Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Maid of La Muncha

Whenever I feel life is just too easy, I buy a magazine.

Yesterday, in a visible sign of my need to make work for myself, I bought one of those "organization" rags.

The helpful pages tell how "you too can live in a house with other people and have a debris free existence." It looked so touchable and neat, I wanted this quieter life and felt I could have it if only I knuckled down and disciplined myself...so, I became a Knight Errant...

To Clean...the impossible Clean...
to Sort all the socks with their mates...
to fold...till the pile is nothing...
to sweep all the cobwebs away...

this is my Dream...to order this home...no matter how hopeless...

I tried the first method --Donate, Discard, Keep. It sounded promising.

Armed with a trash bag and a laundry bin, I went to the first room, resolute in my determination to sort everything in my two sons' room into one of three piles. After five minutes, it became apparent that I would need a forth pile for the clothing that belonged in another person's room, and a fifth pile for clothing that was out of season and a sixth pile for the things that my helpful toddlers kept bringing to me.

The magazine never said anything about toddlers undoing the work as you go, wearing the donations on their heads, reclaiming things from the trash, dumping the keep and jumping into it like leaves.

I felt I was playing Go fish with my kids who kept sorting back through the discard pile to find matches. Not one to give up easy, I put on the television to distract my "helpers" and started in on the 1/3 policy in the living room.

Now I get tunnel vision when I write, read, draw, watch TV or work. The world shuts away for me and I don't notice what should be obvious. I forget this is not what happens to everyone.

Helpers need snacks and thus the immediate urge to eat ten minutes after breakfast will superceed the desire to be entertained. So while Don Quixote was busy doing other things, like sorting laundry, Sancho and Dulcinea had to help themselves, which they did. Cereal and Hershey's syrup seemed like a good combo. Chocolate flavored Cherrios...they make a lovely mosaic on the floor. They even stick.

So we stopped in the living room and headed for the kitchen to address the newest distraction. That took wiping, sweeping, moping and no small amount of prayer. Then I had to clean up the artists. Bath time and new clothes, meaning more laundry. I wiped down the bathroom while they splashed and felt vaguely virtous for getting one room done while still providing appropriate loving care for my children. A mometary moment of victory for the Knight Errant.

But there remained the upstairs project I had half started. I admit, I was tired and the clock indicated it was near noon. Lunch time, the kitchen would be undone.

There was only one thing to do. Running up the stairs with my two helpers in tow, we bagged up everything we had already sorted, put everything else back into laundry baskets and called it a day. We went to celebrate at McDonalds.

And the magazine?

I put it in the recycling.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Prodigal Sink

Last week, my upstairs sink stopped working. There was no note, no explanation, nothing. I tried turning the knobs underneath and discovered that they leak very nicely when you do.

“Honey, the upstairs sink has no water. I should call a plumber.”

“You always want to call a plumber. It just stopped working…maybe it will start up again.”

“That’s like thinking the sink is Lassie and she ran away and might come back.”

“You never know. It’s a harsh cruel world out there and she might miss the comfort and safety of having green watermelon toothpaste smeared to her sides on a daily basin.” My husband tried turning the knobs, discovering the same leak.

“She might have quit because of the toothpaste. Think she prefers one with tartar control?”

“Just give it time. We don’t have to call this second. The kids can use the other sink. We can wait.”

“What are we waiting for? Godot?”

“No, we’re waiting for the spigot to go.”

A vigil for the recalcitrant sink began.

Meanwhile, other plumbing fixtures decided to pull an intervention. Toilets began random gurgling in solidarity with the sink. These were annoying, but insufficient to merit what I guessed would be a hefty service fee and four hour wait by the doorbell.

The fixtures grew more impatient, so the kitchen sink took action. The stream from the faucet became an anemic trickle. Worse than pure stoppage which would have ensured a prompt phone call to the proper authorities, it became work to get things wet. I limped through dishwashing. It took hours. I tried switching to an all paper plate economy but cooking still required some items be washed.

