June 30, 2005
Why I Don't Write Books

I think Julie mentioned on her blog several weeks, if not months, ago a quote from another source that escapes my memory suggesting that everyone thinks they could write a book. Perhaps everyone could write their own story, but the trick is to write multiple books, telling multiple stories.

Sometimes my husband tells me “you should write books”. Or Sam will tell me “you should write this down”. I tell them no gently. They persist, explaining that I could use a pen-name. That no one would ever know I had told their stories. First of all, I find that hard to believe. Told with any accuracy at all, eventually people would be calling my mother. Let me assure you, nothing good would come of that! Second, I would know what I had done.

Good writing, brilliantly true writing, is like holding up a reflecting glass. Do any of us really want to look straight into a mirror of our souls, one that strips away our self-illusions? Do any of us really want others to see us the way we truly are? Strong and vulnerable, noble and petty, triumphant and pathetic? Wouldn’t that be the worst betrayal?

Maybe that’s why Harper Lee wrote only one book, To Kill A Mockingbird. It’s a simple story, told simply. Yet the characters are so true that they stick in your mind, like memories of people you knew well a very long time ago. Lee never gave interviews, and never wrote anything again. Ever.

Maybe that’s why James Joyce drank himself to death while desperately traveling abroad. Perhaps trying to stay one step ahead of the guilt? He wrote brilliant novellas, each a gem in the study of human nature. Was there ever a more pathetic Christmas party than the one in The Dead? He coldly stripped the civilized pretensions from the guests, showing them in all the horror of lives barely lived at all. It’s a wonder he could sleep at night!

Many times as a child, my mother justified the cruel things she said by announcing “well, it’s the truth”. But is being The Truth reason enough to bring some things to light? Where is the love and grace in humiliating and exposing those that are in your power? Even if the victim never knows what you’ve done … you still know that you’ve become the kind of person that would betray others by talking behind their backs.

And, So. I don’t write books. I don’t need the guilt.

June 29, 2005
Like ...

Wearing a skirt while very pregnant is like ... pretending there's a waist-line on a bowling pin.

Comments Tenatively Fixed!

You'll notice that my site might be having a few glitches over the next few days. Or not.

My husband gave me new software blog-management for our anniversary, because he loves me. This should fix the comments and kill the spam! On the other hand, I now have to manually approve comments. Ick.

But, we're working on it! Well, actually, they're working on it.

UPDATE: There's the way its supposed to work, and the way its not working right now. In the end, once everything is fixed, I'll only have to approve each commenter once (NOT each comment)! Then people will be able to comment freely at will, as excessively and delightfully as they feel inclined!


Well, my tech guy did things. I got a comment on an older post. I tried to do a comment and it didn't take but at least it didn't give me the weird error. Maybe soon things will all work? Could be ...

June 24, 2005
The Armadillo Conspiracy

(Hey, Ed! This one's for you. May you never meet an evilly determined armadillo in your outdoor adventures.)

Several armadillos have escaped from Texas. I'm certain of this because I've seen a few here recently in the midwest, where they obviously don't belong because we all know that they only live in Texas. And a few outcasts in New Mexico and Arizona.

The first time, I thought it was an aberration when I saw one along the side of the interstate. But last Friday night it was brought to my attention in a rather abrupt manner that there are HERDS OF ARMADILLOS running amok here in the midwest.

Last Friday night I was at Lowes, for hours and hours, in the cabinet department going over kitchen schematics. After awhile a young girl and her boyfriend struck up a conversation with the associate working with me. Turns out they're related. (NOT the teenagers, the girl and the associate!) Although, it might not have surprised me to find out the daters were related by the time their conversation was done.

It seems they were spending their "date" night at Lowes looking for ... an armadillo trap. So that they could train the armadillo. And race it next weekend in the armadillo races. After they found the trap, they brought it back by the cabinet-desk-area to show us. Then they wandered off, hand in hand, to purchase the armadillo trap.

I. Am. Not. Kidding. I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

I came straight home to tell my husband the extreme weirdness I had encountered at Lowes. He thought nothing of it. "Honey, we live in the midwest. Of COURSE there are armadillos here." Frankly, armadillos creep me out. Horrid little hissing hostile creatures. Creatures that are supposed to only live in TEXAS! Because thats the way nature intended it.

My husband looks at me, as if I'm crazy (which I'm not), and suggests gently and sarcastically "Sure, there are herds of armadillos in Texas that are heading out onto the interstates just to get to you."

