Monday, July 31, 2006
Me: My alarm didn't go off. I had to get up and out of the house in 15 minutes. I thought I looked cute but Dr. B told me my skirt looks like an A/C filter.
Me: And the MOUSE didn't work in class, so I couldn't open the f**ing lecture. I mean, I ended up opening it, but it was lame.
Him: Oh. (appropriately supportive)
Me: And my phone alarm doesn't work. At all. I keep trying to set it for all sorts of times to test it, and it simply doesn't work.
Him: You get paid today. A lot. A whole lot. You can afford a new phone. And a new skirt. And a pedicure....
Me: I don't WANT a new phone. Or a new skirt.
Him: Well, I picked a booger and it fell into my coffee.
Me: That's awesome! I feel much better now. Gotta grade papers -- bye!!
Friday, July 28, 2006
Mother. Professor.They don't mix. Not well.
At least, not in my mind. Mothering is so... well - unnnatural to me.
I can dress the part of Mommy ( jeans or a skirt, wedge heels, and a tshirt with a purse big enough or apple juice and 2 diapers), talk the game of Mommy (put your brother down! Say hi to the nice lady! I love you, too...), and load both kids into the back of a sweltering car without losing my cool or bending too far over in a skirt (I hope).
Still, it's unnatural.
I'm not very maternal.
OK, maybe I am.
But I try hard not to be.
I've worked hard over the past fifteen years to be fair, direct, firm, straight-shooting.
Maybe that's kinda maternal too.
But I don't bake cookies.
Unless I feel like it.
I'm not very cuddly.
OK, so I like to cuddle up with the kids.
I still try to sit on my father's lap.
Strike that one.
I don't really like to be the authority figure.
Oh. Nevermind, I guess I lose that round too -
I can't stand being responsible for other people.
This one, I stand by.
I hate doing the laundry for other people (and yes, KIDS are "other people"), cleaning up after other people, cooking for other people (unless I feel like it) and having to miss work because someone else is sick.
Of course, responsibility is part of the whole growing-up game, so I guess it's part of me.
I like being alone.
That's probably the hardest part of motherhood for me.
I would've made a great hermit.
Yes, when I was single, I do remember putting a lot of energy into finding boyfriends & companions to hang out with. Not live with, not be with all the time. I still had my own home, always, until the day I got married (and even 2 months after that).
No one has ever loved me like my kids do.
They stalk me.
They on the bathroom door when I'm in there too long.
(Hey, it's huge -- I have a lounge in there....)
They suspect I'm in there, hiding with a book or writing something really interesting that they can't yet understand.
They send me mail under the bathroom door.
Pictures of our family, rainbows, flowers, hearts.
They worship and praise me, stick to me like velcro, proclaim my wisdom, generosity and beauty to all they meet.
This is weird.
I'm wondering how much longer until they become teenagers and hide in their rooms, text-messaging their friends about what an idiot I am. How oldfashioned, conservative and dorky I am.
That'll probably happen around the time I decide that my kids are growing up too fast, and that I've wasted precious years hiding from them in the bathroom, writing things like this for you.
I'll probably color pictures for them and mail it to them, under their doors.
It's been heavenly.
I'm usually a morning person, but these summer afternoons are working out well.
I think Monday was my favority day. I worked out, then sat in a chair by the bedroom window which was cracked open to let the rain noises fill the room.
The wind was pushing and pulling the trees into this soothing rhythm which hypnotized me and pulled my thoughts to dancing, swaying, synchronizing.
I tried to give it meaning, tell myself a story about how wonderful it is that trees are rooted but flexible.
This didn't work.
All I could think of was the power of the wind.
The wind was the dance, the trees were victims, puppets, hostages to another storm.
I love the wind.
My phone rang.
I didn't answer it.
There was absolutely no one in the world who I could explain this to -- no one who would understand the peace I'm seeking.
Thursday, July 27, 2006
I'd prepped her for the fact she'd be getting shots by pinching her a whole bunch of times over the last week and saying "now, it might feel like this.... or like this"
After the first few times she stopped crying and started to get into the game.
My daughter is a good sport.
Anyway, after the Dr. yesterday, we all went to a very-very late lunch at Fridays.
Zoe picked up the waitress (why not the BUSBOY???). She asked her to come over and play dress-up, telling her our phone number, inviting her over to babysit.
The girl has game.
After I stuck Chuck with the bill, Zoe and I went to my car, and sent him off to get Zack and go to Walmart.
About thirty minutes later the home phone rang.
Actually, it didn't RING because the ringer is broken. And no one I know EVER calls that number so I don't answer it. I usually have the answering machine off too... but not yesterday.
Please please please pick it up. It's an emergency. Pick it up. Please please please.
It was a stressed tense voice, not a loud one.
Not an angry one.
Hmmm, who could it be?
They didn't say my NAME *or* the magic word that always gets my attention (PEDICURE) so I wasn't sure it was for me.
Thank GOD. My car has been stolen. It's gone.
OK. OK. You're sure?
