Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Forgot Our Kids Believe I Love You

I picked up a box of magnetic poetry country love songs at Barnes & Noble. They have some good ones like, "She won't get under me until I get over you," and "If love were oil I'd be a quart low."

So I tried my own:

Damn your buns and black heart!

You stomped and tore out my heart.

I want your biscuits in the oven.

I'll marry you if you go away.

I love silver, just ask my mama.

Hell, my heart is plastic.

I miss the lips you kiss.

I forgot our kids believe I love you.

I miss you but now you won't leave me.

I get my redneck honeymoon every day.

You're the only pretty baby you'll know.

If there was a rodeo clown cemetery, would it be funny?

The Devil Part 2

Sure it was sweet at first with its comfy seats and "rack and pinion steering" whatever that is. It sneered at me while spitting out exhaust. I swore I saw it stop and start by itself whenever I tried to get in.

One stone cold night after work, I sat at an intersection off the I - which was I-94 in Wisconsin but since it was the only interstate in WI we just called it the I. I innocently waited for the light to turn green just so I could get home and warm my frozen toes but it just sat there. It stalled and the steering wheel didn't work. Cars honked, people drove around. I cried and my tears froze right on my cheeks.

If I listened real hard I could hear Devil Car laughing, "Oh you're such a dumb twenty-year-old blond! It took you four years to get up enough courage to get your license. I'm your first car. I'm gonna have fun with YOU."

Devil Car turned over and over and just as I envisioned myself walking home in below zero weather, he finally started up. I drove with my head down in case anyone from high school recognized me on the I.

Another night, while driving home from my fiance's mom's house, I listened to Robin Gibb's version of "Oh Darlin'" on the tape deck. The car must have been a Beatles fan and hated Gibb's version because I hit a patch of ice, did a 360 and almost went down an embankment. Thankfully I stopped spinning before going over.

I felt like Job being tested by God. Well, maybe not that severe but still. Finally I said, "That's IT!" My relationship with this car mirrored the relationship with my fiance. Whenever he made a crack about my big butt, Devil Car chuckled. Whenever he told me to do something with my flat hair (because all girls had ocean wave hair back then) Devil Car guffawed.

I called off the engagement but he said keep the car and the engagement ring. No way. I traded the ring for my sister's winter coat and traded in the car for a little slightly-used 1987 Sundance. I spotted Sunny with a For Sale sign in the Piggly Wiggly parking lot. It had a smiley face for a grill and it was painted in a delightful shade of candy apple red.

It was like a little puppy pawing at me behind a glass cage at a pet store. "C'mon in," it said with its driver's door open wide, "the seats are fine!"

And I did, never to see the Devil again.

Step on a Crack

This is why you wear a back brace as a kid if a doctor says so. The X-ray on the left is from when my back curved 80 degrees from scoliosis over four years ago.

2 rods, 25 screws, 2 pelvic bolts and 16 total hours of back surgeries later and viola! An almost straight spine and 3 more inches of height.

My surgery was done when I was 36. The poor girl in the story below suffered from the same affliction at only 11 years old.

She was teased and called "Hunchback of Notre Dame" from the way she walked. Kids are cruel, that's true, but at least she can now stand up to them.

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Presidential FAIL

Last year my daughter had to choose a president for an oral report. I suggested Richard Nixon as an excuse to visit his library in Yorba Linda. I got a little too into it because I tried to get her to use my limerick as an added bonus:

Richard Nixon was the president
Of the White House he was a resident

He got a lot of hate
Because of Watergate

And for quitting he set a precedent.

Luckily she didn't use it and still earned a good grade.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Devil Part 1

I came home from work at the nursing home scumming in white clothes that night. The garage door opened to reveal the Devil. You know how they say the Devil will never look like what you expect with horns, hooves and pitchfork? He'll be smooth, slick and handsome. That was my new black 1989 Buick Skylark bought by my soon-to-be ex-fiance.

