Michelle was wonderful, as usual, and the video tributes to her and to Senator Kennedy were beautiful and moving, but this is the moment that gave me goosebumps.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Sunday, August 24, 2008
For the past several months I've been alternately excited, worried, anxious, angry, thrilled and hopeful. Tomorrow morning we'll wake up to the start of the 2008 Democratic National Convention, and I can't even find words to express what I'm feeling about that tonight. It's like all the best Christmases of my life all jammed together and on steroids, but even better.
I've lived a lot of years, voted in a lot of elections, been supportive of a few candidates and despondent about a lot more, but I've never before felt so much "on the brink" about any political event as I do now. This is history, folks, and once again, as has happened a few times in my life, I'm very much aware that I'm witnessing the kind of historic event they put in textbooks. In my lifetime, I've paid sad witness to the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., among others. I've been awed and inspired to watch the first footstep of a human being on the surface of the moon and now proud and privileged to be here in this moment.
There have been other memorable occasions along the way, moments that will also go into the history books, but those are the big ones for me. They're the moments when it felt to me as if America, and the world, seemed to be drawing a collective breath and focusing together on one singular event ... and those big events, for me, revolved around singular human beings.
Dave Stewart co-wrote this song with Bono, and here's part of what he had to say about this gift from two British songwriter's on the eve of a singular moment in our history:
People long for a connection -- whether it is to music, to their country, or to a big idea. Regardless of what happens in November, Senator Obama has reminded millions of people that they have the power to connect to bigger ideas. He is, in essence, the embodiment of a new anthem for change. He has continued King's narrative from what was once thought of as a dream to a reality. I find it especially relevant that Barack Obama will accept the Democratic Party Nomination for President 45 years to the day of King's "I Have a Dream" speech.What moves me most about Dave Stewart's message is not what he says about Barack Obama, but what he says about this country, and I'm grateful beyond words that there are still people "across the pond" who hold our country in this kind of regard and see us, not solely through the lens of the past eight years:
When we were originally writing the song, Bono was crafting the words in a way that would make people think about the fact that 'America' as a concept was a truly great idea, based on the bedrock of equality. I find it more pertinent than ever to release it now; to the moment America finds itself in, daring to re-imagine itself and its place in the world.
See, that's why he's a songwriter and I'm not, so I'll let him sum up, and I'll just pass along the gift of this video to all of you:
As an Englishman, I'm not an expert in all the intricate details of American politics. But as an artist, I understand how rare it is to inspire a connection to a bigger idea or purpose. This video isn't so much an endorsement of Barack Obama as much as it is a celebration of all those who have picked up a sign, who have registered to vote and are working to make the world a better place. So as Senator Barack Obama ascends to the mountain top, let us not forget all of the others who for the past 40 years have sung anthems of change to make this moment possible.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Friday, August 15, 2008
On the way home, my mother dismissed her cataract by saying, "I always say if it ain't broke, don't fix it." And I replied, "But it is broke. Just because you've managed to find some way to live with only seeing out of one eye doesn't mean that this is the best it can be. If you have an option to see out of both eyes but are only seeing out of one...it's broke."
And then a little further down the road, the subject of a handyman came up. We both agree that an impartial handyman is the way to go. She has numerous small and not-so-small things that need to be repaired around the house but she won't let me fix them because she thinks I'll be judgmental. She's right; I would. So we've agreed to a handyman. However, she doesn't want the handyman to come to the house until she has the money for him to do the work. I want him to come out, assess the situation and give us an estimate for each problem. That way we can start picking away at them one at a time. But no...she doesn't see the sense in it, unless she can afford the work.
My position is this: molehills become mountains one grain at a time. It took her 10 years to create this mess and it's going to take time to fix it. If you can knock a few bucketfuls of dirt off the mountain...a Medicare card here, a new pair of glasses there...then your mountain is moving in the right direction. If a handyman can look at her stuff and tell her which could be quick fixes and which would be major projects, we could do the quick stuff.
But no. It ain't broke anymore. If you've figured out where to put the buckets under the leaking roof, the problem is no longer a problem and therefore it no longer needs fixing. When the roof collapses, says I between my clenched teeth, does it get elevated back up to "problem" status? Yes. At the point it qualifies as a problem again. So wouldn't it be wiser to handle it now? No...it's not a problem now.
