Sunday, September 27, 2009

Felicitous vs. Cantankerous

Please excuse me just this once while I B.R.A.G. on my kids. We play lots of music, greatly varied, at home and both kids enjoy. We dance and shriek like banshees for about 30 minutes of each day. The two year old has gotten to what I like to call the "stoner" level of music appreciation:

"Like song, Mama!"



Now. The five year old. Oh, the five year old. The bane and joy of my existence, he is. Tonight, we started with Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 Chorale (Ode to Joy). His response to the music?

"This is felicitous!"

After switching to Bach we spent a few minutes of picking out instruments on Brandenburg Concertos ("That's a flute! I hear violins!"). Then Toccata and Fugue ensues with its solemn organ tones.

"Mama, this one is cantankerous."

Can't spell 'em yet but he can sure use 'em in a sentence.

Thank you for your indulgence. I will try to return to more scholarly or adult themed (as in, if I'd never had kids I'd still care) topics later this week.

If I won the lottery

The coolest thing about writers has got to be the "What would you do if you won the lottery?" response.

Everybody else, in ascending value judgement order:

1. "I'd quit my job tomorrow."
2. "I'd quit my job tomorrow and volunteer somewhere."
3. "I'd definitely keep my job." (But you totally know they wouldn't.)

But nobody ever says, "I'd get to work earlier and stay later since I would have the freedom to do so."

Writers, published, unpublished, more money than God, impoverished, brilliant, or kind of sucky:

"I'd write more."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jacob have I loved...

For most of my life I have related to Esau. Beloved by my parents, the firstborn, but all the blessings seemed heaped on my younger sibling. It was the trickiest part of Sunday School for me. I always felt bad for the wrong guy. Jacob was the hero of that story but I never got over thinking that Esau got gypped. I still think it is horribly unfair that Pharoah's heart was hardened instead of allowing him to relent and grant the Jews their freedom. He lost his son to the Angel of Death in the next plague of Egypt. Why? Another topic, another day.

Most of our youthful acquaintance will tell you that I'm the smart one but my sister is more fun, and prettier. And so funny! Strangely enough, no one seemed to realize that we were both insulted by the observation that things worked out so equitably what with me being gifted with intellect and my sister with beauty. And just for the record, she's every bit as smart as me, however smart that might be.

We share many of the same gifts and weaknesses. We're both stubborn to the point of self-harm. We both have a sense of compassion that is great enough to cause us considerable discomfort. We feel sorry for convicted criminals who totally had it coming. Neither one of us would change the outcome but we do feel bad for the jerk who swindled all those people or fled the scene instead of calling an ambulance. We would both hock an organ or a car title to pay for a dog who needed surgery. Maybe not even our own dog.

These days, my sister is going through a rough patch. Long story short, she is reaping consequences far, far beyond what she has ever sown. She does not deserve the $#i% that is raining down on her right now. But she is not taking it lying down, curling up and quitting, giving up. She is tough as nails.

In our casual acquaintance, she probably still seems like Jacob. In her world, she probably feels like Esau. But here's the cool thing about Esau. Jacob and their mother conspired against him to steal his birthright. His mother and his twin. But Esau had the strength and confidence to greet his brother with delight after all the years and all that had passed between them because they were still brothers, first and foremost.

The things I have that my sister wants, I share with her. The things that she has that I want, she shares with me. It is likely that neither one of us will ever have what the other does, but it doesn't matter so much. Because if one of us has it, we both do.

I'm proud of her. I'm proud to share the same blood with someone as amazing as she is. I'm proud when other people admire her and I can say, "That's my sister."

Some days, both of us are Esau. But I think really both of us are Jacob. We both inherited the strength of our forefathers and one sister a piece. We are blessed.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Anniversary: High Points of a Marriage

Be wary. This will be long since said marriage has many high points.

9 years ago today the flower girl rolled backwards down the stairs while my beloved and I exchanged our wedding vows.

Anniversary 1: We celebrated in our Lilliputian Atlanta shoebox of an apartment. He fixed filet with cognac and mustard sauce and we ate year old, thawed wedding cake that was surprisingly delicious. My sister called us from Alabama in tears because her dog had suffered a critical spinal injury that ended up putting her in debt for quite some time. That boy I married was not one bit perturbed at having his delicious and romantic dinner interrupted by the crisis since he gets that our dogs enjoy a status damn near our actual genetic progeny, at least in my family.

After Year One I don't remember any specific anniversary, just that we always say "Happy Anniversary" to each other. I can't tell you how grateful I am for this. Neither one of us feels the pressure to make EVERY ONE just as special as our wedding day. We aren't always observant of birthdays or Mother's or Father's Day, either. I had the good fortune (or wisdom) to marry a man who thinks like I do. It's the sentiment and the occasional big gesture that count. You can't pull off the big gestures with regularity. But there have been a couple of knockouts during our relationship and the momentum wave carries you a long way.

