Monday, July 31, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: My Fair Brady: We're Getting Married

As is required by law in the United States, I have seen every single episode of The Brady Bunch at least once--some of them I've probably seen ten or twelve times but there's no way of knowing since I don't remember the first time I saw any of them. I just know that around the age of eight or nine, I realized there was never an episode on that I hadn't already seen.

I wasn't exactly a Brady Bunch fan--it was on TV, the TV was on and I was in front of it--often with a book or notebook open on my lap. It was harmless, the lesser of any number of after school TV evils (Woody Woodpecker Hour or Dialing For Dollars Movie, anyone?)

I feel sort of the same way about My Fair Brady: We're Getting Married, the reality TV show covering the engagement and wedding of Adrianne Curry and Christopher Knight (a.k.a. Peter Brady). I've never watched it on purpose--just caught a snippet here or there while aimlessly channel surfing. In great Brady tradition, all of the episodes have a mindless--and somehow comforting--similarity to one another. There is, however, considerably more screeching, door-slamming, tear-shedding and alcohol consuming than on your average episode of The Brady Bunch. (There's practically as much of those things as on your average episode of The Sopranos, but without all the mafia intrigue to spice things up.)

Anyway, this weekend, I watched the episode in which Chris and Adrianne, at long last, got married. Like everything else this couple has done--they met and fell in love on The Surreal Life, just for starters--the wedding and reception were loud, expensive and very, very public.

There was much bickering about inane details--the kind of bickering that, as a flower shop manager, I am regularly witness to. I have seen couples, both in my job and in my personal life, who have their very first argument over wedding details, leading me to my belief (which I've shared with a number of overwhelmed brides and their stressed out attendants) that a wedding is a terrible way to start a marriage.

Of course, this isn't your average couple and all the squabbling over the wedding was only a natural--and almost romantic--extension of their mostly charming everyday dysfunction. The wedding was actually a perfect reflection of their relationship, but still, I couldn't help but breathe a sigh of relief as Chris and Adrianne drove away in their decked out limo (one window read: "I bagged my Brady!").

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Romantic (in a morbidly fascinating train wreck kinda way).

Thursday, July 27, 2006


The funeral was Monday. Mr. High School wore camouflage, held a turkey call and hunting trophies hung on the walls at the funeral home. There were so many people there for the service that twenty minutes before it was scheduled to start, the funeral home staff was meeting people at the door and saying, "We've got some standing room in the casket room." The minister's wife, tucked into a seat behind MommaCW (a.k.a. Blonde Best Friend From High School), Little Sister and I, whispered with a rueful chuckle, "Usually the people in the casket room are lying down."

Jokes at a funeral? I'm pretty sure Mr. High School would've approved.

When I got the phone call about the accident last Wednesday night, my first instinct was that I should go to the funeral--I felt I absolutely had to be there at least partly because if I didn't see it for myself, I wasn't sure I could ever believe he was gone. (By it, I mean the service and not the open casket. I could only take the quickest glance in that direction. I realize and respect that a lot of people find the comfort of closure in the hard reality of an open casket, but that reality is just a little too hard for me to handle. That probably makes me weak and immature, but there you go.)

By Monday morning, I had second-guessed myself a hundred thousand times. Should I go? Could I go? Would I regret going more than I would regret not going? Sunday night, I was pretty sure that chickening out was the only viable option.

I'm so glad I didn't chicken out. It meant so much to me to see so many people whose lives he had touched--some of them were old friends from high school, who even under such horrible circumstances I was still somehow delighted to see. By the end of the day, I felt I'd been yanked in a hundred different directions, but I knew without a doubt that going had been the right thing.

In the coming weeks, my thoughts will be with his family, his girlfriend and his closest friend, all of whom have a difficult time ahead.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


I've mentioned more than once what a word geek I am and it probably can't be overstated how big a part of my life both reading and writing have always been. I've kept a journal or diary of some sort since I was 8 and in addition I've scribbled countless stories and lame poems and long, babbling letters to friends for at least that long. Words are how I understand everything--I scribble (or type) about every problem or issue I've faced or I pore over words scribbled (or typed) by someone else and, almost always, sooner or later, something clicks and I figure things out or at least learn to live with not being able to figure it out.

