Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where Have I Been?

I am not sick, I am not in crisis; I am in the middle of a life, that includes at least three other people in it, and right now, they have to come first.

When I started this blog thing, a little over a year ago, I didn't know whether I would like it, stick with it, etc. It's been a learning experience, to say the least! I've found that I cycle through assorted emotions about blogging. Some days I could sit down and write two or three posts, other days I just want to walk away, and through it all I still have another job. I am a mom. A full-time, stay at home mom, and I take it seriously. There is no dropping the kids off at day care, or picking up take-out for dinner in my job. I make just about every meal we eat from scratch; I bake every cookie my family eats; I make and pack every lunch my kids eat; I check every page of homework, and help troubleshoot projects that are looming. I run our lives and it's my job to make sure everything goes smoothly.

So right now, I'm not here in the blogosphere, because I'm at work. This upcoming weekend we will be kicking off the holidays with a whirlwind trip to Richmond, to celebrate the 100th birthday of my husband's grandmother. She didn't make it to her 100th birthday - she died a week and a half ago - but her family stills wants to remember her and celebrate her life.

The very next day, we have to be back in Raleigh for my parents 50th anniversary. It is an occasion that has many gradations of emotion to it, and not all of them are happy emotions, but some of them are, and we will be there with our happy faces on.

The day after that, I'm throwing my annual Solstice party, which has become a family tradition over the years, and is usually quite jolly. This one promises to be the biggest Solstice party ever, due to the large number of out-of-town guests coming for the 50th bash. I'm a little frazzled - I've never hosted a sit-down dinner for 40 before - but so far (knock on wood) everything is getting done on schedule.

I have been cleaning, baking, wrapping, shopping, planning, for a month, on top of my usual job requirements. We lost a precious weekend of getting ready because we had to attend the funeral for my husband's grandmother, and I've had the dubious responsibility of assembling a pictoral slide show for the 50th bash as well.

So you see, as much as I love this blog, and all my blog-buds, I've had to put it all on the back burner for the time being. I'm wrestling with whether or not I want to continue as well - one cannot deny that blogging requires a fair chunk of time to do it well, and I have to decide whether or not it's worth spending the time on, and how to do that without shirking my real job. No doubt, I will be back, but how often remains to be seen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Tale Told By A Nine Year Old

...Full of sound and fury, and the occasional political snippet. I present to you, my son the Bohemian's turkey saga:

One Thanksgiving Turkey

One particular Thanksgiving a very special turkey was on my table. This is the unusual story of that turkey and how he came to be there.

Joe Turkey was born on a turkey farm, just like other turkeys, and he lived in a pen with his brother turkeys. He looked like all the other turkeys but Joe was different. He was smarter than the other turkeys, and he didn’t want to end up as someone’s dinner. Every day he wondered, would today be his turn? Would he end up being killed to make a nice Thanksgiving dinner? One day, at last, he found out it was his turn! He had to find a way to not get killed, but how? He had no time to think of a plan. Suddenly the pen gate opened. One of the turkey farmers came in to get another turkey. Joe ran out as fast as his turkey drumstick legs could carry him!

Although he was scared, Joe kept running. He didn’t want to get killed! A man jumped out from behind Joe and grabbed him. Joe sunk his talons into the man’s face, and he kept running. “Get that turkey!” a man shouted. Joe ran into a barn to hide. As he was looking for something to disguise himself with, he heard a sound behind him. It was Joe Biden, the soon to be new Vice President of the United States. He had given a long speech to the turkey farmers earlier that day and was taking a nap in the barn.

Wham! The barn doors slammed as the turkey farmers came into the barn. They were holding axes, and pitchforks. “Hey!” yelled Joe Biden. “What are you doing in here with those?” One turkey farmer spoke, “We’re here to kill that turkey!” There was Joe, and Joe Biden. Joe Biden licked his lips. “Looks like dinner to me, let me tell you some thing about Joe Biden, Joe Biden likes a good turkey dinner.” One turkey farmer said “get that turkey!” Joe flew out of the barn skylight. The farmers stabbed the ground.

Then Joe fell down out of the sky. He must hide. Slash! An ax fell next to him. It was Joe Biden! Away the hobbling turkey ran. But Joe was snatched by a turkey farmer. A boy held him on the block and, slash! Joe’s bloody head fell in a bucket. Then Joe’s headless body was plucked and papered (prepared, dammit - I missed this one in the editing!). Later my mom bought his body at the store. Joe‘s body was roasted with a delicious stuffing. And that is the story of how he came to be on my table, on this special Thanksgiving day.

This, I feel, is a story destined to be a classic, right up there with the Story of The Mince - an old family favorite (What? You've never heard of a Mince? The small, badger-like creature that was originally the contents of the now-famous pie? Come on...really? Sheesh...!)

Happy Turkey Day to all!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

It's like gasoline on a flame-

I'm doing a week-long lecture on North Carolina pottery and the origins of the face jug, starting later today. Oh, and I'm giving my lecture to 4th graders who will be making their own face jug in the coming weeks. I'm just sick enough to be excited about it too.

I'll be in later this week and catch up with everyone on my blogroll. Hope everybody had a great weekend!

A few of my babies (the pottery, not the books)


Addendum: I guess I should have clarified - I'm giving a lecture on NC pottery and using pieces of my collection (and Bea's) to illustrate. I did not make these - I wish I did, but who has the space or money to build a groundhog kiln, much less burn one? Nope, they're just a part of my collection!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Picture Takes The Place of Words

I'm having a hard time lately, coming up with the happy or funny fodder I feel like my readers want to read. Obviously that is all in my grumpy, dissatisfied head, because what blog reader doesn't love a damn trainwreck, especially when it's someone else's?

There's just a lot of crap going on right now in the land of Tapdancing. I could list it off like Prince Humperdinck, ending with, "I'm swamped!" but that would be far too much levity for my all-pervasive Black Celt mood, and really, most of what's weighing on my mind is other people's problems and my inability to solve or handle them.

So, to blow the cobwebs out of my head and maybe jump start the old metabolism, we took a long walk through the woods on Sunday. The fall color is just about peaking here in the Piedmont area and I had a big time taking pictures of all the loveliness (it never fails to improve my mood, to go and immerse myself in seasonal beauty). I played around in Photoshop with a couple of them, looking for a more artistic rendering of the same old still life and these are my favorites.
I love this filter - it makes a ho-hum photo look both dramatic and ethereal - and it's a lot easier than trying to write words that don't want to be written right now!
And yes, Ms. Q - I will make copies for you to mat and frame!
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Edited to add: I submitted these pictures over at Written Inc.'s thematic photograph for this past week. If you haven't seen this site, go check Carmi out!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A Brief But Suggestive History of Cleo's Parties

Flat out - they are the stuff of legend, and anyone who's lived in Raleigh for any period of time has attended one, or knows someone who has. No, seriously. I've broken the ice at more than one gathering by discovering a fellow alumnus of her infamous 16th birthday. That was the party that set the bar for the rest. When we arrived at it her mom was hitting the beer bong (among other things), and she was in good company, which completely freaked out my nice Catholic girl friend Ms. Q and our hopelessly square and preppy escort. They totally cramped my style that night, dammit!

Ask Bea about the birthday dinner party where she had to sit in the shitty seats with my sister-in-love, a vile bitch of an English teacher, assorted sycophants and bizarros, and my older brother, who can put even the truly illiterate to shame when he chooses to. Oh my god - he jumped up and down on that teacher's last nerve, with his deliberate dumb redneck-isms, to the great delight of the rest of us. And the birthday party that I dragged Bea to, where we ended up outside (because Sweet Baby Jesus, it was Open Mic Night inside the party) hanging out with this pair of brothers who were talking FBI conspiracy theories, and how their dad had been on an insider track for something like Roswell or Hangar 54, or something like that. I kid you not, and they were (in my opinion) a delightful reprieve from the usual attendees of those parties; overly theatrical, gushing and patently insincere. The kind of people who bring me out in a Tourette's rash, and make me want to scratch my privates publically, just so they'll go away. Hey - don't judge - it works.

