Thursday, September 25, 2014

When I grow up, I want to be an old fart.

I take a slice of butter just off of the top of a butter stick that went cold and hard over night. A friend  took her toast with four large hunks of butter just like her eccentric father. "One for every bite."
Maybe she hadn't said eccentric, but that is how I imagined our conversation--the two of us talking about the eccentric, old creatures in our lives.  My own great-grandmother once sprained her ankle falling off a ladder and, upon being told to wear some sort of compression device, spent six weeks wearing patent leather go-go boots.

The old creatures don't just butter their toast, they argue with their philodendrons, flirt with whomever they like, and schlep ten pounds of rhinestone jewelry (evenly distributed, mind you). Celebrated as odd and remembered as legend, the Old Eccentric Creatures inspire art, stories, and the occasional shudder from us not yet old/eccentric.

I want to be someone's Old Eccentric Creature. I want to become that old woman at the concert whose dancing resembles some drunken train wreck who transfixes an entire audience. I look forward to offering applause with pendulous, unbridled breasts that slap together when I dance. I want to wear more rings than I have fingers for and bright red lipstick and perfume that makes people winded or dizzy. I want to read the paper aloud to myself in the library and use the royal "we" in conversation.

In practice, I should find my inner Eccentric Old Creature.

I practice nibbling donuts in strange ways, hoping that someone would say, "oh, heavens, will you just look at that old, eccentric woman nibbling her donut in such an old, eccentric way," and then I remember that eating donuts in the bathroom, though it may be strange, will not be observed in a manner which I am comfortable with experiencing.

Unfortunately, I've met some road blocks. My grocery cashier isn't young enough to flirt with, jewelry just leaves green smudges all over, and Courtney Love already perfected red lipstick with enviable skill. It appears that giving a shit about not giving a shit is self-defeating.

Perhaps with age comes the notion that after the kids have grown and we're all sweated out from our nimble, haggard years at the grindstone, we become entitled to our fancies, our whimsies. Perhaps I've not yet perfected my butter-to-toast ratios just yet.

There's time, I guess. If I'm lucky.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

My life: A timeline according to chickens.

Okay. I'm sitting down to write a blog. I am writing in my old home town in what is now my pub. Okay, my husband's pub.


The last blog I wrote was about science fair and that whole debacle. But the blog before that was about how I was completely preoccupied in being woefully, miserably single. However I did mention the chickens, so let's start there, shall we?


February-ish: After three damned long years of campaigning, the spawn finally talked me into getting chickens. "They'll be so great!'" said the spawn. "Gross!" said the mom. I had always considered chickens as the meanies of the meat world.
The rodents of hell: Brian Froud's skeksi alongside Turd the chicken. 
As a kid I remember my best friend having attack chickens which are kind of like attack dogs except smaller, winged, bipedal taloned beasts of hell--maybe rodents of hell.

Purchase chickens. Eight of them. I was told that they wouldn't look like skeksis for long. SO I was told. No eggs yet.

March-ish: I am the top cool kid, hot shot at a super-duper big-kid job. I am a kick ass person. I tell people what to do. My children tell me what to do. The scantily feathered sisters at the prehistoric  sorority in my guest room tell each other what to do. They finally laid an egg. It looks like poop. Nevermind. No eggs yet.

March-ish II: I have now taken it upon myself to dive whole-heartedly into my chickenizing. I will never again find a mate. I will have chickens, and in them, I shall find peace.

We have named the chickens. They are not dead yet. Go me. We are the proud owners of Cleopatra, Maureen, Hoodoo (who I call Laverne), Hocus, Lilith, Glinda, Beaker (my little love), and Turd. We do not like Turd. Turd, as we are told, will give us bright blue eggs.
No eggs yet.

April-ish: My singularity has made me a bitter, old cat-and-chicken woman. Download Tinder app to recaption terrible dating site profile pics. Buy terrible gin. Still no eggs.

April 19th: Meet guy from Tinder. Coincidentally, he lives in my old home town. Coincidentally, he is from same old home town (though I'd never met him). Coincidentally, he's a zine editor/English major/general smart ass. Coincidentally, he is hot.

