Still Angel (Posted by Request)

August 6, 2009 at 5:11 pm (Housewife Life, Icky Girl Stuff)

Winner of the short story contest sponsored by Actor Rutger Hauer on his official website, January 2003.

Two days before Christmas, my water breaks, and usually, that’s the beginning of a joyful and miraculous process. I am nine weeks pregnant and it signifies something else…something unexpected and horrible.

The hospital obstetrics practice has a policy; they won’t see you until you’ve been pregnant for ten weeks. I haven’t had my first appointment, but I need immediate medical attention two days before Christmas. I lay on the couch, clutching my belly and bracing for the inevitable, as my husband nervously places the call.

“My wife needs to see an obstetrician immediately.”

Pause.

“Our first appointment is scheduled for January 6.”

Pause.

“Nine weeks.”

Pause.

“We KNOW your policy, and we KNOW we’ve never been there before. This is an emergency and she needs to see a doctor, NOW.”

Pause.

“Excuse me…”

Pause.

“Ma’am…”

Pause.

“Look, what part of ’emergency’ didn’t you understand? She just passed a whole lot of fluid, and we think her water br…”

Pause.

My husband slams the phone down.

The administrator on the phone needs to talk with a nurse about their policy in a case like ours. They will call us back. I urge him to call another office…any other office…the cramps are beginning, and I won’t mind labor cramps as long as I don’t have to see…

He calls another office…no answer. He calls a third office…they ask him a barrage of incredibly personal questions and dismiss him because we have the wrong insurance. On the bedroom chair is a little snowsuit I impulsively bought last year for the baby we’d someday have…the pattern of cherubic suns, moons and stars matches our bedroom decorations. Now, I cradle the snowsuit in my arms, bury my face in it, and weep. I’ll have to put the snowsuit away now. The fourth office tells us to come over right away. It doesn’t matter that I am a ‘new’ patient, and our insurance is fine.

In the waiting room, I still feel the slow ooze of fluid. I will not cry, I tell myself. Pregnant ladies, smiling and healthy, walk in and out and wait cheerfully. A closed-circuit television broadcasts information about “you and your healthy baby.” The medical secretaries are wearing Santa hats and sampling from a table of Christmas cookies in the file room. In a last-ditch effort to maintain my emotions, I seize a nearby magazine, with its cover torn off. I open the magazine, silently praying for some redemption in its pages, but crying starts instead. The magazine is “Fit Pregnancy.” The pregnant ladies are staring at me, but I don’t care and think, “You just go ahead and stare. Stare at me, and just rub your belly, and be thankful you aren’t me, thankful you have a healthy baby, thankful that a trip to this office is a rite of passage instead of a death sentence.”

We are called into the sonogram room. I had a sonogram two weeks earlier, and saw the baby’s heartbeat (Blink, blink, blink, blink). We have a photo from the session, which my husband carries in his wallet; he calls the baby “Munch.” This time, I also see Munch. But the steady flicker of a heartbeat, so strong only two weeks before, is gone. Utterly, completely, and forever gone. I sob on the table. The technician keeps taking pictures from every angle; clean, clinical. I continue to look at the screen, in case somehow she’s made a mistake and the heartbeat suddenly appears. The mistake never comes. My husband stands quietly in the corner, the color draining from his face.

We wait in another small room, painted a sunny yellow with floral prints on the walls. I am doubled over with tears, my heart broken. A compassionate female doctor explains our options to us: wait for a miscarriage (the first time anyone’s actually said the word in my presence) to occur naturally, which involves pain and things I probably shouldn’t see, or have the contents of my uterus surgically removed under anesthesia. I think about how unfair the word “miscarriage” is because of how it implies that the woman has somehow failed and it doesn’t actually have anything to do with an extra set of chromosomes. We know there is no heartbeat, so there seems no moral choice involved…I am immediately prepared for surgery, an “emergency evacuation.” I picture a loudspeaker going off in my womb to the dead child…”This is an emergency evacuation, please form a single file line and head for the stairs…” (In the meantime, the other hospital calls our home voice mail to say they’ve decided to see me.)

My hospital gown has suns, moons and stars on it, just like the baby’s snowsuit. The surgery ward is a solemn place. Soft wails can be heard from neighboring rooms where other unlucky women wait their turns. Despite the macabre feeling in the air, a kind nurse named Jennifer smiles and talks to me softly. I burst into tears and thank her for smiling.

I awaken in the recovery room a mere moment later. I feel a slow turning pain in my abdomen, remember where I am, and tears flow again. Simple as that. Pregnant, not pregnant anymore. Clean, clinical. A nurse sees the tears and asks if I need a pain pill, and I explain that I’m just sad. She suggests professional counseling, and I despise her for it. The woman in the next bed over, recovering from the same procedure, is cheery and talkative with the nurses and I despise her for it. As they wheel me out of the recovery room, another nurse says “Merry Christmas.”

