Tuesday, November 30, 2010


...of relief. Another NaBlo down.

The bad news is that there was a higher than average number of whiny cop-out posts.

The good news is that with NaBlo it's quantity and not quality that counts.

The even better news is that there are still three or four drafts from November posts I didn't finish which means I stand a better than average chance of posting in December. Yay me?

Monday, November 29, 2010

How's It Hangin'

During the insanity of a NaBloPoMo past, I blogged about Daughter-Only's uvula being stuck to her tonsil while she was sick. In the years (FOUR!) since, "uvula stuck to tonsil" has consistently been one of the top search terms that have brought people to my blog.

Judging from the frequency (sometimes as many as ten or fifteen people a day show up here trying to figure out what exactly it means that their uvulas are stuck to their tonsils) and the widespread geographic area (Britain, Japan, Singapore, India and all across these United States), adhered uvulas are a freakin' epidemic.

To those who are looking for actual medical information, I can only share that Daughter-Only's nurse practitioner said that the most common cause of uvula stuckage is dehydration. So, drink up!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How To Have A Good Day On Less Than Four Hours Sleep

I have no idea...but I'm giving it a shot.

Work 8 a.m. to noon (sneaking this post in from there now).

Driving Son-Two back to college at 1.

Followed by a Barenaked Ladies concert with Baby Brother's Wife and her sister. I figure if I'm so exhausted I start hallucinating it can only enhance the experience, right?

UPDATED POST-CONCERT: Turns out that the way to have a good day on four hours sleep is to attend a concert in a small venue with good company and to have the first song in the set be "Who Needs Sleep" and the last to be "Tonight I Fell Asleep At The Wheel*." HILARIOUS!!! Added bonus: At the attached casino, first timers get $10 in slot machine credits. A free ten dollars in credit with which I won $15 in actual cash.

*Even more entertaining and appropriate in light of the fact that I, sleep-deprived fool that I am, was driving us home.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Another One For The What The Hell Was I Thinking File

I signed on for NaBloPoMo not only after having struggled with it greatly in the past but in the middle of one of the funkiest Funks I've been in in a long time. (Maybe funkiest Funk ever...)

What the hell was I thinking?

More to the point, why don't I just stop? (Stop NaBlowing, not stop thinking, although, now that I think of it, a good portion of my Funk is probably tied directly into all the things I can't quit thinking about.)

Friday, November 26, 2010

Going For The Guinness Record...

...but will be content to beat my own personal high for cop-out posts. How am I doin' so far?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

(More) Signs of Aging

As we inch our way ever further into our forties, Hubby and I have gotten into the habit of pointing out signs of our mutual aging to each other.

When I cut Hubby's hair, I can't resist pointing out how the gray has taken over. I'll say, "Baby, you're old."

When I fall asleep four minutes into a TV show I couldn't wait to see and Hubby wakes me up at the end, he will say, "Baby, you're old."

It's a little sad what passes for entertainment around here...

Today, we mark another "because we're old" milestone as Son-One and his longtime girlfriend (three years next month) are hosting Thanksgiving. All we have to do is show up with the sweet potatoes, the cranberries and five extra mouths to feed.

We have a child old enough (and mature enough!) to host Thanksgiving.

Baby, we are soooooo old.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tomorrow's Turkey Day*...

Maybe that's why I'm feeling so fowl foul.

*Part of my foul mood--I am disproportionately annoyed by the increasingly frequent use of "Turkey Day" instead of Thanksgiving. Not, apparently, annoyed enough to not use it myself in the service of a lame pun.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Maybe Tomorrow...

I will have time and energy to finish one of the several posts I have saved in drafts...

Monday, November 22, 2010


I found this video over at Miles, etc., a blog I discovered through the NaBloPoMo Randomizer. (This is not the first moving or thought-provoking video or post I've found over at Miles, etc. so check her out if you get a chance.)

As soon as I watched this, I snagged Daughter-Only who was wandering the house rambling on the phone to one friend or another, and had her watch it as well.

She watched and listened in silence and then at the end, proclaimed, "This woman is a total badass." Don't know that I would've put it quite that way, but now that she mentions it...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday Is The New Monday

Due to my work schedule, Sunday has been Monday for about a year.

Monday is as good an excuse as any for a cop-out post, right?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Don't Tell Him I Said So

I spent the morning fetching Son-Two from college, where he is a third-year physics major and currently in the midst of No-Shave November so sporting a sprinkling of facial hair. He was up until four a.m. for some last minute before break bonding with his friends where he lost his last ten dollars in a poker game. He is 6'2" and a month and half away from his 21st birthday, full of a not entirely unwarranted cynicism about the state of the world, but this morning when he climbed into the van, for just a split second, I flashed on him at four.

He was breathlessly enthusiastic about a wide variety of things--sometimes he talked so loud and so fast at that age that I had to translate for other family members who couldn't keep up. He loved mazes and puzzles and anything that challenged his brain, but also ran through life as though in his own action movie or video game, sometimes literally bouncing off walls. He's the only one of my children who's broken a bone--and he'd broken two by his sixth birthday. (Thankfully and a little miraculously none since then.)

