Quote of the day...er...week...umm...hey, look, a quote!!

Tibi gratias agimus quod nihil fumas.

It says "...freedom of...", not "...freedom from...".

Nolite te bastardes carburundorum!

"It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness. People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint." - Penn Jillette

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mimi

In the interest of fairness, I am writing this, because I can't just let my own nasty comments slide. Sigh. It's not an easy thing to write, so if it's a bit rough around the edges, I hope you'll forgive me...or perhaps you could just skip this post and go on to the one about cilantro (http://kyddryn.blogspot.com/2008/01/cilantro.html) or cinnamon rolls (http://kyddryn.blogspot.com/2008/01/cinnamon-rolls-long-reprint-with.html) or something. I could skip writing it...but then, I wouldn't be me with my need for fairness, balance, perspective, truth, and all that crap.

So here's a little bit about Mimi, the grandmother I seem to blame for so much.

I give a little history, here, because it helps explain so much. She is from France. Her family, before WWII, was well off, successful, ran a hotel or resort or something - the details are hazy to me because getting her story from her was like prying teeth from chickens. Anyway, they did something in the pre-WWII tourist industry in France, and did very well at it. She had a good education, and excellent life. Then along came the Nazis, who decided that they should just help themselves to whatever was nice in the world and screw the rest of us. WWII in brief, huh? Mimi (not her real name, but what I called her growing up, so it'll do) was still a young woman, in her teens I believe. Her family lost pretty much everything but a flat in Paris, where they all crammed in and did their best to ride out the war. They heated the place with sawdust packed into the wood stove, one coal dropped down into a hollow in the center. It had to last all night. Water left in a glass by the bed would freeze solid, it got so cold at night. She wore whatever shoes they could find, usually several sizes too small, and to this day her feet are all squashed looking. They survived.

When the war was over, she came to the States looking for something more than the life of a recovering nation. She wanted vibrancy, I imagine, and solidity, and comfort. Can you blame her? I've seen pictures of her from then. Whoa. She was a hottie, by any standards. Audrey Hepburn beauty, no kidding. That was a shocker for me, because I grew up with her looking more like an angry fireplug. With flawless hair, nails, and clothing. She came over here looking for a future, and she found a husband. He wasn't much of a husband, though, from what I gathered. Remember, I don't know a lot about her past, so all I can give you my patchy best. He was something of an ignorant redneck who thought women should be happy in the home...so NOT Mimi's style. She was vibrant, alive, brilliant, and she wasn't hiding her light under a bushel basket. She ditched the dodo and went out west. California, look out!!

In California, in no particular order, she ran a little restaurant/cabaret where she sang, cooked, and rubbed elbows with some of the famous folks of the time. She had a small regular menu that never changed and a few nightly specials that did, and I suppose she did well. She didn't cook often when I was growing up, but when she did, it was....well...pretty darned amazing, truth be told, even if it was maybe a bit rich for the palate of a child. She raced cars...Porsches, I believe. I have no idea if she did that while running the restaurant or another time. Still, it explains why we were all terrified to ride in the car with her - the woman was (maybe still is) a speed demon of the highest order. I blame her for my love of going fast on curvy roads. Yeah.

She met my grandfather in Florida. I have no idea how she got from California to Florida. But she met him there. I have no idea what she was doing, but he was being a playboy - something that suited him. I've seen pictures of him when he was young, and..well...yowza. No wonder he stopped her in her tracks. He didn't tell her we was wealthy. Heh. Back then, you had to have an occupation on your driver's license, so he told the DMV he was a water-skiing instructor. Heh. Heh...hahahah!!!!! Sorry. I always get a kick out of that, especially because I was his greatest failure at that sport. The skis kept falling off my feet!! Hee, hee, hee.

Ahem. Back to the story. Mimi and Papa must have been in love, back then, because why else would they marry? She was a hot young thing, with bright prospects. The world was her oyster. Papa was a dashing fellow with a number of divorces behind him and no reason to shackle himself down again. He had three kids from two wives, and all the tangles that go with that. So there had to be something.

My mum was sixteen when Mimi and Papa married. They were on their way out to California when mum's mum died. Mum was all of sixteen, I believe. Needless to say (but I'm saying it anyway), their plans had to change. Their leisurely cross-country meander came to a halt. They were married in Vegas (but not, thank all the gods who ever were, by Elvis!!), a tiny ceremony that wasn't exactly what Mimi had hoped for. She also wasn't really expecting to inherit a half-grown woman, but mum had to live with someone. I'll leave that bit of saga for mum to tell, if she decides she wants to. Suffice it to say that Mimi sucked it up and did her best...which, as I believe I mentioned, wasn't very good...but then, she had no idea how to raise a kid. Her own childhood was hardly a shining example of the art.

Fast forward through some fun with the IRS (maybe some day I'll tell you about their cross-country flight from the IRS goon-squad, family Xmas in motels, and living out of suitcases for a while), sending mum to boarding school in Gstad (oh, the pain) and a few trips through Europe. Papa's kid Mum is now a grown woman, Mimi and Papa are older and more settled in their lives, one might dare say happy. Papa's kids are all married, some for the second time, and muddling through their lives. Mum divorced my dad but stayed in New England to be near her family. We visited Mimi and Papa often, as did much of the family. We would converge on their house for weekends, go out on Papa's boat, play, and generally do family things. Mimi was strict about manners, dress, comportment, all that, but we kids managed despite being kids, and therefor heathens by nature.

When I was in my very early teens, mum needed a break. She had been raising two brilliant wonderful quiet well-mannered evil little brats on her own for years, and she was worn slap out. Since my father wasn't exactly available - I think he was in Alaska at that time, doing his supply boat thing, or maybe it was Woods Hole Oceanographic, working on the Alvin0Lulu? He moved around a lot, but almost always on boats, so it's safe to say he was on the water - she was on her own and ready to do something drastic. I think she was lonely, too. It's hard enough getting a date when you are single and in your thirties...try adding two kids to the mix. Not exactly man-bait. She needed some time to screw her head back on in the right direction, and maybe take care of her needs for a bit, so she asked for help. I can't imagine how much that sucked.

Mimi and Papa agreed to take us in while mum sorted herself out. Once again, Mimi found herself raising unexpected spawn. And two, this time. She sucked it up and did her best, which I may have mentioned kinda sucked. She arranged for boarding schools for the two of us, paid for our travels when we went to visit mum or dad on vacations, and generally footed the bill (well, Papa really paid for it all, but who's counting??) for our upkeep.

When mum was better situated, on her feet, head more firmly (although not all the way) attached, we moved back with her. Whew, Mimi could relax! Or not. The family still descended like locusts on holidays, still visited and kept she and Papa in our tangle of lives. Then Papa started having health problems. Strokes, heart failure, kidneys...things started failing, sliding downhill faster and faster. When he finally dies, we were all a little relieved that his torture was done. We scattered his ashes, scattered ourselves back to our lives, and Mimi high-tailed it back to France, where she still (to my knowledge) lives.

That's the brief history. Now for a list of the good things Mimi did:

1. When I was a little girl, we would have High Tea at five-o'clock every day, with proper fancy china teacups, a silver tea service, toast and marmalade. I may be messed up in the head, but I could have tea with the Queen without embarassing myself. I still have the tea cups, and I treasure them and the GOOD memories they entail.

2. She took me to see the Nutcracker at the Boston Balet several times, just because it was beautiful and I enjoyed it. I think I was the only six-year-old girl to sit completely enraptured through the whole thing.

3. She took us to the circus, because that's where you take kids on an outing. I don't know if she enjoyed it, but I sure did.

4. She fostered and nurtured my loves for classical music and art with trips to symphonies, museums, and such.

5. She bought me easter dresses that were ridiculous, but I was a girl and I loved them. We also had the best Easter baskets ever, because that woman knew where to find real chocolate and wasn't afraid to use it, at least not when we were kids.

6. She did love us, even if sometimes she showed it in a completely fucked up way.

7. She got me piano lessons, and then recorder lessons, because I loved music. I sucked at the piano, but still play the recorder and flutes in a regular basis. Sometimes I would sing for an entire day, instead of speaking, and she laughingly called it my day at the opera. But she never told me to shut up, and she so could have.

8. She arranged riding lessons because I was horse crazy but inept in the saddle. That I later switched to Western and did rather well for myself must have stung her...but I did as well as I did because of the foundations layed in the English saddle. I was never as good as my cousin the Olympic alternate, but that's also another story.

9. She took me in when my mum needed her to. My in-her-fifties grandmother, a woman who never wanted kids, had no idea how to raise them, and wouldn't even bring up a puppy took in two half-grown, restless kids, one of whom was far more damaged than she'd been led to believe (because honestly, no one knew). She manned up (an obnoxious phrase, but somehow it fits, here) and dealt with us both, arranging therapy for the damaged one (that was another fiasco, but we'll talk about that another time, if at all), and tried. My grandfather didn't knwo how to deal with us, so he just let her handle it all and stayed the hell out of the way. Smart man, Papa.

