Sunday, October 30, 2005

Falling Back

So, I've been waiting all month to "fall back." Geek that I am, I love the opportunity to live an hour twice, but I'm WAY less enthusiastic about springing forward and I am the kind of person that's always wondered WHY we do this insane and pointless thing twice a year especially since hardly anyone has a coherent explanation for why we do it and no one I personally know feels there's even one demonstrable benefit to doing it (I mean, "they" tell us it's about saving fuel or whatever, but has anyone, ever, scientifically illustrated the "truth" of that statement?). Earlier this month at the library (where, yes, I spend entirely too much time, thanks for asking), I stumbled upon this book, which has everything I've ever wanted to know about Daylight Saving (starting with the fact that it's NOT "Daylight Savings," which is what I, and everyone I've ever known, have always called it) and a whole lot more than that, too. I must confess up front that I was unable to finish the book, though I did make it two-thirds of the way through it and the conclusion I came away with was that NO ONE really knows why we do it, except that a bunch of politicians got their hearts set on it, for, I might add, no coherent or logical reason, which kind of made me wonder what sorts of illogical scams are currently being perpetrated on the nation by politicians with their hearts in the wrong place.

Speaking of scams, when I brought the book to work, Cranky Boss Lady said, "You know, I usually think the books you read are offbeat in an interesting and informative way, but this one just looks insanely boring. Frankly, I'm kind of annoyed that someone got paid for writing it."

Aw, she's just jealous.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

October, I Barely Knew Ye

I had big plans this month--it's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Fall Back Daylight Saving Month, and, of course, it's Halloween Month. Oh, did I have some great blog entries planned! But now, all of a sudden, and without my permission AT ALL, it's the 29th of October. When the HELL did this happen?

So here, too little and maybe too late, is my Breast Cancer Awareness post. (To be followed, hopefully in short order, by my Fall Back post and my Halloween post...The scariest thing about my Halloween post will no doubt be the way I have to hastily cobble it together from all the jumbled up crap in my head in order to get it posted by/on Halloween.)

First, ever wonder how much of the money from those pink-ribbon branded products actually finds its way to breast cancer research? When I saw pink M&M's at the beginning of this month, I thought maybe the pink-fever had gone a little too far. Then I stumbled upon this website:
Think Before You Pink, which had some thought-provoking information. I still kind of think the bottom line is that any attention for the cause is good attention, but the site definitely made me think about corporate motives, and our willingness to go along with them.

Second, a more personal breast cancer awareness angle. My mom died of breast cancer in 1994, at the age of 42. The following is an unapologetically sentimental tribute to her. Read at your own risk:

Finding My Mother

I'm loooking for my mother. She's not there in the doctor's grim expression. Not in the diagnosis, which raises as many questions as it answers--a recurrence of breast cancer that spread throughout her body undetected. She is not in the tangle of tubes and wires, the electronic blips and beeps, the sterile technology that keeps her alive but only sometimes eases her pain.

She was a woman raised in the hills of northwestern Pennsylvania who distrusted technology, medical and otherwise. Twenty years as a military wife hadn't cured her of her country girl's reflexive distrust of outsiders, of the world. Politicians, it was a given, were all crooked. She was sure the girls behind the deli counter at the supermarket were trained to put extra slices of ham or cheese on the sensitive electronic scales and then to inquire with false sweetness, "It's a few points over a pound, is that all right?" My mother made them put the slices back.

I'm looking for my mother. She is not there in the shimmery silver satin on which her head now rests, not in the cool, smooth surface of the casket.

She was a woman of many contradictions. She was an outspoken feminist who could argue down the loudest mouth chauvinist at any party, who dressed her daughters in "Anything boys can do, girls can do better." T-shirts, who not only believed women were equal to men, but suspected we were in many ways superior. Yet, she washed and ironed my father's shirts even whens he worked as many hours outside the home as he did. She was an optimist--telling us to be ourselves and we would go far. She was a pragmatist--telling us not to get our hopes up in an effort to protect us from the disappointments she was sure we would face. She battled acute shyness, but when the spirit (and the right tune) moved her, she could outdance any extrovert.

