Saturday, September 29, 2007

Dear Me

It only seems appropriate to follow up the baring of my teenage soul via poetry and pictures (and thank you all for your kind words. You all rock. Come on over so I can make you a non-teenagery margarita, will you?) with a letter to my teenage self. I read the first one of these over at RimaRama (and it was hysterical, like every post she writes, that crazy Lithuanian!) and apparently her post was a response to Amy's writing challenge to write a letter to yourself when you were 14-17.

(the name is the name of my super character from the cartoon series my best friend and I used to write - I use her super name, too)

Dearest Owell,

Relax. Please, relax. You are absolutely lovely.

Stand up straight. Yes, I know that makes you taller than nearly every boy at school, but do it anyways. And you really don't need to hide behind those huge clothes. Super skinny girls won't be all the rage until you are no longer one of them, but you can still be proud of your figure.

Relax. You have a wonderful friendship. Bertha may get distracted now and then by her current boyfriend, but you know that she is always there for you. Enjoy your time together, and keep that friendship strong. Trust me on this one, we still hang out when we happen to be in the same state.

Relax. Those boys? They are a bit scared of you, it's true. You're smart, and you're not willing to compromise your values. Those are good things. Don't ever let anyone tell you otherwise. Oh, and you're taller than them. Although I still suspect that may bother you more than it bothers them (you will later date a guy in college who finds that rather nice, actually). That cute boy with the girlfriend? Honey, forget him. There are several very nice boys looking your way if you would just bother to look theirs. And if not, relax. Love is coming. Sweet wonderful love and friendship. True, your heart will break, and there will be some (OK, a lot of) pain involved, but it's worth it. And ultimately? You marry a wonderful man. He's quite a bit like your father, actually, although maybe I shouldn't tell you that. And while we're on the subject, you may not want to make any statements that begin with "I would never marry a ..." because I tell you now, God will look down on you and say "Ha!" But it's a good thing, really.

Relax. When you don't make the JV cheerleading squad, you will be very sad. But better things are coming. (Hint: find your way down to the drama room)

Those journals you keep? Keep it up. They are good for you to get your feelings out. But may I suggest that you write about the good things, too, and about the other things you are passionate about? I mean besides the cute boy with the girlfriend (and has it occurred to you that you always seem to like a boy with a GIRLFRIEND? Perhaps you might want to think about what this might indicate). Write about your faith. Write about your friendships. Write about the causes you fight for, and the work you do to combat racism. Write about your family, so you have a record of your time together. Write about how you feel about the world and your place in. Just keep writing.

Learn to cook. Follow your mother into the kitchen and ask her to show you a few things. This will definitely come in handy later, I promise you.

Be proud of who you are, and what you do. And relax. You can not do it all. But you will do enough.

Oh. And if you haven't already sold all of your Star Wars figurines at a garage sale yet HOLD ON TO THEM!! They will be collectors items, and you can make a fortune selling them over the Internet. "What's the Internet?" It's hard to explain, but just trust me on this one.

Oh. And Calculus. Don't bother. You won't pass the AP test and then you will wonder why you spent all year doing very hard math problems with no college credit to show for it. Take art or something instead; it will be much more useful for you in the long run.

Much love,

Owell - 20 years later

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I ain't no Shakespeare

The other day the fabulous Sage braved the blogosphere with a couple of poems written while she was in high school. Her post made me think of the little cloth covered book, navy with white flowers, that I knew was tucked away in a box in my attic labeled "memories." So I went to the hallway, pulled the ladder down and crawled up there to retrieve the book.

I have to tell you that rereading these poems is seriously making me blush. They are that bad. Some of them, however, do make me remember EXACTLY what was going on in my life at that point, so they are an interesting history in that way. And some I look at the date and wonder "WTF?" Like this one, which was written the August before I started 9th grade. I had just started cheerleading, and had met the girl who would become my best friend all through high school. Here it is:

Deep, unending
pitch BLACK.
into mysterious
I'm searching
searching for light
but there is NOTHING.
Searching for something
to grab.
There is
I continue to fall.
I feel so helpless.
Shivering cold.
Numbness takes over.
Now I feel
I scream
but I hear

Cheery, eh? And so surprising. I bet you never saw that last line coming. sigh. And no, to answer your question, I have never been suicidal. Although if my mother had seen this I'm sure she would have thought I was. Perhaps I've just always been a bit prone to the dramatic. Perhaps.

So a year later I write this little ditty:

Looking from the outside
what do you see?
A laughing, smiling, happy me.
Only rarely do I break down
and then you see
the lonely, tortured, REAL me.
Nobody realizes the pain that I feel,
or how much they've hurt me
beneath the smile that's not real.
The careless laugh I use to hide
the woulds that don't heal
hidden so deep inside.
I want to reach out
but where do I turn?
Each time I try so hard - yet I fail.
When will I ever learn?
I want you to notice.
I want you to see.
But I'm just forgotten.
What about me?

Are you singing the Moving Pictures song yet? I had the piano sheet music. It was my theme song. And I make fun of these poems (as I should, really) but they do make me remember how alone I felt through much of high school, whether I should have or not, that's how I felt. It's why I've always related to the great theatrical characters that pine for love: Eponine, Sonya, Varya, even Helena.

