Blogs Are Stupid

Doesn't anyone believe in Dear Diary anymore? What happened to the joy of putting actual pen to paper? And why does every ordinary Jane and John think they can write well enough to burden the world with their scribblings? It’s a mystery that badly needs solving. My first entry contains my thoughts about blogging and will set your expectations. The rest will probably be stream of consciousness garbage, much like you’ll find on any other blog. Perhaps we will both come away enlightened.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Content Removed

Due to Copyright Concerns.

I had intended to leave these posts up for a week or so, despite concerns over copyright issues. Though I understand that plagiarism is a very real possibility, I felt an obligation to follow through on my promise to post the rest of the story.

Many of you have emailed me to share your concerns, and have convinced me that the risk is too great. With regret, I have removed the content and will not post more.

With any luck, you will one day be able to purchase a copy of the story at your local bookseller.

I want to thank everyone who read and commented. I want to thank those who were genuinely concerned for the safety and integrity of my story. And I want to thank those who have given me guidance, encouragement and constructive criticism. It has helped more than you can possibly know.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Content Removed

Due to copyright concerns. Thank you to those who read and commented.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Content Removed

Due to Copyright Concerns. Thank you to those who read and commented.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Fat Kids, Bad Parents?

We’ve all seen the talk shows with obese toddlers who gorge themselves on spareribs and Coca Cola, right? And who among us was not shocked and disgusted? Who among us did not swear right then and there that their child would only eat perfectly balanced meals and nutritious snacks?

I’ve said my share of my child will nevers. But I’ve realized (due to eating innumberable helpings of crow) that many of those ideals were born out of ignorance. So I usually just shrug, accept that my idealism was misguided and try to adopt a more realistic approach.

My Diminutive One is getting fat.

I don’t want him to be fat. Being a kid is damned hard enough.

My sister was a fat as a child and I watched her deal with the hurt and embarrassment for many years. I could do nothing to help her, except try to shield her from the taunts and jeers. And as she grew into a young woman, I know she feared that she would never be asked to go steady, or get that first kiss, or marry and have children. Thankfully, we had wonderful, caring parents who fostered very healthy ideals in regard to worth and identity. She grew into a strong, confident and successful woman despite her struggles with weight.

But I suspect that the heartbreak of those years stayed with her. I don’t think hearing “Fatty Fatty two by four…” chanted by your classmates on the playground is the sort of thing that ever really leaves you. I don’t think hearing your first real crush oinking as you walk down the hall is the kind of thing a young girl ever really forgets, though the shame and humiliation may eventually fade.

I recently watched a program about a young man who is morbidly obese and I cried, knowing my Diminutive One could well be on the same destructive path. That young man spoke of killing himself to end the pain of feeling less than human. It broke my heart. I would go out of my mind with grief if my child committed suicide because someone made him feel that he didn’t deserve the basic kindness, dignity and respect that all human beings are entitled to. Because someone made him think he would be better off dead than fat.

I don’t know what to do.

Diminutive One has ALWAYS had a sweet tooth. It was evident from a very early age, though we did everything the baby books advocated in regard to starting solids and forming good eating habits. We started him on veggies first, so that he wouldn’t grow to prefer the sweet taste of fruits. We introduced new foods slowly and singly. If he rejected them, we offered them again and again, never pushing, only encouraging. He did develop a fairly serious juice habit, because after weaning from the breast, he refused cow’s milk. I offered him fortified juice to stave off scurvy and rickets. It was stupid, but well-intentioned.

Despite our efforts, he very quickly grew to love all things sweet. As a toddler, he would hoard cookies, candies and other snacks to ensure a ready supply should a request be denied. We did allow treats in moderation (we didn’t want to create the “forbidden fruit” syndrome all the baby books so stridently warned against) but it was never enough. We had to lock up any and all contraband and when that failed to deter him, we took to storing them on top of the fridge. It was an exercise in futility. You can read all about that here. Still, it was fairly easy to keep him well nourished, because I could impose my will upon him with relative ease.

Now that he is older, we constantly battle and I hate being the food Nazi. I hate that our dinner table, which I have always considered a really important part of staying connected as a family, has become a war zone. I hate that I have to constantly deny him the things he wants, to ensure that he gets the things he needs. I hate that he has become sneaky and manipulative with food.

The other night at the ballpark he asked if he could get something from the concession stand. I gave him a five dollar bill because it was all I had at the time I told him he could choose one thing. He came back with three Butterfingers. I made him take them back. The other day Husband was checking his purchase history on Mealpay and found that he has been purchasing rice krispy treats, chips and fruit drinks. We had to put a lock on his account. And two days ago Husband found twelve Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups in his old hiding place behind the recliner. I took the treat jar, emptied it into the garbage and put it away.

I just don’t want to do it anymore.

It would be so much easier to give up and let him eat cakes and cookies and soda anytime he wants. It would be so much easier not to pack a healthy lunch everyday and let him graze on chicken nuggets, pasta and white bread to his heart’s content. It would be so much easier to let him have fast food every night and spare myself the “YUCK.” and “There’s no WAY I’m eating THAT.”

Because it’s not working anyway.

Diminutive One is an active kid. He plays baseball at least three nights a week. When he’s not playing, his brother is, and he spends that time at the park playing tag or running races with other siblings. He and his brother spend hours jumping on our backyard trampoline. He rides his bike all over the neighborhood. He is in constant motion.

At the very least I have the satisfaction of knowing that his weight problem is not due to sitting on his butt in front of the television or the Gameboy.

But I’m doing everything I can and still he is getting fat.

We talk about making good choices. We talk about sugar being bad for you. We talk about all the reasons being overweight is harmful to your health. I’m trying to motivate and empower him because, that’s what the books say you’re supposed to do. But they also say you shouldn’t create power struggles over food. I suppose then that insisting he eat his green beans before he gets a second helping of mashed potatoes is really playing with fire.

But what is a mother to do?? What kind of parent would I be?? How could I live with myself??

I’m going to continue to fight, weary though I may be.

Because I don’t want my son to know the heartbreak of being that kid on the playground. Because I don’t want him to wind up on some tabloid talk show. And Because I don’t want him to ever wonder if he is good enough to be worthy of the love and respect of thin people.

I have ten years before he strikes out on his own. I hope that I can teach him something, anything, that will keep him from spiraling out of control once the choice is in his hands. But I hope that what he learns above all else, is that he has value and worth no matter what size he is.

Wish me luck.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Miscellaneous Stuff

Today is my anniversary
Thus the lack of any substantive blogging from me today. Husband took the day off and we did married people stuff while the kids were in school. That's all you get. I should do a whole anniversary post thing, but I think I've written enough about my husband and my marriage for folks to know that my husband is great and I am ridiculously lucky. No need to belabor a point. It gives him a big head.

Funeral In A Small Town is almost complete
I just have to tie everything up in a neat little bow. However, it is really, really long. I'm happy about that, because with parts I and II, I have a nice sized chapter. But it makes for a ridiculously long blog entry. I think what I will do is post excerpts once or twice a week. I'll start tomorrow.

After I post that, I probably will not post any more material that I plan to include in a novel. I was told by someone who knows the ins and outs of publishing pretty well that it probably isn't safe. Well, duh, B.A. Of course I isn't. But I blithely post all my stuff here for anyone to take for their own. And no little Creative Commons Attribution button or Copyright disclaimer is going to stop that. What an ignoramus.

Anyway, I'm pretty pleased with it and I hope you will enjoy it. Of course, there are still elements that I am not happy with, and I continue to tweak and refine. I probably will do so right up until I decide to submit the completed manuscript. I scrapped my entire first draft because it just didn't have the right feel. Even husband commented on the fact that it seemed stilted. I'm much happier with this version.

Stephen King is highly underrated
Because of his chosen genre, I think Stephen King is often overlooked as an important literary figure, and his genius goes unnoticed. But consider The Stand. It is an extraordinary story and stands on it's own as a rich and imaginative piece of fiction. But it also is a classic tale of good versus evil with beautfully executed symbolism, unique and vivid characters, and dramatically effective pathos. This book pulls you in, brings you to the depths of despair, offers you hope, and then keeps you pulling for the good guys. It's one of my all time favorites.

So anyway, I'm reading his book about writing, and there are so many things that he says that resonate with me. He clearly has a terriffic understanding of the craft as well as the awarness that there isn't really any clear formula for success when writing and that rules are made to be broken if you can do it with style.

A few qutoes from the book:

"Fiction Writers, present company included, don't understand very much about what they do-not why it works when it's good, or why it doesn't when it's bad."

"I believe stories are found things, like fossils in the ground."

"My basic belief about stories is that they pretty much make themselves. The job of the writer is to give them a place to grow."

"Plot is, I think, the good writer's last resort and the dullard's first choice."

He also says that most books about writing are bullshit except for Elements of Style, by Strunk and White. I tried to pick it up at B&N today, but they did not have it. Interesting. I've found that to be largely true, although I did get a lot out of Writing From Within.

It's a great book. If you're a writer, pick it up. You won't be sorry.

Footnote to my Crazy Team Mom Saga
(You can quit now if you're sick to death of hearing about it)

We had it out. I tried to leave it alone, but she sat in the bleachers and loudly made snide, snotty passive aggressive comments about me and Husband the entire game. Even so, I didn't say a word. I walked away. But then she started telling people not to bother coming to a practice that Husband planned.

