September 30, 2008

Run for the hills... it's political around here!

I'm so frustrated, right now.

I just got an email from a friend of mine who has made it her mission to convince me to vote the same way she is voting. (Which there isn't a chance).

However, daily, she sends me email articles from her view. Except it's not true. What makes me so mad, is that the information she is sharing is not even from reputable sources. Today's "mind changer" was a YouTube video some guy produced that showed highlights of assorted government documents, (flashing by) with big black and white words superimposed over the pictures, apparently explaining what it meant. It was patronizing and quite frankly, untrue. I researched each "point" on this YouTube video that she sent me, from reputable sources, I cited Newsweek, Barrons, a transcript of government hearings, and Business Week.

The point is if you want to change someone's mind, please use facts not propaganda. It was slick, sloppy, and completely untrue.

Or maybe propaganda DOES work?

September 12, 2008

Wanna see something really scary?

I do not like Halloween. I cannot stand horror movies, I'm such a princess about my sweet tooth and nobody gives out Godiva so I'm not excited about the candy, but most of all, I really hate getting dressed up.

But for real, I was traumatized. I know this isn't a singular memory because my two siblings also hate Halloween. (Although, they aren't princesses about the candy). I grew up in a small rural town, so instead of Trick or Treat, we had a party at the Town Hall the Saturday afternoon before Halloween. This meant EVERYONE at SCHOOL saw you dressed and it was BROAD DAYLIGHT.

Mama Fresh had a few rules regarding our costumes. (I've altered those rules for the Mini Freshes as an adult... my rule is simple, If I cannot buy it, you cannot be it.)

Commandment 1: Spend no money on something that will be worn a few hours.
Commandment 2: The point of Halloween is that nobody recognizes the costumed one. (this was an idea we grew to embrace, praying nobody would recognize us).
Commandment 3: Be creative.
Commandment 4: You cannot be a simple Charlie Brown ghost.

Armed with these rules, Mama Fresh set out to dress her children for Halloween. I particularly recall the year I learned to NEVER ASK TO BE ANYTHING SPECIFIC. That was the year I wanted to be Wonderwoman. All I remember is wearing a bra fashioned out of pot pie tins. What? Wonderwoman's breasts were shiny! C'mon, Fresh, you do TOO look like Wonderwoman. I think I also was wearing a red one piece swimsuit and white go-go boots. And a tinfoil headband.

Other memorable costumes included my brother as a witch (see Commandment 2)... nobody expected a boy to be a witch, especially him. My other brother one year was a felt flower in a flower pot. One year, I was a football player, wearing my dad's enormous old jersey and helmet. I think the jersey came to my ankles. Gender role switching was highly encouraged. My brothers and I argue who had the worst costume, but I'm convinced I win that award for life. (incidentally, we never DID win the costume prize at the town hall. Not so shocking, huh?)

It was the morning of the Halloween party. I knew better, but I didn't have a costume, and decided to say something to Mama. She glanced around the house and saw a pile of old antique flour and feed sacks, no doubt for some country craft. Ever the resourceful one, they were to become my costume. Long thin sacks on each arm, a large sack over my torso, and one over my head with two holes for eyes. I don't know if I looked like a mutant Pillsbury Dough Boy crossed with a KKK member or what. I arrived at the Town Hall, grateful my face was hidden to cover my crimson cheeks. But... they just had to play bobbing for apples, they just had to have refreshments. I had to take off my flour sack head.

The questions came at me rapid fire, "What are you, Fresh?"

All I could muster was, "I don't know."

This year, I've decided to get hair extensions and dress as Lady Godiva. If anyone were to receive Godiva chocolate, I think it would be her! I have to ask Mama for ideas. On second thought, maybe not. She may have me wearing cooked pasta noodles on my head.

September 8, 2008

Discordia Concors

What an interesting Saturday evening I had.

Interesting in the way of pulling together things I'd never imagine together and yet finding the results, well... interesting.

The Miniest Fresh plays guitar and her teacher is a very talented young man. Watching him play mesmerizes me. I have a crush on his hands. But that aside, I really have wanted both her and I to see him play live with his band. His band was breaking up after 10 years, two CDs, several "not quite breakthrough" shows, and opening for some pretty well known artists. They are good, but that isn't all it takes to be huge, or... he wouldn't be giving 10 year olds guitar lessons in all likelihood.

Every time he was playing, I would ask him, "Is this a place I can bring the Mini to?" He was always very forthcoming. Clearly, I don't want to be an unfit mother. This show was an all ages show and we bought tickets after he told us to make sure we wore earplugs to not damage our hearing. It was billed as their farewell show and also featured 3 other bands. The doors opened at 7 PM. Being the hopelessly dorky family that we are, we went and had a sensible dinner first and arrived promptly at 7:30 PM to get a decent seat. There weren't many seats, it was clearly a bar for bar bands, with what I think is a moshpit area up front. Yes, I'm out of touch, so I'm not sure, but it looked like something to mosh in, were I inclined to mosh.

In my 40something memory, I forgot that no self respecting show starts on time. Nor do the preshow bands. So we sat in an empty bar/club on a bench for an hour. Passing the kids our cell phones to play games and text friends to pass the time, feeling horribly inappropriate for sitting in a bar with two children. Twiddling our thumbs, nursing beers, trying not to feel weirdly out of place as we watched a parade of very cool, much younger than us (or older than our kids) musicians come in and out. I don't think they expected to see a minivan in the parking lot unless it was holding band equipment.

Finally, the guitar teacher arrived and graciously stood and visited with us for probably 15 minutes. That helped ease the awkwardness. Then he explained that since he didn't have complete artistic control, that they would be going on last, instead of interspersed with the other 3 bands. Terrific. We've paid our cover charge, sat here an hour already, and just found out the one band we came to see, the one player in the band, in fact, won't be on stage for some time.

The first guy reminded me of a slightly more rocking John Mayer. He had a smooth voice, an acoustic guitar, and yeah, he jammed. He did a cover of Laid, by James which I enjoyed while at the same time I cringed and hoped the minis wouldn't understand the lyrics. He was very self possessed, with a charisma that may take him places.

The next band was pure headthrashing, loud, sort of good, but more garage talent. They were loud. Even with ear plugs. Did I mention how loud they were? Yeah. That LOUD.