(Cue the music to Rawhide...) Imagine ... fat little armadillos all over Texas ... stubby little legs carrying them onto the by-ways and highways ... all of them heading for the midwest with determination in their beady eyes!

I laughed myself sick! Maybe its just me, but I think the idea of a herd of evilly determined armadillos trying to break-out of Texas is a riot!

UPDATE: One reader, who shall remain nameless to protect his wasteful use of time, sent me a link with the following bizarre information about armadillos in Texas ...

"The leprosy bacillus was discovered in 1872, but scientists couldn't grow it in the laboratory. Research in treatment and prevention didn't take off until 100 years later, when scientists found an ideal host with a relatively cool body temperature - the nine-banded. Organisms grown in laboratory armadillos were distributed to research facilities, and the animal itself became a model in development of new drugs...

During this period of progress, two disconcerting mysteries arose in Texas and Louisiana. First, in the 1970s, leprosy was found in 15 to 20 percent of wild armadillos in those states, with the origin of their infection unknown.

Bob Howard, a spokesman for the National Center for Infectious Diseases, says the center has no information showing leprosy in armadillos in other states. "The armadillo is one of those animals that is studied pretty extensively," he explained, "so if there were indications it was occurring elsewhere, it would be picked up and studied." Florida Institute of Technology researchers found no leprosy among 3,000 armadillos, according to Dr. Arvind Dhople, research professor.

Then, in the mid-1980s, medical journals began to report diagnosis of leprosy in a few people in Texas and Louisiana who had no contact with leprosy patients but handled armadillos. Dhople estimates the number of diagnosed cases at five to ten per year. Contact included racing the armadillos, extracting meat and making souvenirs from the shells. The exact mode of transmission of leprosy, even from human to human, has not been clearly established, but Howard says, "We believe those particular behaviors would put one at risk."

As far as scientists know, both problems - leprosy in armadillos and in people who have handled them - are restricted to Texas and Louisiana. "

June 17, 2005
Stinky Stinky Boys

There'a danger in raising a housefull of children of only one gender. One day you might realize that you've raised a bunch of sexist-pigs, which is especially interesting if you're raising a bunch of females.

A few days ago I was baby-sitting a friend's children. You wouldn't believe the uproar from my boys when the three-year-old called them "stinky stinky boys". The horror! As hard as it is to believe, my boys have never been aware of discrimination against anyone based on gender. It was a new concept for them. A concept they didn't like.

The three-year-old looked a little concerned, and I figured that she was only mimicing her older sisters, so I didn't unleash the full wrath of the-adult-in-charge. I just told her firmly that it was rude to call people names. This satisfied Ron, but Lee was ready to see her decapitated! He looked at me, realized that I wasn't going to kill her, and announced loudly for all of us to hear "Well, I guess I'll just have to TELL. HER. MOTHER." (It has dawned on me that Lee might be a tad ... vindictive? I think I prefer to think of it as justice-oriented.)

It drifted from my mind until my friend came by to pick up the girls hours later. As her husband loaded the girls into the van, I stood in the door chatting with my friend. Lee sidled up to us, and burst out with his accusation! She jerked back a little, and responded knee-jerk with "surely not". Lee was not derailed, repeating his accusation. My friend was speechless. Lee, obviously patiently waiting for acknowledgement, was satisfied when I told him "She'll deal with it privately in her van". Off he went to go play with the puppies, serene. Convinced that he had brought about justice in his little world.

My friend recovered her voice, and blurted out "I can't believe she said that in public! Thats what we say at our house, but ..."

Now, I've long suspected that my friend has gone overboard trying to encourage her four girls to be strong women. But, life is about more than "girl power". I understand her desire to innoculate them against the images that society and the media bombard them with. However, boys are not the enemy.

I suspect that her girls are going to eventually be interested in dating boys. What nice boy in his right mind is going to want to date a girl who thinks he's inferior by virtue of the fact that he's a boy? Is she going to treat him with respect and consideration? Its not likely.

And has this focus on "girls are better" made her girls confident and bursting with self-esteem? No. No, it has not.

I think the answer is to encourage self-confidence and self-esteem on an individual level, on a human level. I don't want to raise strong boys or strong girls. I want to raise strong people.

Good Intentions

We've all heard "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions".

Our entire family found ourselves somewhat unexpectedly on a trip to the city yesterday to pick up a truck. Since we were going to miss dinner, we stopped to grab some fast-food on the way. I wasn't feeling particularly well, so my husband did the ordering all by himself. I didn't give it a second thought. He's a fully functional father. In fact, he's SO functional and confident that he "upgraded" their requests.