OK, enough poor, poor me poetry (although really, that's the bulk of what is in this little notebook). I will end with this one, written the winter of my junior year.

Echoes of Reality
Swirling snow
dances reality into a dream
under the sky which holds
a single glittering star.
Laughter echoes through glass trees
remnants of musical notes
voices singing to the heartbeat
of two magnetic souls.
Smile upon faces
that will never break;
captive eyes
that will never close.
A consuming flame
burns unceasingly,
defying the grasp of
frosty February fingers.
A spirit fills with eternal echoes
of a harmony
which will never again
sound the same.

This poem was written about a fellow I met at a weekend sledding retreat with my youth group. He was one of the staff at the camp (an older man!) 2 years later I actually went on a date with him, and let's just say it was not the fairy tale I thought it would be. However, we're still friendly. In fact, I was at his wedding.
So there you have it. I have laid my teenage soul bare. Ack. (as you can see, I have progressed mightily in my ability to express myself. "ack," indeed)

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Activist Philanthropy

I admit that when I think about Philanthropy I usually think about giving money or things. Next I think about giving time. But I did a google search for the definition of philanthropy and found many definitions similar to this: "Active effort to promote human welfare."

And today Darfur has been on my mind. I was cleaning up after dinner and my husband was watching CNN. There was a commercial on about stopping the violence in Darfur. People, white actors and actresses looking very American and upper middle class, stood reading from clipboards what I can only assume are quotes from people living the atrocities in Darfur. Things like "They beat me all over," "I thought I would die," "My daughter was pregnant, and they cut open her belly." (these are not strict quotes from the ad, but my memories of them) Then the news program came back on, and it was about the dangers of the possibility of terrorists hacking into power plants and blowing up their generators, which could leave parts of our country without power. And I was struck, once again, at how there can be so much horror going on in the world, and yet we are focusing on something that might possibly someday happen. And that this was bigger "news".

I watch The View only occasionally - if I'm exercising at that time of day - but one of the things I appreciated about Rosie O'Donnell on that show was her constantly reminding the audience of the death toll in Iraq, her insistence that those numbers not get lost in the focus on celebrity in our media. And I appreciate that people are fighting to keep Darfur in the public eye.

So I began to wonder what I could do about Darfur. This seemed perfect, seeing that Jen M holds Philanthropy Thursdays, and they are a great reminder to us to DO something. But I am broke, broke, and more broke this week - having to close out a bank account to pay the mortgage. But I got online and visited to see what else I could do. There are no events near me. But I did send an e-mail to President Bush and UN Secretary-General Ban urging them to do more to stop the genocide in Darfur. And it's a small thing, sure, but it is indeed making an "active effort to promote human welfare." And now I am telling you, because perhaps you will feel compelled to do the same (or something similar in your own country).

And thanks for all the great response to last week's post about clicking to give over at The Hunger Site. I know that having the button on my own blog reminds me to go over there, and I've been there daily this past week.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

wordless wednesday - jump

on magical beings

Hold on to your hat.

Our not quite 5 year old daughter knows there is no Santa Claus. Why? Because we told her.

Let me start at the beginning. When The May Queen was born, we wondered how to deal with the whole Santa Claus/Easter Bunny thing. We wanted the focus of these holidays to be the Christian celebration, not the imaginary characters that go with them. Also, we were really uncomfortable with the idea of telling our child that something was true, when we knew full well that it wasn't. In any other area of our lives we would call that lying. Nearly everybody I know has a story behind how they found out the truth about Santa Claus. It is often traumatic. Why would we do this to our child?

So we asked my parents how they handled it. I don't have a traumatic story, because I always knew that Santa Claus wasn't real. But I couldn't remember how I knew this. My mother explained that she had told my brother and I that Santa Claus wasn't real from the very beginning. She talked with us about how Santa is a character, like in a book, and we could enjoy his stories and talk about him and have fun with the idea of Santa without him being real. So this is the approach we have taken with The May Queen. And so far so good. MQ is still young enough that the line between fantasy and real is pretty blurry anyways. She knows that Santa is a character. She also knows that Cinderella is a character, and Dora and Curious George and... This does not keep her from talking about them, and being both excited and nervous when she sees a costumed character. She gets it, and yet she doesn't. And that's OK. That's a blurry line I'm comfortable. Believing is fun. I'm an actress, so I am all about the suspension of disbelief. But it's just that: the SUSPENSION of disbelief. I can enjoy the fun that comes with Santa without ever having to wrestle with the logistics of how he gets down chimneys, and why some kids get Wiis and other kids get hand me down clothes, while still others get nothing at all. We talk about how Santa represents generosity, and when she gets older we'll talk more about St. Nicholas and the various traditions that have led to our version of Santa.

At Easter, the whole Easter Bunny thing is fairly easy to avoid, frankly. But again, we have fun with it, even while she knows full well who hides her basket. It does not diminish her excitement about it a single bit.

When we first started down this road I worried that MQ would be the spoiler for other kids, and I still worry about that a bit. My husband is quite firm on the idea that that's not our problem. But I'm still careful about it. And very proud of how The May Queen handles herself in such situations. When someone asks her what Santa brought her for Christmas, she simply says "I don't get presents from Santa, but my parents got me...." and dives into her list of favorite gifts. So far her friends haven't asked for an explanation. And if they do... well, hopefully she'll handle that gracefully as well.

