Thursday, January 31, 2008

I've started thinking of time in terms of BS and AS - Before the Writers' Guild of America strike and after. Some things were better BS -- between the must-see shows that are missing and the proposals for shows no one needs EVER (two new versions of Circus of the Stars?!) -- but somethings are better AS. Dh now prefers as his background noise a crackling fire, so we may just be able to work in the same room. Still, those crackling fires won't keep us entertained this summer. I hope the AMPTP works it out with the WGA, whose demands seem pretty darned reasonable.

Monday, January 28, 2008

No Justice . . .

This post is here especially for a friend who is amazed by (read: ridicules) my habit of writing passionate letters over relatively trivial things (ps she's also the friend who is always looking for one more reason not to excercise -- here it is):

Dear Mr. Mayor,

Can we put a price on justice? This morning my son Little Bun, six, had his first experience with injustice, and all for just forty-five dollars. Despite what seems like a low cost at first, it was a costly lesson, and I am angry over the role the Bloomsburg Parking Authority and my city played in its teaching.

Two Tuesdays ago, my husband and I parked our car to exercise for his twenty-five minute lunch break. We parked to one side of a pole: Ahead of the pole, Official Vehicles Only. Behind it, Two Hour Parking. We parked behind it.

Still, when we returned to our car and pulled away, we noticed a ticket flapping in the winter wind. We had received a forty-five dollar ticket, indicating that we had parked in an Official Vehicles Only posted area. We were of course surprised – it had to have been a mistake. We had both read the sign when we chose the spot and not the open one behind it. We returned to take the included pictures.

I scheduled a hearing, sure that the Parking Authority judge would realize a mistake had been made (Having never before received a parking ticket, I was not yet aware that the Authority had been outsourced). My husband calculated the loss of work time and the necessary daycare time along with parking downtown at a cost far exceeding the ticket, but I wanted to do what was right.

Our hearing was scheduled for this morning, while my son Little Bun was on a two-day break from Bloomsburg City Schools. He would come with us, then. This would be fine, I thought, as he would see that if you exercise your rights, and you are in the right, all will be made right. But my son saw just the opposite.

When Judge B called my husband, my husband was surprised that the accuser wasn’t present. “It’s been decriminalized,” we were later told (but we still had not been told that it had been outsourced), so we did not have the rights attendant to a criminal hearing. With no evidence or testimony but the ticket, Judge B was confident of his ruling before my husband spoke. He declared that “she [the officer] would not have written the ticket if [we] hadn’t been parked there.” My husband said that he disagreed, that there had been a mistake, that we had pictures of the spot and signage. Judge B dismissed the pictures and my husband’s testimony, repeating that “She would not have written the ticket if [we] hadn’t been parked there.” My husband replied that he would not have taken time off from his work and come to a hearing if we had parked illegally. Judge B repeated his assertion again, and indicated that an appeal was possible.

With my son there, surprised that he was about to learn the very opposite of the lesson we thought he’d learn, we were going to appeal. Then we learned this – if we were to lose an appeal, it would cost us an additional $38 for having appealed (I have since read that as early as 2006 that the city was aware that the high cost of appeal would likely deter appellants). That appeal, to the same authority which made the initial ruling, designed with an economic interest in revenue superseding an interest in fair ruling, would be a final appeal. There would still be no accuser, and no guarantee that a judge would consider the evidence. The Parking Authority doesn’t even appear to be under the law. The Bloomsburg paper once published an article with this frightening assertion: “ ‘We're not part of the judicial system,’ said the parking authority's director of administration, who oversees the court. ‘We're our own little island.’” There should be no “little islands” when it comes to the rule of law in Bloomsburg!

We made the pragmatic decision not to appeal, which I very much regret. I have shared this regret with my son, and so together we decided to write a letter to you. (I am reading him this letter now as I write it).

