Friday, March 31, 2006
Big News, everyone!! My friends Cindy and Kirby Pringle have finally gotten their children's book, Happy Tails: Earl and Pearl on the Farm, published, and it is available now!
Know this: I wouldn't gush if I didn't honestly find it gush-worthy: This is one of the most adorable books I have ever seen.
It's a photo book: Friends gathered on the farm in bib overalls and gingham pinafores and Cindy photographed them in different poses: driving a tractor, eating spaghetti dinner. She then superimposed heads, paws, and legs of dogs over all of the human bits, and the effect is WUN-derful.
It's an Alphabet book, and there is a wonderful photo to represent each letter, and a story to boot. It's fun and educational!
And if you aren't sold yet, know that Cindy and Kirby are two of the nicest, warmest people you'd ever want to meet. These are folks that always make you feel like they're happy to see you.
Giddy with excitement tonight, I dragged Rani out to their first book signing. How much fun is THAT, that she'll take their book all the way back to Bangalore next Saturday, and show it off to all of her friends. I LOVE that!
As I said, I was giddy. I was Pure Pringle Paparazzi. I knocked people down to get to the front of the line, and I told those Pringles-es: "I want a book, and I want you to sign it for Rani, and oh by the way, this is Rani, and can we get your picture with her?!!" They didn't even call security. They were HAPPY to greet her, and happy to pose with her, and they signed and her book, and Earl and Pearl signed and stamped it too.
I really am excited for them, this project has been a few years in the making, and as far as I'm concerned, their hard work and perseverance has paid off.
If you're interested in owning a copy, check out their website: www.dogtownartworks.com
(Tell 'em I sent ya!)
If you're NOT interested in owning a copy, check out their website anyway. The cover photo is better there than it is here, and the "About Us" link just kills me. There are also a few other photos indicative of what you'll get in the book.
I think you'll find it every bit as charming as I do.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Mostly I'm finding things "weird." After I put these shoes away, they will STAY away. Weird. This bathroom will remain clean. Weird. Coming home and stifling the tendency to yell "helllllloooo?" Weird.
I am dumbstruck by your outpourings of support the last few days. Thank you! I've received lovely comments, heartfelt emails with phone numbers and offers to talk at any hour of the day, e-greetings, and invitations to lunch, dinner, and even a designated driver offer. What great friends! I love you guys!
I just got a phone call from Brian; he's in the St. Louis airport waiting for a flight to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. He thinks he'll be able to call again on Sunday.
I didn't cry, but I got a hell of a headache not crying, and now I need a distraction. You're It!
I ran into an Asian store yesterday, to pick up some sushi ingredients. If you remember the ginseng juice entry, you'll know that I like to pick up a strange new snack when I'm in an ethnic store. This is what I grabbed:
The label also reads "Wai-Wai!" and "Gaya-Gaya!" I imagine those translating to "Whoo-Hoo!" and "weet-weet!" If any of you have any knowledge that it really means "not for human consumption," please, at this point, keep it to yourselves.
I brought my bag of Let's Party Roasted Party Crabs in a Party Bag home and scissored them open. The suh-mell that hit me in the face nearly bowled me over. For a description of something that probably smelled just as nice, check out the blog entry that Stephen wrote today.
I was instantly reminded of another time in which my friend Tim warned me not to open a jar of sea shells, as apparently something had died in the jar. I was younger then. I was only 41, and when I was 41, I did everything you told me not to. I opened the jar and took a big whiff.
I never knew I had nose hairs until they were all singed off. The smell inside that jar permeated the entire apartment in a matter of seconds, no amount of incense would remove the reek, so I told Tim, "your apartment stinks, I'm going home." My sinuses burned for days.
What was my point? Oh. Yes. That's pretty much what those PartyBoy Crabs did to my living space last night.
But I had a bright idea: if I just poured them out into a bowl, the odor would be less concentrated, but that action only created a giant mushroom cloud of crab-stench in the house.
Did it STOP me from tasting them? Of course not. I figured they had to taste better than they smelled. Doesn't cheese?
