Monday, October 30, 2006


Sunday morning, I finished charting our schedule for the next week. We have a dry-erase calendar in the kitchen on which we track key events. It’s the best way to keep up with school, church, and extra-curricular events. As I made the last entry, my heart started palpitating. I’m not sure I’m going to survive:

• 2 parent/teacher conferences
• Trick-or-treating (with last-minute costume alterations)
• Piano practice
• Soccer practice (rescheduled from Halloween night)
• Camp Read-A-Lot
• A visit to the nursing home to see Grandma
• Youth group activity (lunch for the homeless)
• Soccer game
• Staff recognition dinner
• Dinner with the in-laws

The next week isn’t much better. In addition to soccer and piano practice, there’s the added stress of:

• Orchestra practice
• Orchestra concert
• Voting
• 3rd grade music program
• SNU basketball game
• My 20-year college class reunion

From the end of October until the first of January, this is the busiest time of year for me. Add to the mix:

• Sport’s birthday
• Thanksgiving
• Holiday parties
• Christmas
• New Year’s Eve

I can see a major illness brewing ahead of me. Each fall, I usually get hit with an upper respiratory infection that knocks me out for a week. It’s my body’s way of making me rest. I think I’m already headed that way. Bad allergies have lingered for two weeks. I haven’t slept more than two hours solid in four days.

I’m starting to hallucinate.

Or maybe there’s a reasonable explanation for the guy in a bear suit checking out books from a tutu-wearing circ clerk.

Friday, October 27, 2006

You really will go blind

Came across an interesting fact in a book I cataloged this week. The subtitle: More questions you'd only ask a doctor after your third whiskey sour. The fact that caught my eye was the answer to the question: Why do you sneeze when you stare at the sun?

I've never given much thought to the medical rationale behind this phenomena, but I'm very familiar with it. I always thought my sun sneezing had to do with allergies. Looking at the sun -- heck, looking at any bright light -- could bring on a bout of sneezing. "I'm allergic to the sun!" I'd think as a kid. Then I'd try to convince myself I was only imagining it. Turns out, I'm not crazy. I have a photic sneeze reflex. Approximately 10 to 25 percent of the population are sun-sneezers. My fellow cataloger, Junior Cat, is one as well. What are the odds of that, eh?

It's genetic, too. According to the book, "if one of your parents is a sun-sneezer, you have a 50 percent chance of being a sun-sneezer too." Does Mom carry the gene, or is it Dad? And which one of my boys has it now? I'll have to force them to stare at the sun this weekend.

I've been doing a lot of sneezing lately. As we get nearer to the Nov. 7th election, I'm rolling my eyes upward and uttering prayers in an effort to remain calm. Everytime I hear someone predict the Democrats are going to take back the House, and possibly the Senate, I glance skyward and hope nobody jinxes it. I'm not greedy; I'll settle for the House. I'm not naive, I know that Democratic politicians can be as easily corrupted as Republican ones. I'd just like to see some oversight. I don't like all the power to be in the hands of one party. It's too easy to let things slide. Throw the bums out!

Did you know the photic sneeze relfect is considered to be a risk factor to combat pilots? I hope LegoGuy doesn't have it. That will bring a crashing end to his dreams of becoming an Air Force pilot.

I hope the Nov. 7th elections don't bring about a crashing end to mine.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why girls should rule the world

As a former PK, I’ve no desire to get involved at my church. After countless years spent in service to Sunday School, YMS, NWMS, revivals, quizzing, lock-ins, Bible studies, nursery attendant, and other endless church-related activities, I’m happy to sit near the back, anonymous and quiet, while others rise to meet their religious obligations. I’ve put in my time, baby! I’m not volunteering for anything.

On the other hand, when asked for help, I’m unable to say no.

I was asked to sub as Pre-K teacher on Sunday. Squaring my shoulders, I marched into the classroom, glancing through the curriculum workbook, scrounging to find paint and color pages while cutting out cards for a Moses-themed memory game. Sport helped arrange chairs while LegoGuy distributed materials neatly on the tiny tables. I was ready to go. I eyeballed the clock. I had 45 minutes to spend with the 3- and 4-year-olds. No problem!

Seven smartly dressed Pre-K’s waltzed in; two boys immediately headed to the giant lego table. One boy hung onto his mother’s knee until she gently disengaged him and made a quick exit. Four little girls sat politely at the table and awaited instructions.

“Let’s color!” I said, passing around a container of paint and a basket of crayons.

They reached for the washable paints and started mixing colors with a terrible disregard for the color wheel. The two boys at the back of the room continued to remove toys from the toy box, tossing them on the floor. Mama’s Boy sat by himself at another table, confused.

