Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Well, the Yarn Crawl was yesterday – more of a yarn amble, really. I took my Garmin along because it’s been years since I was in Geneva, IL. Another gal in Chix drove, and there were three of us along for the ride. Garmin was very entertaining, making us either laugh or spit nails depending on how much “recalculating” she had to do or whether or not she pre-empted driving instructions from the one person in the car who knew where we were going. It was kind of a hoot – from the back seat we’d hear “Turn right up a…” and Garmin would interrupt with a calm, unruffled, “In point two miles, turn left.” At which point, the backseat knitter said, “She’s LYING.” Then Garmin revised her directions, saying, “Turn right and then left.” “AAAAAAAAARGH!” said the knitter in the back. And, Garmin made the driver laugh, which is a good thing, I think.

We went to Wool and Company in Geneva, which is stocked to the gills and rafters with a wide variety of good quality yarn in a stunning range of weights and fibers, along with gifty gimcracks and doodads. I have no pictures from the inside because I was drunk on yarnage. The owners and staff (I have no idea which was which) were delightful. I had a couple of questions on yarn and some premade stuffed knit toys which were for sale, and they answered them promptly, pulled out well-organized pattern books, went in the back to double-check to see if they had some yarn in stock, and they did not hurry anyone. There’s a large, heavy duty table in the center of the store equipped with a ball winder and swift, with several chairs around it to sit and peruse patterns, read through books, consult patterns for yarn requirements, what ever you might want to do. Wool and Company had a very nice supply of patterns from Cottage Creations, the latest and greatest in knitting books, and some old favorites and standards, too.

There were loads of sample items from their classes and made from patterns in stock – dozens of felted purses, clogs, baby sweaters, delightfully crafted scarves, hats, and socks. That was a nice touch – to be able to lay hands on items I have considered making but still felt undecided about.

And the yarns, oh, Lordy, the yarns! Mohair, merino, cashmere, angora, variegated, solids, self-patterning, glittery, lofty, ribbon, and a few novelty fur yarns (but not too many). It was really a good representation of all the yarns I’ve wanted to fondle for a long time, but haven’t had access to, out here in the sticks. The colors were wonderful, and none of the lines or yarn types were represented in a token manner. Sock yarn? Somewhere in the neighborhood of sixteen upright cubes of about 2 feet by 2 feet square, full all the way through. Lots and lots of different brands – Cascade, Koigu, Plymouth, Gedifra, I can’t name them all, but I think they’re listed on the website.

They also had a wonderful, well-stocked array of needles and accessories. I was able to fill in one small blank spot in my needle needs by buying a 16” #2 circular needle for making hats and baby clothes and other small yarn items. They also had the rare, hard to find, glove and mitten needles in small sizes (!), both 7” and 5” dpns, and pretty much any size or type of straight or circular needle you could want, including outliers on either end of the size scale. Lots of point protectors, cable needles, stitch holders, blocking supplies, and several kinds of snips were available, too. It was a really thorough selection of accessories, I thought. I wonder if they do online sales?

We wallowed in yarn for about an hour and a half or more, with no obnoxious intrusions and also without being ignored – a difficult balance, but the staff/owners did it well. The other two gals were more restrained in their purchases, our driver buying enough Koigu to make a lovely shawl, and the other chick picking up some soft Mohair Mist to make a scarf. I had a good stash of cash saved up for yarn binging, so I got myself a big bag full of happy…
These are my sock yarn purchases. The top yarn, of which I bought two, is ZARINA easy care merino extra fine. It's incredibly soft and very gently variegated. There are very short bits of turquoise and cobalt blue in long stretches of baby blue. I think I'll make some socks for Bunny with this yarn. On the lower left is OPAL sock yarn in a colorway which is reminescent of a work of art "Hundertwassers Werk 650 Der Blaue Mond". I'm not familiar with that, but this yarn appears to have lots of lime green and turquoise with bits of gray, red, and cream in it. There's a sock pattern on the inside of the label as well. (This will become socks for the Doodle, and, since I bought two 100 g skeins, something else as well.) On the right is a fairly new sock yarn CHICAGO "Color in Design" in browns and umber. It is almost slippery it's so soft, and I'm looking forward to making socks for Spawn, manly socks, of course, with this one (also two 100 g skeins). Here are some real prizes. All three are 100g skeins of MOUNTAIN COLORS handpainted Bearfoot yarn of 60% superwash wool, 25% mohair and 15% nylon. Two, which are not as red as they look here, are "Bitterroot Rainbow" and the darker one is "Moondance". I can either blend all three together in something wonderful, since it looks like they'll work nicely in combination, or there's enough of each to make socks or a hat or mittens. I just had to get them -- I've wanted to fondle some Mountain Colors for a long time, and it looked like the store might be considering discontinuing the line, or they just sell out quicker than they get replaced. Either way, MINE!!!
These are two VERY reasonably priced wool yarns, the one on the left is PLYMOUTH Outback 100 g Aran or heavy worsted weight in colors of the winter sea -- several blues, a slightly lavendar gray, and green tones. I got four skeins for $16 each (and this is a mondo hank of yarn) to make sure to have enough to make a nice winter sweater for Doodle. Next to it is what is a new yarn to me, NATURALLY NAZARETH aran weight, also 100g, for $8.25 each. Definitely something for Bunny, probably an outerwear set, nice twist to the yarn and while it's not as soft as the others, it's not scratchy or hard, but it should knit well and be durable. The label says 100% domestic wool, so I'll bet it felts pretty well, too.
And, these yarns grabbed ahold of me as I walked by them, screaming to come home with me. Both are SCHAEFER Lola superwash merino, 4 oz. each. On the left is a blaze of autumn colors -- bold orange, yellow, green, and red, all very rich and deep, and on the right is a lush combination of dark blue, dark teal, black, and very deep (not girly) plum. The bright yarn is going to be something happy and snuggly for me, the darker will probably wind up being for the boys. I don't know yet, I just knew I had to grab these yarns and bring them home for a lot of handling!

When we finally staggered out of the store, we decided to go to Little Traveler for lunch. There's a little review of it here, which is dead on. It's a labyrinth of rooms, each one stuffed with large and small doodads on a common theme. Somewhere in the middle is an atrium tea room, where we went for very reasonably priced girl food. It appears to be one of those places where moms and daughters have a family tradition of going for holiday shopping and tea, much as Ellen and I used to go to Field's.

We didn't stop anywhere else, since there was a medical situation in one family, it was a long drive home, and the weather was really threatening. In fact, when we finally did get home, around 3 pm, the clouds burst wide open and it rained like crazy for a long time. We spent that time ooh-ing and aah-ing over each other's yarn, so it wasn't wasted.

Between a Yarn Outing and three doctors appointments with Dad this week, I'm beat. I'm going to put my feet up, cover myself in my new yarn, and bliss out.

Oddball Word of the Day

spindrift (SPIN-drift) n. spray blown along the surface of the sea

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, June 22, 2007

Five Reality Shows

OK, I’m eating crow here, a thing that is becoming less and less common on reality shows, which is why I’ve started watching more of them. Here are my top four plus two contenders as the TV roster stands this summer.

1. Deadliest Catch: Who would think that watching guys fish for crabs would be absorbing? I was sure this was going to be another bang-clang type man show, but it’s not. Although the fellow who does “Dirty Jobs,” Mike Rowe, is in charge of it, he doesn’t show up and make lame puns. He doesn’t even show up in the main show, which now has an offshoot called, “After the Catch”. Or something. Anyway, Deadliest Catch follows several crab fishing ships, their captains and crews through various crab fishing seasons – who knew there were so many kinds that would be commercially viable? —in the Bering Sea.