Once, when he was four, he and I had a rare moment alone on a moonlit night walking along the creek that ran behind our house . He was holding my hand, looking up at the night sky and he said, "I wish I had a magic pencil so I could play dot-to-dot with the stars."

It was one of those moments a mom holds in her heart forever.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lost and Found

I've lived in my little town (eagerly awaiting the 2010 census figures, but the 2000 census put us at a little over 5000) for 22 years next month. There are some drawbacks--all the obvious ones--lack of culture, having to drive ridiculously far to shop for anything other than the basics, people minding each other's business a little too much, people a little too conservative (both politically and socially) for my taste--but...practically every day something happens here to remind me why I continue to overlook those issues.

The drive-up ATM at my bank is the kind that retains the card throughout your transaction only spitting it out at the end after it prints the receipt. Most of the rest of the ones I've used recently are the swipe kind or "insert card and remove quickly" types so in the year or so since I've been using this ATM, despite the helpful "Please take your card" message on the screen, I have several times driven away without my card. The ATM is designed with a feature that takes absent-mindedness into consideration and sucks the card back in after half a minute or so, preventing it from being swiped by the next person in line. Theoretically.

When I drove off without my card the other day (when the bank was closed) and realized it within ten minutes, I was irritated with myself and not-so-eagerly anticipating the Walk of Shame at the bank the next day. I was calculating whether this was the third or fourth time I had committed this particular idiocy--shame compounds exponentially so the difference between third time shame and fourth time shame is considerable--when Daughter-Only texted me: "DG has your debit card."

DG is a guy who is peripherally in Daughter-Only's life--they have lots of mutual friends and often end up hanging out in the same place but don't spend much time one-on-one with each other. While I was mentally beating myself up for driving off again, Daughter-Only had received a text from DG asking what her mother's name was. DG then told her that he had my debit card and would bring it to school the next day. We assumed DG had come in line after me at the ATM and retrieved my not-yet-sucked-in card and DG was unavailable to clarify because he was at work.

The next day, when he returned the card, he told Daughter-Only that "some guy" had actually been behind me in line and had remembered that he had seen Daughter-Only with DG and knew he would know how to get the card back to me so he had dropped it off at DG's house. Who this guy was or how he knew Daughter-Only's last name has not been satisfactorily explained but the point is that there are WAY fewer than six-degrees of separation* between people in a small town and, most of the time, I like it that way.

*Yes that's a wide-open opportunity for an incest joke--but come on, it's way too predictable to be funny.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

By The Numbers

16=number of minor-ish* crises dealt with today at home and at work

8=hours worked

5=errands completed before I even went to work

4.5=approximate hours of sleep

3=times my daughter has raised her voice at me in the half hour I've been home

2=burning eyes

1=aching heads

0=engaging and intelligent blog topics

*For that part at least, I am grateful.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Expect the Expected

If the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, what is the road to the end of NaBlo paved with?

Cop-out posts, of course.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Like The Little Drummer Boy, But Way More Caffeinated

Since April of 2009, my Day Job has been in a 17-bed halfway house for recovering alcoholics and addicts. I had some concerns when I first applied for the job--but one of the things that has turned out to be the most bothersome for me never even crossed my mind.

I work forty hours a week with an ever-changing cast of men of all ages* from many different backgrounds who have provided me with some of the best material a writer (not to mention a blogger) could ask for--humor, drama, philosophy. It's like working in a laboratory of human nature and five or ten times a day, I think, "Don't forget" that comment or that moment or whatever. But using that material (here or elsewhere--unless it's straight fiction which I have never really written), presents an ethical dilemma or two. It's like being a kid in a candy store, but your stingy and slightly sadistic Aunt Nancy took you there "just to browse."

All that said, I think I can safely share this comment without violating any Federal laws or my own ethics.

Tonight, a few of the younger guys were a little rowdy as they walked down the hall and the one bringing up the rear was playing air drums quite enthusiastically. As he passed, he said to me, "You know what we need around here? Drum kits..."

I said, "Yeah, that's exactly what we need because we could use more chaos and noise."

Then with a devious grin, he says, "Yes, yes, we need drum kits and...energy drinks!"

*In my time there so far, our youngest client has been 18 and our oldest 72.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sold! To The Man In The Second Row With An Ax To Grind

When I was talking regularly with Mr. High School*, we sometimes talked about his marriage (which ended with his ex-wife's infidelity several years before we were in touch with one another). He called our lengthy phone calls "therapy sessions" and, between phone calls, he would sometimes drop me a note (snail mail style) and ask how much he owed for our last therapy session or tell me how much he appreciated those conversations.

