Saturday, April 30, 2011

Be Honest!

Does this template make my blog look big?

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Little Girl and The Sea

When she was two weeks old her family were at her grandparents swimming pool allowing her older sister some time for fun after the first days of adjustment for the recently blooming family. Wearing a tiny pink sun suit and bonnet she rested in the shade of the afternoon within her mothers arms. Her father lifted her up and approached the pool. "what are you doing,"  her mother asked? Her father answered in a playful voice, "going swimming." Her mothers concern followed them, She can't get wet, her belly button isn't healed." The father, young but experienced, rolled his eyes," it will be fine." He dipped her pea sized toes into the water. Her mother waited for a wail to arise. But, she merely wiggled her feet. "Look Mommy. I'm swimming", her father voiced for her." Swimming, I'm swimming" gently rocking her to and fro in the pool. Floating her in his palms being cautious not to let the water rise as far as her navel. She merely rested against her fathers stomach while the warmed water caressed her legs. Perfectly content and relaxed she swam, in two foot laps across the pool.

When she was a few months old her parents, also to entertain her sister, went to a matinee at a nearby theatre that showed non new release movies at a discount. They went to see Free Willy. Her mother thought she might sleep in the darkened theatre. She sat upright in her mothers lap, quiet and still and watched the giant screen without complaint. No restlessness. She watched.

When she was two she was playing busily as her mother watched. She repeatedly opened her laundry basket lid. Peering inside she would whisper a string of words her mother could not understand and then close the lid moving on to run about the room and then return to repeat the process. She would carry toys to the basket and put them in, mumbling in a conspiratorial manner. "who are you talking to" her mother asked, "what's in there?"  She looked up and in a serious and matter of fact voice answered, "It's a whale." "A whale", her mom laughed? Yes, it's a big whale, the girl answered, He lives in the basket. It's MY whale. The game continued. Her mother told her father about the whale in the basket when he came home and how cute it was. Where did she get the idea that a whale was in the basket, they laughed? The whale stayed. For Christmas a couple months later they found a small stuffed Orca Whale and made sure Santa had it in his bag. Maybe it would be nice, they thought to have a whale that could travel along outside the basket. The little girl, loved her whale.

By chance it was during a time when Orca's just happened to be in vogue. Her mother was ecstatic that summer to find water wings shaped liked Orca's. The little girl loved them but she didn't need them for long. She had no fear of the element. She swam. She dove in and learned quickly. Once in she decried getting out. Once out she wished to be back in. The ocean massive and churning was no deterrent.  She stood with strong legs against the pounding of the waves. She would dive beneath. Ride them to shore. Catch tiny fish in a bucket and play for hours. She leaned to surf at four. She swam in the pool for hours. Learning to clamp her legs together pushing  hard to swim strong and fast, just like a whale. She spent endless summer days being a whale. When on dry land she drew and painted pictures. The majority of the time she drew Orca's. Countless sheets of paper covered with cavorting whales in various poses and even colors. All over her bedroom walls. On her lined notebook paper from school instead of her work. Shoved into folders and crammed into books.

Her parents indulged her desires. Stuffed Orcas. Miniature Sea World Sets complete with an orca family. Books, movies, posters. Even an Orca Trainer Barbie. The piece de resistance a four foot long stuffed Orca that took up most of her bed. The floor of her room was littered with small rubber replica's of ocean mammals of all kinds.  Her first day of school in first grade she sported an orca backpack and lunch box. Her mother even threw a themed Birthday party and hand drew a Pin the Fluke on the Orca game. As she grew her shelves were populated with sea life and Wyland collectibles. The stuffed Orca Pod grew to an astounding size.

As she grew she had the opportunity one summer to share the water with rehabilitated porpoise at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys and swam with manatees in the wild. Kept newspapers clippings of Keiko when Free Willy was actually freed. The closest she could get to a living Orca was at Seaworld but it was done. Her skin shone burnished bronze through the summers. Her brown hair would be gilded gold. She kayaked the ocean and the springs. She surfed and snorkeled. She slept surrounded by sea creatures, her room an oxygen filled aquarium though if she could have lived and breathed under the sea she would have done so. She spent so much time submerged they wouldn't have been at all surprised to see her begin to evolve. Her limbs streamlined to fins. Her skin shining sleek and rubbery. Her face when she broke through the water for air was serene. Her eyes unfocused on the earth around her. She was a creature of the sea and we only curious objects she passed in her travels to better feeding grounds. If you held your head under the water you could hear the call of the whales seeking each other out in the tiny ocean of our backyard pool.

