Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lego Porn



Through the years, my son and his friends have left little "gifts" around the house for me. Sometimes it's days before I notice that something's amiss. They take me off guard and give me a good laugh. Here's a beautiful sculpture that was left on my desk a few years ago. It made me laugh so hard and has been such a conversation piece, that I've given it a place of honor in my home, between the fountain pens, and my Grandmother's clock.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Must See!

Photo Credit goes to Evelyn, whose name isn't really Evelyn
and who never gave me permission to post his photo.

AHH, AUTUMN!

My favorite season is here! I love this time of the year. The cool, crisp, air is so inviting after inhaling summer's stifling humid steam. The colors, smell, and sounds of the leaves. Opening all of the windows in the house, letting fresh autumn breeze blow through, blow out the staleness of 2 months of A/C. (No A/C & no furnace running means tiny little power bills, yayyyy!!)

Pulling out cozy sweatshirts and fuzzy socks, and lighting candles in the evenings. Replacing summer salads with big pots of steaming soups and chili's.

We tend to complain when autumn gets here, because winter is coming. Prepare for winter, batten down the hatches. Never get warm. Can't sit outside. Shoveling snow. Holiday bills...

Och! 3 months away, winter! Let's cross that bridge when we get to it! Get ye outside! Take a walk! Watch the squirrels gather nuts! Watch the birds fly south! Take a hike! Take a photo! Find some hot apple cider! Go to a festival! Carve a pumpkin! Drag your feet through crunchy leaves! Pick up and bring home a pretty one!

Oh, just don't miss it!

Monday, September 26, 2005

BISB

As long as we're on the subject of fashion, can I throw in my 2 cents on another current trend?

The Built-In Shelf-Bra.

Placed now, for our convenience, in most tank tops, swimsuits, spaghetti-strap tops, and even in our comfy pajamas. We will not be required to wear a bra with this garment, because there's one built in! Voila! Only one garment, instead of two! No straps falling off of our shoulders!

Who are they kidding? Their labels should read:

Built In Shelf Bra (BISB):
  • A strip of ace-bandage-like fabric sewn inside, guaranteed to flatten even the most ample bosom to the physique of a 10-year old boy.
  • Only the most, industrial-strength, steel-toed, push-em-up bra will stand up to the binding powers of the BISB, should you desire any semblance of owning breasts.
  • Scritchy little elastic band at the base of the BISB, to dig into your torso all day long.
  • BISB fabric will shrink at a different rate than the fabric of your garment, ensuring aesthetic bunching and puckering after only one washing.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

True Confessions

It's hard to take a stance, isn't it?

I often have a hard time taking sides on what would normally be black-and-white issues, because I'm trying to look at the circumstances from every angle. I can usually find a valid argument from each of them. I believe THIS, but THAT is also true, yes.

And then there are other times when I simply don't live up to my own expectations. Is it hypocrisy or human nature?

I refer back to the "You Go, Girl" blog. I wholeheartedly believe everything I wrote in that entry.

Yet on a Walmart-run the other day, I saw an older, somewhat overweight woman wearing very short, hot pink, terry-cloth shorts that revealed a bit of cellulite-covered butt-cheek. A matching, conforming top to go with it. At first glimpse, my mind involuntarily went "OH!!! Oops!!"

And my thoughts went next to the blog entry. "Pick a stance" I'd popped off....Ok, pick it, now's the time to pick it...Do I support this woman's decision, her right to wear this outfit, to age with grace and dignity and respect, or am I full of shit?

I am no expert on fashion. I hate shopping for clothes, and care so little about designer names that I usually have no idea what the conversation is about when those names are dropped.

Also, I have left the house in "Ooops" outfits many a time--probably more than I know. I once could not decide what to wear to an opening night art gala. I wanted to wear something subdued, but not boring, and, oh...you know how it is when you have nothing to wear, even though you're facing a closetful of clothes...

