Thursday, September 30, 2010

Dark, Early Morning

My schedule this quarter has me getting up early and leaving the house while everyone else is still asleep. I get to campus and find a primo parking space. My classes start at 7 or 7:30 a.m., which means I arrive on campus any time between 6:30and 7.
I lock my car with a beep and walk across the parking lot to the brick walkway. Sometimes I'll see delivery trucks backing up to the cafeteria. An occasional maintenance worker hovers near an outdoor trashcan with a cigarette in hand. The campus is dark and my heels echo against the bricks before I climb a few steps and enter the building that houses the English department.
This morning, I had a substitute because I'm in North Carolina for a conference.
This morning at 7 a.m., the police were called because a woman was raped in the women's bathroom in that building that I walk into every morning.
"...10 mins bf i got there," texted Marcus who subbed for me. "good thing u weret @ wrk 2da. Teribl."
I don't want to minimize the awful thing that happened to this woman by saying it was a close call for all the other women who did or did not walk in that same door after her. Rape is one of those weapons that men continue to use against women. No matter how equal we are. No matter how smart or how successful, a woman is always at risk.
I imagine for the next few weeks campus security will be more of a presence for those early morning and late night classes.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Stories from an Old Man

On the flight to Charlotte, I sat next to a talker. He was a wiry old man with a fringe of white hair around the back of his head and some long white hairs sticking out of his neck.
His stories included becoming a homeless orphan on the streets of London during World War II, graduating from Cambridge, a practical joke on the Queen of England, writing jokes for the Benny Hill show, adopting four orphans, one of whom was killed at the Pentagon on 9/11, holding off 20,000 Vietnamese soldiers for a week with ex-lax in their rice. This guy is either a pathological liar or he has really accomplished a lot in his life.
He began by telling me he was the Chief Technical Officer of a company and was flying to Charlotte for some medical treatment. He gave me his business card to show that his business is all about alternative energy. He explained that the profits from the company go to make prosthetic limbs for people in African countries who have been tortured and mutilated. This is all very admirable and I'm beginning to be impressed.
"And if we find the torturers, we annihilate them," he said.
I look away at that point...cause what can that mean for this skinny old man whose hands shake?
"Well, if someone doesn't take care of them, they'll spread, like the Nazis," but he pronounced it Naazis with a nasal A sound like someone from Minnesota rather than England.
It was a little difficult to hear all of his stories on the small noisy planes, but he claimed he holds the patent on the "after burner" that runs jets and that he was test pilot on the Concorde.
All of this success, made me wonder why he was scrunched into a seat on a Continental flight rather than flying in his own plane. Oh, he had his own plane that he designed and built but it was in Texas. He only takes enough money from his business to live on and the rest goes to charity, he said.
"For the benefit of the environment and future generations" reads the line on his business cards.
He claims when he was orphaned in World War II he would take the clothes off dead bodies to keep warm.
He also says he has written a book that makes calculus and algebra unnecessary. He can do calculations on his fingers faster than and calculator or computer. One of his jobs while in college was to collect rats for scientific experiments and one night as he was climbing out of a coal bin with a sack full of rats, the police arrested him thinking he was a burglar. He wouldn't show them what was in the sack until they called the police to come to the station. That's when he emptied the sack on the floor and two dozen rats scattered throughout the police station.
"You can read all about these things. It's right in those papers," he pointed toward the overhead bin.
"Oh, you've written a memoir?" I asked him.
"No, but Hollywood wants to make a movie of my life," he said. "They're just waiting for some things to be declassified."
I think that's true for most of us.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Religion as Survival Technique

I heard an interesting interview on NPR not too long ago. The expert was an anthropologist talking about the fact that the societies that survived and thrived were the ones that believed in a religion. The reason -- those societies thought they would someday have to pay for their bad deeds and would be rewarded for their good deeds. That encouraged them to help other people rather than living an "every man for himself" life.
When people helped each other, they were more likely to survive as a society.
Therefore, survival of the fittest meant that the societies that had religious beliefs were more likely to grow and prosper. Now, we are genetically inclined to believe in religion because that is what helps our society.
Isn't that amazing?
I thought of it again this morning when I read Linda's blog "Frenchless in France." She's writing about things to do in Aix en Provence and there's a cathedral there with columns that came from the old Temple of Apollo. I wonder how the early Christians mixed their beliefs with those from the Romans and Greeks? She also shows a carving of St. Martha and a dragon. I just love the melding of beliefs and fears. Take a look at her blog if you want to see the pictures and some other places to visit that aren't all about religion. http://lindamathieu.com/

