Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Confessions of a Closet Twihard

It was a beautiful, chilly July afternoon in South Dakota when my two year old staged the temper tantrum of the century. Our youth group was posing for a group picture in front of Mt. Rushmore and Miles, furious at attempts to prevent him from climbing the wall and hurling himself to his death in the amphitheatre below, protested so shrilly that he managed to clear all tourists from the viewing porch. He “expressed his disappointment” continuously as my husband dragged him all the way back to the parking garage, with my daughters and I following at a distance of about fifty feet.

“Someone should teach that kid a lesson,” a fellow tourist said to me, disgusted. “Yeah, someone should. I wonder where the mother is.” I replied.

Go ahead and judge me. It’s okay. Really.

I adore my son. Privately, I find many of his faults endearing. But sometimes I’m embarrassed to be associated with him in public.

That’s kind of the way I feel about Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga.
I only picked up a copy of Twilight because the girls in our youth group could speak of nothing else for weeks, and I wanted to know firsthand what had inspired this frenzy. I finished the book in two days. I ordered the rest of the books in the series from Amazon the next day. I told no one.

The Twilight Saga is not great literature. I cringed reading these books. I rolled my eyes. I laughed out loud at parts that weren’t supposed to be funny. And then I turned the page and kept reading.

Twilight bashing is a favored pastime of men, critics, the literary set, and particularly of male literary critics. How dare Stephenie Meyer girl-ify the sacred (er, profane) genre of vampire and werewolf lore? Vegetarian Vampires?! Sunshine Sparkly Vampires?! FOUL! Werewolves that transform at will?! FOUL! (Nerd alert: Actually, in book 4 we discover that the Quileutes are really shape shifters, not werewolves, so that makes it feasible)

Note to these guys: the whole vampire/ werewolf dynamic is just a plot device, the means through which Meyer builds characters with superhuman abilities, places Bella Swan in constant danger, and juxtaposes desire and restraint. This is not a vampire story. It’s a love story, a fantasy that appeals to a fanbase of teenage girls and former teenage girls. And since, to my knowledge, vampires don’t exist anyway…who cares?

For better or worse, these books make me feel half my age. And it’s not about the gorgeous guy characters or the fact that Bella is the center of the universe, the target of every villain, constantly being rescued by above mentioned gorgeous guys (pssst…this is like crack to a teenage girl). It’s because my teenage experience was so Bella-esque (except for the part where all the guys wanted to date me…yeah, that never happened). I wasn’t comfortable at dances. I was clumsy. The more hedonistic teenagerish pursuits held no appeal for me. I read Shakespeare and Austen because I wanted to. And I was thoroughly convinced of my own ordinariness. That’s the feeling Stephenie Meyer exploited to make me love her characters. Bella is the one person in the world whose thoughts Edward Cullen cannot hear. She is the lone mysterious female on the planet, so she captivates him. She doesn’t change a thing about herself, yet he loves her sacrificially. Why? Because he discovers what she does not see—that she is, in fact, extraordinary. She is pure, selfless, noble, and lovely. She is nothing like the rest.


Fellas, this is what most of us ladies long for. To be chosen above all others by a worthy man, just for who we are.

For this, I willingly overlook all the melodrama, the co-dependence, the poorly written prose, and Bella’s total lack of upper level thinking skills. I.e., Jake, the Quileute werewolf: “Remember that story I told you about “the cold ones” and the wolves? Well, I can’t tell you why I’ve transformed into a giant, half-naked, super-heated man-boy because it’s against the rules. Think, Bella…you know this…”

Spare me. Please.

I will also concede the fact that Meyer’s heroes, with their male model looks, superhuman strength, and complete devotion to Bella’s happiness, set a standard with which no man, and certainly no hormonal seventeen year old boy, could compete. In a sense, this is porn for girls, particularly in the case of Edward Cullen, who has frittered away the past century by racking up multiple graduate degrees, memorizing the complete works of Shakespeare, becoming fluent in several languages, and formulating the perfect product to maintain his signature hairdo. Oh, and he’s also a master composer and pianist, though when the lullaby he composed for Bella is brought to the screen in Twilight, it sounds exactly like an excerpt from a John Tesh CD. FOUL! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Here’s the straight dope: My husband is a youth guy. I hang with teenage girls. And I have watched helplessly as young ladies I love have cheapened themselves, have given themselves away and been used and tossed aside…for NOTHING. They don’t know what chivalry looks like. They don’t believe they’ll be receiving any better offers. I want the bar set higher.

And now, a few thoughts about the Twilight movie franchise:

I think any time a book is adapted to the screen there are both gains and losses. I appreciate many of the changes that made Twilight and New Moon watchable (btw, I think New Moon far exceeds Twilight in terms of watchability). I flipped past whole chapters of New Moon, for example, because…yes, Bella, we get it. You’re miserable without Edward. You can’t breathe. There’s a hole in your chest…blah blah blah. Thank you, makers of New Moon, for sparing us some of this angst. The action and fight scenes were exciting under Chris Weitz’s direction. Sceenwriter Melissa Rosenberg made a good call by adding some violence to the Volterra sequences.

Some reviewers have suggested that this entire generation of fans will watch these movies again as adults and realize just how terrible they are. Of course they will. And they’ll keep watching them.

