Getting to Know My 14-Year-Old--or Trying. Very Trying.

This idea is thanks to The Daily Blonde, who interviewed her 13-year-old son. I show the piece to Younger Daughter and suggest, “We could do this—it will be fun.”

Her: “Sure. Sure as in ‘We can do it,’ not sure as in ‘It will be fun.’”

Later that day, after she completes the latest stage in her quest to re-read all the Harry Potter books—she just hit the speed bump created by #4, which is a lot longer than #3—we adjourn to our neighborhood coffee shop/bakery.

Then to a second, when #1 proves to be—as is always, always the case on Sunday afternoons, and always, always forgotten until we’re looking at the sign on the door—closed after 3 p.m. After ordering, we settle at a table that lets us look out at the cold, rainy street.
it is not a bananaImage by -eko- via Flickr

What do you want to be when you grow up?

She shoots a blue-eyed glare at me from under her eyebrows, since she’s been asking me what she should be for quite some time now and I have apparently not provided satisfactory answers that let her decide her entire future. At age 14. Pursed lips, deliberative pause. She’s so pretty and smart.

There are a lot of things I want to do, but I’m not sure which one. It just has to have something to do with words and people.

Which she knows I just read in her 25 Things post on her blog. She’s picking raisins out of her bagel. That’s my girl!

What are some of the ideas you've had?

Being an English teacher, preferably Honors because—preferably Honors. Or editing of some sort as in newspaper, magazine, publishing house.

We recently discussed the distinction between copy editing and editorial decision-making. I think she means the decision-making kind.

Politics generally, which would be going straight into politics like looking to be a senator or president or something like that. Or going through being an English teacher and then trying to run for superintendent (of public instruction—a statewide office in Washington; we recently discussed whether the teaching profession had any political pathways).

Or train dolphins.

t’d also be really fun to run a coffee shop. I know I wouldn’t make big bucks but it would be fun. It would have to have a cool vibe. I’d want to burn candles but some people are sensitive to them.

Or I could be a trophy wife, go on a reality show.

Talk to me about the dolphin training.

They like fish.

I sense she’s giving up on this whole endeavor.

What do you like about the age you are?

That I have all my options open—well…. Okay, except some certain sports where you have to train since like before you were born. The sense that I have my options open and could do almost anything from here.

What don’t you like?

No one takes us seriously. Adults don’t take you seriously. Also my peers—most of them are stupid. Which is not to say that they’re not nice, some of them—just not smart.

Also I can’t get a job that will pay me enough, like a steady job, because people don’t hire 14-year-olds. I know that I have the responsibility to do it, but because of my age I can’t. All the age limits and everything.

At least I’m tall enough to ride the rides.

Does it make sense to you (that adults don’t take you seriously)?

It makes sense to me that they have more experience and therefore see themselves as higher beings, but it’s really annoying.

Are you going to share your bagel?

Is that an interview question? Is it now? (in a mocking/challenging tone)

Discussion about the raisins we’re now both picking out of the bagel. Nasty, squished-bug raisins, masquerading as chocolate chips. Not that this is a point I’ve made before or anything. We circle back to the interview.

If you could live anywhere, where would it be?

Never Never Land.


Beause I was just joking.

If it were outside the US, it would be someplace like Paris, because come on--French people, fashion, food, coffee, French people.

Or a big city but not in the heart of it. Or a middle city like Seattle where there’s a ton of culture but you’re not flipping off all your fellow drivers—not all of them. Or somewhere near New York.

Or Never Never Land. There are mermaids there, but they were ugly in one of the movies. Not at all your usual stereotype. They tried to play with the mermaid stereotype but it was just ugly. Really fun to play follow the leader and bounce on logs behind Peter Pan, like the little kid with the Indian hat with the feathers.

Treading in dangerous waters, what do you like about our family?

Not too short.

We’re not too short?

Right. How tall am I going to be? Big Sister said about 5’8” or 5’9”.

She lied. What do you like about our family, besides not being too short?

