Friday, April 27, 2007

Great Rant

My blogger pal Tracey over at More Than A Minivan Mom has an excellent rant going.

I have in-laws in town, so I'll send you her way.

And while you're at it, head on over to the Blogger's Choice Awards, where you can cast your vote for her blog for "Best Blog About Stuff". You can also vote for my pal Suttonhoo, who I nominated for "Best Blog About Stuff" and "Best Photography Blog."

These girls have mad skills and you should vote, yo! (You can vote for two people in the same category, just not the same person more than once!)

the games people play

The other day, when Joe-Henry was home from school, we were playing pictionary in a tent we'd set up in the basement.
Playing pictionary with a 6 year old is like nothing else in the world.
Here's what transpired....

the card I drew said "blink"
So I drew an open eye -
He said "Alien!"

I drew a closed eye -
"Fluffy clouds! A chair!"

I drew another open eye -
"A fluffy, alien chair!.....

From 6 to 30 in the blink of an eye.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


I was sorely tested yesterday. And by "sorely", I mean, I have the bruises to prove it. I kept Joe-Henry home from school yesterday because he was really crabby when he woke up. He'd been coughing a lot in the night, and he was complaining of a pain in his back. So I let him sleep in, and took him to the doctor, even though I knew that he was more than likely, just worn out.

His lungs were clear, and the doctor determined that he was probably sore from climbing the rock wall. By this time, the pain in his back had migrated to his front, and even last night he complained of pain that woke him up.

Let me just say, that I have come a long way in six years. I've gone from taking him to the doctor for everything to, well, not as much. And since we've moved here, we've only gone four times, which for a hypochondriac like me, is practically cured. Granted, in the beginning, I had all kinds of excellent reasons to visit the doctor once a month or more - his kt, which is one of the most mysterious syndromes around, coupled with a bout of rsv that landed him in the hospital at two months old, followed by hypospadius repair surgery at 10 months old, as well as a diagnosis of "benign external hydrocephalus" - a link I won't include because I can't research it even six years later without hyperventilating, but in layman's terms, a big head just like his Dad. Needless to say, all these freak medical issues left me with a panic meter that was constantly in the red zone.

But yesterday, I was worried about the breathing and coughing, as well as the fact that his pain moved from his back to his chest, and he talked about his heart hurting. So I needed to make sure. I even knew, in the back of my head, that he was probably just fine. And he got a clean bill of health.

All this meant he spent a whole day with just me. He was still crabby and tired, and I don't know if all that rock climbing left him with a drop/raise in testosterone, but he was, and I say this with all love and devotion, a MONSTER.

I am so patient, up to a point. I put up with it, with the usual consequences, etc., until I just can't anymore. We didn't disintegrate to the level of previous battles, but it was close. When I was sitting on the couch, he'd sit on the end, then stand up and land, with all his bony angles on my soft parts. I told him to stop. He kept at it. He got punished. He'd try a different angle. By the time I got him in the bath, I was hanging on by a well-worn thread. He kept pushing it doing all the things that make me crazy - not listening and being, basically, a little shit. As he sat in the tub, dissing his mama, I muttered under my breath as I left the room "Ohhhhhh, I'd really like to leave right now."

Can you guess what happened? Can you? Because it went as you probably predicted, but even though I know my son's every nuanced mood, I wasn't prepared for it. How is that possible? I don't know, but sometimes the behavior of those we know and love most can still take us completely by surprise.

All he heard was "leave right now", and he let out a howl so deep, so frightened, so tragic I came running back to reassure him that I wasn't going anywhere. "MOM! You're our QUEEN! You can't leave us - we love you so much!" I lifted him soaking and sobbing from the tub and wrapped him in a towel. I shushed, I comforted, I held, but...
I didn't apologize.
If that makes me a shitty parent, so be it. But he has to learn that mommy is a person like everyone else. I know that mom's get the worst of it because a) we're usually around the most, and b) they trust us with those feelings, I know, I know, I know. But man, it wears me out.

We did manage to get to the other side of it, after one last big cry about how much he misses his friends in LA, and our old house. That broke my heart into a thousand tiny pieces. I asked him if he knew what day it was. Because exactly one year before, we pulled up to the little yellow rental house, with the beautiful lilacs in the yard, where Charley was jumping up and down with joy to see us. We talked about all the good things we'd miss if we left here, now: school, friends, Uncle Jim and Judy, Aunt Jan, Uncle Dan, his cousins, our house, our yard, the Discovery Museum. And he got it, he did.

Maybe all of this was just a six year old in mourning for the passage of time, of childhood, which knowing my old-soul of a boy, wouldn't really surprise me. But it could just as easily be that he was tired and had icecream for dessert.

Whatever the case, it's over, for now, and hopefully the next time the monster rears his gnarly head, I'll have time to put on shin guards and a helmet.

Monday, April 23, 2007

up, up and away

Can I just say, that too much fun leaves me pooped? Smiling like an idiot, but pooped.

I'm not talking about the kind of fun you might be thinking of. No, this was the kind of fun that you have with lots of people around (and I know, some people DO have THAT kind of fun with lots of people around, but I'm just far too Lutheran for that).