It's a hard road to take in a world that is so focused on these imaginary characters. That insists that the magic of Christmas is in a child's belief in something that is not real. Even at our church the first words out of nearly every adults mouth are "What did Santa bring you for Christmas?"

Our holidays are still magical. We lie under the Christmas tree and look up at the twinkling lights, and talk about how the lights represent Jesus, the light of the world. We play with our nativity scenes. Last year the May Queen regularly took the baby Jesus and gave him rides around the house on the back of a sheep. Instead of buying presents for The May Queen's grandparents we adopt a family in need, or give to a charity, and write a letter to them telling them what we've done in their name. We open the doors in our advent book and tell the story of Christmas. And yes, we have Santa Claus books and figures around our house. Because Santa isn't a bad thing. But he's a poor replacement for what the real magic of Christmas is, and the gifts that come with it.

(and yes, I am well aware that the Christians co-opted pagan holidays that celebrated the returning of the light, taking these festivals and adding their own Christian bent to them. I know. But I choose to celebrate this aspect of it)

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Crayon Rejection - Monday Mission

To RoseArt Crayons,

Who exactly do you think you are? And what is this waxy product you are trying to pass off as a crayon? The color is weak. It easily breaks. I'm trying to teach my daughter how to read the colors, and you call purple "violet". This is confusing to her young mind.

Crayons have been around for a long time. Do you not have scientists that can melt down the Crayola, figure out how they make it, and make your crayons as good? Apparently not. Or you are just lazy.

You may fool new parents. And well meaning people buying crayons for the children of their friends and trying to save a few pennies. But you can't fool me. I scoff at your "crayons." I walk right by them in the store. And I grab me a box of the good stuff. The Crayolas. I'm a big spender, shelling out those extra pennies for the real deal. Because only the best will do for my coloring book.

I mean my daughter's coloring book. (Have you seen her artwork? It's on blogs all over the world now - thanks to a certain nice little button)

RoseArt, you have been rejected.


Painted Maypole

This post is the last in the September Monday Missions. Today's mission is to write a post in the from of a rejection letter. To participate, just add a link to your post in the widget below. In October the Missions will be hosted by The Flying Mum. This is next week's mission: "Congratulations! You are a top executive at a breakout new cable TV company. TV Guide wants to publish a sampling of your new fall lineup. For this post, please provide them with a description of some of the new shows."
I hope to keep up with them, as they've been a lot of fun for me (although I must confess, there have been some weeks I wouldn't have done it if I weren't hosting it! Hosting it makes me do it even when I feel uninspired, and I think that was good for me. So I may try to think of it as a homework commitment. I was always pretty good about turning in homework on time, but then I've been out of school for 11 years, so maybe not so much anymore? We'll see!)

Friday, September 21, 2007

Interview - now with photo!

A few weeks ago the wonderful Chani over at Thailand Gal was interviewed for the "Getting to Know You" Meme, and offered to interview anyone who asked. I took a deep breath and asked to be interviewed. I was a bit nervous because I knew that Chani would ask some deep, searching questions. And indeed, she did. Here are my attempts to answer them.

1) You are Kathleen Blanco and it is the day after the storm. What is the first thing you do in your role as governor?
My initial reaction to this was "weep uncontrollably in the corner," but as I figured that was inadequate, I've been trying to come up with an answer. However, this question is proving the most difficult, for several reasons. First of all, it feels a lot like Monday Morning Quarterbacking... we know so much more now than we did that day after the storm. Also, I am becoming acutely aware of how little I know about what a governor actually does. (I should just cheat and ask my husband, I bet he has an opinion on this!) I've done a wee bit of research on this today, besides the crazy CNN addiction I had in the weeks following Katrina, and yet I still feel at quite a loss. But this I will say: I would declare a state of emergency. I would use every resource I have to GET PEOPLE OUT OF NEW ORLEANS. (I know there were snipers and looters - I have friends with stories that would creep you out - but why is it that news crews were filming the people outside of the convention center and not loading them into their choppers? Why wasn't every chopper in America outside the convention center loading people?) I would have allowed Red Cross into the city (Blanco didn't). And, I hope with all my heart, I would have MADE decisions. I cannot begin to guess all the decisions Blanco had to make in those first few days after Katrina hit, but I do know that she took too long to make decisions. Precious time and resources were wasted. I will also say, even though this was a few months or so later, that I would not have gone through with the plans to renovate my offices with taxpayers money while the rest of state struggled to survive. Sigh. This question is stressing me out. Next.

2) What should be the number one rule of parenting?

3) When the May Queen grows up, what do you hope will be the primary lesson she carries through life?
This is really hard to narrow down, but I think it all comes down to LOVE. I hope that for her whole life she carries with her the knowledge that she is deeply loved by us and by God, and that she should live her life as a response to that love. I hope that being deeply loved allows her to live a life where she readily gives love, showers grace upon herself and the world around her, and feels called to help others.

