Thursday, October 1, 2015

Big Kids

This week, two things made me stop in my tracks, frozen in time by the irrefutable proof of its passage.

I paused in the doorway of the laundry room on the way to pick up Jeffrey, laden with the quilt I'm working on, my keys, my purse, and my thermos, unable to move because of a pair of shoes.  Improbably, the shoes were not lying in my way.  They had been placed neatly in one of the shoe cubbies, the laces dangling.  They were not malodorous, waiting for me to add them to one of the twenty-seven loads of clothes I wash each day.  They just WERE:  a pair of black, size seven Chuck Taylor All-Stars.

I think I got them for Christmas for Will last year, or maybe the year before that.  He doesn't wear his Chucks as much these days, because they do a number on his feet and back.  He doesn't like to, but he wears his foofy, brightly-colored running shoes with the padded soles and correct arches most of time. (I remain convinced that Converse decided to add cushion to Chucks because of the staggering number of middle-aged people who keep trying to pretend that they can wear them without pain.)

Instead, Jeffrey wears them.


At thirteen, he is enormous.  Gigantic.  His arms are like airplane wings, his legs like (incredibly skinny) tree trunks.  His feet are...the size of his father's.  I have to position myself when I take his picture so that he isn't looking down at my lens, because he's taller than I am.  TALLER.  THAN ME. That's so weird.  It doesn't make me sad, because I'm still holding firm to the idea that I'm excited and happy for my children to grow and become whatever they're going to become, but it's still almost impossible to grasp that the baby that he will always be to me and the gangly, handsome young man are the same person.  They exist on the same planet.  It seems unreal, but there he is, looking all grown and mess.


The next day, I was working on sewing a robe for River.  I'm determined to get my fabric stash/craft room/surplus photography supplies in order and I'm using a big piece of pink fleece to make her a warm snugglefest, because she's a cold-natured wee mousie.  To make the robe, I'm using the pattern from the robe I used to make Jeffrey's pirate costume coat when he was three.  It was while making this coat that I said, "I'm just like Hannah" from the Bible, only to discover that I was about as much like Hannah as I am like Chevy Chase, hence my profile name and the name of my old blog.

ANYWAY, I'm using that pattern.  Except ten years ago, I knew almost nothing about sewing and I cut the pattern to fit size three, never thinking that I might want to make him a robe (or pirate coat) when he was four.  Or six.  Or eight like the sister I had only begun trying to conceive at the time I was mangling patterns.  I just wamped my scissors through the tissue paper so that a decade later, I'd be kicking myself because I didn't want to have to go to Walmart to get another pattern.  Rummaging through my vat of abused and neglected patterns, I discovered the one for the robe, and realized that I could fit the size three pattern into the gap in the pattern page and tape it together and thereby realign the universe.  (Yes, I know I could have done this differently.  The interwebs told me all about it and there was something about grading and measuring and using rulers and working on a curve, and my brain exploded and I gave up.  So.)

I was lying there on the ground, with my tape,  when I realized how much bigger eight-year-old River (who I think of as being tiny) is than three-year-old Jeffrey, and how much they've grown and how it just went so fast, those ten years.  They zoomed by, packed with fun and stress and all of the emotions of life, and it doesn't seem like so much time has passed until you are measuring one child against the other's past.

I don't think of River as a "big girl," but the past few days have taught me that she is.  It makes sense; she's so HUGE inside, she can't help but grow.  Look, here are three different kids in a span of forty-five seconds:





That whistling sound you're hearing?  That's time flying by, y'all.

It's flying by, leaving me with big kids in place of the babies they were yesterday.

Monday, August 3, 2015

A Not-Crying First Day of School Post

Look at my giant children.

It's the first day of school here in Georgia, which any of my friends living outside the Deep South know is absolutely preposterous.  I think that the fact that we start school at the hottest time of the year is just one example of how Southern legislators are ill-equipped to make good decisions about education and also, maybe how they are envoys of the Great Evil.

It's just a theory I'm working on while contemplating some sort of letter-writing campaign...

This is also the time of year during which you'll find any number of blog posts and essays about last moments and holding on to your children as they grow older.  You know the type:  "There I was, cooking supper, and I realized that Little Shmoop Shmoop was blowing her own nose and I couldn't remember the last time I had wiped her boogers for her and that night, we ate our pork chops smothered in a sauce seasoned with my tears."  And by the end of it, you are crying and barging into the bathroom so that you can wash your kid's hair because it MIGHT BE THE LAST TIME, and she's all like, "Mom.  Dude.  I am NEKKID in here."  And you're like, "Tough.  Move over and hand me the shampoo so we can MAKE A MEMORY."

Listen, I get it.  There are days when I watch my long-limbed, big-teethed, loud-voiced kids gambol across the yard and I am struck by a pang of longing for the curled up sweetness of their baby bodies against me.  I realize that I have forgotten what they were exactly like as babies or toddlers.  I have forgotten first words or funny sayings in the wave of big kid talk that washes around me every day.  It is hard, sometimes, to think about all of that ittyness being gone forever.