Consider Saved By the Bell. This show was horribly acted. They aired the episodes out of order. One week Zack loves Kelly Kapowski. The next week, it’s Stacy Carosi or that girl wrestler or (fill in the blank). They’re awful. But do I own every single episode, including the feature length specials? Yes, I do. Do I sniffle a little when Zack and Kelly exchange vows in Las Vegas? Yes, I do. My grandmother has a similar relationship with The Rockford Files. It’s pop culture, folks. Nobody ever said it would be anthologized and handed down to future generations.

The CGI wolves of New Moon were hilariously un-scary, which is just the way Matt (the youth guy husband) and I like it. The special effects in Twilight were equally bad. The scene where Edward runs up the hill to the meadow with Bella on his back is just plain silly. But then, the whole premise behind this saga is just plain silly. Once you make peace with that, the hokey moments (i.e. Jacob Black removing his shirt for the first time to reveal his anabolic steroid use) become your favorites.

On the other hand, the Edward and Bella of cinema are not the lovers who live in the pages of the books. These two are described in the book as old souls, and you can see why they would end up together. Bella does all the grocery shopping and cooking. She reads Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Shakespeare for fun. She cleans the house. She’s separate from the other kids because she’s just not into teenagerish activities. Kristen Stewart’s Bella, on the other hand, is a sulky, dreary, tomboy with some kind of nervous tic who is too cool for everything. For his part, Rob Pattinson captures the tortured aspect of Edward Cullen’s existence, and that’s about it. Meyer’s Edward is charming and eloquent and witty. He speaks (and thinks) like a man from another time. And he smiles from time to time, too.

Because I write for a publicity firm, I feel like I can spot focused, intentional messaging when I see it. Frankly, Meyer’s Bella is a politically incorrect model for teenage girls—too needy, too dependent, and too traditional in her domesticity. The Bella we encounter on screen presents the other extreme. She’s almost emotionless. She’s too cool to be vulnerable. She’s a vegetarian (not that I’m hating on vegetarians) who delivers lines like, “Take control…you’re a strong, independent woman.” This line was inserted for a reason, and I understand why. But in making Edward the undead James Dean and Bella the empowered, stoic feminist, the filmmakers have made the silly premise of this saga even less plausible.

In short, the movies are too cool to really tell the story. The real Edward and Bella are a couple of squares who get to know each other the old-fashioned way. We don’t witness this courtship in the film. Consequently, there is little magic between these two. When compared to the much more convincing onscreen chemistry between Bella and Jake (who also bests Edward’s physique and is not shown getting his butt kicked in Italy), viewers unfamiliar with the books wonder why this is even a competition.

All that being said, I will be pre-ordering the DVD of New Moon on Amazon. I can’t help myself.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Nine Reasons to Love Matt

In honor of our ninth anniversary today, here are nine wonderful things about my husband, in no particular order.

1. Matt cried at the end of Porgy and Bess last year. I mean, he was seriously choking back a sob or two at the sight of Porgy using his crutch to push himself on his little cart, intent on redeeming Bess. Somehow this made me feel cherished.

2. Miles vomited on Matt for three days in a row on our recent trip to South Dakota, and he never complained.

3. Matt does a ridiculous "running man/ jump rope man" dance in public, particularly when he wants to entertain kids or teenagers. He looks like a total idiot, and somehow that's a good thing.

4. Matt makes balloon animals, and he can juggle.

5. Matt fixes broken things, installs new things, and makes plants grow.

6. Matt is obsessed with the weather and will spend hours tracking a storm on live doppler radar. "Okay, I think it should be here in about five minutes..."

7. Matt is a servant who is content to let others shine or take the credit.

8. Matt is still one handsome guy, and he makes me feel beautiful every day.

9. Matt does the right thing, and it is my pleasure to follow his example.

There you go. I never dreamed marriage could be so fulfilling. What a lucky gal I am!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A Peek at Miles's To-Do List

May 27, 2009

1. Fill diaper.

2. Create Poo Masterpiece on crib and walls. Working title: "Sanctifying My Mother". Don't forget to sign it.

3. Leisurely bath. Practice shouting the ABCs. Put finishing touches on Shamu impression, displacing as much water as possible. Way to multitask, bro.

4. Break personal record for longest period of uninterrupted nudity.

5. Fetch watering can full of last night's recycled bathtub water. Use every last drop on the bathroom rug.

6. Time out.

7. PB&J.

8. Negotiate the loan of Mariah's lovey for naptime, since all four of mine are covered in poo. What a sucker.

9. Raid mom's night stand. Remove tub of vaseline. Apply liberally to face, hair, and furniture. I am a stud.

10. Time out.

11. Reject healthy dinner. Demand a cracker.

12. Time out.

13. Bath # 2. Bonus points for extra nudity.

14. Challenge sisters to a game of baby tag. Fall down. Scream loud enough to alert the neighbors.

15. Don batman pajamas. Scale sisters' bunkbeds.
*note to self: Utility belt is for decorative purposes only. Grappling hook not included.

16. Lights out. Begin plotting tomorrow's attack on Mom's sanity. Life is good.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Flushing the Lines

Okay, everyone. I see that it has been almost a month since my last posting. I have no excuse. Thanks to the economy, my writing jobs all but dried up in the last thirty days. I have been wallowing in free time like a little piggy--a radiant little piggy like Wilbur in Charlotte's Web.

