Blogs Are Stupid

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

Friday, July 25, 2008

We're OFF Like a Terd of Hurtles

My Dad is a...unique guy. He's a little quirky, to put it mildly.

He has an arsenal of choice sayings that he has been using since I was a child. Husband and I now refer to these as "Garyisms".

My Dad held several of these in reserve for departing places and he used them without fail. He never, ever didn't utter one of these delightful apothegms.

While he mixed them up for variety, or at least, as much variety as a one man repertoire of triteness can impart...his favorite by far, was "We're OFF like a Terd of Hurtles!" In case you hadn't figured it out, that's a play on "Herd of Turtles". Yeah. He's clever that way.

Anyway, we are, in fact, off like a terd of hurtles. Or, herd of turtles. Although, since we have approximately 900 miles to traverse, I hope we make slightly better progress than our dilatory counterparts.

Friday morning we will leave the hot and sultry South for Northern Climes. But that's not the best part.

My testosterone posse will be dropping me off in the Windy City, where I will spend the weekend with girls; honest to goodness estrogen producing humans.

There will be no burping or farting OR discussion about burping and farting. There will be no sports. No Guitar Hero cacophony. No bickering. No peedle puddles.

Heaven. Sweet, sweet heaven.

Me and my girls got together last year in Chicago and had an absolute blast. We enjoyed Chicago so much, as well as the accomodations, the neighborhood, and the local color, that we decided to return for what we hope becomes an annual event.

Would you like to see the fab-U-lous place where we will be staying? Follow me to our wonderful Chicago Guesthouse.

Though we prefer to take the weekend as it comes, we will tentatively visit a local salon for some pampering and perhaps visit Lincoln Park Zoo and Farmer's Market. We might visit Navy Pier. We might return to the Art Institute. There's enough there to keep us coming back again and again. We might return to the Russian Tea House for a meal that is much more than a meal. Or, we might try something new.

We might just hang around the townhouse and talk, talk, talk.

The possibilities abound. And we are not limited by the needs of children or the whining of spouses.

On Monday, I will ride with one of my friends to Wisconsin. It'll be like Thelma and Louise, but without the homocide. And the driving off a cliff. And lamentably, the buff, twenty something Brad Pitt.

I'll be at my folks' until the 2nd of August. I thought about lining up some guest posters, but I've had the stupidest, craziest week ever and just didn't get around to it. I might pop in to post some pieces from my archives, but I might not. 5 days is not a lot of time to spend with the most important people in my life. People I get to see once, occasionally twice a year.

I'm loathe to waste a moment of it.

Be good, bloggers. Feel free to raid the fridge, watch the dirty movies (in the media cabinet, on the left, behind the antiquated collection of Disney VHS tapes), and use the guest towels. But please don't Piss On the Rug (I'm looking at you, Michael Savage).

Thanks. Toodles!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Does This Mean I Have To Get Some Gold Teeth?

I took my boys to a local beach yesterday. We met the Allstar Coach's wife and her kids there. She's the baby's Mom. Remember the baby? The one who makes my ovaries hurt? Yeah, that one.

We've become pretty friendly, and I really dig having a woman is so like myself to hang out with. She's a no nonsense kinda gal. I like that.

And...I've decided that rather than do my typical wait around and wait for her to ask me to do stuff because I don't want her to think that I like her more than she likes me, in case I totally misread her and it turns out she doesn't really like me all that much and I end up looking pathetic and needy..(insert deep breathe here) I would cut through all the bullshit and just ask her to do something.

So I did.

Her oldest son is the same age as Pubescent One and they get along really well. They share that same curious mixture of ultra casual coolness and supreme goofiness that is indicative of newly adolescent boys. And her daughter gets along famously with Diminutive One, despite being a few years younger.

So it's a good thing for everybody.

Unfortunately, the baby had an ear infection and wasn't feeling well, so they had to leave after only an hour or so. I kept her son with me and we hung around at the beach a while longer.

By and by I realized that the two older boys had happened upon a couple of girls and were flirting outrageously. I listened to their banter with a mixture of amusement and wistfulness.

Ahhhhhh, such memories. Beaches and boys...what better way to spend those sultry summer days when nothing mattered quite as much as getting the perfect tan, except getting boys to notice the perfect tan?

Three times I told them it was time to go, and three times they begged me for just fifteen more minutes. I really didn't mind, except that I was beginning to feel a mite charbroiled, despite multiple applications of sunscreen.

Finally, fearing third degree burns, I beckoned them out of the water and herded them, along with twelve tons of beach crap, back into the van.

As they clambered in, all sandy elbows and dripping hair, the friend whispered urgently to Pubescent One.

"Dude, I can't believe we didn't get their number! That's so stupid. Why didn't we get their number, man?"

Pubescent One was fairly matter of fact about it.

"We didn't have a pen, dude and my phone is dead. No big deal. They don't even go to our schools so we'd never see 'em anyway."

The friend wasn't quite so blase.

"Yeah but dude, they were HOT! At least we coulda texted 'em or something."

"Dude. They don't even have their own phone. They share with their Mom."

"SO! It doesn't matter. We shoulda got their number."

I couldn't help it. I interjected.

"Uh, Dudes, I got a pen and a piece of paper right here. Go get their number. I'll wait."

They exchanged looks and shrugged at one another.

Pubescent One said,

"Ya wanna?"

The friend was reluctant, though I'm not really sure why. He goes to private school, and is maybe a little less wordly than other kids his age. I don't think he's quite as...experienced when it comes to girls as the average thirteen year old.

"Nah. They're probably gone now anyway."

"No they're not. I can see 'em from here. C'mon, let's go. We'll be right back Mom."

Pubescent One got out and the friend followed, trailing behind like a loyal but reluctant puppy.

I waited and watched. We could indeed see the girls in question from our vantage point in the air conditioned van. The boys approached and Pubescent One introduced himself to their mother first. (That's my boy, heh) I watched him shake her hand, and then turn to introduce his friend, who hung his head in a hangdog manner and awkwardly stuck out his hand.

Then he bent to talk to the girls, who were sunbathing on brightly colored beach blankets. He bent one knee and propped his eblow upon it in a purposeful way that I think, was supposed to be debonair.

While he talked, the friend hopped up and down on alternating feet. The sand was REALLY hot and he apparently, he hadn't worn his shoes. Pubescent One shot him several looks, irritation clearly written on his face.

Eventually they returned. The moment the van doors shut Pubescent exploded with frustration.

"DUDE! What is WRONG with you?"

The friend played innocent.

"What? The sand was hot man. My feet were burning!"

"So! Did you have to say keep saying, ow my feet, ow my feet, ow my feet?? You sounded like a retard."

"Dude. I was going for sympathy. Girls love that."

"They love guys who act like retards?"

"No, stupid. They love acting all concerned and stuff."

"Whatever Dude. They probably won't even answer the phone now."

They discussed this all the way home and debated the likelihood that the hot beach girls would actually answer the phone, err, I mean, return their texts. But they did. Pubescent One spent the night at the friend's house, and his mother reported to me this morning that the boys could scarcely be torn away from the phone.

So now, after a few texts, they are "going out" with each other. Snort. Going out where? Neither of them can drive. Pubescent One got the older, tanner, blonder sister, and the friend got the younger, more fresh faced sister. And both are deliriously happy.

I feel so...dirty.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

If I Write It, Will They Come?

WOW. A lot of you have emailed me suggesting I do more beauty and make-up oriented posts.

I do love girly stuff, ya'll know that. I never met a lipstick I didn't like, and one need only delve into my make-up drawer to know that's the god's honest truth. If it smells good, I'll buy it. If it arrests the relentless onward march of time across my face, I want it. If it turns sandpaper into silk, I'll import a truckload and apply it with a trowel.

I like color and sparkle and shimmer and shine.


I don't want to be defined by that. I don't want to be "the beauty blogger." Because I really have too much other stuff to say and I fear that maybe nobody would listen if I became known as the chick who blogs about make-up.

I want to be about Just Posts and a really good story that makes you cry and a "Hell YEAH" from my peeps when I go on a righteous rampage against that which is spurrious, injurious, inequitable, venal, villainous, malignant and mean.

I want to be relevant. Is that so wrong?

But does relevancy mean I can't embrace my femininity? Are the two concepts so desperately at odds?