I'm looking for my mother. She is not there in the unyielding granite stone that marks her grave. Not in the straight lines of the block letters that spell out her name. She is not there in the finality of the numbers marking her forty-two years.

She stares out at me from a snapshot taken just after I was born. Alone in a field under an overcast sky, she is wind-blown, gangly and wide-eyed. She looks scrawny and exposed, fragile as a newly hatched bird, but from her eyes shines a fierce determination to survive, to thrive. From this captured moment, she would go on to raise four children and to share, against all odds, in the making of a lasting marriage. She was a mother at sixteen, a child who stumbled unprepared into womanhood. That child survived within her. We saw her in the wonder with which my mother greeted her new-to-the-world grandchildren. We saw her in my mother's vulnerability, in her sensitivity to harsh words. Somewhere beneath all the worldly cynicism and the backwoods practicality hid the abaondoned child waiting to ocme out to play, to climb trees, to be barefoot.

I'm looking for my mother. She is in my own impatience with pretense and empty social niceties. She is in my tendency toward untidiness, in my belief that chaos is more interesting than order. She is in the expression I catch on my sister's face, or my brother's, or my own as I pass by the mirror. She is in the shape of my big toe, which looks so much like hers, I am sometimes suprised to find it on my own foot. She is in my tomboyishness, which I have finally accepted is chronic, permanent, and not just a relic from childhood I might someday outgrow. She is in the mixture of paranoia and confidence with which I greet each day. She is in the silly songs I sing to my children and in the soaring hopes I have for them.

I'm looking for my mother. She's never far.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The It Girl

Ooooh, it's my first ever meme--and what's a blogger love more than an excuse to talk about herself? My thanks to Crazy MomCat for tagging me. The assignment was 20 random facts about myself and then tagging as many people as it took minutes to do the list. So here goes:

1. I am the oldest of four children. I'm also the shortest. This used to bother me a lot.

2. I love babies and babies love me. I like to think this says something about my essential humanness.

3. I was an Army brat. I lived in fifteen towns in five states before my eighteenth birthday. I think that fact of my childhood has had more influence on my life/personality than any other.

4. Much to the amusement of those around me & to my own embarassment, I startle VERY easily. The noise I make when startled is difficult to capture in print--it's more an intake of air, a squeaky gasp, than a scream--otherwise I would surely have blogged about my tendency toward hysteria. I'm pretty sure I startle so easily because I live way too much inside my own head and not enough in the outside world. I'm always kind of surprised to come across other people when I'm not expecting them.

5. Because of my job, I have access to the keys of a variety of churches. Sometimes my life is so loud, I actually fantasize about sneaking into one of the churches just to sit in the silence.

6. I still listen to Andy Gibb and Shaun Cassidy, my first pop music loves--I even have them on CD now. Sometimes, I'll get out the old, scratchy, skippy LP's and play THEM for old time's sake. Secretly, I believe that some of the songs they wrote (as opposed to the ones someone made them record) are actually pretty amazing, especially lyrically.

7. I've read Wuthering Heights at least fifteen times. Lots of people tell me that Jane Eyre is a "better" book, but I've never been able to make it past the first chapter. (And I wonder what it says about me that every couple of years I try again.)

8. I'm afraid this list is going to take too long and I won't know enough people online to "tag."

9. Throughout my life, I have occasionally woken to the sensation of someone sitting on the edge of my bed, only to find no one there. I then spend the entire day reminding myself that there's a perfectly logical, biochemical reason for the feeling, but part of me isn't really interested in being convinced.

10. I'm fairly sure I've been in at least one truly haunted house.

11. I don't have any contact with my extended family on my mother's side--not because of anything they ever did to me, but because of how I saw them treat her.

12. I have a mind like a lint trap, gathering fluffy bits of mostly useless information. Because of this, I am really, really good at Trivial Pursuit. I'm still trying to work up the courage to audition for Jeopardy!