I don't laugh.
I don't laugh at all at the fact that in the three weeks since paying off the car he has been in an accident AND had the car stolen.
This is NOT a time for giggling.
We'll be right there.
Now, you know me pretty well.
I'm always early, and pretty much rushing around all the time.
Even when I'm doing happy things, I'm still "oooh, just another 15 minutes until I have to walk three feet. Might as well stop having fun now..."
But I figure that there is no need for speed here.
I'm still wearing my suit.
And heels and pantyhose.
I *cannot* wear this to a crime scene unless I want to look like a reporter.
Plus, it's impossible to bend over in a skirt and get the kids into the car without wondering if I'm flashing someone.
(( That's why most MILFs have minivans. Less bending over. ))
So I change into my workout clothes, and head to the garage to make sure there is room for everyone in my car.
Zoe comes out, talking on my cellphone.
She often answers my phone, which you probably already know if you've ever called me.
If you haven't -- well, consider yourself warned.
She will quiz you with 100 questions before even considering sharing the phone with me.
Mommy? It's Daddy.
He's on his way.
He found his car and he said you can't blog this.
Tell your Daddy that he can't even FIND my blog, so tough luck.
And that's exactly what she told him.
This summer my mind keeps rewinding to the summer that I was 21.
The summer before going to start grad school in Boulder, Colorado.
Ready to start a big new chapter of my life.
One that would involve snow, wiggling away from a brilliant, generous and funny boyfriend (which, in hindsight, still doesn't make a lot of sense --) and -- well -- finding new pieces of myself.
I spent that summer counting the days until August 9. Waiting to be launched.
That summer I spent almost 2 weeks with Mike in Arkansas.
And if I remember correctly, I wasn't a real joy to be around during that visit.
Bad case of growing pains, fear of letting go, fear of holding on.
Now I know, of course, that people don't have a great deal of perspective at 21.
And when they're going through big changes that seem out of control or overwhelming, sometimes they go overboard and force a few changes that they can control.
But the rest of that summer was about reading, earning a few bucks, and thinking.
Thinking about what was ending, what I hoped to begin, and who I really wanted to become.
So here I am, years later and miles closer to where I'm headed.
Other people have joined me on my journey.
Some for a reason, others for a season, and a key few have been around (and hopefully will remain for) the duration.
And, yes, here I am, surrounded by people who are also in launch position.
You can see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices.
It's a little scary.
But it's what they've been working for --what they've earned, and what they're ready for.
As Summer burns itself out and we turn the corner to Fall, I can almost hear this year's countdown begin.
Monday, July 24, 2006
To be Melissa, alone.
So on Saturday morning Zack told his daddy "We're ditching you!"
This was no surprise to him.
Painless hours later, the kids were safely in the hands of their grandparents going crazy at Disney World.
I was alone in a coffeeshop, reading, listening to music (I love my iPod, I love my iPod, I love my iPod), feeling completely human.
On Sunday morning, my parents took the kids to the Magic Kingdom, and I had 5 hours to myself. Heaven.
Since I pretty much don't eat or drink or really shop anymore, I decided to see a movie.
This is a big deal.
I usually have to plan the movie, arrive ahead, and get the best seat.
That way I can be smug when an loser-late-person stumbles trying to navigate the dark stairs as the movie starts.
But on Sunday, I felt free.
Unencumbered, single, happy, and, well, again, happy.
I knew everything in the world was wonderful, so of course I knew I'd find a movie playing exactly when it would convenient for me.
When I got to the box office, the one right across from the Mega Virgin store, I was pretty shocked to see that the movie I was going to see had already started.
Like 10 minutes ago.
I have RULES that I live by.
Not a bunch, but a few hard-and-fast-ones, and one of the ones I've stuck by since childhood is the whole "get to the movie early" rule.
But the movie wasn't playing again until 2:15.
The grandparents were returning the sugared-up, Mickey-Mouse-crazed kids at 3pm.
It was now (10:45am) or never.
I took a deep breath, and risked it.
As I walked into the VERY dark theatre 15 minutes LATE, the movie was just starting.
Yes, I know that you know that all movies start late.
You are right. There, I said it. You are RIGHT.
The theatre was dark, empty, and loud.
I made my way to the very top row. sat down, and only for a second wished to have someone there to laugh with. I thought about it for a moment, then shrugged it off.
Then I laughed at myself, turned the phone off, and decided this would be a great time to start challenging a few other silly rules I've been living by.
Stay tuned ~
Thursday, July 20, 2006
Last week, during a particularly un-ending evening, I hit my edge. There was simply nothing to do. Nothing at all. Nothing on TV, nothing fun to play with, nothing to bake.
All I wanted was a pedicure.
And it hit me. Brilliance.
I asked the kids if they thought they were old enough to rub Mommy's feet.
They both nodded, wide-eyed at the mere thought of getting to something so grown up.
Zoe raced to get Mommy's favorite almond-scented hand cream, and Zack told me to take my shoes off.
I squirted a pile of lotion in each of the four outstretched palms.
