Sunday, August 23, 2009

I will survive (hopefully)

Have you ever felt like time was slipping away? Or maybe that it wasn't time but intelligence and the brain matter it's associated with doing the slipping? Yeah. Me too. A lot. Especially this past week, when in spite of my best intentions to be a woman of poise and class, I mostly ended up being a woman of ludicrous ineptitude.

I used to think I could do most of it all--I could have the lovely, immaculate home; the well-mannered, well-educated, wonder-children; the perfectly organized existence; and the fabulous (but secretly purchased at thrift stores) wardrobe. I was willing--if absolutely required--to negotiate on total perfection in return for sustainability. But, seriously, this has gone too far. Lately I've had to accept a house with floors mopped by the family canine, children who almost always remember not to belch too loudly at the table and who can usually add seven and six to get an answer within two places of thirteen, a life fueled by desperation and anxiety, and a wardrobe that, while purchased, openly, at thrift stores, is not so much a contender for chic-of-the-week as an object lesson in applied economics. This is not quite what I had in mind.

I feel like I'm swimming upstream, and the stroke I'm using is a doggie-paddle. And my water wings have a leak. And my snorkel is plugged with spit. (I could extend this simile forever, but I'll end it mercifully just a wee bit long. Be thankful, because my next sentence would have mentioned an abnormal tightness of swimming attire.)

So, I'm going to take a couple of days--maybe weeks, but hopefully not--to pull my head and my life back together. I'll return soon--full of vim and vigor, ready to fight the good fight, and able leap medium-sized buildings with the aid of a trampoline and a strong tail wind. It'll be worth the wait.

I promise.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Monday, August 17, 2009

The secret to not falling off my rocker in one long-winded and self-congratulatory post

Confession: I am thirty-(cough*cough*cough*mumble*mumble*something that sounds like frickin' freven) years old, and I'm just now learning how to balance.

(Some of you probably think that this might explain why my shining future in gymnastics went south right after toddler-hood. Wrong-o, people. Not that kind of balancing--trust me, I've had that type down for years. "Old Nimble-Knees Merkley" they called me, when they weren't calling me "Four-Eyes" or "Hey, You! The One With Her Head Stuck In A Book!" And by "they" I mean the mean imaginary people in my mind. You should have heard some of the junk they came up with during my adolescence!)

Balance--the sort where one part or aspect of one's life does not overshadow or dominate all other aspects of that life--is something I've been seeking for a loooooooong time now. Like maybe 35- or 36-ish years. Or so. And I think I may actually stumbled (ironically enough, if you get the whole balance metaphor thing) across it today. It was lying there, right in front of me!, all along. Go figure.

Here's the skinny. (Another ironic pun, if you know me at all.) I am a basically lazy and selfish person. Really. I know I've fooled a lot of people over the years into believing I'm some sort of super-competent, super-active, super-giving over-achiever. HA! In reality, everything I've ever accomplished was done in frantic spurts of concentrated effort so I could just get it done with and go back to reading on my comfy couch. That was the story of my life in High School (less frantic activity; more comfy couch), college (slightly more frantic activity; more staying up 'til 4 a.m. gabbing with roommates; lots less sleep--usually on the comfy couch), and into ten-plus years of child-rearing. Sure, I got quite a bit done, but it was all at the expense of my sanity, my sleep, and my children's perception of "normal". (The children think I'm a total loon--and not in the humorous "My mom is so bizarre" sort of way. More like a scary "Get me out of here--she's going to destroy us all!" sort of way. Up until today they would have been correct in their estimation.) Most of my actual effort was directed at figuring out how to get everything necessary done while not having to put any real physical or emotional investment into what was going on. (Roberto, since I know you'll read this, I'm sooooooooo sorry. You have some serious gloat time coming to you.) Honest. If there was a short-cut, I'd take it at top speed. If I could do it poorly and still get away with it, I would. If I had to neglect the most important things to get something more showy done, it was not a question of "if", but of "just how little will I have to do? And may I eat crackers while doing so?" It looked impressive--appearances, people, it was all merely appearances!--but it lacked any sort of honest depth or caring. Also, I was really cranky. (Caveat: the 18 months of my mission were the exception to this sordid tale. Once I had a companion who could show me how to do the work correctly and with a proper attitude, I worked my sincerely-happy little tush off. Look at the pictures--no tush! Thanks, Debi!)

