Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Monday, December 29, 2008
With his best friend, on their way to school.
My father grew up in North Hollywood.
Dad's on the left.
1939. He really liked his cars.
Saturday, December 27, 2008
Plus, since New Years is around the corner. I’ll be making some moves towards continued positiviality. (Just wait, that will be a new word someday). Might as well get snarky, mean, negative, judgmental thoughts out now before the regimens of healthy living get a revival treatment.
Anywhos, we get Christmas newsletters from family and friends and we love catching up on what is going on with those we don’t see often, or have lost track of somewhat. One of the newsletters we receive gets a special kind of attention from my daughter and me. It’s like, “OMG. THE Braggerbooter’s letter came in!! Break out the tea kettle and let’s have a sit.” My husband gets REALLY PISSED OFF at us. He thinks that my daughter and I are being horribly catty and bitchy and not at all Christmas like.
Ah. Well. Here’s some bitchiness thinly veiled as advice.
- Keep to the highlights. Four pages, single spaced, eleven point font is getting close to becoming a periodical.
Unless you want other people’s kids to not like your kids, have a little balance in the bragging arena. For instance, each kid’s paragraph should probably not be ¾ of a page long. Try to make your kids a little bit human.
When listing the athletic accomplishments of your oldest child, even if HE IS an eventual Heisman trophy sure bet, maybe don’t mention every single award. Pick your favorite five.
If your son is so athletically competent that he can play any baseball position well, that might be enough information right there. You probably don’t need to go on and say how he usually is put in as pitcher, 1st baseman, or short stop. And then detail the highlights in each.
Just say you are proud of how well your son is doing academically while balancing it with all those athletics. Don’t give his GPA for every quarter.
Your son may be the most popular boy in his senior class and the phone may be ringing off the wall with girls calling him. It’s just not that cool for a mom to make it a part of the holiday letter.
- When introducing your daughter’s paragraph, maybe a more humble beginning than “Son may be a hard act to follow, what with so many accomplishments, but daughter rises to this challenge and even surpasses her brother with her own accomplishments."
You may not want to call your daughter a “typical teen” and then detail that she: Is the most popular girl in her class; played two sports and was voted MVP for both; detail a list of awards athletically and academically, describing the honor and importance of each award; say how amazed you are that she is an excellent dancer in jazz, hip-hop, AND ballet and finish this off by saying she is so talented that at her ballet performance they “saved her for the closing number.”
- Hands down, my all time favorite in your daughter’s paragraph was when you equated your daughter’s “stunning and sophisticated beauty” with a popular young celebrity. It got even better when you proved your point with the anecdotal story of the family vacation to Disneyland and how preteens were asking for your daughter’s autograph (thinking she was the celeb). It was a little over the top when you finished this part with, “it was a fun preview of her future and what it’s like to be rich and famous.”
I could say more, like perhaps you need not detail your home renovations with the exact colors and types of hardwood flooring and granite countertops. But, my snark meter is having a fit and so I should end this fun.
A couple ideas to improve on the ol’ newsletter.
One. Funny works. Add a little humor. For online models, I’d like to point out Vodka Mom or Anna Lefler. See. One can still be poignant and show the love while cracking people up.
Two. Be gracious. Balance out what might come off as bragging with a little humility thrown in.
One last thing though. When you write that paragraph about your vacation home to Hawaii. Detailing all the fun you had. And isn’t it fortunate that you got to come for three weeks? How the highlight was spending time with family and friends who are so dear… Maybe you might word it in a way so those of us that you did not call while you were here don’t go “Err?”
Yeah, yeah, I know. I’m probably going to hell for this.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
I really looked for a Christmas song video, but none seemed to fit the mood. Since this is more than a Christmas story, but a story about family, I liked the feel of this song. My husband and I have 9 ethnicities between the two of us, and the only one we have in common is Irish. There's no actual video in this though, you can play it (or not) while you read.
Well, on to a Christmas Story.
The year we bought our home, my daughter was four and my son was one. That first Christmas Eve my husband had to work and I was home alone with the children. The baby went to sleep early, so my daughter and I had some special one on one time. On the second floor, outside our master bedroom, was a lanai (balcony) that we have since enclosed. That year my daughter and I sat on the dark lanai, looking out at the stars and sipping hot chocolate. She tingled with joy and excitement and her energy was infectious. Suddenly, she looked in the sky and said, “Mama LOOK! It’s Rudolf. I can see his red nose.”
As I cast my eyes upward, a saw a tiny red dot of light in the night sky. For a brief second that felt like an eternity, I would not have been surprised to see Santa, sleigh, reindeers, and all, come ripping past my house with a “ho, ho, ho!” It was only a moment later that I realized the red dot was a light on the top of a tower. But that did not change my moment. For the first time in over 25 years I experienced that sense of magic and wonder and believing in miracles. I was overcome with the feelings of an innocent child who believes and for a brief moment, I was the child I had been. I realized why adults like to be around children at Christmas. They help us become innocent and see the magic.
