Thursday, May 27, 2010

well ursprache about that!











There you are, your blog post for the day.

What are they, you ask? That is what I am asking you today. These words all have something in common, and they all have something to do with this day. Have fun!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

in america, they haven't used it in years

I have, again, been remiss in keeping up to date on holiday celebrations. This does not mean however, that they have passed unnoticed. Last week, in fact, we celebrated one of my personal favorites--Eliza Doolittle Day. And you ask, who the heck is Eliza Doolittle?

None of my community theater friends are asking that. You are all nodding your heads, agreeing that of course this was an event of extreme importance, and realizing that you yourself celebrated it by going out and buying violets, chocolates, speaking in a cockney accent, and visualizing that coworker you can't stand in front of a firing squad. But some of you have no idea what I'm talking about.

I have loved Eliza since my mother took me to see My Fair Lady at the Woodstock Theater when I was a little girl, and she has been my dream role on stage since beginning my odyssey into community theater. Of course, now that's probably a dream role in some version of the Heartland Nursing Home Tour, since those roles don't typically go to the over-40 set, but hey, I think a touring company of aging baby boomers could be the next big thing.

Why celebrate Eliza in May? A result of her own words in her not-exactly-ode to her teacher:

"One evening the king will say, 'Elza, old thing — I want all of England your praises to sing.
Next week on the twentieth of May, I proclaim Eliza Doolittle Day!"

And so it is.

It is, I feel, a perfect day to:

--Eat chocolate.
--Speak proper English.
(Anyone who knows me knows I feel every day is a fine day for both of these things.)
--Act like a duchess.
--Buy fresh flowers or anything in a farmer's market.
--Dance in the streets.
--Preface everything with "bloomin'."
--Watch the movie, of course.

If you prefer, simply watch the clip that gives us the title for this loverly day.

Your trivia question--what does Higgins say they haven't used in America for years?

Monday, May 17, 2010

grab your weapons, citizens!

I am requesting help from my esteemed panel of friends and readers.

Earlier this year, I promised myself (I will not call it a New Year's resolution) that I would read at least three "classic" works this year that I have never read, despite calling myself a literature major. I began with Les Miserables. Yes, I began with a 500-page book by a French philosopher/writer/19th century political pundit.

This, you may be thinking is, a lot like beginning training for the track team by trying to pole vault 20 feet the first day. Just call it my way. When I was thirteen and decided to read that thing called the Bible that I knew nothing about, I started at the beginning. No one told me that was unwise. Needless to say, long about Leviticus, I started to think God really was as boring as all those Catholic school movies said. Not so, fortunately. But, I do have a tendency to jump into things quickly.

I can report, however, that Les Mis was possibly the best piece of fiction I have ever read, or right up there in the top five, so it was worth all 500 pages. Following this came Tale of Two Cities. Yes, there is a connection, and no, I am not fascinated by the French revolution or bloodshed in general. I figured I should read books set in places I plan to visit, so Paris it was. Have you ever read the words to the French National Anthem, by the way? And people complain that we have a militaristic anthem!

Grab your weapons, citizens!
Form your batallions!
Let us march! Let us march!
May impure blood
Water our fields!

Wow, and they say the French are so laissez-faire.

Here is the question--what should the third book be? I have not made any decisions. I realize you all have no idea what I have already read, but I am taking suggestions. My two favorites, thus far, have been Pride and Prejudice and Lord of the Rings, so you need not mention those, at least. Or anything by Austen. All read several times over:).

What classic of literature should I tackle next? I await my assignment.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

investment returns

I have discovered lately that I may have grown intolerant to the two substances that give me the most joy on earth, gastronomically speaking. Chocolate and cheese. Why bring this up now? Because yesterday was Eat What You Want Day, and it is distinctly possible I may no longer be able to do that. This is an event for which I did not prepare. No one of Swedish and Scottish extraction is supposed to develop lactose intolerance. It just wasn't in the genetic hand dealt.

This is particularly disturbing as I am heading off at some point this summer to the lands of the finest cheese and chocolate in the known universe, France and Switzerland. I guess we will see what the wonderful world of medicine has to offer for this dilemma. Because there is no way I am missing Swiss chocolate and legendary cheese fondue.

However, I may take something away from this. If I am gong to run gastrointestinal risk, I am going to make quite sure it is for a good reason. No cheap Hersheys for me anymore. No American cheese. OK, I would never eat American cheese anyway. I'm kind of proud of the fact that our youngest child has always refused to eat American cheese. They have some sense of values, at least. If I am going to suffer, at least I'm going to suffer from something worth the investment.

