Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Where I've been

So we bought a house. It isn't our first house, but for all practical purposes it might as well be. We have been in "temporary" houses for all our married life. The first house we bought was teeny but adorable and we therefore crammed way too much stuff into it. When we moved, we were smart enough to rent until we sold the first house. By the time the first house sold, we realized we were going to move again.

The upshot? For almost 11 years, anywhere from a third to half of our worldly goods have been in boxes, attics, and storage units. That is a LOT of crap to weed through. Add in outgrown baby clothes and paraphernalia, and I decided to have a yard sale before we moved. Observe:

Baby clothes. Way too many baby clothes. Sorted by size.

Many dead animals on the walls
I am not a yard sale person. I am never doing that again. Ever. But it did pay for about half of the painting we did in the new house. Because the new house featured a great deal of brown. In many different shades. Also, dead animal decorating. Aside from leather and a cowhide rug, I am not a fan of dead animal decorating. I don't want anything with eyeballs hanging on my walls. But this is what the den looked like before the previous owner moved:

Seriously, y'all. A bear, four deer- or maybe three deer and an elk, a couple of birds, and I think there was a fish in there somewhere. It was a bloodbath. Or, if one is being generous, vaguely medieval. And very, very brown. It's still brown because we haven't gotten around to painting it yet.

So. First we painted the dining room, foyer, living room, one bedroom, and the master bedroom. They were all brown:

Brown living room...3 shades of brown!
Other side...still brown! With many tchotchkes!

Brown Master Bedroom

Then came the boxes. This is a sample assortment of the boxes in question. Note the formerly brown walls are now green in the dining room that is currently a staging area for unsorted boxes, which almost certainly contain books:

Never ending pile of boxes. And there are more!

For those of you who are already organized, that might not look so bad. For the organizationally challenged or people married to my husband, this represents a nightmare. When I pack a box, it is filled with like items that should be unpacked in the same place. When he packs a box, it is "Holy crap! I bet I can beat the world record for cramming stuff into a box the fastest!" The items in said box could include shampoo, a lamp, three coffee mugs, a sort of melted candle, a few coloring books from 1970, and some back issues of Rolling Stone. Every box represents an adventure or a nightmare, depending on how you look at it. Or how tired you are of figuring out where to put stuff. Or whether or not said husband is at home and might catch you throwing out his first Playboy.

The "sorting of the box content" unfolded into projects like this:

Yay! Orderly crayons!
Culling the broken stubs from the crayons.

And this:

9 boxes of ribbon leftover from gift happily residing in master closet!

As a side note, I am thrilled with the ribbon rack. It hurts my heart to give someone and ugly present, especially when I knew that somewhere in all those boxes I had this abundance of ribbon and wrapping paper. I even found my special super-sharp ribbon scissors! And about five rolls of the invisible variety of scotch tape!

At any rate, every box represented at least an hour of sorting, donating, and throwing away stuff. And I still have more boxes! But the living room now looks like this (work in progress, but it's taking shape):

Built in shelves with our books! And our stuff! And a near naked Pirate!

I have a World History shelf, a yearbooks shelf, a Southern Authors shelf, an "I was an English major and here is the proof" shelf, and my favorite, a Dungeons and Dragons Shelf! The organic chemistry, physics, and medical tomes are in the cabinets. And it smells like a library. *happy*

The Dungeons and Dragons Shelf
I was an English major shelf

Also, I absolutely see the point that frequent movers have about the benefits of eBooks. But with eBooks, you can't put your friend's books on the shelves in the living room!


In fact, I am so enamored of having friend's books on the shelves that I am considering dedicating a shelf to just that. Of course, that means that I will have to purchase dead tree versions of many things I own in digital format, but oh, well.

The best part of the new house, though. Ah. It is marvelous. And it isn't even in the house:

The back yard! From only half way back!

 Here it is as viewed from the house:

Daddy playing ball with the kidlets.

The move continues. I still have to paint things. We have furniture projects to complete. But it's slowing down around here and hopefully the dust will settle into a nice, ordered living space. The closets are done (why, yes, I did divide the kid's closets into "school uniforms" and "other" sections), the kitchen is put together, the sheets are resting comfortably in assorted bins labeled "king, master BR", "queen, guest BR", and "Full, Pirate BR" or "Full, Princess BR." At long last I have the square footage and closet space to unleash my OCD.

