Friday, December 31, 2010

Sleepovers for Grown Ups

It’s New Year’s Eve, and The Mister, Phartacus, Slappy and I are going over to the friends’ house soon. The Epiphany friends from earlier this month, who will be leaving at some point. They are kind, mellow, thoughtful, funny people, and they have a spacious house and suggested we might like to spend the night. This sounds like excellent idea, and we’re going to decline it. We’re going to decline it because, since moving to Splendaville, we’ve had two New Year’s Eve sleepovers with Grown Ups, and both have been disastrous.

The first Grown Up New Year’s sleepover invite was issued by a family we’d gotten to know through the Mother’s Milk club I’d joined. The Wookies liked to think of themselves as the center of the social circle, and invited a couple of families over to bask in their largesse. Unfortunately, tensions that day were running even higher than usual, as the day prior their youngest, delicate, allergy-riddled child had fallen off the bed and broken her arm. Innately sensing danger, The Mister and I tried to back out, but they weren’t having it. So we went over to their house and the ill-fated boozing commenced. Mr. Wookie had never seemed to approve of me for daring to suggest that weekend after weekend of boys’ days out hunting deserved some comparable girls’ time. He also made it clear he disapproved of how I parented my child and that I didn’t unquestioningly take his advice on which route I should use to drive home. So evidently he decided a fun revenge would be to have a few drinks, come up and tell drunken me some outrageous lie about his wife, and watch me stagger over and repeat it. I can’t even remember the rumor he started, I just remember him pouncing on me the minute I asked Mrs. Wookie what on earth Mr. Wookie was on about. A bit later in the evening, Mr. Wookie decided The Mister was flirting with Mrs. Wookie.

Now, I don’t want to be uncharitable… Oh, hell, too late, right? Why beat around the bush. OK, not to put too fine a point on it, but there were several hundred pounds, several chin hairs, and two tiny piggy eyes on Mrs. Wookie. No chance of flirting, I feel pretty confident about that. So that made for another couple of drama-filled hours –- interspersed with mandatory hourly shots –- after we put the kids to bed. Thankfully, midnight intervened and the husband of the other fortunate couple distracted us by stripping naked and leaping onto Mr. Wookie’s ATV for a joyride around the property. I got some neat photos, then The Mister and I slunk upstairs to our assigned bunkbeds and got the hell out of Dodge as soon as dawn broke.

Grown Up New Year’s Sleepover disaster #2 occurred at our house a few years later. The Belushis were a family in our circle who also had two little boys and were eager to do something for New Year’s, so we invited them over, and somehow, the missus of Neighbor In Swim Trunks From Two Sizes Ago, (see also this) since NISTFTSA is a chef and was working that night. (I think he now chefs for the Splendaville prison, having been unable to play nice in any of the restaurants.)  Anyway, NISTFTSA’s missus is a big pothead, which turns out to have been a dream come true for Mrs. Belushi. The Mister and I had gotten a new mattress for Christmas, and had lazily thoughtfully put the old one down in the Toys R Us crack den playroom for Phartacus and Slappy to jump on for a few days. A couple of drinks later for me, and God knows what else for Missus NISTFTSA and Mrs. Belushi, those two were lying on the mattress watching the room spin and groaning like sated zombies.

Eventually Missus NISTFTSA stumbled home through the backyard and Mrs. Belushi pulled herself off the mattress, just in time for Phartacus, by now on an evening playdate and sugar-induced high of his own, (Not a pot-induced one, I would like to clarify. That was snuck outside while I was busy watching children.) to leap off the sofa, miss the mattress, and crack a molar. After we got the kid front settled down and bedded, I cracked a molar of my own on a popcorn kernel. At which point, apparently, the Belushis thought it would be the right time to suggest a few lines of cocaine. The Mister and I politely declined and slunk off to our new mattress, eyeballs bulging like the squares we really are. The next morning, as I watched my bedroom ceiling spin, felt my tooth throb, and groaned in zombie-like fashion myself, Mrs. Belushi bounced into the bedroom and sprang onto my new mattress, laughing and apparently none the worse for wear, to wonder what on earth was the matter with me. I had been out-partied for sure.

So even though the Epiphany friends, who are falling asleep on the sofa by 9pm most evenings, are not a thing like the sleepover friends of yore, The Mister and I agree we’ve had abysmal luck on the Grown Up Sleepover front, and I like them too much to find out if this year the guest of shame will be me. So the plan is to be home well before midnight, watching the ball drop if we can manage it, trying not to crack any molars or do anything disastrous. Happy New Year, and please wish me luck.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Phartacus

I had small plans for this Christmas Eve. Just me, The Mister, Phartacus, and Slappy making cookies for Santa, reindeer food, decorating a gingerbread house, listening to Bing and Ella, etc. You know the drill. Honey-baked ham for dinner, check Santa’s progress on NORAD’s Santa tracker, tuck into bed and wait for Santa’s bounty. Well, Santa’s got a bit of a conundrum now, and you’ll realize I’ve named my offspring well.

 Merry Christmas, Phartacus. Love, Slappy

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Free Souse With Purchase

For months I have tried to remember to take a camera with me to the Porkly Workly, but alas, I’m lucky to remember the grocery list and, on a very good day, the environmentally-responsible market bags. I have been determined to document on this blog a disturbing product called souse, which hangs innocuously amongst the Oscar Mayer bologna and mesquite-smoked turkey as though it were some sort of normal, reasonable food item you might slip into your kid’s sandwich. At first unpleasant glance, you see pinkish-white ridged chunks floating in a viscous base sprinkled with green and red flakes. Peruse the ingredient list and -- dear God -- you’ll discover that souse is a pork product you’d have thought vanished from human consumption a hundred years ago, if not right after the first time someone tried it. The main ingredients in souse are (cue theme from Psycho): pig snouts, pig hearts, pickles, and gelatin. Heave. Here kids, have some jellied pig snout with pickles!

Though the Splendaville Porkly Workly has evidently been doing a brisk enough trade in souse to have offered it for as long as I’ve lived here, apparently even regional delicacies have a limited appeal. The souse was on sale for 99 cents, and I decided this blog was worth the expense, so I put it in my cart, along with some pot pies and cheap wine, and went to check out with a basket full of good times.  The checkout girl scanned my Porkly Workly card, rang up my items, and informed me that my exclusive membership had saved me 99 cents. In other words, free souse with purchase.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Epiphany Comes Early

It’s been a long week. The Mister was out of town on a hunting trip for the first couple of days, and between part-time work, the early morning class I volunteer teach at school and all the rushing around that the holiday season brings, by Thursday I couldn’t believe the week wasn’t over. I staggered blearily through this morning, in a foul mood over a thousand trifles.  By mid-afternoon I’d regrouped and found some Christmas spirit and was decking the halls with boughs of holly, berry sprigs, red bows. As the sun set, our wee dwelling was festive with bright swags and warm candlelight, and the smell of Friday night homemade pizza filled the air with a savory garlic aroma. Our dear friends, fellow West Coast weirdos and school carpool lifesavers, had picked up Phartacus and taken him to the school basketball game with their kids. They dropped him off and stayed for an impromptu cocktail and nosh. The candles flickered and Ella crooned in the background as my friend suddenly said, in a low voice, that her husband had been promoted and they will be moving to Chicago.