OK, guys, 5 minutes, starting... NOW.
I hit a random button on my cellphone, starting a mythical timer.
They rubbed. And rubbed. It was really more enjoyable than it should've been.
Just as they were getting a bit bored, I shrieked BEEEEP and announced it was Zoe's turn.
She took the throne, and Zack and I rubbed her feet.
BEEEEP, Zack's turn.
BEEEEP, Mommy's turn.
This went on for about an hour.
The sun relented, and finally set.
We each put on our jammies, picked out books, and relaxed into each other.
I totally forgot to tip them.
That can be our secret, OK?
I am watching war things on TV, but mute it so that Zoe can read me a story about a girl named Patty running for President of her 3rd grade class. There are very few pictures in this book, and I'm amazed at Zoe's concentration and comprehension.
Patty loses her bid for President when the class votes instead for Pam, Patty's campaign director, the silent hard-working girl who isn't bossy.
It's a great lesson in servant leadership, which I point out to Zoe.
This isn't completely lost on my almost-in-kindergarten daughter, who gently argues that Pam's shoes WERE cuter than Patty's, a point apparently which turned the tide of the mythical 3rd grade voters.
Because Zoe seems so content hanging out with me, I change the channel to MTV.
Her favorite show, NEXT is on.
You know, serial dating show on MTV where a person meets up to 5 contestants and as soon as they decide a potential dater is.. um... well.... not for them... they announce NEXT.
It's two parts rude, one part fun, one part "damn, I wish life was like that!"
This show turns out to be a guys-looking-to-date-guys one, and for just a moment I hestitate.
A tiny voice (that sounds ridiculously like my mother...) reminds me that Zoe is young and impressionable.
I know that.
But I want her to know that love has many faces.
I also know that she shouldn't be watching MTV, in general.
After about three minutes, it's clear that Zoe isn't interested in the TV, so I turn it off.
We don't talk about NEXT, boys, dating, or anything on TV.
I reach for my pen to write about Zoe reading me a book, and, in the short silence, do not immediately notice that Zoe has left.
She returns with her Tinkerbell journal and one of my most favorite blue felt tip pens.
We write together, about each other.
Not all the time, of course. Just when I feel like it.
Which pretty much is from 6pm-10pm, every evening.
This is very convenient, seeing how evenings should be "family time."
A challenge for me, as I am still fighting off the reality that I'm a mother and therefore should be Chief Entertainment Officer.
I am not the best CEO most evenings.
Because I get up so early, I'm pretty much zonked by 6pm.
I do not eat dinner.
It's hot and buggy outside.
The kids are alternately hyper, cranky, and cuddly.
I wish for them to fall asleep but my gut instinct is to sit very very still and hope someone else (dad? fairy godmother?) will swoop down and play with them.
This rarely happens, so I'm left to my own devices.
Recently, I've taken my Mom's best parenting advice --> Outsmart the kids.
Yesterday we received 0ur weekly box from my parents. Tita and Papa send Zoe and Zack (and their cousins, Lily and Jake) a box each week full of, well - um - stuff.
This week it was playdoh, cookies, markers (markers???) and a book for Zack.
Zoe got her weekly dress, book and writing tablet.
For about two hours, the three of us sat at the table playing, telling stories, writing, giggling.
Then, at about 7pm, I stood up an whined loudly at no one in particular, "No one EVER lets me watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse!!! I really want to watch it! Why can't I EVER watch what I want to watch."
Then, in a wonderfully inspired imitation of Zoe, I stomped one foot, scowled, then made intimidating eye contact with each of the kids.
Zoe and Zack looked at each other.
Then Zoe shrugged. And smiled.
Guess what Mommy? It's YOUR turn. You get the REMOTE now!!
The two of them smiled at each other, conspiratorially, as I did a little celebratory jig.
Yeah! Thank you, thank you! I get to watch what *I* want to watch!!
So I put on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and sat down in a chair to stare out the window, fascinated by the glow of lightening.
Then, of course, I got my pen and snuck away to the bathroom to write.
Wednesday, July 19, 2006
I noticed that you noticed.
And yes, I have been productive. But I've also been laying low, enjoying precious moments (sigh) of quiet alone at home.
Which, of course, includes MTV.
Too much MTV.
Have you seen the Hills?
I'm going to have to talk to Lauren.
Or the editors.
Apparently the girl is in college, and has a DREAM internship.
But what does she -- and her roommate -- obsess about?
Stupid, almost-evil, barely-20-something driving too expensive cars boys who don't have jobs.
Both of the girls have great jobs, jobs that can get a person "somewhere" and yet we see them all mooonie-eyed, moaning "its my boyfriends birthday and I'm at work!" and "well... it's our 6 month anniversary...."
I'm not crazy.
I know that MTV was not created to make rolemodels - but this painful.
With great shows like MADE and um... umm... I'll think of another one in a minute -- Mtv has the chance to inspire women to be something more than one of those jiggy big bottomed bikini girls in the jacuzz n in the background of a 2nd rate video.