He told me how even before the infidelity, his wife had controlled all the money coming into the house and no matter how many hours he worked or how much money he made, she gave him an "allowance" of thirty dollars a week. According to him, she spent the rest of his money on "crap from Princess House and Longaberger baskets" and when she left, she took all of it with her and left him with an absurd amount of credit card debt, which he paid off as part of the divorce agreement so that he could keep the house they had purchased together (as an added bonus, he got the second mortgage he had to take out to pay off the debt).

About a year or so after the divorce, Mr. High School and the Ex happened to show up at the same estate auction, where the man she left him for began bidding on a "rare" Longaberger basket. Mr. High School could not resist and began bidding as well, hoping to drive up the price. They went back and forth at a furious pace until the price was nearing $400 and then Mr. High School dropped out of the bidding and the Ex's New Man triumphantly claimed the ridiculously overpriced basket for his lovely lady.

The friend who was there with Mr. High School said, "Man, that was crazy! What would you have done if he had stopped bidding?"

And Mr. High School said, "I would've paid for the basket, taken it home, set it on top of my television set and sat in my recliner looking at it and thinking, 'There's one of those sons-of-bitches I paid for that I actually got to keep.' And it would've been worth every penny."

*It's always hard to pick a single Mr. High School post to link to--anyone interested in the whole angsty saga can find the links to most of the MHS posts, in order of their appearance, on the sidebar under Shallow Thoughts On Deep Things...A Masked Mom Sampler.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Adventures In Parenting: Please Do Not Block The Exits

I can't remember exactly how it came up, but a week or so ago at work, we were talking about parental tantrums--our own and those of our parents--particularly chore-related tantrums, the kind in response to a chore poorly done or not done at all. The subject reminded me of the time when Little Sister and I were thirteen and fourteen (or twelve and thirteen, either way a scary age combination) and we were sent to clean our room and instead ended up bickering because that's pretty much all we did for about seven years straight.

This particular day, unable to take any more of our constant arguing, my mother came storming up the stairs (two flights, our room was in the attic) and into our room where she began emptying every drawer into a pile on the floor. She dumped the desk and the dresser drawers, ranting the whole time. She tossed everything loose from every flat surface on to the growing pile. She added the loose clothes from the floor. She pulled the sheets and blankets off the double bed my sister and I shared and finally, with considerable effort, grabbed the mattress itself and flung it on top the pile.

When she was finished, she turned to us and said, "You're not coming out of this room until this is all taken care of!" and then turned to make her triumphant exit only to discover that the pile she had so painstakingly built was completely blocking the door.

She clambered awkwardly to the top and wedged herself between the mattress and the door. Then, with a kind of bump-shove she shifted the whole pile just enough that the door opened a crack and she squeezed out.

My mother did succeed in at least one way that afternoon: The hysterical laughter Little Sister and I shared that day was the occasion for at least a temporary cease-fire between us.

Friday, November 12, 2010


I was about halfway through a semi-substantial post about the new Sedaris and sex education among other things, when I got distracted by the arrival of Sons-One and -Two and Son-One's girlfriend. They join Daughter-Only and Son-Three who live here all the time, which means I will have all four of my children under the same roof for the first time in months.

That's as good an excuse for a cop-out post as any, I suppose.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

T9 Is Not Your Friend*

I am still toiling away under the incredible burden of a cell phone without a full keyboard and make full use of the T9 feature when texting. This feature displays the most commonly used word from a given sequence of keys and allows you to scroll through other options spelled with those keys and pick the one you want. It's much quicker than the tedious and carpal-tunnel-syndrome-inducing multi-tap method, though when you're distracted or in too big a hurry to hit send, your text can take on an entirely different meaning than you intended.

So, generally it helps me text a little faster, but sometimes it helps me look like a complete idiot--which is something I usually do quite well without assistance.

Last night, Daughter-Only texted me about staying over at a friend's house. I texted back, intending to tell her to be home early and ready to do her main chore around the house, which is cleaning the ferret cage.

The text she received--and read aloud to an assemblage of her friends--said, "Be home at a decent time and ready to do acid."

To this, one of her oh-so-helpful friends commented, "I always knew your mom was cool, but wow, this is a whole new level."

*Irrelevant aside (quick question: does an irrelevant aside to an essentially irrelevant post work like a double negative and somehow make either the post or the aside relevant?): The T9 in my current phone is also judgmental and a little prudish. I have repeatedly added my favorite four-letter words--some of which you may know as the F-word, the B-word and the S-word--only to have to add them again the next time I am in a ranting mood. For crap's sake, my T9 is so proper it won't even add "crap."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A Sign of the Time(s)

I just sat down to the computer to bang out my post for the day and realized the clock on the wall next to the computer read midnight. My brain went into panic mode:

Damn! Too late! I can't believe I failed NaBloPoMo!...

I can't believe an hour has passed since I got home from work. It doesn't even seem possible...

Wait! It isn't possible...

