Wednesday, December 30, 2009

10! 9! 8! 7! 6! 5! 4! 3! 2!

You may or may not have heard that the decade is ending. It has already been ten years since we partied like it was in fact 1999. I was 27 when the last decade ended, which seems impossibly young to me now. I had one child, a toddler, which also seems impossible. I had spent the last year of the nineties regaining my equilibrium and trying to assemble some sense of identity after the first year of motherhood threw me for a loop. I did okay, and it's a good thing, because the aughts had some surprises in store for me.

Would I write a letter, if I could, to 27 year old me to give her a heads up on the coming decade? If I did, what would it say? "In the next decade, you will have three more children, open and close a business that will destroy you financially, spend about 2/3 of the decade breastfeeding, gain 20 pounds, teach at three different schools, make new and lasting friendships with people who will become immeasurably important to you, reconnect with part of your past that was almost lost to you forever, take emotional risks that would terrify most people and be rewarded beyond your expectations, feel amazed on a daily basis that you managed to marry the perfect man, outgrow your house, abandon it for a bigger house that you love, read a lot of books but not write one (what are you waiting for?), survive life with a three year old four times (barely), and struggle with what feels like never-ending baby and toddlerhood, but through it all you will hold on to your intrinsically hopeful and optimistic nature. Mostly."

Maybe it would be more productive to write a letter to current me about the new decade. "Dear Sassy, I can't help but suggest that you get off your ass. Which, as you may have noticed, is barely fitting in those jeans. I'm just sayin'. But I don't just mean that you need to be physically less sedentary. You are coasting and you know it. You've always done this, and you know you feel better when you challenge yourself more. You should be writing. You should be approaching your job with more energy and creativity. Ditto for motherhood. Ten years from now you'll be pushing 50. What will you have to show for it?

Did you hear what I just said? Then why are you still sitting at the computer? Go!"

Alright, alright! Here's to the...whatever we're supposed to call this oddly numbered decade. Happy New Year to all of you. May the surprises of the next decade all be good ones.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

She's Crafty

So I've been quiet lately. If you know me in real life, you know that quiet from me is often scary. But in blogworld, it just means I've been off living my life without stopping to navel gaze about it much. But let's face it, I can't go too long without seeing what's in there.

Right now, I'd have to say that what's in there are bits of yarn fluff and little scraps of cut paper. I'm not sure what kind of Martha-cloning experiment the government has secretly included me in, or if my moons have moved into...whatever house the craftiness lives in, but I can't stop making stuff. It's kind of freaking me out a little bit.

I've never been a crafter. It's all just a bit too precious for me, the scrapbooking and whatnot. I'm also not fidgety or a person who needs to be moving or doing something with my hands. I know I'm often brassy and loud, borderline obnoxious even, but I can also be very still and focused for long periods of time. And what I've always loved to sit and do, of course, is read. That has been my reason for not knitting or crocheting in the past--because if I'm going to sit there, I'm going to be reading a book.

Except now I'm not. I learned to crochet (again) over Thanksgiving almost by accident. SAM wanted to learn from my sister-in-law and/or mother-in-law while we were in Georgia for the holiday, so we got her hooked up with plenty of needles and yarn, and since I was right there I went ahead and learned too. I started trying to make a scarf, which was not very scarf-like and had very irregular edges. Once I had used up an entire skein of yarn, I looked at my three feet of wonky failure, laughed, and unraveled the whole thing. It felt very Zen. I was like those Buddhist monks who spend days making sand mandalas only to wipe them away upon completion. Except what they make is intricate and beautiful and what I'd made totally sucked, but whatever. You get what I mean. I got to looking around youtube and learned a new stitch or two and made about half a scarf out of that same yarn, alternating rows of fancy patterns.

Then took I it apart again because of weird edge issues. Finally I decided I was sick of looking at that yarn, switched to a cranberry red, and made this scarf. Success! (It looks prettier on SAM with her snazzy new leather jacket.)

Then I decided to try to make a hat. At first it seemed like I had done it, and really fast! In about an hour and a half I had something that was a little pointy at the top and a little loose and floppy at the bottom, but still I was all "Woohoo, I made a hat!" Then I immediately started making another one and for some reason it was a lot smaller. Like, too small for a baby. I went back and watched the youtube video and looked at the written instructions, and then I laughed and laughed because while I had gotten the really cute puff stitch right, I'd totally screwed up the actual hat-making part. So, once I again, I unraveled my work and started over. And I got it right! It was so satisfying. I made another one using a simpler stitch and made a cute pom pom to go on top.

Then of course I had to make a pom pom for the first hat, which I'd made for Genevieve, and she demanded that it also have a flower. So I learned to make a flower, and after five false starts, I made one and attached it. Now Genevieve won't wear the hat for some random reason that only makes sense to a chemically unbalanced three year old, but it looks really cute on Somerset, and once I finish the one I'm making to be the exact color reverse of this one, I bet Genevieve will want to wear it so she and her big sister can match.

Meanwhile my friend Kristin posted a video on facebook showing how to make really cool 3D snowflakes out of paper. I'd show you the video if I were not too lazy to look it up. Or maybe not, because it's more impressive if you don't know how relatively easy they are to make. As is my way, I ruined the first one I tried, although in fairness to myself, the step I messed up was really unclear in the instructions. So Kristin was nice enough to bring me some, which let me see my error, and then I made several, including a bi-colored one.

And then I guess the government upped the amount of whatever they are secretly adding to my food because I bought special paper and when our friends came over I announced that I had planned a craft for the kids. And then they all died of shock because we all know that A) I am tired of children and do not often choose to hang out with groups of them when I could be chatting with adults over a cocktail, and B) I don't do crafts. But I did, and we did (with a lot of help from the moms because my middle son led a rebellion of the mid-aged boys), and it looked like this (the crafting, not the rebellion. That looked like a pack of urchins led by a skinny boy with too-long hair and ripped jeans):

I also made goody bags for the kids: peppermint bark (success, lots of compliments), fudge from scratch (fail, didn't cook long enough, we're going to eat it warm with ice cream because it was too sticky and soft to cut), and chocolate-chip ginger bars (hard to say because I don't like ginger) and made them look all cute.

Somewhere in there SAM and BD worked really hard to help me make the house look like this so we could host the faculty Christmas party.

Now I ask you, who is this woman, and what has she done with Sassy?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Rule of Threes

Sometime I should ask a numerologist or some other new agey type person to explain to me why the number three has been so significant in my life. It's something I've been aware of since I was a kid. I noticed it in big and little things, in ways both visual and practical. That I was the oldest of three children, that I saw objects in groupings of three everywhere I looked (often in the form of faces), that Jimmy Stewart wore a jersey with the number three on it in a scene from my favorite movie, that I had a ridiculous and ill-advised crush on the mohawked number 3 of the football team when I was a freshman in high school. Third grade was, for me, a horrific year, marring an otherwise happy and peaceful elementary career. My third pregnancy was ill-timed and shocking, beginning when my second baby was only five months old. I knew instinctively that three was not the right number of children for me to have, even though I thought for a time that it would happen that way. Until my third child turned three, in fact, and I got pregnant again. Not that three has always been a negative force in my life, but that's not what this post is about.