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Smorestix

I saw something tonight that makes me wonder about the ingenuity of our citizens.
I was leaving the grocery store when I saw a display that included boxes of graham crackers and bags of marshmallows. It was a temptation to make smores.
Smores are those campfire treats where the camper roasts a marshmallow then smashes the melting marshmallow between two graham crackers with some Hersheys chocolate stuck inside for extra deliciousness.
That's all pretty regular stuff. What got to me were these long sticks leaning against the display that said "Smorestix."
That's right. They were selling "Smorestix."
What is a smorestix you might ask?
It's a stick to roast the marshmallow on. Now, instead of finding a stick in the woods, sharpening the end, applying the marshmallow, and holding it over the flames of a campfire, we are supposed to buy our children clean, manufactured sticks on which to roast their marshmallows.
What's next -- a campfire scented candle so we don't even have to build the fire?
An extra lumpy pad we can roll out on our beds so it feels like we're lying in the bottom of a tent. A ceiling that mimics the night sky so we don't even have to leave our bedrooms.
Smorestix -- humph!

No Bake Cookies

This afternoon I made some no-bake cookies. I've been trying to avoid wheat because a doctor told me long again that I had a gluten intolerance. I didn't really listen to him because giving up breads and cookies, plus noodles and cereal, just didn't seem like a good idea.
When I've gone without wheat though, I feel a definite difference. So since Monday, when I had a piece of apple pie, I haven't had wheat.
I was craving something sweet and the genius idea of no bake cookies came up. As I was making them, pouring the milk, the cocoa, sugar and butter into a heavy metal pot, I remembered the first time I'd ever made the cookies.
I was in 7th grade. We had some sort of health presentation with a movie and a take-home comic book. The movie, as I recall, was a singing group of some sort with four guys (copying off the Beatles, the Monkeys) and the guys talked and sang about eating healthy. I came home so excited clutching my comic book with the recipe for the cookies.
I remember the look on my mom's face and I think she was kind of amused that I was so inspired by this "healthy" eating group. She helped me gather the ingredients for the cookies.
Once the sugar, milk, butter and cocoa started to boil, I turned off the burner and let them cool for one minute. Then I added the pinch of salt, teaspoon of vanilla, peanut butter and oatmeal. The cookies were then plopped onto waxed paper a teaspoon at a time where they were left to harden. Mmmm.
I carefully copied the recipe in my schoolgirl handwriting onto a piece of notebook paper. At the end of the recipe, in all capital letters, I wrote "EAT!" as if someone might forget that part.
My mom was in charge of the ladies' group at church and when they put together a cookbook, she included the No Bake Cookies with my name alongside. Of course, that means I'm plagiarizing the recipe because it came directly from the healthy-eating band whose name I can't remember.
That doesn't stop me from making them though.
Now they're cooling on wax paper on my granite countertop waiting for my hungry boys to come home from school. I can claim the cookies have some sort of nutritional value, especially since I had to use the rest of the peanut butter so Spencer won't be able to make his weight-gaining drink of protein powder and peanut butter.
Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Blowing in the Wind

I was midway through Yoga X -- I think I was on tree pose standing on one leg with the other leg bent and my foot placed against my inner thigh as my hands reached up toward the ceiling -- when I noticed that the light outside had faded. That's when the trees began to rustle and the leaves pulled as if trying to escape their fastening to branches. The limbs bent with the wind then whipped back.
I stepped onto the front porch and looked up at the patch of sky I could see. Gray clouds raced past but I couldn't see the horizon and the storm clouds piling up. I returned to yoga.

