Monday, November 29, 2010

I couldn't afford a photo

The past several months have found us right smack in the middle of a downturn-and by us, I mean us, not US. I mean me. This is not a post about the economy at large, just the financial climate inside these walls, which, by the way,  I've finally painted and am learning to live with. Still, things are pretty chilly; but it's nothing totally new. I've had practice. We have learned to live fairly frugally, though there was that one shopping trip I bought the most gorgeous Anna Sui dress right off the rack, and the other time I chose three five dollar cupcakes from the bakery and ate them all myself in a display of gluttony I usually reserve for pastries of a lesser pedigree. Think Zingers. 

Usually, however, I am thrift stores and $18 pedicures all the way, but even more so lately, especially since the only inexpensive salon I've found around here won't let me back inside after they tried to use a cheese grater on my feet and I let out what I would call a....medium-sized scream. I'm not even kidding, it was TOTALLY kitchen equipment, straight-up Bed Bath and Beyond and I was not about to let them give me the Parmesan Treatment without a fight.

Does it really matter what my toenails look like in the winter, though? Isn't that one of those Zen things, like a tree falling in the forest with no one around to hear it? Especially when the tree (my foot) is covered with the most incredible bruise from having stubbed the baby toe one-too-many-times, and the tree's husband (Joshua) has been rendered almost completely deaf from the string of sailor words/15 minute crying jag that came pouring forth after the aforementioned injury? Would a few coats of Lincoln Park After Dark really make that much of a difference? 

If you answered "no", you win a free cheese grater! For your feet!

So anyway, we're pinching pennies--creatively, and otherwise. One of the traditional money-saving ideas I'd been banking (ha!) on hasn't panned out so well, however. For years I've aspired to save money with coupons--it seems like such a nice idea, doesn't it? Take my sister, the (unofficial) Queen of Coupons, who is constantly impressing me/making me feel inferior with her ability to clip, organize, and make use of what has become, for me, my first baby-step toward being featured on Hoarders. The Road to Hell, otherwise known as my collection of unclipped coupons--is just another great intention gone horribly awry. Take, for instance, the following pre-Halloween conversation:

Joshua: I can't wait 'til our house is all clean and put together.
Me: Tell me about it.
Joshua: We can open the windows, light some candles--get the whole Fall thing going on while I sew  Winnie's Halloween costume.
Me: What's up Betsy Ross? You know you don't have to sew by candlelight anymore since God invented electricity. Wait a minute-is Glenn Beck behind this?
Joshua: NO. It's just that...I can't work in chaos.
Me: Um, that's not chaos. That's my coupon pile. All I have to do is cut those suckers out and we're millionaires. Now, don't be overwhelmed by what seems like a lot of work. Rome wasn't built in a day.

Joshua: (Look of Agony)
Me: Oh, I get it. Is this like the time when you said you would pay me $150 not to be in the diaper study*?
Joshua: (Pleading silently)

There was really no other option. I picked up all the unused coupons and put them in the recycling bin**, after which I yelled "Bam!" and felt like a teenager again. Free at Last! And somewhere, in suburbia, my sister screamed from underneath an avalanche of Hamburger Helper she'd gotten for free--with coupons, of course.

* A market research study I participated in that required me to save ALL of my son's dirty diapers and make little notes about them on a graph they supplied, all in exchange for $150. It was pretty smelly, and emotionally scarring for my husband.

**Full disclosure: I took them out of the recycling bin soon after. I just can't let go of the hope that I'm going to to either a) Become, quite suddenly, EXTREMELY organized/motivated; or b) Persuade my sister to clip the coupons, after which she will place them in a pocket-sized accordion file, drive me to Target, and buy me a Frozen Coke and some popcorn. At this point, whether or not we actually use the coupons will be immaterial.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Today my husband returned from a trip to the Garden State, returning with (in addition to his handsome mug ) some much-needed supplies we'd been after for a while. I'm not out to make you jealous or anything, but consider our hatches totally battened down in the wool socks, full-body Carhartts, and trail mix department.

I felt like Ma Ingalls, watching him unpack his wares from the wagon Nissan Maxima. It helped that he'd grown a beard. Seriously, though, he blew in on the tail of this ferocious wind storm the Weather Channel's been referring to as Fall Fury 2010, and I am--truly--just happy he's not out there on the road trying to play Bejeweled and drive at the same time in this weather. Now there's something Pa never had to worry about on his way to Walnut Grove: technology. They just put some hot yams in their pockets and went to town. Can't you just picture Karen Grassle asking Charles for just a bit of lard and maybe some sugar if there's enough money left over? Man, I loved that show. When I was a little girl, I would have given anything to be in Miss Beadle's class, even if it meant getting stranded in a blizzard, stuck in a cave, or having to deal with that shrew Nellie.

Speaking of sugar and lard, how about this? There's something for everyone here-M&M's, Ghiradelli, Lindt, and my favorite Garoto BonBons from Brazil.

 Yes, I've married a man who likes to display the chocolate. There I was, standing on the window-seat, looking for a book I'm pretty sure I loaned out and will never see again, when I spotted him up to his usual tricks.

"Why are you flaunting our chocolate like that? Put it away before someone gets hurt!"

"It makes me feel human", he said. Which, incidentally, is about to become my new excuse for EVERYTHING. 

"You know what makes me feel human?" I said. "Taking a long, hot shower...crying my eyes out, then eating a bunch of chocolate in a pitch-black closet." I didn't think it was necessary to mention hiding the wrappers in my sock drawer.

He sighed like a man who's just been to hell (New Jersey)* and back. "Babe, it's a statement." (holding the assortment like a communion loaf) "It says, these people are so organized, so together, that they have time to put their candy in a decorative bowl.

"Hmmm. I was thinking it said something more along the lines of: these people are so insane, that when they wake up tomorrow morning to find their children, who were supposed to be watching Arthur, but are instead huddled around a chocolate crack pipe....they shouldn't be surprised."

Thus, we decided, for the sake of said children, to use some other means to measure our level of "togetherness".  Something like... not trying to unlock one's car with the TV remote. I mean, just as an example.

* Disclaimer: I really do love New Jersey. Why? Well, for starters, my in-laws...but mostly for the diners. To me, nothing says "together" like eating all one's meals at a diner.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pretty and Witty and Bright!

The other day I had a little yard sale, and while the lovely couple not pictured in these photos debated whether to buy two antique nightstands and a coffee table for the low, low price of $75, I stole some great shots of my girl.

It was her second change of clothes that day-only my child spills pizza sauce on her white blouse on School Picture Day and requires a substitute outfit. Is it weird that I didn't even pack pizza in her lunch? No, it was definitely a turkey sandwich. With no pizza sauce. Hmmm. Better release that one to the universe.

Speaking of unsolved mysteries, I watched on YouTube last night a woman in a poetry slam speak (slam?) about "pretty": the word and the way it controls us. I can't really do justice to her fiery genius, but the basic point was....there's more to life than pretty, and we'd better hope our children can claim a happy, whole self apart from their ability to attain what is, in truth, mythical beauty. Whoa-am I being graded for this?

Anyway,  I was so down with what she was saying (slamming?) that I watched it twice-but afterward thought about how "pretty" is sometimes just...there, to behold. Especially in children. It's beauty, really. Unabashed joy. I look at these and think: happy. But the first words out of my mouth are usually something to do with the physical. I'm not necessarily inclined to exclaim how clever she is at swinging, or what a great imagination it takes to fathom the complicated game "Chicada": an exercise involving a real broom, pretend pinata, and the song Crocodile Rock. It's more of a chore to look for the stuff inside-the silly quirks and real strengths of character that make her beauty greater than what's on the surface.

So I guess it's not a mystery. It is an Unsolved, though. Something I want desperately to Not Mess Up. My biggest fear in this is that I'll blink and she'll be 13, staring woefully at a mirror-image that's been distorted by puberty, boys-with-no-soul, or even And I'll be all, "Wait! Wasn't there something about pretty I was supposed to remember?"