For not only was our weekend with friends stupendous, we did stuff we don't normally do. We were "outdoor adventurers"! Well, almost. Joe-Henry got to join his friend Hazel at an event sponsored by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife called Fishing Kids. Not only did he get to catch a fish, he got a t-shirt AND he got to keep his pole! All for $5! Do you know what this means? It means I have to learn how to clean fish without throwing up. And then, to top it off, yesterday I exhausted myself watching Joe-Henry rock climb at REI. And I did it all without a harness or special shoes.

It was unbelievable. He and I had gone there last Thursday to get Charley some special panniers for his bike as an anniversary present. I knew that I wasn't getting him exactly what he wanted, but I needed something to put in the gift bag. We signed up to become members, and when we did, the clerk handed Joe-Henry a ticket for a free climb. So yesterday, we went back to make the gift exchange, and while Charley shopped (and shopped - he's a Libra, after all), I wheeled Joe-Henry around in the shopping cart. He was all listless energy, until he saw an eight year old boy, scaling the rock climbing wall.

"MOM! We have that ticket! I want to try!" I looked over at Charley, entranced as he was by moisture wicking socks, and said, "okay". We'd be there a while, why not. But I had my doubts about whether or not he'd actually do it.

The first hurdle was finding shoes that fit. I honestly didn't think it could happen, but after meeting William the Conquerer of All Obstacles, Coach Extraordinaire, I knew that they'd find something. And they did. A pair of size 6 climbing shoes. That's an adult size 6. Then strap him into the harness, and away they go. William was all positive energy, and Joe-Henry was undaunted, but after fifteen minutes of trying he got no further than two feet off the ground. William asked him if he wanted to take a break, because there were some other kids there waiting their turn, and he said "if it's okay with your parents, and you have the time, you take a long break, and we'll try it again. Or come back on another day, and we'll give it another go." I honestly thought we were headed home right then, until Joe-Henry turned around and I saw his eyes.

He'd had a tiny taste, and he was determined. And he is my son, after all. I can be a terrier when I have to, and as they say, "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Charley was done shopping, and wanted to go, but I said, "I think he needs to try this again". Then Charley saw the look in Joe-Henry's eyes, and he knew it too. He went to grab a cup of coffee, and came back, and we waited. We watched as probably eight kids scaled the wall, Joe-Henry cheering each of them on, gripping his ticket, watching as they found the next foothold, the next place to put a hand. We waited probably an hour and a half. It was the end of William's shift, he was off in ten minutes. But he enlisted the help of another guide, and the two of them got Joe-Henry suited up. The other guide said, "Hey, dude! I heard about you! You're the six year old with size 6 feet! Awesome!" Then into the harness and away they went. Before he got suited up, I gave him two pieces of advice. Don't giggle because it takes away your strength. And don't listen to or look for mom and dad. William is the go-to guy, listen to him, keep your eyes up on the next step and you'll be reaching the top. Joe-Henry listened intently, and repeated my advice to William. William said, "Oh, it's okay to giggle! Climbing is fun! And Mom and Dad can help, if they want to". So I took that as my permission slip to yell out a piece of advice now and again, but I truly trusted William to get him there.

And he did. It was amazing, thrilling to watch. Joe-Henry was so into it. Not too serious, but really, he worked so hard. I honestly didn't expect him to make it to the top, but if he got up 5 feet, I would have been ecstatic. But you know what? After about 20 minutes of really hard work, concentration, and cheers from the crowd that gathered below, my boy, my silly, giggly wiggly boy, rang that bell! I told him he had to yell out "Top o' the world, MA!", and he obliged. Then he got to rapel down, and I told him to thank William for all his help, and William, all good grace and humanity, said "tell your parents that you did all the work!" We all had a good laugh, and for the next few hours, Joe-Henry just kept repeating, " I DID it! I rang the bell! I didn't give up!" I told him he was so busted if he ever wanted me to believe that he couldn't get himself dressed in the morning, because I saw how hard he'd tried, and if he could climb that wall, he could surely get his own socks on. And he laughed.

I don't think it will be a problem ever again. Because he knows. He didn't give up. He rang the bell.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

happy anniversary

One year ago today, Charley was in Portland in a rental house, having just started a new job (not new, new - he transferred, but it was in a new city, and a new state), Joe-Henry was at Grandma and Grandpas, and I was watching as every last thing we owned was being packed into a truck, getting ready to move us to a new house in a new state.

I was exhausted, frantic, and just trying so hard not to have a stroke. I had amazing help - my sister-in-law was there and my friend Amy and her two boys, not to mention the mover we hired - so it was all being taken care of. But my mental state was fragile, my synapses firing on all cylinders, but fueled on nervous energy alone. They're not kidding when they say that the stress of moving is right up there with death and divorce. And both of those events seemed to be a possibility that day.

So a year ago, I didn't get to celebrate another anniversary. Our wedding anniversary. Twelve years before, we said "I do" in front of about 30 good friends and family in the backyard of my husband's parents house. It was a beautiful wedding, if I do say so myself. But it wasn't nearly as beautiful as the years that followed.