But I have a confession to make:  I LOVE watching my kidlets grow up.  I know, I know.  I'm supposed to be beating myself with a stick over all of the little moments I miss every day or the times I didn't stop and stare down at my babies and say, "I must remember this.  It will never come again."  And that's true.  All of those snuggly moments and tender sounds and chubby knees go away one day and it feels like it's barely a second and then you're dealing with a teenager with elbows like razor blades who rolls his eyes at you and sounds like Barry White as he asks you for the 1800th snack of his day.

Ohmahgawd, I love my gangly, enormous Barry-White-sounding guy.  I love him just as much as the fat little newborn who couldn't figure out breast feeding.  I love him even more than the precocious little toddler, or the preschooler who could name every single piece of construction equipment.  Talking with him about politics or religion or books makes for feats of intellectual gymnastics I haven't attempted since high school, and he challenges me to slow down and define my beliefs so I can help him interpret the world and, frankly, I enjoy it a lot more than changing his dirty diapers.

And my girl.  Oh, my Squish with her whirling dervish mood swings and tree-climbing, dress-wearing, sparkle-flinging dramatics.  She sinks into books like I do and I get to revisit Laura and Mary and Anne and the March girls and Harry and Corlath and Will and Bran and Taran and Eilonwy and all of my favorite friends from childhood with her and THEN meet new buddies with her (thank you, Maggie Stiefvater and Alice Hoffman for branching into kiddie fiction!)   Goodnight Moon is great, but nothing compares to curling up on the couch and walking into Professor Flitwick's classroom with my girlie.  I also have to think hard about what it means to be a woman in America for my girl, and make sure that I am doing all that I can to give her a good example as she grows into the person she's meant to be, the person shaped by the woman that I am.  It's a responsibility and a chance to grow, all wrapped into one experience.

Baby and toddlerhood are wonderful times.  There are moments when you love your littles so much that it takes your breath away and you can make yourself cry just thinking about when they grow up and go to college and get married and leave your little nest.  The wonderful times will be over.

But they won't.  As the leaving gets closer and as I watch my friends send their own precious shmoopies off into the real world, I realize that there are still wonderful times.  They are even better, now.  There's a sense of accomplishment in watching Jeffrey leap out of the car with his cool dude hair style and big grin, not even bothering to say goodbye as he greets his teacher.  There's so much pride and love to feel as River reads over the classroom rules and shows off her new earrings to her friends.  My kids are amazing, beautiful, smart, independent, fierce creatures and I am dazzled by them.  I enjoy their company and miss them while they are at school or with friends, but I am so happy that they are growing up and becoming such amazing people.  It is...wonderful.

Do I miss my babies?  Sure, sometimes.  Do I regret that I didn't savor each moment of their tininess?  I guess.  It's just that I'm having so much fun with them now that it's hard to worry about what I might have missed or what heartbreak is up ahead.  They're still my babies, just in bigger packages.  They still need me, just in different ways.

So mommies of the tiniest of tinies, snuggle your little babies and be at peace.  Chill out, toddler mommies, as you realize you forgot to write down an important first in the baby book.  Dry your eyes, mommies sending your littles to school today.  There is SO MUCH MORE waiting for you, so many more laughs and happy times.  I'm so excited for us!  Yay!

Besides, I really need you present for my campaign.  It's hard to fill out petitions about moving the beginning of the school year to a season less reminiscent of the Hot Stinky Place when you're crying over an old onesie, and calls to the legislature don't make themselves, so pull yourself together.   (Plus, the kiddoes'll be home from school soon and you know you haven't baked those cookies you promised them.  Breast feeding was so much easier than baking...)

Monday, June 22, 2015

Thoughts on My Morning Walk: Episode 1

ME (in the driveway, fiddling with Runtastic):  Frodo's enthusiasm for our walks shames me.

FRODO:  Oh, what a glorious morning!  The sun is shining!  Hark at that bird singing!  What, is that a rabbit I smell?  Huzzah!

*****

ME:  Wow, that sure was a doozy of a storm we had early this morning.

FRODO:  Smell the leaf, smell the branch, smell the leaf, smell the leaf, smell the stick, smell the branch, smell the dead snake--ACK!                           Dude, mom, easy on the leash.

*****

ME:  Oh, what a pretty picture that would make!
FRODO:  Why are we stopping?  Is it time to pee?  I really prefer to pee in that immaculately groomed yard up the road.

*****

ME:   Whoa, it's a live armadillo.  They DO exist.  Huh.  They're sort of bouncy little suckers, aren't they?

FRODO:  IT'S AN ALIEN!  I MUST SNIFF IT!  I MUST VANQUISH IT FROM THAT AZALEA 
                 BUSH!  WHY ARE YOU YANKING ON MY LEASH AGAIN, WOMAN???  DON'T 
                 YOU KNOW THE WORLD IS IN DANGER?????  LOOK!  IT'S THAT NEIGHBOR 
                 WHO WORKS AT THE SCHOOL!  WITH A TEENAGER!  AND A 
                 DOOOOOOOGGGGG!  MY GOD, WE ARE SURROUUNNDDEDDDD!

