Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Belated Christmas Present--Sort Of

When the incident I am about to share first happened, I was going to post about it--I could hardly wait to get home and post about it, in fact. But then, I talked myself out of it--because I wasn't sure what I would say about it and how it would come off. Then last night, I'm catching up on blog-browsing and come across a post about a similar incident at Jenandtonic and I figure if it's good enough for Jen, it's good enough for me.

All this is a long-winded way of introducing a story about how the day after Christmas, I was out to lunch (literally, which is rarer than the metaphorical way I am so often "out to lunch") with my three youngest (Son-One is antisocial and recovering from a nasty sinus infection) children. The place was packed--it's one of those regional greasy spoons that people go back to more for the nostalgia than for the food and during the holidays, everyone who's home from somewhere else crams themselves in there--my kids and I have no such excuse.

Anyway, as we were getting up to leave, an older woman* at the next booth patted me on the arm and said, "Are you their mother?" Apparently her companion, who looked to be about my age was convinced I was their sister. I mean, maybe she meant their MUCH older sister, who knows?

The older lady said, "I told her it would make your day to hear that."

I thanked her profusely but as I told Hubby, when I got home, "Why would it make my day that a total stranger was so badly in need of an eye exam?"

*This woman had already drawn the attention of our table when Son-Three noticed her putting salt and pepper in her glass of milk. Maybe we all need to get out more but this was a new one on me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: A Holiday Tune

(Sung to the tune of "O, Christmas Tree")

Ne-glected blogs, ne-glected blogs,
We're sorry we've ignored you,
No time to post, no time to browse,
No time for clever commenting.
With gifts to wrap and trees to trim,
Our blogging time has been slim.
But January's almost here
With its holiday-free days
And we'll all be back to babbling.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Exhausting.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ho Ho How The Hell Did It Get To Be December 21?

Last year for Christmas, one of my gifts was a Trivial Pursuit page-a-day calendar. Once in a while during the year, I couldn't help thinking that Trivial Pursuit was not merely the trademarked game the calendar was based upon but also some sort of philosophical commentary on the state of my life.

As I ripped off pages, I began thinking that a page-a-day calendar is a concrete reminder of how fast the days really pass. Somewhere around November 10, I began focusing on how few days remained to be torn off. It seemed like we were zipping through the year at an unprecendented pace.

And now here we are four days before Christmas. My gift-buying not quite complete, a few straggling cards left behind still awaiting their personal notes, some baking left to do, extra hours at the shop to fill up what little time there's left between now and the Big Day...

Ah, crap, just call me Ebenita Scrooge.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Inflatables

They are a fungus upon the land.

The end.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Fungal.

(Exceptions can be made for people with children under, say, seven in their lives. Everyone else--cut it out!!!! I mean seriously--I've seen yards with 18 or 20 of the damn things. Wouldn't it be way more time, energy and cost efficient to just put a big billboard up that says, "I have way too much money and way too few brains." Shoot, we can do it in neon if it'll make 'em feel better.)

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Hard Sell (& I Ain't Buyin')

So, remember how I said Wal-Mart's the Debil? Well, at the moment, that other big (well, used to be big and now has been in and back out of bankruptcy) mart is on my list. I went in last week and as I stepped through the second set of sliding doors, I spotted the dreaded Olan Mills hard sell table set up right in the middle of the path to the rest of the store.

They do this every once in a while--set up a table with all these sample portraits of other people's children and man it with some barely out of adolescence girl who can rattle off whatever special they're pushing all in one breath. I do whatever I can to avoid it--because it's a waste of my time and theirs and I also bitterly resent the feeling that listening to the spiel is a requirement for the privilege of buying socks at buy one, get one 50% off.

This time was no different, with Son-Three in tow, I executed my patented duck left and across the line of registers and up past the one-hour photo counter and on into the safety of the store (where, for goodness sake, I just wanted to buy a printer cartridge, some cheapo Christmas cards and a little bunny food). So Son-Three and I are perusing the Christmas card selections on the $2.99 a box rack when we're joined by Daughter-Only (who'd been at the store next-door) and, right behind her is the Olan Mills Chick, who immediately begins giving me the breathless spiel.