It took a few moments for it to set in, and I tried to make sensible conversation while my throat closed and my eyes stung. They stayed for a couple of hours, during which time I made several trips to the bathroom to take deep breaths and drip Visine into my eyes, willing them to stay clear. It’s a secret, you see, that their kids don’t know yet because it won’t be made official until after the holidays. Which means I can’t let Phartacus and Slappy know that their best friends will be leaving soon. I dread their tears more than mine.

My heart is breaking.

Typing that secret, sitting next to Phartacus, I knew I couldn’t hold it in any longer, and went to the bathroom and lay down on the tiles, sobbing quietly so no one would hear. I tell Phartacus I’m catching his cold, because I can’t tell him yet, and I don’t want to ruin his Christmas. Because it will. I know Phartacus. Slappy too.  And that makes it just that much worse.

I’m three-fourths devastated to be losing the best friends we have here -- both for me and for the boys –- and one fourth jealous to be left behind in Splendaville while our deserving friends move onward and upward. They’ve earned it; they’ve been here five years and worked their asses off. It’s a dream job. It was only a matter of time.

We’ve been here 8 years. I thought it would be only two. No dream job beckons. I hate being left behind, happy as I will make myself be for them.

I feel lost. I can’t imagine school and weekends without these friends. I want to curl up in my bed and cry til spring.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thankfully, Thankful Thanksgiving is Coming to a Close

Is anyone else’s Facebook page filled with their friends’ daily posts about what they’re thankful for? Apparently it’s become an annual “Thanksgiving Challenge” that lasts the entire month of November. And at this stage in the game, even the most determinedly Blessed are straining to rise to the challenge. This morning a local acquaintance, a relentlessly cheerful Southern gal who has the most amazing ability to talk for minute after minute without coming up for air, posted that she was “thankful for the fact that both boys have their drawers full of socks and underwear.” Glory Be and Praise Jesus! Last week she was grateful for her dog groomer working in an “emergency groom” for Muffin, and before that she has been grateful for laundry detergent and rotisserie chicken.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Felonious Punk

What’s more fun than a Monday morning? Why, a Monday morning standing in a courtroom before a judge, dontcha know. I started off this holiday week with a trip to the Splendaville Courthouse, clutching a small pink piece of paper which I hoped would reinstate me as a law-abiding citizen.

A couple of weeks ago, I was actually not speeding, and therefore quite surprised to be pulled over by a Splendaville deputy. Officer Krupke had noticed my vehicle inspection sticker was expired (boy was it), and handed me a court summons so I could explain myself to the judge. I agreed wholeheartedly, delighted that he hadn’t noticed the (unopened) bottle of alcohol on the floor of the front passenger seat, which I was on my way to give to my friend in thanks for feeding us dinner. Meanwhile Phartacus and Slappy were full of eager questions in the backseat, asking if I was a bad person and if I was going to jail.

The next morning was cold and rainy as I hustled over to the garage which does our vehicle inspections.  I couldn’t believe I had managed to drive around for so long without noticing the expired date on the windshield. I blame The Mister entirely; how could he miss what was right before my eyes for months?  Apparently I had projected last year’s inspection onto this year, and between the license plate renewal and the oil changes and the tire pressure whatnot, I thought I was all over the vehicle maintenance thing like a duck on a junebug. Anyway, my karmic penance was to discover that the inspection place’s waiting area was an open air shed with a leaky roof. I had not noticed this feature during my annual summertime inspections, but I was pretty aware of it now. $16 and 10 blue fingers later, I had my proof of vehicular responsibility.

So this morning I turn up at the courthouse, wondering if Splendaville is progressive enough to have naked scanners that will record a souvenir of this fine moment and if it will notice the rubber band pant-waistband-extender contraption I have rigged up under my shirt. Thankfully it’s still backwards around here and there is only a walk-through metal detector and some grandfatherly deputies standing around. (I did have to take my cell phone back to the car for some reason. In case I felt like recording the fun?) The deputies have me write my name and the name of the officer who had nabbed me, and the guys all agree that this is “Officer Krupke’s Day”. I go down the hall and there it is, a real live courtroom with wood paneling and the state seal and the whole enchilada. I sit down on an empty bench and wait.  I don’t get a good look at any of my fellow scofflaws, as we are all hanging our heads in shame, but I do notice that the other perps all have companions. Not sure if they’re co-conspirators or just moral support, but The Mister -- who I’m still blaming for this whole scenario on account of he has a Y chromosome and should notice these things -– had to take Slappy to preschool for me.

After a while, the judge comes in and a deputy says “All Rise” just like they do on TV. (Sweet!) We sit down, and the judge says we’ll start with the rows on his left and make a line up the aisle. This is not like they do on TV as far as I recall, but I can’t say I’m disappointed to forego a solo gig up front in this instance. So my inspection slip and I are third in line. First up are two shifty little potheads whose neighbor narc’d them out to Krupke. There’s some back and forth while Otis and Cletus admit that they did have marijuana but something something (couldn’t hear that bit, dammit) and decide whether they want their drivers licenses revoked entirely for six months, or get a provisional license so they can drive to work but be on probation for a year and take classes and do community service. Without hesitation they opt for six months cold turkey, and they’re sent to get some paperwork that will allow them to drive home. And presumably, stay there and get stoned for six months.

The next guy ran a stop sign, and he wants to point out that he thought it was a yield scenario and couldn’t see the stop sign due to some other signs. Then he wants to know if he can go to traffic school but the judge says “nope”, just like that, because he went to traffic school LAST year and doesn’t he know that it’s supposed to improve his driving skills? So he gets a fine and a couple of points off his record… or on his record. Pretty sure it's whichever one you don’t want.

