Monthly Archives: April 2010

Laying my Youngest on the Altar?

Filling out my loan papers for grad school today. I have one week to decide what loans to accept, in whole, or if in part, exactly how much I want to borrow. Hmmmm. Puzzling. But as I got deeper into the paperwork, it got even more puzzling!
There is a section on the form that says this:
"ALL APPLICANTS ARE ASKED ON BEHALF OF THE HIGHER EDUCATION COORDINATING BOARD IN OLYMPIA TO ANSWER QUESTIONS A-C BELOW FOR STATE STATISTICAL REPORTING."
I understand the questions about my parent's education, or even race–Olympia wants to boast or whine about the diversity or the lack thereof in Washington state colleges. Whatever. (Don't you think we should all answer the race question by checking the "other" box and filling in "HUMAN" on the empty line? I dare you.)
I can almost even understand why they want to know the number and ages of my children. Almost…if I get really imaginative–Women returning to college have an average of 2.6 children under the age of 8, or something like that–but their names
What statistical purpose does the name of my youngest child serve???!!!
I sincerely hope they use the information I provided…hehehehe!

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Criminal Signatures


Steaming

What you are about to read is immature, vindictive, snide, and totally inappropriate; I will probably wake up in the middle of the night, overcome with guilt, and delete this post before morning.
My apologies in advance of the diatribe; sometimes a woman has to vent. 
Sometimes other women associated with said woman do such outrageous, self-centered, obliviously cruel, underhanded, impossible things that double–often triple–takes are in order. 
And then boast about it. 
Publicly and repeatedly–as if she actually thought I didn't know the facts of the matter.
My more sinister side wants to make this post public and roast said individual over the searing flame of sarcasm and cruel wit; my more cowardly and/or compassionate side will probably click on some sort of limited privacy setting.
Unfortunately, my true self–that core creature who believes that "that which ye do send out shall return unto you again"–will also probably just…quit while I'm ahead.
Maybe, that core creature, in a couple of days will even cork her indignation enough to reach out to said individual and find some sincere way to connect so that the next time I see her,  I can look her in the eye without snarling.
Probably.

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Pinata Police

Santa Clara County has decided to ban the inclusion of toys with certain fast food meals: if you order fries with your child's meal, then you don't get a toy; if you order apple slices, you do.
Personally, I'd love to see all small plastic toys banned from sale/trade/existence: they are unimaginative, obnoxious and wasteful–typical of the throw-away, materialistic mentality that is rotting our culture from the inside out.
But this law? Seriously?
You're going to specify, by nutritive value, how to package food? That my friends, is myopic government run amok.
By this standard:
  • All sugary cereals should be packaged in unappealing bags and boxes. 
  • Pinatas should be of dull and muted color and shape, or, alternatively, contain fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Birthday cakes should be monochromatic, sport no characters resembling toys, animals, or anything else that could be construed as appealing to children.
  • The contents of prepackaged Christmas stockings and Easter baskets sold to the public must meet minimum nutritional standards.
  • Department stores shouldn't be able to market any sort of holiday-themed treat aimed at children–no Halloween candy, no candy-containing valentines, no peeps.
  • Only 100 percent fruit and vegetable juices should be sold in colorful, child friendly sizes and/or ergonomically shaped beverage containers. 
  • Grocery stores shouldn't be able to place unhealthy snacks on the lower shelves of aisles at the checkout–clearly parents do not possess the ability to say no, and need regulations to protect their children's healthy eating habits.

On second thought, maybe parents should be stripped of all decision making powers, because, obviously, they are all more idiotic than the government members seated in the county of Santa Clara.

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Entranced

I am sitting. 
At a computer. 
(Most of the time I sort of run past my desktop–which is about five feet off the ground–pecking out a line here and there as I go.)
I have the angle of the laptop and the wires of my earbuds configured just right so that if I do not move, the music won't short out–sort of an awkward substitute for the iPod I do not own, but you take what you can get. 
With the volume all the way up, and my ear pieces wedged in tight, The London Symphony Orchestra has usurped every other sound in the neighborhood. I can't even hear the click of the keyboard on my lap. It's a sort of numbing experience.
I had forgotten how much I love Beethoven. 
I have opened my eyes just long enough long enough to open this browser and share the bliss; excuse me while I resume my trance…

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The Empty Mirror

Someone made a comment today that took me back. One of those comments that sting; make you examine yourself, your life, your goals. 

