Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sundays

I'll go on record as saying that Sunday is my least favorite day of the week. It's not so much the day itself, but what it represents, though it's true that the days we drag the grumpy and unwilling to church (but not before I must switch on my Uterine Tracking Device to locate pants for everyone) creates a friction that has pretty much rubbed the lustre from any hope for a day of quiet meditation and thanks.

Now it's just the day before the great sinkhole of the work week/ school week/volunteer-a-palooza starts afresh and we're sucked into the giant vortex of big, chunky obligations and tiny, ephemeral promises we made to someone while walking backwards trying to answer the cellphone and motion the youngest kid to hurry up because it's time to go someplace else. Because, like the character of Brooks says in the movie, 'Shawshank Redemption', "The world suddenly went and got itself in a big, damn hurry".

Many moons ago Sunday frequently meant lunch at the home of my paternal grandparents, and even though Sunday has morphed into many things throughout the years, the childhood memories that remain the strongest for me right now center around afternoons at the house on Oak Knoll Drive. Settle down, though, the picture I'm using isn't from one of those dinners. This was a picture taken long before there were any grandchildren, but I'm including it because I've always liked it. My grandfather, a German immigrant, was a naturalized U.S. citizen in this picture and an officer in the army. My grandmother was still wearing her hair up.

Either way, Sunday at the home of these particular people meant Granny adding the extra "leaf" to the big dining room table and the best linen cloth spread over it with a special pad underneath to keep water rings off of the table. Heavy silver and the U.S. Zone china they brought from Germany. Cunning cut-glass salt & pepper shakers.

Steak and baked potatoes, though sometimes she served homemade french fries and my sister and I were allowed to help drop the slices into a brown paper sack with salt and "shake" them until they were de-greased and seasoned perfectly. Steamed artichokes with your own personal bowl of melted butter for dipping the leaves. A salad with a briny dressing which incorporated anchovies that no one had the presence of mind to ask Granny while she was living how it was made and that no one in our family has been able to replicate since her death.

Often our cousins were there and if we stayed late enough until the sun shone in amber bars through the windows there was always ABC's Wide World of Sports ("the agony of defeat") on the television, though we kids were often too busy playing croquet outside or learning card games at the table after the dishes had been cleared. Sometimes we played in the paneled room that had been my father's in high school or we slipped into the cool and dim spare room where Papa had his oil paints set up. Adults talked and the air was punctated with the smell of my grandfather's pipe and my grandmother's occasional laughter, which was a rare and wonderfully powerful thing...explosive in its force.

At the time I was unaware of the familial stresses creating an electrical undercurrent amongst the adults. Emotional injuries and hurt feelings, regrets and resentments would caused a rift that resulted in us not setting foot in that house for about three years. By the time Sunday dinner had been reinstituted with us as a part of it, Papa was dead and though his pipestand was still on the table next to his chair in the living room, my grandmother had assumed his place at the head of the table. The spare room now held her canvases and oil paints and art magazines while her own bedroom was dark because of the aluminum foil she placed over the window panes to keep the room chilly year round.

We never played another game of badminton in the backyard after that and the metal sleeves that Papa had sunk into the ground where the net could be set up were grown over...as was the lovely rose garden he tended. The green birdhouse with the painted windows and doors fell apart and when the tree lights didn't work anymore, no one fixed them. The tree that held the swing had been cut down.The wooden sandbox Papa had fashioned for the grandchildren was gone and no one used the brick barbeque pit he had built with its sandstone patio. Eventually Granny replaced it with an ugly metal shed where she kept the mower.

I learned then that when one person makes his exit from a group of people to which he belonged, the chemistry of the gathering changes. Sometimes it's a good thing. In this case, it was not.

Years later, after all of the grandchildren had graduated college, married, had our kids and moved away, Granny and Papa's house had to be sold. Strokes and old age had turned my grandmother into a person who could not speak and she had been moved to an assisted living facility. Some items and furnishings had gone with my grandmother and others had gone home with my father and his sister. The rugs from the Paris fleamarket rolled up and distributed. The grandkids came and those who lived in town took what talismans they could haul away with them. Mr. Half and I came away with the phone table and some military trunks, a rocking chair and her spaghetti pot. Her cookie tin.

The last day we had to be in the house I took a video camera and walked around the inside and outside filming everything. The knotty pine kitchen with the green and yellow counters and corner sink. The place behind the door where she kept the six-pack of Frostie root beer in glass bottles. The hiding nook in a lower cabinet where a tiny brass bell had been kept which--coincidentally--was where the liquor was also. The nail where the crucifix had hung over the dining room table. The musty garage littered with old bowling shoes and even older ice skates. The backyard sandstone patio where I extricated a loose stone and brought it home to my own garden. My father had helped Papa set all of those stones into the ground long before I was born. I clicked the switches for the tree lights one last time even though nothing came on. Everywhere you looked was a place where something else used to be, though my grandfather's name was still above the doorbell. I found the place on the back walkway where my grandfather had taken a nail and drawn into the wet cement many years ago. K+E=S was still very visible.

It was probably just a coincidence that the last day I was in that house was a Sunday afternoon. Our truck was loaded and I kept going back to every room once more...wanting to burn all of the memories into my brain as much as possible. I remember trying to turn on the dining room light one last time and had I been able to go back in time exactly 25 years, we probably would have just been finishing up lunch. Pushing our mahogany chairs back from the table and laying down our cloth napkins. Someone would have squeezed a little more lemon into his tea and asked about dessert. Instead, my husband and I locked the front door one last time and drove away under a cloudy sky.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

"...and then everything just went flukey"

(For the uninitiated, the title of this post is a line from an "I Love Lucy" episode where Tennesse Ernie Ford comes to stay and his backwater way of speaking adds a delightful spice to the dialogue. Next time you hear me say, "Cock your pistols, 'cause you aint gonna believe this no how!", you'll know where it came from.)
*****
This is the week that should never have been. I'm totally serious here. I've been about 24 hours behind--or ahead--of schedule all week long. I feel as though I've only recently emerged from a coma and am merely a visitor--a tourist--in my own life. There's no excuse for this kind of confusion and though I feel that it's safe to rule out early onset Alzheimers at this juncture I still can't figure out why I'm so mixed up about where I'm supposed to be and what I'm supposed to be doing there.

