Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Untitled Due to Lack of Title Supply

You might change your opinion of me when I tell you this.

I've never watched Law & Order. Or Dynasty. And I hate chicken wings.

So, tonight, I exercised (two months, every day, let's hear it for commitment!) and then I went to the grocery story ostensibly to buy cat food. On the way, a car pulled out in front of me at an intersection--my light turned green and this oncoming car noticed that her light turned green, too, so she immediately turned left. If I'd been a little less observant and driving a cooler, hotter, faster car than my 1993 Mercury Sable (boring ice blue), perhaps I would have rammed into the side of her smallish vehicle. But I was paying attention. And my car meanders.

The SUV next to me, however, in the right lane, very nearly crashed into the inattentive driver's car. We all paused in the middle of the intersection. I couldn't go further because the erring driver's car was in front of me. She couldn't move out of my way because the SUV was blocking her way. The SUV wouldn't get out of the way because he first had to roll down his window and rebuke the inattentive driver with great drama and extra finger-wagging and maybe even some harsh language. I'm just guessing.

I simply honked my horn in a "GET OUT OF THE WAY YOU IDIOT" sort of pleasant pattern. The light turned red and finally, the lecture ended and the SUV moved, so the inattentive car moved and then I moved.

I went for cat food and spent $96 because I remembered things here and there I must have. For instance, potato chips and Tostitos (Restaurant Style) for the Super Bowl on Sunday. And four avacados and french onion dip. The triumph of the Seahawks hinges on the adequate consumption of junk food in my house. I also decided hot dogs (with chili) would be an excellent meal on Super Bowl Sunday. I remembered to buy relish, too, for my husband. And chili, no beans.

I forgot the buns, though, because my formerly reliable, outstanding and exquisite memory is failing one bun at a time. I hate that. I still have supreme confidence in my abilities, but shaky performance. Kind of like my Mercury Sable. Only without the empty waterbottles on my floorboards and old Sunday School papers tucked in my pockets.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

I'm Pretty Boring in My Old Age

In real life, I prefer not to call attention to myself, so I am mystified by my recent post proclaiming my own birthday. What's wrong with me? Perhaps it's old age breaking down my inhibitions.

Yesterday morning, I took my daughter to the grocery store to buy essentials: milk, bread, cookies and $107 worth of groceries when it was all said and done. My little girl sat in the cart, so she was positioned perfectly to transfer everything to the conveyor belt. Which she did, by herself, no help from Mommy required. She wore a sundress, tights and hot-pink Converse Chuck Taylors . She looked ridiculous and charming, so much that every menopausal woman in the story smiled and tried to chat with her. (Her Royal Majesty of the Pink High-Tops wouldn't answer a single question nor make eye contact.)

I spent my birthday afternoon getting my hair cut. My poor stylist. I said, "Okay, see? I don't want to look like a cocker spaniel. You know what I mean? See this? Ears? No. Too much length. But no layers. I hate layers. Layers make me look like Little Orphan Annie. You know what I mean? And my bangs. I think I need more bangs. What do you think? They are thinning a little and can you fix that? I want a sort of a bob, but not too short. And not like a mushroom. The curl is natural, yes. See, how it's weighed down and flat on my head, but like a cocker spaniel down here?" I went on for five incoherent minutes while she squinted at me and finally pulled out a book full of hairstyles. We settled on a style and at one point, they were straightening my hair, two of them at once, tugging and burning the curl out of my locks. I went home with super-straight, silky hair, in contrast to my normal Ronald McDonald bouffant.

I was home only an hour or two, long enough to cook dinner and tidy up a little. My mother came over half an hour late to watch the children. As we drove, I telephoned the restaurant--they won't take reservations for parties of less than six people--and asked to be put on the waiting list. Good thing I used the telephone girl's name ("Stephanie"), when we arrived because they had no trace of us on their list and the waiting time was up to an hour and a half. When I said, "Well, I talked to Stephanie," she whirled around and said, "That's me!"

We waited only fifteen minutes, then sat in a corner table where we could see the sky darken from gray to black before our dinners arrived. We gazed at the lit-up ferry as it slid up to the dock nearby and I said, "We need to take the kids on a ferry this summer." Two tables were full of high school kids in formal gowns and tuxedos. I only wish we'd been right next to them so I could have eavesdropped successfully.

Dinner was excellent and my husband was in fine form, making me laugh. We really ought to go out more often.

Last night, I watched "The Beach" on DVD. I'd recently read the book and wanted to see the movie in its entirety. (I've seen bits of it on the Oxygen network.) I was most fascinated by the special features, specifically the director's commentary about deleted scenes. Of course, the book was better than the movie. Books are always better than the movies.

This morning, my daughter insisted on wearing a Barbie ballerina costume to church, which I allowed. I simply dressed her in a black turtleneck and black pants and her pink Chuck Taylors. She looked endearing in a crazy sort of way. Sadly, I didn't get a photograph. She reminded me of that guy who dressed like the tooth fairy on some television commerical. Only smaller and more adorable and with blond curls.

We napped together, she and I, for two glorious hours, during which time I had an insane dream involving Mexican guys keying my car and two baby alligators in my garage and my daughter wandering the street due to my carelessness and my husband scolding me for driving in a dangerous residential area in Houston.

When we woke, she informed me we'd be going around the block and I knew better than to argue. I pointed out that she'd have to get dressed and that it was cold and rainy. We made it only halfway around, she on her tricycle, me walking, when she decided to turn back. She parked her trike, then we started off again, splashing through puddles and veritable streams on the side of the road. It's rained thirty-eight out of the last forty days and half our driveway is a pond large enough to cover the tops of yellow rubber boots.

Can you believe this recitation of my weekend? I feel like I should be writing it on notebook paper and turning it in for a grade to my creative writing teacher who would then ask me to please rewrite and use more interesting details and embellishments. Have you learned nothing from James Frey? she'd say.

I watched the Screen Actor's Guild Awards tonight. My favorite moment just might be Jamie Lee Curtis stumbling and then regaining her balance while she came down the stairs. And I was pleased that "Crash" won for Best Film Ensemble. And Reese Witherspoon won, which is perfect.

Then I sobbed during the end of Grey's Anatomy, which can mean only one thing.

I'm not menopausal yet, despite being fortysomething.

(Thank you, everyone, for the birthday greetings. I appreciate it.)

Saturday, January 28, 2006

It's My Birthday!

The rain falls today on my 41st birthday, also known as The Day the Challenger Space Shuttle Exploded and National De-Lurk on Mel's Blog Day.

Later, after I've had my hair styled and blown straight, only to become frizzy again before dinner's over, and I've feasted on seafood while gazing at a gray Puget Sound view, I will be back. To contemplate my journey, my recollections, my oldness.

Meanwhile, won't you please, please, please delurk and say hello? (Pick a post--it doesn't even have to be this one--and share your thoughts.) I know you're out there--my handy-dandy stat counter tells me so!

And if you prefer not to delurk and wish me happy birthday? Well, then send cash.

While you're at it, go over to Dave's blog and wish him happy birthday, too. He was born today, too, thirty-six years ago.

Have a great day (in my honor)!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Oprah Fries Frey: More on the Fray

Oh boy, do I love the fury of Oprah--directed at someone else, of course. I think I would shrivel up and melt into a green puddle on the floor just like that wicked witch on the Wizard of Oz who was splashed with water if Oprah ever directed that grim-faced look at me.

I hardly ever watch Oprah because her show comes on at 4:00 p.m. when my house is usually full of children and I'm trying to think up and cook dinner while juggling an assortment of flaming children. Oh wait, no flames. Just kids and juggling. But today, I made a point of turning on the show to watch James Frey look at her with dead eyes and a dry mouth while she demanded to know what was truth and what was false.

Poor James Frey. I mean, sure, he lied and capitalized on his lies, but I felt sorry for him anyway, even though I like the ticked off version of Oprah. I like a person who does not tolerate nonsense. I admire that in a person.