So now it’s my turn, and I’ve been running over what I might say in my head, reminding myself that less is more. I step forward, the deputy takes my pink inspection receipt and hands it to the judge, who states that I got the car inspected the very next day (I was hoping he’d notice that part) and that he’s sure I was polite and cooperative with Officer Krupke, so I’m dismissed. Dismissed! I didn’t even get to approach the bench or object to anything. And you don’t think I object to that, do you? Hell no. I couldn’t wait to be clear of that room full of yardbirds. So long, suckers!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shirley Show-Off and Miss Popularity Runner Up

Yesterday I stopped into the Porkly Workly for a couple of necessities on my way home from a little sacrilegious Sunday shopping. I ran into another former member of Mother's Milk who, unlike Braggy Bridget of the U10 Hand-Picked Undefeated Soccer Team, would probably have hidden behind an aisle like I wanted to, had we not had an abrupt head-on encounter. I would have avoided her because I find her somewhat odd and off-putting; she might have liked to avoid me for the very same reason, for all I know. But I suspect that a part of her behavior towards me is due to feeling self-conscious or -- gulp -- intimidated. I squirm a little every time I think about this. She joined Mother's Milk at a time when I was behaving in a way I never had before and never will again. My first year in Splendaville had been extremely lonely and difficult, and when I finally broke down and joined Mother's Milk, it had felt like a lifeline. I was desperate for friendship and something to do with little Phartacus, and I threw myself into the whole rigmarole with gusto. I quickly made friends with a woman who, by her own admission, loved high school for the social aspect. (Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!)  She was fun and irreverent, loved being popular and being in on all the gossip, and I eagerly followed her lead. At 16 I had been smart enough and confident enough to avoid this sort of scene, but as a full-grown woman and desperate mother all I could see was someone to laugh with and confide in.

You can never know how other people see you, for which I am endlessly grateful. I would NEVER want my super power to be mind reading. What I suspect is bad enough!  But I'm fairly sure anyone who met me at that stage thought I was one of those popular girls they remembered from high school. Ugh.

Anyway, I think that partially explains the look on this woman's face whenever she is around me: slightly widened eyes and a perpetual half-smirk. I try to be charitable and chalk it up to nerves, but as she chattered away I had to wonder if some of the smirking wasn't just the thrill of recounting what a prodigy she had birthed. I tried to look sympathetic amongst the Jell-O pudding cartons as she detailed the difficulties of having a daughter so brilliant that she had been called into a teacher conference and told her little Einsteina would have to slow down in math because soon there would be no one at the school qualified to teach her. That little third-grade Einsteina had tested at a high school reading level and even the gifted program couldn't address her needs. Poor Shirley Show-Off indignantly related the story of being told that she was doing Einsteina a disservice by not letting her have summers off school, when all they were doing was one hour of work a day... some math, reading, a couple of simple science experiments, a little Old Norse Icelandic literature, ancient Greek...

I get that moms are proud and want to share their children's accomplishments. I try to confine my brags to grandparents, and spare friends and acquaintances all the eye-glazing details unless they specifically ask. (Is your child a genius? Why, YES, since you ask...) Yet as Shirley Show-Off went on, it became harder to keep my mouth shut, until I eventually interjected that Phartacus was cruising through the dreaded third grade with ease. Why did I feel the need to say this? I know my children's strengths and talents (and also that things can change in the blink of an eye. What you brag about today may vanish tomorrow.) -- why did I need Shirley Show-Off to know it too?  I think of myself as someone who dislikes competitiveness in friendship, and I have distanced myself from women whose conversation reminds me of an endless holiday letter. So why did I have to chime in?

Is it because I don't like competitiveness, or because I fear I don't measure up?

Saturday, November 6, 2010

All Hallows Eve

After a mere two months, it seems clear that my schedule this year has mostly sucked any interesting and/or insightful thoughts out of my head. I make two to three approximately hour-long trips to school daily, work part time from home, and have to make up lesson plans for the class I got drafted into teaching for free at Phartacus' and Slappy's school. Plus the usual homework and extra-curricular mom stuff that goes on. None of this is revolutionary in terms of what many moms do, but it has left me with virtually no time or brain power for reflection. Hence, blogging dearth. Expect this to continue through June.

But now it's Saturday night and my only goals are to eat pizza, watch questionable television, and catch up online. Last weekend was a different story. Sometime in early September, the idea of hosting a Halloween party for the boys sounded like a far-off seasonal delight. As October progressed, I spent days unearthing decorations, looking for green punch recipes, hanging paper spiders, downloading theme music, and so on. Last Friday was spent carving jack-o-lanterns, prepping food, stretching out spider webs, etc. Saturday was a whirl of scrubbing toilets, hiding papers, and all the fun things that go on around here when people are coming over. At dusk, the party room filled with Phartacus' and Slappy's chosen few, who bobbed for apples and carried on while the adults huddled in the kitchen for chili and beer.

Halloween party: check.

The next day I actually had to go through Halloween, which seemed somehow unfair. But I have to admit that I was curious to see how Phartacus' costume would go down.

Every year, Phartacus requires a costume that cannot be purchased in stores. While Slappy craves Walmart's finest polyester ensembles, Phartacus has a Charlie Brown mentality that I, in my foolishness, cannot resist, and so every October finds me hot gluing tarantula legs or sewing bat wings or figuring out how to make sure the eyeholes on ghost sheets stay put. This year, only a devil would do. You can find devil masks in stores or costumes online, but they are gruesome lumpy affairs, and Phartacus was to be an old-school dapper devil, the kind I remember from my own childhood Halloweens.

As dusk slowly gathered (I feel certain that the government officials who decided to push Daylight Saving Time past Halloween are child-hating sadists), I watched a stream of cars leave the neighborhood. A few might have been off to celebrate in other, more desirable neighborhoods, but I know for a fact that quite a few were the folk who believe Halloween is the devil's birthday and must be safely ensconced in church. So it was a pity that they missed Phartacus' birthday get-up, complete with red vest and tie, white dress shirt, black slacks, and plastic pitchfork, mostly courtesy of Walmart's dressy lads' section.

In recent years our neighborhood has seemed to be dying a Halloween death, with maybe five or six batches of trick-or-treaters, the rest presumably trunk-or-treating in some church parking lot, which is NOTHING LIKE HALLOWEEN because you are dressed in costumes, going from car to car asking for candy from sanctified trunks where they have definitely not been slaughtering puppies in pentagrams before handing out the Oh Henrys.

But this year there was a seven o'clock rush, which happened just after I returned home with polyester Slappy, who had the most ill-timed case of the shits I have yet to witness. Imagine only having cramps and the trots for the two hours during trick-or-treating. The injustice. Anyway, I brought him home, plopped him in the tub, and sent The Mister off to accompany Phartacus, at which point the doorbell started ringing. And kept ringing. Luckily, Slappy is five and unlikely to tip over in the bath, but he did need some help in the toilet and general sympathy departments, so I worked off a few fun-size Kit Kats running back and forth between the bathroom and the front door. I can't say I was unhappy about it, since I was pleased that business was booming, and it definitely livened things up from the previous Halloween when I stood out in the empty street fruitlessly hawking Skittles.

