Thursday, January 31, 2008

Don't cry, silly, you're not dead yet

I was on the way home last night wishing, for the 876th time, that I could have a stiff martini. (What? There haven't been that many days yet in my latest pregnancy? There are many hours in a day, my friends.) My work had been horribly grueling both this week and last, with the launch of two web sites in as many days, and another work project that involved a neckless, troglodytic man yelling at me for something I did not personally do.

This last debacle had caused me the kind of heart-pounding night anxiety that leads to thoughts like "The baby's gonna come out!" and needless to say, I have not been feeling great about work, life in general, nor my abilities to take care of Revered Son 1 or Revered Son 2. And my blog posts have gone down the terlet. (That's what I get for telling a child he's going to get et by a lion.)

So on the way home tonight, with my head pounding feverishly with every step, I stopped walking at about 6:45 right in the middle of my block. My children were in that lit house down the way, waiting for me. I could not, could not, could not face their eager little faces and their wild, full-tilt runs right into my legs as soon as I walked in the door (usually, the eldest places his head right at the level of the pubic bone and charges like a bull). Their limbs would flail and they would make loud, excited noises. I prayed that the babysitter had already put them in their cozies, because I knew if I had to do it myself it would involve a gargantuan effort of will that would leave me broken and weeping. And, God help me, I would have to conquer the frightful task of making sure they had brushed their teeth. And then I would have to read a book (forget that: three books) with a modicum of energy and enthusiasm.

So I stopped and waited and thought about what to do. I really wanted to see them. Yes, I really like them! And work has been so awful for the last couple of weeks that I haven't had the ability to enjoy them much, sad as it may sound. I thought about quitting more than once but considering I provide for our entire family's health insurance and am soon to have a baby, that seemed pretty untenable. I know I had nothing to give them, though. How could I go in?

Then I decided. I wasn't going to give them anything. I was going to take. I was going to let them give me something. I hoped that it might be a thread of energy, or joy, or just something good. But maybe it would be a poke in the eye.

I came in and I told them that my head was hurting badly, and I sat down on the couch. They were in their footed cozies, and they came around, concerned. The older one was prompt in his response. "I am going to take care of that for you, mommy," he said. I followed him upstairs to his "office," where he proclaimed himself Doctor and put an Elmo Band-Aid on my head. He bade me lie down and he placed his warm little hand on my forehead. "Does dat feel better?" he asked. It did. The little one had run off to play with trains. He then put a sticker on my forehead, right next to the Band-Aid, that read "Super."

The Doctor and I conversed for a while about my health and this and that, and he got me to step on the office scale and showed me the charts on the wall of babies inside their mommies. Then he pronounced his diagnosis: "If you don't take the Band-Aid off you will get better and feel better but when you take it off it might hurt. So don't take it off."

"I won't," I promised. The Band-Aid seemed very helpful, like a barrier against the pain.

He then turned to me with those lamplike blue eyes with their absurdly long lashes, blinked them solemnly, and added: "And in the end you will go to the dying place and die, and when you die you will be gone." I stared at him wordlessly. Gosh, that seemed awfully final. Gone? But I don't want to be "gone." And where is the "dying place"? My eyes filled with tears and I made a small, choking sound.

But he waved his hand impatiently, like he must do with all his troubled patients. "Oh, don't cwy, siwwy," he said lightly, with a tilt of his head and a wry smirk. "You're not dead yet!"

No, guess I ain't.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Bad Parenting Syllabus, Day One: Tell son he will be eaten by a lion

Day One: When your child is unusually naughty, read Maurice Sendak's Pierre: A Cautionary Tale, part of the Nutshell Library. Pierre is about a naughty little boy who keeps saying "I don't care" and is subsequently eaten by a hungry lion. The story ends well with the boy released and the lion staying on with the family as a weekend guest, but the little boy does spend part of the plot in the lion's tummy. Tell your boy that he will be eaten by a lion if he doesn't listen to mommy and daddy. Watch his eyes grow wide. Chortle with satisfaction. Learn to live with his subsequent fear of "wions."