There’s pack ice, frozen sea water clogging up ships and weighing them down, people falling overboard, intership rivalries and pranks, big crabs, little crabs, helicopters, rogue waves, scary storms, and people being people – trying to do the best they can at what they do. I guess all the captains have gotten to be famous and are a little freaked out about it. I don’t wonder. It’s not what you’d think of as a glamorous job – it’s bound to smell awful, involve a lot of slime and engine grease, and I’m guessing it takes most of them three months in front of a fireplace to feel dried out. Sig’s a cutie, Phil is a dry wit, and there’s some newbie captain who deserves to be frequently pantsed. Give it a try and maybe you’ll wind up trapped in the crab pot, too.

2. Top Chef: I will never in my life, knowingly eat raw Geoduck, and certainly not with pomegranate sauce or a side order of sea urchin risotto. I’m lucky I know how to spell those things. Nevertheless, watching the chefs charge around the kitchen, chopping, sautéing, slathering, setting things on fire (sometimes on purpose) and making huge mistakes is another exercise in human nature in the pursuit of a worthy goal. They sure serve a lot of stuff raw, which makes my maternal soul wince. I’m sure that if you have really excellent health insurance and that ever-useful trust fund, running the risk of intestinal problems for the sake of gourmet cuisine is no problem.

Anyway, when I watch this show, I not only get to vent my inner picky child’s disgust at some of the foods, but I feel like I learn a little about cooking and get some new ideas for things to try to change in my own painfully ordinary kitchen. My husband, a man for whom the phrase “meat and potatoes” constitutes his complete lifetime’s desired menu, is also fascinated by Top Chef. We were both impressed by a handmade seafood sausage containing scallops, sea bass and possibly shrimp, to be served at a snooty barbeque. Go figure.

3. How Clean Is Your House: This is a BBC production with two adorably snarky British women, one little scamp who likes to come off as a household scientist, and a taller gal with starched, bleached, tightly coiffed hair, a rack like a middle-aged Pamela Anderson, and a tendency to call the clients “nasty little buggers” to their faces. They’re called in to clean disastrously grimy homes, they always seem amazed at how filthy the houses are, and, what makes me laugh the hardest is – they run around scooping bits of horribleness onto their fingertips and insisting the other one smell it. The smeller always yells out some very British epithet and then the scientific gal starts taking swabs of things to send back to the lab so they can prod their client to be less nasty in the future by terrifying them with scary sounding science. They have a team of cleaners to come in and do the majority of the scouring, so they don’t pretend to be doing it all themselves. The two gals also offer some nice tips for various bits of cumulative crud removal and general tidiness habits. I like that their cleaning solutions lean heavily towards environmentally friendly things that are affordable and easy to find. It also makes me feel like my house is not so awful, or, as my daughter put it, “Mom, our house has bedhead. THOSE houses are catastrophes!”

4. Project Runway: It’s not back yet, but I’m hoping for another season of getting to watch a bunch of men sitting around sewing and being catty. Where else, eh?

5. The contenders for possible future watching:

On the Lot: A raft of hopeful film makers make short films and are critiqued by Garry Marshall, Carrie Fisher, and a guest name-brand director for the chance at a chunk of money and a chance to work with Steven Spielberg. The shorts I’ve watched were so much like commercials, I kept watching for the product I was going to be urged to buy. A few have been very creative, one or two deep, but the short format does not hold my interest over time. Garry Marshall is a class act, Carrie Fisher is mostly incoherent, and the guest directors have been either emo/self-absorbed or really outstanding in their critiques. The MC is a twit and they make her wear unflattering clothing, which is either blatantly slutty or fits so badly I can’t tell if she’s pregnant or has hip dysplasia. They also spend 2/3 of every show saying the same damn thing about calling in, over and over and over, until I leave the room and miss the rest of the shorts out of sheer annoyance. I hope they fix that, or a promising show will bomb due to viewer fatigue and irritation.

Hell’s Kitchen: OK, I don’t like hearing people yelled at by some hysterical rage fanatic, being humiliated, or treated like dirt. That’s why this show is on the edge with me, and also probably why it’s called Hell’s kitchen. I do enjoy the bits where the contestants talk about each other, working as a team, how they support each other, and the recipes, which are not as outlandish or impossible as the ones on Top Chef. Sometimes the Screamer in Chief has nice moments where he behaves as a mentor, and those are OK. My inner snark has moments of malicious glee watching the contestants trash talk or undermine each other in their alpha dog struggles.

OK, despite the TV talk, I’m heading out to deadhead petunias and mail some bill payments. Have a great weekend!

Oddball Word of the Day

Babbitt (BAB-it): n. a complacent person who conforms unthinkingly to middle-class standards

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

German Idiom for Friday

kein Sitzfleisch haben: to have no staying power

zB: Das Erlernen einer Fremdsprache macht Spass, ist jedoch auch anstrengend und zeitraubend. Wer kein Sitzfleisch hat, schafft es night.

auf Englisch: Learning a foreign language is fun but it is also demanding and time-consuming. A person who has no staying power won't succeed in it.

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)

Daily Meditations

There are a lot of books out there with daily meditations. Most of them annoy me. If I were SWATFAY (Single With a Trust Fund and Young), they’d probably be worthy and useful, but mostly they read like Zen Koan to me. When I’m standing over a washing machine, adding soap, pondering the sound of one hand clapping makes me feel like adding bleach to the darks load more often than not.

Yonks ago, I read Be Here Now by Baba Ram Dass, which was OK in its time and place. A friend gave me meditations for AlAnon members, which mystified me a little since neither she nor I had alcoholics in our families, but I read a few entries anyway and tried to squeeze meaning out of it. Eventually, I got to the point of wanting to add it to the bleached darks load, so it’s sitting in a drawer somewhere, waiting for me to stick it in an envelope and return it to her. Also, there seemed to be a lot talking about barf in it, which is just yucky.

My sister sent me a book on daily meditations for grace. That’s OK, too, but I think it is better for my single sister (no trust fund, alas), and my brother in law sent me a book about fuzzy slippers and mediations, which a friend of his wrote and he probably got free. It was worth every nickel and, to be nice, probably a couple of bucks if I were buying it remaindered, which is the only time I’d even contemplate adding another stack o’pondering to my daily “must read” list.

There is one book on daily meditations that I do read pretty regularly. I bought it for a dime at a used bookstore, and I got my money’s worth within 5 minutes of opening the cover. It’s The Language of Letting Go: Daily Meditations for Codependents by Melody Beattie, and it supplements her books Codependent No More and Beyond Codependency (available on Amazon). I think it’s great, and I have recommended it often to the other women in my support group.

As a short recap, my group is comprised of women who suffered abuse as either children or adults or both. The abuse was profound, repetitive, durative, and life altering for all of us. Some were sexually abused, others physically, and all of us have had an unspeakable amount of emotional abuse to deal with over our lifetimes. All of us are middle-aged or older, and we’re all in different phases of recovery. We’ve all got “complex PTSD” as part of our diagnoses, and it’s that aspect that led to having lived codependent lives for us. You can read up on it here, if you want.

