Sunday, February 17, 2008


The new BlondeChampagne is now here. We be WordPressin'. Past posts are safely archived, and I'm working on re-forwarding the domain name. I'm leaving this site here under the blogspot title, with a link over at the new platform. Comments to this page will no longer be published, so if you wish to sound off, do carry your air horn to the new cellar.

Now scat. Take the Champagne flutes and the loose cash with you.

turning off the lights at:

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Everybody Into the Lifeboats

I don't quite know what's going down here, but BlondeChampagne is slowly dying-- every time I check in, a few more images are gone, a few more commands disabled. Five years of writing and comments might be circling the electronic drain, a thing so winceable I haven't even bothered having a panic attack about it before. But here it is.

I'm in the process of backing up the files of the entire blog and setting up a new account at a new platform. Somehow I'll figure out how to re-point the URL, too, so sit tight.

when english majors compute at:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Not Feeling Like Myself

Hello, everyone. This is Not Josh The Pilot. This is, in fact, Mary Beth. Why am I, then, signed in as my husband? Because, sensing that I had placed far too much emphasis on the second half of the name of this site, today I somehow managed to lock myself out of MY OWN BLOG.

I'm not entirely sure how it happened, but I was deleting a junk Gmail email account I'd created, and in the process ceased to exist in the eyes of Blogger. I'm not sure how I'm even typing this post, given my lack of substance or matter. In any case, I filled out a help form, in which I had to check a lot of boxes asserting that I am, in fact, a dumbass. Blogger announced that it would get back to me. I'm sure.

This may mean I might have to move the whole shebang to another platform, which I totally do not want to do, but I'm just saying: Oy.

sigh at:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Don't You Wish

you knew me in high school?

Me neither.

big foam numbers can't hide the shame at:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I was awake for 22 hours yesterday, and just before I allowed myself drift into a sweet, sweet chadless world, I got a completely awesome idea for a post. I reached over to the pad and pen I keep by my bedside and wrote it down. Are you ready? Ready? This is so hilarious:

"Rugnortim. I O, no borbs."

I am so glad I was able to share this important insight with you.

Rugnortim UPDATE: It's "Proportion."

switching to a tape recorder at:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Best Voting Experience Ever

I was not looking forward to casting my vote in the Potomac Primaries: Ginger Division. Without getting too political, I'm so disgusted by the choices available, on both sides of the aisle. I saw very little point in voting today, other than to exercise my duty as a citizen of the republic in which I live. However, today was the most wonderful voting experience I've ever had because at my precinct was the prettiest poll worker I have ever seen... my bride!
Adding to her resume of day jobs, today, for the awesome compensation of one hundred (100) bucks (dollars), Mary Beth spent 16 hours, starting at 5 a.m., at the local high school auditorium as an Officer of Elections. She had a button that said so. I think she needed it to prove her position simply because she's so young. All the other Election People looked like they were born in time to vote for Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday we celebrate today. When you're hanging around a polling location and you look like you were at least 24 years old at the time of the Gettysburg Address, it is obvious you are an Official Poll Worker.
I love "seasoned citizens", but I wish more young folks, especially those as good-looking as MB, would work the polls. I think voter turnout would skyrocket!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Body Image

I would like to know exactly when my nephews found it necessary to refer to me and their perfectly lovely mother as fat heifers.

Jim The Small Child Nephew was recently discussing my wedding, and he announced that after the ceremony, "Josh picked up Aunt Beth, and she was heavy." She was also having a wicked good mascara day, but he never says anything about that.

The King's baby brother, meanwhile, has shown appreciation to his mother for all the womb-carrying with the world's most backhanded compliment. He threw it down as his father's family was working on his people identification skills:

COUNTRY THE BROTHER-IN-LAW'S FAMILY: (pointing to Country) Who's that?


COUNTRY THE BROTHER-IN-LAW'S FAMILY: (pointing to Julie The NephewsMama) Who's that?


At least Cow had the comfort of rationalization; Will's current favorite animal, she points out, is the cow. Maybe he was, therefore, trying to identify her as his favorite person. Or maybe he really, really misses breastfeeding.

oof at:

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Super Saturday Media Awards

1) Most Hilariously Gendered Use of Wall-Sized Colored Maps Award: CNN, which keyed counties that went for Barack Obama in dark blue, and Hillary Clinton's in light blue. Because she's a girl, and the girl should have her states the color of Wet 'n' Wild eyeshadow, Pat Benetar Line.

Mike Huckabee's districts were tinted a charming pink. I'm not entirely sure what CNN was trying to say there.

2) Most Mangled Chant Award: Obama's supports during his Richmond victory speech, who were chanting... something hopeful and change-related, but which came over the crowd mics as "DE-FENSE!" If somebody had actually stuck a little wooden fence in the air with a gigantic "D" glued to it, I probably would have driven down to join them.

aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirbaaaaaaaaaaallllllll at:

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Trying to Find Atlantis

Of all the emotions I experience while watching a shuttle launch on television these days, nostalgia is my least favorite. Having seen many up close, standing near enough to the orbiters to have examined their carbon scars, has ruined me. Some reactions will never change--the pride, the jealousy, the anxiety until the boosters drop--but until the fleet stands down I will always ache to explain the thing, every inch and every second, to a roomful of awed children and awed children-again.

meco at:

Friday, February 08, 2008

Jammin' (Albeit, Only on the One)

There is a new Site Which Is Awesome 'Acause It Hired me: Don't go there yet (psychelink!); we're still in beta. When it's live, I'll let you know that the drywall is all nailed up, at which point I hope you will come say hi and click on stuff. Both New Kids On the Block and "Lucille" are involved, you guys. You have to come. You don't even know!

