Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jewish-ish


So it turns out the children think we're Jewish.  Which isn't a problem, I guess, except that...we're not. I've been heading up the Hanukkah party at their school for a few years now, and somewhere between my standing latke order and leftover dreidels, they've claimed the holiday as their own. A few weeks ago in music class, Winnie raised her hand when the teacher asked if any of the Early Learners celebrated Hanukkah. And then, a few days later, Lauren came in demanding to know where we kept our "nemorah".
"We're Jewish, right?"
"No", I said very simply-slightly apologetic.
"But we're a little Jewish, aren't we?"
No, I said again. It is an awkward thing to explain-Jesus as the fly in the ointment.
"What's the big deal?" he demanded. "Being Christian means you're half-Jewish, doesn't it?" Incredulous doesn't even begin to describe his tone. I decided to leave it.
Later that night, when the subject came up again, I took another stab at relaying the fundamentals of Judaism vs. Christianity, but every time I got down to it, I faltered. In some ways I believe that a seven-year-old isn't really old enough to understand, certainly not mature enough to appreciate this distinction. And does it matter, right now? Right now our big ideas are: God loves you; don't pick your nose. And let me just say we are up to our EARS with that. Besides, seven is the age where the boxes start showing up-a box for you, a box for you over there....oh-you, you don't fit in a box...cue head-scratching. Know what I mean?
So Sunday, after catching wind of a Hanukkah festival right down the street, we were in the car with bells on at the very mention of free gelt. As a child, my parents were always dragging me and my sister to stuff like this-international festivals and maple syrup demonstrations and boring speakers where we'd be the only kids in the audience not laughing at the slideshow.  Oh, and Cats. A wise man once said, "Of Cats, I know only this: the line "Rum Tum Tugger is a curious cat" is not found anywhere in great theatre.  I think experiences like this broaden a person's outlook, though-they did mine. And children, especially, need to know there's a larger landscape. Besides, they might meet a new friend, I thought. Someone who might want to adopt them for long weekends. My hopes were high.
But, then-I started to panic, just a tiny bit, right around the time the giant inflatable menorah came into view, which coincided with both children caroling from the back seat. Twelve days of Christmas and ready to crescendo.
"Kids," I said. "Now, we've talked about how we're not Jewish, right? But we love our Jewish friends, and God loves them, and this is a really special time-Hanukkah, and how lucky we are that we get to share in their celebration and learn about a different culture?"
"MAN, I love that part!" this was said in reference to "five golden rings" and accompanied by a rousing fist pump. Apparently, the children were not concerned about the possibility of worlds colliding.
Joshua and I looked at each other-no longer sure if this was such a good idea. I had a brief vision of that scene in Invasion of the Body Snatchers-when Veronica Cartwright spies a "duplicated" Donald Sutherland outside City Hall, and thinking he is still human, calls out to him, to which he responds with (horror!) a piercing POD SCREAM! Was this like pretending to be Jewish? Trying to pass? Were we becoming the Michaele and Tareq Salahi of the Jewish community? I could just see it: the Chabad Times feature story, our front-page photo in black and white, cheeks stuffed with chocolate coins.
We parked the car and the kids ran in.
"Don't worry, Mom! If they know I'm Christian, they'll know I'm Jewish, too!"
Oy.

The experience, for all our worry, proved to be delightful. The kids loved it, we were welcomed graciously and treated to all manner of activities-crafts, a bounce-house, sandbox, olive oil pressing, and my favorite: the Hanukkah computer games. Nothing like using one's mouse to steer a snowboarding rabbi down a hill while simultaneously harnessing avalanching menorahs to capture the true meaning of the holiday. But then again, I'm not really Jewish. My children? That's another story. 






Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Knock, knock.

There are coyotes in the yard. As if I didn't have enough to be afraid of: lice, brain-eating amoebas, strangers, swine flu, and now: wolves. Let's just call them what they are. Lying in bed last night, listening to their yips and howls, I felt suddenly exposed; wide-open and weak-that the only thing to keep the Wile E.'s from getting the children, should they try, would be my mother-love and a loaded gun. I'm not an "arms" person, but when the shadows lining your suburban landscape turn out to be  coyotes-or shall I say, wolves with inferiority complexes, one's views on arming oneself are apt to change. In other words, someone hand me my piece.

Howl, howl. Yip. Yip

I festered. Joshua was awake, too. "Listen to the ky-oats", he said, like an old cow-hand with a fondness for carnivorous opportunists. "They're wolves",  I whispered back accusingly. "Don't be fooled. They would eat us in a hot second." Then I rolled over for dramatic effect. After a while, the backyard was quiet, and I slept, dreaming of coyotes caught unaware, paws raised in submission: don't taze me, bro.

Morning came fast. I awoke to the children clamoring for pancakes and juice and Joshua gone for a run. After thirty minutes of trying to get back to that goose-down oblivion, peddling every excuse I could draw up, it dawned on me: they're smarter than that.  I can't expect them to buy my lousy stories. Of course they're not going to believe it's the middle of the night, not in an all-white room with no curtains and floor-to-ceiling windows. Thus we made our pilgrimage to the kitchen, stopping to adorn eyeglasses, brush teeth, fetch blankies, etc. Except-on the way, one of us got lost. I don't know how-but downstairs, the door to the garage was open and I assumed he'd gone outside without our knowing, so we followed suit-not really out of worry, but in order to prevent him from waking the neighbors with an unexpected playdate inquiry. It was cool-cold, actually, and quiet. There was the sense we were the only ones out there, Winnie and me-still I broke the calm by calling his name a couple times. Then I went inside and yelled some more. Again outside, again inside, then deeper inside from the bottom of the steps. If you are hiding and can hear my voice, you must come out this instant. 

My children are, mostly, obedient. Of course they are children, and that behavioral assessment adjusts hourly-but still I was confident that if, indeed he heard the I-mean-business tenor of my warning, he'd get the thunder downstairs. But: nothing. I walked out the front door, leaving it open, and crossed the cul-de-sac to the Jenkins' driveway, knowing he wasn't there; the house itself looked asleep-undisturbed. Then another house, where the dog barked at me from inside with such unabashed indignation I knew he was the lone conscious creature present. Besides, that mother would have sent Lauren home at such an hour, God love her.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Combo Platter



Last night, because he is awesome, my husband presented me with the hottest ticket in town: a seat for the local production of Grease, which has been sold-out for a while and is, incidentally, the first show of its kind in the last seven years that he has not directed. Which meant he was able to stay at home and assist with homework, complete the childrens' bedtime rituals, then spend the remainder of the evening  picking pieces of Playmobil out of the upstairs carpet. I, on the other hand, had a date with myself and it was lovely, thank you for asking,  except for the part where I couldn't find a decent parking space and had to run, in heels to make the opening curtain (very SJP of me), during which I dropped my chap stick (tinted) and my Sees Candy Cafe Latte Lollipop, the latter of which I discovered on the sidewalk after the show, partially unwrapped and with a large chunk missing. As in, a gigundo rat got to it. All I can say is, I hope the wretched beast is lying dead somewhere after having choked to death on what was supposed to be my dinner-I guess I can martyr my meal so long as there's one less rodent on the city streets.



Which brings me to my next point: fur. Are we wearing fur? I found this coat at Goodwill for $18.50- a perfect fit, and really well-made.  It is so fun to wear, but here's the rub: part of it used to be alive. Now, it's vintage, so it's not like I went out first thingthis morning and killed myself a bunny, so... could we just look at this as my way of celebrating this rabbit's life? Vive la lapin!



I will say, though, things were a little awkward during my morning coffee run at Whole Foods. Irony=shopping for Tofurkey whilst wearing a dead animal.

 And finally, while editing some random mobile uploads, I came across these two photos and was--well, tickled, as my grandmother would say, at how well they illustrate our resemblance. Winnie. My mini-me. We even vamp for the camera the same way. It was, hands-down, the week's sweetest discovery.  That, and the one remaining pumpkin whoopie pie I found in the back of the fridge.




Also of note: look how HUGE my hand looks holding that iphone! It's the CLAW! In truth, it took almost more coordination than was reasonable to hold the dang thing and push the little button to take the picture. Thus, immediately after this shot, I dropped the phone on the floor.

