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.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

File this under "I Hate That"

Have you ever been a target?

Most of us, I think, have at some point in our lives. But the kind of meanness that is experienced in the schoolyards and locker rooms and playgrounds of our youth, are often a distant if still vivid memory by the time we become adults. Because by then, we can generally be relied upon to resolve conflict in a more civilized and constructive manner.

But not all of us.

A couple years back, I became a target. The things that were said and done to me were vicious and unrelenting. The details do not matter, so I won't recount them here. But it was a very illuminating experience for me in terms of human behavior. I learned a lot about myself and I learned a lot about other people. I eventually realized that it really wasn't about me. It was about having such deep and profound hurt, disappointment and bitterness that it simply boiled over and scalded the most convenient and accessible scapegoat. Hurting me felt good, because it masked their own hurt.

It's disturbing, but understandable, I suppose. We human beings do not like to hurt.

So anyway, I consoled myself with the fact that these people were either mentally unbalanced, desperately unhappy or both. But I never really knew for sure. I decided to put the episode behind me, because I have too many positive influences in my life to allow myself to be dragged down by such antipathy and negativity.

But now and again, I wondered about those people. What could be so awful that it caused such terribly unkind behavior? What could cause someone such anguish that they were compelled to lash out at others in such a cruel and vindictive way? I knew I would never know.

But sometimes, things come full circle. Sometimes, the universe bestows a gift upon us. Sometimes, something happens to make me believe in "karma" or "kismet" or "fate" or whatever you want to call it. I wouldn't go so far as to call it divine retribution, but some of you might.

Recently, quite by accident, I found out what was causing a particular person who had been involved in the whole sordid mess, such profound personal torment.

I expected to be happy. I expected to feel vindicated. I expected to revel in the validation that I had been right and that this person really was a sick, bitter, unhappy, emotionally wrecked person.

But none of those things happened. Instead, I just felt bad. Sad. Sorry for them. I coul not enjoy the knowledge. I could not enjoy their pain.

I hate that.

I always wondered if I would ever be able to forgive those people for the way they treated me, or if I would always carry a small shard of resentment.

Now I know.

(please excuse the fantastically self-indulgent nature of this post. I resolved a long time ago not to dwell on this issue, but sometimes it rears it's ugly head unbidden. I feel somewhat cleansed now, knowing that I don't have to harbor the bitterness forever.)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A Mother's Gift

I did not have brothers growing up. I always wanted one, but intstead, I got two sisters. Which was fine. Better than fine, really. We had a fantastically girlie upbringing, owing to the fact that my mother was a Hairdresser, but we also did all the things my father would have done with a son.

However, I always felt that the lack of a brother made me ill prepared for raising boys. Twelve years ago I cried in a dark and frigid little room when it was revealed that my unborn baby was a boy. I thought, stupidly, that I would never be able to do it "right", and that I would screw up a boy child beyond all reckoning.

Needless to say, I have adapted, and actually, having boys suits me quite well. I have never had any patience for the female tendency toward drama, gossip, and emotional warfare. Their less histrionic way of dealing with the world is refreshing.

But the thing that I have never really grown accostomed to is the male proclivity toward competition and combat. Everything is a contest. Everything. They compete over who can bolt their dinner the fastest, who can fart the longest and loudest, who can run, jump, climb and throw the fastest highest and hardest.

Mostly this isn't a problem, but sometimes, vicious fights erupt. Girls fight with words and wiles, but boys fight with fists. And I am often taken aback by the ferocity of these encounters. When a boy fights, it isn't a little slap or some's in earnest. Eyes get blackened, noses get bloodied, lips get split.

It's quite shocking to me, but Husband doesn't even bat an eyelash.

I often find that I have little to offer when these occasions arise. I can't mediate because they're long past that point. Husband says that you have to let them fight unless it looks like someone is in danger of being seriously injured, because otherwise, they will simply resume the battle at another time in another place, with possibly even more disastrous results.

He has explained to me that it's vital that boys learn to stand up for themselves and to defend themselves. He says that at some point, every boy will have to prove that he can't be pushed around by kicking someone's ass. So interevening, apparently, is not only ineffectual, it's unwise.

Pacifism it seems, is an option not really available to young men. And though that saddens and puzzles me, it beyond my power to change. I accept it, even if I don't like it. And I am constantly amazed by how boys who were bitter enemies engaged in mortal combat one minute, are laughing and joking with one another the next. Boys fight and forget, while girls hold a grudge.

Sometimes, I do have something to offer. Sometimes, the uniquely female ability exploit a weakness and strike where it really hurts comes in handy. I'm not proud of this ability, but I accept it as an indisputable characteristic of my genetic make-up.

Not long ago, Pre-Pubescent One, who really is very passive and easy going and not often given to physical aggression, came to me with a problem. He is also very sensitive, and as such, makes an excellent target. He came home from school one day very glum. He flung down his backpack, slumped into a kitchen chair and laid his head in his hands.

"John Q. Adolescent SUCKS!" he said vehemently.

"Why?" I asked mildly. I've learned that his sensitivity amplifies otherwise minor matters, and I don't get too upset until I've learned all the details.

"He keeps calling me Pre-Pubescent One GAY-fer." he said with disgust.

This, presumably, was meant to be a play on our last name, but it wasn't a very clever one, as our last name is not even close to sounding like GAY-fer and it doesn't easily lend itself to such a pun. But it didn't matter to Pre-Pubescent One. It was a slur against his emerging and still fragile sexual identity and it was really pissing him off.

"Well, what did you do when he called you that?"

"I told him to shut up and then I left."

Stalked off in a huff, is what he did. And it was immensely gratifying for John Q. Adolescent, who repeated the insult with similarly delightful results every day for a week.

"Honey, you have to stop letting him see that it upsets you. That's why he does it. When you react, he gets what he wants. Don't give him the satisfaction. Just stop reacting and he'll stop teasing you."

He rolled his eyes at me and his frown deepend into a full-blown pout.

"That doesn't WORK Mom!"

I thought for a moment about how to help my son. My properly maternal advice really was, quite honestly, nonsensical bullshit. A bully doesn't let something as insignificant as a lack of response stop him. He merely switches tactics until he finds another button to push. No, Pre-Pubescent One was right, and even I knew from experience that the only way to deal with a bully is to give him a taste of his own medicine.

"Alright then...." I said slowly, thinking. "Try this."

I paused for effect.

"You can call him....John Q. UN-Cooley." (The child's last name is Cooley).

My son laughed, delighted at the pun.

"But say it real casually, like you're not upset at all."

"OH YEAH. That oughta shut him up!" he said gleefully.

The next day he came home from school grinning from ear to ear. I asked him if John Q. Adolescent had called him the name today and he nodded his head vigorously.

"Yeah. But I just said 'Whatever, John Q. UN-Cooley.' and everybody laughed!! He got real mad and walked away."

He was delighted and relieved and flush with victory. I couldn't help sharing in his enthusiasm and we grinned at one another conspiratorily.

Was that the right thing to do? Hell, I don't know. I really don't. I could have told him to turn the other cheek, kill him with kindness, be the bigger man. But would it have mattered? Would it have solved the problem? Would it have taught my son anything other than how to roll over and show his tender white belly?

The problem was solved and no blood was shed. I had something to offer and I offered it.

And I have to admit that it felt good.

And that kid? He hasn't bothered my son since.

Heh. Maybe the Department of Defense has a place for me.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

File this under "Warp 5 Mr. Sulu"

Because that's how fast my life is moving lately.

My week is spinning wildly out of control due to some interesting developments at Husband's job, which has necessitated that he work pretty much around the clock, leaving me to wrangle the plethora of domestic details myself. Which is okay. I can handle it. But I'm a planner and this whole thing was sprung on us quite unexpectedly. Flying by the seat of my pants is not a situation that I'm happy or comfortable with.

Throw into that mix baseball practices and games for two kids, a frantic round of last minute doctor and dentist appointments before our insurance expires on March 31st, and battling with the elementary school Administration over the upcoming CRCT testing, and the result is one frazzled and somewhat verklempt B.A.

I have a multitude of issues (why healthcare and capitialism make for not only strange, but wholly unsuitable bedfellows would top that list at the moment) that I would like to post about rambling around in my head, but currently lack the mental energy or cohesiveness to articlulate my thoughts in an intelligible fashion.