Almost always--because I've found that the big, big things defy explanation, defy understanding no matter how much you poke at them with words. Words fail you just when you need them most.

On Wednesday, July 19, Mr. High School*, was killed in an accident on the job. This doesn't seem possible or logical or fair at all. There seems to be no way to wrap my brain--let alone my heart--around the idea that he's really gone. It feels huge to me and my heart goes out to his family--his parents and younger brother--and to his girlfriend, who had such a short time with him and to all the many others who will miss him as well.

*Speaking of words being inadequate, you can't imagine how stupid I feel calling him that right now but, here on the blog, that's who he was.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday (Special Tuesday Edition): Little House In The Ozarks

In March of my freshman year of high school, I moved from a school in Pennsylvania to one in New Hampshire. Shortly after arriving, I was assigned a speech in English class. It's hard to imagine anything I wanted to do less than give that speech, in front of a room full of total strangers--in addition to being new in school, I was pathologically shy and would've much preferred hiding at the back of the class until the school year was over.

I channeled that anxiety and chose for my topic Laura Ingalls Wilder and the parallels I saw between her childhood and mine: we both moved around a lot, though admittedly, Laura got the rawer end of the deal since her moving involved covered wagons and unsettled territories and occasionally living in a dugout in a hillside. I had been a Laura fan from way back--I read all the Little House books the summer between fourth and fifth grade and read them all again between sixth and seventh grade. Books in general, but these books in particular, were comfortingly familiar when everything else was up in the air. I searched out other books that would let me know what happened to Laura after the end of the last book in my boxed Little House collection, The First Four Years--which was an incomplete manuscript when Laura died in 1957. I found West From Home, which was a collection of letters Laura wrote home to her husband Almanzo while visiting her daughter Rose in 1915 and On The Way Home, which was the diary of the Wilder's trip from South Dakota to Mansfield, Missouri where they would live for the rest of their lives.

Fast forward a few years to the early '90s, I'm working in a small local bookstore (still the best job I ever had and I miss it) and I open a box of new books to find Little House In The Ozarks: The Rediscovered Writings. Needless to say, that copy never made it to the shelf. That's one thing I don't miss about working at the bookstore--even with my 25% employee discount I was spending entirely too much on books.

The book is a collection of short nonfiction pieces that ran in local, regional and national newspapers and magazines between 1911 and 1925. There are glimpses into Laura's life and time--she was a farm wife in a small Missouri community--but the thing that is endlessly fascinating to me is how much her concerns still resonate almost a hundred years later. She talks often and openly about her relationships with her family and friends, about her place in town and in the world at large. It's a little scary, but somehow also comforting that she and her contemporaries faced so many of the same issues that my friends and I face now. Scary because if these amazing women a hundred years ago didn't have it figured out what are the odds that I'll be figuring it all out anytime soon? And comforting because, clearly, they survived not figuring it all out.

I still keep this book next to my bed and dip into it when whatever I'm currently reading isn't holding my attention. The pieces are all short--the longest only a few pages--and can be read in any order or in no order at all. Seems each time I pick it up, I find something that somehow slipped my attention before. For example, this weekend, I found this quote:

Why should we need extra time to enjoy ourselves? If we expect to enjoy our life, we will have to learn to be joyful in all of it, not just at stated intervals when we can get time or when we have nothing else to do.It may well be that it is not our work that is so hard for us as the dread of it and our often expressed hatred of it. Perhaps it is our spirit and attitude toward life, and its conditions that are giving us trouble instead of a shortage of time. Surely the days and nights are as long as they ever were.*

I had spent the weekend running around trying to do too much and whining (mostly in my own sad, little head but out loud some, too) about how I barely have time to catch my breath let alone enjoy a moment's peace and something definitely needs to change. Yeah, um, maybe what needs to change is my approach--maybe if I'd spent a little less time and energy whining, I'd have had more of both left for the fun stuff. Ah, Laura to the rescue again. And I swear when I read those words, it was like Laura herself was speaking them directly in my ear.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Connection.