As I attempted a cat stretch, I heard gusts of wind whip through the trees and my phone rang.
"What's it doing there?" asked my husband who was a few miles away downtown.
"Blowing," I said. "Is there a tornado warning?"
Last week we had a surprise tornado warning and the weather service reported eight tornadoes in the state.
Just as Earl was giving me the weather report, Spencer slammed in the back door cursing the car.
"The door won't close," he said. "I had to drive home holding onto the door and I almost died."
"You have to fix it," he bellowed at me.
"Look at me. I'm 5-foot, 4. How can I fix it if you can't?" I asked.
He continued to rant and I told him to come with me. The sky was grayish purple as I knelt down to look at the car door. The latch that usually opened to release the door was stuck closed. I poked at the metal latch while Spencer talked on the phone to Earl and the thunder began to rumble.
Spencer handed me the phone and Earl went into a long explanation while lightning speared from the sky. Spencer and I winced and I ran into the garage to get a tool --something sharp and metal to pry the latch with. I always look for something metal to hold while I'm standing outside in a thunderstorm.
The latch wouldn't budge. I held the phone in one hand and pried at the metal latch with the other. Then the tornado sirens began to whine.
I handed the phone to Spencer. The car was parked behind the garage which slants down toward the alley. The driver's side was on the downhill so the unlatched door was hanging open blocking the way of other cars that might come down the alley.
"I'm going to turn the car around so the door isn't in the alley," I told Spencer. Make sure the door doesn't hit the garage."
He stood next to the garage as I began maneuvering the car.
A tan canvas umbrella that usually shades our neighbor's outdoor table came soaring over her wrought iron fence and landed in the alley.
"Grab the umbrella," I called to Spencer through the open door; the tornado sirens continued to screech.
I saw Spencer struggle with the umbrella and the neighbor joined him while I turned the car into a partial driveway and backed out then pulled forward and backed out, holding onto the car door the whole time.
I pulled the car in behind the garage and the slant kept the driver-side door closed.
"Go to the basement," I told Spencer while I exchanged dire storm warnings with the neighbor.
After huddling in the basement for half an hour and watching on TV as the pink, red, yellow and orange colored radar passed the city, we came back upstairs to a little rain and a few sticks in the yard.
September is not supposed to be tornado season. Tornado season stretches through the spring and June. Two tornado warnings in a week as we enter autumn must mean that something is up with the weather.
If it weren't so beautiful and thrilling, I'd be tired of it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dreamboard

Yesterday I went to the store looking for a dress shirt that Tucker can wear to homecoming. I didn't find the shirt he wanted, but I did find a new sweater that goes perfectly with a skirt I own.
When I got home, I held the sweater up to the skirt and was thrilled that it matched so well. Something about the sweater kept nagging at me and that's when I looked at my dreamboard and realized it was very similar to a sweater from J.Jill that I had cut out and put on the dreamboard.

Do I think this was a coincidence? No, obviously I've looked at that sweater every day since last spring when I placed the picture there.
So I had two realizations, one the dreamboard is more like a goal board. I put the things up that I want to accomplish and I try to accomplish them. A few things on the dreamboard are things I can buy, like the sweater. There's also a pair of sandals there and Rosetta Stone, which I haven't bought.
The other thing I realized about my dreamboard is that I've accomplished some of the things on there. I've made my dreams come true. I have a pair of boarding passes for our tickets to France from seven years ago because I hoped for a trip to France. I got that trip to France in April.
I also have an inspirational saying to help me finish my book. And I did.
What I haven't accomplished yet is having a book published. I have a mock up cover for a book on my dream board.
Some things on the board seem out of reach, which makes them more like dreams than goals, like houses in Provence that I would like to own. So those will stay on the dreamboard, but I'm taking down the sweater.
I've got a primo spot on my dreamboard.
What would you put in the middle of your dream board?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Crazy Conversations

Sometimes I can lure my boys into hanging around with us. Football Game Day is one of those. If I buy the right snacks -- their preference is for peanut M&Ms, Funyuns and tortilla chips with cheese dip.
Ohio State was playing at noon today and the four of us watched while I baked some pigs in a blanket to satisfy Tucker's craving.
The cats are always present in the middle of our conversation. Tupi had wandered from lap to lap, moving his way closer to the cheese dip. Tybs sat in the middle of the living room rug with his four legs tucked under him.