By the time Phartacus and The Mister returned, both the trick-or treaters and the bathroom fun had subsided, and a restored Slappy joined his brother in that time-honored tradition of candy counting and haggling. Phartacus didn't even receive any religious tracts, fruit, or Charlie Brown rocks. Score.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Camping (Cabining)

Recently I went camping with the family. Technically, I guess you could call it cabining. Usually we do a weekend of tent camping sometime in September, but this year we thought it would be groovy to spend an October weekend enjoying some fall foliage. The Mister had found a campground in the mountains (which look more like hills to West Coast freaks like me) and suggested we book a two-bedroom cabin for the weekend. We soon found out that this idea had occurred to, oh, pretty much everybody else about 10 months ago, which left us with the option to camp Thursday and Friday night and shove off Saturday morning. Check in was 3:00 pm Thursday and, fearing the competition would be stiff for the creme de la creme of rustic accommodations, we decided to bust the kids out of school early. I called the school at eleven on Thursday to say I'd found nits in Slappy's hairbrush and arrived 20 minutes later, minivan packed with weenies, spare pillows, s'more supplies, alcohol, etc., to find Phartacus and Slappy enthusiastically scratching away in the nurse's office. We piled into the van and headed off for a weekend of relaxing, low tech, quality family time. Are you snickering yet?

The mountains (hills) were ablaze with color, and we scored a secluded cabin at the end of the gravel road. The Mister and I lugged bag after bag of "essentials" inside while Phartacus and Slappy lapped the cabin, shrieking like banshees to let all our neighbors know the fun had arrived. After settling in, we took a stroll through the woods and found a lovely stream. I took endless photos of trees (enjoy below), and we returned at dusk to find that we were locked out of the cabin. And the van, since I hadn't taken the keys on our stroll. The cabin had a battery-powered keypad entry, and after 15 minutes of arguing about the code we were given at check-in, The Mister set off on foot for the mile-plus hike in the chilly gathering dark to the main office in search of help.

90 minutes, two park employees and two AA batteries later, we were defrosting in front of a crackling fire, reading books, doing puzzles, playing games, and having *conversation*. THIS is what camping -- I mean cabining -- is all about. These precious moments that slip away all too soon. The quintessential family moment. Right? Laughing yet?

Cut to the second day. It rained all morning. Phartacus and Slappy soon tired of books, puzzles, games, conversation, and quintessential family moments and moved on to running in and out between the tiny main room and the tiny screened in porch, which featured a hydraulic-free screen door that slammed like a rifle going off. Highly relaxing. After a few hours the skies cleared, and the afternoon was filled with whining and brotherly brawling, interspersed with increasingly obnoxious interludes of fishing, rowboating, hiking, and marshmallows.

Come 6:00 pm, back with the crackling fire, and a good case of lumbago, and the rifle shot screen door and the fucking puzzles with pieces everywhere and the endless chattering nonsensical *conversation*, I was halfway through a bottle of wine and all the way through my patience for the weekend. When Phartacus complained about Slappy's game-playing deficiencies for the umpeenth time, I lost it and sent him out to the rocking chair on the screened in porch to shiver and reorganize his priorities for 10 minutes, followed by one of those Big Talks about gratitude and character that so adeptly makes children's eyes glaze over. I even busted out my mother's old line about "mistaking kindness for weakness" (Let me know if you haven't heard that one. It's a goody.) After the lecture, I retired grumpily to my lumpy mattress (making sure not to lie on the sloping side by the nightstand lest I roll off onto the floor) to lose myself in a strangely gratifying read about Vikings enthusiastically slaughtering 9th century Britains.

Saturday morning found me fervently (and stiffly) packing up the minivan, pathetically eager to say goodbye to low tech, quality family time. As soon as Phartacus and Slappy buckled their seatbelts, I handed them their Nintendo DS's and heaved a deep sigh of relief. The high tech drive home was pure bliss.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Invisibors

Still haven't had more than a brief glimpse of the new invisible stealth neighbors, or Invisibors, as I'm feeling free to call them. This is glorious, really, but I am beginning to suspect they are NSA operatives fronting as rednecks. While they remain out of sight, at least seven telecommunications vans have spent considerable time in their driveway since their arrival.

Last week, the utility company sprayed red lines all over their yard and, enjoyably, over my fence and onto my lawn. There's now a bright red arrow in my grass pointing towards nothing, which I know from experience will remain there for at least 10 months. This morning another cable company van parked in front of the house, and the man spent an hour rolling out black cable lines along our fence while our dog pulled every muscle in his tongue trying to lick the guy through the slats. A little while ago, a white car the size of a postage stamp with an orange flashing light stuck to the roof pulled up, and out came a teenager in a sideways baseball cap holding a large can of orange spray paint. For a moment I thought we were finally getting some urban action around here, but then he too proceeded to spray lines all over the Invisibors' grass and, yes, over the fence and onto my lawn again. I went outside and told him we were all stocked up on spray-painted grass over here, but he said he "had to".

So I'm left wondering if that small satellite dish near the property line will be used for Dish Network or decoding Russo-Chinese signals in outer space. You never know how far technology has really progressed. I mean, we send texts from a tiny cell phone up into outer space many times a day, so who's to say what that innocuous-looking dish is REALLY up to, hmm?

I also suspect they are NSA operatives because they've got more game than your average Splendaville residents. I know this without having met them because last weekend, The Mister took Phartacus around the neighborhood to hock scout popcorn, and called on the new neighbors. Turns out they have their own little scout (clearly a Romanian orphan brainwashed for the job) and The Mister came home with a $9 sale on the order form and a $17 bag of caramel corn under his arm that he purchased from them. Have I mentioned that The Mister makes his living in sales? Way to close that hard sell, baby.

Oh yeah, they're up to something.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why She Thinks All Mommy Blogs are Bullsh*t

A friend showed me a fellow fledging blogger's initial post. I think she makes some excellent points, and I share her lack of enthusiasm for detailing the minutiae of children's lives. But I did feel obligated to offer a counterpoint:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Stick Figures & Jesus Fish: A Photo Journey Around Splendaville

The complete package.
Note Charcoal Honda Odyssey on left.

The Early Bird Gets the Worms

This morning at 8:15am, after dropping off Phartacus and Slappy at school, I found myself trudging into Wal-Mart with a grocery list consisting of worms, syrup, wine, and a paper mache' skull.  Disappointingly, none of these items had anything to do with one another. The worms were for Fluffy, a small snapping turtle that is overwintering in a 10-gallon tank on Phartacus' dresser. The syrup was for the Eggos that I plan to feed my children for breakfast this week while The Mister is out of town at a meeting and sending me disgruntled texts about how it's being run by someone who apparently sounds like Foghorn Leghorn. (His latest text reads, "I meana meana you about as sharps as a bag a hammuhs boy a bag a hammuhs.") I doubt I need to explain what the wine is for, but the skull is because Wal-Mart is selling them for $4, and who doesn't need a $4 skull made by starving oppressed Chinese peasants? Luckily that sort of thinking is A-OK in Splendaville...