At first sight, I knew that I was doomed to live the rest of my life in utter joy with this man.

Still no eggs.

Our sexually misguided hen, Laverne. 
May-ish: I am unreasonably happy. I am the boss at an awesome job. I am the recipient of epic amounts of attention and affection. The world is becoming increasingly adorable. Cynical me wants to punch In-love me in the throat. The fella, who owns a restaurant and bar, buys me really, really good gin.

I am given another chicken. Her name is Mo. She is the feathered version of Mick Jagger on psychedelics. I have nine chickens. NINE CHICKENS AND NO EGGS.

June-ish: My job--my awesome big-kid job--will be gone at the end of the month, I'm told. The fella asks me to marry him. I say, "duh."
He shows me the video of his high school death-metal air-band. I tell him that I'll still marry him and that we all have shady pasts.

June 21st: Laverne is acting funny. She is gigantic and pretty and has a waddle that goes for miles. Today Laverne crowed. Not just like a small, timid little crow, but a loud pubescent holy-hell-I-have-found-my-voice-and-all-others-will-suffer-my-wrath kind of crow. Laverne is a dude chicken.

A columnist from the newspaper calls me. They want to run a story about my hermaphrodite hen. I'd like to think that the story was sympathetic to my wretched rooster state; however, most people just laugh and laugh at this poultry genitalia switcheroo.

Still no eggs.

July-ish: I marry the fella in spite of his penchant for death metal. I am now the co-owner of a restaurant and bar. My parents take the chickens. I slowly move to my old home town. I am still slowly moving into my old home town.

I went back to see my chickens.

I found an egg.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Worst Holiday EVAR: Science Fair Eve.

Harry Shearer's syndicated weekly radio show, Le Show, features an "apologies of the week" segment where he highlights the public apologies from large corporations, celebrities, politicians, etc.

Today I'm here to provide my own personal apology of the week.

I'm sorry, people, for every bitchy thing I did today. But you just don't understand what's going on: It's Science Fair Eve.

For those who have yet to shat forth the next generation of would-be hard-core procrastinators, let me tell you how it goes:

1) You receive a notice that the SCIENCE FAIR will be happening. You will receive this notice in January--at least you should have received this notice in January, but for some odd reason you will only find it when you are cleaning out the lint trap in the dryer. At this exact moment your spawn will waltz through the door after school with the infamous stress-inducing trifold poster board.

2)Your upper lip will start to sweat when you notice that the trifold poster board is completely naked.

3) You will begin mumbling in tongues like a well-traveled sailor when you are told that the completed tri-fold poster board, along with experiment and conclusion are due.....tomorrow.

When we sign up to take on the responsibilities of ensuring the survival of offspring, we don't typically think of the damaging effects Science Fair Eve has on the psyche. When you find out you're pregnant, you don't ever stroke your belly and hum, "I can't wait until I'm huffing rubber cement at 1:30 a.m. whilst sticking jellybeans on cardboard."

But you must. It is a right of passage. Only once you have undergone the wild ordeal of paper maché-ing a a giant pair of sunglasses that look more like a uterus will you understand the panicked horror of Science Fair Eve.

But FEAR NOT, friends. I'm not here to gripe incessantly. I'm here to offer hope. I will offer you three last-minute projects your kids can use.

The flower--nature's dial-it-in project. Google flower anatomy. Print, cut, and paste information on trifold. Buy a flower at the store (science fairs typically occur when everything in nature doesn't really give a shit about being all sciencey and most vegetation is dormant--at least in our neck of the woods. This furthers my theory that schools conspire to rid you of your will to live. They are also probably in cahoots with the wine dealers). Done.
Poster board title: "Flowers are pretty, but not as pretty as my mother."