She knew the names and habits of countless residents of the underwater world. She would, she said, be a Marine Biologist. If her dream came true she would live in a tiny house on the coast in Washington State someday or among the islands of the Pacific NorthWest. She would spend her days on a boat listening, photographing and keeping records of her people. Her pod was bound to be there and she could join them. Peer from the windows of her land bound home and return their call. Be a part of their life as they were so much of hers. This dream grew for ten years.

And then one day The Girl Forgot.

Her world became populated with music and friends. She took up cello and string bass. She began to write. She began to draw more seriously and was found to be a fine artist. But not whales. Never whales. One day her mother found several bags in the hall closet and looking in found it was a burial ground. A tomb of orca's and porpoise. Going into the girls room she found it nearly bare of sea life. Stacks of books and music and art supplies. Her eye reached to the highest corner of the room in the farthest niche of a shelf and saw, only Keiko. A triumphant find years ago with his stuffed body sporting his flopped over dorsal. Lowering her eyes she found just a small group of tiny trinkets left. Still a huge fan of Wyland an underwater sculpture survives and a snow globe sporting a jumping Orca, a gift from her Grandparents, are lost amid the clutter of many interests.

The little girl no longer swam. She refused the pool saying she was tired of swimming. She shed her beach girl persona. Would no longer surf or snorkel. She said she didn't like the sand. Didn't wish to be in the sun. She was an artist. The artistic should lounge in cool darkened rooms thinking deep thoughts and contemplating melancholy moments. Her abilities backed up this choice. She hates science. The first three years of  high school she systematically refused to do well in it. She botched Biology. Spaced out in Earth Space. Refused to mix with Chemistry.
And then. During her senior year she had two choices. One of them, Physics, sounded like a lot of work  to her. But, there was an alternative. Marine Science. Easy, she could blow through that with ease. And she did.

And in the process she remembered.

She began to check books out of the library again. Refinding old scientific hero's and discovering  some new ones. For the first time in years she came home from school buzzing with something she learned in an academic class. She tells her mother about giant octopus and evil squid. About the habits of puffer fish and the life of the mollusk. Somehow the mind that rejected her past dreams awoke. The class took a field trip to Seaworld and the girl was excited for weeks. When they arrived she strode to the Orca Tanks ready to plant herself there and absorb. The exhibit was closed. And the girl cried. Embarrassing herself but unable to stop she sobbed. She finally consoled herself by buying the biggest stuffed Orca she could find and hanging out with the Beluga's for awhile.

Now her thoughts are topsy turvy as though being pummeled by the waves. It would be a harder road because of the knowlege she denied when she lost her way. She would have to work very hard to put herself into just the starting place for this dream that a Little Girl had. She will be an artist there is no question of that but perhaps she will do more. Perhaps she can combine the two. She always did as a child. Why not now? I tell the girl that it is never too late to at least try for a dream. Whatever direction she ultimately takes there is one thing for sure.

The Young Woman Has Returned to The Sea.

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Monday, April 18, 2011

Church Mom Blonde

For the past week or so I have been sweeping up shattered hearts.  The initial explosion flinging fragments into the corners of our world. I gather them up in my dustpan for mending. After the initial commotion all will be quiet for a time and then from the next room I hear a small clink. From behind a bedroom door a spray of tinkling chimes hitting the floor. I swoop in with my broom to carefully gather the pieces that I know will fit back together. The hearts will be made whole again. I know this. But they are never quite the same. On first glance the surface appears to be unchanged but to the makers eye the hairline fractures are visible. If you look inside you might see tiny chips left by minuscule moments disintegrated into dust and never retrieved.  The repairs will make them stronger in the end. Shore them up and add some reinforcement to guard against future blows.  I spun them too fine. Only fit for velvet upholstered cases with the word 'Fragile' carefully hand lettered on fine paper cards.
I should have used a machine shop. Crafted them with stainless steel. Easily bleached clean and scratches sand out. No dents. No rust. Just a little polish now and then and good to go. But I sweep. Endlessly gathering microscopic pieces returned to sand.