So I knew when we went to Cleo's birthday party this past month that something would happen, because come on - something always happens at her parties. Bea and I arranged to stay the night, so we could tie one on responsibly, We arrived armed with mighty pillows and a bottle of Captain Morgan. In retrospect, we really should have known better than to go with the Captain. He is a bad influence, and has caused me to walk on my ankles or worse, sing like Ethel Merman on more than one occasion, but take him we did.

There were some old familiar faces at the party and it was great fun to reconnect with them, but there were a few new faces, one of which was a guy who had been around Cleo's party circuit for awhile, but somehow we had never met him. He was cute, articulate, self employed, liked cats, and most importantly, single. He also took a shine to Bea. Once the Captain kicked in, I assumed the role of Drunk Buddha, and advised Bea that she "needed to go break a few rules" that evening. The not so drunk, and infinitely wiser Cleo handled the finer points of luring the proposed couple out on the deck, and clearing the house. Then, taking Drunk Buddha (me) by the hand, she went upstairs to wait it out. We giggled together sitting up in her room, just like old times.

Now the rest of this saga can only be related by Bea, as it is her story to tell. She has not been very forthcoming, seeing as how she is very firmly a nice girl, who immediately feels guilty for sins of the flesh, but she did write this recently, and this, so maybe I'm the bad influence, not just the Captain!

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Unexpected Occasion

I had really hoped to get down to Holden Beach this weekend, to see Bennie's show and get to meet the man himself, but Fate had other plans for me. And if you get the chance, go read Bennie today - he had a horrid weekend at the show and yet, he still perseveres and tries to find the silver lining. I'm thinking of you Bennie, and sending all the good karma I can your way.

Ms. Q tossed us an early Christmas present and got tickets for the "Walking With Dinosaurs Live" that was in town. The boys are humongous dinosaur fans - they know more than I do - and are currently involved in making and educating a vast army of toilet paper roll based prehistoric critters, so obviously they were cheesed beyond delight to attend the show.
It really was a wonderful show; the stage effects were half the fun, with plants and flowers unfurling in front of our eyes, the paleontologist's droll narrative kept the pace moving, and of course, the dinosaurs were fab! I wish my pictures were sharper - my camera just isn't that great in low light - but you get the idea of how it looked.
Allosaurus and Brachiosaurus rumble in the jungle until the volcanoes make everyone head for cover.
Allosaurus back at harassing the brachiosaurs
I thought the volcano effect was awesome!
The flowers that grew up along the stage edge were fantastic. I heard someone behind me compare them to The Wizard of Oz, but I think they were even cooler, the way they used air to inflate them up and down.
A pair of Taurosaurs go at it for territory
And the winner grazes alonside of an Ankylosaur
Until the T Rexes come to town and clear the stage!It was a great show, and if you get the chance to see it, I highly reccomend it. This is one of those moments I don't miss not having little girls, because for me, I would much rather be watching this than Disney Princesses on Ice, or Hannah Montana in concert.

Thank you again Ms. Q - you rock it the best!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In The Voting Line

Even though early voting started last week, it took until today for it to reach Bumfuck USA, where I live. I got there about 9 AM, thinking "Hot damn! There's hardly anybody here!" Then I realized they weren't open yet, not until 10 AM, Figuring it would only get more crowded, I lined up with the other two people already waiting.

We were an interesting trio: Me, your middle class bohemian white girl, another woman, roughly in her late 40s, wearing a man's quilted flannel coat, cigarettes in hand, and an older sweater-clad black man, who was fairly quiet at first.

We started chatting, to kill time, and at first, we didn't talk election at all. Then some campaigner came up to us and started handing out pamphlets, which I pointed out to him, was forbidden in that area. He mumbled something to the effect, "Oh I didn't know..." and wandered off to easier targets. My line buddies were visibly relieved as he left, and confided in me that they were both first-time voters this election and didn't know the protocol of where and when campaigners may accost you. As I was pointing out the sign that told campaigners where to stop, one of our local hopefuls for the House came up, all hand shaking jocularity. I shook his hand, as did my buddies, and the woman asked him what he would do for us if he was elected. He began his list of well seeming, albeit vague intentions, and when he paused, I jumped in.

I pointed out that our town is one of only a few towns that surround Raleigh that don't have impact taxes levied against developers, that our growth is unchecked, unsupported, and irresponsible. After his eyebrows came back down to earth, he agreed, and told us he wanted to see impact taxes that would include more money for building schools and hospital/rescue services, as well as just for roads. And then he drifted away.

The cat out of the bag, so to speak, we began talking amongst ourselves about the candidates, although studiously not using names. The woman in the flannel coat muttered, "I don't want to see no hockey mom end up as president", acknowledging a fear many have, concerning McCain's advanced age, and his four-time fight with cancer already. I laughed and agreed, and turning to Sweatered Black man (and btw, I don't consider it denigrating to acknowledge someone's skin color, only to treat them differently for it) said to him, "I am very hopeful for this election, and it's potential to be of major historical significance." He nodded and told me that his sons had pushed him to go and register to vote, because they thought so too. "If my candidate becomes president it will go a long way to right a number of wrongs in this country", I said then, and he tilted his head and looked at me, as if just seeing me for the first time. "That's a really good way to put it", he said, and I went on to explain. "The divisions among us in this country have to end. So you're black, and I'm white, but we're both Americans, and we both want the same things out of life. Only by working together are we going to achieve that. A lot of Americans don't go and vote, thinking they have no representation or voice, but it's crucial that we all step up and cast our vote, and not leave it to a quarter of the population to decide everyone's futures."

I think I might have blown his mind, but in a good way, I hope. It's too easy to let our differences qualify us, to divide us, but what is this nation but a melting pot of ethnicities, of cultures, and should we let old rich white men call the shots for a culture of that kind of diversity?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Road Trip

We got up at the "butt crack of dawn", as Bea likes to say, to head down to Newport again. Bella, Bea's Siamese cat with the chronic lymphoma thing going on in her mouth, was showing signs of irritation again, and Bea was afraid it might mean the cancer was back with a vengeance. I went along for moral support, and took one of the furry herd, Pooh Bear, for his check up and shots.

We loaded the cats into Bea's back seat in the dark and headed out. I should say, my husband loaded my cat carrier, because not only do I NOT function in the pre-dawn hours, I've also been fighting a horrid chest cold this past week that's left me unusually weak and easily winded.

I had thought taking Pooh Bear would be a good call; he's generally a quiet cat - a total squirrel job, replete with nuts, but quiet - and he wouldn't upset poor Bella with a bunch of constant yowling. It's an almost 3 hour drive and the whole screaming cat thing gets old long before we've even crossed over I-95. (If you're wondering why we're going that far to see a vet, read this)

You might be asking right now, (and btw I'm really glad, reader, you've stopped using that strange poetic form of address where you started everything with "O". That was weird) "So, Tapdancing Woman, how did that work out?"

It's funny you should ask: the thing is, that damn cat, the one who was supposed to be the QUIET one? He meowed and meowed and meowed almost the entire way there. By the time we were going through New Bern, and almost there, I turned around in my seat to see what WAS this cat's deal, maybe even rattle his cage, just to make ME feel better.

I looked into his carrier and saw not one, but two pairs of yellow-green eyes looking back at me. I rubbed my tired eyes and counted again. Yep, four eyes for one cat, because obviously there wasn't just one cat in that carrier, there were two. Simon had stowed away, rather accidentally, and my husband, who apparently isn't at his best at 6:30 AM either, didn't seem to think a 30 pound cat was anything unusual.

