Monday, December 31, 2007

Date with husband, frustrating to be a parent

Tonight my husband and I had a dream date-- for me it's going to see a movie, then going to a book store. Sheer bliss. We saw National Treasure with Nicholas Cage who I think is a stallion but I don't know why-- he is almost scary looking. We ate out and we just wandered around the store. I was going to buy my childrens' god mother a thank you note then decided to buy her the thank you notes! And we got their godfather a cool travel mug.

I came home to my husband having bought me a Far Side anthology and a Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I sat on the bed not knowing which to read first but the Far Side won.

My eldest is driving me crazy. She has various complicated situations and calls me, usually at 11pm or so, frustrated and needing to talk. If I give her advice she doesn't use it. If I don't, she thinks I am not validating her. Very frustrating.

My cold is lingering and my ears are running. I have NEVER had my ears run. They seemed to clear up which was good, but tonight they got stuffy again. The cough is getting better, then it gets worse. My daughter just went to a birthday party and said that several were not there because of this illness. It is going around.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Maybe it's not confusing. . .

Last week I spoke to a volunteer coordinator about things I'd like to do. I told her that I was getting a minor in art and she told me to send her an e-mail. She cc'd me as she sent it out several places and today I met with a cancer specialist who is coordinating art with his center. I told him of the directions I have been going in and he said, "Yes. Do all of them! Do not limit yourself. All these ideas lead to here."

It was amazing. I met his art coordinator who is a dynamic lady who explained to me that they need volunteers to facilitate art. I can also get paid but for now I want to just work along side her.

I was floored to say the least. I may be able to do my writing internship with them later. It is shocking to see how much is needed and how what I have been trying to decide on can all be wrapped up into a job later.

I am not writing this very well-- I am excited.

Later-- I'm mad. I found some paperwork from 16 years ago. I'd applied to Lesley College to get into art therapy. I let my parents and brother talk me out of it-- they laughed at me. I changed my major and everything (I changed majors a lot) and then got pregnant with dd3 between marriages. I remember the whole period. They complained about everything I wanted to do! They told me what a fucked up life I had when I was pregnant with dd3-- yet I kept going.

Anyway, I realize that I am getting back on track. I can't do an art therapy master's degree because I cannot uproot my family for two years. My husband did say that the program that I am looking at for healing arts (you have residencies for ten days each semester) is quite do-able and with his job being like it is, we can do it.

Here I am, close to doing what I loved then. Older, hopefully wiser with nine kids. Who'd have believed how much I could have done before getting back to it?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I'm sitting on a rock at a fork in the River of Life

Today my husband took the kids and himself to his sisters. I am chilling out. I woke up after keeping him up most of the night with my coughing. He gave me some cold medicine and a drink with alcohol and handed me a sleeping pill. I needed it. I feel much better.

I am contemplative.

There are three things that I can see myself doing as a career.
  1. Writing grants for a hospital or any organization (I can keep up with my English degree and stop here if I want. I love college and cannot stop. I am an academic.)
  2. Massage therapy because I love it (I need massage training which is expensive and my husband needs to replace his car as it's been totaled out with 250,000 miles and everything has been breaking. I have some money left over but I need to put it into my husband's car more than me.)
  3. Art therapy (requires a master's degree and I get to not get out of art. I have a college chosen.)
My husband called me up and he is my #1 supporter. If I was married to me, I would divorce me. He needed to take one of my daughters someplace from his sister's house and he called me and pulled over to ruminate over what I was thinking. Part of my English degree requires that I do a professional writing gig someplace. I am already working with the hospital to volunteer. Hopefully after I am there for a few months I will be able to meet someone who writes grants and let me arrange an internship. He said I can prove myself and be open for a job "wherever" after I graduate and pay for grad school.

The massage school would be great but he asked if I can take sporadic classes offered to the public for "fun" like couples massage and sports massage for lay people and just practice on him and let him work on me. That is great. He doesn't think that I would like simply working on people all day, that I'd wind up being like dental assistants who are needy and walk to talk to me and I am wanting to scream, "Shut up and work on my mouth!" (I wind up switching dentists when they do that.) He says my temperament is interactive and sometimes contemplative, but that massage is too introverted for me to do eight hours a day.

He says that I am an artist. He said that when he met me that I was stunning and pretty and "full of creative life force" and that he cannot see me not doing art. He says that art in all it's forms is what I am about. I said it is expensive but he said that it is what I am meant to do. He says that art shines a light for others to see and experience life and that I can help people learn to use it and do some good work myself. Sometimes I tell him about things that I want to create and he says he was often thinking of me doing the same thing. He says that my muses bug him when they don't get my attention and he says something like refers to a song, "Could you draw that?" and I get spooked because I was thinking of it. I do not understand it. He says I have to run with it because I am supposed to.

I was grateful for him talking to me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Beautiful Morning, Santa and the Banana Creme Pie and Rubber Duckie Invasion

I am still sick. This cold is going to try to kill me, I know it!

The morning was great. The kids came into our room at 7 and asked if they could get into their stockings. I said yes and threw on my bathrobe to join them. The Pokemon cards had been found and the boys were already trading and laughing, "I can get you with my 130 power! Haha! This is so righteously rare!"

I reminded them that they had PRESENTS to open. My mother-- as much as she frustrates me, can only show her love since she is so damned far away and doesn't really like little kids-- through her presents. She is very affectionate! Everything was exquisite and wrapped with her flare. You don't want to unwrap my mother's gifts as they are so nicely done, and then once you get inside-- you are glad that you did! She gave the kids cool souvenirs from her trips and toys-- and my husband some techno gadgets that impressed him that she knew about. For me it was Godiva chocolates and a pretty Coldwater Creek top with turquoise jewelry. I don't need the compliments to feel good, but they sure don't hurt. When I wear things that she gives me, I stand out in a great way. I can't wait to wear this to see one of my friends who owns a boutique and she will see it through my jacket and help me take it off so she can see the blouse. THAT is how stunning the things are that my mother gives me!

I put a gold box of candy in each stocking and a rubber duckie along with other presents. By the time we sat down to eat, my four year old son had collected them all and was sorting them by color and was making them circle the table.

I must be learning my Russian-- my eldest gave me a pretty tryptich of a Russian saint story and I could read the story that went with it and understand a few words.


My four year old has been putting the duckies at everyone's seats and under pillowcases. What have I created?!! He is very funny. He put a duckie on a remote control car that my mother gave him and was sending it around the house.

I'm thinking of my dad today. You all know how Santa supposedly likes chocolate chip cookies? In our house, Santa liked Banana Creme Pie which was, shock of all shocks, also my dad's favorite pie! When I was four I wanted to put out cookies as my best friend did that and my dad's eyes lit up, "I think we should save the banana creme pie for Santa." I did not like banana creme pie and said fine, but my mother & sisters (who knew Santa's identity and liked banana cream pie) and he got into a friendly argument. I put out cookies and there was a note, "Dear Miss Tea, everyone gives me chocolate chip cookies. Next year please leave a full pie for me. Love, Santa." I put out a banana cream pie for him after that. It's good that he didn't ask for Bavarian Cream as I'd have never parted with it!

