Monday, February 25, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
I'd give a lot to see him again myself.
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Read it and weep.
Britta is showing her displeasure by murdering Squeaky Fish. At least he's purple and not orange.
Don't worry, Tigers. We still love you. Even if your head coach's annual clothing allowance more than doubles the salary of the average English professor.
And besides, there's still the C-USA Tournament to play.
Friday, February 22, 2008
I cribbed this from The Writer's Almanac. I love that tiny little show. One of my dream jobs would be to research and write for it, or perhaps my own broadcast of literature, history and humanities minutiae.
When I was a child, we honored Abraham Lincoln and George Washington separately on their respective birthdays. Presidents' Day is a nice holiday, and who doesn't love a three day weekend, but the lumping of the two together makes it easy to gloss over the lives of two truly remarkable men. Certainly they had their specific failings, and examining their lives in the context of modern values and beliefs raises particular questions. But even that cannot override the basic fact that they were, at heart, good people who accomplished quite a bit of good in their lifetimes.
Ten Things You Never Knew about George Washington, born on this day in 1732:
1. His dentures were carved from a hippopotamus tusk. They were drilled with a hole to fit over Washington's one remaining tooth, and they rubbed against his natural tooth in such a way that Washington was in constant pain, and so he used an alcoholic solution infused with opium.
2. By the time he reached 30, he had survived malaria, smallpox, pleurisy, dysentery. He was fired at on two separate occasions — and in one of them, his horse was shot out from under him and four bullets punctured his coat. He also fell off a raft into an icy river and nearly drowned.
3. During the last night of his life, a doctor friend came over to perform an emergency tracheotomy on Washington. Arriving too late, the doctor tried to resurrect Washington by thawing him in cold water, then wrapping him in blankets and rubbing him in order to activate blood vessels, then opening his trachea to inflate his lungs with air, and then transfusing blood from a lamb into him.
4. He enjoyed playing cards, hunting foxes and ducks, fishing, cockfighting, horse racing, boat racing, and dancing. He bred hound dogs and gave them names like "Sweet Lips" and "Tarter."
5. His favorite foods included mashed potatoes with coconut, string beans with mushrooms, cream of peanut soup, salt cod, and pineapples.
6. He snored very loudly.
7. He did not wear a powdered wig, as was fashionable at the time. Instead, he powdered his own red-brown hair.
8. Washington had a speech impediment and was not good at spelling. He would often mix up is and es when speaking and in writing.
9. There are 33 counties, seven mountains, nine colleges, and 121 post offices named after Washington.
10. He delivered the shortest inaugural address ever. It was only 133 words long and took 90 seconds to deliver.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
We left home and headed in a southeasterly direction. It was a bright Saturday morning, cool and crisp. The farmlands are mostly brown at this time of year, with the occasional flash of green where a field has been sown in a winter crop of greens or winter wheat. The ride was pleasant. The Norwegian drove so I was relegated to the role of disc jockey (serving up the best of Guy Clark, John Prine and friends) and Chief Cultural Minister. I pointed out the clumps of deer, water birds, low-perching predators, abandoned farm implements, weather changes and funny signs. The best one we saw the whole weekend flashed by too quickly in a rainstorm for me to capture. The sign said “Historical Marker” and its arrow pointed straight at a dilapidated single-wide mobile home, rusting on its moorings and attended by a fleet of, ahem, vintage automobiles in various stages of repair. It looked like Jesco White’s home, although we were in the wrong state.
We reached our destination – a small town in northeastern Alabama situated on the Tennessee River. At least one horrific battle was fought here during the Civil War, reputedly over access to the railroad spanning the bridge. The old town itself is drawing in on itself. There is still a lovely district of old houses and part of the original business district is still populated by the usual purveyors of gentrification—law and architectural firms, boutiques, specialty restaurants (an oddity here in the land of fried green tomatoes). The “modern” business district—and by this I mean Wal-Mart, Target, Kroger, Best Buy and the like—are situated out on the Beltline smack in the midst of what was, in my own childhood, farmland and woodlands.