Right now the number three is manifesting itself in my life in two very difficult ways. One is that my three year old is making me insane, but I've said plenty about that and I'm working on it and that's not what I want to talk about right now. The other is that my current third grader is having some of the same difficulties that I had in third grade, which has always been my fear with my kids. My third grade teacher called my parents and told them I was well on my way to becoming a juvenile delinquent. I came home to my mom in tears and thought someone had died. (Inexplicably, I thought it must be my grandmother's little dog, Missy. Maybe I didn't want to think it was an actual person?) Joshua's issues aren't that extreme, but after he brought home an N in conduct on his progress report last week, I had an email exchange with his teacher. Apparently he talks too much, which isn't surprising, but she said he has become somewhat surly and defiant when asked to stop talking. He also disrupted a class-wide game until he was finally told to go sit down, at which point he said "Good!" Which is kind of funny, because my disasterous third grade rebellion was prompted by my teacher trying to make me play math Bingo. She kept putting a card on my desk, and I kept putting it on someone else's desk. A friend told me I should stop before I hurt her feelings, to which I replied scornfully "She doesn't have feelings. She's not a human being, she's just a teacher." Seriously. But see, I hated that teacher because she wouldn't put me in the highest reading group, where I knew I belonged. Joshua likes his teacher, and his defiance is less pronounced, but it's hard not to think he's just in the same kind of stage I must have been in at that age. Pre-adolescence. Good times!

BD and I sat down with him last night to talk about whatever is going on with him. It's not just the school stuff. While he often seems happy and fine, he can become enraged and almost violent at the drop of a hat. On ravioli day when he unkindly told one of the younger kids to go away while he played with Satchel and Jiro, I took him aside and asked him how he would feel if someone treated him that way. He replied, predictably "Everyone does treat me that way." I guess this "no one likes me, everyone hates me" syndrome is a middle child thing? Because there is absolutely no evidence that it is true. His teacher noticed the same thing, noting that Joshua had expressed those same feelings to her, even though he has many friends in school and is always included in their play. I explained to her that Joshua's two main refrains are the aforementiond "no one likes me" and also "I never get to have/do anything fun." The second is because we won't buy him video games. The travesty! Meanest parents ever! Yesterday when he was supposed to write about what he's thankful for, he told his teacher that he didn't know what to write because "I have nothing."

When we talked to him, we told him he wasn't in trouble, although he will be if he continues to be disrespectful to his teacher and bring home bad conduct grades. We told him we love him and want him to be happy, but that he needs to understand that we make decisions about what he can and can't have/do based on what we think is best for him, because that is our job, and that even though he won't always like those decisions, that's life and he has to accept it and move on. I couldn't resist offering to take him downtown to Porter Leath orphanage if he wants to see what it looks like when a child really has nothing. Maybe I should. A little holiday volunteer work would probably be good for the whole family. He cried and denied that anything is wrong, but he didn't say much else. I pulled him over into my lap and stroked his hair while we talked. Hopefully it helped. I guess we'll see.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


I have a review up on The Shelf Life Blog. It's a review of Her Fearful Symmetry, the new book by Audrey Niffeneger. She wrote The Time Traveler's Wife, which I loved, but unfortunately I did not love this book. I loved things about it, but then it turned on me.

Right now I'm about 150 pages into an 864 page book, Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. So far I'm enjoying it. It doesn't move too fast, but I guess if you've got 864 pages in which to tell your tale, you can afford to take your time with it.

In my senior English classes we're reading a few of The Canterbury Tales, which the students always enjoy. They love "The Pardoner's Tale" especially. In eleventh grade, we're reading The Crucible, which I love and haven't been able to teach since my student teaching, because that was the last time I taught American lit. The kids like it too. There's nothing like having a student read out Abigail's lines "...Let either of you breathe a word, or the edge of a word, about the other things, and I will come to you in the black of some terrible night and I will bring you a pointy reckoning that will shudder you. And you know I can do it..." and hearing the rest of the class draw in breath and go "Oooh!" Everyone loves a bad girl.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What does it say about me...

That there is a part of me that would totally wear this coat.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Since today is my birthday and I'm now 37 whole entire years old*, it seems like I should write something about that. You know, reflect, reminisce, that sort of thing.

But sometimes it's hard to talk about all this senseless beauty without feeling like you are over there making sarcastic gagging motions, you know? Because my life, it is beautiful, and I've told you as much many times. The litany: amazing husband, incredible romantic marriage, love, love, love, beautiful, healthy kids, smart-funny-great friends, work I care about, my fortunate health. A superstitious person would say I was jinxing myself, but I am defiantly optimistic.

That's not to say I can't do better. Not in the life I have, but in the way I live it and appreciate it. I haven't been taking great care of myself. This morning as I showered, I told myself that I will lose 20 pounds before I turn 38. It's not just about the jeans I can't snap or the extra chins, either. This is the only body I have, and if it's going to take me all the way to 100, as I intend, then I need to get it into better shape and keep it there. I don't need to be a size 2 or even a 4 or 6, but I need to be strong. Time to start using that gym membership that has been languishing since the pool closed for the season. There are other things I need to work on--all that usual staying in the moment, not wishing time away kind of stuff. I'm trying. The three-ness of my youngest child is just about to kill me, but I am trying. Instead of wishing to go into a coma for the next ten or so years until they're all old enough to want nothing to do with me, I'm down to just wishing to fast forward the next six months until Genevieve is four. That's progress, right?

So happy birthday to me. I already got to enjoy a great birthday date that involved a babysitter, Indian food that made me hum and do the happy food dance in my seat, pool playing, and beer, and tonight I get to enjoy the household tradition of choosing my birthday dinner. BD is grilling me steak. Rare.

*I was thinking I was going to be 38, but then I remembered that BD is 39 and he's never just one digit older than I am. That's what happens when you get old--you forget your own age!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

License to Breed

The other day during an in-service training at work, one of the administrators was demonstrating different classroom activities meant to help us move away from lecturing and whole-group instruction and toward differentiated and small-group instruction. One of the activities involved putting up signs in four different areas of the room that said "Agree," "Strongly Agree," "Disagree," and "Strongly Disagree." The idea is that the instructor makes a statement relevant to some part of the lesson, and the students move to stand near one of those signs. Then you mix up the groups and have them try to convince each other.

The statement that we had to agree or disagree with was "Parenting classes should be required for anyone planning to have a child." I know that's something people joke about and throw out after stories of particularly bad or stupid parenting. And I think most people kept their thinking about it at that level, because every single faculty member moved to either "Agree" or "Strongly Agree," except for me and one other guy. He's new this year, and I'm pretty sure single and childless as well. As I walked over to "Disagree," he was sort of waffling between staying there and going to join the crowd, but as I stood firm he said "I think I'm going to stay here."

We were running short on time, so we didn't do the part where we switch groups and try to change each other's minds, but I imagined incredulous questions being hurled at me, and what I would say. Things like "Who would teach those classes and set the standards for 'good parenting'?" To which I imagined replies like "Well, it would just be basic things. Things that anyone with sense would agree on." But I could list several debatable things that some people might include in that "common sense" category, like that all babies should be born in hospitals, or that every child should be vaccinated with every new vaccine that comes along, as early as possible. That spanking works. That there could possibly be one way of parenting that works for every child and every family.

Maybe it's because of the way I feel so micromanaged at work lately, but I've been thinking a lot about what a travesty it is when everyone gets treated like the weakest link. The one-size-fits-all standardized approach to education, work, parenting,'s a myth and it's hurting us. Where is the rugged individualism? Where is the American belief in individual freedom and choice, even if that means some people make bad choices?