My fiance wiped it down with my mom's good towel - the first one he saw hanging in the bathroom for guests as he heard the garage door go up. I eked out a "Wow." Maybe he thought I'd jump up and down like on The Price is Right when Rod Roddy screamed, "A NEW CAR!" But I was tired of wiping up bodily fluids from old people and wanted to just soak in a bath.

"So, whaddya think?" he said, building up dirt and grime on a towel my mom might cry about later. Not wanting to disappoint, I sat down in its plush seats and they felt good. It was much better than my parents' car I previously drove - a 1984 Renault Alliance affectionately called "Appliance." Everyone in Kenosha owned one since we manufactured them there.

In contrast, my new Buick was sleek, shiny and...well, new. New is good, right? I thought. He was a little hard to steer and harder to park, but my fiance surprised me with it so I decided to like it. I drove it to work and showed it off to my co-workers. "Look what my fiance bought for me," I'd say. But I smelled trouble like a dog sniffing the DNA of a criminal on the lam.

One day, I pulled out during a funeral procession because I was late for work and wasn't sure what I was supposed to do. A man got out of the car and told me, "You don't pull out during a funeral procession!" I said red-faced, "I just got my license, sorry." Devil Car gritted its teeth at me through the grill.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Books

'CoverCover of On the Night You Were Born

I’m jealous of my 10-year-old daughter. I take her to the library and book store and she knows exactly what she wants to read. She goes straight to the paperback section and picks out the Dear Dumb Diary series, goes home and reads a book in one afternoon.

I remember when I did the same thing. I’d load up on books by Beverly Cleary, a pile so high I couldn’t see where I walked, and camp out in my room and read after a day of swimming in the summer, pleasantly tired of watching reruns of Happy Days.

This makes me long for days of picture books and junior novels. I read to my almost 6-year-old joyfully because turning the pages of a picture book is like walking through an art gallery.

One such book I love is Nancy Tillman’s On the Night You Were Born. It starts out at night time with a baby looking at a smiling moon. My daughter says, “That’s Baby April,” and we imitate the drawn animals saying her name: squeaks for ladybugs, ribbits for frogs, and growls for polar bears.

The days of reading to my girls will not last forever, so I need rediscover my joy. I think I found it. While perusing the children’s library section, I found some great historical accounts of America for each decade. What intrigues me the most was the Roaring Twenties - the period of prosperity after World War 1 and before the Great Depression. Women bared their ankles and knees in flapper dresses and bobbed their hair, and the author that captured it all was F. Scott Fitzgerald.

I searched for his most notable novel, The Great Gatsby, because I studied it as a junior in high school. I say study and not read because back then I could care less. Great literature is wasted on youth.

That’s why I applaud the Dear America series because there’s nothing like reading fictional diaries of young people in historical eras. They make you want to read more of the classics. I read the Dear America series of World War 2 which made me read The Diary of Anne Frank which launched my interest in reading more about World War 2.

Back in high school, I stared at the back of my classmates' heads during history class. I still long for the day where I can read a book in a day. It will happen soon enough.

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I'm on the Road to Shambala

Ice cubesImage via Wikipedia

I am almost 41 and a half. Half birthdays are not just for kids anymore.

I celebrated my 41st birthday on 3/19/09. I tried to find a number 41 reference to tie into this entry but came up empty-handed until my husband said, "Ben-Hur was number 41!"

And I thought, there ya go. I'm number 41. My shout-out to Charlton Heston. My day started out meeting my daughter's then third-grade teacher. She had a glowing report on Holly's progress.

Then we came home and I announced, "Let's go to the beach!" We packed up a lunch and towels and I burned a CD for the drive out there. I call it "On the Road to Shambala." I employed the use of my genius playlist on iTunes to pick songs similar to Three Dog Night's "Shambala."

I'm not sure who or what Shambala is and I don't really care. It was a song I heard when I was 5 years old and at that age all you care to do is dance and sing along. "Shambala" was used last year in an episode of Lost that symbolized Hurley achieving a goal through fixing a Volkswagen bus. So as far as I'm concerned, Shambala is about getting things done.