Similarly, the cataract is not a problem now. It will be, when the other eye can't see either. At that point it will officially qualify as a problem.
So I didn't reach across the seat and throttle her. Instead I took her home, told her I'd call Medicare for her and take her in to have her glasses prescription filled. Then I came home and made some lunch without throwing the dishes around or kicking a cat or sticking a steak knife in my eye. Which would have been, by the way, a problem for me. For her? Not so much.
*When I looked up the spelling of "filial" I found an alternate usage that was extra appropriate in our case:
Filial is an adjective used to describe sons and daughters. It may also mean:
Filial cannibalism - Where a parent eats its own offspring.
Give it some thought.
However...forgive me if I've already mentioned this but in my haze of parental PTSD, the details are somewhat foggy...My mom's one blind eye and monocle-wearing status ("It was a blessing from God that I lost the lens over my blind eye!") necessitate this outing.
Oh...have I mentioned that my cyclops mother still possesses a valid Illinois drivers license and still drives to town once a week for church and a trip to Wal-Mart? Well she does. So I recommend that people wanting to avoid a head-on introduction to a one-eyed, toothless, hardheaded elderly midget might want to stay off Old Highway 51 on Saturday.
Her church day is Saturday because my mom is a Seventh Day Adventist, whatever that is. My total knowledge of her religious habits is that they take place on Saturday, although if she doesn't get her Jesus bank completely filled on Saturday, she frequently tops it off on Sunday at another church. I think she's not too picky about the denomination as long as the holy is rollin' .
Which reminds me...my mother's street address is 1665, a fact that's so distressing to her (it's awfully close to 666, if you add the one and the five together) that she's petitioned the county to have her number changed. The godless county officials nixed that because it'll throw off the rest of the numbers on her road. So she's making the best of it, but she discusses her street address problem with a great deal more trepidation than she does, say, the tree laying across her house. She's confident that God will take care of her tree problem, but she's worried that the street address thing might piss him off.
God, in fact, will NOT be taking care of the tree problem. He won't be climbing up there and chunking up that tree. God will be sending his unwilling minion, me, out there with my Holy Chainsaw and Divine Bug Dope to tackle that problem, while God sits back sipping mint juleps and accepting all the Glory.
Cushy fuckin' job.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
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As you can plainly see, even with a rating of "high" (and by what pious, mealy-mouthed standard could 15.5% be considered "high" anyway?) we seem to be severely lagging behind in the cussing. This surprises me, because I guarantee you that a helluva lot more than 15.5% of our conversations around the family compound contain words and phrases that more than qualify, but I suppose we've been more cognizant of our language on the blog ... and this pitiful rating is the thanks we get!
To see just what constitutes an impressive Cuss-O-Meter reading, I checked to see how we stacked up against a known potty mouth, and ran the stats on Feral. I knew she'd win, but holy crap! She's got our pathetic pansy-asses completely licked (there ... I said "ass" and "lick" in the same sentence ... that should give us a tiny boost) with a whopping Cuss-O-Meter rating of 60.9%!
I realize that Feral's achievement (509% higher than the average blog) is one that we pedestrian slingers about of the vernacular can't even hope to approach (although I'll begrudgingly bet a goodly portion of that score is attributable solely to "wooo! tits!"), but still ... a paltry 15.5%? That's goddamned embarassing.
The Farmer's Market is in the parking lot of the old Wal-Mart, which is down the road from the Super Wal-Mart, where not only you can get shoddy clothing made by exploited brown people in far-away countries chained to their sewing machines, you can also get bad food wrapped in plastic.
The Farmer's Market is a long line of booths selling fresh produce off the backs of trucks. I parked the truck at the most easterly end of the parking lot. She wanted to start at the most westerly end. We trudged over to that end and started looking and shopping and working our way back east. After we'd gone the entire length of booths and were back to the easternmost end, she decided: she wanted the 50 pound watermelon from the booth on the end. The western end. So I, trying to parlay this outing into a mother-daughter bonding session instead of a tragic murder-suicide, said, "I'll get it. Wait here."