When I get everything all pretty I'll post some more pics.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Truth About Kids

Okay, so my thoughts on family have been deemed blogworthy by a couple of people. Keep in mind that this was never intended as a blog post. It was a frank response to a dear, dear friend on the question of whether or not she should engage in the trial of procreation. She asked my opinion because, and I quote, "You are not one of those 'you have to have babies to be a whole person' freaks."

(And make no mistake about it. I am NOT. Every person's journey is different. Children don't complete you. Neither does marriage. IMO, you should be complete before you engage in either of those things, albeit with room for growth.)

Here are my thoughts, with names eliminated to protect the innocent:

Holy crap, Dear Friend. I can give you an opinion on procreation but the only person qualified to know if you should have kids or not is YOU. After you have one. Because the thing is, you might be one of those people who falls head over heels in love with the little peanut when it gets here.

I can tell you in all honesty I would have been fine without them. I luuuuuurve mine and I don't regret having them or anything like that, but the day in/day out quality of my life definitely turned south. Things I hate:

  • Having to plan ahead for a week to go out to dinner instead of deciding at 6 pm that I don't feel like cooking.
  • Having to bring my A game for every Halloween, birthday, Christmas, whatever.
  • "running to the store to pick up milk" requires that I dress myself and TWO OTHER PEOPLE (term used loosely), one of whom still requires help with the seat belt, herd them through the door while they jockey for position to be the one who gets to open the door and then they race to the car to see who can be first and THEN they start yelling at each other and don't stop until we get back home.
  • Carseats.
  • Feeling guilty every time I turn on the TV so I can get something done.
  • I never go to the bathroom by myself. Ever. And Princess likes to hand me toilet paper.


  • When one of them says I'm the best mom ever. Boy, have I got them snowed.
  • Being able to tell them things like, "No, Mama didn't toot. This is a magical couch and it toots by itself," and watch them try to figure out if that could possibly be true.
  • When That Boy I Married gets home from work and they both drop whatever they're doing and yell, "DADDY! DADDY'S HOME! DADDY! DADDY!"
  • When they sleep.
  • When Pirate comes to find me and says, "Mama? I just wanted to give you a hug and a kiss."

The other thing to consider, and it's an icky thing, is how you feel about a child with special needs. We wouldn't have been thrilled to find out one of ours would be Down's, for example, but we knew that we would still raise it. And there are other things that are subtler, like a gifted child, that still require more parental involvement than your average bear. You can't ditch a gifted kid with a nanny. They totally know what you're up to and they will figure out how to force you to pay attention to them.

I know that there are moms out there who really love doing the school christmas parties, taking kids to the park, setting up trips to museums and aquariums and hikes and scouts and all that crap. I am not one of them. I only do that stuff because I have to and even then, I don't do it much. I feel guilty all the time because MY kids are totally getting shortchanged. 

And the fear is awful. I have these panic attacks about stuff I have zero control over, like what if one of them has Alport's- my weird kidney thing? What if one of them does something insanely normal, like drive drunk when they're a teenager, and they get hurt or killed? Or worse, hurt or kill somebody else? What if one of them has an addiction? Addiction fear affects EVERY SINGLE DECISION I make. My kids don't get benadryl. I won't even consider ADD meds despite the three teachers and two pediatricians who thought Pirate needed them. (Screw them. I know what he needs and he's doing great without the meds. And two years in a row he smoked every kid in his class on standardized testing.) What if Pirate's girlfriend is 17 when he's 18 and her daddy finds out what they're up to and Pirate ends up on the sex offender registry for statutory rape? OMIGOSH! Is that a tick bite? What if one of them gets Lyme disease?

Your lifestyle will be less appealing than it is now. Being closer to your family when you have kids is a huge luxury because the only people you will trust to love them the way you do is a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Bangkok, any of the -stan countries, Africa, all those places will become bigger and scarier. Yes, we all know bad things can happen anywhere but living in a third world country where you are a political target is going to suck.

And if you think you have a hard time keeping up with your car keys now, honey, let me tell you. Getting kids in and out of cars without slamming little fingers or letting one of them strangle the other or letting the dog out while you're coming in and HOLY SHIT you have to pee because you couldn't go to a public restroom with a 7 year old boy but you couldn't leave him alone outside while you went... I defy anyone to remember where they left their keys under those circumstances.

On the other hand, Princess is hugging my neck right now, while I type.