It certainly served to break the mood of doom we had been driving under (we were worried about Bella, remember?)and the day just kept looking up. Bella did need the boost of a new antibiotic, but overall she was looking good, for a cat with a terminal disease. Pooh got his shots, Simon got his ears cleaned as incentive to never get in a carrier again, and we had an awesome lunch of local steamed shrimp, clam strips, hushpuppies, and sweet potato fries at a place called The Crab Shack. And on the way home we knew who to blame for the ever-present feline song of "Meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow, meow,..."!

Addendum: I completely forgot to tell you what happened when we got home that evening! I of the perpetually full bladder, had to winkle as soon as we pulled into the driveway, so I hobbled-ran past the hubman, and told him to get the cat out of the car, puhleeze! He took one look in the cage, asked Bea if the other cat was going to her house, and when she said no, he sighed heavily, thinking I had brought home another stray. The dork. Bea had to tell him to look again, whereupon he figured it out and great hilarity ensued. I mean really - who the hell can't tell the difference between carrying one cat and two? It's not like they're tiny kittens - these are some meat-packing males, ya'll!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Brief Candle

She was smaller than I remembered, shrunken in upon herself. Her hair, which had always been neatly coiffed was cropped short and a little tousled. It had only been two years since I had seen her but it was as if she had aged twenty years in that time. It was that rapid aging, I think, that slapped me the hardest with the obvious truth. It's one thing to know intellectually of someones illness, it's quite another to witness it firsthand. My aunt is dying. She's dying and there's nothing to be done but watch. Nothing to do but wait and make small talk. Nothing and that's the hardest part to wrap my head around, because I'm a do-er, a fighter. It's excruciating, the passive waiting, the watching, but it's not my call how this ends. I am "but a poor player that struts and frets", and I only have a walk-on part in this particular tragedy.

She could only handle short visits, so the hubman and I left to let her take a nap before dinner. We headed to the woods near where I had lived, a park called Chestnut Ridge. My mother's parents had their ashes scattered there, so in a sense, I was visiting my grandparents, but also like them, I find solace and refuge more readily in nature than in a church. I went there to cry, to have it out with myself before I had to appear again at dinner time, with an outwardly happy appearance. I thought a lot about the past; of the years we did live closer, of the family rift that seems to only deepen with time, of our imminent mortality and what we leave behind, each of us, as a legacy to those we loved.

Did I have an epiphany and go back to shed the light of my enlightenment upon those less fortunate? God, no. What light does anyone really want shed upon their personal time of grief? I walked under the ancient and gnarled apple trees in the park, collecting their freshly fallen offering. I cried as the grief came to me in waves and leaned on the strong shoulder of my beloved. I took strength from nature's cyclical immortality, and knew the blessing it is just to be alive. I gathered myself enough to go back calm and serene, and to not cast the burden of my grief upon already weighted shoulders.

There was a moment when we parted that evening; I held her face in my hands. I smiled at her with all the love I could not articulate. We embraced for a long moment, and said goodbye.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fly On A Very Strange Wall

Bea has the Psych degree - I have no formal education in the field, but I grew up in the household of a man who went from being a steelworker going to night school, at my birth, to a PhD in Psychology when I was about 12. I think it's a little bit more than just staying at a Holiday Inn Express, in terms of what you pick up, both in terminology and concept, as well as exposure to illustrative circumstances.

Which in plain English means as the kids of a shrink-in-training we were exposed to an underbelly of life other kids never saw, much less even thought of. My dad would take us with him on weekends, to Dorothea Dix Hospital while he saw patients. We didn't actually go inside the hospital, and frankly, I'm grateful - hospitals of all kinds are bad mojo, in my opinion - but we hung out on the grounds with the less dangerous patients. Comforting thought indeed, to a 9 or 10 year old, that these people, often aimlessly milling about, sometimes talking to themselves, were the less dangerous ones.

Once, my younger brother brought a Hot Wheels with him and was running it up and down one of those large, sort of pagoda-roofed trash cans. My older brother and I watched him idly, bored, killing time. An ancient looking old man kind of tottered over to us, stood near us, fascinated with the movement of the little red car. Up and down, up and down the trashcan my brother ran it, somewhat nervously looking at the rapt old man watching his every move. Abruptly, the old man reached out and took the car from my brother. We all stood slightly back, and a little closer together, as we watched him run the little Hot Wheels up and down. Up and down, up and down. My dad called to us just then, from the top of the steps, up at the front of the hospital, and we went to him. We left the car behind with the old man, figuring, as my younger brother said later, "He needed it more than we did."

As benign as that encounter was, it was disturbing to us. We knew something wasn't right, but we were clueless as to what that was. And for every benign, albeit strange encounter, there were others with darker undercurrents. I remember a woman stopping our car as we drove through the hospital grounds one summer evening. She leaned on the side of the car to talk to my dad, her arms prominent in my view from the backseat. They were covered with freshly healing wounds; slashes, gashes and holes crowded her arms from wrist to elbow, and I stared at them in horrified fascination. When I asked later about the scars and wounds my father's answer wasn't explicit, which is probably as it should be, but I still wondered about that woman and what had happened to her.

It made me look at the people on the street differently, wondering how many of these seemingly normal, well adjusted people who smiled as they passed were in actuality fragile and hanging by tenuous, invisible threads. It made me aware that the creepy man in the trenchcoat at the park wasn't there for the ballgame, and that every bum passed out in the bushes by the capital building, reeking of cheap wine and urine, had been someone's child once.

Perhaps that's where empathy is born - in that startling flash of clarity when you see someone who is ill, or hurting, or subversive - and you realize that you could just as easily be that person, as they could be you, given a different set of circumstances.

"Life on the streets, it isn't that bad
or all that it's cracked up to be.
Some are half crazy, others plain stupid,
some they just want to be free..."
Peter Case

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It's been a rough couple of weeks. The trip to New York was - difficult - I'm still processing it. I've been sick as a dog twice in that time as well, went to an epic birthday party at Cleo's where the Captain did me in, and life goes on, regardless of whether you're strapped in and ready for the roller coaster ride.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

Hola Mes Amies!

I'm up to my armpits this week in gettng ready for the whirlwind 1400 mile trek up north this coming weekend. Remember? I'm going to see my aunt, who's sick? So I'm kind of distracted this week, plus trying to bake and cook and clean, both for the trip and for the boys and Bea (she's the best nanny ever!).

I've started three posts but haven't finished a single one, except for the one I wrote for Brian over at The Cheek of God. I'm really tickled he asked me to guest post, and as luck would have it, the theme he wanted was something I'd been brewing over recently as well. Because we're actually Siamese twins who were separated at the age of 15 months (god I love to just randomly make up shit!), but we still communicate by telepathy all the time.


So anyway...! I hope you go check out my post: Biggest Change Parenthood Done Wrought (two links - I'm shameless ya'll!) Ooh! He even put up the pretty picture of me (what a sweetie) and he had the chance to go with the Baroness Von Munchausen one. That's how you know Brian is a true gentleman! Go now, read and report.

Friday, September 26, 2008

We Was Rotten Kids, Part I

We lived in the country, when I was little, right next to an old farm. I don't think I ever met Farmer Angle (yes, that's really his name) though I'm sure I saw him from a distance on occasion. We were sandwiched between him and another cantankerous blue-hair, Miss Bisson, which, when you're a household of four kids, means we were often under a disapproving scrutiny, and subsequently, frequently in trouble. (Actually, we were into trouble far more than we actually got caught for, which is why, my sister and I are convinced, my mother is insane now.)

Farmer Angle had cattle in the field behind our yard and an electrified barbed wire fence to keep them in. You could tell it was electrified - there were small porcelain knobs at intervals all along it. My older brother was fascinated with that fence. Once he dared me to go up and touch the wire, assuring me that it probably wasn't even turned on. We approached it together, cracking jokes about how chicken the other was and grasped the wire.