ME:  I need a Valium.

END

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Tear Them Down

In the wake of the terrorist attack in Charleston, there is a lot of talk about removing the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol property.  This was one of the first ways that people reacted, which I felt was interesting and signaled some sort of cultural shift:  the first step was not just a blanket "Get rid of guns in America," but a call to remove an emblem of racism with which the terrorist came in contact every day.  Instead of targeting the result of 150 years of institutionalized racism, we're seeking to eradicate the symbol of the official original purveyor of it--and finally having a real conversation about what the flag means, thanks to Dylann Roof's use of it on the car he drove away from the massacre he enacted upon Mother Emmanuel.

Folks down here get pretty riled up in defense of the St. Andrew's Cross that was modified into what has come to be known as the "Rebel flag" or the "Confederate Battle flag."  "It's only a symbol," say the folks who want to make the flag haters feel like overreactive sillies.  "It represents our Southern heritage," say those who want to appeal to a love of history.  "It represents the South," say others, lumping the entire region into one huge homogenous wad of awesomeness.  If you argue with them, they'll wind up tossing around words like "freedom!" and "respect" and, eventually, "if you don't like it, get out!"

No.  I mean, I don't like it, but I'm not going to get out unless a pot of money lands in my lap and I get to move to Scotland where the REAL St. Andrew's Cross comes from.   What I will do, however, is once again wearily but firmly argue against the arguments.
  1. Symbols, by their very definition, are not "just symbols."  They represent words, places, ideologies, and concepts in a universal way that all people can understand.  The weird globe-headed people that tell us where to go to the bathroom, the lightning bolt that warns us that we might get shocked, the train tracks that tell us that we're going to get hit by a train if we aren't careful...these have weight and meaning in our culture.  They are unambiguous, and they are universal.

    Sometimes, if a symbol is associated with a powerful culture shift, it loses any ambiguity it might have and the association becomes entrenched in the mind of those who view it.  The most obvious example is this:  
    I feel fairly confident that nobody looked at that symbol and thought, "Oh, it's the Century Gothic lowercase t."  No, you recognized it as a cross, and more than likely, you recognized it as the Christian cross and could, if asked, tell precisely how Jesus Christ was arranged on said cross.  The cross symbolizes for the world not only Christ, but also his followers, and people use it (and the lesser-known but still popular fish) to identify their faith to the outside world.  Another, more sinister example is the swaztika.  From an anthropological standpoint, the swaztika is basically where people in varying cultures across the world got their mess together and figured out how to arrange lines in a purposeful fashion. For the Nazis, it was a way to acknowledge the creation and superiority of the Aryan tribe.  Nobody today sees a swaztika and says, "Oh, look, it's the Finnish Air Force!"  Or, "Hey, I bet the person wearing that patch worships the Sami thunder god."  Or, "Ooooh, that guy must have 10,000 seed pearls in his satchel!"   No.  You see somebody wearing a swaztika and you think ethnic and cultural cleansing.  You know that person feels superior to people who don't share his skin color or religious background.

    The Confederate Battle Flag LEGALLY symbolizes two things in our country:  a nation founded on the principal that black people were inferior and naturally well-suited for slavery and--less than a century later--states that feel that federal intervention used to integrate public schools, businesses, and other public arenas was a huge overstep.

    It is CULTURALLY used by racist organizations such as the KKK--which I find vastly ironic given that the flag's design comes in a large part by its creator trying to placate Southern Jews who sympathized with the Confederacy's aims--to show that they agree with the legal foundations of the Confederacy.  (That Southern Jews felt the need to side with slave owners is another piece of irony I have a hard time wrapping my head around). To be sure, there are other people who wear or display the CBF as a way of thumbing their noses at people who don't like it.   Because, you know, freedom of expression!  In any case, the CBF is a symbol, yes, but saying it's "just" a symbol is completely wrong, as you'll see below.
  2. The one thing that people get absolutely right is when they say that the CBF represents Southern heritage.  The CBF is a symbol of the fact that 150 years ago, thirteen states elected to break from the United States and form a new nation.  According to the vice president of the new nation, Alexander Stephens, in a speech many call the Cornerstone Speech, the Confederacy was founded "upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."  He goes on and on from there, about how God made black people inferior and it was the curse against Canaan, and how, in order to bring Africans to Jesus, it was necessary that they learn to get their bread by the sweat of their brow, like Adam and then there's some stuff about how much money the Confederacy had and how big it was and intelligent and morally superior.  (No, I'm not kidding.  Reading it is like experiencing a fever dream.) Four of the states that seceded mentioned slavery as a chief cause for seceding.   In response to the Emancipation Proclamation, Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, said, among other awful things, "...conscientiously believing that the proper condition of the negro is slavery or a complete subjection to the white man,--and entertaining the belief that the day is not distant when the old Union will be restored with slavery nationally declared to be the proper condition of all of African descent,--and in view of the future harmony and progress of all the States of America, I have been induced to issue this address, so that there may be no misunderstanding in the future."   Seriously, the Civil War was fought because white Southerners thought black Africans were inferior to them and meant to do their labor for them.  I am sure, in the 1860s, there were plenty of people in all regions of the United States who felt like people of African descent were inferior, but unless they lived in the South, they did not live in a region which made itself a country based on that feeling.  The CBF symbolizes the men who fought for that country, a country created to ensure that people with black skin were always subject to people with white skin.

