Friday, September 30, 2005

Stream of UN-consciousness

Wow, there's a totally original title. But, that's what cold pills do to your brain.

Started getting that cold-coming-on feeling yesterday. Accidentally took two pills, when the dosage was one. Drove home. Made it. Fell asleep. Had to take kids to Cats.

Next day. Downtown Dad had to drive to Siouxtown for a college reunion, he'll be gone overnight. It's Friday, can sleep uninterrupted.... Oh yeah, I'm a Realtor. Wedding of the daughter of a friend at 5. Back home, another cold pill. 8:44 bed time.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Secret to Being a Cheerleader

The other day, while talking Downtown Dad through an episode of the doldrums, I found myself wishing I had not had such an aversion to cheerleaders in high school. Their too-bright smiles and polished perkiness now seemed important tools to me as I struggled to hold my level of emotional turmoil at bay while his washed over me like a level 5 hurricane. Surely, I thought, there was some secret technique for outward joy that cheerleaders learned along with those sharp and snappy synchronized motions. Even their spontaneous ability to chirp out something clever that rhymed was looking really useful to me just then. I wished at that moment that I had at least attended the cheerleading tryouts, if only for the scraps of skills I might have picked up.

Later, I kissed my beleaguered hubby goodbye as he trudged off to work, and waved enthusiastically from the door while pumping my fist in the air in what I hoped looked like a rah-rah gesture. It occurred to me that I could find help if perhaps there were some outlines of cheerleading skills on the Internet somewhere! Turns out there are, but these so-called skills are purely physical. As if I hadn’t already suspected, cheerleading is not a noble pursuit, entered into by a rare few spiritually endowed with abundant cheer. No, cheerleading is a sport! Cheerleaders don’t care about the game or sport or even the players they are cheering on. These girls and boys are focused solely on their performance, for which they win trophies – whether or not the team they were “cheering” won or lost. This revelation affirmed my original aversions, but did not help me in my quest for outward optimism while suffering from inward gloom.

OK, so cheerleading wasn’t the right word, maybe motivational speaker was more what I was looking for. Surely being the daughter and granddaughter of Southern Evangelical Baptist Ministers I had inherited a bit of the old balderdash gene. So that evening, in round two, I shifted my inner mental picture of me with pom-poms and a short skirt, to me in front of a congregation, fanning themselves, while occasionally nodding and murmuring amen. After a few half-hearted attempts at long dramatic pauses, crashing my fist into my palm, and ending-ah my words-ah with emphasis-ah, I had to scrap that notion too.

Just then, it dawned on me, that after 18 years of marriage, Downtown Dad and I have weathered a few storms together. Each one difficult and emotionally draining in its own way, but each one dealt with individually and from the soul, not with a ready-made bag of tricks. As it turns out, you don’t need any of those snappy jumps and kicks or that old time voice modulation-ah. To quote from the gospel of John, Paul, George, and Ringo – All you need is love.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Just thought you should know....

I have just had the very unfortunate experience of tasting Shakers' Rose Vodka. I'm not sure why that was even a "keeper" in their brainstorming session, but let me just tell you, if you can't already figure it out, PHYYUUUYKKK!

Their propaganda says different: "It is the most romantic vodka around, SHAKERS Rose, winner of the Best in Show award for flavored vodka at the 2004 World Spirits Competition and one of The Spirit Journal's top 50 spirits in the world." Yeah right.

First of all, it reminds me of old wrinkley powdered ladies with gloves and cracked tea cups. Not something that would necessarily sell drinking vodka, or tea for that matter. It has that overly perfumey roselike scent, (remember Liddle Kiddles from the 70s?) which in itself is unnerving coming from a martini glass. I'm not sure about the general population but I've never actually eaten a rose, consequently I can't objectively comment on the taste being rose-like or un-rose-like. What I can say is that you should never ever try this Vodka, no matter how pretty it looks.

I'm switchin' to Whiskey!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Luck be a Lady - who wants to buy my house!