JamsBio is a bloggish site which invites its users to create an autobiography through the framework of songs. It'll be open to anyone who wants to come over and play, but I'll be part of the--and this is quite possibly the most specious phrase ever associated with my writing-- "assured quality content." So some cross-linking is going to start happening up in heah, and if you don't mind the occasional Olivia Newton John dissertation, you are most welcome to take up your Champagne flute and wander from the Tasting Room to Globe Records and Tapes from time to time. Joey-Joe McIntyre is totally waiting for you, OMG.

also Danny-- why didn't anyone ever like Danny? at:

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Today, in idle conversation--we were discussing, I don't know, raisins--my husband, whom I SLEEP next to, revealed that he is, in fact, one-fourth Canadian.

Notthatthere'sanythingwrongwiththat, but isn't this something you should tell a person before you marry her? Shouldn't she be fully apprised of the fact that you may, at any given moment, bust out one quarter of an "eh?" I could have the entire marriage annulled on grounds like this.

I can't write anymore. I can't deal with this. One-fourth Canadian. You think you know a person. Better I know this now, rather than, say, if we decide to have children and the first one exits the womb with a mullet.

Lifetime movie at:

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Official Super Tuesday Analysis

My keen political science major mind will now dissect for you the precise moment when Governor Mitt Romney fell behind in his quest for the Republican nomination: It happened the second he broke out the enormous freaking foam mitts.

Anti-Mormon bigotry... abortion stance... tax policies... whatever. It was all about the mitt.

Nationally, Mitt is most famous for his work as the CEO of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, at which time he telegraphed his disastrous position concerning crowd-related insignias. For the Official Mascots of the 2002 Games are these:
Come come, now, Gov'nur!

It's a small leap from a lascivious rabbit to the least inspiring Presidential-related foam object in American history. Oh, Mitt, you just didn't focus group this one, did you?

ashes at:

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

You Stay Super, America

Okay, Super Tuesday states-- all I ask of you is to keep things interesting. I don't want to be bored next week. For in order to restore the confidence of the American public in the electoral process, the Commonwealth of Virginia has made me its newest election official.

I'll be working at the polls at the Virginia primary on February 12, because I want to plunge myself into my new state and because I wish to truly become a part of the election process and because the Election Board said that it will give me one hundred dollars.

Virginia is hosting a dual primary. This calls for a complicated precinct-based voting system which consists of a red binder and a blue binder on a folding table. I am not allowed to ask the voters which party they belong to; instead, I must say, "Which primary are you voting in?", and distribute the appropriate ballot, because then, and only then, will I know whether or not I'm supposed to hate this person.

I am forbidden, by law, to answer any questions about the candidates. This is, unfortunately, tied to the rule prohibiting me from denying anyone a ballot, which makes me very sad, because anybody who approaches the polling place and seeks voting advice from the blonde handing out the ballots has absolutely no business voting in the first place. It's to the point where I am not even permitted to distribute information about who's on which ballot; if somebody shambles up to me and yells, "I like the guy who wears shoes! Which piece of paper is he on?" I must instead direct the person study to a sample ballot in search of his candidate, and hope that he gets permanently lost on his way back to the booth.

These are all real-life, official laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia. I know, because a PowerPoint presentation told me so.

Becoming an election official was an excellent career move, for at the training session I was the square root of everybody else's age. Having just turned thirty-one, it was immensely satisfying for someone to turn to me and say, "How nice to see some young people here!" When the session opens with the staff handing out pins to people who have been working the polls longer than I've been alive, and ends with the crowd gasping in total amazement when an animated GIF of a donkey and an elephant appeared on the screen, I have no right to anxiously duck out to the ladies' room mirror in search of wrinkles.

The session instilled confidence in the Electoral Board from the start, beginning as it did with a series of hand-markered directional signs taped to a succession of garbage cans. The first turn led me to directly face the bathroom, but fortunately there was another Sharpie-created arrow affixed to the skirt of the lady sign, so I mazed my way to a mega-secret conference room which contained reams of sample ballots and, I would hope, an explanation as to why Virginia has no awesomely named state parks like Kentucky does. (This, however, is a right valiant effort.)

There was much discussion about what to do if a voter returns to us with an uncast ballot in his or her hand and requests one for the other party instead. In that case, I am to go to the Blue Or Red Binder Of Democracy, and find that person's name, and write down "VCM", which means "Voter Should Be Removed From Genetic Pool." I was warned that this would happen more than once. "You know," said the trainer confidentially, "how people are." (i.e., cosmically stupid.)

Also covered was the expectation that everyone treat disabled voters with respect, which threw a real wrench in my day, given that I was planning to meet each wheelchair with a broomstick in the spokes and a cherry "Gimps ain't allowed up in here!"

I'm expected to report for work at five o'clock in the morning, which will seriously mess with my sleep cycle, because that's normally right about when I'm going to bed. I'll keep you updated on any Sharpie-related developments.

diebold accu-vote at:

Sunday, February 03, 2008

"Take it all in, boys. Just take it all in."

As a Bengals fan, I know that a lot can happen after the 2 minute warning in a Super Bowl. So if I were Eli Manning, I would have spent the entire fourth quarter rolled in a little helmet-covered ball beneath the bench, alternating between sobbing and throwing up.

I'm sitting in my little office with my husband, watching our first Super Bowl as married people, 24 hours after a serious and protracted discussion about paper towel absorbency. We're deep in student loan debt and his developmental air traffic controller's salary doubles my freelance writer income. And we are holding each other tonight, because the red carpet crowd doesn't take much notice of us, and it's nice to know that every now and then, the underdogs get a confetti and Gatorade shower.

correcting the stadium announcer's use of passive voice at:

Friday, February 01, 2008

Five Years Later

...and still waiting for her to come home.