    It is a hard pill to swallow, I know.  I am drawing breath today in part because of some Confederate ancestors.  No kidding.  I've heard that if I go to Wilkerson County and tell them I'm related to William Hatcher, I'll, like, get the key to the county.  Or a really nice tour of some planted pine.  (I'm sorry Wilkerson County.  All I know about you is that you like William Hatcher and there are a lot of pine trees there.)  And Southern children are certainly not taught that the flag that they see every day in their state capitol or in the back of their cousin's truck represents a country founded on the idea that black people are inferior.  They are not told that the CBF made a comeback in the South during desegregation.  Why?  Because knowledge is power, people, and integration meant black kids finally had access to that power in the South and the truth of the shameful origins of the Confederacy might change the structure that white men had profited from since Reconstruction.  It also might mean that the granddaughters and grandsons of the Great Cause would finally understand that thousands were killed and killed for the idea that God thought white skin was inherently more valuable than black skin and that would have been culturally devastating for millions of white folks in the South--and liberating and enervating to millions of black folks.
  3. When people in the South are asked about the South, they don't say, "We had slaves!"  Or  "My ancestors were slaves."  People of all colors will tell you that the South is about the beautiful landscape or the pleasant manners or the wonderful food or the awesome music.  So to say that the CBF represents the South in general is just...well, it's just dumb.  There is no way to represent one region with a flag.    How are you going to encapsulate Georgia's mountains and Kentucky's bluegrass and Louisiana's bayous on one flag?  If you revel in Southern food, what do the stars on the CBF mean to you?  The Delta's tamales?  North Alabama's white barbecue sauce?  A Texas brisket or shrimp fresh out of the Gulf?  Do the blue bars represent the "ma'am" that we tack onto every "yes" or "no?"  The way we hug strangers in Walmart after we bump shopping carts taking a corner too fast?  And how does that red field in any way tell us about jazz or the blues or bluegrass?  Flags don't represent regions.  There is no Flag of New England or Midwestern States flag.  They represent COUNTRIES.  The Confederacy was a country in which--if it had won the Civil War--women would not make a cent off of the tamales they made in the manner their former-slave grandmother taught them.  It was a country in which--if it had won the Civil War--you would have been justified as a white person in striking the black person who bumped shopping carts with you.  It was a country which lead to a culture in which the black artists who sang our songs entered auditoriums through the back door because it was the law.

    It was a country that lost a war.  Dylann Roof grew up in a state where, when he was born, the flag of a country that lost a war based on the idea that black people were inferior flew over the state capitol.  The flag is a reminder of that country and the ideals it held dear.

    It's time that we hold true to the ideals of the winner (that all men are created equal) and  that the symbols of the loser finally get torn down.  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Morning Walkabout

Turning forty has honestly been a life-changer for me.   I didn't moan and weep over losing my youth, but I did get pretty philosophical and start thinking about how I wanted the second half of my life to be and what changes I needed to make in order for that to happen.  And I've made those changes, little by little, bit by bit, learning to weed out the bad stuff and embrace the good stuff and seek out help when I can't do it by myself.

One thing that I've found most difficult and rewarding is embracing the person that I am, no matter which person I happen to be on any given day.  There are such a lot of Heathers in me (bonus points for literary reference) and I am working to love them all (or at least tolerate them.)  Some days I'm goofy, some days I'm introspective, some days I'm intellectual, and some really FUN days, I'm all three of those things at once.  Or every five minutes.  Whhhheeeee!

Not as fun are the days when I'm anxious or sad or I go off track.  Those days make me more anxious or sad or off-tracked and I'm having to learn to pet myself a little and forgive myself, but it's hard. Staying on a schedule and trying to live in the moment help, and I've discovered that making time to go outside (even when it's cloudy, pissing pollen-laced rain, and windy) and puttering in the yard and garden really settles me.  I mean, I always knew I LIKED to be outside, but I'm not sure I've ever noticed before that it actually has a physical affect on me.  I've named these little spells "Walkabouts," because it's fun to think that each time I venture outside is a little journey in and of itself.

Yesterday, I went out before starting my inside chores.  I carried the little basket Kelly gave me years ago, my new tea mug, and my camera.

Here's what I saw:



Sassafras trees have blooms.  I don't think our little volunteer has ever bloomed until this year, and I'm just delighted and tickled by it. Must remember to make gumbo filé this year, although I don't like gumbo. Maybe I can use it to thicken lotions or salves?  I wonder if it would hurt sensitive skin.  



I have yet to actually stake or string up the sweet pea vines, and this one was all, "Forget you, lady.  I'll do this mess ON MY OWN."  Have you ever seen anything so delicate and so strong at the same time?



As soon as I rounded the corner of the house, a mockingbird told me EXACTLY what it thought of me.  Can you guess why?



