Thursday, June 26, 2008

Vampires Will Never Hurt You

The following conversation took place when Lea was still in preschool. We were riding in the car and she said, "Wanna hear the song I just wrote?"


in a sweet sing songy voice: "Look into my eyes. Tell me what you see."
dramatic pause
resume singing in heavy metal screech: "Death! Death! Nothing but death!"

I pulled over and said, "Whoa! Babe! Anything we need to talk about?"

Lea shrugged and said (very matter-of -factly), "Nah, I'm just dark."

Fast forward a couple years and Lea gets her first pair of glasses. Just like Harry Potter's.

Fast forward to the present. Lea has forbidden terms of endearment (no more punkin' or puddin' or sweetie or joy of my life) but has cleared unlimited use of the term "my little goth princess". Rolls off the tongue, right? She adores "My Chemical Romance" and wants to paint her bedroom black and design a bed that looks like a coffin. She is convinced she's a vampire and refuses to eat anything prepared with garlic. But there's an upside. Her "darkness" has totally turned her on to reading. There is no shortage of gothic novels available in the teen/YA section of the library/bookstore, so she has become a voracious reader.

One of her current favorites is the Vampire Kisses series by Ellen Schreiber. Today she had the distinct pleasure of meeting Ms. Schreiber and having her autograph her latest book in the series. We've gone to Harry Potter midnight release parties at our local Barnes & Noble store before, but this was the first time we've been able to go to a book signing.
Ms. Schreiber was very sweet and personable. She signed books and posters for both girls and happily posed for pictures. Lea said "OMG, she sounds like Janice!" (from Friends. Oh. My. Gawd.), but that's only because Lea has never encountered Fran Drescher...

Even children of the night can't say no to a cool, creamy Frappuccino and a Rice Krispie Treat. They can enjoy it, but they aren't gonna smile...

So as all the little goth kids started lining up for their autographs in a polite and orderly manner (not a drop of sarcasm there, by the way, the kids behavior was above reproach), I started thinking about how nice it is when the fringe conformists find an occasion like this to meet and greet. Like most of the other fringe groups, they cringe at the term conformist because they have chosen not to conform to the mainstream. But conform they did. They all had a sort of uniform going with only slight variations. It was like this when Tom and I used to ride Harleys, too. Same idea, different fringe group.

I'm considering all of this as I'm watching them standing there behaving like normal young teens/pre-teens, talking about normal young teen/pre-teen issues, just wearing a little more eyeliner, a little more black, a few more belts, etc. than would generally be considered to be normal (whatever that means...). I wondered what drives some kids to the fringes while others are happier in the mainstream. (I didn't come up with an answer) Then I wondered what makes the whole vampire mythology so darn attractive to this age group. The whole teen/YA section of the bookstore seems to be vampire stories, love stories, and, apparently the most popular genre, vampire love stories. The love thing is easy to figure out. Hormones are raging and these books are sort of a road map into uncharted (and rather exciting) territory. But what is the attraction of vampires? It can't be the concept of immortality - aging and dying aren't scary yet. I don't know. All questions, no answers today. For what it's worth, I liked vampires, too. Still do, though not nearly as much.

And in my last bit of vampire related news, it would appear that Johnny Depp is going for the trifecta: gypsy, pirate and vampire. God loves me.

Good Golly, Miss Molly

Molly, our Golden Retriever, will be turning 9 next week. Yesterday we had her professionally groomed for the very first time. She seems to feel so pretty! She has been sitting up so tall! I am sincerely hoping that this will considerably reduce the amount of shedding she does, because I was really about at my wits end. You could just see fur floating through the air in our house when the sun hit the sky-light just right. So, fingers crossed. Even if that doesn't happen (oh, please, please, please let that happen) she smells really good and her nails look pretty nice. Yay.

Last week Molly started limping, and we couldn't figure out why. We took her to the vet where they took some X-rays. The vet couldn't draw any conclusions based upon the X-rays, so she suggested that if Molly was still limping in a couple days we should have the X-rays sent to a diagnostician who might be able to see something she had missed. A few days passed with no improvement, so we did so. The diagnosticians conclusion? Inconclusive. Over a week (and $800-$900) later, she is still walking on 3 legs (though she's gotten much more proficient at it) and we don't know a thing. Frustrating.

Last year around this time Molly required surgery to remove the bowel obstruction that occurred when she attempted to eat a kitchen sponge. Yummy. Two years ago, around this time again, Molly had to have her stomach pumped because she ate a whole bottle (literally - bottle and pills...) of my thyroid pills. The year before that, she nearly had a heart attack after eating a whole bag of Dove dark chocolates that I mistakenly thought I could put out in a bowl on the table. But at least in regard to these 3 incidents, we knew what caused them, which was, mostly, my negligence. In my defense, she's my first dog. I had no idea they were so - indiscriminate - in their appetites. Even the chocolates, which I can't really fault her for, really, except that she ate the foil wrappers, too. That week was fun in the back yard...