Have you ever touched an electric fence? They don't usually pack much of a charge, but it's still a pretty bizarre sensation. I remember the jiggly, buzzy sensation of electricity coursing through me. It seemed like my whole body was frozen in place, channeling current. I tried to pull my fingers off the fence but the electric impulse was stronger than my will, and they were reluctant to obey me. Forcing my other hand to pry my fingers off of the fence I was finally released from that paralyzing current, and my brother did the same. My mother never caught us, and we went back and did it a few more times, just for the sake of that bizarre sensation.

When I think back upon those times I marvel that we all made it into adulthood. I marvel even more that my sister didn't catch us and turn us in - she was always the better parent. (Sorry Mom)

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On another note...
I am one of the un-named today over at PapaTV's Fug Friday. This is the final edition of a truly inspired series of posts. If you haven't see this or read Brian Papa, go check him out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Meet My Hamster (aka, The Long Downward Spiral And It's Wherefore)

Other than to tell you about his predilection for shrieking "Galaxy Quest" quotes, I've never really introduced my little hamster, have I?

How remiss of me!

As you may have surmised by now, yes I have a tiny little furry rodent who lives in my brain and keeps me up at night. More often than not, it's after I've had the evening cup of coffee, or pounded a Coke Icee at the movies, but even without Demon Caffeine to poke the hamster, he's a bit of a night owl. He's the one who has to hash and re-hash, over and over all those skeletons banging about in my mental closet, muttering commentary in my ear on things that cannot be changed.

It's really annoying, and usually, just a sign I need to stop drinking coffee at night, or (eek) deal with the real stress factors, because let's face it - my ruined love life in 5th grade really isn't the problem in the here and now - it's just a well worn groove of "Should-a Could-a Would-a"** that's easier to traverse than the actual crap keeping me up at night. I think, I worry - it's what I do.

But lately,I'm overwhelmed by a darkness that sends my little hamster into hiding. This darkness follows me, blocking my view of the ever-hopeful sun, wringing out my joy by the gut-twist-fuls. I know it's name, I know I have no power over it, and that, I think, is what pushes me to the edge.

Four states away my aunt is dying of esophageal cancer. A year after her surgery, the cancer is back, and there is very little that can be done for her, hovering at a near-skeletal 80 pounds. They can't do chemotherapy, because she's too weak, and she can't seem to gain weight or strength.

I wanted to go and see her while I was up in Pennsylvania this past June, not knowing just how bad off she was, but my father pooh-poohed the idea and we didn't go. Now I'm kicking myself for listening to Mr. Ambivalent, and wondering if I'll ever get to see her once more, if only to say goodbye. I'm afraid of being a selfish jerk, wanting to hover at her bedside just to net myself some closure. I wonder - do the dying really want us to come and cry at their bedside? Does that help them? It seems sort of gruesome, to mourn someone's death before they've even passed on. I'm not sure what consolation I can offer my cousins - life hasn't exactly handed them a fair deal (genetic bullshit with a name I can never remember, but it boils down to them all having ticking time bombs in their heads, and its a gift that keeps on giving, from one generation to the next.) and now they have to lose their mother, their rock? It isn't fair and there's no "moving in mysterious ways" that's going to make it any more reasonable.

To further complicate the scenario,the two families are not particularly close, the causes being schismatic differences in religion, lifestyle, geographic location, and let's not forget the ever present legacy of my grandmother - ambivalence. But I love my aunt, and I enjoy her company, whether we believe in the same dogma or not. I see pieces of myself in her, albeit arranged differently, and I will feel an emptiness in my life when she's not there anymore.

You can see why my hamster is in hiding, can't you?
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Later~
I made a decision, after talking to my dearest husband and my beloved Bea, and making a few phone calls. I'm taking the trip to go see my aunt, to spend a little time with her, and my cousins. I need to have that chance as my sage friend Ms. Q so eloquently put it, to say, "You have made a difference in my life, and I love you'". To spend a little time together, so I can maybe let go a little more gracefully when I must.

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And the hamster begins his laps again, on the squeaky, creaky wheel in my head...

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** a Peter Case song - I love that NY boy!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I Blame The Cat

Oh my god, I am so tired - I can't think, I can't type. My brain is like bruised fruit - mushy, dented, and brown spotted. Coffee isn't working it's usual magic either; it's just giving my little mental hamster the shakes as he runs on his squeaky, creaky wheel, shrieking, "Never give up! Never surrender!" (My hamster is a big "Galaxy Quest" fan, in case you didn't know)

So why, you may ask, are you beyond fatigued, O She Who Tapdances through life? (Do you really talk that way, O Reader, my Reader? It's kind of freaky, but I like it!)

Well, it's not because I threw open my house for an impromptu dinner party on Saturday, in honor of Cleo. I cleaned like a mad woman all day, cooked a fabulous huge meal, and then threw down like the aforementioned lunatic as well. No, no, that can't be the cause. There weren't any Party Fouls to stress over - my brothers both managed to not set anything on fire, and I completely missed Bea lying on the kitchen floor for a brief respite, so I was all zen, in a skunked kind of way.

It certainly has nothing to do with me staying up too late, every damn night, in spite of the school regimen being in full swing. I have a mission and that mission is to kick Scrabble Maven's advanced ass so far down she can't ever get back up.

No, no, I blame the cat. Jezebel. The cat who sits outside my bedroom door every night, meowing piteously every quarter hour, like a Regulator clock, only with cat noises. I try to coax her to come in and get settled, I'll give you the pillow honey; but she's got a bad case of Perpetual Wrong Side Of The Door Syndrome, so either she comes in and out all night, with me getting up to escort her, or she has to sit outside and cry. Jezebel is otherwise my favorite cat, but she's killing my deep REM sleep single-pawedly (single cattedly?), every quarter hour of my night.

Yeah, that's it - it's the cat! It's ALL her fault!

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In Case You Missed It-
To hear all about the dinner party and how Bea ended up on the kitchen floor, go read Trapped Under Something Heavy - right now!!!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bitter Reflux (aka Bad Poetry)

She had hair that flew
when the top was down,
and reflected the light in her eyes-
built for fun, built for love,
she was ripe with the promise of life.

He was an artist,
a dreamer, (a prick)
a selfish myopic, eyes fixed on himself-
he used the word love like bait.

The chemistry of that time is gone,
only strands of memory drift down-
they loved - she lost
both him and their child,
and the meaning of things in her heart.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Anniversary of a Nightmare

I'm sure none of us need reminding that today is the 7th anniversary of the demise of the World Trade towers. Even from the distance of seven years later looking back makes my stomach hurt. It still makes me angry, makes me cry, sends me into a fresh wave of mourning. The horror of that day is etched so clearly on my mind, as I'm sure it is for you as well. I stood in front of the television, forgetful of my young children playing nearby, and watched, paralyzed in disbelief as that second plane really and truly flew into the towers, and the whole thing started to collapse. I cried helplessly, and impotently for the poor desperate people who jumped to their deaths, and the shattered remnants of families that were so abruptly left behind. I felt guilty relief in the knowledge that my loved ones were all safe, and abject terror at the thought of how quickly that illusion of safety can dissipate.

There is no happy ending to this tragedy, no sense or wisdom I can call upon. Only memories that have no resting place, that should never be laid to rest.

"For it is the doom of men that they forget."
-Merlin, "Excalibur"

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Ain't No Sunshine

"You junk punch him in his man business, then when he's writhing on the floor, crying "Why?", you point your finger at him and say, "YOU know why!"
- What Happens in Vegas

I don't know what that quote has to do with anything I'm going to write, but ever since Ms. Q brought that movie over we've been saying it. It just makes me smile, and I need all the smiles I can muster right now.

The Professor is home sick this week - the usual fever/sore throat/runny nose crud found in the ever incubating petri dish that is public school. Yay.

