Saturday, September 13

Puzzle Struggle

Some things just cause a gut-reaction. This is so wrong.

As if that isn't bad enough, some people enjoy pressure so much they think something like this is a good idea.Conversely, there are some things which are definitely a "must have" (still in original wrapping).

Bob, here, has figured out how to double his fun.

The 8000 piece puzzle can attractively substitute for flooring.

The 24,000 piecer is obviously suitable for home construction.

Who wouldn't want to accessorize your furnishings a la jigsaw?

School teachers probably buy these.

And these.
This is a creeper puzzle:

When a hobby becomes an obsession:

When a hobby is drug-induced:
When your hobby supersedes your persona:

Finally, the ultimate.

As the youngest in a family mostly married and gone, 14 year old Rachel finds herself sans puzzling assistance most of the time. James was our champion puzzler. His patience and focus was beautiful. He motivated the rest of us to join in. Now Rachel lives in a house with people who fail her communal puzzling ambitions more often than not. She embarked on a solo project that required super-natural tolerance, grit and ironwoman-like determination. It survived multiple catastrophic injuries when we forgot it was on the floor. It survived Baby Jack assuming puzzle pieces are edible, and kickable. It survived a number of hurried transports a top a wobbly board to temporary locations in the house. It was an epic struggle for artistic survival, and triumph.

True, various family members did contribute from time to time ~ but the bulk of the labor was all Rachel. It had become personal.

Froggie understood this, and welcomed the association.

Our amphibian/reptilian puzzling princess.

Monday, September 8

Anthropological Motherhood ~ Reading Baptism

Part Five
Offspring number five of five had not fully embraced the joy of reading.

This variance in familial expectations arrived as a companion realization to what offspring number three experienced, or failed to experience - many years earlier. Child number four enjoyed reading only to a point somewhere around the 8th grade. How three of the five did not grow up thrilled to the core to open a book is a somber mystery.

Books were given elevated status within the domicile from the beginning. Both parents brought to the union high school and college texts, as well as favorite childhood books that followed us year after year in our moves from place to place. Public library discards were considered treasure, and the infrequent opportunity to purchase books at a used book store or sidewalk sale had a spiritual quality to the moment of choice and purchase. Children were taught to handle books with care. As indisputable evidence of this fact, we still have pop-up books that retain their namesake feature.

Consanguinal kinsmen on the Tanner side also reverenced the written word by keeping prodigious personal libraries. Both Robin and James shared in passionate detail what they had read at school and enthusiastically recommended books which became my favorites as well. Because of Robin, I fell in love with Africa's "Cry, the Beloved Country" and "When Things Fall Apart". Knowing my love for Civil War history, she recommended "The Killer Angels" before it was popular. James had a great handle on Greek Mythology, historical and science fiction. He was deeply effected by "Number the Stars" and "Maniac Magee" in 4th grade. Robin's personal library (now combined with a husband's compatible love of books) is practically at a Thomas Jefferson level of acquiring and adding-to.

The diffusion of our cultural ideal with regard to reading prescribed modification as pertaining to 3 of the 5. They would not whole-heartedly welcome a book as a birthday or Christmas gift. As a result, I ended up reading those gifts again myself...great classics like "Watership Down", "Little Women" and "The Giver". Thankfully, there is an Evolution underway.

Since Leiland's mission, he is on fire with books and maintains a rigorous
reading schedule balancing ASU assignments with personal study. Asia recently purchased her own collector's copy of "Alice in Wonderland" ~ unabridged, the real deal. And then, there is Rachel.

A bubbly beauty to whom Angelina Jolie trivia, Disney's Cheetah Girls! and pop radio is life-blood, she has not enjoyed reading. Ever. It hurt my heart. In vain I tried to encourage, to inspire, to lead her to 'water' - always promising magical results if she would but give it a chance! Eventually I compromised standards. I agreed to help her read school assignments. We would take turns reading aloud whatever she felt was the insurmountable Kilimanjaro of student literature. Suddenly, it happened.