One thing that hasn’t changed in downtown old Decatur is C.F. Penn’s Hamburgers. I’ve searched the Internet for links to anything about Penn’s, but there just isn’t much out there, save musings from expatriates who miss the…um, experience. My mother was one such person. By the time we reached her sister’s apartment, Mom was pretty much starving and nothing would do but that we go to Penn’s on Moulton Street in old downtown.
The Norwegian –who grew up all over the country, and Dear Daughter were curious. I was guarded. Been there, done that. These two had never experienced anything quite like lunch at Penn’s, and I just didn’t have the words to adequately explain it.
In a nutshell, C.F. Penn’s is a classic burger diner, and this one (there are a few scattered across north Alabama) features the original neon signage, twirling stools at the lunch counter, and probably the same frying grease they used when the place opened more than 50 years ago. Dear Daughter, having been raised in the “have-it-your-way” land of burger dining, started to tell me how she wanted her burger dressed. I laughed and stopped her. At Penn’s, there’s only two ways to have your burger—all the way, or half the way. Your only other options involve number, sides (chips or fries) and the size and flavor of your Coke (remember this is the South).
“All the way” or “half the way” refers to how far across the three-foot lake of sizzling grease you want your burgers floated. Yes, I said floated. Penn burgers are cooked in advance and are reheated when ordered by floating it from the right to left side of a commercial fryer. The time it takes to float “all the way” or “half the way” is all you get to get your lunch reheated.
This, by itself, is pretty disgusting (at least to me). But wait (as they say on late-night infomercials), there’s more.
When you collect your lunch, served on white bread buns and wrapped in waxed paper translucent with grease, and accompanied by a complimentary sheet of double-ply paper toweling, the best is yet to come. I watched Dear Daughter’s face across the booth as she unwrapped her burger. She prefers “ketchup. ONLY ketchup” on her burgers, and at Penn’s, they always come with mustard and chopped onions. She quietly scraped the offending onion and mustard off and picked up the squeeze bottle of ketchup to remedy the situation. The ketchup—apparently also original equipment—did not make her much happier. The kicker was when she took a bite. See, at C.F. Penn’s, the name “burger” is kind of a misnomer. The amount of actual “burger” in each sandwich varies from “some” to none, at least none that can be tasted. What burger is present is mixed with something approximating Hamburger Helper (which it doesn’t, really), then formed into, well, not really a conventional patty; more like a lump, then first deep-fried and then reheated in the Grease-Lagoon when ordered.
I don’t know whose face was funnier—Dear Daughter’s or the Norwegian’s. I don’t think either wanted to chew, much less swallow. Fortunately, we had ordered conservatively. No one asked for seconds, except my mom, and I was glad to give her the half I was unable to finish. Dear Daughter played with my cell phone while we talked and finished up our lunch and got ready to leave.
The service at Penn’s is friendly and unique, in the way that only a Southern diner can provide. We had a good time. It made my mother happy. I like making her happy. It made Dear Daughter grateful for what she gets back home, and it made her and the Norwegian laugh, although politely out of earshot of both my family and the staff. Later on, though, I found this message on my cell phone notepad. Apparently, Dear Daughter is not anticipating a career in reviewing restaurants.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Here the three girls discover the Norwegian:
Britta, Patches and Holly carry off Mom's camera case and kill it dead.
The main purpose of the trip, besides hanging out with family and eating fried catfish, was to pick up this little darling. Meet Britta, a nine-week old miniature Dachshund. She's slightly smaller than my bedroom slipper, and even the ND bunnies have about a pound and a half on her. Despite her tiny size, she's loaded with personality and charm.
Britta was born to Dixie and Elvis, who are owned by these very nice people. She lived with her four sisters and three aunts and uncles in what can only be described as Dachshund heaven.