First Christmas (dating, not married): Now Dear Hubby wrangled a series of three hardbacks by a man named Ferrol Sams (Run With the Horsemen, The Whisper of the River, and When All the World Was Young) for me. Autographed to me, complete with references to each book in the autograph, by the author. It were truly a fortuitous series of events that led to this coups but Damn! It was perfect. The books are universally loved by my family and left my sister's much wealthier lawyer boyfriend baffled at how nobody, including my sister, was impressed with his gift to her of half carat diamond earrings. That was the year she came up with the following axiom:

"You can spend a lot of money on a gift or a lot of thought. If you don't spend a lot of thought, you'd better spend a lot of money."

Eventually, she fired the lawyer boyfriend with lots of money and I married the student boyfriend without any. She was on to something with that observation.

After we'd been married a couple of years, That Boy and I took an amazing trip to Chicago for me to run the marathon there. Great food. One of the best trips I have ever taken. My mom went with us and since everybody loves my mom, including That Boy, it didn't cramp our style at all. In fact, it was even more fun.

He bought tickets to the Alabama vs. Tennessee game for my birthday that same year. Home game for my cherished Crimson Tide. The outcome was mixed. It was two weeks after the trip to Chicago and you know what they say about distance running and fertility. Well, I took a chance that weekend. The football game had four overtimes with the forces of evil finally taking the edge to give Tennessee the win.

Shortly after that trip, I fixed rack of lamb and bought a weensy bottle of champagne for us to tell him we were expecting for the first time. He was thrilled, I was terrified.

One two year old boy and some crazy medical complications later, I miscarried twins. We were disappointed but okay.

A couple of months later I bought a nice Pinot and fixed rack of lamb again, but I had to kick his mother out of the house after dinner to achieve the same state of expectancy the second time. That one stuck.

Shortly after the night I had to kick my mother-in-law out, my now husband turned 40. He celebrated his birthday surrounded by friends and family at the most ridiculously deluxe lakehouse to grace the southeastern US. It had an elevator. In addition to the heated pool (late November birthday), hot tub, fire pit, full size keg refrigerator, pool table, pinball machine, piano, and two kitchens, everyone had their own bathroom. A couple of people bought plane tickets to attend.

Each guest received their own copy of the cookbook to which they had all contributed recipes, stories, and photos. (My husband is a bang-up cook.) There were commemorative cooking aprons, as well. The keg refrigerator housed an actual keg and many, including the birthday boy, awoke on Saturday with substantial hangovers from any of a number of liquors including single malt scotch that populated the full bar. We had Italian one night and friggin' awesome barbeque the next, although I was too nauseated to enjoy either since I was pregnant with baby number two at the time. It was a surprise party and that boy I married had no idea until I got him there on Friday night under false pretense. The entire shindig represented a nearly a year of planning and the ultimate pinnacle of my creative forces.

Tonight we had dinner with our five year old boy and two year old little girl who both agree their dad is the fun one. Mom is kind of scary. We had chicken and dumplings. True to form, the Princess wore more than she ate. But That Boy I Married picked up a bottle of champagne on the way home so the chicken and dumplings seemed a little less Middle America boring than usual. And he also stopped at Target and bought me the softest blanket ever. EVER. I'm always cold.

I'm a lucky, lucky woman.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I've concluded that staying up all night long (literally...not sleeping at all before the first restless wails of a child herald daybreak and hungry children) to write is VASTLY preferable to staying up all night long with restless, undirected energy that is borne of dissatisfaction with the pace of my book but no clear direction how to fix it. It's fixable. I know it is. I just can't back away from it enough to see the solution.

I'm closing in. Little insights strike while I'm driving, in the shower, vacuuming, whatever. Some of them break my heart because they involve taking a hatchet to a chapter I just loved when I wrote it and still love to read. But in the big picture, it has to go. If 3000 words can be pared down to 300, then it was too many damn words.

But hey, I'll always have my hard drive, right? Me and my many-worded lovers can meet for private trysts anytime. If I'm ever famous, I'll have a ton of bonus material to post on the website. Boo-yah!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Moved...and starting Kindergarten

Mama Bear reared her ugly, roaring head today.

Hatchling #1 started Kindergarten yesterday in our fair new city. School started here back in August...way back, like the he is breaking in to an already established playground hierarchy.

Background info:

Said progeny is descended from bellicose vikings on my side and germans on his father's-pretty much the same thing. He is very tall. Being a tall five year old, he is also skinny, though not painfully so. His birthday is late June so he barely qualifies for the age cutoff for kindergarten, making him one of the youngest in his class, but he's already reading so it seemed counterproductive to hold him back a year for age equality.

He's a little athlete with a well-developed sense of justice. He's also the youngest member of the youngest class on the school playground.