I unsuredly left the house in a simple blouse, a short black skirt, and fish-net stockings. My friend Di insisted that I looked nice, but I was not confident of the skirt or the stockings. A few hours later, the several glasses of free wine they give you to lure you into shopping had only enhanced my insecurities.

It is the law, then, that you should run into the last person you'd want to, when you're uncomfortable with your appearance. I was drunkenly mingling in they foyer at the art show, when my then-husband's best female friend walked in. Doh! We went to school together, and were from very different social classes, and, I always found her intimidatingly more wealthy and worldy and sophisticated than I was. As an adult, even though she's a warm and open-minded, intelligent woman, I could never quite shake those childhood insecurities. I always left her presence second guessing myself, and wondering why I'd said this-or-that stupid thing.

She greeted me warmly that evening, and asked me how I was, and I drunkenly replied, "I have slutty fishnet stockings on."

HA! THAT is how I am! You know it, and I know you know it, so don't think I don't know it too!

Ok, that was an OOoops night on more than one account. SHE was gracious and chaperoning a girlfriend that had indulged in even more of the free wine than I had, so I was off the hook in the social faux pas department.

My point, I guess, was that I have definitely been the "O0ps Girl." The Glamour Don't. The Bad Idea, The Tsk, Tsk, Tsk..."

My turn, then, to pick a stance? Yeah, I think hotpants lady had a right to wear whatever she wants to, and not be judged by it...which is why I have to admit to being a terrible hypocrit, because I could never give her the "You GO girl" thumbs up. Hon, you're having an "Ooops day." Don't wear those shorts out of the house! Don't wear them IN the house. Give them away!

My True Confession: My bad. Sometimes I roll my eyes.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Aurgh

How many Asian dishes does a girl have to ruin before she stops dousing it with Worcestershire, instead of soy, in the middle of the cooking procedure?

Perhaps either Kikkoman or Lea & Perrins would agree to change the shape of their bottles, to save me the trouble of reading a label?

I am having worcestershire-sesame beef for dinner. Join me.

You go, girl!


Pictured above is Aisha Tyler, in an article about photographic digital enhancement, in last month's Glamour magazine. The notes may be difficult to read here, but you get the idea: slim down her arms, legs, hips, pretty up her hair, and pump up those breasts.

We all know that what you see isn't what you get, in magazines and on television, and this article is a good depiction. The magazine admits to going overboard, but they wanted to portray the extremes they'll go to, to present what is required of us to appear "beautiful."

And we, as strong, intelligent, feminist women, claim to be against the media for constantly shoving unrealistic ideals down our throats. Women are starving themselves, spending exorbitant prices on anti-aging serums, and cutting up their faces and bodies to achieve these standards.

We declare it ridiculous. We will fight to the end for every woman's right to be comfortable in her body, and to age gracefully, and to be respected for it.

And then we turn around and act like backstabbing bitches to each other.

It was recently suggested to one of my best friends, age 40, and in fantastic shape, that she's surpassed the age in which it was appropriate to wear the black halter top she'd purchased for her trip to Vegas.

Another acquaintance of mine pointed out a young woman with an extra 15 pounds, suggesting that perhaps low-rise jeans shouldn't have been her choice today.

On and on it goes, ladies; you've heard it, and you know it.

It just grates on me. I think Princess can wear any top she wants, AND that she'll look fantastic in it, and that the girl with the few extra pounds and the low rise jeans is probably a hell of a lot more secure and happy with her body than her critic ever will be.

We can not go around criticizing and making fun of each other, and at the same time maintain our belief that we can be beautiful at any age, or weight. It may be slightly (or grossly) out of context, but we are outraged when a victim of sexual violence is accused of "asking for it" because she chose the little black skirt for her Friday night outing. "A woman should be able to wear anything she wants," we stomp and scream.

Yes, she should.