I use a calendar. I save memos that remind me about meetings or events which require my presence. I have sticky notes pasted on my dresser mirror and I check my e-mail several times a day so that I stay in communication with folks in the outside world. However, I have been listening quite a bit to the '70s station on satellite radio and there was that time I accidentally listened to that Milli Vanilli song without meaning to. Maybe it screwed with my hard wiring in some way.

All I know is that I showed up on Tuesday (with middle sister in tow) for yet another funeral at the wrong location and time. Yes, we read the obituary...but we drove to the wrong side of town in spite of that and got there 30 minutes early. That's just how we roll.

I shopped for and began preparing dinner for an ill neighbor and I was ready to deliver said meal a day earlier than I was scheduled to do so. Yesterday I tried to leave for a hair appointment that wasn't supposed to take place until today. This morning, I realized that the high school theater awards dinner we were supposed to attend with the oldest son isn't until tomorrow night. I've had it written down for tonight and it's been that way on my calendar for two weeks.

My calendar tells me that I'm scheduled to work on a Habitat for Humanity house tomorrow...all day. I hope that's still true. If you see me wandering around the mall wearing a toolbelt and carrying a framing hammer, please call the authorities. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Vaya Con Dios, Carla


If you know a person long enough you'll find that you never stop being surprised by them...by the things they've done in the past and many tiny facets to a life that, on the outside, looks pretty ordinary. I remember reading the obituary of an elderly neighbor which revealed that had been an athlete in the Olympics during the 1930's. To us, he had just been the guy who emerged at Halloween to slip candy into our kids' sacks. Last year, I read some letters that my grandmother had sent to her brother while she (along with my grandfather, my father and his sister) were living in France. In one letter she detailed an evening at a club in Paris' Left Bank where the writer Gertrude Stein was the Mistress of Ceremonies of some event being held there.

Like I said...surprises come even when you think you know that person as well as anyone can and especially when you don't.

I sat through a funeral yesterday. It was not unexpected. One more damned breast cancer statistic. A woman whose life was far from over...even as she hovered near the literal end for many weeks. Were it not for the fact that someone in my family had married the way he did, I would never have known this woman for most of my life. We were raised in different cities and went to college in different places. Even after marriage and kids, we did not live in the same town until just a few years ago, but the flurry of lunches and family get togethers and phone calls made me feel as though we were making up for the time apart.

Yet as I listened to her best friends stand to eulogize her, I realized I didn't really know her at all...at least...the thought dawned on me that the portion of her that I knew well was the portion that everyone else knew, too. As a family member, it was clear to me that her friends knew her best and the stories and anecdotes were stunning in their number and diversity.

The stories I could tell were few and certainly nothing earth shattering and I now know that any confidence she felt she could tell me had already reached her inner circle of friends long before me. Whether by accident of birth or geography or bad timing or other preconceptions we had about one another or the families we came from, fate kept us from fully knowing the other or being fully known in turn. Love...yes...we loved each other, but I doubt now that I could really say we knew each other.

Death comes in many forms. The most obvious one is when life on Earth ends. The death of possibility is another. The possibility that two people will know the innermost heart of the other is one more. Sitting in that church yesterday I heard my cousin described to me in ways I never knew. I learned from the people with whom she confided the fact that she knew she was losing ground with cancer...even as she so breezily told me and other family members of another new treatment. I never saw her cry about it or lose her calm and positive outlook. All the time I thought she wasn't facing the grim facts she was actually making plans for her short future. She knew exactly what was going on...she just didn't tell me.

So yesterday it hit me: I didn't just lose the person I knew. I also lost the person I NEVER knew. I don't say this in a whining kind of way. I'm saying this in a stunned sort of way. She was an amazing person...but I only had the tiniest notion of just how amazing. Apparently her friends were lucky enough to have a ringside seat to witness her brilliance, her humor, her Zen calm in the face of the bad hand she was dealt. Familial chaos of late and a general lack of communcation on the part of many of us is mostly responsible for the many things I'll never know about her. But I also think that this little event in my life points to the unacknowledged truth that we can't know everything about everyone. Still...there's no excuse for not knowing your family. I guess that's what I'm trying to say.

So...my mission is to begin asking questions. To know the people in my life as well as I can. To those family members who just found out about my blog? You guys should be prepared for this as well. You were there yesterday and maybe you know what I'm talking about. Because while I might lose family to death in the literal sense, I don't want to let another moment go by without knowing about the stuff that makes you fulfilled or sad or curious and I want you to know the same about me. I'll start. I hated "The Bridges of Madison County".

There. Now it's your turn.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Skin Deep

"The past rests at the top of the heart, the future at the back of the mind, and the present at the tip of the fist." --Zen Proverb ((Discuss amongst yourselves)
***********************

Debbie suggested that we head over to www.myheritage.com and see which celebrity we most resemble. No...you don't get to pick out the celebrity of your choice. That would be cheating. You have to submit a picture of yourself. Close-up and full frontal (just the face, you pervs). Then is spits out a bunch of candidates based on an analysis of your bone structure, etc. I sent this one.
Please exucse the 32 oz of water I seemed to be storing in my face that day.