Husband has been concerned about the lack of practice. Around here, Fall ball is specifically for instruction, while Spring ball focuses more on competition. There has been NO instruction whatsoever and no practice. He discussed it with the Coach, who is really inexperienced and somewhat apathetic. He offered to hold several practices because he is familiar with drills and skills that the kids need to be working on. The Coach was happy that husband wanted to do it and expressed gratitude that Husband was willing to help him. But, the idiot did not tell his wife that Husband was going to call a practice and so, when people started talking about it, she assumed Husband had taken it on himself to do so. and got her panties in a knot thinking he was trying to usurp the Coach's authority. At that point, neither husband or I knew that the Coach hadn't told her that he and Husband had talked. It had been several days since the discussion and we just assumed he would have told her.

So, I went to tell husband she was telling people not to come. I thought he needed to know so he could address it at the after game pow-wow to make sure everyone realized there would be a practice. He confronted her immediately and she lied to his face. Then she came back to the bleachers and said to another parent (looking around to make sure I was within earshot) "I just want to know...are we in high school, because if we are, I would like to know." I couldn't let that pass. I asked her calmly and politely if we could talk privately and she refused. She turned her back on me. Then she whirled around and hollered, "You know what? I am DONE! You and your husband can HAVE it if that's what ya'll want!! I'm not coming to anymore games!" She was shaking and she had this alarmingly feral look in her eyes. She was clearly on the verge of some kind of hysteria. I asked her again if we could please talk about it, because we all want the best for the kids. She refused again and walked away, muttering to herself. I was spitting mad. She creates a situation like that and then refuses to discuss it with me? Coward. Child. You all were right. You can't have a rational discussion with an irrational person.

She sent out an email before we even made it home stating that her illness is such that being "triggered" could be fatal, and so she must step down. She went on to say she is deleting all team emails from her email account unless anyone would like to keep in touch with her. It was a blatant plea for attention and pity. I don't know if she got any. I did not respond.

When I found out he hadn't told her, the whole thing made more sense. It still didn't excuse her behavior, but it made her seem marginally more rational. In her position, I would have felt the same way. I certainly would have handled it differently though. I hope she feels like a jackass now that she knows. She told her husband who didn't witness the exchange that I yelled at her and that's why she quit.

The game on Saturday? The kids did 100% better after just one practice and their morale skyrocketed. They didn't' win, but at least they felt like they had a fighting chance. And it was fun and relaxing without her there. More than one parent who witnessed the altercation commented to me in that vein.

Validation is good.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Pavlov And The Pursuit of Titties

B.A is trying to be a kind and loving wife to husband, who has worked a long hard day and now must turn right back around and go to the ballpark for practice. She is also trying to assuage the guilt she feels due to the fact that her day was very relaxing.

B.A.(calling from Kitchen): Would you like a sandwich before you go honey?

Husband (wearily): No thanks, baby. I just want to sit here for a minute.

B.A.: Would you like a cup of coffee?

Husband: No thanks.

B.A.: Cold drink?

Husband: No thanks.

B.A.: Would you like a blow job?

Husband: No th...wait...what?

BA snickers to herself in the kitchen.


Come on, don't tell me you never said "Snausage?" to the dog just to see how long the twin strands of drool would get before he licked his chops. Don't tell me you've never said "Ousside?" just to see him do that little ass dance. And you fully intended to follow through after you had your fun, right? So no harm done.

I could have said "toe job" or "snow job" and still his ears would have pricked (ha) up and his head cocked (double ha) sideways. Pavlov should have used men. Talk about a conditioned response.

In other news from this male dominated household...

Earlier today my Diminutive One asked me,

"Mom, howcome when boys are singing a song about girls, they're always saying they're sorry?"

I had no answer for him that didn't sound completely misandristic (yes, I had to look it up). I settled on...

"Well, honey, because, umm...being in love is hard, and umm...sometimes, people in love hurt each other's feelings, and, umm....

I am GREAT at this off the cuff stuff.

He interrupted me.

"Okay, I get it. I think I'll just have girlfriends but not be in love."

That, my dear, is called having your cake and eating it too, but that's another lesson for another day.

Pre-Pubescent One, meanwhile, is experimenting with the sexual vernacular that adolescent boys seem to relish so much. Today I heard him say "titties". I don't want my baby talking about titties. I don't want my baby thinking about titties. I don't want my baby to even know that titties exist.

When I told husband, there was flicker, a flash, a ghost of a smile, which he wisely suppressed in the face of my stony indignation.

Husband said "Baby, I hate to tell you this, but from here on out, it's all about the pursuit of titties. There's nothing you can do about it."

He's right. I know it. I don't like it.

"But can't we at least try to foster a healthy and respectful attitude toward women? They are BREASTS and they are for feeding an infant."

"Absolutely." says Husband with conviction. "But he's still going to call them titties."


Friday, September 22, 2006

What Dreams May Come

The night before last, my eleven year old had a horrible nightmare. He appeared at my bedside and simply waited for me to become aware of him. It only took a moment. We mothers have finely honed spidey sense that is uniquely adapted to intuiting the distress of our offspring.

"What's wrong, babe?" I asked in a mumbling sleep slur.

"I had a bad dream."

It was a statement, not a plea. Because eleven year olds are actuely aware that they are eleven years old. He stood there, pale and trembling. He hadn't done that in a very long time.

"Do you want to sleep with me?"

He climbed in without a word. When he was in the bed, he slowly, shyly backed his behind up to mine. And it was enough. He slept.

We've all had those nightmares that are so real that they cannot be banished by merely waking haven't we? Even as adults, those dreams haunt a person. They compel us to seek out the company of others. To turn on lights. To check under beds and inside closets. To keep away from windows. To avoid turning our back on a darkened room.

When Diminutive One was about 4, and going through a particularly challenging period, I dreamt that he drowned. The sick feeling in the pit of my stomach didn't leave me for a week and I was hyper vigilant to the point of being obsessive. I couldn't touch my child enough. I needed to assure myself that he was still there. The terror, the grief, the feel of his cold limp little body in my arms as I begged nameless faceless people not to take him from was so very real. I just couldn't shake it.

Another time, after hearing a news story about a toddler lost in the woods, who ultimately died after wandering in circles so long the feetie pajamas he had on were worn through, I repeatedly dreamt about being lost myself. *I* was that toddler, crying for my Daddy, wondering why he didn't come. I was so cold, so alone. That was probably five years ago, but I still remember the stark terror of that dream. I can remember the chill in my bones and the feel of the snow underneath my torn and bleeding feet.

As a child, I'm sure I had many nightmares, but there are a few that stand out for their vividness. One involved the bathtub drain. I was old enough when I had this dream to realize I was way too big to be sucked down the drain. But the dream was so very real that I couldn't bring myself to take a bath. Instead I showered standing as far as I possibly could from the drain. I was also old enough to realize that was unbelievably silly. Ashamed, I never told anyone. But I showered that way for quite some time.

Last night, he resisted going into his room. He did his homework at the kitchen table instead of at his desk. He asked to use my computer, instead of using his own. I wondered what was going on, but frankly, I haven't completely figured out this almost a teenager but sometimes still a kid phase yet, and so I left it alone. I had forgotten the nightmare. But he hadn't. It was still haunting him.

When it was time for bed, he reluctantly and sheepishly admitted that he didn't want to go in his room. Now, Pre-Pubescent One tends to be a bit melodramatic, so Husband looked at me with his brows raised.

"Go get in my bed" I said.

Husband's brows raised a millimeter higher. I am a notoriously solitary sleeper. But as an adult who still can't bear to sleep with the closet door open, I am sympathetic to the fears that plague the child in all of us in those lonely hours between dark and dawn. And I never underestimate the power of a dream. The relief on is face was a testament to that power.

"He had a nigthmare" I said. Husband shrugged.

This morning, Pre-pubescent one said simply, "Thanks Mom."

Sometimes, parenting is really hard. And sometimes, it's almost ridiculously easy. A safe place to sleep...the comfort of Mom, who is, of course invinceable, and can certainly banish any foe, real or imagined with just her...Momness...

I can do that.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Estranged Bedfellows

Years ago, my mother predicted our marriage would fail. Being the tactful person that she is, she didn't come right out and say so. Instead, she couched it in terms of well meaning motherly "concern". Her worry was due to the fact that I moved in with my husband three weeks after meeting him and her suspicion that my attraction to him was because of his resemblance to my former fiancee. We've been married 13 years now and I think she's pretty much over that. But several years into our marriage there arose a new reason for her to fret over our the longevity of our marriage. She was sure that it spelled d-i-v-o-r-c-e.

The reason for her concern is, I believe, fairly common among married couples, but it's a dirty little secret that nobody talks about. There is a sense of shame and failure associated with this issue. Couples think they must be the only ones living with the horrible secret, and yet there is evidence to suggest that a large percentage of married couples are in the same boat.

So, I'm going to break the silence. Are you ready? Here goes...

I don't sleep with my husband.

There. I said it. Actually, I say it a lot. I've never treated it as a secret, though it's not something that comes up often in casual conversation. But when it does come up, I'm very upfront about the fact that we have slept apart nearly all of our marriage. We have to, you see, if my husband is to survive into middle age. Because there were nights when, exhausted and suffering from a form of insanity induced by severe sleep deprivation, I plotted to kill him if he emitted just. one. more. snore. I began taking a cast iron frying pan to bed with me, fully intending to bludgeon him to death at the very first sound.

Okay, I'm exaggerating. But those of you who don't have a snoring spouse have no idea how maddening it can be. Honestly, I think it could be a very effective form of psychological torture. The military needs to look into this.

