Monthly Archives: April 2007

Rift

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Call NASA. Better yet, call the United Federation of Planets. After years and years of watching old Star Trek episodes, I have finally stumbled across a real life rift in the space-time continuum!

It’s in my shower.

There’s no other explanation for the odd way in which time folds and stretches when I vanish behind that plastic curtain.

For example, this morning I turned on the hot water, stepped into the shower, and didn’t have another conscious thought until maybe a half hour later, when I came to my senses to find myself up to my wrists in conditioner, generously running it through my hair. What was I doing all that time? What was I thinking? Where did I go? I have no idea. Did I even shampoo first?

It threw me off so badly, I had to go back and start my whole showering ritual again from the beginning. Wet hair, shampoo (lather, rinse, no repeat), apply conditioner, use body wash on all my other bits and pieces, shave, rinse out conditioner, done. Every single day, exactly the same. It takes ten to fifteen minutes.

So why do I sometimes emerge from the shower to find, inexplicably, that forty-five minutes have passed, leaving me standing in a towel in the hallway with my wet hair dripping on the rug when I should already be completely ready and running out the door?

I’m telling you, it’s a rift in the space-time continuum.

I can see that you’re skeptical, and I don’t blame you. Surely, you’re saying to yourself, there is a more rational explanation for the phenomena I’ve described. And I can see your point. I do admit to having a lot of inspired ideas in the shower. And sometimes, when I’ve been wrestling with the same problem for a while, the answer will just come to me from under a head full of shampoo suds. I’ve even been known to write whole blog posts in my head while I stare at a crack between the tiles and the hot water beats ceaselessly down on my shoulders (of course, remembering what I wrote when I actually sit down at my computer hours later is a different matter altogether.) So I suppose an argument could be made that the mystifying time suckage is of my own invention.

Still, it’s eerie. Sort of like the nine minutes that mysteriously disappear every morning after Paul hits the snooze button on the alarm clock. It seems that we barely have time to blink before the alarm goes off again. What happens to those nine minutes?

I’m thinking alien abduction.

Upgrade

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We have a new dishwasher!

The stainless steel beauty of its front panel opens to reveal the pristine spaciousness of two deep dish racks, an easily removable silverware caddy, and a self-cleaning filter. (Side note: we could use more “self-cleaning” things around here.) With six different wash settings, spot-free rinse, and a heat dry cycle, it has revolutionized the functional efficiency of our entire kitchen.

Gone is the dinosaur that once stood in its place, and call me callous, but I don’t miss it. There was a basic communication breakdown between it and me. Silly me, I was laboring under the misapprehension that a “dishwasher” was meant to, you know, wash dishes. Instead, the washing was all done by me, prior to placing the dishes into the dishwasher. Stuck-on food had nothing to fear from the clumsy ministrations of our outdated appliance. And then there were the spots of soapy film still clinging to the glasses after the “rinse” cycle, making it look as if the whole top rack had been splattered with toothpaste. Still, we lived with it, dutifully pre-washing and post-rinsing every load of dishes, begging the question of why, exactly, we were using a dishwasher in the first place.

Then a wonderful thing happened.

The old dinosaur started leaking. First, it was just a few drops of water at the end of the rinse cycle. Then a little puddle. Then a pool. We even had to run a few loads with a towel tucked around the base of the washer to catch the runoff. It was time to call the landlord.

The day after we spoke to him, he came out to look at the offending machine. Thirty seconds later, he declared it a disaster, and reappeared the next morning with a replacement—a glorious technological wonder, the epitome of modern day dishwashing prowess.

Did I mention that it’s shiny?

Every so often, it’s nice to be a renter. (Now if I can just remember that the next time I go on an HGTV binge …)

Hissing Fist

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Today’s post is brought to you by a guest blogger, my handsome and talented husband, Paul (a.k.a. The Geek.)

***

I watched as my daughter stood face-to-face with a karate black belt. He stood poised in his best front stance, she in her best back stance*. It was not a situation I had ever imagined taking in with my two eyes.

The instructions were to pair up one belt-ranked person with a non-ranked/white belt person and stand in a line, waiting for a turn to take on the sensei in kumite. My daughter had already witnessed my turn at the teacher, her look full of glee. I think she truly believed that the sensei was about to have his hands full with the impressive array of Daddy-skillz she’s always believed me to possess. Sadly, I am sure her perception of my skills has been reduced in quality since this particular karate class. When it was her turn in the rotation, I was impressed with her willingness to jump onto the mat.