Nevertheless, we’re in group to shed the lingering effects of whatever we survived, and for me, the Beattie meditations are often spookily apt, and very frequently enlightening. I’ve been reading it for almost two years now, and you’d think I’d be fully enlightened, but I’m not. I need reminders of how to stay out of the vortex of codependence. I need a cheering section, and I need frequent readjustments to any “stinkin’ thinkin’” I might fall into out of a lifetime of dealing with codependence. The daily entries are not just short, pithy statements out of which I’m supposed to extrapolate huge meanings over the course of a day, they’re paragraphs and mini-essays with a little summary at the end of each, they’re specific to a particular thought or aspect of codependency, and I enjoy them every day.

I also find they spur me to do more reflection on my own past and experiences than any other meditations books I’ve encountered, and that wee summary is something my calcified old brain can hang onto for the better part of a day, letting me move from thought to action. And that’s really the key for me, moving from merely thinking the thought and agreeing with the point being made, to turning that into action, day after day, to make real changes, lasting changes, permanent changes that I need to make.

So, while you might not luck into a copy for a dime, maybe, if you think it would be useful, a copy in your hands could become as well-worn and Post-It flagged as mine is. Here’s the thought for today:

Relationship Martyrs

Many of us have gone so numb and discounted our feelings so completely that we have gotten out of touch with our needs in relationships.

We can learn to distinguish whose company we enjoy, whether we’re talking about friends, business acquaintances, dates, or spouses. We all need to interact with people we might prefer to avoid, but we don’t have to force ourselves through long-term or intimate relationships with these people.

We are free to choose friends, dates, spouses. We are free to choose how much time we spend with those people we can’t always choose to be around, such as relatives. This is our life. This is it. We can decide how we want to spend our days and hours. We’re not enslaved. We’re not trapped. And not one of us is without options. We may not see our options clearly. Although we may have to struggle through shame and learn to own our power, we can learn to spend our valuable hours and days with the people we enjoy and choose to be with.

God, help me value my time and life. Help me place value on how I feel being around certain people. Guide me as I learn to develop healthy, intimate, sharing relationships with people. Help me give myself the freedom to experiment, explore, and learn who I am and who I can be in my relationships.

Thanks, Melody, for making it real.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Oddball Word of the Day

cognoscenti (kno-yeh-SCHEN-tee) n. pl. (sing. : cognoscente [kon-yeh-SHEN-tee]) : those who are well informed or have superior knowledge in a particular subject, esp. fine arts or literature

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It’s Not Just Me

Sometimes I get to thinking that I am the only person in the universe who views something in a particular way. Then I feel a little odd, and I start to doubt myself. The last couple of weeks, I’ve felt a little off about my worries about the local school system. I’m mostly concerned about the high school for a couple of reasons:

1. As of this Fall, that’s where my two school aged kids will be.

2. For over a decade, the emphasis there has been on sports over academics to a seriously negative extent; passing grades in classes for team players even when they don’t show up, burned out teachers babysitting while students do nothing or talk, painfully low standards, etc. If you’ve watched John Stossel’s “Stupid in America”, subtract the music and sprinkle a few more team jerseys around, and that’s the high school. (Note: NOT an endorsement of Stossel)

3. All the students know it’s like that there, and very few of them care. They like slacker classes because they can socialize all the time and get good grades for it. The fact that they will then flunk out of college doesn’t dawn on their adolescent minds. Never underestimate the mental laziness of teenagers when it comes to thinking ahead.

4. The adults like to talk about how great the school is, and bringing up anything to the contrary is like being a toad on a frosted turd. They like their illusions just fine, and they don’t want anyone squatting there, croaking to the contrary.

5. All my kids are smart nerds.

6. A large percentage of the honors classes are a joke.

So, unless I’m feeling unusually belligerent, I tend to let others reveal their thoughts, should the topic come up before I decide whether or not to publicly take a stance. Sometimes I shut up and wait for my teeth to grow through my brain and kill me, so I won’t have to listen to any more crapola; other times I sigh and speak up. I find agreement in small groups of parents with other smart kids, which is the best I can hope for.

I had a surprise today when I took Doodle in for his high school physical. We had the Other doctor in a two-doctor office, since our usual doctor was out of town. We moseyed on into the examination room, and the doctor and nurse came in shortly thereafter. He asked why we were there, we told him, and he asked if Doodle was going to the local high school. He then asked if he was into sports. Doodle said that he kind of hated sports and was more of a math and science nerd.

The doctor then said, “Well, you’re going to have a rough time of it at the high school. They’re pretty sports oriented over there. My wife and I moved into another school district so our kids wouldn’t have to go there and could go to a school where the honors classes had some value. We were glad we did so; our kids did well and are doing just fine in college.”

I chimed in the we were hoping to get Doodle into IMSA for 10-12, and the doctor agreed that that would be a good idea if he’s good in math and science, reiterating that the local high school is a bad choice for smart, ambitious kids.

This bowled me over. It’s been more like “Friday Night Lights” or whatever the name of the football series is/was around here. Sports are a form of entertainment for the adults of the community, and, up until we got out from under the yoke of an oppressively successful football coach, there was never any hope of it ever being any other way. Many people liked it that way and were very vocal about their preferences.

That’s changing, bit-by-bit. While the Big Tail was wagging the school, I could have easily had my house vandalized, my husband would have lost business, my kids would have been physically bullied, and my dog poisoned for openly speaking as the doctor did. Maybe he, too, feels a little freer to talk about his disgust with the school; I know I do. And so do other people, who are, a little at a time and in small increments, beginning to let their dissatisfaction be heard.

There was one mom who wrote into the paper about a practice of bartering grades for goods at the school. I’ve found a couple of other moms starting to question the content of the classes in light of the low standardized scores the school has on the NAEP (you can find results for your own state) and the ACT (with a very informative report on troubling changes). Parents whose kids have taken a full roster of honors classes and gotten good grades are wondering aloud why their kids are only scoring average or below average on the ACT. But the doctor was unusual, and a very, very, very welcome breath of untainted air. It was nice.

And, now for something completely different, it’s Festival time in my little town. All summer long we have one Fest after another. A beloved food feature of all the Fests is this kiosk, whose sign makes me giggle and think of Larry Bud Melman and his toast on a stick….

Oddball Word of the Day

limbate (LIM-bate) adj. having a different-colored border, esp. of flowers

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, June 18, 2007


Well, I’m making some progress towards the things I wanted to do this summer. Bunny now has the requisite hours behind the wheel to get her driver’s license, although I’d like to take her out for a few more hours, particularly at night, to really cement some of her skills in before I send her off on her own.

The kids have been helping me with weed lopping, despite a full week’s worth of mid and upper 90 degree weather. As long as I keep the time spent outside under an hour and in the cool of the late afternoon, they don’t argue too much. We’ve cleared maybe a fourth of the yard of weed trees and some unexpected thistles.

One of the things that I’m fighting in the weeding is some leftover “help” the kids gave when they were tiny. A few years ago, I invested in some hearty grass seed from Gardens Alive. I was using a hand spreader to distribute it in the front yard, and I had to come inside for a pit stop. I handed the spreader to Doodle, who was under ten, to hold upright until I came back. He proceeded to heavily seed a flower bed with grass seed, and it has taken off like a house afire. Last year we did some serious cutting of trees that were thinking hard about dying or already dead, and now I can finally get to the deeply rooted grass seed. I’m having to use Round Up to discourage it, too. Urk.

And, the Yarn Crawl is scheduled for next week. Whee!

I’m not doing so well on finding somewhere to contemplate water or help Dood with his writing on demand. Bit by bit, though, as we can.

