Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Bad Moms' Club: Into the Woods

Some of you may remember the impetus for the Bad Moms' Club back in January. Since then, the Bad Moms have had more than a couple few highly rejuvenating GNO's, but this past weekend was the first full-on retreat since our island getaway. And we almost doubled our numbers.

This time we took it to the woods.

As my fellow BMs (I can call them that, 'cause they're the shit) were keenly aware of the fact that they'd end up in my blog on Monday, they thought they'd help me come up with something to say (that wouldn't be TOO incriminating...)

They - we - decided that it might be fun to write a compare and contrast essay addressing the differences between camping with men/kids/dogs and camping with women.

(No, Tom, those differences didn't include pillow fights. Sorry to disappoint.)

We came up with a nice little list, but as I was looking it over and trying to think of a way to cleverly present it I realized that many of the differences sprung, not from the presence or absence of men/kids/dogs, but from the efforts of my sister. If the rest of us played a role, it was that we genuinely appreciated her efforts whereas men/kids/dogs might have at best taken them for granted and at worst trodden all over them.

An absolutely non-inclusive list of examples:

- Most of us were arriving Friday, but my sister went to the campground Thursday to 'set things up' so that when we arrived, our only concern would be who would pour the first round.

- As part of the set-up process she hand painted a 'club' sign and set up a little 'bad moms' shrine, which she added to all weekend.

As it looked when we arrived...

...and after, with all of the souvenirs of the weekend. Hmm. Now in the pic that looks suspiciously like a condom in the forefront, but the truth is something that would distress her husband even more: she melted a plastic bottle over the fire. Horrors! When her hubs is present, it is verboten to put ANYTHING in the fire pit that is not wood. We were feeling - defiant. And bad. 'Cause that's how we roll.

Here's proof of the deed. What's that she's roasting her plastic bottle over? Burning empty Coke Zero cases? BLASPHEMY!!! No one tell her hubs, ok?

- There were flowers on the table and copper lanterns were strung to light our way.

- She took sole responsibility for the poop tote. (If you don't want to know, don't ask.)

- Everything (and I mean down to the last detail) was organized and/or anticipated. Those of you who know my sister IRL know that this is not an exaggeration.

We all brought food/supplies (read: Patron) for a menu we'd agreed upon at a quick little Wednesday night GNO meeting of the planning committee (where there just happened to be $2 margaritas. Who knew?)

Now the menu. THAT'S something that varied pretty dramatically from MKD camping. (Men/kids/dogs - stay with me on the TLA's {Three Letter Acronyms}). There wasn't a hamburger or a hotdog in sight (and anyone who wants to make jokes about missing hotdogs on a girls only weekend, well, rest assured - we made 'em all...) We had ribs Friday night - pre-baked at home, then browned and barbecued over the campfire with baked beans and a Ceasar salad. Saturday we grilled teriyaki salmon with green beans almondine and asparagus - all over the campfire. Sublime.

We - more accurately, my sister - grilled a wheel of Brie as an appetizer Saturday night. I've never posted a recipe before, but ya'll. Seriously. You've got to try this next time you're cookin' over a fire.

Wendy's Campfire Brie

Place a wheel of Brie in a fire safe pan. Surround it with roasted red peppers (cut coarsely), minced garlic, finely chopped jalapeno peppers, and a liberal amount of butter. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and place it on a rack over an open fire. Check for doneness by poking the top of the Brie - when it feels soft and melted, remove the pan from the fire. Serve on toasted french bread slices. (We toasted the bread over the fire, too)

Too. Darn. Yummy.

We ate well, we drank well, we laughed well, we communed with Mother Nature. She can be a bad mom, too, ya know? We left feeling - um - quite well indeed.



Ready to go forth and be good moms again.

C'mon. Let yourself be a Bad Mom. Join the club. You know you wanna...

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Great Flap-Jack Flop

Liv: There's no cereal.

Momma: There's plenty of cereal.

Liv: There's no GOOD cereal. Can we make pancakes?

Momma: No - we're out of flour.

Liv: No we're not. There's lots of flour in here.

Momma: We're out of white flour.

Liv: So?

Momma: Sooooooo? So let's see what we can do...

I used my same old usual recipe that Liv and I love. We make pancakes together pretty often and she is a talented sous chef. She gathers all of the ingredients as I need them and puts them away as I finish with them. In lieu of white flour, we decided to use 1/2 whole wheat flour and half soy flour.

We should've known this was a mistake as soon as we saw the texture of the batter. It was - hmmmm - a bit on the firm side for pancake batter. No worries. We added a little more buttermilk. Still pretty darn firm. We added a little water. Getting closer - still a little on the glue-y side. I'd like to say that we added liquid until the correct consistency was achieved, but the truth is that we added liquid until we gave up.

The griddle was hot and I dropped the batter unto it with a spoon. When all of the pancakes had been ladled out, I licked the spoon.

Oh, give me a break. You've done it too.


It was - wretched.

I can handle a lot, but this concoction I spit right out. I never do that. I flipped the pancakes then rinsed my mouth out. Awful awful awful. And because of the glue-y texture, it just wasn't coming out. I was gonna need to brush my teeth - a LOT - to get rid of this taste. And one doesn't have the leisure to brush one's teeth when one has pancakes on the griddle.

At this point, by the way, they actually looked pretty good. But that taste was still lingering in my mouth and I wasn't going near them. I told her she could try one but didn't have to. She took one bite and offered the rest to the dog. The dog, who thinks it's a fine, fine day if she can find a pair of dirty socks or underwear to gnaw on, rejected it.

Liv: Can we go to Tim Horton's?

Momma: Yes. Yes we can.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You Crafty Thing, You

I have been absent and I am sorry! I have been putting more of my creative energy into knitting than into writing this week. I'm going on an extended vacation in June and I have a lot of projects I want to finish up.

It doesn't happen often, but yesterday I was working on something and I said to myself, I said, "Self? What this project needs is some sequins."

See what you did right there? You judged me! I felt it!

I swear, I don't go for the old sequin box very often, but I needed to yesterday. (It was for a present, so I'll post pics after it has been - um - presented - then you'll see how much better it is with sequins. I swear.)

But I didn't take a break from my knitting to defend my use of a sequin now and then. I took a break to tell you about my sequin box.

My Aunt Mimi was an old-school crafter. She always had a project going. She taught me to crochet when I was seven (and I am eternally grateful). She always let me help with whatever the craft d'jour was. When I visited her, I never knew if we'd be weaving yarn flowers on a loom, or sticking sequins into styrofoam fruit, or dipping wire frames into melted plastic to make flowers - whatever the next new craft was, she was into it. It was all extraordinarily tacky, but tacky crafts and seven year olds were a pretty good fit, so it worked for me. For us.

As she aged and her fingers became stiff and sore, she would bring me the projects she wanted to make and I would make them for her. Chunky shawls and afghans crocheted with acrylic yarn. She wanted them for herself and she wanted them to give as gifts. By then, that was no longer my thing, but it was what she knew. It was what she wanted. So I'd put aside my natural fibers and my delicate needles and make - exactly what you probably picture when you hear crocheted shawl...

