Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Wherefore Art Thou Studio?

Sorry to overload the system with three posts in one day - but I'm 'paying forward' as it were because tomorrow I will be journeying by planes, buses, and automobiles for 17 hours to get to the quaint arctic village in which my sister resides. In an effort to put off packing (and facing the fact that I have no clothing which is going to BEGIN to keep me warm in a place that is 5 degrees below zero at noon), I've been blogging my heart out and look what I found.
This post has been sitting in my drafts waiting to get posted in case I found the pictures I was sure were somewhere! But no. It's official. There are NO 'before' pics of my studio which is SUCH a shame. You'll just have to imagine for yourself the royal blue 'sky' with white clouds, the glossy green 'grass', and the sunshine yellow chair rail and trim. I guess it was cute as a kid's room at one point. It was too too much for me - even when this room was my kids' room! It's taken us six months of living in this new house to even decide where to start but I always knew painting this room was at the top of the list (even before I decided to snag it for my own space.) But here are the 'after' pictures. My space is still in process because I've decided I can't live with this huge desk (and not just because it doesn't go with my colors.) This corner (above) is going to be my sewing space. I want to put in a cutting table just like DebR's space which she shared on Valentine's Day. The table will go right in front of that floor vent and then to the right will be a sewing table and to the right of that will be white shelves up high and filing cabinets down low. I'm going to build a tiny little white melamine computer desk and put it right here (to the right of my closet) and right next to the HUGE window that looks out onto the courtyard - but which is difficult for me to take a photograph of given my limited mad photo skilz. I realized I didn't need such a big work surface for my desk - and that my sewing surface could be cleaned off and used if I did. But it doesn't work vice versa. The desk is a terrible sewing surface. And I don't want to have to put up a table and take it down all the time. What would be the point of having my own room if I still have to quilt the way I did when I quilted in the dining room? (Side notes: the white fan is now in although it wasn't in the photo above and the outlets are eventually going to be white too - not green.)
And the picture below shows you the bank of shelves along one wall and the light from the window which faces the front yard. Look - my shelves still have room for new books! I love that part.
I LOVE having a room of my own. I love that I picked out the paint and painted most of it all by myself. (Sweet Hubby is wicked fast at ceilings and he lovingly painted mine for me late, late, late one night while I snoozed on the bare carpet unhelpfully at his feet.) It's hard as a mom in a family this big to justify having a whole room when everyone else is doubling up (except our lone daughter.) I've carved out corners and called dibs on closets for years but suddenly that just wouldn't suit my need (my desperate need) for a Room of My Own one minute longer. Maybe it was a midlife crisis. I don't know. I feel connected to myself, my creativity, my center. Maybe I'm just now fully recovering myself - five years post divorce. Whatever the explanation, I feel more alive and present: able to give to my family and friends than I have felt in a great while.

Things Done and Left Undone (aka Eye Fungus Isn't So Bad)

Things I have done today so far -
-whined via blog about my eye doctor anxiety
-driven Chaos to school (& maliciously forbid him to have Mt. Dew for bkfst)
-read Paddington Bear with Mayhem (and snuggled)
-planned 4-H poster with Havoc (and 'reminded' him to make his bed)
-reviewed the Ninja Princessa's weekend plans (cookie booth, hair cut)
-remembered to go to my nail appointment (close to on time)
-accidentally on purpose forgot to go to the eye doctor (umm, ooops?)
-spent fifty dollars at the Used Bookstore (that's like, TEN books)
-tried harder to make myself go to the eye doctor (but not hard enough)

Things I haven't done (and probably will not do) today -
-thrown up (just call me Iron Jaw)
-asked anyone for anthrax vaccine (it probably wouldn't have helped)
-managed to force myself to go to the eye doctor (can you say eye fungus?)