We brought her back to the homestead across a hundred miles of twisty, country roads, through one of the worst rain storms I've ever been in. The Norwegian drove while Dear Daughter and I took turns comforting Britta. She whimpered a while, most likely as much from the noise of the rain as from the trauma of leaving home. Soon, though, she snuggled down in the baby quilt she brought from home and curled up for a nap.
Despite the many changes she had yesterday, she did really well. She played in the yard, she slept on her new bed on the rest of the trip home. She visited her new grandma's house and met her new human uncle. She met her bunny sisters and decided that they were definitely big enough for her to submit to.
Finally, it was time to go to bed. Dear Daughter pulled out the trundle in her room and put Britta's bed next to it on the floor. They snuggled in their respective quilts and sacked out. Fortunately, there was no howling or whimpering from either of them. I guess both little girls were so worn out that sleep came easily.
When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to not hear crying from either of them. I was amazed. Could it really be that such a young puppy would sleep the entire night through on her first night in a new home? I tiptoed into Dear Daughter's room and found this sweet little sight. Apparently, Britta felt that she'd just make her very own puppy pile and climbed up into the trundle with Dear Daughter. Oh well. Crate training begins today.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Tonight was another milestone for Dear Daughter--the very first Middle School Dance. Despite weeks of discussion and preparation, neither of us was really ready for this. I had all kinds of reasons for trepidation-- starting with my natural tendency to be a spazz. I'm sorry--I am an overprotective mother. I can't help it. I worry. She's my only child. It's all happening too fast. And I can't say that two shootings in the local public schools inside of a week, plus the terrible tragedy at Northern Illinois University have helped. She's only 12, and events like a school dance should be happy, exciting and fun.
For the past month, Dear Daughter has moped around telling me that she has no friends and that no one likes her. Judging from the giggling squad of girls who waved frantically calling her name when I dropped her off, I'd say this might be an exaggeration. I'm not discounting her feelings. These are tough years. The Hormone Fairy is causing random mood swings and the pressure of increasingly complex school work is mounting. Girls and boys who have been friends for five years or so are suddenly looking at each other with new eyes, and wondering how to channel new, strange feelings. Dear Daughter tells me who in her class is "going out" with whom and who "broke up" with whom. "Going out?" In sixth grade? I ask her, "where do they go? 'Out' the front door into the yard? This isn't real dating (thank heavens), but it's a nervous little prelude to what will come in a few years. I don't much like it. I want her to enjoy herself, but I'd be happy if the pressures of crushes and girl-feuds and weird boys could be put off just a while longer.
I helped her roll her hair and bent my usual inflexible rules about makeup and let her wear a smidgen of mascara. She has been armed with her own lip gloss for a while now. She did look sweet and comfortable. I dropped her off and she disappeared into a sea of kids.
Two hours later I walked into the noisy din of the school cafeteria. She was easy to spot, even among the 899 other sweaty, rowdy students. She was smiling. She was hanging out with a giggling group of girls who had spent the evening taking photos, eating pizza, swilling soda and chasing classmates around the room.
She's calming down a little before bed. It was a great evening for her. It turned out okay for me as well. She's still my little girl. Right now, she's snuggling in the bed with her dear old stuffed Bunny, laughing at some shared joke between them. The future can wait. All's right with the world.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
I ripped open the bag of sweet potatoes that's been on the counter for a week, washed them perfunctorily, made a few slits with a paring knife and chucked 'em in a pie plate and into a hot oven. Thirty minutes later, we had the yummy smell and tantalizing appearance of a nicely browned...
I put it on Dear Daughter's plate and she laughed. Then she ATE it.
I truly thought I'd outgrown all of this, but apparently I haven't. I’m really quite embarrassed about it. Throughout my life I’ve gone through phases of extreme language usage, but I’m usually able to check it pretty quickly. The past month has not been so bad, in spite of a stress level that rocketed through the roof and past the stratosphere. This past week though…I’m inclined to blame it on the Prometrium, but I suspect there’s an underlying moral failure at work here.