There have been hills and valleys, some truly dark times, but more and more, it seems that around every corner there are unimagined riches. A love that weathered last year. A beautiful son, a house that seems to be at the end of every rainbow (I'm not even being poetic there - it's true), a love that seems to grow stronger with every passing day. The simple joys of an ordinary life.

We celebrated this year. We went to our favorite restaurant in Seattle, the city where we met and fell in love. At this restaurant, long ago, we planned our wedding; we went there, starving after having sex all afternoon, our brains too addled to boil water; we had a farewell dinner there when we decided to move from Seattle to Los Angeles.

Last night, we got there to hold our reservation for six. Our son sat coloring his placemat (he ordered the "Quit Naggin' Me Noodles"), our friends Annie and Anita, dear friends who tied the knot a couple months before us, arrived with their beautiful daughter (and Joe-Henry's future wife - no pressure or anything, kid) Hazel, and their newborn son Gabe.

Charley and I didn't cuddle in a booth, we sat and held hands at the table for a few minutes, then I got to walk Gabe around and show him the old neighborhood a little while he fussed, and gave his moms a little time to chat. Joe-Henry and Hazel went off to another room right off our table, where they could be alone and share the secrets of being six years old, and occasionally, I'd catch my husband's eye. We'd smile at each other, like the old married people we are.

Happy Thirteenth Anniversary, love. We made it through the first year in a new place, and we get to carve another notch in our wedding rings. I love you madly.

Thanks for the riches of this extraordinary ordinary life.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

wretched excess...

...or as I came to realize about four o'clock this morning (what is it about 4:00 a.m.?), wretching excess. Now before you picture me sprawled on my couch, with my bra on a lamp and an empty bottle of Jack Daniels in my limp hand, let me wipe off yer glasses. I was not hugging my toilet due to drink, no, I ate too much popcorn. That's right. Popcorn.

Joe-Henry has this wonderful program at his school where you can get a pass to see 10 "family friendly" movies for $7 (that's in quotes because while it might be suitable for the wee ones, a couple of these films have made me realize how quickly life is passing me by), but it's still a great deal, and even if only two of the movies are worth seeing, it's still an amazing price. So yesterday, we went to see "Night At The Museum", which I loved. There were a few moments where I went "Huh?", and the ending didn't really hang together, but still, it wasn't "just burn that part of my brain out" bad like "Everyone's Hero". I feel so sad to say that, because Christopher Reeve was directing it when he died, and it was Dana Reeve's last project, and I love them both. But I will choose to remember them for other things.

AAAAAnyway - I ate too much popcorn. There was no butter on it or anything, just the way I like it, but I guess I'm old now, and I can't do that to my body anymore, and it told me so. At 4:00 a.m. It was strange, because I didn't wake up groaning, or even knowing it was coming, I just felt a bit uncomfortable. I went to the bathroom, and before I knew it.... well, you know this part.

Anyway, the sound of my wretching (and really, is there any WORSE sound to wake to in the wee hours?) woke Joe-Henry and scared him to death, and he started to wail. Not cry, but wail. He was terrified. I felt so bad for him, but was powerless to do anything, as I was, um, incapacitated. And my poor husband, he came into the bathroom, saying, "Oh, baby..." and then when Joe-Henry started crying, went in to comfort him. As he said this morning, he felt selfish, because Joe-Henry never wants to be comforted by Daddy in the night, but last night, he did, and Charley was in heaven.

After I brushed my teeth and cleaned myself up, I went in to reassure Joe-Henry. We snuggled in his bed for a while, he tried to make small talk ("Hey Mom. How do you think the rings of Saturn hang in the air like that?") but he finally said, "mom I heard you and I got so, so scared." I tried my best to reassure him, but even though I started to go back to sleep, he lay there next to me with his eyes wide open. So we both went into bed with Daddy, and this morning, he didn't even want to go in the bathroom upstairs, or let me kiss him goodbye. I asked him if he was still afraid, and he said, "NO! That's not it at all!", in that way you defend yourself when you've just been completely busted.

Honestly, I know how he feels. I was 8 when my mom died, and 6 when she had a pulmonary embolism. I was the only one in the room with her when that happened, and up until she died, I was terrified when she so much as burped. I was always watching her so carefully. For anything out of the ordinary. And mommy throwing up is definitely out of the ordinary. So I understand, I really do. My worst fear is to be incapacitated in front of Joe-Henry. Not for me, but for him. It's terrifying to be a child and see your parents ailing. They are the people who keep you safe and guide you and give you the world in age appropriated dosages. Without them, the world is unknown. It rushes at you unbound, and your shield is gone.

So. Guess what? No more popcorn for me. Who knows, I may even change my diet altogether. Start working out. Get healthy.

I'll start with the popcorn.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

7 songs? Just 7? How 'bout 7 categories of 7.....

