Monday, December 01, 2008

Thanksgiving Chronicle

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. I've been reading various blogs and I've read some lovely accounts of how people spent the holiday. Extraordinary food. Lovely tables. Beautiful homes. Family and friends. Very pleasant reading indeed. Not exactly how I'd describe the day around here though.

As is the custom, we had Thanksgiving at my house. My parents came and all of my girls were there, along with one of the boyfriends. So the family and friend thing? Definitely had that covered. The rest of the trappings? Maybe not so much.

Wednesday I was fortunate to spend a lovely afternoon with Clarice and Angie , both unbelievable hostesses and cooks. An afternoon that in hindsight I probably should have forgone given the amount of work that I left for myself that night and the next day. Honestly though? I can't imagine any instance that I would choose not to go to Angie's on any given Wednesday. That visit truly lifts my spirits week in and week out. Besides, had I not gone I would never have tried Angie's Pumpkin Dinner Rolls and never had the brilliant idea to make them for our own dinner.

Huh. You know, now that I think of it, had I not gone to Angie's and tasted those scrumptious rolls, that would have shaved nearly 5 hours of Thanksgiving dinner prep time. Note to self: If planning to spend the afternoon before a major holiday visiting with dear friends, do not be tempted by new recipes that will take hours to accomplish no matter how tasty. (yeah, like Self will ever listen)

And that's generally the problem around here. I love to make holidays special. I really do enjoy cooking, decorating and all the various and sundry activities that go along with celebrating. What I struggle with is doing it in a timely manner. Some of that's pure food snobbery. I don't often do many shortcuts (although I have to admit that over the past 10 years I don't do my own stock much anymore. I still feel horribly guilty every time I used that boxed stuff though. Clearly I'm not only a food snob, I'm a food hypocrite. Nice.) and I worry that the flavor and integrity of the food might be damaged by too much "make ahead" prep. Part of it, it pains me to say, is simply procrastinationitis. In other words? Pure, unadulterated laziness.

When things run smoothly, even with a late start, everything ultimately works out fairly well. When they don't? Like this year's Thanksgiving?

Pure panic sets in.

The biggest horror (and the casualty of the dinner roll prep the night before) was the pumpkin pie. I've made pie crusts for over 20 years. Good pie crusts. I can do them with my eyes closed. That's why I was beyond puzzled by the failure of three successive pie crusts. I mean those babies simply crumbled right in my hand. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. I went through all the stages of Pie Panic. Confusion. Annoyance. Alarm. Terror. Not only did I have the pumpkin, I had two custard pies (chocolate and butterscotch) to make as well. I simply couldn't give in to Resignation. Eventually after a heated argument with my husband over what flour he'd purchased when last at the market, I simply opened a brand new bag and within minutes had all three of my crusts done and ready to go. I knew it was all his fault.

All that time spent making crust, after crust, after blasted crust set me way back, giving me next to no wiggle room. A person like me needs serious wiggle room. Big time. Between the pies, "my" sausage cornbread stuffing that Caroline insisted I make even though my mother was also making stuffing, and the rolls, by the time my guests arrived, I was truly spent. Which is why it makes next to no sense that Rebecca was the one who conked out after dinner. Out cold, I tell you.

There apparently is no justice in the land of holidays and their preparation.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gadget Challenged

Picture if you will this scene.

Husband and myself sitting companionably side by side and enjoying yet another viewing of Notting Hill. Controllers necessary for said viewing are placed somewhat haphazardly on the arm of the sofa. As is likely to happen in such an instance, the controllers get pushed off the arm of the sofa and end up somewhere under the sofa. Thankfully husband has long arms as well as total disdain of the spiders that I'm sure lurk under the sofa biding their time waiting for an unsuspecting appendage to present itself and retrieves the controller so we can pause the film and make some popcorn. That's when things went horribly wrong.

Controller before epic journey:

Controller after rescuing:

(Sorry about the quality of the photo. Terror will do this to you)

Honestly I had no idea what he'd pushed, but I was convinced that one or all of the following would, or had, happen/ed:

1. We would immediately be charged for every single option available via pay-per-view.
2. The controller would intone a message and say that it was planning to self-destruct, taking most of Western WA with it.
3. The spiders had enacted revenge for every one of their kind that I'd captured and put outside during the winter, utilizing the controller as a method for implementing their nefarious plan.
4. We would forever be doomed to watch "My Big Redneck Wedding" and "Mythbusters" for all eternity. (Fare you well my beloved HGTV)

So, okay, I know. Common sense says: "Wow. That's interesting. Lighted keys so you can see in total darkness." Honestly though? Our initial reaction truly was a "What the HELL is going on with this thing?!" I kid you not. You know, we're really not dolts, but the last thing either of us thought was that the stupid controller would light up. I mean, who thinks of these things? And who decides on RED as the color?? Green is so much more soothing and non-scary. Red's just so, well, RED.

I'm sure we'll eventually adapt to all these newfangled gadgets, but in the meantime, just in case, check to make sure yours aren't glowing red in solidarity with mine, signaling an unpleasant future for us all.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Musical Memories

Despite not being at all musical or even caring all that much about music (I can hear Rebecca gasp from here) I've been thinking a lot about the memories certain songs or bands evoke. I know I've spoken a bit about how the Beach Boys conjure all sorts of summertime images the minute you hear them, but they're nothing compared to the images and sheer thrill this guy prompts the minute you hear him - well, at least for anyone near my age.
Yes, the Norelco Santa. The very guy. The one who heralded the holiday season by hawking razors. This ad is a bit older than the ones I remember, but the feeling is the same. I don't know what it is about this ad, but when I saw it just a couple of days ago, I was seized by the exact same feeling I had when I was 6 or so and nearly hysterical with anticipation of the big day. That giddy thrill. That absolute certainty that life just couldn't get any better than life during the holiday season. Who couldn't use a bit of that joy, expectation and excitement? So it comes in the form of a razor ridin' Santa. Big deal.