In desperation, I tried running the faucet before there were even dishes to do. Forty five minutes later, the sink was full and I had to drain the pasta. Watching that hard earned water go down the drain, I had an inspiration. I replugged the sink and drained the pasta, hoping the water would cool by the time I did dishes.

That evening, the plumber was looking oh so affordable and lovely to my reddened hands. Being weak, I called.

“We can send a truck next Thursday sometime between twelve and four. Will someone be there?”

“I have a Dr.'s appointment at two.”

“The next time available is June 5th.”

Visions of family visiting Memorial Day weekend and finding a non working sink and languid kitchen flow made me impulsively ask, “How much for coming tomorrow?”

“An extra $100 for the emergency service plus the standard rate of $55 for the first half hour.”

Meekly agreeing to the fiscal extortion, all I could think was “Lassie! Lassie come home!”

Friday, April 25, 2008

My 15 Seconds of Fame...or not...

As followers of this blog may know, I participated in the Erma Bombeck writing conference Saturday Night Stand Up.

Tim Bete, organizer of the whole deal, edited the two hour event down to the best ten minutes and posted a link on youtube. The catch? I don't have high speed internet, so after 20 minutes of trying to watch a stilted stand up...I'm linking it here. You guys with hi-tech will have to let me know if I managed to escape the cutting room floor.

I managed to see the Laughing Redhead and she was a scream all the way through. She runs clean comedy in Colonial Williamsburg --family friendly, and so if you head there for vacation, you should see her stuff.

Here's the link. Please please please, leave a comment and let me know. There will be names posted so you can find me. I wore a dark green dress and a gold/green wrap and I took off my shoes. My feet hurt. And it was stand up. So I needed to think on my feet.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2S3hZa7elLY

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Editing My Life

There are a few rules for writing humor. Today, I am explaining them as a means of illustrating that not everything I write is 100% pure unvarnished truth...it just feels real because sometimes, reality is a bit too much to bear.

I also want to give pure credit to Leigh Anne Jasheway Bryant who gave a lecture at the Erma Bombeck conference, detailing these techniques.

1) Exaggeration: Blowing things up to create humorous effect. Exploding Toilets that have the water drip down through the vents onto the computer. Well, okay, that actually happened at our last house, but saying that it happened three times...okay, that happened too...Exploding toilets that had water drip down through the vents onto the computer while I was using it...three times...now we've exaggerated.

2) Minimizing: The opposite, dwarfing something huge to make it manageable to minimize the suffering, creating humor. The pile of laundry was the size Mt. Kilimanjaro. I downsized it from the planet Jupiter.

3) The rule of three: Humor comes in threes. Shakespeare always has three couples getting married at the end of his plays, there were three stooges...look to the future for either Jeb Bush or Chelsea to run. Late night comedians are praying for this outcome…and in the interest of full disclosure, having watched late night humor lately, perhaps the rest of us should as well.

4) Clich├ęs: Parody...in honor of the Tuesday Primary: Hillary as Alfred P. Doolittle, fresh from an evening of straight shots with beer chasers...

I'm getting elected in the morning,
Ding, Dong, the polls are gonna rise!
Bill come and kiss me,
and you also Chelsea,
and get me to the polls on time.

I was the presumed nominee here,
guaranteed a win for the DNC!
Please vote for Hillary I cry so don't hate me,
And come and cast your vote in line.

If you are dying, vote absentee.
If you died already,
we know,
you would have pulled for me.

For, I'm stumping here in Pennsylvania,
To be the Gina Davis Commander in Chief
I know I'm a shrill one
But just please vote Clinton
And get yourself to the polls on time!

Obama:
I'm gonna win the nomination.
I'm spruced up and looking oh so fine.
Let's bowl a ten frame,
Don't forget my lapel pin,
and get me to my poll on time.

I'll give another moving speech today.
Sleeves rolled up, remember Hope and Change!
Ignore all my past friends
and their pedaled influence
I never knew it at the time!

If you are bitter,
I'll understand
Vote for me
and you'll become
a transformed man.