At least show Lauren studying.
At least show her eating something fatty.
Maybe, just once, they can show her laughing.
At least after she ditches her trash-talking, low-self-esteem-dude (Jason) who seemed to spend his birthday doting on a few lines of coke instead of his could-be-somebody girlfriend.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
He told them (yes, I saw it with my own eyes - he spoke English and was sweaty) that they now have "freedom of the press" and "wasn't that a form of security in itself?"
It is very important for the Iraqi media to show all the citizens how much hate and violence is going in.
This definitely helps them pick sides in the boiling civil war.
And of course, it contributes to economic confidence, overall well-being, and a sense of "hey, I'm so lucky to be here, now. This is HISTORY in the MAKING!"
At least, when and if they take part in the violence, they have a damn good shot of getting some publicity over it.
I have no solution here.
Just a growing awareness that something -- many things -- are very, very bad.
OK, I exaggerate.
She and another friend (a blonde curly-haired big-word-weilding 5 year old who has a the sweet happiness and kindness of an angel) -- were doing some of their cut-and-paste work together when apparently they got a little cross with each other.
It was about 4pm, so I guess they were getting cranky after a long day of songs, games, coloring and naps. I *totally* understand.
Words were exchanged, then Zoe's friend lost her angel wings for a second and slashed Zoe with scissors.
The offender's mother called the preschool to get my phone number and apologize.
The preschool instead called me and gave me her number.
Because my house is currently overrun with mothers-in-law (2. I'm not kidding - TWO), toddlers and gym equipment, I didn't call her back.
There's another reason, a less obvious one, as to why I didn't call the angel's mom back.
I don't want to make a big deal out of it.
Everyone apologized, the angel is being sanctioned at school, and we all agree to just stop telling the story.
So why is this no big deal to me?
Because after three years of doing anti-hate trainings at Broward County Schools, not-for-profits and all that good stuff, I know worse things go on.
Harassment. Bullying. Nasty remarks. Isolation.
Some kids go to school every day to face a constant, daily, painful buzz of being hated, not fitting in, excluded, marginalized, fearful.
Sticks, stones and scissors might hurt, they might leave some marks, but its the words that worry me.
Words leave permanent scars.
I've heard the stories from Asian children about being followed around with people saying "chin-chin-chhhheeee" and doing kung-fu at them.
Other students have been called the n-word, in class, out loud - and had teachers do nothing.
There are thousands of stories about small injustices and acts of hate that people live with every day in schools, at work, and on the street.
Very few of these stories involve scissors -- in fact, the sharpest instrument used seems to be a couple of well honed tongues.
We're lucky. Our kids go to schools with teachers who care, and who have the skills inculcate kindness and respect in their daily curriculum.
I didn't call the angel's mom back because I trust the system, and I trust that it was a freak-accident. I've done worse and been forgiven for it.
Now, f I ever hear from a teacher or anyone else that Zoe has been the victim - or, much worse, the perpetrator - of bullying.... well, that's a whole other story.
They each have to interview 5 people, asking them the same question, then type up the responses, give them back to the interviewees for "review" and then compile the 5 interviews with an analytical/synthetic essay identifying any themes that came up. For example, did everyone or no one mention war? Or only men mentioned war? Did they all mention Malbury v. Madison (doubt it)? Did most of their responses sound like flag-waving speeches, or were they a bit more cynical?
So anyway, I gave students the option of "making it more interesting" by submitting a podcast of the interviews. Several students looked very enthused. One mentioned making a video podcast. I'm pretty excited to see how this turns out.
Meanwhile, Cody - a creative free spirit who apparently is the child of hippies (who would've known?) - beat out everyone in both classes by submitting the first draft of HER project.
Click here to watch it -
Um, keep working on it.
Just 4 more interviews to go.
And don't forget your analytical & synthetic overview essay!
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Today will get better.
Today will not be as cr*ppy as it seems.
Today will not be a rotten day.
I will have fun today.
Today will rock.
Today will rock.
Kicking people is not OK.
Cursing people under my breath is not OK.
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to not hit "reply"
Monday, July 10, 2006
We finally cracked the code, decided we were worthy human beings, and headed out for a celebratory glass of wine.
But my favorite place, the Bonefish Grill, wasn't open yet. So we headed to Morelia for margaritas and stories and just as we ordered, the phone call came.
A hysterical one.
Chuck telling me to pick up Zack because he'd been in a car wreck.
Zack? in a car wreck?
No, Chuck, Zoe, and Grandma in a carwreck.
So they couldn't pick up Zack from preschool.
I heard Zoe crying in the background and took a deep breathe.
Part of me wanted to ask Roberto to just handle this whole "being a grown-up mom and wife thing" so I could take a day off. But he's done nothing to deserve that doom, so we agreed to a raincheck and parted ways.
Not at all What I Had Planned
I picked up Zack, raced to the scene of the accident where Zoe was eating an icecream cone and basically assisting the policeman in whatever. She's highly literate, so I'm sure she was checking his spelling and punctuation. She had a policebadge-sticker on, and knew everyone's names. Still, I could tell how shaken up she was.
