Blogs Are Stupid

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

Saturday, January 31, 2009

A Comedy of Errors

My event is over and Thank God for that.

The evening itself was resounding success.

But the lead in? Not so hot.

Honestly, I felt like I was stuck in an episode of "I Love Lucy".

At the beginning of the day I was feeling quite relaxed. I thought I had done well in terms of organization, and I had completed all the running around that needed to be done.

All I had to do was set up. And though I knew it would a big job, the kids had half days all week due to conferences, so we could get in the cafeteria early. With the three of us working, there would be plenty of time.

Except that it turned out to be just the one of us.

"I don't want you to feel like the Lone Ranger." said my illustrious leader; she of the nitpicking. But when the time came, she absconded to the nail parlor, citing a trip to Florida this weekend to underscore the urgency of the matter.

My other partner in crime had parenting issues that couldn't be avoided. Kids do have an amazing propensity for getting injured or ill at the most inopportune moments; a fact that would come to bear for me later in the day.

So there I was, at 2:30 on the afternoon of my event, with a gargantuan task ahead of me, and only two protesting adolescent boys to assist. They were more interested in horsing around than doing anything useful, and complained loudly when I interrupted their fun with a request. By 4:30, I had had quite enough of them.

I called husband to come get them.

"Baby, I would, but I'm cleaning the kitchen right now. Your chili boiled over and it's all over the damn place. I don't know if I'll ever be able to get this crock pot clean again. Do you need me to come right this minute?"

I sighed and told him no, I could put up with them a while longer. I was planning to be home by five anyway so I could change clothes, grab the chili and be back at the school to tie up loose ends before the event started at 7:00.

My timeline was still intact, and I thought I could pull it off if I hurried. So as I frantically glued die cut letters onto the banner that would adorn the wall above the judging table, I felt hurried, but still, essentially, relaxed and confident.

Do you all know that melon smacking sound that a human head makes when it has met an unmovable object with great force? It's a sickening sound; one that every mother's ear is trained to recognize as a harbinger of doom.

As soon as it registered in my whirling brain, I knew my timeline had just been shot to hell.

My sons, you see, in order to amuse themselves while not helping, had been propelling themselves across the glassy surface of the cafeteria floor on their backs, using their feet to drive them backward with amazing speed. And because they are boys and everything is a competition, they were "racing".

Pubescent One, not being a parent, has yet to sprout eyes in the back of his head. Thus, he failed to see the table behind him, and ran into it at full speed; unaware and unchecked.

Now, there are times that we, as parents, are not at our best. We don't say the right things, make the right decisions, or otherwise do that which allows us to perceive ourselves as good parents.

I will tell you right now; that moment was one of those moments.

While my son held his head and squinched up his eys and tried desperately not to cry, all I could think was...

Son of a Bitch. I do not have time to take that dumbass to the Emergency Room.

I know, you think less of me now. But I think it's only fair, considering how many posts have been made that show me in a very positive light as a parent. I owe it to all of you who have expressed admiration for my parenting skills, to admit that, sometimes? I am the epitome of parenting suckitude.

So I, ever the concerned and empathetic parent, said...

"Goddamnit. Are you bleeding?"

My tone was not sympathetic.

He was. Profusely. Those of you who've experienced the joy of a head wound know, that they bleed like crazy. In just a few moments, my gaily festooned cafeteria looked like a scene from CSI; Middle School.

When he saw all the blood, he freaked out. I saw him swaying and rushed to his side, although at 5'9" and 140 pounds, I'm not sure I could have done anything about it if he had lost consciousness and gone crashing to the floor. Break his fall with my ass, maybe.

He stayed on his feet though, and after I had assured him that he wasn't dying, I led him to the sink to get him cleaned up a bit and assess the seriousness of his wound.

The neatly incised scalp showed a glimmer of bone and I resigned myself to the fact that my evening was now hopelessly FUBAR. I called husband.

"Hey, umm, Pubescent One hurt himself. He needs stitches."

"WHAT? What happened?"

I explained. There was a pause.

"Dumbass" (loveyouhoney) he said. "I'll be right there."