Living death--whatchagot project. Clean out your refrigerator. Give you child that tupperware from the back of the fridge--the one with the leftovers that are older than your first born. (NOTE: When you give the plastic death bomb to your child, get a little misty and with a shuddery voice say, "I've been saving this for you since you were born." They will have no choice but to use it. ALSO, when science fair is over, said child can throw it away at the school and NOT in your home. Win/win.) Poster board title: You can go with either "Mold vs. Plastic" or "The effects of parental academic negligence." Your choice.

Foot funk--why the hell do little boys' feet smell so bad? No, seriously, I want to know. It's messed up. For this one you can google sebaceous glands or something like that. Staple a few of the socks you found between the couch cushions to the poster board (if too tough, you may want to use nails or spritz them with water and they'll adhere themselves. Google foot odor. Bleach all areas surrounding science fair project.
Poster board title: "My mom didn't even try this year."

Other science fair options are "how foot rubs keep me from getting grounded" or "Lightbulbs: It's Called Magic" or "Pie and it's effect on the mood."

The final option comes complete with poster board visual! Yes, this was the OMG-I-can't-believe-it's-Science-Fair-Eve scientific discovery this year. I spent an hour figuring out how to draw lattice in a word. I smell like rubber cement. My eyes want to bleed now.

But somewhere in the torrent of hormonal hysteria, mostly mine, I think we had a good time. My face is so happy it's dancing....or twitching depending on your Science Fair Eve knowledge base.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Taking inventory.

I am far from any semblance of the quintessential mother/woman. If one were to be defined by their things, I'd say I'm screwed by modern-day's standards of living: Single mom, two baby daddies, trailer by the river, etc. Some days you look at your life sunny-side-down.
If you ever find yourself taking inventory and your list should appear similar to the one above, you may want to just admit one thing to yourself.  
"Self," you'll say, "you done Jerry'd up your life." 
There's really no way to pinpoint the moment that brought me to this state of a Springer life (all right, I'm sure there is, but that would require a nostalgic exegisis and we all know how well those go, don't we?). Regardless of the reasons, I'm in it. I'm neck-deep in the midday televised squalor of humanity.

But on days when one feels particularly worn out and emotionally underwhelmed with life, it's important one takes inventory of the miracles all around you. 
Here's my personal inventory:

One daughter. I am the proud owner of a sweet, pubescent tween who is happy to live out her days atop Mount Whateverest--::ugh::eye roll::--whilst communicating in monosyllabic grunts,  sighs....or worse, Broadway show tunes. 

One son. I never knew how expensive extracting quarters from an esophagus could be until I had this miracle of medicine. I attribute my closest emergency room friendships to him and his fearless appetite for...please, let's not give him any more ideas. 

One cat. This cat plays guess-what-it-feels-like-to-suffocate on a nightly basis when he finds no greater joy than cleaning his delicates while sitting on my sleeping face. 

Three-quarters of a dog. This don Juan of a dog finds joy in humping random dogs where ever he may find them. Having only three legs, my dog is always unsuccessful with his romantic interludes. These botched attempts at romance would be more entertaining if he simply avoided going for dogs that were tethered to their owners. Thanks to him, meeting new friends has never been more awkward. 
Yes, they are eight adorable sacks of childhood
 issues waiting to happen......

Eight baby chickens. I don't think of them as chickens but more severe traumatic events covered in downy adorableness simply waiting to peck-the-bucket. Chickens, like goldfish or sea monkeys, are not known for their longevity. They are obnoxious, flightless pooping machines that affix themselves upon the hearts of young, tenderhearted children only to face death on a daily basis if their downy keisters are not cleaned. It is because of this eminent threat of poop death that there is a toothbrush on my counter in a jar that says "not for faces...OR FOR MOTHERS."

One therapy jar. Because every day there is THAT moment. Because there is only ONE bathroom. Because Mom is still learning how to mom one humiliating mistake at a time. Because sometimes we run out of toiletpaper/peanutbutter/hours in the day/patience. Because on occasion I eff things up. And because I say "fuck" instead of "eff" most of the time...This is why we have a therapy jar.

Because sometime down the line, when my children are old enough to manage themselves, they'll realize that their mother effed things up. They might want to pay someone to talk about it. That is when I will give them a wad of nickels and twenty dollar bills and I'll look them in the eye and say, "I knew this day would come."