Oh wow. Not that I really think about it, that's fairly pathetic. It's clear that my Empty, Consumer Driven childhood has warped my sense of what is right and good in the world.

. . .

Whatever. Give me a Norelco Ridin' Santa any day of the week.

Not all songs bring such nice memories. Not only is our next selection another trip down memory lane, it's cheesy to boot. It's even a song that my old high school boyfriend used to sing in a soulful voice to me before he headed back to college. Bad enough, but what's worse is that he apparently teared up when he heard it at a concert. Not so terribly odd given the ridiculousness of teenage boys, you say? Ahh, but a crucial bit of info is missing for you. You see he was at the concert with another girl.

Given this song's history and the bad blood associated with it, when it came on the radio tonight on the way home from a dinner with my parents, I immediately switched the channel. Only to be met with howls of protest from my husband. Okay, so I know the guy likes some goofy stuff. Stuff that I wouldn't be caught dead listening to. But this?? This, without a doubt, is a low point in our relationship. I'm not sure we can recover. I'm willing to try, but if more of this type of thing happens again . . .

Without further ado, so you can be as disgusted as I was tonight, here you go:

And finally, in the "This is ABSOLUTELY CRIMINAL" category, I have some truly upsetting news to report. Like most areas of the country, we have a radio station that plays "oldies". Not "classic rock" like Zeppelin, Petty, AC/DC, etc. No. We're talking Chubby Checker, Buddy Holly (who, it has to be admitted, is seriously amazing, no matter the era), and Frankie Valley. That kind of oldies. Well, at least I thought it was that kind of oldies station. Since this isn't music that I listen to often, I haven't heard the station in a while. Twice now, twice I tell you, I've been flipping through stations and heard this guy. Twice. This an oldie?

Surely not? Really?

Yes, I'm aware it's from the early '80s, that still doesn't mean that it belongs on the OLDIES station!

Please. Show Mr. Mellencamp some respect. He has had a heart attack, you know.

Dear God, he does belong on the oldies station. I'm not going to think about what that means about me.

Not tonight anyway.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

It's been a long, tough slog through the muck, hasn't it? My mother, the erstwhile politics junkie (as long as it's all about the Democrats, of course) was overheard sighing at dinner Sunday and saying, "You know what I'm looking forward to? It being all over!" I think it's a sentiment that many of us could wholeheartedly agree with.

While it's been disheartening to be so frustrated, and occasionally disgusted, by the machinations of the parties and their candidates, I still find myself feeling deeply connected to the system and to my country, as flawed as I may find it and its government at times. From something as simple as watching John Adams and being moved, to something more profound like the thrill I still have when casting my own vote, it's clear that despite my often cynical and disappointed harping, I'm still bound to my country and the ideals that drove its creation.

I hope we all take a moment tomorrow and make our voices heard. Not only is our country worth that effort, so are we.

(Okay, so maybe a '40's pinup girl isn't the first thing we think about when exercising our right to vote, but you've got to admit she was probably effective. Besides, you try to find vintage, interesting "vote!" clip art when you have zero patience wading through the morass that is Google.)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Growing Up Fast

I've never been the type of parent who mourns the lost babyhood of her progeny. While it's true that I love children of all ages, and each stage of their growth has its own unique pleasure, it's always been with teenagers that I've felt most comfortable. They're so bright, interesting and full of opinions. Granted, not all opinions held by the teenagers who have frequented my domain have been equally welcome, but it remains true that they are all pretty interesting. So, while it's fun going through each stage with my children, I've always awaited the next stage with eagerness.

As I've mentioned before, my youngest daughter will be twelve very soon.


This hardly seems possible. My eldest daughter just turned 24, my middle 19, and while it's true that I find myself marveling the fact that they are indeed adults, this last one . . . well, it's just different. She seems so much younger at this age than my other girls, although in reality she's clearly much older. More precocious. More worldly. I have a friend who has taught elementary aged children for over 20 years now. She says that she can tell the moment a child enters her classroom whether that child is an eldest or a youngest. The eldest child of a family often is just as a child should be. Naive, unaware and childlike. Those children born last? The babies of the family? Well, let's just say if they swept into their first grade classroom wearing a smoking jacket, swilling a martini, and magnanimously offering dating advice gained from watching elder siblings, no one would be surprised.

I know all of this. I also know my daughter. That's why it's a bit of a puzzle how thrown I was by my "baby" this weekend.

Scene: Local fire station. A birthday party. One that, after having received the invitation, my daughter declared would probably be lame. The party that she thought she might be a bit "too old" for at the ripe old age of nearly 12. I expected my daughter to be excited when we picked her up since we were headed to a close friend's house to play with their new puppy. What I didn't expect was her mile-a-minute chatter about the party at the fire station. Thrilled that she was able to transcend her blase' attitude, be a child and enjoy the party, I started to ask questions about what they'd seen and done. Sure she had a detail or two about the fire trucks, the work the firefighters did, etc. but would you like to know what most of her animated discussion was about?

