Friday, April 27

Screaming White Blouse

The 7th grade band and chorus concert/Disneyland trip has a price tag: $200+, a trip to Walgreen's for the carry-on snacks and Rachel's excitement driving us crazy for a whole week prior to the BIG DAY. That was today.

I woke her up at 4:30AM. She arose like an angel, her happy little face barely illuminated by the bathroom light filtering into her still night-darkened room. I wondered who this pleasant creature was. She was fully dressed and fixing her hair probably 8 seconds later. I slipped into her room and stashed a little note into her bag for her to find later. We shared a couple of toaster strudels, licking the icing from our fingers while keeping an eye on the clock. I asked her if she had her concert shoes packed - she said she did. So I told her about my dream last night where she got there and discovered she had forgotten her black shoes, and had to wear her tennis shoes instead. Ha ha.

4:48AM we are standing by the open trunk of the car. I ask her again, "Are you sure you have everything?" She said yes. We left for the school with the windows down. The air was chilly and fresh. I told her about the fun I had going on band trips like this with her two older brothers. I told her I was sorry I wasn't going on this trip with her, but she was going to have a lot of fun.

Three huge tour buses were idling full blast in the back parking lot, their multiple yellow contour lights blazing like a mobile Las Vegas - surly an omen of good things to come! Back-pack bedecked kids were scrambling everywhere, lugging a horn case or greeting friends. Rachel raced to the band room to collect her flute and sheet music. Maybe they wouldn't be waiting for the one kid who didn't wake up on time. Rachel barely held still for me to kiss her good bye. A final "have fun!" was about all I could say and she had bolted into the happy confusion.

What a relief. I was glad I wasn't going. I set the kitchen timer to wake me up about an hour and a half later to get Asia to school, and settled on the couch.

After waking Asia up, I turned to leave the bedroom. There, hanging crisply on the door handle, was a nicely pressed white blouse. In a flash several things exploded in my head: a devastated Rachel face at about 3 o'clock this afternoon, the scene of our 'check-list' last night to make sure she had everything, me flooring the rented red mustang to catch up to a tour bus with a 2 hour head start...

I called the band teacher's cell phone number listed on the itinerary. I just couldn't believe it; I heard myself leaving her a message that this was my mistake because Rachel had put it on the front of the door but I had switched the blouse to the back of the door to close it when they went to bed - it was all my fault. You can't see the blouse very well on the back of the door like that. Rachel doesn't normally forget anything, she was going to be very disappointed - but please point out to her that the top she's wearing now is mostly white and from on stage the little yellow flowers won't show at all and it will be fine...

With all my life experience at this point, all of it; tragedy, intrigue, miracles and pains, the horror I felt that the blouse had been forgotten was excruciating. I literally had to concentrate on breathing slowly, and busy myself with dishes or something to calm down. I tried not to think about Rachel feeling self-conscious at the band concert. I knew she would be fine. I knew it was just a simple mistake.

Nevertheless, I went back in there and grabbed the blouse a little too quickly, and hung it up in their closet. I could feel my teeth gritting together when hanger met rod. Now it was just an anonymous article of clothing among so many others. There was nothing special about it.

I turned my back on it and went away.

Tuesday, April 24


Puppy Prozac? Kitty diabetes? Pet psychiatrists who can offer therapy sessions in the comfort of your own home? Canine obesity medication that costs $3 a day (or whatever they said)(!) ...and pet "accessories" like custom birthday cakes with beef pureé between layers instead of cream cheese filling and I'm not even going to mention animal clothing, jewelry and beauty salon style treatments including coloring...did I mention the most provocative trend; pet health insurance?!

Clearly, some people should not have custody of an animal. Even the Dog Whisperer alerts the public that many owners have rendered their dog psychotic because they have failed to recognize and nurture their 'dogness'. Dogs need to sniff and lick inappropriate places to be balanced. They require regular opportunities to roll in something putrid and smelly; preferably both. A dog is not happy in a wedding gown or confined inside a condo with white carpet all day long.

Is your pooch fat? Take him on a walk. For pete's sake, how do people even begin to think like this? There should be some public outrage about insensitivity towards species culture, or a fine for species-confusion abuses.

