To the Moon and Back


To an untrained ear, you might think that my toddler was addressing me using a sweet accent he picked up from overhearing Downton Abbey.

Now that I think about it, that would be pretty sweet.  But what he’s referring to is something even sweeter in my opinion.

He’s actually saying, “Moon!!  Look at the moon!”


Source: (duh)

Lately, my kid has become obsessed with everything moon-like, which developed quite randomly and unexpectedly.  My husband and I, before we were parents, used to think it was weird and quirky when we saw kids being obsessed with seemingly random objects.  Of course, we now realize that, with toddlers, random is the norm.  Case in point – I once babysat for a sweet 4 year old boy.  On one of our first meetings, I asked him to go get his favorite book and we’d read together.  He brought out a ceiling fan catalog.  I glanced at his mom, who happened to still be in the room, and she smiled and nodded.  Unsure of how to read this book, I asked the kid to read to me and he proceeded to point out particular fans and explained to me exactly why they were his favorite.  Yuup.

My son’s obsession with moons began innocently enough through reading his growing collection of books.  I never realized how many kid books have moons in them or reference moons – there are a lot.  There’s Goodnight Moon, for starters, and on the very first page of The Very Hungry Caterpillar there is a large moon.  We started pointing these out, among other objects in the pictures, to Dylan when we read to him every night.  And then one night, he started saying it back to us.  He’d point at the yellow crescent and coo, Mumm!

I remember the first time Dylan pointed and named the real moon.  We were coming out of the library and it was just starting to get dark.  The lights in the parking lot had come on already, and since my kid loves lights, I figured he was pointing to a light, thinking it was the moon.  But nope, he knew the difference and he had also made the connection between the yellow crescents on paper with the glowing crescent in the sky.  What an amazing moment.

Since then, he works hard to seek out the moon wherever he can.  If he spots a yellow circle, it’s the moon.  Even pictures of the sun are, in fact, the moon. (Duh, mama!)  He’ll sit in his room and page through books he knows have moon pictures in them just to point them out to us (or to confirm they are still there).

More recently still, Dylan has started searching the sky looking for the moon.  He asks us to take him outside or to a window so he can see it.  (Points to window/door and shouts MUMMM!)  If it’s the wrong time of day, or if it’s overcast (welcome to the pacific northwest, moonlovers!), we explain to him that we can’t see it right now, and he gets so very frustrated and upset.

All of this is incredibly exciting for me to watch.  First, it’s evidence that my son is learning, growing, and showing preferences and making connections.  How freaking cool is that?!  Second, I love astronomy and space travel and…the moon.  When I took the PSATs, they had you list your projected career choice.  As a Junior in high school, I chose astronomer (this was while I was still in denial about my abilities in physics and quantum mechanics).  I can quote Apollo 13 in its entirety.  The Air and Space Museum is one of my all-time favorites.  I just watched a documentary about Scott Kelly’s historic year spent on the space station.  One of my favorite movies – Contact – speaks to me on so many levels.  I even insisted we visit Arecibo while Brian and I were in Puerto Rico a few years ago.  It was my nerdy pilgrimage of joy!



So anyways, I am so excited to be able to share my love of space science with my son!  I told Brian that it’s only a matter of time until we have to get Dylan a telescope.  (And by Dylan, I mean me, because I was the kid who asked for a telescope and instead got a pair of high-powered binoculars.  So much for getting to be Ellie Arroway.)  I can’t wait to explain to Dylan why the moon is always in a new place in the sky and why it looks like it keeps changing shape.  And why we have seasons and about retrograde planetary motion and red shift and blue shift!!  So far, we’ve introduced Dylan to Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Cosmos (which is a really cool program, I might add).  And while Dylan largely ignores it to play with his toys, he always comes back to pictures of the moon.



You do plan to have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right?

I survived Jurassic Park!!

Actually, I just got back from Puerto Rico, which [parts of it] looks a whole lot like Jurassic Park.  And we were in a Jeep.  On muddy roads.  With goat extremities flying about.

I was ready for giant roaring, spitting, flesh-tearing lizards at every turn.

I was also ready for all the crappy parts of what going to a tropical region entail – mainly mosquitoes, sunburn, mosquitoes, theft, mosquitoes, and humidity.  Also mosquitoes.

Don’t worry, I’ll go into great detail about all the things that were crappy about this vacation.   But first – a few things that were surprisingly awesome:

1. No migraines!

I live in Northern California.  It’s dry here, especially in the summer.  I tend to get migraines fairly often, and they are triggered mostly by dehydration and stress, and when we go hiking, they are exacerbated by the altitude.  In PR, we hiked to the top of El Yunque in the tropical rainforest, and no headache resulted.  Not even a little one.  Not one for the entire trip!  Sure, my sweat never freaking evaporated, but it felt sooooo nice to not have to pop Excedrin all the time.  Score one for the tropics.