My husband got me a book of Kaethe Kollwitz, a German artist from the turn of the last century. I've been reading it all day. Last spring when my art professor told me that I had lines and depth similar to hers, I responded with, "You are so sweet!" My professor shook her head at me and wrote her name down on a piece of paper and said, "Go home and look her up before you open your mouth." I went home and looked her up. I almost didn't go back to my drawing class! Her work is raw and ugly-- it can be raw and ugly, but it also depicts joy. Most of it is painful. Kaiser Wilhelm called her a gutter artist. He ousted her from a few academies. Kaethe didn't draw flowers and hummingbirds and pretty things; she drew from real life. She was a trained artist who was married to a doctor in Berlin. They lived all right but he served his patients and lived amongst them with his family on the wrong side of the tracks. I have quite a few of her books already, but her diary and letters are moving.

I'm having an urge to learn to work with clay. It's too late to sign up for a pottery class, but hopefully next fall I will be able to. Of course I have more in mind than spinning pots-- I have some sculptures in my head that I want to do.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Joyeux Noelle!

Did I spell that correctly?

I have the kids running around. The middle ones are baking oatmeal cookies. The older ones are wrapping my last minute presents for each other and they are saying, "I know what Mom is getting you but it's so gauche to talk about what other people are getting each other." I guess they are practicing good manners? Hmmmmm. We'll see how terribly shocked they act when they open them in a few hours! (The more shocked they act tells me what the wrappers said!)

I spent the day in Town. I am wrapped up in a parka with a blanket over me as I type. I'm still freezing. It's not putting a damper on my excitement. The littlest ones are asking questions about Santa.

Last night my middle son asked me about Santa and "the bottom line" and how he can afford to make all the toys. I said that elves are cheap, like slave labor. He said, "Isn't that illegal?" It was quite funny as he mulled over this. He is a young Alex Keaton. He wants to believe in Santa but hsi friends say he's not real. I had him watch Polar Express. We are part of the faith that spawned the real Santa. . . one of my children is named for him. (He's also the patron saint of mariners. Funny story there.) Then he went into logistics, "Like, how can he get to every country? Rich kids get more, you can't say he cares as much for everyone." He exasperates me but I enjoyed it. He is thinking. I like to see him thinking about things.

Foggy Day nets Sleepless Night and a Couple of Dazed Kitties

Yesterday I never felt quite right. Something seemed off but life is too busy to worry over little aches and pains. I awoke to someone coughing terribly while thinking, "Why can't he just get up and take a Nyquil?" and my husband saying, "You need a Nyquil. You've been coughing since you went to sleep."

I got up and heard five of the kids coughing. Runny noses. Sore throats. How did it hit us all at once?!! Today only the Urgent Care places will be open but I doubt that we will go to them-- hopefully this is a short duration illness. The kids are not wounding happy even though I have them sleeping again. I'm up with tea and cookies and my dog is sitting at my feet. I gave the cats their Christmas presents of catnip toys early and while they normally hate each other, they are on their backs next to one another staring up at the Christmas tree lights. Ahh, tis the season of kittenly love!

A few months ago one of the boys put a catnip toy on the dog's collar. The cats smelled it and were stalking him. He's good natured but at first howled at them as they got near him. When he tired of it, he lay down and they were going crazy under his chin, trying to sniff and bite at the little mouse. The dog was enjoying the attention, I think.

Anyway, my medicine is kicking in and my husband will be up soon. I need to run back to bed. Everything hurts. What a terrible time to have this happen!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I got an A in journalism!


Frustration (big whine) & Amusement

I am so strung out. My student loan company is about to send my loans to collections. For about a year now they have been sending me letters saying that I was ready to go into default and there was little I could do. My husband JUST GOT DONE paying off his loans and were are able to focus on mine. After years of him loosing jobs (companies losing contracts, not him messing up) and us falling back then getting back up, we are at least getting our head above water. Is it always going to be like this?

I sent them an email and a letter and a promise of a couple hundred a month. I doubt that they will care. Such is life-- I have to focus on what I can. For now we are having a great Christmas with the kids.

Today I took the kids to church. My four year old was in the back seat, "Are jeans evil?" I thought I didn't hear him correctly and asked him again. "Are they baaaad?"

"Jeans are not evil or bad."

"They are worn by bad guys."

He went off on a silly explanation of bad guys wearing jeans. I pointed to a woman wearing jeans. "Do you think she is evil?

He said, "Do you know her?"

I said I didn't so he asked if she was a stranger. I said she was.

"Are strangers bad?"

"Uh, they can be." I said.

"Do you trust them?" he queried.

I said well, we can't go up and talk to them.

"Do they steal things?"

I said that some do, most don't. "But those ones are bad. They are evil and jeans are worn by bad guys."

Later he'd be playing with the LBC (Little Black Cat) and he would scratch him and he had another long conversation with how the LBC would kill a mouse, scratch him and cause an infection in him with mouse blood. . . and he'd die. I was floored, to say the least. He was extremely casual in his conversation and I think my 12 year old's passing fascination with the Black Plague of Europe caused this.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

I think we're getting old

This morning my husband and I were in the kitchen, making out while the pancakes were cooking on the griddle. The older kids spied us and we were laughing and went back to making pancakes. My eldest said, "You two are amazing. You are almost 40 and still making out like you did when you started dating!"

Is almost 40 old? I hope I never stop making out with my husband! It's the spark of life!

Anyway, later on my husband and I looked at each other, "What did she mean, 'almost 40 and still making out'?" It was quite funny.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Pokemon Cards, etc.

I just spent $45 on Pokemon for my boys. I did not buy that many. The expense broke me. I am now a Scrooge.

The cute thing is, the boys will see those cards in their stockings and nothing else will matter. I will have no regrets. They will declare this the best Christmas ever and play the game all day and into the night. They will not fight to get on the computer. They are quite cute playing. I am happy with this. But I still feel like I am in the pocket of a thief when I go to the Pokemon store. The people there are nice though (shouldn't they be for what I spend?) and the husband said that he went to a tournament with a great deck but was trounced by six year olds. I did laugh at that.

I met my daughter's boyfriend again today. My husband had my keys and I needed to get to my doctor's office to have a rash on my arm looked at while it was there (it comes up ever so often and goes away with Benadryl so he says I'm allergic to something) and we chatted. He wasn't trying to shine up to me but we started talking and we hit it off. He was telling me how excited he is to be back to our state and was telling me about life in his fraternity that he was entering. He got fried on it-- it wasn't good. He left it, rather appalled by the Greeks at the school. They really overstep themselves in hazing and it was also terrible on the girls, but he said they couldn't tell him what was happening, but they'd have bruises. For $1,000 a month, they were getting abused and exhausted while trying to keep up their grades and were sworn to secrecy. Very disappointing. Even more so, he said they were saying, "They are my sisters! They love me!" while explaining away the unspeakable bad things. I'm glad that he left it. He's going into pharmacology later and he seems to have his act together. Does he? He is a 19 year old guy-- but he seems pretty confident and classy.

