Friday, June 29, 2012

Is Social Media The New Front Porch Swing?

My mom is a television junkie.  When I was still living at home in high school I swear she'd knock on my bedroom door, interrupting me working on my homework, to tell me to come watch TV with her.

"Beck?  You've got to see this!"

I liked TV just fine when I was a kid.  I enjoyed watching "our" shows with my mom: "Mary Tyler Moore" and "Soap" and "Dynasty" and "Seinfeld".  But now I never watch TV.  We gave up cable over a year ago and I don't miss it at all.  I much prefer to watch stuff online.  It just seems so much less artificial than what you see on TV.

So here's one of my favorite vloggers talking about this very subject.  People used to gather around the campfire or on each other's front porches, talking, singing, jamming, exchanging recipes, telling stories.  Just like we do now on YouTube and Facebook and Pinterest and--on blogs like mine.

Have a seat.  May I get you a glass of iced tea?

Ready for Fishy Lessons

Katie learned how to swim under water today.  She was having such a blast.  Will got her some goggles and it has completely transformed her attitude toward putting her face into the water.

Today I swear she spent more time under water than above it.  She wanted to play the game where I hold up my fingers under water and she swims under, resurfaces, and announces how many fingers I was holding up.  This went on what felt like forever.

Spit.  "Six!  Again!"  (holds breath)
Spit.  "Three!  Again!"  (holds breath)
Spit.  "Four!  Again!"  (holds breath)
Spit.  "Seven! Again!" (holds breath)
Spit.  "Ten!  Again!" (holds breath)

We left the community center dizzy.  Katie from the oxygen depletion and me from watching her bob up and down in the water for three freaking hours.

At one point I said to Katie, "I think you're ready for swim lessons now!"

She laughed one big "HA!" and exclaimed, "I think I'm ready for fishy lessons now!"

I think she's right.  She's definitely swum right past me.  That guppy wore this mama fishy out.

The Onion Really Is America's Finest News Source

The Onion is so great at poking fun of everyone.  It's the kind of onion that makes me cry from laughing so hard.  Like in this article, "Area Man Passionate Defender of What He Imagines Constitution To Be".

My favorite quote from that post:

"Dad's great, but listening to all that talk radio has put some weird ideas into his head," said daughter Samantha, a freshman at Reed College in Portland, OR. "He believes the Constitution allows the government to torture people and ban gay marriage, yet he doesn't even know that it guarantees universal health care."

Reminds me of Dad and me when I was a teenager, shouting our inaccurate facts at each other, him calling me a pinko commie, me calling him a fascist pig.

Fortunately we've both mellowed with age so we rarely argue anymore.  It helps that we no longer live together.  It helps that we've both dabbled in psychiatric drugs.  It helps in my case, too, that I've actually now read the Constitution.

You can too, right here.

The Best Thing About Obamacare

Yesterday I was making light of the fact that I prefer to make my own decisions on who my health care providers are based on things like whether or not they remind me of myself.  Those of us who already have health care can afford to make such jokes.   Those of us who don't, as this video above reminds us, don't have the luxury of being silly.

I think one of the most important points of Obamacare is what the President himself says in the video: "You can't be dropped when you get sick and need insurance most."  It has never made much sense to me to have employer-paid health insurance since generally when you're sick enough to need to use it, you can't work.

What do you think is the best thing about Obamacare?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Obamacare: Can I Continue Picking My Own Providers; or, I Want My Doctor to Be a Reflection of Myself

I'm pleasantly surprised most of Obamacare was upheld by SCOTUS today.  Much of the reaction on the right is not surprising at all.  I'm an advocate of universal health care, but Obamacare is a step in the right direction.  Perhaps while wearing a cast and walking with crutches.  But it's at least heading somewhere better.  Here's a good video that explains it:

I'm one of the lucky ones who has good insurance, but I've heard horror stories from my friends who are either uninsured or one job-loss away from uninsured.

Today I had to visit the doctor about an issue that allowed me to use my big girl words while speaking to the medical staff.  Vulva.  Vagina.  Labia minora.  If I were a Michigan Representative my coworkers would have bandaged my mouth shut with gauze and that amazing sort of see-through tape that sticks well enough for the bandage but it doesn't rip your hairs off when it's time for removal.  For all my brash use of medical terminology they'd mummify my mouth.

My doctor wants me to have a very minor outpatient surgical procedure done, but it's beyond the means of his office.  So he gave me a list of referrals to pick from.  Scanning the list, I was having trouble deciding who to pick.  Two of them--former doctors I did not like at all--were immediately nixed.  But how could I tell which one would be the best for me from the rest?

Good ole Google.  After searching their websites, I actually made a decision.  And guess what it was that made up my mind?  In her bio, she describes herself as "an environmentalist" and "a perpetual student."

See, as long as I can continue to choose my medical providers based on my own irrational reasons, Obamacare seems like a reasonable law to me.