Coming home from the beach is when the party started. I read Carrie Fisher's Wishful Drinking in peaceful solitude while my daughters decorated the kitchen with toilet paper as streamers. They wrote "Happy Birthday" all over them. They set out ice cubes made of Coke Zero (my lifeblood) and Jello pudding cups. Then they cut squares of sandwich bread with icing and lemon drops. THAT was a culinary delight.

Finally, they drew pictures of me enjoying my treats and wrote, "41 - not old yet!" Definitely. I love being number 41. And a half.

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Boo-Boo and Uno

NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 12:  Uno, a 15inch Beagle ...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

From Compassionate

"It is said that when your parents die, you lose your past; when your spouse
dies, you lose your present; and when your child dies, you lose your future.
However, when your sibling dies, you lose your past, your present, and your
future. After all, the relationship between siblings is potentially the longest
of their lives."

The last conversation I had with my brother was, oddly enough, about a blog I kept called Astrophysicist Barbie's Microscope (Yes, I know the name was too long hence the change). I wanted him and my family to check out what I've been posting for two years. He died of a brain aneurysm on Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at the age of 46.

He was brain dead before he got to the hospital, but they kept a breathing tube on him until his organs were harvested. He may not have donated a heart on Valentine's Day, but he was able to give away his corneas, kidneys, liver and pancreas. He still gave the gift of life on a day we celebrate love.

One thing I remember as a child is him always bringing home a dog, be it a labrador or cocker spaniel. On that Wednesday, I suddenly had an urge to get a dog. Maybe it was that lovely beagle Uno who won Best in Show that year, and his charismatic appearance on Studio B with Shepard Smith.

Later that week we got a male Maltese puppy which Holly named Fluffy.

My nickname for my big brother was Boo-Boo, because I couldn't pronounce "Bruce" as a toddler. My nick name was Tater, after the baby in the comic strip Barney Google and Snuffy Smith.

And that's what he always called me, until the last time I spoke with him. Here's to Boo-Boo. May you rest in peace.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

True Beauty

"If real beauty comes from within, why don't fashion models just show us their X-rays?" ~Holly

Artie the Smartie

"That's all he knows? Is he stupid?"

~My daughter's remark while listening to Art Garfunkel's "All I Know."

Friday, August 21, 2009

Solitude is the Best Companion (Maybe)

10 years in the making. 10 years of raising children, schooling, feeding and reading to them. For the first time in a decade starting Monday, I will have 3 hours - 3 WHOLE HOURS - to myself each day 4 times a week. It's like what Henry David Thoreau said of Walden Pond:

"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived."

Except I substitute "mall" for "woods."

Things to do while the kids are in school:

*Take water aerobics classes and remember to yell "Whoo! Yeah baby!" during the tough parts.

*Go to dog park (and remember to bring the dog).

*Scrub those baseboards (HA! Just kidding!)

*Resist the urge to post embarassing pictures of my almost 10-year-old. It must be rough to be a daughter of a momblogger. My other kid? No problem.

*Volunteer at my kids' school and address their teachers, "Hey girlfriends!" Even the male ones.

*Knit a sweater for my dog that says "Bad to the Bone."

*Try out new recipes like this one. Yeah, they'll love me for that!

*Call into radio shows and try out my new catch phrase: THAT is so JUNGLE!

*Learn a new yoga pose like this one.

And finally the number one thing I'll do while the kids are in school:

Run for the President of the United States with the slogan: "I'm a blogger. I know everything."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Momness is Terminal

"Once you're infected with the Momness disease, there is no cure."

That's what my daughter said as we folded towels. Momness, a disease sweeping the globe since Eve laid eyes on Adam.

Back then, moms had spic-n-span homes because we knew all the kids in the neighborhood. We rode bikes and skateboards. We walked to the neighborhood candy store with a friend down a busy road and walked back and ate our candy outside while our moms mopped the floors.