All I can think about on the way home (when I’m not throwing up) is the baby. What have they done with my baby? Clean, clinical, simple as that… Is it in a jar somewhere, or a disposal bin, or waiting to be used by some scientific researcher? Is my baby in a garbage pile with used coffee grains, plastic silverware and kleenex? I’d been so afraid to see it, yet now it’s gone and I want to see it more than anything. I want to tell it I’m sad, I’m sorry, I’ll love it, I’ll miss it forever.

We pass the Christmas lights flashing from houses in our neighborhood (Blink, blink, blink, blink), and the sight of a nativity outside the Presbyterian Church slices through me, an icy dagger. “Merry Christmas,” the nurse said. Merry Christmas? What does that mean? A feeling of peace and goodwill to commemorate the birth of a baby? I vomit again.

The next day is Christmas Eve. The church chimes, ringing out Silent Night, keep waking me up. I’m not throwing up anymore, but I hurt worse. A neighbor slips a note under our door: would we help light the luminaria at the neighborhood observance later? The mail arrives, including three Christmas cards with congratulations for our baby, friends’ Christmas pictures of their babies, and a Christmas present my husband ordered for our baby. The phone keeps ringing with happy relatives and holiday wishes, but I don’t want to answer it or even hear the messages. Merry Christmas. I fall back to sleep, and dream of the empty celestial snowsuit, walking around the house by itself. Merry Christmas.

Our other two children have been with my mother. When she brings them back, we have to tell them. My 5-year-old son sees me crumpled on the couch with a tear-streaked face and yells “Mommy! What’s wrong!” My 7-year-old daughter hovers in the doorway. “Um,” I begin, swallowing back tears. “The baby died. I had to go to the hospital, and have an operation, to take the baby out. So I don’t have a baby in me anymore, because it’s gone.” Silent Night. Blink, blink, blink, blink. My son throws his arms around me and holds on for dear life, while my daughter looks small and ghostly, and pretends to be invisible. I cry into the boy’s sweet-smelling hair and cover his face with tears and kisses. Merry Christmas. “You’re still going to church with your grandmother tonight, guys, so change your clothes,” my husband says. My daughter slinks over, grabs my hand tightly, and whispers, “Mommy. Can I still be an angel?”

Christmas Eve dinner at my in-laws, the biggest yearly affair, starts at 6:30. I can’t handle seeing the entire extended family, so we go over at 5:15 to be gone before most people arrive. Everyone is in holiday velvets — I am in a sweat suit. Merry Christmas. Neighbors I’ve never met are also seated in the living room. My brother-in-law kisses my forehead and asks how I’m doing, and the neighbors ask what’s wrong. “I just had surgery,” I explain discreetly. My mother-in-law crosses the room to where the neighbors are enjoying miniature quiches on festive holiday plates, somehow forgetting I’m in the room, and loudly says “She lost her baby yesterday.” Clean, clinical, simple as that. Blink, blink, blink, blink…You just go ahead and stare…and be thankful you aren’t me…I’m suddenly dizzy and need to leave, but not before enduring guilt for not staying and eating, and having our appearances criticized. “You didn’t even shave,” my husband is told. Merry Christmas. Mommy. Can I still be an angel?

In the morning, I watch the kids open their presents for as long as I can. I don’t care to open mine. One of my husband’s is a baby present, not taken out of the stack soon enough. I go to sleep hoping my dad stops calling until I’m ready to talk. He will keep calling until my husband stops saying I’m asleep. I don’t mind the thought of talking to him as much as I fear he’ll have things to say about the Will of God that tornado victims never have to hear.

Now it’s been a little over a week. At the mall, I see a teenage pregnant girl, and cry with frustration and jealousy. I venture out for sushi (because we know there won’t be any pregnant ladies there) and see a couple with a newborn baby (and wonder how that baby would look in a celestial snowsuit). The first time I laugh is in the car, right before I see a baby on a billboard and start crying all over again. An angry letter I wrote to a newspaper editor about anti-abortion protesters and their pictures of dead babies is published four days after my operation. I send difficult e-mails to friends, relatives, and professional contacts. Merry Christmas. Some people say nice things, some people say insensitive things. My four pregnant girlfriends, in a club I no longer belong to, are suddenly distant. I return to work, stare at the cubicle wall, and tears roll down my chin. Seven women I know confide their similar experiences; varied times, varied stories, all of them still sad and still haunted. I search for an anonymous, online support group…I click a search engine’s suggested address, and find a site where women post photographs of their dead babies, all excruciatingly pictured in lifeless slumber.