Then I went to bed. 

The End.

The show was lovely, by the way. Lots of stand-out performances, great costumes, fabulous band: bravo!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Oh, the controversy



A few weeks ago, as we made our way out of the school parking lot,  my seven-year-old released a sigh beyond his years and chucked the enormous backpack he carries on the floor of the mini-van. That's right, I said mini-van. When I asked him what was the matter, he said he'd been called "stupid" by a classmate, a little girl who, in my estimation, has already assigned herself the role of Group Browbeater. Apparently, name-calling is her weapon of choice, at least with my kid, and after a few days of heckling, he'd had enough.

Now, for the record, our way of dealing with playground conflict, or at least what we tell the children, is this: say no and walk away. It's very new age-y, I realize. Spiritually elevated, diplomatic. But possibly, I'm beginning to think...not working?

Growing up in a small town, I experienced bullying on a very personal level. Which is to say, I knew all the bullies by name and prayed to God every night they wouldn't come after me. It was a small school-everybody was your familiar, there was no disappearing into the background-but no way to stand out, either. Enter my leopard-print pants and coordinating tank top emblazoned with the likeness of a cheetah, glittering eyes included. Now there's a way to get noticed. That one outfit catapulted me straight to don't make eye contact/don't walk home from school alone/with-any-luck-she'll-move-back-to-West Virginia-land. It's unbelievable: the hell I, a mere child, had to pay for fashion.

These girls...skinny, ratted-hair, high-top-wearing, cussing....they were nasty, before Janet made it cool. They sneered, and what's more,  I would swear they smoked. Fourth graders. It's funny-even now, they seem older than me-and I'm not talking about the mean girls as grown-ups--I mean their 1986 versions. They were always little, dirty 35-year-olds in too-small clothes. No wonder they hated me; my father owned a children's boutique.

I tried walking away. Mostly I ran away. And stayed inside. Looking back, I should have told an adult, or as they say these days: "tattled". Twenty years ago, whistle-blowing was the norm. And it worked, right? I recall detentions aplenty being dangled o'er us from a very young age. Some teachers even paddled-and if that alone wasn't enough to transform a bully on the road to Damascus, then I don't know...next stop: orphanage? My point is, being "told on" was legit. You got results. Of course, there were always those dissidents who bucked tradition, choosing instead to meet in a vacant lot after school; also very effective. Such events almost always included the serendipitous arrival of someone's cousin's cousin-who, despite being in middle school was able to grow a full mustache and perhaps even drive. There was usually lots of gravel to contend with, and its associated dust, but less blood than you'd imagine. But again: results.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Halloween Recap/Someone Please Take the Candy



I've been dipping into the goody stash, I admit. Not leftover candy we'd bought for door-to-door beggars, but the children's loot from last night. Our household was closed for business during the trick-or-treat hour, because for us, Halloween is a family affair. We head out in the dark together with one goal in mind: get as much candy as we can in the shortest amount of time that physical fitness and rules of etiquette allow. My husband is the king of speedy shortcuts and will scale retaining walls and small topiaries with both offspring on his back. He will trod through your newly-planted pansy bed in silence, leaving every petal undisturbed. He's Captain Lightfoot-and I mean that in a very manly way. He would actually make a very good burglar. It may come to that.

This wasn't our best year-maybe because the holiday fell on a Saturday and the festivities--trunk or treat, school parade, and beggar's night--were spread over three days.  Maybe it was the fact that we carved our pumpkins too early, they got moldy and had to be thrown out.  But there was something else, too...oh, wait. It rained. When I saw all-day showers in the forecast, I called my mother for confirmation: It had never rained on Halloween before. My childhood Halloweens were snappy, cold-autumnal. There was a crunch in the air. Perhaps a snow flurry. This southern October is highly unpredictable, and as it turns out, soggy. We slogged through the neighborhood on wet leaves with  tutus dampened and Darth Vader masks malfunctioning in the mist. Our paper-bag treat sacks bottomed out, we couldn't muster the strength for speed. There was kind of a universal fade going on among some of the kids on our cul-de-sac. Sure, there were a few children who, come hell or high water were out for blood in the high-fructose sense of the word, mostly grade-schoolboys whose sheer delight in the gore of the holiday produced a certain level of lawlessness-and really, why would I want to take that away from them? I mean, when else can a fourth-grader drag his own severed arm behind him, brandish a bloody meat-cleaver, and main-line Skittles, all at the same time?

Our crew-we're not really carnage people. Or clammy polyester people. That fade I mentioned earlier? This year, instead of begging to stay out even later, I believe I heard , for the first time,"please can this be the last house?" from someone measuring less than five feet. Most noteworthy, though, was the sweet neighbor girl saying "Daddy, can't you just get the candy for me?" There's an idea, I thought. Parents as candy agents. Fathers in windbreakers, armed with pillowcases full of Kit Kats, not being mistaken for child predators. Imagine that. I saw them later, snug in the heated mini-van. She was smiling in her candy corn costume, her father beside her. I think they were reading. I told my husband that I liked this scene. She knew when she was done, nevermind the sugary lure of more.

We followed suit, stripping off the wet and cold right inside, pulling on pajamas and lighting a fire, followed by the ritual combining of the loot. This is how we work: pool it together and binge for a day, then whatever's left disappears to my husband's office to be later used for bribes, etc. To be clear, those being blackmailed are not the employees-just our children. Me, occasionally. I will do bad things for a fun-size Heath Bar. Produce a Whatchamacalit and I'm yours.

So this qualifies as binge day. Except I think I'm finished. It's sunny this morning, and last night feels a million miles away. At some point, the neighbor's giant inflatable spider-crawling-out-of-a-pumpkin was stolen, along with our small black crow statue. And since the jack-o-lanterns never got their fifteen minutes, there's very little clean-up. Aside from the candy wrappers.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Keeping up with the Joneses

Afternoon phone call:

Me: Is it wrong that while I lounge in bed with my shoes on, eating pistachio gelato and reading a novel, our children are next door in the care of someone else's nanny?
Him: There are several things wrong in that sentence. 
Me: I mean, is it neglectful?
Him: Only if something bad happens to them over there.
Me: Like, say, they get crushed in a toy avalanche?
Him: That wouldn't happen.
Me: You haven't been in their basement. Wall to wall Barbies.
Him: You should have made them wear helmets.
Me: What's wrong with us? We have...like-NO toys!
Him: We have marbles.
Me: It's hard to stockpile marbles.
Him: But it's easy to trip on them.
Me: Why does that make me feel better? 

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Lesson Learned



Well. Just when you think it's safe to send the kids to Sunday school, you-know-who shows up in a skirt. Yes, I know women (and some men) all over the world commit this act of bravery on an every-day basis, and I don't want to take anything away from those individuals. Go ahead and revel in all your long-legged glory! My issues are not with the garment itself, but the person zipped-up in fabric. That would be me. Somewhere in the mental record I keep of all the important messages I've been given about who I am, exists this little gem: "You don't look good in skirts." I don't remember who said it-they could be dead for all I know. Actually, I think it was a boy with whom I attended high school, and thanks to the modern miracle Facebook I can assure you he is very much alive, blissfully unaware of the lasting impression left by his adolescent aesthetic. Does he have any idea HOW HOT I'VE BEEN?  Could I get reparations just for my air conditioning bill? Under normal circumstances, I don't make a habit of archiving, let alone believing all that I'm told-but some things...they stick. We've all been on the receiving end of bad information-it happens all the time-something we'd normally have dismissed as hogwash-but for whatever reason, the motherboard blows a fuse and this nonsensical, unreasonable, ridiculous bit of verbage becomes: TRUTH. It's like...out of the blue, your heart slips your brain a mickey, and you wake up 15 years later, wearing pants.

What I should have delivered the young sartorialist was a good old-fashioned zinger-something that oozed confidence, something more along the lines of talk to the hand, shorty. That was really big in those days. Unfortunately, I've always been most confident post-confrontation, after the offender has returned to his lair and I'm alone, free to rehearse my allocution until it rings true for all of mankind, a speech full of grace and backbone fit to be delivered from either a mountaintop or the Oprah Winfrey Show. Instead, I probably skulked off, turning the words over and over in my mind like a smooth stone in a pants pocket, until they were so familiar I thought they'd always been mine.