Now, moms do everything with their kids. We take them to the pool, the park and the megastore because there are no neighborhood candy stores anymore. We're lucky if we even know our neighbors. If they have kids the same age playing outside, which is rare, we feel like we're intruding on their quality family time since the parents are right out there with them.

So our houses aren't as clean as our moms' abodes because our kids don't get outside. We can't zone in and focus on what needs to be done that day. The floor goes without mopping and the furniture goes without dusting.

Public schools are not up to par, so we choose charter schools or homeschooling so we take responsiblity for our kids' education in addition to supervising them at all times.

TV ads tell us to be petrified of intruders bursting into our homes in the middle of the day if we don't have a security system. So our doors are never open. Our kids stay inside and play video games while we finish our tasks, and even then we can't allow them too much of that lest they roll down Obese Lane.

As weird as this may seem, I wouldn't have it either way. As Billy Joel sang, "The good ol' days weren't all that good and tomorrow ain't as bad as it seems." I know where my kids are, what they're studying and how precious are those rare moments! Stuff like reading a book with them in the middle of the day or watching an age-appropriate news program and discussing what we've seen.

Momness, there really is no cure.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dig Up Your Treasure Chest

I heard the Parable of Talents as a child, but it didn't sink in until I was a teenager. I made a vow to use 5 talents: singing, dancing, art, writing and acting. I pursued all of those while in college because I had the youthful energy for them. I sang in my school choir, co-captained the pom pon squad, drew portraits, was editor of the school newspaper, and acted in school plays.

But when I reached adulthood, I lost my energy because I refused to search for outlets to use the talents God gave me. It was like I buried them like the jealous servant who was given only one talent because he was ticked off at the two servants who were given more. The only talent I kept at for the past 20+ years is writing, and even that I buried.

It didn't dawn on me until recently that I'm putting all talents to use in church by helping out with children's ministries. I volunteered for the ministries because I wanted my kids to participate. When they asked for help, I said "Yes!" right away not knowing if I still had the talents or the energy to employ them. I recalled from acting classes that talent is not nearly as important as energy. You have energy first and then earn the talent.

So, like a servant who learned her lesson, I'm digging up this one talent so that I may go out and earn the rest back. If anyone has lost their energy for doing what they love, then I suggest grabbing a shovel and dig up what you've buried in the back yard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

My Turn in the Peanut Gallery

I have jury duty the same day my kids start school on August 24. I tried to get out of it and was de-NIED. Apparently, "I have no one to take my kids to school, no one to pick them up, no one to watch them after school, and no one to homeschool them on Fridays," is not a good enough reason for the courts.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to serve on a trial but perhaps when my kids are older, out of the house, and don't need to learn their alphabet or multiplication tables.

So, a good online friend named Jen gave me some advice: "You could try telling them you're a Republican. That would instantly categorize you as an un-American least if the DA is a fan of Nancy Pelosi."

I like that. It's as un-American as my apple pie and I can't find my sickle to slice it.

Here's another response from another online friend named John: "If you're on the jury for a murder trial, there are sets of questions for prospective jurors. One is 'Do you favor the death penalty?' Instead of checking yes or no, I write in 'Regular' or 'Extra crispy' and check the latter." He also adds, "It's amazing that 'civic duty' is never calendar-friendly."

So I think I'll try John's advice, which oddly puts me in the mood for KFC.

UPDATE: I finally got through to a live person and postponed my service until a school vacation. Fantastic. Funny thing is, though, when I had a desk job and no kids I simply claimed "financial hardship" and got out, no questions asked. Now that I have kids and no job, I report. I have a feeling karma will catch up with the court system. They will babysit my kids while I'm in court. They will send me home in no time flat.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

This is Why I'm So Dang Happy

Behold, before your eyes I present to you the meaning of happiness:

My husband gets an e-mail from someone at work who scored front row center seats to a Jonas Brothers concert. His co-worker said anyone who wants them, they can have them for free. He asks my 9-year-old daughter if she wants to go.

