Wednesday, November 30, 2011

charming anecdote: is "frickin" a cuss word?

There are so many “mommy blogs” full of cute stories about darling little toddlers and their antics.  I have a million such gems tucked away in my kids’ journals (you may have heard of these: archaic paper based books where I kept notes about my children with something called a ball point pen). 

If I’d been blogging in those distant times, I would have called it Schnook and Noodle and I’m sure it would have been marvelous.  Ahh, what could have been! 

I would have recounted all manner of amusing tales about how my bright-eyed and pudgy cheeked children asked questions such as, “do ants have tongues?” and “what color is the world?”  I would have proudly recounted the happy discussions that ensued as I reveled in the clever acuity of my children.  

But those days are gone. 

As a mother of an 11 and a 14 year old, the cute factor around here has about run its course.  So last night, instead of marveling together about the anatomy of an ant's mouth, my first born and I argued about whether “frickin” is a cuss word.

It matters, you see, because, upon learning that I had so brazenly presented his charming heinous with a vegetarian cabbage roll for dinner, he looked upon said roll in outward disgust and let a string of hostile mumblings came slithering off his suddenly fork-like tongue: “zishmbr blgrmp so stupid, mpgro brmpr a FRICKEN jokmprblr.”


He looked up in less than sweet boyish defiance.  “wuh?”

“Did you just call my dinner a “frickin jokmprblr?”

“No…Well…So?”  and here it comes: “frickin isn’t a cuss word!” 

I begged to differ, explaining that I didn’t think anyone who sits down to a table and uses any variation of the “f” word in reference to the food should be allowed to partake of that food.  And besides, what about the mysterious “jokmprblr?”  I don't think that was very nice either. 

So I sent him to his room without any dinner.  Just like the old lady who lived in a shoe.  Or no, didn’t she at least give the kids broth before banishing them to their prisons? No broth around here.  No bread either.

I know how this plays out.

Him: charming victim, child.

Me: old lady in shoe, bitch

But hey, after all: it was an organic cabbage.  A hold over from the co-op, so local too.  And the tomatoes?  The first of the summer canning. You don't mess with that, y'know? 

This morning, I told him in our post-explosion debriefing:  "A little respect for the cabbage roll is in order here, don't you think?"  Having regained his schnookish charm, he agreed with only a hint of a rolling eyeball.  But he  maintained his position on “the word,” insisting he’s even allowed to say it in school.  

I told him I didn’t frickin care.  Respect the cabbage.  

We laughed. 

And that’s my endearing anecdote about my darling little boy.   

Sunday, November 27, 2011

thanksgiving meets "the blob"

It was only a matter of time before the ooze of black Friday would creep under the door to Thanksgiving like The Blob. 

Does that mean we should throw up our hands and flee the theater in a frenzied mob? As consumers, we have great power to shape the world by closing our wallets. 

I had hopeful visions of echoing store aisles, yawning employees, and disappointed store managers sitting around on Thursday evening, surprised to discover that Americans have their priorities straight after all.

Instead, frantic shoppers vied for the last waffle iron with flecks of mashed potatoes still clinging to their snarling lips.


But let's not dwell on it.  This craziness stems from the actions of a few. 

Most of us refrained.  Didn't we?

For us, Thanksgiving officially started when two vegetarians (me included) slunk to the basement under cover of darkness to shamefully submerge a cold and fleshy bird into a bucket of icy brine.  What can I say except that we love the carnivores among us.  Thanksgiving, like most else around our house, is about food

We didn’t shop for each other; we cooked for each other. 

We stood in the buffet line, not the checkout line.

 We wielded the pepper grinder, not the pepper spray. 

We traded playing cards, not sales coupons.

We cleaned up in the kitchen, not in electronics. 

We lamented our full bellies, not our empty wallets.

And the only thing close to a brawl occurred on the basketball court where three generations of men: my father, husband, son and nephew scrambled desperately for possession of one ball.  No riot gear necessary. 

When it was all over, Steve and I curled up under a blanket with both kids to watch a movie for free.  My teen and my tween in one place with no arguing?--the bargain of the century, right there in our own living room. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

feeling "hairied" at my mammogram

As if the whole breast crushing mammo experience isn’t nerve-wracking and humiliating enough, try enduring it with hairy armpits.