When my husband got home from work we took immense pleasure playing Santa together. Although we had bought a home, we had no money left over for furniture and the first two years the entire downstairs was like a gigantic playroom. A TV. A kids’ futon couch. Two bar stools and a high chair. For Christmas, we were giving our son one of those plastic basketball hoops (his second word was B-ball) and we played one on one rounds while we filled the stockings. I believe alcohol might have been involved, probably. We had our fun. The next morning, after opening maybe two presents, daughter felt sick and wanted to lie down. She had a 24 hour stomach flu bug. I spent the rest of the day cleaning up vomit and getting her to the toilet. Running soda crackers and 7-up upstairs. A few hours later the 18th month old baby boy got sick. The presents never got opened. My husband went off to work and when he got home at midnight he found me praying to the porcelain god. About two hours later it hit him too. The next morning, the day after Christmas, my husband and I slept in a little bit – like probably 7 or 8, and when we woke up and came downstairs, we found two toddlers in a sea of wrapping paper. They had woken up, came downstairs, and finished Christmas without us. They had moved through the dining and living rooms as the wrapping paper storm took over. I can’t believe I don’t have pictures of this. We were so wiped out from having the flu all night that we just let it be. We sipped tea on the couch and shook our heads at the mess and eventually combed through it to make sure no small present got thrown away.
My husband and I have tried to give our children the childhoods we wished we had. Nothing that special there. That is what most parents do. We may falter, but I believe that most of us have the best of intentions. Christmas is a bit of a balancing act. The gift giving so commercialized and trying to enjoy the gift of giving to your kids without turning them into greedy little grabbers.
We have created our own Christmas rituals. Christmas cookie baking and delivery to neighbors and friends. Candlelit services on Christmas Eve. Special meals. There were our first five years here, when my husband’s grandmother lived with us. She had so much joy in seeing her great grandchildren on Christmas morning.
Oh yeah. This is my 100th post. Random grateful Christmas list for my 100th post.
52 Christmases gifted with life (thank-you mom and dad)
23 Christmases with my husband (19 of them married)
19 Christmases being parents
3 Christmases as a cancer survivor
2 kinds of friends now, friends in the flesh and my new blog-world friends
Monday, December 22, 2008
Commenting in her thread got me to thinking. At 51, I’m fairly far removed from the childhood of my past. We moved around a lot. I grew up in the LA area where my dad was a film editor and my mom was a housewife. They couldn’t decide what suburb or lifestyle they were seeking. I think they both had a bit of the grass always being greener somewhere else. In retrospect, I think they were looking for a place where they would be satisfied with their life and marriage and with each other. It never happened, but it meant that I was given a vagabond spirit.
Until I was ten, we lived in the San Fernando Valley. Track homes. Streets that ran perpendicular. A lot like Wonder Years or The Brady Bunch in physicality, not so much in organic realness. My aunt lived within a few blocks and my paternal grandmother lived a few miles away. The Christmases here are the ones I remember with wonder and magic. There was a Santa in Panorama City where they had “reindeer,” and I remember asking over and over why Rudolf’s nose was not the red I had expected. I remember going to get the Christmas tree being a big event and walking with my eyes closed through the rows and taking big deep breaths of the pine smell. I remember going to my grandmother’s and picking up Christmas presents that were wrapped beautifully with homemade bows courtesy of my aunt. On Christmas Eve we would be allowed one present each to open and my little sister and I would shake, rattle, and roll those gifts to try and tweak out one with a toy. There’s not much to do with a dressy blouse for the rest of the night, but sometimes that was just what you got. My dad would make Tom and Jerry’s (we were not a big eggnog family) and we had special cups with Tom and Jerry engraved in gold lettering at a diagonal across the front. I remember my little sister and me scrambling out of bed as soon as my mom left the room and looking out the window hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh. I remember truly believing in magic.
When the park was imminent domained by the state, we moved to Oxnard. When I was a sophomore we moved to the Conejo Valley. I don’t remember much from these Christmases either.
My parents finally separated at the beginning of my senior year. Their divorce was so bitter and so embattled that they actually appealed it all the way to the California Supreme Court. The following Christmases were only peaceful when I was with my grandmother, usually on Christmas Eve. Christmas day was spent dutifully with my mother who would drink herself into a temper and make biting passive aggressive comments at my sister and me.
When I moved to Hawaii the summer I was 24 years old, I didn’t go home for Christmas. I was working in a restaurant/nightclub and couldn’t get off. I went out to dinner with my friend that I moved here with, then pulled a 10-2 cocktail shift. It was such a relief to not have drama on my Christmas. I have never been back for Christmas since.
Tomorrow. Christmas Present. It’s a happy story. Really.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Play Secret Santa and write about a blog you enjoy.
So I sent a list of blogs to Sprite’s Keeper, received my assignment, and am tickled pink to be Secret Santa blogger of a really special blogger.
Da da da DA! Without further ado, I present a little tale of one of my favorite blogs:
Of thistles and maple leaves.
I ran into thistle in my first ventures out into the comment world. I think it was this post. Thistle lives in British Columbia and these shots of the trail where she walks her dog stopped me in my tracks with a sharp intake of breath. OHHH! Pretty. Gorgeous. Absolutely stunning. The icing on the photographic stunningness was the inner monologue that went along with the pictures. One because it was a Wordless Wednesday (I loved that she could not help but narrate the pics). Two, because she had to let the internet world know that her dog’s penis really wasn’t as big as it appeared in the photograph.