For we're running for the nomination,
To win in all in 2008!
And in this campaign
We'll beat John McCain!
Just get us to the dance!
Give us this one chance!
Be sure and get us to the polls on time!

5) Definition: Describing one thing by defining it as another. You know you're a mother when...you pray for rain on game days weeks in advance. This blog is 100% fiction...except when it's not.

6) Observation: Storytelling, which usually uses every other technique mentioned here. It's what I do naturally. The car floor was carpeted with French fries. (usually coupled as in this case, with either minimization or exaggeration, I'm not saying which).

7) Misdirection: Humor goes in directions one doesn't expect...like I want a shop vac, wet/dry for Mother's day. Seriously, 3 Horse power straight vacuuming power to win the war with fast food and dirt everywhere. I discovered I wanted one when I went to a friend's house to pick up a desk she was giving my daughter. Her husband was cleaning out his garage and attacked the Suburban. My car floor is now so clean, you could eat off it...except...now, there isn't anything there to eat.

Happy Earth Day! Plant a tree. Recycle. Kiss the dirt. Drink your tap water and try not to exhale more than necessary.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Velveteen Parent

When you can identify the sound of mini-chocolate chips cascading from their yellow bag into a red bucket in your no longer sleeping infant’s playpen, as being dumped by her older toddler sister for a snack, while awakening from a dead sleep, it’s safe to declare one’s self a veteran.

There are still areas of parenting within which I am a rookie. Dating. College tuition. Cars. Curiously enough, the magazines that cater to adults trying to civilize non adults, avoid addressing these later issues in extensive detail unless it’s to tell you that you should relax and not worry about the boys or the girls, sell all your cars and hire a chauffeur and have started saving money before you yourself hit puberty.

And so, one might wonder why I still subscribe to Parenting magazine. I know about time outs, mini-meals, setting aside a homework time, over scheduling, potty training…well, okay, I know the theory behind that one. What more is there that the experts could teach that I haven’t already experienced by trial? I keep the magazine to comprehend something of the ideal as personified in an incident free life.

If I were a Parenting magazine mom, the television would only be turned on for educational material that supplemented the reading I intended to present that evening…say the speeches by JFK, after viewing a brief history documentary of the Cuban missile crisis. If I were a Parenting approved mom, we would serve fresh black berries we had picked yesterday on top of homemade waffles today as I taught about maple syrup and the sugaring process while locating Vermont on a map and reading from Little House in the Big Woods. If I were a Choosy Mother’s Chose Jiff magazine certified mom, the kids would be used to fish tacos and green peppers, beg for carrot sticks and raisins and each have a shelf of the awards and certificates they had amassed over the years, complete with the write up in the local paper. They’d play on select teams and have fresh pressed uniforms every day and matching socks too.

Examining my life style with the parenting magazine’s parent, it’s clear I’m a C- student stuck in the honors class. Honor parents do not own cars that are the residence of 25 pounds of slowly fossilizing French fries, 1.47 cents in pennies and about a Pinto size pile of miscellaneous toys. Honor parents get all their kids to bed by 7:30 complete with hair washed, teeth brushed, three bed time stories and a lullaby. The teens, they lovingly dismiss to their rooms, tucking a new book of Shakespeare under their hand as they say good night. They are archetypes of the archetypes in my world. They are the ideal.

But I’m not.

Honor student parents don’t raise their voices or deliberately spend twenty minutes locked in the bathroom pretending “I can’t hear you…” hoping the stall tactic will bore the kids enough to make them forget what they were tattling about. Honor student parents don’t consider buying a large stuffed tiger that growls to put outside their toddler’s room and tell the kid, the tiger comes to life at night if you get up. We didn’t…but we did put the tiger back on the shelf with some regret.