In any case, 8:15 in the morning is an excellent time to visit Wal-Mart, if one must. The aisles are mercifully clear of dawdling lane-hoggers and toddlers in the midst of learning a lesson about how long their parents can ignore their screaming. The trouble starts when all 11 shoppers converge on the one open checkout lane manned by the employee deemed least capable of handling a crowd. But the rest is gravy.

I scored one of the noisy shopping carts that I adore, even though it was hardly necessary at this hour. I'm serious about the noisy shopping cart; it's an absolute must for successful Wal-Mart navigation, though I'm not sure I should be revealing this secret. When I was younger I would cringe if I got a rattly cart and fruitlessly try to push it without causing a racket. Now I look for the rusty misshapen one that's been hit by a few duallys in the parking lot and has a gob of gum stuck to one tire, the other tire spinning freely in its axle,whose thumpity-thump-thumping becomes increasingly alarming as it gains speed. If I can get up enough steam with one of these, I have a fighting chance at parting the Redneck Sea.

As I clunked and thumped back toward the worm refrigerator in the hunting department, (Get your mossy oak insulated bibs right here!) I spied a mom I know, and rattled quickly behind the nearest aisle. There are some things you just cannot face at 8:19 in the morning, and after seeing this mom at Phartacus' final soccer game last night, she was one of them. Her son was on the other Splendaville U10 team and, at their first match a couple of weeks back -- as her son's team scored goal after goal while Phartacus' team waited politely for their turn -- she made sure to come over and tell me that their team was undefeated and had been hand-picked by their coach. I highly doubted anyone had hand-picked her son, who spent more time digging his shorts out of his behind than chasing the ball, but I managed to cram my fist in my mouth and walk away.

Luckily, Braggy Bridget was too engrossed in ceramic pumpkins and cornucopias to pay any mind to the ruckus in the next aisle, and must have remained so during the single-lane checkout exodus. And now the worms are living out the remainder of their doomed lives on the middle shelf of my refrigerator in a leaky styrofoam container that I'm told must remain upended for easy worm retrieval. You would think this might be an appetite suppressant, but I can assure you I remain undeterred.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Good Christian Receptionist

When I first moved to Splendaville, my immediate focus was on finding a quality pediatrician who could tell me what on earth I was supposed to do to keep tiny infant Phartacus alive. When it came time to find a doctor for myself, my main criteria was expediency, so I decided to try the one whose office was approximately four minutes from my front door. The four-minute doctor's waiting room featured piped music from the local Christian station, a wall calendar with images of blue skies and fluffy clouds overlaid with cursive Biblical quotes, and a muted television endlessly looping some video that seemed to be about the resurrection of Jesus. I sat down in astonishment. (This is no longer astonishing. My dentist apparently cannot scrape at tartar unless the earth is rejoicing in His majesty.) An old lady dressed neck to ankle in purple polyester, thinning hair an alarming shade of magenta, eyebrows drawn in not quite the right place, signed in at the front desk, then leaned over and loudly told the woman behind it how happy she was that the four-minute doc had found a "good Christian receptionist".  Huh? What exactly did that mean? Could a Jew not answer the phone and schedule her appointment? This was before I knew there were no Jews in Splendaville.

I never returned to the four-minute doc. (The next guy I tried purely based on the terrible reviews from my Bible-thumping neighbor, Burgundy Brenda Rae. He's an old codger who said "bullshit" during the exam, and I've been a faithful patient ever since.) But it wasn't too long after that I received a recommendation for a "good Christian plumber", though frankly I suspect a Buddhist, Wiccan, or even an alcoholic atheist could wield an effective drain snake. And I kept hearing "good Christian" used as a general descriptor. ("He's mid-thirties, about 5'10", sandy hair, good Christian.") I have come to notice that, quite often, when someone needs to tell you that he or she is a "good Christian", it's because you might not otherwise guess.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Three... No, FIVE Followers Wonder: Who Is This Jaded Jade?

"I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it, and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!"

To think I mocked along with the hoi polloi. Now I understand. At last, I'm breathing the rarified air that comes with having people who like you.

Three FIVE followers.

I know next to nothing about blogs or the blogosphere, but it certainly seems as if everyone has a blog for their family photos, travels, hobby, lizard club, etc., which loyal friends and family members dutifully read and comment upon. But since my husband already has to live it and so apparently has no desire to revisit all the fun in cyberspace, and my mother's response was, "I think I recognize your neighbors," and, "It will be good practice," and pretty much everyone I know around here is fodder for the grist, it seemed safe to assume that my blog would remain unknown to all but that loyal friend who silently and invisibly subscribes. I was sure this would be just fine, as I am writing primarily to avoid parenting, Pentecostals, and expensive therapy while filling the hours until I can justify a gin and tonic.

But now that I have three FIVE followers, some of whom I DON'T EVEN KNOW, I begin to wonder how this comes across. I imagine I sound snarky, bitter, possibly even condescending towards all that is The South (unless you read that first post where I mention the things I dig, like pork barbeque. I really dig pork barbeque.) Not to mention blasphemous, alcoholic and a poor maternal role model.

And most importantly, what do people think I look like? 

Surely there must be something about my appearance that screams WEIRD? Something that sets me apart from the ladies here before I even have the chance to open my heathen mouth and shove my flappy foreign foot in it? Things like unusual facial piercings, aubergine highlights, knuckle prison tats, etc.? Why else would I be a self-proclaimed West Coast freak?

Sadly not. I'm well inside the normal range for many suburban mothers: Not being orbited by any moons or satellites just yet, but there's definitely more of me than there used to be. (Can we go with "on the chubby side"?) Not completely sloppy, but it's safe to say I won't be making the Splendaville Sentinel fashion pages anytime soon. An average day might include Old Navy cargo pants (stretch waistband mandatory) and a Target t-shirt.

Brown hair, glasses when I can't be bothered with the contacts, (so, glasses) and a varicose vein (thank you, Phartacus and Slappy) complete the picture. I think I'm still reasonably attractive, (because didn't that sound attractive?) but my days of car wash and construction site leers are well past. In other words, like many women my age, I'm invisible (but that's a whole other post!)

So, though I'm not dolled up like a proper Southern gal, I don't think I look like the kind of person who would necessarily cause controversy or spout outrageous things. It was surprising to me that I seemed to be so controversial here, and after numerous social flops I developed a healthy, self-preservationist case of sour grapes and snark. I also realized I ought to keep my big fat mouth shut a whole lot more, and find another outlet. Hello, blog!

O, five followers who have lifted me up to these dizzying heights, I do possess a secret marshmallow center. I love kittens and Christmas, piña coladas and getting caught in the rain... whoops. I like all that stop-and-smell-the-roses sentimental hooey, but where's the fun in that? You don't come here for that, do you? If you're hoping to witness a story of personal growth, stay tuned. Maybe once I get this all out of my system I'll start posting about my heirloom tomatoes and restored Colonial Revival furniture.