I led Pubescent One outside to get some fresh air and also to avoid having to clean up vomit, as he was now dry heaving with panic. We waited.

"You're mad at me." he accused.

"Yes." I admitted.

"I didn't mean to get hurt!" he protested.

"I know. But you were not using good judgement, and now, because of that, I am even more stressed out than I was before. I don't have time for this tonight Pubescent One."

"I'm sorry, Mom."

SIGH. "It's okay. I'm sorry too."

Husband arrived and whisked him off to urgent care.

I hastily cleaned up the carnage and then dashed home to change, my timeline now hopelessly and irreperably askew.

I threw on my clothes, powdered my shiny nose, tried to tame my hair a bit, loaded my overflowing 5 quart crockpot into the van and secured it the best I could.

Not ten yards from my house, a squirrel darted out in front of me.

Instinctively, I swerved.

The crockpot slid across the carpeted floor, teetered on one edge, deposited chili into the passenger door pocket with a meaty splash, and then righted itself, dripping chili and beans.

I might have gone a teensy bit insane right at that moment, because instead of swearing a blue streak or pounding the steering wheel with my fist...I laughed maniacally. My reaction was not one of outraged shock, but rather resigned fatalism.

Because, really, at that point...why would I NOT spill chili in the van?

Luckily, from there, the evening proceeded pretty much as planned.

We combined cultural displays by some our ethnic families with a student art exhibition and a soup and chili cook-off. The price of admission was a jar of peanut butter or jelly for the local food pantry.

We also provided paper bags and art supplies so people could decorate lunch bags for the food pantry. There was a lot going on, needless to say.

I was very gratified by the response to the ethnic displays. We now have children from 65 countries enrolled at the school and we need to raise awareness and appreciation for their culture.

One of the participants, a diminutive woman with creamy cocoa skin and enormous brown eyes said to me..."This is so wonderful. You know, because when people think of Ethiopia, they think of starving children and desolation. But there is beauty there too. And so much history. I am so glad to have an opportunity to share that."

So as I said, the evening itself was a success. I even took third place in the chili portion of the cook off.

But that, people, is why I will not be orgranizing any more projects, fundraisers, fetes or fairs.

I will sit in the atrium and watch as people sign a clipboard. I will graciously greet visitors and hand them a pass. I will pour coffee for teachers during conference week. I will be a baking fool, if called upon.

But above that? My volunteering days are at an end. And please, dear husband of mine, if I somehow forget my oath of non-volunteerism and stick my arm up anyway...for God's sake break it off.

I have seen the error of my ways.

A comedy, of errors, in point of fact.

And I try to learn from my mistakes.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Obligatory "Bad Blogger" Post

Forgive my laxity in posting people. My life has spun out of control...a phenomena I'm sure you all have experienced a time or two.

Some of it I can't talk about for legal reasons. I know, that sounds very sinsiter doesn't it? It is. I don't know if I will ever be able disclose to you, my readers, the full scope of what I find myself involved in. It's like a bad movie of the week starring Valerie Bertinelli and Gary Cole.

But I will say that this weekend? After my PTSA event is over and done with?

I will be reflecting on my disturbing propensity for overcommitting myself.

The cause is near and dear to my heart. I really, really believe in supporting and advocating art enrichment programs in the schools.

But I dislike being micromanaged.

"This is YOUR vision", I was told. Not so. I am but a lackey. Not really my thing at all, frankly.

Next year, NO PTSA.

I say that every year.

But I mean it this time. For real. I'm not even kidding.

Why are you looking at me like that?

POST SCRIPT: I'm sorry. I made it sound much more sinister than it actually is, I guess. I am fine. I am not in any legal trouble. I am involved in a legal matter, but only as a witness. I can't discuss it because to do so would compromise my testimony and possibly adversely effect the outcome. Also, it would violate the confidence and privacy of those directly involved. That's all. I sincerely thank you all for your concern, but I'm really okay. Just crossing my fingers that things work they way they're supposed to.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

My Friend Is Still Dead

And I am still struggling to accept that.

For a lot of reasons, her death was extremely tragic. She did everything right; legally, by the book. And still she ended up shot through the heart, because nobody was listening.