I picked one up and licked the claw. Sugar. Caramel crabs! I crunched off the tip...still nothing much but sugar. I popped the entire thing in my mouth and crunched down.
Let the record show: A Let's Party Roasted Caramel-Flavored Crab is the first food I have ever run to the garbage and spit out, simultaneously using my own fingers to shovel out any remnants. It was the most disgusting thing I've ever put in my mouth except for...well...never mind. Suffice it to say it was just awful. Two thumbs down! I don't recommend that you try this.
If you're hell bent on trying it anyway, at least make sure you've got a bottle of Ginseng juice handy to rinse it down with.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
He was, at least, a distraction, and a source of jocularity.
So. Ok. He's off! We are both, on this day, on our own for the first times in our lives.
"Tentative" the paperwork said, was 04/07/o6; verbal: 04/15/06 or later.
I guess they meant 3/29/06. We have less than 48 hours left!
I am a caged lion.
It is 30 hours since the call-to-duty has been made, and there are already too many stories to tell.
I am all-at-once taking charge, and crumbling, and buckling UP! Goodbyes must be said! No time! Stop crying! Dinner with these, and phone calls with those! Bank accounts opened, his friends are in town. No crying! A break, and a rare pedicure for me; to take my mind off! Travel shampoos and disposable razor blades! Buckle up! E-mails to friends: "It's time, stay tuned." E-mails to my boss "I am taking 2 days off." Grandma chokes up on Goodbye, while I fall apart. Grandma proudly announces, "I did really good!" while I close the door quickly, so the dome light flips off, and I cry, and say "Yes, you did. You did great, Mom."
I arranged dinner tonight, showed up early in a restaurant my son picked off the top of his head.
I cannot believe it. I'm a shaking nervous wreck, anticipating tomorrow morning's sayonara's, while we are seated in a nearly empty room...directly next to 6 men in Army fatigues.
6 soldiers. Some young, some older. All laughing.
I listen to them while I wait for the others to arrive. I hear words such as "cadet" and "humvee." I can't STAND it! I finally say, "Gentlemen, I'm eavesdropping; my son, who is coming in the door right this minute, is leaving for bootcamp tomorrow morning."
"HURRAYYYYY!!!" They say. "26 years for me," one says.
I respond by reflex: "Did your mother cry when you left?"
He makes everyone laugh by saying "yah, she cried when I was stationed only 20 miles away from home."
The men shake my son's hand when he walks in. "Where you headed, son?" they ask him. Son. They treat him with respect. They tell him he'll be fine, and they admire his chosen profession. One is also in EOD Engineering.
They tease him about bootcamp. One knows his commanding officers.
"What's your name, son?"
"Jolley" he says.
The men fall about the table. "Ohhhhhhhh, shit! Jolley! You're in for a world o' hurtin with that name, son!" they tease.
"Are ya Happy, Jolley?" one sings out. "Holly Jolly!" another chimes in.
We laugh along, a little stunned, but at the same time taking notes, and happy for the heads up: BE READY for abuse on the Surname Front!
We quiet down and attend our own tables. Upon leaving, the boyz behind stop again at our table. They shake my son's hand. "Good luck son. You'll be fine." "He'll be fine," one addresses me, and "32 years here" another says.
Look. There's so much more that panned out on this day, that I don't have time to tell you now. Crazy and surreal, and heartbreaking.
I don't for a second believe that it is a coincidence that I ended up tonight, in a restaurant in which I never dine, to sit next to this table full of soldiers, that comforted me in my son's send-off.
And people, just send good thoughts our way, at 10:00 a.m. Central Standard, when my kid will be hitting the road, and I will be SUCKING at smiling through it all and telling him I will be fine and that I'll write and that I love him...
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Yes. Her name is also Lori, and if you were here with us, we'd do this schtick for you; we'd sing: "...and we both have the same middle name." It's true, we do.
Lori's pretty forgiving of my insistence to carry a camera with me everywhere I go. At the very least, after 33 years of friendship, she tosses up her hands, takes a sip from a secret flask she carries only when she's with me, and lets me do my thang.