Tybs, who will be two this fall, is a strange cat. He purrs when he is getting read to bite someone. He hasn't learned to put away his claws so he is constantly scratching people. His eyes hang at half mast so he looks a little evil and a lot tired. He's got kind of a bad rep at our house.
"Tybs is not someone I like to hang out with," Spencer said.
And we laughed, trying to picture the cat compared to Spencer's wide group of friends.
I was trying to figure out where the cat stood in the polls, if there were any friends he might outrank.
"I mean, it might be okay if there were like four other guys, but you wouldn't want to hang out with him alone," Spencer continued.
"I only like him because he doesn't have any other friends," Spencer said.
"So no road trips?" Tucker asked.
"No, I am not going on a road trip with Tybs."
And we all laughed because, well, he's a cat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Mr. Capable

Like many middle class mothers, I have raised my children to be too dependent on me. The boys stand and scratch their heads when I tell them to do laundry, in spite of the fact that I've shown them half a dozen times. They seem unsure how to cook macaroni and cheese or how to print off their essays for school, much less save them to the flash drive.
Turning to mom for help is all well and fine, unless it's something really important.
Last week, in the midst of finals, the internet slowed down. It was taking forever to download an essay before I could grade it, and I was frustrated.
Tucker noticed the problem with his XBox too. He uses the XBox Live, which connects him with his friends who are also on XBox Live.
We gave the XBox to Spencer last fall for his birthday but Tucker purchased the XBox live subscription and spends any spare hours on it. Spencer only gets on XBox rarely in between basketball practices, watching sports on TV and hanging out with his friends.
Along with the internet problem, the XBox kept spitting out disks and saying they weren't compatible.
"If you'd just come look at it," Tucker urged. He wanted to show me that it was so slow he couldn't enter the games with his friends.
"It's still under warranty, you know," he said.
That's right, I realized. I could send it back to have it fixed. I promised I would eventually look for the receipt and the warranty so we could have the XBox repaired, but I didn't have time for it during finals week.
A few hours later Tucker came upstairs and laid two pieces of paper on the desk beside my computer.
"What's this?" I asked.
"That's the UPS shipping label to send the XBox in. I registered it, described the problem, and printed out the shipping label. They'll cover the shipping too. All you have to do is box it up and send it."
My son, who can't get off the couch to fix a piece of toast, was suddenly capable of much more when it came time to resolve something important -- to him.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Finished Again

A new quarter starts next week, so I am scrambling to put the finishing touches on my novel.
Yesterday, again sitting on the front porch, I added a few scenes recommended by Earl to increase the suspense at the end, upping the level of difficulty for the characters. Think of the movie Fatal Attraction and how you believe the character is dead in the bathtub but she comes back one more time.
Well, really, my novel isn't like that at all, but we didn't want to make it too easy for my characters to achieve their goals.
Now I'm working on the query letter that I will send to agents. If the agents like the idea and my writing, they will ask for some of, or all of, the novel.
Then I send the novel and wait.
Some agents are very quick at getting back to me, others may take months. In the past, I've gotten a lot of requests for my novels from agents. Does that mean the ideas are good? The query letters are good? The novels aren't good?
I don't have the answers but I keep working at it, trying to improve each time.
If an agent likes my letter and then my novel, I'll be offered representation.
That hasn't happened yet, so I don't know how they do it, but I'll look at every phone number that comes to my cell phone and pray it's from New York City, which is where most of the agents are located.
Before I get ahead of myself, I need a blurb that describes my book in a paragraph to include in the letter. The blurb needs to give away the plot. I can't save any of it for suspense, but I don't want to give it all away to my blog readers, so here's the paragraph with the word "secret" inserted in place of the real treasure:
After Fia, an American woman, loses her job, a phone call draws her to France with her husband and teenage twins to run her uncle’s bed and breakfast in Provence, but she soon learns that her uncle is hiding a 60-year-old secret from World War II. I've removed the rest of the blurb for work. Thanks for all of your help guys.