Well, let's just say that while she was definitely interested in and admiring of the work firefighters do, she was equally enamored of how they looked doing it. (Not to mention trying to figure out a way to set one up with either of her older sisters). As I said earlier, I was a bit thrown. Why I was is beyond me. This is the girl who at 4, looking a gift given (not by me or my husband) to her oldest sister (then 16), a calendar entitled"The Men of Hawaii", casually declared how "hot" several men were. After stern looks at her older sister for not being a bit more careful with her dialogue around her baby sister, I corrected my 4 year old told her that the men should more correctly be termed "attractive", "happy", "healthy" and "handsome". She nodded solemnly and said "You're right, mommy. They are certainly handsome." She then paused for a long moment before adding matter of factly "And they're hot too." Apparently that logic applies not only to the men of Hawaii, but also to firefighters.

Growing up a bit too fast? Yeah, maybe.

But then again . . .
Who can argue with her?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Excess? You Decide

Most of the time I'm pretty content with the stage of life that I'm at. Fairly comfortable with being a woman of a "certain age" with the responsibilities I've maintained for over 20 years. Sure, there's a pang or two of nostalgia when the older girls (24 and 19) discuss exciting early adulthood experiences, but nothing terribly painful.

Most of the time.

The other day my middle daughter was chatting with me while folding her laundry. She mentioned that it had been a while since she'd done laundry, giving a completely logical reason as to why she was folding TWENTY-FIVE pairs of underwear.

TWENTY-FIVE. Nice pairs. Not an "emergency" pair in the bunch. Adorable, lacy little nothings. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. (As a visual aid, I've added a representative photo from Victoria's Secret) Now many of you might be saying: "Twenty-five pairs? Big deal. I've got fifty in the drawer at home." To those of you saying this, I say "Pfft! I have nothing to say to you other than turn in your Mother Martyr card immediately."
But wait. There's more.

She came home from work (she works at an upscale-ish department store) on Friday with TEN. More. Pairs!

Seriously. I'm so not kidding.

Now, I know I'm from New England, am thrifty, practical, pragmatic and all that, but honestly? It's clearly time to go shopping.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Unknown Perils of Online Viewing

So, here it is, Sunday night. I'm alone (everyone in the house is either in bed or being churlish). I'm bored. Nothing to do. Super Text Twist works for a minute until I realize that I might as well have someone sit next to me with a sign that says "Verbal Dullard" since I can't seem to get words like "sierra" and "disdains". Obviously Text Twist isn't exactly a self esteem booster tonight. Not only that, but I've eaten far too many of the chocolate/vanilla swirl marshmallows my mother bought me. Mom, I love you and you were a sweetheart to pick up a bag for me when you bought one for yourself, but since it's clear I have no willpower at all against them, I think it's best to eschew them all together in the future since they are clearly tools of the devil.

Normally, since I'm an American and all that, I would generally pick this time to turn on the television instead of doing something productive like work on the baby sweater. Sadly though, since we ditched cable and pretty much turned off the television to "regular" viewing when my oldest (now 24) was around 8 or 9, all those fun new shows are unavailable to me until they come out on DVD. (Full Disclosure Notice: Well, that was then, this is almost now - we're getting cable again in a couple of weeks. Price for the phone/cable internet/tv bundle was too good to pass up) So, I decide to see which new shows are available to watch online. I particularly wanted to see Life on Mars and Fringe.

Life on Mars wasn't bad, lots of fun music and appealing actors. but it's Fringe that I really wanted to check out. I'm definitely not much of a police procedural person, but Fringe still interests me because of J. J. Abrams and my Lost addiction. Off I go to the Fox Network.

I click on the "Watch Full Episode" tab, then "Fringe" and . . .

I get this:

A blank page with the ominous words "FATAL ERROR" and lots of intimidating code at the top.


Fatal Error?

What exactly does this mean? My fatal error? The computer? The network? I don't know about you, but if I hear the words "fatal error" after an attempt at anything, I think it's likely that I'm pretty much, sorry there's just not a delicate way to put this, screwed. I quickly hit the "back" button (like that's really going to help in a true "fatal error" situation) and closed out the entire browser. Since I'm here and able to write this post, I think it might be safe to assume that I luckily got out in time.

While it's clear there are obvious benefits to an existence without "real" TV, there appear to be significant perils too. To avoid any potential Fatal Errors in the future, I think I'll just be patient until the cable's hooked up to the television instead of just the computer.

I guess it's back to Text Twist and more humiliation.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Crafty Endeavors

If you spend too much time online perusing blogs, you could potentially find yourself feeling a bit, shall we say, inadequate.

First you have those clever, adept and cerebral wordsmiths who offer food for the not only the brain, but also the spirit. Whether it's offering deep, critical analysis of extraordinary books they've read (or written!), witty observations on culture, or amusing anecdotes of their lives, each day there's something fresh and new to look forward to.

But that's not enough.

Then you find those who are so accomplished and clever with their hands that their homes boast a cornucopia of creations, each more creative and detailed than the last, each one alternately inspiring me and sending me into a shame spiral when viewing my own feeble attempts at handwork.

My dear friend Kristin just welcomed a sweet new granddaughter. She's absolutely beautiful. Those of us around Kristin (and faithful readers of her blog) have known for some time of this grandchild. I tell you this not to offer a refresher course in basic reproductive biology, but to illuminate a basic flaw in my character.

Not only can I not seem to finish anything in a timely manner, nothing I create is in any way similar to the cozy homemaker/crafter bloggers' creations.

I decided, in my infinite wisdom, despite all evidence being contrary to any good outcome, to knit the expected grandchild a sweater. Since my previous knitting accomplishments include a handful a scarves and several botched attempts at socks, this was ambitious, but hey, there was 7 months to complete the sweater, right?

That's right. Seven months. A looong time. Lots of time to find the right yarn, the right pattern and the right talent necessary for such an endeavor.