Forgive me for being a cynic. I know that these relationships don't last this early but I adore him. I will be sad when these two split up. My daughter said that they had been friends for years and already discussed how they will end (on speakable terms.) I hope so and I hope he is not the dork that my next eldest says he is. "There are things Tiger doesn't want me to tell you." she says. Well, I refuse to make a judgment on implied hearsay. At the same time. Peaches said, "You have been warned! Kinda." I asked if it's anything illegal and she said no, "just strange." Strange could be having a fetish for women wearing olives on the tips of their fingers while mud wrestling so I don't know what to think.

I am embroidering some towels for my sister-in-law. I hate being broke and this is all I can do. My husband told me that she will appreciate the time I put in and by the way could I make a few for his mom and dad. That was nice.

The darkest day of the year is almost behind us. Sunset was around 4pm today. I am so happy-- even though daylight comes in spurts of two or three minutes, buy the end of January we will be feeling more sunshine. By March-- winter will seem like a distant memory and I will be planning my garden and not thinking of winter. I will be 14 months away from graduation, God willing that I pass all my classes.

Christmas Tree O Christmas Tree

We put up the tree last night. We have a fake one because I have an asthmatic daughter who reacts, and fake ones don't shed needles, so we will always have a fake one.

So far, six glass balls have shattered. I am very annoyed. I keep threatening to buy more of the snappable plastic beads that we all had as kids and string those on the tree until TeaCup is about 12 or so. It wasn't TeaCup, Clash or Boom-Boom who did it-- it was my three middle boys. They are great kids, but they wrestle and play rough. How can you get mad? I knew it would happen but my husband said they'd be "fine" and insisted we put them up because they look pretty.

My husband doesn't understand why I get mad when he says "fine" in any context, but what it means is, "Shut up." Questions of how I look that are answered with "Fine" could mean that I will be having strange men put their arms around my waist at the party and offer me drinks until he rescues me, or it would mean that I have a piece of chive on my tooth but that he is playing a game on his cell phone and doesn't notice. "Fine" could also mean that the bottom of the casserole I baked for church was burnt. When he says my breaks are "fine" it means that he didn't really ask the mechanic about them and that if I want to survive, I have to ask myself next time! It also means that all the glass balls will fall and shatter when my almost 10-9-&-8 year old sons play next to it. C'est la vie.

Steve sent me his sweet present for being 10,000 at his site. It is an embroidered handkerchief duo and some tea, which are a sheer delight. The tea smells and tastes wonderful and the handkerchiefs will be used at church when we have baptisms which I cannot keep from getting teary at with joy at the ancient tradition being done.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sick Relatives, Classes, etc.

My mom just got back from seeing my grandmother who had a stroke. Apparently everyone of my aunts and uncles is getting some age-related illness. My dad was the first to go and he was, I think, lucky. They are all in their late sixties. I am not close to my family but but is sad that now instead of hearing about that cool home in Newport or someone's spiffy new car, I am hearing about people's illnesses. I wonder how old I will be when various things strike me. I am fortunate. Like my mother or not, she is healthy and I probably have her health. I am blessed because I have her looks and if her sharp mind at 70 (she has a boyfriend now, too) is inheritable, I will have that.

My Russian teacher is letting me retake the test. Steve made a profound impact on me the other day. Sometimes you need advice from the right people at the right time. I'd hated reciting dialogs in class-- they made no sense to me and the class wasn't into acting like they mattered. They'd use monotone voices as they recited and I just couldn't get into it. Steve told me how he studied for Peace Corps with dialogs and how the vocabulary came natural to him after that. I went to my text and everything is starting to fall into place. Of course when I take my test again and kick butt, my professor will want to know how the light went on and I will tell her that a fellow blogger told me what she'd been telling me all along. . . to study the dialogs and it would all come naturally. I made a high D in the class and I was relived that it wasn't an F. I worked hard for that D! Sunshine heard me squeal my joy and she asked what happened and I told her and she said, "What will Dad say? Do you think he'll ground you?" I laughed out loud!

I also have to tell you all something: I don't like Russian class. I adored my professor but in truth, I have the basics now and I am thinking of studying on my own because of some specific things that I am interested in, like Pushkin. I met a woman who is a nurse at the hospital and she hardly ever uses her Russian and would panic if called to interpret. If i do Russian, it will probably be in a self interest way.

There are two directions I am choosing between in two years. One is an interdisciplinary master's degree in creative writing and art. The other is a master's degree in medical arts where I can take my artistic and yogic ways into a hospital. Almost like an art therapist, but not. i have been doing yoga and massage for years and this leans in a medical arts direction. This in not being a doctor-- it's medical support where I keep the patients having something to live for while they recover.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Pure Girls

Please read this with the humor I intend-- my daughter is a well adjusted college student!

Half MD wrote a very funny blog about the people in med school. The one that I am linking to is about the Evangelical Christians. I had to laugh because I used to be like them. Life has taken some funny turns. If my life were like I had wanted it when I was American Evangelical I would be a Ph.D. in Christian counseling and have two kids which according to the plan I made when I was wise, I'd have had at the ages of 36 and 38. I had my baby, number 9 (TeaCup!) six weeks before I turned 36.

His story made me think of a situation with my eldest daughter. Now do not get me wrong. I believe that abstinence till marriage is really the best thing. Women who are selective and men who are selective don't spend $$$ on court battles or have the heartache I had over my eldest two children. (Alas, a good friend did everything right and still wound up with an abusive husband and was s divorced mother five years later.) That being said, me having children, I do not expect my kids to wait to have sex until they get married, preferably after college-- can we reasonably expect them to wait when their sexual peak is between the ages of 16 and 24? That doesn't sit well with me. I have told my teenagers, "If you want to screw around, wait until you can have some privacy which you won't get here. Use two forms of birth control because your mother is a fertility goddess and you probably are, too." My daughters have so far been careful.

When my eldest was in high school, I got called in. She'd been in abstinence training discussions and got irritated with the "peer leaders," the professional virgins who with their mothers ran the discussions. My daughter thought (rightfully so!) that discussion what you weren't doing as an upright Christian was as bad as discussing what you were doing as some of the girls in other groups were wont to do. The other mothers were furious over her saying that, but she explained that a certain percentage of the ones saying it were not virgins, just like a certain percentage of the ones claiming they were Doing It weren't actually doing anything.

I asked what the problem was. They really didn't like what my daughter said and wanted an apology. I said that if you have to demand it, it probably isn't sincere, by the way, "What did you say, Tiger?" Apparently the girls started talking in code with each other in the group, about how they didn't do whatever and my daughter said this wasn't what the rumors were.
Tiger told the girls that everyone knew what they did and that their virginity meant nothing. The girls didn't like it. One of the girls was dating the captain of one of the athletic teams and she said in the office, "You have known what he's said about you. Why don't you break up?"

