Monthly Archives: March 2010

Let Me Go–Wait, Don’t!

I wasn't going to stop at Costco at all. 
I was going to the temple, and then I was going home.
But my two oldest sons need shorts; last summer one of them wore the same pair every day for seven months. 
True story.
And March 'tis the season for spring wear at Costco.
So I stopped. Found a great deal on six pair of cargo shorts, and then remembered I needed some rice milk for one of the milk-sensitive families I care for. 
Decided I might as well venture deeper into the store–since I was there anyway…that and my hands were shaking and I was seeing double because I hadn't eaten yet and it was two o'clock in the afternoon and home was an hour and a half away…and something on the sample tables smelled really good. 
I spent five hundred dollars on rice milk and peanut butter and produce.
How does that happen?
I didn't even buy meat or candy or ready-made meals.
Another true story:
On the way home I was flipping through radio stations trying to find something, anything that didn't set my teeth on edge. Finally put in one of my teenager's CD's. The first song was pretty mellow, and I let the guy have free reign of my stereo system for a few minutes. 
After listening to him plead, for the five hundredth time, "Don't let me go, Don't let me go…" I skipped to the next track. 
The opening vocals?
"Let me go-o-o-o, Let me go-o-o-o…"
I laughed out loud. 
And then I turned off the stereo and I enjoyed the silence. 

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Betty Davis Made Me an Apron

There's a little embroidered tag on the inside, as proof. "Made Especially FOR YOU BY Betty Davis".
I've never even met the woman but I babysit her great-grandchildren and they told her about my aprons with the deep mysterious pockets, and she sent me a new one. And I can fit a novel into these pockets.
She's probably no relation to the musician (although, if I've got my facts guesses straight, her son is the dj for KDRM) but the woman can sew!
My favorite part is the caption along the hem which reads, "Life is just a chair of bowlies"
Clearly our dear Ms. Davis understands what interacting with a lot of young people day after day does to the neurons responsible for transmitting thoughts into speech; my children no longer look at me in consternation when I tell them to do things like put the towels in the dishwasher or the milk in the oven. 
While we are on the topic of aprons anyway (and I have my camera out) this is the one my sister bought, and I admired, late one night at Target with a fist-full of cash ($968 in ones, fives and tens) years ago because we thought it was pretty and because what's twelve more dollars when you've already spent almost one thousand on your children's school clothes? 
She gave it to me a few days later for my birthday:

The great thing about this last apron is how enormous it is; even my shoulders stay clean–and if you've ever hauled around any critter under the age of three, you understand how monumental that is:
My mother helped my children make it years ago. It says, "I Think I Can" along with all sorts of other cheesy little puns she made up and painted on with toothpicks and fabric paint: Lettuce be nice, Love can't be beet, Squash meanness… etc.  (I've mentioned my parent's love of words, right?)
I was going to model them for you, but self-portraits are not one of the many things I have learned to do.
But thank you, Betty, Nena, and Mom. And all the other apron wielding women in my life, past and present. Only a woman with a true mother-heart still understands the need for an apron. (Especially one with pockets.)

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Potty Parade

I have three newly potty-trained girls here:
The picture is deceiving:
1) My window is not always so clean; I washed it last night. (Clearly, vanilla is an overrated flavor; Windex is the favorite around here. Okay, Windex mingled with whatever flavor the last person left when they licked it.)
2) The don't always get along so cosily–most often when the potty is involved. There is a surprising amount of competitiveness in toddlers when it comes to bodily functions.
If one of them says, "I need to go potty!" then invariably, they all race to see who can get there first–whether they actually need to go or not. This results in mass migration to the toilet every ten minutes or so, all day–because after all, do you know anyone brave enough to call the bluff of a newly-potty-trained two-year-old? Really? You're going to say to them, "No, you don't need to go potty, you just went, ten minutes ago."? These are critters than frequently void in very small increments, and everyone knows this. 
So after some reminders to be kind to our friends and take turns, they all line up to do their business. 
The one in the pink pants is the genuine article. She rarely comes up empty. She was the first trained, and the most engaged in the process; she names her little plops after members of her family ("Look, that one's Daddy, and that one's Mommy and there's Grandpa–he looks angry.") She also likes to strum the side of the toilet and sing Taylor Swift for all the world like she's on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry.
The munchkin in the middle is the most verbose. "The pee is coming out. Now it's all done. It sounds funny." She's such a little thing it feels strange to lift her onto the toilet. I think I've got a one-year-old who outwieghs her by almost twenty pounds. 
The youngest, the wiry one on the right, originally took a turn on the throne because everyone else was, probably, and occasionally something happened and that seemed to be  worth celebrating. This is the first week that she has initiated the mass migration herself, even in the midst of a more interesting activity, and actually had to go. Yay! And I say that whole-heartedly–you have no idea what kind of diapers this girl could produce. She could also climb to the top of my fridge in about three heartbeats and escape her crib before her first birthday.