I regret this decision because it reinforces a Parking Authority abuse of authority and am disappointed in our choice not to appeal. It accepts circular logic that one would not be charged if one were not guilty, and therefore the charge was evidence of guilt which strikes me as particularly unjust. It supports a system that makes it too expensive in time and money for people to pursue their rights within that system, which strikes me as near-corrupt.

I am disappointed, too, in the Parking Authority’s waste of our work time, family time and daycare time for only the illusion of due process: We could have easily been told that Judge B would not hear our case and his decision would not be based on its merits over the phone when we scheduled the hearing. My husband could have remained with his patients and I could have remained at home with my children.

I will be even more disappointed in the City of Bloomsburg if we are to allow this to continue to happen without consequence. Surely much more important things happen each day in the City of Bloomsburg and at first, it would seem, in our lives.

But there is this: each time we accept an injustice or impropriety it costs us more than a fine.

I do hope you will look into the situation. If not, what will I tell my son about right and his rights, all of our rights and the rule of law in Bloomsburg?

Abebech (together with Little Bun)

PS I got a summons for jury duty. For Spring Break.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Odd Woman Out

Funny how we all create associations and alignments (and realignments) in our families, whatever the formation.
Too often in adoption, it had been assumed that the adoptee would acclimate to the adoptive family, becoming closer and closer to some imaginary person made from a little bit of mom and a little bit of dad "just like" in a biological family.* This, of course, was based not only on fundamental misunderstandings of the importance of genetics to constitution, but also on misconceptions of the biological family itself.
Too often now I see the equal and opposite reaction: the belief that the adoptee is at heart entirely other to her afamily, wholly like (or presumed to be like if they have not yet met) the first family. This is dependent on that same misconception of the biological family.
My son is very thin because his nfather and nmother were thin (not so now, I'm afraid). He is artistic like me -- whether this is nuture or nature none can say in this case, though likely a combination of the two. My daughter's glorious eyelashes and gargantuan feet must surely have come from her nparents, and her gregariousness likely a combination of genetics and her early socialization in a warm culture. Both are so much fun because I never know what's coming next, where they will go, who they will become.
At the same time, those two have things in common -- and things in common with their daddy -- that I will never have in common with them. They are both "high spirited" (which we know is sometimes a euphemism for "bad"). They like to jump on the bed and pillow fight. They'd both jump *off* the bunk bed if I didn't stop them fast enough. Like their father, who Supermanned off his porch before a family vacation to Disney World, who knocked himself senseless on a makeshift skate ramp, they are heedless.
My sister and my brother would have done these things, too, so I found myself growing up between two people who did all kinds of things one could predict would end badly but didn't end so badly afterall. In the meantime all sorts of unpredictable bad things befell me.
A tangent/an example:
I was standing on base -- I didn't know it was base! Who would choose the corner where two windows meet as base?! -- when a kid plowed into me and I smashed my face into the corner and bled and bled and bled. I wasn't playing! when I had one of the worst playground kinds of accidents ever.
My sister would have been playing.
My sister, when she first learned how to ride a bicycle, decided to ride it down our steepest hill. Miraculously, no permanent damage was done when she flipped over the handle bars and landed under the bike. So I opted not to learn how to ride my bike until sometime around the fifth grade. And when I did, another kid ran into my tire, steering me, wildly out of control, toward a rock. I flew over the handle bars and landed on my face. I walked home in a daze (why someone didn't run ahead to get my mom, I still don't know). She was so worried about the S and O shaped wounds on my forehead (where was the other S?) that she didn't notice the bone threatening to poke through the last layer of skin by my wrist until my dad came home to take me to the hospital.
What is a hapless woman to do with heedless children? And why, when I don't want them to grow up to be hesitant, do I feel lonely in a family of people who don't heed? I don't know where this is going other than to say that it concerns me about my motivations for expanding our family -- what if, on some level, I'm hoping for someone a little more mellow? And what if the therapist we once met was right -- that any child who ended up in our house would end up "high spirited"?

*I just learned this week that Jamie Lynn Spears's parents are named Jamie . . . and Lynn. Unreal (though this has led to fantastic results for imaginary children in the Bloom household). My personal favorite current name for an imaginary future child, however, is L'+my real life name. As in "Little A." Isn't that why we parent, afterall?