The whole thing was a cat fight and I told my daughter, "I will disown you if you do apologize." The disciplinarian was there and keeping a straight face but he said there was nothing he could do. I could tell he found the whole thing a waste of time and later told me that he liked how I handled it, and I would tell the other women to not have their daughters around my children or to discuss such matters. End of discussion.

I get really annoyed with the attitudes that people have. I think that with sex education that we need to discuss the consequences of the actions. I was talking to a few of my daughters friends as they studied Hamlet. We discussed what Ophelia keeping her virginity meant-- that noble women in those times did not have sex before marriage partly for religious reasons, but for bigger ones. It wasn't about Heaven or Hell-- a woman who had not had sex was free of diseases. Her eggs were for one man to impregnate. A man-- well, it was a double standard, but men were (and are) geared to impregnate as many females as possible for his DNA to be handed down. A man with a woman who'd been chaste would know that her offspring were only his. The girls came up with a term for women who'd dishonored their eggs, "DEW's"-- Dishonored Egg Women. Of course this is what I am with my children of different marriages and somehow I have made well with my husband. Their term was funny as it makes "Do the DEW" a different meaning!

I think that the lessons on that can be applied to modern life as well and I am happy to see it mattering to what appears to be more kids or at least the ones my daughters know who seem to care about this. They are not self righteous about it though and this is something that I am doubly proud of-- it's not something that they need to wear diamond rings over till they marry, it's a personal, private decision.

My daughter has plenty of friends, especially in college now. She has found more people like her. For the most part, she thinks like a guy. She has a lot more self control. Her boyfriend flew in on Saturday and around six yesterday I asked about him and she said she wanted to call him as he'd come in the day before but she would let him call her. She went to her room for her phone and came out, ashen. She showed me that someone had put her cell phone into a. . . glass of water. She was understandably upset as she was expecting him to call her. She checked her email only to discover he'd been trying to reach her. Oops. She called him from mine and they made arrangements to go out. The great thing was, she wasn't pining for him all day. She said he never left her thoughts but she didn't want her sisters to think that was how you acted with a boyfriend. She showed me a few e-mails from her friends from high school who are now in college-- they weren't talking about college or volunteer work or even work-- they were discussing. . . relationships. I told her that they are biologically programmed to want relationships. she said, "And what did you say makes us different from the apes? It's not our opposable thumbs!" She wiggled her thumbs at me, "It's our ability to rise above our biology! These friends think with their brain stems." Just as it was back in the day when she was upsetting the professional virgins-- relationships were minor. It was the whole picture, the life one was living that mattered. I was so impressed with her then and she is keeping the attitude.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I got compared to Mel Gibson today!

I have a fantasy of getting compared to Nicole Kidman or Kate Winslet. Do I get compared to them? No. Today one of my sons had an early morning doctor appointment and wound up staying longer. (He has uletis-- nothing serious but it needs to be watched.) I adore his eye doctor-- he's a nice man and we always enjoy talking politics and morals and what-have-you.

We went to my friend Gary's bakery. I saw him from outside and opened the door. He said, "Tea, we have three chocolate croissants left!" I yelled, "Freedom!" The boys chimed in and we ran up to the counter taking fast, small steps with our boots making noise on the floor. I yelled, "We will liberate the chocolate croissants from their cruel creator and oppressor! It is wrong to have them behind walls of glass!" My boys yelled, "Yeahhhhhh!" Gary said that Mel Gibson has nothing on me-- I said that while Mel only acts, I engage in the real fight!

It was funny.

Then the son who'd been seen by the doctor said, "There are four of us and three croissants. You aren't going to embarrass yourself by making us arm wrestle again, are you?" Gary laughed.

I said, "These are for me-- I don't know what you want." The other people there laughed. They had ham n' cheese and cinnamon rolls and were quite happy. Then I took them to school.

My Russian prof-- argh. It's not over! I'd happily resigned myself to having to figure out how to pay for less classes this semester without government loans. My Russian teacher is not one to give up. I awoke to her email, "Dearest Tea, I know you want to learn Russian and go to second semester. Be in my office at noon on January ___ OK? Study hard over the break. You WILL pass." I screamed at first in frustration, but then in relief knowing that she cared enough to make sure I pass. I had told her why I want to study Russian and work at a hospital. She says that too many Russians and Ukrainians find themselves in need and that I am needed. While there are people who do it at the hospital-- they aren't like me. I am not jaded by medicine. I want to write grants and get money to fund what the doctors do. I hope the patients and the doctors will like me. I hope that the doctors see me a smile and say, "Tea brightens my day and makes me remember why I do this!" Seriously-- they get jaded and with all they see and have to put up with, the world is a parasite on their psyches. They see people die, they get sued-- and there will be me, "You should see what I wrote about what you do for that grant! Don't let it go to your head, but we got it!"

I have more determination than talent but I will be worth all of my professors time and I will help people in many capacities. I hope I never need serious medical care though. I am one very bad patient.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

I F'd Up in Russian

I got to the test and totally killed myself. I am blue, but I can't give up the class.

I realized that with why I want to do it that I cannot drop it and that I will have to push myself to learn it. I can learn it-- I need more time to process it. The people who were good were cursing under their breath. I won't blame the professor although I feel like she threw us for a loop, giving us new material even on Tuesday of this week to process. I still adore her.

I have more determination than sense. The reason I decided to Russian was because when my dad was dying, he'd fall asleep and I'd wander around the medical center. Have you ever sat in a waiting room in a cancer area? Try it when you are not sick. I was in AZ and there were all these Spanish speakers. I observed that most spoke little English then went to the nearest cafeteria and asked some nurses if I could sit with them and told them where I was from. They confirmed what I was thinking-- that there weren't a lot of interpreters and the Spanish speakers were confused and scared. I came up with the intent of learning Russian. If I can, I want to at least volunteer at the hospital as an interpreter. I'd like to write grants at a certain hospital in The City because I love the hospital and be "on call" as in, "What?!! No one in L&D speaks Russian right now? GET SOMEONE!" and I'll be called. I don't know if it works like that but I hope it does! Or that a family could have someone dying and they need someone to help who can translate.

I wore a stunning Kit Cornell dress to class today-- deep violet and maroon flowers with beige leaves. I have never looked so pretty while failing. I had numerous compliments at the post office earlier and while shopping for my mother. (I can't study 100% of the time! It only took an hour!)

