Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Pleasures of Old Movies

This morning, my husband kindly took the Tater Tot with him on some errands and left me to watch something I picked on the TV (at least until the Tween wakes). So, I am watching The 39 Steps, an Alfred Hitchcock, on Netflix's Watch Instantly through our XBox 360. I'm rather enjoying that idea that I am using such up and coming technology to enjoy something from another era.

I'm pondering what it is that I so enjoy about movies that are so much older than I am. My favorite movies of all time are found under "classics" on Netflix: The Quiet Man, Bringing Up Baby, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Key Largo, Pillow Talk, The Thin Man, The Egg and I, Roman Holiday. (As soon as I click "Publish" I'll think of 10 more I should have listed).

It's not that I don't like more contemporary movies. I do. But, if you leave me alone for some "me time" I will undoubtedly choose a movie that is more contemporary for my grandmother than for myself. I do have cut-offs though. I don't generally like silent movies, or movies that were made when sound was too new and the soundtrack is hard to listen to, garbled or just badly recorded. I don't find much to revisit that's from the 70's.

But what is it about these films?

The storytelling was different then. The effects were less special, but the relationships were stronger. There's something striking about black and white, something that stays in mind's eye longer. The influence of radio was still there, making voice and sound into different instruments than they are now. I don't get attached to contemporary actors particularly, but have often watched an older movie just because it featured a "face" I admire: Humphrey Bogart, Claudette Colbert, Cary Grant.

Maybe it's my resistance to things that are popular--probably beginning way back when I was a less than popular girl at my high school. Generally, if "everyone" likes it, I probably don't. I like my clothes to be different than everyone else's, my meals to be inventive and interesting, and my entertainment to be quirky and "different" too. I'm not a "follow the crowd" girl. I take a geek's pleasure in knowing about more obscure things.

Or maybe it's a golden age myth--a belief that things were better "back then," a nostalgia for times before my birth, a desire for a different vision of glamour or beauty. I like the beliefs that are evident in many of these films: that the good guys will win out in the end, that smart is better than born with advantages, that honest people will be believed and rewarded, that there is true love and the world cannot keep deserving lovers apart.

I guess I don't really know what exactly the appeal is for me. Just that there is "something" in these older movies that draws me and keeps me coming back. Something as indefinable as the star quality that made these faces great when they were living.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Buried in paper

"And the schoolyear starts, and she disappears." I hear this from my friends all the time.

Unfortunately, it's true. Once school starts, I have my two children to get to their various things and 150 of other people's children to take care of.

It's overwhelming and by this time of year, I am always exhausted and wondering why I thought teaching would be a good career choice.

So, the lack of digital me comes from the overabundance of the non-digital parts of my life. I get a break Wednesday-Friday--I'll try to write something interesting.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Doctors Make You Sicker

I started my school year this year in the hospital. I wasn't broken. In fact, I wasn't even sick until the doctors got a hold of me.

It all started 5 years ago. I was having gallstones. I was new to the community where I was living and didn't have an established GP or anything, so I went to an Urgent Care and from there ended up with a referral for surgery. My laparoscopy removal of the gall bladder was a bomb. The doctor had to cut me open fully. My recovery was horrendous. I lost more than 30 pounds and was more than nine weeks before I could operate at any level that might be called normal. I had more pain and illness in the weeks following the surgery than I had from the gallstones.

So, there's the first doctors to cause me problems--quite literally, he left me sicker than he found me and it took additional doctors to cure me from his cure.

Flash ahead to about a year ago. I had to get an immunization. I don't even remember what. Just whatever was out of date. The nurse stuck herself with my needle, trying to stuff it into a sharps box that was already quite full. So, we both had to have blood work to make sure I hadn't given her AIDS or hepatitis or anything. No worries on those counts, but they did find that certain levels in my liver were weird. So, more testing, and eventual referral to a specialist who did, yep, you guessed it, more testing. This would be because the GP and the specialist didn't talk enough to get the right tests run before I got there. So, there's my second set of doctors to hate. Just flipping talk to each other and run *one* set of tests--I need my time and my blood more than you do.

