Tuesday, July 31, 2007

PRODUCT REVIEW: Del Monte Harvest Spice Peaches

I bought three cans of these peaches at the grocery on some kind of coupon deal, and having just opened the first can and eaten four peach slices from it, I know why the coupon factored so largely in this purchase.

Del Monte should be issuing vouchers to pay people to eat these peaches instead of printing coupons. Because I can sum up the smell, the taste and the mouth-feel of these things in one word: Eeeeeyuck.

I usually like canned peaches almost as well as I like fresh peaches. Ohhhh, hush up. I'm just keeping it real here. Anyway, I was in the mood for something sweet and the fruit bowl on the kitchen counter looked singularly univiting, seeing as all it has in it is one banana (speckled with brown) and an apple (just doesn't look good.) I opened the cabinet, hoping that a bag of Hershey's Kisses would have suddenly materialized, but no. But I did see the peaches.

A few moments later, I had five Harvest Spice peach slices in a little bowl. The smell -- strong overtones of ginger with a little nutmeg -- didn't do a whole lot for me, but I was wondering how anyone could ruin a canned peach. And then I found out.

They were mooshy. A slippery, slimy kind of mooshy, nothing like the usual firmish texture of a nice canned peach. Think "raw oyster." This Del Monte brand must have been canned using the heat from a nuclear reactor - there's nothing there to bite. And the ginger taste overpowered the peach flavor instead of enhancing it. I swallowed the one, gaggily, and poured the rest into the garbage disposal.

They were so gross. Don't buy them.

Happy Feast Day, St. Ignatius of Loyola

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born in Spain in the late fifteenth century, a member of the Spanish nobility, and served as a page in the court of Ferdinand and Isabella. Yes, that Ferdinand and Isabella - the ones who commissioned Christopher Columbus to sail the ocean blue in 1492.

St. Ignatius was a soldier when he grew to be a man. One of his legs was shattered by a cannon ball during a battle in Pamplona, Spain (best known today as the place where the bulls run.) This injury required a long recuperation and left him partially crippled for the rest of his life. During his convalescence, he asked for popular novels of adventure and romance to be brought to him so that he could while away the hours, but there weren't any to be had. The only books available were Christian books: lives of the saints, a book on the life of Christ, a Bible. With nothing better to do, he began reading. And he began to change.

It began to occur to him that he used to enjoy reading entertaining novels because they made him feel good; he really enjoyed a well-told story. But the more he read these Christian books, the less good the thought of reading romantic fiction began to make him feel. Instead, he realized that the more he read the Christian books, the better he felt. This was a huge turnaround, and I got the feeling that he was slightly appalled. He liked the Christian books. He liked Jesus. Was this any way for a Spanish nobleman, a brave soldier, a smart and handsome fellow, to be feeling?

Well, yes.

When he recovered as much as he was going to, he took his sword and hung it up before a statue of the Blessed Virgin and left his old life to follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. He worked for a time in the Middle East converting Muslims to Christianity and then came back to Europe and worked to turn back the tide of the Protestant Reformation. He formed the Society of Jesus with a group of companions (including St. Francis Xavier), otherwise known as the Jesuits. He wrote a book of spiritual exercises which are still widely used on retreats to this very day.

St. Ignatius was a very holy and aescetic person, but he was capable of giving some very warm and friendly spiritual advice, practical and wise:

Do not let any occasion of gaining merit pass without taking care to draw some spiritual profit from it; as, for example, from a sharp word which someone may say to you; from an act of obedience imposed against your will; from an opportunity which may occur to humble yourself, or to practice charity, sweetness, and patience.
All of these occasions are gain for you, and you should seek to procure them; and at the close of that day, when the greatest number of them have come to you, you should go to rest most cheerful and pleased, as the merchant does on the day when he had had most chance for making money; for on that day business has prospered with him.

St. Ignatius Loyola, who looks like a very nice man, doesn't he?
Image credit: A Nun's Life http://www.anunslife.com

Happy feast day, St. Ignatius, with love from us to you.

Why my mother and Aisling are soul mates

Aisling and my mother share many little peculiarities, much in the way that Meelyn and I share a lot of completely sane and reasonable personal traits that endear us to everyone on the planet.

Aisling and my mother can sleep anywhere, at any time. They don't have to have a pillow or a bed; they can sleep sitting bolt upright in the car. They don't mind getting up in the morning and not immediately getting dressed; they can even go without brushing their teeth all day long. Which, you know...EW.

There are other things they do, other similarities that have given me a vividly developed prayer life, but may also drive me to the bottle before all is said and done, but I noticed something the other day with my mother that reminded me so forcibly of Aisling, I stood for a moment in an unattractive attitude of shock, with the mouth hanging open and all.

I had cut Aisling's bangs and they looked good. Aisling has the strangest bangs. At one moment, they are a nice length that enhances her cuteness and a tenth of a millimeter later, she looks like a Wookie.

My mother was admiring her bangs and said, "Oh, Aisling, you look just like that actress!"

"What actress?" asked Aisling, whose enormous self-esteem always appreciates a good affirmation.

"Oh, you know. That one actress. The one with the bangs? You look just like her."

Aisling did this same thing to me not two months ago.

I quietly left the room as Aisling and my mother squealed together, went to the kitchen sink, and turned on the faucet to let water run into my ear. Some kinds of torture are better than others.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Reveling in vay-cay--see-own

Okay, so I'm kind of sad that my husband and I didn't get to go to the lake with the rest of the family. Finances wouldn't allow and sometimes adulthood sucks and that's al-l-l-l-l I have to say about it.

But I have no complaints about today, that's for sure.

I got up at 8:45 a.m., showering and dressing in record time. Since I didn't plan on leaving the house today, I eschewed all makeup, although I did brush my hair and hair and put on a necklace. I always like to wear a necklace. Well, and have clean teeth and a head of hair that doesn't look like a bird's nest, obviously.

Cheese and crackers made a very nice breakfast along with a glass of iced raspberry green tea. I have fallen in love with Crystal Light and would sleep with the canister of little powdered-drink- filled tubs under my pillow, if I could. I ate while luxuriously reading a creepy Mary Higgins Clark mystery. The dogs begged relentlessly but I did. Not. Make. Eye contact.

After breakfast, I spread Hamlet books and papers all over the dining room table and sat down at the computer to begin creating handouts on Aristotle's Six Elements of Drama and Freytag's Pyramid and all the rest, coming up for air about five blissful hours later. I don't know why I find this so endlessly fascinating, this literary activity that would make most people run screaming into the path of an oncoming train. I am a bluestocking at heart, no matter how much Def Leppard I listen to. I think I've read four or five different commentaries on the characters, themes and motivations in Hamlet and I feel like it's Christmas or something.

A phone call interrupted me; it was another homeschooling mother asking me about a teen activity that I agreed to undertake for next year. We talked for about half an hour about this new course, which is to cover public speaking, and it turned out that we were on the same page about everything. We hung up, greatly pleased. I've never taught an actual speech class before, although I've done some public speaking, plus put in several years both as a high school speech and debate team member, and then later as a judge. I am really looking forward to this.

Lunch was leftover from last night's dinner, plus a Diet Coke. Once done with that, I went back to work on Hamlet, that poor boy, only letting up in order to type this post.

My husband will be home from work in about forty-five minutes. I'm making baked spaghetti with meatballs for dinner, which sounds very good. We have a couple of shows waiting on the DVR tonight, which will be fun. Much more fun than The Godfather last night. Puh. I am so over the mafia.

I think I'll go get dinner ready and then sit down to enjoy The Dog Whisperer before my husband gets home.

No word from the family yet today, either by phone, cell phone, or email. I'm looking forward to hearing what they did today.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The first news in from the lake

My husband and I just got a call from a Frisch's restaurant at the lake where Meelyn had just ordered soup and a salad and Aisling had just ordered penne pasta in a sauce with broccoli. The girls were enormously excited because their bedroom for the week is "heeeeyoooooge" with a "big vanity" and a "great view over the mountains down to the lake."

Aisling thought that maybe she was going to try sleeping in the extra bedroom, but she and Meelyn have shared a room since they were tiny little things. So I wonder if that will actually happen. Aisling and Meelyn both thought it would be really cool to sleep in queen-sized beds by themselves.

After I talked to them, the phone was passed to my younger nephew, aged six, who was excited about the thought of sleeping on a bed while his older brother, my 13-year-old nephew, sleeps "on a little couch with no blanket." My younger nephew expressed delight in the idea that if my older nephew gets cold and starts to cough, he, my younger nephew will sit up in bed and shout, "STOP COUGHING! STOP COUGHING! STO-O-O-OPPPP COUGHING!"

I don't know what will happen if my older nephew sneezes. Something bad?

I think maybe my older nephew ought to sleep in that spare bedroom, where presumably there are blankets. And no one to yell at him at night.

My dad was the next person on the phone and he told me that they don't know the telephone number of the lake house yet and they can't find the internet connection, which is a poky old dial-up. I hope to get some emails from assorted family members soon. I'd like to piece together a story for the scrapbook and that way, maybe it will seem like my husband and I were actually there, instead of staying home with the dogs and eating pork chops and green beans for dinner. Which were good, but not as good as going to Frisch's with the whole family while anticipating a fun week at the lake and then going back to the house to play cards all night.

My husband and I have spent the first afternoon of our vacation watching The Godfather on television, although I pooped out with only ten minutes to go. Michael Corleone's nephew is getting ready to be baptized, which means the shootin' is about to start. I love the irony of all those dons' bodies being riddled with bullets while Michael meekly renounces Satan and all his works. Nice. Very nice. Martin Scorsese and Mario Puzo, I think it would have been even nicer if Michael Corleone had spontaneously combusted while committing blasphemy as he stood before the Blessed Sacrament, but that would have ix-nayed Part II and Part III, wouldn't it? Darn.