Pick one, then. If you DO believe that we have a right to choose our own styles, to feel good in them, to feel good about our bodies, our aging faces and sagging bottoms, if you believe that personality, humor, kindness, and warmth are larger factors in determining grace and beauty than a surgically-enhanced eyebrow and a lifted buttock...

...then choose your stance, and stop rolling your eyes.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Stop It.

I recently watched a rerun of hilarious MadTV skit, in which Bob Newhart played a psychiatrist to Mo's character. She'd spill her guts for awhile, and he'd listen intently, and then give his advice: "Well, stop it."

Right on!

I think all too often we get caught up in our lives, or problems, our own neuroses, and we seek out pills and advice and counseling to fix our own problems or someone else's...when all we really need to do is just "stop it."

Those of you that don't know me don't know that I'm coming out of a tumultuous year...or so. I posted this blog once, with details of that tumult, and then came back and UN-posted it. Though I wrote for the sake of portrayal, my revelations felt windy and whiny, and made me uncomfortable. The overall message was that there's been a lot of stress and worry.

The good news is: things are clearing up. Those issues that caused some angst before all seem to be dissipating now.

The last few months have been extraordinarily NICE for me. My sister has been declared cancer free. Mom's meds seem to leave her less at a loss for words. My son and I have decided that perhaps just loving the stuffing out of one another might be a better way to go than bickering. My health is fine.

I just scored a part time job that I can work from home, which will ease a few financial burdens and maybe even allow me to travel or somethin! I've made a plethora of new, wonderful friends that leave me reeling. I love my home. I'm painting. I'm writing. And I'm laughing. Again.

And yet. When one is subjected to enough stress and chaos and drama for enough time, it is sometimes difficult not to ultimately, accidentally, to let those things define oneself. Despite the sun shining throught the clouds once again, I've found myself still walking around feeling edgy. Worry, worry, anxiety. Uptight and bickering with friends, a little too teary, sweating the small stuff, unable to sleep, and micro-managing my life.

A couple of months ago, though, I had a sudden epiphany: Waaaaaaaait a minute! What in the hell am I worrying about? There's nothing concrete in my life that could possibly making me feel any of this angst; it's simply become a terrible habit! I've never acted like this before in my life, I've been happy and relatively self-confident for most of my 40 years. I just seemed to have missed it when the pilot turned on the "You Can Stop Crying Now (for chrissakes)" light.

Knock it off! Buckle Up!

Just stop it.

Well OK. I will. I did! I have!

And I am having so much fun.

[Though a teeny little superstitious part of me worries that blogging about my wonderful life will jinx me, and a refrigerator will fall on my head on the way to the coffee shop tonigh...STOP IT!!!]

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Another bike accident

This is the 2nd bike accident I've blogged about in 4 weeks time. What're the odds?

Thursday night, in the middle of a wicked downpour, I witnessed a bicyclist speeding down a slope that intersected into a busy, 4-lane road. There was a van stopped at the intersection, waiting to ease into traffic, and ka-BAMM!! The cylist crashed right into the back of the van. Hat & glasses went flying, and he ended up face down in a pool of water.

I pulled over and met a few others who'd gotten out and were already calling 911. The cyclist came to quickly enough, but was groggy and disoriented, and just wanted to lie down for awhile. Sirens were heard in the distance soon enough, and our biker became amazingly willing to declare himself just fine; if we would help him up, he would mosey on home.

I'm not sure when I realized our biker was shit-faced drunk, but it might have been the jovial "UUUUpsy-daisy" he exclaimed when we pulled him and got him on his feet. Thanks, thanks, he said, and began hurrying away, walking his bike about 10 feet before he attempted to get back on the seat..

Just as he began to peddle off, a squad car pulled up. Our biker made a wobbly attempt to nonchalantly peddle his way back the way he came. It was still pouring down rain, so it would have been a precarious climb for even a sober biker. He ignored that squad car, trying to keep his balance and an innocent look on his face. Cop finally honked that earsplitting airhorn of his, BRaaaaaapppppppp!!!, which startled the bejeesus out of Mr. Drunk-in-Pubic, and sent him crashing over again. It was, by then, somewhat Laurel-and-Hardy-esque.

