Thursday, February 26, 2015

And She Was

In seventh grade music class we had to analyze a song for the music theory part of the class.

I don’t remember if the teacher took requests or not, and if she had, undeniably the song we all would have picked was Like a Virgin. 

Because when you’re twelve there’s nothing more sizzling than a song about having sex for the very first time.

Much to our dismay our teacher had other plans and chose the relatively innocuous song “And She Was” by the Talking Heads.  Sing with me, children of the 80s!


I know you totally sang it like I did.  It’s uplifting to know that although I can’t remember where I left my house slippers, I still know allll the words to a thirty-year-old song.

You can imagine what went on in our tweenage minds as we read the lyrics and listened to this sort of obscure song.  After all, in the mid-80s we were mostly listening to the pop hits station on our clock radios, and if you were me you could only get a clear signal from the soft rock station and had to make do with adult contemporary hits by Chicago and Billy Ocean.  If you were lucky you knew Talking Heads from watching Friday Night Videos or MTV.

And she was lying in the grass
And she could hear the highway breathing
And she could see a nearby factory
She's making sure she is not dreaming
See the lights of a neighbor's house
Now she's starting to rise
Take a minute to concentrate
And she opens up her eyes

She fell asleep in the yard, the more innocent among us offered.   She’s really relaxed, said a few intuitive students.  She’s having a hard time waking up and is stuck between dreaming and sleeping, the cerebral kids said.

She’s on drugs, said the tough kid.

The world was moving and she was right there with it (and she was)
The world was moving she was floating above it (and she was) and she was

She’s still sleeping! She’s still dreaming! we cried.

She’s on drugs, the tough kid repeated.

And she was drifting through the backyard
And she was taking off her dress
And she was moving very slowly
Rising up above the earth
Moving into the universe
Drifting this way and that
Not touching ground at all
Up above the yard

We giggled.  She’s naked now?  Why would she take off her dress?  Isn't she embarrassed?  How is she floating?  Is she a superhero?  Maybe she’s a GHOST!! SHE DIED!!  Things were getting interesting.

SHE’S ON DRUGS.  Louder, now. 

She was glad about it...no doubt about it
She isn't sure where she's gone
No time to think about what to tell them
No time to think about what she's done
And she was

And she was looking at herself
And things were looking like a movie
She had a pleasant elevation
She's moving out in all directions

Total confusion.  What, she’s lost?  Who’s she telling what to?  What did she do?  If she’s dead, she’s going to heaven, right?  Stories were getting tangled.

She’s on drugs, the tough kid sighed.  What a bunch of dopes.

I don’t remember what exactly was about the girl in the song.  We went on to our next class maybe talking about it, maybe not.  “Drugs” may have been whispered carefully as we tried out the taboo word and wondered what exactly it meant.  Drug education was spotty back then.

And She Was became one of those nostalgia-triggering songs for me.  Sometimes I still hear it on the new wave channel on satellite radio.  I never bothered to look up what it was about until now.  I wasn’t surprised to find out.


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This post inspired by:


Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: Analyze a popular song you heard on the radio (present or past).
What exactly does it mean?

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ease of Passage

I sat at the desk with the calendar open in front of me, staring at the squares for the week and wondering when I could reschedule her appointment.  Experience has taught me that a rescheduling goes more smoothly when I say when we can be there, instead of asking about the openings.

A conservative estimate is that only half of my children’s primary teeth have fallen out on their own, requiring a dentist’s caveman tools to knock the rest loose to allow for ease of passage for the permanent set.  Our daughter’s last four baby teeth were on the block for removal.

Four teeth, pulled.  The appointment will go quickly, but she’ll be numb for hours, and bleeding to boot.  Then pain.  She’ll need an open evening, which is comical at this time in our family’s life.  The calendar stood defiant, mocking – none of the squares were blank, daring me to make the appointment during a time that is inconvenient, a time when she will most certainly miss something important or mandatory.  Everything is one or the other these days.  Make a decision, sneered the calendar.  You will lose. 

School.  Practices.  Games.  Rehearsals.  Tests.  Kids’ events are written boldly, with times and places and descriptions.  My own feebly-scratched errands, written around those of the children and in the margins of the calendar, weakly stake their claim on the perimeters of each day.   My activities are never mandatory.

I think of myself as a careful scheduler, allowing only a few activities a year for each of our kids.  It used to be that there were seasons for activities.   Now all the year is one season.  Everything and everyone is all in, all the time.  It is suffocating.




I pick a day and time and call the dentist’s office.  Miraculously, I choose rather well.  My daughter will miss art class and a band rehearsal at the end of the school day but no tests.  She’ll have the rest of the afternoon and evening to relax and recover.  I cross my fingers against any last-minute emergency games or rehearsals or practices or meetings.  I plan to make soup for dinner that night, out of kindness.