Biggest called. She wanted to know if she needed to scare any boys.

I said, ok......I mean I said, "NO PLEASE DO NOT DO THAT."

When the world around me seems out of control. When everything becomes scattered in all directions and I can't seem to get it together. I usually look in the mirror and find I'm looking pretty scattered too.  It always seems that outside turmoil takes root on my head. I'll look and realize my ends are scraggly and breakage is dancing about the crown and the color has gone dull or grown out to my ears and I am the poster child for the mess around me. So I take action.

I cut my hair.

Not short. Just to the shoulders. Short has never suited me but I don't think Hag does either so it has to be done. And afterword I feel a little shocked. And strangely more capable.

 It was time to redo my highlights as well. I knew this because I was in the store with Littlest recently under that wonderful lighting and she suddenly looked at me and then came very close peering at the top of my head and said,

"Wow, I haven't really looked at your hair lately. You are really getting old."

 I am that blonde as a child turned kind of Spanish moss color naturally with a good amount of gray thrown in. Very light highlights work best for me and I like them because they blend more naturally and my roots are more subtle as they grow in. But. I had to face facts. The fact is I still have some damage and the bleaching really fries my hair. The gray doesn't like it either. And It's also a pain in the butt to do and I didn't feel like messing with it. So. It wasn't a good idea.

I would have to completely color.

 I have done it from time to time but never have been happy with the result. A couple of years ago I was in the store with Middlest and looking at a box of color when she exclaimed, "No, don't do that!" When I asked why she answered,

 "That's Church Mom Blonde!"

She explained that when sitting in church she would look around and ALL of the blonde moms.. had the same color hair. She sweetly told me that she thought my hair was pretty the way I did it and I didn't look like everyone else. The next time I went to church I checked and Oh My Goodness. She was right. So that took care of that. I vowed to never become a Church Mom Blonde.

Being really smart I took Middlest to the store with me. I carefully scrutinized all the possibilities and picked up a box to read it. Once again I heard, "No, don't do that! It's Church Mom Blonde." I explained that it just had to be done and asked her opinion, "Which one doesn't look like Church Mom Blonde?"
To which she scanned the shelves and answered, "They all DO."

So.  I look at the boxes claiming color depth and glittering highlight and


But I convince myself that maybe technology has improved the results and I really will have that pretty blend of bronze and gold with silver strands gilding it. Look, on the box it says my dark blonde will will glow golden and my gray will shine with shimmering light.


One of the reasons I color my own hair is that I actually know what I'm doing. Or at least I did 20 years ago so I figure I'm safe. Despite the green gray cast to my natural hair I know that hidden deep in the shaft are insidious red molecules generated by my Irish ancestors. So I choose a 'cool' shade to counteract brassiness.

"Champagne Blond."

They didn't mention it would be PINK CHAMPAGNE

which is what I saw when I was toweling my hair after coloring. I had a moment of total panic and ran outside to see if it could be true. Thank Goodness. It was only a dull flat shade of "Church Mom Blonde." Until I went back in the bathroom. Which is when it occurred to me that some time ago we replaced all our bulbs with fluorescent. Whoo, that was close. I will blend in with all the other church moms and not be noticed at all. As long as I never am under fluorescent lights again.

But that's ok. I decided it might be kind of fun. I little bit of rebellion. A little bit of kick to show that I'm Not Your Typical Church Mom.

Until this morning in the kitchen when Littlest looked at me sadly and said, "Mom, don't color your hair anymore. Face it."


Moon Music For My Second and Third Phases of Child Developement.

My friend Nicole  may feel free to ROTFL at me and my hair ; )

© 2011 All Rights Reserved

Thursday, April 14, 2011

You'd Be Happy If You Were Wearing Roller Blades

They say to write about what you know. As far as I can see I know alot about looking at my feet and grocery shopping. Some time ago I wrote a post  concerning the fact that strangers tend to accost me in public places and start to talk. Sometimes they tell me stories. Life stories. How I try to avoid it but it always happens and in the end what harm does it do to allow someone to be heard? You might even learn something. So as usual I went to the grocery store this morning.