There were two similar pics I submitted, but the results were mostly the same. Most of the celebrities I seem to resemble are men. Some I've never even heard of and many of them are European. Among the biggies I do recognize are Candace Bergen (and I hope I do look that good when I get older), Claudia Schiffer (What? Because we both have German ancestry?) and Bebe Neuwirth (I'm a terrible dancer and I don't look so good in fishnet hose). The men? Michael Palin (of Monty Python), Gene Wilder, Harry Houdini, Oscar Wilde, Ben Stiller and Harold Ramis. (Okay....I get it...my nose isn't exactly a small one) The real insult here? Their "experts" say I also look like French actor Gerard Depardieu. Just great...that's the best news I've had all day. You'll excuse me while I find something sharp to plunge into my eyes.

*****************************
I'd like to make a general complaint to the TLC channel regarding the lack of fresh episodes of "Trading Spaces" as well as the re-runs thereof. I need to see Frank painting a wall and Laurie sewing new slipcovers and even Hildi's self-involved ideas about what makes a good room. I love the paint reveal where the lids of the paint cans are opened and all the colors like magenta and turquoise and pumpkin and sage get brushed onto the old wall with a new brush. I love Carpentry World and the lumber that gets fashioned into new tables and shelves. It's instant gratification. It's control over your immediate world in one hour. It's the promise of a new start. And I can't get enough. I couldn't care less about the Chop-Shop/ Pimp My Ride shows. I don't care if Clinton and Stacy convert one hundred old hippies into Hilfiger-wearing Prep Heads on "What Not To Wear". And I've never tuned into the Clean Sweep people who come in and tell a person or a family that they've accumulated WAY TOO MUCH CRAP in their garage and some stuff is gonna have to go. Don't care. Nope. Not a bit. Just give me a naked room, some paint, fabric, wood, a designer and a carpenter...and I'll go quietly.

What show is your guilty pleasure?







Friday, April 21, 2006

Random Facts to Start Your Weekend.


1) I was just a kid in 1969...the year Max Yasgur opened up his farm in Bethel, New York and allowed a small nation of legendary musicians and flowerchildren for three days of "togetherness" that has yet to be duplicated...regardless of the attempts that have been made. My parents were too old and too conservative to even fake enthusiasm for such a gathering and I was certainly too young and far away from the action to ever think I could go. It didn't keep me from wishing I was old enough. But even then I knew something special was happening and it's certainly no accident that some of my favorite all-time singers today were headliners at Woodstock. Crosby, Stills & Nash, Sly & the Family Stone, Joe Cocker, Janis Joplin, Carlos Santana. Maybe I'm just not meant to stand three days of standing in a muddy field or nude bathing in a lake with a couple thousand strangers ...just for the possibility of hearling Arlo Guthrie perform. But then again...you never know until you try.

2) I saw Paul McCartney's picture on the cover of AARP Magazine today. Can I just tell you how depressing that is for me? I mean...I've seen the man in concert. He still doesn't move like an old guy and he doesn't sound like one either. I can do the math and figure out that he's 64 this year...just like his song, but there are just some things I'd rather not contemplate and two that come to mind are: 1) The image of lovely Sir Paul riding a Rascal Mobility Scooter or 2) "The Walrus" doing commercials for Depends Adult Diapers. Don't even go there.

3) I didn't go to my high school prom. My boyfriend at the time was a freshman in college and conveniently forgot how important it might be for me. He didn't tell me until a few weeks prior that he wouldn't be able to take me, though he offered the services of his best friend who was available...although shorter than me. I said "no" and stayed home. It still bugs me.

4) When I'm ready for sleep I like the room to be dark. Pitch dark. Mr. Half would be happy to leave the curtains open so that moonlight would stream into the bedroom. It's a problem. Part of my preference is that my eyesight is bad. I'm feeling my way around the bedroom anyway, but semi-darkness just makes me see shadows and shapes that I can't make sense of and, upon waking from a sound sleep, cause my imagination to scare the crap out of me.

5). I am what's known as a Kinesthetic learner. That means I learn by doing stuff much more readily than I do by reading or hearing about it. Hearing directions on how to get some place or seeing a map will help me only a little. I can read a map, but that's not the problem. I have to drive to that place in order for the route to be burned into my brain. Riding in the passenger seat doesn't help me at all. I have to be behind the wheel.

6). I love Mr. Rogers...still. When I was teaching school during the first year, I would come home almost every day and turn on Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood. His gentle voice and patient demeanor were the perfect antidote after a day with adolescents who were hostile to the King's English.
Sometimes I'd drink a cold beer and luxuriate in the words of a man who said he loved me "just the way I was". PBS has his syndicated show on so danged early in the morning these days that a pre-schooler has to be a really early riser or an insomniac in order to catch the show.
It's a shame, too.


That's all I've got....have a good weekend.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

One huge sign of the coming Apocalypse...plus other celebrity news

Actress Sharon Stone, whose sadly lame and overhyped talent of crossing and uncrossing her legs during a police interrogation, has announced plans to cut a music cd. You read me right, folks. She's planning on singing. No...this isn't a joke. Dear God, is it time to pass around the cyanide tabs and purple Kool-Aid already?

This is you, Katie Holmes, waving goodbye to life among normal human beings. Sure...congrats on giving birth (Suri, is it??) and all that...if, in fact,that thing under your shirt was actually the "Fruit" of Tom's "Loom" (if you get my meaning) and not a hastily purchased pillow from Target. That flushing sound you hear is the noise your life is now making as you join the robots over at the Scientology's Celebrity Center. Good luck, dearie. You're gonna need it. And I hope you read the memo that spells out how you'll probably lose custody of your child if you ever wake up from your coma and figure out that Scientology is S-T-U-P-I-D. As far as I'm concerned, Seed of Chucky has a better chance at a normal life than your kid.


