self_portrait_fatigued.jpgAbout a week ago I got a new job. I'm a proud employee of my mom's insurance brokerage in Pleasanton. Who would have guessed it? Insurance is still insurance, but I'm learning every day. Summer can easily become a time when one learns nothing. No school means no homework. But what about lifework? I'm up to my neck in it.

Every day I have stuff to do. Working with my mom means getting up at 6:00am to shower and leave at 7:00 to be at the office by 8:00. We work until 5:00. And then I go home. I'm still working at Banana Republic, so weekends aren't free. It's quite a lesson in stamina, determination, the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Mine could be healthier. I've started going to bed at a "reasonable hour" voluntarily. Today I ate salad for lunch! These are desperate times.

Jon is out of town at a conference in Las Vegas. Thankfully I have something to look forward to this time. Friday morning, bright and early, I will don a tank top and khaki shorts (an outfit I can't wear to either job), grab my backpack and head to the airport. Yes, I get to meet Jon in Vegas for a weekend of no work and all play. I am a lucky girl. We have a junior suite at Caesar's Palace, tickets to Cirque Du Soleil, lots of plans to do very little. It'll be a breather.

Jon has been there since yesterday going to seminars and talks. He says it would be a lot more fun if I were there. I agree. Vegas needs me. And, oh, do I need Vegas!

Still, there's something exciting about being a bonafide adult. You know? Having a steady job that makes decent money while providing a necessary service. I feel responsible and helpful. Folding sweaters just never seemed to do much for me. Aside from giving me lovely clothes at an affordable rate, I don't think I'll miss Banana Republic much when I go. Though I have made friends.

But you can't beat working with my mom and her friend Denise (easily the sweetest lady in the world). I'm sure they'll inspire much for my little digital diary over time. For now this is it. I need some sleep (hard to achieve with visions of liability limits running through my head) and a chance to just be still ("Can I get that for you in another size or color, ma'am?").

My house is very empty without Jon here. Crypto has sought refuge from all the nothing under the guest room bed. Disney missed me desperately all day and now wants to be close to me. No, really, sitting on my chest and shoving his furry face up under my chin isn't near enough apparently. I can't blame him, though. When you love someone and they leave, and you miss them more than you thought was possible, you want to be as close to them as you can.

Hey, if Jon suddenly showed up I'd probably climb into his lap and nestle my face (not furry) up under his chin and listen to his heartbeat lull me into the sleep I miss only slightly less than Jon himself. I am exhausted. Perhaps I'll take a nap. But not before I feed the cats and take out the trash. Man. And I don't even have kids yet!

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question_red.jpgAside from Jonathan I have one other true love. Sweet and attractive, my second love is a contradictory one. I can't spend much time with it, though I want to badly, without being regretful later on... once its gone. The moments we have together are precious, and I try to stretch each second out as long as possible. Each little bit of itself is precious to me. When we're apart, reminders of it are everywhere. My love is fickle, allowing everyone to love it as I do and never pledging faithfulness to anyone single one of us. And it affects us all the same.

I bring it to my lips in delectable anticipation, all memories of our past flirtations swirl to the forefront. It is smooth and soft to the touch, perfect in the palm of my trembling hand. How I desire it! Beneath the cellophane it calls to me. "Oh, my darling Audrey! Come, take me away from this place!"

The second I think I'm finished with our time together, for it is gone and I am satisfied, I see it again. A new one. I long for its unassuming luxury.

(I apologize to all who have already guessed it, but my husband is sitting next to me guessing everything under the sun and I don't plan to stop until he figures this out. I thought he knew me! But here is what I'm hearing: "Is it biscuits? DVDs? No no no... FRIENDS. You already did one on Diet Coke. Carmex? Your cell phone? That IS your other true love." God help me. He just guessed "jelly bellies".)

My other true love is terrible for me, my heart and my weight. When I cannot see it, cannot hold it close to me, I feel empty and sad. Sometimes a girl just needs her fix, you know? It becomes an obsession. An outlet for pain in times of trial. A reward for reaching my goals. But Jonathan is jealous of my love. He sees how much it actually hurts me after each individual fling I have with it. And thus he takes it away, snatching it from my hand when I grasp it in the aisle in the local 7-Eleven!

Scroll down for the answer...


(Okay, he got it. Finally!)


hostess.jpgYes, Hostess Cupcakes, my weakness. I adore them. So deliciously cheap! So divinely common! Just can't help myself.

