Thursday, May 21, 2009

Visiting the Alma Mater

We're in Davis this week for various work-related tasks. On Tuesday I gave a seminar promoting research in the NPS at UCD. On Wednesday AM I sat in on a panel on conservation decision-making in governmental organizations and Wednesday afternoon I gave a short talk on the Californian CESU to the board of the UC natural reserve system.

I had today off and had the pleasure of spending the morning with Mandy Tu (of UW, UCD and TNC invasive species world dominance fame), her daughter Linnea, and Mona Robison (of Invasive Species Research Needs fame). We all met up at the Sacramento zoo and then went and had lunch at Mona's house. It was great fun to see everyone and the whole brigham-allen clan had a blast. I am, of course, extremely peeved that TNC canned its national invasive species program. Once again demonstrating that their scientific planning prowess is lacking in long-term vision. Mandy is still looking for the right organization to lend her brilliance to but she has a lot of great contracts going and is baking bread, making yogurt, doing yoga and taking care of Linnea. So I guess she is pretty darn busy after all.

Mona has a fabulous house in Sacramento with both a swimming pool and a bunny rabbit. So we all had a blast there. We also got to spend some time with Christopher Cassels in the van rides over and back and at the Mona swimming pool extravaganza. Christopher was the awesome Uncle figure who spent an hour retrieving things from the bottom of the pool much to Lucy and Josie's delight.

It is odd, as always, to be in Davis. It is a lovely town and the weather has been great (warm but not too hot). But still, somehow being here always brings out the paranoid insecure me. For that reason alone I wouldn't want to live here. Although I'm sure several thousands of dollars in therapy could get me past all that.

I'm working again tomorrow (off to a restoration ecology workshop) and then hopefully on Saturday I'll get to run by Bogeys Books, Sweet Briar, the food coop and the nugget grocery store before we head home on Sunday.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mom Memorial Weekend

Yes, I know Memorial Day isn't until next weekend but this past weekend I had my own personal memorial weekend to remember my mom. On Saturday I worked at our native plant fair, educating the public about the joys of gardening with native plants and selling a few left-over native plants from our nursery to the public to raise funds for park restoration projects. This was definitely an activity my mom would have been way into.

Then I went home and gardened for a few minutes, planting basil and a new tomato plant and watering all the babies so they wouldn't croak while we're gone to Davis this week. Another very mom-like activity.

Then I took a nap with Lucy. Napping is a long Brigham tradition popular with both my dad and my mom.

Then on Sunday we went and picked up a free pair of sliding glass doors for our backyard playhouse/guest room project. The doors are totally bombproof (double-paned glass) and are oddly tall (over 7 feet). Getting anything for free was a big plus with my mom.

And then the coup de gras (is that how you spell that?) was going to two garage sales that we ran into on the way home. Not up to my mom's standards in the planning department but I was just happy to squeeze in some garage saleing especially since I was at work on Saturday morning. We bought a doll for Lucy (initially advertised for $10 by a little girl, subsequently re-priced at 0.50 by her dad...), some dress up shoes for the girls, and a wand for Josie. Big hits all around.

Overall it was a nice weekend of good Mom memories and honoring the past with some Brigham family traditions.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Joan Mary Jacobson Brigham 7/17/1943 - 5/14/1999

I don't have any digital photos of my mom. This blurry dark thing is a digital picture I took of a picture I have of her in a frame from when she was in New Zealand. She loved to collect rocks and shells on the beach. Here she is sorting through her rocks with her ever present plastic bag to put the keepers in.

Today is the ten-year anniversary of my mom's death. She died suddenly and I wasn't there when she passed away. It is terrible that I wasn't there but at least she knew that I loved her and we had a very close relationship as she did with my brother as well.

Most of my mom's life took place before the internet revolution so there is no trace of her on the world wide web. For some reason that disturbs me. For now I thought I would write a little bit about her life on today, the anniversary of her death.

My mom was an amazing woman. She grew up in St. Louis, Missouri in a family with three sisters (Mary, Ann, and Susan). My mom was one of the middle daughters. My mom actually had four middle names, one for each of the babies my grandma miscarried before my mom was born. She went to an all girls Catholic High School and an all girls Catholic college. During her final year of college she had a psychology class from a visiting professor from Kansas University. Towards the end of the class, this professor said, "Who is this person Joan Jacobson who keeps getting perfect scores on all of my exams?" It was my mom. The professor, Don Bushell, ended up offering my mom a position as a Masters student at KU (it was actually a colleague of his who had an opening at the last minute, I think some other student bailed). My mom went to KU where she worked on a component of the head start program working with disadvantaged youth in innercities and on the Hopi Indian reservation.

