Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dog & Cats & Homework & Websites

(I wrote part of this last night and then part of it this morning and that's why the time-line might seem jumbled.)

Today is a day of re-entry. We flew home last night, getting in around nine p.m. L.A. time. The reality of the fact that I’ve been gone for 12 days set in. Not only piles of mail, but Mulan has homework that hasn’t been done. Her teacher sent some homework off with us to do in New York. I would say we’ve completed… about half of it. And it’s really my fault that I hadn’t made her finish it.

That’s funny, me saying, “made her finish it.” Because homework these days, as any parent I know who has a child in public school can attest, homework isn’t about THEM doing it, it’s about sitting with your child for hours on end and talking them through it.

Mulan has about… oh, I would say a half an hour to forty five minutes of homework a night. She is in first grade. She is reluctant, however. And that makes homework take about an hour to an hour and a half. All I’m saying is that this homework thing is kicking my butt. I never had my parents help me with homework, unless I needed something big typed up when I was in sixth or seventh grade. Mulan is six and one of her spelling words this week is “anarchid.” ANARCHID.

Also, I put our dog, Arden, into this schmancy Kennel while we were in New York. And when we returned to Los Angeles, my old cat, Val, showed up. I have always had outdoor cats. I’ve always been a bit lackadaisical about my cats. Sometimes they didn’t come home for a day, or even two. And then they did. At one time I even had four cats. Three of them lived to be over 16 years old. And the three of them died within a month of each other about four years ago. But Val was left. And when Arden arrived on our doorstep (he was a stray) he chased Val off. I thought they would work it out, but Val is rather timid and didn’t stand her ground. Or maybe she was just smart, because Arden seriously hates cats. And squirrels. I have seen him tear a squirrel’s heart out in front of my eyes.

So Val went off and I imagined she found some other home. Because I would see her, once every two weeks or so. And she looked well fed, even chubby. And sometimes I would hear Arden chasing her out of the yard. Every so often I would give her a pet and wonder which neighbor was now Val’s owner. Or rather, her feeder. Who was getting Val’s little fluffy head rubs against their ankle?

This must make me seem so irresponsible.

In the meantime, Arden took over our life. He is active and needs at least an hour of rigorous exercise a day. He is overly protective of the house, in my opinion. Anyone who comes to the door is greeted by a crazed barking maniac of a dog that any reasonable person would think would kill them instantly. And that’s good. Except when it’s bad. Like children, he scares the bejeezus out of children. Also, I can never have the front door just open casually anymore, because I have to worry about Arden rushing out.

I came to really like Arden. Even love him. It IS irritating that every time I get up out of a chair, his claws scrape across the tile floor and he begins to hyperventilate in anticipation of a… possible… could it be?… walk! And mostly it’s just that I have to go to the bathroom, or answer the phone, or get a tissue. Okay, I’ll admit it, he’s seriously irritating.

I like lazy dogs. I like big, dopey dogs. I like dogs that lie about all day and drool in one spot and then look up out of their haze. I hate the subservience of dogs. Or rather the eagerness of dogs like Arden. I like, I’m temperamentally more appreciative of the aloofness of cats. I like that you have to work a little bit to get their attention. I like that you can ignore them and they can ignore you.

But still, I love Arden.

I really do.

Anyway, when we came home, Val was at the door. And we let her in. And she’s been hanging around. Sitting on the table while Mulan does her homework last night. Sitting on my lap while I chatted to my boyfriend last night. Purring sweetly in the chair next to me while I read. Rubbing against my legs while I give Mulan a bath.

I miss her! But I can’t have both of them.

I called the Kennel and they are keeping Arden another week. This gives me time to think. Mulan wants Val to stay. I am shocked at my own lack of feeling about Arden. But maybe in a few days I will miss him too. Hmmm… what to do. What to do.

My new website is taking longer than expected. It should be up by Wednesday. But then, the merchant people who do the credit card processing for the CDs won’t be ready until Wednesday too. And then, Thursday, the list of 500 people who are on my pre-order list will be shown where to buy the CD. But then – Fresh Air said they will rerun the interview I did this weekend and have my website listed for people who want to buy the CD. So that means that the 500 people will probably only get a one or two day advance chance to buy them. Which wasn’t how I intended this to work. Agh. Also, I want to try to get as many people to buy the CD in the first two weeks as I can. Because, since it takes four weeks to order more CDs, I can accurately judge whether to order more CDs for Christmas. I have no idea what going on shows like The View (especially since I have no idea how that interview will go, whether it will be like – one minute or ten or fifteen minutes) will generate in terms of interest.

I got thousands of emails after the Fresh Air interview. Thousands. Frances, my assistant, is sorting through them. Some of the letters are so moving. I wish I could read them all. I intend to.

But first, I have to be (and thrilled about being) a chaperone with Mulan’s class today when they visit a nearby museum. And it’s Halloween.

