Friday, October 30, 2015

My Halloween Baby

Tomorrow Will turns 13. Earlier today the Man and I recollected the night that Will was born. Around midnight of October 31st, 2002, I thought my dinner was disagreeing with me. Then it struck me I might be going into labor. The Man called the hospital, but the hospital was not impressed with my contractions. And then suddenly my contractions were coming faster and faster. We hopped into the car (okay, I don't think I was hopping mood at that point; I think the Man half-carried me to the car) and sped off to the hospital. I was fairly sure I was going to give birth in the backseat of our Honda Accord, but amazingly I didn't. Made it into a wheelchair, into the delivery room, and a few minutes later, Will was born. I believe I was still begging for an epidural at the time.

When Will was born he looked like a prizefighter. Who'd lost. Jack had been a beautiful baby and was a beautiful toddler and we felt so bad for Will, the ugly duckling. But around the time he turned six-months old, he blossomed into a pretty baby. He's still  cute.

He's getting old, though. Tonight he's at the school dance. Last year the sixth graders could go to the spring dance, but Will wanted no part of it. This year, there was no question that he'd go. I dropped him off at a friend's house around 5:00 so they could all get ready together.

He called from the dance just a few minutes ago, wanting to know if he could the spend the night at his friend's house. Now, we're pretty good with the last minute sleepover requests, but usually Will's asking to stay with one of his friends we know well and whose family we know. This friend we don't know. I'm friendly with his mom and like her a lot, but we're not close. And the friend has an older brother I don't know at all. On top of that,  I don't know this family's policies on Internet usage, whether or not they have HBO (and let their kids watch it), if they allow phones upstairs (we don't), etc., etc. So my answer was no.

He seemed okay with the decision. I remember asking my parents if I could sleep over at somebody's house and halfway hoping they'd say no. Maybe Will felt the same way about this sleepover. Who knows?

So happy birthday, Will; sorry you'll be waking up on your birthday in your boring old room with your boring old dog (Travis!) scratching at the door. Me, I'm glad you'll be home with us. You'll spend plenty of birthdays out on the town; we've only got you for a little while longer.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Quick Update

So I know you're dying to know how the colonoscopy went, although probably not in detail. Okay, so here's the scoop: much to my amazement, it was a piece of cake. The day before wasn't a whole lot of fun, but I learned something: I can fast. Well, I can fast as long as fasting includes drinking a lot of chicken broth and eating bowls of lemon jell-o. I never knew that about myself.

Here's the thing. If you've ever given birth, without or without drugs, pretty much everything else is easy peasy--root canals, gum surgery, colonoscopies, whatever. This is something I forget and then I'm reminded: I'm a soldier. I've been through the wars. 

Anyway, if you're at that age when it's time to get your first colonoscopy (that would be 50), then please do. Colon cancer is the third most common cancer, excluding skin cancers (the first two are lung and prostate, interestingly enough). Getting screened is the best way to prevent it. Colonoscopy bonus? Once you get home, you just nap and snack and watch saved episodes of "The Great British Baking Show" all day. Really, it's like getting a free vacation.

So now it's late and I'm about ready for bed, but I remembered that I wanted to get back into my blogging routine. So here I am to say hello and get a colonoscopy when it's time and I'm reading Patti Smith's new memoir, M Train, and it's really good but to enjoy it you have to be the sort of person who doesn't mind it when writers aren't particularly linear, something I don't mind in nonfiction but can't really handle in fiction.

All right then: see you Friday with more public service announcements!

P.S. Do you watch The Great British Baking Show? So much fun! You can check out episodes on PBS online--

Monday, October 5, 2015

I'm not looking forward to Friday ...

I am 51 years old. For the last year I've put off the procedure doctors encourage you to undergo when you enter your 5th decade . Do you know which one I mean? Starts with "colon" ends with "oscopy"? Ideally I should have gotten one the minute I turned 50, but for some reason I kept putting it off ... who knows why?

Oh,  I think we all know why. But Friday, I bite the bullet and get 'er done. I've been dreading it since I made the appointment. No, I've been dreading it since I was 45 and know the dreaded c-oscopy was a mere five years away.

I would like to write about something other than having this procedure, but it's on my mind. I've been snacking all day, storing up fuel for Thursday, the day of the big fast. The day of chicken broth and lemon jell-o. I imagine some people lose weight in the days preceding their colonoscopy; I suspect I'll gain five pounds.


We had such a strange weekend. Will was out of the house almost the entire time. On Friday afternoon, he went to a friend's house, and then on Saturday morning he went to another friend's birthday party and ended up spending the night. Sunday afternoon he went to the movies some other friends.