Today, though, I have had an epiphany. The secret is--oh, how I will regret admitting this some day when I just want to shirk!--is getting my lazy butt up and focusing on the important--read: NOT ME--things. That's it, the magic formula. Don't believe me? Here's how it went down:

  1. Child practicing piano, and having a rough time of it. Normally, I'd be in another room, paying very little attention while I did something more engrossing, like turning pages, or--if I HAD TO--folding laundry, but today I was on the piano bench with said child. You know what? I had trouble with it! And I've been playing (badly) for more years than I want to admit! We worked it through, and we enjoyed it. And there was no frustration!
  2. Child going through schoolwork. Typically, this would be my chance to escape and do something else--the instructions are right there, aren't they? Today, I read the instructions with him, discussed any questions he had, stayed with him every step of the way. No problems--work done in the right amount of time, with no whining, but lots of learning. (Also, I had plenty of time to turn the heel of the sock I'm knitting. But it wasn't my primary focus. That would have been un-balanced.)
  3. Child practicing alphabet (different child). I hate this usually. C'mon, how hard can it be? Read, already! This morning we sang the alphabet song and used the magnetic letters. It worked! She can tell "A" from "B"! How long have kindergarten teachers been sitting on this secret?
  4. Two minutes ago: strange, non-sleeping sounds emanating from a bedroom during nap time. No yelling while I kept writing, this time . No, I stood up, walked down the hall, opened the door, and explained the situation. Apparently we're on some sort of roll here, because there was no arguing. And now it's quiet!
  5. Because I was so very virtuous this morning, I have a clean house, peaceful and cheerful children, and a whole afternoon to enjoy both. (Feel free to kick me for my smugness. I've been waiting for 37 years to feel this good, and now my ego has come out swinging. It will be stuffed back into its cage shortly.)

Wow. So the points that I have missed all these years were that 1) I am in fact NOT the center of the universe, 2) life DOES NOT revolve around me, and 3) if I would just get off my lazy and selfish be-hind more often, I'd be a lot happier.

How come none of you told me this before?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Why I'm here blogging when I could be catching lake creatures with marshmallows on a hook

Children. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR. The ones in my line of sight at this minute may be flesh of my flesh, but I am not terribly fond of them just now.

Normally my children are bright, energetic, creative, wonderful small people. I love them--honestly. Most days you couldn't persuade me to part from them. Yesterday, though, I would have sold them to the circus for a handful of peanuts and Jumbo's autograph. And I would have negotiated on the peanuts.

Too harsh? Let me explain.

I am not an unreasonable person. I have certain sensible standards for conduct and behavior, and most intelligent mothers would agree that I do not ask over much of the developing personalities under my authority. (The unintelligent ones--the ones who feed their children Hershey bars and Pepsi for dinner--would disagree, but then I disagree with everything they do, so we're even.) All I require are honesty, diligence, and respect. And the occasional hug.


Because yesterday--the straw that broke the mommy's back, the day which brought me to the very last fiber of my figurative rope of sanity--the boys, Proto-Sundance and Mini-Butch, refused to do anything they were asked to do. Wipe down the bathroom? Nope. Do your math work? Nuh-uh. Practice the piano in under an hour? Forget it. Having read all manner of books on the subject, and considering the infinite worth that my children have and the eternal blessing they are supposed to be, I started off calm. Knowing this would be a challenging day, I prayed for patience. Finding that wasn't enough, I pleaded with heaven to grant me serenity. Heaven told me I was on my own with this one. I pulled out every mother-approved-obedience-achieving tactic in the book (and a few non-approved tactics as well, don't ask, when I became desperate), and nothing changed. Even when the "persuading" was done at top volume, as it increasingly was as the day went on, the boys remained obdurate. That's some granite-hard obstinacy, folks, and one-half of the family is paying for it today.