So I've moved through the stages of grief. I think they are different for everyone, but for me, it has been denial, anger and action.

The denial feeds the anger, the anger spurs the action. But really, they are just band aids for the deeper hurt that I haven't yet allowed myself to fully experience.

I suspect I won't be able to move into the acceptance stage until I do.

But I've realized that my friend has given me a gift; unbeknownst to her. I think she would be glad to know her death wasn't entirely in vain, but I know both of us would rather she were still alive, and the gift still ungiven.

So I can't waste it.

I've been doing a lot of procrastinatign in terms of what I should do with my life now that motherhood is no longer a full time gig. I didn't prepare for this day, truthfully.

It's funny...when you're deep in the throes of sleepless nights and catnap days, you really can't conceive of a day when your time is your own again. But it comes. Quickly.

This song has been playing incessantly in my head:

I know it's about obsessive love, but for me, the words resonate because they speak about loss of identity; the confusion over what and who I've become in the 14 years since I said good-bye to singularity.

"I don't know, who I am, who I am without you...."

For me, it isn't a greedy lover who has appropriated my sense of self, but needy children. It isn't their fault, of course. It's mine. I gave it up without a thought, thinking myself a good mother.

So now the time has come to change that. And I know it has to be done. But as you all know, because I have written about it ad nauseum, I am rife with indecision.

Someone suggested I was just lazy. But I'm not. I'm scared.

So, I keep putting it off. I tell myself that tomorrow, I'll decide. Tomorrow I'll make some calls. Tomorrow I'll create my gameplan. Tomorrow, I will take that first step.

But you know what? Eventually, we run out of tomorrows. My sweet friend thought she had many more tomorrows left to see.

I don't want to die never having done something really great. I don't want to die never having done something my kids can be proud of. I don't want to die wondering who I am.

The gift my friend has given me, is the gift of today and the clarity to see that I have to live like there is no tomorrow.

Thank You, L.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Why I Bother

Today was our monthly PTSA Executive Board Meeting.

Wait, don't run....

I know, the first word that comes to mind when you think of me is "joiner".

Frankly, I both dread these meetings and look forward to them. Most of the ladies are smart, dynamic, creative, and resourceful. I like to work with them, and I like the socializing after business has concluded.

But, as with any group of women, power struggles inevitably arise. Feathers are ruffled. A to-do ensues. I really hate that shit.

And sometimes, I feel like the odd woman out because a lot of my beliefs differ vastly from the majority. I'm a liberal fish swimming in conservative waters.

But I've learned to enjoy the good and ignore the bad, and for the most part, my stint as Arts In Education Chairperson has been satisfying and enjoyable. At the very least it gives me an opportunity to think, plan, create. I get to use my brain.

Not much of that happenin' when I have my head in a toilet, yannow?

So anyway, at each board meaning, the President asks one person to do an invocation.

That sounds very straight laced and grown-up, doesn't it? And sort of ominous too.


But really, it's just a way to start the meeting on a positive note. Some people read quotes, some share personal experiences, some ((sigh)) read scripture. And though it's trite and cliched, I often find myself responding with a warm fuzzy feeling, which is, of course, the intent.

No, the Blog Antagonist is not immune to all that yoo rah rah women rock bullshit. I buy it; hook line and sinker. Is that so bad?

So today was my turn. Gah.

I'm not a public speaker. I can write anything you ask me to write, but speak? No thanks. People look at you when you speak, which is not my thing at all. I'd rather sit unobtrusively in the back row and listen quietly.

"What am I supposed to SAY??" I asked the president.

"Anything! You have so much to say about so many things! Just pick one!"

"You are no help." I accused.

"You are such a baby. Alright. talk about your passion for Arts In Education? I know you have something to say about that."

"Alright. But I'm not promising greatness."

"I need five minutes. It doesn't have to be the Gettysburg address."

I started with a quote by Sir Ken Robinson...

"We are not educating children into creativity, we are educating them out of it."

I explained who Sir Ken Robinson is, and the basis of his beliefs regarding education.

I shared some statistics. I told a cute little anecdote about Diminutive One, who will always choose something creative over something academic, and frequently gets in trouble for it.

