Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

I love the new Looney Toons.  LOVE.  I was not a huge fan when I was a kid, but now, Bugs and Daffy have never been funnier. 

Please don't tell my kids.


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eight Questionable Christmas Songs

Christmas is coming, and I have been spending an inordinate amount of time in my car driving from one place to the other, frantically trying to keep ahead of the flurry of activity that always precedes this great and all-consuming holiday.  As I cruise from one place to the next, I do it with the background sounds of Christmas music humming from my radio.

And with almost a month of Christmas music filling my ears, I have come to the conclusion that that some of these songs are really problematic for various reasons.  My short list of questionable songs that I'm listening to this Christmas:

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.  Not only does this song outline the events that led up to Grandma’s untimely demise that include her wandering outside after too much eggnog, it mentions the fact that her spouse is not so broken up about her death but that he spends the time after her passing playing card games and probably gambling as well.  The bouncy tune belies the fact that we are talking about a bizarre and tragic accident within a family who has obvious alcohol and gambling issues, as well as a callousness that is highlighted by the mere mention about what to do with Grandma’s gifts.  I’m sorry, but if one of my elderly relatives was killed by a reindeer, what to do with her unopened Chantilly powder and new flannel nightie would be the last thing on my mind.  I refuse to sing along no matter how exuberant this song seems.

Another Auld Lang Syne.  This song is admittedly one of my favorites, except for the fact that it paints a picture of two long-ago lovers meeting coincidentally and sharing some beers in her car.  She drives off after half a six-pack, leaving our narrator standing alone reminiscing about the past and reflecting on what might have been.  Hello, drunk driving.  Not cool anytime, but especially not at the holidays.  This song should be called Another DUI.

Baby, It’s Cold Outside.  A portrait of a young romantic couple parting for the evening; she needs to leave, he’s convincing her to stay.  Each time she gives a reason to leave (I’ve got to go home, my mother will start to worry, there’s bound to be talk tomorrow) he tries to trap her using fear, flattery, and guilt tactics (Oh, baby, you’ll freeze out there, your eyes are like starlight now, what’s the sense of hurting my pride?).   More drinks are poured, she wonders if she’s been drugged (say, what’s in this drink?), and I’m left thinking “NO MEANS NO, CREEP!  RUN GIRL, RUN!!!!”

I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.  Imagine being a child and spying to see what Santa brought you for Christmas, only to see your mother getting it on with ol’ St. Nick. Do you tell Dad?  Confront Mom?  On Christmas morning?  Not likely.  This poor kid probably stayed up all night simultaneously worrying about divorce and thinking about what life will be like at the North Pole, where all his friends would be elves.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  The line I find most problematic is with the telling of scary ghost stories along with the tales of the glories of long-ago Christmas celebrations.  Sorry, but scary ghost stories aren’t really what I’d call Christmas-appropriate.  Who are these people anyway?  How do ghost stories define a good time, let alone the Most Wonderful Time?  Wrong holiday, folks.  It’s Christmas, not Halloween.

Do They Know It’s Christmas?  This song seems to be in the right frame of Christmas spirit-mindedness, with its emphasis on reminding people to still care for those who suffer in the world, even at Christmas.  I imagine the songwriters wanted to establish empathy and a sort of philanthropic feel to this song, what with the urge to pray for those whose holiday is marred by fear and bitterness.  Then they throw in the line “Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you” and all semblance of charity is thrown out the window.  Is this what celebrities really think of us common folk?  What a bunch of jerks.

Here Comes Santa Claus.  This song ramps up the excitability of Christmastime for kids who anxiously await the presence of Santa in their homes each Christmas Eve.  But I can’t help wonder if the songwriters were having a little spiritual dilemma when writing this song.  Were they having trouble reconciling the fact that the emphasis on Santa might be taking away from celebrating Christ’s birth?  “Hey guys, all this talk about Santa.  Could we throw in something about God too, so we’re not alienating the Christian community? How about adding this line: ‘Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right.’  That should appease them.”  What does this make right?  The fact that parents are lying to their children about where their presents come from, the fact that Jesus is often brushed aside to focus on Santa, or that we are teaching our children that one day a year it’s okay if a stranger breaks into our homes?

The 12 Days of Christmas.  If my true love gave all this crap to me, I’d have a hard time finding any use for any of it except for the Five Gold Rings.  The rest is just a bunch of farm animals and servants.  Who’s going to pay these people to do their jobs after the holidays are over?  What a terrible gift.  I need eight maids a-cleaning, not milking, at Christmastime.  I would seriously question if true love was worth it if all these people and animals showed up at my house through the holidays.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Saturday Morning Delight

Slowly I open my eyes.  Several slivers of light shine through the openings in the curtains, and I notice that the double doors leading out of my bedroom are closed.  Those doors are rarely closed; we largely operate on an open-door policy.  As I come to a fully conscious state, I smile to myself as I realize the reason behind the closed doors.  I have been allowed to sleep in.

The clock says 8:43.  I lie in my warm bed another two minutes, then swing my legs over the edge, slip into my well-worn slippers, pull on a robe, and make my way out of the cocoon of the room.  The comforting smell of strong coffee greets me.  As I make my way downstairs I notice that I don’t hear any noises that usually accompany the three other people who share this house.  No sports programs blaring, no Spongebob hahahahahaha, no bickering.  I find my husband by himself at the table reading the paper with a cup of coffee and assorted other electronic devices that he gives each a glance before he looks up and smiles his good morning to me.

Good morning, I say as I reach for a coffee cup and fill it.  We kiss hello and I sit at the table and ask him the standards as I sip the coffee which brings the rest of me back to life.  How did you sleep, when did you wake up, what are the kids doing.

