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.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Of Love and Ice Cream

Not long ago, a friend and I were discussing "marrying people" vs. "not marrying" people, and what distinguishes them from one another. We never did really arrive at any hard and fast conclusions other than that I, am marrying people, and that she, quite possibly, is not.

Frankly, I think she is "marrying people" but isn't quite ready to admit to it just yet.

And I have to admit that being "marrying people" at 40, as opposed to being "marrying people" at 20 is a lot larger leap of faith.

I got married at 23. Twenty. Three. Think of yourself at 23. How clueless were you? I didn't know anything about anything and either did he. We didn't discuss life goals, financial strategies, religious beliefs, parenting philosophies.

What did we discuss? God, it seems like we discussed everything else, because I really fell in love with him because he could carry on a decent conversation. You think I'm kidding, but after an ill fated romance with a man who was undeniably good hearted, but conversationally maladroit, it was a powerful aphrodisiac.

But it turns out, we didn't really talk about anything that might pertain to our life together, until we were already living it.

If I were going to get married today, that would strike me as slightly foolhardy. I think my list of pre-requisites would be a lot more stringent now, especially if I was going to go into a marriage with children already in tow.

Frankly, that thought makes me want to curl up in a ball and go to my happy place. No, not that one, the metaphorical one.

I didn't dig dating all that much when I was young and firm and could dance the night away with few repercussions. I certainly don't relish the thought of doing all that now, with the added baggage of self-image issues.

I mean...don't get me wrong. I'm no Christie Brinkley, but I don't turn stomachs either.

But good Lord, can you imagine taking your clothes off in front of a man and knowing that he's looking at your stretch marks and your sagging breasts and your cellulite without the soft focus filter of love to blur the imperfections?

Can you imagine lying there, while a strange man makes love to you, and wondering if he can tell that you've birthed a baby whose head measured only slightly less in circumference than an actual basketball and whose size so stunned the staff that every single person in the delivery room said "WHOA" at the same time?

And you can't exactly inquire, now can you?

"MMMMM, that feels so gooooooood. It's soooooo biiiiiiiiiggggg. Say there lover... you're not thinking of that song 'Wide Open Spaces' right now, by any chance, are ya?

It makes me feel slightly verklempt.

So....all that is a really round about way of saying...I like being married, and I plan to stay married a very long time. It's true that there is nothing like the thrill of a new romance. But I'm now old enough and wise enough to realize that it's not worth sacrificing safety, security, acceptance and contentment for. It's not worth giving up on deep, abiding love.

I like comfortable. I like finishing each other's sentences. I like knowing what he is thinking before he thinks it and vice versa. I like being able to say everything we need to with a look, a gesture, a touch. I like knowing that even when I'm at my worst, he thinks I'm the best. For real.

That is not to say, that aren't days that I dig being married more than others.

The other day was one of those dug it days.

Why? I don't know. We were just clicking.

After reading "Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe", I decided that my poor husband needed a good Southern meal. I rarely cook Southern cuisine, because I just don't think of it. When I'm planning meals, black eyed peas, collard greens, corn bread, okra and the like are not even in my sphere of consciousness.

Plus, I bid my gallbladder a fond farewell several years ago, and now, if I indulge too heavily in fatty, rich, or fried foods, I pay for it in numerous ways. I'll spare you the details.

Also, to be quite honest, I loathe cooking and that's a lot of labor intensive crap that I just don't like to do. Slicing, dicing, dunking, dredging, frying, boiling, mashing. Ugh.

Then there is the fact that I, having been born well North of the Mason Dixon line, simply lack the genes required to prepare certain Southern staples. I firmly believe that one must have the fried chicken gene and the biscuit gene hardcoded into their DNA in order to pull off these feats of culinary complexity.

Oh, I've been taught. Husband has NINE aunts, all of whom, plus my mother in law, and his grandmother, have patiently instructed me in their own personal technique for frying chicken and making biscuits. I took notes. I practiced. It all made perfect sense. And still I couldn't do it.

I can make German dumplings that are light as flippin air, but I cannot make a biscuit that does not sink like a hockey puck.

Regardless, I prepared a delicious Southern meal of barbecued chicken, fried okra, fried green tomatoes (Those, I can handle), corn, and cornbread. Yes, the meal was lacking a carbohydrate. Having been raised in a family with strong German heritage, I was raised believing that a meal is not complete without a potato, a noodle, or a bread. But I had to nix the fried 'taters (they do actually call them that) due to a lack of time, a third frying pan, and a full household staff.

It occurs to me now, that is how Southern women pulled off these meals day in and day out way back when. They had SLAVES. Because one person can't fry seventeen things without burning something beyond recognition and/or salvation. The Southern lady of old simply orchestrated.

Husband was pleased, Diminutive One actually deigned to touch one sliver of fried green tomato to his tongue, and Pre-Pubescent One ate everything with gusto.

I had planned to pick up a carton of Birthday Cake ice cream. I loves me some Birthday Cake ice cream, and since the curse of Eve was bearing down upon me with the force and velocity of a steaming locomotive, I meant to have some.

But focused as I was on the details of the meal, I simply forgot. It wasn't until we were leaning back in our chairs groaning, that I realized it.

"Crap. I was going to get ice cream." I said morosely.

Truthfully, I had snarfed down about 84 slices of fried green tomato and really didn't have room for ice cream. But it was the principal of the thing. I might want some later. Like...breakfast.

Husband looked at me and smirked.

"Oh shut up." I snarled. "You know what's coming. I can't help it."

"Guess what I got you on the way home."


He nodded.

"I did so."

And he had. The good kind too, not that store bought garbage. No, this was the rich creamy, hand churned ice cream stand kind with REAL frosting swirling through it.

And see...when you think about it, it's really that simple. When you're married, you always have someone to bring you ice cream.

And then not say a word when you eat the whole pint.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Though I certainly have no shortage of irrational fears in regard to my children, the fear that I described yesterday actually has some basis in reality.

In 2003, on Diminutive One's first day of Kindergarten, for 45 agonizing minutes, his whereabouts were unknown.

It was the longest 45 minutes of my entire life.

The day started off well, despite my feelings of foreboding. Because of certain behavioral traits that are common to Spirited children, I had anticipated difficulty. School has never been his favorite thing. We started him in pre-school at three, because we knew it would take a good long time for him to acclimate to the classroom routine and learn how to transition from one activity to another. It's something he still struggles with.

But to my surprise, he was eager to be off. There were several reasons. There was the Thomas the Tank Engine backpack; all stiff and new and irresistibly cheery looking. There were the numerous new school supplies; brightly colored, newly sharpened, and boldly inscribed with his name.

And then there was the bus.

For some reason, that big lumbering yellow beast held some sort of strange appeal for him; probably because his brother had the privilege of riding it when he did not. Day after day he begged and pleaded to be allowed on the bus, long after it had departed.

When I told him he would be going to school with big brother this year, the very first thing out of his mouth was, "YAY! I get to ride the bus!"

He jumped up and down with glee.

I was less than thrilled by the prospect. He had turned five only one week prior to the first day of school and he was small for his age as well. He really looked closer to three than five. He would be riding the bus with kids from kindergarten to 5th grade and I didn't relish the idea of him being at the mercy of some hulking, slack-jawed fifth-grader who decided to make him a target.

But what you have to understand is that with a Spirited child, picking your battles is absolutely paramount. I knew if I chose to fight this particular battle, it would be a long, arduous and ultimately, losing one. I decided it was not the hill I wanted to die on.

After all, I would be right there to see him get on, his brother would be on the bus with him, and each afternoon he would be escorted by an aide to the door of the bus. What could go wrong?

What indeed.

When the first day of school came, he was up with the sun and could scarcely eat his breakfast. He had little patience for pictur taking but I did manage to snap a few. I wish I could show them to you. He was so damned cute. God made him extra cute so I wouldn't kill him. Seriously...ask anybody that has a Spirited kid. They are extraordinarily cute. It's a Darwin thing.

Anyway...the bus came and he got on, scarcely giving me a backward glance. I should have been happy, because it could have gone completely the other way. His first day of pre-school did not go as smoothly, and I was really anticipating a repeat of that debacle.

But my last chick had left the nest and I was a little wistful.

Until I got inside and realized that for the first time in 8 years, I was aloooooooooooooooooooneeeeeeee. It was a good day.

At 2:30 I went out to meet the bus. Pre-Pubescent One bounded off, laughing and chattering with his friends. I waited, looking for the towhead of my youngest son. It did not appear. The bus doors shushed shut and the bus started to pull away from the curb.

That was when I felt the first sinister stirrings of panic.

I banged on the doors and hollered "WAIT!!"

The bus stopped. I turned to Pre-Pubescent one and grasped him by the shoulders.

"WHERE is your BROTHER?" I asked.

He shrugged, looking bewildered.

"How could you let them leave without your BROTHER?!?"

He began to cry. All these yeas later, I still harbor a great deal of guilt over that. He was only 8 years old. It wasn't his responsibility or his fault. But in my rising panic, I projected the blame onto him.

The bus doors shushed open again and the bus driver looked at me with eyebrows raised inquiringly.