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vacations_cartoon.jpgWe just got back from feeding the kitties at Jon's parents' place. His folks are in Boston for the week, so we get to play with (and feed, I suppose) Sebastian and little Claude Monet. In just a couple of weeks Jon and I will be in Las Vegas, Nevada, staying at Caesar's Palace and enjoying a weekend of total relaxation. Hooray for vacations! And only two weeks after that we'll be celebrating our first anniversary as husband and wife at our favorite place on earth: Disneyland. Yay!

We love vacations. But even more... we love planning vacations. Since we've been together, Jon and I have traveled all over. It's really neat to revisit places we loved when we were kids because now these trips involve sharing our love with each other. The simple things take on new meaning when experienced together. And then there's the excitement and adventure of finding new locations and attractions to try. Together we're more brave, more open. Ideas for new trips surface all the time.

Here are a few we've come up with in recent months:

-New England/Prince Edward Island (a love for colonial history and Anne of Green Gables inspired this one)

-Grand Canyon (Jon hasn't ever been to the deepest gorge in the USA... no more explanation is needed)

-Glacier/Yellowstone/Teton National Parks circuit (I've been a zillion times, but I want to show Jon all the beauty I remember so well)

-Boundary Waters Canoe trip in Minnesota (a trip I've done with my parents, but should prove more exciting and romantic with the man I love)

-London (we've been... but, blimey! we need more time to do it right)

-Australia/New Zealand (once Amy went I knew I wanted to go to the former, and since Lord of the Rings was filmed in the latter Jon signed right up!)

-Illinois/Indiana/Michigan/Ohio (a repeat, but worth it to see ALL my relatives and spend some time with our pal, Jeremy, whose own move to Ohio finally makes the state worth visiting)

-Washington D.C. (I love it! I'm a big fan of Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, so I have especially fond memories of all the sites. Also, Jon reminds me of Jimmy Stewart...)

-Seattle (Jon likes the rain. I like the city. We both need to go up in the Space Needle...)

-Alaska Highway (Road trip! Our most recent dream is to run the length of one of the biggest engineering projects in history. A little travel trailer, some good books, a hearty camera and a little bit of Michael Martin Murphy... "Happy trails to yooooouuuu!")

Goodness we have a lot to do. In the meantime there's work, school, more work, buying a house, of course work, starting a family, still more work and creating a home. We're pretty rugged; I think we can handle it. Whatever the case, plotting the trips on maps and locating points of interest (The worlds fifth largest ball of twine! Detour!) is the most fun! Plus, we have each other to laugh with (and at) in the process. Anticipation of anything awesome is half the fun.

Here's to road trips and camp outs and red eye flights and hotels and rental cars. Cheers!

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mis.jpgMy cousin is getting married. Ben and his fiancee, Melissa, were engaged last year. They made a point to come out to our wedding in August and we hope we can return the favor and share their joy and their own big day this October! Melissa also participated in the shower my aunts and grandmother threw for me in Illinois last summer. She's a terrific gal, so much fun!

All who know me are unsurprised to see me hurl myself into the midst of all the excitement and act crazy in order to have fun and entertain. I don't even hesitate to do so in front of my relatives. Few others, though, outside the Pancoast clan can work up the wherewithal to do the same when they're with us. After all, we're pretty intimidating. Mis is an exception. She fearlessly allowed herself to be dragged into being a model in our "Toilet Paper Bride" game. Oh! And I have pictures. Ben is a lucky guy.

Of course, I'm a big fan of Ben. He and I kept touch over the years by way of email and instant messaging. In high school I depended on him for encouragement and friendship even though he lived thousands of miles away. So Melissa is lucky, too, and that's the way it should be with true love. Everybody wins.

Today I got the chance to do some shopping for them. Unfortunately I have to miss Melissa's bridal shower, thrown at my Aunt Mary's home in Illinois (the same place we had mine). It happens to fall on the same weekend Jon and I had booked reservations in Las Vegas. But I'll be there in spirit, cheering her on as the toilet paper is wound around the unsuspecting guests, silly games are played and yummy food is eaten.

queen_grandma.jpgMy shower was such fun! I couldn't believe how excited everyone was to be there sharing my experience with me. My aunts made sure they covered every detail. Perfectly lovely. Cousins and aunts from both sides of my family joined to celebrate. I hammed it up, of course, singing into the egg beaters (microphones) I was given, wearing my bouquet of bows as a hat. But I also tried hard to express my appreciation. Two of my mom's closest friends were able to attend. Her Ya-Yas. And of course her big sister, Aunt Kris. Oh everyone was there! Mostly I think I'm using this entry as an exuse to put up this picture. Hail to Grandma Dot, the Queen of Bathroom Tissue!