Good thing I'm the one who thrives on stress.
My humor-bossiness-directing-everyone-and-being-the-brain kicked in.
I packed the whole gang into my Hyundai-which-only-has-3-working-doors and got us all home. We made it through the evening just fine.
Saturday I took Chuck and Zack to rent a car.
As we pulled up, I muttered to Chuck, sh*t, it's next to Chuck-e-Cheese.
He reassured me that Zack can't read yet.
Zack announces, HOORAY we're going to Chuck-e-Cheese! thank you Mommy! thank you Daddy! Thank you! Thank you!
So while Chuck is filling out papers at the rental car place, I take my dear curly-headed 2 year old to Chuck-e-Cheese.
The place smells like vomit, irritation and body odor.
Zack isn't old enough to really play any of the games, so I take him near the stage to watch the big fake but politically-correct-and-ethnically-diverse band play a few numbers.
When they take a break, I walk Zack out.
He wants to drive with Daddy.
Usually the child is stuck to me like velcro, biting-scratching-kicking anyone who tries to lure him away. I am relieved to have time alone, delighted that Chuck has a chaperone.
Not at all What I Had Planned
As I climb into my car (file that under "hey, I'm a great driver, I never get in wrecks, why then do I get the crappy car? oh, because I look good in green. got it!) Chuck asks me to buy cigarettes for his mom. Ok. Ew, but OK.
I stop by Albertsons (ew, but anyway) buy the nasty cigs, then am lured to the bookstore a few feet away.
This weekend I have nothing to grade, nothing big to accomplish. I deserve a book. And coffee. No sugar, no chocoate, no bagel, just a big hot cup of temporary company to distract me from... well, just in general.
I get my book (oh, right, that's another essay) and sit down.
I'm fishing for my iPod, Justin, when I hear whispers and giggles.
I look over.
A table of four students - four of MY students - studying together for Exam #1.
Wow, studying on Saturday for an Monday's exam.
A real-live-study group, convened in my name. I was honored and impressed.
We hung out for awhile.
They asked clarifying questions, I gave them direct answers.
And when they get great grades on their exams today, I want it noted for the record, we did not plan this rendezvous.
Not at all What I Had Planned.
So on Friday, after a wonderful week of being wonderfully better from the whole not-well thing, he picks his mother up from the airport then... is rear ended.
The car that we just made the last payment on -- is crushed. In the shop. Waiting for an estimate.
On Saturday - the day we picked the rental car up, I checked the mail, and -- yes -- the title had arrived.
The title to the crushed up car. Wonderful. Thank you.
Today is Chuck's birthday.
The only good thing going is that he isn't turning 40 today.
So make it 999 Plagues upon Chuck.
Maybe one day I'll let you have the internet at home so you can read my blog.
Thursday, July 6, 2006
So I wake up today and get alot done, but my low-caffeine-level-light is blinking.
Fine. I write anyway, still get dressed and come to work.
What shocks me into reality is an email from MEGAN (a former student) announcing that she's moving in with Will.
OK, Megan did NOT ask permission, so I had to chastize her, check out pictures, all-and-all give the whole situation a concerned frown.
Because Megan is that important.
She's the girl you HOPE your boyfriend's (single) best friend will hook up with because she'll be so much fun to hang out with.
She's the girl that -- when you meet her as your neighbor -- you exhale, thinking "wow, things are about to get... interesting... in a good way."
I don't really know Will, but he looks good enough for her.
He looks funny, happy.
And he has WONDERFUL dental hygeine.
Live in sin.
I mean, I never did that whole "living together thing" but, um, I beg the WORLD to not follow in my footsteps! In fact -- just do everything the exact opposite of me and you'll be fine.
Wednesday, July 5, 2006
He was just in my doorway, coffee in hand, to smell my office.
Admittedly, my office smells great - but hey, I'm trying to work here. I need to google people, think of witty things to say about the Puritans, rearrange the talismen in my desk.
Mark, Vice President of Things Like Computers, Adjuncts, Ordering Lunch, and World Events in General, likes to stand in the corner doorway between Jarrett's office and mine (of course, Jarrett and I are sitting in chairs, which means that we are "working") and talk to both of us at the same time.
Peggy often (from her chair, about 10 feet away) jumps into add color to these conversations.
Today we discussed Ken Lay's death (what? what?) and the need for thumb drives.
I usually save my lectures -- which are ridiculously full of pictures and maps, I know - on the server, then go to a classroom, logon and open it.
The server was DOWN today, so I had to RACE back up to my office -- almost knocking Dr. Benedicks down, thank GOD the man is nimble -- save my lecture on MY flash drive (aka, Justin, my iPod) and race back to class.
Of course, the only one in a hurry was ME, but I hate to be late, and I couldn't just put up like "previews" or "coming attractions" for the students.
Anyway, I flashed my iPod, plugged it in, and jumped into lecture.