*From "The Man of the Place," page 65.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Brain, Child Magazine

There is no shortage of parenting magazines out there--glossy ones full of helpful advice on the pros and cons of breast vs. bottle, age-appropriate activities, maps of milestones and when your child should be hitting each one. There's nothing wrong with those magazines--they can be a real comfort, especially to new moms. But Brain, Child is not that kind of magazine--if those magazines are travel guides to the trip that is motherhood, Brain, Child is more a collection of gritty, real-life stories of the women who have been there and made it back to tell the tale.

Each issue has news snippets, book reviews and a feature-length article on an issue of importance to moms. There's always pages of reader letters which give you glimpses into the lives and thoughts of women around the country (and even outside it) and a section called "Backtalk," in which moms share their stories on a previously announced (and often hysterically funny) subject. But the main attraction, as far as I'm concerned, are the pages and pages of first-person essays on all things motherhood.

No subject is too far "out there." In the current issue there is an honest and oh-so-funny essay on a woman's search for a sperm donor. Another woman's tolerance and protective nature are put to the test when her young son begins wanting to dress in "girl" clothes. "Helpful" advice from strangers is the subject of yet another essay--and as anyone who's ever left the house with a child in tow can attest, there's quite a few parenting "experts" out there willing to selflessly offer you their advice. And, in one of the most heartwrenching essays I've read yet, a woman is forced to decide between her relationship with her sister, who is unstable in a variety of ways, and the safety of her sister's children.

Brain, Child is quarterly--so I have to wait three months between issues and when a new one comes, I snatch it out of the mailbox and hole up somewhere with it. Even when I don't agree with the points of view presented, I feel better for knowing another side to whatever the story is.

Masked-Mom's One-Word Review: Enriching.

How Was Your Weekend?

"Brilliant" observation that occurred to me around midnight last night:

Parenting is being absolutely certain that you would die to protect people whom you regularly have to restrain yourself from killing.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


When your anniversary is on the 4th of July (as mine & Hubby's is), you will sooner or later hear some form of the question: "Did you plan it that way so you could have fireworks every year on your anniversary?"

The short answer is no. And, no, we weren't being ultra-patriotic nor were we trying to make an ironic statement by declaring our dependence upon each other on Independence Day. The reason we were married on the 4th of July was much simpler and less creative. My father was in the Army--a recruiter at that time--and it was the only Saturday that summer he was sure he would have off.

Still, there's been no shortage of fireworks over the years of both the pyrotechnic and interpersonal variety--some of them the colorful, celebratory, entertaining kind and some of them just the loud, explosive, migraine-inducing kind.

As I've mentioned before, we were very young when we got married--him 19 1/2 and me not quite 19--and it's tempting to say it's a miracle that we're still together, but crediting it to divine intervention or supernatural accident overlooks the just plain hard work that has gone into our nineteen years together. And it hasn't only been Hubby and I hard at work--there are friends and family members who have seen us, individually and as a couple, through some pretty rough times.

So, yes, it's miraculous but it's a lot more than that, too. To Hubby and all the rest of you--thanks for stickin'.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Cage of Stars

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the author of The Deep End of the Ocean, an Oprah pick (the first Oprah pick, I believe--though I read it before Oprah picked it so I'm not entirely sure) and the basis for a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer. I've read most of her stuff--including The Rest of Us: Dispatches From The Mother Ship, which is a collection (now out-of-print, I assume, since it's no longer listed on her website) of her newspaper columns and worth tracking down at the library or online.

Anyway, her newest--Cage of Stars--was released in May. It is the story of Ronnie Swan, who at the age of 12 witnesses the murder of her younger sisters and spends the next decade or so trying to come to terms with that. Mitchard covers matters of faith and forgiveness, revenge and redemption in a non-preachy and wholly entertaining way. I would say that I couldn't put it down, but the truth is I had to put it down--it's been a long time since I've had the peace and freedom to finish a book in one sitting. This is one of those books that I would've read that way, if I did still have that luxury.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Breathtaking.