A few weeks back, I read in my horoscope that September 17th would be the absolute luckiest day of the year for me. Add to that, the fact that there would be a full moon that night, which would magnify the whole effect.

As I read this revelation, I briefly pondered what would I need Luck in? Since I don't gamble, or fish, or even jaywalk that often, I’ve never really asked Luck for much. In fact, I usually consider getting lucky as an outcome of unexpected sex or at least as the end result of applying yourself or your skills effectively, rather than as a result of any cosmic occurrence of fortune. That’s why, as fortuitous as this prophecy was, it soon faded from my thoughts. Until, of course, the evening of September 17.

We hadn't done anything out of the ordinary that day, in fact, we'd done just about nothing. As evening drew near, Tessie decided to attend a college football game with a girlfriend and then spend the night at her house. Bear then, had the splendid idea of whiling away the rest of the evening at Barnes and Noble. While we were there, I happened upon that same horoscope magazine which reminded me that I was at this very moment experiencing the absolute luckiest day of my entire year. I felt like Garrison Keillor when my first thought was “well then, this is a pretty good day.” It was at that moment I got a phone call on my cell from a woman who wanted to see the-house-that-Downtown-Dad-and-I-are-still-trying-to-sell! Wheeeee! This must be the absolute luckiest day of the year for me! I made an appointment with her for the next day.

As we drove home from our favorite bookstore secure in the knowledge we had a very interested looker, Downtown Dad, Bear and I smiled at the full moon above and I swear it smiled back.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday the 16th

Sorry I haven't posted in a few days... I've been - well, too happy. As weird as it sounds, it makes sense to me - writers, being tortured, depressed, rather mopey beings; I can see why when things aren't going in the "Franklin-Covey-perfectly-planned-way" I envision, I, in my ever-glass-half-full kind of way, look cockeyed at the situation and share it so that others can laugh. It is not as easy to make people laugh when you are contented.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

The Beach

We walk to the beach
With Grandma.
We always do.
On sparkly mornings, we pack a lunch with cherries and angel cake
And jam our beach bags with our bits and pieces.

Caitlyn, who is three, brings a pineapple jar with curves on the side,
A sky blue pot,
A pink rake,
And a red and yellow broom with a broken handle.

I take a turtle sand mold, and a screwdriver to make holes,
A Jell-O dome,
And an old purple bucket that the dog chewed
But still has Maddie in faded gold letters on the side.

Being practical, Carter brings a sandcastle mold
And a strainer to strain all the sand, a pooper scooper,
Three bottles of sun screen SPF 50, 50 and 30,
And three shovels, two are yellow and one is green.

We all go into go in the water,
But not Grandma.
Grandma is the look out for dogs and rip tides.
She uses the broom to sweep sand from our towels

We are going to build the sand castle with wet sand.
We are going to hope it will stay and not break.
We know it will fall over, because we always build it too close to the water.
It always does.
We always do.

Saturday, September 10, 2005's a shame they can't afford it...

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself, to deliver a great comeback line that is both well placed and well deserved, and if you're lucky, you have an appreciative audience.

On Monday, I got two voice mails on my cell phone, 10 minutes after we arrived home from vacation. The Realtor that left the first message said that she had some very serious buyers and she would like to show the-house-that-Downtown-Dad-and-I-are-STILL-trying-to-sell the next day. This bit of news sent us into joyous fits of joyous joy jigging. The second message was from a Realtor widely known as a Sleazy-Ass-Bitch (SAB), who informed me that she had faxed me an offer on the same house. Downtown Dad's response to this news was to start on another round of the joyous joy jig. When I didn't join him he stopped mid jig, hands still in the air, his head tilted quizically. I had to break the news to him that sadly, after 6 months on the market, unfortunately the first offer had come from a Sleazy-Ass-Bitch who had very likely faxed us a low offer. I added brightly, as I picked his chin up off of the ground, that the fact that someone was showing it the next day might work out as a bargaining tool for us.