I can't believe it's the Wednesday after Daylight Saving ended and I have a clock on the wall that hasn't been changed.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Water Under The Bridge

"Closure is the worst term in our culture. I don't think there's such a thing as closure. Closure is a human fantasy. We live with what happens to us and we do something with it." ~~Linda Carroll

I've been thinking about that expression "It's water under the bridge." I've always thought of it as a reminder that we are helpless to change the past and as advice not to let our pasts affect us in the present. That view overlooks the transformative power of water--the ability of water to radically and permanently alter the landscape it passes over, around, under, through.

It's water under the bridge, yes, but each ounce that flows there chips away grains of sand on the bank, rubs the pebbles a little smoother, leaves behind minerals it's carried from upstream.

There's a fine line between surveying the new landscape wrought by all that water under the bridge--learning the lay of the land to better understand where you are, how you got there, and where you might be headed in the future--and mourning the land before the water rushed by. Surveying, taking stock is a constructive activity with the potentially healthy outcome of a stronger sense of self. Mourning the disappeared past, dwelling on the damage done is an obsessive exercise in masochism.

Guess which one I'm better at?

Monday, November 08, 2010

Ah, Poop

That's not just a title, that's an apt description of tonight's (last minute) entry.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Saturday, November 06, 2010

For Wetter and For Dryer

When I was five or six and we lived in Colorado, my mother was out walking with a friend when a large piece of driftwood caught her eye. She liked it so much she brought it home, where she intended to display it in the corner of the living room. My father took one look at the hulking piece of wood and told her it was too damp to bring in the house right away and that she should leave it outside until it dried out a bit.

Each day, she would check the wood in the morning, but despite decent weather, it remained damp to the touch.

Finally, assuming heavy dew might be dampening it overnight, she decided to check it just before the sun went down, which is how she caught my father standing over the driftwood with the garden hose.

Apparently, he'd been hosing it down each evening while watering the lawn. Passive-aggressive tendencies or pure conflict-avoidance genius? You be the judge.

I guess I don't have to tell you which way my mother would've voted.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Rabid Reader

I'm a word addict from way back--there's a black-and-white studio portrait of me at about seven months, holding a book open and looking intently at it. Just a prop? Or some kind of premonition on the part of the photographer?

Either way, I was reading real books by the time I was five. One of my earliest memories is of reading aloud for one of my mother's friends who had had the audacity to suggest that I was not "really" reading, just reciting books from memory. My mother grabbed a random Dr. Seuss off their bookshelf and handed it to me. It was my first Seuss and my momentary stagefright disappeared in the pleasure of Suess's rhythmic rhymes.

A little later, when I was eleven or twelve, I taught myself to ride a ten-speed bicycle with no hands solely so I could read on the way home from the library. That summer, I was devouring the Doctor Dolittle books and would spread the next book open on the bike's handlebars as soon as I'd pedaled away from the library lot.

Even now that I'm allegedly a grown-up, the obsession continues. I have loved my library card to death twice in ten years, taking it out of my wallet with such frequency that it's fallen apart--the one I have now is the third I've been issued and it is currently held together with clear packing tape, applied by the ever-patient library ladies.

Tomorrow, I will use that taped-up card to check out both the latest David Sedaris and the latest Bill Bryson* which are waiting behind the counter for me. I got the e-mail notification that both books are available for pick-up just before I logged on here and I actually did a little dance in my desk chair. It's like I've won the jackpot in some kind of literary lottery.

Try not to envy me too much.

*Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and At Home: A Short History of Private Life, respectively.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Rough Drafts: Balancing Writing and Life

"In school they told me, 'Practice makes perfect.' But then they told me, 'Nobody's perfect.' So I stopped practicing." ~~Steven Wright

Despite decades now of practice, balancing the desire--a desire that often feels like a need--to write with the demands of motherhood and out-of-the-house employment is something I've actually gotten worse at rather than better. For a while, when the kids were younger and I was managing a bookstore, I wrote with what seems to me now to be a stunning regularity. I set goals--a certain number of finished projects to be submitted to a certain number of markets each month--and actually met them.

These days--though the demands of the children are significantly less and the job is actually less stressful in many ways than any I've ever had before--I no longer even manage to set goals let alone meet them. (Unless you count NaBlo...) I was looking back on the mid- to late-nineties as some kind of mysterious and glorious accomplishment--a testament to the power of organization and determination and motivation (all of which I seem to have long since misplaced), a shining example of my amazing (and apparently temporary) ability to balance my needs with everyone else's.

Then I remembered Easter Eve 1998. The kids were anxiously awaiting the chance to create Easter egg masterpieces so I put a pot of eggs on to boil and snuck off to the computer to write a few lines on my latest essay while the water was heating. The words began to flow and paragraphs later, I was reminded of the eggs by the pop pop pop of them exploding out of the blackened, bone-dry pot.

Yeah. Maybe balance is too strong a word.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Rise and Sparkle Dimly

Not only is my daughter not a morning person, she's not a person in the morning. She is mostly non-verbal--channeling the great-grandfather she never met, who also had a vocabulary of highly nuanced grunts, groans and squeals to express a wide variety of emotions.

Of course, the only emotion she really expresses before school drop-off in the morning is her utter disgust with her mother.