At the end of each of her sentences (which I could spot only by context, because as I said, she never paused for breath), I said, "Okay." In what I hoped was a civilized but clear-cut signal that I wasn't interested. She persisted through a paragraph of information as though I had never spoken and then walked off.

Daughter-Only actually stood there with her mouth hanging open. "Mom, you kept saying 'okay' like you were wanting her to stop talking and she totally ignored you, like completely, just ignored you. Wow." (Why the person who ignores me like no one has ever ignored me before would be so amazed that someone else would ignore me is completely beyond me.)

I have never seen anything like it in my life. I would've thought she was wandering around giving her spiel to everyone, but, no, she didn't stop anyone else. That little twit had seen me execute my patented move and come after me.

Listen, I work retail. I know it's tough out there. Okay? I get that she's trying to earn commissions and how much it must annoy her that people don't even give her the time of day. But guess what? It's not my job to humor her. It's my job to go to the discount store and buy socks, and printer cartridges and electronics made in China with a lead content long ago deemed unsafe in the US*. So here's what I'm gonna do instead of taking her up on her breathless offer of overpriced portraits...I'm gonna write on my blog what an idiot she was and how I will never, ever, no matter what use Olan Mills in this town again.

*It's not only electronics of course. Have you checked out your Christmas lights--do they have that fancy sticker that warns you to wash your hands after touching them? Isn't that nice of them? You know, if we're going to allow unsafe lead into our country and into our homes, at least we're gonna put a teeny, tiny sticker on it with a barely legible warning. That oughta keep people safe, huh?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Benefits Package, Or One Reason I Haven't Quit My Job Even Though I'm Often Sorely Tempted To Do So

Customer calls today, says she wants to send flowers to her "natural mother," who lives in a town several hours from here.

I start to take the information but when we get to the natural mother's phone number, the customer says, "Well, I don't actually have it. See, I met her in person when I was in my mid-twenties and now every year I send her flowers at Christmas, but the only time we ever talk on the phone is after she gets the flowers and she calls me to thank me when she's five sheets to the wind*."

Now, where else are you going to get to hear stories like that without a degree in psychology or having to stand all night behind a bar?

*There ensued, as there so often will at my place of employment, a mini-debate over whether the actual expression is "three sheets to the wind" as I thought, in which case five sheets to the wind is an extra two sheets drunk, or "six sheets to the wind" as Cranky Boss Lady thought, in which case (as CBL said) the natural mother's "missing a sheet." This evening, Hubby came down on the "six sheets" side and, as he's no stranger to either drunkenness or sailing, I was willing to concede defeat--but a quick Google check reveals that although both "three" and "six" are used, "three" is far more common. I say we quit all the bickering and just start using "sheets" as a unit of measurement for drunkeness. So you can be one sheet to the wind or six sheets to the wind. It's not as scientific as a blood alcohol level but it's way more poetic and colorful.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: Celebrity Gossip

Cranky Boss Lady: Did I tell you Kimberly Williams-Paisley is pregnant?

Masked Mom: Yes, you did (...what you neglected to tell me is why I should give one teeny, tiny crap about someone I've never met).

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Overrated. (Celebrity gossip, that is, not Kimberly Williams-Paisley, who seems very likable except for the fact that if the song Brad Paisley wrote about her is anywhere near accurate, she's setting the bar a little high for all the rest of us. And, truthfully, I'm not entirely against celebrity gossip, and may even occasionally indulge in it myself. It's just that early on a Monday morning is probably not the right time to be asking me (for the third time) if you've told me Kimberly Williams is pregnant because A) It's Monday morning. B) I find your "pronouncement from the mount" voice especially annoying and intolerable on Mondays. C) I can barely care about people I know well and in some cases am related to by blood early on Monday. Hell, maybe it's not even Celebrity Gossip that's overrated so much as Cranky Boss Lady, (unpaid, unacknowledged, unauthorized, unwelcome and unnecessary) publicist to the stars.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Weather Report

Cranky Boss Lady (looking out the back door): Hey, we have a little flake activity out here.

