So about my self-deprecating nature…

Dear Peoples of the World™,

Let’s just take it for granted that there are many things you can criticise about me personally. And many people do. One might say that this has caused some of the behaviour I’m talking about below, but regardless, I am certainly not perfect, and in general, I can take it[1].

But what in God’s name is the point of telling me I’m too self-deprecating, as if that’s something I can get on to fixing tout de suite?

Think about it – there are two possibilities:

  1. I’m really uncomfortable with myself and am trying to get to the criticism before anyone else does, or
  2. I’m fishing for compliments.

I’m not going to make you guys guess here – I am very uncomfortable with compliments. That doesn’t mean no one should ever say anything nice to me, but why would I ask people to do something that I don’t quite know how to handle?

No, I am uncomfortable with compliments largely because of point #1 above. If I could fix it, I totally would, but after about 40 years of it, I’m afraid I don’t know how to.

So if it bothers you, please just ignore it. It isn’t for show.

The best I can do is try to be funny about it, and if I make jokes at my own expense, it’s for my own protection and I suppose you’ll just have to deal, however well-meaning you may be.

Criticising my self-deprecating humour though, well… think about it. What do you think doing that will create more of? ;)

  1. [1] Though I make no promises that I can take it graciously. One of my many imperfections.
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All sorts of downtime ahead…

I’m moving my internet presence outside of the U.S., so domain name transfers, server switches, and the like are coming up.

If you need to be sure you reach me in the interim, please use one of the following addresses:

  1. krista <at> gnunet <dot> org
  2. krista.grothoff <at> in <dot> tum <dot> de

I’ll let folks know when the old addresses are stable again.

Posted in Life, NotAPost, PSA, Tech drivel | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Some better pics of the Exploding IKEA Pax Lyngdal Wardrobe Doors of Death ™

For the story of the spontaneously combusting doors of doom, see my previous post.

Here are promised pictures from before I went through the horror of getting the broken glass out of the frame and cleaning up several pounds of broken glass.

As usual, click (and click again) to embiggen to your tastes.

The whole window is just done for

The whole window is just done for, all by itself


Billions and billions of tiny pieces

Billions and billions of tiny pieces. I mean, WTF? We didn’t touch it. It had been there for at least two years, just fine.


From one side all the way to the other

From one side all the way to the other. There is not a part of that whole pane that wasn’t in pea-sized chunks.


And aside from the fact that the window handle can't come back that far, it was too low.

And aside from the fact that the window handle can’t come back that far, it was too low. It didn’t touch it. Nothing did.

Posted in Life | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

IKEA: just some oak and some pine and some spontaneously shattering glass

So. Christian is out of town, tormenting the people of Berlin.

And when Christian is out of town, I am normally exhausted. Because Torsten is five-and-a-half, and he is our child, which means he is busy and argues all the time.

It’s ok. He’s awesome. I love him. But I’m tired, and the house gets all messy, and I can’t juggle everything.

But it means that when it comes to bedtime, I go for the path of least resistance, which often means he takes Christian’s place in our bed.

That’s fine by me. There are very few years left of little-kid snuggles in our life, and I love my Super T.

Last night, however, was not-so-awesome.

See, Torsten was sick. He’s had a nasty cough at night, and he’s having some sort of stomach problems, so he kept me up pretty late taking care of the poor little guy.

Also OK. But exhausted, remember?

So I passed out again when he did.

And about 90 minutes later, in my sleep, I hear this weird noise just as I’m turning over, as if something had rolled out of the bed and shattered.

Not that I’m likely to sleep with breakable objects, but I was tired.

Deal with it in the morning, I thought.

Starting to doze off again, I realized that Torsten was in the bed, and that maybe I couldn’t do that.

That was when I heard this weird popcorn-popping noise, and little plinks on the floor, like hail against a window.

It’s hailing?

No, wait, popcorn noises. And glass. And the windows are open with the outside shades down.