I wish they weren't, but I fear that they are.


I was thinking that maybe I could do a seperate blog all about make-up. I could feature tips, tricks, and bargains. I could even do a "Dear Abby" type thing, but instead of being about etiquette and personal quandry type stuff, it would be about beauty and make-up.

Yannow, like...

Dear B.A.,

I look like Freida Kahlo. How can I get a neat, defined brow, without looking like Betty Boop?

Confused in Poughkeepise

I might even put up some ads. I have steadfastly refused to do so here, because I don't like it when personal blogs are also marketing vehicles (no offense if you have ads, it's just my personal taste, not a judgement of your morality).

But, such a blog would be offering a service, would it not? And such a service, as well as my time, would be worth the few paltry pennies that some ads would bring in, wouldn't it?

Or would it?

You tell me. Would you read a blog like that? I'm a product whore, and I do read several beauty blogs fairly regularly, but none of them really have the kind of focus I'm really interested in. Most of them feature high end products that I can't afford, and are often written by women who are young and single.

These gals can choose to forego paying rent in favor of buying an ounce of Creme De La Mer and they can do this without worrying about their children having a place to sleep at night.

I would feature great beauty buys on the cheap, some product reviews, maybe tips on how to look fresh and polished without looking overly made-up or uber trendy...

For instance, I'm not really interested in rockin a look like this:

And neither, would I guess, are many of you.

I might even throw in an opinion piece or two. After all, I would finally have a platform from which to broadcast things such as my extreme dislike of the current trend that seems to be sweeping Hollywood lately in which perfectly reasonable women have fallen under the spell of some maniacal make-up artist, who has convinced them all that the nude lip is a good idea.

People, lips and skin should not the same color. It goes against the natural order of things.

And for God's sake J-Lo, everyone knows those lashes are fake even though you paid more those fuckers than I paid for my car.

Sort of like that.

So whaddya think? Be honest.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Slight Change of Plans

As some of you know, I was planning to start school this fall. It's something I have looked forward to with a mixture of nearly overwhelming anticipation and gut wrenching terror.

I didn't like school a whole lot the last time I was forced to endure it, which was...gulp...25 years ago. I was not, by any stretch of the imagination, a good student. I didn't do my homework and I didn't participate in class discussions and I pretty much blew off every body and every thing that tried to make some kind of impact on me. I resisted any and all imprecations that I live up to my potential.

Stupid fuckers. They had absolutely no idea how to deal with me so after a while, they just stopped trying and left me to be my own undoing.

In addition, the whole social hierarchy thing just disgusted me. I didn't play the game right, and as a result, my stint as part of the in crowd was mercifully brief.

That doesn't mean, unfortunately, that I was immune to all the heartbreak, confusion and awkwardness that goes along with being in high school. Even if you remove yourself from the sucking vortex of popularity, the issues remain. Even the outcasts have their pecking order.

So anyway...I know it won't be like that this time around. I've chosen to go, for one thing. For another, I'm old enough that I don't care what anybody else thinks or if I look like a dork or get labelled a nerd.

That has all become rather moot, now because I think that instead of going to school, I'm going to have to get a job.

I've had a good run. I've been a stay at home Mom for thirteen years, and I know that I am very fortunate to have been able to do so; more fortunate than most.

But times they are a changin'. And it's hurting our pocketbook.

Thursday, I went to the grocery store to do my weekly shopping. I spent $332 dollars.

I didn't even buy that much stuff. I bought meals for a week, sandwich fixins, breakfast cereal and snacks. There was nothing extravagant in my cart; no filet mignon or snow crab legs.

But these days, even a gallon of milk is a splurge. I nearly passed out when I saw that the store brand milk has gone up to $4.50 a gallon. Do you know how much milk two boys, one pre-teen, one teen, go through on a weekly basis? Do you know how many snacks they can devour in a day? Do you know the sheer volume of FOOD these two consume? They are always scavenging and my pantry is ravaged regularly. Sometimes, they are at the food before I even get it unloaded and put away.

And then, they share.

The other day, I bought 6 boxes of Cheez-It snack mix, which they love, and which, I feel, is a slightly healthier alternative to chips. It was on sale for $1.77 a box, which is pretty damn cheap. Regular price is around $3.50. I figured that 6 boxes would last at least about a week if I was stingy with it. I figured wrong.

One afternoon, I happened to look out the window to the front yard below, where the neighborhood kids had gathered to play baseball. And there, strewn across the lawn, were the six boxes of Cheez-It, upended, empty, decimated.

Also, both of my boys are now in adult men's shoe sizes. Do you have any idea how many pairs of shoes a ten year old and a thirteen year boy old go through in an average school year? My boys are really hard on their shoes and I don't often have to replace them because they are too small, but rather, because they have been reduced to ragged, dirt colored strips of unidentifiable material, held together only by several slender but tenacious filaments of glue.

I have, at times, been tempted to patch them up hobo style, with butcher's twine and old tires, but then I realized that a thirteen year old boy's ego simply can't withstand such thrifty measures.

Can someone please tell me why youth sizes end at size 7? Especially since, obviously, my 10 year old has a few more years of "youth" ahead of him? He's not even that big. In fact, he's quite...Diminutive. So I know there are other boys his age who are also in men's sizes and probably have been for a while.

The only reason I can see for this, is so that the shoe companies can start fleecing me ever earlier for a product that is twice the price, but only a smidgen more raw material.

Thankfully, boys do not require the plethora of product, nor the profusion of accessory that girls do. I think the eating puts them on equal footing in terms of cash output, however.

And braces. Lord, braces. Pubescent One is in braces now, and we are desperately trying to fend off the orthodontist, who wants to put braces on Diminutive One as well. I simply can't afford two kids in braces. That's TEN THOUSAND dollars people. Ten. Zero. Comma. Zero. Zero. Zero.

And then you have to consider that in a scant TWO years, I will have a male driver. Do you KNOW how much insurance costs for an adolescent male driver? And three years after that, I'll have two of them.

Costs are mounting and so is the stress. We've become accostomed to a certain lifestyle. Now, our lifestyle isn't lavish or extravagant by any means. But by making a few sacrifices (driving older vehicles, living in a small, older home) we can afford the things we enjoy and feel are important (extracurricular activities, travel, cultural experiences).

But that is becoming less and less true as gas prices, grocery prices...all prices, creep higher and higher. It's becoming a struggle just to cover basic living expenses.

About five years ago, we endeavored to rid ourselves of credit card debt. It took us five years, but we did it. And now, we do not use credit at all, with the obvious exception of home and vehicles. So if we do not have cash in hand, we're just out of luck.

It's a good policy to have, and I know we'll be better off in the long run, but sometimes, it makes things damned difficult.

So.....we've run the numbers, and the fiscal report is bleak, particularly with the threat of a recession looming. I just don't see any help for it. I'm going to have to go to work.

I don't mind really. Truthfully, I'm tired of being home. I'm bored and becoming apathetic. My standards have slipped. A lot. Because I am over housework.

My concern, is what kind of work I'll be able to find.

You see...I have no work history for the past 13 years. Prior to that I worked at a property management company, a law office, and a financial services company. In each capacity, I started at the bottom and worked my way into respectable positions.

I'm capable, intelligent, and organized. What I don't know, I can learn quickly. I can type, like...a million words a minute. I have good language skills, so I can write letters and compose documents like nobody's business. I'm pretty computer savvy, and again, I can quickly learn any applications in which I am not particularly well versed.

Plus, I have a good work ethic. I'm not going to be calling in sick because I have a hangover, or I woke up somewhere I didn't recognize and couldn't figure out which train to take. I won't be coming in late because my hair wasn't cooperating or I had to swing by for an emergency manicure because I broke an acrylic.

But all that means nothing when my resume has a thirteen year dead zone on it. And, though I hate that it matters, I have to face the fact I'm not young and perky anymore.

Something tells me I'm going to end up slinging hash at Waffle House.

It's a good thing I look good in earth tones. And I hear the tips are pretty good if you still have all your own teeth.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Not Enough

Yesterday, my Mom, who has rarely ventured into the blogosphere, met one of my favorite bloggers. Not only is she one of my favorite bloggers, she is a real writer. I don't mean that she's a blogger who writes, like me. I mean, she's a writer who blogs.

She has an actual book published and everything, which of course, makes me absolutely chartreuse with envy.