So, I'm going to pluck an obscure piece from my archives and hope that not too many of you have read it. If you have, please don't strike me from your blogroll in disgust. I'll be back to writing original material as soon as I have solved the health care crisis in America, figured out a way to abolish this re-fucking-diculous No Child Left Behind nonsense, and engineered a machine that will zap nutritionally balanced meals into existence at the push of a button.

Tomorrow work for you? Good, that should give me just enough time. In the interim, I give you...

The Peforation Generation

I don't know what moniker the media Gods have chosen to bestow upon the latest crop of twenty something up and comers, but I have a few suggestions I'd like to throw out there.

Tat-us Quo
Perforated Youth
The Perforation Generation
The Tat Pack
BodMod Squad

So, anyway. Far be if from me to criticize the pursuit of a trend. My teenage years were spent right smack dab in the middle of the 80's, and I doubt there has been any era before or since with such abundant opportunity for embarassing ourselves. And since my interest in trends waned significantly when keeping a distressingly diminutive human being from consuming the contents of a diaper or toddling into a well became the focus of my days, its no surprise that I am woefully unhip.

But never have I seen such a collection of inked and skewered flesh as I have encountered in the stylized and largely uncapitalized blogs of these young whippersnappers. They lead me to wonder when being trendy become so painful. And dangerous. As far as I know, fashion trends in the 80's were non-lethal, unless you count the risk of asphyxiation from aerosol fumes. And though we often let our common sense be overruled by our desire to be Like A Virgin, I don't think anybody ever contracted Hepatitis C or a raging bacterial infection from parachute pants, though I suppose a yeast infection or two could be blamed on that unfortunate fashion choice.

At the risk of sounding squarer than a saltine cracker...I simply don't get this trend. Primarily because it has got to hurt like hell. I'd say pushing pointy objects through my nipples would rank right up there with pube waxing, natural childbirth, and colorectal anything on my list of things to avoid.

I nursed my children, and I nursed them long enough to demonstrate my somewhat militant opposition to outmoded and puritanical childrearing practices. The unfortunate result of this was that my nurslings sprouted teeth. As newly betoothed babies are wont to do, they would periodically bite down with force roughly equal to that of a steel bear trap and steadfastly refuse to let go, fascinated and delighted by the inhuman shrieks of agony from the Mommy person.

The degree of pain was such that I fully expected to look down and see my nipple completely severed and nestled between the lips of my bloodthirsty cherub like a grisly pacifier. Surprisingly, both nipples are still intact, and in fact, never sustained any serious injury. But the memory of that pain haunts me, and I can't for the life of me understand why someone would choose to inflict such torturous pain upon such a lovely and obliging part of the female anatomy.

As for the defilement of the little man in the boat...I simply refuse to acknowledge that such a travesty would take place, as the mere thought of such makes me want to put my thumb in my mouth and go to my happy place for a very long time.

But even that pales in comparison to some of the body modifications found here. Be forewarned, these images are extreme and disturbing. Among the most shocking is something called a "genital bisection".

Nature, in her infinite wisdom, has broken copulation down into a process so simplistic that pretty much any man or beast can manage to reproduce. Its beautifully basic...insert tab A into slot B. It works every time. And yet, someone, somewhere, ostensibly under the influence of massive quantities of alchohol or mind altering drugs, decided that perhaps they could improve upon nature's delivery system by splitting it in two.

Yes. I'm serious.

Aside from the disturbing implications regarding the mental health of someone who would mutilate themselves in such a way, and the obvious procedural difficulties that might ensue, I surmise that the result of this would be much like placing one's thumb over the end of a garden hose, and I am hard pressed to see the appeal of going through life having to hold one's winkie together to avoid spraying bodily fluids hither and yon. Truly and profoundly perplexing.

Tattoos, though markedly less shocking, are for me, equally confusing. Perhaps because I find that the human body is already a thing of singular beauty, grace and artistry. In my opinion, marking the human flesh with ink is akin to spray painting graffiti on all the trees in Walden's Woods. Some would argue that tattooing and graffiti alike are valid contemporary art forms. That's highly debateable, but both, even when beautifully rendered, obscure and cheapen the natural beauty of what lies beneath. At a time in my life when I am struggling to maintain epidermal integrity, and still deluding myself about the efficacy of the alphahydroxyretinoidsalycilicsoyextractmicropeelabrasion compounds that I slather on it daily...I am mystified by the apparent dissatisfaction with the dewy splendour of young unsullied skin.

Well, perhaps it is just as well. Stretchmarks and varicose veins do not an ideal canvas make. And at this point, piercing anything that dangles or protrudes will only hasten its inevitable southward progress.

One encounters strange, strange things on the internet, and some of them can make a person feel like a piece of their innocence has been taken away. I think I'll go unearth my peg leg jeans and my Howard Jones cassette. I might even tease my bangs just a little. I need to think happy thoughts for a while.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

In Which I Ramble In A Very Self-Actualized Manner

I've been blogging for over a year now, and this blog has metamorphosed into something wholly unexpected.

I didn't intend for it to be an outlet or a catharsis or a cheap alternative to therapy, but it has been. I wasn't supposed to be a means for reclaiming my voice or my identity, but it is. And I never thought it would be the impetus to finally become a "real" writer, but its given me the courage and the confidence to do just that.

I remember those early days of blogging and how, to my surprise, it became a very positive, edifying and empowering thing in my life.

I took a look back at some of my earliest entries today and laughed. My inaugural post was tongue in cheek jab at blogs, bloggers and blogging. If I had known then that I would fall prey to the very thing that I was poking fun of, it would have been a very delicious irony indeed.

Recently Her Bad Mother posted a very thought provoking missive about Bloggers and narcissism. I think I believed then that Bloggers really are the epitome of self-involvment and self-importance. I think I believed that narcissism defined blogging and vice versa. And I said so.

I have had cause to reconsider, obviously. And I've felt compelled to examine just why we Bloggers blog, or more specifically, why writers write.

I don't think it's narcissism.

Abraham Maslow addressed the compulsion for self-examination and understanding in his theory regarding the human Hierarchy of Needs. Put in the simplest terms, he believed that needs are motivating. Needs that are not met, or are only partially met continue to motivate.

Guess what is at the very top of that Heirarchy of Needs?

Self-Actualization. This is a need that does not need to be fulfilled in order to live or maintain mental stability, but one which undoubtedly provides the most stimulus for personal growth and a kind of self-awareness that provides balance and inner peace.

Maslow asserted that one cannot achieve self-actualization if lower needs are unmet, as one cannot fully devote oneself to realizing their inherent potential. For this reason he estimated that only about 2% of the world's population was truly self-actualized.

But that was then, and this is now.

Self-Actualization as a psychological construct is far too complex for me to do justice with my layman's interpretation. Basically, self-actualization is quantified by 12 principles. If you want to read about them, you can find a pretty comprehensive but straightforward explanation here.

But what strikes me as a particularly relevant parallel between bloggers and self-actualization are these two observations from Maslow regarding a group of individuals he believed to be self-actualized given the standards he set forth.

1. They had a sense of humility and respect towards others -- something Maslow also called democratic values -- meaning that they were open to ethnic and individual variety, even treasuring it. They had a quality Maslow called human kinship or Gemeinschaftsgefühl -- social interest, compassion, humanity. And this was accompanied by a strong ethics, which was spiritual but seldom conventionally religious in nature

2. And these people had a certain freshness of appreciation, an ability to see things, even ordinary things, with wonder. Along with this comes their ability to be creative, inventive, and original. And, finally, these people tended to have more peak experiences than the average person. A peak experience is one that takes you out of yourself, that makes you feel very tiny, or very large, to some extent one with life or nature or God. It gives you a feeling of being a part of the infinite and the eternal. These experiences tend to leave their mark on a person, change them for the better, and many people actively seek them out. They are also called mystical experiences, and are an important part of many religious and philosophical traditions.

In addition, there is a list of meta-needs that tend to define self-actualization:

Truth, rather than dishonesty.
Goodness, rather than evil.
Beauty, not ugliness or vulgarity.
Unity, wholeness, and transcendence of opposites, not arbitrariness or forced choices.
Aliveness, not deadness or the mechanization of life.
Uniqueness, not bland uniformity.
Perfection and necessity, not sloppiness, inconsistency, or accident.
Completion, rather than incompleteness.
Justice and order, not injustice and lawlessness.
Simplicity, not unnecessary complexity.
Richness, not environmental impoverishment.
Effortlessness, not strain.
Playfulness, not grim, humorless, drudgery.
Self-sufficiency, not dependency.
Meaningfulness, rather than senselessness.