My mom met my dad in graduate school at KU. My dad was a doctoral student there. My mom and dad got together and lived the hippie lifestyle in a house out in the country. They had a cat named dog and not too long after, they had a shotgun wedding and then had my brother, Jeremy. I wasn't born until later when they moved to New Jersey so my dad could take a faculty position at NYU.

I can't write her whole life story here so let me just jot down a few of the highlights of Joan Mary Jacobson Brigham as I remember them. She was a fantastic conversationalist. She really listened to people, was interested in what they said and asked lots of probing questions. She had a wonderfully general and sharp intellect. She was interested in everything and everyone. She was an avid follower of politics and was a true blue member of the democratic party. She ran for city council several times but in conservative Pullman, WA she always lost to some jerk of a republican.

My mom was a great reader and started taking me to the library at a young age. She was a quirky blend of traits as a mom. She had a crazy temper and would get mad and yell a lot. She could also be very sarcastic and cutting. At the same time, she was incredibly supportive. She went to all my sports games my entire life, wrote me wonderful letters my whole life, and always gave me very thoughtful gifts on holidays as a way to show that she really knew who I was and what I liked. She also had this funny habit of buying gifts in advance and then losing them for several years in her closet. So that at age 15 you might get some stamps for your birthday that she bought for you when you were 11.

My mom also loved art and poetry and all things cultural. She was a great traveller, a great planner, and a big lover of food. She also loved animals and was my partner in many pet adventures (dogs, cats, hamsters, etc.). My mom loved nature and was a great gardener. She actually had a huge garden at our house and then started a community garden in a vacant lot across the street from our house. She was always packaging up garden goods or baking and making my brother and I take these gifts over to various neighbors' houses. She was very civic minded and also loved to spy on everyone and know all their business. I'll never forget the second night in our rental house in Cardiff, Wales when she, my brother, and I spent an hour peering out the window at a party our neighbor's son was having while his parents were out of town.

My mom was also a huge bargain hunter and spend thrift. She used to go to four different grocery stores every week to get all the deals and would spend hours clipping coupons.

Joan was also one of the pioneer environmentalists. Growing up we always had 4 different places for trash - the burn barrel (paper), recycling (aluminum and glass), compost, and finally the trash. I had to educate each new friend on what to put where. We also hung our laundry on the line during the summer. My mom frequently complained about conspicous consumption and was a huge advocate and participant in local greening initiatives. She always put her time where her heart was, volunteering for all sorts of different community causes, writing letters, going door to door, attending hundreds of evening meetings, and sitting on the city planning commission for years and years. When I was in graduate school she had me review an environmental impact statement for a proposed development near our house. It was distinct pleasure to write a professional objection since the botanical surveys had been done in the late summer when many of the rare plants of the area would not have been visible.

This is getting way too long. Some day I would like to review all the letters my mom and I wrote back and forth and maybe put them together into a book or make another blog in honor of my mom.

For now, I'll close with a list of a few of my favorite memories of my mom.

12. My mom washing plastic bags over and over again for re-use.
11. Collecting rocks and shells on any beach anywhere. Comparing our finds at the end of the day.
10. My mom making my brother and I cook dinner one night a week so we would know how to cook and be self-sufficient adults. (C and J's mexicali special anyone?)
9. Picking blackberries on Camano Island. I always ate all mine while picking but my mom always picked a lot.
8. Watching Dallas and eating popcorn with butter and parmesan cheese with my mom and my brother.
7. Mapping out our route to the most promising garage sales on Friday night and then getting up at 7 AM on a Saturday to go garage sale-ing.
6. My mom reading and providing editorial advice on every paper I ever wrote in high school.
5. My mom combing the papers to find me a summer job after my first year in college and eventually finding me a job at a certified seed company.
4. My mom walking me home from our neighbor Midge's house when I was four years old and used to go there for day care.
3. My mom scratching my back every night at bed time and making sure there was a fair distribution of pets between my brother's bed and my bed.
2. My mom petting my hair while I fell asleep with my head in her lap late at night as we drove home from one event or another.
1. My mom putting little notes in my suitcase the first time I ever went away from home (fifth grade camp).

There really isn't anyone like a person's mom. They are irreplaceable. I will always miss her but I do value all the days we did have together and I take my memories out to look at often and put all the keepers in my own recycled grocery bag.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

If All Was Right With the World, Dental Work Would Be Free

Mitch is busy changing out the pick-ups in his new orange guitar so I have some time to go on a rant about dental work. So here we go.

