Down at the Drive-In

Last night was Movie Night for Elder Girleen’s school at the drive-in, so we made a nest of pillows and hello kitty sleeping bags in the back of the station wagon and headed out to see Bee Movie.

Well, ladies of the evening may use the play structure at our neighborhood park as a great place to ply their trade; the biggest hill around here might actually be the old landfill; but a straight shot down the thoroughfare leads you past Nail World, Dollar Land, Super Valu and the Foxxxy Lady straight to… the drive-in, and I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the city (except maybe a huge Victorian manse complete with cupola on the other side of I-20).

As luck would have it, we ended up positioning the station wagon RIGHT NEXT to Elder Girleen’s two favorite kindergarten guys. She almost exploded. Groups of kids ran recklessly from car to car, possessed by the anarchy that takes over when the adults of your world are otherwise occupied (in our case by figuring out how to extinguish the light in the back of the station wagon for primo movie watching).

The cold front blew in, we settled in: and I give the experience an A +. About the movie, though…

Ratatouille was at least about a rat expressing his creativity through cooking. Bee Movie, on the other hand, is about a LAWSUIT. The hive is sorta like the city in Metropolis but not in an ironic or interesting way, the whole honey making project isn’t very … scientific and the best thing I can say about it is that it made me realize how LUCKY we are that it’s not the 90s anymore, when we all thought Jerry was the funniest thing since sliced bread.

Readling Lists

What’s Currently on My Bedside Table:

Rise and shine : a novel
Quindlen, Anna.

The wild trees : a story of passion and daring
Preston, Richard, 1954-

Right livelihoods : three novellas
Moody, Rick.

Maisy goes to the library
Cousins, Lucy.

The uses of enchantment : a novel
Julavits, Heidi.

The encyclopedia of ghosts and spirits
Guiley, Rosemary.

A child’s garden : enchanting outdoor spaces for children and parents
Dannenmaier, Molly

The collector
Fowles, John, 1926-

Moby Dick

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves
Russell, Karen

Will any of these get read? Only the Shadow knows.

State of the Union: November 5, 2007

From the moment the plane bringing us back from our friends’ wedding last Sunday hit the Atlanta tarmac, the name of the game was civic responsibility, or more specifically, educational volunteering. And before I go any further I just have to say one thing: I don’t know how moms who work 40-70 hours in addition to their Mom Job do it. They must possess Kevlar vests or emotional force fields to protect them from feeling obligated to step into the volunteering maelstrom that’s become such a part of our children’s lives. Not that parental involvement isn’t a good thing: I just doff my hat to any woman who shows up at the school in the hose and high heels of her “straight” job and sits down criss-cross-apple-sauce with such a good will to read a slew of kindergarteners Lilly’s Big Day. I at least have the luxury of showing up unshowered and dressed down.

I would wax eloquently along these lines a couple of paragraphs more, but I just realized why the shift back to standard time is not the extra hour of sleep it used to be: no sleeping kids at 6 this morning. Good thing I got that solitary cup of coffee in a couple of mornings ago.

Morning Meditations

Here in Atlanta, we’ve gone straight from weather so hot you’ve got the windows shut… to weather so cool you’ve got the windows shut. No time to lollygag around with Indian Summer these days: it’s a busy busy world and we went straight from the dog days of summer to … well, I was going to say “to thinking about hot apple cider” but it’s not THAT cool yet (and may never be, if the smell of hot apple juice makes you gag).

Spring in Georgia is confectionary: all meringue peaks of white blossoms and excess, it breaks your heart with its beauty. I’m a sucker for it and because of that I’ve never really considered myself a “fall” person.

But this morning it was pitch black dark at seven, and the down comforter was like a benediction laid across the bed. The little family sleeping, in fact APPLYING itself to sleep wholeheartedly. You could practically hear their exhalations of breath: Big Bear, Little Bear and Tiny Bear (who I suspect has inherited her father’s tendency to allergies and was snorting pretty noisily).