I say let's talk about Obamacare.  And vaginas.  Out in the open.  Maybe open communication will spark some good ideas.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sawyer's New Nickname is Frodo

Our dog Sawyer recently had surgery to remove a benign tumor on her paw.  The vet had to remove one of her toes, too.  She's all healed now, so the jokes have begun.  Just now I caught Will belting out, "Sawyer of the nine fingers, and the wart of doom!"

Got any other good dog amputee jokes out there?

Closer to Fine

I saw this post on NPR's website today about our nation's changing attitude toward meat consumption.  This photo reminds me of the poster I saw in the office at Greenpeace when I was newly turning vegetarian:

Source: J.L. Capper, Journal of Animal Science, July, 2011.
Credit: Kevin Uhrmacher/Eliza Barclay/Jessica Stoller-Conrad/NPR

I haven't eaten any beef since December 31, 1989.  I'd like to say I gave it up to save the lives of the cows, but honestly I gave up meat-eating because I wanted to be cool.  All my favorite musicians at the time--Morrissey, Michael Stipe, k.d. lang, Indigo Girls--were vegetarians.  I wanted to be like them.

The summer of 1990 I was looking for a job.  The local Greenpeace chapter was hiring for canvassers.  At first I thought, "Why do they need painters?"  But the job ad in the paper mentioned it offered health care benefits to employees and their domestic partners regardless of sexual orientation, a progressive move virtually unheard of at the time.  That was just too freaking cool to pass up, so I dropped by the office to apply, figuring I could exaggerate my painting abilities.  Turns out canvassing means going door to door to get people to sign petitions and donate money to the organization, so I didn't have to lie to my prospective employers afterall.  I'd walked door-to-door with my mom when I was a kid after my grandfather died of cancer helping raise donations for The American Cancer Society.  

As I sat in the office waiting while my future boss processed my paperwork, I looked at the posters on the wall.  It had been about six months or so since I'd given up eating meat for the most part.  I still occasionally ate chicken, but something about beef turned me off.  The redness of the bloody raw meat.  Yuck.  As I read over the Greenpeace propaganda, a smug superiority washed over me.  I didn't have to admit to people I gave up eating meat to be cool like my idols.  I could tell people I gave up meat because I'm an environmentalist.

Decades later, I've long since softened my opinion on meat eating.  My husband eats meat.  My kid eats meat.  Just the other day, for Father's Day, Will wanted to eat barbeque at Arthur Bryant's.  I ordered chicken, which if I think deeply enough about it, chickens are much less humanely kept in our factory farms than cows are, but they're not so damaging to the environment as a whole...and they just taste better than bloody cows.  Will ordered what appeared to be the tray of death--every kind of meat imaginable.  And Katie wanted ham, her favorite.  

As we sat gorging ourselves on animal flesh, Katie stopped briefly between bites and said, "Mama, am I eating a pig?

"Yes you are, Sweetie.  And I'm eating a chicken."  I try to sound as matter-of-fact about the issue with my daughter, wanting her to make up her own mind about the foods she eats.

"So, it's a pig?"  She wanted to make sure.  

"Yes, you're eating the pig's muscles."  I expected her to spit out her bite and say "Yuck" or something.  That's what I would have done as a kid.  I was nine before I realized meat comes from dead animals.  I thought it just came from a package at a grocery store.

Instead, Katie licked her lips and said, "Mmmmm.  I love ham!  Thank you pig!"

I like her attitude.  When she's a snooty teenager and decides to go vegetarian, that will be fine too.  All I ask is that she try to remain conscious of her food choices and thankful she's lucky enough to have such choices.  I've often wondered what my ancestors who fought off famine would think of my self-limited diet.  I remember reading somewhere that the difference between appetite and hunger is when your appetite has been piqued you choose some foods and not others.  When you're hungry you'll dig a beet out of the ground and eat it raw.  I like to stay mindful of this difference and thank the universe for giving us the opportunity to be choosy.

"There's more than one answer to these questions pointing me in a crooked line.  The less I seek my source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine."  -- Indigo Girls "Closer to Fine"

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Rest in Peace, Nora Ephron

I just heard Nora Ephron died today.  She was one of my favorite writers.  She wrote the screenplay to the great Mike Nichols film "Silkwood".  But my favorite of her screenplays is "When Harry Met Sally."

The scene above is great, even if I disagree with how Billy Crystal's character is grossly oversimplifying male-female friendships.  First of all, what about gay men?  They can certainly form nonsexual friendships with women.  What do you think?  Can a heterosexual man really be "just friends" with a woman?

I'm not going to bother posting the "fake orgasm" scene since everyone remembers that one.  But here's another one of my favorite scenes:


If you haven't seen "When Harry Met Sally", I highly recommend it.  It's not a perfect film--it's a realistic comedy, so of course it's not.  But it's one of those movies that when it ends you're just so happy to be alive.

Thank you, Nora Ephron.  I hope you were happy til the end.

Fat Like Me

Image retrieved from this Wikipedia article

I woke up to someone softly pinching the flab on my upper arm.

When I opened my eyes I saw a tiny cyclops staring at me, nose to nose.  "Good morning, Mama!"

"Good morning, Sweetie.  What are you doing?"  Now Katie was lying to my side, pinching under her own arm.

