Sunday, December 15, 2013

New Project!

So, I need a new project about like I need a hole in my head.  I have G's blanket, a shrug I started for a friend of mine who was in the hospital (it's taken so long that she's now out of the hospital - nice), and a crocheted, woven basket.  This list doesn't include the Christmas pillowcases for the kids (which will be ready in February), nor does it include the sweater I told my friend that I would fix last January (there's still time!).

Never one for moderation, though, I found this little dandy on Pinterest.  Super cute, super easy.  Made mine in two hours with pretty heather gray yarn.  Felt super sassy in it on my date last night - Chinese buffet, don't get too excited.  Felt super sassy when I went to work my shift at the church youth group this morning.  Felt super sassy until I started to sweat through my t-shirt and jacket because this is, after all, Texas, and the temperature went from 42 to 62 in 20 minutes.

I got lots of compliments on my pretty cowl.  It always feels good when people recognize your hard work and tell you that they like something you made with your own hands.  It's just lovely.  It's sort of like a performance.  You create something and bring it out into the world.  Sort of like birthing a baby.  Turns out, I'm not the only one who thinks so.  Click at your own risk.

Holy shitballs.  I don't even know where to go with this, but here are a few thoughts.  Number one, hygiene - HEELLLOOO!  Number two, seems like you'd pick something other than wool.  Maybe a nice bamboo or an acrylic blend.  Maybe a nice cotton.  And who do you give it to?  It's like the most frightening White Elephant gift EVER.

I am officially taking up gardening.

Oh, wait.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Project Update

Three weeks ago, I spent an entire day in a chair with my foot elevated and on ice.  I watched almost two full seasons of Call the Midwife and alternately crocheted and cried over the toe injury that was keeping me out of the half-marathon I had trained so hard for.  Self-pitying?  Yes.  Indulgent?  Yes.  Productive?  Yes!

Blanket Update:

Months on Project: 3.5
Months to Go:  5.5
Days on Project: 108
Days to Graduation: 174
Colors: 7
Rows: 45
Length: 3'1"
Goal: 7'6" (??)

Thursday, December 12, 2013

And The Hits Just Keep on Coming.

I am wondering how long the lasts will last.  It's a strange feeling that there are so many of them that you almost forget how important they are.  Saturday night, we hosted what is probably our last Camp Flaming Arrow Christmas Party.  Camp Flaming Arrow is the single best thing my husband and his boyfriend best friend and their boyfriends other best friends have ever done.  Way back when the kids were little, and I mean little -- maybe 7 and 5 or 8 and 6, they headed up a quarterly dads-and-kids-only camping group.  The dads thought it was great because they had built-in awesome time with their kids followed by built-in awesome time with their other friends: beer, vodka, and bourbon.  The kids thought it was great because there was fire, very little supervision, and as soon as the daddies started hanging out by the fire, they could eat squeeze cheese and Oreos until they barfed.  The moms thought it was great because they were gone for an entire weekend.  Win-win-win.

There is a magic to this merry little band.  What is so unique about this group of kids is that they have all grown up together in an atmosphere of complete acceptance, which is what a complete lack of any parental supervision looks like in a state park with a bunch of dads.  They've seen each other through skinned knees, giant fourth-grade horse teeth, new schools, mean friends, and all of the other rites of passage without judgment and with a remarkable capacity for compassion.  They can do that because most don't go to the same schools; in fact, they probably wouldn't even necessarily be friends if they all did.  They can because they have no secrets from each other.  They can because when you give kids the freedom to work things out in the context of complete parental inattention, usually things work out just fine.  Not one of these kids can probably imagine a life without this group.  I suspect that even the newly adult boys, who try so hard to act like this isn't a big deal, will remember those times and treasure them after they've gone on to college and the ties aren't quite so tightly tethered.

The only time the moms get to be involved is the annual Christmas party.  It's a doozy. There are some of us who see each other fairly often, others only once a year, but it is always a festive and joyful, if liquid, occasion.  There are awards for all the kids, often involving farting, pooping, or getting lost.  The entire party is planned and put on by the dads.  All I had to do was clean the house.  It's the best deal you can get in entertainment.  The payoff is a great night with old friends, and frequently, a shocking amount of recycling.