I know what you’re thinking—“uh…SHAVE!”  Believe me, I considered it.  I stood in the shower this a.m., razor poised, pit lathered, but I couldn’t do it.

Why?  Or better yet, why should I?

I imagine some personalities might enjoy the shock value of lifting an arm to surprise their poor unsuspecting doctors with a soft mass of brown hair.

Fine for them, but that’s not my style, my intent, or my desire.

I don’t want to make a statement to anyone with my body.  In fact, with the typical college-aged eating disorder in my background, I’m more inclined to wish my body would disappear than show any bit of it off.  But perhaps it’s partly due to that history that I feel hard-pressed to conform to any standard of beauty that society wants to impose on me, even the mandate for bodily baldness. 

It didn’t help when a friend explained how a hairless woman’s body more resembles the body of a child than a mature woman.  Ugh!  I looked again at the skin-and-bone forms showing off from the racks in the grocery checkout line.  I scanned the skinny shiny legs, the smooth and unnatural pits and bikini lines, the bony rib cages that poked through where there should have been cleavage.  I saw them for what they were:  women pared down to look like tweens in grown up clothing.   Yuck.

The presence of hair, among other things, marks our passage to womanhood. Yet society deems us more sexy without it?  Hmmm…It does seem odd, doesn’t it, that the minute our young daughters sprout a bit of underarm fuzz we hand them a razor and instruct them to eliminate it.  Why do we insist they retain the appearance of the 10 year old body they're supposed to be leaving behind?  

Many women, after a lifetime of cultural conditioning, find their own body hair “gross.” I counted myself among them for many years, but now I think it’s much grosser to suggest we’re sexier after we’ve razored and naired ourselves into prepubescence.  This idea seems especially poignant right now, in the midst of the Sandusky scandal at Penn State.  Clearly, we should be ever-wary of sexualizing the child’s body.

One way to distinguish a woman’s body from a girl’s is hair. 

For years, I shaved only in the summer, secretly letting my tabooed hair grow under cover of winter.  As much as I understood shaving as a relatively new and completely unnatural imposition on women, after a decade of doing so, I had to admit my own body hair offended me.   I couldn’t undo that conditioning overnight.  After all, we categorize a woman’s shaving habits as hygienic, so we react to a hair in the pit the same way we react to a booger in the nose—better do something about it quick!  I didn’t want to be caught with boogers in my nose any more than anyone else.

Then one spring, I somberly got in the bath for my annual first shave.  Time to reluctantly erase my womanhood so I could greet the summer sun with the smooth and slippery legs of a child—“like a pair of uncooked hotdogs!” exclaimed that same friend.  Ew.

Half way through the task, I examined my work, putting one hairy leg next to its silky counterpart.  I was surprised that the shaven leg looked gross to me.  Bald, slippery, naked…Weird.  Weird like my husband’s leg would look if he shaved it. 

For a moment I thought: “I’ve done it!  I’ve stepped out of ideology; I’ve changed my own paradigm!  The shaven leg is gross and the unshaven leg is…” I looked at my other leg.  Weird.  Wierd, a little gross, hairy. 


There I sat in my bath, alienated from both of my legs!  “What the heck do I do now?” I said out loud.  I simply could not turn that other leg into a slimy raw hotdog.  But it would take all summer to regrow hair on the one I’d shaved.  I do have enough fashion sense to know that if I plan to go unshaven, I need two hairy legs. 

With no other choice, I defiled the other leg, stripped it of its womanliness for the sake of consistency, and vowed it would be the last time. 

It was. 

That was 11 years ago, and I'm happy to say that the paradigm shift is complete, and has been for a long time.  My legs feel completely normal to me. 

But the pits.  The pits are another story still.  I cave in and shave them every summer.  I’ve tried not to, but it’s hard to stand on the deck of a pool, timing my daughter's swim meets with a bunch of strangers, holding my arms self-consciously close to my sides to prevent even a tell-tale bit of fur from poking out. 

Underarm hair is more prominent and somehow more offensive to people.  I struggle with this disapproval.

Which brings me back to the mammo today.  It’s November and I’m at least a full month into hairy pit season.  I didn’t want to shave.  I stood in the shower this a.m. and imagined myself sitting in my mammo gown feeling harried, in a cold nervous sweat over a new breast lump, with no deodorant allowed.  I didn’t like that picture, but I also didn’t want to shave. 