I grew up around chemistry departments, and thus around glassblowers. (My dad blew glass as a grad student, the former University of Utah department glassblower, Hans Morrow, used to play checkers with me in the lab as a tyke, and my brother is a scientific glassblower, just to give you an idea)

And as a result, I remember the ever-awesome Bob Ponton at UWM giving a talk once in which he explained how glass could spontaneously shatter. (If you care, there are reasonable explanations here and here.) I guess it made an impression, because I had the presence of mind to look at the glass doors of our very expensive IKEA PAX wardrobes, installed a few years ago, before getting out of bed.

Which is good, because I would have cut the shit out of my feet probably had I not done that. See below, but please click the pictures.

(I’ll post a better picture later – this was just early morning phone action. Click to embiggen, and if you really want to see just how completely shattered the whole pane is, make sure you click the image again to view it full-size in your browser)

Exploding PAX wardrobe door

Exploding PAX wardrobe door


This is not the handful of Norsemen I ordered

This is not the handful of Norsemen I ordered

What you cannot see, unless you look at the pictures at full resolution, is that the entire upper pane is fractured into pea-sized fragments, most of which are just hanging there at the moment, or that there is a similar (unbroken) pane of glass behind it from the other sliding door.

I am pretty damned certain that no birds, hail, or stones made it in through the 10 cm space that the window was open on the third floor at 4 am.

I am pretty damned sure that the fucker just exploded because of some impurity in the cheap Chinese glass and our warm days/cold nights of late, which are not so extreme that they should not fall outside of the expected operating parameters of a freaking wardrobe.

While I am thankful that the glass is tempered, it appears I am not the only person who has experienced exploding IKEA tempered glass. A cursory internet search reveals spontaneously exploding IKEA glass desks (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and a bunch more I can’t even be bothered with), tables (1, 2), shelves (1, 2), glass tops for furniture (1, 2), and doors (1, 2).

My child was in the bed across from this.

Let me also reiterate the care with which we installed this glass. We both knew (my husband was also a chemist once) how careful we’d need to be with it, and took extra care not to scratch it. Can we be sure there was not a microfracture during the (IKEA provided) transport process? Of course not. Is this a risk with tempered glass? Sure.

Should I be checking my child for lacerations at 4 am because the wardrobe has exploded?


We are OK. Had our bed been 20 cm closer, or had my son been sleeping at the foot rather than the head, as he often does, that might not have been the case. As it was, I pulled him into my arms and took him to his own bed, seeing no glass near him, and thanked various deities for his safety.

And then I freaked and came back to check him out once I saw a lot blood on my bra after carrying him, but it turned out he’d coincidentally had a nosebleed last night.

This morning, once all was calm, it turns out he has a couple of tiny lacerations on his leg and one square in the middle of his back, but no glass embedded in his skin and no big cuts. I think I have a glass splinter in my foot, but that’s all.

So, world, I’m sorry for the long post, but I haven’t been able to purge this from my head today.

Back to work.

And tomorrow, we’ll decide what needs to be done with IKEA. Because that sure as Hell shouldn’t happen. And I’m still all shaky about 8 hours later, though I admittedly, due to some horrific accidents as a child (my first memory is, in fact, related to slicing my hand open with a broken glass baby bottle), have an unreasonable fear of broken glass.

(But for the record, hint: we don’t want a replacement glass pane.)

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By popular request: Mid-life crisis hair, purple edition

So I decided I was going to dye some of my hair purple. Because it’s my mid-life crisis, and I have determined it should be fabulous.

When I had Torsten, I had a few shots of silver in my hair, and I didn’t really care. But whether it was life in Denver (high altitude means higher levels of radiation hit your skin), a kid who was constantly pulling my hair out (which is why most moms you know have short hair, I suspect, in addition to the time spent caring for it), hormones, or just old age, not long after I had him, I started going really grey, just along where I part my hair.

Not grey enough for a cool grey or white streak, but grey enough to have silver and white messy frizzy strands of curly hair sticking up.

For a while I henna’d my hair, because it made them look like cool blonde highlights, but after a while, I got tired of the mess. So I stopped.