Getting Glasses - TODAY

I've started to post about three different things - but really I can't concentrate on anything because I have to go get glasses today.
I have to go get glasses TODAY. I've been meaning to go get them for about a year and a half. I've been putting it off. A year and a half ago I needed to go get glasses but I put it off by digging out my old contact prescription. I really, really, really didn't want to go get another eye exam so I spent 12 hours scrounging through old paperwork to find a contact prescription I'd gotten with my glasses. My glasses had gotten lost and I had to go get the contact prescription filled the very next day before it expired. I could only afford to buy 6 months worth of contacts that day. Now I've stretched that six month supply out far too long. I have one last set of contacts and they are so grubby and cloudy that I know I'm risking an eye infection by even looking at them, much less by putting them in my eyes. I have to go TODAY. Because tomorrow I go to babysit my nephew Thrasher in the Land of Frozen Cow Poo for a week while my sister is in France. I need glasses if I'm going to be responsible for driving a 7-month old around through the frozen wastes! I'm not so good with snow anyway so I need to be in top form. I absolutely must go get glasses TODAY.
But I really, really, really don't want to go get an eye exam.
It makes me feel stupid. It's not just 'failing' the eye test. I know I can't see - duh - I'm there to get glasses. But then they pull that machine down on it's robot arm and they dial up different lenses.
Dr: "Does this look clearer?" Click. Click. "Or does this?"
Me: "Well they both look about the same."
Dr: "Ok. What about this or..." Click. Click. Click. "this?"
Me: "Hmm. I can't really tell a difference."
Dr: "What about now?" CLICK. CLICK. "Right or left?"
Me: "Excuse me?"
Dr: "The RIGHT or the LEFT! Which looks better?"
Me: (still thinking they look exactly the same!!) "Um. Perhaps the right one is a bit clearer."
Dr: "Really? OH. That's unusual. Well, then how about now?" Click. Click.
I think to myself "I knew I should have said 'left'! " And the process continues with minor variations for about 400 minutes until the doctor finally gives up and writes me a random prescription. Then I go out to the 'show room' and pick out the first pair of frames or brand of contacts offered. Eventually I am at home or in the car wearing the eyewear I have acquired. And I have headaches. For weeks. Anytime I have to wear my glasses or contacts I get a headache. After a year or two, my eyes adjust or something and I spend the next four or five years babying my glasses or stretching out my contacts so that I can put off going back to the eye doctor as looooooooonnnnnnnngggg as possible. I KNOW the headaches are probably a result of having the wrong freaking prescription but I don't know how to make the process work! I've TRIED. Really hard. I've VOWED to myself that I would just stick to my guns and tell the stupid doctor that I don't see the difference between his stupid clickety freakin' clicks. I have even tried to explain my issue to the doctor before we get started. But clearly this is not a problem that a lot of people seem to have. The doctor invariably gives me a strange look and reassures me that their machine is very accurate and the lenses are quite distinct. Right. Ok. Here we go again. I've been through this process at least six times in my life and the only time I didn't feel like a complete moron was in Boot Camp. The eye doctor wasn't even listening to my answers and it took not a second more than two minutes from beginning to end (and I got two vaccinations in each arm with those hydraulic gun things at the same time - so hey, bonus). Those were the best (and ugliest) glasses I've ever had. They looked exactly like nerd glasses from the 1950's and they were called 'BC's' for 1) Boot Camp (they were the only glasses allowed in Boot Camp) and 2) Birth Control (because they were so unattractive). I didn't care. They were painless. (Actually... having anthrax, swine flu, bubonic plague, and small pox vaccines pumped into my body at lightspeed with one of those things NASCAR pit crew use to put tires on with - THAT wasn't painless but the eye exam was a breeze.)
For better or for worse, civilian (ha ha - the first time I typed "civillain") eye doctors are different. And I have to go to a civilian eye doctor. TODAY. I have to go today. I know I do. Even if I get the wrong prescription and have a perma-headache, it's got to be better than getting an eye fungus from wearing these contacts one more time. And it certainly has got to be better than trying to navigate by sonar which is what I'm reduced to now.
I'm debating about whether to try to explain yet again about my inability to distinguish between the clickety lenses or whether to ask if they have any anthrax vaccine lying around. Which is my best option, do you think?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Some Days He's a Pain in the Potatoes

I realize I've written very little about my middle guy, Mayhem. (So I'm going to make up for that by writing, like, the world's longest post.) To tell you a little bit about Mayhem, I should start out by saying he is SUCH my middle child. You know how astrological people say things like they're a double Virgo with the Big Dipper rising or some such? Well Mayhem is my double middle child with a giggle rising. He is the second of the three I gave birth to and in our blended family, he's the pivotal third of five. And he's usually about this close to a giggle or outright belly laugh.
He's cute, isn't he? He's the one who loves swords. And axes. And wants to grow up to be a dwarf. He's created enough D & D characters to populate the China of the D & D universe. I love him dearly. He is sweet and funny and easy going and smart. He is the one who coined our favorite family phrase by describing a kid at school as a "pain in the potatoes".

I've learned deep and powerful mommy (and life) lessons from being Mayhem's mama. You see, he's my 'special' kid. When he was born, he was a meconium baby so there were about 50 people in the delivery room all whispering in code and fiddling loudly with medical equipment behind a big, billowing curtain. (My OB literally said the phrase, "Ignore the people behind the curtain." Hello Wizard of Oz!) My OB told me he wanted the birth to go slowly. He told me he didn't want my baby to breathe and that my baby would be blue. (Umm, scary! Go slowly? "Push half way then stop"?!!! Are you crazy? I've done this pushing thing before and I don't know if Mother Nature remembered to give me a "stop" button! And I, for one, am all about my baby breathing! Whaddya mean he'll be blue? As in BLUE? Like Cookie Monster?!)

