Friday, December 28, 2007

All I wanted for Christmas

Well, I asked for world peace, but I guess I'll settle for some Tinker Toys.

I did finish a major project, though. In the last few months, I've been hard at work with St. Fiacre, and there's a real possibility that we'll be getting our JNF book published shortly featuring the biographies of 10 Oklahoma heroes. Pretty exciting. I'm trying not to be too anxious to see the finished project.

I didn't get what I wanted for Christmas, but plans are in the works. My heart's desire was to get a new passport. Mine expired years ago after taking a really amazing trip to Israel and Egypt. Now I want to have one in case I ever get the chance to go somewhere overseas (Australia and New Zealand, I'm thinking) or need to make a quick getaway when Bush dissolves the Constitution and declares himself King of America. I have my application all filled out and have located the closest office to my home and I even pulled my old passport out of storage. All I need now is to figure out if it will serve as proof of residency or if I need to get a certified birth certificate (another $27 -- ugh!).

Funniest thing that happened during our Christmas break: Sport was practicing for his Christmas recital and he was barely concentrating, making all kinds of mistakes.

Aware of the kid's reputation for wowing the audience, SO told him, "You are going to lose your legacy."

"What, are you going to tear them off?" Sport asked in a huff.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Be careful what you wish for

I will have to remember this maxim the next time I start moaning and groaning about the dullness of our routine: Be careful what you wish for. While it is often rather boring, I prefer the routine to chaos. And what we've got this week is chaos.

Sunday evening was the beginning of the Great Ice Storm of 2007. Monday morning, 2:13 a.m. The power went out. By 7 that morning, our waterbed was feeling a bit chilly and the bedrooms were getting cold. Looking outside our front window, we found our beautiful Bradford Pear tree had been peeled into 4 pieces, just like a banana. We'd planted that tree 10 years ago when Sport was a baby. We were all rather sick at heart to see it splayed out in such an undignified way. It was blocking part of the road, part of our driveway, and some of the front door.

"We'll panic at noon if the power doesn't come up," I said to SO. We bundled up and went out to start cutting limbs. Next door, my sister-in-law and niece were trying to de-ice their cars. An occasional CRACK! would have us shouting, "Run!" as we dodged large branches snapping and falling from the top of their tree.

Down the street, an enormous branch of a sycamore tree was blocking the road. We joined a group of neighbors to help move it out of the way. That sucker was heavy! But it was nice to see neighbors working together toward a common purpose.

At 12 o'clock on the dot, I said to SO, "We'll panic if the power isn't on by 4." The boys played with their army men while the adults tried to read but all of us ended of falling asleep. Another branch fell, taking out our telephone line.

By 4, we started to panic. Actually, we started making long-term plans for the night. Our gas-lit fireplace would keep the library and tv room warm, so we closed off the rest of the house, dragged in the boys' mattresses, and gathered up blankets, candles, and flashlights. For dinner, we ate at a local diner, along with just about everyone else who had no power. Despite it all, we were in a festive mood. We even got a piece of chocolate pie to-go. The house was pitch black and we all were asleep by 7:30.

The next day, it was more of the same. SO and the boys headed out to his folks' house to hang out while I went into work at 10. This morning, with school cancelled once again, I grabbed the crock pot and ingredients so I could whip something up at work using the electrical outlets. It looks like we could be living this way for a week to ten days, although I'm praying the power will come back on tonight. Sleeping on the couch is hard on my spine!

We're lucky, though. We have hot water and so many friends have offered to take us in. At this point, we are still willing to rough it. I'm really rooting for those OG&E guys to make it to our neighborhood today.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

5 things

In the last couple of weeks, these 5 things have made me happy.

1. Sunrise this morning, 7:05 a.m.: The clouds looked like cotton batting colored with a mix of magenta and pumpkin hues. I tried to imagine what that kind of sunrise would have looked like 100 years ago, without all the buildings, telephone poles, and highway bridges blocking the view.

2. Dinner at Louie's last night with SO: the fried cheese was delicious, we took our time, and no one interrupted us to tell us about video games or wrestlers. Every now and then, we just have to get out of our routine.

3. Botero exhibit at the art museum: I enjoyed seeing another perspective of the human form.

4. A box of flexible straws: My dear friend at work knows of my obsession with straws and she bought me an entire box!

5. A spontaneous hug and "I love you" from LegoGuy, and a competitive game of cards with Sport. He was killing us in a game of 21. He laughed so hard, he like to bust a gut.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Satan's secret garden

Years ago, when Lego was in the 4th grade, we decided to read The Secret Garden together. Lego was only starting to like reading. A late bloomer, he didn't much care for independent reading, but he enjoyed being read to. We spent many pleasant hours with Mary and Dickon and Colin. He took the A.R. test at school and passed with flying colors.

With Sport entering the 4th grade, I decided it would be a good idea to repeat the project. Instead of hours of enjoyment, the book became a hellish nightmare. Sport, unlike Lego, could not sit still for more than five minutes without an attack of the wiggles. He twitched and spasmed as I struggled to read prose written in the early 1900s. We were more than halfway through by the end of the summer, and I refused to give it up. All I could focus on was the 7 A.R. points he would get after we were done.

I began to dread picking that book up. If we could get through a couple of pages each night, I felt like we'd accomplished something. Sport was supposed to be reading a several paragraphs out loud to practice his skills. Some of the writing was torturous to get through:

"Oh! Mary!" he cried out with a half sob. "Shall I see it? Shall I get into it? Shall I live to get into it?" and he clutched her hands and dragged her toward him. "Of course you'll see it!" snapped Mary indignantly. "Of course you'll live to get into it! Don't be silly!" And she was so un-hysterical and natural and childish that she brought him to his senses and he began to laugh at himself and a few minutes afterward she was sitting on her stool again telling him what she imagined the secret garden to be like but what it really was, and Colin's aches and tiredness were forgotten and he was listening enraptured.

Sport prefers action-adventure stories and he really didn't have the patience to read a book like this. He would probably have been happier if there'd been some kind of demon lurking in the garden rather than slumbering bulbs and perennials. I must confess by the end of the novel I was right sick of the entire plot and each and every character. I wanted to smother Colin and ship Mary back to India. Really, I only could bear Dickon because he was so great with animals.

We finished the thing Sunday night and thank God I don't have any more kids with whom I might be deluded enough to try reading it again. Sport did a victory dance when we got done. I'll do one when he takes that damn A.R. test and passes.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Psychic abilities

Another Sunday, another volunteer opportunity with the Kindergarten and 1st grade Sunday school classroom. All fourteen bright and shiny faces watched eagerly as their teacher passed out the craft materials. As her helper, I stood by to assist in the project.

"Today, we will be making ears of corn to celebrate Thanksgiving."

First came the pipe cleaners, then an open tub of beads. Hundreds of beads. Thousands of beads. Tiny little beads.

Immediately, I flashed forward into the future. I saw myself on my hands and knees, picking beads off the floor. I knew without a doubt that in minutes, that tub of beads was going to be dumped over.

I worked with a group over at my table. Our beads were distributed from a plastic baggie that I kept firmly gripped in my hands. One of my boys wanted all silver beads for his corn decoration. When he had exhausted our supply of beads, he went over to the other table to search for more silver.

Of course, the tub went flying. Beads spread all over the floor and to every corner of the room.

Sighing, I went in search of a broom. Another psychic might have used it to fly away from her duties. Instead, I cleaned up the floor.

"I admire your patience," said the Youth Director. He'd mistaken my calm acceptance for patience.

The next time that box of beads comes out, I swear I'm running out the door.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

By popular demand

Here's the photo of the doggie bed:

Happy now?

Monday, October 29, 2007

My brush with mental illness

I am a reasonable person. I'm neither extravagant nor excessive. I look for bargains and shop at thrift stores. I'm not cheap, but I'm careful with my money.

Over the weekend, however, I flirted with flamboyance. I took a walk on the wild side.

It all started a couple years ago at one of Sport's endless piano competitions. We were wasting time in between rounds, walking up and down Main Street of a tiny Oklahoma town. And then, I saw it: the most precious little dog bed ever handcrafted by man (or woman).

I'm not one of those kooky pet owners. I don't coddle my dog, dress her in costumes at Halloween, or buy warm sweaters for her to wear during the winter. She sleeps on an old pillow and a worn blanket that the boys no longer use.

But I wanted that bed.

At the time, Bella was still a little pup. I imagined her perched under the canopy like a prop out of an interior design magazine. The outrageous price tag stopped me cold. In my heart, I knew I could make that bed. All it would take was an old dresser drawer, some spray paint, padding, and a pink fleece blanket.

Thus began my search.

For two years, I've kept watch for an old chest of drawers, tossed in the trash by a neighbor too lazy to donate it to AmVets or the Salvation Army. I finally found the perfect drawer last Sunday during Big Trash Day. My chance at creating a masterpiece had finally come!

I dug through my craft boxes and found a used can of black spray paint. I attempted to saw away a piece of the drawer, but had to ask a friend of my neighbor to actually do the sawing since my toothpick-like biceps did not have the strength to pull the metal through the wood. I glued part of the drawer back together, and when Elmer's didn't hold, I resorted to my trusty old staple gun. I cut up an old egg crate mattress pad and made an adorable bolster pillow out of black and white fabric. After a good wash, Bella's pink blanket looked perfect against the glossy black. After five hours of work, the fancy bed was ready for its occupant.

And Bella wouldn't lie in it. She wouldn't even go near it. I even tucked a delicious treat inside it to entice her. She approached the thing like it was going to go for her throat, snatched the snack, and ran off to hide.