2. No Breathe Right strips

When I go to bed, I look like a huge nerd.  I pop in my retainer from high school, and for the past year or so, I’ve been wearing Breathe Right strips to bed because I inherited my dad’s clogged, gross nasal passages apparently.  On this trip, I didn’t have to use a one.  The air was fresh and clean from all the rain, and it moistened my sinuses with gentle wetness and joy.  Squee!

3. Not having to moisturize after bathing

I developed eczema at the same time that my cancer symptoms were developing.  They took all the cancer out of me, but the eczema stayed.  This meant that I must moisturize like a madwoman after a hot shower or else my dry skin would get all itchy and scaly and I’d look like I belong in Jurassic Park.  I figured out the hard way that in a tropical climate, too much moisture gave me heat rash – yaaaayyyyy.  Sometimes I just hate my body.  But the upside was that I could just airdry with none of my normal head-to-toe goo rituals and it felt so freeing!

4. Awesomely ripe fruit + delicious Puerto Rican coffee = regular BMs for dayz!

I really don’t think this one requires an explanation, except that Brian and I call this phenomenon “mango poo.”
So I didn’t realize or intend for this post to turn into a list of my medical ailments, but it has.   I wrote an abbreviated journal while on the trip and it tended to read like a prison diary:  “Gone 4 days now. Heat rash is spreading. 15 mosquito bites so far.  I hope I have another mango poo.”

At this point, I don’t know which is the prison – PR or my desk at work; I’m actually developing a migraine as I write this.

Flour Bombs Away!

A few Saturdays ago (I can’t remember just how many Saturdays ago, because my world has been delightfully turned upside-down since then, and time has been standing still in this blissful reverie of mine, except when that spell is broken by the wafting odor of Brian sitting next to me like he is now, post very-warm-day flight, smelling like dirtymanplane and, well, sweat.) Brian and I competed in a flour bombing competition at the local small airport that Brian flies out of.

we feel the need…the need to WIN. or something.

Flour bombing is where you have a brown paper bag filled with about 2 cups of white flour (we used whole wheat flour when we practiced, cuz we’re healthy like that) and then you fly a plane over this big bullseye painted on the ground, and you drop the flour bags and the ones that land (with a big white -or brown- *poof*) closest to the center of the target win.

Sound fun?!

It sure is!

Sound easy?

Oh hells no.

So, naturally, Brian geeked out on this and he spent days doing these calculations having to do with the weight of the flour bomb, the speed of the aircraft, the altitude of the aircraft, the drag on the bag as it falls, the wind speed and direction, and if a tree falls in the woods, will my cat still throw up on my rug?  Brian tried to walk me through his mathematical genius, but my eyes glazed over and then I left to go eat a donut.

What all these calculations did was give us the angle at which the bag had to be dropped when looking at the target from the air, and with this information, Brian fashioned a bombsight by taping an aviation plotter to a level.  Since Brian had to concentrate on flying the damn plane and not killing us, it was up to me to drop the bombs, so I was to hold the bombsight level with the horizon (hence the level) and then we taped a piece of straw onto the plotter that created the appropriate angle for me to use.  As we flew forward, I looked down the straw, and the moment I saw the target through the straw was when I was supposed to drop the bomb.

Practice flour bomb and bombsight

Now, this sounded all well and good to me on the ground.  Pretty easy, pretty straightforward.   We had it in the bag.

Being the nerds we are, we decided to practice before the actual competition.  So Brian got a plane the night before and we made five of our own flour bags (whole wheat with see-through ziplocks) and we set off.

At the airport, Brian plugged in the wind speed and everything and calculated the drop angle and we taped the straw onto the bombsight accordingly.  We made one flyover to determine what we’d use as a target, and we decided on the windsock which had a big round circle painted around it.   We were ready!

Yeah, I knew it would be windy up there, with me hanging out the window of a Cessna 152, but I guess I just didn’t realize how difficult it would be to simply hang onto the bombsight and the bag at the same time and not let them get ripped out of my hands while my eyes were watering and air was moving so fast past my nose that it was very hard to breathe.

Practice #4

Bomb #1 got ripped out of my hand so quickly that I couldn’t even see where it landed.  We never saw it again, may it rest in peace.  I hope the jackrabbits feast on your whole-wheaty goodness.