Sixteen is such a fun age.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Other N-Word


A post a day for thirty days..."post" sometimes rather loosely defined.*

Like many traditions, it's irrational and makes me whine a lot.

But like many traditions, it's traditional so I do it anyway for reasons I don't entirely understand.

Two down. Twenty-eight to go.

*Today, for instance.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Halloween Hangover

The Halloween Hangover is that morning-after feeling you have when you spent the night before traipsing around the neighborhood with some assortment of heavily costumed children hyped up on candy or the anticipation thereof. My children are all, at least chronologically, mostly grown, but there were years and years when the planning started in August and the recovery period lasted until the week before Thanksgiving.

Today, though, I've got nothing much to recover from other than wandering aimlessly around the internet admiring the costumes other people have come up with for their children and remembering some adventures in costuming from Halloweens past. We were pretty big into homemade(ish) costumes when my kids were younger, largely for budgetary reasons but also because the kids seemed to have a good time with it.

I was terrible at remembering to take pictures, worse at getting the film developed and even worse at organizing the pictures that did manage to become prints. Even so (and due mostly to Little Sister's superior organization skills), there are shots of most of the costumes around somewhere, but one year I didn't manage to get pictures of was the year I dressed all three boys as crayons.*

Son-One was five, Son-Two was almost four and Son-Three was two. I bought three sheets of poster board at like 59 cents a piece, a package of pointy party hats for a dollar and three tubes of face paint at about a dollar each. Made kid-sized tubes with the poster boards decorated to look like a crayon label, used coordinating paint on each kid's face and wrapped the party hats in coordinating construction paper for the point of the crayon. I dressed three kids for Halloween and spent just a little over $5 and the kids were instantly recognizable as crayons and looked absolutely adorable.

In my haste to pat myself on the back, I didn't immediately realize how gravely I had overestimated the flexibility of the poster board each child was wrapped in. It began to dawn on me as I watched the three boys making mincing little Geisha steps as they walked down the sidewalk, but it wasn't until they were trying to walk up the porch steps of neighborhood houses and were unable to fully bend their knees that it hit me that I had made the perfect Halloween costumes for standing completely still.

As penance for my lack of foresight, I spent the next two hours lifting them one by one up and down porch after porch after porch.

Everything worked out in the end, though--2500 calories of pilfered "fun size" candy bars later, I was practically in a diabetic coma and that ache in my lower back was nothing but a hazy memory.

*Little Sister was living halfway across the country (in Texas) that year. I say we blame her.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Concussion, Take Me Away*

At work this week, a coworker made the horrendous mistake of asking me how things were going. (Never ask that question to someone deep in the Funk, unless you are prepared for the verbal spewing that might result.) I am so overwhelmed, overwrought and overtired that with just a tiny bit of encouragement, I will (over) share the latest in the horrifying housing situation.

The housing situation, for those of you who don't have the great fortune of knowing me outside this flickering screen, is that we are in the process of fixing up the scary house where I fell through the deck when Hubby was trying to show me how much "potential" the house had. This might be fine--although, honestly, I'm not the visionary that Hubby is and I see not only no "potential" but very little even "salvagable," but still, it might be fine were it not for the ridiculous timeline we suddenly find ourselves on because our landlord is getting ready to put the house we're in on the market, with high hopes and every intention of selling it by January.

The scary house was essentially gutted, or very nearly, by previous fixer-uppers with good intentions--and whatever wasn't already gutted, needed to be due to the house having stood empty for eight or so years. Empty, that is, except for assorted fauna--cats, groundhogs, raccoons, pigeons.

Hubby is gallantly trying to make the most of limited material resources being provided by the house's owner, and in exchange for the labor he's providing (for no cost), we will get rent credit or credit toward a lease-to-own arrangement if the house doesn't continue giving me nightmares after it's finished.

The staircase needed to be completely replaced and due to the meager amount of lumber provided, it needed to be moved as well. As I told my ever-patient coworker, it now turns and for a step or two is under a support beam with clearance of exactly six feet. To her credit my coworker immediately understood the problem.

"Wait--how many of your children are over six feet tall?"

I shook my head and said, "Half. Half my children are over six feet tall."

And then the coworker and I laughed uproariously. Ha. Ha. Ha.

Because the alternative to laughing is to bang my head against a hard surface until the resulting concussion makes it all go away.

*Just like Calgon, but with more cerebral contusions.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Let's Call It A Hiatus...

...it sounds fancier than what has really kept me away from this place for so long which is that I've been buried under the demands of daily life while at the same time finding myself in a Funk.

Yes, that's a capital "F" you see there and it's a much-warranted one if you ask me--not that you can really trust the judgement of a person in a capital-F Funk since the funkiness tends to distort your perception when you're deep in the Funk. The thing about capital-F Funks is that some people completely understand the difference between a capital-F Funk and a regular run-of-the-mill down-in-the-dumps kind of funk and some people truly don't.