Yarn? Fairly easy to find.

Pattern? Ditto.

Talent? Apparently missing in action if my progress on the sweater is anything to go by.

Yeah, that looks about right.

Friday, October 03, 2008


"If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair."
Samuel Johnson

As I just wrote to a friend, and as I've mentioned here, I occasionally have a love/hate relationship with the blogging world. So much of it feels intimate and cozy, warm and open. I feel pulled into people's lives through their blogs, experiencing with them the ins and outs of their lives, generally celebrating the good but sometimes experiencing the unthinkable with them. Or at least it feels that way. Sometimes though that cuddly feeling masks an empty intimacy. Something that lacks substance, context and true depth.

At times we are fortunate to truly share in each other's lives via the 'net and even form acquaintances that turn into something deeper and richer. Often though it has felt to me that we just seem to skim along the surface of each other's existence without the burden of the more difficult practice of maintaining relationships through hard work, effort and contact. We don't really know each other and have no idea what we're all really like. We're missing that essential nitty gritty contact that mandates the bad to be seen along with the good and allows someone to love you anyway.

Out of such thoughts and experiences was born my love/hate relationship with the blogging community. Until I realized something.

The 'net and its active blogging community doesn't have a lock on superficiality with regards to human interaction. "Real" life and its accompanying relationships can be just as fleeting, just as empty of true intimacy as any online relationship. Even deeply held and cherished friendships can fade without the effort necessary to sustain them. "Real" life and its accompanying stresses can erode away the time and will necessary to maintain and strengthen friendships. I'm truly fortunate to have some lovely friends, something for which I'm grateful every day. Surprisingly though, via a medium that I sometimes feel uncertain about or even antagonistic toward, I've rediscovered some old friends. Seen their blogs and read the details of their lives, details that I should have been aware and cognizant of. That experience definitely made me think and brought home to me how lax I've been in maintaining those lovely friendships and how much I've missed them. It also brought home to me how fortunate I feel being able to see these blogs, to connect via this medium. Something I truly wasn't prepared for.

The moral of this ramble? Well, there really isn't one. Other than to say . . . umm . . . I guess I was wrong.


Cherish your friends - online or off. Real world or cyber world. However you found them and however you connect. The world's a pretty nice place with them in it.

"I do not wish to treat friendships daintily, but with the roughest courage. When they are real, they are not glass threads or frost-work, but the solidest thing we know."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sharing Small Pleasures

I had the pleasure last night of watching, for what has to be the 100th time, While You Were Sleeping, one of my favorite romantic comedies. I truly never get tired of it. Ever. It's one of my "comfort" films. You know, those films you put in the DVD player when you simply want or need something that makes you feel good. One that you know you'll enjoy regardless of what's going on in your life at the time.

What made this time special was that I watched it with what's becoming my "go to" girl to watch films with - my nearly 12 year old. Despite having to explain what a "testicle" was, the film's pretty tame and comes by its PG rating with little difficulty. (As a side note, it's a sad day in America when my youngest daughter understands what a "ball" is and not a "testicle". Sad, sad.) Sweet, tender and funny, it's perfect for the budding romantic that she's becoming.

Ever since Rebecca left home there's been a vast, yawning void in movie watching companionship. Gone indeed are the days when I could easily suggest an impromptu sing-a-long of Buffy the Vampire Slayer's "Once More With Feeling" episode or a "Fast Forward the Film Until We Get to a Dr. Evil Scene That We Can Quote" look at Autin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. While my husband is generally an acceptable, if not inventive, Movie Watching Partner, it's just not the same as watching with Rebecca.

My middle daughter? Well, her film watching habits mirror her reading habits, which means of course that any suggestion for lighter fare is often met with The Look. This is not a look that is designed to say "Wow. My mom sure has superior intelligence and I certainly need to emulate her in every way.". No indeed. That is not what The Look says. Trust me.

So that leaves me with the little one - the wee one - who somehow isn't so little or wee any longer. The one who doesn't roll her eyes when I suggest that it's surely time to watch Pride and Prejudice again or make me feel a bit silly that I think Viva Las Vegas might be just the ticket for the evening. She even, get this, wants to watch the special features on the DVDs with me! Not even Bec would do that.

It's absolutely lovely that she's now old enough to stay up a little too late and watch some of my favorite films with me. I can't wait until she's a bit older and we can watch all of my favorite films.

Well . . . almost.

I saw this post tonight and while my heart is so full of joy for my dear friend Kristin and her gorgeous daughter and granddaughter, those sweet pictures had me thinking of my own three daughters at the time of their birth and how it's impossible to imagine so much time has passed.

So while it's tempting to hurry time so I'll be able to watch The Matrix with my youngest, I think I'll just savor the time I have now.

(BTW: If you're interested in a great, in-depth discussion/analysis of While You Were Sleeping, check out The Sheila Variations' post on it. Great stuff.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just in Time for Your Workout Today

Seeing LoLCats on Bec's blog and reading Shallow Gal's comment on LOL Walrus and the Bucket led me to this:

Given the fact that my idea of exercise in the past has been generally how quickly I can turn the pages of the book I'm reading while sprawled on the sofa and the new knowledge that . . . umm . . . yeah . . exercise hurts -

I hear ya, Walrus. I seriously hear ya.

BTW, you can totally see that Walrus just wants to punch Perky Personal Trainer there, can't you?

Okay, so that's really just me and my pesky transference issues. Admit it though, the woman is enjoying her exercise just a bit too much for tolerance.

One more for good measure:

more animals

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Monday, Monday

As is typical for us all here, yesterday was a useful and productive day.

Oh wait. That's right. That's in my other world.