Sometimes I have nightmares. A pink slimy creature with large eyes, stubby arms and a tail crawls up next to my ear and whispers, “Mommy.” I wake up with a start. Munch whispers different things to me sometimes, and I am never sure whether I love it, am afraid of it, or whether I’m beginning to lose my mind. I don’t need counseling, I tell myself…I don’t need someone to hear me snivel and tell me how to live my life until time’s up. Other nights, I lie awake (Silent Night) wondering whether I have the right to grieve for a baby that wasn’t even really here yet, didn’t have a brain, a gender, a name. I reason that the baby was already dead, no heartbeat (Blink, blink, blink, blink) so we didn’t kill anything by having the surgery. Clean, clinical. Sometimes I’m deeply frightened by the notion that somehow I really let them kill it. Some days I laugh for no reason, most days, I cry for no reason, apparently as random as the episode itself. Christmas is over, (Merry Christmas,) a new year has begun, and Munch whispers, “Mommy. Can I still be an angel?”

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Popping Over The Pond, Are We? Jolly Good!

June 29, 2009 at 10:34 pm (Housewife Life, Uncategorized)

A travel agent friend of mine recently told me she won a week-long trip to England, through work. A lifelong Angophile, I have to confess my envy. I went there on my graduation trip in June, 1988, and raised about as much hell as any freshly-graduated American girl, suddenly legally allowed to consume alcohol, could get away with. My friend is a travel agent, so undoubtedly knows things about the local attractions…but I thought this would be a good opportunity to make her a scavenger hunt that adds some ZING to her trip. ūüėČ As a bonus, I will include a list of dont’s, all learned the hard way. My only disclaimer is that I take no responsibility for the fact that my information is over 20 years old. With that…congrats, Cindy, and enjoy yourself!

British Travel Scavenger Hunt
1. Watch the changing of the Buckingham Palace guards. (Bonus points if one of the horses craps while passing you.)
2. Take high tea at the Savoy Hotel. (Bonus points if you already know what the hell a “scone” is.)
3. Get your photo taken in front of Big Ben, on London Bridge, with a Beefeater and a Bobby, on top of a double-decker bus, on top of that scary-big ferris wheel, and inside a little red phone booth.
4. Tour Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral. (Bonus points if you can do either without thinking of the scene in Indiana Jones 3 with the subterranean crypt, and more bonus points if you can tour both places without stepping on a tile where a dead person is buried underneath.)
5. Spend one full afternoon shopping at Harrod’s. I cannot begin to describe why this is necessary, other than to assure you that it is.
6. Go boutique-ing in Covent Gardens.
7. See something naughty in Piccadilly Circus. (Bonus points if someone in a caftan offers you a camel in exchange for sexual favors. No, really! It happened to me!)
8. Day trip to Edinburgh Castle, Scotland. (Bonus points for standing at the very top and yelling “FREEEEEEEDOMMMMMMM!”)
9. See a play, a Shakespeare one in Stratford if at all possible. (Bonus points if you actually get to see the line “to be, or not to be” performed live in its original context by an actual British Shakespeare company.)
10. Stay one night at the “Hard Day’s Night” hotel in Liverpool. (500 Bonus points for getting busy in the Lennon Suite!!!!)
11. Sit on a bench outside of Oxford University, and BOYWATCH. (Bonus points if you avoid arrest.)
12. Walk or drive down King’s Road, London, just to soak up the punk-rock juju. (Bonus points if you see someone with a mohawk, ask to take his picture, and he tells you to sod off.)
12. Visit Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and conduct an investigation as to which male likeness boasts the most lipstick marks. (Bonus points if the answer is Johnny Depp.)

List of DON’Ts While in the UK…
1. DON’T, for the love of all that’s holy, ask an Edinburgh Castle guard what he’s wearing under his kilt.
2. DON’T be too depressed when you find out that Big Ben is only a clock.
3. DON’T decide to visit Stonehenge on Midsummer’s Eve…literally…you might inadvertently get arrested on one of the police sweeps for people exhibiting druid-like behaviors.
4. DON’T wear your licensed Brazilian world cup jersey.
5. DON’T make fun of the queen’s hats. Charles’ ears are fair game.
6. DON’T get offended if someone mentions “bumming a fag.” (That means “mooching a cigarette”.) They also call getting your hair blow-dried at the stylist, a “blow-job.”
7. DON’T order a pizza. Pizza as you know it does not exist there.
8. DON’T try too hard to heckle a Palace Guard.
9. DON’T bother the front desk about why you only get 6 channels.
10. DON’T forget to have an AWESOME TIME!!!!!