My sweet boy was so quintessentially himself at the moment of birth that it still cracks me up to think about it. First, he peed on the OB. Swish, swish, swish. Not normally a polite thing to do, but excusable in a wee one (<--ha ha ha). My boy got style points because he made a perfect letter "Z" on Dr. Zimmerman's scrubs. His Zorro move would have gotten more attention if it hadn't been for the second thing he did. The second thing Mayhem did in life was to do what they didn't want him to do. He took a great big breath and cried and refused to be completely blue, which was startling but ultimately not a problem at all. In fact, what the doctor wanted and expected of my child all turned out to be beside the point. But I wasn't wise enough to know it at that moment. WHISK! My baby was gone - disappeared behind the blue curtain. My husband was torn - stay with me, go see baby, hold my hand, hold his son's hand. I sent him to go see baby and to slide that pesky curtain out of the way so I could see too! The techs were calling out good news (the need for code apparently over). No aspiration, lungs clear, good appearance, healthy boy! My heart was singing. When can I hold him? My husband snuck kisses and touches in to our baby between the techs' ministrations and then came back over to me. He knelt down beside me and looked me in the eyes. Then he took my hand (the one with the IV in it - and he gripped it hard) and he said, "Baby Mayhem is fine except....." He SWEARS he didn't pause, but I think he waited a month to finish his sentence. I noticed everything about that moment. I remember the smell of all those powdery gloves. I remember the beeps and hisses of the machines and the echo-y-ness of the cold/warm clean room. I remember the carefully neutral look on my husband's face. There was enough time in that pause for my mind to come up with 192 things that could be wrong with my baby (all of them from that forbidden last section of What To Expect When You're Expecting that you can't help reading even though you read it with one eye squinting shut like THAT'S going to magically keep all those possiblities from happening) before my husband said, "he only has three fingers on one hand." Even though that possibility wasn't even MENTIONED in WTEWYE, my brain somehow came up with questions quickly and calmly. "Which hand? Which finger is he missing? Oh no, is he missing a thumb too?"
My OB's head popped up. (He'd been effeciently sewing and doing all that other stuff OB's do to you while you're usually too wrapped up in your baby to notice. He sat straight up and his eyes BLINKED and there was silence for a moment. I must have had seen waaay too many muppet movies during that pregnancy because I swear Dr. Z looked EXACTLY like Animal in that scene where they say, "Not Eat drums. BEAT drums." Blink, blink. Pause with WIDE OPEN EYES.)
I guess doctors are supposed to be the ones to discover that kind of thing and break it to you gently. But baby fingers curl up and all those techs were busy sucking stray, tarry black poop atoms out of my infant's lungs. All my husband could reach and hold was our baby's hands. And it turned out that one of these things was not like the other. OB and New Dad rushed over (both probably hoping New Dad had been mistaken) and there was a veritable gaggle of people way over on the other side of the room. And then there was me on this side of the room. Alone. Alone and trying not to wonder if Dr. Z had left a needle and thread dangling from my nether regions brightly lit by that hot spotlight they focus between your legs when you deliver a baby. Alone and trying not to wonder if there was anything else wrong with my baby that they hadn't discovered yet (or WOSRE had discovered and just hadn't told ME about yet). Alone and trying not to wonder if I'd be able to be a good mom to a baby that was different. Alone and trying not to wonder if I'd be able to love this baby as much as I loved the two-year old son I already had. But I'd been trying not to wonder that one for months so that one was easier to squash there in the delivery room with so many NEW things to try not to wonder about.
I got fed up with being alone with all that not wondering. I managed to get someone's attention and demanded someone bring me my baby! (Actually, I'm sure I was very polite and mousy about it. I wish I'd been all strong and dramatic. The reality is that I was tired and scared. And tired of being scared because I'd been scared for hours over something that turned out to be nothing and now here was something entirely different to be scared of and I just don't switch gears that fast, people! I probably cried and held out my empty arms until some nurse figured out what I needed most.)
Whatever the case, I FINALLY got to hold my boy. And he was perfect. Really perfect. I saw his hand and it was fine. It wasn't what I expected but he was in my arms and I knew he was ok no matter what else they discovered, no matter what else happened. And I realized I had already fallen in love. Hard. It was a done deal that I recognized in that moment. I don't know when it actually happened. But somewhere along the way I fell as deeply and suddenly in love with my second child as I had fallen with my first. But it was so different. It wasn't expansive and awakening the way that first moment of motherhood was for me. The first moments of my second motherhood were challenging and deepening. The birth of my second child deepened my connection to the world which had expanded with the birth of my first child. Becoming Mayhem's mama was like diving down deeper into the ocean without coming up for air first and realizing that I could breathe in a whole new way now and it was a good thing because the water was sooooo much deeper than I imagined it could be.

Being Mayhem's mama has taught me about living with things as they are. Aren't middle children traditionally labeled "Peacemakers"? I've learned there's an element of making peace with circumstances you can't control as well as an element of finding outright joy in situations you can't quite understand. There's nothing to be done about his left hand. It is very functional and beautifully formed. It was just formed without the littlest finger (and the musclature to support that finger). It is somewhat smaller, as is his whole arm. Nothing else was found to be 'wrong' with him (thank heavens) and none of the doctors who have seen him over the years have ever seen anything like his case. Usually "digital anomalies" happen in conjunction with other birth defects. One doctor said he thought the odds of having a baby like Mayhem were somewhere on the order of ten billion to one. It made me feel like I'd won the cosmic lottery jackpot.

Being Mayhem's mama has taught me about dealing with other people and their expectations. Right out of the gate we got the question, "Checked all his fingers and toes?" Elbow nudge and pat on the back stop mid-motion when your reply is, "Yeah funny that. Seems he's missing one." Who really thinks about how common that question is? We do now. Later, Mayhem inevitably started fending for himself. In Sunday school when Mayhem was five, a little boy said, "Somebody sure must've not liked you to cut off your finger." Mayhem firmly and pityingly replied with a snort, "EVERBODY likes me. That's my special hand. And you don't have one." I cheered silently from the sidelines. You go boy!