As it happens, Jess was having a book signing in the town where I grew up and where my parents, as well as my heart and soul, still reside.

Coincidentally, the bookstore where the signing was taking place, was once owned by people we knew very well. I thought they still owned it, but I have since learned that it has changed hands. It's not one of those industrially sleek and carefully decorated chains that although undeniably well stocked, lack warmth and character.

No, this little store is full of funky little angles, dead ends, and sloping floors that creak pleasantly when one trods upon them. It smells like bookstores should smell. Not of frothy coffee confections, but of musty pages, full of mystery and promise.

I spent many, many afternoons there as a young girl. They carried the best selection of stickers, which were quite the rage when I was 11. Rainbow stickers, glittery stickers, stickers with lips, hearts, unicorns. They also carried all my favorite authors; Betty Smith, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeline L'Engle, and Judy Blume.

There used to be, in a far, dim corner near the back door near, where the academic tomes were housed, a big overstuffed chair; old and careworn, but still comfy. I would sink into that big chair and sit for an hour or so, looking at my bright, shiny new stickers and delving into worlds unknown. Sometimes those worlds were fictitious and fantastic, but sometimes I would take with me a pile of books about all the real places I had ever, in my short, rather myopic life, dreamed of going.

Ahhhhhh. One of my better childhood memories, even though the children of the family that owned the store were spoiled and snobby and looked at my sisters and me as one looks at piles of dog poo upon the ground. Sometimes they would come in while I was there, loud, obtrusive and wrong in the dusty silence of the store. Then, I was forced to sneak away lest I be discovered and have to face their scorn and derision.

But I woolgather digress.

I had hoped to maybe meet up with Jess on our trip home next week, but our schedules just don't jive, unfortunately. So I called my Mom and asked her to go down there and score an autographed copy of Jess's book "Driving Sideways".

My Mom knows all about the internet, of course. She's savvy and smart, and not one to let any opportunity to simplify life pass her by. Because she's disabled, the internet is a boon for her. For many of us, it is only a convenience and a crutch, but for my Mom, it can be a real life saver.

She's never really gotten into the social aspect of the internet, but I think she understands it well enough.

In the '70's, there was CB radio and my parents were big into that. I can still recall their respective "handles". My Mom was "Honeysuckle Flame" because she has red hair, and because we once lived on a street called "Honeysuckle Lane". My Dad was called "Useless Duck" because he was an airplane mechanic in the army.

They talked to people all over the United States on the CB and even held dances and get togethers to meet. Not unlike the internet at all, this harbinger of world wide connectedness.

So I don't think she found my request all that strange, and I didn't have to explain overmuch how I "know" Jess. She went down there and purchased two copies, one for me, and one for herself.

She was really quite tickled by the experience. And I, quite frankly, was envious and sad. We could have gone down there together. Those are the kinds of simple silly little things that I miss everyday. A trip to the bookstore with my mother. A walk to the park with my sister and her kids. A family meal. A sleepover with all the grandkids.

I'll be home next week. And for just a little while, those things will be mine. But it will be too short, too fleeting, and too long in coming. I get to go home once a year.

And it's just not enough.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Indignant Musings of a Modern Day Prude

Please forgive the vulgarity, but sometimes, I find the outraged query...WHAT THE FUCK? reverberating off the smooth white walls of my own skull.

Here is one such instance for your consideration.

Last night we played the third game of the State Championships, which are being held in a small-ish town in northwest Georgia. It's a little more...rural, than our own little suburban enclave. We live on the outskirts of the the big city, with a lot of other professional urban families.

They are doctors, lawyers, financial consultants, real estate agents, business owners. Many of them hail from other states, drawn here by job opportunities, weather, families, lovers.

It creates an interesting mix of cultural, religious, philosophical and socio economic lifestyles.

For this reason, it's sometimes almost possible for me to forget that I live in the South.

But inevitably, something happens to yank me back to the reality of my geographical misfortune with remarkable efficacy.

This week, our little foray into the wilds of the Georgian countryside was one of those moments. I found myself in very close proximity with people that most of the civilized world would refer to as "rednecks".

Now, I'll admit, there are rednecks in every state. It seems a designation that is determined less by geography than it is ignorance and apathy. But Southern rednecks are a breed all their own, if you ask me. Unless one has experienced this firsthand, there really is no way to quantify it.

Not all of the characteristics exhibited by rural Southern folks are...bad. Some of them are charming, quaint, endearing, even heartwarming. I've written several pieces over the course of my blogship chronicling these traits.

But at their worst, the rural uneducated can be an obnoxious and irascible bunch. This is usually the case with sports of any kind. However, it is especially true of youth sports.

It's been an interesting week to say the least.

So, last evening, all the team parents were waiting for the game, which had been delayed by about 45 minutes, to start. We were gathered under a small pavillion trying to stay out of the sun, which, although well on it's way to the horizon, was still amazingly hot and glaring.

Other people gathered there as well. Two little girls, whom I would have guessed to be around 7 and 10, were drawn to the team baby, which is not unusual. That kid is a chick magnet extraordinaire. Women of every age are unable to resist his charms and there is often a crowd gathered around whomever happens to be holding him at the moment.

The boys figured this out pretty quickly and have been only too willing to use this to their advantage. It's actually quite comical to watch. I daresay it's the only time a 14 year old boy is willing to use a toddler as a fashion accessory. They hold him awkwardly and without finesse, but it doesn't matter. Every female is impressed with a man who is willing to be drooled upon.

Anyway..I didn't pay much attention to these two little girls at first. They ooh'd and aaah'd over the baby like every other little girl. They made silly faces at him, they offered him treats. They asked his mother a million and one questions, and made little moues of distaste at the mention of breastfeeding.

Then I happened to notice the caption on the back of the bright red t-shirt worn by the older girl. It said..."The Front View is Even Better"

I gasped audibly and I know my jaw dropped. One of the other team Moms raised her eyebrow and said wryly, "Wait'll you see the front."

The front, perhaps predictably, read, "The Back View Is Even Better."

I was, quite frankly, shocked out of my ever lovin' mind.

Ten years old people. Perhaps younger. It was hard to judge due to the heavy black EYELINER ringing her eyes, giving her a haggard, jaded look. The younger girl, astoundingly, was similarly adorned.

You know, I would have found such a t-shirt offensive on a woman of any age. It's tasteless, demeaning, diminishing. It takes away a woman's humanity and makes her nothing more than an object of sexual gratification.

But although I would not like it, I would not object if the wearer was an adult woman capable of making her own decisions, objectionable and foolhardy though they may be.

The freedoms that our forebearers fought so hard to obtain, unfortunately extend to such questionable behavior. When they won the right for women to govern their own lives and their own destinies, they also won the right for some of us to act like cheap tarts should we so desire.

But these were children. And I found the fact that they were appearing in public so attired to be the worst kind of perversion.

Because somebody who should know better let them out that way. Somebody who should have their best interests in mind every second of every day, let them out that way. Someone who has been entrusted with their innocence, let them out that way.

And that's when I heard it, shrill and strident, ringing in my ears, and threatening to burst forth from my large and sometimes injudicious mouth...


I wanted to take that child by the hand, drag her to the bathroom and scrub her face back into childish nudity. I also wanted to tell her mother a thing or two, but I couldn't quite figure out which one of the group of heavily made up, scantily clad hoochie mamas, was their mama. All of them looked to me, like big sisters. Big, slutty sisters.

Either they were, in fact, big slutty sisters, or, they were the star and supporting cast for girlhood lost; cut short by the tragedy of an unplanned pregnancy.

People. We have GOT to do better by our girls. We have GOT to teach them that they are more than their ability to attract a man. That they have worth beyond their beauty. That they have a purpose and a place in this world.

Our girls are more than breeders, they are leaders. History makers. Teachers. Mentors. Role Models.

With that said, I have to confide that more and more lately, I am thanking my lucky stars, that....

I have boys.

How do mothers give their daughters a healthy sense of self in this day and age?

Damned if I know. But I know they've got to try.

And that means just saying no to crass, suggestive, skimpy, and vulgar apparel on ten year old girls.


Oh, and also? I could do without tees that read "Boys Are Stupid, Throw Rocks At Them".