I never read A Million Little Pieces. I probably won't, either, now that I know it's basically false. I read an excerpt and I found his writing style unimpressive anyway. And I have twenty dozen books stacked up to read. (I am not lying. Twenty dozen, at least. No exaggeration.)

Right now, I'm almost finished with A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and although it makes me feel about as old as a Pet Rock, I like it. No, I don't like feeling as old as a Pet Rock, but I like this book, even though I'm really really really far outside of Dave Eggers' demographic.

In other news . . . there is no other news.

School-At-Home: Fun, Fun, Fun!

Setting: My desk
Time: 10:45 a.m.
Middle-aged mother--(cocker-spaniel hairstyle, old blue Eddie Bauer sweatshirt, well-worn Eddie Bauer jeans, Minnetonka suede slippers, no make-up)
Pre-teen son--(reluctant student, hand-me-down Army long-sleeved t-shirt, gray sweatpants, bare feet, bed-head hairstyle)

Mother: Okay, let's review. Who was the founder of Maryland?

Son: I can't do this! It's too hard! (Wail, shout, stomp.)

Mother: Cecil Calvert. Remember this: Mmmmmmm-Maryland, Cee-cee. Get it? Cee-cee, mmmmm, Cecil Calvert, Cee-cee, Mmmmm-Maryland. Okay? Now, write this down.

I hate writing! I hate this! Okay, whatever! Are we almost done?

Mother: No. Now, who was the founder of Georgia?

Son, shrieking: I don't know! Mom, I feel weird, so weird. (Begin rocking back and forth. Clutch stomach.) I can't do this. I'm sick, my head hurts!

Mother: Remember, James Oglethorpe, see the "O" and the "G"? Oh-glethorpe? Oh and Gee. Okay? Oglethorpe. James Oglethorpe. And why did he found Georgia? Do you remember? Georgia has an "o" and a "g", just like Oglethorpe. Get it?

No! No! I can't do this! It's too hard!

Mother: Okay. Write it down. He founded Georgia so debtors from England had a place to go. Remember? Debtors. Write it. James O-G-L-E-T-H-O-R-P-E. Okay.

Son: I want to hurt myself! (Slaps his own face.) I'm going to stab myself with the pencil. Arrrrrrrrrg!

Mother: What about Roger Williams? Remember him? Rhode Island? Roger Williams? Both starting with "r". Okay? Roger Williams, founded Rhode Island.

(Sways side to side.) Are we almost done? I'm hungry. Hungry! I hate writing. Okay. Rhode Island.

[Continue for forty-five minutes or until the Mother blows a vein in her head and collapses on the keyboard.]

He finished the review. I insisted he immediately take the assessment. He dictated the answers to me.

Sigh. Why was that so hard? He passed easily.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

On The Middle Ages

I want to talk about having a point of view and about how we come to see the world through our own unique set of eyeglasses. But I just can't tonight. I have sudden onset of adult attention deficit disorder which scrambled my brain like a half dozen eggs.

I can't think straight. That's what will happen to you if seventy-five percent of your children are ill, but only vaguely under the weather so that they merely behave like hooligans, shrieking and chasing and then whining and crying when they fall and whack their heads on the couch. And then you start to regret keeping the 7-year old home from school with his sore throat because, really, he seems fine, though sniffling and coughing from time to time, usually in the direction of a baby's bottle.

And my cat seems ill. I need to make an appointment for her to see the vet tomorrow. I also need to make an appointment to have my mop hair cut and I want an appointment on Saturday, but I can't make the appointment because I have some kind of mental disorder which makes me pathologically reluctant to dial the number and make an appointment for any reason, no matter how important or mundane. But my colorist is coming on Friday night and surely, surely the planets will align and my stylist (I can't remember her name, it's been so long) will have an appointment just for me on Saturday. At one-ish, so I will look tremendously stunning for my birthday dinner.

I'm middle-aged. This didn't used to bother me, but then again, I didn't used to be middle-aged. When I turned twenty-six, I was despondent, but that was because I wanted a fetus in my uterus and my uterus was uncooperative, to say the least. So, I was working at an insurance company in the correpondence department, earning a fairly decent salary, enjoying flex-time, excellent healthcare benefits, including dental and eyecare . . . and yet, I couldn't stop crying in the bathroom because all I wanted was to be a Mom with a capital "M." I thought all my dreams would come true if only I were parenting an impressionable infant who adored me.

And then we adopted twins who had the temerity to throw fits in my general direction and to poop on the carpet when I had my back turned and to disregard my preference for sleeping past 7 a.m. I turned out to still have issues, financial issues, identity crisis issues, loneliness issues, and bad-hair issues. I know. How can anyone be so short-sighted? But I was. I pinned all my hopes and dreams on a drooling human being who would be dependent on me for its twenty-four hour entertainment needs.


Where was I? Oh, so when I turned twenty-six, two years after my dad died, two years into the black hole of infertility, two years into a job that bored me silly, I was a mite depressed. No other birthday has bothered me. But as I mentioned, back then I wasn't middle-aged. And now I am.

My mother is only twenty-two years older than me, which sounds like a lot, right? Two decades and a little more . . . yet, I can remember twenty-two years ago and I'm scared because it doesn't seem so distant. Twenty-two years ago, I was in my first year of college. I remember the weather (brittle cold, windy, trees starkly naked), the clothes I wore (a blue dress with a ruffled neckline that I constantly tugged up), the status of my hair (permed and shoulder length), the weird taste of the chocolate shakes in the Student Union. I remember my shoes (black low heels with interlocking circles of leather that were slightly too big and slipped off if I walked too fast), my friend's braces (Wilma*joy, only seventeen and overly enthusiastic), the round moon at night whose beauty made me want to weep while I strolled back to my dorm from the library.

Twenty-two years is not that long. And my mother? She just got a cane. A cane! Her lifetime of avoiding physical exertion and neglecting her body while buying yet another pair of lime green ballet flats with matching purse has caught up with her. She winces when she walks. She unbends slowly when she stands, taking as long as a drawbridge to stretch upright.

I do not want to be her. I want to be energetic and physically fit and able to run up the stairs and stoop down to pick up a fork off the floor. I know I can't do much about the crepepaper state of my eyelids or the age spots (age spots!)on my hands. Age is inevitable--preferable, really, when you consider the alternative--but I'm a little irritated by the physical changes which are happening without my permission. (Yes, I'm talking about you spider veins!)

I wished today that I could see myself side by side, standing next to the sixteen year old me and the twenty-five year old me. I judged myself so harshly then, measured myself against impossible standards and then berated myself for not meeting them. I'd like to apologize to the me of the past.

Now? Now I try to be gentle. I try not to criticize myself for things I cannot control. I stand up straight and welcome another birthday and I would be extremely pleased if only I could once and for all settle on a grown-up hairstyle which would take into account both my natural curls, my unruly cowlicks, my desire for straight hair and which would eliminate my default look, which we liked to call "Weary Cocker Spaniel."

On the other hand, my grandmother is ninety-nine and if I live that long, I'm not even half-way there.

But I still need a hairstyle.

Monday, January 23, 2006

A Whole Lotta Nothing

Monday again. Well, almost Tuesday now, actually. The sun shone today, perhaps in celebration of yesterday's Seattle Seahawks victory over the Carolina Panthers. (Sorry, MaryKay!) For once, I'll have a reason to watch the Superbowl, other than the commercials. What's sad is that my husband, the true Sports Fan in our house, didn't get to watch the game at all. He preached yesterday, then had a meeting, then did a funeral, then had another meeting. I watched it in his stead, however, and thus had a messy house to clean up this morning.

But good news! We have a fancy new car in our driveway tonight.

But bad news! It's a rental car, providing us transportion since our pathetic little 1993 Mercury Sable abruptly stopped running this afternoon while my husband drove home from a lunch meeting.