It is not acceptable that some people consider their pet to be their "child". When people have a child who will never speak or be able to provide for his own needs, they do not dress him in costumes. A child is not a pet, and a cat will never carry on the family name. Why don't these child-hungry people adopt the real thing?

Don't get me wrong, many of my best spiritual experiences have revolved around a relationship with an animal. I really like them. I reject the illogical compulsion to seriously assign human-like qualities to someone who - if given his 'druthers - would always choose to act like an animal. We should celebrate this natural proclivity of "Ginger" to be true to her breed. We should be careful to separate our affection for living creatures from our intimate and larger bond with and responsibility to our own flesh and blood.

Although ~ come to think of it, I have seen many children who resembled pampered, over-indulged or exploited and miserably undisciplined pets...

I guess if two people can ride in a cab from New York to Arizona because they didn't want to insult their 2 cats by stashing them in the cargo hold of a plane, well, I suppose we're doomed to whatever consequences result from our choice of indulgences.

It would be kind of ironic if one of those cats developed an allergy to Sedona, wouldn't it? Or better yet, maybe they will hire a lawyer and submit a petition for emancipation because their input was not considered in the removal from their place of nativity...oh, yeah, this could be good. Let's wait and see.

Sunday, April 22

Que Lástima

I found this cute little blue and white denim tote for $3 at a thrift store. It was a lot of fun finding 50 cent plastic necklaces and 5 cent bracelets for super cheap at S.A.S. - the local warehouse fabric store. If you are up to it, you can have the pleasure of diving into vast, musty piles of yardage, ribbon and whatnot per the dozen or by the pound. They accept only cash. Never enter with children.

I bought one yard of a bright floral polyester and cut it up at home into 4 little scarves. Digging into my costume closet, I selected toddler-sized baseball caps and little girl's frilly hats. A quick pass of needle and thread dressed them up with a cool batman logo or a silk flower. At a Goodwill 50% off everything day, I plucked 3 miniature handbags from a sloppy bin of purses. I found a great Phoenix Suns basketball jersey in a size 4; perfect for quickly "dressing-up" a little boy over his Sunday clothes. I packed everything into the denim bag. Attached to the handle in a smart red ribbon was a laminated tag identifying it as "Our Nursery Dress-up Bag".

If you've ever worked the nearly 2 hour exhausting block of an L.D.S. church nursery catering to x number of little children aged 18 months to 3 years old, you can appreciate what kind of miracle bag o'tricks this could be! I donated it. That was 2 weeks ago.

Today as I entered the church foyer an hour early for choir practice, there on a foyer table was one of my little baseball caps. I felt uneasy in my stomach; what had happened to the Nursery dress-up things? Whenever you donate something, you really don't have the expectation to follow the use of said item or items...but the discarded Batman cap was an ominous beginning to the life of a dress-up bag.

Finally, 2 hours later I was anxiously watching for the nursery leader. The recently cleaned and re-organized nursery was a chaotic mess. Apparently the cabinet had been left un-locked, and the Spanish-speaking ward got into our things. It took a while to excavate the dress-up bag...gutted. All of the plastic jewelry was gone. Every single thing.

Of all the items in the bag, the plastic jewelry was by far the least expensive and represented the least investment of time and preparation. But its theft left me struggling with fluctuating feelings of betrayal and compassion. Of course little hands would gleefully extract those necklaces and consider them a treasured find. I wondered about the mother who would eventually notice a daughter coming home a little more accessorized than when she left - FOR CHURCH. Yeah, that's what was bugging me. It wasn't the first time something had 'disappeared', and others had commented under their breath that it was probably the Spanish ward whodunnit.

I told myself it was ridiculously inconsequential. For $4 or $5 I could replace all the missing jewelry. Most of the other things were still in the bag. It was my gift to give, unsolicited, and I had done so gladly. Tricky business, this - sharing the same worship space and still squaring off in our respective corners of suspicion. I wished I could explain to the Spanish ward how much nicer it is to share things and keep them tidy where they belong so everyone could enjoy them. But then I remembered, the bag was originally tucked away into a cabinet they could not unlock. I am not the nursery leader, and I was only responding to an open donation drive for "the nursery". Honestly, I hadn't really thought about which ward it was supposed to be for.

If I was in the giving mood, maybe I should have made two dress-up bags.