I'm not going to bore you with my plans to tackle all of the mundane, desperately needed cleaning chores. As a general rule, I'm fairly tidy, but every now and then things (umm . . . my bathroom for instance) gets a bit, shall we say, neglected. Yesterday was the day that I was going to address that neglect.


At first anyway.

My main effort at order and cleanliness yesterday? How to best attempt to persuade my husband to clean our bath. Despite my best efforts, which of course you understand had to be subtle given the fact that he'd already cleaned one bathroom in the house, my bath remains untidy. Unclean. Unwashed. Deeply unpalatable. Also, apparently, inescapable. Damn the man for being so helpful that I couldn't feel righteously justified in asking him to tackle another bathroom.

Given the fact that I didn't clean my bathroom, one would expect, despite my convoluted and protracted efforts to escape the chore, that I'd had plenty of time to tackle the other job on my fairly small "to-do" list.

You would be mistaken.

In the corner of my dining room sits a little corner cupboard. Since I'm not too much of a seasonal "around the house" decorator, I generally confine seasonal offerings to my corner cupboard. Which works well. When I actually do it. The china on the shelves of the cupboard now includes the blue, white, and silver pieces that are specifically meant for my "winter" cupboard. No, I'm not getting a jump on the coming season - this is from last winter. I kid you not. Last winter.

Sitting forlornly as a small sign of hope never realized rests a sweet little vase my daughter purchased for my spring cupboard. A splash of vibrant green amongst all the pale winter colors. A constant reminder of my decorative inattention this year.

Time finally to rectify this decorating disaster!

Right away.

I'm committed 100% to getting this done.

Right after I clean the bathroom.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Title Trauma

Does anyone else have difficulty in thinking of a title for posts?

I thought of "Holy Crap, Look How Long It's Been Since I Posted!", but that seemed a bit silly given the fact that it's clear how long it's been since I posted. Pointing it out, particularly in a title, simply emphasizes the fact that I have absolutely no clue what I'm going to write about. The fact that statement is absolutely true has no bearing on the issue.

Maybe "Hi Again, It's Me"?

Yeah, I know. Trite. Silly. And, once again, clearly indicative of a lack of creative thought and an inability to produce purposeful prose.

"On My Bookshelf/Nightstand/Coffee Table"?

Well, that one might be okay if it wasn't a blatant rip-off of others' more insightful blogs. Then again, I could possibly live with unethical title poaching if I were reading something incredibly edifying and intellectual. I'm thinking that the chick lit fare that I've been reading lately doesn't quite qualify. In fact I recently spent precious moments before heading out to an appointment, late since I'm always late, desperately searching for something that at least looked like I might have a brain cell or two left to read in a waiting room where I was expected to spend some time. I ended up poaching my middle daughter's bookshelf where one can always find something thought provoking, intellectual and acceptable to carry in public.

You know, I don't even think she knows what 'chick lit' is. Although, let's be frank with each other - just how many books can we be expected to read to suitably enrich our understanding of the downtrodden, oppressed, or otherwise endangered peoples of the world in any given month?

Yeah. You know I ditched the book for the People magazine with Brad and Angelina on the cover the second I got in the office.

"I'd Love to Write But Things Have Been "Challenging" Here to Say the Least"?

Wordy and, come on, what a clunker of a downer. Who wants to read that? And, from an author's standpoint, who wants to be on the other end of the fallout that would surely ensue after "challenges" have been duly noted and explored? No. The "tell-all" blog and its variously easily written titles are not for me.

Well, I guess it'll just have to be . . . umm . . .

Hell. I have absolutely no idea. I'll think of something. Someday.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Thursday Thoughts

1. Lost is on tonight. Seriously. I haven't been this excited about a show since . . . well . . . since a very long time.

Whatever. You get the idea.

The show is absolutely killer right now. On a related note, if you're into the show and haven't yet seen these Lost recaps, check out Ack Attack. Hilarious stuff.

2. Emergency Room docs that look like your daughter's old boyfriend are a bit disconcerting for all, especially when you make him uncomfortable staring at him and muttering "Who the hell does this guy look like??" under your breath every time he comes into the room. Fortunately Supernaturally Talented Middle Daughter When It Comes to Figuring out People and Where They Come From (there for a respiratory distress episode - 'tis the season for ugly allergens - damn spring) finally figured out who he looked like, saving her mother from a trip upstairs to the pysch ward for "observation" or to the police station.

3. Shopping with middle daughter a month or so ago and begging like a little girl for her to shell out the bucks for the newest Sims 2 expansion because you're too cheap apparently pays off. *Bonus: Acting like Mother's Day is simply an excuse for children and others to use the holiday as a "Get Out of Jail" free card and "honor" their mothers for years means you get the present way earlier.

4. Having The Lives of Others for nearly 2 months from Netflix and still not watching it is appalling. Even more shameful than not watching what I know will be an exceptional film is what I have watched instead. Here's a sampling:
Legally Blonde 2
That Thing You Do
Galaxy Quest
While You Were Sleeping

Yeah, I'm an intellectual giant.

5. Posts that you try to write because your eldest daughter has not yet given you the masterpiece of art necessary for the piece you had expected to post by this time are not always the most shining example of any literary competence.

Come on, Bec - it's time to face your fear and get mommy the picture she needs. :p

Monday, April 28, 2008

Against Type

I watched the first disc of Ultraviolet (the BBC television mini series from 1998) recently. While watching it I was struck by the familiarity of the actors playing various roles. Try as I might though I couldn't pinpoint where I'd seen the actors in the past. This always happens to me. If I don't have my middle daughter around, who has some supernatural ability to pull actor identities and their various characters out of thin air, I'm sunk. Often I totally lose the narrative of the film attempting to figure out where on earth I've seen these people before.