But good news! This happened in town, nor far from the church. If the car stalled on I-5, he might have been in a terrible crash. We hope it's something simple and cheap to repair. We're trying to hold off another year before we buy a new car. The Deathtrap (aka our 1991 Chevy Astro van) has already died. Now we just have to figure out what to do with the corpse. We're down to one feeble car.

For the past seven minutes, my eyes have wandered this red-striped family room while I half-listen to the news and try to pin down some of the thoughts that drifted through my brain today. I usually contemplate at least one (seemingly) profound thought in the shower each morning and often watch as clouds of ideas breeze through during the day, but alas, this is a day in which my brain has been swept clean, possibly by too many cans of Diet Coke with Lime, too little sleep, too much laundry and chilly fingers and toes.

I got nothing. But have no fear! I'll be back tomorrow.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

[Disclaimer: This is one of my rare politically charged posts. Please skip this is my anti-abortion stance will cause your brain to explode and/or make you want to slap me for being insensitive. I have a point of view and sometimes, I throw caution to the wind and express it. You are free to express your opposing point of view, too, of course, but please, be gentle.]

I clipped this newspaper article by George Will last April. Mr. Will cites the case of a fetus in Britain who was aborted at 28 weeks gestation because it was prenatally diagnosed with a cleft lip and palate. Apparently, this fit the British law that abortion is permitted only when "there is a substantial risk that if the child were born it would suffer from such physical or mental abnormalities as to be seriously handicapped."

I wonder what Bobby Martin, a boy who was born without arms or legs, but who ended up playing high school football (and appearing on Oprah) would think about that? What is his parents took a look at an ultrasound picture and gasped, "Oh no! We don't want a boy without limbs."

No one would blame them. Right? Why bring a child into the world only to suffer?

The case I saw on television the other night would certainly fit the criteria for abortion in Britain. The doctors can't even diagnose this child, a now-twelve year old girl who hasn't grown beyond the physical size and mental capacity of a six-month old baby. What purpose does such a life serve? Wouldn't she (and her long-suffering family) be better off if she hadn't been born?

Then I turned the channel and saw the amazing story of these children and young adults who communicate almost entirely through music. Though their cognitive and communicative skills are impaired, they all display an amazing aptitude and passion for music, specifically the piano. These children with different abilities face difficulties in their lives most of us cannot even imagine. Would we choose to let them live, if the choice were ours to make?

Not all women take advantage of prenatal testing. What happens when a devastatingly imperfect baby is born? Well, in the Netherlands (land of my ancestry, I might point out) "the Groningen Protocol, as the hospital's guidelines have come to be known, would create a legal framework for permitting doctors to actively end the life of newborns deemed to be in similar pain from incurable disease or extreme deformities."

Child euthanasia remains illegal everywhere else. Unless, of course, the child is still a fetus, in which case, in the United States, abortion laws which essentially allow abortion at any time. Did you know that "U.S. abortion law, in terms of how late an abortion may take place, is far more permissive than that of other nations such as France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, for example."?

The Associated Press article by Linda A. Johnson published on March 10, 2005, concludes, "Experts said the Dutch report [of newborn "mercy killings"] will generate discussion but won't change American opinion or practices."

I'm sure that's true. After all, almost ninety-two percent of American abortions aren't done because a baby is imperfect. They are done for the following reasons:

25.5% Want to postpone childbearing
21.3% Cannot afford a baby
14.1% Has relationship problem or partner does not want pregnancy
12.2% Too young; parent(s) or other(s) object to pregnancy
10.8% Having a child will disrupt education or job
7.9% Want no (more) children

Not because the fetus has no arms and legs. Not because the fetus is missing a chromosome or has an extra one. Not because the fetus is doomed to die of a birth defect at birth anyway. Not even because the mother's life is in danger.

No. Most abortions are done because of convenience, not the "health" and "life" of the mother, but for her convenience. While our laws bend over backwards to give women the right to abort a baby which might endanger her life--you know the rhetoric, the heart-tugging stories--almost a million conceived human beings are aborted per year. Dramatic stories (like the boy with no arms and legs and his triumph in life) are matched by dramatic stories of women in terrible, disturbing, horrific circumstances. And I'll agree that there are ethically challenging cases where difficult choices must be made.

But most unborn human beings are simply obliterated for other reasons. Ninety-two percent of aborted fetuses, gone. Over thirty-three million human beings since abortion was legalized.

And if you are a black fetus in America, you have an even higher chance of being aborted before birth. "In the 41 areas for which race was adequately reported, approximately 55% of women who obtained legal induced abortions were known to be white, 35% were black, and 7% were of other races; for 3% of the women, race was unknown. The abortion ratio for black women (503 per 1,000 live births) was 3.0 times the ratio for white women (167 per 1,000 live births). Additionally, the abortion ratio for women of other races (329 per 1,000 live births) was 2.0 times the ratio for white women. The abortion rate for black women (30 per 1,000 women) was 3.1 times the rate for white women (10 per 1,000 women), whereas the abortion rate for women of other races (22 per 1,000 women) was 2.2 times the rate for white women."

Only 12.9% of our population is black, yet 35% of the women who obtained abortions in 2000 were black.

Why isn't Ray Nagin outraged by that? Where is Kanye West's outcry?

Thirty-three years ago, abortion became legal in the United States. Happy anniversary. Aren't we all so much happier now?

[Check out Barbara Curtis' post on this topic over at Mommylife. She's the mother of 12, including childen with Down Syndrome, and a former abortion-rights crusader.

[Edited to remove reference to Ann Coulter from the post, but you can check out her radical viewpoint here.] I hate for the point of my post to be lost in the distaste many have for Ann Coulter.]

Friday, January 20, 2006

How I Spent My Afternoon

Doing this.

And while I'm inordinately proud of my 22/33 score, I loathe myself for being unable to get all 33.

The rain still falls, but at least this month is nearly over.

Update: Man, you guys are smart! I am mightily impressed! (The answers can be found, by the way, if you click on "FAQ" at the bottom of the page and look awhile on the next page. I was able to get up to 25/33, but gave up . . . there are some I've never even heard of, some I was close. It's always fun to think that you're really smart, though, at least for an hour or two.)

Thursday, January 19, 2006

A Summer Job Involving Bugs, Snakes and Bratty Kids

The notice hanging on the bulletin board of my dormitory caught my eye. Someone wanted to hire a live-in nanny for the summer. I did not want to go home for the summer. So, I called the number.

The woman and her friend came to interview me at my college student union. I can't remember anything of the interview, but afterwards, I was desperately hoping for the job, sure I wouldn't get it. And then she called and said, "I just felt like God was telling me to take you under my wing. So, you're hired." I must have sounded pathetic with my tale of divorced parents and not wanting to go home for the summer. Whatever the reason, I was thrilled.

I'm sure it broke my dad's heart, but at the time, that never occurred to me. I was determined not to return to my suburban home, to a job at a fast-food restaurant or worse. A job as a nanny sounded exciting.

The first day, the 10-year old boy called me "fat," and nicknamed me "Mamabahama." I was not amused. In addition to the 10-year old, I was in charge of a 7-year old girl, a 5-year old boy and a 6-week old baby. Their mother didn't have a job outside the house, but her husband was a doctor and she wanted help over the summer. I was the help. I was the playmate, the idea-gal, the errand-runner. I was the relief pitcher, the back-up mom, the one who walked that fussy baby for miles back and forth on the hardwood floors until she slept. I grocery-shopped, took kids to amusement parks, drove the car on long trips.

I lived next door in an apartment attached to the neighbor's house. Goldie, the wrinkled and tan landlord, was said to be an alcoholic, but I never saw evidence of that. The apartment was furnished with the same kind of gold fake-Americana furniture I'd left behind in my suburb. A few Reader's Digest condensed novels lined a shelf. I had practically nothing, hardly any clothes, even.

One night, I opened the door and flipped on the overhead light to see a scattering of cockroaches on the floor. I sprang into action, terrified, inexperienced, but fierce. I grabbed juice glasses from the cupboard and trapped a cockroach under each one. I'm sure I squealed like a girl during this battle, freaked out completely. I'd never seen a cockroach before in my young, sheltered life.