mixer.jpgSearching through their registry at Crate & Barrel brought back some wonderful memories. Jon and I had such a fantastic time registering for gifts. And, thanks to the generosity of our friends and relatives, we received almost everything on our list. So much stuff! My kitchen is red. The brightest room in the house by far. I was overjoyed to see that Melissa had wisely chosen to register for the same bright red Kitchen Aid mixer that is now our kitchen's centerpiece. Honestly I've probably used it less than twenty times. But even that is a lot for me. Pumpkin bread, biscuits, the occasional angel food cake... easy stuff. Someday I'll get around to pushing the mixer to its full potential. Or will it be the other way around? Either way it was one of my favorite gifts from the wedding. That and the matching red toaster and mixing bowls. I'm getting excited (and hungry) just thinking about them all!

redheart_small.jpgA note to all who ever plan to get married: don't underestimate the fun of the registering process. Naturally it's not the most important part of getting married... or even the wedding... or the wedding preparation. Okay, so it's a teensy part of the big picture. But sometimes it's easy to forget to have fun as you stress over the gown, the music, the food, the pastor, the venue, the flowers, the bridal party, the photographer... see what I mean. Take time to register. Dream big and perfect! Enjoy it together. And don't forget to add your own big, red mixer.

Congratulations Ben and Melissa!

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hair6.jpgWho hasn't had a bad haircut? Okay, who among us girls has never had a bad haircut? I know I'm not alone. Thankfully today I received a good one. *sigh* But that's a rarity for me, relatively speaking. And so I'd like to take this opportunity to remember the many stages of my hair, good and bad and worse, to put the new haircut in perspective.Over the years I've been plagued by bad hair. (The photo to the left is a tremendous example... circa 2003). Haircuts, hairdays, hair care, hair size... all of it. In second grade we chopped my long hair to a shoulder-length bob that might have looked becoming on the rest of the girls, but only seemed to highlight my startlingly large eyes and zillions of pronounced freckles. And then there was the chin-length cut in fourth grade that brought out my mousy side. No one can ever forget my first boy-cut. Ugh! Fifth grade ended badly and my junior high years were off to a rough start because of it.

My basketball nickname freshman year was "Big Hair"... while that may seem self-explanatory I'd like to acknowledge that it was no exaggeration. The ponytail I sported all day every day was as big as my head, and it bounced behind me in rhythm with the ball I dribbled at every practice and game. Oh well.

In an unprecedented move towards femininity, I asked my mom to take me out for a hair cut and I wanted to try something new. Layers. All the rage in the late nineties, layers were supposed to give dimension, accent the facial features and... give hair more body. If you haven't picked it up yet, my hair had more body than Pamela Sue Anderson! Not a single haircut in my life has begun without my hearing these words: "My! You have a LOT of hair!" I have learned pass it off with the same joke about being the guinea pig of a mad, bald scientist who desperately wants to grow more hair than ever before on a single human being. Eh... it's funnier when I say it aloud.

Needless to say, layers were a bad idea.

hair3.jpgWhat I hadn't picked up on by the age of fifteen was the importance of good shampoo and excellent conditioner. Did you know they make intense conditioner expressly for people like me, with hair that is big to begin with and frizzes to twice its normal size when connected with any kind of water or air? I didn't. My whole life I had used the same shampoo and conditioner as my brothers. And they didn't need any special stuff. One day I bought something else on a whim.

And thus I tamed my mane. A little bit. Some. (Left: If I slept on my hair overnight it would squish into something manageable). Anyway... I'd grown it out past my shoulders by the time my senior year rolled around. You'd think I would have defeated the aggregious-hair pattern by then, huh? You'd be wrong. The day before senior ball (no... not kidding...), I was walking by a hair salon with my friend, Julia, and I decided to chop all my hard work right off. Another boy cut, this time with a Meg Ryan influence. But I tired of it almost as soon as the dance ended.

hair4.jpgReal improvements weren't made until Jon and I began dating. Suddenly I had a major reason to upgrade my style and experiment with different ways to soften, flatten, and all-around suppress my hair. Between the day we went on our first date and the day we got married I trimmed my hair twice. But the rest of the time I was growing it out. The need for "wedding hair" was upon me!

I had it. Beautiful wedding hair, down to the middle of my back, thick and healthy. I braved the odds of stifling central valley summertime heat, working at a preschool where children wanted to swing on Rapunzel, the hours it took to dry and style it. Finally, on the big day I had it all curled up high and princessy, accented by a tiara. I had triumphed!

hair5.jpgBut less than 48 hours later Jon and I were sitting in a hair salon in southern California waiting for the nice lady with the big scissors to take it away. Not all of it, mind you. I'd become quite attached to most of it. She worked her magic quickly and soon my head was a pound lighter and covered with lovely layers.