One character in particular stood out for me. I absolutely could not place her at first.

After a bit I finally figured out where I'd seen this actor before.

Dear God, it's Miss Jane Bennett! In a vampire mini series, playing a character that I'm not entirely sure is - gulp - good, honest or ethical.

If you're interested, Ultraviolet, even with the shock of seeing Miss Jane Bennet acting the way Angie Marsh does, is definitely worth a look. Dark, atmospheric and complicated, at least during the first disc, I've seen it described as "more mature" than Buffy the Vampire Slayer even though it deals with much the same premise. So far the program hasn't attempted to be black and white in it's approach to the idea of "good" or "evil", opting instead for a more realistic exploration of the concepts and the conceit that comes with being in power. The blurring of any defining characteristics from either side is well done, giving you plenty of "human" characteristics from the "leeches" and monstrous actions from the humans.

Great stuff - even if my memory of Miss Jane Bennet (Susannah Harker) from the 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice (my favorite adaptation by far) has been forever impacted and altered.

You know though now that I think of it, while it's true that Jane's "goodness and disinterestedness does her credit", there was always something about that smile that had me wondering . . .

Friday, April 25, 2008

Baby Love


Just the word makes me happy.

When they aren't mine that is.

I've been a parent now for nearly 25 years. During my tenure as a breeder, I've been many things to many different people, worn many different hats and been called many different things. I've been called the "cool" mom at times. I've been called the "good listener" mom. I'd also be willing to bet that I've been called a Not Nice Name mom on occasion as well. What I have not been called - ever - is Laid Back Mom.

Easygoing Mom.

Relaxed Mom.

Not now with daughters aged 23, 18 and 11 and certainly not when there were tiny.

A quick glance into my past will give you a clue as to why.

One evening when Rebecca was just a month or two old I had a sudden, insistent suspicion that she was deaf. Why? Well, because as she lay sleeping at my parent's house, I determined that she hadn't reacted as I thought she should to a noise. What's a concerned mother to do? I took her loudest rattle and shook it hard to see if she could hear it.

I'm serious. I shook the hell out of that thing.

Poor little thing looked like she was having a seizure she was so startled. Needless to say, I settled back, secure in the knowledge that she could indeed hear. Of course the rest of us couldn't hear over her ear piercing shrieks, but that's apparently the price you pay for peace of mind.

My middle? My youngest? I hesitate to tell you how anxious and concerned I've been over inconsequential things. From calling Poison Control because a baby might have, maybe, just possibly put an infinitesimal amount of a Gerbera Daisy petal somewhere near her lips to worrying that my 11 month old with chicken pox was always going to have a face that only a mother could love, it's safe to say that I've not always been comfortable as my daughters have grown up.

When the baby isn't mine however, I'm able to relax and truly enjoy him or her. Laugh indulgently at their antics, even when they include gerbera daisies. React without drama to circumstances that require quick and prompt attention. Calmly remove whatever foreign substance has found it's way despite vigilance into a mouth, nose or ear. Bask in the knowledge that I am Laid Back Mom - or at least Laid Back Woman Who Is Relaxed Around Any Child Other Than Her Own.

My friend brought her grandson over on Monday. 14 months old, just about the age that my middle and her youngest child was when we met, and I fell in love all over again with babies. He was utterly adorable. Chubby arms and legs, a grin that split his face (and reminded me so strongly of his father who was 6 when I met my friend), slobbery kisses and garbled words, all impossible to resist. My youngest thought so too.

Well, when she relaxed that is. She spent most of the visit hoovering and worrying. Gasping aloud in shock twice over what a baby can get into. Gesturing incredulously when neither his grandmother or myself acted with what she considered appropriate concern. Noting repeatedly that the baby was "making her nervous". All the while nearly melting when he turned his face toward her, hugged her or even whacked her with a block. When he and his grandmother left after nearly 2 hours though, she collapsed in exhaustion. A mere rag doll drained after her ordeal.

Guess the apple really doesn't fall far from the tree.

Poor thing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Adventures in Reading

I'm a voracious reader. One who will, most of the time, enjoy reading a wide variety of books from an equally eclectic mix of genres.

Well, except for horror.

Horror, frankly, scares me. While I appreciate that the aim of horror is in fact to frighten people, I've learned that I don't much care for intentional terror. It's true that some who know me well will express some surprise at that statement and suggest that since they know I'm a total sucker for vampires, particularly ones that look like this, it's a bit disingenuous to say that I don't like horror.

I must scoff at this view because, come on, even if you're not into Billy Idol lookalikes, does this look like something you'd run away from? Totally doesn't count.

Nor do most books that deal with zombies. Again, it's true that some will assert that zombies are pretty scary things. I would have agreed with this view 10 years ago, but being forever attached to Rebecca means that I learned long ago to squelch any creeping feelings of dread, terror and general ickiness when faced with any number of films, graphic novels or books dealing with the walking dead.

So they don't count either.

Anything else in the horror grab bag of tricks? Absolutely out of my comfort zone.

Lately however, I've revisited my self imposed ban on horror novels because of Stephen King. Quite some time ago Mental Multivitamin mentioned Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft and I thought I'd take a look at it. Having read Dance Macabre years ago, I was fairly comfortable reading King's nonfiction and not too worried about any emotional repercussions from reading more. Besides I had been reading and enjoying him as the best part of Entertainment Weekly for a while, so what was there to be afraid of?