Also, I can’t stop thinking about Bookboy’s comments on my last blog. Or the quote he posted. I wish I could stop my life and just muse over how we all frame our perceptions about reality and then seek to confirm our perceptions and at what point we change them based on what types of evidence. This area is super interesting to me.


bookboy said...

so there i'm at the Bookstore at the customer service desk, when I hear out of the corner of my ear a guy asking a bookseller if we have a book by that person who was on SNL. Oh my god I couldn't belive it, he was talking about you, it has begun. He hear you on NPR, just word of advice, we are setting our Christmas diplays, and every store has a Religion Table with all types of belives, and thats where your going smack dab in the middle. Hope you print up enough.

SweetThursday said...

When are you on The View? I need a very good reason to watch that show because the negative vortex in me takes over when I listen to most anything Elizabeth says.

I know I should be a softer, kinder gentler soul with people of her ilk. I mean that is the only way one might be able to get her to be more open minded.

But I am no politician. I am God. Today anyway. At my work someone came up with the theme of angel, devil and God. I was cast as God.

And I have nothing to wear.

And sorry Julia, I exist -- for today at least.

rhubarb said...

I sincerely hope your child's teacher did not assign "anarchid" as a spelling word, because it's not a word at all. "Arachnid" is, though, and we all know it's a cool scientific term for "bugs" like spiders and scorpions. Perhaps you could entice your daughter to learn it based on that.

The details of your blog entry aside, you seem a bit jet-lagged and overwhelmed. I trust you'll get some rest, focus on your child, and work out a realistic scheme for your pet conundrum before you even *think* of reading my paltry contribution to your email.

tom said...

I just saw your show this past Sunday, and it was absolutely amazing. I have two questions, a tiny quibble, and a desperate request.

Question 1 - Sitting there waiting for the show to start, my girlfriend and I were really enjoying the music (although we like Sarah Mclachlan's version of Dear God better than the original). Any chance you could publish the set list on your blog?

Question 2 - There is no way that 500 cds will be enough! I will buy at least 2, probably more as soon as I get the chance. Any chance on a DVD? The visual aspect of your performance was too compelling to miss out on...

Quibble - This is really nitpicky, but during your show you mentioned "random chance" a few times while discussing evolution. In a sense, it IS random chance that our specific selves are the result of evolution, but evolution itself is driven by accumulated and gradual change filtered by natural selection. "Random chance" only operates to provide mutations and variation in the gene pool. I only mention this because the creationists often use "random chance" as an argument against evolution, and I was unclear on exactly what you meant.

Desperate Request - PLEASE BRING YOUR SHOW TO PHILADELPHIA SOMEHOW!!! I have so many friends and family that would love it. I wasn't able to convince them all to come to NY though! I'll buy them all the cd as a gift, but they'll miss out on your wonderful physical and facial communication.

Finally, I just want to say that I was genuinely and deeply moved by your story. While people like Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins and Carl Sagan do (or did) wonderful things writing and educating, you are attacking the problem of unfounded, non-evidence based (i.e., immoral) belief from a different angle. I think that you truly have the ability to make a difference, and while you have every right to find your happiness however you wish, I hope that you can find the time and the will to continue to be a champion and a hero. I hope that doesn't sound too schmaltzy, but I think you're there and I hope you decide to stay there!

Sorry for the length of this first-ever post on a blog...but... well if I say anymore, my girlfriend will be jealous!

Anonymous said...

dog/cat solution: two houses

Melissa said...

I had a hard time finding you today! I usually get to your blog through your main site, but it's different, w/ no link to your blog :(

The new site's great though - good promo for Letting Go (which I saw at your benefit show in LA last spring -?- I think) and your pics are gorgeous!

An idea for the dog/cat dilemma - and this may sound kooky - but you could consider the dog whisperer. You've probably heard of him since he trained Oprah how to manage her dog - Cesar Millan. Here's his site: http://dogpsychologycenter.com/index.php

Anyway, I mention it b/c maybe you, Mulan, the cat and the dog can live in harmony if the dog could be less...er...annoying? ;)

Petra said...

Oooh don't get me started on schools! Oops, too late. Okay, first of all, there is no reason in the world that a first grader needs to know how to spell arachnid. Other than the pride of TELLing people she knows how to spell arachnid. [sheesh] I don't care how "advanced" a school may be, that is just showing off. And an hour or more to do homework is certain to take the thrill out of learning.

I encourage you to consider homeschooling, Julia. That way YOU control the content and have all the wonderful freedoms to travel with Mulan. It is NOT difficult, and with a young child, takes as little time as it takes for you currently to supervise her homework and cart her back and forth to school. If you want information, let me know!

Good luck with the Arden / Val thing. That is a tough place to be. On the one hand, Arden sounds like he needs more freedom, but then again, Val has made a home for herself elsewhere. Yikes. Glad I am not in your shoes there!

Flippy said...

Dog/cat solution = baby gates. Cat can be in the bedroom or escape to where it's safe...dog gets stuck outside the gate, while cat jumps over.

Sheldon said...

