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A Movie Review

Dear Lady in the Front Row with the Baby,

Don’t feel bad about your baby who cried three times during the 123 minute showing of Marie Antoinette.  I felt like crying, too, because that was the most boring movie of all time. 

Signed,

Annoyed in the back row

 *  *  *

Dear Lady to the Right Who Made So Much Noise Snacking That I Thought Perhaps You Didn’t Realize You Were at a Movie and Not At Home,

You are an idiot.  I would have told you so, too, had I not feared that you perhaps carry a concealed weapon.  But, honestly, you inconsiderate lout, why must you rattle your candy and fondle the wrapper louder than an attacking rattlesnake?  Are you hearing impaired?  Or just stupid?

Sincerely,

Miss Manners

*  *  *

Dear Sofia Coppola,

I hate, hate, hate the soundtrack for your dull movie, Marie Antoinette.  Perhaps I am not your demographic, but that does not matter to me.  I hate it.  Your movie’s costumes, however, were pretty, but satin alone does not an interesting movie make.  I want my money back.

From,

The 41-year old Housewife in the Suburbs

Brains or Hearts?

Four-year old Grace and her friend, a boy her age, sat at the kitchen table, snacking and chatting.  I stood at the sink, washing dishes.  I heard her say, “I don’t have a brain!”

I looked over and said, “Yes, you do!  Everyone has a brain!”

“No,” she said, matter of fact.  “Girls do not have brains.”

Taken aback, I said, “Girls do not have brains?”

“No,” she continued.  “Girls have hearts.  Boys have brains.”

“Do boys have hearts?” I asked.

“No,” she said.

I chided, “Well, really, everyone has a heart and everyone has a brain.”

“No,” she insisted.  “Girls have hearts.  Boys have brains.”

My girl is working to set back the feminist movement one hundred years.

This startles me because I have always viewed myself as a Smart Girl.  I’ve never ever considered myself beautiful or kooky or adventurous.  I found my niche in life early on, possibly when I wrote and illustrated my own books about seals when I was a first grader.  Or maybe when I won all the classroom spelling bees as a fifth grader.  Or maybe when I was the first girl “to the moon,” when I learned my multiplication tables before everyone else in third grade.

My most-loved joke in college was when I called myself an airhead because I knew I was anything but.  My friend, Lisa, and I wore neon pink sweatshirts that proclaimed, “Airhead Alert!” which never failed to crack me up.  It was the ultimate sarcastic joke.

If I were cast in a movie, I’d be the sidekick, the smart friend in sensible shoes with good ideas.  That’s just who I am.  A smart girl.  The girls with brains.

And now, I have this funny daughter who has proclaimed that girls don’t have brains.  Girls have hearts.  I can’t even imagine how she came up with this bit of whimsy.  I do know better than to argue with her because you can’t argue with someone who has no brain.

The Three Deans

Today, amidst the normal routines of my life and the demands of my children, I thought of an old high school classmate, a boy who was a year behind me in school.  We grew up in the same church and attended the same youth group.  For awhile, this boy had two friends named “Dean” . . . and since his name was also “Dean,” this was noteworthy.

The three Deans and my friend, Shelly, and I spent a lot of time together.  I remember playing pool at Shelly’s house while the soundtrack to “Grease” played in the background.  We had innocent fun together, unless you count the time the three Deans invited Shelly and I to a movie.  My parents were strict but they trusted me.  So, when I returned home from the movie and my stepmom asked, “What movie did you see?” I said, “Oh, the Pirates of Penzance.” 

That’s the only lie I remember telling as a teenager.  The three Deans actually took us to see Friday the 13th in 3D.  My parents would not have approved and honestly, I would have agreed with them–who needs to see an eyeball flying towards them while wearing 3D glasses?

Anyway, so I was thinking about the three Deans today.  I graduated from high school a year before they did and lost track of them.  I didn’t come home from college during the summers at all.  Even my closest friends fell away when I moved two thousand miles from home.  