 Hopefully I can do enough accidental good to round out the mess-ups.

 We sure do have fun together...

Pretty or not.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

 If my house were my boyfriend, I would so be breaking up with it right now. DISCLAIMER: I am ever grateful for this house and I love it, it's just that...we've reached an impasse in the decorating department. I am riddled with creative urgings and salivate Pavlov-style at the mere sniff of a hot-off-the-presses home decor magazine, it's just that...I should have taken home economics. My not-being-able-to-sew (or reupholster, install hardwood floors, pour a concrete countertop) is really biting me in the rear these days. So, I guess, it's not the house so much as my lack of ability in the DIY department. Maybe I need to break up with myself. Yes, that's right, (whispering softly, taking myself gently by the hand) it's not you, it's me. That's weird, I'm still here.

 (Perfect breakup outfit: Goodwill nightgown + gray pashmina. Notice how the house 
languishes in the background as if nothing is amiss.)

Sidetrack breakup story: Once, in my salad days (does that even mean anything?) of 21 or 22, I had a REAL bad breakup that required me to listen to Gordon Lightfoot, on VINYL, singing "If You Could Read My Mind"...ummm, maybe a hundred times? The tears, they flowed like wine. And the next day, when I showed up for work at the Alzheimer's Unit with my eyes swollen nearly shut, they just went ahead and sent me home--you know, to avoid confusing the patients. Just who did they think was going to make sure the women stayed out of the men's bathroom is what I wanted to know. Oh, how I miss those days. But not that jerk who broke up with me. Kidding!

So anyway, the abode. It's coming along, I's just, I wish I could move beyond StitchWitchery. And speaking of education deficiencies, how did I miss out on typing? My sister is super-speedy (and a little show-offy) when it comes to the keyboard; while I may as well be typing with my feet. No offense, Christy Brown. All I know is, I took some "computing" class in lieu of typing, and I don't remember learning anything. I do recall the boy I used to sit beside, and that once the two of us made a list of all the foods that would taste good with chocolate.  Useful, right? I do so love to entertain.

Sigh. If only select items of furniture could weave themselves an entirely new exterior overnight. I wonder, is this what heaven will be like? Regeneration of tired rising phoenix-like and becoming custom roman shades? Or, will we just not care? All will be well, I suppose. Now--and then.

While we're talking of chrysalis and rebirth, how about this?

My brother-in-law, who is crazy, smart, and game for most anything, convinced us to raise our own monarch butterflies from eggs we'd be able to find on the milkweed that grows around here.
They started out as little pin-dot caterpillar eggs, and at the end were the most gorgeous butterflies I have ever seen. And I'm not just saying that because I raised them-they really are spectacular, and the entire process was so fun for our family. When the first one emerged, we all let out a yell and then watched through a few tears as it flew away. Butterflies, they grow up so fast, you know.  I do wish they'd stick around and teach me to sew.

p.s. Observe the mess through the window and tell me you feel my pain.
p.s. #2:  Look how dirty my husband's fingernails are. He's a working man, you know.  A modern-day Paul Bunyon minus the blue ox.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Well, I did I have some really big plans tonight to finish off a post I'd been letting marinate in the "drafts" section of this website for the last week or three, but by the time I got home and took emotional stock, I decided to just peel the frosting off some Zingers and call it a day. The children had their weekly Recreation/Sunday school time at church, an event during which I teach one grade level of arts and crafts as well as serve as a "Table Parent" during the dinner hour. The idea behind Table Parenting is that you, the adult, sit with a group of children during the meal in order to facilitate mealtime harmony, make sure the kids aren't acting like heathens, and yes-- I suppose, build relationships with them. It's actually a lovely idea, but I do have just one quick question. Why do my students think that fashioning a paper-bag puppet that can poop a brown pipe cleaner has anything to do with fire safety? And since when do fourth-graders use the word "balls"?

Right before dessert, I stuck my head in the kitchen to see my grandmother scraping the last spaghetti from a giant crock-pot. I asked how things were going from her perspective.

"Well", she said, "they just took Charlotte away in the squad because she fainted. And, well, you saw Pastor Don limping, you know, so he just drove himself to the emergency room."

Wow. And I'd thought the ambulance out front, with its flashing lights and everything, was just a prop for Fire Prevention Week. I'd assumed that our guest speaker, a VIP Fire Chief, had been delivered in it. Like a limo.

But, as it just so happens, we're dropping like flies.

The three of us walked home, the children in plastic fire hats making one-note siren sounds that spanned the entire space of time between the church basement and our back door. I tucked them in and checked the batteries in our smoke detector, then wondered if it was wrong to have told the story of how I watched a whole block of buildings burn to nothing once when I was little. How the phone rang before dawn in my parents bedroom, and how we all ran uptown in our pajamas to see the flames destroy the grocery store where I used to get maple candies with my mom. I remember standing there feeling mostly like I may as well have had on my underwear, wondering about the boy in my class who lived in the apartments above the store. I remember going back to bed, then getting up again for school, walking past the still-smoking building on my way.

For the rest of the year, every time I stood near the little boy (who made it out okay), I smelled smoke.
It wasn't real, the smoke. It was just my memory.

Downstairs, I saw that my oldest had drawn an "escape plan" on our dry erase board with permanent Sharpie. Maybe that's what I'm trying to do with these borderline terrifying stories? Leave an indelible mark? It's anyone else ever overwhelmed with all the large and small bits of wisdom with which we're supposed to be injecting our children? I mean, what if I miss something critical? I can't leave it up to the school, especially when they've got Firefighter Phil teaching the safety basics. He isn't even a real firefighter. He's a clown. A CLOWN. I don't want to alarm anyone, but, like a friend of mine said last week, he may as well have just been some guy on the playground with a trench-coat full of lollipops.

Speaking of clowns, however, in other news, I did find this:

Apparently, this is what the internet imagines when you combine the following keywords: art, education, executive, entertainment, non-profit, management, and public relations.
Fine, I guess. As long as there's a discount on Skee-Ball. 

*Valentine Image courtesy of Reform School Rules

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Yesterday I entertained the tax man. We'd had this thing going on, a misunderstanding. A clerical error, really. One of those situations that resulted from me entering some seemingly insignificant, yet erroneous, information on an online form which, according to the IRS is a stone tablet, so we're all going to hell. You get that this has happened before. It was basically a typo gone horribly wrong, except the more I tried to correct the mistake, the more my explanations seemed like the pathological ramblings of a woman about to be carried away on a stretcher, calling out for her 27 cats and Elvis. After months of letters and phone calls, though, the situation came to a head and the wolf was at the door.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll admit I was given a five-minute warning from my husband who called to say that Tax Man was at the greenhouse, needed to speak with me, and was on HIS WAY RIGHT NOW.

If my life were a movie, this is when the hilariously touching music montage would begin, complete with scenes of me frowning in the mirror at my bedraggled bed-head, stowing dirty dishes in the oven,  shoving the children's toys in the closet and leaning up against the door to keep it shut--an act which would later result in an equally hilariously touching avalanche upon Tax Man himself, an archetypal Obstructive Bureaucrat I'd later win over with my Girl Next Door Charm.

Instead, I did what felt right at the time, which was leave the house alone and work on the bod. I took the stairs two-at-a-time and in five minutes, emerged from the bathroom with a full face of makeup. Don't judge me, I applied a Daytime Look.

I made it downstairs in time to greet them, my husband and TM, and I was quite nervous, even though I felt confident we'd be able to put this whole misunderstanding behind us. The first thing I did was offer him a place to sit, along with a glass of strawberry lemonade; then made a comment about the weather, which we could all agree on was positively disgusting. Next, I explained the reason for the kitchen being a little disheveled, how I'd been in the middle of making cookies, etc. And then, because I'm Special, I proceeded to lapse into Oversharing Mode, something I do when I'm either a) nervous or b)afraid I'm going to die, which I guess we could just lump in with the "nervous" category. I don't know why this happens, but I've learned I can't fight it. So, with the three of us in the kitchen, smack dab in the middle of a pause, I asked Mr. Tax if he'd ever seen Stranger Than Fiction, and promised that even though I was baking and he was a Tax Professional, that he shouldn't worry about me trying to win him over since I was already married.