Dh has prompted me to consider starting a separate blog -- a "wtf" themed blog, where all the stories start "I was being the most carefullest person ever when . . ." or "I didn't ask for it but then . . ."

And he would like you all to know that he was a child when events mentioned occurred.

Cinderella Girl

Only my daughter would call a time out after minutes of fake boxing to take her Cinderella high heels off.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Every Day a Little Death

Incredibly, I happened to hear a lecture by Princeton Professor Cornel West last night. This is the incredible part: much of his lecture had to do with the notion that the very nature of humanity -- that is, what makes us human, as opposed to the usual assertions "we can think" and "we have language" -- is that we have to come to terms with our own death (physical as well as symbolic).
He spoke about the ways this was not new to African American people, who have had to learn over the period of American history to survive -- and what's more, to love -- despite. He spoke, too, of that knowledge as it had been given to Christian people: Each day, according to Paul, the Christian must die to herself (intellectually, but no less painfully for that).
Real thought, he said, must think about suffering, one's own and human suffering.

And then he said something that reminds me of so many friends. Paraphrasing Dr. King, he said that what is needed is an assembly of creative people maladjusted to injustice.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

La dialectique peut-elle casser des briques?

Can Dialectis Break Bricks?

Little Bun currently understands the doctorate I'm attempting to obtain, in his words, "like a black belt in thinking."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Loving Family Relocation

The Loving Family Momma has returned from her "conference." She was accompanied by an extra aa dad and set of twins. We also have one duplicate cc family member.
I debated keeping them in reserve for the next time d*mned dog ate someone's arms off, but I suspect that she will always only gobble up Mommas. So if anyone is in need of particular family members to add to her multiracial Loving Family home lemme know.
Am I alone in thinking The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything's a little racist?

Edited to Add:
Smart (and snarky) Erin asks "Racist against pirates?"

At the outset, a character who refuses to work hard -- part of the waitstaff at a pirate-themed restaurant, he won't run to the kitchen to get sauce for his girlfriend -- has what seems to be a Mexican accent. Frankly, a scene between vegetables and their girfriends seemed uncomfortable at the start.

In answer to Miss I's question (What do vegetables eat?): cheese curls.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Why Do We Celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day?

I swear we've talked about Civil Rights before, in ways our kids can digest, and he knows who Rosa Parks is -- perhaps because her act was so concrete. Poor Dr. King, despite his holiday, remained a mystery here at Chez Bloom.

We told Little Bun that we would do something fun if he could tell us why he had today off from school. He could use any resource we had, or he could call someone he thought might know. Before he started researching, he offered these guesses:

"He stopped the battles of World War II."
"He helped George Washington."
"He's the person on a penny."

Think something he'd be particularly admired for by our family, he was advised.
"He wrote really important books."
"He stopped American people from battling Africans."
Warmer, we said.

He Googled.
He won a Nobel Prize (but what's a Nobel Prize?)

We watched the I Have a Dream Speech and talked again about segregation. The biggest shock each time is that our family would have been divided, at a restaurant, at a pool, in what we could and could not do, in our expectations of justice (in reality, that our family and families like ours could not have existed is something he can't yet process, nor can he process yet the idea that our expectations for justice might still be different).

So we're off to see the Pirates Who Don't Do Anything, which led Miss I to her burning question of the day:

"What do vegetable pirates eat?" (and the horrific thought that perhaps it's people).

Happy MLK day.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

D*mn you, Tim McGraw!

This weekend was the anniversary of the worst part of this.

Between that anniversary and my thoughts about struggles two people I care about are undergoing, I've been wondering about life after.