Lots of fanfare ensued; more squad cars, a firetruck, and an ambulance. Once it was determined that my presence was not needed, I moved on, to the restaurant across the street.

I'm not sure why I'm blogging this. I just keep thinking about the circumstances of that accident...

Guy had too much to drink. Bad.

Guy doesn't get into a car, and jeapordize everyone else on the road. Good.

Guy has a van right in his way, and smashes into it, breaking the window and denting the car. Bad.

The van stopped him from racing out into 4 lanes of 40 mph hour traffic. Thank God that van was there. Good.

Same laws apply for bicyclers as for drivers of automobiles. Guy gets his bike confiscated, and arrested for driving under the influence. Weird.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Fire in the hole!


More cafe excitement Saturday night. We all heard a little glass-breaking sound, and began searching around: was it a light bulb overhead? It was apparent soon enough that it was no light bulb; a sulfur-ish stench permeated the area, and we knew we were victims of a drive-by bombing, a direct hit. Peee-uw!

The odor dissipated soon enough for those of us outside, but managed to make its way inside, and stink out the patrons for a good 5 minutes.

I pondered. Is this blog worthy? What can I find to say about a stink-bombing? Some research was in order.

FYI, a Google search for "stink bomb" will give you 339,000 results. There's a lot more to be said than I had imagined.

Outside of their being fun-for-everyone gag gifts, they may also one day become legitimate tools for warfare and crowd control. Here's a blurb from National Geographic's website:

"... scientists are focusing on odors with biological origins—vomit, human waste, body odors, burnt hair, and rotting garbage. Confronted with these stenches, people from most cultures try to avoid the sources, said Dalton. ''

Note the "people from most cultures" disclaimer. "The smell of vomit and human waste may cause most of you to back out of a militia-man's path, but it all smells like roses to us Bumfuckians; you'll never get us to leave! Bwah-ha-haaaaaaaaaa!!"

Having entirely too much space in my head, I contemplated more:

How in the heck do you end up in the liquid fart business? Do you pursue it, or are Family Fart Dynasty's just handed down from generation to generation? What's it like to spend $30,000 on your degree in marketing and advertising...and land your first 9-to-5 job as a copywriter for FartMart.com? (There really is a fartmart.com.)

What is his/her day like? Are they having a blast, coming up with synonyms for "stink" or are they serious, stern businessmen determined to figure out their target markets, and make a cool million? Here's a good sample:

"Once broken, our stink bombs give off a wretched rotten egg stink. There are 3 glass bombs per box, each with enough potency to cause some serious damage. Throw one of these stink bombs down in a small building, and it will literally clear the place out. When we say that these bombs stink, we mean that these babies really stink. "

I was nearly sold, but reminded myself about the new budget I just set up for myself. I cannot afford to be blowing money on luxuries right now. I removed them from my shopping kart, and logged off.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Just for kicks...

Sometimes I close my eyes when I walk, just to test how well my perception of distance, time, and speed is.

I haven't run into anything yet.

I never try this when I'm driving.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Counting...


Ok. I have to admit: sometimes, weird, wonderful, out-of-the ordinary events DO cross my path. I had an extraordinary day last Sunday, what with watching kids jump rope, shopping for Mom's new little doggie, and encountering what seemed like more than my fair share of enriching conversation with friends and acquaintances throughout the day.

To top it off, we'd planned a little birthday suare for one of our coffee table luvs, Momo. 28, she was, and we were excited at the prospect of showering her with little toys, and a mini bday cake.

Perfect weather, a full cafe, and a surprising treat: A guitarist and...a guy with a stand-up bass, on the streetcorner; an impromptu concert, and they were quite talented. Someone eventually sent them drinks, and due to city code, they were forced to move...to our table.