"WHERE is my youngest son? He's supposed to be on this bus. He's only five years old."

"Name?" he inquired, with what I found to be a distressing lack of concern.

"Diminutive One. Diminutive One Antagonist."

He turned laboriously in his seat and hollered,

"Diminutive One!! Diminutive One Antagonist! THIS is your stop. Your MOTHER is waiting!!"

The noise subsided a bit, and all the children looked around, but nobody responded to his call.

He shrugged and said "Sometimes the little ones fall asleep. You wanna go look?"

I climbed onto the bus and was instantly assailed by memories as odors assaulted me. Exhaust. Mildewed vinyl. Feet. Sweat. The rancid remains of a thousand sack lunches.

I scanned the aisles frantically. No tiny sleeping form curled upon a filthy seat. No golden head slumped against a dirty window. No Diminutive One.

And then the panic rose up full bore and punched me in the gut with fists of nauseating intensity. My baby was missing. That word echoed inside my head and I listened to it bouncing around with disbelief. Missing. How could that be?

I ran back to the front of the bus to confront the driver.

"You are supposed to have my son on this bus. He's only FIVE years old and he's missing!"

"Ma'am, this happens on the first day sometimes. Things are kinda crazy. He's probably on another bus. I'll radio in."

He was not unsympathetic, but it was a routine thing for him, misplaced kids. He did not share my sense of urgency.

"He's only five years old." I repeated.

I heard the accusation in my voice. I didn't care.

"Uhh, dispatch, this is xyz-678. We got a misplaced rider, name of Diminutive One Antagonist. He's five years old, blonde hair...what's he wearing?....wearing navy blue shorts, a maroon t-shirt with a soccer ball on it, carrying a Thomas the Tank Engine backpack."

"Lemme take these other kids home while they look for 'im. I'll stop on the way back out."

What? He expected me to just wait? How could I just stand there and WAIT while my son was missing?? It was inconceivable. But I had no choice. Of course, other people were wating for their children to arrive home safely. Already the bus was late. Already, they were worried.

I stood there at the bus stop and paced like a caged animal. And though I told myself not to jump to conclusions, it was simply no use. I couldn't keep the milk cartons out of my mind. And then I began to compose his physical description in my mind, trying not to succumb to hysteria.

In a moment of clarity, I realized I could be doing something while I was waiting, and I sent Pre-Pubescent One in the house for my cell phone. With shaking fingers I dialed the school.

"Everytown Elementary May I help you?"

"My son is missing. He's a student there and he didn't get off the bus today. He's only five years old."

"Who is his teacher Ma'am?"

"Miss Impossiblyyoung."

"And what is his name?"

"Diminutive One Antagonist."

"Let me buzz the classroom. Hold please."

I waited and waited and waited. It seemed like a thousand eternities. I scanned the horizon for the bus, impatient, afraid, sick with dread and worry.

"Ma'am? Miss Impossiblyyoung isn't in her classroom right now. She's probably out at car line."

"Well can you send somebody to find her? My FIVE year old child is MISSING and if he's not at the school, then I need to call the POLICE."

"Certainly. Let me take your name and number and call you back."

"No, I'll hold."


"I'll HOLD."

Just then the bus pulled up.

"Alright, the bus is back, I'll call back in just a few minutes...Yes?" Did you find him?"

The bus driver looked as if he'd rather be anywhere else in the world than sitting in that seat, facing a distraught mother.

"I'm sorry Ma'am, but no child matching his description is on any of the busses. Did you call the school?"

My heart sank. You hear that phrase a lot, don't you? Sinking heart. My heart sank. But just then, I understood exactly what that feels like. It literally felt as if my heart had liquefied in my chest and slithered into my bowels where it sat, churning with the explosive power of a mother's darkest fear.

"Yes, I did, thank you."

"I hope you find him."

And then he was gone. I stood there, in the street, looking at the child I had left, with his tear streaked face and his jaunty first day outfit.

"What're we gonna do, Mom?" he sobbed.

"We'll find him, honey. It's just a mix-up."

"It's all my f-f-faaaaulllllllt!!!"
he wailed.

"No, baby. No it's not. I just said that because I was scared. It's NOT your fault, okay?"

I called the school back.

"Hello, you have reached Everytown Elementary school. Our office is now closed. If you know the party you are trying to reach, you may dial that extension now. If you need to speak to an Administrator, please call back between the hours of 7:30 am, and 3:30 pm."

What the FUCK?? I tried dialing 0, nothing. I tried a random extension number, hoping someone would pick up...Extension not valid. SHIT!

"THIS IS BULLSHIT!!!" I yelled, startling Pre-Pubescent One, who started to cry again. I grabbed him and hugged him hard, murmuring apologies and assurances. I wished I had someone to do that for me.

Now what? Do I call the police? No, they'll just ask if we've searched the school for him. What do I do? What do I do? Sit and wait? Screw that. We jumped in the van and headed up to the school.

When we arrived the front door was locked, but the office is located adjacent to the main entrance, so I simply banged on it until someone came. The woman who came to the door had a disapproving look on her face. She opened the door a crack and haughtily informed me that they do not admit any non-personnel after 3:30.

"I just called up here. My son is missing? My FIVE YEAR OLD son? I tried to call back but the switchboard is closed. I need to come in RIGHT NOW to look for him. Otherwise, I have no recourse but to call the police."

Her attitude changed immediately, whether because of my threat or out of genuine concern, I didn't know, didn't care.

"Oh yes! Of course! Come in. We haven't been able to locate Miss Impossiblyyoung, yet. She had carline duty, so she's supposed to have a walkie talkie, but she's not responding to our calls. We were just about to page her over the PA system, but I'll try her classroom one more time."

She went to the console and picked up the mike.

"Miss Impossiblyyoung?"

There was a very pregnant pause. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was holding my breath.

Finally, a reply.


"Do you by any chance have Diminutive One Antagonist with you?"

"Oh, yes! I do! I was just about to call his mother to let her know I made a mistake and didn't put him on the bus."

I felt my knees go weak, and my vision blurred. I would have fainted, I think, if it hadn't been for Pre-Pubescent One standing there, holding my hand. I couldn't let him see me fall apart. I began to breathe again, and slowly the roiling blackness faded away.

"Thank you. I'll go get him."

When we got to the classroom, he was seated at a low table, coloring contentedly. I resisted the urge to swoop down upon him and crush him to my breast. He had no idea he had been missing. There was no point in scaring him.

"Hi Mommy! You forgot to come get me!"

Suddenly, the fear was replaced by a white hot anger. I did NOT forget. WOULD not forget. I had filled out all the transportation forms meticulously. I had listed everything just as it was supposed to be, checking and double checking bus and route numbers. He was even wearing a bus shaped sticker that said, "Today I am a BUS rider."

Miss Impossiblyyoung looked up from her desk and instantly turned a deep scarlet. She rose and hurried over to me. Her words came out in a rush.

"Oh Mrs. Antagonist, I am SO sorry...I don't know how it happened but somehow he got in the car rider line and I couldn't leave all those kids, and I couldn't get my walkie talkie to work and by the time I got all the car riders loaded the busses were all gone and I know you must have been so worried...I was looking for his contact information when the office buzzed me. I really am so, so, so, sorry!!!"

I was so angry with her. I wanted to shake her, shout at her, demand to know if she had any idea how TERRIFIED I had been. But her face was so stricken...she obviously was very sorry, and she looked as if she might have been about to cry herself.

So instead I said,

"I think I'm going to throw up."

I put my head between my knees and took some slow deep breaths. Slowly, very slowly, my heart stopped racing, the blood stopped roaring in my ears, my stomach stopped heaving, and the shaking in my limbs subsided.

He was safe. He was safe. Safe.

"Well..." she said timidly, "I know it's not much consolation, but we've actually had some time to get to know one another, and I think that's a good thing."

I took another couple of deep breaths, considering. And I decided that berating her would serve no good purpose. It had been a harrowing afternoon for both of us.

"I suppose there is a bright side then, isn't there? If there can be a bright side to nearly losing your mind with fear, that is. No harm done."

She got the point. And she was obviously relieved that I wasn't going to demand her head on a platter.

I collected my child and his cheerfully grinning backpack and we left. I couldn't stop looking at him in the rearview mirror as we drove home. He chatted with his brother, who told him with gleeful horror, that he had been the center of quite a lot of fuss.

Pre-Pubescent One leaned over and whispered "Mom said 'bullshit' really loud. She yelled at the bus driver. She yelled at me too."

Diminutive One was terribly nonplussed by the whole thing. And the next day, he got on the bus as if there was never any question about the matter.

And I let him.

To this day I don't know how I found the courage to let the bus pull away from the curb with my children inside. And I don't think I took an easy breath the entire day.

As I waited for him to get off the bus, I almost couldn't bear it. Then suddenly his sun kissed little head appeared and all was well.

He said simply "I'm fine, Mommy."

And he was. And that was that.

But five years later, those forty five minutes still have the power to compel me.