My husband has just realized that the actress who played Michael's sister is the same one who played Adrienne in the Rocky movies. He's very pleased. Hershey just threw up from eating a pork chop bone - it must have been too rich for him. My husband just informed me that no clean up was necessary, as Hershey was helpfully eating his vomit. Nice. Very nice.

I think I'll go do the dinner dishes.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

MP3 music list

Hi, honey! Since you are the official Downloader of Music, I thought it might be easier for you if I put my music list for my BRAND NEW FANCY MP3 PLAYER here on my blog. Because right now it is scribbled and scrawled on that ratty-looking envelope that the electric bill came in about three months ago and since there's a water stain blurring the ink because I've put a glass of iced tea or a Diet Coke on it every day for three months, it's getting kind of hard to read.

It starts, as all lists of good music should, with Joe Walsh and a moment of silence.

1. Rocky Mountain Way - Joe Walsh
2. Shambala - Three Dog Night
3. Me & Julio - Paul Simon
4. Change the World - Eric Clapton
5. Been a While - Staind
6. It's Not Over - Chris Daughtrey
7. Before He Cheats - Carrie Underwood (I'm afraid if I leave this off, she'll come beat me up.)
8. You Got Lucky - Tom Petty
9. A Case of You - Joni Mitchell
10. Head Over Feet - Alanis Morissette
11.This Love - Maroon 5
12. Wild Horses - The Rolling Stones
13.Crazy on You - Heart
14. Call Me When You're Sober - Evanescence
15. Peace Train - Cat Stevens
16. Fly Away - Lenny Kravitz
17. Pour Some Sugar on Me - Def Leppard
18. And the Cradle Will Rock - Van Halen
19. Straight Up - Paula Abdul
20. Dead or Alive - Bon Jovi
21. Far Away - Nickleback
22. I'm a Believer - Smashing Pumpkins
23. Vertigo - U2
24. Graceland - Paul Simon
25. Tell Me - Marc Anthony
26. Rock of Ages - Def Leppard

27. You Dropped a Bomb on Me - by those people who sang that song
28. This Groove - Earth, Wind & Fire

At it turns out...

I didn't need to feel stress after all.

On Thursday, I wrote on my Thursday's List that I was stressed out about getting Meelyn and Aisling's stuff packed up for their week's lakeside vacation with Nanny and Poppy. I was dreading the washing, folding and suitcasing of clothes; the making sure that miscellaneous items, like toothbrushes, were stowed away, and that Aisling doesn't leave the state without Izzie and Meelyn without her MP3 player.

Although my husband tells me that they do, in fact, sell toothbrushes in states other than Indiana. Who knew?

On Thursday afternoon, I heard something going bump-bump-bumpitty-bump down the stairs and went to make sure that Wimzie wasn't going tail over teakettle after spying that black, white-booted cat from an upstairs window. She hates that cat. It wasn't Wimzie, I was Meelyn. And she wasn't falling, she was bringing down the laundry hamper that she and Aisling use.

Meelyn, my beautiful, sweet, funny, volleyball-playing girl, washed, dried and folded all their clothes. She and Aisling carried them all upstairs and put them in our biggest suitcase. They got out my vanity case and put all their toiletries in there. They put the PlayStation2 in the suitcase and cushioned it with their beach towels and packed two tote bags to take in the car, full of books, music and DVDs (Nan and Pop have a fancy van that plays movies. I know! It's pretty cool, isn't it? Our van is so old, it's carpeted in purple shag and an 8-track player with a wizard painted on the side making the words "Pure Magic" spin out of his staff.)

(Okay, that was a slight exaggeration, but it doesn't have a DVD player.)

In short, they packed everything. By themselves. All I did was make a packing list here on the blog.

All mothers know that our job as mothers is to work ourselves out of a job. Today is one of those days when I know that I have worked myself out of another job to add to my list of feeding, potty-taking, shoe-tying, tooth-brushing, toe-and-fingernail clipping and jacket-zipping and other myriad tasks that the girls are competent enough to do on their own, possibly even better than they did when I was helping them.

I still do kiss owies, however. That is a task I will never relinquish.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thusday's List

READING: Lord, Open My Lips: The Liturgy of the Hours as Daily Prayer by Seth H. Murray. I've actually been praying the Divine Office at Lauds (morning) and Vespers (evening) prayer for a couple of years, but there's never any harm in learning more about how and why. This little book is really well done and very simple to understand. It helps make sense of all the flipping back and forth during Lent and Advent, which can sometimes flummox even the most seasoned pray-er. The only two people I've ever seen who had complete command of the Christian Prayer book are Sister Shirley from St. Anne's and Patricia, the president of our St. John of the Cross Carmelite group. They serenely go from page to page to page while I continue, after two years, to fumble like an amateur. I hope this book will help - it does have a couple of pages on how to logically arrange the markers.

POOLSIDE READING: Boo by Rene Gutteridge. This is another book from my mother's church's library and it's a fun story about a horror writer (think handsome, single guy who writes Stephen King-type books) who comes to know Christ and throws the town he lives in, which has become a major tourist attraction due to him, into a tailspin. Do the residents want him to achieve heaven at the expense of their town's economic collapse? Because "Boo" (short for Wolfe Boone, the horror novelist) isn't sure he wants to keep on writing in this devils-and-demons genre. Some people are happy for his newfound faith, while others will do anything to get him back to the banshees.

LISTENING TO: Some landscape design show on HGTV. Meelyn is watching it. And, oh! A National Weather Service alert. Thunderstorms a-comin'!

SAINT IN HEAVEN I'D LIKE TO MEET: St. Dominic, to whom the Blessed Mother gave the rosary.

HAPPY TO SAY: That I got my new flash drive installed on the computer and have backed up about a jillion files, all without having to call my brother even once.

FAVORITE NEW FIND: Whole wheat pasta. Much healthier, being whole grain. Doesn't spike the blood sugar like regular white semolina flour pasta, thus making it a good carbohydrate. Tastes good, too. I've known it existed for years but had never bought any before. I've tried several different brands, some expensive (organic) and some cheap (store brand) but they all work equally well.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: Picked up Aisling's new glasses at the optometrist and found out that the frames of her old glasses, which broke when I attempted to give her the clumsiest high five in the history of the world and accidentally snapped the earpiece right off her head, can be replaced FREE. They were still under warranty.

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST NIGHT: Seven! A real treat after three nights of being awakened by thoughts of Shakespeare.

SCRAPBOOK PAGES THIS WEEK: None. Too busy with the fair and other stuff.

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: The girls leave for a week's vacation on Sunday and prodigious amounts of laundry need to be washed, dried and folded, plus I have to supervise their packing and aaaaaahhhhh....

PRAYING FOR: Tom, Terri and their children; Jeff, Kari and Gracie; Tom, Sue and the kids; Peter and his family - all families that are hurting due to illness, injury, or unexpected death. Also for the repose of the soul of my internet friend, Kathy Hansen, who died unexpectedly after leaving Adoration one evening in early June. Grant unto her eternal rest, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. Amen.

Cheese makes a difference

Some moms from the homeschool group and I have planned a one-night sleepover in the month of August. It will be a chance to sit up very late and use bad language without having to worry about the hovering presence of the ever-present Little Pitchers.

On Tuesday, I was sitting with Kayte and Katie while the 4-H ribbons were being handed out. Katie mentioned that our friend Bridget had sent out an email suggesting that we coordinate our Snack Efforts. Because, you know, it would be a terrible shame if everyone showed up with a bottle of wine and there was no beef jerky. Whatever would we do?

Kayte mentioned her intent to bring a bottle of wine and some "good cheese." Okay, I said. If you want someone to eat cheese, I'm your girl. What kind of cheese?

Good cheese, Kayte emphasized, while Katie and I looked at her, bemused.

"You mean, like, not Velveeta, right?" I asked.

"Oh, no," she said, looking shocked. "Never Velveeta. I'm talking about that crap from Kraft that comes in blocks."

Katie and I traded a look.

"Um, Kayte?" I ventured. "I thought that was the good cheese."

"From Kraft?" she said incredulously, her eyes wide.

"Yeah," said Katie.

"Because at our house," I offered, "that is the good cheese. The kind we eat when we have a brand new box of Chicken in a Biscuit crackers. We screw the top off that bottle of champagne and ennnnnjoooooooooy..."

To her credit, Kayte didn't vomit in her purse. But she kind of looked like she wanted to. I'm afraid I have ruined myself in her eyes. Forever now, I will be to her the Person Who Eats Crap Cheese.

It's not that I don't know that other cheese exists. I love brie, especially in a grilled cheese sandwich with a little sharp cheddar. But come on. Brie is something like $7.00 for four puny ounces. Besides, you can't buy it at ALDI. So I make my grilled cheese sandwiches with slices of Deluxe American cheese, not even the Kraft kind, but a knock-off brand that designed their packaging to make you feel like you were getting the good stuff. Good ol' pasteurized processed American cheese. Mmmm-mmmm.

So on this moms' overnight, I'm starting to feel nervous that something is going to bust loose inside me and I'm going to show up with a bag of pork rinds and a bottle of Boone's Farm strawberry wine, or maybe a bottle of Mogen David - the kind made from Concord grapes that tastes like the vineyard might be next to a Quick-Lube shop. Or maybe a box of saltines and a jar of Armour potted meat and some Holland House cooking sherry.

I never should have stopped watching Martha Stewart.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Feasting on Ham (let)

Today I went to Office Depot and bought all the binders I'm going to need for HISTO and the Hamlet Workshop, plus a package of printer paper. Then I drove across town and picked up a very large box of Barron's Shakespeare Made Easy Hamlet books. The study notes should be here in this afternoon's mail. I am so thrilled, I am about to plotz.

This is all so thrilling that I am actually NOT going to the pool today: I want to stay home and work on my lesson plans. I've already put a lot of work into HISTO and the Shakespeare Workshop while sitting poolside, but now it's time to do some computer stuff. Meelyn and Aisling have put in a request to be dropped off at the pool, so I'll do that and give them a chance to stay for a couple of hours, but I want to be here, typing away madly while the sun shines outside. Ooooh, I've got it bad. The teaching bug has infected me again.