There’s a poem—I can’t remember the writer or the title just now – about crows cawing in the road over a piece of roadkill, and likening their harsh, repetitive cries to a habitual user of profanity. Crows use the only word they know, and with vigor and emphasis. Lately, the words (or words) I’ve been using have been rather, um, crow-like in their harshness and lack of depth.
When Dear Daughter was about two years old (see? there’s a terrible precedent here), she came flying into my room at bedtime, threw her stuffed Bunny on the bed and announced “I’m going to put my (universal adjective) Bunny to bed now.” My jaw and my heart dropped. I swooped her up and hugged her and said, “I’m so sorry you’ve heard Mommy use that horrible word. It’s such a bad word, and I’m very sorry I’ve used it. I am going to try to never use it again, and I hope that you won’t either, because it’s such an awful word.”
She looked up at me with those sweet blue eyes and said, “You mean like g** d*****?”
So, I’m admitting in public, because confession is good for us, that I have a potty mouth that really needs some work this week. It’s only Tuesday and my swearing is more than my mortgage.
Send me your favorite words—the good ones. The nice ones. The ones that make you think of things and people you love. The words that taste good in your mouth and make you want to say them over and over out-loud. I obviously need to refresh my vocabulary with some better words, especially before my bank account runs dry.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
I tend to view culture rather like an MS Word document…that little “track changes” tool is always on, and I reserve the right to accept or reject changes at any time. I can’t stop her from growing up. Actually, I don’t even want to. While I will always be wistful for those days when I could actually pick her up and she would make up songs and stories about her stuffed rabbit, and dressing her was an enterprise easily accomplished in the 4-6x department, I am relishing this journey. Watching Dear Daughter grow and mature is an adventure unlike any I could imagine, and I wouldn’t trade it for two red ponies and a sack of feed. She’s a beautiful and wonderful young lady and everyday brings something new and exciting. We don’t always see eye to eye (well, not figuratively, anyway. Literally, we’ll be there in about three months.), but we love each other magnificently, and we rejoice in that love. I know the day is coming when she’ll pack up and go away to college, work and whatever the world holds in store for her. When that day comes, she is welcome to pack up all the strapless, string-strapped, micro-mini, cropped, bedazzled, branded stuff she wants. I think she’ll make good choices and avoid most of those, but until that day comes, all I want is just a dress with sleeves and a hem that at least touches her knee.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
Latin Vulgate version
Miserere mei, Deus: secundum magnam misericordiam tuam.
Et secundum multitudinem miserationum tuarum: dele iniquitatem meam.
Amplius lava me ab iniquitate mea: et a peccato meo munda me.
Quoniam iniquitatem meam ego cognosco: et peccatum meum contra me est semper.
Tibi soli peccavi, et malum coram te feci: ut justificeris in sermonibus tuis, et vincas cum judicaris.
Ecce enim in iniquitatibus conceptus sum: et in peccatis concepit me mater mea.
Ecce enim veritatem dilexisti: incerta et occulta sapientiæ tuæ manifestasti mihi.
Asperges me hyssopo, et mundabor: lavabis me, et super nivem dealbabor.
Auditui meo dabis gaudium et lætitiam: et exsultābunt ossa humiliata.
Averte faciem tuam a peccatis meis: et omnes iniquitates meas dēlē.
Cor mundum crea in me, Deus: et spiritum rectum innova in visceribus meis.
Ne projicias me a facie tua: et spiritum sanctum tuum ne auferās a me.
Redde mihi lætitiam salutaris tui: et spiritu principali cōnfirmā me.
Docebo iníquos vias tuas: et impii ad te convertentur.
Līberā me de sanguinibus, Deus, Deus salutis meæ: et exsultābit lingua mea justítiam tuam.