After hastily offloading the vacation schmutz from the car and after an emergency pool-filter twig-ectomy, we were relatively settled. This re-entry ritual accomplished, neither one of us could stand the suspense and we jumped into the car to go see what the first person in 6 months was willing to pay for our house! On the way, I did try to prepare Downtown Dad for the worst. He feigned nonchalance, but I knew he was wound up.

Even though there was no one else in the office when we got there, we sidled up to the fax machine, as if it were someone to whom we were about to deliver a pick up line. I rifled through the stack and sure enough, there was a fax directed to me from the aforementioned SAB. I flipped through the pages until I found the one I was loooking for. The page with the price they expected us to accept, which I read out loud, 30 thousand t-h-i-r-t-y-t-h-o-u-s-a-n-d UNDER our asking price! Luckily, no one else was in the office, because as I'd invisioned, Downtown Dad's head blew off. Once I had taped his head back on, and mitigated the steam billowing from his ears, I gathered my forms and shuttled him as quietly as possible back to the car, reminding him that we did have a showing the next day.

The next morning I called the SAB and politely thanked her for the offer. Hoping to apply some pressure, I also told her that we were expecting an additional offer in the early afternoon, as soon as the house was shown. I assured her that I'd present both offers at the same time. She quickly asked if her buyers would have the right to ammend their offer. Hell yes, you sleazy ass bitch! Unfortunately for me, the other showing did not culminate in an offer, so I was left holding the cheese - as it were. I called the SAB and told her that the offer did not come in as I had thought, so she was free to ammend her offer, or would she like to be kicked in the teeth with my counter offer? She opted for the kick in the teeth which was, I told her sweetly, our lowest and best and, I added, we would not play the bargaining game.

Late that same evening, safely assuming that I'd turned off my cell phone, the SAB left me another voicemail saying that she'd faxed me her buyers' counter offer. Counter Offer? OK. What part of Lowest and Best didn't she understand? After I got my kids off to school that morning, and Downtown Dad off to work using the last of my tape to hold his head on. I added the crucial chemicals to the pool, and dutifully brushed up the undesolved excess. I fed and watered the dogs and the birds and showered and dressed myself. Returned phone calls, emails, blog posts and what ever else I could find to do untill there was virtually nothing left. I was forced to go to the office and look at the fax from the SAB.

It came as no real surprise that her "rediculous counter offer" was a barely more than the initial rediculous offer. A derisive laugh escaped me as I flung the fax into the air, which caught the attention of the other Realtors near my desk.

"Sleasy-Ass-Bitch." was all I needed to say. This prompted a flurry of tales of woe from everyone around me as to their own ill-fated dealings with this woman. Bouyed by their cameraderie, and a river of self riteous indignation, I picked up the phone and dialed the SAB's office, with 6 pairs of eyes and ears on me.

"I received the fax with your counter offer," I said smoothly, not bothering to identify myself. And then I paused a very long pause, waiting for the SAB to perhaps explain her motives.

"Yes, well, these kids are very flexible and they are pre approved." She said.

"Thats just great," I said, "You know, it's obvious these kids would really like to live in this house....."

"Yes, and they are willing to finish all those little unfinished projects....."

"Like I said, it's obvious they'd like to live there, but, it's a shame they can't afford it."


6 pairs of eyes popped out of their sockets.

"Oh, do you mean you're rejecting our offer?"

Uh, duh, you sleazy ass bitch. "Well, better luck next time, Bye."

I didn't sell my house, but I was a hero for at least five minutes.

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Why don't (t)he(y) write?

In the movie, Dances With Wolves, where John Dunbar has found an old skeleton on the prairie, the late Robert Pastorelli as Timmons says: "I'll bet someone back east is going, 'Now why don't he write?'"

Last night, as I fed my new addiction, reading 'just one more blog...' I opened my own page to check my hit counter. I watched in utter amazement as the digits inched toward 200 hits right there before my eyes! Just as amazing was the other counter which tells me how many, if any, people are visiting my site at that moment. There were 9! Nine people were reading my Blog! Wheeee! I wanted to know who they were. I wanted to hear their reaction to my posts. I wanted to invite them over for wine and cheese. I sat back and waited for the email notification telling me that someone had left me a comment. And I waited. And waited. And waited. Nothing.