There were times last summer when I was knee-deep in HISTO Roman Empire that I dropped my work and went ahead to the pool with the kids, but something I have realized about myself is that I need to work when inspiration hits me. (It usually hits me in the middle of the night.) If I decide to wait, I get so lazy and unmotivated that I procrastinate, which then leads to me cussing and crying in the living room as I try to put together thirty binders at the last possible minute. So, even though the next three days are forecast for rain, I'm going with the flow of things.

I want to get started with my Hamlet lesson plans today, covering the always-popular Freytag's Pyramid. Gustav Freytag (1816-1895) was a German writer and critic who proposed a method of analyzing plots in drama and literature in his book, Technique of the Drama, published in 1863. This method is based on Artistotle's concept of "unity of action," which means that all parts of the play/novel/short story work together to bring about the resolution of the conflict, or dénouement, which literally means "unknotting" in French.

In a play, these elements are particularly fascinating because playwrights have so much more to work with than words on a page. I've typed the list of Aristotle's Six Elements of Drama below to illustrate this point.

1. PLOT – The story of the play or the order of events. The main plot in Hamlet is his desire for revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father (the king), married his mother and stolen the throne. There is also a subplot enterwined with the main plot that involves Ophelia, Hamlet's fiancée, who is driven out of her mind by Hamlet's sudden hatred of her (he's really mad at his mother) and by her father's use of her to get to Hamlet.

2. THEME – What the play means as opposed to what happens (plot). Hamlet has several themes, such as death. Untimely death, undeserved death, death for revenge and honor...all those play a part in this play, for better or for worse (because obviously, I am not going to advocate getting back at those who dun yew wrong by killing them. I think my students' parents would disapprove.) Another theme in Hamlet is teen angst -- Hamlet's indecisiveness is heightened by his grief at his father's death, his rage against his uncle, the enormous sense of betrayal by his mother, not to mention his great fear that his mother is implicated in his uncle's plot to kill his father. Phew! And people think soap opera plots are involved!

There are also Catholic themes in Hamlet and a "shadow plot" -- not stated outright, but strongly hinted at -- comparing the rotten state of Denmark with its usurped throne and political machinations to Queen Elizabeth I's police state, with its cruel treatment of Catholics, during the time of the Protestant Reformation in England.

3. CHARACTER – The part an actor represents in a play; the role he or she plays. Hamlet is rich in characterization, which, due to the fact that Shakespeare wrote his plays with minimal stage notes, can be manipulated by the director to suit his/her vision of what the play is. The way the characters in Hamlet are traditionally exploited is this: Is Gertrude just an innocent fool, a shallow woman who has no idea that her brother-in-law has killed her husband? She was married to Hamlet's father for twenty years or more...how could she have recovered so quickly from his death and married Claudius three weeks after the funeral? Or did she know what Claudius had done? Did she help him plan it out? Had they been lovers before King Hamlet died?

Different directors see this in different ways. One of the best things about watching a version of Hamlet, whether on stage or on screen, is to see how the director has approached Gertrude's character.

4. DICTION/LANGUAGE/DIALOGUE – This element has two parts: 1. the words the playwright chooses; and 2. the ways the actors deliver the lines.

For the first part, everyone knows that Shakespeare was a master of the English language -- a communicator whose ideas transcend time and make him and his works knowable to generations of people, both high and low, small and great. In his works, when a known word wouldn't work, Shakespeare frequently invented one. He coined the words "laughable," "courtship," and "luggage" among many other words and phrases.

The second part of this element deals with the way the actor speaks the words and makes the dialogue live and breathe. In Hamlet, Claudius's chief advisor, Polonius, asks Hamlet what he is reading. Hamlet's smart-alecky teenage response is "Words, words, words" in Shakespeare's script. But anyone can agree that that simple line could be spoken in a number of ways to underscore Hamlet's contempt for this man, who also happens to be Ophelia's father. The actor could say "Words, words, words" in a bored monotone to indicate that Polonius is not worthy of the time and effort it would take to speak the book's title. Or the actor could use a sarcastic tone, mocking the fact that what Polonius was really enquiring about was the title of the book Hamlet was perusing. It seems that every production addresses these three words a little differently.

5. MUSIC/RHYTHM – Aristotle, an ancient Greek, was referring to the sound and rhythm of the dialogue. Hamlet's soliloquy on suicide, the famous "To be or not to be, that is the question/Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer/The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune/Or to take arms against a sea of troubles/And by opposing, end them./To die, to sleep - no more" tolls like a death-bell as he faces his grim thoughts about his mother, his father, Claudius and Ophelia. Shakespeare caught that echo of tragedy again in Macbeth, when the wicked, suffering king contemplates the death of his wife "Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow/Creeps in this petty pace from day to day..." The dialogue in both of these speeches is heavy and full of sorrow; spoken entirely differently the light, sparkling, witty words in one of Shakespeare's comedies.

I like to consider the use of actual music as well. Obviously, this is used most often in filmed versions of the play and it's always interesting to see what kind of music each director will find fits the mood of each scene the best.

6. SPECTACLE – The involves the visual elements of the production of a play; scenery, costumes, and special effects. In Shakespeare's day, scenery was almost non-existent and the theater troupe's money went into elaborate costuming and props. In our time, especially in filmed versions of Shakespeare's plays, there is no shortage of scenery. Even high school productions have been known to build and paint some battlements for the ghost of King Hamlet to walk on. Zeffirelli's 1996 version starring Mel Gibson and Glenn Close featured scenes of an actual medieval castle and views of rainy, windswept fjords to set the mood.

On any stage, whether it is in a theater or a studio, no scenery, no prop, not a single button on a costume is there by accident. In a filmed version, every single camera angle, close up and long shot is there for a reason. Everything is geared towards moving the plot forward, creating a mood and telling the audience about the characters. For instance, if an audience saw Gertrude at the beginning of the play dressed in a plain gown in a dull color, they might infer that she felt grief at her husband's passing, or perhaps that she was trying to hide the triumph of his "accidental" death and her quick marriage. But if they saw her in an elaborate gown and jewels with her hair dressed high on her head, they might think....something else.


Packing list

Meelyn and Aisling are leaving on Sunday morning to go on a weeks' vacation with Nanny and Poppy, their three cousins and Uncle Pat and Aunt Angie. This is the first time they will be away from me for more than two days (I leave during the annual CousinFest with Lilly, Carol and Susie); this time, they are going to be gone for seven whole days and six whole nights and other people will be listening to their incessant quarreling over whose turn it is to rinse off the corn-on-the-cob pokers and whose job it is to carry my blue foam water float from the car to the pool (I already carry the cooler and my bag full of twenty-seven different Shakespeare books.)

I am really going to miss them and I try not to think about it because I keep getting something stuck in the back of my throat that feels like a tennis ball, only furrier. I'm really kind of hoping that they'll spend the next four days being absolutely unbearable, with lots of huffing and saying, "Okay, now that she told you that big bunch of lies, let me tell you what really happened," and feet stomping up the stairs, so that when we take them to Nanny and Poppy's on Sunday morning, all we'll feel the need to do is stop briefly in the driveway, offload them in a bum's rush sort of way, and then burn rubber in the minivan, riding back home listening to Lenny Kravitz belting out "Fly Away" with the windows down and rejoicing in our freedom from bickering.

But most likely, anticipating the impending separation, they'll cease hostilities and be adorable for the next one hundred and sixteen hours, which will cause me to stand in my parents' driveway long after the van full of waving arms has pulled away, moodily inspecting the asphalt for signs of their footprints that I can bend down and touch, and then driving back home in silence punctuated only by long, wet, drawn-out sniffles from me and occasional comments about the height of the corn from my husband.

I went on a long vacation with my grandparents the summer I was twelve. We went to Myrtle Beach and over to Fripp Island, where my Uncle Hamp was the golf pro at a country club, winding our way back through the mountains and having a wonderful time. My friend Chrissy, also aged twelve, went with us, although actually, Chrissy was not so much my friend, being as she was the daughter of my grandparents' widowed friend, Evelyn. At any rate, we got along smashingly until the point when I was sick of being bossed around by Chrissy and locked myself in my grandparents' bedroom in the enormous beach house we'd rented with some other friends of my grandparents (all of whom had teenaged children at that point), flatly refusing to come out. My grandma let the storm break and subside before she knocked on the door. I let her in and she sat on the bed with me, lowering her voice to whisper, "She's a lot like her mother" when I complained about Chrissy and her know-it-all ways.

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina - not the way I remember it Way Back
When, back when Chrissy, Megan and I could walk a mile down the
beach to eat breakfast at a little diner, past nothing but sand dunes
and ocean views. Photo credit: FamilyFriendlyVacations.com

That must have been in about 1975, I imagine. Myrtle Beach wasn't what it is today. Back then, huge old beach houses with lamps made out of driftwood and plaid bedspreads made out of what felt like upholstery fabric stood where hotels and tattoo parlors and gaudy t-shirts stands are today. In the beach house, my grandma and her three friends cooked up enormous pots of spaghetti and beef stew and made endless sandwiches to satisfy the appetites of five teenagers, three adolescent girls (the other girl was named Megan), four husbands and themselves. The teenagers, I remember, were incredibly kind to me, Chrissy and Megan and we played the transistor radio on the local Top 40 station and the Pingrey girls allowed the three of us to smear ourselves with their potent suntanning combination of baby oil and iodine. One of the boys had a guitar and we sang songs by the Eagles and America at night before my grandma came to shoo us to bed.

Remembering this is how I know that Meelyn and Aisling will have an amazing, memorable time, but I have to get started on their packing lists so that one of the memorable things about this vacation won't be: "Remember that time we went on vacation with Nanny and Poppy for a week and I forgot to bring any underwear?"


