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.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Outland-ish Crush

I've always turned up my nose at "romance".

Okay, a teenage girl I devoured Danielle Steele and Kathleen Woodiwiss, sighing wistfully and forming somewhat hackneyed ideals about love, sex, and marriage.

But as I matured, so did my taste in reading material, as well as my philosophy regarding it. Simply put, life is too short to read crap. There is too much wonderful literature out there, too many brilliant authors. I hunger to know them. So, I resolved not to waste my time reading sensationalistic garbage.

I do enjoy a good thriller, and sometimes I need something purely frivolous to calm the tempest of thought raging in my head. I don't automatically dismiss an author simply because he or she is at the height of popularity, though I did, for a while, steadfastly refuse to read anything on Oprah's book club list. But for the most part, I try to stick to reading that is enriching of the mind and spirit.

Yes. I have, on more than one occasion, been called a book snob.

So you see why "romance" has largely been stricken from my list of acceptable reading. You know the type of tripe I'm talking about..."Bodice Rippers" as I often refer to them. Formulaic foibles of hero and heroine, replete with heaving bosoms, throbbing loins, and plenty of laving.

Now, as a rule, I'm a pretty big fan of laving in general. LOVE me some laving. Can't live without it, in fact.


I'd rather experience it than read about it, especially when the descriptives employed are couched in time-worn cliches and sophomoric euphemisms and the recipients of which, are unfailingly fair of body and face, with nary an ass pimple or nipple hair to be found.


So, imagine my surpise and chagrin at finding myself utterly, completely, inextricably and undeniably addicted to Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series.

In four weeks I have read, nay...consumed...four of the books. I have stayed up into the wee hours reading, knowing my alarm would be going off at 6 am, and not caring, reading on with reckless abandon, wholly unable to stop turning pages. I have bargained with myself as the minutes ticked by on the clock...just 30 more minutes, one more chapter, just until I find out if...telling myself, that if I stop at 12:00, I can still get 6 hours of sleep. I can make do with 5. 4, and I'll take a nap after I wash all the bedclothes and remake the beds.

I have carried them with me everywhere..the ballpark, the orthodontist, the therapist...hoping for a few stolen moments of reading during the day. I have, for the first time ever, been tempted to read ahead, compelled in a way I have never, ever experienced before to know if my beloved Claire and Jamie have made it through the next crisis. Lived to see another day. Found one another after being separated by oceans of time and the obligations of another life.

And not only am I consumed by their fate. When I am away from them, I miss them, as if they were flesh and blood human beings. I think and wonder and worry about what will happen to them next. I have always had the ability to become completely immersed in a book. In truth, while I am reading, the story becomes my reality. But this really surpasses anything I have ever experienced.

Frankly, I'm a little embarassed by it.

But I'm in good and plentiful company I've found. Apparently, Outlander has a HUGE following. I really had no idea.

There are fansites, discussion groups, dubious artistic renderings, and magazine articles.

People have even created videos.

That guy is SO not Jamie, though I quite like Kate Beckinsale as Claire.


After forgiving myself for the lapse in taste and judgement, I began to realize that categorizing these books as "romance" is a heinous oversimplification and gross injustice. True, there is certainly romance novel-esque contrivance and cliche. And its true that somtimes, the loose ends are tied up far too tidily to be anything but a vehicle of convenience.

But Diana Gabaldon is an incredible storyteller, and I like her writing style a lot. Girlfriend doesn't shy away from big words or a run on sentence. Truly, a woman after my own heart.

Outlander is a sweeping historical epic, exhaustively researched, unimpeachable in it's authenticity. The plot is complex but plausible, the many twists surprising, but tenable. It is all woven together with rich imagery and commendable attention to detail. The language, the culture, and the humanity of the 17th century Scottish Highlands are brought to life by the artistry with which they are written. I could see, hear, smell and taste the world described within the pages. I was, and am, utterly lost in it.

But it's the characters that make Outlander really compelling. Like the writing, they are infused with a sincerity and a passion that is rare. They are so well developed that they practically breathe and because of that, they inspire in the reader a unique affection. We like them. We love them. We hope for them and we fear for them. And when I have read the last book, I will mourn the loss of them.

Simple romance? No. Certainly not. There is romance to be sure, and the really delicious kind that will give a gal a whopping case of heaving bosom. But it so, so, so much more.