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Family Continues to Decline

May 13, 2009 at 5:29 pm (Housewife Life)

We’re now on our second month of being unemployed, though, not for lack of trying. People have been taking to heart our “Sensitivity Training For Dealing With the Unemployed,” and that’s been nice. We are, though, starting to understand why the first thing people tend to say is about “staying positive,” because that’s something that becomes harder as you go along.

It isn’t JUST the hours spent scouring websites and newspapers and seeing that there aren’t as many jobs out there; the afternoons spent writing and re-writing different versions of your resume and different cover letters and trying to keep track of all that; the mind-numbing time you spend on corporate websites filling out intricate application forms that duplicate everything you just told them on the resume you uploaded; the days waiting for your phone to ring and feeling more worthless with every day that passes without anyone calling.

Right now we’re finding it’s the little stuff that eats you, one bite at a time. Having to admit to our daughter’s dance teacher (at her private school where she goes on scholarship) that buying a dance costume for a 1-time use in a recital is problematic at the moment. Registering our youngest child for Kindergarten and applying for the free lunch program because we qualify now. Going to the doctor and being asked by a receptionist to update your information for the file, and being asked a little too loudly, “Does your husband still work at IBM?” Realizing how disappointed our 5-year-old will be to have to stop going to the “Ninja School” he loves so much. The worst was going to the quarterly psych-evaluation that’s done so that my middle son can continue to receive autism counseling services, and seeing someone write on a page in the file folder, “Family continues to decline.”

I have never been made to question my life choices quite as much as now. I left college the first time to be a musician for several years, and that experience was wonderful and taught me more about life than I think I would have learned in college. I left the second time because I chose to have my child rather than abort her. For 15 to 20 years I have been OK with, even proud of, these choices. Now I am learning that national and regional writing awards, over 10 years of solid, responsible work experience…these things don’t ultimately count as much as having a degree because not having one¬† gives companies an excuse to pass you by. (Never mind that I know recent college graduates without the skills or experience I have.) Apparently I should be thinking about taking on $30,000 of debt at the time we can least afford to, in order to finish that degree. (While one would think that having no income would grant you plenty of financial aid, they base aid on your most recent 6 months, a point at which we were making way over any aid threshold. So it would all be debt.)

This is all really heavy stuff . But there’s been one other question I feel that needs to be answered right now…what am I not learning from this that I need to be? Because truthfully, that has to be why things are continuing to go this way. Kind of like when during karate class, they make our son hold a certain “balance position” for an extra 30 seconds before giving him his “stripe” he’s earned for the day. What am I not doing well enough, what am I looking at the wrong way? Maybe it isn’t the universe holding out on us, at all. Maybe it’s just that we aren’t standing still long enough to earn our stripes. I’m guessing the best I can do is to keep applying for jobs, keep trying not to take things so personally, and remaining open to whatever it is the universe needs me to learn right now, so that good things can start happening again. So 90 days hence, that phrase, “Family continues to decline” can be replaced with something like “Family continues to Strive,” “Family continues to Care,” “Family continues to Learn,” or better yet, “Family is Headed the Right Direction.”

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Sensitivity Training Regarding the Unemployed

April 21, 2009 at 8:49 pm (Housewife Life)

People on FaceBook, and most people in general, have been pretty cool about the fact that my husband just lost his job.¬† This happened nearly a month ago, was a complete shock, and is nothing short of catastrophic once you consider that he is the sole breadwinner in the family…and it happened despite awesome performance reviews. Some number-cruncher somewhere thought his job would be better done by a non-American, or by someone half our age they wouldn’t have to pay as much to. In any case…our family has been hit pretty doggone hard, and it’s a story that’s becoming more and more common in this country right now.

This post doesn’t deal with the multitude of people who have been cool to us, but with the people who have unwittingly been jerks. This is for the now de-friended guy whose first reaction was, “Well, it’s your own fault because you refuse to leave Pittsburgh…I protected myself, you should have been better at protecting yourself.”¬† This is for the relatives with the paid-off houses and steady jobs who complained during Easter dinner about needing to change around their investments…never mind that we’ll have to cash our retirement fund out in order to SAVE our house, and even then, it might not work, and then we’ll also have NO retirement. This is for the people who are avoiding us completely now, or not acknowledging the hugeness of this to our lives, or can’t bring themselves to be even the slightest bit positive about anything at all. (Apocalyptic talk and “when will the rapture come, already” talk does NOT help right now…)

It’s a sensitive thing, and people don’t always know how to respond. Here are some tips about what people in our boat NEED from others at times like this.