"Mama, how come I'm not fat?" she asked in her philosophical five-year-old voice.

Since Katie was born my body has turned to a mound of flab, but my brain is quite fit with all these early-morning exercises she puts me through.

"Because you eat just the right amount of food and get just the right amount of exercise for your body," I explained, holding back a yawn.

"But I want to be fat!" She exclaimed, stabbing at her skinny arms.

I laughed and then immediately regretted it when she shot me the look: This is serious, Mother.

"Why do you want to be fat?"  I asked, rolling over to drape my flabby arm across her warm body.

"So I can be like you!"  Her face was right next to mine on the pillow.  Fresh and young and vibrant.  She kissed my lips so gently I didn't feel any sting from her words.

This is not the first time Katie has talked about my fat with utter glee.  One time she pointed out to me, "Mama, you have the biggest bottom in our ENTIRE family!" as if I had won some kind of prize.

With my history of anorexia and disordered eating, I must tread lightly on this subject.  My goal in life, and I know it's a lofty one, is to raise my daughter to escape our society's epidemic of body dysmorphic disorder.  When she's old enough to comprehend them, I'll recommend she read the books that have helped me with my struggles, Health at Every Size®Fat is a Feminist Issue, When Food is Love.  For now, she can learn from my example.

This morning in bed, I thought for a moment I should explain that not everyone in our society thinks it's such a great thing to be fat.  But I gave that thought a rest.  She'll figure it out soon enough on her own.  Instead, I mimicked her gentle kiss and said, "I'm flattered you want to be like me, Sweetie.  But you are you.  You are part of me and part of Daddy but all yourself.  Your body is just right for you."

A lesson I hope to some day believe myself.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Becky's Thatcher, Part II

I have an update to my crazy cat lady story.  Today when I came home from work for my dinner hour, Thatcher was sprawled out on our front porch.  It's another scorcher, so I picked him up and brought him inside the air conditioning to cool off, at least until I had to head back to work.

Will and Katie were at her cousin's house, so it was just me and the pets.  I kept my eye on Thatcher while I put together my dinner.  He sniffed the dogs, walked a circle from the hallway to the kitchen and back to the hallway.  And then, not five minutes after he came inside, I found him staring at the back door.  I opened it just to kind of tease him, to remind him how hot it is.  No one in his right mind would prefer to be outside when it's close to 100 degrees.  Especially someone wearing a permanent fur coat.

I now have proof my cat is not in his right mind.  As soon as I opened the door, he walked right back outside.  To his back yard.   

I'm not usually very good at making decisions.  I honestly despise making decisions.  I tend to weigh so many options I begin to get confused and mix up what options there are and then, exhausted from over-thinking, I make a snap decision I soon regret.

But I'm feeling better and better about this whole outdoor cat decision I made three weeks ago.  It's kind of weird and kind of clunky, but it's working.

All that worrying for nothing.  As is usually the case with worrying.

Housewife FAIL, Housewife WIN

After my recent breakdown, Will suggested I call our agent at American Family Insurance to see if our auto policy covers the cost of a tow.  I argued with him that of course it wouldn't.

"Car insurance is for when you get in a wreck, not when your car just breaks down," I insisted.

Just to prove my husband wrong, I called our agent.  Turns out, our agent proved me wrong.  They do make car insurance that covers the cost of a tow if your have a breakdown.  Who knew?  Well, uh, Will but, um...

Unfortunately I never asked for this service on our policy since I didn't know it exists, so the policy we have does not cover a tow.  Too bad.  It's only $4 every six months per vehicle.  Less than a buck a month.

The hash marks under the "Housewife FAIL" column I keep stored inside my brain are multiplying faster than the hash marks under my "Housewife WIN" column.

Oh well, as I tell our daughter all the time, "live and learn."  See, this is just another example for me to show Katie how we learn from our mistakes.  I think that means I should get a hash mark in both columns, since being a good role model falls under the "Housewife WIN" category.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Becky's Thatcher

Me: “Do you think Mommy’s a mean person for making Thatcher go outside?”

Katie: “No! Not at all! Thatcher’s the mean person. Not you.”

I felt a little better having a five-year-old’s approval. Young children haven't yet learned to lie to your face and tell you what they think you want to hear in an effort to cheer you up.

I kicked my cat out of the house three weeks ago. Instead of feeling relieved after a nearly ten-year bad relationship, I felt horrible. I instantly regretted throwing him out on all fours onto the grass.  It was the only way I could get him to stay outside without beating me to the back door. Maybe I broke his leg?

I went outside to check on him. It was as if he’d disappeared. It couldn’t have been more than thirty seconds since I’d tossed him onto the grass, ran back inside, shut the door, and walked down the hallway to let the dogs out of the bedroom. I had shut them inside with Will and Katie so they wouldn’t trip me up as I chased the damn cat around the house. As soon as I opened the bedroom door I returned to the back door and looked out. But he was gone.