More Bad Parenting tips arriving soon! Comes fully loaded with a healthy dose of remorse, self-recrimination, and extra savings coupons on future therapy for both child and parent.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Wandering the Halls in a Stained Nightie

In my usual spirit of telling stories creepy enough to curdle the fur on a poodle, I was reminded today of my last experience with birthing a child. It's a little story I like to call "Wandering the Halls in a Stained Nightie Looking for My Baby." (Soon to be released on Lifetime Movie Network.)

The place: Lawrence Hospital, Bronxville, NY. The story of the actual birth event is not so exciting. Everything went grandly. So grandly, in fact, that I recall slurring in a drug-induced stupor, "The baby is crowning? Reeeeeaally?" Now that's a good birth experience. When the baby (soon to become My German Changeling Child) was handed to me, I did have this ominous thought about his looks: "Well, we'll love him anyway." But the little mite is now 2 1/2 and really terribly cute, despite his propensity to gnaw the noses off stuffed animals and speak in a guttural German accent. So if your newborn baby is ugly don't despair.

It was after the birth that things started to go downhill. I was moved to a shared room with a nitwit who had just given birth to a 5 1/2-pound nubbin named Johnny. Although hospital policy prohibited more than a few visitors at a time, this woman had people come in tour buses to troop through her room. They came in batches of 10-15 people at a time, with all their kids in tow, to ooh and ahh over wretched little Johnny in his bassinet.

When the loutish kids walked in they all tracked mud through my side of the room, despite the flimsy "privacy curtain." They dropped candy wrappers and got in mock fights over my bed while I tried to get the baby to latch on. Some of them opened the drawers and rooted through them (looking for free used blankies or nighties?), or took the rubber gloves from the box on the wall and snapped them at each other like slingshots. Some of the commentary from their awful parents went like this:

"He's a precious, poifect angel!"
"What a dawwwllbaby!"
"Bet you can't wait to have a Corona, honey!"

A frickin' Corona? How about a double dirty martini with three olives, stirred please?

Little Miss Twatlet was not nursing, so she fell blissfully asleep while the nurses took Johnny away to feed him bottles all night long. I sat there awake all night long and struggled to nurse my own baby; it was not going well. When the nurse arrived I asked plaintively, "Is there a lactation consultant on staff?"

"A what?" she wondered.

"A lactation consultant. Someone who can help you with problems nursing."

"Um, channel 5 on TV," she mumbled."Everything you need on TV."

The TV channel showed some dowdy, fat-breasted women blissfully nursing their infants with no troubles at all. No one else could help. I struggled on mightily, only feeling happiness when the girl next door awoke in the night groaning in pain.

"I towaah [translation: tore]...I towaah!" she hissed to the nurse. "When the baby came out I towaah down theeeaah. It hoits!" Apparently, her 5 1/2-pound lumplet of a baby had shot out so fast, right through the air into the doctor's arms, that he tore her stem to stern, as they say. Hehhehe.

She whimpered like that for the next day or so. Meanwhile, I was suffering even more. At about 4 am I rang for the nurse and asked her to take the baby away for one hour so I could rest.

"Give him bottle?" she said sweetly.

I knew this was a bad idea, but I was desperate. "Yes, just one bottle! And then bring him right back!"

I woke up about 4 hours later and asked for the baby. No one knew where he was. "Find him!" I said, but no one could seem to track him down. He was either with the doctor, or being weighed, or being fed another bottle. " more bottles!" I cried, but the nurses stared at me blankly. After more time had passed, I determined to find him myself. I dug around in the drawers but the Twatlet's evil visitors had stolen all the clean gowns. So in my still-bloodied gown I got up and shuffled down fluorescent hallways, seeking my baby. "Where's my baby!" I shrieked to the nurses. No one knew.

I peeked into the nursery, which had its shades drawn so I couldn't see any babies at all. Finally someone stopped me and asked me what I was doing wandering about. I was escorted back to my room and told to wait and the baby would arrive within seconds. At least an hour or two later, he was finally returned, fat on formula and good as new. I, however, was ready to kill 'em all, especially the Twatlet, who had just received a fresh tour bus of visitors who trooped past my bed, paused, and stared at me as I resumed my painful and humiliating attempts to nurse the baby. Yes, some of them just stood there and stared. I got on the phone with a friend: "My room is filled with ASSHOLES," I said, loudly enough for them to hear. Pretty soon everybody left in a hurry.