Friday, September 17, 2010

End of Summer Cont... The Colors of Autumn

September 7
September 17
I just love watching the colors change this time of year. Even after all these seasons, I'm still amazed at how quickly things turn once the weather cools.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Stealth Neighbors

Somewhere during the nuclear winter fallout that has been my life since school started and I began spending three hours daily driving Phartacus and Slappy to and from their respective lives and collecting snacks for soccer games and class events and coordinating Cub Scout calendars and chaperoning field trips and volunteering on the school gardening committee and leading an early-morning arts workshop and popping muscle relaxants for a spasmed back and working part time and gulping Chardonnay while folding laundry, the neighbors managed to move in next door without my noticing. Oh I know, last Saturday I wrote that the moving truck had pulled up, as I prepared to settle in for a blow-by-blow of any questionable floral sofas, lamp-side table combos, or particle board trout diorama coffee tables that might emerge from the truck. But all that arrived was a refrigerator (stainless steel, entirely above reproach), which was matter-of-factly carted into the house by delivery men before the truck left and all was quiet. I assumed the main event was forthcoming, but that night, light appeared from between the cracks of suddenly visible from Phartacus' bedroom window if one leans out the sill towards the left with binoculars kitchen curtains. A car was in the driveway; the porch light was on. What the what? How did I miss this? The next day, I shrewdly combined Cub Scout Requirement 3C with good-neighborliness and baked up a batch of homemade -- I'm talking started with flour, sugar, and baking soda type stuff -- chocolate chip cookies to take over for that first impression I'd been pondering in my last post. Plate of cookies at the ready, I kept looking over at the house, but there was no sign of life. Probably churching...

Cut to Wednesday night. I've eaten all but two of the homemade chocolate chip cookies, and I still haven't seen the neighbors, even after dinner tonight while trailing behind Phartacus and Slappy on their bikes, a Cub Scout manual in one hand (never miss an opportunity to check off a requirement) and a lowball of Chard in the other. Only the car and the kitchen light give testimony to their presence. No little kid waiting for the bus. No coming and going from the front door. No wandering around the garden or sitting on the back deck. No sounds emanating whatsoever.

So far, I freaking love them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

New Neighbors

Oh Sweet Baby Jesus, a moving truck just pulled up next door. Please Lord, that the new neighbors may not be cretins.

This will be our third set of neighbors in that house. The first guy was some sort of postal worker with the night shift, which should clue you in on his sociability factor. He had two little boys and a wife I never saw. The little boys occasionally played on a swing set that their caring father had placed on a bed of crushed bricks. When they fell off the rings onto their heads a few times I stopped seeing them outside. The dad liked to blow off some night shift steam by driving one of those large remote-controlled cars in the road outside my bedroom window. At 6am. (Never with his little boys, mind you.) After waking up several Saturday dawns to the sound of a rinky-dink motor whining and buzzing on all the juice a couple of 9 volts could muster, I staggered outside, squinty, disheveled and irate, to tell him what I thought of his hobby.

Postal Boy was replaced by a family whose wife came to be referred to as "The Ballbuster" by their other neighbors. Right after The Ballbuster turned up she had Mr. Ballbuster knock out a section of their fence so that their hound could be emptied directly from their kitchen door into our side yard to enhance our landscape and get into scraps with our aging dog.

The Ballbuster had three tiny children, and she kept the family on a strict schedule. Children were up at 5:30am, no naps permitted, and in bed at 6pm. Mr. Ballbuster was sent out to mow the lawn at 6am on Sundays (noticing a marital trend here), and the tiny children were sent outside during Phartacus' naptime to scream beneath his nursery window and regale me with questions about exactly what I was doing in my own yard during these brief interludes. The Ballbuster wandered into our backyard a time or two to ask why Phartacus' hair was so long and why he was already two years old and not potty trained a year ago like all her tiny children had been.

Eventually Mr. Ballbuster tired of such domestic bliss, and after months of listening to The Ballbuster sit on her porch bellowing into her cell phone about all Mr. Ballbuster's shortcomings while her tiny children roamed my yard and toddled out into the street, the happy couple went their separate ways. Mercifully, The Ballbuster left the house and took the hound, and the tiny children appeared every other weekend. Mr. Ballbuster bought a Harley, a brain bucket, and a black leather vest, and took up with Crystal the blonde brick house. Now Crystal and Mr. Ballbuster are due to wed, and their combined five children require more space than the house next door can provide.

I haven't even gotten into the other neighbors. Yes, I've mentioned a bit about Neighbor In Swim Trunks From Two Sizes Ago's curdling above-ground pool and outdoor aesthetic, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. You've yet to hear about Creepetta and The Hamburglar, Burgundy Brenda Rae, or The Lawn Troll. Suffice it to say, years of unfortunate experiences have made me extremely wary of what's coming down the pike next. In the naivete' of early homeownership, I was somehow friendly enough to give off the impression that I enjoy watching children with no advance warning or expectation of reciprocity, and don't mind at all if you hack branches off our trees or take down our boundary fence without asking.

So I need to decide -- and fast -- what kind of first impression to make with the new neighbors. Do I take over a goody and introduce myself? Probably should. Can I do it in a way that says, "I'm friendly, but don't even think about messing with my fence, sending your kid over every single time I step out the door, blasting classic rock music on your outdoor boombox even when you're not home, borrowing our mower and returning it without the bearing that keeps the axel in place, breaking our expensive rake and replacing it with the cheapest one you can find, not offering to replace or even thanking us for sawing your child out of our toddler's plastic swing after repeatedly warning her she was too big to get in it, or shooting out our sliding door with an air rifle and sending over an alkie with the DTs unannounced to discuss a special method of replacing only one door pane, and only after we had to send the sheriff to your door because you wouldn't own up?" I think I definitely need to try.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Suffering Due to a Pagan Society

The Splendaville Sentinel ran an ad today for the uncomfortably close Backwoods Baptist Church, which has been wasting years of its time trying to get me to Know Jesus In A Personal Way and sending pamphlets to Mr. Pat McCown letting me know they're praying that a new passion for Jesus will break out in my family.  Turns out, not only do they have Friday Sports Night (two hours of volleyball or basketball interspersed with personal testimonies!), they have a Bible Institute that is offering a fall course entitled, "Suffering Due to a Pagan Society". Splendaville residents are invited to spend five Monday evenings learning "how to handle persecution in the workplace due to your faith in Christ". Considering that standard openers around here involve asking if you've been saved and describing someone first and foremost as a "good Christian", I find it a little hard to believe that there is five Mondays' worth of local paganism and persecution to bone up on.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The End of Summer

The day after Labor Day, and summer is officially over. Never mind that silly autumnal equinox later this month, or that two-for-one weenie special at the Porkly Workly -- I know summer's done for because Neighbor In Swim Trunks From Two Sizes Ago has stopped chlorinating his above-ground pool, and it's already going green in the center. This annual tradition will progress throughout the autumn, its murky depths becoming increasingly pleasant to gaze upon during dinner, until sometime around January, when the scummy remnants will be covered with a saggy black tarp that will collect pine needles from his dead Loblolly pine until Memorial Day.