A navy blue newsboy cap,
a gray fleece jacket,
dark blue baggy jeans,

Tuesday, January 29, 2008


A navy blue newsboy cap,
a gray fleece jacket,
dark blue baggy jeans, fashionably frayed at the cuffs,
a button down shirt with gray, navy and white stripes,
(handed down from his brother),
a white undershirt,
brown tennis shoes with tan laces,
a navy blue and orange Land's End backpack that has seen better days.

Medium brown hair that curls under around his ears
and at the nape of his neck,
large eyes that are bluish grayish greenish,
lots of freckles that he hates,
and a large one on his lower right cheek,
a gap between his front teeth,
one of which is chipped and won't stay capped,
a little bit of a double chin; the last vestiges of baby fat,
height? I still have to stoop to give him a hug,
stocky but not fat, solid and strong.

He looks very small, standing out there, just across the street. He waits for the bus alone in the dark; too old for hand holding, too proud for company.

But I watch. I can't not.

I need to know he is safe, at least as safe as he can be out of my sight, out of my hands, out of my care. I remember the days when nothing took my children from my side. They were hard, those days, but they were also serene. I trusted myself.

And if I had a moment of irrational fear, I could simply touch, listen, intuit. I could calm my worry with the balm of their slow easy breathing, the warmth of their velvet skin, their aroma of powder and milk. I could smell, taste, and touch their wellbeing.

But the day came of course, when they left me. When I had to trust someone else to keep them safe.

It was very hard...for me.

They took it all in stride, treating it as a great adventure, which of course, it was. They were drunk with independance; high on autonomy. They didn't look back. Only forward for them, always forward.

It's gotten easier over the years, but I still occasionally have moments of stomach clutching fear. What if something happens to one of them? How would I go on?

I have no prayers and no God to hear them.

So, as he stands there, I catalogue him. It's my talisman against evil. My mother mantra. My bad things don't happen to good people charm.

If he gets lost or snatched, I know that he is there in my mind, just the way he looked right before he left me, whole and safe. I can tell the officers exactly what he was wearing, right down to the smallest detail. And they will tell me that with such a description, they will have no trouble at all finding him.

And they will ask me, "Ma'am, did you actually see him get on the bus?" And I can say with great certainty, "YES officer, I did."

The bus comes, and as it pulls up he is hidden from my view. I can see only his feet, which disappear one by one as he mounts the steps. I keep watching, and then I see his head bobbing down the aisle. He takes his seat, and I can see him no more.

Only then do I close the door on the world that has swallowed my child like a great beast swallows a tender morsel.

And I say to myself...

A navy blue newsboy cap,
a gray fleece jacket,
dark blue baggy jeans....

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Was it something I said?

I applied for membership in the "Sassy Southern Writers" group over a week ago, and have yet to approved. I think I look pretty good on paper, so I'm wondering...maybe she read my blog? Well, that'll learn me.

It wasn't a completely wasted effort though. As part of my application I had to list which Southern writers I like and admire. And I realized that other than Olive Ann Burns and Margaret Mitchell, I'm not really familiar with many Southern writers.

So I went a-googling and I found Eudora Welty.

Now, I complain about the South a lot, I know. But really and truly, if you can look beyond the rednecks, the racists, the misogynists, the homophobes and the bible beaters...

The South has a very rich, interesting history and culture all it's own. There is a gentility, a nobility, a romance...that is difficult to deny. It's that South that I like to explore through the eyes of a competent storyteller. It's that kind of slice of life narrative that keeps me reading far into the night.

So I went to the library and I checked our her 1973 Pulitzer Prize winning novel "The Optimist's Daughter", and another, "The Ponder Heart."

What delicious titles! What promise they hold.

I am only a couple pages into The Optimist's Daughter, but already I am captivated by her prose.

The reviews, as you see, if you've clicked on the highlighted links, are mixed. But I've found that truly great literature often evokes very mixed reactions, although equally strong, whether good or bad.

I can't wait to continue reading.

If you're looking for some good Southern slice of life reading, I highly recommend "Cold Sassy Tree" and "Leaving Cold Sassy" by Olive Ann Burns. I devoured them whole, hardly pausing to chew up the words. They were that yummy.

That said....

I did find another writing group that looks much more my style. It strikes me as a little more refined, a little more sophisticated, and a LOT more intimidating.

These are not suburban housewives writing bodice rippers.

These are real writers, publishers, editors; honest to goodness professional book type people. Now, they say that everybody is welcome, and I'm sure they do make everyone feel welcome.

But I feel as if I have no legitimacy as a writer. I have nothing to prove that what I write is worth a plugged nickel. I have no professional valdiation, publication or association. I have no degree. I have nothing.

I feel unworthy.

But I refuse to let that stop me. I know I'm a good writer. And the whole purpose of this group is to get the exposure that I need. To make contacts, to network, to schmooze. To learn how to navigate the very scary world of publishing.

I am going to GET me some legitimacy, dammit.

I am both exhilirated and terrified by the thought.

Now...what am I going to wear???

Thursday, January 24, 2008

A Time To Cry

I've said before that I'm not a crier, and really, it's true.

Oh I have my moments, like anybody else, but I really try to avoid or forestall tears whenever possible. I don't honestly know why I dislike crying so much, but I'm sure there's some psychology to blame.

It just seems so....female.

And I suppose that deep down I really feel that hyper feminine emotional displays of any kind just feed all the stereotypes pertaining to women, and lend validation to the belief that we are inferior to men in terms of strength and character.

If there's one thing I hate, it's perpetuating a cliché.

So I just don't do it.

I have a core of steel, baby. Tears do not support that reality.

Steel wrapped around creamy white marshmallow fluff, that is.

I'm a sap, if you want to know the honest truth. Everything gets me. And the fact is, if I let even the tiniest drop of moisture escape from my eyes, it's all over. I become a big, heaving, wailing, snot-nosed, puffy-eyed mess. Nobody wants to see that.

So I just don't do it.

Plus, as any woman who has ever found herself bursting into angry tears in the midst of a of a disagreement knows, an argument won because one's opponent is paralyzed by guilt and fear in the face of a woman's tears, is always a hollow victory. And a point conceded to staunch the flow will always come back to bite one in the ass.

I want no part of that. Nor do I want to be accused of emotional blackmail.

So I just don't do it.

But sometimes, I get caught with my defenses down. If I'm not expecting an assault, it's not terribly difficult to render me completely and utterly prostrate. It can be anything at all, and you just never know what might effect such an erosion of composure.

A Hallmark commercial...hell a Huggies commercial.

An offhand comment from one of my boys, so casually offered as to seem almost inconsequential, but not really. No, not really. I love you Mom. You look pretty today Mom. I'm glad you're my Mom, Mom.

Hearing a baby cry and feeling my body respond, as my breasts tingle and ache, yearning to fill a need that no longer needs to be filled. The sad realization that it never will be again. The relief that almost immediately swallows it up.

A movie, a book, a poem, a beautiful work of art.

A plight, a pledge, a helping hand; humanity at it's finest.

All of these things can bring me swiftly and completely to my knees.

Yesterday, it was a perfectly innocuous little piece of paper.

Upon it were my youngest child's name and a tidy row of letters. Letters that both of us have come to view as marks of judgment. Harbingers of shame. So many years of both, so many new starts, so many false hopes, so many dashed dreams and bitter disappointments.

But not that day.

The teacher, with a small, satisfied smile, pushed it across the table to where I sat.

I didn't look down, couldn't look down. I exasperated her, ruined her moment. Finally she said quietly..."He made honor roll."

And suddenly I was crying. Noiselessly, but copiously, the tears streamed down my face.

"OH." she said, and blinked her enormous china doll eyes at me. "Are you okay?"

She snatched several tissues from a box on her desk and handed them to me wordlessly. Then she simply waited for me to compose myself. She is achingly young, and I'm sure she didn't quite know what to do with me. Skinned knees and forgotten lunchboxes are her forte. Sobbing mothers? Not so much.

"I'm sorry, I never do this." I said, unconvincingly. "It's just...."

Tears again, dammit.

"You have no idea what we've been through with him."

"No, I don't." she said earnestly. "But I know that he is doing VERY well now. And he is just going to do better and better. He is doing better than many of the children in the class who don't have a learning disability. He is SO smart, and capable and he has parents who care."

So let me take a moment to brag about my Spirited, ADHD, borderline Asperger's, recalcitrant, unique, creative, enigmatic, complex child.

Since the last grading period he has raised all of his grades (many of them C's and D's) to A's or B's. He has progressed from a reading level of 3.9, to 6.0. His vocabulary, creative writing and critical thinking skills are far above average. But then, they always have been.

He is still struggling with Math and spelling, but they too have improved vastly. They are typically very difficult for kids with ADD/ADHD to master, because they are very detail oriented. He will always struggle socially as well, but he is slowly being drawn out. He is beginning to believe that he has something of value to contribute to a group.

He is no longer a disruption in the classroom. He is no longer just a "discipline problem". People see my son for who he really is for the first time, probably ever in his life. He's no longer "that kid".

As we were leaving the school, we passed the wall where the names of the honor roll students are displayed. Diminutive One stopped and looked up at it with a wistful expression on his face.