Now, part of me -- the rational part -- knew that Bella would not sleep in this bed. It observed my frantic crafting with a weary resignation. Nothing could have stopped me from making that bed, not even my subconscious realization that I was wasting precious hours of my Sunday afternoon working on it. I suppose I just wanted to prove to myself that I could make something that closely resembled the fancy, extravagant bed I'd seen in the store.

Well, I did it. Now it sits in the garage, waiting for a sleepy occupant who's not afraid of everything.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Big Trash Day

Sunday night we had another one of those furious Oklahoma thunderstorms blow through. In a matter of minutes, the streets were flooded, trees were bent sideways in 50+ mile-an-hour winds, and the sky was filled with dancing bolts of lightning. I looked out the window and watched a small boat bobbing down the road.

It was the night before Big Trash Day, one of my guilty pleasures.

Officially called Fall Clean-Up, we were notified by the city a couple of weeks ago. Neighbors have dutifully been cleaning out their garages, sheds, attics, and backyards and dragging the junk to the curb. Refrigerators, mattresses, stockade fences, broken swings, and an ungodly amount of toilets wait patiently to be hauled away. (I try not to think about how long it takes for this stuff to decay. Those porcelain thrones will probably still be there 10,000 years into the future.)

I rolled out a broken lawnmower and a torn up mini-trampoline, and SO piled up some branches and rotten plywood.

Once the stuff is on the curb, the eyeballing begins. Unfamiliar trucks appear in the neighborhood. Burly men with handyman skills load up fridges and grills, tables with broken legs, and chairs that lean too much to the left. Someone nabbed our lawnmower only moments after I'd put it outside. I admire the fact that these items will be either fixed or stripped to be used as spare parts. I like knowing that they won't yet be taken to the landfill.

Lego and I spied a couple of redwood benches that were in great shape. Giggling, we ran over and spirited them away to the back garden. Then, we drove around in the mini-van, looking for something else that grabbed our attention. All we found were two very nice pots that would look lovely if planted with some fall mums.

But, no matter. I still have Spring Clean-Up to look forward to, Big Trash Day: The Sequel.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Survivor -- Mean Mommies edition

My new read is Confessions of a prep school mommy handler, by Wade Rouse. I picked it up because I enjoyed reading his America's boy: a memoir.

Rouse is a gay man, Southern born and bred, hired as a PR director at a prestigious private school, and the book goes into details about his dealings with very pretty, very mean, very rich mommies of elite elementary students.

I'm enjoying it so far, although it's not exactly funny. Biting and sad, more likely. Never having been incredibly wealthy, I find it hard to imagine being so proudly shallow. I'd like to think I'd never cave in to the kind of peer pressure that forces me to wear pink every day, call my daughter Itsy Bitsy, or dress my teacup poodle in a matching outfit. But, having been a victim of my share of mean girls, it might be difficult to ignore the siren's song of popularity.

You want me to buy a Louis Vuitton handbag, wear a Lilly Pulitzer dress, and host a Botox party?

I can do that.

No, wait. I can't. I won't do that! Go away, mean mommies!

What I'd really like to see is a bunch of hyper-wealthy women stranded on a deserted island and watch as their civilized veneer is stripped away -- along with their four figure wardrobes -- their roots grow out into gray, and they start eating bark off the trees. Now that's the kind of reality TV I'd enjoy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What is the sound of one parent clapping?

Pet peeve #27: graduation ceremonies.

Since becoming a mother, I've noticed a curious phenomenon: after every supposed milestone, the powers that be organize and hold a graduation ceremony. Kindergarten, Sunday School, Tae Kwon Do class, you name it, there's always some kind of ceremony parents must endure in order to encourage and propel our children on to the next level.

On Sunday, I drove up to get LegoGuy after his leadership conference and sat through yet another graduation ceremony. The ballroom was packed with anxious parents, eager to collect their kids and get the hell out of there. But no, first we had to sit through multiple speeches, a slide show with rockin' music accompaniment, and the handing out of certificates.

Thirty minutes later, hands numb from obligatory clapping, we were free. Lego talked non-stop on the 2 hour drive home about his experience. He had a good time. The info was somewhat boring, he said, but the kids were awesome and he'd made lots of friends. A girl gave him her phone number! He told stories about one of his new best friends, some kid from Shawnee, who was 14 and had already had sex with his girlfriend and had a naked picture of her on his cellphone wallpaper.

I shivered, wondering what kind of peer pressure this was going to exert on my son, but Lego also told me he'd resisted efforts by his roommate to get him to go to a "party" in one of the other rooms in which the girls were invited down as well. He figured it wouldn't make me happy if he got kicked out, and of course, these troublemaker wannabees were caught anyway and sent back to their rooms, so maybe the kid has a pretty solid head on his shoulders after all.

I think he was as bored as I was during the graduation ceremony. But he sure did look all grown up. The four days he was gone gave me a glimpse into the future, toward the day when SO and I drive him up to college, or to the Air Force Academy, or wherever his path lies.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Voldemort can't stop the rock

The boys are aficionados of Wizard Rock. This started a couple of years ago with an introduction to Harry and the Potters. They moved into a darker realm with Draco and the Malfoys. Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to hear The Remus Lupins sing at one of the libraries. Opening acts were Ginny and the Heartbreakers and The Whomping Willows.

I've always been impressed with the creativity that comes with this level of fandom. While the voices might not always be exactly on key, and the music might be off a little, the lyrics these kids write are pretty good. That being said, I shudder to think what the next months will be like as the boys play their newly-purchased CDs over and over again. I've already heard way too much of the Wizard Rock albums they already have. Let's just say it's not a peaceful way to spend an evening.

Once the warm-up bands had played, it was time for The Remus Lupins. A spry group of young men jumped onto the stage and urged everyone to come up to the front and dance. Luckily, I'd run into the Crafty Minx, and she was willing to go up with me and give it a whirl. Lego, ever the watcher, declined. He stood beside me, but refused to dance, sway or even tap a toe. Sport took his lead from his big brother and remained stoic. They were like sour little Southern Baptist ministers in their quest to remain cool.

So it was left up to me, Crafty Minx, about 35 girls under the age of 21, and 4 boys to be an interested and energetic audience. The other adults stayed in their chairs. We rocked out for about an hour. My feet started to hurt. I realized I was the only person over the age of 40 up there. I tried to swivel my hips in a sad imitation of the girls in front of me, but those years I spent as Nancy Nazarene killed the rhythm in me.

As Sport glowered at me ("You're embarrassing me!" he hissed), I thought back to a birthday party I'd taken him to when he was about 3. Someone put on ABBA's Dancing Queen.

"Dance with me, Mommy!" he begged. I grabbed him and we whirled across the gym floor. He wasn't the least bit self-conscious.

It's so sad when they start wanting to be "cool" and forget how to have fun. But maybe it will come back. There were plenty of college boys in the back, jumping up and down and rocking out to the music.

They were probably drunk.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Of semi-interest

A number of semi-interesting things have happened to me this week. For my two faithful readers, I thought I'd bring you up-to-date.

  • Heard from my friend Snickers, who decided to take a life-changing leap of faith, quit his well-paying, career-track job, and is heading back to Washington, D.C. All I can say is, it's about time!
  • Had a vivid dream about an old college buddy. I was curious, what ever happened to A.C.? We lost touch two decades ago. Long story short, I called the college alumni office and found out he was living here in my city, just up the road in the same school district! Married, with triplet 8-year-old daughters, he's still got that West Texas twang. We enjoyed a nice catch-up call.
  • I'm working on a big project with The Saint, and if all goes well, I'll have some great news to share. If it doesn't go well, at least I gave it a shot and it was fun to try.
  • The boys are back in school. Thank God. Lego's observation about his first day: "It's great being in 8th grade and having all that power." Sport had nothing to say, but I have to share this little jewel. Driving with his dad, Sport confided, "I cuss a lot in my dreams."
  • One of my work buddies took a step on the path of academia, leaving for Louisiana to pursue a master's degree. I miss him, but I feel like I had a small part in encouraging him to go for it. Maybe I'll get a book dedication out of it.
  • Lego was in our local paper. They published a press release about his nomination to NYLSC. Is okay to be busting out all over with pride over this?

Other than that, it's been too damn hot to try and come up with a good blog posting. I'll try to think of something

Monday, August 06, 2007

"Everything's a quarter!"

If I ever entertain the notion of having another garage sale, kill me.

We probably picked the hottest weekend of the summer to do it, but thanks to friends and family we had about a million donated items to price and made about half the cost of LegoGuy's registration for NYLSC. Thanks to everyone who contributed a box of knick-knacks, clothes, dishes, etc. And the furniture ... especially the furniture. That was the first to sell.

One thing I learned is that no matter how clever or self-explanatory a pricing system you come up with, everyone is going to ask, "How much is this?" When I went to bed Saturday night, it's the phrase that kept coursing through my mind.


As the mercury shot up, I started yelling out, "Everything's a quarter." Nevertheless, we had lots of items left over, many of which will be travelling south for yet another garage sale given by hearty souls who don't mind the heat.

At one point, Sport had the opportunity to hold a $100 bill and shivered with delight. I had to stop him from rubbing it all over his body.

"It's a hundred dollars," he whispered giddily.

"It's just a piece of paper," I told him. His eyes followed the bill as I placed it in our money box. I think he would have slept with it if we'd let him.

Although it's not in his nature, Lego tried to work the crowd, handing out little slips of paper that explained what we were trying to accomplish with the garage sale. He met a couple whose son had gone many years ago and who was now a pilot with Continental Airlines. He thought that was pretty cool.

As for me, I stood in an ice-cold shower when it was all over. It still took me 2 days to feel normal again.