Ace, Ace, Ace....you were totally screwed over. As I beheld the debacle that was your ousting from American Idol tonight, I marveled at the dignity with which you bore the knife America thrust so readily between your lovely shoulderblades. I thought Ellie May ClampettKelly Pickler totally blew chunks on her ballad this week. I mean, she's nice and all, but she's got limits to her talent and I thought the voters had given her enough of a free ride because of her "golly-gee" cuteness and she was on her way out tonight. The fact that she was granted yet another stay of "execution" is beyond my comprehension. BTW...Did anyone catch the stinkeye that Simon gave Ryan Seacrest when the latter accused the former of taking credit for the eventual loser's downfall?

And then to make you watch a little retrospective of your AI career (using Daniel Powter's "Bad Day" as the musical backdrop) while America WATCHED you WATCHING it without crying was the last straw. The whole thing was just wrong. I'm writing my congressperson as soon as I'm done here.

*******************************************************************************
Rolling blackouts all over Texas are causing everyone to lose e-mail and/or internet connectivity. Yesterday, today and maybe even tomorrow. If it seems as though I've been a little out of it...I have.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Last but never least.


Time flies when you're busy trying to catch up with your older brothers. Wednesday, April 19th brings an end to the birthday marathon at Half House as Wilder turns 12. I do remember sitting in the obligatory wheelchair holding him in the hospital room while Mr. Half ran down to bring the car around, leaving Moe and Curly--wearing their "I'm the Big Brother" t-shirts-- in the room with me to run around in circles until they fell down. For a brief moment I thought to myself, "What in the name of all that is holy have I gotten myself into now?" Then the moment passed and we brought Wilder home. We haven't regretted a moment of it since. He shares qualities with each of his brothers and, like both of them, he loves books. So far, he still wants to hug and kiss us both goodnight. Every night. I'm in no hurry for that to go away...trust me on that.

He's also the kid with whom I've been able to share my retro love of Wacky Packages. Back in the day, Mad Magazine illustrators were instrumental in designing some of the first Wacky Package cards (Crust Toothpaste, Crakola Crayons, Liptorn Soup) and when they started reissuing new designs a couple of years ago, I was doing cartwheels of joy. The only dark moment was when I realized that my early collection from the '70's had gone the way of other childhood things I didn't think I'd need later on in life. That's right, internet. Just like my gumwrapper chain, my elephant tail bracelet from Africa and my German Club t-shirt from high school...they were thrown away. I blame myself.

**Pause here for a moment of reflective silence**

I wish I had those Wacky Pack stickers now. I've started Wilder's collection and he's mostly on board with it, though I think I'm the person who gets the most out of it. No way will I let him throw these things out when he gets older. You never know when he'll come looking for them again. So what did you have as a kid that you threw out or gave away and now wish that you hadn't?





Monday, April 17, 2006

Just really, really tired


I'm feeling a lot like this chair, people. Fried and definitely exhausted. Easter weekend got mashed together with the 16-year-old's birthday and visits with family. Lots and lots of family. Then I find out on Sunday morning that my blog is totally FUBAR and it was only with the help of kindly Dr. Chris Cactus that I was able to salvage 109 post, many of which I had grown rather fond and some of which I was actually proud.

For awhile I suspected that Tom Cruis-azy had summoned his Scientology minions to screw with the inner mechanics of my blog in response to my post of last week, but I've since shaken off that notion. Things are mostly back to normal and I'm very grateful. In the meantime, check out Chris' blog with pictures of his daughter, Mia in her new Easter dress. Warning all females: Simply gazing upon her gorgeosity might cause you to ovulate without meaning to. Take this into consideration before beholding her cherubic face.

In the meantime, I'm trying to rebuild my blogroll (no small feat) and if you were listed on it before you'll most likely be on it again. It'll happen eventually. Remember, patience is a virtue, although impatience has often worked just as well for me.

I wish this post could be more...uh...meaningful. April and May always make me feel as though I'm a fish inside a pitcher of water that's being slowly poured out. I'm clinging to the last little bit of fluid in the pitcher...trying hard not to get spilled out before I'm ready. But I can't seem to keep it from happening. Summer is on the way and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Very little of the chaos that is enveloping Half House these days has anything to do with me personally, but the stuff that is mine is lost under a big pile of papers that need to be signed or delivered somewhere or filed away. Appointments for check-ups, schedules for next year, AP exams, the youngest son's birthday, Eagle Scout project for the oldest boy, college applications, art supplies ordered for me and lessons devised for cancer camp...the list seems endless. Your life is probably the same...just made up of different ingredients than mine.

What looms ahead a year from now for us is the prospect of the oldest son leaving for college and I would be less than truthful if I said that the anticipation of his absence hasn't cast a dark shadow here. Time seems compelled to move us forward to that point where we load up the car and drive him to some campus where we eventually return without him. Lately, Mr. Half and I see little boys running around and we're immediately reminded of when ours were small. If you look up the term "bittersweet" in the dictionary, I'm sure you'll find a picture of parents waving goodbye to each tiny moment of their kids' lives that won't come back again.

Here's a few of the things I miss already:

"skelescope" (telescope)
"swiss" (kiss)
"I'm giving up gum and candy for Mardis Gras" (Lent)
"fink you" (thank you)
"shanks" (thanks)
"eddybuddy" (everybody)
"do-see-do" (grocery store)
"peckerworker" (woodpecker)
"I'm pine" (fine)
"fruit throw-ups" (fruit roll-ups)
"pee-wee yogurt" (kiwi yogurt)

I have no titles, but I'm back anyway

Chris at Rude Cactus got my template fixed for me. Thanks, Chris! I don't have titles, but I'll figure that out. My links are wiped out, but I had an ESP moment a few weeks ago and I made a hard copy of all the blogs I read. Those will go up soon. I'll post later today.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What's Going On?