Years later, I was selling baby items in a juried craft show and chatting with the woman next to me who did beautiful rustic paintings on old barn wood. She said she hated when people asked her what she did without seeing her work, because just the words conjured up images of blocks of wood that said "I Heart Country". I told her to imagine what it felt like to tell people you crocheted... She said, "Oh! I see your point! Acrylic afghans and dishrags!" Yep. (Oh, and in case you're wondering? I'm not above making a dishrag now and then. They are very practical and are a nice "traveling project". Just sayin'.) But we both lamented the stereotyped treatment our crafts had been subjected to and cheapened by. We both felt the need to defend what we actually did. That was a little snobby of us. But we found it necessary.

'Cause when you hear crafter? Well...

I swear I've never made a cozy for toilet paper rolls.


Back to my sequin box.

(See? You thought I'd forgotten... sooner or later the shiny, sparkly sequins were bound to bring me back...)

When my Aunt Mimi passed away - over twenty years ago, now - I was given her sewing box. The aforementioned sequin box. Because I mentioned her love of all things tacky, right? This box has been a treasure trove of adornments for me for the past couple decades. There are all manner of shiny things encased in this box. There are, of course, sequins - in every color and many shapes and sizes. There are little bits of shiny ribbons and ric-rac. There are mismatched buttons and needle threaders from the 50's still in their original packaging. There are wee handpainted doll heads. (I hate to even imagine what her plans were with those...) And there are handwritten patterns for those afghans and shawls. Those afghans and shawls that I hated to make and that I thought tainted my craft with tackiness... yep - I treasure those handwritten patterns.

So yesterday, when I opened my sequin box to finish off a project, apparently I opened up a lot more than just a box.

I should use sequins more often.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Campfire Tales

I haven't been camping in a long time, but it sure was easy to fall back into the simple groove of it this weekend.

We joined my sister's family and a few of their neighbors for a group camping trip. Once the tent was pitched and the beer was on ice and the kids had run off to play with other kids, Tom and I found ourselves faced with: Utter Serenity. Even the dogs were uncharacteristically relaxed.

My niece's dog, Sieben on the top and our goofy Molly (with our goofy Liv) on the bottom.

How is it that such a rustic environment can feel so much more civilized than the suburbs?

We read, we talked, we ate when we were hungry and slept when we were tired. Schedules didn't apply. Watches were abandoned.

Liv and Shelby chillin'.

There was something about donning that "I don't really give half a damn what my hair looks like today" bandana, too. None of my oft-discussed wardrobe woes mattered there. 'Clean enough' became reasonable criteria.

That right there is pure uncut contentment. (And yeah, Pam and Deb, that would be The Gargoyle - can't thank you enough for THAT recommendation!)

The first campfire started around dinner time. There is no match for the smell of a wood-fire. Eventually I was even able to almost forget about the really big snake they'd seen earlier.

Dinner cooked over the fire.

There were endless ghost stories from the kids.

And of course there was music.

Tom and Lea bringin' the tuneage
(and yeah, that would be a Team Edward shirt on my daughter...)

And then the adults began to talk.

I remember this part well from my teens. We used to camp with a group of my dad's teacher friends and their families. One of those teachers was my English teacher and I still haven't completely lived down the essay I wrote for him which eloquently described campfire conversations about appendectomies and hysterectomies. I felt like, having been a part of those adult discussions, I knew more about hysterectomies than any sixteen year old girl had a right to know. I lamented the fact that no-one worried too much about 'little ears' around the campfire and on the evenings I saw fit to remain on the quiet side I could learn all sorts of things, not all of them age appropriate. I cautioned the adults on the presence of impressionable young 'uns. He shared the essay with the old 'uns (with my permission) and every now and then one of them still brings it up. As I am facing my own hysterectomy, several of those grown-ups from around the fire who are still in my life have reminded me of how lucky I am to have such a broad knowledge base going into it.


So surely the spokesperson for children's right to not hear grown up conversations would, as an adult herself, be extra dilligent about what was said around the campfire where the kids fell in an age range of 3-16, right?

Well, I WOULD HAVE, except...

One of the other mom's was talking about always using anatomically correct terms with her kids.

"We always taught them penis and vagina. We never used cutesie words like Mr. Crotchy."

I lost it. I had a couple few beers in me - it was late - I was uber-relaxed - for whatever reason, this was the funniest thing I'd ever heard.

"Mr. Crotchy? No one calls it Mr. Crotchy! Mr. Crotchy was your only alternative???" I dissolved into that sort of laughter where you become a little concerned that you might forget to breathe. When I did come up for air, I would just repeat, "Mr. Crotchy!" and dissolve all over again.

It doesn't get funnier than that.

Until one of the dads said, "So was it, like, Mr. Crotchy and the Snatchinator?"

Someone shoulda put a fork in me, 'cause I was done.

I think I can confidently vouch for the fact that it is impossible to die laughing, because if it were indeed possible to do so, I'd be writing this post from the great beyond.

I. Lost. My. Shit.

I'd hate to be one of those kids' English teachers next year when THAT shows up in someone's essay...

Friday, May 22, 2009

You Can Take the Teacher Out of the Classroom...

I don't volunteer much at my childrens' schools. I know as a SAHM I'm supposed to. But I don't. And it's not out of laziness or lack of interest in my childrens' lives. Honest. I DID volunteer today and I was reminded of EXACTLY why I don't.

Yesterday I was (mildly) lamenting my lack of a professional life, but the truth is that when I WAS a professional, I was a teacher. Our dress code was a little different than that of the women in my husband's office. (and the woman in the picture) Yesterday I was missing something I'd never had. But that's not what I set out to talk about.

I set out to talk about why I don't volunteer.

Today was Liv's Stunts and Studies day. This is an excellent program that our middle school has been doing with it's fifth graders for around 20 years. It combines traditional field day activities with "are you smarter than a fifth grader" type questions. So for each 'stunt' they must correctly answer a question taken directly from the fifth grade curriculum to earn a point for their team. I think it's a really cool way to integrate academics into a fun day. It is also very well organized and both times I've worked it, it has run like clockwork. This cannot be said for every experience I've had in my childrens' schools, so I need to give credit where it is due. It's saying a lot, too - since it involves the entire fifth grade - 18 classes, each with approximately 30 students. Organizing an activity for that many eleven year olds that runs that smoothly is impressive indeed.

And you're thinking, "That's swell, Tammy, but you're off on a tangent again. I thought you were going to tell us why you don't volunteer. All you've done so far is brag on your kid's school and tell us what a great experience this is. Have you been tested for adult ADD? Because you can't stay on topic for love or money, and I should know. I've offered you both."

Isn't it amazing? My ability to read your mind? And I would totally stay on topic for money.


I was not off-topic. I was merely setting the stage.

As soon as I was given my assignment, I went into teacher mode. And THAT is why I don't volunteer. I was not there to be a teacher, I was there to be a parent. I just have never been able to properly sort out those roles in a school setting. Right from the start - we were given name tags. I wrote my name on mine before I saw anyone else's. As I started to see them, I saw things like "Mr. Jeff (Mark's Dad)" and "First Name/Last Name Go Team Blue!" and things like that. Mine said "Mrs. Howard". It was printed very neatly and legibly in letters an appropriate size for the name tag so that nothing was scrunched and there wasn't a lot of white space. I didn't put any thought into that, that's just what I automatically did.

I immediately took charge of the sixth grade students who had been assigned to help me. When they got out of line, I didn't hesitate to get out of my chair and remind them of their responsibilities. Other parent volunteers were treating the sixth grade volunteers like equal members of their team. Not me. I had to be in charge. (And you can bet that before the busses arrived this afternoon, "Mrs. Howard is a bitch." was uttered at least once. Perhaps not erroneously.) I found myself instructing the other adult volunteer on my team, too. (Which might not have been necessary if she'd put down her phone and just read the instructions she'd been given. But I digress.)

