Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mom



Mom, can you get me a water bottle?

Mom.  Can you look over my homework?

Hey Mom, what time are we leaving?

I didn’t hear you, Mom!  I had my headphones on!

Mom, do you know where my headphones are?

Mom.  Stop it.  Please.  Tell me where you hid my headphones.



As a term of endearment, Mom is pretty mundane.  Mom used to be Mommy, but not for as long as I thought it would last.  In the beginning I wanted it to be Momma, but I'm not a Momma and my kids never took to that.  I am Mother once in a while when the teenager is being funny, but for the most part, I'm Mom.

 I wasn’t sure I wanted to be called Mom until circumstances made it almost impossible not to be.  If you had asked me twenty years ago if being called Mom was in my future, you would have received a slightly aghast response and probably would have walked away from the conversation wondering what on earth made me so against children in general.  Mom wasn’t in my head yet.

It is now.



My whole being swivels to meet every close-to-my-heart voice that calls out Mom, even when coming from the mouths of strange babes.  It’s like a dog whistle, that call of Mom.  My instinct has developed to orient myself toward any utterance of Mom, to run to the siren song of a child who needs my specialized and time-honored skills.  I am confident that I could stand in for the immediate need for a mom, but I’m all too aware that nothing will really come close to the real thing.

For every agonized-over name selected for a child, there’s Mom.

I think about children who don’t call one Mom, and how they struggle, whether by sorrow, or longing, or anger. Mom is a possession – “I have to be home at 9 or my Mom will freak out” – as well as one in a unit of many – “You are a good mom.”  Being a child with a mom, I can’t understand the loneliness I imagine that comes with not having someone to call Mom.

The idea of Mom as a name is not without its limits.  Nobody else except for my children and the occasional well-meaning doctor who needs me to find my wits while I’ve watched a sick or injured child suffer at arm’s length while I stand helplessly by can call me Mom.  It isn’t appropriate.  It doesn’t make sense.  I am Mom to two people only, people who have called me Mom probably more times than anyone else has called me by my real name.

This means that they’ve needed me more than anyone else.



Long after they need me for anything tangible, long after I’ve washed their last t-shirt or located their last pair of sneakers or helped them with their last page of homework or made their beds for the last time, I will still be Mom.  In the years that follow us sharing a space, they will still call me by that name.  The one that only they use.  The mundane, shortened name that I have been called in various voices over the years.

It has become who I am.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #2: The last time someone called you a name.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall Into Old School Blogging!

(I can’t believe I used that title for this blog post.  It’s so corny.  It’s candy corny.)

We’re a month into fall, people, and things are getting crazy! Happy Fall, Y'all!

Pumpkin spice is oozing out of every product in the land, and children everywhere are getting that glazed “where is the sugar” look in their eyes as they gear up for the biggest candy holiday of them all, Halloween!  Trick or Treat!  It’s the most wonderful day of the year! For dentists!


I like fall okay, I guess.  It’s nice.  Schools open up so kids can return to their natural environment and the weather gets cooler and everybody expects comfort food so there are no judgments against eating mashed potatoes and apple crisp every day.

But still, I have to really convince myself that fall is good, what with the end of beach season and the advent of football on every. single. television. everywhere.

OMG I hate football so much.

But at least fall isn’t winter.  Suck it, winter.

Anyway, there are quite a few things I like about fall, if it has to be a thing.  After all, nobody can be expected to wear a bathing suit year-round, unless you live in the tropics, which I am totally down with doing anytime soon.

I’m sure they have pumpkin spice flavored something in October in the tropics.  You don’t need cool weather for fall. 

Anyway, to celebrate my third-favorite season, here’s some of the things I like about fall, OSB style.  Because even third-favorite seasons deserve a little celebrating.



1. What is your favorite Halloween candy?  Duh – Butterfingers.  There is no other kind of Halloween candy.  Next question.

2. What is one of the worst “treats” you ever received in your candy bag?  Popcorn balls.  Sugar and popcorn sound like a winning combination until you bite into one of those suckers and rip open the roof of your mouth.