Appointment firmly inked onto the calendar, I exhale, then wonder why I allow myself to get worked up over this.  Who cares if they miss something? the more realistic and cavalier part of me demands.  Well, I do, I guess.  And they do, too.  Isn’t my job to care for my kids and guide them through life using the best of my abilities?  I am called to arrange ease of passage for my daughter through this time in her life, just as the new gaps in her smile will help guide the permanent teeth into their proper spaces.

Toeing the line between ease for my kids and hardship for me is hard, as it always is for mothers.  We raise them to fly, only to grieve over their absence.  We raise them to think for themselves, and are offended when their views differ from ours.  We raise them to work hard, and oppose their chosen occupation.

And we juggle their schedules to cushion them from the reality that you cannot do everything all the time, only to wonder and worry that we are doing them a disservice in the long run.  Are we just teaching them that as long as we have an hour or two here and there, we can do it all?  Are they learning that the purpose of time is to be planned away?

I hope not.  Yet here I am, staring at the squares on the calendar, fretting over the precious few free hours we have left.  I have made it so.

It is at this moment I realize that the ease of passage I desire is not only theirs, but also my own.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Eight Things That Deserve A Little VD Love

I just love VD.

I also love saying that every year around this time.  I live for it, actually.

Because I think Valentine’s Day is kind of hokey, kind of corny.  But I still kind of love it.

I love thinking about oversized hearts filled with chocolates, wearing a pink shirt with red pants, buying my husband silky underwear emblazoned with hearts, festooning our home with red balloons, and painting my fingernails and face red.

And of course there’s always the chance that a person will receive diamonds as a symbol of her husband’s love.  The big, sparkly, multi-carat type.

It’s a very slight chance.  But a chance nonetheless.

Never give up on your dreams is what I’m saying.


* * *

Anyway, I love VD and Love, and I love to spread both around a little.

But I probably won’t, because let’s face it, Valentine's Day is not that big of a holiday.  We have other, non-romantic stuff to do.  The world can’t stop just because someone wants to paint her face red again.  We will probably just go out to eat or something to celebrate because we are unimaginative types.

Which is cool too.  Also why I like VD – in spite of its flowery exuberance, it’s still just another day.  If you celebrate, cool.  If you don’t, hey, man, that’s cool too.  No need to go hating on VD just because it's all about love and you hate love.  VD doesn't discriminate; it can be a part of anyone's life.

What is most fun for me is thinking up all the ways a person can spread VD around.  

Heh heh.  These jokes never get old.

Here are eight people, places or things to which I’d give a little VD love if I could:

1. Paris.  The City of Light.  Also My Favorite City Ever in the History of Cities.  If you have an extra plane ticket to Paris, please just give it to me.  I can’t buy it from you.  We are saving up to buy diamonds.

Taking medium-sized children to Paris is an experience that every parent should have at least once.


2. Battery-operated candles.  Do you know about these candles?  They are fake, but are wrapped with a thin layer of real wax, which is lightly scented.  The flame flickers and looks real.  They light up automatically every night for four hours, and then go off on their own.  Alternatively, you can turn them on and off using a remote control.  I love them more than I should, and I don’t even like candles that much.



3. These guys.  Send me a video of some cutie college boys singing a girly song, and I’m all in, all the time.  I’m more Mommy Dearest than Mrs. Robinson, but darn if these kids don’t make me giggle and become all teary as I remember my youth among cutie college boys.  I’d also like to offer some advice to all of them: 

a) Drive past the tattoo parlor. You know that awesome tattoo you think you need to get?  You will want to cover it up when you’re 42.  Trust.

b) Wear condoms.  Every time.  VD is no joke.  





4. Being warm.  February where I live just sucks.  There are only two reasons why old people from the north move to Florida in the wintertime: a) old people are wise, 2) being cold is for jerks.

5. Cashmere.  It’s soft, it’s light, it’s gorgeous, it’s luxurious.  I’ve made it my winter goal to wear as much of this fabric as I can.  I wear the same thing over and over again.  A lot. 

6. Stanley Tucci.  He is the perfect man.  I can prove it:

a) Articles are written about his superiority in every way.




b) He can say "gird your loins" in a snooty way that is both wry and sexy, and he'll never get in trouble for it.



c):  This.



7. A quiet evening in my living room.  I used to fantasize about being swept off my feet by some hot broody thing.  Now I fantasize about putting my feet up on the couch and falling asleep with a book in my hand, dreaming about Stanley Tucci.  One is much less work than the other, yet immensely more satisfying.

8. Pajamas.  I mean, really.  People who don't love putting on their pjs at the end of the day are people I don't think I need to be around.  