I went back for the melon, then wrestled it into my truck. In the meantime, she's moved on and was busily interrogating the eggplant lady about the relative merits of Asian vs. domestic eggplants.
She eventually picked out a few more things, for a whopping total of $12, and we headed back to my house so Lori could cut up the watermelon. I chose Lori for that project since she's less likely to plunge it into my mother's heart than I might be.
All of this is good, since yesterday was the day we stood toe-to-toe and I flatly told her that she'd lost control of her life and I was going to begin the process of making it manageable for her. She narrowed her old lady eyes at me, stuck out her toothless old lady jaw and said, "Don't make me hate you, Evelyn"
I made my meanest Mean Mommy face back at her and said, "Really, I'd prefer that you don't hate me, but whether you do or not, I have an obligation to keep you safe. Either we work together to achieve that, or I'll roll over you like a steamroller. But you're not going to break a fucking hip and die in the driveway and have your face eaten by the dogs if I have anything to say about it."
It would have been a Mexican standoff except that neither of us are Mexican, and I was already guaranteed to win, because I'm more stubborn and I really fear the day I find her dead at the bottom of her front steps.
I have to go to work, but I'm sure I'll have plenty more later...
Monday, August 11, 2008
Much like the bookish science geek, Peter Parker, whose chance encounter with an irradiated spider transformed him into an unlikely superhero, swinging high above the city from one strand of web to the next, proving that even nerdy kids can wear their undies on the outside, we have been bitten by the irradiated spider of the blogosphere and transformed from mild-mannered middle-aged rural lesbian bloggers of small but loyal readership into minor superheroines, leaping across the vast expanse of cyberspace from one strand of our cobwebby brains to another, with our undies on the outside. And who do we have to thank for this? Why, it's our own faithful reader and fellow blogger, XUP, who bestowed upon us this lovely award!
Isn't it pretty!? It's the Arte y Pico Award (which translates roughly as "over the top"), and it's true value is that it can only be bestowed "blogger a blogger." You can't buy one of these, beotch!
Receiving such an accolade from a peer is both a joyous and a humbling experience. Joyous because we've given you some pleasure (or at least made you grateful to be you) and humbling because ... jeez ... now we probably have to blog less sporadically, huh?
Here's how the Pico y Arte works:
"This award was created to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their creativity and their talents, and for contributing to the blogging world in whatever medium. When you receive this award it is considered a “special honor”. Once you have received this award, you are to pass it on to 5 others. What a wonderful way to show some love and appreciation to your fellow bloggers!
The rules for passing this honor on are:
Pick 5 blogs that you would like to award this honor to.
Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.
Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.
Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y Pico” blog, so everyone will know the origin of this award from Arte Y Pico."
Sorry. I got distracted.
Thank you, XUP, for the Pico y Arte! We've put our pointy heads together and decided bestow this award to the following bloggers:
1. Are We There Yet? - because someday we want to know how to build a log cabin and be organic farmers with goats and greenhouses and little baby lambs (but maybe not bees).
2. cake-n-cookies - because we love her and she cooks pretty.
3. Ms. Sassy Pants - and her awesome adventures in heterosexuality.
4. Thumbscre.ws - because haven't we all, at one time or another, or might we not, but not as wittily as Jul?
5. Angry Black Bitch - for smartness and bitchitude above and beyond the call of duty. The bitch was even on NPR today.
We'd totally throw back some ice-cold beverages and a bowl of pico de gallo with any and all of the above.
Thursday, August 07, 2008
I'm beginning to think of this as practice for being an empty-nester. Katie's a high school senior this year, and she'll be going to college next year: locally if we have a say in it, and at the U. of Bora Bora if she has her way. I'm hearing an underlying desire for distance...
I'm getting better at this. The first couple of summers she spent in Tucson I was about as out-of-sorts as Sage. I hadn't lived in a kid-free home in more than 20 years, and I was a little bereft. This summer I handled it like a champ. I think I'm ready for the Big Moment...when she leaves to go to school and we're officially childless.
My friend Joyce just sent her last child to college and celebrated by walking down the hall to the shower naked. In the daytime. A thing she hasn't done in 25 years. I can totally relate. I think we sneak around more to have sex in our 40s and 50s than we did as teenagers. Imagine being able to do the deed with the bedroom door open. It boggles the imagination!