4) As a liberal Christian, how do you interpret these words of Jesus: "How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God! . . . it is easier for a camel (rope) to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God. (Mk 10:23b, 25)
Well, I think the answer lies within the greater context of this verse. If you just look at this verse, I think that Jesus was saying that those who are rich have a hard time depending on God, and rather look to their wealth. However, the point of the story is much bigger. This story begins with a rich man (he is called such in Luke's telling of this story) asking Jesus "What can I do to have eternal life?" Ultimately, he is asking the wrong question. It is not what he (the man) can do, but rather, what JESUS can do (Jesus looked at them and said, "there are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything." Mark 10:27). People use the verse you quoted all the time to condemn the rich. And certainly there are lots of times in the bible where Jesus urges us not to store up treasures on earth, but rather in heaven. However, this verse is not just about the wealthy. The point being made is for EVERYONE. We can not follow a certain set of rules or guidelines and earn eternal life for ourselves. The only way we can receive eternal life is through God's GRACE, made manifest through His son, Jesus.

5) What resonated with you most about the character Helena in Midsummer Night's Dream? How are you most like her?
My most immediate draw to Helena was her height. I am 5'10", and have always towered above most of my friends. I have felt awkward and been very aware of this difference. Also, particularly when I was younger, I have felt like the loser in the game of love, and so Helena's desperation, her unrequited adoration of Demetrius, and her foolhardy chasing of him into the woods rang true to me. And she's just fun to play!

yes, that's me as the lovesick Helena, summer 2000

photo taken by my husband

6) What is the next Monday Mission Topic?
Okay, Chani didn't really ask this question. But I wanted to give you a heads up. If you want to participate in the Monday Missions, write a post in the form of a rejection letter. Come back here on Monday and add the link to your post in the fun widget at the end of mine. It's that easy! :) I've had a lot of fun with these Monday Missions, they really challenge me to write in a different style. I encourage you to give it a shot.

So... that's the interview! ;) If you would like me to interview you, leave me a comment (and your e-mail, or just send me an e-mail at pntdmaypole AT yahoo DOT com) and let me know. I'll send you 5 questions. If you dare. ;)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Easy Philanthropy Thursday

Jen M over at Get in the Car! has started Philanthropy Thursdays over at her blog - every Thursday she is doing something philanthropic and posting about it. She is encouraging her readers to do the same. I think this rocks! (her first one was selling a diamond ring on ebay - she gave all the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans). Her post today is about buying gifts for others - buying fair trade, from companies that give proceeds to causes, and giving a philanthropic gift in someone elses name. Go check it out, she has great ideas and great links.

The Hunger Site

My philanthropy for the day is a pledge to go every day to The Hunger Site to click on their donate button. (you can see that I've added a link to their site on my sidebar, as well) Every day I can click on this button, and each click will generate ad revenue. All the money they raise from this ad revenue goes towards stopping hunger. It will tell me how many cups of food my one click provides (today it was 1.1 cups of food). Then, I will click on all the other tabs, and do the same thing to donate to breast cancer research, literacy, the environment, saving the rain forest and feeding animals. All of this will take me appx. 20 seconds. I used to do this all the time, and sort of forgot about it until I read Jen's post. So... I am pledging to do it again. If I can take time to read all your lovely blogs, I can do this. It costs me nothing but a very small amount of time.

Will you please consider doing it, too?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beware the Dread Pirate May Queen

Aarrrgh! Beware, ye scurvy knaves. There be rumors that the dread pirate May Queen is on the prowl for shiny treasure. This dangerous lass of the high seas has not one, not two, but THREE parrots. And lest ye be gettin' all soft on me and thinkin' how cute these birdies be, let me tell you that they are fierce and cunning fighters and looters. They will swoop down and steal your shiny stuff.
(Happy Talk like a Pirate Day, mates!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Mama Bear Goes to School

First of all, I must thank all of you for your kind and encouraging comments to my post about The May Queen being teased at school. Your love and advice were much appreciated.

Today this Mama Bear went to school to protect her Cub. Okay, it wasn't that dramatic. I didn't bat away the pesky children with my large, sharp clawed paw. There was no growling involved. Instead, I sat my Mama Bear behind in a small blue chair and talked with MQ's teacher. She was as kind and loving and sweet of a kindergarten teacher as you could possibly dream. It seems as if it is about the best case scenario, in that the "teasing" is not specifically targeted at MQ, and that most of it isn't actual teasing at all, but rather a form of playing. For instance, I brought up the "you stink" insult, and it seems as if they were playing a game of tag, where rather than saying "you're it!" the kids would yell "you stink!" The teacher readily agreed that this isn't a good idea, and will help the kids change the way the game is played. She promised to talk generally to all the kids about playing together, speaking kindly, and including everyone. She will also be on the lookout for this kind of behavior when the kids are playing so it can be dealt with. I was proud of myself for not crying (I'm tired and having some kind of sinus craziness and rather prone to tears these days) and very pleased with how kind and open MQ's teacher was. We talked a bit about MQ being more sensitive, perhaps, than the other kids to this sort of thing, but how that shows an understanding of hurtful things and right and wrong. The teacher then went on to give a bit of a review of MQ's strengths and weaknesses - and while I won't got into all of them here, I sure was a proud (if not a bit surprised!) Mama Bear to hear that my little girl is always kind, friendly, and easily shares. Her teacher told me the story about how for a few days there was a special needs girl in the classroom - trying to determine if she was ready to come into a regular kindergarten class. One day the mother was there with her, and MQ was sitting with them at lunch. MQ said to the girl "Someday when you come over to play out my house....." Her teacher said that while MQ and the girl talked together, the mother's eyes filled with tears of joy, to hear someone be so kind to her daughter.