*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: Name 8 people/places/or things you’d like to give a virtual Valentine to.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Hello, I’m Dumb

Photo credit: bryankennedy / Foter / CC BY-NC

Nothing makes me feel smarter than a good old internet browsing session.  There are a lot of people out there willing to showcase their worst failures for all of us to see.  I salute those people.  Especially the ones who make it onto any Epic Fail video.  Thanks, guys.  Sorry about your broken… everything.

Then I check my Facebook feed and people are talking about Harper Lee.  Gee, what a cool name, I think.  If I had a baby I would totally name him Harper Lee.  Where have I heard that name?  Oh, right.  To Kill A Mockingbird.  Gregory Peck.  Scout.  Also a cool name.  Okay, hmmm.  That’s right – Harper Lee is a woman.  And she’s coming out with a new book.  And everyone cares.  I should also care.  You go, Harper Lee.

I never even read To Kill a Mockingbird.  Never saw the movie, either.  Ah, well.  At least I know Gregory Peck was in it.  It was also Black and White, which means that it is an old movie.

Others are talking about parenting trends, causes they support, their own and their children's education, new jobs, women’s issues, health news, race relations, something something NPR.  Oh, look!  A trailer for the new Magic Mike movie.

I’ve seen Magic Mike, but I’ve never watched The Daily Show.  Is it still a thing?  So many people love Jon Stewart.  I saw him on Jimmy Fallon once.  He seemed a little full of himself.  Talking about him makes me think about Stephen Colbert.  Is he still a thing?  He’s pretty good-looking, but someone somewhere told me he was full of himself, too.  And that’s all I know.  They talk about the news, right?  Or is it just politics?

I just got Netflix because that’s what all the smartest people are watching.  So far I’ve watched Orange is the New Black and that’s it.  Between you and me I can’t wait to be caught up with this show so I can stop watching it.  It just makes me feel like I don’t ever want to go to prison.  Lady prison is no joke if I can believe what I’m watching on Netflix.  My son has watched all of The Walking Dead and that makes me feel like a terrible parent.  

I like to read.  Lots of people I know talk about the books they’re reading.  I binge-purchase books at our local used bookstore and stack my pile on a desk in our bedroom.  I choose books that people say are the best they’ve ever read, or books with gold seals on the cover that proclaim “Man Booker Prize” or “National Book Award.”  I choose classics that can be used as doorstops or step-stools for small children.  These books take me a long time to read.  Last one like that I read was Les Misérables.  Longest six months of my life.

I have a habit of thinking I’m smarter than I am with these big books that make me miserable.  I’m happier reading short romances and thin novels.  I need to walk away from the brainy table in the Goodreads cafeteria and find a different crowd.  

My son sits down next to me. “Mom, do you know what analog means?”

Um, sure.  I’ve heard of analog.  Is it the opposite of digital?  Like, we used to watch analog TV.  Now we have digital TV. ::offers a watery smile::  

“No, no.  Analogue.  A-N-A-L-O-G-U-E.  Like two movies that are analogous to each other.  Similar in story.  Like Star Wars and Star Trek.”

Shark Tale and Finding Nemo.  Surf’s Up and Happy Feet.  A Bug's Life and Antz!

For a moment, I am smart.  I can have a conversation with another person that shows what I know.

Okay, I know cartoon movies from the early 2000s.  But it’s still something.

*******


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Eight Ways To Beat The Winter Blahs Out Of Your Children

“I’m boooooooored.”

Have you recently heard these words from the mouths of your darling cherubs?  How do they make you feel:  Snarky?  Bristly?  Helpless?  Despairing?  Volatile?

It’s February, people – that magical time of year where we dig in to wait out the last six weeks of winter with people who proclaim the negativity of idleness in increasingly high-pitched voices and decreasing attention spans.

With each cold-weather winter comes the likelihood of snow days and empty weekends, when all out-of-home activities and opportunities for running away travel are stolen by sub-freezing temperatures and blinding snowstorms.  And sometimes the weather people get the forecast wrong and everything you’ve planned on has been cancelled though barely a dusting occurred.


If you’re anything like me, you like to take these weeks by the horns and actively deal with the many, many difficulties that surface when everyone is home at once by hiding creating lots of fun activities to do.

Here are eight of them:

1. Make them do laundry.  Some people wear excessive amounts of clothing.  They all live in my house.  Are you kidding about these five pairs of jeans?  I just did laundry yesterday! 




2. Give everyone haircuts.  A day at home is the perfect time to practice your hairstyling skills!  Who cares if you find that your talents aren’t what they used to be: winter time is hat-wearing time.  When you’re finished, just throw the clippings out into the snow – your front yard snowman will be the only one in the neighborhood with real hair. 

3. Have a cooking lesson.  Show them how to make lasagna, beef stroganoff, chicken soup, ANYTHING – and Boom – dinnertime.

Note the wine in the background.  Always have wine on hand for snow days.