I was in charge, and I liked it. Except that I had next to no authority. Didn't stop me for a second from acting like I did.

I learned before Lea was out of kindergarten that I needed to stay out of the classroom because these teachers had asked for a parent volunteer, not a mentor. I'd taught for so long - I knew a thing or two about - and what you need to do here is... I would have hated a parent like me when it was my classroom. I didn't want to be that parent. I couldn't NOT be that teacher. I just had to step away from the whole situation.

I quit teaching completely almost a year ago. I haven't taught young people in over seven years. I thought maybe it was safe to go back into a classroom.

I thought wrong.

So I can't volunteer. I'll continue to support in my own ways. It's cool.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Power Lunch

Tom plays in an orchestra through his workplace. They have 2 'seasons' - Spring and Winter. They play lunchtime concerts at various venues and I try to see them play at least once each season.

The bass section. That's Tom on the left.

Yesterday they were playing at his workplace and, as it was almost the last show of the season, I figured it was time for me to go!

The amount of times I have visited his workplace could probably be counted on one hand.

Each time I do, I am overwhelmed by the differences between the world in which he lives every day and the one in which I live.

The most prevalent indicator was in the way people were dressed. I wouldn't even know how to dress so beautifully every day. I felt a small twinge of insecurity. These are the women my hubs sees every day. These women in their smart outfits and their clicky heels and their shiny hair. These women who looked so comfortable in their multi-hundred dollar outfits. I sat there in my gauze skirt and T-shirt (I had broken out a ribbed Henley for the occassion - because even a SAHM needs a day to be fancy), trying to disappear. I felt pretty when I left the house. I was Kroger pretty, not workplace pretty. I became painfully aware of my hair in it's 'growing out' state. I took notice of my 'not so fresh' manicure. I became very self-conscious of everything about my appearance.

Everything about the working world looked so glamorous and polished - in direct opposition to my existence. It was almost like visiting a beautiful, exotic foreign land. I haven't entertained such a romanticized notion of the workplace since before I was old enough to work.

I watched these beautiful people - men as well as women - going about their lunch hour, stopping to listen to a song or two then moving on. I ruminated on their casual comaraderie and the fact that they had someone to share their lunch with every. single. day. I wasn't jealous as much as I was in awe.

Now I know they don't have a live orchestra in the lobby every day, but since they do every time I'm there, it's easy to pull up that visual when I'm sitting at home eating leftovers in cut off sweats and bare feet, huddled over my laptop.

The funny part is, I know there are probably many folks in the workforce who would just LOVE to be home in cut off sweat pants and bare feet. The grass in my yard is greener than the marble on the lobby floor.

I feel the need to cut short my 'everyone's life is more interesting than mine' rant, though, to tell you a little bit about the concert. It was really good. Not 'good for a volunteer orchestra' good, but really good. Tom had been very excited about their spring selections and I could see why. One piece was particularly exciting. The story went something like this (Tom, if I get it wrong, feel free to jump in on the comments and correct or amend):

Their orchestra leader was listening to classical music on satellite radio and heard this song he really dug. He jotted down the name and started seeking a score so that the orchestra could play it. The score was not to be found through any of his usual channels. Turns out that this particular tune has never before been performed live in the United States (it has been somewhat widely performed in Russia, if I understood the story correctly). He acquired the score, the orchestra played it, and it was magnificent. To listen to this little orchestra playing the American debut of a piece was quite exciting. The piece was called "The Assault on Beautiful Gorky", if inquiring minds want to know. It was quite lovely.

So maybe my life isn't so mundane after all. I might not have fit in there, but there I was. And it gave me a swell story to tell today, huddled over my laptop in my cut off sweats and my bare feet.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Story of My Life

Do you remember my Mother's Day post? It was all about how different my mother and I are. I got a great response to it.

Gibby specifically asked if my mother read my blog because she would hate to see her miss that tribute.

Well, my mother does not have a computer - old dog/new tricks and all that.

But I decided, since the response was so overwhelmingly positive, that I'd convert it to a word document and print it out. I printed the comments, too, because - well, she responds well to the opinions of others.

We had planned to celebrate Mother's Day tonight because they were going to be visiting us anyway for my daughter's orchestra concert. I proudly presented her with my letter along with her gift.

She scanned it for the first picture.

"I don't remember this picture. Where did you get this picture?"

"I cropped it - this was the full picture." (Handed her the original because it's still sitting on my desk. Don't judge me. I'm just a weird clumsy bookish forest fairy. What do you want?)

"Oh, my God, would you look at that? That's our old house on Cinema Lane. And look at that chair she's sitting in. (to my Dad) Did you make that chair? Someone made that chair. Oh, would you look at that? That's our old umbrella stand. Remember when we saw that big bug in the umbrella stand? Oh, our good old umbrella stand."

She shook her head and smiled, clearly reminiscing about all the the good memories that picture of her umbrella stand brought back.

She scanned the rest of it, stopping periodically to talk to my father about my children, about her friends, about her old furniture.

Then she got to the comments.

"Who are these people?"

"You don't know them."

"How do you know them?"

"Most of them have blogs too. They read what I have to say. I read what they have to say. We support each other. It's nice."

"People you don't know read what you write?"


"That's very good, Tammy! Look what these people said!"

She actually read all of the comments very carefully, after just scanning the body. The heartfelt sentimental body that I had written for her didn't matter nearly as much as what other people had to say about it.

It has always been this way.

I had to laugh, because it really was in keeping with the post. She will never 'get' me. And that's ok, I guess. Laugh or cry, my friends, laugh or cry. (I've done both, thanks for asking.)

I listened extra hard tonight when my children wanted to tell me about their day. I don't ever want them to feel less endearing than an old umbrella stand.


Good old umbrella stand.

Now a Major Motion Picture

My daughter has a T-shirt that reads: Movies - Ruining the Book Since 1920.

She gets it. I should amend that. She gets it the same way I get it.

Because every time I hear about a beloved book being turned into a movie I get excited. I am old enough to know better. Once bitten, twice shy - that's the way it's supposed to go, isn't it? But I still get excited every. single. time.

Even when it turns out well, the movie still just serves as a nice supplement to the book. My daughter is reading The Outsiders for school right now. I know she'll love the movie, but I am so grateful that she'll be seeing it only AFTER having read the book. Movies are a nice little 2 hour visit with the stories we love. Kind of like looking through a photo album is a nice little way to revisit a favorite time. It's a nice reminder. But it's not the real thing.

I can remember a time when casting Interview With the Vampire was a game played by many. I played it with strangers in bars, once a mutual love of the book was established. Everyone had their picks. NO-one picked Tom Cruise. It seemed like such a ridiculous choice. And then it went ahead and worked. Who'da thunk?

More recently I've heard people in certain circles discussing casting choices for Water for Elephants in a similar manner. I'm staying out of it. (Unless someone wants to play! Then I'm totally in!)

A few years ago I read The Memory Keeper's Daughter and really enjoyed it. I thought it would make a great movie and was pleased when I heard it was in production. Then I found out it was going to be a made for TV movie. Wellllll that's ok, I reasoned, Brian's Song was a made for TV movie... Then I heard it was going to be a Lifetime made for TV movie. My optimism wavered a little at that point. But I watched it anyway. Much to my chagrin. A couple hours of my life I'll never get back. What a pile of sentimental drivel. How did they take such a lovely book and turn it into - that? It was dreadful.