This azalea bush has struggled been neglected for years.  The kids now use it for a fort/hideout/tunnel of awesomeness and I trimmed it back a bit last summer, and it apparently appreciates the attention.  More blooms to come?



I love this little canopied walkway in the side yard.  Although, to be honest, so does Frodo.  And his excretory system.  Ahem.  STILL, you know, oooooh, mysterious!  Lovely pool of light at the end!




Microgreens before they are washed.  Actually, these are thinned romaine, buttercrisp, spinach, mustard green, and arugula seedlings.  (And a few broccolis I spilled all over the end of one row.)  Getting all the dirt out of the roots was a big pain, and not worth the time it took to get my little bowl of tasty and spicy greens.  I think in the fall, I'll plant big squares of the greens and use scissors to thin them into rows to avoid the dirty roots.



Is it weird that this is one of my favorite pictures ever?  It's my harvest for the day:  microgreens hidden underneath a mound of sorrel and a bouquet of old-fashioned white irises and my tea cup, and so on the surface, not really all that fascinating.

But it's full of love of the garden and outside, and plans to brighten up the inside and nourish the people within.  It's just...me.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thank You, Phil Robertson

This morning, I was getting ready to get my new little routine of happiness going (more on that tomorrow, I hope) when I decided to stop by Facebook whilst my tea was brewing.

Big.  Mistake.

Huge.

Because one of my friends had posted a video of America's favorite bearded fundamentalist spewing hatred and it got me seventeen different kinds of het up.  I was het up at the fundamentalist, het up at the folks that think he is awesome at anything other than running a successful corporate empire, het up at a country that fosters such meanness and wraps it up in religiosity, and fourteen other kinds of het-uppedness at which you can probably guess.  I won't post a link to the video, because I don't think this guy needs any more publicity, but if you really want to, you can go stare at one of his bobble-heads at Hellmart for a few minutes.  It would make about as much sense.

Anyway, I decided to remove myself from Facebook for the day and go about my business, which involved a cup of hot tea and weeding the garden.  However, when I got outside, I realized two things.  A:  it was raining; not pouring down rain, but the rain referred to as "pissing," when there's really nothing on the radar, but everything is still dampened by the stuff whizzing around in the air that is wet.  This lead to my second realization, which was that B:  I was too angry because of Phil's ugliness and the pissing rain to finagle with the itty bitty weeds and shoots in my water-logged garden.

"Right," I said with Hugh Grant grimness, and I marched across the yard.

We live on an acre of land in a fairly large subdivision which is pretty much straight in the country.  The front part of our backyard is azalea beds and patio and my kitchen garden, but the back consists of what I refer to as The Shed of Horror, Will's fire-pit area, the kid's play area, and a shadowy wedge of space that could, up until about thirty minutes ago, only be called "dank."

Part of the space is a randomly fenced and gated area that a long ago jasmine vine decided it really needed to take over.  Inside the gate is a sloped concrete slab.  We assume that somebody once had a boat or dogs or possibly a smallish dragon that sat upon the slab.  Outside of the gated area is a tree that developed an awful lean during an ice storm several years ago and that has been taken over by the jasmine, a climbing rose, and some sort of tea olive which we always refer to as The Medusa-like Monstrosity because that's what the Southern Living Gardening Book called it.  The whole atmosphere is one of neglect and mildew and "Hey, copperheads and rattlesnakes and brown widows!  Come live here."

Here's a picture of the slab area.  Forgive the crappy cellphone pic, but I wasn't taking Audrey (my D610) out in the rain.


Here's another view, where you can see the gigantic, tree-sized limb that fell off of the oak tree that has been shedding limbs since we moved and which is finally (to my relief, frankly) just a trunk that I hope will quietly rot where it stands.  The huge limb has been caught right in the crotch by a smaller tree that I am depending on staying strong.  Stay strong, little tree.


Anywho, I attacked the jasmine, Medusa-like Monstrosity, and mildew speckled leaves of the leaning tree with all the het-up strength I could muster.  I snipped and lopped and tugged and whacked like a determined mad woman, because in reality, I'd been wanting to clean up the area for a long time and I wanted to get it done before Spring got firmly established and the birds were building nests and because the rain wasn't accompanied by lightning, so I might as well do it now.

After subduing the leaning tree, trimming off a few of Medusa's snakes, and getting the jasmine on the outside in some sort of order, I moved into the gated area.  Lop, lop, whack, whack, tug, tug.  It was all pretty intense.

So intense that I broke my garden rake.


I said words that ought not to be said in mixed company.

Frodo took that as his cue to hide under the play fort, away from the rain and his het-up mom.


After a few minutes spent fuming, I got back to work.


Why, yes, that IS a child's play hoe.  WHATEVER WORKS, people.

I have to be honest:  there were some times when I started to chuck in my plastic blue rake and give up.  But every time my sodden, out of shape body started complaining, my mind presented me with the audio of Phil Robertson's hateful twang and I got right back to work.  When I was worried that the copperheads, rattlesnakes, and brown widows would come out and bite me, I channeled an image of that bigot's beard and I gleefully kicked half-rotted logs out of my way.