I consider my husband, whose early-morning commute to work has conditioned him to wake in the darkness. I don’t think that he minds; he has become a morning person.  The kids are in the basement watching TV and playing with Legos; that is why they are quiet today.  They love Saturdays as much as I do, probably more.  I marvel at the fact that during a week, they ask me to wake them up each day, and I do dutifully, bracing myself for tears or whining about not wanting to go to school, even though that rarely happens anymore.  On Saturdays, they get up by themselves before the sun lights the sky.  

What are your plans for today, my husband asks.  I don’t know.  I point to my coffee cup.  I cannot think about planning right now.  I rarely plan anything, anyway.  He is the planner in our house.  He could schedule the rest of our lives away.  I plan to do things like wake up, get a shower, eat toast for breakfast.  Years of raising children has taught me that even the best-laid plans will succumb to someone vomiting in the car or having a tantrum in the grocery store.  My planning skills have been weakened by the whims of people who need to be taken care of, not controlled by a calendar.

Right now I am enjoying my coffee and the quiet.  I’d like all of us to clean the house this morning, I offer lamely.

He smiles at me.  That sounds like fun, he replies.  I can’t wait to tell the kids.

I smile back.  Me either. 

I have satisfied his inquiry.  We have something to do today.  But as we go back to our coffee, and sit together, reading the paper in the quiet, I think about my warm bed and how nice it would be to be there right now.


This post is inspired by: 

Mama Kat's Writing Workshop 

Writing prompt #5: Saturday morning at your house…

Monday, December 10, 2012


I am not gifted in the art of gift-giving.

Giving gifts gives me anxiety.  The idea that someone will receive something that I chose for them, and the very real possibility that they will hate it, already have it, or worse yet, pretend to love it and then take it home where it disappears forever tweaks me out a little bit.

I am a sensitive sister, I know.  But the fact that each one of these scenarios has happened to me, in addition to the one time I provided a gift that I personally loved to an anonymous gift exchange and that it was received with jeers and laughter – everyone thought it was a gag gift; it wasn’t – leaves me with butterflies when the season of gifting comes around.

Forced gift-giving leaves me cold.  Exchanging names to buy for one person a gift, usually with a specific price point at which only fanatical shoppers with extraordinary couponing skills can find an appropriate and meaningful item, brings me to my knees.  When searching for a specifically priced gift, I scour stores looking for the price tag, and when I find it, I buy it.  No matter that I just bought a pine-scented candle for the friend who is deathly allergic to pine trees.  Look!  It was 50 cents off!  What a bargain.

In my quest for the perfect gift I’ve tried gift-giving websites where you input parameters about the person you are trying to gift, and it gives you an appropriate gift that promises to be perfect for that person.  Usually these gifts cost two hundred and ninety three thousand dollars, and I’m not Beyoncé, even though people say I look a little like her.

 I guess the reason why I am not a very good gift giver is because I am also not a very good shopper.  It takes me forever to find what I want, and I get overwhelmed looking for items that seem to hide in plain view.  I forget what I am looking for, and remember it only when I get home.  Lists don’t help.  The sheer number of objects out there makes my head spin.

I’d rather just give some cash.  It fits everyone, and I’ve never known anyone to not be able to use it.  Yet cash among friends at Christmas is considered tasteless.  When did we decide that cash isn’t an appropriate gift?  My husband and I used the cash we were gifted at our wedding to eat all the meals on our honeymoon.  Without the gift of cash, we might have been reduced to looking in garbage cans for our meals, making it a very different, yet no less memorable trip.    

Gift cards are regarded as thoughtless gifts, yet rare is the time that I receive a gift card and think badly upon the giver – I’m too busy thinking about what I’m going to buy instead of thinking that gift-giver as thoughtless.  After all, when I give gift cards, it is because I have no idea what a person has or needs, but at least I know where they like to shop.  Thoughtful, yes?

People try to help when I whine about my predicament.  They say, “Shop online!  It’s so easy!”  I laugh at this.  If you think going into a mall is overwhelming, think about the internet, with its fifty bajillion websites from which to choose the same item at 790 trazillion different price points.  Plus then you have to wait for delivery, which is not convenient for me since I tend to do all my shopping last minute.  They say “Stockpile gifts that can be given to anyone!”  Not for me – as a rule, I am against hoarding.  They say, “Give practical gifts!”  And I think of stamps and aluminum foil, jars of spices and a pound of good butter, all things that I would love, but that others wrinkle their noses at.  Plus, how do you keep butter from melting as it waits to be opened?

So what do I, the reluctant gift-giver, do?  Stress out about every event that comes where gifts are expected?  So far, this is my strategy.  That and just give gift cards and cash, and once in a while I will buy a gift that I know is weird and inappropriate.  At least it’s better than being the one who doesn’t give any gifts at all.  I've been that person too, and trust me, it stinks.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sweetie Sweet

My girlfriends and I play this game once in a while where we rate people as sweet or not sweet.  It’s kind of like a grown-up Mean Girls version of who’s cool and not cool, except we just talk about ourselves, and we call each other out in terms of sweetness.

Because even though we have the sense of humor of a pack of twelve-year-old boys, we’re past all that actual Mean Girls nonsense.  AND YOU SHOULD BE, TOO.

Sweetness is hard to come by these days, because the world is mean and many of us are jaded in response to it.  Sure, you could throw a rock in a crowd and bloody the face of a person who does nice things, but natural sweetness is difficult to find in people, mostly because we are too busy trying to put our best foot forward, Facebook perfection and Life Is Good-isms shining back at the hundreds of individuals we deem our “friends.”

We show what we want to show, and not the real part that has an ugly face in the morning until she’s had her first cup of coffee.

So am I naturally sweet?  No.  I’m not.  (Exhibit A:  The line above where I admonish you to stop being a Mean Girl.  A sweet person might not even go there.  I have to.  Stop being mean already.)