10. She brought us to France to meet her family and maybe expose us to some culture. The trip sucked and turned me off the entire nation for life, but it was still a really cool thing for her to do. Her annual trips over the pond were her time to be calm, centered, herself, without worrying about kids and family and all our complications, and she gave that up to bring us along.

11. She always made sure that I had whatever I needed for boarding school...bicycle? Check. Clothes? Check. Shoes, boots, snow boots, slippers, and a million pairs of socks? Check. Skiis? Didn't have to have my own, but she wouldn't hear of me using rentals that weren't made for me, so check. Down hill and cross-country. Ski boots, too. The list goes on. She made sure we had the best. She made sure I had riding lessons in New Hampshire, too, because I was a girl. And girls? Are horse crazy.

12. When Papa started ailing, she stuck with him. She bought a house in Palm Beach because he wanted to go there in the winter. She hired (and fired nurses), never letting up on her high standards of care for him. She had a lift-chair installed in their hundred-plus-year-old house. And oxygen pumps. And special equipment in his bathroom. She stuck by him when she could have simply gone off and frolicked in the sun. She went through the doctors, procedures, moves, mortality scares, and legal heartburn attendant on a man's slow decline. And she didn't complain openly about he work or the strain. She took him on a cruise during what turned out to be his last days - he was a man of the sea, and he missed the water, so brought him, his nurses, and all their gear to the Bahamas and back - just so he could stand (something he hadn't done in years!) at the rail and watch the waves roll past.

She did many things to the good. I haven't forgotten them. Like my grandfather, I remember what I remember forever. I would say it's an eidetic memory, but it isn't. Much of my childhood, early teens, and even later years is gone. Not forgotten, gone. It was eaten but the medications I used to take. I often tell people I have a Swiss-cheese memory - full of holes. It's much better these last fifteen years or so, when I quite takin' the drug (prescription, honest!!) and just decided to muddle through on my own.

I often tell people about the negatives, but the truth is, she's a complicated part of my past. She planted the seeds of doubt, self-loathing, and fear in me but it's not her fault they grew so well. And she didn't start the fires, she just fanned the flames with carelessness, even ignorance. She's not the only one who should have had a clue and didn't, but she's the one who had custody of me when the fecal matter commenced to striking the oscillating blades, so she gets a lot of the blame.

There. I feel better. I don't feel so one-sided any more. Now I'm off to the bookstore to pick up my recently ordered copies of "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay" and "Naptime is the New Happy Hour". Ta!

Cilantro

I have a confession to make. Please don't hate me when you read it. It's shameful, I know but...but...

I don't like cilantro!!

There, I said it. I feel better.

The thing is, cilantro tastes like dish soap to me. If there's a little-bitty, eensy-weensy, teeny-tiny bit of it in something, there's a fair chance I won't notice it. If there's more than one or two cilantro molecules, though, I seem to have the misfortune of finding them, and then my enjoyment of the dish in question is spoiled. All I taste is dish soap.

These days, it seems that everyone is cilantro crazed, putting massive amounts of the stuff in everything. I have to ask at restaurants, because they don't always mention - I hate having to send a dish back because it tastes foul, but I will do it.

Not everyone has this affliction - plenty of folks love cilantro, or at least don't notice it. Why, oh, why, couldn't I be one of those?? I love guacamole, but rarely indulge in it any more because it seems like there's always a cilantro tree in there. Have you ever tried to pick the cilantro out of a spoonful of guac?? Find the little dark-green bits in the pale green mush? Yeah, not so much.

Whatever shall I do about this? Maybe there's a pill...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Papa.

Crystal, over at http://boobsinjuriesanddrpepper.blogspot.com/ posted an entry about her grandparents, both still living but on the downward slide. They're struggling, as are many of our elders, to pay for their medication, their sustenance, their continued existence. Crystal's trying to help them raise funds to pay for their burial plots. Y'all, it's a shame that they should have to worry about where they'll rest. Really. No one should have to choose whether they'll eat today or pay on their plot. These two gave life to generations, are a part of the shared history of this nation, a generation that struggled to rebuild our country from its shaken foundations on up - so the least we as a people can do is let them know they'll rest easy when it's time. All six of you who read this, pop on over to Crystal's site and make a donation if you can. Given the financial stress we're under here, my own donation will be pathetically small, so maybe you can go bolster it with one of your own.