Oddball Word of the Day

ceteris paribus (SET-err-is PAIR-ih-bus) latin other things being equal

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Friday Five – King of the Forest

Every time I watch “The Wizard of Oz” I snicker when the lion character dons a ratty looking robe and crown and takes up a scepter and sings, “When I am the King of the Forrrrreeeest!” I don’t know why, I just do. So many of his pronouncements and speculative edicts are silly or impossible, and along those lines, here are my silly and nonsensical speculative edicts for when I am (gendered titling aside) King of the Forrrrreeeest!

1. No more political parties. I am so sick of politicians toeing the party line and the ordinary, generally independent schlubs among us getting shafted for thinking we ought to be governed by good sense rather than ideological agendas. So, no more Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, or whatevers. Anyone attempting to form a political party will be sentenced to 30 days in jail with Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, Kevin Federline, and Kato Kaelin, a collection of the most useless and self-absorbed users I can think of, so that, perhaps, wisdom and insight will strike them, and they’ll figure out what they, the political organizers, look like to the rest of us. It’ll probably be an eye-opener for their fellow inmates, too, but I’m not counting on that.

Candidates for office will have to fill out a form which asks questions of a basic nature concentrated on issues pertaining to the office they’d like to hold. They must answer in 250 words or less, and they will be held legally accountable, should they be elected, for holding true to these “promise” forms. If they deviate, engage in pandering to special interests, or merely piss me off, they get to go hang out for a “learning experience” in jail with a crowd of narsty exemplars of my choosing. Right now, I think Karl Rove would get to hang out for the better part of a year with Josef Mengele, Svengali, and Dr. Mesmer, and all of them would be under orders from me to Change His Mind about a number of things. I get to resurrect dead people as KoF, too.

2. No more celebrity news circuses. A little reportage is fine, but all day fests about people who are or were famous for excessive boobage, bad reputations, sorry behavior, criminal antics, being mean to other people, drunk, disorderly, royal, or any other thing that seems to fascinate our shallow infotainment news media, are banned now and forever. One or two line news blurbs, such as “Arrested for drunken driving, Mel Gibson made a number of racist remarks. He will be appearing in court on May 2.” If anyone wants more information, they can go to a website, buy a scandal magazine, or call his publicist. And no more speculating about anything on a news station or news channel. It would have to be a separate program, which clearly states that there will be references to news drowning in large pools of mostly witless and self-serving speculation.

3. School boards have to have balanced budgets or overages will be garnished on evenly distributed percentages from the members’ personal income until the overrun is paid back. I think that would pretty much fix the fact that my tax bill is 180% of what it was last year, and almost entirely due to one of three school districts getting cashola from my property taxes. They just keep selling bonds, manipulating finances, and adding school hours and programs with no regard for the taxpayers whatsoever, raising their share of my taxes without hesitation or conscience. I’m so sick of hearing “it’s for the children” when it’s really greedy or stupid adults with no understanding of the consequences of their actions. I, being a person of sense, think it’s more important for children to have a roof over their heads, food on the dinner table, and health care. If their parents are having to use credit cards, take out second mortgages, delay paying bills, and spend a lot of time arguing and creating a stressful environment for the kids, all because the tax bills are doubling, then that’s not really “for the children”, is it? (grumble, snort)

4. Congress has to do the same thing, and this time we’ll be garnishing the income and seizing the holdings of lobbyists (who will be abolished), Congresscritters, the administration – including past presidents who contributed to the debt (Welcome to workin’ for minimum wage, George! Yes, I would like fries with that!) and their appointees. By my completely speculative calculations, that would bring most of them down to the level of middle-class in terms of living standard, and then they’d have to get real jobs to pay the mortgages on their houses. Property taxes would be reasonable, though, because of #3 above. I am a compassionate KoF.

5. Lifetime achievement awards with annuities guaranteeing a modest standard of living for the rest of their lives to between 10 and 100 Americans per year for amazing innovations that:
a) recycle existing stuff, any kind of stuff, in environmentally friendly,
creative, and durable ways.
b) significantly contribute, in measurable ways, to the common good in
pretty much any area I decide is important, and for
c) whistleblowers in government, industry, whatever, where clandestine wrongs
are being perpetrated against the populace, important information is being
withheld, machinations are happening, etc. These people do not deserve to
be blacklisted and demeaned, they deserve to be rewarded for doing what is

As KoF, I intend to REWARD THE BEHAVIOR I WISH TO ENCOURAGE. There would also be funding available for promising research.

Well, that was fun. I should probably go let the dog in and wipe down the kitchen counters again. Have a great weekend!

Oddball Word of the Day

sautoir: (soh-TWAHR) n. 1. a chain, scarf, ribbon, etc., fastened around the neck with the ends crossing at the front, 2. a chain or ribbon bearing a pendant for wearing around the neck.

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

German Idiom for Friday

reinen Tisch machen: to clear the air

zB: Dein veraergertes Schweigen halte ich nicht mehr aus. Lass uns die Angelegenheit besprechen und reinen Tisch machen.

auf Englisch: I can't stand your angry silence any longer. Let's discuss the matter and clear the air.

Origin: The picture is of a table having been cleared of dishes. By extension, the meaning is a"a fresh start".

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Knit Void

It’s 95 degrees out, and the only thing I’m knitting is my eyebrows. I’ll be off to Chix tonight, and we’ll be planning our Yarn Crawl. Maybe I can avoid knitting myself into heat stroke there, too, what with fiddling with my planner and adding in a new skein of yard and fidgeting with my Velcro closure on my project bag. Conversation is distracting, too. There is air conditioning, of course, but some days are so hot that the high temperature lethargy leaks right into cool rooms and knocks me out anyway!

Oddball Word of the Day

psychopomp (SIGH-koh-pomp) n. someone who conducts the souls of the dead to the next world, as Charon in classical mythology

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Snark: And here I thought all the good jobs were taken.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

All Likkered Up

Before Jeff Foxworthy got famous for his show “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?” he made some cameo appearances on sitcoms. I particularly remember him on “Designing Women”, back in the last century, when he played Dixie Carter’s mentally unstable brother. He had some great lines. One of my favorites was:

“ ‘Naked’ is when you got no clothes on. ‘Nekkid’ is when you got no clothes on and yer up to something’.”

Sometimes slang has really good linguistic flavor. My personal favorite is liquor versus likker. Liquor is commercially distilled or fermented, sold in a bottle, and can make an excellent gift for someone you’re not well acquainted with but want to make a nice impression on. There are ads for liquor on TV.

Likker has far more meanings than liquor. There’s pot likker, the liquid meat, poultry, vegetables or some combination of them has been simmered in. It’s nearly as thick as gravy, full of vitamins and flavor, and you keep it around for the next batch of chicken or new potatoes to add more flavor to them. If it’s meaty and your Momma or Grandmomma made it, it can heal the sick, bring sight to the blind, sober up a mean drunk, and make menfolk sermonize on the wonders of God and Mommas right at the dinner table.

Then there’s the other likker. The other likker is found in bottles occasionally, jugs more often, and rinsed out jars most often. It might be homemade, it might be storebought, but it’s always bad news and in the province of things men do that make women yell at them. If you make your own likker, be it elderberry wine or moonshine, some woman somewhere is going to swat you good and hard with a dishrag when she finds out about it. Teenage boys will steal swigs of your likker and get stupid and puke out the back of the pickup truck. And if you drink too much of this likker, you might get punished for your sins by not getting any of the pot likker with your chicken and dumplings and have to suffer through a Sunday sermon and a long, hot afternoon with a blinding hangover and sour gizzard.