I'm pretty pleased with myself & shared the story with Jarrett which is where Mark entered the conversation. Coffee in hand. Looking pressed, Republican, and generally ex-military.
The best part is that Mark told me (I wrote this down to get it right, because I aim to please) "Just because you have a mouth doesn't mean you should use it all the time."
Pretty witty, that Mark.
We should make him Vice President of Snippy Comments.
Unless that means he won't be taking care of lunch on Fridays.
I really look forward to Fridays.
Can't we PLEASE order Gordo's this week?
It's a little after 6am, and I'm in my office, soaking in the quiet, reading.
Then this post (and link) woke me up.
I hate sending you away from my blog - I mean, I'm not possessive, but I tend toward bossiness, and so I'm not BOSSING you to do this, just nudging you --- now GO!
Tuesday, July 4, 2006
Some influential and intermittently brilliant white men signed a sheet of paper and sent it to England, which started a war, which lead to the Treaty of Paris, where Britain acknowledged our independence. OK?
We weren't independent on July 4, 1776. Deal with it!
Life with mere mortals and their myths is not easy for history professors.
We know too much. How do I even stand it?
Well, I watch a lot of TV.
That kinda puts me into a malleable blurry state.
But I am more than a history professor.
I am a mother, homeowner, neighbor.
I am a young, healthy, happy person who should look forward to holiday celebrations.
I simply have no 4th of July traditions.
Maybe I can start writing Christmas cards on the 4th of July.
I can send this year's cards extra early, because last years cards are still here in unsealed, unaddressed envelopes.
The cards are neatly stacked and hidden away in the top, skinny cabinet, the one I toss things into when I wish they would just disappear.
For a long time I was looking for a cabinet to hide in, to hide pieces of myself in.
A black space to crawl into, rest, fade away.
I know. That is not a winning attitude
And maybe the 4th of July is about winning, not about independence.
Seriously, we celebrate the day that 13 almost-countries came together and agreed to mutual complains against the same oppressor.
They didn't know how they would become a nation, how they would change the continent, the world, space.
We celebrate their courage.
So from this 4th of July on, I'll be celebrating my own courage.
Goodbye to what was, hello to what's about to be.
Things cannot stay the same.
Not for one more month, week, day or hour.
Let the changes begin.
4th of July is my Independence Day.
That may or may not be his name - if your security clearance is high enough, you know who my neighbor is... if not, well, just go with it, OK?
So the other day, I look out the window, and there goes JD on the riding mower, cutting our lawn.
Chuck was still barely moving then (this was before the miraculous cure of dramamine, go figure), so JD's help was especially appreciated.
It was hot, and I asked Chuck to bring JD a beer.
No, you bring it to him.
Chuck, I'm not walking out there, in public, in my work out clothes, two beers in hand. It's like the beginning of a bad porn.
No, you'd be wearing a skirt, and heels. And your husband wouldn't be home.
You can clearly see that Chuck's condition had exhausted me into passivity. He opened 2 coronas and I brought them to JD.
We talked. Soon the kids were out flying kites, Chuck was sweeping yard debris (miracle! miracle!), life felt very good.
In the middle of all the summer yardwork joviality JD invited us over for Bethany's birthday party.They live right behind us and our daughters are the same age, at the same school, so I don't know if they could actually have a party without Zoe climbing the fence, looking into their house, and asking to be invited.
Anyway, it was during the intimate 5-year-old birthday party that I asked JD what he was doing last July 4th - when he was in Iraq.
Nothing special, he replied.
But the man is a story-factory, so of course I knew I'd get better details than that.
He told me that the mess hall had flags on every table.
But besides that, it was very very low key.
They had a mission to concentrate on.
There are few holidays at war - and patriotic holidays must be the hardest to maneuver. Memorial Day. Veterans Day. 4th of July.
Things to celebrate later in life, back home, grilling, feeling completely safe again.
Jimi is still active.
I mean, the man is 43 and has a 25 year old wife he's trying to knock up. So they're active that way - but also in the military sense.
He's been to Afghanistan and Iraq, and yes, he could still be sent for another year.
Maybe that's why he's so happy.
Every day he wakes up in his bedroom, with his wife, drives his own car wherever the hell he wants to take it, just is a great day,
Maybe war -- or at least coming back from it -- doesn't make all men edgy.
I'd always thought of veterans as grey, slumped, exhausted, haunted.
But not Jimi. Not my students who are fresh from far away places.
They're happy to be back, happy to move forward, happy to just be back in the US.
Happy 4th of July. Wherever you may be.
I was home from gradschool in Tallahassee, but it wasn't a real vacation because was completely paralyzed with with heartbreak.
It had gone on for about six weeks, and my parents had no reason to believe this holiday would get me out of bed, dressed, eating, happy.
Somehow my mom got me to go to the store with her.
Getting out of the house was a big deal because I was completely and ridiculously obsessed with being fat, with looking fat, with how I looked and how certain I was that I was not fit for human eyes. I didn't want to leave the house only to be viewed, discarded, seen and scorned.