I don't know how this happened, but I can't pull up the front page of my blog. I can see only html code and I think this is true for others as well. I'm working on getting help to fix it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Birthday Wishes...and a meme


Sixteen (16!!!) years ago Saturday I became a mom for the second time inside of a 13 month span. Tucker (Pictured at top on the left with his brother Greyson who turned 17 last month) was our only "surprise" baby out of the three we have. It was Tax Day and Easter morning on the day he made us a family of four.

He was the biggest (9 lbs), but labor with him was the shortest and the easiest. The only one to come on his own without an induction, he was a very easy baby. He played hard. He slept easily. He ate with gusto and he had a deep and hearty chuckle. Sixteen years later he's still a sweet and thoughtful kid who is a fabulous student and great athlete. I wish all of life's surprises could be as wonderful has he turned out to be for us. Happy Birthday, sweetie.

And now for the meme:

FOUR THINGS THAT MAKE ME HAPPY:
1) A new writing project or art project.
2) Feeling useful on a collaborative effort that serves the greater good.
3) When the lives of my kids and Mr. Half are going well and I know they feel confident and happy and productive.
4) Physical activity

FOUR THINGS I'M AFRAID OF:

1) Losing any of my kids or Mr. Half before I'm ready to leave this planet (or watching them suffer in any way)
2) Any misstep in life that will cause me deep regret later.
3) Dying without achieving my greater purpose or using the skills that I have.
4) Gaining weight.

FOUR MOVIES THAT MAKE ME LAUGH NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES I SEE THEM:

1) Animal House ("Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?")
2) Young Frankenstein ("Some Ovaltine, perhaps?")
3) Tommy Boy (What about this isn't funny?)
4) Uncle Buck ("This hat...it angers people")
5) Blazing Saddles ...that's five...oops! ("My real name is Jim, but my friends call me.....Jim")

FOUR THINGS I HATE:

1) Cruelty or Injustice ("Might does not make right")
2) Anyone who excuses intolerance, racism, sexism, Facism, or a breech in ethics or is guilty of one of the above and then calls it Patriotism or Faith in God.
3) Passive-aggression.
4) Being controlled.

FOUR ITEMS OF CLOTHING I CAN'T LIVE WITHOUT:

1) overalls
2) my good black skirt
3) champagne-colored, silk Chinese robe that Mr. Half bought for me on Canal Street in NYC.
4) hiking boots

Have a good weekend.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wednesday Sampler



**Today is April 12th and the world of children's literature is celebrating the 90th birthday of Beverly Cleary on a national level with, "Drop Everything & Read" Day.

For those of you who accidentally catch yourself on fire today, we'll refer to your experience as "Stop, Drop, Roll & Read" Day. Everyone must participate. Be sure to let me know wh
at you chose to read. I am currently engrossed in Allegra Goodman's "Kaaterskill Falls" , though I promise to pick up one of my Cleary books in order to get into the full spirit of the event.

**I went to yoga today and for no apparent reason started thinking about the LifeSaver 5-pack. My mind, it wanders. For the record, my favorite flavor in the 5-pack is pineapple. My favorite LifeSaver flavor of all time? Butter Rum. So...yeah...I was thinking about candy and then it was time to do this:It's easier than it looks. I can't do a layup in basketball. I can't throw a football worth crap. The semester I ran track in college, I lost whole seconds just coming out of the starting block. But I can do this.
**When we were 27, Mr. Half and I went to London to see his brother and SIL. I was already sporting my low-maintenance crewcut and his hair, which was in one of its short phases, was made even shorter by a hasty trip to Super Cuts. I call it his "institutional" look. This was taken in a photo booth near Hampstead Heath. You can file under my first (and possibly last) installment of Bad Hair Wednesday, though I really liked that cut.

**Mr. Half and I are both involved in a pediatric cancer camp that meets every summer. It is a free week-long sleepaway camp for cancer patients 6-16 (and their siblings). We both serve on the camp's board. Mr. Half used to be a counselor before he began his career as the only Boy Scout Assistant Scoutmaster who braids his hair before morning campfire. I'm the art teacher. Aside from raising three healthy, confident sons, this camp has given more to us than we'll ever put into it. One of the many, many perks I get in working with these kids is to take possession of art supply catalogs and magazines from which I get inspiration. I get to plan the activities and order the materials!!! Glass beads? Polymer clay? Tiny canvasses and papier mache' masks? It's crack for the creative soul...plain and simple. And speaking of crack...reading this magazine brings surges of creativity so as to make me slightly dizzy.

**Teebs had some really good thoughts about appreciating what you've got in your life. We all fall victim to the funk of self-pity. Sometimes we deserve to feel that way, but if you stay there too long that's all you'll notice about what you've got. I'm reminded of the late, great Warren Zevon who did the Letterman show in 2003 when it was obvious he had only a few more months before cancer would claim him. What advice and insight did his terminal status allow him to provide for the rest of us? Three words. "Enjoy every sandwich". I think that pretty well sums it up.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Beating a dead horse...er...freak


I'll tell you what isn't normal, you grotesque excuse for a human being, and that's your spaceship theology involving Thetans and E-meters and auditors and Dianetics. Your psychotic need to convince every camera that you're only seconds away from ripping the clothes off of your pregnant victim fiancee who is clearly suffering from Stockholm Syndrome. The sofa-vaulting and the posturing and the angry confrontations with interviewers whose formal education clearly exceeds your own but whose questions regarding your "understanding" of textbook psychology are met with an open hostility that only slightly masks your enormous ignorance.