And, there’s a third likker for little kids. It usually involves a puppy and goes like this…

Son (aged 7-12): (banging on door) Momma! Let me in RAT now! I’m in a terrible state!

Momma: (opening door) Good Lord, Beanbag (or some other southern nickname), what on earth’s the matter? You’re hasslin’ (panting) and sweating and covered in dirt clods! What CAN you have been doing?

Son: (sits in a chair and wipes forehead with back of hand) Oh, Momma, I need some tea RAT now. I’m ‘bout done in. I thought I’d never get home safe!

Momma: (looking very concerned) Glory be. Here’s your tea. Now, do tell, son.

Son: Momma, you know how Daddy told me to feed and water them gun dogs for Uncle Toad every day, right?

Momma: Um-hmm?

Son: Well, Daddy didn’t tell me that the red bitch had a litter of eight puppies a couple of months ago, or maybe I didn’t remember it, and they’re weaned and full of spit and vinegar now.

Momma: Well, what happened?

Son: Momma, I got there and I saw those puppies, and you know puppies are all friendly and cute, so I filled up the food and water troughs and then figured I’d get in there and scratch those puppies and see if one of them looked like he’d be a good dog for me.

Momma: Oh, dear.

Son: Yep. Well, I got in there, and I hunkered down and started petting and scratching first one puppy and then another, and then next thing I know, they had knocked me down and all eight of them were crawling and jumping all over me, drooling and slobbering and loving on me until I was just about completely likkered up!

Momma: (trying very hard not to snort with laughter) Likkered up?

Son: You know, they got to licking and slobbering and drooling, and I was rolling around in the dirt trying to get away from them without being mean, and I was feeling about as dizzy as Uncle Toad gets from time to time. I figured I needed to get some tea in me before I started stumbling and needing to set down and nap a while like Uncle Toad does when you get mad and tell him to go home if he’s likkered up and clean hisself up and not come back ‘til he’s decent! I guess them puppies must knock Uncle Toad down and likker him up a couple times a week!

Momma: (mentally slapping her head) Well. I don’t think you’re in any danger of that, Beanbag, but you might want to go hose some of that dirt off and then come back for the rest of your tea and some of my gingersnaps that ought to be done by the time you’re all cleaned up.

Son: You bet! (runs off to remove a layer of topsoil)

Momma: (sighs) Oh, my goodness. (snorts) Likkered up, indeed.

Oddball Word of the Day

nuque (NOOOOK) n. the back of the neck

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Small Town Blog Wars Revisited

Oh, politics and religion, what rich meals they do make! There are a few anonymous comments on these blogs about sex, too, since we have one (count it, ONE) naughty store in town with books, toys and videos. I think I read a comment about a “full service” massage parlor, too, but I’m easily confused. Or at least easily amused.

Nevertheless, blog wars are a’cookin’ in my diddly poop town. We have a good Christian idyllic town blog, PosMo, which, far from being completely saccharine and obliviously positive, has instead a missing sense of irony, which results in posts about how crappy the town is and how we can fix it. It also offers occasional pompous hypocrisy to the readers and commenters to “keep it positive”. A sarcastic counterblog, which points out some of the glaring inconsistencies at Posmo in an occasionally funny way, particularly with visual scorn, is CounterPosMo .

Then we have the “objective” blog, which thus far has spent most of its electrons on bashing the local newspaper. It needs bashing. I can’t figure out if there are no grownups working at the paper or if everyone they hire is just so damned incompetent that they come off as drugged out rejects from spelling and grammar bees. Read more at SkepMo.

We have an angry philosopher at HypMo who apparently had a point to make and then quit philosophizing, and we have the reserved, “we’re above it all” issue blog DocMo. DocMo purports to be trying to expose the corruption in our local hospital. Well, they’re kind of exposing it, except they really don’t want to expose it because that would be a “media circus” which, being so reserved and lofty, they’re above doing. So, I guess it’s more of a specialized venting blog.

If you want to get down and dirty and call a spade a spade, there’s SledgeMo , where you’re more likely to find a little hard-hitting reportage and attitude sorely missing from our local paper. Speaking of which, the Morris Daily Herald has three utterly useless personal massage blogs, linkable through here on the right hand side of the page if you scroll down a little. SledgeMo has mastered the art of small town snark and provides a forum for additional snarkage, which is strangely interesting.

Slicker and sleeker, and clearly more experienced in designing a blog, is an “I’m running for office because I’m swell” blog, MercMo . In contrast, we have MumbleMo, a blog that was probably intended to show the reasoning behind Good Old Boy decision making, but winds up with its feet tied up in its own lousy, long-winded and ultimately boring-as-all-snot writing. Short, declarative sentences for the general public, peeps – I’m just sayin’, y’know?

The oldest of these blogs is SkepMo, starting in February of 2006 with 72 posts to date. Most of the others, well, all of the others, are only a couple of months old with, generally, fewer than 10 posts. A couple of them are already moribund; the blogger has seemingly adequately expressed his or her motivating opinion and has nothing more to offer. I look at the rest of these blogs, and I see blogs that will die, probably pretty quickly, when either the blogger has finished venting or finds their issue resolved.

That causes me to look over my own blog, the only personal, individual blog that I’ve found from my town, and assess some things. When and why did I start blogging? What are my underlying motives? How am I doing? What’s the likelihood of longevity, here in this ephemeral medium?

In general, I think I’m doing pretty well. I’ve been blogging for about a year, and I’ve generated nearly 500 posts, about half of which are odd or dead words or some German idiom, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted those as my sole entry for the day – they’re usually accompanied by some personal verbiage. I’ve skipped weekends so as to have a life, and a couple of times I’ve had to take a longer vacation and put more time into that life to keep it chugging along. And, still, I write. I’ve had a lot of positive comments, I haven’t dumped any comments except for spam, and one of my posts has transitioned into print media.

I started blogging at the urging of some e-quaintances on a mail list. I was probably holding forth a great deal on that list and either they hoped to deflect me or encourage me to hold forth in a more accessible forum. I could have chosen to not do so just as easily as I chose to do so. In the past, I have had some success in writing for print media – usually a niche market, predominantly domestic humor. I found, much to my surprise, that I was even briefly mentioned in a dissertation on domestic humor, which made its way to mass market publication, “Merry Wives and Others”, which put me in august company, indeed. I’ve written random posts to various email lists for nearly 20 years now, and a number of them have been picked up for use in newsletters, Mensa publications and websites, and I’ve taken other posts, turned them into essays and those have gotten published, too

But, life interfered with what could have been an increasingly engaging pseudo career from home. I’ve lost my voice from time to time, and then, via email, I find it again. Blogging offered me an opportunity to revive my voice and take more control of keeping it in tune and in practice, so I did.

I have hopes of keeping it up. I could be doing more things better – I could be aggressively linking elsewhere, attempting to seek syndication, really dogging for more exposure. Maybe further along the road, I will. For now, I’m singing my writing scales until I’m comfortable with them.

And, there’s something I’ve noticed about blogs in my Internet treks. Issues blogs die young and without warning, like car crash victims. They run out of steam. Snarky blogs die even faster because, I think, the bloggers find out that snark is not very interesting, not even to them, after a few posts. Small political blogs, and even big, famous ones, make themselves easy to ignore because of spin. The blogs that last have humor, insight and human interest which help increase their hit counts. More importantly, they last because the bloggers write. It’s wonderful having a readership, even nicer having an increasing readership, and writing is an asynchronous form of communication, without question. But the real motivation, the real key to longevity, is how much the writer wants to write. And I do, it’s as important a part of who I am as the other hats I wear – mom, knitter, gardening nincompoop, Mensan, parrot owner, wife, and so on.