By the by, layers stop being a mistake when the hair in question is cared for daily with legitimate products. When I switched from "whatever was on sale at Safeway" to Dove or Helene Curtiss, my hair thanked me by falling softly and healthily where it was supposed to.

Two months into marriage I was stressing about everything from being a good wife to being a good student to being a good daughter to being a good friend... and in that world of so many roles I lost track of the time for hair. My answer to that familiar problem hadn't changed. Chop it. And I did. A late night desperate trip to Cost Cutters (much to Jon's chagrin) left me with a very dull, mid-neck cut that only plunged me into deep haircut-receiver's-remorse. As we all know, though, post-cut there's nothing to do but wait.

It grew out pretty quick. Soon my pony tail no longer looked stunted. Soon it brushed my collar bones the way I'd hoped. Soon I began to feel pretty again.

Recently it had passed my shoulders ever-so-slightly. I liked it. But in the midst of a sweltering Livermore summer I wanted something lighter, more sporty, a bit more youthful (I'm no old lady yet, I ain't!). When the Ya-Yas drastically changed their hair (Cindy dyed her's reddish blond and cut it short; Amy got chunky blond highlights), I hesitated. Had I learned my lesson?

No. While Jon was napping this afternoon I went to the grocery store to pick up a few things and, as I passed the hair place next door, I felt the same old twinge. "Go in," said the little devilish voice in my head that sounds a lot like me. "Go in and make your dreams of a darling summer hairstyle come true." Who can argue with that? Not I, said the little red hen.

hair.jpgHalf an hour later I emerged with four-inches of my hair left on the floor of the salon. And I actually liked the cut. No, really, I did. Until I got home and began second guessing myself. Jon awoke to a changed woman, one gazing hopefully at him. I won't lie and say he noticed immediately. It took him a minute or so to wake up and go, "Hey, did you cut your hair?" Hmmmmmm... But he likes it so everything is okay.

A friend of ours maintains that girls grow long luxurious hair simply to entice and trap men. Once married these same girls slice off the alluring locks of their youth and become plain women. I suppose I am living proof. Not that I wouldn't love to have long hair by winter. Great. Now I have to start growing it out again! What can I say? I'm perpetually changing my mind and expressing it with my hair.

Compliments are all welcome any time.

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honeymoon.jpgL is for the way you look at me, and

O is for the only one I see.

V is very, very extraordinary and

E is even more than anyone that you adore can love.

Okay, call me Natalie Cole. I wish I could sing that well. This is short and quick and, again, mostly for Jon's benefit. He comes home tomorrow.

Today I saw War of the Worlds. Sobering movie. A good movie. Tom Cruise is hot, even as a deadbeat single dad, and I pulled for him every step of the way. But violent in a disturbingly subtle way. I don't know... I'll contemplate it more when Jon isn't hundreds of miles away.

Well, I'm awfully tired, but before I go...

Read on if you're Jon...

I love you. Thank you for marrying me and making me so very, very happy. Kissy kissy, honeybuns! Love from Poptart.

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pine.jpgPine:
-a coniferous tree

-straight-grained durable and often resinous white to yellowish timber of any of numerous trees of the genus Pinus

-ache: have a desire for something or someone who is not present

-There are about 115 species of pine, although different authors accept anything from 105 to 125 species.

-Pine is an email client: the University of Washington's "Program for Internet News & Email."

-Wood that is uniform in texture but sometimes strongly marked with annual rings. It dries easily and does not shrink or swell greatly with changes in moisture content.

-these trees have needle-shaped leaves that grow in clusters, and they also bear cones

-Soft, knotty wood used as a solid wood on country or rustic furniture

-The section of lane-bed located between the head maple and the pin deck. Usually constructed of soft wood (pine) to allow the bowling ball to break more.

jonathan.jpgIt was suggested to me that this be a "pining entry" because my Jonathan is in Washington. (Get it?) I miss him more than anything in the world. Good news? Only one more full day before he's home. Bad news? One more WHOLE day before he's home. Thursday seems very far away sometimes. But he's doing well. People like him; they know he's talented. If they'd asked me first I would have told them so he wouldn't have to go away so far. Besides, Eastern Washington is boring. Like drying paint, or sitting in traffic, folding towels (folding anything actually), doing math, talking about math... anyway. My Ya-Yas are rallying to my rescue, perking me up when I feel blue and Jon-less.