I’d been awake half the night worrying about what I was going to do with this rotten cat. The night before he'd gone on a rampage and bit not just me, which was usually the case, but Will, who was not usually on the menu.  I finally came to the half-assed conclusion that the most humane thing I could do was force him to be an outdoor cat again. I’d still feed him and make sure he had water. We’d go outside and pet him and check on him. I figured when it got too hot or too cold out we could even let him inside the garage or something. Make him some kind of shelter, a cat house of some sort. 

I figured this first day would be tough. It never crossed my mind he’d take off, though. I assumed we’d be plugging our ears from his howls at the back door all day. Instead, I was the one howling inside.

Will tried to comfort me but I just pushed him away and warned him I might throw up. I tried to comfort myself by doing something productive: loading the dishwasher. Making sure everything fit just-so. Something I could control and clean and make new. But I wanted Will to comfort me and he didn’t have long until he had to go to work, so I went down into his lair to sit and talk to him about it.

“He’s an asshole, Becky! He bites our guests. He bites us. You took him in as an orphan and bottle fed him and wiped his ass to get him to go to the bathroom--yet he’s always been an asshole.”

It’s true. Why did I feel so terrible?  He deserved it.  Will’s solution, and one I was starting to think was more humane than what I’d decided, was to take him to the vet and euthanize him. I didn’t want to kill him. He’s an asshole, but he’s been a part of our family for almost ten years. I just wanted to figure out a way for us to peaceably coexist.  A vet once prescribed him amitriptyline for his "behavior problems" but I never noticed much of a difference.  Since he'd usually bite me as I was trying to get him to take his meds anyway, I figured it wasn't worth it.

He used to be a mostly-outdoor cat before we moved to this house. We lived in an apartment next to a small creek and he’d literally never want to come home. In fact, when we moved to our current house, I thought we’d lost him. It had been three days since we’d moved the last of our things out of the apartment. I returned for the third time to the forested area along the creek to call for him, “Meow-Meows. Here Meow-Meows.”

I rarely call him Thatcher. He responds best to Meow-Meows. He finally came running out of the forest on that third day. I picked him up and drove him to our new house.  Often after one of his particularly viscous episodes I'd think, "Why didn't I just leave him in the forest?"

He went in-and-out at our new house for about two weeks. Then suddenly one day he refused to go outside. We even took him out and tried to sit with him in the grass. We tried coaxing him out with treats. It was the weirdest thing. Our cat who used to pee at our front door at the apartment when we wouldn’t let him outside was now hunching down low and running inside our new house as if something was going to get him if he stayed outside
We figured he’d gotten into a catfight or something. New cat. New neighborhood. I’d seen a cat roaming around down the block. We never saw any visible markings to indicate he’d been hurt, but we assumed it was a catfight that turned him into this indoor cat.

Which would have been fine with me if Thatcher wasn't so cranky. I love cats. I still miss my cat Zach and he passed away more than a decade ago.  He was a sweet, fat, lap cat who wouldn’t harm a flea even if it was trying to kill him.  In fact, I think he had a little brain damage.  He was the only survivor of a litter of six kittens that had a horrible flea infestation that caused the rest of his siblings to die of severe anemia.  Zach survived, but you could tell he wasn't the brightest crayon in the box.  It just made me love him all the more.
Thatcher is not Zach. If he sits in your lap he sticks his claws into your thighs and if you try to shift him into a position that doesn’t draw blood, he bites you.  
He'd taken to pissing on our back door, too.  Not in a UTI way.  He was on a special UTI diet to make sure it wasn't that.  He didn't pee everywhere, just on the back door.  Like he used to at our apartment.  So I took it as a sign that he wanted out again, even if he didn't act like it once he got outside.  I knew I certainly wanted him out.

So after a sleepless night three weeks ago, I kicked him out.

About an hour after the fiasco of actually getting him outside and returning to the house looking like I’d been in a catfight myself, thinking he'd run away, and my crying like a crazy cat lady, Katie and I heard a faint “meow” outside her bedroom window. We ran outside and there he was, curled up in a ball, hiding inside the broken basement window cover.

Despite our recent scuffle, he came to me and let us pet him. I showed him where I was going to keep his water and food. We hung out with him and let him explore the back yard, then we said “See you later” and went back inside.

After all that worry and fuss, he's adjusted amazingly well. It’s as if he’s forgotten whatever trauma kept him indoors these past seven years. When I sit on our front porch swing, he lies next to me and purrs while I pet him.  I sometimes have to check his collar to make sure it's not Bizarro Thatcher.

Here’s a photo I snapped of him in our back yard after his first night outside:

And here’s one of him today, three weeks later, back inside the house:

What?!  Don't worry.  Just for the afternoon while we’re under a heat advisory. I was going to make him stay inside the garage, but he’s been so sweet these last three weeks since he’s turned back into an “outdoor” cat we figured he can stay inside as long as he causes no trouble. So far he’s just snoozing like a good cat should.

Family Chariot

Ever since my car broke down--again--I've been thinking of selling it.  Again.  This happens each time my car breaks down.  I inevitably decide that the car repair bills are cheaper than a monthly car payment and so I stick with my old clunker.