So we were running 'round Chicago for the day, Chinatown on the agenda. We'd just gotten off the El, when we came across a very serene scene: a dirge band in front of a funeral home. Awww, dark, black, sad, the music played. So, so sad. But Hey! What a cool picture this would make!!!
Och! No batteries in my camera, it was to have been one of our first stops, get batteries, get batteries! Lori and I raced up the block looking into foreign windows trying to figure out which shop would be carrying my Duracels. Idiots, we were, trying to get the batteries, and run back down the block and get a few good shots before the music stopped.
Racing and panting, I found a doorway I could duck into to grab a few shots with discretion; I wasn't going to stand in the middle of the street photographing a funeral, for heaven's sake! A little decorum was in order!
I exchange the old batteries for the new, get the thing set up the way I want it, line up my shot, focus my camera...
...and what through my wondering viewfinder should appear...
...the boys in the band STOP their song, drop their instruments, turn, and pose for us. They WAVED at us. What? They are smiling! They are laughing! They are FLIRTING with us, "heyyy ladies! Hey! Where ya from?!!"
There went my somber shot, wouldn't it have been great in black and white? Those crazy guys ended up racing 'cross the street and giving us their business cards.
Dang. The shot was ruined.
Yeah, like that's what we were thinking. In reality, we were high-fiving, and chortling, "Wolf-whistles from a dirge band!!! Oh yeah, we still got it!"
I screamed and broke off, to find my assailant: a "friend" of 20 years. My fear turned to white-hot lividity, and with Mel now screaming on the phone, "what's happening, what happened?", I got into my car, slammed the door in his face and drove off. Hyperventilating, I managed to explain to Mel that I was ok, merely a victim of a practical joke. We both found it VERY UN-funny.
Next errand then: ATM. I parked and walked over, as I meant to grab a cup of tea before continuing on. I was still pissed, shaking and nauseous from the "mugging" I'd received, and when I left the ATM, found a very large man quickly crossing the street directly toward me.
Due to the state I was in, my mind went "Auuurghh!! Someone's coming!" and my heart hit my breastbone in fear.
But I recovered, I thought, quickly enough. In the split-second after my irrational jump, I realized I was NOT afraid of this man. I was in a well-lit area, in front of a glass-front restaurant, just off of a high-traffic road.
I smiled and said "hi" as I passed him. He smiled back and said "hey." He got about 20 feet past me, and turned back and yelled, "hey, you should smile a lot, you have a beautiful smile....And I mean you no harm."
My face heated with embarrassment as I basked in the compliment. It was clear that he'd recognized my inital response to his presence. I was then paralyzed...he's moving on, and I wanted to chase him. I wanted to tell him "I'm sorry, I'm sorry about that stupid deer-in-headlights look I gave you, but it wasn't about you...I was just in another parking lot you see...." Instead, I said only "thank you."
And he was gone. In an 8-minute time-span, I'd been laughing, terrorized & yelping, assuring, angry, complimented, and comforted...that no harm would come to me.
I wanted to melt. I wanted to sit down right in the middle of the street where he left me and take a rest.
I am still both embarrassed and touched by the encounter with this man.
I do not know him, but I recognize him, have seen him "around."
I hope that I will bump into him again sometime.
If I see him again, I promist to chase him down. I promise to apologize to him, and to tell him how I appreciated his kind gesture that evening. Maybe he won't remember me, maybe I'll ramble on and he'll think I'm a crackpot. Maybe I AM a crackpot.
But I want him to know: I do not inherently fear large people. My father was a very large man, and people often feared him because of his size, which I found idiotic. "Large" does not mean "violent" for heaven's sake! I do not fear dark skin. I do not fear green hair or spiked chokers, or youth, or anyone else for their appearance.
I will apologize for my reaction, and hope that I hadn't hurt or exasperate him because of it.
I hope I get to come back and tell you all about it.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
I've lately been reminiscing about an episode from my childhood that cracks me up. There are several, actually, but I'll send along the rest when the time is right. In honor of what will hopefully be the last snowstorm of the year, on these first two days of spring, I'll tell you this one now.