When my own 21-month old visited with his daddy, we encouraged him to scream his loudest...for any reason at all. "Go ahead, let it ALL out," we said wickedly, as he howled like mad, and little Lumplet Johnny woke from his slumbers with a piercing cry.

Baby Three is due for release on or around May 10, 2008. The very day that someone will be mixing that ice-cold martini for me. You might as well make the second one while you're at it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

All religions are whack-a-doodle

Lest ye get offended before I even begin, be assured that "whack-a-doodle" is not a pejorative term. I mean no insult to Buddhists, Wiccans, Mormons, and the rest of you lot, but I'm pretty sure your own religion falls into the whack-a-doodle category. For example, if it involves any of the following:

Virgin births
A bunch of snails sitting on some dude's head
An angel named "Moroni"
Worrying over your choice of name for a stuffed animal
Eating the flesh of one's savior on a weekly basis
Frequent use of crystals
Xenu, alien ruler of the Galactic Confederacy

Do you think maybe it's just a teensy-weensy bit strange? Not that that's bad, mind you...just strange.

OK, I think Mormons are kind of extra whacky. (And one of 'em just won the Michigan primary! And he looks like a two-bit J.C. Penney model!) The fundamentalist Mormons, which more mainstream Mormons are all probably rather embarrassed about, are extra-funky weird. My favorite story is how the founder of the religion, Joseph Smith, went to his wife one day and said something like the following: "Um, honey...I received another revelation. This one makes it abundantly clear that I'm supposed to take more hottie, young wives and you're supposed to be all obedient about it and stuff." Actually, he had his secretary or toady transcribe the revelation and hand it to her, the ball-less coward. Apparently, his wife, Emma Smith, did not take the news very well.

Want to know how quickly you may slip-slide down the rails into the fiery hot place? Is your soul in danger of a deep fry? Try this Belief-O-Matic quiz and it will tell you what religion may best suit you. A few years ago I took it and came up strongly as a Neo-Pagan, but now that my clothing style has become more conservative and I gave up the patchouli spray I seem to be more of a Secular Humanist or perhaps a Unitarian Universalist. Who knew?

Either way, my God rocks and yours is a doodyhead and I'm a-gonna be saved! I will be at your door very shortly to save you. Saving you will involve much lecturing, and I'll eat your food while I'm there.

Monday, January 14, 2008

At the end of the world where the clowns weep

I once read a poem with this title, written by an angst-ridden eighth-grader who had been unlucky in love, and I always thought it rather just about anything. (The poem was written in a series of 8 or 10 long stanzas, finally ending with the clowns weeping and tearing at their garments in an apoplexy of teenage misery.)

The poem's sentiment could have been fitting, for example, on the other day when my Good and Kind husband said something along the lines of "Honey...I don't mean to upset you, but those pants just aren't flattering to your rear end." Whatever could he mean? I took a look over my shoulder and saw something I didn't wish to see. "Good God!" I cried out. "This cannot be." (Of course, Revered Son # 3, currently residing within, is entirely to blame for this state of affairs.) "I wish to run," I said. "Run away from my own rearview. But wherever I go, it shall follow me." Here, I could have added "Nay, to the very end of the world...where the clowns weep!"

This weekend, we went house-hunting. It's an odd experience. One begins with a sense of joie de vivre and boundless curiosity. But after seeing two or three homes, the sickly miasma of other people's lives begins to descend. It seems that very few people who are selling their homes--at least within the price range I am looking--have entertained guests or even left their homes in the last several years for more than a quick deli run. The piles of clutter blocking rooms and doorways, gentle yet odoriferous dogs scattered around like so many throw rugs, and creepy oniony smells all attest to the fact that these people do not really want to sell their homes--not really. They are as much a part of the house as the crusty patina of grease on the kitchen counter, or the crooked stairwell with the missing rail, and they will be pried loose only with enormous offers of money (which are not forthcoming).

After seeing five homes, I was left with a sense of unease, like I'd trespassed and seen a bit too much. Memories of the homes filtered through my day and permeated the novel I was reading, such that all the fictional scenes within houses took place within those houses. Two of the homes were empty, and those were a bit easier, although I've managed to invent sordid and weird histories for them without the assistance of props. In two others we visited, the owners were there puttering about amidst a lifetime of clutter. But one home...that one was haunted by clowns.