Today, you see, was the day my parents and their offspring had planned to spend at the lake to celebrate the first-ever Merkley Crustacean Fest. (Translation: we were going to bask in the mild mountain climate while sending innocent crawdads to their Celestial Maker. Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Unless you're a crawdad.) Yesterday, with my final desperate shot at salvaging a rotten day, I vowed to the boys that if they did not straighten up they would miss out. It was my last haven of hope to convince them, my last refuge of redemption, and they charged into it with metaphoric poop on their boots. They had edged me into fighting mode, and I fought back with fire in my eyes and an ulcer in my belly. So help me, Hannah, I was not going to give them the enjoyment of goofing off in the mountains after a day when all they did was goof off at the expense of my blood pressure. It was an epic battle. We all lost.

Today, since their sister did not take part in the rebellion, and since their father can drive while I cannot, Roberto is taking Lindy up to have some artificial reservoir fun, and I am stuck in desert suburban purgatory for the sins of my children.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

A really long post--you might need an intermission to get through it all

I saw the following list posted on my cousin Jay's Facebook page. I've seen lists like this, compiled by various literary "experts" (who determines the qualifications to achieve "expert" status, anyway? I've been reading for 33 years now--doesn't that make me somewhat able to chose my own reading materials?) a few times--and I've always compared my reading habits with the supoosed "correct" or "educated" reading standards. Most of the time I fall short--but I have to admit that the BBC seriously underestimates me: I've read 33 of them. (And have included my ever-so-helpful thoughts on a few.)

The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books here. How do your reading habits stack up?
[ ] 1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen (whoo-hoo--number one! Totally my pick, too)
[] 2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien (I'm still working on it. Tolkein was a professor of Anglo-Saxon, and it shows.)
[ ] 3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte (Oh. Dear. Gads. It is such a melodrama.)
[ ] 4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling (Cool, enjoyed it enormously--but is anything that can be made into a really cruddy movie worthy of an uber-snooty list?)
[] 5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee (yes, I liked it--but not enough to read it every year. Once a decade, maybe)
[] 6 The Bible (!!!!)
[ ] 7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte (Selfish people messing up other people's lives)
[] 8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
[ ] 9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
[] 10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (We called our first son Pip. IT WAS NOT AFTER THIS BOOK!)
[ ] 11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott (Like it, have it, but it gets a little Victorian at times. Still, not a bad way to spend a rainy afternoon.)
[ ] 12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy (Any book whewre the title character commits suicide is not worth the trouble--personal mantra)
[ ] 13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
[ ] 14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (80% there!)
[ ] 15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
[] 16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien (Shouldn't this just be lumped in with the Lord of the Rings? Are they that distinctive?)
[ ] 17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulk
[] 18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
[ ] 19 The Time Traveler’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
[ ]20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
[ ] 21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell (Yeow! Overemotional twaffle. I wanted to slug Scarlett after the firt two pages. Do not read this for historical information!)
[ ] 22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
[ ] 23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
[ ] 24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy (People doing everything they can to remain miserable)
[] 25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams (Chortle. Chorlte.)
[]27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
[ ]28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
[ ] 29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll (a tribute to the literary benefits of opium)
[] 30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame (Beautiful, but really difficult for a seven-year-old to understand. I know; we tried reading it together last year.)
[ ] 31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
[ ] 32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
[ ] 33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis (WHEEE!)
[ ] 34 Emma - Jane Austen (Fabulous! Much better than the movie, nice costumes notwithstanding)
[ ] 35 Persuasion - Jane Austen(Love it)
[] 36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis (Good for a beginning, but not my favorite)
[ ] 37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
[ ] 38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
[ ] 39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
[] 40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne (Harmless (which is more than can be said for many of these listed titles) and fun (ditto))
[ ] 41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
[ ] 42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
[ ] 43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
[ ] 44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
[ ] 45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
[ ] 46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery (If you get bored with this one, try Anne of Windy Poplars, instead)
[ ] 47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
[ ] 48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood
[] 49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding (EWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!! Why do they inflict this on us?)
[ ] 50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
[ ] 51 Life of Pi
[] 52 Dune - Frank Herbert
[ ] 53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons ("All highly-sexed farm boys are called either Seth or Reuben." HEE HEE)
[ ] 54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (Maybe my third-favorite Austen novel)
[ ] 55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
[ ] 56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
[] 57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
[ ] 58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
[ ] 59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - Mark Haddon
[ ] 60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
[] 61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
[ ] 62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
[ ] 63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
[ ] 64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
[] 65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
[ ] 66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
[ ] 67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
[ ] 68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
[ ] 69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie
[]70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville (The only reason I know the first line of this book is from watching Love Boat in the late 70s.)
[] 71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
[ ]72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
[] 73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett (Still have the copy my fourth-grade teacher gave me)
[ ] 74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson (very good--but you might need to watch your language after reading it. Toad in the Hole always sounds faintly naughty to me.)
[] 75 Ulysses - James Joyce
[] 76 The Inferno – Dante
[ ] 77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
[ ] 78 Germinal - Emile Zola -
[ ] 79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
[ ] 80 Possession - AS Byatt
[] 81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens (The only Dickens book where I don't start screaming about the thickness of the prose two paragraphs in.)
[ ] 82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
[ ] 83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
[ ] 84 The Remains of the Day
[ ] 85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
[ ] 86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
[] 87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White ("WIIIIIIILBUR!"--although that was Mr. Ed. Still applicable, though.)
[ ] 88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
[ ] 89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
[ ] 90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
[ ] 91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
[] 92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (Makes me cry cathartically)
[ ] 93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
[ ] 94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
[] 95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
[ ] 96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
[ ] 97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas (Much wordier than the movie)
[] 98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (Everyone and his pet pig dies)
[ ] 99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl (My boys have read it. Does that make them pretentious BBC snobs?)
[ ] 100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo (You'd think a romance, a revolution, and a redemption would make it interesting. You'd be wrong.)