First we stopped at Hardee's, where Lee wanted minature hamburgers. Its almost the only fast food he'll eat along with fries. He's ... particular. Which you'd never tell since he's also ... sturdy. Then we stopped at TacoBell, where Ron wanted a bean burrito. Its one of his most favorite things, and a treat since we rarely stop at TacoBell.

There was a line at TacoBell. I was starting to come round at this point, and casually mentioned to my husband "you forgot to order the bean burrito". He gave me the evil eye as he glanced over his shoulder at the back of the mini-van. "A little louder?... I got Ron the beef-n-tatertot burrito. I thought he'd like to try something new." I look at him in horror. Then I listened to him explain the whole "something new" thing to Ron, who had overheard "forgot bean burrito". Ron took it well. Mostly.

My husband looks over at me and asks subtlely and quietly "Which one likes cheese?" See, Ron loves cheese and Lee loves peanut-butter. There is NO overlap. I have this sinking feeling. I gently point out "Lee loves peanut-butter". My husband flinches. We sit there silently for a few minutes.

Suddenly, there's a gasp from the seat behind us. Lee explodes with "THOSE. ARE. CHEESEBURGERS." with the exact same contempt with which a veteran might say "THOSE. ARE. COMMUNISTS." Sure enough, I look down into the Hardee's bag and all the little hamburgers are wrapped in the conspicuous yellow wrappers indicating cheese! I just can't control my laughter. As I try to smother it into the window, my husband is frantically trying to convince Lee that trying the little burgers "a new way" is an adventure. It was not going well. Lee finally conceded that perhaps he could pick off the cheese (which was hard since it melted onto the meat).

In a fit of creative negotiating (of which he is a master), my husband suddenly announced that "Cheese and ice-cream are made of the same things, and you like ice-cream!" Is Lee fooled? Will he eat cheese? (By that time I'm laughing so hard its difficult to breathe.) Lee just looks as him before responding firmly "I don't like ice-cream on my little burger." My husband admits defeat, which is no small thing.

I don't know where Lee gets it! (Note to husband: Stop laughing like that, you could hyperventilate.)

June 15, 2005
Oh, Really?

"Oh, Really?" is what I hear in my heard as I get The Look.

Its not a bad look, not overly hostile, not bug-eyed insane. Just a look that suggests I'm hearing "Oh, Really?" in my head.

It doesn't happen often. Generally, only people that have known me for a long long long time have seen it. And, even then rarely. Perhaps because most people feel like they need to have known me for years before trying to thwart me. (Its probably why my husband snorted his drink out his nose when one of his friends suggested being married to me must be SO easy!)

And, then, there's contactors. What an interesting group they are. My husband, for his own reasons (probably experience with The Look), generally limits my exposure to contractors. But sometimes its necessary when you're building a house to interact with the people actually doing the building. Or, more accurately, the people who thought they were actually going to be doing the building.

We've already lost one contractor and an architect who thought that they could make their lives easier by putting a HUGE chase through my office (completely destroying the symetric design, a built-in bookcase/desk, and the line-of-sight). Apparently they thought "the little woman" could be ... managed. I took this as a bad sign of deeper issues.

Its amazing the male-contractors that think its their job to "manage" me into reconsidering decisions that they think I must have blackmailed my husband into allowing. Versus the ones that want to hear even tiny decisions from both me and my husband before continuing on anything.

I suppose its on my mind lately because this weekend we picked a plumber. I like our plumber. He's right-thinking. He did mention its the most bathrooms he's ever put in a house, six bedrooms each with an en-suite bathroom so it can be used later for a bed-n-breakfast, but he didn't say it while looking at me like I'm a gold-digging trollop who torments my husband. I think he's probably happily married. With kids, I bet.

My husband is absorbing the vast majority of the work on the house, trying to make things as easy as possible on me. But ... I'm sure there'll still be those moments of "The tub doesn't go there". "Yes, it does". "No, it goes over there" "It won't fit over there" "Oh, Really? It better fit over there, because I measured the tub and the plan and thats where it goes". "Oh. Hey, it DOES fit!"

Fortunately, I'm not adverse to putting aside my generally docile demeanor occassionally. (Note to Husband: Stop laughing like that! You'll pass out.)

June 09, 2005
Big Sale!

Yes, its the Big Summer Clearance at HannaAndersson (see link on side bar, which my husband put under "Tourist Trap"). It always starts on a Thursday, updated on "Portland" time.