Here's the thing. For somebody like me, quality of life goes down. There is no spontaneous any more. That Boy I Married and I did not spend a night alone with each other, without a child, for a year and a half after Pirate was born. (He slept in his room, we weren't the nutjobs who kept the baby in our bed, but you sleep with one eye open all the time while visions of SIDS dance behind your eyelids.) 

The payoff takes a while to kick in. Pirate was one before I began to enjoy him. And the payoff is so...metaphysical. I can't tell you one thing I'd like to do with my day that is centered around my kids yet everything I do with my day is centered around my kids. But I'm glad they're here. 

My house is trashed, I don't remember the last time I put on make-up, I'm suffering PTSD from the noise fatigue of three kids last night at dinner time (ours plus a neighbor), and summer vacation is killing me.

But still, I had the second one on purpose. I can't tell you why, so I made the slideshow.

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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Can't Stand It, Part II

If you've read the blog for a while, you might have seen this one. The blog about the fabulous Carolyn and how she is the person I want to be like. At the time, she was merely sick. But her son Frank, my first "date" for a school dance, had just been killed.

Well, it's not quite a year later and Carolyn is dying. Probably soon. Like tonight, tomorrow, sometime in the next day or so soon. If not, then in a few weeks. She knows it. She told my mama, who was there to take her blood pressure and make the call that she needed to be admitted, that "I think this is going to be the thing that gets me." Whatever the "this" was. Side effect from chemo, cancer, whatever.

And here is the part that breaks my heart. Carolyn isn't scared to die. She isn't even scared of Hell, if that's where she's going. She is afraid that she won't see Frank.

She is so convinced of her child's salvation and so unconvinced of her own that she is afraid she won't get to see him again. You know, if there is an afterlife. Maybe death is just the ending of us. And she won't see Frank then, either.

I know with every fiber of my soul that if there is something more for us than this plane, Carolyn will ascend to it. Everyone who knows her feels the same way. Her own doubt (and I know this, because we discussed it explicitly years ago) stems from the combination of intellect and Southern Baptist-itis.

Intellect forces questions. If you are smart and have any imagination whatsoever, it must cross your mind that religion is merely a construct to protect us from our own fear that we begin and end with our time here on Earth. It provides us with the comforting notion that ultimately, injustice will be balanced with judgment. It serves the spiritual need for fairness. Lives filled with suffering are still worth living for there must surely lie a reward at the end of a life lived by a loving, honorable spirit.

But maybe there isn't and it is only our own egomania that tells us that we are more than the sack of flesh that holds our thoughts and demonstrates our will.

Here's the thing, though. If you're Southern Baptist (or Catholic, or Muslim, or Sikh, or Reformed Jew or whatever the heck you are) there is a belief tenet you can't quite let go of. The common thread is that religion, or more accurately, FAITH, holds you to a higher standard than you will ever achieve.

I don't think that is a bad thing. A stretch goal makes you strive for more than you are. Even if we're all misguided nutjobs (except the atheists), if our faith provokes better behavior than our nature, that is not a bad thing. *

I just wonder if we aren't all right, those of us who believe in something more, in our belief. Where we might be wrong is in its application to our own selves. In my own life, I know so many people that I believe are in Heaven or destined to be there someday but I can't see how I will ever make the cut. I actually believe. I believe in the Bible, Jesus, sin, and judgment. I think the 10 commandments are not a bad roadmap for a life, even if nobody is ever going to make it all the way through without trouncing a couple of them. My belief does not exclude people of other faiths, other denominations, or even other interpretations of the good old Bible, but that is an entirely different discussion.

The point is, in my experience, the people who seek the hardest seem to be the most unconvinced that they are worth the grace of whatever higher power might be running the show. The sins we see in ourselves are mere foibles, human weakness and infinitely forgivable, in others.

If I believe that God loves US, all of us, why is it so hard to see how He could possibly love me? I hope that Carolyn has the peace of knowing a benevolent creator, one who sees foibles instead of sins, before she sees Frank again.

* Please note that in my unqualified opinion, Faith, in its truest expression, in any form, should raise humanity in general and the people that you know specifically. If an expression of faith causes pain or hardship to another, then it isn't divine in nature or spirit. It is an abuse of doctrine.

Friday, June 10, 2011

30 Days of Creativity™

30 Days of Creativity™ is a registered trademark of The Rejectionist Services, Intl.®, the same people who have been eschewing the lowest common denominator and dropping Mordor on your party since 2009. TRS is currently offering a Strong Language Advisory for their clients.