Ultimately, I thought back to that day in the tub so many years ago, and I put the razor away.     

If anyone noticed, they didn’t say.  They didn’t even blink.

I thank them for that.

And my films came out negative to boot. 

I thank them for that too.

Friday, November 11, 2011

feast and famine

When you eat seasonally, you have to get used to feast and famine, often at the same time.  Feast of whatever is in season, famine of just about everything else.  Right now, it is the season of greens: mustard, kale, chard, collards, arugula, bok choy (if you’re lucky!) and cabbage.  Love this stuff, but I’m a little starved for a cucumber, a spear of asparagus, maybe a snap pea or two! 

As much as I love greens, and celebrate when the first bag of fall lettuce shows up in my weekly share from the CSA (community supported agriculture), my love grows a bit stale about this time of year.  It’s like an infatuation for a boy who suddenly wants to see you every day, except with greens, it’s every meal. 

You see, twenty-some-odd people pick up their bag of CSA vegetables at my house every week.  Some of them have grown weary of the incessant flow of leafy stuff and the nightly challenge of how to get it stored, cooked and eaten before the degrading tendrils of time can consume it instead. 

These weary soldiers, in the battle against wasted vegetables, sometimes “forget” to pick up their bags.  What to do with the left-over piles of orphaned produce?  I give away what I can, but my go-to foster families have limits too. 

Then, there’s the hoarding impulse that shamelessly and selfishly tells me to keep it, cook it, freeze it for myself—if I only had more time!  And the guilt: the guilt of wasting something I won’t have at all in just a matter of weeks. 

As I write this, I can almost hear the green stuff in my fridge.  It’s clamoring out of my vegetable drawers, crowding out the condiments on the top shelf, and seriously smothering the Sam Adams tucked in the back.  It’s like The Little Shop of Horrors in there! 

I battle onward:  salad for lunch, stuffed cabbage for dinner, greens in my morning shake, left over cabbage for lunch, mustard greens and fish for dinner…Oh the curse of the feast! 

I actually groaned at the generous bag of mustard I pulled out of my CSA bag yesterday.  And the cabbage—you should have seen the size of that cabbage!  I could have slipped it into one of my kids’ soccer bags and no one would have known the difference.  

Perhaps nature inflicts this surplus on us by design.  Like parents who make their teenagers smoke a whole pack of cigarettes, or drink an entire six pack of Guinness beer in a risky lesson about indulgence.  Nature sneeringly gives us leaf after leaf, saying, "go ahead, have another, just one more"—until you’re literally turning green yourself. 

So I’m made to despise fresh greens to prepare for the long winter without them? 

Maybe so.  It’s true that hankering for a deep red tomato I am not.  My overindulgence during the bounty of August will carry me much further into the cold of winter before I begin to crave the fresh tomato and basil salads that will make me faint with pleasure come July. 

So I have feasted—with gratitude, for months.  And I’m feeling ready.

In one week, when the CSA and the farmers’ markets close until June, I’ll lose my connections to local produce.  No more fresh and light stuff on the table.  Instead, on cold nights we’ll feast on soup, stored potatoes, canned green beans, and meals like spaghetti and pizza, made from our canned sauces.  Eventually, we’ll tire of these warm and hearty concoctions, but right now, I can’t even imagine that day. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

sunday drive-by

Yesterday was Sunday.  That means I had to interrupt my typically peaceful and relaxing morning walk to perform death defying feats of evasion, leaping regularly with my dog over the ditch on the side of my road to avoid the cars that came careening, yes careening, around the corner and down my street.

You see, there is a church at the end of my block. 

These drivers, who so often catapult past me and my dog, taking out mailboxes and white-knuckling their steering wheels, with eyes locked on the prize of the distant parking lot, are going to hell church.  When did the traditional "Sunday drive" become a "Sunday drive-by?"

And I'm so shocked by the offenders.  These are not young male drivers maneuvering hot red sports cars; these are folks of the gray-haired variety, in camel hair coats and big high powered sedans.  Others are primly dressed couples in mini-vans who have kids wearing clip-on neck ties and mary janes lined up in the seats that blur past me. 

