Saturday, May 26, 2007

Politics, With a Side of Poetry

It's been far too long since I posted something political. I refuse to take any polls too seriously; it's much too early, and as most of my compatriots know, I'm waiting to see if everyone who is anyone has declared himself a candidate yet. But I'm very much following things as they develop, and nothing escapes my notice.

I've decided to have a little fun and compose a few Political Haiku about a few of the candidates from both parties, and I encourage you to play along in the Comments section. For those of you who need a quick refresher:

Haiku is a Japanese style of poetry consisting of three lines. The first and third lines contain only 5 syllables. The second line contains 7 syllables. Taken all together, the poem states a complete thought. (Traditionally, Japanese haiku would be seasonal poetry; naturally, I will be ringing a bit of a change on that theme.)

Without any further ado, here are my Political Haiku:

Barack Obama,
Kicked in the ass by his own:
"He's not black enough."

Hillary makes us
Women feel as if we owe her
Votes no matter what.

Fred Thompson, actor.
Is he in or is he not?
G.O.P. pricktease.

Oh, Rudy, Rudy!
Come on, now! Even you know
You're a Democrat!

The Straight Talk Express
Looks to have been detoured by
McCain's bad driving.

Chris Dodd, your white hair
Gives you an air of wisdom.
Boy! Could we use that!

Mike Gravel, you are
At least entertaining and
Keeping me awake.

Okay, everybody, it's your turn. 5-7-5; it's not like it's hard. You don't even have to take off your shoes! I can't wait to read your haikus.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The X Factor

It's that time again: I'm going through my seasonal bout of Food Fussiness. Nothing sounds good, I don't feel like planning what to have for dinner, and we are all enacting The Five PM Drama at the Dept. way too often lately.
Here it is, in its entirety:

Curtain opens on modest living room. Husband sits in distressed leather recliner. Wife sits in one corner of couch, legs drawn up, arms encircling them. Eldest son sits slumped in opposite corner with laptop computer open, staring blankly at screen.
Rick: Well, what does everyone want to eat?
Jared: I don't care.
Nance: I don't know.
Rick: Where's Sam?
Nance: Upstairs on the phone or computer. Jared, get him.
Jared: (takes out cell phone, speaks into it to voice dial.) Call. Sam. (pause, then--) Hey, get down here. Family meeting for dinner.
Nance: (stares incredulously) You just called your brother on the cell phone? Upstairs?
Jared: Yeah. So?
(Sam comes downstairs and stands in archway between living and diningroom.)
Rick: Sam, what do you feel like for dinner?
Sam: I don't know. What are the options?
Nance: It's late. If I have to cook, something has to have time to be thawed, then I have to cook it, and by the time you people decide, we won't eat until 8:00.
Sam: I'm going to go work out at 7.
Rick: We'll order out then. What does everyone want?
Jared: I don't care.
Sam: I don't care.
Nance: Well, I absolutely cannot handle pizza, and I won't do Wendy's or any fast food burgers.
Rick: O. Kay. What about gyros?
Nance: (makes face as if someone poured worm guts all over lap and into hair.)
Jared: Well, that effectively cancels out all the edible menu options within a 5 mile radius.
Sam: Do I have to stay here? Can't you just tell me what we end up with?
Nance: Well, just get whatever you guys want and I'll just find something here.
Rick: That's ridiculous. What about Chinese?
Jared: That's fine.
Sam: I'm getting a call. (Steps away to talk on cell.)
Nance: Well...
Rick: Then I have no idea. Nance, you're the X Factor here. It's gotta be up to you.
Nance: I know. I'm sorry. I'm awful.
Sam: That was Scott. I'm gonna go work out now. I'll just eat whatever when I get back.
Sam leaves. Jared and Rick look at Nance expectantly and annoyed. Nance makes herself even smaller on the end of the couch. Everyone waits. Eventually, they order_______.

Sad, isn't it? It's horrific. I just have no real interest in food and even less interest in making decisions regarding it. Everything about it is a chore. I'd just rather be taken out of the equation entirely. (Like Sam, who is the Poster Child for Passive Aggressiveness. Or something like that.)