3. What was one of your favorite costumes you wore when you were a kid?  In the 6th grade my friends and I dressed as punk rockers for Halloween.  We didn’t trick-or-treat, but sat in our school gym for a costume contest.  I thought I looked amazing.  I really just looked like a sad prisoner.

That's me, keeping it weird since 1984.

4. How about your favorite costume as an adult? My husband and I dressed as Popeye and Olive Oyl one year, and we Rocked. That. Look.  We’ve never been able to top those costumes.


5. What scares you most on Halloween? Spiders? Zombies? Axe murderers? Eyeballs in a jar… (or something else)?  Ghosts.  Ghosts are sneaky, and I don't appreciate them.  I’m also deathly afraid of running out of Butterfingers.

6. So then, what is your favorite scary movie?  I’m no fan of scary movies, but if I had to choose one it would be Poltergeist, despite my fear of ghosts.  It’s really the only scary movie I will watch, mainly because I’ve seen it several times.  I know what’s coming, which is important to me when watching scary movies.  I like to know when to jump and when to cover my eyes and when to leave to get a snack because oh, hey, the part where he peels his face off is coming up.

7. What is your favorite part of the Thanksgiving meal?  Whoa, we really skipped ahead a little, didn’t we?  Let’s see…. favorite Thanksgiving food.  How about stuffing?  It’s the ultimate comfort food, made almost entirely of bread.  I like to make sandwiches using leftover stuffing, which you might think is redundant but it most certainly is not.

8. What is your favorite piece of clothing or accessory to wear in the Fall?  Like most normal Americans, I wear layers of clothing in fall.  I feel like I really get a bang for my buck with all the clothing I can wear at one time.  In summer you’re really just wearing one or two articles of clothing.  In the fall, you can wear up to six or more pieces of clothing, which makes me feel better about having so much clothing.  I like to wear jeans, a shirt, a light sweater or jacket, a light scarf, socks, boots or cool sneakers.  It’s a lot of clothing at one time.

It's no coincidence that clothing and claustrophobia are practically the same word. Clothing.

9. What is your favorite pie?  If you do not like pie I will forgive you but then what is your favorite Fall dessert?  My favorite pie is all the pie.  Blueberry is my absolute favorite but I will make do with coconut cream, chocolate, cherry, pumpkin, and graham cracker.  What is graham cracker pie, you ask?  Well, I’ll tell you:  I. Don’t. Know.  I grew up eating it at a local restaurant, and I’ve never seen it since.  The restaurant closed down years ago, so now it only exists in my dreams.  And here on the internet, where nothing is ever lost.

10. Do you live where there are four seasons? If so, where is your favorite place to see the fall colors?  We live in an area where there are, in fact, four visible seasons.  I only have to raise my eyes a fraction to take in the beauty of the fall colors from where I am sitting right now.  A trip on any road to any destination in our area promises eyefulls of gorgeous red, yellow, orange, and even purple leaves.  It is pretty, and I like that I don’t have to make an effort to see it.  I imagine it's normal to me the way it's normal for other people to see the ocean or Mount Everest or The Sphinx every day.  Except I’m just seeing boring old leaves instead of something super awesome or mysterious.

Isn't the view majestic?

And then BAM!  Winter hits and everything turns brown and gray, and every molecule on your skin freezes and you develop a weird cold-weather rash that covers you head to toe until May.

11. What is your favorite fall tradition?  Sending children back to school is number one.  I also like to light candles, curl up with a book and blanket, drink tea and generally act like a cat who drinks tea and reads.  And all of the comfort food-related activities.

12. Is there anything else special about the Fall to you?  Not really.  I mean, I guess I should mention that my husband’s birthday and our wedding anniversary are in the fall, but, you know: third-favorite season and all.  You’re nice, fall.  Thanks again for not being winter.

Suck it, winter.


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I linked up, and you can, too!  

are hosting Old School Blogging this month.  

Grab the questions from any participating blog on the link-up, 
write your own post, publish it on your blog, 
and link up with Elaine or Nancy to join in!