At this point, my husband left the room to engage in some silent screaming in the loo, and the Tax Man looked like he was about to, as one author puts it, burp up a baby chick.

We sat down and dug into a pile of papers from which I was able (miraculously!) to produce the needed paperwork, letting my previous comment go untouched. My better half emerged from the bathroom, on his face a look of resignation. He married an Oversharer who loves to have company, who wants you to have cake and coffee and really anything you want in her house, but who also needs you to know that once, in second grade, she threw up all over her cake, just as she was passing it out to her classmates on her birthday. And speaking of cake, she'll say, I once bought a piece of cake from a man in the shoe department of Goodwill and you know it was just incredible--do you want his number? Poor, sweet husband. But isn't that why you fell in love with me? My human-ness, right out there for the world to see?

In the end, it was so easy: he was really gracious, and understanding, and helpful. He was the polar opposite of who I thought the Tax Man would be: fully human. Before he left, he reassured me that all would be well, and the error would be corrected as early as the next day. Then he shook my hand. I was reminded of the time I learned how certain passport agencies are able to "rush" passports through processing. Aside from the several hundred extra dollars it costs, the upgrade is really just a gesture. "You go like this", the owner of one such shop told me, and she took a file from the bottom of the stack and placed it on the top.  "That's all."

One gesture. After all my paperwork ramblings, this face-to face welcome was all it took. And, of course the fact that I really didn't owe anybody anything. That always helps. Along with a couple coats of mascara. Thank you, Maybelline and thank you, Tax Man.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


A couple of months ago, before the big move (westward, ho! except it was north), I went through a little phase I like to call Wasting Time Playing Simulation Games on My iPhone. Yes, I know I could have done some more things with that name creatively, but in my new life, I'm not creative. I'm stodgy, to-the-point, and I wear sensible shoes. Anyway, as I was saying, for many weeks, this spring, I'd gotten into the terrible habit of moonlighting as a game addict. First it was innocent-a little Tap Word to tire my eyes before bed. But then, out of nowhere, I'd added new games--it happened so fast--and before long was hiding under the covers till all hours of the night, playing, of all things, Sally's Salon. It's true: in a little air pocket I'd made so I wouldn't suffocate, I traded in my real-world troubles for the exciting career of virtual hairstylist. I was a sassy redhead with busy scissors, managing my shop, mastering all the trendy cuts, colors, and blow-outs my fussy customers desired. It was intense -- and oddly satisfying --even when tiny little storm-clouds of anger appeared over their virtual heads and they stormed out. "GOSH", I'd say to myself in my air pocket."SO impatient. People like just can't make them happy."

Then, I leveled out. I got so good there was nowhere to go in the game but back to the beginning. And I thought: wow that was a comPLETE waste of time. For a moment, I'd wished I'd been gambling or something. For real money. I wished I'd been engaged in something non-virtual; like sleeping, or reading a novel. Yes, fiction is an escape, but at least the book is real. It's something to hold. All of those extra-comfy salon chairs I bought for my choosy clientele? They're just fragments in space. They're little particles of nothingness in the airwaves. Or something. Clearly, I'm not a web developer.

At the time, though, I must've wanted an escape from not knowing how my actual life was going to unfold. Either that or I just have a super-addictive personality and powering through the game's stages was like powering through the last of the Easter candy. I have to kill it-you know, for everyone's protection.

Anyway, here I am, in my bona-fide life. It's quite a bit different than it was even three months ago. There's less time for cultivating make-believe fun, but maybe, if you've got the time, you'd like to pretend to be me for a while?

First, the outfit. You don't have very many choices, but that's okay because above all else, you want to stay cool. You'll notice that I have chosen my sister-in-law Valerie's swimsuit coverup as my official farming outfit. She let me borrow it on our trip out to Harrisburg and I liked it so much that I have almost never taken it off.  It is very thin-almost wispy. I can tie it in knot to make a kind-of romper, which comes in handy for blackberry picking, but more importantly, this dress affords me countless opportunities to go behind the greenhouse and flash the corn, which is basically my version of Amish air conditioning.  In the footwear department I have chosen big-a** boots, mostly to protect my feet and legs from chiggers and other vermin. I didn't think I'd need to explain the hat, but apparently I might because some little girls (by which I mean teenagers), the other day, said "nice hat" and then snickered. My reply should have been something like, "Call me when your face looks like a leather handbag, maybe then you'll want my hat." But I just said thank you and walked away.

Next, your neighbors. Just like in pretend Farmville, you compare your plot with the one next door to see how you measure up. Mine is seven acres and this guy's is a thousand. You can imagine how I feel about that. INCREDIBLY RELIEVED.  Once, we burned a bunch of brush and dead branches in our trash pile and with the way the wind was blowing, I guess we smoked him out. I took over an apple pie  to make amends. Next time, to avoid any superfluous baking, I'll be sure to lick a finger and hold it in the air to see which way the wind's blowing, along with dispatching a stand-by fire truck in case I'm wrong.

And now: food. The previous owner planted 56 heads of cabbage in this garden, but I'm just not that into saurkraut. We let things get out of control this year, so there's really no structure at all to what used to be fairly tidy rows of edibles. The berries are all still there, but you have to climb through a mosh pit of weeds and overgrown what-nots to get to them. It's like a midwestern safari, or an Amish ghetto. You never know what could be lurking in that stinging nettle! Really, though-they're delicious, nothing at all like what you get in the grocery store. The day I picked these beauties, a huge storm was headed our way, and there I was in the blackberry patch, trying to be Mrs. Tough Guy in my makeshift romper. At one point, as the clouds, noise, and lightning edged closer, I saw my neighbor hop off his tractor and high-tail it inside. I thought rather smugly, that he probably just wanted to watch the Price Is Right--but then a thunderclap erupted with a sound loud enough to beat the band and I ran like heck for the barn, holding on to my hat and crying for my momma like an actual tornado was nipping at my heels. Good thing I didn't drop my basket, because it was a long, hard, rain, and I was bored as all in the barn with nothing else to do but stuff myself silly with garden produce. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Where was I....

I mean, I really shouldn’t have a blog. My life is just too full of sudden, Anne Frank-like relocations for me to be keeping a cyber diary. I mean, a CYBER-diary! I don’t even have TV anymore, let alone anything as fancy as a dependable computer. I'm obviously estranged from my internet service provider. And have I mentioned the mouse poop?

So, we've moved again. Again. I think the last time we checked I was packing-an act that, in a sudden burst of rational thinking, we elected to follow through to its logical conclusion: moving. It was sad, and quiet, and over before we could cry. Some people, I know, aren't even aware that we've left. One of them called me last week and said, “Wait, you’re gone? When was the party?” I told him the party was last year, when we moved the first time, and then I laughed bitterly. But then, right away, I tried to infuse a little hope and light into the situation, because I’m not really bitter…it’s just that the opportunity presented itself, for me to get a zinger in, a great little one-liner to capture the absurdity of it all. So what if I couldn't even stick the landing? We’ll meet again, I promised him.

But then, after hanging up the phone, I had to wonder. With the way things are going-on this unmarked path, our every decision reduced to one, gigantic, pulsating question mark; I've stopped making plans. And besides, driving away from the place I've spent the last ten years, it occurred to me that I had left not a single material thing behind this time. There was not a trace of me left. Not even a sweater.

Still, Atlanta. You’re so full of the people I love, so broad with memories of my becoming who I am that even if I’d had more minutes, I would have run out of them, and words, and tears with which to say: you were one crazy city. You were my home. I should have left a note, at least.