Not all of my friends are sweet, either.  Birds of a feather and all that.  But there are a couple of sweeties in my circle, those who others may scorn and snort at, but who I want to be around and who I wish would rub off on me more.  I almost don’t even care if it’s faked some of the time.

A sweet person sees the bright side of things, is a genuine encouragement, is easy to laugh with and listen to, and makes me feel as if I can say anything and she won’t automatically think what a terrible person I am, even if she doesn’t know me that well.  Someone who listens openly and smiles the whole time, who has hope in her voice and in her perspective.

To me, the unanimously unsweetened, sweetness is a refreshing burst of cool air in the face of smothering worry, inward judgment, and negative contemplation.  Sweetness is living life facing forward.  Sweetness is acknowledging imperfection and terribleness, but not dwelling on these things. 

Sweetness is not telling cruel jokes.  Not using foul language.  Not always losing your cool.  Not picking fights.  Not starting arguments.  Sweetness is living intentionally, choosing to help instead of hinder, acting instead of ignoring.

My sweet friends are flawed, for sure.  They have troubles that I don’t experience.  They dwell on things that don’t bother me.  They care where I don’t.

But still, they are sweet.  And for a sugar-addict like me, they are necessary. 

Are you sweet?  Do you value sweetness in a person?  Do you think sweetness can be genuine? 


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

It's a Wonderful Life FTW

Not much else makes an old movie-loving mother’s heart soar than having a moment where you realize that your kids also love old movies.

Unless that old movie which you realize they love is also one you love.

Unless that old movie you love is special because it is a movie which stars an actor from your hometown, who is the son of that hometown, who streets and museums are named after, and who you remember hearing about when your great-grandmother would describe where his father’s hardware store was located.

And in the moment that you realize your kids love the old movie that defines part of your history, and that they love it as much you do, your heart soars and you love this movie almost as much as you love your kids, and not because it’s just an old movie which they love because it stars an actor who is from your hometown, but because IT IS JUST A DARN GOOD MOVIE.

It's A Wonderful Life, kids. Get it.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Family Fun

The internet is loaded with ideas on how to squeeze the most enjoyment out of time spent with your family.  From trips to Disneyworld to outings at the local museum, day trips to the beach or quiet afternoons at the library or the movies, we are blessed as a nation to have as many choices for entertainment as there are individuals.

If your family is like mine, time and money are precious, and it is impractical to take many expensive trips or find time for outings due to other activities.  That’s why dinnertime is a great built-in time where your family can have fun, but more importantly, you can have fun at the expense of your family.
One of my most favorite and time-tested ideas always elicits amusement for me.  You can easily fit this five-minute jamboree into any day; in fact, I have prepared for this particular delight in the few minutes it takes for my children to get off the bus and walk in the door after school.

(Note: I like to employ this idea a day or so after hearing some considerable complaining about what I decide to make for dinner.)

 First, get yourself an old-timey cookbook.  Any one will do.  My favorite is a Better Homes and Garden cookbook I inherited from my great-great-aunt, published circa 1958.  It is in mint condition, either because she never cooked, or because she had two and kept this one as a collectible.  These days, it serves this latter purpose.  If you don’t have an old-timey cookbook, cruise the internet for some old recipes, preferably ones that contain words like “aspic” or “picnic loaf.”

Find a few choice recipes that call for ingredients clearly not in fashion anymore, or ones with horrible pictures with slices of hard-boiled eggs as a garnish for roast beef or maybe pictures containing cocktail wieners.

Make copies and distribute the recipes to each member of your family.  Tell them that you are looking to expand your cooking repertoire, and ask them to choose one or two recipes that you have selected because of their simplicity or because “they just sound good.” 

IMPORTANT:  Do NOT actually make these recipes.  You will poison yourself and your whole family.  Our modern-day palates are not designed for the culinary adventures a 1950’s cookbook brings.  Trust me.

An example of some recipes I like to use for Family Fun Night (please excuse the quality of photo):
My favorite instruction in this "Variety Meats" section is to cook ingredients like brains and sweetbreads the day that you purchase them.  You know, because after a day they are not fit for consumption.

These will elicit the most fun for everyone if you have picky eaters who have not touched anything but chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese for three years, or if you find a new pre-teen vegetarian in your midst who has taken it upon himself to “educate” you about the pitfalls of an omnivorous lifestyle.

Be creative.  Don’t just stick to the outline shown here.  Family Fun Night can be any night where, as your family members breeze in the door asking “What’s for dinner?” as you slave over a hot stove, sweat dripping from your brow, you can point out one of the recipes that you have circled using a red pen, or if you are really creative, some beef blood.  It is most important in this scenario to keep the illusion going as you all sit down to eat, even if you have prepared baked chicken or beef stroganoff.  The power of suggestion is powerful, and they will think you are trying to poison them with chicken-fried heart or liver loaf.  If someone in your family has a strong gagging reflex or temper tantrum about “eating trash,” be sure to have a camera ready to capture the magic.

All it takes is some forethought and minor prep time for good old fashioned family fun in the home, and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  Your family members will thank you for the good times you have shown them, and the memories made will last a lifetime.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Playing Favorites

I am not a literary genius.  I haven’t read many of the classics, though I wish I had.  My husband and I went through a period when we thought we’d read some classics, and bought some hardbound books to begin a library of intellectual proportions unknown to us at that point.  Together, we read exactly three classics: Pride and Prejudice, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and Little Women.  Those books took us so long to get through that we put them on a shelf when we finished and they collected dust until I put them in the giveaway pile.  We never made a silly pact like that again.

My taste in books can hardly be considered highbrow; I like reading novels, biographies, humor and historical fiction.  I read books that everyone was talking about three years ago.  I have a stack of magazine subscription cards scribbled with titles of books that I read about in magazines and hear about on TV that I mean to read but probably never will. 