So, I’ll be here for some time more, and I hope you will be, too. And, if your town doesn’t have any blogs, feel free to visit those from my town; maybe they’ll make you laugh, groan, or start one of your own.

Oddball Word of the Day

cupule (KYOO-pyool) n. a cup-shaped process, as in the acorn

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Note: I'm not sure I get this definition -- how is an acorn a process? "Hi, I'm just standing around engaged in an acorn!"???

Monday, June 11, 2007

In the Gloaming

When the weather gets hot and dry, I like to be outside in the gloaming. For those of you old enough to have parents raised in the Depression, they may remember their parents singing “Roaming in the Gloaming”. The lyrics and a one-minute a cappella sample of this old folk tune are here.

I get nostalgic in the summer. Growing up in Virginia, we had a lot of summer. There was lots of hot summer weather in North Carolina, too, where we went to visit my mom’s side of the family. These vacations were never vacations in the sense of going somewhere to relax and pamper ourselves. These were working vacations, where we’d pitch in with the folks we stayed with and work alongside of them.

And we worked. I used to wear bandannas every day during the summer, and they were not a fashion statement. I’d have the front of the bandanna pulled about a third of the way down my forehead in front, and tied tight behind my ears, down at the back of my head. I’d have my hair in a ponytail once it was long enough, to keep it off my neck, and then I’d sometimes wear a baseball hat with a farm goods name on it over all of that. It sounds hot, but it did a bodacious job of keeping salty, stinging sweat from running into my eyes.

We’d start early in the day with whatever work was to be done, to get it underway before the heat of the day rose, so that we couldn’t abandon the chore that was already half-done. We’d have a light breakfast with biscuits and fatback or a piece of fried baloney, with coffee for the grownups and a slug of sweet tea for the kids. And, off we’d go, usually to pick something – snap peas, lima beans, berries, corn, butterbeans, field peas, or we’d go fishing, serious fishing, for food we’d eat that night.

Or we’d do some work in exchange for food – weed someone’s victory garden, and those were big gardens, and pull nasty horned caterpillars and other pests off the plants in exchange for a couple of brown grocery sacks of some crop that was in abundance. Sometimes we’d work in exchange for spicy, homemade breakfast sausage in fat rolls, which would get cut into short two-inch lengths and fried up the next morning. We’d fight off sand flies and mosquitoes, run from bees, get dirt under our fingernails, and usually find a pebble in our shoes by the time we got home, hot, sweaty, crabby, and stinky.

If we helped someone bring in a crop, like tobacco, then the adults got paid in cash. They’d give us a couple bucks for pocket money and keep the rest. My family didn’t need the money, but my mother’s side of the family needed the help. Too many generations of farming at the edge of subsistence, and too little education combined for long, hard lives for them. They were too proud to take the cash; they’d have been hurt or offended if my folks had offered it to them. Instead, we’d buy groceries for their freezers, or they’d let us take them out for treats like an ice cream cone or a lemonade and a relaxing drive on a Sunday afternoon. And we worked with them, to bring in bigger crops, process more food faster, and do what we could to help them through the lean months when there were no crops to pick and jobs were scarce and too far away to get to.

I caught my Dad one time, dropping a $20 bill under the edge of the bed as we were packing to leave. I started to point it out to him, and he shushed me. After we were underway and stopped for lunch, he quietly told me over the lunch table that he did that because he knew my aunt would find the money while she was putting fresh sheets on the bed, and she’d understand it was for something special and wouldn’t say anything about it, just put it to good use.

Anyway, by early evening, we’d have showered and changed into freshly laundered clothes that still smelled of sunshine from drying on the line. Dinner would have been a tasty farmer’s meal of, usually, chicken in some form – fried, boiled with dumplings, or stewed with vegetables, 5 or 6 side dishes – sliced beefsteak tomatoes, field peas and butterbeans flavored with bacon grease or fatback, hot water cornbread, cucumbers, which were still warm from the vine, pickles put up the preceding summer, maybe some hard-boiled eggs, fried okra, corn on the cob, or yellow crookneck squash fried with onions and bacon drippings. Then there’d be something fruity for dessert – homemade peach pie, apple pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie, or just fresh fruit – peaches, watermelon, cantaloupe, or cold berries. We’d eat ourselves stupid, somehow, in between lots of conversation and jokes and teasing each other, and wash it all down with sweet tea.

We would creakily haul ourselves outside to sit out on the porch swing or a glider in the gloaming, when the sun was barely set, the air temperature dropped significantly, and a cool breeze would spring up. The older ladies would stay inside to clean up the dishes, drink a little coffee and gossip. We kids would head out front with our dads and uncles. If there were a lot of family members around, someone would be sitting on the porch steps, leaning against the support post. Someone else would be perched on a footstool, leaning back against the front wall of the house. We’d each have a cold glass of sweet tea or, if we were feeling prosperous, a “Co-Coler” or a Dew.

It was quiet and peaceful, out in the blue of early evening, with the sounds of crickets and frogs waking up for the night. June bugs would crazily fly into things – the side of the house, a stump, a post, or a person, but there was always the same loud thunk, a noise too loud for something that small. After we’d gotten cooled down, someone would start telling jokes, or a story from their childhood, and the rest of us would ooh and ahh and chuckle. The moms and aunts would join us as the evening grew darker, sometimes still wiping their workworn hands on a dishtowel as they came, fussing slightly over something, through the creaky screen door. The men would get up so the ladies could sit, we kids would sit on the floor, and after a little desultory conversation and teasing, someone would start singing.

They were always simple songs, songs they had learned as children, maybe in church, maybe as lullabies, maybe as cadence songs to help them work long hours in the fields. Those of us who hadn’t heard them before would listen carefully, our eyes closed, feeling the cool night air tickling across our tired, browned limbs, and join in when we could remember enough of the just-heard chorus.

It was beautiful music, sung by a crowd of people I loved and who loved me back, just for being. It was a way to wind the day down, bringing peace within to match the peace of the evening, taking us away from our aching muscles, sunburnt noses and sore, torn fingers. Simple music, to be sung by any voice of any age; good words about things we knew or might like to know, to take us away from ourselves, just a little.

So, I like to go out in the gloaming, as the day turns to night. I can sit in a chair or on my glider, listen to the birds sing good-bye to the day and the crickets and frogs sing hello to the night. I hear music, very faint and far away some evenings, from the good, safe days of my childhood. The dew falls and the humidity rises, and I sometimes tap my foot or hum or even sing quietly to myself as the stars come out. Until someone comes looking for me, and I need to go back inside to my life in the present, I can relive those too-few days of hard work and summer nights in the South.

My family would have liked this song by Alison Krauss, beautiful footage and the song Down to The River to Pray.

Oddball Word of the Day

valetudinarian (Val-eh-Tood-eh-Ner-ee-an) n. 1. an invalid, 2, someone obsessed with his poor health

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Five Things I’d Like To Do This Summer

1. Help my risk-averse daughter get her driver’s license. She’s 17 and had the behind-the-wheel teacher from hell. It scared her off of driving for several months, and then she started driving with hubs, a person organically deprived of patience because of his ADHD. They were driving in snowy, icy weather, and had some very slippery, sliding encounters with the pavement. The best experience they had was when hubs had her driving around a church parking lot and had her deliberately go into a slide. They wound up stuck deeply into a snow bank at the edge of the parking lot. Fortunately, a wedding was just ending so they were rescued by men in tuxedos. So, the sum total, as my daughter wryly puts it, of her experience of learning of drive with Dad, is that if you get in trouble, you’ll be rescued by men in tuxes.