When searching for Outlander at my local Barnes and Noble, I was dismayed to find that it had, perhaps predictably, been placed in the romance section. I told the clerk that it really didn't belong there, because it was so much more than just a romance.

He said with a bit of a smirk and smidge of condescension, "Yeah, I know, I hear that all the time."

I felt compelled to defend myself, and indeed, I realized, I was holding the other books in my arms in such a way as to display the titles clearly to his view. They were respectable books. Real literature. Snob worthy.

But I knew that when I got home, it would be the lastest Outlander that made it's way out of the jaunty green bag first. And, that it would be quite some time before anything "respectable" claimed my attention again.

I suppose, I will simply have to redefine my terms in order to live with myself.

Well done, Ms. Gabaldon. Well done.

Friday, January 26, 2007

So Here's The Thing....

I, in my somewhat misguided attempt to bully myself into buckling down and writing something substantial, completely overlooked the many very positive aspects to blogging. Some dear friends, who are not bloggers, but who read my blog, very kindly pointed this out to me recently, when I confessed that I was having trouble sticking to my resolve not to blog. Seeking to lay blame for my inability to motivate and discipline myself, I focused only on the destructive aspects of blogging.

The first week was easy. And frankly, I felt a little relieved at not having to write something fabulous every day.

The second week...not so much.

I have things to say, you see, and nobody to say them to. It's not that I don't have friends...though I don't have a huge abundance of very close friends...I do have quite a few acquaintances that I'm happy enough to pass time with. But, they aren't the kind of friends with which you share certain thoughts and feelings. We talk mostly about the activity or the common thread that has brought us together, which is, most often...our kids. And that's fine. I enjoy talking to other parents about being a parent.

But there a lot of thoughts, feelings and opinions that I can't talk to other people about. Or, don't want to, because I don't want to get into a big philosophical debate. I don't discuss religion with folks around here, because it's a powder keg just waiting for the spark of heathenism to ignite the fires of righteous indignation and judgement.

I don't discuss politics for the same reason. And because this state is steeped in the attitudes and prejudices of an era long past, issues such as gay marriage, abortion, civil rights, and separation of church and state are equally incendiary. In real life, I stick mostly to idle chit chat, unless I am thoroughly convinced that the person I am talking to shares my views.

So I never really realized the extent to which this blog has helped me reconcile all the stuff that rattles around in my brain every day.

But there's another reason I missed it.

I'm a SAHM, by choice, and I have been for 12 years. It's a choice I made with complete conviction. But I never realized just how much I would miss accomplishing something and having someone notice that I accomplished something. Or care that I accomplished something. Or feel compelled to express admiration and appreciation for the fact that I accomplished something.

My husband is great. He really, really is. And he tries very hard to make sure I know how much he appreciates me. But he still isn't likely to comment on how sparkling clean the toilets are, or grant me quarterly bonuses for keeping my offspring clean, clothed and fed.

People who work get positive reinforcement daily.

"Hey Joan, GREAT presentation today! Those charts were very impressive!"


"Your productivity this quarter exceeded our projections by 36%! You'll be getting a little something extra with your next paycheck."

or even just......

"Wow, the supply closet looks great. It's about time someone cleaned it out."

Most often, what I get, is moaning and groaning, whining, arguments, and resistance. I get...

"Yuck. I am NOT eating that."


"But MOM! I just CLEANED my room three weeks ago!"


"I don't want to wear my heavy coat! It's not even cold out!!"

See what I mean?

Here, I get some much needed affirmation and appreciation. My husband was the one who pointed out that the reason I was putting more effort into blogging was the fact that I get immediate gratification for my efforts. Well yeah. What's bad about that? Why shouldn't I? Everybody needs praise. Everybody needs to know that something they are doing matters.

So I'm giving my blog back to myself, albeit with conditions.

To start with, I have pared my bloglines down to only a few very favorite blogs. Not that all of you aren't worthy of my time or a comment. You absolutely are. There are SO many wonderful blogs and bloggers out there, and really, that's part of the problem. I get sucked in, and before I know it, hours have passed and I have accomplished nothing. So, I will allow myself to read blogs, but on restricted basis.