I used to be incredibly decisive. I am a Leo after all, and I'd make up my mind lickety-split with no hemming & hawing or regret. But 16 years living with a Libra (our first shopping excursion was for work boots and it took 3 hours. That's not 3 hours start to finish, it's 3 hours deciding over 2 different pairs of boots - if we hadn't just started dating, I might have wrapped my tiny hands around his neck and throttled him right then and there), it's rubbed off on me. I am no longer that split second decision maker that I once was. Well, I can be, if it's life or death, but over things like favorite flavors, or movies or SONGS? THOSE ARE THE MERE BACKGROUND OF MY LIFE!!! How can I be expected to choose? Thank GOD I didn't have more than one child - how would I ever pick which one I loved the most?

I've been tagged by my buddy Tracey over at More Than A Minivan Mom to come up with my favorite 7 songs. So I've decided to break it down a bit. I'm going to do 7 categories, with 7 songs each. That's 7 songs for each of my 7 personalities. I could do more (there are more personalities in there, struggling to bust free), but my most dominant personality likes order and the number 7, so she wins.

Favorite 7 songs to clean house to:
Brick House
Don't Get Weary by Adrienne Young and Little Sadie
I Feel So Good by Richard Thompson
Red Clay Halo, sung by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings
1999 by Prince
Burning Down The House, Talking Heads
Rain by The Blind Boys of Alabama

Favorite 7 songs to listen to while pissed off:
Get Out of This House by Shawn Colvin, A Few Small Repairs
God Will by Lyle Lovett
Harper Valley PTA, sung by Kate Campbell
Get Back by the Beatles
American Tune by Paul Simon (when pissed off by politics in particular)
Not Ready To Make Nice by the Dixie Chicks
Work To Do by Allison Moorer

Favorite 7 love songs:
Lines Around Your Eyes by Lucinda Williams
Stewart's Coat by Ricki Lee Jones, on Traffic From Paradise. I walked down the garden path to this song at our wedding.
Valentine by Willie Nelson
Dimming of the Day by Bonnie Raitt
Fields of Gold, sung by Eva Cassidy
1952 Vincent Black Lightening by Richard Thompson. This was our "courtin' song".
Something About What Happens When We Talk by Lucinda Williams

Favorite 7 songs when you're pms-ing:
Twisted by Joni Mitchell
Psycho Killer by Talking Heads
Shotgun Down The Avalanche by Shawn Colvin (this is early Shawn Colvin, "Steady On", and every time I listen to it, still, I love every bit of it)
Let's Go Crazy by Prince (the good kind of crazy)
Deep Dark Hole, by Los Lobos, the Neighborhood
Theme Song from Speed Racer
Hear Me Lord by Bonnie Raitt

Favorite 7 songs about heartache:
Another Long One, Shawn Colvin, Steady On
More Love, sung by Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott
Six Blocks Away by Lucinda Williams
I Can't Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt
Baby Mine, sung by Bonnie Raitt. This song is from Dumbo, and that movie KILLS me.
Round of Blues by Shawn Colvin
You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, sung by Shawn Colvin

Favorite 7 songs to inspire:
Stand by Sounds of Blackness
Impossible Dream from Man of La Mancha, sung by Brian Stokes Mitchell
Something to Believe In, Shawn Colvin, Steady On
Walk Beside Me, Tim OBrien & Darrell Scott
Hammer and A Nail, The Indigo Girls
Two Little Feet, Greg Brown
Shed A Little Light from James Taylor Live

My favorite All time best songs (top 7)
Secret O' Life by James Taylor
The Tax Man, by the Beatles, as sung by Nickel Creek, live from the Hollywood Bowl. I don't know if they've ever recorded it, but it was soooo brilliant.
Angel from Montgomery - Bonnie Raitt and John Prine
It's Amazing by Mindy Smith - this one reminds me of Joe-Henry
Littlest Birds Sing the Prettiest Songs by The Be Good Tanyas
Polaroids by Shawn Colvin
This Must Be The Place - two versions, sung by Talking Heads AND Shawn Colvin

Must. stop. now. More personalities wanting songs....need sleep.

Anne was found rocking on the floor, eyes closed, her iPod battery is toast.

I tag Charley (in all his free time), Suttonhoo after her week is done and I'd tag Franklin, but she's already been tagged ....anyone care to jump in? Remember, it's only 7 songs. I just made it really hard on myself.

Ready or not

Long ago and far away, I dreamed of being on Broadway. Of living a gypsy's life, hobnobbing with my theater pals, trekking on the Subway to my next audition. I was basically going to be Marsha Mason in "The Goodbye Girl". But without the kid.

Then something happened. It wasn't one thing, really, just a series of events, and a feeling that life could be about more than just me. Then I met my husband. He was funny and dark and mysterious, but he was a real mush-pot when he talked to his cat, so I knew that underneath that "I'll only bring you heartache" veneer was a heart of goo. I was right, and despite efforts to shake me loose, I held on like a terrier. (He didn't shake very hard). We got married nearly 13 years ago, and about eight years ago, for some strange reason, I started lobbying hard to have a child with him. He was completely ambivilent, and we sat in a therapists office for a year and a half before we realized that it might not be the end of something, but the beginning. And it was. Oh, yes. It was just the beginning.