  1. DON’T complain about your job or your finances, if you still have a job and a house and are less than bankrupt, or if you’re not truly terrified about meeting the basic necessities of life.
  2. DO say something sincere and sympathetic, which acknowledges how large the loss is, and how massive the fear is.¬† Even an “I’m so sorry” is better than someone who says, “Oh, it can’t be that bad.”
  3. DON’T avoid us. We need to know that people still care about us, not to be treated like lepers. This wasn’t our fault, and even though we understand that seeing it hit someone you know makes your own situation feel more precarious, this is absolutely the wrong time to pretend you don’t know us, if you care about us. Just a call to ask, how are you doing, means a lot.
  4. DO ask if there’s any way you can help. If you say this, it doesn’t mean we’re going to ask you for money, because we’re not. Just offering to get us out of the house, talk to us and check up on us periodically, send us silly internet jokes, keeping your ears open for job leads we might fit…this is the kind of help we’re most likely to ask for, if we ask at all. It’s the offering that counts.
  5. DON’T offer unsolicited advice that’s ridiculously obvious. When I recently told someone I had a job interview, I was asked, “Do you have a nice outfit to wear to the interview? And will you have clean fingernails?” Please. It implies I’m stupid, or a slob…and it ended up being pretty hurtful when I’m sure that wasn’t the intention. Of COURSE we know when and how to apply for unemployment, of COURSE we know to look for jobs every single day. We’ll be sure to ask for what we need in terms of advice!
  6. Take your cues from the jobless person when it comes to gallows humor. My husband and I have been laughing ourselves silly some days, crying on others. Try to test the waters before joking. Most times we’re receptive, but there are days when it could really smart. The process is an emotional rollercoaster, so being sensitive to that helps a lot.
  7. Cut us some slack on the small stuff. We really can’t care as much right now about re-gearing our Warcraft characters, returning school notes on time, sending out photos of the kids to relatives, forgetting to return phonecalls or e-mails that aren’t job-related.¬† Some things are going to slip when your family is in total upheaval. Solving the job thing, and maintaining mental and emotional health for everyone in our household, is literally our ONLY concern at the moment…and that takes a lot out of us.
  8. Recognize that we have to be careful about our finances right now. Don’t ask us to go in on a group gift, don’t make us feel bad if our kid can only give a $5 bill as a gift at a birthday party.¬† Don’t ask us to attend something that costs money, and for corn’s sake, if you’re a charity who calls us and asks for money, if we SAY there’s been a job loss…let the matter go without a scripted rebuttal. Realize that if we go through with a birthday party or a vacation, it’s because it was already planned, paid for, and non-refundable.

The unfortunate thing about offering this list is that the people who NEED to see this, likely aren’t the ones who are going to read it. More likely than not, you’re one of the people who has been very encouraging, has laughed with us, has expressed sympathy, has sent us a job lead. And we thank you for that more than can possibly be expressed.

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The Fabric Surprise

January 15, 2009 at 7:16 pm (Housewife Life)

I love doing business with eQuilter.com. They donate 2% of your purchase, before tax and shipping, to a charity you choose from their list. They wrap each order in tissue paper and enclose a personal note. It’s a first-class operation. So why have I always been too scared to risk A Fabric Surprise?

A Fabric Surprise is a 3-lb bag of bolt ends, adding up to usually over 10 yards of fabric, randomly selected,¬† and bundled. Virtually every online quilt store I’ve ever done business with (Blue Bamboo and Keepsake Quilting to drop just a couple) offers some version of the Fabric Surprise. You pay somewhere between $15 and $25 to get this 3-lb bag of fabric, not having any idea what’s in there.

There are some fabrics and designers I adore, such as Michael Miller (for his bright, sprawling patterns and his Fairy Frost line), Hoffman (Hoffman Bali are the best batiks on the planet), Kona Bay (the best Asian patterns anywhere), and Moda (their jellyrolls are awesome, and their Moda Marbles have been well-used in my quilts).

You do this quilt thing often enough and you start to recognize designers whose names you keep seeing on the selvage (fabric edge). I use brights and jewel-tones and batiks most of the time, so that’s how I’ve become comfortable with these designers. For what I do, they’re reliable. So when searching fabric on eQuilter, I’ll browse their lines first.

There are other designers and styles I can’t stand. Thimbleberries, Civil War repro fabrics…pretty much anything that’s standard pastel, muted,¬† earthy…or traditional. I was at Sun Valley Quilts, one of my favorite stores, last June. I told the saleslady how much I appreciate them, being from Pennsylvania. She knew immediately what I meant. “A lot of Thimbleberries out by where you are, eh?” I answered her that actually, the reason I’ve never put a quilt in a show before is because it’s pointless to compete against Amish ladies. Three other women within earshot groaned with sympathy. Pennsylvania is famous among quilters, but for quilting in the traditional sense. That’s admirable and respectable, but far from what I do.