Lately, I’ve been thinking. Do you suppose really rich people have more closure? I’ve already decided that they have superior photos, what with their fancy cameras, or in some cases, entourage of professional photographers. But when billionaires are fixing to move out of state, do you suppose they’re all tied up stumping for used cardboard boxes at Ace Hardware, or taking between 25-30 free copies of the Creative Loafing from the Birkenstock store to use as packing material? Because I don't know about you, but something tells me that they've hired a trained army of Type A's to transfer utilities and Swiffer, while they ride around town telling everyone how much they mean to them. That and eating at all their favorite restaurants before it’s too late and instead of places like Antico and Ria’s, it’s wall to wall mashed potatoes, as far as the eye can see.

Resentful? Again?

I just feel like an orphan right now. I'm sorry, internet. I do have a roof over my head in that we've been able to move into a vacant home that belongs to my family-so we're not squatting. That's a positive. And I know this place-I grew up here and am familiar with all its creaks and night-noises, so at least I don't have to lie in bed analyzing my proximity to death's door each time the house settles--another bonus. But I would like a place to sit down, with a lamp and a stack of magazines at my feet. I would like to finish a room. Furnish a room. Yes, we retrieved our possessions from the mouse ghetto, and were fully prepared for the endless rounds of sanitation as well as the need to dump a good portion of it, but there was something else we didn't count on, another plague of biblical proportions. But first, why don't I spice things up with a riddle? Here goes: Take all these ingredients and mix them in a pot: cold winter, wet spring, cardboard boxes, cement floor. What do you have? Mildew! Louder now, MILDEW! Now, see-wasn't that fun?

Really, though, it's not. But in between loads of laundry, I fantasize about opening up a Pottery Barn credit card and just getting down. I could click my way out of this mess, you know, and don't think for a second that I haven't circled with a black Sharpie everything I need to legitimize a family room. It's basically everything but the family. Of course, though, there's the whole "job" issue to consider, and I guess I don't really want to be responsible for my husband's certain death upon the arrival of a delivery truck containing assorted home furnishings that are exceptional in comfort, style and quality. Which brings me to my other dream, taken directly from the gospel of Shirley Temple and her role as Sarah Crewe in Little Princess. Oh, if only there was an Indian lascar across the attic who'd surprise me with gifts of warm bedding, books, and a leather sofa! I could learn to tap dance and speak Hindustani, honest!

But here's the thing about Shirls: she kept the hope alive. She was more dimples, less gnashing of teeth. So I guess I'll take a page from her book and let you know how it goes. In the meantime, I am totally open to the idea that a man in a turban is about to bless me with lavish duvet covers and hot cross buns, even if my everyday existence has been reduced to that of a modern-day scullery maid. Look for me when this is all over, I'll be the one saluting the camera.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Last night I was laying (lying?) in bed counting how many times we've moved in the last 10 years, and when I got to seven, remembered how I swore that time would be our last, except here we are at number nine, surrounded by boxes.

It really snuck up on me. There I was, just a few short weeks ago, lamenting my fate--pondering the probability that our current (rental) house would be owner-occupied by late summer, and how we'd have to relocate, etc. And lo and behold, they're probably on their way to the Dubai airport even as I speak. Okay, maybe just packing suitcases-but due to arrive by the weekend. So we gotta get the lead out in a hurry, and at least I have experience, right? With moving. That's what I keep telling myself.

Only every once in a while I think: I can't do this. Box up my life again. In particular, how to organize these random items: a really good yogurt coupon I know I'll use, papier-mache volcano the kids have not yet painted, bag of mismatched socks, fledgling marble collection? I keep moving it from one spot to another on my kitchen counter, thinking there will eventually be enough of each type of thing to merit a corresponding box.

But, then again, my pile of Auspicious Plastic Figurines From The Vending Machine never got any bigger than this:

I mean, really. Your brother puts his quarter in and gets a miniature Dora the Explorer figurine with a removable dolphin costume that also doubles as a Christmas ornament, and you get a plastic Pope? That's really funny, Universe. But, still-I can't throw something like that away, because the look on her face when she pulled it out of the machine was to die for. Complete confusion. It might have been a teachable moment wherein I explained how these are naughty machines that take your money, and wouldn't we have been much smarter/happier/well-off if we'd just saved our coins for a more sure thing....but, alas, I must've lost my June Cleaver brain somewhere along the way. Maybe in move number three, or was it five? Because what I told my daughter is this: you know, sometimes you think you're getting a press-on tattoo, and you end up with a weird old guy in a dress. It's not what you expected, but still--be happy. You might end up liking it.

That night, when I went in to check on her, I found the Pope, in his plastic dome, resting quietly next to her cheek-- like the boy in the bubble. I bent down to kiss her like I always do, and thought how she'd really taken to heart what I'd said earlier. She had, literally, placed her disappointment on her pillow. It was her closest companion. I wondered, if like me, she was waiting for more to be revealed? If, as the sky turned purple and the first stars came out, she lay awake imagining the ways this almost-treasure, this sort-of-letdown...could manifest as something truly wonderful?

Then, the next day, I found the Pope in the dolphin suit. Apparently, he works at Sea World and is very happy there, enjoying a comprehensive and competitive health care package as well as discounted admission to many other parks in the Anheuser-Busch family entertainment subsidiary.

But really...this is not what we expected. And yet, we're learning to adapt-and apparently, so are the children. Who knew? Still, my hope (prayer) is this: that wherever we end up, I like it. Should something in Elsewhere cause me discontent, however, could I please just grow in patience? I'd like to think I'm the kind of girl who'd share a bed with restlessness, but in truth, I'm more the type who, at the first trace of mental upset, hightails it to the Quik Trip for a pound of peanut butter M&M's. Perhaps the Sitting-With-Anxiety level of maturity manifests in Move # 11 or 12? If it comes with a bombshell bikini body, I guess I'm willing to wait.

But-- please don't ask me to move after that.


p.s. Dora sends a silent scream from inside the bubble. She's absolutely beside herself without that talking monkey.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

And then what happened: Knitting Edition

Okay, so as I was saying yesterday, after about two hours with my yarn sensei Kyle, I was nearly knitting, albeit aerobically and, I'll add, with a certain sense of slapdash. It's not that my stitches were  reckless, they just had a....largesse. They were generous, and loopy. They were benevolent, though at times, entrapment seemed more than a remote possibility. As long as I stayed knuckled-down, nose to the needles, I was okay. But seated next to my sister, I was-you know, checking out her work. We'd compare notes, I'd lose my place, she'd pick up where she left off, I'd tear out my entire project and start over, and so it went. By the end of class, though, I did feel confident enough to accept a homework assignment, and I was happy to have finally "got it." In the picture below, I was kind of having a Sally Field moment with knitting. You like me! You really like me!

As part of the class, in addition to being taught the craft, we were scheduled to complete a mini-project- which to my extreme pleasure, was not just one, but THREE BARNYARD animals! Color me happy, I love stuffed animal families. We left class with supplies galore and went home to our lakehouse, rushed through dinner, and spent the rest of the night hunched over our needles like two crazy old ladies with no communication skills. I actually fell asleep knitting.

Sometime that night, my mother took the time to remark on how the differences between my knitting and my sister's did not surprise her in the least.  Her observation (I'm paraphrasing): my knitting was all over the place, my sister's...orderly; tight. She also wanted to know why I was working on such big needles, not to mention two colors of thread at once?

"Well, that's easy", I said. "Molly is completing her animals in alphabetical order, or, if you prefer, ascending levels of size and/or difficulty. Chick, hen, rooster. I'm doing my rooster first because I want to. It's fabulous and huge and Kyle said I could".