The third band was actually very entertaining. They had a bit of a throwback sound to the 80s which made me feel more in my element. At one point, Mini asked me to stop tapping my foot, I was embarrassing her, apparently. I didn't know she needed to make an impression on 20something musicians, as if they were her peers. But I really enjoyed the third band and when they segued one of their songs into U2's With or Without You, I knew I had pegged the sound pretty well, and understood why it was so familiar and enjoyable to hear.

FINALLY, at 11 PM, with tired weary children, a somewhat cranky Mr. Fresh, and a full club, our boy came out with his band. The lead singer threw out a few expletives about what a f*ing great show this would be and how he hoped everyone would stick around after the show and drink with them. Maybe that statement wasn't directed at our particular group. I sure hope not! LOL!

Anyway, my older Fresh went up by the stage with the camera phone and snapped a few pictures, but then got mad that someone shoved and pushed her out of the way. I ushered her back by me and said, let's just save some room for the people who have followed them the past 10 years. The guitar playing Fresh bought a tshirt (which she hasn't taken off since) and we bought their CDs at close out prices.

We only lasted two songs. It was late, we saw what we came to see, and at some point the entire evening was just far too surreal and odd to continue. On our way out, we saw the guitar player's parents, as he had told us this was their first and last show. I'm pretty sure they were his folks, since there were only two other people who looked more out of place than our family.

My hope for the evening is this: brownie points with the teacher and also with the minis. I hope someday, they will remember FONDLY how their mom took them to see live music in a small venue. And wouldn't it be cool if one of those opening acts became huge to say, we saw them when? Hope springs eternal.

August 31, 2008

Copied from an Email, but wonderful!

Mental Feng Shui
~There's some mighty fine advice in these words, whatever your beliefs.~

ONE. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully.

TWO. Marry a man/woman you love to talk to. As you get older, their conversational skills will be as important as any other.

THREE. Don't believe all you hear, spend all you have or sleep all you want.

FOUR. When you say, 'I love you,' mean it.

FIVE. When you say, 'I'm sorry,' look the person in the eye.

SIX. Be engage d at least six months before you get married.

SEVEN. Believe in love at first sight.

EIGHT. Never laugh at anyone's dreams.
People who don't have dreams don't have much.

NINE. Love deeply and passionately.
You might get hurt but it's the only way to live life completely.

TEN. In disagreements, fight fairly. No name calling.

ELEVEN. Don't judge people by their relatives.

TWELVE. Talk slowly but think quickly.

THIRTEEN. When someone asks you a question you don't want to answer,
smile and ask, 'Why do you want to know?'

FOURTEEN. Remember that great love and great achievements involve great risk.

FIFTEEN. Say 'bless you' when you hear someone sneeze.

SIXTEEN. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

SEVENTEEN. Remember the three R's: Respect for self; Respect for others; and Responsibility for all your actions.

EIGHTEEN. Don't let a little dispute injure a great friendship.

NINETEEN. When you realize you've made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.

TWENTY. Smile when picking up the phone. The caller will hear it in your voice.

TWENTY- ONE. Spend some time alone.

August 26, 2008

I've Got the Music in me...

Music is one of the most enduring pieces of the collage that is my life. Music reaches into the depths of my being and reverberates the mood of the moment. Or sometimes initiates a new mood. There are songs that immediately take me to a place hidden in the recesses of my memory banks. The first few bars transport me to that time and place.

I'm one of those moms who makes her children take music lessons. I can sing and play piano reasonably well enough to bring myself hours of pleasure. I'm no professional, but by understanding the work that goes into making music, I have an appreciation for it that a casual listener may not. I am in awe of good musicians, whether their instrument is guitar, piano, or their voicebox. I don't need my children to fulfill a dream I never achieved, I just want them to share my love of music.

Some of my favorite memories are when we sing along to something in the car. Or when they laugh at my music and I think, yeah, I did that too. But years from now, they'll hum it and wonder how they know that song so well. I learned to appreciate Elvis Presley, Peter Paul and Mary, and (scary) disco music. That was part of Papa Fresh's midlife crisis. Give me Donna Summer and I see Papa in Movin' On jeans, gold chains, dancing like nobody was watching and having the time of his life.

Today, however, we said goodbye to our piano teacher. Gleefully. You see, I didn't pay him to come and perform for us every week. If I wanted a front row seat to a show, I would have bought concert tickets. He's a nice person, but honestly, after several weeks of hearing him announce "this is how I would do it" and take over the piano, I realized that he was simply a performer, not a teacher. Sort of the opposite of the saying, those who can't do, teach. Those who can't teach, do?

Fortunately, our guitar teacher doesn't suffer from that same issue. He is in a band, and I'm sure he is an amazing performer (plan to find out next week), but he doesn't use lesson time as a forum to impress. He realizes that if he isn't a household name, there are a thousand other guitar players just as talented. He tries to share his skills and knowledge. Instead of intimidating the mini Freshes with never being as good as he is, he encourages them to improve.

I found myself muttering aloud about the piano teacher the other day, and cursed for the first time in front of them. I said, "He thinks he is King Shit of Turd Mountain". They burst into peals of laughter so intense I thought they would explode. And it was music to my ears. Their laughter. Yeah, I've got the music in me.

August 23, 2008

A year wiser?

Tomorrow is the anniversary of my birth. I'm a 1966 model, so I will be turning 42. According to the Hitchhiker's Guide, I am officially the answer to any question in the universe.

In Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the number from which all meaning ("the meaning of life, the universe, and everything") could be derived.

A BBC radio script based on Adams' book contains the following lines:
("Cave man" lays out following sentence in Scrabble stones: "What do you get if you multiply six by nine?")Arthur: Six by nine? Forty-two? You know, I've always felt that there was something fundamentally wrong with the Universe. (Faint and distant voice:) Base thirteen!