And then, last week, I got it into my head that outside of dying my bangs blonde in the 8th grade (thanks, John Taylor), I’d never done anything really bizarre or fun with my hair, because I was always worried about the consequences. Consequences which, quite frankly, never really mattered.

And so I decided I was going to dye that annoying bit of my hair purple. BECAUSE.

My husband isn’t too thrilled with the idea, but then, he doesn’t much like it when I wear makeup or earrings either. I should be thrilled that he’s into women as they are, but it’s also my body and my hair and… he loves me anyway. So.

My hair is dark brown. Dark reddish brown, more apparent right now with the purple, but dark brown. So putting purple semi-permanent color onto it was always unlikely to really show up. At first I thought I’d bleach it, but then I thought (with the influence of my awesome peeps on the Internets), meh, I’ll try it without. See what happens.

And so, last night, I finally did it.

And it’s interesting. If I part my hair where I normally do, it’s basically black shot through with deep, serious purple where my hair is grey. And if you look closely, it’s purple. And if I’m in the sun, it’s something else. Depending on where I part my hair, it looks completely different.

Unfortunately, my camera battery is dead, so I had to make do with my phone and my webcam. The sun from the window towards my monitors is bright, so these are crappy, but I’ll try for better pictures later.

I am being told I have to post pictures now, lest my buddy Lynn not be able to exercise, so here goes…

This is a bad iPhone shot of where I part my hair. Still can't see the intense purple very well.

This is a bad iPhone shot of where I part my hair. Still can’t see the intense purple very well.

The best shot of the purple is if I pull my hair back – here’s it’s just a little ponytail (messy, too) on the side so you can see it:

Goofy ponytail so you can see the actual purple in sunlight

Goofy ponytail so you can see the actual purple in sunlight


Parted as normal

Parted as normal


Flipped to the other side

Flipped to the other side


Big hair

Big hair


And that's it.

And that’s it.

Pictures are all influenced by the sunshine, on one hand, and the monitor shadow on the other (I’m all hunched forward to take these pics), but that’s about what came of it. Not too drastic, thought I can make it more or less so based on how I mess with it. I can’t really tell how purple it is or isn’t, because the lighting in our house sucks. So I guess we’ll just see.

None of this makes me younger, less fat, or more exciting, but I think I like it. It was a weird place to put it in my hair, and in point of fact, only covers about a 2-in² portion of my scalp (which took half a bottle – my hair is long, thick and curly!!!), but I think I’m ok with it.

Also: I take the worst selfies ever. And I hate that f’ing word, “selfies.”

I just realized I am going to have to take my German passport picture with partially purple hair. Oh my

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On marriage — the best advice I ever received

N.B. I’m a little annoyed, and this comes from some long-standing annoyance I haven’t been able to explain until now, so bear with me.

Feel free to put this in your TL;DR pile if you’re so inclined.

About fifteen years ago, I lived with a wonderful family as an au pair in the Netherlands. They were a family very unlike my own, which, especially at the time, was a very good thing to see, and they will always be some of my favorite people in the whole world. They gave me a different view of life and the world to ponder, and it changed me profoundly.

These days, I have a family of my own, and I sometimes despair at the propensity of other people to try to take the shape of it, to judge and ponder and try to evaluate this part of my life that means more to me than anything. In Germany, this is a particular issue; many people feel entitled to have an opinion on everything and more entitled to express that opinion, even when it is not only none of their business, but also something they have no hope of understanding.

And suddenly, I find myself returning to a comment the father in my host family (hi Peter! ;) ) once made to me when I was speculating on my parents’ marriage, one which I didn’t take very seriously at the time, but which has turned out to be one of the most honest and true things I’ve ever had to digest. I find myself reminded of it again and again, and now that I’m married myself, I am struck both by the truth of it and how much I did not understand this before I was married myself. It was probably an offhand comment, one I doubt he’d remember having made, and I’m sure I’ve got the wording of what he said wrong, but this is what he said:

Marriages are strange things. You never understand a marriage unless you’re in it.