Which one?

The family you live with the majority of the time.

Including or excluding the children?

Sweet Husband’s two kids, The Engineer and The Movie Sponge, are with us alternate weekends & half the summer. Eight-year-old Movie Sponge follows Younger Daughter everywhere, mimics her every move, sits beside YD watching her play Sims, claims to like TV shows she’s never seen just because Younger Daughter likes them. See poem “I Have a Little Shadow.” The Engineer pretty much focuses on making things and taking things apart.

She's stalling.
You decide in your answer.

Let’s see… We’re pretty good-looking.

Can’t argue with that, nor would you want to.

We have fun when we make sex jokes about Santa Claus.

This comment really should be followed by a full explanation about a carful of butt-gusting laughter occasioned by the giant blow-up naughty Santa on North Division who waved at us in leering fashion two Christmases ago. What does a naughty Santa pull out of his big bag of presents? No time though, as I’m having to prompt for answers—they’re not flowing like water here.

What don’t you like about the family?


After an awkward pause, the interview picked up a real head of steam when she prompted me to ask her about boys, making it far too long for one blog post. Boy stuff in another post.

Turn about is fair play; you can read her interview of me.

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Becoming a bike commuter: It’s pretty easy, one mile at a time

Since we’re gearing up (ha ha, bike pun!) for Bike to Work Week, and the name of this blog implies that writing about biking will occasionally appear here, I figured it was time to tell the story of how I began bike commuting.

True story: I’m a bicycle commuter because in around 2003, the City of Spokane put a bike path on Cedar, right in front of the house I lived in at the time. After complaining a bit about the lost on-street parking, I realized how convenient it looked.
(Irony alert) I used my car’s odometer to figure out how far it was to work, and started riding my big-box cheapo special, the “Iron Maiden,” a little bit, then a little bit more.
At first my bike commuting took place within strict parameters: very nice weather but not too hot, no meetings outside my office scheduled that day, no after-work events.
Before bike commuting on a given day, I'd drive the 3.5 miles (downhill, then flat) to work with a couple of outfits and leave them there, and just take my shoes with me in the pannier bag.

Of course, I'd have a little wardrobe agony of the soul figuring out what to leave at work. After all, I wouldn't be able to change my mind about what I felt like wearing, nor would those outfits be available to me at home on days I planned to drive.

I also underwent the back and forth of moving items such as my wallet with identification, notebook, and other things into and out of the panniers and whatever purse I wanted to carry.

I moved from this "once in a while" commuting to biking "pretty often," including some slightly longer recreational outings on weekends, when I would amaze myself by going 8 miles or more.

Mind you, this was all on a Costco special: a heavy-duty quasi-mountain bike thing with shocks. It probably weighed 50 pounds before I put on the rack and panniers. So I actually was pushing a fair amount of metal.

And, as I like to point out, it was very definitely uphill on the way home. The first time I tried bike commuting Spokane was experiencing unusually hot weather, 105 degrees or so, in mid-July. Great time to start.

At the time I lived at 13th and Cedar. I hit the steep spot on Maple between 6th and 8th—locals will know exactly what spot I mean—and I had to get off and start pushing the bike uphill. Some wit (at least, I think I’m half right) said, “Aren’t you supposed to be riding that thing?” I panted, “I have nothing to prove!” and kept pushing.

It became a point of pride to make it just a little farther up that hill each time I rode, until at long last came the day when I actually rode all the way home. Woohoo! Feel the burn, and the sense of accomplishment.

At some point, I became a bike commuter. An every day, rain or shine, clip-in-shoe-wearing road-bike-riding commuter. No more swapping stuff in and out of panniers—it’s always in the pannier if it’s riding season (which is about 10 months of the year here, if you dress for the weather). Hassle factor gone.

The road bike and shoes are thanks to my sweet road-riding husband. When we started dating it was January, so my Costco special wasn’t much of an issue. When it got nice and we started riding some weekend distances, he was kind and patient. (I later learned that our pace is referred to as a recovery ride….) Then he found my Specialized Dolce and brought it home. Once I rode the 18-pound sweetie, I was hooked.