I was probably over-the hill, turn-the-corner-to-crazyland delirious from starving myself for months. Eating disorders are only funny if you don’t have to live with one. I was paralyzed and suffocating. Not writing at all.
My mom and I bought some sparklers so that we could entertain my grandparents that evening. At least that was her story then – now I see that her real game was to get me moving, back on my feet, functioning again.
As we were pulling out of the parking lot, a truck in front of us took off a bit too quickly, and a big brown box slid out of its flat bed.
Mom said “get it!” and a surge of curiosity and Scarface-like intrigue gave me sudden burst of courage to jump out of the car, grab the box & toss it in the trunk.
Roman Candles. A big box of them. More fireworks than I’d seen in my life.
We aren’t poor, but fireworks – especially the ostentatious kind – are sorta a waste of money,
That night we had a wonderful time – my parents, grandparents, me – running with Roman Candles in our own personal Olympic relay around the poor. Dancing with them (everyone was sober, so it was ok), laughing with them.
Abuelo got out an American flag and BB gun, and he and I marched around the pool on patrol.
My dad took a bunch of pictures of the whole event.
Have you seen them? I’m wearing a peach shirt with a navy collar.
I still think look great in those pictures, not too skinny, too serious, to lonely or too sad, like people kept telling me.
During our formative years we saw a recurring image of an astronaut planting a flag on the moon. In the promo, it was an MTV flag, but we all knew the truth. America owned the moon.
And music. Pretty much everything worth owning.
I was unaware of the military, of conflict, of any world problems until 1980.
That was the year of Mariel, the Miami riots, and boycotting the Moscow Olympics after kicking communist ass in hockey at Lake Placid.
It was a powerful year.
But I don’t think we did anything special for 4th of July, 1980.
Actually, we probably went to Miami to see Cuban relatives who had arrived in the US over the recent months.
A very American way to spend any holiday, huh?
We didn’t grill.
People who live in cramped South Florida apartments, who arrive in this country with nothing but an old tattered suitcase, generally don’t spend their money on grills.
First they need apartments, then clothes, furniture, houseware.
A grill is a luxury for settled people.
So, no, my 4th of July memory is not of burgers, corn on the cob.
It’s Cuban food, ordered in Spanglish by my father. from the Blue Plate (no, the name never translated to Spanish when the food shifted with local preferences) Ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, morros, pan cubano, flan, maduros.
That's right. I said maduros.
No one remembers that I like tostones, and that has been a problem for over thirty years.
I remember 1980 also because our family was a different shape then. Miriam was still alive, and I think she was just married. Wow. Cuca was around.
In 1980 I had no idea that so many other families spoke Spanish.
I had no clue at all.
The 4th of July has never been a big deal for me.
Although only a few stand out, I get this vague recollection of being perpetually sunburnt, thirsty and bored waiting for fireworks to begin after it grew too dark for me to read whatever book I was toting around that week.
I think we spent several July 4ths at the Pompano Beach Municipal complex, the field where the Orioles had their spring training, across one street from the high school that would close right before my senior year, and across a different street from the building where I learned to do cartwheels.
The funny thing is that we were less than a mile from the beach, from a world where wealthier people stood in ocean-breeze-swept penthouses, drank wine and worried about interest rates.
I didn’t even know they existed.
Pompano Beach could’ve been any small Southern town in the 1970s.
Trucks, baseball, everyone still speaking English at major gatherings.
The fact that I grew up in the 1970s was lost on me.
My strongest memories are the 1980s, high school and college, MTV, Madonna, Sixteen Candles, Say Anything, not knowing Boy George was gay – not even thinking about it.
We were not a patriotic group, my generation.
Not most of us.
I mean, why should we be?
During our formative years we saw a recurring image of an astronaut planting a flag on the moon.
In the promo, it was an MTV flag, but we all knew the truth.
America owned the moon. And music.
Pretty much everything worth owning.
1976 was like a bicentenniel-gasm for months. We made flags, special stars, things that took patience and glue and hours. I still cringe at glue -- just stick to taping things.
Anyway, if you weren't around in 1976 you don't know how wild this post-Watergate post-Vietman country went wild celebrating our 200th birthday.
Because back in 1976, 200 was old.
That was before Botox.
Usually it starts with a thought, then an imaginary conversation between 2 characters whose plot has stopped moving for a week or so - - then I jot down the notes, read it, write all over it, then the urge rolls over me like a tidalwave.
I have to write it.
I have to open the entire manuscript, get to that page and insert it.
What if I forget the underlying issue they're avoiding?
What if the urge passes?
What if I forget the hook of the essay, the point of the story???
What if I stopped writing, never ever finish writing this book (and the prequel and sequel that haunt my stories and make me laugh) and end up one of those people with undone lives, surrounded by piles and piles of newspapers they never read, but are afraid to throw away, just in case....
This morning I was awoken by Zack kissing my nose. There can't be a better way in this world to wake up.
It was a good morning of cleaning, laundry, house junk.