Vacation Packing List (keeping in mind that the house they're going to has a washer and dryer)

Personal Packing


5 tops

5 pairs of shorts

bathing suit

beach towel

6 pairs of undies


1 nice outfit (no church on this trip because we'll go to Mass on Saturday evening, and they'll be back next Saturday, either in time to go again on Saturday evening, or in the morning on Sunday)

2 pairs of socks



1 nice pair of shoes to go with nice outfit, if flip-flops or Crocs won't suffice



bath pouffy


hair do-dads



books to read

makeup (Meelyn)

MP3 player (Meelyn)

Special Bear (Meelyn)

Izzie the Real Dog (Aisling)

Madeline Molly (Aisling)

Elizabeth Felicity (Aisling)

Curly (Aisling)

Shared Packing




shower gel


Non-toiletry shared packing

rosary CD

CD player

neck pillows for car sleeping (gift from Nanny, whose eyes slam shut the moment the engine starts)

bag of pool toys (must retrieve from swim club locker)

little fan? (for night sleeping, or is ceiling fan in room? Must ask.)

That's all I can think of right now, but I may have to come back and revise it.

Note to Self: Aisling shall not be allowed to take more than the allotted amount of stuffed animals.

It gives me great pleasure to think of Kayte clutching her hair and screaming while she reads this. Heh.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The fare at the fair is beyond all compare

The girls and I went to the fair today to do some room hosting. That's the thing you do when you arm yourself with a night stick and some pepper spray and patrol the rooms where club members' 4-H projects are displayed and swiftly and silently beat to a throbbing pulp anyone who so much touches one tentative forefinger to a rocket. Or a stale cookie. Or a scrapbook, poster describing the mating cycle of rabbits, floor lamp or slightly crooked bird house.

But because I am a non-violent person, my favorite thing to do is wait until someone's doting auntie is carefully thumbing through her niece's notebook which explains the differences between yeast bread and quick bread, sneak up quietly behind her, shielding my Room Hostess badge with my hand and shout, "DON'T TOUCH THE PROJECTS!!!"

I may have



my role as Room Hostess at the 4-H Fair, but it made a better story than what I really did, which was walk around for the first few minutes, looking at all the projects I've already seen before, then sit on a hard chair, yawning and longing for a Crystal Light lemonade, until our time was up.

We met Nanny and Poppy at three o'clock so that we could get a quick snack to fortify ourselves for our journey through the rabbit/chicken/mini goat barn, the cattle barn, the llama pavilion an the sheep barn, which smelled so bad, I was gagging before I could make it across the place from one door to the other.


1 elephant ear

2 bags popcorn

1 watermelon slushy

1 chocolate milkshake

1 ear roasted corn-on-the-cob

1 funnel cake

1 more chocolate milkshake, purchased when Nanny discovered what a really premium dairy treat it was

3 bottles of water

We sat in the picnic pavilion and ate this entire truckload of food, the five of us, sitting there with a number of other folks who were all doing the same thing.

"Oh, I'm so full," we kept saying. "Here, Meelyn, take this five dollars and run back to the blue vending truck and get us another funnel cake."

"And don't forget the napkins! Or the nachos!" someone else would call out with a full mouth.

When we were so stuffed we could barely move, we all set off, waddling, for the animal exhibits. In the heat of the day. In the sun.

I know.

Everything went pretty well until we got to that sheep barn, where I woozily began to feel that the crowd might be warned to jump back, because a fearsome display of fair food was going to shortly be making an appearance. Or reappearance, as it were.

Once out of the hellstink of the sheep barn, I felt much better. The mini-goats, regular goats, bunnies, dairy cows, and llamas were all a lot of fun. I want a goat so bad, I could just cry. A little mini-goat to be my friend, and I would name her Barb. For some reason, female goats always look like they should be named Barb to me.

Aisling had to be repeatedly warned to watch where she was stepping. Meelyn enjoyed the goats as much as I did, because they were so friendly.

All too soon, we were famished again and had to head off for a ribeye sandwich. Poppy treated us all, so the following food was consumed for dinner, free of charge for me.


5 ribeye sandwiches

5 bottles of water

4 packets of Crystal Light lemonade

The sandwiches were the best - absolutely delicious -- and we all solemnly turned and saluted the cattle barn.


1 giant pickle

My husband had to work late tonight, so he missed all the fun of sidestepping different species of poop. I wanted to bring him an apple dumpling, but when we walked up to the Home Extension Office's cafeteria, it was closed. So...


1 apple dumpling

Tomorrow is project pick-up day and also the day of our little awards presentation. I am really looking forward to it.

And maybe to snagging one more bag of popcorn before the fair closes down for another year.

Then it will be time to start thinking about the State Fair. Whooopeee!!! Meat on a stick! Italian sausage with peppers! Lemon ices!

I can hardly wait.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

A lesson on "getting" Joni Mitchell

Kayte, that bad girl, commented on my "One of my songs" post yesterday that she doesn't "get" Joni Mitchell, based on the lyrics to the song "Both Sides Now" and a comment that Tom Hanks's character made in You've Got Mail, which is something that I just could not allow to pass. First of all, because I do not hold Tom Hanks in high esteem, mostly because of my loathing for Forrest Gump. And also because Joni Mitchell's songs are for girls, except for "Woodstock," which was borrowed by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young; you know, "We are stardust, we are golden/We are billion year old carbon/And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." That song brings back some fantastic summer memories from the neighborhood swimming pool when I was a kid.

So if you are a girl, you have to "get" Joni Mitchell. It's a law. A federal law, one that is strictly enforced on this site. So unless you want men in dark polyester suits and bad ties displaying badges at your front doors, take note.

You don't necessarily have to like her, mind you, but she isn't difficult to understand. If you aren't a person who enjoys her guitar-and-piano style of folk music, you might at least find that you can appreciate her as a poet. Some of it is happy, some of it is sad; some funny (like "Parking Lot"), some thoughtful. And okay, some of it is a little too away-with-the-fairies, as the Irish say, for my taste, but then, I don't like every song that Tom Petty or Joe Walsh wrote, either, as much as it pains me to admit it. Even Byron, Shelley and Keats were capable of coming up with a clunker every now and then.

The man who wrote "The Worry Song" is a friend of mine.

I suggested that Kayte might like this song. Just read it as a poem, although it would be even better to listen to it. It is a nice little folk-type song, played on the guitar. This song, to me, sums up the entire point of scrapbooking. I love it. Nostalgia for what is gone, but looking forward to a bright and happy future.

The Circle Game

Yesterday a child came out to wonder
Caught a dragonfly inside a jar
Fearful when the sky was full of thunder
And tearful at the falling of a star

Then the child moved ten times round the seasons
Skated over ten clear frozen streams
Words like "when you're older" must appease him
And promises of someday make his dreams

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down;
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look
behind from where we came,
and go round and round and round
in the circle game

Sixteen springs and sixteen summers gone now
Cartwheels turn to car wheels thru the town
And they tell him, "Take your time, it won't be long now
Till you drag your feet to slow the circles down."

And the seasons they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down;
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look
behind from where we came
and go round and round and round
in the circle game

So the years spin by and now the boy is twenty,
though his dreams have lost some grandeur coming true
There'll be new dreams, maybe better dreams and plenty
before the last revolving year is through

And the seasons, they go round and round
And the painted ponies go up and down;
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return, we can only look
behind from where we came
and go round and round and round
in the circle game

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Will we ever be able to marry her off?

My husband and I were sitting on the front porch, comfortably reading our books, when Aisling came out to join us.

"Hello," she said, sitting down on one of the little bistro chairs that I bought as part of a set at a little antiques-and-collectibles store, but that's another story.

"Hello," said my husband and then sat there looking at her quizzically. "Aisling," he finally said, "you have something on your neck, kind of under your chin."

"Oh, that's probably just cheese," she said disinterestedly, not raising her eyes from her book.

This is what you get from the kind of girl who would walk through a crowded dog park from one gate to the other and get to your house, commenting "Gosh, my shoes smell funny" right before stepping onto your white living room carpet.

Another one of my songs

On one long-ago episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Debra got to spend the afternoon alone, doing whatever she wanted to do. At one point during her day of freedom, she was sitting on the sofa, and what she'd chosen to do was cry, dabbing her smeared mascara away with a hanky. Her brother-in-law, the looming Robert, happened to stop by and see her through the front window; he left, shocked and worried, and immediately told Ray that something was wrong with Debra, otherwise, why would she be sitting there crying?

Raymond, in his usual, blustering, ham-handed way, questioned her later. "So why were you crying? What's wrong? Are you sick? Are you mad? What's wrong? What? What?"

Debra shrugged and said, embarrassed, "Well, nothing's wrong. It's just...well, you know how sometimes you feel like crying?"

"No," said Ray, looking at her like she'd snapped her twigs.

"Well, I do, Ray. Sometimes I just feel like crying. So I just cry. That's what I was doing. Just crying."

"What, you mean you can just make yourself cry?"

"Sure," she said. "I just make a cry face, like this [demonstrates a sad face, eyelids blinking rapidly, mouth pulled down, brow furrowed] and the tears just happen. I just cry for a while and then I'm okay. That's all there is to it."

Yep! That's all there is to it. When I feel like crying -- just because -- I pull out my old battered Joni Mitchell Blue cassette and listen to "A Case of You," which is possibly the saddest break up song ever written. Other than "Why?" by Annie Lennox, which is also good in a pinch.

Does the trick every time! I can hardly wait to get this song on my MP3 player. It is definitely One of My Songs.

A Case of You

Just before our love got lost you said
"I am as constant as the northern star"
And I said, "Constant in the darkness? Where's that at?
If you want me I'll be in the bar."

On the back of a cartoon coaster
in the blue TV screen light
I drew a map of Canada

Oh, Canada...