See what I'm saying here??

Now, I'm not saying that bloggers are so enlightened as to be fully self-actualized. But I am saying that our need to to examine, to question and to elucidate stems from our pursuit of self-actualization.

It isn't a love of self which drives us, it the need to know who we are and why we are. It is a big existential question mark that compels us.

That is why bloggers blog. Why painters paint. Why musicians compose. Why clergymen preach. Why politicians pontificate.

So. I don't think we are narcissists one and all. I think we just want find ourselves, to know ourselves and then to love ourselves just a little.

"Dispassionate objectivity is itself a passion, for the real and for the truth."

~Abraham Maslow

Friday, March 23, 2007

Worth Wondering

People who read me with regularity sometimes say...

"Wow, you've lived a really interesting/extraordinary/unusual life!"

Yes, I have. But so have you. And so has the mailman. And the grocery store clerk. And that guy who puts weed killer on my lawn. And the homeless man begging at the on-ramp to I75. And the librarian who makes polite chit chat with me about the books that I check out.

My life is no more or less interesting than a thousand other lives out there.

There is extraordinary in the ordinary. There is beauty in the mundane. There is nobility in the prosaic. There is heroism in mediocrity.

We just have to open our eyes and see it.

I've always been a people watcher. It's my favorite pastime. I notice things about them and I invent entire lifestories based on insignificant details, such as a battered wristwatch on the arm of an otherwise expensively dressed man (It was his father's, whom he never knew, because he was killed in WWII when his plane was shot down. The watch was the only thing recovered).

And who's to say these fabulous things aren't true? It's not impossible. And chances are that something even more profound and wonderful than my imaginings lies within the real lifestory.

Because life and the people who live it are that intereseting. Really.

Online, as in real life, I have a very small, intimate circle of friends. And both of these circles contain people with amazing life stories, unimaginable courage and perserverence, and unshakable conviction when it comes to their principles, their beliefs and their passion.

So have I just won the cool people and amazing friends lottery? Well, I'd like to think so. My friends are pretty special people. But the fact is...EVERYONE has something and is something worth celebrating.

That grungy guy panhandling on the Interstate could be a Vietnam vet. Maybe he saved an entire platoon from extermination, except one guy. Maybe he had to hide in the jungle and eat centipedes for a year before he was rescued and returned to his home. Maybe he still has nightmares about that one guy and wakes up screaming and that's why he can't hold a job. Maybe he's just now beginning to believe he is safe.

Maybe that nondescript cashier at the grocery store has seventeen adopted children. Maybe the Mailman runs a soup kitchen in his spare time. Maybe that guy who puts weed killer on my lawn risked his life to smuggle an entire village across the border so they could have a better life. Maybe that unassuming librarian is a whip cracking Dominatrix when the sun goes down.

You just never know.

So the next time you're tempted to think of my life as extraordinary because of the things that I've written about, just take a look at your own. Take a look at the people in it. Look beneath the surface and find the extraordinary.

It's there. I guarantee it.

Wonder about people. Because they're almost all worth wondering about.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


A couple months ago, I happened to mention one of my pieces to a friend. This friend is an incredibly dynamic woman; a whirling dervish of activity who never seems to come to a complete stop. She is always on the precipice of some crisis, which she always manages to circumvent. She wears many hats, she has many titles. And while I prefer to live my life at a slower pace, I admire her willingness to do things that most people dismiss as someone else's job. She is "someone else" and she does a lot of good for a lot of people.

She, like many people in my "real" life, was astonished to find out that I write. She asked to read the piece and was also, I think, surprised that it wasn't complete garbage. She asked me if I thought I could expand the piece, and foolishly, I said that I could, never guessing what she had in mind. A couple of days later she called and asked me to address a Christian women's group. Caught off guard, I agreed, though I was cringing inwardly. I'm a writer and a Godless Heathen, not an inspirational speaker.

Thankfully, for a number of reasons, the engagement never came to fruition. To say I was relieved would be a huge understatement.

But I should have known that my friend wasn't ready to let me off the hook. Once she sinks her teeth into an idea, she will gnaw on it until she has chewed it into submission and made it fit her agenda somehow.

She emailed me yesterday and once again asked me to address a group of women. This is not a Christian Women's group per se, but geography dictates that a healthy percentage of these women will be Christians. That's okay though. I can deal with a Christian audience as long as I am not being made to tailor my thoughts to fit an ideal I don't subscribe to. I am much more comfortable with this proposal, and I accepted, not influenced at all by the fact that this engagement comes with a paycheck.

And then I thought….What the hell have I done?

In my relief at not having to address Christians it seems I have forgotten one minor detail; that being...I am not a public speaker.

I tried the Forensics club in High School at the suggestion of my Language Arts teacher, who thought my writing made me well suited to speaking. That seems a little like suggesting that a Plumber might have some aptitude for the Confectionary Arts, but that didn't occur to me at the time. I gave it a go with resoundingly disastrous results.

I don't have a voice that projects, I am not animated or interesting. My speaking voice is flat, bland and coma inducing. I am going to have to join Toastmasters pronto so I can gain some measure of competence if I am going to keep from completely humiliating myself and my friend.

Plus, I don't have a flipping thing to wear.

I'm doomed.

Here is the piece I will be using as the basis for my Speech. Wish me Luck... or...just wish me not sucking.

Spirtual Lipstick

Avail yourself of the "next blog" button, and you will likely discover that there are some desperately unhappy people out there. They pour out their bitterness, loneliness and melancholy, just waiting for someone to come along and acknowledge their heartache; desperately hoping for validation that their misery is justified. Sometimes, there is an abundance of commiseration. Sometimes there is none.

I feel a subtle but salient stab of pity when the latter is true. The nurturing instinct with which nature has blessed womankind sometimes compels me to leave my own comment, assuring them that someone feels their pain, even if it is only a random stranger on the internet. The urge is especially strong if the author happens to be a confused teenager struggling through all that harrowing coming of age crap that the Cosmos insists we endure on the road to adulthood.

But along with the pity there is puzzlement. I wonder why they don't do something to change the circumstances that have brought them to the depths of despair, and why they wallow so contentedly in their discontent.

Before the advent of the internet, and my travels along the information superhighway, I always thought of myself as a high maintenance individual. Why? I suppose because I have high standards, though to be fair, I expect no more of people than I offer in return. Sure, I've been disappointed by life and the people in it a time or two. Who hasn't? Sure, it bothers me. But I pick myself up, dust myself off and move on. How?, you may ask. The answer is simple.


New lipstick is a little piece of happiness in a sleek and gleaming fuselage. A creamy profusion of just right color, sharply slanted and pristine; waiting to brighten my expectant lips. It has the power to transform not just my face, but my entire outlook. It gives me the courage and optimism to meet life challenges with the grace, strength, and resolve that I know I am capable of. Because new lipstick makes me realize that there are a million little things in this life that make the effort worthwhile.

Make up, and the use of it, is thought by some to embody the enslavement to an ideal; that of women as mere objects. That, quite frankly, is pseudo intllectual tripe. Since the dawn of time man and woman alike have adorned themselves with whatever means availabe. Its an avenue of self-expression that is by no means a contemporary concept. To pride oneself on one's appearance is neither shallow, nor is simply the manisfestation of the uniquely human love of beauty. Beauty makes people happy. And I have to wonder...are those who can't find joy in the simple beauty life offers us, doomed to suffer eternal ugliness of the spirit?

Am I suggesting that lipstick can fix a bad marriage, cure terminal illness, or bring back a lost loved one? No, certainly not. Am I suggesting that lipstick can cure clinical depression or other biochemical disorders? No. That would be monumentally ignorant. But I do think that those who can take comfort in simple pleasures amid great hardship and tribulation, are those who will rise above and triumph in the end. Those who find a way to succor and sustain their spirit will always come out on top.

Find your spiritual lipstick and apply it with a heavy hand.

Perhaps it is the warm anaesthesia of a crackling fire. Maybe it is the noble promise of a brand new book. It could be the decadance of a steaming, fragrant bath replete with with bubbles or the rich sweetness of a $4 calorie laden coffee creation. Perhaps it is the earthy satisfaction of hands covered in soil and fertilizer, or flour and sugar. Maybe it is even the sensual whisper of new not cotton underwear. All of these work well for me individually, or better yet, all together in a cataclysm of self-indulgence.