Once when I did that, I found this guy, the only creepy-crawly I discovered.  At first I thought he was a black salamander that took a wrong turn in Albuquerque, but I've since decided he is a slimy salamander.


 Isn't he ADORABLE?

After finding Albert (that is the salamander, in case you couldn't connect the dots), I realized that my anger and a couple of decades of detritus had both been swept away.

In a matter of a couple of hours, I managed to put together this pile of stuff:


(That's River's rake there, for size reference.)

I was left with this:  


Obviously, there's still a lot of work to do, but I think I've decided that I want to turn this little area into a sort of outdoor ladies' parlor, where I can chill out with a good book and/or friends and a delightful beverage or two.   I think, in fact, that I will invent a cocktail and name it after Phil Robertson.

And every time I enjoy said cocktail, I will raise my glass and say, "Cheers to you, Phil Robertson, and your tiny little black heart."


Blackberry mojitos, anyone?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Thoughts While In the Car Rider Line: The Star Wars Edition

At River's school, they have what is known as the Car Rider Line, where you drop off and pick up your kids if they don't take the bus.  As a tree-hugging type of person, I would prefer for River to take the bus, but in order to get her to school via bus, I'd have to get two kids ready for school by seven o'clock, which is ridiculous if you consider that Jeffrey is like seventeen kids (none of which are old enough to help the younger ones put their socks on) and I have to get up at five if I want to make it out the door without tucking my robe into my sweatpants and pretending it's a shirt because they like for you to be dressed when you drop your kids off at the middle school.  Also, although our house is seriously less than a mile from the school, it takes an hour for it to get to our house after school and last year, a tornado warning happened right about the time the bus was NOT at our house and I almost lost my mind.

Walking her to school or sticking her in the WeeGo and riding her on the bike is an option only if I like to play chicken with the logging trucks that barrel down the major highway outside of our neighborhood.

We do the Car Rider Line.  Mkay?  Mkay.

Anyway, the Car Rider Line is usually where River and I talk about her day or her favorite books or something warm and family-friendly, but some days River is mad at me because she has to go to the variety show practice instead of Girl Scouts or I've made her wear a coat or told her that Tuesday comes after Monday and so I zone out instead of listening to her sob in the backseat.

And by "some days," I mean enough that "Thoughts While In the Car Rider Line" will probably be a semi-regular feature.  Enjoy.

"Huh, it's one of those car stick figure family stickers things."
"Is that zombies?"
"No, not zombies...ooooohhhh, Star Wars."
"Wait. Dude, no."
"Soooo, I know Darth Vader is the most recognizable male figure in terms of stick figureness, and probably Princess Leia is the most recognizable female--because let's be honest, there were...what...TWO of them in the whole thing--but THEY CANNOT BE THE MOM AND DAD STICK FIGURES."
Snicker.
"Intergalactic incest."
"But, I suppose that you could make the argument that, like, Dad ran off and Grandpa is the head of the family. Still, no. I'm gonna go with no."
"Are the kids two storm troopers?"
"Arrrrggggh! My kids are evil, mindless thugs of doom in masks that are hard to see in...."
"No, that's Boba Fett and a storm trooper. Which...I guess makes sense, really. In a cloney kind of way. Sort of."
"Is that Jango Fett, instead?"
"Does it matter? Let's be honest, the last three movies pretty much killed me dead with Jar Jar and Hayden, so I have no idea if I'm getting the canon right."
"I need a fricking Cliff Notes for the last three Star Wars before the new one."
"Ohmagawd, they better not kill the new one. The new one needs to be AWWWEEESOMMME." (Sung.)
"An ATAT as the family pet."
"Yeah, no. Those things are too big. Maybe...R2D2. Or, wait, wait...an EWOK."
"But then, you know, the Ewoks were an indigenous people who rebelled against imperial forces, so, I probably shouldn't go there."
"Gah, Heather, imperialist much?"
Cue Darth Vader masky breathing sound. "Come to the Dark Side, Heather. We squash indigenous people."
"Mmmmm...squash."
"I'm hungry."

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Trying Not to Poison the Kids

At breakfast, Jeffrey announced that his brown rice cereal had arsenic in it.

I think I just nodded and maybe said, "Oh, yeah?" as I surveyed the leftover boxes of crackers from New Year's and mentally calculated if I had enough to last the week for lunches.

"Yeah, the Consumer Reports said that all rice has arsenic in it and that you are basically poisoning yourself if you eat it."  And he took another ecstatic slurp of his cereal.

"Well, that's awful," I said as I rolled his roast beef slices up in a paper towel to dry them, because if I don't, muh GAWD at the juices and seriously, do I expect him to eat juices?  Then...

"Wait, what? Consumer Reports said what about rice?"

"It's full of arsenic.  You're POISONING ME!"  He grinned at me, then fell out of his chair making awful Walking Dead zombie gargling noises because he hadn't had his meds yet and also, because he's twelve.

"Get off the floor and bring me that magazine," I said, because really?  Reeeaaaallllyyyyy?

Now there's ANOTHER food to worry about?