When I got home my husband and I did our tag-team parenting thing- -he was taking the kids to church. He came in to speak to me briefly and someone called and he had the nerve to answer it. I said, "This is our time-- all two minutes, leave the cell phone alone." He shouldn't have answered it. I hate the person who called now and will hate him for the rest of our lives. I wish in the insanity of things that my husband would just turn the damned thing off. I would have felt much better if he'd done that, "OK-- if they want they can leave a message and I'll get back to them." There is always the concern that it's my eldest daughter, but if it's her, he is courteous enough to say that it's here. Anyone else he turns his back to me. Aw, honey-- that turns me off.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Anxiety Attack

Does anyone else get this way during finals? Oh my goodness! I am so scared of my Russian final. I am not getting it. I want to cry.

I woke up in the middle of the night and I had been crying in my sleep. I feel guilty because I am not spending much time with the kids. I want so much to do things with them like listen to them read which I've not done in weeks. I do-- but it's like, "I have ten minutes, come in here. Let's read." or, "OK, tell me your times tables-- good!"

My husband said that I am fine-- they are seeing the sacrifice for school and college and they also attack their homework voraciously.

The other day my "baby", TeaCup, covered my mouth with her sweet little hand and started pointing to pictures in her books with me. She didn't want me to say anything, but she pointed to the pictures in the order I have done, would smile at me and turn the page. She likes to draw in her books. I have a problem with this but I just take the pens away, "This book is all done! You will have to write and illustrate your own!"

They had a friend's daughter come to the house tonight. She is just a little older than Boom-Boom. The older boys taught her to play Pokemon and as my friend and she are leaving state in a few days for the Christmas break, the kids, seeing my mail art, each want to make her a post card. Like me, they want to choose the stamp they use to mail it before they do their mail art! They watch us all the time, do they not?

My friend is a single mother and her windshield wasn't working. My husband was so sweet-- he looked at it when we got home from class and told her to go with him to the box store to get a windshield. He didn't even want her driving with it like that. He didn't let her pay-- while it's a small expense, for all the times friends and even strangers rescued me-- once for the exact same problem, he was really happy to give something good back to the universe. I'm not bragging about it-- but I was happy, too.

I am stressed over silly things right now. Sometimes I wonder if I am inventing things to worry about. I don't like drama but it's easier to run around like a chicken with it's head cut off for hours and hours than it is to focus. When I don't instantly get something, I feel stupid. I have been trying though so I think the material really is quite difficult.

A good male friend called me yesterday to see how I was faring. He's a lawyer and close to retirement. He used to be a professor as well. He was trying to help me and said, "You know, beginning Russian is a freshman class. There is not reason you can't get it if you really try." I didn't get mad at him so he could hear it on the phone-- I started laughing and told him of all the books I have gotten on learning a language, it's, "French made Easy!" "Spanish made Easy!" "German made Easy!" Russian made Possible." Just like, "Japanese made Possible." He laughed with me over it and told me that I am smart and that he knows I will get it. (He's never wrong.)

I want to work because we are barely getting by on my husband's salary. We need a retirement and we want to expand the house. On his salary alone we make it, but we have bills. I am also afraid of something happening to him-- when my mom was my age she feared the same thing with my dad as he had a heart attack at 38, and she wanted to support us if she had to. My mother-- as much as I do not like her much of the time, is one savvy business person. She was relentless and made goals and scored them. I'm more of an academic, but she was just brilliant and I could never be as great as she was in business.

Still, when I work it will take time from the kids. I don't know how I will do it and maybe i can write to earn a living, but so many people are trying to do just that! I do know that the kids having two college graduate parents are way more likely to complete college than with me not doing it. I talked to an academic counselor who supported this with statistics.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Vacationing with the Palm Springs Savant

Rick Rockhill has the life I fantasized about when I was in high school. When I die, I want to come back as his fish! Or hair. . . on his dog's back, or as his kitty's whiskers!

Since I don't really know about reincarnation and won't know until I die, in the mean time I intend to get as much fun as I can. Nine kids, a husband and life around finals can be daunting, but a twenty minute break is easy to have. Today I made myself a hot pot of tea and started reading my blogs and surfed in to Rick's when I saw his wonderful blog on cocktails. Reading about them made my mouth water and I decided to make my husband a cocktail when he got home. I got dressed in one of my favorite April Cornell dresses (The Muse-- it's not sexy but I love it!) pinned up my hair and heard him pull up and went to the kitchen and mixed a couple of White Russians, (which I discovered have an amazing kick if you don't measure and just drink) and turned up the heat in the bedroom. (The kids were doing homework, playing games, etc. and were occupied.)

When I let him get up twenty minutes later, he said, "To what do I owe THAT?" I said to Rick Rockhill. He brought back a couple more White Russians and proposed a toast to the Palm Springs Savant. Then I got back my normal clothes (jeans and a top) and we went about our normal evening of homework, running to practices, etc. It was otherwise mundane but my husband wouldn't leave the room without kissing me or asking me if I wanted another drink-- if I had taken every offer for a drink I would spontaneously combust, but I did wind up going back to the tea!

I hope this isn't too much information. I love getting inspiration and finding it where I can and enjoying it-- I guess this is the effect of Palm Springs!

The Dude Abides!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Depressing Conversation. . .

My 17 year old and I had a brief conversation that has me rather sad.

I was helping her study her advanced vocabulary and I had to get back to my own studies. I said, "Can you e-mail your friends in this class and use the words?"

She blinked at me, "I don't have nay friends in this class. This is a class with the preps."

Dammit, I was a prep and I faired just fine. Why can't she be friends with the smart kids? She gathered her books and asked my husband, "Can you explain this to her?"

He told me that her school is a rich kids' school. It's public, but we are in a "rich" area. We don't have a lot of expendable cash because everything is multiplied by 9 most of the time. We don't suffer for what we need, but we don't have many extras. He explained that in her classes, she feels vastly different. She doesn't obsess, but that she has had to suffer a few blows that she's not told me about. Some girl made a stupid comment about her having a young mother, "Like, how old was she when she had you? 19?" No-- I was 20, I had her sister at 19. They don't know that she comes from a large family and some kids were making jokes about women with big families. Of course they have mothers who look like Tony Soprano's sister-- but they have money.

My husband said that we are unique-- I grew up with powerful parents. I fell hard and had a couple of kids early, got up, dusted myself off, resumed school, had more kids and am back in school. I am a scholar (in spite of my Russian class!) I expect my children to get college degrees.
This is not an option. Still, apparently for our "class" this is unusual. This is America-- I believe that possibilities are endless and that we are not tied to any situation, that with time if we don't like where we are, that we can change it. A few weeks ago my husband and I went to dinner and the president of the state senate floor came over to me and hugged me and introduced herself to my husband-- I can't be a Nobody! I don't see myself as a lower class of anything. My husband said that kids feel it, as in a lack of having a car and being 17, or not having certain clothes. Because of my daughter being so down to Earth, my husband said that she has a few friends whose parents are not pushing them in her advanced classes with her. He said that she is encouraging them and that because of her, they are going to go on to college.

It makes me sad that she has had to deal with jabs and feels that she can't be part of a social group because of me not having a lot of material wealth.