Whatever it is...revel in the comfort it brings you. Use it as a balm for your soul. Take refuge in the sheer hedonism without shame and without apology. There is nothing noble or erudite or insightful about suffering for suffering's sake, and if anyone suggests to you that enjoyment of such simple pleasures makes you slow-witted or superficial, you can feel perfectly justifed in handing them a Thesaurus to comfort them in their time of need.

Without lipstick, I might have actually killed my fiancee or myself all those years ago when he unabashedly announced that he was sleeping with by best friend. Instead, I recovered and lived to torment a far better man. The lipstick I bought that day was called "To the Rescue Red". I still have it. I don't wear it in public anymore, but it's still my favorite pick me up and it still serves my Spirit well.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Purple Balloons

I don't have much of consequence to write about today...just your mundane suburban Mom minutiae. Nobody wants to hear about my new blender or the fact that I completely cleared out the kids playspace and reclaimed my dining room. (It was a Herculean effort).

So I thought I would share a picture with you.

Last week I wrote a piece called To Suck or Not to Suck in which I mentioned that our local ballpark had done a memorial of sorts for the Bluffton Ohio team who lost five members in the bus crash on 175 in near downtown Atlanta.

I was preoccupied with uniforms and hats and keeping 12 helium balloons from flying away or rendering a small child unconscious as they whipped about in the breeze, so I never even thought about bringing my camera. I wished later that I had, but I told myself that a camera could never capture the majesty of that moment, or the genuine sentiment behind it.

This image appeared on the league website. You can only see about half the kids, and you can't see all the teary eyed parents in the stands, but I think it still conveys some of the emotion that we all experienced during that special moment.

So, to give this inconsequential little blurb of a post some merit, I will say this...

People like to poke fun at so-called "Soccer Moms" and castigate team parents. They like to accuse folks that are heavily involved in their child's sporting activities of trying to live vicariously through their offspring. Undoubtedly, for some, this is true. But most parents are just trying to do a good thing for their kids.

They’re trying to find something that keeps their kids moving and gets them out in the fresh air and sunshine. They’re trying to combat the allure of television and video games, and later, drugs and alcohol. They’re trying to give them a sense of belonging and teach them about fairness, sportsmanship and commitment.

I can’t see that as a bad thing, and I’ll own the “Soccer Mom” label…proudly.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

No Hablas Engles

Friday, a platoon of suburban Moms took our elementary school Science Day exhibits on the road. We are Partners In Education with another school in a working class neighborhood, where the socio-economic status ranges from abject poverty to the comparitively comfortable lower middle class.

These children come from homes where parents work long hours at minimum wage jobs doing back breaking labor. Volunteerism is low, and enrichment programs that my kids take for granted are simply not possible at a school like this.

We set off full of altruistic vigor and self righteous do-goodism.

The school was very old, but well tended. The greenery outside was painstakingly groomed and the playground equipment had been freshly painted. The halls were cheerily adorned with all the things one would normally expect to find on the walls of an elementary school. But these embellishments could not hide the water stained ceiling tiles, or the cracks that marred the cinder block walls, or the worn linoleum underfoot.

Still the sounds of children laughing rang through the halls and the staff seemed good humored and friendly. They were touchingly and somewhat embarassingly thankful that we had come with our simple little production.

When I reached the room in which I would be peforming my experiment, I was shocked to learn we would be dealing with classes of forty children at a time. Forty. To put this in perspective, my youngest son's class has 22 children, and I complained loudly about the increase from 18 the previous year.

I settled down on the floor in the hallway, waiting for the "Animal Lives" presentation to conclude so my group could set up the "Simple Machines" exhibit. I chatted idly to another Mom and we commented to one another about the differences between this school and the one our own children attended.

As we looked around, it was easy to see that the student body was made up largely of minorities. I heard snatches of conversation in no less than five different languages. I saw children in every color of the rainbow, and they were inexpressibly beautiful to me.

After a while, the other mom left to get a beverage from the hospitality room that had been set up for us. I was alone. I looked around, enjoying the happy chaos that pervaded the atmoshphere.

After a moment, a little girl came bursting out of one of the classrooms. She was Mexican, with long, lustrous black hair and dancing gold hoops in her hears. She wore a leopardprint tracksuit with a bright yellow tshirt underneath and pink clogs. She was sobbing in big, hiccoughing gasps. Her plump little shoulders hitched up and down.

I was vaguely alarmed by the intensity of her upset. I approached her and asked what was wrong. She did not answer, but sobbed even harder.

"Are you sick, sweetheart?"

She looked up at me, her huge jet black eyes swimming with tears and wailed,

"Yo no hablas Englay-ay-ay-ays!!!"

I pantomimed a stomachache, and she shook her head. She repeated,

"No hablas ENGLES!"

I tried again.

"Are you hurt?"

I pantomimed stubbing my toe, hopping up and down, and she giggled a little through her tears. But she shook her head again and told me once more that she didn't speak English. I was puzzled. Surely my pantomimes demonstrated my understanding that she couldn't speak English. Why did she keep repeating it?

And then it occurred to me. No hablas Engles WAS the problem. She was crying because she couldn't speak English.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhh." I said. "No Hablas Engles." And then I pretended I was crying.

"Si." she said dejectedly, and hung her little head so that her hair hid her face and her tears.

I hadn't the words to tell her how sorry I was that she was scared and feeling so alone, so I did the only thing I could think to do...I hugged her. An embrace is the language of motherhood I suppose; a universal gesture of comfort. She melted into me and sobbed her little heart out. When she was finished, I pulled a crumpled kleenex from my purse and dried her tears.

A voice startled us and we both jumped like frightened little bunnies.

"Marta! You scared me to death! You can't run off like that sweetie!"

I looked up to see an obviously unsettled woman whose t-shirt identified her as staff. All the adults had worn t-shirts so we could tell one another apart. Ours were bright green ones emblazoned with our school name, theirs were gray. This was her teacher, apparently.

I was a little irritated. How long had it taken her to realize the child was gone? But I tried to tell myself that one person in charge of 40 children can only do so much. Two eyes and 40 kids does not make for ideal supervision.

"She was crying." I said, unnecessarily.

The teacher nodded grimly.

"She's new. It's always hard for them at first."

"Is there no translator here?" I asked.

She shook her head, grimness again distorting her pretty young face.

"She quit a month ago. They haven't sent anyone else."

"What about another child to help her?"

She sighed and said,

"Half of them don't speak enough English to really help. The other half are doing all they can to get through their own work. It's tough."

My irritation toward her vanished. It was obvious that she was doing the best she could in a bad situation. She took Marta gently by the shoulders to lead her back to the classroom.

Marta turned back to look at me and said "Adios Senora neeza." (I think)

Unsure of what she had said, I simply waved a little wave and smiled. She smiled back.

Shortly after that it was our turn to perform. I was stationed at an exhibit with a fulcrum and a lever. Each child was to try lifting the load with the fulcrum at different positions. They were extraordinarily excited by the simple experiment. Their enthusiasm and earnestness touched me. One child asked me where I came from, and I told him. He said that he had never heard of that town, and mused that it must be very far away.

How do you tell a child that literally, my town is only a few miles away, but figuratively, it might as well me Mars?

As we reached the end of our visit, I heard another child remark,

"I wish school could be like this EVERY day!"

Me too, baby. Me too.

Addendum: Please stopy by my friend Nina's place where she talks about how Real Moms Eat Pussy. The link has been fixed.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Real Moms Eat Pussy

Got your attention? Good.

The lovely Mrs.Chicky tagged me for a meme. Normally, I turn up my nose at memes. I’m not much of a joiner and I really am not what you would call a team player. I can do it, and quite well, but my natural inclination is always to strike out on my own, forge my own path, create my own destiny.

But the topic of this meme struck me as really important. Because we all have this idea of what we as Mothers should do, and be, and aspire to. If we don’t live up to that standard we consider ourselves failures. But many of the mothering ideals that we try to conform to are unrealistic and even destructive because they propose a one size fits all approach to parenting. I won’t go into all the reasons why this is an exercise in madness and futility….that’s another post for another day.

What I really wanted to do is address the issue of what Real Moms are in a way that means something. I began to consider all the traps that we Moms fall into, believing that we are unworthy or unfit or undeserving of the title.

My dear friend Nina came to mind.