What dumb luck! An entire 2-man band that just happened to take requests, and that just happened to know the song "Happy Birthday." Were the stars not in perfect alignment?!! Momo got a sidewalk serenade and a little applause, and wasn't that a fun surprise treat for the evening?

And, kids, the boys in the band were there for a bigger cause: Singing their hearts out to raise money for Katrina victims and the red cross. I love that they bothered. It was a sweet night for us here, in Champaign, Illinois, and I had to give pause to recognize and appreciate it, while so many are suffering right now.

"Count your blessings," Mama always said, and we were certainly inundated with them Sunday evening.

American Red Cross
http://www.redcross.org/

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Ropes


Every Sunday afternoon, I pick up my mother, to take her to lunch. Each week, then, I return to the home I grew up in, the house my parents bought in 1964. It is a small home, in what would now be considered by some a lower-class neighborhood. That is...not an entirely...wealthy neighborhood, if you measure wealth by the cash value of your home.

The neighborhood is approximately 4 square blocks, and I recently shocked my son when I informed him that I'd stepped foot in almost every house within those 4 blocks. It amazes me to consider, and is nearly incomprehensible to him.

Late 1960s; the women's movement had not quite taken off, and I grew up surrounded by stay-at-home Mom's. After the Dads drove off to work, it was not an uncommon sight to see women in houserobes and rollers, crossing the street with their coffee cups, to share a quick cup o joe before starting their days cooking and cleaning and keeping their kids in line...by chasing them out of the house with instructions to get some fresh air.

So, though supervised by all the parents in the neighborhood, we ran the streets. We organized baseball games, jumped rope, played house, and even popped tar bubbles in the street for entertainment. We laughed and cried and fought and hit. Our allies and our enemies changed on a daily basis.

Where are the kids in our neighborhoods? Can they find 12 for a baseball game, or are there too many sitting mesmerized in front of MTV, PS2, DVD...or their blogs? (I write this from an outdoor cafe). Are we too afraid to let them out, unchaperoned and unattended? Do we fear too much, their falling off their bikes and scraping their knees?

There are kids, still, in my mother's neighborhood. Scads of them, you are forced to bring your car to a halt, while they break up kickball games, and move their jumpropes to let you pass. Mothers still sit on porches, or squawk from inside screened doors.

I joined them today, with my camera, to watch a game of double-dutch. There were approximately 10, boys and girls, waiting patiently, 4 attempts each before their turn was up. There seems to be extensive jumprope terminology; oh, why didn't I take notes? They jump 2 ropes these days (what strong bladders they must have!). The turners, whose job seemed to be just as important as the jumpers, used a clothesline folded in half. One girl held on to the ends of the rope, the other created handles from the loop ends.

The footwork was amazing, some of the girls jumping 2 ropes on only one foot, and making 180-degree turns to face the other direction on the other foot. A few times the turners joined in, turning ropes, and jumping at the same time.

They were socializing, communicating, organizing, and exercising, to name just a few. Some laughing, some bickering, but rules were rules, get back to the end of the line!

Perhaps the household that cannot afford the PS2 is the wealthier, I say.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Hi Lisa!!

...those dreaded words, "Hi, Lisa," called out to me tonight, from across the parking lot adjacent to my house.

Shit. It's C.J., as my son and I have dubbed him. Crazy John. The neighbor that claims to live in Hawaii...only he's our neighbor, and WE live in Illinois. My friend Charles has dubbed him "Hawaiian Joe." Both will suffice.

"Oh...hey.." I respond to being called "Lisa," which probably makes me just as crazy as he is, but I figure it's better if he doesn't know that Lisa is not my name.

Aw c'mon, you've all had this neighbor. The nutjob that will NOT stop talking, and has no perception that no one knows what the hell he's talking about. I am in underground cahoots with Betty-next-door to "let's get 'em."