Mini-people of this age only have an attention span of about 7 minutes. Coloring started to wear thin until I grabbed a paint stick and started adding decorations to their already overly-decorated creations. The girls started laughing. Mama’s Boy shrugged and abandoned his paper for the raucous activity near the toy box. Eventually, some of the girls grew tired of coloring and left me for the puzzle table. I glanced at the clock: 35 minutes to go. Good God!

Starting to sweat, I gathered them into a circle for snacks. I quickly read the Bible story. (Who on Earth wrote this lesson? What kid cares about the creation of the tabernacle curtain in Jerusalem?) I cut the story short and passed out Dixie cups half-filled with Cheerios. They each wanted a cup of water, then begged for seconds on the cereal. Only 30 minutes left!

I shuffled the deck of Moses cards and arranged them. All my girls and Mama’s Boy wanted to play. I even managed to interest Rowdy Boy #1, enticing him from a game of throwing cars at Rowdy Boy #2.

When you’re 4 years old, you don’t want to take turns. I felt like Kofi Annan, negotiating a particularly tricky treaty with North Korea, Iran and Venezuala. The boys eventually drifted away, frustrated by diplomacy. My girls remained polite and firm.

“We must learn how to share,” said a blue-eyed cutie, fingering her beret.

Another moppet, wearing a red jumper decorated with Scottie dogs, exercised her impeccable manners. “May I please see your cell phone? Thank you very much.”

Meanwhile, the noise at the back of the room was reaching the ear-piercing levels experienced at a Flaming Lips concert. I was certain the teacher next door was starting to seethe.

Glancing at the girls, we rolled our eyes. They shook their heads, clucking their tongues in disapproval. We dodged a flying tiger as it soared over our table.

“Boys,” said one bobbed-hair angel, her voice thick with disapproval.

“This is why girls should rule the world,” I whispered, and we all giggled.

Putting an end to the fracas, I gathered them around me -- three in my lap, one on each arm of the chair, two sitting at my feet -- and told them a story. Something about a giant boy who wore shoes made of pizza. It kept them quiet until their parents came to collect them.

I really hope their teacher isn’t sick next week. I need at least a year to recover.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Holiday Wars

So I was totally unprepared for the phone call I got from my mom on Monday. She often calls me at work, even though she knows I don't like to get personal calls unless there's an emergency. The subject of this particular emergency? Thanksgiving Day. It’s not even November! Let the Holiday Wars begin.

I hate the holidays.

I used to love them, back when I was unattached and unencumbered. My parents never went anywhere for Thanksgiving or Christmas. We always stayed home. On Thanksgiving morning, we kids lounged in front of the TV watching the parades. Lunch was promptly served at noon. We nibbled on leftovers the rest of the day.

Christmas was the same. We rushed the tree at the crack of dawn, roused my parents out of bed with our excited cries, and spent the morning playing with our new toys. Lunch was served promptly at noon. We nibbled on leftovers the rest of the day.

When I got married, we spent our first Christmas in our apartment in Washington, D.C., and ate a Christmas supper with friends. It was when we eventually moved back to Oklahoma that things got complicated. First, we had to deal with SO’s parents. This wasn’t such a big deal, because my mother-in-law is an excellent cook and my father-in-law makes great daiquiris. I didn’t really want to labor over an enormous holiday dinner when it was just the two of us, so I didn’t mind spending the day with them.

Then we had LegoGuy. And my parents decided to retire and move up to live nearby. And two of SO’s sisters settled in town. And my little sister settled in town. Suddenly, we had all these kinfolks living around us, and every one of them wanted us to spend part or all of the holidays with them.

Guilt is my mother’s weapon of choice, and she uses it very effectively. She’s starting early this year, trying to woo us into abandoning our plans for turkey at home and come along with them to Furrs Cafeteria for an 11:00 feast. “You know, your brother was hurt that you didn’t come last year.”

Now, I’d checked with my brother when I learned Mom wasn’t going to cook for the holidays anymore. He wasn’t pleased about going to a restaurant, but he’s a good guy. “I’d rather have a home-cooked meal, but I’ll go just to make Mom happy.”

“It’s your mother who’s hurt,” SO said. And he was right. My parents don’t believe in face-to-face communication. Eventually, I heard it from my sister, who’d gotten a tearful phone call from Mom. “She just wants us all to be together on Thanksgiving.”