Domine, labia mea aperiēs: et os meum annuntiabit laudem tuam.
Quoniam si voluisses sacrificium, dedissem utique: holocaustis non delectaberis.
Sacrifícium Deo spiritus contribulatus: cor contritum et humiliatum, Deus, non despicies.
Benigne fac, Domine, in bona voluntate tua Sion: ut ædificentur muri Jerusalem.
Tunc acceptabis sacrifícium justitiæ, oblationes et holocausta: tunc imponent super altare tuum vitulos.
Revised Standard version
Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight, so that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward being; therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.
Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of thy deliverance.
O Lord, open thou my lips, and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.
For thou hast no delight in sacrifice; were I to give a burnt offering, thou wouldst not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good to Zion in thy good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,
Then wilt thou delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings; then bulls will be offered on thy altar.
King James version
Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving-kindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.
For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.
Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.
Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.
Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness.
O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.
For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem.
Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
Monday, February 4, 2008
So, I'm reeling in guilt, trying to justify my need to write something, anything, if only to reassure myself that I have a connection with a world outside my immediate life. I read a lot of blogs pretty regularly. The kind that attract me are usually written by women, mostly other mothers, and a high percentage of those are homeschooling mothers. Some of the better blogs that match these criteria include Derfwad Manor, Fine Old Famly, SunshinyLiving, and Redneck Mother. I admire these women so much--not only do they haul out of bed every morning (this alone can be a trying chore for me some days), but they coax not just child, but CHILDREN (as in multiple, i.e., more than just one--although there are days when I swear Dear Daughter actually qualifies as more than one since I just feel surrounded by her) out of bed, feed them creative and nutritious meals, and then proceed to go about life, love and the business of acquiring knowledge (as opposed to mere education) in an organic and interesting way. These, and other formidable women inhabiting the blogosphere, manage to balance running a household; raising happy, healthy children, along with assorted livestock and pets; and at the end of the day write lengthy, interesting blog posts on an assortment of interesting topics as diverse as religion, politics, home life, what their kid pulled out of his pocket and the everyday minutiae that makes living so interesting..
I'm trying hard to not descend into a rant attempting to justify my life or cast aspersions on someone else's life. Given the opportunity, would I stay home and educate my daughter at home? You betcha. Do I cook? Yeah--and sometimes it's even good stuff. Do I wish my house was more organized and aesthetically pleasing? Well, maybe a little...just enough to be more comfortable having people over. Do I wish I had more time to write? Of course. I also wish I had more time to knit and unpack and hang out with my mom and teach my middle schooler how to ride a bicycle and to practice Scarlatti on the piano and teach my bunnies how to jump hurdles and so on...
I don't grudge these fascinating women their lives. I don't really dislike my own, for that matter. Maybe it's just a case of the grand ennui. I'm in a rebuilding phase. I'm rediscovering who and what I was before I let myself get lost in a long-term love affair. In my defense. I thought this was The One. I thought I could get comfortable and expand my idea of life, home and family. So, for three years, I muddled along thinking I was working towards a Happily Ever After. Turns out, of the six other people involved in it, I was the only adult who actually envisioned that happening.
So, here I am, back at home. Or at least, back at house. Despite having lived here for nearly five years before moving out, I'm still getting my head and heart around the concept that this is home. Of course, truth be told, I never honestly felt at "home" in the house we lived for the past year and a half. I tried to make it home, but you can only do so much with paint and shelf paper. No matter how many times you rearrange the furniture, if the hearts aren't there, it just isn't home.
I walked out in my backyard yesterday. It was an uncharacteristically warm day for February. It was a bit blustery and the ground is still boggy, but it was nice to walk around my own little piece of the world. I didn't see any bluebirds yet, but maybe once I get the garden retilled and the bronze irises come up and my gigantic Lady Banks rosebush blooms, it will start to feel more like home.