UNTIL. I wish I could say that I had a Whitney Houston I'm Every Woman moment during which I reclaimed my power as a female-instead, what really happened was I started to notice, all around me, that people were showing their legs--all manner of legs. Legs that hadn't seen the light of day in 45 years, legs covered with a roadmap of bulging veins, legs so tanned and leathery they could have been a pair of chaps. I realized that somehow, I'd bought into this great lie that our imperfect parts should be covered--shamed, even. I remember stopping in the middle of the sidewalk, realizing I'd been hoodwinked. It was hot, and my children wanted me to do things like play outside. Without fainting. I immediately bought a pair of shorts. Short ones. And then I called several people to announce my coming-out. It was very big in the community.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Song in my mouth



A while back, a woman I know approached me and said, "I bet life with your daughter is like living with a drunk person." Winnie was two at the time, and the four of us were attending a school-sanctioned movie night, an event that went well past her bedtime and involved such decadence as: THE PLAYGROUND! CHICK-FIL-A! FULL-STRENGTH LEMONADE! Because it was late, and on a Friday night, I didn't mind taking her from the auditorium to blow some stink off in the lobby. She was starting to exhibit the behavior pattern my husband and I refer to as "bunny talk". Bunny talk is when she makes lots of clickety noises with her tongue, quick staccato snaps and pops in the front of her mouth, like she's munching on a carrot with two very large rabbit teeth. Bunny talk is a precursor to full-on punchiness--drowsy, slap-happy, tripping-over-my-two feet tired, which kind of reminds me...of a drunk person. "Oh, but she's a happy drunk", I said to the woman, as if this positive spin would negate the fact that she was, by this point, attempting to remove her clothes.

She's a big girl now-almost four, and so much of her baby skin has been shed. Like for instance, she no longer sleeps with a bag of Cheetos. We used to find her napping in the crib, a tiny pink purse over her shoulder with the coveted snack tucked inside. It wasn't as much about eating them as it was possessing them, gathering them to herself. She's a natural hoarder, and even though I've since learned to hide the good stuff on a higher pantry shelf, she has bags in every room with the non-edible treasures she's collected. Joshua and I watched her this weekend, editing the contents of a box of junk destined for either the dumpster or Goodwill, and were impressed by the fact that her selection was not arbitrary. Winnie assigned value to half of a plastic Easter egg, but not a random lego brick. An empty tea-light tin made the cut, but a handful of perfectly good yarn was thrown over her shoulder as if its very existence exasperated her. She amasses these "collections", has one in every room, and even though I'm having to do some spiritual breathing around the possibility of her squirreling her way into a Doctorow novel, I allow her treasure to remain...treasured. Will there be a junk avalanche in her future? I hope not. I'm keeping my fingers crossed she'll be a curator of something other than stacks of newspapers. Gold coins would be okay; silver linings even better.

I love my sweet girl, in every way imaginable--with my whole, imperfect heart. The past six months have been a whirlwind of emotion and change, and she has been, among all of us, the hardiest-a miniature, live-action PSA for pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps. And it's authentic, for pete's sake, because she's three. Me? I'm a mess, but my daughter's collecting trash and liking it. While singing showtunes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Taxonomists we're not

Twenty Questions overheard in the back seat:

Lauren: Is it alive?
Winnie: Yes!
Lauren: Does it have wheels?
(I turn around to say-"things that are alive don't have wheels". I am, as usual, ignored.)
Winnie: Yes!
Lauren: Is it....something that grown-ups use?
Winnie: (exasperated) Laur-RUN!
Lauren: Okay, is it made of metal?
Winnie: I SAID it was something alive with WHEEEEEELS!
Lauren: WAIT! Is it........BACON?!
Winnie: (eyes wide in amazement) YES!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Later That Same Day


For part one of this mini-series, click here.

We pulled into the hospital's valet entrance, baby still planted firmly in utero. Our ride was uneventful, and quiet, except for the moment my sister casually mentioned the donuts she'd thrown in the garbage before leaving the house. My brother-in-law and I locked eyes in the rear-view mirror, exchanging silent disbelief as she recounted her intentions to bestow goodwill and breakfast on her coworkers via Krispy Kreme; and how realizing she wouldn't be going in that day, had decided to trash them. An. Entire. Box. Of. Donuts. In that moment, if there had appeared a thought bubble inside the station wagon, a white cartoon cloud hovering between my brother and I, it would have contained only one word:

"Dude."

We were nearly without speech, Chad and I.  Disposing of uneatened donuts is practically a crime against humanity; how could we bring a baby into this kind of family?  He put the car in reverse, backing all the way down the street, even around a curve.  I couldn't make this up if I tried. I was thinking what a sport my sister was, allowing our gluttony to interrupt her baby story, when all at once she announced that the donuts were not just in the kitchen trash, but the whole house trash. In the dumpster, with the diapers.


Nevermind.

We handed the car over to the valet attendant, who looked about twelve, and rode an elevator to the maternity floor. While the two of them checked in, I swept the waiting room for the best magazines and then, channeling the inner Howard Hughes, did my best not to touch anything. Once we were assigned a  room, I visited the cafeteria to grab coffee and fill the void of donuts-that-might-have-been, snagged a gift-shop Sudoku, and generally avoided mirrors. I was struck with the strangeness of hospital decor- the number of mirrors was astounding. I mean, who really wants to see themselves in an assless hospital gown? But wait, here's another mirror to reflect the nose-job that didn't take. Or, peekaboo...you're old! I know these places are rarely a bastion of style, but what about grace? At least put in skinny mirrors. Or affirming mirrors that talk to you in a loving way and say things like: All is well. You are not really this disheveled-looking. Smelling like beets is perfectly normal.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

*August Sixth


Today* my sister had a baby. A real, live, honest-to-goodness baby with perfection in every square inch of him, and I was there. At four am this morning, when the telephone rang, I woke with the words on my heart: I am going to be an aunt today, and please God let me deliver the baby. I think I actually said, out loud, I'm ready, as if instead of my parents' old four-poster, I'd been dozing in an ER breakroom, strapped to a sparkle pager designed to summon my medical expertise, romantic entanglement notwithstanding. Sorry McDreamy, I took an oath, no I cannot make out with you.

It's funny-I have always felt, despite my lack of formal training, oddly indispensable in medical emergencies. Even as a little girl, while the rest of the slumber party busied themselves trying to levitate or watch Goonies, I'd be chilling in the La-Z-Boy with someone's mother's Reader's Digest, poring over the latest cabbage soup diet or random article on primordial dwarfism. I was fascinated with all that could befall a person, addicted to absorbing all that mysterious humanity and science-I was, in a sense, buffering myself with knowledge. Of course, this also contributed to a certain amount of childhood hypochondria, but we're not talking about me, we're talking about you. I mean, my sister. And her delicious baby, whose impending arrival was not announced electronically, but by a gush of water breaking, which prompted the phone call, then my mother beside herself and whispering up the stairs for me to hurry because the baby's coming.