So, I have never mustered the courage to order a Fabric Surprise, because somewhere in a warehouse lurks a stack of Thimbleberries bolt ends which would sit, unused, in my dining room if they ended up part of my surprise. Until… (ominous-sounding…dun…dun…DUHHHHHH!)

A relative¬† gave me some money for Christmas. I¬† was on eQuilter nearly immediately to take advantage of the ridiculous year-end bargains you can often get. While shopping, it hit me. As I’m spending gift money, and I already know this company is top notch and would never deliberately fill my Fabric Surprise full of country ducks, why not make 2009 the year I venture out of my comfort zone, shake it up, try out the Fabric Surprise, and make a pact with myself to use everything I get, even if there are a couple of Thimbleberries in the stack?

The thing that surprised me most about the Fabric Surprise was how much more I looked forward to this shipment than any other. I was like a teenager about to go to a dance, hoping for the best but without any idea what to expect. Even the kids got caught up in the enthusiasm, and have started asking daily, “Is the Fabric Surprise here yet?” As soon as I had taken the risk, it wasn’t dread, it was GLEEFUL anticipation, because after all, I love fabric. One of the quotes I use on my FaceBook Profile is from one of the senior, most experienced, most gifted ladies in my quilt guild who says “there’s no such thing as an ugly fabric, just a misunderstood one.”

Today, I got my Fabric Surprise. Twenty-six fabrics are involved. Two are solids, three are large-scale florals (one pretty garish but two, if I’m being honest, are lovely), and to my delight I immediately noticed two Michael Miller jewel patterns. One is the bolt end of a fabric also in my order, so cool, I get more. Three are black and white; there are two separate stacks that coordinate very well if not in colors I’d have chosen. One depicts ropes, another waves, which will fit in well wth my collection of pirate fabric. One fabric has multicolored spools of thread on it, one has varieties of Chinese footwear on a blue background, one is a Valentine fabric with little red envelopes and hearts. The fabric that will challenge me the most¬† is a red, white, and blue fabric with American flags and Elvis Presley in his Army uniform, though I smiled anyway when I saw it. No Thimbleberries in sight. (This time.)

I may report back later in the year with how well I’m doing on my quest to use every fabric…but overall, this was a satisfying experiment which I intend to repeat. Not even the whole Barack Obama thing taught me as much as this one little bundle of cloth…”fear of the unknown” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Taking a risk pays off sometimes; even if it’s not a 100% success, success is possible. And that’s awesome.

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The Dreaded Fridge Purge

January 9, 2009 at 12:40 am (Food, Housewife Life)

We had to wait until Garbage Day to do the Fridge Purge, for logistical reasons. I shouldn’t even say “we,” since I had nothing to do with it. The credit belongs to 11-year-old Bunny, who found a non-perverted way to prove that he’ll do anything for money.

Lucky for you, I donated the batteries from my digital camera to Ninja on Christmas Morning so he could make his new robot walk across the floor, so I have no photographic evidence to share from our refrigerator-cleaning experience. Chances are the HazMat Team would have confiscated it, anyway.

The most embarrassing item was a carton of cottage cheese WAAAAAAAY back in the back behind everything, dated August 27, 2007. I was immediately reminded of the scene in “Naked Gun” when Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley are looking for something to eat in his fridge, and he finds some Chinese takeout, and she says, “I thought this place closed 3 years ago!” OK nothing was 3 years old, but let’s just say Chef Gordon Ramsay would have been dropping a few F-bombs on me.

There was one cucumber so limp not even Viagra could have saved it. And I didn’t even check the date on this one half-full bottle of Greek Salad Dressing. (Note to Husband: If this was yours and current, I’m sorry…but the object of this exercise was to throw out anything that looked gross…sooooo….) And one scientific question we have…since there’s mold in yogurt, how can you tell if your yogurt has gone bad?

One of the drawbacks of trying out cool recipes so often is that you get stuck with weird ingredients you don’t use regularly. Some of these things don’t have date stamps, like Sushi Vinegar and Liquid Smoke. How do you decide in a case like that? Can vinegar go bad? I think I’ve only used Liquid Smoke one time, but seasonings, sauces, spices are expensive to replace…We pitched them both anyway.

My house may be out of control, but at least I know my fridge isn’t anymore. I don’t have time to watch Oprah, and I think FlyLady is slightly insane…maybe one small step at a time, with my son and a wad of $1 bills to encourage him, is really the best way to approach this.

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Notes From My Baby Book

January 4, 2009 at 2:07 am (Housewife Life)

In preparation to make some surprise holiday collages for a couple family members last month, based on old family photos, I found a small memo book in which my parents recorded my “firsts” from birth through age two.¬†Here are a few the more¬†telling excerpts, copied exactly:

June 17, 1970, 1 month old: First drive-in movie. Rated X.