But it's such an inconvenience to be without a car some days.  For the most part I can get by walking to work and having Will drop off and pick up Katie whenever Grandpa babysits.  But there are times like today when we're under a heat advisory and my kid is jonesin' to go swimming.

So I'm thinking of getting one of these.  The website calls it a "family chariot."  I'd only plan to race it to the grocery store so the name seems a little excessive, but it looks like a nice way to get around to local places.

Like the community center pool.  I've always thought it was silly that people drive to the community center to go inside and exercise.  Why not just walk?  Or ride your bike?  In my case, I live three miles from our community center and I just don't think Katie can pedal that far yet.  She complains her legs are tired when we ride back from her school playground two blocks away.  I have a bike, but its chain is rusty and it seats only one, so there's no way I could carry Katie along for the ride.  But if we got a "family chariot" I bet I could bike us the three miles to the community center.  And if my legs were that sore from hauling around my fifty pound kid, I could soak them in the hot tub.

Unlike my car, we could only use it on good-weather days, though.  Hmm.  Considering it's 100 degrees outside today maybe I should ponder this inside my air conditioned home before I sell my car or make any hasty purchases.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Therapy Kid

The good news?  Our dog Sawyer got her sutures—and even better yet, her Elizabethan collar—removed Friday.  Those damn cones hurt when your fifty pound dog rams them into your legs as you’re trying to steer her toward the back door for a potty break.  She’s not used to being kenneled, but her discharge instructions insist upon it.  No jumping onto her couch—I can’t even sit on it or I feel guilty—or into bed with us at night, although I never did resort to climbing into her kennel with her.  No running around the yard with our other big dog.  The local SPCA medical clinic vet sent her home with the cone head and a warning that we needed to make sure she’d just lie quietly in her kennel for ten days while she healed from surgery.  Now my dog is a lazy old lady just like her owner.  But she still has standards.  She expects to do her lying around on the couch or in our bed.  NOT in a cage like some kind of, um.  Well a pet is different than an animal, right?

Cornelis de Vos (Flemish Baroque painter, 1584-1651)
Image source 

It started out as a small mole-ish growth on her paw.  The Humane Society vets aspirated it and found it to be benign.  Keep our eyes on it.  If it starts to grow suddenly or if she starts licking it like it’s bothering her, we’d have to find another vet to remove it since the Humane Society’s surgery capacity is limited to just spays and neuters.

It didn’t seem to bother her until about two months ago.  I noticed her licking it one day.  More and more.  Then it started to turn pink like she was licking it raw.  Then we noticed it was growing.  A friend recommended the local SPCA since they do low-cost, non-profit medical procedures.  And sure enough they did.  They’ve been fantastic.  If you have a pet that needs medical care, I recommend taking them to your local SPCA medical clinic. 

Finally Friday came and Sawyer was healed.  No more sleeping in her kennel all the time.  Ready to resume snuggle puppy sessions at night.

We certainly deserved it.  She’d had her head trapped in a cone and I’d had my head trapped in a cyclone of anxiety.

Ten days of healing.  Yeah, right.  More like ten days of whining, whimpering and howling.  And you should have heard Sawyer!  Let’s just say I have had many opportunities to test my DBT skills. Earlier in the week in the middle of one of my temper-tantrums, Katie had to remind me to breathe "in through the nose, out through the mouth, Mama." I don't need a therapy dog. I have a therapy kid.

I hope I’m just joking.  I don’t want to form Katie into that mold.  I think it’s good she comforts me when I’m ailing, but I don’t want her to feel like she’s the caretaker.  I’m the parent.  My primary job is to keep her safe til she learns how to care for herself.  But it’s true.  It’s also my job to raise her to know how important it is to care for others.  And to know when it’s time to accept care from others.

Which leads us to the bad news. 

The timing belt on my car went out.  While I was turning into an exit lane so I could get onto the interstate.  At dusk.  In a part of this sprawling town I don’t know.  An area with a reputation for theft and prostitution and meth labs, isn't it?  I couldn't remember and I never paid much attention to the depressing news reports because I only have enough worry in me for things closer to home.  My unfamiliarity with this part of town led me to become anxious, wondering what I should do with no cell phone, no change, no phone numbers memorized even if we managed to find a pay phone and reversed charges.  If it were just me I could have figured something out, no sweat.  While working for Greenpeace back in the day, I'd gotten stranded and simply walked the six miles home.  But I had my five year old daughter with me.  She couldn't walk that far.  I had to stay put and protect her from the unknown, the worst job in parenting.

I’ve been stuck before.  Many times.  That’s what you get when you drive old cars and you’re too cheap to buy a cell phone.  But I usually make it a habit of carrying around a sheet of paper with contact information and at least four quarters in case I can find a pay phone to call someone for help.  Not ten hours earlier, though, I had left those four quarters as part of a tip on the table after our late-Father’s Day lunch at Home Country Buffet.  We left a mess and I knew my dad wouldn’t bother to tip.  Since I paid for his meal it was my duty anyway.  All I had other than my debit card and driver’s license were these four quarters.  I told myself I’d remember to raid Will’s coin jar and put four more quarters back into my coin purse when we got home.