That's not to say I won't ever read any blogs not on my bloglines. I will. Because there is stuff out there that is too good to pass by. But I won't feel obligated to. I won't make reading and commenting on blogs a condition of my own blogging. I know that the "rules" say if someone comments on your blog, one should reciprocate, but I just can't invest that kind of time. I would like to, because I know how much comments mean to me. But please know that if something you say on your blog is particularly meaningful or well said, I will comment. Otherwise, I will read, and appreciate, and move on.

And lastly, I will blog when I want to. When I really have something to say. When the words just can't be contained.

I won't blog every day because I'm worried about numbers on my statcounter, or my technorati ranking, or the number of blogs that link to me. I won't blog just for the sake of blogging.

So. That's that, I suppose. I do feel like a big horse's ass, as I knew I would if I couldn't stay out of the blogosphere.

I'll get over it.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Evolution Of A Blog

This blog has served many purposes over the past year.

I started this blog January-ish of 2006 simply as a way to vent some frustration that had built up during a very stressful life experience, one in which I felt very powerless. I came under attack and was unable to defend myself for a variety of reasons. It was very demoralizing to have to sit back and let my character be assasinated, my children be maligned, my husband lampooned. So this blog, which was completely private at its inception and for several months afterward, was simply a catharsis; a way to cleanse myself of the bitterness and move on. And it worked. I was able to close that chapter of my life and eventually, to look on it as a learning experience.

I guess, by accident, one of the more well-known bloggers happened upon my blog and linked to it. I began getting comments, and as you know, that's a pretty heady thing. But it wasn't only about comments. It was about finding my voice again...about reclaiming a passion and gaining confidence once again in my ability as a writer.

This blog has also been a place to work through all the really difficult stuff that parenting throws at me, to celebrate the various people in my life who have made me who I am and whom will always have a special place in my heart.

And it's been a place to remember. As I look back on various pieces I have written in 2006, there are a lot of things there that I probably wouldn't remember 20 years from now if I hadn't blogged about them. Sometimes, I live in fear of forgetting, knowing I only have one chance to cememt a moment or an experience into my memory. It's gratifying to know I can look back and read about things that happened, and how those things affected my growth as a mother and a person.

So blogging has been a good thing for me.


Like a lot of things that I do, I do it to excess. I'm not really good at self-denial or moderation. Why I'm not a 700 lb. raging alchoholic sandwiched into the only corner of my home not crammed with collectibles bought on ebay with a serious debt problem resulting from my penchant for freaky sex with young latin american beyond my comprehension.

After blogging for a while, some of the feedback got me to thinking that maybe, just maybe....I could actually become a published author. I've always dreamed about it, but...something has always stood in the way. Often that something was myself. My own foibles and frailties, my fear of failure, my fear of success. And for a long time, I never really believed I had what it took to be a "real" writer. Those of you who so kindly commented on the pieces that I posted gave me the confidence I needed to believe I could do it. At the very least, you have given me the courage to try.

Now I just need to get serious and make it happen.

While discussing the whole book thing with my husband, who has been unfailingly supportive and encouraging, he said to me...

"You know, babe...if you had put as much effort into writing that book as you have into blogging, you could be a published author by now."

He wasn't being critical. He was just making a point. But it really flipping pissed me off. Because he was right.

As a new year is unfolding, my resolutions, as always, are numerous. But contrary to those who have pledged to blog more, I have resolved to blog less. I have, actually, resolved not to blog.

Because with my blog here, singing its siren song of instant gratification, it's too easy to turn away from the laborious and often thoroughly unrewarding task of writing an honest to goodness book, succumb to the evil of self-doubt, and give in to the allure of dashing off an easy little fluff piece to garner comments and bolster my foundering ego.

It just won't work.

Is this good-bye? I don't honestly know. My past experiences tell me that for me, a clean break is best. I'd like to think I could discipline myself to only blog once or twice a week. To only read blogs when I have completed a given set of objectives.

Once, I decided that in order to quite smoking, I would gradually wean myself off of them by cutting down progressively, until I was done with them. It sounds good in theory. But as the number of cigarettes dwindled, I began obsessing over when I was going to smoke, planning my life around when I could smoke, counting the moments until I could smoke. And of course, with all that thinking about smoking, all I wanted to do was....smoke.

That was probably one of the more foolish notions I ever had.

I quit smoking ten years ago, by simply putting them down and walking away. For me, cold turkey is the only way to go, as has been proven several more times since I quit smoking.

So, I think, yes...this has to be the end.