Bookboy's comments remind me of the beginning of Matthew Alper's book "The God Part of the Brain" (www.GodPart.com) when he talks about what sparked his own trek toward a non-theistic worldview.

It wasn't Mormon boys, though. It was taking a mind altering drug, and realizing that his own sense of what's real is based on brain chemicals. That caused him to get introspective about his religious beliefs, things he'd seen as miraculous, etc., and whether those, too, weren't just figments of his imagination.

It's an amazing read; one that changed my life.

TimWarp said...

Julia, have you ever looked into the Waldorf schools? Our daughter is in first grade, and won't have any homework until 3rd. They also believe in teaching kids to be fully developed human beings, which means ETHICS (as you were discussing the other day!) and caring about people. I think Steiner (Rudolph Steiner, who started the Waldorf Schools in German after the first world war) has theories that are a bit crackpot, but the schools themselves are brilliant--the opposite of the "no child left alive" policies of the current administration.

edtoon said...

I heard you on NPR the other day and just watched your video. Both suggest that you believe in God. I'm not trying to be cagy or use some fancy reverse psychology. I simply conclude from your own words that you do believe there is a God (or god, if you prefer). I won't take time now to get into schmancy philosophy, but do continue to consider what type of deist or theist you are.

Smartypants said...

(Rudolph Steiner, who started the Waldorf Schools in German after the first world war)

Judging from the second world war, I'd say Herr Steiner's teaching of ethics to German children was somewhat wanting!

Wendy Dorrel said...

The Smurfs. It was a strange way to stumble onto your blog but that's how it happened and I'm really glad for it. I've really enjoyed reading your entries and look forward to checking out your show on cd. While reading your blog I had my iTunes on shuffle and, no joke, the song Supermodel comes on as I'm reading your entry about Joe's pub here in NYC and I thought I was losing my mind. I'm just bummed I found you today and not when you were here in New York performing.

The cat and dog situation must be so hard, good luck! :)

Ken said...

I grew up with a dog. The eager kind, but as it aged, it was also lazy. Lazy and eager.

Our dog would always pull the leash in great anticipation when we went walking or hiking. She pulled in such a way that your arm became part of the leash, and your whole body would feel the energy of an intrepid English Setter who we were entirely too slow for.

So once, to try to pull me and my wagon up a hill, I attached the leash to the wagon, hoping my dog would act sort of like a horse and do the work for me. She just turned around and started licking me.

I say keep the dog.

Anonymous said...

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.

-Lucius Annaeus Seneca,
(4BC – AD65)

TimWarp said...


Or it could just mean that the majority of "good Germans" were still going to public schools.


Can't wait until I can buy the CD!

bookeraptor said...

One of my relatives likes to give little "proofs" of the existence of God. Like the time she found a $10 bill on the sidewalk. Of course, it was put there by God for her to find! What more proof do you need?! It makes me laugh, it really does. This whole illusion of central position seems to be what god-belief is based on. And it is built upon, reinforced by society, inculcated in us when we're young. No wonder most people don't want to examine it too closely. So it's rare when someone with your ability to think and relate that thinking to others comes along. I have only heard pieces and snippets of your show up to now, but I hope you live long and keep telling your story as long you can stand to. More people need to hear it.
Meanwhile, can't wait to get your cd and plan to give several away as Christmas gifts. (Which seems ironic, I guess.)

Miz BoheMia said...

Oooh! I love your writing and the post below was both beautiful and hilarious... here via Freethinker...

My daughter turns six on the 14th and is in the first grade as well... we are in Spain at the moment, waiting to sell our place and move back to San Francisco so at the moment, homework here is not too bad, about two pages that can be done quite fast if she sets her mind to it although I personally am quite anti-homework... it did nothing but burn me out and I hear there is quite the controversial group, albeit a minority I am afraid, of teachers who are against it...

I think your attitude towards your cats is healthy actually... I had 5 cats for over 15 years and when 4 of the 5 died... the 5th from a fall out of the 7th floor... it was too devastating and I had to give the remaining one away... now we have a cat again that I have bonded with, 1 out of 4... we just returned this other one, Ziggy, because he never licked his behind clean... now I am detached from them and it is just easier this way, less hurt.

Good luck with your CDs and website and the like and man am I bummed to be so far away and not get to catch your fab appearances! I will be linking to you!

Bruce said...

me want cd!!!!!


Alan Kellogg said...


The next time Arden gets all bent out of shape about the cat, give the dog Hell. I'm serious. Come down on his ass like a ton of bricks. Your house, your rules, and if the dog don't like it, the dog can suffer. Sometimes you gotta be mean.

Whereto your blog entries: Woman, you are the first writer I've ever read that makes Gary Gygax (of D&D fame) look organized. You produce stream of consciousness so rarefied they can only be called Epic Sweenyisms. An editor wouldn't help your writing, you need a translator. (I don't think Pat was ever as confused as your prose.)

Seriously, I hope you enjoy blogging, and you can get Arden settled down.

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