Find Old School Blogging on Twitter at #OSBlog to join the conversation!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Spirits Among Us

The house I grew up in is an old house.  It was built right around 1900, old enough even when I was a kid to warrant stories of inhabiting ghosts. 

Our family used to sit in the living room together on weeknights, watching TV.  We watched game shows and sitcoms, mostly.  Once a week we watched a show about strange things that happen in real life, stories of unexplained events and supernatural things.

I remember being riveted when the show featured ghost stories.  This was the era of movies like Poltergeist and Ghostbusters.  Children had been indoctrinated into the world of ghosts for years through traditional stories and books and cartoons about friendly ghosts, and at every mention of ghosts, I was transfixed.  That a person could still be around after death was a mysterious and easy idea for a kid to ponder.  I’d sit on the couch and feel the tingly sensation of being terrified yet not wanting to miss a misty reenactment of a real person’s ghost encounter.  We’d watch the images of a deceased loved one at the foot of a bed, shrouded in white, reaching a cold, transparent hand out to the person he or she was visiting and I’d shiver, hoping against hope that it wouldn’t happen to me in our creaky old house.  After the show was over, I’d tear through our dark dining room and up the stairs to outrun a languid specter.  Later, I’d lie in bed, eyes squeezed safely shut against the possibility of one of my dead-and-gone ancestors floating around my ceiling and waving hello.

Eventually I was convinced that ghosts lived in our house.  Every run through the dining room and up the stairs was a race against the spirit world, every cool draft through a window an old relative visiting from the afterlife.  Hands and feet stayed safely tucked into blankets and did not hang over the edge of the bed until the morning light banished all phantoms.

My mother enjoyed thinking about otherworldly things.  She read dream interpretation books and told stories of strange things happening in the old house that she grew up in, and shared that she would not be frightened if someone from the past showed up at the foot of her bed.  She would welcome her visitor and try to decipher what it was they wanted to tell her.

I did not share her musings.  I considered that if a specter showed up on my bed I would die of heart failure on the spot, and prayed that God would lock any door from the spirit world that had access to my room.

Luckily, I grew up ghost encounter free, never seeing a spirit within the walls of our old farmhouse, nor did I hear or see objects move around on their own.  Sometimes people would come to visit and maintain that they heard unexplained sounds coming from the walls of our house.  There are no ghosts here; probably just mice, we’d scoff.

Living in a house that my husband and I watched being built, and most definitely not on top of a graveyard, I harbor no beliefs that ghosts reside in our current home.  Strange sounds are the noises a settling house makes; changes in temperature outside makes the walls snap, crackle, and pop.  Having children around guarantees that things will not be in the order I left them.  I see moving shadows and light out of the corner of my eye and know that it is the flicker of the sun off a neighbor’s car window, the breeze stirring up fallen leaves in our yard.

But we also have a dark dining room between our living room and bedrooms, and you better believe that when the house is quiet and it’s time for bed, I’m running up those stairs as fast as I can.




*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #5: Write about a time you thought there was a ghost.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Old Fool

This post is my response to a question that is bopping around in the blogiverse: Is Blogging Dead?  Bloggers, you know what’s up.  Non-bloggers, as always, thank you for reading.

* * *

As far as bloggers go, I am of the old school.

When I started blogging, writing was the focus.  I harbored a dream that I hadn’t yet had my big break, and that publishing houses would stop at nothing to get me under their roof after reading one of my missives. 

That dream crumbled about a month into blogging, but by then it didn’t matter; its hooks left permanent marks on my psyche.  Staring at my own words on a screen was intoxicating; never mind they were for an audience of one.

Not many people knew about the blog then; keeping it quiet preserved my genius fantasies.  Trial by anonymity seemed safer than revealing my self-importance to family and friends.  A regular fan base was necessary for back-up, proof that I had something before letting loved ones in on what I’d been up to.  This optimistic plan disintegrated when the first comment from a stranger threw me into a tailspin – I was convinced a stalking scenario was brewing.  Finger hovering over the ‘delete blog’ button, I wondered if Ernest Hemingway ever felt this insecure.