Welcome Freelance Switch Readers

I must say, in that wide field of articles I've written which are accompanied by a large and angry omnivore, this one is my favorite.

This paid-for piece was brought to you by trolls who insisted that I have no business as a paid writer.

lemonade at:

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Total Crock

Today I had an e-stack, and a writing application deadline, and cookies to make, and I still hadn't had my usual self-directed hating time by noon. This called for the Mighty Mighty Crock Pot. In went the chicken, basil, and many oversplashes of white wine. I turned it on, petted my good friend there on the counter, and retreated to my office.

When I emerged five hours later, it was to... room temperature chicken floating in a sea of basil and sad, sad wine. Because Crock Pots work really well? Only they have to be plugged in first. As always, I've got it backwards; every other newlywed burns dinner. I never cook it begin with.

ramen noodles at:

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Big Brother

I never particularly wanted a brother, big or otherwise, until I first gained one through Julie The NephewMama's marriage. This went tolerably well, and I then exercised complete veto control over two I gathered last year as I made my own way through the husband selection process. I highly recommend brother-choosing over brother-foisting, if you haven't already exercised this option.

My own godchild has confirmed my fears of what growing up in a house with a small boychild would have been like. With his mother in the other room and his grandmother apparently out of earshot, last week Jim The Small Child Nephew confronted his baby brother with the following announcement: "You're going to go to the doctor for a shot, and I will stay here with Mama Peg and watch Charlie Brown."

Swap the major elements with cars and Internet access, and we have a snapshot of the future. Will The Baby Nephew is currently in a phase in which he can only say the words he requires to manage the basic needs of life-- "Night-night," "cookie," and, of course, "Aunt Beth" (this last one came at Christmastime, as I leaned over him to change his diaper; it was, most likely, more of a warning than a cry of tender recognition). So he's not at a place where he can yet respond to the comforting big brothering tactics of The King, but one day, very soon, he's going to rear back with a toddler version of a big ol' STFU, and then it will be on. Enjoy while it lasts, dear Jim.

little sister at:

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Sunshine Up Yours

It's a ways to go before Super PoliDork-o-Rama Tuesday, and I'm running out of stomach lining. This is the first election of my lifetime in which an incumbent President or VP isn't on either ticket, and even though my pills and I agreed to step off, I cannot. I'm still holding to my vow to not opinion-hurl in this space, but that doesn't mean I don't have a very serious conversation about immigration policy with the hash brown casserole.

One of the reasons I chose not to apply my degree in political science to the actual practice of political science is that politics brings out the very worst of human nature. It is sixth grade writ large. I would be in office four seconds before openly taunting the weak and demanding that those of who I am jealous never appear on my slumber party invitations.

Only politics can give us pictures like these. This is from last night at the SOTU (that's the State Of the Union address, for those of you with lives), and... how awesome is this? The very tableau of it! It's epic! At the bottom right is--remember him?-- John Kerry: "I'M STILL HERE AND MY PINK TIE AND I HAVE MAINTAINED PISSEDNESS AT ALL OF YOU." About four inches behind him is Hillary Clinton, and in a few seconds she's about to run up to Nancy Pelosi on the rostrum all, "OMG, Barak and Ted were totally talking about me. Are they still looking? OMG! Don't look, don't look!" And in the meantime, Barak and Ted sat together for the second SOTU in a row, which confirms that they are total BFF's now, and I have these visions of Obama getting to the chamber way, way early so that he could save a seat for Ted, and then he spread his suitcoat over it, and then he sat there for 45 minutes saying firmly to the Senators who are often picked last for the kickball team, the ones who are in the Math Club, "No... taken.... this is saved...Ted's sitting here." And Vice President Big Time sat there facing it all, cleaning his gun and glowering at people, watching the President deliver a sentence mentioning nuclear power, which, I am sure, he directed the speechwriter to insert just so he could say "nook-ular," just so he could piss everybody off. How can you not be entertained by this? IT'S AWESOME.

Tonight is especially enjoyable, since Florida voted today and I am treated to a TV news tour of not only my former state, but my former section of my former state. People are throwing down "I-4 Corridor"'s like Jello shots. It's a Russert-driven scrapbook of the past five years: "Seminole County, wicked! I've gotten lost there tons of times! And Boynton Beach, I did this horrible endless design-build bid at the Evil Horrible Boring Day Job for Boynton Beach!"

The returns have barely started, and I just whizzed past Shepard Smith attempting to explain, with many hand-waves, where Putnam County is: "It's north of Lake Okeechobee? And east of Gainesville? And west of Flagler Beach? And south of Greenland? You know...? There?" Dear Shep: There's this thing? On the internet? And you're on TV, in a multimillion dollar studio? Maybe you could-- I don't know-- put those two together, and point to where it is?

Just awesome.

brevard, orange, and volusia county shoutout at:

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Greater of All Weevils

Despite my maiden surname, I have no British blood, and the closest I've been to England is having gained, via reading many Regency-era novels, the knowledge that one is supposed to refer to the mother of a duke as "Her Grace The Dowager Duchess." At the Kennedy Space Center, we educators used to fight over who got the visitors from England; when arrayed in folding chairs before a scale model of the space shuttle, they were interested, polite, tip-happy, and easily sunburned. You would have a good day on a bus full of Brits.

However, as is my wont, I waited six years for Master and Commander to souse the culture before seeing it for myself. And Master and Commander would have us believe that British people could neither master, nor command, a Clapper, let alone an entire empire.