I'm pretty sure NISTFTSA is actually a Waste-Not-Want-Not sort of ecological genius, not just a cheap lazy redneck bastard. He must be thinking, why put in any more chlorine when we'll only be swimming for a few more weeks?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Your Own Personal Minivan

I drive a minivan, and I am an individual. I swear.

You would not believe how many Honda Odysseys there are in Splendaville. A bunch of Toyota Siennas, too, as well as a smattering of Chrysler Town & Countrys, Nissan Quests,  Dodge Caravans, and sundry '80s van-jalopies. But mostly, I see Odysseys, and they seem to come in three colors: beige, silver, or charcoal. I assume that once people realize they cannot tell their Odyssey from the 94 other Odysseys in any parking lot, they start thinking up ways to add some personal flair.

It goes without saying that a Jesus fish is the first step: some with the little cross inside, some without; some with "Jesus" written inside. A number of creative individuals like to assemble a school of Jesus fish, each representing a family member. So on their next trip to that parking lot, they must walk along thinking, "Is that my beige Odyssey with the Jesus fish? Oh no, mine has two big ones and three little ones, not FOUR. Oh hey, is THAT my beige Odyssey? No wait, those Jesus fish don't have little crosses inside..."

Clearly, more personalization needed. Enter: stick figure family. Each family member gets their own stick figure window decal, personalized with perhaps a golf club for dad, a purse for mom, soccer ball for junior, and ballet for sister. Don't forget the pets! So now they're in that parking lot going, "Is that my beige Odyssey with the Jesus fish and stick family? No hang on, that's a dog. MINE has a cat..."

Sometimes the stick figure family has their last name floating above them. There might also be a decal that's got junior's school team with his name inside, or the daughter's dance studio and her name. Whenever I see one of those, the big city, West Coast weirdo in me thinks: If I were a pedophile, I'd go to Splendaville Elementary after school to watch Johnny Smith at soccer practice. Then I'll try Sugar & Spice Dance Studio to watch Janey practice ballet...

A whole roadmap for the disturbed is on the back of every personalized minivan.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Grocery Gaffe

This morning I pulled up to the Porkly Workly in a faintly peevish mood. The Mister had taken Phartacus and Slappy to soccer practice, but not before I'd had to do all the work of getting them ready, lest they turn up at the field without water, sunblock, pants, etc. Then I got myself ready and stepped outside into the kind of sultry southern summer morning where the sun is blazing and the air is so humid that you feel as if you have to push yourself through it. I drove to the grocery store behind a person with their hand sticking out the car window, lazily flopping in time to their musical selection. You know you are not getting anywhere quickly when you are behind a person with their hand hanging out the window. Not that I was in any particular hurry, but it irks me that people who wish to drive slowly don't care that they are forcing everyone else to go at their pace. Anyway, all that hand flopping was apparently having a negative impact on the driver's ability to navigate curves, gradients, etc., so that it was some time before I arrived at the Porkly Workly parking lot and pulled into a vacant spot. After rummaging around in my purse and spilling half of its contents into the seat cracks, I realized that I had left the grocery list at home. Meanwhile the rummaging process had somehow pressed some odd combination of buttons on my cell phone and locked it up. As I struggled to remove the phone's battery compartment lid, I let out a loud AAAAARRRRGGGHHH of frustration. I quickly fixed the phone, grabbed my keys, and got out of the car, whereupon I found myself two feet from the open passenger window of a Chevy Tahoe, from which several sets of eyes were peering out.

Realizing my AAAAARRRRGGGHHH had been witnessed and was probably loud enough to have also been heard, I felt somewhat squirmy, but this was nothing compared to my reaction when my eyes adjusted to the darker interior of the Tahoe and realized the passenger seat occupant was Vivien, surrounded by her family.  Vivien was a woman I had met at my first Mother's Milk meeting as a new Splendaville resident, when I was too desperate to make mom friends to notice that there was something slightly unhinged about the expression in her wide blue eyes. I persevered with the friendship, despite a few signs that something was amiss. For example, on my first visit to her home, Vivi popped in a children's video and turned to me, wide blue eyes full of alarm, to point out that the toy airplane crashing into two rectangles was clearly a 9/11 message from Osama bin Laden to his minions. Then there was the time she told me that telling people in The South that I was Catholic was like saying "nigger". Not to mention the exorcism she was convinced her husband needed to perform on their oil painting, and her extended-nursing son who could unbutton her blouse himself before diving in. Not shockingly, the friendship fizzled, and she called all of the other Mother's Milk members to tell them what a West Coast freak I was.

"Wale, haaah Patsy," Vivi said in her syrupy drawl, "Ah thowt that wuz ewe! Hah ewe doin'?"

"Just fine, Vivi, how nice to see you. I hope you enjoyed my little tantrum when I locked up my phone and couldn't find my grocery list. Ha-ha! You take care now!"

That was what I should have said. What I actually said was, "ep," and took off.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Birks on the Treadmill

So after that last post about Southern women I went to the gym and, while gasping for breath on a treadmill enveloped by the perfume cloud of the woman next to me (at least, that's how I've decided to explain the gasping), I saw a woman several machines over, walking slowly while reading a book. If I thought I wasn't fitting in here, she was bucking the local trend in a huge way. She was a middle-aged lady with long gray braided hair and thick-framed plastic glasses, wearing a purple and green tie dye t-shirt, faded pink cotton pants with the knees blown out, Birkenstocks with multi-colored yarn socks, and ear cuffs on each ear. As I looked at her I thought -- now there is a woman who knows who she is, and doesn't care what other people think. A woman who probably does what feels right, rather than what looks good. Someone full of spirituality, wisdom, and acceptance, who looks beyond the superficial to what really matters. Surely not someone who wastes time and energy fretting over her place in the herd. Perhaps the kind of woman I should aspire to become.