Nothing in my previous life prepared me for how grateful I'd be for ordinary magic. I'm not talking about getting choked up over those sappy commercials. I used to get that way before I had Joe-Henry, but now I see how hard they were trying to lead me right to those tears. I'm talking about those things that you nearly miss, those moments that you catch out of the corner of your eye, for just fraction of a second. Sometimes I'll be making lunch, or picking up a stray sock, and muttering to myself about "not being the maid", and I'll look up and Joe-Henry will be bigger than he was five minutes before. Or I'll be reading the newspaper on a Sunday morning, and hear my two men playing downstairs, and the sound of thier voices coming up through the vent together is the happiest thing I've ever heard. I never knew how swept off my feet I would be by the men in my house on a daily basis. Sure, there is a lot of swearing. (By me, of course - that toilet seat left up will leave any sane woman cursing in a dark bathroom in the wee small hours.) But I feel so honored to be the female that lives in this house.

Yesterday, we had a very successful playdate here at our house. With a great little boy from my sons' class. I was nervous, but it couldn't have gone better, and in the course of the laughter, Joe-Henry finally lost the tooth that has been hanging by a thread for THREE DAYS. He was so surprised and excited, and so was his friend. He couldn't wait to put it under his pillow.

And then at 4:00 a.m., after a bad dream, he called me in. "Mom, the tooth fairy didn't come!" I stumbled down the hall to reassure him that she would, but she still had a lot of night left. He took his tooth out of the little pocket it was in, and held it in his hand. Then I saw that he was crying. He wiped his nose on his sleeve and looked at me with huge, watery eyes, and squeaked out "Mom. I don't want her to take it. Can I please keep it?" We decided that he could write her a note, and here's what he wrote, in his beautiful, scrawly, six year old hand:
"Dear toothfairy
I lost my tooth!
but I'm sad.
I want to...keep
my tooth
for a few days
intell I'm redy.
Good Luck.


I know how he feels. I'm not quite ready either.
But life is like that. Ready or not. Here it comes.

ps. The tooth fairy left five bucks. Either she's a sap, or she couldn't see the denomination in the dark. I'm betting on the latter.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

gun play

My son, the one who insists that I mind my manners when we are out in public, the one who loves music and knows the worth of a pretty sky, said to me today "Mom, I'm gonna go over to Vic's and see if he can come and play war with me."


But did I stop him? Did I put on my politically correct mommy hat and tell him no, we don't play "war" at our house? Nope. See, here's something I learned about my son a long time ago: if I say no, it will become incredibly attractive to him, and he'll become like a six year old crack addict and be JONESIN' for guns. The first and only time I ever told him I didn't want him to play with guns was when he was 3. He was in preschool, and a couple of the boys were being "gunners" on the playground. We were in the car, and I told him I wasn't crazy about him playing that way, and didn't really want him to, and he said this:
"Mom. I'm just PLAYING. That's how I LEARN."

This freaked me out slightly less than the time he was two and four months, and I asked him (rhetorically, not expecting an answer) "Why are you being so STUBBORN???!!!", to which he replied "I'm just testing my boundaries." At that very moment, I knew my life would not be easy. Well, that's not exactly true. I knew it a few months before that, when I let him play in my room, while I closed my eyes because I was nursing a migraine and I heard him say "I'm sorry she's not available", and when I opened my eyes, he was walking around my bedroom in my red high heeled slides, with daddy's glasses on, talking into my vibrator. I guess that's when I really knew.

Anyhoo, I digress. The reason the gun play doesn't worry me is this: there are too many other things to worry about. Like will he have a friend (answer: yes. Vic is almost 9, and as long as he doesn't have to play ball with Joe-Henry, who has all MY god-given football throwing abilities, thinks my son is the best thing since exploding candy.) Vic's a good kid, who will push the boundaries as far as he can, and Joe-Henry will always reign him in. They played war (they were on the same side), and at one point I think I was the enemy, but it didn't last because Joe-Henry called out "HEADS UP, MA!" He sounded a little like James Cagney. As I dug in my garden today, it started to rain, and the boys holed up in Joe-Henry's decrepit wooden castle in the back yard. It didn't help much because there isn't a roof on it, but I dug out an old shower curtain and they were happier than pigs in a poke. When I took them a snack, I asked how the war was going. They'd given up on war, and now were hunting polar bears.

Please. Don't tell Greenpeace.

I saw a book title last night at the bookstore called I Was a Better Mother Before I Had Kids". I didn't read it, or anything esoteric like that, but I loved the title. It made me think of all the things I swore I'd do (or not do) when I raised my child. And I had to laugh. Parenting is nothing like I thought it would be. I thought I'd be so hip and funny, and knock-wood, I still have my sense of humor, and I occasionally make my son laugh, but the laugh is on me ninety-eight percent of the time. At least.

We make up the rules as we go, we try our best to be consistent, and we do our best to enjoy the ride. Luckily, the driver seems to know what he's doing.

prettier than cat poop

cat sh*t crazy

I was on my way downstairs to my office to post something lovely about spring, with pretty pictures of the flowers in my garden, but I got sidetracked. By a big, runny pile of poo on the carpet outside the bathroom where we have not one, but two litterboxes. For our two cats. But only one of them has become my nemisis. Her name is Lulu. And I look forward to the day she moves on to her great reward. I don't feel a bit guilty when I say it can't happen soon enough for me.