The secrecy and the denials of cult-like behavior that are explained away with smoke and mirrors. The fact that you've adopted the long-dead L. Ron Hubbard as your "new dad" since you've recently and conveniently remembered that the original model wasn't very nice to you. That you've publicly attacked a woman whose body is capable of doing something you'll NEVER be able to pull off, simply because of a common post-pregnancy chemical disorder for which she sought medical relief? What's next, Tom? Will you declare a war on aspirin? Tampons? Yeah...that whole menstruation thing is just a load of bullshit anyway! Bleeding is just a state of mind, no?

Dude, you're beginning to make Moonies and David Koresh followers look positively rational.

And now you've abducted a perfectly nice woman, bleached her brain free of all independent thought and secluded her behind big metal gates that are decorated with signs warning her to be silent...should she be vocally startled by the frantic attempts of your 10 lb. spawn son or daughter to claw its way out of her uterus. I think I speak for all females here when I tell you that NO MAN (I mean "man" in the very literal sense here and not the way we continually pretend that the word"men" guarantees equal rights for women in the Constitution) gets to order/control/mandate/force how or where or under what conditions women bring children into this world. If we want drugs or not, music or gentle encouragement, company or solitude, a doctor or a midwife....it doesn't matter. If we want to stand, sit, squat or lie down or hang from a trapeze--we decide what works--not you.

And the screaming? The moaning? The occasional cursing? It's not for you to question, criticize or squelch. You can take your Silent Birth credo and flush it down the crapper along with every existing copy of "Vanilla Sky" and "Eyes Wide Shut".

Here's an idea: Why don't you carry an infant-sized kidney stone around in your urethra for nine months and then calmly and quietly pass it through the head of your penis without the benefit of an atom-smasher to break it down beforehand and that might earn you the right to offer suggestions about whether I have your baby in a hospital, behind a rock or in a Twilight Zone-inspired Scientology scenario where my lips are duct-taped shut to keep my yelling down to a muffled whimper. Here's who needs to keep silent, Tom Cruise: YOU.
*********************************

Tom's not the only person on my list of "People Who Irritate Me", but the folks I'm thinking about right now are extended family members and I'm finding it difficult to write about them without eventually making it possible for them to Google information about certain other things and then accidentally stumble across my blog where I've verbally flayed them for being such vexing and tiresome egomaniacs. That's all I can say right now.

Friday, April 07, 2006

I think I just became a woman.

Until last year, I had never gotten a pedicure. Ever. I had never had a manicure until a couple of years ago, but I still do not wear polish on my fingernails. As a teenager, I always cut the little flower applique off of my bra before wearing it. I wear hiking boots more often than I wear high heels. I have never worn eyeliner. I have had exactly two cosmetic counter-type makeovers, and both times represented a couple of the lowest points in my life, and that last time saw me emerging from Neiman-Marcus with enough spackle make-up base on my face to re-do my bathroom ceiling. It was orange. The friend I took with me looked like something out of "The Mikado".

What I'm saying here is that I'm not a girly-girl. I probably used to be at one time, but years of living in here at Testosterone Palace have forced me to adapt. And really...I pretty much think that guys get to do all the fun stuff anyway, so it hasn't been a total loss for me and the boys get a mom who won't shrink from handling snakes/lizards/or bugs. I really would rather wear comfortable shoes, and when warm weather demands that I wear sandals, the prospect of having to pay someone to make my feet presentable just makes me want to run amok. See where I'm going with this? Low maintenance is "the new black" for me.

That said, I confess that the female members of my family of origin do happen to share one particular affliction that brands them/me as girly. We are all sufferers of BPS. Big Purse Syndrome. I shrink from telling you just how long it's been a problem for me, but I've found that if I can't fit a couple of books into the purse I'm carrying (along with my phone, digital camera, wallet, make-up, notebook, pens, sunglass case, gum, bottled water, small flashlight) then it's just not going to work out. How big a purse do I need? Let's just say that it needs to be just shy of qualifying as carry-on luggage at the airport.

And once the first two kids came along along with the flotilla of equipment that demanded required the need for a diaper carrier, I found myself with two enormous "bags" and two babies in diapers who were 13 months apart. That's when I started carrying this:

That's right...it's a backpack. I was able to throw everything in there. All my junk...plus the diapers and stuff needed for a trip to the zoo. It was perfect. Sure, it had a few drawbacks. There were no smaller pockets inside and the interiors were usually black. Locating/identifying anything inside it smaller than a cabbage was difficult without light. If I didn't plan ahead and transfer a few things into a regulation purse before a big event, I was more likely to show up for a wedding or a funeral looking as though I was leaving immediately afterwards for a trip through the Grand Canyon.

I've worn out several backpacks over the years and they've sort of marked me in a way. More people recognize me from behind simply because I'm one of the few adults around here who doesn't carry a backpack because I need it to get from one college class to the other. I take it with me to PTA meetings and the movies and out to eat.To the bank and to the doctor's office. I take it everywhere...until yesterday when I saw this:Mother will be so proud. Do I feel as though I've caved in to "the man--or woman" as it were? Do I feel as though I've joined the sorority of sterotypical women who enjoy wearing pink and who feel naked without earrings and who would rather be a cheerleader instead of a player in the game? Mmmm...sort of. Besides its ability to hold all my "stuff", carrying a backpack seemed like a tiny little "up yours" to the Junior League set with whom much of my school volunteer work is accomplished. But I will say that reaching down into the deep, dark recesses of that backpack in order to find a pen at the grocery store checkout and, because I didn't have my flashlight with me, pulling out a wrapped tampon instead? Yeah...that part was getting pretty old.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

It's a start, at least


Donald Fagen...then and now.