Read on only if you're Jon.

I loooooooooooove you! Kissy kissy kissy! Smushy face! I wuuuuuuuuv you. Awwwwwwwwww, my l'il...

Hey! Some of you are NOT Jon and should not, therefore, be reading this. But Jonathan, honeybuns, I miss you. Hope you like your cards.

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rorange.jpgRed Ribbon Week at my elementary school was a big affair! We wrapped the trees and fences in scarlet, draped the walls of our classrooms with red lettering and crepe paper. It was a colorful motivation for kids to learn about the hazards of drugs. And then in high school after we'd suffered the loss of several students to suicide, our campus was suddenly fluttering with yellow ribbons. I safety pinned one to my letterman jacket, and its still there... tattered but full of meaning. Now it seems that every major social issue has its own ribbon. They hang from every lapel, bumper and tree, reminders of what we should seek to understand, or attempt to put a stop to. But there are so many now... who can keep track? Let's try.

rblack.gif Black: In Memoriam, Mourning

rblue.gif Blue: Drunk Driving

rnavy.gif Dark Blue: Child Abuse Prevention

rgrey.gif Gray: Diabetes, Brain Cancer

rforestgreen.gif Dark Green: Tsunami Relief

rpink.gif Pink: Breast Cancer

rpurple.gif Purple: Domestic Violence, Alzheimer's

rred.gif Red: AIDS/HIV, Substance Abuse

rredwhiteandblue.gif Red, White & Blue: Patriotism

rsilver.gif Silver: Elder Abuse, Children with Disabilities

rwhite.gif White: Right to Life, Free Speech

ryellow.gif Yellow: Teen Suicide, General Cancer, POW/MIA

So now you know!

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london_bus_bomb.jpgA deadly day has come. Evil infiltrated the London Underground and the London bus lines and detonated multiple explosive devices, killing more than 30 people and injuring hundreds more. Is this Britain's 9/11?

When our twin towers were so tragically toppled only four years ago, Tony Blair and his country stood staunchly behind us. Today our president got the chance to reciprocate.

In a statement condemning today's attacks, President Bush drew the battle lines once again. "The contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty and those who kill, those who have such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks."

Many innocent people were murdered today. And I wouldn't be surprised if there were a few Muslims among the casualties, too. The perpetrators of this barbaric crime may honestly believe they are committing such acts in the name of their god... but their reasoning doesn't matter really. Feeding off the fear and pain of civilians is sadistic and wrong.

I pray that justice is done in the name of all the victims, that the leaders of the world can unify through this tragedy and pursue more efficiently and effectively the terrorists who seek to destroy our daily lives. Most of all, though, I pray that we who are not to blame can find peace in the idea that we are in the majority. Republicans and democrats, Christians and atheists, men and women, adults and children, every race, every creed, every color... we are what the Muslim extremists hate simply because we can live in relative harmony with one another, promoting respect and tolerance, maintaining our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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megans_map.jpgFifty-eight registered sex offenders live in Livermore, California. But twenty-four of them are in violation of their registration requirements. We don't know exactly where they are, and neither do the police. Comforting? Not at all. Livermore, however, is better off than some other California communities. Pomona is home to 252 sex offenders. Today I learned that our state shelters some of these men in privately owned houses, paying the rent with our tax dollars. The private houses can contain any number of sex offenders based on the need. Oh, and these houses are smack dab in the middle of suburban communities, next door to law-abiding citizens with children.

megans_map2.jpgI use Pomona as an example because it is an extreme one, but necessary to know. In a certain five-mile radius within the city there are several private houses with six or more convicts contained in each. The state, for lack of a better alternative once the convicted child molesters and rapists have "paid their debt to our society", toss them into unsuspecting communities (especially less affluent communities) by the handful. And then they are housed together. Maybe they feel more comfortable with men who have shared interests?

In the meantime the people who have lived in these cities with their families for years, created memories, been productive members of society, these people are not warned about the influx of criminals living in close proximity. Thankfully we do have Megan's Law. At the click of a button anyone can have a list of the registered offenders living in their city. My question is this:

Why stop there?

For me the knowing is not enough. These men (predominantly) have harmed people, most likely women and children, and have been convicted. Serving time in prison isn't enough either. Data shows that sexual predators consistently reoffend upon their release. They are habitual criminals. There is no method or necessity or other excuse for their crimes. And if I were to find that a sex offender lives somewhere in my neighborhood, I, a United States citizen who has never broken any law or been a danger to anyone else, am supposed to feel that the pressure is on me to move if I don't like that situation.