I'll probably rewrite this paragraph a dozen times trying to get it right, so if you have any suggestions, I'd appreciate it. You could help me rewrite it only 11 times.
And we came up with a new title. I was calling the book "The Summer of France" because it started as a book about a couple who goes to France to run a bed and breakfast, but it became so much more. The title didn't really fit any more. The new title: Rescuing Raphael, An Adventure in Provence.
An adventure in Provence kind of sounds like an amusement park or something, so I might need to refine that as well.
Then I describe the novel as a kind of Dan Brown meets A Year in Provence. I wanted to describe it as Dan Brown meets Bridget Jones, but Earl pointed out that Bridget Jones was single, not married with teenage twins.
What do you think about the paragraph and the title? I'd love your feedback so I can keep editing and improving.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

He Dunked It!

When I write about my children, most of the time it is Grace. She's the oldest and experiences new things first. These days, the boys act in unison as surly teenagers. They don't have a lot to say other than "I'm going..." or "Everyone else gets $20 a week for lunches..."
Yesterday when Spencer walked in the door after school and after basketball practice, he announced, "I dunked it!"
He was obviously proud of his accomplishment and he proceeded to give us a play by play.
He had been working on dunking the basketball for awhile. In June he came home and said he had dunked a softball. Softballs are a lot smaller than basketballs so easier to grasp and get above the rim.
One of Spencer's main complaints about the genetics he received is his small hands. His hands aren't really large enough to make palming the basketball easy. I mean, they aren't tiny like that guy on the Burger King commercial who won't eat the big burger because they make his tiny hands look tinier, but proportionately, he doesn't have extra large hands or extra large feet to go with his 6-foot, 4-inch body.
Last month he came home and said he had cut his finger on the rim trying to dunk the basketball, so he was progressing.
At practice yesterday, one of the other guys bet him $5 that he couldn't dunk it. Spencer was allowed three tries to win the bet.
The football team had finished practicing and they filed into the gym to watch the competition.
He missed on his first two tries, running, leaping and slamming the ball into the rim. On the third try, he succeeded, his one hand grasping the basketball and raising high enough to jam the ball through the hoop.
He landed to applause and happily received the $5 pay off.
After dinner and a shower, he dragged his backpack to the couch and sat down, ready to begin studying for a math test.
"I dunked it," he said again. No one new was there to hear him, he just wanted to say it again to make it real.

Monday, September 13, 2010

She's Fine

I talked to my husband Sunday morning.
"So what are you guys going to do today?"
"Nothing," I said. "Same thing as last night. We're doing nothing."
I think this was a mystery to him. He probably pictured hiking and spending time delving into buildings on campus. Checking out the nearby rivers and locks.
My visit to Grace at college wasn't about sightseeing or shopping. It was only about spending some time together.
That's why when I picked her up at her dorm, after hanging out for awhile to meet some of the people, I whisked her away to a hotel where we plopped on the bed, turned on the football game and talked. She leafed through People magazine, reaching over to hold my hand occasionally.

Slowly, the good and the bad came out, covering the three weeks we had been apart.
We spent the 22 hours together just talking except when we slept. She doesn't have a television at college, so after the football game I let her surf. She put on Cake Boss and took out the knitting that I had brought to her. She started making a scarf in her new school colors.
We looked at the blogs of mutual friends and Facebook statuses. And we talked some more.
She has landed pretty well. She got a great roommate who makes her hot cocoa when she's melting down and brings her goggles over to the pool when she forgets them. She has some terrific friends who spend their weekends performing at the talent shows and keeping an eye on the drunk people who stumble in. She loves most of her classes.
She's just having a hard time leaving behind this group of friends, and family. Now, she admits, if she came home, she'd miss the group of friends at college.
Loving both sets of friends is how it should feel. Missing the old, but embracing the new.
In the parking lot, as I prepared to leave, she held onto me tight and cried. But she didn't cry as hard or as long as last time

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Politics and Crayons

Warning: The following post has some political views. If you don't agree with my politics or are easily offended, please skip it.
I was listening to NPR the other night while fixing dinner on the grill, so I was in and out the door quite a few times as I heard this news report.
President Obama had been visiting Ohio and he was criticizing John Boehner, who is from Ohio and is the most powerful republican Congressman.
Obama, who is literally an African and an American because of his mixed heritage, called Boehner "a man of color." The crowd laughed.
Boehner is caucasian, but his skin is orange, like that of those who spend a lot of time in tanning booths or using rub-on tans.
The news story went on to say that Boehner is used to being teased about his suntan and he claims that his tan comes from yardwork and spending time on the golf course.
I hooted with laughter and texted my friend Ruth to share this story.
"Where's his yard?" she texted back. "Crayolaville?"
That made me laugh and laugh. I texted her back that she was hilarious and she texted, "Haven't even been drinking yet."