And my feet still hurt.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Next station, Muggle Town

I've done it. I've finished the book. I've been shown the exit to Potter world and said goodbye to Harry, Hermione, Snape, McGonagall, and the rest of them. I raced through the story like a crack whore looking for the ultimate fix. Certainly, I'll have to re-read it after SO and LegoGuy have had a go at it. At least it tied up all the loose ends. But it certainly did meander in the middle. That's all I'm gonna say right now.

We went to our last pre-release party on Friday night. I threw on a blonde wig and went as Luna Lovegood, Sport looked like an authentic Harry, and Lego outdid us all by turning himself into Oliver Wood, the Gryffindor Quidditch keeper. Many people wanted to take their picture (but sadly, not mine). They were so adorable. I simply looked creepy.

The party did not live up to our expectations. Lots of people showed up in costume, but there was only a pathetic booth set up in the back for dream interpretation and a lame spelling bee taking place without a microphone for amplification. I think you had to be under 12 to participate. I got some funny looks when I stood in line behind some little 4th grader, who took her time spelling "port key." I stepped out of the line reluctantly. Looking at the weary faces of the book store employees, I could tell they were ready for this hype to be over with so they could get back to the business of discussing Nabokov with gray-haired doctoral in a nearly empty building.

The first pre-release party I took Lego to was for The Prisoner of Azkaban. I didn't tell him what I was up to. I let him go to bed, them woke him at 10 o'clock and bundled him into the car. "We're going for a drive. It's a surprise." He was half asleep for most of the ride, but perked up when we pulled into the Borders parking lot. It truly was a festive atmosphere. Children and their parents were rushing from booth to booth, getting tattoos, making wands, buying butterbeers. Cashiers were practically bursting with enthusiasm. We were all united in our excitement over the next installmant of Harry's story, and all shared the singular joy of reading.

I don't know that another book will bring this kind of hysterical adoration again, but I'm glad it's been a part of the boys' childhood.

Doubtful I'll ever get a chance to say it to her in person, so thanks J.K. Rowling, for bringing a little bit of magic into our lives.

I don't know if Lego and Sport will continue to read anything else with such devotion, but I do think we've all had a blast getting acquainted with the characters Rowling created.
That's enough.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Harry Potter and the annoying movie audience

The wands are back: sticks broken off of the tree out front. The robe is back, too, wrinkled from its long slumber at the bottom of the toybox. Bella has been renamed "Bellatrix" and choruses of Expelliarmus! fill the air. Sport drew a lightning bolt on his forehead and LegoGuy got his Hogwarts Lego set out of the closet and is back at work reconstructing the castle. We've just come from the new Harry Potter movie and the boys are neck deep in Pottermania.

The movie's great fun-- especially if you've read all the books, which we have. What's not so great (and what I always seem to forget about later) is the movie-going experience. Nine times out of ten, I have a terrible time. It's one thing to afford the luxury of renting out a theater for one's entire family, but Elvis, we ain't. Going to see a movie means getting elbow-to-elbow with a hodgepodge of the general public. And, to modify Forest Gump's truisim, "A movie audience is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."

I knew we were in trouble when I watched a woman, her husband, and 4 children move up the stairs and right to the seats directly in front of us. She was wearing a spaghetti strap top and her flesh was practically oozing out of the top and sides. He husband had his left hand wrapped in bandages, frozen in a permanent "Heil Hitler" gesture. The children were whining, and Big Momma kept telling them to shut up. Loudly. All six of them were clutching extra large vats of popcorn. They stood in front of us while the previews were rolling, not even bothering to pretend to duck out of the way so we could see what was on the screen.

"Let's move down a few seats," I whispered to SO, who hates to make a scene. I knew he wouldn't want to move, but I couldn't see what was going on. We all shifted down a bit, and I hoped for the best.

Unfortunately, we ended up near a Granny and her grandaughter, a kid all of 5 years old who had no idea how to control her curiousity and excitement. This little girl chattered through the whole movie. Being a mother, I understand the nature of a child. It's hard to sit still through a long film. Sometimes it's hard to follow the plot or to catch what someone is saying. I know that kids are going to fidget. But it's up to the adult to teach the child how to act in public. Granny never once shushed the kid, never asked to lower her voice, not once did she pay heed to my curiously ineffective dirty looks. In fact, the two of them continued to carry on conversations in what Barney calls "an outside voice" through the entire episode-- and if I'd had a working wand I wouldn't have hesitated to throw a Sectumsempra their way.

Meanwhile, Big Momma and Heil Hitler went for a popcorn refill and she ended up choking on the salty snack 3 or 4 times during the movie. I actually considered withholding my first aid skills for a moment when it appeared that she had a kernel lodged in her windpipe. But I muttered Evanesco to myself and she was able to catch her breath.

She later fell in the parking lot. I swear I didn't throw a Impedimenta her way.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Wherefore art thou, RadCat?

It's only the first day of RadCat's vacation, and already a pall has settled upon all of us. His empty seat -- so vacant, so lonely -- calls out to all of us. One by one, co-workers take a turn sitting in the chair, but nothing, no one can take his place. His laughter echoes off other walls. His political commentaries tickle the ears of others. His cell phone rings in another state. We are left only with a light dusting of black gunk from the air conditioning vent above his desk, and a framed photo of Tiny Kiss, posing for a non-existent audience. Oh RadCat, two weeks is such a long time!

Besides missing my little brother, I've been pretty busy. Took my grandmother to church with me on Sunday. She was eager to get out of the care center. My church is probably the most liberal church in Oklahoma City, and we are open and affirming. Unlike other area churches, all are welcome, despite sexual orientation.

"It's not anything like a Nazarene church," I warned her. She had been, after all, the wife of two pastors, one Nazarene and one Methodist. But Grandma has always been a open-minded individual, and she wasn't at all bothered about visiting a UCC church. In fact, she had nothing but praise for the building, the visiting preachers (ours is on vacation) and the people.

Her one complaint? "There aren't that many good looking men here, are there?"

At least there weren't that many over the age of 80.

Monday, June 25, 2007

What I learned on my summer vacation

Home again, home again, jiggity jig. Our vacation now at an end, I come back older, a little wiser, and hopefully with a bit of a tan.

What did I learn?

  • No matter how well stocked you are with snacks and drinks, the food invariably runs out. We had to hit the grocery store at least three times during our six day adventure. Those boys can eat!

  • LegoGuy thinks Shirley Temple was some kind of psychotic orphan who went around killing people. During one of our nightly games of Cranium, he had to act like the dimpled child star and have his teammate guess who he was. The clue? "Hey everybody, let's go kill someone!"

  • Bugs really freak out the guys. Every spider, insect or creepy crawly was potentially poisonous. I ended up catching most of them with a rag and tossing them outside while my menfolk hugged the wall.

  • No one under the age of 15 will look out the window at the incredible mountain vistas and scenic plateaus if there are GI Joes in the car. Sport and Lego engaged their soldiers in epic battles and reenacted soccer games while we drove through the beautiful Valles Grande Caldera. What was outside wasn't nearly as interesting as what was going on in their own imaginations.

  • Sport has a healthy fear of heights, rattlesnakes and lightning. At Bandelier, we came upon a rattlesnake. It wasn't coiled but stared at us with a baleful eye. "I'm too young to die," Sport said, hurrying us around the thing. He kept an eye on the sky in case an afternoon storm made an appearance, and he was leery of the ladders leading up to the cliffside ruins. "I really wish I wanted to climb those," he told me as Lego headed 140 feet up to Alcove House. "It's okay to be careful," I told him. "You'll probably outlive us all!"

  • Avril Lavigne has a potty mouth. We've had 3 of her songs on our last three compilation trip CDs and each one has an off-color word in it. We usually don't realize this until we're speeding along at 75 miles an hour and the word comes blasting through the speakers. It only makes the boys love her more.

  • The last 60 miles of the trip are always the longest. I swear, when we hit Weatherford I thought I was going to lose it. That hour crept by. I love planning a vacation, but there's nothing like getting home. Nothing beats it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Good vibrations

The white water rafting trip never materialized. Half of the family weren't too keen on the idea, and the other half weren't willing to push it. Instead, we took a scenic drive up to Taos, which is, in my opinion, one of most beautiful places in the country. Too overpriced, too pretentious, too touristy -- I know -- but I could sit in a parking lot eating an ice cream cone from Baskin Robbins, just looking out at the scenery and I'd be completely happy.

Our destination wasn't the Taos Plaza or the Taos Pueblo, but the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. Spanning the river which winds 650 feet below, this thing was an adrenaline surge for all of us. SO and Sport are scared of heights, and they walked across with care. "Vertigo, vertigo," Sport kept chanting, but he managed to hang on to the rail and peek over.

When a semi-truck went barreling across, the entire bridge started to buck and sway. I watched as LegoGuy's cheeks rippled with the vibrations. Awesome! We peered into the river and saw rafts full of people floating down the rapids. We vowed one day to take a trip.

When given the choice to tour the Taos Plaza or go back to the casita and swim, the boys chose swimming. Despite more than four centuries of history, our children would rather splash in a chlorinated pool. Go figure.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The great cricket hunt

It's about 95 degrees at the Los Alamos public library. I'm crammed between an older woman, possibly with hippie affiliations, and a very curious gentleman who keeps checking me out. It doesn't help that I'm sitting on a stool that towers over everybody else. Why am I the only one on a barstool?