There's a church down the street from my house with a sign that says "Every home is a school. What do you teach?" When I saw all those teachers standing over next to "Agree," I thought about how our whole society is a parenting class. As a society we have an incredibly strong tendency to censure certain choices. What sitcom doesn't have an episode about kids who breastfeed for too long, moms who live vicariously through their daughters, dads who get too worked up over their sons' sports, spinster aunts whose mothers ruined them and grown men who can't cut the apron strings? Every legal drama shows us children killed by their loving but deluded parent's wacky belief in faith healing or natural medicine or fear of vaccines or experimental child-rearing techniques. We get plenty of messages about what is expected of us as parents, what is and is not acceptable.

The idea of requiring parenting classes is no different from any other band-aid approach to a social problem. Giving away our power to instituions is not the answer. I like to believe that in a real conversation, there would have been far fewer people agreeing to that idea. Because if we're all taught some faceless entity's idea of good parenting/teaching/whatevering, and we're all held to a single standard, maybe there will be fewer people falling below the bar, but there will also be fewer rising above it.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A smattering of things that go on in my vaccuum cleaner head

That was the title of a poem written by a very enigmatic individual named Hyatt from back in my poetry workshop days at Rhodes. I remember it contained lines about his little brother dying after being "shark fed crystal meth," before any other normal person had ever even heard of that stuff. (He didn't really have a brother who died by meth, just so you know. Never trust a writer.)

That title, and its attached poetic body, popped into my head when I was thinking about how I should post, and how I really just had kind of a random smattering of thoughts and happenings to report. That set me wondering what happened to Hyatt and how old he really was and what his deal was. He seemed older than he should have been, and like maybe he came from a lot of money but chose to live in relative squalor in his strange, low-ceilinged, book-piled apartment in someone's attic and just go to school forever. Or maybe that's just my over-active writerly imagination. See what I mean about the trust thing?

Anyway, my thoughts wander like that. Want to go on a little ride down my stream of consciousness? Here we go! Row, row, row your boat...

Random current #1: I've mentioned to a few people that I'm re-reading The Catcher in the Rye, as I'm considering teaching it second semester. Since I now have two sections of eleventh-grade American lit after three solid years of nothing but the Brits, I'm kind of excited to teach a more contemporary novel later in the year. (It's hard to get that far in British Lit because, you know, it starts a few hundred years before America was even a glint in her daddy's eye.) And I've been surprised to have several people tell me they either hated the book or haven't wanted to read it because they think they will hate it. Um...what?? Okay, first of all, it's a great book. GREAT. And second of all, I was under the impression that this is one of the most beloved American novels of all time. We love Holden Caulfield. Don't we?? Chalk this one under reasons to lose faith in humanity.

Random current #2: It is the major paradox of my being that I am very optimistic and positive, but at the same time cynical and harshly critical. Maybe that doesn't make sense, but if you know me, you know what I'm talking about. The harshly critical part usually gets triggered by things that a lot of other people think are really cool. Yes, I know that's annoying and makes me basically an emo 16 year old boy. Whatever. The point is, I'm not real free with the praise of public figures or various pop culture what-have-yous, (except for writers, and I'll get to that in a minute.) The only thing that will make me come to the defense of a really popular figure is if they are currently the victim of a backlash. I'm a sucker for the underdog. But, but, and this is my actual point I'm finally coming to: when I grow up I want to be this woman. Because really, she just could not be any more badassed. So if you ever hear me doing what Stacey delicately called "laying the verbal smackdown like no other" on someone I deem to be stupid, and you wonder what it takes for me to just unabashedly geek out over a person's awesomeness, there's your example. She's not only smart, but driven and courageous. I think Diana Adams is so cool that I cannot even mock her coolness. That hardly ever happens. Chalk this one up under affirming faith in humanity.

Random current #3: I've been thinking a lot lately about writing. You know, like, a book. I have a couple of ideas for young adult novels. One is more fully-formed than the other. The characters are staring to knock on doors in my head. Partly they're telling me I have the wrong idea about what happenes to them, but we'll see. But then, at the same time, I just finished reading Wonder Boys. That Michael Chabon--holy crap! So I'd be reading, and I'd get smacked with one of those Chabon moments (when SAM and I had this conversation, she called it "a revelation of language," which seems apt), and I'd think "Oh right, THAT. That's writing. Damn!" Because you can't really get to that level in a YA novel. I think there is literary merit in a lot of YA lit, and I think it's a perfectly respectable thing to write, but when I read something like Kavalier and Clay or Wonder Boys, I feel like that's what I should aspire to. Like if I'm going to go to all the trouble to write a whole entire book, I should really write it, you know? So there's that. But I read a couple of Chabon's books before I figured out what all the fuss was about, so maybe that takes time. Even the freakishly talented don't hit that mark every time they put something out there.

There's a lot of other stuff running through my mind at any given moment, but this post is already long and attention spans are short these days, so I'll stop there for now.

Monday, September 14, 2009

S is for Seven

Somerset, you are seven years old today. You have requested breakfast for your birthday dinner, chocolate-chip pancakes and bacon and sausage. Specifically, you would like a pancake in the shape of an "S."

I have no doubt that when you get it, you will break into one of your funky little dances. You know the dance I mean, where you do kind of a robot meets King Tut meets Elaine from Seinfeld type thing.

Right now, you remind me a lot of myself at your age, except I was sweeter. I wouldn't say that you are mean, exactly, but you are tough. You have the self-preservation instincts of a girl with two big bothers and a little sister who sometimes channels schizophrenic demons.

I'm cool with that. I want you to be kind and compassionate, but I also want you to know how to look out for yourself. You don't take any crap, and I wouldn't have it any other way. We'll keep working on recognizing when butts need kicking and when someone just needs you to cut them some slack.

The thing I admire most about you is your perseverence. More than either of your brothers, you will make up your mind to do something and then keep trying until you do it. It's a quality that will serve you well. I need to help you find something productive to channel that into.

Sometimes when I watch you play now, I catch glimpses of the teenager you'll be in a few years, and the woman you'll be in a few more. I can't wait to meet those versions of you, because I know you'll be even smarter and funnier and stranger than you are now. Happy birthday my beautiful Somerset. I feel lucky to be your mom.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Heart Felt

A few years ago, BD came home from work with a book called Heart of Croatia tucked under his arm. He told me all about his customer, Dr. Novick, who traveled the world performing life-saving heart surgery on babies and children who were otherwise sure to die. As he spoke, I saw how much this story resonated with him, how much he wanted to tell it to me and anyone else who would listen.

More recently, he and Dr. Novick have been talking about how to get that story to a larger audience. Today's Commercial Appeal bears the first fruit of that labor. It really is an amazing, inspiring story, and I'm both impressed by and proud of the way it turned out. I hope you'll take the time to read it and pass it on. The more people who know about the ICHF, the better their chances of gaining the support they need to continue and expand their important work.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009


So, the first confirmed H1N1 death in Shelby County occurred yesterday, and the victim was an eighth grader from my child's middle school. Calvin is only in sixth grade and they didn't know each other, but I'm sure the sadness of a death this close to home is disturbing to him. We've talked to him a little about it, and he seems to be handling it well. He's focusing on the precautions he's been told to take, like frequent hand washing. For an anxiety-prone kid, he's doing great.

