Friday, March 31, 2006

A Flash Your Stash Flash

I was going to be so clever. I was going to use mirrors for so it looked like I had a huge stash. I was going to photoshop to make it look like I had every color of the rainbow.

But the last time I took my temperature it was 102 degrees. So this is all you get.

So look quickly, because there is not much...

Basket o' sock yarn

Just-in-case-anyone-is-pregnant yarn

The How-was-I-to-know-they-wouldn't-want-a-sweater-in-their-school-color yarn

The I-have-no-idea-what-I'm-going-to-do-with-it-but-I-liked-the-colors yarn

The I'm-afraid-to-knit-it-because-when-I-wound-it-into-a-ball-the-plies-
were-of-different-lengths yarn

And that is the sole contents of my "stash." Thank you and goodnight.

I gotta code in by doze

Remember sick days?

Those were the days you got to stay home from school, barricaded in your bed with crayons and paper, books and playing cards. Your mother brought you ginger ale with a straw and Campbells’ Chicken Noodle Soup for lunch. If it was a lengthy illness, a television might be rolled into your room. And you enjoyed it all from a decongestant-induced fog. Every now and then someone would come into your room and utter those soothing, magic words, “Can I get you anything?”

Well, that’s what I need today, but it just won’t happen. I mean, aside from the fact that my mother has been dead for 26 years and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup has enough MSG in it to cause my eyes to swell up like Rocky after the fight and there is no way I’m manually dealing out a hand of solitaire when I can go on the computer and push a button. And I can’t take any daytime cold medications because I’m on thyroid meds so I have to be satisfied with salt water and Halls cough drops.

Before I can barricade myself in bed there are the dogs to be dealt with, because we feed them a raw diet and supposedly I’m the only one who knows how to open the refrigerator door, take out some chicken parts and put them into the dog’s four bowls.

Then I can barricade myself in bed…just as soon as I make the coffee because if Dirtman does it we wind up with more coffee grounds on the counter than in the filter bin and a liquid that is vaguely reminiscent of coffee, but more resembles tea that hasn’t been steeped long enough. But I’ll grind the coffee and set it to drip, then, then, I’ll barricade…

But first the Heirs need cash, one for a party in Spanish class, the other for…I don’t know…some lame excuse set up to part me with my money…just take the damn ten and let me hack up a lung in peace. And now I’m going to barr…

“Don’t forget! The computer guy comes today at 11!” Dirtman calls on his way out the door. “Oh, and there’s some invoices that need to go out if we’re going to be able to pay the subs. I don’t think I’m going to have time to make that deposit, so you’d better go. While you’re out…”

Never. Mind.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Hmmm, Hmmm, Hmmm...Nothing is going on...

Shhhhhhhhh…..I’m trying not to be noticed by The Powers That Be.

We can be here, but try not to be too loud. Just sit here and pretend nothing is happening.

That’s right. We’re just sitting here and absolutely nothing is going on. It’s status quo here at Linguini on the Ceiling. The usual “oh my screwed up life, everything always goes wrong, yadda yadda yadda…”

Is he looking?

Good. We’ll keep it down.

I just wanted to check in with anyone who cares, to let you know that…


Things are going really well.

Did he hear me?

Whew, that was close.

We have a builder to complete our house and he showed up a day early. Not only that, but within one week he sent a stonemason and a siding guy to talk to us, ordered all the insulation and drywall for the extra rooms, and he showed up a day early.

SHHHHHH…Don’t let him hear you…

And then. And then… At rally practice last night Zsa Zsa did a down all three times on the first gesture. There were no blank stares as though she was taking that moment to contemplate the meaning of her existence. Just “down Zsa Zsa” and boom! Cheese please.

Quiet…don’t draw undue attention.

We’re just chatting about how crummy my life is…

You see, I’m sure this is a mistake. They’ve gotten me mixed up with someone else for whom all things go well. I don’t know who the guy is, but when he or she gets the first taste of bad luck I’m sure the whining will draw attention to the error. Lucky people have a low threshold for suffering.

So before the mix up is revealed, I’d like to get a little bit of headway done on the house and maybe get through novice with the Zsas.

I know, I know. It’ll probably be worse when things are back to normal, but I’ll have had this moment in time when I was the blessed, the chosen.

Monday, March 27, 2006

A Play in One Act

Scene: Heaven

God is sitting on a cloud, filing his nails and looking down at earth, looking bored. Enter Gabriel sorting through a pile of papers.



This free will idea is for the birds. There’s nothing to do. First they do what they want, screw it all up and then won’t clean up their mess. And blame Me for it…



You could, you know, do that God thing. Just a little?


Nope. No, I can’t. I’d have to choose sides. No, I’m afraid I can’t do much of anything until they sort everything out and get back on track with this whole evolution thing.

God sneezes. Gabe goes to say something then looks puzzled. God laughs out loud.


I love doing that!



Yes, I know.