"I was hoping that someday I might get my name on that wall. Just one time."

He sighed deeply and then smiled at me.

"I guess I did it."

I could scarcely speak, but I managed to say "I always knew you would."

And then I was crying again.

It seemed like a good time

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sassy Is As Sassy Does

Part of my dissatisfaction with life lately, is due to the fact that I don't get out much.

I'm bored silly, if you want to know the truth.

I'm a stay at home Mom, so my social outlets are limited, especially since we live on one income. I can think of all kinds of things I'd like to do that would put me in contact with like minded women, but many of them cost money that we just don't have.

I'd like to brush up on my once fluent French. I'd like to learn how to play the piano. I'd like to take up ballroom dancing. I would like to learn how to throw pottery. I'd like to take some writing courses at the local University.

I even considered going to beauty school, just because I thought it would be fun. And, I would meet gay guys. I miss having gay guys in my life. And I could make some money on the side doing hair in my kitchen.

But we have children. Children who need food and clothing and medication and therapy and orthodontia. I made choices a long time ago, and now I am living with those choices. I still think they are the right choices for our family, but I didn't think hard enough about how to also make them the right choices for me.

For a long time I was too busy with small children to notice that I had disappeared, but when I did, it was a shock that I have yet to recover from.

Oh sure, I meet people at PTA and school functions. I run into other Moms here and there. I chit chat, I mingle. I cawfee tawk. But in all honesty, though they are perfectly nice ladies (most of them; some are amazingly catty and venomous), they are not often the kind of smart, interesting, dynamic women I really want to spend time with, and I can't make myself care about the things they want me to care about.

Does that sound snooty? Well screw it, I'm snooty then. I would just like to talk about some stuff that makes me think, people. Is that so wrong? It's been thirteen years since I held a job outside the home.

My brain is dyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyiiiiiiiingggg.

It's depressing me. I mean, really depressing me.

When a person kisses her children goodbye and then goes back to bed until it's time for the bus to bring them home, simply because she can think of no compelling reason to stay awake, and cannot face the fact that all she has to look forward to is another day of mindless drudgework that makes her want to tear her hair from her head by the roots....

It's time to do something.

Because you know, I'm a take charge kind of person. A pull yourself up by the bootstraps kind of person. I don't mope around. I find solutions and I implement them.

So I've been trying to figure out a way to fix this. Fix me.

I've actually had quite a few ideas that I thought could satisfy my need for social interaction, put me in touch with the kind of people I really want to be with, and also provide me with the sense of purpose that has been sorely lacking in my life for some time now.

If you've been reading Blogs Are Stupid for long, you've probably read about some of them.

Unfortunately, I keep encountering these huge, twisted, snarling roadblocks that leave me frustrated, disappointed, and increasingly apathetic about further endeavors.

So I've given up on all my grand plans and decided that at the very least I need to find a way to get my ass out of the house and give my atrophied brain an opportunity to stretch it's metaphorical legs.

So I Googled writing groups in my area.

They are astonishingly few, which shouldn't surprise me, since I live quite a ways outside the city limits, in an area that isn't really known for it's cultural or creative arts. No...this area is populated either by the tractor pull/hog calling afficionados, or the pseudo elite who are busy practicing their right to conspicuous consumption, and industriously appointing their big fat, soon to be foreclosed upon McMansions with all the latest furnishings and bric a brac.

Most of them condider the Shopaholic series great American literature and Thomas Kincaide a true artiste.

I know, I really am a snooty bitch aren't I? I'll own that. I've been called worse.

So anyway, I did find one. It meets nearby on Saturdays, twice a month. They have group discussions and they do workshop type stuff as well.

They have real published authors who speak, although I am personally unfamiliar with the gentleman who will be speaking at the next meeting. But so what? He's published, so he must know something about something.

Sounds great, right?

So what exactly is my problem?

Well...first of all...joiny stuff is so not my thing. I don't know why. I just dislike the dynamics of large groups I guess, particularly groups of women. I hate Queen Bees, and there always is one. I hate power trips, I hate hierarchy, I hate jockeying for position. I hate that people expect me to care about all that, but if I don't, I'm seen as an outsider or a....snooty bitch.

But I'm desperate, so I guess I can get over that.

Here's the real issue: The name of this group is...."Sassy Southern Writers"


Why does it have to be Sassy?? See for me, this is immediately off putting.

Why? Well because it's just stupid.

But worse than that, it completely diminishes the writing, I think.

I am not now, nor have I ever been "Sassy". I don't want to be "Sassy". I don't want to write "Sassy" things. And I don't want to hang out with people who are "Sassy" or read their "Sassy" schlocky writing.

See, I told you. I just don't do the group thing well at all. Or maybe I just have a big, fat, not Sassy chip on my shoulder.

As one very good friend pointed out to me...

"I know sometimes I will think negative things about a situation so I don't have to put myself out there. It's easier to reject people without meeting them than having them reject you after meeting you."

But I am far too self actualized to do something that ridiculous.

Except that I'm not. And I would.

And damn her hide, she hit the nail right on the friggen head.

So I guess I am going to go be a Sassy Southern writer. Or try, anyway.

And, as another friend said,

"Look at it as a social experiment. It might make you puke, but at least you can write about that in your blog. Look what happened when you went to apply for a job! And seriously how bad could it be? It's not being held at the Baptist church is it?"

That last bit was totally tongue in cheek. She lives in Texas and we spar about religion all the time. When we had a girls' weekend in Chicago last June, she brought me an Anne Lamott book as a gift.

Now that's Sassy.

Anyway, I'm going, for better or for worse. Maybe the guest speaker's fly will be open or the group leader will tuck her skirt into the back of her pantyhose and I'll have some good blog fodder. Maybe it won't be a complete waste of time.

And who knows, maybe it will actually give me some motivation, some inspiration, and some much needed gratification.

God knows the toilets aren't doing it for me.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blogging For Choice


It's one of those things that we take for granted in this country. Our right to choose. We choose whom we marry, how we worship, for whom to cast our vote.

Women can choose to have careers, to be mothers or to do both.

We in this country have reproductive freedom, thanks to a precedent that was established 30 years ago today; a precedent that changed women's rights forever.

It's not a precedent that has remained unchallenged however. More than one political aspirant has vowed to overturn it if put in a position to do so. And now, one such person has his eye on the White House. He isn't the first, and he won't be the last.

Today is Blogging for Choice Day.

I don't normally particpate in these types of things, because I'm not really a joiner. I do my own thing, usually. It's how I roll.

But if ever there was a bandwagon worth jumping upon, this is it. And so I shall, with thanks to Emily at Wheels on the Bus for spreading the word about this very worthy cause.

I wrote this piece a while back and I've posted it on several different occasions. I can't think of a new or better way to put my feelings into words and so, I'm going to post it again.

Perhaps that is cheating, but....I think (and you can correct me if I'm wrong) it works better than simply cataloguing my views and laying them out for you.

No Suitable Title Comes to Mind

It’s funny how the details of our experiences are chosen by our subconscious and then preserved with perfect clarity, just waiting for something; an aroma, a snatch of song, a well loved painting, to resurrect them, while others simply disappear into the mists of time.

I wonder how our minds select which memories we are allowed to retain; which memories will plague or comfort us the rest of our lives. I wonder why we can’t forget things best left unremembered. I wonder why we can’t remember things we struggle not to forget. I can remember my grandpa’s funeral. I can’t remember the sound of his voice. I remember the words he spoke, but not the tone or timbre. I want to.

The thing I remember most about that day is how tightly her impossibly cold hand clutched mine. She absently ground the bones in my hand together in her mounting anxiety. The fear and desperation were telegraphed through her icy grip. I tried once or twice to disengage my hand from hers, but she only clutched me more tightly. She had held my hand for the entire two hour bus ride, and every minute since then. I stopped trying to let go and accepted that I was her lifeline to sanity and safety until this whole horrible mess was over with.

I was 17 years old.

When we reached the clinic, I was told I could not accompany her since I was not a relative or an adult. But when she quietly but emphatically refused to let go of my hand, the stern faced nurse/receptionist relented with the admonishment that no monkey business would be tolerated. We exchanged looks. Neither of us had the heart for monkey business. The suggestion was mildly insulting, but we were too scared and sad and sick to protest. We only nodded mutely and followed her broad back through scarred and yellowed swinging doors. The mingled odors of smoke and antiseptic made me a little queasy. My stomach lurched. I swallowed hard. She swallowed hard. Her grip tightened.

We were shown into a tiny examining room, where she was handed a paper gown and curtly told to remove all of her clothing, even her panties. The nurse gave us a hard, searching look before closing the door behind her. Suddenly my fear was replaced by anger. We were young…looking back it breaks my heart how young we were… and we shouldn’t have been in a place like that. But we didn’t deserve to be treated with such disdain.

I was angry at him too. He should be here. He should see this. See her. I cursed him for a coward and thought about the night he had tried to kiss me; laughing at how I trembled, knowing I needed to hate him for what he had done to her and not caring. But I had pushed him away, and the surprise on his face was a satisfaction like none I had ever known. I held onto that anger and used it to blunt the edges of sharp fear that knifed through me.