You lie there, listening to the cacophony, gritting your teeth, willing yourself to just tune it out. But after years of sleeping with one ear open, vigilant for the cries of an infant and ready to wake at a momen'ts is simply impossible. So you poke. You prod. You roll over, purposely flopping around like a fish out of water. And there is usually a reprieve. But you know it won't last. So you think to yourself, If I can just fall asleep before it starts again, I'll be okay! You desperately employ every trick you know to fall asleep. You begin to relaxe. Limbs and lids begin to feel deliciously feel heavy. You think you might have a chance and then...


Even though you were expecting it, you are startled. Your eyes fly open as your heart beats rapidly, and every nerve ending in your body is electrified as adrenaline surges through your veins. And you know that you are well and truly screwed, because you'll never be able to sleep now, what with the chemical cocktail in your blood and all.

It's a nightmare. No, scratch that. One can't have a nightmare unless one has actually achieved unconsciousness. It's a living hell.

My husband's problem is hereditary. His father and mother have slept separately for many, many years. When a surgical solution became available, his father eagerly went under the knife. They cut the man from ear to ear. No joke. His scar is frightening. They removed his tonsils and adenoids as well as his uvula and a portion of his soft pallette and some of his tongue. Guess what? Yep. He still snores.

As an infant, Diminutive One was a very noisy breather. They attributed it to irritation of his esophagus due to severe reflux. He had "silent" reflux, which means that the contents of his stomach were not regurgitated. He never spit up, so the corrosive acids of his stomach would sit in his throat. It seemed like a logical explanation. He outgrew the reflux eventually, but still snored. He was a very restless sleeper as well. Co-sleeping with him was an absolute nightmare.

He began experiencing some breathing problems around 5-6 years old. He was given an inhaler and a nebulizer by his pediatrician, but they didn't seem to really solve the problem. He was taken to an asthma specialist. All of his lung function tests were normal, and the specialist did not believe he was experiencing asthmatic episodes. His heart and lungs were checked. He was born with a small hole in his heart, which closed on it's own, but there was some concern that there might be residual effects. Everything was normal. His lungs do have some slight scarring due to inhaling stomach acids as an infant, but otherwise they were perfectly healthy. In the absence of any definitive diagnosis, they told me to keep using the inhaler when he experienced a breathing crisis. There was no point, however. It didn't help at all, and usually just having him sit down and relaxe indoors put an end to the episode. It was baffling.

Finally, his pediatrician thought to check out his tonsils. They were touching. We took him to an ENT who took one look and said "Geez, these should have come out years ago. I can't believe this poor kid can breathe at all!" Basically, he was experiencing sleep apnea while awake. The unusually "floppy" tissue of his soft palette, combined with unusually large tonsils and an unusually long uvula, would cause his throat to simply seal up.

When we were in pre-op, the doctor came in to give us a little briefing. He had not met Husband yet. He took one look at husband and said "SO! You're the reason Diminutive One is here today, eh?" He could tell by looking at DH that he was a snorer. People with unusually short, thick necks and weak chins are especially prone to obstructive airway issues. Husband and his father both have necks that immediately call the word "beefy" to mind. And though their chins are not markedly "weak", neither are they very prominent.

Diminutive One sleeps SO much better since having the surgery. He stopped wetting the bed, and he stopped thrashing about. The doctor says that having surgery now may prevent sleep apnea as an adult, though it can't be said for certain.

So, I do know Husband honestly and truly cannot help it. He's inherited the unusually large tonsils, the floppy soft palette and the freakishly long uvula, and passed it on to Diminutive One. I won't ask him to undergo extremely painful surgery when chances is are it won't solve the problem anyway. We know another man who underwent surgery with the same results as my FIL, which result at all. His wife and I commiserate with one another about snoring regularly. But knowing they can't help it does not really ease the frustration when one is desperate to sleep.

And it's not just the snoring. Our sleep styles are drastically at odds as well. He likes to untuck the covers wrap himself up in them like a cocoon, with his feet sticking out the bottom. I like the covers neat and smooth, firmly tucked and my feet covered. He likes it pitch black. I mean...not even a flicker of light. I get weird sensory deprivation type disorientation when I can't see anything. He insists on having the door closed, I like it open so I can hear if the boys need me in the night. He likes to snuggle. I don't want anybody draped all over me when I'm trying to sleep. And though he falls asleep quickly, he is a light sleeper. The slightest movement from me awakens him, which makes him very grumpy. So I spend the night stiff and uncomfortable, afraid to move. Aside from the snoring issue, none of that makes for a very relaxing sleep environment.

Probably the most notable though, is the fact that he can get in bed and be asleep in about 3.4 seconds. As a life long insomniac, this is impossible for me. I have to disengage somehow. In order to turn off my brain, I have to read something before I can go do sleep. This, of course, is completely unacceptable to him. Light baaaaaad.

So, to be quite honest, I like sleeping by myself. Scandalous, isn't it??

But I get the whole bed to myself, and never do I have to deal with a sweaty arm or leg slung uncomfortably accross my person. I can read as long as I like. I get some covers. I get ALL the covers. I can roll over as many times as I like. I can get up to go to the bathroom without tiptoeing and I can TURN ON THE LIGHT to avoid a concussing myself on the door jam. It is infinitely more peaceful and relaxing.

I have heard people express that this cannot possibly be healthy for a marriage. But really, how healthy can a marriage be if one partner is fantasizing about killing the other in his or her sleep? How healthy can a marriage be if one partner is too sleep deprived to handle conflict resolution in a rational civilized manner? How healthy can a marriage be if one partner is resentful and angry all the time?

I assume the assertion relates to intimacy issues. Well, in my opinion, if you are emotionally intimate, then physical intimacy follows as a matter of course. We find ways to accomodate that and it isn't terribly difficult. I can say with absolute certainty that trying to sleep together actually has a negative effect on our intimacy. Being tired and grouchy and resentful is certainly not a recipe for intimacy of any kind.

By the same token, if your marriage is a troubled one, sleeping together isn't going to fix that. I have a good friend whose marriage is really terribly unhealthy. They are horribly unkind and disrespectful to one another, but they sleep together. It's a crutch that both of them use to support the ideal that everything is a-okay. And I think that is where this judgement of non co-sleeping couples comes in. Those insecure in their own relationship can always fool themselves into apathy by using other marriages as a yardstick. "Well, at least we SLEEP together." Which makes perfect sense, because how can lying unconscious next to one another for eight hours not mean a healthy marriage?

If your husband snores, don't feel guilty about abandoning the marriage bed. I gaurantee you that it won't spell the end of your marriage. You might even find the opposite to be true. And don't sleep on the couch for the rest of your life either, telling yourself it's only temporary. It isn't and there is nothing wrong with creating your own space.

When our snoring problems first started, we lived in a one bedrooom apartment. The only place I had to go was the couch, where I didn't sleep well either. I was tired and grouchy all the time. Luckily, I got pregnant and we had to move. We bought a daybed with a really comfy mattress to put in the nursery and for the first time in many months I had a comfortable, quiet place to sleep. It was sheer, unadulterated bliss.

Now we live in a home large enough to have a room for each of us. The mattress on the king sized bed in the master bedroom is kind of the cadillac of mattresses, so we take turns. But either room provides a comfortable night's sleep.

Don't let this be your dirty little secret. It's okay. I promise. Sleep is good. Sleep is necessary. Sleep keeps us from ending up on the news because we stabbed our husband 237 times in a sleep deprived delusional rage.

If you're sleeping on the couch, go buy yourself a bed. Today. After 13 years, I feel pretty confident asserting that it will not spell d-i-v-o-r-c-e. But it will spell Z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Poetry of Self-Awareness

I was one of those weird kids who liked poetry. I still do. One of my favorite classes was Language Arts. The teacher, Mr. Sandling, was a small, fastidious, bespectacled man who was passionate about poetry and literature. His passion was infectious and he made me think. He gave me something interesting to think about. He challenged me and he inspired me. It's because of him that I realized I could write. He was always so excited about everything I handed in and he made me want to be good. I wonder if he knew that his class was one of the very few I actually bothered to attend. I wonder if he knew that he THE only teacher whose opinion and favor I valued.

So, anyway...I'm a sucker for poetry, and my dear friend Screaming Mommy who is a born poet, has issued a poetry challenge. No, don't look at me that way, it will be fun. It's the thinking chick's meme. You girls can do this. And you don't even have to be all deep. You can be flip or funny if you like.

And besides, this blog could use something a little more highbrow than the what I did on my summer vacation type stuff I've been posting lately.

Using Robert Frost's "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening" answer the following questions:

1) If "the woods" symbolize for something in your life you *want* to do, *what is it?

a. this week it would be...
b. this year it will be...
c. your life it is...

2) If "promises to keep, and miles to go" symbolizes something in your life that is keeping you back from "the woods". What is it/are they?

My answers are:

A. Finish "Funeral in a Small Town Part III".
B. Complete a novel and submit for publication.
C. Carve out an identity for myself other than wife and mother.

Sigh. That part is a little tougher. What is keeping me from the woods.... Myself. Why? I don't know. Fear of failure? Fear of success? Fear of finding out that I'm really not a good writer? Fear that if "aspiring writer" is taken away from me I have nothing left to strive for. No identity. No concrete goal. No real me to discover. And, you know...the fact that I still have to do laundry, scrub toilets and cook meals while I attempt to write the great American Novel. I bet Hemingway didn't have to concern himself with skidmarks while he was writing the Old Man and the Sea, and I gaurantee that Joyce didn't have to carpool. Why, I bet Ulysses practically wrote itself.

Hmmm. Introspection on a rainy Tuesday morning. M, you are a sly one.

Don't leave me hanging out here with my self-awareness flapping in the breeze. Go to M's blog and take her up on her challenge. Don't make me tag you. I mean it.

If you participate (surely there are other poetry dorks like me out there) leave a link in her comments to your post.