Now for the part where I tell you what I think of all this.

First of all, I cannot understand for the life of me, why just because a book is bleak, dreary, and utterly incomprehensible when one is not under the influence of drug, legal or otherwise, it is automatically hailed as a literary landmark. Seriously, would it have killed some of these authors to look in the mirror, tell themselves they weren't really all that intellectually monumental, and then set to writing a genuinely knee-slapping short story? Admit it: with half of these ponderous tomes if you've read them at all, you plowed through doggedly to cross them off some list, and when you shudderingly turned the last pages, you exhaled huge sighs of relief and thanked your blessed stars you never had to read them again. They are beynd dismal. They are the ultimate and unjustified punishment for passing Kindergarten. No one reads most of these books for enjoyment--except people who have the emotional fortitude to withstand the inevitable depression that ensues. (I have a few of these people as friends. My admiration for them has no bounds. I adore them for their intellectual prowess. They accept me as light comic relief.)

I've tried on numerous occassion to wade through any book by Charles Dickens. I actually endured all the way through Great Expectations. It was a struggle. A Tale of Two Cities gathers dust in my bookcase now--I have attempted the slog of reading it four times, never advancing past page 24. My cousin, Kate (Hi, Kate! You don;t mind if I cite you, do you? Because you are the most knowledgable-on-the-subject person who I actually know, and are great deal more reliable than Wikkipedia.) tells me that Mr. Dickens was paid by the word for his work. It shows. His are some of the most bloated pages I have ever seen.

On the other end of the reading-list spectrum are bizarre trifles by Mitch Albom, Helen Fielding, and Dan Brown. Yes, they are best sellers. But serious masterworks of the craft of writing? No. Are they on the list as examples of popular taste at this point in history? Because as portraits of a decadent society they work. As telling revelations of the human spirit or condition they lack massively.

And don't get me started on books that every English Lit. teacher raves over, but which I have to take a bleach and lye shower after reading to rid myself of the crawing of the flesh feeling they induce.

So here's what I'm going to do for you: I'm going to give you my own approved reading list, with explanatory notes. Every title on it guaranteed to uplift the spirit, enlighten the mind, or evoke glee (some of these titles may do all three--they're my oersonal favorties). Go ahead and copy it, and then start reading. When you finish a book, place a check mark next to the title. There's no rush, and if you only read one or two, I won't judge you like I know the snooty folks at the BBC are at this very moment.