I can easily put in 10-20 miles a day riding from work at the Riverpoint Campus to meetings and errands everywhere from downtown to the Spokane Valley to the north side, or just my little 2.5 miles each way to and from work. (We moved and I'm a mile closer. Right after we moved, the city put in a bike lane a block from the house. Coincidence? I think not.)

When the snow gets too heavy (we’ve had two crazy winters in a row), I ride the bus. (My road bike can't take studded tires, and I worry about drivers sliding into me.) I just don't drive if I can help it.
Along the way I became a bike activist. I chair Bike to Work Spokane, serve on the City of Spokane Bicycle Advisory Board, and on the leadership team of SmartRoutes Spokane (our participation in the Rails to Trails Conservancy 2010 Campaign). I joined the Bicycle Alliance of Washington and the League of American Bicyclists.
I remind people that I don’t “use alternative transportation” when I bike or bus—I make a transportation choice. Each of us makes a choice every single day when we go out the door.
Choice #1: Carry car keys. Park oversized keister behind the steering wheel of a single occupancy something that uses a nonrenewable fuel. Drive (40% of all trips are within two miles of the home). At end of trip, circle the block looking for a parking spot as close as possible to the destination door, to minimize walking
Choice #2: Hop on bike. Burn calories per mile instead of miles per gallon. Breathe fresh air. Greet neighbors. Smell flowers, green growing things, running water, roasting coffee, wonderful aromas from local restaurants. See--actually see--the architecture of local buildings. Arrive at work energized. When a midday meeting beckons, ride, lock bike to convenient parking meter, walk in, sit down; you're ready to go while the drivers circle the block.

Ringstra├če, Vienna, Austria, 2005Image via Wikipedia

Remember that feeling when you learned to ride a bike as a kid? Riding a bike meant freedom, independence, the ability to get somewhere under your own power instead of relying on others to supply the resources.

It still does. Wheeee!

Addendum 2/24/09: Just ran across a profile of me as a bike commuter from the Down to Earth insert in the Spokesman from October, 2008:
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Shameless Application of Feminine Wiles in the Name of Hash Browns

hash browns! yay!Image by Hjem via Flickr

Sunday morning. House full of kids. Sleeping in not an option.

I’m standing at the counter getting the coffee going. At our house this means fill the hot water pot and get it started—but not if someone’s running the microwave because that will trip the breaker.

Grind two batches of coffee beans. Put them in our very cool stainless steel French press purchased online after the glass one broke, as they always, always do. (Why did someone invent an item made of glass into which you were expected to pour boiling water and then apply force?) Wait four minutes. Enjoy.

Eldest Daughter examines refrigerator contents and issues a report. “Waffles, a couple of pancakes, soup, and soup.”

Sweet Husband says, “Why don’t you get out the waffles and pancakes?”

I mutter under my breath, “None of those sound like hash browns.”

For the record, Sweet Husband makes the most amazing hash browns. Freshly grated by hand, fried with plenty of oil so they don’t stick, a few chopped onions on top.

Consumed with ketchup and an egg on the side, they are my favorite, favorite breakfast. So favorite that we had to cut back the number of mornings he prepares this treat because the numbers on the scale seemed to be responding in an odd fashion.

Eldest Daughter shares my fondness for Sweet Husband’s cooking skills. In her case she wants something they nicknamed a ninja: hash browns with some cheddar on top, cooked so the cheese is melted and crispy-licious.

She chuckles at my remark. Sweet Husband asks what I said.

“She said, ‘None of those sound like hash browns,’” Eldest Daughter reports. “I agree.”

“Ah,” he says, working away at his computer.

Also for the record, Sweet Husband is the breakfast cook at our house. Every morning I arise and shower. He brings me a cup of coffee while I’m putting on my make-up, and returns to the kitchen where he is whipping up oatmeal, eggs and toast, or The Famous Sweet Husband Hash Browns (about twice a week, and definitely at least once on weekends).