The owners were not at home. The place was strangely dark, with all the curtains drawn. It could have had grandeur at one point, but it had long forgotten whatever noble origins it might have had in the early 1900s. From the ground level to the third story, every available inch of wall was covered with a painting or print in a cheaply-made wooden frame. These came in three themes: 1. Prayers 2. Scary clowns 3. Portraits of family members. Of the themes, the Scary Clowns theme was by far the most prevalent. I never saw such a collection of awful clowns: On violet, star-spattered backgrounds; leering over fences; juggling colored balls; puffing their big red lips out with disdain. One section of the stairway seemed to be the unholy "black hole" of clown paintings, nearly sucking the viewer in with the sheer density of toothy and hatted clowns, all goggle-eyed and lecherous. Who could have sought out such a vile collection? The religious overtones of the house made it all the more bizarre. Big red ties, floppy hats, and Jesus dangling from the crucifix--the eclectic decorator's dream!

This was not all. In the basement of the home, which was no charmer to begin with, we noticed a door marked "Medical Office." What was behind that door, my friends? Well, if you guessed a fully equipped medical suite featuring a less-than-brand-new gynecological examining table dead smack in the center of the room, you have just arrived at The End of the World Where the Clowns Weep. I think the stirrups might have been a bit rusty, but I confess I didn't get too close.

The doctor's desk was in the corner, with another framed prayer leaning on it. Her medical certification was displayed. At the end of the room was a sink with antiseptic soap for washing up. The rest of the room, save the examining table itself, was completely devoted to clutter of all kinds--boxes, papers, medical devices. The light in the room was yellow and decayed, and the walls were of that dark, paneled wood popular sometime in the 60s and 70s. A shade was drawn over the window, and that too was a cracked yellow color, so that whatever light came through seemed sickened and outdated.

I imagined someone buying the house and everything packed up or sold at a tag sale (one gynecological table--cheap!). Worse, I imagined patients coming in through the side door from the driveway, down to the basement. Past the printouts of psalms and the pop-eyed clowns to their medical doctor's office, deep below three stories of a family's accumulated memories and dross. Entering a strange, undersea world.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Trapped in the Closet With Schtinky Teddy

Last night we watched the first installment of R. Kelly's brilliant "Hip-HOpera," Trapped in the Closet. This is just about the funniest thing I've ever seen. Through a series of 12 chapters, R. Kelly sings a preposterous, convoluted story of betrayal and infidelity, peppered with such details as a rubber discovered in his wife's bed right after he starts "goin' crazy like I was tryin' to give her a baby!" and a midget named "Big Man" (he's blessed in "that area") hiding under the sink of another cheating spouse (cleverly named Bridget, which you may have noticed rhymes with "midget").

After we had declared R. Kelly a comedic genius, we then watched his commentary on the DVD. There sits R. Kelly is a lounge chair, coolly smoking a cigar and entranced with his own work pictured on a large screen before him. He proceeds to describe what is going on in the most inane, obvious, solemn manner...leaving us with but two conclusions: A) This cat is even slyer than we realize...he's pulling a ju-jitsu dupe job on the viewer! B) This cat is insane.

Here is a sample of the type of commentary we get:

On screen: R. Kelly, playing "Sylvester," is hiding in a closet after a one-night stand goes awry and the husband is coming up the stairs.

I’m in the closet, like man, what the fuck is going on?
You’re not gonna believe it
But things get deeper as the story goes on
Next thing you know, a call comes through on my cell phone
I tried my best to quickly put it on vibrate
But from the way he act, I could tell it was too late
He hopped up and said, “There’s a mystery going on
And I’m gonna solve it”
And I’m like, “God please, don’t let this man open this closet”

R. Kelly's commentary: Here I am in the closet. I'm hiding, see, because the husband is looking for me now, because he heard my cell phone. Man, I don't want him to open that closet. This is a tense moment.

On screen: The husband "checks under the dresser," while R. Kelly "pulls out his Beretta."