From the Editor

It's been nearly two months since I've written, and since I've done a lot of living in that space of time, I've decided to take the Billy Madison approach to blogging-which may involve retroactive posting combined with current musings and a sense from the outside that my blog is on hallucinogenic mushrooms. If you see a white rabbit, you know you're in the right place. Stay tuned. xoxo

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Le Binge

Today was a three-pastry day, not that anyone's counting. I should have seen the storm clouds looming, the forecasted wind and golf-ball-sized hail threatening the microclimate of my head-but I was too busy being sunny and 75. Yesterday. I'd scheduled a few salon services for the afternoon, namely to fix the feet I could no longer stand being attached to my body, but also to repair the sudden damage caused when I cut off my ponytail last weekend in a fit of cosmetological desperation. It's hard to get a good line when you're using kitchen scissors, friends. You get a nice diagonal, and that's about it. It was a Ramona-Quimby-on-crack situation, but Friday I got fixed up in all the right ways; practically an Extreme Makeover, except no porcelain veneers. I was feeling good-the kind of little high that salon fumes and vanity inspire, so decided to take my cute self to Target for a peppermint patty and quick whirl around the clothes department. I'm not a frequent shopper at the Tarjay, but yesterday's stars apparently aligned in favor of the economy and I now understand, fully, how an average American woman can Target herself into financial oblivion. I found really cute jeans two sizes smaller than I thought I wore (think Joe's Jeans Gatsby cut), a couple essential tank tops, and the aforementioned candy treat. Also a magazine, some body scrub, (honey stop reading here) alpha-hydroxy facial buffers, and a cardigan. And bobby pins. A box of Luna Bars. See what I mean? I was lucky to get out alive. It was fun, though...a wonderful diversion. Afterward, I went to see a play with a friend-it was the perfect day, really. Friday.

This morning I woke up early and tried hard to sink back into productive sleep-Saturdays are difficult with the Mr. in another state and the children wandering around like keening orphans, putting in requests for juice or candy-I need to be wide-eyed and alert for them and sleep is part of this, as is caffeine-but I couldn't get there. There was, for some reason, an abundance of stuff in my bed- a plastic slide whistle, leaves...it was gritty. SO later today, when the kids started their Miss Hannigan routine, searching for the benevolent Grace Ferrell-character to teach them tennis or manners, or play with them for Pete's sake, I couldn't come through. What they want is me, engaged in their lives. It's really that simple. They don't understand the psychosis that is this entire crazy thing we've done: uprooted, left every routine and success and relationship of the last eight years in the dust, greenhoused ourselves into financial oblivion... they're kids. They see me and they want me-no matter that I'm trying to get something, anything done to move the plot forward-pick out paint colors, pay taxes, go to the bathroom. There's no sense in trying to cut them off at the pass with "later"-later really gets them going, initiates the primal scream sequence. So, we left.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Conversation with my six-year-old

Him: Um, Mommy...do you think you should do something about your feet?
Me: What do you mean?
Him: Well, they look all dirty and stuff. You should go to that place and have the people fix them.
Me: How will they do that?
Him: They probably won't have to cut them off, but maybe. Or else just put them in a big bowl of water that smells good.
Me: Like in the Bible?
Him: Pretty much. Except don't forget the fingernail polish.

Monday, July 20, 2009

No, it's Iowa.

And now we enter the portion of summer I like to call: Corn Fest 2000. And, yes, dear readers, I know we're midway through two-thousand and nine-but in Corn Fest-ese, "2000" signifies not the year of Fest, but of the said fest's awesomeness and power, as in, this Fest and the corn we're feting is two thousand times better than anyone else's corn on the block, county, perhaps the entire tristate area. And, in case you wondered, no I don't know which states comprise the "tri", but it's something I've longed to say for a while now, in a weather-girl sort of way, shivering in my Burberry trench and Wellies as gale-force winds highlight the depths of my journalistic excellence. And to think-Corn Fest 2000 allowed me to reach that goal, from my parents' basement, wearing pajama pants and a Chinese New Year tee shirt.

As I was saying, we got about 17 ears this morning, after tentatively creeping into the stalks to check the progress of our crop, which as of late had developed a bit of a reputation in the raccoon community for being, well, some kick-ass corn. In effort to keep the critters at bay, we rigged a radio from one of the greenhouses on a really long extension cord, then set the thing on a piece of plywood smack in the middle of Cornville and put a bucket over top. For a few nights we'd trek the few miles out there to turn it on just as the sun went down, and let me tell you the first time I did that I about had a heart attack. The sky was absolutely on fire red-a triple threat of orange and pink, with purple gray clouds low enough, almost, to touch. I was alone, a speck in all that beauty, which in country music and greeting cards is supposed to make you feel really spiritually elevated, but in my mind's eye, all I could see was dead baseball players. A few nights prior, we'd all sat around watching Field of Dreams on TV and I felt 97% certain that night I'd catch Shoeless Joe Jackson peering at me through the tassles and be rendered petrified right there in the corn. The way I handled this, of course, was to scamper lightly in and out of the rows, adhering to the "if your feet barely touch the ground you aren't really there" school of thought, flipping the switch then lickety-splitting it back to the car before Moonlight Graham could beckon me with a bony ghost finger. Since then, we've simplified our technique, which is to say we've stopped turning it off in the morning, mostly out of laziness-however, it seems to be working. I turned the dial to all-conservative-all-the-time talk radio because I thought this would cause the most emotional distress for the raccoons; they are absolutely renowned in the animal kingdom for their radical views on health care and nasty MSNBC habit. I'm sure there were a number of hearts in raccoon's throats when, instead of all-you-can-eat Ambrosia BiColor, Ranger Rick and the gang discovered Rush Limbaugh screeching from underneath a bucket.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm ALIVE!

In the event I haven't lost my entire readership, I suppose I'll resume posting, for now, unless I get another bee in my bonnet and decide to purchase a business about which I know alarmingly little, move my family across (kind of) the country and in with my parents, and adopt a lifestyle similar to that of the Amish, but with more jewelry. Nutshell: VERY spotty internet, minimal options in the caffeine department, but lots of baked goods, gardening, and fresh air. Despite the apple fritters and healthy glow, however, the past month has been a doozy of epic proportions. To label it drama seems cliche in the worst possible way, the gum-cracking, tight-tee-shirt-and-gym shorts with-juicy-across-the-butt-wearing way, with an eye-roll as the cherry on top. But drama it was, complete with teeth-gnashing, injustices, and the writing of large checks, sometimes bitterly. And, in case you wondered, bitterly is the worst spirit in which to part with money. Ruefully is a close second. Better to pay your debts (even the illegitimate ones) with something akin to reckless abandon, preferably while riding shotgun in a convertible up coastal Highway One toward your friend Oprah Winfrey's house where she has undoubtedly assembled a think tank who are, at that very moment, charting the course which will guarantee certain fame and fortune for not just you, but your ENTIRE FAMILY. Fine, take it all, you'd say, whilst your Hermes scarf dances in the salty air and you laugh gaily.
Transition. My mother, when given the opportunity, will spin her labor and delivery tales so that everything rises and falls around the word. And then I was in transition, she'll say with a mix of awe, horror, and knowing. As a child, "transition" was so mysterious and strange that it could have been the part where the mommy grows a third eye and gives birth to a litter of unicorns while Strawberry Fields plays in the background for all I knew. Of course now I understand it's just a REALLY difficult, albeit short, phase of labor in which women curse their husbands, Eve, the baby, and ask for a leather strap to bite down on, or as we say in America, drugs. Not that I've done any of these things, at least not in that order and certainly not as part of childbirth, as both my children arrived via c-section-HOWEVER, the transition we went through as the business changed hands and we closed out the season really had me yearning for an epidural of the emotional variety. Ice chips would have been lovely, perhaps a casserole. Sigh. We made it, though. We're afloat. Despite the...okay, I'll say it: DRAMA, we came out the transitional woods on the other side and we're gathering ourselves; taking stock. We're remembering all the small moments of victory and seeming coincidences and every single kindness shown, which is more than I can count and you can bet I'm forgetting at least half. Thank you for being patient, if you're reading this, all 12 of you. I AM alive; there is news to report. Think of it this way: I made it through the rough part. I had the baby, and it wasn't a unicorn THANK GOD. Life goes on, slowly. It's still me-I'm just not up to putting on my skinny jeans yet.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Scratching the surface