Thursday, September 09, 2010

On The Road Again

For those of you who are wondering, yes, I'm going to visit Grace this weekend.
Thanks to all of my friends, whose opinions I value, who encouraged me to continue to nurture my daughter even though she is, technically, an adult.
This has been a tough week for Grace as she battled leg pain and finally visited the health center to learn that she has either sprained her right calf or has tendonitis. She is banished from dryland practice until she heals. That means limiting her activities, keeping her leg elevated as much as possible and icing it.
After her morning visit to the Health Center, she developed Montezuma's Revenge and a fever Wednesday afternoon.
All of these illnesses and injuries may be normal for college freshman, it's just hard with her being so far away from home. Some of her friends have already travelled home for the weekend and that's not a possibility for her since she's nine and half hours away.
I made a hotel reservation where we plan to hole up, watch TV, read trashy magazines, and luxuriate in the privacy of a bathroom that she doesn't have to share with 40 other girls. The hotel was pricier than I had hoped, so I only plan to stay one night, but I can extend my stay to a second night if we need to.
Grace sent me a list of things to bring, which includes her knitting, movies like Moulin Rouge and Bride and Prejudice, and one of the cats. I declined to bring the cats because I'd like a full night's sleep without them.
Grace has had a lot of positives this week though, including a swing dance class that she loved before she found out about the leg issues.
She had also volunteered to help with costumes at the theater and she found out this week that she can use her work study to get paid for doing costumes and makeup at the theater. Perfect!
I'm looking forward to seeing Grace and spending some time without all the testosterone in my house, even though my boys need nurturing too. They'll be fine without me for the weekend. They and Earl can make it a macho weekend, full of football games and potato chips.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Buttons

When I was a little girl, my mother had a big coffee can filled with buttons. They were all those left over buttons that had come off clothing and all the buttons that she bought on the card of four or six from the store that weren't needed on sewing projects. I loved to dump out that can full of buttons and sort through them.
The feeling of the buttons running through my fingers was magical. And then I did what kids do naturally -- I sorted them according to size, according to color, according to shape. It's a natural Montessori lesson.
So, as an adult, I, of course, have a coffee can full of buttons too.
My grandmother, on my father's side, has a gorgeous rose-colored vase -- not really a vase, more like a glass container that stands on the floor then narrows as it rises and comes up to my waist that she filled with buttons. When my grandmother asked my mother if there was anything she would like from the house, my mom said she would like the vase with the buttons. My grandmother said she could have the vase but not the buttons. I think part of the allure of this vase/container was the buttons. My mom wanted the buttons too. I'm not sure whatever happened in this saga. Perhaps the container is still at my grandmother's house in Kentucky. She's 93.
This morning I had to look through my coffee can full of buttons for a button to go on Spencer's cargo shorts. His button had disintegrated in the middle. I wasn't worried, I knew I would find a button the right size that was compatible with the khaki shorts.
I did and sewed it on, but I couldn't resist playing with the buttons some. Even though the buttons are mine, I don't know where most of them came from.
What about this furry button?
Did I ever wear anything that had this button? I don't think so.
I picked out the tiny buttons, so small that I'm glad I don't need to sew them on anything right now.
I put a dime in the picture for comparison to show how tiny they are.
I found some cloth covered buttons. These are pretty specialized and I can't imagine that I'll use them ever again, but you never know.
And some buttons shine like jewels.
Maybe they should be made into jewelry and I could wear them around my neck. Maybe buttons should be interchangeable and I should be able to snap them on different blouses according to my mood that day.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Cougars are Mothers Too