The problem, of course, occurred when I finished catching cockroaches beneath glasses. I couldn't crunch a bug skeleton. I still can't. I had no bug spray. What's a nineteen year old girl to do? I lived alone, remember, with a mostly invisible alcoholic landlord. And I've never been one to ask for help.

So I did what any clever girl would do. I slid paper under the glasses and carried the whole contraption to the toilet where I dumped the cockroaches one by one into the toilet bowl. My system broke down, however, when a particularly boisterous cockroach--the last one-- scrambled on the thin paper, causing me to panic, screech and fling my hands up in a girlish display of fear. When I did so, the glass somersaulted and landed in the toilet, broken upon impact. The cockroach crawl stroked past the jagged edge, laughing.

Not to be outdone despite my racing pulse, I ran for the kitchen and grabbed the Dawn dish-washing liquid and squirted until the cockroach passed out from laughing or smothered in the bubbles. I'm not sure which. Then I gingerly extracted the broken glass from the toilet, flushed and shuddered.

I didn't have a television, so I read those condensed novels and part of Mario Puzo's The Godfather. But mostly, I worked.

And those kids hated me, especially the 10-year old boy. I cut them no slack. One day, I'd taken them to Silver Dollar City and the boy purchased a plastic comb fashioned to look like a switchblade. He tormented his siblings on the way home, continually flicking them. I told him, "If you do that again, I will take that from you." And he did. And I did. And then the parents questioned me and as I recall, very reluctantly backed me up.

He was a trial, that boy. His sister was 7, easy as pie. The 5-year old boy was dreamy, distracted, adorable. I remember him with his feet on the breakfast table, a sticky cereal spoon in his hair. The baby was a girl, too, and a fussy thing. My job involved walking up the gravel road, cradling that baby in my arms until she slept. Blackberry vines reached out with thorny arms to scratch me, the mosquitoes and their loud-Missouri bug cousins shrieked in my ears. We in the Pacific Northwest might have too much rain, but we do not have bugs that whistle and click and holler and shout like those southern bugs do. I never got used to that outdoor noise at Tablerock Lake.

Nor did I ever grow comfortable with the idea that cottonmouth snakes lurked under the dock. We do not have poisonous swimming snakes, either, in my home state. But the kids swam, and so I had to swim, too. The back yard sloped down to the shores of Tablerock Lake and the view was pretty (for the Ozark so-called Mountains). Sometimes we went for boat rides, but mostly, we sat on the dock, sometimes catching tiny fish with kernels of corn on our hooks.

I hated that summer. I liked the mother quite well. Aside from the 10-year old, I grew fond of the children. But I was lonely, desperately lonely for my new college friends, and far from my home in Washington state. I hated the hot humid weather. Friends came to visit a few times and my sisters and stepmother stopped by for a couple of days. I received letters from friends, which helped sate my loneliness some, but I was a giant black hole of loneliness. I was unfillable at the point in my life and pretty much everything good leaked out the bottom of my broken heart.

And so I wasn't a very good nanny.

That summer, we drove to Cedar Park for vacation, then on to West Virginia to stay with grandparents. Another time, we went to New Orleans, but I stayed in a round hotel with the baby the entire time we were there. Once, the father had a car accident (a race car accident, if I recall correctly) and the mother had to rush out of town and the housekeeper and I were in charge of all the children for a few scary days.

We went to a cultish little Pentecostal church which freaked me out almost as much as the cockroaches, even though I'd been raised in a Pentecostal church my whole life. We had season's passes to Silver Dollar City and a water-park, which was the scene of the worst sunburn of my life. We rode bikes, did crafts, went to the library.

I earned five hundred dollars a month. Plus room and board. And when I started, she took me to Wal-Mart and bought me frumpy culottes, a horrifying sort of uniform.

But I was grateful. I earned my own way for a whole summer and I triumphed over cockroaches. And when I returned to school, things went from bad to worse, but that's a story for another day.

So what was your worst summer job?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Frey Fray, Kathy Griffin's House and Unrelated Matters

Not long ago, Daring Young Mom asked for help naming her new Daring Young Van. (I think she settled on Vincent Van Go, but you'll have to go over there to see for sure.)

I'm almost finished reading A Severe Mercy. They lived in places call "St. Udio" and "Glenmerle," and drove cars with names that escape me at the moment.

What do these two things have in common? I'll tell you. Vehicle naming.

For whatever reason, I have never named a house or a car or a truck or a vehicle of any kind. I don't even use the cats' proper names--they are all "kitty" to me. I can't keep the kids straight. I end up saying (literally, I am not kidding), "You! Whatever your name is!" Calling the children a car name might damage their delicate psyches and we all know I'm all about pampering the wee ones.

Naming inanimate objects seems like fun, however, and right now, I'd like to begin.

My car? Pamela Anderson. Because we got it used and it's been around the block a few times. (And now, please think up your own joke because when I thought too much I started to veer into rated-R humor in my head and I just had to stop. But I'll pause while you laugh at yourself.)

I did make a list today and, boy, do I feel better. I named my list, "Step-by-Step: Becoming a Nurse." Doesn't that sound like a magazine article title? I have three easy steps and I even highlighted the prerequisite courses I'll be able to take online. First, I must take some placement tests, so I requested "Forgotten Algebra" from the library. If all goes well, on January 21, I'll be taking tests. Unless I decide that's too soon--and it might be. Wait, is that Saturday? Well, okay, maybe in a few weeks. How about February? But not the 4th or the 25th or the 18th, either. I'm busy those days.

I finished A Severe Mercy, and so tonight, I started A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. He begins his memoir by stating in the "Preface to this Edition": "For all the author's bluster elsewhere, this is not, actually, a work of pure nonfiction. Many parts have been fictionalized in varying degrees, for various purposes."

In light of the Frey Fray, I bet James Frey wishes he'd put a similar warning in his memoir, huh?

Here is how pathetic I am. Just awhile ago, after finishing exercising (every day, since December 1st--be impressed, even though my metabolism is unimpressed and seems not to have taken notice of my daily exertion)--which I did while reading the aforementioned book during the commericals of "American Idol"--I came downstairs and sat in the green recliner and clicked from channel to channel. (Before I came downstairs, I watched the first skaters in "Skating with Celebrities" on FOX. In one word? No. No, no, no, no, no.) Anyway, once downstairs, I settled on "Cribs," specifically the episode with Kathy Griffin. I couldn't stop watching, even when I saw myself for the pitiful creature I have become. I'm not blind. I stare at my self in horror and disappointment.

But I couldn't stop because when I was in junior high, I had to design a house in art class. And I designed a house with a waterfall in the living room. Lo and behold, Kathy Griffin is living in the house I created in my mind.

I could have had a career in architecture. Who knew?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Time Warp

All four seasons collided today in my back yard. After the preschoolers trailed in wet leaves, I realized the lull in the rain practically required me to rake up the slimy leaves.

So, at naptime, I donned gloves and boots and ventured into the soggy back yard. I raked leaves (autumn), while the sun shone (summer), noted the green shoots from crocuses and daffodils in the flowerbeds (spring) and yet, it is January (winter, according to the calendar). The afternoon was so pleasant and my mood reflected the sunny skies. That's what I love about the Pacific Northwest. Sometimes the seasons merge together or appear out of order, unlike the snowy winters of northern Michigan where a relentless cold wind blew west to east, leaving six foot drifts of snow by winter's end.

The rain eventually stops.

I've queried several friends and relatives, pleading with them to tell me what to do. Should I go to school, with the eventual goal of becoming a nurse? Or not? Am I too old? Nearly everyone has encouraged me to pursue schooling . . . and I think that's probably the wise thing to do. I told myself to day I can always quit--at any step, I can quit. The important thing is to start, take the first step.

