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 worse...me. 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 guess...it's just that...man, 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 chintz....mini-blinds 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 just...is 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