For the literal-minded and those unfamiliar with terms like "base thirteen," this is a number system in which the number 10 is equivalent to our more familiar decimal 13. A base-13 number 42, therefore, is the same as four 13s plus 2, or decimal 54. So "six by nine" (six times nine) or decimal 54 is, in base 13, 42. For the mystically inclined, 42 in base 13 is the same as 110110 in binary (base 2). This could mean almost anything, and many Adams fans have spent untold hours discovering all of the places where the number "42" pops up. For example, there are many mentions of the number in the Book of Revelation. Others have made a game of finding 42s, such as these:

The angle at which light reflects off of water to create a rainbow is 42 degrees.
Two physical constants in the universe are the speed of light and thediameter of a proton. It takes light 10 to the minus 42nd power seconds to cross the diameter of a proton.
The sum of the ordinal alphabetic positions of the initials (SPG) for Stan (P.) Gibilisco, an oft-published science and technology writer, is equal to 42 (S=19, P=16, G=7).
A barrel holds 42 gallons.

(It should be noted that all of these 42s are base 10, not base 13.)

The pressure is daunting. I've always relied maintaining a degree of naivete and deferring to others (others includes "the Internet") for the tough answers. I have less than 24 hours to maintain that posture, then responsibility for having answers kicks in. I probably should consult with the Mini Fresh, because last time I checked, she knew everything. Evidence of this academic prowess is contained in her two word reply to everything I utter, "I know."

Maybe she is like Max Tivoli, and has aged backwards. Started at 55 and now is 42?

August 22, 2008

Nature Photos

August 21, 2008

Irrelevant and Annoying News

Newsworthy. (n.d.). Unabridged (v 1.1). Retrieved August 21, 2008, from website
of sufficient interest to the public or a special audience to warrant press attention or coverage

I've been disappointed in what has masqueraded as headlines the past few weeks. Two particular items of "news" have been especially bothersome.

I'm saddened that our media thinks John Edwards' affair is newsworthy. Not for the reasons you'd imagine, however. What bothers me is the insensitivity towards Elizabeth Edwards. How must that make her feel as she continues her courageous battle with cancer to have her husband's infidelity splashed all over the media? It breaks my heart to think that aspect was never even considered before spilling their private issues all over the television and print screens. He is out of contention, no longer a candidate, and his personal choices are anything but interesting to me. Other than the people sitting back clucking their tongues with "I knew he was shady and too slick" (as if shady and slick also indicate unfaithful?), I fail to see why we needed to know that he cheated on his wife.

Somewhat related to this are the statistics, about 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women will have an affair at some point in some marriage "Monogamy Myth", Therapist Peggy Vaughan. Additionally, 50 percent of Americans say President Clinton's adultery makes his moral standard "about the same as the average married man,'' according to a Time-CNN poll. 61 percent of Americans thought adultery should not be a crime in the US. With these statistics in mind, I have to question WHY it's newsworthy, if John Edwards is keeping with the majority, and 61 percent of Americans don't think it's criminal. Sure what he did was wrong morally, but it should be judged in the privacy of his marriage. It's not news.

The other story that is bothering me is about Michael Phelps father. He's not part of the picture. Period. He hasn't been part of the picture since Michael was 9. Is tracking him down useful to either Michael or him? He has nothing to do with Michael's success other than donating sperm about 23 some years ago. He is not newsworthy, and he is about the only one who seems to recognize that as reporter after reporter has contacted him. He said, this isn't about me. Most common sense refusal to talk I ever heard.

Of course, were common sense common, everyone would have it. From the people seeking the stories, to those providing them, to those broadcasting them and those who listen and want more. And bloggers who write about how much they hate such news stories. *smile*

August 19, 2008

Keeping Track of Love

When I first began blogging here, I started with an exaggerated statement about being in love 20 times. Then I challenged myself to think of 20 times, so I could back up my exaggeration. But being the trash talker that I am, I challenged myself to 100, a Ben Franklin-ized amount of love.

At last count, I had written about 5 loves.

I'm far behind on my loving. In somewhat chronological order (unless I forget one and have to digress), I'm going to list the next 15 times I was in love, then I only have 80 to go.

6. The first boy who was brave enough to ask me to dance at the Jr. High after school dance. The lights were low, the girls giggling on one side of the room, the boys posing on the other. He was nervous. I pretended to make fun of him for the benefit of my girlfriends, but only so they wouldn't feel bad that nobody asked them to dance. I secretly was thrilled.

7. The first boy who risked roller skating with me at Skateland. He was good. Me not so much. The entire slow skate he kept saying, "You're going to fall, aren't you?" and held me a little closer. Yeah, I fell. Until the next slow skate when he did NOT ask me.

8. My first job when a boy named Mike would always make sure he bagged at my register. I loved him until he asked me where the "Lean Cuzzins" went. He meant Lean Cuisine. Yeah, even then I was a bit elitist. Sorry, Mike. My cuzzins aren't so lean.

9. The shy football star in my Latin class. He was so handsome and so quiet. I think he didn't know how to handle being a school celebrity. He would ask me for help on some of the tough assignments. I spent two years gazing at his shaved head, wondering what was going on inside it. Please don't tell me nothing.

10. The star of our HS musical. He was the Skye Masterson and every girl wanted to be Miss Sarah when he sang about "Luck be a Lady".

11. My last summer before college, a sweet boy on the beach helped me chase a runaway kite and we spent our nights sitting on the boardwalk wondering if we could see the same stars back home. We could.

12. My first real boyfriend, when I got back home from the beach. Still in the glow of my summer sweetheart, he worked with me at a store. His first words to me will never be forgotten. Wheeling a cart of lawn poison past my counter, he said, "I'm selling poison, how much would you like?" Strangely, it worked. I bought his poison and much more for the next two years.

13. I'm superstitious. There is no 13th entry.

14. The little old man who came through my line at the store and held his wife's hand. He told me the secret to his happy marriage was to always treat his wife like his girlfriend. He always offered me a mint. I wonder if my breath was bad, or he was just being sweet. I hope it was just him being sweet. Either that or he was concerned I may not be kissed?

15. The following summer. My first real boyfriend and I were on hiatus and I met another boy at the beach. Are we sensing a theme here? It was chaste and pure because I was heartbroken, and this sweetheart waited an entire year until I wasn't heartbroken.

16. The BMOC at college. His confident swagger and certainty of ruling the world had all of us captivated. I used to tease him about his harem, but secretly wanted to be part of it.

17. Am I almost done yet? Criminy. Shifting gears. My college roommate and I. We both were without boyfriends that first year in the dorms and we bought each other Valentine's. She remains the sister I never had and I cherish our friendship. Yes, I'm in love with my friend. Still am.