Bombs 2 and 3 I actually saw hit the ground because of their contrasting whiteness to the green/brown surroundings, but also because I remembered to look and didn’t get my very expensive headset ripped off.  #2 went off to the left, and so I told Brian to fly more to the right for #3, and then #3 fell right in line with the target, I just released it too late, and so it fell too south.

Being able to adjust for our mistakes made all the difference, because we rocked so hard on 4 and 5.  #4 landed 30 feet from the target and #5 landed frickin 15 feet from the target!!!!  By the time we got on the ground to go see, it was too dark for pictures, but man, WE WERE PUMPED.

Bag #5 and the practice target

I asked Brian if there was a prize for winning the competition, cuz by this point I was actually thinking we had a chance of winning this thing.

The prize?

One free hour of flying at the flight school (worth about $85).

Thanks a lot.  I’ll win anyway just to spite all the flight instructors who were also competing.  I’d planned to just turn around and sell that one hour for twice the price to an unsuspecting jackrabbit.  Suckers.

What sucks about the actual competition was that we didn’t know crucial details like the weight of the bags, the speed, and the altitude rules until the morning of.  I mean, we just entered them into the equation accordingly, but having actual experience at those heights and speeds really makes a difference.  Turned out that we needed to fly 100 feet higher (at 600 feet) and 10 mph faster (at 80 mph) than we had flown in practice.  Plus the bags were twice as heavy, and they were brown, which made them VERY hard to see while falling,  aaaaaand we only got two bags.

Competition bag

So I described flying at 500 feet at 70 mph.  It’s windy.  Now imagine being sucked up into an F5 tornado like in Twister.  Flying with my head out the window at 600 feet and at 80 mph was exactly the same as Twister, because my hair was all messed up, and I wasn’t at all hurt by any of the CG debris that should have severed a vital artery and made me bleed out in a matter of minutes.

I could barely hold the sight steady, let alone hold it at all.  My eyes were watering so I could barely see.  And once I dropped the bag and turned around to watch it fall, I almost lost my headset (ahem, Brian’s very expensive headset) to the angry gods of flight.  I also had no idea where the bag hit the ground, so I had no way of adjusting for my mistakes the way I was able to do in practice.


The competition was way more frustrating than our practice, and I was lucky I didn’t ralph out the window once we hit the ground.  I wonder if that would have counted if I had ralphed from 6oo feet?

Our best bag landed 85 feet away, boo.  We came in 7th out of 15…not too shabby.

the winner’s bag landed just outside the target…had we been competing the night before, WE WOULD HAVE WON.

There’s always next year!


Genderbending is fun for everyone!


I hate it whenever someone puts me in a box.

It’s usually pretty dark in there and my claustrophobia starts to kick in right quick.  If I am lucky, someone poked some air holes in there pre-melissa-insertion.

So when I say “puts me in a box,” I usually mean “makes assumptions about me” or “has rigid expectations of me.”  When this happens, The Melissa gets quite angry and ranty, and few topics get my goat worse than when it comes to gender issues and the like.

To be clear, let’s define the word “gender.”  Here I will be using the feminist theory definition of gender as a social construction apart from biological sex.  Even though it is pretty commonly accepted, the terms sex and gender are not synonymous.  Sex refers to a person’s anatomy, chromosomes, etc.  Gender refers to the social roles and behaviors we perform.  Sex is a physical state while gender is a mental one.  An easy and fun way to remember this is that ‘sex is between your legs and gender is between your ears.’  Teehee!

While gender often matches a person’s sex (a biological man often plays the social roles of a male), it does not have to, and is so much more complicated and dynamic than the rigid binary boxes society has created for sex and gender.  In actuality, both sex and gender (as well as sexual orientation, but that’s a whole other post) exist on more of a spectrum with there being lots of shades of gray in between.  For the time being I wanna focus on gender and all the awesome variations and shades of gray.

Gender is something that we do.  Gender is performed, gender is behavior and a way we express ourselves in the world.  The most obvious way that we do gender is by how we visually present our bodies with clothing, hair (or lack of hair), nails, makeup (or lack of), accessories, etc.  This past week I wore a tie to work.  I have worn ties a few times before, but last week I wore my own tie – pretty purple paisleys.  I got a variety of reactions, from non-reactions to giggling to compliments to asking me what the tie was for.  I think it’s fair to say that most of those reactions imply that me -a lady- wearing a tie -male clothing- does not match the binary categories.  To be fair, if I had walked into work wearing a prom dress (a matching sex/gender combo), I might still have gotten the same reactions just because of the variable (in a long list of possible variables) of the office dress code.