Me, on the other hand — entirely wide awake through the machinations of the intersection of my past life and my present one. One second I was dreaming that I was in a seminar room attached to the PCL Library at UT taking part in a creative writing workshop with a Very Famous Writer who suddenly turned to me and asked me to go get him some donuts, which apparently could be purchased from a downstairs vending machine. The next second, I’m wide awake, staring at the clock which says 7:05, bang in the middle of the split second mental inventory that goes like this: o woe we’re late for school, late for… o, it’s saturday ok not so bad, but o crap there’s that workday at the preschool at 9:00 and i’ve gotta go pick up the donuts!

But then at least I roused myself to realize picking up donuts is a couple of hours away, everybody else in the house is still asleep and if I think fast I might be able to get in a solitary cup of coffee.

This early, the shadow of leaves cast by streetlight against the curtain of our front window makes a scrim like thai shadow puppets. As I’ve sat here, rosy dawn’s begun to seep across the sky.

And oh, my God: that coffee. That quiet. All is right with the world.

Enjoy your weekend.

State of the Union: November 2, 2007

Seven years ago, when the Husband and I first moved in to our ‘hood (back in the sepia-toned day B.C.— Before Children) our next-door neighbor debriefed us on what to expect come Halloween night, but we had no idea exactly what he meant until that first time the door bell rang (3.2 minutes after I got home from work, while it was still DAYLIGHT, and lasting until we ran out of candy and turned off the lights and hid, cowering, in the back of the house).

We’re talking mini-vans with Henry County plates (a county south of here). We’re talking groups of seven or eight at a time, one after another. And, those first few years, we were also talking: most of them without costumes, old enough to shave, SMOKING CIGARETTES, carrying plastic Kroger bags, soliciting for absent family members and two-month-old infants who should have been home in bed long ago.

Halloween 2007: well, we still got mini-vans idling at the curb like rock band tour buses just to keep things lively, but we’ve also got costumes. And maybe I’m just a sucker for the top two costumes of the night (Knights and Fairies as opposed to … Sponge Bob Square Pants), but I was impressed by the creativity this year. The fact that Knights have replaced Munch’s Scream Face with a gizmo that pumps blood down it as the boy costume of the year has got to say something optimistic about the state of the world, doesn’t it?

Other trends:

Once they reach middle school, girls go for the undead prom queen look: you still get the glitter but now you’ve got blood dripping from your mouth.

Boys the same age seem to like a costume that my brother (we compared notes on Halloween here vs Halloween in South Carolina after we shut down for the night) thought were supposed to represent “guys with no faces” and I thought were supposed to be Ninjas. Whatever it is, think stealth. Since this was the main population that went for the Bloody Scream Face, this is a definite step in the right creative direction as far as I’m concerned.

And how did Halloween treat our own Flower Fairies, you ask?

I probably spent the years from 25-35 seeing little point in Halloween in general and trick-or-treating more specifically, but you know, now that I’m a parent I realized that besides being just plain fun, Halloween actually serves a purpose of sorts. Dark but not TOO dark it allows kids to roam just a little bit farther than they usually do (emotionally and physically). Being terribly shy as a kid, I used to hate it that my dad hung back at the end of the driveway when we trudged up to a house to trick or treat, but night before last I did the same thing with Elder Girleen, watching as with each step and social transaction that cord between parent and child was pulled out a little bit more elastically. This is how you start to figure out how to walk through the world.

Yeah, right. Cut the social commentary, Ma, it’s really about getting LOTS AND LOTS OF CANDY.

Unless you’re Younger Girleen, who after coming face to face with the Grim Reaper and the single Bloody Scream Face of the evening in the very first block had had enough and spent the rest of the event nestled in her Daddy’s arms eating pretzels, and STILL hasn’t completely recovered.