Meanwhile, I wrote her a comment, it started getting long, so I truncated it to post there and am now re-posting it here in full.
~~~~~
This is an incomplete tale...there's not enough room to tell it all. It's long enough, anyway.

My grandfather was the best thing about living with my grandparents when I was a kid. They had custody of me and my brother for four years when we were in our early teens, but before that we would often visit and stay with them for long stretches.

Papa was a man of habits. He woke in the morning, went out to feed the horses, had his breakfast (cereal with half milk, half cream, coffee, several cigarettes). He drove out to take care of any errands he had, and made the rounds of his cronies' homes. Came home and read the papers - The Sakonnett Times and the New York Daily News. Read the Reader's Digest if there was a new one. He'd sit and think, staring off into space, for hours. His chairs were shaped to him, and there were bald spots on the rugs from where his feet sat day after day, week after week, year after year.

After lunch, he would maybe mow the lawn, or go out again. Late afternoon, early evening, he drank scotch, smoked, and watched TV. I watched with him, sometimes. The Dukes of Hazard, Hee-Haw, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, the evening news. We never spoke, just watched, but it was cool.

When my tyrannical grandmother went out of town, he would have to reshape his schedule to accomodate us kids, although not by much. We were fairly free range, back then - it was a different world. My brother, as I recall, was fairly self-sufficient and spent as much time out of the house as he could. He had friends. I didn't. I'd leave in the morning, ride my bike down to Sakonnet Point for a sail, or to the beach to swim, or just ride around aimlessly. Sometimes I was gone all day, sometimes I came home and read, played in my room, or got in the way in the kitchen. On rare occasions I would try to be helpful to the housekeeper or the cook. Doesn't that sound pretentious? They had folks come clean every day, and someone to cook dinner on weeknights...catch Mimi doing housework! I liked to help them, and they were nicer to me than they had to be.

Once a week I had riding lessons, and when Mimi was out of town (which was often ) then Papa would have to drive me because it was too far to cycle. One summer, against Mimi's wishes, Papa arranged for me to have lessons from the daughter of one of his best pals - the much maligned Western style riding. Mimi hated that kind, thought it was for the lazy and the unskilled. Feh. She never had her ass in a saddle, as far as I know, but she knew all the snobs rode English so I had to as well. Papa thought I should know another style, and that was the most fun I'd ever had on a horse. Come to think of it...it still is. After lessons Papa and I would go to a local restaurant and indulge in the things she didn't allow - he'd have a double scotch and clam chowder, I would have a grilled cheese sandwich and mud pie. We were united in our conspiracy to commit gustatory larceny - I won't tell if you don't.

I was a lonely kid, too. Thank goodness for perceptive grandfathers. One summer he bought a little speedy boat and named it after me. He tried to teach me waterskiing...what a spectacular failure that was!! He was a boating man, always had something to motor out on...but those are more long stories for another time. He gave me a saddle and bridle...the saddle got stolen, but I still have that bridle, although I'm sure it would fall apart if I tried to use it for anything besides decoration. He was trying to tell me he loved me as best he could.

He got older, his body retaliated for all the years of drinking, smoking, and carousing when he was young...he had strokes and other health problems, and over ten years he failed to thrive. Well, really, he spent ten years coming to his end. I was moved out, by then, back with mum, but I visited when I could. I'd sit with him, listen to his stories about his mother's rose gardens, feel his frustration when he couldn't speak clearly, be understood. He was well-to-do, so he didn't have to worry about nursing care, medical expenses. There were nurses, home-health aides, medical equipment - nothing was spared. He never had to worry about where he would rest. For that, I am thankful. I wouldn't want to see someone I love so deeply caught up in such a sad concern. Maybe I'll write more about him another day. To this day, the sound of a Zippo opening takes me back to our times together. I have his every-day Zippo - it's the only tangible thing I got after he died, and it's all I wanted. I didn't care about his money or who would inherit it. That's never mattered to me...not about him or my other grandparents, or my parents...I don't care about that. I care about what I carry with me, the marks in the book of my life. He wrote with bold, sloppy, loopy strokes, and I will never forget his boyish grin, his eyes, his laugh, and the sound and smell of a Zippo lighter.

Almost twenty years later, I still miss him.

Crystal's story about her grandfather's watch made me think of all this, think of the Zippo, an ordinary thing that has extraordinary meaning. Thanks Crystal.

Thanks for the memories.

Should I be worried...

...that my son asked me for the definition of the following words, in rapid succession?

Sabotage, saboteur, sustained, escaping, injuries, and velocity.

Y'all, he's five. He can't even ride a bicycle yet. What does he need to know those words for? And where on earth did he hear them?? In the interest of education, I explained them...but now I'm wondering if I should be searching his room for a death-ray or something.

Duck and cover, y'all.

Dang.

I may have spoken too soon; last night, Bob the Wonder Computer started having the same trouble we encountered last week. Poo.

I'm bummed. Oh, well - there's always the Geek Squad.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Woo-hoo!! (Cautiously)


Bob the Wonder Computer seems to be back to his old self. Maybe. Possibly. I think.

I have no idea if it was one of the desperate "ohmygodmycomputeriscrashingmaybeIshouldgetridofthisprogram" actions that did it, if Bob was just having a moment, if the planets were aligned all funny, or what. All I know is, all of a sudden tonight, he logged right on when asked, and is now letting me frolic on the Internet once more. Thank goodness...my hands were starting to hurt from the odd keyboard height and angle, the chair at the desk offends my bottom, and there's nowhere for me to prop up my feet. Now that I've backed everything up on disk, I can and will work on both machines, but at least I have my Bob back. For now.

He's still going to visit the Geek Squad when the tax money comes. T thinks I should upgrade memory and other things I don't understand but could probably use a going-over. If nothing else, someone ought to take the old boy apart and clean all the crumbs, cat hair, and tiny little dust critters out of him, and the screen could use a little Windex, or whatever you're supposed to use to clean screens...'cause it's not actually Windex... Also, I would love to be rid of some of the programs that gum up his works and slow the old boy down. Not that he's old, he's only three, but in computer years, what is that? About a hundred?

Y'all, I felt like part of me was missing. Yeah, yeah, a gal can be too attached to her computer, but I am used to Bob. I write on him, compose songs (well, lyrics anyway) on him, all my photos are on him, and I bring him everywhere. Bob has been more places with me than T or Bird. Only Mum has travelled with me more. Bob is one of my safe things, like a security blanket but way cooler. Whew. Sorry. Got a little overwrought, there, for a moment.

Call me silly, but I missed him so. Let's hope I am not delighted too soon... M'kay, now that I've been silly in public, I'm crawling abck into the kitchen and making dinner. Later.

A Brief Musical Interlude.

Caribbean Lighthouse

Maybe not so musical...I have no idea how to include audio clips in a blog, so I'll have to settle for just writing about some music and hoping that will suffice.
Last year, my friend Kit introduced me to the band Nickel Creek, a bluegrass group. They have fabulous harmonies, instrumentation, and generally knocked my socks off. OK, so maybe that's not so hard to do...but really, it kinda is...I am a picky bitch when it comes to what I will listen to more than once. One of their songs, The Lighthouse Tale, was so lovely, it made me cry. Yeah, yeah, I'm a big old girl.
Here's the video I found on YouTube...maybe...if I can make this whole thing work...'cause we've discussed my non-geekness when it comes to things computerish. Heh, spell check is swooning. Anyway, the video:
There are actually several videos of The Lighthouse Tale, so I sort of picked one at random.


Here's another song:



When In Rome gets stuck in my head a good bit...I don't know what exactly appeals to me about this song, but I like it. I think it's the fiddle part.

They're cute, aren't they?

Go look them up on YouTube if you want more...they have so many songs I could overload my blog with 'em; Jealous of the Moon, When You Come Back Down (the video for this one isn't terrific 'cause it was shot at a live concert) - Y'all want to make your honey swoon? Play him/her this song...but only if you mean it.

I loaded Kit's copy of their "The Best..." CD onto my iPod, with full intentions of buying a copy when I'm solvent. I loathe pirating! 'Course, I'm a musician, so I'm a little skewed on the subject. Whenever possible, I buy the original, make a copy, and play the copy while storing the original so it doesn't get worn slap out. It may sound a bit much, but I like some obscure stuff, and it isn't always replaceable. I am still mourning the loss of my "Men Without Hats, The Rhythm of Youth" tape. Shush. I hear you laughing.

Now for the bad news...they broke up!! Now what'll I do?? I can order the CD, and I will, but...but...now I'll never get to see them in concert, screaming like a loony fan and throwing...well, not my undies because size ridiculous grannies just aren't the thing to fling at musicians, but maybe I could go get ammo at Victoria's Secret...they don't have to know, do they? Sigh...all moot, since they're not a group any more, but...maybe they'll get back together and make me happy. 'Cause isn't that what everyone wants, to make me happy?

Want another laugh? I know, you haven't recovered from the Men Without Hats thing...well, here, to add fuel to the fire...I decided that I like the country song "International Harvester". Good grief...what a ridiculous thing to write about, but the song tickles me. I was grinning like a fool last night when it played on the radio...and singing along...and I just know the people in the cars around me thought I was a nut. Eh, who cares?

'K, 'nough music for now I'm off to frolic in the laundry...cheers!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The ettiquette of bloggery.

I am supposed to be typing up some corrected lyrics sheets for today's rehearsal. We all know how good I am at doing what I should.

Procrastination, thy name is...ME!

Also, the evil genius known as Bird is suddenly demanding computer time again. He hasn't been interested in a while, but this morning he's anxious for access. I guess his latest scheme involves a computer. Look out world, the kid has figured out how to get online...a complete takeover can't be far behind.

Despite Bird's escalating urgency and the task I should be hacking away at, I am here. Aren't you lucky? I had a thought, and since I know the entire world of blogopolis (how many times can I make the spell check cry in this post do you think?) just waits with bated breath for my little gems, I rushed on over and started typing.

I read a blog or twelve. Several of them are daily reads...and sometimes I pop in several times a day because I really enjoy them and keep hoping they'll write more, more, more. Sometimes I make bold and comment. This leads me to wonder; should one introduce one's self to a blog author as soon as one starts reading? Or perhaps when one becomes a regular reader? Or is simply dropping a comment enough? Is commenting on a blog like commenting on an overheard conversation? Excuse me, but I couldn't help hearing (reading) and wanted to add... What's the polite thing, here? We're talking about a world where complete strangers are traipsing through your virtual living room, inspecting the drapes and the dust on the door frames (C'mon, you know it's dusty up there. Please tell me I'm not the only one...) and then possibly telling others about it.

When you comment for the first time, is there some polite little word or phrase to ease the way? Or is it just a "jump in and swim" sort of proposition? 'Cause I usually just jump in with both feet and hope for the best.

I like to follow blog links. Blog-hopping? Leap-blogging? Sometimes I bookmark blogs of folks I've found through other blogs. Should I tell them that's how I found them? Oh, I hope not...I can't remember all the strands I walked on the web to get to some of the places I've ended up!

What about other folks you see regularly in the comments sections? I keep seeing one name over and over...and I swear I'm not cyber-stalking her, but since I kept seeing her name I decided to look at her blog, too...and now I have that one on my list of daily reads, too. When you see someone like that, do you say hello? Or give a little finger wave, or whatever the electronic equivalent is? It's a bit like running across the same person at the coffee shop every day...or is it?

I was raised to have good manners, and I wouldn't want to offend, annoy, or otherwise discommode (good word, huh?) anyone, so what's the polite thing?

Yeah, I know, I worry about peculiar things. Just wait until I get going on something like co-creative reality. Ouch.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another dang meme, but it's NOT David's fault!

David is someone I would put in the category somewhere between acquaintance and friend, maybe closer to friend. I am fond of him, we chat from time-to-time, he works at the Borders that I haunt on Thursdays. I owe him for turning me on to several authors and series that I hadn't heard of. He always has a good suggestion when I need something besides a trashy romance or the usual sci-fi/fantasy fare. He was my very second MySpace friend, and the first one I actually knew on there. I just wanted to explain all that because of this post title.

See, David often sends me memes.

I have OCD. One of my little weird behaviors is...when I see a meme, I have to fill it out. The only exception seems to be if I've seen it before...then sometimes I can get away with ignoring it. I don't feel compelled to post them...but after putting all the thought and time into answering, I feel like someone else ought to suffer share my pain benefit from the silly things.

And, as I mentioned above, David sends them to me. Lots of them. Not so many recently, but they seem to come in spurts. I always blame him in the post title, because you have to give credit where credit is due. However, the one I am posting below actually came from another blog: http://foolery.typepad.com/foolery/ She came over here and had a read and was nice enough to comment, so I blog-hopped on over to check her out. Perhaps I'm a little stalkerish that way. I liked her stuff. You might, too. Go look, I'll wait.

See, isn't she fun? So I had the bad fortune to see this meme on her blog, and even though it wasn't sent to me, directed at me in any way, and an older post...doesn't matter. Hey, you try reasoning with the dang beast...I'm just going to fill out the meme and save time. I posted it on MySpace last night, without this rather long and somewhat pointless intro. Anyway, enjoy...or not. Whatever.

1. What kind of soap is in your bathtub right now? Ancient Evenings. It's also in the shower, at the bathroom sink, the kitchen sink, and in the guest bathroom.

2. Do you have any watermelon in your refrigerator? Ummm...no? Hellooo...winter!

3. What would you change about your living room? Latitude and longitude.

4. Are the dishes in your dishwasher clean or dirty? Clean.

5. What is in your fridge? About a million honeybell oranges. Mmm, honeybells...

6. White or wheat bread? Commercially baked, light wheat. Artisanal bread, multi-grain or white mountain.

7. What is on top of your refrigerator? Many dust creatures...I have an entire menagerie up there and am always breeding more for the collection. They live among the various stuff and nonsense that collects on top of refrigerators.

8. What color or design is on your shower curtain? It's a glass door. Bird's is the ugly one that came with the house. I am planning on getting him one that's the periodic table of elements. C'mon, how cool is that??

9. How many plants are in your home? Umm, fourish, that I know of.

10. Is your bed made right now? Heh...heh, heh, heh...heh...

11. Comet or Soft Scrub? Umm...neither? How about DOW Scrubbing Bubbles or a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser? Or better yet, a housekeeper...

12. Is your closet organized? If you take it in parts, then yes. As a whole...not so much. One of us is OCD, the other isn't...so the OCD doesn't go in there unless she has to or her head will explode.

13. Can you describe your flashlight? Why, is it guilty of something?

14. Do you drink out of glass or plastic more at home? Garden hose.

15. Do you have iced tea made in a pitcher right now? No, I keep it in the bathtub like a civilized person.

16. If you have garage, is it cluttered? I can get my van into it, just. That's all I care about. If I cleaned it, where would all the feral dust critters live??

17. Curtains or blinds? Both or nothing, I don't much care. I like letting in the moonlight, but if I am blocking the sun I want all the help I can get.

18. How many pillows do you sleep with? One at a time...what kind of girl do you take me for??

19. Do you sleep with any lights on at night? Not unless it's moonlight.

20. How often do you vacuum? Umm...I don't remember? Wait, every day...I mean, every day!! Twice a day!! Not buying it, are you?

21. Standard toothbrush or electric? Standard. I liked the electric ones, but my adamantine teeth apparently overwhelmed them and they broke.

22. What color is your toothbrush? Someone used brain cells to write this? It's blue and white.

23. Do you have welcome mat on your front porch? Yep. And one inside the door. But do people wipe their freakin' feet??

24. What is in your oven right now? Air and oven racks.

25. Is there anything under your bed? Unexplored lands, dark and mysterious. Also, lots of dust critters, and maybe a cat or two.

26. Chore you hate the most? Floors...windows...sex...oh, wait, that's not supposed to be a chore. (Kidding!!!)

27. What retro items are in your home? I have a really groovy lava-lamp, but I bought it in the nineties, so does that count as retro? The crockpot that mum had when I was a kid - she gave it to me when she got a new one, and I looove it. It's hideous. The old brown dishes from when I was a kid. I refuse to let go of them. They're beautiful, chunky, and survived me and my brother. They deserve a place of honor at the dishware hall-of-fame or something.

28. Do you have a separate room you use as an office? Well, I did, but I rented it to our roommate so now I use the kitchen table or a desk in the living room.

29. How many mirrors are in your home? I have no idea...I don't look in mirrors if I can help it, let along count them. At least three, because they put them in the bathroom whether you want them or not.

30. Do you have any hidden emergency money around your home? Nope, it's right out in the open where anyone can take it. If they can lift a jug of change that big. But then they may need it for a chiropractor. So it's best just left where it is.

31. What color are your walls? White. Boring old white. The white they were painted when the place was built. Except where I have scrubbed the hand prints (which, by the way, were NOT left by the kid) off, and then they're a little grey tinged with blue.

32. What does your home smell like right now? Triple chocolate chunk brownies with cherries and cinnamon in.

33. Favorite candle scent? Natural beeswax, unscented...they smell ever-so-faintly of honey.

34. What kind of pickles are in your refrigerator right now? Old ones...I can't remember when I last bought any, but I know they're lurking in there.

35. Ever been on your roof? I once stood on a pile of roofing shingles before they went on the house...does that count?

36. Do you own a stereo? Yes, and it's the same one I've had since dinosaurs roamed, despite the efforts of my menfolk to talk me into newer and (questionably) better things.

37. How many TVs do you have? Me, personally? One. The household? ugh...four.

38. How many phones? Too bloody many, really. Three upstairs and one down, not including cell phones.

39. Do you have a housekeeper? Yeah, she's called ME.

40. What style do you decorate in? Mostly Twentieth-Century tacky mixed with hand-me-down art-deco and timeless-comfortable.

41. Do you like solid colors in furniture or prints? Mmm, denim.

42. Is there a smoke detector in your home? Two, and I even remember to change the batteries more than once a decade.

Where did the day go??

OK...I know I didn't get to be at a reasonable hour last night. After two-o'clock. Ayem. You know, the morning one. (Hello, insomnia, are you And Bird woke up early. Before seven. Ayem. You know, the morning one.

So I was bound to feel a little...out of sorts...this morning. I still managed to get some laundry done, make out a grocery list, read up on bread making because I really want to make something crusty, steamy, chewy...cue Homer Simpson gargle here. Is there anything quite as wondrous as fresh baked bread and butter? Irish Butter? Maybe with a bit of honey? Go wipe your mouth. I'll wait.

I cleaned the bathroom again. Why can't cats keep the litter in the box? Really, it gets everywhere. It's at the foot of my bed, under three layers of bedding. How does that happen? I think they put it there on purpose. I do. They scoop it up into their little paws, creep into the room when I'm not looking, dump it right where they know my feet will be that night, and run.

I made lunch. OK, so it was cold pizza, but I did put it on plates, and I cut up an apple for Bird. Somehow, that took all morning. It was almost two-o'clock in the afternoon when Bird went into quiet time and I decided that a nap was in order. That explains the afternoon flying past. Sleep will do that to you. I had the funkiest dreams...can't remember much about them, except they were those dreams you wake up from and say "What the hell???" The phone woke me, but that's OK...I really needed to go to the grocery store. We were out of milk, paper towels, ice cream...you know, the essentials!

I was going to get more laundry done, but the detergent disappeared. I had almost a whole bottle, but it's gone. Perhaps the cats ate it. Couldn't do laundry until the grocery run. I got Seventh Generation soap this time. I'm gettin' so freakin' granola, I am going to break out in raisins at any moment.

I was going to do dishes, but I was out of dish detergent. Bird's not burping bubbles, so I know it's not him; what, are there detergent eating gremlins out there?

Now it's evening. Bird's in his room, I am finishing dinner (ribeye steak, rare because overcooked steak is a travesty and you may as well order boiled shoe-leather as well done beef, baked potato, and an entire package of frozen spinach all for me)(because no one else 'round here will eat it)(but since Bird's in his room and T is out of town, I don't care)(mmmm, spinach) and finally watching the Wednesday AI...and I can't figure out what happened to the day. It's just...gone.

Does that ever happen to you?

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cinnamon Rolls, a LONG Reprint, with pictures!

Five posts yesterday, and all I can think to post today is a bitchy rant about something that should be nothing? Hah! I can't let that slide. I originally started blogging (Take that, spell check!!) on this site so I could do things with pictures. Well...this series of blogs was originally a MySpace series, but I am putting it here with photos because I wanna.
~~~~~
Originally posted December 18