O.k., so let me just say that I know there are more serious things wrong with the world than expensive dental work - war, famine, rape, murder, homelessness, addiction, sickness, disease, the list goes on and on. I also know that dentists deserve to get paid for what they do. I'm just saying that paying, and paying quite a lot of money, for a thoroughly unpleasant experience totally SUCKS and in my book, is a sure sign of adulthood.

Yes, today I went to the dentist for my second filling in a year. Yes, I eat a lot of stuff that is bad for your teeth (dried fruit, CANDY!) but I do floss and I brush at least once a day. I went almost ten years without a filling and now the universe is just sticking it to me. I also had a relatively unpleasant one hour scraping session with my dental hygienist last week. I just can't catch a break in the tooth department.

Today I went to my dentist (who is a very nice woman about my age who just had her second baby six weeks ago. The baby is in the office. He is very cute) and had quite the filling put in. It goes over two teeth and is practically a freaking crown. I think there's only like 1% of my original tooth left on the top. This was a filling in a tooth that already had a filling.

My tooth genes suck.

Anyway, while the experience was pretty crappy overall (took quite a while - maybe 30 minutes of drilling, had to get a second injection of Novocaine because I could feel the drilling (ouch), had pokey clampy things on my teeth), the fact that I had to pay $280 for the experience really took it over the edge.

I'm not sure about socialized medicine overall. Yes, I think we need health care over haul and affordable health care for everyone, I'm just not sure how we should get there. But when it comes to dentistry, there should definitely be a system in place where either I don't have to pay for it or I pay for it in a way that I don't realize it (hidden taxes, whatever). Because shelling out almost $300 after an hour of suckiness, really sucks.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Which One of These is Mine?

Lucy, after eating her mothers day strawberry shortcake, licked her plate clean.
Josie, when presented with strawberry shortcake, rejected it outright and asked for a fig newton...

Mothers Days are a Mixed Bag

My mom died a couple of weeks after Mothers Day in 1999. She died unexpectedly and of a preventable illness (kidney stint wasn't replaced, dislodged, perforated her bowel, went misdiagnosed, resulting in a full body infection that was treated with ineffective antibiotics and subsequently killed her). My mom and I were very close and she loved me like pretty much nobody else (as mom's do). My dad loves me too of course, but Moms and dads are not the same (equally good in their own way).

Anyway, mothers day always amps up the amount that I miss my mom. I pretty much miss my mom all the time and lots of things remind me of her, but I miss her an extra amount on mothers day. I wish she was here to talk to, to make caustic comments, to send me lovely cards and letters and silly things at halloween and easter and every other minor holiday (valentines, etc., etc.). I wish she was here so I could send her bulbs and gardening tools and funny books on mothers day. I would have loved the opportunity to talk to her about being a mom and all of the crazy things that go along with that.

So now, along with the sadness of missing my mom, I also have the joy of my own girls. I have Lucy waiting all weekend to help me open an envelope of coupons she has made me for mothers day plus some random cut out pictures of cats that she immediately took for her purse. I have Josie taking headers off the coffee table and laughing like a crazy person.

So mothers day, like life, is a mixed bag.

Here are a couple of lists to summarize:

List 37.8: Things that make me miss my mom

10. Mothers Day
9. Tomatoes from the garden
8. Gardening
7. NPR - pretty much all of it
6. The democratic party (my mom was a crazy serious democrat)
5. cats
4. Anytime I hear anything hilarious and sarcastic
3. Jogging shoes
2. Good books
1. Donuts

List 37.9 Some great things about the girls

10. So many funny phrases (tonight "bread the butter" from Josie)
9. So many cute faces (even the mad ones are cute)
8. The honesty (Me: "did you hit your sister?" Lucy: "No. o.k., yes I hit her.")
7. The enthusiasm (even when they are mad they are enthusiastic about it)
6. The cuddling
5. The lack of fear (they will jump off of anything)
4. Their constant observations on all things
3. Sharing things (not toys of course, but gardening, reading, listening to music)
2. Being able to give them stuff (I know, I am a horrible capitalist, but I do love giving them stuff - but not to the point of conspicuous consumption)
1. The LOVE!!

P.S. Thanks to Mitch for an awesome mothers day
P.p.s. I may be making progress as a parent. I lived through one of Lucy's hellish snitty periods today without threatening violence or yelling and we turned the corner on the crappy mood and had a great time finding Joey the turtle and getting balloons at Trader Joes.

Josie recovers from kidney infection - cuts forehead on coffee table...

Josie's owie got covered with a band aid by mom.

Josie got another kidney infection on Tuesday, seriously big bummer. This is kidney infection number 4 and the first one post-surgery. She maxed out at a fever of 104 and it took days for us to figure out what bacteria was responsible and get her on the right antibiotic. We won't know what the infection means (need for more surgery or just a fluke of leftover bacteria blossoming in a post-cold reduced immune system environment) until our pediatric urologist returns from vacation in a week and a half.