  • The Bible (well, of course--the basis for all Judeo-Christian thought and philosophy, and the foundation for most of post-classical, pre-modern literature. Seriously, this is required.)
  • The Book of Mormon (naturally--a companion to the Bible, and the ultimate "feel-good" read)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia (I know the BBC listed only the Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as a stand-alone choice. Sillies. My personal favorites are The Horse and His Boy and The Last Battle. Decide for yourself.)
  • The Anne of Green Gables series (Kate says, and I agree, that the latter books are better if you're over the age of 14. Don't forget to read Rilla of Ingleside. It always gets left off, for some reason.)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh and the companion books. (Because if you don't, you'll never get the joke about Henry Pootle.)
  • I'm a Stranger Here Myself (the BBC recommends Bill Bryson's Notes from a Small Island. I liked it, but I like this one better. Mainly becuase the BBC's recomended book is about Braitain--go figure--and this one is about what happens when an American returns home after twenty-something years abroad. It's funny and thought-provoking.)
  • White Goats and Black Bees (I found it in a sale years ago, and re-read it whenever I get overwhelmed with my life. It makes me smile. Surely that's enough to pique your interest!)
  • Hamlet (yes, I'm going with the BBC on this one. But I also like Macbeth, A Midsummer's Night Dream, As You Like It, and almost everything else except the dull Tudor histories--which he had to write to be economically and politically safe. He caved to the powers in charge, but he made the resulting plays so boring that they get shoved to the side--how's that for the last laugh?)
  • 1776 (Not the movie--although I do enjoy it--the book by David McCullough. Seriously, you should read this one.)

You know what? There are a ot of good book out there, way too many to list here. I have a few of them on my shelves. If you need something to read, come on over; I'd be glad to let you peruse for a while.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

My eyes have seen the glory of the starting of the school

Whooo-hooo, the boys are off to "school." (!!!!!!!!!)

That may be just a little confusing who aren't acquainted with the beautiful Mesa Public Schools Eagleridge Enrichment Program. (The program is beautiful, not the whole MPS--that's a subject for a much crankier post, one which I will pass on writing.) So, yes, we homeschool. But because MPS loves its homeschooling parents (or at least the chunk of student-tied funds they bring), it gives us a place for our children to go once or twice a week to take "enrichment courses"--things we wouldn't be able to provide very well on our own. Like PE (which I squeaked by with a "B" in during my own school days--due to a total inability to run a mile without death-like symptoms), computers (I'm still pounding the keyboard in utter frustration 60% of the time. It's an improvement; I no longer call Roberto in tears three times a day. Sometimes I wonder if he misses that.), and fun classes like American Biographies, It's Disgusting and We Ate it, and Internet Cruises--all of which Jobe is taking this semester. This is a good thing: there is no way in Tahiti I was going to make him the chocolate-covered crickets he was asking for. That's something best left to a state-approved-and-qualified professional far, far away from my home kitchen.

And now the house is quiet--or at least as quiet as it can be with a four-year-old pounding on the piano, a toddler bumping into everything while trying to keep up with the four-year-old, and a manic dog who thinks oxygen atoms are a threat to household security. It's bliss, I tell ya.

"Ahhh," you think, "If it's so blissful, why don't you put your children in school full-time and cut out this homeschooling nonsense? Why not give yourself a real break?" That. my friends, is a good question--one I ask every day after about the middle of January. (Because no matter how much I love something, after a while it gets a little stale, and I start to see the flaws in the original plan. This is not unique to homeschoolers. My sister has her children in the excellent public school near her home, and she whines to me at least as much as I whine to her. Then we part, each smiling smugly that we got the better educational bargain. Validation: that's what sisters do best.) I homeschool because I wanted to really be the primary influence in my children's young lives--not their teachers at school, not their friends. I wanted to be the one to give them their first taste of educational success. I wanted to see their minds open up to new ideas. I didn't want to miss the most exciting moments of these years and have to hear about them in parent-teacher conferences. Basically put, I'm selfish and these are MY children--hands off! (Also, having suffered through more than my fair share of idiots with educational degrees I figured I could do at least as well as they did. At least I can pronounce "denouement", unlike one spectacularly ill-educated English teacher. Seriously, if you're going to teach the intricacies of the language you should be able to pronounce them correctly. Is that too much to ask?)