Our casita at the Rancho Jacona doesn't have a computer for customer use, although there is a wifi setup. It's a beautiful place with a great view of the Jemez Mountains and the sound of peacocks piercing the air at unpredictable moments. After we spent about 4 hours hiking around the ruins of Bandelier National Monument, we located the rather isolated rancho and collapsed onto the bed. At least SO and I collapsed. The boys were dying to check out the pool. How they had the energy to swim, I'll never know. There were 3 little boys swimming, but did ours try to make friends? Of course not. I tried to help things along by introducing myself to the 3-year-old, who admired my toe-nail polish, but questioned the color. Eventually, the kids started squirting each other with pool cannons. The lure of weaponry finally overcame their shyness.

After wrestling the boys into bed, I popped a sleeping pill and prepared to sleep. Poor SO, on the other hand, without the benefit of tranquilizers, earplugs and a fan, had a terrible time. He popped out of bed after about an hour to locate the octet of crickets who were desperately trying to woo a mate. I joined in the hunt, squishing them with a dishtowel. Poor guys never knew what was coming, so intent were they on playing their romantic arias. Back in bed, we enjoyed the quiet until another started up, comfortable behind the refrigerator where we could not get him. I gave up, feeling the effects of the pill kicking in. SO struggled to relax.

Then, LegoGuy sleepwalked out the back door of the cabin and freaked SO out. Of course, by this time, I was unconscious and didn't hear a thing.

After visiting the Bradbury Science Museum (very cool) and the library (rather warm) we are going to look for a grocery store so we can buy a can of Raid and perhaps a chain lock for the casita doors. We don't want to find Lego face down in an arroyo tomorrow morning.

Not sure if we'll find another chance to blog, but we may be headed to Taos tomorrow to either do a white water float or drive the scenic route. Home, with luck, on Saturday night.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Tortilla blues

There's something about a tiny pool shaped like a tortilla chip and a dozen teenagers that doesn't quite work. After our 8+ hour drive and eating at one of the delicious New Mexican restaurants, the boys wanted to unwind at the pool. SO and I flipped a coin to see who the unlucky chaperone would be. Me, of course.

But they were already there: a large group of hormonal, squealing girls and their equally hormonal though less giggly boys. I think they were a traveling choir, coming from God knows where. I'm pretty sure they were a singing group of some kind. Oddly, one of the boys continued to sing a phrase from a song that was popular when I was in college.

"Josie's on a vacation far away, come on in and talk it over..." At the top of his lungs.

Sarah Vowell does a hilarious bit for This American Life about the difference between choir kids and band kids. I'm sure I can't do it justice, but she says there's no way a band kid is going to start humming the harmony he usually plays on his baritone, while a choir kid doesn't hesitate to break into "How do you solve a problem like Maria" in the hallway while switching from 5th hour to 6th, and half a dozen of her friends will join in as well.

One girls was so loud, I kept giving her "the look." It usually works with my kids, but she was unaffected. She even called me "the woman," which annoyed me to no end. "Don't splash the woman!" she said in a baby voice that set women's rights back 30 years. I really despised her. She didn't want to get her hair wet, so of course, the boys immediately dunked her. Mascara ran down her cheeks like a bruise.

When my tender ears couldn't take it anymore, I rounded up the boys so we could shower and go downtown to walk around the plaza. I had a better time talking to the Santa Fe Public librarians. They were much more composed and called me "young lady."

My pride was soothed.

Monday, June 18, 2007


Before we left for Santa Fe, the boys were suddenly gripped with an inexplicable desire to cover themselves with tattoos. They dug through the junk drawer in the kitchen to find every last square of colored ink given to them by Shank, or brought home by their dad, or remnants of tattoos purchased from Pizza Inn. Rags dripping with water, the images were applied while I was trying to make a list of groceries to buy for our trip. When I finally paid attention to what was going on, it was too late. They were painted warriors ready to head into the mountains.

After 3 days of planning and packing, I think I'm ready to go. SO made an awesome trip CD compiled of songs we've collected over the year that we really love. Like last year, we'll probably play it so much we won't be able to listen to it for at least 6 months.

Bella's safely tucked away with the in-laws, and it looks like the storm outside is finally settling down a bit.

Go west!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

In praise of teachers

I was worship leader at church today. At Gouldie's request, who was teaching Sunday School and missed it, I'm posting my Prayers of the People (PotP) essay here.

On the first day of summer vacation, I got a two word email from SO.

"Help me!"

Less than six hours with the boys, and he was already going crazy. It made me appreciate their teachers that much more. There's a special place in heaven for those who love, guide, and inspire our children.

A teacher changed my life.

Sixth grade, 1974. I was no different from most 11-year-olds. I'd learned it was best to stay silent, not make waves, limit contact, don't make trouble, get my work done. I escaped the notice of most, save for a hefty, glowering Laura Pacheco, who derived a special joy out of jumping on my back and knocking me to the ground.

My teacher, Mrs. Roessler, saved me: curls held away from her temples by a pair of bobby pins, a broad smile, contagious laugh. She moved me to the front of the room near her desk, giving me special responsibilities and privileges. She praised me in front of the whole class, encouraged my love of reading, noticed me.

What did she see in me? Why did she pick me out from a classroom of similar children? Perhaps I was only one of many she mentored. What would have changed in my life if she hadn't noticed me -- a shy, buck-toothed kid -- where would I be now if she hadn't acted out of love to make me feel special?

I left Mrs. Roessler's class with a newly discovered sense of self-esteem. Though I couldn't describe it then, I was empowered. Up to that point in time, I'd always thought of myself as a victim, someone who had to suffer. I deserved to be bullied. In the words of my fundamentalist Christian upbringing, I suffered because I was born into sin, and suffering brought me closer to Christ. I didn't realize how soul crushing that particular philosphy was.

When I was encouraged, nurtured, loved by another person, I was freed from a crippling sense of worthlessness. Mrs. Roessler removed a barried. She pushed me down a road I didn't even know existed.

One of the most deeply spiritual moments I've ever had came not in a church but in a darkened theater. It was at a performance of Les Miserables. Jan Valjean, a prisoner on the run, is saved from another incarceration by a priest. Although Valjean has stolen silver candlesticks from the monastery, the priest claims the items were a gift, and the police leave without a prisoner.

"I have bought your soul for God," says the priest. Valjean spends the rest of his life trying to make his life worthy of such a purchase.

At the end of the performance, Valjean lies dying. He has made mistakes, such as inadvertently causing the death of Fantine. He has also made atonements, as in raising Fantine's young daughter. Had he done enought? Was he now worthy of the priest's intervention?

"To love another person is to see the face of God," sings the spirit of Fantine. I have never felt a truth so deeply.

Like Valjean, I have spent my life trying to live up to the potential Mrs. Roessler saw in me. And I want to pass that love along, to catch a glimpse of God's face.

And He'll be smiling.

Monday, June 11, 2007


We visited the taqueria on Saturday. LegoGuy loves the authentic Mexican tacos, and Sport wanted to try one of the 12 oz bottles of Coca Colas hecha en Mexico.

I don’t know if it’s nostalgia or the cane sugar, but damn, those Cokes taste good. I nearly chucked my can of Dr. Pepper and ordered one myself. As a kid, we used to get glass bottles of Coke down at our local ice house, along with a bag full of candy for about a quarter. We could bring those bottles back in for a 5 cent refund. It was a perfect circle of addiction. We’d spend hours looking for those green glass treasures, turning them back in at the end of the week for another sugar rush.

My kids treated these Coke bottles like a rare find. Both wanted to keep them as a collectible. Driving home, Lego was examining his in the hot afternoon sun. The next thing I knew, he had it stuck on his middle finger, jutting out like an overgrown obscene gesture.

“What on earth possessed you to stick your finger in there?” I tried to feign indignation, but it was too funny.

“I don’t know. I couldn’t stop myself.”

"Well, at least you didn't put a bean in your nose. That would be worse."

He looked so comical with that thing on his hand. Eventually, he turned it upside down and let the remaining cola lubricate his finger enough to pull it back off. This was my comic relief for the day. I couldn't stop chortling about it.

On Sunday, I got another dose of laughter. Sport, learning a new piano piece, was playing it much too fast.

"It's a waltz! If people tried to dance to your beat, they'd be doing the jitterbug." I tried to show him how two people might waltz at the correct tempo.

He gave me a look that would have destroyed the tender psyche of a weaker woman.

"Mom, stop. I really don't need to see you dancing."

I left the room so he couldn't see the amusement on my face. He was so scathing in his criticism. And hilarious.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

That voodoo that you do

Ever feel like someone's made a voodoo doll of you and is using it to conjure painful and often inexplicable situations for their sick pleasure? Yesterday, I found a strange object near my desk, some kind of metallic thing with string wrapped around it. If I viewed it from a certain angle, it looked a bit like my figure. Okay, a primitive stick figure, but still. RadCat examined it and agreed it looked ominous, perhaps even Voudoun. Also, I think a patch of my hair is missing.

Why voodoo, you ask?

  • I've been having vivid dreams and a terrible time getting into a deep sleep.
  • I stumbled over Sport's shoes and knocked off my little toenail.
  • Time has slowed down at work. A simple 8-hour day seems to last at least 10-11 hours.
  • I was working in my garden the other day and a white dove landed right next to me, walked over very boldly and pecked my shoe. It even hopped into my hand. That's just not right.
  • Everyone is getting on my nerves. Everyone.

You're probably thinking my voodoo curse ought to be a little more dramatic: pet dogs howling in the corner when I walk by, children weeping and channeling hostile spirits, husband coughing up a couple of serpents and then frying them up for our evening meal. It's not gotten to that point yet.

Probably just a matter of time.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Jumping the shark

Watching one of my new favorite shows last night, I got the feeling that this one, like so many others, has jumped the shark. And it’s only the 3rd season! I’m not sure the rest of the family agrees, but I think the series has reached a point in which the storyline has peaked. Up to this point, it’s been an amazing ride. But now it’s all downhill from here. I hate it when that happens.