13. In 2004, I read 99 books. That one-short-of-100 has been getting on my nerves for ten months.

14. Writing has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. My first writing was published (in a local newspaper) when I was 9. My most recent piece was published this summer (in a literary anthology). I live in fear of never reaching my "potential"--artistically, financially, or otherwise--in my writing.

15. I hate peanut butter passionately. It's vile.

16. When I was 4, I knew the book Johnny Crow's Garden by heart.When Son-One was a baby, my sister sent me a copy of it for him. We still have it, though my kids were never as obsessed with it as I was.

17. When I was 11, I taught myself to ride my bike with no hands--so I could read my books on the way home from the library.

18. I used to live in New England, close enough to the coast to go to the ocean on a regular basis. I went a few weekends a month--all year long. I miss it every day.

19. Before I got married (and changed my last name), my full name was 26 letters long. I tell people all the time that one of the reasons I married Hubby was that his last name was only six letters long and my maiden name was eleven letters long. I'm only partly joking.

20. I think shoes are at best a necessary evil and at worst an abomination.

As for the tagging, I'm serious about not knowing enough people to tag. So the first ten people who read this, who want to, who haven't already been tagged by Steph, have at it & let us all know in comments where to find you.

Friday, October 14, 2005

A Public (& Family) Service Announcement

At the risk of revealing my "secret" identity to the two people in my life who don't already know I have this blog, I would like to pass along an e-mail my Kid Sister sent me last week:

I know with the trauma and tragedy of Hurricane Katrina that many have been reaching into their wallets to make donations to those in need. Justin and I are asking you to consider making one more this year.

We recently registered for the 2005 Washington, D.C. Walk with Us to Cure Lupus Walkathon, which will be held on Saturday, November 5th. 100% of the proceeds from this event will support the Alliance for Lupus Research (ALR) in its efforts to prevent, treat and cure lupus. This is our fourth year participating, and each year we are proud to raise more funds and see the walk get bigger and better.

Lupus is a chronic autoimmune disease in which a person's immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissue. It can cause life-threatening damage to major organs such as the kidneys, lungs, heart and central nervous system. Women are five times more likely to die from lupus than men, and African Americans are three times more likely to die from lupus than caucasians.

As many of you know, my own personal battle with lupus started eight years ago. My joint pain and fatigue have become fairly stable, but I still live in fear that the kidney disease will progress to the next level, leading to dialysis or the necessity for a transplant. While I am fortunate enough to lead a fairly normal life, many with lupus are not so fortunate. At our kick-off luncheon this year, a woman spoke tearfully about the death of an 11 year old member of her Girl Scout Troop, and how she had never heard of the disease until Ani was diagnosed. A friend of mine upon learning that I had lupus, went on to tell me about how complications from lupus were the cause of her mother's death, and that her aunt also had the disease. She is considered at higher risk because of that.

Your generous support will help me reach our fundraising goal of $1500, and is essential to the ALR's research program. More information on the Alliance for Lupus Research can be found at

It is faster and easier than ever to give your support; you can donate online by simply clicking on one of the links to our personal web pages at the bottom of this message. Immediately after making your gift, you will receive an email with tax receipt information.

Whatever you can give will help; it all adds up! I greatly appreciate your support and will keep you updated on my progress.

Please forward this message to anyone you think would like to support me as I Walk to Cure Lupus!

To make things even more interesting this year, we are having a sweepstakes with some really fantastic prizes. Tickets are ten dollars apiece, and 100% of the funds (just like a regular donation) go entirely to lupus research!* If you are interested in the sweepstakes tickets, fill out the information and mail it with your check to the address listed on the sweepstakes form. Please write walker ID No. DC-70193 (Justin) or DC-70057 (Sherry) on any checks mailed in for the sweepstakes. Checks and sweepstakes entry must be received by October 30 to qualify for the sweepstakes.