Now I have to decide if I mean it enough to actually click "publish", because if I don't, I'm going to look like a big fat horse's ass when I start blogging again in a week.

I do mean it.

But will I mean it two days from now?

Hell. I don't know.

Post Script:

I realized after I did, in fact click "publish", that the whole thing sounded very much like a thinly veiled plea for protestation and lamentation at my exodus from the blogosphere. But it's really not. Several times over the past year, bloggers I had been reading regularly closed up shop with no explanation or word of good-bye. It was a little unsettling. Did they die or contract some fatal disease? Become a Buddhist Monk or a lifestyle submissive? Are they being held captive by an abusive spouse, tied up for hours on end and forced to urinate in a tin pail?

I'm good. Really good, actually. The aforementioned personal life experience made me stop and take a look at just how good I have it. So no worries.

I'll see ya on the bestseller list.

How's that for self-confidence? Good yeah? I'm working on it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

My Cup, er....Bookshelf, Runneth Over

My family is well aware that I am a bibliophile. My mother and father cultivated a love of books by reading to us at every opportunity, and by being avid readers themselves. I became a reader at a very young age. My sister is a bibliophile as well, and she and I often give each other books or gift cards to a bookstore for birthdays and such. My parents and I also give one another books quite often. For our family, a book is a gauranteed hit.

We also circulate books among the five of us. I always send a box full of books home with my parents when they visit, and often drag a box full home when I visit them. Recently I sent two boxes of hand-me downs to my nephew by parcel post. The second box wasn't quite full, so I filled up the space with books, knowing they would be passed around and enjoyed by everyone.

But it has taken my in-laws a while to catch on to the fact that I would rather get books than pajamas, bath salts or figurines. They love Christmas, you see, and they love giving lavish gifts. And to them, a book is sort of last resort gift. Not a big WOW gift. They love to give the big WOW gifts. But at long last, they have realized that a Barnes & Noble gift certificate is like gold to me. Better than gold, in fact. I covet and prize books above almost everything else. For me, books, or the means to acquire them, are definitely a big WOW gift.

We are a single income family, and though we are fortunate to have more disposable income than many that I know, we still have to watch our budget. Books, especially hardbacks, are not something that I can spend freely on. We have a library, but it is relatively new, and their selection is still rather hit or miss. Many of the newer releases are either not available, or there is one copy, perhaps two, with a waiting list about a mile long.

As a result, I am always thirsty for reading material. I keep some of my very favorites on hand to re-read when my supply has run dry. I grow more fond of them with each reading. But there's nothing like cracking open a new book. The feel of the crisp, unbent pages, the smell of fresh newsprint, the anticipation of being taken on an epic adventure, meeting a wonderful new hero or heroine....its simply unaparallelled.

Fortunately, I seem to have hit the motherlode this Christmas. I received many titles that I asked for from Husband and the boys, I was given several gift certificates by family members, including my in-laws, in addition to the requisite, and actually much appreciated pajamas. Between those that I was given, those I purchased with gift certificates and those I pilfered from my parents' home, I have a huge pile of riches just waiting to be read.

I love having choices. I love not knowing which to open first. I love being able to put one down when it doesn't suit my mood, and picking up another that better strikes my fancy. I love looking at a stack of books and knowing that it will be some time before I hit a literary dry spell.

Here is what I have in my pile:

Hannibal Rising, by Thomas Harris (bought)
I, Mona Lisa, by Jeanne Kalogridis (bought)
Christ The Lord; Out of Egypt by Anne Rice (bought)
The Many Lives and Secret Sorrows of Josephine B., by Sandra Gulland (bought)
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (pilfered)
Women of the Vine; Inside the World of Women Who Make, Taste and Enjoy Wine
by Deborah Brenner and Gina Gallo (gift)
Women of Wine; The Rise of Women in the Global Wine Industry
by Ann Matassar (gift)
Elements of Style, by Strunk and White (gift)
Writing Past Dark, by Annie Friedman (gift)
Riptide, by Preston and Child (bought)
City of Dreams by Beverly Swerling (pilfered)
The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova (gift)

Twelve, count 'em, TWELVE delicious tomes just waiting to be read. Heaven.

I've already finished Hannibal Rising and Riptide.