My mind is more of a jumbled mess than usual, so I'm just going to clear it out in this post, and then maybe I'll have something of value to share with you next time around.

Our friends Mark and Sumar and their two boys came to visit us a few weeks ago, right as the Twilight movie was being released.

Confession: I picked up a battered copy of Twilight at the used book store after discovering that it was all the girls in the youth group were talking about. The book is ridiculous, as are the three sequels, which I ordered online and devoured in rapid succession. I couldn't stop myself, like I was trapped in a tweener tractor beam. Even worse, I got Matt hooked on them. We preordered our copy of the Twilight movie on Amazon, but it wasn't delivered by the big release date.

Sumar coaxed me into driving out to Wal-Mart at 12:15 a.m. so we could buy her copy of the movie and then stay up ridiculously late to watch it. The Wal-Mart associates set out the new DVDs right at midnight. Since Corsicana is a small town, all the screaming girls and their screaming mothers had already cleared out by then, having devoured the Twilight themed cupcakes and scattered all the candy from the vampire pinata.

Last year as Matt and I were leaving for the theater to see Twilight, our babysitters warned us that we would be disappointed.

"They totally changed the plot,' said sitter A.

"Yeah, they did. And Edward is WAY better looking in the book," sitter B chimes in.

So we snuck into the theater with our dollar store candy and snickered through several scenes of the movie. It's funny how the things that have turned other people off--the super cheesy special effects, the endless brooding, and winners like "and so the Lion fell in love with the lamb" uttered with zero irony--just make us love it more. In fact, we like to remind folks who take this so seriously that the plot is based on the idea of "vegetarian vampires." It is what it is. Matt and I like it for the emphasis on chivalry and restraint. But since we're not, say, 13 year old girls, we try not to remember that, ummm... there's no such thing as vampires.

That being said, I feel I must inform you that not only was Edward better looking in the book (no human being could live up to the Meyer fantasy), but he was also more playful and more eloquent. He was also a much better composer.

Attention Twilight movie maker people: As a vampire who has been on the planet for almost a century and never sleeps, Edward has had nothing better to do with his time than attend high school, rack up graduate degrees, and practice the piano. Am I to believe that these 80 years of practice would produce a composer/pianist with the same musical stylings as John Tesh? Not Aaron Copeland or Leonard Bernstein or Richard Rodgers or John Williams. John Tesh, from Entertainment Tonight. It's preposterous.

Whew. Thanks for letting me clear that nonsense out of the old noggin.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Merrilee vs. The Tooth Fairy

Here's a video we made for our youth group variety show.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

My evening in gerund phrases

Yes, folks, it is 1:22 a.m. Here is a summary of the last two hours:

Fighting the flu disturbs even the soundest sleeper, especially a little boy who has misplaced his favorite lovey.

Fretting over a sick baby keeps a mommy from accomplishing anything.

Barking dogs do not encourage friendliness in your neighbors.

Spying a giant rat in the eves of her back porch can really lead a girl to question the family policy banning firearms.

Pooping on the laundry room floor is an effective tactic by which the passive-aggressive dog may protest his banishment from the end of the bed.

Cleaning up dog poop in the middle of the night scores serious brownie points with the ladies.

Screaming at the top of your lungs quickly alerts everyone in the house (and the neighborhood) that you are dreaming about bugs, especially the flying variety.

Tucking little ones into bed may be one of the greatest joys of motherhood.

Taking your own temperature is the first step toward admitting that after three weeks of nursing your kids through first flu A and then flu B, your own luck may finally have run out.

Obsessing over the grammatical flaws in the previous sentence reminds you that blogging should be fun. Fixing that sentence would not be fun; therefore, this entry is finished.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Chim, Chim Chiroo...Who The Heck Are You?

If I had to make a list of the biggest differences Corsicana has brought to our lives, it would look something like this:

1. No Target. Boo.

2. No Olive Garden. Hiss.

3. Discovered Brookshire's, complete with smiling bag boys that chat you up, call you "ma'am" and load your stuff in the car.

4. No traffic. Hurray!

5. Our town's claim to fame: Fruitcake factory. I'm not lying...

6. A.M. radio

Yeah, about the A.M. radio...

Every day our local station hosts a show called Talk Time. The name says it all. People can call in and just talk, make announcements, etc. It's like an audio swap meet, a garage sale of the airwaves. It is the bane of my existence.

There is a man who frequently calls in to sell or give away things. And every time he gives directions to his house like this:

"It's on the corner of Elmwood and 24th. White house, red door."

Problem. Elmwood jogs a bit when it crosses 24th. Without an actual address, people stop at the first white house with the red door they see on the corner of Elmwood and 24th.

My house.

For about a year now, the parade of bargain hunters and junk swappers has made its way across my yard. Once I figured out what was happening, I began answering the door with a cheerful, "Hi there! The Talk Time Man does not live here. But you might be able to do business with my neighbors across the street. Buh-bye now."

We are saving up to paint our house, so hopefully this problem will resolve itself soon. In the meantime, I am still amazed that this guy has never thought to qualify his description of his house. Something like, "NOT the one with the picket fence." After today, that might change.