I'm giddy about this first day of school--just as I was when I was attending. I had trouble falling asleep last night, and so did Jobe. He feels the excitement of it. (Charlie felt only the comfort of his mattress, but he's a far more practical being than Jobe or I.) This is the start of a whole new adventure--the start of something that could change history, or at least the course of a life or two. It's a day for new backpacks, new pencils, new folders, new clothes. Everything and anything seem possible. Deep down I know that disappointment will come, that the new clothes will have pizza sauce stains on them in a matter of weeks, that the new folders will get torn, and the new pencils will be sharpened down to stubs. Reality is out there; I acknowledge that. But this day is a day for optimism.

Wish us luck! (and pray just a little, as well.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Flippin', frickin' things that are driving me crazy--literally, in one case

Does anyone else have major mechanical/techno stuff with neurological problems? Is it just me? Am I the only lucky one who gets to deal with cars with Tourette's Syndrome and computers with ADD? Seriously?

"Ha Ha," you're thinking, grinning to yourself in that quirky but endearing way you do when you contemplate beings of a lower mental plane (small inarticulate children, dogs, plates of three-month-old cheese that have decided to sit up and take notice), "that Melia--she's such a kidder!" (Although, to be strictly consistent, I ask to be referred to as a "Kydder".) But, dear people, I swear on a stack of grammar texts, I am not exaggerating. This time.

Our station wagon, which we bought fortuitously the weekend before Charlie was born, thereby enabling Roberto to be present at the birth of his third son, and not blissfully unaware of the drama he would have left behind when he jumped into a taxi on his way to a business trip in L.A., has always had a few tics. The windshield wipers, for instance, would spring to life without prompting, without even the slightest hint of a cloud in the sky. (This is the desert, for Peter Paul's sake!) We have the perma-scratched windshield to prove it. Then there's the electrical system, which delights in refusing to allow us to turn off lights, or even--a month ago--to shut off the air-conditioning. (It would have been a blessing in the depths of a desert summer had we actually been driving at the time. We were not. But when we later decided to jump in the car and put it to its intended purpose the battery was drained and the electrics were fried and sulky.) A few years back there was the month of auto-swearing, when the Great White Road Whale would for no discernible reason whatsoever let off a blare from the horn--repeatedly, and often massively inappropriately. (A very belated and heartfelt apology to the people in that funeral cortege.) I can only assume that the blasts were the sta-wag versions of four-letter words, emitted at uncontrollable intervals. And don't get me started on the bits that would not stay put--panels flapping open, compartments that had to be jammed shut every ten minutes, and an antenna that could never make up its mind to rise or lower and finally settled for a prolonged, ineffective, groaning that accomplished neither.

And now the computer is showing signs of instability. It refuses to stay connected to the Internet--usually just at the climactic moment of a show I've been dying to see. And when it gets tired of that delightful little trick, it starts randomly connecting to the 'net, unstoppably, so I have sixty-three unusable windows open at the same time. After which it has exhausted itself and needs a prolonged nap. It has no focus, no ability to withstand distraction. It loses comprehension at the drop of the proverbial hat. It's no wonder that I spend so much time with it; the computer has become the electronic equivalent of an overly-hyper child who just needs some attention and consistency to help it gain some self-discipline. I've become its surrogate helicopter parent--hovering nearby to help it over the rough patches. It's actually become more demanding than my human children, who at least can make peanut butter sandwiches when they get hungry and self-entertain quite well, given a few thousand books and a box of crackers. Who'd've thunk my problem child would have a power cord and an attached mouse?