And so I know that the lessons we are trying to teach her are sinking in. She will not always do the right thing. She will sometimes be more hurt by the teasing of other kids than she needs to be. She may some days even be the kid yelling "you stink!" But hopefully, with her sensitive heart, there will be more days where she is sitting with the odd girl out, and inviting her to play.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Bedtime Bear's Resume - Monday Mission


CONTACT: You can find me in The May Queen's bed, or sometimes stuck between the wall and the bed, and occasionally at the bottom of the toy box.

OBJECTIVE: To become real.

EDUCATION: Although I have no formal education, I am well versed in bedtime stories and songs, having listened to them night after night for nearly 5 years.

RELATED EXPERIENCE: October 2002 - September 2003 The May Queen's Main Squeeze
As The May Queen's Main Squeeze I have been key in establishing bedtime and naptime routines. I have helped to resolve many problems, such as hurt knees and toddler tantrums. I have also been a key conversationalist with MQ, either with the help of an outside voice or merely as a silent but active listener, helping her to develop social and language skills. I have also, from time to time, played patient to her doctorings.

ADDITIONAL QUALIFICATIONS: The rattle inside of me helps to give away the position of a hiding child, or alert parents to the nighttime wanderings of a child. I am blue, MQ's favorite color. My fur is a bit matted, but I am washable. I travel well, and am perfectly happy with a seat in coach or a place in the suitcase. I am soft and huggable. My feelings are not easily hurt when I am temporarily replaced by a flashier unicorn or giraffe, or given a new name. I am adaptable and resilient.

EXPECTED SALARY: Lots of love and hugs.

This resume is part of Monday Missions. If you want to play along with your own resume (funny, serious, anything in between...) put the link to your post into my nifty little Mr. Linky widget below. And be sure to mention the Monday Missions in your post, and perhaps even link back to here, so people can check out the other resumes. Maybe we can help someone find a job. ;) Next week's Mission is to write a post in the form of a rejection letter.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Swamp thing

We have a friend in from out of town, plus I spent all day yesterday scrapbooking with a friend, so I have not had much time to blog or read blogs. But today we did get to go on a swamp tour, which was very cool. I share with you a few alligator pictures taken just this morning:

This alligator was fondly referred to as "Jumper" by the the tour guide. She was the first one we saw, and he knew right where to find her. This hot dog had been allowed to ripen for several days. She seemed to like it.

We went down the Pearl River, which is where the eye of Hurricane Katrina came up, and although the river has been greatly cleaned up we still saw some debris, including an entire wall with an air conditioner attached.

If you would like to play along with this week's Monday Mission write a post in the style of a resume. I'll try to get mine up late Sunday night, as usual, and then you can come and post the link to yours!

Hope you are having a great weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

fishy kitschy

A while back everyone was showing off their Kitsch. I was too busy sorting my gazillion photos from my fabulous trip to England to play along. But I couldn't help noticing my kitsch as I went around my business at home. And the piece that really stood out to me was this:
Yes, a fishing shark. And what is that he's caught? Yes, a human. Ahhh... so clever. And then I got to thinking about how much shark stuff I have in my home. See, sharks are my favorite animals (ever since I watched Jaws 3 when I was 7 or 8. And then a book about real life shark attacks became my favorite book. I would read it over and over. I know, I know! I should see a shrink! Instead, I collect sharks). I did a little tour of my home. Here is a SMALL sampling of the sharks in my home:
Sharks to drink from.
Sharks to wear.
Sharks to cuddle. (that hammerhead one in the back? he's my favorite. When you squeeze him he says, in a very deep voice, things like "I have no bones. My skeleton is made of cartilage" and "I'm a hammerhead shark. I make no sound") Sharks to play with in the bathtub (yes, these are in MQ's tub. But they are MINE. I owned them well before she was born. And this is a mere portion of the bathtub collection)
A sign to warn you of the sharks.
These are the sharks the sign is warning you of. They are but one of the 3 different kinds of sharks I have stenciled onto the bathroom wall. The other sharks are great whites and blue sharks. And in case you were wondering, I could find no place that actually SOLD shark stencils, so I made my own. I decided that if I had an undersea bathroom I would have a place to display my massive shark collection.
Sharks to dust (because really, what other purpose do they serve? Oh, they make me smile. Particularly that baby one, which comes out of the bigger one. Fun!)

And as I write this I think of all the sharks I forgot to take pictures of. The shark kite. The shark earrings. The two shark puppets. The shark picture frame (which houses a 12 year old picture of my husband and I on the beach). The dozens of shark books. The shark rubber stamp. The shark stickers. MQ's shark pants. The shark on my car antenna.

Am I obsessed? Or do I just have a favorite thing that is so quirky everyone likes to buy me shark stuff? You decide.

So... what crazy things do you collect around your house?

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And so it begins...

The May Queen is enjoying kindergarten. She loves the story time and playing with the puzzles at the green center. She loves having music and art classes, and going to the library. She loves to paint and color and even do her worksheets (thankfully they mostly do them at school and not as homework!!). She points out her friends to me as they are entering and leaving school, and she's thrilled that in a few weeks I will be the "celebrity reader" during their time in the library.

And yet...