Substitute whatever synonym for “committed relationship you can’t just walk away from” you like in there — I’m not one of those people that believes a particular idea of marriage is right and good and true — but it turns out to be very true. And it turns out to be very hard to believe if you’ve never been married.

Don’t ask me why; that’s just how it is.

I married a very obviously unique person, and, in the end, after what was (for better or worse) a lot of experience, I prefer truth in advertising. One of the downsides of being such a person (I’m this way too to a large extent) is that it leaves you open to all sorts of speculation and commentary, but I think the benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

My husband is brilliant and honest and warm and loving and opinionated and complicated and dedicated and always, always surprising. He is not perfect, but no one is. He is also someone I love to distraction – he puts up with my quirks, and I put up with his, and there is wonderful stuff that makes those quirks largely not matter (and sometimes even endearing).

I’m usually very straightforward about how our relationship started, because, almost 13 years later, I find it funny, in retrospect.

I didn’t really like him at first – he teased too much, and I found him intimidating, and, like most people, I vastly underestimated him.

In the end, we became close friends and after about six months of working myself up to it, I asked him out. He sort-of-but-not-really turned me down, going off to Germany and coming back a month later telling me he’d thought it over and that the answer was “yes”, surprising the living shit out of me. And more than a decade later, through all of the ups and downs, we’re still together, we have a wonderful child, and with have this marriage thing, which I never expected but treasure greatly.

I never wanted to get married, really, but it’s what happened. We have this marriage, this beautiful and strange and difficult thing. It is what it is.

This marriage, which sometimes people who have no business speculating about do anyway.

Cut it out – you’re not going to understand it.

I’ve been informed by people who thought they knew better that — and if you know me, this is going to make you choke — “I’m pretty sure there’d be no Mrs. Grothoff if you hadn’t asked him out”, in the midst of speculation about whether or not he’d openly ogle women (with the open implication that if he did not, he was abnormal). As if being a wife was ever my goal (and call me “Mrs.” at your own risk – I bite), as if my husband wouldn’t and couldn’t make such a decision on his own.

You never understand a marriage unless you’re in it.

And just now, open wonder about the fact that Christian is headed off to Costa Rica on vacation by himself.

You never understand a marriage unless you’re in it.

One thing Americans never expect about Germany is that is bloody patriarchal and there does seem to be this idea that men do certain things, and men that don’t do them are abnormal (and men that do have to be tolerated no matter what). That women do things (largely things involving being bossy and controlling and not accepting that men and women are different), and that this is the way of things. I’m not saying every German thinks this way; I think it’s strong stereotyping though, and people play to stereotypes.

Personally, I think this comes from the fact that German feminism is, in large part, both terrifying and, frankly, IMHO a form of bullying, but regardless, as much as I have no problem with the fact that men and women have some physical differences, we’re all fucking grownups here.

Me asking a not-obviously-shy man out is not abnormal, and indicates neither that I am a forward woman who likes to take control of things nor that there’s anything wrong with the man and that he’s not interested.

You never understand a marriage unless you’re in it.

My husband’s propensity to appreciate women while trying to be gentlemanly/not crass about it (and it is, exactly, that, but it’s really none of your business and I don’t feel the need to go into detail) does not make him somehow abnormal. If you want the truth, ogling some girl and then apologizing to the women around you (who probably couldn’t care less) is a lot more bizarre IMHO. Cultural, perhaps, but not for someone else to judge in either case.

The fact that we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day doesn’t make us unromantic. We have other things.

The fact that we take vacations together and sometimes alone doesn’t make our marriage odd – we just realized early on that we were two individuals, and even if we’re married and we form a family unit, if you let those individuals die, your marriage can go with it.

The fact that I understand why people get frustrated with my husband sometimes – the fact that I express such frustration myself sometimes – doesn’t mean I want to participate in anyone else’s issues with him. And I’m sure the reverse applies – I am a frustrating person often enough.

He doesn’t wear his wedding ring. So what? I like it when he does, but it’s never been a requirement.

I don’t wear mine because it’s broken at the moment, but I do tend to wear it. So what? It’s never been a requirement.

