Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Wardrobe


A request went out from my aunt this week. It was a plea for donations of gently used clothing to be collected and distributed by the church she attends. Her congregation is sponsoring a poverty-stricken community in a coal mining town nestled in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia. These are people who are suffering in a way that you and I can't imagine, and every car load of hand-me-downs is received like goodies from Santa on Christmas morning. I jumped at the opportunity to empty out closets and maybe do a little good in the process.

As spring is starting to tease us, this is the perfect time to purge. It's a time when all I want to do is take each and every piece of black clothing I own and set them ablaze. I want to grab all of my shirts that are heavier than seersucker and run them through a shredder. I have become desperate to trade brown pants in a heavy tweed for butter cream yellow halter tops and linen pants. The end of winter is a time when you can safely say that all little boys and girls have certainly outgrown their last summer's wardrobe.

I was in a mad dash around the house to get rid of anything that hadn't seen the light of day in a year's time and sometimes less. Do these pants make my butt look big? Gone! Could this shirt double as a maternity top? It's outta here! Just when I thought I had excavated our closets down to a smidgen short of the center of the Earth, my husband said, "What about the wardrobe in the garage?"

When we moved my mom into our house five years ago, we bought a spartan wardrobe for the garage to use as an overflow storage space in a feeble attempt keep up with her Olympian shopping skills. I probably haven't looked in it since it was constructed and installed because it is always blocked by bicycles and paint easels. The top of the wardrobe has become home to assorted radios, books, and boxes whose content remain a mystery. I just always assumed it was empty.

I cleared a pathway to the wardrobe, and when I opened its doors, I was met with a familiar smell - the smell of my mother still lingering even a year and a half after she died. The smell was a mix of Elizabeth Taylor's "Passion", baby powder, and just the undefinable "mama scent". I was more than surprised to find that the wardrobe was completely stuffed with her church dresses, pantsuits, and overcoats, and standing alone like a stag at a middle school dance was my father's sixty-year-old army uniform.

I stood there for a moment, flooded with emotion. Didn't we give away all of my mother's clothes soon after she died? How did I miss this stash? I looked through the contents of the wardrobe remembering every time I saw her wearing the fancy, purple dresses (her favorite color) and perfectly matched jackets and trousers. I was tempted to shut the doors and keep the last remnants of my mother's earthly possessions for myself.

I didn't, though. I pulled out the clothes one by one and loaded them into my car. I reached for a big arm full of her winter coats, and it was almost as if I was giving her one last bear hug when I pressed the fabric against my face. As I was fighting back the tears, I actually started to smile as I thought about the lucky folks on the receiving end of this bounty. Without a doubt, the congregation of women at this rural mountain church will be the fanciest in the whole state of West Virginia.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?


“Excuse me, but was I on the toilet when grammar as a whole went to hell in a hand basket?” asked Lynda, with her hands on her hips and a condescending smirk of superiority on her face.

You can go ahead and say it because I know just what you’re thinking: “Welcome to the twenty-first century, Grandma.” Call me old. Scratch that, OLD-ER. Even I know that I sound like nothing short of an Oldsmobile-driving, sensible-shoe-wearing English teacher, but lately I fight the gag reflex every time I think about how we have become a country that communicates through a system of silly acronyms and some sort of lazy shorthand probably invented by a teenager in a Hollister t-shirt who had enjoyed one too many Red Bulls. In case you were wondering, I am neither ROFL nor a MILF.

I am perfectly aware that language naturally evolves. Thou needst not remind me of this, m’Lord. Even with that knowledge in hand, I flatly refuse to be a party to this slacker-led uprising with its sight set on eliminating all punctuation and whittling down most words to just a letter or two. These Lil Wayne-loving warriors have even gone so far as to shorten an already shortened word: “OK” is now just “k”. One less letter made all the difference. I guess my poor, tired fingers and brain should thank them, but all I can think of is how Big Bird and Cookie Monster’s lifelong labor of love promoting literacy to generations of pre-schoolers is all for naught.

I simply love the written word. I am a sucker for a guy with a really large vocabulary, and at the risk of sounding like a complete Poindexter, I will admit to frequently picking up the dictionary and perusing it just for kicks. I deeply regret that the world has moved away from letter writing and on to choppy e-mailing and even choppier texting. This shift in culture played itself out in my own home last night as I was helping my son write thank you notes for his birthday gifts. (Yes, I make my children write thank you notes in their own handwriting.) When it came time to address the envelopes, he didn’t know how. My son is a fourth grader in a full time gifted and talented class, and he has never been taught how to properly address an envelope. I weep for the wireless future.