Reading these stories and techniques, it’s like a reverse of the Velveteen Rabbit. I can’t help but wonder if these people as “experts” who say “What not to say…” have ever had a day when getting down on their eye level and speaking in a calm controlled voice just didn’t satisfy. “I know you’re upset that your brother got invited to the party but, there’s no reason for you to smack down on his head. You should be happy for him.” The kid may quiet down for that sort of speech, but very very few –and I would submit, none, become suddenly self aware and think, “I’m not really mad at my brother for being my brother, I just wish I had all the cool things he had going on…so I’m actually envious and need to stop because that’s not right or healthy.” If my kids are anything like I was, they’re thinking…right….I’ll get him later…but how?

It’s not that I don’t want my kids clean, on time, well spoken, well educated, well read, polished, accomplished and civil. I want all of these things for all eight of them, but sometimes, the best I can manage is a screech owl version of “HEY, KNOCK IT OFF OR I’M GETTING INTO IT!” that results in a five minute suspended silence born of real fear that the person driving may not be entirely stable. What galls me is that someday, when they grow up, they won’t remember when I hit the mark and got them to piano, softball and still managed to make sure they got their homework done, had a bed time story and closed down the upstairs by 8:30 p.m. They won’t remember when I made banana splits for dinner that night because everyone had had a bad day. They’ll talk about the time Mom’s face turned purple when we played Starwars with French fries in the back seat on the beltway.

Those will be the moments remembered, when the Velveteen Parent became real.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Today's Four Horsemen of Notre Dame

Yesterday, I took my oldest four to see Pope Benedict XVI at Washington National Park. It was a profound moment to be part of a mass with 46 thousand faithful and the pontiff.

The only issue, leaving the stadium, there were protesting evangelists who had six feet tall banners declaring "IF YOU BELIEVE THE POPE, YOU ARE GOING TO HELL" and "WHERE IN THE BIBLE DO YOU FIND PRAYING TO MARY, PURGATORY, INDULGENCES? YOU HAVE BEEN LIED TO!" While I was irritated to be accosted instantly upon leaving a beautiful mass, I explained to my children, this was part of the beauty of the country we lived in, anyone could say and believe anything.

I would have been content with the live and let live benevolence if the man had not then produced a bullhorn and started accosting anyone wearing a pro-Pope Benedict t-shirt...including small children. My small children were home with their father, but I growled that a grown man thought a five year old was a fair target for his vitriol. Still, I had to be an example. My oldest was fifteen. He saw the incident and wanted to take the man on, "He's spouting inaccuracies..." he would attack on substance, toe to toe. I told him "No."

The densely packed street made movement slow, allowing the man to shout and shout and shout, wearing down my goodwill and willingness to be charitable. "The Church wanted to Kill Martin Luther..."

My son shot back, "He died of natural causes." The man didn't know who said it, but felt called to call us "Sheep." The kids looked to me...I pointed out that in the parable, Jesus separated the sheep from the goats --sheep were good things. They looked mollified...slightly.

My oldest two took out their papal flags and waved them deliberately, starting something of a silent cascade behind them in protest of yellow banners. The man grew bolder in his assertions of our foolishness.

Finally, I growled to the man next to me...if he attacks my children, I'm going Old Testament. Wrath of God..." The man had been talking to me about the music, he was part of the choir. "But we're supposed to turn the other cheek."

"Yes," I countered, "But luckily, we're Catholic so if we don't, there's always confession..."

Looking at the man now pointing at teens and saying, "You're on the wrong path. This pope lies."

The man nodded his head. "I wonder if I could find a priest..." he asked aloud.
...the kids laughed..."Of course, there's the little problem with remorse...that might take a few days." The choir now was laughing.

We were almost past the very angry man when he started in on Mary, Mother of God. Other women and men in the choir were debating what to do, discussing what was the holy response. I did like the answer by someone, "Just punch him." I had to agree, it seemed the most effective or at least emotionally satisfying.

The kids were clearly troubled by this new attack, so as a group, we huddled and said a vocal "Hail Mary, followed by Notre Dame Our Mother, Pray for Him." Go Irish!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Minding Your Own Monkey Business

Because it's tax day, here's one I wrote a while ago...happy filing and reading folks!