Whatever that means to us exists within the bounds of a marriage and you are not going to understand it.

My husband spends lots and lots of time with his son, often picks him up from school, and does housework. I hate housework, work full-time, and also spend lots and lots of time with our son. Sometimes we do it together, sometimes we do it apart. It’s our marriage, our family, and you are not going to understand it.

There are things that happen to you in a relationship as a result of nursing each other through personal loss other people will never be allowed to see, the birth or arrival of a child, the experience of the darkest darkness (and lightest light) of another person’s soul that they can’t hide, long-shared jokes and thrills and wounds, time and time and time, and those things become even more cryptic to the outside world as the decades pass.

Let me tell you something else: you don’t understand your parents’ marriage either, even if you’ve been stuck in the middle of it your whole life.

You’ll have to trust me on this one. I learned it the hard way.

There are some things in life that you’ll never fully grasp until and unless you’ve done them. It doesn’t make you a lesser person, but it does mean you don’t have access to understanding them. Marriage and parenting are two of those that blindside everyone because we’re able to observe them all the time, but I promise you, no matter how smart or observant you are, they are not going to be what you think. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s hard, but regardless, it just is.

Marriages are strange things. You never understand a marriage unless you’re in it.

So please refrain from speculation and wonder about mine. I’m in it, and it’s the one I want. Anything else is just blind speculation.

Posted in Life, Musings, PSA | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Going just a wee bit nuts

Ok, let’s face it – I haven’t been a regular presence on my own blog for a long time. There were some difficult personal reasons for that which have lightened up a bit, but in point of fact, at the moment, my reason for not writing is that I’m going out of my freaking mind.

I’m not a person who works well under no pressure at all. I can do it, but I work best when I’m working on something complicated with the possibility of something very cool at the end of it, and usually, even better when there’s a deadline involved. I blame years of sitting in class, bored out of my mind, but I’m sure there are other reasons for it too, some less flattering to me than others.

That said, I have my limits. And I’m not always the best person to judge whether or not I’m about to exceed them. Especially when I don’t have all of the information a priori to make a sound judgement about it.

So I’m teaching a seminar that I think is pretty cool this semester. I no longer do research in steganography, but it’s a good topic for undergraduates especially, and a fun topic to cover in a seminar. I know a lot of the background research pretty well, and was feeling pretty good about it.

Advanced seminars here at the university are a lot different than I was used to in the States – students basically work on a paper on a topic for a semester based on some initial research papers you give to them, get some feedback and guidance from you in the process, review other students’ first drafts, and then, as a final exam at the end of the course, all gather for a couple of days to give presentations of their topics and have discussions. So while it’s a lot of work at various concentrated stages, it’s fun. I give my seminars in English, largely because the literature is in English (and their English is much better than my German), but also because it’s an opportunity to present and write in scientific English with a native speaker’s feedback, something that I can offer without extra overhead that I think is worthwhile. (They may disagree, I don’t know ;) )

But each research group (and researcher with teaching duties) has a certain number of teaching hours they need to fulfill in a semester, and there is always (as is the case at every university I’ve ever been around —which is a lot, considering I basically grew up on campuses) some difficulty covering the early fundamental courses, so there is usually a call for TAs to teach the discussion sections for some of these courses just before the semester starts, and as seminars don’t count for a lot of teaching credits, picking up a discussion section or two is a good way to both help out in lower-division courses and fulfill your teaching obligations.

And so when my boss asked if a few of us would volunteer for some of the open sections, I rather happily said I’d take up two sections of the discrete structures course. I was really quite good at discrete math back in the days of yore (and I took it from a pretty hardcore awesome guy, who was not exactly known for teaching an easy course), but I also am one course short of a dual-degree in math (little-known fact) and I like it. Number theory and combinatorics, among other things, are fun.