18. My political science professor. He encouraged me to think outside the box and to reach for the stars. I touched a few and may never had if I hadn't been told I could. Sometimes it's that simple, just reminding someone what is within reach.

19. My creative writing professor. The only way to get an A in his class was to have something published in a real magazine. I didn't get an A that quarter, but I never stopped trying. I would have an A today. I'm so grateful, and yes, I loved both of them.

20. Mr. Fresh. I don't even think I have to explain why the man I married is on my list of loves.

Now I just have to fall in love 80 more times.

August 18, 2008

Liquidation of Stuff

Within the past year, our family relocated. We didn't move too far away, only 90 miles, but it was far enough that we had movers load our "stuff" and unload it. We filled a truck with "stuff". The movers told us that on average, people accumulate 1000 lbs. worth of stuff for every year they are together. Doing the math, that means we had approximately 18,000 lbs./ 9 tons of stuff.

Anyone who has ever moved, knows that the mountain of boxes never really diminishes, and I've learned to step around boxes of stuff. Every so often, over the past 6 months, I have gone crazy looking for something, "that I know I have somewhere", and gotten frustrated and gone and bought it, only to find it the following week. Specifically, my staple gun is one example.

In November, it will be a year since we boxed our stuff and moved it from one locale to the next. I still probably have over 20 boxes of stuff that I've managed to live without for nearly 10 months now. I have decided to have a garage sale. An "I have no idea why we moved this stuff" sale. I've got a mound of books, outgrown clothes, shoes that are uncomfortable, no longer stylish throw pillows, and a myriad of dishes and glassware. We also have soccer shoes that no longer fit, cookbooks that I bought for one recipe that wasn't so good after all, and piles of draperies that just weren't my taste when we moved into this new house. I'm not sure if I should thank them for leaving them behind. I don't think that will be necessary.

I thought I had done well. A few years back, we had a possible transfer that didn't take place and so I began to live like we were moving back then. I don't have very much baby stuff or toddler stuff. I cannot even imagine if I had that to liquidate as well. It's a well known fact that Little Tykes makes nothing little. I've tried to motivate the Mini Freshes to liquidate as well. I'm certain that their days of giant blocks and play dough have passed. They disagree. Though when I told them they could get MONEY instead of stuff, they suddenly found stuff to sell. They also discovered long forgotten toys, like a Spirograph that had been mine. That is NOT going, by the way.

I displayed a collection of vintage copper pots, pans, and the sort in my former kitchen. There is no place for it here. I spent hours scouring flea markets and estate sales to gather my collection, now it sits in a box in the basement, gathering spiderwebs and dust. The only way to display it would be to buy "more stuff" for the purpose of displaying "stuff". But will I lose the pleasure I spent seeking my finds, just because I no longer have the finds?

I'm debating whether to get rid of old VHS tapes and cassettes. I'll never part with my vinyl (I don't know why! Sentimental?) though I am considering selling my CDs. The hardest part is letting go of the amount that I have invested and just realize I no longer need to invest my hard earned space and freedom. Most any media is now available digitally, so it would inspire me to come into the millennium with technology. But would it even sell? Probably not. Maybe one CD here, one there. I wonder if it would be better to just sell the entire lot on Ebay. Take it all, and promise not to laugh when you discover every CD by Barry Manilow or the American Idol Season 4 CD.

I'm trying to liberate my self from stuff, but somehow, I just cannot completely let go. What are some things you absolutely "must have" and what would be easy for you to live without?

August 14, 2008

Our Prize!

Wound up being a completely intangible one.

Yeah, we won the five gold(en) collectible coins. They cannot be spent anywhere, but they are shiny and embossed with John Quincy Adams.

But what we won was a few hours of hopes and dreams. A few hours of thinking anything could and may happen. A few hours of thinking, it's all possible.

I wonder what sort of world it would be if everyone took more than a few hours, but maybe every moment believing anything could happen. The world is filled with possibility. When was the last time you believed in something?

August 13, 2008

You May Already Be A Winner!!!

Yesterday, in the mail, since it was ad day, came an advertisement with a scratch off circle and a key. It was from a local car dealer, giving away a car. Naturally, the mini Freshes, especially after spending a week listening to "some other guy who isn't their dad or my spouse" complain about the minivan, winning PersonTheyNormallyCallDad a new car would be pretty amazing.

They did what any two children under 13 would do. They bickered about who was going to scratch off the circle. They agreed to each scratch half. Which revealed a cryptic code, that was supposed to match a code inside the flyer if you were a winner. It did. Then they bickered over who would get to try the key. Then I took the flyer away and announced I would be checking the key, since I was the only one old enough to drive.

Oops. What did I do? Yes. I agreed to take them to the car dealer since we may already be a winner to turn the key on our possibly new car. Clearly, I'm old enough to know that "nobody" wins these things. But I too, was a fan of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and know, that indeed, SOMEBODY does. Somebody has to win that new car. So the Stealth FreshFemales in our family hid the advertisement so ThatPersonWhoDoesn'tReallyGripeAboutCars may have the chance to be surprised. We're heading to the dealership this morning.

I remember when I was little and I believed in magic and luck and the invincibility of chances. If you had a chance, it was as good as winning. I don't think that is such a bad thing to encourage. So with our winning key, we're sneaking out. They've already planned the surprise way to tell Dad he won. We'll be covering the car with a sheet and pretending the minivan shrunk. Or something like that. It was so exciting to hear them planning the surprise that I admit, I'm caught up in it. I think that is the most magical part of all. The contagiousness of enthusiasm.

I did have the Minis go through the fine print, where we learned we ARE guaranteed a prize, but it probably won't be a car. We may have won also a large screen television (they argued about whose room it would go in), I voted for the playroom. We may have won $100. School shopping. No need to argue there. We may have won 5 collectible coins. I'm betting it's the coins. But then again, it may be a car.

Why not?

August 12, 2008

Eat, Sleep, Swim (eat pray love?)

Have you been watching the Olympics?

Normally, I take only a cursory interest in any sort of sports, enough to make polite conversation, since I know what a widely shared cultural experience sporting events are. I've not been much of an avid sports fan since The Cleveland Browns left town, even though the team came back. That was the moment in my life when I realized, it's a business; the business of entertainment. Most athletes don't turn on the TV to watch me pair socks or grocery shop, nor do I have an obligation to watch them do their jobs. I don't dislike sports, in fact I consider myself a fan. Just not a fanATIC. I prefer to find other ways to spend my time.