Nina is a wonderful Mother. She is the light of so many lives; the calm in the storm of adolescence for her older children, a ray of sunshine and mirth maker for her younger. She always puts her children first. She is their champion and their friend.

Recently, Nina has come out as a gay woman after many, many years of trying to live up to society’s view of what is acceptable, moral, and appropriately representative of the American ideal.

I can scarcely fathom the courage that must have taken, or the terror she must have felt at leaving everything that was comfortable and safe behind.

Who Nina is has not changed. Not really. Not as a person, not as a mother.

Nina has shown her children that it is not only okay be true to who you are, it is vitally important. She has embraced that which has marked her as different and by doing so, Nina has exemplified strength, courage and honesty for them.

But there are certain factions who would now denounce her adequacy, competency and value as a parent. There are certain factions who would take away her right to be a mother, and deny it others like her. There are certain factions who believe that simply by virtue of her sexual orientation, she is undeserving and unfit.

This, of course, is pure inimical bullshit.

I know plenty of heterosexual men and women who harbor a perversion of the soul. I know Christian folks who are morally corrupt and patently evil. I know people who are accepted by every societal standard as normal who are anything but.

It’s sheer lunacy to assign parenting worth or ability based on sexual orientation.

My personal tastes run more to the mainstream, but I’m certainly not going to hold myself in higher esteem as a parent because I prefer tubesteak to taco.

So the next time you see a same sex couple pushing a stroller or a swing...don’t look away. Make eye contact. Smile. And ask them about their baby or their child. Acknowledge them as peers and compatriots. Because society has tried to negate their validity on every level, when in some ways, they have more to offer than we do. Who better to teach a child about tolerance, acceptance, and unconditional love than someone who has been denied it?

Real Moms eat pussy. Thank goodness.

I tag Nina.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


Heh. I knew that Schweatty ball thing would come back to bite me in the ass.

Because the Universe can't let a lapse in judgment pass without some kind of comeuppance. No...sir. Madame Cosmos must punish those who transgress in the most humiliating way possible. She's a real bitch that way.

The other night, we ventured out to a real restaurant with the boys. The utensils were made of metal and nary a spork was in sight. We thumbed leisurely through non-laminated menus, in which, there were no items named after the proprietor's prodigious brethren. There were cloth napkins instead of rolls of 100% post consumer paper product. And our dinner was served on actual plates, rather than waxed paper in a brightly colored plastic basket.

The boys, typically, amused themselves doing things that would be frowned upon at home, but to which Husband and I turned a blind eye, knowing full well that keeping them engaged would forestall a spill, a meltdown or both until our food arrived. They paid little attention to the discussion between us.

Until the talk turned to balls.

I don't know why little boys (and grown men for that matter) possess an almost canine ability to sense when bodily emissions or genatalia of any kind have become the topic of conversation, but their ears pricked up as Husband and I heedlessly chuckled over an incident that occurred earlier, wherein, one of the Assistant Coaches, in a stunning display of tactical miscalculation, took a line drive directly to the groin. Luckily, the man had the sense to realize that standing on an elevated mound of earth 30 feet in front of an 8 year old wielding an aluminum stick necessitated a certain amount of caution. He escaped serious injury because he was wearing a cup, but Husband allowed as how he was likely a little....contused...nonetheless.

"He's going to be a little tender." observed Husband sardonically.

At this point, Diminutive One piped up in a voice that, like his father's, has the uncanny knack for carrying over all but the most raucous din and said,

"Hey Mom...remember that video we saw where that lady said...(affecting falsetto)"MMMMMM Pete! Your balls are so tender!!"


Now, while I expect that most folks in the restaurant had been discommoded a time or two by an injudicious remark from their offspring, and while I expect that most of them simply smiled to themselves and said a silent prayer of thanks that it wasn't their kid this time....I know that some Southerners prize politesse above all else, even if it is contrived and disingenuous. They do not look upon such flagrant irreverence with humor.

I cringed, and glanced around. I did see some half-hidden smiles, but I also saw some scathing disapproval, mostly from the kind of folks one expects to have a long and illustrious Southern heritage; one in which a klansman and a preacher (not necessarily two different people) figure prominently.

But comparatively speaking, the repercussions were minor…this time.

“Diminutive One, we do not talk about those kinds of things in public.”

“But…you and Dad were!” he protested.

“Yes, but Dad and I were being discreet.”


“Discreet. It means that nobody knew what we were talking about.”

“I knew.”

“I don’t want you to tell anybody else you saw that video. It was inappropriate.”

“Then why did you let me watch it?”

I glanced at husband, who smirked at me in that way that means either “Get yourself outta that one smartypants” or "We should do naughty things to one another" In this case, it was clearly the former.

“I used poor judgment”

When all else fails, try a little honesty, I always say.

“Oh. You mean like that time that I ate all that candy out of my Easter Basket without asking and then I threw up in the car on the way home from Nanny and Papa’s house and cried because my tummy hurt?”

“Did you wish you hadn’t done it?”

“Big time.”

“Were you kinda mad at yourself?”


“Then yeah, like that”

Just. Like. That.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

To Suck Or Not To Suck

(get your mind out of the gutter, this is a serious post, dammit.)

I don't really consider myself a misanthrope, but sometimes it's difficult not to succumb to the belief that people just suck.

There are days when I wonder why I bother with other human beings at all. When one stops to consider just how awful we can be to one another, it's pretty disheartening. Sometimes it's just a string of petty unpleasantries that, when added together, make for a really bad day. Sometimes, it's a big brazen bitch of a meanness that grabs us by the throat and shakes us until we are dazed and trembling. I've experienced both, and I'd be willing to bet that most of you have too.

Whether it's something big or small, purposeful malice makes us want to disengage from the world at large, hole up, and lick our wounds. I've had occasion to consider that maybe those weird sects that isolate themselves from the rest of humanity aren't necessarily as unbalanced as we might have once thought.

True, their idealism is tainted by religious fervor and fanaticism that will ultimately be their undoing, but the basic principal isn't really so crazy. What's nuts about wanting to live a life of peace and harmony removed from a sex and violence saturated media, an increasingly egocentric and materialistic society, and a morally confused political climate?


But that's really a fatalistic view of mankind, and though I have had plenty of reason to adopt such a perspective, I guess, like most people, I have a hard time giving up on us as a species.

Because just when I think I can't take any more of the ugliness, the perversity, the bigotry, the hatred and the greed...something happens to reaffirm my faith in humankind. Something happens to make me believe that the benevolence of which we are all capable, still has the power to change the world.

There are big things, of course: Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, UNICEF, Save the Children, Food For the Hungry, USAID, CARE....

These humanitarian organizations serve a vital purpose; not the least of which is making us feel that we are not impotent in the face of large scale human suffering. But there are small things, everyday, right here, if we just look for them: a young man giving up his seat to an elderly woman, a motorist stopping to help change a flat tire, a teacher using her personal time to tutor a struggling student. These are simple kindnesses that convey a powerful message; we can love one another.

Friday night was chilly, blustery, and wholly unfit for the gaiety that was taking place on field 4 at the local ballpark. The Opening Ceremonies for Spring Little League were in full swing, and the lush green outfield was crazily quilted with the colors of the different teams as they organized themselves into a loosely packed swarm of kids and coaches. Purple balloons danced herky jerky in the breeze above their heads. Now and then, one would escape, and a small shriek of dismay could be heard.

As the parents shivered in the stands, waiting for the ceremony to be over so they could retire to the warmth and comfort of their cookie cutter suburban homes, the League President took the stage.

"On March 2nd, a group of college ball players from Bluffton University in Ohio, travelling to Florida, crashed in the early morning hours on I75 near downtown Atlanta. Six....."

He paused, and a casual observer might have thought that the emotions he struggled to control were contrived for theatrical effect. But the people in the stands knew otherwise. Because they, like him, were only too aware that the players on that bus could have been any one of ours. Indeed, when the news was first reported in the early morning hours, it was said that the bus was carrying a Little League team, and all of us grew cold and sick with sympathetic horror. And now, though we knew better, we still ached for the parents whose children were lost that day, even as we thanked God or Fate that it wasn't our own.

He continued in a strong, but tremulous voice.

"Six people lost their lives that day, and a seventh has passed away today as a result of his injuries. 29 others were seriously injured. Their team color is purple, and today, as we prepare to start our Spring Season, we wish to extend our deepest sympathy to the families of those who were lost. We release these balloons in their memory. Release!"