I, on the other hand, am pretty pissed off. I feel so heartbroken for this family and can't imagine what they must be experiencing right now. But also? I want and expect the issue to be addressed when a student from my child's school dies of an infectious and easily spread disease. Not a letter, not an email, not a pre-recorded phone call. Zilch. We've gotten the district's two preemptive form letters about the plan for staying healthy and preventing an epidemic, but nothing today about this specific case. I'm probably the least paranoid person I know, but come on! I don't think official acknowledgment of a child's death and parental concerns is too much to ask. Should I send irate emails, sit tight, what? What would you do?

I guess they were too busy warning parents that the President of the United States was working up the audacity to address the nation's school children about the value of education and hard work. Clearly, priorities are all in order here.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Question For You

If you were going to get the last sentence of your favorite book tattooed on you, where would you put it, and what would it look like?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

So Now I Feel Like Showing you

The ones I think you might not know.

Frying Pan
. I like the recorded version better. Probably owing to a less trashed Evan Dando in the studio.


Baker Street
, Old School. I confess to liking the Foo Fighters' version maybe a tiny bit better because it's louder, but the only videos I could find for it were just stills.

My friend, the lovely Raina Rose, singing her song I Like You Better.

And last but not know it, you love it. Holding Back the Years.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Sing, Sing a Song, Make It happy to Last Your Whole Life Long

SAM recently put up a post about her top five songs of the past five decades and demanded (so demanding, that one!) that her subjects follow suit. Honestly, though, I just don't think that much about music. Or I don't think about music in that way. My knowledge of these things tends to be centered around personal interest and associations, whereas hers tends to be encyclopedic. It's kind of like the difference between a survey lit class and one centered around thematic units. (You know you like my nerdy English teacher metaphors. Stop rolling your eyes.) So, in much the same way that I follow the utterance of most actors'/directors'/ screenwriters'/athletes'/musicians' names with the question "Who's that?" I find myself unable to remember when any particluar song came out, if in fact I ever knew at all. Also unlike SAM, I'm far to lazy to link you to every song. You know how Youtube works, right?

So, my lists:

Top Five Favorite Songs of All Time, Plus One I Forgot:

1. With or Without You, U2
2. Baker Street, both the original Gerry Rafferty version and the Foo Fighters remake. Man I love that song for no apparent reason.
3. Holding Back the Years, Simply Red. That's right. Simply Red.
4. I've Been Loving You Too Long, Otis Redding. During the actual hearing of this song, I will often decide it is in fact the best, most perfect song ever, and marvel at the fact that anyone ever had the balls to make another song after it.
5. American Pie, Don McLean. I don't care if you think that's cheesey.
6. Frying Pan, Evan Dando version from Sweet Relief, originally by Victoria Williams

Sentimental Favorites:
(Some answers may be used in more than one list. Because I make the rules here.)

1. These Are Days, Ten Thousand Maniacs (*My wedding song.)
2. With or Without You, U2
3. I Like You Better, Raina Rose
4. Hearts and Bones, Paul Simon
5. All I Want, Joni Mitchell

Top Five Favorite Songs to Sing When They Aren't Actually Playing, Such as In the Shower:
(It should be noted that I cannot, in fact, sing.)

1. Mercedes Benz, Janis Joplin
2. Me and Bobby McGee, Janis Joplin version
3. Amazing Grace, whoever
4. Verdi Cries, Ten Thousand Maniacs
5. Dead Flowers, Rolling Stones

Best Songs Ever Put on a Mix Tape/CD Made For Me:

1. Catch, The Cure
2. Deathly, Aimee Mann (my ego really loved that one)
3. Love Me, Elvis Presley (sad but important)
4. Million Faces, Paolo Nutini
5. Two Hearts, U2
6. A Case of You, K.D. Lang version (So I had a number 6. Shoot me.)

Not Technically Individual Songs but Favorite CDs to Sing Along to, Such as In the Car:

1. James Taylor's Greatest Hits
2. Strange Fire, Indigo Girls (Suck it.)
3. Changes One Bowie, David Bowie
4. Various Paul Simon albums; hard to pin down. Something with Me You and Julio and Cecilia but also stuff like Hearts and Bones and Still Crazy After All These Years. I need a CD called Every Song Paul Simon Ever Had Anything to Do With. Someone get on that, please. My birthday is in October.
5. The Girl That Killed September, Garrison Starr (Yes, I love a CD with a bothersome grammatical error in the title.)

I could go into various subcategories, like "Annie Lenox songs I happen to hear and then complain about how we don't have any of her albums except Medusa, which is not the one I want," or "Songs I secretly like and know all the words to," but I think you get the gist. Although I'm guessing there will end up being a list in comments called "Songs I forgot to put on various lists."

Right Now

A group of girls is looking at my word wall and discussing which literary terms would make good baby names. Such as "Quatrain." To which a boy in the class replied "Y'all don't need to put 'train' nowhere in y'all daughters' names."

True enough.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Worker Bee me

You may have noticed that I didn't post much over the summer. I guess I was too busy sunning myself and reading in the hammock and pickling fresh okra and being bossed around by a very cute three-year-old dictator with "fishtails." (That's what she calls pigtails.) I was making indulgent lunches for the adults in the house because given the option, I will always choose to make and eat a hot meal. I was enjoying having BD home with us for the first summer ever.

The thing is, not being alone in a tiny house with four kids all summer put a little dent in my usual readiness to return to work. Add to that a room change plus a new and much harder schedule, and well...I just didn't want to do it. Couldn't I just stay home all the time? Haven't we won the lottery yet? I went around muttering those questions in between the litany of gross injustice: "More kids, less time, same material, less time to plan." It seemed I'd run all out of Pollyanna Sunshine just when I needed it most.

Week one was rough. I went to my week of teacher in-service and three of the kids in the household started their new schools. Did I mention that the six kids in this house started four new schools this year? At Monday's training we learned about the frequent random walk-throughs we could expect as often as twice a week in our classrooms. On Tuesday I worked registration while simultaneously de-funkifying my new (to me, but in fact not in any way resembling new) classroom from 8:00 in the morning until 8:30 at night, not counting a two-hour dinner break that involved forty minutes of driving home and back, while my family went to our Neighborhood Night Out without me. Less than twelve hours later I was at my district English training where I learned about the new, huge and multi-faceted "Capstone Experience" project my seniors all have to complete and that I, of course, will be completely responsible for. And so on. And so forth.

But then yesterday, I got to do my job. I taught four 90-minute classes back to back with only a half-hour break for lunch. (Three more minutes than last year!) I talked about supplies and class expectations and played "Two Truths and a Lie" with each class, wowing them with my big finish in which I go around the room and recite all of their names from memory. I was exhausted by the end but also invigorated. It reminded me that, oh yeah, I'm good at this. I can do this. I like these kids. A lot of them like me. Of course there was the kid who told me incredulously when I assigned the descriptive one-syllable word paragraph "It's the first day of school! We're not s'pose to do nothing the first day. I didn't even bring any paper." But there were also a lot of others who shook their heads at that kid and got eagerly to work and then volunteered to read what they'd written out loud. There was the girl who told me "I'm supposed to be in honors but I'm not leaving this class" and the boy who said "I was going to need this block for another class but I'm going to stay here. You seem like an interesting person." For every slack-jawed stare there were more kids smiling at me with wide-open faces and eyes that showed the unmistakable spark of engagement.