Matt was sorting through some things in the study this afternoon, and all of the sudden our dogs went nuts in the backyard. As he was getting up to investigate, he heard an odd sound coming from the fireplace--conversation and lots of banging. He went out in the front yard, and that's when he saw the guys up on our roof.

"Excuse me, guys. Can I help you?"

"Well, no. We've got it. Thanks, though."

"Mind if I ask what you're doing?"

"We're installing the new chimney cover you ordered."

"I'm sorry to tell you this, but I didn't order a new chimney cover."

"You mean you're not Mr. So-and-So (a.k.a The Talk Time Man)?"

"Obviously, no."

"But this is a white house with a red door on the corner of Elmwood and 24th."

"Yes...but so is that (pointing)."

Unbelievable! Doesn't this man know his street address? Does the electric company send his bill to "The White House With The Red Door..."

It turns out, the work crew had come to "the white house" yesterday, but nobody was home (I was at bible study). So they got on the roof and measured our chimney, returning today with a new custom cover that doesn't even begin to fit the chimney at the OTHER white house.

In case you haven't noticed, this man is making me insane. I've seen him before at very close range. It was right after we moved into this house. We had hired someone to cut down a dead tree outside the kitchen window. The Talk Time Man drove over, parked in the middle of a very busy street, and helped himself to the wood. He made several trips, each time loading up the trunk of his Volkswagen, puffing away on a giant cigar. It was almost Christmas, and he was sporting one of those cheap Santa hats.

But we're all about looking on the bright side here. First of all, we now have a privacy fence that extends past the kitchen window, shielding me from all mooching, tobacco using Santas. And we now have a custom chimney cover. Since they had already made it, the company offered it to us for half price. Matt says we needed a new one.

So God bless you, Talk Time Man. Please find another hobby.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Who's Your Hero?

Mine is the guy who cleaned up the mess after our five year old hurled all over the front of the sanctuary. Then he came home, put the girls to bed, and insisted on cleaning up after me, too, because I always feel weepy after I get sick. Take that, stomach virus.

My husband is fantastic. And very thorough, I might add. I'm not sure I remember when our bathroom has been so clean.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

For All You DFW Area Bloggers

Here's an opportunity for any of you who love Christian books--whether for blogging purposes or just for the pleasure of reading. Ava Torvolar, my favorite globe-trotting publicist, has just sent me this information about an event designed to give consumers the chance to interact with authors, publishers, and retailers of Christian books. The organizers of this event really recognize the power of you in the blogging community to promote your favorite Christian titles, so they have created a special deal just for bloggers who promote this event, which will be held in Dallas in just a few months. Read on to find out how you can get in for free!

**FYI: Mark Kuyper is the President of Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. Through my work as a publicity writer, I have already had the pleasure of interviewing him. He's a super nice guy.

For Immediate Release Contact: Ava Torvalar

ECPA Announces Christian Book Expo Dallas 2009
Consumer Book Event to Be Held March 20-22 in Dallas

Visit https://remote.tbbmedia.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=aa4769374dd74c549a10cbc934ca795a&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.ChristianBookExpo for the scoop on this first-ever show
Check out the social networking links (MySpace, etc) at the CBE website. Bloggers can join group/s and tell friends about CBE.

Blog about the idea of a Christian Book Show for the public, the panel topics and panelists, etc. The first 200 people to publish a CBE blog post of 100+ words will receive complimentary admission to the show! Send the link to your post to be eligible.
Interview Mark Kuyper in advance of the show for a blog post.

NOTE: Press registration is for professional members of the press only. However, coupons for $5 off admission are available at Family Christian Stores in the DFW area.

Dallas/Fort Worth, TX—The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) is launching the Christian Book Expo Dallas 2009, a new consumer-oriented book event. This event, a first for ECPA and the first Christian book fair of its type, will bring together publishers, authors and consumers. ECPA is holding this event to reach a critical demographic – anybody making or influencing book buying decisions.

The first Christian Book Expo will be held in Dallas, Texas, March 20-22, 2009, at the Dallas Convention Center. More than 389,000 square feet (100,000 is exhibit floor) has been reserved and dates are being set for the event in 2010 and 2011. ECPA is inviting publishers, ministries, authors and booksellers to exhibit in this open-to-the-public event. Activities at the three-day Expo will include workshops, seminars, mini-events and evening programming—all lead by authors.

“Reaching the consumer is essential to the future of Christian publishing,” said ECPA President Mark Kuyper. “Our goal with the Christian Book Expo is to connect the top authors from across the country with core customers from the region. We are dedicated to reaching the largest audience possible with the life-changing message in books, Bibles and other Christian resources.”
ECPA is actively marketing this event to area pastors, lay leaders, Christian ministry workers, area counselors, retailers and influential consumers. “Dallas was the natural choice for the first-ever Christian Book Expo,” says Kuyper. “There are more mega churches in the Dallas metropolitan area than any other city in the country and thousands of Christian book buyers call Dallas home.”

ECPA is currently finalizing the event pricing structure and will announce the specific prices soon. According to current price models, a consumer would pay no more than $50 for admission to the entire three-day event. Day passes will be significantly less and children under 17 would be admitted for free.

Kuyper and the ECPA Board believe the Christian Book Expo will compliment other industry shows. Says Kuyper: “We are strategically reaching out to consumers of Christian books. We know that a positive experience will only make them more loyal to Christian products—wherever they are sold.”