I have a genealogical consult on Thursday, that I've put off finishing the charts for, because the data for this one family branch went on for a week and a half in a tee-einy font. Turns out it looked that long because some of the same data was plugged into more than one spot, making one guy both 7th and 8th generation; uncle to himself. I spent my morning yesterday researching everybody in those two generations, in between nursing my pasty, hacking, snot machine of a child. Because that just enhances my ability to focus, see?

Can you tell I'm cranky? Yeah, maybe just a teensy bit. It wouldn't have anything to do with going to two grocery stores, buying just the basics and having 70.00 left for the next two weeks. The cost of eating real food is ridiculous anymore, and doesn't leave me any cushion for the necessary Runaway Mama Sushi Night Fund. That's bad people: mothers who don't get a break are far more likely to have their heads explode, causing trauma to their children and pain to their spouses (see above quote).

Brother can you spare some sushi?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

I feel like I'm in limbo this week.

We're settling into our school routine, and life is pretty smooth, more or less, but all the same, I'm distracted.

This is the time of year when the folks in the Southeast get a little edgy about the weather. Some years it gains us nothing to be watchful, other than a surplus of batteries, ice and charcoal. Other years, like the year Hurricane Fran came through(1996), or Floyd (1999) we were complacent, and didn't prepare, so when the storms came through we were caught with our pants down and the paddling for not having our ducks lined up was ugly. Nothing like having no power and nothing to eat in the house for almost 6 days to make you take it seriously, right?

I like to think that if we make all the preparations nothing will happen. That the hurricanes are somehow sentient beings who prefer to wreak their havoc on the unsuspecting, so if we are ready and watchful, they'll pass us by.

It's what I like to think, because it beats the hell out of remembering and focusing on the absolute terror of hearing that non-stop howling wind; of the continual rattle and pound of god-knows-what falling on your roof; the worry that the flooding will be too great and the yard will crumble into the creek, taking part of the house with it; of insurance companies who take their time or refuse to compensate. Of trying to get on with your life when even putting dinner on the table or washing clothes are major hurdles.

And yet, we are prepared, as much as we can be, and all there is to do is wait. Wait and see.

In the words of Inigo Montoya, from "The Princess Bride" - "I hate waiting."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Reincarnation

I did a double take on Friday, when I looked at the first picture of me I posted, and got this idea.
Okay, so who's the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn NOW?


I'm just saying, it's a little uncanny, and unlike other Anne Boleyns, I don't have an Irish brogue! (All right - I admit - I paraphrased that last bit from Mel Brooks' "Robin Hood, Men in Tights". What can I say - I love that man!)

Does anyone else think they resemble a celebrity? I'm suddenly reminded of a post theme Bea and I discussed recently...
Any thoughts, Bea?

Photograph of Anne Boleyn, by Hans Holbein. Provided by tudorhistory.org/boleyn/

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mammaries, Like The corners of My Boobs

I'm sorry - that was a completely miseading title, wasn't it? I'm a firm believer in paraphrasing sappy ass songs, and that is one of my personal bests. Unfortunately, I'm not allowed to sing the rest of it to you - it's somewhat blue (somewhat - ahahahahaha!), and I was actually going somewhere else with this post.

Ahem...!

It's hard to believe how fast time goes by. It was only last week, it seems, that I was holding my first born, freaking out over the immense responsibility I had taken on. And now, in the blink of an eye or two, it's 11 years later, and my little Professor is on his way to teendom. What the hell happened? I haven't gotten any older, how did he? At any rate, he's still one of my very favorite people in the whole wide world, and not just because he lets me ramble on and on about the English Reformation and the Birth of Piracy in the New World ("I could just listen to you talk forever, Mom") What a delightful suck-up!

Happy Birthday Professor! (singing, "and many moooore!")

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Unspectacular?

Vodka Mom tagged me for this meme, because I am "a smart ass". With an accolade like that, how can I resist? The problem lies in the fact that I am just not unspectacular. Nope, not a bit. Every moment of my larger-than life is sparkling, scintillating, amazing. I even crap epic. But for my darling martini-mixing mamacita, I'll try to dredge up something dull and humdrum.

Are you buying this yet?

A) I am a vampire. No really, I can't abide daytime. Nothing says "what the fuck is wrong with my life?" like getting up at O Dark Hundred. I love the nightlife. I've got to boogie.

2) I love throwing dinner parties, and I'm rather good at it, but I rarely do. Every time I have a party my family comes over, and my brothers try to burn down my house. Or they chip a piece of depression glass. Or plug the toilet (it's that epic feces thing again - it's genetic or something).

D) Despite my adamance in buying only the all-natural ice cream at the grocery store, when I get near one of those accursed Dairy Queens, all bets are off. Natural-Schmatural. Butterfinger Blizzards are my personal plasma fix.

9) I am a ridiculous marshmallow animal lover (snakes, not so much). I was standing in my front yard the other night, trying to tame a baby deer to my presence, and wondering if he would like catfood or if I should just go get some corn for him. He was starting to act curious about me, when Simon started stalking him. Stupid cat - he thinks he's going to bag that deer!

Q) My mother is the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn. I bet you didn't know that. She told me herself, after a pitcher of whiskey sours, when I was 14, but I was suspicious. I mean, did Anne Boleyn really have an Irish brogue? (Sorry, that was really a spectacular piece of trivia, wasn't it? I did tell you...)

Omega) Okay, wait. I got one. An unspectacular thing about me. No, seriously, I got one. I - dammit. It's gone.

Now because I'm an acknowledged smart ass, and a rule breaker to boot, I'm not going to link to anyone. Besides, I know ya'll would kick my aforementioned buttocks. BUT, if you would like to take this meme and run with it, give me a holler and I'll append this with any and all linkage, ah-ight?

And in other news...

Bea has posted her side of our Saturday night at the Palace. It's about as close as you're going to get to an alternate or worst-case ending. (How come no one wanted the Scooby Doo ending? Or like a Pride and Predjudice one? I could have done those.)

Appended to add: No one believes I'm a smart ass? Really? I gotta lay off the touchy feelie posts for awhile - I must be getting too deep.

Oh, and I thought of one finally, for #Omega: I won't let my kids eat junk food, but when they're at school, sometimes I treat myself on the sly. Shhhh, don't tell them!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

A Night At The Palace

I couldn't resist - I had to throw out a few crumbs , just to tease you.

Okay. Are you ready? You sure? I could go do the meme I'm supposed to do this week...No?

So we arrived at the palace, just a few minutes after 6 pm. The eroding driveway was so overgrown that Bea almost missed it, and when I pointed it out, she said, disbelieving, "Really? Is is safe?" I led her up the brick stairs that were almost invisible under an invading blanket of ivy and we were met at the top by Cleo, who hugged us both and asked after all the family.

See now, it would have been harder to get through, but infinitely better blog fodder if she had been doing her on-stage thing. Now you all think I'm making up the Sarah Bernhardt/Cleopatra thing, which I wasn't, but then she had to go and act all normal and shit. It's like some kind of radar or something.

We went in and settled ourselves on the wonderful old screened porch that sits atop the garage. It's always been one of my favorite spots in this house, and it's certainly one of the coolest. There was a drape that hid the door from view, and as a child, I would hide there when I'd had enough of playing, enjoying Cleo's escalating ire at not being able to find me. Bea and I had brought along a cooler of party beverages, but Cleo was just coming off a 9 day juice fast and was drinking vegetable broth, so she abstained.

There, are you happy? She was drinking vegetable broth, instead of eating, for crying out loud, and that's only the tip of that girl's iceberg. The last time I went to the beach with her she freaked out all the local color with her hairy arm-pitted, sun saluting yoga stuff. Folks just aren't that groovular around here.