Yes, I'm neurotic enough to check the site on every Thursday. Thats why I have it linked.

Yes, I spent WAY too much time there this morning.

Yes, you really can feel the difference in organic cotton, even after its washed lots of times. Perhaps especially after its washed lots of times.

Yes, I only bought things I would be forced to pay retail for later. Cotton knit shorts for my oldest child (which are sturdy enough to last through at least three children, and probably more which I'll be testing later). And Christmas pajamas (one pair).

Yes, I buy Christmas pajamas at retail the day they become available because they sell out SO super-quick which I learned the hard way (I've decided its ok because I don't spend money on drinking-gambling-smoking.) I think this year I'll only need to buy one pair to fill in a gap in hand-me-downs. And, an extra-small for our newborn which will only be about six weeks old at Christmas. Thats the pair I bought today. They had (I stress "had") the infant zipper-pajamas in small sizes. My order processed but I wasn't entirely convinced, since that size was labeled "low quantity". I called CustomerService, where they place an emphasis on "service". They found my order, confirmed that I'd be recieving email shortly saying "sorry, no pajamas" but they also managed to alter my order so that a size larger was substituted. In the end, I STILL get my pajamas with an extra half-inch in the legs and sleeves. That works for me! Especially at about half-price!

No, I did NOT buy the cool cherry-red vintage tennis-shoes that I wanted as soon as I saw them. I still want them, but can I really justify spending that much on tennis-shoes for a special occassion (July 4th, 2006) when the boys would rather wear the newer-trendier more convienent pull-on sneakers which I already bought for next year in khaki? Sigh.

No, I did NOT buy baby clothes because it could theoretically be a boy. Although that won't match. And seriously mess up my plans for dresses hand-me-downs!

June 04, 2005
My Boys

I realize that I've been thinking about the new baby as a girl with straight hair and hazel eyes and a meek temper. Afterall, Cassie has curly hair and blue eyes and a temper that has actually alarmed some people (ie, the woman at Walmart who told her during a fake-tantrum that "little girls that cry aren't pretty". THAT didn't go over well!)

I'm expecting someone totally different, even though they'll be sisters. It dawns on me that's probably because Ron and Lee are totally different, even though they're brothers. And, WOW, are they different! Ron (age 7) has curly hair and hazel eyes, a lanky frame, a reserved dry-wit, and a fondness for rules of science and the law of numbers. Lee has straight hair and blue eyes, a sturdy frame, an easy quick charm, and a fondness for interesting words and dramatic stories.

I guess it was two Summers ago, when Cassie was about 18 months and Ron was 5 and Lee was almost 4, that I saw the a particularly emphatic demonstration of their different approaches to situations. I was collapsed on the front porch while the kids played in the front yard, although they had to stay on this side of the sidewalk, and not go beyond our yard on either side. I wasn't really worried about traffic in our neighborhood, but its best to get the idea in their head that playing near/in the street is a dangerous idea.

Cassie toddled onto the sidewalk and saw it as a runway to the end of the block! She took off like a shot. Seeing that she was aimed at the edge of the yard and not slowing, I called to Lee "Grab your sister." He chased after her, dodging the porcupine-balls that fall from GumballTrees that line our street. Thoroughly distracted by the drama of avoiding the pokey "gumballs" and Cassie escaping, his little arms flailing he managed to NOT get close enough to actually bring the drama to an end.

As she cleared our space and headed through the next yard, I noticed she was going to make it all the way to the cross-street, which is even quieter than our street, if possible. I also realized that Ron is faster than I am, by several degrees. I called "Ron! Get the baby!" He was playing with chalk on the driveway. He looked up, focused, dropped the chalk and was off like a shot. He never took his eyes off her. Barefoot, he didn't even slow down as he hit the sidewalk covered with "gumballs"! I don't think I've ever seen anyone move that fast. Ever. He reached her just as she paused at the edge of the street. I'm relatively sure she wouldn't have ventured into the street, but you never know. I do know that I'm glad he grabbed her, and hauled her back to the front porch.

What struck me most about the situation was their completely opposite reactions. Lee was all about the drama. Emotion rolling off him, excitement oozing out every pore. Ron was all about the resolution. Completely detached, completely focused on his goal to the exclusion of all else.

Most people might never even realize they're brothers. Except that they'll tell you in a heartbeat, often for no reason, with a great deal of pride. "Thats. My. Brother." We must be doing something right. Wonder what!?!