My favorite books are varied and decidedly not intellectual, though I dream of rattling off poetry and having real discussions about literary figures, real and imagined.  In the movie Sabrina she says that her father became a chauffeur so he’d have more time to read.  That thought has never left me; what a wonderful, simple choice.  He probably read things like War and Peace and Moby Dick and others I can’t think up on the spot because I am not a literary genius.

When I was a kid I loved Judy Blume.  I read Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing over and over; I truly identified with Peter, who was a serious kid and a little curmudgeonly at nine years old, just like me.  And who lived in New York City, to boot.  Then came Margaret.  Are you there God?  Good Lord, this girl had issues.  And I had every one of them too.  From questions about religion to the anticipation/terror of puberty, I read this book and saw myself on every page.

I also loved this book not on any class reading list called Anna to the Infinite Power, about a girl who finds out she is the product of a cloning experiment.

In high school I fell in love with Holden Caulfield.  The Catcher in the Rye was one book out of ten I was expected to read one summer break before hitting the ground running in an advanced placement English class.  I read and re-read Catcher, but never got around to reading the rest of the others.  I had to inform my teacher that I didn’t get the work done over the summer and started school that year in a regular English class, wistfully watching the AP kids walk into their classroom, the classics under their arms and filling their brains. 

I spent the rest of high school reading Sassy, Seventeen, and YM magazines.

During college and grad school, I rarely read anything that wasn’t assigned, though I blew off one whole day of work and office hours sobbing through The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard.  I also swiped my mom’s Rosamunde Pilchers over breaks and found a home in Coming Home.  That book is beloved and I read it at least once a year until my daughter was born.  Haven’t heard of it?  It’s because it’s not a literary masterpiece.  

These days I re-read in anticipation of a sequel or movie release, as in the case of all the Twilights and Harry Potters.  My latest re-read was Life of Pi, also one of my current favorites, and despite the many, many OBVIOUS hints I’ve dropped to my husband that I want to see this movie, I still haven’t seen it.

I also re-read Catcher recently, where I realized what a creep Holden Caulfield really is.

Atonement, The Alchemist, Water For Elephants, Ken Follett’s epics, anything by Chelsea Handler, David Sedaris or Anita Shreve; these are my favorites these days, and while they may not be classics, the more I read, the more favorites I find. 

What are your favorite books?

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Monday, November 26, 2012

So Soon

It's THAT time already?

I guess when you wait until summertime to put the winter accessories away, these things tend to sneak up on you.

Hats and scarves and mittens, oh my!

Friday, November 23, 2012

In Which I Offended The Lead Singer From Gin Blossoms

Life is full of awkward moments.

If you’re like me, life is defined by awkward moments.

My early youth was highlighted by an incident in which I wore a white bathing suit which, when wet, became invisible.  As I emerged from our backyard pool and my brother pointed out the obvious, I tore into the house to hide, covered my bits with a towel, and spent the rest of the day inside.

Elementary school is remembered as a time when, as a cheerleader and head of the line, I pranced out onto the gym floor at halftime at a basketball game.  My ponytail and cheerleading skirt bounced gaily together as I kicked up my heels, ready to perform a dance number that we had practiced to perfection.  As I turned to jump and face the audience, hands on hips, my huge smile froze into a grimace as I realized that none of my fellow cheerleaders had followed me out onto the floor.  I was standing in the middle of the basketball court all alone.  It was just a timeout, not halftime, and it was NOT time for me to dance.

Ahhh, the teen years.  I’m not sure which uncomfortable memory is more defining, the one where suddenly starting my period at school was alternately horrifying and embarrassing, or the one where, as a member of the Color Guard in our marching band, I was still made to march during the Homecoming game even though I couldn't twirl a flag because I had a cast on my arm, or the fact that I also attended the Homecoming dance all dressed up with said cast on my arm?

Awkward moments in college were propelled by alcohol and often blossomed into indiscretions, as I said and did things that if dwelt on even now I wince painfully.  Some were just plain funny.  A girlfriend and I had the opportunity to meet the 1990s group Gin Blossoms at my college after a concert.  As our turn came to meet the band, I sidled up to the lead singer and mused that I wish he could take me home with him.  As he demurred politely I realized what I had done.  He thought I was flirting, and I explained that I wasn’t really into him or his band, and that I was jokingly asking for a free ride back to Arizona where they were from because my boyfriend at the time lived there.  I watched the playful look in his eyes turn to annoyance and then abject hatred as me and my girlfriend screamed off into the night, hysterical at the discomfort of the whole interaction.

As an adult the awkwardness continues.  Parties and gatherings are opportunities for me to put my foot in my mouth, like the wedding reception where I hashed out the details of childbirth and after birth events, or at the church picnic where I wrongly assumed a fellow conversant and mere acquaintance knew about a minor transgression my son had recently made regarding his undergarments, and gave details that no one should know.  The looks on people’s faces are precious when they hear me blather on about something totally inappropriate to the situation and utterly confusing in every way.  People just don’t know what to do with one as awkward as me.

And I can’t for the life of me figure out how to be any other way.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

I am a drunk walker.

Oh, I’m sorry, you don’t know what that is?  Well, it’s because it’s a term I made up. 

A drunk walker is one who walks as if she is drunk even when she is not.  The person can be walking along, and then all of a sudden lose her balance and stumble, or twist her legs a la Bambi on Ice.  I can barely cross a room without falling down or stumbling over something, like my feet.  Every trip down stairs is a courageous act.  I’m not afraid of heights, but I avoid them because if I’m not tethered, it is likely that I will fall to my death. 