I have always viewed myself as a writer–first and foremost. There it is. I've said it. It's not something a woman likes to admit; especially not a mother of small children; people are inclined to pat your head and say, "Oh, isn't that sweet!" And so I write, but I do so quietly–and usually under another name because the things that sell are, frankly, not amazing, but marketable. 
But secretly, I think of myself as a writer that one day will use her own name, every time, because there will be no doubt, in anyone's mind, that I am a writer, then. Not like now. A closet writer. A writer that has to supplement her writing with other income, granted, but I am, at the very least, a legitimate writer.
Some of it sells; some of it doesn't. Some of it is just for me, just to clear the air, to examine the details of each day, to make sense of what happens.  But write I must; if I'm not writing, I get snappish and surly and nothing is satisfying and life is not worth living.
I remember, at a writers' conference I attended a few years ago, the keynote speaker said something along the lines of: lots of people like to think they are writers, but what they really are, are people who like to think of themselves as writers, not people who write. Writers, write. Period.
Today it was suggested to me that I am one of those people. Egad! That I am primarily destined for these other things (mother, teacher, child watcher, etc,) and that, as a sort of afterthought, I also happen to enjoy writing. 
Am I? A hobbyist? If I were really, really dedicated, if I really, really believed in the potential of my words, would I quit my job, waive the education, buckle down, and make my living wholly, and no longer in part, by writing? What, truly, is the measure of a writer?
And how much superfluous living is a writer permitted to engage in, before they are no longer considered "a writer"?
And why does this comment bother me so? Because I have a niggling horror that they might be right? That I have an inflated sense of my own skill? That I am not what I have always thought myself to be, and if so–if I am to strip myself of this identity, release myself from the insistent demands of the pen and the keyboard and the constant inner discontent with every manuscript–then who is that stranger in the mirror? 
I would not deny the significance of these other things that make me who I am–mother, teacher, bottom-wiper extraordinaire–if I could do just one of these things really, really well, I could die happy. (Okay, maybe not bottom wiper–that probably wouldn't satisfy…) 
What puzzles/frustrates me is this attitude that if I am a mother or even a teacher–if I put any sort of passion into any one role–that this somehow disqualifies me from being serious or skilled or even proficient at anything else. 

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With a Chisel and a Pen

I shortened my working hours a while back and I love having my evenings free; last Friday, then, I was puzzled to find myself restless after all the kids were picked up. I could not settle down and do anything worthwhile. Couldn't even get dinner started. 
Over the years I have learned that I feel that way when I am forgetting or I am unaware of something I should be doing. It's a cosmic sort of cattle prod. Sometimes God has to turn up the juice before I get the message, but in this case I was listening, so I took a deep breath and I asked, "What? What am I missing? What should I be doing right now?"
At that moment, my youngest child came up from the bus stop, and I had this thought. "I should take him to the doctor about those warts."
Warts? Really? Who goes to the doctor over warts?
But I have also learned over the years that if I ask God for direction, I had better be ready to follow–no matter where He leads. So I picked up the phone, called the clinic, and sure enough, my super-busy, impossible-to-see-on-the-spur-of-the-moment doctor, had an immediate opening. 
So I took off my apron, got in the van, and headed out Morgan and onto Potato Hill Road. Which means I was soon travelling over 45 miles/hour. 
My steering wheel immediately started jerking violently left and right; I immediately started to panic. I had exams Saturday morning–exams for graduate school, in another town, offered only a few times a year, for which I would need to leave at 5:00 a.m. I needed my van and the garage was already closed for the weekend! 
I slowed down to quiet the wobble; we visited the doctor; he told us what I already knew about warts–but also sent us for some medicine for a minor something else; in the parking lot I ran into an acquaintance. When I explained to her my transportation dilemma, she recommended a shop just down the street that should still be open. 
It was. They hoisted my van up on the lift and came back out moments later. "Your right front tire is covered with tar and gravel."
No charge. 
I came home, exquisitely grateful I had discovered the problem before 5 a.m. on my way to exams, and chiseled the road out of my tires before taking the thing for a high-speed spin. No jerking steering wheel. 
I made it to my exams with plenty of time the next day. And the essay portion asked me about a topic that would have been extremely difficult for me to crystallize and defend in the short time allotted.  If I hadn't felt that same discontent and unsettled feeling the week before, and ended up memorizing a short document as part of a mother/daughter challenge with my oldest child. 
Because I had done that, I had the entire essay already in my head. With references. All I had to do was explain it in my own words, and document my sources. Done. 
God hears and answers prayers. 
He watches out for us when we don't even know we need it. 
In case you were wondering.