I didn’t, of course.  And I'd left the paper with my contacts on it at home inside the wallet with a broken zipper I'd been meaning to fix or replace.  So there I was, sitting in my stalled car in the left-turn lane to get onto the interstate.  My five year old daughter was bombarding me with questions.

“What’s wrong with the car, Mommy?”

“How will we get home?”

“What will we do with the car?”

“What if someone comes by and smashes our car with their car?”

“Why do you want me to stop asking questions?”

I said, "Let's go find a gas station."  I pushed the "hazard" button on my dash.  We got out, locked the doors, and started walking.  Almost immediately a kind woman pulled over and asked if we needed help.  She, of a clearer mind than I at that moment, suggested I get Katie's booster seat and drove us to the closest gas station.  She let me use her cell to call the library.  I didn't have Will's work phone memorized, so I had to call them to look it up for me.  While on the phone I had them also look up my father-in-law's phone number.  Just in case.

I sat on the phone with Will for what seemed like hours but was probably just a few minutes.  Stephanie, the kind woman who rescued us, sat and chatted with Katie while Will and I worked out the logistics using her phone.  She teaches vacation Bible school to kids Katie's age, so she was great at keeping Katie calm and occupied while I was busy talking to her dad.

When we had the plan set--Will would call for a tow and he'd leave work to come get Katie and me--Stephanie asked if I had any cash on me.  I admitted, embarrassed, that I did not.  I started to explain my four quarters tip from earlier in the day but before I could get out the story she had handed me all her cash.

"It's just $2.75, but it's enough to make a few more phone calls if you need to or if your sweet girl needs a sucker or some candy."

It's hard to teach kids that it's not ok to take candy from strangers, but if your instinct tells you someone is kind, it's ok to occasionally accept cash to buy candy when you're stranded somewhere kinda scary.

She left us sitting outside the Conoco station in front of the pay phone.  I stuffed the scrap of paper with her phone number on it "just-in-case" inside my jeans pocket.  I noticed a huge old pickup truck parked to the side of the building in the gravel.  A man's legs were sticking out of the open driver's side door.  Like he was lying on the floor of the cab fixing something.  Only he never moved once the entire time we were there.  I suspected he was asleep, passed out, hopefully not dead.  But I made sure Katie and I sat in a position so I could keep my eye on him, and every angle of the building.

We did end up going inside to get Katie a sucker.  The store had a large array of water pipes and other smoking accessories.  No suckers shaped like a bong, I thought as I was suddenly reminded of the candy cigarettes my friend and I used to love when we were kids in the Seventies, roller skating down the sidewalk with our feathers clipped to our jeans by that metal jaws-thing that always made our older sisters giggle when they saw it.

Katie found the suckers as I was hauling her booster seat around the tiny store, trying not to break anything. As we were paying for it I informed the clerk that we'd be sitting outside waiting for my husband to pick us up.  He either didn't speak English or he was completely unfazed by my situation since he nodded his head slightly but didn't so much as smile.

I myself could not stop smiling.  I read somewhere, I think, that whenever you're in a situation where you feel like you could be in danger you should make eye-contact and smile at everyone you see.  Something about showing your humanity to the sociopath, or something like that.  I tried not to think about it too deeply.

Katie and I returned to our seat on the curb of the gas station's sidewalk.  The sleepy/drunk/dead guy was still half-hanging out his truck.  Katie kept looking at my face and finally said,

"Mama, why you smiling so much?"

I didn't want to lie to her but I didn't want to scare her either.  "Well, I've heard it's good to smile at people you don't know so they know you're a nice person."

Katie smiled in the direction of the parking lot at no one in particular with the sucker still inside her mouth.

That only lasted a few seconds though, until she leaned against me and said, "Mama, I'm scared."

"It's ok.  Daddy's on his way to pick us up and this is a well-lighted gas station and I'm here to protect you."

Katie scoffed at that last suggestion.  Who, Mom?  I get nervous watching the fight scene out of the corner of my eye while walking through a room where someone is playing a video game.  I've told Katie repeatedly that I'm a pacifist.  And she's figured out for herself that I'm a wuss.

"How are you going to protect me?"  She asked.

"I'm going to sit here and watch our surroundings and make sure we're safe."  I said in the calmest, most maternal voice I could muster.  I could not allow my personal battle with posttraumatic stress disorder to interfere with my child's well being.

"How you do that?  What if a stranger tries to take me?!"  We'd talked about this before, but always in the safety of our own home.  It felt like we were going through a practice drill this time.

"I'd stab out their eyeballs with my car keys."

Katie's jaw dropped in a Macaulay Culkinesque style.  "How you do that?!" she demanded to know.

I showed her my fist.  Ever since kind Stephanie dropped us off, I had my keys in my hand with the longest key,the car key, shoved between my pointer and ring finger the way I'd seen you're supposed to carry them if you suddenly need to use them as a weapon.
Katie snuggled her head into my armpit.

Several times Katie asked, "But what about the car?  What if someone hits it with their car?  What if the police take it away?  What if it can't be fixed?"