I sometimes make muffins, coffee cake (rarely), and once in a while I might do a big pan of eggs with a bunch of stuff in them--mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, etc. Occasionally I take a stab at the hash browns but mine are definitely not as good as his.

Sweet Husband has been working on a survey for his business and he’s currently looking at the results.

“Honey, survey results indicate that hash browns would be a very popular item,” I announce.

Eldest Daughter and I stand close to him, grinning ear to ear.

“These results are skewed!” he exclaims. “I don’t remember being asked.”

“You’re a non-respondent,” I answer. “This is science. Two out of every three people surveyed say hash browns!”

“Use your kisses!” Eldest Daughter urges.

Sweet Husband chuckles and stands up. I wrap my arms around him—I’m wearing the incredibly soft, cuddly robe he gave me for Christmas a couple of years ago, and I’m very huggable. I smother him in kisses.

“This is unfair. This is oppressive,” he fake-protests.

“I’m a-pressing up against you!” I respond.

“Oh, that’s cute!” Eldest Daughter says (fortunately—the other response might have been a gagging noise).

More kisses, a few cuddly hugs.

I can smell hash browns now.

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Fun with Numbers. No, Really, I Mean It.

Arithmetic tables for children, Lausanne, 1835Image via Wikipedia

Today I ended up walking home from downtown. I’m a fanatical little record keeper in some ways and I was wearing my pedometer, so I felt especially virtuous hearing its little click-click sound.

When I got home I checked my pedometer: 7623. What a cool number! Think about it:

7-1=6, the number right next to the 7.

2+1 (the difference between 7 and 6)=3 (the number next to the 2).

Working back right to left, 3x2=6 (the number that comes right before the 23 combination).

6/2=3 (yes, this is just another way of expressing 2x3=6. Isn’t math cool that way?!).

7x6=42, which utilizes the 2 that’s in this number, and if you take 2 times itself you get 4, which is the other digit in 42. And 4/2=2.

6x2=12. If you take the 4 from the 42 you create with 6x7, you can put it with the 3 that’s in our original number, and 3x4=12.

Of course, once you’ve gotten that 12, you recognize that it uses the 2 from the figure and the 1 you get whether you take the difference between 7 and 6 or the difference between 2 and 3--and 1+2=3.

Isn’t this fun? But wait—there’s more!

Add all the digits: 7+6+2+3=18. The first digit, 1, is of course our old friend, the difference between 7 & 6 and between 2 & 3 (to say nothing of being a number that belongs in the sequence 1-2-3, which is the first thing we learn about numbers).

If you multiply 2 times the 4 you created with 7x6 or with 22, you get the 8 from our 18.

8+1=9, which is the 3 times itself.

Add just a couple of them: 7+6=13; we know about the 1, the 3 is in the full number, 1+3=4 again, and among all these numbers you've used the first four odd primes: 1-3-7-13. (The missing prime that would complete the sequence, 2, is hidden between the 1 and the 3.)

Try some more subtraction. 7-2=5 which equals 2+3. 6-3=3 which is already there.

I’m not finished, but I’ll stop. (Thank heavens! You think to yourself. This is an elective course, after all.)

When Younger Daughter was a little girl, she started this game by looking at the microwave and noticing the relationships among the numbers. She especially liked numbers like 11:11, 2:22, 1:23, 9:10—something with a clear pattern.

I started pointing out the arithmetical relationships one could see in the numbers, including the relationships outside the actual digits that we could create through manipulation (like my 42 above that gave us a 4 to throw in). (Oh, and if you add our invented 4 to the 7 you get 11 and if you add the digits in 11 you get the 2.)

This game has been fun for me too, as someone who majored in English and linguistics and didn’t really dig into math until college, only to realize then that I was pretty good at it.

This aha took place way too late to let me go into the sciences, which I might have done; as a kid I planned to be a marine biologist and study dolphin language, which may explain the linguistics degree.