Don’t get me wrong, I love nature shows on television. My kids are fascinated by the stories on Discovery and National Geographic. We encourage them to learn about the creatures of this Earth and to be stewards of all creation.

But sometimes, I think the narrators are in serious need of an intervention.

We were watching a show on PBS called "Primates" as told by a British researcher and nature hottie as she traipsed through the jungle in New Guinea and later in Matagascar to document the lives of various primates. One expects the researcher to love her subject. I can’t imagine braving the sub-topical heat, countless bugs, assorted necessary vaccinations and physical deprivations required of this type of research, unless one was in love with the subject matter.

However, this babe’s breathless descriptions of the various creatures and their habits and habitat paralleled that of the type of fan that is normally issued a restraining order.

In her first segment on orangutans, she was attempting to describe how these creatures move from limb to limb on a tree without suffering injury or breaking the branches.

"Careful judgment is called for, the orangutan must determine not simply the weight of the branches, but also the amount of force to be applied while taking into consideration his own weight. These calculations would be difficult even for a human." she whispered as we viewed said calculating primate move from branch to branch with nary a slide ruler.

Who knew orangutans could rival the engineers at MIT?

Still, the critters were pretty interesting so I watched the next segment on chimpanzees. As we viewed the "thoughtful stoic faces" of a family at peace with the world, she talked of how these chimps would sit for hours contemplating the world around them and showed footage of the chimps staring out at the jungle.

“Perhaps most startling about these pensive creatures is their sense of awe at nature.” She offered as she hiked to a local waterfall. “These chimps perform this same ritual every time they come to the waterfall.” The chimp on film is jumping from one side to the other in a zig zag pattern. “They do this whether they are alone or in a pack.” The footage shows the same chimp zigzagging with others over the waterfall. “This celebration of the water could be some form of ritual, signifying the higher awareness of the chimps, their sense of beauty, of wonder at the majesty of nature.”

She paused to look at the waterfall thoughtfully and then mentally went over the edge. “It could be their expression of essentially what for us would be religion.” The image of the waterfall blurred on the camera and the scene faded to black.

Following the religious chimps, she then took us with a war party from the same colony who set out to defend their territory. "The attack is brutal, unexpected, viscous and sends a clear message. But perhaps who are we to judge?" she posits as we are left with the shocking image of four angry chimps mauling a fifth for not showing due deference to their territory. Maybe the waterfall was a form of confession.

After the monkish monkeys, the film crew took us to an Amazon Utopia, where Pygmy chimps used sex as the dominant means of controlling behavior. Women (note not females) ruled the roost and over aggressive males were pacified with "a quickie." Also unique amongst this "chimp culture" was the use of tools and the occasional decision to walk on two legs instead of hunched over on four. The use of tools and the fact that some were left handed as versus right indicated "imagination, creativity, problem solving, intelligence and a sub culture." This particular cluster of chimps had determined how to open a kind of nut rich in protein that other chimp families could not open by using stones. More advanced than others, they had formed a chimp charter Mensa organization.

Though not the first to anthropromorphise the creatures she studied, I couldn’t bring myself to not see how far she would take it.

The silver back gorillas in Rwanda were obviously the grand prize of her documentary and she had us follow her through the bush to their territory, where the whole clan was having a "siesta." Seated less than five feet from one of the gorillas, she talked about these gentle giants that are so closely related to us, showing shots of the "children playing," the adults lovingly grooming, and others enjoying a well earned rest. I had to wonder, what exactly fatigues a gorilla, I mean besides nosy documenting film crews and the ongoing feud between the sex amazon monkeys, Mensa Chimps and religious sect.

When they woke from their rest, the lead silverback "sensibly" led them away from the camera but two adolescent males stayed behind as a rear guard and to "show off for the camera." She said. One knocked over a tree and thumped his chest. The second dragged the tree over to him and then went over and lightly tapped the intruding narrator on her back with his foot. She beamed with pleasure at having been brought into the game. "I’ve just been kicked by a gorilla!" she grinned impishly at the camera as though it had caught her first kiss. The second adolescent male, not to be outdone, charged at her and knocked her over before the behind the scenes guide could chase him off. She turned to the camera, breathless and hardly missing a beat, "Who knows what he might have tried if the guide hadn’t driven him off?"