Today, I did a Google search on “Dean Ullestad,” the tall, lanky, blond Dean from my childhood and adolescence.  That’s how I found out that he’s dead.

I found a Memoriam page on the 1994 high school reunion site.  Dean’s picture is posted, alongside three other deceased classmates.

I could not be more shocked.  I want to call someone, to email someone, to Google something to find answers, but I don’t know where to begin to uncover this news which is at least a decade old.

Other than that, my day was completely unremarkable.  Stumble upon tragedy.  Cook dinner.  Life interspersed with death.  I will never get used to it.

Pushing the Pause Button

I’m standing in a little square pause in my day, waiting.  Oh, the chicken is sizzling and I hear little footsteps upstairs.  But the light is waning.  The glow from the light-bulbs seems brighter as the day fades away.

I pause.  I’m waiting. 

I’m waiting for kids to come home and kids to go home.  I’m waiting for my husband to return, change into shorts and turn on the news.  I’m waiting for the big hand on the clock to move ahead two giant spaces indicating it’s time for Judo.  I’m waiting to change into my exercise clothes and to run myself into a lather.  I’m waiting for Judo to end, for kids’ bedtime to arrive and for darkness to settle over our house.

And under the surface of all that waiting, I’m waiting for the weekend to arrive, waiting for the month to end, waiting for the New Year, waiting for kids to grow, waiting for everything to change while hoping things stay the same.

The buzzer rings.  Dinner’s done.  Kids wander into the kitchen.  Time to move from this pause and step forward.

Notes from an Overachiever

I’m feeling pretty good about myself (and not just because I reached a new low weight).  No, I’m feeling fine because I have accomplished these things today:

1)  Prepared homemade spaghetti sauce which bubbles in the Crockpot as we speak.

2)  Supervised the boys’ schooling without once threatening to send them to public school.  (Okay, only once.  But still.)

3)  Changed the sheets on my bed.  Flannel is my friend.

4)  Washed, dried and folded four loads of laundry.

5)  Cleaned up the kitchen.  Again.

6)  Allowed three small children to paint with tempera paint and even labeled their finished projects in pencil for archival purposes. 

7)  Had a telephone conference with my supervising public school teacher.

8)  Coordinated schedules with my husband and subsequently made an appointment for a haircut, and different appointment with my colorist who makes housecalls for another time.

I needed these appointments quite desperately, which explains why I agreed to an 8:15 a.m. appointment on Saturday for my haircut and a 7:30 p.m. appointment for the highlights on a Tuesday night. 

(The reason I needed these appointments is really quite remarkable and also sort of freaks me out.  And I can’t talk about it anymore, so don’t ask. 

I am dying to talk about it, though, and at the same time, mortified that I will have to go through with this thing that is happening.  On one hand, I want to call someone to hold my hand, but on the other hand, I’m telling myself to just Grow Up.  I’m a grown-up, right?  I can handle this.) 

Anyway, I was feeling pretty fine about my day until I started talking about That Thing I Can’t Talk About.  And now, I’m a little anxious.  You’ll have to excuse me while I go fret.

(Don’t forget to go visit Brandie and say hello.)   

Go Ahead. Make Her Day.

Do you want to make a young mom happy today?  Then, go here, read her blog and leave a comment.  Don’t you hate it when no one reads your blog or leaves you a comment?  She does, too.  I linked you to a post most of us could have written about being tired . . . yet realizing that all too soon, all this will pass. 

Will you go?  And leave her a comment?  She’ll be thrilled.

Oh, and you should know that Brandie is the reason I’m blogging today.  Back in October 2003, she said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we all started blogs to share with each other?”  (Here’s my first blog . . . in commemoration of my three year blogiversary.  Be patient.  I started on Tripod and it loads very slowly.)