An early blog post, accepted for publication to a website, boosted my confidence.  Eventually, the blog came into the light and encouragement via fellow bloggers and loved ones kept me going.  Sharing stories was something I loved to do, and other bloggers were touchstones, giving me virtual pats on the head while I ran headlong into the jagged edges of the internet.  I settled into a corner and continued to plug away, some days spending hours writing words that wouldn’t see the light of day, all the while checking in with fellow toilers who live similar lives all over the world.

This trajectory is not atypical for most people.  We find our place among those who are like us.  Bloggers read and share each other’s blog posts.  We find each other on Facebook.  We are each other’s reader base, clients, and friends.  Some of us are busier at blogging than others.  For some, this is a paid gig, and for others, it is a hobby that takes a backseat when life gets busy.

For me, writing a blog was a hopeful start to a writing career – I thought I’d be Stephen King by now.  As years pass I settle into the realization that I haven’t done the work consistently in making this my job.  Writing comes after many other responsibilities.

Blogging, though around for a while, is a new frontier.  The landscape changes quickly.  There are many lists of things you can do to have a successful (read: money-making) blog.  There is no one formula.  The current trend for blogs is to tell stories or arrange your website to earn cash.  You can sell a lifestyle, using words in titles and content that draw the most click$.  I choose to tell stories using my own words.  It is the slow lane to little money, and the fast lane to none.

Monetization is the name of a blogging game I haven’t played well.  I try to read articles on how to make your website work for you and click out a few paragraphs in.  Commencing a blogging education today is committing to riding a wave that never ends.  I’ve dipped my toe in the water: a few ads earn about a dime a day.  Reviews net a few dollars and some personal items. 

Blogging conferences are held where bloggers network, pass out contact cards, and link up with brands to promote themselves and learn how to make their blogs noticeable and thus more successful.  Bloggers sit in on informational sessions, learning how to make their blogs stand out.  The sole conference I attended was really for writers, where I chose to ignore branding and marketing sessions in lieu of tips on how to improve my writing.

I’ve only been doing this for five years.  It’s not a lifetime.  Spending an hour or two a day on an activity does not a career make.  I like to write about myself and my family, share amusing snippets of life.  Building relationships with people around the world is a nice bonus, a welcome reminder of my cherished pen pal days.

Throughout all of this is something that I relish: connections.  Writing to get words out is one thing, and writing for money is another.  What I really love about having a blog is that it links me with others.  We have the power and the space to start conversations that otherwise wouldn’t exist.  Relationships begin and are encouraged through typed words.  They don’t have monetary value on their own.  The value is in the words and what they mean to us, together.

Is blogging dead?  Not here.  Here, you will see words on a screen.  I might be an idiot who hasn't cashed in on the 1,000 ways to make a fortune online, but I’m okay being that person, that old-school blogger.


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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Don't Get Me Started

“Why do you hate me?”

This question was a common one flung at me during our early marriage.  I’m particular about certain things that my husband is more relaxed about, and I bring them up with him, every time.  One of my many charms is that I allow few infractions to go unmentioned in our home.

Did you use my toothbrush?  Please don’t put your feet on me.  Why are there drops of pee on the floor?  There are wipes in every bathroom.  Clean up after yourself! 

For my husband, anything other than praise is a problem; in the absence of admiration there must be hatred.  Creating a perpetrator-victim scenario is a logical solution. 

“I don’t hate you,” I used to defend myself.  Hate my husband?  Crazy – hate is such a strong word.  I love him, devote myself to his care and companionship.  Hatred is not a feeling I associate when thinking of my spouse.  But I’ve asked him not to put his feet on me dozens of times, and “I just don’t want you to use my toothbrush.  I think it’s disgusting.” 

Ten or twenty times defending my natural state to him, and I started to rethink things.  I flew off the handle more often; I became grouchy.  There were times when I entertained hate.  Then I realized that his obliviousness to my desires and subsequent reactions to my complaints were the real problems.  I couldn’t accept the overstep, but I stopped feeling defensive and refused to play into his game of guilt.  He knew I didn’t hate him; he was just trying to deflect attention from his mistakes.  To allay actual hatred, I tried simple explanation.

“Why do you hate me?”

