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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