But there will be no more hosting of the CFA Christmas party.  Hosting duties rotate, and by the time it's our turn again, both kids will be in college and graduated from the group.  There will be other parties, of course.  Our closest family friends we see often, but there some whom we only see once a year.  And will G (and S later on) still want to go to a Christmas party with this group of kids from different schools?  Will she still remember how much those other dads and kids meant to her life?  Will she want to carve time away from her old friends when she's only home for a limited time?

It's so hard to think about anything changing, but of course, it does.  It should.  Imagine the alternative, your 40-year-old kid living at home, eating all your food, even potentially having a family of her own while still playing video games in your living room.  Hello, dude across the street who still lives with his mom.  And so, I'll shoulder on with all the lasts.  And when the lasts are done, there will be the firsts.

Help me.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My Mom is Stalking Me on Facebook

My mom is stalking me on Facebook.  Well, the entire Internet, really. She didn't want Facebook.  She was perfectly happy getting all of her information from my blog.  But when I took a break from writing, it caused a hitch in our giddy-up.  My mom likes news, but neither of us like to talk on the phone.  Or honestly, to talk to anyone, ever.  It's my sister-in-law's fault.  She sends pictures of my niece and nephew to my parents every time they have a trip or a school function.  I haven't sent a print picture since 2007, even the school pictures.  I mean to.  I really do.  I cut them out and clip them together with a post-it that says "Grandparents", and then they sit there until the kids have aged out of them, and I have to shred them.

So, in the meantime, I decided to hook mom up on Facebook.  That way, she could see pictures all the time.  Most of them are of cats and my chihuahua, but still.

Just getting her on Facebook in and of itself was a challenge.  She had very specific parameters.

Mom:  I don't want to be friends with anyone (truer words)
Me:  You have to have some friends, Mom.  That's how you see people's stuff.
Mom: Okay, I only want to be friends with you and J (my brother).
Me:  Well, J doesn't post.  What about M (J's wife)? What about the girls?  Your grandchildren?
Mom: Okay.  Only them.

She is also the least visual person in the world, next to me.  So, trying to verbally guide her through this process over the phone (she's three hours away) made me appreciate my husband even more than I already did.

Mom: ____ sent me a friend request.  I told you I didn't want any friends (truer words).
Me:  Mom, people can see that you're on Facebook, they are going to try to friend you.
Mom:  But I don't want any friends (truer words).  I just want family.
Me:  There's not a family button.  Just ignore the friend request.
Mom:  I can't do that.
Me:  Why?
Mom: Because that's rude.  She'll know.
Me: Okay, so you can accept her and then hide her.
Mom: You can do that?
Me: Yes, Mom.
Mom: Okay, how do I do that?

From there ensued the longest and most frustrating teaching experience I have ever had.  And I taught 7th grade.  For a long time.  The concepts of hover and drop-down do not translate between two people who cannot visualize anything.  Neither of us could visualize our way out of a paper bag, and I'm in the Target parking lot trying to picture the Facebook interface well enough to tell her how to hide someone.  It didn't go well.  I started yelling at her and hung up.  Of course, once I got home, I found out that you now had to hide someone from their page rather than hover over their name in your news feed.  So, I was wrong AND ugly about it.  And I was very sorry.

But not as sorry as I am now.  Turns out my mom is a menace on the Facebook.  She doesn't check it all that often, and when she does, she's usually several days behind me.  She also loves to look at what I've liked or commented on, which, after a couple of days/hours/minutes, I've completely forgotten about.  This combination results in a sort of stream-of-consciousness, completely contextless series of questions and responses that borders on the surreal.

This was after I posted a link to the National Zoo Panda cam.  Fairly straightforward, right?  Only she doesn't comment on the link.  She just texts me.

This one was a fairly timely comment on a profile picture of a cat.  And her travel plans.

She saw a random picture I posted (I kid you not, like 18 months before) and sent this.  I caught on fairly quickly this time.  I would not be so lucky later on.

It's hard to tell from here, but this is where I made my crucial mistake.  See that long text there on the right?  Where I said she could leave the settings like they were?  BIG MISTAKE.  So, now, when I like something just to be nice, I leave myself open to inquiry at any time.  You would think it would end here, right?  You would be wrong.

Now, the back story to all of this is that both of my grandparents died long, terrible deaths from dementia -- one from stroke, the other from Alzheimers.  You can imagine that we are all very attuned to any potential symptoms, and the texts were getting progressively more bizarre.  At one point, I thought she was trying to gaslight me.   That or the time had come to find a nursing home with the right mix of compassionate care and security doors.