I closed with one of my favorite quotes by artist Wassily Kandinsky...

"There is no must in art, because Art is free"

I tried to impress that these programs are vital to our childrens' education and why. And that we shouldn't let budget cuts and economic hardship further decrease the number of arts and enrichment programs that we are providing our children.

As I said, I'm not a public speaker, and I stumbled a little bit. The President smiled her encouragement and I felt like a child being bouyed by maternal benevolence as she struggles to recite an unfamiliar poem or verse.

I finished, relieved.

Afterwards, several people came up to me to ask me more about Ken Robinson, and where they could learn more about his platform. I explained the best I could, but felt I wasn't doing his brilliance justice. I wish I could have just shown them this:

It's twenty minutes long, but it's worth it.




And then ACT.

Because our children are being shortchanged, people. You don't have to be an activist, or a philanthropist or a humanitarian. You don't need a lofty title or a sophisticated agenda.

You just need to care that children's souls are being fed along with their minds. You just need to care that we teach our children to embrace their unique gifts, to trust in their own instincts, to love who they are, and to thrive within the realm of their own greatness.

Is there a parent among us who doesn't?

Right. Then go forth and volunteer. Here are some statistics to help you make your point.

A comprehensive Arts education helps children:

  • Learn more effectively in all areas of curriculum, including math and science.
  • Experience greater understanding of what they learn.
  • Score higher on all aspects of the SAT.
  • Achieve higher levels of academic success in collegiate and post-graduate studies.

Young people involved in the Arts are:

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

And yet...only 36% of American Students are getting the recommended mimimum of one hour per week of Arts instruction.

That's not acceptable.

Tell Someone.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Worthy Cause

I've been saving this little gem for a day when I had absolutely nothing of value or interest to post.

Today is that day.

Honestly, I've forgotten how I even happened upon it. I do know it was completely accidental, though a happy accident to be sure.

I'm posting it because I think it's funny. But also because, yannow? God Bless him. All the man wants to do is give.

So, on behalf of womankind, I'd like to personally thank Mr. George Leslie Kirstner III for his service and selfless dedication to what I personally consider to be a very worthy cause.

WARNING: Maybe NSFW-ish.

I give you....FREE FACE.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Denial Ain't Just a River In Egypt

A while back, some Moms and I were sitting around talking after a PTA meeting. We were discussing the most disconcerting aspect of parenting a teen - addressing sexuality.

Now, I've tried really hard to keep the lines of commnunication open with my boys.

My upbringing was extremely conservative and sex was just not discussed. Ever. Well, except for one awkward and purely technical conversation with my father (my mother couldn't bring herself to do it) when I was 11, after I'd used the F word in mixed company. An insert tab A into slot B, sort of thing.

Even my advent into womanhood went unremarked upon. A box of Tampax appeared in the bathroom cabinet and that, as they say, was that.

I don't blame my parents. The time they lived in fostered a sense of shame and secrecy regarding sexuality. And I would venture to guess that a lot of you have a similar story to tell. It's just the way things were.

A lot of my sex education occurred on the playground and, amusingly enough, in the pages of ersatz adult novels. I distinctly remember a tattered volume hidden away behind the John Jakes paperbacks. It was titled "Her Secret Kinks".

Whew. Talk abut titillating. I couldn't very well NOT crack that sucker open, now could I?

It was a most illuminating read.

And useful as well. It was really my own personal sexual dictionary, and I referred to it often. It was my go to guide to sexual congress and carnal vernacular.

Once, some young playground romeo, affecting a sexual sophistication that I am now certain was entirely feigned, had slyly informed me that he would like to "screw" me.

My reaction was one of blase indifference, but on the inside I was all aflutter. Though I wasn't entirely certain of his meaning, I knew it was a sexual proposition of some sort.

Having covertly read "Her Secret Kinks" cover to cover, and then gone back to re-read the really good parts, I was fairly certain it had been used as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. A quick referral confirmed that, and the next day I kicked said young man squarely in his secret kinks.

Unfortunately, having such a book at my disposal did not make me completely immune from forming entirely erroneous and sometimes exceedingly ridiculous notions about sex. And it didn't cover the really heavy emotional stuff that comes with physical intimacy.