I often wonder what it’s like to be a writer on a really good show, getting warm fuzzies from critics, fans and the blogosphere. Is there a moment while everyone is patting themselves on the back that they let down their guard and allow a ridiculously flawed idea to come into play, everyone too giddy with success to see it’s the beginning of the end? Is there one person who tries to talk the group out of it -- Bad choice! Not good! Does not compute! -- but gives up with a shrug and internal rationalization. After all, the checks are still coming in. So Fonzie jumps over a shark with a motorcycle. It could happen in real life. So David and Maddie finally had sex, but who else holds out that long in real life? So Mork & Mindy had a baby – okay, it was an old, overweight, creepy kind of baby, but everyone wants to procreate; it's a biological imperative. So Dr. Greene dies from a brain tumor, but we’re all gonna die eventually. Right? Right?

Thus begins the inevitable march toward cancellation.

Is life like this? Does there come a point when things peak and life as we know it reaches a climax? And if so, do I want to know if I've jumped the shark yet? Do I want to contemplate that it's all a downhill slide from where I'm standing?

Usually, I associate JTS in television shows with an event so bizarre that it's unbelievable. (Once again, I must mention Mork & Mindy's egg-hatched, elderly baby.) If the bizarre is a necessary characteristic, then I should be safe. I've gone through life without marrying my foster son, embezzling the life savings of an old lady, or befriending a serial killer who later on targets me as a victim. These things happen (trust me). On the other hand, I've married my beloved, had a couple of kids, gotten a master's, found a job in my profession. For many, this might be the high point.

Luckily, we all have a way of reinventing ourselves over the years. People change; they switch careers, move to a completely different area, give up on religion, take up a new religion, turn over a new leaf. Life isn't really like a television series, is it? It's more like a series of after-school specials.

And if you're lucky, they're really kind of boring at that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Too sexy for my cape

Move over Jake -- I’ve got a new crush! My sister’s got me watching a rather cheesy but quite sexy Lifetime series called Blood ties. In my mountains of spare time, I’ve been watching an episode here and there. The creepy thing is, the actor who plays vampire Henry is only 23 years old, about the age of one of my nephews. Salivating over gorgeous young men while the gray creeps into my hair -- is this what I've got to look forward to as I approach middle age?

There's something about a vampire, though. In my opinion, vampires are the sexiest of the supernatural baddies. Ever heard of paranormal romances? A whole crop of romance writers have seized hold of the vampire genre and turned the walking dead from villains into great but misunderstood guys looking for true and eternal love. Sure beats Nosferatu! Werewolves also crop up now and again as leading me, but I haven't yet run across a drop-dead gorgeous zombie or mummy. I can't imagine how a writer could turn a zombie into a sexy leading man: glazed eyes, cold skin and a penchant for human brains would be a turn off for most ladies.

One of the more interesting takes on vampirism came in a romance novel I skimmed that chalked the phenomena up to a genetic disorded passed down within families. These vampires didn't have any kind of paranormal powers, nor did they live forever, but they had to stay out of the sunlight and needed a fresh supply of blood every now and then. Something to do with their blood's inability to clot.

I wouldn't mind sharing a little of my blood with Henry, but I doubt it would revive him much. He'd probably just want to curl up with a good book, or watch a movie like Shaun of the dead. That is one hilarious zombie movie!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The grass isn't always greener

After fantasizing about what it might be like to leave the family life behind, I picked up a couple of books that kind of brought me back to reality: Naked on the page: the misadventures of my unmarried midlife, by Jane Ganahl, and, They call me Naughty Lola: personal ads from the London Review of Books, edited by David Rose.

At least I've been spared the late night, alcohol-induced despair of Jane: "You're getting old! You've had your last sex with your last boyfriend! You're fated to die alone, unloved, and your cats will gnaw on your corpse!" After two bad marriages and dating a slew of younger men, Jane pointed out the obvious: not every one is lucky enough to find somebody to love and who loves her back. In her San Francisco Chronicle column, she writes about her attempts to reconcile with the fact that her body is aging while her heart remains a hormonal teenager.

Naughty Lola, on the other hand, featured ads composed by men and women who, I assume, have decided to embrace and underscore their single status, using their writing skills to compete with other lonely hearts in a quest to add a little ruthless truth to advertising.

This ad may not be the best lonely heart in the world, nor its author the best-smelling. That's all I have to say. Man. 37. Box no. 7654.

Love is strange -- wait 'til you see my feet. F. 34, wide-fitting Scholl's. Box no. 5973.

Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self-pity, middle-aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible. Box no. 8623.

Blah, blah, whatever. Indifferent woman. Go ahead and write. Box no. 3253. Like I care.

I started off reading these with amusement, enjoying the creativity and humor. But, increasingly, they began to depress me. So, to chase the blues away, I decided to come up with my own ad, in case I ever need to use it. Which I hope is never.

Like rollercoasters? Me too! I'll take you on the emotional rollercoaster ride of your life, with highs and lows that defy description. Prone to uncontrollable weeping in the shower, manic bursts of project planning, and arguments that last for days. F. Box 3808.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rainstorm fantasies

"I am just going outside and may be some time."
-- Captain L.E.G. Oates

I came very close to going outside last night, and, instead of heading into a blizzard, making for the center of yet another rainstorm. The mad dash to the last day of school year and relentless rainstorms are driving all of us a little crazy.

On Saturday, I put nearly 80 miles on the car while delivering the boys to youth group meetings, a piano competition, 3 soccer games, and a birthday party. In the middle of all that, I had to go to my sister's baby shower. (Thanks, Saint, for covering the last soccer game for me!) I collapsed into bed at 8:30 and was still dragging the next morning. How I envied the boys their youthful energies.

Last night I spent some time with Sport. He's learning some new piano pieces, and is easily frustrated when he gets new music. He expects to be able to play them in minutes, and doesn't seem to realize that his teacher has been giving him music that is more challenging. No matter how calm I try to be, he tests my patience every time. I know he's got an artistic temperament, but it's all I can do not to smack him on the back of the head when he's mouthing off.

Sometimes I fantasize about getting in my car and just driving away. I know I'll never do it, but it helps break up the routine. At first, I imagine getting a little cabin somewhere in the west (Arizona? Colorado?) where I hunker down and write the Great American Novel. I learn to cook on an outdoor fire and experiment with peyote. I learn the names of all the constellations and end up with a pet wolf named Charley.

Then, inevitably, my imagination starts to work overtime. Soon, I'm being harassed by a psychotic stalker who wants not only my manuscript and Charley's hide, but a couple of my internal organs as well. After spending some time trying to figure out how I'd escape from his torture shack, I'm usually glad to get back to the normalcy of my own hectic life.

Travelling to exotic places in a quest for fame and adventure can exact a very high price, as Captain Oates found out. Still, I wouldn't mind a trip to Las Vegas every once in awhile.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

In memory

How do you eulogize someone you don't know?

SO's cousin tried to kill himself yesterday. He very nearly succeeded; he's more than halfway there, anyway. Hooked up to life support, brain dead, his body waits in the hospital for the family to gather, for the machines to be turned off. He is 27 years old.

I've met him only once, many years ago, when he was a child of 5 or 6. The memory is a fuzzy one, of a tow-headed boy launching himself off some place high (a table top? a stair landing?) and onto my brother-in-law, who gasps and grabs at his neck. The two go down onto the floor, wrestling. Eddie was a tough little kid, harrassed by older twin brothers into learning how to fight dirty and watch his back.

He took a gun and shot himself in the garage of his mother's home.

I don't know any details as to what led him to it. All I keep imagining is his mother rushing through the door, seeing the blood, smelling the gunpowder, unable to process the images in front of her, finding that her son is still breathing, shock hitting her in the stomach like a two by four, the call for an ambulance, the interminable wait, hands pressed to the wound, desperate measures.

The call came this morning, letting family know of the circumstances, asking for prayers. Underneath our eyelashes, we watch our boys as they get ready for school. Fear and sorrow and loss and grief.

Oh God, please...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

In the Garden of Eating

After many months of studying Square foot gardening, I took a day off last week and planted my vegetable garden. The author of this book, Mel Bartholomew, promised me via the subtitle that his methods are a new way of gardening in less space with less work. I'd better get at least a tomato out of the whole thing. I spent 6 hours getting this plot of ground planted, not counting the hours we put in last fall digging up the sod and transplanting daylillies.

Bella pleaded with me to let her help. I let her use her digging skills and she pulled up dead roots with joyful abandon. She was absolutely covered in mud and loved every minute of it.

I could hardly move by the end of the day, and it made me think about a movie I watched recently: Once upon a time when we were colored. It's a story about an African-American sharecropper family in the segregation-era south, and at one point, the narrator talks about the expectations placed on children. "As soon as a child could walk, he was expected to help in the fields." I can't imagine children (especially mine) picking cotton for 12 hours a day, but they did it. I guess any kind of complaint was answered with a slap.

Farm work is so hard. My great-grandfather had a farm in West Texas, and my mother tells magical stories of her visits there, riding along on the tractor, fishing for tarantulas with string and a bit of chewing gum, making mud pies. Grandpa V. grew cotton and, from what I understand, it was a constant struggle to keep everything from burning up in the hot Texas summer. The farm wore him out, and he finally sold it after his wife died. The man I remember was tall, gray, and tired -- always napping in an easy chair.

I'm primarily a flower gardener, and my decision this year to put in vegetables came after years of teasing by my father. "You can't eat a flower," he'd say every spring when he and my mother came over to see the garden in full bloom. No matter how gorgeous it looked, he'd only criticize.