The sensei, knowing right away what he was dealing with, proceeded to charge at her, hands raised, like a monster. He growled “Arrrrrrrrgh!” and she backed off a few paces, maintaining her stance. The sensei stopped, assuring her that he was only joking around, and then told her “Hit me.” Now, I have spent much time informing my children not to hit. “Son, don’t whack your sister with a pencil.” “Don’t pillowfight in the living room.” “Spatulas are not playthings.” You know, normal parenting phrases like that. I hadn’t really prepared my little girl for a location where hitting was not only encouraged, it was standard. So my girl reared back and threw a punch, complete with sound effect (“Pew!”). The sensei remained unaffected, not because he outweighed her in years, size, and skill, but because he was still 4 feet away.

“Hit me!” he repeated. Another little salvo from the girl, a one-two combo; “Pew, pew!”. Still 2 feet away. “It’s okay, c’mon, hit me!” The parental restraint stayed in place, and no contact was made. The sensei approached her and began to pepper her with little jesting prods and pokes, ending with a barrage of hair-mussing. My crouching tiger jumped back, fixed her stance, and gave him what I can only call “Hissing Fist.”

“SSSSsssssssssssss!” Her hands were up in fists, but the index and middle fingers were flailed out fiercely as if anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in their wake would be bitten by her wrath. The sensei was a good sport and continued to approach, coach, and train my little snake-master.

After class, I asked my daughter, “What was that thing you did with your fists out on the mat?!?” She replied, “Welllll, it was kinda my own little flair”. “Hrm. Maybe we should do what they teach us and not do so much personal flair, ok?” “Well, ok.”

Not a bad first class. I’ll have to watch her with her brother though. He’s given her more than enough reason to practice punching.

*I’m proud to say that when it came time for action, she remembered the back stance as I taught it to her.

Downshifting

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Well, the daily posts were fun while they lasted, but I’m going to have to take a breather, friends.

I have an acquaintance with a small business who needs some data transcription done, so for the next month or two, I’ve signed on to work a couple of hours a day for him. It’s something I can do from home that doesn’t cut into my time with my precious family. A real blessing. Unfortunately, it will cut into blogging time a bit.

So for the foreseeable future, my blogging frequency will return to its previous two or three times a week.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you, my seventeen regular readers. However, I have no wish to leave you high and dry. If my meager offerings are insufficient to keep you supplied with stories about kid funk, strange encounters, married life, technophobia, office supplies, peanut butter, Savage Chickens, housekeeping, psycho dreams, and The Jim/Pam Situation, I suggest you get your fix at one or more of the following blogs:

Upheaval
The Reign of Ellen
Tales From My Tiny Kingdom
being 30something
A Butterfly Moment
Eliza Jane
Mommy Stories
Vexed in the City
I love this crazy tragic, sometimes almost magic, awful beautiful life
BrodH2O
Chaotic Adventures, Life Lessons
The Far Side of the Ocean
Newlywifed
Clearly Ridiculous
Way to Go, Kevin!
Living In Perfect Chaos
SlushTurtle
It’s News to Me!
Outside Oklahoma
Crazy Dust In My Coffee
Linguini on the Ceiling
Originality is SO Overrated
Queen Bee
Tongue in Cheek
kellogg bloggin’
Poop and Boogies
Chad Gardner–It’s Gardneriffic!
A Family Runs Through It
Gathering Around the Table
Silver Valley Stories
Ruminations and Reflections
Suburban Turmoil
Celebrate We Will
The Happy Homemaker
Hola, Isabel
Artisan Jewelry for Your Good Life
pink sneakers n’at

It’s not an exhaustive list, but it will keep you busy for a while. (And I’m so sorry if I missed someone! It’s just a mistake, I assure you. It doesn’t put a dent in my complete adoration of you, your writing, your quirky style, your delightful personality, and your boundless wisdom.)

Lost

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Panic.

I can’t find my daughter. I can’t find my daughter! I can’t find my DAUGHTER!

At some point, every parent experiences the horrible, gut-punching terror of looking around for their child only to find that he or she is nowhere to be seen. What might start out as a relatively calm search can quickly escalate into a frenetic free-for-all as fear sets in, and the mind starts concocting worst case scenarios pieced together from national news stories and true crime TV shows. I have a vivid recollection of this feeling, as it just happened to me again recently.

Last Wednesday, I lost Katie.