My son and his friends like to purposefully engage CJ in conversation, so fascinated are they with his ramblings. I suppose it is good party conversation fodder. It is not uncommon, for instance, for Brian to walk in and inform me, "Mom, CJ hates gypsies."

I have to give him credit for welcoming me into my new neighborhood, by bringing me a Box O' Wine. I scoffed, and proceeded to drink myself silly while unpacking my boxes, and hence determining that I should never EVER have access to unlimited glasses of wine. Box O Wine, Get Thee Behind Me!!!

He rang the doorbell last October, and handed me a broken pumpkin. He had dropped his, and, he said, "you're an artist, so I thought you could use this."

Still having not developed a spine, I thanked him for the broken pumpkin. Why didn't I ask him to pass along any cracked eggs he encounters while he's at it?

You're getting the picture, yes?

So. Here he comes, barreling across the parking lot. Just so you get a clearer picture..He's in his mid-30s. For the visual, I have to tell you, he's about...let's go with 50, pounds overweight. It is not a judgmental statement; I love fat people, as I am one. Ya just have to get the picture.

CJ is wearing a pair of...maybe they were swimming trunks. Shorts of some sort. And that's it. He is covered, today, in red-brown paint, so that I am alarmed when he approaches me, thinking at first that he has met with a terrible accident. It is all over his stomach, it looks like he just dipped his roller and his entire arm into a 50-gallon drum of paint, even his bare feet are painted.

His shorts are falling down to the point that I have to avert my eyes from pubic hair. I'm just going to say it: He has a booger hanging from his left nostril, and the guy must have saliva the consistency of molasses: I have never talked to him in which I didn't have to cringe through a strand (or two) of spit that stays connected to both his top and bottom lips as he talked; it NEVER breaks!!!

"heydidyouknowthatcopthatgotkilled? Whatadragitwashisstepsonthatkilledhim. IusedtoliveinNewOrleans. Peoplearedead. Didyouhearaboutthewomanthatgotraped? Whatwerethefiretrucksforlastnight?..."

At one point, he stepped toward me, into my space, to make a point...

And I literally backed UP 2 steps...

All the while SURE I heard Betty-next-door cackling while she peeped out her venetian blinds. I am going to get her, big TIME.

Bring on the Commercialism

It is September 2, and there is a bowl of Halloween candy in my workplace. Aurgh! You know what this means?!! One more week and Christmas carols on the Muzak.

'Tis the season!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

The Last Turtle Story....

This is going to be my last, last, LAST turtle report, unless something else comes up.

I "teach" a weekly art class to 2-4 students, age 6-11. It's enriching and fulfilling every week, but I like it best when 4 are in attendance, only because there seems to be a bit more comaraderie amongst them. As we stick to a conversation, we stick to a project. There's usually a song-of-the-week also; it is inevitable that one of them will hum something and we'll all join in. Last night's song was "We Go Together" from Grease. Those that didn't know it had it stuck in their heads by the end of our hour.

ANYwayyyyyyyys, always determined to amuse, I told them that I'd eaten turtle since I saw them last. After the last session, in which we determined that Pig Snot was definitely inedible, they were fascinated with the turtle meal. Encouraged for details, I blindly yammered on, telling them that my cousin caught them, and hit them in the head with a hammer...

OMG! Complete cacophony, screaming, traumatized kids, noise noise, distress and angst, with Madi yelling "is that even legal?"

Uh-oh. Danger, danger!! Kids with nightmares and post-traumatic stress disorder, and pissed-off parents! I've said too much, I'm a crappy parent/teacher!!! I immediately resorted to backpedaling and recanting, and denying any hammer allegations! Well, the details were actually sketchy, I told them, but I did, yes eat turtle. I have no IDEA how it got from the crick to the plate!!

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Fabulous Broads...

Today's calendar quote cracks me up, so thought I'd share:

"If I didn't think you meant so well, I'd feel like slapping your face."

—actress Mary Astor, in the film The Great Lie (1941)