It's a darn good thing she's so cute.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Bitch is Back

I have been called many things in my day (which, my girls will be happy to tell you, is long gone... but I digress) - some justified, some partially justified, some completely unjustified - haven't we all? - but the one thing no one has ever seriously called me is a bitch. I am sarcastic and sometimes my sense of humor crosses the "mean" line, but basically I really want people to like me and I try to act in a manner that will encourage that. It's true. I want people to think I'm nice. And I usually am.

Now why in the world would someone prefer to be considered "nice" in an era where "nice guys finish last" and abhor being considered a "bitch" in an era where "bitches get stuff done"?

I imagine Freud would quickly glom onto the fact that my mother - well - she gets stuff done. And people love and respect her for it. I respect her for it (I love her for a whole bunch of other reasons). But growing up, I never felt like it was my house, or "our" house. It was her house and she made the rules. There was a place for everything and everything in its place and she decided what that place would be.

My sister fell right in line and keeps her house in much the same manner. She gets stuff done. I rebelled. I didn't like how it felt to be under that sort of rule and I didn't ever want to put myself in that position with my husband - my equal partner - or my kids (the junior partners). I wanted it to feel like "our" house, not "my" house.

Well, apparently "our" house is a pigsty. And company's a-comin' this weekend. There are still a few house and a lot of yard chores I just can't physically do with the still recovering stupid arm. So my choices were to become a bitch about it or pay someone to do it. I took a two-week-long stab at the former and am today heaving a heavy sigh and resigning myself to the latter. While my family might disagree, the former didn't suit me.

I don't want to be a bitch.

It's still a powerful word. Casually embraced in some circles, serious fightin' words in others, but rarely neutral. Personally? I use the verb and the adjective pretty liberally but try to be pretty careful with the noun. YM, of course, MV.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Your Moment of Zen

Olivia bounded down the stairs this morning and pronounced, "You said today we could figure out how to make a crane."

Me: "I what now?"

Olivia: "A crane. You promised."

"I promised what now?"

"You promised we'd look on the computer thingy and figure out how to make a crane."

Dawn breaks on marble head. Olivia has been into making origami swans. They are all over my house. But she wants to advance to cranes because of the symbolism attached. Olivia is a junior peacemonger.

Well, you know what? Folding cranes is hard, ya'll!

We tried several different sites for directions before we decided to blame our instrument. This wasn't gonna work as long as we kept trying to fold square-cut pieces of computer paper. We needed some origami paper. We headed out to the craft store where Olivia was a little overwhelmed by the selection of origami paper available to her. Shiny, patterned, bright, pastel - what to do, what to do? Ah, smart child, she chose the one on clearance. Originally the most expensive, now the cheapest. It's exactly what I would've done and she did it without prompts. Nature or nurture? Ha! Trick question! Her action made sense from both perspectives!

Home we go, to try these cranes again with her beautiful tie-dye patterned paper. By the end of the third try I am laughing so hard I can barely see the computer thingy anymore. Laugh or cry, ya'll; laugh or cry. This is the pattern we were using. We liked it better than the others we'd tried because it included an animation. How could we go wrong?

How indeed.

This sad little thing is the best mutual effort we could come up with, and his coming into being involved a lot of hysterical laughter and perhaps a frustrated tear or two.

I said, "I give up."

Olivia: "Don't EVER give up, momma. We can get it if we keep trying!" (When did my child turn into my mother?)

Saved by the bell! At this point, the doorbell rings and it's Olivia's friend. Olivia tells her about our crane-making and invites her to give it a try. Her friend, bless her heart, says, "Let's just make swans."

And make swans, they did.

After her friend left, Olivia said, "The swans are nice, but I like that cranes are wishes for peace. What do swans mean?"

I said, "Swans mean grace and beauty."

"Oh. I like that. But not as much as peace." (Nature/Nurture? Huh? Huh?)

And just when I thought it was over, she added, "Maybe we can
try the cranes again soon."

And because I didn't get this published fast enough... Olivia mastered the crane this morning. TADA!

Friday, June 6, 2008

It's Who You Look Like, Not Who You Are

It's a game we all play: making snap judgments about what people are like based upon their appearance. Smart, stupid; sophisticated, simple; preppie, yuppie, hippie, druggie, all the various and sundry "ies"; the way they dress, the way they wear their hair, the way they carry themselves, the way they speak all give us clues as to what combination of qualities they possess.

But sometimes we get it wrong.

I've been wondering a lot lately how often I get it wrong, because I've been acutely aware of how different my inner self is from the outer shell to which the world has quick visual access. I present, I know, as a frumpy, significantly overweight, middle-aged woman. This is so distant from who I feel like on the inside! Yet it's how all strangers and many acquaintances see me. How could they not? There it is.

And yet, inside I feel bohemian and artistic. I feel earthy and worldly at the same time. Inside, when I work out, I get results. Inside, I'm a good mom who always knows what to say. Inside, I am a world traveler and a patron of the arts. I wear clothes that express these things. They look good on me. I don't so much mind the age that I am - every age can be beautiful. Inside.