Being Mayhem's mama has taught me to recognize and push back at marginalizing situations. When Mayhem was six and in Kindergarten he got really squirmy and tender before the class program. I tried to talk to him but respected his quietness when he didn't want to talk. The program was cute and he was energetic and fully into it until the last number. I watched my child shrink into himself. I thought he was sick and I was half way out of my seat in the bleachers. Before I could get there, my brave Kindergartener picked his head up and pasted on a fakey smile and held up his arms. I clued into the song. It was a counting song. With hand motions. My husband clenched my arm and I dug my nails into his leg. I had loved Mayhem's teacher all year but at that moment I wanted her head on a platter. I knew this was different from the Sunday school moment. It wasn't about clueless kids and name calling. We (= the teacher and Mayhem and I) had already dealt (beautifully!) with the kids at recess saying insensitive things like "Hey your hand is like Mickey Mouse's" and we'd even dealt with a few kids saying purposefully mean things like "What are you, a mutant?" "Hey Mayhem, are you an alien?" But this was different. Mayhem's facade held until the final moment. Ten. "Just stick your hands out there, just stick your hands out there," I prayed in vain. It still makes me cry mad, sad tears to this day (five years later) to remember how he hung his head and slipped his hands behind his back. Thank God it was the last song and the parents all swarmed down to the gym floor. I scooped him up and probably hugged him too tight and kissed him too many times. I praised his singing and his remembering his line and his dancing. He gave me a weak smile and sort of clucked and said he hadn't liked the last song a lot. (I was going to wait until we were home, but since he brought it up....) I asked why he hadn't just put his hands out and had fun with the song. He looked at me like I was crazy. "Mom, it was TEN. I only have NINE." Oh we talked and talked and talked about all the ways it was okay to do things differently when you needed to. We talked about problem solving and thinking outside the box and changing the world sometimes and changing your actions sometimes when things didn't 'fit'. And then we tickled him and took him out for ice cream.

Being Mayhem's mama has taught me about finding and making new communities. The day after the program, at the post office in the tiny town we lived in at the time, we saw a man in line that was missing his two middle fingers on each hand. Mayhem looked at me and practically shouted "SIX!" before he pulled away from me and ran up to a complete stranger. I had no idea what was going on until I saw my boy hold up his hands and saw the stranger hold up his own. The stranger told us he was a professional studio musician from out of state passing through and that his hands had never kept him from doing what he loved most: making music. He rumpled Mayhem's hair and said, "Find a way, man. Don't let 'em keep you from your true self." (I, myself, think he was an angel. A scruffy, mis-shapen, smelling like smoke angel. If it had been Disney, he would have been a handsome, tidy, angel in a profession that did not require staying up all night and going to bars - but hey, it's not Disney.)

Although, speaking of Disney or Pixar or whoever they are now...being Mayhem's mama has taught me about holding on too tight and about letting go. We went to see "Finding Nemo" with all the kids (plus a friend each) on the day it came out. Yeah, I know, when you do the math, that's ten kids we took to the movies. I mentioned we're nuts, right? We do have a strategy though. We always put the kids in the row in front of us so we can thump them on the head or lean in to settle disputes about popcorn when we have to. Long about the time Nemo and his friends on screen were daring each other to touch the 'butt', Havoc turned around and waved at me with his left hand while whispering "Hey Marlin, I mean Mom, look! It's my special fin!" And he giggled like a fiend and blew me a kiss. I laughed and thumped him on the head (gently) and squeezed Sweet Hubby's hand. Yes, I'm sooooo Marlin. Aren't we all ? At least a little bit?

Lately, being Mayhem's mama has been teaching me how to deal with frustration. I'm getting practice in restraint. I'm learning how to refrain from pinching the heads off of the 11-year old's in the house. Last week, his karate instructor said, "Ok. I want you to do a leg-sweep-take-down-to-a-full-mount-then-cross-mount-to-a-pushover-armbar-NOT- a-pullover-armbar. Got it?!" Mayhem screamed "Yes Ma'am!" with all the others and then looked his grappling partner in the eye and proceeded to do exactly what the instructor had said. Perfectly. Thoroughly. In order. The first time.
This morning I said, "Mayhem, make your bed."

One instruction, three little words, forty-five minutes in which to achieve results. He even said, "Yes ma'am."

Wouldn't you want to pinch his head off too if you walked into his room and saw this?
He can be a real pain in the potatoes. (But I'm pretty glad he's my pain in the potatoes.)


Monday, February 20, 2006

Snow Face

Today's blog is my Snow Dog. I don't have time to show you much else. VBGF decided she didn't really have to go home today and the kids are out of school and Sweet Hubby has taken the day off from work and we're playing games and eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts and drinking hot chocolate - and really Life is Good (if a bit rambunctious at the moment!) Wasabi would kiss you with his snowy snout if he could! Peace.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Children's Book Meme


I could not resist following DebR's lead! My oldest friends are books. I will put in the disclaimer that I'm sure I don't know in Bookland where the border is between "children's" and "young adult" is. Here goes.