Her response?

Wait for it.

Wait for it some more.

Are you ready?

Her response:


Yes, my friends, the definition of happiness is watching your daughter turn down an opportunity her friends would die for. Why? BECAUSE SHE HAS NO FRIGGIN' IDEA WHO THE JONAS BROTHERS ARE!

Why? Because the music she listens to is good, like the Beatles, Beach Boys, Bon Jovi and...okay...a little "Barbie Girl" thrown in there for good measure.

Hey, happiness doesn't mean perfection.

A Mona Lisa Smirk with a Tattoo

Art history rocks. I wish I knew that in college. The semester I took Ancient Art to Pre-Renaissance, it was epic FAIL. The following semester I earned an A in Renaissance to Modern Art. Why? I stayed awake by color-coding index cards and strapping an IV of Diet Coke to my arm during the slide show presentations. College is definitely wasted on the young because I rediscovered my love of art history through coloring books.

My daughters, aged 5 and 9, are already computer savvy. I have to drag them away kicking and screaming from their monitors to discover a world out there, something I'm learning as well. One frustrated afternoon I got out the markers, pencils and Spongebob Squarepants coloring books using techniques I learned in art class. They sat there a little while humoring me but then asked to go back on I lingered, cross-hatching Spongebob a nice shade of ochre.

Then I took a trip to Barnes and Noble and found a plethora of coloring books for grown-ups. Or at least semi grown-ups. I found books with geometric patterns, Amish quilts, Victorian houses and my favorite, masterpieces. The masterpiece book gives a page of history of each painting, and a page to color the masterpiece your way. I gave the Mona Lisa purple hair, goth make-up and a tattoo. I learned how to pronounced French names the right way. I wondered why there are so many famous paintings with naked women but none of naked men.

So I propose a new teaching method to budding art students who'd rather text in the dark than watch slide shows: give them a coloring book. Let them pencil, mark or crayon their take on the masters. And draw a few naked guys once in a while to even out the score.

Friday, August 7, 2009

House Pride Cometh Before the Fall

Back in the Victorian ages, parents wanted their daughters to play with dolls and dollhouses in order to learn house pride. I had Barbies and a Barbie Townhouse with an elevator equipped with a pulley which I thought was the coolest invention ever. Instead of learning house pride, I imagined Ken as Shaun Cassidy and me as Barbie and we drove around in our plastic convertible listening to Larry Lujack on WLS AM Radio play "Da Doo Ron Ron."

Mopping the floors and dusting furniture was not in my daily schedule at the Barbie Townhouse. My only agenda was surfing by day and dancing in discotheques by night in our matching polyester pant suits I found in JCPenney catalog.

So late (or should I say later) in life I learned house pride.

I scrubbed the kitchen floor today and it felt like I did 100 pushups. That alone inspired me to consider housecleaning a workout. Last week I dusted furniture after staring at it for months, reveling in the smell of orange oil. I dusted all the places I could reach using a step ladder. But as I climbed the stairs I noticed dust on top of our ceiling fan. I was entranced at the thickness of the dust layer as I recalled one of my mom's questions as she cleaned the house when I was a budding pre-teen planning my pool party with Ken/Shaun Cassidy:

"Did someone die under your bed?" she asked.

Looking up from my Tiger Beat magazine with the pic of an open-shirted and floppy-haired Shaun, I said, "No, why?"

"When you die, don't you turn to dust?"

I looked under my bed and sure enough, dust bunnies multiplied faster than the future Octomom's spawn.

Had Mom not pointed it out the dust to me, I would have never known. Now as a mom myself, I look at my ceiling fan and decide if there is dust where I don't see it, it does not exist. Sort of like a tree making a sound while falling in the woods. It does but if no one's around, does anyone care if it makes a sound as long as it doesn't kill anything?

So the dust on the ceiling fan will stay right where it is. Until Mom visits and asks if someone died on my ceiling fan.