Finally, if anyone is interested in walking with us, we welcome everyone! We currently have ten walkers for the team, which will be the most we've ever had, but it is definitely a case of the more the merrier!
[Sherry & Justin are walking in the Washington, DC area. If you would like direct contact information for them, please contact me.]

Thanks so much for anything that you are able to do.

Sherry's personal page:

Justin's personal page:

*Sweepstakes forms and information are available by contacting me [Masked Mom] in comments or e-mail.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

What I Left Out

Did you ever start writing something and end up somewhere entirely different than where you planned on going? And, then, at 2:46 a.m., sit straight up in bed and go, "Oh crap! I meant to say...."

No? Well I guess I'm even more of a dork than I thought I was, but in any case, that's what happened to me the night after I last posted. I meant everything I said, but I definitely did not say everything I meant to say. I started talking about Hubby's patience where Mr. High School is concerned--about his lack of jealousy and somehow got sidetracked into the odd, likely chemical-driven, early days of our relationship.

What I left out was that Hubby's lack of jealousy doesn't always seem to me to be an undiluted good thing. Maybe because I'm psychotically insecure, I sometimes can't help but see it not as his trust in me, but as his certainty that I could never tempt anyone else. I know, I know. It's pathetic. It's a sickness.

Intellectually, I recognize that jealousy is at its heart about control and possession, not love, and that the line between normal, petty jealousy and violent, controlling jealousy is fine and sometimes hazy. And I'm definitely not interested in having Hubby paranoid about me leaving the house, but can't he muster a little concern?

And, while I'm poking around in the depths of my marriage, I'd like to share something about trust that also occurred to me in the middle of the night. There's a lot of talk about how important trust is in a marriage or any long-term relationship and I've thought often about its place in my marriage. Trust is essential, but it seems to me that without trust in yourself, that last little leap of fully trusting your partner is impossible. Trust should be about more than being certain he's where he says he's going to be--ideally, it's about being able to be fully yourself in your marriage.

Let that be a warning to you: That's what you get for thinking in the middle of the night. At 2:46 a.m., it's awfully hard to distinguish the brilliant glow of insight from the glaring headlight of an oncoming train of thought that's going to run you right over.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Word About (Saint) Hubby

What's a superhero without a sidekick? Batman had Robin; Superman had Superboy and Supergirl; Lone Ranger had Tonto; Spiderman had, well, his old Aunt Mae...Masked Mom has Hidden Hubby. ("Alliteration, he's our guy! If he can't do it, why even try?"--yet another reason why the Creative Writing Club never has cheerleaders.)

Much has been made of Hubby's saintly patience, especially where my hot* date with Mr. High School is concerned. And he is a patient and saintly man in many ways. For example, he not only tolerated but encouraged my attempts to get in touch with Mr. High School. For another example, he's been a faithful reader of this blog through all the many purple paragraphs of Mr. High School-inspired prose and hasn't had a single tantrum or even minor fit of jealousy or crankiness--at least not with regard to the blog or the sorta-ex-sorta-boyfriend.

It was his saintliness that originally drew me to him. We met in January 1987 on a work-sponsored ski trip. I was not there to ski, but to drive my roommate home if she broke anything and to observe (read: make fun of) my co-workers, many of whom were first-timers on the slopes. When I first saw him, he was huddled in the snow at the feet of one of our co-workers, checking her buckles and bindings. He was kneeling before one of the cutest and perkiest girls from work and I (in my sexist way) assumed he was trying to score points with her, rather than helping her out of the kindness of his heart. I was wrong. An expert skier, no doubt antsy to hit the slopes himself, he spent the next fifteen minutes helping the rest of the first-timers in the group--male, female, cute and not-so. I was suitably impressed.

Suitably impressed--but as you may remember, still kind of hung up on What's-His-Face, not to mention pathologically shy, and scheduled at the opposite end of the day from Hubby. In the next few months, we would sometimes bump into each other, swap small talk, and flirt a little, but that was as far as it went until mid-March, when all of a sudden (or so it seemed), we were a couple.