I know the tendency in such cases of psychological instability is to look closely at the social culture in which the patient resides. Everyone wants to blame the mother/owner at a time like this. But I've been blameless. I never flogged the car's engine mercilessly. (Although there were a few times when I had to leave a few overly-macho types in jacked-up trucks in my station-wagging dust back in my driving days. But that was rare--I'm quite mild-mannered usually. And not at all inclined to resent those rude louts with their obnoxiously-loud engines or their precariously-balanced cabs. I just hope they learn wisdom before they tip over and burst into flames while travelling down a deserted stretch of highway where no one can hear them scream.) And as for the computer, well, I've been the picture of compassion with it--neither shouting excessively after the fourteenth re-booting of the day, nor beating it overly harshly with a sledgehammer after it cut off my favorite program FOR THE THIRD TIME JUST BEFORE THE KILLER IS REVEALED!!!!! Nominate me for owner of the year for my endless patience with these two damaged souls.

So, if you know of any good computer/automotive therapists--or just have a real hankerin' to pound out the frustrations of contemporary life on the helpless carcass of a modern "convenience," give me a shout. Something tells me my patience is about to give.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Warning: Full-blown panic attack coming your way

OK--Girls' Camp is over. (Fabulous, by the way--you should have been there; you totally missed out! The tap-dancing alone was worth the trip. Maybe next year.) That means it's time to de-stress and relax for the

There is something amazingly wrong with that thought, isn't there? It's like I spent all summer hoping and planning for something, and completely forgot to live while I was waiting for it. And now it's all over, and I have nothing left to look forward to, and a ton of stress is about to fall on me and crush me into a large greasy smudge on the pavement. Sort of. I guess.

And apparently, I'm still stuck in some kind of a do-it-all, Mrs.-out-to-impress-people mode (which, let's face it, is sort of useless. Because either people are already impressed by me, or they aren't, and if they are or if they aren't nothing I do at this point will make a bit of difference), because today, after swearing on a stack of camp manuals last week--they were the holiest printed works I had handy at the moment--that I would not touch that sewing machine again until the Christmas ornaments were up and Santa was winging his way south, I actually whipped up a sweet little dance bag for Lindy (she chose bold pink flamingos and pink with white polka dots--she has a bright future in design, no?) and a fabulous red sailboat-printed sling to carry Anders in when we ride the bus for educational- and mobility-related purposes. I am forced to conclude the fourteen loads of laundry calling my name were not enough of a challenge. (And apparently neither were the basic rules of nutrition, because I'm cruising on a steady diet of brownie mix and hamburger buns. Too much info?)

You wanna know what I think? (Surely you must, or you wouldn't be reading this.) I think it's a form of procrastination, this compulsion to create. Somewhere deep in the inner portions of my brain, there is a lobe, or a relay, or a synapse or something (Note to self: ask Tricia what that part of the brain is called so I can use it in casual conversation and intimidate people with less neuron-knowledgeable cousins) that thinks that if I am busy making something new and semi-interesting, then time is unnaturally slowed down and possibly even reversed to accommodate the task, and I will then have more time to address the unpleasant facts of existence at a later date. Seriously. You can always tell when I have something scary hanging over my head--I'll be working with intense concentration on totally unnecessary pieces of cloth, or paint, or paper. (Unless the something scary over my head is a spider. In which case I will be shrieking at top decibel level and jumping hysterically about the room in an ineffectual way, and accomplishing nothing except entertaining my children.)

See--I'm doing it again. Here I am, at 11:40 at night, writing a post that, while refreshingly candid and slightly humorous in a frantic sort of way, is totally unhelpful to the rotation of the earth, while a pile of textbooks awaits my organizational touch. I have books to find places for, folders to fill, pencils to sharpen, maps to hang. But there is no way in Tahiti that I will do them tonight, because I fully intend to fritter away my time filling in people on the meaningless details of a life they already know entirely too much about already. DANG IT ALL TO HADES! I HAVE HOMESCHOOL STUFF TO PREPARE, AND I AM WORRIED TO DEATH ABOUT IT! So I'm blogging, of course. Because nothing says I'm 100-percent focused on my children's education than sending trivia into the universe.

Dear goodness, I need help. If you have any compassion at all, send me a wake-up-to reality call. And maybe some salad.