American By Accident of Birth, Texan By the Grace of God

The Husband and I have a long-running argument over who’s the real Texan of the family. Leaving aside the question of why bother wasting time on this argument, it goes like this: My mom’s got a framed piece of paper certifying her as a descendant of a member of one of the first 100? 250? 500? families in the Republic of Texas, and let me tell you, that and four bucks will buy you a cup of coffee. My trump card is always that I lived in Austin as a card-carrying working adult (if that’s what you can call someone under thirty); his is that, though born elsewhere, he spent much of his childhood shit-kicking around a seventies version of the Last Picture Show. Plus, he had to learn how to castrate cattle in Ag Class. And he can two-step, and I cannot.

This past weekend we finally settled the question. I get to keep Texan bragging rights as far as Austin goes, he wins, hands down, as far as experience with the rest of Texas. Which, like it or not, is the real one. Not Austin, that Disneyland for Hipsters whose California-ization is finally after lo these many years of complaints about the LA transplants complete.

This weekend we got to experience both states: Austin and small-town TX. The wedding was held on the banks of the Llano River, and we were lucky enough to have lodging in a house-turned-B-and-B right across the railroad tracks from the wedding site, not more than staggering distance away.

Even this particular small TX town has realized that tourism may be the only thing that’ll save it from complete oblivion (it long has had a reputation for being slightly chilly to furriners), and in service of boosting the local economy, a local business person moved four 1920’s bungalows to a prime location next to the depot, where city boosters swear that someday soon day-trains from Austin will pull in, disgorging Californians with dollars burning holes in their pockets. This means the house we rented had a lovely view of caliche parking lot and Virdell’s Drilling, plus as a bonus a space that can be rented out for wedding receptions.

Two weddings for the price of one — Austin and smalltown versions both! I fell asleep (pillow over my head) before the local wedding ended, but the Husband had a ringside seat (the reception taking place about 50 feet from our front door). Black Stetsons, Wranglers and down jackets. An inebriated wedding guest fumbling to hook his horse trailer to his pick-up before he headed home. A deejay (“yeah, he’s a talker,” a guest outside our window opined) playing Kid Rock singing “Cowboy”. The bride swigging from a long-neck in the parking lot as she announces: “I’m standin’ out here in a freakin’ sleeveless wedding gown!” The Husband says the newlyweds left in separate cars, the bride shrieking “get in the car, bitch” to a friend before she sped off.

It’s probably not this small-town version of Texas I love, but the Husband’s eye for detail and ability to recount it. Twelve years ago this month I was the one standing outside in a freakin’ sleeveless wedding gown.

At the Austin airport, there’s a bootjack at the security check, so folks can get their boots off before being screened for weapons.

Love, for place or for person — it’s inexplicable. Who knows how exactly our hearts fill.

Back in the Saddle Again

Fall arrived while we were gone (first mentally gone, as Elder and Younger Girleen passed the first respiratory crud of the season back and forth; then physically gone, to the lovely wedding that took us out of state and far from the madding crowd of school halloween parties and so on) — red-tailed hawks are circling and diving over Interstate 20, picking off the pigeons lured there by the convenience store owners that feed them.

Remember when seeing a hawk was rare, almost unheard-of good luck? (Back in the Crying-Indian Commercial, DDT days of our youths? The fact that I saw FIVE between driving Younger Girleen to school and back gives me hope: with enough media and pop culture overkill, we can change things, and for the better. Slowly, slowly, slowly, and maybe not enough, but I just had the good luck hawk-spotting bestowed upon me so am seeing the world through rosy glasses.

The fact that this blog is back up and running may be illustration of something; serious commitment issues, ambivalence about my writing life, my wishy-washiness in general, but I realized a few things this weekend:

1. I sorta missed the blog, for reasons I don’t even want to take the time to examine (my exhibitionistic streak, maybe?)

2. Seeing folks in Texas who read the blog made me realize the best thing about a blog: it forges connection (let’s not parse
out how one-sided and solipsistic that connection might be). There’re people out there that I just don’t want to lose touch with.