300 purple balloons sailed into the air and dashed against one another, buffeted by the harsh spring winds. There was a collective "oooooooooooooh" from the children, and some capered and cavorted at the sight; unmindful that the beautiful spectacle of purple balloons melting into the sun streaked azure sky was meant to be a somber thing.

We all watched as those balloons drifted out of sight among the clouds, and I saw parents around me furtively wiping tears from their cheeks. My own eyes shimmered with unshed tears as I watched my husband and sons out on the field; faces tilted upward, mouths open. My youngest son stretched his arms up in a strange empty embrace, hugging the sky.

The President called for a moment of silence and for a full, pregnant minute not a sound was heard save the distant roar of traffic and the whistling of the wind. Not a cough, not a shuffle, not a single harumph of impatience. The young girl sitting next to me, whose face bore the stamp of Down Syndrome, grabbed my hand and hugged it to her breast. She looked upward and mouthed "Good-bye". I had the strangest feeling that she was not speaking to the balloons.

The entire affair took about five minutes. It was a small, perhaps even insignificant gesture. But it was a powerful moment of shared humanity. Through our sadness we took comfort in knowing that maybe, someday, if the tables were turned and our children were lying dead on a strange stretch of highway in the pre-dawn chill of a spring morning....someone somewhere would remember them.

And despite the sadness of the whole thing, I felt good. Because if 500 people can shed a tear for someone they don't even know, if they can reach out in a simple expression of compassion...then there's hope for us.

People don't suck. Sometimes the way we behave sucks. Sometimes, the way we treat one another sucks. But we can not suck if we try. And that's enough to keep me going.

Look for the little things. They add up to a whole lot of not sucking.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Flaming Happy

First, I want to thank everyone for their very kind comments on my post yesterday. I didn't intend for it to be a bid for sympathy, but I won't deny that the outpouring of concern and compassion made me feel really warm and fuzzy. The Blogosphere can be a truly wonderful place.

That said, I'm done wallowing. I need some happy. And what makes me happy is Flaming June. One day, I am going to hang her picture in a room painted the same color as her gown. It will be a sunny room with lots of windows, and lots of warmth. Maybe a fireplace for chilly fall and winter evenings. Lots of bookshelves and a big, comfy chair.

So who is Flaming June? I wrote about her a while back. And, as a present to myself, I'm going to repost what I wrote.

Because it makes me happy. Maybe it will make you happy too. I give you....

My Beautiful Flaming June

This painting is called "Flaming June" and even the name makes me feel light-hearted. June...I feel like she could be my friend. I think we would talk about books and babies, life and lovers, poetry and politics.

The color of her gown is vibrant and liquid; juicky like overripe Mediterranean fruit. I can feel the gossamer folds running like water between her thighs; cool and silky on her fevered skin. The ocean breeze caresses her, whispering through her hair and coaxing from it, the aroma of jonquils and baking bread. It carries the faint, delicious promise of summer rain. I wonder if it is the sun that has warmed her, or a lovers touch. I wonder if its the exhaustion of ardor that tranquilizes her or just the limpid peace of a perfect day.

I am brimming with contemporary disquiet, loaded with cares and concerns that June would find bewildering. I long for her contenment and langour. Sometimes I think that if I lie as still as she and imagine the tang of salt on my lips...I can steal her serenity for just a moment. Its a thought that cheers me. I find solace in her.

Lord Leighton would be pleased, I think.

(click for larger's worth it.)

The Art of Lord Frederic Leighton

Thursday, March 08, 2007


There is a lot that goes into being a Mom, but when you bring it down to it's lowest common denominator, what we really do is just fix stuff.

When our children are small, it's a pretty simple matter to right what is wrong. If a belly is empty, we fill it. If a diaper is dirty, we change it. We make faces and sing songs when they are bored. We pace the floor with them when they are sick. We pick them up when they fall.

Looking back to those days, I realize that their care was pretty elementary. It didn't seem like it at the time, but truthfully, I complicated matters with my own uncertainty and I let others prey upon it. In my desire to get it right, I let things that really didn't matter assume monumental importance.

How silly that I spent weeks researching diaper brands; days deliberating between a colored mobile or black and white; hours poring over articles comparing different brands of soothers.

If I had to do it over again, I would try to be more confident and trust my insticts. And I would realize that all I really need to do is be a fixer. Not a procurer of gadgets and gew gaws.

As they get older, the fixing gets a little trickier. Because as our children gain sentience, the problems become less about fixing stuff, and more about fixing them. But you can't put a band-aid on a broken heart, and you can't disarm a bully with a song. I wish I could say it gets easier as they get older, but I'm afraid that it gets immeasureably harder.

There are times that I've been completely at a loss, and it's not a feeling I relish. Because I, like many Moms, tend to quatify my worth by my success or failure as a Mother. Whether this is wise or healthy is entirely irrelevent. It happens whether we wish it or not. It happens because whether we admit it or not, our children are extensions of ourselves. Their success or failure, their happiness or sadness, their goodness or badness...we own it all. Even the stuff we can't do anything about.

My Diminutive One in particular, has challenged everything I ever thought about myself as a mother. And in many ways I feel that we have both grown and evolved on this journey. I have learned to accept certain things rather than striving to change that which is beyond my control. I have learned that he is not me, and his struggles are not always due to my shortcomings as a mother.

But even after almost 9 years of parenting him, I have difficulty not being dragged down by waves of guilt when I can't fix something.

Diminutive One has been seeing a therapist for about 4 months now. She has been a godsend to both of us. For me, she is an outlet for my frustration and feelings of impotence. For Diminutive One, she is a sympathetic ear, one not distracted by the cares and concerns of raising a family, running a household, navigating life. For an hour, she is his and his alone.

And yet, the behaviors which led us to her door are escalating, as are my frustration, and his demoralization.

From the beginning, I have told myself that I don't need an answer. I don't need a label. I don't need a diagnosis. I just need some help. And yet I wondered...if a diagnosis would be a good thing. Validation for me, salvation for him. So I yearned for it and dreaded it in equal measure.

At our weekly visit on Tuesday, I poured out all the frustration and sadness and concern and guilt that had built up over the course of two weeks. We had missed our appointment the week before, and both of us sorely missed it.

This week, I did something I had never done before...I cried in her office. I cried because I just want him to be happy, and he isn't. I cried because I just want him to be normal, and he isn't. I cried because I just want to enjoy him and I don't. I cried because I just want to be a good mother, and I'm not.

It was then that she told me, in her kind and motherly way, that we need to look at our options. She told me he is broken. And I can't fix it. She told me there is a disorder, two, actually, and she told me he needs drug therapy.

I don't know whether to jump for joy or sink down into the depths of despair.

My baby is broken. And I can't fix it. And the guilt is crushing me.

But why do I feel guilty? Well, why do any of us feel guilty? It's because, as a dear friend told me recently, we grew them inside of us. We gave them blood and oxygen and nourishment and we can't help but be convinced that something we did is responsible. Perhaps we drank a glass of wine that night two weeks before we found out we were pregnant. Maybe we took an aspirin forgetting, thinking only about the pain. Maybe we had kinky sex, maybe we saw a black cat, maybe we looked cross-eyed at somebody on a Tuesday.

Ridiculous, we know. But also inescapable. It is in our emotional make-up, perhaps in our genes.

I know that this is not the end of the world. I know giving my child medication is nothing to be ashamed of. I know I should be grateful that his problem, which once had no name and no solution, is now well researched and treatable. I know that he will now have a chance to reach his full potential and be happy.

I know all that in my head. But in my heart it still feels like I failed him.

So what do I do now......

I think I put aside my guilt and sadness and I do what needs to be done. I go on, and I don't let him see how much it saddens me that he needs a pill to be normal.

And why am I sharing this with you? Well, maybe one day, you will find that the fixing is not so easy any more. Maybe you will find that the key to your child's happiness, health and maybe even sanity, are beyond your power to grant. Maybe you already have.

And maybe, you will need somebody to's not your fault. It's not the end of the world. It's going to be okay.

And it is.

He is only as broken as I let him be. He is only broken if I don't find someone, anyone to fix him. It doesn't have to be me. It doesn't have to be you. Fixed is fixed and fixed he will be.

You're not alone. Remember that.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nobody Can Resist Them

The other day, some friends and I were talking about humor and how different people find such different things funny.