I know, I know, this is The Olympics. The "amateurs". Those who are only playing for love of the sport. Oh, and endorsement contracts. Cynical? Perhaps.

So, anyway, I've been tuning in. And I'm enjoying what I see, especially with the internet so handy. "What IS that black thing on Kerri Walsh's shoulder"? Oh, it's some sort of new agey healing bandage. Cool.

I watched the men's synchronized diving last night. Holy cow! I don't even like to go into the water head first, let alone from a million miles in the air after doing 20 sommersaults, and 17 twists. AND COORDINATED with a partner no less! Cheesiness aside, that was pretty amazing. I also watched the men's gymnastics. Unreal the amount of strength and balance.

No commentary would be complete without a nod to Michael Phelps. The man is a swimming machine. I cannot help but wonder though, after hearing his biography, what sort of life does an Olympic athlete have? Are they so single minded in their chosen sport, that they have no outside interests? Mr. Phelps, who is likely to eclipse Mark Spitz as the greatest swimmer evah, does nothing but Eat, Sleep, and Swim. Pages of his biography include "what he eats". I found myself feeling sorry for him (as well as some of the other amazing athletes I watched, assuming their lives/habits are similar). He talked about how loud his dog snores and how he likes to watch TV when he's not swimming 6 hours/day.

At what price does his success come? Is there ever an off season? What will he do if he ever cannot swim? What happens to guy #2? What happens if Michael Phelps gets a silver or bronze and not a gold? Is that failure? I wish him well in his quest and in the aftermath. I suspect it won't be long before the endorsements roll in.

August 11, 2008

Vacation Photos

Se(a) the Green
Racing with Seagulls (the gulls won)

That Wile E. Coyote in the Sand dunes on a secluded part of the beach

Guess this photo won't go to show and tell

Dear Mr. Minivan Borrower

*any resemblance to my spouse, Mr. Fresh, is purely coincidental*

Hello, Darling.

I feel your pain. I really do. 350 days/year, it’s mine. For two weeks a year, I hand you the keys and it becomes yours. I understand how driving a minivan annihilates any last vestige of cool. It negates the midi “Bad to the Bone” ringtone on your Blackberry and it wipes out the “I shave my head not because I’m bald but because it makes me look like a rockstar” look. I realize that driving a minivan screams estrogen. I’m sorry.

Click to purchase Garmin sat navI’ve already been through the 12 step “I’m no longer cool” program. Of course, I have the eyerolls and stares of our children to remind me on a regular basis. I knew when I no longer merited effort behind The Eyeroll, but received instead The Glare, I had been promoted to Advanced Dorkiness. In fact, it’s so much more rewarding to KNOW I’m embarrassing the children instead of delusional thinking that I am a Cool Mom.

Since I’ve embraced my dorkiness with fervor, I thought I would offer a few pieces of unsolicited advice. This is also part of my Master’s Thesis in Dorkdom.

While I realize that along with the minivan keys, I gave you title to the road, a license plate bracket that says, “I own the road” gives no credence to your ownership. Also, you are required to be a benevolent owner. This means sharing the road with all those tree hugging compact cars. It also means respecting the SUVs, semi trucks, and cool sports cars on the highways.

I know you want to make good time. I want to make good time, too. However, crowding the vehicle that is keeping you from “making good time” does nothing but make me a nervous wreck. Neither does revving your minivan engine. If anything, revving the engine of a metal box that is encumbered with 4 bicycles dangling off the back and an “EsCargo” bubble on top, merely cements your Dork degree. It’s like your application letter to the University of Dorkiness.

I personally welcome you to the program. When you have successfully embarrassed the children 10 days in a row, you will be admitted to the higher level classes. As a candidate for a degree, you must be willing to sacrifice all self consciousness. This means we may have bumper stickers advertising where our children are honor students. I promise to draw the line at an "I <3 My Dog". As a reward, once you have earned your full accreditation in Dorkiness, you can graduate the PhD program of Midlife Crisis, where your initial course class is How to Trade in the Minivan for a Red 5-Speed, Two Seat Sports Car or a Motorcycle.

Good Luck, and enjoy your time at U of D.

August 2, 2008

Building the Perfect Beast

subtitle: Vacation time

We're doing final preparations for the American Iconic thing known as the family vacation. Every summer we rent a beach house with another family. We have gotten so good at this, I can prep with my eyes closed. Or something like that. If my eyes were closed, I'd probably tumble down the stairs and broken limbs tend to ruin a beach vacation.

I'm borderline OCD, because I'm somewhat addicted to my creature comforts, so last year, I made a "beach box" and "inventory list" of all the things we take on a regular basis. I love to cook, so I have duplicates of all my favorite gadgets (in case the house doesn't have them) and a list of spices to remember. We have a small market there that will pre-shop our grocery order so that we just pick it up on the drive in.

We always make souvenir tie-dye shirts, although in recent years that has expanded to bandanas, dresses, and hats... and we have all the supplies for that ready to go. One year we had a photo of all the kids in a row wearing shirts that said "We" "Know" "We" "Match". The two we's however, thought it would be much more amusing to stand side by said and be a "wee wee". That was the last year we did writing on our shirts. Live and learn.

Another tradition is the "happy hour". Our preteens think we invented the word. We usually did a theme happy hour, until we asked the "we we" kids what they wanted. Since potty humor remains a staple of their comedy routine, they requested tinkle and poop. We thought we'd teach them a lesson and served lemonade and tootsie rolls. It was an abyssmal failure. There just weren't enough margaritas to compensate.

We've perfected the art of doing nothing. It takes a lot more work than you'd imagine to do nothing. I will read, sun, and swim. The biggest stress of the day will be what level of SPF and what to grill for dinner.

Ta ta for now. Have a good week!

July 31, 2008

Why I Write

Because I don't know how not to write.

But more importantly, I love words. I love caressing them, rearranging them, using them to express my precise thoughts, and even some imprecise ones. Words help me organize my world.

I have written since I was old enough to pick up a pen and paper. When I turned 10, I got a plastic electric typewriter. I never did master use of that, but as a teenager with a job, my first purchase was, my very own electric typewriter. Computers rendered it a relic. But I loved the beauty of moving my fingers and painting the canvas with the medium of vocabulary.