My daughter and I recently had the same experience with The Tale of Despereaux. She loved the book. I loved the book. We marked the calendar for the release date. We watched the trailers. The characters looked great. We could. not. wait. My husband and my other daughter had not read the book. We both encouraged them to. "It's great! You'll love it!" The movie came out before they had a chance. The movie was - awful. We were so disappointed. Leaving the theater the two who had not read the book were looking at us like, "Really? You loved THAT? REALLY?" Well, no, as a matter of fact, we didn't. Despite our telling them that it was almost nothing like the book, neither of them will be reading that any time soon, guarantee.

It shouldn't matter - but it does. It somehow cheapened it.

Sometimes the movie is a beautiful complement to the book. The Kite Runner is an excellent recent example of this, as is The Namesake. Neither was terribly successful, as far as movies go. For what that's worth.

Fight Club amazed me. I couldn't imagine how they were going to make that one into a movie, but they did and it worked BIG time and it accomplished what I always HOPE will be accomplished by this. Folks who aren't big on reading see the movie - interest is piqued - they pick up the book - they look for more by the same author - it's a beautiful cycle, when it works. Movies - GOOD movies - can bring a whole new crowd of people to reading. (more on my thoughts on Chuck Palahniuk's books to movies here.)

A much better example of this is the Harry Potter series. Sure, the first book was wildly popular before the first movie. But AFTER the movie? Forget about it. Kids were READING! Kids were standing in line at midnight for the next installment! Kids and a LOT of grown-ups (jumps up and down, raises hand, "oooh-oooh's" like Arnold Horschack) - because a good read is a good read. (And yes, our calendar is indeed marked for July 17. Our local theater already has it on the marquee. Do you think it's too early to inquire about tickets?)

Do you have a book to movie story? One you loved? One that broke your heart? One you're eagerly anticipating?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

This Post Goes to Eleven

I have told you before that This is Spinal Tap is my favorite movie, bar none. I didn't see it in the theater, I came upon it a little later. I was 23 years old and had just gone through a pretty ugly break-up. My heart was broken, I was in debt, and I'd burned a lot of bridges. My parents let me move back in with them till I got on my feet which was not much fun for any of us. It was not a time of much laughter. I stayed in my room a lot, not unlike a surly teenager. I had a nice TV and a new water bed and a VCR. I had a very good relationship with the folks at the video store. One day This is Spinal Tap wound up rather arbitrarily in a batch of videos I had taken home to occupy my weekend.

I popped in the video and settled in on the water bed almost defying it to amuse me. I mentioned that the water bed was new, right? I hadn't quite become completely accustomed to it yet at this point in time.


We came to this point in the movie:

I started laughing. Just a little. A silent little giggle, really. All by myself in my brand new water bed.

And when I laughed? The whole bed moved. And when I laughed harder? It practically made waves. This, of course, made me laugh even harder. It became a circular reaction. It was more fun than I'd had in an awfully long time.

Every now and then there is that pivotal moment when things just suddenly turn around. This was one of those moments for me. I knew in that instant that I was done being a cave dweller in my parents house and feeling sorry for myself. Laughing felt good and I wanted to do more of it. I wanted to put myself in situations which would stimulate laughter rather than situations that allowed me to wallow in my own misery.

It's an exaggeration to say that Spinal Tap saved my life, but not much of one.

Since that day, Christopher Guest has been very high on my list of - just all 'round awesome entertainers. I have loved every project with which he has associated himself. He is so smart and funny and Jamie Lee Curtis is one lucky little chickadee because she gets to go home to his comedic genius every night. Tom is smart and funny, too, but no-one pays him as much - or any - money for it.

Imagine my joy when I heard that the actors were bringing their Unwigged and Unplugged tour to Columbus. Six of us decided that missing such an event was not an option. Breathing in the same room where Christopher Guest was breathing would have been enough to justify the price of tickets for me, but just for folks who aren't as easily separated from their hard-earned dollars as I am, they threw in an acoustic concert featuring songs from This is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind.

Tom and I ready to, like, become one with the band

After a lovely dinner we headed to the theater. We didn't have to wait long before they took the stage.

Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, Christopher Guest

I turned to Tom just before the lights went down and said, "Oh, dear, I feel Squealy Fangirl rearing up something fierce. Are you askeered?"

"A little."

He needn't have feared. My exuberance was easily met by the rest of the crowd. Tom himself was laughing out loud. There was a permanent smile on my face for the entirety of the show. And that white haired lady beside me? She was havin' a ball. When her arm shot out in a classic rock and roll salute during "Heavy Duty", I thought I might pee my pants just a little. It was just - as the gentleman behind me said on leaving the theater - delightful.

I had gone to see Spinal Tap and Christopher Guest. And I got that. But I got more. A lot more.

I got three SNL alum. (why do I always forget that?) I got half the cast of The Simpson's. I got a sitcom icon from my youth. I got Count Rugen from The Princess Bride. I got songs, and stories, and a verbatim reading of the NBC censor's take on Spinal Tap (worth the price of admission, alone) I got and I got and I got. They gave and they gave and they gave.

These men are the real deal. Funny beyond all earthly expectations, surprisingly musically talented, humble (and if any man had a reason not to be...), and just all 'round entertainers.

This is what we looked like leaving the theater. I believe our smiles say it all.

Bloggers Unplugged: Osi, Me, Tom, Chris, Karen and Shannon

*all pictures courtesy of the lovely Chris - thanks Chris!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Mommakin Explained


How do you like the new look? (If you're reading this through google reader or on facebook or through any other means which does not have you directly on the blog - click on through to the blog!!!!) The talented, patient and all-round wonderful Katie Lane of Lemon Cherry Designs worked with me rather tirelessly (I'm assuming this. She may have indeed gotten very tired. But she never mentioned it to me. 'Cause that's not how she rolls.) to make it just what I needed it to be. If you're in the market for a new design, click on Katie's link on the sidebar! Grab my button, too, while you're at it!

I figured this was as good a time as any to let you all in on the story - if you want to call it a story - behind the title of my humble little blog.

For those who haven't already made the connection, '(Keep in Touch With) Mama Kin' is an (awesome) Aerosmith song from 1973. My bohemian side feels a connection to the lyrics from the very first line: "It ain't easy, livin' like a gypsy..."

Wikipedia states a couple possible interpretations of the lyrics:

It is likely that the song's message is about keeping in touch with your family ("Keep in touch with Mama Kin, tell her where you gone and been") no matter how busy your life may be ("sleeping late and smokin' tea"). It has also been said that "Mama Kin" is Steven Tyler's idea of a spiritual force that drives creativity and pleasure. "Keep in touch with Mama Kin" means remembering the desires that drive you to excel.

Both of these interpretations suited my goals for this blog. Mommakin was a quick jump.

The venerable Steven Tyler, rock god extraordinaire, had such high hopes that this would be the song that led to fame and fortune that he got his one and only actual tattoo as a tribute. It's true. You've almost certainly seen him sporting other tats, but they are all temporary. This one is the only one that's for reals. Rumor has it that the full name of the song was abbreviated because his skinny arm couldn't accommodate the full title.

Now Aerosmith, if you don't already know this about me, is the band most likely to make me go into squealy fangirl mode. Don't get me started on Joe Perry. Seriously, don't. Things get real gooey real quick.