I hear the rumblings. I hear how the other girls say things about not being first in line, that "third is stuck in the wedding dress." (I try to reason with her that being in the pretty dress could be a good thing, if she wanted it to be!) She tells me of R. who wanted to play like MQ was chained up at recess. Yesterday she told me that a boy in her class, W., said that boys are (insert thumbs up motion here) and girls are (insert thumbs down motion here). But MQ wanted to prove to W. that she, too, is cool, and so we went outside to practice hula hooping. And I tell you, she's getting pretty good.

These things are minor. These things I expect, and I try to teach her not to let what others say change her opinion of herself.

And yet...

This morning at breakfast she broke my heart into a million pieces. Mornings are hard for both of us, as we are tired and crabby and generally not morning people. As I sat drinking my tea and she finished up her pancakes she said to me "My friends at school make me feel bad." Do you the hear the shattering? Ouch. She talked about how they say to her "Nana nana boo boo" and run away. How they pretend she stinks and won't let her get near them. I nearly started crying. But I held myself together, and asked questions. Who are these kids? Are there other kids you can play with? Do they always do this? How does it make you feel? Do you think maybe this is their way of playing? It isn't very nice to play in a way that hurts someones feelings, is it? Do you ever say those things?

I hope that she is not partaking in this way of playing. But she probably is. Or will soon learn that this is how you play. And it breaks my heart. She doesn't have siblings, so has not been as exposed to the shifting winds of affection as some kids have. She has not been exposed to the teasing, and has always been very sensitive to it. I know she isn't an angel. I've seen her with her cousins, and even seen her intentionally perpetrate some unkind acts.

And yet...

Today she happily hopped out of the car at school, excited about the day ahead, and the bake sale treat she would buy with the 50 cents stored away in the pocket of her bag. Again she pointed out some of her friends to me, hopping out of their own cars. And I know that today I will hear about the fun things she did. I will hear good stories, like how yesterday L shared his crayons. I know that there is good and bad, and that we will have to learn how to sort this out together. Her in the thick of it, and me as we process it at home. But I want to be there at recess, to praise her hula hooping skill, to prove to W. that girls are cool, and that MQ doesn't stink. But I can't be. I have to teach her how to navigate those waters by herself.

I just wish that the waters had a few less rapids.

you can read the continuation of this saga at my post Mama Bear Goes to School.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

bloggy business

Last week the very funny lady over at Oh, the Joys awarded me with another Nice Matters award. I already have one of these - the pink flowers growing out of a shoe you see over on the left, but now there is a new one going around that has a woman in her underwear. Um.... I have to tell you that although I understand the aversion to the Victorian looking award, I am a little confused by the woman crawling around in her underwear. What are we, a bunch of dirty old men? Or do we have to temper our niceness with a touch of sex to make it acceptable? I'm weirded out by it. That and the whole future MILF thing, but I'll leave that alone. However, I do believe that nice matters, and I'm a sucker for awards, and I want to graciously accept the award. So, I am trying my hand at creating my own little button for the Nice Matters award, because I don't want to look at some other woman's behind every time I check for new comments.
That is indeed a picture that my beautiful daughter drew herself. What is it? um... I forget. That wasn't very nice of me, was it? Don't tell the awards committee. I am going to award this to Jen M over at Get in the Car!, who, besides being generally nice, has started Philanthropy Thursdays, which are all about getting bloggers to jump into the action and DO SOMETHING, and I can't think of anything nicer. (Wow, I don't think I'm going to get any grammar awards for that last sentence. Sorry). Also, to Allison over at Soccer Mom in Denial who calls her husband Amazing Guy. Doesn't that just say it all?

Also, I am now part of the August Just Post Round Table. Someone (whoever you are, thanks!) put in my posts I know what it means to love New Orleans, a love letter to NOLA, and False Hope, which started off being about Barack Obama and ended up being about abortion (??? how do these things happen ???). Please check out all the Just Posts, which are posts from around the globe that are about issues of justice in our world. I have not made it through all of August's posts yet, but they are always worth your time. You will laugh, cry, and want to DO something. I am honored to be part of them.

And while we are on bloggy business, may I make a suggestion to ya'll? When you leave a comment, please somehow leave behind a clear way to know who you are. Having a neat little picture does this, or your blog name. My apologies to all of you who are named Jen, Jennifer, or Emily but when you just leave your name - I'm not always sure which one of you it is. And this is problematic if you are a new visitor to my site, because I REALLY do want to come and visit YOUR site, but I have been known to not notice a new visitor because they have the same name as another bloggy friend. So please, if you could, leave behind a clearer trace of who you are with a distinct picture, or your blog name, or some other identifying factor. Because I would hate to miss the chance to find you. And to know who you are. I know, I know, you have probably had this problem since grade school, this everyone having your name. But be grateful. As my mother always says to me "I could have named you Dorcas."

