in time had taken us back to the building's birth in 1932. Then you had to pass through the toys and Christmas decor sections, which was a test of will power. And then! There it was! A football-field of a room, filled with Christmas, crowned by a lengthy line to a sort of stage where you could watch children taking their turn on the jolly fat man's lap.

Now the entirety of "Santaland" is cramped in a basement room the size of my front room, where a secret turn of the faux-North Pole dwelling hides Santa from any chance sighting. And the price of a chance at Saint Nick? $16, although fancy packages are available. (Who gets wallets of their kid wheeling and dealing for presents with a stranger? Jeez!)

Santaland itself is bad enough, but upon leaving the store, which, by the way, has been so thoroughly refurbished and "renovated" that it is indistinguishable from Nordstroms, just 1 block away, I felt my heart crack with the memory of M&F's Christmas windows of yore. The sweet mechanical "12 Days of Christmas" is gone. In its stead are heartless and artless displays of this year's fashions.

We all knew that Macy's would not be the kind of business that aimed to be a part of our community. But this year, it became real to me. Community, tradition, fun--trivial details to a corporation that believes that homogenized shopping experiences are the secret to commercial success. And maybe they're right. After all, they're the ones in the position to buy out our local stores.

But they still lost my dollar.