I have a journal that I began when I was 7. I filled it with stories of my day, what I had for lunch, and who pulled my hair. I wrote about playground fights. As I got older, I chronicled the horrible unfairness of my parents. Yet older still, I wrote about friends and family, gains and losses. I process my life in this tidy little book with the Holly Hobbie cover. I wrote about my grandmother's death, my first born child, and I still have yet to fill this crazy book. I figure if I ever fill it, I will have grown a year.

When I was in 8th grade, I turned in a paper to my English teacher. When I received the paper back, it was graded with a "P". A WHAT??? Yes, a "P". Well, her last name began with a "P", so I figured it was some sort of code. Naturally, I had to find out, so I went up to her after class and said, "Mrs. P? Why is my grade a P?"

With a gentle smile, Mrs. P's eyes met mine, and she said, "P is for Promising."

That, is why I write. Fulfilling the promise.

And if you're keeping track, WORDS are yet another time I've been in love. Still am.

July 30, 2008

Nothing Quite Like Mom's Cooking

You read that like it's a good thing. Alas, none of you will ever be subjected to Mama Fresh's cooking. I wish I could say the same.

Mama Fresh (I was going to abbreviate it to MF and thought better)... has many admirable qualities, but unfortunately, feeding her family is not one of them. Even more unfortunate, she thinks it is. Mama Fresh thinks she is Martha Stewart. Nobody sets a lovelier table than she does, this is true. Sadly, we wish for wax food more often than the real thing.

My uncle, brother, sister in law, spouse and kids have all invented a complicated system of taking turns tasting and then letting everyone else know safe or unsafe to the rest of the table. We must look like the 3rd base coach on a baseball team with our elaborate system of signals. My brother used to date a girl who undiplomatically announced during dinner, "Did you know that Pizza Hut delivers?"

There are a couple reasons that Mama Fresh is such a horrific cook. First, she believes that expiration dates are mere suggestions. I once cleaned out her refrigerator and found food that was over 10 years old. Additionally, the freezer is an excellent method of storing, thawing, and refreezing food repeatedly while the microwave can be used to reheat as many times as necessary. Modern marvels!

She also believes that the porch is an excellent place to store food that doesn't fit in the refrigerator, even if it's 70 degrees outside. She also has dogs and cats. Sometimes they sample the food, and they also come and shed all over the floor and counters where the food is prepped. Mama seemingly once ran out of water. Therefore, she has a murky container of ice cold dishwater in the sink to clean the dishes. Do not DUMP THE WATER is her warning along with a story about not wanting to clog the drain, etc.

A few years back, I bought her a dishwasher that would "sterilize and save her some work", but "I live alone, why would I use that?" was her reply. The only time it gets used is AFTER we've attempted to dine there. When Mama suggested this family meal, I suggested, "Why not let US do the work and everyone bring something?" (That has worked in the past)... Or maybe we could just all meet at a restaurant and then nobody has to do anything.

My uncle almost squeezed my eyeballs out when he hugged me in gratitude, but knew we were powerless to stop Mama Fresh from cooking when she wants to.

"She has a wooden spoon and knows how to use it".

I never thought I would long for the days when her idea of using it was to smack our behinds. Mama Fresh also believes that a fancy garnish is all glop needs to make it edible. So she has flowers, herbs, spices, and swirls of sauces on every presentation plate. Like I said, it always looks good.

But it's either spoiled, overcooked, freezer burned, or missing an ingredient. We have perfected the art of pushing food around the plate, taking just a little bit, and claiming new food allergies all the time. We pass the flask of Immodium™ from person to person and bring snacks for the kids.

There is one saving grace Mama's cooking. If you suffer from constipation, one meal at Mama Fresh's will cure that. Norman Rockwell probably never conceived a family dinner quite like ours. I like to think Mama is just trying to recreate the Roman Feast ambiance.

I quote: "... in ancient times vomiting seems to have been a standard part of the fine-dining experience. In his Moral Epistles the Roman philosopher Seneca writes, Cum ad cenandum discubuimus, alius sputa deterget, alius reliquias temulentorum [toro] subditus colligit, "When we recline at a banquet, one [slave] wipes up the spittle; another, situated beneath [the table], collects the leavings of the drunks."

Bon app├ętit!

My First Bra

my first bra
There comes a day in every prepubescent girl's life when she needs a bra. Or she thinks she does. Or she has run out of layers of clothing to wear. Usually that day comes well before she REALLY needs one, but that is another story.

If that young girl is anything like Mama Fresh, we marched off to the foundation department at the local department store. It was a big deal day, the day you are "almost a woman". There you have your first meeting with the omnipresent Bra Lady.

For those of you who don't have breasts, I will describe The Bra Lady. She usually is about 65. She wears cat eyed glasses on a chain around her neck, and sensible shoes on her feet. Her other accessory is a tape measure, also around her neck. She has the sort of hair that is "done" every week at the beauty salon, and she sleeps with a hair net to keep her "do" done, until the following week.

She wears serious bras, with a minimum of 4-5 hooks and straps about 2 inches wide and her breasts are unavoidable. Clearly if you need a bra, she is the most authoratative person to help you. She wrapped the tape around my ribcage just below my breasts, then around the "fullest" part of my nonexistent breasts. I'm surprised they don't have a mannequin's pedestal for girls to stand on display. After she made a few calculations, she sent me to a dressing room. I waited while she hunted down appropriate foundation garments. She brought the slingshot assortment to the dressing room and told me to try them on and then let her see how they fit. I untangled the elastic and wrestled with the hooks and had my bra on. I noticed there was room for growth in the cup, as it puckered over my breasts that didn't exist yet.

I stepped out and The Bra Lady informs me that maybe a AA cup would be better. She bellows this from the doorway and I detect a slight German accent. Though she doesn't have a megaphone, her voice carries well enough without one. Finally, an appropriate torture device is found and I emerged from the dressing room.

I'm fairly certain she had her assistant go out in the mall and gather every cute boy she could find to announce "FreshGirl" is getting her very first bra, hurry and watch from the aisle, because sure enough, I had an unexpected audience. This also is The Bra Lady's cue to say, I hope that 28AAA works well for you. See you when you start to grow again.