So, I left a comment and I let thistle know how much I enjoyed the photos of her world. She came and checked out this blog post and left this sassy comment, “OMG...is that...a palm tree at your feet? I will trade you both the woods AND the river for that view. Plus the Littleman. Well, maybe not the Littleman, maybe his mom...the Pipsqueak. She'll keep the beastie entertained for you...”
Thistle has several smooth terriers. And yeah. She offered to send me one for my ocean view. Thistle has a wicked sense of humor and is about the best I have ever seen at using the line out to mask/not mask her gift of sarcasm.
Like me, thistle is a horse and dog person. She just knows a lot more about them than I do.
Thistle’s insatiable intellectual curiosity, combined with her sarcastic sense of humor, makes her blog diverse and always a fun place to visit.
During our American elections and tabloid media frenzy, thistle diverted her readers by a series of posts on Canada’s elections. She managed to inform us and keep it really interesting. It had quite the calming effect.
She ran a series of hilarious pictures (try here or here or here) of dogs in costumes pre-Halloween. Then on Halloween itself, gave us a history lesson on the origins of Halloween.
She travels the internet and brings back fun and games, like a test to how old one's brain is. Or if one is more conservative or liberal in one’s politics.
She works in mental health and has a heart of pure gold to balance off her sassy wit. She volunteers for Special Olympics and is the creator of The Helping Hands Project.
What’s not to like?
Last time I heard from thistle, she was busy helping her dad fix his heater and shoveling snow.
So, here’s some balmy weather. I set up a chair for thistle. She might let some of you borrow it too.
And some funny dogs.
Merry Christmas from your Secret Santa.
Friday, December 19, 2008
When my children were young, I loved it when their preschool and elementary teachers made ornaments with their pictures on them. These ornaments are like having our family's Christmas history dangling nostalgically from the branches.
This angel is from my own baby days. My sisters and I each had one and once our tree was up, my sisters and I would carefully place our angels, each vying for the most regal perch for these treasures. That makes this worn, messy-haired little angel somewhere close to 50 years old.
Today is my last day of work and then I go on Winter break. I hope to do another post on the Helping Hands project before Christmas.
For a thoughtful and sobering Christmas video, checkout Shaunna's post.
For more Friday Fotos, visit Candid Carrie's.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Two bloggers that really snapped me back into reality were Words of Wisdom from a Smart Mouthed Broad and My Life Interrupted. These two posts about helping others during the holiday season put things back into perspective for me in a big way.
I could not leave such a whiney post up for the weekend, so before I go off to tackle the tree, the décor, the gift making, the gift wrapping… OK I’m going to stop writing about it before I get my migraine back. But before I go off, I would like to share something that totally made my week.
In my teacher mailbox I received a “Thanks” booklet. One of the 11th grade math teachers (yes. Math. How cool is that?) had his students write thank-you notes to a few teachers they had in their 9th or 10th grade years. The math teacher then consolidated these notes into booklets by teacher, put a cover on them, and slipped them into our mailboxes. Here’s a few.
The All-Star It’s Kind of Like Bragging, but WTF, These Made My Decade Notes
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for being the best English teacher I’ve ever had. You sparked my interest in books and helped me improve my writing. I will continue to improve my writing skills because of your influence.
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for a great year. The books you chose taught me a lot and I’ve never learned more in an English class. You were a great teacher.
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for encouraging me to do my best, and supporting me. It really helped push me to become a better writer.
The Sweetest, Quietest Kid, Who I had No Idea Liked My Class Note
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for passing me my sophomore year. I have some fun memories of your class, like when we did the skit.
The Back-Handed Compliment that Makes Me Smile Each and Every Time I read them Notes
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for being one of the coolest teachers. You were always trying to act funny. Sometimes you were.
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for teaching me about literature that I found putrid at first glance, because afterwards I took a liking to those books.
The I Absolutely Loved Teaching this Kid Because He Always Tried His Best Note
Dear Ms Pseudo,
Thank-you for all the teaching you have done for me in english. Wished you could of been my english teacher this year to. Hope you have a good Thanks Giving.
Oh. Anyone who misread me yesterday and thought my husband had left me (yeah, my writing must have needed some tuning up on that post), what I tried to say was that he turned a quick run to Wal-Mart for a tree stand into a 3 hour shopping trip with Son and I feel asleep before they got back.
Friday, December 12, 2008
I was seriously trying to go with the flow, be happy with what I could get done. Let go of what I couldn’t get to until the next day.
I was dealing with the frantic pace of work and the week before finals.
With two parent meetings this week when I needed to be tutoring students. Or grading. Or Christmas shopping. Or Christmas a million other things.
My daughter’s frantic pace of finishing up 17 credits at UH and opening week of the play she is in. And she started a new job.
Did I mention she commutes 44 miles round trip each day to school?
Of juggling cars.
So I was more than a little bummed when I woke up at 1 AM Monday night with a migraine.
And it didn’t respond to the Imitrex by 4 AM so I had to take another.