This lack of sure-footedness is hereditary.  My grandmother is also a drunk walker.  Some years ago she lost the vision in one of her eyes, so she has no depth perception, which makes her even more of a drunk walker.  It became more of a problem for her as she aged, because of breaking legs, hips, and ankles and all of that, which not funny unless you think it’s hilarious when elderly ladies fall down, and in that case you are rude.  I have passed the gene to my son, who has a rare talent of standing still and suddenly falling to the floor in a loud cracking heap.

And that is funny.

The biggest problem with being a drunk walker is, naturally, the heightened chance that you will hurt yourself.  At any given moment I will have an angry bruise sneaking a peek at you from under a sleeve or pant leg.  It’s grotesque.  Likewise, at any given moment I will injure a toe or ankle, causing a limp that lingers for days.

The other problem with being a drunk walker is that people may assume you’re drunk when you’re not.  I can be drinking water at a party and still hear comments like “whoa, feeling good, aren’t we?” and “yo bartender, cut her off!” as I struggle to stay vertical.  No one believes that a person who stumbles so much is totally sober.

And there’s not much you can do about that but humor people and carry a bottle everywhere.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Laying It Down

Lately the kids have been testing the waters.

Of my good graces and self-control, evidently.

One tween begets another, even if the other is not yet a tween.

Attitudes and talkback and eye-rolling are contagious.  Mother definitely doesn’t know best, and every utterance elicits a strong negative reaction: violent opposition, downright defiance, even tears.  I run a prison here.  They are serving 18-year sentences.

Schoolwork, while important, can be done at any time.  Any time that is not Mom’s preference, that is.  Bedrooms are not messy, even though you can’t see the floor for the clothing, and every surface is covered with junk.  Reading and instrument practice has already been finished, although books are not to be found and the air is void of music.  Only one hour of the two-hour computer allowance has been used, even though the computer has been on since seven-thirty a.m.  Promises have been kept; friends are waiting for their playmates.

It is enough to make the most patient of parents close her eyes and pray for deliverance from aggravation as well as the temptation to respond with her own tears and denial that things really aren’t so bad and that this behavior can be let go.

But it cannot be let go.  Responsibility needs to be learned.

A calm demeanor and firm, choice words are required if behaviors are to be changed and lessons taught.  Swaying from the rules or allowing negotiations are not advisable actions.

But it happens.

Humanity takes control and weariness sets in.  Negotiations are tolerated and other, future promises are made.  The homework will be done.  I will.  I know.  I am.  After.

I close my eyes again, defeated.  They have won again.  I can’t even face myself, nor can I make sense of what just happened.

And yet, as I watch them escape into the fresh air, smiles on their faces, free from their sentences for an hour, the mood lightens.  The air is silent again, and I lie down.

I will do better next time, I promise.  I will.  I know.  I am.  After.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Get It Together

Adults are supposed to be with it.

And by with it, I mean, have it together, know what’s going on, able to do things, get things done. 

At least that’s what I used to think, back when I was hilarious.

As an adult, I have never felt so inept in certain situations, because I have spent a lifetime seeing other people get things done.  My ineptitude comes primarily in the form of remembering.  Remembering not dates and names, but daily tasks, like putting on deodorant and making dentist appointments for my family.

Wait.  What were we talking about again?

As an adult, I cannot remember anything.  I blame it on the children, of course.  Mom brain is such a tired cliché but as I always say, clichés are clichés because they are cliché.  And again, cliché.  I have spent so many brain cells trying to keep other people alive that I have no more to spare for my own survival.

My husband is at the end of his rope with me.  Just the other day we went out to lunch, and as we were driving to the restaurant we discussed getting gas for the car and going to the bank and the hardware store.   After lunch I forgot about our errands.  As I drove away from the restaurant on the way back home, he reminded me of the errands, and re-routed me to the bank.  After the bank, he steered me to the gas station, and again to the hardware store.  Once in the store, he told me that he was going around back to pick up his purchase, and left the store.  I strolled outside to get in the car, and was more than a little nervous that the car wasn’t there.  I wandered around the parking lot in circles until he picked me up at the curb. 

At that point I guess he figured that if he was ever going to get home in a timely manner, he needed to be in charge.

It’s particularly bad with the children, and affects my validity as a parent.  Recently we punished our son for something.  I say something because I’m not sure what it was.  I know that the punishment was that he couldn’t hang out with his friends after school for a week.  Was it this week or last week?  Or was it no electronics for the day?  All I know is that my son was supposed to be punished, and he hung out with his friends after school twice this week AND I gave him extra time on his electronics yesterday.

And how many times do I open the dryer and find an old load of laundry in there?  When did that…?  How did I go without…?  Didn’t anyone notice…?  Sigh.

Maybe it’s not normal.  Maybe I’m regressing.

Maybe I’m not really quite an adult.  The time I spent eating candy and looking up funny pictures on the internet today seem to point in that direction.

Maybe I'd be more productive if I didn't
waste so much time taking self-portraits.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

So last weekend we rented movies because we didn’t have any plans for the night and God forbid we don’t have any plans for the night.  OMG WE HAVE A FREE EVENING WE HAVE TO MAKE PLANS

Says my husband.  Not me.  Ever.

Our entertainer for the night decided he’d venture out to the Redbox to rent a couple of movies because we don’t have Netflix or any other kind of home movie rental business that requires a monthly fee, because we are cheap bastards.  He returned home with one family style movie to watch from the hours of 7 to 9 pm, and one adult only movie for 9 pm on.

And not that kind of adult movie, ya pervs. 

Anyway, the two movies that were on deck for the evening were:  The Amazing Spider-Man and Magic Mike, two gloriously current movies that none of us really cared about seeing.

Yeah.  My husband rented Magic Mike for us to watch after the kiddies went off to bed, presumably because he thought he’d gain some side benefit from his wife viewing a movie about sweaty men taking their clothes off.