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why Mothers Have Gray Hair

Pubescent One's team is playing in the State Championship this week. It's tough going, because only the top two teams from each district make it to State. There are no easy wins here.

So far, we're one and one.

The first game, we fought hard, but lost 5-0. The other team scored five runs in the first inning. Our lead off pitcher was struggling a bit and loaded up the bases. Then, a player on the opposing team hit one over the fence. Ouch.

We held them for seven innings with some excellent fielding and pitching, but we just couldn't seem to get any runs on the board.

The next game, we won 22-6. The first pitch of the game, our lead off batter hit one over the fence, which of course, was a great way to start the game and boost morale.

We were, quite simply, on fire. We were pitching well, we were fielding well, we were hitting well.

I felt really badly for the the other team. We've been there, more than once. And it's not fun. They rallied for a while, but then the fight just went right out of them. It was very obvious when they just gave up and I wanted to yell encouraging things to them.

Normally, there is what's called a "mercy rule" in which the game is called when one team gets too far ahead. The stipulation for this is 15 runs ahead in the 4th inning, or 10 in the 5th.

The purpose of this rule is to let a team lose with their dignity intact and hopefully, without destroying their morale.

But this is a State Tournament. No run limit. No time limit. No mercy rule.

So we played on.

During the last inning, we could just not get out. Those poor boys just weren't even trying anymore, and the inning dragged on, and on, and on, and on.

Our coach stopped giving the signs to steal. He stopped sending batters onto the next base when errors were made. He even instructed one batter to bunt on the 2nd strike, which is an automatic out.

It was brutal.

But that's not what I wanted to tell you about, really.

My son pitched the first three innings, when the other team still had some fight in them. Despite the crushing loss, they were really a quite competent team. They had some very strong batters. It just so happened that thay day, we were fielding better than they were batting.

There was a moment during that game, when I feared my son had been mortally wounded. It's the kind of moment that every pitcher's mother dreads.

Pubescent One threw a beautiful pitch right over the plate. It was thrown hard and it was hit hard...straight back at Pubescent One. It was hit so hard that I didn't even see the ball as it shot back at my child's chest. I heard a CRACK, and then, less than a second later, I d heard a sickening SMACK and watched with sick horror as my son grabbed his chest.

It was like....CRACK-SMACK!!

I was on my feet reaching for my cell phone, ready to dial 911, when my son curled upright...and grinned. He held up his glove to show the ump.

He had caught the ball.

Seriously? I almost passed out.

The umpire called time, walked out to the mound and spoke to my son briefly. They both laughed, and then the Ump patted him on the shoulder and returned to his position behind the plate.

Soon after that the inning ended and the team made their way into the dug out. I went over to talk to Pubescent One.

"Dude, c'mere." I said, crooking my finger at him.

When he was bent toward me, grinning, I said,

"Do you need to change your underwear?" I joked.

"HA! That's what the Umpire said Mom!"

"Did he really?"


"Well do you?"

"No. But that did scare the crap out of me."

"Me too, Dude. Don't do that again."

"It wasn't me! It was the batter! I just reacted. That was nothing but luck, Mom."

"Don't I know it babe."

Gah. You try to make good choices for your kids, minimize risks, assess danger. But you can't keep them safe from everything, no matter how hard you try. Not unless you shut them away from the world.

Sometimes I think that's not such a bad idea.

Monday, July 14, 2008

My Hero

Do you remember the woman I wrote about in my piece titled "Speak English Me?"

She has come out of her shell a little bit and has made a lot of progress in a very short time. I've been really proud of her efforts and pleased that she is becoming comfortable enough with us that she doesn't worry so much about making mistakes or sounding silly.

Saturday night, after a much needed victory at the State Tournament, the team gathered at a local restaurant to celebrate. Normally, when we have such a gathering, her son comes with one of the other families and she and her husband go home.

I truly understand why. Sitting there staring at one another while everyone else socializes must be a humiliating and demoralizing experience. But although I got it, I still found it kind of sad.

To my surprise and delight, this time, she came with us. She sat at a table with Husband, me, and five other adults. She tried really hard to make conversation, and all the parents tried equally hard to include her in the general chatter.

At one point, being the only one at our table to order an adult beverage, I had to show my I.D. As the waitress handed my wallet back to me, one of the other parents grabbed at it, saying he wanted to see my driver's license picture, which is spectacularly unflattering. But I obliged. And soon, everyone else was pulling out their drivers' licenses in the spirit of good natured self-deprecation.

Husband has not had a new photo for fifteen years. Fifteen years during which, he has changed a lot. He has a few more gray hairs, a few more laugh lines, and quite a few more pounds. But nobody ever challenges his request to keep his new old picture.

Needless to say, he got a lot of ribbing over that from the other adults.

When Husband's driver's license made it into her hands, she studied it carefully for a moment or two and then said to me in her thickly accented English...

"Blog Antagonist, you must be cook BERY delicious!"

Everyone at the table howled with laughter. Though her words were clumsy, her meaning was very clear.

She beamed, pleased that her joke had gone over well.

It seems like a simple thing, doesn't it? Making joke or a smart remark comes naturally to most of us. We don't think twice about it.

But think about what kind of courage it takes to attempt such a thing in a foreign language. There are so many double entendres, linguistic idiosynchrasies , verbal many ways, in other words, to screw up and look like a complete numbskull.

But she did it. She put herself out there, made herself vulnerable, took a chance.

She made a joke.

And I think she is my new hero.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Watching HGTV is Hazardous

Our house is ugly. All of it.

For years we've done only what we had to do, and neglected the cosmetic, because we are a single income family with two children and we kind of like eating.

But I am thoroughly sick of my ugly house. I can't look at this floral wallpaper another damn day. When one enters our home, one is assaulted by no less than three different floral wallpaper patterns.

The foyer features cream colored wall paper with coral, blue, and green flowers with some twiney viney stuff. At one time, the bottom of the walls was painted a bright coral. We found this out recently when we did some patching and sanding in preparation for painting.

The kitchen is completely covered in dusty blue wallpaper with small peach colored flowers. I suspect that at one time, it was accessorized with geese. Or ducks. Or, whatever species of fowl was stylish in the 80's.

The dining room is papered in a green damask print on the bottom, and a very, very loud, ribbony, floral bouquet print in shades of green, rose, and blue on top.

All of these rooms adjoin one another.

You are, at this moment, envisioning the splendour, aren't you?

Also, I can deal with the blanket on the window in our master bedroom no longer. It's been there for TWELVE YEARS.

What? I just didn't see the sense of spending money on window treatments until we redecorated the room to our taste.

So anyway, we recently redecorated Pubescent One's room and it turned out pretty darned nice, and was not nearly as painful or expensive as we had thought.

We are encouraged. And we've decided to tackle the rest of the house, one room at a time. As a result, I have been viewing a glut of home improvement shows. Mentally, I've spent about five squillion dollars in the last three weeks.

But we have to be real.

Recently I ran accross a comforter set that I liked for THIRTY DOLLARS. Hello? That's like, better than I could do at Big Lots.

Fortuitously, it has all the colors I love, AND will match the ludicrously expensive green carrera marble lamps we bought when we were first married and Husband was working for Haverty's furniture and now can't get rid of because we could never get anything else that nice for what we paid for them and will probably have until we die.


I know it's not everybody's taste. When I showed it to a friend she said, diplomatically..."It's....certainly....colorful."

Yes, it's true. No tans, no beiges, none of that loathesome plummy, muddy, taupey color everyone seems to be painting everything lately...for me.

I. Need. COLOR.

The walls will be a deep, rich, terracotta/pumpkin-y color. And I found some sheets that are that EXACT color at Wal-Mart for $30. That's not too terribly bad for king sized sheets.

So now I'm thinking ahead to the the attached bath. It's in horrible, horrible condition. It's papered with a pink, white and green striped wallpaper and coordinating floral border. It's curling up around the tub and shower, and experimental peeling has illustrated that it was apparently, put up over bare drywall. Lovely.

The floor is white linoleum with barfy pink flowers. The sinks, vanity and fixtures are all very 1984. Apparently, composite wood products were very chic in 1984.

We can't afford a complete renovation and wouldn't put that kind of money into this house if we could. So I'm picking and choosing strategic ways to upgrade economically.

The floor? Has to go. The wallpaper too, obviously. Some updated lighting will help. I'll work around the vanity and the ugly fixtures.