I was looking at cookies and glanced up as someone was approaching and I just got that feeling. So I turned around in the other direction and became engrossed with chips. But. I heard the voice anyway. Still halfway down the aisle. I didn't look up and it was repeated more loudly.

"You'd be happy if you were wearing roller blades!"
I looked up to see a tall thin figure dressed in green t shirt and shorts, tennis shoes and a fedora. Just being friendly? The figure was adjacent to me now and I recognized what I was dealing with. Missing teeth. Sun baked skin. Worn about the edges. The voice just so slightly slurred though the jaunty walk was still stable. Someone must have given him a couple bucks and he missed the beer aisle by one. It's best to keep it short but not be rude. Besides my first thought was, "He's right. I probably would be happy if I was wearing roller blades."  So, I said so, and turned back to the chips hoping he would move along, but no, he was in full swing.

"You know, if you never grow up you never get old."
I looked up again at the head to toe green and narrow fedora. Peter Pan?

I gave a quick smile but in that instant I recognized all. There is some truth in this statement as well. Being young at heart can lighten your life. Sometimes I get tired of being a grown up and lately I have been very tired of being a grownup. But I do what I have to do. This person was right about keeping sight of the lighthearted. He was also a lesson in what can happen to life when you run away from reality. He grinned with the brown stumps of a few teeth still left to him.

 "Really, he said, I'm forty five and look", He tipped his hat and lowered his head to show a balding top like I would be shocked to find that he wasn't really twelve.
 He said, "It's mostly doorways. And ceiling fans. Not so much the ceiling fans but the doorways"....he was losing track of his train of thought.

This poor man was exactly my age. He wasn't showing any signs of moving on having captured an audience, so I said, "ok, well you have a good day," and turned away to walk in the opposite direction. I thought I heard a mumbled, "run away, everyone always running away from me." Sad. It was sad.

But as I moved through the store away from Never Never Land and back to the Real World I took stock. Yeah, things are hard. Sometimes it makes me weary that everyone is running 'toward me.' For support. For answers. For accountability. For clean laundry....

Thank God. Otherwise what might my life be? It's all in how you view it, isn't it?
I felt pretty happy pushing that cart around the store. It felt light as a feather and seemed to glide with no effort along the floor. Because in my heart...

 I was wearing roller blades.

© 2011 All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday Morning 9:50 A M

This has the makings for a beautiful day. It will be a clear and a perfect for anything seventy five degrees.

I have a long list of things that must be done but as so often happens when I actually have the house to myself I have piddled away three hours in accomplishing nothing. The paperwork hangs over my head like a guillotine but I just avert my eyes and stare at my feet. My toenail polish is chipped. We are out of clean towels. The kitchen counters are still sticky from the 6 am rush to school. I even have a free microwave waiting for me at the end of a short drive but.....yeah. Am I tired of the game of setting 5.99 when I need 6 and pounding the keypad with my fist if I need 1.30 and nothing else will do? yeah...but..

What if.....what if I don't?

This morning I woke up with an unfortunate combination of Run Around Sue and AC/DC-You Shook Me stuck in my head in an alternating soundtrack. What exactly does that say about the state of my brain? The brain that has inexplicably begun to fail in the spelling and grammar department but has finally grasped math. Just what I always suspected, that's what.

Sometimes when I listen to myself I realize that I phrase things strangely and I sound like I'm speaking Pennsylvania Dutch.

There is a teacher I need to call and negotiate with but that would require using the phone. Today is not a phone day. Nope.


Well I have successfully diverted doing anything for another 30 minutes.



Friday, April 8, 2011

A Nice Nun Story

Over my lifetime I have heard and read numerous stories of mean and cruel nuns scarring children for life. Some of the stories are humorous and some truly are not. The legacy of Catholic School sometimes seems to be "who had the meanest nun." The tormentor in my Catholic School story, however, was Not A Nun. She was a lay teacher. And a more nasty, sour, vitriolic old witch never walked the planet. But she had a nemesis. As a result, even though I have not been a Catholic in my adult life, I love nuns. I think they are lovely. And my nun was wonderful.