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Mommyscope - October

This astrological forecast FOR THE MONTH OF OCTOBER is not based on when YOU were born, but rather, when your YOUNGEST CHILD WAS BORN

youngest child born March 07-Sept 07
YOUR MONTH: The moon is in retrograde, or something, it's in the sky, at least, at night, when you are awake, trying to feed/soothe/convince the baby to sleep. Fortunately Venus is bright in the closet of the house, filling it with cute and sweet smelling baby clothes. This month look forward to lots of time on the couch and pacing the hallways at night. YOUR LOVE LIFE: Don't even think about it.

youngest child born Sept 06- March 07
YOUR MONTH: In a month filled with "firsts," don't let this be the first time you forget to have fresh batteries in the camera. Also, be on the lookout for a first opportunity, it may not come around a second time. YOUR LOVE LIFE: This month may be the month to get back in the swing since giving birth. Let Madonna inspire you: "touched for the very first time." If it's been that long, you may feel like that, anyhow.

youngest child born Sept 05 - Sept 06
YOUR MONTH: With the sippy cup eclipsing the bottle in the eastern sky on the 4th you are in for a month of unreasonable tantrums. Your social life will suffer for this. Order lots of movies from Netflix and settle in. This will look up next month when the eclipse is over, and tantrums give over to lots of pudgy waving fingers and bright smiles of greeting. YOUR LOVE LIFE: Since you can't leave the house without Armageddon ensuing, dig out the candles and take advantage of being home after dark and the wee one has screamed itself to sleep, if you're not too tired.

youngest child born Sept 04-Sept 05
YOUR MONTH: Prepare to repeat every thing you say. If only you had your own instant replay button. But this too shall pass, when Mars enters your sign, making room for November's musical madness. YOUR LOVE LIFE: Use the intimate moments to NOT repeat yourself; this is a great month to try something new!

youngest child born Sept 03 - Sept 04
YOU MONTH: Your child won't be the only one having sharing issues this month. Be careful not too spill too many intimate secrets too soon, your new confidante may not be as trustworthy as you think. YOUR LOVE LIFE: Don't be afraid to demand your equal share in bed, your partner will be happy to oblige.

youngest child born Sept 02 - Sept 03
YOUR MONTH: A windfall of fortune awaits you: money, good behavior, world wide respect, deep friendships, much laughter, significant weight loss and instant six pack abs. YOUR LOVE LIFE: Sizzle.

youngest child born Sept 01 - Sept 02
YOUR MONTH: As time stretches out before you, try your hand at something new or a lost passion. Don't get stuck in a rut! YOUR LOVE LIFE: Surprise your honey with an afternoon delight.

youngest child born Sept 1901 - Sept 2001
the future is foggy.

Can you guess which category I fall into? That's right, dear readers. Why write a future forecast and not give myself a fantabulous month to look forward to? I'm sure it's all going to come true. I really researched this stuff. Really. Stop laughing. Glamour and Parenting magazines count as research at Painted Maypole Astrological University. I graduated head of my class.

This sad excuse for a horoscope is part of Monday Missions - This week's Mission is to write a post in the style of a horoscope. If you want to play along with your own horoscope (please, please, don't leave me alone to flounder out here in the universe!) put the link to your post into my nifty little Mr. Linky widget below. And be sure to mention the Monday Missions in your post, and perhaps even link back to here, so people can check out the other horoscopes. Because it can never hurt to know what you're in for. Speaking of which, next week, you're in for a mission of writing a post in the style of a resume. I predict that you will start thinking about your brilliant entry... now. Or, at the very least, after you check out these other horoscope posts to find out what the future has in store:

Friday, September 7, 2007

"So, when are you going to have another?"

My last post, about Family Values and what makes a family, brought up another issue I've been thinking about writing a post about for a while: people you barely know asking if you are going to have a baby.

I read several blogs by people who have struggled/are struggling with fertility issues. And I have lots of friends who struggle with this. It's very painful for them to have to answer the question about having a baby.

My husband and I were very fortunate to NOT have to struggle with that. As soon as we decided to start trying to have a baby, I was pregnant (I had typed "we were pregnant, but corrected. The MAN isn't pregnant. WE might be expecting a baby, but the woman is the one who is impregnated. Why do we say "we are pregnant?" anyhow...)

But within a year of the May Queen's birth people were already dropping hints, or downright asking, when we were going to have another baby. Everyone from family to strangers at the grocery store. Things like "oh, she needs a baby brother or sister so she learns how to share."

Now that The May Queen has started kindergarten the comments have started afresh. "Oh, she's off to school, time to have another one!"


I know very few people who make the decision to have a child lightly. There are many factors that will lead a couple (or person) to decide to have a baby, and just as many factors that may physically make it difficult for that to happen. It is often the source of much tension within a couple - the stress of not getting pregnant, or the pressure to have a certain size family, or one partner wanting a child and the other not wanting a child, or the struggle over finances or the worry about daycare or age or health concerns or....

Whether or not someone is going to have a child is a very, very personal issue. It brings up a whole myriad of emotions, from one seemingly simple question or comment.

If a close friend asks me, in the course of a conversation, about whether or not we are thinking of having another child I will answer that question thoughtfully. If someone I barely know makes a comment, I usually just smile and laugh, or tell them that we are probably done. I know that most people who ask this or drop the hints mean well so I don't go into the whole tirade underneath. But you would think that people would have become aware enough, by now, that this is not a "nice weather, huh?" kind of conversation. It's personal, and if you're not a close friend, my decision to have a child or not is none of your business.

Your Next Mission

If you want to have some fun with next week's Monday Missions, the Mission (should you choose to accept it) is to write a post in the style of a horoscope. I'm off to read Glamour to get some inspiration. Come back on Monday to see if it worked, and leave a link to your own future forecast. (This message will not self-destruct.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Family Values

Today Julie's Hump Day Hmmm... is all about values.