I still feel like once I get home, some internal switch flips to "conserve" and I sort of fold up in order to expend the least possible energy. I don't know how elementary teachers can survive being "on" all day every day. At least I know that eventually I'll have days when my students are writing or when I'm only there to facilitate their activities. Hopefully now that I have finally, finally finished the endless daily trips for additional, freshly requested school supplies that must be brought tomorrow, I can finish each day slightly less exhausted and my evening energy levels will balance out a little.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

In Defense of High School

Recently a friend said to me that he learned nothing in high school and that in general it is just a big waste of time. I hear people say this all the time. My husband will readily tell you that once he left the rigors of Catholic school in tenth grade, he never learned another thing. We both went to Kirby, where we met in drama class. That alone should make him think he was where he needed to be, right?

I think this is a bunch of bullshit, people saying they learned nothing in high school. I learned plenty. I learned about Willa Cather and Hemingway and Sylvia Plath, who became my teenage idol. I read "Our Town" and Joyce's "The Dead" and learned about epiphanies. I read the Spoon River Anthology and was asked to write a poem in the style of Edgar Lee Masters, which I found I was able to do quite easily and well. I read about the Transcendentalists and the oversoul and Civil Disobedience and the importance of self reliance. I learned about the basics of economics, opportunity cost and the law of diminishing returns. I learned passable French that I can still speak and read surprisingly well. I gained a fundamental understanding of human genetics and of biology in general. I learned when to say "lay" and when to say "lie" and how to make your junior English teacher laugh and blush during that lesson. I learned about Jung and universal symbols and about Freud and how sometimes the experts turn out to be completely insane but also sort of right about things in a wrong kind of way. I learned to kick a Geometry proof's ass, which is a good introduction to applied logic and which apparently a lot of people can't do.

Maybe you think I'm just listing random crap, but in fact I could tell you the teacher's name that corresponds to each example I gave. I can remember the discussions about Emerson and Thoreau especially well. I'm sure there's plenty that didn't stick with me, and I'm not claiming that my time was never wasted, but overall it was a worthwhile experience. Maybe that's not true for everyone, but I suspect it's true for a lot of people who claim that high school was terrible and taught them nothing. I'm sure there are kids who are better served in other settings. There are very intelligent kids who could wise up and go get their GED and move on to college, and there's nothing wrong with that choice if the traditional path isn't working. But I still argue that there is some value in a classical education, and that a decent-to-excellent version of that can be found in public schools in every city and district in the country.

I guess I take this particular staple of the cynical hipster canon personally because I am a high school teacher. Duh, right? But the idea that I am knowingly and willfully wasting people's time is so insulting because that is something I've given very specific thought to. Early in my teaching career, I had a student in the eighth grade named Jason Carson. He was smart and charismatic and the girls thought he was dreamy. He kind of attached himself to me, and in the remaining years of high school, (it was a 7-12 school) he would often return to my classroom to visit. At times I had to fuss at him and push him away so he would go to his actual classes. When Jason was a senior, he went to visit the college he was planning to attend, where his brother was already a student. Since his brother would be staying at school, they took separate cars. His brother said that one minute he saw Jason in the rear view mirror following him, and the next he was gone. He rolled his car in a ditch and was killed instantly. That was almost ten years ago and I still think about Jason at least once a week. My eyes fill with tears every single time because as much as the potential and promise of his life was wasted by his death, what was most devastating to me at the time was the possibility that I had wasted even one minute of the little time he had. I was a new teacher with a class full of unruly middle-schoolers I'd inherited mid-year after a series of subs. My intentions were good but I'm sure I didn't know what I was doing. What I took away from that is the knowledge that no matter what new test comes along for the administration to hang over our heads or what new crisis the media decides to blame on schools and teachers, my responsibility is to those kids. That doesn't mean I'm at my best every day or that I can't do better, but it means that I think of my students as individuals whose time is valuable. It means that sometimes I remind myself that I can live in a world where those kids might grow up to use incorrect punctuation, but not one in which they are cruel and intolerant and willfully ignorant. It means that I know who I really work for. And I'm not there to waste my employers' time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Late Great Planet 8

Happy birthday, Joshua. It seems fitting that I'm writing this post the day after your birthday. But this is not the time to talk about the day-late, dollar-short parenting afforded so often to middle children, and besides, I don't think you'd mind. You had a good day. Any day that involves a trip to Target is a good one in your book, right? You picked out a new bike from us and spent your adorably wadded birthday cash on a Transformer you don't have to actually transform and a Tomogachi. My little consumer.

It's hard for me to believe you are eight years old. For some reason, eight seems so much bigger than seven. Come August, you'll be in third grade. That was a tough year for me, and each time one of you approaches it, I worry a little. Your brother got through it without a hitch, but you are much more like me. Third grade was the year my rebellious streak first reared its head, but I did have an insane teacher, so maybe you'll do better. There's a lot ahead of you this year: a new school where your big brother has never been heard of, for one. I'm excited that you'll have the chance to blaze your own path, but also a little apprehensive. I know you'll do fine. Mostly I know that.

I try to make myself stay in the moment with the four of you, but it's hard sometimes not to look ahead and wonder what the future will be like. I imagine you will be a lot of fun. You will be in a band and have an endless string of pretty girlfriends that I will try not to worry too much about. Hopefully you'll hold true to the maxim that boys always love their mothers and help keep me sane when your sister is just one year behind you, rolling her eyes and hating me as teenage girls are required to do.

Anyway, that's a ways off. Right now, I just want you to enjoy being eight. Ride your bike, look for frogs with your idolized big brother, get excited over the prospect of a day at the pool. Just be your sunny, springy little self. Happy birthday, Joshua. I love you so much.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

And the livin's easy

Clearly I cannot be counted on to post regular updates about my fabulous summertime existence. We went to Florida, which I couldn't talk about before or during because BD has this pesky thing about not wanting to tell the whole internet we'll be leaving our stuff unattended for ten days. But we did! We drove aaaalllll the way down to Naples. Which is far. Florida is long! We drove eight hours to BD's grandparents' place near Greensboro, Georgia, and then got up the next morning and drove another ten to Naples. In case you have never driven eighteen hours in a minivan with four kids and one adult who will not let you drive, let me tell you, it's a lot of time to spend in a car with those people! It wasn't all bad, though. I got through a good bit of Midnight's Children, which may go on record as the longest I have ever taken to read a book, and I napped some. The rest of the time I refrained from throwing myself under the wheels of passing trucks to get away from the shrieking. Three year old children are the worst idea ever!

So, Naples was fabulous. Since this is the first summer in ten years that BD has not been chained to a small business, it was also the first time he could take enough time off for all of us to drive down that far and still spend enough time there to make it worth while. It was great to be able to let the kids spend time with their paternal Nonna (we do not say the G word) in her own home for the first time ever. They had a great time getting reacquainted with her, and not just because she has a Wii and a wide-screen TV and a pool a block from her house, either. We alternated beach days and pool days, since the beach was a 30 minute drive and we are all a little spoiled from two summers in a row of renting houses directly on the beach for vacations. Walking two blocks from a public beach to paid parking in the ungodly equatorial heat is as close as any of us has come in a while to a sticky, lung-collapsing personal vision of hell. For about ten minutes, then it was all cool again.