I recently read an article which described Aerosmith's target demographic as 'middle-aged, lower middle-class men'. Oh, whatever.


When I started thinking about a blog design, I wanted to nod to the rock and roll roots behind my Mommakin moniker. Katie worked with me to come up with this tattoo based design which I think, well, rocks. As does Katie. And as. Do. You.

How Can You DO That?

Yesterday I posed the question, "What sort of person decides to do _______ for a living?" I was specific yesterday, but would like to be more open-ended today.

By the way, before I move on, let me just say that Tom's first thought, when asked who goes into that branch of nursing was: fetishist? I rejected that quickly, because I have several more appointments with these fine folks. I immediately thought: someone who, for whatever reason, couldn't find a job in their chosen field and had to take what they could get? I rejected that one quickly, too, because - well - same reason I rejected Tom's.

But then I recalled a conversation I'd had with my mother many years ago. I was doing Early Intervention - working with infants and toddlers with disabilities or at risk of developing disabilities - and she was an RN in a nursing home. She said, "I could never do your job. I don't know how you do it. I couldn't spend all day with those kids, my heart would break." I was too surprised to answer. I thought my job was awesome. I thought her job sucked and told her so.

"I couldn't do your job, either. People go there to die. I couldn't handle that. My heart would break."

She explained that that part was indeed sad, but that it gave her a real sense of purpose and satisfaction to know that she had helped them through the last part of life. I told her it was the same with my job, with the difference being that my little babies were just all full of boundless potential and I loved coaxing it out and helping their parents learn to coax it out. There was no hope in her job. She, as you've probably figured out by now, begged to differ.

We went around like this for a while - both having tremendous respect for what the other was doing but not being able to fully grok the motivation behind doing it.

It was an agree to disagree situation.

Tom is a computer programmer. He works in a small cubicle all day. He has very little human contact. He doesn't look particularly forward to what little he does have. I. Would. Die. I think I'd almost rather be a pee nurse. Almost. At least she gets to interact with people. Mortified, humiliated people who would rather be anywhere but there, sure, but people all the same.

My Uncle Bob used to always say, "There's another job I'm glad I don't have." when he saw people doing - well - dirty jobs type jobs. Yet people do them and I sure am happy about that!

I guess it all goes back to differences. We are all born with different interests and a different skill set. If we were all the same, not only would things be awfully dull, but there would be an awful lot of things that never got done!

So I'm interested - inquiring minds want to know - what kind of job do you think is ideal and why, and what kind of job would you not do for all the money in the world and why?

Full disclosure: I'm having a full-on midlife crisis and have no idea what I want to do with the next half of my life. I'm hoping someone will say SOMEthing that will force gently nudge me into some sort of decision, or at least into some valid direction. No pressure.

Edited to add - On a completely unrelated note, I put a "We Heart Art" post up on my craft blog, if anyone is interested.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dirty Jobs: (Don't be Pissed at Me For This One)

For all of you who were jealous of my TUESDAY, here's a little glimpse into my MONDAY. It might relieve a few of those jealousy pangs.

Ok. It's the bodily fluid post. Everybody does one eventually. Possibly not for the squeamish - proceed with caution. You've been warned.

On Monday I underwent the procedure known as a Urodynamic Evaluation. If you hear it without reading it it sounds sort of neat. Seeing the words in print makes it a little less so. Understanding the procedure itself makes it exponentially less so.

The Free Medical Dictionary defines it as:

a battery of clinical tests used to assess neuromuscular responses of the bladder to filling and emptying.

I don't think you'll be needing more than that. I might inadvertently give you a little more, though. Sorry in advance.

So to assess those neuromuscular responses, the nurse inserts a couple catheters. Yes I said a couple. I'll spare you more details. For now, at least, no promises.

This involves a torture chair of sorts.

I really didn't start this post with the intent of forcing you to visualize - stuff.

So I'm UP in this chair - I mean high up! And sort of half inverted. And the nurse says something about a fellow she had last week and I'm thinking "Holy crap! Boys do this, too? Oh dear, that can't be com..." she interrupted my thought train - or perhaps completed it - by saying, "of course a woman's urethra is only about an inch and a half long, whereas a man's is considerably longer." Heck yeah, it is! (my brain said).

So as the procedure went on - and it took almost an hour - every time I thought about how uncomfortable I felt - both physically and emotionally - I thought about how it would be way worse if I were a boy. And I took a little comfort in that. Usually boys just have nothing to compare to our uncomfortable procedures. This was - well - new.

As the test went on, I was supposed to tell her when, if I were on a road trip, I'd start looking for the next rest stop. I told her. She didn't let me pee.

She told me to tell her when I was getting pretty desperate for a rest stop. I told her. She didn't let me pee.

She told me to tell her when I'd need to pull over and duck behind the bushes. That was the part - the imaginary part, anyway - where I thought, well, we're back to the boys having it easier again. I told her and she said I could pee. IN A MINUTE. As soon as she set up this beer bong sort of apparatus under the chair, closed the curtain for privacy, then started a little tabletop fountain for modesty. Then she left the room.

Now this woman had recently inserted various catheters into various orifices and taped them down. She had just pumped my bladder full of liquids taking the direct route, all the while chattering cheerfully with me as an attempt at distraction. But she thought maybe I'd be too shy to PEE in front of her? She'd just made me admit I would've peed on the side of a busy highway by this point. I would've gone out in the lobby and peed in front of the reception desk at this point. But no, I got a privacy curtain and a little fountain.

As I waited for her to return, I wondered: What sort of person goes through their rotation in nursing school and gets to this part and says, "Yeah. This is what I want to do every day for the rest of my life."

Which was sort of a natural progression to "Mike Rowe should totally do this for his show."

Which led me to being alternately horrified and thrilled by the prospect of her coming back through that door with Mr. Rowe in tow.

See? My life isn't ALL freebies and funk. Sometimes it's downright pissy.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

We Want the Funk

Ok, I had a really swell post about my visit to the urologist all set to go today, but now you're just going to have to wait for that. Is the antici.....pation too much to bear? Sorry - I'll try to keep you entertained in the meantime.

I've mentioned before that my sister and I schlep pizzas at our friends' pizza shop. Well, yesterday there was a food service show sponsored by one of our vendors. The owners couldn't make it, as they had other family obligations, so they asked my sister and I to go in their stead. I had no idea what I was getting into, but am always anxious to do just about anything that takes me away from my regular routine.

We arrived at the show about half an hour before it wrapped up. Let me tell you why this is a really smart thing to do: No-one wants to pack their stuff up and they give EVERYTHING away! So we not only had a very delicious nosh as we worked our way through the samples at the vendors booths, but EVERYONE was giving us stuff. Not just a sample, but as much as we could carry. Serious SWAG, which Michael Scott so aptly defined as: Stuff We All Get.

Our bounty: T-shirts, bread, pasta, hot sauce, dressing, ketchup, canvas bags, stress pigs... the usual stuff.

Next we headed to a cookout and private concert. With Mr. Dr. Funkenstein himself, George Clinton and the P Funk All Stars. Did I mention that all of this included an open bar, too? 'Cause it did. There was a camera crew there all night - apparently they're working on a documentary - so if you come across a documentary about George Clinton in the future, give it a moment or two, cause you might just catch a glimpse of my sister and I. And wouldn't that just be a rare treat?