I'm going to issue an addedum to her challenge. Post a piece of poetry that really speaks to you. You don't even have to say why. Often, a poem grabs me not because of the meaning, but because of the way the words tumble around together, or because a particular turn of phrase is lyrical and evocative. Sometimes, exploring the meaning of a poem ruins it for me. Edna St. Vincent Millay wrote such pretty things, but the deeper meaning behind her words was often sad and depressing.

I chose a poem by Maya Angelou called "I know Why the Caged Bird Sings" I think this poem is so powerful because EVERYBODY can relate to feeling like a caged bird at some time in their life. It is a universal lament that reaches accross barriers of race, religion and economic status.

It isn't "pretty", but it isn't supposed to be. Right now, it means something to me because I have caged myself in a way. Through a series of bad choices early on in my life, I have denied myself opportunities. Now, I am struggling to break free of a life I have created from a lack of options. That's not to say I haven't found my life meaningful. I have. But it's time to move on now and I don't have anywhere to go. I don't have a key to open the door of my cage. But I will.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The free bird leaps
on the back of the win
and floats downstream
till the current ends
and dips his wings
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings
with fearful trill
of the things unknown
but longed for still
and is tune is heard
on the distant hillfor the caged bird
sings of freedom

The free bird thinks of another breeze
an the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn-bright lawn
and he names the sky his own.

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing

The caged bird sings
with a fearful trill
of things unknown
but longed for still
and his tune is heard
on the distant hill
for the caged bird
sings of freedom.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Sound of Music is "Cha-Ching"

My oldest child has decided to take up the saxophone. Actually, he decided to take up the drums, but did not qualify for one of the percussion spots. After pricing drum sets, I am relieved. That relief was short lived however. The saxophone cost $1600 dollars. Sixteen. Hundred. Dollars. I nearly fell over from shock.

I played the flute for about 6 years. I never had my own instrument because my parents were not affluent. I remember gazing longingly at that beautiful and impossibly shiny flute and I remember the price tag to this day. It was $200 dollars. It might as well have been $2,000. Now, it is. No, not really, but close. $900. For a flute. As far as I know they still make flutes out of the same stuff that they did back then. There is no new space age diamond carbide flute amalgam that I know of. Apparently, I need to buy some stock in whatever the hell flutes are made out of, because it has appreciated like nobody's business.

So, no, we did not hand over $1600 dollars for a saxophone. We are renting to own. I doubt we will ever actually get to the owning part, but there is no interest so that's fine. However...if something happens to said instrument, we will be liable for the full replacement value.

He lost his lunch box on the third day of school.

Now it's true that a saxohpone is a little bit more um...conspicuous than a lunch box. But it's still not beyond the realm of possibility for it to become lost. You would not believe the things that kid has managed to lose over the years.

I'm a little nervous.

But darn, he looked cool with that saxophone. He was evaluated on each instrument. He did the best with the trumpet, trombone, bassoon, and euphonium. He was rated a 1 on each of those, meaning he demonstrated good aptitude. He was given a 2 on the saxophone, which means he could do well with some work. I applied a little creative persuasion to encourage him to choose the saxophone. I showed him some video of Branford Marsalis jammin and he was sold. I figured out pretty quickly that the key to dealing with pre-pubescents is appealing to their slavish devotion to all things cool. Score one for Mom.

I don't honestly know if he has any musical ability. He can sing very well. Both of my boys could carry a tune very young and my Diminutive One has quite a knack for singings songs pretty much note for note and sometimes word for word after hearing them only once. Husband is very musical, he plays the piano and the guitar. So I think he probably has some latent ability. Whether he will be excited enough about playing the saxophone to nurture and hone that ability is another matter entirely.

We ended up spending around $180 dollars yesterday. I foolishly expected to walk in and plunk down $40 for the first month's rental, not considering the cleaning accesories, the music stand, music book, reeds, replacement mouthpieces ($85 dollars alone) and all the other acoutrements. So it was a bit of a shock. Husband was dubious and honestly, given Pre-Pubescent One's tendency to give up on things when they get a little challenging, I understand. But I want him to have the chance. I want to raise well rounded children. Sports are important, but I also want them to appreciate music, art, drama, literature. Or, at the very least, I want to give them opportunity to find out that they aren't really interested in those things.

So, we'll see. Crossing my fingers I won't end up paying $1600 for a Saxophone that some dude sold out of the back of his El Camino down on Ponce.

BTW, I realize my blog has lacked a certain amount of substance lately. I never intended this blog to be a litany of events in my mundane life. But I've been very focused on completing the third part of my Funeral Piece as well as querying several publications with other pieces. I've not had a lot of creative energy left over, and I apologize.

I hope to have it finished this week, and will post it for those who have been waiting.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

The Team Mom Saga Continues

This is a footnote of sorts to my Blasphemous Rumors post.

It's a small world, er, city. Because we live in such a large, sprawling suburban area, and because my husband works in a suburb about 30 miles from where we live on the opposite side of the city, he doesn't often encounter people we know from our neighborhood, our very limited social circle, or our extracurricular activities. Nor does he ecounter people with whom we share common acquaintances. I do, occasionally when I'm out and about, but it isn't a common occurrance. Unless you live in an area like ours, it's hard to understand how unlikely that really is. It's one reason I loathe where we live. There is no sense of community here.

But I digress, if one can do so without having reached the point to begin with.

The other day, a co-worker asked husband how baseball was going. He knows Husband is very involved with the boys' teams and that baseball consumes our lives during much of the year. Husband told him it was fine, other than some drama with the team Mom. The co-worker inquired about the situation and Husband, while explaining, happened to mention her first name, which is somewhat unusual. The co-worker did a double take and said "You don't mean Popeye and Olive Oyl SMITH, do you?" Husband, taken aback, said, "Yeah, you know them?"

The co-worker snorted and confirmed that he certainly did know them. For a moment, Husband was afraid he had put his foot in his mouth, thinking they may be friends, or at least friendly acquaintances.

There was an awkward silence and then the co-worker said, "Man...they are just WEIRD."

Relieved, Husband asked him to elaborate. The co-worker explained that they used to go to church with Popeye and Olive Oyl. He said that Popeye, while introverted to the point of being a little creepy, is a nice enough guy. Olive Oyl, however, is a huge drama queen. He said that every single week she would stand up and tearfully beg the congregation to pray for her and some new issue that had developed. Every week she was embroiled in some crisis. If there was controversy or drama, chances are, she was right smack dab in the middle of it. And, she was forever getting her feelings hurt over the most innocuous little comments or ascribing malicious motives to completely innocent actions. She is the kind of person that keeps others on tenterhooks in her presence because one never knows what will set her off or when.

Well. That explains it then. It's not me. Whoda thunk it.

So that's good to know, but unfortunately, the situation is escalating. I am realizing that she is a truth stretcher, if not an outright liar, and instead of simply admitting she doesn't know something, or making an effort to find out, she makes up some elaborate explanation or excuse.

For instance, one child got the wrong sized shirt. These shirts shrink a lot, and so if it's already too small, its going to be really too small after it's washed. The kid's mother asked Olive for another shirt and was told that they had no more. Olive told her that she could order another one, but she would have to pay for it. This is a bald faced lie. The company that does the uniforms for our park keeps a huge stash of these shirts in their warehouse because all the kids in all age divisions wear the same shirt for fall ball, and just have caps and colored stockings to differentiate teams. The gal that orders uniforms for the park always sets aside a day for exchanges. All you have to do is show up and make the exchange. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. I've done it a dozen times. If you miss the date, which I've also done, you simply call her up and set up a time and place to meet that is convenient. Often it is at the ballpark since most of us live there during baseball season anyway. There is no charge for the exchange. It couldn't be more simple. Why lie?

The Mom, frustrated, came to me. She was on our team in the Spring when I was team Mom. I don't want to step on Olive's toes. I really don't. So, I told her to tell Olive that all she had to do was call Uniform Lady and request another shirt. She should have Uniform Lady's number, but if not, it's on the League website under "Board Members". I told her if Olive gave her any more problems that I would get her another shirt.

Due to several other issues, other parents have also figured out that Olive isn't always entirely truthful and that she would rather make stuff up than look like she doesn't know, or actually find a solution. They have also figured out that I know stuff and can get things done, so they have started coming to me when they have problems or when they need information. This really pisses her off, and she has gone from ignoring me, to being openly hostile.

I don't know what to do. I don't want to horn in on Olive's status as Team Mom, but I also don't want to not help people when they need it. Especially when they've already been to Olive with their problem and she has brushed them off. I think things are going to have to come to a head and explode. I don't have a problem with confrontation, but frankly, between what I've been told and what I read on her "Testimony" website, I'm a little afraid of her. Not her, exactly, but how she might react if we have to have it out. I can say with a fair amount of certainty that it will not be a rational, civilized exchange.

I don't know if all this is a result of her mental illness or not. My youngest sister is much the same way, although not to the degree that Olive is, and she is not mentally ill. She is the youngest of us three, and I think that has driven her need for constant attention and validation. There's something to all that birth order stuff, I believe. Anyway, I don't think it really makes a difference why Olive is the way she is, except that I worry about how a confrontation between us will affect her mental health. I know from reading her website that her grip on stability is very tenuous, although that may be exaggerated.

This whole experience has led to wonder about how and why and how people who suffer from profound debilitating mental illness make the decision to have children. It makes me think of Andrea Yates and brings to mind a whole host of really convoluted issues regarding mental illness and parenting. If anyone has any thoughts they'd like to share, please feel free. I do have some experience with mental illness, but it's from a distant perspective. My youngest sister's boyfriend of many, may years is severely mentally ill and I've seen some of the struggles they face, but they have no children. The only people who are affected by his mood swings, paranoia, extreme anxiety and manic/depressive cycles are the two of them. I'd like to do a piece on this topic at some point, and I'd appreciate any insight you can offer.