Masked Mom (looking around the shop at assorted shop groupies): Yeah, we've got some flake activity in here too but you don't hear us bragging about it.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

He Just Doesn't Get It*

[Blurt Alert: It's pretty much all TMI here today.]
After twenty years of marriage, you would think Hubby and I would know one another pretty well. And it's true that he can tell you lots of things about me--that I hate canned peas (they are vile and I hope they die**), love Diet Dr. Pepper, read an insane number of books, magazines, etc on a wide variety of subjects, have a fantasy of opening a writer's retreat out in the back woods somewhere and raking in big bucks to hang out with people I'd gladly hang out with for free (and that my alternative fantasty is to drive an ice cream truck--not to make my living that way, but to be independently wealthy and drive an ice cream truck for a hobby).

He can accurately predict that four out of ten times when he tells me, "I'm going to go jump in the shower," I will say, "Be careful not to slip and fall." Neither of us can tell you why this remains funny to me, but it's probably related more to his consistently giving me that opening than to the fact that I am in dire need of psychiatric attention. (Have no doubt, I am in dire need, just not about this particular thing.)

So, yes, he knows some stuff about me.

How, then, can he fail to notice that by the end of many days, I feel rubbed raw--emotionally, physically--so that any touch, any contact feels like bare hands on scraped skin? Ever stick your finger in the middle of a fresh brush burn when you were a kid, just to see how it felt? Yeah, it's like that.

And why, oh why, does he insist on taking it personally when my response isn't entirely positive?

In addition to all the stesses of the day that make hiding under the bed sound way more appealing than rolling around on top of it, Hubby and I have always been on different schedules. He's naturally programmed to stay up late--really late, like 2 a.m. is average bedtime for him--in fact when Daughter-Only was in first grade and they were learning about nighttime animals versus daytime animals, she came home and said, "Mommy, Daddy is nocturnal, isn't he?"

Though I have struggled with bouts of insomnia, my ideal bedtime is in the 11 o'clock range. So by the time Hubby comes to bed, I'm usually (ideally) not at all conscious so these moves he's hoping to impress me with are way less impressive. The rare nights I happen to be conscious when he comes in, I am usually bitterly resentful about being awake in the middle of the night and, therefore, not interested in anything that might keep me awake in the middle of the night even longer. None of this seems reasonable to him.

Not only does the "I'm asleep" argument not move him (or stop him moving?), but my being in the throes of a life-threatening (or so it seemed) cold also didn't sway him. One night a few weeks ago, he came to bed and there I was hacking away, obviously tubercular and typhoidal or at the very least cranky and uncomfortable and it didn't even slow him down. I think I croaked, "Are you kidding me?" before he rolled over in a huff that night.

I guess I should take it as a compliment***, and I try, I really do, but I also feel misunderstood at a fundamental level. Like somehow, even twenty years in, he really doesn't know me or see me at all.

*Pun acknowledged though not entirely intended.
**YS--I'd spare the asparagus if someone could just take out the peas.
***That's a lot easier on the nights like the one last week when we'd been bickering most of the day and he came to bed at 1:30 or so and began his "vigorous cuddling" routine and I said, "What the hell planet do you live on?" And he said, "I live on the Damn You Smell Good Planet." It was kinda cute. Woulda been way cuter at a decent hour, but hey you take what you can get, right?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Masked Mom's Media Monday: This I Believe

The library is automated now--all fancy, shmancy and I can search from my bedroom while still in my pajamas for books and authors I'm trying to track down. Then I can go to the library, directly to the shelf they are on and pick them up and be in and out in a few minutes. (Or if the book is interloan, from another library, I can just walk to the desk and have it handed to me practically on a silver platter.) It's all very modern and convenient, but sometimes I miss the Library Accidents that used to happen while doing a card catalog search. I'd flip through the little cards looking for a specific book or author and stumble across an intriguing title. (I'm pretty sure this is how I ended up reading Saddles For Breakfast in fourth or fifth grade. I mean who could resist that title? And who knows how many other books I would never have had the pleasure of without the act of flipping through title after title in the catalog?)