3. Klatsching over coffee with friend J about writing and blogging made me really think about a possible difference between “old-school” and “new-school” writing. In the “old-school” literary view of writing: your words are like pearls. You guard them, keep them close and don’t squander them. For years I’ve subscribed to this slightly anal-retentive view of writing: if anybody’s gonna see what I write, it better be as polished as I know how to make it. But blogging in specific, and the internet in general are evidence enough: we are awash in a sea of words. I go back and forth on whether or not this is a good thing, and whether or not I should be adding to all this white noise, but after years of parsimony, I figure a philosophy of writing abundance might work wonders for me: maybe there always WILL be enough. For this, for the novel, for writing agent query letters, for anything that might need writing. I suppose that, at its heart, is what this Grand Experiment is really all about.

So yeah… here I am. I’m back; I’m lame; and I missed you. Like everything else, this is a narrative. I shade, I embellish. Take it with a grain of salt…

A Click of a Button…

And now what was my solipsistic side, offered up for the world’s delectation, can, according to Blogger, be seen only by me. And what would the point of that be? Well, it turns out that what I liked best about this great experiment was its bells and whistles: the lovely layout and the tags. The old journal seems so… airless… after all that.

There is, of course, the question, is this really private? And is writing it, whether or not other people see it or not, really a good use of my writing time? I suppose if I were to consider it some sort of journal and a journal only, the time wasted is time that would be wasted in any case.

But now I’ve effectively squelched much of what sucks time from my day: the blog, various inanities I volunteered for in weak moments — everything has been scoured away from my writing time but work, and oh, what does it mean that I’m so loathe to begin it?

Adios, for Now

Two months
30 entries
212 “hits”

You all deserve a more eloquent, writerly summation than that. It’s not you, really. Remember that leaky boat, the water sloshing over the gunwales, the frantic bailing? Writing this is really fun, but it turns out that when there’s about an hour every couple of days for writing, there’s no room in the boat for both this and that novel I’ve been talking about for the past four years.

My hat’s off to those who can keep a blog going day in and day out for years without starting to sound like a whiny imitation of themselves (another risk I’m afraid of running). Blogs are crafted writing, artfully artless, and fascinating.

But breaking down that fourth wall… maybe I’m just too old, and old-fashioned to take a sledgehammer to it on a regular basis. Is this self-indulgent? Is it mean-spirited? Is this the best use of my writing time? Those are just some of the questions that I’ve found myself asking over the past two months. Who knows what the answers are. Just asking the questions makes my brain hurt.

Wow, and I can delete everything here with the push of a button. Such power! My brain is really hurting now, so I’ll just say: Adios, for now. And thanks.

Excuses

We’re nothing if not predictable around here, and right on time, along with the very first second of cooler weather, we have contracted the first cold of the season (this isn’t “we” in the royal sense, but “we” as in the entire family). Let’s see … what day is it? October 12? Yep, you could set a watch by us. From here on out until May, it’s unlikely that we’ll go longer than three weeks between bouts of upper-respiratory crud.

For about a month, my new-found combination of extremely strong iced coffee and the fact that Elder Girleen is now in school five days a week fostered the delusion in me that I might actually become a productive member of society again. Laundry would get folded, dishes washed, life lived, each and every requirement of the Girleens’ upbringing/schools/social lives would be a cakewalk, plus the novel that’s been on the back burner for the past four years would finally be slid to the front one. Oh, and the 14 books that have been on my bedside table for two years would get read, the yard would get landscaped, my wardrobe refurbished, and the ten extra pounds I’ve been calling “baby fat” for almost three years would be lost.

And now, here I am, back to bailing out our leaky boat with a sieve. And as always seems to be the case, when water starts slopping over the gunwales, I jettison what seems most expendable, which is basically…everything …except putting food on my family and getting them to bed at a fairly close to a decent hour.

It’s a state of affairs recounted in just about every motherhood blog out there, a page out of every motherhood book.

If nothing else, parenthood teaches you how to prioritize.

(This was all an elaborate way of informing anyone who might stop by that we are up to our eyeballs in dirty dishes and unfolded laundry around here).