After the sex chimp colony, I was certain I didn’t want to know.

Editor's note: Wonder if I can get the mensa chimp to do my taxes next year...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mental Tapas Served

With eight children and version 9.0 on the way in September, there are always opportunities for articles, some more coherent than others. I keep a notepad for jotting down potential ideas. The following were all created by my loving offspring, for you, before 9 am Friday. While none of them flowered into a full fledged piece without seeming trite, overwritten or tired, I feel an obligation to keep trying so these are the mental tapas under consideration.

Witnessing the Lawn Mower man on his new tractor...Boo (newly four year old son)expressed his concern rather eloquently. "That man is scary, he freaked out my toes."

Cupie Doll (age 2 and impossibly cute), thinks pull ups make the perfect head accessory. We have even let her wear one into the car, on the theory we could pull it off when we arrived at our destination. So far, I haven't forgotten.

Taxes. Free Starbucks. Coincidence? I think not. Both normally cost a lot. Both take an inordinate amount of time, both will leave you shaking for hours in the aftermath.

Toilets: It's a bad day when the plunger makes an appearance before breakfast.
Bugs and Bathrooms: It's a really bad day when your daughter takes a shower and finds millipedes. Explaining it could be worse --mice, snakes, bees...doesn't help.

Sins of Omission: When a child alters his gate to step over a paper plate that has somehow made it to the floor, it is time to assign chores.

It's a really rough day...when the broom breaks in half in my hands, the washing machine starts smelling like burnt rubber and the vacuum quits on the same day, it is time to call the maids and order out.

Finally: When my infant daughter's sucking on her empty bottle at 4 a.m. translates to me as a metaphor for how writing works --the shell of an idea encasing something great which may or may not be empty...it's clear 1)I need more sleep 2)my world is a little bit tiny and 3)I should really get up and get her a new bottle.

MEMO to Mom and any public officials from child protective services reading this, I did.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Sounding Fury of an English Tutor

Every time I’ve ever considered myself competent in English, someone has come along to set the record straight.

Back in high school, I took regular English instead of Honors freshman year. The kid next to me was blonde and blue eyed, just like the teacher. She asked him to look up, she called him “Son.” Being a literal child, I took this to mean there was a genetic or at least custodial relationship between the two of them. A few minutes later, I saw him write in large letters on a page of loose leaf, “I HATE YOU MOTHER….” I’ll let you fill in the blank, this is a family blog.

I said in shock, “That’s not a very nice thing to say about your mother.”
The boy, now convinced that perhaps I should have been held back further still, shook his head incredulously. “She’s not my mom.” We did not speak again the entire four years.

At college, I took my major seriously. I had learned poetry, read Shakespeare, I knew my 19th century fiction and could trace the development of the sonnet over the entire Renaissance period, I could even write sonnets, not that there was much demand for that sort of thing.

There was one author that thwarted me, Faulkner. I read the book. I reread the book. I read the cliffs. I reread the cliffs. I flunked the quiz. Zero. I had understood nothing. The teacher thought I had blown off the assignment and was just being funny, so he read my quiz aloud in class as a compliment. I didn't have the heart to tell him otherwise. After that, I avoided all literature born in the New World.

Then I entered the work force as a teacher.

My teaching assistant was at a community college and struggling with her English required course. I offered to help as a means of sealing a bond between me and her. She had to look at two poems, compare and pick the “best one.” Struggling with the criteria to pick a “best poem,” I gamely took a gander at the two choices and discussed it with my TA. We went through the pros and cons of both. I did have an opinion. I explained it. She went with it. The poem I didn't pick... the teacher described in her notes as "Faulkneresque."

The teacher said she had picked the wrong poem.

One would think I would have learned not to mess around with English classes to which I do not belong, but no, I am stubborn and remember, I wasn’t in the Honors class.

