Next Stop: Batty

Hangin' by a thread, here. I'm just sayin'.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Twenty Things...

Dear Taylor and Carly,

Here are 20 things I want you to know about me:

1. I have reported for a newspaper, edited a magazine, helped to run a non-profit, secured many hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money, taught writing to high school and college students, sung in a professional choir, counseled college students on academics and life, and managed a staff of 40 and a budget of $500,000. And when I quit this last one to raise you, I began the most difficult, most important, most wonderful job of all. No kidding.

2. In high school, my best two friends won "Queen" and "Miss Congeniality" in a pageant I didn't enter. And then they stood in their crowns on my front porch, and told me they didn't want me to go with them to the fair. And it really, really hurt.

3. I married my very best friend, and if you ever choose a life partner, I hope you will do the same.

4. I struggle with trying new things because I don't like change. But every single great thing that has ever happened to me came just after I stepped off some cliff or another. I want you to take risks in life. Do the thing that scares you most. Otherwise, why are you here?

5. When I really lose my temper and yell at you, I know it scares you, and I always say I'm sorry. But that sure isn't good enough for me. So I also say a silent prayer, asking for the strength to be an adult for you (no matter how silly an adult!) -- an adult who can get angry without getting scary. God and I, we're working on that.

6. It took me 37 years (and counting) to truly learn the following: sometimes you have to do what you don't want in order to get what you do want.

7. I never, ever had thin thighs. But the thighs I have are me. I love 'em. Treat your body nice. LOVE it. It'll love you back.

8. I always have a better day if I build in at least 30 minutes to do something creative.

9. I completed a 20K race when I was 28. Your dad and I trained in the rain and through the cold winter. We often ran before the sun came up, or after it went down. We often ran instead of doing what we really wanted to do, because we wanted to be prepared. That race is one of my favorite memories. The experience taught me that I can do just about anything I decide to do.

10. I am going to write a book one day that will get published and lots of people will read it. Dream big, girlies.

11. I am a sailor, and always will be, even if I never set foot on another sailboat. Water, wind, and waves are in my blood. What is in your blood? Be who you are.

12. I always wanted to be a famous Broadway star. Sometimes, when I'm alone in the car and singin' to a soundtrack, I still pretend I am one. Singing uses my body and my brain in a way that makes me feel supremely alive.

13. When I was a teen, I thought if I could JUST have the hair that Shelly Franco had and the clothes that Sue Trifoso had, I would be happy. I thought no one understood that. It wasn't that my folks didn't understand; they just knew I was wrong. Looks and clothes really don't make people happy. But it can be hard to believe that when you're a teen, I know...

14. At bedtime, when I lie with you and say nothing, I am really just waiting for you to talk. These are the times when you really tell me things. And I work so hard to just listen without trying to fix, or teach, or correct. These are the times I hope you'll remember, and keep telling me things. I'll listen. And if you ask me to, I'll listen without saying a thing in response.

15. There are so many times when I am in awe of you. God gave you both such HUGE spirits. Taylor, the way you try despite your fear or misgivings knocks me out -- every time. Carly, the way you try despite other people's warnings and nay-saying makes me more proud than you'll ever know.

16. I make lots and lots and lots of mistakes. Some of them, I can fix. Some of them, I can't. Some of them are small, and some are big. One time, after a really big one I couldn't fix, I ended up in a church in Salzburg, Austria. It was a toursit attraction, but there were no other tourists there. I was tired from all my mistaking, so I laid down on a pew. And then, some nuns began singing the most beautiful simple music I have ever heard. I couldn't see them because they stood behind screens, but their music reminded me that God loves me no matter what mistakes I make, and I can always start again. And when you make a really big mistake (you will, you will), God's not the only one who will keep loving you -- your dad and I will, too.

17. I'm not big on churches, but God is the real deal for me. That old kids' grace says it all: God is good. Where you see goodness around you, and it moves your heart, that ain't no accident. That's what I think.

18. Sometimes, you and I have big adventures, like building a treehouse or going to the ocean. But the simple times -- when we're washing the car and spraying each other with the hose, or drawing pictures together, or cleaning our rooms and finding old memories, or watching a toad, or snuggling the dog -- that's when I think to myself, "yep...this is exactly where I want to be, and right now I have everything I'll ever need."

19. I have written these things down to show that I'm just a person, like you. I have been a kid, and made mistakes, and had hurt feelings, and nurtured big dreams. Just like you. You're not alone. Your mama has been there.

20. I love you more than anything else in this world.



I hope Michelle, from "la vie en rose...A Sweet Life" will be flattered, and not offended, that I was so moved by her letter to her own children, that I decided to try it myself. And thanks to my sis, Shelley, for showing me Michelle's letter in the first place.

Friday, March 17, 2006

On Lemonade Stands

My feeling is this: the more lemonade stands, the better. This one started out with a bag of broken costume jewelry I had picked up at a thrift store for $2. When I presented it to the girls, they immediately divided the booty, each picking a piece in her turn. With the pieces and some beads and yarn, they decided to make "new" jewelry. Since it gave me time to empty the dishwasher and clean the counters -- and only cost $2 -- I was loving this activity.

Until...they announced their intention to sell their creations from the end of the driveway. As I surveyed their sparkling array -- necklaces of broken earring parts and purple plastic beads -- my heart sank a little. How was I going to break it to my budding artists that no one was going to pay money for this stuff?

Shame on Mommy. Letting cynicism get the better of me like that.

Luckily, I decided to hold my tongue when the jewelry sale idea came up. Held it again when my little entrpreneurs priced their creations at up to $1 -- EACH!