Name your 3 favorite children's series:
I have to say that I think this is a particularly difficult question to limit to "children's". I ejoyed the Pooh books (and the Uncle Remus stories even though that's not PC now) and Paddington Bear was a hooot - but I didn't read any of those myself. When I think about my FAVORITE book or series I find that the memory of actually reading for myself plays into it. And STILL it's hard to narrow down. Sor for just this one category I'm going to cheat and give you my favorite "children's series" and my favorite "probably YA series".

1. The Happy Hollisters by Jerry West - part of my love of these books is that I found the box of them in my grandmother's garage when I was a girl and she gave them to me. They were written in the early 50's and so in tone, they're a lot like the "Golly Gee Whiz" of The Hardy Boys and Ozzie & Harriet. The Hollisters are a big family (five kids I think) who travel and get into scrapes and solve mysteries. My favorite was The Happy Hollisters and the Little Mermaid where they go to Copenhagen! But I must have loaned it out because I couldn't find it to put in the photograph.
2. The Oz books by Frank L. Baum - all of them, not just the Wizard of Oz. I loved "Scarecrow of Oz" and "Tik Tok of Oz" and I think there are maybe 12 or 13 of them. I only have about seven of them - but how can you not like Queen Zixi of Ix?
3. The Book of Three (and the Black Cauldron) by Lloyd Alexander - I don't know what the name of the series is. I just know the individual books but I LOVED them. They were scary and mythic and Taran was just the right amount of clueless and capable.

Young Adult:
1. Madeleine L'Engle's series about the Austin family - I know, I know, everyone loves Wrinkle In Time and those are great but the Austins are even better. (Or perhaps they just came to me at a time when they fit my need perfectly.) And the two are related in someway. Shared universe. Or W.I.T. The Next Generation. I can't quite remember how they're linked. (I'll have to read them all again! Yipee!) L'Engle does amazing things with character and univeral themes like death and redemption in less than 200 pages! Read these. Read these. Especially Ring of Endless Light.

2. Anne of Green Gables - Anne is my all time favorite heroine. I loved all of the books and wanted to have daughters so I could name them Diana and Rilla. I usually hate it when someone makes a movie of one of my favorite books, but I think the Anne movies with Megan Follows were perfectly true to L. M. Montgomery.

3. The Earthsea Trilogy by Ursula K. LeGuin and Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising tie for third place. Maybe it's because at my house growing up we had dozens of books on mythology - dozens is NOT an exaggeration - but I lived for mythic, epic stories. My kids like things like Animorphs and Margaret Haddix's Shadow Children - which are fantastic but I would not have been able to handle them as a kid! The difference I see is that over time the location of the creepy element seems to have moved in the story. In the books I loved as a kid, the creepiness seemed slightly removed - a map that leads to another world or a long journey where the struggle is encountered. The heroes either went seeking or haplessly fell into the story conflict. In the books my kids read, the creepiness just walks right into the real world here and now and attacks. Yikes.

Name your 3 favorite non-series children's books:
1. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg - about two children who get locked in (I think) the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC and have to discover the real origins of a statue. (And Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth by the same author is fantastic!)

2. Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh - I wanted to be Harriet (except she ate tomato sandwiches - eeeew.)

3. Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell - I probably read this book 30 times before I was 15. Interestingly, my daughter The Ninja Princessa has a similar favorite book right now: if you like Julie of the Wolves or Island of the Blue Dolphins as a kid and haven't read A Girl Named Disaster by Nancy Farmer - go get it now!

Name your 3 favorite children's book illustrations:
It seems I have a 'type' when it comes to illustrations! What sucks me in is a great central picture with interesting stuff going on in the borders!

1. Jan Brett's Illustrated "The Owl and The Pussycat" - The main story of the gorgeously realized Owl and his beloved happens central panel - BUT there is an under-story. Exquisitely drawn tropical fish are passing on the news of the love as the couple sails along. AND bonus - the border of each page features a different flower and pattern of woven palm fronds. I can't do it justice - you should own this book.

2. Colin Thompson's The Paper Bag Prince - is a wonderful tale of environmental stewardship and reclamation that has lots going on in every picture, but the treasure is in the borders.

3. I was going to say my third favorite is Graeme Base's Animalia (and I love it so), BUT I've decided to break type and share my NEW favorite. Big Momma Makes the World by Phyllis Root and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is delightful. I collect creation stories and this is simply my very favorite so far. "When Big Momma made the world, she didn't mess around." I would love this book anyway, but it is even more special to me because one of my dearest friends in all the world gave it to me. And my friend, even though she's been out of Georgia living up in Mass and DC - she hasn't lost her perfect reading voice for this story. Really - it takes a soft, southern voice of strength to get Big Momma's words at the end of each day's creation just right. "That's good. That's real good." Really - you should go out and buy this book too. And if you don't have a southerner around to read it to you - go to DC and look my friend T up and beg her to read it out loud to you. Really. I promise you. It's worth it.

Name 3 favorite children's books characters:

1. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
2. Vicky Austin (from L'Engle's Austin series)
3. Harriet from Harriet the Spy (Fitzhugh)
*Bonus heroine is Alice from Phyllis Naylor's Agony of Alice which didn't make my favorite list only because I discovered as a grown up, not as a kid so there just wasn't enough time to edge out the established beloveds.
I realize that for meme's to keep going you're supposed to tag someone, but the only person I know to tag would be the person I got it from and that doesn't work so well.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Before and After

So here we are at long last. First is before any grooming for either one of us. Next is a picture of me and Wasabi about ten minutes ago while watching the Olympics. The studio pictures will be next, but right now Sweet Hubby and I are off to the airport to pick up Very Best Girlfriend who is coming to visit her God Dog for the weekend.