4. Practice the art of home tattoos.  Johnny and Mariah will be the only kids in school with superhero tats, which ensures them popularity for the rest of their school years.*

5. Write thank-you notes.  You know you neglect to do this regularly.  Christmas presents, birthday presents, the random gift a friend sends you just for being awesome – you received, and failed to thank.  You are a terrible person.  Give your kids some pens and a few blank cards and voilà!  Instant gratitude.

6. Paint something.  I’m not a crafty person in general, but I do like art, so sometimes I encourage my kids to get out the leftover gallons of paint we have lying around and make something cool and interesting.  That is, after they’ve touched up all the dings, weird scuffs and black marks that we have all over our walls.

7. Organize an eating contest.  Add to your extra winter layer – you know you have one –  by holding a family competitive eating challenge.  You don’t have to have huge supplies of chicken wings or hot dogs on hand.  Go through the kitchen and collect all the half-boxes of cereal, potato chips and crackers that that are still hanging around even though only crumbs are left, jars of pickles that no one likes, and that jalapeño jelly that you bought on a whim but will never use.  Lay everything out on the table, set a timer, and the last to keep it all down is the winner.  Guess what else?  You just cleaned out your pantry and fridge.  Internet high five!

8. Hand them some rags and instruct them to scrub something.  I know: I use cleaning as my go-to solution for everything.  But the hard truth is that all people are horrible slobs and, for the love of all things holy and moly, more than one person per household should be responsible for making things right again.  BONUS:  Everybody hates to clean, so they will do it as fast as possible and then go outside to escape any more of your weirdo snow day plans, leaving you to sip coffee while you watch Netflix all by yourself.




*I'm kidding, obvs. Do not really give your children real tattoos, for real. For Pete's sake.  I can't believe I feel the need to say this.

*******

This post inspired by:


Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: List 8 solutions for bored children.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

It's Time for Some Poetry: The Plan

The Plan

Next year is high school
SNAP and college credit
Business track or tech?

Only three more years of math to go.

Then on to college
For two years or four years
What’s the difference?

I want to have a job like Dad has.

He throws the yo-yo
It moves along the string
Where did he learn this?

You can learn anything on Youtube.

The conversation shifts
A story about possessed dolls
We all laugh about them.

Do you remember the Chucky movies?

Those people are so dumb
All they really need to do
Is cut off Chucky’s head

If he got close to me that’s what I’d do.

We laugh again.
I am thankful that
He has a plan.





*******

This post inspired by:


Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #2: Write a poem inspired by the last conversation you had with your child.




Monday, January 26, 2015

Seventy-Nine Photos



There weren’t many photos of just her. The snapshots were on display on an easel at the funeral home for family members and friends to look at and remember while they mourned her passing from this life into the next.  Most of the photos were of her standing next to loved ones, holding a baby on her lap, arm around her husband of over seven decades.

I had pulled 79 photos of Grandma from the books and bins that we store at our house, and taped them all to a huge posterboard. My cousins made additional posters from the photos they store at their houses, from the photos she still kept at hers.

There were way more than seventy-nine photos of her to mark her presence in this world, in our lives.

Once again our parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends gathered to remember and cry on each others’ shoulders.  The tears we shed were over memories, the knew-it-would-come-but-never-quite-ready realization that she was gone, during a spring of sorrow that hit each of us at different times.  We moved through the funeral home to greet old friends and rarely seen family members, and whispered questions to each other about who this person is and who that person was.  I tried to keep my mind from dwelling on the sweetest memories of my dear grandmother, that there would be no more new ones.

It’s always hard being left.

Fifteen months ago we cried from a loss, but also because she would be left; Granddad died on Halloween and we all shared a portion of her grief, of continuing on without him.  I numbered the photos I found to display on his posterboard, just as I had for hers.  Most of the photos I pulled for her funeral already had a number scrawled on the back.

Their lives, intertwined.  Their days, weeks, years - numbered together.

We gathered at their house and ate food that caring people prepared.  We failed to keep teeny fingers out of candy dishes and laughed at little faces covered in powdered sugar and donut crumbs.  We ate off of Styrofoam plates in the living room and on the floor of their bedroom.  My dad said that he thought the walls of the little house would bow out from all the people stuffed inside. 

We opened dresser drawers and found more photos, and tucked a few into our pockets to take home.  We pulled photo albums out of end tables and and paged through them.  We laughed at old hairdos and fashion misses, named babies and remembered past events.

When dinner was over we sifted through piles of boots and shoes that littered the kitchen floor, as they always had when we were there.  We found our vehicles in their driveway, closely and randomly parked.  We picked our way out carefully through the snow, and drove over the hill and through the field to get back to the funeral home to greet more guests that would be coming to see her, to see us, to offer condolences and support, to remember.

And to see her face smiling through those more than seventy-nine photos.




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