Monthly Archives: March 2011

And: The Mentality Behind a Tanking Economy

I know, I claimed the high ground yesterday; I was anti-epithetical and serene about my country. But then, while scanning radio stations on my stereo I heard griping on all the talk shows about budget cuts, and then a stellar ad for a local restaurant, and if it doesn’t sum up our budget woes, I don’t know what else does:

A chipper voice is spouting ecstasies about the menu down at a local restaurant. And then she adds, “And hey! If in this economy eating out no longer fits into your budget, you can order anything on our menu as take-out!”

Uh-huh.

‘Cause then you don’t have to pay a tip, right? Is that where the savings come in?

Is this what they are doing with the budget in Olympia and DC? Ordering take-out instead of dining in? Whatever happened to cooking up a batch of oatmeal or maybe a pot of beans?  And on special occasions you splurge on slightly overripe bananas. Any college kid could have told you that.

Or maybe they couldn’t; maybe that mentality is a thing of the past.  Maybe too many of us have been spoiled by prosperity for too long and we think we’re all entitled to take-out, at the very least.

Pshaw.

Break out the Top Ramen, people.

 


More From Zora

From How it Feels To Be Colored Me (1928):

In the main, I feel like a brown bag of miscellany propped against a wall. Against a wall in company with other bags, white, red and yellow. Pour out the contents, and there is discovered a jumble of small things priceless and worthless. A first-water diamond, an empty spool, bits of broken glass, lengths of string, a key to a door long since crumbled away, a rusty knife-blade, old shoes saved for a road that never was and never will be, a nail bent under the weight of things too heavy for any nail, a dried flower or two still a little fragrant. In your hand is the brown bag. On the ground before you is the jumble it held–so much like the jumble in the bags, could they be emptied, that all might be dumped in a single heap and the bags refilled without altering the content of any greatly. A bit of colored glass more or less would not matter. Perhaps that is how the Great Stuffer of Bags filled them in the first place–who knows?


Sharpening My Oyster Knife

In 1928, Zora Neal Hurston wrote:

Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. … No one on earth ever had a greater chance for glory. The world to be won and nothing to be lost. … Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world-I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife. … I have no separate feeling about being an American citizen and colored. … My country, right or wrong. (Taken from I Love Myself when I am Laughing . . . and Then Again When I Am Looking Mean and Impressive)

This from a black woman living in the South, pre-civil rights era.  She could acknowledge “the terrible struggle that made me an American out of a potential slave” while refusing to allow that she was “tragically colored”. She maintained that “there is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.”

And her attitude was not a product of an upbringing insulated against racism; she simply chose her own unique life-view: “Sometimes,” she said, “I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can anyone deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It’s beyond me.”

I love this woman.

And as unpopular as it might be to say right now, I love my country, too. I’m sure it would be far more vogue to tilt my hat at a tragic angle and utter sidelong epithets against capitalism, politicians, educators, and moral decay, but here’s the thing: we have it pretty good. My children go to school every day. For free. Medical care might be expensive, but it exists. Gas prices might be rising, but I have the freedom to own and drive my car, or not, as I choose. This experiment called American democracy is ongoing and we have less than stellar moments in our history, but it has not failed. I get in my bed at night and I don’t worry too much about what will happen to my family while my eyes are closed. I’m warm, dry, and reasonably certain that when I wake up in the morning the landscape won’t have changed significantly while I slept. There is political unrest in some places–but those demonstrators pretty much all return to their homes at night; they aren’t carried off on stretchers or buried in mass graves. There are not thousands of children with swollen bellies languishing in camps on the outskirts of our major cities. Segments of our population know hunger, but we have never experienced famine; from time to time we endure  injustice, but not tyranny.

I am grateful to be who I am, in the country in which I live, with the opportunities that surround me daily. My race, my heritage, my country, right or wrong. It’s an amazing time to be alive.

Remind me of that, next time I start whining…


When Life Gives You Large Feet… Wear Cons

As parents, we understand that our children don’t always tell the complete truth. As compassionate people, we don’t always call them on it. Whether or not that is wise, I don’t know. I do know that a lot of times the truth is stranger than the exaggeration or the outright fiction.