Yeasty Things

I believe that we've established that I enjoy baking? Cookies, cakes, banana bread, corn bread - all sorts of things. What I studiously avoid, though, are yeasty things.

I don't do bread. I used to do bread - long, long ago in a kitchen far, far away, I made honey-wheat dinner rolls and loaves on occasion. The rolls turned out fine, every time, but the loaves were a little hit-or-miss. More miss than hit, really. I never really got the hang of the yeasty beasties.

Today, I once more venture into the world of cooking with live critters. I am making cinnamon rolls. Attempting cinnamon rolls. Whatever. I found a recipe I like. I imagine many cooks wouldn't like it, because it doesn't have a lot of measurements. As I haven't posted recipes here, you wouldn't know that most of the things I cook have approximations more than exact measures. And the word "some" appears a lot. I am also fond of the dash, the pinch, and the scosh. I only jigger on special occasions, and never in public places.

Until today, the only cinnamon rolls I've made came in a tube, with a little plastic tub of icing at the bottom to help make them festive. This is most unsatisfactory. Don't get me wrong, the Doughboy does a fine job, and his rolls are lovely when I want baked goodness NOW. Also, he makes those orange sweet rolls that are so popular in this house. Still. They aren't home made, are they? It doesn't count as home made if you just heated it up. And there are things in those rolls that no one in this house can pronounce. Call me picky, but I don't think you should eat it if you can't say it.