At a family gathering, in response to a question about why I hadn't been better about keeping in touch for the past year or so,* I said, "Don't take it personally, I've just been in a Funk**, a deep, dark Funk."

To which the person replied, "That happens to me sometimes, but then I realize I'm still alive and I just get over it."

And another person listening from across the room said, "That happens to me sometimes and I just take Prozac until it goes away. Want a Prozac?"

It's clear to see that one of these people gets it--even though I wasn't going to accept her generously offered Prozac--and one of these people doesn't. And when you're in a capital-F Funk, the advice of the people who don't get it rubs against the soft parts of your soul like someone rubbing Ajax on your forehead.***

While I suffer from the lower-case-f funk from time to time, as many of us do, the colossal capital-F Funk has plagued me much less often, but has hung around a lot longer when it arrives. Sometimes it is precipitated by life events--in this case primarily a housing situation that would make shacking up in one of the anterooms of Hell sound rather appealing--and sometimes it just comes upon me and makes everything in my life seem infinitely worse than it actually is. Sometimes I have taken whatever pharmaceutical remedies were thought useful by my nurse practitioner and felt a gradual easing of the Funk, but the results I got from the pharmaceuticals were rarely worth the cost of the side effects I suffered--and sometimes I have just ridden it out until it began to gradually lessen of its own accord. Sometimes the easing came about as a direct result of a positive change in external circumstances and sometimes the easing came about as the more mysterious result of rediscovering inner reserves of tolerance and strength with which to better face the circumstances.

At the moment, I remain pretty firmly in the grip of the current Funk but it occurred to me this morning that not writing on my blog and not writing in my notebooks and not making more of an effort, is certainly not helping anything.

So here I am--Funky as all get-out--but making an effort.

*This is not intended to imply that in non-Funk times I am all that good at keeping in touch. For most of the past ten years, I've been kind of crappy at it. Funk has made it go from half-assed sporadic contact to no self-initiated contact at all. I do still try to respond appropriately when someone contacts me, but I have not reached out in any direction since being overcome by the Funk.

**Capital-F implied.

***Ah, who the hell am I kidding, while under the spell of the funk, just about any advice is annoying as crap.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Words of Wisdom From An Unlikely Source

It's not just a slogan on my blog header: Wisdom really can sneak up on you when you least expect it. In a conversation which also included onion rings, Easter goats, pedophilia, and see-saws, for example.

Riding around the other day with Daughter-Only and a friend of hers when Daughter-Only (who, please note, has a sixteenth birthday just around the corner) announces, in what can only be called an accusing manner, "Mommy, I have to go potty!"

I say, "I'm not sure how that can possibly be construed as my fault."

She says, "Everything that happens to me is your fault because it's your fault I was born."

I take a second of silence to digest this tidbit and then say, "So wait, do I get credit for all the good stuff that happens to you?"

She says, without hesitation, "No, it doesn't work that way."

I start to protest and she cuts me off with "Life's not fair, Mom. Get over it."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


"And I thought, I'll always remember that we die. I'll live like I believe in our mortality, like I believe in death. But of course it isn't that easy. Mortality is like a bad dream we kindly let ourselves forget and every now and then something reminds us, but then we forget again." ~~Alison Clement

A friend called me one day last week to tell me that a mutual acquaintance--a person we know of more than actually know, a local business owner--suffered what turned out to be an aortic dissecton during a rigorous exercise routine. This was a routine she had been doing for a while now, apparently, and to all outward signs this woman was in enviable physical health. On this day, though, she collapsed mid-routine--her heart had stopped, but they were able to resucitate her and she was rushed into emergency surgery. Even if she managed to survive the surgery--and the ones that would probably follow it--there were concerns that she had been without oxygen long enough to do permanent damage to her brain.

My friend texted a few days later to tell me the woman didn't make it. She was 42.

My friend and I had that conversation people always have when something like this happens--especially when it happens close by you, but distant enough for you to be philosophical rather than simply devastated. We talked about how you just never know, that you could wake up one day this week or next year or whatever and it could be the last day you wake up and how when something like this happens we always think we're going to live our lives a different way: grateful for the time we are given and determined to use it wisely and to the fullest extent. And how we keep it in mind for a few days, a week if we're lucky, and then all the mundane crap of normal life buries us once again and we go about our lives blissfully--maybe even willfully-- ignorant of our mortality. We tell ourselves that we understand that there are no guarantees in life, but we don't really get it on anything but a superficial, intellectual level.

My mother was also 42 when she died, but it didn't happen as suddenly as in this case. There were whisperings and rumblings and close calls for years before, beginning with the lump she found a few months before her thirty-sixth birthday. I remember sitting in her living room, just the two of us, watching afternoon TV--me on the couch, her on the recliner with her feet propped up--oh-so-casual as though there was nothing to be concerned about--describing the lump as "pea-sized" and, as if to further impress upon me that there was nothing to worry about, she said she was waiting until after the first of the year to have it checked out. It was mid-December then; by mid-March she had had a modified radical mastectomy. The cancer appeared to have been caught early with no lymph node involvement and the decision regarding chemo and radiation was left pretty much up to her.