The book was, as are most of the books recommended by Mental Multivitamin, well worth reading. Having grown up near the area that Mr. King spent a portion of his childhood simply added to the appeal of this book for me. After finishing it, I decided to give his fiction another try. I say "another try", because the first time I read a Stephen King novel was Salem's Lot at age 14.

Let's just say that I struggled a bit with it.

As in I slept with a cross on my windowsill and begged anyone I thought might be Catholic for holy water for over a year. What can I say? This happened way before Spike made his prime time appearance and vampires still scared me.

Why potentially subject myself to this again, even so many years later? It's a good question. Honestly, after reading On Writing, I was really curious to take a look at his novels. So recently I read Christine. I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about this book. On the one hand, it was difficult to put down. It also caused some uneasiness, actually to the point where I didn't want to read it while in bed. I truly thought I was beyond being scared by a novel, but apparently I can still be unsettled by the written word. It was interesting to see themes in Christine that were discussed in On Writing, particularly those dealing with teen alienation and cliques. On the other hand though, the ending was deeply dissatisfying to me, although I'm not sure it should be. While we all want characters in a book to act in a superhuman way, with clear insight into how to solve a problem, real life simply isn't that way. So maybe the ending makes sense given the characters involved. Ultimately it was definitely worth a read.

Will I try another King novel? I'm not sure. I'm truly surprised at the reluctance I feel when thinking of attempting another. It's certainly not because I feel Christine was poorly written or plotted, it really is just that I'm uneasy at the thought of being frightened.

Guess that 14 yr. old is still there.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wishes and Dreams

Tonight I took the youngest of my three girls (11) off to dinner and Dancing With the Stars at Grandma and Grandpa's place. (Don't even ask my why I'm still watching this. I'm obviously a total glutton for punishment) Distracted a bit by the swirl of barely there costumes and truly traumatic music selections, I nearly missed a statement my youngest made during the numerous and unending commercials.

"Oh man, I would truly like to have one of those."

Wistful, yearning and nearly desperate came this plea, voiced just above a murmur.

What is it that could cause such desire in a young one's heart?

Was it this?Not on your life.

How 'bout this?
Uh-huh. Not even close.

Surely this?

Umm . . . actually that's my Heart's Desire. Right. Now.

Okay then. This has got to be it, right?

On any other day? Absolutely. Tonight? Nope.

This is what my dear one wished for tonight: I kid you not.

If ever I thought I understood and knew my daughters after nearly a quarter of a century of parenting, I was obviously deluded.

A tractor?!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Housewifery Horrors

I realize that Rebecca has had her troubles with keeping a neat and tidy house. Those of us who have the great good fortune to live near Rebecca know this not only because she wrote about it or even because Wonder Woman couldn't wait to gossip about it, but because she, more often than not, threatens us with bodily harm if we dare to suggest an unexpected visit to her place might be a congenial way to spend an afternoon.

To borrow an expression from Rebecca that she uses frequently - pffft!

You ain't got nothin' on me, sister.

One day, nearly 2 weeks ago now, I had gotten up fairly early, but had not yet showered. I was expecting a quick visit from a friend who planned to drop off a few films for me to return to the video store for his family since they were on their way to a family vacation. Let me carefully say that again. I was expecting a child to pop up at the door, hand over the films, accept a hearty "Have a great time!" and leave.

Instead of my usual morning tidy-up, I decide to while away the time spent waiting for my friends playing the absolutely riveting game of Supercow. I hold my head up high and offer no apologies for this use of leisure time. However, given what happened, it would have at least been nice to be deeply involved in something that required more brain cells than stomping on numerous nefarious possessed farm criminals in order to fulfill my mission as savior of the barnyard. Picture if you will this scene:

  • Two large baskets overflowing with clean, unfolded laundry atop the sofa - partly because one does have to admit the sofa is a handy surface to set things upon and partly because the stupid dog will not stop jumping on the sofa for a comfy nap spot when I'm out of the room necessitating the use of barriers.

  • Said sofa with rip in the arm because of the above mentioned stupid dog (which, if I'm honest, I have to say I'm not terribly broken up about because we're buying a new sofa).

  • Books piled haphazardly all through the room - tables, bookcases, various other available surfaces.

  • Kitchen. Well, let's just say that it was looking a bit used.

  • Hall bathroom. Dear God. It doesn't even bear thinking about.

  • And me . . . playing Supercow.

Pulling me away from my vital barnyard mission, I answer the expected knock on the door. Did I see the sweet face of a child waiting to hand me a couple of DVDs? Well, yes. But that's not all I saw. I saw every damn one of the vacation party on my doorstep. All 6 of them. The four that I know extremely well and two that I know little about other than the mother keeps an immaculate house. Immaculate. As in no unfolded laundry. No dirty dishes. And, God help us, no bathroom that looks like it was recently used by a rugby team just off a muddy field.


At first I thought everything was going to be okay. Foolish of me given the fact that within a second or two of my startled greeting, I was told everyone needed to use the bathroom. Yes, that bathroom. Of course there are two other bathrooms in the house. While my bathroom was indeed actually clean, one had to tramp through the bedroom to get to it - something no one other than someone training for an Everest expedition relishes. The remaining one was utilized by the children, but given the fact that it's always utilized by children it's state of cleanliness was as questionable as the hall bath.

I need to stop relating this horror to you all now. The memory of this is obviously far too fresh to allow any more detail. My only solace then, and now, was the planning of a prodigious amount of innovative punishments for my middle daughter whose job it was to attend to both the kitchen and bath before she left for the day.

Comfort and solace comes in odd places sometimes.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Just a housekeeping note.

I'm trying out new blogger templates so if the blog looks more scattered than usual, you know why.