I promise that if I had a keyboard surgically implanted in my thigh I would post more often-pausing whenever the whim struck to chronicle the goings-on of our new life, which pile up like loose-leaf paper and blow away every time I turn around to get started on another to-do...all these bits of delicious detail I find amusing and want to share but can't because right now I am in Greenhouse Grand Central, an all-hands-on-deck situation that requires my complete attention, so I tuck away the snippets and hope I remember to remember them, maybe even write them. But. You know how it goes-you spend all day on the farm, you get distracted. Take today, for example. Aside from ringing up customers, there was all that merchandise I found in the back to sell: organic fertilizer, bamboo stakes, garden trowels-it had to be dragged out and priced and displayed and thank goodness I found some old crates at the Senior Center Yard Sale last week is all I'm saying. Very farmhouse chic. I had THREE wholesale walk-in orders to pull, one custom container to complete, a meeting and site assessment with the Solar/Wind Energy guy, two big phone calls, an ad consultation, garden issues, and somewhere in there I set up a Playmobil scene for our little boy complete with dueling castles and a rolling battle tower, which he abandoned far earlier than was necessary in order to set up an asparagus stand, a short-lived enterprise that involved two freshly plucked stalks and a pair of unsuspecting patrons kind enough to dig right in and pronounce the crop delicious. And did I mention the watering? THE WATERING. Even though we're down to the nitty gritty and not much material is left, we still have to get to all seven houses and soak what's there, sometimes three times a day. So, all day I'd planned on posting, getting some of this down, but once it hit 115 degrees inside Greenhouse Five I think something opened up in my brain and all my stories fell out, because by the time we got home, had dinner, balanced the books, walked the kids to the library, and made six jars of jam, I could scarcely recollect a single thing I'd wanted to write-ALMOST....except, these two pieces of information:
  1. Baked Bean Accident: our trip up here was fraught with drama-flat tires, migraines, I think there was throw-up; but how's this for a little human interest/slice of Americana: A jack-knifed rig on I-75 carrying ONLY Bush's Baked Beans. As in, cans of baked beans EVERYWHERE. This is once-in-a lifetime stuff, guys.
  2. My children had their first real-life little-person interaction today, meaning, they encountered a dwarf whose first name did not correspond with his or her mood/stocking cap. It did not go well. There was a bit of a whipping around of the head situation and some breaching of outside vs. inside-voice protocol. Which was weird because we WERE outside, yet the inside voice was still too loud. Suggestions?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Lover vs. Fighter



Winnie was visiting Lauren's school at recess-time, which, as you can imagine, is an every-man-for-himself free-for-all of tricycles, woodchips, and tag; kind of treacherous for a little girl who hasn't had much time to develop the cunning social dis so often utilized in playground politics-and by the way, those six-year-old ladies can freeze you out if they want to...one misinterpreted hairflip and suddenly there aren't enough parts in the Hannah Montana game to go around. So-there I was on the bench, nervous she'd get her feelings hurt by an older girl, or take some sand in the eye, or be the last trike in a pile-up and therefore responsible for the ENTIRE domino of rear-enders (lawsuit!) when I realized she was actually doing great; seemed confident, was holding her own remarkably well in the sandbox. I felt comfortable enough in the COMPLETELY fenced schoolyard to take my eyes off her and visit with the teacher a few minutes, after which I noticed she'd ventured to the "upper" part of the playground, where the swings are, along with bigger slides, and certain doom. Her brother, ever-protective, saw that little polka-dotted body headed for trouble and was, I assume, spurred into action not just by brotherly love, but somewhere deep inside he must've heard the strains of the theme from Greatest American Hero: the kid ran, arms flailing, calling her name like she was about to go over a cliff, when really, she was only three rungs up the Coil Climber. Still-he rescued her. I walked over to help with the dismount, and between his Big Save and my arrival, some sort of skirmish had erupted between Lauren and another boy, the heart of which I haven't uncovered. What I did hear, however, still has me in stitches:

"You wanna piece of meat? You wanna piece of meat?"
This from my first-born, complete with come-and-get-me-arms and a grimace the likes of which I haven't seen on that sweet face.

The other kid looked a little dumbfounded-perhaps he was thrown by the piece of me vs. piece of meat mix-up; I actually had to bite my lip to keep from laughing, turning away to assemble my Stern Mom Face while they continued their stand-off.

"Wow-I really hope you two can work this out," I said, my go-to Love and Logic line. The opposition looked at me, exasperated, and threw up his hands. "There he goes again, threatening to beat me up. That's the second time this school year", like he almost couldn't believe it himself.
I looked at my Mr. Tough Guy-a little puffed-up and proud, but for Pete's sake....scrawny and six. If we're talking in terms of meat, a piece of him would be a.....cocktail meatball. Or a scallop wrapped in bacon on a toothpick. He is SO big-hat-no-cattle, and for now I am really okay with that. We've got years to hone the nunchuck skills, and lucky for the other guy, only four days of school left. I'd say he's safe.

Friday, May 22, 2009


A few weeks back, the school sent out an all-call to the parents of kids with summer birthdays-reminding us if we wanted to celebrate our child's special day before classes let out for the year, we could bring in a snack before recess and observe their "unbirthday"-a VERY important occasion in a six-year-old's life. I'm usually pretty low-key about this sort of thing, believing that the main point is the fame--your kid gets a little kindergarten glory and wears the birthday crown, maybe even gets to be the line leader instead of the dreaded caboose, although I'm pretty sure the caboose gets to turn out the light--and that, my friends is power. Anyway, my thoughts regarding the menu have been pretty simple-boxes of animal crackers one year, ice cream cups the next. Low cost, low fuss. This year, because of our move, all my baking stuff is either boxed or....elsewhere, and having only just returned from a three-week separation from said birthday boy, I experienced the following perfect storm of emotions: pressed for time/harried, guilt surrounding lack of domestic service, and love of cupcakes, with love of cupcakes being kind of an umbrella over those other two feelings--all this to say, I opted for a REAL birthday treat I knew would be somewhat lost on the indiscriminate palates of my son's classmates: two dozen vanilla/vanilla and vanilla/chocolate cupcakes from Little Cake Bakery complete with fondant flowers (a tribute to our greenhousing future ) on one half, and the ever-popular crushed oreos/gummy worm combo on the other half, because in kindergarten, gross is really where it's at. I picked them up today in the tiny little storefront in Buckhead...the space is so dear--very simply decorated, with a few cafe tables, a chandelier and just the right amount of less-is-more-cuteness. Of course, the deliciousness is beyond compare. ComPLETELY worth the price, especially since some kids were out sick today (hope it's not serious!) and there are enough cupcakes left for us each to have one for dessert tonight. The mini-celebration was sweet, with the typical birthday tune and optional "cha, cha, cha" my boy requested. He also asked for an additional blessing of the cupcakes, feeling that the lunch-time prayer was not sufficient for such bounty. I was really proud of him in that moment, because dang it, he may not have mastered all his sight words this year, but the child is thankful. Thankful. There was a short Q & A about the day he was born, during which he told a story about how when he was a baby I used to tie him up with string so he wouldn't cry. (?) And that's when I made my getaway, just as the DFACS paddywagon pulled up.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Love, Loss, and What We Ate


I arrived back in Atlanta a few days ago, just in time for a round of parties that have left us all strung out on love and refined sugar, my two drugs of choice. The decadence of the last 72 hours has been almost embarrassing, as we begin the long goodbye to a city we grew to love and the people who made it home for us. Sunday night was a big dinner with lots of friends, delicious grilled salmon, cheese grits and cold beer, with kids trading Legos and riding Big Wheels in the driveway and being generally adorable. Monday morning we all overslept AND had a Field Day lunch to pack-which can't be any old lunch, but instead, something SUPER special and only marginally healthy. We opted for a Whole Foods cheese calzone, giant chocolate chip cookie, and container of pomegranate seeds punctuated by the occasional blueberry. And of course, a pumpkin muffin for strength. Thirty dollars later, we were picnic-ready and Field Day was relatively hitch-free, despite some over-zealous knotting for the three-legged race which translated into my son being dragged up one side of the course and down the other and then of course, the tears. THE TEARS. We could barely transition to the passing-the-orange-under-the-chin game, which is really hard to cheer on. I heard someone yell to their son, "Come on, you've got a HUGE chin! You can do it!" I mean, do we really need to be feeding their Jay Leno complexes? Anyway. We made it to the water balloon toss and all was well. Monday night, another soiree, complete with lots of (happy) tears, snacks involving goat cheese, an outdoor fireplace, lights in the trees, and the kind of gracious host who has a supply of pashmina shawls to pass around after the sun goes down. I kind of wanted to stay there forever, but they ran out of cupcakes. You'd think I'd have been stuffed by then, but no-we decided last night was to be our last feast at Canton Cooks, the best Chinese hands-down, where they just kept bringing more food for the lazy susan and some of us kept eating it. They had me at hello with the Prawn Chips, but then when they put the Salt and Pepper Shrimp with jalapenos down RIGHT in front of me-something you can't get just anywhere--I really had to strike while the iron was hot with that one. Oh, and the expertly fried rice. By the time this afternoon rolled around it had ALL caught up with me and I was forced to lie down in a food coma for about 15 minutes, and what did I do with my leisure time? Read a cooking magazine. I know. I have no idea, either. It's like they don't make food in Ohio. Luckily, Joshua came home and had us all doing chores so our muscles wouldn't atrophy- thank goodness we sent the kids to bed at 6:15, or else I'm sure we would have eaten them.