Finally, nearly a year these blood tests, I am sent for additional testing--this time a liver biopsy (no, they don't think I have cancer, it's other less awful stuff). That night, I get *very* sick. In fact, I have a bacterial infection in my blood. I go to the emergency room, am kept all day with no real diagnosis, sent home, then called back, then incarcerated for four days while they fix an illness I wouldn't have had if they hadn't been trying to find out "what was wrong with me" when I was feeling perfectly healthy.

So, from here on out, I'm eating more apples. Doctors make me sick!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Life After Losing a Child

I've been thinking a lot about my friend Michelle. About a year ago, she lost her four-year-old boy to DIPG (a rare brain tumor). Michelle and I weren't terribly close--she came into my life as my realtor--and I only met her son once. But her story affected me profoundly.

I have children, one 9 and one 2. That's probably why I feel so affected. It's why crappy movies on Lifetime can bring women to tears--it's way too easy to imagine how your whole world would crumble to dust if the light brought by your children were extinguished. I've been following Michelle's journey through her grief on caringbridge and on facebook. I keep wishing for something I can do to ease her pain, even knowing that, were that grief my own, there's nothing anyone could do.

Without you,
my child,
there's no joy in a yellow punch buggy
glistening in the sun,
no wonder
in a green moth
clinging to our screen door,
or dark clouds
drifting across a full moon.
Without you,
a squirrel eating a nut on our deck
can burst through the patched-up dam
of my heart
and drown me anew
in tears.

Monday, August 10, 2009

How to Let it Go

I had a horribly stupid, dumb accident last week. And it's gonna cost us $1000. I feel sick. And I can't seem to let it go.

We bought a new TV. An awesome one. I don't really understand all the terminology--I'm techy, but not quite that techy--but I know it had something to do with 1080 and it meant that when I watched blueray movies it looked like I could walk into the TV and participate. We had it less than a week.

And I broke it.

It was a dumb accident, not really my fault and also totally my fault, because who else's fault could it be? I was trying to be good and work out. My current favorite workout is EA Sports Active on the Wii. If you've ever tried to do EA Sports Active on the Wii, then you know that the cord connecting the nunchuk to the wiimote is the bane of your existence in this "game."

In short, the two devices banged together, the battery cover flew off the wiimote, the batteries went flying and one hit the TV. BANG! A spiderweb impact and a black zone of nothing and rainbow lines down the middle third of the TV.

I think I cried for most of the afternoon. Even after it was obvious that my husband recognized it as an accident and wasn't at all put out with me.

Yesterday, the hubby wished that we had been able to do our original plan and make the downstairs TV into an upstairs TV. We have houseguests and he was looking for a little time to himself. I melted down as if he had accused me of breaking it on purpose, which, of course, he did not. He was just being wistful.

So, trying to figure out how to let it go. It's done. It can't be fixed. There's nothing to be done, but keep making the payments on a lovely new toy that is destined for the garbage.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Random Acts of Rudeness

So, I'm walking my dog this morning, in my neighborhood, where I always do. I have my plastic bag in hand. I'm one of the good ones, who cleans up after my dog.

O'Neill does his business in the yard next door. I'm standing there, bag in hand, waiting for him to finish, when some man I've never seen before comes out on the porch and yells, "You better pick that up!" I'm thinking the next door neighbor got a boyfriend and he's a rude old fart, but I'm nice, I wave my bag and say, "I always do."

Now, what I also always do is bag up the poop, then leave it curbside and pick it up on my way home. I don't see the sense in carrying the stinky bag with me for the rest of the walk. The guy comes running out again and yells, "And take the bag with you!" I felt ridiculous having a yelling conversation across a yard, but I didn't want him yelling up the street after me, so I yelled back, "I'll pick it up on the way home." I ended up having to scream it three times because he must also be deaf. Then he finally waved me off and I finished walking my dog.