The traumatizing experience with The Bra Lady, at least in my opinion, is why VS stores are so popular. Or going braless.

July 29, 2008

Kindergarten Love

One morning, when I was getting Mini Fresh ready to face another challenging day of elementary school, we were talking about the boys who like her and the first boy she liked. She rode the bus with him and they sat together.

One day, the 3rd boy who also sat with them tried out some of his newly acquired new curse words, and Mini Fresh was upset. Her first love told the bus driver and the 3rd boy was moved. Maybe he just wanted Mini Fresh to himself, but even I was moved by him being such a little gentleman. They were inseperable for the next two years. It was charming. Thank goodness we moved away before he figured out "girls were yucky" or Mini Fresh's heart may have been crushed.

I remember my first bus love. I lived in the country, so my ride to school was really long. I was in Kindergarten, the afternoon session. I probably spent more time on the bus than in the classroom. I sat with a little boy, with slick hair and plaid pants that only can be worn by golf pros or children under 8. He decided that since my first name was the same as his sister's first name, we should be boyfriend and girlfriend. Everyday, he woo'd me with cereal box prizes. He brought me a Flintstones super ball that looked like a boulder, but bounced... well... like a ball. He brought me a decoder ring. The poor boy must have emptied a box of cereal every day to earn my affections. It worked.

We sat together our entire kindergarten year, chattering away about everything that matters to 5 year olds. The following year in first grade, our teacher had to separate us so she could teach.We grew older that year and decided that being teased for liking each other wasn't worth it.

I moved to the girl side of the bus and he to the boy. Can you remember the innocence of your first love?

*in case you're counting, this makes 4 times in love, and I haven't even hit high school!*

Pour Some Sugar on Me

I tend to be relatively OCD about what I eat. I'm an organic, hippie, holistic sort of girl. That doesn't mean I don't eat junk from time to time, but, I really try to limit my intake of unhealthy food and I am doubly vigilant over the mini Freshes diet. I read labels and know grams of fiber, I avoid anything with growth hormones. A few years ago, when it seemed everyone I knew was being diagnosed with some sort of cancer, I made some very serious lifestyle alterations. No fluoride, chlorine filters on our shower heads, water filters, etc. They tease me about how ridiculous I am, but I sleep better at night.

I grew up on an organic vegetable farm, which probably accounts for some of my attitudes. My new dietary obsession is HFCS. High fructose corn syrup. This is what is used to sweeten nearly EVERYTHING on the planet. HFCS is NOT sugar, but rather a synthesized version of corn syrup with added enzymes to make it sweeter. I am sure there is a more scientific explanation, but ... pretty much it's disgusting stuff.

And it's in EVERYTHING. Soda, salad dressing, ice cream, many cereals, yogurt, you'd be amazed. It's much cheaper to use than old fashioned sugar, which is why fountain drinks can sell for 79 cents for 500 oz. at a gas station. Oh and here is a scary thing, it's ALSO in baby formula. Yes, the first thing we put into our babies mouths, if not nursing, is artificial, synthesized, and unhealthy. (Nursing is another mile long blog from Ms. Earth Mother La Leche poster child).

HFCS may possibly be responsible for the rise in diabetes and an assortment of other ailments. It began being used en masse in the 70s which would be a full generation of fake sugar. There is a lot of information out there, I will let you research on your own... but please do! A few weeks ago, I ordered a booklet from the Feingold organization and it has lists of foods that do NOT have it, which has helped simplify my shopping immensely.

It still takes me forever to read labels when I shop, but pretty much I assume if it's sweetened, it has it. I've decided to make the old fashioned packets of Kool Aid with SUGAR instead of the presweetened stuff. (this will work until I begin obsessing about food dyes)... I replaced our ketchup with organic ketchup and little by little my pantry will be free of HFCS with none of that evil glop that pretends to be sugar. Heck if it's pretending to be sugar, why not take the CALORIES out??

(as I struggle to kick my diet soda addiction, I'm not THAT granola!)

The Third Time's a Charm

Or something like that. Who would have imagined that my third love was the boy next door. We had lived next door to each other since I was five years old. Our farms were side by side and my parents friendly, but not friends with his parents. In other words, our families didn't socialize, just waved as we passed by.

*sidenote* His older brother helped out on our farm, and in fact, "saved my life" when I was eight years old. It wasn't quite that dramatic, but I got caught out in a barn when a horrible storm kicked up. I was trying to run up to the house with an umbrella and the wind was so bad that it picked me up off the ground. I was so scared, I didn't know whether to hold on or let go, but his brother ran off the porch and grabbed me and carried me up to the house. Come to think of it, maybe I loved his brother, too. I told you, I love generously.

But our elementary school was one class of each grade, so we had been together every year. By the time we hit junior high, we went different directions. One day, he and I looked at each other on the bus and realized, s/he is cute! So we began the awkward flirtation back and forth and every day after our homework was finished, we would meet by the creek and walk around talking and holding hands. One day he kissed me. Our love ended two seconds later.

You see, that older brother that saved my life? He also gave his little brother "a pinch between the cheek and gum" of Skoal. What a disgusting kiss. Love killer. Maybe it was sabotage?

Girls in Their Summer Clothes

I couldn't resist a tribute to my #1 rock man, Springsteen. (great CD, Magic, FYI)

Today's post is about the second time I fell in love.

I spent today at the pool, watching my preteen Freshes splash around.

I was watching the kids parade around with their "don't have a clue about life yet" strut. Their hormones starting to ripen slowly into maturity. The young men trying to pose, the girls hoping to catch their eyes. The early dances of desire. It was cute, endearing, and quite sweet, actually.

My mind fast forwarded and rewound in one moment. To the first moment I felt like there was more to boys than playing tag or red rover. It was the summer that I would turn 13. We were up at a friend's lake cottage where I was the *big kid*. All the other kids were younger and I was in charge while the adults played cards. Pre cellphone, pre iPod, heck, even pre Walkman. My transistor radio didn't even get any stations there. I was awkwardly annoyed. I was too young to play cards with all the parents, too old to splash in the lake with the kids. Then, with the confidence and swagger of a man about town, the boy next door walked over to the dock where I was sitting skipping stones. He was an entire year older. I don't remember what we talked about, whatever 13 and 14 year old kids talked about in the 70s. I'm sure it wasn't Saturday Night Fever, because I was not allowed to see it.