The P Funk All Stars took the stage a handful at a time, each costumed more elaborately and bizarrely than the last. My sister said at one point, "Looks like there's a Yankee Trader somewhere with a severely depleted inventory." Now I mentioned that this was in conjunction with a food show, right? So we have this stage full of serious funk - one may have even been tempted to not inaccurately refer to it as 'funkadelic' - and a mosh pit full of old white people dancing. It was so surreal. And awesome.

Let's see, we had a king and a clown and a pimp and a dude in a diaper and a dude dressed like a bride. There was a chickadee with angel wings and a top hat. How many free beers have I consumed at this point, you ask? No, I swear. All is true. My sister did not know what George looked like. They played 4 or 5 songs before he came out. My sister refused to believe it. "Diaper Dude is George, Tammy."

"Diaper Dude is not George. George is old."

"Diaper Dude is old."

"Diaper Dude is older than Pimp Dude, but he's younger than George."

"Are you sure?"


So she asked a stranger in the crowd and he confirmed that Diaper Dude was indeed not George and then she believed it. Do you see how my life is? Nobody listens to me. I can't fault her. It's been a lifelong model of behavior and she learned it from my parents.


Eventually George took the stage in all his multicolored cockatoo coiffed Santa Claus/Jerry Garcia glory. And there was a whole lotta rhythm going down.

And then there was that moment. Simultaneously my sister and I sniffed the air - eyes widened - is that? Sure was. That enchanting aroma of sweet mary jane wafting through the concert hall. We were a little taken aback, not because we find pot smoking so very shocking and scandalous, but more because Ohio has a statewide smoking ban and we've grown accustomed to not smelling ANY sort of smoke indoors, much less this pungent olfactory blast from the past. We started playing 'Spot the Pot'. We couldn't find the source. I gave up and went to the restroom. Apparently even when the beer is free, you still just rent it. When I came back, she said someone in the crowd had offered George a joint and he had toked it up right up there on the stage. I didn't believe her till I confirmed it with a stranger. Just kidding, I took her at her word. Because at that very moment I caught a glimpse of Angel Top Hat Chickadee enjoying a little bit of Mother Nature's herbal bounty, also on the stage.

"He's Probably as old as Dad."

"Yeah, but I bet Dad doesn't sing about his balls."

"Or toke doobs in public" (and to those of you who actually know my dad, I sincerely apologize for invoking that image)

So that was my completely unplanned and absolutely free excellent adventure. Man, I love it when a Tuesday night turns out like that.

Time to turn this mutha out.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

To Every Passion, There is a Season

I have been working like a thing possessed to finish up some knitting projects. While I am passionate about both knitting and reading all year, I tend to be a voracious knitter in the winter and a voracious reader in the summer. Not that either of those passions are seasonal, it's just how I've always approached both of them.

Knitting in the winter works for me for a couple reasons. The obvious one is, it's darn pleasant to have knitting on your lap when it's cold outside. Even if I'm working on small projects that won't fall all the way to my lap, there's something comfortable and warm about the yarn, the rhythmic clicking of the needles, the knowledge that when the work is complete it will provide warmth for me or someone I love. That's not always accurate, as I do make purses and summer items, as well, but even when it's not exactly true, that feeling prevails. Let's go for the stretch and say that if it won't warm their body, it might warm their soul. I do subscribe to the notion that there's "a kiss in every stitch" in that if I'm making something for someone, I tend to think about them pretty constantly while I'm working. I like to think they catch some of that energy when they receive something I've made.

The less obvious reason is: I like to watch TV. I know that's an unpopular thing to say. It would be better to say, "TV? We don't even keep one in the house." I wish I could say that sometimes, but I can't. There is a certain almost mystical air around those who have given it up. I hear those words and my head cocks, like they've just told me they were part wood imp or something. REally? How does one DO that?

I do watch a lot less TV now than I used to. A whole lot less, actually. But there are shows I like. I don't allow myself to love shows anymore, because my love is the kiss of death. (Arrested Development, anyone? Pushing Daisies? I mentioned Arrested Development, right? Still a little bitter about that...) I don't do Reality TV. None of it. I tried it a couple times. Someday maybe I'll tell you the Bo Bice story if you're very sweet to me, but not today. Nope, not my cup of tea.

But I digress. TV. I watch. I used to watch a lot, now I watch a little, but I watch.

And when I watch, I knit. Because to just sit there seems like such a waste of time. I think I would become horribly bored and I know for sure I'd feel guilty about being non-productive. So I knit.

But TV season is basically over! Thanks to DVR's there's no real reason for me to watch reruns. It's time to set the knitting aside and dive headfirst into that big list of books I've been compiling.

Because summer is for reading like winter is for knitting. My favorite reading spot is - um - outside. Period. I love to read in my lounge chair that was bought just for that purpose. I love to read on the deck. I love love love reading on the beach. Which is not the same as saying I like a beach read (which I'll admit, I sometimes do). I have never had any trouble reading weighty stuff as well as fluffy stuff on the beach. I love to read by the pool. I love to read under a tree. Love love love reading outside.

And with the exception of Monk and Psych (Are they coming back soon? They should be coming back soon, right?), in the summer, there's nothing on TV.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Not What You Had in Mind (An Open Letter for Mother's Day)

Dear Mom,

Our relationship has never been traditional. Right from the start we did things differently. Most babies make their presence known to their mothers via a series of physical manifestations - dizziness, nausea, a missed period... You learned about me through a phone call. "We have a baby for you, if you're interested."

Not what you had in mind, but you'd make it work.

You, the pale, green-eyed German blonde, were handed your little girl - a swarthy little olive-skinned creature with masses of coal black hair.

The only baby picture of myself I could find! I know I have boxes of them somewhere...

Not what you had in mind, but you'd make it work.

Mom and Dad in the pre-baby days

You were athletic and popular. You were so pretty. As I grew, I was clumsy and weird. I always had my nose in a book. You grew excited at sporting events. I was moved by music. We didn't really know what to make of each other.

Not what we had in mind, but we'd make it work.

You were sick a lot. You spent too much time in the hospital. I missed you.

Not what I had in mind, but I'd make it work.

You were - are - a planner. I was - am - a free spirit. Our habits regarding these traits drove each other nuts. You demanded order. I required spontaneity. You were a worker bee. I was a forest fairy. A weird, clumsy, bookish forest fairy.

Not what we had in mind, but we'd make it work.

Your friends kids got married and made them grandmas. Your sisters kids got married and made her a grandma. I traveled and matriculated long past the age when most had put away their school books and moved on into the real world. I didn't have any interest in anything that was going to tie me down for longer than a semester at a time. I was flighty long past the age when such a quality might have possibly been interpreted as charming.

Me with other people's babies - my cousin's babies, to be exact.

Not what you had in mind, but you'd make it work.

You lived in the same town forever and wouldn't have - wouldn't - dream of moving. I moved when I got bored. Which was a lot. I always worked in my field, but not in traditional ways. You never knew what to make of my choices.

Not what you had in mind, but you'd make it work.

Eventually I did settle down and get married and start making with the grandbabies.

Mom and Lea

That was more like what you had in mind. You could work with this.

Since then, of course, we've learned that there are as many similarities as there are differences.

Mom and Liv walking on the beach this February in Myrtle Beach

We're both happier near water. We both enjoy long walks through the woods, on the beach, even through the neighborhood. We both laugh until we cry (and sometimes until we emit other bodily fluids, but that's not a tale for polite company). We both talk too much. We're both generous with our time, attention, and affection. We both care deeply.

Most of the things that are good and true about me came from you.