R. Kelly's commentary: Here I came up with Beretta to make a rhyme. See, if you notice, the whole thing rhymes! All the way through it rhymes. I don't know how that happened, but it just kinda happened that way. This thing with a Beretta is a cliffhanger. The story is all about cliffhangers. You're really tense, because he has a gun. You don't know what's going to happen. That's a cliffhanger.

So inspired were we that we by this piece of filmmaking that we decided to turn our entire day into one, long operatic adventure. The first chapter went kinda like this:

There's a smell in the bathroom
So she walks into the bathroom [Note: This is a rhyme.]
And looks behind the door
And she checks along the floor
It smells like Stinky Teddy
Yeah, it must be Stinky Teddy
With his chewed-on paws and toes
And his face that used to have but don't any longer have a nose.
And his matted-down fur all soaked in toddler spit
And she's thinking to herself, "Whoa, this is some deep shit!"

So now she's on a mission
To catch the smell emission
So she walks back to the bedroom
She's sniffin' round the bedroom [Note: Also a rhyme.]
And the smell is getting stronger
And the time she's taking to experience her fear is growing longer [Note: Here, the music rises in intensity.]
She says: "All of ya'll ass is crazy, let me up out this door,
Because this crazy-ass mo-fo stink is way more than I bargained for."

But now she looks at the closet
She walks up to the closet
She comes up to the closet
Now she’s at the closet
Now she’s opening the closet…
And there's Stinky Teddy
Stinkin' like a freed wildcat that just got loose
And got drowned in stink juice, juice, juice [fade out]

Monday, January 7, 2008

Our New Beau, the Big O

I've received this latest report straight in from the trenches of the Live Free or Die State! Primary fever is on the boil!

New Hampshire (my beloved home state) has become engaged in a full-blown, mammy-jammin' love fest with our new beau, the Big O. What a man! The entire populace has gone stone-cold bonkers over a chap we heartily overlooked last summer, and the frenzy is building like a bonfire! Grown men are weeping in the streets; the sap has stopped running in the maples; drunken ice-fishermen are debating his middle name; bitter Clintonistas are biting their own spleens in vitriolic envy; fake "Obama Ears" are all the rage; crowds of rowdy youth are chanting "Fired Up Ready to GO!" in every little village hither and yon; and even the bitter cold and crotch-high snow of last week is forgotten in our frenzy to embrace this trend and make history. The poll numbers keep jumping like a cat on a stove, and, as Dan Rather pithily put it in a rare moment of clarity, we don't know whether to "wind our watches or howl at the moon." Most of us are cleverly planning on doing both.

New Hampshire residents live in fear that Hillary will be at the door on Monday, wanting to have a lengthy "policy lunch" while her randy husband talent-spots the teens in the house--yuck! Make no mistake: this is Obama's time, and everybody feels the undertow of what is known as "the madness of crowds," after the legendary book of the same title.

Senator Obama may be selling classic feel-good flim-flam, such as hope for the future of our country, and the notion that we can all work together--but man, it feels good. For the moment, at least, from Dixville Notch to Nashua, and from Freedom to Hanover, this funny old state has been stood on its ear, and we're loving it.

Best to you--
Dan'l Webster's Ghost

Sunday, January 6, 2008

"You're Likable Enough"

Look, when it comes down to it, you'll really just sort of do as a human being. But for gosh sakes, you're not as dislikable as, say, a puff adder or a deadly asp. You have nothing to be concerned about. No one really cares for the fact that you have a Medusa-like habit of turning people's blood to an icy slurry and then hardening the poo in their bowels with one steely-eyed glare, but that doesn't make you BAD. You might even be considered "not even close to being nice but just this side of Evil."

Poor Hillary. When she got hurty feelings, that was in fact her most likable moment throughout the debate. (I thought she made a good point about our current so-called President being a "likable guy." Look where that got us! The people who said they'd like to have a beer with him failed to realize that he's sober, a sure sign that he'd veered off the "fun track" some time back.) Obama's "You're likable enough" was in fact his most awkward moment--kind of like a blind date explaining why date # 2 was never, ever going to take place. He could have been more charitable. He could have simply said "It's not you, it's me, baby. I'm just too scorching...HOT! Look at my ears.*"

I'm not trying to be mean here, but I can't help the fact that every time I see Hillary I expect to see frozen death rays shoot out of her eyes. They were so heavy-lidded during the debate, no doubt from pure exhaustion, that when she was baited by the Edwards-Obama "Nyah, nyah, we are change and you are the status quo!" coalition and they SHOT OPEN to their full, robotic size I nearly screamed aloud. NOW the bodily growth to the 10th power and the maniacal stompling begins? It takes at least 2 1/4 hours to relax from that kind of scare.