Then, the headache came back in the middle of the night on Tuesday.
I took my last Imitrex. I can’t refill my prescription until the 15th because our insurance will only pay for one refill every 27 days. Even though my internist has written them two letters saying my chronic migraine syndrome acts up on a more regular basis than the amount of pills they are willing to supply.
I could pay $130. But it’s Christmas. Things are tight. Tuition is due. So I dealt with it for a day without migraine meds.
The headache went away yesterday. Yea.
So we got the Christmas boxes down and the tree down. Yeah, I know. We have a fake tree. But I tried the real tree over here, and what with the tropical weather, it dies faster than Christmas shopping days fly past. By Christmas morning it would look like a giant matchstick ready to spontaneously combust.
So, like I was saying, we got the Christmas stuff down last night. Which surprised me because my husband was in a foul mood. The night before, my daughter got a flat tire on her way home.
At 11 at night.
Afraid to stop? Unwilling? She drove my car two miles on a flat tire. So, my husband spent the day at the tire center at Sears. The warranty did not cover $150 for the alignment.
So, like I was saying, we got the Christmas stuff down last night.
Then, the 15 year old tree stand broke. My husband went out to get a new one and decided to kill 1,000 birds with one stone and never got back.
This morning, there is an artificial tree in three parts on the floor.
There are eight boxes hanging out with the tree parts. They are having a party.
I’m supposed to be making a DVD that will serve as a Christmas present for many a peoples.
But our computer that we bought last summer does not have a movie making software program, so I am supposed to be researching what to buy. I was supposed to do that last month.
Anyone out there know of a good editing program that can make videos and slideshows on a PC? My daughter suggested Vegas?
Appreciating all advice as the way things are going, Christmas is going to occur at our home around January 5th.
Oh, and while I was down for the count, two of my measly 12 followers dropped me. It's a tough world out here too apparently.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
I've thoroughly enjoyed reading posts on the Helping Hands Project. There's a lot of good will going on out there. Two posts that really touched my heart and inspired me were Mama Dawg's and Pam's over at The McEwan's. Go check them out. It will give you that warm fuzzy feeling.
I always want to give to Toys for Tots, but their deadline sometimes comes up before I can go shopping. This year, I mailed in a contribution. They also have a website.
Thanksgiving and Living: The Days, Final Chapter (Really)
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thanksgiving dinner buffet line.
The teen boys have all taken up guitar this year. There were some interesting songs they made up, if you listened carefully... OK, not so much this one, but I didn't want to use a video with them too recognizable. Not sure if their moms would want them smack dab on the internet.
Then, awhile I posted a picture of the crabs. Each night we take the younger ones for a walk on the beach. This year, there was no moon, so the stars were out in all their glory. The kids collect crabs with flashlights while the moms talk story and follow along behind. The teens nowadays ditch us and practice testing the boundaries. Only a few years ago they were the ones thrilled by the crab catching and the crab races.
And now................I bring you the crab race:
For more Friday Fotos, click here.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
I Just Want to be a MACHO MAN. Macho, macho man. Come on, put a little wiggle in it before you start reading....
Wasn’t I surprised the other day when I noticed what at first looked like paper, but soon became something immediately recognizable. As NOT money. Square foil packet. Serrated edges. When I reached in and grabbed it, there was the familiarity of the circular edge lurking beneath the packaging.
My kids, daughter 19, son, 16 were sitting at the kitchen counter eating. I came out of the laundry room and waved the singular condom package in the air.
Lookie what I just found in the dryer. Which one of you does this belong to?
Daughter raises an eyebrow at son while addressing me.
Yeah. I’ve never had a boyfriend, I haven’t been on a date yet. But I am having sex. With random guys. I meant to tell you.
At least her sarcasm is up to par.
As far as I know, my son hadn’t started dating yet either.
Son, are you seeing girls and we don’t know about it? Did your dad have a talk with you about waiting and not have sex with hoochie girls that give it up to boys they hardly know?
That’s not mine. It’s dad’s.
At the risk of damaging you permanently by talking about your parents’ sex lives, I need to tell you that your dad doesn’t need condoms as chemotherapy rendered me post menopausal.
I’m not sure, but I think there was a smirk tugging at the edge of my daughter’s mouth as she tried not to show how much pleasure she was getting from her brother’s predicament.
It’s dad’s. It has to be. It's not mine.
I tilt my head to the side and narrow my eyes at him.
He looks me dead in the eye and says, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it.
OK. But tonight, when your dad gets home. And I have to ask him who he is having sex that is not his wife, I’ll be sure to tell him it was you that said it HAD to be his.
As I move the next load of laundry from the washer to the dryer, I hear heated whispering.
Upstairs, while I am folding laundry, son walks in.
You know, I left some of my clothes over at X’s house and he was wearing them. He must have left that in the pocket of one of my shorts. I threw everything he's been wearing straight into the laundry. DON’T SAY ANTHING TO HIM NEXT TIME YOU SEE HIM.
My kids think because I work with 150 teenagers for a living I am prone to bossing around and nosing around any old teen that comes my way. That’s not ALWAYS true.