One perch. Once place that I can sit and drink coffee/kombucha/gin. It's where books are read and stories are built and then written. It's the place where nighttime jitters are quelled. It's a place where both secrets and giggles are shared. It's that one sweet spot in the house where we don't worry about the things we need to do or what we don't have.

This is not the place for inventory. The joy in a quiet snuggle with a child cannot be quantified in numbers. It's where the world, no matter how Jerry'd up it may be, is just right.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Coming Home.

In the 2.5 years I've lived in this valley, I've done some pretty impressive things. I started a roller derby team, I designed costumes and sets for the local theatre, I produced and co-hosted fundraisers which brought in thousands of dollars. I coached a basketball team with a winning season. I assisted with art shows. I performed in Nationally-Affiliated read-outs and started moving toward my MFA. It all sounds pretty impressive, doesn't it?

Well, it means absolutely shit when your son can't read. It means nothing when your tween tells you that you're never around. It means absolutely nothing when you can't find the lost library books. It means diddly squat when it's February and you're using strings of Christmas lights as an extension cord for your laptop.

I'm tapped out. I feel like a deflated teat with nothing else to offer, and the ones who need the most support have gotten the shaft.

In my valiant effort to find validity in my own life, I've lost sight of the little beings who have needed the most validation. My children are bussed and tousled from here to there, spilling sports jerseys and homework all the while. Exciting pizza night event notices get stuffed between the seat cushions of the day and forgotten because of high-profile meetings or art events. In small towns we all take turns entertaining each other, and I simply thought I was paying my dues to the community.

But at what cost?

My son's teacher has no tolerance for him. "He's failing," she told me. "He shouldn't be in this class." The words stung. I wanted to scream and cry, but I didn't think that I was capable of doing anything about his situation. Do we let our children suffer through classes that they despise and say, "welcome to the real world, kid," or do we take them out of places that make them pouty and then slather them with personal accolades for flushing the toilet after twosies and  then celebrate with cake?

This is where I found myself today--a day where I had far more insipid blogs to write.

Instead of going and taking on more community volunteer services, I cleaned my home, hoping that some semblance of order would right the wrongs I've done in the last two-and-a-half years of service. I looked at myself and wondered where the hell this social paranoia came from. Does the sweat for my community even matter when my future is not even twitching an eye on the couch in front of the computer?

"I just need a hug, Mom."

My daughter, writhing in her own hyper-hormonal skin looked up at me for help, maybe hope, or relief from the crazy dancing the Watusi through her veins.

My children have had it rough in the last two years. Their mother has tried to find distraction from a painful divorce by creating a web of support in the community. Social nesting, maybe. They lost their family units in the breakup and then they lost their mother to social obligations.

We hugged tonight. All of us hugged. We made corn dogs and toast for dinner. We did homework. Somewhere between  spelling the word "again" and "there" (both spelled with a "q," mind you) I came home. I found my feet under my body and wrangled my personal fears of dealing with my divorce. Homework has a new meaning.

I cancelled all of my social obligations (save one last one coming up) and felt our family gel and hold. "The world can wait," a friend told me. She was so right.

So scoff or do what you will. I'm okay with that. I don't need any validation in this endeavor. But sometimes begin a grownup means saying "no" to all of those things that validate your self and saying "yes" to those things that fart on your lap.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Raising Readers

In our house, Saturday evenings mean puzzles and projects. A few weeks ago, while my daughter and I worked a particularly boring puzzle of kittens in a basket, we talked about our most recent literary projects. We trade notes. 

“Elizabeth could still remember the sun on her face,” I said with a Katherine Hepburnesque quiver. I asked for my daughter’s feedback. 

She rolled her eyes (a chronic issue that almost all 12 year olds contract). 

“That. Is. Boring.” Her gentle critique came in groans before she read aloud her own project’s first line. “Emily gripped the knife tightly in her pocket. She knew what she had to do.” 

At that moment I realized one hard fact: I am raising my own literary competition. 