After packing up my high school-esque vocal intonations, I asked my mom for a fruit roll-up. And knitted. Over the next few days, I worked on my rooster and my sister completed her smaller projects, stopping periodically to untangle me. The rooster, just like its smaller relatives, would be fashioned from your basic knitted square, which would then be folded into a triangle, stuffed, and decorated. Well, friends, there are moments in knitting, as in life, when your yarn gets away from you. It became clear that I had surpassed the land of square, and what I had was a rectangle. I thought for about 24 hours that if I just kept working on my rectangle, adding rows and such, that it would eventually come back around to squaresville. Um. No. I think there is a mathematical equation for this. What I ended up with was a REALLY BIG rectangle.  I even ran out of yarn and had to switch mid-bird. It was huge, and imperfect, and when I took it to the open-knit on Friday, my teacher burst out laughing, and people came from miles around (okay, really just the sidewalk) to look at the spectacle I call:

Sometimes the knitter, much like the writer, can't be sure of who her characters really are until they show themselves to her. Sometimes a rooster wants a pop-bead necklace and false eyelashes, and there isn't a darn thing you can do about it. You may have wanted him to start a family, get a job at the bank, and stop wearing makeup. But he has other plans, so you find some wool roving, grab your felting needle, and just make it happen. I love it. And you know, I can't imagine a better first experience in textiles. Aside from being super-patient, Kyle taught me all about working with natural materials, showed me how to embellish with sculpted wool fiber....the whole shebang. I left REALLY inspired, full of plans for handmade playthings, oven mitts, scarves galore...not to mention a complete wardrobe for my rooster. I've decided Al is going to be like one of those cement geese people keep on their porches and dress according to the season. I can see it now--a felted feather headdress for Mardi Gras,  a basil brooch for National More Herbs Less Salt Day (August 29th). And you know there's a kitschy Christmas rooster vest in the works. Al is, if nothing else, a really good sport.

Al with his cousin, my sister's rooster,who requested his name be withheld.
Just kidding.
My sister doesn't name her roosters,
but you can call him Slim.

Knitting, Part One

I guess you could say I'm a crafty person, though I have no formal training in the way of macrame owls, seashell tissue-box covers, or the always-popular Trio of Wisemen fashioned entirely from pantyhose, which my mother owns and proudly displays atop the piano each Christmas.  I like duct tape, though, and glueguns, and I think I'm pretty good at, say, gift-wrapping a birthday present with the following items: paper grocery bag, tin foil, stray buttons, peanut butter. So, okay, maybe I'm more of a crow than a crafter, collecting little bits of glimmer for my nest. I like ninth-hour bursts of genius and have always eschewed conventional classes because, quite simply, I don't have the attention span to make it through craft class without a mega-dose of amphetamines, or nailing my rear end to the chair, both of which things are frowned upon at Amish quilting bees. 

One time, a few years back, my sewing-instructor friend invited me to fill out one of her intro courses, which was being photographed by a major paper for a weekend feature. This was before she was poised to take over the world with her own brand of textile genius, and she wanted to "stack the class" for the picture, an everybody's-doing-it sort of maneuver. I'm sure there's a business-major word for that style of marketing. Consensus? Scarcity? Whatever. It was brilliant, but my point is, I thought I was going to claw my eyes out during the class I was so distracted. We all had sewing machines, and I didn't know what/wear my bobbin was, and all we had to do was make ONE SINGLE NAPKIN, and I was so busy looking at my neighbor's work that I had like this horrible railroad track of stitches on my square of fabric, like a drunk person had been operating the sewing machine via remote control from China. It was really bad, and for a long time after that I went all anti-crafting establishment on everybody's a's until my friend brought up casually that perhaps I was more of a one-on-one learner. She even made me a little card promising to be my own private sewing tutor. Yeah, okay, some people might call it a gift certificate, to me it was a promise ring. I would, someday, be someone who sews.

But then I got kind of busy. And so did she. 
And all along the way, I'd see handmade treasures I'd wish I could make but hadn't the first clue.
But each time I'd wax poetic at the thought of hand-crafted lovelies, 
my sweet (and smart) friend would remind me of her offer. 
Meanwhile, her business blossomed.
She hosted a screening of Handmade Nation, a documentary about the rise of DIY and Craft. 
The film introduced me to guerilla knitters, and I thought, now that's something I can get behind. Groups of salty knitters outfitting unsuspecting bike racks with snuggly sweaters...I mean, how weirdly fabulous is that? Knitting Vandals?! 
After all this time adrift, I'd landed on the island of misfit crafters. 
Knitting.  Who knew?

Image courtesy of  grrl+ dog.

The only catch: I can't knit to save my life. I can barely tie a decent bow, and hair-braiding is difficult. Basically, anything with multiple strands...and I'm done. Enter my knitting hero, Kyle. During the last week of our vacation, our entire family stayed in a lakeside community that featured a fantastic art center where one could take a variety of classes for dirt cheap. There was wheel-thrown pottery, jewelry-making, needle-felting, stained glass, and...knitting. I signed myself up, along with my sister. Four hours with an instructor (that's Kyle), plus my sister's steel-trap memory for reinforcement, and a knitter I would be. And with any luck, knitting might lead to sewing. A gateway drug. Next stop, knitter's prison.

Casting on. That girl in the background left to go to the bathroom and never came back. I think I intimidated her.

At first, it was rough. Real rough. I wasn't feelin' the yarn. And the needles were too skinny. I think I was probably Kyle's most needy student ever, but I wanted to get it right. I didn't even mind when she made me rip everything out and start all over again when I messed up. She was kind of like the Mr. Miyagi of knitting, especially when she moved me to what I like to refer to as the aerobic needles, the needles that weighed 14 pounds and I had to hold with my elbows out by my ears. I was really glad at that point that I'd switched from natural deodorant back to the hard stuff.

I found that there were two things that really helped me succeed in knitting:
1. Kyle sitting right next to me. I would have shared the chair with her, even. If she wanted.
2. Sticking my tongue out. I am a first grader at heart, I guess.

This is where I really started cooking with gas.

Another great thing about Kyle was that she didn't try to make conversation with me while I was knitting. She knew I couldn't talk and knit, probably because I told her, flat out, that I couldn't even think and knit. That in my mind, all I could hear was static, and that I liked it. Also, she didn't mind when I screamed intermittently. There were different screams, each with its own corresponding emotion. Anguish, regret, frustration, discovery. Kyle was, basically, my knitting midwife. It was a long labor.

Tomorrow: What I made!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

A kind-of wedding post

I was going to try for a post-a-palooza in chronological order-like, where I've been and what I've been up to these last several days, but a couple things got in my way. First, my memories are completely disheveled, but even more of an issue is the fact that the kickoff post was going to be one in which I revealed to you just how much I love Kenny Loggins, how the song Footloose is like, basically the anthem of my entire summer, as evidenced by the insane dance moves I pulled out at my cousin's wedding reception. I was going to describe in detail the new channels that open up in my brain when I Kick Off My Sunday shoes, but for some reason it doesn't feel right without an action shot.

So, this post is going to be about knitting.

But first, here's a photo of my cousins, who sang at the wedding and were, I have to say it, Stone Cold Steve Awesome.

I was pretty jeal. I can admit that, internet. Maybe that's why I needed to dance so much, to prove that I, too, was awesome. In my own, frenetic, hairpins-flying-into-the-atmosphere, slipping-the-DJ-a-$20-to-play-Love Shack sort of way.  And yes, I know this picture is really small, but I'm not smart enough to make it bigger and not super-grainy, so stop making fun of me. I'm an excellent dancer, if you don't mind getting hit with one of my shoes every now and then. My dad actually found my earrings the next morning in the driveway of their house. How did that happen? I know I was popping stuff left and right, but the funny thing is, I couldn't recreate those moves if I tried. Those moves were born that night, and they died when the DJ turned the lights back on. Killjoy.

Oh, and I'd show you a picture of the beautiful bride, and the pink peonies she carried, and the birds in the trees singing all around making me cry, but I can't find any pictures anywhere. Ridiculous! I've facebook-stalked some other people from the wedding, some friends-of-friends who've alluded to having taken some photos, but none of them will accept my friend request. I hope it wasn't my dancing. So, for now, just pretend that Ariel and Ren are the newly married couple-don't they look so happy? And I'm not in the shot because Hurts So Good just came on. Nice, right?

p.s. knitting rescheduled for tomorrow

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


So I made it back to Atlanta with lots of stories to tell and REALLy dirty feet. And I as much as I'd love to post a picture as evidence, I really can't, because then I'd have to kill you, and I'm just so not in the mood for a prison relationship right now. My life is complicated enough without having to pretend I'm someone's girlfriend just so they don't strangle me with their dental floss. But I digress.