We were talking last week after the Emmy Awards. One of the shows we enjoy, Modern Family, won awards. Spencer said he preferred the show CougarTown which comes on after Modern Family.
Courtney Cox stars in CougarTown. She's in her 40s (early 40s), is divorced, and has an 18-year-old son. She is, of course, surrounded by zany characters, including her ex-husband.
I was trying to pin down what Spencer liked about the show. Is it the ex-husband and the 18-year-old son?
He thought maybe because Courtney Cox reminds him of Friends, which is a show he likes.
"I can't really picture Courtney Cox as the mother of a teenager," I protested.
"To me, she just looks like a mom," Spencer said.
"Really?" I asked. "Whose mom do you know who looks like that? Think about your friends. Do any of their moms look like Courtney Cox?"
Tucker piped up. "Yeah, she looks like Cathy J."
My friend Cathy has five kids. We used to homeschool together until she sent her three oldest to school so she could raise the younger two. We still go to church together and taught religious ed together until I bailed on that a couple years ago.
I wonder if she would consider it a compliment that my sons think she looks like Courtney Cox? I don't think she'd see it as a compliment to be compared to the sometimes flaky, wine-drinking characer on Cougartown.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

My heavy load of classes ends with finals this week. I have to turn in my grades and then Grace would like me to drive up to spend the weekend with her.
I can do that. I have the time, the transportation and even a little extra money to spend on hotels and gas.
Some people who have sent kids away to college say it is too soon. They say it will only make her more homesick if I go visit.
Next week will make three weeks since we left her in her dorm room.
Earl and I are going up to visit her the first weekend of October for family weekend, but that will be full of scheduled receptions and performances. It won't be down time, just hanging out with Grace.
Because I know her pretty well, I figure she is missing down time. She hasn't shared a room with anyone for this long except our French student Marie who came last summer. She would like to read a book and flip through mindless television channels.
And, of course, she'd like me to be there to take care of any decisions that have to be made, to remove that mantle from her shoulders for just a weekend.
When it comes time to say goodbye though, will there be tears and clinging?
What do you think? Should I stay or should I go?

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Friendship Runs

I do not want to go for a run this morning when my alarm goes off at 5:15. Princess texts me at 5:20 that she isn't going to make it for the run. In diplomatic fashion, I text back, "Oh, you wimp. Let's go." She ignores me after that.
I am yawning as I meet my friends at the lake. We wear long sleeves in the morning air that hoveres in the 50-degree range.
It is dark again when we start, now that the sun is getting lazier and rising so late in the morning.
Dream Girl is still bald as she continues her chemotherapy for breast cancer. She usually lets her shiny head glint in the sun when we run, but she wore a hat this morning and wishes for ear muffs as we start.
We talk and talk as we run. We interrupt and chide and praise and laugh then laugh some more. We pause (from running, not from talking) at the 3.75 mile turn around while we drink water then we run more. And when we get back to the lake, rather than stopping at 7.5 miles, we run the 1.2 miles around the lake -- twice. So we ran between nine and a half to ten miles this morning and it wasn't bad.
As we go around the lake again, we notice artists set up, their easels open painting in the brilliantly clear morning air. They take in the trees, the lake, the clearest blue sky.
"The light is just like Provence today, isn't it?" I say to one artist and he nods in agreement.
After I finish, I stand facing the lake with a weeping willow obscuring my view.
"See," I tell my friends. "If you look from here, it is just like being in Monet's Garden." Which is where Earl and I visited in April, see the following picture as proof of the willow and the lake and the sun.

Dream Girl has started to do some calculations in her head. She has four more chemotherapy treatments. Her last chemo will be the week before the Columbus Marathon and half marathon. She thinks maybe she should do the half marathon to celebrate the end of her treatment.
"Great idea," The Queen of Privacy and I agree with her. Neither of us volunteer to run it with her. Of course, the Queen just ran a half marathon in April and she may be planning to run the full marathon in November. She doesn't like to commit ahead of time.
But the possibility of that half marathon is one of the reasons we kept running this morning rather than stopping at 7.5. When we finished the nine and half to 10-mile run this morning, it felt like Dream Girl could definitely handle the half marathon if it were tomorrow. The run felt good, but the therapy on the trail felt better.
These friends, who I see only once a week, are not there to say, "Good job" to all my choices. They correct me when I'm wrong and argue with me. These runs are good for my body and my soul. They take me to task when I've done something dumb and love me anyway in the end.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Cell-Phone Parenting