What I have learned so far about these rolls:

1. I will NOT be getting up on Xmas morning to make them. It is almost two o'clock now, and I started working on these bad boys around ten o'clock. And they aren't in the oven, yet - they're just about a third of the way through their second rising! If I can make them the night before and let them rise overnight, I may do that. Or bake them the night before and warm and ice them in the morning. We'll see.

2. Yeast is fun stuff, but it's sensitive. It turns out that I MAY have been overheating the water when I made bread with it before. It got all foamy and excited this morning, so I have hopes for better results today than I've known in the past.

3. When you don't put enough flour in the dough, it is sticky. Really sticky. Like, gluing your fingers together so it takes a pry-bar to separate them sticky. Melding to the wooden cutting board you have to use for kneading the dough because the counter's a mess and the big board is all cluttered up and now you can't get the dough off the board to knead it because it has bonded with its new friend sticky.

4. A fun thing to do in the morning is try to shake the almost-empty flour bag off your hand with enough force to send a cloud of flour through the kitchen, turning the formerly black cat gray and garnering reproachful looks and pitiful meows from said beast, making the Pergo floors slippery as a freshly Zamboni-ed skating rink, and giving the almost-five-year-old a fit of giggles that sets him coughing, and you can't pat him on the back because you are stuck to the flour bag and a huge wad of sticky dough, coated in flour, and your fingers are trying to glue themselves to whatever you touch due to the aforementioned dough, which (did I mention?) is sticky.

5. Yeasty dough only rises when you aren't staring at it, trying to catch it in the act. It likes privacy to make the warm, burpy goodness that is yeast in action; privacy and soft music, and maybe some candle light, and would it kill you to bring it a damn rose, or even a daisy, every now and then?? It's doing all this work for you, the least you could do is say "thanks, yeast!" and make it feel special.

6. There is something weirdly therapeutic about patting or punching down the now-doubled dough. No wonder bakers are so Zen.

7. Making cinnamon rolls without a rolling pin brings new meaning to the word "challenge".

8. Reynolds Release foil is wonderful stuff when you don't want your dough to stick to the surface you're (not) rolling it out on.

9. Butter plus brown sugar equals more sticky, but also more fun to lick off your fingers.

10. Enthusiastically shaking on unmeasured amounts of organic Saigon cinnamon will make tasty rolls, as well as sneezing fits and a burning in the eyes if you don't wash your hands the moment you're done. Really, the MOMENT you're done.

I am sure there are more lessons from the cinnamon rolls, but just now I am waiting for the next step - baking them. If you've made this sort of thing before, tell me - can you let them do their second rising overnight so they get nice and fluffy and can bake fresh in the morning, or will you end up with a sort of uber-roll that won't fit in the oven and menaces you when you get too close?

Mmm, cinnamony goodness...

~~~~~
Rolling, Rolling, Rolling

Things I did during various stages of waiting to bake cinnamon rolls from scratch:

Played solitaire. A LOT of solitaire.

Dishes. Two loads in the dishwasher and several hand washed.

Wiped flour off the mixer, counter, floor, dishwasher, oven, stove, ceiling fan, walls, cats, son, ceiling, Yule tree, table, chairs, cupboards, and internal workings of the heat pump.

Made lunch for T, myself, and Bird.

Ate lunch.

Put away two loads of dishes and started a third.

One and a half loads of laundry.

Cleaned off the vanity at the foot of my bed that was stacked several feet high with assorted stuff and nonsense.

Showered, taking special care to remove now cement-like dough, cinnamon, and brown sugar from under nails and out of hair - have to look nice for T's work party tonight. Maybe they'd like some cinnamon rolls?

Fielded several phone calls from various folks wanting various information about various other folks.

Assembled party clothes for self and T, which I will be happy to wear but he won't, but too bad because nothing else is clean or the right size.

Make icing for the rolls that are now filling the house with a lovely scent. If they taste horrible, I don't care - they smell fantastic! I can always use them for doorstops...


Can ya smell 'em??

~~~~~
Anticipayayshun

They smell good. They look good.

Now I'm waiting for T to get home and try one - I'm afraid to. What if they're awful? What if they're little cinnamon scented hockey pucks??

I used two cake pans, there were so many. I frosted half. If they're any good, I'll put the unfrosted lot away and re-heat the tomorrow, see how they do with that. If they work out OK, then I know I can bake them on Xmas eve and have them Xmas morning.

Now where the hell is T?? I want to know how they taste. I am having a flashback to my childhood and those Life Cereal ads - give it to Mikey, he'll try anything...

Aww, hell...cover me, I'm going in!!

Caramelized sugar in the pan...mmm...

Hey, not bad! I may use less brown sugar next time, and even more cinnamon (with safety goggles and plastic gloves for safety), and make half with raisins in (because I LOVE raisins, and T really, emphatically doesn't) and I wonder how they'd taste with less of an icing and more of a light citrus glaze? Ooh, or a sort of almond paste filling and a citrus glaze!

Woo-hoo, I did it!!