He came home today with a vicious scratch on the back of one hand. Turns out, a bigger kid grabbed him and was holding his hands (a smaller scratch bedecorates the other) and Bambino wasn't having it so he pulled his hands back to himself. Good for him. He did EXACTLY the right thing. He stood up for himself without hitting back or being a weinie tattletale.

We had a little chat about bullies. You don't have to put up with anyone putting their hands on you if you don't want them to. If they do, you tell them forcefully to stop. You have permission to defend yourself. If you need help, get a teacher but try to resolve it yourself first.

Little man tells me these kids are bigger and step on the littler ones. On their heads, arms, whatever they can stomp. My guy feels guilty for not interfering when they pick on someone else. Wow. I remember that feeling. What a conundrum as a mother. So that boy I married and I had a talk about how to handle this. We concluded the following, in descending level of importance:

1. Our child's physical safety is priority number one.
2. We want to instill (or reinforce, in his case) his right to stick up for himself.
3. We also want him to speak up for others if the situation warrants.

Now. How do we reconcile 2&3 with 1? That boy I married wants me to talk with Little Man's teacher. I don't want to be that mom...not yet. I don't want to mark my child as the kid with the overprotective mother, especially if he can fight his own battles or learn to. He obviously has some sense of self preservation or he would have intervened when others got picked on. I need to help him find the line that when crossed means he needs to go for help.

For tonight, I told him he did the right thing. I told him that when someone else gets picked on he should stand up for them if he thinks he can. And I told him that when I was little, and his dad, too, sometimes we didn't say anything either. Because we had the sense to be scared.

I hope that as he gets older he will find the strength to help someone weaker and the creativity to do it even if he feels outmanned. I did, somehow. I was the bully target for over three long, miserable years and I still never suffered the torture of someone weaker than me. It is a violation, an abomination. I'd rather be hated than live with knowing I should have spoken up, even when I was twelve.

In the meantime I hope my child's mother will refrain from the instinct to find the little $#8#s who are doing this and tell them in hushed tones, below the hearing of rational adults, that they might be bigger than my kid but I am bigger than them. Their mamas might not care if they act this way but I do. I can find them. I can make them sorry if they don't stop.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Did you take your medication?

Be forewarned. This post is destined to trend whiny.

We just moved to a new city. Or rather we are approaching the end of a move to a new city. I loved where we lived before but am delighted to live less than twenty minutes from a grocery store and in a city large enough to boast actual bookstores. (Well, our last little burg did have one bookstore. Sonshine. Inspirational reading. I never went since I own a Bible already and prefer to go straight to the source if I am seeking spiritual guidance. Self-help in any form, even non-religious but especially theologically based, is an anathema. Don't argue with me about have no chance of changing my mind.)

Moving is hard work. I've done it plenty of times before and you would absolutely not believe the sheer quanitity of crap I can lift, carry, and haul. If I were a superhero my identity would be Antgirl: the woman who can carry up to 100 times her own body weight if it means one less trip from the car!

This time is different. I can't lift as much. And I punk out half-way through to my goal for the day. I just have to stop and lay down for a while. My legs swell up and the skin feels like sausage casings until I raise my feet long enough to let the swelling go down. I used to get more done than anybody but my mother and this time around I feel like everyone else is carrying my weight. That boy I married has done his share and about 75% of mine. I harbor the secret fear that he is looking at me askance because he thinks I've grown lazy. But then he asks:

"Have you found a nephrologist here yet? Are you taking your medication?"

If you have ever had a chronic medical condition or taken long term meds then you will understand there is no phrase more annoying than "are you taking your medication?" It is rife with implied criticism. The possible interpretations are limitless:

You aren't taking proper care of yourself.(Admittedly, I can do better in this arena.)

If you were taking better care of yourself you would be as good as everybody else.

And my personal favorite: You just aren't what you used to be. And the difference is notable.

I am not on the verge of kidney failure. I am nowhere near as sick as life insurance companies think I am. Or as I will likely be at some point in the future. My blood pressure and lipid panels are good but my body can't seem to keep enough iron to carry sufficient oxygen for my robust energy requirements. I lose enough protein through my kidneys that I could eat steak every day and still not break even.

It drives me NUTS. Right now. Not even thinking about what this means for my future. I hate the feeling that my body needs me to put some chemical into it to slow down the ambiguous progression of a ridiculously obscure illness that has no cure and that one of my children may have inherited. Oh, and did I mention that it also causes deafness? Seems convenient, if constant chatter frays your nerves. The noise, however, is not yet diminished. I just don't understand what you're saying half the time. If there is background noise and I can't see your lips moving as a crutch then odds are good I am getting a garbled version of whatever you're asking me.

Don't even think about talking to me if you are standing with your back to me or walking in front of me. I speak English, Spanish, and Redneck fluently and can't understand any of them reliably if you don't speak directly to me under ideal conditions. In bad conditions you sound just like Charlie Brown's teacher. Delightful.

Ah. My cankles have reduced in diameter to discernible ankles again. Time to get back to work.