Friday, September 15, 2006

When Smart Kids Go Stupid

My kids are smart. I think I've mentioned that a time or two, but I don't go on and on about how smart, because's annoying. Both of my children are considered gifted and both have issues that are often associated with very smart children. My oldest child has ADD. My youngest child is Spirited.

After a lot of soul searching, information gathering, and the advice of a good therapist, we decided to medicate the oldest for his ADD. He takes Strattera. I will not put him on stimulants, and thankfully, he has a relatively mild case of ADD without the hyperactivity, so it's unlikely he will need them. The medication does alleviate many of the problems that made reaching his true potential almost impossible. He can now focus and stay on task quite well.

But what medication can't do, is make him care. It can't motivate him to strive for excellence. He is so smart there is absolutely no end to what he could achieve. But he is lazy and apathetic. I am at my wits end with him.

Today he received progress reports and his were all dismal. Missing and incomplete assignments, quizzes with barely a passing grade, comment after comment from his teachers about how he is not living up to his potential. I wanted to shake him.

I don't even know how to convey how frustrating it is to know that your child is capable of so much, but just will not put forth the effort. I don't know how to make it important to him. I don't know how to make him understand that if he screws this up, he will end up working at a minimum wage job, or doing manual labor. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But there is nothing quite as disheartening as being stuck somewhere you don't belong and knowing that you could have been and done so much more. I know.

Because 25 years ago, I was the same way. And I remember my Mom and Dad sitting me down time after time, telling me how smart I was, and how I could be anything I wanted to be, and how they wanted me to have the kind of life they couldn't because they didn't have the resources to obtain an education. And I remember just tuning them out and telling myself how DUMB they all were and how they just didn't understand. But understand what? I didn't know. I didn't know myself why it didn't matter to me. Why I didn't want their approval. Why I absolutely hated school. I still don't.

I could do the work. Easily. I just didn't want to. It wasn't that I didn't enjoy learning. I did. I devoured books and I wrote like crazy, and I thirsted for knowledge about certain things. Art. Drama. History. Mythology. Each week I had a new interest, a new yearning. I could learn more on my own than I could in a whole semester of class, and I did. But they don't put that stuff on your permanent record and it doesn't help you get into college. And it doesn't keep you from flunking out because you were too apathetic to hand in any homework.

He is me, and I can't help him. Because I never figured why I did what I did.

But I know what happens when you do what I did. A person ends up bored and frustrated and full of regret because they realize what they've missed out on and what they could have been. And they castigate themselves for being so stupid and shortsighted and for not listening to people who just wanted the best for them and who knew a hell of a lot better than they did how life would turn out without education, without opportunities. Without OPTIONS.

How do you convey to an 11 year old the regrets of 37 years? You can't. And that's the tragedy I'm facing right now. I see where he is going and I can do nothing to stop it. I can do nothing to make him SEE.

Oh, I can do all the same stuff my parents did. And we do. We remove privileges and we lecture and we reinforce how smart he is and how he could be the next Bill Friggen Gates if he put his mind to it. But it didn't work for them, and it's not going to work for us. My kid is on the path to ruin and I can only watch him stumble blindly down it. When he was a baby, I could simply pick him up and remove him from harm's way and then set him back down on his sturdy, dimpled little legs. And he would simply toddle off in the direction I chose for him, safe and content. But it's not that goddamned easy any more.

I don't know what to do. I can see the distance in his eyes when I'm talking to him. I can see him mentally lalalala-ing. So do I stop trying? Do I let him suffer the consequences? I suppose that would be the logical thing to do but HOW can I as a parent allow my child to squander all the potential he has been given?? HOW can I in good conscience let him waste his gifts, knowing he will end up unhappy and disillusioned?? On the other side fo the coin, I wonder how much I can push before I push him away forever. The day I turned 18 I left home, tired of being reminded of all I had not accomplished. But Jesus, they were just trying to help. They were just trying to help.

The other day on the phone I poured out all my frustration to my mother and when I was finished, there was dead silence. In her silence, I heard her trying to formulate a response that wouldn't make me feel even more despondant. When she spoke, finally she said..."You're doing everything you can. The rest is up to him." And I took that to mean that she finally realized that she hadn't failed me as much as I had failed myself.

I hope that someday, when my brilliant son is working at Taco Bell, I can be that kind to myself. I hope I can remember that.

In the meantime, I guess I put myself in the enemy camp. I will be the uncool Mom, the slavedriver Mom, the you can do better Mom. But I hope one day he will see that I was the you can do anything my beautiful, brilliant child Mom. The I love you no matter what and only want the best for you Mom.

It's all I can do. It's all I have. Hope.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Little Help From My Friends

So, after a couple of weeks of making fabulously inventive and believable excuses to myself, I will start walking again Monday. I actually started last week, and was very motivated. But then I got terribly sick and was unable to walk due to chest congestion that left me feeling like a candidate for the iron lung. But I'm healthy now, and ready to strike out again.

I got an iPod for Mother's Day this year, and I was so excited to take it on my walk. WOW. What a difference music makes. It kept me energized, helped me maintain a brisk pace, and really made it seem like I was done in no time.

The problem is, I am in a musical rut. Mrs. Chicky once said that when you become a parent your musical taste is arrested. This is certainly true. But I also think it actually reverts as well. Most of the stuff in my library is from 1980 back. Mine is predominantly 80's and Husband's is mostly 70's. I am not ashamed to admit that I love Neil Diamond, The Carpenters, Helen Reddy, Linda Ronstadt and Barry Manilow. In fact, I need to add "Copacabana" to my Walking Playlist. I've loved that song since I was 9 years old. It, like "Turn on Your Heartlight", never gets old. And what self-respecting woman can't get behind "I Am Woman Hear Me Roar"?

We even have quite a bit of music that is even older than that. I actually downloaded Johnny Cash greatest hits after watching "Walk the Line". And the other day, husband downloaded "Dino: The Essential Dean Martin" after watching a sitcom that featured the song "Ain't that a Kick in the Head". We like it. A lot. Sure the guy was a drunken womanizing lech, but dayum that man could sang. I am also realizing that I really dig big band and swing music and I'm currently shopping for a good compilation to download.

I love all things vintage, so it's no surprise that this holds true for musical tastes as well. And I'm not implying that there is anything wrong with that. But I need some really jammin stuff to walk to and "Volare" isn't terribly invigorating. I want some new and fresh music that I haven't listened to a bzillion times. I do have some new-ish stuff in my Library that my Pre-Pubescent one introduced me to. Fallout Boy, All American Rejects, Hoobastank and Maroon 5. Of my own accord I added some Shakira, KT Tunstall and Outkast. (Why don't they do more songs like "Hey Ya" instead of that rap garbage???).

But there are so many new artists that I am unfamiliar with and I don't have the time to "browse" for music really. So I turn to all you hip young chicks who haven't yet fallen prey to musical stagnation syndrome. Give me some suggestions for music that really gets your blood pumpin, your ass shakin, and your toes tappin.

I like just about everything, with the notable exception of Rap. I am constantly amazed that this genre continues to gain popularity. I mean, Will Smith was pretty entertaining and I actually liked Vanilla Ice, but I can't get behind the violent mysoginistic rantings of the modern rap culture. There is no artistry there.

So, gimme your recommedations. If you have a workout mix, please share it. I would love to see what everyone else is sweating to. In the spirit of reciprocity, I'll share mine. But don't laugh at all the old fogie tunes. I can't help it. I came of age in the 80's.

Walking/Workout Mix

Hips Don't Lie, Shakira
Dancing With Myself, Billy Idol
I Like The Way, Bodyrockers
Personal Jesus, Depeche Mode
Sunrise, Duran Duran
Want You More, Duran Duran
The Bitch is Back, Elton John
Cars, Gary Newman
Yes U Can, Jewel
Come Dancing, Kinks
Black Horse & A Cherry Tree, KT Tunstall
Lady, Lenny Kravitz
American Woman, Lenny Kravitz
You're The One That I Want, Olivia Newton John
Jive Talkin', Bee Gees
1999, Prince
Glamorous Life, Sheila E.
La Vida Loca, Ricky Martin
Vertigo, U2
Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry
Whisper to A Scream, Icicle Works
A Little Less Conversation, Elvis Presley
Everybody Dance Now, C&C Music Factory
Dirty Little Secret, All American Rejects
Move Along, All American Rejects
Hey Ya, Outkast
My Humps, Blackeyed Peas
Ray of Light, Madonna
Dance Dance, Fallout Boy

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Got Nothin

Nothing that has inspired me, or annoyed me, or excited me. It's been raining all day, I am men-stroo-eight-ing, (there's just no good way to say that. I hate all the stupid euphemisms related to menstruation, so I'm just laying it out there.) and I feel very blah. I don't feel like writing. I don't feel like reading. I don't feel like painting my toenails. I don't feel like baking. And I damn sure don't feel like cleaning.

So...what to post, what to post....

Did you ever go back and read something you wrote, and laugh yourself silly in an embarassed 'what was I thinking' kind of way?

A couple years ago, I decided to write a romance novel. I figured it was a good way to cut my teeth, because any idiot can write a romance, right? Not to knock Ms. Steele, Ms. Woodiwiss, Ms. Plain and Ms. Price, but one does not have to posess a great deal of talent to write about dewey eyed innocents living in drafty castles who are seduced by handsome but tortured rogues, who unknowingly take their virginity in a moment of passion but then are sorry for it later. Throw in a couple of heaving bosoms and throbbing members, and you got yourself a best seller, right? It's a formula that never fails because there are always women who would rather read that kind of schlock than read anything of substance.