Bonus feature:

Wasabi with Furry Pantaloons & Icky Poodle Pom Pom (and yet more shredded TP!!)

And a better view of what a great job the NEW groomer did (i.e. lack of FP & IPPP)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Knitta Please

Have you seen this? The gals at Knitta Please (AKrylic and PolyCotN) have created knitted urban graffiti! How freakin cool is that?! (And I thought knitting sweaters for penguins was fun!) Now I so want to knit a door handle cozy. Whom would I tag? Don't tell on me but I think I'm gonna!

What is the Point of Mogul Skiing?

Other than providing an extremely lucrative career for knee surgeons (and other than distracting me from blogging yesterday), I don't think there is much point to the mogul ski event. But wow - did I get sucked into watching it. My Very Best Girlfriend tempted me into turning on my TV by telling me speed skating was on. (Side note: I am amazed by speed skating. A-freakin-mazed. I can't actually make a case for it having more of a point than the ski events, but if there were a Speed Skating Channel I would want it. ALL SPEED SKATING ALL THE TIME!) As it was, I had to sit through, like, 3 hours of mogul craziness before I got to see any speed skating but I couldn't stop watching because I didn't want to miss my event. Sure they have that handy little countdown clock that tells you something like "19 minutes: Apolo Anton Ohno, Men's 1000m" but leave the room for a necessary minute to pee and you come back to find you just missed the women's short track semi finals and they're cutting back to more moguls! Grrrr.
After hours of the mogul stuff I
-finally squashed the urge to reach for ibuprofen in sympathy with their knees
-decided that Jeremy Bloom is a cool (and well-spoken) frood who should become an announcer if he doesn't make the NFL
-cheered for Toby Dawson because his mother was SOOOOOO into cheering for her son and he was so cute turning straight to her when he realized that he was going to get a medal no matter what
-figured out that a 720 is two 360's in a row (although what 'off axis' means or what the letter 'D' refers to I still dunno)
-realized that if I'd had TiVo I would have skipped all of that and missed out on my new appreciation for mogul freestyle skiing (of course I have to point out that if I'd had TiVo I would have seen all of the speed skating and blogged so maybe that's a wash)

In other Olympic news (aka My Brush With Fame):
I had the coolest thing happen yesterday. I was in the car coming home from a coffee outing with a dear friend that I never get to see enough of and I was listening to Talk of the Nation on NPR. I listen to a lot of NPR but TOTN comes on when my kids are getting home from school so I never get to hear it. I tuned in during the middle of a discussion between the host and a sports commentator. (On a side note - it was a surprisingly interesting and humorous discussion. The sports commentator was giving an inside look at behind the scenes Olympic life. He talked about how the press folks there don't get the NBC feed so they have NO IDEA what we're seeing or what's being said about what's going out. He gave the example of Bode Miller straggling in at the very tail end of the opening procession and being the only one not to wear a hat. There was big discussion between the sports writers there about whether or not they should mention it. They had no idea if folks in America would be able to see it, if it would be an incident, or what. In answer to the question of whether Johnny Weir was America's Darling now that Michelle Kwan was out, the sports guy said JW makes no bones about wanting that title. He then talked about the politics of being an athlete and staying in the Olympic Village. Johnny Weir, in an apparently charming but direct way, stated that he would NOT be staying in the Olympic Village because he didn't like to carry his own luggage or climb stairs or sleep on uncomfortable mattresses. He said that he was princessy when it came to travel. He stated that he was not a 'Village' person. THE HOST OF TOTN then said - so it sounds like he IS a Village Person but not a Village person. You could hear the sports guy gulp and he said something like "Uh, what you said." The sports writer went on to say that he did think that Johnny Weir was likely the only American male athlete to ever describe himself as 'princessy' and then they segued into more about what a fantastic athlete he is. It was all very amusing. Maybe it sounds snarky the way I've written it out - but it wasn't on the air.) ANYWAY - the whole point before I got sidetracked was to tell you that when I first tuned in I thought the sports guy's voice sounded familiar (but it wasn't Chris Berman or Frank Deford). Then the TOTN host said "We're speaking with ......... a sports columnist for the ................." and I know him! I mean not like I know Frank Deford 'cause I hear him on the radio but like, he's married to a good friend of mine! A friend I've had since I was 11 (although she didn't marry the sports guy until she was 20-something) and so the sports guy's voice should sound familiar because we go to dinner parties and such with them!! (An example of "such" from that last sentence is line dancing like uncoordinated fools in a country/western bar in Anniston Alabama.) Woo hoo! I know someone famous! Errr, I bet my sports guy friend knows Kevin Bacon - and that's only two degrees of separation and I am fairly certain that entitles me to a free margarita somewhere!!!!! (Um, but if you please - not a margarita at that bar in Anniston because those line dancers are crazy!)
OK - well that's all my olympic news today. I must go now and take the pup to the new groomer. (Eeeeeep. Please cross your fingers and hope for the best. No furry pantaloons, no furry pantaloons, no furry pantaloons!)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Scent Layering