Tuesday, April 17

Diluted Demands

Here we go again. It doesn't take long for accusations to fly: against the school, the police response, our violence-saturated society...everyone wants to know why the students and faculty at Virginia Tech weren't protected from a mad man. Well, because he was a mad man.

It is not exactly helpful to focus on how open the campus was or how difficult it was to issue a warning to a student body of more than 20,000 coming and going. And shades of 9-11: WHO would have thought a blood-bath would occur 2 hours after what seemed to be an isolated "domestic" crime at a dorm half a mile away? No one had ever considered a hijacked plane as a flying bomb before. No one thinks of our sacred home territory as a potential killing-zone. If the campus had been surrounded by 12-foot walls topped with razor-wire, or if there had only been one way in or out, where individuals were strip-searched, x-rayed and metal-detected - then and only then might we be able to reasonably anticipate thwarting a psycho with a mission.

Americans, more than any other people demand their freedoms and privileges. We demand our way of life uninterrupted - fast food, frequent entertainment and shorter lines at Wal-mart. We are true to form as we complain when things interfere with our daily routine. Like the water scare recently in Phoenix; remember all the people whining to the camera that they couldn't get their Starbucks morning latte for the few days the city water was suspect?

Even the resurrected gun control debate will not dampen our collective demand for what we love best; an open-society. We love it more than American Idol! America is defined by drive-thru McDonald's, unlocked ice coolers outside 24 hour Circle Ks and public spaces that are exactly what they promise - public.

As heinous and as shocking as the V.T. shooting is, the incident is still an aberration. This is not Tianamen Square or an IRA, al-qaeda or Hamas attack...America is still an incredibly safe and beautiful place. Not because we are 100% safe, but because we expect safety. We expect to go to places thronging with strangers and commerce and exchange and debate. We pack our sports stadiums, exulting elbow to elbow with tens of thousands of strangers all doing the same thing. We demonstrate our grievances, we form pickit lines if we feel like it, fill our court rosters with enormous amounts of litigation and pretty much expect to have "our say" about anything we please.

Occasionally (admittedly more often), we suffer the explosive 'blip' of unanticipated depravity. The vast majority of our people manage to live, work and play together without stuffing our pockets with a couple of semi-automatics and a class schedule.

As Americans, we also choose to come together and offer support and comfort in far-reaching displays of selflessness and spiritual generosity. We may not be as achingly benevolent as the Amish community last October, but they are after all, part of us too.

I hear a lot about second-guessing tactics and policies in an attempt to secure a safer future. I just don't know how that is going to work; do we really want to live in a society where we report every suspicious person to the authorities? And on what do we base our suspicions? If we were suddenly hauled in for an interrogation "in the public interest", would we not feel wholly violated? Who would be demanding what, then?

Yeah, that's what I thought, too.

May God bless Virginia Tech and all of her families, and God bless America.

Thursday, April 12

Mom da-Bomb

Rachel is never satisfied with her hair. It is gorgeous. She hates it. It is truly her 'crowning glory', the envy of all who glimpse its rich, strawberry-blond thickness falling luxuriously about her 12 year old going on 20 face. She complains bitterly and fusses with it forever in the bathroom. If I offer to help with it, there is something of a mad-dog scene that follows.

Last night she brought me an ancient collection of sponge rollers. No, they were not the same ones her sister Robin used to be subjected to every night so her very delicate, white-blond hair would be curly for school. Robin was a docile little girl who thanked mommy for the exquisite torture of making her sleep in sponge rollers so she could look pretty...Ray Ray is the caboose of five and a different animal entirely. I have not been welcome to partner with her on her various coifs. So it was an unexpected request when she handed me the bag of curlers and said, "Will you help me?"

I explained how we should probably only use the extra large ones, and then only a top layer since her hair was so thick. We agreed we wanted to avoid an afro. But she insisted on using two medium sized rollers to frame her face. I am an old mom. I am a tired mom. I obeyed my 12 year old who has no experience with rollers. At this point in life, the temporary rewards sometimes suffice. My volatile pixie was temporarily pleased with her mother...I'll take it.