We talked about her mom, and her last few months. We brought up the obligatory ancient history and discussed possible whys for some of her mother's more traumatic and showy moments in parenting, how it affected all of us in different ways. We didn't eulogize the woman, but neither did we eviscerate her, because where does that get any of us, especially now? I was relieved to hear Cleo talk about her mother in such an insightful way; glad I wasn't going to have to pick her up and re piece her sense of self back together. She seemed to have found deeper understanding and peace with her mother, in those last months spent together, and for her sake, I was grateful. Closure is so important in getting on with your life, and easier to achieve with a living person.

I asked her if she remembered the time we were approached in the park by a man in a trench coat. He wanted to show us "a little something" and our answers were polar opposites: she said yes, and I said no, as I dragged her from the park. Since that particular memory is from the same period she had blanked out on years before, I wasn't surprised she didn't recall it. It is my fate as a historian that I remember what others forget.

We also talked about our love lives and what we were doing in the here and now. Cleo included Bea in these conversations, and was a kinder, gentler hostess than I have ever remembered. All in all, and rather anti-climactically, we had a lovely evening together. Even Bea would concur.

Dammit.

I feel kind of ashamed of myself for building you up, just to say, "Yeah, it was alright", but Cleo did tell me she's planning on having one of her famous birthday parties in October. Now those are never staid or dull.

So stay tuned - October is just around the corner!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Dinner And A Show

The two women walked silently out of the sushi bar and got in an old Toyota, it’s once silver finish now more of a primer gray. They were almost out of the parking lot before the passenger spoke:

“You know, if she’s really acting up we won’t stay long, I promise. I really appreciate you coming with me, but I wish you had ordered sushi – now I feel all indebted and shit. Does this mean I have to be nice to you, too?”

The driver smiled knowingly, at the decrepit inside joke, and with an uncanny Yoda-sense she replied, knowing it would be more soothing than kindness:

“Beotch! I’m waiting to see how bad this night turns out, before I send you my bill!”
They laughed together and drove on towards the palace.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What Was I Thinking?

Sweet Jesus!
It's the last weekend before school starts and the guys are going out of town.
That means Bea and I should be whooping it up, except...

Except that I've committed us (in every sense of the word) to a Saturday night of sipping fruit juice (fruit juice! dammit!) in the house of a dead woman, while we watch her daughter, Sarah Bernhardt, perform the role of Cleopatra.

Yeah, that was me, freakin Joanie of Arc, who signed us up for this gig.

Bea, true friend that she is, has been very gracious, but I know this isn't her idea of fun. It doesn't help that, even after 20 years, Cleo can't remember Bea's name. It's the kind of girl she is, and a big part of why I keep my distance from Chez Cleo.

"Nobody puts Bea in a corner."

So Bea, I want to apologize in advance for the blatant rudeness you will be subjected to tomorrow. I cannot thank you enough for going with me into the Palace of Self Absorption, and being the lifeline of sanity I know I'm going to need.

So, sushi? It's on me...!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Muddy Waters

The phone call came today, from my friend whose mother died. I was afraid she would be brittle and unyielding in her coping; impossibly imprisoned in her fairy tale tower of protection, but grief had levelled her. On the phone, she sounded like the girl I knew so long ago, her older, more interior self. As we talked a million memories, some muddy and indistinct, others crystalline, bobbed to the surface of the silty depths of my mind.

Reaching for those memories down in the sludgy bottom of my consciousness, I hesitated. My fear of what might be lingering, lurking there in the sediment, forgotten, kept me from trawling through that dormant, long buried past. For now.

I think it's time to drain the pool, and clean out the debris.

We are getting together on Saturday to visit with each other, to reconnect. In part, to pay my respects, but also to grieve together, something I'm surprised to discover I need to do.

As much as I have vilified her mother, painted her as a narcissistic monster of selfishness (and she was), as an adult I recognize her impact on my life. I realize that my memories are colored in crayon, the memories of a child, and there were undoubtedly undercurrents and dynamics I was ignorant of that played into the scenes I witnessed. I owe it to myself and my friend to steel my nerve and dig into that past, if only to affirm our bond to each other as situational siblings, but maybe also to make some sense of the things that haunt us both.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Few Things You Might Not Know

Bennie Waddell has twice described me as an iced tea sipping, firefly catching, laid back good ole Southern girl. While this is very flattering, in truth, I am none of those things. I feel compelled to 'fess up to you, so you don't get the wrong idea about me, though, in truth, you might like the fiction better.
  • I am not a Southerner, though I have lived in the south for almost 40 years. I think that's what's called a "Damn Yankee" - the ones who don't leave. As much as I love the South, there is a part of me that will always yearn for the Great Lakes. Okay, two parts of me: my heart and my stomach.

  • There are many things about the South I love and embrace - Barbeque, hush puppies, shrimp and grits, biscuits, okra (if it's done right), the way a little snow stops the whole world - but iced tea is NOT one of them. Neither are Brunswick Stew, collard greens, sausage gravy, NASCAR, or Pepsi as a breakfast beverage.

  • Beverages of choice for me are (in order of importance on a daily basis): coffee, water, Coca Cola, seltzer, Dr. Pepper, orange juice, Newcastle, Red Drinks, margaritas.

  • I would SO kick my kids' asses if they caught any kind of wildlife, including fireflies. We have a No Intervention policy here concerning the fauna.

  • I am not a particularly laid back individual - actually, I'm kind of a monkey on the edge, but I play calm and cool really well, don't I? (In related content, I have been quoted as saying, "I'm a HAPPY person, DAMMIT!")

So while I just love Bennie for thinking I'm a groovy hippie Southern girl, I have to admit - I'm just not that cool. But I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express once - does that count for anything?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Smudge of Embarrassment on Your Collar

I was at the grocery store the other day, without the kids, meandering the aisles. I stopped in the medicine aisle to buy some ibuprofen. Next to me was this guy, your average joe, looking for something. He started in the pain relievers and wandered down the aisle, looking lost, as I got my drugs and went to check out.

I didn't think much of him until I noticed him checking out next to me. He scanned something that evidently didn't have a bar code, because the uppity You-Scan computer informed him and the world that a cashier was needed, STAT. I glanced at what he was buying - it was four; count em -4 boxes of Midol.

I couldn't help it - I laughed out loud.

I said to him: "It's bad enough that you get sent to buy this stuff, but then the register won't ring it up and has to announce storewide that you need help. Buddy, you are in Man Hell!"

Evidently it was funnier to me, but then, I'm not the guy buying Midol.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Summertime

It's mid-August and summer is passing before my lazy eyes. The flower beds have been beaten down by heat and Japanese beetles, and all that remains to delight the eye are the rogue flowers of the climbing weeds, like cow itch or morning glories. They creep into the beds and up the trees, hide under the bee balm and Gerber daisies, waiting for their moment to emerge. It's almost like they know; I haven't the heart to destroy anything that blooms in late summer. I haven't the heart for many things right now. With the passing season comes the reality that I have to do something about Jasper. Right now, and for a few months more, it'll be warm enough for her to live comfortably outdoors, but come late October, maybe November if it stays warm, I have to say goodbye and ease this old cat out of life. She's the last of the cats from our college years, and the end of an era, and in spite of her random piddling ways, I love her and will miss her. With her goes that last tangible thread that led to my youth, my life before this one.

Ever onward and upward, still, it's hard not to look behind as you leave a chapter forever. The kids are gone this week, up to visit with my sister. The silence is wonderful, and soul refreshing, but I miss the nectar of their sweet laughter and warm hugs.
My garden, seemingly empty and bereft, in spite of being overgrown, but hidden green peppers burgeon and ripen in anticipation of the boys' return. And ripe tomatoes make BLTs sublime. On Friday, August 15, I will be guest posting over at A Work of Art for Bennie Waddell, who's on vacation. Come check it out!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"They Really Like Me!" - Sally Field

Bennie Waddell, over at A Work of Art just totally made my day! He's put up a review and link to my post Exploratory Soul Surgery and I'm just bowled over by the praise! Thank you Bennie - you know I love you too!
Go check him out - he's got the best video up right now, about "Redneck Chihuahuas". I laughed my ass off watching it, and I defy anyone to watch it and not get at least a chuckle out of it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Childhood Memory

There are moments in time that are so vivid, we can almost reach out and touch them.