Hold up.  Let me clarify something that you may not know:  Magic Mike?  The movie that my husband rented for us to watch together?  Is about male strippers.  Holy Patrick Swayze, Chippendale Batman.  I am so not into watching strange men take their clothes off.  Never mind that I loved The Full Monty back in the ‘90s when it was the funniest movie about male strippers I’d ever seen in my life.  Or the only one.  Because male strippers are the worst. 

Now look here.  I am quite aware that there’s a little revival of the female fantasy genre in the arts going on today.  First all the vampires.  Egads, so many.  Then Fifty Shades of Come On Now, Seriously?  The soft porn industry has squealed into our living rooms with a book series that women are embarrassed to be seen reading at the community pool.  These books have their own wing in every airport bookstore.  Now we’ve got Magic Mike taking up space in my brain.  Really?  This is what women want?

Okay.  Maybe women do want these things.  I could be the outlier.

But listen up.  Give me a movie about a good-looking smart guy who takes care of business and tries to take on the world, and another one about a good-looking dumb guy who needs to be taken care of by everyone else, and my preference is crystal clear.  

Monday, November 12, 2012

Reading For Life

As I sat across the table from the shy, blond boy, he stared at the flashcard I flipped over from the pile on the desk between us.  On it was a word I had been reading since before kindergarten.


“Tuh, tuh, tuh.”  He sounded out the simple word.  “Tuh-uh. Oh.” 


I gritted my teeth.  We had been over this word several times just a few minutes ago.  Try again, I said.

He looked at me and said again, “Toe.”

No, I said.  It’s To.  Like I went TO the store.

Oh, he said.  To.

It was 1990.  I was in high school, and I had volunteered to be a helper for students in our school who needed extra practice with reading.  This boy was only about a year younger than me.  I didn’t know him.  In fact, I didn’t remember seeing him in the hallways before we worked together.

In 1990, I had no idea that kids my age couldn’t read words like to, and here was one right in front of me.

The boy was quiet and polite.  He worked hard, and even though it was frustrating for both of us when he messed up words like here and his and are and go, he knew cat and dog and I and a.  He went silent when he got really frustrated, but he never complained or gave me a hard time, which I appreciated.  I enjoyed spending time with him.  His triumphs over the words became my victories, too. 

We worked together for a semester, and when my schedule started filling up with courses that prepared me for college and beyond, my time helping this boy with reading was over.

I never knew if my helping him ever really helped him, if he ever really became a reader.  What I do know is that I learned that not everyone experiences the privilege of reading.  During the weeks we worked together, I learned empathy, patience and humility.  I remember seeing him in the hallways and at lunchtime after our time together that year, and then I never saw him again. 

I have been reading since preschool.  I have memories of reading books, real memories that shape how I view the world and people in it, and secondhand memories like when people tell stories about what you did when you were little.

Even though my memory is foggy, I still have the book that I read to my grandmother, who still recounts with a sweet smile how I read to her about the ten little animals who were “bery, bery cold” so many years ago, when I was three.

I remember “borrowing” some hardbound Peanuts cartoon collections from the old seamstress who sewed together my dance costumes.  I read those books until they were just tattered pages.  I read an old copy of Grimm’s fairy tales that my mother had from when she was little.  I remember climbing the steep hill to our neighbor’s house in the summers just to read their collection of Dr. Seuss books, even though we had our own set at home.  My mother says she’d call the neighbor when I left the house and the neighbor would call when I got there.  Once there, I’d stretch out in front of their bookshelf and read for hours. 

When I got older I read Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary, then the Sweet Valley High series for tween girls.  I read horse books, choose-your-own-ending sci-fi books, books about ballet dancers and plucky girls who rise above struggles like health problems, abusive families, and tragic events.  In junior high and high school, I read Romeo and Juliet and The Iliad and The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.  I read and re-read.  And re-read.

I married a reader, and have two children who are readers.  Of course as a mother I’d rather them spend more time reading, and that time is never enough.  But they, like my husband and I, have the privilege of knowing how to read.  That lesson has never left me.

I am aware that many adults who live around us cannot read, that many children struggle with reading despite our public schools’ emphasis on reading programs.  Reading is something that not everyone has learned, and I learned this reality firsthand when I was in high school.

I can’t imagine how difficult life would be if I could not read.  From my meager experience in a literacy program so many years ago, I know that the daily struggles of not being able to read are burdensome, the pain and fear of not knowing what most of us take for granted is very real.  Had I not been involved then, I would take reading for granted today.

Literacy is the most important skill I own.  Without it, I would be a very different person.  Without it, the potential of so many people in our communities is buried.

The best part about literacy is that it can be taught.  Community programs are available.  In my community, the YWCA’s Adult Literacy Program is committed to help people learn this very important skill.  It’s a great program that helps adults learn basic reading skills, comprehension, even English as a second language.  You, fellow reader, can help.

It’s easy, it costs nothing, and will only take a moment.


-Enter your name and email in the space provided.

-Don’t forget to mark that you got there from my blog, About 100%

This is the best part:

An anonymous donor has agreed to contribute $1 to our YWCA’s Adult Literacy Program for every valid name and email address received.

There is no cap on the amount of money they are willing to donate.

I humbly thank you for your part in helping others receive the privilege of reading.  Now get out there and read something to celebrate! :)

This post is part of the Pottstown Mercury's Read and Write for Literacy Program

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Let's Get Something Clear

At any given moment, you will see at least one competition happening between at least two opposing sides: disagreements between friends, arguments between siblings, fist-fights in the schoolyard, boxing matches, football games, even a race to see who gets in front of a line of traffic, who can get to the store earliest to get the best deals.  Our favorite TV shows pit singers, dancers, even traveling pairs against each other week after week until there is one left standing.  The winner gets a trophy, money, a title.  Sometimes the competition is between one person and the world: we suffer through the incessant one-upmanship of a person who proclaims to be the best, the champion, the ultimate success, of a parent’s immodest crowing of his or her child’s accomplishments. 