I did not think I would participate in this intriguing event, as it is now summer vacation for the Pirate and the Princess. Summer Vacation, the annual spiritual trial is also known as the Season of Ashes and Sackcloth, is marked by sunscreen textured fingerprints, a redneck above ground inflatable swimming pool, and inappropriate language in front of minors as I scrape fingerpaint handprints off the walls.

Plus, I'm wrestling a manuscript and closing in on victory. 

But I thought about it and realized that every day around here offers some example of creativity. Maybe not the sort that The Rejectionist® had in mind, but definitely creative. Here is how we are observing 30 Days of Creativity™:

Princess realized her kitty had a Velveteen Rabbit complex:

Mouser the real cat plus Princess' stuffed kitty
One day, I will be a REAL KITTY!

Pirate was in charge of the end of the year Teacher Gift. (I was room mom. What can I say, I lost a bet.) The kids all painted tee-shirts (Guess which square is the Pirate's!) and we took them to a quilter who made this:

Best Teacher Gift Ever

We rescued a batch of peaches from their sad state of decline on our kitchen counter and made peach ice cream. OH! And we painted the aforementioned redneck above ground inflatable swimming pool. Along with ourselves. The artistic stylings in crayola washable paint did not survive for long, but we did employ the pool in a creative fashion to create our own redneck spa:

Escaping household temp of 85℉ due to @##!^% landlord's unwillingness to fix. 

But Tuesday saw the pinnacle of our efforts in 30 Days of Creativity™. Daddy scared Pirate after bedtime on Monday night. He hid in the hallway and pounced from the dark, yelling loud and scary noises. Pirate jumped out of his skin and vowed revenge. Revenge took this form:

Snakes in the toilet!

So, yeah, I guess I'm throwing my hat in the ring for 30 Days of Creativity™, after all. Just don't expect a tapestry, a mural, or a hand knit toilet cozy. Around here we decorate our toilets with snakes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Things that are not normal but happen with frequency in Georgia

Rejectionist got me thinking with her post on things that are not actually normal but actually seem normal after 2.89 years in New York City. We all have a bit of the exotic in our own back yard. My own version, which provides an interesting compare and contrast:

  • A car horn that toots "Dixie", just like the General Lee from Dukes of Hazzard.
  • Your neighbor drops by, without calling first, just to chat. And then she just wants to chat. She isn't there to complain about your yardwork, after all. Bizarre, that.
  • You won't see Bjork at an art happening, but you might see Charlie Daniels at the state fair.
  • Not one really amazing Mexican restaurant in a town with a Mexican restaurant on every corner.
  • Army guys patrolling the downtown streets on the weekend. To keep the Army guys in line.
  • The AC repair guy looks you straight in the eye and says, "Well, in this heat, 85℉ is about the coolest you can 'spect to get your house, even runnin' the unit all day." And he looks at you like you're crazier than a three-headed cat when you ask him how Target manages to keep it to 72℉ with a lot more square footage. Because girls aren't supposed to think of things like that.
  • It really is cheaper for the boy to take the car in for repair than the girl. Plus, they don't try to sell him a new air filter every time.
  • People think it's weird or very ballsy to go to the grocery store without makeup or fixing your hair.
  • People who won't buy their own liquor because they are afraid they might run into somebody from church at the liquor store.
  • Jehovah's witnesses at the door and Watchtower tracts in the mailbox. With regularity.
  • Answering the door nude when the Jehovah's witnesses come. They don't come back after that. They still leave the Watchtower tracts in the mailbox, though.
  • Air shows are a major social event.
  • Strip club next to the farmer's market, which is next to a tattoo parlor. And another one of each the next block down. Dancers and artists must require a lot of produce.
  • The nicest thing someone says to you all day is, "We'll be praying for you, bless your heart."
  • The meanest thing someone says to you all day is, "We'll be praying for you, bless your heart." Usually after they see the empty wine bottles in your recycle bin.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lit Fic vs. Everybody Else

There have been skirmishes. Time lauds Franzen and does not deign to mention better selling genre authors, for example. The last bastion of all things intellectual, the BBC, does this. But the icing on the cake comes when another shot is fired across the bow by the newly minted Pulitzer winner, a woman. Yay! A chick wins! But then she slams on chick lit in general. What? It's like the girl in the office who makes fun of all the other girls and a couple of the guys for, you know, acting like a bunch of girls. Like she thinks it's her secret handshake for admittance into the boy's club.