Hannibal Rising got terrible reviews on Amazon, but I bought it anyway. It wasn't the shockingly gruesome and thoroughly gripping read that Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal were, but it wasn't meant to be. If you go into it with the right mindset, you won't be disappointed. I enjoyed it as much as the other two, albeit in a different manner. The book is meant to be a history of Hannibal Lecter and an insight into how he grew into a monstrous killer. Thomas Harris has always done a very good job humanizing a character that could have been nothing more than a cliched instrument of death, and this book follows in that vein. Don't pass it up because of poor reviews based on unrealistic expectations.

Preston and Child never disappoint and Riptide was no exception. These stories are pure brain candy...and like sweet, smooth chocolate, you simply cannot stop stuffing your pie hole with page after page of delicious intrigue that is spine-tinglingly macabre. I like that many of their books incorporate historical and anthropological elements. It adds a dimension to their stories which keeps them from ever being flat or formulaic. This is an easy, light and thoroughly enjoyable read if you enjoy this genre.

I actually read The Historian about a year ago and reviewed it here. But I was thrilled to get my own copy. This book is so rich with detail that it's one that can be read over and over and still seem new and fresh. This is going to become one of my old favorites to keep on standby for times of crisis.

So there you go...unabashed capering over my haul. Eat your heart out fellow bibliophies.

ADDENDUM: I had tried to read Outlander several years ago at the suggestion of a friend who knows I enjoy historical fiction. I just couldn't seem to get into it and gave up, which I rarely do. But it really was a snoozer. My sister has recently gotten hooked on the Outlander series, and told me she had the same experience initially. She urged me to give it another try, and to stick with it until the time travel occurs. She promised me I would not be disappointed. WOW. She was right. I plowed through the first couple chapters and finally got to the time travel part. From there it was almost like reading a different book and it was with GREAT reluctance that I put it down at 1 a.m. last night. And are so right...Jamie is one hunka hunka burning love. I'm a sucker for a man with a Scottish burr. And a kilt. And a really big....sword.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

The One Where I Drone On and On about Art

Do you like art?

That might seem like a simple yes or no question, but I don't think it really is.

I don't believe anybody views a work of art and feels anger, hatred, contempt or loathing, unless of course, the piece was meant to inspire such. I can't imagine that anyone looks upon a tranquil pastoral scene, a graceful nude, or a skillfully done portrait with active dislike. But I do think there are those who do so with apathy.

So while I don't think that art is the kind of thing that naturally inspires antipathy, I do think there are people who are thoroughly unmoved by it.

And then there are those for whom art inspires a passionate love, an intense longing, and a fervent joy.

I love art. I love everything about it. The history. The intrigue. The personal tragedies and triumphs behind great masterpieces. The color. The technique. The richness and the majesty. The raw emotion that can be infused into a into a single brushstroke, slab of marble, or lump of clay. I admire the skill and the perserverence and the passion of those who have wrought great works of art. I wonder about their lives, their loves, their dreams and sorrows. Art speaks to me on a very visceral level. It moves me in ways I am at a loss to explain.

It's should come as no surprise then, that one of my favorite places on earth is the Louvre. I always dreamed of going there, never really daring to hope that it would come to fruition. But to my surprise and elation, my husband-to-be booked a honeymoon in Europe as a gift to me, four days of which would be spent in Paris. I was absolutely beside myself.

We started in London, and it surpassed my expectations in every way. We had the time of our lives. And yet, I couldn't wait to get to France. The Louvre was calling to me. And when at last we stood in front of the beautiful and expansive building, I was nearly speechless. And I trembled as we entered and descended on an incongruously modern conveyance to the galleries.

There is simply no way that one can see all there is to see in the Louvre in one day. Faced with more than we could possibly ever see, we had to pick and choose. And it was pure agony to bypass endless halls and cavernous rooms, knowing that treasures beyond my imagining lay within. I saw the Mona Lisa. It was anticlimactic. Somehow, I never expected it to be so small and I certainly didn't expect it to be encased in six inches of bullet proof plexiglass. His sketches though...those were breathtaking.

David was a visual feast. The Birth of Venus moved me to tears. Ophelia was transcendant. The Waterlillies defied description. There were so many that I saw that day, all beautiful and amazing and just...surreal. It was, in every way, a life changing experience for me. I long to go back and I hope that someday, I can bring my children to stand before the treasures that so captivated and moved me.