Dontcha want one??

~~~~~
The ones I made Xmas morning turned out fine. I made them the night before, but baked them Xmas morning, and made a light glaze for folks to drizzle over 'em. The ones in these pictures are from that morning, since I didn't have my wits enough about me to photograph the flour, the dough, or the chaos of the first lot.

'K, toodles, y'all...for some reason I want some dinner...

Family, ugh.

There is precious little shade and sweetwater about this post, just so you know.

My mum e-mailed me that my grandmother is in the States. Mimi (my gran) lives in France, having moved there as soon as my grandfather was dead and scattered. Not that she didn't love him, but I guess the rest of us weren't all that interesting, because as soon as he was gone, so was she. She was married to him for over 30 years, but I guess she missed home.

Anyway, she's in the states. She's been here a month. I had no idea.

For a long while after she'd gone, I tried to keep in touch. That just about involved the use of a PI and a skip-tracer; the woman moved around a lot and never thought to leave a forwarding address with those of us (OK, so probably only me) in the States who wanted to keep up with her. I have no idea why she doesn't want anything to do with us. I used to be hurt over it. Devastated, truth be told.

I spent the first two-thirds of my life trying to win her approval, her love. I wanted nothing more than a word or two of approbation...I struggled to be what she wanted me to be in every way, sublimating myself in the process. Her voice still rings in my head, chanting the old familiar refrain of "You're too fat, too ugly, too stupid, never good enough..."

So when she moved and never wrote back, even to tell me to piss off and let her be, well...that hurt. I had a hole in my heart, my psyche, and my life where she had always loomed. It didn't know what to do with the resulting freedom, and neither did I.

I wrote to her. I sent updates on my family, on myself, on what we were doing. Sometimes I got my letters back - she wasn't at that address any more. Fine. I contacted the lawyers handling the trust my grandfather left for her, got her new address (she might not want to be in touch with US, but she would NEVER miss a payment, so I can always find her that way) and try again. I wrote her about my engagement, and subsequent marriage. Nothing. I sent her a birth announcement when my son was born, and for several years sent her an Xmas card with photos in it. Two years ago, I didn't bother. Why should I? It's like screaming into the void and expecting an answer. I had to make myself put down the pen a number of times...I kept thinking I should send something. I hate to say it, but she probably didn't even notice. Ouch.

Years ago, my father and stepmother told me I was stupid for trying. They actually said "stupid". They didn't understand why I would be hurt that "that bitch" didn't answer. Well, I don't expect anyone else to get it...it's as complicatedly simple as I loved her then and I still do, despite the many effortless ways she hurt me. My variety plate? You know, the collection of bugaboos, mental illnesses, whatevers that I write about? She helped load that sucker up. Things she said and did were directly related to these annoying behaviors and fears I have today. Be careful how you speak to a child...even when you mean well, thoughtlessness will damage them. You would think her absence, her silence would be a relief. Nope. Who said the human heart was sensible? I just learned to suck it up, tuck it away, and pretend it didn't hurt any more...I was really tired of hearing how stupid the rest of my family thought I was for trying. Not that they complained when I used the same dogged determination to keep up with them. Having a family shouldn't take this much work.

So she's in Florida. I have no idea why. And she decided to get back in touch with someone from the family. Not me, oh no. Why would she try to contact the one person who ever made a damn effort? No, she called my aunt. I shouldn't be surprised. My aunt lived closer, hung out with her, all that, when Mimi lived in Florida. My mum found out...my family may not get together much, express affection freely, or function normally, but our grapevine is top of the line...hell, governments wish they had spy networks this extensive and communicative. Nothing stops us from keeping up with the latest, even internal strife...not that we're together enough to have that. She called my aunt, and since my aunt will be down there anyway for other reasons, they are getting together. Mimi doesn't want the rest of us to know. What, she thinks we're going to go down there en masse and accost her? Does she believe that she figures large enough in our collective lives that we'll drop everything and go confront her about...whatever? Puhleeze.

I am trying to muster up a feeling about this. After reading back over what I've written, I can see some anger and bitterness there...but it's not in the NOW. It's remembered anger, remembered hurt, but...it isn't current. I can't even care. I wish I did. I'd like to say I decided to load up Bird and head south, but...nope. I cut him an apple, made dinner...and thought about what she meant, and if she meant it any more. Nothing. This woman who so shaped me, who meant so much to me...nothing. That would be sad, if I cared.

I wanted to ask mum why she was telling me about it. I tried longer than she did to keep in touch. Didn't she know that I was cut to the bone over it? Does Mimi know, or care? Doubtful...just like she'll never know or care that I was the only one to think of asking the trustees where she was, of keeping track of her well-being that way. And now mum's calling to tell me that Mimi is back in the states and made a special effort to be in touch with my aunt, but didn't want the rest of us to even know she was there? Not even one of the kids she took in and raised? So what?

Last year, while I struggled NOT to send that woman an Xmas card, struggled not to see it as another rejection from someone who never wanted me in the first place, I came to a decision of sorts. I can't stop the old hurts...I can muffle them but I can't stop them. But I can stop throwing good love after bad. I decided that if Mimi wanted to speak to me, she could bloody well make the effort herself. She has to write, call, or show up on my doorstep if she wants something from me. I don't care about inheritances, or legacies, or gifts, or approval, or whatever else anyone thinks there is to gain from her. All I ever wanted was something she seems incapable of giving. She has to make the effort, now. She has to earn what I once gave so freely. It won't be all that hard. All she has to do is make the effort.

Yeah, I don't think I'll be hearing from her, either.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Mmm...bleh.

I just baked triple-chocolate-chunk and cherry brownies, with cinnamon in.

I don't want them.

I wanted my house to smell of baking, and I had a box mix for the brownies. I added the cherries and cinnamon, in case I wanted one. No one else is around to eat them, as T is out of town until Monday and our roommate J is staying with his mum for a few days to keep her company.

But I don't want one. Not really. I bake when I'm not happy, and all of a sudden I got hit with a wave of the blahs. They smell nice, but I am tired of being fat...and brownies equal fat. I think I'll go to bed early, maybe have the tree dream again.

Anyone want a brownie?

Dreaming

I meant to write about a dream I had last night. No, not the Toby Keith one...that was years ago. And not the Mike Rowe one...that's not the sort of thing one speaks of in public. Heh.

No, last night I had a lovely, if peculiar, dream,.

Let me preface this, if I may, with my afternoon. Bird had quiet time, I had a shower and a nap. Yes, yes, it's a strenuous life and it's a wonder I don't waste away to nothing. Ahem.

I like to sing in the shower. Well, to be honest, I like to sing anywhere. It can annoy others, so I try to curtail it. The shower, though, is the place to sing, isn't it? I mean, even if you sound like an injured cat wrestling with a rabid hedgehog in the midst of a badger war, you sound good in the shower!

There is something about the combination of afternoon shadows (I don't turn on the light if I can help it) and running water (I had a more descriptive passage there, but it sounded a little...ahem...nasty) that I find soothing.

So yesterday, I was singing in the shower and felt moved to make up a little ditty on the spot. Being a made-up song, I don't remember all of it, but it basically expressed the sentiment that the water was washing away my ghosts. The things that haunt me, plague me, and generally make my internal life on not worth looking at all that often. Even I don't want to look at it, and I live with it all the time. So I was singing an impromptu song to some imagined person I called "you", and told that "you" that they couldn't hurt me any more because I was washing them away.

I am washing you away
Washing away your anger
Your anger can't hurt me any more
I am clean

For "anger" substitute hatred, insecurity, ignorance, and some other negative emotions, and you get the gist of my shower song. It was oddly cathartic. I wish I could relate the tune...it was sweet, lilting, and something I'd like to repeat, if only I can remember it. Water cleans so much more than the physical self.

I mostly dried off, wrapped my head in a towel, and took a nice nap. Bird and I went to Borders...I almost always go on Thursday, but usually alone. I didn't want to miss this week because I wanted to order a couple of books, and we needed an evening out. "Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay" and "Naptime is the New Happy Hour", if you're interested. It probably sounds dull to you, but I like my night out at the bookstore. It's a little slice of heaven - I am surrounded by books, the staff know me and, what's more, are nice to me, and it's one of my safe places, a haven from the regular world. Also, they have coffee shakes. With real coffee. And bagels. With raisins in. Who can resist?? I get a lot of work done there, when I don't have Bird to ride herd on. Last night, I just yacked with friends (I actually go for a discussion group...the bookstore setting is a bonus) and half minded Bird and his friend Noodle while they colored and behaved like...well, like little boys in public, but slightly better.

I typed for a while last night, so I got to bed fairly late - one-thirty in the morning late. No wonder I had an odd dream.

So, to the point of this whole blathering blog. The dream,

I dreamed I was a tree in the moonlight. I could feel my roots reaching deep into the blessed earth, my taproot deepest of all, plunging to her heart and connecting her to mine. I could feel my bark, deeply grooved, wrinkled, glorious. I was an old, old tree, standing along on a hill. My branches spread around me, silvered in the moonlight. Above me was a clear sky, full moon surrounded by the sparking bright stars. A tiny stirring of breeze tangled in my twigs and hung there for a moment before wresting itself free and moving on. Small, nesting things in my branches rustled and were still, settling deeper into their sleep and small, furred and feathered dreams. Holding them safe above the ground felt right. Knowing that I gave them shade from the sun, a place to shelter from storms, nourishment and nurturing felt right. In the stillness of this night, I felt the light pouring over me like water. It seeped into every groove, silver-gilt every glorious bump; I steeped in it, and touching the light, I touched everything else that was bathed in the same fashion, and so I was the ground beneath me and the living things in me, and all the world around me. I was the stars in their infinite burning cold and the dark emptiness around them. I was the molten heart of the earth, that roiling hot brightness that finds its way to the surface and bursts forth with destructive/creative joy. And I was a tree. A tree in the moonlight, looking out at the world as trees do, never sleeping, watching the tides of time ebb and flow, awash in their currents but never caught up in them, always steady and sure.