The British navy, according to this film, is the largest collection of dumbasses, tools, and whiners ever to take to the high seas. Their strategy of eluding a heavily armed French warship is to row into the fog... and then go "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!" And hey, is that an albatross flying really, really low over the deck? Let's shoot it!

It was fascinating to watch 18th century concepts of child care, especially in light of the fact that every single time Jim and Will The Nephews enter a car, they are ruched down and strapped in with a HANS device and five-point harness. During the Napoleonic Wars, apparently, not only were there no baby gates, but little kids were hurled onto active warships without so much as a bike helmet. By my count, one twelve-year-old on board the movie witnessed or endured the following over a two-hour period:

  • one suicide
  • one arm amputation
  • the death of a fellow twelve-year old
  • two major naval battles
  • many shanties
  • one whipping
  • the scrupulous documentation of various beetles
Daily therapy, for serious.

I do not understand the great Oscaring of this movie. Russel Crowe fails to punch anybody until there's about ten minutes left (most disappointing), and that's even before the plot gets there. The plot shows up with maybe thirty seconds to go, at which point the film immediately ends. Up until then, it's all rowing and map-staring and drawing pictures of lizards. Oh, and the shanties. It's kind of a shame we don't break out in the occasional shanty anymore, you know?

also, everybody says "seaman" a lot at:

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Following Procedures

If you or anyone you know were saved by a smoke detector, or are in any way impressed by the moon landing, thank the sacrifice of these three men.

It's a little-known story, but you should read it.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Friday, January 25, 2008

$285 At The Campus Bookstore

Six months after leaving the classroom, I've discovered something new about my former students at the University of Airplanes, and what made them so... them. You see, I was forever begging them to avoid the second person in formal writing... to never, ever, engage in comma abuse... to avoid cliches and any phrase one might hear in a commencement address, particularly any variation of "Since the beginning of time." And on every turn-in date I'd sit down with my red pen and my former will to live and feel very, very sad, and then go back the next day and throw some F's around and yell about thesis statements again.

Well. I picked up one of Josh The Pilot's former piloting textbooks, and read the following verbatim...thing. In the first paragraph.

You are about to embark on an journey of exploration, and discovery. Throughout history, we have dreamed about achieving the freedom and power of flight... One of history's creative geniuses was Leonardo daVinci; an artist, scientist, and dreamer who was fascinated with flight.
I required medical assistance in the wake of this--raw opium, and a morphine drip. I mean, not that my own writing requires enshrinement in nitrogen sealed, National Archive-controlled document cases, but no wonder these people couldn't seem to semicolon their respective ways out of a flight bag. Their own textbooks were 400-page assaults on the English language.

At least most English majors don't try to, you know, pilot stuff. "Folks, if you'll look out of the right side of the airplane, you'll see the fundamental and universal annihilation themes present in discourses of man versus machine."

learning experience at:

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I would like someone to explain why I, quite the most unphotogenic person I know, tend to sit for perfectly lovely driver's license pictures. Wedding day? Eye-bags and pimples. Four hours in the DMV? The very morning dew!

And I'm not even in a good mood when this happens; I am, as I was recently, just through the state-level bureaucracy wringer. It was two tries to make myself exist here in the Far Northern Swamp as a driver; the first time, I got an hour along in the process and was informed that the national Social Security system's computer was down, and that I must come back and try another day.

I slapped down the Baggie containing my passport, the Bridemobile's original registration, a credit card, my marriage license, and a paycheck stub with my current address. Oh, and my original Social Security card, issued five seconds after I was born.

The clerk stared at all these-- everything the DMV had told me to haul with me and which I had practically taped to my underwear, so fearful was I of purse theft.

"We can't verify your identity," she said.

I politely requested the return of my Florida license, surrendered at the beginning of the entire delightful operation, so that I could drive home and dream serenely of doing it all again tomorrow. This was refused, for the following reason: "Can't."

The clerk who took my paperwork, it seemed, the very one who told me that I was to return another time, had locked my license into her workstation. And left for lunch. In her car.

It took a stern husband intervention, two supervisors, and a set of separately locked-up keys to retrieve everything with which I'd originally entered the building. This made my foundation was all cakey, and so I say, thank you, Commonwealth of Virginia. You just wanted some fresh makeup for liquor store cashiers to behold.

But on the second take, I was already familiar with the background color, so I could make a perfect shirt match for a Total Disembodied Head effect. That's right, Virginia: I'm operating a motor vehicle without glasses, restrictions, or arms.

(Also note that under "class," the license correctly notes that I have, quote, "NONE. ")

officially a citizen of the State of Ginger at:

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Event Re-Reminder

Those of you who are planning to join us in Udvar-Hazying this Saturday, please email so we know how many cookies and bars of gold to bring.

UPDATE: Sorry, but we've had to move the event date to the spring, kids. Thou must wait for the cookies.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Mr. Patton's Neighborhood

Those of you The Readers who have been with Blonde Champagne from the beginning--and I mean the beginning beginning, when there were hurricanes and rollerblades and pina coladas--may remember my roller rink, which was the across the street from The Blonde Bachelorette Pad in the Central Swamp. On pretty much a daily basis, I spun around and around the drop-off circle of a middle school.

Which, as it happens, used to be a bombing range, complete with live ammunition. Last month the Army Corps of Engineers had to evacuate my former complex in order to explode the ordinances, as evidenced by this winsome photo to the right.

According to the Army, the site was used as a training ground during WWII. The money quote: "These demonstrations included strafing, practice bombing, air-to-ground rocket firing, some high explosive bombing, and chemical smoke and spray missions." Do you know how many times I fell down out there?