There are mysterious things in this world that I am deeply comfortable with (e.g. thunderstorms and prayer). There are quite a few campy, kitschy things in this world that I am secretly fond of (e.g. I have one of these). There are Hallmark Holidays (co-opted from pagan traditions even) that I do like (e.g. Halloween, minus the chainsaws). But the commerical industry surrounding Valentine's Day is off-putting. Schizo. Completely and utterly whacked even.
The hype is puzzling without being interesting. The target audience for the marketing is hard to get a read on. Valentine's Day American style is now the season after Christmas and before St. Patrick's Month. The love/sex thing in the media is alarming and both crass and prudish. The whole thing baffles me. Don't get me wrong. I am absolutely willing to take a nationally accepted chance for a romantic dinner with someone I love (especially if it includes wine and is followed by either the presentation of diamonds or the suggestion of massage oil!)
But going to Kroger's during Valentine's Season is surreal. Amid the necessary foodstuffs there are KimPossible and Franklin the Turtle valentines next to bags and bags of chocolate next to grocery store roses (dusty silk or practically frozen real ones - your choice) next to homemaker magazines touting sexy dinner recipes and advice on keeping your man satisfied (here take our Valentine's Day quiz) next to health magazines with this month's special feature: New Research on STD's (here take our Valentine's Day quiz) next to a last minute cooler case at the check out with frozen heart shaped cookie dough with the icing already in the tube! Don't look up because there is a battalion of pink, red, and white mylar cherubs and bears waiting to descend. If you make it out of the grocery store without being clued in (and weirded out) that Valentine's Day is nigh, beware the television ads that seek to inform you of that special getaway in the Smokies that's still available or even more direct are the ads that want to remind you to stock up on your ED medication in preparation for the big day. In case you still need suggestions for making this day meaningful - you can follow this couple's lead. I just don't understand. At all.
And the Valentine's Day concept that I don't understand the most is 'scent layering'. While scent layering is perhaps less frightening (and slightly less permanent) than matching nose jobs, it is still offensive and revolting. Apparently the push is to get you to purchase a 'coordinated bath scent set' for your true love. Nothing says I love you like twelve products whose combined scent could punch a hole through the ozone. I can imagine (barely) some poor schmuck being talked into this purchase by some mesmerizing mall person - BUT I can't begin to imagine being the recipient of such a gift who decides to actually use the entire set in the prescribed manner! But I know they exist because as I ran today a woman (brightly blonde with a fake and bake tan) drove by me in her VW Bug with the windows open. I couldn't actually see the aroma clouds but the smell made my eyes water for the next tenth of a mile! Did she follow the package instructions exactly?! The suggestions on those things read something like this: first scented bath beads, and then scented exfoliating scrub, then scented cleansing gel, followed by scented moisturizer, sealed with a lightly scented spray cologne. And for that special touch just douse your sheets and write a love note on paper that's been spritzed! I might as well stick an ice pick through my eye and get it over with rather than have to be in an elevator with a scent layered person. I don't care whether it's flowery or musky - that much scent concentrated around one person should be illegal. Maybe if I spew vomit on their shoes, they'll be discouraged from future layering efforts?
I'm trying to be non-judgmental and compassionate. Maybe these folks are victims themselves of some earlier, scent-layering fiend and it burned out their olifactory nerves. Maybe they were never able to smell anything in the first place! As pleasant as that thought is on the Perfume Industry's National Holiday - I have to say that not being able to smell anything would suck rocks the rest of the year! Imagine not being able to smell fresh baked bread or your newborn's head! Tragic.
So VW Lady - here's hoping that your nasal passages are not irreversibly damaged and your Bug is not permanently infused with your noxious scent. And oh yeah: here's hoping your Valentine doesn't spew chunks on your shoes!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Progress Not Perfection

Turns out that my Sweet Hubby had no desire whatsoever to give me his laptop in exchange for our dishwasher. In spite of his blathering on about our DW's digital controls and sleek black appearance in the comments of my long ago (and yet most recent) post, he declined the proffered trade. Sad. But ultimately probably a good thing as the lack of computer access spurred me on. I FINALLY FINISHED MY STUDIO!!'s not perfect. And technically it's not really finished as the shelves that will house my fabric stash aren't up yet and my sewing "table" is still in the design stages (so the return on my desk is going to serve in the meantime). Still, my studio is finished enough that I have a desk with a (real) computer on it (and wires strung all over the floor - the wireless portion of the home-improvement-project-from-hell not having panned out yet). Back to the plus side, I also have an entire wall of shelves with books all over them and my crafty things organized in a now open-faced closet. My white fan is being installed by Sweet Hubby at this very moment (which is a VERY good thing as the brass and dark, fakey wood one that was in here is puky looking and was making me crazy!)