In the weeks leading up to Election Day in our country, competition is everywhere.  Neighbors supporting opposing sides display signs for their favorite candidates on front lawns.  Presidential debates are not just discussions; we pore through the newspapers, read articles online and watch the news to see who ‘won’ the argument in a forum that formally defines no clear winner or loser.  Things get ugly.  Everyone aligns with a side; the other side is silly, wrong, immoral, unimportant, evil, the enemy.  We want to be the top, the leader, the winner.  When we win, too often than not bragging rights are assumed, and sportsmanship, common courtesies, and humility are forgotten.

Being a generally non-competitive person in a world where everyone seems to be at each other’s throat is a little isolating.  I wish there was less competition and more cooperation, less smack-talk and more kind words.  I respond to uninvited competition by refusing to play.  When someone tries to draw me into battle, I smile.  I’m not interested.  I’d rather do anything else than play a game just to see who wins.  Despite this wishing upon a star for more flowers and less fencing, I concede that there are situations where there must be a winner.  Like a presidential election.

JFK said “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer.”

I allow that for every competition.  Let the right answer rise to the top, the most deserving victor win.  Sometimes what is right is very foggy, and people cheat to get across the finish line first.  Sometimes what is right only comes out later, and the fraud isn’t always corrected.  Our world often allows more wrong than right, and our belief systems get twisted and warped until what is wrong seems right, and what is right is lost. 

And then sometimes, the right answer isn’t clear, and the best one has to do.
Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer,
but the right answer. 
Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. 
Let us accept our own responsibility for the future. 
-John F Kennedy


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday, Halloween style

The real reason I love Halloween isn't because I like spooky, scary things.

Sure, I get a little thrill hearing about Ichabod Crane and campfires and ghosts and vampires and werewolves and things that go bump in the night, but being scared isn't really what janks me up about Halloween.

It's not the food, what with the candy and the overwhelming freedom I give myself to inhale as much as I want in one sitting, even though that's almost like heaven to me.  It's not the comfort fall food like butternut squash soup, or roasted fall veggies, or pumpkin spice lattes, or meatloaf, or any of that.

Yes.  Meatloaf is a Halloween food.

It's not dressing up, although I do enjoy making the most triumphant costume out of the least amount of commercial Halloween materials possible.  Incidentally, I also enjoy giving myself the absolute least amount of time possible to come up with said costume triumph.

It's not carving pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns, because that is a worthless chore, hello, they sell pre-lit jack-o-lanterns made of plastic and whatnot that look real and you can use them every year if you want and you don't have to get all Jack the Ripper on a poor unsuspecting vegetable, which is useful in so many other ways, like pumpkin pies and pumpkin spice lattes.  Plus, if you sit at my table while we are making jack-o-lanterns, you're dealing with children who gag at the sight of what comes out of a pumpkin, and that's funny only until the gagging turns into the stuff that looks like what comes out of a pumpkin.

It's not the Halloween specials, even though I love Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin and can we all agree that these children have the strangest hair imaginable?

The real reason I love Halloween is because the word Halloween almost has the word weiner in it, and weiners are hilarious.

Because, you know, I'm twelve.

May your Halloweiner be an extra-happy, extra-spooky, extra-silly, extra-thrilling, extra-weinery one!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Stuff To Do While Waiting For A Hurricane

OK.  It’s officially Day 1 of Hurricane Sandy here in the northeastern United States, and things are going smoothly as we wait for the storm to arrive.  As smoothly as they can with a work-from-home husband and two off-their-school-schedule crankypants kids and a peace-seeking Mom in the house.

The past few days, as we’ve been swamped with preparations information and terrible news about flooding and storm surges and oh, heck with it, let’s just throw a full moon in there to make things extra nutsy, I have been noticing that more than a few friends have been mulling ideas on how to keep everyone busy when the rain and wind threaten our very existence.  Here are some things I came up with to keep my family occupied while the electricity’s still running and we are all stuck in the house because who wants to go out in a hurricane?  Crazy people, that's what I say.

Watch TV.  As long as we have electricity, the TV may as well be on.  Why not pretend it is still summer?  Crank up the heat, put on your favorite bathing suit, and lounge in front of yet another Spongebob Squarepants episode that you’ve all seen three hundred times.

Get the little moochers in the kitchen.  My son is in 6th grade, and this year he has Family and Consumer Sciences, which for the uneducated out there means Home Ec.  Today he will be wowing us with his culinary skills as he makes cinnamon and sugar coated pretzels.  Never mind that I sent the hubs out to get the pretzels; sacrificing his safety is worth the five minutes of peace that will happen while this amazing dish is prepared.  Maybe I can stretch it to ten if they do the dishes, too.

Read.  OMG we have five thousand books in the house; pick one up and stop crying about it, for Pete’s sake. Maybe you’ll learn something.

Let them fight.  Sometimes boredom and frustration just have to be let out, or it will explode in the form of sky-high therapy bills.  Give your angels a couple of basic rules to follow (no face pounding, no junk punching) and let them pummel each other.  Lock yourself in the bathroom with your iPod and turn the volume up high.  If your kids are like mine, they’ll stop fighting when they realize that their audience is gone.

Art projects.  When my kids were younger, this used to mean crayons and printer paper.  Now that my kids are older, art projects still mean crayons and printer paper.  If you are more creatively inclined (and I’ll bet you three bazillion dollars that you are), there are infinite ways to keep your kids occupied with crafts that include endless supplies like paper, pencils, markers, paint, dried pasta and beans, beads, glue sticks, string, feathers, yarn, fabric, and cardboard. 