So. I try to talk to my kids about sex and let them know that I am always available to answer questions. I want them to know that they can always come to me.

To my satisfaction and chagrin, they do.

The discussion with the Moms turned to one young woman in the neighborhood, who was rumored to be providing oral services to a number of young men.

One woman, whose son had just entered Middle School, expressed disbelief.

"I just don't think thirteen year olds are giving blow jobs for heaven's sake! I didn't even know what a blow job was when I was thirteen! I was still playing with Barbie dolls!"

Well, I was too. But I wasn't unaware of sex. Indeed, I had discovered my own sexuality at a very early age through unabashed exploration.

And people, this is where our problem lies. We forget that children are sexual beings. They have the same parts as we do. They experience the same feelings of pleasure and the same urges.

Who among us, with a little boy, hasn't had to feign nonchalance when that first erection is met with joy and wonder and announced with enthusiasm to anyone within earshot?

Who, with a daughter, has not had to explain that we don't put our fingers in there when other people are around?

They are thinking about sex. They are having sex. And we have to face that head on (no pun intended).

I drive carpool every third day. It's an excellent opportunity to find out exactly what is going on in their world. Sometimes I talk, but mostly I listen. And they think I don't hear, so their discussions are not tempered by caution.

My cargo is comprised of one fourth grade girl, and two fifth grade boys.

Yesterday, this conversation took place.

Fifth grade boy: "Did you break up with that guy?"

Fourth grade girl: "No."

Fifth grade boy: "I thought you were?"

Fourth grade girl: "No. My friend said I should. She was like 'You should totally break up with him.' and I was like, 'No' and she was like, 'Well, don't come crying to me when he cheats on you.' and I was like, 'Shut up'."

Fifth grade boy: "Oh."

Fourth grade girl: "Yeah. AND, my other friend told me that he told her brother that he is totally in love with me. She was like 'All he wants is you. All he thinks about is you. He is totally committed.'"

Fifth grade boy: "Oh well, I guess that's good then."

Diminutive One just looked bemused and bewildered, and offered no input whatsover.


Even I, seasoned though I consider myself to be, was a little taken aback.

What is my point? I promise, there is one.

We have to talk to our kids about sex.

And we can't wait until they are asking the tough questions. We can't just bury our heads in the sand and hope it will go away.

We have to foster an attitude of normalcy and acceptance regarding their sexuality. It's super important that we don't project the feelings of shame and embarassment with which we were raised, onto them.

Because if they think you're embarassed, then they become embarassed too. If they think it's shameful, they feel ashamed.

And they won't talk to you.

Look, I didn't particularly relish talking to my 13 year old son about anal sex. But it had to be done. And afterward, I felt ridiculously proud of myself for maintaining my composure and being honest and direct with him.

And now I know, that he knows, that if he can talk to me about anal sex, he can talk to me about any friggen' thing.

Diminutive One is, as, I've mentioned before, a horse of a different color. He marches to his own beat. In some ways, he's light years ahead of his peers, but in others, he is obviously far behind.

When issues of sex arise, more often than not, he holds up his hands and says, "I don't need to hear about that. I'm only 10 for cripes sake."

That's fine with me.

But I'm not naieve enough to think that will be the case for long. Middle School looms on the horizon. I know there are more discussions about anal sex in my future.

And knowing him, he will find new and even more effective ways to test my parenting mettle, not to mention my capacity for withstanding embarassment and pretending I am completely at ease.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Funk Buster

Invariably, after a visit home, I fall into a funk.

Partially, it's because I miss everybody so much, and I hate to think it will be so long before I see them again. But also, it's because going home always reminds me that I'm not a little girl anymore.

I don't like seeing my parents through grown-up eyes. I much prefer them omnipotent and invinceable. The real people that I now see them to be, are flawed and fallible. We all are, of course. We all have are foibles and our frailties. It doesn't mean I love them any less. But sometimes, I just wish I could still believe they are perfect.

Anyway, the death of my friend, and some other personal upsets have caused my post visit melancholy to be a little bit deeper than usual.

I am wallowing, truth be told.