I'm glad Will has lots of friends, but I'm not sure I'm ready to give him up yet. I've had a couple of dreams recently where he's a baby again, and I think I know why.

The other strange thing that happened this weekend is that the Man and I went to a party where we knew virtually no one and had a great time. I've recently gotten to be friends with a woman in my neighborhood who also goes to our church. She turned 50 last week and had a humongous birthday party on Saturday night. Our plan was to go in, give her a bottle of wine, wait around for 15 minutes and then go get a pizza. We were there for over three hours. My socializing strategy for meeting people was to go up to individuals or couples standing by themselves and say, "Hi, I'm Frances, this is my husband, and we don't know anybody here."

We met a lot of people that way. We made new best friends for life. We also saw some other folks from church, and my dog-walking neighbor Mel, who was wearing long pants. I never see Mel in long pants--he runs marathons and is always dressed for a run when I see him. We ran into Will's youth group leader and learned the origins of her admittedly odd first name.

So, yes, the two introverts enjoyed themselves. We were glad we went. We were glad to go home when it was over. For a few hours, I forgot about my colonoscopy. Life was good. It will be good again.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Report

So you're wondering how it went with Betty. I think it went well, though I was sort of weirdly exhausted by the end of it. Certainly the house--or the rooms that Betty and her three daughters cleaned--were beautiful, shiny and fresh. They cleaned the dust off the ceiling fan and made the boys' bathtub a thing of beauty. I couldn't be more pleased.

I was interested that when they were done cleaning Betty left a religious tract on my counter with a note ("Thank you for letting us clean your house, I hope you're happy with the job we did today ..."). The tract is the sort that most of us are familiar with--Did you know that Jesus died on the cross for your sins so that you wouldn't burn in Hell? Say the Sinner's Prayer today so that you will be saved. Given that I have a postcard of Mary and baby Jesus on my fridge alongside a poem by Kathleen Norris called "Imperatives" that begins,

Look at the birds
Consider the lilies
Drink ye all of it
Enter by the narrow gate
Do not be anxious
Judge not; do not give dogs what is holy ...

you'd think I might have been given a pass on the whole "we're concerned about the state of your soul" thing, but I guess not. A little disappointing, I have to say.

It's funny having a stranger in your house, especially one that's mucking about in your space for a couple of hours. You start to see what's weird about your stuff, at least if you're me. For instance, for the last three or four years we've had this dangling from our livingroom ceiling,

which is a dried bundle of Salvia clippings from the garden. The Man trimmed back the plants one day and liked how the remnants looked, so naturally he bound them together and hung them from a hook, as one does (the hook was already there--I believe the previous owners of the house hung a lamp from it). I've always loved our Salvia, but looking at it through Betty's eyes, I could understand that she might think us quite insane.

Then there's our fireplace mantle, that runs the length of the wall, upon which we have displayed all sorts of things, including one of the Man's many fine documentary photographs, various children's art projects and some barbecue sauce:

Sometimes I wonder what my children think when they go to other people's houses. Do they think, "Ah, at last, normal decor?" Or do they think the normal stuff is weird? Do they wonder where the display of barbecue sauce is? Where their friends parents display their bundles of sticks?


So I believe the house cleaner experience was a success. When I get rich, I'll have Betty and her daughters (everyone in the family is stunningly gorgeous, by the way--it's like have the cast of "Petticoat Junction" clean your house) come weekly. Will they bring me religious materials to read every time they come? Will the tracts become increasingly scarier? Should I start leaving my Bible out in obvious places? I'm curious to find out what happens next. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 28, 2015

On Wednesday, the house cleaner is coming.

I'm sort of nervous about it.

I've wanted to hire a house cleaner for a while now. But they're expensive. And you have to clean up before they come. And they get to judge you for being messy.

I am very, very messy. Organized messy, but messy all the same.

My house cleaner's name is Betty. Betty and her daughters clean for my next door neighbor, Janet. Betty came over three weeks ago at my request and took a look around. I don't think she liked what she saw.

She also seemed incredulous that I only wanted her to clean a few areas--the bathrooms, the kitchen and the living room. Clearly this is a house that could use a good cleaning up in every room.

True enough. But I'm not ready to commit to a whole-house cleaning. There are parts of my house that don't get all that dirty, and I don't mind mess. I just mind sticky kitchen floors and icky boys' bathrooms.