If it wasn’t for my hobbies I think I’d go crazy.


Your hobbies?


Oh yeah. Just little things I make happen here and there. Nothing that makes a bit of difference in the grand scheme of things. But it’s funny to watch them react. You know this whole March Madness thing and puny George Mason making it into the final four?




I did that.

Laughs hysterically.

And the vortexes.




Are you correcting me, Gabe?


Of course not, Sir…er…Madame…uh…My Lord.


But the funniest is that woman with the house.


Woman with the house?



First, I take this totally pitiful woman living with a fungus named Kevin and make it possible for her to receive a new house.


That’s very nice!


Still laughing

No! You don’t get it! I give her a new house, but – now get this – it never gets done!

Tilts head back and roars with laughter.

She keeps scheduling things and then – oops! – the weather is mysteriously uncooperative. She thinks things are going along smoothly when – oops! – her builder disappears!


Would that be the gentleman occupying your broom closet, My Lord?


Wait! You haven’t heard the best part! All this is going wrong, she’s months…years…behind schedule and who does she blame? HER HUSBAND!!!!

Laughing hysterically

Not only her husband, but the entire construction business. It never occurs to her to blame Me! For once, it’s actually my fault and no one is blaming Me! Do you see the irony in that, Gabe?


Yes, of course, My Lord. It is ironic, I suppose…


Oh Gabe, you have no sense of humor.


I am the one who has to announce the end of the world.


Pats Gabe on the back.

Oh, cheer up old man…er…woman…uh…Tell ya what. I’ll let the lady finish her house.


That would be the Godly thing to do…


You’re telling me?


I wouldn’t presume…


All right, I’ll send her a builder.


Shall I let him out of the closet, My Lord?


Nah. Let’s send her one that has a large crew. See if we can get her into her house by the end of April.



Aren’t you afraid that such a change in fortune might…well…drive her mad?


Laughing hysterically

Irony, Gabe. I love it!

That which will not be spoken


Something about that word bothers me.

This is what happens when you have too much coffee during the day and end up with one of those half-sleeping nights where you doze a lot, dream stupid, innocuous dreams and have some inane recurring theme running the whole show.

Last night it was the word “foodie,” which, surprisingly, is actually in Webster’s Dictionary.

Now it’s not a foodie I have a problem with. In some ways I’m probably one myself, though with two teenagers we lean toward the quantity over quality rule more often than not. I find other foodies to be nice people. The magazines tend to be a bit pretentious, but still enjoyable.

It’s the word “foodie” that tastes so bad on my tongue. It’s a silly word.

You don’t call a person who loves wine “winey.” You don’t call a person who loves dogs doggie. At least not to my face.

Foodie sounds like you start fan clubs for one of the ever-growing numbers of TV chefs on Food Network. Or that, out of all the physical requirements, you are promoting eating; as in: “My sister is an airy. She thinks breathing is the most important bodily function. But me, I’m a foodie.”

I don’t want to be called a foodie. I rather like the term “gastronome” or even the good, ol’ fashioned “gourmet.” We used to call it gourmet food. Do we now call it “foodie food?” Will real estate listings say “foodie kitchen?” Too cute; gag a maggot.

And when you keep writing about the word “foodie,” it starts to look really funny typed over and over again.

I also have a problem with the word “behemoth.”

Friday, March 24, 2006

They ain't Wally and the Beav and we ain't June and Ward

It’s times like these I hate being a parent. I hate, hate, hate saying “no.”

The Heirs know this. They ask things I would never have even hinted at with my own parents. That’s because my parents loved, loved, loved saying “no,” just for the sheer joy of it. But because of my aversion to the negative, the Heirs always push the envelope, just to watch me squirm.

This is particularly true of Heir 1, currently anticipating the independence that will come with being away at college in a little over a year. It doesn’t help that a lot of his friends’ parents are just happy to get their teenager out of the house for as long as possible so they can restock the pantry and hear themselves think. So I am constantly besieged with the phrase, “So-‘n’-so’s parents are letting him go.”

My house is always full of them. In my mind I call them The Lost Boys, kids who seem to have no rules or curfews and seem to be asking you, or some adult, to “stop me before I hurt myself.”

They’re no longer “cute” like they were as children and their precociousness has turned to surliness. In some cases they are remnants of a marriage gone wrong and barriers to new relationships. They constantly challenge the status quo and you have to be ready with a better answer than, “…because I said so,” because that’s never a respectful answer.

They don’t want or need you to be their friend or act their age. They need you to be the one constant in their suddenly changing world. They need you to roll with the punches they dole out to you because you are safe and the rest of the world will punch back.

A lot of parents seem to take this stage personally, quit parenting and just focus on damage control. Some maintain a fa├žade of familial perfection forcing abhorrent behavior underground where the neighbors pretend not to see it.

They will say something shocking and then look at you out of the corner of their eye. Are you going to call me on it?