Which is not to say we don't love her. We do. We MUST. Because I don't think she would have lasted this long anywhere else. I tried to find her a good home last year before the move, because a) I didn't think she'd make the trip, and b) I believe she needs a home where she can be the only cat, a home with no children, a home with someone who does nothing but pet her endlessly and feed her and snuggle her. But really, how do you market a cat like Lulu. "Free to loving home. Wheezing old cat who digs her claws into every piece of furniture, has constant runny poo and uses entire home for a litter box." I did my best with the ad. I tried humor and love and all I got in return was scorn and condemnation from rabid animal lovers. Someone actually told me I was a flake and soon I'd be trying to give my son away. I took the ad off within an hour. So yes, she made the trip, but not without spraying cat poop all over our car within the first twenty minutes of a twenty hour drive. (My darling husband was driving that car - we followed three weeks later. He still has flashbacks. And the car still smells.)

Believe me when I say we've tried everything. Ev.Ry.Thing. New food. New litter. Separate litter boxes. Giving her more love and attention than someone who shits on your carpet every day twice a day for six years has any right to get. We take her to the vet about every six months, convinced that she's on her last legs, and they never find anything wrong. They do a battery of tests, and then say, "I think it's behavioral. Try this." It might be more cost effective to just use that two hundred dollars to wipe up the mess off the floor. THEN flush it down the toilet. At least something would be accomplished. The last time I took her, he did some tests and gave me some antibiotic for her wheezing, but asked if I wanted to wait a couple days before getting it, just in case the blood tests came back with dire predictions. I told him that I'd just get it now, because even if he said she was on her way out, she'd live another three years just to spite me. She's just a crabby, crappy, scrappy old lady.

The first time she did it was when Joe-Henry was four weeks old. She did it right in front of his changing table. Convinced she was really sick, we got some meds from the vet. Mind you, we had a four week old baby, and were as scruffy and sleep deprived as we could be. But we tried. Charley held her wrapped in a towel, and I tried to administer the dropper full of pink goo. She crapped down the front of my sweet husband, and the medicine wound up in my hair. We left it at that. She once managed to dig a pair of $600 compression stockings OUT OF THE HAMPER to do her business on them. Say what you will, she's a great communicator. And the thing is: Joe-Henry ADORES her. He pets her gently, talks to her sweetly and softly and reminds us not to scold her too loudly. He is perhaps the only reason she's not gone.

We have another cat too. A good cat. He's been with us since we first got married and he's a grand old man. He's got diabetes, which we treat and he tolerates, and he's dignified and loving. If it weren't for him, I'd definitely not be a cat person anymore.

I dream of life after Lulu. Clean carpet. (New carpet.) No more cat hair (she sheds like crazy). No more loud wheezing waking me in the night.

I know, I know. I'll probably miss her.

But I'd really like to find out.

PS: The best stain remover for pet stuff in carpet is Folex.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Goodbye, Mr. Imus

I saw this quote in the paper this morning: In comparing Don Imus to nasty mouthed shock jock Michael Savage, KXL radio station boss Tim McNamara said this: " I don't agree with what Michael Savage says either, but that's not the point. Ratings or advertisers will dictate what happens. And right now, he's got tremendous ratings."

It's all about the bottom line. People have to listen. And people do. Leonard Pitts says exactly what I wanted to say, only far more eloquently.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

"There's only one rule that I know of, babies,...'ve got to be kind." These words were written by Kurt Vonnegut, who died yesterday at 84. I am not a Vonnegut scholar, but I have read a few of his works, and when I read these words today in his obituary, it was like a cool hand on my hot head. It helped me to make some sense of something I've really been struggling with. There have been a few stories in the news the last few days that I haven't been able to shake. One of them is just stuck like a pebble in my shoe, annoying the crap out of me, and when I think I've shaken it out, I find it's only settled in a different place. Which means that somehow, that story is related to the others that I find more deeply troubling.

The first story is truly unsettling to me. Have you read about that six year old girl in Florida that got arrested for disrupting her class? This little girl was clearly troubled, and out of control. But are there not better ways to handle these things? Um... how's this? Call her mother? Bring in the school counselor? The school nurse? They managed to isolate her in another room, how about letting her kick and scream until she wears herself out? But call the cops? It took them twenty minutes, but they wrangled her out from under the table like animal control, handcuffed her and took her to central booking to be printed and held until her mother arrived to bail her out. She was charged with "battery on a school official, which is a felony, and two misdemeanors: disruption of a school function and resisting a law enforcement officer." In case you missed it: she was SIX.

The second story was in the paper here in Oregon. A local school kid was arrested for shooting out the windows of his highschool. He was aiming for two teachers, one of whom had called his mother to say he wasn't doing well in school. He was also angry with his mother for not allowing him to live with his biological father. So he took his stepdad's Winchester
.270 rifle with a scope, lay down in the grass and fired two shots. No one was killed, but a few students were injured by flying glass and metal. No one suspected, except of course the kids he showed the bullets to before hand. The principal at this school has been through this before, with more tragic results. He was the principal of the highschool where a kid named Kip Kinkel killed two classmates, as well as his loving, doting parents.