Here's my dilemma: I hate linoleum. We can't afford marble or stone. Tile is too difficult to install ourselves and I don't dig cleaning grout.

So I've been puzzling over what to do about the floor.

Last night I watched "Designed to Sell" in which they update a house to effect a quick sale. They have a budget of $2,000. Usually, they focus on kitchens and bathrooms.

Last night's episode actually took place in Atlanta and amazingly, the bathroom was even more hideous and more outdated than mine! I was amazed at what they did with $2,000. They made the outdated bathroom look like something out of House and Garden.

What really caught my attention were these gorgeous leather tiles, as well as the installation. They are magnetic! So if one gets damaged, you simply lift it up and replace it. The sheet metal that they adhere to can be laid over an existing floor. WOW. What an innovative and beautiful product. It's EXACTLY what I've been looking for.

I bet they cost a fucking fortune.

Damn you Lisa LaPorta.

I don't know how to quit you.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Grand Theft Innocence

Yesterday, I took my boys to Blockbuster to rent a couple of video games.

Pubescent One has a new game system, which he bought with his birthday money. Unfortunately, he has only one game, with which they have all grown weary. Lacking a relieable source of income, he is unable to buy new ones, which cost anywhere from $40 to $60.

I do not buy him games. I refuse to spend that kind of money on a game that, once mastered, is basically worthless. I also find it absurd to pay such a princely sum for a small plastic disk. So he has little choice but wait for gift giving holidays or financial windfalls, both of which are lamentably rare.

I also don't spend money on video game rentals, because it too is expensive and because I prefer not to support or enable the video game habit. If I had my way, he wouldn't have a game system at all.

So this was a rare treat for both boys.

Pubescent One chose Grand Theft Auto; Diminutive One, Need For Speed. I didn't think much of either choice until we got to the counter. The clerk looked at Pubescent One, asessing. His expression became apologetic, and then his gaze turned to me.

"Ummmm, Ma'am, I should probably warn you that the content of this game is extreme."

I had no idea. And shame on me for not thinking to check the game rating. But this is kind of a new-ish thing. Until recently, he was content with sports games, Pokemon, and that one with the flute...Ocarina something. Checking warning labels just hasn't been necessary.

But Middle School, changes things.

"Really? How extreme?"

"Very. Extreme. Basically, everything that would be considered immoral and indecent is featured in this game."

I turned to Pubescent One and this time it was my face that bore the apologetic expression.

"Sounds like a big fat "no" to me Dude."

He was incensed.

"MOM! ALL my friends play it! It's not that bad!"

"Really? So this man is lying to me?"

He had the good sense to look sheepish.

"No. I mean, it's bad, but it's not that bad. Besides, I know right from wrong. It's not like a game is going to turn me into a criminal. PLEASE Mom?"

I debated for a moment.

"Tell you what...we'll go ahead and get it. But before you play it, either Dad or I have to preview it. If we decide it's inappropriate, it goes back, understood?"

He jumped at that, willing to do whatever it took to get that game into his hands.

"Deal" he said triumphantly.

At home, several things commanded my attention and I told him he would have to wait for his father to preview it. He grudgingly waited for Husband to come home. When he did, he was beseiged at the door by both boys, begging him to prove that my silly objections were unfounded.

To their utter dismay, he wouldn't and couldn't do so.

"Baby, I don't need to preview that game. I've read about it and I've talked to other parents about it. It's BAD."

"Like, how bad?"

" can pick up a hooker, make her give you a blow job, and then shoot her in the face."

I was horrified.


"Yep. And that's in addition to the buying and taking drugs, car jacking (hence the name), rape, murder, and extreme objectification of women."

"Why would they even make a game like that?"

Husband said wryly, "That's entertainment."

How thoroughly dismaying and disheartening.

First, that our society deems such violent, misongynist behavior entertaining, and second, that impressionable young men are being exposed to these ideals. Yes, I know it's just a game...but play is how our children learn. It's how they form the basis for their future identities. It's how they choose what to be and do.

If this game is glorifying such truly horrible and destructive life choices, how are they to understand that those choices come at a price? If this game is perpetuating the belief that women are objects; that they are expendable, disposable, worthless, how will they ever learn to value their mothers, wives and daughters? How will they ever learn to relate to them as equals?

They won't. They just won't.

I was well and truly disgusted.

Pubescent One knew that he was beat, but he tried to plead his case anyway. He promised that he wouldn't go to the clubs where the hookers are, he wouldn't go to the places where the drug dealers hang out...he would just carjack and shoot people.

He would just steal cars and lives. Just.

Husband and tried to explain our reasons for making him return the game.

"Look, Dude, it's not that Dad and I want to deny you the things you want. But we have a responsibility. I can't feel good about myself as a parent, if I allow you to be exposed to things that I feel are harmful. And this game is. Very harmful. I know you know right from wrong, but sometimes, that doesn't matter. It's hard to make the right choices under the best of circumstance, and stuff like this just makes everything more confusing."

"But you don't even see boobs or anything."

Though compelled to protest, his objection lacked conviction.

Husband interjected.

"Son, it's not nudity that Mom and I object to. There's nothing wrong with looking at the human body. And boobs are not a big deal. What is a big deal, is the objectification of women and they way they are treated in this game."

Pubescent One was silent.

"Do you know what "objectification means", son?" he asked.

Pubescent One shook his head.

I gave Husband the "I'll take this one" look.

"It means, using women for pleasure without considering their needs, their feelings or their safety. It means complete and utter disregard for their rights. It means treating them like animals or worse. It means not recognizing their value as human beings.

I paused for a moment for dramatic effect, and then I asked,

"How would you feel if someone treated me that way?"

"Pretty awful." he admitted.

"Do you think it would be fun to shoot someone in real life?"

"What? No! Not at all."

To my relief, he looked suitably horrified.

"So you understand, then...why we have to say no to this game?"

He sighed heavily and hung his head. "YES."

As he walked away, he muttered to himself, "Everybody else's parents let them play it."

And that, is exactly what worries me. I can shelter my children from harmful influences and warped ideals, but I can't parent the rest of the world. I can't keep the seeds of evil and hatred from germinating in somebody else's backyard.

With media and it's many mediums becoming ever more pervasive and ever less conscientious, I sometimes feel that I need to erect a barrier of morality around my children. But I can't. I can't shut them away from the world, as much as I would like to sometimes.

All I can do is give them the tools to recognize that which threatens to undermine our basic goodness as human beings and hopefully, reject it.

Do I feel that I scored a victory today? Sadly, I really don't. The battle may be won, but the war wages on. And only time will tell if my strategy has been effective.

Will you take up the cause with me? This kind of "entertainment" does nothing to help our children lead healthy, produtive, enriching lives. And really I want to feel good about the people that are sharing the world with my boys.

Don't shrug your shoulders or turn you head or tell yourself it doesn't matter if your children watch something, play something, sing something...sexual or violent or hateful.

Innocence matters. Goodness matters.


Don't let it be stolen from them.


Also, if you don't know about the Just Post Roundtable, please visit Jen or Mad to see the wonderful list of participating bloggers and their posts.

This is empowerment, this is activism, this is women making a difference. Blogging can change the world, and these ladies are why.

I feel privileged to be included in such an amazing group of women, writers, movers and shakers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Girl Talk

Okay, you all know by now that I am a shameless product whore. But, alas, I am a whore on a budget. No Diorshow Mascarara for me. No Creme De La Mer. No quilted, pillowy Chanel shadows.

There are a few luxuries that I won't do without: Frederik Fekkai Glossing Cream, Olay Regenerist serum, Bare Minerals Bisque, Burt's Bees Milk and Honey Lotion, OPI polishes, Bath and Body Works Sensual Amber and Warm Vanilla Body name a few.

But otherwise, I buy the cheapest I can, without compromising quality.

So I thought I would share with you today, some of my latest beauty bargains.

1. Jane Gel Eyeliner

I've been dying to try this latest trend in eye liner. They're supposed to be amazing; deep, rich color, smooth, tug free application and truly long lasting wear. But, I've been reluctant to purchase because I was afraid they would be fussy and difficult to apply.

Also, they're expensive. Bobbi Brown, Stila, Smashbox, MAC and Prescriptives all carry gel or cream eyeliners, with prices ranging from $16 - $25. Yikes.