This is a quick digression to gush about nuns, so you can skip it if you wish. I have always admired and respected nuns. I have huge admiration for Mother Teresa and I adore Saint Bernadette. I have a rosary with some spring water from Lourdes that my mom bought me in Tijuana. Of course it's real! Have faith ; ) I read The Nuns Story, a novel from 1956 by Kathryn Hulme, it's a great book. Sometimes I turn on the Catholic channel and watch Mother Angelica or listen to them saying the rosary. I find it peaceful. I don't want to be a Catholic but I think Nuns, Are Awesome.


 I believe that the flashes of memory from my Kindergarten and first grade years, with their partner of afternoons at Aunt Kate's Fly Swatter Wielding Nursery From Hell,  are so very clear in my mind even after all these years because they were traumatic. Can we really remember events from an early age that clearly?  Well I do very clearly remember that in first grade we had a Christmas gift exchange where names were drawn and I was very excited that a little boy named John had my name and very upset that I had Robert, a freckle faced lad with perpetual green snot hanging out of his nose. I begged my Mom to let me buy John a present too, but she said "No. Only the one whose name you have."  I was terribly angry and begrudged poor Robert his Hot Wheels car, barely looking at him as I thrust it in his hands and turned away. I told John that I Really Wanted to get him a present and saved his gift of a box of lollipops shaped like wild animals in a box decorated like a zoo cage for a long time before eating them.
 Due to the fact that I only vaguely remember moments from second and third grade, after I begged to be allowed to go to the public school because I didn't want to go back, I think our memories of frightening experiences can be very accurate.  I was an extremely shy and nervous child. My memory of my emotional feeling while at this school is clear to me. Dread. I still feel it when I think about the place.

I started kindergarten at four. I turned 5 in October but was always one of the youngest kids in my class. This was the  1969/70 school year. I believe in those days kindergarten was optional in the public school and it wasn't as advanced as it is now. Catholic school, however, started early. We started ABC's and learning to read right off the bat. My kindergarten teacher wasn't exactly sweet. She could be very nice if you were doing well and really had a temper if you crossed her. She once screamed in my face because I decided writing my alphabet was hard and drew a picture instead. But the day my mind clicked and I started reading, I looked up in wonder at what had just happened and she smiled broadly and told me 'You did it! Very Good!' : ) I got a gold star on a prayer card that day.

 Then it was time for first grade. Time to get serious. We had to wear uniforms. Navy skirt, white blouse, and a tie. The tie. A half inch slip of blue fabric that crossed at the collar with a mother of pearl snap. Black or brown hard sole strapped shoes only. Twice a week we should wear navy shorts under our skirts and bring tennis shoes for PE day. I had my pencils. I had my wonderful box of 84 Crayola Crayons. I had my yellow cigar box to keep them in. I had a red plaid metal lunchbox because my mom thought they were cute and wouldn't get me one with H R Pufynstuf on it.

 My mother worked and didn't drive. She took the bus in the mornings and actually took me to Kindergarten every morning on the city bus. By happy chance the summer before first grade a new family moved in across the street with two little girls included that would be attending the Catholic School. Their mom would drive and didn't mind if I came too. Gigi. She was a nice woman with a hard life who worked nights as a waitress. Sometimes my mom had to leave early and I would finish getting ready alone and then go across the street.

My first grade teacher met her class with a frown daily. She was strict and all business. She struck fear in our hearts walking us over to church for prayers. We were required to bring lace veils and wear them there. I wonder about that now. It wasn't something our mass normally required. I think it was her own preference. The teacher kept them in her desk for us. Before we went down she would admonish us about our behavior with threats of 'Father' being angry and coming after us if we didn't do things correctly. Within the church she hissed orders through clenched teeth. I was so petrified most of the time that I didn't remember anything. Afraid to make a move I often was in trouble for not moving at all. When someone stole my awesome box of 84 Crayola Crayons and I was apparently in meltdown mode, my mother finally went in to have a chat with this teacher. My mother learned then that I was not exaggerating. When she came home I asked about the crayons and she said, 'I couldn't get an answer about anything.'  Later she told me. "all she would talk about was how you kept chewing on the ends of your tie." She was completely fixated on it.
Yes, due to overwhelming anxiety I had become a TIE CHEWER! Disgraceful. The only thing more unforgivable would be....Not Having A Tie At All. *Gasp*