“Because you used my toothbrush again.  I’ve asked you not to, and you keep doing it.”

Soon after, I appealed to spark self-awareness:

“Because I feel like you don’t listen to me.”

“Because I feel ignored by you.”

Growing weary with explanation and psychology, I tried extremism:

“Because you have a penis.”

“Because your presence makes me want to run away forever.”

“Because your behavior makes me want to shave my head and rip off your arms.”

After a while, I got tired of being grouchy about minor infractions, but I didn’t stop mentioning them.  Separate toothbrush baskets under the sink solved that riddle, but there was still urine on the floor.  And his feet kept creeping over to rub against my legs… 

Stop. Putting. Your. Feet. On. Me.

“Why do you hate me?”

“Because you’re dumb.”

“Because you can’t sing.”

“Because you’re not George Clooney.”

These days he doesn’t ask why I hate him.  He’s accepted that there will be certain things that he does that make me grouchy.  He has found the wipes, and he’s stopped most of the gross habits that disgust me, and sometimes, he just doesn’t care.  After all, we are different types of people.  He does something repugnant, I roll my eyes at him, and we move on.  We’ve also come to an agreement on some things.  For instance, if I put my feet on him, he won’t put his on me.

I don’t miss those “Why do you hate me” times.  Although I’m often wistful for the past I’m glad that those years are behind us.  We’ve put to bed most of the reasons why we might hate each other so much.

And we’ve learned that if you can still find love throughout the grouchiness, it’s worth a lot.

*******

This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #8: October 15 is National Grouch Day.  Share what makes you grouchy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Reading is Fun

The past few years, I’ve been a reading slacker.

Oh, I keep tabs on the books I want to read.  My Goodreads shelf of to-read books is crammed full; in addition to all the books I think I should read (like classics and best books of the year), every other book a friend recommends goes on my list.  I’m also a sucker for a good review, so anything wildly popular goes on there, too.  And don’t even mention all the free Kindle books that Amazon stocks.  It’s fair to say that I won’t get through all of the books I want to read in this lifetime.

Despite all this wanting to read, I’ve been listening to everyone else talk about the amazing books they’ve read, while I’ve slogged through just a few a year.  In the past I’d choose long books that take forever to read.  Then, to strengthen my will, I’d go off books for a while, needing a nice long break before picking up another ::throws shade at Les Misérables::

This year I gave up all that nonsense and went on a book-reading tear.  I gave myself a goal of reading two books a month, and let go lofty aspirations of reading literary tomes in favor of blowing through young adult fiction, Amish romances, and fun biographies.

Right now I’m in a phase of reading old books that I should have read but never did.  I finally picked up Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, a book I got as a gift when I was seven, and which I hauled through life and never opened.  Written in the late 1800s, it’s a gentle story about the poor Pepper family of five children whose days are spent helping their mother Mamsie, which is probably the most important thing for children to do in life.  The Peppers sew and bake cakes and help neighbors chop wood and whole chapters are devoted to activities like writing a letter and hanging up stockings for Christmas.  The whole family sees the world through bright shining eyes and each member is extremely polite and mannerly to each other and strangers, and they dressed well despite having nothing, and they appreciated the little they had, and they filled my heart with such joy that at times I cried.  I DID.  I’m so glad I never gave up this book.  I can’t wait to give it to my daughter when she moves away so it can sit on her bookshelf for thirty-five years, unopened.



Then I read Jane Eyre along with my son, who was given the assignment for English class.  I’d not read it before, not having the assignment when I was in school.  Its Gothic appeal caused me to finally see what the hubbub was all about.  I really liked this book, taking into account Jane’s feminist leanings and her strong moral core, and the fact that she was a sass talker at a time when women’s main occupation was finding a man, one who ostensibly didn’t want his wife to have a voice about things.  Jane was also a fine dresser, despite most of her clothing being long and black. Shockingly, my 14-year-old son did not like this book as much.