Hodge-podge

Thick fog greeted us Friday morning when I took the children–my own four, plus two extras, to the pumpkin patch again.  My 8-year old missed our first outing and wanted to pick out a pumpkin.  And I knew all the kids would love seeing the baby animals again.  The farm has six kittens, a lamb, two baby goats (kids?), two piglets, a calf, ducklings and two ponies.  The children are allowed to enter each enclosure and pet the animals. 

So, off we went, leaving at 9:30 a.m. and arriving before the farm even opened.  The sun shone at the farm but the ground was damp and moisture hung in the air.  We sneaked in anyway, blending in with a preschool co-op that arrived before we did.  My 8-year old picked out a 57 pound pumpkin and one of my twins picked out a 31 pound pumpkin.  I picked out half a dozen Granny Smith apples and the 2-year old picked out a baby pumpkin.  My daughter begged for a bag of potato chips.

We returned home at about 11:00 a.m. and I launched into full panic-attack cleaning mode because at 11:45 a.m., a local (very small) newspaper reporter was due to arrive.  She’d already interviewed my husband about our participation in our state’s virtual academy (Washington Virtual Academy) and she wanted to ask me a few questions, talk to the boys and take their pictures.

The boys were not happy about three things:

1)  I ordered them around, like hired help.

2)  I insisted that they comb their hair.

3)  I requested that they change into decent shirts.

I was shoving dishes into the dishwasher and relocating the paper-piles from my desk and sweating lightly when I asked one of my 13-year old boys to sweep.  He did so, but with an exasperated sigh.  “Why do we have to do this?”

I said, “Because that lady is coming.”

He squinted at me, held the broom aloft and said, “This is just like dad’s sermon.  You know, where he talked about people cleaning up before they have people over . . . how they pretend, you know.  This is just like that.  This is just a big charade!  No one lives like this!”

(I thought he was talking about hypocrisy, pure and simple, but my husband told me he’d been talking about hospitality in his sermon and about how people shouldn’t feel that they couldn’t invite guests over unless their homes were perfect.)

I told my son that some people do indeed have clean houses, but he was unconvinced.

My house looked pretty good by the time they lady arrived.  Unfortunately, I was only halfway through a hurried make-up routine and had to appear downstairs (where she sat on the sagging couch in the living room where I hadn’t intended to invite her) without eyeliner or mascara.  Hello, no eyes! 

She was very friendly, though, and I had flashbacks of the long-ago interview gone awry that I gave once to a reporter at the Charlotte Observer while I worked as a college intern at Heritage USA.  I mention this only because on that particular occasion, I was chosen as an interviewee by my bosses at Heritage USA . . . and during the interview with the reporter, I yapped on and on, saying things that made Heritage USA look bad, in an era when the Charlotte Observer was intent on finding dirt in Jim Bakker’s ministry.  (Within two years, the whole empire collapsed, but I promise, it was not me who started the dominoes falling.)  I was told my by boss later (when I was gently reprimanded) that upon reading the article, Jim Bakker said, “Who is that intern?!” 

The only other time in my life that I had been as full of mortification and horror was in seventh grade when my homeroom teacher sent me to the principal’s office because of my impudence.  Me!  Saucy, indolent, mouthy!  Imagine! 

(I had mentioned to the reporter how I worked 70 hours my first week at Heritage–I’d been on the grounds crew until I wised up and unwittingly used my family connections to get a transfer to a different department.  The focus of the interview was their college intern program and it didn’t look so good for me to talk about the overtime, blah-blah-blah.  Oops.)

Anyway, so I worried I would say something stupid, but I thought she seemed very favorable to the virtual academy, so I’m sure the slant will be positive.  And it’s an extremely small newspaper.

And as soon as she left, I returned the three-level desk organizer to my desk, along with the pile of stuff that needs my attention and my tower of Post-It notes.  The dust will take longer to reappear.  