So why don't I clean them myself? Because I am a person who can do very little that the spirit does not move her to do. All my self-discipline goes into keeping a daily writing schedule and cooking. After that, I'm blown about by my whims. Sometimes I'm moved to clean, it's true. Sometimes I'm moved to pull all the junk out of Will's room and paint the walls and put up new curtains. Sometimes I'm moved to watch the entire run of West Wing (again) while I work on a quilt. You just can't tell with me.

After Betty inspected my house and decided that she would deign to clean it, I checked in with Janet. Betty scares me, I told her. She scares me too, Janet said. I don't think she approves of how I keep house, I told Janet. I don't think she approves of anything, said Janet. But she's trustworthy and she does a good job.

Betty is going to come every other Wednesday. Travis and I are going to hide in the Man's study while she's here. I hope she does a good job. I hope she doesn't fire me after the first day.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Friday Report

This is a neat installation from the NC Museum of Art. From far away, the faces seem indistinct, but the closer you get, the more individualized they become.

Today I went grocery shopping. I bought lots of groceries. At the checkout, the cashier, who was actually a store manager, rang up my groceries and I bagged. For some reason, my neighborhood grocery store doesn't have people who automatically bag your groceries, so you have two choices, wait for the cashier to ring up your groceries and then bag them, or else you can bag them while the cashier is ringing things up.

I always bag, because a) that way the hamburger buns never end up squished on the bottom; and b) it makes the process go much, much faster.

So today the cashier rang and I bagged, and we chatted a bit about the weather (it's raining today after weeks of no rain at all). We'd gotten about two-thirds the way through my groceries when the power went out. It came right back on (there must be store generators), but the computer screen on the cash register didn't. Other cash register screens powered up again, but not ours.

I looked at my bagged groceries and said, "This is probably the best bagging job I've ever done, and now we'll have to start over."

(Another cashier walking past said, "It's sort of like winning at Tetris when you get everything packed in just right.")

The cashier and I chatted and joked as we waited hopefully for the cash register to start working again. I offered her a bagel (I had just bought a baker's dozen at Breuggers and the bag was in my grocery cart). She joked that we should go get a cup of coffee as long as we had to wait. I wondered if I should start unpacking my groceries so we could go to another register and start the process over.

She looked at me and shook her head. "Keep your groceries in your bags. We'll just ring up the rest of them on a register that works and that's what you'll pay today."

We decided to ring up the meat again, because I'd bought two pork loins (they were on sale) and three pounds of organic chicken, and that was a lot of meat to be giving away for free. But otherwise, the orange juice and the pretzels and the lettuce and the Wheat Chex and Life Cereal and milk and half and half and the brown basmati rice and all sorts of nice things were mine for the taking, no charge.

One of my favorite expressions is "Good news, bad news, who knows?" It seemed like bad news when the power went out, but it turned out to be good news indeed. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

The quilt on Friday:

The quilt on Monday:
Doesn't even look like the same quilt, does it?

The last time we spoke, I was tired. Then I rested. Then I started coming down with a cold. The good news is it's not a bad cold. In fact, I'm functioning quite nicely. I wrote this morning and went to Will's soccer game this afternoon. I suspect what I wrote is gibberish, and I accidentally kept cussing every time they scored on us at Will's game, but I count being upright and mobile as a victory when I'm sniffly and my ears itch.

Have I mentioned that Will is playing soccer? It's his first year, and he's playing for Our Fine School's 7th grade team. He's the goalie. Most of his friends play, and for the last two years Will has played a lot of recess soccer. He's never been on an actual team before, and he's having a great time. His teammates voted him co-captain along with his friend Ashaank, and although the team is 0-3, they're not bad and getting better.

I will say I wish Will would go out for more unobtrusive positions, like ball boy or an inconsequential defensive linesman. In baseball, he often pitches, and there's nothing harder on a mother than a kid who pitches. Next hardest, though, has got to be a kid who plays goalie. While Will is a good boy for the most part, I fear he's a touch inconsiderate when it comes to my stress levels and overall mental health.

A bunch of Jack's friends came over last night to play Dungeons and Dragons. The Man grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, and Jack made pie. I opened up the bags of potato chips. I had a cold.

Here's the great thing about your teenager having friends over for a gaming party. You get the fun of having a party--getting ready, planning the menu, cleaning up (which isn't fun in and of itself, but it's fun the next day, when you have a clean house), and then welcoming people in and hearing happy chatter all around you--but you don't actually have to make small talk with anyone or worry if people are having a good time. They're a bunch of teenagers with unlimited chips, cokes and brownie pie playing games with their fellow teenager friends. Of course they're having a good time.

I suppose I'll go to bed now. I will leave you with a link to a very funny piece on introverts. All my introvert friends love it. Which are you--introvert, extrovert, or somewhere in between?