Pondering this, I looked again and also thought -- there is a woman who lives with several large dogs and lets them lick her on the lips.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Being a Woman in the South

I am by no means any kind of expert on Southern women, nor do I mean to lump all Dixie darlins into one stereotypical category. But, having wondered where it was I always seemed to go wrong, I began to notice a few key elements of being a certain breed of woman in the South. Should you wish to make a better impression than I have, you will need to take the following to heart:
  • Get dolled up for all errands, including morning preschool drop-off. If you roll up to the classroom without espadrilles, drop earrings and a Bumpit, or at least a color-coordinated Under Armour gym outfit with a Bumpit ponytail, you won't ever need to explain that you're a foreigner whose mama didn't raise you right. They'll know.
  • Speak in a voice at least one octave higher than your natural register. Squeak if it's someone you really can't abide and whose religious deficits you plan to discuss at your next Bible Study meeting. The women at my son's preschool address me at a decibel only dogs can hear.
  • Apologize before expressing a request or an opinion, if you dare offer one. "I'm sorry, but would you mind asking James Ryan not to jump on my coffee table in his cowboy boots?" "I'm sorry, but Pat Robertson says Halloween is for slaughtering kittens and that Jesus wants us to Trunk Or Treat in the church parking lot."
  • Southern hospitality be damned, mi casa no es su casa, and if I forget to refill your sweet tea you will smile silently and wait for me to remember my hostessing duties even if your tonsils are on fire. It doesn't matter if we've been having bi-weekly get-togethers for three years and I've seen you covered in baby vomit and jumping nekkid into the pool after too many Mint Juleps, you will not open my fridge and dole out a refill. If the flames have turned your tonsils into charcoal and are now headed down your esophagus, you might eventually squeak, "I'm sorry, but would you mind if I had more tea? James Ryan, honey, please don't jump on Miss Patsy's coffee table."
  • Pray on it. If asked where your child will be going to Kindergarten or whether you're going to Myrtle Beach in August, don't say you've been thinking about it or trying to decide. Tell the person you've been "praying on it." Replacing cognitive reasoning with prayer is an unquestioned convention which will elicit from the non-conversant questioner a brief startled silence, followed by mechanical nodding and a rubbery smile (you know, like that grin Farmer Ted gives the prom queen in "Sixteen Candles" when he's trying to convince her he's Jake?), whereas Biblical comrades will... well, I don't really know. I can't imagine what the proper response to such a statement would be, so I stick with the nod, realize it will be only moments before they find out I don't go to the right church anyway, and try to back away at the earliest opportunity.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Privy Is Not Always Private

I seem to be alone. I go to the bathroom, close the door, and sit down on the toilet. The cat pushes the door open, sensing instinctively that it has a captive audience. Phartacus, Slappy, and their neighborhood pal suddenly come stampeding up from the basement in urgent need of 100-calorie packs of baked Cheetos. I am trapped, peeing, mid-stream. No escape now. Capris around the ankles, I issue my decree from the throne: One pack apiece, throw the wrappers in the trash, and would you kindly close the door. Phartacus pulls the latch on the neighbor kid's riveted gaze.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sunday at Wal-Mart: The Great Unchurched

Going to Wal-Mart at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday morning is akin to publicly wearing your religion... or lack thereof. Stumble inside wearing your favorite sweatpants and t-shirt, sporting a pillow-shaped hairdo and faint mascara smudges under one eye, and you're advertising to the client base that You Are Unchurched.

And yet, this is the hour that the siren song of Wal-Mart wails loudest to my heathen ears. I have been awake for an hour and 15 minutes, meaning I have blissfully slept through those productive hours when enthusiastic morning persons have presumably sat around sunny breakfast nooks with their tousle-headed families, noshing on grapefruit and sausage links before scrubbing the dishes and then scrubbing up for Jesus. If I shake a leg, I can get my shopping done without getting stuck in the traffic jam between Splendaville Best Christian Church and Golden Corral.

As I deliberate over decorator paper towels -- grapes and bananas, seashells, or teddy bears? -- I encounter a freshly-saved family, straight from The Lord's dwelling place. Mom wears a floral dress and heels (some even go for hose if they're really feeling penitent.) Dad is valiantly atoning for his sins with a round of family shopping in squeaky shoes, but Junior's spit-shine is wearing thin and he's pretending to choke on his zip-up tie. Baby Girl has smeared the smushy remnants of a Gerber teething biscuit all over her smocked dress with embroidered cherries on the Peter Pan collar, and is about to wipe her fingers on Junior's cowlick when I toss the seashell paper towels into my cart and shove off towards the toaster pastries.

As I pass, I imagine they might be taking in my slovenly appearance and general lack of sanctification, and I start to rationalize: Hey, I might have gone to the early service and changed before making my grocery run. Or maybe I'm going to the five o'clock session and am shopping for my big wholesome family dinner with the pastor. It's possible; they don't really know.

I glance down at my cart, which contains self-tanner, Mylanta, Funyuns, two boxes of wine, and seashell paper towels, and wonder who I think I am kidding.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Compact Car Drivers are Parking Lot Sadists

How many times have I driven around a parking lot, thought I spotted an open space and hustled over to it, only to find that there was a tiny clown car already in place, pulled up so far that the car's nose was actually straddling the line dividing it from the opposite space? I am beginning to suspect that small car drivers deliberately pull into a parking spot as far as they can to psyche me out and make me think it's available. I live in a town filled with minivans, full-size SUVs, and extended cab pickups, and so I have decided that it must be a passive-aggressive ploy to punish us irresponsible breeders with big floppy carbon footprints. This aggrieves me because these auto autocrats have not even hung around long enough to notice the canvas totes that I dutifully pull from my cavernous hatchback, or that I make my kids reuse their Happy Meal boxes as hats before we throw them in the trash recycling bin. I mean, does the fact that I use my minivan for planet-saving carpooling count for nothing with these fuel fascists?? 

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Loving Mother

I just spent the morning with my local friend and her three small children. Every time one of her kids interrupted, she kissed them. Every time one of them sulked, she snuggled with them. A morning full of kisses and snuggles, it was. I need a drink.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ah Sylvan Summer, Thou Dost Cover Junk Heaps So Verdantly

I love looking out from my back deck right now, primarily for what I don't see rather than what I do...
I see:
  • potted plants
  • leaves of sweetgum, ash, and oak
  • neighboring tree tops
  • chunks of blue sky between tree tops
I don't see:
  • neighbor's Sanford & Son junk heap
  • other neighbor's Sanford & Son junk heap (this heap vanishes seasonally under a mass of honeysuckle and Virginia creeper)
  • neighbor's peeling, rusted van - aka storage unit - stuffed full of old pillows and Hefty sacks
  • neighbor's "work area" behind dilapidated shed
  • neighbor's collection of concrete yard art toadstools and bunnies
I see some of, but delightfully not all of:
  • Neighbor In Swim Trunks From Two Sizes Ago floating like big white water bug in above-ground pool
  • NISTFTSA bending over to futz with equipment of above-ground pool
  • NISTFTSA's teenage son and friends peeing off the deck
  • NISTFTSA's missus on pool float scratching recurring personal itch
  • Neighbor's tattered POW MIA and Don't Tread On Me flags