However, the tons of toxic fill dirt just might explain this guy.

I live in the best places.

34 miles from the Pentagon at:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Best Overheard Cell Conversation EVER

"If the cops come to my house... okay, if the cops come? Rob is still on probation, because he was keeping a bear in his apartment."

Also, an Irony UPDATE: Yesterday I was filling out in information packet, and I had to get up and look at my college diploma to check the spelling of magna cum laude.

thinking the two are connected somehow at:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Stopped Clock

This photograph of me and Jim The Small Child Nephew has been digitally in the back pocket of my laptop since Thanksgiving. The plan was to write a short, cheerful post about the fact that it captures a dream manifesting itself in the parking lot of the Cincinnati Zoo; for years, I have envisioned myself calling, "Stay with Aunt Beth!" and holding out a hand for a Small Child such as this to clutch. And thus it came to pass.

Why has that desire, in all this time, never morphed into "Stay with Mommy"?

This still stands as one of my favorite essays, and it still pretty much reflects my feelings concerning motherhood.

I wrote it twelve years ago.

When I did so, I was a freshman in college, still largely regarding children as I did when I was a little girl who cradled baby dolls, turning tiny toy bottles upside down against plastic mouths to watch orange or white liquid magically disappear. I would have children because, well, that's what people did. But the world has spun on, my ten-year college reunion is next year, and last week I fully realized that I feel no more inwardly compelled to bear children than I do to take up a career in real estate or law or candlestick making.

And I want to know what's wrong.

There are all sorts of practical reasons why producing a child, at least at this moment, would function as an absolute personal catastrophe of nuclear proportions. It's financially irresponsible for a couple furiously treading water against crippling student loan debt; my mental health would collapse; I've been marinating my reproductive organs in powerful SSRI's for over a decade, and the mental disorders which they regulate have genetic qualities. But when I burrow down through the recital of logic, spend a little time with that area between where my heart beats and my gut processes, I... just don't want to.

What is wrong? Stopped clocks are right twice every twenty-four hours, but my biological one, totally silent and unmoving day after day after day, seems fundamentally miswired somehow. Is it because I don't want to see myself reproduced? Is it because my own anxiety-riddled childhood, although held together by a comfortable home and heroic parenting, utterly exhausted me? Am I terrified that a child would stunt my writing career? A, B, and C? But plenty of successful writers have children, Josh The Pilot would make an excellent father, and... I... just don't want to.

This doesn't mean I hate children. I simply don't know what to do with them. I cannot get enough of babies; at this past Christmas Eve Mass, I held my finger out to the ten-month-old flung over her father's back in the pew front of me, and she beamed and grasped it. I let her hold on for so long and made so many baby-pleasing faces that Josh applied pressure gentle to my waist: Pay attention.

It's that middle-kid-age I fear. Jim The Small Child Nephew and Will The Baby Nephew are, for the moment, easy to have fun with; they have these tiny little adorable shirts, and can be flung, and find highly amusing any person placing an unexpected object upon his or her head. But the second they start enjoying belching contests and discover the phrase "This is boring," I will be lost.

Endless numbers of people have told me that it's different with one's own child, that I will learn it as we go. I don't doubt it.

But I don't want to.

The reasons I slate for having children--and yes, I do have them--are all incredibly selfish. To ensure some sort of immortality. To avoid the eternal punishment my Church says I will suffer if I don't (more on this in a paragraph.) To hedge against loneliness in old age. To fit in with my peers. To create another American of my German parts and the Norwegian and Scottish parts of my husband. To surround myself with The Cuteness. To force someone to appreciate my zealous scrapbooking in a hundred and fifty years. For attention. For writing material. For the stork-sign space in the grocery store parking lot. But never, never have I thought, "Because the love of my life I are called to do so."

Of course, all this sits horribly with the Catholic Church-- my faith, my heritage, my identity. Last week at Mass, the celebrant, while discussing vocations in his sermon, said, "Perhaps you are called to be a nun, a Bride of Christ. Maybe you're called to be a priest. Or perhaps you need to pray over whether or not to have a fifth child."

That's not a typo, people; that's strictly observant Catholicism. I am expected to not only to conceive, but conceive as much as our budget will bear. The Church considers my sister's two children a nice start.

Some women of my generation do have five children, or hunger for five. They have my deepest respect, and also my envy, for wanting what they are supposed to want. The Church does not lay down its teachings arbitrarily, spinning a gigantic Price Is Right-style wheel to discover which theological reality we shall enforce today. Christianity is not about being comfortable. It orders what is best for my spiritual development, propelling me to override my selfish human nature. Some Sunday mornings I would prefer to sleep until it's time to watch Dan Marino glare at people, but my Church reminds me that the least I can do is give God an hour a week, for crying out loud, and so I throw back the covers. Often I would rather fling money at such life necessities as The Rotato Express, but my Church reminds me that Jesus was all, "Share!" and so I pull a paper ornament off the Giving Tree in the vestibule instead. And actions become written on my heart, as I am then behaving as I ought to behave, despite my own terrible efforts in the opposite direction.

But this-- is it right to introduce a new life as a self-improvement project, to override my instincts? Do I have the strength to avoid raising a child in an atmosphere of resentment? Should little Miriam Abigail or Luke Adam ask (of course I have names chosen for the children I am not planning--I was once a twelve-year-old, you know) "Where did I come from?", what am I going to say? "A deep sense of obligation, dear"?