I do keep lists of books I want to read--lists I compile by reading book reviews and taking recommendations, but I don't kid myself that every good book somehow magically makes it to my list. So, every once in a while, I set aside time for Library Accidents to happen and wander around the shelves and stop to look at the books on the new non-fiction tables just inside the library door and just wait for something to catch my eye. Suffering, as I do, from some sort of compulsive reading disorder, it never takes long.

This I Believe was one of those Accidental Books. It is full of essays from the NPR project of the same name, which was originally begun in the 1950s and was restarted in April 2005. Being from my media-deprived little corner of the world, I didn't know anything about the radio show (of course we don't have a local NPR station!) so the book was an eye-opener for me and led me down the rabbit hole of the website, where I've spent some time happily clicking from one essay to another.

The project asks participants to write short essays stating their core beliefs--the essays are a few hundred words in most cases and both the book and the site showcase a wide variety of people from well-known to unknown. What's amazing to me is how much true wisdom is out there in the minds of otherwise very ordinary people. I can't help but think that having a forum where people can discuss their personal philosophies can only be beneficial. It's also comforting to see essays from the 1950s reflecting some of the same issues we are facing now--it helps soothe that panicked feeling I sometimes get in thinking that things are dramatically worse at the moment than they've been in a while.

Masked Mom's One-Word Review: Extraordinary.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Perfect Post for November

Son-Two had to go to the doctor last week--he had some virulent varient of whatever had Daughter-Only's uvula stuck to her tonsil a few weeks before that and after three weeks of suffering and hacking and looking all the wrong colors--gray and green and yellowish--I finally convinced him that going to the doctor didn't make him a wuss in any way. At the doctor's office, she pronounced his lungs a little "tight" and asked if he'd ever had an inhaler and if he was allergic to any antibiotics.

She was stunned that he'd never had either an inhaler or any antibiotics. I said, "We've been very lucky in the antibiotic department especially--I have four kids and we've had three prescriptions for antibiotics in 18 years."

"Wow, that's really impressive but it's probably not just luck. I'm sure hygeine played a role as well."


Anyone who's ever been inside my house knows that anti-hygeine is way more at work around here than hygeine. Chaos reigns--mess and untidiness and clutter and, even sometimes things that would be called "filfth" by other, more fastidious, moms than me reign. We don't roll with the antibacterial stuff around here. Look under my kitchen sink (if you dare), there's not a single product that promises to kill 99.9% of anything.

I have a theory (don't I always) that by attempting to provide a nearly bacteria-free environment for our children, we're actually doing them a disservice. There's some support for this theory--science says that the more antibacterial products (including antibiotics) that we use, the more quickly bacteria are going to adapt and become resistant to the products and to our natural defenses. So what we're doing by being too fastitidious is helping to create a super race of mega-bacteria that will probably start carting us all off in our sleep.

I believe that by exposing children to small amounts of a variety of pathogens at an early age, we can build their immune systems to be better, stronger, faster...I also believe that I would way rather curl up with a good book or go to the park with the kids or, or, or, or than make sure every nook and cranny in my house is germ-free.

Sometimes I hate myself for not trying harder, for not being a "better" example for the kids, for failing to provide a floor clean enough to eat off of (though why eating off the floor is some kind of gold standard in cleanliness, I'm not sure--I mean we have a table, after all. I'm perfectly content--ecstatic some days--to just provide a floor clean enough to walk over.). But still, I think my way is really the only way for me.

While browsing blogs this month, I found my sloppy soul sister over at 24/7. In her post, "What Do You Do When Your Dishwasher Stops Working," ECR speaks to the pressure of outside expectations and the desire to live by her own priorities and she wraps it all up with a Phyllis Diller quote--as someone who collects notebooks full of quotes to support my "unsupportable" positions that spoke directly to my heart.

So, here's my button:

The Original Perfect Post Awards

And, ECR, it's all yours!

(Browse other winners at Suburban Turmoil and Petroville.)