We got back Sunday night, and unpacked right away; which, in my pre-married life, never happened. I was the kind of girl who could go for a few weeks without emptying my suitcase, using it instead as a sort-of makeshift wardrobe. Whatever was still clean was mine for the wearing, and when that got dirty I'd launder it, thus the wardrobe would move to the clean-clothes basket, then the empty side of the bed, then, if in the middle of the night I dreamed I was running up the steps to the Philadelphia Museum of Art or something, I'd kick it on the floor. And that's how I ended up on Hoarders. Just kidding.

Really, though, my former messiness (which is sometimes not-so-former) has met its match in my husband, who believes that the best time to clean/unpack/sanitize/put away is always RIGHTNOW. I'm not going to say he's militant about it, but he is not kidding when he says that right when we pull in the driveway, at the end of this 10-hour car trip during which the air conditioner broke, every one of us is going to unpack the vehicle, shake out the floor mats, and, if required, give the interior a once-over with the hand-vac. And no, it doesn't matter if you're experiencing low blood sugar or need to go potty, you'll thank me for this later. And actually, I do. Thank him. It's pretty great to have your entire car unloaded, clothes put back in drawers, and a load in the washer just an hour or so after your return.

But-even though that's all really lovely-the remnants of the vacation being in their proper place and all that, I think there was something in me, and maybe still is, that liked basking in the afterglow of a good road trip. I enjoyed the physical reminders of jetsetting, the smells of the seashore on my still-packed clothes, the last bits of sand shifting around in my shoes. Is it practical to forgo bathing for a week post-beach holiday? No, but I suppose I considered it all a sort-of living scrapbook. An eco-friendly collection of mementos requiring no expensive paper borders or acid-free doo-dads. Just my stinky self and a big pile of rumpled, sandy sarongs. I mean, who wouldn't want in on that action?

But, anyway...I meant to bring everyone up to speed last night, but needed a little more time to unwind since there was no tangible proof I'd spent the last nine days doing just that: unwinding. I actually felt a little like I'd been propelled back into the atmosphere too quickly and bits of my brain were flying out my ear like deorbiting space junk. I'm sure you can relate. So, instead of blogging, I stayed up till 2:00 am eating cold pizza, ordering internet skincare, and watching Bridezillas. And now I feel SENSATIONAL! But wait, there's more: with my qualifying purchase, I received free shipping, two deluxe samples of my choice, and a complimentary full-size coconut body scrub!

So, I feel better today. Well, actually I feel worse, but at least I canceled out the pizza with a raw blender soup I made with half a cantaloupe, some fresh basil, one large can of San Marzano tomatoes, and three cloves of garlic. I won't mention the prosciutto crisp garnish. But hopefully, last night's debauchery's got me covered, I've re-entered normal life with both my vacation memories and real-world identity in act, and life and posting will go on as planned. I've spent the last couple of hours trying to remember all the snippets of story that occurred in the last three weeks, and I guess this is why people take pictures, right? Or carry index cards and little golf pencils around in their back pockets. Overachievers. I am willing to bet my deluxe samples that in addition to being highly organized writer-bloggers, these individuals have also attended the Mr. Other People's Chicken School of Unpacking. Oh, well. At least I got the coconut scrub.

Image courtesy of A Touch of Glass's Flickr Stream

Friday, June 11, 2010

Status Update

Hi. Since someone called today to ask if I was still alive, I thought it'd be a good idea to post something informative. As in, sorry to leave you hanging folks, but I've been at the greenhouse this week helping out, pushing plants on unsuspecting strangers, etc. Thus, my blogging skills and hygiene have taken a dire turn, as evidenced in the photo above-- but I've been getting lots of work done and my farmer's tan is AWESOME. So there you go. I'd write more, but I am really bedraggled, and probably should shower, what with the town pool not opening this year and my daily beauty/disinfecting ritual shot to hell. I'll say this: It's kind of a drag not being able to combine one's daily dose of recreation with the washing of one's hair, but I do get to eat all the strawberries I want, right out of the patch...and wear really big boots. And eat like a trucker. Don't be jealous. I still love you, internet. Let's never fight again.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Where Is Everybody?

A couple of weeks ago I was looking through some old photos in order to rustle up some inspiration for a "Happy Birthday" post I'd planned on writing for my dear father, not that I need inspiration, really, but I figured browsing through snapshots of my childhood might help me recall a particular moment, something from which to launch my essay. Of course, the search that might have taken a half-hour or so is still in progress; mostly due to my predisposition for waxing poetic over every single photo, which might not sound like a medical condition, but BELIEVE ME, IT IS.

Sidetracked? Yes, I am. You see, a couple years back, during a bout of pregnancy-induced hyperorganizationitis (also a medical condition),  I decided to distill my gigantic box-o-pictures by staging an elimination process so cutthroat that only the strong/beautiful/able to speak a thousand words were left standing. In addition to eliciting the best and brightest, I also cast out any photos that, were I the subject of such unflattering light or clothing selection, would want shredded and/or burned. It doesn't matter if the person once peed in your shampoo bottle, or never paid for dinner, or pinched your cheeks and called you chubby until you were 27-if you own a photo where this person's unibrow is the shot's defining artistic element, then the good and righteous thing to do is get rid of it. So they've double-crossed you--who cares? By doing the right thing with your arch-rival's unbecoming mug, you're initiating a cycle of good, one you can only hope results in your finding random piles of cash and jewelry. Okay, maybe not quite, but at least you get the prize of a well-edited photo library, with the added clean-conscience bonus. Kind of a "tastes great, less filling" situation, if you will.

So-my collection of photos is truly special--each shot feels like my favorite. And I love perusing them in bed, propped up on pillows with my knees drawn chest-high. I balance the box of pictures there and get lost in the looking back. Every now and then my children come in to ask why my eyes are "all shiny", or, more often, "who the little boy is, mommy?" Yes, I admit it's kind of a drag to have to remind them that no, Mommy wasn't a boy when she was little. She just thought that her haircut was awesome, even if it was an almost-mullet with a half-grown out perm, even if ponytails were not an option until she was 16.  That's all, kids, move along. Actually, this could explain why I'm ponied up nearly every day; now that my hair's finally past my earlobes and nobody calls me "young man" anymore.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Makin' Copies

I guess this week got away from me, huh? The only way I know to put it is: the final few days of school before summer are jam-packed: showy celebrations wherein the joy and recollection of the year's accomplishments are whipped into a frenzy, and when it's all over you feel, somehow, that it didn't last long enough. Yet, oddly, you're exhausted and can't really figure out why.

I am, invariably, a basket-case of emotions the last day, willing myself not to tear up afresh with every teacher, consoling myself in the carpool line as I marvel at how everyone's grown, wondering why my children have to grow at all? It's so unfair. But seriously--closing events, or more accurately, transitions are often difficult for me, and I tend to overthink them (surprise!) to the degree that I almost always neglect some technical responsibility related to the children's education. Can I write a heartfelt letter to a tutor? Absolutely. Can I find my child's bookbag the last day? Or remember to send the $10 donation in for the class gift? Um, usually not.

This year, it was the library fine. Two dollars and fifty cents was all we owed, but you know the school librarian is not playing when she sends home those highlighted reminder notes! Seriously, y'all, those gentle reminders are one thing, but once the slips start coming home with hand-written addendums, it's business time, believe you me.  Donna Jo* is not afraid to regulate, and in first grade, this is accomplished by the withholding of the delinquent student's report card. Now, to be clear, I wasn't withholding the book for kicks, I was simply allowing it a few days to dry following its anti-bacterial-wipes sponge bath, which followed the orange juice spill.  But then I realized, DJ doesn't need my reasons. She just wants to close the books on the books, and the year...and get her summer vacation on. And that's cool. So-we (meaning Joshua) paid up, got it in right under the wire. And to be honest, it felt kind of noble, like donating to public radio in the final moments of the pledge drive. Only instead of a hand-crank radio or reuseable shopping tote screen-printed with my local member station's call letters, our thank-you gift is getting to see our child's grades. Lovely. Does that come in celadon?