So, after I got back home, I couldn't quite just let it go. So, I left O'Neill at home and walked over and rang the doorbell. Turns out the guy is house-sitting and that my neighbor had been upset at some point because someone left a bag of poop in her yard and didn't pick it up. I wish I had been able to keep my cool more and get through. I did tell him that his behavior was rude and unnecessary and clarify that I always clean up after my dog. He didn't quite apologize, other than being worried that I would tell the house-owner that he had offended me. What I couldn't get across, though, was that yelling at random strangers in the street is no way to deal with a problem.

I'm wondering what makes a person think that storming out on your porch and yelling at people is the solution to anything. I wasn't even guilty of what I was accused of and my dander was up enough to want to enact violence on his person (I said "want to"--I've never actually enacted violence on anyone). He was behaving like that stereotypical grumpy old man yelling at kids to get off his lawn. He didn't know me. It wasn't even his lawn. It was just a knee-jerk, rude reaction that will not solve the problem.

Maybe it's just me, but I thought you were supposed to *talk* to people when you have issues: directly and calmly. I thought we were grownups.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Berry Picking: Small Pleasures

I took my husband, my daughters and a friend berry picking today. It was a perfect morning of small pleasures. The bigger daughter and her friend picked like mad. They're such little capitalists. Within minutes of beginning, they had plans to make jam and smoothies and muffins to sell. They set goals for how quickly they would fill their bucket.

My husband could reach the tall branches and gathered by the handfuls and slipped his blueberries into the girls' bucket, to help them reach their goal all the faster.

The littlest one (age 2), stretched to reach the lowest branches. We'd pull them down and hold them for her and she'd pinch her tiny fingers and tug so carefully and drop her treasure in the bucket (or maybe in her mouth, with a wicked grin to follow). She was so proud when she found a big one and so quickly learned which ones were blue enough.

And me? I picked a little. I watched a lot.

It was a morning of images that will stay etched in the sunnier patches of my mind to revisit on cloudier days.

(For any locals who wants to check it out: It's called Cedar Grove Blueberry Farm, on N86, about 15 miles north of Hillsoborough. They had a swingset for distractions when little ones got bored, lots of shade, buckets you could use if you didn't bring one and free ice water. It really was great.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Wakes and Reunions

The oddest thing about all this has been how much time I've spent laughing with people I don't normally even see.

In the past few days, we've attended a visitation, a funeral, a funeral reception, a family-only vistitation, and two high school reunion events.

Funeral events and reunion events are a lot alike. You talk to a lot of people that you haven't seen for a long time, some that you don't remember that well. The conversations are all about memories. Your spouse wants to be there to support you, but is probably half-nervous and half-bored all the time. Your children run around wild, not really knowing or understanding what is going on or just giving in to their childish escapist abilities. You laugh more than you expect to and cry at odd moments.

This must be what they mean when they talk about an emotional roller coaster because I think I'm fine then my stomach drops out again. I'm distracted by the view, then remember why I'm up there just before I fall.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Goodbye, Fred

I've been working on how to say this for a few days now and I still don't know.

My father-in-law died Wednesday morning.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Green Eyed Monster

I'm very jealous right now. A friend of mine in my writing group has gotten her novel published. Really published. By a publisher. Like, where they paid her, and she'll do readings in book stores.


Really, you should check it out. I haven't read this yet, but I am reading what she's writing now and I can tell you that she is fabulous. I'll be buying it at one of her first readings.

So, I am happy for her. Really and sincerely.

And, also, really and sincerely I am jealous. I want to be a writer. I've *always* wanted to be a writer, like since I was 6 and realized that people do that as a job. But I know that wanting to "be a writer" as in make your living from your writing is kind of like wanting to be a rock star or a professional baseball player. It does happen. For a very few, very talented people who are also very lucky.

Maybe someday that will be me, too.

But for now: color me green.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

I'm not good at relaxing

My husband was at gaming. My older daughter was visiting the bio-Dad. My younger daughter was napping. Even the dog was just mellowly hanging out in the window leaving nose prints.

So, did I sit down, put my feet up and eat bonbons? Did I read a book, play a videogame?