When my sister suggested that we drive to the Art Museum in Chicago on my trip home to Wisconsin, I agreed instantly. My husband expressed doubt that I would actually want to make the four hour drive when it came right down to it. After all, we had just spent 15 hours in the car. Silly man.

Our honeymoon was 13 years ago and I had forgotten just how awe inspiring it can be to stand before a work of art. I had forgotten the thrill of knowing that one is standing before a great masterpiece, one which will exist long after I have died, and whose creator will be known to generations far into the future.

I had forgotten how much paint Van Gogh (our high school French teacher insisted that we pronounce his name Van Gug) used. Whorls and swirls and piles of color so rich and inviting, that one is compelled to touch it. And indeed, my hand, of it's own accord, stretched toward the canvas, only to be stopped short by a subtle, but effective ding-dong. Thwarted, I could only look. But I felt strangely dissatisfied. I felt an overwhelming need to touch those tantalizing peaks.

Obviously, Van Gogh did not disappoint, and either did Renoir, Pissaro, Monet, Manet, Degas and the countless others that I saw; all artists that one exepects to be magnificent.

Seurat, though...he surprised me.

Seurat has never been one of my favorites, and pointillisme is not a movement that I have ever really been able to appreciate. But then, I had never seen La Grande Jatte. I knew of it, of course. It's a well known work of art, and the story behind of its creation is interesting and intriguing. As we entered the gallery where it was housed, I shivered in anticipation. And when it came into view, my flesh pimpled and a thrill raced through me. It was so large...I hadn't expected that.

Standing before his visual manifesto, I was undeniably impressed. The sheer effort alone inspires admiration. It really is comprised of millions of little dots of color, dancing together and on top of one another to create light and shadow and form and feeling. The figures were strangely amorphous, and yet dinstinctly solid. The colors were indescribably soft, yet unbelievably bold.

It was absolutely magnificent.

These are the little surprises that make art so compelling for me. The little mysteries, the little nuances...they make me feel like I belong to something bigger than myself.

If someone founded a religion based on art...I would be the most fervent and steadfast acolyte. I could go to my grave with peace in my heart, knowing that art will always be there to inspire, to lead, to move, to impassion.

Yeah. I could believe in that.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Prodigal Blogger Returns

I am back at home after 10 days spent in the bosom of my family.

Though sharing a house (and one with a single, tiny bathroom at that) for that length of time can be trying, I hated to leave. And though I was ready for my own bed, my own computer, my own chair, and my own rules, I was not ready to say good-bye for another whole year. I was not ready to not be part of my family again.

My twin niece and nephew were babies the last time I saw them. Now they are independant and strong willed toddlers. My oldest nephew, who is six, has gained a new maturity as well, and it pains me to think how much he will have changed the next time I see him.

We said our goodbyes with my sister's family the night before we left, as we were going to be hitting the road very early. I had just gotten over the tears when the phone rang. It was my sister, calling to say that my nephew had come downstairs after being in bed a very short time, unable to sleep, and insisting upon calling me. She put him on the phone. He said, "Just a minute Aunt B.A., I gotta get in private." He went into the office and crawled beneath the desk to whisper, "I was just thinking...whenever you start feeling like you miss us, you can just blow kisses this way and I'll know you are thinking about me"

There is not enough breath in my body kid.

I cried when I related the conversation to my mother, again when I told my husband about it, and third time when I filled my father in. And I still had the next morning's goodbyes to get through. Needless to say, it was emotional couple of days.

I have lots of thoughts to get down on paper about family, role reversal, the evolution of relationships, and the realizations regarding family dynamnics (good and bad) that come with getting older.

But I have 27 loads of laundry to attend to, a tree that is basically just tinder at this point (picture that scene in Christmas Vacation where the old man tosses his match into the tree) and cupboards that are yielding very little in the way of actual sustenance, so it will have to wait. Trip aftermath sucks.

I will share with you that we have coined a new term, (sort of like a sniglet...remember those?) borne of 30 hours on the road with every idiot in 6 states. The word is "stupident". I have come to the conclusion that there are very few actual "accidents", and most motor vehicle incidents are, in fact, "stupidents".

And last but not least...

To the forest green Expidition in Indiana that insisted on riding my bumper for 3 hours in the pouring rain with his highbeams on...

I will find you. And when I do, I will exact my revenge by renting the biggest brightest searchlight I can find and parking it right outside your bedroom window.