Christian products will be sold to consumers at the Christian Book Expo. ECPA sees several options for purchase—either direct sales from an exhibiting publisher, direct sales from an exhibiting retailer, or an exhibiting publisher can make sales arrangements in its booth from a local retailer. ECPA is also talking to retailers about a centralized store for the entire Expo.
However, Kuyper says that event sales are not the goal of Christian Book Expo Dallas 2009: “We are trying to build future retail sales. We believe these influential Christians will experience these authors and their message and take that message back to their friends and church families and in turn refer them to their local retailer. Our goal is for awareness and exposure.”

Support for the event is widespread across the industry. Michael S. Hyatt, President and Chief Executive Officer, Thomas Nelson and ECPA’s Chairman of the Board, believes this consumer-oriented event will provide significant opportunities to enhance the audience for religious books, “After attending the Guadalajara Book Fair this past fall, I saw first-hand how an event like this could connect authors and their books to the general public on a large scale. I think that ECPA’s Christian Book Expo will provide a similar opportunity for authors, retailers, and consumers to come together in a way that creates excitement for anyone who loves books. And for Thomas Nelson, we believe this event will be a positive experience for both our authors and our retail partners. We are committed to making this event a success.”

Hardy Weathers, President of the Nazarene Publishing House, agrees: “As a member of ECPA's board and the leader of a denominational publishing program, I am excited about the Christian Book Expo in Dallas. It is an opportunity for us to reach outside our natural audience to a larger group of influential book consumers.”

For more information on the 2009 Christian Book Expo, contact Mark Kuyper, 480-966-3998.
Visit https://remote.tbbmedia.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=aa4769374dd74c549a10cbc934ca795a&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.ChristianBookExpo.com

# # #
The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) is an international non-profit trade organization, comprised of nearly 250 member companies worldwide, representing a combined revenue of nearly $2 billion. Founded in 1974, ECPA is dedicated to serving the Christian publishing industry through equipping its members through cutting-edge technology, meaningful data, dynamic educational opportunity and unprecedented access to markets. For more information about ECPA: 480-966-3998 phone, 480-966-1944 fax, 9633 South 48th Street, Suite 140, Phoenix, Arizona 85044, https://remote.tbbmedia.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=aa4769374dd74c549a10cbc934ca795a&URL=mailto%3ainfo%40ecpa.org https://remote.tbbmedia.com/owa/redir.aspx?C=aa4769374dd74c549a10cbc934ca795a&URL=http%3a%2f%2fwww.ecpa.org%2f.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Mind if I Crash Your Party?

This week Merrilee received her very first invitation to a classmate's birthday party (she's only been to a few small affairs for church friends so far). To say that she was thrilled would be an understatement. She bounced around the house for days in preparation, she told us, for the bounce house that her friend Hannah told her would be at the party.

Matt and I, on the other hand, were a bit nervous.

"Is this the same Hannah that you got in trouble for pushing in Mr. Johnson's class?"


"And the same Hannah Mrs. Moran said you mistreated on the playground?"



I know this sounds pitiful, but I was just a teensy bit fearful of meeting Hannah's mom. I figured all the pre-k girls were invited as a courtesy, and I wondered how much she had been told about Merrilee, the sometime thug. As I helped Merrilee get ready to leave for the party, I realized I was taking a bit more care than usual to make sure she looked presentable. In fact, I made her take a bath and wash her hair right before we left, as if, upon noting that my child smelled of syrup, this other mother would think, "Ah, no wonder..."

I hold this ridiculous obsession with my reputation directly responsible for what followed. We were running late, and the party was in a neighborhood I'd never visited before. So I was relieved when I saw cars lining both sides of the street and the house covered in balloons. Merrilee and I jumped out of the car, ran up the sidewalk, and rang the doorbell.

A smiling woman answered the door, then looked at me querulously. We walked into the kitchen, and the querulous looks multiplied. The room was silent, and I assumed all the other kids were already out in the backyard enjoying the bounce house. I didn't expect to know anyone there, so I was surprised to see my friend Mary Hargrave leaning against the counter.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, grinning, so delighted to have actually found someone to talk to so early in the party.

"I'm supposed to be here. What are you doing here?"

"We're here for the party. Where do we put the present?"

"You mean the baby shower?"

Oh. I looked around and recognized a few more faces, all members of Mary's extended family. It was odd, after all, for a five year old to have chosen such a sophisticated chocolate brown/ ice blue motif for her party decorations.

Sigh. I will never hear the end of this at church tomorrow, but at this point I am just grateful that I didn't crash a party full of complete strangers.

Here's the best part. Once we actually found the right house, Hannah's mom turned out to be the most fantastic, friendly person. She is actually a first grade teacher at Merrilee's school. Hannah has never mentioned a thing about Merrilee the bully and, in fact, made a point of putting her on the rather exclusive invite list. She was probably the most charming kid at the party (excluding the hostess, of course).

Whereas the highlight of my afternoon had been my parting shot of "Congratulations on the baby. That punch looks tasty..." as I gathered my wilted pride and my daughter and scurried back to the car.

Over the rumbling of our little diesel engine, I could hear a still, small voice. And He was laughing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Little Vocabulary is a Dangerous Thing

This weekend was our winter youth retreat. Matt and I were gone for several days, and our kids spent the weekend basking in the Poppa treatment and eating no-fuss foods like macaroni and cheese and pb&j. They were delighted.