Yes. I’m not going to have the vapors, though, if that was what they were hoping for. But I’m not going to pretend I didn’t hear it or offer a half-hearted whine as though I find them annoying. I tell them they’ve crossed the line and they are almost relieved to know where the line is and that you care enough about what they say to point it out.

But the Lost Boys do make it even more difficult to say “no” to the Heirs. While the Lost Boys can come and go as they please, the Heirs have to be home by a certain time and are required to check in. The Lost Boys can slink into bed reeking of alcohol and various burnt substances. The Heirs have to make it past Dirtman, who I think is even more aware and worried about what can confront a 17-year-old left to his own devices.

None of this is fun. We hate being the killjoys, fun-loving couple that we are. We hate being perceived as “old-fashioned.” That’s a label for our parents, not for us.

And, frankly, we’re feeling our own itching for independence. We’ve been working on these kids for a long time, and parenting is a bit of a sacrifice (or should be, if you’re doing it right). There is nothing I’d like better than to not have to worry about them anymore, not have to examine my own agenda when I have to give permission for something; not have to try to explain every single answer I give down to the tiniest minutiae; not having to find the precise balance between permissiveness and regulation that will yield responsible, fearless, yet living adults; to not have to be The Bad Guy.

They say you never stop parenting and every age has its challenges. And, believe it or not, even this age has it’s moments of pure joy. Once, Heir 1 actually said this to me: “Ya know, you were right.”


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Source of the Mysterious Purple Stain...

... is revealed.

This shows how often I open my microwave and I only opened it today to defrost the dogs' dinners.

Now this brings up some interesting observations.

First: Note the knife balanced on the edge of the crust, yet look at how jagged the cuts. Obviously the knife is a ruse to make you think this pie was being consumed in pieces when, actually, it was in the process of being consumed en mass with a fork.

You can't see this, but the edge of the fruit filling is drying out, indicating that it has not been touched in roughly two days. Yet I can tell you from first-hand observation the consumption of junk food has not abated during that time. This could mean only one thing: the blueberry pie in question tastes like lumpy solidified corn syrup baked in Playdoah.

But, then, you may ask, why is half the pie gone?

The answer can only be found by ascertaining who, in fact, bought and ate said pie half.

We know, don't we, that whoever did this had to be able to open the microwave. That leaves out Zsa Zsa, Topper, Gaspode and all the cats.

It wasn't Salt either because he can't hold a fork and eat at the same time.

That leaves Dirtman and the Heirs.

So now, the half-pie issue. Who would eat half a foul-tasting pie.

Heir 1 is much too fussy an eater to go beyond one bite and he doesn't like store-bought pie anyway (Honest, Mama K -- I only make him pie when I feel like it...). As for Heir 2 -- well, corn syrup and Playdoah are much too healthy for him.

The person who bought, ate and left the pie would have had to consume an entire half pie so rapidly that it would have gone down before he realized just how hideous it tasted. Therefore, the purchaser, consumer and abandoner of said blueberry pie is


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An open letter to my family

Dear, dear, darling Family,

I know you are not used to seeing me leave this house by myself. I understand the trauma of sudden separation from someone you have come to count on, use, trust, exploit, and look to for security. I know how difficult it is when you are, all of you, over the age of fifteen (okay, one of you has to wait a month…) and, in one case, pushing the age of 50, to suddenly find yourself having to push yourself beyond your comfort zone.

And Lord knows I’m not a fussy housekeeper. Not even a mediocre housekeeper. Let’s just say that no house under my care has ever been condemned. Yet.

And, believe me, I understand my part in this whole dilemma since, as MK politely pointed out to me (and I stress “politely.” Mama K is exceedingly polite and diplomatic, so her “pointing out” consists of raising an eyebrow), I do have some Italian blood running in my veins resulting in the fact that I may have, just a little bit, just a tad, just a smidgen…spoiled you all.

That’s okay, really. Nothing gives a mother more joy than seeing her family flourish under her care. I rejoice in the fact that you feel the freedom to spread your wings and explore the world around you without fear.

But, before you all take off for another day of fearless exploration, I have to ask, regarding this house and this weekend: WHAT THE HELL WENT ON WHILE I WAS GONE?

How can three people generate that many dishes? How can three people generate that many dishes and not run out and have wash a single one? AND WHY DOES IT TAKE THREE POTS TO MAKE RAMEN NOODLES?

And regarding pizza boxes: traditionally leftover pizza goes into the refrigerator in the interest of not dying of some horrible food-borne illness. I can understand that you can confuse “counter” and “refrigerator” since they are in the same room. But I don’t understand confusing “refrigerator” and “beneath couch.” And – trust me on this – pizza tastes much better without socks on top.

Remember our little chat Friday morning? The one where I requested a few thing get done while I was out that day? Two loads of laundry, cleaned and dried. Not sorted, not folded, not put away. Just washed and dried.