I am proud to be a one woman crusade, valiantly fighting to save the English language from Death by Abbreviation. I have declared my own personal fatwa against this rebellion by proofreading all e-mails before sending them and ensuring that I use complete sentences. Let it be known that from this day forward, should any of these thumb-typing insurgents actually expect a text reply from me, they are just going to have to wait a damn minute because I will be busy spelling out every word and using commas and apostrophes as needed. Oh, and BTW, IMHO, overuse of acronyms sux, like OMG...

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Dork is out of the closet



I don't know what came over me, but two days ago I decided this blog belonged to me. I'm bossy like that. The timing felt right. This blog debuted a year ago this week as "Our Group", and oh my, what a difference a year has made in me. It feels eerily like those bad dreams where you walk up onto the stage to accept your diploma, and you realize you aren't wearing clothes. I have been exposed. Many times I have wanted to scream, "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!" when I have let go of a few personal secrets too many. Before now, I could always try to hide behind "Our Group", but I'm through with that. I'm coming out.

The premise was simple: six highly creative, forty-something high school friends and one closeted dork (yeah, that would be me) would contribute interesting essays to the "Our Group" blog for our clique-ish reading pleasure. The only problem was that the talented members have a life. The folks that actually have writing talent spend the better part of their days in the real world instead of the virtual, unlike me. I slowly realized that they had no desire to wax poetic over their dead relatives or show their remorse over how badly they tend to sunburn. They felt no urge to expound on the virtues of wine or proclaim their deep and abiding love of autumn, but I did. I chastised them for abandoning the blog like a pregnant mistress, but in reality, I was giddy.

What emerged in me is a true love of taking these inane thoughts that are swimming in my head and molding them into prose for all the world to see. Actually though, I think only three people read it, but let's not step on my dream, people. This quiet, brooding middle-age mom has something to say even if she's the only one who sees it. (Sorry, too much Facebook time causes talking in third person.)

Since my friends have graciously relinquished their custodial rights, I have taken the poor orphan-child blog and adopted it as my own. I had to. It knows me too well to live with anyone else. I gave it a make-over that would make Stacey and Clinton proud. The blog and the dork are together at last, and now that my face is at the top of the page, I'm sure I'll never have another creative thought in my head again...

Friday, February 19, 2010

Where the boys are...



I am forever complaining to my husband and anyone else who will listen that I never get out of the house. It has become my mantra of sorts, my sad, motherly martyrdom. I can not log onto Facebook these days without seeing scores of pictures of giddy mommies out on the town with their large posse of very-best-girlfriends-ever engaging in drinking and silly picture taking. I feel a twinge of jealously each time and think, “Why don’t I ever get to do that?”, but then I only have to ponder that question for a few seconds before remembering why it isn’t me at the karaoke bar tossing back strawberry daiquiri’s and dancing to Lady Gaga: I like guys. I really, really like guys.

I somehow missed my invitation into the Fun Girl Club, and that is okay by me. I don’t have a best girlfriend and haven’t since I was a teenager. Even in school, there were only a handful of females that I would consider my close friends. I was always too busy chasing boys to cultivate deep and long-lasting relationships with women. I guess that is why when I’m with a large group of women, I always feel like the dorky wallflower who doesn’t speak the language. I always nervously disappear into the background while trying to use my super powers to will my phone to ring so that I can feign an emergency and escape. “What is it, Lassie? The little neighbor girl fell down the well? I’m on my way!”

Girls are trouble. Girls are drama. I don’t need trouble or drama in my life. I have plenty of both as it is. Guys are no nonsense. Guys are straightforward. Guys don’t want to talk about it - whatever IT is - and neither do I. I don’t care for a bunch of silly chattering on the phone, or having to worry about whether Kelly and Stacey are ripping me to shreds over my choice of outfits or hairstyle. I don’t want to have to defend the fact that I wasn’t the slightest bit moved by Susan Boyle or that I don’t give a crap about Team Edward or Team Jacob. Can’t we just be quiet, have a beer and watch “Caddyshack”?