 Oh, but listen to this-after picking up the kids, we'd planned to head straight to the toy store for the end-of-year tradition we like to call Getting A New Toy. Since we don't do Getting A New Toy very often, it's kind of a big deal. Like, a three-times-a-year deal. But somewhere between dropping off teacher gifts, sobbing, and heroically paying our fine, we'd arranged to meet some friends at a local vegetarian restaurant to toast the upcoming break. Neither of us are vegetarian, but my husband likes to pretend he is sometimes and the food at this place is amazing. As we sat in a line of cars being loaded with gangly, overexcited children, our own children standing on the elbow rests of our seats and peering out the sunroof, alternately air-guitaring and mock-sparring their classmates, we started to fret. People-hungry people most likely- were waiting on us at the cafe and here we were, stuck. But then again, should we really be dragging our own Greedy Greenies to a semi-elegant restaurant, when they only had eyes for Playmobil and Diaper-Wetting Dollbabies? Moral Dilemma.

Then came this scale-tipping text:

Friend: Dude. Rob Schneider is totally at the restaurant. Two tables away.

Joshua: You mean Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigalo? DON'T LET HIM LEAVE.

And suddenly we were all, "What are we waiting for? The kids LOVE soyburgers! We can't let them miss out on a end-of-school tempeh wrap!" Then we jumped lanes and high-tailed it to lunch, all in effort to feast our eyes upon The Richmeister. It was really insane-the magnet of celebrity. Especially when one of the children said, "Mommy, is someone chasing us?"

We missed him by less than five minutes. But it got us moving, right? Out of the mini-van gridlock, into the cool of the restaurant and tall glasses of Red Zinger tea. And soy-burgers. And, really, I don't even know what we would have said to the guy. It was just..a novelty, like a doll that can drink a bottle AND "go" on her pink plastic potty, simultaneously. Oh, well. Incidentally, the doll has been named Sunflower Libby. And she has lots of accidents. I'm assuming Mr. Schneider is sufficiently trained.

So-I'm back, I hope. Day One of Summer went well, with just about every seasonally-appropriate activity finding a place on the itinerary. Corn-on-the-cob, swimming, homemade popsicles, hide-and-seek, and a four-square tournament. Even a late-afternoon pop-up thunderstorm. Although-nobody claimed to be "bored", so I guess it's not official...yet. Good thing we have three months.


*The librarian, who is awesome.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

If the spirit moves you:

My Saturday evening can be best described by the following exchange Joshua and I shared on the way home from the night's festivities.

Me: That woman you were dancing with who was really a man seemed kinda possessive. I mean, when I tried to cut in, he/she gave me a NASTY glare. 

Him: Yeah. I don't think she was there for just, you know, "fun".  She, I mean, he, was in it for the long haul, if you know what I'm sayin'. 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is really all that needs to be said about Johnny's Hideaway. However, for the uninitiated, the short story on Johnny's is this-about thirty years ago, Johnny's opened up in an Atlanta strip mall, and with its parquet dance floor, disco ball, and lounge lizard lighting, quickly became known among a certain crowd as one of the city's best places to dance. And by "certain crowd", what I really mean is: a group of Johnny's fans so motley you would most definitely not be able to pick them out of a police line-up. Except for the really tan 70-something with the home-permed hairpiece. You'd know that guy was a Johnny's regular.

But first, a couple of things to get out of the way: Johnny's is not cool in the way that Halo is cool, or the way that it's cool to have drinks with the fancy people at the St. Regis Hotel. I know this, so don't feel like you have to tell me. Those places are so cool that by the time I finish this entry, they probably won't be cool anymore. Not so with Johnny's, a destination whose appeal seems predicated on its not  trying to win you over. Johnny's doesn't need your validation. It doesn't bend to the hipsters and their cruel cultural whims. Leave the facelifts to the clientele; Johnny's is just pleased to offer you a hamburger steak and vodka tonic served with a nice mixed grill of Shania Twain/Bon Jovi/Blondie/Show Tunes. Really-the music selection is random, but so right--in fact, there was only one song I couldn't dance to, not because it wasn't a good song, but because it represented an event so infuriating that I have vowed to never enjoy said song again. And I'm not saying what it is, because I wouldn't want to ruin that song for you. Yes, I am a giver. My point is, though, in Nightclub Land, where most establishments peter out and die in three years, Johnny's Hideaway stands alone. It hasn't even changed loafers.

How did we end up there, you ask? Well, I guess you could say we needed to blow off some steam; throw cool and caution to the wind, stay out all night, etcetera.  I mean, with the year we've had, we needed a grand gesture. A nice big Barbara Streisand-life's-juicy-and-the-sun's-a-ball-of-butter moment. Our fun crisis could not be solved with the usual dinner and a movie. It required a greater level of recklessness, even, than a major thrift store shopping event wherein we purchase our weight in polyester and polish off a dozen donuts. We needed a melody. We needed to shake our groove thangs to the tune of Not Giving Up. And, dear readers, what better place to shake it than Johnny's Hideaway, a refuge for the longing souls out there who still, after all these years and botched plastic surgeries, not only still believe in love, but believe they'll find it at the Hideaway?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Joy and Daisies

Wednesday was a slow-cooker kind of day. Meaning, I put all my ingredients in the pot: coffee, shower, to-do list, desire, and deadline--but it took about four hours for things to heat up in there, so much so that it was about 1:00 pm before I really got anything done. It didn't feel good to fritter that many child-free hours away on so little, but I was feeling a teeny bit blue, and when this sort of thing comes over me I have just a few options, tools I find can help bridge the gap between Hope and No-Man's Land.

One of my tricks is to go outside, sit with the sun on my face and peruse the day's mail- but since we've moved so much, and basically stopped receiving correspondence, all I had was this really random catalog called Body Central, a mail-order boutique featuring an impressive selection of come-hither tops and Daisy Duke shorts, all for dirt-cheap. It's pretty fascinating the kind of profile one can put together, just from reading someone else's deliveries. For instance, the former occupant of this house liked synthetic fabrics, permanent wedgies...and the number $19.99.

So-what do you think? Could I find work based on my ability to see into the minds of individuals committing style crimes? Who knows, though-maybe the homeowner was just as perplexed as I was by that offering. Maybe she, too, kept her fingers crossed for a Garnet Hill circular, a wayward New Yorker from next door, perhaps even an overdue birthday card with scratch-off lotto ticket tucked inside? I don't mind belated wishes, if you don't. And, to that end, I'll go on record to say that, in my opinion, it's perfectly acceptable to read your neighbor's magazines if they're delivered to you, as long as you put them in the right box eventually. Once, I got a People, Us Weekly, and OK! by mistake; it took me two days to get through them, but better late than never, I say.

Another thing that sometime works is this: call my husband and fish for compliments, and then pretend I don't hear his response. So he has to repeat the sweet nothing, and I get to feel twice as pretty/witty/that I'm a good dancer.  Except-lately, he's getting more hip to my jive in this department and is far less apt to take the bait.  Also of note: his i-phone Sudoku addiction, which, who am I kidding, is basically like competing with another woman, only she's good at math. One way I work this angle is to say, innocently, "Oh there you go, playing Bejeweled Blitz again", because everyone knows B-Squared is a game for the ladies! So far, this hasn't worked in causing him to question his manliness like I thought it would.

So yesterday I was striking out on lots of fronts, when I just decided to nap for twenty minutes in hopes I'd wake up a different person. Or- that I would wake up, and this strange period in our lives would have passed. And, forgive me if this is all getting rather old, my stories of tribulation and woe. It's just...some days are harder than others. Some days I feel sick with not knowing where we're going or what's next on the radar. Some days I could write about it for hours, and some days I don't even want to give it a moment's thought. I want to pretend that everything is as it was, that we don't have to move, or look for a new job, or make a decision about the business. That I could just be a normal person instead of someone cursed to a life of passing through. My heart doesn't feel like it's passing through. There are people I really love here. And my children love their school..oh, man.