It’s probably also somewhat my fault that both my driving age kids are so cautious behind the wheel. I have no doubt that on more than one sleep-deprived day whilst driving them all somewhere in the momvan, I pulled to the side of the road as a result of their rambunciousness and hollered, “I’m steering a thousand pounds of rolling, steel death here! Can you please quit pulling the wings off of each other and be quiet?” I’m guessing that kind of yelling would have a lingering effect.

Anyway, I figure I’ll take Bunny out on the deserted country roads and let her learn the mechanics and techniques of merely driving until she has more confidence and skill and then we’ll try some encounters with traffic. That worked OK with Spawn, so I can only hope.

2. Hang out near water. That probably doesn’t sound like much of a goal. I do live near a river, but I don’t like it. It’s a stinky river, and it’s busy with boaters who drink and holler, and jetskiers who drink, holler and vroom. I’m thinking of something more along the lines of both a largish lake and at least an overnight stay. I need to stare at a large body of water for a little while. It’s very calming on the one hand, and invigorating on the other. Plus, it would be a nice change of pace from thinking about my sandy, weedy yard.

3. Speaking of weeds, I’d like to cut the big ones down. We get a lot of mulberry and Siberian elm hopefuls, and I really want to cut them down and poison their stumps to discourage them. We have a big yard, so it could conceivably take me a summer to conscientiously get rid of all of them. I think it’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge – I get all the way to the other end and then have to start over again.

4. Yarn Crawl! It’s in the works with my small cadre of sister knitters from Chix, and we’re hoping to head north at the end of the month and work our way back south from yarn store to yarn store, fondling the fuzzies and critiquing the patterns along the way. There will, perhaps, be girl food midday.

5. Work with Doodle on learning to write on demand. The kid is brilliant in mathematics and science – always in the 99th percentile, but put him in front of an on the spot essay or extended response demand and he reacts as if someone had hit him with a “Petrificus Totalis” spell – locks right up, his brain frosts over, and you’d swear that if inertia weren’t working for him, he’d topple right to the floor and shatter like glass once he landed. He now has a “thing” about it, an aversion that kicks in because he’s had problems with this particular situation for so long, and the aversion is part of the problem. He does work well with a planned strategy or the literary equivalent of a formula, and I’ve looked up a few on the web, mostly from colleges. He’s going to have to take the SAT when he applies to IMSA, so he’ll need this skill, at least to some extent. It’s not that I have a desire for him to become a wonderful writer; I want to help him get past the blockage and be able to write a modestly acceptable response. Wish me luck.

Have a great weekend!

Oddball Word of the Day

prurient (PRUHR-ee-ehnt) adj. 1) having, given to, or causing lewd thoughts, 2) full of changing desires, itching curiosity, or an abnormal craving

(from the MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

German Idiom for Friday

das Geld zum Fenster hinauswerfen: to pour money down the drain

zB: Kauf deiner Nichte das teure Spielzeug nicht. In zwei Wochen wird sein Reiz schon vorbei sein, und dann ist dein Geld zum Fenster hinausgeworfen.

auf Englisch: Don't buy your niece that expensive toy. In two weeks its novelty will have worn off and then your money will have been poured down the drain.

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Only Children

I have a fairly new friend who’s the mother of an only child, a friend of my daughter. I like both of them just fine. Except there’s this little switch somewhere in my mind that flips when I hear or think “only child” that turns on a sign, much like the EXIT signs in a movie theater. This particular sign says “Enmeshment”.

I don’t think it’s a guarantee that every only child is going to have an enmeshed relationship with one or both of their parents. It’s just a warning of potential sign, which is not limited to only child situations. And, of all the things possible that can happen in parent-child relationships, there are degrees, some more harmful than others. Some enmeshment is silent and insidious, some is overt and obvious, sometimes the kids don’t realize what’s going on any more than the parent does, sometimes the kid feels it when they get older and want to undergo normal separation, sometimes there are so many benefits, particularly material ones, that the kid consciously participates in maintaining the enmeshment. I don’t think any truly loving parent means to get so overly involved in their child’s life that they start occupying their emotional space. I think sometimes, it’s just a thing that happens.

In my own history, I have distinct reasons for being sensitive to enmeshment. My mother was so completely absorbed in my older sister’s life that she pretty much ruined my sister’s chance to have healthy, normal relationships. For my sister, Mom was constantly telling her what to do, what to think, what to wear, doing mind-reading that was largely egocentrically reflective of Mom’s state of mind or motivations. She’d spend hours and hours brainwashing my sister. There were secondary consequences, too – she had my sister convinced for years that the normal state of affairs in a relationship was for the other partner to be obsessed and completely preoccupied with what my sister wanted, thought, felt, might think, and that the other person should be able to read her mind to know her wants. It was scary sometimes, even after my sister moved thousands of miles away from Mom. And, to me, it’s sad. It’s taken my sister decades to recuperate even a little from the narcissism that Mom brainwashed her into. I’m awfully proud of her that she has done so and continues to do so; I know it’s been an immensely hard journey for her.

When my sister went off to college, which was the same year my parents divorced, Mom was so absorbed in herself and her own feelings that I was ignored, which was not a new state of affairs for me; Mom had pretty much ignored me for most of my childhood anyway. The difference was that when she did notice me, Mom wanted ME to be absorbed in her pain, feeling everything on her behalf, suffering for her, and any deviation from that she took as a conscious betrayal of her right to occupy my emotional space. That caused her a lot of rage, and she took it out on me.

It’s been a lot of years since then, and not by any stretch of the imagination do I think that that particularly twisted, dangerous and intensified form of enmeshment is the norm for only children. I don’t automatically assume that all enmeshment is that severe or damaging. I think the net result, as the two things cross, is that I have overly sensitive trip wires, which cause that “Enmeshment” sign to turn on in my head.

Sometimes I hear stories, told in completely innocent obliviousness, of parenting that seems to cross the line into enmeshment or distinct over involvement. But, it’s not my life, and no one put me in charge of anyone else’s parenting. So, when that happens, I think of it as merely a starting point for evaluating my own parenting. As a mother, it’s easy to be too much of a mother and smother kids with love, attention, affection, interest, and input. At what point does it become too much? At what stage am I crossing the line between being loving and involved and wind up treading in their emotional space instead?

When the kids were little, my husband gave me some good insight. I would lunge for Spawn every time he thudded into something, thinking I was being a good mom in preventing him from bashing his brains out onto the floor, or thinking it was my job to keep him from hurting his tiny, fleet-footed, heedless self, and I should kiss all the boo-boos and promptly bandage all the scrapes. Hubs pointed out that Spawn needed to crash into a few things to learn for himself to be more careful. He also pointed out that I was depriving Spawn of the chance to recover from doing so on his own and, here’s the big point, I was preventing him from learning to trust himself to be able to recover from a mishap.

He needed to learn to trust himself. And, it is good mothering to let him do so, even if I can fix a problem faster, better, more efficiently, and deliver a lecture on how to avoid whatever it was in the future. The point is not that I can do it for him; the idea is to let him learn to do it himself and then trust himself to do it. Over time, he’ll get better at it, and, maybe someday, he’ll ask for advice. Or not. And learning that starts early.