Nice dream, no?

Expanding on some thoughts, part three of...well, you know...

Warning: This isn't sweetness and light. It may well contain TMI. It does contain strong language and adult themes...but not the fun kind. Read on at your own peril.

Speaking of phobias...

I have a few. Obviously not spiders, snakes, or other creepy-crawlies. I don't fear anything nature made - not fire, not volcanoes, not floods or wombats or hurricanes or tornadoes, not earthquakes or mudslides or rivers or dingo attacks...nope, none of that. No, my fears are more related to the human side of things. In no particular order they are: xenophobia, claustrophobia, acrophobia, and agoraphobia.

Xenophobia is a fear of people. OK, that's a simplification, but in my case, it's what's pertinent. I used to love people. When I was a child, I would hug anyone, loved chatting with and listening to folks, loved being among them. Then I experienced a series of events that quashed that friendly nature. I withdrew, making the conscious decision to stop associating with the things that brought me shame, pain, and fear. This fear of people grew with the careful ministrations of my grandmother...I know she meant well, but you really shouldn't tell a young child that people are judging her and she's never good enough, and blah, blah, blah. Now, I don't like people looking at me. Not one little bit. Hey, I'm fat...that would be reason enough not to want to go into public! I don't like meeting new people, having to open myself up to more judgement and censure. People scare the whey out of me; I break into a cold sweat, having to go out in public or meet someone new. This goes hand-in-hand with another item on the variety plate, but I'll get into that another time. Aren't you thrilled?? It's not rational, but there you go...fear never is. How do I deal with this? I am a musician. I go up on stage and I sing. On stage. Where people are not just looking...they are staring. On stage. Up. Perform. Me. You can't let the fear win. And the music is stronger than the fear. Thank you, Goddess.

Claustrophobia is a fear of small spaces. Lots of people have this to varying degrees. I think mine is relatively mild. I am uncomfortable in small spaces. Elevators make me nervous...I worry that the cable will snap, it will crash to the basement, and I'll end up with broken legs and have to be hauled out by twenty big, burly firemen who aren't wearing any shirts because it's hot down there and...wait, is that a fear or a fantasy?? Seriously, I do worry that the little box will crash. I didn't have this fear as much when I wasn't so big. It's weight related. You pack on more than a hundred extra pounds, get teased about being a ten-ton-Tessie who'll get stuck places, and see if you don't have a concern about things like the seats being too small, the elevator giving out, or the escalator groaning to a stop. How do I deal with this one? I get on the elevator anyway, or take the stairs. I'm probably better off hiking up, anyway.

Acrophobia is a fear of heights. Again, mild one for me. Some folks can't be two floors up without being ill. I used to climb trees. I loved climbing trees. All the way to the top. There was an old Hemlock in New Hampshire that was my best friend for a few years. I miss that tree. I liked going all the way up and swaying with him, being there in the quiet with the whispering branches and the sweet, gentle breeze. I went skiing. I lost the feeling in my feet on a regular basis because I would ski every minute I could. Downhill, anyway...cross-country just didn't appeal to me. I loved the mountain tops, all the snow, looking out and down and seeing Lake Winnepesauki (I have no idea how badly I mangled that spelling) and the slopes below me. I wasn't great at it, but I stayed up far more than I fell down, so I guess I have some bragging rights. I loved flying, especially from the mainland to Martha's Vineyard in those little puddle-jumpers. Every seat is a window seat! It was exhilarating. I lost that joy somewhere around the two-hundred pound mark, when an offhand comment about how they'd have to adjust the way the luggage was stored to offset my weight for balance hit me square in the ego. I stopped skiing...what if the lift couldn't handle my weight? I stopped mountain climbing...what if I couldn't make it across a skinny spot in the trail? I stopped climbing trees...what if the tree branches broke, or the tree fell? Now I won't even go up a ladder without serious forethought. And never up higher than a chair's height. Except when I go up Stone Mountain on the gondola, or ride a roller-coaster, or change a light bulb, or whatever. Sometimes I even walk to the edge of the precipice and look over, just because I don't want to. Can't let the fear win, remember? I'll go skiing again when I manage to drop a hundred pounds or so and won't worry about starting an avalanche when I go ass-over-teakettle. I still won't go up on the roof, though. A girl's got her limits.

Agoraphobia is...here, let me get the definition from a better source than my over-taxed noggin: Agoraphobia is a condition where the sufferer becomes anxious in environments that are unfamiliar or where he or she perceives that they have little control. Triggers for this anxiety may include crowds, wide open spaces or traveling, even short distances. This anxiety is often compounded by a fear of social embarrassment...Agoraphobics may experience panic attacks in situations where they feel trapped, insecure, out of control or too far from their personal comfort zone. In severe cases, an agoraphobic may be confined to his or her home. Many people with agoraphobia are comfortable seeing visitors in a defined space that they feel in control of. Such people may live for years without leaving their homes, while happily seeing visitors in and working from their personal safety zones. If the agoraphobic leaves his or her safety zone, they may experience a panic attack.

There you go. I like my house. It's messy, but it's mine, and no one can get to me in here without my permission. The world "out there" is dangerous and full of mean, angry, hateful, judgemental, and downright cruel people, and they all want to get me. The world "in here" is safe, quiet, mine. I don't do malls at Xmas...except for the Festival of Trees, because I won't let those kids down for anything short of death. I don't like concerts, plays, or movies when they first open...too freakin' crowded and everyone is breathing MY air. I have to get really Zen to go out in crowds. Really, really Zen. Deeply Zen. I would like to be deeply stoned, but I have a kid to think about, I'm not eighteen any more, and besides, it's unlawful. But still... I travel to shows to perform. Yeah. Again, the music is stronger. Thank you, Goddess. My van is my portable safety zone. How handy is that?? I may never fly again, as long as I can drive to my destination. I can control temperature, music, smell...yeah, sweet. In my van, I am safe. Well...as safe as you can be, hurtling up to ninety miles per hour (shh, don't tell the cops) down the highway in a ton-plus metal-and-plastic vanister (See that? I made a play on the words "van" and "canister", aren't I clever?) surrounded by other fools and madmen doing the same. My mum's house is safe, as are several of my friend's homes. I even have safe places in Ohio and Massachusetts. Some days, I don't want to go out, but I can. Some days, going out is horrifying, but if I must, I will. Some days, well...I won't even walk to the mailbox. Not even out to the garage. Not even if I am starving and the only food to be had is out there in the freezer. I'll go hungry, thank you. The only thing that trumps the phobia on the worst days? My son. For him, I will go out, do anything. Maybe shaking in my shoes, internally, but I'll go. Most of the time, you'd never know I was miserable outside of my house. I can smile, laugh, even enjoy myself...but coming home is always a sigh of relief. How do I handle this? As with the rest, I get on with life. What else is there?

I know where my fears came from. They have a source. Several sources. I don't need to get into them here. Know what? Knowing where they come from, why I experience them, how irrational they are doesn't matter one little bit. They're still there. Knowing that others see them as stupid doesn't matter, either. Knowing that what I am experiencing isn't real to anyone but me makes no difference. The phobias don't make a difference, either. I'm going to do what I am going to do. Every now and then I just don't have the energy, but most of the time...most of the time I get the hell on with life and ignore the phobias. It's all I know how to do...keep slogging through the muck until I hit solid ground.

I go to strange places, get up on stage, and sing. I am one of the female leads in my band, so I am often heard over everyone else. I am one of two main songwriters for the band. Our fans (all six of them) know this. People look at us up there. They look at me. So what? I'm happy, singing, and as long as I don't make their ears bleed, I'm fine. Sometimes the stage is up high. OK, fine. Usually, after a concert, I have to go out and greet our viewers, schmooze with them, hug them. I have to smile, listen, greet, sign things (no, I'm not famous, but our fans are nothing if not loyal, bless 'em), and sometimes hang out for hours with folks who love the music, too. And all the while, I am wishing I could just go be alone and not have to plaster that damn smile on my face any longer. But hey...we're sharing something, and it's part of being a performer...and once in a while I catch myself enjoying it. Shh, don't tell anyone, OK?

Here's a funny little fear...I don't know where to stick it, besides..well, never mind. I am utterly convinced that as soon as I go to California, it will fall right off. Yeah, I know...but still...are you willing to risk it? I'm not...haven't been, probably won't go any time soon. You can thank me with cash.

Right, on with the laundry. Bird's out of undies...which apparently means the world is at an end or something. Later, y'all!

How can you feel blue...

...when listening to the Spice Girls?

Really. Next time you're feeling a little "meh" about life, I dare you to slip in the "Spiceworld" soundtrack and not be smiling and tapping your toes by track five.

Yes, I listen to the Spice Girls. Shut up.

They're like cotton candy and crack for the music center of my brain. Shut up again...I hear you laughing at me. I don't care...here, I'll even stoke the fire a little. I also listen to country music. Yes, yes I do. I once had a dream that Toby Keith was stalking me...and I considered letting him catch me. But then I woke up. Dang.

Now that I've unleashed that tidal wave of mirth, I am off to do laundry and other mature, responsible things. Toodles.

Sprouting, Archive

Good Grief
9/13


Little helper.
5/13

Who's a cutie?
12/12

7/12
Golden


12/11
She's comin' right at me!
8/11
Cool as a...


"Mmm...music...nommy..."
7/11

Wuzzup?

5/11
What the...?

4/11

It's exhausting, bein' a baby...
3/11 (5 wks old)

Phobias, schmobias!

I was reading Pioneer Woman's blog last night, and it started me thinking. Uh-oh, run for the hills! OK, kidding aside, she wrote about a phobia. Her readers (of which there are many) wrote to her about their own phobias and coping mechanisms. There were a number of folks who mentioned cognitive therapy, medication, and alcohol. Many of them mentioned that their fear started when they had kids. Which got me thinking more.

Have I been afraid of anything new since I had Bird? Or more afraid of something old?

Nope. At least, I don't think so. All the old phobias are still in place, and I am still ignoring them except when I'm not, but there are no new bugaboos.