Like a Garth Brooks Song

I am such the absentee blogger, I know, but I HAVE been working my arse off, literally and figuratively, with nary a moment to stop for meals, let alone some frivolous blog post. It’s make hay while the sun shines around here-weeding, watering, stocking, container designing-yesterday I finished the last custom planter from an order of thirteen, all ginormous, mostly Italian terra cotta and heavier than a dead priest. I’m super-relieved but a wee bit nervous as two of the arrangements kinda look like prom dresses from the 80’s, and that might not be what the customer wanted, although he used the term “showy”, which to me usually means one thing: The Bedazzler. Thank goodness I was able to restrain myself as I’m sure New Guinea Impatiens do not take well to rhinestones and grommets. Time will tell, I suppose, as the order is picked up in a few days. In any event, business is booming, in spite and maybe even because of the weather. Afternoon rains were forecasted all week, meaning the masses come out in droves to get material and get it in the ground before the showers start-kind of like stocking up on bread and milk before a blizzard. We have a mad rush in the morning, slow over lunch, then around three, a major downpour, no customers, and time to restock and fill custom orders. I actually like these kinds of days-the rain so loud on the roof-it’s a little terrifying, kind of exhilarating- but I haven’t experienced any lightning yet and I don’t know what the protocol is. Do we close up and go home? Ignore it? Hide under the re-potting table? I probably should find out because when it comes to electrical storms, you know I don’t mess. If anybody thinks I am going to stand there like a human lighting rod, they got the wrong girl. I can deal with thunder, even hail, but when the sky lights up right over my head, all my irrational thought processes kick it into overdrive and I am a hot mess. Case in point: the other evening in Atlanta, midway through my weekly Trader Joe's run, there was a thunderstorm straight out of the book of Revelations and although whilst purchasing all manner of pantry staples I remained fairly oblivious to the torrent outside, once I was paid up and bagged and in my car I LOST IT. The lightning was THIS CLOSE and I could barely see to drive, certain I'd be fried at any moment by a rogue bolt of electricity. I remembered how, as a little girl, walking home from the pool on a thundery afternoon I felt fairly confident that the Jellies on my feet (I had them in several colors) would protect me from being electrocuted-but NOW, I live a life without Jellies and in fact, left my go-to rubber-soled Diesel slip-ons at Viet Nails and am now, essentially, the aforementioned human lightning rod. I called my husband for moral support while simultaneously making myself as small as possible (thank you, Bear Grylls) which is kind of hard to do when you're driving, but inclement weather calls for, among other things, extreme flexibility. I made it home unscorched, grateful for my life in the same way I am after a plane lands safely. I'm really benevolent-saint-like, even, for about two hours. Anyway-I better get some Jellies for the greenhouse, is all I'm saying. Summer hasn't even started and the best storms are just getting warmed up.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Another long day requiring a deep-clean steamy shower complete with Crabtree and Evelyn Gardener's Hand Treatment and yes I used it on my feet, along with a pumice stone, loofah, salt scrub and plenty of hot water to boot. So, squeaky clean and cozied up with my PowerBook, I offer you this delightful piece of Americana:



Yeah, I know, for some of you this is just another day at the office. It happens all the time: right smack in the middle of the week, when you're up against a deadline and deals are coming down like space capsules-you get "the call" from your assistant. "Excuse me Mr. So and So, it seems we have some cattle in the front yard." You pick up the phone and call yourself a wrangler, order in some cowhands, get the dog warden--or maybe you don't do anything at all because you have this kind of relationship with cows. There they go again, you say. Mooching off my Wi-Fi, looking in the windows, talking about me to the other cows. I hail from a different land, though. In Atlanta, people don't have herds of cattle congregating on their property. We have people working on our landscaping, or drunken Georgia fans, or sometimes a flock (?) of locusts. Cows were a rarity-until recently. I was in the back of the greenhouse, putting together a custom order; I'd propped the screen door open with a cement block so I could feel the wind blow across the fields and on my back. Every few minutes I have to step outside for a breath...it's like retreating from a smelly August sidewalk to the lobby of an air-conditioned high rise--pure bliss. I love the greenhouse, but dang is it ever hot. And, as I may have mentioned- dirty. I am so channeling my inner Scarlett O'Hara these days; not the green velvet dress from curtains Scarlett, or the Scarlett in mourning who donates her wedding ring for the good of the Confederacy, but the Scarlett on the road to Tara, after she and Rhett have left a burning Atlanta and he leaves her to pull the horse and cart the rest of the way alone. I'm dirty and I swelter, but I'm learning to embrace it. I'm bringing it back. I may start a perfume line. ANYWAY-back to the cows. So I'm standing there, sweltering, when I hear, on the walkie-talkie, the wee small voice of one the employees alerting me to "cattle on the property." Of course, in my world, this is like saying Michael Jackson has mated with an aardvark and given birth to a Leprechaun, and Angelina's adopting ALL of them, right now, in your front yard. When you hear this kind of news you GO GET YOUR CAMERA. Which, of course, I did-I TORE out of there, ran helter skelter to my car, retrieved the camera, dashed UP the driveway, around the house (remember we're talking acreage) in search of said cows, which by then had made their way to the far side of the neighbors' yard in order to avoid certain capture from the two teenagers who'd nearly caught up to them, thus my photo op was "ruint", as my mother would say. It was still pretty wild, only I kind of wanted the guys to have lassos, but I guess they just planned on wrassling them cows to the ground. Everyone, including the cows, looked mostly panicked, and I must admit even I had plotted my own escape as I rounded the southeast corner of the house, right before the cows were supposed to come into view--I thought if one of them came at me with his/her horns I'd go ahead and shimmy up one of the pillars on the front porch and hold on tight while simultaneously yelling for help. Fat chance, you say? Well, yes I see your point. I haven't shimmied up anything since elementary school gym class and even then I only got halfway up the rope. But I wasn't about to be gored by livestock then, either, was I?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Written LAST Monday but who's counting?