So when we sat down to a dinner of oh-so-healthy chicken taco soup tonight, the reception was underwhelming. Allow me to offer the instant replay:

We sprinkle cheese on top. No dice. The three year old is the first to speak.

"Mommy, I do not appreciate soup."

I stifle a smile. "Well, Mariah, I'd hate for you to eat something you didn't appreciate. Feel free to remain hungry."

The five year old weighs in, scooping up a black bean.

"Look, Daddy. I found a seed. I better not eat a seed. It might not be safe. You wouldn't want me to be dangerous."

Matt smiles politely. "Merrilee, that is a bean. It is quite tasty and will make you run like a racehorse."

Child eyes legume incredulously. "If you say so..."


Then the verdict: "Daddy, I have an observation (thank you, PBS kids). I tried to eat this big bean, but it didn't work out for me."

At least they are progressing beyond the standard "I don't wanna." With any luck, in several years, they will be able to sass us with impeccable grammar.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Never trust a man with a Sharpie

My daughters were invited to a birthday party this weekend. It was held at the local bowling alley, which turned out to be surprisingly clean and free of cigarette smoke. While trotting over to the shoe man to exchange Mariah's bowling shoes for a different size, I noticed a large man waving at me from across the room.

It was our family doctor, Dr. Joe. He was making short work of a hot dog and fries, but he paused mid-bite and asked to look at my hands, which was nice of him to remember because it's been awhile since he's seen me. About two months ago I turned up at his office, convinced that I had either come down with the flu or I was dying. I also had this terrible thing (it was too strange to be classified as a simple rash...a plague, perhaps?) afflicting every square inch of my palms, but it had been there for several days and seemed to be getting better--or at least it looked that way to me. I've suffered from several different rashes off and on since middle school, so I don't freak out over these things as much as the average person. This particular case was the worst I ever had, though, and different from the others. I had hideous monster hands with pus-filled pockets (pardon me, all ye who are sqeamish). It was extremely painful, but also slightly fun, for example, when I raised my hand during Bible study and produced a synchronized gasp from 10 old ladies.

Anywho, as I was describing my flu-like symptoms, Dr. Joe looked up from my chart and caught a glimpse of my monster puss paws. He literally recoiled, launched his little rolling chair across the room and said, and I quote, "Oh, my God!"


I suppose this is one of those frog in the frying pan situations. I had grown so accustomed to the monster puss paws that it didn't seem so bad. Dr. Joe insisted I go and see the oldest dermatologist in town...because evidently, I had been afflicted with a rash of biblical proportions, and he felt we might need the oldest living doctor to identify it. So first thing the next morning, I searched the house for some spare courage. Finding none, I settled instead for denial and headed off to the doctor.

Here's the thing: Unless you're in for the garden variety acne problem, dermatology almost always involves needles. And not the flu-shot variety. I can handle that. I'm talking about the never-ending sting that accompanies the administering of local anesthesia.

Dr. Glicksman ambled in, took one look at the monster puss paws, and drawled, "I've seen this. Pustular psoriasis." (Yes, it is exactly as gross as it sounds).

"Great. I'm glad you could figure that out just by looking," I replied, breathing a relieved sigh.

The two young nurses shot each other a loaded look. Then Dr. G. took out a sharpie and drew circles around two areas on my hand--the middle of my palm and the side of my pinkie. (note to self: next time, all gigantic hunks of flesh shall be extracted from the hand not responsible for driving, writing, diaper changing, tooth brushing, and other bathroom functions)

Damn you, Sharpie.

The metal tray held two needles the size of javelins. I was doomed, and I knew it, so I just laid down on the table, smiled sweetly at the closest nurse, and said, "You'll want to keep the trash can close by. You know, for when I vomit, then pass out."

The worst part is that next door a spunky old man who had just had, say, thirty skin cancers removed was cracking jokes and charming the nurse. I could hear him. While I was silently crying. Alas, I am not brave. Sympathetic nervous response, you stink. Vaso-vagal reflex, I hate you.

It turned out my outbreak had been triggered by the strep infection that I mistook for the flu or a case of impending death. By this time I had passed it on to Matt, then to Miles, whose fever reached almost 105 degrees the day before Thanksgiving. Thanks to the puss paws, Miles and I spent Thanksgiving day at home alone watching the Bourne trilogy and finishing off week-old soup.

Two weeks later I went back for the removal of the stitches and the unveiling of my biopsy results: pustular psoriasis.

"You know, I believed you when you said that the first time. You should trust your instincts," I grumbled, humorlessly.

Back at the bowling alley, I recounted my dermatology saga to Dr. Joe. He thinks needle-related passing out is funny.

I should have stolen some fries for that. Or at least contaminated them with my (dormant, at the moment) monster puss paws.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I Heart Zack Morris

Matt and I went out on a date the other night for the first time in...well, I can't remember.

So we went flying down the interstate in our little green volkswagen and didn't stop until we reached the bright lights of Waxahachie, our gift card to the Olive Garden burning a hole in Matt's pocket. After dinner, we decided to do a bit of shopping. At Hastings, we found the perfect thing to fulfill a newly created 15 dollar line-item in our monthly budget: pointless entertainment.