I had planned to show you FIRST THING the 'before' and 'after' pictures so that you could be AMAZED by the transformation. Alas, disappointments abound (firstly) in the form of no 'before' pictures to be found (ANYWHERE) of the studio even though I was sure that some had been taken and (secondly) in the fact that the 'after' pictures which I do have are stranded on the memory card with no way to jump to my computer. The memory card reader "just died". That's SH's technical explanation. It looks fine (ummm - well SH says it still looks fine - but to me it looks rather pathetic now that he's pried off (and broken) its plastic case and fiddled with its flat innards). It worked until the very moment I wanted to use it to show off what I've been painstakingly doing for the past freakin' ever. And then, at that instant, it "just died". If it hadn't already hotfooted it to the Great Electronic Beyond, I would have had to kill it for deserting me in my time of need. That would still leave us with no pics (yet) of all the transformations of 2006, but poor SH might have been spared some venting of my spleen!

Well, dear friends, spleen has been vented (offstage and in SH's general direction) and I'm ready to move on to the bragging portion of today's blog. My studio looks fantastic! Imagine if you will my starting point: a room with bright, glossy green walls (on the lower half), bright blue walls with white clouds (top half and ceiling), glaringly yellow chair rail, trim, & slatted closet door, and tired, yucky, old carpet. From that starting point, imagine me not boring you with the tedious details of heating issues, technical obstacles, and six coats of paint. Yes. Six. Coats. Of Pain(t). And, Lord, just shoot me if I ever again insist on decorating with interesting (=expensive) and textured (=impossible to use) paints. Now jump with me to the finished product (and ignore the fact that I don't have the wherewithal to do a thing about the yucky, old carpet for a while). Here's the view: gorgeous, clean, white trim and chair rail; opalescent, metallic lavender walls above the chair rail; darker lavender, perfectly-even, granite-textured walls below; white fan (almost installed), a bank of white book cases, white shelves and plastic storage bins in the closet and a picture window looking out over the courtyard. I LOVE my new space. The left over desk caused me some angst as it is birch and gray. But... it works and since most of the time it's going to be draped in half-finished quilt projects and manuscripts - I have made a decision to be happy with its non-conformist appearance. Hip hip hooray for my gorgeous studio. (Now it's time to make some quilt art and write, write, write!)
Second on my list to brag about is my hair. I told the gal that I wasn't particularly worried about how it looked as long as she cut nearly all of it off my head. I'm happy to report that she managed to cut it almost as short as I wanted it and ALSO made it look good. It is very short on the sides and the back (swirling not quite into a DA) with longer, proto-curls on the top and in the front that fall just the tiniest bit into my face.
I must digress here and say that SH has just finished installing my fan. At my request, this good man pulled our lovely white fan out of the ceiling in the bedroom and put it up in here. So really, I should not complain (should I?) about the fact that he 'improved the design' during relocation and threw away a handful of 'spare parts' that he explains are (somehow) no longer needed. Eeep.
Back to the bragging. My hair feels great and looks pretty darn cute too. Alas, the same cannot be said of Wasabi's coiffure. It's a teeny bit better now, three weeks later, but ....
He came home from his first visit to the groomer looking like he was wearing furry pantaloons. Furry. Pantaloons. And he had a poodly mop on the top of his head. (He's a TERRIER for goshsakes!) And he had no eyebrows. They shaved his face and his back so much so that he looked skinned. But they didn't shave his lower half. They left his fur long there. But not in a way so that the long fur hung down. Oh no. Instead of a dog 'skirt' he had an MC Hammeresque, furry, bubble-butt look going on. And they shaved his ears. He looked freaky. And he smelled very... wrong. Not that I'm so concerned about his masculine image - but this was like my dog had been hosed down with Wal-Mart brand, little-girl targeted perfume. Cloying, powdery, insanely flowery, not-so-clean-smelling perfume. Ickity ick ick ick. Chaos took one look and screamed, "What did you do to my dog??!!!!!!!" We had to bathe him and tell him we still loved him even though he looked weird. [Him = the dog, not the boy. Chaos is required to bathe himself - although I often have to remind him of this fact. And um, while we do tell Chaos we love him even though he looks weird (to us) - it's not as cruel as it may sound at first glance. Err.. Anyway, Chaos' goal (at age 13) is to please us without pleasing us. Poor Wasabi, on the other hand, wants to please us without smelling so bad that he (as a dog with an incredibly acute sense of smell) has to snort dirt to block up his nose. No lie - that's what he did when he got home. He whined and snorted so much dirt up his nose that he was sneezing mudballs for days. Hence the bath and the extra love.]
We've switched groomers (duh) and we're all trying (very) hard not to dread Wasabi's appointment (this coming Thursday). This new groomer comes highly recommended. And she darn well better be FANTASTIC since she charges more than my hair salon does!
So there you have it. OH OH OH! EXCEPT that I almost forgot an important brag. (Did I mention that I'm training for the Music City Half Marathon? Well, I am.) I am not built to be a runner. I'm short and um, top-heavy in a way that SH loves but that is not so comfy for the running. Nevertheless. I am training. I am S-L-O-W but I'm steady. And I love it and feel great. Powerful even. I'm up to five miles (for the first time in ten years) and I've got 11 weeks to add six miles to that. (I'm not going to do the full thirteen until the day of the race. All the training books say that a good solid eleven in training is plenty to get you through the race. I'm choosing to believe them!) NOW you have it. So far, my 2006 is all about progress but not perfection. For studios, hair, fur, and training plans. No more three week hiatuses (hiati?) for me. I'll see y'all tomorrow.