Remember how we had that same little chat Saturday morning because it didn’t get done Friday? And how on Sunday we had yet the same chat, albeit somewhat louder and tenser?

And remember how you had the nerve to come to me Sunday night and ask WHERE YOUR FREAKIN’ GYM SHORTS WERE?

Just wondering.

For the record, here are some general instructions on homecare that I thought I’d already imparted, several times, over and over and over and over and over:

  1. When something spills on a counter, you are supposed to wipe it up, even the purple food that I still haven’t identified since to my knowledge there is no purple food in the house.
  2. When something spills on the floor, you wipe that up too. You definitely do not walk through it and track it all over the rest of the house.
  3. Three people; one room to vacuum. How hard can this be?
  4. When the dishwasher is full, it is not true that you “can always fit one more thing in.” At some point you must actually run the machine, empty it and start all over again.
  5. When the trash is spilling out onto the floor? That means it’s full. That means stop putting things into it because it will only fall out again and the dogs will grab anything with the scent of food on it and drag it to their chair, tear it up into little tiny pieces which will spread all over the floor so that now there are two rooms to vacuum.
  6. The dining room table is not a storage shelf.

Now I realize the dogs are mine. But, in the interest of reciprocity and since I cook your meals, clean your toilets, do most of your laundry, buy your clothing, spent a total of 42 hours giving two of you life, do you think you could OPEN THE STINKIN’ BACK DOOR AND LET THE DOGS OUT TO PEE? Just ONCE over the three days? And, if that is too much of an effort, CLEAN UP WHEN THEY CAN’T HOLD IT ANYMORE?

Now I realize we’re all trying to work out this new order where I actually have a life beyond all of you we can all become actualized on our chosen life paths, so I will not seek an extreme solution like walking out and living at the Ramada like chore charts and rigid schedules as if you were a bunch of toddlers. I am sure, having pointed out the areas of dispute, I will not experience a repeat of this weekend’s – ahem – failings.

But, out of curiosity, exactly how does peanut butter get on the ceiling?


Your Wife and Mother (tentatively)

Editor's Note: While we try to insert graphics into posts to break up Sisiggy's long-windedness, Blogger is not cooperating this morning. We decided to let it run without graphics of mounds and mounds of trash. Sorry to rob you of such an eyefull.

Monday, March 20, 2006

On pseudo-handling and brain interference

It occurred to me, as Zsa Zsa and I stood in a line with two other Aussies and their handlers, that had I a female human child, I would not be subjecting her to a contest wherein she was judged by beauty alone.

I always think of excuses not to be doing what I am doing when I’m doing something I’m afraid of doing.

I am afraid of dog conformation handling.


I said it.

The process by which I find myself in the conformation ring in spite of my terror begins at the time I agree to register to show at the particular event. Usually this date is so far ahead of the actual scheduled competition, it seems like a good idea at the time.

That is, until about a week before we are scheduled to show. Then my thoughts go something like this:

Oh no! Next week is the conformation show! (sick lurch in pit of stomach)

If I start sniffling on Thursday, I could convince people of a full-blown flu by Saturday. No one would blame me if I didn’t want to go out in public with the flu.In fact, they’d thank me. I’d be a hero!

Then I’d feel like a jerk for making people think better of me when actually I’m lying.

I’ll tell the truth: I don’t believe in showing dogs for conformation. That’s like a beauty pageant. How does that judge Zsa Zsa's heart, her loyalty, her sweetness? All they’re thinking about is how “pretty” she is.

(Voice way back in brain: It’s not a beauty contest. She’s being judged according to how closely she matches the standard. You know this and you’re trying to wuss out.)

Okay, okay. It’s not a beauty contest. But actually, I’m not dog handler material. I’m not good at this. I’m better at training, which I’m also afraid of when it’s a training event I’m facing instead of conformation, BUT THAT IS BESIDE THE POINT!

If you don’t face this now, you’ll never face it and you’ve always wanted to do this…

But people will be looking at me…

Everyone else has a whole lot of fun doing this…

People! I may have to talk to people I don’t know…

If you do this enough, you won’t be afraid anymore…

I’ll become a hermit…

You have to do this…

A nun! I’ll become a nun!

They won’t let nuns keep dogs…

Never mind, then.

And so there I am, standing in the conformation ring, still not having ruled out a religious avocation, and trying to remember everything that MK has told me.

MK (as in Mama K…Zsa Zsa’s other owner and my mentor in the public dog world), walks into the conformation ring with grace and ease. She is relaxed while other dogs are being examined and easily stacks her dog Polly, who is equally calm and confident because that is the attitude of her handler. MK smoothly takes the blue ribbon for her class and glides out of the ring. Mission accomplished. All in a day’s work.

“Breathe,” she advises me on the way into the ring. This is because last show we were at together resulted in my going into one of those “all in my head” asthma attacks that scared her to death. Now the one thing she always makes sure of when she goes anywhere with me is that my inhaler is within easy reach.