In the morning, I made sure to be busy making her school lunch. Eventually, she appeared in the kitchen with the results. It was even worse than I thought it would be. I did not laugh. I had noted in an instant her very carefully applied mascara, the cute little peasant top and matching pink necklace, the new flip-flops on feet with alternating green and pink toe nail polish. Rachel's voice was uncharacteristically weak and faltering as she whimpered, "I look like George Washington..." Yes, she certainly did! I resisted the urge to compare her with a dollar bill.

As tears threatened, we hurried together for some bobby pins. The vigorous curls contributed to a tidy bun with a two-way twist, thanks to the too-tight ones pulled back from her forehead. She was fixed in less than 30 seconds, and I even heard a whispered "Thanks, mom".

That's right. You got it. Uh-huh. That's me.

Tuesday, April 3

Saved by the Blog

I am behind the times. I will be 50 this year, and I still don't have a clue how to retrieve messages from my cell phone - they are mostly spam anyway or some Mexicans who get the area code wrong and keep asking for 'Marisol'. I didn't have a prayer of getting my power point done for my Spanish class last semester without the able assistance of my 17 year old daughter. And, I really do thank the pilot after a successful flight; how could anyone get used to crossing time zones and continental divides like it's just a walk in the park?

My family tells people I am easily amused. I prefer to think of myself as exceptionally appreciative. While I fully admire my kid's ability to text message and photo shop and MP3 MySpace Adobe PDF whatever - (I admit I can't watch a DVD by myself because I don't know how to turn it on), they probably wouldn't have coped very well with the way things used to be.

Take the physical effort of manual typewriters, for example. Gotta love that precious carbon paper to make copies - or better yet, hand-cranking the ditto machine to roll out wet, chemically saturated copies that somehow looked like an abstract watercolor after about the 30th sheet. Having some kind of cordless communication device was only for 007 or Maxwell Smart. Power windows were only in Cadillacs, color t.v's were usually only in someone else's house and hauling laundry in from the clothes line a standard family chore. People were afraid of microwave ovens when they first came out; what about the deadly 'microwaves'? Remote control was a little brother, and tape recorders had reels of 1/2" wide tape almost as big as salad plates. We had our Hi-Fi stereo as a basic furniture item, and when we said, "I'll dial the number," - we really meant it.

Even though she has been away from home for 11 years, I rely on my oldest daughter for some of my more critical technical needs. She and other young professionals like herself are communicating across the continent on a daily basis. They are doing things and getting things done. They are sharing ideas and networking their resources for everything from recipe advice to small business marketing. Always, they are posting 'pics' and videos and transposing their world into a 3D conduit of what appears to be very fun, very cosmopolitan lives and life experiences.

We have a beautiful encyclopedia set. We sacrificed to purchase it when a local supermarket offered it at a great price. About 6 months later the iron curtain fell, rendering much of it obsolete in an instant. I still feel more comfortable reaching for a quick, tangible reference search on the printed page than I do 'navigating' the web with its dizzying array of choices. However, if I really need information yesterday, I call Robin.

Recently we had the sad urgency to ask for very specialized help; did she know anyone who spoke Romanian? A little part-member family in our Ward suffered the sudden loss of their dad to a heart attack. He escaped communist Romania when he was 24, somehow dodging barbed wire and armed guards surviving for several weeks on roots and berries. Most of his large, immediate family eventually followed him to freedom in the U.S., settling in the ethnic neighborhoods of Chicago. It was for them we wanted to sing the last verse of "Abide With Me" in their native tongue. With a flick of the electronic wrist, Robin had a 'shout out' to her 'peeps'. Within hours we were communicating with 3 different Romanian speakers who were friends of a friend of a friend. Thanks to the 'hook up', the next day we sang perfect Romanian to a surprised group of mourners.

I appreciate the kind generosity of these young, technically gifted and well-traveled bloggers and e-mailers. It was an impossible request, given the time-line especially, yet total strangers rallied to the cause and gave grief a backseat to a 4 part harmony message of comfort.

Times change. And I am glad they do. Thank goodness for boxed hair color that can be stocked like food storage, reading glasses from Walgreens and those new girdles promoted by Oprah. Being a Grandmother is an incredible joy. These are great times when light and knowledge 'flood the earth' ~ and time, space and culture really can be bridged with the human touch. "Ramai Cu Mine".