Shelby, Wendy, Dad, Mom, Liv, Me, Lea, Tom, Cooper

I hope that's close to what you had in mind. I think it's kind of worked.

I love you, Mom.

P.S. Happy Mother's Day to you, too! I hope if motherhood isn't exactly what you had in mind, at least it's something you can work with.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Of Houses and Homes

I used to ask my students to close their eyes and imagine a place that they walked into - perhaps for the first time - and instantly felt at home. The vast majority of them would name their parents house or their grandparents house, sometimes a beloved oft-visited vacation home - rarely did they mention someplace that was shiny and new.

Now I've heard that:

Home is where the heart is.

Home is where you hang your hat.

Home is just another word for you.

I get all of that. I do. But I think there's more to it.

An example: My favorite aunt, Aunt Jennie, lived in the same suburban split level all my life. Growing up they lived about five hours away from us and I just lived for those visits to her home. I loved it there. Looking back, I couldn't tell you why. It's nothing I can put my finger on. It was just a place that made me happy. A place where people who made me happy lived.

When I was in grad school I lived much closer to her than I did to my own mom - about an hour away. I went to her house almost every weekend to study because I would get distracted in my apartment, but I could concentrate at her house. Plus she cooked for me. Once when I was sick, I bundled myself up and drove my sick self up to her house because any difficulty the ride imposed upon me would be more than balanced out by the TLC I would receive once I got there. It was not a bad decision.

A few years ago my cousin, her son, bought a beautiful HUGE house. As she was getting on in years and recently widowed, he built a wing on his house for her. It is beautiful and has about as much square footage as her whole house did. It was an amazingly loving gesture. The last time I visited her in the old place was nice - bittersweet, of course - but I was happy for her. By all of the things we measure standards by, she was trading up. Bigger, newer - you know what society values as well as I do. She was going to be livin' large.

So it took me by surprise when, as we were all packed up and ready to leave - hugs all around - I just couldn't walk out the door. I couldn't walk out that door knowing it was the last time. I was overwhelmed. Tom and the girls started packing up the car and I just sat on the steps - bewildered - overwhelmingly sad and totally surprised by my own emotions. Aunt Jennie sat down next to me. I've probably got a good 6 or 7 inches on her, but she sat down next to me and put her arm around me. I instinctively buried my head in her shoulder and sobbed. I felt guilty even as I was doing it. This was HER home. She shouldn't have been comforting me, I should have been comforting her. She didn't speak, except to say, "I know, Tam, it's ok. I know." I didn't speak at all. I didn't have any words.

I had never lived there, but it was home. And I'd never see it again.

Tom used to get annoyed - well, probably more hurt than annoyed - with me when I referred to going to my parents house as going home. But it is. My parents house is small and humble - nothing too special, certainly not in comparison to the McMansions springing up all over the place. But it makes me feel so recharged when I spend some time there - even just a very little bit of time. Recharged. Grounded. Loved. Home.

My mother always referred to her mother's house as home. "Going up home".

My grandmother referred to her mother's house as home - long after her mother had passed away, when she asked one of us to drive her to their town to visit relatives she would say, "Can you drive me down home sometime this weekend?" So even without her mother, that place was still home.

Dad's was always "The Homestead". Now the homestead conjures up images of a big sprawling ranch to me. If it does the same for you, erase that image right now. Dad's homestead - where his parents raised nine children - was a two bedroom house set up on a small hill. That's right. Nine children. Two bedrooms. The parents had a room, the girls shared a room, and the boys slept in the attic. This sounds like a nightmare to me! It sounds like home to Dad.

Because home is more than a house - and I think it's also more than the people who inhabit the house. I still love my Aunt Jennie. I still love visiting her and spending time with her in her big ole sprawling house. But it's not home.

I think it's perhaps a complicated equation involving a place and people and perhaps even time. Home has a feel and a smell and a sound. Home is a multi-sensory experience. Home cannot be forced or manufactured; home just needs to be.

Maybe I'm overthinking it (what? me? no!).

It is what it is and you know it when you feel it. What feels like home to you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The One Where There's Cussing

I visited briefly with my parents last weekend (No! That's not what the cussing is about!). They were recalling a family vacation, taken when I was quite young. I told them I had one and only one very clear memory from that trip. We were looking at airplanes - I don't know if there was an air show or a museum or what - but there were lots of small planes. Like boats, most had a name and many were elaborately painted. One plane in particular had a picture of a red-headed pin-up girl posing provocatively painted on its side. This plane was called "The Strawberry Bitch". Old enough to sound out words, but not old enough to understand this particular word combination, I asked what 'bitch' meant. My mother turned the most interesting shades of reds and purples and said something on the order of, "That's a bad word! I never want to hear you say that word again, do you understand me? Never!" Her eye was twitching and she was pretty shaken up. I like to imagine that my sister and I looked at each other and smiled. "Bitch!" one of us would say - the whole rest of the day - causing the whole reaction all over again. In fairness to us, she really should have just calmly explained to us what it meant and why it was bad. But she didn't. She just gave it - and us - power. I remember later that night, returning to our travel trailer. My sister and I made a game of hiding in all the spots we could fit into that we knew she couldn't and yelling "BITCH!" periodically. I'm not positive, but I think by the end of the night Mom may have been weeping.

Before you think my sister and I are TOO awful, please remember that we had absolutely no idea what this word meant. Honest.

Flash forward. I'm a mom with children of my own. They are clamoring for ice cream. As I am scooping it out, they are standing so close to me I can hardly breathe. The dog wants in on whatever action is taking place, so she starts jockeying for position, too. They bump me and a scoop of ice cream lands squarely on the dogs head. Before I have a chance to think, I've exclaimed, "SHIT!" The moment it's out of my mouth I'm sorry. I get on my knees - eye level with the little girls - and say, "I am so sorry. I said a bad word and I shouldn't have. I'm very sorry that I said that. Do you forgive me?" My eldest immediately offered her forgiveness and I thanked her. Off she went with her ice cream.

The youngest held back. "I forgive you, Mommy, but I don't know what bad word you said. I only heard you say shit." She had the sweetest little baby voice...

"That's the bad word."

"Shit is a bad word?"

"Yes. Please stop saying it. I'm very sorry I said it." It was starting to sound REALLY ugly by now.

"But I don't even know why shit is a bad word. Shit doesn't SOUND bad. Why is shit bad, anyway?"

She's said it five times by now, if you haven't been keeping the tally.

By this point my husband has removed himself to the next room and is doing that silent laughing thing in my direct line of vision. You know it. It's the laughing you do when you know it's completely inappropriate to laugh but you couldn't stop yourself if you tried and the harder you try to stop the worse it gets. His face was red. I'm pretty sure he was producing tears. His whole body was shaking. He wasn't gonna be any help.

Well, shit. How am I gonna get out of this one?

But get out of it I did.

Being the (ultra-classy) super-genius that I am, though, I didn't learn from my mistake. A month or two later the eldest is in kindergarten. The youngest is in pre-school, but this was one of her days off. She was playing downstairs. I was folding laundry upstairs with the door shut. There was a floor and a door between us. I took a phone call that frustrated me. Upon hanging up, I quietly muttered, "stupid, fucking stupid."

Immediately I hear, "Awwwwwwwwwww!!!!! Mommy said a baaaaaaaad word!!!!!!!"

Oh, shit.

The little pitcher had made her way upstairs while I was on the phone, big ears and all.

You know the drill. Down on my knees. Eye level. Hands on shoulders.