Of course she has advised me in other areas, hardly any of which come to mind with the judge bearing down upon us. Lengthen the lead when showing movement, I remember. Take longer strides when running Zsa Zsa around the ring.

The judge approaches and Zsa Zsa leans into me. She shies from the judge's hand and my brain screams, “YOU’VE BEEN TOLD HOW TO HANDLE THIS! All you have to do is…We’re sorry, but access to that information in not available at this time. Please try again later. Thank you and have a nice day.”

We are handed a third place ribbon, because apparently the judging is over. I am smiling. I am smiling because I’m leaving the ring and now I can go home or somewhere where I can eat my weight in crap I wouldn’t feed my worst enemy.

MK comes over like a coach walking a losing boxer to the locker room.

“Next time,” she advises, “kneel down by her when the judge comes over and talk to her.”

She says this as though she is giving me this advice for the first time, even though we both know she’s told me this before. She’s polite that way.


It's not easy being...well, ya know...

Thanks to the Lifecruisers for this, which I decided to do because my favorite color is green. I thought it particularly appropriate since lately my drink of choice has been a martini.

You Are Olive Green

You are the most real of all the green shades. You're always true to yourself.

For you, authenticity and honesty are very important... both in others and yourself.

You are grounded and secure. It takes a lot to shake you.

People see you as dependable, probably the most dependable person they know.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bad boy, bad boy, watcha gonna do...

Let me tell you about Gaspode, the dog destined to give me a heart attack before I’m 50.

‘Pode is our resident bad boy. He’s been in and out of reform – er -- obedience school since we got him and he is currently in the first one he’s not been asked to leave. This is because the class is run by Corally Burmaster and dogs know better than to dis’ Corally.

‘Pode came to us a homeless waif, having been given up by his previous owners. They’d gotten him because a Parson Russell Terrier would make a lovely accessory to their upper middle class, two-income existence; a Parson Russell Terrier, just like that cute little Wishbone dog and Eddie on Frasier.

They probably read somewhere about the magic of crate training and how a dog will only relieve himself away from where he hangs out. What somehow didn’t enter their brains was that if you leave any dog in a crate long enough so you can commute 2 hrs. to your two-incomes in order to support your upper-middle class existence, he will relieve himself, even if he has to be in close proximity for the remainder of the 14 hours he’s been in there.

Then, when you take him out, he’s going to be a little…mmm…rambunctious. That’s because he’s a Parson Russell Terrier. Also because HE’S BEEN IN A FREAKIN’ CRATE FOR 14 HOURS! Then, of course, he’s back into the crate when everyone goes to bed.

The problem is, Parson Russells aren’t known for their ability to, shall we say, hold it. The fact is, they just don’t really care. So they require a certain amount of diligence in the potty training department.

‘Pode, therefore, has some huge Freudian bathroom issues, no pun intended.

When a dog has become an overly rambunctious poop factory, there is only one thing to do with him on weekends. That is, keep him in the crate where he can’t damage anything. So people came and went just out of ‘Pode reach and he didn’t get to meet any of them.

That’s called “no socialization.”

When ‘Pode came to us, he was desperate for attention. If he wasn’t noticed, he’d up the ante by nipping at whoever would not acknowledge him. And sometimes, being overly rambunctious, it turned into a bite. UPS people were particularly to his taste. UPS people report all dog bites, no matter how innocuous, to the authorities.

So ‘Pode has a record. If he bites again, it’s coitins for Da ‘Pode.

Around the time we got ‘Pode, a guy down our road got a motorcycle. ‘Pode would run along the property line as he drove by, so they guy thought it might be fun to bait the dog. He'd drive up a little, wait for ‘Pode to catch up, drive a little further, wait – you get the picture. I saw him doing this and just as I was about to tell him, “Not a good idea, Buckeroo,” he’d speed off.

Do I need to tell you what that taught ‘Pode to do? Do I need to tell you a dog could get into huge trouble when he chases motorcycles, particularly when the guy that taught him to do it submits the complaint to the animal control officer?

So up went the $2,000.00 chain link fence, which solved the problem for awhile.

Enter Salt, our other PRT. Without going into details, Salt is a furry little Einstein. Salt could do our taxes had he an opposable thumb. Salt not only knew how to get out of a chain link fence, but how to cover it up so you couldn’t figure out how he did it. When we finally figured it out (yesterday), we were amazed at the simplicity of this ingenious engineering feat. He chose the precise section of the fence where we couldn’t barricade the bottom. He dug a hole under the fence, only aiming the dirt outside the fence. When he pushes the fence out to go under, it pushes the dirt out of his way. When the fence returns to its former position, it pulls the dirt back, hiding the hole and any trace of his leaving.

Salt knows a good thing and he’s not going anywhere. He does this just to non-opposable-thumb his nose at us for thinking we’re smarter than he is. He gets out, runs to the front door and barks, “I’m here, Suckers! Lemmee in!”