Last week it was "To Build A Fire" by Jack London. She asked me with a dead voice, "Is this one any good, mom?" I gushed. I clapped my hands. "Oh, are you kidding?" I squealed. "Be careful now, pay attention to the beginning. It's going to get scary pretty quick!" And we dived into the gold-rush Yukon on a fateful 75 below zero arctic day. The relationship between the man and the dog was easily grasped by Rachel, who knows the love for a dog - she understood the man's failure on this point.

But last night, it was different. "The Scarlet Ibis" the assignment,
the student declined my assistance. She only asked, "How about this one, mom? Is this any good?" Before I could correct myself I said, "Yes, but I hate it." She disappeared into her room. Much later, appearing suddenly at my side like a sodden ghost ~ a crumpled Rachel stood before me with a tortured little face, hot tears falling off her chin.

"Why did he do it? Why did he run away from Doodle, mom?!" she wailed, heart-broken.

I had forgotten all about her assignment. Rachel does not come to me for comfort. She does not allow touching or hugs. Yet here she was, almost destroyed by what she had read and needing an explanation. Pained, I grabbed my little girl and held her close. I begged her to try and understand that the older brother was still a child himself, and could not be wholly to blame . . . it was after all, just a story - it wasn't real. But softly I added, "This is the beauty of good writing, Ray - when the author can make you feel something simply because of the words he put on a page." Later, we would talk about the foreshadowing and clues in the family relationships.

It was magical, just as I had promised; she had been completely swallowed up in the story. She was responding emotionally to what was intended to evoke. It was finally, a great reading success for her.

But oh, how bitter-sweet. How terribly bitter-sweet.

Friday, September 5


I was born the year of Sputnik.

My name was going to be 'Christina' until the world's first sex-change operation made his/her preparations public.
1957 was also the infamous year of the Little Rock Nine. "West Side Story" opened on Broadway, The Everly Brothers hit #1 with "Wake Up Little Susie", and some very classic t.v. shows made their long-running debut: Perry Mason, Maverick and Leave it to Beaver. (Cindi & Danny 1959)

Growing up in the historic '60's was almost idyllic; we were too young to be afraid of the Cold War and having way too much fun with the explosion of rock
music and pop fashions to be aware of the cultural whirl-wind we were all carried away in. I was a child of the white suburbs; riding a bicycle to the Van Nuys Airport just to watch the single prop planes come in, building back yard forts, making mud pies and longing for braces for good reason. (I could fit a nickle between those front teeth-1964)

Change was happening, and it was exciting; but some things were still etched in stone. It didn't matter how fast I could run, how dead-eye my dirt clod aim - when the neighborhood boys played "Army" I was ALWAYS the nurse. They had the power. I hated the automatic relegation.

At school, we learned what we could be when we grew up. The boy's list of possibilities was always much longer than ours. We were never encouraged to be strong. A girl voicing ideas was often negatively labeled "independent", or "aggressive". Social boundaries were clearly defined 24/7. We girls had to stick-up for one another. I had a pink bedroom and a picture of a ballerina on the wall, but I was not interested in girly things. Our playground buzz about the space-race against communist Russia was thrilling to the core - but little girls could not dream of becoming an astronaut; so we quietly dreamed about being boys.

I begged to go hunting with my dad, or - just to learn how to shoot - but he said, "Nah. You're a girl." I watched exhaustive preparations for wilderness 50 mile, week long Boy Scout hikes my brother would go on with my dad. I knew they would be washing in streams and cooking trout over an open fire, pitching tents and telling stories under the stars. I wanted to go!

The now mythical bra-burning feminist movement frightened me with rapid-fire images of really angry women. I did, after all, want to be a wife and mother some day. I looked forward to it as a natural and magical part of my future self. Their message was not for me.