June 22, 1970, 6 wks. old: First doctor appointment. Gained 3 pounds in 5 weeks!

16 weeks: Definitely learned to pout.

19 weeks: Loves to be kissed and cuddled, as long as she’s not hungry.

24 weeks: Cries for attention.

10 months: Pulls to standing, prone to sitting.

First birthday: Greatly mistrusts men.

At two, still lacks the concept of “tomorrow” but can memorize entire television commercials and point out the products later in the store. Constantly talking.

2-1/2, learned to call Daddy a “Male Chauvinist Pig.”

So much changes, so much stays the same…

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Mr. Hula Face

December 27, 2008 at 11:50 pm (Housewife Life)

The presents are opened, we are bloated from eating, and a good time was had by all. Ninja, the imaginative 4-year-old, has been building all sorts of¬† “contraptions,” as he calls them, with his new Tinker Toys. (Yes, they still make those!)

Among said contraptions are, a leaf-blower, a self-flying airplane, a peanut-shelling machine, and Mr. Hula Face (a bunch of stuck-together Tinker Toys with a yellow plastic tiki-looking face affixed to the front). Everything this kid has been building has a noble purpose, albeit a pretend one. I asked him, “What does Mr. Hula Face do?” The answer, of course, is that Mr. Hula Face can answer any question you ask him. I asked Mr. Hula Face what time it was, and he knew; I asked Mr. Hula Face why it rains, and he knew; I asked him how many sides does an isosceles triangle have, and he also knew, though I’m sure it helped that I yelled “Yaaaay!!! That’s right!!!” right after three, when he was clearly about to count higher.

We could have really used Mr. Hula Face¬† the other night, when 8 of us sat down to play the game “Apples to Apples.” The way we play it, whoever wins the previous game acts as The Judge for the next game, and this is how we ended up with my autistic son, Bunny,¬† as The Judge. Only Mr. Hula Face could explain how, when the adjective was “eccentric,” Bunny the Judge chose “Beets” over BOTH “Michael Jackson” and “Quentin Tarantino.” The game took a really long time because nobody is privy to Bunny’s brand of logic, and it soon degenerated into, everyone throw down a random noun card and see what he does. I think Mr. Hula Face could have helped us play our cards a little better that night, as we tried to contain our frustration but allow the kid his rightfully-earned turn as Judge.

Mr. Hula Face could tell me in advance whether or not my procrastinating husband will remember to buy me Christmas presents. My guy waited too long, at which point I said please wait until January because I don’t want a Panic Present. A Panic Present is the thing you grab in a last-minute freakout because you don’t want to be caught having nothing to give as a gift. We’ve all gotten them…the plaque with a wiggling rubber fish that sings a song, or the wool hunters’ hat with the ears that fold down, or a DVD of the Mel Tillis Christmas special from 1978. If we are going to spend the money, I’d honestly rather wait a little longer and get something I like and can use, instead of a Panic Present. I’d appreciate Mr. Hula Face’s input up front so that if Hubby’s gonna forget (cough-AnniversaryDinnerFromSeptemberThatGotRescheduledButWeNeverWent-cough), I can get over it now and not waste any emotional energy.

I’m sure Mr. Hula Face would also come in handy on things like guessing lottery numbers, SuperBowl winners, election results¬† and that kind of thing. He could tell us the weather in advance, warn us in advance if this week’s “Heroes” episode is going to suck, tell me what day my period’s going to show up so I won’t wear white. Yes, it would be awesome if Mr. Hula Face were real.

Ninja explained that Mr. Hula Face can answer any question you ask…but…what he DIDN’T say was whether the answers would be right. So, in the absence of such certainty, Mr. Hula Face isn’t really any smarter than the rest of us. But I’m not spoiling it for the 4-year-old.

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Clumsy the Elf

December 16, 2008 at 6:49 pm (Housewife Life)

Recently, we had our yearly municipal light-up night, complete with cookies and Santa.  Ninja, my 4-year-old, talked all day about what he would say to Santa when the two met. Imagine my surprise when my relentlessly talkative child got star-struck in front of Santa and froze up like Alberto Gonzales under oath.

Later that night,¬†Ninja was downcast. I asked what was¬†wrong, and he burst into the saddest tears I’ve ever seen. “Mommy, Santa was right there. He was RIGHT THERE, and I spent all day figuring it out, and when he asked me what I wanted for Christmas, I forgot and couldn’t say anything at all! So he’s not bringing me anything!” My heart really went out to the little guy as I saw those watermelon-seed tears pouring from his eyes.