But I wanted to write something a little different. I wanted to write something smart and sassy and real. Sorta like Jackie Collins, but with more heart, and a really strong and intelligent heroine. Yeah. I could do that. And so, I set about doing so.

So, ummm, the thing I learned is that I'm not really cut out for fiction writing. Memoir type narrative is definitely my niche. I also learned that writing really hot sex without employing one of the abundant euphemisms that plague literature, is a lot easier said than done, unless you're okay with something that is more suited to Penthouse Forum than a Chick Lit bestseller. And, I suck at it. I wrote about 25 pages and abandoned it.

I was recently sorting through all of my Word documents and discarding those I no longer need. PTSA flyers, Team Mom letters, etc. And I ran accross the product of that misguided initiative. Since I haven't anything new and profound to write about, I thought I would post some of that for your amusement. Hey...I can laugh at myself. Today, you can laugh at me too.

So here, for your Hump Day reading enjoyment is the Introduction to my never titled novel about a never named action movie star and the relationship that develops out an accidental meeting between him and an average woman living an average life. Stunning concept, isn't it?? Oh my.

If you feel brave, join me, and post something of your own that you wrote, that you have since realized isn't really what you thought it was. I think it's cathartic in a way, and definitely helped me find my style and my define my goals in regard to my writing a little more clearly. In other words, I realized that I'm not happy with sucking. So, even bad writing serves a valuable purpose. Everything we create helps shape us.

Laughing and jeering are appropriate, but please don't throw anything rotten. My laptop is not under warranty anymore. I give you....

Really Crappy Untitled Novel

by Blog Antagonist


Its been two years now, and Hollywood still doesn’t know what to make of my story. They refuse to believe that the life of one they allowed into their perfect glittering world was not offered up in sacrificial servitude and naked exposition. They refuse to believe that secrets can be kept in Hollywood, though almost everyone has a few of their own that they guard with desperate ferocity. Their disbelief however, does not give them peace.

Its not really my story that disquiets them of course. I was never one of them, and they do not concern themselves with the details of a life unworthy of their interest or their scrutiny. They worry, however, that in discounting me, they made themselves vulnerable. Perhaps I heard something, perhaps I witnessed an unguarded moment. And they worry that such a moment has found it way onto these pages. They worry that pillow talk will be their undoing.

Or, perhaps in their pomposity, they simply cannot forgive the all but insignificant role that Hollywood really plays in my story. I didn’t court or covet their lifestyle, and I probably reviled them as much as they disregarded me. But above all they begrudge me the intimacies of a life considered to be a public enterprise. But he was more than an enterprise to me.

He was a rising star, moderately famous, often criticized as much as he was praised, and like many up and comings, he had not yet been given the chance to really shine. He had been pigeonholed, as often happens to those who lack the power and prestige to pick and choose. Nevertheless, he had created a niche for himself. When I met him, he was America’s reigning action hero, a playboy, and a heartthrob.

Men liked him, because although he was an unabashed bad ass in the way most men could never hope to emulate, they could identify with him. He wasn’t so handsome or so polished that he made other men feel inadequate. They could see themselves in the roles he played, without stretching the boundaries of reality beyond what their collective imagination could reasonably process. Conversely, he was just handsome enough that women found him completely irresistible. His everyman appeal allowed them to fantasize about him with satisfying plausibility. They could believe that only time and circumstance separated them from a man of his caliber.

The roles he garnered relied not on his acting skills, but on his ability to be intimidating, while still vulnerable enough to charm the ladies who got dragged to his films by their husbands and boyfriends. He could act, and quite well, but he rarely had to. In several of his movies, he was billed as the star, but uttered only a few lines of dialogue. He glowered and raged, flexed and pummeled. And America ate it up. It was all they asked or expected of him.

He didn’t complain about his roles, though he knew he was capable of more. He understood that he had to pay his dues, and he was truly grateful for the chance just to be in the movies. He had spent the lean years peddling his own scripts, and making his own low-budget independent films while he waited to be discovered. They had earned some acclaim, but he knew success did not happen overnight for most, if at all. So he took what was offered, and he learned the business. He made contacts, and he waited for the day when he wielded enough power to choose the roles he knew himself to be worthy of. He waited for the freedom to tell everybody else to go to hell. That day was fast approaching, but in the meantime, he exploited his status as America’s “Favorite Action Hero” to the fullest, and used it toward that end. It wasn’t cash that kept him accepting those roles, but clout.

Only one of his films had failed to do well at the box office, though they all did well once they went to home video. That film had strayed from the proven formula in an attempt to exploit his dual appeal. Hollywood had long known that such a vehicle was a true rarity. As a rule, chick flicks and guy movies are two entirely separate entities, with any attempt to marry the two bound to end in failure. But every once in a while, a daring producer would try to make a name for himself by doing what so few had been able to do. As was often the case, the gamble did not pay off. The box office returns were bleak, but he did not consider it a failure. He knew that there is no such thing as bad publicity, and as long as people were talking, he was happy. It hadn’t been so very long ago, that nobody even knew his name.

Understanding the person behind the performer was not a privilege that many were granted. He was always personable and professional; unfailingly gracious and solicitous to his fans. But never revealed too much of himself to those outside his small circle of trusted friends and associates. His gruff, tough guy persona belied his true depth and sensitivity. His brawn seemed to contradict the possibility that he had any brains to speak of, and he was often taken for nothing more than beautiful, but vacuous beefcake.

Its true that he was not well educated. But he was sagacious and street-wise, and he knew people. Ten years of tending bar in Greenwich Village had made him an infallible judge of character. He was routinely underestimated, but he put forth no conscious effort to change the public perception. He surprised people, and because of that, he was remembered. It gave him an edge that he was too shrewd to squander, even if it meant taking it on the chin now and then for being a lackwit.

He was audacious as hell, and it was often said that his ego was a bigger star than he was. In truth narcissism wasn’t his style. But in Hollywood, you have to know how to sell yourself, and you have to be utterly convinced of your own marketability. It can mean the difference between success and failure. He had to act as if demanding a $30 million dollar paycheck was a perfectly reasonable thing to do, and he did it with conviction.

Describing him aesthetically is difficult, because his appeal was so much more than just the sum of his physical features. Rattling off a laundry list of characteristics in an attempt to explain it, would be a bit like listing paint colors in an effort to describe the beauty and enchantment of a great painting. It fails to convey the utterly visceral response inspired by both.

That is not to discount his physical attributes as unimportant. To do so would be to deny the effect his presence had on others. Often, it was experienced as a tactile sensation. He was felt before he was seen. Whether you loved him or hated him, he was not a person who could be ignored.

He wasn’t conventionally handsome, but the enigmatic character of his face was compelling. The secret of his heritage hid there, giving him an ethnic beauty that couldn’t quite be defined. It was rugged, but exotic; fierce, but sensual. The mystery of his face was captivating.

Nevertheless, people usually noticed his bald head and bulging biceps first. His hair was completely shorn in a trend popularized by other actors, wrestling stars, and certain fringe groups. Some rumors suggested that he did it in order to defy the stereotypes that inevitably arose in the face of speculation about his ethnic heritage. Black, White, Latino…these were labels he was not interested in cultivating or perpetuating. But others suggested it was merely an affectation meant to enhance his menacing appearance. Whichever the case, it was a look that suited him. The bareness of his head emphasized its beauty, and accentuated the strong line of his jaw.

He was long legged and lean through the hips, with broad shoulders and an expansive chest. His entire body was honed to muscled perfection by years of training and discipline. It looked like a finely sculpted work of art, but performed like a well oiled machine. He could do any stunt, perform any feat of strength that he was asked. Men wondered what it would be like to possess such raw power. Women wondered what it would be like to be possessed by it.

But it was his eyes that really commanded and held one’s attention. Jet black and bottomless; long lashed and framed by finely arched but masculine ebony brows, they could be as open and expressive as the eyes of a child, or as blank as a canvas devoid of brushstrokes. They flashed hard like onyx when he was angry, chilling with recumbent rage. But when he was feeling genial, they twinkled with mischief and danced with humor. And, as many a starlet could attest, those eyes would smolder with perfect, languid sensuality. When he smiled his incandescent smile, his eyes smiled too. His face was transformed by that smile.

And who am I to speak of him with such intimacy? My name is Elizabeth Pearson Vogel. Prior to April 2002, I was indifferent to him and all that he was. I was a shell-shocked divorcee, struggling to find my feet as a single parent and pay the bills without taking a dime in alimony from my cheating bastard of an ex-husband. Hollywood might as well have been Mars, so far removed was it, literally and figuratively from my life.

I knew of him of course. He was on the cover of every trade publication, ladies magazine and gossip rag there was. You couldn’t pass a grocery store check-out without seeing his face. The internet was awash with fan sites and picture trading groups dedicated to him. Movie posters bearing his glowering visage plastered bus stop shelters video store windows, and taxi Marquis.

In my estimation, he was nothing more than another muscle-bound buffoon, overexposed and under talented. I didn’t find him outstanding in any respect, and I was mystified by his appeal. Strangely enough, it was those very words that brought him to me.