I hugged her side and kissed her forehead and said, "You know what, Punk?  I don't care about the car.  The car could evaporate and I wouldn't care.  I'm just concerned about getting us home.  I'm just thinking of making sure you feel safe until Daddy gets here and we can go home.  Then we can worry about the car.  You are worth so much more than a car."

She burrowed her head further into my armpit and we waited patiently, talking, talking, talking, til Daddy arrived and took us home.  

Where we are now.  And we're fine.  Everything's going to be fine.  The car's in the shop getting fixed.  Timing belt.  Sawyer's all healed and out of her cone, waiting for us to come upstairs and begin the snuggle fest.  After I do a little internet searching for what's the best quality, cheapest pre-paid cell phone, I'll join them.

Canned Food Diet

I just started reading Rachel Maddow's book, Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power.  Many of my more conservative friends think Ms. Maddow is a radical leftist trouble-maker.  They think that's why I like her, because I'm a radical leftist trouble-maker, too.  They argue that shows like The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC are the left's equivalent to the right's propaganda broadcast on Fox News.

I can't say for sure.  I don't watch Fox News.  I don't much watch MSNBC either.  We dropped cable over a year ago, so now I catch my favorite shows online.  I try to stay on top of Rachel (woo hoo!) but I've largely ignored the rest of MSNBC.  I'm the first to admit I don't have a hearty enough constitution to sit through an entire video rant from any of the hosts on Fox News without throwing up, so most of the information I've gleaned has come from watching The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.  So of course I'm biased.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
On Topic - Cable News - Fox News
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So we know I'm biased.  And we know I'm a leftist trouble-maker.  So when I say I think Rachel Maddow is a conservative in some ways, your first reaction would probably involve much rolling of your eyeballs.

When you're done, look for yourself:  Read page eight of "Drift" and tell me Rachel Maddow doesn't have some conservative blood coursing through her veins:

See?  What do you think?  Could Rachel Maddow, and myself since I agree with her on this point, be both conservative and progressive?

One of my self-identified libertarian friends recently shared an image with the online political discussion group I used to belong to.  Used to, yeah.  A couple of days ago one of the other self-identifying libertarians blocked me after I continued what I thought was a light-hearted, jovial dialectical argument but what he perceived to be a semantic debate that lacked valid factual reasoning.  Whatever.  When I noticed I could no longer see his post, I checked the members list and discovered that not only had this guy blocked me but two others had blocked me without my prior knowledge.

That drives me nuts.  For one thing, the blurb at the top of the page states that we engage in "no holds barred argument".  So I'd think these three members who had blocked me should have known it's gonna get tough sometimes.  But I guess they'd rather ignore my comments than try to understand them.

That, and the two other members who flat out quit the group after becoming exasperated with my arguments, led me to conclude that as much as I love to argue, I hate to fight.  I left the group so I wouldn't keep spoiling it for the others.

But before I left the group, one of the members posted this photo:

I commented that if this chart is true, I'm more of a libertarian than a liberal.  Even though I was one of two people vying for the farthest spot on the left in the group's spectrum of political ideology.  As one of the heroes of my teenage years, Michael Stipe, once said about a similarly complex subject, "I've always felt that sexuality is a really slippery thing.  In this day and age, it tends to get categorized and labeled, and I think labels are for food.  Canned food."

Similarly, labeling people as either moderate, conservative, or progressive puts up unnecessary borders to the communication that needs to take place among all of us so we can find solutions to our nation's problems.  If more self-identifying conservatives read "Drift" they might find they agree with someone who is often labeled as a progressive.  Labels are a fun, easy way to try to figure people out, but they're often misused.  They can cause people to narrow their minds.  If you're afraid to have a political discussion with me because I'm too "progressive" or if you're afraid to read Rachel Maddow's book "Drift" because you've heard she's on the "wrong side" you've got yourself on too strict of a canned food diet.  

Friday, June 22, 2012

I'm Lovin' It

Stolen from Idea Planet’s Facebook page

This photo leads us to think that contrary to popular belief, fast food is not cheap. It’s convenient. And in our stress-out, time strapped lives, convenience is an anxiety-reducer.

And it’s tasty. Filled with chemicals that make you crave it. Instead of “I’m Lovin’ It” fast food ad wizards should get us to chant how we really feel: “I’m Jonesin’ For It”.

Is fast food the latest drug of choice? Highly addictive. You never quite feel satisfied and keep coming back for more, even though you feel sick. Or is all this talk about high fructose corn syrup and genetically modified, partially hydrogenated soybean oil just a way to scare the masses and to help people who prefer to shop at the local farmer’s markets or grown their own vegetables feel smugly superior?  I say it’s about time the hippies got their health nutty lifestyles back into the spotlight.

All I know is that last July I cut back my paid-work hours, so we've had to change our attitude toward meals. It’s just so much cheaper to eat a home-cooked meal. And healthful. I don’t add chemicals to the foods I prepare.  I buy organic when possible.  I offer vegetables and whole grains with most meals.  

Plus, feeding loved ones is an act of love. I enjoy making meals for my family. Not that I’m particularly good at it yet. But I’m trying. And I’m lovin’ it.