Later, when husband gets home, I tell him the whole story. I thought he’d be a little more upset about son throwing him under the bus, but instead he was laughing his ass off. He calls son in the room.
That your hopeful condom?
Your field of dreams?
Be careful, those things have an expiration date you know.
Did you make sure you got the kiddie start up set?
And I thought I was the one that damaged our kids.
The preceding man story was inspired by two magnificent, manly awards that have come this way from two terrific dads who blog. Goodfather and Captain Dumbass. They have awesome blogs and have appropriately been awarded with many prestigious bloggie bling. It came to their attention that most of these awards tended to be on the girly side. With savvy technie skills, they designed and launched these wonderful badges:
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
1. Choose some way to give back.
2. Tell us all about it; post it on your blog. Then come back and pick up your award. Choose one badge or the other, or both if you’re really in the spirit. And don’t forget to link back to thistles helping hands page so we can follow what everyone is doing. And if you’re doing something already, pick up your badge right this minute!
3. Challenge all visitors to your site to do the same. Link back to the blog where you received the idea. And let’s see where this can go; let’s create a tsunami of good will and good deeds.
“And if you are in need of some inspiration as to what you can do….this post at Only a Movie should provide it. Erin is way ahead of the rest of us and we should all follow her lead.” Thistle
I’m going to start the ball rolling here by posting about something I do already. In my sidebar you will see a badge for Women for Women International. It is an organization dedicated to helping women survivors of war rebuild their lives.
Women for Women International mobilizes women to change their lives through a holistic approach that addresses the unique needs of women in conflict and post-conflict environments.
We begin by working with women who may have lost everything in conflict and often have nowhere else to turn. Participation in our one-year program launches women on a journey from victim to survivor to active citizen.
When you join this organization, you select a country (I selected the Republic of Congo) and Women for Women matches you up with a woman in need. For thirty dollars a month, a woman receives help with basic utilities as well as an education.
If you are looking for a way to give back, a wonderful idea of giving to cancer victims can be found over at Meaghan at I Kicked Cancer’s Ass.
For more inspiration, read this article about giving back.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
On balance: taking everything into consideration
Off balance: in danger of falling
I took some time off from the virtual world. I was beginning to free fall into that space where the new thing you are enjoying is taking more than its fair share of life. How convenient that it was time for the ritualistic Thanksgiving camping on the North Shore at Malaekahana with 30-45 people. Family friends. We go camping every June and Thanksgiving. Our family friends have been going for 11 or 12 years. Our family joined about 6 or 7 years ago. During the dark years we did not make the time. Now, I can’t imagine what I was thinking or how tired I must have been to miss out on this event. Where time stands still and people connect, children run free, board games are played, and marshmallows are roasted and served up on graham crackers with chocolate.
I pace myself to get there. Tuesday afternoon, after a full day of work, it was hard to imagine being ready to go. Gear out from the rafters and packed. Groceries bought. Food prepared. Most of the families were heading out Wednesday afternoon, but when I got home from work at 4 PM on Wednesday, still needing to prepare my share of the meals, that seemed impossible. Sixteen year old son was like a two year old colt wanting to run his first race. He’d actually gotten all the gear down and ready. So I sent him up on his own with the prerequisite that he set up both tents, blow up the air mattresses, and unpack everything. He took the bit in his mouth and charged ahead. Good for him, good for us. Setting up the tents and blowing up the air mattresses isn’t my fave part.
So I got to prepare food in a quiet home, with my music playing, candle light, and no sense of urgency.
The following morning, we sent daughter up as she could only spend the day because she had rehearsals all weekend and therefore volunteered to stay home with the two dogs. She flew the coop about 8:30 AM.
Husband and I couldn’t leave until after 12 because of Border Collie. At 1 ½ he’s not the age or type of dog that can be kenneled for 10 hours. So we had the morning to ourselves.
Husband burned a CD for the drive up. He used to be completely techno illiterate, but when the kids refused to burn him any more mixed CD’s, he suddenly became the house pro at I-tunes.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Don't Worry it's Only a Movie had a Thanksgiving post that will touch your heart this holiday weekend. Enjoy.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
But I digress. The guy with the night terrors last week. That’s what I meant to use as my jumping board.
The night terrors reminded me of growing up with my younger sister. She had them and we shared a room together all the way until my older sister left home at seventeen. So I was thirteen and my younger sister was eleven when we first got our own rooms. Up until then, I was subjected to my sister’s weird, vivid, surreal, and sometimes terrifying dream landscape.
When we lived in the Valley, she used to wake up EVERY SINGLE MORNING at 6:30 AM screaming bloody murder. And even though it happened every day, my poor mom would come rushing into the room in a panic attack, just in case some serial killer had actually broken into our house and was butchering her girls. Back then my sister’s dream was that it was raining blood. For a few minutes after my mom came in the room and tried to hush her and console her, my sister would scream about the blood and how it covered everything in the room. The fact that I eventually got used to this shows how resilient kids can be.