And your face sketched on it twice

Oh, you are in my blood like holy wine
You taste so bitter, but you taste so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you
I could drink a case of you, darling,
and I would still be on my feet
Oh, I'd still be on my feet

I am a lonely painter
I live in a box of paints
I'm frightened by the devil
Yet I'm drawn to those ones that ain't afraid

I remember that time that you told me,
you said that love is touching souls;
Surely you touched mine
'cause part of you pours out of me
in these lines from time to time

Oh, you are in my blood like holy wine
and you taste so bitter, but you taste so sweet
Oh, I could drink a case of you
Still I'd be on my feet
And still be on my feet

One day I met a woman
She had a mouth like yours
She knew your life
She knew your devils and your deeds
And she said, "Color go to him,
stay with him if you can,
oh, but be prepared to bleed."

And you are in my blood
you're my holy wine
You taste so bitter, bitter and so sweet
And I could drink a case of you, darling,
Still I'd be on my feet
I would still be on my feet

Joni, the lonely painter. Photo credit: Copyright (c) 2007

5K, all the way (gosh, it was a pretty day!)

Meelyn and my husband (also known as "Daddy") ran a 5K this morning in a pretty little town near our city, set up as a memorial to honor a local VIP who died of heart disease several years ago. They came in at about thirty-eight minutes, Meelyn white and panting due to the fact that she'd only put in about two hours of training for this run; those were the only two hours, in all honesty, that she's put into running since the 500 Festival Indy Mini-Marathon at the beginning of May.

However, it still was a finish and that's what counts. Nanny, Poppy, Aisling, Hershey, Wimzie and I were on hand to cheer them across the finish line. We started shouting and clapping as soon as they hove into sight, about five hundred yards from the finish line. Hershey and Wimzie perked up their ears as they recognized members of their family. There they are! We recognize their smell! Is it possible that, wherever they were, they came back with dog biscuits? Or maybe a ham?

This particular 5K was also a Stroller Push and a Dog Walk, which made for a very varied and entertaining crowd. Happy dogs and sleepy babies were all over the place, most notably a tiny girl in orange Crocs who was arranged in her stroller as if it was Cleopatra's sedan chair, hands posed gracefully on the armrests, feet planted firmly on the footrest, regally observing the humble peasants to her right and left. I halfway expected her to bust out that Queen Elizabeth wave.

There was also a black Lab and a hyperactive beagle that Hershey and Wimzie took against in a violent way. We saw a hundred or more dogs of every breed and size and Hershey and Wimzie looked at them affably, their tongues lolling. But that Lab and the beagle...woo. Every time we saw them, Wimzie would charge and Hershey would bounce around, barking like an idiot, in spite of the fact that he was wearing his Outward Hound doggie backpack, loaded down with two water bottles.

The Lab disdainfully ignored them, but the beagle burst forth in an ear-splitting "Baaaarooooo! BaAaaaaaAAAaRrRrrrOooOOOoooooo!!!!" every time he laid eyes on them, yanking his owner's leash. Come one step closer and you are so totally dead. Dead! I will kill you! Or if not that, I will deafen you with my barking! And you have no hands to speak American Sign Language! Ha ha ha! No thumbs, you thumbless un-thumbed paw creatures!

The park where the beginning and the finish of this race took place in the city's park, a beautiful place to be on a beautiful day. My parents, Aisling, the dogs and I walked beside the river and my dad showed us the little dammed area (okay, I'm sorry, but that just makes me laugh) where he and his teenage friends used to swim in back in 1958 or so, probably listening to Brenda Lee and Roy Orbison on the drive over from the tiny little town they lived in, which had no swimmin' hole.

The four of us (plus the dogs) found a place where we could see the finish line and all the runners coming in; we appointed ourselves Official Cheering Section, mostly because my mother finds it difficult to stand still or even sit without talking, whooping or yelping that a bug landed on her shirt. We arranged ourselves on a boulder, clapping and shouting, "Good job!" as the first runners came through. They were all high school boys from the city's high school and they did not deign to acknowledge our presence.

One boy came through, shirtless, his six-pack abs of steel gleaming with sweat and my mother called out, "Wooooooooo-hooooooooooooooo!!! Good job!"

"Mom," I said, poking her in the side. "Do not shout out 'wooo-hooo,' okay? It sounds like you're admiring his body."

She poked me back, making one of those tutting sounds with her tongue. "You have such a dirty mind. I raised you better than that."

"Aisling," I said, "what would you think if I told you that Nanny shouted out 'woooo-hoooo' to some high school boy as he ran by?"

Aisling raised her eyebrows. "Man, Nanny. You are some kind of big flirt, girl. He's going to think you were checkin' him out," she said, giggling.

"I was not!" said my mother indignantly.

"Just don't flash your boobs, okay?" I asked her, gleefully recalling the time she visited New Orleans with my dad one winter and came back with about fifty strands of Mardi Gras beads, which she was proudly displaying to all her friends. It was only when my brother, sister-in-law, husband and I informed her just exactly how women win those beads that she hastily buried them in the bottom of the dress-up box in the guest room. Naturally, we have never let her forget it, not even for one single second.

"Shuuuut uuuuuup," she hissed at me.

"I'm just sayin'."

For all I know, this could be a picture of my mother.
Photo credit: WorldWideWatercooler.com

The runners came through in clumps, some of them smiling and saying thanks as they ran by, others looking like they were going to be lucky to cross the finish line. A few, like those first high school boys, loftily ignored us. My mother expressed the hope that there was a defibrillator in the check out tent. My dad was mostly silent, as usual, breaking his shield of reserve only to compare running unfavorably with golf. Dog walkers and stroller pushers came by and Wimzie and Hershey kept a close watch for that black Lab and the much-hated beagle. Several people stopped by our boulder to comment on the handsomeness of Hershey's dark green backpack, which he was wearing with pride. Wimzie jumped onto the boulder to get a better look at a dachsund puppy and nearly fell off the other side.

After about half an hour of cheering, clapping, dog-and-baby-cuteness commenting, laughing at my dad and forcibly restraining my mother from flirting with any more male runners, Meelyn and my husband came along. We cheered them over the finish line and they claimed their goody bags. It's amazing how much easier it is to find one another when there are 400 runners instead of 35,000.

The sun was bright, the light breeze was pleasant. What a beautiful day for a run and a walk.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I'd rather just poke myself in the eye

That volleyball team board of directors meeting I mentioned yesterday? The one that was so painfully scheduled for a Friday night?

It lasted THREE HOURS. It is now 10:00 p.m.

I have not had anything to eat. I am used to being fed at extremely regular intervals.

My husband, who was perfectly pleasant at the meeting, has allowed his normal food-deprived self to emerge now that we're at home. We are speaking in clipped voices with extra emphasis on the words "dear" and "honey."

We were supposed to go to Bob Evans for our date night, but they're closed.

I was going to get a pot roast sandwich, but was cheated --
cheated! -- out of it by that long-running meeting. Photo
credit: copyright (c) 2007 Bob Evans

He's out walking the dogs. When he gets back, we're going to decide where to go. It may be White Castle. This is fine with him; I'd rather eat the contents of a pencil sharpener's case. Without ketchup.

I am hu-u-u-u-ungry.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: Still reading The Lover and the Beloved: The Writings of St. John of the Cross, edited by E. Allison Peers. This poetry is not anything you can speed through. Not that you'd want to. "O Living Flame of Love, that tenderly wounds my soul," writes San Juan de la Cruz. Beautiful....

POOLSIDE READING: Size 14 Isn't Fat Either by Meg Cabot. This is a light-hearted mystery story about a college residence hall supervisor-cum-sleuth who was considerably startled to find the head of a cheerleader simmering in a pot on the dining services' stove. Yeah, I know. It really isn't, is it? They haven't found the rest of her yet. But anyway. Truth be told, this book is not that good, so don't bother. The only reason I'm continuing to slog through it is because my parents brought me up not to be a quitter. Once again, this is a book by the author of The Princess Diaries, which I thought was brilliant. Love! Cabot is from Bloomington, by the way. I think she'd do best to stick to young adult fiction. Like glue. Like tree sap. Like....anything really, really sticky.

LISTENING TO: Schubert's Trio in One Movement in B-Flat; lilting, sparkling piano. At this time of day, it's either Schubert, Debussy or neat scotch.

SAINT IN HEAVEN I'D LIKE TO MEET: St. Elizabeth Anne Seton, a fellow convert and mother

HAPPY TO SAY: Even though I've already said it. 4-H!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Woooooooooooooooot!!!!!!

FAVORITE NEW FIND: Nature Valley Sweet & Salty chewy granola bars with almonds. Okay, these are just good.

FAVORITE THING TODAY: Seeing the girls' happy faces as they posed for the camera by their projects.

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST NIGHT: Four. My eyes feel like boiled onions. There is a word I could use to describe how I feel, but if I did, my mother would wash my mouth out with soap and then beat me around the face and neck with the bar, possibly dropping it into one of my dad's socks first.

SCRAPBOOK PAGES THIS WEEK: Four. Our anniversary page and my husband's poison ivy-in-the-emergency room pages, plus Aisling's birthday pages are complete

THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: We've got to attend a volleyball team board of directors meeting tomorrow night -- Friday! -- at 7:00 p.m., which may possibly be the worst time ever thought up to schedule a meeting. How about Saturday morning at 5:30? Or Monday night at 11:30 p.m.? Sheeeeeesh....

PRAYING FOR: Our young friend Peter and his family, headed out to Loma Linda, California for an exclusive radiation therapy for his rather aggressive cancer. Peter, who is five years old, had a brain tumor that was discovered when he was four. He underwent months of chemotherapy with people all over the map praying for his healing. He beat that cancer and was declared clean. But not long thereafter, at an MRI checkup, it was found that cancer had returned in tumors that are all along his spine. Peter's mom and dad are solid rocks of faith who have not wavered, but trusted in God for His will to be done, despite the bitter circumstances. He also has five sisters, four older and one younger, who are going with him and Mom and Dad to California. Would you please join me in praying for his complete healing, as well as for safe travel for them all? His treatments start on Monday, July 23 at 9:00 a.m. (California time).

4-H results of awesomeness (if I do say so myself)

Indulge me for a moment as a proud mama.