On the way home, we were lucky enough to have the use of a townhouse in Panama City Beach for two nights. Thanks Robin! SAM decided on the spur of the moment to drive down and meet us for a mini-vacation of her own. Having two nights really helped break up what ended up being about a twenty hour drive home. We spent Sunday on the sugar-white Gulf beach in front of Schooner's, where I used to work, and where we had an awesome beachside Father's Day lunch. The water at PCB was a refreshing 20 degrees (according to me) cooler than it was in South Florida, which was nice, and also slightly rougher, which the kids enjoyed immensely on their boogie boards.

All in all, it was a great trip. But I'm still glad to be out of the car.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

You'll know it's true that you are blessed and lucky

Fifteen years ago today, I stood in Fisher Gardens and promised to love, honor, and cherish the only man for me. I was 21 years old, a college graduate of two whole weeks, and absolutely certain that I was doing the smartest thing I'd ever done, or ever would.

I guess I was pretty smart, to be so young, but I had no idea how beautiful life with you was going to be. Happy anniversary BD. I love you more than I can say.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Laziest Post Evah

What have I been doing during all this aggressive not blogging, you ask? Why, this of course. And also this. Otherwise known as, throwing a Memorial Day cookout and throwing a summer-birthdays/end-of-school party for my kids and their friends. We have at least a few of our own pictures still locked up in the Nikon D40. I think.

So Genevieve is officially 3 now, and Joshua will turn 8 on July 1. And we're all out of school for summer, and all these things have been properly commemorated and celebrated with the blowing up and filling of inflatable pools and slip-n-slides and semi-charred foods and two flavors of cupcakes. Phew!

Wednesday was my last day of work for the school year. I have to move my classroom after three years in a brand spankin' new room of which I was the first and only occupant, so there was a lot of packing those last two days. Also a lot of bitching about a certain superintendent who shall remain unnamed because he made us do a full day of in-service the very last day. But whatever. I'm out!

If you need me, I'll be in the inflatable pool tanning my hide. Coming soon...15th anniversary post.

Monday, May 25, 2009

I don't know those people!

Why is my Flickr widget showing photos from a blog in China no matter how many times I reset it?

I've temporarily removed the Flickr widget until I can figure out how to make it work. One of my techier friends should help me. Consider that a hint.

Monday, May 18, 2009

John and Kate Plus Hate

For the record, I normally have a profound lack of interest in anything having to do with either celebrities or reality television (two categories that should probably be mutually exclusive but somehow are not), but I am finding myself sucked into the John and Kate drama. Why is that?

We watched the first couple of seasons, not religiously or in order, but here and there because reruns would be on at night while I was getting Genevieve to sleep in our bed. SAM and I used to tease BD about having a little thing for Kate, at least until he saw the belly surgery episode. We would shake our heads and say "Poor John" when Kate would treat him like her ninth child, and wish for a van like theirs so our crew of nine could someday travel in one vehicle. But then we lost interest, because really, it was never that interesting in the first place.

I've seen whole websites transformed by swarms of loyal J&K fans coming to duke it out with J&K haters on the basis of one editorial. There's a thread of comments over thirteen thousand posts long on a parenting site I frequent. It's nuts! And truly, I would never dedicate that much emotional energy to loving or hating people I don't even know. But I have to admit, I'm not sorry to see Kate getting her comeuppance.

Maybe it's that I find it harmfully dishonest to present such a shiny-happy false facade to the world, in which one woman pretends to (almost) singlehandedly keep her eight children clean, clothed, and fed an all-organic diet in an immaculate house with a perfectly-organized laundry room while maintaining individualized relationships with each child and having a hot date with the hubby on a regular basis. Girl, please. Who are you fooling, and why would you want to?

Here's something I've learned: if you make yourself look too much better than everyone else, they will take the very earliest opportunity to crucify your uppity butt. But if you make people feel like they are not doing so badly after all, they might just love you. Maybe if Kate hadn't been so busy allegedly elbowing people out of her way on the path to fame and fortune, someone would have told her that.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Open letter to Toilet Hoverers

Dear T-H-ers of the world:

The way this works is that if your butt is actually on the toilet seat, you are not able to pee all over it. In other words, the only one making the seat too nasty to sit on is you, the one who thinks you are too good to sit on it. Please stop doing that.

Yours truly,
Sweet Sassy Molassy

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The New Math

Days since last nursing: 10
Weeks this fell before projected goal: 3
Months spent nursing Genevieve: 35
Months spent nursing Somerset: 36
Months spent nursing Joshua: 14 (he got the shaft because S was born when he was 14 months old and I'm not woman enough to tandem)
Months spent nursing Calvin: 27

Grand total of months spent nursing (drumroll please....): 112

That's 9.333 in human years.

Weeks before I got pregnant again the last time I had a weaned, diaper-free three year old: two
How sure I am that this will not happen again: 100%

Months not spent pregnant or nursing since 1997: 4.5

That's right. Four. And a half.

I just figured that out. No wonder I've been cranky!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Analyze This

Suddenly this past week, I've been having very strange and vivid dreams. One was very tactile and color specific, involving a lot of grit and the vomiting of orange feathers. One involved a group of roving attackers breaking into my house and keeping me hostage. We'd heard they were on the loose, so we were going around locking the windows, and then they walked right through the front door. That's probably significant.

Last night I dreamed that a group of domestic terrorists (label applied post-dream) killed everyone in the world who wasn't with them with poisonous gas, but I was part of a secret resistance that survived by somehow not breathing the gas while pretending to be dead. Once they moved on from where I was, I quickly packed one bag for myself and my kids. It was a white nylon drawstring backpack of the cheap fundraiser variety, if you want to know. I chose very carefully the clothes that would get us through life on the run. They turned out to be tshirts mainly. I asked myself if I needed to be stealthy, but since the terrorists assumed that everyone who wasn't one of them was dead, I didn't need to. But as I encountered people I had known before the attack and they acted normal toward me, I started to wonder if these were really the same people, or if their bodies had been somehow taken over. If that were the case, did they have some way of recognizing a body that hadn't been snatched?

What does it all mean??

Monday, May 04, 2009

The Ponderous Adventures of Cindabella and Bootie

In an attempt to act like a good mom and play with my kids yesterday, I parked myself in front of the three-story Barbie mansion with Genevieve. Delighted, she helped me pick a doll and parked her at table on the veranda with her own.

"What's your girl's name?" I asked her.
"Um...Cindabella," she replied. "You can be Bootie."

Clearly the Disney Princess indoctrination starts early. Genevieve has never even seen any of those movies. Oh well. I giggled at her interpretation of the names and dressed my brunette Barbie in a sundress that I could barely yank up over her misproportioned hips. We pondered the mystery of the stairs that go only from the second to the third floor, and the elevator that goes only from first to second. I noted that although the mansion seems spacious, Barbie is apparently the doll-equivalent of 8 feet tall. The bar-height kitchen table sits at her hips when she leans awkwardly against the stool. I guess it doesn't matter, since neither Cindabella nor Bootie was able to bend her elbow to take a drink of her "glass of line."