I know a terrible fact about myself, though, that threatens to trip me. I am sequential in my approach to life and tasks and sometimes this is a problem because I can't do a particular thing until I do something else first. For instance, I can't bake cookies until the kitchen is completely clean. And I can't work on scrapbooks until my house is tidy. Can I go to class while my laundry remains wrinkled?

I'm worried that I can't possibly start school until every thing else lines up in impeccable order, which is clearly impossible since I live in a house with four children, three cats, school-at-home books stacked on my desk, a cupboard jumbled with Corningware and Tupperware without matching lids, and thirty-seven unmatched socks who've lost mates.

I am distressed to skip ahead when all this isn't quite lined up and resolved. But this will never be lined up and resolved and I must lift up my eyes and focus on the future. For in ten years, I will be fifty . . . but will I be fifty with an interesting, lucrative, flexible job or will I be fifty, wondering why I never did get my act together?

Well, for now, that question looms stark while the answer remains blurry around the edges. But I think the essence of the answer involves accepting the jumble around me and forging ahead.

Tomorrow I will make a list of the steps I should take. One step at a time, even if that voice in my head is screeching in panic about the random insanity of starting something when everything else is half-unraveled. That's not crazy, right? That's progress.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Rain Rain Rain Sunbreak Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain Rain

The Seattle Rain Streak ended . . . without setting a record. But yesterday, rain did fall as we drove home from church. The official rain gauge at the Sea-Tac airport, however, stayed rainless, so officially, we only had twenty-seven straight days of rain.

Today, raindrops kept falling on my head. I noticed while I was out and about (without kids!) that no one uses an umbrella or even hoods. We just pretend that rain is not sprinkling onto our heads and leaving puddles in the parking lots.

I find it especially annoying that the rain continues, yet the thirty-three day record eludes us. After all, we've lived through twenty-seven days of rain . . . twenty-nine, if you count yesterday and today . . . yet, we'll have no bragging rights.

Did you know that Oahu holds a record for 247 consecutive days of rain?

Breaking News:
On the television news station, I hear that Olympia, Washington, is still in the running for a Rain Record, thirty days and counting.

I've been extremely busy the past few days . . . napping and decluttering and watching four hours' worth of television. Those of you who are fans of "24" know what I'm talking about. I seldom park myself in front of the television, but I've watched every episode of "24" and I eagerly awaited the start of the new season last night. I rushed through the bedtime routine at record speed and unceremoniously deposited my daughter in her bed without lingering. It sounded like this: "Thislittlelightofmine, I'mgonnaletitshine, thislittlelightofmine, I'mgonnaletitshine, letitshineletitshineletitshine. . . " and so on.

Tomorrow, we'll be back to our regular schedule. Childcare, doing school-at-home, laundering clothes, cooking dinner, singing songs at regular speed, reading two bedtime books, deciding what to be when I grow up, dodging raindrops. You know, the usual.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Picking and Grinning

Glory be, I left my house today. And no rain fell upon my head, though the Rain Streak continues in the Puget Sound area. I took my daughter with me to run some errands this morning, then dumped her at home with my husband and left home again. I headed for the local thrift store, bought twenty bucks' worth of bargains (3 pairs of shorts for the 7-year old, a Barbie princess costume for the 3-year old, a cardigan for her, two pairs of shoes for her--including a pair of real tap shoes--an Eddie Bauer fleece jacket for me) and then headed to Barnes & Noble where I purchased very expensive books with gift cards.

I spent $26.95 on Jane Smiley's Thirteen Ways to Look at the Novel, and also picked up William Zinsser's Writing About Your Life: A Journey Into the Past, plus finally bought a copy of the much acclaimed Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. Buying books at full price gives me shivers.

I returned home long enough to wrap a birthday present and pick up my 7-year old for a birthday party at a bowling alley. Our state recently outlawed smoking in public places and so the bowling alley no longer reeks of cigarette smoke. Only four other boys attended the party, for a total of six children (the Birthday Boy and his sister), but I stayed for the whole party anyway because my husband, Mr. Safety, can't seem to forget about that two-year old child who was abducted from a local bowling alley a few years ago. (She was never seen or heard from again.)

I took a newspaper and a novel (Jarhead), but ended up chatting with Birthday Boy's dad and with another mom. Toward the end of the party, Birthday Boy's mom joined our little cluster and asked me whether I have a regular babysitter for my youngest two children and as I answered her, I had an out-of-body experience in which I watched in horror as my right index finger flew up and and scratched the rim of my nostril, coming dangerously close to plunging up to the knuckle into my nose. And as my finger touched my nose, I maintained a facade of calm, educated reason, while inside my id and my ego arm-wrestled over my lack of restraint and manners and decorum all while my finger hovered, scratched, rubbed. Then I heard a distant scream from deep inside my brain which cried out (strangely enough, in Jerry Seinfeld's voice), "I did not pick! There was no pick!"

You can take the girl out of the house, but you cannot take her finger out of her nose. (There was no pick!)

Friday, January 13, 2006


I thought it would be fun to time-travel to this date in 2004 and 2005. And the entry for 2004 was all right, amusing, even, however minimally.

But the entry for 2005 was utterly depressing. So, I offer, instead, this entry from January 2005, which is slightly less moody, but still.

January is not a good month for me, apparently.

A Fresh-Smelling Addendum

Dear Internet,

Thank you for pointing out that most boys don't discover the pleasures of appealing to girls showering until age fifteen. Since three years is a long time to inhale body odor, I realized some parental manipulation was in order.

I told them that they couldn't ride in the car with me--ever--unless they were clean and smelled good. Without delay, they rushed upstairs and one by one, came downstairs with sopping hair and, one would assume, defumigated underarms. You see, today is the day the video game they want should arrive at the video game store.

Incentives: the secret weapon of parents everywhere.

Thank you for your insight, Internet. How did I ever live without you?

Love and kisses,

Thursday, January 12, 2006

My Teeny Tiny Wee Little Smelly Life

I never thought my life would be small enough to keep in a box. But it is. My life has shrunken until it could fit into a ring box, or a shoe box, if we're being generous. For instance, yesterday, the highlight occurred when the 8-month old baby girl belched loudly, then spit-up through her nose only. She shot that formula straight onto my carpet, leaving small rivulets of regurgitation mustachio-ing her lip.

I mean, seriously, that's all I can remember from yesterday.

I am in the midst of my most serious parental struggle yet. I still haven't forgotten that long ago day when my blue-eyed twin, then two years old, repeatedly bashed a small cologne bottle against the window pane. (He liked to carry it around to sniff.) I said, "NO!" in my stern mommy voice. And then he did it again. I repeated, "NO!" even louder and he did it again. And again. And again.

So, I wrestled that bottle out of his sticky little hand and he howled his outrage and I swept him off his feet and marched him to bed for his nap and he cried a while and then I cried awhile over the struggle that is parenthood and over my failure to triumph over evil. Well, really, I cried because convincing my son that I was the parent and he was the child has rubbed the fabric of my sanity threadbare. Power struggle does not begin to describe it.

But this is worse. Oh, so much worse, for a few days ago, my husband and I agreed that the time has come to give the 12-year old boys a little more responsibility. Two days ago, I said to them, "Boys, Dad and I have realized we've been treating you like babies, telling you when and how often to shower or bathe. From now on, you're in charge. Take a bath or shower when you need one. It's up to you. Except on Saturdays . . . then you have to bathe before church on Sunday."

And so, this is their second full day without bathing. Yesterday, they had P.E. at the YMCA. Still, no shower. I've had to stop myself from ordering them upstairs to commune with the soap and the shampoo because . . . yuck.

Tonight, I inquired, "Boys, do you have any idea what time you'll shower tonight?" and my blue-eyed twin, the cologne-bottle-basher, accused me of not trusting him and of treating him like a baby and so, I slammed closed the door and left. He apologized later for being disrespectful to me, but he did not shower.

But we will be strong. We will let them be in charge of this. Sooner or later, they will smell each other and they will discover the glories of soap for themselves. Or they will pass out from the stench and then we can hose them down.