When I read these stories, I wonder what we are to make of them. When I say "we" I don't just mean parents and teachers, and authority figures, but all of us. As a society. How can we raise such angry children? How do we nurture this anger, for surely we must, and when it boils over, how do we deal with it? Look at the words we use, the words we tolerate, the names we call each other, the rules that we make that allow a six year old to be arrested for throwing a tantrum. Look at the people we celebrate and idolize - those who lead the dance in our national tabloid feverdreams - the rude, thuggish, thoughtless people we cheer on day after day - what does it say about us? Which leads me to the third story, the pebble in my soul that, when I think about it, screams "THIS IS WHY".

Don Imus made the news the other day for calling the Rutgers Women's Basketball team a horrible, racist, mysoginistic name. He made a public apology, got taken off the air for a couple weeks and is meeting with the women on the team to give them a personal apology. I'm sure he'll be headed to rehab in no time. Believe me when I say I am a firm believer in free speech, and I think that Don Imus, and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have the right to say whatever idiotic thing they want to say. But there's a difference between tolerating bullies and celebrating them. Not all bullies get paid millions to spread their ignorance, but he's a stupid, hateful man with sponsors. He's been taken off the airwaves "temporarily", but he'll be back, and the same people who've taken away his money will be giving it back to him, because SOMEONE OUT THERE LISTENS TO HIM. It's not me, and I'm pretty sure it's not you, but there is an audience. Just as there is an audience for rap music, which much of the time is just as despicable. Have you ever read the comments to a news story on Yahoo? Find the first obituary you can, then read the comments. It will turn your stomach. There are so many people who feel empowered to use this beautiful technology to spew hate. Because they can. Because we live in a country that lets us say whatever we think, even if it's ugly. And that's where it stands, forever and ever amen.

Our only hope is within us. Each of us. That sounds so simplistic, but it's the only thing we can control. For all our achievements, as a society we are still so uncivilized. Because personal responsibllity is just not that in fashion any more. My mama taught me that "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me". Unless I let them. The women on the Rutgers basketball team have said that Don Imus took away their glory and grace and their moment. No, he didn't. Unless they let him. They are all beautiful, accomplished women with bright futures ahead of them. He is a crazy old man with a microphone. I don't think, with the way this whole free speech thing is set up, it's going to get better or easier. Doesn't that just suck? And yet, what's the alternative? To try to dictate what people can say, or think?

The original title of this rant was "The Centre Cannot Hold", from the W.B. Yeats poem. But when I read the quote in Vonnegut's obituary, I realized it held not only the answer, but the only hope.

We can't control the way people think or act or what they say. But we can choose to listen to something else, to think differently, to be kinder to one another. We can turn off the tv. We can raise our children right, teach them to be nice, to listen and speak up when they need to, to share and take care of others and to have pride in themselves so that they'll have some kind of armor to ward off the stupid, insensitive, hateful things that escape from the mouths of lunatic bullies. We can counter words of hate with generosity and kindness. We can be mindful of our own words. We can use our common sense, and when something happens to a six year old in Florida that seems so egregiously out of whack, we can use it as a wake up call, do a gut check and say "Stop it. Stop it right now. This isn't right."

Thank you, Mr. Vonnegut, for being there when I needed you.

Monday, April 9, 2007

tell the truth

"Mom, do you love my animals as much as you love me?" The first time he asked me that question, a few months ago, I told him the truth. I said that I liked them very much, but that I didn't love anything or anyone as much as I love him.

This was the wrong answer.

There were many tears, and it hurt his animals feelings and he really didn't understand why I couldn't just love them the way I love him.

He asks me every night at bedtime, or anytime he has one of his dearly beloved creatures nearby. Today he asked while we were snuggled on the sofabed downstairs, curled up under the covers with a fire going in the fireplace, watching "IceAge: The Meltdown" on the portable DVD player. Panda and Linky were under the covers with us, and he asked "Mom, do you love my animals as much as you love me?" And I said "Yes. I do. I'm so glad they're members of our family."

Here's what I didn't say:
I love them because they are yours. Because you give them your heart, and your heart is precious to me. I love them because they know your six year old secrets, and do their cuddly best to allay your worst fears. I love them because when they talk, they talk just like you. I love them because you've named them, each and every last one, and I remember ALL their names. I love them because they smell like you. I know this because when I pick them up off the living room couch, where you bring them to eat your cheerios in the morning, I give them a good long, deep sniff before putting them on your bed. They are your talismans, your charms and your snugglebuddies. They are as real to me as they are to you.

And I love them.

But not as much as I love you.

I'm trying, though. I really am.