Why they want to be with us at all is beyond me. They obviously don't want us around for the conversation, since we're not allowed to talk about anything other than immediate family members or the weather. Politics and religion are absolutely forbidden. My in-laws actually like us, and they serve alcohol. My parents think drinking is sinful, so there’s nothing to take the edge off simmering resentment and barely-concealed grudges: like when I forgot her birthday, or when I yelled at my dad that he was a hypocrite, or when I left the Nazarene church and started going to a progressive one that welcomes gays and lesbians. That was years ago, you might say. But they haven’t forgotten.

I'd love to have everyone over at my house, and avoid all these hurt feelings, but my table only seats 4 and the place is too small. I’ve heard of people renting hotel banquet rooms in which to feed their extended families during the holidays. Is this something we’ll eventually have to resort to?

Or maybe I'll get me a bottle of tranquilizers. Take the easy way out. Yeah, that's the ticket!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just call me Sisyphus

I’m not proud of it, but I had a major meltdown in front of the kids. It may have been brought on by one dirty sock too many left on the floor, one too many misplaced shoes, one too many pairs of glasses hit on the door jam and stretched out of shape despite the fact we’d gotten them from the optometrist’s shop less than 24 hours before. Anyway, I snapped. “I don’t get paid enough to be your mother! Where’s my 15-minute break?”

I spent the weekend laboring like Sisyphus, trying to keep one step ahead of them in their endless attempts to trash the house. They don’t do this maliciously. They are simply oblivious to clutter. Trust me, I’ve tested them. I once placed a basket of neatly folded clothes in the entryway of their bedroom door. For five days they stepped over it to get into their room. Five days! We finally had to threaten them with a week of early bedtimes until they emptied the basket. I had a sneaking suspicion that they threw them all in the hamper just to get rid of them.

I did pretty well on Saturday. I cleaned and de-cluttered the kitchen, library and den. I remained vigilant, like a Roman soldier guarding the gates from the northern barbarians. I even managed to spend 2 hours in the garden while the boys played the Xbox, hypnotized by the flashy movements of animated warriors.

On Sunday, however, I was tired. I spent 30 minutes in my room putting away my own clean clothes. When I emerged, it was too late. The trashing had begun. I was unable to do more than utter a half-hearted protest. When SO’s at work, I’m outnumbered. It’s easier to retreat, cowering in the corner until he gets home.

Usually, when I'm at my lowest point, and I think my skills as a parent suck, the kids will do something that will make it all worthwhile. After I'd dressed for church, it was LegoGuy who said, "Mom, you are so beautiful." And he was sincere! Thank God for make-up.

That night, as I tucked Sport into bed, he pulled me close and whispered something into my ear.

"I can't even count how many times I farted today."


Wednesday, October 11, 2006

My "So-Called John"

I have vivid dreams. Sometimes they are really disturbing, like the one I had after spending a solid month cataloging materials for the Holocaust Resource Collection (HRC) for the downtown library. In this nightmare, I was herded into the back of a truck with a group of wailing women. We all clung to each other, sobbing, because we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that our husbands and children were dead. During college, I had one in which a serial killer came crashing through my window with two white wolves at his side. He proceeded to stab me. I’ve also witnessed a nuclear explosion. That one really sucked.

But I don’t always have nightmares. Once I dreamed Bono was my best friend. I have dreams where I fly over rooftops, and it’s a really great feeling. My most recent dream involved Leonardo DiCaprio, communion, and sweaty sex. (I’m not even going to try to interpret that one.)

Like his mother, Sport has some really interesting dreams. The last one he told us about was hilarious. I don’t remember the subject matter now, but there was a guy in it who went by the name of “So-Called John.” Where did Sport come up with that one? Perhaps he’s heard me talking about my latest endeavor to make a couple of new friends. (You know who you are, J & D!)

Am I wrong in thinking that making new friends carries with it a certain level of unease? It’s a lot like dating. We all try to put ourselves in the best possible light, opening up a tad here and there to expose a hint of who we really are. That means being a little vulnerable and risking the agony of rejection.

At the beginning of a new friendship, shades of sarcasm and twists of language can easily be misinterpreted. What if I say something that I think is really clever but J thinks is absolutely stupid? What if D thinks I’m too old to really contribute anything of value to her life? What if they remove me from their FaceBooks and never even tell me why?

I guess I shouldn’t sweat it. I’m pretty much beyond the point of worrying about what other people think of me. Still, there’s just enough self-doubt lurking beneath the surface to make the whole process of friend-making unnerving.

But I really like making new friends. And I love being around old ones. It’s so much better than having a bad dream. Unless “So-Called John” is there, and we’re hanging out with Bono while flying over rooftops in order to escape a nuclear holocaust.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The toast of New Orleans

John Waters has a pencil-thin mustache and a killer sense of fashion. Not just a director, he also dabbles in art. He's also a bit of a flirt. While we walked through his gallery, he cast an appreciative eye over Snickers, who is not easily starstruck, and they discussed art for awhile. The rest of us tried not to stare. Later, we asked Snickers what he thought of John, or, as td put it rather bluntly, "Would you do him?" Snickers shrugged. "He's not my type, but I might for the story."