My mother was a fun one. Well, she still IS a fun one, but I'm talking now about the late 60s/early 70s, when she was still mothering the hell out of us.
A bit of an enigma; both a hardworking woman with her own daycare business bringing in money hand over fist, and yet an extremely shy, sweet, and daffy woman, willing to do anything, go anywhere, and...experiment with new ideas.
When I was about 10 years old, and my sister 8, there was a terrible ice storm in the forecast. Winters were worse then, they really were! While we battoned down the hatches, Mom grumbled at the prospect of chipping an inch of ice off our crappy blue station wagon the next morning.
But! A light bulb turned on in Mother's sweet little head! She would just toss a bedspread over the car... Yeeeees! And in the morning, she would just grab that bedspread, give it a little *flip*, shake it out like a rug, and the car would be clean! Voila!
Bedspread over car, and the ice-storm cameth. Next morning what did we wake up to, but our crappy blue station wagon with an ugly pink chenille bedspread shrink-wrapped around the car with an inch of ice on top.
This was NOT as mother had planned, and we ended up having to wait for the weather to break in order to get the bedspread off the car.
To add insult to injury, my sister and I ran out and snapped all the fringe off the bedspread. Cool! "It just breaks off!" Snap! Click! Crick! with Mom squawking, "You kids stop that! Stop breaking my bedspread!"
It was fringe-less before the thaw.
Isn't it funny how oblivious you are as a kid, but when you look back, you think, "Holy Mother of God, what must the neighbors have thunk?!"
I laugh now, at my daffy Mom. Laugh and laugh and laugh.
This morning I awoke, to find a missed call from my son. He's been gone for a week, and his call came in at 4:30 a.m. I FREAKED out, and called him! There I was, standing in my kitchen in my pajamas, interrogating my groggy kid when he answered his phone: ARE YOU OK? Why did you call me?
He zombied-ly answered that he was fine. He'd just called to see if the door was unlocked; he'd forgotten his key. And Mom, "I'm sleeping."
HaRUMPH! Fine. I get off the phone, and storm 3 feet to the hallway...
Where I get a glimpse of him hanging up his cell phone in his bedroom.
I'd called him in a panic, all the while standing about 10 feet away from him.
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
Friday, and every evening, late.
Rani teaches me stuff I will never learn from a cookbook. I am blessed with her friendship, and will write more later.
Sunday afternoon: A long walk on a pre-spring day.
Sunday Evening Dinner with Mama(s)
Mike's famous crab chili, followed by something we called "Banana Delight." It WAS a delight, cinnamon-y caramelized hot banana slices over vanilla ice cream. Come to Momo & Mike's for dinner. I don't have anyone's permission to post this blurry pic, so if it's not here, someone protested.
Someone seems to have dumped this kitty-baby in the country near Momo's house a few weeks ago. Posters and newspaper ads haven't turned up the owner. We took about 100,000 photos trying to get a pic of his face. He's over there now in my new profile pic. He's very friendly.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
This week I printed a few Salvador Dali prints, and explained to the kiddies what "Surrealism" art entailed. I then left them to "free-time" with the exception that they incorporate some of the ideas that Dali used.
While we worked our on light-switch plants, cube-shaped apples and hot-dog skateboards, I yakked merrily away, telling the kids that it's so funny when Ilaiy does something stupid, he says "darned brains" as if he is not to be held responsibile for his error; it is the fault of his brains.
Zooboy stopped me short "we aren't allowed to say that word in this house," he said.
My stomach flipped over; had I just sworn in front of the kids? If the Superintendent gets wind of this, I am dead meat! What did I say? How can I find out without repeating it? I whispered to the kids, "you're not allowed to say 'darn'?" Darn, I said it again!
No, not THAT one! Zoo-boy fills me in: "The S-word."
Oh, shit! I actually said SHIT in front of the kids?! I didn't even realize it came out of my mouth! I racked my brain, just can't figure it out.
I broached it again, "Which S-word did I say?" Great. Now I'm going to make THEM say "shit" so that I'll know for sure when it was that I said "shit."
K-Kat leaned back and said, "you said [whispering now] 'stupid'."