Bird is fearless. Last evening, he was throwing something away at Borders and struck up a conversation with two startled strangers. I think they weren't prepared for a five-year-old evil genius. They cast cautious glances my way, perhaps afraid that the large woman in blue would feel compelled to charge in defense of her young. Hah! I let him chatter, just to see how he would do. When they were done talking and he turned back to me, I gave what I think of as a friendly smile (perhaps fewer teeth, Ms. Whale Shark!!) and explained "No such thing as strangers, for him." The woman smiled back and said she thought that was great.

Well, yeah, it is...although I need to teach him caution. Now how does one do that without instilling fear? Have to work on that. Meanwhile, I just watch him charm the socks off folks and try to make certain he's not being a pest. Some people don't like talking to random kids, can you imagine??

I remember reading once (long, long ago) that we can teach children our fears. We can teach them fears of their very own, too. I believe this - I have seen it happen. So when I had my own little bundle of wriggling poo production, I wanted to be certain I didn't give him anything he wasn't born with. Good thing most of my phobias are internalized things, not easily seen. Agoraphobia, claustrophobia, xenophobia (oh, that's a fun one!) and such are things people can't see...not like jumping and yelling when you see a snake or spider or chicken or something.

Now, I earned my fears the old fashioned way, through experience and hard work. If my kid wants some of his own, he can just go out and get them without my help. It's a growing thing. Like...umm...I dunno, killing a wildebeest with your teeth or something.

I'm not afraid of spiders, so I'm the one who moves them when people get creeped out by one. Pick 'em up and move 'em without a though, even Black Widows and Brown Recluses. To date, I haven't been bitten, but there's always tomorrow. I am not afraid of snakes, although I do have a healthy respect for them. I think they're beautiful, truth be told. Not afraid of bees or other stingy things, so I don't have to worry about passing that along. I have a friend who is afraid of anything with wings...they are all evil chickens that are flapping at her to peck her eyes out. Butterflies, even...she calls them butterchickens. Dragonchickens. Mothchickens. It sounds funny, and she laughs about it, but the day she stood there and took a moth to the face while we were on stage was epic. I had to defend her from the evil interloper, going so far as to endanger my own self to gently cup the poor thing in my hands and contain it in a box until the concert was over. She never stopped singing, even as she ducked, dodged, and nearly cried. I was so proud.

Bird let a bee land on his hand last fall. It was so cool. He ran up to me, excited as only a child that age can be when a stinging insect has chosen them to alight on, and exclaimed "Mommy, look, I caught a bug!!" Silly me, I was expecting a beetle or some other innocuous critter. Nope. Bee. So I explained to him about being careful not to frighten the little sister, that she would sting him if she was afraid but was otherwise quite safe. She crawled all over his hand, while I wracked my brain trying to thing whether he'd recently washed said paw, or if there was anything there to get her excited. He was clean, I think. I told him about how she was checking him out, giving his hand a sniff-taste, and if she decided he wasn't food she'd tag him as "not food" so all the other bees would know and wouldn't waste their time. We examined her quite closely, admiring her glossy wings and furry body and stripes. We could see where her stinger was, and watched her tiny feet as she walked about. I held his sleeve shut so she wouldn't go up there and get smushed or frightened. Eventually, she crawled onto his sleeves and I brushed her off...she didn't seem to unhappy, just flew in a circle and headed off to things-more-edible-and-less-nosy. Another friend watched this five minute experience, and all she could say was "Whoa, that was the coolest thing ever." I guess she's used to people flapping their arms, running around, and the like. Well...now my kid won't be one of them. I did explain about bees stinging, why they do it and what it means for them. He nodded like a wise little four-year-old evil genius does, and I think he got it. Anyway, he still thinks bees are cool, not frightening. Score one for mom.

We learn about things like strange dogs, cats, snakes, and beavers and stuff...you know, the usual critters. He won't be afraid of them. The hardest thing for me is to keep from teaching him fear of the scariest of all creatures on this earth...humans. See, there's noting in nature that concerns me as much as us. Of all the things Nature made, we are the worst, the most hateful, randomly violent, cruel. That's the fear I have the hardest time not passing along. I try to think like my departed grandmother, who once said "Strangers are just friends you haven't made, yet." It's hard, though. People terrify me.

Most fears can be soothed, if not completely removed, by knowledge. It truly is power. To know a thing, to know why it acts as it does and have some measure of predictability, makes it less frightening. No, the bee sting won't hurt any less, but at least it isn't some mysterious pain...there's a reason for it, a logic to it, if only bee-logic.

Knowing what makes you afraid, and why, is a good start. Learning about what scares you takes away the mystery, takes away the power. Remember Dorothy, when she discovered that the Wizard was really the old guy behind the curtain? Kind of like that.

There's so much more that could be said, but I have to go wrestle my son into his clothing so we can go for his regular dental adventure. Whee.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Homeschooler's rant

A friend sent me this link, and I simply must share. Whether you homeschool or not, go look and have a chuckle...

http://www.familyhack.com/2007/11/09/homeschooler-rant/

Sick and Tired

What a cheerful title for a post, no?

I spent yesterday trying to figure out why my laptop suddenly wouldn't sign on to the Internet. None of the Internet programs could get access for more than a moment before they would log off. AOL tried for over an hour to reconnect, and every time the welcome screen came up, the program would go down. Then I could see what caused the error for exactly ten seconds, until the program tried again. Hint to AOL: Make the error screen a little easier to hang onto, so when non-tech savvy people like me call your outsourced help line, we can sound a little less like a jackass. Also, teach your customer service personnel to get call-back info so when THEY hang up on the customer before the call is done, THEY can call back and finish being completely useless.

Also, AOL? Don't send a snarky little e-mail about how the call went unfinished because I didn't provide enough information. Because I couldn't. Because your outsourced employee. Hung. Up. On. Me. And also, also..,.don't include in that e-mail a million helpful hints that can only be implemented ONLINE. By the computer having the problem. Because it CAN'T GET ONLINE!!!! Whew. I feel a tiny bit better. You?

After realizing that I wasn't getting any help from that quarter...and you should know, I LOVE my AOL, defend them constantly from detractors, and have been a member since-well, a long, long time ago - so it pains me to admit their ineptitude here...I started backing things up onto disks. See, I think I may have to replace Windows, since it looks like it was a Windows file that went bad on me. Hmmm...was it born bad or did it choose to go down that road of corruption? I guess I'll never know. Anyway, I spent the rest of yesterday evening alternating between cooking dinner, saving files, watching the Tuesday evening American Idol on TiVo (because it's like cotton candy for my brain), and being horribly sick. Ugh.

Sometime during the wait on hold for customer service, someone began driving a railroad spike through the back of my head. Ow. It intensified as I waited and tried (with no success) my limited bag of tricks for making Bob the Wonder Computer happy again. The headache got worse as time wore on. When the idiot customer service person disconnected me in the middle of the call, I called back, started going through the whole "push this button so we don't have to do our jobs by asking you any questions or be helpful or anything" menu, and had to stop. The light in the kitchen was stabbing me in the eye in a most unpleasant fashion.

I had to get dinner made in the midst of this, so I hung up on the AOL customer frustration service line and tried to get busy. Good thing spaghetti is so easy, because my brain was throbbing, the muscles in my scalp and neck ached, and I was ready to cry...I have a LOT of pictures and written work on Bob the Wonder Computer, and all of it has to be backed up NOW if I don't want to lose it. I know, I know, I should be backing up anyway, but CD-Rs are expensive and I am usually too broke to buy them. Sigh. I started backing things up, praying to Binarus Geekram (the God of computers) that I would get all the important stuff onto the few discs I have. Do you know how many pictures I have on Bob the Wonder Computer? Neither did I until I started backing them up. Wow. I am a picture taking fool. Luckily, I think all the Word files made it onto one disk...I will double and triple check throughout today, just to be sure...losing all that creative effort would be..."horrible" doesn't even begin to describe what it would be.

And in the middle of dinner, customer no-service, and Idol, my stomach decided that it was in league with my head...which by then was demanding that I remain perfectly still or it would fall off, and by the way could the Earth quit spinning quite so fast? Even speaking was out, and I know our roommate J was disappointed by that, because half the reason he watches AI is to listen to me snipe at the contestants. Last night, I could barely be bothered. At least he liked dinner. I don't know if I liked mine or not...it didn't hang around long enough for me to judge. Aren't you glad I shared that? I managed to get Bird to bed, and do lights out without too much struggle...and I felt awful the whole time. I ate a couple of Smarties because now my blood sugar was in the basement, too, and sat in one of the big chairs and dozed for a few minutes until I felt like I could face the leftover spaghetti without falling over, put that mess away (and that's not a happy smell when you feel ill, is it?) and went to bed.

I was cold all night, despite the three kitties rolled into balls all around me. Sigh...sweet girls, they knew I didn't feel well, and they tucked themselves in and stayed with me all night.

I hate feeling ill...and it's worse when I can't be a part of family life and just want to lie down, but can't, so I just sit there all limp and useless. Bleh. Once the house was quiet and dark, it was better...I didn't sleep well, at first, because I still had low blood sugar and that railroad spike was still getting pounded into the back of my head, but eventually sleep won.

Of course, Bird woke up early today, so I did too. The headache is mostly gone, now, but Bob the Wonder Computer is still not himself and I am alternating between saving files on that computer and writing this on the desktop beast. The Lady Grey tea and lemon scone are making me happy, anyway. And I got to watch Handy Manny with Bird...I like the character's voice, it sounds nice...and Bird thought that was awesome, because a) I don't normally let him watch TV before lunch, and usually not until after quiet time, and b) I almost never watch with him, because most children' television irritates the ever-lovin' crap out of me.

Almost two hours and several hundred typos later (I'm not used to using this keyboard...that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it), I am going to post this and give Bob a rest...I'm out of CD-Rs. Sigh.

It's going to be a long day, I just know it. Think kind thoughts for me, will you?