I hate being a cell-phone parent.
Maybe that is what I have been since my kids started school four years ago and I gave all three of them a phone. It's convenient to keep track of them as they roam our little town. "Where are you?" I will text.
"At the turf," comes the reply a second later.
They know they must answer their phones when I call or text, or they risk losing their cell phones. "You have that phone so I can reach you!" I threaten.
Having one child go far away puts a whole new spin on cell-phone parenting.
When I went to college, my parents arranged for me to await their call each Sunday night. I would linger in the lobby waiting for the one phone in the dorm to ring. I wasn't very mature at age 17 when I went away to college. I'm sure my conversations with my parents depended on what kind of mood I was in right at that moment.
Now, Grace can contact me and I can contact her during every up and down of her life. And we do.
My friend Michelle explained that the freshman year is like a W -- it has its ups and downs. They love it one moment then hate it the next. I think Grace's first few weeks have been like WWWWWW. She made friends. She loved everyone in her dorm.But, scheduling her classes was a mess -- she hated it. Their dorm made a music video, but she missed an assignment because she didn't see the posting.
They went swimming in the river and jumped off a rope swing, but she lost her student id so she couldn't get into the dorm or go to the cafeteria.
When Grace calls or texts with these dilemmas, she doesn't really ask what she should do. She is just sharing her life. (Okay, I did help with scheduling classes:P)
When she missed the assignment in class, she had already gone to the professor to see how to make it up. When she lost her student id, she went to security. She called me as she trudged across campus in the 95-degree heat to get her driver's license. She wanted to complain. That's fine. I can take the complaining. When I check with her later, she is usually fine.
Learning about the ups and downs as they occur feels exhausting. It's like watching a far away movie that my kid is starring in. I can't affect the outcome at all.
Last night, the swim team was having a ritual. Grace was petrified. Were they going to be hazed?
She tried to ferret out details. Red wine would be involved. "Don't wear anything that you mind getting stained" was my advice. Were the older girls seriously going to force them to drink? I tried to be reassuring.
Meanwhile, she arranged for her roommate and a friend to walk over to retrieve her from the swim team ritual at 11 p.m. That way, if she had been forced to drink, she would get home safely. That seems like a smart exit strategy.
Overall, she's making mature choices.
Now I just need to get to the point that I can let go of the worries about her as she burrows her way out of the bottom of that W and heads to the next peak. I'm sure that with a three-day weekend upon us, she will be soaring along the top of the W all weekend long.
Here's Grace teaching her baby cousin, Caroline, how to text in case she ever needs some cell-phone parenting from her mom.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Hummingbirds and Puffer Fish

I was sitting on my front porch yesterday -- where else? -- when a hummingbird flew up to the hanging plant about three feet away from me. The plant has some purple, bell-shaped flowers along the bottom.
The tiny jewel-green bird, only the length of my finger, explored each purple bloom, circling the plant in hopes of finding more nectar. I felt a little ashamed of the meager blossoms that it had to choose from.
This picture is from http://www.hummingbirdsbymaureen.com/images/07-20-06_Hummingbirds0048r.JPG
As the bird hovers in the air, its wings look like netting. They seem impossibly small to whiz the bird through the air. A hummingbird doesn't even move the way other birds do, as if its body is totally detached from the process of flying and the wings must do all the work. It zooms here then there. The thing it most reminds me of is a puffer fish with its big blue eyes and tiny fins.
This picture is from http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c158/snorris73/puffer_fish.jpgBefore we were married, and even after we were married for awhile, we had a saltwater aquarium. One of the fish we loved was the slow-moving puffer fish. One day while we were gone to work, the cover came off the filter that sucks in water. The puffer fish got caught in the current and was sucked to the pipe. Luckily, he used his natural instinct to puff up so he wouldn't get sucked into the pipe. He was never the same again.
I was telling Earl about the hummingbird encounter this morning and he said the bird needs to head around back where there are plenty of flowers still blooming.
I guess I'll make a sign directing all hummingbirds to the backyard. Does anyone know how to write hummingbird language?

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