But by 9am, I wanted Chuck to be up so I could write. I mean, three hours of hard labor, hello? Didn't I EARN writing time?
So I went to wake him up the first time, and he negotiated 45 more minutes. Fine. The kids were happy, I had laundry to fold, and I promised myself that I wouldn't get angry at him if his alarm didn't really go off.
Right. OK, I fold the laundry, still rolling two different 4th of July essays over, still tossing Annabelle and Bo's conversation, which would never ever occur in a hotel room, so where could it happen? Oh! Yes! I had to move their meeting there..... see?
And, yes, it would make total sense for Reece to have something on wordpress, I'd love to write a fictional blog for her... and that would move things forward on that plot, which is swelling to a rumbling explosion.
I have not yet decided if she dies. She just might, and this is my only warning to you.
I've GOT to write this, dive in it, keep it moving.
Now, I know there are several ways to get a man our bed in the morning, and I probably chose the wrong one for Round #2.
I made Cuban coffee, extra sweet -- a big mugful -- and brought it to his bedside.
CHUCK! It's 10:30! Their rooms are clean, the garage floor is sterile, I repainted the bathroom ceiling and changed the oil. Please, please, please, get up so I can go the bathroom, hide from your perfect children, and just write!
He drank the coffee and headed to the bathroom. The safezone. Damn!
Hey! It’s 11:20! (bang-bang on the door because I do not dare open it… I do not want to write THAT badly) I get a whole hour of writing while you watch your perfect children. An hour! Hey, stop laughing. Are you laughing at me? This is funny? Oh. Maybe. Should I write it? (bang – bang!!) Get out. This is worse than the Brady Bunch. And stop laughing. Oh my God, am I this bossy? Nevermind.
I make Zoë and Zack lunch, unload the dishwasher and turn my creativity towards destruction.
I’m going to kill the man.
Kill him and hire a babysitter.
Cheaper than a husband.
Hopefully a babysitter that doesn’t snore or get sick.
Kinda like what Britney Spears has – a manny. One from America, I don’t need a foreign one like the ones Chuck talks about when his conversations meander from the Counsel on Foreign Relations to importing a swedish nanny.
Anyway, my Mannywould look like the Rock. Or Matt Damon. Or Zach from Key West Real World. He’s hot.
Irritability fades as my mind wanders from writing toward something else. I slip on some cute shoes & a skirt for no good reason at all.
Oh, look at you. What are YOU dressed for? A 4th of July parade?
Chuck-e-cheese. Wanna go kids?
I resist the urge to throw myself at him.
You’re taking the kids? Out of the house? So I can write?
No. I’m taking them some where so I can enjoy them. I’m the father, not the babysitter.
I settle down in the bathroom, on the floor, right by the shower door, and write.
This is like the best 4th of July EVER.
Except the one I'm about to write about.
Monday, July 3, 2006
So I didn’t have a pod shower for my iPod because it turns out he’ll only be with me until December.
That’s fine. I’ll take a 6 month affair over nothing. Seriously. Crumbs are good enough for me, if they come from a delectable cake.
I brought Justin (that's his name by the way -- no podshower, no baptism - and I still kinda think he's a female because of the way the plugs all go IN him, but um... well, I just want him to be a guy, OK? ) with me to Disney that weekend that I left my sick husband at home for Father’s Day.
Well, the kids and I met my parents, and I probably should’ve waited longer… but I was excited.
I pulled Justin right out and started spinning his wheel, clicking around to show Dad.
My Dad liked Justin. In principle.
He has a job, fits in my purse, make me dance and smile …. things a father hopes his daughter will one day find. Whether Dad likes Justin or not isn’t as important as the fact that Dad is just happy that I found something to make me happy.
My Mom is a different story.
When I tried to introduce Justin, Mom waved her hand at me and announced her opinion. “Another screen to stare at. So what?” Then she went back to playing with her grandchildren.
She didn’t like Justin at all. She didn’t even give him a chance, didn’t look at the hundreds of pictures I tried to show her.
My Mom didn’t care that Justin has a huge memory, Gloria Estafan songs, and is clean and shiny.
Fine. Justin’s feelings weren’t hurt. I tucked him back in my purse then ditched the whole family to peruse the Virgin Megastore at Downtown Disney.
Even though Justin isn’t mine to keep, I still want him to know how special he is. How loved.
So I bought him a jacket that will keep him clean, safe, and unscratched. Now I can clip him to my purse, to my belt, to a seatbelt, and keep him close to me always.
You make me sing.
You tell me stories from NPR, from HBO, from MTV.
You’re there for me when I can’t sleep, when I want to walk rather than run, when I get sleepy at my office.
Please, please Justin, let me fill you with songs.
Ignore my Mom. Seriously, the woman will warm up to you when she sees how happy you make me.
(Coming soon – iPod Love Affair #5: Sleepless Nights))
She tells herself stories in the mirror.
Zack bosses inanimate objects.
He tells books to be quiet, then looks around for an audience -- proud of his own joke.