*  *  * 

Saturday, my dear husband opened the gates and let me out into the world.  I had a glorious time, saw a very violent but well-done movie (any guesses?) and returned home to so many dirty dishes that I had to run two full dishwasher loads to clean them all.

*  *  *

My husband woke me at 6:42 a.m. to ask me to look at something in the bathroom.  The bathroom light blinded me, but when I could finally open my eyes enough to look, I peered into the grossest bloody eyeball I’ve ever seen.  Too bad it’s not Halloween yet.  He could scare a lot of people!  He said it didn’t hurt, so I said maybe he burst a blood vessel coughing or sneezing (his cold lasted almost two weeks) and I went back to bed where I fretted until I had to get up.

Our friend at church who is a practicing family doctor assured him that, indeed, it looks like a blood vessel burst probably from coughing or sneezing.  (I’m telling you.  I should have gone to medical school.  I have excellent instincts.)

*  *  * 

Our church is having an All Saints’ Harvest Party . . . we all have to dress as a character (or animal) from the Bible.  I was thinking about going as Eve, dressed in a big leaf, or maybe as Jael, holding a tent peg and a hammer.  Or maybe as Gomer or Jezebel . . . high heels, fishnet stockings, red lipstick, big hair, small skirt . . .

Okay, just kidding!  The party is for kids, after all, and these things would be tough to explain.  (I’m going as Deborah who was a judge in the Bible.)  My husband and I keep coming up with implausible Bible characters we could portray . . . this is funny to me because the party planners insist on Bible characters because they want to keep the party wholesome.  But Bible characters, so many of them, were involved directly in an epic struggle between good and evil . . . if anything, they are way scarier than a vampire ever could be. 

And that’s how my weekend was.  How was yours?

I Like

I like my bread dense.  

I like my shoes comfortable.

I like my clothing cotton.

I like my burgers well-done.

I like my spicy food mild.

I like my house chilly.

I like my feet warm.

I like my popcorn salty.

I like my toenails red.

I like my novels well-written.

I like my friends amusing.

I like my humor sarcastic.

I like my walls vibrant.

I like my jewelry simple.

I like my house silent.

I like my music sedate.

I like my mornings late.

I like my nights later.

I like the sky blue.

I like my summers warm.

I like my lounge-chair shady.

I like my acquaintances straight-forward.

I like my children cooperative.

I like my Diet Coke with Lime icy.

I like my cars small.

I like my kitchen big.

I like my reading material eclectic. 

I like my Saturday solitary.   

I like my hair wild.

I like my newspapers thick.

I like my movies long.

I like my flowers fragrant.

My Dear Diary

My first diary was a five-year diary, complete with lock and little ineffective key.  I lived in Whispering Firs with my mother, father, sister and brother.  I wrote it in infrequently and covered just the boring details of an elementary school life.

The only memorable entry was where I inked the word “cancere” . . . a misspelling of a word that had been foreign to me before that moment.  My dad had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease after he found a lump in his neck during a shower.  I learned most of the information I had through eavesdropping and observing quietly when no one noticed me in the room.

He was treated by chemotherapy and nearly died from the cure.  One night, we came home from church and he totally freaked me out by appearing in my bedroom doorway with a hand towel on his head.  He grinned in a Jack Nicholson in “The Shining” sort of deranged way (though, of course, I wouldn’t think that until much later).  Then, he plucked the hand towel off of his newly bald head.  He’d shaved it while we were gone.

I wanted to cry from shock and fear, but he guffawed with hilarity.

When his hair grew in a bit, he came down with shingles on his scalp.  I can still remember my baby sister reaching a chubby hand toward his head while he laid flat in the green recliner.  A flurry of activity, his moaning and quick movement by my mother prevented her from touching his scabby, painful, stubbly head.  I can still see the yellow ooze covering his angry scalp.

I wrote none of this in the 5-year diary, though.

I abandoned its mostly empty pages.