But let’s just say I underestimated three things which are making things difficult, in addition to a lot of things outside of my control:

  1. The length of time since I’ve done discrete math. This would be no real issue on its own, except for the next item.
  2. The difficulty of teaching math – which is a foreign language to most people – in German. I have to learn new vocabulary for almost every word out of my mouth, and I often fail to anticipate it before the class. Fortunately, my colleagues and students help me out, but it is stressful. I usually make it through exactly 70 minutes of the course before my brain just shuts down, which is a problem, as the class is 90 minutes long.
  3. The sheer volume of material they try to pack into their one-semester discrete math course here. I won’t get into detail, but I will say that the number and diversity of topics easily fills the content of two or three semester-long CS/math courses in a good school in the US. The depth may not, but students are expected to catch on quickly with little information and use that knowledge in sometimes complex ways. It wouldn’t be my pedagogical choice, is all I’m saying. But I am not a professor of XXX years who has taught this course to students a billion times, so I am not claiming to know better. A discrete math course is largely about learning to think about problems in a particular way (and CS problems in a very particular way), which is an invaluable skill, and if students acquire that at the end, IMHO the course has served its purpose. But it is stressful to teach, especially because, unlike many of the other tutors running discussion sections, I did not take this course from this professor at this university.

The above means that I spend an inordinate about of time preparing, grading homework, and learning/relearning stuff so that I can have some hope of teaching it. While I’m firmly of the belief that everyone should be forced, at some point in their life, to continue doing something they aren’t awesome at, I spend a lot of my days these days alternating between feelings of helplessness and #FAIL, and knowing I’m going to keep on going anyway. My ego is not as resilient as it looks, which you can take any way you want.

My students are pretty patient, and when I asked one of the other TAs (who is actually a student who took this course from this professor in a previous semester) how he manages to juggle schoolwork and teaching his sections, I will only say that his answer convinced me that I’m not the only one whose life is basically consumed by this.

And now my seminar grading has come due, and while I’m almost done with this batch, my “ability to cope”-levels have been temporarily exceeded.

Add to that family illness and a kid who is going through a very-defiant-5-year-old phase and you have a woman who is not making particularly sane decisions some of the time.

I get a little bit rebellious when I feel like my life is taken over completely by things in which I have little or no agency. I’ve spent so many late nights grading and prepping (remember that I have a kid, which means that any time outside of working hours where I can work on anything is largely when my son is asleep, because mama mama mama every 30 seconds aaaaaaaaaaaaargh) that taking an hour off to play a game or read a book feels like I’m violating some rule.

And at some point, I start to really want to violate somebody’s rules, because I’m not enjoying anything at all anymore. So I violate my own and stay up even later, or at least plan to (my body crashes first usually – I’m not young anymore), sometimes not doing anything at all.

It’s stupid, and I’m not even sure it’s conscious most of the time, but I go through these phases, and they obviously don’t help matters.

Last night I was struggling through the one of the last of my papers to grade and decided I was going to give myself the reward myself for finishing a very challenging paper by playing an hour or so of a game.

I’d tweeted something to that effect when one of the people I rather enjoy talking to on Twitter asked me just how late it was here.

It was 2:30 am.

Since I’m often the one who gets up at Torsten-O’Clock, playing an hour’s worth of video games after at least another half-hour of grading (not to mention some laundry which still had to be taken care of) suddenly seemed as ridiculous as it was.

But you know… rebellious.

I did go to bed. But for the record?

I’m going just a little bit insane.

I will be very glad when classes end in February. And next time around? I’m volunteering for programming courses.


Posted in Academia, Life | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

My child gives the Munich weather report

Torsten was running around singing the Munich weather report all morning:

(Direct link)

Edit: fixed to show via player rather than file download

Posted in Life | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Mama guilt and terror

My son almost got hit by a car this morning.

The worst bit is that it was largely my own fault. Obviously I’m still shaken up about it.

See, T rides his bicycle to kindergarten every morning. It’s about 4 km one way, and mostly he does it with my husband. I’m sure they have near-misses too, which does nothing to offset my concerns, but for better or worse (mostly better, I think), I don’t see them. Mostly it goes well, and we largely use bike paths anyway, but that doesn’t mean there’s no danger, especially when one decides to take the faster path.