Which is what happened a few weeks ago: my daughter had gone out of town to find shoes for Sweethearts. Her date was taller than her and she was hoping, just this once, to be able to wear heels to a dance. And since women’s shoes in her size are difficult to find, the search, of necessity, expanded beyond the confines of Moses Lake.

The dress was a knee-length green with a purple-sequined waistband — that her grandmother had helped her modify to cover rather more skin than its designers had originally intended. Said grandmother also took her shopping. Else it had been a serious stretch to believe the text conversation I had with her that afternoon, after she’d been gone most of the day, in the midst of what turned out to be something like a 16 hour shopping trip. For one pair of shoes:

Me: Did you find any shoes yet?

Daughter: No. Not one pair in my size.

Me: Uhg

Daughter: But I ran into Michael.

Me: Really?

Daughter: He was at Orange Julius here.

Me: Weird

Daughter: He wants to wear his purple Converse, so I’m thinking I might, too.

Me: You have purple Converse?

Daughter: We found a pair at Fred Meyers. Purple sequins.

Me: Your size?

Daughter: Yeah.

Aside from the unreal chances of a grocery store carrying purple sequined converse in my daughter’s size (really big for a girl), what are the chances your daughter and her date just “happen” to meet up out of town? And that a shopping trip for one pair of shoes can last until after my bedtime? If she hadn’t been with her grandmother and he hadn’t been with his entire family, I’d have been a little skeptical–not that I would have voiced my suspicions, but I’d have assumed the rendezvous was somewhat planned and involved significantly more varied activities than shoe shopping. Which just goes to show how fallible our parental truth meters can be. (Which I could have told you when I was a kid, but which I tend to forget as I age.)

At any rate, yes, she wore purple sequined Converse athletic shoes to the Sweethearts dance. So did her date, in his tux. They were subjected to a breathalyser when they came in the door; whether or not that had to do with their choice in footwear, we’ll never know. I’d post a picture, but I didn’t take one. I heard that another mother did, and I’ve been meaning to pick them up from her for several weeks now. Maybe I’ll share.


Divorcing A Toddler

Due to state budget cuts, and families moving or losing employment I have lost eight children from my childcare in the past six weeks or so.

It varies with the family, but in most cases I imagine this is what it would feel like to get a divorce. You untangle ownership of belongings: baby equipment, forgotten toys and books, blankets, leftover diapers, wipes, spare sets of clothing and stray socks.  Suddenly things that were routine cares are no longer any of your business. Some responsibilities you are glad to relinquish; others feel like they might leave a scar. And as you watch them go, and in the middle of the night in the weeks that follow, you ask yourself: Did I do enough? Was I kind enough? Did I really put my all into that relationship or could I have done better?

It happens every time and it always surprises me.

And then a one-gallon kid brings up two gallons of breakfast on my shoes and I don’t care who the spare set of clothing belongs to anymore. It’s all Clorox and balance books and don’t-lick-the-window-come-out-of-the-fridge-your-shirt’s-inside-out-sit-down-at-the-table again. Life has a way of moving on into the uncertain future and dragging you along with it whether you planned on attending or not.



Flashback Friday in Photos

In honor of flashback Friday, this week we turn to the photographic record–which (thanks to fire that consumed two different childhood homes) is pretty sparse.  I apologize in advance for the image quality. They are copies of copies of, etc.  But I did find irrefutable proof I existed in miniature (and bald) form:


Frequently in blue:

Also proof that my bad hair days started at a young age:


As did wardrobe malfunctions:

And that I really was, for a time, an alien:

And did I ever mention that I wore REALLY big glasses (not to mention ’90’s hair in all it’s glory):

It took me until 10th grade to realize that I could safely navigate my way to the photographer’s chair without my spectacles, and thereby avoid the entire issue. Apparently I also discovered lipstick:

That’s pretty much it, until I got married. A few snapshots here and there (cameras weren’t a common possession then, like they are now) none of which I have the umph to go find at the moment.