I cannot wait until this particular bout passes. My husband is being a saint throughout it, but his patience certainly has its limit. Thank goodness he has a real fondness for peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches because I can see that being on the menu at least once this week. We've already had Chinese.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Flamingos: They Don't Teach You This in Teachers' College

Kris's mom came to see me yesterday. She stopped by my room before first period with a package in her hand. "Danielle wanted to come see you on Mother's Day with this," she said smiling ruefully, "but I told her not to. Then she had to go back to college, so I just decided to run up with it."
"Oh, she didn't have to do this!" I said, surprised, and started to open it.
"Nance, you probably shouldn't open it right now, " Deb said. "It's not that it's a big deal, but it's a little sentimental, and you might get emotional. When you see it and read the note, you'll understand."
"Okay, " I said. "I'll wait, then. But thanks. How are you, Deb? How are all of you?"
"Well, it's been three years," she said, "but it's not really getting any easier. We miss him so much. We got the results of his autopsy, you know. And we found out that, even if the marrow transplant had worked, there had been so much lung damage, we might not have had him much longer anyway. He did it for us, Nance. You know that? He was so tired. He only did it for us. We should have let him go. We just should have let him go."
I put my arm around her and tried not to let the tears which threatened begin to fill my eyes. "Oh, Deb, why go back and relive that decision now? That was your son. He was nineteen. Of course you wanted to try."
She smiled--smiled--at me. "If he had lived through it, he wouldn't have been able to play softball. He wouldn't have been able to play golf. He would have had to be on oxygen. He wouldn't have been able to do any of the things he loved to do. We just wanted him alive and that was all we could think about."
"Of course it was, " I said. "That's all any of us wanted."
"Well!" she said, taking a deep breath. "Dani saw this and right away thought of you. I told her I'd make sure you got it. So! Here it is. Nance, you look well. I'm so glad. Take good care of yourself. Promise me."
"I will," I said. "I promise. And you do the same. Give Danielle my love, as usual."
And with a wave, she was off.
Last night I was edgy, headachy, and so very tired. I waited until this morning to open the package. Inside was a note from Deb and two photographs, one of which was Danielle taking a photograph of a flock of flamingos, my favorite bird and the welcoming tacky-chic decor of my English classroom. Also inside was a silly flamingo bottle opener, one of the kind that has the insides of oil and water so that a bright pink flamingo perpetually floats aloft within. Part of the note reads:
...all Dani could talk about was how much you loved these animals & then we found the bottle opener in a gift shoppe right at our timeshare and the rest is history. I know she hasn't forgotten anything you did together, whether it was in class or in support of Kris or our family. Those are what pulled us through the worst part! Yes, 2 years after her graduation, the impact of you as a person/teacher still affects her thoughts and actions! So that is why I am so grateful that both of my kids were able to have you in their lives!! I know you are/were in both of their hearts!
Someday, I'll tell you about Kris. But that's not what this post is about. This post is about teaching, the career. The life of it. The way you are born into it. The way it becomes who you are. And the way that, no matter what college does to prepare you for it, no university course can ever prepare you for what I just told you about. Or the dozens of other kids in my heart. I wanted to tell you about someone else, too. But I think this post is big enough. There's time enough for all the rest later.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

If Moms Wrote Horror Movies, Redux

*this is previously posted material from long, long ago when my blog was just a newborn, with minor edits*
If the producers and directors of horror films were smart, they'd have their test audiences comprised solely of moms. Because we know scary. We confront it every day; moreover, we stare it down and kick its ass. It is part of our on-the-job training, and even playing with dollies does little to ready us for when it rears its ugly head.

Consider: the labor and delivery room. Not only do we propel, through sheer brute force, a human being averaging 8 pounds and 20 inches out of our bodies, but while we are attempting to do so, someone is sticking his/her fingers inside us, strapping machinery to us, and, in my case, leading in a pack of student nurses to interview us and ask us questions during the entire event and then admonishing us when we are a teensy weensy bit less than polite.

Then, at various times throughout Momhood, we are vomited on, snotted on, peed on, diarrhea-ed on, and forced to deal with "boo-boos", some of which require a trip to the Emergency Room, also known as "The Department of Motor Vehicles Medical Center", where we see the extras from Central Casting for The Night of the Living Dead. After we get home, we get to clean all these bodily fluids up, while retching on our own.

And, because of our supernatural diagnostic powers, we are subjected to a barrage of horrific encounters almost continually if we have teenagers, a species well-known for its low grossness threshhold.

Teen: Mom, taste this.
Mom: Why?
Teen: Just taste it.
Mom: But I don't want any.
Teen: You don't have to eat it, just taste it.
Mom: Good God! Okay, fine! (tastes it.) There. It's good. Why?
Teen: It smelled funny. I thought it might be rotten and I wasn't sure.