My husband thinks Dumb and Dumber is the epitome of funny. I honestly would rather have my nose hairs plucked one by one than watch that movie, or any movie that relies on bodily emissions; either auditory or excretory, to appeal to their target audience. Not a fan.

Dry humor, sarcasm, and some spoofing, (but only if very cleverly done) are more my speed. You know...intellectual humor. Highbrow humor. I suppose you could say that I'm a comedy snob.

But even when I find something uproariously funny, I'm not really a laugh out loud kind of person. I don't belly laugh. I don't guffaw. Instead I chuckle, I smirk. I say "Damn that was funny".

My mother is and was the same way. It's not that she is humorless, but she, like me, is disinclined to indulge in emotional extremes of any kind. It's just not in our nature. As children, my sisters and I would do all kinds of crazy stuff to get my Mom to laugh. I can only remember twice that I saw her laugh until she cried.

The first instance was while watching "Scavenger Hunt". The movie featured many comic greats, and relied on a kind of humor that is rare to find these days. It was pure and innocent. It was funny without being demeaning, vulgar or profane. There is a scene in the movie where James Coco puts pantyhose on his head in an attempt to rob a convenience store to procure a cash register; one of a list of items contestants were to find in order to secure an inheritance. During this scene, my mother laughed with unrestrained mirth. She wiped the tears from her cheeks and hoo-hooed in an effort to catch her breath.

It was beautiful and magical for it's rarity. Watching my Mom laugh made me feel like nothing in the world could ever cause me sadness again. A couple of years ago, while driving like a bat out of hell to her side during a serious and life threatening illness, it was that moment that I thought of, and I realized there was something that would cause me terrible sadness. To never hear her laugh again.

The other instance was my sister's doing. One day my mother came home from work exceptionally weary. My mother was a hairdresser and spent most of her working hours on her feet. Even so, she wasn't the type to come home and lounge. She was always busy. So when she collapsed upon the sofa and didn't move, we realized that she had been pushed beyond her physical limits. She was simply worn out. It was one of the first glimpses I had of my Mother as a fallible human being.

She asked if someone would go upstairs and change her clothes for her. She was trying to make light of her exhaustion, but we weren't fooled. My sister, who must have been all of 9 at the time, disappeared upstairs. She came down wearing my Mom's favorite sweater; a shapeless knit disco-esque thing with brown and cream stripes, huge lapels and a knit belt, brown polyester perma-crease pants, panyhose that sagged around her ankles, huge ugly wedges, and loads of tacky jewelry.

She was a comical sight to be sure. But that wasn't what set my mother off. My sister always was one to crack herself up. She had to be moved from her seat at the end of the table because she would make faces at herself in the mirror at the opposite end, thereby disrupting the entire meal with her giggles, which were incredibly infectious and difficult to ignore.

So it wasn't her appearance that cracked my mother up, but the fact that we could hear my sister giggling all the way down the stairs. It was clear that whatever she had done, she found herself terribly funny and clever. She appeared in the living room, burst into gales of laughter, and promptly fell off her wedges. My mother laughed so hard her mascara ran. We all did. And after that, she didn't seem so tired any more.

I have my own moments, though they are rare to be sure, of pure spontaneous hilarity. I occasionally laugh until my sides ache. and tears stream down my cheeks. When I'm done, I feel almost as cleansed as if I'd had a good cry, but immeasurably better, since a hearty laugh doesn't cause snot-clogged sinuses, swollen eyes and a throbbing headache the way a really good crying jag does.

During the course of our discussion, one of my friends mentioned an SNL clip that I hadn't thought of in years. Feeling nostalgiac, I went in search of it. When I found it, I began to laugh like I hadn't laughed in a very long time. Diminutive One looked at me quizzically, and perhaps a little alarmedly. Since I laugh like that so seldom, I think they sometimes suspect I've gone soft in the head when I do.

He came over to watch, wondering what in the world could spur his normally restrained Mother to such hilarity.

This, is what he saw on my computer screen:

When it was finished, he asked, "What's funny about that?"

I shrugged and wiped the tears from my cheeks.

"Someday you'll understand why that's funny, honey."

He looked at me with the reproachful expression normally seen on my own face when they have done something grossly inappropriate, but (arguably) hilarious nonetheless. His tone was icy and disapproving.

"It's because it's about testicles, isn't it?"

His chagrin was so comical, I laughed again. He shook his head at me.

"That is so inappropriate, Mom."

Why, yes, my Diminutive One. So it is. But also...DAMN funny.

A Schweaty ball's the gift that keeps on giving.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Diplomacy of Bubbles

The moment they met, my son dubbed Zach E. the "meanest kid in my class". Never ever did he refer to this child without that qualifier. Sometimes, just to mix things up a little, I would interrupt him before he got to the "meanest kid in my class part". He would say, "Zach E...." and I would quickly interject "You mean, the meanest kid in your class?", to which he would invariably reply in the affirmative and nod morosely.

Not surprisingly, Zach E. felt exactly the same about Diminutive One. When they were near one another the air between them crackled and sizzled with the electricity of inexplicable irritation; antipathy hanging dark and heavy like storm clouds pregnant with rain. They had to be separated in the classroom...not because they were brawling, but because their dislike of one another made the other children uneasy. They would glance furtively back and forth between the two as if expecting a violent outburst any moment. But they never did fight. They would simply glare malevolenty at one another, silently but effectively telegraphing their shared loathing.

Nobody really knew why they hated each other so. The teacher found them both pleasant enough, and though both strong-willed, neither was ever considered a troublemaker. I spent a lot of time in the classroom as a volunteer, and I never saw Zach E. do anything to justify the moniker my son had bestowed upon him. I often wondered if he had a similar name for my son. It seemed that they pissed each other off just by their very existence.

I have certainly encountered people in my life that I experienced a profound and immediate aversion to. I think we all have, right? But five year olds don't make any pretenses when it comes to social niceties the way adults do. An adult might smile woodenly and feign civility in such a situation, but a 5 year old will glower and opine with unrestrained candor.

Once Diminutive One told me that Zach E. "Has a fat head. It's too round." Apparently he finds fat heads incredibly irksome. Zach E. confided to the teacher that Diminutive One is "too bouncy." To be fair, he is bouncy, and, it can be quite bothersome. Likewise, Zach E. does have a noggin to rival that of Charlie Brown. And it is a little...unsettling.

But I think what it really boiled down to was a case of two Alpha Males trying to reign over the same territory. That's always a recipe for disaster.

So given all that, you can imagine my astonishment when I came upon the scene in this picture:

On the very last day of school, amid the chaos of the Kindergarten picnic, they stole away to a leafy little glen and settled themselves on a small outcropping of earth, where they sat and blew bubbles in congenial, if somewhat tenuous, harmony.

For whatever reason, they had decided to put their differences aside and enjoy the most excellent combination of sunshine, bubbles, and freedom.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if all conflicts could be so easily resolved? What if GeeDubya and Osama could crack open a bottle of bubbles and effect world peace? In my imagination, it goes something like this.....

GWB: Osama, I have here in my posession, a bottle of, uhhhh, Bubble Light soap solution, the purpose of which, is for uhhh...blowing bubbles. Would you care to join me?

Osama: Well, George, I would be delighted, but as you know I am sworn to kill you along with all the sinners and infidels in your country.

GWB: I understand that, uhhh...Osama. I can empathize with this whole, uhhh...Jihad business. But the way I look at it, we can always get back to that tomorrow. Today, let's smoke a peace pipe together...metaphysically speaking of course.

Osama: I suppose I could take a break from international terrorism for just one day. The little Zan is always trying to get me to slow down anyway. Pass that bottle of bubbles this way.

GBW: Excellent. Here ya're...but go easy, there. Them are Texas bubbles, heh.

Osama: Oh George, you are a card. Texas bubbles indeed!

Osama and George sit quietly blowing bubbles, contemplative and companionable. Osama strokes his beard absently, while George squints thoughtfully. Occasionally, one remarks upon the bubble blowing prowess of the other. Their animosity is suspended like the perfect prismatic orbs that shimmer in the air around them. Finally, they speak...

George: Uhhhh, hey there Osama...what exactly are we fighting about anyway? Say, you're uhhh...dragging your beard in the bubbles there.

Osama: Why so I am, thank you. Actually, I'll be darned if I know. We do not believe the same things, but I cannot recall why this is a problem for either one of us. What's in these bubbles anyway George?

George: Truth my dear Osama. Truth.