This is the story of how (no name chosen yet) came in to my life and changed it forever. But this is no Harlequin Romance, no Cinderella story. There is a Prince Charming, and there is a heroine badly in need of rescue. But there is no happily ever after. I wonder if there ever really is. Perhaps, in the preceding, I have painted and idyllic picture of him and if so, I’ve done him an injustice. He wasn’t a perfect human being. But he was perfectly human, which is why America loved him. Its why I loved him. Its why I killed for him.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Mission Bad Mother

Her Bad Mother has issued another assigment, and one that I think is worthwhile. Now, I have mixed feelings about feminism. I think sometimes it does as much to divide women as it does to bring them together. But one thing I think we can all agree on, is that women have the power to change the world. But...are we?

Activism is a scary word. I'm not keen on the idea of staging a protest, standing in a picket line being pelted with gargage, or planting cherry bombs in the lavatories at Big Evil Corporation headquarters. A billy club upside the head and teargas in my eyes is not my idea of fun. That's a little melodramatic, since few of my passions have to do with political issues and are not likely to spark the kind of public outrage that was the hallmark of the the geopolitcal unrest in 1960's America. But it still holds very little appeal for me. I'd rather effect change in a positive manner. But how?

I am reposting a piece I wrote a while back because I think it's relevant in regard to HBM's assigment. I kind of gave up on the whole PTSA thing, because I grew weary of the apathy, the petty bickering and the frustration of trying to convince people that my cause was worthy. Most of them would rather plan carnivals and sell wrapping paper. HBM has made me realize that I should maybe reconsider. Because....

Art is Free

This week is conference week at my children's school. I did not expect to get a glowing report on either child, though they are both exceptionally bright. Yes, I know every parent thinks that their progeny is the next Steven Hawking, but I actually have documentation to substantiate my claim. And yes, that sounds just as pretentious when I say it out loud.

But my children think "outside the box". They learn and process through experimentation, manipulation and sensory stimulation. They are both extremely creative and hunger for visual and tactile sustenance. Public school does not know what to do with my children, and so, they are compartmentalized within the very narrow definition of "gifted" and farmed out a couple days a week to harried accelerated learning specialists who have too many students and not enough resources. The rest of the time, they must fend for themselves; technicolor thinkers in a black and white world.

During my second grader's conference, the very timeworn issue of "lack of focus" came up, as it always does. The teacher, who is actually exceptionally well suited to her job and infinitely more patient with my child than I am, slid a worksheet accross the table with lips pursed and waited expectantly for me to comment. The front of the sheet you see, was utterly pristine. There was not one pencil mark upon it. The back however, was completely covered in graphite...a riot of shapes and shading that upon closer insepction revealed a very detailed and richly embellished medieval battle scene. This is how my darling 7 year old spent the morning, while his classmates dilligently filled in the blanks on their worksheets. The problem then was not lack of focus, but that upon which my son chose to focus. My children have art instruction once a week, and obviously, this is not enough to slake my child's thirst. He was simply seeking another outlet for his creative energy, worksheets be damned.

Anyway, it was quite clear that she expected me to be as outraged by this as she was. Try as I might, I simply could not summon the kind of indignation that I knew any conscientious mother would should be feeling. Here is why:

Since the dawn of time, man has used the arts to communicate, to create a tapestry of the human experience, and to give meaning to his existence. In the ancient world, a civilization possessed of a strong artistic culture was thought to have a citizenry superior in intellect and inventiveness.

Unfortunately, as our world becomes more technologically oriented, with great scientific advances and medical marvels, emphasis on and interest in the arts has waned to the point of being deemed almost inconsequential. Sadly, only 36% of American students receive the recommended minimum of one hour per week of art instruction, despite the fact that the benefits of arts education are well documented.

Numerous studies have shown that a comprehensive arts education helps children:

  • Learn more effectively in all areas of the school curriculum, including math and science.
  • Experience greater understanding of what they learn
  • Score higher on all aspects of the SAT.
  • Acheive higher levels of academic success in college.

According to research by Professor Shirley Brice Heath of Stanford University, young people who practice the arts are:

  • Four times more likely to win an academic award>
  • Eight times more likely to receive a community service award
  • Three times more likely to win a school attendance award
  • Four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair.

Public schools are failing our children. As funding becomes increasingly scarce, and more and more emphasis is placed on standardized testing, our children are becoming one dimensional and creatively stunted. Classroom learning is tailored to those who are "normal" or "average", and those who fall above or below that designation are left to swim against the current in the vain hope of making it to shore. They either dog paddle in place, placidy treading water and waiting for their peers to catch up, or they are dragged beneath the waves and held there while the rest of the school swims effortlessly by.

I joined the PTA despite my lack of joiner mentality and abhorrence of such things, to have a hand in changing this. On an individual level, I cannot address the ridiculous academic standards and uniform curriculum, but I can do something about the woeful lack of enrichment programs available. I submitted a proposal to the Administration for a parent led program that I had seen being used with great success at another area elementary school. The program is designed to achieve the following:

  • To educate students about artistic techniques, as well as art history and theory in a fun and age appropriate manner.
  • To foster a love of and appreciation for art.
  • To facilitate creativity and self-expression.
  • To encourage parent involvement.

The program required a very minimal commitment of one hour once or twice a month in which a parent representative would choose an artist from a pre-established list for the applicable age group (2nd graders just don't get Kandinski and 5th graders are much too sophisticated for Pollack). The parent would give a short presentation about the artist's biographical information, as well as that regarding the artist’s medium, technique, and theoretical beliefs. Parents were encouraged to be as creative as they like in their presentations. They could dress as the featured artist; perhaps wear a beret or carry a palette and brush. They might speak with an accent or imitate a physical attribute. Following the presentation, the parent would lead the class in a related project, using what they had learned.

The Administration approved my proposal and expressed excitement about the program. I went forward; incredibly energized and full of altruistic vigor. My enthusiasm was short lived however. Despite relentless promotion of the program and shameless solicitation for volunteers at every possible school function, only ten classes out of 65 yielded a willing parent. That's barely 15% participation in a school of over 1200. The program was shelved due to lack of interest. It was bitterly disappointing and in my opinion, shamefully shortsighted.

Parents, wake up. Other developed nations are surpassing us at every level of education. Their children are more well-rounded, more intuitive, more able to compete in a global marketplace because they are provided with artistic, literary, musical and theatrical instruction as part of their everyday curriculum. If we don't take a page from their book, our kids will soon be absent from the pages of history.

If we cut physical education programs, our kids get fat. If we cut enrichment programs, our kids get flat. It's really very simple.

Find a way to bring the Arts back to our kids. Here's a good place to start:

"There is no must in Art, because Art is Free."

....Wassilly Kandinsky

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Blasphemous Rumors

I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humor and when I die, I expect to find him laughing

(Lots of bloggy high fives if you get the reference)

Never mind when I die, he's laughing at me right. flippin. now. See, I think he's been reading my blog, and he's decided to mess with me a little bit. What? God can't have a sense of humor? Proof is everywhere. Male pattern baldness. Haute Couture. Penises.

Anyway, apparently, tangling with internet Christians was not enough of a lesson for me. God decided I needed a practical lesson in dealing with the recently born again.

Around here, baseball is played in the Spring and Fall, and my boys have just started their fall league. Diminutive One's Coach is new to the park. His son is only six and had previously only played in a church league. The team Mom is his wife, who immediately struck me as a very outgoing and friendly person with a good sense of humor. I liked her. Notice the past tense.

At the first practice, she asked for everyone's email address, stating that she lived and died by email. I was relieved to find that she is computer literate. I also do a great deal of my day to day business by email and it makes organization much easier for me. The first email I recieved from her had a hyperlink in the signature for a Christian Ministry website. No biggie. I was free to click or not click. I chose not to click.

Later that day Husband IM'd me from work asking if I had gone to the website. The tone of his voice told me that was something was up. He said simply, "It's interesting. You might want to take a look." Hmmm. We've been married long enough for me read between the lines pretty well and what I got from that was that these folks aren't your ordinary run of the mill Christians. I clicked.

What I found was a website chronicling years of mental illness, suicide attempts, and health crises, including many failed pregnancies. It was extremely personal and sensitive information, and not the kind of thing I would share with casual acquaintances. But, I understood that being saved helped her overcome these adversities, and she wished to reach out to others who might be stuggling with similar issues to testify to the power of faith and prayer. It's still not something I would have shared until I was better acquainted with folks, but, she is she and I am me. I didn't really think much more about it and honestly, it didn't alter my opinion of her, except maybe to give me a bit more respect for her. Her story made me see that she is a strong woman, and I dig strong women.

A week later, after having only spoken to her TWICE very briefly, I received an email at my personal email address, which I gaurd ferociously and give out to only a handful of select individuals, with spam from her ministry. The email spoke of a "new chapter" that they have added...and asked that we forward this email to everyone in our address books regardless of who they are and where they live. They also advertised their availability for public speaking engagements in the email. And the kicker is...they shared that they had found a publisher for her book, but that the exorbitant fees were beyond their means and so, they are accepting "love offerings".

I was, quite honestly, pissed off beyond all measure and I don't think I have to explain to you all the reasons why it was highly inappropriate. Still, I tried to be calm and approach the issue rationally. I told myself that she probably didn't mean to be rude or presumptuous. Some people truly have no sense of propriety. I once read that Einstein was almost inhumanly brilliant, but had to be told to change his underwear. So, I decided to just politely ask her to remove me from her ministry's mailing list and let that be the end of it. Here is what I said,

Hi Christian,

Could you please remove me from's mailing list? I wish you the best of luck with getting your book published. As always, I am happy to help with any team related issues.



I got a very terse reply almost immediately. It said simply,


I knew that those capital letteers did not bode well. I just knew it. It was quite clear that is was indeed...a problem. But I tried to shrug it off. Maybe she was trying to answer email while the pasta water was boiling over and the toddler was fingerpainting on the wainscotting with the contents of his diaper and the toilet was overflowing from having matchbox cars flushed down it. It happens.