No. These men do not deserve another chance in our communities. They should not be placed within driving distance of anyone's children. They should not have access to our schools and parks. They should not have the availability of technology to download pornography. In my opinion they barely have the right to continue breathing the same air the rest of us breathe. But that's God's call, not mine.

I am appalled that these predators are unleashed on us after minimal sentences in low-security prisons. Megan's Law, though, does give me hope. Some of us do believe that we have the right to know if we're in danger. Some of us also believe that sexual criminals have less rights than we do. Some of us want to make changes so that we no longer have to live in fear.

lady_justice.jpgThe bottom line? I don't want these men in my neighborhood or in any other neighborhood in our country. I want to make it miserable for them so that our situations are reversed into the correct state. In other words, I am justified in living wherever I choose and if the child molester down the street doesn't like the constant video surveilance, the GPS ankle bracelet, the curfew, the "I Hurt Children" tattoo on his forehead or the castration... he can leave.

I believe that ordinary people can push for this type of legislation (obviously nothing as drastic as what I have running through my mind, and if I ever run for office I'm sure this blog will come back to bite me) and make our cities safer. Now it may seem impossible. But every major political movement in history began against practically impossible odds and was championed by ordinary people. To learn more about California's take on sex crimes and convict registration, visit the Megan's Law website.

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baby_ cartoon.jpgBaby. It was my first word, back when I was a baby myself. But the mere idea of eventually having one of my own (and there will only be one) scares me to distraction. Jon, too. Last week when I was sick and word got out, four different people made the smug, teasing inquiry:

"Morning sickness?" No.

No no. Just plain, old, ordinary, non-pregnant, decades-from-babies sickness. Jon and I were warned as we neared our wedding that, while being thankful that the incessant "So, when are you two gettin' married"s had stopped with the advent of our engagement, our joy would be short lived.

"So, when are you two gonna have a baby?"

Delightful. It hasn't been too bad yet. I am exaggerating. My closest friends do it simply to antagonize me. Jon's closest friends do it... also simply to antagonize me. Jon's folks have left the entire subject alone. My parents promised not to put that pressure on us, but the surface of the subject has definitely been scratched once or twice. The rest of the world population is slowly getting around to posing the question.

After all, it's the logical next step, right? God made man. God made woman. And then He got tired and asked, "So, when are you two gonna have a baby?" God started it; I blame Him.

And it doesn't help that so many people around me have begun procreating like rabbits. My friend Jen Fraser and her husband, Geoff, were the first in my circle. She got married a few months before we did, and in just a couple more she'll have her own little family. A baby boy. It scares me because of how close it hits to home. I don't deny that I'd like to help with her baby shower. Like any other normal young woman I get a soft fuzzy feeling from baby blankets and tiny baby shoes. Making the every day stuff small and pastel evokes the maternal instinct in us all. We have no control.

Jon's cousin Marci had little Mackenzie Joy just before Christmas. We watched Marci's husband, Jake, who'd seemed ripe from boyhood when we'd met him at their wedding the year before, transform into a man, a loving father, seemingly overnight. Amazing and inspiring. But scary, too, because I'm not at all sure I'm ready for Jon to leave the last remnants of boyishness behind in order to become the rock and hero for our future child.

Another of Jon's cousins, David, married his wife Adis last year, too. And last week she had Isabella. Seeing David and Adis at her baby shower a couple months ago was fun because David glowed with love and pride as he gazed at his pregnant wife. I've long heard about the stereotypical aspects of pregnancy (i.e. "the glow"). Adis proved them true. Still, I like fitting into my jeans. I like not having stretchmarks around my middle. Call me shallow, but I'd like to keep myself this size as long as possible. For now at least losing my "cute figure" is too much of an expense to consider.

Okay, that sounded even more shallow than I had originally intended. But I truly believe that there won't be a time that I actually want to gain the weight and blow certain features completely out of proportion. However, that isn't to say that I won't deem such events absolutely necessary and totally worth it when I am mature enough to have kids.

Besides all of these things, I'm not one of those people who can't see beyond nine months or a year when it comes to having children. It isn't about prenancy, really. Motherhood. A role I'm not prepared to take on and conquer. The kid will be around for twenty years at least! Maybe more! Not everyone is blessed with happy, healthy children who skip easily and manageably through life in a predictable and optimal pattern.

After working two summers with children with autism I began to worry that God might be preparing me for the future. I loved the little boys I worked with, but watching what their mothers had to deal with every single day (I got to go home after four hours... and I was fatigued at the end of it!), and watching how they dealt with it hurt my heart. Incredible, devoted women, both of them.