That's my dad.

So this year, I thought I'd see how well I could do. I read about vegetables all winter, and I think I know about as much as I'm going to know. It seems a little complicated, at least according to all the books, with their pH balanced soil, fertilizing requirements, and harvesting schedules. My dad, who helped his mother on their own family farm, assured me there was nothing to it. "Just put the seeds in the ground and they'll grow."

They'd better.

Monday, April 16, 2007

I work here, I carry a badge

Our library is where security guards go to die.

Well, not literally, but since a terrible robbery attempt in which a friend of mine was injured, we've had need of a security guard to protect us. But, this being a library, we get our gun-wielding heroes from an organization that made the lowest possible bid for our security contract. In a dismal parade of the desperate and incompetent, the characters who have come into the front door (and then quit, were fired, or were reassigned) have included:

Lonely Divorced Guy: He was always on time, his uniform pressed neatly and his shoes buffed. He made his rounds with purpose and stayed at his desk near the library entrance. But he had a way of saying things to women that were a little creepy. He followed female customers around the stacks and asked for their phone numbers. He once told me I had pretty little feet and asked if I was "happily" married. LDG really wanted to date somebody -- anybody -- and enough people complained about him that he was fired to make room for...

Neurotic Crafter Girl: Thin to the point of emaciated, dark circles under her eyes, NCG looked like she was trying to kick a heroin habit when in reality she was only trying to stop smoking. Her nervous energy haunted everything she did, whether patrolling the library grounds, waiting for the UPS guys to unload, or confronting the homeless. In an effort to calm her down a bit, our children's librarian asked NCG to help with a craft program, inadvertantly unleashing a monster. She became so consumed with the crafting bug that around Valentine's Day, she collapsed under the weight of too many hand-crafted puffy hearts, making room for...

Tattooed Biker Guy: Not quite able to afford a Harley, TBG owned a respectable Honda and a series of increasingly violent tattoos. He could barely keep awake due to his late night efforts to score with the ladies, and he developed a crush on one of the women I work with, lingering far too long near her desk when our boss was gone. Hanging out at the circulation desk, boring the circ clerks and scowling at the little kids who lined up to use the computers, he was finally transfered to another location, to make room for...

Personal Space Invader: The latest addition to our security detail, PSI is only months shy of his 80th birthday. Hunched over, hard of hearing, and, I believe, recovering from a stroke, PSI shuffles into our office about 3 or 4 times a day and pauses at each work station, staring intently at objects and the shapes and contours of our desks. I'm very particular about my own personal space, and Friday, when I felt his breath on the back of my neck as he peered over my shoulder to look at my computer screen, I got a little freaked.

"Can I help you?" I asked.

"Nope. Just bored. I'm a little nosy, like to look around. Gotta keep busy somehow."

He continued to hover just behind me. Trying to find an escape from this invasion, I sent something to the printer and stood up to go get it. I actually bumped into him in my hurry to get away.

I know for a fact that he pulled a similar stunt on my boss, so I'm doubting he'll be back next week. I'm trying to imagine who'll fill his shoes. Personally, I hope it's a trained attack dog. Somehow, I'd feel safer.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Snakes on a plain

Meet Stephen (named for Stephen Colbert, of course!). In lieu of a visit from the Easter Bunny, Stephen slithered into our neighbor's yard and was rescued from the lawn mower by the boys. Of course, they wanted to keep him as a pet, but knowing SO's healthy fear of snakes, I knew that wasn't going to happen. They put Stephen in a plastic container full of leaves and grass and we debated about where be should be relocated. There's a lovely rolling plain on the north side of the lake, and we took him there. He's was pretty nervous about the whole thing, and I left a pile of brush for him to crawl into if he got cold. I hope he didn't freeze to death, because the next day, the cold front hit.

Poor Stephen. But at least he kept his head. Whenever my dad saw a snake, he'd always get the shovel and chop it to pieces. He once came across a baby rattler and the poor thing didn't have a chance. Always a practical jokester, my mom didn't believe him at first, until he showed her the mangled body. I've got to give it to my mom. She used the experience to get back at my dad in a big way. Not long after the snake chopping experience, she rushed into the house, screaming and holding onto one leg.

"I've been bit by a rattler!"

"Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness!" Dad was thrown. He didn't know what to do, and resorted to hopping up and down in a panic. She couldn't keep up the charade, and laughed her head off at his reaction. It sounds mean, I know, but he got her so many times with his practical jokes, she was glad to come up with a whopper to pay him back.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

5 things I learned at OLA

Spent the last 2 days at the Oklahoma Library Association (OLA) conference, an annual event where librarians from different types of libraries and specialities get together for an exchange of information and a little schmoozing. I usually dread going to this thing. At first, it was because I didn't know anyone. Now, I know too many, but I still hate the uncertainty that comes with the perils of parking, trying to locate unfamiliar hotels, and managing to avoid some colleagues while maneuvering to meet up with others.

I've been taught to make lemons out of lemonades, channeling my dread into an educational opportunity. So here's 5 things I learned at OLA this year:

1. Librarians should never, ever, ever wear their hair in a bun. Ever. Even if attempting self-mockery.

2. A casual hug from a handsome young man wearing just the right amount of cologne can result in an embarrassing crush. The young man in question was a toddler when I was in college. He's bright, articulate, and clean. I'm not sure what cologne he was wearing, but it was intoxicating. After the hug, I kept breathing in a hint of the cologne that lingered on my jacket. Was it laced with pheromones? I couldn't stop thinking about his beautiful eyes. It took awhile for the scent to fade, leaving behind the faded rose of my own youth.

3. Connecticut librarians kick ass!

4. There's not enough alcohol in the city to turn a ragtag group of information professionals into a rock band. But our foam core guitars looked, like, totally awesome!

5. The group of kids born after Generation X prefer to be called Millenials rather than Generation Y or Echo Boomers.

There's also nothing more satisfying than sneaking away to have lunch with a dear friend. That makes the whole hassle worthwhile.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Misty birthday-colored memories

Tomorrow's my birthday. I had a couple of work pals surprise me and take me out for a birthday lunch, and that was nice. It got me thinking about some of the best birthday memories I have:

  • One, of course, was being born, but I'm a little hazy on that. I know there was a bright light and lots of noise, and I got smacked around a little bit, but it ended well. I got a pink blanket out of it.
  • There were plenty of parties with annoying kids who pinched me, busted the pinata before I got a turn, and made fun of my lop-sided, microwaved chocolate cakes. That wasn't so great.
  • I got a Sweet 16 party, and my parents invited the boy I'd had a huge crush on for three years -- to his credit, he was nice enough to attend, but I'm sure inside he was cringing.
  • When we lived in Washington, our circle of friends threw some great and creative parties for birthdays. One involved a hair-ball puppet; another centered around a handwritten story featuring Star Trek characters and an Organic Life Form (OLF). Those were the salad days.

Saw my favorite sister yesterday. She and her husband were on their way back to Colorado. They stopped in to say hello and wish me a happy birthday. "The older you get, the less of a big deal it is," she said, handing me a card my parents had asked her to deliver. (They live in town, and refuse to mail anything to me -- why waste a perfectly good stamp? If my sis hadn't brought the card over, I'd have had to pick it up myself.)

I agree with her on some level. I don't want expensive gifts. I don't even want cards, but I get a secret pleasure out of ecards, emails, and phone calls. I like it when people do stuff like that. It makes me feel a little special. It's nice.

One of the best gifts I ever got came out of the blue a couple of years ago. One of my co-workers had recently retired. She called me on her cell phone from the beach and let me listen to the breaking waves, knowing how much I loved the ocean. I will never forget that. One of these days, maybe I'll spend my birthday at a real ocean. Or, if global warming really kicks in, my little Oklahoma house might be situated on beachfront property.


Monday, March 26, 2007

Bald is beautiful

This is going to be one of those annoying “I am so proud of my kid” postings, so if you can’t handle that kind of stuff, don’t read on.

I can't help it, though, I really am proud of LegoGuy. Two years ago he started growing out his hair to shave on St. Baldrick’s Day, and he did the deed yesterday, along with about 70 other folks. He really would’ve had a lot more to take off, but during Christmas we made him get a trim and the stylist cut about 4 inches. (I was certain I told her to leave the length but add lots of layers; apparently, she didn’t hear me or chose to ignore me.)

Last year, Lego’s friend Fletcher died from Ewings Sarcoma. When it was time to sign up for St. Baldrick’s, he didn’t hesitate. He raised about $2000 for childhood cancer research.

I’ve been thinking about him all day, wondering how his friends at school reacted. He figured it might be a little rough but by Wednesday, everyone would be used to his new look. I think he’s got a beautifully-shaped head!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Chain chain chain

Sport left his glasses on the back of my car last night. He tried to convince himself that he’d left them somewhere else: in the garage, on the swing out front, on his headboard, but of course, they were nowhere to be found. I imagine they were lying in the middle of the interstate most of the morning, finally pulverized into dust by passing 18-wheelers.

I was proud of the way SO handled the information. Sport told us about the missing glasses in the middle of a visit from his aunt, and SO was able to keep his composure. He’s able to deal with the stupid kid stuff better than I am — I’m notoriously short on patience when it comes to this.

We took the boys to the art museum on Tuesday to see a Napoleon exhibit, and while it kept LegoGuy mildy entertained, Sport was bored. It was a video on chain reaction that really caught their attention. It was 30 minutes long, but it was almost impossible to get up and leave once we sat down to watch it. I think Sport was expecting a grand finale – fireworks, girls dancing the Can Can, or, at the very least, a perfectly brewed pot of hot tea – but it didn’t work that way. It was an exercise in math, chemistry, and planning. Lots and lots of planning.