A couple hours later another email arrived. It was addressed to only ten (me, and I assume the 9 others who asked her to remove them) of the original 23 recipients (she had either not bothered or didn't know how to blind CC) stating that she had sent the first email by using the select all option not thinking about the fact that she had not set up a separate folder for "Testimony". Alright...I suppose it's possible that she only has 23 contacts in her address book, 11 of whom were team members. It went on to say that they did not intend to offend anyone or solicit funds. I found it much harder to be charitable about that assertion, but I kept reading. It then said that they would not apologize for their faith or her mental illness. It was decidedly defensive and snippy. It was a qualified apology and I don't dig those.

I thought about it. And I thought about it. And I considered letting it go. I really did. But it pissed me off all over again because she was avoiding accountability by implying that she was being persecuted for her religious beliefs and her mental health status. It bugged me a lot because I try VERY hard to be accepting of others' beliefs. I don't always succeed and sometimes I am influenced by prejudices and preconceived ideals in regard to Christianity. But I do try.

So I talked to Husband about it. I expressed my feelings to him and I told him I didn't think I could let it go. He said that he supported me if I felt the need to pursue it.

So I emailed her back. Here is what I said:

Hi Christian,

Thanks for the explanation. I just want to clarify that neither Husband nor I were offended by your email. Though we do not share your faith, we respect and admire it, as well as your strength in overcoming such difficult issues. As I said, we both sincerely wish you continued good health and success in getting your book published.

We simply wish not to receive emails unrelated to baseball, as that is the purpose for which we provided our personal email addresses.

Thank you for your understanding. See you at the game on Saturday!



I did receive another email in reply, but it was largely incoherent, either because she was so angry she couldn't see straight to type, or because something else very wrong was going on. She did manage to convey that she "got my meaning" and that she "preferred this was the end of it." Well you know what? I "prefer" that it had never started.

The whole thing bothered me. A lot. I stewed about it for several days and Husband couldn't understand why it bothered me so much. I knew she would be distant and unfriendly now because of the incident and because I am not a Christian. I just knew it. And it bummed me out. I liked her and I had thought we could be friends. I discussed the issue with several Christian friends whose perspectives I value, and whom I can always count on to be honest. They said that I handled it well and that if she allowed the incident to color her view of me that was HER problem and that she needed to work a little harder on loving her neighbor.

Today at the game I resolved to be friendly and act as if it the whole thing was water under the bridge. There were one or two instances where she had to speak to me about team business, but it was brief and very curt. I decided to address her directly, and made a casual remark about something inconsequential. She looked away. I was very pointedly being ignored. Another parent, who was on our team last year when I was team Mom, noticed and raised her eyebrows in surprise at her rudeness. But I wasn't surprised.

I honestly don't know where to go from here. I can accept that she and I will not be friends now, and may well be enemies. We can co-exist in stony politeness, speaking only when necessary. Or I can approach her personally and express my desire to work through the issue so we can put it behind us and be, if not friends, at least understanding and respectful of one another.

I have no problem with doing that. But I wonder if it's even worth the effort. Part of me thinks yes, absolutely. It's always worth the effort to further understanding and tolerance of one another. And part of me says that I am better of without judgemental and small-minded people such as her in my life. One person isn't going to change her and sadly, because of the overwhelming prevailance of Christianity, and an abundance of individuals willing to support and even encourage her behavior, she doesn't need to change if she doesn't want to.

So. Is God punishing me for my smugness in handling that last little snafu so satisfactorily? Is he trying to bring me down a peg? Or is he just having a little fun with me? think you have Christians all figured out, do you B.A.? Well...try this 'lil gal on for size!

Sing it with me....

I don't want to start any blasphemous rumors, but I think that God's got a sick sense of humor and when I die, I expect to find him laughing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Chicken Soup for the Granddaughter's Soul

I'b sick. It happens every year. The kids go back to school and bring back germs. They get a little sniffle sniffle, a little koff koff. I get the head cold from hell with a full complement of symptoms. If you're like me, nothing is more comforting than a mug of steaming hot chicken soup when you're under the weather.

But not just any chicken soup. No reconsituted quivering chicken flavored goo from a can will suffice. When I'm sick I want chicken soup made from my grandmother's age old family recipe. "Dane Soup" they call it, though I don't know why. We have a smattering of Danish heritage, but we are mostly of German descent. My Great Grandmother's name was Willhelmena Ernestina Steinberg, (Steenberg, not Stineberg)and it doesn't get much more German than that. My Grandmother, Rena, married my grandfather, Edwin Schroeder (ShrAY-der, not ShrOH-der). The combination of their genetic Teotonism created four children who could have been poster children for the Aryan race. So the name has nothing to do with lineage, nor do the Danish hold a patent on chicken least not to my knowledge. It's a mystery.

This soup is a badge of honor in our family. It's difficult to make becuase one must do more than just follow a recipe. The ingredients are fairly simple, the combination unremarkable. But for the dumplings to come out right...firm but springy, light but substantial, doughy but not has to have a certain sense of when the batter is right. It must be thicker than pancake batter, but not as thick as drop biscuit dough. It must be elastic but not sticky. It must sliiiide off the spoon, clinging, stretching, until the filament breaks and springs back. It not only has to look right, but it has to feel right when slips into the bubbling broth and it must sink quickly and then bob to the surface where it will be steamed into plump and tender perfection.

Once, I used self-rising flour in ignorance. When I expectantly lifted the lid off the pot, I was stunned to see that the dough had absorbed all the liquid and swollen into one giant dumpling with bits of chicken, celery and carrot protruding from it's craterous surface. Another time, I forgot to add the melted butter and the dumplings crumbled into the soup leaving bits and pieces of gluey debris floating in the rich yellow broth. Once, for no particular reason that I could think of, the dumplings sank to the bottom of the pot and stayed there, where they became tough, chewy, warty little dough clods.

But I've got it now. My dumplings are perfect and that means that I have passed the test. I'll always be remembered in the family as one who got the dumplings right. But it means more than that to me. It means a sense of connection to a grandmother I never knew. Every time I make this soup, I think of her. Every time. And I miss her. She died when I was an infant, of a myseterious heart malady. A cousin of mine, who was 13 at the time, told me just recently that it was the worst day of her life. Because according to everyone who was lucky enough to know her, Rena Mary Schroeder was the quintessential, cookie baking, doll clothes sewing, apron, glove and girdle wearing, in your face with hugs and kisses Grandma.

My mom often tells me how proud Grandma was of me. My mother was born late in my grandparents' lives, although these days, 35 isn't "late" at all. But her closest sibling was already 17, so by the time I was born, most of the grandkids were teenagers, and there had been no babies for quite some time. I had a full head of black hair, and my mother would tell me smilingly how Grandma had to take off my bonnet and show everyone that unruly mop of fine jet black baby hair. The other cousins had all been fair and bald (that Teutonic blood again) until the advanced age of three...and Grandma delighted in the novelty of a hirsute baby. She knitted me sweaters and booties and bonnets, she sewed me dresses, she combed my hair into fantastic creations secured with bows and ribbons and pink plastic barrettes. She showered me with love and attention and then, quite unfairly, she died abruptly at 59 with no warning and no word of good-bye.

Then, I didn't realize what a loss her death was, but years later as a young girl, with only one remaining Grandma, who was enjoying her freedom after years of raising three boys to adulthood on her own and wasn't particularly interested in baking cookies or sewing doll clothes...I felt monumentally cheated. Every Christmas and every birthday I missed her. When people spoke of her, I was jealous and I was angry. Why hadn't she gone to the doctor? Why hadn't she taken better care of her health? Didn't she care about being there for her last three grandchildren?? And then just as quickly, I would feel contrition and sorrow. Of course she hadn't wanted to die. She hadn't meant to leave us without a grandmother. Like all of us, she just never thought that death would claim her so soon or so suddenly.

Not long ago, while cleaning out my Aunt's basement in preparation for their move to a retirement community, my mother came accross several old reels of 8mm home movies. She brought them home and showed them to me on my last visit. I had seen many photos of my grandmother of course, but its hard to divine someone's essence from a motionless black and white photo.

As I watched the grainy flickering image on my parents' living room wall, she emerged form the screen door of a white farnhouse. Startled and embarassed by the camera, she smiled. That smile took my breath away. She was beautiful, but it was more than that. It was proof that she actually lived and breathed and existed somewhere other than my imagination. She patted her hair and then waved her hand as if to indicate that the camerman should not waste any more precious film on her. As she walked away, I was struck by a sense of overwhelming familiarity. I knew that gait, I knew the shape of her body. But how? Was it an actual memory, or just the desperate need to identify with her somehow?

Just then my sister breezed in, and once again my breath was snatched from my chest. I had always wondered where my sister got her beautifully aquiline nose and her sweeetly shaped lips. But it was more than shared features. It was the sway of her hips, the curve of her bosom, the spring in her step. They were so similar that it gave me goosebumps. And now I have something other than a crumpled photograph or a grainy home movie. She is more than just a hazy, amorphous grandmother ideal. She was real and she lives on in my sister, and all of us really. Nearly 40 years after her death she is always a topic of conversation at family gatherings. She is spoken of as if she was here only yesterday.

So I stir my soup, and I think of my Grandma. The comfort is not in the soup itself, but in the history of its making. I feel close to her and I like to think she would have been proud. I did it Grandma. I made the soup.

If I'd had a girl child, she would have been name Rena. I would tell her all about the woman she was named after, and I would have taught her to make Dane Soup.