Outside is another story. First of all, society in general makes a very quick judgment when it sees someone who is overweight, and that judgment is: worthless. Usually followed by, if it's even given a second thought: lazy, sloppy, hedonistic, stupid, the list goes on. This is not paranoia, either. People would rather die than be fat. We see this through the epidemic level incidences of anorexia and bulimia vexing not only our young women, but people of both genders and all age groups. We see this through multi-million dollar businesses that promise to get (or keep) us thin. We see this through the rise in weight loss surgeries. We see this. My comic heroine, Gilda Radner, once, in her Rhonda Weiss persona, rather prophetically stated, "It's a proven fact that most guys prefer skinny girls with cancer to healthy girls with bulging thighs".

So let's say you're very evolved and you get past the fact that I don't wear a size 6 (or 8. or 10). You're still not likely to see all that other inside stuff. (Which, I'll admit, sounds pretty wonderful - maybe I need to take a moment to get over myself...). Travel and the pursuit of the arts was put on hold (I refuse to say abandoned) in the interest of raising a family. No regrets there. I can get back to it. The Greek Islands aren't going anywhere. And I'm a decent enough mom. I make mistakes, like we all do, and I apologize for them and move on. As for appearance OTHER than the weight issue... I suppose that's the one thing I could work on. There aren't a lot of clothes out there in my style, size and (probably most important) price range. (add work to travel and the arts as things I put on hold to raise a family) But I bet if I worked hard enough and made it a priority and perhaps dusted off my sewing machine, I could pull some things together.

So, my resolution is to try to stop judging others on superficial qualities. Maybe in so doing, I can learn to be a little kinder to myself.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Was Born With a Plastic Spoon in My Mouth

My daughter has been digging this tune by The Pierces, "Boring". I'll admit, I don't hate it. But that's beside the point. One of the verses is:

Dolce & Gabbana

Lea informs me that her friend - the one who turned her on to this band in general and this song in particular - informed my daughter that, "Those are designers. I figured you wouldn't recognize them, since you don't have much money."

Now, I ask you, how patently offensive is this?

We are not rich, it's true, but neither are we poor. And knowing the names of designers hardly makes one rich. No more than having money makes one have class.

I recalled an incidence where, in the late 80's, I told a pre-schooler I liked her jeans. She promptly (and proudly) corrected me: "Not just jeans. GUESS jeans". 3 years old and a slave to the label. I'd probably be remiss if I didn't confess to falling for the hype once or twice myself. Can you say Coach briefcase? I thought you could.

I am trying so hard to raise my children with values that go deeper than a label, and this little incident reminded me how hard that was going to be. I'm dreading the day they can drive (for so many reasons) because I've seen the parking lot at the high school they'll be attending. They will not be driving brand new expensive cars. WE don't drive brand new expensive cars. When they inevitably whine about "all the other kids..." it won't be much of an exaggeration.

Similar instances from my own past include (but are not limited to):

- I stopped wearing a leather jacket that I loved because a (stupid) boyfriend told me it "made me look common". (no, I didn't stay with him long after that, but the damage was done. I never wore that jacket again)

- I registered for expensive china I've used about 3 times since my wedding almost 13 years ago because a friend (who was into that sort of thing) convinced me it was "what one did". When I think of the practical things I could've done/had for the money my friends and relatives put into that china, I shudder.

- Leased a big ole SUV a few years back rather than buying a vehicle I could actually afford. (thank Jeebus that was a while back and I'm in a much more gas friendly mid-size now)

You get the picture. I'm not above trying to keep up with the Joneses. But I was so hoping my progeny would be...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Funeral for a Friend

I feel the need to eulogize my friend Janice, who passed away this weekend. Janice, in the name of full disclosure, essentially drank herself to death. About a year and a half ago her doctor discovered liver damage and warned her that to continue drinking was a certain death sentence. A few months later her first born, in his early twenties, died in a rather freak accident. I guess she decided drinking was easier than not drinking. So she did.

In the late 80's, I was very close to Janice and her husband. She didn't have much, but she was always very generous with whatever she did have. I was just thinking about her last week, actually, following the acrylic nail tirade. She was never the type who would've indulged in something frivolous like that. I remember one year for Christmas I bought her a beautiful silk scarf. She said something to the effect of, "I don't mean to appear ungrateful, but you know what my life is like - when would I ever have occasion to use something like this?" I said, "wear it as a babushka next time you have a bad hair day, use it to tie your coat tighter around your neck when it's cold, throw it over a lampshade when you want to set a romantic mood - I don't know - just use it." I just wanted her to have something beautiful and elegant and refined. I knew it was impractical, but I still thought it was a swell gift. I'm not so sure she agreed.

Sitting in the back of the funeral chapel, I watched her three remaining sons mourn. They were sturdy young men I didn't recognize. Yet I'd held and cared for all of her babies. I wished there was something I could do for them - something I could've said to them - but I was a stranger to these boys. I felt some degree of guilt about this. I was the one who moved away and lost touch.

Janice, was a lovely, generous, unassuming woman. She deserved better than what she was dealt. As cliched as it is to say, may she rest in peace.