We were at church and the adult class, a great textual study of the Sermon on the Mount, had been dismissed. Paul went to pick up Caleb at his class, and I noticed that the older kids were streaming up from their classrooms downstairs. Usually, Katie arrives with them and comes to find us, so I wasn’t paying too much attention while I enjoyed a conversation with a friend. Eventually, Paul appeared with Caleb, my friend made her way to the door to leave, and I looked around to tell Katie that we were going home.

I didn’t see her.

I called to her, but there was no answer. I asked a few people if they had seen her, but no one had. I thrust Caleb at Paul and ran into the large auditorium, calling her name again. No one was in there. I checked the bathroom at the top of the ramp, and the one at the bottom. Empty.

By this time, the panic was setting in. My heart was palpitating, I was short of breath, and I felt a scream wanting to claw its way up out of my throat, choking me. I began sprinting through the building, out to the parking lot, into the church office, shouting “Katie! KATIE!” at the top of my lungs and breathlessly shrieking to anyone I came across, “We can’t find Katie!”

Soon several people were helping us look for her. Paul found me and, by way of calming me down, asked me to take Caleb so he could search. But I didn’t stop. Holding Caleb firmly by the hand, I dragged him up and down the building, continuing my frenzied exploration.

Finally, Paul saw Mason and Isaac, two of Katie’s friends, straggling up from downstairs. He stopped them to ask them if they knew where Katie was. “Yeah,” said Mason, pointing. “She’s still back there, in the classroom.”

Paul ran down and found her exactly where we had dropped her off. In her classroom. The class activity had just taken a bit longer than expected, and the teacher had let them out a little late. Paul called to me that he’d found her, and in seconds I was there. Charging into the room, I saw immediately that she was all right, that everything was well, and that all my panic had been for nothing. Then I burst into tears.

***

Sure, I felt silly. But when someone you love is lost, a lot of things suddenly don’t matter. You don’t care how crazy you sound as you run around, waving your arms and screaming her name. You don’t worry about what people think of you as you frantically yell for help, doing whatever it takes to pull her back into the circle of safety. Priorities shift like tectonic plates, and what was important five minutes ago is swallowed up in the clamorous urgency of finding the lost one and bringing her home.

But, oh, the relief of holding that one safely in your arms again!

Feeling silly is a small price to pay.

Upside Down

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When I was a little girl, I used to lie upside down on the couch. With my feet propped up on the cushioned back and my head hanging down off of the edge so that my long hair trailed across the carpet, I would gaze around at my surroundings and imagine walking across the ceiling.

It was still my house, with all of its mundane details—the magnets on the fridge, the blue and green afghan tossed over the back of my dad’s chair—but inverted, it was as foreign as a moonscape, and I loved to envision myself exploring its strange contours.

Making my way around the light fixtures, I would finally be able to examine the secret treasures in the uppermost kitchen cupboards, and reach the candy jar that was kept high atop the refrigerator. I’d have to be careful walking from room to room, taking care to step over the top of the doorway, like a sailor stepping through a hatch on a submarine. And, of course, I could never, ever go outside, or I’d fall up, up, up into the air and away from everything I knew, never to return.

I’m not sure how long I would usually lay there and daydream like that, but sooner or later the pounding of blood rushing to my head would supersede my fantasy and I would lever myself upright and back into the dimension of predictable gravity and familiar furniture, a slight headache the only cost of my expedition into that other place.

Unfortunately, the price of a new perspective escalates as you age.

Thoughts on Virginia Tech

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another lone shooter
an alien standing in a sea of people,
unnoticed in his normal skin
until he raises the gun
cutting people down like
so much wheat
before turning the gun on himself
and taking our answers with him

what is he killing?
anger?
hurt?
emptiness, that sucking hole that inhales
days and months and years,
leaving nothing in its wake?

who can know now?

could someone so cruel have considered even the
cold kindness of a note?

and now, the cameras
and now, the anger
and now, the inquisition in search of someone to blame
for this scandal of incomprehension
a neat little package of cause and effect
ending in a committee recommendation
and someone’s head on a platter

the fearful world closes in
demanding answers that we really don’t want

answers that might, if we had them, illuminate
what we’re trying so hard not to see

Thinking? Me?

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Many thanks to Shabby In the City for awarding me the much-coveted Thinking Blogger Award: Well, I was coveting it, at least, as I’ve been glimpsing it here and there on many of my favorite blogs, and hoping that someone, somewhere might decide that revelations about slimy fungus and potty training explosions qualify as “thought-provoking.” Or at least “nausea-inducing.” A reaction is a reaction, right?

Now comes the hard part. According to the Thinking Blogger Award acceptance guidelines, I have to pass the award on to five bloggers that make me think.