That goes hand in hand with another adage I remember from the early years of parenting, that a little neglect is good for kids. They will learn lessons in your absence that they need to learn, too. One of those lessons is self-sufficiency, another is self-confidence.

I think it’s those are profound, valid, and important lessons. Too much neglect is bad, of course, but I was not being a good mother by being constantly in Spawn’s space any more than it would have been good mothering to ignore him for days at a time. It’s harder though. It’s harder to be a little neglectful, a little distant, to ignore them a little, to be a little unconcerned about what goes on when I’m not looking than it is to be involved in their minutiae.

And, I think that’s what often gets left out of the parenting of only children and why my “Enmeshment” sign goes off. Are the kids being given enough time to be someone else, someone who can rely on him or herself? Do they get to make mistakes? And fix them? Are they being urged or emotionally forced to share the who, what, when, where, how of their learning? Do they get to have and keep experiences that don’t involve their parents? Including bad ones? Does everything have to be a family venture? Do they learn to deal with failure and success all on their own? Do they have enough privacy and personal strength to occupy their own personal space in the universe without it depending on their parents in any way?

I don’t know if I’ve done a good job picking times to stay out of my kids’ business and times to stick my big foot in. I know I’ve tried. Sometimes I’ve failed, and I know that, too. I do think, though, that just knowing and understanding the lesson my husband passed on has been a huge help to me.

Oddball Word of the Day

darkle (DAHR-kul) v. to be or become dark, gloomy, or indistinct

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Speaking of Bums…

I think I have the most bedraggled yard on my street. I’m kind of bummed out about it too. Years ago, when my back and I were younger, I ambitiously renovated some old foundation yew plantings and spruced up overgrown trees. I pruned and sprayed and added perennials. I put in a little fountain and an annual garden. I mulched, hauling, all by myself, two entire truckloads of mulch to ring trees, enrich garden beds, hold back encroaching grass and so forth. And I’m not talking pickup truckloads, I mean the big professional size truckloads of mulch – I had made friends with an arborist and he sold me his full loads of chips for cheap. I was a muscular gal for several summers.

Then I pulled my back out of alignment and had to rest. I got weak. Things happened and complicated my life, and before I really thought much about it, it had been three or four summers, and I hadn’t gardened much more than to clear debris from the fountain area and keep the fountain going. I wanted to start gardening again, and I got about two hours in one day and found I had locked up my back again. I took it much easier that year, got the kids to help, which resulted in some pruning disasters, but we did get the weed growth under control. All that nicely enriched soil was very friendly to weeds. It looked good and the kids were proud of their contribution.

I had physical therapy for my back early in the year this year, and I’ve been good, if not assiduous, about keeping up with my therapy exercises. The kids and I hit the yard again this weekend, and, while I’m better, I’m still far too weak and wimpy and out of shape to do what it would take to get my garden areas back into apple-pie order without any help. I feel nostalgic about having been as fit as I was, and worse yet, I didn’t even realize or appreciate what good shape I was in at the time. I miss that feeling of strength and ability.

Anyway, a couple of years into ignoring my garden, my west side neighbor put up a fence. I can’t blame him. Once I finally did get over there to do some pruning and cleaning up, I realized that if I were he, I’d have put up a fence, too. The weed growth was ferocious – one of the weed trees was 10 feet tall.

On my east side is a small strip of offices, which went in about 2-1/2 or 3 years ago. They promised us they’d keep business traffic off of our street, and that they’d do some landscaping so that we wouldn’t have to look at their parking lot all the time. We’ve had some encounters during our getting-to-know-each-other period, but mostly things go along OK with little or no interaction.

Until now. It’s late in the year for me to finally starting hacking at weeds, and I never start on the east side anyway. I always start to the south, which is the window I look out of most of the time; it’s where the fountain is and the birdfeeders and the little annual bed. I can understand that the office-building owner would possibly think I was going to let everything get weedy and overgrown again. So, he’s putting up a fence, too.


I’m pretty sure he’s putting up a fence because some of my neighbors have been making a lot of phone calls about the parking lot, and the weed-filled ditch next to his parking lot. Nevertheless, I still feel bad about not having gotten to weeding that side of the yard yet. Not real bad, but a little bad. Kind of like when hubs goes off to the Ace and I forget to ask him to get milk and then one or the other of us has to make a second trip later in the day… “Nuts, I forgot” or “Nuts, I haven’t gotten to it yet.”

I guess I’ll get to it when I get to it. If it bothers anyone too much, they can put up a fence or offer to help. Meanwhile, bit by bit, little by little, I’ll keep pulling a few weeds, dragging a little mulch around, and asking for help. Over time, all of that will get easier.

Oddball Word of the Day

pteridology (Ter-ih-DOL-uh-jee) n. the scientific study of ferns, horsetails, clubmosses, etc.

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Monday, June 04, 2007


It started off as a joke about 6 years ago. Spawn was telling me about a visit to a friend’s house, and then he mentioned that his friend had made peach pie and that he had eaten some and really enjoyed it. I have a particular fondness for peach pie; it brings back some good memories of time spent as a child with one of my favorite aunts, my grandmother, and summertime in the South. So I asked him if he had brought me a piece of peach pie. “No,” he said, “I didn’t know you wanted some.” “BUM!” I replied, “I love peach pie!” We both laughed.

For some reason, that stuck. Every time he’d ask me if I’d washed and dried his jeans and I hadn’t, he’d “BUM” at me, and I returned the favor when asking about homework he hadn’t done yet. It was always a joke between us, with no hard feelings on either side. The other kids picked it up over time, too. It could be worse; it could be something obscene.

I guess it was only a matter of time, though, for the next stage. I was pouring myself coffee this morning, and Hawthorne asked me for a waffle. I said, “Sorry, no waffles.” And he replied, in a loud, clear birdie voice, “BUM!” and then he cackled at me.

I think I got my just desserts.

Oddball Word of the Day

psittacism (SIT-uh-sizm) n. repetitious and meaningless speech; parrot-like speech

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

Friday, June 01, 2007

Five Nice Things About Today

1. Strawberries! Lots of large, ripe, delicious strawberries available in my grocery store – and now at my dinner table.

2. Books – I got a couple of books from my Amazon wish list which will just about complete my collection of Charlotte MacLeod mysteries.

3. No school -- I didn’t have to wake anyone up for school, no buses rumbled by, and I got lots of time to myself today.

4. Birthday wishes from friend and family far-flung, near at hand and otherwise!

5. Cheap hair doodles at Walgreen’s! I have long hair and have a residual teenager living in my decision-making apparatus when I wander down the hair aisle at Walgreen’s, so I like adolescent hair crap – twisty rubber bands with big balls on them, shiny, magpie-attracting scrunchies, and chignon chopsticks, which probably no one other than middle-aged goofs like me wear any more. And they’re shiny. (grin)

Have a great weekend!

Oddball Word of the Day

evanesce (ev-uh-NESS) v. to fade slowly

(from the guide to MMMW edited by Laurence Urdang)

German Idiom for Friday

nach Strich und Faden: good and proper

zB: Als sein Vater erfahren hat, dass Wolfgang das Geld gestohlen hatte, hat er ihn nach Strich und Faden verpruegelt.

auf Englisch: When his father discovered that Wolfgang had stolen the money, he spanked him good and proper.

Origin: From weaving, referring to the two directions of the thread - warp and woof

(from the Guide to German Idioms by JP Lupson)