My dad kept my ties in his desk. Sometimes I would forget to put them away after school. Sometimes I could not find my tie. Often there was no one there to help me look.  Sometimes Gigi had a spare. Sometimes she didn't. When she didn't I had to go tie-less. This happened more than once. When we had inspection in the morning the teacher would sputter with anger about my missing tie. One morning she had enough!

"You go down the hall to the Principles Office and tell SISTER that you have forgotten your tie!"
 She glared with an evil gleam that let me know I was done for. The rest of the class froze in terror and disbelief staring with their eyes bugged and mouths hanging open. Sent to the Principle! Sent to Sister!

"I have had enough and I will let The Principle Take CARE OF IT THIS TIME !" MayBE thEN YOU Will leARN YOur  LESSON!"

She left me in no doubt that I would be flayed alive and returned to class a bloody pulp to stand as an example to the others of the repercussions of sin. Breaking the eleventh commandment. Thou Shall Not Go Tie- Less in school.

 I was silent and terrified as only a critically shy, anxiety ridden little girl could be. I slowly made my way down the cavernous high ceilinged hall alone. I glanced up at each door cautiously. Unsure of finding my way by myself because we always traveled in a line with an adult at the head. Finally I arrived at a door leading into the Principle's office. I hung back standing awkwardly in the doorway. A woman sat at the big desk, writing. She was intimidating in a full black habit. Only the beige of her face and hands stood out against her cuffs and wimple.  I can't remember the details of her face but I can see her hands holding the pen clearly. It was her. The Principle. She looked up and said,
"Yes? Come in. What is it?"

I told her Mrs. : ( had sent me.

"Come and sit down. What did you do? Tell me."
The tears starting to leak out I began, 'i don't have my tie.'

"Why don't you have it?"

I can't remember exactly what I said. But I explained my tie not being in it's usual place and that I looked everywhere and probably told her no one had been home to help me look as well.

I waited for her forehead to wrinkle and her voice to raise. Instead we chatted for a little while and she told me to be more careful about remembering my tie.

"Yes Sister." Was it time for my punishment yet? What would it be? A paddling? Fed to wolves?

She opened her desk drawer and I watched closely as her hand reached in wondering what form of torture would be produced. Her hand emerged holding...

a tie.

'Here you are. Wear this one today but remember to bring it back to me directly after school. Don't forget." And then...

She smiled.

I was in shock and awe and felt an incredible flood of LOVE and relief wash over me. I was off the hook. When I entered the classroom wearing my substitute tie the teacher greeted me with anxious hope. You're Back? What did she do about it? I couldn't help my smile. 'She gave me this tie to wear today.'

I still remember the look of disappointment followed by rage that came over the women's face. Bull dog framed by tight,  graying pin curls. But. I was unscathed by it. I had. A tie.

Her hatred of me was unrivaled from that day forward and she found any way she could to make my life a misery. This is what she accomplished. My parents and Gigi took their daughters out of the school and let us go to public in second grade. Oh yeah! Freckled Robert and his Snot turned up in my public school class the next year too. The Catholic School lost four tuition's that I know of.

As for my Nun, I never forgot her. I would love to thank her now and a few years ago I contacted the school and church to see if she was still alive and if I could write her. They claimed they don't keep records of where transfers are made. I'm not sure I believe that,  but I find it understandable that it may be a safety precaution. But I am so grateful for her kindness that day. I was a very scared child and this Nun was kind and understanding. It is the only memory I have of not feeling terrorized while there. In only a few moments in time she made an indelible impression on my life. Though the shortest part of this story it is the biggest part and gives me something to keep in mind when interacting with others. Truly,

Everything we do matters.

And can last a lifetime.

© 2011 All Rights Reserved

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