One of my mother's high school friends is a real-life nun. Franciscian. I could not imagine a lifetime of doing what other people told me to do, and, when I was eleven years old, I asked her why she took holy orders. She put her hand on her chest.

"Because," she said, "it was just something I felt like I had to do."

I had to become a writer and a wife. And... there it stops.

When I was engaged, and beginning to attempt to manufacture maternal instincts, or at the very least flailing to come to terms with my lack thereof, I sought advice, relief, affirmation. I posted a message on an e-board for observant Catholics describing my situation, asking to hear from other married Catholics who had not reproduced. What I got back still twists and shreds: "If you don't want to have children, you shouldn't get married." "Entering a marriage without openness to childbearing invalidates the sacrament. You will be living in an invalid marriage, a grave mortal sin." "If I were invited to your wedding, I wouldn't come." "You won't find a support group for married Catholics who haven't had children, because children are the point of marriage." (I imagine this might come as news to infertile couples and those who marry past childbearing age.)

UPDATE from Amy The Reader: Here's a good bit of fun from the other side of the road--she's presented anecdotal evidence of people with larger broods receiving visits from the Department of Children and Families, tipped by neighbors concerned because Mom was expecting #4 or #5. Margaret Sanger on a pogo stick, you just can't win.

I took my panic to the kind priest who was to marry us, as well as a former theology professor, and both assured me that avoiding children, at least for the moment, was simply prudent. That is what the priest said-- "prudent." You have no idea how much I cling to "prudent" in the darker hours.

No tubes have been tied, no vas deferens snipped. I sob, unbidden and uncontrollably, whenever we even broach the possibility of permanent sterilization, because my gut is telling me that's not right for us, either. And so the door is ajar, precisely .7% ajar. I've got this top-of-the line fertility monitor which promises a 99.3% no-babies effectiveness rating, and it has a function which will allow us to use it in the opposite direction, even suggesting the best hour of the day to conceive a boy baby or a girl baby. If we use this setting, a tiny bathroom sign-style icon will illuminate at the proper time. So every morning, when I lay with the thermometer of the monitor under my tongue, I watch the orange numbers rise, the backlight of the reading barely, just barely, making the girl shape and the boy shape visible. And then they disappear into blackness again.

Nightmares to the contrary notwithstanding, should I ever pee on a white stick and watch it, with amazement and trepidation, turn blue, I would indeed put on the big-girl pants. The pregnancy would either end in a much-grieved natural miscarriage or on a delivery table. I know, intellectually, that this child would not exist if he or she were not meant to exist, and I would likely emerge on the other side of motherhood a better, more giving, changed person. Grace sufficient, and all. And maybe someday Josh and I will come across a child who desperately needs us, and we will discern a spiritual hand at our backs pushing us to make that child our own. Or maybe I'll wake up tomorrow on fire to start a registry at Babies R Us. I hope so. I desperately hope so.

But in the same way that popular culture endlessly insists that I find Tina Fey just wonderful and I endlessly fail to, here is where I am. When beholding the open staircases in our home for the first time, I first thought, "Well, that's cool," and then, "If our nephews ever come to visit, perhaps we shouldn't let them crawl around those huge gaping holes twenty feet in the air unsupervised," and, finally, "No step backs = less vacuuming. AWESOME."

Never, never did I regard them as obstacles for my own children.

anybody else out there at:

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Event Reminder

We're gonna kick it Udvar-Hazy style, aw yeah.

shuttlin' ain't easy at:

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Your 20's Are CLOSED

Oh... he tried. But not even Josh The Pilot can conquer The Horrible Birthday Karma (new The Readers, here's a primer.) I like mountains, so Josh The Pilot attempted to bring me atop one when I turned thirty-one.

But the mountain was closed.

Mountains do close, apparently.

Well... that's OK. I like fermented grapes, too, so he took me to a winery.

But the winery was... this bustling complex.

Here's the good part, though: No vomiting! Always a plus for the Ides of January. I'll take it.

not going through it alone anymore at:

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Welcome, MSNBC Readers

Lime Time!

my bridesmaids' dresses were ice blue with bell sleeves, and nobody has ever worn them again at:


The day of my birth: Downright miraculous.

That people wanted to take me home, anyway.

(click to enlarge)

thanks for pushing at:

Monday, January 14, 2008

Karma, Cautiously

We are now in the Days of Birthday Karma, and with great trepidation I opened my email box today to find an invitation to appear as the keynote speaker of my alma mater's National Honor Society Banquet in May. Good, right?

Or... not. Because this means the following:

1) The standards that Mother of Mercy High School applies to gathering role models have clearly dipped to alarmingly low levels. Was Courtney Love not available?

I have decided I am being presented as a cautionary tale: "You need to take calculus, or this will happen to you."

2) My parents, once convinced that they were now free of any child-related banquets, Track and Field Days, dance recitals, science fairs, soccer parties, or interminable choir concerts, are now right back where they started. I am the auditorium-related gift that just keeps on giving.

Josh The Pilot is also invited, fortunate man. At the moment he is preoccupied with birthday plans, as I told him that I didn't want anything expensive or shiny or even drivable-- I just wanted a surprise. The man has yet to surprise me with anything, other than the shocking news that he likes pool when I had no idea that he liked pool. I blame his utter inability to be anything other than painfully honest. Last year he tried to surprise me when I turned thirty; we were on the phone the night before, and I heard the unmistakable noise of a suitcase closing and zipping.

ME: That was a weird noise. What are you doing?
JTP: ...Arranging... stuff.