Intellectually, I know from reading other peoples blogs, and their comments, that the percentage of responders is really low in relation to readers. For whatever reason, I don't respond to every post I read either. Emotionally though, in a maternal way toward my new baby blog, just starting to gather readers, I felt ignored, a little like the people back east, waiting for a letter from a skeleton on the prairie.

Tuesday, September 6, 2005

Bush is Toast

This will not be deep, nor will it even be too insightful, it might even be venomous, but I can no longer shelve the need to put my feelings about the Gulf Coast tragedy into words. Even though I am geographically far removed, some of my dearest, closest friends live in that region. Some have suffered the ravages of the storm; some have borne the burden of housing and providing for the refugees. This is an American human tragedy, the response to which, defies comprehension. The sheer magnitude of natural force that created this, the tragic wreckage the storm left in its wake and the human devastation both physical and psychological is almost more that I can even fathom. But, as if that wasn’t enough, the keystone cop-ish federal response is absolutely gut wrenching. Having read many rants, essays and transcripts over the last week, I do feel a little better about coming out of the closet – as it were – about my anger toward Bush. I feel like by posting this I’m furthering the “Emperor Has No Clothes” scenario, but I’m jumping on the bandwagon anyway.

In my growing distrust of the Im-POTUS, as I’ve come to call Bush Jr., I admit that I’ve wished for someone or something to come along with the right combination of words or ideas that would show him up (and shut him up). I imagined some giant Godzilla-like monster would arise from the depths of the sea and personally show George Bush what it’s like to be ‘overthrown.’ In my imagination, the monster was green and scaly; I never honestly thought it would be a very real hurricane.

Yes, I’m a liberal – some call me an old hippie. I was born during the Eisenhower administration, formed some important views during the Kennedy years, scratched my head, and kept my mouth shut during my parent’s Nixon halcyon days, voted for Carter since it would most piss off my parents, and then in an abrupt about face, voted Reagan twice. I sat out the next few years, and then was charmed by Clinton, again twice. I’ve wondered in the last few days, if a natural disaster of this magnitude had struck during the Clinton years, if we might not have seen him and Hilary in amongst the people, handing out water, toilet paper, and hugs. Not even in a second rate monster movie would you find the Bushes stooping to that.

Why? Why didn’t the leader of our country cut his vacation short once news of the impending disaster overtook the airwaves?

Why? Why didn’t he mobilize the undeployed National Guard units still in the contiguous United States?

Why? Why did it take him 5 days to do a cursory flyby to declare this a national disaster?

Bill Clinton may have had a mistress, but George Bush was screwed by Katrina, and damned if I don’t think he should have to be grilled just as hard as Clinton was.

First Day of School

Bearly and Tessie in their annual "First Day of School Pose"

Friday, September 2, 2005

Can't We All Just Get Along?

This past spring, my son Bear’s best friend, Bill, invited him to a concert. Bear asked his father and I if he could go, and naturally, we asked him who was performing, and how much he needed for the tickets. He couldn’t name the band – Josh Mcsomebody he thought, but he wouldn’t need any money since Bill’s church gave his family the tickets. Downtown Dad and I exchanged raised eyebrows. I told Bear it might be OK, but I would still like to know who the artist was. Turning to my trusty Internet, I Googled “josh christian concert.” I found a link to the "Bold Truth Tour.” Their tour schedule included a stop in our town, so I looked a little deeper, clicking on the video clips of past events. The clips I saw were nothing short of an infomercial, selling Mr. McDowell’s all-about-me ‘church-o-matic.’ (Isn’t there some sort of sin about having too much pride, and what does pride goeth before again?) From what I could tell, McDowell was using multilevel marketing techniques in his rallies to net teen and even preteen followers from concertgoers. Apparently, attendees are asked to fill out an information card that then is turned over to local churches who use them for follow-up contacts. But wait! There’s more! Each person who makes a decision for Christ will get a personalized letter, a phone call or an e-mail contact after the event with an invitation to join a local church youth group! Unbelievable.