Now if I could just figure out how to fix the bugs in this template . . .

Thursday, April 03, 2008

War, Loss and Sacrifice Hollywood Style

After rereading yesterday's post, I got a bit concerned that my disdain for the film Stop-Loss could potentially be interpreted as a lack of empathy or concern for anyone associated with our involvement with Iraq or Afghanistan. I'm not going to dissemble - I absolutely opposed our preemptive strike from the beginning. Regardless of my feelings about the war and occupation, I do care about the human toll. Deeply.

I've seen two films lately on veterans and the impact combat can have on them. Both of them, In the Valley of Elah and the aforementioned Stop-Loss, left me cold. Elah was written and directed by Paul Haggis of Crash fame, another film that I really disliked. I don't appreciate as a rule having a "good message" slam down on my head with all the finesse of a sledgehammer. Crash could have been a much better film, and forced more of us to truly examine ourselves, if it had shown more clearly the subtle forms of racism that exist in our world. As it was, it gave people a free pass simply because the examples of racism were so hamfisted that most people could breathe a sigh of relief and say "Well, of course I would never do that." It let us off the hook.

I see echoes of that approach to a message in both Elah and Stop-Loss. The examples of trauma experienced after combat are so extreme that they cause us to perhaps question whether someone who isn't digging a fox hole in the front yard, committing suicide, murdering fellow soldiers, or beating the woman in their life truly suffers any ill effect from their experiences in a combat zone. They allow us to avert our gaze from the returning soldier who shows more subtly in his or her reaction to the incredible stress, strain, terror or even extreme boredom they've experienced for 12 to 15 months at a time for sometimes 2 or 3 tours of duty. These films give us another free pass. Ostensibly they show us what the occupation is doing to our soldiers, but in reality they perhaps allow us to miss the true toll that the war demands from its participants. If we don't see the reality of that cost, then we don't have to examine whether or not the occupation is worth it. And, if it is, whether or not we're willing to make an equal sacrifice.

Then again, maybe there remains some merit to Stop-Loss. Apparently, according to a review by Entertainment Weekly, the film is an MTV Films production marketed primarily at teenage girls. I definitely see that. The stars of the film are gorgeous and, even at their worst, still sympathetic. The film infuses the issue with just enough of a romantic sensibility to appeal to girls swooning for a noble, tortured poet hero. All of that said, and all of that noted for its manipulative qualities, it did one thing for this decidedly not teen aged person. It made me truly stop for a second and really think about what is happening to the soldiers over there. What they bring back with them. What their families struggle to work through.

I've been so opposed to this war and occupation, so distressed with the whole "we'll kick your ass 'cause we're cowboys and the rules don't apply to us" mentality that I don't think that I've given enough thought to our soldiers. It's easy these days in America if you're not fighting over in Iraq or Afghanistan, or have someone you love over there, to simply not think too much about it. I can argue a lot about the philosophical and moral issues of preemptive strikes. I can talk knowledgeably about the amount of funding this occupation has cost. I can cite how each of my legislators voted on issues surrounding the terrorist attacks and subsequent actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I stated above, I've cared deeply about the human toll of the conflict but if I'm truly honest, it's been more in the abstract. Worse, at times it's been tempered by a frustration with our country and its armed forces fueled by Abu Ghraib, rendition and other allegations of torture. The scenes at the beginning of the film, even given the preponderance of an attitude expressed about Iraq that distresses me, did make me see soldiers a bit differently. Something Elah, a far better acted and shot film, didn't do.

So, I guess even with the hackneyed plot lines, the stereotypes, and the ridiculous acting, the film attempts to force Americans to do something that most Americans resist. It works hard to make us come out of our comfortable, affluent existence and realize that, despite the fact that we make no sacrifices over here in the name of a war, those who are over there certainly do.

Wisdom For Your Wednesday

Coercion rears its ugly head and I cower under its gaze.

Well . . . okay. So there's that flattery thing too. We all know that's really what I'm unable to resist.

What, you might ask, has been going on here since November when I last posted? What extraordinary insight do I have into the affairs of the day? Where is the eloquence and depth that you clamor for?

Brace yourselves.

For starters, Dancing With the Stars is utterly appalling this year. The reasons are legion, but I remain particularly traumatized by the Dancing With the Stars orchestra and singers butchering Roxanne as a couple (which one? It's impossible to tell - they are all interchangeable) danced the Tango. Yes, you heard me. The Tango. It simply doesn't bear thinking about another second.

Btw, who ever knew there were Wikipedia entries for songs??

Moving on.

It's always wise to double check resources being utilized while exploring Ancient Greece with an 11 and 12 year old (girl and boy respectively). Otherwise awkward moments could potentially ensue when reading about the Minoan culture - specifically the Minoan woman's choice of attire. Trying to act utterly nonchalant about bare-breasted Minoan women in the face of just-on-the-cusp-of-adolescence children is . . . oh who am I kidding? It's utterly impossible. Trust me.

Sitting in a theater with Kristin and Rebecca is quite clearly a mistake when a film like Stop-Loss is in the offing. I tell you this so that you may avoid the specter of potential social suicide. It's true that snorting hysterical laughter during a burial scene is indeed a social faux pas, but I maintain that there was no other reaction available to anyone watching that film.

When friends, relatives and total strangers on the street are aware of your oft repeated revulsion for country music, it's best not to be seen belting out the lyrics to Shania Twain's Any Man of Mine:

We all muck out stables in a midriff baring top. Ask anyone.

Oh yeah, there's that other song too - Coal Mine by Sara Evans

Damn you, husband o' mine for leaving that disc in the car.