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Formal Gag

This weekend my daughter went to her first dance. 
It was formal, but her group of friends decided to go gag-formal and so Saturday morning found us scouring the local thrift shops for the most hideous formal dresses we could find.
The result (of the two who stopped by my house; there were a dozen or so): 
 
Although, you have to admit that they can pretty much make anything look beautiful at this age! On the hanger, I thought the dresses were horrible, but every time they tried one on, it looked almost perfect–in a bizarre, dated sort of way.

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Hell, or Laundry?

Been exploring hell the last few weeks with Dante and Robert M. Durling. I never knew there were so many ways to land yourself in hell–nor that it was so well organized. Not really sure why I'm still reading it, except that after wading through one bolgia after another, I find myself going back.  There is the occasional brilliant turn of phrase and there's something mildly interesting about the variety and identity of the people to be found writhing there–and yet morbid curiosity would not be enough to merit the laborious deciphering the book requires.
There is something else. Something true, even when Dante writes about theories modern science has proven, without  question, to be false–things like the configuration of the earth, the function of human organs, and the method by which snakes reproduce–I know he's going off wacky science, and yet there remains some kind of resonant truth in the bones of his comedy. 
I haven't decided, yet, exactly what truth lures me deeper into the infernal pit with him, but I sense that it's waiting…and that I will have missed something essential to humanity if I do not continue. 
Blasted Inferno. I have laundry to fold…

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When “I’m Thirsty” Just Doesn’t Cut It

They say that you know you have officially reached adulthood when you not only look forward to bedtime, but you find ways to hasten its arrival. 
We all know children who fall short of that; my ten year old just recently explained to me that the reason he used to scream his tiny head purple for hours every night and resort to every anti-slumber trick known to children was that he was afraid.
"Afraid of what?" I asked. 
"Falling."
"How so?"
"Everyone always said that people fall asleep, and I didn't know where I would fall, but I didn't want to."
(And the first three or four years of your life, waking up sound of limb, didn't reassure you that this was a figure of speech? The kid fought bedtime like a demon until he was five years old.)
There are, of course, the stalling tactics every parent is aware of–the urgent need for food/potty/drink/even one more thorough toothbrushing–but there are more. Many more you would never know about unless you attempted to orchestrate naptime for a dozen or so preschool aged children all at once, and in one room:
1) Keep someone else awake: make faces, throw pillows–whatever it takes to perpetuate the cycle. Two or more children can feed off one another almost indefinitely with this. 
2) If the authorities that be position you so that you cannot see any other children, you can always cough, sneeze, burp, or, when the statute of believability runs out on audible bodily functions, you can always sing.
3) If singing is prohibited, hum.
4) If humming is prohibited, sing silently with the most dramatic facial expressions you can muster.
5) If your face gets tired, move something else: as long as your toes are tapping, your chin is nodding, your fingers are making patterns in the air, you can't fall asleep.
6) When #5 fails–ie: you cannot summon the energy to maintain movement–lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor, knees in the air. When you start to fall asleep, your knees will begin to fall outwards, thus jerking you back into the conscious world.
7) If local authorities mandate that all children lie on their sides to sleep, a similar effect can be achieved by placing the uppermost arm in a vertical position, pointing at the ceiling.
8) This one is tricky, but if you are very, very quiet, you might manage it: kneel up on your mat. Just kneel there. If nobody notices that you are kneeling (and they might not, if you are quiet) you can stay awake for a long time in the kneeling position. The tricky part is that to avoid detection, you must remain motionless–which is a soporific activity in itself. As a precaution, you might want to position yourself so that when and if you do lose consciousness there are no Lego bricks, sharp-cornered cabinets, or stone floors within your fall zone.

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