She cried as she undressed. I didn’t know what to do or say to make her feel better, so I busied myself with folding her clothing into neat little squares as she handed them to me. I rolled her socks into a ball, and carefully concealed her pink polka dotted underpants beneath a crease in her blue jeans. I folded her enormous GAP sweatshirt into a fleecy mound and then placed the entire pile on top of her shoes and turned to help her with the gown.

I had not seen her naked recently. Once we had undressed in front of one another with no thought to embarrassment or modesty. But for many months now she had kept herself covered with baggy shirts and heavy jackets. Winter in Wisconsin was an accomplice to the concealment of her burgeoning form. I gasped audibly as the truth of her condition and our reason for being here hit me like a slap in the face. She blushed through her tears and pulled the gown closed.

We sat, quietly, timidly, waiting.

A man came in and introduced himself as Dr. X. He surprised me by being kind and gentle. Seeing her tears, he pulled out a handkerchief and swabbed her face. He told her it would be alright. He told her they would take care of her. He told her the most important thing anybody had ever told her. He said, she was not a bad person. She didn’t believe him, of course. How could she? But she needed someone to say it. She needed someone to believe that she was not a sinner or a coward or a murderess. Her sobs turned to small hiccoughs and the tears slowed. He examined her quickly and then said, “Let’s take care of this so you can go home, okay?”

She clambered into the wheelchair obediently and he wheeled her out. I was unsure whether to follow. Surely they wouldn’t let me in THERE, would they? I didn’t want to go. But the susurration of the rubber wheels halted and she turned to beseech me with an outstretched hand. Our eyes locked and I shrank from the pleading. I looked at the kindly doctor, willing him to forbid me. He looked at me for an impossibly long moment and then inclined his head for me to follow.

"I AM NOT THAT STRONG!!!!" I longed to shout. But I followed meekly without uttering a sound.

To this day, I don’t know why he wanted me to go in there. For her? For me? For a larger purpose? To illuminate some larger truth? I wish I could find him and ask him. I wish I could tell him how that experience changed me forever. I wish I could tell him thank you for being kind to her. To us.

The nurses, who were not unkind, but who went about their business briskly, placed her on a table and erected a barrier over the lower half of her body. Seated at her head, I was relieved, but it made her uneasy. She couldn’t see what was being done to her, and I suppose it would have scared me too. She was given several injections and an IV. I didn’t know what they were going to do, but I knew it was too late for any of the “easy” procedures. I was gripped by panic, suddenly. I didn’t want to see this. I didn’t want to hear it. I didn’t want to know how a problem like this is solved. She grew groggy and I wished for some of what they had given her. As she drifted, her grip on my hand slackened.

Freed, I did not know what to do with my hands. They stole to my chest and hovered over my heart, which felt as if it might burst from my chest. I must have looked stricken and afraid, because the kindly doctor came and lifted my hand from my breast to hold it in his own. It was huge and warm. He said "You're a strong young lady. She's lucky to have you for a friend." I felt a little better. His approval cheered me, and the anger I had felt at his refusal to grant me asylum from this ugliness abated.

He disappeared and returned gowned and masked. I knew it was time to begin. I tried not to hear. I recited poetry and song lyrics and movie quotes in my head, desperately avoiding the bloody reality unfolding beyond that flimsy white barrier. At one point, she began to cry out in pain and I felt sick again. He assured her it was almost over and indeed, as he spoke, I heard what I knew was the sound of her body yielding the contents of her womb. A slick sound followed by a small forlorn thud, and it was over. She panted with relief. I sagged against the table, still sick.

There was a smell that permeated the room, a smell that was rich and human. Years later as I attended my first birth, memories that had long been buried were resurrected by that smell. Then, it had meant death to me. Now I know it as the primal aroma of new life.

She was taken to recovery where she slept for what seemed like hours and hours. I was left alone with my thoughts, unable to concentrate on the novel I had brought with me anticipating a lengthy wait in the waiting room. I could not banish the thought of what I had seen by accident as we exited the procedure room. I glanced back for reasons still unknown to me.

I saw a nurse with a shallow pan. There was blood on the rim and some smeared on the sides. She laid the pan gently on a metal table, and then, touched the contents in what I can only describe as a caress. There was sadness in her eyes. I looked away quickly, not wanting to witness the disposal of that tiny little body. But her tenderness brought tears to my eyes for the first time that day.

Someone understood that this was not just a "problem" or a "procedure", but a baby. A baby that was now, dead. Part of me was very angry with her for not acknowledging that. I was angry even though I know that it would have destroyed her to think of the baby as a living breathing creature. I tried to work through my anger and confusion as she slept. My own judgement bothered me. It could have been me.

When she awoke, gray and trembling, my anger was gone, replaced by a deep weariness. I wanted to go home. And so we did. On a dirty bus, back to our clean lives where nobody knew what we had done. I went back to school while she stayed home "sick". I endured the looks and the whispers while she hid. We stayed friends for many years, but we never spoke of that day again. Ever.

I think the experience touched us in different ways. I became a birth junkie and eventually a doula; eager to rejoice in each and every new life, entranced by the miracle of birth. She has no children. I wonder if her heart aches when a baby cries. I wonder if she is haunted by the abesence of that child. I wonder if she will ever get over what happened. Mere spectator that I was, I don't think that I have.

You might be surprised to learn that I am vehemently pro-choice. I would never, ever consider an abortion for myself. I just couldn’t do it. But I have never been a scared teenaged girl with elderly parents who were devout Catholics and preached the wages of sin as death and eternal torment in the fiery pits of hell. I never had to face the prospect of being ostracized by my family. I have never been a victim of a sex crime, forced to carry the offspring of my attacker. I have never been desperately poor with too many mouths to feed already. I have never been told my baby had a defect that was incompatible with life, or that if the pregnancy was brought to term, his or her life would be filled with pain and suffering.

I have only been a girl who was raised in a lower middle class family with loving supportive parents who would have helped first and lectured later. I have only been an adult in a safe and healthy relationship, with the means to provide my children with everything they need and most of what they want. I have only been me, and I can only decide for me.

I do believe that abortion is taking a life. I do believe it’s wrong. For me. But I also believe that I, and only I, have the right to decide. It’s a sad and terrible thing with no easy answer. So ask the right questions and follow your heart. Don’t let political rhetoric and religious dogma influence a decision that YOU will have to live with the rest of your life.

And please, for the sake of every child that ever has or will draw breath, do not mistake abortion for birth control. Life is too precious to hinge upon the adolescent shame of purchasing condoms.

My friend and I have lost touch. I don't know where she is now, or if she has exorcised her demons. I hope she has forgiven herself. I forgave her a long time ago. I should have told her that. I hope she can forgive me.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

A Boy's Heart

I used to lament not having girls. And I used to think I would simply keep churning out children until my womb yielded a child with the proper assortment of sex organs.

I would have my girl.

That's not exactly how things worked out, and as it happens, that's all for the best.


When I was pregnant with my first child, I cried the the day I found out I was having a boy. I had no brothers you see, and boys were more than mysterious to me, they were simply and profoundly absent from my life experiences. men I knew. Men I understood. Men I could handle. Men, I believed, are essentially simple and straightforward creatures.

But men are first little boys, and I was desperately afraid that I would do something egregiously wrong in my rearing of a male child and end up unleashing upon the world some oddly Oedipal manwoman incapable of relating to the opposite sex in any but an entirely superficial and/or thoroughly unsettling manner.

I was afraid of raising Norman Bates.

It was a foolish fear of course, but pregnant women can be a little irrational sometimes, and first time Moms are distressingly adept at borrowing trouble.

I suppose the jury is still out on whether my fears in that regard were completley unfounded, but I've learned a thing or two in almost 13 years of parenting boys, and I think I can say without equivocation that I am finding boys to be, all things considered, as uncomplicated as their adult counterparts.

Oh they are different of course, and in some ways, almost alien. But I've figured it out for the most part, with Husband's help. And I now realize that tempermentally speaking, I am much better suited to raising boys.

I have no patience for drama, you see. I have no patience for histrionics, catfighting, backbiting, gameplaying or machinations. I cannot mollify, pacify, placate or patronize with adroitness or sincerity.

But boys....

They don't mince words. They don't play games. They punch each other and then it's done with. I'm not saying that necessarily a good thing.

It is a whole lot easier though.

But there is one way in which we differ that I find thoroughly frustrating. It is the same issue that has plagued relationships between men and women since time began.


Boys do not like to talk.

Oh they will yammer on about matchbox cars and dinosaurs. Or, when they're older, sports and girls.

But feelings? Relationships? Conflict Resolution? A pox on them.

Nosiree. They'd rather adopt a "wait for it to blow over" strategy. The "walk on eggshells until she forgets she's mad at me" strategy. The "if I don't think about it, it will cease to be true" strategy.

Husband is pretty good at communication, which is why, I feel, our marriage has lasted almost fifteen years. But even he will sometimes practice tactical avoidance when he knows I am upset, but thoroughly mystified as to the cause.