I'm not strong enough. My character is not iron. I couldn't stand watching the little person I loved more than anything in the world, the one I'd helped to create by God's grace, suffer through it each day. Even less imagineable, of course, is the chance of physical defect. When faced with great opposition some people rise to the challenge and become wise and strong, surpassing everyone's expectations. While I like me a lot, I doubt I'd be able to handle that kind of turmoil.

Every day I come into contact with children and their parents. Some are giggling pink babies who coo and smile at strangers, sleep in every kind of surrounding and smell like roses. Some are darling blond toddlers in overalls who want to help and play, are patient and obediant. The rest... minions. All of them. Screaming and ripping, running in frantic circles. Demons of destruction, they never heed their parents, which renders all other authority helpless. I can't stand to watch children like this. What will they become? I shudder to think.

And when they get there, to the dreaded pre-teen years, what do parents do? Once children figure out how to lie and cheat, fork the truth, forge parental signatures, cut class, do drugs, shoplift, commit armed robbery... my poor future-mama mind just spun completely out of control. Pessimism plus the years of knowing kids exactly like that created a tornado in my head. I'm never having kids.

How does anyone make the decision to place their own spawn on this earth? Is it really just pure ego? Push the family name into the future... Raise a productive member of society... Make someone just like me... Oh, God, let it not be so! Even people who are trying to have kids have only really decided they're "ready" to take that step. They want a baby to play with and to bounce on their knee. They DON'T want the disciplinary problems and the expense of preschool, day care, babysitters, extra-curricular activities, injuries, education and the staggering amount of miscellaneous junk that every human being comes to do/want/need/produce.

For some the decision is the easy part. My mom knows so many people who couldn't have children of their own without outside help. It's a terrible thing to watch someone go through. They've done the seesaw process like this, come to the conclusion... but they've happened upon a road block. Some adopt. Some artificially inseminate. Both are extremely expensive options; neither are 100% guaranteed successful.

That also scares me. What if, right now, while we are our most verile and fertile selves, our most energetic, what if we dilly dally and make the mistake of passing the window right by? What if we get to the end of this zigzagging tunnel of logic and counter logic only to find my environment inhospitable? When I end up wanting a child, I'll want him/her right then. No delay (okay, nine months). Occasionally, though, that just isn't in the cards. Punishment? Bad luck? Who can tell?

babyblues.gifNo, I'm not taking this time to debate having a child now. I'm not through with school, something that is essential to me. I want a career first, something I can call my own and experience in order to have memories and knowledge to carry me through the jobless, raising kids years. And, in certain ways, I'm still a kid myself. I build forts and laugh at knock knock jokes. Jon, too, still likes the occasional cartoon. We have no business trying to raise a person ourselves. Does anyone?

Or is that right ordained by God and given to every man or woman who, wittingly or not, comes to have children? Maybe we really don't have the right until the baby is placed in our arms for the first time. Then we have no other choice but to craft a character, build a self-esteem, plan a future, support a life, strengthen a mind, care for a body, love a child.

Sometime in the next decade, after a few goals have been reached and a few realities have been learned, Jon and I will sit down and make that fateful decision. We'll say we're ready. And then, hopefully, before we can come to our senses, I'll be pregnant. No turning back then. Our path will have been chosen, and God will be smiling.

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afewgoodmen.jpgI love this movie.

"Oh that's a relief. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to use the 'liar, liar, pants on fire' defense."

In high school I must have watched it at least a thousand times. And I shared my love for the film with my buddy, Dan Burkhart.

""I strenuously object?" Is that how it works? Hm? "Objection, your Honor!" "Overruled" "No, no. I STRENUOUSLY object." "Oh! You strenuously object. Then I'll take some time and reconsider."

Of course the movie has deeper meaning for me now that my brother is a Marine. Sometimes I wonder... does Ted believe in "the code"? How far would he go if ordered? Are there people out there and above him who would use him in a negative way?

"I run my unit how I run my unit. You want to investigate me, roll the dice and take your chances. I eat breakfast 300 yards from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill me, so don't think for one second that you can come down here, flash a badge, and make me nervous."

And when you think about it the movie is actually about a few bad men. Rather than ending as a scathing commentary on the Marines in general, 'A Few Good Men' breaks the military down into more specific groups than simply the separate branches. There are those who are "fanatical"; they follow their "code" to the letter, sacrificing their own well-being or trampling on the rights of others in order to keep it.

"We follow orders son. We follow orders, or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?"