Oh. My goodness. I have no defense, I DID say "stupid." I said it right outloud for 3 kids to hear. I am so embarrassed.
Place your bets that Momma will be waiting at the door with a bar of Lifebuoy in her hand when I get there next Tuesday.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
Thanks for all of your nice comments and emails and support about Brian's new life choice. I think things will be fine, and don't want you all to think that I'm not posting because I'm curled up in a hole somewhere. It's going to be tough, but there's also a sense of relief at natural order being restored here.
I've been in the studio this week, and it feels really GREAT to be there. I swear I could give up this job and paint paint paint for a living. Being "forced" to paint has really inspired me to get moving on the Artist's Against Aids projects. I have to have any finished projects turned in by April 24 (I think). Canvases are ready, and I am contemplating what will go on what, and in which style to work them.
I am also discussing with my boss the prospect of doing a 30-ft wide mural of a mexican street market. It will appear just as you walk in the door, so when you come to Champaign, you'll have to come see me and it.
My friend Rani is in town for one month, from Bangalore, India, to hang out with her son, Ilaiy. I am enjoying stealing her as much as I can, and eating as much of her amazing home cooking as I can. This is REAL food folks, stone-ground grains—yes, right there on the counter! Mortar and pestle, and piles of ginger and garlic and pepper. I wish you all could be here, it is heaven. HEAVEN, I say.
I have, so far, fed her jambalaya and apple crisp. I try to think up American cuisine that she won't likely find at an Indian McDonalds. She'd never heard of jambalaya, score 1 for me.
We are also have fun checking out the price of airline tickets and contemplating all we will do when I go to see HER. I'm not sure when this will happen, but I can hardly wait!
Friday, March 10, 2006
When my son was 14, he constructed a boat from a cardboard box. He duct-taped sheets of styrofoam insulation to the bottom. He covered the entire structure with MORE duct tape, then called his friend Chad to help him launch the thing.
The boys were extremely enthusiastic, but I stood by fretting and nay-saying: "You are going to sink!"
They took off to the creek anyway, so I grabbed my camera and ran after them, in the guise of playing photographer. My real intention was to be available to save my kid's life when the boat flipped over. I imagined him trapped upside down with his legs caught in that stupid cardboard kayak, and I was having NOTHING to do with that idea!
So, while I tsk-tsk'd, Brian crawled into his boxboat...
Chad gave him a shove...
And LO, that boat with my kid in it took off like a bat out of hell! It worked!
Off he went down the creek while Chad grabbed his bicycle and I ran ahead trying to get pictures around the bend.
As a mother, it is sometimes difficult to know when to let your kids set sail. Sometimes they actually do know more than you do. It is hard to know when to loosen the reigns on this fierce protective instinct, and to realize that your vigilant guarding might be no longer necessary. Your children can right their own tumbling boats.
As I write this, my son is in St. Louis, taking a government physical and enlisting in the U.S. Army. I ache. I try not to weep. I try not to worry.
I try to remember that he's a smart and strong guy, and this is HIS answer. This is not an idiotic decision made out of desperation; he has dreams and goals that will be more readily attained if he has military service under his belt.
I try to remember that
despite the instinct
of chasing after him
to protect him
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Seriously, do not look at this blog. I'm going to jibber-jabber on to add a paragraph or so of text so that you can choose to avoid looking at the the photos that I'm going to post anyway, because I happened across the oddest thing on the way to Mother's on Sunday afternoon.
I take a main road (Windsor, for you townies) to Mom's house, and, this week noticed that there were roadside markers, the nature of which usually give you chills: flowers and a memorial to a life lost at that particular global coordinate.
THESE flowers, though were of a slightly...odder nature: They marked, uh...lost animals. That is, roadkill. I could hardly believe my eyes as I moved on: Did I just see a dead racoon with FLOWERS on it? I moved on down the road, and am startled and shocked: More flowers! Ribs! Oh, Lord, a rib cage, there on the side of the road, I have driven by it every Sunday and never noticed it! Bones! Bleah!