It would be an understatement to say I had a good time in New Orleans. I'm not sure I can convey how much fun it was. The city is trying to recover, and the tourist section looks just fine, although the crowds are sparse, and in the French Quarter, people of color are scarce. Many of the buildings are in the process of being fixed, some have been demolished, others are condemned. I didn't go on the "Devastation tour" so I didn't see how the rest of the city was faring. I heard many Katrina-related stories and I saw some FEMA trailers on the drive from the airport. It's going to be a long time before things are back to normal there. I really hope they don't get hit with another hurricane.

It was the company I kept that made the whole experience so great. I adore Snickers and td, and I always will. And there was a good group of friends who came to show support for td's art opening. His pictures were incredible and sparked a lot of interest. I felt so proud of his accomplishments; all of us were. It's really comfortable being around someone with whom you share a lot of history. And it's fun to meet others who have the same appreciation for that someone.

"I just want to let you know that I don't have much room on my plate for another friend. So you don't have to try so hard," Carter, one of td's pals, told me with refreshing honesty. So I immediately set out to win him over. After a waiter spilled red wine all over his back and my foot, we bonded, and by the end of the weekend, he grudgingly called me his friend. Yes!

New Orleans is definitely a Mecca for foodies. My seatmates from Dallas to the Big Easy were obsessed with food. Large women with booming voices, they proceeded to talk about food from the moment they fastened their seatbelts to the moment we landed. I gave up part of my seat to the flowing curve of a stray buttock. It pressed against me like a friendly puppy. Turning to look out the window, it cuddled up to the small of my back as I overheard stories about crepes, crawfish, jumbalaya, gumbo, cheesecake, popcorn shrimp, fried chicken, and all the other meals these ladies were anticipating. Luckily, I wasn’t hungry, since American Airlines no longer serves peanuts along with the half a glass of flat soda they dole out as a way of saying, “Thanks for flying with us!”

During breakfast at the B&B, I was my usual cheery self, although I tried to bring it down a notch when Snickers dragged himself to the table. "You remember what I'm like in the mornings, right?" he managed to say in a raspy voice. How could I not remember? He was a notorious grouch. "Good." He drank his coffee and looked at the paper while I thumbed through the local section to see if td's show was mentioned.

One of my favorite moments came when Pam gave a toast to congratulate td on a successful opening. It went on and on (she was obviously moved), and as I looked around the table, I really fell in love with all these people.

Then, after the toast was over, they all started mocking her, and I loved them even more.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Art, champagne, and the Big Easy

I'm all in a dither because tomorrow I'm flying to the Big Easy! This is my first solo weekend getaway in about 10 years and I can't wait to paint the town red. (I just hope the painting isn't done with my own blood.) I've had a lot of friends telling me to be careful. If you turn the TV on and see some hapless touist being pulled out of a cab and tossed around like a rag doll, it will probably be me.

My college buddy td is having an art show, and I'm meeting him and Snickers in New Orleans for the opening. God, I hope I don't do anything stupid and embarrass myself. The last thing I want is to be put on the spot and blurt out a comment about someone's painting. I'll say it right now: I am not qualified to comment on art! I either like something or I don't. I can't talk about composition, perspective, light, shading, shadow or technique. I can only comment on how the art makes me feel. I think I'm just going to drink a lot of champagne and people-watch. Should make for some interesting blog entries.

The most embarassed I've ever been when it comes to viewing art is the day I took my father to visit the Hirshhorn modern art museum in Washington, D.C. I didn't purposefully set out to show him this museum. He'd come up for a visit, and the metro dumped us out near the Smithsonian Castle. Walking down the gravel path, we came upon the modern art museum and he wandered in, drawn by the enormous Alexander Calder mobiles hanging in the courtyard. I followed reluctantly.

I should have pulled him out the first time he pointed and giggled.

While I could appreciate the human figures made of bronze, he saw only headless, lumpy ladies with saggy breasts. I tried to put myself inside the empty space of a painting with only one red line; Dad said a child could do better than that. His reaction to the mixed media exhibits were gales of guffaws. It got worse and worse, and I started to feel like he was reverting back to an Arkansas hillbilly rather than the minister that he was. How else to explain his inability to at least pretend to appreciate the efforts these artists had made?

I really can't wait to see td's art, framed and professionally displayed. I'm just glad I'm leaving my dad at home.