He kept me company, seemingly grateful that someone else was in charge of the little kids, which apparently was his summer entertainment. The oldest kid on the lake. We talked and as the night fell, he told me the best place to see the fireworks were the other side of the island. The little kids had to ride bikes, but HE took me on his minibike. I held on and we went. On the way back, he let ME drive, and he held onto me. What a rush that was! We hung out and flirted.

There may have been some hand holding, but the little kids were around teasing us "He likes Fresssssssssssssh" "Fresh likes Himmmmmmmmmmmmmm" Fresh and Him sittin' in a tree... (I don't even remember his name)...So that was it. But I knew. I knew something about boys was special. That was the first time they weren't annoying. I'm grateful. He saved me from the "little kids" and showed me the best place to watch fireworks.

What more could an almost 13 year old girl ask for?

July 28, 2008

How do I love thee?

I had a conversation over the weekend with a friend about that four letter word, "love". I am given to exaggeration, and I said I probably had been in love 20 times. Of course this statement came with a disclaimer regarding the definition of love and a pile of discourse about how other languages have several different words for love. But the jist was that I love easily and generously.

My first love, after my parents and siblings, was a friend of the family. He was visiting us over the summer on a motorcycle ride across the United States, with everything he needed packed into a backpack. He had spent time in the Peace Corps and was used to living a minimal lifestyle. I followed him around the entire time he was there, asking him a million and one questions. With a patience that awes me as an adult, he answered every single one of my questions. He visited again on his trip back and brought me two record albums of Tony Orlando, which at seven years old was my favorite show. I absolutely loved him with every ounce of little girl adulation I could muster. I saw him a few years ago, and told him he was my first love. I think he fell in love a little bit back, because suddenly he remembered how he looked 35 years ago through the eyes of a girl. I reminded him of the days when instead of climbing behind the wheel of his sensible car, with the radio tuned to the classical music station, he tore up the pavement without a helmet and slept under the stars. His weathered skin wrinkled into a broad smile and his white hair seemed to grow and turn black again. He transformed in that moment, as did I. I gave him a hug and thanked him for a lifetime of inspiration.

That first love set me on a course for falling in love on a regular basis. There are those who will argue that wasn't love, and try to limit or redefine the most intense thing that exists. A rose by any other name, simply has a different name, but is not anything less than a rose.

(1 Cor, 13:13)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Wooly Bully

(some details have been changes to mask the identity of the parties involved)

I grew up in a small farm town. Our elementary school had 6 classrooms, one for each grade. Kindergartners were sent to the next town over. But our town was growing. The 19 children that started in my 1st grade class became 31 in my 6th grade class.

There was a boy, John, who was in all my classes through elementary school. In that small of an environment, everyone knew his story. Most years, the school bus routes were configured to include John's house on the same route as mine, so I had a chance to see his house every day.

He was from the token really poor family that every town seems to have. They lived in a dilapidated farm house on the edge of town. Rusted cars and tractors scattered around the property, broken hinges on the front door, sagging porch, everything that indicated wrong side of the tracks, if we had tracks.

John had an older brother who was the epitome of tough guy cool, with a leather jacket, and he smoked. It didn't get much cooler than that. He had an older sister, also a misfit, poor eyesight, ill-fitting clothes and permanently tangled hair. His younger sister was in the same class as my brothers, and she was like her sister, just as much of a misfit.

One year, John's big brother must have outgrown his leather jacket, because though it was too big for John, he wore it every day to school. John usually came to school in what were probably his dad's old t-shirts. He had the same glasses from first to sixth grade, progressively more scratched, and more tape. John was a nice guy, even if in our silly little cult of elementary cool, he didn't quite make the cut.

Every Friday we had music class. Each week, one student was invited to bring in their favorite record to listen to at the end of class. We had such classics as "One Tin Soldier", "Delta Dawn", "Roxy Roller", you name it. Any hit of the early 70s.

Whenever was John's week, he brought in a tattered, tired, worn album. Every year for all six years, he brought in the same record. It seemed to be older than time, but was clearly one of his prized possessions.

He brought in Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. I can still see him carrying it on the bus with pride on music day, knowing that we'd be listening to Wooly Bully and watching John dance like none of us were watching. He jammed as soon as the needle hit the record.

One year, someone made fun of John's Same Old Stupid Music Again. John snapped. Nice Guy John evaporated and tackled and started punching the crap out of the boy who made fun of his music. It was like that scene from A Christmas Story, when Ralphie lost it and beat the tar out of that bully. I guess some kids can only take so much.

John was sent to the principal's office that afternoon. His glasses got broken beyond repair in that fight. John sat with me on the bus that day. He sat, half blind, sniffling and indignant, clutching his treasured album and broken glasses. I shyly said, "I liked your music".

To this day, I hear that song and smile.

Some time back, I tried to find out what became of Woolly Bully John. I moved away, so I only know what happened up through Junior High firsthand. The rest is hearsay.

Towards the end of elementary school, he had taken to chasing, catching and then pulling the girls around on the playground by their hair. It was creepy and a weird glimpse into something he must have seen somewhere. His older siblings dropped out of school. He rarely went and either failed classes or got in fights. I don't know if he ever finished high school.

Their home sits empty now, looking much the same as it did 30 years ago, but with a lot of  overgrowth. I tried to search the name in vain and found nothing. It was as if the family never existed. People who fall through the cracks. Abuse, neglect and cruelty will break even the purest soul.

I remember the family as being nice kids, always smiling with their lousy eyesight and tangled hair. Makes you think, how truly lucky most of us are.

Why does the universe deal such a crappy hand to some folks and such a charmed hand to others? What would make a difference, who and how? What can we do as humanity to reach those lost souls? Those neglected and abused children? How can something that starts out so good and pure be maintained?

I wonder mostly, did John ever find a place to dance again?
(uno, dos, tres, quattro)


I am not new to blogging, but rather new to blogging on this site. I will be transferring some of my older blogs from elsewhere.
For friends I've directed here who may have already read these entries, please indulge a summer of reruns.

July 25, 2008

A Fresh Start

Fluffing the pillows, grabbing a good book and cup of tea, and making myself at home.

I think this will do nicely.

The doors are open.


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