Bags are still unpacked and the fridge is ridiculously empty. My poor kids have been surviving on fast food ketchup packets and croutons. The laundry is piled high and the poor tree has wilted into a pile of gaily festooned tinder. The pitter patter of falling needles is constant, and oddly, soothing; like a gentle summer rain.

Sometimes the funk lifts by itself. Usually, if I just let myself indulge in a week of reading in bed and unwashed hair, it breaks up and drifts away. But sometimes it doesn't and I have to make a conscious effort to snap the fuck out of it.

This time, I'm having to take drastic measures.

Thankfully, I have this in my aresnal:

This is my new neice. She is absolutely beautiful, and she has a beautiful name. I wish I could share it with you, but I don't even use my own boys' names here.

She smells good. She is warm and squishy and softly sighing baby sounding. She eats, she sleeps, she turns her head when she hears her mother's voice. She doesn't talk back. She doesn't smear spaghetti in her hair. She doesn't color on the walls. She has cupid's bow lips that beg for a kiss and she tries to nurse when you touch your lips ever so softly to hers. It makes me laugh every time to feel her greedily grasping with her tender little mouth.

Ahhhhh. Babies are good for the soul.

And this...this is a picture of my husband. Who does not, under any circumstances, want another baby. Because we are too old. And babies grow up to be autonomous, verbal and very, very costly.

You see that look on his face? It means, "Just because I am holding this baby does NOT mean that I am willing to impregnate you."

However, there are at least 27 similar pictures taken over the course of our week long visit.

I think there might be a smidge of hope. makes me happy to think of her and her brothers and sisters. The twins are gamine faced and slightly built, with deep brown eyes and infectious giggles. They are like little fairy people. The boy makes me laugh because he is SO like Dimiunitive One. The girl makes me wistful because my mother says she is me. The firstborn, who is now 8, gave my sister something she thought would always be lost to her; motherhood. His birth is clear in mind and I can still hear his first cry.

I rarely share pictures of my boys or my family here, but today I can't help myself.

Here are my two boys, plus all of my neices and nephews. I hope someday pictures like these will be taken more often than once a year. We are working toward that goal and for the first time, I believe it's going to happen.

They are dishevelled and red-faced because they had been playing in the snow. They are red-eyed because I am a notoriously poor photographer. But still, it makes me happy to look at this picture.

Top row: Diminutive One, Pubescent One holding neice #2, Eldest nephew. Bottom row: girl twin, boy twin.

Voila. Instant Funk Buster.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Struggling to Say Goodbye


As I've mentioned before, it's an important thing.

Because you see, when someone dies, and you don't get a chance to say good-bye, they remain alive in your heart, even though you know, rationally, that they are gone.

That's where I'm at right now....

Struggling to picture my vivacious smiling friend, lying cold and expressionless in a coffin.

I. Can't. Do. It.

She was a tiny, tiny person. But she had a huge presence. The phrase "larger than life" applied to her in every possible way. I can't imagine her silent and unsmiling, no matter how hard I try.

She had so many funny little mannerisms and quirks. She was just a ray of sunshine. I know that survivors tend to deify people who have passed focus on their good qualities and disremember the bad, but with my friend, there's nothing bad to disremember.

Not that she was perfect. She wasn't. But that was part of what made her so lovable. She was a real person; genuine. She was who she was and made no apologies for it.

I couldn't go to her funeral, which was in Houston. I was in Wisconsin when news of her death came, and neither finances nor circumstances would allow for me to fly down and say goodbye to my friend.

So for now, she lives on. In my heart, my memory, and my reality.

I know she's no longer in this world. But I can't seem to let go of the idea that it's all a dreadful mistake.


I can't delete her phone number from the preset menu on my cellphone. I can't delete her from my facebook friends list. I can't delete her from my email address book. Because that would mean accepting that she's gone. And I'm just not ready to do that yet.

Maybe, if I had seen her lying there I could. But without the brutal reality of that sight...I just can't.

I wonder if that feeling will ever go away.

Hvil i fred kjære venn Lisboa (thanks M, for the Norwegian). Someday our Flinstone feet will meet again.

I just know it.

(Feet clockwise from Top: Nina, BA, AA, and Lisbeth)