‘Pode, however, having learned this escape technique from Salt, is positive there is something interesting going on down on the state highway that we don’t want him to know about.

So we’ve spent the past several days thinking we’ve plugged up the escape hatch, only to see ‘Pode on the other side of the fence, heading for the road. Have you ever tried to outrun a Parson Russell Terrier? It’s never going to happen.

One time we found him sitting placidly on the side of the highway, watching the cars and trucks go by. Another time he was in the turn lane in the middle of the highway, with traffic stopped both ways in anticipation of his next move. Another time, after we’d searched all the usual and unusual places for two hours, he was sitting happily at the fence gate waiting for us when we came home.

So, until we can get the fence fixed, ‘Pode is on a short leash, so to speak, not the ideal life for an active Parson Russell Terrier.

I’m sure while we sleep Salt is busy doing physics calculations in preparation for another escape.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, a grown woman will throw a temper tantrum

I have snow flurries outside my window.

The drainfield for the new house is supposed to be installed today. But it can't be if it's wet.

And now the snow flurries. That two day ago it was 85 degrees F. is only irony at this point. There are freakin' snow flurries outside and if they get worse the drainfield gets put off again.


(Sisiggy puts her head on her desk. She pounds the surface with her fists and weeps uncontrollably.)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Can you play Freebird?

My sons have hit the rock star phase.

They do still call them rock stars, right? Listening to the Heirs discussing their favorite bands, I’m not so sure. I keep hearing terms like “emo,” “emo-punk,” “hip-hop rap” or alternative, but never the term “rock.”

The rock star phase is a proud tradition in my family since I grew up with two brothers who were drummers in a string of garage bands, back when garage bands dared to aspire to greatness because they didn’t know they were nothing more than a garage band. They actually thought that one day they’d be the warm-up act for the Stones…well…Grand Funk Railroad, maybe.

As for me, in high school you were a jock, a music person or a geek. I straddled two cliques because although I was a geek, I did play guitar. But it was acoustic guitar and I was taking classical lessons. I know -- geek.

The Heirs are not taking any chances. They refused all of my attempts to teach them to read music and to show them “the basics” on the guitar. Instead they download something called power chords off the internet. In no time this has them playing exactly what they listen to on CDs: feedback and noise.

Still, they have deemed every Tuesday as Band Night. This consists of a load of teenagers coming over and spending about 45 minutes in the garage performing what sounds like a 12-car pileup on the interstate. Then I feed everyone after which they all play video games until around nine o’clock.

When I point out the disparity between the amount of band practice time and video game time, they point out that they can only practice so long because they don’t actually know an entire song. They know little bits of a lot of songs. But not an entire song. I point out that it may sound better it they all played the same bits of songs at the same time.

I didn’t know eyes could roll that far back.

Recently the Heirs informed me they need a drummer and that I need to buy them a drum set. They said this with a straight face. Pointing out that neither one of them plays the drums was no use.

“I’ll figure it out,” Heir 2 assured me.

So I offered to give them the drum set that my older brother started out on. They were enthusiastic about it until my older brother reminded them he started out using my parent’s luggage as a drum and a metal trash can overturned on a camera tripod as a cymbal.

Kids today have no sense of humor.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes...

Okay, fellow Northeasterners (USA). Let’s not be total suckers. Put those coats back on. You should all know better.

See, I’m not going to be lulled into a false sense of security (like some people I know) by the balmy temperature, the birdsong, and the bulbs blooming. Uh-uh. The corduroy stays out. The shorts stay in the box.

PUT THOSE SEEDS AWAY!!!! Are you insane? Start them indoors, if you can’t control yourselves. But in the ground? You are so naive.

This is the Northeast U.S. Remember the blizzards in April? Remember the snow flurries in May? HA! See? All that sunshine made you forget, didn’t it?

How about the year no one from North Caroline on north could go swimming until the middle of July? (No normal, warm-blooded human, anyway. Only the cold-blooded, insane Heirs and brother because “we paid our money to be at the beach and, by God, we’re going swimming. V-v-v-v-v-v-v-v-v.”)

So frolic if you must. Wash your cars and put the Beach Boys CD back on the sun visor. Put the top down on your sportscar, all of you who have convertibles, since days like this are the only reason you paid $40,000 more for your vehicle. But don’t think for one minute that this means winter is gone for good.

How do I know this? Because the dogs are only shedding 5 tons of fur rather than their warm-weather 15 tons of fur, that’s how. Dogs are not stupid. I guarantee if you had to go outside every time you had to relieve yourself, you’d be reluctant to pack the sweaters away for the season.

I’ll tell you another reason winter is not yet over: Everyone thinks it is. It’s Mother Nature’s way of cuffing you upside the head and scolding, “Don’t think you’re so smart, Missy” (or “Young Man”).