I am guessing this might not be such a bad way to live in general. If I am going to make an investment, to take some measure of risk, why on earth would I want to do it for something that promises little return? Why put my time and energy into something I really never was meant to do? Why risk my happiness on something that past experience has shown to be a bad idea? That is what I tell my daughters about men, anyway. Better to bide your time and wait for the best than suffer indigestion from one plucked too early.

Eat What You Want Day, Do What you Want Day--either way, it can backfire. Choose your banquet carefully, so you can really enjoy.

my way

A bit late, perhaps, a Mother's Day post.

As many of you know, my mother died when I was seventeen. I wrote what follows here three years ago, when I was awaiting the same surgery for the same disease that killed her. This isn't the whole thing, of course, but it's a part. I am thrilled to celebrate another Mother's Day and pray for those of you for whom it is not really a happy occasion. I know the feeling.

My mother's death changed more things than merely her existential address. Unable to cope with his loss, Dad retreated into alcoholism, leaving me an orphan in spirit if not body. I grew up fast, worked my own way through college, fancied myself a mixture of Sinatra and Bogart’s bandit nemesis-- "I did it my way and didn’t need no stinkin’ help." Managing became my second language.

Emotionally, I performed a dance of simultaneous avoidance and wallowing. A complex feat of genius choreography or an oxymoronic mishmash, take your pick. I cried and talked and prayed when I felt like it, since no one ever explained to me a timetable for grief. Mission accomplished. Moving on. No one ever explained, either, that some effects of loss incubate like a seventeen-year-cicada, breaking into the open only when the cosmic order allows it and you’ve ceased to remember their existence.

At fourteen, my mother lay in a tuberculosis sanitarium fighting for her life, while at home her mother died of PKD. Closely following came the deaths of her grandfather and then her brother in World War II. Her dad found a second wife--a woman who didn't really want stepchildren--and grew more distant. I don't think Mom ever let herself become too attached to anyone after that. I know, now, she always lived with the assumption, more than the fear, that those she loved she would lose. I know, now, the attempts she made to control her children's lives were attempts to make sure they never hurt as badly as she had. I know, now, that she never made plans for her "old age" because she never expected to be old. I know not because she ever got to tell me these things but because I see their colors spread before my own eyes in my own life.

Except for one thing. I have decided to expect to survive. I know modern medicine sides with me this time. I don’t have to wait far too long, as she did, for an available donated organ. Easier cross-matching has made my husband’s willingness to be a living donor a miracle of science as well as love. Medicines are better. Survival and success rates never better. Yet for all I know in my head, the only undisputed known outcome in my experience has been death. And experience usually trumps head knowledge whenever one tries "not to worry."

Nevertheless, I intend to plan for old age. Since I hadn’t mapped an itinerary for this trip I didn’t believe I’d take, perhaps a schedule of events for this epoch is in order.

I plan to live long enough to:
*Laugh when my children's children are teenagers.

*Go trick-or-treating with my grandkids and argue over who gets the Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. (I will dress up.)

*See gauchos go out of style for good.

*See the Northern Lights and polar bears.

*Never hear the words Britney Spears or Paris Hilton in conversation. Nor any children that they have or may have in the future.

*Ride a roller coaster.

*See Gidget come back as a popular baby name. (Have you ever actually met anyone outside a sitcom named Gidget? Maybe the American public isn't as stupid as Hollywood thinks. Wait, Phineas and Hazel. Never mind.)

*Tell my grandkids about walking to school, every day, uphill, with wild animals all around me. (It was across a field, and the wild animals were garter snakes. But still.)

*Rescue one child from hunger, abuse, or fear.

*Sing along with the elevator music.

*Find out just how one “plays knick knack.” (I’ll ask my husband. He’ll be an old man then. He should know.)

*Say “I love you” 31,015 times. (Who’s keeping count?)

*Take a road trip to nowhere.

*Elect a female president I actually want to vote for.

*Be a crazy cat lady. (I may have that one covered already.)

That should take some time. I reserve the right to lengthen the list without notice. After all, it’s my life, my way. Some patterns probably won’t change.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy National Miniature Golf Day

Our family has a tradition. It is called, play miniature golf so badly and behave so outrageously goofy while doing it that we send everyone else home having had a great time watching. This is kind of a long title for our tradition. It's clearly a work in progress.