In 20 years, I see my husband and I having built on to our house so that it will have lots more rooms for the kids and their families to come back home to for holidays. Maybe we will have lots of money and be able to take the kids on trips but being here will probably be enough. I'm inspired by people who live well-- I made a salad on St. Nick's Eve and toasted my blogging friend Rick-- it was something that would come out of Palm Springs' best restaurants. My best friend's husband came over with his new snazzy car that has a leather interior and drove me to the store to pick out a present for his wife (my friend)-- he was showing off his car because he knew that I appreciated it-- there was no jealousy on my part or mean showing off on his part-- we were having fun.

My daughter said that she has no limitations-- that she'd never want to be friends with people who can be so biting, but I'm still sad that she has had to deal with comments. She will be going to a state university, not one of prestige, but she will do well. I'm really proud of her for encouraging a few of her friends like she has. I know that one girl's father has been pretty transient most of her life and she has been grounded with my daughter as far as finding an academic identity.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Alaskan Literature

Fascinating things happened last week that will relate to Alaskan literature. One was a family drama of my grandmother getting sick. Thankfully I am far removed from it but I have an uncle, my grandmother's son, who is there but far removed as far as my mother and her sisters are concerned. This uncle has a drinking problem where he gets broody, not loud. My mother and her sisters are terrible to him, but I was like, "What? You three are just more discreet about your vices and keep up appearances better!" Whenever I have seen this uncle, he doesn't drink when I am around and he tells great stories, probably because I pay attention to him and bring out his strengths. I called him the other night and talked to his wife, my aunt. I wanted to make sure that he knew how sick my grandma was and that I wanted to send my moral support. My aunt told me how our family is-- they are a lower rung of [City Name] Society and have all these expectations on each other. She explained how things get dictated down there and how rigid it is and that yes, it really was an embarrassment to my grandmother that I have had so many children because they don't do big families there. She told me how she and my uncle admired my late father coming to Alaska. "You know, he went up there to get away from all this sh--, just like people have been doing for a hundred years!" I was floored-- my dad joked that he went up there to get away from my mother's family, but I thought it was to get a great job selling heavy equipment on the pipeline. My aunt said that he'd have gone up anyway even if there hadn't been a job waiting for him.

Last night I had to pick up my husband in The City. He suggested that we go to Barnes and Nobel, which is my home away from home there. I went to the fiction section and there was a professor-type watching me brain-absently flipping through some books. He asked if I was inspired. I said, "No! I am taking a distance ed class through Fairbanks on Alaskan literature and I'm not getting it! This literature makes me feel cold! I am hating it." (This guy is an adjunct prof.) He asked what I'd read and what I liked. I told him that I liked McPhee and Women of the Klondike, and that Margaret Murie was OK. More questions about what I liked (I think he was getting a base with me to start relating things) then about what I didn't like. He explained to me that Alaskan literature is all about people getting away from something to do it on their own. Of course that is a prevailing theme, but I missed it because I was paying attention to the details! (The growing amber beard in To Build a Fire makes me gag.)

A few people had gathered around to listen to this guy talk and one of them brought up To Build a Fire and said that it was about man's determination to survive but because of a few stupid mistakes, caused by being new and not understanding the forces of nature, he lost his life. I mentioned "the amber beard" and he said it was just a detail and that I needed to run off copies of the story and cross them out if I don't like them, then see if they fit in.

I have taken so much for granted-- my aunt said that if I lived in their area that I'd have probably bucked the system and left the area. She said that I have that spirit that my dad had. During the lecture at Barnes and Nobel, my husband said that I may be taking a lot for granted. When I was nine years old, I went down to see my extended family and they kept asking if we lived in igloos and I was shocked by the stupidity of the questions, "Why on earth would my father have us live in an ice house when it's so cold already?" I'm blond Irish and one of my sisters is more olive skinned and people would say, "You're from Alaska? You don't look Eskimo!" I'd look at my hands in horror, "I'm changing back! Constance, look at you! You're getting whiter!" (People really thought that I really was "changing back" as if something about the northern latitude made us get darker skinned and that we'd get lighter when we went south!) I showed them pictures of Fairbanks in the summer, of the previous year at the Golden Days Parade and they refused to believe that it was Alaska. Several cousins would come to visit the next year in the summer and everyone was laughing at them because they got off the plane with parkas, mittens, face masks-- "We thought you were joking."

The professor pointed out that I took a lot for granted, the attitudes and assumptions as stupid and ignored them for the class. He must have talked for two hours-- bouncing a lot of his discussion off my ignorance, but I started to see how my own family fit in with the stories of Alaska and how I have ignored so much because I didn't know how to read this. A woman in the group said that in a lot of what I'd read, "You have been focusing on warts, like you found something you didn't like and couldn't read past it. You don't know how appreciate the skeleton of the stories!"

It was all quite exciting to listen to that man and I told him that I wished I'd seen him before, but he pointed out, "You'd not have been frustrated and had an obvious dislike of the genre which prompted me to talk to you!"

I was grateful for the enlightenment. I wish that someone from the college had seen that man hold the crowd-- he should teach full time.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Project Innocence

Project Innocence needs our help. Tommy Arthur has been convicted in a crime and sentences to death. His innocence could be proven or disproven with a simple DNA test.

Write to Governor Riley of Alabama and ask him to please order it so that we will know and an innocent man will not be sent to death.

MONTGOMERY, AL; December 6, 2007) – On the heels of a U.S. Supreme Court order stopping the execution of Thomas Arthur based on a challenge to the constitutionality of lethal injections procedures, the Innocence Project today renewed and broadened its calls for Alabama Governor Bob Riley to order DNA testing that could prove Arthur’s guilt or innocence.

The Innocence Project, which has pressed the case with Riley’s senior staff for months, wrote to Riley today asking for DNA testing. The Innocence Project also launched a web-based campaign today, mobilizing thousands of people in Alabama and nationwide to write to Riley and urge him to order DNA testing in the case. To see the online campaign, go to

Since August, the Innocence Project has been requesting DNA testing in the case but Riley has refused. In today’s letter, Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld urged Riley to immediately order testing in the case, while the execution is stayed.

“Now is the time to act. As we have stated repeatedly to your office — including in a letter we sent over a month ago in response to your office’s request for guidance, to which your office has yet to respond — such DNA testing has the power to establish to a scientific certainty whether or not Thomas Arthur killed Troy Wicker,” the letter says. “A failure on the part of your office to order DNA testing is morally unjustifiable.”

At the end of August – 14 weeks ago – the Innocence Project formally asked Governor Riley to order DNA testing in this case. The organization again requested DNA testing in September (12 weeks ago) and in early November (four weeks ago). DNA testing in the case can be completed within four weeks. Had the governor acted on the Innocence Project requests over the summer, or on any of the subsequent requests, DNA testing would be complete today, and the serious questions about Thomas Arthur’s guilt or innocence could be resolved.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Christmas Presents

I've purchased presents for my husband and children for St. Nikolai's Day and Christmas, but I want to get something that matters to people, as well. I just ordered some pillow cases as well as had some made. I'm in the middle of school work and dealing with children, but I took a break to arrange these things. After schoolwork is done for a few weeks, I will have time to do some embroidery. I started doing it 15 or so years ago when Victoria Magazine ran an article on them. I try to do work on both sides so that the underside looks as nice as the top or at least to where the person comments that the underside looks nice.