Okay...you've probably noticed a slight change in background and font color. The problem is not with your television (er.. computer). Do not attempt to adjust your computer screen. This is a test, and it won't be the last time you'll see changes in this blog. I'm forever tinkering with color in my life and this site is no exception. I am determined to eventually do some kind of photographic header. I tried this before and all that resulted was the strange way my title border doesn't quite close off in a neat rectangle. If anyone has the slightest clue as to how I might fix that, please don't hesitate to give me shout. In the meantime, here are some random things about my week:

1) The counter just registered my 100th post since I started this thing near the end of November. Who knew I had so much to say? Well--okay--that's a bit disingenuous. Of course I knew that I had this much to say. I've been suffering from "too much to say" since I first began putting words together as a kid. Why else would I have started a blog? Why am I asking you this?

2) My car has to sit out on the driveway because our house (and the garage that came with it) was started in 1947 and finished in 1948. Cars like Suburbans didn't exist back then and don't fit into old garages. Mr. Half's truck is out there on the driveway along with my car, the 17-year old's car and the almost-16-year old's car, which is presently undergoing surgery at the body repair shop after an unfortunate collision earlier this year.

And because my car is outside, it has to sit under trees. Trees that are spitting sticky sap onto every surface of its exterior. If you took a can of real maple syrup and turned it inside out and gave it four wheels, driving it couldn't be much different from what I've been doing for the past week.

3) I took some of my birthday money and went to Target today, and that's what I'm listening to as I write this. No...not Target...the cd I purchased. I bought some other stuff which I'll write about later, but more importantly, I bought Donald Fagen's new solo cd, "Morph the Cat". Can I just pause here to say how much I love Donald Fagen? Alone or with Walter Becker (the other half of Steely Dan), his jazzy line and succession of minor chords reminds me of sitting in Mr. Half's dorm room in college with the windows open (the kind you had to crank open while they swung outward...it was a very old building) with our bare feet on the cold radiator while we listened to songs from "Countdown to Ecstasy".

4) Saturday night our home will be host to about 20-25 teenagers...mostly 16 and 17-year olds. Oldest son decided to have a get-together for his birthday which always falls on Spring Break. Giant Subway sandwiches. Cookie platters. Bowls of M&Ms and soda. Mr. Half and I will huddle in the back of the house while they take over the rest. I guess I really shouldn't bother cleaning until AFTER it's over. Right? Light a candle for me, will you?

5) I did start a book...finally. One of Canada's finest writers...the late Carol Shields is the author of "Unless", and I've decided to fasten my hopes of reentering the reading world upon its lovely pages. From page one: "Happiness is the lucky pane of glass you carry in your head. It takes all your cunning just to hang on to it, and once it's smashed you have to move into a different sort of life."

6)
I listened to XM radio and the comedy channels today. Wow. You can bring yourself out of just about any funk by listening to various stand-up comedians. Today, I heard a comic issue the following lament: "I'm not a very smart person. If only I had known the difference between an ANTIDOTE and an ANECDOTE, my best friend would still be alive. He was bitten by a copperhead, and I tried reading jokes to him from Reader's Digest, but it didn't help. "

Well...that's all I've got. It's late and I've got more color perversions to perform on my blog design this weekend. Have a good one!

Where I eventually get around to making my point

Reptile Recap: We have not seen the lizard since we took him to the neighbor's jungle of a backyard (away from our cats) and placed him in a tree. For the record, that band-aid was placed so loosely on him, that I doubt it stayed on for more than a few minutes. We haven't seen him or any "parts" of him (regurgitated thoughtfully on the mat outside the kitchen door), so that's probably a good thing. Thanks to all who offered alternative medical advice, except for Nilbo who should definitely be worried about his karma. I'm just sayin'.
*******************************
Please note that my blogroll's former title--"What I'm Reading"has been changed to "Spongeworthy". Seinfeld enthusiasts will need no explanation.

*******************************

Please participate in a brief poll wherein I ask one simple question: Should I change my template to the plain white version of this one? I'm tiring of this one (Minima Ochre) and, lacking the skills to change it to one of the more dynamic templates that involve cutting & pasting and saving text files, my choice seems to be limited to using one of the ugly Blogger templates provided. I like the white one just fine, but I will have to copy and retype my entire Holy Roman Empire-sized blogroll into my template because changing to another design will cause me to lose every thing here except for the posts themselves.

I still don't know how to make a photographic header for the background, and I can't even figure out how to change the color of the wording on my blogroll so that it's not quite so faint. I found another template that Blogger will accept, but it involves the saving/cutting/pasting thing and I'm afraid I'll lose text if I do something wrong. The plain white template is my second choice for change and I'm just wondering if it's worth the trouble of retyping the links. So...change...yes or no?


**************************************

My reading habits of late have become of great concern to me. And when I say "reading habits" I mean that I'm not really reading all that much. Maybe a book a month...if that. Reading has always been one of the greatest pleasures of my life. A joy. An escape. An education. A passion. My whole life has been about libraries and bookstores. About books you could order in school or from my editor's publishing house catalogs. New books could literally make me salivate. I loved to talk about them and feel the weight of them in my hands and sniff the pages and study the font. The opening lines of every first chapter brought the promise of new worlds to me. As a kid I was never without a book. School, family reunions, church. I read in the car and at the pool and under the covers with a flashlight. I still carry a book with me every where I go...just in case.

But my attitude about reading now is...you know...Feh! **big sigh**

I have no idea why I have come to this crossroads. I go to the bookstore to browse and I want to weep for all the crap that's being published. None of it interests me...even the stuff that probably isn't crap, and it's probably quite revealing that I see almost everything on the shelves in that light. I open a book up to the first page and I can no longer find the "hook" that will draw me in and take me to someplace so far away that I almost forget to pick up the youngest kid from school. Even the books I HAVE read that sent me over the moon fail to elicit any enthusiasm from me anymore. Yeah, sure....Harper Lee...greatest writer ev----**snore**. I AM SCARING MYSELF!