I wish I could say the boys learned something from that video, like if you send a tire down an inclined plane, and it knocks a burning candle into a puddle of gasoline, the subsequent explosion could cause a concussion that would send several tubes of empty tape rolls into the air, and on and on, causing a chain reaction that ultimately might result in the death of an entire civilization of people. (I don't know, we really didn't get to the end of it -- maybe the candle fizzled out at the end or a brigade of volunteer firemen rushed into the warehouse and shut the whole thing down.)

I really hoped it might give them pause before doing something that, in the end, would bring about bodily harm or at least the loss of a pair of expensive glasses. Didn’t happen.

Sport put the glasses on the back of my car as the sun was going down and left them there all night. The next morning, I backed out of the garage, and, as the sun had not yet come up, didn’t notice they were there. I took off for the highway, humming along with whatever was on the radio, racing through lights that were about to turn yellow, completely oblivious.

Kids don't think about what happens next. They live in the moment. I like this about kids -- but it can also be kinda painful. I know this, having experienced it myself at the ripe old age of six. My father, burning leaves as he often did during the fall, left one pile unattended. My sister, younger by a year, took a stick and put the tip of it into the flames, getting it nice and hot. Then, she branded me on the back. Later (after her spanking), she was remorseful and sad. She hadn't meant to hurt me, she just wanted to see me jump.

Another incident with fire, this time my niece. Seeing a lit candle in the bathroom, she wondered what it would look like if she threw a wadded up handful of toilet paper into it. She didn't realize it would startle her, making her sweep the blazing item into the trashcan, causing an even bigger conflagration. She was perfectly willing to confess, but only after she'd spent about 5 minutes trying to come up with the right way to tell her uncle that the bathroom was on fire.

Then there was the time I warned LegoGuy not to mess with a giant pile of rocks, just before he slipped and took off the entire top layer of shin skin.

Sport's got a backup pair of glasses, one with a missing nose piece. We'll get that fixed, and he'll be back in business.

I wish monocles were popular. I think he'd look great sporting one of those. And they're cheaper to replace.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hand over the napkins and nobody gets hurt

Only moments after bolting down a grilled cheese sandwich at Sonic, I found myself racing to the computer to begin a tirade against a growing trend. It's becoming more and more prevalent in the fast food industry: the mysterious disappearance of condiments.

Used to be, you'd pull into the drive-through to get a low-dollar lunch and be subjected to minimal customer service, a barely palatable burger, and a watered down drink. But in that grease-stained bag there would reside a handful of ketchup packets, some flimsy napkins, and, if you were lucky, a random sampling of salt and pepper.

Not today.

Is it a cost-cutting strategy? Conservation? Laziness? A vast, right-wing conspiracy? Is it so difficult to toss a couple blobs of ketchup and a few measly napkins at a customer? On top of making sure our order is correct (and the soft drink is indeed a Dr. Pepper, not a crappy Diet Coke), do we have to beg for condiments as well?

This makes me cranky. Very, very cranky.

So I'm sitting in the car, munching on an onion ring, when I notice I haven't been given a single napkin to wipe the crumbs from my face. On the floor (crushed and looking the worse for wear) is a used napkin. With care, I pick the thing up and observe it. A couple of the corners appear to be useable. At least I don't have to resort to some cruddy old snot rags I'm sure are lodged under the seat somewhere. As for the missing ketchup, I happened to have a few on hand from my last Sonic run, where I specifically requested extras when ordering.

I have many, many pet peeves, but as of today, condiment conservation is at the top of my list.

Monday, March 12, 2007

The spice of life

Love is in the air. It’s possible I might be getting a new grandpa for Easter. My grandmother’s got her eye on a wheel-chair bound resident down the hall. In fact, she’s got more than an eye on him. Apparently, she groped the gentleman during a sing-along of favorite church hymns.

Nearer my God to thee, indeed.

Sexual harassment or senior moment? Both families pledged to keep the elderly Juliet away from the aged Romeo, but I didn’t have the courage to ask her about it Sunday when I picked her up for lunch. The image of my granny playing fast and loose with forbidden fruit was too much for me. Always elegant, proper, and reticent, it was impossible to imagine her doing such a thing. She probably wouldn’t even remember doing it, to be honest.

Grandma wanted to go out for a hamburger, but her favorite place had closed down. We ended up at a Mexican food restaurant, eating fajitas and soft tacos. She put away an entire bowl of salsa and queso, smacking her lips with satisfaction. “I love that spicy food!”

That's one thing we've got in common.

Spring is also in the air, and I spent Saturday afternoon in the yard, preparing my flower beds, pulling weeds, and watering. “You wasted all that water,” Sport said when he saw it was raining the next morning. True enough. I was also sore from all that squatting. I still need to spend many more hours out there, but I’m not sure how I’ll fit it in – Sport’s got soccer games and piano contests every Saturday until the end of May, and LegoGuy has his church youth activities and orchestra competitions. I’m getting too old for this. I’d love to hire someone to help me – preferably a young latino man who looks a lot like Antonio Banderas.

With Grandma as my role model, I think I'm going to refuse to let the aging process kill my spirit. I’ll refuse to wear a hat in the sun, embrace my gray hair, and look at each wrinkle as a badge of honor. I’ll squat in the mud, eat spicy foods, and occasionally grope my gardening assistant.

"Mmmm, spicy!"

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Book fever

Recently, I got to do one of my favorite things: recommend a favorite book to a friend. As luck would have it, Gypsy found the author to be just as hilarious as I'd promised. We went back and forth, sharing our favorite parts and lines. I couldn't stop laughing. Afterwards, I emailed SO and had him order me a hardbound copy of Naked by David Sedaris. I decided it had to be in my collection.

I don't buy books very often. As a librarian, I prefer to participate in the public sharing of reading materials. I enjoy being part of the process and I enjoy being an end user. If I can get it at the library, I don't like to spend money on books (except for leather-bound classics -- I love the weight and feel of a gorgeous Easton Press edition); I hate clutter and most paperbacks. When I come across something that I really, really love, then I'll buy it in hardback. This doesn't happen very often, so I think David should be flattered that his book qualified, not that I'll ever hear from him. He lives in France, you know.

Anyway, back to Naked. I checked the book out after cataloging it because it looked like a good read. Tucked into bed one night, my beloved beside me, I opened to the first chapter and started chuckling. I tried to keep my mirth to a minimum. After all, we have a waterbed and a couple of hearty guffaws is enough to start a ripple effect. Soon enough, I couldn't control myself. I had to read some of the paragraphs aloud.

Normally, this drives SO insane. Heck, it drives me crazy when he reads something out loud to me, because, you know, most of the time what I find to be funny isn't so funny when read out loud and out of context by someone else. But he started laughing, too. It was great. He ended up checking the book out later and thoroughly enjoying it.

Last week, DoOL mentioned a book that had grabbed him and it turned out to be another one that SO and I fought over when I brought it home from the library, Into the wild, by Jon Krakauer. It's not the slightest bit funny but it was gripping, plunging us into a bookreading fever from which there was no escape until the tragic last page was devoured.

After reading FE's latest posting, I decided to weigh in on a couple of books that have gobsmacked me. Anyone else have something to add?

Friday, March 02, 2007

Al Gore, superstar

I have had a brush with greatness.

Last night, LegoGuy and I went to see Al Gore give his now-famous presentation on global warming. Originally scheduled for a smaller venue on the OU campus, it was moved to the enormous Lloyd Noble auditorium at the last minute. Thus, we found ourselves in line with about 7,000 other people, waiting for permission to go inside and grab a good seat.

The line snaked around the building and through the parking lot like a gigantic anaconda. We'd parked near the back of the line and walked over to join our compatriots, giddy with excitement.

"Look at all these Democrats," Lego said.

"This issue appeals to people in both parties. I'm sure they aren't all Democrats," I told him. We stopped to admire a bumper sticker: Frodo failed. Bush has the ring.

The line doubled back behind us toward the front. It looked like it was going to take a very long time to get in, especially if every bag was being searched. However, anarchy was just around the corner. When the doors opened, those in the back of the line (who were really closer in proximity to the front of the line) saw their opportunity and broke rank. The remaining line hesitated for a moment. Should we continue in a civilized fashion? But less than 3 seconds after the end bolted, the entire line dissolved and there was a mad dash for the entrance: a complete breakdown in society. I've never seen anything like it. No elderly ladies were crushed, but there was a mix of dismay and laughter. Cell phones were snapped open; friends were called. "You are not going to believe what just happened..."

With security guards giving only a cursory glance at purses, we were able to get in really quickly. Found some great seats, with a clear view of the podium. They had big screens up so people could see on three sides of the vast arena. I'm telling you, the place was 3/4 of the way full. I sat next to a journalism student and we struck up a conversation, with me giving her some ideas about what to include in her story (but not in a pushy way).

Time went by fairly quickly. We were trying to figure out where Al would enter from -- most likely the bottom right, was my hypothesis. I went up to get some water and it was at that moment that Al Gore burst from the wings at the top of the stadium. I was standing right there! He was sweating already, since it was really warm in Lloyd Noble. One of his secret service men was dabbing at the VP's temple with a handkerchief. I reacted quickly, taking off my lightweight red cotton jacket and tossing it to Al. He shot me a grateful smile, mopped his brow, and threw it back at me. So, I didn't get an autograph, but I did get a little vice-presidential perspiration as a souvenir.