My mother is hosting her bridge club tonight. The folding chairs are in place; the tables set with scorepads, sharpened pencils, and the playing cards used just for these evenings--secret decks forbidden for use in the card-house building and gin rummy marathons my sister and I were hooked on. Her prettiest bridge tallies adorn the sideboard-vintage, homemade, too special to ever use. I still don't know where these things are kept, and have never thought to ask. I'm terrible at cards-Euchre eludes me, and I'll pocket my spoon at three of a kind if I have a good enough hunch. Someday, though, I know I'll inherit the trappings of Bridge Club, whether or not I'm bona fide. My mother's mother was a member, and her association with these women is a cord that connects them, still. Some of my earliest recollections include these women, and this weekly ritual, and although some of the mystery and formality is gone, and about half the original members have died, what I consider to be the hallmark of bridge club abides-meaning, the snack selection hasn't changed. After many years, despite countless advances in the industry, including various interpretations of rice, soy, and pita, Bridge Club menu features the same glorious stuff of my childhood, and I couldn't be happier about it. Ladies and gentlemen of the internet: presenting the lesser-known crunchables; beloved, unsung heroes of the chip aisle-Bugles, Combos, Funyons, I salute you.
The buildup to Bridge Night was short but frenetic. Our mother would remind us, "You know I have bridge tomorrow night", and we would all agree to remove our shoes from the landing and not dirty the downstairs bathroom, or disgrace the lower level of our home in any way-including, but not limited to: walking through the middle of the freshly-vacuumed living room and disturbing the sweeper marks, leaving homework strewn on the kitchen counter, and eating. In particular, there was to be no cross contamination of the Snacks. No opening of the puffy foil bags, no excessive or unnecessary handling of them, really it would be better if we just didn't look at them. That's the message I came away with. They were exclusive, and special-just like the Bridge Club ladies, who were also loud, and coughed a lot, but that's beside the point. I learned that if you are quiet, and helpful, you will be rewarded in Pringles. I believe that heaven will be much like this.
Once the members arrived, I was instructed to take drink orders and pass out the sacred refreshments, which had been arranged in four silver dishes, each in the shape of a different playing card suit and covered with a clean tea towel. In exchange for my tableside service, and my sparkling manners, and for not defiling the sweeper marks, I received a nice mixed-grill of snacks to take to my room in secret. A potpourri of artificial color, dehydrated potatoes, and MSG, washed down with a Diet Crush if I was lucky. For me, Bridge Club evenings always culminated in pure decadence- with me in bed, thumbing through my mother's magazines; radio on, snacks by my side. The party downstairs typically went later than 11:00-and even though I usually complained when my sister's Bon Jovi got out of control, knocking emphatically on the wall separating her room and mine to signal my displeasure, I didn't mind the cacophany of voices on those Monday evenings. The white noise of Bridge Club-low laughter, the tinkling of ice in glasses, an occasional hacking cough you'd swear needed medical attention, and finally, the ladies' noisy departure underneath my bedroom window as I hovered between sleep and dreaming--it was the noise of the familiar, it was comfort. Tonight I'm in the basement, freshly showered from a long day at the greenhouse-I've stolen away with my snacks and soda-be still my heart, it is a Diet Crush. Still lucky, I guess.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Served with a smile

Yesterday marked my one-week anniversary of full-on country greenhouse ownership. I thought there might be a wittier way to say that, but apparently not--growing is labor-intensive, but at its root (ha!), a pretty simple endeavor. I mean, most of us know how to carry a plant along from infancy to flashy teenagerhood, past the awkward in-between stage and into the beauty of blossoming, when the flower has never looked better and knows it. This is the beauty part of growing...looking out at a chock-full greenhouse and, as the proprietor, seeing what other people, my customers, see: wild possibility; the potential to have the garden of one's dreams. It really is something. Unfortunately, though, I also know what it looks like in January: empty. All seven greenhouses bare, except for a few things carried over in the one we'll heat year-round, two or three lone plants on the warming bench looking a little worse for the wear. The rest is up to us. We'll order the seeds and cuttings, fill our trays with potting mix, and it's off to the races in a kind of lather, rinse, repeat scenario that plays out several thousand times over. I know I said it's simple-if we're talking a few plants here and there, or even a hobby greenhouse. Greenhouses, though? Full of flowers I grow myself? That people will pay real money for? There is so much planting-and planning, and exquisite timing, that to think about it for more than a few minutes each day, for now, is completely overwhelming. But-once this selling season is over, and all the retail issues are shaken out and sifted, and we sweep and scour and organize the barn and put the signs away and take a breath, me and my sweet husband will sit down at our kitchen table and map it out. We'll pore over notebooks-full of teeny-tiny handwriting left by the previous owners, and things that were second nature to them will emerge from between the lines, and with the dates and figures, together, he and I will crack the code. For now, I'll do what I know-I'll peddle the wares. I'll visit with customers, water the plants, replenish the stock, make it look beautiful, and move the merchandise-which, if you ask me, is really just about getting underneath people's skin; seeing what they want and delivering it with a big smiley bow. I'll reapply my deodorant several times before noon because man is it hot in there, I'll get a real nice tan no matter how much sunscreen I apply, and I will confuse Lobelia and Phlox and Bacopa at least once every day. I will make mistakes. I don't have to be an expert, right? This is as much about moxie as it is about plants. Courage. Pluck. Grits. I think I got it. The rest is bound to come.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Going Once

I rolled into town on Friday, after a long day in the car with my little girl and our friend, Mr. Pepperidge Farm. Gotta love the goldfish. My philosophy on traveling with children is: I don't have one. I'm sort of an anything-goes mama if the trip is longer than three hours. Bring on the salty snacks and bags o'Skittles, litter the van with spent juice boxes, I don't care. I will endorse multiple screenings of the dread pirate Caillou, just please don't cry. Keep it down back there, because somebody up here's got a death grip on the steering wheel and there's no NPR affiliate in Appalachia, just lots of static and this positively belligerent preacher who, as part of his sermon, makes a noise like a karate chop about every three seconds. I don't know about you, but that is the kind of thing that can rattle a girl's nerves, especially when her horn doesn't work and there are semi-trucks encroaching from every possible angle. The karate cadence adds an element of impending doom I find totally unnecessary. NPR, though-it's soothing. Calm, non-confrontational...news I need to know delivered with a side of trivia. Yes, I know about the economy. I've heard about the swine and her flu, folks are dying on Craigslist, but please: tell me more about how climate change affects cheese. Seriously. That story was a driveway moment for me. A heaping-helping of what's going on. Just don't expect much from Carl Castle on the long haul between Knoxville and Lexington. I mean it.
But we got there-here. Another trip up I-75 with nary an accident. Good lookin' out, I say to God. Me and Randy Jackson. I am really thankful. It was a smooth ride. And the kid did okay a long as I interrupted whatever Roman Feast was going on in the back with the occasional round of I-Spy. I am always instructed to find something pink, which as you can imagine, is very difficult. I often spot a flamingo way in the distance, or a rogue Barbie doll in full princess attire by the side of the road, and of course she plays along so as not to hurt my feelings. I'm sure she'll grow up believing I'm either color-blind or insane, and let me tell you I-Spy is not the only reason.
Once we'd unloaded, there were hugs and bathroom breaks, then a decent Midwestern meal. I talked with my dad about not wanting to offend anyone with my blog, and whether or not I should report that after having been in town only five minutes, I could have sworn I'd seen Willie Nelson three times. And in each instance, it was a different person. What could this mean? He didn't have any thoughts on that-so I just went with it. The Midwest is an interesting place and I can't help but notice how it's different than anywhere I've been. Beautiful, stark, and so flat you can see for miles. People are transparent here-there are no layers of southern tradition to get in the way of seeing who they really are. For instance, if you're from Ohio, you don't go to the beach "just to get away", as is so often the case in the south. Granted, you can leave Atlanta at seven and be paying your cabana boy by noon, and families have second homes, etc. But still, it's just a sweep-of-the hand gesture down there, going to the beach. Just getting away. If you live in Ohio, you're pretty much land-locked and desperate. If you're beach-bound, you're going for the tan. In fact, I distinctly remember, in fourth grade, a girl I knew whose family had been planning a Florida trip for MONTHS. Maybe years. When Spring Break rolled around, they got together: aunts, uncles, cousins...all manner of relatives caravaned it down to the Sunshine State, and wouldn't you know, it rained. All week long. As each day passed, the tension of not having tanned grew in their hearts, until the hour of their departure was at last upon them. About three hours into their trek north, around lunchtime, the sun came out. And they were forced to strip down right there in the Long John Silvers parking lot and lay out. I mean lay out. My point is, somebody told that story with a straight face. An earnest face. That's transparency.
Anyway, here I am. I walked uptown to the Friday night auction about an hour before it closed. Stuff was going cheap, so I got a paddle and luxuriated, child-free, on the ancient folding chairs randomly outfitted with cushions someone was thoughtful enough to make about 25 years ago. The auction smells are pure decadence: freshly-popped popcorn and antiques. I love it. My grandmother sat beside me for a bit, and I was reprimanded by the auctioneer for gesturing with my paddle, which I guess I did several times, only not to bid, but to point out to my grandmother a hairdo that will live in infamy. It was like a wig, on top of a wig, with another hairdo made from real hair underneath. Styles like that are once in a lifetime. It made my evening. The auction ended, and it was dark when I made it home, and cool. Spring has not quite sprung here like it has in Georgia-the trees still look anxious, like maybe they won't be getting leaves this year-and there's got to be one last cold snap concealed somewhere in the forecast, I know it. But the grass is green, like Easter grass, and I can see every star.