Her next frequent flyer was trolls. Gnomes. Little people. Our twin beds were lined up parallel, with just a couple feet between us. She’d wake me up in the middle of the night and tell me to make the little trolls down by her feet go away. That they were keeping her awake with their talking. This dream kind of freaked me out, because my sister was and always has been someone with a strong sixth sense. I wasn’t sure if it WAS just a dream, or she saw something I didn’t. But, according to her, they took off when I scolded them to, so I took this as a sign that if they were real they were more scared of me than I was of them.
As we got older, her nightmares turned from fear based to anger and frustration.
So one day in the middle of summer while we were visiting our grandmother, Little Sis falls into a nap on the couch. Now, I was all about visits to Granny’s house. We had been going there for whole weeks during the summer and weekends during the school year our whole life. Granny lived with our uncle, my dad’s older brother, and I loved visiting. They would put a card table up in the living room and we would play card games and board games for hours. I loved that stuff. I loved the safety of their love and the emotional safety in their home. I loved when my granny taught me to knit and crochet and when my uncle taught me how to use C-clamps, saws, hammers, and drills in his workshop. I loved the regularity of their days and their meals and their rituals. It did not change as I became a teenager; I still loved hanging out with my grandma and my uncle.
It was the early 1970 or '71 and when we were not at Granny and uncles, well, we were living quite different lives with our parents and with our friends. But no matter how much shit we were giving our parents, we were always our best selves at granny’s.
So, I’m sitting at the card table in the late afternoon playing canasta with my grandma and my sister is asleep on the couch. About four feet away from us. I think she was about 12 or 13 and I was about 14 or 15. All of a sudden she starts groaning and thrashing slightly. I knew not to trust what might come next. But instead of getting up, walking over, and waking her, I froze. I was the proverbial deer in the headlights. I looked down at my hand of cards and tried to concentrate on my next move. I held my breath and prayed my sis would settle back down to sleep.
As she half rose up, like a vampire-like a half dead corpse, she screamed at the top of her lungs,
Fuck you! You god damned prick asshole son of a bitch! FUCK YOU. Fuck you. Fuuuuuuck. fuck you.............................fuck.
She snored, sighed, and turned over. She fell back asleep.
My granny, she never looked up from her hand of cards. As she played her next card, she casually said, I had no idea Little Sis had started to use language like that. Then she told me not to say anything or tease my sister after she woke up because Granny didn’t want Little Sis to be embarrassed.
I miss my granny still.
Saturday, November 22, 2008
When I was eleven my whole world changed. That was the summer we talked my Dad into moving full time to the mobile home park in Malibu where we had our summer and weekend home. A good twenty miles from the glamorous homes of the rich and the stars it was nestled all by itself on a curve of the Pacific Coast Highway. And it saved me the more generic fate of being a girl from the Valley.
At first I couldn’t believe that our plan, hatched in the hazy afternoons of late 60s beachdom, had worked. Driving from Granada Hills to Hollywood, where my dad was a film editor, hadn’t been a short jaunt, but it was mostly freeway. However, from Big Sycamore he would have to take PCH south, traffic lights and all, and then travel through Santa Monica and up to work for a total of 40 miles - back in the day when that kind of commuting was pretty rare. My mom, my two sisters, and I thought we would have a bigger task of convincing him, but he went along right away.
The single wide weekend trailer was traded in for a double wide mobile home and we became full time Surf and Sand residents. Moving to the beach full time was an adventurer’s dream for me at eleven. Most of the residents were part timers and only came down on weekends during the school year. During the school week the park was a deserted ghost land, with only a handful of children and preteens to lay claim to the territory. Every path, every hang out, every trail and every tree was ours for the taking. We let ourselves into the unlocked trailers for tea parties. We felt like we OWNED it all.
I remember my mom registering me in my new school. The Surf and Sand was on the Ventura County side of Malibu, so our school district was Oxnard. My 6th grade teacher’s name was Miss Cearasolo. Seeing her name on my registration slip sent me into anxiety attacks that I kept buried deep. I was a shy child, and the week before school started I lived in mortal fear of saying her name aloud in class and getting it wrong. I was sure the kids would laugh at me and I would never recover.
The best part of my new school was traveling there and back. We would stand on the mountain side of PCH in the early morning fog and a rickety old yellow school bus, the kind with a long hood and short body, would come clunking along and pick us up off the road like miniature hitchhikers. The bus ride would wind up the rest of the Pacific Coast Highway and then through vast agricultural fields. Sometimes the fog was so thick in the mornings it was like a twilight zone ride through the clouds. Most of the other kids on the bus were Mexicans, sons and daughter of immigrant farm workers. My first boyfriend was Daniel. I wore his Saint Christopher and held hands with him on the back of the bus. My mother, the daughter of a mid-west dentist, and the product of private prep schools, found out that Daniel was Mexican and made me give him back his necklace. I never told him the things that she said about him and his family.
Fall is the best season to live at the beach. The elements seem to jump out at you. Riding home from school I would sit on the right hand side of the bus where if I was to leap from the window I might have cleared the rocks and landed with a splash into the ocean. Watching the sunlight dance on the ocean’s surface like a swarm of dazzling sea fairies hypnotized me and encouraged my habit of daydreaming. One day a young classmate sat down beside me and with a mirror attached to the top of his shoe, gazed up at my panties for a bit of time. Until my friend Sarah saw him and punched his arm. I might never have noticed myself.