I am dapper

I was also invited to a mustache party (nothing kinky, I swear), where mustaches were mandatory, regardless of gender.  What a hoot!  Both my partner and I were sans mustaches, so I drew one on each of us using my black and brown eyeliners.  How’s THAT for genderbending – I used a traditionally-marketed-to-female-gendered product to paint a bio-male thingy on my bio-female face.  Woot.

I find it interesting to see how I feel when I test the boundaries of traditional gender categories, depending on what I am doing and how public it is.  One of my clinical supervisors encourages us to identify what ways we defy gender norms without even thinking about it – by being ourselves – since who fits into the categories 100% of the time?  Answer: no one.

As a lady-person, I get to have lots more safe space in which to play with genderbending than men do, and I think that sucks.  We live in a world where I can wear a tie to work and just get some giggles, but if my partner wore a dress to work, he would have much bigger, more serious consequences.  That’s called a double standard and I hate it, hate it.  What are people doing to defy these stupid, stupid rules??!  I want to hear them!

No wonder we genderize things – our use of language demands it so!  We have three singular pronouns we use: he, she, and it. We lack any mainstream way of referring to a person whose gender is unknown or outside the binary without dehumanizing that person by saying “it.”  How horrible is that?  It may not sound like much of a crisis, but I definitely think it informs, fuels, and traps us in these harmful, restricting binaries.  On a sidenote – did you know that we have actually do have gender-neutral pronouns?  That’s pretty effing awesome!  No more using “they” as an awkward singular in term papers.

People get sooooo uncomfortable when they can’t put people/things/COLORS into gender categories.  Why is this?  Animals and human babies are a good example for this, since they don’t have gender.  They simply don’t got it.  Animals act instinctively based on their biological sex and that’s it, while humans develop gender gradually as their brain and social skills/world develops.  But when we get them as pets and baby humans, we assign them a gender using names and colored collars (you know, baby collars.  all the cool moms are doing it).  Without these names and collars, we don’t know what pronoun to use and people. go. nuts.  If a person doesn’t know a baby/animal’s gender, they usually either ask or refer to it as masculine.  Have you or anyone you know been scared that someone would mistake your baby/cat/lizard for the wrong gender?  Has anyone mistaken the gender?  Did you correct phe? (<—-gender neutral pronoun! How useful!)  Why or why not?  Why is it important to us that we project gender onto our things?  I find the discomfort around this subject absolutely fascinating, and I draw attention to it so that maybe others might get curious about why going against the traditional grain gets us so uncomfortable.

That reminds me, I was wrapping xmas presents yesterday, and my frugal self has two kinds of wrapping paper: a light blue one that says “Happy Holidays” so it can be used for xmas and Hanukkah, and one with assorted yellow and pink stripes to use for all occasions.  As I was making decisions about what to wrap in what, I realized I was choosing to wrap presents intended for males in the blue-based paper and females with the pink paper.  This will not do.  Buuut, my gut reaction to thinking about wrapping against gender norms made me uncomfortable.  My actual thought was more about me not wanting to offend any of my male family members (take note that I had no worries about offending the females with this arrangement).  Oh dear me.  The solution?  I said ‘fuck it’ and did it opposite.  Now, don’t give me a Nobel Peace Prize.  All I am saying is that the simplest damned things like this crop up all the time, and collectively, they mean something.  Stop and think about what they might mean.

Ways I defy gender norms by crawling out of my box:

  • I hate cooking, I am not good at it, and I don’t wanna cook for you or anyone else.  So there.
  • I wear ties.  With gusto.
  • I wrapped xmas presents in paper with pink stripes that are intended for men.

How do you crawl out of your box? (the assumption I am making here is that everyone defies gender norms. booyah.)

For additional reading, check out this awesome blog post about one teacher working to abolish gender binaries by educating her students!!  Makes me so excited about life!


Two weeks ago I fell ill…it was bound to happen sooner or later what with all the thesis stress going on up in here (see last post), and so I was very very thankful for this past long holiday weekend.  My goals were to sleep and eat and interact with people who are related to me and, in between all that, sit around and do nothing.  And guess what?  SUCCESS!  It was a glorious weekend!  So glorious, in fact, that I neglected to write this blog post during the weekend (hence the doing nothing), and it also included me having contact with a baby.  With its parents’ permission this time! Excellent.

But I wish to back up and first summarize the notable events from before the weekend.  Ahem.

On Monday, November 14th, Brian presented/defended his thesis and it went swimmingly!  I was/am very proud of him!