It's Old DeerFIELD embroidery, a New England style that reminds me of a Hungarian style that a good friend used to do. The Hungarian was fancier, probably because it has it's roots in the richer classes where the New Englanders were more practical. I happen to have the woolen threads and and am more familiar with the New England style but don't have a preference. I am concerned with speed as well as a pretty finish. I'm going to just do some small scrolls or flowers on each one. With any luck, if I push myself, I should be able to get some pretty work done in time for Orthodox Christmas for my grandmother and mother and husband and three close friends. The ones other than my husband don't celebrate it, but they won't mind.

What is nice about this is that I can accept really nice (expensive) presents from my mom and do something nice in return that I know she values. When people get something like the embroidery, I know that they keep it and use it. I don't just make something then decide who to give it to-- I usually see something like an iris work and want to copy it for someone, so i come home and in the style of the work I want to do, I recreate it. My artwork on my envelopes often gets framed which makes me happy-- not because they framed it but because it mattered enough to frame it. I like that these gifts really matter.

A few years ago, my mother shelled pecans from her orchard and sent them to me-- I cried when I got that package. She has arthritis but she wanted to do that for me because I'd make the most amazing tarts with them! She also sent me a very nice tea cup that I cherish to this day and use every Christmas. She gave me a pear tea which I often buy and post her a note and tell her that I am thinking of her.

Now. . . back to work.

I Drive Me Crazy. . .

I got home. Oddly, posting that I am in one piece was my reward for getting home.

Driving scares me. I pray before I drive. At night it is so frightening even when the roads are good. Tonight-- you couldn't have asked for better roads.

I was still a mess.

On the way to town, I was in an area that is wide open. I had good visibility and my daughter had just called and needed me to get her as she was VERY sick and could I please get there as soon as possible. I could have driven fast and would have enjoyed it but I had my daughter in the car and really wanted to impress upon her that we need need to obey the speed LIMIT, not treat it as a speed SUGGESTION. There was a car behind me but as I am frazzled on the road I don't notice anything about the vehicles around me unless they are semis. After about ten miles, that car pulled up next to me, flashed his lights for a second and sped off-- it was a police officer in an unmarked car. Was he telling me, "Good job!"? I didn't go over 65 and was probably a tiny bit slower. That was cool.

My daughter was not feeling well. I offered to pick up what she needed at the store but she wanted to go. She went in with her sister and they seemed to have had fun.

Still, driving home was scary again. I didn't want Sunshine to catch on-- the only thing worse than being told she'd be a bad driver is being taught that it's normal to cry behind the wheel! She knows that I hate to drive at night and that is enough. I listened to The Pointer Sisters sing Neutron Dance, Jump, and Dare Me probably 100 times! They make me stay awake. That's something else-- when I drive I get scared but tired at the same time.

I am not an alcoholic; I am a cheap drunk. One glass of anything makes me sleepy, but as I drove I felt my muscles tense up. I wanted a beer, a Margarita-- anything. I got home and decided against it--if alcohol could make me relax after I drive how desperate must I be to drive and think a drink might make me relax? Too many emotions are in this. I am having hot tea and Verona Pepperidge Farm cookies. I also have some prescription relaxers-- but again, if I take those now, what if I get anxiety and think I need to drive with them? No substances are allowed to be associated in my mind for driving. As I type, I stretch and hear bones popping. I am relaxing! Now of course I am wired but tired. I'm proud of myself-- while driving has to seem minor to almost everyone, my lack of driving for years defined me to people. I was accused of having responsibility issues and no one understood how I could honest to God think I couldn't drive! I had to defend myself to strangers, then hear, "If you parents were my parents I would not be like you." I really came across as what I was-- scared and dependent, but I didn't know how to get independent when they kept saying terrible things! (My parents leaving state was the best thing that ever happened to me.)

I have noticed that when I am tired that my eyes take turn with dominance. (I have a hard time shooting after a half hour or so because they start trading involuntarily!) That happened tonight and I had to control it, "OK, eyes-- you are both tired but we are not sleeping until I blog that I am home and talk about tonight." I elected when to switch. I can't see out of them both at the same time-- I have no depth perception. They switch dominance and my field changes. Now if one of my children had this there are things that could be done to help correct it. I'm just lucky that I can use them both. I had several operations when I was little to fix it and while the lack of depth perception is a problem, my eye doctor thinks that because they don't always work at the same time, I have kept them from getting strained. I have the prescription that I had when I was nine years old and it's actually gotten a tiny bit better.

Anyway-- I am home. My husband couldn't do the presents and was laughing when I got in. "I guess St. Nicholai is Russian! He writes in Russian, too and his handwriting is very pretty. But he wasn't here to hand out presents!" That was cute. We'll do it tomorrow night.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Mi Vida Loca

Mi vida loca

(Pam Tillis, Jess Leary)

If you're coming with me you need nerves of steel
Cause I take corners on two wheels
It's a never-ending circus ride
The faint of heart need not apply

Mi vida loca over and over
Destiny turns on a dime
I go where the wind blows
You can't tame a wild rose
Welcome to my crazy life

Today I needed to study for my Russian. I fucking need to study really, really, badly, capice?

My husband wants to do St. Nikolai's Day. I want to do St. Nikolai's Day. I thought it was tomorrow so I spent the morning shopping. We need other things but I found some bargains-- $3-5 shirts for my sons, some presents that I'd bought before for Western Christmas-- I was happy. We do my mother's presents and my husband's parents presents on Christmas Day. This year's gifts are not religious but hey, we are celebrating and that is the important thing.

I got home with live clams and fresh fish for the night before dinner. One of my daughters was sucking her thumb and said, "Oh, I looked at the calender and the day is Thursday." Thursday is the night we have two recitals, I have class, we are down to one car. . . and I have to get my husband from town LATE because tonight I'd missed most of the Russian class. I cannot miss more Russian.

I was comforting myself-- I am HOME. In MY HOUSE and HAPPY. I'd do some Russian this evening. We decided to have the seafood dinner and do St. Nikolai's Day early. Some friends from church would get some of the kids, one of my friends would take my boys to their recital and life would be OK, not ideal, but the kids understand the importance of me passing.

Then my phone rang.

My eldest is 45 minutes away with no car because my husband was going to help her buy one then his car went out and he can't get her around. She is in class and sick. Class gets out in an hour and a half. She has finals and needs to go to the store. We are having sh---y weather. She can't ask a classmate.