And it's not just our palates that are assailed. Our vision is assaulted as well:

Teen: (in bathroom, calling): Mom! (pauses imperceptibly) MOM!!!!!
Mom: (rushes in) What?! What's the matter?
Teen: Is there something on my back?
Mom: What? Is that all? You sounded like you were bleeding to death.
Teen: I can feel something gross on my back but I can't get it.
Mom: Let me see....Eeew! It's a huge zit. Just leave it alone.
Teen: Mom! I know it's back there. It's gross. You have to get it.
Mom: I don't want to touch it. Yuck.
Teen: Mom! Please. You have to. I don't want my new American Eagle shirt to even touch it.
Mom: I'll put a band-aid on it, then.
Teen: Mom, come on! You have to. Just squeeze it real quick.
Mom: (Sighs) Okay. Brace yourself. (Squeezes) Ugh!
Teen: Ouch! Oh my God! Mom! Geeze! What the Heck!!!!

And this is the same child who, upon entering and seeing that I am watching "Dr 90210", the plastic surgery show on the Style Network, says, "Oh my God, Mom, how can you watch all that blood and guts and crap?".

If Moms wrote the script for a horror movie, can you imagine what it would be? Mine, now that my kids are 19 and 22, would be one in which the boys never left home but got some low-life trashy wenches from the Fundamentalist Right "in trouble" and tried to live here with their babies, played country music at top volume, spoke with bad grammar, and brought yappy dogs into my house. Seriously scary stuff, that.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Just Off the Top of My Head...

Time to pop the top off my head and release the pressure. Here's the latest passel of cerebral sediment that's gotta go.
*I love baseball. For a sport with such funny pants, it has a very elevated vocabulary. The phraseology is downright elegant. "Designated hitter" just begs to be pronounced with an intelligent British accent. And "intentional walk" has a four-syllable adjective with a pretty sinister undertone. And here's my all-time favorite: "defensive indifference." This is a real term. I am not kidding you. This is a perfect term to describe my entire strategy when Sasha in my 7th period junior class cheats on her vocabulary test. I never bust her because, no matter what she does, she ends up with a 62% at the end of the term anyway.
*The Oscar Mayer jingle irritates me. They sing about their first and second names and then spell them. But then, they say at the end, "Oscar Mayer has a way with b-o-l-o-g-n-a." But in the song, they have pronounced it baloney. If they are going to SING "baloney", then they should SPELL "baloney." There is a difference, is all I am saying. One is pronounced ba-LO-na. The other is pronounced ba-LO-nee. Get this right. Geeze.
*White cars look odd to me. They just look like they're not done yet. Like they aren't painted. I saw a white Scion the other day, and it reminded me of an old-timey ambulance. It looked like it was perhaps European Army surplus from like World War II or something, and they painted over the red cross. OR, it looked like a funny clown car ambulance. I half expected it to stop at the intersection and have a bunch of clowns come piling out of it, all wearing like huge yellow rubber stethoscopes and carrying oversized hypodermic syringes. They could hit each other with those rubber mallets and then fall down onto big stretchers and bounce back up. Anyway, white cars: I'm not a fan.
*Speaking of white--I'm at the point now where I'm wavering on the White Shoes Issue. Technically, my mother would weigh in now and say that since we've had Easter, it is officially White Shoe Season. Since I cannot seem to find mine, it's sort of a moot point. No one on my floor at school has worn hers yet. I wonder if they're waiting for me?
*My cell phone ringer is perpetually set on "Joy to the World." The Christmas carol, not the Three Dog Night Song. This is because I never, ever used to know when my cell phone rang. I could be holding it, hear it, and would wonder aloud, "Whose phone is that?" I am completely serious. Finally, I set it on "Joy to the World" because I have never heard anyone else's phone ring in that tone. Now, when my phone rings, I jump, terrified, and frantically try to silence it. Or, I don't hear it. Both reactions are incredibly annoying to my family. On Friday we were in my car on our way to dinner and my phone rang. Because we were in a closed-in place, I was jolted out of my skin and, panicked, tried to find my phone and wrest it off its clip in order to answer it. I was unsuccessful in both arenas:

Me: Dammit! My heart is racing! Feel it! And I still didn't get to it.
Sam: You're ridiculous. How hard is it to answer a phone?
Me: I hate this freaking clip. It's impossible.
Rick: Nance, it's just a phone. You always go crazy.
Me: I know. But I feel like I have to hurry.
Jared: She used to never even hear it. This is an improvement.
Rick: Somewhere between terrified and oblivious...that's where we need for you to be.
And that's what I've been aiming for all these years...