Seriously? Only five? That’s like asking me to choose my favorite child or to pick one kind of ice cream to have for the rest of my life! The list of bloggers that move me, delight me, frustrate me, and amuse me is epic. That’s why I don’t keep a blogroll; Blogger has a 300MB space limit.

However, for the purposes of giving away the gift that was so kindly given to me, here are five blogs that stand out in a crowd. They each, in their own way, enrich my thought life and give me a steady diet of new ideas to chew on.

1. Tales From My Tiny Kingdom–I’m pretty sure that Anne has already been endowed with this award. Possibly several times. But there is a reason for that, and thirty seconds after you click over to her impossibly entertaining blog, you will know what it is. I rarely read one of her posts without laughing out loud. Sometimes with snorting.

2. Poop and Boogies–If the name alone doesn’t scream “Thinking Blogger,” I don’t know what does. Seriously, the only thing I love more than a good mommy blog is a good daddy blog. And that is what this is. Enjoy!

3. kellogg bloggin’–Raymond Pert is a college professor. He teaches literature and writing. Each of his Three Beautiful Things posts is the blogging equivalent of a small handful of M&Ms. Quick, literary “tastes” that simultaneously satisfy and stir a craving for the rest of the story.

4. A Dress a Day–Erin loves dresses. She loves sewing them. She loves buying them. She loves accessorizing them. And most of all, she loves writing about them. Be sure to check out her amazing series, “Secret Lives of Dresses” in the sidebar. Delicious.

5. Huckleberries Online–I’ve never been very aware of local politics, or community identity, or the very unique and unexpected mix of individuals and attitudes that combine to give flavor to the region in which I’m living, moving, and raising my kids. Until HBO, that is. This newspaper-sponsored blog, moderated by hometown personality Dave Oliveria, has provided me with a window into all this, and more–a place to contribute my thoughts and perceptions, to be lifted up and shouted down, to open my eyes to the impact of small people and big ideas, and, very rarely, to vent my spleen. It’s rather nice. Most of the time.

There you have it, five thinking blogs from one thinking blogger.

And now, I think I’m done.

Liberty and Restrooms for All

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Common wisdom contends that there’s nothing like travel to make you truly appreciate home.I don’t know if that’s true in all respects, but there is one facet of life in the good old USA that I came to adore during my excursions across the pond, a feature of American culture that remains unequaled among the developing and developed countries of the world.

I speak, of course, of the availability of public restrooms.

I never knew how much I took the constant presence of restroom facilities for granted until I traveled abroad. In many places, public bathrooms just didn’t exist. And forget ducking into a restaurant or patisserie for quick relief—toilets in those places are reserved for patrons only. It is the height of rudeness to dash into someone’s business, avail yourself of the facilities, and dash back out. I can’t tell you how many uneaten pastries and unsipped cups of coffee I left in my wake as I crossed the European continent in search of a place to do my business.

There’s something about not knowing where or whether you’ll next be able to use the bathroom that makes you have to go all the time.

Nor do the rare accessible toilets always take the comforting and familiar white porcelain form to which I am accustomed. In many places, the “loo” is nothing more than a hole in the floor with a footplate on either side. Others are more of an outhouse-type structure. Trust me, though, when I say that by the time I found a place to potty, I usually did not care what it looked like. The majority of toilets for travelers seemed to be of the “pay and pee” variety, very similar to a public restroom in any large American venue, but with coin slots on the doors. I tried to keep a pocket full of jingling change with me at all times. Only once was I reduced to begging a stranger for a donation, which she promptly handed over with a sympathetic smile. I think she took one look at my crossed legs and panic-stricken face and decided it would be cheaper to help me out than to pay her dry-cleaning bill when I exploded.

Probably the most psychologically damaging public restrooms I encountered were in Paris. They consist of a sort of metal capsule with an electronic door. You put your francs in the slot, step through the door (which closes behind you), and do what you came to do as fast as humanly possible. Theoretically, these doors are timed to open automatically if you don’t emerge within fifteen minutes, but I swear that the one I used gave me a scant twenty seconds. I just barely managed to get my clothing rearranged over my delicate bits before the door slid noiselessly open and I was spot lit by the late afternoon sun in front of a crowd of grinning Parisians. Not my most poised moment as a suave and sophisticated world traveler.

I’d like to think that every sojourner to distant lands comes back with at least one good bathroom story. After all, the need to go is something we all share, no matter where we live. Fortunately, crossed legs and a panic-stricken face are easily translated into any language.