Monday, April 20, 2009

See?


A favorite author of mine once described her morning coffee ritual as the only way she could level the playing field between herself and her mind, going on to say that while she’d been asleep for eight hours or so, her mind had been pounding Americanos and, apparently, was ready to talk.
I don’t know what it is about this move that’s got me so scattered. Maybe it’s the act itself-the packing, labeling, purging-I’ve done it before, though--many times. I even boasted on the telephone to my mother that I could pack my entire house in one day if required, like if I had to go into hiding or something. Suddenly, everything seems harder--this time it’s more than a change of venue, we’re not just scooting to another neighborhood that more or less orbits around the same grocery store-we’re undergoing a total transformation-new state, new school, off-the-map-crazy career switch. Our lives are being altered forevermore and oh, the devilish details…Exciting, yes. Can I handle it? Maybe. I really believe these last few weeks here will be the most difficult, not just because of all the checklist stuff, all the choices and uncertainty and mayhem, but because I’m not firmly planted. Anywhere. The only thing I can compare it to is someone floating between the here and hereafter-not quite gone, but not really here. Maybe a less macabre way of describing it would be to quote the ever-illuminating Britney Spears: “I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.” I’m in limbo, and for someone who considers herself somewhat of a Free Spirit, I’m no great shakes at limbo.
Mr. M came home from work early today, along with our boy-and the wonderful chaos that follows that kid like Pigpen’s dirt cloud on his heels. Upended book bag, shoes akimbo, AN ENTIRE SHEET OF SPIDERMAN TATTOOS FROM MY TUTOR--and of course, reports of wiggling teeth, urgent hunger, and another installment of what seems to be the way to spend recess in Kindergarten: playing Judge Judy. Consumed by the fervor of my six-year-old, I simultaneously fielded questions from the Mister about what I’d accomplished from The List, which wasn’t much. Meanwhile, our youngest emptied a bottle of Elmer’s on the table, because how can we be sure we had craft-time if there’s no mess to clean up afterward?
I heard my mind clear its throat.
We have a saying around here-when all that is undone starts pressing in, when the noise and pace become too much, one of us will look at the other and say-“time to take back the power”. Time to show ‘em who’s boss-make one bed, put some lip gloss on, pay your smallest bill, write the first thank-you note-neverminding it’s a year or four late. Just do something. Shake up the snow globe, resettle the dust or glitter or whatever it is that has gone stale and got you stuck. On occasion, a dance-off is required; sometimes, a few minutes on the trampoline are enough to get things going. I slipped off my shoes and walked outside.
Alone and jumping, I felt better. I could see. Winnie’s missing clogs, abandoned during last Sunday’s quest for the golden egg. A hawk, for just a few seconds, pausing on the farthest fencepost in our yard, then taking off in that show-offy hawk way. It really was lovely. Things got sorted out, mentally, cosmically-somehow. I jumped a while, making sure to check out my chain-smoking neighbor’s back yard, with the little dog, perfect grass, and manicured everything. That was never going to be me. Our landscape is wild-with the clematis tangled around itself, azaleas in various stages of undress, and a larger-than-life gardenia beneath our bedroom window about to unleash its fragrance on the whole neighborhood. A beautiful disaster- resplendent, reckless. Our neighbor looked pinched and unhappy; not to mention athsmatic, working that cell phone like a Vegas microphone. I went inside to find my sweet family--freshly tattooed, worn out from waiting for me. I can do this.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Dear Internal Revenue Service:

I haven't sent my check yet. I know, I know-penalties, perp walks, debtor's prison, baloney sandwiches. My future is bleak. But listen-I filed weeks ago, online, floating pages of gibberish across the cyberwaves into your loving e-hands. You were kind enough to accept my meticulously-prepared return (thanks be to Turbo Tax Deluxe), and for that I extend my sincere gratitude. Problem is, immediately after filing, a sense of relief so profound overcame me that I can barely remember anything since that moment. I know I wrote the check, put it in a pink envelope, and assigned it a place of prestige on our kitchen counter, which is to say I threw it on the ever-increasing pile of stuff I hadn't had time for yet. Grocery receipts, RSVP cards, a cap for a missing marker, expired coupons, a caterpillar made from pipe cleaners and macaroni-everybody has one of these, yes? A "hot spot", I've heard it called. Mine used to be relegated to a wire bin I'd carry from room to room, hoping to organize the thing as time allowed, but since we all know what the road to hell is paved with, it may not come as a big surprise that I mostly just added to it, creating a whole-house potpourri of clutter. A therapist once asked me if I thought the bin was a metaphor for my life, or at least my brain, and whereas before a modicum of pride may have prevented me from admitting the uncanny resemblance, I can now say quite candidly that not only did that mess of papers and projects and pages torn from magazines speak volumes about my mental condition, but now, having graduated from the bin and basically allowed myself run of the place, can I get my money back? Not from you, IRS, I mean for my, um...self-improvement sessions. Clearly, the bin-as-metaphor portion of the program didn't take, and with the interest I'm incurring for being late, now by a full four days, I'm going to need some more bank to buy you off. And again, IRS, to be clear, you know I would never deign to ask you for anything but a teeny bit more time, and maybe an ounce of understanding, because we've all been there, right? Well, maybe not you-I'm sure you're perfectly organized. You with your green eye shade and your ledger. Your countertops are uncluttered, your closet color-coded, and let's face it: you iron your underwear, sharp crease. Sigh. You wouldn't understand. But-and I mean this-it's okay. You just keep being who you are, and I'll go dig through the recycling, because sometimes, and this might seem crazy, I take an entire pile of papers and I recycle them. I don't even look to make sure there's nothing important hidden in there, like a sushi bar BOGO or letter from Ed MacMahon. I just chuck it, 'cause I'm a rebel. And who knows? I might find the check-I've found other stuff before, like a fifty-dollar bill, and everyone knows you can't recycle money! My point is, it'll turn up, so you can keep your expertly-pressed Dockers on. I would never deliberately hold out on you-remember 2001 when I forgot to send in all the forms? And then in 'o5 when I got everything in on time but neglected to sign on the dotted line? Oh, and last year, after I never got my refund, I had to call the delinquency department because, and I'm just a layperson here, that seemed appropriate given the fact that you were late? Misunderstandings, easily corrected. And by the way, I waived the interest on that last bit. Consider it a gift, or better yet, subtract it from whatever it is I owe you, and let's be friends again. Only, if we're going to be friends, can we talk about the pants......?

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I'm taking great pains to word this carefully, in the hope it doesn't sound like a resignation letter--but I keep coming back to "After much deliberation, I regret to inform you..." which, now that I think of it, reminds me of a certain bit of correspondence I got in fifth grade from Stone Soup regretting to inform me that the poem I wrote about my grandmother's attic was NOT going to be published in their children's literary magazine. To which I say, joke's on you, suckas 'cause my grandma didn't have an attic anyway; she lived in a mobile home in Florida. So anyway, I guess even then, the sentiment wasn't resignation as much as rejection, as in State of Georgia, we reject you and your balmy Februaries, your traffic jams, your dogwood trees and sweet tea. My husband and I are taking to I-75 and not stopping until we get there-Ohio, land of sub-zero temperatures and free babysitting. In a crazy moment of exTREME confidence that I pinky swear was not fueled by any illegal substances, we decided to go all Robert Frost on everyone and leave this beautiful place, our home for the last eight years, where I birthed (okay they were c-sections) my children and fell more in love with my husband. Atlanta-home of the Big Chicken, a recession-proof job, the best Goodwill on earth, and a boatload of friends who have loved me even at my most unlovable. We are taking the second road- bought a greenhouse, farm, and seven acres...yes we may have chickens, no I won't be sewing my own clothes. ComPLETE change, all around-terrifying, exciting, overwhelming. June 1st. More details to come, for now I have to solve a crisis involving an entire bag of M&M's, a plastic teapot of water, and a certain three-year old. xoxo