As parents, we strive to teach our children as well as we can given our own limitations. We play symphonies to unborn bellies full of potential. We buy them books knowing full well that they will be slathered in apple sauce and drool. We sit for tedious hours while our little ones sound out the words c-a-t, and only sometimes do we shout, “cat! CAT! For the love of god, it spells cat!”

We are creating the new and thriving literary culture one book at a time. 

My own parents were avid book readers. The breakfast table was always a quiet one. My siblings and I would gnash our bran flakes in the morning grog while our parents travelled through time and space over coffee. My father wanted to lead through example.

But this act was a passive one, and the examples given weren’t received. Apart from the back of the shampoo bottle, I didn’t read anything until I turned twenty. 

It stands to reason: A U.S. Federal study done in 2003 showed that 1 in 7 adults were technically illiterate. But even though I could in fact read, I did not. And notes that 50% of American adults cannot read above an 8th grade reading level. This is a result of a few decades full of a passive reading culture. 

However, there is hope. Reading statistics show that 56% of young people read more than 10 books a year. Literacy programs all over the U.S. and abroad reach new and emergent readers every day, and it’s all thanks to the active approach we as parents and educators toward creating a new reading culture. 

My daughter read 900,000 words last year approximately--dwarfing my own reading count. She tracks her literary travels online thanks to her school’s Applied Reading software. She enters reading competitions every year through the school and the local library. And even though she doesn’t win the new bike or the backpack full of goodies, she is getting a hell of a lot out of reading. 

She can argue with a literary compendium to back her every case. Though many of her arguments are based on Frodo or Katniss, she possesses the confidence to stand her ground. She escapes from the doldrums and trials of being a tween in a pair of Travelling Pants or a Glass Elevator. She writes stories which are better than anything I’ll ever be able to pen. 

 I’m not complaining (much). Our kids might very well get book deals before we do. But this just shows that we have raised them well. We are in the process of raising our children to be active readers and writers. We are raising a hungry new batch of book buyers and bookmakers. And our competition is getting better every day.

But don’t worry, friends: If we do succeed in child-rearing, then we can chip away at our novels, one word at a time, from the comfort of our famous children’s guest house. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lil' Louie

So here’s the thing about Louis Braille. He was a normal kid—liked to screw off as much as the next tyke. But when he was three, Lil’ Louie stuck himself in the eye with a leather awl from his father’s shop. His eye grew infected and pretty soon t’other followed suit and he went blind. 

When he grew, he got hungry. Hungry for words. So he devised a system of pregnant chads to help illuminate the literary world for him. He created silent language when it had not been available. He used a leather awl to create peaks on paper flesh. The same tool which blinded him allowed him to see the world of literature. 

Why do I talk about Lil’ Louie? Why is this interesting to me? I don’t know. Maybe I feel a sense of envy, a sense of hope. 

I feel a sense of envy because Louis had a name for his destruction. He could hold it in his hands. I would give anything to have some tangible semblance of my own downfall. Just to be able to hold an instrument in my hands and say, “You, Thing, you are responsible for my blindness.” 

Lil’ Louie had an awl. 

I think of Louie and his awl and I wish that I could go deep within my ear and draw out and give name to my destruction. I wish I could hold it in my hand and say “you, damn you, you did this,” and then look at it sideways and squat ways and alike and name it self doubt and self destruction and nest it within my hands and create a way to see the world in spite of its damage. 

It’s not that easy, though. Because the ghost wriggles and flutters behind our eyes when we look in a mirror, we have proof that it exists. The sly beast only surfaces when we aren’t attentive—looking the other way in fevered distraction. It roils under our skin at three in the morning and taunts us. It blinds us and cripples our capacity to thrive. 

But Lil’ Louie, he didn’t do that. He held his weapon and made beauty. He brought light to the marginalized corners of the world. He brought literature and math and life to those who were not offered the luxury of art. He brought hope. 


Hope to those who have blinded themselves to the possibility of possibilities. Hope to those who are crippled by the intangible weapons within their own minds. Our destruction can bring about light. I hope.