I thought it would be so easy.  I set up the account.  I create the password.  She can see vacation photos.  Check, please.  What could possibly go wrong?  What could go wrong is that I have created a monster.  I've created a monster AND forgotten her password, so changing those settings without her knowing cannot happen.

I'd like a private room, please, and has anyone seen my dentures?

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wait! Wait! I Wasn't Ready.

We sent off the college applications, after much cursing at the computer, at 11:49 on November 11th.  We breathed a sigh of relief.  G, because it was over and she didn't have to rewrite that essay again.  Me, because we had weeks and weeks before we would hear anything.

Yesterday, we got the first letter.  G was accepted.  With a scholarship.  It feels like all the breath has left me.  And we still have four more to hear from.

Wait. I wasn't ready.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


We had the dads and kids camping group party last night.  
Here it is by the numbers:

Guests: 33
Adults: 15
Kids: 18
Fajita Family Packs: 9
Cookies: 24
Lemon Bars: 18
Brownies: 18
Boxes of Graham Crackers: 2
Bags of Marshmallows: 2
Hershey Bars: 15
Bottles of Wine: 3
Bottles of Vodka: 3
Bottles of Beer: God only knows
Cheap Straw Sombreros: 18
High temperature: 30

Left over this morning:

Massive amounts of fajita fixings
Eight sombreros
Three Hershey bars (the ones with the almonds)
One sleeve of graham crackers

That's it.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Godspeed and May the Angels Rush Out to Greet You

Warning:  I'm talking about politics and religion in the same piece in violation of all that I hold dear.   "There are three things I never talk about with people - religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin."  -- Linus.  

I am having a strangely emotional response to the death of Nelson Mandela.  I teared up in the car when I heard, and I've continued to tear up periodically since then.  That's not to say that the death of such a brave leader is not sad, it's more than that.  I am from a little bit of a lost generation.  A young child during the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, the Kennedy assassination, and Watergate, it seems like all of the pivotal world events of my childhood happened before I was old enough to pay attention.  Sure, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, but by then, the duck-and-cover immediacy of my parent's childhoods was gone.  Eastern Europe had discovered money, the cool people had all defected, and it seemed, rightly or wrongly, to be just a formality.

In all honesty, before 9/11 and even after, what I felt most connected to and most invested in was the anti-apartheid movement.  Not that I, a college and law student during the riots and the transition through the deKlerk era, could do much about it, but I watched and I read. I didn't buy Shell gas, which made my dad furious for reasons I can't now understand.  I couldn't and still can't understand the idea of institutionalized, systemic racism of an entire indigenous population. Leaving manifest destiny, the American slave trade, and all of English history aside, this injustice was being perpetrated right then!  In 1990!  How could this possibly be?  It shows my condescending naiveté at the time, a white child of privilege, when you consider that there were and still are entire populations of people in the world without running water. 

But I'm proud to have been a witness to this kind of history.  I'm proud (sort of) that G's response to my telling her that Mandela died was, "That's the guy like Gandhi, right?" Uh, no. "No! I know! He's the President of South Africa, was in prison.  That guy?"  Thank you, Jesus.  I was a little worried about her going to college.  I'm proud that when my kids look at people they don't see the color of their skin.  I'm proud that they got to be with me the afternoon that the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act.  I'm proud that my daughter can speak the name of Nelson Mandela in the same breath as Gandhi. 

So, why the tears?  The tears are because even with this kind of role model in the world, we are still dealing with people who don't want to talk about racism because it feels uncomfortable. And we are still figuring out how to deal with people who don't want to change.  Happily, there are small voices out there who are willing to speak up.  Here and here.  But I worry.  I see racism all the time here in Texas - in line at the grocery store complaining about the African-American woman in front of them just loudly enough to make sure that she heard.  In a church my husband visited when he was told he doesn't look like a Mexican.  The n-word written in the dust on the back of my daughter's car.  And she's white.  It was terrifying and painful.  And she's white.  Imagine if that were how you lived EVERY DAY OF YOUR LIFE.  