Together, and without my help, they lugged two little tables and two chairs out to the front yard, carefully laid out their wares, advertised prices, and set up our play cash register. Then, they sat. Noon on a Tuesday. This was not going to go well. I had visions of helping them lug everything back inside in a matter of 20 minutes, and began crafting a "these will make great Christmas presents" consolation speech.

But Lo! A customer! Dawn, a friend and neighbor on her way home in her minivan, pulled over, God bless her, and bought a necklace or two. What a sweetie. The girls were beside themselves. Then, someone else stopped. Later, they ran inside to grab snacks and to make keychains for their prospective male customers (and a delivery truck driver did go for that). I brought out some lemonade to make the picture complete, and before we knew it, the time was 2 PM and students were walking home from the nearby high school.

I have to say, seeing the teen set in their low-rider jeans and their Abercrombie tees stop to chat with the girls and to remark at how "cute" they were boosted my hope and faith in humanity. The track team ran by and lamented that they had no cash on them, so the girls made a sign: "Lemonade FREE for runners." Positive community relations. Good longterm business strategy.

Some adult walkers said they'd stop by on their return trip. My little one said they could do credit if they wanted, since the red plastic cash register had a slot for cards. Gotta love that kid. She later hand-picked a necklace for our neighbor, Dan, to give to his wife, Diane. He got away with that necklace and 2 cups of lemonade for a mere $2. Diane later called to let the girls know how much she liked her necklace. That woman has two small boys and is about to have another one, and she took time out to call. So did Dawn. The truck driver who bought the keychain claimed he didn't have the right change and insisted the girls take $3. Meanwhile, our dog ran away and they boy across the street helped us catch him. When I gave the boy (our babysitter's brother) $5 for his trouble, he promptly spent it at the girls' sale.

And this is what lemonade stands teach all of us, isn't it: kids can do anything they set their hearts to, and there will always be good people around to cheer them on. I have always had a complete inability to pass a lemonade stand by -- now, I know why. It wasn't the lemonade; it was all the sweetness that came with it.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

On Tomboys and DELURKING

Is there another word for "tomboy?" I've got one of them there tomboys, and the term is supremely irritating to me (because it grants implicit weight to the notion that there are certain activities, likes, and sensibilities that are "normally" reserved for boys, and certain ones that are for the girls). What a load of pink plastic ka-ka that doubles as Positively Peach lip gloss! Toys R Us even has it all separated out by aisle. McYuk's gives out "girl toys" and "boy toys" (though not the GOOD kind of "boy toy.") And just take note of this for the next 3 or 4 visits to the golden arches: the "girl toys" are nearly ALWAYS passive, and the boy toys nearly always DO stuff. What the hell is up with that? Makes me want to confiscate the toys the minute they enter the car, take them back OUT of the car, and place them squarely under the front tires. I know, if I were a better feminist/ pissed off consumer, I wouldn't even go to Micky D's, and yes, I read Fast Food Nation and yes, I saw Supersize Me. And, in truth, I take my kids maybe 5 times a year. It's because the Happy Meal really does make them happy, damn it! And a chocolate shake is quite a nice pick-me-up for Mommy.

My girl likes space, and climbing trees, and knights, and swords, and bugs, and snakes, and danger, and spies, and forts, and exploring, and rock collections, and jokes about farts, and pants, and snowball fights, and performing magic, and superheroes. How awesome is that? But she kind of...umm...stuck out a bit at school, where most of her female peers were being raised on Lizzy McGuire, Cinderella, and MAKE-UP (for crying out loud), and felt they knew what a girl should be...and it wasn't snakes and snails. When we moved our girls to a Waldorf school -- where kids aren't supposed to watch TV or videos, or play on the computer -- my little "tomboy" suddenly looked and acted a lot like the other girls in her class -- girls who were getting mud on the knees of the corduroys and just being seven year old KIDS.

Pardon my French, but what the (insert French expletive) are we DOING to our fabulous, strong girls??? I know...I also have a girl that was born to love dolls and twirly velvet dresses. And she wasn't socialized to be the soft, frilly way she is. God just picked that for her. But God ain't gonna make her no PRINCESS when she hits puberty, and he ain't gonna give her an 18" waist or perpetually shiny hair, or impossibly perfect skin, or enough money so she can SIT ON HER ROYAL ASS for a living. And really, what else do these Disney princesses have going for them? I mean, with the possible (yet flimsy) exception of Mulan, what have any of these sparkly bitches done for us lately? And Barbie, too. Barbie can kiss my fuming ass. When girls are "playing Barbies," does anybody save anybody? Teach anybody anything? Discover anything? Solve anything? Earn anything? Does Barbie do anything? No. How can she, with those molded high-heeled feet?!? We want our girls to be her?? Really??? I'd sooner have my girls learn about gravity and aerodynamics with her by pitching her and her capris off a ten story building. And on the flip side, the boy "action figures" (at least they have "action" built in...) save lots of people, but they usually do it by blowing things up. Go figure. Where would the boys get the idea to destroy things? Could it be the various weapons that come with the dolls?

Okay, I can't decide if I feel better now, or more upset.

And speaking of upset, if you people don't start commenting (delurking) so that I know anyone is reading this I swear I'm gonna hit the Ben and Jerry's, and that is not a good thing. I mean, if just, oh, six or seven people were reading my thoughts on vomit and bear shit, I would feel so validated. This is SOLID STUFF, people. My husband, who wants to get laid, even said so. And I fixed the comment moderator thingy so anyone can comment at any time. And I'm not bluffing about the ice cream. I have fatty foods, and I'm not afraid to use 'em.

So, go ahead, stick up for Barbie and Belle...or slam 'em! And let's come up with an alternative to "tomboy." It'll be fun.