Until last year, Bill was home-schooled by his mom Hilda. Home-schoolers, not all, but those in my experience, tend to be a little, how shall I say this… fundamentally religious, bent on selling their flavor of belief to everyone, inflexible, paranoid, intolerant, and condescending, even un-friendly to non-church-going-yet-open-minded-to-others’-beliefs-people, like me. Hilda is no exception, but I digress. I called Hilda to confirm my suspicions. I told her about my web findings and that from what I had seen I was unwilling to let my 10-year-old son be subjected to that kind of predatory marketing pressure, especially since we are not ‘practicing’ Christians. She, of course, was taken aback at both my confession and reaction. I assured her that while we didn’t subscribe to any one organized religious belief, we certainly did not ritually sacrifice goats, nor dance naked around a fire, although we heartily supported anyone’s choice to do so or not do so. I explained that we were just uncomfortable exposing our 10-year-old son to what we thought would be extreme psychological peer pressure by a group of people trying to recruit him into a society that he does not understand yet. Needless to say, the conversation deteriorated from there, with her asking questions about my religious upbringing and what horrible traumatic incident could have led me to this state of mind. Being good Midwestern women, I declined her generous invitation and we remained polite to the end of the conversation. We literally did not speak again until this week. Despite phone calls to Bill from Bear over the summer months, somehow they also lost contact.

Bear ran into Bill at Back-To-School-Night this week, and in that innocent joyful way that children have, hooked up again as if there had been no 3-month lapse. Hilda and I chatted amiably as we passed in our room-to-room meet your teacher ritual. I frankly had forgotten the whole concert episode. As we were leaving, Bear asked if Bill could spend the night, I agreed. Hilda however, hesitated, and while she thought it would be OK, said that she would first have to ask her husband. It was then that I recalled our uncomfortable last conversation.
Later, after all permissions were granted, when Hilda dropped Bill off for the night, we chatted some more about what we did over the summer. I mentioned that my daughter Tessie was in a local month long musical theatre-based arts program, the teachers of which were amazingly talented singers, dancers, and actors. I added that I felt she was very lucky to have received mentoring from these amazing college-bound teenagers. Hilda’s lips began to purse and she said that while she would like Bill to be involved in a summer educational program like that, she really had serious doubts as to how it would affect him. I must have had a puzzled look on my face because she further explained that it was her belief that any male involved in theatre or dance was gay, and she did not want her Bill to be exposed to any of that. My puzzled look slid icily into a mouth-only smile, which I freeze-dried to my face, all the while trying to keep the banshee of indignation from shrieking out of my mouth and down her throat. I said, “Oh really, and why is that?”

“Because” she simpered, “as you well know, homosexuality is an abomination, it’s not natural, they weren’t born that way. Something must have happened to them, around Bear and Bill’s age, someone made them that way. I don’t want that to happen to Bill.”

The banshee banged dangerously against my clenched teeth. “Oh, you mean like selling their lifestyle to impressionable young kids like your precious Josh McDowell does? Why, I bet they ask cute little boys to fill out an information card which then is turned over to local gay organizations who use them for follow-up contacts!” “Say it!” screamed the banshee! “Say it!” “But wait! There’s more! Each young child who makes a decision to be Gay, (because after all, it is a choice) will get a letter, a phone call or an e-mail contact with a lewd invitation, right?!” “SAY IT!” I swallowed the banshee – temporarily.

“Gosh, Hilda, I’m not sure what to say,” I finally managed to say. “We’ve just always had gay friends, some who’ve been in monogamous relationships longer than we’ve been married. My kids don’t really think anything about it, and as far as role models go, isn’t what our kids see pretty much filtered through our attitudes as parents?”

“Oh,” she said in a pervasively polite way, “you don’t see it that way I suppose.”

I smiled my freeze-dried smile, and said something bland about examining my own intolerances before I threw stones at others… but I couldn’t really hear it over the banshee.