We first discovered this talent a could years ago when we went to a new course and proceeded to send the ball into more water hazards than you would think four people possibly could in a relatively enclosed space. We twirled clubs, did bad movie imitations, and danced on the miniature fairway. I think a few balls actually went into the holes, but I can't vouch for that. Near the end, the couple behind us said, "Thanks--We don't have to go to the movie after this now. We have had the best entertainment right here." They were not being sarcastic; it was a sincere sentiment. We have considered this our mission ever since. It's not too difficult to fulfill, seeing as we are all horrible golfers with questionsable adherence to rules. I think the airband contest at the glow-in-the-dark course recently may have been our best.

I am so glad that on National Miniature Golf Day I can not only go golfing with my family, but I can celebrate that i have three teenage kids who do not feel awkward golfing wit their parents or embarrassed playing airtband on the course. They do not have their mother's overactive fear of public humilation. They just truly believe the world should have a good time with them. I appreciate that. I treasure and celebrate it. And I will play air guitar with it, if called upon.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

and i don't even like mexican food

Yesterday, child #3 came home from school and suggested we celebrate Cinco de Mayo. Technically, she suggested we celebrate it at one of her favorite restaurants, Chipotle. This was, she figured, her best shot at getting there. She knows full well that her mother has the will to celebrate every day, just as I promised.

A valiant effort, but being budget minded, I countered by hauling out the Best International Recipes cookbook. Out we went for the fixings for carnitas, guacamole, and whatever else struck our fancy in the Mexican section of the grocery store.

A connoisseur of custard, I suggested topping off the festivities with flan. She outvoted me by suggesting the Mexican bakery in the same strip mall. Just how does one child outvote me? Let's just say it rarely takes too much persuasion to go to the Mexican bakery. Though it totally tanked the diet.

No, not a drop of hispanic blood in our family, but we had a marvelous time appreciating the celebration of another culture. A couple years ago, I had the bright idea during advent (spurred by a visit to Epcot Center) to cook from a diferent country every week until the new year. We had some . . . interesting . . . meals. But some that made the hit parade list. And I do believe the interest in other cultures has helped our kids all become considerably less picky eaters than their mother was (is) They have few issues with culinary adventure (despite my questionable cooking).

Recently, another writer asked me about my work, and I told her I had written one novel surrounding the underground railroad and was currently wroking on one about the Trail of Tears and another about illegal Mexican immigtants. She looked at me for explanation. "I guess . . . I just always gravitate toward telling the story of the underdog? Must be something about being the last of seven kids." If that is my mission, I completely accept.

Happy day after Cinco de Mayo. Happy No Homework Day. Oh, do I have much to say about that. It may surprise you. But another post.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

from the barnyard

So, the question for today is, how does one go about appreciating a chicken on Appreciate a Chicken Day? With finger lickin' good relish, or with "fly, be free!" abandon? Or, perhaps more accurately, waddle, be free. It could go either way, I'm thinking.

I happen to get the chance to appreciate chickens daily. More accurately, again, Guinea hens, who live next door and regularly come to visit. I enjoy their joyful cackling, as well as the fact that they eat bugs in my garden.

Our neighbors play host to said hens, other assorted fowl, horses, ponies, goats, rabbits, barn cats, peacocks, and several dogs. I think that's the extent of it. From time to time, they get other unusual creatures when animal control drops something off they can't keep themselves. Once it was turkeys that someone had let loose in the high school for a senior prank. When I tell people I live across from this, they think it would be annoying. They also wonder how this is possible, since we live in a large metropolitan area. But it is an oasis of small town feel here, which I pray does not change as pressure grows from outside (and in). I am decidedly not a metropolitan person at heart.

No,it is not annoying. Living on a train track for a year and a half--that was annoying! But here, the noises of a barnyard add to the peace of my life rather than detract from it. The hens in the garden, or the goats coming back from the fair, or, yes, even the peacocks firing off their Jurassic Park imitations keep me genial company and make me smile a bit as I type here, or work outside, or fret about any number of things.

I'll appreciate the chickens when I hear them today. That, and quite possibly, make my favorite pecan-crusted chicken breasts for dinner. Then, I'll have covered both bases. And no, I will get them from the store, not the backyard. Though I do recall my mother's childhood stories of cutting chickens' heads off and watching the bodies still run around, I do not wish to follow her footsteps in that particular.

What brings you peace, today? I'd love to hear.