When River was born almost eight years ago (pause to let y'all who've been with me a while soak THAT one in,) I went pretty crunchy.  I clean with vinegar, essential oils, and a few all-natural store-bought sprays, I stopped using paper towels in the kitchen (except for roast beef juice removal, obviously), I started buying more organic foods.  This was problematic for Jeffrey and Will, who were all about minty-fresh toilet bowls and neon-colored breakfast pastries filled with something that was part sugar, part food dye, and part...what?  Gummy "food product" that tastes like a strawberry's more lurid bedroom fantasies?  Anyway, the boys were not keen on the whole eating-real-food thing, but after Jeffrey read a few books and articles about the subject, he also embraced my loathing of high fructose corn syrup and processed foods and, with a few exceptions, was fine with the replacement foods.  (River, of course, had always had a crunchy mama and had grown up being able to say, in her piping little fairy voice, "High fruit syrup is baaaaaaaad."  Sniff.  I miss my little tree-hugging bitsy toddler.)

One thing both kids loved was brown rice cereal.  This is basically smished up brown rice--think grits or cream of wheat --that you heat up with water so it makes a gruel.  It is CRAZY expensive (the one store that carries it around here only has the organic kind,) but it is the one thing they will both eat without groaning, so I pay up the $7 a bag every month with a smile on my face.  Turns out, I am poisoning the kids with their favorite food.

Jeffrey was straight up right about the Consumer Reports article.  You can read it here.  You also could have read a similar report in 2012, when the magazine did another study about rice.  Jeffrey didn't have a subscription then, so I missed out.  Dang it!  Three whole years when I could have been worrying just a little bit more about my children's diet.  All that time wasted...

As I tossed out the leftover bag of rice cereal (which has more arsenic in one serving that CR  recommends for a week--*edited to add:  rechecked the 2012 study and found that my specific brand, because it is organic, actually has less than that, but I would be over the limit just serving one more rice dish a week) and checked to see where my basmati rice was grown (TEXAS--where the highest concentration of arsenic was found--they go big or go home in Texas,) I started thinking about how obnoxious it was that we have to be told to worry about our food.

Think about it:  we have to be told that our salad will give us e coli, our chicken will give us salmonella, our tuna was processed in a listeria-laden factory.  We are warned about the dangers of processed-soy products and informed that the waffles we bought last Tuesday contain fillers that are likely sawdust and IT'S OKAY.  Did you know that most foods processed in America have an acceptable base level for insects and animal hair and feces?  IT'S TRUE.  (Trust me, this is not the grossest food news that is out there in this world.  Allow me not to tell you about the disturbing article I came across which detailed how Chinese food producers source human hair from barber shops to get the cysteine from it so they could make soy sauce.  I just...no.)

Now, obviously, it is occasionally hard not to get hair or other weird stuff into your food when you're cooking at home.  I have a beagle, which means that almost every meal is going to come with at least one of his hairs, because he has roughly 280 kajillion of them, which apparently fall out and regrow overnight, congregating every morning on the kitchen floor. And just last night, I fished a dead ant from the fall's invasion out of the last teaspoon of my kosher salt.  I just shrugged and went on making my pizza crust.  The difference is...this is MY hair and ant.  I know exactly how clean (or not clean) the surfaces of my kitchen, the blades of my knife, and the bottoms of my pots are.  So I don't wig out about the fur or ants.

But I AM wigging out about how dependent I am on an agency or magazine to tell me if my food is safe.  Or, if not wigging out, at least tossing out the stuff that I don't need (like rice cereal when I have perfectly safe grits or oatmeal that they can also eat) or researching ways to make the things that we enjoy.  I'm also re-committed to planting a garden this year, which is why I already have onions sprouting on my window sill and why I went out and got a bunch of lettuce, broccoli, and mustard seed to plant today.  It just seems silly to have the time, resources, and land available to produce more of our food and NOT do that, you know?

Maybe I can find a grain substitute that will work, like amaranth.  I'll have to get Jeffrey to check Consumer Reports about the best kind of seed to buy...one without, you know, arsenic.

Monday, January 12, 2015

A Folded Fitted What Now?

The picture in my header and the title of my blog crack me up, for a variety of reasons.