What to do-- I have to get her. I hate driving at night and my husband does not want to go out which is understandable as he will go back in at 5:AM tomorrow. With how things are going I think something bad will happen. A flat tire? A wreck? A police officer stopping me to tell me a light is out and I start to cry? I am not feeling good about going out but when do I feel good about going out? I need to help my daughter. My husband will play St. Nik tonight. I wrote the kids' names in Russian and he doesn't read Russian! They will open the presents and figure it out. I got my eldest at home a black t-shirt that says, "I wish I was Japanese" in bright red Japanese writing. Her teacher will laugh. Lots of Satsuma oranges for all of us.

Good news-- she isn't enamored with her degree. It wasn't right for her. She is a fire science major. She isn't a science person. She is a public relations person. I told her this but she had to discover it. "You know how you described sitting through another social work class and that you'd want to shoot yourself if you had to listen to another person talk about their bad childhood? That's how I'm feeling." I'll do anything to help her finish the semester.

Her boyfriend at another college wrote to me and he is coming back up-- that is nice. I like him. He's a little stupid as 19 year olds can be, but he has a good heart I think. I hope he joins us in the church-- his IQ will double ;) He's asking about getting the kids prezzies which I think is a sweet gesture on his part. My daughter sends him funny mail art. I told him in stream of conscious writing that I have a bizarre fear of putting stamps in the right hand corner of the envelope. I hope he knows I am quirky but not dangerous. I do like him.

Every time the mechanic calls my husband's car is costing more to fix. It was held together with bubble gum and a prayer. We pray before we drive. The mechanic said, "There is stuff that is cracked in here, breaking-- but considering that it has 250,000 miles on it, it's amazing that I only replaced the battery once on it. How'd you get it to last?"

I have to stop thinking I will be happy if things go as I want. I feel like I am being blown by the wind sometimes. Nine kids = 9 independent variables. Add cars, a lack of disposable income and a husband and a full time mother college student to the mix and it's amazing how we manage as well as we do. We do manage well. I am not close to breaking. I was sad for a bit (fifteen minutes)-- but we will flex. I'm flexible like bamboo. not a fir tree that snaps in the wind. If my kids rememebr anything I hopes it's that this stuff happens and how often I have laughed, (not my nutty giggle, "Everyone, do not move for the next hour. Just sit on the couch and do nothing but read.")

Think bamboo. Bamboo = pandas. I like pandas. . .

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What Do I know?: The Artichoke & Meanderings about Food

What Do I know?: The Artichoke

With 11 hungry people to feed, my house spends a sizable chunk of money on food each month. Even spending $1,000, that is still less than $4 per day per person. What Do I Know has lovingly reminded me of my own delights with food, when I am not just feeding to help people grow but am preparing food for the sheer enjoyment of eating it.

A ritual that I was introduced to years ago by another mother of a large family is eating artichokes. She has eleven kids and 13 in her family. She bought enough for ALL of us to have one and this was no small amount of money. She said that with our meals of hamburger and chili cooked a hundred different ways, our children couldn't claim culinary seclusion if we had artichokes once a year. So we do. It used to be on New Years, but this year Tiger is going to be with a friend. We prepare fish on Christmas Eve (yeah, I'm not a strict fasting person) and this will go well-- a light but decadent feast!

I also cook desert for dinner at least twice in the summer. I love making hors d'oveurs with salami and celery sticks with cheese-- and then just having strawberry shortcake for dinner. It's unconventional and the kids LOVE it.

Being Orthodox Christian, we make a lot of food that is Greek. I love preparing and eating dolmades. I had them at my first wedding and they are now a family ritual. Stuffed grape leaves with a yogurt sauce is the closest I will get to Heaven in this lifetime. I always eat them wondering how hungry people must have been to have tried eating grape leaves then later having a little extra and saying, "Hey-- this would taste great in the grape leaves. Let's try them together."

When my dad was dying there was a humongous prickly pear plant outside his house. I was bored and had to not hover as my brother warned me, so not having a recipe, called the cooperative extension (US Department of Agriculture) and was assured of their non-toxic existence and I picked them with my mother's kitchen tongs (and risked impaling myself as I picked them) and I set to work slicing them open (I wore gloves) and scooping the seeds out into a pan. I added a little water, boiled them and then poured out the mess into a colander and added sugar and pectin and made a great syrup. My dad loved it and my family was like, "Are you sure it's OK to eat these?" My dad would die within 48 hours and he said, "You wanna stick around and see what happens? I just had some!" (I laughed so hard I almost died myself! That's another topic-- embracing the unspeakable by laughing at it!) We still have several jars. I can't bear to eat the last of it.

I picked a few leaves-- I whacked off the spines and sliced them open and made a type of relish for omelets. My mom was asking me, "Why do you have to be so weird?" I said I was taking two weeks off for the first time ever and in a totally new state and I was going to get as much adventure as I could! She is weird about me driving and would prefer that I sit on a cushion-- I was climbing the walls at her place. From the kitchen, I was allowing even my father to have culinary adventures with plants he'd ignored for 12 years!

I've just joined a new club at the college that gets into Japanese culture. They are expanding my food interests even further. We have a social event coming up and I was asked to bring something that I can't pronounce and was given a recipe. I've got no idea what I am doing but I can hardly wait to make it for my new friends and to learn to prepare sushi.

Saturday, December 01, 2007


I have started talking to other parents and I am mad. I found out from several sources that the coach of the team I just saw (for the high school that my sons will be going to) is the sourest sportsman and lets his kids boo the other team.

I named my eldest daughter for my debate coach. My debate coach told us all the time, "We are the team to beat. We will be spoken down about, we will be criticized. Other teams will slam us. I will not tolerate unsportsmanlike conduct. The judge's decisions are final and we will thank them for considering our concerns if there is a dispute and we loose. We will hold our tongues and not poison an opponent's victory. We will not quote each other to other people." She was strict about this and had no problem getting on us if she heard that someone said something negative outside the realm at a party or other event. "I heard that you said _________. I have no jurisdiction over you outside the tournaments, but please remember that I do not like it."

Supposedly this wrestling coach doesn't like his club members talking to their friends in the other club at tournaments and this extends to the parents. His high schoolers go to other schools and boo their rivals. I like two of the other clubs-- they are family oriented and fun. One of the parents from the local club that this coach is at bragged, "He's like boot camp!" I patted her on the back like we were guys and said, "Yeah! Hard core!" She got bulgy eyes when I did that. I asked if parents get to work out, too. The woman is 35 and is a size 20 dress. (I'm 38 and a size 8.) I said it was no good to have a boot camp mentality if parents can't get in on the fun. The coaches' wife is also fat. I already don't like this guy.

I am going to start going to the tournaments for the high schoolers. Any responsible parent needs to investigate such rumors of poor sportsmanship-- I don't want my kids involved in that kind of a team. If they are true. . . I'll burst into tears in the coaches' office and sob, "I am so disappointed in your team! This isn't what it's all about! I thought you were so good and you let them do this?!! This isn't what it's all about!" I will quiver and shake. Then I will write an editorial and have videos on my phone to show as proof and get it out.