There it was, hidden among a jumble of titles on the TV series aisle. I tried to turn away, but the siren song drew me back, and before you knew it, we were plunking down thirteen bucks for seasons 1 and 2 of Saved By The Bell.

Now it's Saturday night, the kids are all asleep, and we have just suffered through the first disc of season 1. The kids are deciding (at fifteen years of age) what they will be when they grow up, and Slater decides to quit wrestling, which means Zack's in hot water, since if Slater loses the big match against Valley, Zack will be forced to hand over a dirt bike he lied about owning. Oh, the angst.

This show was always terrible. I think, even when we were all watching it (don't lie to me--if you are between 25 and 35 years old, you know were in on this) as 13 year olds, we knew exactly how bad it was. I mean, it's entirely possible that all of the dialogue was written by the same people who put the jokes on the wrappers of laffy taffy (i.e. Screech appears at the class reunion in a spaceman suit. "How's space?" Mr. Belding asks. "Far out," Screech replies. "Have a Mars bar." cue laugh track). But it's like squirt cheese. You know it's not good for you...it's barely edible...but you can't stop making little designs with it on crackers and stuffing your face. That's why I'm sitting here, ignoring all of the other things I should be doing, and watching everyone at Bayside freak out because it looks like Kelly is actually falling for Screech (yeah, it's a new episode now).

Still, you can't help but smile when you witness Zack produce a cellular phone the size of a shoe box, complete with a giant antannae. Or the foofy gel hair. Or Slater's stonewashed jeans.

Will things work out between Zack and Kelly? How about Zack and Stacy Carosi, the girl from the beach club? How about Zack and Tori, the scary biker girl who tried and failed to take Kelly's place after she left the show? Zack and the homeless girl from the mall? Zack and the female wrestler? How about Zack and Lisa? That one was especially wrong.

And let's not forget the deep social issues probed by the writers of SBTB. An oil spill, right there on campus, caused by all the dirty capitalists who drilled for oil on the football field. Caffeine pill addiction. Drunk driving. The Jessie Spano model of modern feminism. Where would we be without our Bayside High-sponsored moral compass?

Confession: I was home from college when they showed the big two-hour Las Vegas special (which originally aired when I was still in high school, but I missed it), and Zack and Kelly finally got married. I cried so hard, you would have thought she was my sister or something. Ridiculous.

I just watched Slater, Jessie, and Kelly's amazing "Buddy Band" dance. I can't believe Mario Lopez didn't win Dancing with the Stars.

How about you? What's your favorite SBTB moment?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Oh Romeo, Romeo...please take a Xanax

Tonight I was feeling quite unwell, so Matt insisted I seize the opportunity to skip this last Wednesday night church event before AWANA starts again next week and people are actually depending on me.

That's how I ended up catching the second half of a live production of Cyrano de Bergerac on PBS--starring Kevin Kline and Jennifer Garner, of all people. He was, of course, amazing. And she was...pretty.

Matt joined me for the last scene, when Cyrano comes to Roxanne at the convent to see her one last time and to reveal his true identity as ardent letter-writer and balcony-scene soliloquizer--just before he croaks. The only version of this story that Matt has seen is the one in the Steve Martin/ Darryl Hannah movie Roxanne, and they tweaked the ending to make it more user-friendly. He turned to me tonight, shocked, and asked, "Is this a tragedy?"

Yes, obviously. It was destined to be a tragedy the first time Cyrano told Roxanne a big, fat whopper.

Clearly, I'm not an expert in literature, nor in theatre. But I do think we can glean a few lessons about how NOT to ruin relationships by studying the classic tragedies. Back in the day, sitting in eight grade English and watching Franco Zefferelli's version of Romeo and Juliet, I began to feel this nagging irritation with all the characters--the whiners, the liars, the idiot boys. Don't get me wrong, I still bawled my eyes out at the end, but I would never want to be with Romeo.

Classmate turns to me, with tears in her eyes:

"That was so beautiful..."

Rolling my eyes, I reply:

"No, that was so senseless and stupid."


"Well, if Romeo had just been an emotional, whiny, long-winded mess for a few minutes longer, she would have awakened, and everything would be fine. But no, he has to choose this one time to cut it short. Either that, or he could just chill out to begin with and do a little fact checking, or pause to take a tranquilizer. I mean, I know Mantua is way out in the sticks but honestly...I want to slap him."

Imagine living with a high-strung man like that.

"Honey, what's wrong? What happened to the T.V.? Why are you weeping?"

"The Mavericks lost. There's no point in even owning a T.V. anymore, so I smote it with my sword. I'll be out in the backyard digging my own burial plot..."

"Okay, well say hi to Yorick for me..." (oops, wrong play....)

Same with Cyrano. Fifteen years visiting the woman you love in a nunnery, and you still won't speak up because your nose is ugly? These are serious self-esteem issues we're talking about.

Drama-schmama. Those guys belong in group therapy. So what if all those character flaws are key to the plot?