I’ve been told twice now in two weeks that my daughter and I look like twins. I think it’s just that we have similar bone structure, and long hair. Some day I’ll have to post a m/d picture and let you be the judge. PSPheonix did a few days ago, and it brought tears to my eyes, they were so beautiful. As for now, enough procrastinating the real labors of the day…


Lint Dropper

There is a woman in my town who I probably only run into once a year or so–and I haven’t known her  long, so I could probably count on my fingers the number of times I’ve had the pleasure of conversing with her.

I do, however, associate with people who know her well, and so her name and/or projects she is working on frequently come across my radar.

What bothers me is how much she bothers me.

Because I like to think of myself as this broadminded, non-judgmental, forgiving type and the only thing she has ever done to me is, well… pretty much nothing. Yeah, I could point out a few insensitive comments here and there, but if you took those comments and set them down beside other offenses I have long ago completely forgiven significantly more villainous people it would be like comparing, I don’t know: this bit of fluff I just picked off my sweater to a woolly mammoth, fully reincarnated.

And yet I cannot like her. I cannot even hear her name without some inner uhhhg-meter buzzing off the charts.

It’s ridiculous. Because If I had to, I could get up in a public meeting and give her a glowing introduction; she is a fine specimen of motherhood, civic service, all-around girl scout extraordinaire.

Is it jealousy?

Uh… nope. Just did a soul-searching inventory, and I wouldn’t trade places with her for anything.

So what is it that makes my lip involuntarily curl when I hear her name? What is it that makes me excuse myself from any conversation that involves her or from commenting on anything she has ever had a hand in? For a long time I’ve been perplexed by this question because I’m not accustomed to loathing people and yet I cannot shake this one.

But I think it just came to me–as I was wandering around, trying to understand why I hate a lint-dropper as though she were a mammoth. I think it’s the same feeling I have toward certain other individuals in my life whose effect on me really isn’t up for examination because I never associate with them and so pretty much forget they exist.

People who cannot, but attempt, to disguise their antipathy toward me: my social class, my life choices or whatever it is about me that makes their uhhhg-meter buzz of the charts.

(How dare everyone not adore me? I mean really.)

Are those the  people we find the hardest to love? The ones who make us feel somewhat less than human?

And is it okay to co-exist like that–just accept that there are people you will never see eye to eye with? Are we under any sort of obligation to actually love those enemies or can we just avoid them? Hmmm?

Ha! And how many of you, reading this, are suddenly seized by a dread that I might be talking about you?

Relax: I guarantee that if you’re reading this, you’re not her; she would never stoop to reading the banality of commoners such as us.


Gnomes, Jock Straps and Mason Jars

I’ve always considered myself the anti-soccer mom.

But then I looked up the term “soccer mom” just to be sure I could truthfully claim I have  my keister firmly wedged into the opposite position. According to Wikipedia, that wretched woman is defined as:  “the overburdened middle income working mother who ferries her kids from soccer practice to scouts to school.” It also points out that she usually drives a minivan.

Huh.

Five years ago I could have been smugly confident. Yes, I took my kids to scouts. But the bus took them to school, and because I was neither working nor middle income, I couldn’t afford the copious amounts of gas–let alone registration fees, shin guards, balls, helmets, uniforms, jock straps (yeah, that was on my shopping list yesterday… why aren’t we taught that in Mothering 101, right up there with how to knot a necktie and pick out fresh produce?) etc, that inherent to those activities. And I definitely couldn’t afford a minivan.

You could have safely hurled the epithet den mother my way, but not soccer mom.

Last night I spent two and a half hours in my car and never got farther than six miles away from my house. (Trying to conserve gas, you know–and when one practice ends forty minutes before the next begins, it’s hardly worth the fifteen minute trip home.)

Oh, and I was driving a minivan.

And doing my taxes and my homework in the front seat. In between stops at the soccer fields (two), the baseball diamond, the sporting goods store (for a $43 scout shirt), and the city council meeting I didn’t attend, but sent my son to. Citizenship merit badge or some such thing.