On Wednesday, November 16th I had a migraine but went to work anyway.  Bad idea.  By Thursday morning, I was full-blown sick from all that stress, so I took a half day and went straight back to bed.  Good idea!  Unfortunate timing for my immune system, Brian and I woke up at 4am on Friday (bad idea, in hindsight) to catch a plane to Seattle for Brian’s friends’ wedding filled with aero-nerds.  Sac airport just recently built and opened a new terminal (good idea!) but neglected to add proper signage so that people could actually get to where they desired to go (baaaad idea).  As we were walking, in the dark, in the cold, through construction to get from one terminal to the next, we came across a nice (read: not nice) man with a large camera.  He turned on the blindingly bright batman camera spotlight, shined it in our eyes, and began firing questions asking if we were lost due to the new terminal and lack of signage.

camera guy: “Are you two lost?  Is that why you’re having to walk to this terminal?”

brian: “yup, we are.”

me: “GO AWAY! HISS!”

camera guy: “So, you didn’t see any signs to get you to the right terminal?”

brian: “nope, we didn’t.”


and then I sprayed plague-filled snot all over him (the camera man, not Brian).  Later on Brian’s coworkers said we made the evening news.

We would have been late for our flight due to lack of signage, but the flight ended up being canceled. Sooooooo, Brian waited while I tried to sleep with the incessant blinging and dinging and announcing of flights over the PA system for 5 hours in the airport while I was a seething pile of viral plague.  Yummy.

Summary:  Seattle was way too cold, I was way too sick and tired, but we managed to have fun at the wedding, which was 20s themed (as well as nerd themed!).  Observe:

We do the 20s in style

Also, I figured I’d use this blog to help out some poor kid or teenage boy or seriously mentally repressed adult male find what he had lost:

Here is Brian doing a very great job of displaying fake empathy.  Or maybe it’s real empathy.  I suppose if I had a dinos- nope, fake empathy.

Thank goodness that following week was short, because I was slowly dying and turning into a walker from The Walking Dead. Moaning, slow walking and all.  The Thanksgiving break was just what I needed to recover and relax and get an added boost of baby-crazy.  We spent Thursday with Brian’s fam and had amazing food.  The Packers won handily against the Lions, which means that my Detroit-born supervisor at work must wear my cheesehead and have his picture taken.  Friendly bets=future leverage.  We spent Friday with my family and my brother almost killed my elderly childhood cat.  Good times.

One of my good friends from high school politely managed to have her baby on Friday as well so that I could visit the following day while I was still in town.  Talk about cuteness!  This was more exciting than reading about unmedicated Bipolar Disorder!  I got to hold the youngest baby I have ever held – 21 hours old.  Beat my last record by over 5 days!  Pretty soon I’ll have to hang out in delivery rooms to keep breaking my record.  Special thanks to my friend for letting me visit!  I think I have enough oxytocin running through me to last a while now…at least til Christmas.

Welcome to Thesis Hell, population: 2

Many of my friends already know that my partner is in a Master’s program for mechanical engineering and that he’s currently working on his thesis.  That all started out just great, but slowly and surely, he started crawling further and further down into the depths of hell and somehow I got dragged down, too.  yaaaaaaaaayy!!

When Brian works on his thesis, he’s nerdy, he gets excited, and he gets focused.  So focused, that he’s been calling that vibe/space/time his “hole.”  We’re always working on our communication, (because how can we not with one half of this operation being a therapist?) and so I’ve told him that I like to be alerted before he’s about to mentally disappear for hours on end and emerge looking like he’s been through a war zone.  The warning he’s developed for my benefit is as follows: “Lady, I’m going into my hole!” and away he goes.  This is what his hole looks like:

"The Hole"

Notice that Sadie’s been allowed to occupy the latter half of Brian’s chair.  Not even I get that much.  I’m lucky to get some attention if I flash him, or at the very least, if I come with an offering of food.

Brian defends his thesis TOMORROW, and I frickin CAN’T. WAIT.  This has been a summer+fall semester in the making, and has steadily been getting more and more stressful and frantic.  These past few days have been the worst, and honestly, I think I have put myself in a similar stressed-out state by starting this blog now, and I don’t think that was by accident.  I really think that, subconsciously, I gave myself something to do that would make my mental state roughly equal to that of Brian’s so that I would somehow feel “normal” under the circumstances.  Cool, huh?  You don’t need Freud, just ask me.

So.  Send good vibes our way starting now and continuing through about 5:30pm PST tomorrow.  Brian starts his defense at 4:30 and I plan to be there to cheer him on.  I am suuuuuper proud of him, but for the love of all that is holy, let this end and let it end asap.