Osama (nodding thoughtfully): Yes. I think your Texas Bubbles do hold some truth. The bubbles do not quarrel. They exist side by side in harmony. Let us follow the example of the bubbles, and put aside our differences in the name of peace.

George: Now that is the best idea I have heard in a long time. I think Achmed would be proud of us.

Osama: You mean Allah.

George: Yeah, that's what I said.

Osama: George, could I use that one that looks like a kazoo?

George: Absolutely Osama. What's mine is yours. Exept, you know...the Presidency, heh.

Osama (laughing): Ah George! Always with a joke. You are a joking jokester.

And so, the War Against Terror and the Jihad came to an end. The two great nations lived in peace for many decades and Osama and George remained lifelong bubble buddies....

If only it could be that simple. Maybe it is. Maybe age and conviction sometimes bring blindness instead of wisdom. Maybe we complicate things ourselves, and maybe, just maybe, something as simple and silly as bubbles actually could lend some clarity and perspective to those issues. Kids are a lot smarter than we supposedly enlightened adults give them credit for. Pity we don't follow their example more often.

(This post has been shamelessly recycled due to an insidious migraine.)

Saturday, March 03, 2007

File this under "I Hate That"

I've been a Mom for 12 years now, and I understand that kids are programmed to test limits, explore boundaries, and try things on for size.

Most of the time, I accept this with the kind of resignation that comes from beating one's head against a metaphorical brick wall. Eventually one learns that brick is unyielding because it is brick, and that the end result of repeated blunt force trauma to the maternal psyche is one hell of an emotional headache.

So I roll with the punches. I answer questions that I've answered a thousand times before. I resist the urge to say "Because I SAID so" or "Because I'm your mother, THAT'S why". I try to encourage cooperation by respecting their need to feel that they have some control over their own lives. I give them options. I pick my battles.

But sometimes, I just want my kids to do what I say, when I say, how I say.

Today was one of those days.

It has been an insanely busy and incredibly stressful day. We left the house at 8:00 am and when we finally arrived home, we were both emotionally and physically exhausted. We headed upstairs to change into lounging clothes, both sighing as we peeled the damp and binding denim from our middle aged bodies. We collapsed upon the bed and commenced a half-hearted debate about who was going to cook supper, knowing full well that we would be prevailing upon one of the many wonderful establisments that will bring food and drink to our doorstep.

The boys had been instructed to remove their filthy, sweaty uniforms and hit the shower. But kids have this kind of sixth sense that enables them to discern exactly when parents are incabable of enforcing a given directive. They know when we are enfeebled by life.

They busily employed every tactic known to them in purposeful avoidance of said directive. Husband and I rolled our eyes at one another, but neither of us made a move to rise and deal with the situation.

When the harmless dilly dallying turned to bickering over who would shower first, (a matter of great import, given the ferocity to which this argument escalated) I sighed, my lassitude turning to irritation. So without moving a muscle, I slipped into the barking efficiency of a drill sergeant. That is to say, I attempted to effect a response with the only faculty I was able to summon at the moment.

"BOYS!!!!!!!!!!!!! Quit bickering this instant!! Diminutive One...YOU go FIRST! You have TEN MINUTES to wash up and get out! DO NOT WASH YOUR HAIR WITH SOAP! DO NOT LEAVE THE SHAMPOO BOTTLE OPEN ON THE BOTTOM OF THE TUB! DO NOT LEAVE THE SOAP IN THE DRAIN! HANG UP YOUR TOWEL! DO NOT LEAVE YOUR UNDERWEAR ON THE BATHROOM FLOOR! Pre-Pubescent One, stay OUT of the bathrooom until it YOUR turn!!"

I turned to husband with a self-satisfied air, only to find him smirking at me.

"What?" I asked.

He opened his mouth and with perfect intonation that left no doubt as to whom he was impersonating, bawled,


And damn him to hell...I laughed.

And he laughed. And I laughed even harder because he is such a dork that he doesn't even keep it to himself when he thinks he has said something very funny or clever. He has no problem letting everyone know he cracks himself right the hell up. So pretty soon we were both laughing so hard we could hardly breathe and my irritation was gone.

He totally killed my bitch vibe.

I hate that.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

A Mother's Pain

Last Mother's Day, I received an iPod from my wonderful husband children, and I quickly set about trying to make up for all the years I was held prisoner by my children's musical tastes. Thankfully we escaped the Wiggles craze by the skin of our teeth, but I had my own cross to bear in the form of a leering purple dinosaur.

If you have an iPod, you know that iTunes will make recommendations based on music you've already downloaded. Since I'm still kind of a neophyte when it comes to popular music in the new millenium, the suggestions are welcome. I often find that they are very accurate in matching music to my taste.

Recently I downloaded "No Rain" by Blind Melon on the sage advice of iTunes. I immediately liked it, and I've played at least seven times in a row every day for the last week. Then I watched the video on YouTube, and found the lead singer very charasmatic and compelling in a quirky and eccentric kind of way.

I was sold on Blind Melon and decided that I needed to find more music by this band.

Imagine my surprise to find that the lead singer died of a cocaine overdose 12 years ago.

12 years ago I had a brand new baby (my first) and my focus was on sleep, keeping my breasts from exploding in public, and keeping my infant alive, which, at the time, seemed like a ridiculously tall order for someone as obviously as inept as I. The point is, popular music was about as low down on my list of priorities as intercourse.

So, though the Bee girl did spark a curious deja vu, and though I'm sure his sad and sordid demise was reported on the news, the name Shannon Hoon meant nothing to me. Thus, the information passed through the internal filter that rejected anything not immediately pertaining to sleep, boob expolosions, and the care and feeding one very small and very helpless infant.

For for some reason, I was inordinately and inexplicably bummed out by the death of some musician I wasn't even aware of a week ago, and who has not been on this earth for eleven years.

Indulging my natural tendency towards nosiness, I Googled (funny how that word has become part of our cultural lexicon) his name and began reading.

I was immediately struck by how descriptions of him were eerily similar to how I would describe my youngest, spirited Diminutive One.

Now, I'm a writer, and as such, I have natural predilection for artistic exaggeration. But I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that the hair on my arms stood up as I read, and a chill slithered down my spine.

He is described as being larger than life, as having an expansive personality and an insatiable appetite for things he loved. He lived a life of excess, not just in terms of addiction, but in every respect. He was, by all accounts, a born performer, a natural and undisputed frontman. He was his own man with his own ideas.

These traits, though they contributed to a kind genius that is still talked about by other artists, are the very same that made him difficult to be around at times. He could be inflexible. Moody. Uncommunicative. And was impossible to be angry with him. Because, as one of his former bandmates said "Not a day went by that he didn't do something amazing." He was "A tyrant and an angel."

Jesus, what a waste.

I have always felt, with that peculiar brand of maternal presentiment, that Diminutive One was bound for greatness. Because I can't believe a spark that burns that hot and bright was meant to languish in a life of mediocrity. But I have also feared that such a spark can only burn so long before it consumes itself in a catacylsm of brilliance, madness, and voracity.

My Diminutive One is sometimes exhausting to be around, even when he isn't being particularly contrary or defiant. There is such energy and spirit and character to him, that it cannot be sustained unless it feeds on those around him. He can crack your bones and suck out the marrow with his presence, leaving you feeling empty, defeated and diminished.

But there are times that the dazzling beauty of him will lift you higher than you ever thought possible. Those are the times that I fear for him the most, because I fear the loss of it with a cold, icy dread.

I think Shannon's mother must have been ripped apart by his ignoble death. Surely someone who lived so enormously should have died in the manner set forth by the heroes of our childhood. Surely someone such as he should have exited in a blaze of perfect, dignified, sublime glory. But I think that perhaps she expected it, like she probably also suspected that he would be not leave this world without having changed it.

It's a kind of pain I hesitate to imagine, and one that I can't help contemplating.

I guess that's what it is to be the mother of a child like that. We hope for the best, expect the worst and try like hell not to wish away the moments that may be all too few.

If you have a Spirited Child, I want to tell you...don't waste time wishing for what can never be. Your child and mine will never be the quiet one, the well-mannered one, the "good" one. Celebrate them for what they are, in all their bigness, because living small is not in the cards for them.

And we, as their mothers, can only watch and hope, and sometimes guide. It's a deep ache to be sure, always wondering what will become of them, but it's also a sweet pain knowing that whatever comes, it will not be ordinary.

Our children will make their mark on this world.