Recently, Pre-Pubescent had a protracted disagreement with his best friend. Both of them are unusually affable kids, so it was a little strange that they hadn't worked things out after a couple of days.

Usually, all it takes is a couple of insults, a couple of good natured and half hearted thwaps, maybe a nuggie, and all is well.

To whit:

"You're such an asshole."

"I'd rather be one than look like one."





"Wanna play Guitar Hero?"


But apparently, this argument was of a scope and seriousness that such a strategy would not suffice.

So he brooded.

On the third day, he came home from school, stomped up to his room, slammed the door, and burst into tears.

Now as a mother, my instinct is to fix things, and my way of fixing things is to talkabout what is wrong and how to mend it. But this is the wrong tack to take with a boy. Forcing a boy to emote when he wants to cave is really not constructive at all.

I've learned this the hard way and in so doing, I've had to face Husband's pursed mouth, head shaking, I-told-you-so look when my insistence has resulted in one or the other of our male children closing us out completely, with stubborn, sullen muteness.

So I sent Husband to do deal with it. Birds of a feather and all that rot.

In the meantime, I decided to call Best Friend's mother to see if she had some insight. She didn't and agreed that it was frustrating that neither child would talk about it. But, she confided, girls are worse. MEANER, she qualified. Much, much meaner.

She said she would try to talk to Best Friend, but that realistically, it would probably just have to blow over. We sighed together over the ridiculous maleness of it all and hung up.

She called back the next day to let me know that there was actually more to the issue, which I had suspected and filled me in. She had told her son that it wasn't fair to give Pre-Pubescent One the cold shoulder without explaining why he was angry, and that they owed it to one another as friends to be honest and direct.

But he wasn't ready to talk to Pre-Pubescent One about it. Of course. "I can't push him" she said apologetically. I told her I understood and we agreed to just wait it out.

I went up to talk to Pre-Pubescent One and explain. I told him Best Friend was angry about more than just the incident, and that his anger was justified. I told him that when Best Friend was ready to talk about it, he needed to listen, and really hear what Best Friend was saying to him.

He nodded very earnestly, clearly relieved that Best Friend was actually planning to talk to him again at some point.

The next day it snowed, which here in Georgia is a VERY big deal. Every kid in the neighborhood was outside, including of course, Pre-Pubescent One and Best Friend. They initially ignored one another, but a couple of hours later when I looked out, they appeared to be, once again, bosom pals.

Later that evening, I asked Pre-Pubescent One about it.

"So...things are okay with you and Best Friend?"


"So...what happened?"

He shrugged.

"Nothing, really."

"Well did you talk?"


I looked at him and he looked at me. Clearly, I was going to have to drag it out of him one word at a time.

"What did he say, Pre-Pubescent One?"

"He said I was being an asshole."


"I listened, I heard him, and I apologized for being an asshole."

"That's it???"


"Didn't you ask him why he was mad?"

"Why would I do that?"

Why indeed.

I felt there was more, because with a boy, there almost always is. To my credit, I did not harangue him further. It would have been pointless.

And like that day so long ago, when he came home from his very first day of school, and I was hungry for details of his first foray into the world without me, I simply settled down to wait until he was ready to unburden his heart.

The moments come when I least expect them. Sometimes, they are casually tossed into the hectic conversation of day to day life. Sometimes they are whispered to me in the darkness on the cusp of a dream. Sometimes they are blurted, tearful confessions wrenched from them by guilt.

But always, they are precious to me for their rarity.

A boy's heart is often a closed and mysterious thing. But sometimes, sometimes, a mother is privvy to it's secrets.

If she can wait.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

The Never Post About the Not Vote

I haven't decided for whom to cast my vote in November, and even if I did, I wouldn't tell you.

It's nothing personal. I wouldn't tell anyone except my husband, since he can't divorce me if we disagree. Can he? Is there such thing as divorce on the grounds of political imprudence? Or would that just fall under the "irreconcilable differences" umbrella?

I was raised a conservative. Now, I don't mean politically. I mean socially. Religiously. Sexually. Personally.

I was raised to know that one does not go about trumpeting one's personal doctrine to anyone who will listen. You don't hang your dirty laundry out for all to see. You don't proselytize to casual acquaintances. You don't speak of things that happen behind closed doors, good, bad, or indifferent.

We were taught that although we might have been lower class in terms of our economic status, we did not have to act common and coarse.

We were raised to always behave as though we were as good as everyone else though our clothing was second hand and our meals came from plain white packages with bold black lettering.

And to my mother, that meant that one did not make a spectacle of one's self.

So anyway, I won't tell you who I am voting for. But I will tell you who I am not voting for.

I am not voting for Mike Huckabee.

There are a lot of reasons, and if you've been reading Blogs are Stupid for any length of time, I bet you can extrapolate one or two.

But what it really boils down to is this:

I don't think Mike Huckabee really wants to serve the people.

Mike Huckabee wants to serve SOME of the people and the rest can go fuck themselves because as far as he's concerned, they are condemned to the fires of hell and hardly worth concerning himself with.

That kind of exclusionary bullshit makes me see red. Or blue.


Of which people do I speak?

Gays. Lesbians. And of course, non-believers. But mostly gays and lesbians. Non-believers can always be brought to heel eventually.

And not only does he want to exclude them dogmatically, he wants to exclude them Constitutionally.

Yes folks, Mike Huckabee wants to change the United States Constitution, which is the foundation of our government and has remained unchanged for over 200 years, to settle once and for all that pesky little issue of defining marriage as a union between MAN and WOMAN and no other.

You see, Mike Huckabee believes in the doctrine of slippery slopism. Once you let one do it, you gotta let 'em all do it. If you let a man marry a man, next thing you know, we got women marrying women, women marrying horses, men marrying sheep....where does it end?

"Well, I don’t think that’s a radical view to say we’re going to affirm marriage. I think the radical view is to say that we’re going to change the definition of marriage so that it can mean two men, two women, a man and three women, a man and a child, a man and animal. Again, once we change the definition, the door is open to change it again. I think the radical position is to make a change in what’s been historic".

God save us from slippery slopists.

Of course, he also wants to change the Constitution to suit his other religious views, so I can't lay all his stupidity and ignorance at the doorstep of homophobia.

It's really about extremism, intolerance, and the inability and/or refusal to empathize with other people. I do not believe such a person can be a strong or effective leader.

Because what he is saying when he expresses a desire for a "faith based" Constitution is the desire to serve a "faith based" constituency. And everyone else be damned, literally.

My Mom and I discussed this recently on my visit home. She guessed right away that I would not vote for Huckabee because he is a "bible thumper". This is not her opinion of him, but she understands that that this is how I perceive him. She knows me better than I like to admit.

She queried if I would really like to see someone in the White House who had no religious beliefs whatever.

I really would have no problem with that, because I don't consider spirituality and morality to be mutually exclusive concepts. I also would have no problem with a person of faith in the White House.

It's simply not a defining issue for me AS LONG AS faith does not eclipse the larger issue of serving the best interests of the people.

What is a defining issue, is Humanism.

Any system or mode of thought or action in which human interests, values, and dignity predominate.

Is that unrealistic and naive? Probably. But more importantly, it's also desperately at odds with the ruthlessness and that a leader must also sometimes, regrettably, posesss.

Oddly, though I also probably will not be voting for Hilary Clinton, I think that balance is most often succesfully achieved by women.

They can be the tenderest of lovers, the fiercest of protectors, the most compassionate, nurturing and kind. But they can also be ferocious, inexhaustable, determined and resourceful when they or those in their care are threatened. They do not rely on brute force to achieve their goals and vanquish their enemies, but cunning and ingenuity.

While a man will hack and slash and plunder...a woman will plot, and plan and scheme.

The great military triumphs, the physical wresting of lands and riches and dignity from their peoples; for those we can thank a powerful, masterful man.

But behind every great political coup in history, there has been a woman mastermind, even if we never knew about her. I gaurantee it.

Because everyone knows...Women Are Crazy.

So for whom will I vote?

I really have no idea and that's the honest truth. I wish that I could except myself from elections until I am convinced that I am not just voting for the lesser of two evils, which is what I feel I have been doing for quite some years now.

Is it too late to nominate Maya Angelou?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Cooking With The Marlboro Man

The weather has finally turned cold here.

It's not really cold enough, nor will it last long enough to satisfy me, but it's something. I can snuggle up under my down comforter, light a fire in the fireplace and wear something fleecy without feeling like I'm going to spontaneously combust.

In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy the bracing chill and celebrate by indulging in hearty things that warm my belly and my soul.

Tonight at my house, North meets South in our evening meal of chili and cornbread. Not that chili is strictly a Northern fact, probably the opposite is true. But the recipe is a family recipe, and so, I consider it a Northern interpretation.

The story of this chili is nothing truly astounding or touching or fascinating. It's just a story and I like that it has one, even if it's a little...weird.

Back in the seventies, my parents, like most people, were smokers. The cigarette companies, in an attempt to keep their consumers beguiled (because apparently, the profoundly addictive properties of their product weren't enough) made available a wide variety of promotional items that could be obtained by sending in the little paper slips that came in the packages.