How this happened is kind of vague and foggy to me--maybe one of Hidden Hubby's superpowers is the ability to hypnotize women, I can't really be sure. What I do know is that we met in January, started dating in March and married in July, of the same year. It sounds insane in print and in reality, it was completely insane.

It's not that people didn't try to warn me--my mother, even while helping to plan the wedding, was saying "Are you sure?" every thirty seconds. A friend of the family said, "It's not too late." right up until I walked down the aisle. (In fact, on our wedding video, after the ceremony, I say to this friend, "Aren't you going to say 'now it's too late'?" and she says, "Now it's too late--no wait! I think the JP is still here! We can catch her!" )

We were too young. We didn't really know each other. We were in love, but we really had no idea how to love each other, how much work it would be to keep loving each other.

In the eighteen years since then, we have had our ups and downs, we have been through thick and thin, we have survived a crapload of cliches.

He has his saintly side--he always, always, always puts the toilet seat down; he changed his share of diapers; he doesn't watch televised sports; he's not the jealous type. But he has his human side, too, for which I'm forever grateful.

*"Hot" in the trudging around in the woods in August sense.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Soccer Momhood

Son-Three had a soccer game last weekend. He scored two goals--and got hit in the windpipe so hard he had to sit out the last two minutes of the game. Like a lot of moms, I feel my child's pain--hell, I feel everyone else's children's pain, too. Two boys on the opposing team banged heads and fell to the ground and I groaned out loud and grabbed my ears. (It's a good thing I wasn't watching the varsity game being played at the same time, where a senior dislocated his knee and had to be taken off the field by ambulance--I probably would've been walking with a limp all week.)

This feeling another's pain is just one of the reasons I'm not sure I'm really cut out for Soccer Mom-hood.
I certainly never intended to become a Soccer Mom. In fact, my senior year in high school, I'm pretty sure that every time anyone asked me what I wanted to do after graduation I said, "Be a burden on society."

But I put away childish dreams and moved on to my own children's childish here I am on the sidelines of a game or two, gasping out loud, applauding appropriately, and staring in awe at the parents who scream so loud I'm sure they're going to burst a vein at any moment. (Now, that's a second-hand pain that could ruin an afternoon.)

It's clear to anyone who's even a little perceptive that the competition off the field, between the parents, is at least as intense as it is out on the field. Who's been to the most games? Whose kid has the best stats? Who knows the most obscure lingo? Who can yell the loudest?*

I'm not much of a yeller and I think there's a fine line between encouragement and disparagement, between rooting for and putting down, between constructive criticism and destructive taunting. There are parents at every game dancing all over that line. These are the kind of parents who make me feel inadequate--not involved enough, not gung-ho enough, not anything enough.

I can't be at every game--there are schedule constraints, financial constraints, there's a whole world of constraints. Though no one has ever said anything out loud to me about my absences, I often catch myself mentally defending my position. "I have three other children, a full-time job, the Hubby, the house..."

The truth is that even if I could be at every game, I'm not really sure Son-Three would want me there. Along with all the other fine lines involved, there seems to be a fine line between being there enough and being there too much. Honestly, though this is probably a spectacularly unpopular opinion, I think it does him some good that I can't be there for every game. It fosters independence, it fosters doing for the sake of doing (rather than doing to impress Mom or anyone else). Of course, saying that is supposed to make me feel better about not being there and so then I get in a tangled mess in my mind wondering if I'm just rationalizing my own laziness and inability to "be there" for my kid.

There are two things I know for sure about parenting: One is that, even after seventeen years, I hardly know anything. The other is that it's not in anyone's best interest for parents to compete with one another--no one wins. Doubts go with the territory and comparisons are not at all energy efficient. We're all out there just cobbling together the best life we can for ourselves and for our kids and it's insane to imagine that we know what's better for the next guy (or gal) anymore than they know what's better for us.

That said, I'll stumble down from the soapbox and get some rest before the next game.

*For a more complete field guide to Soccer Moms and Dads see Lucinda's post.