"I sure did, and I'm not very proud of myself. I'm sorry I said that and I'm sorry you heard it. Will you forgive me?"

She maintained eye contact and said, very sincerely, "I do forgive you, Mommy. But you know you should never say stupid."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Back to the Future

Wildwood, New Jersey is a beach town populated by Victorian houses in pastel hues, an old fashioned boardwalk with several entertainment piers, and motels with names like: Oceanic, Sea and Shell, Blue Palm and Aquarius; many with futuristic logos from the past. They are neither fancy nor elegant, but they are undeniably special. These are the sort of unique places that you just know families return to year after year; possibly generation after generation.

Our motel, the Isle of Palms, had its name displayed in a huge casually elegant font in colors reminiscent of sand at sunrise on the shower curtain. The whole thing smacked of stepping back in time. I kept expecting Lucy and Ethel to step out of the next room in their bathing costumes. Yeah. This place inspired me to say things like "bathing costumes".

It's the same feeling I get when I pass a bar - no - a lounge - with a big neon martini glass on its sign and retro graphics. I always feel like a cocktail there would have an air of sophistication that knockin' a couple back at my local watering hole could never attain. I'm equally certain that that would not be so, so I never go into those bars. I don't want to shatter the illusion. Believing a place like that could still exist makes me happy.

Being at the beach makes me happy.

Being with my dear friend (since Jr. High, thank you very much) makes me very happy indeed.

Me and Ellin on the boardwalk. Honest to God, I didn't notice how similar our ensembles were that day until I posted this picture. Good Lord. I suppose it's true what they say: Great minds think alike. Our minds have been achieving greatness together for well over 30 years. Maybe that explains it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Cinco de Mayo

Hola! Hoy es Cinco de Mayo. No es una dia muy importante por los Mexicanos, pero es una dia mucho importante por los Norteamericanos a beber la tequila. Y la cerveza. Pero mas importante? La tequila.

Me gusto mucho la tequila.

Ok, here's the thing: don't jump all over me for my ridiculous butchering of the Spanish language. It is, as they say, limited by disuse. There's a very good reason my use has been limited. Like to hear about it? I thought you might.

All those many years ago when I lived in Texas I had a job which required me to communicate on a daily basis with Spanish speaking Mexicans. I dealt with one gentleman in particular very regularly. He always communicated with very broken and labored English.

One day I thought to myself (I thought), "I speak Spanish very well! Why am I making him struggle with his English when we could be communicating so easily in Spanish?" I thought this, you see, because I had taken four years of high school Spanish and three years of college Spanish. I'd always gotten pretty easy 'A's' and my teachers had always complimented me on both my speaking and writing . Yepperdee, I was one confident communicator.

Folks, if I could remember what I said to him that day, I would tell you, but I can't. It was a long time ago, for one thing, and for another, what happened next is such a vivid memory that it easily supercedes whatever inconsequential words I uttered to inspire it.

What happened, after I made an earnest effort to speak to him in his native tongue was: he laughed. He didn't just laughed. He LAUGHED!!! Not lol or LOL, but ROTFLMAO!!!!! He doubled over, holding his belly with both hands. He wiped away a tear and laughed some more.

I stood there, confused, trying to figure out what I'd said or done that was so funny. "What? Que? What?" His only response was more laughter. When he came up for air, I asked, in English, "What is so funny?"

"What you say!"

"What I said was funny?"

"Si" he answered, barely managing to stifle another giggle fit.

"What did I say that was so funny? I want to know so that I can correct it."

He paused for a moment and clearly considered his answer. "I think it was no so much what you say. It was how you say. Here, people say Spanish bad with Texas accent. This I hear. I never hear no one say Spanish bad with Yankee accent before. You sound so funny!" He let out one more giggle, but this one was more controlled. "Sorry for laughing." he added. I watched him mocking my pronunciation and shaking his head as he walked away.

That, my friends, was the very last time I attemped to speak Spanish. My confidence was shot all to hell. So was my desire to make things easier for him. He wants to laugh? He can struggle with his damn English. You won't catch me making an effort again.

Years later, when I was teaching ESOL, I retold this story many times.

I learned a lesson that day. Respect the effort. If he had gently corrected my word choice or my pronunciation - even if he'd chuckled a little when he did it - I would have learned and possibly even improved. We could have learned together. As it was? I gave up. I didn't need to be laughed at and I'd be damned if I was going to set myself up for that again.

We both lost out that day.

So I guess I'm just saying, appreciate the effort.


Y tambien? Una tequila mas, por favor.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Technology Bites

Let me start by saying that I am hardly one of those people who goes through their life treating their cell phone like it is another appendage - possibly one more important even than the starter kit with which we were born.

I've had one forever, of course. The first one was a big expense and a big decision. This is fitting, as it was also a big-assed phone. I kept it for only the most dire of emergencies and my friends were all cautioned to never use it to contact me with frivolities. Those minutes weren't free, you know!

I was a little in awe of it. To have the ability to call people from wherever I might be - even on the road (as long as I was in a zone covered by my plan) - bordered on the nearly unbelievable.

We're living in the future, baby! Anything can happen now!

As technology improved I more or less kept up. I upgraded my phone every couple years. I always viewed them as a nice convenience but nothing more. I was still conservative with my usage, relying on it more for outgoing calls, with incoming calls being rare enough to make me jump when they came through.

I didn't know my number and had to look it up when anyone asked. I've watched my daughter become completely attached to hers. I watched my husband develop a love/hate relationship with his. I maintained an air of detachment about mine.

The only exception was when I traveled without my family. I became a texting machine on par with my thirteen year old daughter when I traveled. Well, maybe that's overstating it a bit. But I text a LOT on vacation.

My most recent phone has internet as well, and I have found myself slightly more reliant upon that. I don't have it mastered. My skills with the stylus and the keyboard are not such that I can do everything my phone is capable of. I update FaceBook and Twitter. I read email (though I have a hard time responding to it). The sound of a message coming through no longer takes me by surprise. But it still makes me jump! I want to know what's going on!

Many of you know that I went out of town for a long weekend this past weekend. On the second day of my vacation, my phone died. Just totally flat-lined. It was fully charged, but everything went black. The panic I felt over this was unnerving. It pulled my plug. I was disconnected. I was suddenly and unexpectedly disconnected from EVERYthing. I was angry, I was upset, but I was also somehow - scared. The world was going on without me and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. Things could happen and I wouldn't know!

I became ultra-aware of everyone else's cell phones. I passed a guy with one of those notepads and I nearly hyperventilated. I was in serious communication withdrawal.

I picked my phone up every hour or two to see if it had miraculously returned to me. Maybe the whole thing had just been a bad dream. Once, it actually sparked up. The joy and hope I experienced in that brief flash of artificial light! But alas, it was extinguished before I could even check messages.

I called the hubs from my friends phone and he said, when in doubt, reboot. Nothing. He called her phone the next morning and told me to take the battery out and pop it back in. I did so. The phone? She was revived. I bet you were getting a little nervous there!!! I know I was!!!

When I arrived home, just a couple hours ago, the first thing I did was rush to my laptop and put my head on its cool, sweet keys. I love you. I'm sorry I left you behind. Let's never part again. (Don't be too concerned, my family was still at school/work - if they were here I PROBABLY would have greeted them first...)

It took no small amount of time to catch up on my blog reading and I apologize if my comments were a little on the lazy side.

It was good to be away, and it's good to be back!