Twice in my life I have truly thought (and others have thought in those times as well)that I was going to die immanently. I've written about these before, but I just want to briefly describe them here: The first time, just after Little Bun had been delivered safely into this world against all odds, I closed my eyes and slipped away, and when I came around still in this world, I wasn't quite sure what to do with myself. This feeling didn't leave for a long time; neither did the sense that there was an invisible barrier between me and everyone else. The post-trauma me looked normal -- once I'd recovered, no mother on the playground could have guessed that I had looked at death, my own or my son's. Sometimes I wanted to tell random people that I wasn't LIKE them, to out myself as alien to this world now, as someone broken who couldn't be whole. Eventually we put those pieces back together, and I felt myself again, though a different self.

The second time was different -- I had already survived one trauma, and integrated it (or so I thought) mostly successfully into the rest of my life. It became one part of my story. It didn't consume me anymore. The second time was different, too, because the only one at risk was me, which was far more manageable (though rather than scared I was sad for my children). But it was also different in that no one dared tell me that "Things happen for a reason," as they had so often during my perilous pregnancy. This random bad fortune indeed appeared so patently random that no one tried to impose meaning for me.

I was left to do that on my own. I don't believe that things always happen for a reason, outside of the reason that in this world bad things happen, and it's by grace that so many *good* things happen too. But if there isn't an inherent meaning in illness, that does not mean that there are not lessons to be chosen by the sufferer, or meaning to be made -- not of being ill but of _being_.

This time the lesson seemed clear to me: I had made such safe decisions, and catastrophe had found me anyway. I had never lived life avoidantly -- we had taken on some pretty big challenges -- but I hadn't exactly lived dangerously. (I still don't). But I did have to think about what it means to live, which most people can take for granted because they have not thought about death.

I was thinking about this yesterday as I drove, getting nowhere but making notes to myself like "read Victor Frankl." ("Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by being responsible.") Then I heard Tim McGraw: "I went skydiving, I went Rocky Mountain climbing . . ." and I cried. Note that I am not a sap, and I hate obvious manipulation -- you, Josh Groban, you. Yet while McGraw is far less eloquent and elegant than Frankl, I wondered what's my equivalent of sky diving -- and more importantly, what it means to "be responsible" to life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

I'm moving my thoughts about this here rather than continuing to comment on another's blog, as I think it more respectful. This blogger, for whom I've come to care quite a bit and from whom I've learned so very much, is experiencing pain I can't imagine and struggling with the impossibility of living in two worlds.

In the midst of the discussion, a question has arisen for me: How much should a young child understand about relinquishment -- not adoption, but relinquishment itself?

In our case it is very different from domestic infant adoption -- for a time, our daughter remembered (to some degree) her relinquishment. There were very real physical needs met by her relinquishment and subsequent adoption. These things will likely make sense much before she is able to understand systemic injustice or even her first family's loss.

But I'm concerned by what I take to be a notion that adoptive parents have an obligation to make a young child understand relinquishment along with the possibility that it might have been otherwise -- that the relinquishing parent could have been the parenting parent. I'm concerned that *not* positing relinquishment in these terms for a young child is taken to be complicit with an adoption industry intent on separating parents who could have parented from their children. I really believe in the practical impossibility -- and if not that, an extreme unkindness -- of communicating to a voluntarily relinquished young child that it could just as easily have been another way.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Nice Lady From Fisher Price

So Momma is away at a "conference" for seven to ten business days, so long as Little Bun can keep the secret.

Oh, irony -- I just told my son today that in this family we don't keep secrets. So I will have to tell him to keep the "surprise."

Poor Momma!

Our Loving Family's Momma had her arms eaten off by my horrible dog. Miss I has not discovered this tragedy yet.
If anyone knows how I can get a new Momma without buying a whole new AA Twin Time Dollhouse or a collectors' set of the last make at a whopping $69.99, please take pity on me and pass it on.