I just got up to count the books on my bedside table...only one of which I actually finished (Garrison Keillor's "Homegrown Democrat"...but I read it before the last election and before my ennui set in). There are 37 assorted unfinished books on my bedside table. No, I'm not kidding. There's a lamp...and 37 books. Everything from Charles Dickens' "Bleak House" to Paul Auster's "Oracle Night" to Julie Powell's "Julie & Julia" .

My sons gave me the book "Gilead" for my birthday, which is supposed to be good and it won the Pulitzer and all. It's a slow-moving book. Thoughtful. Deliberate. I start reading and I can feel the words sliding off of my brain like bare feet on a wet floor. I need to finish it because they gave it to me, but it's going to be a struggle. I can already tell.

The last book that held my attention was a book I bought for my 6th grader called, "Al Capone Does My Shirts". It's a "young reader" book, but I gobbled it down like the the last doughnut at a Weight Watcher's Christmas party.

I know, I know. It's not the books. It's me. But what part of me is responsible for this turn of events? Right up until November I was reading all the time. Maybe I've damaged myself in some way. Is it all that helium I inhaled by working at the Six Flags balloon shed? The many drunken nights in college? Staying home with small kids and...oh wait...could it be their brief infatuation with "Barney" and all those videos I had to watch? Oh...the agony!

No...it's something else. There seems to be this perpetual fog that I can't seem to wave away. And I really do want it to go. I'm swimming underwater and the water is blurry and blue. I can only hear bubbles and the faint sounds of other people talking, but I can't hear what they're saying.

In the meantime...send me some ideas for something good to read. The pile on my beside table doesn't quite reach the ceiling. And...oh yeah...let me know about the template.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Here at Half of the Sky House of Mercy we are nothing if not compassionate. Doubtless, we don't mind whipping our own brothers with sand-filled gym socks, leaving toenail clippings next his toothbrush, refusing to ferry a roll of toilet paper to him when he is "stranded" and then laughing at him from behind the door or retaliating by filling the offending sibling's airspace with foul emanations from our own dairy-infested hindquarters.

However, if you are a young bird or a reptile of any kind within a five block radius of "Sky House" and you find yourself molested, mauled or mutilated by the unkind attentions of any of our feline residents, please know that we will not shrink from any and all tasks required to return you to your former quality of life.

We will try to make your extrication from said "Maw of Death" as quick and easy as possible. Pains will be taken to bathe your wounds in hydrogen peroxide before dabbing you gently with Polysporin ointment. For those suffering from injuries of the "gaping"variety, we offer our own version of skin/scale grafting using wet toilet paper or tissue. Top it off with a stretchy band-aid and a few kind and softly-spoken words of encouragement as you attempt to return from your traumatized state and your tiny pupils regain their normal appearance.

Please remember to start breathing as our assistants become mightily grieved if it looks as though their ministrations have not produced the desired effect. Further insistence on your part to hold your body rigid with claws splayed and the decided lack of a pulse will only initiate plans to finish the euthanasia process that nature has started before tossing you in a hole in the ground and filling it in. And nobody wants that.

KInky For Governor: Why the Hell Not?


How hard, indeed? To all those right-wing detractors who claim that author/Independent candidate Kinky Friedman's bid for the governorship of Texas is nothing more than a joke....let's take a moment to review. Mmm-kay?

1) Loudmouthed pro-wrestler, Jessie "The Body" Ventura , becomes governor of Minnesota on the Republican ticket.

2) Fred Dalton Thompson (an actor on NBC's "Law & Order") served two years as Republican Senator from Tennessee.

3) Fred Grandy (aka "Gopher" on Love Boat) served as a Republican congressman from his home state of Iowa.

4) Austrian body builder/"Terminator" star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, is now the Republican governor of California.

5) A "B-movie" actor whose most memorable co-star was a chimpanzee, Ronald Reagan, flip-flopped from the Democratic ticket to the Republican in order to become governor of California...and eventually...an Alzheimer's-ridden President of the United States....also on the Republican ticket. Known for referring to homeless people as "campers".

6) George W. Bush wasn't an actor...technically speaking...but all he ever really wanted was to be the commissioner of baseball. God only knows how much better off the country would be if Daddy Bush had simply called in some favors in order to make that happen. He does, however, pretend to be the President (Republican) while allowing Rove/Cheney/Rummy to make all the decisions. And...oh yeah...he used to be the governor of Texas.

So....exactly what is it about Kinky's desire to replace "Governor Rick "Goodhair" Perry that is so humorous. I mean...George W. did it. And like the slogan says, "How hard could it be?"

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Some Things Never Go Out Of Style

One of my favorite children's authors, Beverly Cleary, will celebrate her 90th birthday on the 12th of April. Cleary, who is responsible for such timeless characters as Henry Huggins, Ralph S. Mouse, Ellen Tebbits and my personal favorite, Ramona Quimby is a Berkeley grad and former children's librarian who responded the only way she knew how when a young friend observed that there were no book characters with whom they could identify. Cleary's research showed her that much of what was out there for young readers was borderline insulting . She sat down to write what would turn out to be "Henry Huggins" in longhand and sent it off to the publisher. It was accepted six weeks later.

This month, instead of sweeping Cleary and her characters under the red carpet upon which more contemporary heros--like Harry Potter--usually stand, HarperCollins is repackaging some of her "biggest hits" including all eight Ramona books. My favorites have the original Louis Darling illustrations. In Cleary's honor, April 12th is being set aside for the national observance of "DROP EVERYTHING AND READ DAY" .

I plan on celebrating Beverly Cleary's birthday all that day. Maybe I'll finish the book I've started or perhaps I'll treat myself to another run-through of "Ramona the Pest" .It doesn't really matter what you read...as long as you participate. What better way to honor someone else and do yourself a favor at the same time? HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MRS. CLEARY.....and...thanks.