Back then, people smoked enough that you could really rake in the goods that way, and my parents were no exception. They also traded them amongst their friends when the items they wanted were brand specific.

Don't judge them, they didn't know any better and either did most other folks of that generation. thing that my mother sent away for was the Marlboro Chuckwagon Cookbook, though she didn't smoke Marlboros, she was much too couth for that. She smoked Benson and Hedges Gold. How do I remember this? Because of course, I went to the store to buy cigarettes for my parents many times and nobody thought anything of that.

Strangely enough, that thing is now considered a rare and hard to find item and is selling for $145 on Alibris and other rare book sites. I wonder if my Mom still has hers. She liked it so much she bought several and gave them out as gifts.

Don't laugh, it had some really awesome recipes in it, and they are all very simple. (Because they're meant to be cooked over a campfire...duh.)

There was this cake made right in the pan, from left over coffee. I don't remember the exact recipe, but the main ingredients were flour, cocoa and coffee. One mixed the dry ingredients first and then formed a well into which one poured the coffee. A little mixing with a fork and it was ready to pop into the oven. It was simple enough for me to make myself, and it was amazingly moist and delicious.

It is from this same cookbook that our family chili recipe was taken. Most recipes undergo an evolution over time, as they are passed from cook to cook, family to family, but in our family at least, it has remained unchanged. The only variant is the level of spiciness, which can be easily altered to suit the taste of the individual.

Once my mother made two batches because my father liked it HOT HOT HOT! and we children couldn't tolerate it. I remember how we bathed our tongues in milk the first time she made it, desperately trying to cool the burn. And I remember sitting across from one another at the dinner table giggling at how we looked with our tongues lolling out and milk sloshing over the sides of the glass as we laughed.

It's hard to laugh with your tongue hanging out.

Now, it is he with his GERD and his problems on the opposite end who has to have the milder version, and we who savor the delicious bite.

This recipe is called "Wild Card Chili" and I will share it with you, so that you too can feel as if you are cooking with the Marlboro Man, over an open campfire, in a skirt and a corset but no underwear, while your horse grazes contentedly on prairie grass and the whole world is your toilet.

Perhaps, while preparing this meal, you can imagine sharing a moment with this handsome cowboy. He will gaze into your eyes, smile softly, and say, "Them was some fine vittles woman!" and then fart appreciatively.

Hell, I never said the Marlboro man was a charmer. He's a cowboy fer chrissake. He probably bathes like what...once a year when he brings that cattle in?

Wild Card Chili

1 lb. ground beef
1 16 oz. can kidney beans
1 16 oz. can refried beans
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1 Cup water
1 Cup chopped onion
1/2 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
3 tbs. chili powder
1 tbs. molasses
OPTIONAL: 1 tsp dried chopped hot red peppers

Brown ground beef, drain. Combine all ingredients, simmer for 1-2 hours. You can put this in a crockpot or slowcooker as well.

Obviously, you could embellish this any way you like with any spices that suit your taste. But the simplicity of this recipe is what I like best about it. And I do use the chopped red peppers, but use your best judgement. You can always add them later if you find it's too bland.


Monday, January 14, 2008

Acceptance is the New Hunger

I have not suffered a serious case of writer's block in quite some time, and I'll admit, it's really got me out of sorts.

I don't really know why eloquence has abandoned me, but it's almost as if a part of me has been amputated.

When I sit here and stare at the screen, my fingers stumble over the keys, as my brain stumbles over the formulation of thoughts and ideas. The desertion has left me feeling decidedly handicapped.

You know that feeling when you go out by yourself, and you feel like something is missing? You check for your keys, they're there, you check for your wallet, it's there, cell phone, debit card, there, there. And then you realize that it's the sheer unencumbered freedom that has you feeling unbalanced and just....wrong?

That's hasn't happened to me in quite a while, because my boys have been in school full time for quite some years, and I've grown accustomed to being out by myself.

But it's an eerily similar feeling; something is missing and I have to find it.

So I have been examining this thing, this...handicap, trying to figure out what is laming me, why I can't seem to find anything to write about; why I can't seem to lay the groundwork for a good story or a compelling piece.

My personal stories I don't have the heart to tell right now.

The myriad little outrages I experience daily might be good filler, but they strike me as petty and pointless and stupid.

The important stuff I just don't seem to have the chops to tackle at the moment. What does it mean when a person can't muster up enough righteous indignation about anything?

Books are always good blog fodder, but right now, I'd rather actually read one than write about reading one. I'm feeling lazy and uninspired, I suppose.

My kids...sigh...they seem to take turns confounding me. Diminutive One is doing remarkably well and Pre-Pubescent One is driving me to an early grave at the ripe old age of 12 and 9/12ths. What more is there to say without sounding like every other "woe is me" blogger out there?

I could whine some more about life in the South...I always have an abundance of ammunition for that. But then, there's that pesky little "no whining" thing I so foolishy threw out there for all the world to see and hold me accountable for.

Accountability is kind of a downer sometimes.

Politics? I just don't do them. I will comment on a political post by someone else on occasion but I don't put my own head in that particular lion's mouth. I learned that lesson long ago.

Marital issues? Eh. We have 'em, sure. But by and large, my husband rocks and my complaints are largely inconsequential. Those that I do have I keep private, out of respect for him. He didn't ask to have his life put on display and he doesn't deserve to have his actions examined and judged by people who have no idea who he is as a person or a father or a human being.

It occurs to me then, that this is not a disease unto itself, but a symptom of a larger malaise.


It's a demon with which I have been wrestling for some time, as those of you who have been reading for a while, know.

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm the kind of person who is ever truly satisfied. Maybe I'm one of those people who is always hungering for something. And if so, maybe that is not always a bad thing. There are things that are worth hungering for: truth, knowledge, experience, justice, beauty....

But when one is a middle class stay at home Mom with limited options and resources, hunger is not a very contructive component in one's life.

In fact, it can really be a bitch.

Acceptance. Now there's a useful thing.

Don't you think people who just accept are, by and large, happier people?

I do.

Therefore, my secondary resolution for this year is to be more accepting of the way things are, instead of wishing so hard that they were different; and losing myself to anger and resentment when they are not.

Acceptance has never been my strong suit, but after 38 years, maybe it's time to try something different.

I'll let you know how that works out.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Well It's Something....

And yes, it's an anecdote.

But frankly, I think it's perfectly hilarious, and since it's the weekend and the blog pickens are usually somewhat slim, perhaps you won't mind that my content today isn't as....cerebral.... as I had hoped it might be following my resolution.

Shortly before Christmas, while leisurely browsing in Target, secure in the knowledge that my shopping was done, I happened upon a trifling little item that struck me as perfect for Husband.

I already had a gift, but it was just so him, that I couldn't resist. And so, it found it's way under the tree and when he opened it, he laughed.

It was a desk calender titled "Dumb Office Dares".

~For a full day, holler "PHONE!!!" every time a phone rings.
~During a meeting, conspicuously sniff both armpits.
~Put a beverage in a paper bag and casually sip from it throughout the day.

You see, while most people would probably read them, perhaps guffaw, and then discard them, Husband is the type of person who will actually do them. And he has a couple of co-workers who will happily aid and abet hiim.

Not only will he do them, but he will get away with them.

Husband is well liked, for one thing. But he's also fairly....relaxed, in terms of his social graces. Though highly intelligent and very good at playing the professional game when he needs to, at heart, he's just a good ole country boy, and the people he works closely with understand that.

So when he does something unconventional, people simply accept that as part of They just shake their heads and smile indulgently. They all but pat him on the head for his waywardness.

It helps that he works for a very small company, in a fairly intimate office setting. Certain protocols are ignored and most office etiquette is eschewed for a friendlier way of relating to one another.

Still, there are limits to what people will put up with.

Yesterday, the daily dare instructed him to take his garbage to a colleague's office while said colleague is present and dispose of it in their garbage without saying anything.

Husband is one of a handful of people that have been with the company since the very beginning nine years ago. He chose a woman who is fairly new to the company, having been hired only about nine months ago. As a result, I suspect, she is still figuring Husband out.

So, without preamble, he waltzed into her office, garbage can held aloft. He made his way around her desk and nudged her chair wordlessly, indicating that she should move. Which she did. He then extracted her garbage can and ceremoniously upended his own into it while she looked on in stupefied amazement.

As he exited she couldn't contain herself and said sarcastically, "Uhh...thanks for the garbage."

He turned, gave her a grin and a thumbs up and then left, in response to which she could be heard to mutter, "Ooooookay."

Husband returned to his own office where a conspiratorial co-worker was straining to contain her giggles.

He left the office shortly thereafter without enlightening her, though I feel certain someone else must have. I've met her twice and she seems the type to enjoy a good joke, even if it's at her own expense, so I'm not terribly worried.

Not all the dares involve a victim. But I told Husband that when they do, it might be a good idea to leave the page on the desk of the daree, with a note thanking them for being a good sport.

Otherwise, he might find himself on the receiving end of some not so good natured retaliation, particularly since the company often employs foreign contractors who might not necessarily understand or appreciate the American sense of humor.