In spite of my rugged four hours of sleep last night, we were up and on the road to the 4-H Fairgrounds, zipping into a parking space by 10:55 a.m. I had the camera ready and a change purse full of small bills to buy us some fair food for lunch and off we went!

Here are their standings:


People in My World - blue ribbon with honors
Scrapbooking - blue ribbon with honors
Fine Arts - reserve champion


People in My World - blue ribbon with honors
Scrapbooking - blue ribbon with honors
Fine Arts - blue ribbon

I was so proud of them, I got all teary-eyed and choky-throated at the Fine Arts display. This is Meelyn's second year with a Fine Arts exhibition - last year, she won a blue ribbon for her art. This was Aisling's first year to exhibit in Fine Arts. Proud! Proud! So proud!

Fair Food Tally

1 funnel cake, split three ways

2 styrofoam bowls of Indiana popcorn (which kept blowing away) split three ways

3 Lunch Meals from the barbecue tent
2 pork loin sandwiches
1 chicken breast sandwich
3 bottles cold water with three packets of Crystal Light lemonade
3 bags Lays Classic potato chips, partially eaten and discarded
3 small containers of cinnamon applesauce, completely rejected

1 giant dill pickle

Fair Food Still Desired

roasted corn on the cob-on-a-stick (everybody)

chocolate milkshake (Aisling)

more popcorn (me)

more funnel cakes (everybody)

rib eye steaks (me and my husband)

apple dumplings (Aisling, Meelyn, my husband)

giant dill pickles (Meelyn)

Fair Food That Just About Ruined the Day

rabbit bratwurst (I know. I nearly did, too.)

Aisling talked all the way home about the projects she's going to do next year, including photography, sewing, foods, dog training and cake decorating.

Ha. Little does she know. I am a good mother. But not that good. Nor do I have any desire to be.

Compline -- the night office

It's a restless night tonight. As I'm typing, it is 2:30 a.m. and I'm nowhere near sleep. I'm not sure why. I'm not worried about anything. I don't have any exciting thing going on that's making my mind whirl around like a hamster on a wheel. I feel perfectly fine.

I just can't sleep!

Since I'd almost finished my entire book -- a mystery story, seeing as how I've suddenly taken against chick lit and have happily moved on to murder, should this worry me? -- I decided to come to the computer and do one of my favorite things, which is key random thoughts into Google.

I admit that my first random thought was shallow. I typed "Wade Robson bio" into the Google search field. Wade Robson is the choreographer whose clever, creative work I admire so much on So You Think You Can Dance. It turns out that he is only twenty-four years old. Imagine! And also that Britney Spears cheated on Justin Timberlake with him, back in the good old days before she married whatsizname and started going about in public with uncombed hair and mocha frappuccino stains down the front of her t-shirts and a Marlboro Light hanging out the side of her mouth.

You just never know what you're going to find out in a Google search.

But while I'm always your girl for a dishy bit of celebrity gossip (I know, Kayte, I know. I can't help it, that's all), I was in the mood for something a little bit deeper. So next I typed in "evening prayers."

This search turned up a really nice online breviary, which is the collection of the daily prayers of the Church, going from early matins all the way through the day until compline.

Since it is, after all, the middle of the night, I clicked on the button for Compline and found this hymn, prayed in monasteries and convents and rectories and and even private homes around the world for, oh, only around 1000+ years or so. It is beautiful, so restful and comforting that I think just reading the words of this ancient song will allow me to say "Amen" and then go on up to bed.


Te lucis ante términum,
Rerum Creátor, póscimus,
Ut pro tua cleméntia
Sis præsul et custódia.

Procul recédant sómnia,

Et nóctium phantásmata;
Hostémque nostrum cómprime,
Ne polluántur corpora.

Præsta, Pater piíssime,
Patríque compar Unice,
Cum Spíritu Paráclito
Regnans per omne sæculum.

Which means:

The Hymn

Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray
That thou with wonted love wouldst keep
Thy watch around us while we sleep.

O let no evil dreams be near,
Nor phantoms of the night appear;
Our ghostly enemy restrain,
Lest ought of sin our bodies stain.

Almighty Father, hear our cry,
Through Jesus Christ our Lord most high,
Who, with the Holy Ghost and thee,
Doth live and reign eternally.

Out of all the many things in this world I love -- my husband and children and other family members; the ocean; the way libraries smell and the excited feeling I always have when surrounded by books and books and books to read; the sound of rain in the night; the sigh of a contented dog or toddler settling down to sleep; "Shambala" by Three Dog Night; writing without a deadline; the taste of pistachios and the sweet scent of a baby's head and so many other things -- the thing I love most is being Catholic.

Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

And good night.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Very, very hard to wait

I don't know how the girls are feeling, but I am on pins and needles wondering how their 4-H projects have done.

Their Fine Arts contributions were judged on Monday; Meelyn turned in a matted and framed pencil drawing and Aisling did a matted and framed colored pencil drawing. (That seems very weird to say a "matted" drawing, doesn't it? In our house, "matting" is what happens to Wimzie's petticoats whenever she plows through too many puddles.)

Scrapbooking and People in My World entries were judged today.

We have to get through Wednesday, then on Thursday, we can peel out of the driveway, slinging gravel, and head on over to the fairgrounds to see how they placed. I honestly don't know what to expect. I think they both did very well, but then, I'm not the most objective of judges.

I was casting a quick eye over some of the other People in My World displays and some of them looked as good as the girls' did and some looked worse, but none looked a whole lot better.

There are always some scrapbooks that are so gorgeous and creative, they look like they ought to win a prize for the world instead of just for the county fair. Last year, the girls' scrapbooks weren't really all that, but this year, I think they did a much better job.

And we did find out last year that in Fine Arts, there are some entries that were done with so much talent, the young artists ought to be commissioned to paint the ceilings of chapels or something.

So who knows? I think they've got a good chance at some blue ribbons, maybe even blue ribbons with the gold honors star attached. I'm crossing everything: fingers, toes, eyes....you name it.

Thursday seems as far away as Christmas.

Little boys, playing at the pool

Yesterday, the girls and I spent about three hours at the swim club, and I was happy to be seated near a little posse of three boys, aged about nine or ten years old, listening to them talk.

Little boys make me laugh. They're so funny when they don't know anyone is listening.

These three boys were inventing new styles of jumping into the pool. Each new jump had its own name, which I will relate to you now:

1. The Snake Coil (much hissing and striking, like a hyper-active cobra forcibly ejected from a basket)

2. The Ju-Jitsu (great spinning legs kicks, chops in the air and Jackie Chan noises)

3. The Crash and Burn (kind of hard to do in the water, but oh well...)

4. The Transformer (in honor of the new movie, accomplished by jerking the limbs into robot-like maneuvers while making whizzing, whirring techno-noises with the mouth.)

There were other spectacular jumps that I can't remember, but they were all equally funny and cute.

I have taken to wearing a hat at the pool this year. Last year, I went bare-headed and my hair got some very nice free sun streaks in it, but it also got fried and looked like a bird's nest until March. So this year, I am protecting my hair with a large amounts of shea butter and olive oil conditioner, which I work into it in the locker room, coiling it on top of my head under the hat. The hat has a big, floppy brim which also shields my forty-something face from the damaging effects of the sun; this brim also makes it possible to watch people from behind my sunglasses (I'm just like a great big Jackie O, I am) without them knowing that I'm watching. Which is how I was able to observe those three boys doing their thang yesterday without them being embarrassed at such frank observation from an adult.

So I am here to report that while I look like a complete dork at the pool, the little boys are just adorable.

Today I feel like a complete jerk

I was sitting in the living room, reading my book and minding my own business when the telephone rang. It was 9:10 and the girls are still asleep, so I scooted across the room rather quickly to answer it: I love these mornings when Meelyn and Aisling sleep so late and I have some quality time to regain my consciousness.

"Hello!" I answered in my bright and cheerful voice, which I was totally faking. I hate the telephone and absolutely despise answering it, much less talking on it. I would prefer to communicate with people either by email or by puffs of smoke sent up from a fire on the front lawn.

"Shelley," said the person on the other end. "This is Joy. I have Aisling down for a nine o'clock lesson this morning."

Ohhhh, crap. Oh, crap crap crappitty bleeping crap.

I thought that lesson was tomorrow.

Joy is a gifted pianist. A musical genius. She has a waiting list of students who are anxious to learn from her, both kids and adults. It was a miracle that she was able to take Aisling and Meelyn on - she had room in her daily schedule and welcomed them because they are homeschoolers and could come in the mornings when her other students are at work or school. I was hoping so much that we could be blessed enough to get her as a teacher for the girls.

Meelyn quit piano lessons in June - she's been at it for five years and has learned a lot, but she's more of an athlete and a writer. Aisling is our musician, a child who never has to be told to practice the piano. Ever. More often than not, she has to be told to quit praciticing because she's been working on the same song for the last forty-five minutes and the rest of us are about to go insane. When Meelyn decided she wanted to quit, Aisling begged to be able to pick up her time slot and have an hour of lessons per week, rather than a half hour.

The one-hour-per-week lesson is Joy's preference; she can get so much more done with her students. My husband and I really wanted to give the girls this privilege, but couldn't afford it. But here was the chance, with Meelyn quitting, to give Aisling what she wanted so much. It wouldn't cost any more than what we were already paying, we reasoned. Which is a lot, by the way. But the piano is Aisling's passion and she is very serious about it. For a child who is rarely serious about anything, often singing and dancing and jumping out from behind doors to scare us until the three of us are saying with one voice, "AISLING. SHUT. UP," this is a bit of a big deal.

Sooo, I wrote the date down wrong for the lesson. Eejit!

Thankfully, Joy had a time slot open - probably her only break of the whole afternoon, when she'd ordinarily be grabbing a bite to eat and maybe allowing herself to put her feet up before the arrival of her next student - for tomorrow.

I believe I'll scout around in my stores of handmade soap and see if I can find three pretty bars (most of the soap I still have left from my business is the tag ends and weird-looking pieces no one would ever want to buy) and make her a little gift box to send along with the check. I feel it's the least I can do.