Some years later, as a teenager, I resumed writing in spiral-bound notebooks.  I remember virtually nothing of what I wrote, mostly because I destroyed all my words before I went to college.  I had a stack of journals, but I didn’t trust my sister to respect my privacy.  So, when I packed up my belongings into boxes, I destroyed the journals.  In my memory, I see flames, but I can’t imagine how I might have burned them without being noticed.  I may have shredded them instead.  I don’t know.

And so, my recorded life in journals begins in college.  I have a thick stack of spiral bound notebooks in my bedroom closet.  Within those pages is embarrassing proof of my self-centeredness, my struggle with God, my obsession with the losses in my life, and too much self-pity.  I haven’t read those journals in years.

I wrote less and less after college, but after my father died (from another form of cancer, years later) I began to etch my pain in the spiral bound pages.  I traced my journey from dreaming of motherhood, through infertility, disappointment, an epic struggle with belief, adoption, cross-country moves, motherhood, pregnancy and more.

I haven’t read them in years.

I stopped writing in a spiral-bound journal when I started blogging.  In some ways, I’m a better blogger than I was a diarist–my diaries tended to disintegrate into a mess of self-hate and despair, while I am more aware of the lasting nature of my words in a blog.  I can see more than just my tarnished soul when I blog in public.

But sometimes, I think writing a diary was more honest, more cathartic.  I wonder if I should write privately again, if I’m missing something raw when I censor myself here, so aware of other eyes peering at my words.  Plus, when I sit here, I an loathe to record the “boring” details, the stuff that make each day different . . . the mundane.  (The challenge, of course, is to make the regular stuff memorable.)

I prize my spiral-bound journals, even though I can’t bear to read them.  One day, I’ll get lost in the pages, reviewing years and decades and blushing at how seriously I took myself when I was young and I thought the moon would never again glow like a magic golden ball in that October sky. 

Meanwhile, my fingers fly over the keyboard, keeping track of a life lived in a new October with its shiny moon still suspended in the inky sky.

A Fine Day for Field Trip

This morning, I took six children (three of my own; three borrowed) to Tumwater Falls Park where we saw a presentation about the life-cycle of salmon.  The man would pick up a salmon by its tail from the holding pond to use as a visual aid.  The children were enthralled and exclaimed loudly each time a salmon jumped into the air.  (I couldn’t get a picture of a the guy and his salmon up close, though, because of the crowding children.  Alas.)

At one point, the man picked up a female salmon and squeezed some of her eggs onto the concrete wall.  Then, he picked up a male and squeezed milt from it.  The milt looked like milk and I’m sure all the children wonder why their mothers make them drink this white stuff squeezed from salmon.  (This link shows all about the reproductive cycle of salmon.) 

My little kids grew bored by the questions and so did I.  Why do people insist on asking dumb questions?  I have always hated those who raise their hands when a speaker says, “Any questions?” and asks questions.  As far as I’m concerned, “Are there any questions?” is a purely rhetorical question, needing no response.

We wandered away and saw this sign:  P1010071_1.JPG Then we walked down the path by the river and waterfalls and no one fell in or died.  Hooray for me. 

P1010072.JPG  At the very bottom of the walkway, we saw salmon swimming upstream, waiting in a watery traffic jam to get up the fish ladder.  The bumpy surface on the stream are wriggling salmon as big as your arm.  P1010076.JPG  Here’s a shot of a portion of the fish ladder. P1010078.JPG

Then, as if that wasn’t enough excitement, I spotted this slug, which can only be a Banana Slug, in my slug non-expert opinion.  P1010080.JPG 

We had a little picnic afterward and the kids all played on two cement play structures shaped like boats.  The two-year old was covered in grime.  A fine time was had by all and I even met a few other school-at-home mothers, which was dandy, indeed.

Now, all the kids are crabby and tired and my house is in disarray, but meatloaf is in the oven and it’s only three and a half hours until the four-year old goes to bed.  Not that I’m counting.

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