The school bus let us off in front of a bait store, where every day we stopped for bubble gum and candy bars. Candy bars cost a dime back then, and with my quarter I would buy two Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and a Big Mouth bubblegum. The bait store was owned by two sisters, each weighing at least 300 pounds. A recurring intellectual debate among my friends and I, was a discussion on how the two sisters could fit at the same time in the small space behind the counter. One of the sisters was married to a quiet, skinny man and they had a little baby boy. He slept in a wicker laundry basket under the candy counter. I remember they would put a drop of beer in his bottle to keep him sleeping soundly while they ran their business. My mom said that he was born an alcoholic, that he’d inherited it while in the womb.
Outside the bait store were salt water tanks the size of big jacuzzis, with clear plastic walls you could look through. They were filled with live fish, lobsters, crabs, even baby sand sharks. Also outside and next to the the mini sea pools was a big gas grill. Perched on the grill were two giant vats of boiling salted water. On Sunday afternoons my dad would buy crabs or lobsters for dinner. I remember the sound the lobsters made when thrown into the giant vats. A high pitched whine that would totally freak me out. My dad and the skinny bait store owner laughed at me and said it wasn’t the lobsters screaming, just the sound of their shells. I wasn’t convinced; I conjured a vision of my future karma. A clear picture of being boiled to death while laughing-eyed lobsters looked on.
Across the highway was Big Sycamore State Park. Not just a campground, but miles upon miles of trails through the Santa Monica Mountains. On weekends my friends and I would spend all day in the hills and the canyons. Some days we’d play pioneer in the old abandoned ranch about half a mile into the canyon. Right past the ranch was a rusty old gate, which we considered the turning point. A mile further down the canyon narrowed, and the area was appropriately called Dracula’s Forest. Dark and spooky, I took the name seriously. My preference was to hike the mountains’ crests and peaks, which lifted me into the sky and gave me a heavenly view of my world.
On weekdays, when there was only Sarah and I, and Sarah (being two years older and more inclined to just hang out and listen to records) didn’t want to go adventuring, I went by myself. Hiking around a deserted campground. Eleven. Times were different. I remember my mom making me take our poodle, Waldo, when I went by myself, as though he’d protect me from weirdos and rapists. It is from my mom that I got my smidgen of Native blood. I think she understood that Indians should be accompanied by wolves and not poodles. But my father said that one dog was enough.
When I was eleven my whole world changed. That was the year my father started coming home late from work. He grew out his crew cut, grew a beard, bought a silver Camero, and sped out like a bullet each day down to Hollyweird. My mother’s best friends became Coors and Crown Russe. Bitter and angry and taking it out on her daughters, we learned to stay away from home as much as possible. My sisters came of age in open rebellion.
But I spent my time by the sand and the sea; I climbed the peaks and attempted to lift myself into the stars.
When I was eleven, I made a world on my own.
Friday, November 21, 2008
Ah, sweet pose.
Look Mommie! I'm a clown!
Police girl in Pirates
After the show with a kalabash cousin.
Isn't it strange how one can so miss the days when the children were little? How when you think back, and see the pictures, these memories are so cherished? Unfortunately, during my daughter's elementary days, these highlights were surrounded by the stress of two jobs and graduate classes. I worked half day as a teacher and four nights a week waitressing in an upscale restaurant where the money was so good it kept me from making the change to a full time teacher's salary for several years. I needed the M.Ed. to increase my salary enough to quit the upscale restaurant.
So I worked from 7:45 to 11 everyday in a school. And then four nights a week at the restaurant. I went to graduate classes two nights a week for two and a half years. The two nights I had off, I took my daughter to dance classes. When my daughter was eight and my son was five, he started sports. The picture of her in Pirates of Penzance? I would get off work at Waianae High School, drive to my kids school 30 minutes away, drop my son off at baseball practice, drive my daughter and a carpool kid to Kaimuki High School (30-45 minutes), then drive back in traffic to pick my son up from practice. Luckily, the carpool kid's mom brought daughter home from town. Meanwhile, my husband was working two jobs and taking care of his grandma who moved in with us when we bought our home. She was 85, and two years later started having mini strokes so she needed someone to be home with her. We took turns, but he was her favorite.
But none of this comes to mind when I see the pictures from those days. I only remember the joy. My heart fills with a poignant joy and spills over when I think of those days and the little ones my children used to be. Today, my daughter is a wonderful young woman who is taking 17 college credits, is in a play with rehearsals at night more often than not (Peter Pan is opening soon with her as a pirate) and works weekends. She's great company with a wicked sense of humor.
And even though I miss my baby girl, I am fiercely enjoying the woman she is becoming. Next Friday I'll get to those recent show pictures.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
When I posted about the project previously, McEwans asked in the comment thread if I could share some of the students’ stories. Here's a sampling of their stories and the trends...
Most of the students give a lot of credit to their parents for instilling values, morals, principles and beliefs. Family was overwhelmingly their most credited influence. A lot of students mentioned chores and being a participating member of their home with a needed role as an important aspect of who they are and how they fit in. Especially students who have to help with younger siblings in the afternoons until parents come home from work.