What?

I am that soccer mom.

Ew.

I have proof:

Although this was taken a couple weeks ago in the dead of winter when all the intelligent powers-that-be scheduled the first games of the season. Not only was I a quilt wielding, van driving, snack toting soccer mom, I was a redneck soccer mom: all I could find to transport my hot drink was a mason jar, and the lid was somewhat rusty.

I found that I didn’t really care because my hands were warm.

That’s the thing about blowing past 35 and seeing 40 up ahead: You no longer care what the valley girls think. And when your daughter tells you your hat makes you look like a gnome, you just tie it tighter. You drive the minivan and you ask the sales clerk how to size a jockstrap and you wear ugly shoes because they fit.

But you never become the stereotype because you realize that woman doesn’t exist; every other woman on the sidelines is just like you: under the extant trappings of necessity, she is seventeen, too, and somewhat bemused to hear herself answering to the title “mother”.


Reinventing The Wheel

Child looking out the kitchen window, before he heads off to the bus stop in the semi-dark of  early morning:

Hey Mom, you know what they should make?

What?

Leg coats.

Lathe coats?

LEG coats.

Leg coats? As in: ski pants?

No, like that you could wear every day.

Huh.

While I’m trying to process this idea, he steps fully into view: dressed in a winter coat, socks, shoes, and shorts.

Uh-huh. Yeah, last I checked, they invented this thing called pants


Unbound

So.

About those fingers: No, I haven’t been flailing about mummified for three weeks. Although, that first day, had I stuck by my original intentions, I’d have rivaled King Tut by four pm.

At which time I decided that:

  1. Losing all the fingers on one hand was going far enough; point taken. And,
  2. I would need to give myself a clean slate every morning. Even God is that merciful.

So the next morning I rose, set out the box of band-aids… and thought to myself, “This could get really expensive. And time consuming.”

And then, “Unless…  I just knock it off.” I mean, really: how ridiculous is self-punishment?

And believe it or not, I was able to just. quit. Stop entertaining those thoughts. If you know me,  you’ll realize how miraculous that is; divine intervention is the only explanation.

Because I’ve tried to change this tendency in myself for close to thirty years without success. But for some reason, things clicked.

I find it much more efficient to not let things get to me. The two year old just redecorated twenty-four square feet of wall with one crayon while I made him a sandwhich?

Huh.

What are you going to do about it, really? (And what did you expect a two year old would do with a crayon, anyway?) My options were to stew about finding a brush, touch up paint, and a kid-free couple hours–not to mention putting down lunch prep to bind my own fingers which would make repainting even more difficult and time consuming–or: I could just hand him a coloring book, point out an alternate use for crayons, and continue with the pb&j assembly line.

So much easier.  And I don’t get a headache. And my hair is growing back.

No kidding. In the past three weeks or so my hair has stopped falling out in clumps, and I’ve got almost half an inch of new growth sprouting all over my head. I only noticed because the fringe along my hair line makes it look like maybe I cut really short bangs for some reason.

I don’t know if it’s this, or the result of other changes (in my diet, etc,) but I’m not complaining. I wasn’t looking forward to wig shopping.

The second day of the experiment, I probably deserved one good binding–when I found myself literally hyperventilating over the behavior of someone way beyond my influence.

But that was it.

It’s been eerie, how simple the choice has been, to just not go there.  Just don’t think it. Don’t do it. Don’t stew. Take a deep breath and believe that all things work together for your good. I have paid lip service to this in the past, but I also only took that deep breath after figuratively going blue in the face, first–because letting frustrations and worries go was a last resort for problems I proved irrefutably I was incapable of solving.

So my fingers have been as nimble as ever, albeit dedicated solely to academic rattling of the keyboard and not mental musings of this sort. This semester has been concussive, brutal in its demands and relentless. But it gets me out of bed in the morning, and that’s always a good thing. But I have been neglecting this and I have decided upon repentance–or an attempt thereat. Time will tell.