Meanwhile, pass me a gas mask. And leave the cover off my little boxed life when you go . . . we're going to need the fresh air.

Is It Friday Yet?

Listen quick. I don't have time for this--my son's about to leave for second grade and needs his hair combed, the 13-month old baby is due to arrive, the boys need to be roused from their slumber, the dirty laundry needs to be dumped into the machine, the clean laundry needs to be folded, the syrup needs to be put away, I ought to bring my school-at-home records up to date and I need to put my contact lenses in--but I have to say this.

This must be the longest week on record. Am I in some kind of personal time warp? Because on Monday, I thought it was Wednesday and every day since, it seems like it should be Friday, but it's not.

And yes, the rain continues. Today is our twenty-fifth consecutive day of rain. Only another week and a day until we break the all-time record.

And the doorbell rings.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A Look Back

How time rushes forward, even while it seems to stand still. Weeks have passed now and four envelopes of pictures (old-fashioned developed film from a plain old camera, even) sit on my desk. Finally, tonight, after cleaning out my email box (down to 37 emails), I scanned a few.

Here is the path to the shore. You can see one of my 12-year olds and my 3-year old, hurrying for their first glimpse of the beach.
And here are all the kids. Notice the foamy beach. Later on, the foam skittered across the wet sand and my daughter jumped over it with glee.
And here is the foam-jumper herself. She fully intended to swim in the ocean, but settled for running at shore birds until they swooped into the air and formed an undulating flying ribbon.
Look out, Sandpipers!

There they go! (Click on pictures for full-size views.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

So far, so good

I finished The Beach yesterday. I read it in only a few days. I purchased it at a garage sale and I was thrilled because I'd seen bits of the movie (starring Leonardo DiCaprio) on the Oxygen Network, but never the beginning. So I was curious. And the price was right.

I didn't expect to be pulled into the story so quickly and completely, but I did. I have quite a few books waiting to be read that are author's "first novels." This was Alex Garland's first novel, and the book I read prior to this (Ellen Foster) was also a "first novel."

And the book I'm reading now, A Severe Mercy is also a "first" book, though it's not fiction. But every once in awhile, you have to lift your head out of the pool of fiction and read something else.

Then, I'll dive back into a novel, probably another "first novel," in keeping with my spontaneous theme.

My View of the News: Homemaking

I saw Terry Martin Hekker on Katie Couric's show the other morning, talking about how her idyllic years of homemaking came to an abupt end when her husband of forty years divorced her.

Terry Martin Hekker, the author of this article which was published in the New York Times (you can get a trial membership if you want to read it--or email me and I'll send you a copy of it,) wrote a different Op-Ed piece years ago for the NYT which later morphed into a book extolling the virtues of being a homemaker. And in her current piece, she doesn't exactly say she regrets it--she said she'd marry the same man and have the same children, but that she'd go to school when her youngest did and earn a degree so she could earn a living. Because, you never know, after all. She says if she wrote another book, it would be titled, Diregard First Book.

She essentially says she wasted time working for community and charitable organizations when she ought to have been looking out for herself. (Really, if you haven't clicked away yet, go ahead and read that article.)

Here's what I wonder:

1) Should all women assume their marriages will end in divorce sooner or later? And if so, will that becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy?

2) If we, as women, refused to date, have relationships with and marry divorced men, would those men honor their vows? Or will this constant partner-switching continually worsen?

3) Did the so-called "Sexual Revolution," (and the birth control pill) directly increase the divorce rate?

4) Does this woman's story mean that homemaking in and of itself is a pointless waste of a life?

5) What kind of a loser man leaves his wife of forty years in such a predicament? And what kind of sleazebag woman would marry him?

(Update: Almost instantly, I regretted my questions in number 5--and thought question number 3 was kind of out of place--but I will leave them so the comments make sense. It is clearly wrong of me to call people names, even names which are crossed out as a sort of lame joke. I have far too much personal experience with this topic to be rational and impartial and I realize my questions are over-generalizations and insulting to my readers who also have personal experiences--some more painful than my own, to be sure.

So, I apologize, but I leave this post as originally written--in haste, while babies were rolling around my floor and with particular people in mind. I have appreciated the responses so far and thank you, my diverse band of readers, for offering your perspectives. When I open my brain and dump out the contents, I ought to use a strainer to get the lumps out before hitting "Publish Post.")

Monday, January 09, 2006

A Calm View From the Leaky Boat

The burden of inadequacy is a heavy one, an awkward load to carry, especially when you are trying to hurry along at a normal pace, keeping up with the flow of traffic. I feel like I might have an invisible seventy pound backpack of ineptness perched on top of my head and my neck just isn't that strong, but I don't want anyone to notice that I'm struggling along.

I was a fervent believer in myself in the early days. I knew I'd be one of those mothers you read about in parenting magazines who is creative and playful and has friends over for coffee while the kids politely play in the other room. I knew it! All I had to do was follow the "Ten Easy Steps . . ." or the "Three Simple Strategies . . . " and I would get the results I wanted. Perhaps it was my ease with mathematics that made me believe logic would apply to parenting, too.

But the variables foiled me. I didn't count on my own personal slothfulness. I didn't know my children would be anchors rather than sails. I thought they would bob along merrily, agreeably, grateful to be along on my own personal journey to perfection. I didn't count on runny noses and scant cupboard space and the overwhelming mountain of laundry and kids who get their hair wet but don't use shampoo because it's just too much trouble.

I miscalculated badly. I'm just not good at being a mom, logistically or emotionally. If I were a photograph, I'd be out of focus. If I were a car, I'd have flat tires. If I were a house, I'd be drafty.

I'm a leaky boat, but for now, I can bail faster than we're taking on water, so I'm sure we'll get where we're going.

But it won't be pretty. Which is truly disappointing to me. Don't even try to cheer me up because tomorrow, I'll be fine when the fog of denial and false cheer rolls back in.

And we're on Day 22 of the rain.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Most Embarrassing Moment of the Day

I used to sing in church quite often. Since my 3-year old was born, not so much. She is a scaredy-cat and clingy and since my husband is busy on Sunday mornings, I've stepped aside.

But today, I led the congregational singing from the piano. And during the offertory, I sang a song.

And here's the embarrassing part.

I sang a song I composed. A simple song with a simple chord structure, involving a lot of flats. I ran through the fingering before church started. No problems. I don't have written music for it--well, maybe I do somewhere, but generally, I just play my homemade songs without music or even a chord chart.

So today, when I got to the chorus, I suddenly began to think about my fingering and the chords and then I blanked out and zigged when I should have zagged, hit E-flat when I should have hit B-flat and actually had to sing while my fingers hovered silently over the keyboard for a second.

Second verse, no problem. Then I stumbled on the chorus again.

That's what I get for thinking while playing.

I might still be blushing.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Please Do Me A Favor

Won't you please go over and read my brilliant friend's blog? You can start with that post. We went to high school together and she was the calm one in math analysis class, figuring problems in her tidy handwriting while I was busy having a coniption fit about something or another.

She also plays the piano better than I can and can tell if a cat has worms by looking at its hindquarters. She hates President Bush, too, and wears Birkenstocks, but I admire her anyway.

So, go. Say hello.

About Those People at Albertson's

At 9 p.m., I went to the store tonight to buy ten pounds of potatoes. My husband gave me a list of his necessary items, too: bottled water, Welch's grape juice (plastic bottle, not frozen concentrate), peanut M&Ms in snack-size packs, lactose-free milk, Skinny Cow Fudge Bars and Dr. Pepper. You know, items vital to life.

Rain fell as I drove in the dark. Today is our twentieth straight day of rain. Hills are beginning to slide and I doubt we'll ever be able to remove the inflatable snowman from our front yard because I keep waiting for it to dry out before I store him away.