From her time in Walter Reed medical center, she brought home the surgical scars and a kind of battle-weary air that I had never noticed before, though perhaps it had been there all along--she'd certainly faced down an enemy or two before the cancer. She also brought home the story of a woman she met on the cancer ward. This woman had been given less than a year to live and people kept asking her how she intended to spend what quality time she had left--would she travel the world, would she spend extravagantly on things she'd always denied herself, would she sell her house and rent a Winnebago and follow a carnival around the country? What last-minute changes and last-ditch efforts would she make in her life?

For this woman, the answer turned out to be that she intended to return to her home and her life, exactly as it was and go about living it exactly as she had been and savoring every single precious imperfect moment of it. All those things she might have dreamed of doing someday were not as important to her as the things she had done in her life--I imagine she understood, even if she did not say so, that her life as it was was the truest reflection of the unique combination of the aspirations and disappointments, the striving and compromises that made her who she was. Rather than hungering for extraordinary moments, she was greedy for more of those ordinary moments that accumulate in all our lives sometimes barely noticed, but in the end are really what make life worthwhile.

Sometimes when I hear the Tim McGraw song "Live Like You Were Dyin'," I think of the woman from Walter Reed, and of course I think of my mother, too, who embraced that woman's philosophy right up to the end of her own life in ways I would only understand much later. The song is about a man who faces a medical crisis which brings his mortality into clear focus. It's partly about how he went "sky divin'" and "Rocky Mountain climbin'" and " two-point-seven seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu." (Or as I belted out during one especially sleep-deprived round of Off-Key Car Sing-Along: "I went two-point-seven seconds on a fool named Bu Manchu" which, one would imagine, would be a whole other kind of extraordinary experience. One which neither you nor the fool would likely forget.) Those are the extraordinary moments, but it's also--and more importantly--about how he "loved deeper," "spoke sweeter," and "gave forgiveness" he'd been denying. It's about living an ordinary life with extraordinary appreciation and attention to detail.

And when a 42-year-old woman in excellent health is swept from her life in an instant, it reminds me (yet again) that the difference between a life well-lived and a life barely-lived lies not in the specifics (bull riding vs. toddler wrangling, for example) but in our appreciation of them. Perhaps it is too much to hope that I will use my time wisely (I am, like most of us, capable of wisdom in short bursts but unlikely to sustain it with any sort of consistency), but maybe I can remember to use my time gratefully, in ways that are truest to who I am.

At least for a little while.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Kiss My Dupa

When I was growing up, spending time with my paternal grandparents, Pap had a habit of sitting in a chair in the corner of the kitchen beside the woodstove, sometimes reading, sometimes just sitting there over his ridiculously strong cup of tea, looking curmudgeonly--he had more hair and fewer teeth but otherwise resembled Nebbercracker from the movie Monster House in some significant ways. I know Nebbercracker was supposed to be a scary bad guy, especially at the beginning, but I found myself a little nostalgic and missing Pap even in the opening scenes of the movie.

Anyway, there he sat, in the chair in the corner of the kitchen and Nan was often puttering around the house or watching TV in the living room. The house was a converted hunting cabin and had only three rooms so when he yelled for her, in his phlegmy, grunty way (emphysema), she wouldn't have any problem hearing him.

"Em," he would yell, and then pause for a response, which wouldn't come, so he'd yell again.




Meanwhile, my grandmother was wherever she was smirking and rolling her eyes, knowing what was coming, and not answering because of it.




This would sometimes go on for three or four rounds before finally, finally Nan would cave and say, "What?!" or sometimes (if this was, say, the third or fourth time that day that Pap had gotten into this mood), "What, you crazy old son-of-a-bitch?!"

And always, always, always, Pap would say, "Kiss my dupa*!" He was a sixty-something-year-old man with a six-year-old's mischievous glint in his eye. Sometimes--even if it was the fourth or fifth time that day he'd pulled his clever little trick--he would laugh so hard a coughing fit would ensue.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately--not merely because it's the kind of funny-in-a-warped way story that is so typical of my grandparents--but because in my own funny-in-a-warped way brain, it's become a metaphor for my entire life.
There are some things about myself and my life that I would really like to change. I would like to be more motivated and energetic and I understand that the main way to get moving is to actually move. I want to spend less energy procrastinating and more energy actually accomplishing. I lecture myself pretty much perpetually. The last ten minutes before I fall asleep, many of my thoughts begin with "First thing tomorrow, I will..." and yet day after day after month after year, not much changes.
So there is the lecturing side of myself--the well-intentioned, you-can-do-more-better-faster self but then there is the other side, sitting in the corner, clamoring for attention. ("Em!" "Em!" "Emma!") And that more-better-faster person tries nobly to resist the pull of the non-productive, unhealthy, but oh-so-deeply-ingrained creature of slothful habits, but finally, finally, always, always she gives in and shouts, "What, you crazy old son-of-a-bitch?!"