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Why Grizzlies Don’t Need Reeboks

Question was posed to me today:
If evolution and survival of the fittest and all that is true, then why are humans the ones out buying Reeboks and SPF50 and winter gloves and not the grizzly bears or the hyenas?
And why can't our young hit the ground running or even fend for themselves for what, like eighteen years? 
We're pretty pathetic specimens if you want to talk "fit" for survival, don't you think?

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Will They Say That You Loved ‘Til Your Final Breath?

A wise friend pointed out to me yesterday, while we were discussing the odds and ends of life, that it really doesn't matter what you do. It's the relationships we build. 
Not a terribly original idea, I know, but it struck me:
Musicians might love creating music but they would never be satisfied to sit in a vacuum listening to themselves play; artists do not (generally) send each project through the shredder as they complete it: what you do doesn't matter nearly as much as how who it affects and in what manner. 
The lyrics to a song I probably no longer own or can track down have been going through my head on a loop:
What will you do with the time that's left? 
Will you fill it all with no regrets?
Will they say that you loved 'til your final breath?

Something like that. And when I consider the song and the idea, I'm inclined to agree with both–but I think I want to accomplish so many things in my life and I have so many backup plans for every contingency that I neglect the reason for it all–the relationships–and that's when I get frustrated. 
In the wee small hours it all seems to clear and simple and I go into my day thinking I've cracked life's code and I'm going to be that kind of person today. The loving, patient, kind, wise woman I want to be. 
And then everyone else wakes up and the garbage truck comes early and the boy slaps the girl–who may or may not have deserved it, judging from the horrific things coming from her mouth–and well, you know–life happens. 
I'm really counting on the idea that it's the intent of our hearts that matters most. Because that's about as far as I'm ever going to get, I'm afraid!

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Basking in Rejection

Received my first honest-to-goodness rejection letter today. Signed, sealed and delivered.
The surprising thing was how good it felt. Twisted, I know, but maybe it was just the relief of knowing, of being freed to move on to other possibilities. (Was I just a teeny bit stressed about actually getting a writing contract with Random House and having to write another book?)  Or maybe it was just one of God's tender mercies–that I could feel relief rather than devastation.
In any case, a few moments later, a woman showed up at my door with a large bouquet of flowers. I looked at her and in the split second it took her to ask for the true recipients (who live three doors down) I thought to myself, Oh no! Why is someone sending me flowers!? And I had that momentary panic-induced sense of paralysis that feeling indebted to someone for something I didn't need or want brings on. 
So there you go. My writing was summarily dismissed by one of the largest publishing firms in the nation and nobody sent me flowers and I was absurdly glad about both occurrences. Made my day.

I never claimed to be easy to please.

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Now You Know

In talking to the financial aid office at the college the other day, I was having a difficult time understanding what the receptionist was suggesting until I realized she was discreetly trying to ask if I was over forty. Without asking. Without making it necessary for me to confirm or deny. (Apparently there are scholarships for women of a certain age.)

I guess I didn't know there were still people who were squeamish about discussing aging.
Really…does it matter if you know how old I am?
Will it change anything–except for maybe what scholarships I am currently eligible for?
Which, by the way, I'm not–seeing as I'm white, not guilty of any felonies, and have a parent who graduated college–which, albeit expensive, is probably as it should be. 
In other news, I attended the cub scout Blue and Gold banquet last night with my sons. I am ashamed to say that I was bored out of my mind and very cynical about the entire evening. I would say more, but the guilt would probably eat away at me all day until I was compelled to delete the post entirely for fear of offending somebody. 
That and at some core level I was counting my lucky stars that it wasn't me up there relating the history of scouting, not to mention that I didn't have to plan, cook, decorate or set up for the event. All I had to do was show up and resist rolling my eyes. Which I mostly was successful at. 
The night was not a complete loss, as I snuck out for half an hour and did some grocery shopping: twenty-three boxes of cereal, 48 cans of veggies, three tubs of yogurt and a bag of salad; the checker asked if I ran a daycare; I asked how she knew; she raised one painted-on brow. 
Can I here observe that I made it back before anyone noticed my absence, the opening flag ceremony began, or the first scoop of sloppy joe plopped onto the first paper plate?
I also deleted two years worth of old numbers off my cell phone, which felt predictably good, considering the owners of  said numbers. And cleaned out my inbox.
Which left just over an hour to control the rolling of the eyes and any drawn out or audible sighing. 
I'm not really that old and crabby, am I?
Here's the thing–intellectually, I understand what a dynamic program scouting can be. What an influence for good in a boy's life. I get that–and I encourage my boys to attend. But so far, even though I've served in scouting myself for years, and my boys have muddled through it, I can't really get myself to care who started it, or in what year, or who has how many patches and pins and who doesn't. And I certainly didn't enjoy skits and group games when I was a child–so why would I enjoy it in my old age? 
Which is all of 34 years, if you're wondering but are too squeamish to ask. (There, now you know–does it change anything for you?) 
Yeesh, I am crabby, aren't I? 
Maybe I should go sit on the floor and build myself a really tall tower of Lego's for the babies to knock over, get in touch with the inner child I was born without. 