But on the whole the Marines are individuals with feelings and an understanding of personal rights. And admirably, there are those in the latter category who pity those who are weak enough to believe so blindly. Demi Moore's character feels an intense need to defend the Marines accused of murder because she knows their crime was motivated by the belief that they simply could not question an order. After all, these men fulfill a duty many of us aren't up to.

"They stand on a wall and say, 'Nothing's going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.'"

While I want to believe that I, if given an immoral order, would tell my "superior officer" exactly what he could do with it, that's something I'll never truly know because I won't ever be in that position. We civilians can't comprehend the gravity of the military and its standards and rules. Looking at the situation the other way I am equally baffled by the superior's role, played perfectly by Jack Nicholson. He gave an order that should not have been followed, but never doubted that it would be followed, and beyond that was perfectly willing to let others beneath him pay for his crime. So I hate him. But he has an answer for me.

"We live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who's gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. You don't want the truth because, deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall, you need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide and then questions the manner in which I provide it. I would rather you just said "thank you" and went on your way. Otherwise I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand at post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to."

Indeed. A lesson in humanity? Am I giving director Rob Reiner too much credit? His movie has been watched and enjoyed by millions. We praise his casting, his screen play. But isn't it also just a movie? As a matter of fact, "A Few Good Men" was inspired by real events. Reiner and his writers merely gave a famous face to each side of the story. Order sound much more severe coming from an enraged Nicholson. Witty banter conveys a much more realistic introspective journey when delivered by Tom Cruise.

"Is the colonel's underwear a matter of national security?"

I love this movie. It's a thinker. As the end credits roll to the sound of a military marching band, I feel I have been walking the fence, studying the men who abuse the power so completely entrusted to them by those who enlist in the military and take on the quasi-eternal position of a subordinate. Neither are entirely right. But both are entirely necessary. In the end, after Nicholson's character has admitted his role as initiator of the ultimately violent and criminal series of events, he accuses Cruise's character of having weakened the country.

Maybe that's true. Nicholson is right, "deep down in places [I] don't talk about at parties, [I] want him on that wall. I need him on that wall." But more than that I want the assurance that men in power sustain their levels of morality, refusing to sacrifice the principles that elevate us as a forgiving, benevolent nation. There will always be men who stand up and lead. There will likewise always be more men to follow orders and a code. But the difference between a good leader and a bad leader is very slim. Mercy is the deciding factor.

I believe in the importance of mercy, and that it is not to much to ask that of the people we place in positions of authority. Moreover, it is something all human beings ought to work to attain and practice. We'll be the better for it.

"You don't need a patch on your arm to have honor."

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osteospermum.jpgSo I've missed a week. Why? Illness. Totally valid. A personal type of illness, too. Yuck. But I'm getting better, slowly. Every day a little more. I can stand upright, talk, enjoy eating, drive. It's been a long week. What's new?

I'm still working at Banana Republic. Still haven't opened a single card account. Ugh. Still love the clothing. But I'm kind of hoping I can find a job that involves less selling clothes and more consistant hours.

In the last week I've been fortunate enough to spend a little time with the Ya-Yas. Not a lot. But we ate some good food (Spaghetti Factory... amazing!) and got in some good chatting. Ya-ya!

Jon has been a model husband/caregiver in the last several days. Midnight runs to the pharmacy, taxi to doctor's appointments (I couldn't drive... sleepy drugs), lots of hand holding. Poor guy. He badly needs his sleep.

His parents recently adopted a new kitten, Claude (as in Monet... not Jean-Claude Van Damm). What a cutie!

Tonight we put on a golden oldie (by Jon's standards, not mine, but an old favorite for me as well) to enjoy. A Few Good Men. "My client's a moron, Dave; that's not against the law." Wonderful! Young Tom Cruise (Was Katie Holmes born yet?), tough Jack Nicholson, Kevin Bacon, Kieffer Sutherland, Demi Moore. What's not to love?

grandma_wilson.jpgToday was Jon's Grandma Wilson's birthday. Steak dinner at Black Angus made my 8-5 BR shift melt away into a baked potato oblivion. And after ice cream I got the chance to look at an old photo album from Grandpa Wilson's childhood. Such fun! Terrific black and white pictures. While lacking in clarity, cryptic in their description, these photos were perfect in their nostalgia. Being allowed to stroll down memory lane, recalling the names of cats who lived and played in the 1930s (Mickey) and how many guests were at his parents' wedding (2) made me feel very blessed indeed.

Tomorrow is Jon's folks' anniversary. July 2. Happy Anniversay Mom and Dad in Law!

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