To the truck in Chicago who nearly flattened us when you decided to change lanes without signalling, or more importantly, looking...

I suggest that you remove the "How's My Driving" query from your rear doors if you want to keep your job. Because if you drive like that habitually, I am certainly not the first, nor the last to call the 800 number and describe in great detail, exactly how your driving is.

I hope everyone in Blogland had a joyous New Year.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Intercourse Discourse

We are heading home tomorrow, and I've been remiss in reposting some of my old pieces for you. Here's one I like, I hope it will hold you over until we are back home and my life returns to normal.

Intercourse Discourse

Despite being somewhat impoverished, my childhood was near idyllic in many ways. I grew up in that golden era when AIDS was yet unheard of, the only gangs to speak of had names like "The Rainbow Rollers", and Adam Walsh was just another anonymous American kid. We roamed free until dark, when we would straggle back home, dirty, exhausted and ravenous...but happy in that oblivious way that only kids can be. My parents were loving, vigilant, and wholly committed to giving us a good life and a stable home.

However...that carefree era was also the "we don't talk about that" era. As such, most of what I learned about sex came from my Dad's purloined Mickey Spillane novels and the schoolyard rumor mill. If I hadn't read Are you There God, It's Me Margaret I might have been convinced I was dying of some horrible, nameless "down there" disease when I began menstruating. But, thus informed, and armed with an "It's GREAT to be a Woman" starter kit that I got in the fifth grade, I ventured forth into womanhood with very little fanfare or acknowledgement other than the mysterious appearance of a box of Kotex in the bathroom cabinet.

When I began having sex at 17, I took myself down to Planned Parenthood and endured my first pelvic exam alone, scared to death my Mom would find out. Taboo subject that it was, I don't know how or why I had the presence of mind to procure some birth control, but I thank heaven that I did. I never told her, though part of me hoped desperately that she would somehow discover my secret, and we could talk about it at last. She never did.

When I had children of my own I vowed it would be different. I resolved to be open, honest and matter of fact with my kids about sex, and I resolved that they would always know they could talk to me about anything and everything.

That has proven to be easier said than done.

I tend to overthink things a bit, and the whole sex issue is no exception. From the time my oldest was an infant, I started planning what I would say and how. I ran through endless scenarios in my head. I practiced dialogue and feigning nonchalance. I was as prepared as I could be, and I was confident that when the time came, I would pull it off with aplomb. I would not choke. I would be as cool as a cucumber. I would.

Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can innoculate you against the shock of your piercingly innocent 7 year old child asking out of a clear blue sky..."So Mom...what IS sex anyway?" Everything I had rehearsed fled from my brain in a torrent of panic and denial, and I said something like...."Yurg."

Mercifully, I was able to gather my wits about me and make a pretty convincing show of being perfectly at ease while we discussed the basics of intercourse and insemination. Yurg indeed.

Fast forward a couple years, and I've got this down pat. I've covered just about everything there is to cover, except for nocturnal emissions, which I'm leaving to the parent who has actually experienced this phenomenon. I figure we've got a little time yet anyway, though I'm sure it will sneak up on us the way that first winsome inquiry did. I expect to be sniffing sheets before too long. So, thinking myself quite progressive and experienced, I relaxed a bit and did not worry quite so much about the inevitable moment when my younger child seeks enlightenment.

And still I was caught completely off gaurd.

In the van on the way home from a baseball game last evening, the talk was all about batting averages, RBIs and optically challenged umpires. Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, my sweet blue eyed diminutive one decided the time was right to start laying the groundwork for some intercourse discourse.

"Hey Mom, I heard some ladies get their stomach cut open to get the baby out."

"Ummmm...(don't say Yurg, don't say Yurg)...yes, that's true. It's called a C-section."

"Does it hurt?"

"Yes, I imagine it does."

"You don't know?"

"No, I didn't have a C-section, honey."

"Well then how did I get out?"


"You came out my vagina."

Stunned silence ensued. I bit my lips to keep from filling the chasm with gory details he might not yet want or need. Many moments passed. My husband and I looked at one other, blinking and bemused, while the pre-pubescent one snickered at the word "vagina". Finally he spoke.

"I sure wish I didn't ask that."

Me to buddy, me too. More silence, and then...

"I'm glad I'm not a girl."

Me too buddy. Meeeeeeeeeeee too.