So. I sat on the edge of my bed, and cried kind of pitifully. Then I slept, but only halfway, with the music on. And now I'll pause for a moment to say that some artists are flat-out NOT HELPFUL in moving a person through the grief process. For instance, this song by Maria Taylor. Or,  this little number from The Cinematic Orchestra, aptly titled, To Build a Home. Whenever I find Joshua in his office, logged on to the custom-made Pandora Station on which both of these artists can be found, I have to get out right away because, man, that place is a tomb. 

And yet, somewhere in the mix of despair and questions...amid my rest and wakefulness yesterday, there was joy, in the purest sense. Not happiness, but something deeper...which abides. In between the depressing music and my mix-tape of anxiety was an emerging thought: The remedy, when it all becomes too much, is not always distraction. When I allow myself to wallow for a little while, to just swim around in the big old mud puddle of it all, I find I come out of the mess with more than a healthy mineral glow. I lose some of the pressure of having to hold it all together, and I remember that even though everything is completely whacked out right now, there's a subterranean layer in me that is untouchable. This is true: I have a lovely life. Even though I might not always see it, I know it.

***Look what I found? Evidence of some Daisy Days Gone By. I guess I was a fan of the Dukes once, too, as was my bestestestest friend in the world, Jami. I'd like everyone to note the sensible sun hat she's toting on our way to the beach, whereas I've donned movie star shades and some chandelier ear-bobs for the occasion, along with inexplicably curly hair. It's pretty safe to say that as far as rear-views are concerned, this was the top of our game.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I couldn't resist...The Swagger Wagon

Okay, so maybe it's lame to jump on the swagger band-wagon, but I love this video. Probably because I'm the proud owner of a Toyota Sienna...but let's just keep it real: everybody knows I have a thing for wannabe gangstas. I mean, just look at my husband. What?! I thought trucker caps were dope...Actually, we took these photos in the hat section of a general store last summer. And he happily posed in about eight different styles, facial expressions adjusted accordingly. What a man! A pictorial post of that evening may be in the works...

And now, for your Tuesday afternoon enjoyment, I present the Sienna Family, in all their suburban glory. My favorite part is when they break it down on"Farmer in the Dell". Peace out!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Dialing it Back

On the way home from the grocery store today, my four-year-old piped up with a question from the backseat.

"Hey, Mama, have you ever played spin the bottle?"

Then what happened was: my eyes popped out of their sockets and an old-fashioned Ahooga horn materialized above my head and, well...ahooga-ed.

I mean, COME ON! I knew I shouldn't have canceled our subscription to Noggin. And for the record, The Disney Channel is NOT child-friendly after a certain hour, because even though I'm pretty sure that little tart Selena Gomez is G-rated, there's clearly more to Wizards of Waverly Place than just run-of-the-mill spell-casting (honey, begin tearing hair out now).  We've been allowing  big brother to watch the show occasionally, after Winnie's bedtime--but I guess we haven't been careful enough.

And come to think of it, even he's been referring to some adolescent rites of passage that I'd have guessed were still be over-his-head. Swirlies, atomic wedgies, etc. Basically harmless, but are we really there, so soon?

I paused for a second, and then answered. "No." Which is true.

She went on. "Well, do you know how to play?"
And again, I said no, a lie that seemed justified.
Then I asked HER: "Do you know how to play?"

She told me yes. "You take a bottle. A wine bottle, and you make sure it has nuffing in it. Then you put it on the ground and spin it. And that's how you play."

"What do you do when the bottle stops spinning?" I asked.

"You pick it up, put it in the cupboard, and go play somefing else."

"Good girl." I said. "Here, have another Tootsie Pop."

Then we went home and read a board book about Jesus.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Gardenias are the kind of flower that can make a person think: well, maybe God really does love me after all! I didn't grow up with this variety of shrub, as Ohio winters are generally too jarring for the gardenia's delicate, southern constitution--and I really don't even think I smelled a gardenia, fresh, until a few years ago. It was the night we moved into the split-level we'd decided to rent from a former work acquaintance. We'd spent all day unpacking, and thanks to my friend Carmen, who in matters of relocation/deep cleaning is extremely helpful to the point of becoming militant, and her husband, Joe, who is very good at rearranging the furniture in a room a couple dozen times before you figure out where you really want it to go, we were completely moved in. Really, every box was unpacked and put away; the bed made up with clean sheets.

So we were standing there, the four of us-exhausted, like maybe we ALL wanted to hop in and call it a night, when I noticed that there were screens in the windows on either side of our bed. Screens! I was of the impression that homes in Atlanta didn't come with screens, since we'd never lived in a place that had them. I'd developed a theory as to why this was, probably something about the pollen, I thought. Or the humidity, or mosquitoes, perhaps the need to prove one's wealth and power by bucking fresh air in favor or centralized climate control? Whatever it is/was didn't matter, I was just happy to be in a "normal" house.  I remembered seeing the switch in the hallway for the attic fan, and had someone turn it on as I threw open the windows. And, in that moment, I became my mother. She loves her some attic fan, as well as unlimited access to fresh air. As a little girl, I'd lay in bed and listen to the quiet roar coming from the hallway, and life was the best kind of normal. That night, in our new home, it was just like I'd remembered: the motor vibration, shutter rattle, the first blast of air drawn in through the screens. It was lovely --calming, cooling--a real throwback to the white noise of my childhood. But there was something else, too. Another surprise, something I hadn't yet experienced. Underneath our bedroom window, on a sliver of no-man's land between our yard and the neighbor's, was an overgrown gardenia, blooming its brains out. Oh my goodness, guys! I yelled. We have the perfect house! Of course, it wasn't perfect-I think I mentioned the dining-room-with-an-identity-crisis in an earlier post--but I sure did love basking in the breeze of that flower.

When we moved again, I took a cutting from the shrub with me in the van, and smelled it a hundred times on the interstate as our old life got smaller and smaller. I think I actually wore it out, like a scratch-and-sniff smelly sticker, and when it finally wilted down to nothing, I cried. I'd wanted it to last forever, wanted to be able to take something with me to the New Life-even though it was never meant to last up there in any form. A Zone 7 plant making it in Zone 5? Maybe in a pot, indoors. Not the same. I didn't want to believe it, but at the same time knew there was no sense crying over starcrossed plant hardiness zones. I moved on to my mother's peonies, and that was that.  I've since come to understand that it was never about the gardenia. But what, then? I wasn't ready to say goodbye.

That was a year ago. We're in Atlanta again, in another rental house, smack dab in another transition. And there's another gardenia--this one much less unruly, and so heavy with flowers that I almost can't stand it. I know it might seem strange, me having a crush on a flowering shrub, but I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it. The captivating fragrance, the waxy white flowers that look like they were fashioned out of fondant, the way it always knows just what to say when I've had a hard day. I'm driving the children crazy with gardenia arrangements in every room, not to mention my theatrical proclamations each time we leave the house. BEAUTIFUL! I yell as we pass the shrub each morning on our way out the door, sometimes forcing them to stop and inhale. I feel so lucky, and yet-it's only for a while. We're not always going to live here, that's for darn sure. In this house, this city....on earth. And I don't want to miss a thing, not anymore, so I'm going to savor it all. Right down to the gardenias.

p.s. If you think you don't like gardenias, I just have one thing to say: don't be a hater. But seriously, I want to suggest that the scent of a real-life gardenia is not the same as your Aunt Ethel's cloying gardenia perfume from the drugstore. It is downright intoxicating-so much so, that since our gardenia started blooming, I've been uncharacteristically game for trash duty, because on my way out to the curb, I pass you-know-what and its glorious heaven-scent. Yes ma'am, I'm a regular junkie. My variety of choice: Kleim's Hardy.