Values are a hard thing to write about, I'm finding. Values are largely objective. Sure, when I was in England a bank would happily tell me the subjective value of the US dollar, which let me tell you is not very much. But the values that a person holds? Very objective. I know that even among friends and family who largely value the same things I do, the way we RANK those values is very different. My husband and I, for example, will rank differently the values of time alone, a clean house, saving money and clean laundry. It doesn't mean we don't value them, but we value them differently.

The thing that stuck out to me about values, though, is the Family Values platform that is bandied about so much in politics today. Family Values is extolled as if it is of the highest value to everyone, and that we all agree on what it is. Or, at the very least, we SHOULD all agree on what it is, and its ranking of value.

The problem, however, and why I often cringe when I hear the phrase, is not that I don't value family. I do. It's how I feel they want to define the family that is valued.

Family Values extols the virtue of a family consisting of a mother, a father, and their children. I think this family has a lot of value, seeing as how I am a mother living with her husband and her child. I also grew up in this kind of family, and found that experience to be very valuable to me.

Family Values seems to begrudgingly accept step families and single parents - as a sort of lesser type of family, but one that sometimes circumstances call for.

But what about the gay couple? Or, even more unheard of, the gay couple that has adopted children? What about the single person who chooses to have or adopt a child? What about the orphan? What about the single person? The two adult siblings who live together? Two friends who live together?

I think a family is any group of people who are committed to living communally, who care for each other, who base their relationship upon love and respect and wanting what is best for everyone involved. I value family very highly in my life, but still I cringe when I hear "Family Value" because I feel that it is used not to support a wide variety of families, but rather to define who is allowed to be called a family.

Check out the other Hump Day Hmmmm... posts about values by clicking on the link to Julie's post, above.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A picture is worth a thousand words?

The story that goes with this photo can be found here:
I See London, I See France
If I had known how to do pictures then, I would have included this, but now that I have figured it out, I just couldn't pass up the chance to give you the visual as well.

Monday, September 3, 2007

To Disney World - Monday Mission

To Disney World
or MQ's Lament
sung to the tune of Part of Your World, from The Little Mermaid

Look at this stuff
Isn't it neat?
Wouldn't you think my collection's complete?
Wouldn't you think I'm the girl
The girl who has everything?
Look at this trove
Treasures untold
How many princesses can one bedroom hold?
Looking around here you'd think
Sure, she's got everything
I've got dollies and stickers a-plenty
I've got storybooks and underwear galore
You want videos?
I've got twenty!
But who cares?
No big deal
I want more

I wanna be where the princesses are
I wanna see, wanna see them dancin'
Walking around on that - what do you call it?
Right- Main Street!

Wearing plastic shoes, you don't get too far
Rides are required for fun and squealing
Monorail, Dumbo, It's a Small World -
they all sound so NEAT

Out where princesses walk, out where princesses run
Out where princesses stay all day in the sun
We'll catch a show - if we can go
To Disney World

What would I give if I could live out of this suburb?
What would I pay to spend a day at Disney World?
Don't need to fly, we could just drive
We could even pack our lunch in a cooler
Not too expensive, I'll donate my piggy bank
When can we go???

I'm ready to know what my friends all know
Walk up to the princesses and get some answers
I'll take a pen and get the autographs for which I yearn....

When's it my turn?
to stay out past dark, exploring the world's most famous amusement park?
Don't tell me no!
When can we go??
To Disney World

This post is part of the Monday Missions - This week's Mission is to write a post using a familiar tune, rewriting the lyrics. If you want to play along, put your info into my nifty little Mr. Linky widget below, and you should be all linked up (use your actual post, and not your basic blog address, so that in the future that post will always show up through the link. You also may want to put the title of your song/post after your name) And be sure to mention the Monday Missions in your post, and perhaps even link back to here, so people can check out the other songs.

**next week's mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write a post in the style of a Horoscope. Just giving you a chance to start thinking ahead!

Now, go check out the other songs. They're bound to be more brilliant than mine. ;)

Saturday, September 1, 2007


-Because some of you have asked... we fared miraculously well through the hurricane. Downed fence, trees in the yard, shed blown across the yard. But our house was fine, and even more miraculously our insurance company came through for us. Thanks for asking.

-Don't forget that Monday Missions begin this Monday, and I realize, now, that I brilliantly planned them to start on Labor Day (ack!), so why not start thinking about yours now (I've been composing mine for a few days as i sat in the car line at MQ's school. This does not promise that it will be good, however). The Mission is to write a post that takes a familiar tune, and gives it new words. Have fun!

-When MQ has to go to school in the morning, I lovingly rub her back to wake her up at about 10 minutes to seven in the morning. This is after I have been whacking the snooze alarm on my clock for appx. 30 minutes, before finally dragging my crabby self into the shower in an attempt to be cheerful Any bets on when she will wake up tomorrow, Saturday, when there is no school? I am betting on 6:25am, like last Saturday.

-In the car today I heard (twice!) OMD's If You Leave, causing me to think about how when I was a kid the music from my parent's youth was called "Oldies." Does this song, that pulls me straight back into the 80s, qualify as an "Oldie"? And what do teenagers today think about this music? And do I really care? Can I think about all of this while I'm singing my heart out? Apparently so.