Barbies were a nice diversion in the middle of a day that both started out and ended up sucking. I have been working toward weaning Genevieve, with her third birthday at the end of May looming as our deadline. Sometimes she's been cooperative with the limits I've tried to set, and sometimes not so much. After she woke up at 6:00 yesterday morning and nursed without ceasing until I finally couldn't take it at 8:00, she screamed and cried and threw a fit about being denied. Then I pretty much screamed and cried and threw a fit at BD, and it was all just ugly and upsetting and the result of a lot of frustration and exhaustion and I think we all realized that we just can't do it anymore, any of us.

So we stayed in our jammies all day except when he took the kids to the book store for a brief outing before dinner, and we played Barbies and watched bad (really bad) tweener TV on Disney and tried to just be easy with each other, and when G asked to nurse and I told her I can't nurse her anymore, she handled it fairly well. Until bed time. We have never night-weaned any of our kids, because I'm too lazy and I can't stand all that crying. This is the first time in four kids and eleven years that I have not wanted to nurse more than I have not wanted to deal with difficult weaning rituals. (Usually I just take a trip or, you know, go to the hospital to have another baby.) BD had warned me not to come to her room no matter how much she screamed and called for me. It seemed to go suprisingly well for a while, then it went horribly. I read until I couldn't, and then I cried and felt like a selfish ass while SAM reassured me that she was in the hands of a loving parent who was taking good care of her, and that she was just mad and was making sure we knew it. I knew she was right, but it still sucked.

I never thought I would be anything but ready by the time she finally weaned, ending a nine-plus year nursing total, but I really hate the thought that Sunday morning will be the last time I ever nurse her, because I was just angry the whole time. And I really do have so many sweet, wonderful memories of curling around her little body, warm in the bed with the comforter around us. I can't decide if I can give us both a different last time or not without setting us back. I guess we'll see. In the meantime, I definitely feel like the Bootie in our little duo.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What Kind of Tree Hugger Are You?

I am becoming more and more amused by the proliferation of quizzes on Face Book. I love the "Which Grease Character Are You" quiz that asks questions from a purely male perspective, but assigns only female characters. (I was Rizzo, of course.) There are quizzes that ask you if you love the sunshine and hate rain and then tell you Seattle is your perfect city. There's the "What Kind of Parent Are You" quiz whose questions and answers look something like this:

Your child falls down. You

A. Laugh

B. Rub crushed glass into the skinned knee

C. Light up a smoke

D. Pick him up and put a bandage on the booboo

Guess which answer gets you the "You are a great parent" rating. I think my favorites, though, are the ones that are clearly written by someone who speaks English as a second language, because there is nothing more endearing that Japanese syntax applied to English grammar. It makes me feel like I'm living a David Sedaris essay.

Recently I took a quiz that was supposed to tell you where you fall on the political ideology spectrum. Now, you and I both know where I fall, but I couldn't resist getting that terribly unflattering photo of Nancy Pelosi published on my profile, so I took it. The questions were surprisingly valid and grammatically correct, and there were a lot of them, by Face Book quiz standards. I actually started to sweat it a little when several questions about the death penalty came up. What if I lost my liberal cred right there on Face Book for all the world to see? Because, yes, I believe in the death penalty. Not in all cases or for the full range of crimes to which it may now be applied, but yeah. Child molesters and serial killers cannot be reformed. And I don't care if it's a deterrent to others, or if it can't bring back the victims or change what happened. I believe there is a point of no return. I believe you can forfeit your right to share oxygen with the rest of humanity. I'm okay with the concept of purely punitive action in those cases, and yes, I believe I would be willing and able to push the button myself, so to speak.

I have come to accept this fact about myself--I am forgiving to a fault on my own behalf, but my capacity for grudgeholding-by-proxy is astonishing. I have let go of shocking personal betrayals and wrongs, but if you hurt someone I love, or an innocent stranger, I want nothing less than your utter destruction, and I usually want to be the instrument. This rage on the behalf of others is sometimes hard for me to reconcile. I value my inner peace; I loathe drama of any kind. In my personal life I strive for zen-like acceptance of reality and of people with all their flawed humanity. And yet, all the self-talk I can muster falls short of convincing me to let go of my anger on behalf of others. Maybe I should. But maybe, on the other hand, a little righteous indignation never hurt anyone.

So that's how I know the "Which Norse God Are You" quiz is flawed. Clearly I am not Frigg, as stated, but Vidar.

Oh, as for the political ideology spectrum, I guess my pro-gay marriage and anti-victimless-crime answers redeemed me, because it said if I went any further to the left, I'd be in Stalin's back yard. Phew!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Long Slide into Summer

There are years when spring break makes me feel rejuvenated and recharged enough to finish out the school year, and then there are years when it just makes me ready for summer. This year it did the latter. All I want to do is sit under the massive wisteria-dripping pergola and read The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, drinking sweet tea with mint from the courtyard herb garden and tanning my legs while the kids run around in the yard. Isn't it summer yet?

This doesn't bode well for the 100 Othello analysis papers I need to grade, or the classwork for the six weeks that ends Wednesday. Senioritis happens to teachers too.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Memphis is Like

Imagine that you are a young woman in the prime of your life. You have this boyfriend; he is sexy and smart and fun to be around, mostly. As soon as you met, he opened himself up to you and you could see all this amazing potential. He could be great, and you could be great by his side. The two of you have chemistry. There's just something about him that feels right to you.

You even like a lot of his friends. They're interesting and sharp and when you all hang out together, you feel so at home. You know that if you were dating some other guy, some Joe Schmoe from the office, you would never have found friends this cool. They introduce you to all this great music and they know all the best places to hear it. There's not a hole-in-the-wall or greasy spoon they haven't tried and judged, and you revel in the fruits of their searching.

He even cooks. He can make all kinds of things, but he has one dish, let's say barbecue, that is really special--the best you've ever had. Sure, maybe sometimes he gets in a barbecue rut, but even then, you have to admit it's good. It's what you want him to make when friends come over, and it's what you crave when you have to be apart.

But this guy, he has some issues. For a while you can overlook the problems--no one's perfect, right? So he's a little moody. A little bit of a slob around the house. The apartment you now share is starting to look a little shabby, especially when you compare it to your friends' places. Still, its better than what you could afford if you weren't with him. And really, you could let all of that go, every bit of it, if it weren't for this anger thing that just seems to be getting worse with every passing day.

At first you only hear about it. There's a story of how he lost it with some guy at a bar, or the office smartass. Then there will be a day now and then when he seems touchy, quick to raise his voice. After a while, it gets harder to relax around him. You're always wondering, in the back of your mind, when he's going to blow. And finally one day, it happens--he directs the full force of his anger at you. You probably didn't even do anything, just minding your own business when suddenly, Bam! He's in your face, screaming about nothing you did, and then the unthinkable happens, and he hits you.

You are stunned. Somehow, even though you knew it was happening all around you, you cannot believe this has hit home. You think about leaving, but it's so hard to wrap your mind around all the things you will lose. And even though it makes you hate yourself a little bit, you still love him. You can't forget all the good times, all the things you only feel when you're with him. You know that you won't get to keep his friends. Sure, you'll stay in touch, but it can never be the same. And you won't be able to go to the old hangouts--they're his territory. You imagine never tasting his cooking again--where will you get babrbecue that good? You look at other apartments and think of how you could fix them up, make them your own, and it all seems great, but then you go home and all your stuff is there, and your good memories, and it makes you angry that he has done this.