I am 4.

I am standing in between a pair of sheets drying on the line. Through the gap in the sheets, the ellipse of sky above me is pale blue and filled with puffy, lake-born clouds, scudding by on the Northern summer breeze. I breathe in the scent of Tide and cotton, but there is also the sharper smells of earth and grass.

In my cloak of white, my fortress of fiber,

I am invisible. I am safe.

It is a moment trapped in the amber of my memory, fossilized into something gemlike.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Exploratory Soul Surgery

The elderly mother of a childhood friend died over the weekend, and I went to the reception/wake that was held for her. I hadn't spoken with my friend for a couple of years, partly because she moved out to Arizona, and partly because when she did come home to visit she always wanted to reconnect with 20-30 friends at the same time, in a celebrity/paparazzi kind of gathering, which, in my opinion, isn't really about reconnecting with any of those people - it's about stroking an ego and feeding an exhibitionist's jones for attention. Maybe I'm just inflexible, but I just can't stoke that bonfire of vanity.

Walking into that house took me back to 10 years old. I instinctively looked to see if there was still a curtain by the entrance to the screened porch to hide behind. The energy of her life, the deceased, was still palpable in every room, or maybe it was just my vivid memories. I stood testament to so much in that house. A stream of folks wandered in and out of the reception. I recognized some, but others were too transformed by time for me to easily recognize them. The big elephant in the house that day was the absence of my friend, at her mother's memorial. Her older sister made excuses for her absence, explaining she had to attend a yoga workshop out west, but her rolling eyes added an editorial I understood too well.

The story, the dynamics that set this scene in motion, go much deeper than a simple power struggle. Despite having several sisters, my friend was, in many ways, an only child. She was a post-40 Whoops child, and her sisters were all but grown up and out of the house when she came along, so she enjoyed and suffered the full brunt of her mother's attention and neglect. Her mother was a very bright woman, both academically and artistically, but she was also extremely competitive and often angry at the world around her. Her marriage broke up when my friend was about 3 or 4 and she never remarried, choosing to live and raise her youngest daughter alone.

I don't think I can effectively summarize the myriad stories of my childhood that played out at their house, that are part and parcel of my friend's no-show. Some are good stories. Little girls playing dress up with a box of antique petticoats, riding side saddle on almost as antique Schwinn bicycles, transformed by imagination into glorious steeds. Dazzling late night parties peopled by local celebrities and politicians, where we were introduced as a pair of precocious princesses, and oh, how we loved to play the part! I enjoyed a rarified upbringing in that house, exposed to books, art, theatre, politics, and the then burgeoning feminist movement, and I owe all of that to my friend's mother. But there are darker stories of her influence as well.

Some are downright nightmares; cataclysmic storms of misplaced rage, apathetic neglect of both her child and her home. In my mind images of spacious rooms with elegant furnishings; a baby grand piano in a room full of windows, antique portraits of ancestors hung above family heirlooms, are juxtaposed against images of a refrigerator full of spoiled food, a basement crawling with almost sentient mold, and a woman whose variable moods and deadly temper made me grateful for my own batshit crazy parents, and the fact I could go home at 5 o'clock. We were never quite sure what would tip her off; a dirty towel on the floor, a broken ashtray, but we knew, once she got going it wasn't going to end until someone was shredded and in tears.

My friend told me once about a bad experience she had while partying - that she had all these really traumatic images of her mother and her grandmother boil up and she couldn't tell where it had come from. She thought it had all been a product of her inebriation, but as she described the images to me, I was horrified. They weren't fabrications, they were suppressed memories of her childhood. I knew what they were because I had been present for many of them, and it is not my luck in life that I can forget, though I wished I had, so I could have feigned ignorance for her sake.

I can't say with authority why my friend wasn't there at that memorial/wake/reception. All I can tell you is what I know of what came before, and even then, I feel like there is a ghost who wants to shut my mouth.

Friday, August 1, 2008

On The Edge of Reason

It sounded like a good idea at the time:

With school out I haven't had any real need to have a car every day, and since the hub-man is still driving the Grandma-mobile (a 1987 Chrysler with only 50,000 miles on it - oh, and no AC.), it made sense to let him have my beloved Toyota Corolla ("Take you there, it will - cost you much, it won't" - Yoda). We could save on filling up two tanks with gas and he could ride in air conditioned comfort during the dog days of summer. We want to buy a new car, but where was the sense in making car payments all summer when we didn't have to? Oh yeah, we're some farty-smarties, being all frugal.

Reality Check:
I have two of the best behaved kids in the world - no really, they're good guys. They are kids though, so some days they bank off of the walls; some days they're evil as snakes, and fight with each other. Putting them to work calms them down like magic, and banning them from playing together for the rest of the day invariably makes it irresistable for them stay away from each other for long. They're easy, more or less - it's the fractious, antsy, twitchy mom I'm having problems with.

I feel like I'm trapped at home, drowning under an ocean of dirty clothes and monotony. While it's great to be able to stay up and sleep in, I miss my quiet time in the morning, after the guys are at school. I could think. There wasn't any chirping, "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom,Mom..." ad nauseum. It hasn't helped that the hub-man has had to work longer hours lately, on a fairly important project at work, so there's no grown up besides me until 8 or 9 some nights. And when he's tired, he's not much better than a grumpy toddler, really. So yeah, I'm jonesing for some grown ups. Did I mention that Bea is leaving me next week? Psychotic break-time, anyone?

My oldest cat, Jasper, is on her last leg these days. She's become so incontinent we've had to keep her outside, the guilt of which impels me to feed her three times a day and change her water, replete with ice cubes. I also set up a bed for her arthritic old bones to lie upon, but come fall, if she hasn't just turned up her toes, I'm going to have to do the deed and gas her. This, of course, isn't much of a mood booster.

Just like the sun, when it goes behind a cloud, I know things will clear up, all will be resolved, and I will be back to my usual self. It's just in the meantime, "I'm looking down, Shrek!"

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Writing's On The Wall

Or rather, on the page. The REAL page.
I'm breaking with my own non-conformist ways to go with the crowd on the handwriting post. I know, it's so unlike me, but I really thought it was clever, kind of cool, and hard to resist.
I saw this first at:
Chani's

Flutter's

Jennifer's

Brian's
And now you get to see what the handwriting of a lunatic - pardon - eccentrically creative individual looks like. It might be easier to read some of the others!

See now, that was on lined graph paper - anybody can stay fairly even and nice looking. But here you have the chicken scratchings I do when I'm on a roll and writing at a more normal pace. It's hard for even me to read! (Addendum: I just noticed that you can see the picture I was doodling on the back of this page. I think there's a calendar on there too. what can I say - I think this was written in carpoop, which is V boring! But it's kind of trippy to look at up close. Go ahead - you know you want to!)
It's sad, isn't it? That such a sweet little child could grow up to have the handwriting of a killer. Or maybe a doctor? Or maybe, just plain ole scribbling?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Thought Process, aka Procrastination

the women in this painting need faces. I've held off painting their faces because I knew they weren't going to look like the women in the photograph, but I wanted them to have some of the essence of the photo, nonetheless. It doesn't help that these are my grandmother and my great grandmother in this picture. Their own personal identities have been obscured by time and family dysfunctions. So whose face, whose essence do I paint into this picture?

The going has been slow, and I confess, I am easily distracted.

After doing a little thinking with a pencil in hand, I realize that their faces are pieces of myself.