My street is also a cut through for rush-hour traffic, but the Sunday drive-byers put the weekday commuters to shame.  Perhaps the insurance companies should move those who claim to attend Sunday services to the high-risk category? 

Shouldn’t worship of any variety inspire good?  Whether you call it serving God, serving humanity, or being mindful, it all amounts to the same thing: leave this earth a better place than you found it. 

Like camping: leave the campsite nicer than when you arrived.  

If you speed through someone's neighborhood, ironically catching a little air as you crest the hill just outside your church parking lot, I think you've pretty much canceled out any brownie points you might have accumulated by attending in the first place.  In fact, you just might come out with a deficit.  I'm pretty sure that if God bothered to notice that you arrived in church at all, he/she also noticed how you got there. 

So, the next time you're late to worship, despite your best efforts to leave on time, make the world a better place by slowing down and embracing your lateness.  Walk tall when you enter the sanctuary, interrupting the opening prayers.  Whisper to your fellow parishioners with a scrunch of your nose and a knowing nod of your head, "we drove the speed limit." 

They will lift their chin and say "Ah, yes," and smile at you appreciatively because they know as well as you and I:  it's not the destination that matters so much in life as the journey.

Friday, November 4, 2011

shalloween: an afterthought

“Mom, I don’t know what to be for Halloween.”

“I thought you were going as a beaver”  (her inexplicably odd choice for a favorite animal).

“I was, but I also might go as a famous singer – maybe Katy Perry.   I can’t decide.”


“But I was thinking, that’s probably just an excuse to put on makeup.”

“Hmmm.  Maybe.”

“That would be dumb.”

OK, I decide it’s time to weigh in:

“Well…no, it wouldn’t be dumb, but I’ll just point out: you have the rest of your life to wear makeup.  This might be your only chance to dress up as a beaver!”

“You’re right.  [pause]  I’ll be a beaver.  Oh! or a “beaver princess!?”

Beaver princess it is.  Egad.

And how awesome is that! These days, corporate advertisers suck the imagination out of every kid thing they can get their hands on.  Whether birthday party supplies, coloring books, t-shirts, shoes, backpacks, or Halloween costumes, they slap the latest cartoon phenom, or Disney channel mega star on the front of it.  The kids never get the chance to have their own idea. 

How cool to reject it all. 

And on top of that, not only has she already noticed that some girls use Shalloween as an excuse to dress alluringly, but she also had the presence of mind to note how “dumb” that would be.

Gotta love her!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

it takes serious green to be seriously green

And that sucks!  I do little things every day to try to reduce my carbon footprint.  And I’ll keep doing those things because they give me hope; they give me peace of mind.  But like most people, when I do something, I want to do it right.  I want to do the little things AND the big things. 

When I saw Who Killed the Electric Car? a few years ago, I vowed to my husband: we’d never buy another gas guzzler.  The film highlighted yet another way we have been manipulated, as a culture, into filling up.  From the sprawling development of the suburbs, to the ripping up of perfectly useful streetcar tracks, to our poor public transportation system, we have never really had a choice but to purchase gasoline by the gazillions of gallons.  It burns me up—like expensive fossil fuel in an internal combustion engine, you know? 

Meanwhile…someone killed my car a few weeks ago, totaling what was supposed to be my “last” gas guzzler. 

I intended to drive that 9 year-old rattle trap for 3 more years, until Gareth graduated from high school.  By then, I was going to have miraculously saved up a whopping 40k to buy an electric car (err…that wouldn’t be the college fund, would it?).  And I was going to have my solar-business-owning friend rig up some solar panels to charge it.   Steve told me I was pipe-dreaming from the get-go.  Of course he was right, but I held to my fantasies.  “You never know!” I thought. 

Well, I was right too.  I certainly didn’t know.  I didn’t know my car would end up in the junk yard before I could work my $40,000 miracle.  The accident has forced my hand.  To replace the van, I have only the pathetic $4,000 we got from the insurance company. 

Dammit – where’s that last zero?!

Oh – got it. Instead of buying a 1 year old car, we bought a 10 (see it there?) year old car.  Since no 10 year-old-electric car exists, a “new” guzzler sits in my driveway looking thirsty, waiting for me to screw on the tags so I can hurry off to the gas station and fill ‘er up like a good little enabler. 

It turns out I’m green alright, green with envy for all the folks with enough green stuff to buy the green stuff.