I have to be honest and admit that there are some wonderful women in my life that I thoroughly enjoy on a one to one basis. These are women who, if given a chance, might let me assimilate into their Fun Girl Clubs. At my age though, I’m not sure I have the energy or desire to go through the initiation process. I might have to actually talk to women I’ve never met, and the pressure to be funny and engaging while maintaining a cute hairstyle makes me tired. They might ask my opinion on their crisis of the day, and I’d have to pretend like I care. Also, I doubt the Fun Girls are into avoiding eye contact and discussing the merits of Mel Brooks films like me.

I’ll keep searching for the right girl. I don’t want to make any hasty decisions when it comes to choosing my female soul mate/best girlfriend ever. I know she’s out there, probably looking for me, too. We’ll bump into each other while ordering a Mexican swill beer at some cheap, dive bar. As we look into each other’s eyes, we’ll know at that moment that we’ve finally found the one…the other one that hates “Grey’s Anatomy”.

Friday, February 12, 2010

I gave my love a chicken that had no bone...



I have been trying to uncover the reasons why I don’t like Valentine’s Day. My gut tells me it’s because I am more like Archie Bunker than I’d like to admit. I am as romantic as gall bladder surgery, and I’m sure my husband would agree that some days, I’m just as painful to live with. A penchant for candlelight dinners and Meg Ryan movies isn’t guaranteed just by virtue of having two X chromosomes. I prefer a dark beer and watching car chases that end badly to champagne and “When Harry Met Sally”. It’s no surprise that when February 14th comes around each year, I just roll my eyes and play along.

Romance and I have always been strangers. Even when I was single, guys never wrote me love letters, not even one. I didn’t inspire a single lovesick teenage boy to put pen to paper and gush over my porcelain skin or the way my eyes sparkled in the moonlight. None of my boyfriends ever felt moved to craft an ode, describing in detail how the world would stop spinning were it not for the simple fact that I lived and breathed and graced this Earth with my presence. Maybe they were all too love struck to put their feelings into words. Yeah, I’m sure that was it. It probably had nothing to do with my caustic, overbearing personality, in case you were wondering.

I sometimes entertain the idea of romance. Who wouldn’t want to be swept away by your soul mate to a faraway tropical paradise and live on love? Mortgages and dental appointments can just be damned. This is your true one and only! All you need to survive is to look deeply into the eyes of your beloved for the rest of your days…or maybe I just stole that whole scenario from a trailer promoting the next season of "The Bachelor".

Now that I have been married for a couple of decades, I can really do without Hallmark making us feel like a tool for not dropping a wad of money on flowers, cards, candy and diamonds. My husband, that lucky lottery winner as I like to refer to him, will definitely be awarded more brownie points by surprising me with flowers on a random Tuesday in August than if he did it on Valentine’s Day. He might just even score a homerun if, in lieu of flowers, he cleans the toilets, puts away the laundry, checks homework, and does the grocery shopping. Now, that’s what I call romance, people. Oh, and Sweetie, since you're up, will you feed the dogs too?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Morning Came


This is my take on a Tommy Tomlinson piece that made me smile today...

Morning came.

Clocks screamed. Blankets shifted. Beds emptied. Eyes squinted. Knees creaked. Showers steamed. Dogs paced. Hair dried. Kids dawdled. Parents groaned. Coffee brewed. Milk splashed. Cereal crunched. Toast popped.

Night relented. Fireplaces roared. Sun arrived. Skies brightened. Darkness left. Televisions chattered. Newspapers landed. Lawns sparkled. Fog lifted. Windshields cleared. Biscuits beckoned. Drive-thru’s bustled. Cars sped.

Morning came.

Suburbs drained. Anchormen reported. Weathermen predicted. Teenagers snoozed. Flags rose. Highways filled. Commuters cussed. Timeclocks clanged. Buses rumbled. Students shuffled. Teachers welcomed.

DJ’s gabbed. Babies cried. Bacon crackled. Cats stretched. Eggs sizzled. Laundry multiplied. Mommies sighed. Chores taunted. Barney sang. Pre-schoolers giggled. Hope returned.

Morning came.

Birds chirped. Runners strained. Homework disappeared. Excuses materialized. Pencils sharpened. Chalkboards glistened. Computers awoke. Employees grumbled. Skyscrapers gleamed. Ideas floated.

Cubicles rustled. Telephones hummed. Mugs overflowed. Caffeine conquered. Heads cleared. Minds raced. Co-workers gossiped. Doughnuts comforted. Expectations soared. People daydreamed. Noon teased.

Morning came.