Sunday, April 8, 2007


Today there were, as my dad used to say, "Big Doin's" around here. My niece is officially a newlywed, as is her groom, and it all came off splendidly, thanks in no small part to the best ring bearer ever. On our way to the estate where they held the wedding, I was sitting in the back seat with my sweet fella, and I told him how handsome he looked. He said "I have to look handsome. This is very serious business." Indeed. And he took all his instructions to behave to heart, and was every inch a gentleman until he hit the dance floor, then he cut loose with some serious moves. One of the wedding guests said to my husband "what a shame he's so painfully shy!"

My little family unit looked splendid. Joe-Henry, decked out in his white tux, which he kept on until bedtime, giving us one of the most amazing concerts ever. It's lost in the ether because we were all too mesmerized to make a move for the camera. Suffice to say - he brought the house down. My hubband, in his clan kilt, looking so handsome, and sparking everyone's interest as to what he might be wearing under that kilt (nothing but the cool evening breeze and his wife's good graces), and I managed to clean up alright. Although the weather wrought havoc with my hair, turning it into kind of a frizzy halo, but I gave up worrying about it when I saw my niece.

She was a beautiful, no, gorgeous bride, and her groom was dangerously handsome. They have been soooo calm this past week, and I think they were able to enjoy every minute of their wedding. My niece is one of those poised young women who never really went through an awkward phase. She always seems to be so grounded, and is one of the wisest people I know. Her new husband has such a great sense of humor and you can tell by looking at them, the way they are together, that it's just meant to be. They will have a grand adventure of a marriage.

My older brother, the father of the bride, gave the toast to end all toasts. It was heartfelt, emotional, sweet, funny, tender and joyful. He was so nervous before hand, but he held it together and brought tears to everyone's eyes. Even Joe-Henry, who as you know, is a total shrinking violet, knew better than to try to follow Uncle Jim's class act!

I love weddings. Not just the day itself, but the days before and after, when you get to see family and friends you haven't seen in forever, and everyone is caught up in the joy of the event. Even when it's awkward (and when you have family, there's bound to be awkwardness), it's wonderful. They bring out the best, and sometimes the worst in people, but they remind us of all the good things in this life: family, love, laughter and friendship. The things that sustain us in our worst moments, and give us cause to celebrate all the little joys we take for granted every day.

I have a houseful of sleeping fellas: my brother Dale, who I haven't seen in way too long; the love of my life, sawing logs in the next room; and Joe-Henry, who just did a little drum solo in his sleep. I'm sleepy myself, and need to get some rest - the Easter Bunny comes tomorrow, early, and I'd like to catch him, if I can.

But oh, it was a beautiful day, and it's nice to sit here in the peace of the evening, letting it wash over me again.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

the stuff dreams are made of?

Is it Lexapro and Chinese Chicken Salad? I don't know.....maybe the lexapro is working it's magic during the day, but it's like falling asleep with a Fellini movie playing. My dreams have been wierder and wierder. I wake up either tired from all the activity, or just plain perplexed.
I've never been one to place a lot of literal meaning to my dreams, but I do think it's where our brains get to try to work things out for us without us getting in the way. But if that's so, what do you make of these dreams?

Dream One: Our anniversary is approaching, so I've decided to get Charley what he's always wanted. I've pierced my INNER THIGHS. It hurts like a mofo, but if it makes him happy...
When I woke up from that one, I had to check to see if my thighs were okay.

Dream Two: Charley's Aunt Fran, who in real life is the nicest person in the world, completely approachable, warm, friendly and incredibly crafty, has decided to become a televangelist. I see her on tv and she's saying "The SIN is in inSINuation!" The only thing that this dream has in common with my waking life is that in my dream I am just as stumped by the whole situation.

Dream Three: Last night, I dreamt that we got pregnant. I wasn't excited at first, but then I was. I was with my friends Anne and Anita because Charley was out of town for a while. A&A just had another baby, a beautiful boy, but in the dream, Anne was still pregnant. I reached down and could feel the head of my baby - it was tiny, slightly larger than a golf ball. When I looked down at my belly, I could see its face clearly, pressing up against my belly, like a mask. It was waving at the outside world. I got so excited, and couldn't wait to tell Charley. Then the baby slipped out of my side, like my belly had a kangaroo pouch, only on the side. I tried to get the baby back inside me, but as it lay in my hands, it turned into tiny bones and blew away. My friends wanted to see if there was still a heartbeat, so they held a stethascope up to HER belly for me to listen, then mine, and said, not unkindly, "see the difference?" When Charley got there, I tearfully told him the sad news, and he asked me when dinner would be ready. I was furious, and moved around the house trying to find what it was he wanted me to make (scalloped potatoes), our house had turned into a cross between a board game and a pinball machine, and I got lost. So I told him to fix them himself. He was perplexed.

This one is LOADED, isn't it?! Let me just say, right up front, my husband would never ask for scalloped potatoes.

Alright, all you dream analysts out there... help me out. Or just amuse yourselves.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

sunday morning concert

Took these this morning. The light was amazing, streaming in through our little window, and the song he was singing was "Who Will Be The Love Again?" It was a masterpiece, and I made him promise to remember it so he could play it again when the recorder is charged. I promise to post it when I do. It was a very sad, serious song, and after the last few days, I'm forever grateful that he has an outlet. I'm even more grateful that he'll sing to me.