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Junk Mail

The school district mailed out an Ethnicity and Race Data Collection Form last week. I received six of them. 
Question #1: Is your child of Hispanic or Latino origin? If yes, check all the boxes that apply (Cuban, Dominican, Spaniard, Central American, etc, etc.)
Question #2: What race to you consider your child?
Then followed Black, White, a dozen or so each of Asian and Pacific Islander categories, and then literally dozens of choices for American Indian tribes. These categories are "set by the federal government, the Washington State Legislature, and the state Superintendent of Public Instruction." Apparently a lot of time, effort and resources have gone into determining the relevant pigeon-holes.
And I guess the difference between an Irish immigrant and a Russian immigrant aren't as worthy of distinction as the difference between the Jasmestown S'Klallam and the Lower Elwa Klallam tribes.
Black covers all of Africa.
I guess if you're native Austrailian, you don't even register.
Maybe I'm a bigot, but I don't understand the purpose behind this federally mandated bit of information gathering. If we really need to adjust our educational system to allow for the differences between the Nisqually Nooksack and the Muckleshoot tribes, then how can you decide that a child newly emigrated from war-torn Nigeria has identical needs to a sixth-generation African American child? 
How can you say that my "white" mongrels are no different that fifty percent of the other children on the bus who are share the same skin color but who speak Russian, Ukranian or German?
Because you can't. Because they are all children. Human beings. And I don't understand why we can't treat them as such. I don't understand why we must pigeon-hole them. 
If you really just want to understand the demographic of graduates or dropouts or whatever else it is you are looking for, then why the skewed categories? Why does having pale skin make the distinctions of my heritage of less interest than anyone else's?
I threw the letters away. Mostly because I was cleaning off the table and I really didn't care to sort the letters out from the rest of the junk mail. 
I've received two reminder calls in a week to return them.  It's almost Orwellian.
Someone enlighten me, please…

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Mind The Gap

Six months ago I listened to a speaker who, during a visit to London, noticed signs in the subway warning people to "mind the gap"–the potentially dangerous space between the platform and the train. She asked us to consider and "mind" the gaps in our own lives: the gap between who we want to become and who we are; the gap between the way we know we should behave and the way we actually live our lives; this sort of thing. 
I ran across a printed version of her talk last month and it got me to thinking about the gaps in my own life. 
(Like the difference between what I know as a mother about the significance of having sit-down family dinners together and yet as an exhausted woman, it's a lot easier to direct the teenaged children to the pot of food on the stove and eat my own on the couch.) 
So, conscience fully twinged, I decided to whip things into shape around here. For the last two weeks I have been mother extraordinaire, babysitter supreme, teacher prepared, cook and plumber on call. 
I have smiled when I wanted to cry, prayed when I wanted to strangle, listened when I wanted to think–and my children have responded almost immediately. Huge differences in their attitudes and in how they treat one another. 
Here's the thing, though. As I have bridged those gaps, there are others opening up in their place, no matter how I position myself. Not entirely surprising–our days being stubbornly resistant to stretching out past the 24 hours they are contained in–but puzzling nonetheless. 
Mostly because the two most noticeable gaps are ones I profess to hold quite dear: my health, and my writing.
Exercising–I can see why I neglect that. Pure laziness or boredom, right?
But writing? How did that get shaken way down to the bottom of the pile? This thing that I have defined myself by since I was six years old and hammering out strange, convoluted tales on my father's typewriter? How does something so fundamentally me get lost in the shuffle?
I know I cannot exist outside of the written word; you don't want to know me when I am not writing–I don't want to know myself.
So last night I set my alarm for 3 a.m. I was determined to get up and get a good hour or two in before the day really began. I was going to write–anything, something. I would write. No matter what. Yawning and bleary eyes aside, I would write. And then I would go to bed early. 
I had this deluded idea that if I did it just once, I'd start a new cycle of early to bed, early to rise and I'd  have bridged the gap, once and for all. With sheer willpower. 
But I didn't get up. I kept pushing the alarm button until forty-five minutes later than I ever start my day and still didn't want to get up when there was no longer any choice in the matter. 
I am weak. Well rested, but weak. 
Why, if writing is really that important to me, do I put it last? 

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