Bad news, honey. At the end of the day, you're still a GURL. WO-MAN. One of WOMYN. Whatever. What you've accomplished is becoming the poster child/excuse for the Pulitzer committee to say, "We absolutely recognize women! See?" It does not bolster the validity of your accomplishment to disparage other successful female writers. It doesn't prove that they didn't give you that prize because you're a woman and there was some heat to throw us girls a treat. It doesn't prove that they did it because you write LITERATURE, not CHICK LIT.

Pulitzer's a big deal, dude, and mad props. You don't pull down prizes like that if you write crap. But that doesn't mean that people who will never be considered for prizes like that are writing crap.

We can talk circles until we are blue in the face about MEN vs. WOMEN in the literary community. But there are two things to consider:

  • ONE: There are more women writers and readers than men. That means, by default, that more commercial fiction is being written and consumed by women. A LOT more. It also means the the competition for these publication slots is wicked fierce.
  • TWO: Are the things women want to write and read unpalatable to Literature, with a capital L? And if women's interests are unpalatable to Literature, is it because men still decide what is Literature?

I can't speak to point one. I don't have the pedigree for it. I don't know why this is, if it should be, or if it speaks to some impending literary doom. But as for point two, I have a big, fat, WHAT?

Struggling to find your role in family and society, a life partner, children and jobs- do you want one or the other or both or neither...these things are not worthy of the "literary" title? They are ages old! Fairy tales often have widows or maidens seeking to make their way in a man's world with the deck stacked against them. Chaucer addresses such things. Jane Austen only qualifies as literary because she's been dead for, like, a gazillion years. Because let's face it, if she was writing today, the NYT would not review or recognize her silly tales of women who face societal challenges when finding their one true love.

As to fantasy, or even speculative fiction if you get down to it, there exists a rich history that includes the works of The Pearl Poet, Spencer, Mary Shelley, and the fantastical tale of Beowulf long before it could boast the likes of Tolkein and C.S. Lewis.

What really flies all over me is when people purporting to encourage reading send the subtle (or sometimes not) signal that it only counts if you're reading certain books. Here's the deal, plain and simple:

Good writing is good writing. It is NOT "pretty good for that genre." Or "a fairly talented writer wasting her ability." The talent of the writer is not devalued by the type of story he or she tells, the setting of the tale, or, heaven forbid, that there are women falling in love or having babies (or NOT!) within the story arc. 

Stories that explore LBGTQ issues, racial politics, mental illness, and poverty are important but stories that that speak to women's issues are derivative tripe? Deciding to have children or not, if you can afford them, if you can make your marriage work or if you should cut bait, miscarriages and infertility, if you regret the abortion you had when you were nineteen now that you are thirty-six and can't get pregnant...these are the real life every day dramas that many of us are living. Please don't tell us that we're being hysterical or melodramatic or that our stories aren't worth telling. 

How is it not misogynistic to only hail the fiction of women like Virginia Woolf (love her!) and Sylvia Plath (not so much)? Women only have depth if they are suicidal? Or, like Jane Smiley, tell tales of domestic abuse and rape survivorship? How is that not misogyny?

How is it not misogyny to say that the only works by women that merit critical acclaim are the ones that portray women as victims or read like a man wrote them?

Get over yourselves, lit snobs. When the years pass, the stories that still stand are the most universal, the ones that find a truth in the characters that predates our birth and will exist years after we are gone. These truths apply to women and men, people of color and mighty whitey, and people who love those of their same sex, both sexes, the opposite sex, or haven't figured it out yet. Our weaknesses and strengths pass down through generations and are recognizable in deep space, eighteenth century France, imaginary planets, and the 2011 version of New York City. Our stories are HUMAN.

Oh, and one more thing. The stories that survive to be greats? They have identifiable plot threads. Just food for thought.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Are you a misanthrope? Or just a snob?

Beware the self-identified misanthrope. If you are uncertain how to spot these people, here is a field guide:

  • Musical tastes: I loved their first album. Then they sold out.
  • Movie tastes: They don't make anything good. Unless it has subtitles. Except for Lord of the Rings. But I fell in love with Tolkein when I was 3 and first read The Hobbit.
  • Art tastes: Representational art with identifiable objects is for the uninitiated and Monet is for Hallmark cards.
  • Literary tastes: Why do you suppose only the college presses are printing anything worth reading? Nobody else puts out poetry any more.

Point of information: A misanthrope is someone who despises people. Someone who thinks they are better than everyone else is just a snob.