Momo joined us for lunch today. As I am a brilliant lunchtime conversationalist, I discuss my surreal trip 'cross town with them over lunch. They are intrigued. They, too, want to see the roadkill memorials, if only to ensure that I didn't make them up. After a frantic afternoon, we went back down Windsor Road to gawk and wonder.
I warned you!
WHAT in the hell are these? Who in the hell put them there? What were they thinking? And most importantly...
Why in the hell would 3 women pull over on a highway, get out in the rain, and photograph them? Well..it IS hard to come up with new and exciting things to take Mother to do every Sunday. I think we did a fine job of breaking the monotony.
Friday, March 03, 2006
I am contemplative.
A lovely young woman that I met in December, Cristiana, posted a comment on my blog the other day. She'd stumbled across mine, and in turn, I discovered hers. In her latest entry she admitted to feeling melancholic as she finishes up her schooling here, and she went on to write about...well, me. ME. Strong, she called me. And balanced.
Well, didn't I just LOVE hearing it, as her comments came on the tail-end of a week in which I felt I could barely keep my head above water. In the last 7 days
- There has been conflict with friends. Drama. Tears.
- Brian's father, whom I have not seen in over a year, came into my workplace in his big police-man clothes and bossed me around a little. He is angry with this son we share, and doesn't want to speak to him himself.
- My coworkers question me about why a cop is lecturing me in our workplace.
- A few embarrassing errors have slipped through the cracks at work, and whips are being cracked to ensure the quality of our product.
- My mother is in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, and I take care of her bills, medications, and am facing legal appointments to protect her in the future.
- Our pharmacist gave me someone else's meds for her, but I caught it before "dispensing" them.
- I finally said the "A"-word to my Aunt, and promised her we are taking good care of her sister.
- Conflict with the kid doesn't exist only with his father. I struggle, figuring out how to support this lost child, without coddling and enabling him to continue to wander. It stresses me to the extent that I just got a headache writing that sentence.
- Misunderstandings amongst friends were hashed out, and we move forward.
- I decided that my son and his father are both grown men. This battle between them is not mine to fight. I will not allow it in my home or my workplace again.
- Work will be fine.
- My mother will be fine.
- Our pharmacist sent me a handwritten note, along with a gift certificate, apologizing (again) for the mix-up, and thanking me for my understanding.
- My son shared with me some of this weeks' accomplishments, and told me he is proud of himself. He needs to be proud of himself; this is good news.
- I had close friends to talk to every day, cook with in the evening, dine out with last night. I squeezed in some fun, getting the tattoo Monday night, while Brian stood by me, saying "it rocks, Mom."
And why is it that these facts slip by me? How is that I so often feel like I'm not doing a good enough job? I need to do better, I could be doing more.
In the last week, I've had 2 dynamic friends express similar woes, one saying to me, "I feel like I'm a failure in every aspect of my life," and another lamenting, "I am tired of feeling inadequate."
I am shocked to hear it from either one of them, as I fancy them both living such glamorous lives; one making big bucks in Los Angeles, another writing and making movies in New York City--and still fitting into the same tiny jeans she wore in high school, isn't that in itself good enough to make anyone feel empowered?!!
I could write an essay about every single one of my friends, I think they are ALL strong and amazing and accomplished. Even those of you I haven't met in person yet--you there! Reading my blog, and I'm reading yours, YOU are amazing too.
We are all some amazing kids. And none of us is exempt from some sort of daily chaos, either with our love relationships, friends, family, professions.
What makes us strong, though, is our ability to roll with the punches. To pick up the pieces, and move on, move on with loving people, move on pursuing our goals, and finding our own personal balance. To accept with grace and dignity that we are not entitled to life being handed to us on a silver platter, and recognize that on days when we are amidst chaos, we still got it made. In the words of JennieTonic from NYC,
When I was young, I had no idea how hard life was gonna be. And my life is pretty dang easy.To Cristiana: Thanks for the lift; I needed it. I would never deny you your melancholy, but don't lose track that you are bright, funny, warm, articulate, and confident. You are years ahead of where I was at 23, baby, and I see you doing some great things.