Enter my poor son. He is in Honors English. Faulkner. He read the book. He had me read the book. We discussed the book. We researched together and discussed his paper. He wrote. I make him rewrite. He wrote again. I make him rewrite again. Five days of pure English Major boot camp Faulkner Sound and Fury hell produced a beautiful paper ready for submission right under the wire.

I won’t tell you his grade but I’m now restricting my tutoring to math.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Tales of a Rodeo Rookie

Despite growing up in Southeast Texas, I had never been to a rodeo until I was a reasonably mature adult. I say that I was mature because I couldn’t age into any new privileges for the next 45 years or so. At any rate, my husband’s company was having a social at the National Rodeo Show and we had tickets. My husband, being a Yankee, presumed I would know my way about a cow. I hadn’t the heart to tell him my knowledge of live stock ended at the grocery counter.

We got to the rodeo and there were great foods all everywhere, but somehow it felt a bit cruel to walk about eating a cheeseburger with so many cows and bulls around. I couldn’t help thinking they might get mad you know, and they're a might bigger than me. Strolling through the open stalls full of lightly secured 1500 lb. beasts was also unnerving, especially given the number of greenhorns like myself pretending not to be greenhorns by patting the cows and talking about what type they were. I was impressed until I realized all they've done is read the 4H tag.

Going into this sort of a culture can become a cult experience. With being surrounded by cowboys and cowgirls, ranchers and farmers, it’s hard not to want to fit in and belong. We walked into the auction room to watch the selling off of a prize bull. I tried to comprehend what it is that the pros see that I didn't –only to discover my husband had momentary insanity and was considering a bid on said beast. “He can live at your Uncle’s ranch. It’s an investment. Wouldn’t you like to own a cow? You’re a Texan.” Fortunately for me, someone else upped the bid and I was able to break him free of the siren call of the auctioneer before a big black Angus prize breeder came up. I wasn’t sure I’d have had a prayer of not owning a bull if we hadn’t left.

Entering the main arena for the rodeo events, I realized I was a classic rock kind of gal stuck in a Country Western world and that the most current CW hit I could name was “Achy Breaky Heart.” Seeing a guy dipping Skoal confirmed the city slicker genes in me and also made me wish I hadn't eaten the chili.

Finally, it was time for the roping and the riding. Some girls came out and did barrel racing. I did pair barrel racing as a kid, once. After knocking over all three barrels in both my runs, the next year I was relegated to play horse musical chairs in the kid riding festival at camp –the event for all the “non-riders” in the group. Watching the junior rodeo members, I found it ironic that these parents voluntarily allowed their children that they won't let ride bikes without helmets, run out to wrestle cows. One had to hope the whole family bought into this rodeo thing. I’d hate to imagine explaining to Grandmother why Johnny got a broken collar bone if she didn’t understand the cowboy culture. “WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE WAS RUN OVER BY A COW?”

After the junior rodeo, the adults took over. I understand why a cowboy in days past would need to be able to rope cattle, break a horse, even barrel race, but the physical need for strapping a rope on a 1000 lb angry brute with large horns that can kill you eluded me. The only other sport that comes close to this sort of willful battle between man and beast where the beast has the advantage is snake charming, and again, I’m at a loss as to why anyone would willingly chose to do this.

Still, watching the skill of these men and women as they lassoed calves and tied them up using the rope in less than a minute, I had to marvel. I started to feel sorry for the calves who after being thrown to the grown and roped, would be herded back to the pens for auction and possible slaughter. Then, I remembered how much I liked steak.

Retribution was coming though, as a maverick red calf gave one of the rodeo contestants serious trouble. He ran out of the lasso and then when the cowboy was off his horse, charged. He bit the guy before the rodeo clowns were able to lead the creature back to the pens. One could just imagine him speaking to the other calves, leading the conspiracy against us, their captors. “Just you wait fellahs, the big one over there ate a burger just now, and I’m fairly certain Uncle Leo had mad cow disease.”

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Blogging Ignorance

Going to a workshop today to learn more about blogging. The Ludite in me is terrified.