As a young married, I was not prepared for job interviews in the '70's where predominately LDS employers asked me how soon I was planning on getting pregnant. So-called psychological profiles popularly accompanied the application, asking literally pages of personal questions such as, "what is your relationship with your father?" and "if you came into a lot of money, would you a) pay your tithing b) go on a cruise or c) put it in savings." One office told me I would have to answer to a different name, since they already had a Cindy working there. It was insulting.

The workplace was filled with either arrogant, sexist employers or catty female co-workers who didn't want me to forget how my family of 5 mormon kids was robbing the planet of valuable resources. They, mothers of an only child or 2 at the most - frequently sought opportunity to comment on my poor "planning". It didn't matter that my kids could cook, wash their own laundry, excel at school, teach younger siblings music lessons and complete long chore lists while I was at work. Enlightened career women of the 90's explained to me how I had cheated my first two children out of an inheritance, since they would have to share it now with 3 other siblings. It had never occurred to me that anyone would have a child based on the assumed disbursement of what a projected inheritance might be.

These women were quite vocal about my "harsh" parenting methods

I have been accused of being "aggressive" by some women. Case in point: I worked part-time once as a teacher's aide at the local elementary school. I was disgusted to hear over the classroom intercom one day that the annual school carnival would be canceled because "...your parents have not volunteered to help us with the cake walk...", among other crimes. Fed-up with an aloof administration that was more concerned about federal funding than real children, I got on the phone.

The school carnival was poorly attended because they required 2 hour time slots for parents to man booths too expensive for families to visit. Nothing was ever FREE at school. Maybe they didn't need a cake walk. Maybe they needed a boost in planning more creatively. In a few minutes, I found a grocery store manager who offered to fill a shopping cart to the brim with whatever the school wanted to choose from their toy isle - for free. He just wanted a receipt on the school letterhead for tax credit. When I called the president of the PTA and let her know she could send someone to go pick up their lucky cart-load of goodies with the receipt the school secretary had waiting for her, she hit the roof.

"Who are you?! I don't recall seeing you at any of our meetings!" she screamed. Next she called the Principal and railed against my butting-in on their fine-tuned organization. I had to call her back and apologize (for -?), but I also asked her if this meant she wasn't interested in the square dance caller I had found who would come and call dances for free with his own sound equipment? I couldn't bring myself to tell her about the folklorico dance troupe that was willing to come, too. They never did go get that cart load of free stuff. In a very small pond was this little fish who felt so self-important that unconventional assets could only be perceived as a personal threat. I had just bumped into one of many "strong" women in various positions of "power" who happen to also be stupid.

Suddenly, unbelievably, at long last ~ is a smart woman who is also really pretty! AND she has long hair. Not the Cindy McHeiress-do long hair, but real woman long hair.
I wanted her to wear it in a pony-tail for her debut speech, as the ultimate "one of us" signatures a busy woman with long hair does first thing. Half my wish came true.

I know it shouldn't matter, but I love her feminine skirts and suits! Finally, a woman who will wear a DRESS just as easily as most women wear pants. (Michelle Obama's dresses at the DNC were absolutely stunning, btw!)

She has a hottie sports champion, working-man husband who is part Eskimo; a big plus with me any day.
Her sense of humor is welcomely wry. She has a recognizable speech pattern of one who is simply speaking instead of carefully pontificating. She is outrageously cheerful. She is gracious to reporters dogging her heels while she shops with her family. She has affectionate exchanges with an original husband she seems to like a lot.

Finally, a woman in power who doesn't move as if that power must be constantly acknowledged. Unconventionality obviously doesn't make her feel threatened.

Her dad took her hiking AND hunting.
She has FIVE kids.
Her little Piper giving baby brother a hair-lick-slicking was pure magic.
Change sneaked up on us, after all! While we recognize this wonderfully historic time in American election history for successes on both sides of the isle, this is the first time I feel like my time has come. And, similar to some of my experiences in the world, Sarah Palin has more critics that are sexist women than anyone else. And ~
. . . she wears super cute shoes without apology.

So there.