I wandered the aisles slowly, checking for sale items and calculating mentally whether I could make enough meals this week based on the stuff I have already in the freezer and cupboards. In the cereal aisle, a couple passed me and I kid you not, the cigarette smell met my nose a full ten feet before this couple walked by me. And wouldn't you know it, they stood directly behind me in line.

The only way anyone could smell more like cigarette smoke would be if they poked cigarettes into their hair and lit it on fire.

They let a barrel-chested older man ahead of them in line because he was only buying a box of sandwich bags. I let him go ahead of me, too. Then, another guy appeared in line behind me and ahead of the Cigarette Couple. He held only a roast, so I said, "Do you want to go ahead of me?" He looked puzzled and then said, "Sure. Thank you!" When he passed me, the odor of beer floated from him and settled into my unruly hair.

So, that's the reason I smell like I was guzzling beer and smoking cigarettes when in reality, I was grocery shopping. Honest.

p.s. I couldn't bear to buy the Welch's grape juice. It was over $4.50 for a 64 ounce bottle. My husband sadly informed me that Juicy Juice is just not the same and I said, "Well, I am incapable of buying a bottle of juice that costs so much." He'll have to do his dirty work on his own time.

p.p.s. Do you let people cut in front of you at the grocery store if you have a cart full of groceries? And do you call it a "cart" or a "buggy" or something else entirely?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Untitled Due to Lack of Creativity

Earlier today, I sat at my keyboard with vivid awareness of my cold head. This morning, I didn't have enough time to thoroughly dry my mop of hair and why not? you ask. Because I woke up at 5:15 a.m. when my husband's alarm went off. Because I woke up at 6:07 a.m. when the unplugged, yet still functioning, extra alarm clock went off. Because I woke up at 7:18 a.m. from a terrible dream when my daughter woke up. Because my daughter insisted on having a bath first thing this morning. And so, I ran the bath-water and reclined on my bed and watched morning television while she frolicked.

And I contemplated my bad dream. First, in my dream, a good friend gave me the silent treatment because I got rid of an item she loaned me. Of course, that didn't really happen, but still. Then, in my dream, I went to a wedding where I had to sit with the other guests on risers in a classroom and when I went to the bathroom, all sixteen of the toilets were overflowing and THEN and ONLY then, I noticed I had a giant purple towel on my head and no make-up on and hey, where are my clothes? When I opened a closet, I found a comforter I used to own and then I woke up.

That was the first time I've had an anxiety dream about being a wedding guest. Usually my anxiety dreams are all about wandering a campus, looking for a classroom, knowing full well that I have played hooky all year and that I am ill-prepared for the final exam.

So, my wet hair. I didn't have time to dry it because I had to get downstairs--quick!--to clean up choking hazards (aka Playmobil people) and vacuum thoroughly because the toddler would be here today for the first time in a couple of weeks. And he eats leaves and marbles and unpopped popcorn kernels. Don't ask me how I know.

At one point this afternoon, I had to count on my fingers to figure out how many kids were here. I used all my fingers, but thankfully, none of my toes.

As for my mood-swing yesterday . . . nothing cures a funk like perspective. Today, I received a letter from an incarcerated woman I know. She has five more years to serve. Yesterday, my husband told me about a high-school classmate of his who has a fourteen year old daughter battling cancer. Her prognosis is grim. And what about those miners? This world is so sad sometimes.

Oh. And wasn't that a cheerful wrap-up to a Thursday night? You're welcome.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

All Whine. No Cheese.

I woke up this morning from a terrible dream in which I was heading to jail for an unknown crime and in my arms, I held my daughter. Halfway there, I said to the friendly lady driving the SUV, "Oh wait. Will I be able to take my daughter with me?" and she laughed and said, "No. She'll go to daycare."

Perhaps it says something about me that the idea of being incarcerated didn't faze me, but the thought of my daughter being tended by strangers freaked me out. She's a clingy vine of a girl and to pluck her from me would be to kill her. Or at least turn her into a whiner.

So I woke up feeling panicked and despondent and that mood has plagued me all day. In a classic downward spiraling thought pattern, I've reminded myself of all that is wrong and sad in my life.

For instance, my bangs are wonky, and by that, I do mean "askew." My natural curl has developed a devious mind of its own and if I could, I would set my head aflame in revenge. I can't decide what to do. More bangs? Less bangs? No bangs? Bang-bang! I need a revolver. (No bangs is a bad idea. Have you seen my forehead lately? There's a reason for that.) I need to call my colorist. Maybe that would make me feel better. I need a stylist, too, one who works miracles.

My house is shabby and not in a chic way. Although I am not too proud to accept hand-me-downs, sometimes I wish I had three wishes. I'd spend one of them on a nice, new, custom-built, furnished home. With a view. From my vantage point, I am within view of the following second-hand items: television stand, couch, lamp, chair, desk, Little Tikes kitchen, coffee table, kitchen table, kitchen chairs, trash compactor, preschool-sized table, shelf, buffet, piano, kids' desk . . . and though I am normally satisfied with my thrifty purchases, not today. Today I'm despondent because my daughter was ripped from my arms in a dream.

My age annoys me. I fully intended to be a young mother--a young, stylish mother--and then infertility pushed me in a corner and my twins came when I was 28. Not too old, right? But then, a second child when I was 33, and the last when I was 37. Now I will most certainly be the oldest kindergarten mother. Which. Okay. Fine. Big deal.

I would like to note that when my mother was my age, I was in my second year of college. See?

And what about the Rest of My Life? Anvilcloud will say this is typical for my age but angst still feels icky. I intended to start prerequisites for a nursing degree this year, but I postponed it for another year. How can I fit another duty into my life when I already want to run away some days?

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock. See that? Time's ticking away! I prop my elbows on my second-hand desk and cradle my forehead in my cold hands. Cold hands! I practically have one foot in the grave already! My hands are cold and soon, my heart will stop pumping entirely and my daughter will wail her loss and they'll roll me into a grave and that will be that.

I won't have any cool accomplishments to put in that newspaper obituary. I can't stop reading the obituaries, which is why I am aware of how young some people are when they die. Plus, the fact that my own dad was 47. FORTY-SEVEN. If I die when I am 47, I only have six more years. Six. More. Years.

I want to be alone. I'm lonely! I want to sleep. I want to stay up late! I want a clean house. I want to ignore housework!

I need one of those fancy psychiatrists to patch my two halves back together again and infuse me with cheerfulness.

Do you know that my 99-year old grandmother still worries about her weight? I want to stop worrying about my weight--and my wonky bangs--before I turn 99. Is that too much to ask?

Of course, I can count my blessings, name them one by one. I can. I do. I remember. But sometimes, the skies stay gray all day, my brow stays furrowed, and I feel like weeping.

This ridiculous moodswing brought you courtesy of:
--My Uterus--
--now wreaking havoc for thirty-one miserable years--

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Summed Up

Today, a summary.

School-at-home resumed, learning all about the ocean depths and Roger Williams.

Laundry, loads and loads, almost caught up.

Nine Bean Soup with Turkey Sausage in the crock-pot.

Reading Ellen Foster while riding on my exercise bike. Thirty-four consecutive days now, the bike, not the book.

Raindrops keep falling, but not on my head because I haven't been outside today.

January is the longest month.

This year, I plan to . . .
read a book a week. . .
pay more attention. . .
celebrate more, even little holidays.

I will listen better to that sensible voice in my head. She's usually right.

Hey, Anon, I've Got Something for You

Here's a little something for you to put in that empty head of yours. Enjoy!

(If you have no idea what this is about, read the comments . . . or just pretend this never happened.)

Monday, January 02, 2006

A Waste of Two Hours, But At Least I Wasn't Doing Laundry

This afternoon, I went to see Jennifer Aniston's movie, "Rumor Has It." I had no deep desire to see this movie, but nothing else better was playing when I was able to get out of the house.

The only remarkable thing about the movie was that every single amusing line was featured in the trailers. So, if you've seen the trailers, don't bother seeing the movie. Why do Hollywood movie publicity people do that? Can't they save even one funny line so you can pretend to be surprised and amused during a rather plodding, dull movie? I was bored and you will be, too.