“Tell you what,” I said.¬†“I’ll bet there’s a way to e-mail Santa instead.”¬† All I had to do was Google “e-mail Santa” and we were directed to emailSanta.com, where after typing in my child’s name, age, hometown and Christmas requests, we got an e-mail back from Santa within minutes. Ninja had no idea this was computer-generated. He was thrilled. He danced around, kissed my whole face, and proclaimed¬†“Mommy! YOU SAVED CHRISTMAS!!!!”¬†

Composing the letter was something in itself. The kid actually said, “Maybe you should tell me what you and Grandma already got me so I can make sure to ask Santa for different stuff.” Nice…

The computer letter was brilliant.  It said something to the effect of:

“Dear (Name), Merry Christmas! Everyone at the North Pole is so excited to get a letter from you, all the way from (hometown)! Is it true that you’re really already (age) years old? That’s amazing! I remember when you were just a little baby! I know you’ve been really good this year, so I’ll do the best I can on your request for a (toy1), a (toy 2), and a (toy 3). You need to know, though, that this year I’ve hired a new elf. His name is Clumsy. Sometimes he makes mistakes, and he feels really bad about that, because he wants all the children to have a nice Christmas! So I wanted to let you know, that because we are so busy this time of year, and there are so many children all over the world, if Clumsy makes a mistake on your toys, he doesn’t mean to. He’s just…Clumsy. So have a nice Christmas, (Name), and be sure to leave out some vegetable treats for my reindeer!”

Heaven bless whoever thought up Clumsy the Elf, because I have no intention of buying Ninja that pair of $80 night-vision goggles which are labeled “ages 8 and up,” and which one parent reviewer on Amazon.com listed as “really very dangerous and impractical.” Now I can¬†buy the kid something¬†more appropriate and blame Clumsy the Elf!

Ninja, for his part, has developed a¬†real fondness for¬†Clumsy. He loves the idea that Santa has an elf that messes up sometimes, but he’s a good elf who tries really hard, and everyone likes him anyway. He has asked me in the meantime if we should e-mail Santa back again to check on Clumsy the Elf, and if we should leave Clumsy the Elf some cookies on Christmas so he won’t feel bad about¬†mistakes he makes.¬†¬†I am constantly being asked questions about Clumsy the Elf, to the extent that I feel like a Hollywood director coming up with motivations and the whole character backstory.

Any lingering anger I have at the computer people for changing my rightfully earned cookie plate into a tray of “vegetable treats” is tempered by the pride I feel toward this awesome 4-year-old with a heart so big, he¬†cares more about befriending the underdog elf than he does about whether Santa brings him the right¬†toys. And that’s the stuff great Christmas memories are made of.

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My Day On Wheels

December 9, 2008 at 4:53 pm (Housewife Life)

I spent Saturday in the hospital getting poked and prodded due to extreme back pain. Because it was very painful to stand and sit, I sat in a wheelchair. You can learn a lot by spending a day in a wheelchair.

There are many¬†things that¬†are labelled¬†“handicap-accessible,” but when put into practice, aren’t. For example, a handicapped toilet stall has bars on the sides, but what good is that if the door to the bathroom has no handle, the door is insanely heavy and¬†isn’t wide enough for a wheelchair, and all the sinks are at regular level?¬† If someone pees themselves while trying to get into the bathroom, they can’t even wash it off.¬† This is even more MIND-BOGGLING when you consider that this was a HOSPITAL, the one place that should know better.

I was¬†moved and encouraged¬†by the kindness of strangers. There was always someone willing to help me open a door, help move me where I needed to be, pick something up for me that I had dropped. These weren’t¬†necessarily people wearing hospital uniforms but random everyday people. At one point an orderly wheeling me back from triage offered to position me near a TV. The two TV’s in the waiting room were showing a football game and Harry Potter. I told the orderly I’d like to watch Harry Potter but he put me in front of the football game. (By the way, I hate football, but that’s a separate post.) A robust black man near me grinned and shook his head, waited for the orderly to leave, and turned me around.

Having to navigate your way according to widths and curb depressions really slows a person down. And it’s aggravating as hell. And there are TONS of people who don’t have the luxury of doing things any other way, who can’t suddenly pop a Vicodin and say, “that’s enough,” stand up after seven hours, walk to the car and leave for home.

People who have to spend their lives in wheelchairs should ALL be given motorized wheelchairs for free. It takes a brutal amount of strength and endurance to wheel yourself around. The upper body strength on these folks has to be amazing. It’s not merely strength and endurance though, it’s AIM, and I’m the world’s biggest klutz. So we won’t talk about the bruises on my legs from every time I bumped into something.

I definitely have a new respect and appreciation for disabled people in wheelchairs, and instead of feeling so good about myself the next time I help someone in a wheelchair open a door, I’ll remember what it feels like to have to accept charity for life’s simplest tasks, and to move around in a world that’s not as equipped for you as it thinks.

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