*Growing up, I knew "dupa" was "ass" and just assumed it was German, given my grandfather's heritage. But, turns out, if it is German it is regional slang borrowed from one of several Eastern European neighbors.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Incident Report

Rushing around at work the other day, I bent down to get into the car and bashed my lip off the corner of the car door. It hurt so bad that even typing that two days later makes my eyes water a little. The corner pierced my lip and there was blood and swelling and bruising. I walked through the house past the guys and my coworkers with my hands cupped under my mouth, trying to catch the blood, unable to answer their, "Are you all right?"'s.

Once the bleeding was under control and ice was applied, a sympathetic coworker pointed out, "You're going to have to fill out an incident report."

And I said, "No way. What am I supposed to write on it, 'I was an idiot.'? That's not an incident; that's a chronic condition."

PS--I eventually did fill out an incident report, in case, as the ever-helpful coworker suggested, "it becomes infected and your face falls off."

Thursday, February 04, 2010

If It's Not On The Internet, It Doesn't Exist & Other Things I've Learned--Mostly About The Internet

1. The website for Dick's Sporting Goods is NOT dicks dot com.*

2. A friend recently joined Facebook and texted me a few hours later: "I just found the girl who told me in 8th grade that my legs looked like sausage links." Just think, before the internet, we only had the echoes in our heads and hearts to remind us of all those great moments from middle school.

3. Judging from his effect on my teenaged daughter and her friends, Bo Burnham, has embedded subliminal hypnotic messages in his YouTube videos.

4. During a conversation too complicated and, well, boring, to repeat here, Hubby said, in defense of a point he was trying to make, "There is not a book that has been published that is not referenced somewhere on the internet."

At first, I thought (and said), "Wow! Seriously? You really believe that every single book ever written is mentioned somewhere on the internet?" It's absurd, right? I mean some dude in 1465 borrowed money from his brother-in-law to print 100 copies of his collected love poems and one of those copies somehow survived and was read by GeekyBookDude786 who posted about it on his blog, right? And that happened for every single book ever published?

And, then I thought, surely he's exaggerating for emphasis. But, no, turns out, he really, really means every book published is mentioned somewhere on the internet. (Later, he did admit that he would not include "some book written by some guy in a hut in 1357 or whatever" but stood by the basic principle.)

We finally agreed to disagree on the subject (a euphemism for getting sick of telling each other to shut the hell up) but just before that breaking point he said those immortal words (you'll recognize them from every argument you've had since third grade): "Prove it."

And that's when it hit me that the argument which had on its surface seemed so ridiculous and simple-minded was, in fact, quite diabolical in its brilliance. When he said, "Prove it," I thought, "No problem. I'll just go to the library basement, grab the dustiest, most obscure book I can find and Google it." Great! Except...the Google search would return (even if nothing else) the card catalog listing of the damn book. And as certain as I am that there were lots and lots of books written and published over the centuries that aren't mentioned online, I would have no idea what any of them might be named (and this is the most delicious part) because they're not listed online.

*Similarly, if you want a recipe for popcorn balls, I don't suggest indiscriminately clicking any old link that pops (ha ha, get it?) up when you Google "popcorn balls." And, in the never-would've-seen-that-one coming (ha ha, get it?) department (with thanks to Youngest Sister and her husband, Lou B.) the phrase "feeding the ducks" will yield more from your search engine than information on sustenance for the abandoned duckling you found on the golf course near your house.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

The Essence of Parenting Teenagers In One Brief(ish) Blog Post

For over a year now, Daughter-Only has been campaigning to have her nose pierced. Hubby and I have never given her an absolutely-not-young-lady speech but we've counseled caution and told her to wait a while and she has (for the most part) patiently waited until the last month or so when she began the all-out pestering. She went so far as to say that the piercing was all she wanted for Christmas*.

For a variety of reasons--mostly scheduling and finance-related issues--she did not get pierced for Christmas. But I did agree that we would do it as soon as possible after the holidays.

It was not without trepidation that I agreed to take her to the highly recommended piercing place today but I convinced myself that she was mature enough to make this decision. She's reasonably responsible; she researched her decision thoroughly; she made the phone call to check what arrangements were necessary for a fifteen-year-old girl to get her nose pierced in the fine state of New York.

So off we went, driving half an hour over snow-covered roads to get to this highly recommended (and hopefully hepatitis-free) piercing place. We showed our identification and signed the necessary papers and paid the fee then sat down to wait our turn with the piercing professional.

It was only then that I noticed Daughter-Only was wearing flip-flops. Flip-flops. In twelve-degree weather.

*Oh, and her hair cut at a pricey salon in town. And, um, some clothes but they don't count because, uh, she needs* clothes anyway.

*When my children (and, alas, even my husband) wantonly throw around the word "need," I am prone to saying, "What you need is a dictionary to look up the word 'need.'" You would think after a certain number of years of this remark, they would be a little more careful with their word usage. But so far, no luck.