Unless, of course, you are like those three women who sat two rows ahead of me. They evenly spaced themselves out in seven seats. The center woman sported a shiny bald head. Each of them needed the extra space afforded by the empty seat between them, but they didn't let the space stop them from tossing remarks back and forth.

And they loved this movie. They chortled. They guffawed. They giggled. And toward the end, one of them sniffled and wept--sobbed, really--loudly. I can sometimes be reduced to tears by a children's book or song lyrics, yet this movie left me completely unmoved. I wondered if perhaps I keep my reservoir of emotion so deep that a Jennifer Aniston movie cannot reach it.

Or maybe those three women ahead of me just have a vast pool of emotion under a thin membrane of composure.

Maybe I'm just dead to the romantic comedy in which you have to believe that the main character is dumber than a doorknob, so dumb, in fact, that it never occurred to her that . . . well, I don't want to spoil the movie for you. But trust me. No one can be that dumb.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Something About Last Weekend to Tide You Over

A little more than twenty years ago, I was working for Heritage USA, the brainchild of Jim Bakker. Mr. Bakker (as we learned to refer to him) wanted a high-quality vacation destination designed specifically for Christians. I knew nothing about Jim Bakker and his lovely mascara'ed wife, Tammy Faye, when recruiters came to my college campus that spring of 1985. But a guy I knew named Bill said it would be fun, I should go for an interview and before I knew it, I was driving east in Bill's hatchback car, heading for Fort Mill, South Carolina, and a summer job.

Six weeks into the summer, my summer-job roommate (who'd managed to make our former Motel 7 room with shag aqua carpeting look marginally appealing with the magic of indirect lighting) dragged me to a Bible study gathering. I had avoided these sorts of events because frankly, after two years of Bible college, I was kind of Bible-Studied out. I couldn't bear sitting through another emotional session of "sharing what the Lord has laid upon my heart."

Hey, so sue me. I must tell the truth, nothing but the truth, so help me, God. I didn't want to go, but I went, mostly because the guest speaker was someone who was the son of someone famous. (Let's just leave it at that, shall we?) The students sat in a giant circle on the floor. As a "let's get to know each other" sort of ice-breaker, we were instructed to say a few words about ourselves: where we went to college, what our future plans were.

The fun began and one after another pious student declared his or her super-spiritual life-plan. For instance, "My name is Suzie-with-the-big-hair-from Tennessee and God has called me to minister to inner-city people who don't have shoes," and "My name is John-with-the-swagger-from-New-York and God has given me the gift of evangelism--my tapes are on sale at the back of the room." Maybe you have to grow up in a Pentecostal home to really appreciate the utmost seriousness with which young Bible college students regard themselves and their "call to ministry."

I was a bit disillusioned already, plus I was sick of college boys, so I concentrated on not rolling my eyes as my turn approached. I was nearly the final person to speak and so, when it was my turn, I proclaimed, "My name is Mel and I attend ________________ Bible College and when I grow up, I'm going to be a rock star."People laughed and the meeting went on.

Within a few days, I'd met my now-husband, a man who noticed me first at that meeting when I issued that ridiculous proclamation. He and his friend (let's call him Rich) had said, "We have to meet that girl!" because apparently they appreciated my humor.

So, fast forward twenty years. I say all that because you should know that I have Jim Bakker to thank for my weekend. You see, Rich and his wife, (who I promised to describe as breathtakingly beautiful, bright, and at her goal-weight--oh, and did I mention that Rich is a tall, wry, funny guy?) invited us to their family cottage at Long Beach, Washington, to dig razor claims over the New Year's holiday. We've been friends for twenty years, which on one hand, seems impossible because I'm only twenty-two in my brain, yet on the other hand, I can remember events from twenty years ago as if they were last week. Time is warped.

Did you know you can only dig razor clams during six prescribed time periods in Washington State? Despite being almost a native of Washington State, (I moved here when I was four) we have never been razor-clam digging before, so we looked forward to this new adventure and accepted the invitation eagerly. Did I mention that we also like free accomodations, that we adore our friends, plus, we're hoping that Rich's wife's parents will adopt us, especially since her father has excellent toys and can build houses with his own two hands and her mother is the hostess with the mostest, a woman worthy of emulation? And last but not least, they live on a lake when they aren't vacationing at the shore. What's not to love?

Rain has drenched our green corner of the world the past few weeks, yet Saturday morning when we bundled up and walked from the cottage to the beach, the skies were dry and we discovered a calm, windless shore. I removed my jacket, in fact. The crashing waves mesmerized the children, so they raced to the foamy edges and then scambled out of the way. My husband (aka Mr. Safety) warned them repeatedly to watch out and then, a rogue wave pounced on him and my blue-eyed twin, drenching them to their thighs. After that, we were all a lot more careful.

A few hours later, when my 3-year old ocean-loving daughter and I returned for a second walk along the shore, the wind had picked up, and by low-tide that evening, a steady, cold wind blew. At 5 p.m., we twelve (Rich and his wife, their twins (boy/girl), and the wife's parents, and my family of six) drove in three vehicles onto the beach (that stretch of beach is an actual state highway, strangely enough) and down to the section where we intended to pluck clams from their sandy beds by lantern-light.

Along the darkening shoreline, a string of lantern-lights bobbed, as far as you could see in each direction. Soon, the sunlight faded entirely and only faint starlight and lanterns illuminated our way. We broke into three groups, circling a lantern and stomping along in the low-tide sand. Occasionally, someone would yell, "WATER!" and we'd grabbed lanterns and children and scurry out of reach of the waves. Even better, someone would yell, "I HAVE ONE!" and then someone would plunge a clam-gun (pictured on that website) into the sand and twist, twist, twist it, and then pull up a core of sand. A boot toe would nudge the exposed sand and the clam would be revealed. The hunter would scoop it up, drop it into a net and then, stomp around some more, peering in the dark for the telltale pucker in the sand which indicated a clam beneath. (When you stomp, the clams dart into their shells, which leaves an indentation in the sand.)

(Low-tide happened to be in the evening--and that's why we hunted in the dark. Sometimes clamming takes place in daylight.)

My 3-year old was bundled in snowpants, a coat, a hat, and mittens and seemed a little chilly, but really, the ghostly waves sneaking up in the dark were the real reason she and I abandoned the clam-diggers for the relative warmth of Rich's truck. We sat for half an hour in the vehicle, listening to a CD and watching distant hovering balls of light through the foggy windshield. Then she said she wanted to go back ("I will not be scared anymore. I promise!") and so we traversed the dark shore again, heading toward the lights. We rejoined our group and orbited the pools of lantern-light, hunting for quarter-sized circles in the sand.

Then the rain came and most of us headed home because we'd had enough. (The limit is fifteen razor clams per person and we didn't find that many. Our haul was more like sixty, I think. I even dug one up myself.)

That night, I sent my kids to bed by 10:00 p.m., even though it was New Year's Eve. They didn't protest much since they were exhausted by brisk ocean air and the day's strenuous activities. Even though I'd been nodding off, at 11:45 p.m., I joined Rich's wife, her parents and her children (the irrepressible 9-year olds who never once seemed tired) and we drove down to the boardwalk where we saw about the New Year's fireworks, which lasted about three minutes. We wore silly glasses and posed for photos in the dark and were back home by 12:15 a.m.

We slept two nights at our friend's newly remodeled and gorgeous cottage. I, for one, was awed by the multitude of outlets available in every room and the well-thought out lighting. In the bedroom I used were five light-switches . . . talk about living in the lap of luxury! From the new second-story, we could gaze out at the crashing gray waves or watch satellite television or squint through a high-powered telescope while sitting on leather couches.

I thought about slipping into a closet and never leaving, but alas, the children found all the good hiding spots when they played hide-and-seek, and besides that, who would wash all the sandy laundry when we got home if I were mysteriously "lost at sea"?
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