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Adventures in Fine Dining: Or, Blogworthy Stuff from Macaroni Grill

On Saturday, Rick and I celebrated Sam's 19th birthday by going out to dinner. Without him. Or Jared. The boys were slated to go with us, but they were attending an NFL Draft Day party and ate like water buffalo there and ended up calling us and cancelling. So Rick and I said, "Fine. We'll just do it another time. Stay as late as you like and call us when you're coming home." We sort of stared at each other and then decided to go out anyway.
Then began the Ritual of Nance Fussing About Whether Or Not What She Had On Was Dressy Enough. Rick hates and detests this Ritual because it really never ends and there is not a satisfactory role in it for him to play. He strode purposefully off to his closet to toss something on that was not bristling with whatever bushes he had been trimming before and was, naturally, ready within minutes. Shortly after that came Act II of The Ritual, which is Now I Don't Look As Dressy/Casual As You Do which is followed by Rick's own Ritual, which is The Slamming of The Back Door And Heading To The Car Ritual.
So we end up at Macaroni Grill, one of the few restaurants around that still take reservations. They had an opening when we called at the spur of the moment and we were able to make it. We were seated, and let me just say this: my fears about proper attire were immensely, vastly unfounded.
Seated directly to my left was a family of three: the parents were probably about our age (late 40s) and they had a teenaged daughter. The mother was wearing the obligatory Mom Jeans and a shapeless sweatshirt, the color of which defies even my descriptive powers. I think it used to be blue, but was perhaps washed with black jeans, and is now dusty bluish-grey. Naturally, to complete the ensemble, she wore filthy tennis shoes with rundown heels so that she is walking perpetually askew. Her husband was wearing a trucker's hat--you know, the billed cap with the adjustable plastic band in the back. Thankfully, I didn't see the front so I didn't have to read a slogan like "If this truck's a-rockin' Don't come a-knockin'" or "Eat at the Y". He was also wearing jeans, sneakers, and a shapeless garment on top. The daughter had her hair pinned up with a variety of hair implements: clips, bobby pins, and a scrunchie. And, in addition to sweat, she was wearing a spandex volleyball warmup and her athletic shoes. Charming. My martini could not come fast enough.

Which leads me to my next blogbit: martinis at restaurants.

Okay, look. Stop effing around with my MARTINI. Here's the deal. Martinis are sophisticated. They are a classic drink. They are the epitome of the urbane, debonair cocktail. I embraced the martini several years ago. (Purists would claim that even I am pushing it by drinking vodka martinis instead of gin.) But don't go throwing a bunch of crap into my martini--like ice--and bring it to me! Don't sugar the rim of the effing glass like it's a freaking margarita! Don't put plastic stirrers into my MARTINI! Don't insult me by pouring the whole shebang into a goddam highball glass! Part of the allure and culture of the martini is in that gorgeous glass. God help you if you ever, ever put an umbrella in there. Now, I can get behind the Lemon Drop, the Appletini, the Cosmopolitan (aka the Pink Martini), and at Macaroni Grill, I even ordered the Pomegranate Martini. But they sugared the rim and put two plastic stirrers in there. I was apoplectic. Get a grip, bartenders and "mixologists" everywhere. The martini is sacred. Stop screwing around with it.

Finally, I have to speak about the 60-something woman who was dining with her female companion a few tables over from me. I wasn't looking at her on purpose--I simply could not help it. No one could. Her head was on fire.

Not literally, you understand. It was her hair color: a bright, neon/fluorescent orange. I suppose it was supposed to be something somewhat akin to her original haircolor in her youth. But she was still trying to work it. It was teased and shellacked into a sort of helmet-ish affair with carefully placed individual spitcurl bangs. Eventually, I could look away. But not before I took in her attire in all its glory: a Scooby-Doo sweatshirt. My eyes filled with tears. But not before I saw the 3-inch gold crucifix pendant on a chain prominently displayed outside said sweatshirt. I just knew she wore it to complement the metallic copper handbag I saw on the floor next to her chair. Later, when she tried valiantly to signal her waitress and succeeded in alerting the entire diningroom, she used her sequined checkbook wallet (which matched her purse!) to do it.

As you can probably imagine, dinner conversation did not lag. At one point, Rick said, "Why don't you just have some cards made? They can say Congratulations! You just made my blog! Go to"

I think that might just be rude.
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