  1. They imply that I have my mess together, which is generally not true.  Most of the time, my mess is, well, MESSY, and it sort of slodges along being messy and chaotic and occasionally hurling bits of goodness from its depths, which makes people think that I have my mess together.  Case in point is this blog, which I've had parked here for almost a year now, waiting til I get cookies baked or hats crocheted or a garden weeded or that last episode of Bones watched before I actually, you know, publish it.
  2. They imply that I do pretty things like tie rosemary bunches together with embroidery thread and use them to scent my sheets.  Which, actually, right after I took this picture, I did, but what I'm trying to say is that, in my day to day life, I don't spend a lot of time tying rosemary bunches together with embroidery thread.  Right now, as we speak, I've got an iced tea pitcher full of rosemary stems that need to be salad spun and dried in the oven so that I can cook with them later, but other than the ones that are currently nestled between two mismatched sheets in my linen closet, rosemary stems go bare here.  I will use a rubber band to keep the sprigs together, but never (unless I am staging a picture) do I do it with embroidery thread.
  3. They imply that my home is rustically and artistically decorated, as evidenced by the antique electrical insulator in the background arranged on a barn board.  In truth, although I am aiming at some point in time to decorate my home both rustically AND artistically, the best way to describe my decorating style would be "she has children who spill things on her carpet" and "wait, are she and her husband still in college?"
Here's the deal about the header image:  roughly 478 years ago, I dated a guy for whom I was totally unsuited.  I don't mean that he was awful, or I was awful, or even that our relationship was awful, but we came from entirely different worlds and our personalities did not line up very gracefully in the end, which came right about the time I met my husband.  In any case, this guy's mother and I were even more unsuited for each other and I think both of us were frankly baffled by the improbability of us having a human being in common.  She wasn't awful, either, and she taught me a few lessons that I continue to use today.  The first is that pork chops, creamed corn, and biscuits are a perfect meal.  That woman could cook a pork chop, for serious.   The rest center around laundry, particularly folding fitted sheets.  Prior to dating her son, my method for folding fitted sheets was to take them out of the dryer, make a pass at folding them lenthwiseish a couple of times, and then rolling them into a ball easily tossed into the linen closet.  She taught me the magic of matching and tucking in corners so that you can actually put the things in the closet so they'll stack prettily and not look like you took purposefully ironed wrinkles into them when you make your bed.

Most of the people in my life reacted as if I was insane when I raved about folding fitted sheets, because who does that besides Martha Stewart and my exboyfriend's mother?  But I was proud of the fact that I folded those suckers, because the secret of me is that although I am an artist and a free spirit, I crave order like I crave Hershey Kisses.  (Which is a lot.)  I hide this fact well, beneath the mess of me.

And that's why this blog is entitled A Folded Fitted Sheet.  In 2005, I started writing a blog called I'm Not Hannah.  I wrote about being the mother of a toddler, being the mother of an Aspie, being the mother of a strong-willed daughter.  I wrote about being a Georgia Bulldog and a liberal in the South and a writer.   I wrote on topics ranging from the perfect sugar cookie to President Obama and I made a lovely circle of bloggy friends and enjoyed myself immensely for a good ten years.  Things changed as Facebook emerged as the go-to social media because instead of wanting to write a few paragraphs to make people laugh, think, cry, or bake cookies, I started wanting to write a few sentences to do the same thing.  I thought in blurbs as I went through my day, crafting a perfect phrase to describe my son's bedhead instead of speaking to the larger picture of what his bedhead represents.  But I still kept the blog and I still wrote an entry or two every once in a while that made me proud.

Then, almost at the same time, two things happened.  The first is that, for reasons I have grappled with and cried over, I had to stop writing I'm Not Hannah.  Eventually, in the words of the philosopher Elsa, I let it go, but it was weird to not be writing a blog any more.  Then a few weeks later, I turned forty-years-old.

Forty didn't hit me like a ton of bricks.  (I'm speaking of the psychological impact.  Physically, my knees and back and pretty much every other part of me except the fourth rib on the left collapsed panting in the living room and said, "Girl, you need to get in shape, because we are OLD and can't haul your soul around for much longer if you don't.")  (Yes, my body parts talk to me.  I understand yours probably don't.  Lucky you.)  I didn't feel old or worn out or discouraged, as apparently I was supposed to do.  I felt, you know, pretty dang relieved that I'd made it this far and that I had a lovely family and good friends and all in all, a nice life.

HOWEVER.  There was a niggling idea that maybe I wasn't as together as I needed to be and that it would be awesome to finish writing those novels, plant a garden that actually provided my family sustenance, and get the slipcover for the couch finished.  There was a thought that I still had time to become the exact Heather I needed to be, but, um, like, the time might be a bit more...CONCENTRATED than it used to be.

Around this time, I read a post from a blog friend I hadn't visited with in a billion years.  YES!!  I thought.   I, too, miss thinking in complete sentences.  I, too, am addicted to Facebook and need to make a change, yo.  I started thinking about writing another blog, but what to title it?  I had been Not Hannah for so long that I couldn't imagine not being Not Hannah anymore.  But I didn't want to title the blog I'm Not I'm Not Hannah or The Blogger Formerly Known as Not Hannah, because that's just awkward.  A friend threw a few ideas at me, included the one you see above, which obviously works for me.

It fits me, I think.  A folded fitted sheet, you know, will never be a perfect square.  There aren't enough real corners.  There are too many curves for everything to line up perfectly.  But it is trying, bless its heart.  It's trying to make order of itself, which is pretty much the story of my life, bless MY heart.

And I think that's what this blog will be for me:  a place of order where I can contain my mess.  Or maybe it will be the place I go to escape from the mess.  I'm not sure yet.  If you're here from I'm Not Hannah,  HEY!!!  I MISSED YOU!  COME AND GIVE US A SQUUNCH.  If you're here randomly from the interweb, HEY!!!  NICE TO MEET YOU!  COME AND GIVE US A SQUUNCH.

I'm nothing if not enthusiastic.