So Friday she comes home. Monday she starts Band Camp. A week later she starts her Senior year, nine months after that she'll graduate, and a year from now my 23 year long experiment in parenting will be over. At least for a moment, and unless they come back.
Joyce cried when Adam left for school, but then she healed enough the next day to get naked in her own hallway. Joyce is an inspiration to me.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
During this conversation, I referred to the neighbor as Florence Nightingown. Lori laughed and said "What is it about you and jammies?"
I didn't actually realize I had a thing about jammies, but after some consideration, I guess I must. I thought about it and decided jammies are a little bit vulnerable. Not so nakedly exposed as say, nakedness, but certainly not so armor plated as daywear, which people often choose based on it's ability to make a statement of some kind. No one wears Power Jammies.
Children wear cute jammies with feet. Old ladies wear those old lady nightgowns that they've had since the '50s. Old men wear cool old two piece cotton jammies where the bottoms and the tops match. And in the summer, they wear the even cooler ones with the short pants that highlight their skinny old man legs.
Lori and I sleep in jammie pants and crappy old t-shirts with paint stains or dumb slogans that we've acquired from life. I have about a thousand t-shirts from the Red Cross from being both a blood donor and a blood banker, and I tend to sleep in one of those. In the summer. we swap out the jammie pants for SIU jersey shorts.
I like to talk to people about their jammies, especially people who are a little too impressed with their own perceived power. Jammies are nice. When people are wearing their jammies, they're rarely in a position to be an asshole, except to the person next to them in bed, which is not my business anyway.
And people who sleep naked? Unless the sex has already begun before bedtime, don't you think it's good bed etiquette to at least put the jammies on for a minute, and THEN tear them back off? At least for a minute?
I know. I'm old.
Monday, August 04, 2008
We enjoyed out semi-weekly family potluck yesterday, even if it was bisected for a while by Carrie getting called in to work for an hour. And we're approaching the Illinois State Fair season, and that'll be fun. But I'm generally tired of toiling in the heat. I'm a lesbian, ferchristsake! I should be wearing flannel!
We're going to wait until it cools down some and then begin the monumental task of cleaning up my mom's yard. She's got about 7 acres, three of which used to be cleared as yard but are now so overgrown that "lawn care" is a laughable term. I think the first step will be to firebomb it, then start from the dirt up.
But it'll take about a 20 or 30 degree drop in temperature for me to even consider wading in there in boots, flannel shirt, and gloves. I'm ambitious, but after my last chigger infestation I'm a little wiser.
Really, I'm just thinking out loud, I suppose. Lori and I had a fun weekend with just enough family time and just enough grown-up girlfriend time. But I feel like I'm ready to start on another project soon, and I wish it could be the Yard of Doom project. I keep telling myself that by December I'll be bitching about the cold. Oh well...welcome to the Midwest.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
Sometime in the middle of my now-adult child's adolescence, we had occasion to seek the advice of a Child Psychology Professional ... a counselor ... a shrink. Actually, we had a couple of occasions to seek same, but that one was the last one ... and the best. The advice he gave me at the conclusion of our intake interview was this:
"The problem with kids today is that they don't fear their parents anymore."
Ding, ding, ding!
I don't know about the rest of you, but I was scared shitless of my mother, and remained so throughout my adult life. I did not want that woman mad at me. It wasn't that she spanked the daylights out of me, although she certainly would if she needed to. It wasn't that she shamed or belittled or abused me, although at one time in my adult life I liked to call it that, because it was trendy to go to Gestalt weekends and smack chairs and learn to love our inner child. Hell, I still had a healthy fear of Mother's Wrath long after I was too old to spank and too smart-assed to belittle.
When the counselor said those simple words ... and I looked over at my own little "Hunter" sitting on a counselor's couch looking bored and aloof instead of sitting in his own room afraid for his very existence ... I realized what a moron I was about parenting, and what a great mother I'd had.