And of course, it was little to no shock when he appeared on my doorstep 24 hours later, suitcase in hand. This is a good thing, in a relationship, for I know that he is incapable of cheating. I would find out in about four seconds, not due to any possession of investigative skills on my part, but because I would call him on his cell phone all, "Hey, can you pick up some milk on your way home?" and he'd be like, "OK, I'll stop by the grocery when I leave the In-N-Out Motel."

So it went this year. We descended into the Man Cave to eat dinner last week, both of us balancing trays, and I set mine down on the footlocker which serves as a coffee table. (Like I said... Man Cave.) And sitting atop the footlocker was a piece of paper upon which was written some flight information, along with the following:

"Fletch The Extremist is arriving on Jan. 14. Pick up at IAD after work."

"Oh," I said, holding up the note, "is Fletch coming to town?"

There followed a great deal of empty-box kicking and wall-smacking, because not only was The Pilot furious with himself for leaving a paper trail in plain view, he didn't even think to fling a fully honest, fully believable air traffic control-related excuse, such as the fact that he wished to play a practical joke upon his friend, and route him to, say, Omaha.

But given that today is also the tenth anniversary of this, I am perfectly happy with a lifetime of paper trails.

six monthiversarying at:

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Gym Membership

By order of our bank accounts, my gym membership currently consists of the workout DVDs I've amassed over the years. They have titles like Your Wedding Workout and We Bet You Ate a Sandwich Today, You Fat, Fat Pig. The latest offered an introduction from cherry Instructor Lady whose accent varied, within one sentence, from Southern, to British, to Kiwi, to Boston College, and back beneath the Mason-Dixon. She assured me, multinationally, that all I required for our workout was a floor. Maybe, if I were the fancy sort, a mat.

Well... right on it, sister! Done! I cursored the DVD to the first workout. There was a title card, and then--

CHEERY INSTRUCTOR LADY: You're going to need a towel.

but in what hemisphere at:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Welcome Freelance Switch Readers

You are hereby out of the cage and into the Tasting Room.

Have a glass.

unfettered at:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Called Out

Appearing at Events Update: I'll be speaking on the workings of the space shuttle at 10 AM on Saturday, January 26, at Our Lady Of Hope Catholic Church in Potomac Falls, VA. Following that, I'll continue the lecture beneath the nose of Enterprise at the Udvar-Hazy wing of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. All of this involves a blowtorch and the phrase "mating the tank," so you pretty much have to be there.

To business. Today I was reflecting upon Teller of Penn and Teller--and don't we all, at some point?--and thinking very deeply about what his visits to the DMV must be like. Teller, whom I otherwise respect, has legally changed his name to... Teller. I mean, when when he (silently) signs himself in at the dentist's office, that's what he goes with. It's on his passport.

As a person who married and moved to a completely new geographical area at the same time, this has created a great deal of furrowing. Since to splay "By Mary Beth Ellis Hunter" across a book jacket would leave little to no room for an actual title, I'm legally changing my last name to Josh the Pilot's, but will continue to write as Mary Beth Ellis. This has resulted in total bureaucratic Armageddon, with junk mail hailing me as Mary Hunt, telemarketers calling for Mr. Joshua Ellis, and three different driver's licenses at once. I would have quite the little side industry in gateway documents if I so desired. (Damn yoooooou, basic ethics and morals!) That fourth horse bearing eight change-of-address forms in triplicate? He rides for me.

To demand to be addressed by one name is mind-boggling; even Jesus Christ had two names, not to mention a middle initial under certain circumstances. We are left, as a culture, to the Rise of "Dude."

In my days working backstage security at Riverbend (I mean this quite literally; I did it for two days), this created a great deal of angst: What if Cher booked a show? Sting? My parents raised me to address new acquaintances as Mr., Ms., or Mrs. unless otherwise invited, and here I'd be bereft of a last name with which to polite the client. To refer to another human being as "Ms. Madonna" called for a sense of the ludicrous I left behind the day I discovered that when Boomer Esiason was with the Bengals, his team nickname was his actual name: Norman.

Fortunately, Cher stayed far, far away from the banks of the Ohio, and I was left to totally and accidentally offend the Gentry half of Montgomery Gentry by not recognizing him and refusing to allow him backstage until I saw a pass. By then, though, I was able to issue a full and proper apology, as opposed to, "Hey, I'm really sorry about that... you!"

but kix brooks was totally cool about it at:

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Fine Print

I'd like everyone to meet the label I just peeled off my latest bottle of fluvoxamine.


Dear bottle:
If I weren't experiencing mood changes, sadness, depression, or fear, I WOULDN'T NEED YOU IN THE FIRST PLACE.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

New Hampshire Conclusions

Having spent two and a half consecutive days in the state of New Hampshire about nine years ago, I can with 100% confidence declare the following, fellow Americans:

1) Just once, I would like to see an acceptance or concession speech that doesn't look like it's being delivered at the opening session of the Mid-Central Professional Management Corporate Training Synergization Seminar.

2) Tonight's election coverage included an interview with the person who must have the most cubicle-deathly job in these United States: Comptroller General. Yeeeeeaaaaah, we're going to need him to come in on Saaaaaturday.

stapling at:

Monday, January 07, 2008


Jim The Small Child Nephew and Will The Baby Nephew are now of an age when we can toss them around without worrying that their heads will fall off. So that's what Josh The Pilot and I did on our last visit, flinging about one nephew apiece. Then we'd trade, switching them mid-air like little blonde juggling clubs.

What you see here is an attempt to face both of them in the same direction at the same time, which went precisely as well as you might expect. They were within reaching distance of Thomas the Tank Engine toys, which are based on a disturbing program featuring chronically depressed trains who live on an island. The island is apparently the size of Australia, to judge by the amount of railage, and wherever it is I don't want to visit there, for cranes are forever falling over and feelings are getting hurt and sentient trains are ramping up the fury.