Electronics.  iPods, iPads, computer games, gaming consoles, handheld systems, Kindles, smartphones; the possibilities are endless, just as my children’s appetites for these glowing mind-suckers.  When their screen time limits are up (and they should have limits), put them to work locating the appropriate power cords that lie tangled in a ball in the junk drawer so they can be charged up before the lights go out.

Do the laundry.  This is a prime time to teach your children the art of doing laundry; they will love to help you sort socks and knowing the correct way to fold underwear.  No, they won’t, but it is a character-builder.  If you really want to stretch out the teachable moments, wash and dry all the laundry ahead of time and pile it in a heap; wait until the power goes out to fold it.

Do your homework.  If your kids are like mine, there are still one or two assignments they’ve been saving for the morning they go back to school, to be remembered and panicked about five minutes before the bus arrives.  Get that crap done NOW.

Practice their music lessons.  Get your burgeoning Beethovens and Bachs to get some extra practice time in on their trumpet, flute, clarinet, piano, sousaphone, what have you.  Enlist earplugs as necessary.

Organize your stuff.  Empty cluttered closets, toy bins, dresser drawers.  Ask your kids to help you decide what you need and don’t need.  Ask them for “help” organizing their toys.  Utilize black garbage bags; trash two-thirds of what they don’t play with while their backs are turned.

Hopefully these tips will help you as you wait out the storm.  If it doesn’t, hopefully you have stockpiled enough booze to get through the worst of it.  The name of the game is to stay safe and sane.  Good luck!
Looks pretty peaceful so far, right? 
It's because it's happening outside of my house.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confessional Tuesday on Wednesday

I am a money scavenger.

The thrill of finding money in the world never gets old.  I’ve found so much over the years.  Our land is littered with paper money and coins.  Pennies are the most common money I find, of course.  It may sound ridiculous to pick up a penny off the ground, but I’m one cent richer than I was before I found that penny, and I didn’t have to do anything to get it.

I never realized my love of scavenging money until my kids were little.  I was appalled when they’d crouch down to pick up a penny lying in an oily puddle or stuck to a piece of gum, but invariably I’d take it from them and put it in my pocket, to be washed and returned to them when we got home.  I felt their triumph when they’d spy something of value thrown away like trash, and I started encouraging them to keep their eyes open.  My son once found two dollars on the ground.  He is hooked.

Not everyone feels this way about scavenging money.  My girlfriends and I walked through a parade route one evening.  I advised them to keep their eyes to the ground; with all these people around, maybe we’d find money.  They all laughed at me and rolled their eyes.

I didn’t find any that time.

But I have in the past.  On two different occasions I found a twenty dollar bill.  Just the other week I found sixty-five cents in my neighborhood.  Yesterday I felt a pang of jealousy as a woman, obviously also a money scavenger, stooped over in front of me in the grocery store to collect several coins strewn on the floor.

A money-scavenging kindred.  My competition.

When my husband and I traveled to New Orleans recently, someone was throwing stacks of what I assume were dollar bills off a balcony into the street, about a half a block away.  I was irritated because my husband had ducked into a street bar to get a drink.  As I waited for him I watched as it rained dollars down on the heads of the people standing in the street.  It took all I had not to run over and hip-check those people out of the way to collect mine, but I needed my husband as back-up.  By the time I got there, all the money was gone.  Not even one lone dollar was stuck in the gutter or in a crack on a window trim.  I had missed the ultimate money scavenging event.

Scavenging money is not only accomplished out in the world.  Today I found four dollars while doing laundry – one of my family members left it in his or her pocket.  Winter coats are always fair game for scavenging.  Other family members’ coats, of course.  I have only ever found money in my pocket one time. 

I still can’t believe I left money lying around.  Who DOES that?

Monday, October 22, 2012

It Was a Good Day

I approached the bank of check-out lines with my full cart of groceries, looking up and down the row for an open one with less than two people waiting.

Why can’t they ever have enough clerks working this time of day?  Surely they realize that people will soon be coming home from work and need to get supper on the table.  I had about twenty minutes before the kids would be getting off the bus, and it was starting to rain a little.  I didn’t want to hear the complaints if they got wet while walking the half block home.

As I became more and more annoyed at the growing lines, I noticed that one clerk was readying a checkout line to open.  As I steered my rig toward it, I noticed an old man nearby in an electric cart fumbling with his hands in front of him.

“Excuse me sir, are you in line?”

“No, I’m not.”  He looked up at me with a smile as he continued to struggle with whatever he was holding.  Most of his teeth were missing.  “Could I ask you for help with my wallet here?  I need to get my grocery card out.”

His dry, gnarled hands were clumsy; he couldn’t grasp the discount card that most stores these days require their regular customers to have in order to drive loyalty.  Like me, he had a wallet crammed full of them.

I leaned close to the man as I easily slid the card out of his wallet.  He smelled like a person who doesn’t bathe regularly.  I noticed that he was very old, maybe even as old as my grandparents, who are in their nineties.  Why is he alone?  Where is his family?  Doesn’t he have a companion to help him?  How is he getting home?

Thank you, he said.  He had one item in the basket of his cart.  I had thirty.  I offered to let him go ahead of me.  He refused.  I have to get my money out next, he said with a slow smile.  At least let me put it on the conveyor for you, I replied.

As the clerk finished up my order, I motioned for her to add his item to my bags.  Before he could protest, the cashier and I had finished the transaction and his bag was in the basket of his cart. 

Oh, you didn’t have to do that, he said.

I know, I said.  It’s my treat.  Although I think I stole your loyalty points, I joked.

Oh, no, he smiled.  I’ve been looking forward to this all week.  I had just bought him a bag of chocolate candy.  You made my day, he said.

As I waved goodbye, a little embarrassed as if I had gone too far, I thought: actually, it’s you who made mine.