It's awful when people are so nice and polite and friendly, even when you know they must be totally and completely ticked off at you. Joy was pleasant, but there was something in her voice that has never been there when we've showed up on time. Ugh.

If you'll please excuse me, I think I'll go soak my head. In the toilet.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I slept just fine last night because...

The 4-H projects are finally -- FINALLY!!! -- turned in. Meelyn and Aisling each did a Fine Arts project (the only ones eligible for the State Fair, should they receive that honor) and two county-only projects, People in My World and Scrapbooking.

Their scrapbooks have been with us all year and their fine arts projects were completed with Kendra supervising at art class, so the only ones that had to be done at the last minute were People in My World, mostly because their worlds were continuing to happen as the projects were evolving. As in, we had to rush to Walgreen's to get photos developed that had to go on Meelyn's project board right. That. Minute.

Aisling's People in My World project is about her life as a Catholic homeschooler and Meelyn's is about being on the homeschool volleyball team. The only problem we have is that her display, which was supposed to contain her volleyball shoes, accidentally contains her running shoes.

She kind of needs those running shoes; she and my husband are running a 5k on Saturday and the volleyball shoes just won't cut it.

I've put out an urgent email to our club's leader, hoping that she can put us in touch with the People in My World project manager so that we can swap those shoes.

Other than that, everything went smoothly. All projects were properly tagged and turned in and the four of us drove home from the fairgrounds in a jubilant state.

I maintained that feeling of excitement until Aisling said, "I think I want to do a cooking project next year."

Doomed. I am dooooooomed. Do you know how hard those cooking projects are? I have heard horror stories of cakes exploding in microwaves and cakes imploding in ovens and families eating corn muffins for breakfast, lunch and dinner for months on end. At first, the corn muffin thing didn't sound all that bad until one mom said to me darkly, "You'd be surprised at the loathing you can develop for corn muffins over a six month period. I can't even drive my car past a cornfield without wanting to go off road and take down as many rows as I can before I get chased away by some farmer pointing a shotgun at me."

Even packaging the food projects and getting them to the fair for judging requires the organization skills of General MacArthur. There have been tales of paper plates buckling and reducing three fearfully and wonderfully made cookies into crumbs in the parking lot at the fairgrounds; plastic "clamshells" that burst open unexpectedly and released apple streudel topping like shrapnel from the tops of muffins and layer cakes that defied all attempts at engineering them for structural stability and diabolically waited until they were actually in the room for display before breaking free and sliding in three different directions.

I don't know if I'm ready for this.

FEAST DAY! Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Today is one of my favorite feast days of the entire year - the day we honor Mary as Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.

Devotion to Our Lady of Mt. Carmel dates back almost eight hundred years before the birth of Jesus, to the prophet Elijah (or Elias, as he is sometimes known, which has something to do with Hebrew and phonics, about which I have no clue, so anyway....) Elijah went to Mt. Carmel in Palestine and settled there to begin a life of prayer and contemplation. He and his followers dedicated themselves in prayer for the one woman chosen by God to bear His Son -- Mary.

According to the tradition of the Catholic Church, the descendants of Elijah's cloistered "order" came to St. Peter and the apostles after Pentecost and asked to be baptized in the names of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thus numbering themselves among the first Christians. It is so beautiful to think that they had been there, praying, almost a thousand years before, maybe looking forward to that very day.

Three thousand years later, the Carmelite Order continues to prosper and grow. It is the spiritual home of great saints such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Thérèse, the Little Flower of Liseux and Edith Stein, as well as Brother Lawrence and Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.

I am humbled to be part of them as a Third Order Carmelite, having entered my novitiate in September of 2006. The Third Order allows laypersons to be part of the beauty of Carmel spirituality and sharing their unique charism while working out in the world, being married and raising children

Praise be to Jesus our Lord for the gift of His dear mother.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I obviously can't format this post correctly

I had a little post here about actor Jack Nicholson, but for some reason, I can't get it to format itself properly. I have done all the HTML I know how to do, but it simply won't behave, so I showed it! I deleted it.

So there. Mess with me, and I'll rub you right out.

Friday, July 13, 2007

What do people like to do when they get old?

For those of you who thought that the elderly like to go down to the church hall to play bingo, or ride around on those giant tricyles, complete with flags and little horns that say "aaa-OOOO-gah!" or watch The Price is Right and order senseless, random objects from the Harriet Carter catalog, I have some news for you.

Yesterday evening, the girls and I drove over to my hometown to celebrate my grandpa's 87th birthday with all the rest of my family. We were going to sing the birthday song and have cake and ice cream and sit around and talk for a while, letting my grandpa bask in the gathering of children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, assembled there at the assisted living center to honor him.

My grandpa and step-gran, they are so cute. Grandad was wearing a yellow golf shirt and a yellow cardigan sweater, his white cotton candy hair fluffed up for the occasion. My step-gran, Catherine, was dressed rather formally for the occasion in stockings and heels and a powder blue suit with pearls and a little diamond circle brooch. Her white hair was coiffed into a formidable helmet and she was wearing pink lipstick.

There were about five little tables in the hospitality room where we were gathered and I sat down with the girls at a table by a tall book case stuffed with paperback books. Evidently, this room holds all the overflow from the center's library, because there was a matching book case, equally crammed, next to the little table where my brother and sister-in-law were sitting.

I'd come into the room in the middle of a conversation that was being lobbed back and forth across the tables, so I said hello and then sat quietly as everyone was bla-bla-blahing around me. Out of idle curiosity, I glanced at the titles of the paperback books close to me, and immediately dived into my purse for a piece of paper and a pen.

This is a small -- v-e-r-y small -- sample of the books available in that little room, which my entire family immediately dubbed The Porno Room after reading my list.

1. Apache Caress -- This book came complete with a cover depicting a woman in the throes of passion, scantily clad, sitting astride a young Indian warrior with feathers in his hair, similarly smitten. The title alone brought a blush to my modest cheeks, but when I pulled it off the shelf and saw that cover picture, I thought I was going to need smelling salts. So I immediately passed it around to the whole family so that they could see it too.

2. Wild Enough for Willa -- Something tells me that this particular Willa isn't wild about new knitting patterns. I didn't look at the cover of this one because "Willa" sounds like a name that belongs to someone in the 70+ demographic and I didn't want to see something like the picture on the front of Apache Caress, only with, well....you know. There are some things you just don't need to see. Ever.

3. Passport to Passion -- Evidently, you don't need a passport. You can find plenty of passion right. There. At. The. Old folks' home.

4. Fire at Midnight -- I could be wrong, but I don't think this book is about the third watch down at Station #12

5. Sweet Summer Heat -- On the golf course? The tea room? Or maybe the custodian's closet?

6. Sweet Savage Surrender -- Oh-kay. Ew.

7. Wild Sweet Ecstasy -- Again, ew.

Who writes these things?

All of a sudden, I understand why the advent of Viagra was hailed as a miracle in the geriatric world. Sweet mother of pearl....

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday's List

READING: The Lover and the Beloved: The Writings of St. John of the Cross, edited by E. Allison Peers. Beautiful, ethereal poetry about the goodness and tenderness of Jesus. Nearly five hundred years old, but full of the timelessness of truth.

POOLSIDE READING: No Legal Grounds by Christian author James Scott Bell. This is a Grisham-esque legal thriller featuring a born again Christian civil lawyer whose family is being stalked by a sociopath. It is a really good story. Definitely a keeper for Mom's church library. Woo!

LISTENING TO: Traffic whisking by on the street outside my open dining room window. I am loving this low-temp, low-humidity weather we've had for the past two days. I miss hearing the birds and the cars and the church bells when the house is all closed up.

SAINT IN HEAVEN I'D LIKE TO MEET: St. Teresa of Avila, whom I always think of as "Auntie Tess."

SORRY TO SAY: The azalea Kayte bought me in May is now -- *gulp* -- dead. I found a gardening website that told me how to take care of it and I planted it in a bigger pot and gave it a little sunshine but not too much. And Miracle-Gro. And water! But my withered thumb has asserted itself again.

FAVORITE NEW FIND: Terra Tints lip balm in "Bloom" by Alba. I found this lip balm at Meijer, over in the cosmetics section with the other lip balms. It's more expensive at $3.99, but I use it as a lip gloss. It has cosmetic-grade mica as a colorant, plus a touch of peppermint oil to give it a little kick. The color I got is called "Bloom," as I mentioned and it is a nice, neutral pink. The other shade is a neutral peachy-pink. SFP 18, too!

FAVORITE THING TODAY: Just got home from spending four hours at the pool. It was a PERFECT day. Perfect. I ate some really top quality french fries from the snack bar. Also M&M's. Feeling a little bit guilty about that.

HOURS OF SLEEP LOGGED LAST NIGHT: About five and a half. Ugh.


THE CAUSE OF MY STRESS: 4-H projects due on Sunday. If you ask me why I am stressed out over the girls' 4-H projects, I will tell you to shut up. I just am.

PRAYING FOR: Tom, husband of an internet friend, with an aggressive cancer on most of his internal organs. Their first request for prayer, of course, is complete healing a restoration of his health, so that's what I'm doing. Please say a prayer for Tom and his wife, Sue. They are twenty-somethings with two small kids.

UCLA study on women's attraction to men.

I got this bit of information from Kayte in an email this morning:

UCLA STUDY (very interesting and short)

A study conducted by UCLA's Department of Psychiatry has revealed that the kind of face a woman finds attractive on a man can differ depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle.

For example: If she is ovulating, she is attracted to men with rugged and masculine features.

However, if she is menstruating or menopausal, she tends to be more attracted to a man with duct tape over his mouth and a spear lodged in his forehead while he is on fire.

No further studies are expected.

(See, honey! It isn't just me. And it isn't just you. It's just the way God made us. He sure has a great sense of humor, doesn't He?)