We are still dealing with people who don't want to talk about homosexuality.  My girls are really proud that at their school, a bunch of girls have come out of the closet as lesbians, and my girls count many of them as their friends.  They are not proud, though, that their gay friends cannot come out of the closet as easily for fear of getting the shit kicked out of them by the cowboys in the parking lot.  And I live in a state in which we cannot acknowledge that a woman doing the same job does not legally have the right to be paid the same as a man in that job.  We still have so far to go.  How do I send my girls out into this kind of world?  How do I make them hopeful in a way that Nelson Mandela made a whole country hopeful?

I hope my kids have touchstones like Nelson Mandela that remind them that our God stands for love.  Period. I have taught them to stand up for themselves and for others in the face of bullying and put downs and bigotry of any kind.  I also send them out into the world hoping that they realize that Jesus ministered to the least of us -- the sick, the broken, the damaged, the marginalized, the exiled.  So, basically, all of us. No matter what color or age or social strata or political party.  No matter what. My God stands for love.  It's our job to go out there and prove that by our words and actions.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Good News!

I managed to choke back the humbug and only over-engineer a few things in our journey to Christmas decoration nirvana!  I think the kids had fun in between schlepping emptied boxes of ornaments back to the shed.  I could be wrong.

But in the course of cleaning off the dining room table for its holiday cheer I made a thrilling discovery!  Cat vomit does NOT bleed through felt onto your grandmother's dining table.


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Elf This.

Let's be honest.  Christmas is kind of a pain in the ass.  Oh, it's magical all right.  It's family and tradition and feelings and gingerbread and all that.  It's also a lot of work.  Not the Advent, quiet, reflective Jesus bit.  No, that would be easy.  But where are you going to find all that when you're hosting the yearly camping group Christmas party on Saturday when you didn't get your free weekend this year because Thanksgiving was so late and you got back from Houston late, bloated and frankly still hungover from three days of non-stop eating and drinking?  You're not. 

This year's Christmas seems really, really important.  I don't want to ignore any part of G's last Christmas as a permanent resident of this place.  I don't want to take the joy from her with my eye-rolling and can-we-just-put-out-a-couple-of-things-this-year humbug.  Especially when really, I'm the one who started all these traditions in the first place.  It didn't seem as big a deal when there were a couple of old, broken nativity scenes and some folk art Santas from the Hobby Lobby.  And the kids were so little!  They loved it so much!  It seemed so important!  But now there are THOUSANDS of them.  And they go in every nook and cranny of our home.  And we have TWO trees.  Yes, we are those people.  And I was the one who wanted it all.  Emphasis on -ed.

Remember when your kids were little and you were advised never to threaten a punishment that you weren't willing to follow through on?  Here's what they don't tell you:  Don't start a tradition that you're not willing to follow through on either.  I don't want to take one single thing from her last real Christmas.  But I also don't want to lug all that stuff in from the shed.  

I wonder if it's not getting worse with the pressure of Pinterest.  Don't get me wrong.  I am a fan.  But the level of perfection now required is so much worse than before.  There are at least 500 burlap Christmas wreath links over there right now.  Really?  And let's not start with the Elf on the Shelf.  I can only thank God, Jesus, Moses, Muhammed, Zeus, Isis, Osiris, Hera, Apollo, Venus, Buddha, Krishna, and the dude who kept getting his eyes plucked out on the side of that mountain that my kids were too old for the Elf on the Shelf when it showed up.  I would have had to have been institutionalized.  Now, some of my favorite people are big fans, and I don't love them ANY less for their elves.  I do, however, mock them.  I'll leave the very best commentary on this to the expert.

But nothing, NOTHING, I tell you, tops what I found in this month's Southern Living magazine.  Which I must admit I bought for no other reason than it had a picture of a giant piece of red velvet cake on the cover.  Mmmmm.  Red velvet.  Anyway, on the way to the recipe, I found this:

I'm going to give you a minute to take it all in.  Yes, folks, this may well be the end of civilization as we know it.  I don't even know where to start processing this single sheet of fabulous.  First of all, for the love of all that is holy, why would you ever WANT to dress like dishware?  Is there some need that this fills for someone out there?  And even in the most bizarre of universes in which one might think it was okay to dress like dishware, why would one want to look like Blanche Devereaux from The Golden Girls?  This is a train wreck.  Notice that the page is titled "Fashion Plate."  Get it?  Notice also that the green lace blouse says, "Step aside, tacky sweater." Oh, the irony.

Getting all the shit out of the shed suddenly seems a much more reasonable solution.

Ho ho ho.