I went this morning to hear John Kremer talk about all things techie, which the liberal arts major in me fears.

He gave me a few minutes of his personal time to try and teach me how to put pictures on my blog.

After a few minutes of trying, it became clear that this will remain a writing blog. I know how, but my computer is very comfortable with it's non photo posting role in life and has registered it's displeasure.

I have always believed in the ghosts in the machine and my own "baby" --yes, I call it that, or at least had personal angst similar to if someone touches my actual baby that I don't know when the airport security took out my computer.

Will finish this post later, but the bus is leaving and I have to go learn what I don't know.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Airport Security Depends

It’s always a cheap shot to talk about the hassles of travel, but when the flight attendant announces that the bathroom on the plane is inoperative ten minutes before boarding, when life hands one something that choice, that absurd, that rich with possibilities...well, I just couldn't resist.

People raced to take care of things and fretted when the stewardess reminded us that drinks would soon be served. It didn’t help the collective mood of the passengers when the pilot asked us to reshuffle seats prior to take off to “balance the load.” Had the co-pilot taken the effect of full bladders into account when considering how the weight needed to be redistributed?
As the plane began its taxi down the runway, preparing to leave ground and reasonable walking distance from working facilities for the next two hours, I heard speculation about what other essential non-essential equipment on the airbus might not be fully operational. Those of us who had decided we had camel kidneys and would grit it out, began to experience flyer’s remorse.


As the news traveled through the back of the plane, the woman next to me who had missed the announcement at the gate asked “What are we supposed to do? Open a window?” I had seen Goldfinger and said, “I hope not.”


The first thirty minutes passed uneventfully, except I was keenly aware of the fact that there was at least 1000 miles to go and 30,000 feet between me and the nearest restroom. Turbulence became an issue, making those of us who chose fortitude over the expedient stress of trying to go through a line longer than the one for security in less than ten minutes, even more regretful. Our agony would be prolonged and exquisite, just as theirs had been intense and brief. As the star bellied sneeches on the plane, they could rightfully gloat at those of us who had none upon thars and we prayed for brisk tail winds and no funny jokes or sneezes that might make sitting in the middle row a bit awkward.


At this juncture, the stewardess, who had overheard the word “bathroom” from our conversations, discovered that we thought the bathroom was broken. “They announced it at our gate ten minutes before boarding.” We explained.


Going back to the front, the stewardess spoke to us all, “Our bathroom is working. They must have gotten the wrong flight number.”


I’ll say. Some other flight has some really good material for a humor column, particularly if it was the flight boarding from DC to Vegas.


Day One of the Erma Bombeck Conference...I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, try www.humor-blogs.com!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Packing Light Baggage

Today my oldest came home with a poor grade on the essay he labored over for two weeks.

My daughter fell apart when the hat she had knitted for her youngest sister did.

The one day now Six year old needed me to go in and conference with her teacher over some kids saying nasty things at the playground.

The eight year old boy made his own kite out of paper and then crashed horribly on his bike when the string got stuck in the spokes, destroyed the kite and clogged the gears. He cursed the bike and threw it down on the driveway and came in demanding that we sell it on ebay and get him a new one.

My four year old had four accidents.

The two year old was found this morning naked in her crib which she had also stripped,

and the baby woke up grouchy and cried whenever she was put down.

All of which means, if you read the tea leaves correctly…

Mom is going out of town tomorrow.

The ten year old, the only one not mentioned in that little drama that unfolded, hid herself in the basement playing Nintendo DS. I have come to have a new appreciation for gameboy…at the very least, it lets me pack.

Off to Dayton for the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Conference to learn how to be funny, and try my hand at Stand-up. Oddly enough, people keep leaving messages to me to please please, not actually break a leg…seeing as I have a knack for making difficult situations impossible. I think they are concerned I’ll actually take them literally.

I will try to update the blog, but if that’s not possible, I’ll see about getting a guest blogger for the occasion.

if you want more amusement in the meantime, try http://www.humor-blogs.com/

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!