No, I just stubbed my toe

Last night, the four of us were watching So You Think You Can Dance, gathered around the television like four hyenas around a dead antelope. The show was on hiatus last week due to the Fourth of July holiday; it seems that all those selfish dancers wanted to go home and see their families and friends, giving no thought to those of us with pressing entertainment needs.

But anyway, I had a bottle of water I was drinking and at one point, I took a drink and swallowed it down the wrong throat, rendering myself a coughing mess for about the next three minutes. I coughed and coughed and coughed with everyone saying, "Are you all right? Are you all right?" over and over again, and when you're coughing like that, how are you supposed to say, "NO, I'm not all right! Isn't one of you supposed to be pounding me on the back or dialing 9-1-1 or something?"

I finally calmed down, and all I can say is thank heaven for digital cable because my husband was able to pause live television with his remote while I was sitting there having a near-death experience, and yet the family's viewing pleasure was completely uninterrupted. I still don't know how they do that, over at the Insight office. It's like some kind of magic.

As I was recovering, leaning back against the sofa cushions and trying to catch my breath, Aisling leaned past Meelyn to ask, "Gosh, Mama. What was wrong? Were you choking?"

Oh, dear.

Sometimes I wonder if this homeschooling thing is working out for us after all.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another drive-by at the old house

The girls and I were in my hometown yesterday to eat lunch with Poppy, Nanny and the Nephews, where we also swung by the optometrist's office, as I mentioned in an earlier post today.

On our way to my parents' house, we passed by our old home to see if they'd done something, anything, with the landscaping, having senselessly ripped out all the plants and shrubs my husband and I lovingly introduced to the rock-hard Indiana soil, nurturing them like children.

I thought that surely these new people would be planting something new. Maybe even something better.

But no. They haven't. It's been two weeks and now there are WEEDS growing up in the bare places where all those living things were thriving - ugly, horrible weeds.

There is no excuse for this kind of thing. I wanted to go up and rap sharply on the front door, summoning the new owners to the porch and gesturing at the weeds, saying, "Please explain yourselves, you shrub-hating buffoons."

I'm thinking that maybe that wouldn't be well received, though. Maybe I should buy a potted begonia and have it delivered to them with a card with one, terse word written on it in black Sharpie:


Please, mister, can you spare a dime?

Yesterday was the banner day in which we got to go to the orthodontist's office to pick up that new retainer, having an appointment scheduled for the always-bad hour of eight o'clock in the morning.

The rush hour traffic wasn't bad at all on the interstate until I got to my exit, which was so backed up, I thought it was going to take a tanker truck of milk of magnesia to get us all moving. It was slightly frustrating, because I could have thrown a rock and hit the orthodontist's office from where we were sitting. And sitting.


Six traffic lights and ten minutes later, we whizzed into the doctor's parking lot, also ten minutes late. I couldn't decide if I was gratified or crazed that my trip timing was thrown off only by that unexpected wait on the exit ramp. But no harm was done. The office staff was pleasantly welcoming and accepted my check for Meelyn's $150 retainer with graciousness worthy of Queen Elizabeth.

This was also the appointment where Aisling's teeth were to be looked at and her orthodontic needs assessed. Aisling's teeth are different from mine (I wore braces between the ages of 18 and 22 and if you think that wasn't a constant exercise in humiliation, think again) and Meelyn's. Our teeth were all crowded up in our mouths, huddled together like sheep on a windy hilltop. Meelyn got her braces off two years ago and has a beautiful smile worthy of any teen queen. This orthodontist does good work! We also went to high school together, so I feel that we have a bond - a certain understanding - that includes remembering how weird Mr. Abbott, the algebra teacher, was, as well as my editor-of-the-school-newspaper self giving vast amounts of money to him, the former star quarterback. But I'm not bitter about that or anything. Anyway, Aisling's four front teeth are separated by gaps. As she puts it, "My teeth don't want to be friends with each other." She has an adorable Jack-'o-lantern grin beneath her freckled nose and World's Smallest Librarian glasses and she just couldn't be cuter. You'll have to trust me on that.

But what is so irresistably cheek-pinchable on a little girl isn't so great on a young lady. David Letterman has turned his front-tooth gap into a trademark. The 1970s and 80s supermodel, Lauren Hutton, and also the deplorable Madonna, both have teeth gaps that they use as accessories, concealing them with cleverly engineered bridges when they want to flash the Hollywood smile. So gappy teeth are not unheard of, even among celebrities who could presumably afford to have those hideous veneers installed that ruined Elliott Yamin and Hillary Duff and made them both look like very happy horses.

Hillary Duff, the former star of The Disney
Channel's series, Lizzie McGuire, all fitted
out with the biggest set of porcelain veneers
even seen in a human mouth. I wonder if
she eats oats for breakfast?

The orthodontist's assistant broke the news that it will cost a mere $4,882 for Aisling's teeth to be brought together as companions on life's journey - and that's with the $200 sibling discount. $1,280 payable in cash up front next spring.

I drove to our next appointment - optometrist - in another city, my hands white-knuckled on the steering wheel, wondering if I could effect any reasonable facsimile of a beautiful smile with a tub of Bondo and a spackling knife.

At the optometrist's office, we confirmed Meelyn's eye exam appointment for the second week of August and ordered Aisling's new frames, a mere bagatelle at $200.

All this, plus the looming costs of school books for the girls and graduate school classes for me, not to mention all the other thises and thats of life that just. Wear. Me. Out. Somehow, we always come up with the money; it's just that initial inner shrieking that throws me.

So now, I am calmer and I need to know just one thing: How much plasma do you have to sell before you earn $4,882?

Friday, July 6, 2007

PSA: Your shoes may be trying to kill you

Yes, it's a public service announcement right here at InsomniMom, because I care so much about your personal welfare.

I dropped the girls off at the volleyball open gym period today, and instead of rushing right home to clean the house (which looks so bad, I am thinking about putting smallpox quarantine posters out front to discourage random visitors), I went shopping. My favorite way to go shopping is completely and totally alone, so that I can spend as much time as I want to in front of the Boots display in Target, picking up each individual cosmetic item and then putting it back down again, satisfied, and going away without buying anything.

Today, though, I had a mission. I put in about twenty minutes in the health and beauty section and then made my way to the shoe department. I was hoping to find a pair of nice sandals to take me through the rest of the summer, because the sandals I bought at the beginning of the summer are already shot. Which makes me kind of mad, but that's what you get when you buy your shoes at Shoe Carnival.

It's the end of the season, of course, even though the Fourth of July was two short days ago, so I was prepared to find vast piles of fake sherpa-lined boots and woolly slippers. I wasn't disappointed in that, but I was saddened and annoyed by the fact that the clearance shoes, which took up two entire aisles, were the sort of shoes that would be totally inappropriate for a middle aged lady's daily wearing.

I saw a lot of canvas wedge-heeled espadrilles in about four different colors and five different patterns (gingham check in red and blue, animal print, polka dots and retro geometric) that were very cute, but the wedges were about three inches high. With ankle ties. They were the sort of shoes that call out quite clearly, "I'm not really the right shoe, but maybe just a right now shoe and I'll look really adorable if you wear me with a little denim mini skirt or some capri jeans."

Um, no.

Then I saw a nice pair of brown thong-style (oh, grow up) sandals on a two inch heel and those seemed more like what I wanted, but when I got closer, they were patent leather. A bit too dressy for my everyday wear.

There didn't seem to be anything that fell in the range between the three inch platform and the flat ballet slippers that looked like the comfy orthopedic-style shoes my grandma compulsively orders from Harriet Carter.

The only pair of shoes I found that looked like what I was hoping to buy were a pair of really attractive leather sandals that had enough coverage to keep them on my foot without constantly flipping and flopping (which I find undignified), but not so much that they looked like something a Roman centurion would have worn. They were a nice dark brown, had a slightly sexy but still mom-friendly look about them, and then I turned them over and the stupid things had kitten heels.

Kitten heeled shoes are so sassy-looking for a reason: they'll turn on you
in a minute. Your ankle, specifically.

If there was ever a heel designed to make you violently turn or possibly even break your ankle, it is the kitten heel. Now don't get me wrong: I am not anti-heel. In fact, the podiatrist told me that it would help my painful Achilles tendon if I wore heels that were at least an inch and a half in height, with two inches being even better (three inch heels don't really fit my lifestyle anymore, but I had a fantastic collection of high heeled shoes when I was teaching.) The very day that I was sitting in a Ball State summer session class listening to a girl rant about high heels were designed by men to keep us in a state of helpless subjugation because we were less mobile and able to defend ourselves if we were shod in high heels, I was next to her in a pair of Candies pale pink suede mules, smirking. So don't think I am not all about the shoes.

But honestly, I can't see the good sense in a little tiny heel that isn't logically beneath my own heel, but instead is fetched up just behind my arch. There wasn't much surface area to this particular kitten heeled shoe, either; it was probably less than an inch in width.

How, I ask you, is any normal woman going to fare in silly shoes like that. How can a woman negotiate life (home, work, post office, bank, grocery store, gym, etc.) in a pair of ridiculously designed shoes that seem to be meant to throw her off balance?

I know from personal experience that it is easier for me, with a handicap, to walk in my dressy black sandals with the three inch heels than it is to walk in the frisky tassel loafers with the one and a half inch kitten heel I bought last fall.

It's probably easier to walk in these three inch open toe pumps from Christian Louboutin (see
his trademark red sole going up the back of the heel?) than it is to walk in a pair of low
shoes with a kitten heel. And if someone would be willing to give me $800, I'd be happy to
go to Neiman Marcus and put this theory to the test, because these shoes? Cu-u-u-ute.

I checked Christian Louboutin's website for a look at his fall collection and also swung by couture shoemaker Jimmy Choo's online shop to see if there was a hint of a kitten heel in either of their designs and fortunately, I found nothing but elegant high heels and cheeky "day shoes," so maybe by the time the knockoff designers get busy, my local Shoe Carnival will be able to stock its shelves with something sensible for me to put on my feet.

I remain yours, fighting against the injustice of the kitten heel. Be warned. Be well.