The chalupa that Bill Richardson was likely dreaming of during the debate ("Your reply, Governor Richardson?" "Mmm...Yo quiero Taco Bell!") has more warmth in its little hide. I mentioned Hillary's lack of warm/fuzzy recently, and my friends pointed out that Hillary is perfectly appealing because she "smiles and laughs." So too does the jackal, before it feeds.

Shallow as it seems, my likability factor rests on two key components:

A. Can we stand to hear your strident/drawling/lugubrious voice for four years straight?
B. Can we stand to see your piggy/purse-lipped/triple-chinned face for the same eternal time period?

If only the President were to be shut up in a box, making Important Decisions in silence and secrecy, then maybe a President Dukakis could have had a wisp of a hope in this world. If you're bearded, bitchy, or overfond of the taste delicacy known as "fourthmeal," good luck to you.

* I might as well state my case. I'm going to choose my next President based on his ears. Barack Obama is not only inspirational, smart, and appealing, but his ears are the largest of all the candidates. What does that mean to you, the voter? All the better to hear you with! His ears are not just "big enough," they are very, very big indeed. Even if you are a meaningless gnat of a person, Obama is going to hear your needs. Think about that.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Shopping Cart Caucus

The herd of shopping carts in my neighborhood has been infected with caucus fever. On every street corner, I can see them huddling together for warmth, debating the merits of the candidates with a fervor common to their kind. Sometimes, the arguments get heated. Just this morning I saw two carts lying slumped in the gutter, evidently exhausted from debate. Another one leaned against a tree, spinning its wheels inanely and muttering "President Huckabee?" while a fourth cart banged in the wind from door to door trying to roust last-minute support for Dennis Kucinich. The carts do not seem to realize that we are not in Iowa, so passionate are they for politics.

But many of the carts remain imprisoned in the supermarket lot and aisles, disenfranchised from the process. When, oh when, will they simply let all the carts free to participate in democracy? Even Rattles, the drunken bottle 'n' can cart, has a right to raise his squeaky little voice. (In fact, he is among the most active in our little community. What a sight he is, up to his handle in Miller and Bud cans, still reeking from the recycling bin! But what a charmer.) The internment of the carts is alien to our nation's freedoms and must cease. Which candidate will support their release? Who cares for the forgotten cart?

Things came to a head while I was shopping this afternoon. At first, the penned and angry carts set up a low growl reminiscent of a hive of bees. "We must caucus!" one cried. "We must be free!" another lamented. The cart I was pushing broke away and shot for the door, scattering clementines in its wake. Several others rolled over their elderly pushers, amid screams, bouncing yams, and broken eggshells. More carts in the parking lot rushed en masse toward the highway entrance ramp, screaming with rage and exultation. "To Iowa! To Iowa!" they shouted.

The defectors inside the store tried to rush the door, but were blocked by several pimply New Ro "Huguenots" seeking money for the basketball team. The teens beat back the carts with plastic shopping bags and stale, rock-hard candy bars until reinforcements could arrive.

"Stay calm, people!" shrieked Shuffles, in the midst of bagging. I noticed that her agitation had distracted her enough such that she placed a crushable item under a milk jug. Whipping out a pistol and a lasso, she moved with an catlike grace that I did not know she possessed.

The carts, cornered, set up an ominous clatter of metal. Sparks flew.

"Down, you lot! None shall leave the premises!" shouted the Stop 'n' Shop manager, as he ruthlessly tased the leaders into submission. It was a ghastly sight, and I'm still shaken. I left without my groceries and have gone hungry. Word of the riot has spread as far as Trader Joes, but it seems the carts there are well-cared for and unused to rebellion. I fear it shall not be the end of this. The carts must have their freedom, and blood may well be spilled before the caucus is complete.