The crowd erupted in applause and standing ovations. We just cheered and cheered. He said he was overwhelmed by such a reception. Who knew he and David Boren were such good friends? Basically, the thing was a rehash of his slide show, which I've already seen twice, but he'd added some newer, even more depressing slides. Famished and blue from the continuing bad news on the global warming front, yet elated by the experience, we snuck out early and went to get something to eat. Proudly, I showed off the sweaty jacket*, but the waiter didn't seem at all impressed.

I'm starting to agree with JrCat, who really thinks Al needs to run for president. He's got a huge fan base.

*Okay, I admit to a tiny bit of embellishment here, but in 7th grade, my sister and I were the lucky recipients of a brush that had been pulled through the sweaty locks of an Elvis impersonator.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Birthday flight

This was not the way the day was supposed to end, with LegoGuy’s head on the table, crying silently into the crook of his elbow. I had rushed to the store after yoga class to pick up a cake mix, and after dinner I’d whipped up a chocolate cake with homemade Hershey’s chocolate icing. Somehow, I’d ended up hurting the feelings of my 14-year-old son.

“I just poked him with a clothespin,” I said to SO, slightly stunned.

“You pinched him.”

“I pinned it on the seam of his shirt.”

“Obviously you caught skin, not shirt.”

“Oh, come on,” I said lightly, poking Lego with the clothespin one more time, thinking he was joking around with us. But he really was upset. Truth is, we were all on each other’s nerves last night and it didn’t take much to send one of us over the edge. Unfortunately, it ended up being the birthday boy.

Trying to make amends, I reached back into my memory for a miserable birthday story. "When I turned 8, I was chased up the top of a swing set because all the kids were pinching me so much. I was covered in bruises from head to toe."

Unimpressed, there was no response from LegoGuy.

Well, at least he enjoyed his birthday present. His obessession with the sky is still in full swing, and we arranged for him to take a Discovery Flight. He, along with a certified instructor (CI), flew a Cessna around the area for about an hour. I left him in CI's capable hands, and headed for my van. I wasn't able to leave, camping out in my van until I saw the two of them take off safely. I was aware that SO was at work, worrying a hole into the lining of his stomach, so I had to make sure there weren't any snags. What I didn't realize was my son was the one in the pilot seat. CI was sitting behind him, co-piloting. LegoGuy was the one in charge when they left the runway. His euphoria was evident when I picked him up at the end of the lesson.

"I told him I'd had some experience with a flight simulator, but it's nothing like the real thing!" LegoGuy told me. "He said I did pretty good on the take-off. Landing was a lot more difficult." Thankfully, CI had brought the plane down without incident.

"How come I never get an airplane ride for my birthday?" asked Sport, jealous.

"Hey, you got a football signed by the entire OU team! You've never even expressed an interest in flying."

LegoGuy laughed, his smile lighting up his entire face.

Each year, I find it more and more difficult to believe that this is the same kid we brought home from the hospital in 1993, both of us feeling shellshocked by our sudden change in status from couple to threesome. Kids really don't come with any kind of instruction manual. We did a lot of things wrong those first few months, but I think we've done a whole lot of things right over the years.

I'd taken LegoGuy's baby book out so we could look at it together, but after the pinching debacle, I went from Mother of the Year to Mommy Dearest. He went to his room and I went to bed, depressed and embarrassed.

This morning, I apologized and he forgave me. There's nothing like a hug from Mom and a big piece of cake lathered with homemade Hershey's chocolate icing to make everything right with the world.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ha ha ha!

Most hilarious Valentine's Day gift I've ever received: a box of moist towelettes from Gypsy and CraftyMinx. Thanks for the laugh, guys!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Anti-Valentine's Day

“So, do you celebrate Valentine's Day, or do you see it as a soulless corporate holiday?” DoOL asked me yesterday.

What a loaded question! If I don’t celebrate it, do I come across as being anti-romantic and completely unappreciative of my beloved? If I admit that I do celebrate it, do I end up looking boastful and slightly needy? “Look at me, I got flowers. Because I’m worth it … right? Right?!”

It’s hard to get past the pain of Valentine’s Day etched into my fragile psyche during elementary school. These days, Sport and his classmates are sent home with notes instructing parents that, should our child choose to participate, all children must be given a valentine, with further instructions prohibiting personal messages. “Your child should sign his/her name only! Do not address them, leave the ‘To’ field blank.”

In my day, you could pick and choose who’d get a valentine, signed, sealed and delivered in its tiny white envelope. We could buy special, lace-covered masterpieces to give to the one we loved the best. How I dreaded looking through my artfully decorated shoebox for a special valentine that never came. All of us would count up how many we got, eagerly shouting out the number: “I got 11!” “I got 15!” “I got 20!” I was never the recipient of the most love tokens; popular girls like Sarah or Norma always claimed that honor.

Most teenage girls fill their angst-ridden hours of adolescence by reading romance novels, an exercise I am convinced seriously warped me. Those things completely deceived me as to what a real relationship with a man might be like. I’ve rarely met any male who acted like the main characters in these ridiculous stories, maddened by love to the point of entering into a marriage of convenience. And those long passages of annoying dialogue! Most men I know would rather swallow their tongues before uttering nonsense such as:

"I can promise to hurt you, to infuriate you, to be unreasonable and impatient, but no one will love you more. No one."


"I need to see the shape of your face though my hands. It's not enough to see it with my eyes. Do you understand?"

And this:

"I don't need your dowry, your parents, your Grecian temple, your pond, your abbey -- I don't need anything. All I want, all I need, is you."

A long time ago, SO and I decided not to take part in the much-hyped Valentine's Day. He got uncomfortable over my unstated expectations and I got uncomfortable with the competitive nature of it all, especially at work. When my boss got her yearly bouquet, she'd make such a big to do about it that the rest of us ended up feeling like we didn't measure up. I felt as if I'd regressed back to that 4th grade girl I'd been, shaking my shoebox to see if I'd gotten anymore valentines.

Instead, we make each other little cards and focus more attention on celebrating our anniversary, a date that's uniquely ours. I'd be lying if said I'd turn down a vase full of red roses. I'm a romantic at heart, God help me. But the one romantic boyfriend I had in college kind of got on my nerves. He was a sweetheart of a guy and always showed up for dates with flowers or candy or a card. But he was too nice of a guy. I wanted a guy with a bad boy edge, one not so desperate to please.

So, yes, Valentine's Day is all about the money. I take pleasure in sticking it to The Man and refusing to sell-out. As this guy/girl says, it's an overrated, capitalistic invention, and what you spend today is in no way a reflection of your true feelings for your beloved.

Plus, if you wait until tomorrow, you can get that heart-shaped box of Russell Stover's chocolated for half price. Nothing says "I love you" better than two for the price of one!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Weird like me

"Aaah, so you're Lego. I've heard a lot about you," said the father of one of my oldest son's classmates. We were standing in line to meet the 7th grade teachers at the middle school Open House, now optimistically called a "Showcase" in order to lull parents into thinking it's some kind of spectacular entertainment. Instead, it was the same old adolescent fare of self-conscious drama skits, song sung without clearly enunciated words, bands playing slightly off-key, and orchestras squeaking their strings.

LegoGuy's friend giggled, hiding her braces with a raised hand. My son just grinned. Lord knows what kind of things this girl had said to her family. I just hoped my kid wasn't cornering her in the hallway and popping her in the back with the clasp of her bra strap. That was one way the boys entertained themselves when I was a teen.

It was interesting to watch him interact with his peers. He seemed confident, at ease with everyone around him. They noticed him, gave him a "'Whassup?" or a slap on the back or murmured his name in passing. He looked normal, like he fit in, like he didn't have a weird gene in his body.

Maybe he gets all his weird quirks out at home. Some of the things he does lately just set my teeth on edge. His latest oddity is crawling into unexpected places and staying there, motionless, until one of us comes upon him unaware. Then he scares the bejeezus out of us. He doesn't say a word, doesn't jump out or scream. It's just that he's somewhere he shouldn't be, as still as a statue, and it's freaky.

It's no secret I had my weird moments growing up. I'm sure my parents noticed me doing all kinds of strange things, but here's what comes to mind:

1. The bizarre laugh: In 6th grade, I decided my laugh was completely unremarkable. Therefore, I had to come up with a new laugh. I experimented for awhile, then settled on a bizarre laugh that seemed to go on forever. In order to stretch it out, I'd inhale as deeply as I could, then exhale and laugh at the same time. It was exhausting, and eventually I gave it up. I'm sure my parents were thrilled.

2. The rapid clap: It was around this time that I experienced a huge surge of energy, and the only way I could get rid of it was by clapping rapidly for at least 3-5 minutes at a time, until my hands were stinging and sore. I remember my Dad glaring at me, patience completely gone. "Take it outside!" Still clapping, I obeyed.

3. The face stretch: We were a church-goin' family, parked on the hard pews every Sunday, Sunday night, Wednesday night missionary meetings, revivals, Bible studies, etc. I'd grasp at every straw to get me through the service. I probably studied the photos in my mother's wallet a hundred thousand times. (Had my parents really been that young? Who knew?) Then I discovered the odd pleasure of stretching my face. Bowing my head as if to pray, I'd used the palms of my hands to stretch my cheeks as far as I could stand before it got too painful. Then, release and recover. Repeat as often as necessary until the final sinner had prayed through at the altar. It's a wonder my jowls don't brush the concrete when I walk.

I'm sure there were many more. And it didn't end with adolescence. I've currently got enough weird ways to drive my husband crazy, what with my subhuman light sleep habits, my aversion to squeaky markers and my insistence on conversing in baby talk with my dog. Today, Gypsy and Minx made fun of my love for the phrase Moist Towelette* which would be -- I still believe -- a great name for a girl band.

I'm weird, and I'm proud.

*Hey, at least I'm not weird enough to collect these things.