Monday, January 14, 2008

L'eau Vive

A conversation with a friend reminds me that I have not yet shared with you one of the highlights of our visit to Rome: Dinner at L'eau Vive.
L'eau Vive is a restaurant run by nuns from the developing world, who "share God's love through the medium of fine French cooking." We found this description in our Frommer's Top 25, and we had to try it.
L'eau Vive was not crowded when we arrived, or so it seemed. Halfway through the meal, we realized that there was a second room, far more occupied than ours, closest to the door. Our fellow dinners were an interesting lot, though -- A French family on holiday (the youngest of whom traded away his meal for pommes frites), a table of rowdy Americans (who happened to be at the Vatican with us, though not on our tour, the next day) and a Priest, a monk and a nun. No kidding.
The sparse decor gave little indication of the religious underpinnings of the restaurant. We wondered if it would ever be explicit, the association between fine French cooking and heaven.
At nine o'clock, our dining was interrupted for prayer. Nuns from South and Central America, Africa and the Pacific Islands sang songs of praise in latin and Italian as well as their home languages/
Later, they danced the story of the birth of Christ. It was spectacularly sincere and very lovely, if surreal.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Are you the Texans?" the German couple asked, and we weren't, so I said "Of course not." The Texans, who had shoved ahead of us just a moment before, turned around. "We're the Texans," one boomed, and all that was settled, and we waited for 15 minutes more before "the Greeks" arrived to join the reserved tour group.

So it was odd that she introduced herself as "Greek" to the tourguide and then announced in North American (midwest?) accented English "We're Greek." Her husband smiled dumbly.

The Greeks, as they proudly became known to all (I was, inexplicably, 'the girl'), insisted that we wait for their friends who had not yet arrived at the steps across from the Vatican. If they did, they would have been "the Other Greeks," and we would have resented them in person for making us wait so long. Instead they remained abstract, figures for our animosity.

We waited in the unusual cold, and I remarked to no one that while perhaps the Greeks had paid the tourguide to wait, we had paid for a tour.

Finally we went, starting our tour of the museums, the Chapel and St. Peter's quite late, guaranteeing a later start than we had hoped for our second attempt at Ancient Rome. It became the second (not so) funny thing to happen on the way to the forum.

The Vatican tour is difficult, and my feelings were very conflicted. Dr. Bloom, raised Catholic but turned Episcopal, found confirmation of the early church's political, economic and military machinations. Our tour guide is a devout Catholic, but nevertheless spoke of papal megalomania and the cult of the Virgin. Yet she also teared when she spoke of St.Peter, and the emotion was contagious.

Equally difficult was keeping a diverse group of tourists touring the fourteen miles of textiles, painting, and marble together for the highlights.

The Greeks were always behind, leading our tourguide to ask through our headsets "Where are the Greeks?" and "Has anyone seen the Greeks?" endlessly. But we were all together for a restroom break just before we entered the Sistene Chapel.

They were arguing -- our guide and the Greek wife. The latter insisted that the former should have held the tour for her friends. The former insisted that we had held it long enough (and we had). I was paying attention to this exchange, and not to my headset, which was clipped to my coat. I took my coat off to hang it on the door, and my headset shot into the toilet.

At first I thought it was my camera lens, and I panicked. I was a bit relieved when I saw that it was only the headset.

But then I realized that I had to get it out.

Once I fished it out, I figured I ought to wash it -- it had already been submerged, washing surely wouldn't hurt. I used the hottest water possible, patted it dry, and walked out of the restroom.

"The girl is here. Finally we can go." The Greek wife rolled her eyes. Someone else had been late, and it perturbed her.

You can't speak in the Chapel, though our tourguide had promised to whisper into the headsets. So . . . I . . . put mine on to pretend, not to make a scene. But I winced. "What is _wrong_ with you?" Dr. Bloom asked. I mouthed and pantomimed: I dropped my headset in the toilet.

I was wearing it.

Dr. Bloom gagged. My headset hissed and popped, and I pretended I could hear, through the Chapel, through the Basilica. Thumbs up -- gorgeous work, Michelangelo. Fantastic floor there in the Basilica. Great place, great tour, swish, hiss, pop.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Irrational Numbers

Little Bun tells me that they are "working on a special project in school -- counting to 2,000."
"As a class?" I ask.
"No, each child."
Later Dr.Bloom presses on this more:
"How exactly are you showing that you are counting?"
"We're doing it on the calculator." ("Of course" goes unsaid).
"What do you mean? Finding ways to multiply to 2,000?"
"No. We're adding. One plus one equals two plus one equals three plus one. . . . I have to hurry because we only have until the end of February."
"How do you save your place at the end of each day?"
"We don't. Everyday you have to start again at one."