So this Saturday Josie was finally feeling better and was back to her crazy, chipper, wild baby self. She was jumping on the couch like a crazy person when she catapulted off and clocked her head on the coffee table. Luckily she only got a small bruise and a little cut (won't even leave a scar). But still, give a mom a break girl friend...

Everybody Loves Carrots

The girls do enjoy the guinea pigs. Josie is always talking about getting them out of their cage and how they like to eat carrots and like to eat grass. She calls them communally, oreo-mellow. Lucy held Oreo for a long time on Saturday morning while they both enjoyed their organic carrots from the farmers market.

Then the boys went out into the yard for some good grass. I usually keep a close eye on them when they are in the yard to make sure that Kathmandu or Katafanga don't come by and try to eat them. Mitch is going to build them a carnivore proof run one of these days but we haven't gotten around to it yet. Saturday morning I got distracted and looked out to find the picture below. Thankfully Katafanga is old (13) and lazy and considers the boys more of guinea pig t.v. than an actual meal.

One last guinea pig note: I like to sing to the girls, "Who let the boys out? Josie, Josie did." And now whenever I say, "Who let the boys out?" Josie always yells: "Josie did!!"

Friday, May 8, 2009

Lucy ROCKS!!

Lucy at the top of one of her many scrambles.

Lucy goes officially climbing, with a rope and everything.

Mitch improvises a harness for Lucy. Look at all that rope!

Allie sent along some photodocumentation of Lucy's first official rock climbing adventure a couple of weeks ago in Joshua Tree. Look at that big smile on her face. She did an awesome job climbing up. Mitch had to help a little bit on the confidence front for the down portion of the experience. I am sure there will be more to come.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Nothing Profound

We went to Disneyland on Friday with Ray, Tyler, Chloe, Lena, Rob, and MJ. The princesses and the girls had a mutual lovefest captured on film.

Today we finally re-planted the garden for summer although the we was pretty marginal. Lucy and Josie ran around in the neighbors yard and ultimately got in trouble for not listening. Mitch was more of an active partner, buying the plants and compost I needed from Lowe's while Josie and I took a nap. Mitch also did a number on the weeds with a hand trowel and the weed whacker. He even managed to leave behind the few flowers that I planted last year.

We also had a nice morning in the jogger and at the pool at the Y. The late afternoon was a bit more challenging with Lucy and I getting into it in the grocery store parking lot because she was a brat the whole way to the store. I ended up yelling at her and getting the stink-eye from some passers-by (don't judge unless you've lived with my kid for 24 hours - she's a charmer but she's TOUGH). I need to practice my anger management skills more and focus on breathing, counting, re-directing, and ignoring. We've been doing a lot of positive reinforcement but that doesn't always get you anywhere with miss stubborn.

Another week in the trenches ahead with two seminars (UCLA and UC Irvine) to give and a bunch of other crap to do...

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Windy Day

Josie is talking up a storm these days. She not only repeats a lot of what we say but also makes up her own commentary about everything. At Joshua tree she said, "windy day" a lot. Today when we took the girls out for a bike ride down to the beach (Lucy in the kid seat, Josie in the trailer), Josie said, "bumpy day" a lot.

At Disneyland yesterday she also learned to say, "almost our turn".

Camping in Joshua Tree

The gang at Joshua Tree: Brian, Allie, Alba, Lucy, and Tom (not pictured: Mitch, Josie, Me)

In my absence of blogging for a few weeks I forgot to mention the great weekend we had camping at Joshua Tree with Tom, Allie, Brian and Alba. Despite being camped with 500 other people from Los Angeles, it was still beautiful in the desert and we had a great time.

Tom brought his telescope and although I only looked at a few of the billions of stars (plus of course, Saturn), Mitch had a great time looking at bright spot after bright spot.

Despite the long drought, lots of annuals were blooming and a few of the cactii were starting to bloom. We saw lots of lizards, which the girls loved. Josie, especially, wanted to spend the entire weekend looking for lizards and spent four days saying either, "Lizards running." Or, "more lizards."

Most of us climbed a few pitches of easy 5.6/5.7. I nearly died on one mildly challenging, slightly awkward, slightly overhanging corner of 5.6. I managed to get bloody hands from J. Tree manzanite and remind myself that I haven't climbed a darn thing since 2004... But it was still fun. We're trying to plan a few more camping trips for the summer season.

True Love is...

Waiting in line by yourself for an hour and a half so your daughter can visit with the princesses.