I worked out. I cleaned off the top of the piano and reorganized it. I continued my reorganization of the livingroom shelves. I made strawberry muffins. I did laundry. I worked on my novel (for all the good it did me: no luck, still stuck, just like the duck in the muck).

What makes me such a compulsive do-er? Why can't I just sit down until I'm exhausted?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Funny things make me sad when she's away

Monkeyfish is visiting the bio-Dad right now. In some ways, the break is nice. It's easier to get some household projects done with only one child to care for, for example. You would think I would be able to work on my novel, too . . . but there's the focus issue. I'm distracted.

I go to the grocery store, and cantaloupes make me sad. They're her favorite.

I see a long legged girl running down the street and for a moment my heart lifts, until I see that it's not her.

As I work on the house, all that organizing I find it hard to do during school, I find small things that she left about.

It's hard to go in her room to put away her clothes.

Come home to me soon, baby. I miss you too much.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Independence Day

My divorce became final in July, 2004. It wasn't on the fourth of July, but I celebrate it then anyway. I like the idea of fireworks going off in recognition of my personal Independence Day. And, that's how it felt that first year: like I'd won the lottery, dropped the anvil I'd been carrying in my soul for the past four years (or maybe longer) and walked free in the open air. I've never been surer in my life that I was doing the right thing. When the main emotion surrounding a decision to end your marriage is not anger, or hurt, or fear or sadness, but relief, then you know it's the right thing to do.

Of course, it was no simple thing, giving up. Besides giving up on a marriage that brought neither of us happiness, I gave up a house I loved, a job I really enjoyed, and (I thought) my prospects for second child. And, I had a little girl to think of. She was four at the time, heartbreakingly smart and intuitive. To my ex's credit, he did his best to leave her feeling blameless and loved. But leave her, he did, moving to the other side of the country. And it was me who tried to answer her questions, to reassure her that while a mom and a dad can stop loving each other, they can't stop loving their child.

He sees her rarely. Mostly, I think that is good, at least for me. I know moms who have to share their children with their exes on a weekly basis, having their kids for four days of seven, or every other weekend. I know moms who still have to share parenting decisions with the men who proved themselves untrustworthy as husbands, to have their judgment questioned over things like shoes and lunch and extracurricular activities. He made it easy for me, in a way, living far enough way that I don't even have to see him for the exchange, passing her to him at the mall or a playground like a ransomed victim. He doesn't interfere in our lives much, leaves plenty of room for my new husband in the father places in her heart.

But he's not all gone. He still wants his visitation. Mostly, I think this is good. It would break her if he didn't want to see her anymore. So, each summer, I sign the “unaccompanied minor” paperwork and put her on the plane and try not to cry too visibly on the way back to my car. The visits are not many, but they are long. I've never had her with me for another July since then.

So, as we approach another July, another Independence Day, I consider the idea of independence. Independence is costly. That's part of why we value it. There's always something you have to give up. Maybe a nice home. Maybe an easy life. Maybe fireworks with your child.

My father in law is dying

It's lung cancer.

It's the third time for him.

First he lost lymph nodes, part of his throat, the boom in his voice. But not his strength of will, not his desire to live.

He was winning, we thought. He was best man for my husband at our wedding, welcomed my daughter as his grandchild, and held our new baby glowing with the joy.

Then, it was his leg. He lost part of his calf this time, and a lot of weight. It was chemo this time, not just radiation, and it took its toll on his energy and his internal strength. He seemed old, suddenly. But he was fighting.

In April, we brought Norah up to celebrate her second birthday. He was well enough to come to the birthday party, eat cake and sing. He had a pain in his side and was waiting for test results. He hid his worry well.

Just 6 weeks later, we were back to help take care of him, maybe to say good-bye. He was still able to enjoy seeing the girls, hold them.

That was Memorial Day. It hasn't been another month, not quite. Now, he cannot get out of bed. He's in Hospice care. He doesn't want to see the girls. He's afraid he will scare them. He's so thin, so frail. He doesn't hope for recovery now, but for relief from the pain. I think he hopes to die.