The other day I saw the Jane gel eyeliner at Walgreen's on sale B1G1 free. $5.99 for two gel eyeliners? Why the hell not? I chose the plum and the brown because I have green eyes. They also had black and blue, but those are no-no's for me.

In short, they are amazing. I can't compare them to the higher end brands, because I haven't tried any of them. But honestly, I don't feel the need after using this brand. It is not fussy and difficult to apply at all. It's very easy, and the little brush that comes with it is suprisingly functional. While it goes on very rich and creamy, it lasted all day in the blazing Georgia heat without smearing, smudging, or disappearing. And the pigments are simply beautiful.


2. Organix Vanilla Silk Shampoo and Conditioner.

I found this at Wal-Mart and to tell the truth, I bought it purely because it smelled de-lish-ous. But after using it I was enormously impressed. It is free of Sulfates, which I guess is a good thing. I know Sodium Laureth Sulfate is supposed to be evil, but I don't really know why. More importantly, it made my hair soft as silk and shiny as glass. The subtle vanilla scent lasted all day, which I really liked.

I will warn you that the shampoo did not produce a lot of lather and that worried me a little bit. But I think that has to do with the absence of sulfates. I believe sulfates are a type of surfactant. Anyway, it certainly did not impact the cleanliness of my hair. In fact, my hair feels even cleaner than it does when with a more richly lathering shampoo.

I was especially impressed with the conditioner. It was so thick and creamy that it stayed where it was put. Nothing irks me more than lying in the bathtub trying to relaxe, or god forbid, tweeze or shave, while conditioner is streaming into my eyes. When I rinsed, I coul tell immediately that it had done wonders for my hair.

At $5.95 for 13 oz., it's not the cheapest of the cheap, but it's a really nice indulgence for not a lot of money.

3. Ulta Brand eye shadow in "Summer"

This eye shadow is DA BOMB. It's a very sheer, neutral shade of....taupe? Sand? Nude? It's hard to describe. But it's the perfect nude-y shade for summer AND, I found, it works really well as a sheer, natural blush and highlighter as well.

I sweep some over my lids and in the crease with a lighter shade just below my brow bone. Then I dust it lightly over my cheekbones, down my nose, on my chin, and a little above each eye brow. It creates a very pretty, fresh, summery look without looking overdone and I think anybody could wear this color without trouble, except maybe those with very dark complexions.

The other day I went back to get like...10 of them, because without fail, products I love end up being discountinued. It was not discontinued, but it was sold out. Apparently, others have discovered the beauty, versatility, and, yes...cost effectiveness of this product.

Ulta shadows are smooth, silky, rich and very wearable. I find them comparable to some of the high end shadows I have used. And for $6.99, you can buy a bunch.

UPDATE: I just went to the site and did not see "Summer" listed, so apparently, it is discontinued. Of course. The shadow pictured here is actually "Antique Gold" and it's very similar. Nevertheless, these are high quality, versatile shadows and you should give them a try. I saw many shades that could do double duty as Summer did.

4. Sally Beauty clickable eye shadows

These are the cutest little shadows and they are only .99! I bought at least 12. They're small, but so densely pigmented and apply so smoothly that they last quite a long time. They slide together to create a pallette, which is nice if you're on the go. You can mix and match and take your favorites with you.

I was skeptical of the quality...we've all had our Wet N' Wild Days, right? But they are very good quality for such an amazing price. My two favorites are "Auburn" and "Brick, and this time, I bought several of each.

You can see all the colors here.

5. Revlon Colorstay Mineral Lipglaze

I like the lightness and sheerness of a gloss, but it usually don't have enough pigment for me. I am very, very fairly complected, and we palefaces don't have a lot of color in our lips. I need a fairly substantial amount of color in a lip product.

Also, glosses just don't seem to last the way I need them to. The first sip, the first careless lip lick, the first kiss...and it's gone.

But this stuff...WOW. It's light and sheer and pretty, but has enough pigment to keep me from looking like a corpse. And it LASTS. I was really, really surprised by that. How could something so pretty and natural looking have such staying power? But it did.

I have now purchased this in three shades: Forever Fig, which is a warm peachy shade, Neverending Nude, which is a neutral nude with just a hint of pink, and Lasting Shimmer, which is really colorless, but has lots of pretty sparkle...GREAT for layering over other lip products. I love them all.

This is not cheap cheap, but when you consider the price of higher end products like MAC Lipglass, it's a steal at $9.99.

5. Hanes Chiffon Modern Brief

This is not a beauty product obviously, but OMG I love these frickin panties.

I've got a big butt. And it's not one of those fat on top with no cheek kind of butts. It's an upside down heart kind of butt, cheekage.

TMI? Sorry. But you have to understand the cheek issue to comprehend what a find these things are.

Needless to say, it's hard to for me to find a panty that stays where it should. I've tried the expensive brands, the cheap brands, thongs, boy shorts, bikinis, grannie briefs, cotton, doesn't matter, they all end up wrapped around my cocyx eventually.

I've about given up, truthfully, but I'm just not a commando kind of girl.

So the first thing I thought when I took them out of the package was...

"There is no way in hell that this hankie is going to cover my ass."

I honestly thought I had inadvertainly grabbed a package of girls' underpants. But no, they really are that small. But the package assured me.."YES, these panties WILL fit you."

Okay, then.

They did. Not only did they fit, they fit like a ass glove. No panty lines, no muffin top. And they STAY PUT. Forever. For real.

They are very sheer, and you have to avoid snagging them on your zipper or your wedding ring. They do not have a lined crotch. But that's okay. The fit makes that a non-issue, in my opinion, as does the price. A package of two will cost you $6.99.

So, there's my requisite girly girl post for the...month? Give 'em a whirl, report back.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

All In A Day's Work

Our household has been watching "The Baby Borrowers" with avid interest. Pubescent One in particular seems to be invested in the program.

I didn't ask him to watch it. I didn't even mention it to him. Because anything that smacks of a life lesson is an execration to a teenager. If I had suggested that he watch it, he would have refused on general principal.

But thanks to a diabolical plan, conceptualized and executed perfectly by yours truly, he wandered in while Husband and I were watching and was drawn in by the drama.

Husband says the show is not realistic, and he's right.

In real life, there are no guardian angels (the baby's real parents) watching on tv moniters to avert disaster. In real life, the mind numbing sleeplessness of infancy does not end in three days. And of course, nobody in real life is handed a furnished home in the suburbs along with all the paraphanalia required for baby rearing.

But, for teens who have literally no experience and no clue what they are in for, it's a relatively effective way to drive home a point.

That said, I am absolutely stunned by the behavior and attitude of some of these kids. I do understand that selfishness, entitlement issues, and emotional outbursts are the hallmarks of adolescence.

But honestly? I don't think my generation was that whiny, self-centered and just...annoying. I don't know...maybe hindsight isn't the pinnacle of clarity, but seriously...some of these kids are spoiled brats.

I have to admit that I am enormously gratified by the fact that Pubescent One thinks so too. And, more importantly, that he is suitably disgusted.

"What is wrong with that chick? That guy is trying to make-up with her and she's just keeps bitching at him even though he's totally kissing her ass."

"Why won't that girl get up with the baby! That guy has been doing all the work! She is being so selfish, GOD."

"I wish that girl would just shut up. Doesn't she know that the baby doesn't care if she has a stomach ache? She still has to be the parent, geez. She's totally faking anyway so the guy will stay home from work. What a loser."

These comments tickle me.

He hasn't had a serious girlfriend yet, but it's only a matter of time. And I know that it's going to be a HERCULEAN effort for me to bite my tongue when some little trollop tries to manipulate, domineer and emotionally blackmail him.

Diminutive One I don't worry about. He simply does not tolerate bullshit, regardless of age or gender. Any girl that tries to make him into her lapdog will find herself sorely disappointed.

But Pubescent One?

He's a sensitive kid; a people pleaser, a peace maker. He might as well walk around with a pink bullseye painted on his forehead or wear a sandwichboard bearing the legend " does a body good."

We've talked about girls. I've told him that there is more to someone than their looks; that pretty girls aren't always everything they're cracked up to be. I've tried to tell him that a meaningful relationship can only thrive and grow with mutual admiration and genuine respect for one another. I've tried to explain that the novelty of sex eventually wears off, and if there's nothing else upon which to build a relationship, it will become empty and dissatisfying very quickly.