Friends and peer relationships, of course, figure prominently into their middle and high school years. They are greatly influenced by their peer relationships. It was inspiring to read how some students, upon realizing they had chosen friends with dissimilar values, were brave enough to go and make new friends.
Most of the students who credited God, religious beliefs, and church involvement felt it helped them resist negative peer and societal influences. For these students religion has been a positive experience that has helped mature them with empathy and mindfulness. Others felt disconnected and disappointed from their experiences with organized religions. Some students who go to more zealous and narrowly pedantic churches seemed less empathetic and more judgmental towards others.
The negative factor that shaped their lives and which was cited most often was divorce. This was mostly true when the divorce was bitter or a parent became absent. One student revealed the difficulty of dealing with feelings of jealousy towards friends and cousins who had a father present in their lives.
Students who are fully engaged in school and have engaging exeriences are usually involved in a program outside of core subjects. Band, music, art, sports, dance, student government, extracurricular clubs were all cited as major factors in shaping them and influencing them positively. These factors are the reasons (along with their friends) that they love coming to school. (So please keep out the shout to not cut these programs)
They value their education more than they admit to on a day to day basis.
Those who have gone through tough times in their young years (domestic violence, parental drug abuse, abandonment) could break your heart not only by their resilience, but also by their forgiveness and unconditional love.
Specifically, some highlights and quotes:
My grandfather was a huge influence. He took me fishing and to the beach and spent a lot of time teaching me things from his life. I am proud of him because he served our country in WWII.
A poem of growing up in domestic violence titled “When My Blue Skies Turned Grey”
Another poem a student wrote about her current relationship with her parents includes these two lines:
I hate how we can’t talk like we used to
There are so many things that I want to tell you
Or this insight from an essay, Growing up an only child, I got sunburned from the spotlight that my parents always shined on me.
Another student wrote that her jealousy of her little sister’s birth when she was five and the consequences of being pushed out of her parents spotlight were the factors that drove her to seek excellence in academics (and regain her parents’ attention).
I loved the idealism of some of the students. One wants to become a pharmacist. But she did not write about making her own personal fortune in the pharmaceutical business. Instead she shared how she would like to start a program to bring much needed medications and vaccines to third world countries.
One student’s poem describes her feelings when she passes the beach parks with the tent cities of the homeless:
Tides of grief rolled into my heart
And left my body quaking
My comfort burst by Indigence’s dart
A dream was birthed, a goal set
To aid families down on their luck
To cleanse the next generation of our regrets.
Another student wrote his poem about how he used sleep as therapy to get him through the angst of middle school. A few lines of a six stanza poem:
What wonders it brings
to shut my eyes closed
and put down all the walls,
and weapons and soldiers
that keep me safe from
the biting and gnashing of bitter teeth
and bothersome, mindless chatter of the world.
Please leave me for awhile
And I will reach you across the wide oceans of my mind
Through the colossal mountains of thought
Beneath the clouded sky of reflection
And speak with you
In the green fields of sleep.
Or a poem about a parent who made some bad choices that includes these lines:
When your hero falls from grace
All fairy tales are uncovered
When your hero falls from grace, so do the stars
And your perception of tomorrow.
Some students prefaced their essays with a favorite quote:
“Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor” Into the Woods
“Wars and elections are both too big and too small to matter in the long run. The daily work that goes on, it adds up.” Barbara Kingsolver
“Life is a gift; however, living life with values and principles returns the favor.” Anonymous
“Life is not about finding yourself. It is about creating yourself.” Anonymous
I love my job.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I’d like to recommend a stopover at What Kate Did Next. She’s a writer, a mom, a wife to a pilot, and she lives in London. How cool is all that? Her posts are thoughtful, creative, and usually multimedia. Her post this weekend combined a music video of Crowded House, a trailer from the movie The Notebook, a series of photographs featuring men in tears (by artist Sam Taylor Wood) and it is all linked thematically to creating emotion for characters when writing fiction. Yeah. Great blog to visit before writing as it is always inspiring.
My sister, Shaunna, did a Veteran’s Day post that wove in the story of our maternal grandmother, a model and flapper in the 20’s. Has my all time favorite picture of our grandma. You will have a hard time believing she was a grandma from the picture of her in her twenties.
Don’t Worry it’s Only a Movie featured the Keith Olbermann video that is a must see. I’d post about how I feel about Proposition 8 passing, but Keith says it better.
Kristan Hoffman is announcing a contest she will be having later this week to celebrate her birthday. Another young woman going at writing full time, I especially like her posts featuring studies she reads on famous authors and their writing ways. Make sure to wish her a happy birthday this week.
The following video is for those who wondered what “bombing hills” was.
Notice the motorcycle helmets...
And for those who wonder how I survive my son’s activities, the following is a video clip I swiped from my daughter’s Facebook page. The closest she comes to danger is a dance number at the edge of the stage. One of her favorite things in the world is when I will sit and watch an old musical with her. This clip can’t help but put a smile on your face.
My daughter is like a modern day Julie Andrews. She lives for this stuff
I think the Universe has a wicked sense of humor.