Go ahead. Don’t listen to me. I’ll have the last laugh next weekend when you are all shoveling snow in shorts and a t-shirt and I’ll be nice and cozy watching from the kitchen as Heir 2 shovels snow.

Friday, March 10, 2006

A housing retrospective...and resignation

Ah, yes. I remember this day. The day our house arrived “completely finished” on the back of several tractor trailers.

We were so full of hope then.

“Thanksgiving will be a little sparse this year,” I laughed naively. We wouldn’t be unpacked, you see. It was the middle of October and I figured by the time we moved in and got somewhat organized, I couldn’t possibly have found the huge turkey roaster and Dirtman’s grandparents’ dishes, which were among the first things to be packed.

That was when the man from the housing company reluctantly informed us that there were certain things that couldn’t be done at the plant to finish our house, due to having to drag it up a gravel hill.

We were oh-so understanding. It’s the price one must pay to live in a wooded secluded area. That’s okay, we assured him. So Christmas among the packing boxes would be a little chaotic. But, hey, we’ve waited this long just to get to this point, what’s another few weeks?

“I hear you want to be in here by Thanksgiving,” our electrician said as we took him around the house a few days later.

“I was told that was a little unrealistic,” I admitted. “We’re aiming for Christmas.”

All he said was, “Hmmm.”

Easter would be at our new house! I announced at a family gathering shortly after this. Wouldn’t the nieces and nephews enjoy searching for Easter eggs in the woods? I had this insane idea that, in addition to the two gnomes we had already purchased, I’d scatter several more around the land and place eggs next to each one for the younger kids to find. I had a whole story concocted for them.

I remember someone joking that maybe we shouldn’t make plans for the house until we were actually in it.

“It had better be done by then,” Dirtman snapped. “That’s almost five months from now. That’s plenty of time.”

We both laughed in that hysterical way that is one step away from insanity, the kind of laugh that never quite reaches your eyes. The kind of laugh that scares people.

Shortly after that the lists began and the picture began to sharpen.

At first people asked how things were going, almost apologetically. Now they just cross the street when they see us coming. I realized our voices were taking on a tinge of madness when discussing our construction project. People feared for us, but from a distance.

We no longer make plans for the house. We know now that we will never actually occupy the house. We will visit the house. We will talk about the house. We will use phrases like, “If we were in the new house…” and talk about how wonderful life would be.

But we will never actually live in the house. I know this now. We must accept and embrace our role as eternal overseers of never-ending construction.

Resistance is futile.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Boys of Spring

For the first time since Heir 2 was six years old, we are not starting Little League this month.

If you hear an audible sigh of relief, that would be me.

During the past eight years I’ve spent every March sitting in the car, waiting for practice to be over, and every April, May and most of June sitting in the bleachers trying to figure out why everyone was so worked up over a kid’s baseball game.

Around here, they take their local sports seriously. This is particularly evidenced by the fact that in this county there are three high schools, three middle schools and three elementary schools and there is one music teacher, one art teacher and one school nurse for all of it. But there are two – two -- sports trainers for every high school. The annual high school sports banquet is held off-campus and features a steak dinner. The academic “banquet” is a recent and begrudgingly-held event that features boiled ham and applesauce in the cafeteria. The weight room off the gym is open at 6:30 a.m. before school and until 5 p.m. after school. The school library opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 3:30 p.m.

So, while I’ve always viewed kids’ sports as a tool for teaching sportsmanship and responsibility, most of the other parents viewed it as validation of their family tree’s superiority. (At the risk of exploiting a southern stereotype, I need to point out that there are not as many family trees around here as one might hope. While last names present the illusion of a veritable forest, there is actually only a grove…no, a copse…of actual trees, with very heavy canopy, if I may belabor a metaphor.)

Having lived here 25 years, I know my place in this community. I wasn’t born anywhere near here, so I’m not an insider. Worse, I came from New Jersey, not from another rural area or another Southern state. I know to keep my mouth shut and smile constantly. A loud mouthed local is accepted with bemused resignation (“That Tammy Jo is just a pistol, ain’t she?”). A loud mouthed Yankee is viewed as a know-it-all trying to take over “the way it’s always been done.” Others of my people have gone before me and taught me to keep my opinions to myself and, for God’s sake, stop saying “yous.”

I suppose this means Heir 2’s mother (no one knows my name, though I’ve introduced myself countless times) is viewed as some sort of idiot savant, sitting in the stands with headphones on, knitting away and smiling stupidly. Usually I’m listening to a book-on-tape. I’ve done this ever since my son has been out of t-ball, which is about when the comments from the bleachers went from being, “Isn’t that cute” to “That damn kid tried to purposely hit my Finster with the ball. Where the hell was that damn bastard umpire looking?” While they never attacked my kid, it was always someone’s kid so, for the sake of my blood pressure and heart rhythm, I kept the headphones on.