The truth is, I wouldn't know how to do half the stuff I know how to do if it weren't for my mother making me do chores, and watching her do things. I wouldn't have the high degree of good quality guilt that makes me clean a baseboard once in a blue moon or the absolute aversion I have to lying if it weren't for my mother being a clean freak and instilling in us a good measure of guilt about what other people would think. I never feared the police or any other authority figure the way I feared my mother. I never smoked pot in high school because I knew my mother would find out and kill me. No court of law could have forced me to stay up all night cleaning my house in preparation for a home visit, but a phone call from my mother saying she was coming for the weekend sure as hell could! And I'm not fooling myself that mid-life has made me any less dependent on my mother's approval. The only reason I can live with a degree of comfortable messiness now, at fifty-four years old, is that she's dead and can't come visit anymore.
So what changed between my mother's generation and mine? Somewhere along the line, people seem to have forgotten what the goal of parenting is.
It's not to ensure that your child has the most stuff, or the best and the happiest and the most carefree childhood. It's not to build "self-esteem" and an overblown sense of your child's inherent value to the universe. Ev blames Shel Silverstein and that god-awful book "The Giving Tree," in which parents are encouraged to "give until you can give no more" ... and then, when you've bailed your kid out of every failure and handed them everything they wanted on a silver platter and you're completely used up, let the kids use you for a comfy place to sit in their own old age. I owned not one, but TWO copies of it.
I also blame "The Little Prince." Hunter, you are not unique in all the world. You do not need to be kept under a glass jar and protected. In fact, Hunter, that's the surest way to ensure that you will not thrive.
Of all the parenting tools I tried to employ over the span of my sons childhood, the best thing I ever did for him was to have life intervene and render me unable to maintain his glass jar. The first time he called me from 1200 miles a way to ask for a monetary bail-out and I couldn't afford to send it, he got a job. The next time he called and asked for money to fix his car and I couldn't afford to send it, he got a real job. Now I bemoan the fact that he doesn't call and doesn't need me for anything ... because ... hello ... he grew up.
The goal of parenting is to equip children for adulthood ... that crazy time when no one is going to take care of you and there will be demands on you (some of them harder than picking up your toys). We're supposed to teach children how to navigate a world full of sharp corners -- not pad everything. We're supposed to model how humans interact and teach them how to do things. Then we're supposed to release them into a world where there might be people who don't always have their best interest at heart, and we'd better had taught them how to stand up for themselves by some more effective means than throwing a wall-eyed tantrum.
I've been there and done that, so I can tell you from first-hand experience:
This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a "Hunter, honey ..."
Saturday, August 02, 2008
Lori said that's not how modern mother's handle things. Oh...when we want to make fun of new-age permissive mothers, we refer to their child as "Hunter", because that was the name of the most obnoxious child we ever had the misfortune of seeing throw a fit in public. We know his name because his mother was using it repeatedly while trying to negotiate with the little bastard.
"Hunter, if you stop screaming I'll take you for ice cream. Hunter...come on now. People are staring. Hunter, I know you're upset, but we talk about our feelings, we don't raise our voices."
My parenting strategy with Hunter would have been something like dragging Hunter into a quiet spot and looking him in the eye with my Mean Mommy face. Then I would say, "Hunter, if you don't knock that shit off right now, I'll take you out to the car and spank you 'til you're dead. If you survive, you won't be going to the store again until you're 18 and you're leaving for college. Knock it off."
And Hunter would believe me, because I had exactly that moment one time each with all three of my kids, and they knew I'm crazy and I don't make idle threats. So here's Bill's mother, pleading with Bill not to take his guns to town, using the Hunter Method of conflict resolution: negotiating with her child when he's being a moron.
"Bill, please...please don't take your guns to town. Please. Leave your guns at home, Bill."
And Bill, playing the role of Hunter, does it anyway. Now we know what happens next: Bill takes the guns to town, gets into a bar fight and gets killed. Using the Hunter Method of parenting, Bill's mom rationalizes Bill's incredibly stupid decision to take the guns to town by crying, "Bill was a good boy! He never meant to hurt anyone!", and then suing Smith & Wesson.
This why the human race is headed for extinction. It's not global warming that will eventually kill us, it's the Hunter Method of bad parenting.
"Hunter, honey... do you think it's a very good idea to take your guns to town? If you don't take your guns to town, we'll go for ice cream later. Hunter, in this family we don't take guns to town, we talk about our problems."