I wouldn't want Husband to be branded an infidel for absconding with someone's stapler.

That would really suck.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Irony Defined

Having resolved to post more meaningful, insightful, relevant and highbrow content here at Blogs Are Stupid in the coming year.....

I can't think of a damned thing to say.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


The end of November and all of December caused my life to spin wildly out of control, as I'm sure, it did all of yours.

As a result, the content here has fallen somewhat short of the standard I set forth waaaaaay back when I decided maybe there was something to this blogging thing and that perhaps I should stop being saracastic about it and really write some stuff.

I never really had a "formula" or a "theme" as some blogs do; this is not a "foodie" blog, or a "mommy" blog or even a writing blog. But I thought maybe I was writing something worth reading.

I don't feel that has been particularly true for the past couple of months.

Recently, this blog has devolved into a litanty of personal complaints, amusing but essentially pointless anecdotes, and mindless banter. Not that any of that is bad, necessarily. But a constant diet of such soon becomes stale and uninteresting. I can't tell you how many blogs I have stricken from my blogroll for that very reason. They were so fresh and interesting and relevant at first, but soon became indistinguishable from every other blog out there.

I can blame it on Christmas, and believe me, I will, but the truth is, I've gotten a little lazy and lacksadaisical about writing quality blog content. Also, I think I have let the pressure of thinking I have to write something every day take precedence over writing something meaningful.

So I resolve to get back to the kind of content I have always prided myself for here at Blogs Are Stupid.

But first I have to stop my incessant whining.

It's tempting, isn't it, to use one's blog to trot out all one's personal heartaches? Why is that? Is it just that bloggers are usually writers by nature and that writers, as a matter of course, use words to purge themselves of the pain? Is it because words are, for us, a talisman against the sadness that might otherwise overwhelm and consume?

Or is it just the nature of the internet beast that makes us feel comfortable spilling our secrets into unseen ears?

Whatever the case, I've been doing far too much of it. And I've been doing far too much blither blathering about the minutaie of my life, because it's easy to rattle off those details without much thought or effort.

A certain amount of that humanizes a writer and endears him or her to her audience, I think. But too much of that makes readers comatose with boredom at some point.

I haven't written anything on the scale of Religion for Dummies or Feminism Skepticism or North and South lately and I'm feeling a little sheepish about it. A lot sheepish about it.

So there you go. Screw weight loss (although that is on the agenda as well), this year, the resolution is to stop being such a lightweight here at Blogs Are Stupid and start writing quality content again.

I'm doing it for myself and my integrity as a writer, but I hope you will find it a worthy resolution as well.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Not Good Bye

This year, I almost decided not to go home for Christmas, because leaving again is so hard. And the older I get, the harder it becomes, because I am increasingly aware of how much is lost in the time between visits and how relentlessly time marches on.

I left home 20 years ago and essentially, for 20 years, I have been alone, without any kind of support system.

When I found out my fiancee was sleeping with my best friend, when I was diagnosed with cervical cancer at 22, when I was planning my wedding, expecting my first baby, giving birth and then ineptly, worriedly, frantically trying to care for a premature infant, suffering a life threatening illness with my second pregnancy, and trying to parent two amazingly smart children with learning disabilities....I have been alone for all of it.

I have missed out on all the family goings on. I have watched and worried from a distance as my mother grew ill, my aunt grew old, and my neice and nephews grew up in an instant.

I saw all of them moments after they were born. They were so beautiful; pink and squalling and perfect. And then, suddenly, the twins were four years old and my oldest nephew seven. He is so comically mature with his "dude"s and "awesome man"s. And I didn't get to see any of the sweetly silly in between.

So, as I said, each year it gets harder and harder to tear myself away. Some years, it seems that the emotional toll of leaving is almost more than the joy of arriving is worth. And even the happiness of being there is tainted by the knowledge that another good bye is looming.

But I can't not go. My boys have to know where and who I came from. I don't want my family, my home, my history to be a mystery to them. They have to know that their heritage is about more than hillbilly vernacular and bible beating. That's unfair, but if I'm honest, it's how I feel sometimes, particularly when my bitterness and resentment over the situation are boiling over.

So we go, and when we leave, I cry. And cry. And cry. I start to cry even before we leave, sobbing quietly into the pillow the night before our departure, so as not to wake my sleeping husband.

Last year, I cried silently all the way to Chicago, while my boys exchanged worried glances in the back seat and husband gripped the steering wheel tightly in concern. He is torn. He feels that he has to acknowledge my heartbreak, but he knows I would rather just be left alone with it.

Probably one of the worst things about leaving is leaving my sister. She was born before I was even old enough to understand what being without her was like. She has simply always been there. For 18 years we shared a room, whispering and giggling long into the night. For 36 years she has been my friend, my giggle mate, my co-conspirator, my secret keeper, and my dream believer.

She is best friend.

Last year, when I hugged her good-bye, my arms simply refused to disengage themselves from the embrace in which I held her. We held onto each other and sobbed helplessly as our husbands, children and parents looked on. And when at last we were able to let go, we had to hurry away from one another without looking back.

This year, she opted out.

She sent her husband over to collect her offspring and with him a message that she just couldn't face another good-bye, just couldn't spend another whole day weeping over something she couldn't change.

I was hurt, at first, but then I began to see the wisdom of her decision. If saying good-bye hurts so much...why do it??

I know that kicking the door frame in a fit of pique hurts a great deal, so I take care not to do that any more. And yet I continue to subject myself to emotional pain, that is no less real than the physical pain that I protect myself so carefully from. It seems a little silly, doesn't it?

Years ago, she gave me a book of poems called "My Sister, My Friend". I got it out today, hoping to find one that expresses all the things I feel about her and about leaving her. They are all woefully inadequate, either because they are pathetically schmaltzy, or because they just don't encompass what I feel is the truly unique and special nature of our relationship.

Someday, I will write one myself, full of all the meaning that a borrowed verse could never express. I'm a competent poet when I put my mind to it. But my heart is too heavy right now and the words are thickly wedged behind the giant lump in my throat.

So for now I'll just say...not good bye.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Home Again Home Again Jiggity Jig

As the title suggests, the Anatagonist family is back from our trip North.

Saying good-bye was hard. Damn hard. And it gets harder every time I have to do it.

But although I love my family like crazy, and I miss them every single day when I am apart from them, twelve days crammed into a small-ish house with one bathroom and two other adults who are used to a rather sedate life, (one of whom is thoroughly unaccustomed to and wholly disinclined toward compromise of any kind) is a mixed bag of nuts.

So we are glad to be home.

We did have a great time though.

Fortuitously, there was an abundance of snow, which thrilled my boys to no end. My brother-in-law suggested to Husband that they take our boys and oldest nephew on a trip to Navarino Mountain which was my boys' first experience with snow sports of any kind, since there has been no snow on previous Christmas visits since the boys were very small.

They stuck to tubing, since the skiing and snow boarding required some instruction courses, and because I did not relish the thought of ending up in the emergency room, or having to travel 900 miles home with a kid in a cast.

Nevertheless, they were amazed and impressed and had the time of their lives. They have refused to remove the lift tickets from their zippers, and are anxious to show them off when they return to school.

There is more to tell, of course, but we are all exhausted and a little slap happy from 15 hours of interstate travel.

I will say this...Indiana is one looooooooong ass state with nothing much interesting to look at, with the exception of two large gas tanks lying side by side which are painted convincingly, if rather predictably, like twin ears of corn.

Husband and I are particularly worn out as we have spent 12 nights sleeping together in a teeny tiny little bed that curiously, slopes downward on either side from a peak in the middle. Normally we sleep separately due to Husband's snoring, on beds that are deliciously expansive and satisfyingly flat.

The last two hundred miles always seem like two thousand, and this trip was no exception. The boys were remarkably well behaved, but not surprisingly, around that two hundred mile mark, things began to deteriorate rapidly as fatigue, irritability and boredom reached their pinnacle.

The trip was probably the most difficult for Pre-Pubescent One, who was not allowed to play video games during the 900 mile journey.

Apparently, he did a lot of thinking during the ride, becase at one point, just when we were all at the very height of irascibility, he said,

"Hey Mom, did you know that mules can't have babies?"

"Uhhhh, what? Of course they can. If they couldn't, there wouldn't be any more mules."

Husband interjected, "No, babe, it's true. A horse and a donkey can make a mule, but mules are sterile."

In my already rather disgruntled state of mind, that really irritated me. What a stupid thing to do. And for what purpose?

"Well what the hell is the point of that??" I asked.

There was a moment of silence and then Pre-Pubescent One said,

"Well you see Mom, when a horse and a donkey love each other very very much....."

I didn't want to laugh, I really didn't. But I just couldn't help it. And punchy as we all were, everyone else cracked up as well. Then the mood was lightened enough to get us the last 200 miles in peace. Thank God.

And when at last we pulled into our own driveway and laid our heads upon our own pillows, it was very, very good.

I hope everyone out there in blogland had a wonderful holiday and a peaceful, happy New Year.