Heir 2, for his part, admitted that he wasn’t a star player. But he loved to play. He loved to play. He’d practice constantly, rain or shine, to improve enough to get more playing time. But, this being a sport-oriented area, other fathers had been preparing their kids from the cradle to be jocks. While we were wasting time reading out loud together, other parents were hitting their three-year-old in the head with a wiffle ball.

Heir 2 didn’t stand a chance. But he cheered his team on anyway.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments of our Little League experience was listening to Heir 2 providing encouraging outfield banter to a rooster of a pitcher who was in a slump right after the same pitcher had dubbed Heir 2 a “loser” for hitting a pop fly that resulted in an out. Sadly, I was probably the only one who noticed how much class that took. I resumed using my headphones.

Last fall, as a high school freshman, Heir 2 decided to try running cross country. Turns out he’s good at it – very good. So this spring he is running track and he’s very good at that too. (And, lest you feel sorry for the “little boy would couldn’t play baseball,” when the newspaper lists all the students who received either straight A’s or all A’s and B’s on the report cards, he is always listed under the straight A’s. His former teammates are nowhere to be found.)

The only one disappointed with the lack of little league this spring is Heir 1.

“For at least three hours a couple time a week I had this whole house to myself,” he complained.

Anybody else hear “Old Time Rock-n-Roll” by Pete Seeger playing?

Monday, March 06, 2006

I'd like to thank the Academy...

I think it’s pretty safe to say I won’t ever win an Academy Award. So I’m going to go ahead and treat you to my Oscar speech, just so I know all my hard work hasn’t been in vain.

Now you’re going to have to use your imagination here a little. First you have to imagine I’m an actor. Then you have to imagine I made a movie. Then you have to imagine that either I was really, really good in the movie or that I played an historical figure that everyone likes who died young, or that I myself am dying of cancer. Oh, you also have to forget the whole thing about me looking like an Oompah Loompah, because if I did I wouldn’t have a starring role in a movie. You also have to imagine I probably have a laundry list of other attributes that are required to be an actor, like a room at Betty Ford, a Hollywood-connected relative who made me “pay my dues” by making me audition for parts and several failed romances.

Okay. Now on the stage is Ben Stein. I know, I know, usually the actor who won last year presents, but I want someone up there I know won’t upstage me. So it’s either Ben Stein or a dead guy.

It’s my fantasy, okay?

So Ben is listing the nominees and each person on the list gets their own camera close-up appearing in little boxes for the viewers at home. This is done because we all secretly hope that we’ll see one of them get really pissed off when someone else’s name is called. And we’re sadists.

But they don’t call someone else’s name, do they? No. They announce, “And the Oscar goes to…” Ben makes a muddle of opening the envelope, “Sisiggy!”(I don’t honestly know how Ben Stein would “say” an exclamation point, though.)

The room explodes with applause…

No! Everyone spontaneously jumps to their feet and applauds. Some are so overwhelmed with emotion they are crying with joy.

I sit, stunned, as Dirtman (who is sitting beside me in a tuxedo and wearing socks) puts down the book he’s been reading during the entire program and gives me a big kiss. He helps me to my feet, because I’m so shocked that li’l ol’ me won, that I can’t move. He has to escort me to the stage where he hands me off to Ben Stein, who hands me my Oscar and kisses…

Maybe we better make that George Clooney announcing the winner…

…hands me off to George Clooney who, after taking the statuette from the shapely, tall, blonde Statuette girl, who he doesn’t even give a second glance or the time of day, hands me my Oscar and kisses me chastely on the cheek, though he is seething with desire. I stand before the microphone and begin my speech:

I can’t believe I’m up here!

First of all, I want to thank God for all he’s done for me. I don’t know what you’ve all done to tick Him off, but obviously, he prefers me over you and The Sudan and the Middle East and all the people in homeless shelters.

And now I’d like to read a list of people’s names none of you know and who I haven’t seen since making this movie nor will I probably see again and if I do I won’t remember them anyway, which is why I wrote them down.

(insert list here)

Thanks to all of them for making me look like I could actually do an entire scene in one go. Right! Like I could memorize that much dialogue.

And, Dirtman. (I smile warmly in Dirtman’s direction. He puts the book down again, hearing his name) You had nothing whatsoever to do with the production of this film. But I’ll thank you anyway because Tom Hanks started it and now unless I do there will be rumors swirling about the condition of our marriage. Even though I can thank you in person and, if I really meant it, would have thanked you already.

(music begins playing)

And, finally, thank you to the woman whose life I portrayed on screen. Your struggle, your courage, your joi de vivre won me an Oscar. So you can rest in peace, knowing that your life was not lived in vain.

(I lift my arm and wave to the audience.) Thank you, Academy!

(As the music swells, George takes my arm to escort me off stage, along with the shapely, young, tall, blonde Statuette Girl, who trips over her gown and begins to fall, though I make a gallant attempt to help her…really, I do…but she hits the floor and, to add to her humiliation, farts and burps. Everyone laughs at her and she knows her career is over, so there.)