Can I Just Brag for a Moment?

My daughter announced "Oh, I just looooovvvvvve myself."
Then she turned to me: "Momma, do you just love yourself so much? You should. I just really love myself."
And she beamed. There is such a light inside this little girl. I hope it always burns so brightly.

Sunday, January 06, 2008


We just heard that our "case" is being worked on, documents translated, and that we can expect to hear something soon. We're very hopeful, after a really long lull in which we'd decided that we wouldn't learn anything until we traveled again.

We celebrated her third birthday today -- Hello Kitty cake and pink mashed potatoes and strawberry Dippin' Dots -- and she blew out the candles and made a wish. I wish her extended first family knew what a beautiful, smart, funny, creative and independent little girl their baby has grown into. She would remind me to add "pretty" and "cute" to that list . . .

She is amazing, and they deserve to know it. And in whatever capacity possible, she deserves to know them.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Pantheon at Night

On the way back from our anniversary dinner, we turned a corner, to the most spectacular view. So I had to come back, with my camera, to share it with you.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Our Wedding (a diversion)

Illustration by Little Bun

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Foro

I was just about two weeks out of undergrad and I hadn't yet started my (temp!) job when we married; Dr. Bloom (who wouldn't be Dr. for a very long time) had a semester left of college and a full-time job at my uncle's bakery. So we had a week, and a couple hundred dollars (but then our bed would have to be charged, or we would have to sleep on the floor . . .) and a very sweet offer of a timeshare for our honeymoon. We had a lovely time, but Dr.Bloom promised a trip to Italy for our tenth anniversary.

In truth, it was Dr. Bloom who wanted to see Italy. He was a classics major and a Renaissance man, and an Italian-American to boot. I was eager to go anywhere with good eats (and I still am). And when he made the promise, it was before med school debt, before children, before we were adults. I never would have held him to that promise, and I don't know that he would have held himself to it, if I hadn't been so sick last January (he reminded me that we are also approaching the anniversary of that).

And so it was that I found myself in Rome two days after Christmas, after a night-time transatlantic flight. Dh had slept; I had not. We arrived at our hotel 10 am Rome time (6 hours ahead of the east coast, US), left our bags, and headed out on foot to see the city. (Pictures forthcoming).

In the evening, we headed back to our hotel to change for dinner. Romans don't eat dinner until around 8:30, and it's an *event*. Appetizer, primi piati, secondi, dulci, caffe . . . it was 11 pm before we finished. And there had been this fantastic bottle of wine . . .

We woke on the 28th to the busy sounds of the street below, and wondered at how busy, until we popped open the laptop (neither of us had brought a watch) to discover that it was 8 am --


Two pm, Rome.

Six days in Italy. Three days in Rome (counting the one on which we arrived). Ten years of wishing, on dh's part.

We showered, and ran to the ancient part of the city, and it was too late for admission to the Palatine or the Colosseum, so we had pizza at a tourist trap across from the Colosseum while I reassured dh that nothing is really bad if it's funny

(I presented him with the theory that there's bad, which is like "aaack, we slept in til 11, and we wanted to be there at nine" which is quite sad, and there's BAD like "I lost a freaking DAY" which is so bad it's funny. Only the truly awful can be redeemed in this perverse way).

And we were having PIZZA outside the Colosseum!

Coming soon:
Our heroine drops a headset in . . . well, you'll have to wait . . . discovers -- too late! -- that she has eaten pate . . . spends four freaking euro on a can of Coke . . . has dinner with nuns and buys honey from monks . . . flies home on a plane with seven pilots . . . and has her delicates searched by TSA (but they left a lovely note).