And now you see why I will never write anything the world will remember. And why I married a very laid-back man.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Year in Review

Well, if there is anyone out there who is still vaguely interested in my life, I'll begin by apologizing for my two-month hiatus from blogging. I was always a terrible diary-keeper. Seriously, my high school experience is summarized in just five diary entries. All began with some pitiful nonsense resembling this: "If only he (whoever he was at the time) would look in my direction and really notice me..." followed, in some cases, by some of the most cringe-worthy attempts at poetry that you will never read. That's right, nobody will ever witness my odes to hormonal teenage misery, because I have now destroyed the evidence.

So I've decided to pat myself on the back for coming back to my blog after only two months. Remarkable, really.

I think I'll start with the best thing that happened to our family in 2008--our trip to Disney World, a.k.a. "Poppa's Folly." Not only did my father insist on paying everyone's way (including my brother and my mom--and they've been divorced for twenty years!), he also insisted that we should do the seven-day land and sea vacation. We spent three days at Disney World and stayed at the Port Orleans resort, then we took a four-day Bahamanian cruise aboard the Disney Wonder.

We tried to talk him into waiting a few years, at least until Miles is old enough to remember the trip, but, even though he walks three miles a day, my Dad is convinced that any day now he may lose an appendage in a freak accident or that his bones will suddenly crumble to dust, and then he would be too frail to witness the girls taking in their first glimpse of the big castle.

I have to say, the girls didn't disappoint. As luck would have it, we were there during the halloween season. A couple at our church had given us some spending money, and they stipulated that it must be used for something extravagant for the kids, so we splurged on the special tickets for the after-hours Mickey's Not-so-Scary Halloween party. At the time, Matt was still clinging to his "absolutely no Halloween" convictions, so I had to ease him into the idea.

"Honey, guess what?! The lady at the front desk told me all about this great party that they're having at the Magic Kingdom on Saturday night. You pay extra, and you basically have the place to yourself all night. They'll look great in the princess dresses we got them...oh, yeah, and at random intervals, people will be passing out free candy...."

The girls enjoyed their first trick-or-treating experience right there at Disney World, we got to stay until midnight, and there were basically no lines for any of the rides. The parade kicked off with the headless horseman racing through the park, so that was kind of cool. But it was a Disney villains parade, and I thought Mariah was going to have a heart attack. This is, after all, the child who had to quit swimming lessons a few summers ago because of her paralyzing fear of the butterflies that populated the pool area. Still, it was an experience we'll never forget. Check it out:

We've never had so much fun with our family. My parents were already taking us on separate vacations by the time I was old enough to really remember anything, so this was, in a way, the fulfillment of my own form of the Parent Trap fantasy. Which is why I forced everyone to get the monogrammed mouse ears. "Do we have to?" my parents asked. "Yes!" I snapped, wild-eyed. "I want it all! The matching outfits, the dorky family poses, all of it!" Mwahahahahaha...

We had a glorious time. In fact, we were so happy to be there that Disney cast members (they don't call them "staff." Even the janitors are "cast members") went out of their way to get us dining reservations and gave us free stuff. Apparently, Disney World is the farthest thing from the happiest place on earth. I watched many of the other guests who were demanding and rude, and we sat behind a couple on the bus from the airport who made no attempt to hide their distaste for our delighted children. Moral of the story: the Disney workers are surprised when they meet a truly happy, friendly, understanding person. This works out to the advantage of the happy, friendly, understanding person. It also helps if you can pull out one of these:

The bus ride to Port Canaveral took just an hour, and then we were on the boat. Most of us had never been on a cruise before, and I have it on good authority that we have now been spoiled forever. It was incredible. The children's programs were incredible, the staff was amazing, and I had an excuse to wear pretty dresses. If there is an idulgent Poppa-type in your life, I highly recommend dropping some hints about a Disney cruise.

We spent two days on Disney's private island. It was the first time our kids saw the ocean. Mariah, especially was in heaven.

The pirate party on the top deck was super fun. Arrr, me matey! By the way, Uncle John is still single, if any of you are interested...
The highlight of the trip for me came the night dad kept Miles so Matt and I could stay out late and explore the night life. For those of you who know us best, the idea of Matt and I hitting the bar is probably hilarious. Well, you're right. Most of the people our age, including my brother, were at the dance club getting their fill of Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. Matt and I found our fun across the hall, in the Cadillac lounge, where the pianist/lounge singer was doing the greatest hits of Barrily Manilow and Neal Diamond. The dim, quiet room was like a leather-upholstered nursing home serving stiff drinks to the aged. A small group of senior citizens crowded the table closest to the stage, shouting out requests. There was a tiny ancient woman in a wheelchair by the entrance. She was hooked up to oxygen, and I couldn't tell if she was awake...or alive, really. Just when I was about to go and check her pulse, they set out the midnight buffet. The smell of eggrolls revived her. Yes, these were my people. In the back corner, I sang along to the Copa Cabana.

Matt and our waitress conspired, and she approached Kenne, the lounge singer, on one of his breaks. As luck would have it, he had been singing for five days straight and wasn't sure he was going to make it through the rest of the evening. Before I knew it, there I was:

Kenne and I dazzled the night owls of the AARP set and a few of the crew with a collection of jazz standards. He is an incredible pianist, and he was pleasantly surprised at my vocal chops, as well. In fact, he invited me back to do another set with him on the final night of our sailing. I was happy to oblige.

The only problem is, now that my life-long dream of leaning against a piano in a slinky black dress singing Gershwin has come true, I don't really know what to do with my life. Any suggestions?