I know this from experience. I've dated my share of pretty boys and let me tell you...their appeal wears thin amazingly fast.

He listens, but he doesn't hear. I don't think I really expected him to, but I have to try, yannow? There's so much these days that gives boys and girls alike a completely unrealistic view of the opposite sex. I feel almost driven to combat those warped ideals with some reality and common sense.

So I'm glad to hear him making these remarks. I'm glad that he's able to recognize the behavior that I've tried to warn him against. I'm glad that he finds it distasteful.

Does that mean that he'll be able to put that into practice when some big breasted Barbie doll blonde crooks her little finger at him? Probably not. But a Mom can delude herself hope.

He asked me if I thought he could do a better job than the teenagers featured on the show. I didn't know how to answer that. I don't think he's as spoiled and selfish as those teens, but I don't think he's mature enough to comprehend or effect complete and total sacrifice for the sake of another human being either.

I answered with a question of my own...

"Do YOU think you could do a better job?"

He was casually emphatic.

"Sure. I think I'm very mature for my age. I could take good care of a baby and I think I could have a good relationship with the baby's mother too. I really don't think it would be that hard if you just do your best and try to listen to the other person."

"See...honey, here's the thing. When you're not fully mature, you think you can do anything. When you are fully mature, you have the sense to know that you can't."


How do I explain to a 13 year old child that getting older means being afraid and uncertain where before, there was only blind assurance and unequivocal confidence? How do I explain to a 13 year old child that getting older means recognizing limits and respecting them, instead of forging ahead with youthful ignorance?

Suddenly, I felt very old. And jaded. And....unadventurous. Staid. Boring.

"Someday you'll understand, babe."

"I understand one thing Mom."

"What's that?"

"I understand that I'm going to need some condoms."

Do I consider that a job well done?'s a start.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A 4th to Remember

She and I sit in the brilliant July sun, amid the sounds, sights, and smells of America being American on the 4th of July.

The clink of icy cans and bottles, the rattle of ice in coolers. Children shrieking with joy and abandon. The smell of charcoal and sulphur. Miles of exposed flesh; some of it taut and tan, some it pale and jiggling.

We sit together and drink it all in.

We chit chat, enjoying the first tentative overtures of friendship.

When we first met, I learned she is a Guidance Counselor at one of the local high schools. She is a single Mom and she goes to school as well. I not only enjoy her company a great deal, I also respect and admire her.

We talk about her job, we talk about Diminutive One. He interests her in a clinical way. And she likes him. She sees beyond his behavior to the quirky, funny, creative kid that he is.

I tell her how much I like her kids. They are very sweet, funny, sociable creatures. Even her teenaged son, who is playful and mischievous, is essentially a good kid. He has none of the sly arrogance that some adolescent boys exude. He seems at ease with adults, and he does not shy away from us as do some kids that age.

Suddenly, from out of the crowd, comes a hulking young man, shiny with the heat, red faced, but smiling. He is dressed in an ill fitting, but immaculate military uniform. He exclaims at having run into her. Then he lowers himself to one knee so he can look her in the eye. His long limbs fold with impossible fluidity, and his glossy black shoes crease at the toe to accommodate his posture.

His gaze flickers over my face for a moment. My presence is disconcerting to him. He has a secret, I think, and he is all but bursting with it. He leans forward to whisper something in her ear, and then, his secret expunged from his heartsick soul, his face crumples into that of a small lost, frightened child.

She pulls him to her, and he lays his face against his shoulder. Her fingers curl around the nape of his neck; her rich cocoa skin in stark contrast to the pink of his scalp and the white blonde stubble that bristles there. He sobs silently a few times.

She looks at me with her deep brown eyes, and I see genuine sympathy, but also impatience. He has intruded on her life. This carefree day is now marred by his tragedy, whatever it may be.

I look away, uncomfortable with this intimacy. I don’t want to know his grief. It feels a little as if I have caught him undressing, but his nakedness is even more profound. It leaves him far more vulnerable than an absence of clothing would.

Having found her in a vast sea of humanity, he now clings to her as a drowning man clings to a piece of driftwood. She soothes him as a mother would soothe a small child.

She says, “You have to remember, sweetie, everything happens for a reason.”

I get up then, murmuring an excuse about taking Husband a drink. I grab a beer from the cooler and hasten away. Husband and the other team Dads are working the gate at this venue and all of them have been standing in the heat for hours. Husband is grateful for the drink, but he sees that I have not come for the sole purpose of quenching his thirst.

“What’s wrong?” he asks.

I shrug. “Nothing really. Andrea just needed a moment.”

He nods, but doesn’t ask why. Sometimes, the apathy and disinterest of men is mind boggling. I stand with him for a few moments, watching people go by, enjoying the parade of strollers, wagons, wheeled coolers. People are happy today; happy and unconcerned with the usual cares of day to day life.

It’s nice to see. It makes me feel happy too, but the boy bothers me.

After about ten minutes, I return to my seat. She is alone now, and seems calm, but perhaps a little troubled.

“Everything okay?” I ask.

She sighs heavily.

“Yeeeesss.” She says. “He’s one of my students. His girlfriend, who is only fourteen, got pregnant just before school let out. He just told me she lost the baby.”

She doesn’t say what we are both thinking, but now I understand the comment that she made to him earlier. And I think that his grief was probably a combination of genuine regret, and guilt over his relief.

“Poor kid.” I say.

I can’t imagine my own son, only a few years younger, having to deal with such a thing. These man/boys are just not equipped. I feel afraid, suddenly. For my own son of course, but also for all the boys who have to grow up. There is so much they have to get through before they are many ways to derail young lives full of hope and promise.

“Yeaaaah....He’s kind of a mess, and this just didn’t help at all.”

“Geez Andrea, I’ve got to hand it to you. I just don’t think I could deal with that day in and day out. I would be an emotional wreck.”

“Don’t give me too much credit. Sometimes, I don’t think anything I do or say makes any difference at all.”

“But you’re there for them. That makes a difference.”

“I hope so.” She says. “I hope so.”

I wonder about this manchild. What silly thing will he do to assuage the guilt of his indiscretion? Punch someone? Enlist? Get a tattoo? Ask the girl to marry him? Tell her they should try for another baby? Debauch some other young girl?

I hope he will not do any of those things. I hope he will take the chance he has been given and turn it into a good life. A happy life.

And I hope I never have to watch my son turn into a man at the behest of a plus sign.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

I Haven't Done This In a While....

But I'm going to repost something from my archives. I truly apologize for the lack of new and interesting material.

But I have a house full of teenaged boys who, though good boys, are, en masse, a force of nature that threatens to leave a mile wide path of destruction through my house, my yard, and my refrigerator the moment my back is turned.

I'm not known for funny. Some bloggers are effortlessly funny, but my moments of comic genius are exceedingly few and far between. Therefore, they are among my favorites when it comes to blog entries.

I hope you will enjoy this one.

Oh, and BTW, rather than put myself through that again, I decided to go back to school. Also nervewracking, but pantyhose optional.

So You Had A Bad Day

Yesterday, I did something that I haven't done in sixteen years.

I consider myself a pretty confident person. A strong person. I like to think of myself as a "tough nut", yannow? Fearless.

And still, it had me a lot more freaked out than I would have liked.

The thing? I went to apply for a job.

I spent the night beforehand writing a cover letter, gathering up relevant documents and making copies, and filling out the application that I downloaded from their website.

When I got to the part about previous employment, I was confronted by the fact that for the past 13 years, I have no defineable work history.

Have I worked? Shitchyea.

I have worked harder than at any job I have ever held.

I have been chauffer, social secretary, chef and menu planner, household manager, manual laborer and general handyman, laundress, medical care coordinator, risk management specialist and disaster recovery professional.

But none of that matters.

So I went online to get the address and phone number of my former employer (What? It's been THIRTEEN years.), only to find that the Branch agency of the National Financial Services company I worked for had closed. Ten years ago.

Prior to that I worked at a rather high profile law firm. My employment there only lasted six months and culminated in a little incident wherein I told the head partner that he was an insufferable ass and that he could take his docket and shove it right up his brief.

Then I walked out and never came back. I was so pissed off that I even left my insulated lunch bag and my favorite coffee mug behind.