Like this morning.

Now I’ll grant you that the driver of the car was technically as much at fault as I was. However, the driver would have been considerably less dead if he’d kept going, so that doesn’t matter. So that little technicality isn’t exactly relevant.

See, the faster way to kindergarten involves one busy crossing near our house where we cross from one bike path to another. There’s one point where one could really fuck it up. And whoo boy, did I manage to.

It’s simple, really. We had the right of way, but the light was about to change. Any fool worth his salt, including me, knows that that’s the perfect time for some guy to come wheeling around in front of you to try to beat the light on a left turn. Especially since some guy had just sped around the turn in front of us before we got there. I don’t think the next guy was there when I decided it was OK to cross, but it doesn’t matter.

The light was about to change, and we just should have waited.

In the end, though, Torsten was in the intersection, and the driver had no intention of stopping once he’d started the turn. There was no squealing of brakes, and T was there first, but… we should have waited.

I’ve been a driver for 23 years. We should have waited.

Instead, the driver stopped half a meter from my child, my heart, and whether I was screaming that Torsten should stop or go faster I don’t know, but my horror was apparent, obviously.

We crossed quietly afterward, with me saying “Oh my God oh my God” in my head, and Torsten saying we should call the police on guys like that so they don’t hurt anyone else, and me saying that while that was true, if the driver had hit him, then I wouldn’t have my Torsten anymore and I wouldn’t really be thinking about other people’s safety so much.

To add insult to injury, the driver waited until we were mostly across, well past him, to honk at us, a sharp “you’re a shitty mother” punctuation to the whole incident.

I stuck my tongue out at him. I don’t know why, except that all I could think was, “yes, I know, you asshole.”

So yes, the driver should have known better than to try to beat the light at an intersection in front of a school, but I knew better too.

And I did it anyway.

And as much as I can say I’ll make a different decision next time, I cannot avoid self-flagellation this morning. 5 years ago, give or take a week, I was giving birth to this amazing and terrifying little brown-haired bundle. And now I cannot conceive of life without him.

Posted in Life | Tagged | 1 Comment


Warning: Self-indulgent post.


Some days, you simply feel your foot lodged firmly in your throat all day.

Some people feel that way all the time. I’m one of them.

Of course, I probably AM that way. My college friend Bart used to ask me about the tooth scars around my ankles, if that gives you any idea.

The thing is, I am a really awkward person, unless you know me very, very, very well. Very few people do, probably for that reason.

Yeah, yeah, I know everyone has days where they feel like an ass, but I’m actually (believe it or not) the classical introvert – most social situations leave me drained rather than energized. And so I have a tendency to act bizarrely because I am so intensely uncomfortable.

Chances are, if you are a hominid with speech capabilities with whom I have talked or was supposed to talk, I have spent some time being scared shitless of you.

That is not your fault. It isn’t really mine either. I am simply wired that way, and always have been. I spent a good deal of my childhood hiding behind my mother’s leg, and I have never, ever felt comfortable talking to people.

The thing is, you can’t get through life that way. You either find a way to fake some level of extraversion or people decide you have a mental illness (or both).

Me, I talk a lot, but it’s mostly nervous nonsense, and afterwards, I generally feel like locking myself in a room alone for a couple of hours. I can be entertaining, but at a cost. And mostly, I feel like an ass. And I make other people uncomfortable with my awkwardness.

I hate that most of all.

It doesn’t prevent me from doing things – I’ve done professional theater, taught courses, given speeches, worked in business – but it does make interpersonal communication hard, and it makes me unreasonably self-conscious. Sometimes it means I stay home when I would probably have more fun going out. Sometimes it just means incredibly odd stuff comes out of my mouth that I will later spend quite a bit of time smacking myself over.

It’s just how I am.

And so if you find me cringing at criticism, laughing too loudly, making big gestures, twiddling my thumbs uncomfortably, or spouting utter nonsense, don’t take it too personally.

If I sit in the corner and say nothing, that’s not personal either.

None of that is who I am, it’s just how I deal with the business of being me.


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