Thomas the Tank Engine is the Saw of childhood entertainment; one episode features a jelly-intensive train wreck, and it was absolutely the worst violence I've seen involving jelly since Doughnut Stealing Guy was apprehended. Will The Baby Nephew burst into tears, as did I.

So we threw each other around some more. When in doubt, go for altitude.

aunting at:

Saturday, January 05, 2008

"There's Always a Band, Kid."

In honor of the Iowa caucus, after thirty years of watching The Music Man, I'm finally seeing it as God and Meredeth Willson intended. Much like when I beheld 1776 in widescreen for the first time, I gathered all sorts of details that were chopped away by pan-and-scan; River City, for example, actually extends more than one inch on either side of Ron Howard's head. Entire houses and storefronts! I can see more than two and a half Buffalo Bills at once!

For all the arm-flinging I've done about the legs of Berlin and Rogers and Hammerstein and Lerner and Lowe, I must declare The Music Man as my favorite, for it accomplishes that rare feat of sophistication without pretension. It is a movie about redemption and hope, but not in an obvious, Nazis vs. small children wearing curtains sort of way. The script is upbeat but with just enough shadow to protect the enamel of one's sensibilities. Dialogue is deceptively simple, with subtle piano lesson humor, elevated references, and brilliant staging; it's a story set at the turn of the last century with applications at the turn of this one. (Performances of One Grecian Urn are currently available at a Catholic Mass near you.)

The period detail is tremendous; the film is set in the early 1900's and, well, it looks like the early 1900's. Too many historical movies bear the stamp of the age in which they were made-- Vanessa Redgrave, although she portrays a queen of the Arthurian era in Camelot, looks like she just alighted from the set of Laugh-In.

Not only does The Music Man keep and keep, it gives and gives. When I was six, there were pretty songs and swishy skirts; now that I am thirty, there are pretty songs, swishy skirts, and the realization that naming a Fourth of July picnic "The Last Days of Pompeii" is a masterpiece of ironic pomposity. And it's a movie before its time; the "If there's anybody in this hall who doesn't think this man Harold Hill shouldn't be tarred and feathered, let him by-God stand up" scene is the official precursor of the Regan-era Slow Clap.

The Music Man, shockingly, was Robert Preston's first musical role. Warner Brothers wanted to cast Sinatra. Sinatra. Because when you think small-town corn-pone Iowa Americana, you think Frank. Willson threatened to pull the film without Preston, and I say God bless him for preserving his performance for all of Western Civilization. Rex Harrison as Henry Higgins, Yul Brenner as the King of Siam, and Robert Preston as Professor Harold Hill: There are no others.

You can cut and paste just about any Presidential contender's strategy onto the quick-thinking, specific-but-empty flattery of Harold Hill's--if it's not the presence of a pool table in our community, it's global warming and childhood obesity. Trouble, and sending my brass band to the White House is the only solution for it.

But none of them will look as good as Preston in a punched-up top hat.

advocating dirty books at:

Thursday, January 03, 2008

He WILL Kick You Into Delegation Submission

I am hereby sticking to my promise to avoid political writing by highlighting only the most vital news out of Iowa tonight: the sight of Chuck Norris and his neon white teeth--there is such a thing as neon white teeth, and Chuck Norris has them-- LOOMING LOOMING LOOMING over Mike Huckabee's left shoulder during the caucus victory speech. Chuck Norris had decreed that Huckabee shall win Iowa! And he... is watching... you.

Chuck Norris has already been to Mars; that's why there are no signs of life there at:

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


For my first post of 2008, I wish to discuss a very serious issue.

This was clipped from a December womens' magazine, and I am greatly troubled that our society has reached the point at which we must provide pictorial step-by-step explanations of how to achieve mall hair. Is this not included with the power to ovulate? The only difference between the women of the '80's and the rest of humanity is that, for a single unfortunate decade, we chose to exercise the ability.

I don't remember anyone teaching me how to Bang; I simply amassed a curling iron and a pick and a metric ton of hairspray and took my place at the right hand of D.J. Tanner. I take special exception to the flippant nature of the text in the third step-- "spray liberally until crunchy"-- that wasn't a sound effect, people; that was a necessity. When you possess, as I do, hair with the texture of overmicrowaved string beans, hairspray is an indispensable tool in maintaining bangs at a naturalistic ninety degree angle.

And this chick is way too carefree about the entire affair. Bang-curling is very serious business, to be attempted in the early morning hours with a smoking iron and rapidly cooling breakfast. My mother could gauge precisely the type of hair day my sister and I were having merely by the amount of foot-stomps she heard from our bathroom above the kitchen. Flinging hair care products into the sink was a common weapon against the cowlick in the center of my bangs; it works about as well with a comb in 2008 as it did with the pick twenty years ago.

We see here an immense amount of hair, both in width as well as height. The occasion is my eighth grade graduation, which was pretty much my most formal evening out until that point. It is still a formula to which I subscribe: The more important the event, the further out from the head the hair must expand. That is why, on my wedding day, we saw the back extending many inches away from my skull. Compare that to, say, this photo:

The horse does not care about follicle volume. The horse barely cares whether or not I wish it to move.

So by this principle, if ever I appear on television, I will likely require my own soundstage. And you-- this is the key to gauging my estimation of you. If you and I meet, and there is no evidence of mousse, there's a pretty good chance that I either just purposefully ran you down with my car, or am on my way to purchase a used one from you. But if, on the other hand, you see this:

Dearest Reader, you might well be God Himself.

no more perm appointments at:

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