Say, that reminds me of a little piece of wisdom I could pass along here. If you're ever tempted to apply for unemployment benefits from a law firm that specializes in employment and labor law...that would be a monumental waste of time.

Apparently, they don't consider asstastic bosses adquate reason for granting benefits, although, kindly, the attorney they sent to represent the firm at the mediation did tell me he's wanted to say that very thing to the head partner for 20 years.

So anyway, I hesitated to use them as a reference.

I tracked down a few of the agents I had worked with at the agency. They function as independant contractors, but are listed as affiliates in company related directories and any public relations material.

I selected a few I had been somewhat chummy with and hoped they would remember me.

I ran to Target for pantyhose. I haven't worn pantyhose in YEARS, literally, and I had no idea what size I needed. I took an educated guess based on the ubiquitous but entirely fallacious size chart on the back of the package.

I dragged a skirt out the depths of my closet, dusted off some high heeled boots I bought on clearance last season and then wore once because they hurt my feet, and laundered my best twinset.

Yes, I own a twinset. You wanna make something of it?

The following morning I had an ominous premonition of what my future could be like when I tried to get both boys and myself ready to head out the door.

At one point, I was standing in the kitchen in my very mom like underwear, with concealer ringing my eyes and and a barrel brush tangled in my hair, screeching at both of them to turn off the television and go brush their teeth.

They looked at one another, and Pre-Pubescent One cocked one brow at Diminutive One. WTF? Diminutive One shrugged almost impreceptibly in response. Beats me bro. Pre-Pubescent One inclined his head sideways. We should probably do it before her head explodes or something. Diminutive One gave a single nod. I'm with you Dude.

"Okay Mom, chill, we're going. Just ummm, go get dressed. Everything is cool."

Shortly after that I discovered that the pantyhose I bought were in fact, one size too small. No matter how vigorously I did the pantyhose dance, they were not going to clear my upper thigh bulges. I was left with about an inch of nylon suspended tautly between my legs. These babies would be no defense against chub rub, but they would have to do.

My lack of foresight in the matter of ill fitting panytyhose would come to bear later in the day. But for now, it seemed the only real problem was my somewhat shortened stride. Between the heels and the nylon holding my thighs in a stranglehold, I was forced to mince. I told myself it was ladylike and thought no more about it.

Miraculously, I got Pre-Pubescent One to school and Diminutive One to the doctor on time. After I dropped Diminutive One off at school, I headed to the library to turn in my applications. I was going to two different branches, each one having a different position available.

The woman at the front desk was very friendly. She took my application and explained that the manager wasn't in at presesnt, but she would make sure she got the application.

"Okay, thank you. Could you just tell her that there is documentation attached that should serve as proof of employment at my last job?? It's been thirteen years, you see and the branch has closed and I realized I had nobody to verify employment and so I attached those certificates to prove that I worked there. And then I realized that they're in my maiden name? So I also attached a copy of my marriage certificate. I couldn't find my social security card, so I attached a copy of my driver's license as well. Do you think that will be adequate?"

She looked at me kindly.

"Hon, I know how you feel. I was so terrified when I went back to work after staying home with my kids. But I'm sure everything is in order. And I'll tell her how nice you look."

It was then that the sausage casing holding my belly flab in stasis flipped over with an audible snap and rolled down to mid thigh with terrifying swiftness. I stood there with a smile frozen on my face, wondering if I could get to the bathroom before they rolled clear down to my boot tops.

"Er, yes, thank you." I said tersely.

I pranced to the bathroom as inconspicuously as I could, clenching my thighs together in a desperate attempt to trap the nylon between them and prevent it from descending further, and with it, my dignity.

Alas, lady luck had decided to abandon me. As I approached, I saw that a bright yellow ribbon which said "Closed for maintenance" had been hung accross the doorframe.

I said a very bad word and seriously considered going into the men's room. There weren't a great many men in the library that I had noticed, and it would only take a moment for me to tear the wretched garment off my person. But, I reasoned, it wouldn't do for a potential employee to be found in the men's room disrobing.

So I hobbled to my car, where I then faced the dilemma of how to bend over and remove my boots without baring my behind, which was now covered only by my skirt and my threadbare cotton underpants, to the patrons of the neighboring YMCA who cycled and strode vigorously in front of an enormous window, providing a panoramic view of yours truly in all her humiliation.

I decided it would be best dealt with in the privacy of my own home, so I simply slid into the van and closed the door with a sigh of relief.

Turns out that decision was not well thought out either.

As I drove, the pantyhose crept ever lower, until they were just below my knees. They would have rolled all the way to my ankles if I hadn't been wearing boots. It's very difficult to drive when one's lower legs are bound together by industrial stength nylon.

In a herky jerky fashion, I sallied forth, hoping like hell I wouldn't get stopped and asked to get out of the car for a sobriety test. "Please Officer, could I remove my pantyhose first?"

I could just imagine the guffaws as the officer recounted the story for his squadmates later on.

"Whadjou tell her Carl? Why Certainly ma'am, but I have to advise you that removing your pantyhose is not likely to lower your blood alcholol level."?

"No, no...he said, Ma'am, it's against policy for an officer of the law to accept sexual favors."

"HA! Carl should be so lucky. He ain't likely to get an offer like that before he retires!!"


Luckily, I made it home without further incident.

When I at last made it into the house, I sat down on the floor just inside the front door like a kindergartener in the coat room, and pulled off my boots. Then I extricated myself from the diabolical pantyhose prison in which I had unwittingly placed myself. I plucked the hateful things off the floor and stuffed them savagely into the garbage can.

I was done in. turns out that both positions had already been filled. But that's okay. I took the hardest step of putting myself out there again. It was nervewracking, but it also felt good.

I can still do it. And I will find something.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Speak English Me

She always sits by herself. Sometimes she has headphones in her ears. They isolate her, insulate her, cut her off from the world and the people in it.

People don't approach her, because she seems so unapproachable. I do not approach her either because I don't think she wants to be approached. And yet, I can't help but think that she is not unsociable. She doesn't carry with her the taint of contempt for her fellow human beings. She doesn't glower and glare, or hunch her shoulders against the encroaching crowd.

She smiles when someone catches her eye. Sometimes she nods in agreement when a comment is made. She claps when the team does well. She congratulates the boys when a good play is made. Her English is very poor, but they understand praise in any language. She thanks the Coach after each game and practice.

One day, I get the opportunity of working with her in the concession stand. She tries to make small talk, but it's obviously difficult for her. I try to repsond in kind, but sometimes I misunderstand, which can be both funny and mortifying. Our conversations are stilted and laborious. So we stand, leaning forward on the weathered wood of the counter. And we stare out into the brilliant sun, connected, but unspeaking.

Suddenly she sighs, and says..."Is so HARD!"

There is anguish in her voice, embarassment, sadness. I look over, and there are tears in her eyes.

"What is it?" I ask.

"I try learn English. But my,, is no English speak. All Spanish."

"Oh..." I say, waiting for her to continue.

"I ask sons, speak English me! They no want listen. They too....hurry."

I nod, understanding. The impatience of adolescent boys is something every mother can relate to. It's a phenomenon that crashes through cultural barriers.

"Oh...yes..." I say. "That makes it very hard to learn, doesn't it?"

"YES." she sighs.

I tell her, in small words and simple sentences that I used to speak fluent French, but because I have not used it for 15 years, I can scarcely conjugate a verb anymore. I tell her I'm sad about that.

"I take class now. I learn English. I not be embarass."

"Good for you! I bet you'll learn it very quickly."

"I er..hope."

She smiles then. She feels better having told someone that she is not lazy. That she does not hold us in contempt as is so often assumed. I think then that it can't be easy to live with that kind of judgement always hanging over your head.

She asks me many questions that day. What is the name for this? How do I say that? Do you always call it a such and such? Do the adjectives always come before the noun? I like it, this teaching. And she likes the learning. We can laugh at the mistakes, both hers and mine, which makes it feel more like a game or a secret shared than an English lesson. Before, I didn't know she was so friendly. Before, I didn't really try to know.

These days, she seems a little less afraid. She doesn't always sit with headphones on. She sits with the other parents. She says hello, she asks..."Please speak English me."

In a strange way, I am proud of her. I think she is very, very brave. And I think she is magnificent.