I tried to remember how my great grandmother's eyes were large, and dark, though somehow empty when I met her. And I was little, so she was no doubt, a bit daunting. In my mind, she is alway sitting at the end of the flip-up formica table in my grandmother's kitchen. She is tiny, birdlike in her fragility, and she's hunched over, smoking perpetually. (There is something terribly wrong with the nose on this woman - I'm going to erase all my pencil marks and start over.) My grandmother, on the other hand, is obviously the protagonist in this picture. While sketching on her I realized that this affinity, or sympathy for who I thought she might have been like in her early married life, is the real subject of this painting. And while there may be aspects of myself in each of these figures, my identification with both of them becomes the hidden portrait in this painting. Hmm, food for thought. So there you have it - a glimpse into my painting block, and the annoyingly self-absorbed psuedo-self-analysis that goes along with figuring out where to go.

And it's only Monday!

Woof - who's up for a lunch break at Tacos Mexico? (this is the procrastination part, like you couldn't tell!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Painting With Words

Travelogues are easy...too easy.

It's like following along the lines in a coloring book. Sure, you get to decide what color to make everything, but the image has already been decided for you. I'm usually the one who takes the pictures , so the creativity is still there in a travelogue, but the artist, the poet in me, notices the lack of impasto to my words. The lack of tenebroso, the wallpaper smoothness with which I present a pretty slice of life to you.

It's a hell of a lot messier in real life. The everyday passions and woes leave splatters and splashes of red anger, and slate blue sadness; sunny yellow children's kisses and grey streaks of self doubt leave their marks upon the walls of my mind.

I'm not much of a housekeeper because I kind of like the clutter of life around me. Still, I'm hesitant to ask you in, afraid you'll see the mess and think less of me, despite my disclaimers of, "Please excuse; it's usually not like this", because, honestly? It usually is.

If you don't mind mental messes, please come in. I'll make a pot of coffee and we'll talk, while we fill our minds and mouths with tarty-sweet cobbler ideas.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Ringaling

Pictures by Bea

So we went to the Christmas In July art show this past weekend, and had more fun than people should be allowed to have, visiting their sister. This is because there was shopping involved, and it wasn't for the cheapest groceries, or socks and underwear. No, no, it was shopping for beautiful handmade things made by folks we know and love. Here I wave at Bea, because I forgot to even bring my camera with me. I felt naked all day long.Here are some of the dolls made by The Fairies Nest. The Crow Woman in the foreground is one of my all time favorites of hers. I want to have her come live at my house but I'm afraid it would mean her death - my many cats would delight in tearing the feathers off of this exquisite flight of fancy, and then I would have to mass exterminate and Geez! that's tough to explain to the kids! This was a brand new fairy - I'm ashamed to say I've forgotten her name (I think the wassail might have been spiked), something like Callie Ente, 'cause she's the Hot Sauce Fairy! I just love this doll, from her red pepper overdress and her little buttoned boots, to her tiny little bottle of Tabasco! This fairy is a cat guardian, by the name of Kit. Her cat's name is Thomas. Her pinafore is made from a fabric that has little cats all over it. The cat was my favorite part of this - I really want a trio of them in different colors, to put in a basket. Like Callie, Kit also has the new boot foot, which has bitty little beads sewn on as buttons. It's the details that make these dolls so incredible!This one is called The Autumn Harpist. He is a very groovy Cerunnos type of woodland deity, with his antlers on his forehead the incredible little lyre he's holding. I played around with arranging him when no one was looking. Oh alright - so I re-arranged all of them - hey, she's my sister - I can play with her dolls if I want!This mermaid is another of the bigger dolls and is really a one of a kind. She's hanging next to a display tree of okra ornaments. These things are wild - they twist and curl in all sorts of shapes! They are both bizarre and beautiful at the same time, and I've gotten hooked on collecting them.As you may know from previous posts, I have a pottery Jones. I rarely get to give in to it, but the hand painted flowers and designs on these pieces of Earthworks Pottery are so incredibly rendered, like little paintings on each piece, that they're irresistible. This is the one I want! Check out the okras - they are so funky and fun!There were other things for sale too; crocheted shawls and hats (I had my eye on a raspberry beret, and even modelled it, while singing the requisite Prince song. Oh, you know you would do it too!), handmade marbled paper and books, and jewelry. I don't know why Bea didn't take pictures of them - it could have been the wassail - but at least she remembered to bring her camera, so she was doing far better than I was!

So how was your weekend?

Friday, July 18, 2008

A Different Kind of Infestation

Because you asked for it (well, Kelley did, anyway), here, now, for your entertainment and enlightenment, I present to you:

Legos vs Imaginext, in

The Battle For The Middle of The Living Room

You might think having an insect infestation in your house is annoying and bothersome, but I'm here to tell you there IS something worse. It's an infestation of plastic and if it's ever happened to you, then you know what I'm talking about; chances are you were the boob who brought it into the house in the first place.

The Phantom Shark as the steed of the Imaginext's leader, Italian Guy (I don't make this stuff up - this is really his name, according to the guys)

Below, the Puppet Master, aka the Bohemian, dangles a reconnaissance mission over the battlefield. This is serious stuff, people - look at that face - does he look like this is FUN?

The dinosaurs add a terrifying aspect to the battle, and are also quite painful to step on in your bare feet, in the dark.

The Professor arranges his men in a replication of one of Napoleon's battles. Or it was a replication, before the dinosaurs showed up and freaked out the Lego guys. Then it was total chaos - oh yeah!

A big fan of little chewable things, Simon gets into the picture and takes out a few dinosaurs for the Lego side. Don't you feel like this is one of those blockbuster fantasy films, uncannily unfolding on my living room floor? ("The Chronic - what? - Cles, of Narnia")

The Legos' leader plans his strategy, while his honor guard stands by.

And there you have it - the horror, the carnage, the living hell that is my living room floor these days. And you thought you wanted to see it, that you could handle the truth. It isn't pretty, is it?

(But it was an awful lot of fun to take pictures of!)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Much Ado About Stuff


It's quiet here lately at the Edge; too quiet, I think.

You would think that with two vacations under my belt already this summer I would have more to talk about, and yet, I've been struck dumb, trying to configure a post for week.

It's not that there's nothing happening around here, there's plentyof crapola hitting the rusty fan. But who really wants to hear our epic saga of tearing up carpet in the kids' room that has reached it's cat piddle limit, and how the Legos and Imaginext dudes are mounting an invasion in the living room right now? I annihilated an entire legion the other day, just by dropping a laundry basket on them, but I'm thinking I'm the only one who's going to do the headless chicken dance or whatever to celebrate.

Tomorrow we're headed to Ms. Q's for a pool party and cookout, so there's that. But that does entail swimsuit wearing by all of us. I'm not so sure I want my nekkid parts hanging out in the blogosphere, and I'm pretty sure Ms. Q is going to put up a fight as well, even with her trademark evening length swimsuit. So there might only be cookout shots to see, and now you're feeling like you just have to see those big, fat, dimply, white girls in their swimdresses, but it's a No Can Do. I have so little left to be vain about, you know, in the oh! so glamorous world of the aging woman; I'm keeping my thighs to myself, as much as possible.

The Fairies Nest is having her annual Christmas in July art show this Saturday and Sunday, July 19th and 20th. This is actually a show with several artists under one roof. Their work is all handmade and ranges from dolls and fiber art to pottery, jewelry, textiles, paper and books.
I have to admit: I go to buy my sister's dolls, but I always end up buying at least one Christmas present at these shows, and because this is a Christmas in July show, there will be Christmas carols and holiday refreshments to get you in the mood.



Admit it: you want to go, don't you? So now, all you have to do is pop over the Fairies Nest and ask her how to get there, or if that seems too forward or complicated, just leave me a comment with an email address and I'll tell you how to get there.

So now you know why the ole Blog is suffering: because I'm out having way too much fun!