Now I’m in an Anne of Green Gables spiral, laughing and crying at Anne Shirley’s over-the-top poetic descriptions of nature in her small life, the chapter titles that just go right on ahead and tell you what’s coming (“Matthew Insists on Puffed Sleeves”) and Anne’s blathering on and on about what it is she’s imagining from moment to moment, usually dying romantically or finding fairies somewhere and generally exasperating yet stealing the hearts of every single person she meets.  She is 1900s Spongebob in red hair and blue muslin.  I’d also like to mention that once Anne’s caretakers get the hang of things (i.e., puffed sleeves), she is also quite the snappy dresser.

Reading these old books has transported me to a time when people had manners, dressed well and appreciated what they had.  They apologized, and held real conversations, and expected their children to do the same.  I’ve been thinking that everyone should take a page out of the last three books I’ve read and adopt some of this late 1800s-early 1900s behavior.  It sure would make daily life a lot more pleasant if people treated each other like fellow worthy humans instead of wild raccoons.

I missed this when I didn’t read.  To be taken to another world, if only for a little bit of time each day.  To laugh and cry and see what can happen if only in the imagination. That reading enriches your life is something that has been known forever, yet I let go this opportunity when I didn’t read as much.  I might stop reading oldies but goodies after I finish up with Anne (there are only so many children’s books you can read in a row, even with plain ol’ Jane Eyre thrown into the mix) but I’m going to keep going this year.  I’m up to 29 books already – maybe next year I’ll double my goal.

What have you read this year?  Share your favorites!

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Ten Things I Love About Football

If you know me, then you know one thing:

I HATE FOOTBALL.

I hate everything about it.

So why, you ask, am I bothering to write a blog post about the ten things I love about football?  Hate is the opposite of love, no?

Well, yes.  Yes, I suppose it is.  Hmmm.  There are any number of reasons why I would write a post like this.  Let’s explore them:

a) If I find ten things to love about football, then I will gain a new perspective and not hold so much hate in my heart about it.  Hate eats hearts, you know.  I do not want hate to eat my heart.

b) I like a challenge.

c) I’m trying to please my husband, who really does love football to the very core of his being.


This picture sort of makes me sweat a little.  PLEASE DON'T MAKE ME GO BACK THERE

Whoa, those reasons got more ridiculous as they went on.  Hold on while I compose myself.  This might take a while.

* * *

There are 10 things I can love about football, right?  RIGHT?  Let’s see, number one…

1. Football season is one of the shortest of the sports seasons.  August through January is typical for college football, and you get one more month for the pros.  If you're into high school football then you'll know that we have only about a month left in the season, which is 100% good news.  I know all of this because my husband tries to sneak football game watching on me every chance he gets, and I always generally know how much time is left until the last game is played.  If you understand math at all, then you'll realize that football is only played about 40% of the year.  Which means that there is no football for 7 months in a year. There are only 122 days until the last football game for the current season.  That's about how long the average person sleeps in a year.  Which is a better use of time if you ask me.

2. Football games are long.  When there’s a game on, I get about 4 hours to myself.  This means I can watch Netflix or learn the guitar or nap or shave my heels or do anything I want without interruption.  I encourage Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and even Thursday football games.  That’s at least 16 hours a week, people.  Think about the beauty of this situation.

3. Food.  Yes.  Football food is good.  Beer and wings and grilled sausages are good.  Even though those things are just as good without football.  Never mind.

4-10. 

* * *

That’s it.  I’m out. 

Three things.  I love three things about football, and they're even sort of lame things.  I Googled “Ten Things I Love About Football” to see if I liked any of the things that other people love about football. Competition, gambling, strategy, rivalry, and tailgating are popular reasons.  I don't love any of those things about football, and I can't even get behind items like "the men who play" and "all the tight pants." So I Googled "Ten Things I Hate About Football" and do you know what I found?

A bunch of articles on the reasons people hate soccer (which is understandable, I guess). Evidently there are dozens of reasons why people hate soccer but evidently no one except me hates stupid ol' American football. I could write an article about all the things I hate about football, but I don't feel like writing about football for a hundred years.  I really thought this exercise would be easy.

The bottom line is that football sucks, people.  It’s the worst and I hate it.


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This post inspired by:

Mama’s Losin’ It

Prompt #1: 10 things you love about football.