Why should you have to leave? Why can't he get himself together, why can't all those things you love about him be the whole story, why can't he see how perfect things would be if he would just deal with his problems? But in the end, you know that he won't. You know that you have to go. And you know, already, that you will never get over the feeling that he was the one, that it really was meant to be between the two of you, but he ruined it, and you just can't forgive him for that. You will never stop feeling angry about what could have been, the waste of it, the frustrating clarity of your vision of the man he could have chosen to become. You're young, you'll meet someone else, but you know there's some small part of yourself that you won't be able to give again, because you never got it back.

That is exactly what Memphis is like.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm Okay, You're Okay

One of the things I like about reading my friends' blogs is the way their thoughts and experiences can lead me to closer contemplation of my own. For example, reading Rita's post about people's reaction to her return to martial arts classes brought me back to something I've been thinking about lately myself. And really, what good are other people if they don't provide me with a platform to talk about me, me, me?

Really, though, Rita was saying that she's gotten a lot of "you're so brave" comments, which she can't help but hearing as "wow, you look so foolish, yet you get out there in that hideous uniform anyway" (to paraphrase). Wisely she has decided to enjoy herself and not care what people think. So how does that relate to me? It's kind of complicated. I think a lot of my persona is built on th foundation of "I don't care what you think of me," and on reflection, for the most part, I find that to be true. The trouble is more with what I think of me, or if your idea of me doesn't match up to my own idea of what you are supposed to think of me. That's reasonable, right?

I know that I have a problem with taking myself too seriously. Sometimes that makes it hard for me to determine why I'm really doing or not doing something. I think there are a lot of things I don't do because in no universe can I comprehend how those things are supposed to be fun. Which wouldn't matter, except they're always things that a lot of other people think are fun, and the end result is that I come across as a curmudgeonly or stuck up or more-highbrow-than-thou. It's hard to even list specific examples because of the mental list of friends who are going to read them and say "Oh, so you think all these things that I do are stupid, huh?" Which is tricky because, while those things do seem kind of unfathomable to me, that doesn't mean I think you're dumb for doing them. Maybe that means that I'm not so much worried about me or what you think of me, but about what you think I think of you? This is getting confusing.

Suffice it to say that even if no one would ever see me or know that I had done it, I would never, ever, ever stand in my own living room and play Rock Band any more than I would ever stand in front of a bar full of strangers and sing karaoke. Just like I really and truly do not like reality TV, even though you may suspect that I secretly watch and love it but just pretend I'm "better" than that. I know that makes some of you sad for me, but really, it's okay. Because knowing that I wouldn't want to do it even if no one were watching or would ever even find out assures me that it's not about making an ass of myself. That's just not what I think is fun. So I'm okay with that. And I guess I want my Rock-Band/various-other-video-game-playing/Rock-of-Love-watching friends to be okay with that too. I won't be embarrassed for you, and you don't have to feel sorry for me for missing all the fun.

As for the American Idol thing, well, maybe we don't need to talk about that right now.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Dirty Santa

Genevieve has a habit of fixating on ideas and events. For a long time, she was obsessed with her birthday party. We could see a motorcycle and she'd say "I had two motorcycels at my birthday party. They were pink and purple." If she saw something she liked she would insist that she either had or would have that thing at her birthday party. Every day was about her birthday. The funny thing is, she's never even had a birthday party. My kids have their first real party when they turn five and are old enough to remember me spending that kind of money for a Spongebob cake at the bowling alley for them and their spazzy friends.

Lately, though, she has changed her focus. Christmas seems to have been the catalyst, although the effect was slightly delayed. Now it's all about the fat man in the red suit. And even though she sometimes speaks of him as a friend who is going to bring her things, she also blames him for all her injuries.

It started as Christmas approached and we tried to get Genevieve excited about Santa bringing her toys in the middle of the night. Without fail, she would insist that Santa was going to punch her in the stomach. I have no idea where my two year old got the mental image of a jolly old elf sneaking into her room in the dark of night to punch her in the gut as she slept, but it seemed to be firmly entrenched.

Now whenever she has a mysterious bruise or scratch, if I ask her how she got it she replies witout missing a beat "Santa hit me." Where is she getting this? Am I going to catch some stranger lurking around my house at night dressed as Mr. Clause?

Monday, March 09, 2009


I did not touch a computer all weekend. It was an unplanned break, one that happened naturally, and that's probably for the best since the minute I set a limit for myself, I will defiantly break it just to prove that I can. Such is the life of the ODD sufferer. Anyway, it was nice!

We hosted a group yard sale Saturday, since we do have plenty of yard to go around. I amused SAM and BD by taking seemingly random strangers on a spontaneous tour of the house, including my closet. Because if you come to my house, I'm showing you that closet! But they were not in fact random strangers. They were Kristen from the MOMS' board and her husband Josh and their baby girl whose name, I believe, is Ella. So there.

In other acts of gregariousness to total strangers, I introduced myself to our new neighbors and ended up sitting and chatting with them for an hour on their lovely back porch while my boys joined their boys on their trampoline. Also, last night while going through the U-Scan line at Kroger to buy exactly one tub of Cool-Whip for a terrible pie I attempted to make, I allowed two different people to use my discount card since they didn't have one. Like I do.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


I read this story on this blog this morning and it just immobilized me. It's from Bird by Bird, by Anne Lammot. I own that book but I've never read it, because she's kind of Christiany and spiritual and I tend to avoid that stuff.

Here is the best true story on giving I know, and it was told by Jack Kornfield of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre. An eight year old boy had a younger sister who was dying of leukemia, and he was told that without a blood transfusion she would die. His parents explained to him that his blood was probably compatible with hers, and if so, he could be the blood donor. They asked him they could test his blood. He said sure. So they did and it was a good match. Then they asked if he would give his sister a pint of blood, that it could be her only chance of living. He said he would have to think about it overnight.The next day he went to his parents and said he was willing to donate the blood. So they took him to the hospital where he was put on a gurney beside his six-year-old sister. Both of them were hooked up to IVs. A nurse withdrew a pint of blood from the boy, which was then put in the girls' IV. The boy lay on his gurney in silence while the blood dripped into his sister, until the doctor came over to see how he was doing. Then the boy opened his eyes and asked, "How soon until I start to die?"

Now, I know this story has some problems: why would it be blood and not bone marrow? Why would it only be a pint of blood? But still! What killed me when I read it was thinking of an eight-year-old boy making what he thought was the sacrifice of his actual life, and doing so while believing that his parents were willing to trade his life for his sister's.

I really hope that is not a true story.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Samoas and Other Mysteries of the Universe

My girl scout finally located her cookie order form and took a break from edging out the Chip-Juices to bring me my four boxes: Samoas, Trefoils, Lemon Chalet Creams, and of course, Thin Mints. This prompted a discussion on the beautiful mystery that is the Samoa. How is it that none of us likes coconut but cannot resist the luscious Samoa? We talked briefly about the new flavors but agreed that the Samoa is still Troop Leader #1.

This indisputable fact was confirmed whenI shared the fact that I was a girl scout for many years and always sold the most cookies in my troop. This was thanks to the fact that my mom worked at Methodist Hospital and would take my order form in to work with her, then bring it back with several sheets of notebook paper stapled to it and covered with orders. A girl in the class smacked her hand on the desk and said with an earnest face and a voice full of longing: "That's because Samoa's ain't no joke."