What's for dinner at your house tonight?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Toe Korma

Why do I have spicy ghee between my toes, you might ask? 

While the jar of korma simmer sauce I was using to make dinner does indeed say "shake well," they assume I will have remembered that I had already removed the lid.


"What happened, Mama?"  Katie asked without turning her face from the TV screen.  She had read the book "Sleeping Beauty" at her cousins' house today, so as soon as she walked through the door she asked if I wanted to watch the movie with her.

"Not now, Sweetie.  I gotta make dinner."

As I bent over the vinyl floor wiping up oily tomato-based clumps of spicy sauce, it occurred to me I should have taken Katie up on her offer. 

When I was a kid we called stuff you'd find between your toes "toe jam".  Is toe korma the new toe jam?

I continued thinking silly thoughts as I cleaned up the mess.  I didn't get too mad.  Before I had Katie I would have been crying or throwing myself on the sofa dramatically like the world was going to end.  Now kitchen disasters are no big deal since I have a cute five-year-old calling out from the living room, "It's ok, Mama!  Everybody makes mistakes sometimes.  I'm not mad at you."

I'll take a happy kid to a clean floor any day.

Ocarina O'Clock

Several months ago Will introduced Katie to "The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time". They play it on his still-working Nintendo 64.

I was never much of a gamer, so when I first saw Katie playing it I pronounced "Ocarina" like "Oooooh-carina". Probably because I was born in St. Joseph MO and it's what we do. We're big fans of the long o. You can tell a person is a native of the city if they rarely refer to it by its proper name but instead call it "St. Joooooh". Sometimes we even add an "oooooh" sound to "aw" words. I pronounce our dog Sawyer's name like it's spelled Soy-er. And if I ever had to visit a lawyer, I'd tell you I'm heading out to see my loy-er.

Will, however, is not from St. Joe. And he's a musician.  He's used to words like octave. So even though he'd told Katie a thousand times the proper pronunciation of "ocarina" with a short o, she still had trouble remembering and would mimic my mispronunciation of it.

Until today. When I found her reading a comic book I'd checked out for her from the library, The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time Volume 2, I said, "You like that Ocarina of Time book, don't you?"

"It's Ocarina," she corrected me, using the short o as if she were some kind of pro.

"Oh, yes, sorry, I forgot." I left her to her fancy words.

So tonight I was tucking her into bed. Katie looked at the clock and announced, "It's eleven o'clock."

"Yep. Three hours past your bedtime if it were a school night." It is my motherly duty to remind my daughter of the structure in her life that will ensue at the end of summer.

She ignored me and said, "O'clock. Wouldn't it be funny if it was pronounced a'clock?"

"You mean because it's the time that shows on a clock? So it's a'clock?"

"No, like ocarina, not ooooohcarina."

"Oh! I see what you mean. Yes. Like octopus."

"Yes!" She sounded very proud of me that I was finally catching on. "Mama, I think it's the 'oc' words that are pronounced "ah" and the "o" words are pronounced 'oooooh'."

"That's smart thinking, Punk! Kiss your brain!" I love that phrase. I learned it from her kindergarten teacher who would have the children kiss their palms and touch their foreheads whenever they figured something out.

Katie complied. She kissed her palm, but she a-little-too-enthusiastically whacked her forehead.

"Ouch!" She laughed. "If I hit my head too hard everything inside might come out my ears in a big splat!"

Sharing some of her grey matter with the world isn't such a bad idea.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

Image stolen from George Takei's hilarious Facebook page:

Happy Father's Day to all the great dads out there! Especially my husband Will, my father-in-law Scott, and my step-father Bob.  I'm lucky to have such caring men to help me raise Katie.

And to my own dad: I've spent many hours throughout my life in the greeting card aisle searching like Luke and Leia for the perfect card to express our relationship, only to come to the realization that no such card exists. Dad's not quite the sugary sweet dad portrayed in most greeting cards, but he's not quite an evil bastard either. The same could be said about me as a daughter.  Thanks for teaching me about the beauty of ambiguity, Dad.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Broccoli Trees

Will was working late, so it was just Katie and me at the dinner table.  I had gone too long without eating, busy writing or not writing and worrying about not writing, so I ate without speaking, solely focused on my food.  It was like that for a couple of minutes when Katie interrupted the silence between us.

"Mommy, did you know that giants think trees are broccoli and ants think broccoli are trees?" 

She stabbed a broccoli spear with her fork and stared at me with a triumphant gleam in her eye.  I smiled, my answer.  She took a bite, tipped her head back, closed her eyes, and said, "Mmm.  Trees."

Thursday, June 14, 2012

I'm Tina to Obama's Ike Turner

As an Obama supporter, I often feel like Tina to Obama's Ike Turner.  Just when I'm singing his praises over his support of Marriage Equality, he goes and does something sneaky and suspicious that shows the true nature of his anti-regulatory support of multi-national corporations.  If you need something to gloom up your day, read this report:

Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises

Posted: Updated: 06/13/2012 11:46 pm