I couldn’t say whether “Microwave Math” has anything to do with it, but Younger Daughter is getting an A as a high school freshman taking a junior-level course. It’s not her favorite but she does really well.

Seen any good math lately?

P.S.: I know the equations here are simple arithmetic. Microwave Math uses alliteration, which is one of my favorite word things. Perhaps another time I’ll tell the story about how I came to realize I prefer odd numbers to even.
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25 Random Things About Me, in Random Order

{{deJodie Foster bei der deutschen Filmpremie...Image via Wikipedia

Yes, I got tagged with this in Facebook originally. As long as I was free-associating, I thought I'd put it up here, in my ongoing quest to be myself.

  1. I would want Jodie Foster to play me in my bio-pic.

  2. I have never learned to do cartwheels. Probably won’t, at this rate.

  3. Once upon a time, I could name all of Henry VIII’s wives in order, and tell you how each marriage ended.

  4. I was born on Election Day.

  5. My mother voted absentee a few days before that, having given up on the belief that she would ever have me because I was born a month overdue.

  6. I’ve worn glasses since I was 5. I had radial keratotomy when I was 20, which corrected my vision for a while, but it didn’t last. I wear contacts most of the time because I'm vain.

  7. Back when I worked as a Kelly temp, I typed around 110 words per minute with almost zero errors.
  8. I used to be a member of Mensa. At the first meeting I attended, I met the man who would become my first husband (but not my last, nor my second-to-last). Draw your own conclusions about my intelligence.

  9. My dad’s birthday is Nov. 3. Mine is Nov. 6. My oldest daughter’s is Nov. 12. If she ever has children, she has to have one born Nov. 24 to continue the pattern.

  10. I think my daughters are really, really amazingly wonderful.

  11. My longest one-day bike mileage (so far) is 94, when we did Tour des Lacs in 2007. (This is a beautiful ride from Spokane into Idaho and back. If you're a cyclist, come check it out!)

  12. I used to read enormous amounts of science fiction and fantasy, and at one point subscribed to 3 science fiction magazines (Asimov's, Analog, and Aboriginal, which no longer exists).

  13. Every single time I have ever tried to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey all the way through, I have fallen asleep.

  14. When my second mother-in-law died of lung cancer I was there with the rest of the family. It was amazing and intense and exhausting, and after she died she was so beautiful, like marble.

  15. I was captain of our High School Bowl team. This was a quiz show hosted by a local TV station, kind of like Jeopardy.

  16. When I tore my hamstring a few years ago doing yoga, it sounded like a rifle shot. (Yes, I still do yoga.)

  17. When I bought my first PC in about 1986, I stayed up late many nights writing DOS *.BAT files for fun.

  18. I object to raisins in cookies. They are just masquerading as chocolate chips to deceive the nearsighted.

  19. I’m subject to vertigo attacks that make me feel as if I have the drunk whirlies, without benefit (or enjoyment) of alcohol.

  20. Sometimes when I sleep, my eyes are open—just a little. This is apparently very creepy. At a sleepover birthday party in my childhood, two of my friends thought I was dead.

  21. My college nickname was Greenie because there was a Barb Green going through sorority rush at the same time and I was Barb Greene-with-an-E.

  22. I went to a Seventh Day Adventist school for first grade because my birthday was after the cutoff date for Idaho public school. Once I was a bona fide first grade graduate, the public school could take me for second grade. Go figure.

  23. Unless I go back to before I started 4-H and Bluebirds in about second or third grade, I can’t remember a period in my life when I was not involved in some kind of group, committee, board, or other volunteer or civic activity.

  24. As far as I know, I’m not allergic to any foods or medications. I’ve had morphine once and it nauseated me but that’s about it.

  25. I once had a poem published in one of those books they try to get you to buy after accepting your work for publication. I may still have my copy somewhere around here….

  26. Bonus item: I am (finally) married to the love of my life, after learning a lot (I hope--and he hopes!) in my first two marriages. Third time IS the charm, for me at least.

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